18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the constant demand of the Liberal party for government action on Communists and Communist sympathizers, will the Prime Minister instruct the Commonwealth Investigation Service to investigate a report, persistent in Sydney, that an influential Communist supporter rents or leases a portion of the premises in Ash-street, Sydney, owned and occupied by the Liberal party? Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether the Liberal party has entered into an .agreement with the person concerned for the supply of certain facilities to Liberal party membersattending executive and committee meetings held in the evening?
– I have heard some rumours about that matter but I havenot gone into it particularly. If any members of the Communist party or .the Liberal party are engaged in subversive activities I shall have those activities investigated and take whatever other action may be necessary.
– -Will the Minister for Information publicize the “Voice of America “ broadcast news at midnight last night announcing the defeat of Hartley, co-author with Taft, of theTaftHartley law and a republican member of the Un-American Activities Committee? I asb that this be done for thebenefit of advocates of similar repressivelegislation, in Australia.
– The Department of Information is always glad to publicizethe truth and the truth about the American election campaign is that the authorsof the Taft-Hartley law have been defeated, that big business has been.’ defeated and that 95 per cent, of the press* supported the party that has been defeated. The Leader of the Opposition in this chamber stated recently in an article in the Melbourne Herald that if the American scene could be. translated to Australia, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party would be supporting Governor Dewey and the Labour party President Truman. The result of the American election is an -indication of what will happen in Australia next year.
– Will the Minister for Information inform the House whether it is correct that the Leader of the Opposition made a statement on his return to Southampton from the United States of America, that the only person whom he had met in the United States of America who had said that Mr. Truman would he re-elected as President, was Mr. Truman himself? If that is a fact does it mean that the right honorable gentleman associated only with the reactionary classes of people in the United States of America-
– I rise to order. This Parliament has Standing Orders to govern its proceedings. With due respect, to the Parliament, I say that the whole procedure is being converted into a farce and I object to it.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remark is a reflection upon the Chair, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I am very happy to be able to withdraw, having established the point that I wished to make.
– I shall not accept that as a withdrawal. Thu honorable member will withdraw and apologize to the Chair without reservation.
– I withdraw.
-The honorable member must also apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize. I have not yet had a reply to the point of order that T raised.
– No point of order is involved in what the honorable member has said. The Chair’ will judge whether a question is in order or not. I ask the honorable member for
Griffith to confine himself to the question he desires to ask.
– Is it a fact that the final Gallup poll taken in the United States of America showed that Mr. Dewey was a three-to-one-on favourite for election as President, and the odds against Mr. Truman were eighteen to one?
– This has nothing to do with the business of the House.
– If what I have said is a fact, can the people of Australia accept the result of the American election as a warning to take no notice of the tory press?
– I rise to order. Are the processes of the House to be abused to allow honorable members to ask questions which have nothing to do with the administration of the Government?
– I have previously stated that I am not prepared to accept the sole responsibility for ruling out of order all questions that may appear to involve propaganda. If I did so. probably no questions at all would be asked from one side of the House. However, ari honorable member is not entitled to ask a question unless it has some relation to government business or to the administration of the department of the Minister to whom the question is addressed.
– The question ought to have been ruled out of order long ago.
– Order !
Petrol for Candidates
– T ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to request his colleague to consider making available to candidates at the local government elections in the metropolitan area of New South Wales, to be held in December, supplies of petrol to enable them to travel reasonably in order to put their case to the electors?
– I shall discuss with my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, the matter raised by the honorable member. I am sure that, within reason, a certain amount of petrol will be made available for the purpose that he mentioned.
– Having in mind the excellent publications issued by the Department of Information on Australia’s history and affairs, I ask the Minister for Information to give consideration to the production of a booklet giving the. tabloid historical account of each person after whom the 121 federal electorates are named? I consider that such a booklet would be of great historical interest to the people of this country.
– I thank the honorable member fer his touching compliment to my department. I shall confer with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, who administers the Electoral Act, on the suggestion that a brochure should be compiled for the benefit of Young Australia - I suppose that Old Australia does not now matter very much - on the meaning and significance of the place-names that the Parliament will undoubtedly adopt for the new electorates which will be’ created under that important and historical legislation that was passed recently, increasing the numerical strength of the Parliament.
– In some States the Commonwealth electoral rolls include maps of the various subdivisions in addition to the names of the electorates. That is an excellent practice. Will the Minister fer the Interior consider the inclusion of such maps in the electoral rolls that are now being printed ?
– I have already discussed this matter with officers of my department, and a decision has been reached on it. Orders have already been placed for the printing of maps. Every honorable member and every honorable senator of this Parliament will be supplied with at least five maps of his or her electorate; in addition, honorable senators will be supplied with maps of the whole of the State that they represent, shewing the subdivisions of the new electorates within that State.
– I address a’ question to the Prime Minister. The Melbourne Age in a leading article in its issue yesterday commented upon the rise of prices that has taken place since the defeat of theGovernment’s proposals at the referendum held in May last. The articlestated -
Buyers and consumers are keenly aware that since the change of system, not only has the inflationary process been more manifest over the vast range of freed goods and services but even as applied to the barest essentials of living the value of earnings have remorselessly shrunk.
– What is the honorable member’s question?
– The article also says that the new system has proved a failure. Is this not a clear vindication of the honest arguments which the Prime Minister put before the people at the referendum?’ Could the right honorable gentleman elaborate upon that excellent article by explaining the Government’s attitude with respect to prices control?
– I have not seen thearticle to which the honorable member has referred. During the referendum campaign, I and other members of the Government pointed out that it would ‘bevery difficult for six State authorities to maintain proper control of prices. I believe that time has demonstrated the truth of that statement. It is quite evident that in many respects control of prices by theStates has broken down. We have givenevery assistance to the States in an endeavour to maintain effective control of prices. We have made available to them all the information that they required from us. and also placed at their disposal the services of the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. However, divided control must inevitably be most difficult. Under the new system it will be impossible toestablish the uniformity which operated when the Commonwealth administered’ prices control. I have no complaint about that. The people gave their verdict, and if ill consequences have arisen as the result, that is the people’s responsibility.
– Can the PrimeMinister say whether the Commonwealth pays to the State governments the cost of administering prices control regulations? How does the State cost compare with the cost of administration by the Commonwealth ?
– It was agreed with the Premiers that the Commonwealth should defray the cost of prices control administration, and it was arranged that payment should be on the basis of figures supplied by the State governments and certified by State Auditors-General. At the time of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers at which the matter was discussed, it was estimated that the cost of administering the control of prices, rents and land sales would be £750,000 a year. The Governments of Western Australia and South Australia were at that time already paying for the administration of rent control, but it was agreed that the Commonwealth should recoup them their outlay in that regard. I understand that since the original approximation of £750,000 was made, the States have amended their estimate to £807,000. Thus, although it is claimed that about 30,000 items have been removed from prices control, the estimated cost is almost as great as the actual cost of Commonwealth control over the whole field. Progress payments will be made to the States to enable them to meet day-to-day expenditure, and a final adjustment will be made according to certificates which will be supplied by the Auditors-General of the States.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether the building in Chalmers-street, Sydney, that is now being used in connexion with the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme is to be returned to the Repatriation Department? Are 2,000 trainees under instruction in this centre, and has the Government of New South Wales notified the Department of Post-war Reconstruction that it will be unable to accommodate more than 10 per cent, of the trainees who will be compelled to vacate the building?
– Training has passed its peak period, and certain buildings that were occupied and used by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction for the purposes of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme are not now required for these purposes. Iri some instances the premises are being returned to their owners. I shall cause inquiries to be made to ascertain the exact position in regard to the building to which the honorable member has referred, but I can assure him . that no building will be returned to a State Government, the Repatriation Department or any other authority while it is necessary to use it to carry out the training that the Government has promised exservicemen and which it is giving to them at the present time.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether the allowances of trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme are discontinued at the termination of the class year pending the result of their examination? If so, will the Minister give consideration to continuing those payments as it may be necessary for unsuccessful .trainees to commence another term?
– I do not think that the honorable .member has stated the position quite correctly. I point out that medical students, for instance, have to be trained for six years and that a medical course may cost anything up to £2,000. The Commonwealth bears the cost up to the end of the third year, as a gift to the student, but after that, payments are made by *way of loan. It may be that the allowance made by way of gift terminates at the end of the third class year. I am not aware that that is the position of other trainees, but I shall have the matter examined and submit a statement to the honorable member.
– Some time ago the Parliament approved of ‘ regulations designed to ensure that woollen textiles were labelled correctly, and I understand that complementary legislation was passed by the State parliaments. I am informed, however, that the legislation is not yet in operation. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the impediments to the implementation of this legislation and say when it is likely to become operative ?
– The Australian Government has taken steps to deal with this problem, and the State Parliaments have passed the necessary complementary legislation. Difficulties have arisen in regard to the definitions that should be applied to imported textiles. An endeavour is being made to overcome those difficulties. As soon as they have been overcome, the regulations will become operative. They will apply to materials manufactured in Australia and also to those which are imported from overseas.
– Recently I asked r .tie Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he could assist in the provision of adequate supplies of powdered milk for north Queensland. In reply, the honorable gentleman said that he would do what he could to assist, but pointed out that he had no control over the manufacture and distribution of this commodity. -I am now advised that there is an acute shortage of baby foods such as Lactogen in north Queensland and that parents are making desperate efforts to obtain supplies for their children. Will the Minister use every endeavour, having regard to his limited powers in this connexion, to ensure that supplies of baby foods are despatched to north Queensland ?
– After the honorable member asked a similar question in the Parliament recently officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture made inquiries in an endeavour to make available to the (people of northern Queensland the particular item he mentioned. However, considerable difficulties are involved because the Government has no constitutional power to interfere in the manufacture and distribution of such products.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether recent reports that the Government has acquired four DC6 aircraft are correct? What is the seating accommodation of those aircraft, and on what routes are they intended to be operated? What was their cost in dollars ?
– The Government has purchased four DC6 aircraft which are the most modern available for purchase, for use in the Pacific region. The aircraft were purchased not for dollars but for sterling, and the Government was fortunate in securing them at a price much below the, present-day price. The seating capacity of a DC6 aircraft, which has a long range of flight, is 48 when used for overseas flights, and higher when used on internal routes. Their acquisition will make the Australian fleet of civil aircraft one of the finest in the world.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether three aircraft were involved in incidents at Launceston during last week? Under whose control were the aircraft operating, and what was the reason for the accidents ?
– I am not officially aware that any incidents have occurred, although I have heard something of them. So far, I have not been supplied with a report on the matter. Reports of such incidents do not ordinarily reach me. They are furnished to the Department of Civil Aviation, so that it may ascertain the cause of the incidents, and how they may be avoided. Only when there are serious accidents, involving injury or loss of life, or when it appears that there is danger to the travelling public, are reports brought to me. I shall have an inquiry made into the statements of the honorable member, and a reply will be furnished to him later.
– Is the result of the recent United States elections likely to have any effect on the availability of shipping for the transport of migrants to Australia?
– The outcome of the United States elections may result in a decline of share values on Wall-street, which must find some expression for its disappointment. That decline may result in some deflation in the United
States, which may make it easier for us to obtain ships. At the .present time we are being held up because of the extremely high cost of effecting alterations and renovations to the vessels which formerly used to engage in the passenger trade between the United States and Australia, particularly Mariposa and Monterey. Some cable messages have recently arrived from the United States concerning the possibility of those vessels being restored to the Pacific run, but the immediate prospects of them resuming their prewar schedules are not good. However, the Governnent is pursuing its inquiries, 11 nd I trust that sufficient shipping will be secured. When I can obtain additional information on the subject I shall communicate it to the honorable gentleman.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health say whether his colleague has been informed of the statements made by Dr. R. C. Bretherton of Windsor, Victoria, in a speech which he delivered at a Unitarian church, in which that gentleman defended the pharmaceutical benefits’ scheme and accused his fellow doctors of insincerity in their attitude to it? Is it a fact that Dr. Bretherton said that some medical practitioners had informed their patients that penicillin and other well known drugs were not included in the formulary? Did he also .point out that such allegations were false because many drugs are included, not under the convenient names given to them by the proprietary drug houses, but under their correct pharmaceutical titles? If the Minister has not already read the report of Dr. Bretherton’s most informative utterance, will he do so? Will he also consider making another appeal to tho British Medical Association to co-operate in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for the sake of age and invalid pensioners and others who would be relieved of considerable hardship by the implementation of the scheme?
– I have not read the report of the speech referred to by the honorable member but I have heard some comments upon it. I can assure him that the attention of the Minister for Health has been directed to it, but I shall remind my colleague of the matter so that he may take any action which he deems appropriate.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether there will be an increase of the butter ration for Australian consumers when the next ration books are issued, and, if so, the extent of any such increase ?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a matter of policy which must be determined by the Government. Any change of policy will be the subject of an announcement in due course.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services a question about what appears to be an anomaly in connexion with the payment of unemployment benefits. The case concerns an unemployed seaman who is required to register at the employment office and also at the seamen’s bureau. Every morning, he must appear at the office of the shipping company by which he seeks to be engaged or he will have no chance of obtaining a position. He is also required to report at the employment office, and if he attends at the one place he cannot attend at the other. Will the Minister inquire into the matter and try to arrange that in such cases an appearance at the shipping office will be accepted as an appearance for the purpose of drawing unemployment relief?
– The case mentioned by the honorable member is an extraordinary one, the like, of which I have never heard. A work test must be applied to every one who seeks unemployment relief. The applicant must present himself at the office and show that he is unemployed. Then, if a suitable position cannot be offered to him, he becomes eligible for unemployment benefits.
– But he cannot go to two offices at the one time.
– That is why J say that the case is extraordinary. 1 shall get the Minister for Social Services to look into the matter, with a view to remedying the anomaly if one is found to exist. We have overcome difficulties in regard to shearers and other seasonal workers, and it should be possible to overcome this difficulty also.
Educational Courses - Machinery Spar.e Parts.
– Can the Treasurer say whether dollars are made available to students who desire to take in the United States of America educational courses which are not available in Australia, and, if so, under what conditions?
– The matter depends upon the circumstances. It is true that in some instances dollars have been made available when special training has been needed, and such training has not been available in Australia. I shall have a statement prepared giving particulars of the conditions under which permits are given.
– Wil Will the Prime Minister inform mc whether restrictions are placed on the importation of spare parts for motor vehicles, tractors and textile machinery from dollar areas?
– The Leader of the Australian Country party asked a similar question recently, and I informed him that no restrictions were placed on the importation from dollar areas of spare parts required to maintain machinery. That practice is being continued.
– In view of the fact that members of the Opposition apparently do not intend to ask any further questions in this House, will the Prime Minister give consideration to shortening the period allotted to questions to not more than half an hour?
– The Government has tried as far as possible to give honorable members a full opportunity to ask questions on subjects about which they need information. The practice has been to allot an hour to questions en the first day of sitting each week, 40 or 45 minutes on the following two days, and 35 minutes on the last day, thus covering; the period set aside for the rebroadcastof questions in the evenings. It is proposed to adhere te- that practice as far aspossible.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government intends to open negotiations with the Government of Sweden for the exchange of Australian wool for Swedish newsprint. Have any attempts been made to conclude such a trade treaty ? If not, will the Minister consider opening negotiations for that purpose?
– Australia already has a trade agreement with Sweden, and I have no doubt that wool, paper and other commodities can be brought within the ambit of that agreement if either party to it so desires.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House approximately how many tractors will be imported this year from theUnited States of America and from Great Britain and other sterling areas and approximately how many will be produced in Australia?
– It It is expected that between 4,000 and 5,000 tractors will arrive in Australia from the United States in the coming year.
– At any rate the Government has no need to import steam rollers.
– It appears to mc that honorable members opposite have rolled themselves out. We expect that between 5,000 and 6,000 tractors will arrive from the United Kingdom during the coming year.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform the House when Chamberlain Industrie* Limited of Welshpool, Western Australia, which has established a tractor factory with Commonwealth assistance, will be in production? What output is expected next year? What tests have been made of the tractor types that are to be produced, and what were the results of those tests?
– I saw some information on this matter recently, but 1 am afraid that I cannot recollect the details sought by the honorable member. The company is doing an excellent job. It will come into production shortly, and I understand that next year its output of tractors will be considerable. Production has been delayed slightly by shortages of certain materials, particularly steel of various types, but those difficulties are being overcome and very soon initial production will begin. Later, production will be undertaken at a more rapid rate. I shall obtain the figures that the honorable member seeks, and if he will ask a question on the matter to-morrow, I shall supply him with detailed information.
– I understandthat income tax deductions are allowed to primary producers for moneys expended on the carryingout of certain permanent improvements of theirland which are an aid to production, including fencing.The Treasurer is no doubt aware that, due to the low prices prevailing for farm products priorto the war, farmers did not have the necessary money to carry out such improvements and that, as the result, their fences became in a bad state of disrepair.
Mr.DEPUTYSPEAKER. - What is the question?
-Will the Treasurer state what deductions ofthis kind are allowable to farmers? Is it permissible for farmers to set aside from their current income sums ofmoney free of taxation foreffectingsuchimprovements at a later date?Ifso, what are the terms and conditionsupon which such moneys may be set aside?Ifno such provision has been made,will the right honorable gentleman considergrantingsuch a concession?
– Certain provisions havebeen made authorizing tax deductions for moneys expended on the repair of fencing and certain allowances are made for depreciationof fencing. Many tax concessions have been granted to primary producers, including thirteen or fourteen special concessions. I shall have a list of the concessions prepared and furnish the honorable member with a copy of it at an early date.
– Some weeks ago I asked the Minister for Works and Housing whether in view of the interest displayed in housing ballots, and the fact that the press appears to have abandoned the publication of the results of the ballots as news items, he would confer with the New South Wales Minister for Housing with a view to having the results published in the press by way of advertisement. Will the honorable gentleman indicate whether he has yet received a reply from the New South Wales Minister for Housing in regard to this important matter?
– I wrote to the New South Wales Minister for Housing on this subject only a day or so ago. Sufficient time has not yet elapsed for a reply to have been furnished.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing say who is responsible for the delay in putting permanent surfaces on the main roads to the AustralianCapitalTerritory outside the city area,and, in particular, main roads running from the Australian Capital Territory,such as theQueanbeyan-Cooma road? Is the honorable gentleman workingin co-operation with the Government of New South Wales in thismatter? Will he obtain a report showingthevolume of traffic on those roads and the present cost of theirgrading and maintenance, and, on the basis ofthe report, ascertain whether the immediate diversionof men and equipment fromother works to this work can be arranged?Does the Minister believe that it is unsatisfactory for the Australian Capital Territory to be dependent uponlabour and equipmentwhich can bediverted fromtime totimetoworks projects outside Canberraunder the jurisdictionof his department, andwill he examine the possibility of making a special allocation to the Australian Capital Territory of men, materials and equipment, and of formulating a definite works programme in the Australian Capital Territory so that the citizens of Canberra may know when to expect road, electricity, water and other projects to be put in hand.
– The work of surfacing the main roads in and those leading to Canberra is solely dependent upon our capacity to obtain sufficient manpower and materials. If and when we are able to secure sufficient manpower and materials the roads will be surfaced. A programme for the surfacing of the main roads around Canberra has already been prepared. There is no co-operation between my department and the New South Wales Government in respect of such works. My department is responsible for the surfacing and maintenance of roads up to the State boundary. Beyond the boundary responsibility rests with the New SouthWales Government. If my department were contemplating surfacing a main road adjacent to the State boundary the proposal would certainly be discussed with the New South Wales Government. It is not possible to allocate labour for work in the Australian Capital Territory because there is no manpower control. With my department, the Australian Capital Territory has the status of a State. In each State, there is a branch of the Department of Works and Housing which carries out all the maintenance, construction and other works required by the Commonwealth. The Australian Capital Territory is regarded as a State, and therefore it has its own Director of Works and a full technical staff. We have in Sydney, a representative of our head office, whose sole job is to enlist men to work in this area. The Australian Capital Territory has its own plant allocation, and, at present, has as much plant as can he operated by the available labour. The endeavour of the Minister for Immigration to bring labour to the Australian Capital Territory is of great assistance. Of considerable help also, has been the recent action of Canberra trade unions in permitting Baits and other migrants who have been tradetested, to follow their trades rather than work as labourers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leaveagreed to -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Notice of Motion Want of confidence in the Government taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.
. -I move -
That, in view of - (1.) The publication in newspapers both in Australia and overseas over the past four months of allegations that the United States Government has refused or is reluctant to make available secret information regarding atomic energy and other methods of modern warfare because of the alleged inefficiency of security in Australia, and of the serious public disquiet arising therefrom and the Government’s failure to take effective steps to allay this disquiet or to reassure the public mind on such grave charges; (2.) The refusal of the Government to admit or deny the following allegations made in this House and elsewhere -
that the Prime Minister in July of this year informed the British Cabinet whilst he was in the United Kingdom that he understood the United States authorities were reluctant to communicate specially secret information about the progress of research and developments on atomic energy, and
that the Minister for Defence, in the same month, informed the Executive Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that the American authorities had made it quite clear that they would not communicate to the United Kingdom Government any information unless it was certain that the same would not be passed on to Australia; (3.) The conduct of the Government, through responsible Ministers, in giving inaccurate and misleading information to this House and to the country in relation to each of the above-mentioned allegations: and (4.) The failure of the Government to take any effective steps whatsoever to combat the general menace of Communistic and subversive activities in the country, as a result of which top-secret information from the United States of America vital to the welfare and security of the Australian people, including information relating to bacteriological warfare and methods to combat it, has been or is in grave danger of being withheld, the Government is deserving of the censure of this House.
I regard it as most fortunate that the proceedings of the House today are being broadcast, because the people have had an opportunity to discover the depths to which this Parliament has descended. The practice has always been for a Prime Minister to move the adjournment of the House when the Leader of the Opposition or another honorable member has given notice of his intention to move a motion of censure on the Government. I contend that in viewof the grave charges in the motion, of which I gave notice yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) should have immediately moved the adjournment of the House, and this morning we should have proceeded without delay to deal with the motion. I do not know of any occasion when a Prime Minister, whose government was faced with a motion of censure, did not immediately move the adjournment of the House, and, at the next meeting, refuse to answer questions until the motion had been disposed of. This morning we have had examples of buffoonery and clownish actions.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the motion before the House. He must not reflect on the conduct of the business.
– I am not reflecting on the Chair.
– I have given a ruling, and the honorable gentleman must abide by it.
– I am not reflecting on the Chair. I am abiding by the ruling, I am referring to the methods used by the Government in dealing with the censure motion, because the Prime Minister has aided and abetted the adoption of those methods in the House. I object to the failure of the Government to suspend other business in the House to deal with the censure motion. I am perfectly in order in dealing with those matters. We have come to a pretty pass in this Parliament when such happenings as those of this morning can occur. What happened was characteristic of the Labour party and the people should be made aware of it. The proceedings of this Parliament are becoming farcical and the Prime Minister is aiding and abetting such deterioration. It does him scant justice in his high position to allow the business of the Parliament to be dealt with in that way.
– The honorable gentleman is the circus of the House.
– The honorable member who has just interjected is the clown, and his actions do scant justice even to clowns.
– Order ! It may ease matters a little if I state at the beginning of the honorable member’s remarks that I shall not allow personal reflections on honorable members of the House. That applies not only to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) but to all other honorable members. The debate must be confined to the matter before the House. It must be conducted in proper parliamentary language and form.
– Today in Sydney we had an example of a responsible Minister of the New South Wales Labour Government saying that the strike on the coal-fields has been put into operation at the behest of a foreign power. In Canberra we find charges of such a serious nature as that being treated by this Government with contempt. I emphasize the difference. Whereas in New South Wales there is a responsible Government speaking in terms of the actions of a foreign power, in Canberra and this is characteristic of what always happens when anti-communistic motions have been made in this House the Government tries to cloak the matter to hide it, to do everything but face up to its responsibility, to walk away from it, and to belittle it. This is all because it is not game to take action to challenge the Communists in its midst. I shall refer to a report that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 24th July last. Tho report is connected with the present censure motion, because the reason for the censure motion is that the Australian Government has been denied vital secrets because of its communistic affiliations. The Sydney Morning Herald reported from Canberra that it was understood that the United States had in the last year shown reluctance to reveal atomic research secrets to Australian scientists. The reason for such action was said to be fear that leakages were likely to occur through Australian Communists. It was stated that it was learned on the highest authority that the Prime Minister had raised the subject during his recent discussions with the British Cabinet and had offered to tighten Australia’s security measures. On the 26th July it was reported in the. Sydney Sun in a message from Canberra, that several leading Australian scientists, including the chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Sir David Rivett, had refused to sign security pledges to keep inviolate secrets concerning the atom bomb and guided weapons range project.
– It is all a lie, of course.
– The Minister says it is a lie. The Minister’s own veracity is of such a nature that I shall not accept that term.
– Order ! The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) must cease interjecting.
– That was said to be the reason for the refusal of the United States of America to supply Australia with vital atomic energy data. It was reported that the United States of America was obtaining from Great Britain the undertaking that information; would not be passed on to Australia. On the 27th July, the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman) was reported to have said that fear that secrets might leak out through Australia was not the’ reason why the United States of America was1 not passing on atomic information-. So much for Australian press reports. But such reports were not peculiar to Australia. For example, on the 27th July, the London Daily Graphic made reference to these matters and stated that the burly Dr. Evatt would take up the running where the Prime Minister had left off. It was said that the Australian Government was very concerned about these disclosures. On the 28th August, it was reported from Washington that the United States of America had stopped all secret military information to Australia, which had been put on the same footing as Russia and Communist-dominated European states. Honorable members will see that these press reports were world-wide and reflected upon the prestige of the Australian democracy. It will be necessary for me to go over some of the history of these matters. I hope that honorable members will bear with me. It is as well, however, that these matters should be placed in their proper perspective arid that the smoke screen with which the Prime Minister had sought to cover them should be penetrated and dissipated.
The circumstances that caused me to raise the matter on the 30th September during the debate on the estimates for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were made very clear at that time. I explained that, quite recently, a controversy had arisen in this country over reports that the United States of America was reluctant to pass on to Australia information on atomic research for fear that it would leak out to Russia through Australian Communists, and that the inference was that the United States of America was not sure that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could be relied upon to observe secrecy. I pointed out that the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who is also the Minister for Defence, denied that there was. any foundation for the reports.
– I deny it again.
– But despite the Minister’s denial the reports persisted, and drew statements from some highlyplaced members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the question of secrecy in science. I pointed out that the statement by the chairman, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Sir David Rivett, that secrecy and integrity in science could not flourish together, was supported by a statement by an acknowledged Communist, Dr. R. E. B. Makinson, senior lecturer in physics at Sydney University, and, I understand, a former employee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who said that science, to develop, must have free interchange of ideas and information. I pointed out also that during the war the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had worked in close co-operation with various defence organizations and with the services, and that officers of the Council had been sent to the British atomic research station at Hartwell. I said that that would indicate that the Minister’s statement that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had nothing to do with secret atomic defence projects was so much eyewash. I warned that world -conditions bordered on another war, and “that if. there was one weak link in the chain of democratic countries that link could endanger the strength of the whole chain. I added that there was an obligation upon the Minister to state clearly what precautions were being taken to present the disclosure of secrets, and to say what action was to be taken to give a sense of security to the people. They were serious statements to make -and they reflected, gravely upon the Government in regard to national security. Honorable members will see the implications. If the reports are true, Australia is suspect among the Englishspeaking democracies.
The Minister, who is notorious for making misleading statements and telling half-truths, said,, in reply, “that there was no , truth whatever in the allegations that the United States Government was withholding “from Australia all information regarding atomic energy. He added that the truth was that under’ an act of Congress the United States Government was not permitted to pass on to any country information about atomic energy. He then quoted from the act of Congress the provision ^prohibiting the exchange of information with other nations with respect to the use of atomic energy for industrial purposes. He refused to be drawn on the question of atomic energy for war purposes. He said he was “ sorry to have to say “ that he agreed with Sir David Rivett that science could progress speedily only if there were a complete exchange of information, hut added that in certain circumstances, such as those which prevailed to-day, it was absolutely necessary that some scientific experiments should be kept entirely secret. He also said it was true that certain persons who had been engaged on activities on behalf of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were reputed to be Communists, but added that it was not easy to prove whether a particular person was or was not a Communist because it was not easy to get evidence. He described the allegation that I had made as a mare’s nest, and accused the Opposition and the press of doing harm by bruiting such allegations abroad. Honorable members will have an opportunity to test the veracity of the Minister as this debate proceeds. His half-truth regarding the act of Congress requires no elaboration. His acknowledgment that there are Communists in the employment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research gains him no credit. He was forced over a period of many months to acknowledge this, and the subsequent production of a document by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) left him confounded. On the 30th September, that right honorable gentleman quoted from a confidential document and challenged both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence to deny that the Prime Minister had told the British Cabinet on the 8th July, at a meeting held at No. 10 Downing-street, that he understood that the United States of America was reluctant to communicate to Australia, certain specially secret information about the progress of research and development on atomic energy; that this reluctance might be due, in part, to the belief that the Australian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was not fully under control of the Australian Government; and that he was most anxious to remove any impediments to the free exchange of secret information about atomic energy developments between the Governments of Australia and the United States of America. The Leader of the Australian Country party also said that the Minister for Defence had told the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the 6th July last year that the Prime Minister had told him that information from high sources in the United Kingdom had been received which made it quite clear that a number of United Kingdom Government departments were not certain that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could be entrusted with certain documents, and that that feeling militated in turn against the United Kingdom in regard to the obtaining of information from the United States cf America.
He added that the Minister had told the meeting that the United States authorities had made it quite clear that they would not pass on to the United Kingdom any information unless it was certain that such information would not be passed on to Australia. The Leader of the Australian Country party challenged the Prime Minister to deny the authenticity of the document. The Prime Minister has been completely silent about it. He is not game to say whether the document is genuine or not. This exposure caused consternation in the Government’s ranks. An acknowledgment would have meant indictment of the Government for its Communist sympathies and would have revealed that Australia was the weak link in the democracies in their opposition to communism. So, the Prime Minister, to his discredit, resorted to the oldest trick in debate. He covered himself by half acknowledging the truth of the statement. If these charges are true, this Government has something to answer for to the people of Australia. I ask the House and the country to take notice of the Prime Minister’s words. The right honorable gentleman said that it was quite true that whilst in Great Britain he had discussed the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but that there was not one atom of truth in the suggestion that there had been any leakage of information from the Council. After the war, he said, there had been some relaxation in security services and reduction in the number of people engaged in the security service in Australia. The Prime Minister added -
It may also be true that in view of world events at the present time the security services ought to be strengthened and more highly qualified men ought to be recruited to them.
The Prime Minister skated around the question very nicely.
– It was an admirable statement.
-. lt is the oldest debating trick ever perpetrated, to put upa smoke-screen to protect any individual against charges made against him. ThePrime Minister said subsequently - and I ask the House to note particularly the words used by the right honorable gentleman - that if the statement of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) were true, he had quoted from & secret document; and if it were untrue, he had quoted from a forged document. The Prime Minister carefully refrained from stating whether these documents were true or otherwise. I challenge the right honorable gentleman here and now to tell the country and the House whether these documents are false.
– The honorable gentleman would no doubt like to know that.
– The Prime Minister’s attitude has been of the very essence of duplicity. The Minister for Defence interjects that I would like to know whether the ‘documents are false. The people of this country are also entitled to know. Because of the duplicity of the Government, the people should be informed of the state of the defences of Australia, and why the United States of America refuses to mak<defence secrets available to Australia, which is the one country in the Englishspeaking countries of the world to-day that is suspect. To sustain the attitude of duplicity the Prime Minister trampled upon the privileges of this House by instructing officers of the investigation service to interview the Leader of the Australian Country party within the precincts of this House. By that very action he has destroyed the precedents’ of centuries of parliamentary tradition and privilege. Statements such as those that were made by the Leader of the Australian Country party were published in the press of Australia and, indeed, in the press of the world, in late July. Did the Prime Minister take action to ascertain the source of that information, to check the press reports, or to deny them ? He did not. But after the disclosure in this House he sought by intimidation and duress to prevent the pressing of the charges in this House. The investigation resulted in one poor unfortunate typist, because she had revealed some information about tobacco, being dismissed from her position. It is true that the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse. The visit of the investigation officers, the duress, the intimidation, and the threats of police court proceedings resulted only in the dismissal of an inoffensive typist from a government department. What an anticlimax ! In an endeavour to cover up the deficiencies of this Government and its gross betrayal of the Australian people, that typist was made the scapegoat.
I shall read extracts from the speech of the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman) in this House on the 5th October, as reported in Hansard at pages 1142 and 1143. The Minister said -
On Tuesday last, long before the matter was raised by the Opposition, I obtained the approval of Cabinet to the transfer of a division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Department of Supply and Development so that a particular form of defence scientific research work may be undertaken in that department, where proper security measures oan be put into effect. A bill for that purpose will be brought down before the end of this week. . . . The present executive of five members, including Sir David Rivett and Dr. Richardson, recommended the appointment to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of a man named Rudkin, and another named Pomeroy. Those were only two of a large number of recommendations made to me by the executive. T did not know that either of those men was a member of the Communist party until the matter was raised in this chamber. As soon us it was raised I took certain steps, and I can guarantee to members of this chamber that since that time no member of the Communist party has been appointed to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– None has been rooted out either 1
– That is a complete support of the charges which have been made by the Leader of the Australian Country party. That right honorable gentleman drew attention to the fact that the Prime Minister had sought the interview at No. 10 Downing-street prior to taking action to place the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on another basis. The Minister introduced a bill to give effect to the Prime Minister’s promise made at that now notorious Cabinet meeting. The Minister admitted that he had employed Communists in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and thereby established the basis for the suspicion that was generated in the minds of our sister democracies, and which caused the Prime Minister to run hot-foot to London to explain his position and say in effect, “ I shall deal with the matters associated with the council provided that Australia is once again brought back into the securing of the democracies and regarded as being a democracy that can be trusted “.
– There was probably even more to it than that.
– It is this sympathy with the Communist element that is causing the people of this country, and, indeed, the United States of America and British democracies, so much concern. The Prime Minister speaks of communism as a political philosophy. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) says that the teachings of Communists are Christ-like, and that lip-service is rendered by the majority of the members of the Government. It is clear, therefore, that this Governmentis Communist-ridden, and that it is not prepared, in any circumstances, to take action against the Communist element.
In March, 1947, in Canberra the Attorney-General “ (Dr. Evatt) said in relation to the Communist party -
The danger that the members of the party, as in the case of Canada, may disclose secrets to a foreign power, namely, Soviet Russia, is a circumstance which cannot be overlooked. . . . therefore we must take extreme precautions against that kind of thing happening in Australia.
In May, 1947, when the Communistcontrolled building workers trade union was banning work on the rocket range, the Attorney-General told the Federal Labour Conference that he had definite evidence that the Communists imposed the ban at the behest of a foreign power. Those words are similar to those used by Mr. Baddeley to-day - “ at the behest of a foreign power “. In the light of that evidence and the fact that the Government is aware that these people are pledged to destroy democracy and all that it stands for, what is the Government doing to combat this menace? When the Attorney-General spoke of developments in Canada he might well have referred also to Great Britain, the United States of America, New Zealand, South Africa; indeed, to all the democracies and to every freedom-loving country in the world. Honorable members will recall that the Canadian Government set up a royal commission to inquire into Soviet espionage in Canada. Following the revelations of Igor Gouzenko, a Russian cipher clerk on the staff of the military attache to the Soviet Embassy, a gigantic spy ring was exposed, and a member of the Canadian Parliament, a university professor, Canadian army men, radar engineers and a number of women were impeached. At this juncture it is my purpose to reveal the action that has been taken in other countries to combat the communist menace. Later, I shall deal with the position in Australia. From the official report of the Canadian royal commission, I quote the following statement which was made to it by Gouzenko -
To many Soviet people it is clear that the Communist party in democratic countries changed long ago from a political party into an agency of the Soviet Government - into a fifth column in those countries, into an instrument in the hands of the Soviet Government for creating provocation, unrest, etc.
Evidence given before the royal commission showed that the position which existed was a pattern of a spy system in every democratic country in the world. Mr. Herbert Morrison, Home Secretary and Minister in charge of security in Great Britain, said -
Some of the most disturbing cases of espionage brought under my notice during the war were those in which members of the Communist party were concerned. The. Communist party is not a political party. It is a conspiracy.
The Prime Minister of Australia saysthat communism is a political philosophy, and his colleague the Minister forLabour and National Service (Mr.. Holloway) says that it is Christ-like in. its teaching, but Mr. Herbert Morrison says that the Communist party is not a political party but a conspiracy. Thetrials of Communists in Great Britain reveal an amazing record of duplicity and deceit. In the United States of America,, following intensive investigations, President Truman ordered that Communistsbe dismissed from all government positions. In South Africa, the trial of a. number of Communists held in 1947 produced evidence of an international network of agitation directed towards revolution in the interests of Soviet Russia, and of infiltration in trade unions in the interest of communism. In New Zealand, following an intensivedrive against the Communists, the PrimeMinister of that dominion said -
The ruining of New Zealand’s industrial, commercial and social life with the assistanceof foreign forces will not be tolerated. We will be traitors to ourselves and the people if we do not say thus far and no further to those now endeavouring to endanger our work and our progress.
Yet, the Prime Minister of Australia says that communism is a political!1 philosophy, and the Minister for Labour and National Service says that it isChristlike in its teaching. Have we any evidence of the existence of an international spy ring in Australia? In thedark days of 1940, the Australian Communist weekly, the Tribune, published this statement-
To-day, the Communist International” (Cominform) represents a great army of” fighters who fearlessly raise the slogan - theenemy is within your own country.
How did the Communists give effect totheir traitorous policy? In a broadcast the Senior Australian War Censor, Mr. E. C. Landeman, said -
The lives of Australian soldiers were endangered when during the war Australian.! Communist agents illegally transmitted - details of convoy sailings to Moscow. Moscow re-broadcast in English giving details of shipsand their names, their route to Singapore, and indicating that they were carrying troops . . . If a last-minute decision to alter the routehad not been made there might have beenmuch sadness in Australian homes followingGerman, or Japanese, action.
Obviously, there are traitors in this country. Burns, in Queensland, recently made a public statement that the Communists would fight on the side of Russia in the event of war between that country and the democracies. The evidence of the “ Evatt’s “ and the “Baddeley’s” and that produced by the Opposition parties in the Parliament is pyramiding. Indeed, had the Opposition parties failed in their duty to draw the attention of the Government to this menace, the Government would not be doing even the little it is doing in this matter to-day. All honorable members are familiar with the name of Rudkin, a man who is employed in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He. was associated with a man named Dean. Following Dean’s arrest and exposure during the recent war, Rudkin was put on trial. Certain documents found in his possession were not read in court because they contained vital secret defence information. In sentencing Rudkin, the magistrate said that he had no doubt that Rudkin infiltrated the Air Raids Precautions organization intending to make a bid for power in the public confusion that would follow an air raid. That man is now employed in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Surely these facts are sufficient evidence of the existence of a spy ring in Australia. Yet the Government has not conducted any official inquiry into Communist activities in this country. It has been truly said that the Communist bid for power in Australia will be made through a Communist-controlled trade union movement. Lenin, at page 45 of his book Preparing for Revolt, said -
After a series of conflicts and political and economic battles, increasingly numerous and violent, the class struggle becomes transformed inevitably into an armed struggle.
That is the threat which confronts this country to-day, but the Government has failed to take any action to protect the interests of Australia or of other democratic countries. The first part of the Communist plan provides for Communist party seizure of the control of individual trade unions. The Communists have already carried out that part of their plan by gaining control of such key unions as the Amalgamated Engineers Union, the Federated Engine Drivers’ and Firemen’s Association of Australasia, the Teachers’ Federation, the Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia, the Australian Association of Scientific Workers, the Seamen’s Union of Australasia, the Clerks Union, the Waterside Workers Federation of Australasia, the Miners’ Federation, the Ironworkers Association, and the Munition Workers Union. As the Communists have secured control of these unions, Australia has no alternative hut to obey Moscow. I need not remind honorable members that the waterside workers dictated the Government’s policy in relation -to the Netherlands East Indies. The Communists plan to dominate the steel and transport industries because by causing disruption in those industries they can bring about the collapse of all secondary industries and communications in Australia. The second part of the Communist plan aims at the abolition of the secret ballet and the substitution of mass meetings, with emphasis on victimization, strikes and expulsions. Coercive tactics are used to compel dissenting individuals to how to executive rule. The third part of the plan is for the Communist leaders to commit their unions to a political line of policy. That is being dene to-day, as the people well know. The Communist handbook says -
The general run of strikes in Australia have been of an economic character oi have been confined to economic demands. Political strikes have been few in number. These are a higher form of struggle than economic strikes. Such strikes challenge the Government and the State. One of the chief trades union tasks is the politicalization of strikes.
The number of political strikes against State instrumentalities is rapidly increasing. The fourth part of the plan is the paralysis of the nation’s economy and machinery of government by the general strike, and then by violent revolution. We have had examples of this form of tactics in Victoria and Queensland. The Victorian Government was strong enough to solve the problem with which it was faced. The Queensland Government was strong enough to take initial action, although it subsequently walked away from the problem. The current example of these tactics is the Kemeira tunnel dispute on the south coast of New South Wales.
It is well known that during the Queensland strike the national secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Jim Healy, said to the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which is a government body -
Notwithstanding any order of the commission or any law, and despite the fact that the Queensland Government has sovereign rights, the federation intends to defy the Queensland Government and see that no cargo can be moved out of or into Queensland.
During the course of that strike a copy of a letter came into my possession, and I banded it to the Commonwealth Investigation Service. The letter was addressed to Mr. Coleman, accountant, Australian Communist party, Central Committee, 695 George-street, Sydney. It was from the Trades and Labour Council of Queensland, State Branch, Australian Council of Trades Unions, Brisbane. It read -
Enclosed herewith please find our official receipt for £101 4s. 4d., in acknowledgment of donation for Queensland Railway Disputes Fund. Many thanks for this practical indication of your support. The morale of those directly engaged in the struggle remains at a very high level and all here are confident of seeing same through to a successful conclusion. Such practical indications of support as expressed by your donation do much to maintain this desirable state of affairs and have a very hearty effect on the fighting spirit of the men directly engaged in the struggle,
Once again thanking you, yours fraternally, (Sgd.) M. Healy, General Secretary.
A copy of the receipt, which was signed by a Mr. P. E. Fischer, reveals that the Australian Council of Trades Unions in Queensland received the sum that is mentioned in the covering letter. That is an indication of how deeply the Communists have infiltrated the trade union movement, but the Government refrains from taking action even to cleanse its own movement. We know that it is walking away from communism when we find the general secretary of the Queensland State branch of the .Australian Council of Trades Unions writing to the accountant of the Central Committee of the Australian Communist party, beginning his letter “ Dear Comrade “ and ending it with the phrase “ Yours fraternally “. That is not a very desirable state of affairs.
In the New South Wales Legislative Assembly yesterday, the Acting Premier. Mr. Baddeley, said -
The Government is determined to maintain law and order in accordance with our own Constitution, and will not tolerate interference from those people in our midst who receive their instructions from a foreign source.
I want to say that we have reached a stage where we cannot continue to tolerate the antiAustralian and trade-union-smashing tactic* of people who are anxious to enjoy the great benefits of Australian life and yet preach the gospel of a foreign country.
It is reported that a majority of the New South Wales Cabinet insisted upon the point being made by Mr. Baddeley that the leaders of the miners’ federation were acting under orders from a foreign country. Some of these Ministers said that they were convinced that the strike was ordered from Moscow as a part of » plan to disrupt industry in the democracies. What has this Government done ? [f the officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service are able to keep Ministers up to date in this matter, the Government must have a full knowledge of- all the circumstances, yet it has appointed two Ministers to investigate and report to it on matters about which the Government of New South Wales has no illusions. This Government marks time. It is an appeasing Government which will eventually walk away from its responsibilities in this connexion. The first step in the direction of the appeasement and walking away is the appointment of two Minister? to report to it on matters about which it knows all that there is to be known.
At the annual conference of the Australian Labour party industrial groups formed to fight Communists in the trade union movement, Mr. Junor, the chairman, said in April last -
This conference opens in the shadow of fastmoving events of the most sinister character. Yon have the responsibility of crushing the insidious attempts of these red fascists to discredit the system of arbitration and conciliation. The Communists want a return to the law of the jungle because they are a party of bloody revolutionists who can thrive only on misery, starvation, strife and bloodshed.
At the same conference, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said -
Labour does not stand for the use of the bludgeon or machine gun. Labour does not need the assistance of fascism, communism or any other ism.
Notwithstanding those words, the Government stands idly by while Communists in the miners’ federation organize intimidation and threats against fellow workers who are engaged in constructing the Kemeira tunnel. It does not raise its hand to protect Australian citizens when miners use the tactics of Nazi-ism, of mob violence, of stoning men who are on their way to work, of threatening shopkeepers who supply food to members of the Australian Workers Union, and threatening taxi drivers who transport them to their work. It has given no indication that it will move in the public interest against the law-breakers who have already caused the cessation of steel production at Port Kembla, forced 2,500 south coast workers out of employment, jeopardized the employment of 4,000 Sydney foundry employees, and who have been the means of bringing about a general strike that will necessitate the rationing of electricity and gas and deny vital foodstuffs to housewives. It takes no action against the miners’ federation for its thug tactics in the Kemeira tunnel dispute, which it is utilizing as a test of strength against the Australian Workers Union in its determination to gain control of open-cut mining in Australia. The Government is prepared only to use words and to lay down a smoke screen to divert attention from matters of major importance.
All these facts go to show the truth of the statement that was made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). They prove that in the Labour party itself and among Government supporters in this Parliament there is a sympathy for communism. That sympathy has been found out by other democracies, and as a result this country is suspect.
Let us look at the Communists whom the Federal Government has appointed to official positions. Mr. Jim Healy, the Communist national secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, was appointed . to the Stevedoring Industry Commission. On one notable occasion he was referred to by the Prime Minister of this country, the late Mr. Curtin, as ’ m7 g°°d* friend Jim Healy “. **Mr. Healy appears still to be the good friend of the Labour party. Mr. E. V. Elliott, the Communist national secretary of the Seamen’s Union, was appointed to the Maritime Industry Commission. Following the storm of protest that was aroused by this appointment, Mr. Elliott wrote to the Sydney press in the following terms : -
I am a Communist. It is not because 1 am a Communist that the Labour Government appointed me to the Maritime Commission, but because being a Communist made me a national union leader, that I was nominated by the union.
That statement can mean what anyone wants it to mean. The present Government appointed him, just as the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research appointed other Communist sympathizers to that body. Another remarkable appointment was that of Mr. W. Orr, the former secretary of the miners’ federation and wellknown Communist, who was appointed to the Coal Commission. Orr had long been an active Communist and troublemaker. He was for some time national secretary of the Militant Minority Movement, and in 1932 he published a series of articles in the Red Leader under the caption, “ Every factory, every ship, every mine a fortress of the revolution “. This man became a Commonwealth “ coal expert “. Subsidiary Commonwealth activities, such as the Commonwealth Loans Organization, were thick with known Communists. The present Prime Minister and Treasurer, who was also Treasurer in the previous Government, appointed Norman Jeffrey organizing secretary of the industrial panel in the War Loans office. Throughout Labour’s administration a leavening of Communists has been introduced into key positions. No wonder the Government is suspect in the eyes of other nations, and particularly in the democracies; no wonder the United States of America refuses to allow us to take any part in the handling of war secrets! Let me refer the House to another instance of the Government’s solicitude for the Communists. I have previously stated, as have other members of the Opposition, that there are Communist cells in Commonwealth departments, and that it is the duty of the Government to destroy those treacherous organizations. At the Easter conference of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party held last March, a delegate from the Postal Workers Union, a Mr. Ward - not the Minister for Transport - declared that there was an active Communist cell in the Postal Department. According to the Standard, which is a Labour organ, Mr. Ward said that in the event of Avar, the Postmaster-General might find that some of his communications were not too good. According to press reports Mr. Ward also said that there were people who were too afraid to speak about pressure groups inside the trade unions. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) ordered an investigation and stated that he would deal with any employee who used his position in the department to further subversive activities, but nothing further has been heard of the matter. Furthermore, the allegation of the delegate of the Postal Workers Union is supported by a recent paragraph which appeared in the Tribune, the official organ of the Communist party, on the 27th October. That paragraph quotes the number, date, description, text and time of lodgment of two Australian Associated Press messages from Ottawa concerning the arrival in that city of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is now abroad. The second message corrected an error in the first. The following item appeared in the Tribune -
Urgent message No. 55 received in Sydney at 7.23 a.m. . . .
The message then quoted portion of the text of the previous message. That demonstrates conclusively that in the Postal Department employees are tapping official correspondence and are making that correspondence available to the Tribune. Of course, that is simply an instance of what is- occurring, but it indicates sufficiently the need for an inquiry to be made. However, the Government refuses to accept the responsibility. It appoints Communists to high positions; issues vises to enable them to travel overseas; makes money available to the Euroka Youth Movement in the guise of assisting a national health campaign; and refuses to investigate charges of Communist activity in departments. However, it is quite content to allow Australia’s name to be bandied about to its discredit in the democracies of the world. We have the spectacle of the Prime Minister visiting No. 10 Downing-street to tell the British Cabinet, “ We have been found out, but now that that has happened we are prepared to take action to cleanse the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of the element which you say it contains “. Could any more humble approach than that be imagined? Could anything be more lowering to the dignity of a democracy which boasts that it is 90 per cent. British, or to the dignity of the men who fought to preserve the traditions of this country? Fancy the Prime Minister going to Downing-street and saying, “ We shall make the necessary alterations in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research “, and then having to return to Australia and make those alterations!
In the light of the record of the Government’s ineptitude and appeasement is it any wonder that it is suspect in the eyes of the United States and other democracies? No wonder that the Prime Minister hastened to England, not to deny the accusations made against his Administration, but to suggest that certain action be taken in order to allay suspicion ! That that was the real reason for his visit to England is proved by the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Those are facts, and the Prime Minister cannot cloak them by any debating trick. I challenge him to say that the documents previously referred to are false. If he will not deny their truth, then he and the members of his Government stand convicted of a gross betrayal not only of Australia but also of all the other free democracies of the world.
– At the outset, I shall dispose of the indignant protest made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) at the fact that questions were taken when the House met this morning. I merely followed the notable example set by two of my most distinguished predecessors, namely, the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), when he was the deputy leader of the Bruce-Page Government. The attitude adopted by the Government this morning wa3 exactly similar to that of the governments which were led by those right honorable gentlemen. I have a great deal of respect for the political judgment of the right honorable member for North Sydney, and I know the regard which he has for parliamentary tradition. I felt that I could not offend his respect for tradition by departing from the precedent which he himself set many years ago.
I turn now to discussion of the censure moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. To judge from press reports, which are, I know, very inaccurate, the present censure motion has been pushed around like a homeless dog for the last fortnight because nobody was prepared to sponsor it. After a great deal of deliberation, it ultimately found refuge in the arms of the Acting Leader of the Opposition. Of course, it represents no more than a complete rehash of all the things said by members of the Opposition previously, and I do not intend to occupy the time of the House unduly by making a long, wordy and extravagant statement of the kind made by the honorable member. As an example of its extravagance, let me remind honorable members of the reference which he made to a “ notorious Cabinet meeting”. That was the first occasion on which I have heard of a British Cabinet meeting being “ notorious “.
– It has become notorious because of the right honorable gentleman’s inability to deny it.
– I do not think that it has become notorious because of anything which I have said. The Acting Leader of the Opposition also asserted that assistance had been given to the Eureka Youth Movement by the Government, but that is, of course, a .State matter.
– The right honorable gentleman made the money available.
– All the Commonwealth does is to make allocations to the States to promote national health and fitness, and in Victoria the president of the national health movement is Sir Norman Brookes. However, let me return to the terms of the censure motion, which is no more than a complete rehash of things that were said before. Consider the first paragraph, which reads as follows : -
That, in view of the publication in newspapers, both in Australia and overseas, over the past four months of allegations that the United States Government has refused or is reluctant to make available secret information regarding atomic energy and other methods of modern warfare . . .
The motion is apparently based on statements which have appeared in newspapers; but has any citizen of this country any regard for the accuracy of newspaper statements about any particular matter? I think that the inaccuracy of newspaper reports has been demonstrated very clearly by the results which have just reached us of the United States elections. I propose to examine now the statement made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition that I went hot-foot to London in connexion with some security measure. I have refrained from dealing at any length with my trip to London because discussion of it might involve disclosure of the problems of other countries, about which I do not feel justified in making any statement. I went to London for a very simple reason : I knew that the short-term economic problems that faced the United Kingdom arid western Europe, and that were affecting the economy of Australia and New Zealand, would have to be settled before it was possible to call a conference of Prime Ministers. I left Australia after a long session of the Parliament, when I was very tired and not very well. I should not have mentioned these matters, but for the statements -made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. I went to London for the reasons I have stated, and for those only. Certain matters had to be decided, such as the distribution of Marshall aid, and the course to be pursued in the sterling area in view of the prevailing dollar deficit. The Prime Minister of New Zealand regarded the matter as so pressing that he sent his Minister of Finance to Australia to confer with me so that I might put the views, jointly held’ by the Governments of New Zealand and Australia. I am forced ta make this explanation in view of the stupid and irrational statements of the Acting Leader of the Opposition. What I did in London on behalf of Australia, with the help of the magnificent staff I had with me, would redound to the credit of the Government if it could be made known in detail to the public. It was necessary to arrange methods by which Australia should participate in the proper distribution of goods which Great Britain was able to manufacture, and to arrange also for the conversion of dollar credits into credits available in sterling and easy currency areas. Those were the matters about which I went to London, and to which I, and the staff with me, devoted every available hour of our time - and we succeeded. I was treated very generously, indeed, by the Government of the United Kingdom. I desire to pay a tribute to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his predecessors. I have been Treasurer in Australian governments for seven years, and every Chancellor of the Exchequer, whatever his political complexion, with whom I have had dealings has trusted my judgment. I am grateful for the trust reposed in me by such men as Sir Kingsley Wood, Sir John Anderson, Sir Hugh Dalton and Sir Stafford Cripps. At least, they all had confidence in my complete honesty in regard to the financial affairs of this country. I make that statement because 1 believe it to be necessary in view of what the Acting Leader of the Opposition has said about the listening public. For my own part, I am always a bit doubtful that any great number of the public listens to our debates. In an effort to show that other matters were discussed besides those I have mentioned, the Acting Leader of the Opposition quoted from a statement that I made in this House. Of course, I talked about all sorts of matters when I was in England. I did not discuss them with the Cabinet as such, but I talked with ten or eleven Ministers in the Government of the United Kingdom, as well as with a large number of public officers, with military governors in Europe, and with the American Ambassador in London.
– The Prime Minister is now talking about anything but the censure motion.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition talked for over an hour. I do not propose to take up so much time. I did not go to England en a jaunt; ] went there to discuss problems which closely affected Australia and New Zealand, problems that had to be settled quickly. The conference of Prime Ministers, which was held recently in London, dealt with long-term economic problems. When I was in London, we concerned ourselves with short-term problems.
I propose now to answer the references which were made to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, with which organization there are associated some great and distinguished citizens who have rendered important service to Australia. I refer to such men as Sir David Rivett, Dr. Richardson, and Dr. Watt. No one can deny that Sir David Rivett and Dr. Richardson are t”“o of the most valued servants whom the people of Australia have ever had. They are attached to an organization which was created, noi by this Government, but by a previous government of a different political colour, l t may be true that Sir David Rivett holds opinions about certain aspects of scientific work, but he is not alone in that. Similar opinions are held by many other scientists. For the sake of some political advantage, great citizens such as the men I have mentioned have been slandered. In this cowards’ castle, and under privilege, men such as Sir David Rivett, Dr. Richardson, Dr. White, and Dr. Clunies Ross, have been slandered by a man who would not dare-
– Who has slandered them?
– They have been slandered by some members of the Opposition.
– Of course, it did not matter when the Prime Minister slandered my secretary.
– I did not do that.
– The Prime Minister called him an urger.
– I withdrew the statement that he was an urger, and said that he urged.
– It would not hurt the Prime Minister to be decent.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that, within the organization of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, there were certain disloyal and traitorous persons. On whose recommendations were they appointed ?
– A member of the Prime Minister’s own Cabinet . admitted that they were disloyal.
– I am not dealing with that aspect now. I am stating that all employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are appointed on the recommendation of the men whose names I have mentioned.
– Bid they recommend the appointment of Mountjoy?
– He is a member of the council, and the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research accepts responsibility for his appointment. I was referring to employees of the council. Not one of them was appointed by the Minister except upon the recommendation of a body of men of the highest possible repute. I have heard a lot about Rudkin–
– If they are appointing Communists, they ought to be investigated too.
– It is a slander upon those men to say that they recommended to the Minister the appointment of disloyal men to positions in which they would be capable of betraying this country.
– -Rudkin was tried, yet he was appointed.
– Whether Rudkin was tried or not does not matter. It is perfectly true, as the Minister for Defence said, that Rudkin was a Communist.
– The Minister took full responsibility for that appointment.
– Of coure he did.
– Order ! The Acting Leader of the Opposition was beard almost in silence, and I ask that the Prime Minister be heard in a similar atmosphere. I shall deal with any honorable member who persists in interrupting.
– I do not want to labour this point. Apart from appoint ments to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for which he is responsible, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has made no appointments to the staff of the council except upon the recommendation of its members. The men who control the council are the highly reputable public men whose names I have mentioned.
What is the answer to all the charges made by the Opposition? They say that the Government has appointed certain people to jobs. But those jobs have nothing to do with security. I understand that Rudkin, at any rate, is engaged in something to do with the manufacture of plywood. . Another man, whose case was raised, I think, by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), was employed as a photographer. I emphasize, for the benefit of any members of the public who may by chance be listening to the broadcast of this debate, that there is not the faintest evidence that there has been the slightest leakage of any information concerning defence secrets or scientific investigations of any sort from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, either during the war or since. I do not make that statement lightly. It is not based on the information provided by Australian security officers alone. I make that fact clear, too. Therefore, whatever may be said by honorable members opposite, nobody, whoever he may be or from whatever country he may come, can produce a single instance of one word of information of any sort having leaked from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I do not think I could pay a higher tribute than that to those men, who, I suppose, do not hold the same political views as I do. At least I want to pay tribute to the work that they did for this country during the war, irrespective of what their political opinions may be. They have been slandered in this House. There is not the slightest doubt of that. Very strong statements have been made about them, by implication at any rate. It has been said that they recommended the appointment of Communists to jobs which would enable them to betray Australia, and it has been suggested that those Communists took advantage of their opportunities. In reply to that I say that the most highly trained experts have not disclosed the faintest indication that anything of the kind has ever happened.
I refer now to the subject of defence and security. It need not be thought that this Government is going to crawl to anybody about anything anywhere. The late Mr. John Curtin said, when he was Prime Minister, that, because of the economic position of the United Kingdom, in the days to come the Dominions must carry an increased share of the burden of Empire defence. In 1946, when 2 visited London to attend a conference of Prime Ministers, I gave effect to the promise that had been made by my- predecessor. I did not do so in detail, but I was prepared to go into detail. I asked what burdens Australia could carry as part of an Empire defence plan, having regard to its financial position and physical capacity. Canada and South Africa had no proposals to make in 1946. The new dominions, of course, were not represented at that conference. However, New Zealand and Australia, particularly Australia, declared, “ We are prepared to set aside a definite sum for a definite programme “. When it was suggested that an experimental rocket range might be established in Australia, we did not quibble about money, materials or men. We said - and this can be substantiated - “ What is the maximum that we can do in this project, and how much per annum will be required to carry it out ? “ The amount required has been provided, and the plan is being carried out. We did not go around the world begging from people. We said, “ Australia is a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and we want to help. It is our duty to carry an additional load. In view of Great Britain’s position, every Dominion must take up a larger burden. What can we do ? “ We were told what we could do, and we went into that project wholefaheartedly. We have great respect for our American friends, but we simply say, “ We are a part of the British Empire and we are prepared to help the United Kingdom “. We do not have direct dealings with the United States Government or any of its departments in regard to these matters. We have a direct liaisonwith the United Kingdom in- connexion with defence, but there- ‘never has been any direct dealing between this Government and the Government of the United States of America bn defence matters. All dealings with the United States have been carried out by the United Kingdom, and we have undertaken to accept our share of responsibility in an Empire defence scheme, which also is a world defence scheme designed to maintain international peace. We are not going to crawl to anybody. We have stated what we are prepared to do, and the Government of the United Kingdom has been very appreciative of the offer that we have made. It must be remembered, whatever political ends honorable members opposite have to serve, that this Government at least has one paramount objective, which is to play its part on behalf of the nation in preserving peace in the world. We do hot want to belong to the war-mongers. We believe in security, in full defence and in the policy of keeping our powder dry, but we have striven, and will continue to strive, for international peace, with the help of our very distinguished colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) in the councils of the world. We do not want to see millions of young men dying at the orders of older men who themselves take no part in the conflict. Recently, I read a book written by General Patton, Jnr., which described tens of thousands of rotting bodies lying on the fields of France. We do not want such tragedies to occur again. We shall make any contribution that is within our power towards the peace of the world. Any such contribution, of course, must be a contribution to our own security. We shall join our resources with those of the United Kingdom wherever possible in order to maintain” peace.
I have not yet dealt with one or two” matters that were mentioned by the Acting Leader’ of the Opposition. He referred to the general subject of communism. It has been made clear, not once, but thousands of times, and long before I became a member of this Parliament, that the Labour party is the Labour party. It has no affiliation with any other party, and no member of any other party can be a member of it.
– That is the theory.
– It is perfectly true that there:. are some Communists in the trade union movement. Honorable members opposite talk as though Australia were the only country in the world with Communists in it. They talk about democracy and communism as two distinct things. What are the facts? Have a look around the world to-day. In France, Italy, Holland and other democratic countries there are Communist members of Parliament and, indeed, Communist cabinet ministers. Are those countries regarded as being non-members of the western democracies merely because they have some Communists in their parliaments?
– Is the right honorable member looking forward to such a situation in Australia?
– No, I am not. Australia in fact is one of the few countries that has no Communists in its Parliament.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I have repeatedly called for order while the Prime Minister has been speaking. I warn honorable members that I shall not do so again. I shall name the first honorable member who deliberately interrupts the debate.
– Do honorable members opposite suggest that every country in which there are Communists or in which Communists are employed in responsible positions is false to the principles of democracy?It that be so, then no nation is true to the principles of democracy.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– Order ! I shall name the honorable member for Warringah if he interrupts again.
– There are Communist members of the British House of Commons. I have mentioned how communism has spread in other countries. There are said to be no fewer that 5,000,000 Communists in the United States of America to-day. Like a fever communism appears in some form or other in almost every country. The secretary of the Miners’ Union in Great Britain, Mr. Arthur Horner, is an avowed Communist. Professor Haldane, one of the most eminent scientists employed by the British Government on the most secret radar and other scientific work in Great Britain, has also said that he is a Communist. It should not be thought, because of what honorable members opposite have said, that other countries have banned communism. That is not so. Communism has not been banned in either the United Kingdom or the United States of America. During the recent presidential election campaign in America both candidates for appointment as President made it perfectly clear that they would not ban Communists. Communism is a political rash which is quite foreign to the principles of the Labour movement. As I have said, the Communists have adopted a political philosophy, a sort of foreign political religion, which leads them to believe that through international effort, or by the emulation of the Russians, they can bring about a better state of affairs in the world. We do not believe that. We think we are capable of managing our own affairs, of producing our own politics, and of handling our own administration. That, however, does not apply to many honorable members opposite, who have always been prepared to take their orders from elsewhere. I have heard a great deal of talk about our friendship with the Americans. I know something about that subject because, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, I was closely associated with high ranking American officers and with the Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in the SouthWest Pacific during the war. I know that a great number of the aristocratic snobs who support honorable members opposite dislike and even hate the Americans.
– What about dealing with the motion?
– By attempting to defame their country by suggesting that in this Parliament and in this Government, which were elected by the people, there are people who are either traitors or disloyal, honorable members opposite have done a grave disservice to Australia.
I come now to the subject of the secret documents. This motion, like a homeless, mangy dog, has been talked about for a fortnight and was finally thrown into the arms of the Acting Leader of the Opposition. I have nothing to add to what I have said previously about secret documents. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) quoted from certain documents in this House which were obviously either stolen or forged.
– That is not true.
– How could they be anything else? If it is said that one of the documents was a record of a meeting of the British Cabinet, or of some other meeting in Great Britain, then the document must have been issued by the British Government. Any document issued by the British Government is marked as the property of that Government. If the document was, in fact, such a record, Lt could not have been anything but a stolen document. If not, then it was a forgery. I have already received a letter indicating that the members of the Opposition are prepared to receive any document, whether it be forged or stolen, and to use it in this House for political purposes. Honorable members opposite even cast suspicion on the members of their own staffs as being cover, men for either thieves or forgers. I cannot use other language to describe them. Let mc put a simple case. Suppose a member of my staff went to the office of the Acting Leader of the Opposition and took from it a paper marked confidential and brought it to me, and I used it in this House. There might be some talk about a breach of privilege-
– Is not the right honorable gentleman defaming his predecessor, the late Mr. Curtin, who did that very thing?
– Order !
– If some member of my staff or some officer associated with me took from the office of the Acting Leader of the Opposition a paper marked confidential, and I accepted it-
– That is an exact description of what the late Mr. Curtin did.
– Do honorable members opposite think that if such a document were handed to me by a member nf my staff I would not want to knowwhence it came? Honorable members opposite know that, as a man of principle, I would not use a document which 1 knew had been stolen or forged. Perhaps I have old-fashioned ideas about this matter; but to me a thief is still a thief, and a forger is still a forger. The Acting Leader of the Opposition referred to action which had been taken against an inoffensive typist in connexion with this matter. As there may be an appeal to the Public Service Board against that action, I shall not enlarge upon that aspect of the subject. I have said that the Government can expect no assistance from honorable members opposite in uncovering thieves or forgers. We shall deal with this matter in our own way and in our own time. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who is interjecting, is an ex-Minister of the Crown. He, too, is prepared to act as a cover for thieves or forgers.
Sitting suspended from 12.b5 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Prime Minister has made a most ineffective reply to the grave charges that have been made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) on behalf of the Opposition generally. The right honorable gentleman’s failure to reply adequately to those charges must rock the confidence of responsible people in this country in the effectiveness of this Government’s administration. One feature of the speech that stood out like a lighthouse at night - and it is characteristic of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and those who sit behind him - was that the speech, far from being a reply to the charges of the Oppositionconsisted largely of encouragement of further Communist activity in this country. The Prime Minister did his best to excuse communism, and to convince the people of this country that the Communist menace in Australia was greatly exaggerated. He neglected, as, of course, he would have to do, to answer the charges that have been made by honorable members on this side of the chamber ever since the 30th September la9t, and which are now embodied in this censure motion.
Two simple questions vitally concern the Australian people; first, did the
Prime Minister, during his latest visit to London, discuss with the British Government the reluctance of the United States of America to hand over atomic and other defence secrets to Australia? Secondly, did the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) discuss that subject with the Executive Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the 6th July? The answers to those questions do not depend upon the result of any investigations by officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service. They do not depend upon the truth of falsity of any document. How would investigation officers know whether or not the document was genuine if the Prime Minister refused to give those answers? The answers to the questions were within the knowledge of the Prime Minister and of the Minister for Defence when I made my disclosure in this chamber on the 30th September. Those gentlemen know, and have known at all relevant times, whether the discussions that I alleged had been held actually took place. They have endeavoured, of course, to divert attention from their knowledge of the truth or falsity of my information. They have tried to focus public attention on certain documents, and the Prime Minister has refused to say whether those documents were genuine, false, forged, lost, or stolen. The right honorable gentleman has declined to answer the questions that have been directed to him both in this House, and in correspondence. He has remained stubbornly and coldly silent. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence have shown a remarkable reluctance to answer the simple question whether or not they had the discussions which I alleged had taken place. From the outset, they have endeavoured to show that on the scientific side, the defence position of this country differs considerably now from what it was during the war. Whilst they admit that the maintenance of the strictest secrecy was of extreme importance in war-time, they brush aside every suggestion that the Government’s failure to eradicate or even control communism is endangering the national security, and sapping the confidence of our former allies and sister democracies in the security of this coun try. In fact, on the 6th May of this year, I gave to the Government an opportunity to debar Communists from employment in all organizations controlled by the Commonwealth and associated with war research, design or development. ] moved an amendment to the Supply and Development Bill to provide that a person who was a member of the Communist party should not be eligible for employment in defence establishments. The Minister for Defence said that the amendment was quite unnecessary, and that the Government could not accept it. A division was taken and my amendment was defeated, every Labour member, with the exception of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), voting for its rejection. That Australia has a direct interest in atomic energy is no secret. Therefore, Australia’s exclusion from information on the latest developments in that sphere must affect our defence preparedness very seriously. Actually, nearly four months before I raised the question of the attitude of the United States of America to Australia, the Sydney Sun, on the 13th June, stated that the British Government was urging Australia to impose more stringent safeguards on scientists associated with the guided weapons testing range. The article went on to say -
It is understood that a reason why the United States Government is not co-operating on the project is it fears for the secrecy of it-s scientific data. It is supplying data to Britain on condition that it is not made available elsewhere. Australia is not specifically mentioned but it is understood that the “ elsewhere “ referred to is Australia.
Notwithstanding that specific statement which obviously must have had its origin in a government source - either a Minister or an official spokesman for the Government - no action, of a security nature or otherwise, was taken by the Prime Minister. Surely, the statement that the United States of America was refusing to provide Australia with information was sufficiently grave to warrant a clear-cut statement from the head of the Govern- _ ment, either denying or affirming the” truth of the published report. Surely, if the Government was really concerned with Australia’s security, the aid of the Commonwealth Investigation Service would immediately have been sought in an endeavour to trace the source of the information, and the manner in which it had become available to certain newspapers in this country. The published statement warranted definite action if the Prime Minister was sincere in his attitude towards Australia’s defence. However, as no political danger to himself or his party was involved at that stage, he was prepared to let matters slide. So far as I am aware, the assistance of the Commonwealth Investigation Service was not invoked. At any rate, the Prime Minister did not make a statement, but the Minister for Defence, in a very guarded statement, said that he was perfectly satisfied with security measures to protect secrets relating to the guided weapons testing range. He declined to comment on the newspaper report that, at the request of the British Government, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had been “ frozen out “ of those secrets. Thus, honorable members will see that, as far back as last June, attention was directed to the fact that Australia was being denied vital defence secrets.
I come now to a most important aspect which particularly affects the Prime Minister, the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) and officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service. We have been informed that the investigation, officers acted, in the main, at the direction of the Acting Attorney-General. I ask the House and the people to pay particular attention to newspaper reports that I shall proceed to read. On the 24th July, -the Sydney Morning Herald published an article headed : “ U.S. Hugs Secrets - Leakage Here Feared “. The article stated that the United States, it was understood, had, in the last year, shown, reluctance to reveal atomic research secrets to Australian scientists because, it was claimed, leakages were likely to occur through Australian Communists. The newspaper went further. It said that “ on the highest authority “ it was learned that the Prime Minister had raised the subject during his recent discussions with the British Cabinet and had offered to tighten Australia’s security measures.
From a perusal of newspaper files in the Parliamentary Library, I find that reports dealing with a vital matter mentioned in this censure motion appeared on the 24th July in the Sun News-Pictorial, Melbourne, the Advertiser, Adelaide, and the CourierMail, Brisbane. So, it was ten weeks after those reports had appeared and fifteen weeks after reports had been published in another newspaper, and then only as the result of my disclosures on the 30th September, [that the investigation service was summoned to make investigations. Evidently, national defence was not sufficiently important for the Prime Minister to invoke security measures in relation to those reports at the time at which they were published. The matter became important only when its political implications from the Labour party’s viewpoint became apparent. Although the reports were published in such widely separated journals, nothing was done by the Prime Minister to counter the charges or to trace the leakage of such vital information, if it were true, either through the investigation service or by other means.
The Courier-Mail of the 23rd July published the following article: -
WON’T SHARE ATOMIC SECRET.
Canberra, Friday. - The Commonwealth Government is seriously concerned at the reluctance of the United States to acquaint Australia with certain “ top secret “ information about the development of atomic energy.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) views the matter so seriously that he personally brought the matter before the British Cabinet during his recent visit to London.
He told British Cabinet Ministers that he was anxious to clear away any obstacles to free exchange of secret details concerning atomic energy between the British, American, :i nd Australian Governments.
Mr. Chifley is understood to have told British Ministers that the attitude of the United States was possibly due to a view held that the Australian Council for Scientific and Indus-‘ trial Research was not wholly controlled by the Commonwealth . Government.
He admitted to the British Ministers that the Council Chairman (Sir David Rivett) had earlier this year said publicly that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should not be involved in research of a secret nature.
Mr. Chifley is believed to have told British Cabinet that, if necessary, he would make any reasonable constitutional changes in the various scientific bodies undertaking research for the Common wealth Government.
If necessary he would also change the status of research scientists in such a way that they would become part of an orthodox government department subject to the usual requirements concerning official secrets.
From that statement, we can conclude that the matter, at that stage, was most unsatisfactory, and that the Prime Minister had resolved to alter the status of research scientists, and make them subject to the requirements relating to the preservation of official secrets. The Adelaide Advertiser, on the 23rd July, published the following article: -
Canberra, July 23. - The question of obtaining “top secret information from the United States on the Development of atomic energy was raised by Mr. Chifley when he met the British Cabinet recently in London.
He told British Ministers that he was anxious to clear away any obstacles to a free exchange of secret details concerning atomic energy between the British, American and Australian Governments.
Mr. Chifley is understood to have said that the reluctant attitude adopted by the United States might be due to the fact that the Australian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was not wholly controlled by the Commonwealth Government.
He admitted that the chairman of the council (Sir David Rivett) had said earlier this year, that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should not be involved in research of a secret nature.
Mr. Chifley is also believed to have told British Cabinet that, if necessary, he would make any reasonable constitutional changes in the various scientific bodies undertaking research for the Commonwealth Government.
He was also prepared to change the status of research scientists in such a way that they would become part of an orthodox government department subject to the usual requirements concerning official secrets.
On the same day, the Courier-Mail published an article which contained similar statements. On the 24th July, an article entitled “United States Refuses Atomic Secrets to Australia “ appeared in the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial. The September issue of Better Business, published in New Zealand, contained the following item, written in diary form: -
July 25-26. - United States authorities refuse atomic research details to Britain unless assured the information will not be passed on to Australia. United States doubts reliability of the Australian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to preserve secrete from Communists-
Important newspapers in four States of the Commonwealth contained statements in the most unequivocal termsalleging that the Prime Minister had told British Cabinet Ministers that he was anxious to remove any obstacles concerning atomic energy between the British, American and Australian Governments. A New Zealand publication also referred to the subject.
– Yes. I produced the document on the 30th September, and the articles which I have read began toappear in various newspapers as far back as 13th June, whilst references to thesubject were published fairly consistently during July. On the 26th July, the Sydney Morning Herald stated that Cabinet was expected to discuss, at its meeting on the 2nd August, the reluctance of the United States of America to make knowledge of atomic research development available to Australia.
– Does the Leader of the Australian Country party know whether Cabinet discussed that subject?
– The Minister will not tell us whether any one discussed it.
– I inform the Leader of the Australian Country party that Cabinet did not discuss it.
– The Sydney Morning Herald stated that the Prime Minister had been told of America’s attitude shortly before he visited London, and that it was understood he regarded the situation so seriously that it was one of the main factors influencing his trip. On the same day, the Brisbane Courier-Mail published a lengthy article headed, “Refuse Atom Secrets. U.S. Fears Reds”. That day, under the heading: “Atomic Check. United States Fears of Red Leak Here “, the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial stated -
Fear of leakages through Australian Communists is’ believed to be the reason for refusal by the United States to give atomic research details to Britain, unless assured that the information will not be handed on to Australia,
That article went on to state that the Prime Minister had been made aware of the United States’ attitude shortly before he went to London, that he had discussed the matter with the Minister for Defence recently, and that it would probably be considered by Cabinet at its next meeting on the 2nd August.
The Adelaide Advertiser published a Canberra report headed : “ No Atom Secrets for Australia. Communist Leaks feared by the U.S.”. This stated that it had been learned “on reliable authority V that the United States was refusing to give any atomic research details to Great Britain unless assured that the information would not be handed on to Australia. It said also that it was known that the Government was determined to do everything possible to correct what it held to be an entirely mistaken impression held by the British and American authorities. On the 27th July, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that it had been learned that the reluctance of United States authorities to pass atomic research secrets on to Australia, either directly or through Britain, applied to all top secret information of a defence nature. On the same day, the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial published an article from Canberra headed: “Defence Concern at C.S. and I.E.. attitude on Secret “Work “. That article stated that the Australian Defence Council was concerned at the reluctance of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to co-operate in secret defence research and that concern was felt also at the suspicion directed towards the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research by the United States of America and Britain. I remind the House that all those reports were published in Australian newspapers weeks before I ventilated the evidence of their reliability in the House on the 30th September.
If the Government seriously regarded these reports as endangering national security, or considered that they were false, why did it not invoke the aid of the investigation service then and there? Why did not the Prime Minister make a specific statement on the subject and take some means of redress against these newspapers?
An exceedingly significant report wa.published in the London Daily Graphic of the 27 th July, the day following the arrival in London of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) who is also Deputy Prime Minister. It said -
One of the matters which the burly Dr. Herbert Evatt, Australia’s Deputy Premier, i> likely to discuss over here - he arrived in London yesterday - is the newest atomic bomb impasse which has arisen. America has declined to tell Britain her top secrets unlessBritain guarantees not to disclose them te Australia. The Americans apparently fear that because, they allege, there are Communist sympathizers in the ranks of the Australian Scientific Council, the secrets may not be safe. The implication is deeply re seated in Australia and a full Cabinet meet ing has been vailed for next Monday. Australia’s Premier, Mr. Chifley, discussed the matter with Mr. Attlee during his London visit recently. Dr. Evatt may continue di,cussions on the point. He is having meetings with Mr. Attlee and Mr. Bevin, but they have no fixed agenda.
There is no ambiguity about the statement “Australia’s Premier, Mr. Chifley, discussed the matter with Mr. Attlee during his London visit recently”. Two days earlier, the Johannesburg Sunday Express had stated that the United States was banning the flow of atomic research information to Australia and insisting that even data supplied to Britain must noi be passed on to Australia. It went on to say that Mr. Chifley was understood to have discussed the United State’s attitude during his recent visit to London, but that there was no indication that the difficulty would be readily overcome.
I again remind honorable member* that these reports were published in newspapers all over the world including journals in all the Australian cities, in New Zealand, and Johannesburg, as well as in the London Daily Graphic. Notwithstanding these world wide newspaper reports which, if correct, must have done irreparable damage to Australia’s reputation in the eyes of other countries, not one word of denial was heard from the Prime Minister. Nothing was done by the Commonwealth Investigation Service until I had made my statement in the House on the 30th . September.
However, following the publication of these reports, the Minister for Defence was stated to have said on the 29th July, that as far as he was aware the United States of America had not refused any request by Australia for details of scientific research. He said further that if there were any truth in r,he allegations that the United States authorities were doubtful of the Council for’ Scientific and Industrial Research, the press and the Opposition had contributed . to the doubt of that nation by exaggerating the strength of the Communist party. He went on to say chat as far as he knew there was not a vestige of truth in the reports.
It has not been suggested at any time chat Australia had requested details of scientific research. The whole basis of the allegations has been that the United .States of America has refused to let us have vital defence information. We also have the Minister’s statement reported in the press that the United States of America had been very secretive about atomic information for a long time. The press of the 30th July, reported the honorable gentleman as having said that “in a general way” he had discussed the subject with the Prime Minister before the right honorable gentleman had gone r,o England for talks with the British Cabinet. Does not that admission suggest to even the most uninitiated that if a senior Minister of the Australian Cabinet discussed a matter nf such great importance and of such potential gravity with his Prime Minister before the latter left for London, the Prime Minister naturally and assuredly intended to raise it with Great Britain ? If he did not so intend he would be lacking in his sense of duty and would show a disregard for his responsibilities. However, whilst in one breath the Prime Minister claimed in this House on the 30th September that while in England he had not discussed the subject of research into atomic energy, in almost the next breath he stated that he did not propose to reveal the matters that he had discussed with the British Cabinet. It will be recalled that during the debate on the Estimates in this chamber the Minister for Defence in reply to the Acting Leader of the Opposition said specifically that the press and the Opposition had done a great disservice to the country by the wild charges they had made in relation to security matters. He said further -
Recently an article appeared in a Sydney newspaper to the effect that the Government of the United States of America was withholding from Australia all information regarding atomic energy and although there was no truth whatever in that allegation the Acting Leader of the Opposition made a similar assertion.
– There is no truth in the allegation.
– That was an absolute denial of the truth of the newspaper reports that I have quoted. I point out that all that the Acting Leader of the Opposition did at the time was to quote repeated, consistent, and world-wide reports in regard to the gravity of ohe scientific defence position of Australia insofar as co-operation with England and America was concerned. That denial was uttered by the Minister for Defence on a vital matter relating to Australia’s defence. It was that and other statements which provoked me to disclose evidence not only of the truth of the newspaper reports, and consequently of the statement of the Acting Leader of the Opposition, but also of the utter lack of candour that the Minister had displayed in misleading both the House and the country in the discharge of his ministerial duties.
Early in July, the Prime Minister went to London. There, according to a confidential document, which I quoted in this House on the 30th September, he attended a meeting at No. 10 Downingstreet on the 8th July. The Prime Minister’s presence at that meeting was reported next day in the London Times, which also stated that he subsequently conferred with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, and other Ministers of the British Government. On the 13th July, the London Times stated that the Australian Prime Minister had, on the previous day, talked with Mr. Alexander, Minister for Defence, and Sir Ben Lockspeiser, chief scientist to the Ministry of Supply. On the 14th July, the London Times recorded that Mr. Chifley had talked with British authorities interested in the development of the guided weapons testing range in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 10th and the 14th July reported from London that the Australian Prime Minister’s talks had included British and Australian research in guided projectiles and rocket range developments. Upon the Prime Minister’s return to Australia the Sydney. Morning Herald of the 19th July stated -
Mr. Chifley said that as a result of his visit there had been certain developments on the scientific side of defence. He had had certain discussions with leading British scientists, one of whom, Sir Henry Tizzard, will visit Australia in October.
Surely, these newspaper reports and the Prime Minister’s own statements make it abundantly clear that he did discuss scientific aspects of defence during his visit to London. Then, on the 4th September the Australian Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong) saw the United States Minister for Defence, Mr. Forrestal, in the United States of America, after which a high United States official was reported as having said that more discussions on the information “ black-out “ would be taken up at the diplomatic level between the American Embassy and the Australian External Affairs Department at Canberra. On the 12th September, the Sydney Sunday Sun stated -
It was now officially admitted that the United States had refused to reveal secrets of atomic warfare to Australia.
The Sun stated further that the United States of America had cut off not only atomic information but also all other information on war secrets. Again no action was taken by the Commonwealth Investigation Service on this statement, despite the gravity of this apparent official admission. Yet, nothwithstanding these reports the Prime Minister told the Parliament -
I did not discuss the subject [research into atomic energy] in England. It was never the subject of discussion because I knew the precise position with regard to atomic research. Consequently, I had no intention to discuss that subject with the British Prime Minister, any Minister of the British Cabinet or anybody else . . . Such a discussion was not one of the purposes of my mission . . . My mission was to deal with purely economic subjects.
It will be recalled, also, that because the Minister for Defence moved that progress be reported, I was denied an opportunity to reply to the Prime Minister on the 30th September. [Extension of time granted.’] The’ committee divided upon the motion and Labour again used1 its numbers to restrict freedom of speech. The Acting Leader of the Opposition raised1 the matter on- the Estimates- and the- Minister for Defence indulged in the series of denials that I have quoted. Both the Prime Minister- and the Minister for Defence completely lacked candour. There was a complete absence of any remedial measures’ by those Ministers and the investigation service. So I felt it to be my duty to raise the question. I asked’ the Prime Minister whether he would deny certain information that was. contained in confidential documents that were in my possession. On the 30th September, in quoting a confidential document, I challenged the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence to deny that the Prime Minister had told the British Cabinet on the 8th July at a meeting at No. 10 Downingstreet, at half-past ten a.m.-
That he understood the United States authorities were reluctant to communicate to Australia certain specially secret information about the progress of research and development on atomic energy. This reluctance might be due, in part, to their belief that the Australian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was not fully under control of the Australian Government. And it was true, that in a public speech delivered some months previously, the head of that council had stated hie view that his organization should not concern itself with secret work. Mr. Chifley was most anxious to remove any impediments to the free exchange of secret information about atomic energy development between the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia; and he was prepared to make any reasonable adjustments which might bc necessary for this purpose in the constitution of the scientific organizations serving the Australian Government in this matter. If necessary be would be prepared to arrange that the scientists engaged on this work should form part of a regular government department and undertake the corresponding obligations in respect of official secrets. He would be glad of an opportunity to discuss this matter with the appropriate United Kingdom Minister.
I have asked the Minister for Defence to deny the truth of another confidential communication, which was that he told the Executive Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the 6th July of last year that -
The Prime Minister had told him that information from high sources in the United Kingdom had been received which made it quite clear that a number of United Kingdom Government departments were not certain that the Council for Scientific and industrial Research could be entrusted with certain documents, and that feeling militated, in turn, against the United Kingdom as regards obtaining information from the United States of America.
He also told that meeting-
That American authorities had made it quite clear that they would not pass on to the (United Kingdom any information unless it was certain that such information would not be passed on to Australia. The Prime Minister could give him no details, but was, nevertheless, certain, in view of the source of his information, that the feeling in the United Kingdom definitely existed, that was the important consideration. Unless something was done to retrieve the position, Australia would not get certain information of a scientific nature that affected defence matters.
As honorable members are aware, the disclosure of these documents resulted in the Prime Minister threatening to put his gestapo on to Opposition members. He subsequently ordered officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to interrogate me in my office in this House despite the specific provisions of section 22 of the Crimes Act, which guarantees the privileges of members of the Parliament against such an invasion of their rights. The section reads-
Nothing in this act shall derogate from any power or privilege ofeither House of Parliament or of the members or committees of either House of Parliament as existing at the com- mencement of this act.
That is followed by section 28, which reads -
Any person who by violence or by threats of intimidation of any kind hinders or interferes with the exercise or performance by any other person, of any political right or duty, shall be guilty of an offence. Penalty, 3 years.
I direct the Prime Minister’s particular attention to those sections, as his own actions and threats against me in this House may quite well come within their ambit, especially as attorneysgeneral change with governments. In directing the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represents the Acting Attorney General in this House, to that section, I remind him that the committee in the Sandys case sternly rebuked the AttorneyGeneral in England for his attempted interrogation of Duncan Sandys. The disclosures that have been made should be viewed in the light of the present-day critical international situation. Surely it must be apparent to the Prime Minister, to the Minister for Defence, and to the Government, that our security is being jeopardized because of the refusal of the United States of America to impart to Australia information relating, not only to atomic warfare, but also to defence secrets generally. What concerns the Australian people is the truth or falsity of what the documents contain. All other questions are merely attempts to divert attention from that one point, namely, whether Australia is lacking in defence preparedness against modern war weapons including atomic, chemical and bacteriological warfare. But, instead of setting the publicmind at rest, and instead of answering the specific questions that I put to him, the Prime Minister has treated the Parliament and the people of Australia to a display of mock heroics, during which he has givenvent to much workedup indignation about traitors, forgedor stolen documents, and the suborning of public servants.
At this stage, I wish to give the lie direct to a statement that appeared in oneof the Sunday newspapers, and was mentioned in an answer to a question that was asked in the Senate-. It was asserted that an officer of the investigation service rang me up and made an appointment with me before the investigation officers interrogated me. I am informed that that information emanated from the Commonwealth Investigation Service. It is an absolute fabrication. I should be disappointed and astonished if I were to learn that any officer of the investigation service had lent himself to such a fabrication. No such appointment was ever made, and there was no endeavour by the investigation service to make an appointment with me. I take this opportunity to put that matter right.
The Prime Minister has laid great stress upon decency, political principles, cover men, forgery, threat, and the use of stolen documents. The right honorable gentleman was a member of the Labour organization in 1917, and took a prominent part in the “ No conscription “ campaign. I associate him with what happened at that time in regard to a stolen document that belonged to the Right Honorable W. A. Holman. I direct the attention of the Australian Labour party, and that of the Prime Minister in particular, to a book entitled, Australian Labour Leader which was written by no less a personage than Dr. H. V. Evatt, who is now the AttorneyGeneral. I claim that the Prime Minister was associated with an incident that occurred in February, 1917, and is described at page 450 if that book in these words -
Holman had circulated among his cabinet ministers a confidential report, in which he suggested the desirability of (i) creating an entirely new atmosphere in relation to war questions, and (ii) “bringing to bear new economic factors “. He said that matters which should bo seriously considered by the Cabinet were restrictions on amusements, and well organized censorship of the Press. In this report to Cabinet he also condescended to describe how “ economic factors “ mightresult in the dismissal of unmarried employees in the railway services:
On the very eve of the conscription vote, some State official furnished a copy of the memorandum to the No side. It was immediately published by the Labour party with appropriate comment.
That document was used by every speaker in favour of the “ No “ campaign. The right honorable gentleman who is now Prime Minister of this country used it on public platforms in his own locality in support of the “ No “ campaign. Yet he is the man who today delivered a lecture to honorable members about the disclosure of a document, the contents of which were made public in the interests of the security of this country, whereas the use of the other document to which I have referred was directed towards the insecurity of the country. How does the right honorable gentleman measure up to that comparison? Mr. Holman was the Premier of New South Wales at that time. When he was subsequently asked whether the document was true, and whether it had been stolen, he said that the document was true and that it had been stolen from his office. That is the position so far as the use of stolen documents, political principles, and decency are concerned. My use of documents was for no other purpose than to advance the interests of the provision of adequate defence measures in this country. The document that the right honorable gentleman used was one that was used against the best interests of the country.
There are further dangerous implications in the reluctance of America to pass on defence secrets to us. Atomic warfare is not the only threat to our safety. A further question that I want the Prime Minister to answer is this: Is America also denying us all top secret information, including information essential to our defence against bacteriological and chemical warfare, because it fears Australian Communist espionage? Biological warfare and defence against its effects, according to reports, are being studied extensively, especially in the United States of America. From 1942 to 1946 at least thirteen diseases of man, animals and crop plants were studied in the United States of America, Canada, and Great Britain from the point of view of biological warfare. The agents chosen for study are known to he tremendously infective when sprayed into the air. In selecting biological weapons the most consideration is given to rare or unknown diseases so that few people have become immune through natural exposure. In practice, two or more agents may be used in a single attack and this increases their potency. There is an army and navy research centre for bacteriological warfare at Camp Detrick, Maryland, United States of America. Research and laboratory workers at that centre have been engaged for some time in exposing experimental animals to clouds of test organisms in speciallyconstructed cloud chambers. Special experiments have been performed in connexion with anthrax, undulant fever, plague and botulism. The technique of war-time defence against such diseases must obviously have been undertaken in the United States of America and the free flow of such information to Australia should not be prevented by Communist interference. It has been ascertained at Camp Detrick. laboratory that a single ounce of undulant fever organisms is sufficient to infect the whole of the world’s population. A continuous culture machine has been developed there which can produce the- organisms in any required quantity. No doubt similar techniques have been employed to produce an antidote. Have we been given the necessary information to produce such an antidote here if needed against an airborne disease deliberately spread by enemy planes? [Further extension of time granted.’] Rinderpest U a highly infectious and fatal disease of cattle. In World War II., it was believed that the enemy would endeavour to destroy cattle in Australia and elsewhere by disseminating the virus. Australian cattle have not suffered from this disease for many years and an outbreak would cause widespread dislocation of beef supplies. In 1942, a joint United States-Canadian commission set up a secret war project on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, which prepared a supply of the virus and then converted it into a sufficient quantity of immunizing vaccine to cater for all emergencies in Australia and elsewhere. Are we still getting that co-operation from America, or are we being denied it because of the Government’s pandering to the Communists? By now, the weapons of biological warfare have undoubtedly been improved and defence measures against them have also been made more effective, especially in America. If that nation does not trust the present Government sufficiently, the Australian people should be given the facts, so that remedial measures may be undertaken before it is too late. Chemical warfare is the third great menace to civilization. Even the ordinary weedkiller known as 2, 4D is highly toxic to broadleaf plants, including most garden vegetable and fruit trees; 2, 4D dust applied at the rate of 1 lb. or 2 lb. an acre sterilizes growing rice so that grains will not be produced. A single plane can treat 28 square miles in this fashion. The poisoning of food and animals by certain gases is another variation of chemical warfare.
The United States of America is unrivalled in the chemical field. It has almost unlimited research facilities and the technical perfection of its laboratories is acknowledged throughout the world. Fs the Prime Minister able to give us an honest assurance that we are being supplied with the necessary information from America regarding the modern development of chemical warfare? Alternatively, is it a fact that in both the biological and chemical fields we mee a blank wall of silence when we endeavour to secure details of the latest American developments in these fields; Before the iron curtain was finally rune down on Russia, we had a little information about the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Science, the Maxim Gorky Medico Biological Research Institute. Moscow, the Institute of Experimental Biology, Moscow, and the Biological Institutes at Kiev and Kharkov. We knew a little about the Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry, Moscow, the Institute of Chemical Physics at Leningrad and the Institute of Physical Chemistry at Dneipropetrovsk. For ten years, however, we have had no up-to-date information about these technical institutes and we do not know how far they have advanced in the dual fields of biological and chemical warfare. From the Russian sector of the world, however, we have to fear aggression. From the American sector we need protection from aggression, just as the Government sought and obtained such 7-irotection during World War II.
According to Colonel J. P. Cooney, of the American Army Medical Corps. Pennsylvania, if an atomic bomb were dropped on one of our cities to-morrow, mass hysteria would probably cause the unnecessary loss of many lives. How much more necessary is it, therefore, from the point of view of Australian morale alone, to clear up the question of whether we are being denied information about defence against atomic attack. Atom bombs produce an enormous amount of radiant energy covering the whole range of wave lengths from heat-waves to million-volt gamma waves. Four known kinds of penetrating radiation can be expected within the immediate area of the blast, and Army, Navy and Atomic Energy Commission scientists are hard at work seeking preventive measures, especially in the United States. .
Research is in progress, and some indications are that filtration and other methods can be employed with some success. Are we being kept up to date with these extensive American research projects? They have no connexion with the use of atomic energy for industrial purposes. They are solely concerned with protection of .the civil population against the physical effects of atomic blast. Australian doctors should have the information available to them. They should have access to, and be familiar with, detecting instruments such as the Geiger counter, which is essential to measure the density of harmful radiation. The Army Medical Centre at Washington has just held a basic science course, and lectures were given by Dr. Shields Warren, a Harvard professor, on the immediate and long-range effects of atomic irradiation on the production of abnormal offspring in succeeding generations. That is a vital subject also for Australians. Were any Australian Government medical men invited to attend such courses, and did any attend? In any case, can we be assured that the texts of the lectures are freely available to the doctors attached to the Council for Scientific and Industrial. Research ?
It is now time for the Government to decide between America and Russia, and every Australian citizen who is mindful of the future of his country will be vitally interested in that decision. The Communist game is to leave us wide open to atomic, biological and chemical attack from our potential enemies. Only the Government knows the extent to which the Communists have achieved that objective in Australia; nevertheless the answer to my question whether the documents quoted by me are true or not would give the Australian people some indication of the facts. That is the reason why the Prime Minister is so peculiarly reluctant to give a simple answer to my simple question.
The Prime Minister has used some very harsh words against me since first I raised this subject on the 30th September. I now propose to give an additional and very pertinent reason why he is the one who deserves the severe censure of the Parliament and the people. I quote from the London Truth of the 10th September in which it is reported that the Prime Minister said this -
There are no forces in Europe to-day to withstand the Russians sweeping the continent. European countries cannot stand any more wars, and that includes Britain.
The newspaper went on to say -
If Mr. Chifley had been venturing any more than his own personal opinion he would still have been guilty of “ dangerous talk “, but he had the astounding fecklessness to assert that his statements were “ based on private correspondence and official documents from British Commonwealth sources “. lt would seem that the private correspondence was not private enough, nor the official documents sufficiently official for the purposes of imperial security.
Yet this is the man who has had the temerity to accuse me of indecency in producing a secret document in the Australian Parliament! It is a document that reveals the Government’s complacency, apathy and disregard for the security of this country. It provides the answer to the question of whether the Government is fit to govern this country as an integral part of the British Empire.
find it difficult to answer all the allegations that were made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), because more deliberately untrue statements have been made during the course of this debate than I have hitherto heard made during the whole of a parliamentary session.
– The Minister is the judge of that.
– Order ! The Leader of the Australian Country party was heard in complete silence and I insist upon the Minister for Defence also being heard in silence. If any honorable gentleman persistently interrupts the Minister, I shall deal with him.
– Members of the Opposition are indeed gluttons for punishment. When this matter was raised on a previous occasion, they received a trouncing at the hands of the Government, and their prestige in the eyes of the public decreased tremendously. So great was that loss of prestige that it was reflected even in the press of this country, which normally supports the Opposition in any attack that it makes upon the Government. I could quote several extracts from newspapers castigating the Leader of the Australian Country party for the attitude that he has adopted in this connexion.
Let us look at the timing of this motion. The Acting Leader of the Opposition attempted to work up some heat because the Government had decided to allow questions to be asked this morning. This motion of censure has been hawked around the countryside for the last two weeks. If honorable members opposite take that view of it, is it to be expected that the Government should postpone the ordinary business of the House merely to suit their convenience? Humour in the lobbies has it that the motion was to be proposed last Wednesday. Why did honorable members opposite refrain from taking this action then? Rumour also has it that the Acting Leader of the Opposition has proposed the motion now only because the Liberal party was taunted by its own kept press into supporting the Australian Country party in this matter. One reason why the Opposition is persisting with this canard is that.it wishes the Australian public to believe that there is complete unity between the two Opposition parties. Rumour in the lobbies also has it that a number of honorable members opposite are even now not in agreement with the launching of this motion. I believe that this is an attempt to divert attention from the fact that the Leader of the Australian Country party has almost certainly broken his oath as a Privy Councillor. Let me repeat the words of the oath relating to knowledge that has come into the possession of any member of the council - . . You shall lett and withstand the same to the uttermost of your power, and either cause it to be revealed to His Majesty himself, or to such of his Privy Council as shall advertise His Majesty of the same . . . and shall keep secret all matters . . . revealed unto you or that shall be treated of secretly in council.
It concludes with the following words: - and generally in all things you shall do as a faithful and true servant ought to do to His Majesty. So help you God and the holy contents of this Book.
It is obvious that the Leader of the Australian Country party has committed a breach of the oath that he took when he became a Privy Councillor.
The motion consists of four paragraphs, the first of which reads as follows : -
The publication in newspapers both in Australia and overseas over the past four months of allegations that the United States Government has refused or is reluctant to make available secret information regarding atomic energy and other methods of modern warfare because of the alleged inefficiency of security in Australia, and of the serious public disquiet arising therefrom and the Government’s failure to take effective steps to allay this disquiet or to reassure the public mind on such grave charges.
The fact that the press of this country publishes certain statements and makes certain allegations, irrespective of whether the statements are correct or whether there is any substance in the allegations, is apparently regarded by honorable members opposite as a justification for the launching of of a motion censure. The Leader of the Australian Country party and the Acting Leader of the Opposition read a number of extracts from newspapers, dating as far back as the month of June. Not very long ago the Prime Minister told me that he had decided to adopt the procedure of taking note of all the lies that were published in the press and of directing the attention of the proprietors of newspapers to those lies when they were first published and again if they were repeated. From time to time I have directed the attention of the press to untruths in statements that had been published regarding security in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Honorable members will have noted how often vague and indefinite phrases such as “ It is understood “, “ It is learned on high authority”, or “It has been officially intimated that “ appear in press reports. Any one who knows anything of journalism realizes that if such a phrase is used it is another way of saying that the statement is based entirely on the imagination of the individual who is making it. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th July the following paragraph appeared : -
Canberra, Friday. - The United States, it is understood, has in the last year shown reluctance to reveal atomic research secrets to Australian scientists.
Let us deal with that allegation. I said in an earlier debate that Australia had never been in receipt of any information from the United States of America regarding atomic energy.
– I said that Australia had never sought, received or been denied such information. The information could not possibly have been denied if it had not been sought. I said further that we were not undertaking in this country any research work relating to atomic energy from the defence aspect. I made that statement on several occasions, yet the allegation was repeated in the press, ft was repeated again to-day by the Acting Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party. On the last occasion on- which the matter was discussed in the House the honorable member for Deakin . (Mr. Hutchinson), referring to a fire that had occurred in a laboratory of the University of Melbourne, said that he had reason to believe that a number of secret documents relating to atomic energy had been destroyed, and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) repeated the assertion. There was not a word of truth in the statements of those honorable members or in the newspaper reports concerning the fire that were published at that time. The only research carried on in that laboratory was similar to that carried on in universities throughout the world, and there was nothing secret or confidential about it. Similarly, no secret or confidential information was either sought or obtained from the United States. Therefore, all the allegations regarding scientific research in connexion with defence matters and atomic energy are completely misleading. I particularly direct the attention of honorable members to the first paragraph of the report that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th July, 1948. That paragraph stated -
The United States, it is understood, has in the last year shown reluctance to reveal atomic research secrets to Australian scientists.
That statement is completely false and is devoid of any foundation whatever, and similar statements which appeared in the press at that time hi’p equally false. Whilst it is true that those statements have been repeated in the press of other countries, that simply bears out the contention that I have advanced on previous occasions when the subject of the secret documents has been discussed ; that is, the Opposition parties and the press of this country have a great deal for which to answer. They have not only worked the poison cart in the Parliament and the Dress of this country, but spread also to the uttermost portions of the earth falsehoods concerning the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It would have been a miracle, therefore, if the confidence of other nations in the integrity of our scientific research institutions had not been shaken. I repeat again that those reports and allegations are completely false and without foundation. I shall quote now from reports which have appeared in the press of other countries. The following item appeared in the Dublin Evening Herald of the 24th July, 194’S:-
The Australian Cabinet is expected to discuss the United States’ attitude to atomic energy research when it meets on August 2. says the Associated Press.
I remember meeting representatives of the press in my room immediately prior to the meeting of Cabinet referred to in that report, and their having asked m«whether the Cabinet intended to discuss the matter at its meeting. I told them that I knew nothing about any such intention, and I pointed out that as I was the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research I would certainly know something about it if the matter was to be discussed. Yet, notwithstanding my emphatic denial that the matter was to be discussed at the Cabinet meeting - and, in fact, it was not discussed at the Cabinet meeting - the press published that statement and sent it abroad to be published throughout the world. The newspaper excerpt read by the Leader of the Australian Country party indicates that that is the source from which all those quotations sprung. I ask honorable members now to consider the text of that report. It states, “ The Australian Cabinet is expected . . What would the press know about what was expected to be discussed at a Cabinet meeting? Obviously, its speculation in that instance was nothing more than a figment of the imagination. As I have said, I denied the suggestion at the time, and in actual fact, the matter was not discussed at the Cabinet meeting. I find it rather difficult to explain what is in my mind about the matter, but the press of this country are in the habit of making statements in such a form that they are likely to be believed by those who read them. The first part of the statement is clear and distinct : “The Australian Cabinet is expected to discuss . . . “. Of course, its expectation was entirely wrong and without foundation. But the ordinary reader of such a statement might very well accept it as being true because it is couched in terms that suggest truth. Having inspired the confidence of its readers in the truth of the report by the wording of the first portion of it, the newspaper then proceeded to state as if it were a fact - “. . . the United States’ attitude to atomic energy, when it meets on the 2nd August “. Honorable members will realize the subtlety, skill and cunning which the newspaper used in its endeavour to inculcate in the minds of its readers the idea that certain suggestions were facts, whereas it must have known that those suggestions had no foundation at all. Let us examine another portion of the statement, which is as follows : -
A later report from Canberra said that several leading Australian scientists had refused to sign security pledges to keep inviolate rocket range and atom bomb secrets.
Note the vagueness of the expression, “ A later report from Canberra “. Could anything be more vague and indefinite? Note also the expression “ several leading Australian scientists “ ! The newspaper carefully avoided mentioning any names ‘ at that stage. Here I throw out a challenge to the Acting Leader of the Opposition to repeat outside the House some of the statements he has made inside it about Sir David Rivett and other officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Let him go outside the House and lay himself open to a charge of libel.
– I made no statement concerning Sir David Rivett.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! Mr. Deputy Speaker has laid it down clearly that no interjections will be tolerated, and that action will be taken against any honorable member who continues to offend. 1 shall enforce observance of his instruction.
– If I remember correctly, the Acting Leader of the Opposition quoted from a newspaper a report to the same effect as that which appeared in an overseas newspaper that I shall read. I remind the honorable gentleman that he would not escape the legal consequences of his utterances outside the House by quoting from a newspaper. Let me examine further the text of the statement that I have just read, which is as follows : -
A later report from Canberra said.
Ofcourse, that does not state who made the report, and obviously it could be the product of someone’s imagination. The report continued - . . that several leading Australian scientists had refused to sign security pledges to keep inviolate rocket range and atom bomb secrets.
The ordinary reader might think that some scientists had actually refused to sign pledges, and would therefore believe the latter part of the sentence to be true. The fact is that the United States has never given us any information about rocket range secrets, and that we have never asked for it. Our agreement in relation to guided weapons research is with the Government of the United Kingdom. That work has never been any concern of the United States of America. We have never sought any information from that country on the subject, and we have never been refused such information. Therefore, the latter part of the sentence that I have quoted is sheer misrepresentation. How could “Australian scientists “, meaning scientists employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, refuse to keep guided weapons testing range and atom bomb secrets inviolate when, in fact, they have never had anything to do with the guided weapons testing range ? Not one officer of the council has had anything to do with the experiments. Nevertheless, that paragraph subtly conveyed the impression that the council was closely linked in some way with the guided weapons project in South Australia. In spite of what they have been told, honorable members opposite persist in repeating a deliberate lie. Therefore, I must assert once more that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has never been associated with the work that is being carried out at the guided weapons testing range in Australia. It was never intended to be connected with that work, and it will not have any connexion with it in the future. That is the situation in connexion with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the guided weapons project. The reports that I have quoted are taken from overseas newspapers. The poison has been deliberately spread beyond Australia in order to undermine the confidence of peoples in other countries in the integrity of Australian institutions. There is not the slightest foundation in fact for any of those reports. The article from which I have quoted continued -
The Sydney Sun’s Canberra correspondent said that these scientists included the Council’s Chairman, Sir David Rivett, whose attitude was “ not based on any political group, but is derived from a high ethical stand that integrity in science cannot flourish side by side with secrecy “.
No officer employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and no member of the council, which includes Sir David Rivett, has ever refused to sign any pledge of secrecy in relation to work that has been undertaken by the council. Therefore, that statement also is a complete fabrication. There is not a scintilla of truth in it. An examination of all of the other reports on this subject published in overseas newspapers would produce the same result. All of them emanated from Australia, doubtless at the instigation of members of the Opposition. The very speed with which honorable members opposite hasten to support the press allegations with their observations in this House shows that they are very closely concerned with the obvious motive of the Australian press, which has sought to arouse in the minds of the people here and abroad distrust of this Government’s activities in relation to defence scientific research. I refer to another overseas newspaper report. This one is taken from the Evening Mail of Dublin of the 24th July. It states -
The United States is maintaining a ban on the flow of atomic research information to Australia and is insisting that even data supplied to Britain must not be passed on to Australia, according to usually reliable sources here.
Once again, the vague nature of the allegations is apparent from the vagueness of the report itself. It refers to “ usually reliable sources “. That might mean the Communist party or it might mean members of the Opposition in this House, because the only leakage that has ever been alleged to have occurred from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research I emphasize the phrase “ alleged to have occurred “ was through the Leader, of the Australian Country party. I repeat that, although the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research handled work of a highly confidential nature during the war years, not one leakage occurred nor has any occurred since I became Minister in charge of the Council in 1941. I can say the same thing of the Department of Defence. Since I became Minister for Defence in 1946, there has not been one leakage from the department of scientific information or any other kind of information. I understand that there have never been any leakages from the department, but naturally I am competent to vouch only for the period during which I have been Minister for Defence. Thus, all of the allegations by newspapers and by honorable members opposite that Australia cannot be trusted are founded on false premises. They have sprung from the desire of the press of Australia and of members of the Opposition evidently to foul their own nest. They have done this country irreparable harm.
I refer now to a charge that was made by the Leader of the Australian Country party. After quoting a number of statements from the press, he , said that on nooccasion had the Prime Minister or any other Minister denied the truth of the allegations that had been made. If I devoted myself to the correction of all inaccuracies and misleading statements that appear in the press, I should not have any time left for other work. However, the assertion that no Minister denied the allegations is untrue. I denied the allegations as long ago as the 29th July. Ifquotedfrom the following report in the Melbourne Herald: -
The Government was taking all constitutionalsteps to protect Australia’s interests. Mr. Dedman would not comment on reports that the Aeronautical Research Laboratory of the Council for Scientificand IndustrialResearch might betransferred to the Defence Department.
There was no truth in a Sydney report that Australian scientistshad refused to sign atomic secrecypledges.
I made that clear statement at least three months ago. Yet honorable members opposite persist in declaring in this House that Australian scientists have refused to sign pledges of secrecy!
– Yes, but I also made a statement in this House. If the honorable member would remain wide awake all the time he would hear what is said in this chamber. In the same statement I said -
If there is any truth in the allegation that certain authorities in the UnitedStates and the United Kingdom are doubtful about the trustworthiness of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the press and the Opposition in Parliament hare contributed to that situation by giving undue space to speculative reports about the strength of Communist influence in Australia.
Our security organization is effective and no indication hasbeen given that any secrets have ever leaked out of Australia through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research or any other public department.
That statement still stands to-day. Honorable members opposite have not been able to bring forward one shred of evidence that any secret or confidential information which has come to this country has been divulged to the Communists or to any one not entitled to it, with the single exception of the information alleged to be contained in thetwodocuments quoted from by the Leader , of the Australian Country party,for the disclosure of which be alone was responsible. The second paragraph of the censure motion reads -
The refusal of the Government to admit or deny the following allegations made in this House and elsewhere . . .
The Prime Minister has dealt very satisfactorily with that aspect of the motion. I do not believe that a Minister should be put in the position of having either to denyor to affirm the truth of any allegation that may be made in regard to confidential matters. If he were placed in such a position it could quite easily happen that the Opposition might obtain information relating to some highly secret matter, such as secret defence work, mention it in this House, andthen say to the Ministerconcerned,” I challenge the Minister to deny or to affirm that such and such is the case “. Immediately the Minister would be placed in the position that if he denied the statement his denial would indicate to a possible enemy that secret defence scientific work of a certain kind was not being carried on in this country. On the other hand, if he affirmed the statement, his affirmation would indicate to an enemy that that particular kind of defence work was being undertaken in Australia. No Minister should be put in the position of having to deny or to affirm the truth of any allegation or statement made by the Opposition merely because it was made in this House. As I have already said, the Prime Minister dealt very ably with that aspect of the motion.
The third paragraph of the motion states that the Government is deserving of censure because of -
The conduct of the Government, through responsible Ministers, in giving inaccurate and misleading information to this House and to the country in relation to each of the abovementioned allegations.
I repeat what I have said in this House on previous occasions. I have gone through all the statements which I made in this House in relation to these matters and I would not withdraw one of them today. I stand by every statement that I have made in this House.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– The honorable mem<ber for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who will have his turn presently, will find it very difficult to prove that there has been any inconsistency in the statements I have made. Being himself an expert in inconsistency, the honorable member probably hopes to discover a similar failing in others. I am indebted to the Acting Leader of the Opposition for having quoted a number of statements that I have made in this House regarding research in atomic energy. I stand by every one of the statements which the honorable member quoted this morning, and by every statement which I have made in this House on this subject. I have nothing to withdaw in respect of any of them. I have neither accidentally nor deliberately misled the House in any way whatever. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for it9 indulgence. I’ shall not detain honorable members any longer than I can help. I again challenge honorable members opposite to prove that any statement. that T have made has been misleading.
The fourth paragraph of the motion states that the Government is deserving of censure because of -
The failure of the Government to take any -effective steps whatsoever to combat the general menace of communistic and subversive activities in the country, as a result of which top-secret information from the United States of America vital to the welfare and security -of the Australian people, including information relating to bacteriological warfare and methods to combat it, have been or are in grave danger of being withheld.
Note once again the vague, indefinite character of the charge made. Opposition members are not able to show that any information has been withheld. The motion refers to information which has :been or is in grave danger of being withheld. Honorable members opposite are not able to say definitely that any information has been withheld. Information relating to atomic energy projects and guided weapons and other defence scientific research projects has not been withheld in any way. That disposes of that branch of the argument advanced by honorable members opposite What information can they possibly possess which enables them to say that we are in grave danger of information being withheld? Can they produce one scintilla of evidence to prove that we are in grave danger of information being withheld? If Ministers could only divulge information in their possession relating to certain happenings in Australia at the present time they could dispose of all the arguments of the Opposition in a fraction of a second ; but, for security reasons, they are not at liberty to do so. The Opposition has not adduced any evidence t:> prove the allegation that there is grave clanger of information being withheld. That paragraph of the motion was formulated in the same way as were pres.statements in regard to this matter First, those responsible for framing the motion or the press statements commence by saying something that might be true in the hope that those who read what they have written might say, “ The first part looks as though it might be true : therefore the second part might also bt- true “. That is the subtle method b? which honorable members opposite have endeavoured to instil their ideas in. the minds of their listeners.
The last part1 of the motion States that the Government is deserving of censure for having failed to take effective steps to combat the general menace of communistic and subversive elements in the country. That, of course, is quite untrue. The Government has taken very strong measures to protect the guided weapons range iii central Australia. Those measures are regarded as completely satisfactory by all those responsible for the project. Adequate security measures have also been, taken to protect all defence scientific projects. The Prime Minister hat indicated that when he was in London in 1946 it was agreed that this country should lighten the burden of defence on the United Kingdom Government by undertaking certain defence scientific re- search projects in Australia. The first of these projects was the guided weapon* range. Others are now under consideration. The Leader of the Aus- tralian Country party mentioned scientific research projects dealing with bacteriological and biological warfare. Opposition members have approached this matter of security in a tentative manner. First, they claimed that Australia was being denied information on atomic research. That is completely untrue, as has been stated many times. The only person who was carrying out atomic research work in this country - and that is of a fundamental character only - was Professor Martin, of the University of Melbourne. He has made it clear that there was nothing secret or confidential about his work. Therefore, in regard to atomic research, the Opposition has been completely off the track. Then honorable members opposite mentioned the guided weapons testing range. [ have shown that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has nothing whatever to do with that project. Having failed on those two scores, Opposition members now turn their attention to bacteriological warfare, and the Leader of the Australian Country party has mentioned also biological warfare. He read lengthy extracts from scientific “journals. Obviously, there could not have been any great secrecy about the matter otherwise be would not have been able to obtain so much information about it. Australia has never undertaken any scientific research of a defence character on either of those two subjects. Therefore, the references to them by the Opposition may be placed in the same category as their references to atomic research and the guided weapons testing range. What we may do in the future, >f course, is another matter, but the fact remains that so far we have not undertaken any research work on bacteriological or biological warfare. Therefore, it was not possible for any information to have been withheld from us on those subjects. We cannot possibly cover the whole field of defence scientific research in this country. Our experience following World War II. has been that we have not the necessary scientists in this country to undertake research work in those fields. But there does here arise a problem to which I have referred on previous occasions. It may be said by the Opposition that some of the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in other fields has had a defence value. For instance, honorable members opposite have, on one or two occasions, asked me as Minister in charge of the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, questions relating to experimental work on the destruction of rabbits by the injection of disease-producing virus. It may be argued that should the council succeed in discovering a virus which would destroy rabbits by spreading disease, the discovery might be turned to some use in scientific warfare. There may be some basis for that argument, and it may be that, sooner or later, the Government will have” to decide whether or not all the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will have to be treated as confidential because, at any time, a discovery might be made which would have a defence value. ] repeat, however, that although the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is doing certain work on bacteriology and economic entomology in an endeavour to discover germs or insects which could be used to combat pests, and that work might conceivably lead to some discovery which would have a defence value, that is not what the Opposition has in mind. It is not defence scientific research. Honorable members opposite are referring specifically to defence scientific research work in the field of bacteriology and biology, and up to the present, this country has not engaged in any research of that kind at all. What may happen in the future, of course, remains to be seen.
I shall not weary the House with lengthy observations on communism. The attitude of the Australian Labour party to the Communist party is well known. The Australian Labour party has nothing in common with the Communist party. Communists are denied membership of the Australian Labour party. In fact, all the evidence indicates that the Communists are out to destroy the Australian. Labour party because they know that that party is a much stronger bastion of democracy than is the Liberal party. Only last night I attended the inaugural meeting of a political campaign in my home city of Geelong. There are three candidates in the field, a Liberal party candidate, a Labour party candidate, and a Communist party candidate. This is not the first occasion on which there has been a Communist candidate in my electorate. On two previous occasions. Communists have been in the field against me. However, all the evidence shows that the Communist party sponsors candidates in an effort to defeat, not the Liberal party candidate, but the Australian Labour party candidate. There is ample proof that the Government has taken adequate steps to safeguard all information in this country from the Communists and equally from the Liberal party. I repeat that the only allegation that has been made of a leakage of information, is that relating to the two documents which, by some means, came into the hands of the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– I am rather at a loss to follow the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman). He is a man of great ingenuity and resource and he achieves success by evading the points that have been made by his opponents. He said, in one of his early sentences, that he’ had never heard more lies in this Parliament than he had heard’ this afternoon from the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The Minister does himself a great injustice. Had he listened to his own speech, he would have had no difficulty at all in deciding that he had capped everything that he thought the Leader of the Australian Country party had achieved in this direction. Before coming to the real issue before the House, I shall deal with one or two of the points that the Minister raised. Like the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley)-, the Minister treated us to a long discourse on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I do not propose to follow him through that labyrinth. Time after time he leads us on a personally conducted tour, like those staged in Moscow to show visitors everything that has been arranged for them to see and nothing that they want to see. I shall not bother about that, because it is not the point at issue. The Minister talked about the press. The Leader of the Australian Country party quoted a number of reputable journals of this country and of Great Britain to support the arguments that he was advancing. The Minister said that the allegations were unqualified lies and inven tions, as he would show. He was not very successful in doing so. He also said that he had called the attention of the editors of some of these newspapers from which’ the Leader of the Australian Country party quoted, to the fact that the statements which they had made were baseless. I leave that matter, because it has nothing to do with the case, and I come to the gravamen of the charges which the Leader of the Australian Country party has made.
The right honorable gentleman said that at a meeting in London on the 8th July,, the Prime Minister was told, or heard either in Cabinet or elsewhere from somebody, that the British Government had been informed that the United States of America was reluctant to pass on its atomic secrets to Australia, because government departments here were staffed or honeycombed by Communists. The right honorable gentleman quoted from some documents, which, he said, were genuine official documents. The position from which the Government must extricate itself may be stated briefly. A charge has been made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party that the Prime Minister assured the authorities in the United Kingdom that he would take every reasonable step to adjust the situation in Australia so that the United States could, with confidence, pass on its atomic secrets to this country, but that he did not do so. The whole matter rests there. If the documents from which the right honorable gentleman quoted are genuine official papers, and if they are, as they purport to be, records of what took place in London or elsewhere, the Government stands convicted of a grave dereliction of duty. Everything turns on this point: are the documents genuine? The matter of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on which the Minister laid so much emphasis does not immediately arise. The only question which has to be answered is whether the documents are genuine. The people, who are the jury in the case, will desire enlightenment on that point. The question whether the documents were, stolen or forged, whatever that may mean, is immaterial to this point.
I do not, for a moment, question the right of the Government to discover any member of the Public Service who ha3 been a party to the removal of these official documents, if they are official, or who has betrayed the confidence which was reposed in him. Every member of the Public Service is bound by regulations not to disclose information which he may gather in the course of his duties and which may be regarded as confidential. The penalty for the breach of that regulation is dismissal from the Public Service. The question before the House is not how did the documents come into the possession of the Leader of the Australian Country party, but whether they are genuine and whether the statements they contain are true. The right honorable gentleman who has the documents believes that they are genuine and that the statements they contain are true, but from the moment he made his charges in this chamber on the 30th September last, the Government has endeavoured to distract the attention of the people from them by talking about stolen or forged documents. The right honorable gentleman, despite threats, has repeated his charges to-day. I have said that the Government is perfectly justified in endeavouring to discover how the documents disappeared, if they did disappear, but whilst a public servant is under an obligation to maintain secrecy, it is the plain duty of a member of the Parliament to protect the interests of the community, whose servant he is, by making the fullest use of any information that comes to him from any quarter, if he considers that it will be of service to the public. It is necessary for me to remind honorable members and the people that in this matter, this parliamentary institution has been assailed and its privileges violated by the Leader of the Government. It is the right and the duty of an honorable member to make use of any information which he considers will be of benefit to the community, no matter from what quarter it comes, and it is his plain duty not to be deterred by threats from making his information available to the people.
Are the documents genuine? If they ure, the Government stands condemned. The Leader of the Australian Country party believes that they are genuine and that the statements in them are true. He rests his case on the documents. If they are genuine and the statements in them are true, his charges are fully proved. If they are not true, there has been much ado about nothing. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence do not directly deny that the statements in the documents are true. This afternoon, the Minister for Defence stated that the Government should not be compelled to reply to allegations made in regard to confidential matters of importance and affecting the interests of the country. This is clearly an admission that the statements in the docu-ments are true. The Prime Minister does not directly deny that they are true, but evades the issue by ambiguities and irrelevancies designed to create the impression that they are not true, and that the whole matter is a deliberate attempt by the Opposition to discredit and defame the Government. That is what the Prime Minister said this afternoon. I venture to say that, in the face . of the facts contained in the statements ‘ published in the press of the world, the, Prime Minister has adopted a subterfuge that will deceive nobody. If the statements made in the documents from which the Leader of the Australian Country party has quoted are not true, what ‘ is the Government worrying about ? “Why is the Government so anxious to find out who stole the documents or forged them, whatever that may mean? If the documents are not genuine, then they were not worth either stealing or forging. They are worthless, and the Prime Minister can afford to ignore them or treat them with contempt. But the right honorable gentleman acts very differently. He is, or professes to be, greatly concerned about the theft of those worthless papers; and ever since the Leader of the Australian Country party quoted from them the Prime Minister has put on a stage-show, and has postured before the footlights as the vigilant guardian of the people’s morals. He has declared his intention to discover the person who stole the documents, and some time ago he announced with portentous solemnity’ that he had referred the matter to the Commonwealth Investigation Service, or, in other words, to the Commonwealth police. I invite honorable members and the people of Australia to note the movements of the Commonwealth police. As honorable members know, there was no hush-hush business about the movements of the police. They worked in the spotlight. All that they said and did was blazoned to the world, through the press in double-leaded columns, and was repeated over the air many times. The Australian people breathlessly awaited further developments, and those followed in rapid succession. Two officers of the Commonwealth police found their way into the room in Parliament House occupied by the Leader of the Australian Country party and questioned him. They asked him to hand over the documents, and to tell them where he got them. He refused to discuss the matter, and in the end they retired baffled. All this was given the widest publicity. The press . starred it and the radio stations blared it out to the wide world. The Prime Minister then gave a life-like imitation of a man ‘bitterly disappointed by the refusal of the Leader of the Australian Country party to co-operate with him-
– He did not.
-He did. I consider that the Prime Minister deserves much credit in one sense. He has done very well what he set out to do, and that was to create a situation that would distract public attention from the charges levelled against him and his Government. He endeavoured to create the impression that all that has happened is that someone has stolen a. document, and he avers that he intends to find the person responsible. He marshalled his police and they visited the Leader of the Australian Country party. The policemen did not, believe for a moment that the right honorable gentleman would have the document in his room. Their visit was all part of the stage-show. After the Prime Minister had given his life-like imitation of a bitterly disappointed man, he hinted at further and more drastic steps that would be taken in the matter. All honorable members are very earnest about this matter, unlike the Minister for Defence who has said he does not desire to withdraw anything he ever said. What an amazing man he is. The years pass by and he does not wish to withdraw or modify anything he ever said. He says he is perfectly satisfied with all his past utterances. He seeks to give the impression that nothing that he touches has those imperfections that mar the work of ordinary men. He is the perfect man. Ecce homo ! Behold the man ! There are men in this House who would give the world to be able to withdraw what they have said at one time or another. The Leader of the Australian Country party quoted a statement made by the Prime Minister. If the right honorable gentleman could withdraw that statement, how happy he would be.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney would have a busy time were he to withdraw all the statements that he now regrets having made.
– If it came to a showdown, what I would have to withdraw would be as nothing compared with what the Minister would have to withdraw. The Minister is in his present position by virtue of the fact that he has carried out my policy, which he denounced for 25 years. He has not a leg to stand on. Let me remind the House once again that the charges made by the Leader of the Australian Country party are that the Prime Minister, having been told while in London that America would not pass its atomic research secrets on to Australia because it was afraid that Communists in the Public Service or the Government would pass them on to Russia ; and having assured those to whom he spoke in London, or who spoke to him, that he would take steps to adjust that position by weeding out the Communists he has done nothing. The Government all this time has been searching for the person who stole the document.
– Who did it?
– If the honorable gentleman will come to my place when I am there during ordinary hours I shall tell him who did it.
– That is a bet.
– Order! The Minister for Information must maintain silence.
– The reason why America was reluctant to pass atomic research information on to Australia was because it feared that there were Communists in high places in the Australian Government or its agencies, or in places where secrets could be obtained and passed on to Russia. That is the history of this affair up to date. I ask the Government what its attitude to communism is. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is not at present in the chamber, said that the attitude of the Labour party towards communism was well known. I ask, what is that attitude?
– What is it? What is the attitude of the Prime Minister? Let me remind honorable gentlemen opposite of what communism is. I shall quote from a pamphlet that I wrote in 1940. Equally effectively for my purpose I could quote from pamphlets that I wrote when I was the leader of some militant industrial organization in this country ; but this is what I said in 1940 -
What is the Communist party trying to do? Some people seem to think that it is just another political party, seeking to put ite policy into effect by gaining victories at the ballot-box. Nothing can be further from the truth. The free institutions and ideals of Australia mean nothing to the Communist. He poses as their champion only to deceive, to demoralize a people whom he intends to destroy. He is working for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat by violence, by revolution, that is to say. in the words of Lenin, by “ a relentless struggle waged with bloodshed . . a war a hundred times more difficult, more long drawn out, more complicated than the most bloodthirsty war which could be possible between nations “.
The other day Mr. Burns blurted out something for which he is now secluded in one of those commodious and wellventilated gaols in Queensland. But he is not the only pebble on the beach. My quotation continues -
The Communist party is a secret organization. Only a few of its leaders are known, but Mr. Miles, the general secretary, recently took the people of Australia into his confidence. They are at war fighting for their lives. He told them just what his party stood for in this great struggle. It was a revelation. He said: “ Should England become involved in a war against Russia, Australian -Communists will side with Russia and do everything in their power to guarantee her victory “. Asked point blank the meaning of “ everything in their power “, Mr. Miles replied that the term could be considered as “ embracing all practical measures in a given situation “.
We are at war. Everything we value, material and spiritual, is at stake. For the moment, although she is an ally of Germany, we are not at war with Russia. Rut the Communist party is doing all that it can to hamper our war efforts by propaganda for the classwar, by fomenting industrial strife, by sowing the seeds of disunity amongst the people and preparing the way .for the revolution. In peace and in. war it works tirelessly to destroy us.
And so much Mr. Dixon - this agent of Stalin - calmly admits. Only by violence, by revolution, can the Dictatorship of the Proletariat be established. He is sorry, but there is no other way. The sheep will not stretch out their necks to the butcher nor submit to be shorn without a struggle. He is sorry, but he is going on with his preparations for the revolution, white-anting the unions, fomenting industrial strife, hampering Australia’s war efforts, working to destroy us and our liberties.
I said that in 1940. I followed it up by banning the Communists. I ask those who are championing the attitude of the Minister who does not want to withdraw anything that he ever said, who is perfectly satisfied with everything he has ever done and who regards the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as a heaven-sent, -organization functioning especially for his honour and glory, what has he- ever done to combat communism? What is the attitude of the honorable gentleman? Communism is out to destroy everything that we value. Communism is Russia and Russia is communism. Communists are operating in almost every country in the world. Yet the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said recently that communism was not an issue in this country and was not a threat to this country. He said that in the face of the public declaration of the Labour party that it was going to purge its ranks of Communists. Apparently the Minister for Information, who shakes his head, does not hear all the words of wisdom that fall from the lips of his colleague. Every one knows the position to-day. Communism has shown both internationally and nationally that it is a menace to everything that we cherish and value. There is a coal strike. Who is responsible for that? The Communists are responsible. My old friend Baddeley, who can stand a great deal from the miners because he was a miner himself says that the agents of a foreign power working in our midst are responsible for the great industrial upheavals that occur in Australia. What is this foreign power? It is communism. Mr. Baddeley is going to stand up to the Communists. But what is te Prime Minister going to do? What is his attitude towards communism ? I put it to the right honorable gentleman that communism is a great world menace. But he has not even denounced it. He has not paid that lipservice to the Labour party that is its plain due. He should denounce communism ; he should combat it. He should ban its members or, at any rate, denounce them. He does nothing. No wonder Pravda, the official organ of the Soviet in Moscow, eulogizes him. Then we are told that the Labour party is in no danger from communism. There is not one man on the Government side of the House who, if he were placed on his oath, could deny that everything he stands for is in deadly peril from Communists. I look to the great industrial organizations of this country to assert themselves. I am not one who has shrunk from industrial conflict. I have been in it and know all about it. There was a time when we had to deal with men with the same background as ourselves. Now we are dealing with foreign agents with absolutely nothing in common with us, who are plotting and planning in our midst to overthrow us and are using the Government as a steppingstone to that end and who use words designed to deceive in order more readily to destroy us. What is the Government going to do about it ? What is it going to do about the coal strike? Words alone will not suffice, action is called for imperatively. What is the Government going to do? It cannot deny that it has the authority to act. The Joint Coal Board was establishedunder the joint auspices of the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth. What is the Government going to do? I come back to where I started from. The Government is charged by the motion with having failed to do its plain duty and with having failed to take those steps that are essential for the defence of this country. It has sold out. It is afraid. Governments ought to govern but this one dares not govern the country as it ought to be governed. It has flinched from functioning as a government. The Communists of Australia are now governing it. The Minister for Defence talks to me, but let him talk to Thornton, Healy, Elliott, Idress Williams, and see what they say. Those are the men who have the authority and those are the men with whom we expect the Government to deal. But it does nothing. Enough has already been said about the atomic bomb, but I remind honorable members of the position existing to-day. I thought that I” should not live to see the day when I would thank God for the atomic bomb, but that is my thought at the moment, and I shall continue to thank God so long asRussia does not possess it. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) in his ordinary avocation is all for America. I point out that he cannot leave the atomic bomb out of his considerations. If Russia has the atomic bomb, the guilt of this Government is a thousand times worse, since the United States of America is reluctant to share atomic secrets with us because we have Communists in our government departments. The charge against the Government, as stated by the righthonorable the Leader of the Australian Country party, has proved that the Government has failed to take the steps necessary to protect the interests of this country; has failed to do anything at all to curb the power of the Communist forces in our midst; and, as the motion states, is deserving of the severest censure.
– The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– In spite of what the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said, this Government has no charge from which to extricate itself. The Opposition parties, however, are faced with the impossible task of convincing the Australian people that they are not the defenders of thieves or forgers. Although they have had a chance to clear themselves, they have failed to do so. They stand condemned. Their sins are’ sins of both commission and omission. Regardless of what any honorable member opposite may say to-day, the Australian people expect their representatives in the Parliament - whether they he on the Opposition side of the House, or on the Government side - to assist the elected government of the country to preserve governmental secrets. There is no justification for any honorable member using any secret information in the Parliament on the pretext of advancing the nation’s good, if he knows in his heart that the disclosure of that information will do his country harm. Honorable members opposite were only concerned with telling a story to the Australian people for the purpose of trying to snatch a little political advantage. They were quite indifferent to the harm it might do to the prestige of this country, or to what the fate of the nation would be if the American or British people should decide to withhold certain vital information from the elected representatives of the people of Australia.
T am reminded of what happened in 1915, when the Ryan Government of Queensland decided to float a loan in England. The tories of the day sent Mr. Philp and Mr. Walsh to London to cry “ stinking fish “ in order to try and damage the Queensland Government and to prevent it from getting the money that it needed to carry on the affairs of that State. By that means it was ‘ hoped to cause financial disaster in Queensland, and to bring about the defeat of the Government, because of its inability to pay its debts. There is a complete analogy between the actions of the tories in Queensland over 30 years ago and the actions of the tories in this Parliament during the last few months. Our modern tories, in trying to belittle the Government, and so to deride it that in the minds of people overseas who may be well-disposed to help Australia, some doubt may be created, as a result of which this Government would be refused defence secrets and other information vital to the security of the nation. Members of the Opposition know that they are in a difficulty. If that wore not so, they would not have brought this motion forward again to-day. If they were quite satisfied in their minds that they were secure in their position, they would certainly not be making an attempt to convince the people that they are right, and to extricate themselves from their self-created difficulties. What have we listened to to-day? Nothing but a re-hash of all of the arguments that were used by the Opposition before - the same discordant notes, from the same old “ rusty bugles “. They have told us nothing fresh and have advanced no new argument. The same old story was told in the same old way. The right honorable member for North Sydney harked back to his illustrious past and tried to tie it to his none-too-illustrious present. He told us of the things that he once said and tried to associate that with his position to-day. There was a time when the right honorable gentleman was a defender of liberty and one of the tribunes of the people. But to-day he has sold the pass. He may talk about what the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) said, but that Minister, politically speaking, is more nearly perfect than is the right honorable member who has dared to criticize him. One would imagine that, if the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite were true, they would have some support somewhere in the world, and that theirs would not be voices crying in the wilderness for the banning of the Communist party. But they are quite alone amongst all the elected representatives of the people in all sections of the British Commonwealth calling out for bans to be placed on that party. When speaking in this House on this subject a few weeks ago, I pointed out that only one part of the British Commonwealth, the Dominion of Canada, had placed a ban on members of the Communist party.
I shall now refer to the American approach to thi9 matter. For the delectation and edification of honorable members opposite, I remind them that President Truman ha?, been re-elected. I am indebted to the Melbourne Argus for a report that that newspaper published on the 7th. June. I cited this report before, on the 7th September. It reads as follows : -
The only way the United States of America could defeat communism at home and abroad was to produce more and better democracy, said President Truman in his first major speech on his western tour. He made a strong but indirect attack on the Mundt-Nixon bill, how before Congress, that would virtually outlaw the Communist party. ‘” You cannot stop the spread of an idea by passing a law against it”, he said.
Those are President Truman’s words. He continued -
The best weapons with which to fight communism are laws fulfilling the rights of the little men to homes, health, schooling, security, good jobs, fair wages and brakes on inflation.
President Truman polled approximately 22,000,000 votes in the American presidential elections held only the day before yesterday. He did not advocate something different from what his opponent, Governor Dewey, advocated. In the course of his speeches in the election campaign just concluded, Governor Dewey referred to the subject of communism in the following terms : -
We will keep informed and we will keep American people informed who Communists are, where they are, and .what they are up to. If they - or if any one else - break our laws against treason, they’ll get traitors’ treatment. If they engage in sabotage or break other laws we’ll jail them. If our laws aren’t adequate, we’ll get ones that are adequate. But in this country we’ll have no thought police. We will not jail anybody for what he thinks or believes. So long as we keep the Communists among us out in the open, in the light of day, the United States of America has nothing to fear from them within its own borders.
Governor Dewey polled approximately 20,000,000 votes. Thus, the two protagonists of the theory that the Communist party should not be banned polled practically every vote that was cast in the presidential elections in the United States of America. The only candidate who stood for the banning of the Communists was the “ Dixiecrat “ candidate, who was all for religious and racial intolerance, and he polled only 750,000 votes. The people of America did not agree with the Mundt-Nixon bill, nor did they agree with the propounders of the Taft-Hartley bill, which proscribed labour disputes and imposed heavy penalties in respect of violations of that law dealing with such disputes. As a matter of fact, 51 of the congressmen who supported the Taft-Hartley bill - and, perhaps, they would be people who also stand for the banning of the Communists - lost their seats in the Congress, because the American people have their feet on the ground-
– What has this to do with the Australian Parliament?
– Honorable members opposite have talked a lot about communism, and I am now telling them what the leaders of the two great political parties in the United . States of America, which is alleged to be refusing to give Australia information about defence, think about banning Communists. Honorable members opposite claimed that if this Government would only ban the Communists, America would make available to us all its information on the atomic bomb. If there were no Communist issue, honorable members opposite would have nothing to talk about. We were amazed at their remarkable silence at question time this morning. I suppose that the result of the presidential elections in America had sent them reeling. Whatever the explanation was, the silence of Dean Maitland had nothing on the silence of honorable members opposite after they heard the result of the American elections. Some months ago, Governor Dewey had a debate with Governor Stassen on the subject of the banning of Communists. Governor Dewey is the representative of big business in America. He was the man whom Wall-street was backing in the American elections, he was the man who was supported by all the reactionary forces in the United States of America. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) wrote a series of articles recently which were published in the capitalist press, and in them he said that if the American scene could be translated to Australia Mr. Truman would be a Labour man. Mr. Dewey, I presume, would be a Liberal; but I do not think that Mr. Dewey would allow himself to be associated with the Liberal party as we know it in this country.
– The right honorable gentleman was impartial; he insulted all the candidates.
– I accept the honorable member’s amendment. In the course, of the debate to which I have referred. Governor Dewey said -
Shall we pass a law outlawing the Co’mmunist party? Now. I suppose if you say, “ Lot’s outlaw the Communist party and preserve our liberties “, and if you say it fast enough and don’t think, it seems to make sense. But, my friends, it makes no sense. You cannot do both, and no nation in all the history of the world ever succeeded in doing it … I believe in keeping the Communist party everlastingly out in the open so- we can defeat it and all it stands for.
Governor Dewey referred to the report of the committee on un-American activities, and quoted from that report as follows : -
The Communist party was illegal and outlawed in Russia when lt took over control of the Soviet Union. The fact is that the Czars of Russia were the first people in the world to follow this idea of outlawing the Communist party. They whipped them and they drove them to Siberia, they shot them, they outlawed them, and in the very year, 1017, Lenin and Trotsky were exiles, and what was the result?
The committee reached this conclusion -
The committee on un-American activities has been cited by honorable members opposite in this House as their authority for the banning of communism in this country. Governor Dewey went on to say-
For 25 years, Mussolini outlawed the Communists, and they grew and flourished underground despite their punishment and their exile and their shooting. As a result, four weeks ago the Communists and their allies polled more than 30 per cent, of the vote in the recent Italian election. In all of Nazi Europe the Communists were underground, and they emerged at the end of the war so strong that they were popular heroes. The French Maquis and others almost seized power in the governments of Europe at the end of this war because of the enormous strength that came to them from being underground.
He then made this very significant statement -
Czechoslovakia is another example.
It is perfectly obvious that on historical grounds there is no justification for hoping for success against communism by merely driving Communists underground.
– The Russians were responsible for the rise of communism in Czechoslovakia.
– Governor Dewey says that the Communists in Czechoslovakia emerged so strong at the end of the war that they took over the Government of that country, and that they became so powerful because they had been driven underground during the war.
– They became powerful because the Russians were in control of the country.
– The honorable member may disagree with Governor Dewey, but he cannot say that Governor Dewey is in favour of banning the Communists or that he is a friend of the Communists. The Leader of the Opposition has been praising Governor Dewey and has been telling Australians and Americans all about Governor Dewey’s prospects at the American election. He has been going so much “ all over “ Dewey and so enthusiastic about him that the press of America has written him up as the “ Dewey of Australia “. The prophecy of the Leader of the Opposition about Governor Dewey’s election prospects simply maintains his record for 100 per cent, inaccuracy as a political prophet. Governor Dewey just did not win. It would be improper for me to comment upon the result bf the American presidential election. It is purely the domestic concern of the American people; but I am entitled to draw my own conclusions from speeches made in the election campaign in America because of their relationship to this debate.
– Not to mention the mischievous effect upon Australian and American relations, of Mr. Menzies’s comments.
– When he was in the United States of America, the Leader of the Opposition delivered a number of speeches that did not conduce to better relations between ourselves and the Americans. When the right honorable gentleman went to Canada, he talked about an Empire secretariat that the Canadians did not want, and that did not improve relations between Canada and Australia. When the right honorable gentleman was in Britain, he did a few other things. This is all by the way. In view of what has been said and written ° recently, I think that I am entitled to make a passing reference to the sinister influence of press commentators and professional “pollsters” or whatever they call themselves, who deliberately seek to create an artificial public opinion infavour of reactionary causes. There mayhave been intelligent assessments of the probable result of the American presidential elections, but I looked in vain for them in most of the Australian newspapers. The Australian public was told that President Truman did not have a chance of election, that two out of every three Americans would vote for Governor Dewey, and that the latter’s majority in the electoral college would be at least three to one. Both those gentlemen, who are the leaders of the two biggest political parties in the United States of America, have not placed anything on record that could be used as an argument in support of this motion. We have watched American politics and the trend of public opinion in that country, because it is important to us. Our association and friendship with America are of vital importance to our future as a nation.
– The Government slaps the Americans in the face as often as it can.
– We do nothing of the kind.
– What about the “Manila girls”?
– I repeat that we do nothing of the kind. If any criticism of our conduct towards the United States of America is to be offered it will come with much more effect from the representative of the United States of America in this country and not from people who deliberately try to poison the relationship that exists between the two countries. Most honorable gentlemen opposite would not be able to find a place in American politics, on the Communist issue or any other issue, if they went there. Most of them would not even be accepted into the right wing of the Conservative party of Great Britain. They are too reactionary even for that.
– The exception in the United States of America would be the Ku-Klux-Klan.
– I have not the slightest doubt that if the members of the Australian Country party were in the United States of America they would all bc “ Dixiecrats “.
The Liberal party and the press of Australia talk a lot- about banning the Communist party. Australian newspaper offices are notorious for the fact that they have many Communists on their payrolls. Sir Keith Murdoch employs a lot of them. He does not dismiss them. They are good journalists and he uses them because, to him, they are worth their pay. If there be any honesty in the contention that Communists should be driven out of government employment, then they should be proscribed generally and driven out of all employment. Have the governments of the three States of Australia in which the Liberal party holds sway removed any Communists from State government pay-rolls? Have they dismissed one Communist schoolteacher, of whom there are thousands in Australia? Have they dismissed one Communist railwayman? Have they said to any one of their employees, whether he is employed on an administrative staff or on a professional staff or is numbered amongst the lower-paid workers, that he must give up his job because he is a Communist ? None of them has said that. Nevertheless, in this Parliament the members of the Australian Country party have the audacity to tell us that we should remove the Communists from employment with the Australian Government and ban the Communist party. Members of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party form the government of Victoria. The Communist party has not been banned in that State, although the Victorian Government could introduce legislation to do so to-morrow if it so desired. The members of the Australian Country party speak with two voices. In this Parliament they try to fool the people into believing that they wish communism to be banned, but in the States in which the Australian Country party shares power with the Liberal party they do absolutely nothing in that connexion.
– Yes, they do. They put Communists in charge of their restaurants.
– That is news to me, and I am the Minister for Information. At any rate, they certainly do not remove Communists who are in control of restaurants or other places. The people of Australia are sick and. tired of hearing all this talk about communism. Can any honorable member opposite who proposes to speak in the course of this debate produce evidence that any church in Australia has asked for the banning of the Communist party? Did any church in Australia support the Menzies Government when it imposed a “ phoney “ ban on the Communist party in 1940? The right honorable gentleman said to the Communists in effect, “ You no longer exist; there cannot be a Communist party “, but he did nothing to render the Communist party ineffective underground. Did any church in Australia say that the Labour Government was wrong when it lifted that ban? Is any church organization in Australia, large or small, asking for the banning of the Communist party at the present time? The only people who want such a ban are the Ku-Klux-Klan people in the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The Liberal party is not above using Communists and leasing its property to Communists. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said this morning that in Ashstreet, Sydney, the Liberal party has a building which it has owned for 25 years and that it has leased a portion of it to a well-known Communist.
– That is a deliberate lie.
– It is not a lie. It is the truth. I know all about it.
– The Liberal party is a tenant of the building.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Hadley). - The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has described a statement made by the Minister as a deliberate lie. I ask the honorable gentleman to withdraw that remark.
– In deference to you, sir, I withdraw the remark. The fact is that the Liberal party is a tenant of that building.
– The honorable gentleman must withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– I have already done so.
– The newly appointed field force of the Liberal party in New South Wales, that is, its canvassers and organizers, includes at least a half-dozen Communists. Does the
Acting Leader of the Opposition deny that?
– What nonsense!
– It is true.
– Let the Minister give us their names.
– If the honorable gentleman will come to my room afterwards, I shall supply him with the names confidentially.
– Let us have them now.
– A man who is closely associated with the Acting Leader of the Opposition in the Liberal party approached a member of the Communist party and offered him a job, because the Communist is a good organizer.
– What is his name?
– The honorable gentleman will know soon enough. I am prepared to disclose it to him privately. A prominent member of the administrative staff of the Liberal party offered a leading Communist a good position. The Acting Leader of the Opposition knows the man to whom I refer.
– Let us have his name.
– It will come out in due course.
– The Government’s gestapo does something sometimes.
– I ask the Minister to disclose the name of the man to whom he has referred.
– I shall give the honorable gentleman his name afterwards.
– Interruptions from both sides of the chamber are too frequent. Unless they cease, I shall be forced to deal severely with offenders. The Minister must be allowed to make his speech in his own way. He has said to the Acting Leader of the Opposition that if the honorable gentleman goes to his office he will disclose the name of the person to whom he has referred.
– I rise to order. You have used the statement made by the Minister that I should go to his room to receive certain information.
– Order !
– The point of order that I am attempting to make is-
– The honorable gentleman must resume his seat. I did not say that the Acting Leader of the Opposition should go to the Minister’s room. I merely said that he had been invited to go there to obtain the information that the Minister has promised to supply to him. No point of order arises.
– I rise to order again. You, sir, in your capacity as Acting Deputy Speaker of this House, are supposed to be impartial in your dealings with honorable members. I ask you whether you consider that you were acting impartially when you used the words of the Minister for Information relative to a charge that he has made in the House and which he is not prepared openly to substantiate.
– I did not use the words of the Minister. I merely stated that the Minister had invited the honorable gentleman to go to his room so that he might supply him with certain information. My ruling is that no point of order is involved.
– Perhaps members of the Opposition will answer these questions. Is there in Adelaide-street, Brisbane, an office known as Victory Chambers, in which the Brisbane and southern district branches of the Communist party have had their head-quarters for years? Is that building owned by Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited, which owns the Courier-Mail^. Does Sir Keith Murdoch own half of the shares in the Courier-Mail, and also in the building that has been rented to the Communist party for years? Is the money received in rent by Sir Keith Murdoch and others used in endeavours to defeat the Australian Labour party at election times? A lot more could be told, and it will be revealed when the time is opportune. Communism has been exploited as a possible vote-catcher for the last twenty years, and probably more, but it has never succeeded. In spite of the contentions of members of the Opposition, communism in this country is growing not stronger but weaker, both in numbers and influence. In the past it won some support because of its advocacy of the better ment of industrial conditions. It grew in strength during the depression years,, and it is not to be wondered at that people turned to communism when they were surrounded by so much misery, a great deal of which was caused by the antiLabour parties, of which some honorable members opposite were members and supporters. [Extension of time granted.] The Communist party won support in Australia during the war when Russia was attacked in 1941, but it has since lost that support because of its use of industrial action for its own political purposes. It is losing, and will continue to lose, its remaining support, because of the attitude which it has adopted in the present coal strike. That attitude has no relation to the industrial life of the nation but is concerned with the attainment of some other objective entirely unrelated to Australian affairs and the Australian trade union movement. The Australian Labour party has always opposed communism, because it has always stood for liberty. It opposes communism because communism is based on an alien philosophy. It has declared time and again that an unbridgeable gulf exists between Labour and the Communist party. It did not ban the Communist party, as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) did in 1940, and six months later, when Russia was attacked, make a speech and say, “ To my colleagues of the Communist party I say welcome ‘ “. The Labour party does not have to withdraw its declarations, because its attitude has been consistent over the years. It knows where it stands. It does not need the support of- the Communist party, the Liberal party or the Australian Country party. It believes itself to be the expression in our time of the hopes and wishes of the working class and of all those people who depend on salaries and wages for their continued existence and for the happiness of those who depend upon them. The Australian Labour party is a separate party; it rules by its own strength or goes into opposition. It wants no support from other political parties, whether they be large groups or splinter parties. Labour has never apologized for its stand on any matter because, having taken judgment, in its own conscience, it knows what is the right thing to do. All these charges that it encourages communism,. that it is afraid of communism, and that it has done something to forfeit the goodwill of Great Britain and the United States of America are not merely nonsensical, but are also similar to the campaign of deliberate and vicious misrepresentation to which President Truman and his political party were subjected by 95 per cent, of the press of the United States of America, and over which they triumphed. They are a part of a world plot against the cause of democracy. The present Government will survive all the misrepresentations, but its victory, unlike that of President Truman, will not be unexpected. Like President Truman it will triumph because it has the heart and the will of the people behind it. Incidentally, I think that one comment on the American election campaign which I heard has a significance for our local opponents. That comment was : “ Every one was against President Truman except the people “. If the Opposition and the press are right we should believe that every one is against the Australian Government. But our record is clean ; We have maintained the integrity of Australia; we have protected its best interests: and this motion will fail because it deserves to fail. By way of consolation to honorable members opposite I commend to them the words of the burial service taken from the Book of Job, chapter 5, verse 7, which reads -
Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
The Opposition is born unto trouble not only as the sparks fly upward, but also as they fly in all directions.
.- I have never listened to speeches which begged the issue as much as have those made by members of the Government in this debate. The motion itself is clearcut; it impugns the Government for its failure to attend to vital matters concerning the security of the country. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who is one of the most “ heard of “ members of the Government, spent 80 per cent, of the time occupied in making his speech in explaining why the Australian Labour party had done nothing about the Com munists and in attempting to excuse it. If he can explain to the people of Australia why- his party has donenothing in the matter, then he is a better man than I think he is. In the minds of most people there is not the slightest doubt that any threat to this country emanates from the Communists, whose head-quarters are located in Soviet Russia, and who have infiltrated Western Europe, the democracies of Canada and the United States of America, Asia, and even Australia itself. A Minister who takes upon himself the task of explaining why the Government of which he is a member is justified in its failure to counteract the subversive and treasonable activities of the Communists ha9 not only undertaken an uphill task, but has also proved that he is recreant to his duty. Furthermore, he has proved that the Government of which he is a member has no regard for its prime duty to defend the country.
I shall not waste time replying to the irrelevant arguments advanced by the Minister because even he must have felt uncomfortable in endeavouring to explain the inactivity of the Government. He argued that it was significant that Russia, which banned communism in the time of the Czars, became the first Communist country. What on earth that proves I do not know. He also said that Czechoslovakia, which had declared communism to be an illegal organization, had fallen under Communist dominance. Of course, he carefully omitted to state that Czechoslovakia had been under Russian military domination for years, and that it is still under effective military domination. He made no reference to the fact that the people of that country had been subjected to a long campaign of indoctrination, and that the opponents of communism were carefully exterminated by the Russians before even the purported elections were held. Those things have nothing whatever to do with the issue which is before the House. That issue is of prime importance to the National Parliament, as it would be to the parliament of any country in the world. It relates to the security of the country, the survival of Australia as a nation. That overshadows every inter-paTty and other domestic issue. The carefully evasive speeches of Ministers have failed to pull the wool over the eyes of the Opposition, and I am sure that they will fail to bluff the people who hear this broadcast or will read the reports in the newspapers to-morrow. The clear fact is that the Opposition charges the Government, in unequivocal language, with failure to attend to issues concerned with our survival as a free people and with supplying misleading information to this House and the people through the mouths of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and other Ministers. The words “ misleading information” are used in the motion which we are considering and which sets out categorically the allegations which the Opposition makes against the Government. The Government is accused of failure “to take any effective steps whatsoever to combat the general menace of communistic and subversive activities “ in this country.
What answer has been made to those charges? The Prime Minister’s speech was the most highly embellished selfgiven testimonial that I have ever heard a man tender to himself, but it said nothing whatever about the charges against his Government. I shall not be drawn into side issues by allowing the political shrewdness of the Prime Minister and his colleagues to distract my attention from the real issue. No defence or excuse has been offered by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence for having misled the House and the nation and for having left Australia inadequately defended. To leave any democracy inadequately defended is to weaken the whole structure of the defence of the western democracies. The clever, cunning story about a stolen or forged document is mere camouflage. The Prime Minister is to be complimented, if he can be complimented at all, upon his ingenuity in devising a political diversion which has started people talking and thinking about an issue which is distinct from the gravamen of the charge that has been made against his Government. That side issue can be disposed of in a few minutes. Nobody will deny that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said that he quoted from a copy of an official document. The Prime Minister either has possession of all such official documents or has access to them. Even if he had to send a cablegram to the United Kingdom, he could, within 24 hours, say definitely that the document was either forged or genuine. If the right honorable gentleman had declared that the Leader of the Australian Country party had employed a forged document, then, in my opinion, the Leader of the Australian Country party would have been in a very difficult position, or would have been obliged to produce the document from which he quoted.
Why does not the Prime Minister rise and say that the document was a forgery? A school child could deduce the truth from his failure to do so. He has nol said that it is a forgery, because he knows that it is not a forgery. No man in this country, or any other part of the British Empire, knows better than he does that there is no forged document in this issue.
– Is it a stolen document?
– The Minister is shifting his ground. I shall deal with that question.
– Order! The honorable member must be heard in silence. The Minister should set an example in the House.
– This ‘business has been going on for a month or more. The fact that neither the Prime Minister nor any member of the Government competent to speak for him has chosen to say that there is a forged document disposes at once of the possibility that a forged document is involved. Therefore, according to the Prime Minister, there remains only the charge that it is a stolen document. If there is prima facie evidence that it is a stolen document, it is quite within the province of the Government, in my opinion, to make inquiries to ascertain whether there is a leakage of secret documents. However, I have made my position clear regarding the conducting of any inquiry in such a way as to cut across the privileges of this Parliament. If it were ever revealed that the document from which the Leader of the Australian Country party quoted had been stolen, then the Opposition would have to state its attitude on a question of ethics concerning the use of a stolen document. We would be prepared to face that issue.
I’ lit; Prime Minister could have confronted us with it at any time during the last month merely by saying that the Leader of the Australian Country party had quoted from a genuine document. “We arrive at a very curious conclusion if we follow that process of reasoning. Why has not the Prime Minister confronted his political opponents, who have been harrying him for weeks, with the charge that they are employing a stolen document? ,1 say that it is evident that he is, not game to admit that the document is authentic, because such an admission would be an acknowledgment that he had lied to the Parliament and that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) also had lied to the Parliament. That is why. the right honorable gentleman is dodging the issue. I notice that there is no interjection from the Government side of the House in answer to that statement. I go even further than that, and say that the laying of this clever smoke screen about theft or forgery is not really the end of the story. A typist has been dismissed. She has been made a scapegoat, m device which is well known to the unscrupulous. That is not the end of the story either. The document might be forged. The Prime Minister could say “ There is no such official .document “, and that statement would constitute prima facie evidence that it had been forged. Or the right honorable gentleman could say, “ This is a genuine official document “, and upon that prima facie evidence it could be determined that the document had been stolen. But a third alternative is that some person in proper possession of the document had released its contents. That is a circumstance not unknown in British political history. In comparatively recent years two British Chancellors of the Exchequer were obliged to resign from their high office because they had improperly released the contents of confidential and secret British Cabinet documents. The Prime Minister and his Ministers have studiously avoided the third alternative which I submit is a very feasible explanation of how the information was divulged. At least that is worthy of examination. It is very difficult to provide positive evidence. If criminals were convicted only upon positive evidence, the law would be extremely difficult to enforce. It is well known, of course, that British courts of justice rely very substantially upon circumstantial evidence. There is some circumstantial evidence in this case. Honorable members on this side of the House, who spoke before me, quoted passages relating to the substance of the charges we have levelled at the Government which appeared in various Australian newspapers, including the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th July last, some months before my leader made his statement on this issue in this House. They quoted similar statements from the Melbourne Sim News-Pictorial and from other newspapers, ranging even as far afield as Johannesburg and Dublin. The Minister for Defence himself quoted from the press of the 24th and 25th July last news items printed in narrative form which told the same story as was told by my leader in this House. On the 27th July, the London Daily Graphic, a journal with a vast circulation, published this statement -
One of the matters which burly Dr. Evatt. Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, is likely to discuss over here - he arrived in London, yesterday - is the newest atomic bomb impasse which has arisen- America has declined to tell Britain her top secrete unless Britain agrees not to disclose them to Australia.
That item is almost identical with the item which had appeared in the Sydney press three days earlier, when the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was in Sydney. We know the publicity technique used by public men in these days. When a prominent public man arrives in another country he is immediately interviewed by the press, unless he heats the newspaper men to the gun, as the Minister for External Affairs invariably does, and calls a press conference.
– That is a lie.
– We are so accustomed to the charge, “ That is a lie “, whether it be made by schoolteachers or larrikins, that it does not mean anything to me. I do not ask for a withdrawal of the honorable member’s insulting words. I am well accustomed to that sort of thing from the larrikins in the Australian Labour party.
– Order ! I heard no reference to the word “lie”.
– I did not say that there were larrikins in the Australian Labour party in this House.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the words to which the Chair has taken exception.
– I withdraw them. They were provoked by the interjection of the honorable member forFremantle (Mr. Beazley).
– That is correct, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I would not value a withdrawal of the words even if the honorable member made it. The Minister for External Affairs immediately calls a press conference wherever he goes.
– That is untrue.
– The newspaper report in the Sydney Morning Herald, which was published at the time when the Minister for External Affairs was about to leave Australia, bears every evidence of having been written after a personal interview and is identical with the report published three days later in London.
– What has that to do with the motion?
– Order !
The honorable member for Indi must be heard in silence.
– It explains why the Prime Minister has harped cleverly on two words, “ stolen “ and “ forged “. The right honorable gentleman evaded the third alternative for which, as” I have pointed out, there is ample precedent in the history of British parliaments resulting in senior Ministers of the Crown having to resign their posts. The refusal of the right honorable gentleman to explore that alternative explains to me, and to other people, why the so-called investigation of the disclosure of secret information has been drawn out for over a month, with nothing more emerging from it than the dismissal of a typist following the publication of rooted out of all key positions. Does this Government claim that there are no Communists in key positions who are capable of menacing our security? Honorable members opposite will not answer that question.
– We are not permitted to interject.
– It would be inconvenient for Government supporters to interject at this moment.
– Order I Interjections will not be permitted by the Chair.
– A long investigation is not necessary to discover whether there are any Communists in government employment to-day. The Government itself selects and appoints Communists. Otherwise, how would Mr. Orr, the Communist president of the miners’ federation, have been appointed to the Joint Coal Board ? How did Mr. Healy* the Communist president of the Waterside Workers Federation, become a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission? How did Mr. Elliott, the Communist president of the Seamen’s Union, become a member of the Maritime Industries Commission? How does Mr. Thornton get passports as well as allowances for expenses, to oscillate - I believe that is the correct expression - between this country and Russia? How do people like Donald Thompson, the dominant figure in the Building Workers Industrial Union, become the confidants of senior members of this Government? We ‘ do not need a secret investigation to discover whether there are Communists in the Public Service. We know that there are. They are. chosen and appointed by this Government. The Government is well aware of the deadly menace to our entire economy that is implicit in the present dispute in the coal industry. The Government knows, and the Prime Minister knows, that the dispute has been engineered by the Communist party. Why does the Government not do anything about it? It fails to act partly because it is sympathetic to the Communist party, as has been illustrated by speeches from the Government side of the chamber to-day, and partly because honorable members opposite are terrified of the Communist- controlled unions which have a powerful hold’ on the Labour movement and can influence pre-selection ballots. The Government is afraid to take any action. That is the simple explanation. We know that, speaking at an Australian Labour party conference, the Attorney-General, who is Deputy Prime Minister, said that the sabotage of the guided weapons testing range was inspired by a foreign power through the agency of the Communists. We have heard also the admission of the New South Wales Minister for Mines, that the threatened coal stoppage has been provoked by a foreign power through the agency of the Communists. Yet, all that the Government will do, is defend the Communists and attempt to justify the official existence of this organization of traitors to Australia. The Australian Country party believes in free thought. We have been a minority party throughout our existence, and probably will remain a minority party. We know what suppression is. We do not wish to suppress any line of political thought, but as long as we have breath, we shall fight for the suppression of treason. Notwithstanding any differences of opinion in regard to domestic issues, there is one issue on which all members of this party are joined, and that is the survival of our own nation. Ministers of this Government, and of other Labour and nonLabour governments, have admitted that the Communists in this country are directed by the only foreign power which can threaten the survival of democracy. The one action that should be taken by any responsible government is to put the brand of infamy upon any organization that is engaged in sabotage and treason. I do not think for a moment that by banning the Communist party we could dispose of communism entirely. The Australian Country party does not suggest that; but we believe that any organization that is recognized as treasonable must be curbed. The Minister for Defence has said that no further Communists will be appointed to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. If that is his estimate, and his Government’s estimate of the menace of the Communist party, it is time that the Government placed the brand of treason upon that party. That is why this motion has been made to-day. We have been told by the Minister for Defence that no secret scientific defence work is being carried out by the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch. I am disappointed to hear that, because that body is supremely capable of carrying out that work, and if the great intellects associated with that organization are not to be devoted to defence, Australia will suffer. The Government is completely negligent of its duty. The Minister for Defence has said that it is not; but, almost in the same breath, he has given notice of the introduction into this chamber of a bill to transfer a section of the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Commonwealth Public Service. I assume that, that action is being taken to bring portion of that organization at least under the control of the Government to the degree that its members will be put under oath. I do not know what other explanation could be offered. The Government apparently intends to use those people for defence work. Does that mean that our defence work is only starting now, when most countries fear the outbreak of war at any time? Does the Government intend to begin now to employ the best scientific brains in Australia, or has the Minister again misled the House by informing us that no member of the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is engaged on any defence work? Some matters cannot be proved. In courts of law, prosecutors do not seek to prove every detail, but rely largely on circumstantial evidence. There is circumstantial evidence that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been used to undertake defence work, because the Commonwealth Public Service Bill (No. 2), which the Minister has introduced, provides for the transfer of certain officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Public Service. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that the Prime Minister confessed that it was understood that the United States of America distrusted the efficacy of Australian security measures, and that the Australian Government was prepared to strengthen them. Circumstantial evidence of the truth of that statement is again provided by the Com monwealth Public Service Bill (No.. 2), because officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who will be transferred to the Public Service, will be subject to the requirement to preserve secrecy in relation to confidential matters.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) put -
That the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Mcewen) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was very wise in making sure-
Motion (by Mr. Blain) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
– This attempt to stifle debate-
– Order ! The motion of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has been agreed to.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– I rise to order. Honorable members on this side of the House did not call for a division.
– Order !
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
– I rise to order. My point of order arises out of the confusion that existed immediately prior to the suspension of the sitting. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) having been given the call, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) moved, “ That the question be now put”. Some ministerial and Opposition members supported the closure, but there was a great deal of background conversation and confusion, and I called the division off, as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will remember. You then declared that the motion had been carried on the voices. There was more noise and confusion, with some Opposition members still calling for a division, although I had called the division off. As evidence of the confusion, I mention that the honorable member for Fremantle then rose in his place to begin his speech. That is an indication that there was confusion on the Government side as well as on this side of the House. In that confusion, sir, you put the question. May I respectfully suggest that you did not state the question at length and that honorable members on this side of the House, because of the noise and confusion, were not certain what motion was being put from the Chair. There are precedents in this House in support of restatement of a question in such circumstances. Because of the noise to which I have referred and the confusion in the minds of honorable members relative to the nature of the question put to the House, I ask you now, before you call upon the next business, to restate the question.
– Up to a point, the position was as it has been described by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison). The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was given the call. Immediately he rose, and before he began to speak, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) moved, “ That the question be now put “. I put that motion to the House and declared it carried on the voices. I thought that there was a request for a division, and I asked whether one was desired. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said, “ No division “. That having disposed of the motion, “ That the question be now put “, there could have been no confusion as to the further question that was then put to the House. Having put the question to the House, I declared the motion lost. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that there were no votes “ on this side of the House “. I said, “ That is correct. All the votes are on the other side “. I heard no objections from honorable members of the Opposition, and I therefore declared the motion lost on the voices. That is where the matter rests. In view of the intervention of the Acting Leader of the Opposition on both occasions, I do not consider that there was any confusion. I am quite certain that the House was fully aware of what was being done.
– May I speak to the point of order?
– The point of order has been disposed of.
– May I speak to another point of order that is connected with an entirely different matter? The closure was moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. The point of order that I raise and I ask for your close examination of it, Mr. Deputy Speaker is that the honorable member for the Northern Territory is a voteless member of this House except with respect to matters pertaining to the Northern Territory. He has no vote on other matters that come before the House and certainly has no vote on a censure motion such as was being debated before the suspension of the sitting.
– He is voteless but not voiceless.
Mr.- Anthony. - My point of order is chat, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has no substantive vote on matters that do not concern the Northern Territory, and would have had no vote on the censure motion, had he the right to move for the closure of such a debate?
– The only limitation placed upon the honorable member for the Northern Territory is that he is not entitled to vote on any matter except ordinances of the Northern Territory. Apart from that limitation, he is entitled to the same privileges as are enjoyed by every other member of the House. He may submit a motion, and has done so on many occasions, including motions for the adjournment of the House. Standing Order 262b states that any member may rise at any time and move, “ That the question be now put “. The honorable member for the Northern Territory was in order is so moving.
SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)
Question negatived -
That Mr, Deputy Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into 11 Committee of Supply.
Debate resumed from the 3rd November (vide page 2467), on motion by Mr. Pollard-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– ft is with a great degree of satisfaction that I rise to make some remarks concerning this bill, which is all important co the wheat industry of Australia. Stabilization of the Australian wheat industry has a long and sordid history. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that during the long years of struggle by the legitimate wheat-growers’ organizations of Australia, which desired the implementation of a stabilization scheme, they have had to meet, on practically every occasion the violent and direct opposition of the Australian Country party. That fight has been carried on at least since I became Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a previous government, and has continued throughout the term of my successor, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). During the past few months, the opposition of the Australian Country party to plans for the stabilization of the wheat industry has been very marked and we have heard the admission of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that he made certain trips around the Victorian wheatgrowing areas. I understand that during those trips he advocated some sort of State pool in contra-distinction to the wheat stabilization scheme that the wheatgrowers want. He complained that he was followed around by the chairman of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board and also by the president and past president of the wheat-growers’ organization in Victoria, and by the past president of the Wheat Growers Federation of Australia. The main difference between the honorable member for Indi and Mr. Cullen is that the former has been recreant to his trust to the’ wheatgrowers and their organizations, and thai the latter is one of the rank and file, himself a wheat-grower, who has remained true through all the vicissitude1of the sordid battle that proceeded the presentation of this measure to the Parliament. The measure has been supported by genuine wheat-growers’ organizations throughout the length and breadth of Australia. In New South Wales, we have always considered that the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales gives only half-hearted representation to the primary producers of the State. Its executive is purely an off-shoot of the Australian Country party. It is a political organization, and men like Mr. Noels and Mr. Roberton, the latter of whom is the president of that association, have done everything that is humanly possible to prevent this bill from becoming law. [n Victoria, the State represented by the honorable member for Indi, the majority of wheat-growers who voted for stabilization was the greatest tribute possible to the genuine wheat-growers’ organization in that State, which was not misled by the efforts of the Australian Country party. Even since the wheat-growers have spoken in no uncertain terms all over Australia and, incidentally, in New South Wales, the fight is still being carried on by the president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, Mr. Roberton, and Mr. Nock. They have squealed to high heaven because they have been thwarted and can no longer carry out the orders of their masters, the vested interests, who have battened and fattened on the woeful state of the wheat-growers all through the years. The wheat-growers’ miseries and tribulations have been vividly described by Government supporters, particularly the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry). In plain, homely language, the honorable member, a wheat-grower himself, described the ups and downs that men- in the industry have suffered. His description of its history made me think of my own early days when year after year we had plenty of wheat but- no markets in which to sell it except at prices much below the cost of production. The price of wheat hovered between 2s. 3d. and 2s. 9d. a bushel for many years. In some seasons, when we had a return of 3s. a bushel, we thought we had struck Eldorado. Out of the tribulations of the wheat-growers there came into being a new political party, the Australian Country party. For a few years its members were perhaps honest in their desire to do something for the primary producers who sent them into the Parliament. Eleven years ago, when I entered this House, I saw a young man for whom I developed great respect. He was the honorable member for Indi. He was a man of ability and courage and I thought he showed great promise. But having tasted the glamour of office he forgot all his pledges to the wheatgrowers. That is why officials of the wheat-growers’ organizations in. Victoria followed him throughout his electorate in order to ensure that justice would be obtained for the people he represents. The wheat-growers learned to their cost that they had been betrayed by the Australian Country party. One of my first actions when I was appointed Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was to try, with the backing of the Labour party, to give to the wheat-growers a measure of security. I say without hesitation that that was the first time the industry had a sense of security. The farmers were assured of some return for their labour.
– What was that - the Roberton plan?
– It does not matter whether it was the Roberton plan or the Scully plan. I do not claim any particular credit for having done something full of merit. The wheat industry had lacked assistance throughout the years, and a plan for the assistance of the industry, whether one calls it the Roberton plan or the Scully plan, was brought into operation by the Labour Government to the great satisfaction of the wheatgrowers, especially the small men. From all parts of Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, wherever wheatgrowing was engaged in, came shoals of letters expressing the farmers’ satisfaction. Everywhere I went I was praised by the wheat-growers as a man who had given them relief. Not many years ago, as the honorable member for Riverina stated in his speech, the wheat-growers held a monster meeting at West Wyalong. It was the greatest assembly of wheatgrowers ever known in the district. At that memorable meeting a resolution was carried asking for the implementation of the Roberton or Scully plan. The name of the plan does not matter a jot, but it ‘ was the plan that the industry wanted and one that the Australian Country party refused to give to them. It remained for the Labour party, the party supposedly indifferent to the wants of the man on the land, to give to the industry the plan that those engaged in it desired. For the first time in the history of wheat-growing in Australia the farmers knew where they were going. They were guaranteed 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels of their crops and they had a cheque for £600 paid to them upon delivery of their wheat at country sidings. That meant that they could face their creditors. They could face the country storekeepers who had stuck to them in good seasons and bad. It was the country storekeeper who carried the wheat-farmer when the private banks and other big financial institutions refused to carry him. We hear gibes from members of the Australian Country party about socialization. The wheat plan was the socialization that the wheat-growers were looking for. In New South Wales, where I was for many years a member of the State Parliament, the private banks and other vested interests refused to give credit to the primary producers. There was then brought into being the socialistic undertaking, the Rural Bank of New South Wales, which extended credit to tens of thousands of farmers whom the ordinary trading banks had refused to assist. Something similar occurred also in Western Australia, where the Agricultural Bank, was established. Similar institutions were brought into being in Victoria and Queensland. We have been described as a socialist government. Our achievement on behalf of the farming community of Australia may be describable as socialism, but, if it is, it is the kind of socialism that the farmers have asked for and want more of. A couple of years after the Roberton plan or Scully plan was brought into being, in the central west of New South Wales, where the Rural Bank had its biggest number of clients, I was informed by some of the directors that hardly one client was unable to meet his liabilities. Members of the Australian Country party sneer because we have brought relief to a longsuffering section of primary industry which the big financial institutions, of which honorable members of the Australian Country party are the mere creatures, are no longer able to dominate. No longer are the big international speculators able to batten and fatten on the wheat-growers. A new era has dawned for the industry. I do not claim that the Government is responsible for the magnificent prices received by wheat-growers of late, but we did lay down the foundation on which this measure to stabilize the industry is being erected. Years ago, even before I entered the Parliament of New South Wales, I advocated co-operative marketing and compulsory pooling, because I. knew that no voluntary pool could ever besuccessful as the odds against its success; were too great. I hoped that some day, as a member of the Australian Labour party, the party into which I was born, I should be able to help the wheat-growers. 1 recognized then that because of its freedom from the great powers behind the scenes it was the only party .that could assist the industry. It amuses me to hear my friends opposite speak as they have done.
– And it amuses us to listen to the Minister.
– The honorable mem-‘ ber who has interjected was militant at one time. He wrote the booklet from which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) quoted certain passages. He was like the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party; once he got under the dominance of vested interests he succumbed and forgot that during the struggles in his early days, when he was battling on behalf of the wheat-growers, he took his own party to task. He was going to be the one to see that the party gave effect to what he considered to be the best policy on behalf of the primary producers that he represented.
– Will the Minister tell us about the New Zealand wheat agreement ?
– In the debate On this measure during the past few day9 I have heard misstatements made by honorable members opposite. My old pal the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) keeps saying that I voted against the first flour tax.
– The Minister is mistaken. If he refers to Hansard he will see that I said that the party voted against it.
– I shall endeavour to prove how unreliable the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party is. He said that the Australian Labour party voted against that bill in all its stages. I nearly forgot myself and committed a breach of parliamentary manners.
– No doubt the Minister thought that he was judging dogs again.
– That is why I can judge the honorable member for Gippsland so well. To disprove the honorable member’s contention I shall refer to the report of the debates on the Wheat Industry Assistance Bill 1938, on the 30th November, 1938. The following appears in Hansard, volume 158, at page 2378 : -
.- A measure of this kind is overdue, and in whatever form it is finally passed, I hope it will provide the relief that is so much needed by the wheat growers. I do not look upon this scheme as a permanent one. It is merely a temporary expedient to tide us over our immediate difficulties. I regard a pooling system as the only permanent solution of the difficulties of the growers. It is only by co-operative and orderly marketing that real success can be ach ieved.
I shall also refer to the report of the secondreading debate on the Flour Tax (Wheat Industry Assistance) Assessment Bill 1938, on the 30th November and 1st December, 1938. The following appears in Hansard, volume 158, at page 2455 : -
. ; I move ;
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 verbally amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 30 agreed to.
An amendment was then moved by Mr. Casey, that a proviso be left out. At page 2456 the following appears: -
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Honorable members will note that not one division was taken. Those extracts from Hansard show how unreliable are the statements that have been made by members of the Australian Country party. Doubtless they thought that my memory was short. However, I have lived through many years of association with the wheat industry, and I was a member of Parliament when those measures were introduced. Honorable members have heard an extract from my remarks on that occasion. I must concede to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr.Rankin) that he has always been much more honest in his intention to do something for the wheatgrowers than have been the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party and other members of that party. Vicious attacks were made by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party on a former chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, the late Sir Louis Bassau-
– They were lying attacks.
– In all my experience in public life, which has been a long one in fact I have grown old in public life I have never before heard such a despicable attack made on the honour of a dead man. The severity of that attack will remain indelibly printed on my mind. It was one of the lowest things I have ever heard a public man give expression to.
– He was a member of the Australian Country party, too.
– Yes, that is so, although I do not quibble about which party a man belongs to. Even if he were a member of the Australian Country party he could be a good man. That man was one of the finest men I have ever met. He was respected throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The wound to the widow and relatives of that man can never be healed. The other day in this House a vicious attack was made upon another man, Mr. Cullen, executive member of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board, because he could not see eye to eye with the honorable member for Indi politically, and because he would not betray the wheatgrowers and the great principles for which he, and his organization, fought throughout the years. The honorable member for Indi said that that man prostituted himself for a position. Could we think of any lower statement than that? The person in question was appointed to that position by my predecessor. During the whole of the time that I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and I think since then, that man gave of his best and carried out the job to which he was appointed faithfully. It ill befits an honorable member who is aspiring to leadership of his party to say such things. By his actions he forced one of the most honorable men in the Parliament, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), to quit the Australian Country party. We have heard a lot of hypocritical talk about ministerial control under this bill. The regulations for ministerial control were introduced by a government that the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party and his colleagues supported! Neither I, nor my successor, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, altered those regulations in any respect whatever. But, listening to the halftruths spoken by the honorable member for Indi one might be led to believe that the present Government was responsible for providing for ministerial control in the existing legislation. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), who is a wheat-grower of long experience, revealed the utter hypocrisy of the members of the Australian Country party in opposing the principle of ministerial control. The bill which was passed by the Western Australian Parliament for the purpose of setting up a State wheat pool specifically provided for ministerial control, and that measure had the full support of Mr. John Teasdale, the adviser of the honorable member for Indi, who hold’s him up as the champion of the wheat-growers. I repeat that ministerial control was the dominant note in that measure. It was refreshing to hear in this debate a little political honesty from the other side of the chamber when the honorable member for Barker frankly admitted that when the Government accepts the ultimate financial risk involved in any stabilization scheme the Parliament must inevitably provide for ministerial control. No Parliament in the world would ignore that principle. Yet members of the Australian Country party protested against ministerial control. They claimed that when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I had overridden decisions of the Australian Wheat Board. I challenge any one to examine the minutes of every meeting the board held while I was Minister and to produce evidence therefrom tl, at I gave a single direction which overrode a decision of the board.
Honorable members opposite have also had a lot to say about the agreement which the Government entered into for the sale of wheat to New Zealand. I have heard more lies told about that agreement than any other subject.
– What is the true story?
– It would be a new experience indeed to hear a little truth about that agreement from members of the Australian Country party. On a previous occasion I took to task the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) when he endeavoured to lead the Australian people to believe thai a great injustice was done to the wheatgrowers, under that agreement. In respect of every bushel of wheat sold to New Zealand under that contract, the growers have received every farthing of the full export parity price.
– That was not the Government’s original intention.
– I am pleased to hear the honorable member for Bendigo interject; he is a real pal. I shall settle this matter by reading a letter by Mr. John Thomson, which was published in the West Australian Wheat-grower, of the 16th September last. Mr. Thomson, who is now the general manager of Westralian Farmers Limited was general manager of the Australian Wheat Board during the whole of the period I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. His knowledge of the industry is unrivalled, and 1 was greatly indebted to him during the years I was Minister. His advice was always appreciated by the late Mr. Curtin when he was Prime Minister, and it has also been valued by the present Prime Minister. In his letter to the West Australian Wheatgrower he wrote -
In a press statement I told the public frankly the extent of the Australian Wheat Board and my own participation in the sale of wheat to New Zealand, and the Minister admitted that my statement was correct. As it is rather long, I quote the last part only. “ When, therefore, at the meeting referred to by Mr. Scully, the New Zealand representatives asked for wheat at a price which would enable them to resell at 7s. 3d. per bushel in New Zealand, I had no hesitation in saying that there was no hope of the board listening to such a proposal when the export price to the United Kingdom was 9s. Gd. per bushel at Australian ports. “ The New Zealanders said that to pay more would cause trouble with their growers, who would demand the same price as the landed cost of the imported wheat. Sir Louis Bassau pointed out that they could hardly expect Australian farmers to forgo several shillings i bushel to help the New Zealand Government to keep down the price of wheat to fellow farmers. I informed them that the board would not agree to sell for less than the price to the United Kingdom. “ Then came the proposition from New Zealand that they should enter into a five-year contract at a price which would enable them to average at something under the guaranteed price to their growers. “Their idea was something between 4s. and >s. a bushel f.o.b. Australian ports. A senior official of the Commerce Department and I went into a huddle and I drew up a table something like this: 1945-40, 9s. Gd.; 1940-4T, Bs. Gd.; 1947-48, 7s.; 1948-49, 5s.; 1949-50, 4s. The foregoing was my guess at what might be market prices, and so far it has proved very wide of the mark. “ The average of these was around 7s. a bushel, and I offered to put a proposal- to the board that it should supply New Zealand with wheat for five years at 7s. 3d. per bushel’ f.o.b. Australian ports. I said that if the board accepted the proposition it would require a guarantee that in each succeeding year the Dominion would take as much wheat as in 1945-46. I did not want to supply a large quantity when the export value of wheat was high, only to find that when the price dropped below 7s” 3d. much reduced quantities were taken. “ I want to make it clear that this was not * firm offer, but a promise to put it before the hoard.”
We know that if the New Zealand Government had agreed to it and Mr. Thompson had put it before the board it would, having regard to Mr. Thompson’s experience, have been accepted, and the wheat-growers of Australia would have had to bear the brunt of it. The letter continued - “ The New Zealanders said that such a price waa impossible, and retired to consult Mr. Sullivan, who had left us earlier. After lunch [ asked the same senior official when we were to re-assemble. He told me that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was taking a hand in the matter. Sir Louis and I returned to Melbourne without again being called into consultation. No proposal, therefore, waa ever submitted to the board. “ The senior official some days later informed me by telephone that the price for 1945-4G for wheat for New Zealand was to be the board’s price to the United Kingdom - that is, 9s. fid. a bushel, f.o.b. Australian ports (I think this was bulk basis), and that an endeavour was being made to come to reciprocal arrangements with New Zealand for future years under which Australia would gain some benefits in exchange for wheat at a reduced price. “ 1 asked what price was suggested. He told me in confidence that they were talking around os. 9d., but that no finality would be reached for some months. On my objections to farmers paying for reciprocity instead of the community, he assured me that the intention was for the Government to make up the difference to growers, subject to any stabilization arrangements that might be entered into.”
That is signed by Mr. Thompson.
– What is the newspaper from which the Minister has read ?
– The Wheatgrower, of the 16th September, 1948.
– Is that the official organ of the wheat-growers?
-Yes. That disposes of the lie that has been uttered by some members of the Australian Country party that it was only upon pressure from the Australian Country party that the Government recanted and agreed to bear whatever consequences might follow from the deal.
I am often accused ‘ of giving evasive answers in this connexion. When I heard the honorable member for Indi speak in this House on one occasion, my mind went back to an occasion a few years ago when the question of wheat was being debated, as it often is in this chamber. An honorable member while purporting to read a statement that had been made by the honorable member for Barker, in fact read only an extract from it. I admit that that was not a fair thing to do, because by reading only selected passages from a speech it is possible to make the speaker appear to have said something different from that which he actually said. On that occasion, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) rose in his place and made one of the most impassioned speeches that I have heard him make in this chamber. He vigorously condemned the action of the previous1 speaker. The honorable member for Indi, however, had no such regard for the standards of debate in this House. In Hansard of the 31st July, 1946, the following passage appears : -
Senator McLEAY (through Senator Leckie) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice
Has the Australian Government entered into any arrangement [or Hie sale ot Australian wheat to the New Zealand Government for the years 1047, 1!)4S and 1840? 2 If so, at what price will the wheat be sold?
If not. is it intended to enter into any agreement whereby Australian wheat will he sold to New Zealand for the years 1!)47. 104S and 1940 at a price lower than export parity?
At what price was the 4,500,000 bushels of Australian wheat sold in January last by the Government to New Zealand?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. No.
The honorable member for Indi broke off at that point. He stamped and ramped, and said that the answers given to the first and second paragraphs of the question were both in the negative. Honorable members on this side of the House asked him to read the remainder of the answer, which was as follows: -
It will be seen that on that occasion the honorable member for Indi disregarded the ethics of debate in this House. He indulged in half-truths by omitting to quote the full text of the answer.
I do not intend to deal at length with the New Zealand wheat contract, about which the Australian press and the leaders of so-called farmers’ organizations, which are really only off -shoots of the Australian Country party, have told more lies than they have told about any other matter. There were big headlines in the Sydney daily newspapers stating that 25,000,000 bushels of wheat had been sold to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel. On one occasion, the Sydney Daily Telegraph stated that all the wheat New Zealand required had been sold to it at that price. That is the standard of journalism in this country. The terms of the contract are recorded in Ilansard. The document was tabled by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The total amount of wheat involved is 13,500,000 bushels, to be delivered over a period of four years. Had we been able to foresee present events, it is probable that the contract price would have been higher than it is. I am not saying that it was a good price or a good deal, but the wheat-grower, who is the man who counts in this connexion, was protected. I saw to it that he was protected, and so did the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). The right honorable gentleman said that, whatever agreement had been made, it was one between the two governments. We have honoured it to the letter, although we have probably lost considerably as a result. I have not shirked my responsibility for this deal, and I do not intend to do so. Rather than repudiate a contract to which I was a party, or go back on my pledged word, I should go out of public life. The deal was perhaps not all that it could have been, but the Government backed it. The other Ministers shared the responsibility with me. That is team work. Those are the kind of mates that I like. At no time have I been castigated by the members of my party for something that was done with the best of intentions. It must be remembered that we owed something to New Zealand at that time. In the dark days of the war, New Zealand helped us considerably. Tens of thousands of head of stock were dying from starvation in Victoria and New South Wales. We sent representatives to New Zealand and the New Zealanders agreed to supply us with the whole of their surplus fodder at the low price of ?7 10s. a ton. If the New Zealand Government had wanted to sell it at a profit it could have demanded ?22 to ?25 a ton. I remind the House that in the darkest days of the war the New Zealand Government also sold us hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of hides at a reasonable price. At that time the rest of the world was clamouring for hides, and New Zealand could have received three or four times as much as it did from Australia. It is important to remember that at no time during the war did the Government of New Zealand seek to exploit us. Is it any wonder that under the shadow of those reciprocal arrangements we made a deal that has proved to be to the distinct advantage of New Zealand? After all, we owe a duty to our own kith and kin. However that may be, I have always stood by the deal and have never sought to repudiate it. [Extension of time granted.] 1 desire now -to indicate the differences of opinion expressed by members of the Opposition, who have made a number of conflicting statements in regard to stabilization. I propose to quote a number of examples. The honorable member for Indi said -
It is true that we did not apply the fis. 2d. home-consumption price to wheat for stock feed. On prices then prevailing for eggs, bacon and dairy products, producers in those industries could not have paid 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat.
The right honorable member for Cowper also said -
I repeat that assistance to the livestock industry should be the responsibility of the community as a whole.
But under the Page wheat plan it was the growers and not the community as a whole who had to carry acknowledged losses on stock feed. Do members of the Australian Country party still claim that their share of responsibility was the same as that of the present Government? Contrast those statements with recent utterances made by those honorable gentlemen. The honorable member for Indi said -
Any suggestion that there is implicit in this five-year guarantee any likelihood of a call upon the Commonwealth Treasury requires an extreme depth of pessimism. . . . and the right honorable member for Cowper stated -
Growers should make substantial contributions to a stabilization fund in periods of high prices, so that when values fall the fund will be able to compensate the producers.
The honorable member for Indi contended that too much money was being taken from the wheat-growers, whilst the right honorable member for Cowper suggested that the scale of deductions proposed would not be large enough.’ The honorable member for Indi also said -
The Committee’s recommendations were founded on two provisions. The first was that a wheat-grower whilst sufficiently remunerated at £6 10s. a week, allowing for the fact that he had a home on the farm. . . . that wage is ridiculously less than the award for any other skilled worker. . . .
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) stated -
The report of the Committee of Inquiry points out that farmers seldom pay rent, that local government rates and insurances are usually defrayed by the business of the farm, that water supply is part of the farm, and that fuel is usually provided by the farm.
A comparison of those two statements reveals that the honorable member for Indi always tells only half the truth. The honorable member for Swan is also reported to have said -
The Government must ensure that the plan shall provide a just return to the grower. A just return, in plain words, is the cost of production plus a margin of profit. . . . whilst the honorable member for Barker stated -
I want to disabuse the Parliament of the illusion that we can go on guaranteeing a price for wheat’ in excess of the cost of production and continue exporting a portion of the crop at a loss.
The honorable member for Swan contended that there should he a margin of profit guaranteed to the grower, whilst the honorable member for Barker said that it was impossible to continue to guarantee a profit. I propose to quote a few more utterances of those gentlemen so that honorable members may realize the confusion and conflict which exists amongst them. On one occasion the honorable member for Indi stated -
We shall make the Australian Wheat Board a body of principals instead of a body of puppets. . . . whilst the honorable member for Barker stated -
I believe in ministerial control, and when the Opposition parties again assume office I shall not forgo my belief. I cannot visualize any government surrendering its obligations under the Constitution.
Those two statements indicate clearly that the Opposition speaks with two voices. The right honorable member for Cowper contends that the residue of wheat, of approximately 16,000,000 bushels, that was not covered by the guarantee of £27,000,000 offered by the Menzies Government, about which the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) had something to say, could have been made the nucleus of a fodder conservation scheme for the benefit of the stock of Australia. I remind the right honorable gentleman and the members of his political party that not only did the Labour Government, in which I was Minister ‘ for Commerce and Agriculture, take over that surplus of wheat, but it also took over hundreds of millions of bushels that would have rotted in the stacks and silos because transport was not available at that time. We fed that wheat to the starving millions of livestock throughout Australia-
– At concessional rates !
– Yes, .we sold it at concessional rates, but I emphasize that the wheat-growers received nearly twice the value which the owners of the starving stock received for their animals.
– The wheat-growers received 4s. a bushel.
– They received more than 4s. a bushel. The basis of the equalization scheme was accepted by the wheat-growers. They did not “ squeal “, and the only dissatisfied people were the members of the Australian Country party, who are still seeking to cause dissension. Tens of thousands of primary producers throughout Australia received wheat for practically half its price, and that enabled them to keep their stock alive. Beyond Wyalong in the western part of New South Wales they bought wheat for less than 3s. a bushel, and similar concessions were made all over Australia. Neither the Government nor the wheat-growers made anything out of that deal, but it was a great consolation to me to know that our efforts resulted in keeping alive tens of thousands of livestock which were so badly needed at that time, f acknowledge my indebtedness to the former honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), who, when he was Minister for Commerce, appointed Sir Olive McPherson to the chairmanship of the Australian Wheat Board. Sir Clive, who was a great man and did a magnificent job for Australian wheatgrowers and for the country generally, was in ill-health at the time of which I speak and was anxious to retire. However, because of the difficulties confronting us he carried on at my request and continued to render magnificent service. I recall attending a dinner which was arranged at a big hotel in Melbourne to farewell Sir Olive McPherson. After several speakers had eulogized his splendid services, Sir Olive McPherson replied, and I recall very clearly the following statement which he made: -
I should be lacking in appreciation if I did not mention what the primary producers, the stockmen of Australia, owe to the Labour Government and to the present Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture. They made millions of bushels of wheat available, and I say without hesitation that by their action they kept 20,000,000 sheep alive which would otherwise have perished.
Without being egotistical, I was justly proud of that tribute and of the member? of the Government which so loyally supported me. Sir Clive McPherson’s remarks are recorded in the newspapers published at that time, and I think that they serve amply to refute the lies told by certain members of the Australian. Country party. Some of those honorable gentlemen have accused us of being recreant to the trust reposed in us, but the single statement of a man so respected as Sir Clive McPherson is sufficient to refute those allegations, and to cast those lies back in their teeth !
To demonstrate that members of the Australian Country party are simply the representatives of big business, I remind honorable members that on the original wheat board which the anti-Labour government created, there was only one wheat-grower, the late Mr. Ernest Field. That gentleman was one of the finest men in the industry and he was a consistent advocate of stabilization. Although he was a member of the Australian Country party and was in many ways beholden to that organization, he never allowed it to interfere with his duty to the wheat-farmers, and he did not hesitate to advocate the necessity for stabilization. Later on, Mr. Clark, from South Australia, was appointed, but he did not represent any organization of wheat-growers. At the first opportunity, I removed all the representatives of vested interests, except the representative of the millers, Mr. Gatehouse, who rendered valuable service to the wheat-growers. 3 appointed representatives nominated by the wheat-growers’ organizations throughout Australia and, for the first time, the producers had a majority on the Australian Wheat Board. Then, when the time came to re-appoint the members, they were elected by the wheat-growers themselves. The honorable member for Indi, and other members of the Australian Country party, speaking with their tongues in their cheeks, said that they supported the principle of growercontrol, but when their party was represented in the Government, the Australian
Wheat Board was dominated by vested interests, as were all the other boards which handled primary produce. Not only have the wheat-growers received sympathetic treatment, but the woolgrowers have also benefited under a Labour government. Members of the Australian Country party did not ask for an increase of the price of wool under the contract with the Government of the United Kingdom. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who was then president of the Graziers Association, refused to ask for an increase. On many occasions in this House, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was asked to seek a revision of the contract, but he refused to do so; yet, one of the first things the Labour Government did after assuming office was to ask for, and it obtained, an increase of 15 per cent., which represented an increased return of over £7,000,000 for the first year, and an increase of between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 . over the period of the contract. The day upon which the Labour Government took office was the beginning of an era of prosperity for the primary producers. Just as President Truman has swept the poll in the American presidential election, so the Labour Government in Australia, which has done a magnificent job on behalf of the people, will triumph over its opponents at the next general election. It will stabilize the primary industries, and bring prosperity to all sections of the community.
.- In the course of this debate, speakers from both sides of the House have had to go back into the past in an attempt to justify what they said or did on previous occasions. I am not in that position, because I have not been a member “of the House for so long. There is no need for me to delve into the past to justify anything that I ever said in this House. Any one who has listened to the debate must have come to the conclusion that the wheat-growers have had a very raw deal, no matter what government has been in power. After listening to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), I cannot help believing that he has’ been one of the worst offenders. For instance, he tried to justify the New Zealand wheat deal. I have not spoken on that subject before, because it was most apparent to every one that the deal was a political blunder. I did not think that it was of any use to heap coals of fire on the head of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but in view of his speech to-night it is time that some one discussed the matter. He said that he had intended all the time that the taxpayers should meet the difference between the price at which wheat was sold to New Zealand and the world- parity price, and he added that the wheat-growers had not lost a penny. Well, the wheat-growers are themselves taxpayers. Indeed, some growers in my electorate pay as much as 10s. in the £1 income tax. The Vice-President of the Executive Council then spoke of the action of the Government in making wheat available at concessional prices in order to feed 20,000,000 sheep, but he did not add that it was the wheat-growers who bore the main cost of that transaction. I contend that if the Government was prepared to make up to the growers the difference between the world parity price and the price of which wheat was sold to New Zealand, it should also have made up the difference between the world parity price and the price at which wheat was supplied for the feeding of sheep. That was not done, and the Government was quite willing that the sheep should be fed at the expense of the wheat-growers. Moreover, although the sheep were low in condition, with the result that there was probably a break in the wool, once they recovered their condition, and were shorn, the wool-grower obtained the full world parity price for the wool, although the sheep were kept alive on wheat supplied by the wheat-growers at concessional prices. The Vice-President of the Executive Council made statements in the course of his speech which would have been better left unsaid. It has been said that the wheat industry has become a political football. Well, I do not mind that, provided every one is prepared to play the game. It would be better v if, Ministers and honorable members were to play the ball, and not the man - and that goes for honorable members on both sides of the House.
Every citizen of Australia should be interested in the bill now before the House. Every citizen, even if he is not a wheat-grower, is at least a consumer of wheat, because every one eats bread or scones or breakfast food. In fact, there was a great uproar in Melbourne recently because people were unable to buy bread. We are all concerned with the welfare of the wheat industry, yet I have noticed that only honorable members who represent wheat-growers, have spoken on this bill. Representatives of metropolitan constituencies have remained silent. That would seem very strange if one did not know the reason .for their attitude. That reason is clear. The consumers are completely satisfied with the price that they have to pay for bread and therefore with the concessional price at which wheat is sold for bread. Honorable members who represent only consumers know that when they are on a good thing they should stick to it. “ Say nothing and saw wood “ is their attitude. That is exactly what they are doing in this debate. I have never heard a consumer in a city or a country town complain that the price charged for wheat used for bread is too high. The consumers are content. Therefore, we can put them on one side.
We must focus our attention on the wheat-growers and consider what we are attempting to achieve by means of the stabilization scheme for which the bill provides. Any stabilization scheme is for the welfare of the wheat industry rather than for the benefit of individual growers. After all, growers come and go. A man may be a wheat-grower to-day and a city resident to-morrow, but, as far as Australia is concerned, it is of firstclass importance that the wheat industry shall continue and that we shall foster its prosperity in every way possible. I have always advocated stabilization of the wheat industry and, judging by speeches which have been made in this chamber to-night, every member of Parliament has done so. However, the various schemes of the past failed in their purpose and therefore fell by the wayside. Let us examine the problem.
What should be the basis of a stabilization scheme? Is the period of operation the most important factor? No, certainly not. Without a good foundation, a stabilization scheme could not operate successfully for five minutes, much less for five, ten or twenty years. The foundation of a stabilization scheme is the price offered by the Government to the wheatgrowers. The structure of the scheme must be erected upon that. Without a sound base price, a scheme must fail. Therefore, we must decide whether the price of 6s. 3d. a bushel f.o.r. ports for which this bill provides has been properly calculated.
Why was that figure selected ? In order to answer the question, it is necessary for me to trace the history of the investigation that was made by the Wheat Costs Production Committee appointed by the Government. That committee set out to ascertain the average cost of production of wheat in Australia. It was a reasonably good committee, and it applied itself to its task in a fairly practical fashion. It decided first to issue a questionnaire to wheat-growers in order to determine the cost of production. Therefore, it issued 5,020 copies of a questionnaire to growers whose names were selected at random. Two hundred copies were distributed in Queensland, 1,800 in New South Wales, 1,270 in Victoria, 1,050 in South Australia, and 700 in Western Australia. Twelve weeks after the distribution was made, only 190 of the copies issued to Victorian growers had been returned. After fourteen weeks, only 142 of the copies distributed in South Australia had been returned. After 21 weeks, only 118 of the copies distributed in Western Australia had been returned. After thirteen weeks, only 139 of the copies distributed in New South Wales had been returned. After twenty weeks only nine of those distributed in Queensland had been returned. The committee then decided to obtain on loan the services of officers of government departments and other organizations so that they could visit farmers to whom copies of the questionnaire had been sent with the object of assisting them to complete the forms. Unfortunately, that scheme was found to be impracticable.
The committee next decided to issue an additional 1,000 copies of the questionnaire. As only nine farmers in Queensland had returned forms, the committee decidedto disregard that State altogether. Thus, Queensland conditions were not taken into account in calculating the base price of 6s. 3d. a bushel. One honorable member has said that Queensland has a wonderful scheme of its own for wheatgrowers. That may be so, but the fact is that costs of production in Queensland were not considered in relation to the price provided in this bill. I do not know whether that is right or wrong, and I am not greatly concerned one way or the other. Eventually, only 851 of the 6,020 copies distributed were returned, and of that number, 216 had to be rejected because they contained insufficient data. The final total of 635 was divided among the States as follows: Victoria, 223; New South Wales, 124; South Australia, 148 ; Western Australia, 140. The committee reported that growers were either unwilling or unable to answer the questions put to them. Naturally, I wondered why so many farmers had not returned completed forms: I assumed that they wanted to establish the highest possible figure for the cost of production, and so I obtained a copy of the questionnaire, at Underbool. I found that there were sound reasons why farmers had not answered the questions. The principal reason was that no farmer could have answered some of the questions accurately. Question 19, for instance, was as follows: -
What was the value of produce from the farm utilized in your household during each of the last five years?
That was an impossible question.
– The honorable member includes that information in his income tax returns, does he not?
– Even the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who has had at least some farming experience, will agree that the question could not be answered satisfactorily. . However, whether he agrees or not, I know many farmers who did not answer it. They said that they did not keep detailed accounts of the farm produce which was eaten in their homes. They could have made a rough guess, but rough guesses are of no value in an inquiry of that nature. Another question was -
What would your farm realize if sold today (per acre) - . (a)At Government Valuers or Local Government Authority’s valuation …
On open market . . .
In the first place, government valuations as prepared by treasury delegates would have had no relation to true values. In the second place, there had not been an open market for years. The farmers knew that if they answered the questionnaire, and put their prices too high, they would be mulcted in additional taxation, and that if they quoted a low figure they might even have their properties acquired by this socialistic Government. Mostof them decided that whatever they did would be wrong, so thousands of them determined not to return their copies of the questionnaire. That is the only reason why the copies were not returned to the committee to enable it to assess correctly the cost of producing a bushel of wheat in Australia. In the circumstances, the committee did its job very well. In order to ascertain that cost it had necessarily toconduct a very extensive investigation. Among other things, it had to considerwhat wages should be allowed to the farmer for working his farm. For the purpose of its investigation, the committee allowed the farmer £338 per annum, or £6 10s a week. On this aspect of its inquirythe committee, in its report said -
The Committee feels that the sum of £338 per annum is not an overliberal allowance. The evidence before the Committee has satisfied us that the average farm labourer receives in the vicinity of £5 a week, plus keep, which would amount, in all to£65s. perweek, and, accordingly, it will be seen that the figure accepted By the Committee makes little allowance to the farmer for the function of management.
It makes no allowance at all to the farmer for the function of management. We ail know that the farmer obtains some of his provisions from his farm at little or no cost. He usually obtains his requirements of butter and meat in that way; but the farm labourer also gets a house and free rations, and, in addition, is paid £5a week in wages. The committee’s allowance of £6 10s. a week to the farmer for the management of his farm is ridiculous. The committee admitted in its report to the Government that that was not an over-liberal allowance, lt was by no means liberal. Dealing with side-line income, the committee stated that during its investigations it discovered only one farmer whose sole production was wheat, and that most farmers derived very considerable revenues from wool, mutton, or fat lambs, or from other cereal crops. In making an assessment of the value of side-lines to the average wheat-farmer, the committee stated - lt would appear, therefore, that returns from . side-lines in the period covered by the Committee’s questionnaire were 15 per cent, higher than under normal conditions.
Every one knows that it is unlikely that we shall ever again receive the high prices that have prevailed during the last five years. The committee then decided to make a 15 per cent, deduction from the income from side-lines to allow for the estimated fall in value during the ensuing years so that the index figure would be well founded. A deduction of 15 per cent, will not by any means meet the fall that we must expect to take place in the price of side-lines. Certain factors associated with the production of side-lines were not mentioned in the report, nor were they taken into consideration by the Government. During the last few years, wheat-growers have paid at least 100 per cent, more for breeding ewes than they paid five years ago. In 1943, 25s. was regarded as a reasonable price; to-day the price varies between 60s. and 70s. The committee anticipated a fall in the price of sidelines, and well it may do so. I should be surprised if those prices do not fall by 50 per cent, or more. The amount of money which the wheat-grower will lose in the meantime in increasing his flocks to breed fat lambs will never be recouped. However, the Government refused to accept the committee’s finding on this point.
Dealing with machinery the report states -
Still another difficult question was the cost of machinery on the farm. The evidence before us disclosed that owing to the’ war period and the difficulties of obtaining new machinery, a very large proportion of the farming machinery is now reaching the end of its workable life.
How true we know that to be.
The cost of renewing the machinery is mud greater than the amount which the farmer has, over the life of his existing machinery, set aside for depreciation.
The report continues -
The committee has not been able to make any practical allowance for this in its assessment of costs.
What is the position in relation to machinery? A representative of a distributing firm told me last week that a well-known farm tractor which cost wheat-growers £650 in 1939 will cost at the end of this year no less than £1,100.
– Whose fault is that?
– Even if it is nobody’s fault should not an allowance be made for that tremendous increase? This Government is more interested in developing the fleet of Convair aircraft for its airline than in importing muchneeded farm machinery with such dollars as it has available. A 10-ft. header with a power take-off which cost £245 in 1939 now costs £389. A 12-ft. combine which cost £97 10s. in 1939 now costs £157 17s. 6d. I have selected the three principal machines used by wheatgrowers, the tractor, the header and the combine, in order to demonstrate how the cost of farm machinery has risen. In its report, the committee stated that it had not been able to make any assessments of a practical allowance to meet the additional cost of -replacing machinery and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) did precisely nothing about it. The honorable gentleman acts only to the detriment of the wheat-growers; when be could have done something for them and when this committee made suggestions to him regarding sidelines, he and the Government of which he is a member remained silent. The committee assessed the cost of producing a bushel of wheat in Australia at 6s. at average country sidings.
I propose now to deal with the rate of interest allowed on the farmer’s capital investment. Other honorable members have said that the interest rate allowed by the committee in its computations was “6% per cent. In its report the committee stated -
In considering a reasonable rate to be allowed the committee concluded that 3i per cent., the equivalent of first-class, risk free investment, is satisfactory.
That rate “was applied to the total value of the equity of the wheat-grower in his property. The committee was up against a difficult proposition. First, it could not get the co-operation of the wheatgrowers because they did not like the questionnaire that was put to them. Then it could not get the co-operation of the Minister.
– That is not true.
– -The committee reported that the cost of producing a bushel of wheat in this country was 6s. at sidings. But the Minister said, “ Thai may be bulk basis or bagged basis, therefore T shall take the figure at 5s. 10 1/2d.” The average cost of transport from rail sidings to ports is 4£d. a bushel. The cost of administration by the Australian Wheat Board was 4id. a bushel at one time, but now it is nearer 5d. Adding those amounts to the 5s. 10£d. we get a sum which is considerably more than 6s. 3d. In effect, the Government has reduced the finding of the committee by at least 5d. a bushel, and has said to the wheat-farmers, “ There is your guaranteed price. That is the foundation of the stabilization bill “. It is true that a majority of the wheat-growers voted for stabilization. I have many wheatgrowers in my electorate, and I know that a majority of them supported the proposal. Consumers too are satisfied. But, so far as I am aware, the wheat-growers did not know that the guaranteed price offered by the Government did not include any provision for machinery. They were merely asked whether or not they favoured stabilization. If anybody said to me, “Are you in favour of stabilization?”, T should say, “ I am, but the stabilization plan must have -a sound foundation “. The Australian Country party has always hold the view that the price of wheat should be the cost of production plus a margin of profit, but the figure specified in this measure is less than the cost of production. Certainly there is no margin of profit. Obviously, the wheat-grower cannot make a profit out of his wage of £6 10s. a week, even if he does have the benefit of a few farm-produced commodities, such as butter. He could gel £10 or £12 a week in the cities, or he could get a government job. The interest rate, too, is insufficient. The committee recommended that the farmer should receive 3% per cent, on his equity in his property. He could get that for his money anywhere. How will that foster and stabilize the wheat industry? The Australian Country party has advocated steadfastly and persistently that the wheat-fanner should be allowed a reasonable margin of profit. A shoe manufacturer for instance would draw a salary of a couple of thousand pounds a year at least. Obviously, no business executive would work for £6 10s. a week. He would want a big metropolitan salary of the kind fostered by the Government amongst monopoly interests. When the shoe manufacturer had assessed the cost of making a pair of shoes at, say, £1 5s., he would fix a selling price sufficient to give him 33 per cent, profit. That is the percentage applying in most manufacturing concerns. Even if he were to receive only 15 per cent., he would still be much better off than the wheat-grower who is not to be permitted any profit al all. Under this plan, wheat-growers will be forced out of production with the passage of time. They cannot continue to produce wheat when the payment for their product is less than the cost of production.
– Did the honorable member not say a few moments ago that some wheat-growers were paying taxes amounting to 10s. in the £1?
– I did, but they have been doing so because of the high world parity. I wish to make this significant point; had the Australian Government not interfered in the wheat industry in the last six or seven years and had growers been given the advantage of world prices for their entire crop, the industry would have stabilized itself. Every wheat grower knows that. Ask any business man what his precentage of profit is. Ask the executives of the big monopoly stores in Melbourne what profits they are making. Ask the man who sells the farm machines that I have mentioned. Ask anybody who makes his living from the wheat-grower. They will all admit that they receive a reasonable margin of profit. For confirmation of this, one has only to look at the balance-sheets of commercial undertakings. Share prices are booming and dividends on investments are high; yet this Government is offering the wheat-grower 3^ per cent, on his invested capital, £6 10s. .a week in wages, and a pound of butter or a piece of lamb from his- farm now and again. Can that honestly be described as fostering the wheat industry? The suggestion is ridiculous. With honorable members opposite, “ stabilization “ is only a catcall. Even’ the most ardent supporter of this plan will admit that it is only a foundation. Mr. Teasdale and Mr. Cullen have said that it contains many anomalies. My job as the representative in this Parliament of a wheat-growing electorate is to try to improve this measure, and I propose to do that. When the bill reaches the committee stage I shall move that, in addition to the 6s. 3d. a bushel provided for in the measure, the wheatfarmer shall receive a reasonable margin of profit to be assessed by a committee constituted for that purpose. The Government hopes to bring thousands of immigrants to this country. Australia is to have a vastly increased population; but how are we going to feed all those people? Only certain portions of our land are suitable for wheat-growing. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) cited figures yesterday showing how the population is drifting from the country areas to the cities. Wheat farmers will flock to the cities in droves, if the Government continues its present policy. When the Minister first announced the committee’s findings, I asked him certain questions about them. In his reply, he said that at the figure that had been fixed, a reasonably efficient wheat-farmer could make a profit. He said that the committee had taken evidence from all kinds of wheat-farmers, and that the stabilized price proposed would give an excellent return to some farmers, but not such a good return to others. He said that we should take the average. But how can any wheat-farmer, regardless of his efficiency, make a profit by selling his
Mr. Turnbull. wheat for less than it costs him to produce it? Tie Minister also said, on the 11th March of this year -
Some of the recommendations were not accepted. The Government made its own calculations and fixed the price for homeconsumption wheat for Gs. 3d. a bushel.
Certainly the Government made its own calculations. It ignored the recommendations of the committee in relation to machinery and sidelines. The wheatgrower is getting a raw deal. At the appropriate time in committee I shall move an amendment in order to test whether the Government is sincere about this matter.
The committee which inquired into the cost of producing wheat had two missions. The first, I shall call an immediate mission, and the second a remote mission. The immediate mission was to ascertain the current cost of producing a bushel of wheat in Australia. The more important but remote mission was to ensure that its finding would have such a practical application as to warrant its being used in future as an index cost figure for the wheat industry. I urge the Government to allow a margin of profit on the cost of production in order to determine a reasonable index figure. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will probably say that he will attend to the matter next year, because, the price payable for wheat will fluctuate according to the variations of the cost of production. However, everything will depend upon the index figure. If the price payable is less than the cost of production and no margin of profit is allowed at the beginning, any increases or decreases of the price of wheat in future will still be at the same relative level compared with the national standard of wages or incomes of the people generally. The index figure will control that aspect. Therefore, the basis qf the bill is bad, and should be amended. Yesterday, I addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the following question : -
I ask the Prime Minister whether in the event of a fall in the price of wheat a wheatgrower on an income of, say, £3,000, derived solely from the sale of wheat under the scheme whereby the Government guarantees a price of 6s. 3d. a bushel, would be taxable?
Clearly, my question agitated Ministers. It is possible for a large wheat-grower, even when the price of wheat is equal to the cost of production, to have an income of £3,000 or £6,000. I desired to ascertain from the Prime Minister whether such an income would be taxable. Had the right honorable gentleman replied in the affirmative, I proposed to point out that the tax liability would be another thorn in the side of the wheat-grower. Although a grower might sell wheat at a price below the. cost of production, and, therefore, at a loss, he would be liable to pay tax on his income. I notice that the Minister, for Commerce and Agriculture made a forward move when I completed my question, but the Prime Minister intervened and gave the following reply: -
I should be glad if the honorable member would produce actual and not hypothetical cases. The Government has sufficient actual matters to deal with without peering into the crystal glass to find solutions of hypothetical propositions.
A crystal glass, indeed! This matter is of vital importance to the wheat-growing industry. Surely the right honorable gentleman can state’ whether a wheatgrower who receives for his wheat a price equal to the cost of production, and has an income of £3,000 or £6,000 a year, will be liable to pay tax without looking into the crystal glass for the answer. By giving that reply, the right honorable gentleman dodged the issue. However, I am not deceived. I am certain that such an income will be taxable. Values for wool, sheep and fat lambs are high. Knowing the views of the Prime Minister, I do not need to gaze into a crystal to discover that wheat-growers will not escape taxation. The guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. a bushel is below the cost of production, and any margin of profit will be taxable. The wheat industry will be placed in a most difficult position.
I shall now discuss the Government’s plans for socializing the wheat industry, and, in doing so, I intend to attack the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In the circumstances, I do not expect that he will respond sympathetically to the request which I shall make for an extension of time in a few minutes. However, I shall try. Some wheat-growers in my electorate have sought my opinion of the Government’s wheat stabilization plan. I have replied, “ Everybody wants a satisfactory form of stabilization, but I do not like the Minister who will control this plan “. Many of my electors also do not like his policy, and I believe that, eventually, he will use this plan, and the wheat industry, as a stepping-stone to the attainment of the Australian Labour party’s golden age of socialism. However, I informed my electors about several aspects of the matter which might even save them. The principal factor is that, although the Government has now come out into the open with its plans for the socialization of industries, it is unlikely that the Minister will use the wheat-growing industry as the steppingstone to socialism before the next election, approximately twelve months hence. I hope that after the next election, all the industries now threatened with socialization will be freed from the socialist grip as the result of the return of a government which will stand for the freedom of the individual in all things, and producer-control in the marketing of primary products. As honorable members are aware, the honorable gentleman stated, in a speech at Ballarat a few months ago -
We will go on and on until we have socialism in Australia.
What an important stepping-stone the wheat industry is in the attainment of that objective! I fear that the Government proposes to get the wheat industry down, fix a price for wheat below the cost of production and deny to the grower a margin of profit. What a dismal future for the producers of the golden grain! What a golden age that will be for the tax-gatherer and the residents of the large cities !
– Why does the honorable member always attack the consumer of bread?
– For years, the price of bread did not vary, and the recent increase of one halfpenny a loaf was due to an increase of costs following the introduction of the 40-hour working week. [Extension of time granted.] Let us suppose that the Labour Government is returned at the next election. Whether the people like it or not, the wheat industry will be used to further the Government’s socialist plans. Contrary to the will of the people, the Government has already attempted to nationalize banking and aviation. Insurance, transport and broadcasting are only a few public utilities which it hopes to acquire. Against the wishes of the people, the Government has had the audacity to make moves towards socialization, and we can only imagine the lengths to which it will go if a majority of the people endorse its policy at the next election. Referring to the Russians, Mr. Winston Churchill said, “ If they do that in the green wood, what will they do in the dry “ ? What will this Government do if it is given any encouragement for its policy? That is why I am fearful for the wheat industry. I know that for the time being the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will tread lightly because there is a general election next year and he hopes to win a seat in Victoria. When one considers the wheat problem as a whole one realizes that the Government is doing nothing for the wheat-grower. A number of honorable members have discussed whether we should have the ministerial control provided for in the bill. It appears to me that provision for ministerial control has been included in most bills relating to the wheat industry but in the past Ministers acted in cooperation with the Australian Wheat Board. There is a world of difference between co-operation and dictation. Previous Ministers co-operated in the principle of producer control, but the present Minister and his predecessor, who is now the Vice-President of the Executive Council, have acted in a dictatorial manner and have told the board and the people of their intentions only after they have asked. It is my intention to endeavour to improve the present measure by providing for the adoption of the recommendation of the committee which inquired into production costs, by farmers being given a reasonable margin of profit, and by the Government giving an assurance that the money that wheat-growers receive from any sale of wheat sold at the cost of production, shall not be taxable, and by the Minister giving an assurance that he will not act in a dictatorial manner. In the meantime, it is up to every supporter of primary producers’ interests in Australia to see that this Government does not re- main in office after the next general election. The drift to the cities and the increase in the number of city electorates compared with country electorates show? how matters are going. Honorable members opposite are always talking about what the Government does for the primary producers. They speak of the great stability of this scheme and now they have helped the growers. When 1 have listened to them speak in that fashion I have thought that their insincerity could be felt in the very air. The honorable member for Riverina referred to “ a light on the hill “. If the wheat-grower doe? not receive a profit, what is the good of the light on the hill?
– Does the honorable member wish to blow it out?
– The wheat-grower has not asked for much in the past, buthe has given much to Australia. He owes nothing to the standard economy of this country. His contribution through the No. 10 pool alone was abou £30,000,000, which was the difference between the price he could have received for wheat sold overseas and that sold for consumption in Australia. Certainly, before the war the wheat-grower received a few shillings now and again, because at the time the home market was the best, but that was wiped off in the first few months after overseas prices rose. It is time that the governments of Australia did something for the wheat industry, for not only do the wheat-growers contribute directly to the economy of the country, but they are also taxpayers and give employment to people in the cities. They supply the product which gives the people cheap bread.
I have not employed any political bias in my speech to-night. I have tried to approach this matter in a straightforward manner. Some days ago, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), in a sneering way, turned round and pointed to me and other honorable members on this side of the House and stated that we had no interest in the wheat industry at all and that if “we were honest we would vote against the bill. He implied that the Government members had a monopoly of honesty. I have never in this House accused any Government member of being dishonest.
– The honorable member bas just stated that Government members had no sincerity.
– I did not say they were dishonest. I said that the speeches made by honorable members opposite about what the Government had done for the primary producers led me to believe that the Government was not sincere. I still believe that. All this time the wheatgrower has been waiting for some scheme to be put into operation. I want the Minister to stand up to-night and say that any money that the wheatgrowers get when the cost of production legislation is in operation and wheat is (old at the price of 6s. 3d. a bushel provided by the legislation shall not be taxable. I want him to make a clear and definite statement so that both 1 and the House may feel that even a Labour government is sincere. Nobody wants to see that more than I do.
– Does the honorable member preach that in the auctioneer’s hox ?
– Some years ago, I was in the auctioneering business for a time and I learned many things during chat period. ‘ I could easily say something very nasty to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller), but I do not want to do so. My desire is to address the Chair. I desire’ to improve the bill <o that the wheat-growers get a fair deal. I’ want this Government to stand up to its obligations and make its boast about what it has done for the primary producers really mean something. I want r,o ensure that this scheme shall be one that will really stabilize the wheat industry.
– I am sure that all honorable members have listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). I believe that he is honest in’ his arguments, but if he thinks that the people of this country will say that a man who makes £6,000 a year out of wheat should not pay any tax >n that income, he is very innocent indeed.
– I was referring to wheat sold at .the cost of production.
– A man’s wages are fixed on the cost of living, and if he comes into the tax range he must pay taxes. I was interested in the remarks of honorable members with reference to the ownership of wheat. One would think that this bill constitutes the first occasion on which the grower is to lose the ownership of his wheat. I recollect that some years ago when the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and I were members of the South Australian Parliament Verco Brothers went into liquidation. Large quantities of wheat were stored with that firm and when it went into liquidation the farmers who had stored the wheat went to the stacks and started to cart away wheat that they said belonged to them. But very quickly the police stepped in and that wheat had to go back into the stacks-. I recollect an instance when endeavours were made to introduce legislation into the Parliament to provide that the ownership of wheat should be vested in the farmer and not pass to the firm storing the wheat. That legislation was not enacted, and so we have the position that when primary producers pool their produce and store it they cannot claim the individual ownership of it.
– Is the honorable member referring to me?
– I am not referring to the honorable member, who did not speak about ownership; but if honorable members opposite who did so think the wheat-growers can have stabilization of the wheat industry with a guaranteed price and still retain the ownership of their product, I do not know how they will do it.
– Neither does any one else know.
– They could not retain ownership. I agree with the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry). Hitherto, most legislation dealing with the wheat industry has been passed in the State sphere rather than the federal. The honorable member for Wimmera challenged honorable members on this side of the House who do not represent constituencies where wheat is grown to speak on this - measure. I do not represent such a constituency, but I do know a little about both the growing and the selling of wheat. Throughout the history of the wheat industry the farmer has been at the mercy of export prices and the wheat merchants. I now propose to say something on whether this scheme should be brought into operation. I rarely quote front press cuttings, but I have with me a few to the_ contents of which I desire to draw the attention of honorable members. The first is the report of a statement made on the 5th May, 1939, by the late Mr. E. Field, a past president of the New South Wales Farmers and Settlers Association, as reported in the Land newspaper. It reads as follows: -
The wheat-growers were dependent on world’s parity and there were many farmers unable to pay crown dues on their property. In many cases the dues exceeded the improved capital value of the land.
That was just before. the war. Later I intend to read some statements made about the necessity for this legislation, but before doing so I desire to impress some points upon honorable gentlemen opposite, particularly the honorable member for Wimmera. He shows amazing temerity when he talks about moving amendments after the wheat-growers have voted in favour of this scheme. The contents of this bill and the complementary legislation that has been or will be passed by the parliaments of the wheat-growing States were drafted by the minister for Commerce’ and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) in conjunction with the Ministers for Agriculture in those States. I was talking with a Minister of the Government of South Australia to-day and he told me that the complementary legislation had been passed by the lower house and had been forwarded to the upper house in South Australia. He also told me that the State Parliament had passed the requisite legislation for the taking of a ballot of the wheat-growers and that the bollot-papers had been distributed to and returned by the wheat-growers. The oration delivered by the honorable member for Wimmera, in which he delved into the report of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee was amusing, because my experience of farmers is that their only concern is what return they will receive from their products. A wheat-grower knows approximately how much wheat he is likely to harvest each season. If he also knows that he will receive 6s. 3d. a bushel for it, that is his only concern. He does not worry about percentages.
– Will the honorable member answer a question?
– Order !
– I would if it were not disorderly to do so. The wheatgrowing States took a poll of the farmers to ascertain whether they favoured the stabilization plan. It cannot be said that the arguments for and against the plan were not put before the farmers. If the honorable member for Wimmera reads the newspapers published in the different States, he will satisfy himself that the interested parties advanced their reasons for and against the proposals.
– I WaS talking about a different form. The wheat-growers were required to fill in two different forms.
– The honorable member for Wimmera said that the farmers did not answer the questions asked in the first form,- for the simple reason that they could only make a guess at their costs of production and the value of their produce. When a farmer is making out his income tax return, does he make a rough guess? If he does, doubtless, he makes it on the low side. It may be that the return for the purposes of the committee would have shown figures somewhat different from those stated in the return for income tax purposes. I can appreciate why many farmers did not trouble to answer the questions asked. It cannot be said that primary producers to-day are ignorant. Many have completed excellent primary and secondary educations by attendance at agricultural colleges. Had they thought that filling in the forms would help them they would have filled them in.
– I said that.
– The honorable member said that they did not send the forms back. But some did, and the cost of production was arrived at by the committee and accepted by the Government. The honorable member for Wimmera did not contrast the farmers’ returns of the questionnaires with th? number of ballot-papers filled in and returned. He said that only about 600 of 6,000 copies of the questionnaire had been answered in five States. He said that only mine forms had been returned by wheatgrowers in Queensland. I do not have the exact figures, but at least 6,000 ballotpapers were returned, and a good majority of the farmers voted in favour of the plan. I now propose to read the press cuttings that I referred to earlier, the Victorian Wheatgrower of September reports under the heading, “ Mr. George H. Evans’ Appeal “, a statement by the president of the Australian Wheat ^Growers’ Federation.
– A good man, too.
– I do not know him personally, but he would not be president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation unless he knew something about the cost of production and what was required to give the wheat-growing industry stability. This is what he said -
Ir. what may be my last appeal to growers who have not yet voted, T earnestly ask them not to be misled by a purely negative pamphlet.
He was referring to a pamphlet sent out !by the Australian Primary Producers Union. He added -
I strongly urge’ them to vote “Yes” and show their approval of a plan which will at least lay “ foundation “ for a degree of future security hitherto unknown to the wheat industry. Let us win it.
He was referring to the ballot. The second press cutting is from the Ouyen and North-West Express dated the 4th August, 1948.
– That is published in my electorate.
– The statement reads -
The average wheat-grower to-day is better off than he has ever been since boom days following the first world war. If stabilized prices have not made him so then we would like to know what has.
The honorable member says that he believes in stabilization. After World War I. the price of wheat rose to over 9s. a bushel. At that time the farmer was pleased to get whatever he could. He did . not realize the danger in not having stabilization. He thought that high prices would continue because of the shortages due to the war and the reduced rate of production in European countries at that time. He thought that those shortages would continue. But in the 1930’s great changes took place. I was in the South Australian Parliament from 1930 until two years ago, and I know the legislation that was passed by that Parliament. First there was introduced a measure for drought relief, and then one for farm relief. I took a large part in the farm relief legislation.. I remember the messages of thanks that I subsequently received from many people in country districts. A Liberal-Country party Government introduced that- legislation. Under the farm relief provisions the farmer had to hand over all of his wheat. He did not retain the ownership of it. Ownership passed to the board which was controlling farm relief. Under the legislation that was brought in by that Government, which represented the country people, the first to be paid out of the proceeds of the sale of wheat were the firms which had supplied fertilizers to the farmers. Then the companies which had supplied petrol were paid. If any funds remained after big people had been satisfied, the country storekeepers were paid. I well remember the severe blow that was suffered by the farmers when the slump in prices came in the ‘thirties. The honorable member for Wimmera spoke about the primary producers being prevented from obtaining higher prices overseas for their produce. Under legislation that was enacted by the South Australian Parliament, the people in Australia had to pay a higher price in order to make up for the low prices that were obtained from overseas sales. That was done in the interests of the farmers at that time. I voted for that legislation. Although I now represent an industrial constituency, I know as much about the conditions applying to farmers as do most honorable members opposite. I know what is needed to assist the farmers. If honorable members opposite desire that the farmers should be given security in the future, we must take action to ensure that the farmers shall help themselves when they are in a good position, in order to provide for the time when things may not be so good. Years ago, in the South Australian Parliament, I said that I was in favour of paying the farmers for the cost of producing wheat for home consumption when export prices were low, and that when export prices were high, the home-consumption price should be similarly based. I think chat most honorable members opposite will agree that was a fair attitude for me to adopt.
In the September issue of the New South Wales Wheatgrower, Mr. H. Colwill, past president of the New South Wales Wheat Growers Union, appealed for a “ Yes “ vote. In that article he said - r
A “Yes “ vote will mean a sense of security and the establishment of a basis upon which the Australian Wheat Growers Federation jan work for an improvement. It will mean that a farmer is assured of the cost of production plus a reasonable margin of profit.
The honorable member for Wimmera said that there is no margin of profit under this scheme. He quoted from a report which, on his own figures, was based on returns supplied by only 10 per cent. of the farmers.
– That was the committee’s report.
– Only 600 farmers nut of 6,000 farmers returned the forms.
– To the Government.
– In contradiction to what the honorable member has suggested, Mr. Colwill says that it will mean that a farmer will be assured of the cost of production plus a reasonable margin of profit.
– He does not know anything about it.
– I am prepared to accept the opinion of that gentleman rather than that of the honorable member, although I believe that he has honestly put forward what he considers to be the position. Whilst the ballot was being taken in New South Wales, the following leading article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 25th September this year : -
This is by far the most equitable scheme ever offered the wheat-growing community. It is easy to find fault with it but so it is with all schemes that set out to provide against unpredictable risks. If implemented the scheme should go a long way to ensuring a stable future for wheat-farmers.
It is a reasonable assumption that the person who wrote that leading article knew the position of the wheat industry in this country. Newspaper proprietors usually get men who are acquainted with the subject being dealt with to write their leading articles.
The following statement appeared in the Argus of the 23rd June: -
Country party members of Parliament are annoyed because the Liberal party submitted its stabilization plan to the Commonwealth without first consulting them.
One member said - “ This type of treatment of the Country party by the Liberals must stop.” (Liberal party plan was 7s. a bushel for home consumption and 5s. for export. Duration ten years. )
Those opinions show that this matter has been thoroughly considered. I take the following extract from the New South Wales Wheatgrower of September last -
In spite of all the misleading propaganda to the contrary, the wheat-growers of Australia are rapidly realizing that this is far too valuable to lose …
Who will gain by a “No” vote! Those with a political axe to grind perhaps. A few rapacious city interests, the dealers, and open marketeers; a few wealthy farmers who are in a position to get rich quick and then get out of wheat-farming when the slump comes. These possibly will gain by a “ No “ vote.
In view of that widespread approval of the scheme, the honorable member for Wimmera will be ill advised to press the amendments which he has forecast. This legislation cannot be implemented until complementary legislation is enacted by each of the four wheat-growing States. For that reason alone, we cannot amend the bill as drafted without upsetting the agreement entered into with those States. The measure has been agreed upon in its present form. I also point out to the honorable member that the parties to this agreement are the Ministers of Agriculture of the four wheat-growing States, of which Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria have Liberal-Country party governments, whilst the fourth State, New South Wales, has a Labour government. That fact should convince the honorable member that the plan embodied in this legislation has been thoroughly considered-
– Does not the honorable member want to improve the measure?
– For the reasons 1 have given, the whole plan “would be upset if the measure which is dependent upon the enactment of complementary legislation by the States, were amended at this juncture. Therefore, I shall be surprised if any honorable member other than the honorable member for “Wimmera should think of proposing an amendment of the bill. The price of 6s. 3d. a bushel proposed under the measure is acceptable to the wheat-growers themselves. In attempting to estimate the cost of production of wheat one must always have regard to the fact that the great majority of wheat-growers are mixed farmers. They derive their livelihood from the production of various crops including wheat. In those circumstances, it is impossible to estimate that cost accurately. Several other factors must also be taken into consideration. Whilst one farmer might be able to produce wheat at a cost of 5s. a. bushel another farmer may not be able to do so under 7s. 6d. a bushel. Allowance must be made for varying conditions in different localities. In many districts unfavorable seasonal conditions are the exception, whereas in other districts bad seasons are frequent. Similar complications arise when one attempts to estimate the cost of production of any primary product. For that reason the cost of production must be averaged. The important consideration in this matter is that the wheat-growers have accepted a guaranteed price of 6s. 3d., and, therefore, the Parliament cannot very well do otherwise than base this plan for the stabilization of the industry on that figure.
– But the Parliament <«an improve the measure.
– As this legislation is dependent upon the enactment of complementary legislation by each of the four wheat-growing States, the measure cannot be amended at this juncture. However, any defects in this plan will soon become obvious, and I can see no reason why this Parliament and the four State parliaments concerned cannot take action later to remedy such defects. The trouble with the honorable member for Wimmera is that he expects to hatch a fully feathered laying white leghorn. However, the chicken must be given time to develop. The introduction of this measure follows many attempts to stabilize the wheat industry. Those attempts failed the chief reasons being that legislation passed by this Parliament was not implemented because the States concerned failed to pass the necessary complementary legislation. The honorable member for Wimmera levelled the gibe at the Government that in introducing this legislation it has its eye upon the general elections which are to be held next year. It must be obvious to him that the same observation applies in respect of the legislation which the four wheat-growing States have agreed to pass in order to enable this scheme to be implemented. Surely, he would not contend that the Liberal-Country party governments in three of those States would be less heedful than the Commonwealth of the desires of the wheat-growers as expressed in the ballot recently taken in respect of these proposals. I know of the difficulties which have confronted the wheat-growers in the past and of the attempts which various governments have made to give to them a fair return for their products. Any honorable member who has the interests of the wheat-grower? at heart will not attempt to delay the passage of this legislation. I support the bill. I could deal at length with the attempts made by previous government* to stabilize the wheat industry and with the details of the various schemes proposed for that purpose in the past. Having regard to the fact that this scheme offers the ‘greatest promise of success no good purpose will be served by indulging in party political recriminations. Our main consideration should be that of all the schemes which have been evolved for the stabilization of the industry, this scheme alone has been approved by the growers in the four wheat-growing States as a plan that will guarantee them security in the future. The honorable member for Barker said that, although he did not intend to ask for a division on this motion, if the House divided on it he would vote with the “ Noes “. I give the honorable member credit for making his position clear, but I hope that, despite that statement of his intention, if the House does divide he will not vote in that way. The honorable gentleman knows more than do most honorable members of this House of the difficulties with which men in the outback wheat-growing areas have to contend. Doubtless he remembers the time when Verco Brothers went into liquidation, having gambled with wheat that was in its stores. I do not mean that the firm gambled unfairly. It gambled in the business sense. It took the risk of selling wheat that it had not purchased and in the end bad not sufficient financial resources to enable it to overcome its difficulties. The honorable member for Barker doubtless recalls the effect of that liquidation upon the wheat-growers, and the hardships they suffered owing to the low prices for wheat that prevailed during the 1930’s. I trust that he will not vote against the motion for the second reading of the bill. This measure, if it is passed, will represent a step forward towards the achievement of security and protection for the Australian wheat-growers.
.- We have listened to honorable members opposite taking great credit to themselves not only for the scheme that is envisaged by this bill, but also for the prosperous condition of our rural industries. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) made an interesting contribution to the debate. Although I do not propose to traverse the ground that was covered by the honorable gentleman, I wish to comment upon several of the statements that he made.
The honorable gentleman was for some time Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Curtin Government. During his period of office he came into conflict with various interests in this country and with honorable members on this side of the House owing to certain action that he took. The Minister dealt ,at some length with what he referred to as the lying statements that had been made about his administration and the attitude of the Labour party to wheat stabilization and wheat assistance. If such lying statements have been made by honorable members of this House and by people outside it, the number was increased by the Minister to-night. In answer to allegations that the Labour movement on many occasions opposed the granting of assistance to the wheat industry, he said that supporters of the Labour party in this Parliament had supported a flour tax. The act from which the Minister quoted was not the original Flour Tax Act but the Wheat Industry Assistance Act 1938. The Flour Tax Act, which was designed to give a home-consumption price to the Australian wheat-growers, received the Royal assent on the 9th September, 1935. It was opposed by members of the Labour party in almost every one of the stages of its passage through the Parliament.
The Minister attempted to explain his actions in respect of the New Zealand wheat agreement. That agreement is one that the honorable gentleman would doubtless like to be forgotten, and about which there has been a good deal of discussion from time to time. It is significant that the main grounds on which the agreement has been criticized were not touched upon by the Minister. Honorable members on this side of the House contend that it was made without theknowledge of the Australian Wheat Board, or was not referred to the board, and that it was negotiated before the last general election. The latter contention is supported by the statement that was made by Mr. Sullivan, the New Zealand Minister, in the New Zealand Parliament on his return to that Dominion. He then explained what had occurred during his visit to Australia to negotiate a wheat agreement with the Australian Government. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, denied both in this House and outside it that any agreement had been entered into. After the last general election certain forms were gone through and certain documents were signed, but the fact is that the wheat was sold long before the election took place. The Minister and the other members of the Government had not the courage to face the wheat-growers and the Australian electors generally and admit that an agreement of this kind: had been entered into.
The Minister attempted to support this outrageous agreement by saying that thepeople of New Zealand had done much for the people of Australia during the war and, therefore, that we should grant them some concessions in respect of wheat. Did the people of Great Britain contribute anything to the war effort or to the security of Australia? What treatment did they receive from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture or the Australian Government at that time? According to the Minister’s own statement, at the time that he and his opposite number in the New Zealand Government were engaged in negotiating this agreement, wheat was being sold to Great Britain at 9s. 6d. a bushel. I believe it is correct to say that before the agreement was ratified, the price at which wheat was sold to Great Britain had risen to 14s. a bushel. Recently, we sold 87,000,000 bushels of wheat to that country at 17s. a bushel. During all this time the people of New Zeal,and have been getting wheat from Australia at 5s. 9d. a bushel or, more recently, at 6s. 3d. a bushel. We must put this humbug about our duty to New Zealand in its proper perspective. The Minister boasts that, almost immediately after this compassionate treatment of New Zealand, he extorted from the British Government a 15 per cent, increase of the price of wool. Perhaps it was not an extortion. The British Government had already agreed with New Zealand and South Africa to pay that percentage increase of contract prices, and was only doing to Australia what it had done to those other countries. The Vice-President of the Executive Council cannot have it both ways. If we were under an obligation to New Zealand, we at least owed a duty to the people of the United Kingdom. The honorable gentleman attempted to “put over” the story that the New Zealand wheat deal cost the wheat-growers of Australia nothing. Of course, it cost the wheat-growers of this country something, but, what is more important, it cost the taxpayers of Australia many millions of pounds. I have never known a government which is more irresponsible in the handling of the taxpayers’ money than is the present Administration. Millions of pounds mean nothing to it, and it throws money about here, there and everywhere. It is important that honorable members should know what the New Zealand wheat agreement is costing the taxpayers of this country, because the Government is continually stating that it cannot afford to make reductions of taxes. Of course, the reason why it cannot reduce taxes is that the finances of the country have been depleted by extravagances such as that involved in the wheat deal which we are now discussing. In the budget which he presented last year, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) estimated the cost of the New Zealand wheat agreement at £2,000,000. In actual fact, it cost £2,692,337 in one year, and this year the cost to the taxpayers has been estimated by the Government at £1,500,000, which is, I have no doubt, a thoroughly bad estimate. Of course, it means nothing to the Government that an incompetent Minister made a bad deal and then threw the cost on to the taxpayers.
The Government and its supporters have sought great credit for the tremendous assistance which they claim to have extended to primary producers during the last seven years, but the truth is that the rise of world prices, brought about by the war, was responsible for the benefits conferred on primary producers. The present and the preceding Labour governments certainly extracted from the industry a great deal of its income. As has been pointed out many times previously, the primary industries of Australia contributed approximately £300,000,000 to our national economy. When we contrast that sum with the value of the alleged subsidies paid to rural industries - and I stress the “ alleged “ - it will be realized that those subsidies are very small fry indeed. In point of fact, most of the subsidies were paid, not to producers, but to consumers, and since payment of the subsidies has been discontinued the consumers have not benefited proportionately. Furthermore, some of the subsidies are still being paid. As an example, although the world parity price of wheat is from 14s. to 15s. a bushel, the home consumption price is only 6s. 3d. a bushel. I do not complain of that because I believe that the taxpayers of this country, who had to subsidize the industry in times of low prices, should receive some return from the consumers at a time of high prices, and most producers are quite willing that the consumers should have the benefit of some concessions. However, I point out that Australian purchasers of hides and skins are being subsidized very considerably. Tallow is sold in Australia at a price much below- world parity, and zinc, lead, copper and many other metals-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must return to discussion of the bill.
– Wheat and other industries are subsidizing the Australian economy very considerably, and it is worth while to examine briefly the efforts made by Labour since it assumed office to solve the wheat problem. As far back as 1938, the Menzies Government, which was confronted by considerable constitutional difficulties, attempted to introduce a scheme of stabilization for the industry, but because of the refusal of certain States to participate in the scheme it had co be abandoned. However, when war occurred, and the Government was able to exercise greater powers in the name of national defence, a pool was formed and the marketing of wheat was undertaken by a board. That pool continued to operate until 1941. In November, 1940, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) introduced regulations to provide for a scheme of stabilization which guaranteed to the farmers a price of 3s. lOd. a bushel. When Labour assumed office and the present VicePresident of the Executive Council became Minister for Commerce and Agriculture those regulations were repealed, and the Scully plan was substituted for them. If that plan contained any merit at all it was that it reduced the liability of the Government to the wheat-growers, because the Government undertook to guarantee wheat-growers a price of only ls. at ports on the first 3,000 bushels which they produced.
– That was the Roberton plan.
– I do not know about chat; but, in the light of experience of its operations, any government would be glad to disown the plan. The introduction of the plan by the Labour Government was simply a political manoeuvre designed to capture votes and to relieve the Treasury of its reasonable liability to the industry. The implementation of the plan had two main effects; it reduced the liability of the Treasury, because world prices in creased, and removed any necessity for the Treasury having to contribute anything to the stabilization of the industry, and it reduced the area sown with wheat by approximately 4,000,000 acres. In war-time food becomes a vital munition, and when that fact was emphasized by members of the Opposition, the present Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) denied that the curtailment of wheat acreage entailed any risk to the country, and assured us that whatever happened Australia had sufficient supplies of wheat to last three years. Yet the following year Australia had to import wheat. The Scully plan did not last long. It was so thoroughly uneconomic and bad, even politically, that a new scheme of stabilization was introduced by legislation enacted in 1946. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for the Government the farmers rejected that scheme out of hand. Then came the International Wheat Agreement, and the same flamboyant prophecies were made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) when he introduced the relevant legislation in this House. That scheme never had a chance; it was stillborn. A similar agreement was negotiated in 1933, and it was broken down by the very country which refused to become a party to the last agreement. Therefore, irrespective of whether the United States of America adhered to the agreement or not, the scheme would never have functioned.
I am prepared to support the present scheme. It is a very reasonable one to place before the farmers, who have indicated their support of it. In this bill, which will undoubtedly become an act, no provision is made for the sale of wheat for stock feed. It is assumed that the Australian Wheat Board will have authority, under the direction of the Minister, to dispose of wheat for stock feed at the same price as will be paid for wheat consumed in Australia by human beings. Before the war, between 33,000,000 and 35,000,000 bushels were so consumed every year. Since the war the quantity has varied between 35.000,000 and 40,000,000 bushels. Thus, a fairly constant quantity of wheat goes each year into human consumption, but the quantity of wheat used for stock feed is anything hut constant. Before the war it averaged 10,000,000 bushels a year. During the worst period of the recent drought, when the overseas price for wheat was much above the homeconsumption price, about 40,000,000 bushels were consumed by stock. The present estimate is about 15,000,000 bushels. I mention this because the proposed arrangement can work to the serious disadvantage of the wheatgrowers. When there is a good harvest, there will also be plenty of feed about, *o that very little wheat will be used for stock feed, and the entire surplus over and above that used for human consumption, seed wheat, and stock feed will be available for export. ‘ Under the plan, the Government guarantees 6s. 3d’, a bushel on only 100,000,000 bushels for export, but in a good season the quantity available for export might well be 110,000,000 bushels, or even 120,000,000 bushels. However, the growers will have to accept the world market price for all wheat exported, over and above 100,000,000 bushels. I believe that the Government should fix a quantity of wheat to be diverted for stock feed, say 15,000,000 bushels or 20,000,000 bushels a year, and this wheat should be paid for at 6s. 3d. a bushel, whether it is used in Australia or is exported. If the Government will undertake such a liability, it would provide greater stability in the industry and would give satisfaction to the growers.
The bill provides for the appointment of a board which is to be given certain powers. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that no board or other authority should have complete control over the administration of a marketing scheme which involves the use of public money. The Government cannot assume a contingent liability under the scheme without having a say in. its administration. Therefore, T do not quibble over the principle of ministerial control.
– But the scheme will be financed out of the contributions of the wheat-growers.
– That will be so at first, but it is probable that before the end of five years public money will be heavily drawn upon, the amount depend ing upon the price of wheat. Clause 18 of the bill, which defines the powers of the board, is as follows : -
And then the clause goes on to enumerate the powers. Whilst I say that the Minister should have the final say, I also believe that the board should be consulted on matters pertaining to its administration. The Minister should not, as in th> in stance of the New Zealand wheat deal, override the board, and act without itf knowledge and without the knowledge of the Parliament or the public. I ask the Minister to prove that he is concerned to guard the interests of the growers b> accepting as an amendment the following addendum to clause 13: -
Each direction given by the Minister under the last preceding sub-section shall be in writing, and a copy shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the giving of th* direction.
There is nothing objectionable about such a proposal. The Minister would have full power to override a decision of the board if he considered that it was detrimental to the public purse, but he would be required to inform the Parliament of the fact. He should be prepared to do that. Acceptance of the proposed amendment would make the board a real controlling authority and would undoubtedly engender confidence in the minds of wheat-growers, members of this Parliament, and the Australian people generally. The farmers have rightly been given an opportunity to pass judgment upon the Government’s plan, and, in view of the fact that 63 per cent, of those who actually voted were in favour of it, we are entitled to believe that it has their general approval. I regret that the bill provides that the scheme shall operate for only five years. That period is far too brief to enable stability to be provided for the wheat industry. The Government could prove the sincerity of its desire to stabilize the industry by extending the term of operation of the .plan to at least ten years.
That would not involve a very great additional financial liability unless one of two contingencies occurred. The first possible contingency is a disastrous fall in world prices. I am not so pessimistic about such a prospect as are the Minister and his advisers because I know that wheat-growing in Australia has been conducted on a bad basis. We have overcropped our land, causing erosion and infertility of the soil. For that reason I do not believe that there will be any great expansion of wheat production in Australia in the near or even distant future. The same thing has happened in certain North American wheat-growing areas. Farmers there have already experienced serious erosion and, although they increased wheat production by 20 per cent, in order to meet the exigencies of war, I have no doubt that they will reduce their output now. The second possible contingency is that costs of production will soar in Australia. That may easily happen, and the tendency is being aggravated substantially by the Government’s industrial policy. I regret to say that the Government is hoping to gain some kudos from the fact that costs and prices are rising since it relinquished prices control to the States. The fact is that any increases that have occurred up to date have resulted from this Government’s administration. Prices are only now catching up with its industrial policy.
-Order! The honorable member should relate his remarks to the wheat industry.
– The bill provides for an adjustment of the price of wheat from year to year according to the cost of production, and the industrial policy of the Government has a very important effect upon costs of production in all industries. It is well for us to realize that rising costs can have a very important effect upon the final result of the stabilization scheme. I have no doubt that that has been taken into account by the Government, and that its desire to reduce its period of liability as much as possible influenced its decision to limit the operation of the scheme to five years. Otherwise, if it were prepared to act in the light of recent experience, it would have no hesitation in extend ing the term of the plan to at least ten years. Consider what has happened during the last eight years. Each year the wheat-growers have received more than the Government estimated they would receive under its various schemes. When the Scully Plan was introduced to protect the revenue, each grower finally received 4s. Std. a bushel for his entire crop instead of 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels and 2s. a bushel for the remaining wheat. In the second year of that scheme, when the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) said that we had three years’ supply of wheat on hand, the growers received 5s. 6 1/4d. a bushel. Next year they received 5s. Id., and in the following year, 1945-46, they received 6s. 6id. a bushel. Now they are to receive a refund of contributions to the pool amounting to ls. 1-id. a bushel, which will increase the overall return for 1945-46 to approximately 7s. 8d. a bushel. The price for 1946-47 was 8s. 6-Jd. a bushel and, in addition, the growers will receive a refund from the pool of 10iA. a bushel, making an average price of 9s. 5d. a bushel. For the current year, although deductions from sales totalling about £15,000,000 will be transferred to the fund which is to be established under the bill, the growers will receive an average price of lis. a bushel. In the light of these facts, the Minister could extend the period of the stabilization plan to ten years with every confidence. Therefore, I hope that an amendment to give effect te my suggestion will be adopted during the committee stage. I know that a change of heart by the Minister is a rare occurrence, but I hope that he will do the right thing on this occasion. Such an extension would make this scheme capable of providing true stability for the wheat industry for years to come.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Postmaster-General’s Department - G. F. Addison, J. F. M. Bryant, G. F. Flanagan, J. Irwin-Bellette, B. D. Slade, G. E. Thompson.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m..
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
New South Wales. - An allocation of £1,500 per annum has been made for the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of public havens, shelters, anchorages, beacons and jetties in New South Wales, for use by boats engaged in the fishing industry. No details of actual expenditure for the year 1947-43 are available.
Victoria. - For 1947-48, an allocation of one sixth the total amount available (the maximum permitted under the act), viz., £147,500, wasallocated for harbour improvement works, of which an actual expenditure of £8,677 was incurred.
South Australia; - The State of South Australia apparently does not recognize the principle of allocating funds for this purpose, and the funds available to the State of South Australia for the year 1947-48 were entirely devoted to the financing of the road programme.
Queensland. - The State of Queensland has established a Commonwealth Aid Marine Works Trust Fund. For the year 1947-48an allocation of £10,000 was paid to this fund, and an. actual expenditure of £1,705 was incurred during the year. Allocations varying from £225 to £3,000 were made to eight projects from the above trust fund.
Western Australia. - An expenditure of £600 for harbours, havens,&c., was incurred during the year 1947-48. No details of the projects financed are available…. .
Tasmania. - The State of Tasmania incurred an expenditure of £4,1 1 1 during the year 1947-48 on jetties for use by the owners of small craft.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481104_reps_18_199/>.