House of Representatives
20 May 1949

18th Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. T. 3. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

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Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.

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Mr- FULLER - Oan the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform me whether the Leighwood estate, near Taralga, is likely to be acquired under the war service, land settlement scheme?

Minister for Defence · CORIO, VICTORIA · ALP

– I “have approved the estate which the honorable member for Hume has mentioned for acquisition end inclusion .in the near service land settlement scheme. The estate, which comprises some ‘7,000 acres, will be sub-divided into five properties for wool-growing. Tha acquisition of that estate will bring (be total area of land approved by the Commonwealth for inclusion in the war service land settlement scheme in Kew South “Wes to approximately 4,750,000 acres.

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–I desire to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a newspaper called Napredak. It is described as the only Yugoslav-Australian newspaper, and is published in Sydney. The address of the bead office is given as 641 George-street. Napredak ia printed partly in the Yugoslav-language and partly in English. ‘ I hand to the Prime Minister a copy of the newspaper published on the 12th March last. The right honorable gentleman will see that a large block of Molotov appears on the front page, and printed on tho inside pages in the English section are a special article on the anniversary of the Young Communist League of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, numerous references to, the Greek Communist party and a cartoon depicting the United States of America as a warmonger. Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has investigated the background of the publishers of this newspaper? Can he state whether those persons are Australian citizens or aliens? If they be aliens, have they been adequately screened ? Can the right honorable gentleman inform me of the source of the funds behind this publication, -and whether there is a link between Napredak and Marx House?


– I had never heard of.. Napredak until the honorable member for Wentworth mentioned it this morning.


– ‘Perhaps the Prime Minister will rea-S it.


– I shall not attempt to read the £rst two pages, “because they are printed in the Yugoslav language. One section of the newspaper is printed in English, but the first page that I glance at does not appear to carry any of the particular matters to winch the honorable member for Wentworth has referred. However, I shall have his questions investigated and inform him of the result.

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– When the Government gives its attention to increasing social service benefits, which I presume it will do when preparing the Estimates of Expenditure for the next financial year, will the Treasurer take into special consideration the claims of pensioners who are either too aged or too feeble to earn anything to supplement their pensions and those invalid pensioners who, by reason of total incapacity, are prevented from, supplementing their pension? Will the Government make a clear statement concerning the right of invalid pensioners to earn money, because at present there seems to be a conflict of opinion on that point? Will the Government consider making any increased payments operative from the 1st July next?


– The matter raised by the honorable member has received consideration by the Government during the current financial year and in the aggregate very substantial increases have been made. However, I cannot promise that any special review of pensions will be made with a view to increasing payments. Certain minor aspects of the pensions scheme may be reviewed, as the Minister for Social Services has already indicated. The incidence of the means test on invalid pensioners has been considered by the Government on a number of occasions. Investigation Has disclosed that 80 per cent, of pensioners would not benefit by any relaxation of the means test. Concerning tho remaining 20 per cent., proposals have been considered at various times that some kind of means test should be applied, to invalid persons who are in receipt of incomes - some of them receive substantial incomes - with a view to eliminating hardship on those who are at present ineligible for a pension because they receive a comparatively small income. The adoption of any such suggestion would, of course, be tantamount to superimposing a means test upon a means test, and the proposals have been rejected. Concerning the last portion of the honorable .member’s question, which .stressed the desirability of making an official statement on the eligibility of invalid pensioners to earn income, I point <out that whereas formerly only those “who suffered l-Ofl per cent, physical incapacity were eligible for pensions, the present position is -that those who .suffer £5 per cent, physical incapacity are eligible. However, in response to the honorable .member’s .request, I shall refer ;the .matter to She Minister for Social -Services for consideration

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– During the war a number of important highways were constructed ‘throughout Australia, particularly in ‘Queensland., such as the road from Charleville to Blackall. Although those highways play an important part in our economic organization by facilitating the rapid transport .df primary produce, many of them have deteriorated badly “because ‘they lack a permanent surface material to bind them. At present local .authorities have not sufficient funds oven to maintain them properly. Because of the importance of these thoroughfares to our primary .production, will the Minister acting Tor the Minister for Transport say whether the Government will make available from the proceeds o’f the petrol tas sufficient money to provide those roads with a permanent bituminous or other surface:?


– I shall investigate the. ‘honorable “member’s “suggestion, and supply him ‘with an answer as soon as possible.

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-: - Can -the Treasurer say under .what appropriation payments .are made to displaced persons -while .they are in -reception .centres ? Are those .persons treated as .unemployed ..and .the -cost of their upkeep and allowances charged to unemployment benefits that are paid out of the tax levied for social services?

Mr Chifley:

– -The Minister for Immigration will answer the question.

Minister for Immigration · MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP

– The expenditure is covered by the appropriation for the Department of Immigration. That department’s “vote is considerable, and the displaced persons who enter reception depots are paid a small weekly allowance, from which is deducted the cost of the board for the month in which they remain in the reception depots. I shall endeavour to obtain the exact information sought by the honorable “member and communicate it to him.

Hr. HOLT. - I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the .undertaking that is required of displaced .persons arriving in this country is .set out .on .-a printed form? Is .there a common form applicable to all displaced person immigrants? Is the text of the undertaking printed both in the language of the person concerned, and in the English language-? Will the .Minister make available -.the text of .the undertaking .’for scrutiny hy honorable .members’.?


– The -answers to all the honorable -member’s questions are broadly in the ‘affirmative. An understanding is -required of, and -is given voluntarily by displaced person ‘immigrants. Et is -on a printed form. T cannot say whether the text of the undertaking is .printed in the language of “the person concerned, hut .as the language understood by all persons in displaced person camps in Germany is “the German language, it may .he that the undertaking is given on a form printed in German. J shall provide the honorable. member with all available information on the matter. T .should like to point out that the -first few .shiploads of displaced persons who arrived .here came on an understanding with .the .International Refugee Organization -that they would be required *to serve under government direction in this country for twelve months only. That arrangement was .made by the .International Refugee Organization through some misunderstanding, because -the agreement with >the organization .that T signed on behalf of the Australian Government was that immigrants to this country under the displaced persons immigration scheme would be required to serve for at least twelve months in employment provided for them. The position was later rectified, and, for the great majority of the displaced persons already in Australia and for all displaced persons arriving in the future, the undertaking is for two years.

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– I have received a letter from Mr. Dickson, the Minister for Building Materials in the Government of New South Wales, in which he has advised me that the production of wire netting, galvanized iron, &c., is primarily the responsibility of the Australian Government and that that Government, at the time when the States took over the distribution of controlled materials within the States, agreed to retain the responsibility for production and distribution among the various States. In view of that statement by Mr. Dickson, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development say what action the Government has taken to increase the production of galvanized iron, roofing iron, steel posts and wire netting, of which there is an extreme shortage, and which are urgently needed by primary producers and housing authorities?


– The statement made by the honorable gentleman which he has attributed to a Minister of the New South Wales Government, requires some qualification. At a referendum in 1944, this Government asked for power over production, but, Unfortunately, it was not given that power. Therefore, it is incorrect to suggest that the Australian Government has any power over production. It is true that during the war and for some time after the cessation of hostilities, the Australian Government controlled, not the production of these materials, but the allocation of them among the States. In 1945 it was agreed that the Australian Government should continue to allocate certain constructional materials, includ ing wire netting, on a basis to be agreed upon by the States. The Government of New South Wales and all other State governments of the Commonwealth, were parties to that agreement. In the meantime, the power of the Commonwealth even to distribute these materials, let alone to control production of them, has waned owing to the fact that the war has now been over for a considerable time. Recently the Australian Government suggested to the State governments that, because the Commonwealth no longer has authority under the defence power of th, Constitution to impose upon the manufacturers of these materials a certain form of distribution, the State governments should endeavour, in the near future, to make their arrangements with regard to them. The Australian Government itdoing everything it possibly can do to assist in increasing the production of these materials. The Minister for Immigration has offered to make available to the Government of New South Wale.” displaced persons for employment in certain industries. In that way it is hoped to break some of the bottlenecks and to increase the production of these materials in the near future.

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– During the last session of the Parliament the insurance provisions of the War Service Homes Act were extended to enable ex-servicemen who had discharged their liability to reinsure their property under the war service homes insurance scheme. Will the Minister for Works and Housing inform me whether any ex-servicemen have taken advantage of the new provision? What is the approximate rate payable?

Minister for Works and Housing · FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– Some ex-servicemen have reinsured their properties under the war service homes insurance scheme, but I cannot inform the honorable gentleman of the exact number that have done 80 The amounts that are paid by exservicemen under the scheme are paid into a trust fund or pool, from which claims are paid. The approximate rate charged at present is 50 per cent, of that charged by tariff companies. Even at that rate, the fund is in such a healthy financial position that next year I propose to make » 33 per cent rebate on this year’s payments. The rate payable, which is already only 50 per cent, of that charged by tariff companies, will be reduced by 13 per cent.

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– I direct the Prime Minister’s attention to a statement in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald alleged k> have been made by Mr. J. Healy, the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, in which Mr. Healy said that the federation had received no request from the Government to nominate two new members to the Stevedoring Industry Commission and that it had not been informed officially that its representatives on the commission, Messrs. Healy and Roach, wore to be removed from it. Has the Government requested the federation to nominate two new members to the commission and, if so, has receipt of the Government’s communication been acknowledged by the federation? Has the federation been informed officially that the appointments of Messrs. Healy and Roach as members of the commission have been cancelled? Is a statement which appeared in the same newspaper that the commission had given permission for a. stop-work meeting of members of the federation to be held next Wednesday in Sydney, correct, and, if so, under what authority was this permission given, as the commission would appear not to be able to function when it is short of two of its members?


– I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable member. The position is that the Government decided that, unless certain assurances were given within a certain time, Messrs. Healy and Roach would be removed from the commission. Those assurances were not given. Messrs. Healy and Roach can be removed only by Executive Council minute, and I understand that that minute was made either yesterday or the day before.

Mr Scully:

– It has been done.


– The Vice-President of the Executive Council states that the minute has been issued. Following the issue of the minute the necessary intimation will be sent to the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. I presume that it is ready to be sent now or that it was sent yesterday by the Minister. The position as it stands should, I consider, be clearly understood now by the federation. Mr. Healy clearly understood what the Government’s intention was in respect of the commission, because he sent me a telegram protesting against the Government’s action as it had been at that stage announced in the press, from which I assume he had his knowledge of it, unless, of course, he had been informed of the position by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. I replied to Mr. Healy’s telegram, as I do to all telegrams, as a matter of courtesy, and informed him quite clearly that the reason for the action was that it was impossible for the commission to operate if its member* were not prepared to co-operate. There is much matter in the honorable member’s question which can not be clearly answered at the moment I should say that the commission could not operate unless it were properly constituted, or in other words, unless its six members were available to sit on it. The commission could operate without the six members actually being in attendance at (> meeting, but not if it did not have a full membership of six in existence.

Mr Thompson:

– .Might not the stopwork meeting mentioned in the newspaper be an ordinary monthly stop-work meeting ?


– Until the coram;.sion is legally constituted, I should imagine there would be some difficulty in its sitting and functioning properly. The information to the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia would have gone out to-day, if not yesterday, and would give it an opportunity to report whether it is prepared to nominate other members or not. I have no knowledge about the stop-work meeting that the honorable member has mentioned but I shall make some inquiries and give him an answer. It may be a routine stop-work meeting. Waterside workers frequently hold stop-work meetings, I understand with the permission of the commission in certain circumstances.

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Mr.DUTHIE - In addressing a question to the Minister for Commerce? and Agriculture, I desire to refer to the growing menaces of rabbits which, by theway, seem to be increasing in numbers much faster than is the Liberal party.I should like to point out to the Minister that the menace of the rabbit to pasture growth and primary production in Tasmania is rather serious. In view of the lower price now being paid for rabbit skins, will the Minister, soas to encourage trappers, confer with the Acting Premierof Tasmaniawitha view to encouraging some firm to utilize the largeunusedflaxmillownedbytheAustralian Government at Gatlands, in the Southern Midlandsof Tasmania forthe purpose of canning rabbit carcasses for export to the United Kingdom? There isa canningfactoryatUlverstone, in the north, but rabbits are becoming very numerousin the south.

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · ALP

– I note that the honourablememberis of the opinion that therabbitpest isincreasingin Tasmania. I direct his attentionto the fact that the State Government ofTasmania is responsible for the administration of laws thathave to do withthe control or eliminationof noxiousweeds, vermin and destructive parasites in that State? I do not know whether the rabbit pest is actually increasing in Tasmania, but I know that, generally speaking, where landownersfulfil theirobligations under State laws, rabbits havenot become the pest that they are sometimes alleged to be. Where they have got out of control, the fault is generally that of neglectful landowners and, in some instances,. State authorities which have failed to destroy rabbits on Crown land. I shall be glad to consider any propositions which thePremier of Tasmania may put forward for the use of plant for the canning of rabbit carcasses and, if necessary, I shall pass on such proposals to the Minister in charge of the disposal of Commonwealth property with a request that they be thoroughly investigated. I shall also ascertain whether any assistancecan be given in the establishment of such an undertaking as the honorable member has suggested.




– Can the Treasurer say whether it is- correct, as reported in an Australian Associated press-Reuters message from Shanghai, that 4,000,000Austraiiansilver 5s. pieces and 250,000 oz. of gold bullion were recentlysent to China? If so, can the Treasurer explain the reason for this action of the Australian Government? Is it true, as was also reported, that these Australian coins will be melted down to permit the coining of Chinese dollars?

Mr.CHIFLEY.-Ihave no knowledge ofany transaction ofthe kind mentioned by the honorable member. It is true that the Commonwealth Bank, through one of its departments, the mint, has engaged in the melting down of silver coins. When it was decided to reduce the silver content of Australian coins, a good dealof melting down and reminting was undertaken. The mint in Australia is a British institution which is used by the Australian Government, and to that degree its organization is peculiar. I do not know anything of the matter mentioned by the honorable member; butI shall make inquiries, andsupply more information next week.

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Pacificzone- Indian Ocean - Hong kong-china.


-Have there been any talks since the end of the war between the Australian Government and. the Government of the United Kingdom, either atthe ministerial or service level, concerning joint action in matters of defence in the Indian Ocean or western Pacific zone? If so, have any agreements or understandings emerged concerning collaborative action for the safeguarding of British Commonwealth interests within those areas? If such agreements or understandingshave been reached, what, briefly, is their effect? If there are such understandings or agreements, how is it that they do not involve the Australian Government in any obligation, to assist, including the obligation to offer aid f or the adequate defence of Hong Kong in the present emergency?

In view of the frequently repeated statements by the Government that Australia in future, must take a much larger share than in the past in defending British Commonwealth interests in the Pacific zone, will the Government discuss with the British Government whether Australian aid in the defence of Commonwealth interests in Hong Kong would be advantageous and, if so, the form in which it could best be made available?


– The honorable member should have placed his question upon the notice-paper if he desired a complete answer on all the matter that he has raised. On a number of occasions discussions have been held on a services level, and partly on a ministerial level, regarding the degree to which a Pacific pact might involve cooperation between the services. I believe that it has been generally understood that certain facilities at our disposal would always be available to the United States of America ; and it is most probable, too, that certain services which the Americans might possess would be made available to us. At this stage I cannot go into all the details of the various discussions which have taken place from time to time. During the last month the Secretary of the Defence Department has been to the United States of America, where he has had discussions with representatives of the American Government, including the Secretary of State and other officials as the result of arrangements which I made. Those talks did not relate specifically to the possible, arrangement of any pact. The attitude of the United States of America since the conclusion of hostilities has been that it will not enter into any fixed agreement with respect to the Pacific but will devote its attention primarily to Europe and the rehabilitation of European countries, whilst matters associated with the Pacific might well await attention until the problems in Europe have been worked out. As soon as I can do so, I shall have a statement prepared on the matters raised by the honorable member.

Mr White:

– What about Hong Kong?


– Much has been published in the press regarding Hong Kong, and, naturally, fears have arisen in the minds of some people of a possible attack upon Hong Kong. I believe that some of the reports are greatly exaggerated. For instance, between 2,000 and 3,000 British subjects have refused to leave even Shanghai, and British subjects throughout the areas which have been overrun by the Communists in China have expressed their intention of remaining. They have indicated that they do not wish to be removed. The position is much the same in Nanking. The Russians were the only foreign nationals who wanted to get out of that city. Thus the position is rather complicated. The question of rendering assistance in respect of Hong Kong has not been raised. The Australian Government has agreed to a request by the United Kingdom Government to divert the liner, Georgie, temporarily from the immigration trade to carry about 2,000 dependants of British servicemen from London to Malaya. No request has been made with respect to the evacuation of British subjects from Hong Kong.

Mr White:

– Has the right honorable gentleman considered sending Australia’s new aircraft carrier to Hong Kong?


– No ; no request along those lines was made to me when I was recently in Great Britain.

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– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel arising from an urgent telegram which I have received from the chairman of the Gladstone Harbour Board dealing with shipping services at that port. Delamere is at present at Gladstone discharging and loading cargo, and in order to expedite the turn-round of that vessel, and also to avoid a prolonged hold-up of dredging operations being carried out to reclaim land urgently required to provide stock piles of Callide coal, it has been proposed to work the ship on Saturday and Sunday. The local waterside workers are completely in agreement with this proposal and have undertaken to supply the necessary labour. The Australian Shipping Board, however, has refused to permit the Gladstone Harbour Board to carry on with the loading and unloading of the vessel on Saturday and Sunday. In view of the importance of this matter, will the Minister ask his colleague to contact the Australian Shipping Board urgently for the purpose of ensuring that such permission is given to the Gladstone Harbour Board so that its desires and those of the waterside workers may be met ?


– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and ask him to do what he can along the lines suggested by cbe honorable member.

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– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether or not the Australian Government will give a financial guarantee for the 1950 Tasmanian apple and pear crop and also continue the present agreement with the Tasmanian Government in respect of the marketing of such fruit?


– The question asked by the honorable member relates to a matter of government policy. At the moment it is the intention of the Government to gazette the appointment of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Et is hoped that the Australian apple and pear export trade will be able to resume the normal trade practices pursued prior to the war and that there will be no need for government guarantees or government control of the industry during the forthcoming season.

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– Will the Treasurer indicate how Treasury officials police the National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations? How are the activities of certificatehawking concerns policed, particularly such concerns as are operated by firms and unregistered companies? Will the Treasurer investigate illegal capitalraising activities and make a statement to the House on the subject?


– The honorable member appears to imply that some people of undesirable character are engaged in share-hawking. I shall be glad to have that implication examined and shall furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.

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– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs state whether it is correct, as reported in the press yesterday, that Australia was included among the nations which voted in favour of a proposal to give Italy trusteeship over certain former colonies at the current United Nations meetings, in which one clause proposed to give Italy trusteeship over Tripolitania after 1951? Does this indicate that the Australian Government favours the return to Italy of former colonies of that nation?


– As the honorable member is aware, the question of the return of Italian colonies raises many difficulties. It involves Cyrenaica Eritrea, the port of Asmara and other places. I understand that some discussion took place between representatives of the British and Italian Governments in regard to the terms of a resolution concerning the future of former Italian colonies, which was subsequently submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations. I believe that one of the difficulties associated with this problem is due to the fact that a very large proportion of the people of Tripolitania, being Muslims., are averse to their country being placed under Italian trusteeship. We were informed that they took that view in 1946 and I presume their attitude has not since changed. We were anxious that a settlement should be effected, particularly in regard to Cyrenaica. The problem, however, involved certain other strategic matters. Finally a resolution was proposed at the General Assembly. As the honorable member is probably aware, although we had some reservations about certain aspects of this matter, particularly in regard to Tripolitania, taken all in all on balance we believed that we should give our general support to the proposals submitted to the United Nations. Like many others, I have been disturbed by reports that 90 per cent of the people of Tripeli tania do not desire Italian trusteeship. It was proposed that if the North African colonies were returned to Italy, certain other powers would be consulted on their administration. The problem is most involved, and I shall endeavour to have a statement prepared on it for the honorable member for Henty. The matter has already provoked considerable discussion, and I regret that a final decision has not yet been made because, in the interests of the British Government, we are anxious that a settlement should be reached.

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Postmaster-General · BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · ALP

– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether the holding of the Olympic games in Melbourne will involve a heavy construction programme, and if so, what effect that work will have on the housing situation in Victoria, particularly in Melbourne?


– The Melbourne Olympic games will not take place until 1956, and I believe that no good purpose oan be served by endeavouring to forecast ow what the housing position will be at that date. I am confident that the great influx of migrants into this country under the Government’s progressive immigration scheme will strengthen our basic industries to such a degree that ve shall be able to meet all housing demands as well as the Olympic games construction programme.

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Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -

That leave lie given to bring in a bill for an nut to provide for the establishment of an Australian Whaling Commission and for the carrying on by the commission of whaling Activities in certain waters, and of activities incidental thereto.

Bill presented, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for ‘Commerce and Agriculture · Ballarat · ALP

. - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Che purpose of the bill is to makie provision for a whaling industry to be established and developed on sound lines in Australia and to provide for the appointment of a central authority to administer and manage whaling operations on the Government’s behalf. With the exception of certain private interests which have engaged in whaling activities in a small way at odd points on the Australian coast no serious attempt has been made since 1937 to take advantage of the fact that normal whale tracks lie within easy reach of the Australian coast on both the western and eastern sides. A valuable resource which should logically b>available to our country has therefore been practically neglected for many years. It is only after much thought and research that the Government has decided to establish the enterprise. After inquiries over several years, a recognized Norwegian whaling expert, Captain Alf Melsom, was engaged by the Government nearly eighteen months ago, and he spent more than a year investigating the possibilities of the successful development of the industry in Australia. Captain Melsom is convinced that there is a bright future for the industry. His ideas run first to a factory ship with chaser vessels to operate at various locations off the Australian coast and occasionally, in order to spell the Australian waters, in the Antarctic. Shore-based stations involving chaser vessels and processing factories on land could operate either in addition to a factory ship or as a modified alternative. The Government considers that there is no reason why Australia, with its natural geographic advantages, should not take an active part in whaling operations. As a result of inquiries, which were pursued in several countries, it became apparent that a suitable factory ship could be neither constructed nor converted in time to commence whaling operations in the 1950-51 season, and, because of this, the alternative proposal has been adopted of erecting and operating a shore station as a first step. Subject to the Parliament’s approval of the bill, it is hoped that a suitable station can be erected and fitted and chaser vessels and skilled personnel obtained in time to commence whaling in June, 1950. The time factor is important since it is desirable that the undertaking be commenced while price* of whale oil and other whale product? remain high.

There is no doubt that large numbers of whales pass along certain portions of our eastern and western coasts each season. In the 1936 and 1937 seasons, two factory ships operating off the

Western Australian coast captured be- tweenthem over6,000 whales, which produced approximately 42,000 tonsof high-grade oil valued at over £850,000. At thattime whale oil was valued at about £20 a ton, whereas to-day’s United Kingdom price is about £A.112 a ton, c. & f. United Kingdom ports, for No, 1 grade oil. On the estimates of technical advisers, it seems evident that, provided the prices of whale oil and other products of this industry stay at reasonable levels, capital expenditure on the establishment of shore stations or on the provision of a factory ship will be recouped in a relatively short period. If Australia does not exploit this latent resource, it is certain that other countries will be interested in doing so. We already have some indications of this. The Government considers that the experience that will be gained in the operation of a shore station will prove valuable at a later stage, when it is intended that whaling activities shall be expanded if the early results appear to justify such expansion.

Preliminary inquiries are being made abroad in regard to modern whaling technique and the availability of suitable vessels, plant and machinery as well as expert personnel. It would be necessary to engage a proportion of skilled men from overseas, and it is considered that the types of men who would be selected would prove an asset to the country if they should decide to remain here with their families. The development of a whaling industry in the less populous spots on the Australian coast would be a progressive step in the Government’s decentralization policy. It is proposed that the first station shall be erected on the Western Australian coast, but the most suitable spot has not been finally determined. It is expected that a moderately sized station with three chaser vessels should catch about 600 whales in a season. “Humpback” whales, which are protected in the Antarctic under the international Convention, are plentiful in Australian latitudes and can be taken there. Australia has been represented at several international whaling conferences and has subscribed to the International Whaling Convention of 1946. The first meeting of the International Whaling Commission arising from the 1946 convention will be held at London at the end of this month and the Director of fisheries of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture will attend.

The Government has introduced the bill because it believes that Australia should not delay any longer in entering the whaling industry. As I mentioned earlier, there has been no real attempt by private enterprise to develop this industry on a proper scale and the Government considers that the only sound and practical alternative is to establish it as a government enterprise with a relatively moderate beginning that will allow for such development in nearby waters or in the Antarctic as may appear justified from the early experiences. It is proposed to set up a small commission of three to establish and manage the industry, and it is intended that the chairman shall be the executive member of the commission on a full-time basis. The bill has been divided into three parts. Part I. comprises machinery provisions and definitions. Part II. provides for the establishment of a commission and defines its powers and functions. Provisions relating to the appointment of staff, methods of finance and the presentation of annual reports are also included in this part. Part III. contains a miscellaneous provision and authorizes the making of regulations. I commend the bill to the consideration of honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Falkinder) adjourned.

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Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) agreed to -

That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the construction and operation of works for the generation of hydroelectric power in the Snowy Mountains area.

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Reference to Public Works Committee

Minister for Works and Housing · Forrest · ALP

– I move -

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee

Act 1913-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Erection at Prospect, New South Wales, of a wool biology laboratory for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

The laboratory is required to provide specialized research facilities of a kind that are not available at present in Australia. The absence of such facilities precludes a commencement being made on a number of important new lines of investigation. The project will be undertaken in three stages, the first and second stages to be carried out by the Department of Works and Housing, and the final stage, comprising the supply and installation of specialized equipment, by the Commonwealth Scientific and IndustrialResearch Organization. The first stage envisages the construction of a feed store, two sheep houses, workshop and garage, and fleece and shearing building, whilst the second stage provides for the erection of the main laboratory, the boiler house, and examination and climate control building. A permanent type of construction is proposed having mainly brick walls, although in some instances they will be of reinforced concrete, particularly dwarf walls and partitioning of the pens. Floors generally will be of reinforced concrete with some sections having timber flooring. The estimated costs as at October, 1948, were £99,500 for stage 1 and £224,900 for stage 2. These estimates do not provide for the cost of the work envisaged in stage 3, namely, the supply and installation of specialized equipment by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I lay on the table the plans of the proposal.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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Debate resumed from the 19th May (vide page 118), on motion by Mr. Dedman -

That the following paper be printed: -

Brief Review of Australia’s Manufacturing Economy in the Post-war Period.


– The contents of this paper, which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) presented to the House on the 25th November, 1948, caused a revulsion of feeling in the minds of not only members of the Opposition, but also the general manufacturing community. The fact that the Government did not provide an opportunity for honorable members to debate this paper earlier than the18th May, calls for comment. I have been wondering why the paper, which is so grossly misleading and of such a specious nature, was presented to the Parliament last November. However, I can well imagine the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Dr. Evatt, saying to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. “ One of the objectives of our Charter is full employment. Other countries will be interested to know how Australia is progressing under the present Government’s policy of full employment. Can you prepare a paper for overseas consumption that is based, not on the real facts of our manufacturing industry, but on matters so closely allied to it that a good impression will be created abroad ? “ Probably for that reason this viciously misleading paper has been presented to the Parliament, and I have no doubt that copies of it have found their way to the International Labour Office and the United Nations, and have been used extensively by those organizations. Some of the contents of the paper are most deceptive. A typical extract of that nature is the following : -

The value of factory production in Australia during 1946-47 was an all-time record at £4 1 2.945,000- double the figure for 1938-39. Due to increase in prices this comparison alone exaggerates the story, but, for the same years, the number of factories increased by 29 per cent. to 34,767. and persons employed in manufacturing increased by 42 per cent. to 803,693.

The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction had to give some explanation of the increased value of production, but he qualified it by saying, in effect, “ Of course, we all know there have been some increases in prices and values, but, briefly, the fact is that the number of factories has increased by 29 per cent. and the number of persons employed in manufacturing has increased by 42 per cent.” Upon that statement, the Minister has rested. But the value of production is no index to output, although the figures certainly look good on paper. For that reason, the Minister has quoted values instead of production. It is true that the volume of factory production from 1933- 39 to 1946-47 increased by approximately 43.3 per cent., but that figure does not disclose an increase of production per worker in our factories. The greater volume of production is due, not to an increase of production per head, but to an increase of the number of factory employees. Thus the position is entirely different from what the Minister would have us believe it to be. According to my information, factory production has increased by 43 per cent., but at the same time the number of factory employees has increased by 43 per cent. Therefore, the position is static. It is interesting to note that the Government states that the number of persons employed in manufacturing increased by 42 per cent, in the period 1938-39 to 1946-47. I have used the figure of 43 per cent, which, I understand, is the correct one.

The Government has preened its feathers because it claims that factory employment has increased by 42 per cent, in eight years, but it has failed to mention a fact that would have devastating results in the consideration of a paper of this kind if it were to become generally known. Whilst the number of persons employed in factories during the period under review has increased y 42 per cent., the number of persons employed by the Australian Government has increased by 136 per cent. The Minister is resting upon the figures that he has given in order to prove that the manufacturing position is healthy. He prefers to ignore the fact that output is so low that we are unable to overtake the shortages caused by the war. How can he advance such claims with any degree of sincerity when he knows that the Government is rapidly increasing the number of its employees and thereby depriving industry of labour? How can he hope that the shortages resulting from the diversion of many of our industries to the manufacture of arms and equipment during the war will be overtaken? Output per man-hour in industry has fallen by between 10 per cent, and 20 per cent, since 193S-39. That is the kind of test which we should apply when determining whether our manu- facturing position is healthy. Interesting figures relative to the situation have been compiled by the Associated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia. That organization has made an analysis of the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures for the engineering industry from 1938-39 to 1946-47, and it shows conclusively that output per person has fallen by IS per cent, and the value of production per person by 11 per cent. In the electrical machinery and equipment industry, the output per person fell in the same period by 14 per cent, and the value of pro,duction by 16 per cent.-

Mr Menzies:

– Are those Australian figures?


– Yes, they were compiled by the Associated Chamber of Manufactures from the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. Since the compilation of those statistics there has been a reduction of working hours, which has resulted in a further decline. The truth is that there has been no real drive for increased production by the present Administration, although it is perfectly true that in the last year or so a great mamappeals have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and Governmenspokesmen for higher output. However. I shall show that those appeals have been nothing more than mere lip service to the achievement of the objective. The real policy of the Government concerning production has been disclosed by utterances of Ministers from time to time. Beyond acknowledging the serious inadequacy of production, the Government has done practically nothing to remove the causes of that situation, and the appeals of its spokesmen have been unaccompanied by any positive action. The Government has done nothing whatever to convince the people that the maintenance and improvement of our living standards depends upon production, and upon production alone. It has made no substantial reduction of taxation or of unnecessary governmental expenditure. Honorable members know that from time to time the Government has encountered an intense barrage of criticism from the Opposition because of its failure to reduce governmental expenditure, which has reached lavish proportions and must have a deleterious effect upon the general health of our economy. It has done nothing to put the law into effect against subversive elements. Honorable members will remember that the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition dealt particularly with this aspect of the matter. The Government has been recreant to its trust, and if it believes at all in a policy of increased production, it should do something more than render mere lip service to that policy. It has done nothing whatever to encourage initiative under the system of free enterprise which has meant so much to Australia in the past, and which, incidentally, has been responsible for the development of industry, to which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction paid such extravagant tribute in the document before us. If the unpleasant facts which I am now stressing had been publicized when this document was released six months ago, they would have created some real interest in the minds of people overseas and those for whose consumption the document was designed. Because the real facts of the situation have been withheld for a period of six months, it is exceedingly difficult to correct the false impressions which arise from the speciously misleading statements contained in this official document, and honorable members know how difficult it is to overtake a lie.

Let us consider the Government’s real policy concerning production. It stands convicted out of the mouths of its Ministers. I shall deal first with the statements of the Prime Minister, because f believe that we should deal first with the head of the Government. In reply to his repeated appeals for greater production, I suggest to him that it would be better for him to appeal not by mere words but to show by action what he proposes to do to implement his policy. On the 16th and 17th October last year, the Prime Minister called a conference of trade unionists at Sydney Trades Hall to discuss the need for greater production. Mr. Day, a representative of the rubber workers, asked the following question : “When production reaches the stage where there are surpluses, how will the Government take up any unemployment? “ That is a question which comes right from the heart of the workers. So often other members of the present Government and the “ red “ wreckers of the country have said to workers : “ Go slow, brother; do not work yourself out of the job. Do not create surpluses, because if you do you will find yourself on the industrial scrapheap “ that Mr. Day very rightly asked this important question of the Prime Minister. It is very enlightening to consider the answer made by the Prime Minister, because it was most revealing. It was to the effect that under the enlightened policy of the Government, infatuated with its socialistic enterprises, there must inevitably be a regimentation of industrial labour. In other words, labour must be directed. It is only reasonable, and when the worker feels that he is liable to be regimented and directed, that he may no longer be a free unit in the industrial community, that he will say : “ I will have none of it. I shall not produce to the stage where I shall be directed into other employment”. That will inevitably be the reaction of the workers to the Government’s production policy. The set pattern of that policy is clearly defined in the answer made by the right honorable gentleman to Mr. Day. The right honorable gentleman said -

No guarantee can be given to anybody that they can stay put in a particular industry, but there will bc work for alL lt is realized that there will have to be transfer of workers, and in many cases transfers of whole communities to other forms of work. The most that any government can do is to see that there is work for everybody. I am quite certain that everybody will not be able to stay at home, because there will have to be transfers of labour if there is going to be expansion. I am not going to fool any one in that regard. It may even involve a plan of movable towns to provide reasonable living conditions and amenities while big projects are in progress.

There we have the answer. What the Prime Minister said was, in effect: “We shall have to regiment and conscript labour. It does not matter whether you are an engineer, if you are required to peel potatoes at Alice Springs then you will go to Alice Springs and peel potatoes “.

Mr Dedman:

– That is a gross distortion of what the Prime Minister said.


– I shall read the report of his statement again for the Minister’s benefit. It reads -

It is realized that there will have to be transfer of workers, and in many cases transfers of whole communities to other forms of work.

Mr Dedman:

– Voluntary transfers - naturally, the transfers will be voluntary.


– Then let the Minister listen to this portion of the Prime Minister’s remarks -

I am quite certain that everybody -will not be able to stay at home, because there will have to be transfers of labour if there is going to be expansion.

Is that not complete regimentation and conscription of labour? Following the publication of the Prime Minister’s remarks, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) immediately came forward and stated, in effect : “ Halt ! This will cause some trouble in unionists’ ranks and amongst the workers when they realize that they are to be regimented and directed here, there and everywhere “. In his mind he asked himself, “ What is the answer to the Prime Minister’s forecast? The answer is to ensure that production never reaches the stage where there is a surplus “. In effect he invoked the old adjuration: “Brother, do not work yourself out of a job “. What he actually said was -

Workers have nothing to gain and everything to lose by increasing production beyond what would be necessary to maintain themselves and their families.

What a policy of despair in this country where people are talking of expanding our industries! What a condemnation of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who dared to publish this specious, misleading paper for consumption outside Australia! A statement of the Prime Minister’s views should have been issued along with this paper now before us so that people outside Australia, for whose consumption the paper was intended, could understand the technique for increased production envisaged by the Government. The PostmasterGeneral also had the following to say : -

Increasing strike action, however, by workers nowadays in most countries in the world would indicate that the danger of producing surpluses is being realized by them where the necessary provision is not being made to raise their standards of living and to provide for co-operative and peaceful trading among the nations. Coal-miners, for example, have few, if any, illusions about the matter.

His remarks are reported in the Melbourne Argus of the 6th November, 1948. In his statement he actually pinpointed the coal-miners, whose inadequate production is the substantial cause of our failure to increase our industrial output. The Postmaster-General seized the opportunity to make capital out of the Prime Minister’s remarks. His advice to the workers was, in effect : “ You are liable to be directed, of course, but you can avert that by going slow. Remember, do not work yourself out of a job “. There was, of course, an immediate reaction in the ranks of the Australian Labour party outside the Parliament. On the 16th January this year, Mr. McAlpine, the federal president of the Australian Labour party said -

We cannot have full employment unless we have a balanced economy. It is necessary to have man-power control in the interests of working people especially. Employers will not release men they do not need for the time being, fearing they will not be able to get them later. If workers were directed elsewhere to continuous and greater output national prosperity would be increased.

The Australian Labour party was endeavouring to bring its members into lin<with the policy propounded by the Prime Minister, In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 4th March, 1949, the Prime Minister is reported to have said, at a meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party in Canberra, when discussing the Snowy River project, that, if necessary, an organization similar to the war-time Allied Works Council should be created. The creation of such organizations would mean the regimentation of labour and the direction of men to work upon projects such as the Snowy River scheme. On that occasion the right honorable gentleman was, in effect, repeating the earlier statement that he had made. I should regard the establishment of an Allied Works Council in time of peace with a great deal of fear because I believe that we can trace the present go-slow policy and the 60 per cent, production of the average worker to the conditions that were associated with the Allied Works Council during the war period. It is well known that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction stated that only approximately 45 per cent, efficiency could be expected from workers under the Allied Works Council. That was a direction to the workers to go slow. The men who returned from the Allied Works Council to industry have continued to work on that basis. If the Allied Works Council were to be resurrected, we should have a continuous go-slow policy amongst the workers of Australia. Could they be blamed for it ? If men are to be uprooted from their homes, directed into callings that may have no appeal to them, and regimented and controlled, can they be expected to give of their best, to wax enthusiastic in their jobs and to do the things that are necessary to derive the full benefit from their employment?

In order that we may judge the effect of the 43 per cent, increase of factory employment and of the vast increase of the number of Australian factories, I propose to examine the production of one or two very important commodities that are essential to a healthy community. There is no need for me to dilate upon the acute shortage of homes. That shortage is an indictment of every government in Australia. Many young married couples are forced to live with their relatives or in one miserable room, in which they must rear their children and try to achieve some form of home life that will make them good citizens and contented with the married state. How often are marriages broken because of the close proximity of married couples to individuals who are not congenial to them? One of the greatest problems that can confront any government is the housing of its people, but, in spite of all the flapdoodle and poppycock in this document, which is designed for outside consumption, we find that the production of the ordinary house brick, an article which is essential to building, has decreased. Brick production in 1947-48 was 19.8 per cent, less than in 1938-39. We have not even maintained the standard of production that was achieved in pre-war years. Having regard to the great need for homes, it might have been expected that the Government, especially in view of the increase of factory employment and of the number of factories, would concentrate upon the production of essential materials such as bricks. Instead, although the number of people employed in factories is greater than it ever has been, owing to the go-slow policy, the production of bricks has been, the production of bricks has decreased by 19.8 per cent. It is impossible to obtain corrugated iron for the roofing of houses. Terra cotta tiles have been an important item in the roofing of houses, but although there is a greater need for home-building than ever before and notwithstanding that the number of factory employees and factories has increased, the production of these articles was only 5 per cent, greater in 1947-48 than it was in 1938-39. There is no need to emphasize the importance of Portland! cement in home construction. The production of Portland cement has increased: by only 12 per cent. Although the manufacture of fuel stoves has increased by .& per cent., the production of gas stoves has1 decreased by 10 per cent. It is true that the production of electric stoves has increased, but an electric stove is useless if electric power is not available. The electricity shortage has increased the demand for stoves other than those using electricity, but we find that the production of fuel stoves has increased only very slightly while the production of gas stoves has decreased by 11 per cent.

In the document that we are now considering the following passages appear : -

Australia’s resources of raw materials were developed - for example, coal, iron-ore and some of the non-ferrous metals. Transport facilities were improved . . .

Australia’s iron and steel industry now has six blast and 21 open hearth furnaces with an annual capacity of about 1.75 million tons of steel from local ores.

Those statements are designed to create the impression that Australia has achieved the maximum possible output of steel, that we have developed our resources of raw materials and have established the necessary blast furnaces and open hearth furnaces for the manufacture of steel. Steel is, of course, a major factor in the construction programme of any country. The position is that we are now importing steel from Belgium and expecting to import it from France at prices greatly in excess of the prices of Australian steel. In a recent press statement, the Prime Minister said that the governments of Australia would have to pay the difference between the price of Australian steel and the inflated prices of overseas steel, so that Australian production could be maintained. In spite of all the flowery phrases that are contained in this document, the Government is aware that the production of steel in Australia is only 58 per cent, or 60 per cent, of the possible output. The reference to the development of our resources of raw materials is, of course, just plain ballyhoo. The vital point of any presentday argument is that our raw materials are not being developed, and that that is so far the very simple reason that coal is not being mined in sufficient quantities to make development possible. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) warned us in this chamber in March of this year that the volume of the production of coal and steel would have a decisive effect on the levels of employment during the year. He warned us, but what did he do to bring about at least normal production of those commodities? He said that losses in recent weeks were matters of serious concern in that their effect would ultimately be spread over practically every field of employment. Let us examine the figures relating to coal production, because we heard something the other evening from the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) in this respect. Coal is basic to the development of our industries. That is wellknown to the subversive communistic element in the community. The Communists know that if they can sabotage the coal industry they need not worry about other industries, because they will have gone a long way towards stifling production generally in Australia. Underground coal production in New South “Wales last year was nearly 700,000 tons less than it was in 1939, although in the same period employment in the coal industry rose by more than 20 per cent. That is characteristic of other industries. There was also a 43 per cent, increase in factory employment, but a 20 per cent, decrease of production. In March last, the number of persons employed in the coal industry was 18,046, the highest number employed in the industry since 1930. Last year strikes caused a loss of more than 2,000,000 tons of coal. It is true that in that year we had a gain of about 1,250,000 tons won from open-cuts, but that production was more than offset by the loss of 2,000,000 tons caused by strikes. In his statement the Minister spoke of improved transport. The NewSouth Wales Government Railways last year received only 89 per cent, of its coal requirements. About S,000 trucks were out of action. The railways did not have sufficient coal to lift the whole of the wheat crop to the seaboard. Yet the Minister in his paper states that transport facilities were improved. Well, save the mark! If 8,000 trucks are out of action and we cannot even move our wheat crop to the seaboard, and have not sufficient coal to maintain our ordinary transport difficulties, how can it be said that our transport facilities have been improved? This is the most speciously misleading paper that has ever been presented to this Parliament.

I turn now to the iron and steel industry. The position of this industry is fairly heartening on paper, in the terms that the Minister has used. But the outlook is pessimistic if we examine the facts associated with the industry. The iron and steel industry, which is so vital to the building industry, was the greatest sufferer from last year’s coal shortage. It consumed 17 per cent, of all coal used, but received 10 per cent, less than in 1947. As a direct consequence of coal shortages this industry is working at approximately only 6.0 per cent, of its capacity. I suppose that last year it was worked at about 26 per cent, below its capacity. The steel shortage, as all honorable members must know, hits at almost the entire range of Australian industry. Employment depends upon steel production. Exlcnsion of time granted.”] Australian industry and employment depend upon steel as a basic material. It is essential particularly for housing materials and fittings, and also for the manufacture of, for example, the machinery used to make bricks, household appliances, electrical goods, galvanized iron and fencing materials. The railways cannot do their job effectively because of the shortage of steel for fishplates and rails. Steel production is dependent entirely upon adequate supplies of coal and not upon the fact that we have such and such a number of blast furnaces and open-hearth furnaces in existence. Production is dependent upon full use being made of the furnaces that we have. Sow dependent steel production is upon the coal output was indicated by the Prime Minister last February in this chamber when he said, in answer to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), that whilst the maximum capacity of steel-producing plant in Australia was 1,750,000 tons, it was expected this year to produce only 1,250,000 tons. He admitted that coal was the major consideration in increasing steel production. Australian requirements of steel in all its forms have increased by nearly 50 per cent, since 1939. Local authorities, railways, and manufacturing concerns have been compelled to import steel from overseas sources. It is worthwhile bringing to the Minister’s notice here that Australia is the only steel producing country in the world to register a decline in steel production. That is stated by no less an authority than the United Nations Statistical Branch. It said that the present steel production in Australia is about 348 lb. per head of population. I do not know why they deal with it in that way but what they show in relation to Australia makes a very sorry picture. The figures show that the per capita production in the United States of America is 1,180 lb., in Belgium 1,124 lb. and in the United Kingdom 572 lb. Our steel output of 1,278,000 tons in 1947-48 was less than three-quarters of the total potential production and slightly less than what we produced in 1946-47. I do not desire to deal with the position as we find it in the various steel centres of New South Wales, such as Broken Hill and Port Kembla, but it may be well to point out that at the moment, in Port Kembla, only three of four openhearth furnaces are being used. This will affect all the users throughout Australia of steel produced at Port Kembla. The coal shortage will cut steel production at Lysaght’s works near Port Kembla by 2,096 tons this month.

The shortage of steel, which is primarily due to a shortage of coal, is preventing workers from producing to their full capacity. The sheet metal industry is important; it employs scores of thousands of men, and the value of its output is very high. In the main, it uses copper sheeting, hard and soft rolled aluminium sheeting, galvanized iron, &c. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction spoke of the healthy state of secondary industries in Australia, but it is impossible to get a sheet of copper or aluminium or galvanized iron until twelve months and sometimes eighteen months, after placing the order. For galvanized iron, which is used for a hundred different purposes, it is necessary to establish a priority before being supplied. Even after a priority has been established, it is necessary to provide special motor transport to convey the galvanized iron from the works to where it is to be used because ordinary transport facilities are not available.

How does this situation affect industrial employees ? The employer, knowing that sheet metal is scarce, does not press his employees to work to their full capacity. If they did, he would run out of material, and would have to stand the employees down, thus running the risk that he would lose them to some one else. Therefore, he blinks at the go-slow policy in hia own workshop. Indeed, he may aid and abet it, knowing that in the present extraordinary circumstances, he will be able to get such a high price for his products that it will cover the loss of production arising from reduced output from individual workers. The shortage of basic materials has created in industry a cancerous growth of “go-slowism” of the kind preached by industrial saboteurs, and accepted by employers for the reasons I have stated. The industrial body in Australia is unhealthy. It has accumulated some fat on which it is living. The number of factories and of employees has increased, but the body is unhealthy. The statement which the Minister has placed before the House is unworthy of him and the Government Obviously, it was designed for consumption outside Australia. Perhaps it was intended to help the President of the United Nations organization, Dr. Evatt, in his mission overseas. Or it may be that it was meant for consumption by the International Labour Organization. The Government must be condemned for not allowing the statement to be debated immediately after its presentation. It delayed the debate for six months, thus preventing the people from learning the facts.


.- Much of the debate on this subject has turned on the probem of building homes. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) made some pertinent remarks on the subject, and expressed the opinion that, in order to have a virile population, it was necessary to provide proper housing for the people. I commend him for that expression of opinion. He might have added that it is, and always has keen, the policy of the Labour party to provide adequate housing for the people. Is there a shortage of homes? If so, are we overcoming the shortage by post-war building, and can we see the end of the ? What was the pre-war position regarding housing, and what is tho present position? Very recently, a claim was made that 140,000 homes had been built in Australia since the end of the war. No doubt, that figure is correct, but at the end of the war there was a shortage of at least 300,000 homes. And how many homes did we need? Since the end of the war - that is, during the same period in which we built 140,000 homes - -there have been 210,000 marriages in Australia. If we built 49,000 homes last year, as I understand was claimed by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), we did not, on those figures, improve the overall position regarding housing. I propose to discuss the figures for Victoria because they illustrate what is happening throughout the whole of Australia. It was claimed by the Minister for Housing in Victoria that, before the war, the average rate of home construction was 6,500 a year, but that last year more than 13,000 homes had been erected. He said that, at the end of two years, the housing problem in Victoria would be solved provided they could maintain a building rate of 15,000 homes a year. He also claimed that the housing shortage was a war-time problem, and that there was no shortage before the war. Well, what do the figures show? If, as he claimed, the average rate of building in Victoria before the war was 6,500 houses a year, the figures relating to marriages are illuminating. For instance, in each of the years 1935, 1936 and 1937 there were more than 15,000 marriages in Victoria. During the war the average marriage rate in Victoria was over 21,500 a year. In one year in which there were 29,000 marriages only 500 houses were built in Victoria. Of course, we were not building homes during the war. The number of marriages exceeded 21,000 in 1946 and 20,000 in both 1947 and 1948. When we remember that the shortage prior to the end of the war was at least 80,000 houses, and probably in excess of 90,000, it is clear from the figures that I have just given that the shortage has not been reduced during the last two years: In the light of those figures it is not reasonable to suppose that we can overtake the pre-war shortages in two years and, at the same time, meet current needs for houses. We are not overcoming the housing shortage. In 1943 the Government appointed a commission to report upon the housing position at that time and also housing requirements during the post-war period. That commission in its first interim report stated - . . a dwelling of u good standard and equipment is not only the need but the right of every citizen. Whether such dwelling is to be rented or purchased, no tenant or purchaser should be exploited by excessive profit.

The commission on page 6 of its report also stated -

There are many reasons why we considered it essential that, in Australia, definite Government action should be taken to house the people in cities, towns and rural areas. The principal reasons are:

1 ) That Government enterprise more than private enterprise, is able to offer more liberal terms and conditions of housing.

Private enterprise, even before the war, when building was less costly did not supply a sufficient number, nor, generally, a reasonable standard of dwellings for the low income group.

After the war, the building industry will need to overcome the pre-war housing shortage, replace sub-standard dwellings, offset slum clearances, fulfil the normal demand for new dwellings, and undertake repairs and maintenance, which have been neglected because of war-time restrictions. Private enterprise isnotorganizedinamannerwhichcould be expectedtoundertakeabuildingprogramme of thismagnitude.

Building costs are appreciably higher than before thewaranditis probable that suchhighcosts willcontinueatleast for a period after the war, therefore itismost improbable thatprivate enterprise willprovide adequatehousingfor low income groups any moreafterthewar,thanitdidprior to the war.

Massproductionand/orbulkpurchase, of building units and domesticequipment are important methods of reducing building costs. These can bemost effectivelyimplemented by government agencies.

Accordingly, the commissionmade the following recommendations : -

1) A housingprogramme to be undertaken assoonas war conditions and available building resources permit, in order to affordsome immediate reliefoftheacutehousingshortage (ImmediateRelief Programme); (2)A largescale housing programme to be undertaken immediately the War ends (Immediate Post-war Programme); and

Along-term programme and a permanent housing plan to prevent a recurrence of the present appalling housing conditions (A Long-Term Programme and a Permanent Housing Plan).

In addition, further recommendations were made to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) who was also Minister for Post-war Reconstruction at that time. Those recommendations are set out on page 8 of the commission’s first interim report as follows : -

We recommend that the sizeof the building programmes of dwelling units, exclusive of essential and urgent repairs of dwelling units, be as follows:-

1 ) The size of any immediate relief programme undertaken must depend entirely on the building resources available;

In the immediate post-war programme the target of dwelling units should be 50,000 by the end of the first post-war year; and

Inrespect of a long-term programme and a permanent housing plan, extending By the third post-war year, to 80,000 dwelling units per annum.

We are still tens of thousands of houses short of that annual target.

The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) has shown that, with the exception of bricks, practicallyno shortages of building supplies exist. Last Tuesday evening I was informed by an employerinthesheetmetalindustrythat there was no shortage of galvanized iron. He told methat if hechose to buy at black market prices, which he refused to do, he couldbuy as muchgal vanized iron ashe wanted so long as he bought it in lots ofnot less than five tons. I listened to the movingappealsmade byhonorablemembersopposite whichhave just been echoedby the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison),who spoke of the sad plightofmothers who are obliged to rearfamilies crowded intoone small room. What he said is true. That is . the position. but, asI have already pointed out, the same position existed prior to the outbreak of the recent war because governments at that time failed to take adequate steps to deal with this problem. I believe that the present Governmenthas done more than any of its predecessors to provide housing for the people. However, this Government has not made the vital problem of housing a first priority. It has failed to give adequate consideration to the recommendations made by the commission which it appointed to inquire into the matter.

Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction · Corio · ALP

.-in replyI do not propose to reply at length to the debate but I shall confine my remarks to several of the matters that have been raised. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that the Opposition had been prevented for six months from debating this subject. There isno truth whatsoever in that allegation. The paper which we are now discussing waspresented to the House before last Christmas. Had the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), or the honorable member for Wentworth, who is his deputy, indicated that he considered the subject-matter to beof great importance and required an early opportunity to debate it, that opportunity would have been given to the House before Christmas last or during the earlier period of the session this year. The Government is always prepared to stay in Canberra and to continue parliamentary sessions so long as the Opposition parties are prepared to stay here.

Mr Turnbull:

– We shall remember that.


– That has always been the Government’s attitude. It has always been prepared to remain in Canberra and continue sessions so long as members of the Opposition parties are prepared to stay here. Therefore, there is no truth whatsoever in the allegation that the Opposition has been prevented for six months from debating this subject.

As to the review itself, I expected that honorable members opposite would have said something with respect to its form, and would have at least commended those who compiled it. The review is an extraordinarily fine piece of work, but all that honorable members have had to say about it is that it is a one-sided document put out for political propaganda purposes. Of course, all of us know that a. general election will be held towards the end of the year. Honorable members opposite having nothing else to put before the electors have raked around everywhere in an endeavour to dig up something that might be used to discredit the Government. I repeat that this review is an excellent piece of work. The allegation made by honorable members opposite that it is a piece of party propaganda is not substantiated among industrialists who are concerned with the matters with which it deals. The Australasian Manufacturer, a journal which, as every one knows, is not pro-Labour in its outlook, had this to say about the review -

Transcending in importance every other document released within the Commonwealth during the past week was that tabled in the House of Representatives at Canberra by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction Mr. Dedman. This was a “ review of Australia’s manufacturing economy in the post-w’ai period “. Tt was prepared by the Division of Industrial Development and graphically outlines the vast advances made by Australia in the manufacturing field between the period September 1945 and June 1048.

The article deals in detail with the review.

Mr White:

– Does it praise the Government ?


– Order f


– I have just read an extract from it.


– Order I The Minister should ignore all interruptions.


– It is obvious that th, Australasian Manufacturer regards the report as an excellent piece of work and believes that what it contains is true. For the benefit of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) I shall again read portion of the passage which I just read. It reads -

The . . . review of Australia’s manufacturing economy in the post-war period . . . graphically outlines the vast advances made by Australia in the manufacturing field between the period September 1945 and Jun» 1948.

Dealing with other reviews published by the Division of Industrial Development the same journal had this to say -

Each of the subjects has been handled ih expert fashion and will, without a shadow of doubt, be of incalculable benefit to Australias and overseas industrialists. The reviews fill a long-felt want in the industrial life of Australia and do so at a moment when its effective filling is a matter of paramount national importance.

I could fill at least a page of Hansard with extracts of that kind, which have been culled from newspapers which are generally anti-Labour in their outlook, commending the Government for undertaking this work and for the vast expansion that has taken place in manufacturing between September, 1945, and the present time. So much for the form of the review. Notwithstanding that it is an excellent review, not one honorable member opposite has paid any tribute to the work that has gone into its preparation and compilation.

Mr Harrison:

– It is too misleading.


– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) took the opportunity of the debate on this subject to make a vicious attack on the Public Service of this country. When he said that one in every four of our working population is employed in the ‘ Public Service, he endeavoured to mislead the people into thinking that one in every four of the working population is employed in the service of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact only 1 in 30 of the working population is employed in the Commonwealth Public Service under the

Public Service Board. I do not know bow the honorable member arrived at the figures which he cited. It is possible that to the number of Commonwealth public servants he added employees in the public services of the States and municipal employees. He attempted to convey the impression that this Government is responsible for the very large number of public servants throughout the country.

Dame Enid Lyons:

– That can hardly be described as a vicious attack on the Public Service.


– lt was a vicious attack. This is the Parliament of the Commonwealth and not of a State, and in citing those figures the honorable member for Fawkner implied that one in every four of the working population was employed under the auspices of this Government, which is completely untrue.

Mr Harrison:

– How can that be construed as a vicious attack on the Public Service ?


– The suggestion made by the honorable member for Balaclava was that public servants are idling away their time. That cannot be described as anything but a vicious attack.

Mr Harrison:

– Idling away their time! He did not say that.


– If the position were such as the honorable member endeavoured to make the people believe many public servants would undoubtedly be idling away their time.

I propose now to deal with the housing position, a subject which was very well dealt with by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy). The honorable member for Fawkner said that the housing record of the Menzies Government in the last year before the outbreak of the war constituted an all time record. I particularly noted his words, and I immediately obtained the true figures from the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). The number of houses built throughout the Commonwealth in 1939, the year referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner, was approximately 40,000. Last year the number of houses built throughout the Commonwealth was, in round figures, 50,000. Thus 10,000 more houses were built under the Labour Government last year than in the best housing year during the régime of the anti-Labour governments before the war. To-day there are more houses to every 100 persons in the population than ever before in the history of Australia. The same sort of situation exists in relation to housing as to electricity and power generally. A part of our housing problem arises from the general prosperity which the people are now enjoying. Old peopledo not like to live with their married sons and daughters, nor do young married couples want to live with their parents. The young people have the necessary money with which to build their own homes and they are doing everything possible to secure them. The fact that there are more houses for every 100 persons in the community to-day than ever before does not mean that we should not continue to do our utmost to build the greatest possible number of houses.

Mr Harrison:

Mr. Harrison interjecting,


– Order ! The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was granted an extension of time in order to complete his speech. He should have been able to say all that he wished to say within the time given to him. I ask him to extend to the House the courtesy of listening to the Minister in silence. Interjections are disorderly, and if the honorable member does not cease from interrupting I shall take action against him.


– The next matter with which I propose to deal is the gross distortion by the honorable member for Wentworth of a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). The honorable member said that the Prime Minister, in explaining how the Government’s full employment policy would be carried out, had said that what virtually amounted to regimentation of the workers would be necessary. That is absolutely untrue and it is easy for any one who knows anything about the Commonwealth Constitution to see just how untrue it is, because, as the Constitution stands, the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to regiment workers. Even if the Labour Government wanted to regiment workers - and I deny emphatically that that is its aim - it has not the constitutional power to do so. Obviously, the honorable member was trying to mislead the House and the country when he made that assertion. Time after time, both the Prime Minister and I have explained that the pattern of employment in this country has arisen out of the demand for goods and services. If that demand changes at any time, and there is a decline in employment in one industry, those who lose their jobs must transfer to other industries. The object of this Government is to ensure that, at any given time, there will be more jobs offering in the community than there are workers to fill them. The Government intends to carry out that policy. That does not mean, however, that people will not have to transfer from one industry to another. Such transfers are taking place continually. For instance, blacksmiths used to be in great demand in the days when horses were widely used in our transport system, but, with the growth of motor traffic, the number of blacksmiths has declined. A transfer has occurred from that type of employment to the motor engineering industry. Those changes in our economy are occurring all the time. They must occur unless our economy is to be static, and, of course, a static economy must mean a declining standard of living. The Government certainly has no intention, even if it had the power, to regiment the workers in any particular industry. All that we are concerned with is to make certain that we so plan the economy of this country that there will be more jobs offering than there are workers to fill them. The workers themselves, by their own free will, will decide what jobs they will undertake. Even if transfers from one industry to another are necessary, that will be a much happier position than that which obtained when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition himself supported, or was a member of, governments which, by economic pressure, regimented large numbers of workers in this country on the dole.

I should like now to say something about the issues that were raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The right honorable gentleman said that the greatest menace to the manufacturing economy of this country was communism. I agree that communism is a great menace, but I agree also with the statement made from this side of the House from time to time that the real way to combat communism is to show that democracy can work. I am pleased to note that many- other people in the community support that view. I have before mc a report of a speech made by Mr. Justice Douglas, a member of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, dealing with this very problem. Speaking of communism, he said -

The remedy on the domestic front is a relatively easy one if we have the will and faith to adopt it.

At home we must put an end to the shameful practice of branding every one a Communist who espouses a liberal reform or promotes a programme for the underprivileged. We must

PUt an end to attacks on those who read leftist literature. We should no more ban the Communist literature than we should bar medical students from studying cancer.

The political antidote to communism is effective democratic government.

This can be achieved not’ by giving the underprivileged alms or opiates but by practical measures which recognize the human rights of all citizens and raise the standard of living at all levels of society.

I do not need to go so far away as the United States of America to find support for the views of honorable members on this side of the chamber. Speaking at an Australian Country party conference in Victoria a couple of months ago, the then Leader of the Australian Country party in that State - I believe that he is still the leader - issued a challenge to the Premier, Mr. Hollway, to bring down legislation making it an offence for a Communist to hold office in any organization in Victoria. In the course of the debate on that proposal, a very prominent member of the Country party in Victoria, Mr. Isaac Hart, said, according to a report published in the Melbourne Age on 17th March -

Mr. I. Hart (Trentham) said unless the nonLabour parties had a strong programme for the working classes, Australia -would continue to be a good breeding ground for Communists.

Developing this theme, Mr. Hart caused uproar when he said Mr. Chifley had done and was doing more for the underdog than Mr. Menzies. Mr. Chifley was looking after the working man. Communism only thrived where the working classes were ill-treated. If they were looked after, the ground would be cut from under the Communists’ feet.

It would take a considerable time to deal adequately with this subject. The Leader of the Opposition, in a most subtle manner, endeavoured to create the impression that the aims of the Communists and members of the Australian Labour party were identical. I deny that completely, but unfortunately I have not time to argue the case at length. I shall reserve my remarks on that matter until a later occasion.

Mr Turnbull:

– What is the difference?


– I do not propose to fall into any trap that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) likes to set for me. I shall put it this way: The honorable member will admit that the Government of the United Kingdom is more socialistic than is the Government of Australia. That is evident from the programme that has been undertaken by the Government of the United Kingdom. The programmes of both governments, of course, are related to the constitutional powers within which they must remain. Under the Commonwealth Constitution, neither this Government nor any other government in the federal sphere has power to socialize anything. The honorable member speaks often about the need to aid the people of the United Kingdom; but I remind him that when he criticizes the legislative programme of the so-called socialistic governments of the Homeland, he is criticizing the people of Great Britain themselves, who have, by a majority, elected that kind of government. However, I have not time to deal with his problem at greater length to-day. The plain fact is that the Communist party is out to destroy the Australian Labour party. I have many figures at my disposal. Twice since I have contested the constituency of Corio I have had a Communist candidate standing against me. I believe the influence of the Communist party in Australia is declining. The first time a Communist stood against me, he gained approximately 4,000 votes in an electorate of about 50,000; on the last occasion, the Communist candidate polled a smaller percentage than he had on the first occasion. The same applies to Newcastle. The Communist menace in this country is undoubtedly real, but the party’s strength is not so great as it was some time ago. That the aim of the Communist party is to destroy the Labour party is shown to be true throughout history, because, wherever the Communists have gained power in continental Europe, the first thing they have done has always been to destroy the SocialDemocratic party, which is the equivalent of the Australian Labour party. I shall deal with this matter at greater length on another opportunity. The review sets out the position of the manufacturing industries of Australia. We have more than doubled the value of the production of manufactures since 1938-39. It is true that there has been some rise of prices, but the latest figures show that, since 1938-39, the cost of living has risen by only 49 per cent. So, if we have a 100 per cent. rise in the value of output and only a 49 per cent. rise in the costs of living, we still have a 50 per cent. rise in the value of output.

Mr Turnbull:

– And every one is happy !


– The only people not happy are members of the Opposition, because they know that this review sets out a record of achievement by the manufacturing industries of this country of Australia with the assistance and encouragement of the Government that makes it certain that they will find it very hard to defeat the Government at the next general election.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 145


The following papers were presented : -

Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -

National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations - Order - Economic organization (Interest rates).

National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations - Orders - 1949, Nos. 1-3.

National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders- Nos. 3421-3429.

National Security (Rabbit Skins) Regulations - Order - Returns.

Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, Nos. 22, 23.

Stevedoring Industry Act - Orders - 1949, Nos. 9, 10.

House adjourned at 12.42 p.m.

page 146


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Australian Prisonersof War: Promotions

Mr Blain:

n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -

  1. Will he give the names of all officers and other ranks (if any) whose promotions were recognized as prisoners of war after the fall of Singapore on the 15th February, 1942?
  2. Will he explain why, in view of the fact that Lieutenant-Colonel Galleghan (now in Berlin) was given his rank of Brigadier whilst a prisoner of war, the representations to have the promotions of other ranks (as prisoners of war) recognized are consistently refused, despite the fact that the Government has information indicating the work that these men did in the slave camps?
  3. Has he any information that any other officers, apart from Lieutenant-Colonel Pond and Major Bruce Hunt, made promotions in the slave camps, and representations later, on return to Australia, that these promotions be recognized?
  4. Has Lieutenant-Colonel Galleghan made any recommendations supporting these promotions ?
Mr Chambers:
Minister for the Army · ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. Lieutenant-Colonel F. G. Galleghan to the rank of temporary brigadier. LieutenantColonel C. A. McEachern to the rank of temporary brigadier. Corporal F. F. Foster to the rank of sergeant.
  2. The policy adopted in relation to claims for promotion by personnel who were prisoners of war is uniform throughout the three Australian services and throughout the other nations of the British Commonwealth, including the United Kingdom : that is to say, the rank of a prisoner of war is his rank at the time of capture. The promotions of Brigadiers Galleghan and McEachern, and corporal Foster were effected by the then CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces.
  3. Yes.
  4. There is no record of Brigadier Galleghan making any recommendations supporting the promotions.


Mr Chambers:

s. - On the 18th May, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked the following question : -

In view of the uncertainty which exists upon the subject in the minds of many people, can the Ministeracting for the Minister for Transport say whether the new petrol tickets ran be used in’ a State other than that in which they are issued?

I am advised by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel as follows: -

The design of petrol ration tickets was recently altered to incorporate the initials of the State in which the tickets are originally issued. The proper use of any ration ticket in any State of the Commonwealth is not restricted thereby. The Liquid Fuel Regulations have not been amended and a consumer in any State may obtain motor spirit by surrendering a ration ticket issued in any State providing the requirements of the regulations are complied with as hitherto. The petrol reseller must check the endorsements on the back of each ration ticket presented to ensure that it coincides with the registered number of the vehicle into which the motor spirit is to be supplied. The new design was adopted as an administrative measure to prevent the illegal transfer of stolen or treated tickets from one State to another as it is suspected that tickets acquired illegally were being disposed of in this manner. There is evidence that the change of procedure has been effective

Dr. V. H. Webster

Mr Gullett:

t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -

  1. Was the Resident Government Medical Officer as Tennant Creek (Dr. V. H. Webster) dismissed from his position last week?
  2. If so, will he inform the House of the reasons for such dismissal?
  3. At what date does the dismissalbecome effective? 4.Who ordered Dr. Webster’s dismissal?
  4. On whose recommendation was the order for dismissal based?
  5. How long was Dr. Webster employed by the Government as a medical practitioner?
  6. How much of this time did he spend in the Northern Territory?
  7. Was Dr. Webster last year a member of the Legislative Council investigating health administration matters in the territory?
  8. Did he ask the Minister to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the administration of health matters in the territory?
  9. Did the Minister refuse this request; if so, why?
  10. Who is to succeed Dr. Webster as Resident Governmental Medical Officer at Tennant Creek?
Mr Holloway:
Minister for Labour and National Service · MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP

– The Minister for Health has supplied the following information : -

  1. . Dr. Webster was given one month’s notice of the termination of his services as from the 15th June, 1949.
  2. It is proposed to replace Dr. Webster with a permanent officer of the department.
  3. See answer to No. 1. 4 and 5. The Director-General of Health. 6.Approximately two and a half years. 7.Approximately two and a half years. 8. Yes. 9. Yes.
  4. Yes. An extensive restarting of the medical services of the Northern Territory has been effected in recent months.
  5. A permanent medical officer of the department.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 May 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.