18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J.J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Pensions of the United Kingdom, and a member of the House of Commons, iswithin the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Blenkinsop thereupon entered the chamber,and was sealed accordingly.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Commonwealth Electoral Act- Report,with maps, by the commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the State of South Australia into electoral divisions.
Ordered tobe printed.
Australians in Japan.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen the press reports from Japan stating that GeneralSir Thomas Blarney has paid a great tribute to the general appearance and high standard of efficiency of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force?
– I have seen the report, and I was most gratified to learn that Gen eral Blarney had complimented the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. His remarks bear out the opinion which I expressed in this House even before accusations were made against members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Ample evidence of the highstandard of efficiency of Australian troops in Japan has since been provided in reports by the chaplainsgeneral, Major-General Lloyd and Mr. Massey Stanley, and also by members of the parliamentary delegation. All Australians should now be convinced that the tributes which I paid earlier to members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force were completely justified.
– About two weeks ago I pointed out to the Prime Minister an incorrect- statement which he had made in his budget speech. He had said that tho general increase pf pension rates this year would be 10 per cent., and I pointed out that that would not apply to the most worthy class of pensioners, namely, totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen, who would be granted an increase of only 5 per cent. I asked the Prime Minister to rectify this anomaly, and he said that he would confer with the Minister for Repatriation. Does he intend to make an appropriate adjustment of the pensions paid to those men, who are not able to work and badly need an increase?
– I examined my budget speech after the honorable gentleman had asked his question. The statement to which he referred was not a general statement in regard to pensions. It related specifically to one item. I promised the honorable member that I would ask the Minister for Repatriation to reexamine the Government’s repatriation proposals in order to ensure that .they should not include any grave anomalies. I did so, and I have no doubt that the Minister will inform me of the result of his -inquiries.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing state why new arrivals from England have been allotted government-owned houses in Canberra out of their normal turn? I explain that houses are allotted to government employees and private employees in Canberra strictly in accordance with their order of registration. Government employees must wait approximately two and a half years and private employees somewhat longer, but they wait more patiently when they believe that houses are allotted according to the order of registration. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether he will explain publicly the very strong reasons why exceptions were made in certain cases “by allotting houses at New Griffith and Turner to British migrants the day after they arrived in Canberra ?
– The men concerned are technical officers who have been recruited by the Department of Works and Housing. The Government decided, after careful consideration, that the building programme for Canberra, including not only houses but also schools-, hospital additions and other works, necessary to meet the needs of a growing population, could be properly carried out only if an efficient organization were established for the purpose. The Department of Works and Housing, which is in charge of the programme, was able to obtain sufficient carpenters and other artisans, but failed to recruit engineers and architects in Australia. Therefore, it had to encourage men to come here from the United Kingdom to fill the vacancies. For this purpose it had to offer applicants for positions houses in which to accommodate their families. Therefore, 47 houses were allocated to the Department of Works and Housing.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether all permanent Commonwealth public servants, on their appointment, aTe required to take the oath of allegiance to the King? Are temporary’ Commonwealth employees required to take a similar oath? If they are not, is there any reason why they should not do so? Are many temporary employees occupying . posts of great responsibility and coming into close contact with Ministers and senior departmental officials? How many temporary Commonwealth employees are there in Commonwealth departments who have had more than five years continuous service? Will the Government consider the question of administering the oath to all employees ?
– Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service are required to take an oath of loyalty. That strict provision does not apply to a number of other Commonwealth employees, particularly those who are employed in a government department to which reference has often been made in this chamber. The legislation that established that department did not provide that its officers should take an oath of allegiance. Et may be that some temporary Commonwealth employees who are engaged in certain classes of work are not required to take such an oath. I shall consider the questions that have been asked by the right honorable gentleman and furnish him with detailed replies to them as soon as possible.
Forced Landing of Aircraft “Kanaka” - Loss of Aircraft “ Lutana “.
– It has been suggested that the recent forced landing of the aircraft Kanana was caused by the bursting of a cylinder in its port engine. Other countries are, as an experiment, using special X-ray apparatus in routine examinations of aircraft engine parts and fuselage components, and similar apparatus is used in metallurgy and engineering in Australia. Will the Minister for Civil Aviation cause the officers of his department to investigate the possibility of introducing X-ray examinations in Australian aircraft workshops?
– The forced landing of Kanana will be fully investigated by officials who are concerned with the operation of aircraft services and also by technologists. The accident that occurred some time ago to a Stinson aircraft raised some doubt about the quality of the materials that were then being used in aircraft, and since that time the Department of Civil Aviation has been using equipment of the kind to which the honorable member has referred. The faulty engine of Kanana has probably already been taken to Melbourne, where a complete examination will be made of it in order to ascertain the cause of the forced landing of the aircraft. In that examination, full consideration will be given to the strains that are imposed upon the metals in aero engines.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether there is any truth in the report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 5th October that the inquiry into the crash of the Australian National Airways liner Lutana has been suspended while an inquiry is being made into the recent crash-landing of another Australian National Airways aircraft after an engine had burst into flame. If so, why is it necessary to have the .same people inquiring into both accidents? Was an Australian National Airways liner .recently forced to return to Essendon aerodrome when an engine failed over Bass Strait? What supervision is exercised by the Department of Civil Aviation over the servicing of Australian National Airways aircraft, and those of other airline operators, private or public? What responsibility has the Department of Civil Aviation for safety measures on private airlines?
– The departmental investigation of the Lutana crash has not been suspended. It is continuing, and is quite distinct from the court of inquiry. When it has been concluded, a report will be made to the Minister b,y the experts who are making it. A court of inquiry investigates all the circumstances surrounding any serious crash, particularly one involving loss of life. Mr. Justice Simpson has been constituted a court of inquiry to investigate the Lutana accident, whereas a departmental Air Accident Investigation Committee is inquiring into the Kanana crash. I assure the honorable member, and the House, that should an investigation of more than one aircraft accident be necessary at the same time, there are sufficient experts in the Department of Civil Aviation to undertake that work. It is true that an Australian National Airways plane was forced to return to Essendon last month when an engine failed over Bass Strait. The aircraft returned to Essendon, maintaining a height of 2,000 feet on one engine.
– Is not that what happened to a Qantas aircraft recently?
– Such things happen to aircraft of all operators, but when it happens to planes of a certain, company,, very little publicity is given to it. I dad not learn anything’ from the- daily press about the return of the Australian National Airways plane to Essendon.- The matter1 firstcame to my notice in a- report published in a local newspaper, the Essendon Gazette. It was not’ mentioned in the daily press of Melbourne or, as far as’ I know, of any of the other capital cities. It is just as important to know what ha? happened on such occasions as it is when planes operated by any other company have to return. Supervision is exercised over not only Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but also all other- airline companies. The Department of Civil’ Aviation has to approve the layout and mechanical equipment of the workshops of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited as well as those of other airlines. Australian National Airways” maintenance engineers are licensed by the department to certain specific standards, and. its. inspection schedules and flying-hour periods for overhaul are subject’ to> departmental approval.. An aircraft surveyor from thedepartment is assigned to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limitedfor supervision and liaison duties. The present system, is, in my view, quite adequate to meet present-day requirements-. Under the Air Navigation Regulations the. Department, of Civil. Aviation is vested: with responsibility for (a) the periodic inspection, and certification of the airworthiness- of aircraft and the efficiency of equipment’; (6) the. periodic examination and licensing of maintenance engineers and other technicians-; (c) the periodic examination, and licensing of operating- crews ; (di). the licensing and classification, of aerodromes ;; (e) the provision and operation of air route facilities; (/) the control of the. movement of aircraft ; and” .(g) the: specification of conditions under which flights’ may be undertaken. I may say that the- provisions^ for the supervision of airline companies are as strict and as strictly applied in Australia as in any other country of the world, and on every possible occasion every effort is made to ascertain the real causes of accidents so as to assist in preventing them in the future.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact, that the. Conference of Empire. Prime.- Ministers, in London, and the General Assembly of the United Nations’ will, be. meeting, simultaneously. In view of tha fact: that the Deputy Prime Minister, who- is to be the representativeof Australia at the: London conference^ is fully engaged as the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, will the Prime Minister, even at this latestage,, agree to attend! that conference as the representative of this country, in; the- same way as other dominion PrimeMinisters are to attend it as the repre- sentatives of their countries, especially in view of the grave matters affecting Australia and the? Empire generally,, which will’ be discussed, at that conference?
– A similar question was asked of me last week, and I gave the. House an assurance that the necessary arrangements would be made for the Minister for. External. Affairs, who is Deputy Prime Minister^ to attend theConference of Empire Prime Ministers. It should not. be. thought that the President of the United. NationsGeneral Assembly must, be- in attendance all. the time. There aWe many occasions when, other activities are goingon,, and it is not necessary for the President to- be present. I do not propose to attend the conference myself. I believethat the matters listed, for discussion can. be amply dealt with by the Minister’ for External Affairs-, acting on advice from Australia. It ie not unusual for a. DeputyPrime Minister to attend a conference of dominion Prime Ministers; In 1946, New Zealand- was represented by Mr. Peter Fraser, then. Deputy Prime Minister of that: dominion, and I understand! that on this occasion- South Africa is tobe represented’ by a Minister who is: also attending the meeting of the’ GeneralAssembly of the United Nations at Paris. I assure the honorable member that with the advice and advisers provided for the conference, this country’s interests; will be adequately protected.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether it is true that recently the Director of Works and Housing in Darwin, Brigadier-General Lucas, resigned from the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory? If that be so, was he instructed to resign by the department or did he do so of his cwn volition? Will the Minister state whether the reason for the resignation, if it occurred, was that Brigadier-General Lucas refused to be a “yes-man” at a recent meeting of the council by voting against government legislation and criticizing every department but his own ? Will the honorable gentleman restore control of the territory to its previous basis when it was vested in an administrator and not in two Ministers as at present ? Will he make representations to the Prime Minister to ensure that the Minister for Works and Housing will confine his operations to the southern States and the Minister for the Interior, through the Administrator, will control the Northern Territory entirely?
– I have no official information as to whether Mr. Lucas, who is an employee, not of the Department of the Interior, but of the Department of Works and Housing, has resigned from the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. For that reason I am unable to give a definite answer to the honorable member’s question.
– I preface my question by pointing out that many of the thousands of migrants who have arrived in this country and the thousands who will arrive later, formerly received age and other pensions from the British Government and others are of advanced age. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services state whether the Government intends that section 21 of the Social Services Consolidation Act which provides that a person must reside in Australia for a period of not less than twenty years in order to qualify for payment of an age pension is to continue to apply? Will it be possible to review that provision when the debate is resumed on the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1948?
– Negotiations are being conducted between the British and Australian Governments for reciprocal arrangements to be made so that people who are entitled to payment of age and other pensions in the United Kingdom may receive such pensions from’ the Australian Government. When the debate is resumed on the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1948 it will, of course, be competent for honorable members to discuss any matter connected with that legislation, but the Government does not intend to amend it in the way suggested by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Defence give the House any information concerning the nature of the files that were destroyed in the fire that occurred at the University of Melbourne yesterday ? Has he communicated with Professor Martin in order to ascertain whether the report alleged to have been made to the press by that gentleman is correct?
– I have no information concerning the exact nature of the records that were destroyed in the regrettable fire that occurred in the grounds of the University of Melbourne. There is no necessity for me to communicate with Professor Martin concerning the research work to which the records are believed to have related, because I have already been advised by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of the kind of research work conducted at the University of Melbourne. With regard to other documents which are alleged to have been stolen or forged, I understood from what was said in the chamber a few days ago that at least one. was a photostat copy. That, of course, means that the original document did not go astray, but that the services of an expert photographer were employed to make a photostat copy of it. I am wondering whether I should draw the attention of officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to the possibility that a photographer who was said by the honorable member for Reid to have been on the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was a collaborator. If that could be established it would prove that there is collaboration between the forces of the extreme right and the extreme left. The physical fact that if one goes far enough to the left he will eventually come to the right may apply also to political philosophies. I shall certainly draw the attention of the investigating officers to the consideration whether the services of the individual mentioned in thi9 chamber recently were not enlisted by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) in order to obtain a photostat copy of some document which is alleged to have been stolen.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– Yes, most positively. The Minister for Defence has referred to a photostat copy of a certain document which, in the course of a recent speech, I said that I had. The Minister was present when I made that speech, and had he been listening to what I said he would have realized that I was not referring to any of the documents which were recently mentioned in the chamber. Viewing the Minister’s remarks in the best possible light, it is apparent that he is under a complete misapprehension as to what I said, which was that on a previous occasion I had obtained and read a photostat copy of a document which had been produced by one Winkler, out of which incident a royal commission had been appointed. That had nothing whatever to do with the recent incident in which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) was involved. Although the Minister probably understood what I intended to convey, I shall remove any misunderstanding that may still remain in his mind hy repeating that the photostat copy to which I referred, which may be examined by the Minister, was a photostat copy of a document produced publicly before a royal commission.
– .Some weeks ago 1 brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation the case of the widow of Padre Leonard Kentish, who was beheaded by the Japanese, and asked that a full pension be granted to Mrs. Kentish and her children. I understand that the Minister for Repatriation referred the request to the Minister for the Navy. I now ask the Minister for the Navy whether a decision has yet been reached in the matter, and, if not, when it will be reached ?
– It is true that some time ago the honorable member requested that a pension be granted to the widow of Padre Leonard Kentish. The late reverend gentleman was not enlisted in the Navy or in the Australian Imperial Force. He was on board H.M.A.S. Patricia Cam, which was sunk by the enemy. He subsequently fell into the hands of the Japanese and was executed. As the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act did not apply to his widow and children, the Minister for Social Services authorized the payment to Mrs. Kentish of a pension based on the War Injuries Compensation Regulations. Subsequently, representations were made to me by honorable members, but as the matter did not come within the province of the Department of the Navy I submitted the case to the Prime Minister for decision. No decision has yet been made. When one has been made I shall communicate it to the honorable member.
Conduct of Business - Incident During Division
– I address a question to the Prime Minister relating to the conduct of the business of the House. The purpose of my question is to elicit information for the benefit of honorable members who wish to participate in thi’ business of the House. It arises partly out of the Government’s curtailment of the debate on the Estimates, but particularly the. curtailment of other opportunities for members to bring matters before the Government. One of the oldest traditional opportunities afforded to private members to speak in the Parliament is on the motion for the adjournment of the House. Yesterday, after opportunities for debate had been curtailed throughout the day and most of the night-
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question without commenting on the matters that have given rise to it.
– I am stating the truth. Their opportunities for debate having been curtailed yesterday, honorable members sought to make good that loss by speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– Order ! L have no desire to restrict the privileges of the honorable member. He know£ that under the forms of the House he is entitled to make only a brief general reference to the matters which have given rise to his question, and that a lengthy expression of opinion is hot permitted. His question must be free from comment.
– It is upon the premise to which I have referred that I now direct a specific question to the Prime Minister.
– What is the question?
– “Will the Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government continuously to “ gag “ the motion for the adjournment of the House, as it was “gagged” last night by one of his Ministers, thus abolishing one of the remaining freedoms of honorable members, or is last night’s incident to be regarded as an isolated one?
– I do not think there has been any lack of opportunity for honorable members to express their views on public matters. The debate on the Address in Reply covered the widest range of subjects and was not curtailed in any way. A long period was also devoted to the discussion of the first item of the Estimates, which gave honorable members ample opportunity to deal with any subject they cared to raise.
– The right honorable gentleman is arguing the case in his reply as much as I was in my question.
– Order ! The honorable member may not answer his own question.
– I should have thought that, in these circumstances, honorable members could not claim that they had been denied opportunities to express their views. The answer to the specific question of the honorable member for Indi is “ No “. There may be circumstances at any time that may warrant the application of the closure to any debate, but the honorable member may rest assured that so long as he does not want to stay here until breakfast time he will have no cause for concern.
– By way of explanation of the question I am about to direct to the Minister for Information I draw the Minister’s attention to an article which appeared in the Canberra Times of to-day-
– I rise to order. Is it permissible for the honorable member to read from a newspaper?
– The honorable gentleman is not entitled to read from a newspaper.
– The newspaper that I have mentioned refers to incidents which allegedly took place in the chamber last night, between the Minister fcT Information and the honorable member for New England, in the course of a division. The newspaper article claims that the honorable member for New England said that he thought the Minister was going to strike him, and added -
I was watching his eyes for a first move, and had my fist clenched. I still have a good left.
I have given a somewhat abbreviated rendering of the newspaper report, because I was prevented from reading the whole of it. Does not the Minister consider that the press report is an unjustifiable and exaggerated account of the incident, and a grave reflection on his high standard of parliamentary conduct? Is it not true that, long before the incident mentioned, the honorable member for New England was “ out on his feet “ from the verbal battering he had received earlier in the session during a debate about the importation of cement-making machinery ?
– I had a slight altercation with the honorable member for New England while we were crossing the floor during a division last night. He hurled an offensive epithet at me, and I told him that he was mad. I think I let him down lightly. I remonstrated with him, but I had not the slightest intention of engaging in fisticuffs. I desire to maintain that high standard of parliamentary conduct to which I am used and I agree with the contentions of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly). I have it in mind to ask the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), when he returns next week, to consult with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) about what should be done with the honorable member for New England from a medical point of view.
– I base the question I am about to ask on a report in the Melbourne Herald, particularly respecting statements made by Miss Lawrie, one of the Australian women who went to Manila, and is now at Washington. Portion of Miss Lawrie’s statement reported in the newspaper reads -
The Australian Consul to Manila (Mr. H. A. Petterson) extended our passports until 1051, and opened them for travel to the United States.
I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he and his department were responsible for extending the passports, and, if so, such official extension does not, in fact, constitute a tacit agreement enabling those girls to go to the United States of America and stay there until, at the earliest, 1951? Why did the department grant this extension, in view of the agreement which the Minister has said he had entered into with the United States authorities before the girls left Australia, and why did not the Minister, when he granted the extension, with permission for the girls to go to America, then renew the agreement which he has claimed he entered into with the United
States authorities but which, he has said, he cannot find? The Minister has defended his action on the ground that he is acting in the best interests of these girls. Does that mean that in future, when making decisions on applications for passports or permission to go abroad, the honorable gentleman will set himself up as a judge of the best interests and morals of the applicants and act on that principle, or can this be regarded as an isolated example of the adoption of that principle ?
– I have not the slightest desire, to set myself up as a judge of the morals of people either going abroad or staying at home. I do not propose to accept the honorable member’s invitation to debate the matter further. T have said all that I want to say concerning it, save that this continual raising cf all sorts of issues and sideissues is most embarrassing to the Australian Embassy at Washington and to the American Embassy in Canberra, and I am not going to help honorable members opposite to cause any more trouble than they already have caused.
Me. A. W. Fadden, M.P. : Interrogation by Commonwealth Investigation Officers.
– I raise a matter of privilege, and shall conclude with a motion. I bring to the notice of the Parliament a matter of farreaching consequence to our democratic institutions, and the privileges of honorable members. Just before the House met this afternoon, I was seen in my official room by two detective-inspectors of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, whose names are, respectively, Wilks and McDermott, about matters which had been mentioned by me in the course of public debate in this Parliament. That I should have been interviewed by them in the precincts of the Parliament was in itself a gross abuse of privilege. That I should have been interviewed by them at the direction of the Prime Minister of this country (Mr. Chifley) - because it is quite clear from the speeches of the right honorable gentleman in this House that they were acting under his instructions, or under the instructions of his Government - makes the offence a graver one. But the supreme gravity of the incident lies in the fact that by this method it is sought to intimidate, not only myself, but also all other members of the Opposition, and to stifle criticism by honorable members in the discharge of their public duties. It will come as no surprise to members of this Parliament that the officers sought to interrogate me about the revelations that I had made during a debate last week, after which the Prime Minister said that directions had been given to Commonwealth investigation officers, not only to ascertain what document was in my possession, but also to exercise surveillance over the activities of certain members of the Opposition.
No more serious matter could possibly arise in a democratic parliament than this gross invasion of the rights of an honorable member. When the investigation officers saw rae, they sought to have what they termed a confidential interview with me. I immediately made it plain that they would have no confidential interview with me about a public matter, and that if they had anything to say they could say it in the presence of the so-far free press of this country. I say “ so far “ advisedly, having regard to what has happened to-day. No member of the Parliament, who has any sense of responsibility, could dispute the fact that there comes to each man in public life, frequently, matters which are held to be confidential. The supreme judgment which every honorable member must make on such matters is whether or not the public interest is so compelling as to override the necessity for continuing to treat them as confidential. The debate in which I referred to certain confidential information which had come to me was an occasion when my public duty compelled me to direct the attention of the Australian public to what I considered to. be an issue vitally affecting the country which was being neglected by this Labour Government. I make it plain to the Prime Minister and to the community in general that, no matter what the consequences may be, I shall not be interrogated by any secret gestapo of this Government. Long ago, as far back as the seventeenth century, when our democratic institutions were being cradled, it was provided by the 9th Article of the Bill of Eights that any Prime Minister, regardless of his political persuasion, should, if he were at all democratic, uphold the principle - and I quote the exact words of the article -
That the freedom of speech and debates of proceedings in Parliament should not be impeached in any court, or place, out of Parliament.
I take my stand upon that principle. ThePrime Minister must take responsibility for the serious invasion he has made of the principle of freedom of speech of members of this Parliament. No intimidation will prevent me from discharging my public duties; and the people will judge whether the Labour party is not already far along the road which leads to gestapo intimidation and fear, and all the other hand-maidens of extreme dictatorships in all parts of the world. I move -
That it is a breach of privilege that the right honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party should be interrogated or sought to be interrogated by security police at the instigation of the Prime Minister and the Government in the precincts of Parliament and in his official room in respect of matters occurring in, and arising out of, the discharge of his .public duties in this National Parliament.
– I desire, if I am given the call and the right to speak, to second the motion.
– A complaint of breach of privilege has been raised. It is for the Chair to decide whether a prima facie case has been made out which would justify the matter taking precedence over the other business of the House. In this instance it is claimed that an honorable member’s right to privilege and freedom of action has been prejudiced by the announcement, of an inquiry set in motion by the Gor.vernment to ascertain how certain secret, and confidential documents came into, unauthorized hands, followed by a visit to a member of the House by officers of; the Commonwealth Investigation Service. It is not claimed that the honor-, able member’s right to free speech in the.-
House or to attend in his place in the House has been prejudiced. I, therefore, rule that in the circumstances no claim of breach of privilege can be sustained and that a prima facie case has not been made out which would justify the matter taking precedence over other business. The motion that the right honorable gentleman proposes to submit will be placed on the notice-paper. I ask the Clerk to call on the next business.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) proposed -
That the ruling of the Deputy Speaker be disagreed with.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) to submit his motion of disagreement in writing. It will then be placed on the notice-paper for to-morrow.
– I rise to order. I submit that under the Standing Orders a point of order takes precedence over all other business.
– Order! I have already given a ruling on that matter, and the Acting Leader of the Opposition has moved that my ruling be disagreed with. The honorable member is not in order.
– I rise to order.
– Does the honorable member’s point of order refer to the same matter?
– How did the Chair know what my point of order was?
– Order ! If the honorable member does not resume his seat I shall have to deal with him. I am endeavouring to ascertain whether the point of order of the honorable member for Richmond relates to the same matter as that on which I have given a ruling.
– My point of order is on a general subject-matter of the same nature as that raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– I have given a ruling, and a motion of disagreement with it has been submitted. I have accepted that motion and that ends the matter for the time being.
– I rise to order, and cite as my authority Standing Order 111.
– How can the honorable member for Barker raise a point of order when I am not permitted to do so?
– Standing Order 111 reads -
An urgent Motion, directly concerning the privileges of the House, shall take precedence of other Motions, as well as of Orders of the Day.
I contend, with very great respect, that the motion of privilege of the Leader of the Australian Country party is an urgent motion.
– Order !
– Give him a chance!
– The Chair should allow the honorable member for Barker to state his point of order.
– Order ! I have had an opportunity to examine Standing Order111. I have already given my ruling, and have accepted a motion of disagreement with it. Therefore, that matter has been brought to a conclusion.
– I am not concerned with the motion of disagreement.
– Order ! The Clerk will call on the next business of the House.
– Have I the right to speak?
– The honorable member has no rights in this chamber.
– Then Parliament under Charles I. was never worse than is this Parliament.
– Order ! I have asked for the next business of the House to be called.
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the gag is being applied again.
– Order !
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 6th October (vide page 1317).
Defence and Post-war (1939-45) Charges.
Defence and Service Departments
Proposed vote, £48,722,000.
Supply and Development
Proposed vote, £8,063,000.
Proposed vote, £100,000.
Re-establishment and Repatriation.
Proposed vote, £29,047,000.
International Relief and Rehabiliation
Proposed vote, £3,640,000.
Proposed vote, £19,700,000.
Proposed vote, £1,634,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– The question is, that the proposed votes be agreed to.
– I rise to order. The noise from the Government benches is preventing the Opposition from hearing what the Chair is saying. I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you state the question again so that members of the Opposition may be informed as to the proposed votes that are to be considered.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No point of order is involved. The noise has come from both sides of the chamber. I expect honorable members to maintain silence while I am stating a question from the Chair.
– For the next two and a half hours, honorable members will be considering the defence estimates, and proposed votes in respect of such matters as international relief and rehabilitation, reciprocal lendlease and subsidies. While the defence estimates are being discussed, I hope that’ members of the Opposition will not be interrupted by jeers from the ministerial benches.
– More jeers have come from the Opposition side of the chamber.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) must remain silent.
– I hope that there will be no more interruptions from the larrikin Ministers. Because of the noise, members of the Opposition have great difficulty in making their submissions.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Richmond is gratuitously insulting and most offensively provocative in his references to the ministerial bench. I ask that he be compelled to withdraw the epithets that he has cast across the chamber.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Does the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) regard the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond as offensive?
– Yes, they are most offensive.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remarks to which the Minister for Information has objected.
– To what remarks do you refer, Mr. Temporary Chairman?
– The honorable member used the expression “ larrikin Ministers “. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
– If that remark-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member must withdraw the remark.
– I am about to do so. If that remark-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– If that remark is offensive, I shall withdraw it, but it is extremely difficult for a member of the Opposition to use unprovocative language when a member of the Opposition, who is about to speak on the important defence estimates, is greeted by jeers and laughter from the Minister for Information, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman).
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the honorable member does not relate his remarks to the proposed votes under consideration, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member for Richmond is trying to defy the ruling of the
Chair. He withdrew the remark to which I objected, and then he added to his offence by stating that his observation had been justified by jeers from the ministerial bench. I ask you, sir, to request the honorable member to withdraw that remark, too.
– Order ! The Minister for Information has disagreed with the utterances of the honorable member for Richmond, and I ;ask him to withdraw them. 3ir. McEwen. - Must members of the Opposition apologize for every statement with which Ministers disagree ?
– I withdraw the remark, and leave the committee to judge the facts.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:Order!
– I have withdrawn the remark to which the Minister for Information has objected.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.In order that the consideration of the proposed votes may be continued in an orderly fashion, I ask not only members of the Opposition, but also members on the ministerial bench, to conduct themselves with more decorum.
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Richmond has yet withdrawn the statement to which I objected?
– The honorable member for Richmond has withdrawn it.
– I rise to order. The Chair stated that the honorable member for Richmond must withdraw a remark with which the Minister for Information disagreed.
– I should have used the word “ objected “ and not “ disagreed “.
– I shall let the committee judge the facts. Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I was “ gagged “ when I endeavoured to refer to a fire which had occurred in the laboratories of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at the University of Melbourne. Professor Martin has stated that the laboratories were engaged in defence research, and had accumulated, in a period of more than two years, certain defence information on atomic energy. The professor said also that the documents relating to those researches were in the building which was destroyed by the fire. Last night, a government spokesman stated that atomic research conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was not related in any way to defence. One of the prime aims of Soviet Russia at present is to secure information about atomic energy and secrets about the atomic bomb. The spy trials in Canada have revealed that Russia makes the utmost efforts to secure information on uranium. Certain Canadian scientists were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for having betrayed defence secrets. I desire to show that there is a connexion between the Communist organization in Australia and the destruction of a defence laboratory in Melbourne. The atomic bomb is now the first line of defence of the western democracies. In one night the only real research station in Australia used for this work went up in smoke. But did the records which it contained go up in smoke? Were they purloined and was the fire then deliberately started in order to destroy evidence of the theft, as has been done in many cases of burglary? Is there any proof that the records were in the building when it was destroyed? They dealt with the atomic researches of two years or more, and we have grounds for believing that they may have been stolen. I am suspicious because of other strange events that have occurred in Australia recently. I have before me now a newspaper report of an incident in Queensland some months ago which led to the discovery of certain espionage and sabotage activities of the Communist party. This discovery was not the result of inquiries by the Commonwealth Investigation Service. It was made by accident. A man was carrying a box along a platform at the Brisbane railway station, just like an ordinary traveller, when the weight of the contents caused the bottom to fall out of the box. Large quantities of ammunition, gelignite and detonators were scattered across the platform. A policeman who happened to be standing by took the man to the police station for interrogation. When he was searched, police found on his person a cloak-room ticket for .another box of material which he had consigned to Mount Isa. The man -was charged .and convicted. Evidence given in the ‘.court showed .that he was taking to Mount Isa 1,000 rounds of .303 ammunition, 60 lb. of .gelignite, 40 .detonators -and a quantity of f-uses. The man is Maurice Muldoon, aged .29 years. When .asked what ie intended to .do -with those explosives, he said that he was .going .crocodile shooting ! There are 310 crocodiles within 80.0 .miles of Mount Isa, but it happens .that minerals of .strategic importance are being mined there. They ,are -transported to the wharfs at Townsville for shipment to the United States of America, where they are used in the manufacture of defence equipment. The Communist party has been endeavouring to prevent the export of these materials to the western allies. In fact, large quantities of ‘zinc and lead were piled on the wharfs at Townsville for many months because the ‘Communist-controlled Waterside W<orkers’ Federation called a strike to prevent -them from being shipped to the United States of America. The newspaper account of a document which was found on the person of Muldoon is very interesting. It states -
Further, Brisbane C.I.B. men -fauna in his possession a -secret Communist card, which detailed Party orders. Issued toy N.S.W. Communist head-quarters, this document instructed Muldoon to proceed from Warragamba to Mr Isa, in North Queensland.
The card gave the name of a Communist leader to whom he was to report at Mr Isa, immediately on arrival - and a further instruction warned Muldoon to -destroy the caj-d immediately he had contacted the Communist party -leader named.
That was fairly direct evidence of a Communist sabotage plan. Muldoon had sufficient explosives to blow up the mines at Mount Isa which supply valuable materials to the United States of America. Furthermore, he was carrying a directive from Communist headquarters in Sydney. It did not tell him what to do with the explosives, but the fact that he had them in his possession was fairly conclusive evidence of his intentions. Nobody can say -definitely what he proposed to do. We can only form our own opinions. He might have had a very innocent purpose, but we are en titled -to be suspicious of a ^Communist -who .proceeds fr.om the Warragamba Dam -bo Mount Isa with 60 .lb. of gelignite, 40 detonators, -a -.quantity of fuses and 1,000 rounds of -rifle .ammunition. Perhaps he intended to kill .kangaroos or crocodiles, but the reasonable assumption is that -the -Communists had conspired .to sabotage the mines. T,his Government is doing nothing to check such activities. Hh the- light of this and other <evidence, I consider that the Are which destroyed the nuclear research establishment in Melbourne -calls for more than the mere disclaimer .that -we heard from the Minister for Defence earlier to-day. This incident .has -die most sinister implications. Is it a coincidence that there were three £res in -that research station within a very short period ? Is it not .a matter of concern to all Australians that ,such things should be allowed to ,go virtually unchecked ?
I come now to a matter which .highlights the importance of the documents quoted by the Leader of the Australian Country party ((Mr. Fadden), about which a motion of privilege was submitted to-day. The documents were produced in this chamber because of the refusal of the -Government .of the United States .of America to convey .to Australia, either directly or through the Government of the United Kingdom, any information in respect of atomic research. We have been told by the Minister for Defence that the statements contained in the documents are lies, that there is not even a scintilla of .truth in them, and that the -statements made in the newspapers and by members of the Opposition have not the slightest justification in fact. It was only when he was proved to be a liar-
– Order! That is unparliamentary language and must be withdrawn.
– 1 withdraw it. Only when it was proved that the Minister had deceived us in respect of certain vital information-
– Who proved it ? .
– The Government proved it by setting its gestapo on to members of the Opposition in order to find out from where they obtained the documents with which they disproved the Minister’s statement. There is consternation in the ranks of honorable members opposite because it has been proved that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Defence misled the Parliament and the country in relation to this very important subject. The Minister for Defence continues to mislead the Parliament. He glosses over matters of the most vital and serious concern to this country, and attempts to allay anxiety and deaden suspicion. He tries in every possible way to do those things that will enable sabotage to occur in Australia, and indeed it has possibly already occurred in relation to the fire at the University of Melbourne.
The time has arrived for a “ show down “, not only with the Government, but also with the forces that would attempt to destroy Australia if it were engaged in a war against Russia. It is to be hoped that such a war will not occur, but the British Minister for Foreign Affairs and other statesmen have warned us that we are moving in that direction. Our common sense confirms that warning, and we must, therefore, be prepared for war. Honorable members opposite have commented adversely upon the state of our preparedness on the eve of the outbreak of World War II., although we were, in fact, as fully prepared for war as the circumstances that then obtained and the actions of the Labour party, which was then in opposition, permitted. If we were to become involved in a war against the Soviet, the Russians would have the equivalent of a dozen divisions of troops in this country. With the help of the Communist party, they would have on the wharfs, and in government departments, iron works, coalmines and transport undertakings, many agents who could disrupt our economic life and prevent us from giving effective aid to the Western Powers. All our efforts would be nullified if sabotage and fifth column activities prevented us from throwing our full weight into the struggle. A searching investigation should be made into the occurrence at the University of Melbourne and into the affairs of the Communist party in Australia. The Government hae instructed officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to interrogate the Leader of the Australian Country party and other persons who have attempted to ensure the security of Australia, but, as far as I know, it has not instructed any officers of that Service to inquire into the activities of members of the Communist party in this country, some of whom have confessed that in the event of a war with Russia they would fight on the side of the Russians. The committee cannot allow the occurrence of the fire at the University of Melbourne to pass without considering whether the outbreak was caused by sabotage and what the consequences of it may be. If it was caused by sabotage, what action does the Government propose to take to deal with the situation?
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has been indulging in utter drivel. When the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) referred last night to the fire at the University of Melbourne, I explained to the honorable member as clearly as it was possible to explain to any one that the experiments that were being conducted there had nothing whatever to do with defence scientific research work. The honorable member quoted from a newspaper, but he produced no evidence to show that Professor Martin had made any such statement with regard to the matter. If honorable members opposite had examined the newspapers more closely, they would have read that Sir David Rivett also made a statement.
– If honorable members on this side of the chamber had produced any evidence, the Government would have turned the police on to them.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is seldom present in this chamber. When he is present, he throws into the ring statements of the kind that he has just made. If the Leader of the Australian Country party or any other member of the Parliament has broken the law, I can see no reason why he should not be prosecuted. The Government is not trying to intimidate anybody. The law should be allowed to take its course in relation to members of the Parliament as well as other members of the community.
– The Minister must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– Ministers are usually provided with notes on the estimates relating to the departments for which they are responsible. The executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research supplied me with notes on the estimates relating to that organization, and I propose to read them to the committee.
– The activities of the Council for Scientific and .Industrial Research are not under discussion at the present time. The Minister has already said that that organization has nothing to do with defence activities.
– The honorable member for Richmond said that the fire at the University of Melbourne was related to expenditure by the Department of Defence. I propose to read from the notes that were prepared for me on the estimates for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in order to prove that the experiments that were being conducted at the University of Melbourne bad nothing to do with defence.
– I rise to order. If that statement is correct, how can what the honorable gentleman is about to say be relevant to the question which is now before the Chair?
– The Minister has said that he wishes to reply to the honorable member for Richmond. He is endeavouring to relate his remarks to the items that are now under discussion.
– If the Minister is to be allowed to discuss the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, will honorable members who were debarred from discussing them previously, because of the application of the “gag”, now he allowed to do so?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair will decide that question.
– I have asked you for a decision, sir, and I think I am entitled to it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have given my decision.
– The honorable member for Richmond suggested that the fire at the University of Melbourne was related to defence expenditure. I wish to prove conclusively to the committee that the experiments that were conducted at the university had nothing whatever to do with defence. The notes with which I was supplied in regard to those experiments are as follows : -
It is unnecessary to stress the importance and the future possibilities of atomic energy for industrial purposes. The tremendous effort being put into this work in the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain makes it essential that we should have, in Australia, men trained in the various techniques involved so that when such techniques are required for use they may be used effectively.
Most of the funds being sought under the heading of nuclear physics are therefore to be used to support the Nuclear Physics Laboratory, which is working under the direction of Professor L. H. Martin, in the Department of Physics at the University of Melbourne.
I said last night, and I repeat now, that defence scientific projects come under the Department of Defence. If that department does not provide money for a particular scientific programme, it is not a defence scientific research programme. Funds have not been sought from the Department of Defence for the experiments now being carried out at the University of Melbourne and no funds have been provided by the Department of Defence for that work. No guidance has been sought from that department as to what experiments should be undertaken, and no information has been sought from any country, not even the United Kingdom or the United States of America, in relation to those experiments. That shows conclusively that the experiments, and the equipment for carrying them out, which has been destroyed by this unfortunate fire, have nothing to do with the defence requirements of Australia.
– The Minister is almost convincing himself.
– I realize that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.
McBride) cannot be convinced about anything. I do not know whether he is utterly stupid, or whether he just does not want to be convinced ; but he cannot prove that the experiments now being carried out at the University of Melbourne have anything to do with the defence of Australia. The obligation to look after the buildings, plant and equipment rests solely with the authorities controlling the University. It is not a Commonwealth responsibility. The honorable member for Richmond has drawn a red herring across the trail. The Opposition is continually harping on communism, and is prepared to tell a great number of untruths in presenting its case to the public; but the people are becoming tired of those tactics, and when they realize that so many of the statements made by the Opposition about communism, and particularly about the security of this country, are completely false, the Opposition, will find itself eventually losing considerable public support.
We- are dealing with the defence estimates, and I should like to say a word or two about them. The Department of Defence is responsible for the formulation of policy covering the whole defence field. It is responsible for the formulation and implementation of a unified defence policy relating to the defence forces and their requirements, including co-operation in British Commonwealth defence, the defence aspect of the charter of the United Nations, defence supplies, including the production programme and production capacity, scientific research, finance, and the allocation of available funds. The honorable member for Richmond has not said anything at all about any of those matters. The Government has given the utmost consideration to defence requirements. Our approach was to decide first what proportion of the national income of this country we could afford to expend upon defence. The sum which is being provided for expenditure over the whole field of defence in the current year represents a greater percentage of the national income than has ever been expended in this way in peace-time before.
– But what does the Government get for it?
– Ear more than has ever been obtained before. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) served with distinction in the Royal Australian Air Force during the war, and 1 have no doubt that he believes thai we should expend a great deal more money on air defence than we are expending to-day; but just as he sponsors that argument I am sure that other honorable members opposite, including for instance, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who served in the Army, will advocate a greater expenditure on the Army, whereas those who have served in the Royal Australian Navy, will advocate increased naval expenditure. Speaking of the over-all defence expenditure, I repeat that never before in our history has there been a greater proportion of the national income expended on defence in time of peace.
– And never before has there been so little return for so much money.
– The honorable member for Wakefield does not know what he is talking about. He is living in the past. He is thinking of the days when it was of the utmost importance that we should have strong fighting services, but when there was no obligations upon the government of this country, and very little need, to expend money on defence scientific research. As long as the threat of war confronts us, it will be necessary to have armed forces; but world events to-day seem to indicate that should war unfortunately occur, the role of the armies will not be nearly so important as it has been in the past. Apparently, at a time when this country is suffering from severe shortages of many essential goods required for the civilian economy and when there is need to develop our industries, for it is upon our industrial development that our military strength finally rests, the honorable member for Wakefield wants to see a large number of young men called up for compulsory military service.
– That is what the United Kingdom is doing.
– The position in the United Kingdom is entirely different from that in Australia. If we were to do what the men want us to do, the difficulties in which we find ourselves to-day would be accentuated and, in any case, if the Government were to take such action, I have no doubt that the honorable member for “Wakefield, and many other honorable members opposite, would be the first to complain that sufficient materials could not be obtained to meet the needs of primary and secondary industries.
– We cannot get them now
– I know that. We cannot get them because the labour supply in this country is not sufficient to meet the needs of industry. There are 160,000 jobs throughout the Commonwealth waiting to be filled, and they cannot be filled because the supply of labour is inadequate. How much graver would our labour position be if the honorable member for Wakefield had his way and thousands of young men were called up for compulsory training in the fighting forces ?
Mr. McBride interjecting,
– Order ! If the honorable member for Wakefield continues to interject, I shall deal with him.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is one of the Government’s most constant critics because of the shortage of materials in this country. We know that those shortages exist, and we know the reason for them. They are due mainly to the lack of adequate man-power to meet all the requirements of industry. That of course, is unfortunate, but the present situation is much better than that which existed when the honorable member for Wakefield was a supporter of an antilabour Government in this Parliament, and approximately 750,000 Australians were out of work. The honorable member did not do anything to provide employment for these people.
– Here we are; hack to the same old tale.
– I realize that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) does not like references to con ditions that existed in this country when he was a Minister.
– I was not a Minister in 1930.
– The honorable member was in the Parliament just prior to World War II. when preparations for the defence of this country were being made. In fact, he participated in those preparations, and was partly responsible for them; yet he had to admit at a secret meeting of the Parliament, that, if one enemy armoured division landed in Australia, it could overrun the Commonwealth.
– I remind the Minister that that statement was made in a secret session.
– That does not matter, because any information given at a secret session can surely be made available to the public when the passage of time has removed the need for secrecy. The honorable member for Warringah made that admission, and to-day is one of those who are pressing for the institution of a scheme of compulsory service which would deprive industry of the services of thousands of young men who are so urgently required for industrial purposes.
– The honorable member for Warringah is just as responsible as other honorable members of the Opposition for the condition of the country in 1941 when the Labour Government took office, and it ill-becomes him, the honorable member for Wakefield or any other honorable member of the Opposition to raise the matters they have raised to-day.
– The Minister is not game to turn and look back at his past.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has had a rather varied past himself, but I shall not draw attention to it to-day.
– He opposed the enlargement of the Air Force.
– The honorable member for Barker, if I remember rightly,made a statement on one occasion in die House that the forces of Nazi Germany would run through Russia within six weeks after the outbreak of war between those two countries.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The Minister is a contortionist.
– The honorable member for Barker did make that statement, and all honorable members who were in the Parliament at that time will recollect the occasion. If I had the time I would give the exact quotation.
– I do not usually, ask for withdrawals, but I do so on this occasion, as I made no such statement either inside or outside of this House. The statement I made was as follows-
– Order !
– I told a press reporter with whom I spoke in the lobby outside my office that if the Russians were no more successful against the Germans than they were against the Finns they would be lucky to be in the war in five or six weeks.
-Order ! Is the honorable member asking for a withdrawal by the Minister?
– I am most decidedly.
– [ request “the Minister to withdraw the statement.
– I ask for your ruling on this matter, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
– The Chair has given a direction.
– The Chair has made a request. I ask now for the authority by which the Chair has requested me to withdraw. I have always understood that a withdrawal was required only when a statement that was offensive to some honorable member had been made, but that if any honorable member objected to the veracity of any statement it was his right, if he so desired, to state his side of the case on some future occasion.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair understands that the remark of the Minister was personally offensive to the honorable member for Barker and asks the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark, but at any rate, even from the admission-
Mr. Archie Cameron interjecting,
-Order! I shall name the honorable member for Barker if he is not careful.
– Even on the admission made by the honorable member for Barker himself it is perfectly clear that he had a very incomplete understanding of the relative strength of the German and Russian forces.
– Britain saved the Russians
-The amount provided in the Estimates with which the committee is now dealing constitutes a greater proportion of the national income than has ever before been spent on defence in time of peace. The basis of its distribution between the various fighting services was arrived at after consideration had been given to the need for defence scientific research and the concurrent necessity of maintaining the strength of the Navy, Army and Air Force so that Australia would be able to fulfil its obligations under the United Nations Charter and to take a greater share of the burden of British Commonwealth defence, whilst at the same time providing a nucleus of fighting services for defence in emergencies. I believe, therefore, that these Estimates should commend themselves to the committee.
– The committee has before it, in addition to other matters, the item “War and munitions establishments - General Expenses for guarding and protection under Division 191. Certain matters which have already been the subject of some debate in the Parliament have arisen from the failure of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to guard and protect secrets similar to those likely to be communicated to it in the future by nations overseas. I therefore move -
That Division No. 191 - Administrative (Miscellaneous - Attorney-General’s Department) - be reduced by £1, as an instruction to the Government - to discontinue interrogations and surveillance >f honorable members in respect of matters occurring in and arising from the discharge of their public duties in this National Parliament.
– An ex-Prime Minister!
– He had exercised his right to make certain statements and support them by documentary evidence. He was interrogated by two security political police directed by no less a person than the Prime Minister of Australia himself. The right honorable member was thereby threatened in relation to the discharge of his duties and that threat constituted a distinct breach of privilege. Honorable members on the other side of the chamber indulged in a series of catcalls and laughter during the proceedings.
– Order ! I consider that the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) is out of order in referring to a matter covered by a notice of motion already given.
– I rise to order. How can the Acting Leader of the Opposition be out of order when the matter to which the Temporary Chairman refers is not on the notice-paper? The chamber is in committee and_under those circumstances, I submit that the Acting Leader of the Opposition is not out of order. I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, under what authority you have given your ruling since, as I have stated, the matter is not on the notice-paper and the chamber is in committee?
– I point out, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the motion I have moved . has no bearing on the matter upon which Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark) gave a ruling from which I moved dissent. My amendment is designed to ensure that members of the Parliament shall not be interrogated and shall not be subject to certain indignities. I am rather fearful that other honorable members of this Parliament will be subject to such indignities and such abuse of privilege, and the only opportunity J have had of moving in the matter corner under this division which deals exclusively with the relevant matter.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I think that the Acting Leader of the Opposition is anticipating debate on a motion to disagree with the ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker on a question cf privilege raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party after an alleged visit to him by Commonwealth investigation officers.
– I shall not refer to that matter. I merely want to refer to a case that might easily arise.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman must speak to the proposed votes.
– Denial of the privilege of which all honorable members are so jealous, the mention of which hah caused so much hilarity amongst supporters of the Government, may well be the death-knell of parliamentary practice as we know it, and may be the forerunner of the complete suppression of free speech in the Parliament. We know that certain tactics have been adopted by members and supporters of the Government in order to destroy the real value of Parliament, and members of the Opposition in this chamber are likely to experience the first repercussions of such a policy. Freedom of speech has been an accepted principle of British democracy since the sixteenth century. I need only to refer to May’s Parliamentary Practice, which sets out the whole of the practices which regulate the function of free democratic parliaments of British-speaking peoples. At page 93 of that work, the following statement appears: -
Freedom of speech is a privilege essential to every free council or legislature. Its principle was well stated by the Commons, at a conference on the ll th December, 1067: “No mau can doubt,” they said, “ hut whatever is once enacted is lawful; but nothing can come into an Act of Parliament but it must be first affirmed or propounded by somebody: so that if the Act can wrong nobody, no more can the first propounding. The members must be as free as the houses; an Act of Parliament cannot disturb the state; therefore the debate that tends to it cannot; for it must be propounded and debuted before it can be enacted.”
The excerpt which I have just read deals with freedom of speech relative to the enactment of legislation, and it proves that the ancient right of members of Parliament to speak freely is based on a solid and logical foundation. However, May goes further, and at page 95 the following statement appears: -
In 1621, the Commons, in their protestation, defined their privilege more consistently with its present limits. They affirmed “ that every member hath freedom from all impeachment, imprisonment, or molestation, other than hy censure of the House itself, for or concerning any bill, speaking, reasoning, or declaring of any matter or matters touching the Parliament or Parliament business.”
It is clear, therefore, that within the Parliament itself there is sufficient machinery to enable action to be taken against honorable members who offend. No outside body has the right to intimidate, to molest, to question or otherwise to interfere with a member of the Parliament who exercises his right of free speech within the bounds laid down by the Standing Orders. Another important statement at page 96 of the work from which I am quoting reads -
By the 9th Article of the Bill of Rights it was declared, “That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.”
In my view, the position in which honorable members have been placed by the action of the Government may be stated in this way: Actuated by a deep sense of national responsibility, an honorable member may make a statement which not merely contradicts a ministerial statement, but also proves that the Minister has wilfully misled or lied to the people on matters of extreme importance affecting the security of this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), although well aware of his colleague’s offence, may choose to condone it, and to assume and exercise powers that are quite beyond those conferred on him by the Parliament, the Constitution, and every parliamentary tradition - which should be the jealously guarded privilege of the Parliament - by having . an honorable member subjected to objectionable surveillance by police officers, whose duties are dictated by party political considerations.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Acting Leader of the Opposition must confine his remarks to discussion of the Estimates for guarding and protecting war and munitions establishments.
– I am saying that because inadequate security precautions are being taken to guard vital defence secrets, any honorable member who has the courage to point out that important information is being withheld from this country is likely to find himself subjected to interference by the police. Sufficient safeguards against improper activity by members of the Parliament, already exist in the parliamentary Standing Orders, and if a member of the Opposition, an independent member, ot even a supporter of the Government, transgresses the bounds of propriety he may be punished adequately by the Parliament withholding from him the privileges which he enjoys. The infliction of such an indignity upon a member of this chamber, though sufficient to punish him adequately for any transgression which he may have committed, does not deprive him of his right as a citizen of free speech. Attempts to deprive elected representatives of the people of their right of free speech are in accordance with the tenets of communism and have been made by dictators down the ages. It was to overcome that kind of thing that we fought two world wars. That is the. kind of doctrine which the Nazi, Fascist and Communist parties promulgate, and which the present socialistic Government is promulgating. There is no difference in the interpretation of democratic government by this Government and by those parties. Members of the Government are endeavouring, by intimidation, to prevent honorable members from exercising the privileges extended to them before the sixteenth century. Those are privileges which, should be jealously guarded by every member of this chamber. No honorable member opposite should view this matter lightly, or treat with levity the attack made upon privileges which should be sacrosanct. Instances of disregard of the rights of honorable members which we have witnessed recently, may be accepted as a measuring rod for a continuation of the denial of parliamentary privilege. I have been moved to take action which may be regarded as a vote of censure on the Government because it has been adopting methods alien to the freedomloving traditions of this country.
– We have just heard a rather remarkable speech by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), who has adopted the attitude that if a document-
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, did not permit me to make any reference whatever to documents or anything of that nature. I suggest that you direct the Minister to confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair.
– The Minister may continue his speech.
– I am not making any reference to the document on which so much discussion has centred during the last few days, but it occurs to me that if a document, which relates to scientific defence developments, was stolen or forged-
– Or given.
– I will include the possibility of its having been given-
– Given by a Cabinet Minister !
– A document which had been stolen or forged, or given to some one other than the Minister responsible to the Parliament-
– A document given to a member of the Parliament ?
– Not every member of the Parliament is entitled to possession of a secret document. If I were not a member of the Government “but merely a private member and I obtained possession of a secret document,
I contend that my duty, in those circumstances, would be to take the document to the responsible authority concerned.
– Would not the Minister first read it?
– That is not the point. Such a document should be delivered to the authority that has the right to possess it.
– How could the Minister possibly determine what authority had the right to possess it unless he read it?
– If, by any means, a document came into the possession of any person, and he declined to disclose the identity of the person or persons from whom he obtained it, what possible objection could he have if inquiries were made of him by the security officers in order to establish whether the document was a forgery or whether it was stolen, and the source from which it came? Any person who objected to inquiries of that kind would be dishonest.
– If some one whispered secret information into the Minister’s ear, what would he do?
– I certainly would not come into this chamber and proclaim that I possessed secret information. No honorable member who professes to be an honest man could complain if in the course of their duty the security officers asked him for information.
This afternoon the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to what he described as an “ unfortunate “ fire - all fires are unfortunate - that occurred at the University of Melbourne yesterday. The honorable gentleman connected his remarks with the estimates of the Department of Defence by stating that some scientific papers relating to defence matters had been destroyed by the fire, and he attempted to attribute the cause of that fire to sabotage. After listening to the statements made on this subject by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) . last night and again to-day, and after reading the published report of the occurrence, I cannot understand how any one could say that the fire resulted from an act of sabotage. We all know that in laboratories where chemicals are .used there is always a risk of fire. [ do not believe, and I do not think that any honorable member on this side of the chamber believes, that honorable members opposite genuinely suspect that the fire resulted from an act of sabotage. The attempt on the part of honorable members opposite to link this occurrence with communism is fantastic. They do not believe their own story; members of the Government do not believe it ; and [ am sure that the Australian people do not believe it. Let us be a little more realistic.
– All we ask is that the Government should be more realistic.
– Honorable members opposite have said that the fire may not have occurred had the laboratory been properly guarded by security officers. How can they justify such a statement? All ‘ they know of the occurrence is what they have read in the brief report in the press. Does any honorable member contend that the press is in a position to know whether or not the laboratory was properly guarded? Ample security precautions are taken to guard all scientific work in which the Commonwealth is engaged. The allegation that this fire may have been started by somebody who favours the ideology of communism, fascism, or any other “ ism “ is fantastic-
– There have been three fires at the university recently.
– In recent weeks there have been no fewer than 23 fires in the vicinity of Adelaide-
– But these three all occurred at the same university.
– When tests are being conducted in a chemical laboratory there is always a risk of fire. Do honorable members opposite suggest that whenever a fire occurs in Australia it may have been caused by a Communist or a saboteur? Such a suggestion would be preposterous. I have not the slightest doubt that the responsible Minister will direct that a complete investigation be made into the occurrence. When the investigation has been completed it will be time to talk about whether or not saboteurs were associated with it. The attacks levelled against this Government by honorable members opposite have been directed not to its legislation but solely to its attitude towards communism. It is a compliment to the Government that during the last two years Opposition members have not been able to wage a decent fight in opposition to any of the legislation that the Government has introduced. They are continually looking for some bogy and, for years past they have seized upon communism. I hold no brief for the Communists. I am one of the few members of this Parliament who at every election has been opposed by a Communist. I have been courageous enough to attack Communists in the open. Honorable members opposite attack them only in this chamber. Outside of this building they flirt with the Communists. They and their supporters have sold to the Communists costly buildings in all the capital cities in Australia. It was not from the Australian Labour party or members or supporters of the Labour movement that the Communists obtained the palatial buildings in which their head-quarters in each State are established.
– What about the Federated Ironworkers Association?
– In every State of the Commonwealth the buildings housing the head-quarters of the Communist party were acquired or rented from staunch supporters of the Opposition parties. If honorable members opposite are sincere in their concern about the Communist menace, let them close down the Communist head-quarters in all States. The Communists will never secure office space from any Labour government or from members or supporters of the Labour movement. I challenge Opposition members on that aspect, if they are sincere on getting rid of the Communists. Although members of the Opposition suggest the banning of the Communists, I remind them that the Communists made their greatest progress in Australia when honorable members, who are now in Opposition, formed the government of this country. The same thing would happen again.
– When the Government wanted office space, why did it not take premises from the Communists?
– We did not have the money. Sometimes, I wonder if it is not the Opposition who supplies finance to the Communists, because the Communists are the Opposition’s “ best bet “. Because the Opposition cannot attack legislation which has been introduced by this Government, it makes use of the Communists. I contend that that ill becomes the Opposition. When the Prime Minister read out a schedule of times for debate of the various items on the Estimates, members of the Opposition stood up in a body and wasted between half an hour and three-quarters of an hour suggesting that sufficient time had not been allotted for the debate. But now that we are debating the Estimates, not one item has really been disposed of this afternoon.
– The Minister should not reflect on the Chair.
– However, that is a fact- -
– What about the defence item?
– The Opposition has continued a debate that was started on the adjournment last night.
– All of the Government members were not present.
– I am surprised that the honorable member for Warringah should make reference to somebody not being here !
– I rise to order-
– The honorable member for Warringah cannot rise to a point of order when another honorable member is speaking
– Then 1 ask the Minister to resume his seat. Time and again the Minister makes reference to the fact that I am not in this chamber. That is unparliamentary. When a statement is made about my not being in this chamber I point out that Ministers have repeatedly, after making statements, left the chamber for lengthy periods.
– The honorable gentleman’s point of order is not sustained. He is simply using an argument.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 280 reads -
No Member shall interrupt another Member whilst speaking, unless ( 1 ) to request that his words be taken down; (2) to call attention to a point of Order or Privilege suddenly arising; or .(3) to call attention to the want of Quorum.
If my understanding is correct, there are three grounds on which an honorable member may be interrupted whilst speaking. Does the Chair in these circumstances still adhere to its ruling?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I allowed the honorable member for Warringah to make his submission, and 1 say that there is no point of order in the matter that he raised.
– I am sorry that ] made that reference, but if the honorable member will reflect he will remember that he first made reference to my not being in the chamber. It is rather remarkable to hear the Opposition’s deprecation of the Government’s defence policy.
– Has the Government a defence policy?
– It is incredible that only three years after the end of the greatest world conflict in history, the peoples of the world should again be talking of war.
– Tell the Russians that.
– Such an interjection from the honorable member for Balaclava amazes me.
– The Minister talks such drivel.
– The honorable member’ for Balaclava, being an expert on drivel, would know what it is. In 1939 the peoples of the world practically knew that we were on the eve ‘of war.
– Did the Australian Labour party know?
– It is all very well to make reflections on the Australian Labour party, but there was not a Labour government in office in 1939.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN’.The Minister must be heard in silence. I shall name any honorable member who interjects from now on.
– Honorable members now in opposition comprised the Government in 1939, and I remember what little provision they made for the defence of Australia. I wonder if any members of the Opposition realize how inadequate were the defences in Queensland? Honorable members representing Queensland electorates should know. Great haste was made to lay miles of barbed wire along the beaches, but within 24 hours after the first tide came in no barbed wire was visible; it was covered with 3 feet or 4 feet of sand, and six months later, on some of the north Queensland beaches, barbed wire fences were covered with sand to a depth of 12 feet.
When I was in Tasmania about that time I saw tremendous concrete columns about 6 feet thick erected along the sides of certain roads. When I inquired what they were for I was told that that was part of the defence plan of that State. Iron hooks were built into the columns and the scheme was to suspend chains from those hooks across the roads, in order to arrest the progress of invading forces.
The Opposition, when in office, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds building tetrahedras, 6 feet high, along the beaches, but six months later they were covered with sand to a depth of 6 feet. In addition to the cost, many man-hours were wasted on those stupid defences.
The first Australian forces that were sent to New Guinea in 1942 by the antiLabour Government then in office, were untrained and unequipped.
– We were not in office in 1942.
– When those forces arrived in New Guinea at the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942, there was not one “ ack-ack “ gun in an emplacement anywhere in New Guinea. That was the legacy inherited by us from the preceding government. Neither at Moresby nor at Koitaki was there a single “ ack-ack “ gun. There were no bomber or fighter aircraft. From December, 1941, until May, 1942, the troops who were sent to New Guinea had to’ live in their trenches, because there was no other accommodation. That was Australia’s defence situation in 1939, when, for at least four years before, if members of the Government did not know that there was going to be a war, they were the only persons in Australia who did not know it.
During those four years, practically every programme in every picture theatre included newsreels illustrating Germany’s, military power. Why did the honorable member for Indi think Germany was building up its armaments?
– Why, in the opinion, of the Minister for the Army, is Russia building up armaments to-day?
– The honorable member is back with Russia again. The difference between 1939 and the present time is this : At the conclusion of World War I., Germany had sustained practically no damage, apart from its losses in the field. Its industrial capacity was unimpaired. The same was true of Japan. On the other hand, at the end of World War II., Russia had lost 12,000,000 of the most virile section of its population. Both the military and industrial power of Germany have been completely destroyed, and the same is true of Japan. Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, whom I respect, has drawn attention to the tremendous losses incurred by Russia in the war, and has pointed out that the industrial capacity of the country was largely destroyed. It is obvious, therefore, that circumstances are different now from those of 1939 ; but even so, the Government realizes that it is necessary to see to our defences. As the Minister for Defence pointed out recently, Australia is now spending on defence a larger percentage of its national income than at any other time when the country was not at war. Therefore, it ill becomes the members of the Opposition to criticize the defence measures of the Government. Rather should they co-operate with the Government in promoting the security of the country.
.- In the curtailed time at our disposal, we are considering Estimates of expenditure for the year 1948-49. In his speech, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) discussed defence matters relating to the years 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1942. I should have thought that he was out of order, but it was permitted. Therefore, as he was allowed to refer to defence matters relating to years other than the year covered by the Estimates under discussion, I assume that I shall also be allowed to do so. In the concluding part of his speech, the Minister said that in 1939 every one knew that a war was impending. When the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) interjected to ask whether we should assume, from the behaviour of Russia, that a war was impending now, the Minister brushed the interjection aside, saying that circumstances were different now from those of 1939. Of course, they are different, because the Russians are Communists, and the Communist party is part of the Labour party. We understand all that. The Minister said that in 1939 everybody knew that a war was impending. Therefore, I assume, he himself knew it, as did the leader of his party. We, who were members of the government at the time, did not know that war was impending, but we believed that it might be impending, and we took some elementary and substantial precautions. We prepared the war book on which the war was fought. However, when we sought to register the man-power of Australia, the members of the Labour party in this Parliament screamed the place down in their opposition to the proposal although, according to the statement of the Minister for the Army, they all knew that war was impending. Their names are on record as having voted against the proposal to register the man-power of the country.
The Minister for the Army referred to what he called our military unpreparedness in New Guinea in 1940, 1941 and 1942. Well, there is much substance in what he said. We know that, but in 1939, before the war broke out, the Government sought at least to make it legally possible to defend New Guinea. Up to that time, New Guinea could not have been defended legally until we had first raised a volunteer expeditionary force. But when we sought to amend the Defence Act so that it might apply to the Territory of Papua and to New Guinea every member of the Labour party in the Parliament, including the present Prime Minister and many of his Ministers, vigorously opposed the proposal, and voted against it. Now, they have the hide to chide us with the fact that New Guinea was not adequately defended,
The Minister for the Army attacked preceding governments because there were concrete defence structures in Queensland and other places in preparation against invasion. The members of the Government were not directly responsible for the erection of those structures. We did not direct such details, and I hope that the Minister for the Army is not to-day concerning himself with the details of military preparations. We acted on the recommendation of our military advisers. In any case, the defensive measures which were taken were not so ludicrous. I was in England and Scotland at the end of the war, and at every possible landing place along the coastline of those countries were to be found concrete structures of the kind which excited the derision of the Minister for the Army. What, therefore, is the significance of the drivel which he has just been talking?
– It has been admitted that such structures were useless.
– The Minister said that, at the beginning of the war, there were no fighter aircraft in New Guinea.
– Or bomber aircraft, either.
– That is not correct. It is true that our aircraft were not of the modern kind.
– There were two Hudsons.
– There were two squadrons at Darwin and a squadron of Hudsons at Port Moresby. The Minister said that there were no anti-aircraft guns at Port Moresby. That is untrue. Six weeks before the Japanese entered the war I visited Port Moresby and Rabaul, and I saw in those areas numbers of coastal defence guns and anti-aircraft guns as well as bombers and reconnaissance planes of an obsolete type. But they were the best we had. The Government of the day never thought of asking Great Britain to weaken its own defences in order that we might have aeroplanes stationed all around our coast. I, as a member of that government, do not ask for mercy for having adopted that policy. We did not ask that Coventry and other places in England should be left undefended so that our own defences could be strengthened at a time when there was no war in the Pacific area. However, that is past history, and I refer to it only because the Minister dealt with past history. To-day, all our attention should be focussed on present events and what is likely to happen in the future. It is perfectly obvious that if we need to fear any country that country is Russia. It is not the United States of America, or England, or, as the Minister said, Japan. It is not Germany. If we have no possible conceivable fear of Russia, why is the Minister now presenting to the Parliament defence estimates involving the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds, and why is he stimulating recruiting?
– I did not say that.
– The Minister said that there is no cause for fear of war from Russia.
– I did not say that.
– I do’ not want to misrepresent the Minister, but I make the point which should be crystal clear that if the Minister is justified in bringing before the Parliament estimates involving the expenditure of millions of pounds on defence he must believe that a war is possible. By a process of elimination one must come to the conclusion that the only country that the Government of Australia can be fearing is Russia. The Russian Government has agents in every civilized country in the world. The burden of our contention is that it is immensely important to make adequate provision for our defence, but it is futile to have armed forces unless, at the same time, the Government makes provision against the insidious fifth column which the Government of Russia has established in every country of the world. That fifth column has been exposed in the United Kingdom where a Labour government has felt obliged, in its own words, to “ purge government departments”. The Government of the United States of America has been obliged to appoint a congressional committee to investigate subversive activities in that country in the interests of Soviet Russia. And the Government of Canada, through a royal commission of inquiry, has exposed the Russian fifth column in all its infamy. For reasons which we have explained a thousand times in the Parliament, we believe that a similar fifth column exists in this country, and we know that the Government knows of its existence. Therefore, we ask why the Government does not do something about it. It is sheer waste of time for us to produce more evidence on the point, because the existence of a Russian fifth column in this country is crystal clear. I have no doubt that honorable members, including supporters of the Government, receive letters from time to time similar to that which I now hold in my hand. This letter has been sent to me by a man who gives his name and says that I can use his name. I shall not do so because ho may, consequently, be victimized; but if the Government doubts the truth of the contents of the letter, I shall make it available provided that a responsible Minister gives me an assurance that the man who has supplied the information will not be victimized. This man says that he is a worker at the naval dockyard at Williamstown. Recently, at that dockyard, one of the largest destroyers yet constructed in this country was completed to the point where it is ready to be launched. I was invited to the launching, but, subsequently, I was informed that the ceremony would not take place because of the occurrence of a strike at the dockyard. We know that that strike was part of the Communist plan to obstruct our defence activities in every possible way. This man writes -
I am forwarding you a paper printed in a suburb of Melbourne. The men who assist in the making and writing of these items of news are employees of His Majesty’s naval dockyard at Williamstown. The piece in a iked in ink on page 4 was made up by a Don Murray, who is a fitter employed there. His co-assistants are also employed at the naval dockyard and their names are . . .
He then gives the names of eight men.. I shall make those names available to the Government, if it wants them, provided it gives me the assurance for which I have asked. The newspaper to which the writer referred is the Williamstown Free Press and is designated “ a Communist party publication “. This is typical of the matter printed in that newspaper which is prepared by these men who are employees of the Department of Defence at the naval dockyard at Williamstown -
Malaya’s fight for freedom is our fight, too. The real issue in Malaya is the struggle for national liberation for the people’s right to control their own destiny and to sever the chains that bind them to British imperialism. But the British rubber and tin magnates . . .
The article goes on in that strain, and is typical of the story of communism. Is the Government satisfied that persons who are prepared to go into print and agitate for the severance of the so-called “ chains “ of British imperialism can he properly and safely allowed to continue on the pay-roll of the country’s defence establishments? That is a simple question. .If the Government believes that such people can be properly and safely employed in a defence establishment, I believe that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, would tolerate an interjection from Ministers to indicate that that is so. I hear no such interjection. If the Government believes that it is improper and dangerous to employ such men at the naval dock, r, id at Williamstown, Ministers cm also, by a simple interjection, indicate that it is prepared to take some action against such men. I still have nothing but complete silence from the Government benches.
– Would the honorable member allow us to employ members of the New Guard?
– It is a very simple, although important, query that I put to the Government in a positive and negative way, but I receive no answer except an interjection by the Minister foi1 Defence, who sits over the three service IIiniste: -. , and the best he can do is to retort something about the New Guard. If there is a New Guard, that may be quite important in its place, and the Minister should deal with it in its place. But at the moment, I am discussing the subject of Communists in the naval dockyard at Williamstown. I have asked in vain for the Minister to indicate whether the Government is prepared to take action against those Communists.
– Is the honorable member prepared to state that the persons to whom he refers are Communists? Is he prepared to vouch for the truth of that statement? If he is, he should make his information available to the Com monwealth Investigation Service, so that it can be “ vetted “. The honorable member has said that certain employees of tb,Williamstown Naval Dockyard are Communists. Let him accuse them. He will not do so. Members of the Opposition are a lot of humbugs.
– 1 have already supplied the Government with facts.
– Let the boy 1]ive a g°-
– Order ! The honorable member for Indi has been inviting interjections for the last fifteen minutes.
– I am tolerating them. I have given the name of the alleged author of the article.
– The honorable member has not done so.
– The author is Don Murray He is a fitter, who is employed at the dockyard. I said that if I had an assurance that the writer of the letter to me would not be victimized, I would hand it to a responsible Minister.
– Do not take the risk.
– My offer did not draw even an interjection -from the ministerial bench to indicate that such an assurance would be given.
– This Government has never victimized any man.
– Let the Minister tell th::t to the Leader of the Australian Country party. That right honorable gentleman encountered the ire of the Government, not because he revealed information affecting the security of the country, but because he quoted something which reflected upon the probity of the Government and its entitlement to continue in office. Because he did so, the Commonwealth Investigation Service was whistled up overnight and turned on to him, even in Parliament House. But when I offer to supply to the Government the names of eight or nine men who are allegedly Communists and ask for nothing more than the assurance that my informant shall not be victimized, the Commonwealth Investigation Service is not made available to undertake the inquiries. I should like to know the reason.
– It is too busily occupied with another engagement.
– The Commonwealth Investigation Service is not available, because the men concerned are members of the Communist-controlled ironworkers union. Many of the residents of the waterfront electorate in which those men live are members of other Communistcontrolled unions such as the Waterside Workers Federation, the Seamen’s Union, and the Stewards Union. I find that I am making ray appeal to Ministers whose pre-selection as Australian Labour party candidates depends on the support of members of such unions.
– That is not correct.
– The only exception is an. odd union which is not affiliated with the Australian Labour party.
– That is not correct, either.
– Most of the unions which I have mentioned are affiliated with the Australian Labour party, and because of that fact, they acquire the right through pre-selection ballots, to determine whether Ministers shall stand as official Labour candidates. That is why Ministers fear the Communists, and why they put their own little hides above the safety of their native land. The Menzies Government, of which I was a member, instituted proceedings under the Crimes Act against the saboteurs, Ratliff and Thomas. They were convicted, after a public trial, on a charge of sabotage. After their sentences had expired, they declined an offer of freedom which was conditional on their giving an assurance not to continue their treasonable activities. They declared that if they were released, they would continue their treasonable activities. Immediately the Fadden Government went out of office, members of the Curtin Government, who owed their places in public life to the influence of Communist-controlled unions, set Ratliff and Thomas free. Fundamentally the outlook of the Australian Labour party has not changed in the interval. If this country is in jeopardy because of the infiltration of the Communist fifth-column, the explanation is to be found in the disintegration of the trade union movement and the political wing of the Labour party, and in the capture of a substantial portion of the trade union movement by the Communist party.
The Communist party does not confine its nefarious activities to this country. It sends young Australians home to Russia for special training. Repeatedly, Communists have been issued with passports to leave Australia. I could mention the name of a young man, twenty years of age, who was born and bred on a farm situated only a few miles from my property. He fell under the influence of the Communist party, and became an agitator and organizer for the Communist party. Although he had no money, his fare was paid to Russia. He has been in that country for months. He was being trained in Prague when the coup took place. I have in my office a copy of McLean’s Magazine, a Canadian publication, in which appears an article by a native-born Canadian. As he gives his name, birthplace and present residence, there cannot be anything phoney about the article, which is entitled, “;I was Taught Treason “. The writer explained that he was persuaded to accept the Communist doctrine, and he became a party member. As he was a successful agitator, his fare was paid to enable him to go to a training school in Russia. Approximately 3,000 Asiatics and 3,000 persons of European extraction were attending the classes. Professors and military men instructed him in the arts of communism, which he should practise in his native land on his return. He was taught how to establish a youth movement, like the Eureka youth movement in Australia; how to stir up trouble in an industrial plant; how to infiltrate a political party; how to make an improvised bomb ; and how to stage a street riot. He and his fellow students were instructed in the conduct of mock guerrilla warfare with an official section of the Soviet army. Being a loyal Canadian at heart he was so disgusted, that upon his return to his native land, he exposed the Communists. He stated in the article that there were two Australians in his class. The Government knows all about that. In fact, I am convinced that members of the Labour party know a great deal more about it than we. do. I do not suggest that they approve of it, but I do suggest that, having to choose between their own political future and the safety of this country, they are prepared to decide in favour of their political future and say, “ To hell with the future of Australia”. They are not fit to govern this land. There have been many disturbing incidents in recent months. The latest was the fire at the University of Melbourne. I do not know - probably nobody knows with certainty - whether’ it was the result of accident or sabotage. The Minister for Defence has said that no scientific investigations of a defence character had been undertaken there. We must measure the’ statement by a Minister of the Crown against that of Professor Martin, the official in charge of the investigation work that was being carried out at the research station. Professor Martin said-
It was the main Commonwealth defence centre and the only one in Australia undertaking such work. [f I have to assess the veracity of a statement by Professor Martin, whom T have never met, against that of a statement by the Minister for Defence, the fact that I have met the Minister for Defence influences me to believe Professor Martin. But let us accept the word of the Minister that the project had nothing to do with defence. The Minister has also said that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is not engaged on work associated with defence. He has repeated that statement at least 50 times in this chamber. Let us accept that assurance as well. What conclusion do we reach as the result of an examination of the two statements? We have but a’ handful of people in Australia, and the number of scientists amongst us is very limited. What scope is there in Australia for the scientific investigation of nuclear phenomena on the highest plane ? Competent scientists cannot be gathered off the streets; I submit that men capable of engaging in nuclear research cannot be found outside the staffs of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and our universities. There is no other place of employment for them, and such men do not engage in business on their own account. Therefore, accepting the Minister’s assurances that the investigations at the University of Melbourne had nothing to do- with defence and that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has not. engaged m defence research work since the termination of hostilities, the logical conclusion: is that investigation of the only subject of real defence significance has not been commenced in Australia, although othernations began such research at least three years ago. The Government is convicted out of the mouth of the Minister for Defence. Nothing has been done at the universities and nothing has been, done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research! To-day the honorable gentleman notified his intention of transferring a section of the Council for’ Scientific and Industrial Research to the Department of Defence. Are we now, more than three years after the first atomic bomb was exploded, to- commence the investigation of atomic phenomena? If so, I say that this Government has been culpably and criminally negligent not only in its attitude to the Communists but also in its failure to initiate research into this new branch of military science. That is the admission made by the Minister for Defence. The only defence that he has offered against our charges is that he was not telling the truth when he declared repeatedly that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was not engaged in research of defence significance-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The time allotted for this debate on the Estimates, which honorable members opposite complain is designed to prevent reasonable criticism is not being devoted to a discussion of the items that are before the Chair. It is being used merely to continue the debate on communism, which, in any case, will be resumed at a later date on a motion by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). Honorable members opposite, particularly thehonorable member for . Indi (Mr. McEwen), have endeavoured to drag in a lot of red herrings about their Communist friends, whom they want to use in order to discredit the Labour party. In my opinion the honorable member for Indi made some wilfully distorted statements about affiliations with the Labour party. As one who has been associated with trade unions for many years, I know that the statements were deliberately untrue. He referred to such organizations as the Victorian Ironworkers Union and the Australian Railways Union and said that they were affiliated with the Labour party. That is not true.
– I did not mention the Australian Railways Union.
– The honorable gentleman mentioned a number of unions which are not affiliated with the Labour party and are said to be controlled by Communists, and, by inference, associated them with the Labour party. He has resorted to distortion in order to bolster up his charges. That is all that he can rely upon. Frankly, I do not fear Communist influence in connexion, with my pre-selection ballot. I have been opposed by the Communists before. The honorable member need not fear them, because they will support the policies which the Opposition advocates and will oppose the Labour party’s policy. I do not intend to he mislead by the tactics of the honorable members opposite. The Acting Leader of the Opposition did not attempt to deal with any of the items which the committee is supposed to be considering. All he did was to submit an amendment as a subterfuge to enable his supporters to raise communism again and again.
– I did not discuss communism. I discussed the privilege of members of this Parliament.
– The honorable member referred to the fact that Communists were responsible-
– He did not say anything at all about them.
– I guarantee that when the proofs of the honorable gentleman’s speech arrive to-morrow he will find that he would need to make a lot of deletions in order to remove that impression. He did nothing but drag in red herrings in an effort to convince the listening public that the Labour party is associated with communism, although he knows that the Communists oppose the Labour party and help the Opposition parties. The fact is that men who have been associated with the Labour party for many years have never had any connexion with communism, except in the course of their fight against it. The Opposition parties have never fought communism. They only use it now in order to get some cheap assistance. The hypocritical complaint by honorable members opposite that they are not allowed sufficient time in which to discuss the Estimates v proved to be false by the fact that they have not attempted to discuss the item? which come before the committee. The people of Australia ought to know that the Opposition is only using this opportunity to present the bait of communism. I shall not he deceived, and I do not propose to discuss the matter any further.
I shall deal with the few matters raised by honorable members in relation to the items which the committee is supposed to be considering. Some honorable members opposite seem to have been misinformed. Ministers do not object to legitimate criticism of the Estimates, but such statements as those which were made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) require correction. The honorable member expressed great concern about the fact that the proposed vote for the Department of Air for 1948-49 i3 £2,696,000 less than was actually expended, by the department in 1947- 48. The honorable gentleman asked, as he is entitled to do, whether the Government was proud of the reduction. The explanation is simple. Honorable members will appreciate, of course, that the defence appropriations provided for in the Estimates refer to both war and postwar services. The fact that the proposed vote for the Department of Air for 1948- 49 is approximately £2,700,000 les? than expenditure in 1947-48 is entirely attributable to two causes. The first is that the amount of expenditure on war services in 1947-48 will be reduced by approximately £7,000,000. The second is the increased provision of £4,400,000 for the second year of the five-year Royal
Australian Air Force developmental programme. The appropriation that is proposed for the Permanent Air Force in 1948-49 is £12,635,000, while the expenditure in 1947-48 was approximately £8,200,000. The reduction of war expenditure this year by £7,000,000 is due to the demobilization during the last financial year of members who were serving on war-time engagements. In that year those concerned received their deferred pay and other benefits which had accrued to them. Settlement was also made of other non-recurring war terminal costs in respect of items such as equipment, stores, building and works. The sum of approximately £4,400,000 in excess of the amount that was expended upon the peace-time programme last year is required for the further development of the Permanent Air Force that is planned for this year. The Government has every reason to he proud of those facts and of the expedition with which it has liquidated its war-time commitments.
Last week the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) gave a comprehensive review of the Australian defence policy and of the progress that has been made in the implementation of the five-year programme for the services. I do not propose to repeat what was said on that occasion. Recruiting was the subject of criticism by the honorable member for Balaclava and other honorable members. The most recent statistics show that, while over-all recruiting for the Air Force in the first six months of 1948 approximated to the target figure, enlistments in July and August fell short of the much higher average monthly objective for the second half of 1948. Moreover, the wastage rate of airmen during those two months was, unfortunately, greater than was forecast. Action is being taken to obtain the number of recruits that is required each month by the Permanent Air Force and to make good the present deficiency. The figures relating to the Royal Australian Air Force personnel that were given by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) were as erroneous as was the honorable gentleman’s statement of the aircraft situation. As I have already said in replying to the honorable member for
Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Balaclava, I am extremely surprised at the statement of the honorable member for Franklin that there is much dissatisfaction in the Royal Australian Air Force because of lack of opportunities for promotion. Doubtless the honorable gentleman believed that statement to be true, but I shall show that he has not kept himself up to date.
– What happened to the wing-commanders the other day?
– There is a surplus of wing-commanders in the Air Force at the present time. The honorable gentleman further said, referring to officers, that at the present time the membership of the Air Force consists almost entirely of flight-lieutenants, and that there seems to be no prospect of any promotion for them. Those statements were not founded upon facts. Although the basic substantive rank of many officers in the Citizen Air Force - that is, the war-time Air Force - was that of flightlieutenant, those who filled appointments on establishments carrying higher ranks were granted the appropriate higher temporary or acting rank. Large numbers of officers were promoted to the ranks of squadron leader, wing-commander, group captain and even air commodore. Both acting and temporary rank, the latter corresponding with war substantive rank in the Australian Imperial Force, carried the full emoluments of those ranks. Acting rank only was withdrawn when a member ceased to hold a higher appointment. That principle was adopted by the three services. I direct the attention of the honorable member for Franklin to Commonwealth Gazette No. 136 of 1948, in which there is promulgated the latest appointments, promotions, ranks and seniority of all officers who have been granted permanent or short-service commissions in the Permanent Air Force. The honorable gentleman will note that while 632 officers hold the rank of flightlieutenant, 203 have been granted the substantive rank of squadron leader, 50 the rank of wing-commander, and eight the rank of group captain. The temporary promotions in the Permanent Air Force of 38 squadron leaders, 36 wingcommanders and eight group captains were also promulgated. The honorable member for Franklin will be the first to acknowledge that those facts provide an adequate answer to his comments with regard to ranks and promotions.
The honorable gentleman criticized the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve. Some months ago I announced in this chamber that I had approved of the creation of two lists within the reserve forces of the Royal Australian Air Force, one to be a reserve for Permanent Air Force units and the other a reserve for Citizen Air Force units in the event of an emergency. According to the latest information, 3,900 men have applied to be enrolled for reserve service, of these 2,560 have been enrolled and the remainder are in the process of being enrolled. The number of officer, applicants for the reserve exceeds the number of airman applicants, and special steps are now being taken to enrol a number of ex-airmen in the reserves of the Permanent Air Force and Citizen Air Force. Plans for some training of the reservists are at present under consideration, and it is hoped that decisions will be taken soon. It will be appreciated that, owing to the general shortage of man-power in the early years of the Air Force development plan, the whole of the training effort of the Royal Australian Air Force must now be concentrated upon training permanent personnel for the home defence and task force squadrons, as well as for all the ancillary units that are provided for under the plan. Later, when the objectives regarding permanent personnel are nearer achievement, training facilities not required by the Permanent Air Force will be devoted to the training of reservists.
I agree with the statement that was made by the honorable member for Franklin that there has been much comment with regard to the Government’s defence policy. The adverse comment, however, has been of a general nature with a pronounced political flavour. In the few instances in which a specific matter has been referred to and figures relating, for instance, to the numbers of aircraft and personnel have been put forward by honorable members in support of their views, those figures have had no actual relationship to the true position. Fct some reason best known to himself, the honorable member for Franklin did not avail himself of the opportunity of viewing the figures that I offered to show him until after he spoke on the subject in this chamber. I had notified him approximately a week before then that I had obtained the information for which he asked. I do not know what happened, but he did not avail himself of the opportunity to see them. The figures that I was afterwards able to show to the honorable gentleman proved conclusively that his statements, as well as those which were made by the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Balaclava were not correct. Fct security reasons I could not disclose the locations of units or the numbers of aircraft and personnel stationed in various places ia answer te his question on notice but the inf ormation that I was able to show to the honorable gentleman proved completely that he had incorrectly stated the number of aircraft that was available. What I am putting to the committee is that we have a programme of development which I think will satisfy most reasonable people. Everything cannot be accomplished at once. I have never adopted the attitude that the Government’s plans are perfect and beyond criticism; but we want helpful criticism on matters of this kind. The defence of this country is most important, not only to the Government, but also to the Opposition, and honorable members opposite should be prepared to give assistance instead of constantly offering destructive criticism. If they were prepared to do that they would not find any resentment on my part.
– Does the Minister suggest that I did not offer any constructive suggestions?
– Not in regard to aircraft and personnel. It has been necessary for me to refute the statements that the honorable member has made. Had he accepted my offer and examined the figures, he would probably not have made those statements. However, I do not hold that against him.
– That is very good of the Minister.
– I want to be fair, and that is something the honorable member for Balaclava does not know how to be. All he can do is to keep up a running fire of drivel, no matter what Minister is on his feet.
– I rise to order. I take exception to the offensive remarks of the Minister and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– What were the offen sive remarks?
– The Minister said that L was constantly offensive to him, and indulged in drivel. That is quite untrue. [ made certain statements on the Air Force which he will not answer.
– Were the Minister’s remarks offensive to the honorable member?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Then the Minister must withdraw them.
– I should like to know what offensive remarks I am alleged to have made? I cannot withdraw something of which I am net aware.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Balaclava objects to the word “ drivel
– Then I withdraw the word “drivel” and substitute “ snivel “.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order!
– I withdraw both drivel” and “snivel”. I shall deal now with the criticism made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). Referring to the aircraft position in the Air Force, the honorable member stated that, at the end of five years, under the proposed scheme, the total number of aircraft would be 144, consisting of 54 for home defence, with a total of 1,182 personnel, and a task force of 90 aircraft, with 2,061 personnel. Thus, of a total of 144 aircraft, he said that there would be only 86 combat aircraft. The honorable member went on to say that that number could be increased to 111 if air sea rescue squadrons and reconnaissance squadrons, which are included in the figures given, were taken into account, but that, using the usual 75 per cent, serviceability rate, our maximum frontline strength would be S6 aircraft. Similar figures were quoted by the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Franklin in support of their criticisms of the equipment of the squadrons to be formed under the fiveyear plan. I am not aware of the origin of those figures or of the basis on which they were computed, but I assure the committee that those statistics have no real relation to the true position. Comparing those figures with our actual holdings, it would appear that honorable members opposite have assumed, quite erroneously, that the only service aircraft in existence in Australia are those in day-to-day use in the operational units. As honorable members will appreciate, aircraft comprising what is termed “ unit equipment” are backed by very substantial numbers - many times the total of the unit equipment - of the same types of aircraft in maintenance and wastage pools, in addition to strategic reserves to cover wastage in the early stages of a war, and for training purposes. I regret that, for security reasons, it is not possible to make public the actual numbers of those reserves, but, as I have already mentioned, they are substantial. Furthermore, honorable members will agree that the real strength of any national air force is not in numbers of aircraft alone, but also in the quality and performance of the aeroplanes available, in the skill and courage of the air crews, in the efficiency of the maintenance staffs and the personnel in ground staff musterings, and in the existence of an aircraft industry capable of manufacturing the latest types of aircraft and associated equipment in adequate quantities. Those requirements with the ability, to produce trained men in adequate numbers to expand the Air Force in an emergency, are the main elements of air strength and the Government’s plans make provision for them. With regard to the personnel figures quoted by the honorable member for Warringah, and the honorable member for Franklin, 7 believe that it is necessary to point out that the establishment of the home defence and task force squadrons provided in the five-year plan will be supported by approximately 5,000 personnel in the Permanent Air Force maintenance and training units. These men will be available for the establishment of additional operational units in emergency, and their places in the maintenance and training organization, in such circumstances, will then be taken by mobilized reserves. They will be highly trained personnel, capable in every way of discharging their duties in operational units. In addition, the plan provides for the requisite numbers of trained personnel for research, development, communications, and other technical duties essential to successful operations. The further comparison made by the honorable member for Balaclava between the squadron strength of the Royal Australian Air Force and the strength of the aircraft industry in 1939, and now, was very superficial and unfortunately misleading. As honorable members may recall, at the outbreak of war, ‘.vh en the honorable member’s party held the reins of government, the Air Force squadrons which then existed were equipped with aircraft such as Wirraways and Hudson.* which were found to be unsuitable for their respective roles. Furthermore, reserves were totally inadequate and the maintenance and supply organization had many shortcomings. The position is vastly different to-day. The Royal Australian Air Force is now being organized as a balanced force of sixteen operational squadrons, supported by a training, maintenance and supply organization sufficient to support that force in war. The aircraft with which those squadrons arp equipped, and the substantial reserves held for those squadrons, are modern types still in use by the Royal Air Force and the American Air Force.
Another important development during my Government’s regime has been the establishment of an expensive aircraft industry to back up the Air Force organization. The local production of the Vampire jet fighter, fitted with the RollsRoyce Nene engine, is well advanced and deliveries will commence early in 1949. Consideration is now being given to the production of another type of jet aircraft. The honorable member challenged me to deny that we had only one squadron in Australia ready to go into action.
Apart from our Fighter Wing in Japan, which is constantly on a war footing, the Air Staff has confirmed that a number of squadrons in Australia are ready for operation at very short notice; furthermore, that we have all of the aircraft and air crews required for the manning of the squadrons to be provided under the five year programme which are in process of being built up. The Air Force is, however, short of personnel for certain key trades in the ground staff musterings. but men are being recruited to train as rapidly as possible to make good those deficiencies. With regard to the honorable member’s reference to hundreds of aircraft rotting on various airfield? throughout Australia, I should point 0U that all of the service aircraft required for unit equipment and for the various categories of reserves, including training for the home defence and task force squadrons, provided under the five-year programme and all the training machines required for training purposes, are hold under cover. Those to which the honorable member referred are the remainder of war surpluses, and comprise main ‘ training types. The engines, instruments, and parts of value for post-war Royal Australian Air Force purposes have been removed, and, as the residual component? are of no value, either for service or commercial use, they are being dismantled and disposed of as scrap. It is hope-i that that work will be completed by the end of the present year or early in 1949. It may be of interest to members to know that, at the end of hostilities, 5,500 service and training aircraft were held by the Royal Australian Air Force, and that the majority of those now lying in the open on aerodromes, are obsolete, and of no use whatever for either service oi training purposes. The honorable member for Balaclava a few days ago asked whether the Government had considered the formation of university squadron,to be part of the Citizen Air Force or Permanent Air Force Reserve. I am now in a position to state that proposal of a similar nature have been fully considered by the Air Board. Its decision was that experience in the 1939- 45 war showed that the formation of university squadrons could not be favorably regarded, mainly because university students fall into the reserved occupation categories and would thus not be available a9 air crew in the event of any emergency arising. As honorable members are already aware, the plans approved by the Government for the post-war air force envisage an organization which would be the soundest to meet peace-time commitments and to allow of rapid expansion in the event of any emergency arising at any time. The plans include the establishment of Citizen Air Force squadrons in the vicinity of the larger capital cities, and form an excellent medium for certain categories of university undergraduates to learn flying or to resume their Air Force training during the long vacations and at week-ends. The diversion of any of our present reserves to the establishment of purely university hit squadrons would not be justified.
Honorable members opposite have raised other matters with which I have not yet dealt, but with which I am prepared to deal at a later opportunity. I have no desire to take up the time of the committee at present, but I consider that if I had not risen to reply to some of the assertions made by honorable members opposite it might have been inferred that f was in fact unable to make any reply.
– The radar equipment and organization which existed in Australia during the war still exist. The Air Board has assured me that there is radar communication between every Air Force station in Australia at the present time. The honorable gentleman has previously suggested that the Government had dismantled some of that equipment since the war.
– I am asking the Minister what radar the country has now.
– As I have stated, the Air Board has assured me that there is radar communication between all the places where Air Force squadrons operated during the war. These communications have been maintained. It must be realized, however, that the Government cannot, and should not, disclose all the information relating to such equipment, and if I am asked to disclose everything about it I shall refuse to do so, because such information might be useful to the communistic friends of the Opposition. The only difficulty I can see in completing our Air Force programme within five years is the possible shortage of man-power for the more highly technical musterings. It is very difficult to attract recruits for such musterings because of the high wages now being paid in industry and because workers in industry may have their homes near their place of employment. The Royal Australian Air Force expects technical musterings to live near the places where their operational training is conducted and it is difficult to induce men to enter the service in those conditions. The Government hope.that nothing will be said during thi? debate that will deter men from offering themselves for these musterings, and it anticipates receiving the assistance of honorable members opposite in its recruiting plans.
I wish to advert to a matter which I would not have mentioned except for » statement which the honorable member for Indi made regarding the Labour party’s attitude to Air Force need? during the war. If the honorable member cares to study such ancient history closely he will find that there are many failings on his side of the chamber in regard to the Air Force. I remind honorable members that the late Mr. Curtin, when Leader of the Opposition in 1937, advocated the establishment of a powerful air force, and was supported in that proposal by other honorable members, including myself. The establishment of a large air force was the only major defence effort of which Australia was at that time capable, because of the policy of previous governments which had preferred to conscript people into unemployment by their failure to provide work to absorb them. At that time these governments had full power to do what they wished, as they had majorities in both Houses of this Parliament. I consider that the failure of these governments to provide work for the people and to expand the Air Force was a crime against the community that will never be forgotten. Mr. Curtin, stressed that the only practicable thing for Australia to do was to develop a large air force, but the government of the day did nothing about it.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– I do not know what the honorable member for Warringah did when he came into office as Minister for the Army, but at all events the Government of which he was a member was not prepared to meet its responsibilities at a time when it could easily have done so. At that time, four years before the entry of Japan into the war, it was in Australia’s power to commence the programme put forward by Mr. Curtin, but honorable members who are now in Opposition turned his proposal down time and time again. I therefore remind the honorable member for Indi that the attitude of the present Opposition to the things that at that time really mattered for the defence of Australia was to sneer at and ignore Mr. Curtin’s very sound proposal. Despite their attitude then, honorable members of the Opposition now criticize an Air Force programme which is practical and which will make us ready to defend Australia should any threat arise. The honorable member quoted from a newspaper published in Williamstown. I could find any number of such references in Australian newspapers. As a matter of fact, I have seen the names of some honorable members opposite, as well as of government members, mentioned in the Bock. Honorable members can find such references in any newspaper in Australia to-day and they could not possibly be refuted. The honorable member has alleged that the Government is employing Communists, and he has implied that it employed people who belong to Communist organizations in preference to others who belong to legitimate unions. My own association with trade unionism covers a period of over 40 years, and I admit that there are a number of trade unionists who vigorously advocate the cause of communism. Such people do not know the real value of trade unionism. I consider that honorable members opposite continually make charges about the Government and’ its attitude towards com munism merely to drag red herring* across the trail and divert the attention of the Australian people from really vital issues. The Government has planned for a real defence programme, but the Opposition is more concerned with smearing Australia’s name.
– The Minister’s speech about the Labour party’s attitude towards the Air Force prior to the war was too self-righteous for words. He stated that the former leader of the Labour party, Mr Curtin, had advocated a greater air force for Australia, when, in fact, both th<late Mr. Curtin and the Minister him self voted against the defence estimate? on every possible occasion. On the 3rd November, 1938, the present Minister foi Labour and National Service (Mr Holloway) said -
The Government is expanding much to<. rapidly on defence. It is making plans for more than the adequate defence of Australis I make no excuse for saying that.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is now Minister foi Transport, stated -
It is amusing to hear people say we wil. not give up New Guinea. To these people 1 would say that if it should become necessary to defend our mandated territories, the’ should defend themselves.
On the 1st December, 1939, three month? after the war had begun, Senator Collings expressed himself in the following terms: -
I would not negotiate with that scoundrel Churchill. I regard Mr. Churchill as a mad dog let loose for the purpose of spreading hatred where previously none existed.
This afternoon, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) asserted that the Curtin Labour Government had bequeathed to it as one of its legacies a poor defence policy. I invite honorable members to contrast that assertion with the following statement made on the 12tl October, 1941, by the late Mr. Curtin, when he was Prime Minister: -
I have to pay tribute to the Government which preceded my own for the constructive work they have done in defence and the foundations they have laid.
On the 18th October, 1941, he stated-
The Navy was at its highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by the notable ezploits of its ships overseas. The home defence army was well trained and its equipment had been greatly improved.
The former Prime Minister then spoke of tho strength of the Air Force. This afternoon, the Minister for the Army asserted that at the outbreak of war Australia had literally no air force. I invite honorable members to listen to what Mr. Curtin said with regard to the Air Force. He stated -
The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect of home defence squadrons and the training resources >f the Empire air scheme. The equipment of the Air Force had also been much improved. Finally, munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft,, was growing weekly.
The Minister for the Army also had a great deal to say about what he termed the inadequate defences provided in Queensland and Tasmania during the war, which consisted of concrete blocks and barbed wire placed on the beaches to prevent enemy landings. I do not know whether the Minister was deliberately trying to mislead the committee or whether he is ignorant of the facts, but it is well known that the type of static defence adopted in Australia was similar to. that used in England in the early stages of the war.
– That is not correct. The obstacle defences provided in England were entirely different from those provided in Australia.
– Did the Minister see these defences in England at that time?
– Order ! The honorable member for Franklin will continue his speech without engaging in controversy with members of the committee.
– The Minister also asserted that the only static defences protided in Australia consisted of concrete pillars on each side of highways with chains stretching between them. However, during the war I had an opportunity to see the types of static defence employed in Britain, and they were quite different from those suggested by the Minister, who simply does not know what he is talking about. The Minister may also be unaware that similar defence obstacles were used in Germany during the early part of the war.
I turn now to a matter which I have mentioned previously in the hope that some action might be taken by the Government. I refer to the allocation of campaign stars to ex-servicemen of the recent war. It appears that, although some exservicemen, who served in New Guinea for only one day, regardless of the kind of service which they rendered, are entitled to receive the Pacific Star, and other servicemen who spent six months in New Guinea, whether or not they were engaged in combatant units, are entitled, in addition, to the issue of the 1939-45’ Star, whilst more than 2,000 ex-members of the Royal Australian Air Force who were in the United Kingdom are still regarded as ineligible to receive the 193945 Service Star. Some servicemen who were actually conscripted in 1945 are regarded as entitled to receive campaign stars, whilst others who served for four or five years in the United Kingdom are not regarded as eligible to receive the award, although some such men were killed in air raids on Great Britain, and .some lost their lives by submarine attack while in transit to that country. Many of the Royal Australian Air Force ground personnel in Great Britain did magnificent work. Ground crews serviced aircraft throughout the most bitter winter conditions, and although many of them worked day and night for weeks on end, but apparently they will not receive any proper recognition. Even at this late hour I appeal to the Government to rectify that injustice.
I shall now refer to the statement made by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) that the statistics which I quoted in regard to the home defence and task forces of the Royal Australian Air Force were incorrect. I challenge the Minister to prove that the statistics which I quoted are not correct, and I shall repeat them. The home defence force is to consist of 54 aircraft and 1,182 personnel, and the task force of 90 aircraft and 2,061 personnel. As the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) rightly pointed out, we must take into account that in operation only 75 per cent, of aircraft are normally serviceable at any given time, so that we shall have only 86 competent aircraft. I challenge the Minister to say that I am wrong.
– The statistics which I gave the honorable member are correct and they refute his suggestion.
– The Minister made a feature of the reserve which is to bo called up for the Air Force. However, use of the term “ called up “ is misleading, because all that will happen is that men who served in the Air Force during the recent war will be invited to register for the reserve of the Air Force. They will not be given any training whatever. In the course of a statement which he issued, the Minister stated, “ There will be no training liability “. I repeat what I said previously. The ex-members of the Air Force are now completely out of touch with developments. As a former member of the Air Force, I know that that is so, because I myself am completely out of touch with later developments. Although I urged that members of the Air Force Eeserve should be given regular lectures on modern equipment and new types of aircraft, on strategy and tactics, and on new uses of radar, in addition to refresher courses in flying, the Minister said that I did not make any concrete suggestions.
– All the matters mentioned by the honorable member are within the knowledge of the Air Board, and they will be carried out in due course. The honorable member is merely anticipating something which he knows will be done later.
– As I understand it, the scheme for the Citizen Air Force provides for a personnel of 190. I ask the Minister whether that is correct.
– No, it is not correct.
– What is the number ?
-I am not under cross-examination.
– Did the Minister see the report which was published a few days ago of the result of the recent recruiting drive in Sydney?
– I do not accept press statements as being necessarily true.
– That statement was made by the commanding officer of the Sydney squadron.
– It is quite likely that the press has withheld the correct number. The Government will make a proper announcement at the appropriate time.
– It is idle to speak of having an air force which if capable of rapid expansion if we have nottraining and equipment facilities available.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Defence and Post-war (1939-45) Charges - Defence and Service Departments,. Supply and Development,Reciprocal Lend-lease,Re-establishment andRepatriation, International Belief and Rehabilitation, Subsidies and Miscellaneous has expired.
Question put -
That the Division proposed to be reduced (Mr. Harrison’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. D.O. Watkins.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.7 to 8 p.m.
Proposed vote, £7,549,000.
Refunds of Revenue
Proposed note, £10,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed vote, £10,000,000.
War (1914-18) Services
Proposed vote. £1,137,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I propose to discuss some aspects of government policy and the general principles it has adopted in connexion with loan raisings. As this is a very technical subject, in order to present my case, it is obvious that I shall have to cite very many figures. At the 30th June last, the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank held more than £100,000,000 worth of Commonwealth public loans which, from the information available in the budget papers, appear to have been raised since 1941. The budget papers furnish a list of these securities, with the dates of maturity and the rates of interest. From this information, scanty as it is, several inferences may be drawn. For instance, the third and fourth Victory Loans mature on the 15th September, 1961, the rate of interest being 3¼ per cent. My research has disclosed no other loans carrying similar conditions as to maturity date and rate of interest. The Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank holds scrip bearing the same rate of interest, and having the same maturity date, of a value of £24,976,680. The sequence ismaintained throughout the other years. In other words, the subscriptions made by the Commonwealth Bank to the 1944 series of loans can be assessed by the same method - if it is correct, and I submit that it is - as being at least £42,89 3,157, as that amount is now held by the Note Issue Department. In 1943 subscriptions were at least £14,501,100, and in 1942, £15,577,476. We have been led to believe that Commonwealth loans have been so highly successful that they have been oversubscribed by the public. How, then, can the £100,000,000 worth of war-time loan securities, now apparently held by the Note Issue Department, be explained ? The Treasurer, as the responsible officer of the Government and of the Commonwealth, must give us that explanation.
There are two interpretations which might be applied to the details disclosed. If they are not in accordance with fact, the Treasurer, who has available to him facilities which are not available to me, should give us the explanation which the mere listing of such large security holdings renders necessary. First, the Commonwealth Bank could have bought the securities on the open market after the loans had closed; but that procedure would have been so highly inflationary that I dismiss it as fantastic. It would be incredible to assume that any bank would buy recent loan scrip from the general public and thereby increase the inflationary note issue by £1, let alone by £100,000,000. In June, 1943, the holdings of the Note Issue Department in the 1942 loan series alone apparently amounted to £1,125,000; in 1944 they increased to £3,559,570; in 1946 to £9,582,569; in 1947 to £10,582,569; and in 1948 to £15,577,476. If we examine the Commonwealth loans issued in 1943, we find that the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank apparently held £881,600 worth of the series in June, 1944, the same amount in 1945, £5,881,600 in 1946, £6,196,600 in 1947. and £14,501,100 worth in 1948.In respect of the 1944 loans, the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank apparently held scrip valued at £5,600,000 in June, 1945 ; £14,900.000 in 1946; £39,900,000 in 1947; and £42,893,157 in 1948. Finally, in the 1945 loans series the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank appears to have held scrip valued at £18,997,000 at June, 1946; £17,977,000 at June, 1947; and £24,976,6S0 at June this year. These amounts are not the result of investment of profits of the Note Issue Department. After expenses have been met, such profits, which amounted to more than £4,500,000 last year, must be paid into the Commonwealth .public account and the Mortgage Bank Department. The securities I have mentioned have apparently been transferred from other divisions of the Commonwealth Bank to the Note Issue Department in exchange for notes in those years. That, no doubt, would partly explain the reason for the tremendous increase of the note issue, from £67,900,000 in June, 1941, to £196,600,000 in June, 1948. It would also explain the reason why the heavy subscriptions do not. appear in the published figures of the Note Issue Department until about a year or so after they have been made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank or some other department of the Commonwealth Bank, which does not need to furnish to the Parliament details of its loan holdings. It is- possible that by such a stratagem, the Government hoped that its financial manipulations with depositors’ moneys would not. bc exposed. It is significant that, of the £431,800,000 of depositors’ accounts held by the Commonwealth Savings Bank, £369,600,000 is invested in’ Australian Government securities, a proportion of which, I suspect, are of 1942 to 194& vintage. I shall have something to say about the use of savings bank deposits in. the course of my remarks.
The second alternative is that, the Commonwealth Bank obtained the securities by subscribing to each Commonwealth loan as it was floated. This alternative presupposes that Commonwealth loans have in fact been badly under-subscribed by the public by at least £100,000,000 in the aggregate, and the public has been asked to believe that the Australian investors’ confidence has been properly reposed in the Government’s financial transactions. It also presupposes a very serious inflationary .position, namely, that the Commonwealth Bank used its Note Issue Department to print inflationary notes to buy loan scrip, for the purpose of misleading the public into believing that loans were over-subscribed There is, of course, no limitation on the note issue under the 1945 banking legislation. The safeguards included in the legislation introduced by my colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), were removed by the 1945 banking legislation.
If the Treasurer does not agree with either of the propositions I have stated, which shows a highly inflationary policy, he should explain why the Note Issue Department now holds the following Commonwealth Government securities, as listed on page 176 of his own budget papers : - £15,577,476, maturing 15th November, 1958 ; £14,501,100, maturing 15th September, 1959; £42,893,157. maturing 15th. October, 1960: £24,976,680, maturing 15th September. 1961. The Note Issue Department i> only one small department of the Commonwealth Bank. The General Division of the bank, including the Note Issue Department, holds £424,300,000 of Com monwealth securities, and the Commonwealth Savings- Bank lists £369,600,00’’ of similar securities.
At the 30th June, 1941, the Common wealth Bank!, in all its different divisions, held only £196,100,0,00 worth of Commonwealth securities: The total ha.* now grown to £793,900,000. How much of this huge total is held in Commonwealth loans raised since 1941? By a simple deduction honorable members will see that the figure has increased by £600,000,000. The budget papers give us no inkling, except for the guide furnished by the Note Issue Department. As far back as 1945, during the debate on the banking legislation, the Opposition foresaw this position. At that timewe protested against the removal of th>limitation on the note issue. Now the Treasurer does not need to have a percentage reserve backing for the notes he issues. If he wanted to use the printingpress to help bolster up his flagging loan.he could readily do so. I desire to know if he has done that, and, if so, to what extent. If there is any other explanation for the figures disclosed by me, the Australian investors and savings hank depositors are entitled to hear it. Let us review the savings bank position in Australia and see the extent to which tb«
Government lias carried out its socialist or collective policy in relation to the depositors’ money. The deposits in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, as at the 30th June, 1948, amounted to £431,832,715 and the Commonwealth Government securities held by the Commonwealth Savings Bank at that date, including Commonwealth treasury-bills, totalled £369,614,501. Therefore, speaking in round figures, out of the depositors’ money totalling £431,000,000, nearly £370,000,000 has been applied for the purchase of Commonwealth securities. [ do not say that that is improper, but die application of such a large proportion is not wise, and when the ratio of securities to loan assets is considered, obviously the policy is not sound. In many instances the savings bank depositors did not know that their money was ;aken collectively and put into the Commonwealth loans. The people of Australia were deceived into the belief that r.he various loans were over-subscribed. I say that since this Government has been in office, not one loan raised has been genuinely subscribed, much less oversubscribed. The loans have been filled by the utilization of the depositors’ funds md with the assistance of the Note Issue Department.
Let us review the position of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Out of assets totalling approximately £450,000,000, there is only £42,684,453 in liquid form to meet deposits of £431,832,715. That is, less than 10 per cent, of the depositors’ money is in liquid form. The Government has used the savings bank for no other purpose than to utilize its funds for subscriptions to Commonwealth loans. There has been no investment in any other direction except in the securities >f other governments and semigovernmental authorities.
Turning now to the general business conducted by the Commonwealth Bank, what do we find? To what extent have he funds of that bank been used to holster up the loans and so deceive the public into believing that the policy of the Government is so sound that the loans have teen over-subscribed? We find that deposits in the special accounts of the trading banks as at the 30th June, 1948, amounted to £294,480,000, and Common wealth Government securities, including Commonwealth treasury-bills, held by the bank totalled £23S,9S2,31S. The special deposits of the trading banks have been utilized to almost the fullest possible degree towards the loan raisings of this Government.
The whole position requires thorough ventilation. There is very disastrous and grave evidence of inflation of the worst possible kind, by the utilization of the printing press to get notes. This is a matter that has to be satisfactorily explained to the members of the committee, and consequently to the people of Australia. The whole matter calls for the closest investigation. I trust that the Treasurer will not have to go to the same trouble as I did to get information. From the meagre information available to me, I say that he cannot possibly, in any circumstances, satisfactorily reply to this grave and important matter to-night, and whilst 1 make no allegations I repeat that the matter requires the closest possible investigation. I simply indicate, the implications and a satisfactory accounting for the whole matter is due from the Treasurer, particularly to the investing public and saving bank depositors of this fair country.
– Some of the statements made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) are just simply fantastic. There is no substance in them at all. In the first place the question of investment by the Commonwealth Savings Bank in Commonwealth loans has been a common practice over the years.
– But not to the same degree.
– In some of the later loans the indications were that the greatest, proportion of savings bank deposits invested in the loans were made by State savings banks, not .by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. I am not at liberty to disclose the business of the State savings banks, but I have had a look at the subscriptions to the present loan, and I have found that the State savings banks are among the most substantial contributors.
– Were the contributions unsolicited 2
– Yes, absolutely. I do not say that a letter was not written to them pointing out the advantages of investing in the Commonwealth loan, but I do not think that there was any need to do so. Because of the general prosperity of the community, savings bank deposits have increased enormously, and the savings banks have had to find an outlet for their depositors’ money. It is not right for a public man to suggest that the State savings banks are doing something undesirable in contributing to Commonwealth loans.
– I did not say that. 1 ask the Prime Minister not to twist my words.
– That was certainly the implication which the right honorable gentleman’s word9 carried. Originally, the Commonwealth Savings Bank was under the control of the Commonwealth Bank Board, which was appointed by a non-Labour government. Under that control, the bank always made substantial contributions to Commonwealth loans. It is true that, before the war, when there was much unemployment, and the public had less money to deposit in the savings banks, the Commonwealth Savings Bank contributed less to public loans than it doe3 now. However, savings bank deposits have increased from £200,000,000 to more than £600,000,000, so that the banks have now much more money to invest than they had before. Because of the soundness of the national economy, they are putting their funds into government securities. That practice was followed by the Commonwealth Bank Board long before the passing of the Commonwealth Bank Act in 1945. Indeed, investments by the Commonwealth Bank in Commonwealth loans were much greater before the abolition of the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1945 than they have been sin?e, but I admit that the opportunities for such investments were greater, also.
The Leader of the Australian Country party suggested that the note issue had been inflated. At no time are more notes issued than are necessary to satisfy the public demand. Indeed, there would be no sense in issuing more. It is absurd to suggest that the note issue has been expanded at my direction. I rarely have a conversation with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. On any matter oi international importance touching th, economy of the country, .1 make it s point to obtain the views of the bank authorities, as well as those of the Government’s economic advisers and of treasury officials, so that I may be fully informed. However, I have nothing to do with the investments of the Commonwealth Bank in government loans. I df not even ask the Governor of the bank how much the bank is investing, or whether it is investing anything. As for the note issue, all the notes on issue ai any time are either in the hands of the public or are held by the banks. An imcrease of the note issue is merely another indication of national prosperity, bee ins* it is clue to a greater demand for what if called “ folding “ money. I have no authority to interfere with the investments of the Commonwealth Bank. When notes are issued to private banks or to the government savings banks, security has to be lodged for them. It is usual ai Christmas time, for instance, for additional notes to the value of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 to be issued in order to meet the commercial needs of the community. The accounts of the Commonwealth Bank are audited by the Auditor-General.
– But he does not audi: its policy.
– No, nor does the Government concern itself with the administration of the bank. The Commonwealth Bank Act empower* the Government, to determine the overall policy of the bank, but such matters as the number of notes in circulation, and the investment of bank funds, are determined by the Governor of the bank, who was appointed, not by thi? Government, but by a conservative government, which must have had confidence in his ability and integrity. The response of the public to the invitation to invest in Commonwealth loans has been magnificent, and some very largo loans have been subscribed. It is true that the Government issued treasury-bills, which are really I O U’s. It is also true that we have redeemed some of those bills. and we were attacked in the Parliament for having done so. The right honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways; he cannot condemn the bank for adopting inflationary measures and, at the same time, condemn it for redeeming treasurybills. As he has said, the matter he has raised is highly technical. However, I Jo not wish to be accused later of failing to inform him fully upon it. He brings to matters of this kind a great leal of thought and understanding of the technical problems involved. He mentioned a number of matters upon which I.’ shall take the opportunity to consult the bank itself. I do not instruct the bank what disclosures it shall make, or what business it shall transact. All it lias to do is to satisfy the AuditorGeneral that its business is being conducted soundly and wisely and in accordance with the legislation covering it. I shall draw the attention of the Governor of the bank to the statement made by the right honorable gentleman, and whatever information he may be prepared to disclose concerning the bank’s business I shall supply to the right honorable gentleman.
– 1 am only seeking information.
– This is not a sub.ject with which honorable members generally familiarize themselves. I shall furnish to the right honorable gentleman such information as the Governor of the bank cares to make available. I may even consider providing information confidentially to the right honorable gentleman.
– I do not want it under those conditions.
– Well, I shall supply publicly what information I can. One point 1 make is that the Government has not found it necessary to call upon the Commonwealth Bank to meet deficits with respect to loans. Subscriptions to loans from State savings banks, is a matter for decision by those banks and not by me. If the State savings banks, which hold very large sums, are prepared to subscribe millions to Commonwealth loans, that is a matter for those institutions and not for me. There can be no doubt about the complete success of the very large loans which have been floated to meet war commitments or to finance projects approved by the Loan Council. Those successes are evidence of public confidence. I have glanced over the list of subscriptions already received to the loan now being floated, and whilst I am not at liberty to divulge the names of those subscribers, I may say that I saw among them a number of big firms. Subscriptions to the current loan are evidence of the confidence of not only small but also big investors. To-day, I complete seven years as Treasurer, and I am pleasantly surprised at the magnificent response made by the people of Australia to Commonwealth loans floated in that period. For that success I do not claim credit for the Government or myself. Many loan committees are composed of individuals who, politically, are opposed to the Government. That is so in thousands of instances. I have mentioned this fact at public gatherings. The success of Commonwealth loans is attributable mainly to people who, despite the fact that they have no sympathy with the political ideas of the Government, have worked for their success. Only a few days ago I was interviewed by a leading supporter of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). That gentleman’s political views obviously differ considerably from my own, but he has been chairman of a loan committee throughout the whole of the period that I have been Treasurer, and he has worked untiringly for the success of loans solely in the interests of the community. The loans have been most successful because all sections of the community have faith in the future of this country and complete confidence in Commonwealth securities.
I again assure the Leader of the Australian Country party that, I shall supply him with whatever information the Governor of the bank sees fit to make available to me in respect of the matters he has raised. I repeat that I do not control the business of the bank and have never sought to find out one thing about its business. Whenever the Government has desired to repatriate money from London, naturally I have consulted on the matter with the Governor of the bank. Whenever the Government has decided to float a loan abroad I have consulted with aiia as to reasonable terms. The Governor of the bank, the Chief Justice and I are members of the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission, which naturally considers matters of that kind. Perhaps, it would surprise the right honorable gentleman that at times I keep such excellent company. The report of the Auditor-General with respect to the Commonwealth Bank reached me last week and I read it last Saturday evening. A report of that kind is not the sort of literature one likes to read during the week-end. If the Auditor-General makes any noteworthy comment in that report it is, perhaps, that the amounts allocated to reserves have been excessive. However, honorable members will have an opportunity to deal with that aspect of the bank’s operations at, a later stage.
– I wish to deal with item 12, under Division 213, “Wool appraisement centres - Expenses “. I take this opportunity to protest against the decision of the Government recently announced to the Parliament that it does not intend to proceed with the establishment of a wool appraisement centre at Rockhampton. That decision is a complete evasion by the Government of its responsibility. [ have been negotiating with the Government on this matter ever since I was elected to the Parliament. So far my representations have taken the form of interviews and correspondence with the Ministers concerned, but it is now clear that other action must be taken if the Government is to be persuaded, or forced, to carry out the obligations it entered into in 1946. For the benefit of honorable members I shall briefly outline the history of the proposal to establish a wool-selling centre at Rockhampton. It arose from a move on the part of graziers and other interests in Central Queensland to establish a wool appraisement centre locally for the purpose of handling the very large wool clip in that area.. That move was supported, by Mr. Forde,, who was then member for Capricornia and also Deputy Prime Minister. A committee was appointed, to investigate the suitability of. various centres and finally it made a report. The contents of that report were not made public, but we do know that: as the result of the committee’s recommendations^, a promise was made to establish, a wool-selling centre at Rockhampton. That promise was used freely in the electorate during the election campaign in 1946, and thithen member for Capricornia, Mr Forde, definitely assured the district thai the centre would be erected.
At that stage, I came upon the scene and assumed the responsibility on behalf of the district of ensuring that the promise would be honoured. At first; ! found that none of the Ministers concerned attempted to evade the obligation or deny the promise. 1 was informed that the Government intended to proceed with the building as soon as possible Tenders were called, and the contractWaS let. After a little time, the tender was cancelled as the result of a hitch concerning some of the clauses in it. A* that juncture, the possibility of woolbroking interests not supporting the proposal, and not intending to use the wool selling centre, also arose. I make thapoint here, because it is important iti view of the latest decision of the Government. Following the report, 1 interviewed the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) early ii> 1947 for the purpose of ascertaining thi Government’s intentions. The honorable gentleman informed me that he had already discussed with wool-broking interests their attitude towards thea, centres when established; and that after some initial opposition, they had promised their co-operation. On the 30th July, 1947, the Minister wrote to me. as follows: -
Consideration to the building of the Wool selling Centre, Rockhampton, has been deferred for six months owing to the following reasons: -
The contract entered into between the Department of Works and Housing and John J. Booker and Sons,. 162 Camp bell-street, Rockhampton, for the eration of a three-story concrete frame a uri brick wool store building at Rockhampton was determined on the 19th March, 1947
The Chief Controller of Timber in Queeusland advised the Department ot Works and Housing that in view of thiextreme shortage of timber supplies in the Rockhampton area for home building, sup plies of timber could not be allocated t<the contractor- building the wool-selling centre.
Local interests then communicated with he State authorities, and a deputation waited on the Premier of Queensland. Subsequently, the State authorities withdrew their objections, and indicated their willingness to make the timber available for the building. On the 3rd March, 1948, f wrote to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture as follows: -
One of the reasons for this decision rested in the refusal of the Chief Controller of Timber in Queensland to make timber availible for the building. That objection has now been overcome as the result of a deputation to the Queensland Premier by interested bodies in Rockhampton. On the 22nd January, 1948, the Prime Minister was advised that the Queensland Government would raise no objection to the necessary timber being allocated to enable the work to be proceeded with. I. submit, therefore, that as the period of deferment referred to in your letter has elapsed the matter now be further considered in the light of the latest information available.
Honorable members will note that that letter disposed of the objection which had been raised regarding the use of timber for the erection of the wool-selling centre. On the 5th March the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture wrote to me again as follows: -
However,. Cabinet, at a meeting held on the loth August, reviewed the whole position and decided to defer further consideration of the project for twelve months. This decision was mode following receipt of a report from the Director of Works and Housing indicating that costs of construction of the projected building were excessive.
Thus, a new reason was advanced for the failure to proceed with the project. On the 9th March, 1948, I wrote to the Minister -
This means that no further progress will be made with the building for at least another nine months, a decision which I submit is unsound and not in accordance with assurances already given. tn support of this submission I point out -
First, the Government has on numerous occasions publicly stated its intention to proceed with, the wool-selling centre in Rockhampton. The Prime Minister on his last visit to Queensland gave a personal assurance to the Mayor of Rockhampton on this point. You also have made .a similar statement to me. f have no reason to doubt the sincerity of these statements.
Second, it is widely admitted that costs of materials and labour are not likely to fall, for a considerable period. As a matter of fact, the present upward trend in these costs can he expects to continue.
If therefore the firm undertakings referred to above are to be honoured within the life of this Government, it is obvious the sooner the work is commenced the less the cost islikely to be. This I believe to be a realistic approach to the matter and I therefore again request, on behalf of the Central Queensland district, that an immediate review of tb, position be undertaken by Cabinet.
I submit that my reasoning was sound. According to the Minister, excessive costs of construction necessitated the postponement of the project. I contend that the longer the Government waits, the higher will be the costs. The Minister also informed me that the matter would be again considered in August of this year, and that my representations would be considered, together with others. On Tuesday, the Minister stated, in reply to a question, that the proposal had again been deferred pending the receipt of information from wool-brokers regarding their willingness to use the completed buildings. Thus, the circle has been completed. We have returned to the Government’s original objection to proceeding with the work.
– We have evidence thai wool-brokers will not use the facilities which are made available.
– If the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) or the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has any further information which, he contends, will support the recent decision. I shall be quite prepared to listen to it; but I do not intend any longer to be fobbed off with replies to the effect that the matter will receive consideration. After I have made representations for two years, I am given the original reason for the postponement of the work. That reason, I was informed, had been resolved. If the Government claims that, as the result of further developments, it is not now advisable to proceed with the building, it should 3tate its intentions plainly.
– 1 regret that I did not hear the- early part of the speech by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) on the proposal to build a wool-selling centre at Rockhampton. The Government had reached a firm decision to proceed with that project at a time when Australia was- emerging from1 World War II. When the decision was made, the estimated cost of the centre was £95,000. Acting on that estimate, the Government called for tenders, and on the 6th August, 1946, Cabinet approved the acceptance of the lowest tender, approximately £131,000. Subsequently, an amount of £4,494 was allocated for additional expenses, making a total of about £136,000 instead of £95,000 as originally estimated. A contract was let on the 18th September, 1946. It was terminated on r,he 19th March, 1947, chiefly because of the refusal of the Queensland Timber i Controller to allocate timber for the work. Some months later, on the 7th August, the Deputy Director-General of Works advised the Government that an extra appropriation of £20,000 would be needed to carry out the job effectively. That would have involved a total expenditure of £156,000. The estimate was so high that the Government decided, in view of its experience with wool centres built during the war at other places, that it would not be justified in letting another tender and proceeding with the work unless the organizations of woolbrokers and wool buyers gave a satisfactory assurance that they would use both the Townsville and the Rockhampton centres. It is strange to hear the criticism of honorable members opposite, because they are actively opposed, as they frequently declare, to any extension of socialism. The stores, which would have been built for the convenience of brokers, buyers, and, more important still, the wool-growers, would have been government-owned. The Government’s decision not to proceed with the work was greatly influenced by its experience with the appraisal centres at Moree and Dubbo. After hundreds of thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money had been expended on those buildings, neither the wool-brokers nor the wool-buyers were prepared to use them. Furthermore, some growers were not prepared to guarantee that they would deliver their wool to the centres. As the honorable member for Capricornia knows, we are frequently treated in this chamber to diatribes against any regulation of the lives of citizens. Centres like those established at Dubbo and Moree, and those which were proposed for Towns- ville and Rockhampton, could be made to operate successfully only if the Government compelled wool-growers in those districts to send their wool to them for appraisal and sale and forced the buyers and the brokers to rent the buildings and use them.
– That would suit the Minister.
– It would not suit me at all. The facts which I have stated cannot be successfully contradicted. After the proposal to build appraisal centres at Rockhampton and Townsville had been mooted, honorable members opposite busied themselves about the country in order to defeat the Government’s referendum proposals, which would have enabled it to control the marketing of primary products in a decentralized and highly efficient manne Considering all these circumstances, the present criticism of the Government by honorable members opposite appears to be very strange. They have repeatedly objected to any form of socialism.
– That does not, enter into the matter.
– The honorable member’s speech wa.« not interrupted by any honorable member on this side of the eli amber. I did not say a. word when he was speaking. I hope that he will extend the same courtesy to me. I am an ardent supporter of the policy of establishing wool-appraisal centres. 1 believe that such a policy is essential to the welfare of our great wool industry. Furthermore, the new centres would be of great value to residents of the districts where they were erected. However, in the absence of co-operation by wool brokers and buyers, successful implementation of the scheme would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. I point out to the honorable member for Capricornia .that the failure of the brokers and the buyers to use the centres at Moree and Dubbo put the last nail in the lid of the coffin of this project. Some time ago I met representatives of the Woolbuyers- Association of Australia in conference in Sydney. I pointed out to them that the Government had expended vast sums of the taxpayers’ money on the centres at Moree and Dubbo, and asked whether they would co-operate with the Government and use the centres if it organized sales there. The answer was an emphatic negative, delivered courteously and accompanied by an explanation of the buyers’ difficulties and problems. The brokers also will not use those buildings.
– What is being done with the buildings now?
– They are in the hands of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to be sold or leased to anybody who may wish to use them. When the Opposition parties were in power, did they ever build a wool-appraisal centre? They did not even build a. tin shed or erect a tent.
– The building of appraisal centres was a political move.
– I assume that the honorable member refers to the buildings at Moree and Dubbo. As a great strategist, the honorable member knows that, when those centres were erected, there was a possibility that the enemy might destroy the wool stores in the coastal regions. Therefore, the Government wisely decided, on the advice of my predecessor, who is now Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), to build centres in inland districts in the interests of the security of the great wool industry, which provided cloth for uniforms and raw materials for munitions of war. Those are the facts. I understand the concern of the honorable member for Capricornia and I grieve with him. However, this Government decided, in the light of its experience and particularly in view of the vastly inflated costs of building and the urgent demand for timber and other materials for houses, not to continue with the plan to build centres at Rockhampton and Townsville. No political issues were involved in that decision. For instance, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) who supports the Government, represents Townsville, which would be benefited greatly by the construction of a woolselling centre. There was certainly no political advantage for him in the decision to discontinue the work.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Miscellaneous Services, Refunds of Revenue, Advance to the Treasurer and War (1914-18) Services has expired.
Question put -
That the proposed votes be agreedon.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. P. Lazzarini.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote, £1,886,000.
Proposed vote, £32,220,000. (Ordered tobe considered together.)
.- It was recently brought to my notice that there is great dissatisfaction among junior postal officers because their rates of pay are much lower than those of young persons of similar ages who are employed by other undertakings in Australia. This dissatisfaction affects the whole of the Postmaster-General’s Department. There is a shortage of junior postal officers because young people ave attracted by the high wages that are offered to them by private firms and are unwilling to accept employment in the Postmaster-General’s Department at lower rate3 of pay. The department is not at full strength and extra work is thrown upon the members of the staff. As a result, some of them may tender their resignations, thus accentuating the staff shortage and imposing a further burden upon those who remain.
A recent survey of these junior officers in Victoria revealed that 95 per cent, of them are being subsidized by their parents because they cannot live on their pay. In addition, 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of them are considering resigning from the department, and will probably do so unless their wages and conditions of employment are improved in the near future.
– The PostmasterGeneral does not fix wages and conditions of employment. They are determined by an arbitrator.
Mir. RYAN.- The Postmaster-General should refer this matter to the Arbitrator :ind ensure that the wages and conditions >f employment of these officers are reasonable.
– An increase of wages for Fourth Division officers was announced recently. It will cost £1,250,000 a year.
– That decision has > not been notified to me or to the employees of the department who communicated with me upon this matter.
– Would the honorable member say how long ago that was?
– Approximately a week ago. These young people also complain about the living away from home allowances that are paid to them. They say that the allowances are reduced in value as the cost of living increases. They point out, further, that the allowances arc reduced when they receive their annual increments of pay. That is the substance of the complaint that has been made to me.
Earlier in the debate on the Estimate* I referred to the rates of pay of public servants generally. I do not know whether that matter has been dealt with by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– It has.
– I am glad to know that. i trust that the complaints that I have made to-night will be investigated at an early date, and that the postal employees concerned will receive the remuneration that is due to them.
The Postal Department provides some of the ni03t important services in this country. Unfortunately there are man’ complaints to-day, not only about the Pa., and conditions of junior employees, but also about the general decline of the efficiency of postal services. I refer particularly to telephone services. Invariably, the reply of the PostmasterGeneral to complaints that I have mad in this chamber about those services has been that there is a shortage of suitable staff. It is stated that girls who are recruited for work in telephone exchanges do not like the conditions of employment, and rates of pay offered to them, and leave the department to seek better jobs elsewhere. The result is, according to the Postmaster-General, that efficient services cannot he provided. Any one who has visited other countries knows that telephone services in this country are the worst in the world-
– No. They are the best, and I speak from personal experience.
– Even countries such as India, which are regarded as less civilized than Australia, provide better telephone services. In the United States of America telephone services cost much the same as they do here, but they are far more efficient.
– They cost many times more than they do in this country.
– I do not agree. In the United States of America, long-distance falls arp connected in a remarkably short space of time; yet, although. I live only 30 miles from Melbourne, sometimes a call to that city takes an hour or two hours, or does not come through at all. [ mention that as an example of the inefficiency of Australian telephone services co-day due to the inefficiency of the telephone staffs. Unless the salaries and working conditions of telephone employees are improved and made at least comparable with those obtaining in nongovernment organizations, the . Postal Department will never be efficient. I raise this matter because I believe that postal employees, male and female should enjoy satisfactory working conditions and be paid adequate wages. So far, those matters have been seriously neglected by the Postmaster-General. J hope that some improvement will be effected quickly.
.- L wish to say something about the service provided for second-class passengers m trans- Australian trains. As the committee knows, those trains pass through lorne hot regions in the summer time. Air-conditioning is provided in the firstclass lounge, and in the dining car, but conditions in the second-class carriages are extremely poor, and I should like the Minister to say whether it is intended, in any programme of providing ew rolling stock for the Commonwealth railways, to modernize those carriages. Some improvement is needed urgently. There is a great demand for travel on the trans-Australian line. It is extremely difficult to book from Perth to Adelaide, and I believe that second-class passengers, who, incidentally, are paying a relatively high fare, are compelled to travel under extremely bad conditions, especially in the summer time. That applies particularly to women travelling with children, r have not had any experience of comparable long-distance railways in any other part of the world, but advertisements in .American magazines suggest that on the trans-continental railways of the United States of America, post-war construction programmes have included the complete overhaul of passenger rolling stock and the provision of high.standard aluminium and steel carriages with observation cars and, of course, air conditioning throughout. T should like to hear some declaration of the intention of the Government in this matter.
– The Postal Department is one of our most important institutions, and over the years, it has been of great assistance to the people of the Commonwealth, particularly to rural dwellers. Since the war, df course, services have deteriorated due mainly to war-caused shortages and to the necessity to postpone all building works while the war was on. A similar state of affairs exists in many other countries, with the result that there if to-day a world-wide demand for postal and telephonic equipment. I am well aware of this obstacle, but I stress the fact that in this country to-day people living in outback areas are seriously hampered by their inability to obtain telephone services. In the cities this problem does not appear to be so great. Australia is the only country in which an annual rental is charged for a telephone in addition to payment for the service supplied. This is a severe imposition. The people of this country are paying dearly for their telephone services. In outback areas, prospective subscribers are often compelled to pay portion of the cost of erecting telephone line to their homes, otherwise services will not be provided. This involves considerable expense. We realize that, in many instances, if this charge were not made, the cost to the department of providing telephone services would be prohibitive, but I believe that there should be a reduction of telephone charges to lighten the burden thai is placed on country people. Man people desiring telephones have experienced great difficulty in obtaining this service, even though their applications have been supported by such considerations as health, and age, isolation, or business reasons. At present, a telephone subscriber who moves t< another home, cannot take the instrument with him. It is the property of the department, and he has to wait until the department agrees to install a telephonein his new home. The lack of new equipment, particularly cables, has caused existing services in many areas to become seriously overloaded. Most of ‘the equipment that we require, including the telephones themselves, are imported. That fact lias been the cause of great delay and inferior service in what is a very costly system. The policy of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in respect of telephone charges might well be examined. Telephone subscribers are being charged too much at the present time. I also urge the Government to do all it possibly can to provide for additional trunk lines in areas where at present it takes anything up to two hours to have a telephone call connected. The Government should ensure that such areas shall receive a service that is quick and accurate and that compares with the pre-war service.
The charge of 2id. for postage of a letter whether it is addressed to somewhere 2,000 miles away or only 200 yards away, is an imposition. Postage was increased to 2£d. as a war-time measure, but has been continued into peace-time. The efficiency of the mail services has not increased since the days when Australia had penny postage to a degree corresponding with increased postal charges. In fact, the postal service has deteriorated, particularly where mail has to go through New South Wales to other States because of the shortage of coal which results from the frequent mine strikes in New South Wales which are organized by Communists-
– I knew that the honorable member would bring the Communists into the debate.
– Because of the shortage of coal caused by mine strikes, rail services are cut by half and mail piles up in Sydney awaiting carriage to other areas. A surcharge of 3d. over the ordinary surface rate is made for letters sent by airmail. Why should not all letters be carried by air, at least to interstate destinations, at the same cost as that now made for surface mail ? Colossal amounts of money are paid by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the carriage of air mail and yet the public is charged 5-Jd. postage on an air mail letter. I am certain that if that surcharge were removed postal revenue would not suffer.
I do not see why people in some parts of Australia should be harassed by receiving mail only every three or four days instead of every twelve or 24 hours.
The time is ripe for a thorough examination of our postal, telegraphic and security services. The telephone and telegraph services utilize huge and intricate machines which are capable of being sabotaged. These two great systems must be protected against sabotage, which would do great damage to communications throughout the whole of Australia. We should bivery_ careful to ensure that there are no possible saboteurs among those who operate or are otherwise connected with such vital machinery. I hope that the Postmaster-General’s Department will make an effort to improve mail service.to the outback, and to effect a genera! reduction in postal, telephone and airmail charges.
Turning now to the Commonwealth Railways, I say that if I could throw a spanner into the wheels of the scheme for the standardization of rail gauges, 1 should be pleased to do so. I do not think that it would be in the interests of the people to spend hundreds of million? of pounds in connecting a few railways, when, in any event, travellers have to get out of trains from time to time during long trips. If the Government has all that money available it would be far better to expend it on conserving water and thus protect millions of pounds worth of stock and crops during droughts.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the Commonwealth Railways. There is no connexion between the scheme for the standardization of rail gauges and the Commonwealth Railways.
– 1 hope that the money intended to be expended on the standardization of gauges will be applied to something more essential such as the conservation of water and the promotion of irrigation and power projects which would assist primary producers in Queensland and would be of the greatest benefit to Australia.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the Commonwealth Railways or the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I am
Hire that honorable members will agree that the completion of the railway between Adelaide and Darwin will be of the greatest assistance to the development of the Northern Territory.
.- Contrary to what has been stated by many others both outside and inside this Parliament, I should like to pay a tribute r.o the Postmaster-General’s Department. That department is doing a remarkably good job in Tasmania. Because of the present shortage of equipment, many people are still awaiting action on applications they have lodged for the installation of telephones, but since the war thousands of people in remote areas have been connected by telephone and now receive mail services which they did not have before. The frequency of mail services to some outback areas in some districts in Tasmania has increased from perhaps two or three deliveries a week to five deliveries a week. Tasmania has been very well treated by the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I desire to pay a tribute to all the members of the staff of that department, from the Acting Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. T. P. Hanify, and the district inspectors, to the linesmen who actually carry out the hard work associated with telephone communications. Linesmen have to work in isolated districts, in all weathers, and if any fault is to be found with the staff of the department it certainly does not lie- with men “ on the ground floor “, who do the hard work. Shortage of equipment had retarded the progress made in installing new telephones, but, in common with many other honorable members, I was delighted to learn that a new factory has been opened by the department near Sydney, which will manufacture telephone equipment, and so reduce the expenditure of dollars on the importation of telephone equipment.
I also pay tribute to the work done by the non-official postmasters throughout Australia, of whom there are approximately 7,000. Each of those non-official postmasters has to act as guide, philosopher and friend to a large number of people in isolated areas. I was associated with the agitation to have their pay increased, and I am pleased to say that legislation was enacted last yea which has had the effect of increasing their annual salary by £250,000 and providing greater amenities for them. The unofficial postmasters, most of whom are situated in remote parts of the country, bear the burden of maintaining communication between people in those isolated areas and the more populous centres. 1 was surprised to hear the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) advocate an increase of pay for members of the Public Service, and I welcome the change of attitude manifested by members of the Opposition in that matter. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), who usually has something interesting to say, although we do not always agree with his point of view, complained that it costs 2id. to send a letter through the postal service to a recipient who may be only around the corner. However, the honorable member forgot to point out that a letter may be sent to England or to the island, of the Pacific for the same amount. The halfpenny surcharge, about which we hear so much, is used by the department to accumulate a fund to provide telephone facilities and other services for people who previously had no hope of obtaining them. Before the war, the motto of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was, “To not spend money; reduce costs”. To-day, the motto of the department has been changed to, “ Spend money and improve the service “, and the department is doing a fine job in spite of all the difficulties which confront it.
Telephones are badly needed in isolated parts of Australia, particularly in areas which are being developed as tourist resorts. In a remote part of Tasmania, a young girl died from snakebite during the last summer holidays be-, cause telephonic communication with a doctor could not be established, but I am pleased to say that the department, because of the co-operation whi’ch it has received from the State authorities, has now agreed to include that area in its telephone network. I consider that pedal wireless sets, which have already proved their worth as an emergency means of communication, could be used with id vantage instead of telephones in some -emote areas.. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to coney my suggestion to his colleague because the adoption of my suggestion, would save the department a considerable i mount of money which is now expended >n the erection of telephone lines. At present, applicants for telephones who live more than 5 miles 18 chains from the nearest post office have to bear, he whole cost of erecting poles, insulators and telephone cable. I should ike the Postmaster-General to extend the present radius to 10 miles. I have previously discussed this proposal with he Postmaster-General and the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning. Since the present regulations vere made conditions have altered very considerably, and the development of new areas has resulted in the settlement of people at increasingly greater distances from, townships. The result is that many people, who badly need a telephone, ire deprived of it. In the electorate of Wilmot. which I represent, two gentlenen named Harold Bowen and Walter Barrett, who are most anxious to obtain telephone communication, are deprived of it beca.use they live more than 1£ miles beyond the prescribed radius of 5 miles 18 chains. To have a telephone installed in their homes they would have to pay £300, which is a fantastic requirement. That is too heavy an impost for them, to bear. They are in urgent need )( the telephone service, but they will not proceed with their application under these conditions. I trust that the regulation will be amended to provide for an extension of the limit to 10 miles so that telephones may be provided for farmers at the cost of the department. The department is losing revenue by its rigid adherence to the existing limit.
I propose now to make some comments on the broadcasting of sporting events, in particular, on what I regard as the needless interruption of the broadcast descriptions. On Saturday afternoons luring the winter months football is played throughout Australia, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania, where the Australian rules code is so popular. Descriptions of football matches are broadcast over the national, network, our very often at a critical period in the match, particularly in the third, or las’ quarter, the broadcast description is interrupted by a switch to a description of t. race meeting, in which the commentatosays, “ The barrier is down at Randwick A little later the football description ic again interrupted by a voice saying, “ We are now crossing to Mentone “. Ali too frequently, when a .goal is expected to be kicked, a voice breaks in again saying, “ The weights are right a’ Flemington “. Suddenly there is a switch back to Randwick and an announcer after giving the pedigree of the horse* about to start in a race says, “Dark Moon has turned sideways at the moment . Streak Lightning is backing away: Heather is having difficulty with Aton. Bomb “. Interruptions of that kind an continued throughout the whole of thi broadcast description of a football mate and are most frequent when the match is reaching its climax at the end of thi last quarter. Very often football enthusiasts have to wait: until the raw descriptions are over in order to a3cer tain whether or not their favoured tear] has achieved victory. Listeners who desire to hear the broadcast descriptionof race meetings are entitled to be provided with that service, but it is ridiculous for all national stations throughout Australia to broadcast race description.only as interruptions to descriptions oi other forms of sport. I suggest that thi* practice be abandoned and that in future descriptions of football matches be broad cast without interruption. Arrangement* could be made, by a co-ordinating committee if necessary, for certain stations te broadcast descriptions of race meeting?
I congratulate those responsible for the administration of the Commonwealth Railways upon the excellent housing accommodation provided for workers on the trans-continental railway line. The houses are well planned and provide amenities of a very high- order for the womenfolk. It is interesting to note that the Commonwealth Railways has shown a profit on its transactions last year. Ii is pleasing- to record that, in spite of the criticism by honorable members opposite of all government activities, yet another Commonwealth undertaking’ has shown a profit.
– I. desire to give to honorable members some information about the Post Office in order to prevent a repetition of the criticism so glibly uttered by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). After, making their statements both honorable members promptly left the chamber. They would not wait to listen to the facts concerning the matters which they placed before the committee. Here are some of the figures relating to the activities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In 1938 there were 43,000 employees in the department; this year there are 69,000 employees. Thus, the attack by the honorable member for “Flinders simply goes by the board.
– That does not mean that the department is rendering efficient service.
– Any service which employed the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) would not be efficient. The honorable member’s interjection proves the truth of something to which I shall refer in a moment or two. [n 1938, when the honorable member wasa member of the Senate, 630,000 telephones were installed; in 1948 the number was 963,000. That increase was made possible because this Government has brought, prosperity to Australia and people who could not previously afford a telephone can now do so. In 1938, 1,000,000 wireless licences were issued in Australia; to-day the number of current wireless licences is 1,800,000. Very many people are buying wireless sets to enable them to listen to the speeches of Labour members in this Parliament. In 1938, the department made a profit of £3,500,000 ; in 1947 the profit was £5,103,000. Rental and other charges in connexion with telephones, and postal charges, whether by air or surface mail, are the cheapest in the world. The attacks made by honorable members opposite are all apparently a part of a softening up process inaugurated at the conference of the Federal Council of the Liberal party held in Adelaide last month. The honorable member for Wakefield should know all about, it, because he Wa.-present. The Adelaide Advertiser wathe only newspaper which reported tin deliberations of the conference on th< subject of public utilities. All other newspapers suppressed the report.. In it? report the Adelaide Advertiser- stated -
The council expressed the opinion thai public utilities should be operated whereve practicable by private enterprise.
The criticism of public utilities expressed by honorable members opposite during the debate on the Estimates is all pan of a softening-up process to which I have referred and the ultimate object of which is to sell the Post Office. Trans-Australia Airways, the Common’ wealth Bank, and Radio Australia, which my department administers so efficiently, to private enterprise. Honorable members opposite complain that the POst Office is inefficient and insufficiently staffed. When I show them that the number of employees in the Post Office has increased by 80 per cent, since they were in office, they say, “ The staff iV inefficient”. At another time they, suggest that services of thousands of public servants be dispensed with and that they he thus conscripted to work on farms or in secondary industries in city and country centres. Like those who wen present at the Tower of Babel they speak with divers tongues,, and they are equally unconvincing.
– This is the new “ Bengal “ policy.
– Yes, the “ new look “ of the Liberal party; and not a very efficient policy. ‘ It will not commend itself to the Australian, people. Honorable members opposite suggest thai we should reduce postage charges. We are told harrowing stories of some POOl person living at Maryborough in Queensland, or some person living in the electorate of Wide Bay, being distressed and inconvenienced because of the continuance of the existing postage rates. This ispart of the propaganda which is disseminated by the Opposition parties year after year. Last year it was voiced by tinhonorable member for, Moreton (Mr. Francis) on behalf of big business house? that wanted to get rid. of the postage surcharge. It is of no use talking about poor persons because they may write only one letter in twelve months. That is onlytold to disguise some other motive. The Postmaster-General’s Department is alive to the necessity of giving relief whereever possible. It cannot supply more and more telephones, employ greater numbers of people, pay higher wages, and at the same time cut down the sources of its income.
The honorable member for Flinders spoke about junior officers in the post office with tears in his voice, hut he is not very interested in the conditions of the people. The main base grades of employees in the Fourth Division of the Commonwealth Public Service have been granted increases by the Public Service Arbitrator. Male assistants in Grade I. received an increase of £20 on the minimum of the range, and £16 on the maximum of the range. Their actual salary range will be £336 to £372.
– From what date is the increase to be paid?
– I cannot say when that increase will become effective, but I should think that it would at least apply from the date of the determination, [t may even be made retrospective. Other grades of the Fourth Division, and juniors, will receive comparative increases. The over-all cost to the Government amounts to £1,250,000 for a full year, which is a considerable increase.
– Will the Minister -peak again later this evening?
– Yes; if the honorable gentleman makes a worthwhile contribution to the debate I shall. In 1947-4S £5,230,000 was expended on telephone exchange services, which cover exchange switching equipment, both automatic and manual, underground cables for local services, subscriber’s aerial wires, and apparatus to provide telephone services. The estimated expenditure for 194S-49 is £6,275,000. That represents an increase of more than £1,000,000 in that particular item alone. At the 30th June, 1947, the total number of outstanding applications for subscribers’ telephone lines throughout Australia was SS,049. Of that number, 70.175 were for telephones in metro politan areas, and 17,874 were in respect of country districts. The number of additional subscriber services connected; during 1947-48 - and I ask the committeeto specially note this figure - was 5S,137. which constitutes an all-time record. Despite that, the number of outstanding applications at the 30th June, 1948, was 113,911, of which 90,938 are for themetropolitan areas and 22,973 for country districts. Those figures reveal the continuing prosperity of this country.
The figures in regard to trunkline services show an expenditure of £1,3SS,496 for the year 1947-48. The estimated expenditure this year is £2,150,000, which is an increase of £761,504. Approximately 250 additionaltrunkline channels were provided duringthe year 1947-48.
– How much of the £2,150,000 represents capital expenditure ‘<
– The proposed appropriation is of revenue. The expenditure in relation to capital will be dealt with under another item.
During the year 1947-48 payments for new physical lines or carrier-wave systems included the provision of twelve additional systems between Sydney and Canberra and also another twelve between Sydney and Dubbo. It is also proposed that the trunk-line programme shall be expended appreciably during the year 1948-49, and the plans provide for the provision of 400 extra channels during 1948-49, including the following: - Between Sydney and Melbourne, twelve channels; between Adelaide and Port Augusta, twelve channels; between Hobart and Launceston, twelve channels ; between Sydney and Tamworth, twelve channels. It is expected to complete the underground trunk cable between Sydney and Bathurst, and also to complete the installation of carrier equipment. This shows the tremendous activity which is going on in the provision of all these services to the community. Additional radio-telephone systems are also to be provided in centres where it would be difficult to install other types of telephone services. This year the area from Mount Buffalo to Brighton in Victoria will be serviced and a service will also be provided between Redland Bay and Russell
Island in Queensland. These are two of the principal services to he provided.
In connexion with the installation of -transmitting and studio equipment for the operation of the national broadcasting services, the major projects contemplated during 1948-49 are new regional broadcasting stations at Cairns, Queensland ; Manilla, New South Wales - nothing to do with the “ Manila girls “ - Taree in New South Wales, and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) will be glad to hear that Transmitters are to be changed and replaced at radio stations 4RK at Rockhampton, and 6WN in Western Australia. In .Brisbane and Perth, second high frequency transmitters are to be installed to serve outlying areas, whilst in Sydney a high frequency transmitter is to be installed to serve the north coast and south coast areas, pending provision of frequency modulation services.
I bring these matters briefly to the notice of the committee to show that the Postmaster-General’s Department is doing a wonderful joh. As soon as telephones can be made, and other material supplied, and when people can be obtained to work in the post officesthere is a very great difficulty in getting labour everywhere these days - the work I have mentioned will be undertaken. I have advised the Postmaster-
General that I shall make available to him, at an early date, 400 Baltic migrants, who will dig the trenches required for extension of the department’s services in various parts of Australia, and for which type of employment no Australians are applying. We shall make more and more people available, so that when we discuss the Estimates next year we will be able to report so much progress that consideration of this item of the Estimates will occupy only a matter of seconds.
– In dealing with the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who last year stressed the necessity for a fund to provide telephones in isolated places. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr.
Duthie) to-day suggested that the length of telephone line which the department will erect from the exchange to the subscribers be increased to 10 miles Both of those claims are justified, but ] think that the proposal of the honorable members for Gippsland has a much wide: implication, because it is to provide telephones for people in isolated places, each locality to be judged on its merits. That isof paramount importance as a means of alleviating the difficulties of people in isolated places, who should be provided with this modern means of communication. I should like the Minister te inform the Postmaster-General thai honorable members on both sides of this chamber are agreeable to the proposal. According to the budget the amount expended in 1947-4.4 for mail services was £3,307,008. which is considerably less than the amount of £3,631,500 which was voted for that year. The estimated expenditure on mail services for 194S-49 L £4,3S7,900, which is over £1,000,000 more than was expended on them last year. This year, the PostmasterGeneral’.Department is to subsidize TransAustralia Airlines to carry mails, and it is proposed to pay in subsidies more than twice as much as was paid under contract last year for the carriage of mails by weight. I. cannot see any justification for that.
Last year, the Post Office made a profit of more than £5,000,000, and this year the department proposes to increase its expenditure by £5,424,000. Evidently, therefore, the Government is determined to spend all of last year’s profit, instead of reducing the cost of services to the public. Once this Labour Government gets it9 hands on anything, whether it be the uniform taxation scheme, or an extra half-penny on the postage rate, it never lets go. It reminds me of the travelling salesman who when he gets his foot in a doorway, refuses to give up until he has made a sale. In view of the large profit made by the Post Office, the people are looking for a reduction of postal rates.
I wish to pay a tribute to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who, in this chamber, represents the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron). Last night. I paid a similar tribute to the Minister tor Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), when I said that, in debate, he would throw anything at his opponents in order to gain a political advantage, but that outside the chamber he was a most courteous and likeable man. [n the same way, I can say of the Minister for Information that, outside the chamber, I have always found him to be very courteous, and I could not wish for > better treatment from any one than I have had from him. Constituents have often said to me, “ What sort of fellow is this Calwell? He must be a terror”. [ have replied, “ No, he is a most friendly fellow “. In a recent speech, the Minister said that the Opposition was getting what he described as the “ Chifley wrinkled brow “. A great many people in the Millewa and other districts in my electorate are also getting the “ Chifley wrinkled brow” because of their experiences in trying to put telephone calls through to Melbourne. If a man needs fi small part for the repair of a broken machine, it may cost him anything from 10s. to 12s. to order it by telephone from
A firm in Melbourne. The cost of trunkline calls is ridiculously high. According no the scale of charges printed in the Telephone book, the cost of a trunk call for a distance of more than 50 miles, but got exceeding 60 miles, is ls. 3d., but over 100 miles the cost is 2s. 4d. I .cannot understand the reason for this, because operating and maintenance costs certainly do not justify all of the additional charge. Trunk-line charges for calls ‘distant from the metropolitan area are disproportionately high. People who live some hundreds of miles from a capital city, and whose business requires them to make trunk calls over that -distance, should enjoy the benefit of specially low rates. For person-to-person calls, the department charges an extra 3d. for distances up to 50 miles, but .for distances OV:31 *)0 miles and up to 100 miles, an extra charge pf 6d. is made, and when the distance exceeds 100 miles, the charge is 9d. I should like to know the reason for that. The fact that a call is , made over 100 miles instead of 50 miles does not increase the work of the telephonist or the cost of administration. That is typical of the irritation ntd inconvenience ‘to “which country people are subjected, and it is time that relief was afforded them.
The Minister referred to the number of new telephone connexions that had been made, but he omitted to mention that most of them were in metropolitan areas. I pass through Melbourne on the way to my constituency, and while I am in the city I sometimes have occasion to make a telephone call. When I go to the telephone booth, there is usually a girl in it talking to some fellow about where they will go on Saturday night, and they talk on, and on, and on. In some instances, persons indulging in conversations of that nature occupy boxes for as long as a quarter of an hour. In fairness to other people who desire to make urgent calls, such conversations should be limited to three minutes at the most. I can see no reason why that could not be done when the department is unable to supply sufficient public telephone boxes to meet requirements.
The honorable member for Wilmot declared that the Government is spending money. I agree with that statement. It certainly is spending a lot of money. However, the honorable member described postmasters-general in previous governments as being poverty-stricken. ] remind him that practically all of the post offices existing in Australia to-day were constructed when anti-Labour governments were in office; and most of those buildings are fine structures. Travelling in country districts one notices many unofficial, and, in some instances official, post offices on the front of which the name of the office is not shown That omission often causes considerable inconvenience to’ strangers especially when an unofficial post office is some distance from the read and although the sign “ Post and Telegraph Office “ appears on the gate, no name whatever is shown. In all instances, unofficial and official post offices should display their official name either on the building itself, cr if the building is some distance from the road, on the gate.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and the honorable member for Wilmot stressed the urgency of providing adequate telephonic services in isolated areas. I strongly support that suggestion. Indeed, at least £1,000,000 should he allocated immediately for that purpose. I am sure that no honorable member could object to that being done..
.- First, L shall reply to the criticism of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who alleged that the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department generally are inefficient. Bearing in mind all the shortages that have existed as part of the aftermath of six years of war, honorable members will agree that the service rendered by the postal department, particularly in telephonic, mail delivery and. general services, compares favorably with that rendered by any other organization whether it be governmental or private. The attack made by the honorable member, for Flinders on postal department employees was most unjustified. I am. in sympathy with the request of those employees for an increase of wages, which is all the more justified when we have regard to the rise in the cost of living that has occurred following’ the defeat of the Government’s referendum proposal for- the continuance of prices control on an Australia-wide basis. The Opposition parties played a large part in bringing about that result. However, a fairly substantial increase of wages was granted recently to employees of the Postal Department, and to that degree the urgency of their request has been alleviated. I deplore the criticism voiced from time to time by honorable members opposite concerning public servants generally. They claim that too many persons are employed in the public service and urge the Government to reduce the number of public servants, but, at the same time, as the honorable member for Flinders has done to-night, they contend that the Postal Department is unable to recruit sufficient staff because the wages and working conditions of its employees are unsatisfactory.. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. The honorable member for Flinders to-night revealed their hypocrisy in criticizing the public service.
Dealing with the demand for telephones, particularly in the metropolitan area of Sydney, I must confess that, whilst I recognize the great difficulties confronting the department in meeting all applications, I am at a loss to understand the basis of priority observed in making installations. In some instances priority appears to have been given to applications which if investigated, would probably prove to be much less deserving than many others. I know of instances of applicants who have been waiting up to three years to have telephones transferred from one area to another. Most’ of those cases are urgent. The department cannot justify a delay of three years in such instances. Persons who are actual subscribers should be given priority over others who are applying far telephones for the first time. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to examine the basis of priority of installations because the present method is most unsatisfactory. In making that request, I am well aware of the great problems confronting the department owing to the shortage of telephonic equipment. Steps should be taken to ensure that urgent applications will receive the consideration which they deserve.
Recently, a number of my constituents, thanks to the energy of employees of the Postal Department and the Department of Works and Housing, were privileged to receive automatic telephone equipment despite the fact that for many years before the war when’ anti-Labour governments were in office they had unsuccessfully pressed their applications. I express my appreciation of that fact. However, two of the telephones so installed were white ducoed sets for which the department is requesting an annual rental of 30s. in excess of that charged for ordinary black sets. It seems strange to me that the rate of rental of a telephone set should be determined by its colour. The colour of a telephone does not affect, one’s hearing. The charges for all sets should be uniform. I commend the Postmaster-General on the efficiency of the department and the manner in which it has faced up to the problems confronting it. I trust that the matters I have mentioned will be given due consideration in the interests of the community as a whole. ^ Mr. WHITE (Balaclava) [10.20].- The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has boasted and bragged in typical fashion about the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. He usually speaks in superlatives, but we have become accustomed to them and have learned to discount them. In one respect, however, the Minister is better than the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), who speaks from a typewritten brief handed to him by an official, and if another honorable member dares to interrupt him with a request for information, he is answered with a volley f abuse, as T was this afternoon.
Provision is made in the Estimates for an amount of £1,252,000 for air-mail subsidies. The people should know that chat payment is one reason why postage rates are so high. The Postal Department transfers to the governmentcon.trolled airline a sum of £325,000 in one year. How much more is transferred, we do not know. Yesterday we learnt that the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines for twelve months had resulted in another heavy loss.
– The loss would have been bigger if Trans-Australia Airlines bad not received the mail subsidies.
– That is true. In order to hide the heavy losses on this nationalized service, the Government is transferring huge sums from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to TransAustralia Airlines. The object is to deceive the public. That cannot be denied.
– Should the Government pay the subsidy to Australian National Airways?
– No ; the Postmaster.General’s Department should reduce postage rates. Surely the Minister has sufficient sense to know what is happening. The transport of mails, which is now being undertaken by TransAustralia Airlines, could be carried out by private airline companies provided they were permitted to purchase a few additional aircraft. Instead of following hat policy, the Government has paid £3,750,000’ to Trans-Australia Airlines over a period, and the real losses of the airline are concealed by transferring to » it hundreds -of thousands of pounds from the Postmaster-General’s Department.. The Minister spoke of many morepeople being employed in that department, and of thousands of additional telephones being installed. His little supporter, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), used the word “congratulations “ many times, and gave us some interesting data about football matches, descriptions of which he wanted to hear broadcast, and about how the parish, pump was working. He congratulated the Postmaster-General’s Department s<> often that he forgot that some branchesof its activities are open to criticism.. Postage rates are excessive. The Minister for Information knows that thepresent high rates were imposed in wartime in order to raise additional revenue. It is unfair to taxpayers to continuethose rates. I wonder what the PricesCommissioner would say about a private enterprise which profiteered in the sameway. The Postmaster-General’s Department is definitely profiteering in thar respect.
That thought leads me to the excessive cost of sending food parcels to Great Britain. The people of Australia haveset an example to the Government in understanding the austerity conditionsthat still prevail in the United Kingdom, and they send millions of parcels to relieve the plight of relatives and friends The cost of postage on a parcel weighingonly a few pounds, and containing fat>urgently needed by the addressee in Great Britain, can be more than the value of the goods. Those excessive rates are unfair, particularly to Australians of slender means who desire to assist. Thi effect of the high rates is not felt wealthier Australians or members of thiParliament, who have free issues of’ stamps. But a poor person who desire.to assist relatives in Great Britain idefinitely penalized.
– The honorable mein ber knows why the present rates have been maintained.
– I have raised thi*matter many times, and the Minister ha.informed mc that the rates are deter mined by an agreement with the General Post Office in the United Kingdom. That agreement should be revised.
– The British Post Office has refused to revise it.
– The Minister has the complex of a dictator. He wants to order young Australian girls in the United States of America to return here. He should be able to overcome a comparatively small difficulty such as excessive rates of postage on food parcels from Australia to Great Britain.
– I have as much interest in sending food to people in Great Britain as the honorable member has.
– I do not deny that. Vs an individual outside the Parliament, the honorable gentleman- may do a good deal, but as a Minister, he is nearest to the dictator type, with the exception, of course, of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who is an extremist in leftist outlook. Those Ministers, who are “dressed with a little brief authority “, believe that they can increase the number of public servants in their departments, and push Australians around. The habit grows on them.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the proposed votes under consideration.
– I am referring to the agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom on postage rates on food parcels. The Minister for Information, who said that the existing agreement cannot be revised, underestimates his capabilities. He has accomplished much in the past, such as preventing the sale «f Sydney newspapers.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant.
– The Minister should :ie able to confer on this subject with officials of the British Post Office with a view to revising the agreement.
– I did everything in my power when 1 was in the United Kingdom to try to achieve that objective.
– The Minister must have heard of the saying, “If at first you can’t succeed, try, try again “. He should not be daunted by one failure. He has explained to honorable members very proudly that the Government has been able to increase the number of tele phones. The Australian Government has never made a present of food to the British people, lt made a gift of £25,000,000 and proposes to make another gift of £10,000,000, but those amounts are only credits.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks on food for Britain are not relevant, to this discussion.
– I submit that my remarks on excessive postage rates on food parcels are in order.- If the Minister desires to strengthen the goodwill that Australia now enjoys in Great Britain as the result of sending food parcels, lushould summon a conference with officials of the British General Post Office, and secure revision of the present rates of postage on food parcels. The subject should be discussed at the forthcoming conference of Prime Minister.* in London. Obviously, the Government is profiteering with the present rates of postage, and those profits are being used to subsidize a socialist enterprise, namely Trans-Australia Airlines. Before thi Government adopted that method of subsidizing airmails, it paid private airlines 025d. per lb. mile. Many letters can be carried on that basis, which was not onlyfair but also profitable to private enterprise. However, the governmentcontrolled concern was not able to make a profit at that rate, and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which, the Minister boasts, has made a profit of £5,000,000, has transferred a portion of its surplus to Trans-Australia Airlines. That transaction is hidden from thipeople. The Government’s purpose is to pretend that Trans-Australia Airlines inearer to operating on a profit-making basis than it actually is.
The honorable member for Wilmot said that the Government is spending large sums of money through the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. That statement is perfectly true. The Government is squandering money in an orgy of socialist extravagance. Another matter which I desire to mention is the supply of telephones. The Minister stated that millions - I must not exaggerate because he himself exaggerates - that scores of thousands of telephones have been installed.
– I said that 960,000 people have telephones.
– That is correct. The inference which I draw then is that most of the people who still require telephones live in my electorate. Scores of my constituents have been endeavouring to secure telephones for long periods. Earlier, the representative of a country constituency said that all the telephones must be installed in the. large cities. I hasten to assure him that they are not. [ am not criticizing the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The courtesy with which they render service and the promptness with which they answer correspondence are extremely satisfactory. The department has some excellent engineers, who are equal to the best in the world. The Minister for Information, though, who becomes intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, has said that the next government monopoly will be television. It will be a bad day for him if the proceedings of the Parliament are televised. Television and frequency modulation services will be monopolized and other great wonders will he performed by the Government, no doubt at a cost of millions of pounds. Undoubtedly television and frequency modulation must come to Australia, but chey should not become Government monopolies. The Minister should give his attention to other more pressing, if less spectacular, matters. He should ensure that telephones are supplied to the scores of thousands of applicants in the city of Melbourne and its suburbs. Some of these people are in dire sickness, others are aged-
– They can always walk 100 yards to a public telephone, but some people in the country are 20 miles away from the nearest telephone.
– Some people cannot walk 100 yards, but I admit that the needs of country people are more urgent. The Communist party head-quarters at Marx House in Sydney has a score of telephones. Every Communist organization has them. Yet sick people and others who need them badly, both in the cities and in the country, where the population is scattered and the need for telephones is great, cannot obtain installations. I do not blame the officers of the Postal Department for thi* state of affairs. The Government is at fault. While it talks of grandiose schemes, the millions of pounds that the department spends and earns, and itsscores of thousands of employees, the Government neglects the ordinary everyday wants of the people. There is much that can be done to improve existing telephone services. For instance, the automatic telephone is a thing of common usage all over the world, yet, in some of the largest suburbs of Melbourne, subscribers are still served by manual exchanges. I do not want to be unfair to the operators at the Windsor exchange, but sometimes it seems to be quicker to write a letter than to make a telephone call in that area. That is scarcely ai> exaggeration. Many thousands of subscribers are connected to that exchange. Central exchange in Melbourne, the principal exchange in the heart of the city, is also manually operated. Everybody knows that the automatic telephone has been a great aid to humanity, but this Government, despite all the bragging of the Minister, cannot even provide automatic services for the principal cities and their suburbs. The speech made by the Governor-General at the opening of this session of the Parliament contains several paragraphs extolling the excellence of our postal services. I pay tribute to the work of some branches of the department, but others provide an inadequate service. The profiteering on postage, the lack of telephones, and the existence of obsolete manual exchanges in our principal cities, call for strong criticism of the Government’s policy. 1 realize that there have been shortages of cables and telephone instruments, but, if the Government can plan great expensive undertakings for the department, surely it can arrange for the purchase or manufacture of telephone equipment so that we can be provided with a satisfactory service.
– I have carefully examined Division 232, which contains the Postal Department’s estimates of expenditure for Queensland, and I regret -very much that 1 cannot find in it any specific provision for the building of a new general post office at Brisbane, For many years [ have repeatedly referred to the need for such a building. In fact I first raised this matter in this chamber about seven.teen years ago.
– I remember that.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was a member of a government which made a number of promises to build a new post office in Brisbane, but, unfortunately, it did not honour them. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), to whose speech I listened carefully, declared that nearly all of the modern post offices in Australia had been built under the administration of anti-Labour governments. That boast certainly does not apply to Brisbane. The general post office in that city would be a disgrace to any capital city. It is true that in 1939, when the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was PostmasterGeneral, the government of the day set aside an amount of £50,000 for the construction of a new building. However, war broke out, and, of course, the money had to be expended for other purposes. Nothing more was said about the project until hostilities ended, hut each year since then I have pressed for the commencement of work upon it. I give credit to both the present Postmaster-General, (Senator Cameron) and his predecessor in that office, Senator Ashley, for what they have done in the interests of employees at the Brisbane Post Office. They have authorized many improvements there, and I am pleased that these additions have been made so that they can become part of the permanent structure when the proposed building is eventually erected. Both the Postmaster-General and the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane, Mr. Stewart, recently announced that the Government intended to proceed with the new work during 1948-49. Consequently, I regret that I have been unable to find any reference in the Estimates to a proposed appropriation for the undertaking. I sincerely hope “ that the PostmasterGeneral will fulfil the promise which he has made, not only to me, but also to tinpeople of Brisbane.
– Provision is made in the programme of works for Queensland for the erection of the first stage of the new post office building for Brisbane.
– I am glad to have that information, and I am sure that the people of Brisbane will receive it with pleasure. The first section of the new building will be erected on the sit* of the existing mail office in Elizabethstreet, which is a disgrace and in which no Commonwealth employee should be called upon to work. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) said thai the Postal Department had difficulty in securing efficient employees and alleged that this was because the treatment of postal officers was not so good as it should be. I have had considerable experience in connexion with the Postal Department, and I have been in constant touch with its officers in Brisbane and, despite ths honorable gentleman’s allegations of inefficiency, I am convinced that no other government department offers greater civility or better attention than is provided by post office employees. The, are very efficient. This is largely due to the enlightened treatment that they have received under the regime of thi* Government. Although the General POS Office building in Brisbane is an old one. the amenities that are provided for tho employees and the” general public are a credit to the Government. They are much appreciated, and it is pleasing to know that they will continue to be provided when the new building is completed.
I receive many requests from my constituents with regard’ to postal and telephone facilities. During the war the Postmaster-General’s Department was hampered by a shortage of materials. Although the position has improved considerably in the last twelve months, there are still many persons who are waiting for telephones to be installed in their homes. In Brisbane, every application for the installation of a telephone is considered on its merits. There is no unfairness, and I receive very few complaints in that connexion. The position is improving every day, and I have been successful in securing many telephones for private citizens and business people during the last six or eight months.
– £600,000 is provided for new telephone exchange buildings.
– I know that new- exchanges are being built. One is about to be erected in the district in which I live, and another in Toowong. When they are completed, the department will be able to provide many more telephones in those areas. I was pleased to learn that wage increases are to be granted to employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department, who, because of the service that they give to the public, are deserving of the best treatment that the Government can give them. I understood the Minister to say that the increases are now being considered by the Public Service Board, and that an announcement will be made shortly. I hope that it will not be long delayed. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) pointed out that employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are not in the same position as other industrial workers, who can apply to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration from time ro time for an increase of wages. The postal employees have to apply to the Public Service Arbitrator. I sincerely hope that the Postmaster-General will insure that the increases to which the Minister referred are granted as soon as possible.
– The committee is now considering the estimates for the Commonwealth Railways and the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is probable that the activities of those two departments penetrate further into the inland, and particularly into the Northern Territory, than lo those of any other government departments. I propose to confine my remarks now to the estimates for the Commonwealth Railways, and I shall discuss inland mail services when the estimates for the Northern Territory are discussed, if I obtain a call from the Chair. The Government will be forced shortly to make an announcement of its developmental policy with regard to Commonwealth Railways. The railway line from Adelaide to Alice Springs was built at a rime when there was little supervision of contractors, and the Government war imposed upon by a gang of “ go-getters “. I do not propose to criticize private contractors, because I think Australia needsmore of them to-day. In my opinion, it if far better to utilize their services than to waste money upon socialistic experiments. In the Northern- Territory, in particular, public money is being poured down the sink by the Department of Works and Housing. I shall have more to say on that subject to-morrow. Something will have to be done to put the Adelaide-Alice Springs railway in better order than it is now. The transAustralia line is in good condition. The excellent first-class carriages are air-cooled, but, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, the secondclass carriages are not really satisfactory. The railway journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs, a distance of approximately 1,000 miles, takes three days. Even in the first-class carriages women are huddled together, and no baths are provided for them. For fourteen years I have been pressing for carriages thai will provide reasonable amenities for the women who travel on that line. They are the real battlers of the centre of Australia. It is time that something wa> done.
I receive many complaints from constituents in the Alice Springs district with regard to the preference that is given to tourists on this railway. The inhabitants of the Northern Territory do not object to tourists. On the contrary, they welcome them, although the young bachelors have indicated to me that they would prefer to see more “ streamlined “ tourists among the elderly people who apparently spend the savings that they have accumulated during many years in order to make a tour of the territory. During the months of May. June and July nearly all of the seats on the trains between Adelaide and Alice Springs are taken by tourists, and the residents of the Northern Territory find it very difficult to make bookings. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) whether, during the tourist season, arrangements can be made for seats on the trains to he made available to residents of the territory who desire to travel on them.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) expressed his pleasure at the excellent conditions that are now enjoyed by the gangers and pick-and-shovel men who are employed on tho transAustralia railway. Those conditions were obtained for them by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), when he was u member of the Opposition, and myself. We fought a battle to get the Public Service Arbitrator to go through that area. One of the finest reports upon the conditions under which railway workers live in outlying places was that which was written by the Public Service Arbitrator in 1936. I am afraid that I cannot remember his name at this moment. He was shocked to see the conditions under which those unfortunate men were living in that grim country, and, acting upon his report, the government of the lay improved conditions. I am glad that the present Minister for the Interior has continued that good work, and f give him. full credit for what he has lone. To-day there are messes all along r.he Hue to Kalgoorlie. Cooks are employed, and the men enjoy reasonable conditions. T do not object to the expenditure of money on the trans-Australian line, because it is used frequently by visitors to this country and we should do our best to make a good impression on them. Many of them have experienced the comforts of rail travel in other countries and it is up to us to show them what Australia can do. But I impress upon the Minister the necessity to provide all possible amenities, especially for women, on the line to Alice Springs. As other members of the Opposition wish to speak before the time allowed for this debate has expired, I shall reserve my remarks on the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I wish to make one or two brief observations on some of the matters that have been raised in connexion with Commonwealth railways. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked what the Government intended to do to improve second-class accommodation on transAustralian trains. The Government proposes, a soon as possible, to provide additional comfort for second-class passengers on those trains. I remind the committee that this Government, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has said, inherited a legacy from the previous Administration. When it assumed office no improvements had been made to the accommodation on the transAustralian line for many years. The housing conditions of employees on thai line were the worst in Australasia. In fact. there was better accommodation in shearing sheds on many pastoral properties in the most isolated parts of Australia than was provided for employees of the Commonwealth railways until this Government tackled the housing problem.
– We had the Arbitrator inspect that line long before that.
– Arbitrators do noi build houses. To-day there are new dwellings all along the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. The old huts that the unfortunate workers and their families were compelled to live in have been abandoned. Each of the new homes is fitted with refrigeration.
In reply to the representations tha.i have been made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory for an improvement of the North-South line, 1 have to inform him that this matter is under consideration. At the moment, a survey is being carried out for a standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Alice Springs. The Government does not propose, therefore, to purchase new rollingstock of the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge for this line.
– Will the new line follow the old route?
– No. The new line will avoid the double crossing of the Flinders Range, and thus enable trains to carry much greater loads of coal from Leigh Creek and other places, at considerably reduced freight charges. Like the trans-Australian railway the NorthSouth line deteriorated considerably during the war, when both lines had to carry heavy loads of men and materials. In the relatively short period since the war ended, the efforts that have been made by the Government to make up the leeway of repairs accumulated during the war, would be a credit to any administration. I hope that in the near future the line from Port Pirie to Broken
Hill will be converted to 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge, so that we shall have a standard gauge line from Perth to Sydney.
– Does the Government propose to complete the north-south line?
– That matter is under consideration, but it is tied up with the general question of the development of the Northern Territory. It is of no use building railways if there is no freight for them to carry. If the Northern Territory can be developed on the lines that this Government hopes that it will be developed, there will be every justificationfor the completion of the line. Unfortunately, there is not sufficient time for me to deal with other matters that I should like to mention, and I shall reserve my remarks on them until a later date.
.-I believe that the Postmaster-General should expend a greater proportion of the funds at his disposal on the provision of better telephonic services in country areas. Many rural settlers live far from the amenities enjoyed by town people. Even in Victoria, which is a comparatively well developed State, some country people live 20 miles or more from the nearest doctor. Most of the post offices in those areas are non-official establishments, and the telephone exchanges are closed from 12.30 p.m. on Saturdays until Monday morning, or, at a holiday week-end until Tuesday morning at 9 o’clock, and it is impossible to make telephone calls. Whilst I should like to see the surcharge of one halfpenny on letters removed, I should rather see it retained if that would mean the provision of better services in country areas. I believe that the people of Australia generally would be quite satisfied to continue to pay the extra halfpenny if services would be improved. It is essential that automatic telephone exchanges should be established in country areas. Recently near Inglewood in Victoria, a man became ill suddenly. As the local postmaster had gone away for the weekend, as he was quite entitled to do, his friends had to travel nineteen miles to telephone for a doctor, and unfortunately the man died.
– One of the honorable member’s colleagues has complained about the Government expending money in the very manner suggested by the honorable member.
– I have not complained. The Government has made considerable revenue out of the Post Office in the past. I am opposed to postal revenue being paid into the Consodidated Revenue Fund. I believe that it should be used to provide improved services. But do not confine all the new buildings to Melbourne and the other cities ; expend some money in the country areas.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Commonwealth Railways and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has expired
Question put -
That the proposed votes be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman -Mr. H. P. Lazzarini.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the report of the Public Works’ Committee on the following subject: -
The proposed erection of an office building to house Commonwealth departments in Brisbane.
Privilege: Mr. A. W. Fadden, M.P. : Interrogation by Commonwealth Investigation Officers.
Motion by (Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to take advantage of the forms of the House-
– I rise to order. Has the report of the Public Works Committee
– I rise to order. I draw the attention of the Chair to the fact that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) turned to the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) and said, “ Sit down, you mug “. I ask that the honorable member for Richmond withdraw that remark.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I desire to know whether the report of the Public Works Committee has been presented to the House.
– The report has been presented to the House.
– I rise to order. I heard a remark made by the honorable member for Richmond that was offensive to me.
– Nothing could be offensive to the Minister.
– The honorable member for Richmond must withdraw the remark.
– Certainly. If the remark is offensive to the Minister, I withdraw it.
– I desire to take the opportunity on the motion for the adjournment of the House to mention a matter of extreme significance regarding the ancient privileges of Parliament and the effective discharge of the duties of members of the Opposition. Last week, following certain discussions in this House affecting the efficiency of security services in this country, I made speeches in which I asked whether the Government would deny certain allegations as to what had taken place in London on the 8th July, 1948, and at a meeting of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which was alleged to have taken place in Australia on the 6th July, 1948. Following these allegations the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) yesterday made a statement in this House in which he indicated that the security policehad been instructed to make certain investigations and in particular to exercise surveillance over the activities of certain honorable members of the Opposition. This afternoon I was interviewed by the security police in my official room in this building
– Order ! I think the right honorable member is referring to a matter which is already on the notice-paper.
– I rise to a point of order. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, inform me where it appears on the noticepaper. The matter which was raised this afternoon, is not on the notice-paper at all. The item to which you have referred as being on the notice-paper deals with a specific matter. The matter which the Leader of the Australian Country party is raising does not relate to that item, but to certain subsequent events. I submit first, that it can not be covered by your ruling and secondly, that there is nothing on the notice-paper about it at all. The notice-paper for to-day does not contain it. A motion of dissent from your ruling given earlier to-day was made, but it will not appear on the noticepaper until to-morrow. I give you my assurance that the matter sought to be raised refers to a subsequent event - and I know something about it-
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has set out to destroy this Parliament ever since he came into it.
– Order !
– - If you will keep order I shall seek to put my views.
-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to say any more than is necessary to explain his point of order.
– Then you might keep members of the Ministry in order. I am seeking to explain a proposition. We have sought-
Mr. Ward interjecting.
– Order ! If the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) does not remain silent I shall deal with him. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who is speaking to a point of order before the Chair, is not entitled to say any more than is necessary to explain the point of order. I consider that he has said sufficient to explain the nature of the point of order which he has taken. The matter raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has direct reference to a matter raised in the House earlier to-day.
– It has not-
– Order ! The honorable member is subject to the ruling of the Chair.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– If the honorable member for Warringah does not cease interrupting while I am speaking I shall deal with him. I listened to the honorable member until I was assured that he was dealing with a matter which was raised in the chamber earlier to-day. That matter has been placed on the noticepaper of the House, and the honorable member is not entitled to refer to it now.
– I continue my speech by quoting from a letter which I received to-night that could have nothing to do with the events which took place this afternoon.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is not permitted to make any reference to the matter which was placed on the noticepaper for discussion on another occasion.
– After I had concluded my speech at approximately 8.30 o’clock to-night a letter was delivered to me in Parliament House. It is as follows : -
When Inspectors Wilks and McDermott of this service called upon you this afternoon they did not pursue their inquiries fully owing to the way the interview developed. This service is investigating a suggestion that two documents from which you quoted have either been stolen or are forgeries. One of these purports to be a record of proceedings in London on the 8th July, 1.948, and theother purports to be a record of proceedings at a meeting on the 6th July, 1948, of the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In order to further the investigation it is desired to examine the documents in question. You will, I am- sure, recognize the importance of the nature of the inquiry, and I am confident that upon consideration you will be ready to assist my officers. I shall arrange for them to call upon you at your convenience following this request that you allow them to examine the documents in question.
That letter was placed before a joint meeting of the Opposition parties, which unanimously decided that I should- reply not only on my own behalf as the leader of a political party in the Parliament, but also in an official capacity on behalf of the Opposition parties, whose members are determined at all costs to maintain the ancient freedom of speech of all members of Parliament in this country. It was further decided by the meeting that I should not reply to the letter of the Acting Director of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, but that I should direct my reply, first to the Prime Minister, and secondly to Mr. Deputy Speaker, on whom the duty is placed of upholding the privilege of members of the Parliament. I shall now read the letter which I intend to send to the Prime Minister.
-Order ! The right honorable gentleman is not entitled to deal with the matter of privilege which was dealt with in the House to-day. I have ruled that he is not entitled ,to discuss the particular matter of privilege which was raised earlier to-d*iy except insofar as it is necessary to explain the matter which he is now discussing.
– That is exactly what I intend to do. The following are the terms of the letter which I intend to direct to the Prime Minister: -
Following an interview which the Security Police had with me this afternoon, I received a letter from the Acting Director of the Commonwealth Investigation Service which reads in the terms following.
T have already read the terms of the letter to the House. The letter continues -
This letter has been considered by a joint meeting of the Opposition Parties and they have directed me to write to you in the following terms: -
Under the provisions of the Constitution, section 49, it is provided that the powers, privileges and immunities of a member of Parliament shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared will be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees at the establishment of the Commonwealth. “ The matter which was raised by me was raised in my capacity as Leader of the Country Party. The letter which has been received by me shows that the Investigation Service is investigating a suggestion that two documents from which it is said I quoted have either been stolen or are forgeries and upon this I am said to be interrogated.
The questions which the joint opposition parties have directed that I should place towards y011 are -
Did the investigators of this service interrogate me at your direction or at the direction of your Government?
Is either of the extracts which I quoted to the House, or both, admitted by your Government to be genuine extracts from any official document? If so, is it admitted that they are genuine extracts from official documents of proceedings of the British Cabinet on 8th July and of proceedings nf the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on 6th July last?
If they are not admitted to be genuine extracts from any such document or documents, are they admitted to be genuine extracts from any other confidential documents of the Government, and,
If so, which?
The joint parties take the view that unless the quotations I made are admitted to be genuine extracts from genuine official confidential documents, the action of the Security Police is, to say the least, the grossest invasion of the freedom of speech which is accorded to members of Parliament by the ancient privileges of our Parliament, and any attempt to break down those privileges will be resisted by every means within our power. If they are not genuine extracts from genuine confidential documents, obviously no question can arise which could justify the high-handed action which the Government has directed. If it is admitted that these documents are genuine extracts from official confidential documents, the parties propose to meet again to consider the matter. It may be said, however, that whether they are genuine or not. the invasion which, at your direction, Security Police mave made upon the privileges of members of Parliament-
– Order ! I shall not allow the right honorable gentleman to violate the Standing Orders of the House by quoting from a letter or by any other means. He is not entitled to debate the matter of privilege which has been set down on the notice-paper, and he cannot evade the ruling of the Chair by resorting to a subterfuge. I assure him that he will not be allowed to continue along those lines.
– The letter continues -
I shall be glad, speaking on behalf of the joint parties, to have your specific reply to the specific questions which I have indicated
-Order! In relation to the letter addressed to myself concerning the matter of parliamentary privilege, I rule that the right honorable gentleman is not entitled to read that letter to the House. The letter can come up for discussion when the matter is discussed by the House.
– I am referring to an entirely fresh matter.
– Order ! The Chair has ruled otherwise.
– You have not heard the right honorable gentleman’s submission.
– I have heard sufficient to know that the right honorable gentleman is not entitled to raise the matter which he is seeking to raise by the subterfuge of reading a letter. I have ruled against the right honorable gentleman, and he cannot do so.
– I desire to raise a matter of supreme consequence to this Parliament.
-Does the honorable member wish to raise a point of order?
– No; I wish to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– Order I The honorable member has not been given the call.
– May I speak now?
– The honorable member may proceed, as no other honorable member has risen to address the House.
– The matter which I propose to raise is of supreme consequence to this Parliament, and I trust that the Government will give some attention to it, if it has any regard for what has ta.ken place within the precincts of this House to-day.
– Order I I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– On a point of order-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I have resumed my seat.
-And he will not be allowed to speak again.
– I rise to order. I am seeking to raise a matter of prime public importance to this country. I am seeking, as best I can, to observe the ruling which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have given. I ask that in the circumstances, I he permitted to continue my address.
– The honorable member knows that the Chair has ruled that he is not entitled to speak on a matter of privilege. He has disobeyed that ruling.
– I am not seeking to raise a matter of privilege.
– The honorable member distinctly used the word “ privilege “. The honorable member should not interrupt the Chair.
Mar. Spender. - I am not interrupting’. 1 am endeavouring to ascertain my rights.
– Order ! If the honorable member does not cease interrupting the Chair, he will be dealt with. A matter of privilege was raised earlier during this sitting, and I have requested that it be placed on the noticepaper. The honorable member is not entitled to discuss a matter of privilege now.
– May I speak on another matter?
– The honorable member is surely not entitled to receive two calls from the Chair?
-The honorable member for Warringah may not speak again. He will resume his seat.
.-! desire to remind- the House of an incident which occurred in the House several years ago. It will be of interest to honorable members. In the midst of the war, the then Labor member for Maranoa, Mr. Baker, in the course of a speech, produced a copy of a map which he had had printed, and circulated. It purported to delineate the boundaries of a certain military line of defence. I asked the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, whether the publication in the House and outside the House of what the then honorable member for Maranoa claimed to be an official military document was an act of treason, if it were genuine, or was an act calculated to destroy the morale of the country, because the allegation was that many hundreds of thousands of Australians were to he left undefended. I asked the then Prime Minister to state whether such an act, calculated to destroy the morale of the country, constituted an offence against a specific statutory rule made under the National Security Act. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was a senior Minister in that Government. Mr. Curtin undertook to order an investigation for the purpose of ascertaining whether the then honorable member for Maranoa had committed an offence under National Security Regulations by publishing either a genuine or a fictitious military document calculated to destroy morale, but his Government did not honour that undertaking to investigate the alleged treason or offence. The reason for its failure to do so was that the then honorable member for Maranoa was a Labour supporter. An analogy may be drawn between that incident, which occurred in war-time, and the action of the present Prime Minister in turning the security police on to one of his political opponents, because he has said something which embarrasses the Government. A week ago, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made a quotation which, he said he had been informed, was an accurate quotation of a statement made by the present Prime Minister to the British Cabinet. He invited the Prime Minister to say whether or not the quotation was accurate. A week has passed, but the Prime Minister has not uttered a word about it. He has merely turned the matter over to the security police, who are known in another country as the gestapo.
– Order ! The honorable member is proceeding to discuss a matter which the Chair has already ruled out of order.
– With respect, I am not discussing the question of privilege.
– Order ! The honorable member may not, under any pretext, discuss a matter which has been placed on the notice-paper.
– I am not raising the issue of privilege.
– That issue may not be raised in any way..
– The silence of the Prime Minister on this subject can lead any reasonable man only to the conclusion that the quotation made by the Leader of the Australian Country party was an accurate quotation. The whole matter can be disposed of in a moment by the Prime Minister saying, “ The quotation was false “. He is the only man in this country who knows whether it is true or false. It is utter and arrant hypocrisy to turn the security police on to a member of this Parliament in order to discover the answer to a question which the right honorable gentleman already knows.
– Honorable members who have been parties to these statements in the House can “ wriggle “ as much as they please, but there are some pertinent questions to be answered.
– ‘Such as, whether the document was genuine or not?
– I shall deal with that matter briefly. Quotations were made from documents which purported to be official documents. One of them concerned myself and the British Cabinet. The other had nothing to do with the British Cabinet; it related to the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. On their own confession honorable members opposite regarded them as confidential. There is a simple question te be answered by the Opposition in regard to the safety of this country.
– What has safety to do with it?
– I shall deal with that in a moment, because the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) made some comment on that aspect. He said that because I decline to either deny or admit the accuracy of an alleged British Cabinet document the natural assumption to be made is that that is an indication that it is genuine. If that is so, the right honorable gentleman admits that it is a stolen document.
– If it is not genuine, it is not a stolen document.
– His own admission a few moments ago indicated that. He said :that therefore it was a genuine document. The other matter raised relates to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I made the position perfectly clear several days ago, and again yesterday, in this House.’ The other document purported to be a document relating to a meeting of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There can be only one answer to that. That document is one of two things; either it is a stolen document, or it is a forgery. Members of the Opposition, like everybody else, have a duty to this country.
– The right honorable gentleman knows which it is.
– It does not matter what I know-
– Does the -right honorable gentleman know, or does he not know what it is?
– It is of no use honorable members wriggling on this matter–
– The right honorable gentleman himself is wriggling.
– What has been suggested is that in the departments, amongst the public servants or somebody else, is an open door, or a half-open door ana they are asked-
– If it is a genuine document
-Order! I shall deal with the honorable member for Warringah if he does not cease to interrupt.
– They are asked to join in ascertaining whether such a condition of affairs exists, and they decline to do so. That is the fact of the matter.
– Because the Prime Minister knows the answer !
– It would be too embarrassing for the right honorable gentleman to say what the answer is.
– Order !
– I listened carefully to what the Leader of the Australian Country party said. What I said yesterday was that as these documents, whatever their nature, had been read in the House, the circumstances demanded that an inquiry should be made as to whether they were stolen documents, and if so how they were stolen. I remind honorable members of what was said in this House yesterday. I think everybody in this country would regard that as the duty of the Government.
– They could not be stolen unless they were genuine.
– The honorable member cannot put any of his law over here. The members of the Opposition were asked in the most courteous possible way to assist the Government and the security service to ascertain whether there were some open doors by which any person, whether they be members of the Opposition or Communists, are able to obtain possession of documents. Although they cry out very loudly about leakages, they decline to render any assistance.
– The whole thing is hypocrisy, and the right honorable gentleman knows it.
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has been asked only one simple question, namely, whether there is any. evidence that an open door or half-open door exists, through which anybody, whether a member of the Opposition, or a Communist, could obtain a document, the revelation of the contents of which might be to the detriment of the security of this country.
– This is the greatest, admission of the inefficiency of the security service that has ever been made.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition talks like that, but he refuses to help it to be more efficient.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– The honorable member for Warringah is like a parrot and is continually interrupting. This must cease. Government members, also, must remain silent.
– There the matter stands. The Government and its officers, in the most courteous way, have approached some of those who have suggested that it is possible to obtain documents, but I understand from what the Leader of the Australian Country party said that he declined to give any such information and now the whole of the members of the Opposition, including the Australian Country party, have made it clear that, although they are prepared to quote from documents, they are not prepared to assist the security service of this country.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Tell us whether it is genuine or otherwise, and then see what action we will take.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition must cease interjecting.
– Those subjects have nothing to do with the matter.
– They have everything to do with the security of the country.
– I will put a simple question, if I may: Did honorable members bring documents into this House believing that they were genuine—
– Why not answer the question first?
– Or is it suggested that they concocted something themselves, which was to the detriment of the security of this country? There can be only two conclusions - either that they believed that the documents were genuine, and quoted from them in that belief, or that they were parties to concocting some statement or receiving a forgery from somebody else. There must be a simple answer to those questions. Do honorable members opposite want to clear themselves, or to be regarded as being parties in possession–
– Does the right honorable gentleman want to clear himself regarding the security of this country?
– I do not want to deal with the Acting Leader of the Opposition, but he is continually interrupting.
– But the Prime Minister is asking a question.
– If honorable members interrupt further I shall deal with them.
– It is apparent that the members of the Opposition are smarting under the charge that either they used certain documents, believing them te be genuine, or are not prepared to assist to clear themselves of being in possession of stolen property. That is the answer.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has given us his usual kind of answer, and I do not propose to labor this question very much except te say that the righthonorable gentleman, whose name is connected with those documents, and who is alleged to have been present at the meeting to which they refer, is the one person who can say whether the documents quoted from are genuine or not. He speaks about courtesy and co-operation. He did not go to the leaders of the Opposition parties and say, “ Those are genuine documents. Can I have your cooperation ? “ On a previous occasion, he told the public something which those documents contradict, but he has not yet said whether or not the documents are genuine. That is a question which the Opposition expects to be answered. Did the Prime Minister misinform the country some time ago, or are the documents genuine? If they are genuine, the matter must go further. It is up to the Prime Minister, who evinces such concern for the security of the country, to answer that question: These documents allegedly came into the possession of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), and were quoted by him.
They might have got into the hands of the Communist party, or of some other interest, and never have been mentioned in the Parliament or out of it. However, now that they have been mentioned, the Prime Minister says, with simulated indignation, that we ought to assist him to trace the leakage. He says that he has invited the Acting Attorney-General to advise him. Has he asked the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to advise him? He knows where the leakage occurred, and se does everybody else - if there is a leakage. I say “ if there is a leakage “ because it cannot be established beyond doubt that there is a leakage until the Prime Minister himself admits it. It can he assumed, it can be believed, and all the facts indicate that the contents of the documents were a correct record of certain proceedings. If they are correct it means this : That the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) and the Prime Minister made certain statements to the country which were not in accord with the truth. Therefore, the Opposition welcomes anything the Government may attempt to do in this matter, because it is believed that the invasion of the rights of members-
-Order! The honorable member is. not entitled to refer to a subject which is listed on the notice-paper for discussion.
– Then, I shall speak on another subject altogether. I remind the House that many years ago certain incidents occurred. If I may be permitted I shall refer to something that happened in the English Parliament 300 years ago, and I propose to quote from the History of the English Parliament, by Gneist. Of course, anything that happened in the English Parliament has nothing whatever to do with what happened in this Parliament. The incident that I refer to occurred in the reign of Charles I. I quote -
As a blow calculated-
– The honorable member may not by any pretext deal with a matter which is on the notice-paper.
– I am not trying to do so. As 1 said, the incident to which I refer happened 300 years ago.
-If. the honorable member does not obey the ruling of the Chair I shall deal with him. He must not try to get around my ruling.
– I am not trying to get around your ruling.
-The honorable member must resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n. - On the 6th October, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked a question concerning the hour3 of duty for light-keepers. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
Since 1930, fifteen light stations have been converted to automatic or semi-automatic, at which night watching has been discontinued and the hours of duty of attending staffs reduced to the standard applicable to other callings. It is not practicable, however, to similarly reduce the hours of duty at lightstation where a continuous watch must be maintained. Two applications have been made to the Arbitration Court for reduction in the hours of duty of lightkeepers since the lighthouse service was transferred to Commonwealth control in 1915, the last to the Public Service Arbitrator in 1920. On both occasions, the applications were refused. Lightkeepers are eligible for membership of the Fourth Division Officers Organization of the Department of Trade and Customs and the determination made in favour of such organization applies to them. It is open to lightkeepers to make a further application to the Public Service Arbitrator through their organization for a variation of their hours of duty. The majority of duties performed by lightkeepers are comparatively light as they consist in the main of watchkeeping, i.e., keeping a watch on the light and/or for signals from passing ships. In addition, they perform minor station maintenance duties for approximately eighteen hours a week. Little signalling is now necessary. The Public Service Board has agreed to pay an allowance to lightkeepers, at stations where a continuous watch is necessary, who are unable to participate in the benefit of reduced hours which was recently granted in industry generally, and it is hoped that this matter will be finalized at an early date.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
How many deaths caused by scrub typhus were suffered by our armed forces during the recent war?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Two hundred and sixty-eight members of the Australian Military Forces died as a result of contracting scrub typhus during the recent war.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 22nd September, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) asked me questions concerning recent recruiting publicity. Further to my oral reply I now inform the honorable member that the Minister for the Army has supplied the following information: -
The recruiting campaign publicity, carried out on a national basis, was conducted by the Commonwealth Advertising Division, Department of the Treasury, and covered press and radio campaigns, the production of hoardings, posters, booklets; leaflets and a recruiting manual. This latter production lays emphasis on the approach which should he made to local civic authorities, commercial interests and to the localpress and radio. Free or sponsored advertising is an integral part of the campaign, but it is merely supplementary to the national and local coverage for which funds have been provided. In addition to the funds approved for expenditure on the national campaign which is now entering its final phase, funds have been allocated to all commands and military districts for use by units under command in order to decentralize publicity. These funds may be expended at the discretion of commands and military districts and no. requests have been received at Army Head-quarters foradditional funds. In these circumstances it is considered unnecessary to allocate further funds at the present juncture. With regard to the question as to whether or not commanding officers are required to “ cadge “ free publicity, it is advised that in many cases commercial interests have offered space in their windows and in their advertisements for the purpose of publicizing the recruiting drive. Public-spirited citizens and commercialinterests have made representations to the Army offering assistance. Some firms, in fact, regard the publicizing of the Army as a contribution to the national effort. In this regard experience to date has shown that good results are obtained from free or sponsored advertising. News items in the press and on theradio are coveredby normal public relations procedure.
Queensland Shipping Services. Mr. Dedman. - On the 24th September, the honorable member forCapricornia (Mr. Davidson) asked a question concerning the shipping service to Gladstone, Queensland. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
Government-owned vessel Delamere is not under charter to John Burke Limited, but the company actsas the agent of the Australian Shipping Board for the booking of cargo and for arranging of loading, discharge,&c. It is the intention of the Combined Traffic Committee to provide the best possible service for the port of Gladstone and other Queensland ports, having regard, of course, to the shipping available and the amount of cargo awaiting shipment. In accordance with this policy and as there is no privately owned vessel available immediately, arrangements have been made for Delamere in her present voyage to lift approximately 400 tons of cargo for Gladstone, which it is understood is awaiting shipment in Sydney.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Trade with Netherlands East Indies.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481007_reps_18_198/>.