18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. 3. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m.. and’ read prayers.
– I understand that the Prime Minister has repeatedly intimated to the House that there is a shortage in the sterling area not of crude oil, but of oil refineries in which to refine crude oil. In view of that intimation, can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited plans to erect a refinery near the site of the aluminium project at Bell Bay, East. Tamar, in Tasmania? If so, is- the Commonwealth assisting in that direction in any way?
– It is true, as the honorable member has said, that the trouble in regard to the petrol shortage is in respect of refined petrol, and not in respect of crude oil. As I intimated yesterday, it is the desire of the United kingdom Government and the governments of the other Dominions to develop oil-refining capacity within the sterling area so that dollars will not have to be found to such a degree as at present for the purchase of refined petrol. Regarding the other matters that the honorable member mentioned, my information is that inquiries and proposals have been made regarding the project in Tasmania. What the Commonwealth has done in such instances is to give what encouragement, advice and assistance it can without itself becoming’ directly financially interested. Whenever possible, through the medium of government departments and the Division of Industrial Development, we assist companies that are in a position to undertake such work.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question that relates to the ‘matter of coal reserves to tide the community over the next few months. Does he consider that the reserves of coal available, if production continues at its present rate, will be adequate to keep the essential services of the community going over the whole period of the miners’ Christmas holidays ‘( Has the Government sought to supplement the stocks of coal in Australia by imports, and, if so, from what countries would such imports he available at the present time? Has the Prime Minister any knowledge of the threat of a general stoppage on the northern coal-fields next week, which was announced before the chairman of the Central Coal Reference Board yesterday? Is it a fact that Mr. Hindmarsh, the secretary of the Maitland Mine Deputies, said that the indications are that such a strike would be another national calamity? Is it a fact that the Government has repealed, by proclamation, the disciplinary legislation passed in connexion with the recent general coal strike? As the Parliament may not be meeting again until after Christmas, will the Government consider re-enacting suitable legislation before Parliament rises in order that disciplinary powers will be available to the Government should any trouble of this kind develop in the coal industry?
– Naturally, the question of sufficient coal supplies to carry the community, and to meet the essential needs of the community, over the Christmas period, is one to which a great deal of thought has been given by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and by the Joint Coal Board1. The appearances are that, subject to no serious industrial disturbance, it will be possible to provide such coal stocks. I have gathered from something that I have heard that there are a number of people - I am not saying that they are in this House - who are hopeful that an industrial disturbance of the kind mentioned will occur. [ understand that the president of the miners’ federation has intimated that the arrangements made for the holidays will not mean that all the miners will take their full period of holidays at the earn( time. I understand that there will be breaks in the holiday period and that holiday leave will be taken at different times in. different districts. I have not received such a statement in writing. I am depending merely on hearsay. In regard to the second portion of the honor able member’s question, it is true that there has been some trouble in certain mines. I believe that three mines were affected, two of them being Hebburn No. 1 and Hebburn No. 2. A dispute has arisen over the quality of sand used in the locomotives. I spoke to the vicepresident of the Northern Miners Federation, Mr. Cockerill, on this subject on Thursday, and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel has also discussed it with the New South Wales Minister for Mines. This is a safety matter which comes entirely within the province of the New South Wales Minister for Mines. Every endeavour has been made to -meet that position. The quality and type of sand used for this purpose is very important to engine drivers, although it may not seem important to the average citizen. The honorable member has referred to the possibility of importing coal from overseas. A certain quantity of Indian coal is available for export to Australia. Not more than 500,000 tons is available from that source, and the coal has defects which make it unsuitable for certain purposes. I understand that the Victorian Government is prepared to take approximately 250,000 tons of Indian coal. The other States are not interested in it. Inquiries have also been made in regard to South African coal, which also has some defects for our purposes. An allotment of English coal has been made to Victoria ‘by the British Ministry of Fuel. The quantity is not very great. We were able to prevail on Mr. Gaitskell, the British Minister for Fuel, to allot 8,000 tons of gas-making coal to Victoria. I understand that that coal has either arrived or is on its way here. In addition, an application was made for the allotment of 10,000 tons of English coal for the purpose of transporting concentrates from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. I understand that an arrangement has been made between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the South Australian Government under which the company will hear the additional cost of the English coal over and above the cost of local coal. The quantity of coal available for import into this country is very limited, and, as I have said, Indian and South African coal is not suitable for all our purposes.
Vacancy on Security Council - Traffic in Women.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for External Affairs to a report in this morning’s Sydney Daily Telegraph. The report, which is headed, “ Vital Vote for U.N.O. Council “. states that, while Yugoslavia is accusing Russia of massing troops on its borders, the General Assembly of the United Nations is holding a vital election for membership of the Security Council. It is pointed out that Yugoslavia has been nominated to fill the vacancy that will occur when the term of office of the Ukraine expires, and that Russia has threatened to withdraw from the council if Yugoslavia is elected as a member of it. Has the right honorable gentleman seen this report? If so, has he any information to give to the House upon this vital matter?
– -I have not seen the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but it appears to be substantially correct. A Very keen dispute has arisen in the General Assembly in connexion with the selection of a nation to replace the Ukrainian republic, which is one of the eastern group of nations, as a member of the Security Council. Under the terms of the Charter, the practice, has been, having regard to geographical distribution and other matters, that, in addition to the Soviet Union, one nation from the eastern group of nations shall be a member of the Security Council. The contest between Czechoslovakia, which is the nominee of the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia has developed into a very acute one.
– Geographically, there is nothing in it.
– I agree with the honorable member for Indi that, geographically, there is nothing in it. So far as contributions to the war against Hitler are concerned, I consider that the contribution of Yugoslavia was much greater than that of Czechoslovakia. Australia was asked to support the election of Yugoslavia. According to the report of the Balkans Commission, there is no doubt that the attitude of that country to Greece has greatly improved. There are other aspects of the matter that must be considered, apart from the terms of the Charter. The view of the Australian Government and of the Australian delegation is that we should accord our support to Yugoslavia, and we have done so. The vote should have been taken by now. I do not expect that any powerwill withdraw from the Security Council if Yugoslavia is elected as a member. I do not regard the threat that has been made by Russia as being more than a. campaign measure.
– -I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the draft convention for the suppression of the traffic in persons and of the exploitation of the prostitution of others was dealt with at the September meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations ? If so, what was the fate of Article 6 of the convention and what action did Australian delegates take in regard thereto?
– I cannot for the moment give the honorable member full information on that subject, but I shall ascertain the details and inform her of them as soon as possible.
International Monetary Fund
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is correct that the payment that the Australian Government will have to deposit to the credit of the International Monetary Fund in respect of the 20,000,000 dollars advance from the fund that was announced yesterday will be approximately 30 per cent, greater than it would have ‘been had the advance been negotiated before the Treasurer decided to devalue the Australian pound against the dollar? If this be correct, in view of the fact that the Treasurer revealed some weeks before devaluation occurred that he was contemplating seeking dollar accommodation, what was the reason -for delaying the transaction in such a way as to inflate the ultimate cost of the advance to the Australian Treasury? In the event of a movement of exchange rates to bring the Australian £1 closer to its old relationship with the dollar taking place before the advance is repaid, will the Australian Government incur a net loss on the transaction when repayment is effected?’
– The honorable gentleman need have no fears about the matter that he has raised in his first question. The additional amount that the Australian Government must deposit with the fund will consist of nonnegotiable and non-interest bearing securities.
– Just paper.
– No, it is better than that.
– The Prime Minister lias said, in effect, that it is only paper.
– Order ! The honorable member for Indi has asked a question. He must cease to interrupt.
– The Deputy Prime Minister interrupted.
– Order ! The Chair desires to intervene at this juncture. The honorable member for Indi shows very bad manners in this House. He asks a question, and tries to answer it. He is not satisfied with the reply that is being given by the Prime Minister.
– He was interrupted by the Attorney-General.
– The honorable member for Indi interrupted first.
– The Attorney-General is very rude.
-Order! If the honorable member for Indi interrupts again, I shall name him.
– Earlier, the honorable member for Indi interjected, and said, “Just paper”. His own cheque is just paper.
– But the honorable member has resources with which to back his cheque.
– Order ! The warning that I gave to the honorable member for Indi applies also to the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– The non-interest bearing and non-negotiable securities are backed by the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Government. It is considered in nome quarters that the Australian currency has been overdevalued, and should he appreciated. If the honorable member for Indi holds that view, I shall be glad if he will advo cate it to the primary producing section of the community during the forthcoming election campaign.
– The Prime Minister cannot twist my words that way.
– Order !.
– The honorable member has asked a question, and I shall be glad if he will listen to the answer. If he does not want an answer, he should not have asked the question. The lodging of larger sums in Australian currency does not impose on the Australian Government any additional financial hurden. The honorable gentleman referred to the repayment of purchases. It is a purchase, not a borrowing. We purchase dollars with Australian currency, and in the event of repayment, the same set of circumstances apply. Therefore, the devaluation of the currency does not in any way affect the position, except that it does affect the total amount to be lodged, and it could, if the £1 is appreciated, cause a variation of the figures and the amount of money to be supplied. However, the Australian Government is not involved, except to the extent of a very nominal amount, in any additional expense.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether there is any truth in the allegation that Trans-Australia Airlines has falsified its profit and loss account by writing up by £200,000 the value of stores purchased from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission? Has any action been taken to check statements in some sections of the press last week that Trans-Australia Airlines has been robbed of £58,000 and has concealed that loss in its accounts? If a check has been made, will the Minister say whether those statements are true or otherwise?
– The statement that Trans-Australia Airways has falsified its profit and loss account is untrue. Certain stores purchased at disposal prices were revalued to standard prices related to replacement costs, but the Australian National Airlines Commission did not take the credit from the revaluation into its profit and loss account. The credit was put aside as provision for depreciation and obsolescence and’ was deducted from the stock ledger values, only the net figure being taken into the balancesheet. That is a perfectly normal business accounting method of handling such a transaction, and can in no way be considered improper. The allegation that Trans-Australia Airlines had falsified its profit and loss account is improper, and the publication of that allegation under headlines in the press was done deliberately for the purpose of damaging an organization that follows proper accounting methods. I have inquired into the statement that appeared in some sections of the press to the effect that TransAustralia Airlines has been robbed of £58,000 and has concealed the loss in its accounts. That statement is also untrue, and reflects greatly upon the source which has supplied the false information. Stocktaking for the year 1947-48 disclosed a net deficiency of £5,780-
– I rise to order. This part of the proceedings is intended to be devoted to questions without notice. I should like to know whether Ministers are in order in having questions directed to them which normally would be placed on the notice-paper. Ministers are obviously being given prior notice of questions to enable them to give detailed replies which have been prepared beforehand.
-Order! The practice is that honorable members place their questions on the notice-paper when they desire to give notice. If they require an answer without notice, they ask their questions in the House. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber sometimes notify Ministers of their intention to ask questions on certain matters, in order that the Ministers may have -an opportunity to obtain the information. The practice which the honorable member for Parkes has followed is the usual one, and is in order.
– The interruption will not make my reply any less forceful. The allegations to which the honorable member for Parkes has referred reflect on those who make them. Stocktaking that was conducted during the year 1947-48 disclosed a net deficiency of £5,780, which is only a fraction of 1 per cent, of the cost of the stores held. This amount has been properly accounted for in the balance-sheet. No doubt, the figure of nearly £5,800 has been multiplied by ten to produce £58,000, so that it could be head-lined in the press as a falsification of accounts. This is an example of how readily honorable members can be taken in by false statements designed to damage a successful undertaking operated by the Government.
– As the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is the Commonwealth Minister responsible for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, I ask him whether he is aware that in a bill now before the Tasmanian Parliament a provision is included which sets out the mode of ploughing which the individual settler must adopt, the direction in which he must plough his land, and the time at which he must plough? If the Minister is not aware of this measure, will he acquaint himself with it, and present a statement to this Parliament on the matter before the end of the current session? If he is aware of it, does not the Minister believe that such action is contrary to the principle of the free exercise of the right of the individual producer to follow his own methods of farming on his own property? Can the Minister make a statement which will allay the fears of exservicemen in Tasmania about what appears to them to be an extreme measure of socialism?
– I am the Minister responsible for administering the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the settlement of exservicemen on the land. I am not aware of any bill on this subject that is before the Tasmanian Parliament at the present time, and I know nothing about the matter mentioned by the honorable member. However, I shall make inquiries, and if the measure is in contravention of the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States, I shall certainly have something to say about it.
– Can the Prime Minister say how many shares the Commonwealth has in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? How many directors of the company are nominated hy the Commonwealth? What control over the policy of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has this Government ? What government negotiated the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company under which the present organization was set up By what method may the agreement he varied or terminated?
– I cannot state offhand the precise number of shares held by each of the parties to the agreement, but I can say that the majority are held by the Australian Government. In other words, its financial interest in the company is greater than that of the AngloIranian Oil Company. The first representative of the Government on the directorate was a Mr. Findlay. He was followed by Mr. Fenton who was in turn followed by Mr. Martens. Mr. D. G. Hibberd, of the Treasury, is the present representative. The Australian Government has no control over the company. The deciding voice in the managerial policy of the company is entirely that of the representatives of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Even the appointment of the managing director of the company rests with them. Only recently a new managing director was appointed. We were told about it only after the appointment had been made. We were not even consulted about the appointment. I forget under what name the Opposition ‘parties operated when, being then in office, they made the agreement, but generally, they were the predecessors of the present Opposition parties. I shall supply a detailed written reply to the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the Government will determine its attitude towards the cotton industry at the next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday? Further delay in announcement of policy as affecting the price of cotton will mean that the cotton-planting season will have passed before the Government has dealt with the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton industry.
– I have already indicated that the matter will .be considered at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. I have said that there were insufficient copies of the Tariff Board’s report to circulate to all Ministers to enable them to study it for discussion at an earlier meeting. Roneoed copies have now become available and been circulated to all Ministers. In ‘ conjunction with the Minister for Trade and Customs, I have arranged for the matter to be listed for consideration by Cabinet on Tuesday. Unless anything unusual happens, it is’ certain that it will then be dealt with.
– Has the Minister for Information noted a report in the Melbourne Herald of Wednesday dealing with a white paper issued by a Minister in the Victorian Government, Mr. Warner, in which he advocates a 42-hour week? Does the Minister for Information interpret this suggestion of the LiberalCountry party as an insidious attack on the 40-hour week?
– I did see the statement in Wednesday night’s Melbourne Herald. I discussed it with the Minister for Labour and National Service. His view, and it is mine, too, is that the attack that the Minister for Housing in the Victorian Liberal-Country party Government has made on the 40-hour week is serious. The suggestion by Mr. Warner to the Liberal party, in a 2,500-word report, is that the workers should work an extra two hours a week for nothing. The employers, of course, would have to pay for the work, but, instead of paying the money to the workers, they would pay it into a fund to assist housing. His view is that there should he a longer working week in order to increase building, but that the workers should do the extra work for nothing. Of course, that attitude is typical of the attitude of many people, but Mr. Warner’s mistake lies in the fact that, the workers in the building trade do not work only a 40-hour week. They work a 44-hour week, and, sometimes, a 48-hour week, hut they are paid for the extra four hours or eight hours that they work. Mr. Warner’s proposal is a cheap-labour proposition. If that is to be the policy of the Liberal party at the next general election, we shall grab it with both hands.
– I ask the Minister for External. Affairs a question that relates to the report of the Australian representative who accompanied the Japanese whaling fleet that visited the Antarctic in the middle of last year, to the effect that the Japanese were not observing the international convention relating to whaling in respect of the size of whales that they killed and also with regard to the slaughter of female whales with young. Was Japan a party to that convention at that time, or has if become a party since ? Has there been any recent improvement in the behaviour of the Japanese in regard -to obeying the convention ?
– The Australian Government “and other governments protested against breaches by Japanese whaling expeditions of the terms of the convention relating to whaling. Those protests were made not only directly but also to the supreme commander in Japan, General MacArthur. I have no information to indicate that there have been any further breaches by the Japanese of the convention, but I shall ascertain what the position is and inform the honorable member.
– Is it a fact that recently Commonwealth security police or other federal officials raided the Manchester Unity Building, Melbourne, in which it is stated the secret offices of the long range weapons head-quarters and ether federal instrumentalities are located? If so, was that raid made because a number of irregularities in the care of confidential documents had been noted ? What were the results of the raid and what action, if any, has been taken by the Government regarding the alleged irregularities?
– The position is, of course, that under the Australian Security
Intelligence Organization matters of thu character referred to by the honorable member are dealt with in the discretion of the Director-General of Security, Mr. Justice Reed, and therefore, I am not able to inform the honorable member regarding the details of any such inspection, or, as he has called it, raid. If there has been some inspection of offices to ensure the security of documents, such an inspection would simply be in accordance with the general plan approved by the Government eighteen months or two years ago for the purpose of securing the secrecy of documents that most require that special protection. The honorable member himself, the House, and the country can rest assured that all precautions are being taken by the security intelligence organization for the preservation of the national interests and security in relation to matters of that kind. I do not think that I can say more than that, and even if I could do so, I do not think I should say any more about such a matter.
– Is the Minister aware that, owing to an increase of the price of raw flax since the unpegging of prices, the production of canvas and firehose in Australia has been adversely affected? Is he aware that contracts for these products are being placed overseas because of the price, and that 80 per cent, of the flax used in the overseas products is claimed by our manufacturers to originate in Belgium, a hard currency country, before being spun and woven in the United Kingdom? Is the Minister aware that the New South Wales Government Railways and the South Australian Railways have placed large orders in the United Kingdom that will involve the use of approximately £100,000 worth of dollars in Belgian raw material? Will the Minister have this matter examined without delay so that protection may be given to the industry, particularly as about 200 employees of two firms - and perhaps others - will face dismissal in the next few weeks if the industry remains in its present unsatisfactory position? Many of those employees are constituents of mine.
– .Some of the statements that the honorable member has made are, I understand, correct, but I would not agree that others are correct. I understand that flax manufacturers allege that they are unable to compete with imported flax products such as canvas and hose. In fact, they now have an application before the Tariff Board for additional protection for the industry. I shall obtain additional information and furnish it to the honorable member.
-I ask the Minister for External Affairs what personal supervision he exercises as Minister over the expenditures of Australian diplomatic missions and consulates overseas. Is it a fact that the representative in New York of the Auditor-General submitted an adverse report on the financial operations of the Australian consulate in that city? I make it clear that I am not referring to any personal defalcation of any individual in that consulate, but I am referring to administrative irregularities. I ask the Minister what was the nature of the report, what action was taken by him on it, and whether he is prepared to lay the report on the table of the House ?
– The matter of the supervision of expenditures, not only in New York but also in every other Australian diplomatic post, is one for the officials of the Department of External Affairs and is, of course, subject to supervision by the Treasury and ultimately by the Auditor-General. That has been done in respect of every post abroad, including New York. I am not aware of any special report in relation to the Australian consulate in New York; but T am aware that the matter of such expenditure has been under close supervision by Treasury officials and by the Auditor-General for some considerable time, and also, as a matter of fact, by the Chairman of the Public Service Board, Mr. Dunk, who previously was secretary of the Department of External Affairs and who has examined the matter. I have not seen the actual report- referred to, but I shall examine it to see whether there is anything in it that requires attention. Finances in relation to posts abroad are administered in the way that I have prescribed.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that the department is withholding pensions from widows who take temporary positions at more than 30s. a week, even though the total earnings for the year of such persons may not have reached £78, the amount specified in the act? Is he aware that it has been necessary for some widows to supplement their incomes in order to pay rates and taxes on the homes in which they live? Will he consider withdrawing any instruction to withhold the pension under such circumstances, and permit widows to earn up to the full amount of £78 in a year without forfeiting the pension?
– I shall answer the question on behalf of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. The particular matter that the honorable member has raised is one that is very difficult to administer. I am not speaking only of widows’ pensions, but of payments of all pensions which some means test applies, in cases where the person receiving the pension is earning an income that would disqualify him or her from entitlement to a pension. The practice which applies to recipients of age and widows pensions is the same. It may be that for a certain length of time such pensioners have jobs, but the jobs end at a point at which their earnings have not reached the point where they would disqualify the pensioners from receiving the full pension. I discussed this matter some time ago with the Minister for Social Services, and he is having it examined to see whether there is any way to obviate injustice. The honorable member knows that it is the duty of persons receiving pensions under some of the circumstances that he has mentioned, to inform the Department of Social Services that they have undertaken work that would in effect disqualify them from receiving the pension. I think it would perhaps be more satisfactory to the honorable member if I placed his question before the Minister for Social Services and obtained a full reply.
FORMAL Motion for Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The action of the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Works and Housing in exceeding their authority by bringing pressure upon a Government employee to obey the behest of Communists; and for their subsequent victimization of a Commonwealth official for refusing to carry out such orders.
.- 1 move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion.
– The subject-matter of this motion relates to what is now known us the Miller case, in which a carpenter, Mr. A. T. Miller, a member of the Building Workers Industrial Union and an employee of the Department of Works and Housing, who had presumed to question some expenditure in a balancesheet at a meeting of his union, was fined by the officials whom he had criticized. Feeling that he had been unjustly treated, as a free man in a democracy, he refused to pay the fine. As a result, he was hounded by Communist officials within his union, who declared “ black “ every job on which he worked. But he was not a man who could be intimidated. Later, he took his case to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and won it on a judgment given by Judge Kelly. But the Communists still pursued him and in their actions they were aided and abetted by certain Ministers. Workmen were ordered to cease work on every project on which Mr. Miller was employed. In order to be precise, I shall quote a case history from the deposition of John Joseph Brophy, an officer of the Department of Works and Housing, which gives the dates and sequence of events in this shameful affair and contains all the facts. It will be seen that two Ministers, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), were involved, and very much to their detriment. I regret that they are not present in the House, but when I acquainted you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of my intention to bring this matter before the House to-day I did not know that they would not be present. As the result of their actions certain senior officials of the Department of Works and Housing were placed in most unnecessary and invidious positions, and an officer of the department who wanted to see that justice was done to this persecuted ex-serviceman was officially reprimanded and removed from his post. Mr. Brophy’s deposition reads-
I received an opinion from my head office that if an employee’s refusal to abide by therules of his union was likely to lead to an industrial disturbance, it would be reasonable to terminate his services. I then had an interview with Miller, who gave mc his side of the story, viz., that he had been fined by the union, that because he considered the fine to be unjust lie would not pay it, and that as a union rule provided that monies received from a member should be applied firstly in payment of fines and levies, he was precluded from paying his union dues.
I informed Miller of the opinion I had received from my head office, and as lie was adamant on the matter of his fine, I asked him to call in the next morning for his money. I then informed Sturroch that Miller would not be on the job the next day. I was not happy about the position, and when Miller called to see me the next day, I asked him to agree to stand down for a couple of days until I had raised the matter again with my head office.
Miller agreed to do this, and I immediately prepared a statement covering the position, which statement was submitted to the Chief Administrative Officer of the department, and as a result of a subsequent discussion it was decided that we had no cause to terminate Miller’s employment. I was accordingly directed to restore Miller, but on another project, which would be less affected by industrial action, should the B.W.I.U. contest the department’s action. Miller re-commenced at the department’s store at Salmon Street on the 19th April, 1947.
The Salmon-street store is associated with the long range weapons project. The deposition continues -
On the 12th May, 1947, Chandler, secretary of the B.W.I.U., rang me and stated that Miller had been located at Salmon Street, and if he was not dismissed that afternoon Salmon Street would be declared black and carpenters withdrawn. I informed Chandler of the reasons for the Department’s refusal to sack Miller, and suggested that if Miller owed him a fine, lie could take the matter to Court. Chandler refused- to consider this, and on the same afternoon three carpenters were withdrawn from Salmon Street. On the 14th May, 1947, Chandler again rang me and announced his intention of extending the dispute to other jobs while at the same time preventing any new carpenters from starting with is. I informed him that the matter was being submitted to the Industrial Registrar.
This industrial bully ordered the workmen off any job on which Miller was employed. Mr. Brophy’s deposition continues -
On the 16th May, 1947, Chandler called at the job at Craig’s Buildings where Miller was prevously working and ordered- the carpenters to cease work. On the 4th June, 1947, three carpenters were ordered off another job in the same building and were informed that they were not allowed to work anywhere for the department.
I have not sufficient time to read the whole of the deposition, hut I shall present as many of the facts as I can in the short time allowed to me. Mr. Miller challenged the union in. the court and the matter came before His Honour, Judge Kelly.
– On what date?
– In the first instance, in July, 1947. Mr. Brophy’s deposition continues -
On the 10th September, 1947, judgment waa given in the case upholding Miller’s contention that the fine was illegal and ordering the union to accept his subscription and treat him us a financial member. On the 15th September, 1947, having received notification that Miller’s subscription had been received- by the union, I rang Chandler re starting men again . at Salmon Street and Craig’s Building which had been idle since the imposition of the black bans. Chandler referred mc to Don Thomson, secretary of the Building Trades Fed oration.
Thomson is a known Communist who lias gone overseas to attend conferences of which this Government has cognizance. The deposition continues -
In a subsequent conversation with Thomson, he informed me that the federation had no intention of permitting any of its members to work with Miller, who was a “ scab “, because he had worked on a black job. The B.W.I.U., he said, had- accepted Miller’s subscription as they had no alternative under Judge Kelly’s order, but their attitude had not altered, and if the Department wished to fight the B.T.F. by opening the black jobs, they were welcome.
On receiving instructions to have men placed on the jobs, I took the necessary action, and the jobs were re-opened on September 22, 1947. I requested the store’s manager at Salmon Street to allow no B.T.F. organizers on the job without reference to me.
On the afternoon of September 24, 1947, Thomson rang me and demanded to know who had issued the order refusing entry to his organizers. I informed him that I had, under a general order from Judge Kelly deleting the right of entry. I asked Thomson the reasons for desiring his organizers to enter Salmon Street, and he stated that he wished to order any B.T.F. men off the job as it was “ black “.
He said further that no matter what any court ordered, a Commonwealth department under a Labour Government should not deny this right of entry. I informed Thomson that I considered the business of his organizers at Salmon Street illegal, and that I would not give them permission to enter the yard. Thomson was furious, and announced his intention of closing every departmental job.
On September 25, 1947, I visited the Salmon Street job and personally refused admittance to an organizer of the B.W.I.U. Later in the day, however, he had a message sent to the carpenters ordering them off the job. At the same time he ordered all tradesmen and labourers off a contract job at the storeyard
Still later, he visited Craig’s Buildings and ordered three tradesmen to stop work. On 12 October, 1947, work was stopped at Manchester Unity Buildings (T.A.A.), 339 Swanston Street, and on 2nd October, work at the Balaclava exchange was stopped. On the four jobs stopped, about 40 men were involved.
The position then was that though Miller had obtained a court order vindicating his stand against the union, he was faced with a fight by the B.W.I.U., the Painters Union, the Plumbers Union, the Builders’ Labourers Union and the A.E.U.
The deposition continues -
On 4 October, the chief industrial officer of the Department (C. Blanch) rang me and stated that the situation was causing Ministers in Canberra some concern in view of the proximity of the Victorian elections, and that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was coming to Melbourne to negotiate a settlement.
I ask the House to listen to the terms of the settlement. They are as follows: -
On the afternoon of October 8, 1947, Blanch rang and informed me that a settlement had keen reached on the following terms: -
1 ) I was to allow free entry to all organizers to jobs;
The ban on all jobs other than Salmon Street was to be lifted as from 9 October, 1947;
Miller was to be brought before his union and fined on a new charge;
On the imposition of the fine, Salmon Street was to be re-opened.
The Minister connived with a Communist organizer to bring about a state of affairs in which a man, as a condition of retaining his job, should be fined. Mr. Brophy’s deposition continues -
I asked Blanch whether Miller was a party to the arrangement regarding the new fine. Blanch stated that as far as he was aware Miller was not a party, but the fine was to be a nominal one (he mentioned 10/-) and Miller would be expected to pay it.
In accordance with the terms of settlement, work resumed on jobs other than Salmon Street on October 9th. On 10th October, 1947, Miller rang me and informed me that he had received notice from his union to answer a new charge. I informed him of the settlement terms and asked whether Holloway had seen him on the matter. He replied in the negative and stated that with regard to the proposed fine, he would be guided by his solicitor’s advice.
On 12th October he rang and gave me an account of the meeting on the 11th October at which he was charged with working on a “black” job on September 25, 1947, and had been fined £5. He stated that the union officials had informed him that he was not in the Arbitration Court this time. Needless to Bay, he had no intention of paying the fine.
I have not sufficient time in which to read the whole of the deposition, and I am omitting some portions of it. It continues -
A couple of days later he (Blanch) rang to say that Miller’s position was precarious. On 12th March, 1948, at approximately 11 a.m. Blanch visited me at my office and stated that he had been instructed to give me the following direction, viz., that I was to call Miller up and inform him that the Department would no longer be involved in his domestic dispute with his union, and that in the event of any recurrence of industrial trouble on this account his services were to he terminated.
I now come to a matter of the greatest importance. Mr. Brophy states -
At the same time he showed me aletter addressed from Parliament House, Canberra, dated March 8, 1948, and reading as follows: -
My dear Minister,
With reference to the fine on A. T. Miller by the B.W.I.U., it is suggested that the
Department of Works and Housing pay the fine and collect from Miller by instalments. In the event of Miller refusing to agree to this arrangement, it is suggested that his services be terminated.
It will be contended that the letter does not exist. That will be the Government’s defence.
I turn now to the reprimand that this official received because he stood up for a man. It is as follows: -
I refer to your memorandum of 9th August, 1948, in which you confirm a verbal statement made to the Chief Administrative Officer that you disclosed the contents of a letter signed by the Hon. E. J. Holloway which had been sighted by you in the course of your official duties in connection with the matter of an employee . . . Your admission was further confirmed by an interview which you had with me on the afternoon of 16th August, 1948.
Your action, which you have admitted, is a breach of the provisions of Public Service Regulation 34 (a) . . . and you are therefore regarded as guilty of committing an offence within the meaning of Section 55 ( 1 ) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-47.
In accordance with the provisions of Section 55 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, 1 now reprimand you for the offence which you have committed and require that, in future, your conduct shall’ comply strictly with the requirements of the Public Service Act and Regulations.
If the Government denies the existence of the letter, I point out that the reprimand that Mr. Brophy received shows that it did exist. Mr. Brophy’s deposition, dealing with what occurred after he had been shown the letter of the 8th March, 1948, continues -
I informed Blanch that I refused to accept the direction, and gave him my reason. I told him further that if those who had in structed him were to give me a written order I would be happy to refuse in a similar manner. Blanch returned to his office, and a little later (approximately 11.45 a.m.) rang and asked me to call Miller up and obtain from him a statement as to his intention regarding the fine. I rang Salmon Street and arranged for Miller to see me at 2.15 p.m. that afternoon. On Miller’s arrival that afternoon, I obtained a statement from him that, acting on legal advice, he had no intention of paying the fine and would leave it to the union to take any action in the matter.
I then informed Miller that I found it necessary to step outside my official position by narrating to him the morning’s interview with Blanch. I informed him that it was my belief that the Ministers concerned had put pressure on the heads of my department to “ put the skids under him “.
I have unfortunately been compelled to omit a great deal of the deposition.
I turn now to Mr. Brophy’s protest, the last paragraph of which reads as follows : -
Mr. Blanch’s interview with me convinced me that an illicit conspiracy had been entered into between two Federal Ministers and a Communist group, to subvert normal justice in the case of A. T. Miller, a citizen like myself. Certain officers of the department, well knowing the illegality of the proposals, were prepared to aid and abet this conspiracy. I was affronted at being asked to join in this conspiracy, as my connexion with the Public Service dates back to 1914 and I am what the name implies, a servant of the public, i.e., my fellow citizens. It is an established principle that no .person can legally be bound to secrecy regarding an illicit transaction, and I acted on this principle in disclosing the information acquired by me.
Mr. Brophy was an exserviceman, as was Mr. Miller. Mr. Brophy said that he was not going to see him let down.
In the few moments that remain to me, I want to say that two of . the freedoms that we should cherish are freedom to work and freedom of speech. Because this carpenter insisted upon freedom of speech he was persecuted, and because a man in the Public Service espoused his cause and attempted to ensure that he was not injured, he was punished and reprimanded. Mr. Brophy has asked for an inquiry, but his request has been refused. He has asked to be supplied with a copy of the confidential report upon him that he claims was read at a conference. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) had to face the union and explain this matter. They took the official files with them to that conference, but Mr. Brophy has not been allowed to see them. I leave it to the House to decide which of those two Ministers is the more culpable. There is not the slightest doubt that they went to great pains to appease Communists - those enemies of the community and traders in deceit and discord. It may almost be said that they have transgressed their oaths of office by what they have done. I regret that I have not been able to read the whole of the story to the House, because there is much more in it that damns Ministers and the Government. I have related the details of the case, as given to me by Mr. Brophy, and I have no reason to doubt his statements. The final paragraph of his protest to the Public Service inspector reads as follows : -
The position is, therefore, that on August 9, 1948, and again on August 31, 1948, I made certain definite and serious charges against Ministers and departmental officials. Neither verbally nor by written memorandum has this statement been contradicted.
I received a reprimand for disclosing the terms of a letter, and was removed from my position without explanation, but was left free to repeat my allegations and am free to do so to-day.
Regarding my removal from my position, it was well known in the Department, and was admitted by the Director-General, that the Communists had openly declared that they would have me shifted.
I urge the Government to- conduct a public inquiry into all the circumstances. Mr. Miller, who has been persecuted, is engaged in fighting a powerful union. The other person involved is an official who conscientiously believed that he was doing the proper thing. Ministers have an opportunity to state in public the part that they took in the matter. It is infamous that directions such as are disclosed in these depositions should have been given in order that an official might be persecuted. I hope that an inquiry will be held, and that right will be done.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has publicly condoned a breach of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and regulations made thereunder. He has said that a public servant named Brophy told him the story of what happened departmentally concerning himself and other people. The honorable member for Balaclava should have sent Brophy about his business, telling him that he had no right to approach a member of the Parliament in pursuance of a vendetta against other people, and that he should observe the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the regulations made thereunder. I wonder what the honorable gentleman would have said if when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, a public servant in his department had gone to a member of the Opposition and made charges against his administration.
Would the honorable gentleman have said, “ Let us have a public inquiry. Let us commend this brave public servant for his brilliant actions “ ? I do not think that the honorable gentleman would have done so. In fact he would have been one of the first to charge that man with a flagrant breach of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. As the honorable member observed in the course of his remarks, public servants occupy their positions as servants of the people. It is the function of public servants to carry out government policy. Public servants do not make government policy, and impose it upon Ministers. I know tho Miller case backwards.
– And that is how it will be .presented to us.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) will hear the truth, because I always speak the truth. I wish that the honorable gentleman would imitate my splendid example on all occasions. The Vic:torian central executive of the Australian Labour party dealt with the Miller case last year, and the federal conference of the Australian Labour party also considered it. As a delegate from Victoria, to that conference, I assisted Miller and other people who had been victimized by Communist-controlled unions in that State, to bring their cases before the federal conference, in order that that assembly might consider a proposal to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act so as to prevent the victimization of a trade unionist for other than violations of trade union rules. The federal conference of the Australian Labour party resolved in favour of the desired amendment, and this Government introduced legislation to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, with the result that a person who has been victimized by a trade union may now approach the registrar of the court, and upon the establishment of a bona fide case, in the opinion of the registrar, an inquiry can he held at the expense of the Commonwealth, and, if necessary, a new ballot can be ordered.
– That would not help in a matter like the one that we are considering.
– That amendment of the act arose out of the Miller case, and the things that had happened to him. Miller is still working. It is true that the Communists, in their stupidity, tried to victimize him because he had criticized a balance-sheet of the union, but the processes of the law were sufficiently strong to restrain the Building Workers Industrial Union from driving Miller out of the industry. The charge that Mr. Brophy laid was that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) were abetting the Communist leaders of the Building Workers Industrial Union to drive Miller out of that organization.
– - All the evidence is in. that direction.
– An ex parte statement by Brophy seems to establish that. The honorable member for Indi has nos yet heard any evidence other than an ex parte statement, but he is prepared to rush in and make a dogmatic pronouncement about the matter.
– The case has been before two courts.
– Order! The honorable member for Indi must refrain from interjecting.
– I hope that tho honorable gentleman will contain himself for a moment while I inform him that the matter before the court concerned the alleged victimization of Miller, and that no evidence was adduced to justify a charge that two Ministers of State had aided and abetted the attempted victimization of that man. Inquiries have been held into the matter by exservicemen who are employees of the Public Service Board, the Chairman of which is an ex-serviceman, and by the Public Service Inspector of Victoria, who also is an ex-serviceman. Those persons have no interests to serve other than the interests of justice.
– Does the Minister deny that letter?
– Order! The honorable member for Balaclava was heard in silence. I ask him to extend the same courtesy to thu Minister.
– I shall explain to the House what the departmental file establishes. On the18th April, 1946, Mr. Brophy, who is now trying to prevail upon members of the Opposition to listen to his grievance, was prepared to terminate the services of Mr. Miller, following a submission by the union that he was an unfinancial member.
Mr.White. - I read that.
– The honorable member did not read the statement that Brophy was prepared to recommend the dismissal of Miller.
– I did. He was prepared, under orders, to recommend the dismissal of Miller.
– No, not under orders at all. On the 22nd April, 1946, the chief administrative officer of the Department of Works and Housing advised Brophy that the employment of a person should not be terminated on the ground that he was an unfinancial member of a union. That information is contained in the file. But all these details are ancient history. Mr. Miller has been working ever since the matter arose.
– Brophy is still displaced.
– Brophy was transferred.
– Order ! I shall not warn the honorable member for Balaclava again. He made his speech without interruption, and he should now be prepared to hear the other side of the case without interjecting.
– In the opinion of the Public Service Board, Brophy was an officer with very little balance. He was transferred to the finance section, from which he had come, without loss of status. He suffered no financial loss. Hr was reprimanded for having improperly disclosed the contents of an official file to unauthorized persons. He claimed, in extenuation of his actions, that he had disclosed the contents of the file confidentially, hut that the person to whom he had disclosed the information had rushed to the press, thereby greatly embarrassing him.
– Who was that?
– It was a person of no great consequence. On the 12th
May, 1947, the chief administrative officer of the department instructed Mr. Blanch to inform the secretary of the union that the department had no ground for dismissing Miller. Mr. Blanch did not give the directions that Mr. Brophy claims he received. The inquiry conducted by the Public Service Inspector, when Mr. Yoxen and Mr. Blanch and Mr. Brophy were all interrogated, established that Mr. Blanch had not done what Mr. Brophy alleged had been done. On the 3rd October, 1947, the DirectorGeneral of Works and Housing, Mr. Loder, who himself is an ex-serviceman, and a very brilliant man, informed his Minister that there was no issue between the department and the union other than the continued employment of Miller, and that the department had no reason to dispense with his services, as he was performing his work to its satisfaction, and was, in addition, an ex-serviceman. On the 21st April, 194S, the Director-General advised the Minister as follows: -
There would appear to bo nn doubt that the union intends to persecute Miller, and in so far us the department is concerned it has no grounds whatever for contemplating the dismissal of Miller, as he is a reliable tradesman, and cannot be discharged for disciplinary reasons.
A week later, the Director-General expressed similar views in a letter addressed to the Industrial Registrar. That puts the Minister for Works and Housing in the clear when charges are laid that Ministers supported a Communistcontrolled union in attempts to persecute Miller. The Minister then addressed a letter to the secretary of the Australian Labour party, because the matter had gone to the central executive as a result of the improper disclosure of the contents of an official file to an unauthorized person. It is true that the disclosure was made in confidence, but the person to whom it was made gave the information to the press. An inquiry was held, and so satisfied was the executive that there had been no victimization, or attempt at victimization, that it allowed the matter to drop. If there had been any attempt by a Minister of State, who was also a member of the Australian Labour party in Victoria, to persecute a member of the organization because he fought the Communists, the anti-Communist executive of the Victorian Labour party would have taken a very serious view of the matter.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) wrote as follows to Mr. D. Lovegrove, the organizing secretary of the Australian Labour party :-
In the special case known as the Miller case the statement that I recommended his dismissal is not true. My only connexion with this case was as the result of being asked by Mr. Lemmon, Minister for Works and Housing, to find out from the Union what the trouble was about and try and prevent the holding up of the work on Government jobs, which tho Union had threatened to declare black. I did what I was asked to do, which as you know is part of the work I have always done - carry out negotiations with a view to preventing actual stoppages of work, and when it is a case of alleged victimization by a Union or an employer against a worker I have (and my Industrial Officer, Mr. L. M. Brady, will bear this out) always stressed the right to work, and the impossible policy of driving a man you do not like out of one Union, or from one job to another. It must lead to denying thi> man the right to work and live if you pursue any other line of action, and I have stressed the fact that I would not agree to such a policy and generally have succeeded in finding a sane solution.
I asked Mr. Chandler to see me, which he did. I told him Mr. Lemmon had asked me to try and find a solution to the trouble, but I was sure the Minister would not attempt to compel Miller to pay a fine, which the Court had said after hearing both sides should not be paid. I also said Mr. Lemmon could not deny a man the right to work. Mr. Chandler told me that the Union had accepted the Court’s decision, although they thought it was wrong and they had withdrawn the demand that Miller pay that fine; but the present dispute was over a fine against Miller for continuing to work on a job which the Union, of which he is a member, had declared black. The action now proposed, to declare other Commonwealth Government jobs black was because Miller would not pay the fine or his Union dues. I asked was the Union preventing Miller from earning his living, and he tola me Miller had been at work all the time and was still working and had not lost time because of the Union’s actions, but they had decided not to wait any longer for the Department to take action. I asked Mr. Chandler to prevent any action so that I could report back to Mr. Lemmon and give him time to discuss the matter with his officers and get the other side of the story. Mr. Chandler promised he would do this and he did so.
That ended the association of the Minister for Labour and National Service with the case. The honorable member for Balaclava would not have known anything about this piece of dead history had not
Brophy, smarting under the reprimand he had received for improperly disclosing the contents of official documents to an unauthorized person, asked that honorable member to air his grievance.
– The matter was published in the newspapers.
– Yes, as the result of improper disclosure of official information.
– Is it proper for the Minister to disclose the report of the Public Service Board on the subject?
– It is, when I am called upon to answer charges improperly laid by persons outside the Parliament against Ministers whom I am here to defend. However, I am here, not to give my own testimony - valuable as that might be - but to answer the charges by referring to official documents, which even the most purblind of my political opponents would not have the nerve to challenge. I have cited the opinions of those who investigated the case, and I have told the whole story. Mr. Brophy was not satisfied. Apparently, he expected to be promoted for having committed a breach of the Public Service Act and regulations. If his behaviour were condoned, no Minister of to-day or to-morrow would be safe from the stupidity or wrong-headedness of a public servant who, because of a real or an imaginary grievance, or a desire for publicity, or to exploit a prevailing mood, sought his own advancement at the cost of the public welfare. I do not think that the honorable member for Balaclava has made out a case for censuring either of the Ministers named. The Government’s action in giving Miller means to prevent a Communist-controlled union from victimizing him is complete evidence of its bona fides in this case. There has been no complaint from Miller since the Government took the action referred to. There has been no complaint from any one associated with the case, except from tho man who started the trouble, the man who feels, apparently, that he is a modern John the Baptist, the precursor of a new Messiah, with a mission to reform the world. Mr. Brophy has a bloated idea of his own importance. Many public servants have had to deal with difficult problems, but they have not done as Brophy did; they have not given a bad exhibition of diseased egotism.
.- The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has not established a case, but he did make one or two interesting points. For instance, he publicly condemned a sitting member of Parliament, and an endorsed Labour candidate.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– Without naming the man, the Minister said that he was a person of no consequence. The Minister then upbraided the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) for having listened, in his capacity as a representative of the people, to Brophy, when that gentleman, rightly or wrongly- rightly in my judgment - was seeking to obtain justice for an individual, and clean administration for the country. The Minister said that the honorable gentleman should not have listened to Mr. Brophy and that he should not have read the letter to which reference was made. He said that while sitting at the table beside the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who. of course, established notoriety for himself in this House by opening a letter addressed to the private secretary to the then Treasurer.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER. (Mr. Lazzarini). - Order! Whatever happened at one time or another has nothing to do with the matter before the Chair, and, if the honorable gentleman pursues that line, he will be told to resume his seat.
– I shall not pursue it.
– -I do not mind if the honorable member reveals all the facts.
– If the Minister provokes me-
– I ask you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to control the Minister.
– The honorable member, ought to control himself.
– I hark back to the main issue. This is a simple case of an ordinary Australian trade unionist named Miller. He is a member of the Labour party and for many years an office bearer in the Oakleigh branch of the Building Workers Industrial Union. He attended a normal meeting of the branch. When the balance-sheet was presented, he had the temerity to say, “ It is strange that we should be voting £400 for linoleum. Would you mind explaining why the branch is voting £400 for linoleum ?” As I have been, he was ordered to resume his seat. In due course, he was fined by this Communist-led union for conduct prejudicial to the working class. He was fined for having asked why £400 was being voted for linoleum. That is the starting point of this issue. Who are the interested parties? First, there is Miller, who was fined and deprived of his job. Notwithstanding what the Minister says, he was out of work, from time to time. The second party is the Australian Government as Miller’s employer. Two Ministers are directly concerned, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). The third interested party .is the Communist party - the Minister has admitted that - in the person of Donald Thomson, the general secretary of the Building Trades Federation, who should be behind bars, where Sharkey is, because I remember his saying publicly at Benalla, during the Battle for Britain, when we were trying to build an aerodrome there-
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair.
– Donald Thomson comes right into the subject.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is consistently interrupting while the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is making a very good speech.
– Order ! There is no point of order. I have called the Minister to order for interjecting, but I have had to call Opposition members to order on a dozen occasions. There have been more interjections from the Opposition side than from the Government side this morning. The honorable member for Indi may continue and he shall be heard in silence.
– Thomson is a principal figure in this matter. He is referred to in the official file. He is the man who addressed the carpenters at the Benalla aerodrome and urged them publicly to cease work because they were facilitating a capitalist war. That is Donald Thomson on whose side the Minister has come down. When the Government had to choose whether to side with Miller, an ordinary unionist and working man or with the Communists, it sided with Thomson. It takes instructions from him. After Judge Kelly had made an award declaring the union’s fine of Miller to be illegal, Thomson said to the Department of Labour and National Service, “ No matter what any court orders, a Commonwealth department, under a Labour Government, should not deny the right of entry to any union organizer “.
– Thomson said that?
– Yes. Ministers take their orders from the Communist boss of the Building Trades Federation, Donald Thomson. When the court decided that the fine was illegal, Thomson still proceeded to declare black the job on which Miller was working. What did the Administration do - uphold the case of this ordinary Australian citizen and fight the Communists? No; it evaded both issues, which is a common course for this Government to take, and secretly shifted Miller to another job. It took weeks for the Communists to trace him. They then declared that job black. Miller was shifted to yet another job and that job, too, was declared black. It is a good thing that we have the opportunity to reveal that when the Communists putpressure on the Government, the Government yields. It has not the courage either to take the side of the Communists or to defend the rights of a decent citizen. As in its handling of the coal strike, it tried to confuse the issue by shifting Miller from job to job. The man was out of work at times, and important public works were in progress. Job after job was declared black, because Thomson was pursuing a vendetta against a man who would not pay a fine that a court of this land had declared unlawful. We find that when the matter was raised the two Ministers whom I have named took the side of the Communists. They servilely took a confidential departmental document to the Trades Hall and read it to the Victorian Central Executive of the Australian Labour party of which the Minister for Information is a member. When Miller, a decent Australian worker, said, “ Let me have a look at the report which besmirches my character “, they refused to let him see it and he has never been allowed to see it from that day to this. That is the kind of Government that we have. In the ten minutes that I have at my disposal, I have no chance of stating the case fully. Miller attended a conference at Canberra. He said that Sharkey, the federal president of the Communist party, who is now in gaol for having committed treason, had said to him that his case was the worst that the Communist party had ever handled, that he was amazed at the support that he, Miller, had received from ex-servicemen and other people outside, and that, as the result of the publicity that had been given to his case, the Communist party was likely to be set back years in its progress. Consequently, there was nothing else fo do but to withdraw the action against him. But the action was riot withdrawn against him because of the court’s decision, or because of any action of this Labour Government. It was withdrawn against this decent working man because to press it further might be prejudicial to the progress of the Communist party in Australia.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put–
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy SPEAKER - Mb. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to authorize the execution by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia, in relation to the standardization of certain railways, to approve of the raising of loans for defence purposes (namely, the standardization of those railways), and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr.Ward (East Sydney- Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories) [12.11]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I present this bill for the consideration of the House with the gratification - which, I am sure, is shared by all honorable members - that, after years of endeavour, something real has been achieved in a great national task. I think it is fitting that I should briefly review the history ofthe struggle to reach the point that has been reached at last. Honorable members know that as far back as 1921 a royal commission strongly recommended the standardization of the railway gauges of the Commonwealth at an estimated cost of £57,200,000. Unfortunately for Australia, the recommendations of the royal commission were not carried out, and the cost to the Australian people of the lack of statesmanship by the governments of that time is reflected in the increased cost of the project to-day. However, in 1924 the Australian Government entered into an. agreement with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland for the construction of a standard gauge line linking Sydney with Brisbane. This work was completely in 1930, during the term of office of the Scullin Government, but there the standardization project stopped, and in respect of rail transport the mainland of Australia still has five separate systems. World War II. took place too recently for me to have to remind honorable members how easily this tragic state of affairs could have sealed the destiny of Australia. It does not take much imagination to visualize what difficulties the fifteen break-of-gauge points in our railway system would have presented to our defence authorities had the enemy landed in this country. Those who had to handle the railway problem during the years following the entry of Japan into the conflict still shudder at the memory. On the facts known to it this Government resolved that this incubus on Australia’s prosperity, development and defence must be removed, and in pursuance of that decision, Sir Harold Clapp was asked to submit a report and recommendation regarding the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia. The Clapp report was submitted to me on the 24th March, 1945, and was immediately presented to this House. It was a most comprehensive report, which was worthy of the great railway man who compiled it.
This Government adopted the policy of standardization of railway gauges and I was authorized to open negotiations with the States with a view to proceeding with this great national and essential Tindertaking. The House will remember that, after frequent conferences, all States approved the principle of standardization, but because of local influences Queensland and Western Australia with drew from further participation in the scheme. I succeeded in having an agreement signed by the Commonwealth with New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. This agreement was the basis of the Railway Standardization Agreement Act 1946. As honorable members are aware, that act provided for the execution of a standardization agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. However, the agreement con- tained a provision that the agreement would not become operative until it had been approved by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and each of the States concerned. The Commonwealth bill to ratify the agreement was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament on the 9th August, 1946, and received the royal assent on the 15th August, 1946. The ratifying legislation was passed by the South Australian Parliament on the 5th December, 1946, and by the Victorian Parliament on the 8th December, 1948.
The New South Wales Government did not take the expected steps to ratify tho agreement and during the months that have passed since the Victorian legislation was passed, many efforts have been made to ascertain whether or not tho New South Wales Government proposed to introduce the necessary legislation into the Parliament of that State. Many discussions have taken place between the Commonwealth and the State on the subject, including talks between the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Premier of New South Wales, and between myself and the Premier and the New South Wales Minister for Transport. It was pointed out that the delay in arriving at a a decision was seriously affecting the ordering programmes of the States which had ratified the agreement. Finally, the New South Wales Government was informed that, unless it advised the Commonwealth by the 30th’ September, 1949, that it was prepared to introduce the necessary legislation, the Commonwealth would assume that it did not desire to ratify the agreement and that, in those circumstances, immediate steps would be taken to enter into separate agreements with the States which had passed the necessary legislation. No satisfactory reply was received from New South Wales by the time requested, and the Premier of South Australia, who had informed the Commonwealth of the difficulties which his State had been experiencing as the result of the delay in implementing the agreement, was invited to further discussions. As a result of those discussions, the Commonwealth has decided to enter into a separate agreement with South Australia, and this bill is for the purpose of giving effect to that decision.
Parallel action is being taken by the Government in South Australia.
Very briefly, this bill provides for precisely the same standardization work to be carried out in South Australia as would have been carried out in that State had New South Wales ratified the Commonwealth- Three States Agreement. It provides also that over a period of years the Commonwealth should contribute 70 per cent, and the State of South Australia be responsible for the remaining 30 per cent, of the estimated cost of £24,000,000. The House will agree that the Commonwealth has indeed been generous in its treatment of South Australia in respect of this matter.
I do not propose to deal with tho advantages of the standardization of railway gauges to the Commonwealth as a whole. Those advantages are set out very fully in the Hansard report of the secondreading debate on the Railway Standardization Agreement Bill 1946, which took place on the 2nd August, 1946. Action has already been taken to invite the Victorian Government to discuss the subject of a separate agreement with the Commonwealth, and I have no doubt that a satisfactory arrangement will be made. The House is aware also that discussions have taken place with the Government of Western Australia, and that the Commonwealth is awaiting advice of its decision on the ‘proposals advanced. The House and the people of Australia will be glad to know that this Government’s policy -for the standardization of the railway gauges of our country not only has the support of the technical and economic experts of Australia, but also is endorsed and recommended by leading expert* :from overseas. A statement that was made on the subject by the eminent railway specialist, Mr. John Elliott, is worthy of mention. In his recent report to the Victorian Government on the transport system of that State, Mr. Elliott referred to the national problem and paid : -
I believe that the present railway systems in Australia, with their varying gauges and consequent transfer points, are unsuitable fo> :a country of great distances populated by one people of the same race and Commonwealth So long as the vexatious restrictions on free -railway passage of freight and passengers from one part of the Commonwealth to another persist, the railways will continue to be worked under adverse technical and operating conditions, to the detriment of the national wellbeing.
With separate State systems working to varying gauges, standardization of equipment of all kinds is impossible. Without such standardization, the cost of railway working is necessarily high and wasteful.
Economies in handling of interstate and intra-state traffic offer themselves through standardization of gauge and rolling stock; while through the elimination of exchange points, economy of labour will be secured and transit of traffic remarkably speeded up.
I believe that standardization of railway gauges in Australia is bound to come, sooner or later. From the point of view of long-term planning of railway development, on which no much depends, the sooner the decision is taken, the better for Australian Transport, and therefor Australian industry. After the decision is taken, at least five years will elapse during which the new 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge rolling stock is being built, before any considerable labour force can be employed on track conversion.
With standardization of gauges should come unification of all the Australian railway systems under one Federal control and organiza-tion, as in South Africa and on the Canadian Pacific Railways. Only in this way will the Commonwealth obtain the greatest advantages from the traffic and technical aspects which unification alone can bring.
From the defence point of view, I imagine that the transport problems of the last war have shown how great are the shortcomings of a disunited railway system, which had to be supplemented at a very heavy cost by road and air transport, absorbing far more labour in the transport of a given tonnage than would have been the case if the Australian Railways had been of a standardized and unified structure.
Those are the words of a railway expert. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1949 - No. 79 - Actors and Announcers’ Equity Association of Australia.
Australian Broadcasting Act - Order - Political Broadcasts (Federal Elections) (Mo. 2j.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Repatriation Department - S. K. Tooth.
House adjourned at 12.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
Harbour Trust. The figures quoted are not in themselves a true reflection of changes in rate of handling cargo in 1948 as compared with 1938. In addition to the figures quoted by Mr. York Syme regarding the average amount of cargo handled daily in each berth, Harbour Trust statistics disclose that in 1948 a total of 773,850 tons of cargo was handled in the port of Melbourne compared with 980,820 tons in 1938. The average cargo per ship in 1948 was 2,979 tons compared with 1,837 tons in 1938. Changes in the handling rate of cargoes are attributable to a number of factors. In common with workers in other industries, waterside workers are benefiting by reductions in working hours and improved conditions generally. In common with other industries, also, the waterside industry is affected by current shortages of materials and man-power and in some instances is further hampered by inadequate or out-of-date equipment at the wharfs. One means of assisting in speeding the turn-round of ships is by the provision of adequate mechanical handling equipment and in this connexion it may be mentioned that the Melbourne Harbour Trust is apparently reluctant to permit the use of such equipment to the fullest extent possible. 3._ There are no official Commonwealth statistics available showing the average amount of cargo handled daily at the various ports in 1948 compared with 1938.
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The question of entering into reciprocal agreements with other countries, for the mutual abolition of visés has been very carefully considered by me, after taking the advice of the Commonwealth Immigration- Advisory Council. The Commonwealth Government favours these agreements in principle, and will seek -to enter into them at an opportune time, for the convenience of Australians proceeding abroad as well as of aliens coming to this country. However, tho paramount consideration at this present time is to ensure that the screening of persons coming to Australia is made as effective as possible, and the viae requirement is an indispensable part of our screening system. By requiring aliens to apply to our overseas representatives for vises, prior to embarkation, we enable our representatives to test the suitability of such persons for admission to Australia; and it is most important that such a test should be made overseas, in the country of the applicant’s domicile. If we dispense with the vise, we have to rely first of all upon shipping and aircraft companies not to book passages for persons who are clearly not eligible for admission to Australia, and secondly we will have to have a much more rigorous examination of passengers at our Australian ports. However rigorous such &n examination might be made, it could never bc as satisfactory as a check made overseas, where information may be available regarding the applicant which would not be known to immigration officers at Australian ports. It should be remembered- that Australia is an “ immig.i-o.tion country “. I might almost say that it is the immigration country. Hundreds of thousands of aliens would gladly migrate to Australia if they were permitted to do so. Much as we need many thousands of new settlers we must ensure that we get the right type.
y. - On the 16th September, the honorable member .for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked me questions regarding the coal industry with particular reference to Stockrington No. 1 colliery. Further to my oral reply on that occasion I desire to inform the honorable gentleman that it is a fact that Stockrington No, 1 colliery was idle on the 14th, 15th and 16th September as the result of a dispute as to whether miners or shiftmen were to be engaged in cleaning up stone and dirt thrown back by miners in a certain section of working in the colliery. A decision in respect of the matter in dispute has been given by the Local Coal Authority, and I am informed that the colliery resumed work on Monday, the 19th September. With regard to the question asked relating to output, although the recent general strike was responsible for a heavy loss of coal, it is estimated that the total coal production from underground and open-cut mines in New South “Wales for the present year will reach 10,800,000 tons. It is reasonable to assume that had the strike not occurred, last year’s output would have been substantially exceeded. (Figures in respect of the estimated total coal production for Australia for 1949 are not at present available.) The honorable gentleman asked also whether it is a fact that owing to low coal production, Australia is importing steel at prices ranging from two to three times as much as the price of Australian-made steel. Production of steel in Australia has, of course, been partly affected by coal shortages. It is a fact that to meet urgent requirements, steel is being imported into Australia at a much higher cost per ton than that of local manufacture. In this connexion I would refer the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to a statement given by mo yesterday in reply to a recent question by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) concerning the position of steel supplies in Australia.
Trade bt Barter.
– On the 15th September, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked me questions concerning the question of trading by barter with countries in the dollar area. I promised the honorable member a more detailed reply and accordingly I desire to inform him as follows : -
The sterling area has certain exchange problems and the countries of the sterling area, of which Australia is one, have insufficient dollar funds to purchase all the dollar area goods which, in the absence of exchange difficulties, they would import. In these circumstances it has been necessary to ensure that the limited dollar funds available to Australia for the purchase of dollar area goods are assigned for the importation of those commodities which are in the highest class of essentiality from the point of view of the Australian economy and are unavailable from easier currency sources of supply than the dollar area. If the dollars earned by the export of goods from Australia were available to actual exporters for the purchase of any goods which they chose, it would not be possible to ensure that the goods purchased were those most essential to the Australian economy. Consequently Australian exchange control regulations provide that all dollars earned as a result of the export of Australian goods vest in the Commonwealth Bank which pays the exporter .the equivalent sum in Australian currency. It will be apparent from what has already been said that if barter arrangements were .permitted between private firms they would defeat the objectives which Australian import licensing policy .is designed to achieve and would he contrary to the purpose of Australian exchange control regulations if the goods were of such a natureas would not be admitted into Australia under normal import licensing policy. This is thefundamental reason why sanction of barterarrangements has been refused. The conclusion of. a barter arrangement satisfactory to both parties is usually effected only with considerable difficulty and the actual carrying outof an arrangement once concluded generally raises a host of administrative problems. Apart altogether from the fundamental consideration of exchange control and the minor question relating to the conclusion and administration of a barter transaction, arrangements of that nature are undesirable in principle from the point of view of international trade. They tend to force trade into narrow and well defined channels and militate against the development of world trade on multilateral basis. The restoration of multilateralism in world trade is one of the objectives of the Australian Government and of the governments of the other countries which* ure provisionally applying the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The encouragement of barter arrangements by Australia would hinder the return to a multilateral system qf international trade. In the proposed barter transaction referred to by the honorable member, wool was the Australian commodity in question and wool would be likely to figure in any proposed barter deal involving Australia or an Australian firm. All wool sold in Australia must be purchased at auction and this fact would not facilitate barter transactions. There is no agreement between sterling area countries to refrain from barter transactions with countries in the dollar area, but the general adoption of the barter system by a member of the sterling area as a means of obtaining goods from a dollar area country would, it is felt, be contrary to the broad principles of the sterling area dollar .pool whereby members of the sterling area pool their net earnings of gold and dollars and draw from the pool, insofar as is .practicable, sufficient funds to meet their essential purchases from the dollar area.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19491021_reps_18_205/>.