20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took tie chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that I have this day issued a writ in connexion with the by-election for the Flinders division, and that the dates fixed are those announced to the Souse on the 3rd September last.
– I have received a letter which, I think, I should read to the House. It is as follows : -
AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION.
(Queensland Division.) 198 Alice-street, Brisbane. 3rd September, 1952.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T.
As, by virtue of Chapter 1, Fart III., Section 35, of the Commonwealth Constitution, the Office of Speaker is the Chief Office of the House of Representatives, I am directed by my Executive, to submit to you, for the official information of the House, the attached copy of a memorial to His Excellency, the GovernorGeneral.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Copy of memorial addressed to His Excellency the Governor-General in connexion with the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Parliament with respect to Parliamentary Allowances, Parliamentary Pensions and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries- submitted to Mr. Speaker for the information of the House by the Queensland Division of the Australian Democratic Union.
I shall supply copies of it to the leaders of the parties in the House.
– I wish to direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. In view of your statement concerning complaints that were received from the public about conversations in this House which were heard by radio listeners, and in view of the great importance of trying to eliminate those complaints, will you table in the House copies of all letters of complaint, which you say you have received in large numbers, so that offending members of the Parliament who may be unaware of those offences can take steps to correct their shortcomings?
– No, sir. I am not prepared to do that.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question about the negotiations for the truce in Korea, which have lasted for more than twelve months. I remind the right honorable gentleman that some months ago we suggested that the outstanding matter, which relates to the exchange of United Nations personnel in the hands of the Chinese Communists, and of their personnel in the hands of the United Nations forces, should be determined by the General Assembly of the United Nations. I understand that such is to be done, and that the United States of America is putting forward proposals in that respect. I ask the Minister, first, whether he opposes the proposal of Mexico, to which he referred last week in reply to a question without notice? Secondly, is it correct that the United Kingdom Government is suggesting amendments to that proposal? Will he inform me whether he, or the Australian Government, supports the United Kingdom’s proposal? Thirdly, if he does not support either of those proposals, will he state whether the Australian Government has any positive proposals which he intends to put before the General Assembly of the United Nations at its forthcoming sitting?
– The Australian Government does not oppose the proposal advanced by Mexico in respect of the truce in Korea. I merely said, in reply to the question without notice that I was asked last week that the Mexican proposal did not seem to get to the root of the objection which the Communists have constantly advanced regarding an option in the repatriation of prisoners. That objection does not hinge on the eventual disposal of the prisoners who do not want to go back to their own country. The Communist attitude is that the prisoners should be given no option in respect of their return, and, for that reason, I said that I did not see a great deal of merit in the Mexican proposal. The matter is under consideration in Great Britain, and also in the United States of America, and we are also examining it, with a view to seeing whether any amendment of the proposal is likely to have a greater chance of success than any one of the many proposals which have been put forward in the past. At the moment I cannot see how the proposal may be amended to make it acceptable to the Communists on the basis of their frequently expressed objections to the principle of voluntary repatriation. As to proposals that this Government may sponsor through myself at the United Nations Assembly, I can only say that the matter is in course of discussion, in the. first place, between myself and my officers. I have nothing very specific to put before the House at this stage, but I hope that we shall manage to evolve some ideas on this extremely difficult’ subject before I leave this country, bearing in mind that our flag is nailed to the mast of voluntary repatriation, and that up to now the Communists have stood stubbornly steadfast against voluntary repatriation. We believe that the men held as prisoners should not be driven back at the point of the bayonet to countries -where they would be in fear of their lives, if they were ever to reach them.
– Will the Minister for the Army give the House some information about the number of replacements required for the Australian forces in Korea each month? How are such replacements to be secured, in future, in view of the fact that the Government has suspended the recruitment of personnel for the armed forces?
– Replacements are not made regularly each month in respect of our forces in Korea. The number of replacements for our two battalions have relation to the casualties that may be suffered, leave requirements, and the withdrawal of men who have completed their tour of duty and are returning to Australia. I am happy to say that we have substantial replacements in Japan and Australia, and substantial reserves for a long while ahead.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture instruct the experts who are now investigating the quality of Queensland-grown tobacco to examine also the quality of imported tobacco and cigarettes? Will he instruct them to classify Australian tobacco and imported tobaccoes so that the consumers will know the quality of the tobacco that they are buying?
– I am not able to instruct anybody in the matter at present, because I am still awaiting the approval of the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Stock and the Queensland Tobacco Board of a proposal I have made that their officers should report on the suitability of certain Australian tobacco leaf for manufacture and offer their views upon certain price aspects. The honorable member will be able to secure any statistics that he wants in relation to imported tobacco by addressing a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs. I am sure that he could get advice also on the quality of imported tobacco, although I remind him that much imported tobacco arrives in Australia in manufactured form.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that Queensland is the only State that has not entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth on the new hospital benefits scheme? Would the Minister clarify the point that under the new scheme there is nothing to prevent the States from providing free hospital service for those people who are unable to pay? Is it a fact that for those people who are in a position to pay for hospital service, small contributions to approved insurance organizations, together with the Commonwealth contribution, would pay normal hospital charges? Has the Queensland Government given any real reason why it is depriving the people of Queensland of the Commonwealth contribution and other benefits of the new hospital benefits scheme which have been accepted by all other State governments including some Labour governments?
– No agreement has been reached upon this matter between Queensland and the Commonwealth. Two or three weeks ago, we sent a letter to the Queensland Government upon it, and subsequently the Queensland Government communicated with us. The Prime Minister, in reply to that communication, has stated that apparently there is some misunderstanding about the principles of the scheme, and has suggested that it be discussed on an official level. I hope that such discussion will take place. There is nothing in the Government’s scheme that would prevent the Queensland Government from making hospital beds available, free of charge, to people who have no means. The Premier of New South Wales has made it very clear that in hospitals in that State people who are unable to pay normal hospital charges will be treated free of charge. In some States, a married man can insure himself and hig dependants in respect of hospital charges for a premium of only 6d. a week. In New South Wales, the premium is ls. a week.
– Will the Minister for Health clarify the position of persons over 65 years of age with respect to their eligibility to join hospital mid medical benefits societies? Are such persons accepted for benefit by all of these societies, or by only some, or by any of them at all?
– Last week I stated that a conference of representatives of various friendly societies was being held in Sydney and that a conference of representatives of various medical benefits societies was being held in Adelaide. Yesterday I received communications in relation to each of those conferences, and, as they are very short, I shall read them now. The first is from the Sydney conference of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows, and reads -
Dear Sir Earle Page,
I am very pleased to be . able to advise that the Society has decided to remove all age limits, both with respect to membership in its hospital and medical funds.
As you know, we have been already accepting applications from members over the age of 65 years and it only needed the formal approval of what we were doing.
The actual result of this means that every application for membership will be considered on its merits, irrespective of the age of the applicants or their dependants.
The second is a message from the doctor who presided over the conference in Adelaide, and it reads -
The Federal Minister for Health had stated that it is desirable that people over the age of 05 years should be allowed to contribute to medical benefit funds throughout Australia in order to enable them to receive medical benefits under the proposed Federal Government’s scheme to operate in 1953.
At the meeting in Adelaide on 13th September, delegates from medical benefits funds from all States, including the Mutual Hospital Association of South Australia, the Hospital and Benefits Fund of Western Australia, the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia (operating in New South Wales, Victoria. Queensland and Tasmania) resolved that this was possible and desirable and recommended its member funds to abolish age limits for contributors to medical benefit funds. In Western Australia, the Hospital and Medical Benefits Fund has already abolished the age limit.
Delegates at this meeting comprised both doctors and administrative officers.
– Can the Minister for Health inform me whether the adoption of the Government’s health and medical benefits scheme by the Queens land Government would mean the reintroduction of a means test for patients in the public wards of Queensland public hospitals ? Was not the means test in respect of such patients abolished in Queensland about 35 years ago ? Is the real reason for the introduction of a means test to enable this Government to show consistency of policy, because it intends to retain the means test in respect of eligibility for the age pension?
– The honorable member for Kennedy must be either very deaf, or absent from the chamber frequently, otherwise he would have heard me state definitely that the Government’s health and medical benefits scheme will be a substantial factor in the ultimate abolition of the means test to age pensions.
– The Minister has not answered the first part of the question.
– The imposition of a means test is entirely a matter for the Queensland Government. The Australian Government does not desire to impose such conditions upon hospitals as were imposed by the ‘Chifley Labour Government.
– I ask the Minister for Health to give the House some information -about the basis on which the mean? test will be applied to applicants for admission to the public wards of hospitals? Will the right honorable gentleman state whether hospital boards will be permitted to conduct their own insurance schemes?
– The imposition of a means test is entirely a matter for each State government which controls public hospitals. The honorable gentleman has asked whether hospital boards will be permitted to conduct their own insurance schemes. I inform him that the Government would be very pleased indeed to consider such proposals with a view to ascertaining whether they can be approved for the purposes of the health and medical benefits scheme.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for Health that the imposition of the means test is a matter for each government, will the right honorable gentleman say whether a means test operates at the Canberra Community Hospital in the Australian Capital Territory, where the Australian Government has unlimited power?
– At the Canberra Community Hospital, the same means test operates as operated throughout the regime of the preceding Labour Government in respect of out-patients for dental treatment. The means test has simply been extended to that degree.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether trade unions will be permitted to register their own insurance schemes for their members ?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh should be gratified to learn that between 50 and 60 trade unions are conducting their own schemes. A special inquiry has been made by an officer of the Department of Health in order to ascertain whether those schemes can be continued. The Government welcomes the activity of the unions in this matter.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Health supplementary to a question that was asked by the honorable member for the Aus1 tralian Capital Territory. As the hospital benefits scheme does not involve the abolition of the means test for patients attending the Canberra Community Hospital, will the Minister explain how residents of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory will receive any additional benefits or improvements in hospital services from the hospital benefits scheme that has been enunciated by him
– The attitude of residents of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory was demonstrated clearly when a mass meeting was called by Labour party supporters, and fewer than 30 attended the meeting, which was held in a huge hall.
– On the 5th September, .the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General informed me that new plans for the Brisbane General Post
Office were being prepared, and that the cost of the project had been estimated to be £1,000,000. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether it is a fact thaiplans and specifications for this project were prepared and adopted by the government of the day in 1938-39 ? At that time, you, Mr. Speaker, were the PostmasterGeneral - and a very good one, too. Have those plans been abandoned’? If so, for what reason? When does the Government intend to commence to build the first section of the new post office? Will the work commence in a matter of months, or of years ? As this information is keenly awaited by the people of Brisbane, I ask the right honorable gentleman to give a full reply.
– I shall consult with you, Mr. Speaker, to ascertain whether the plans that were prepared when you were Postmaster-General are those that are at present under examination. If they are, they were in the achives of the Postal Department for the whole of the period during which the last Labour Government was in office. I shall try to ascertain all the facts of this matter for the information of the honorable member.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration say whether there is any truth in the rumour that two Australians from Victoria left this country to-day to attend the Peking peace conference, despite the declaration by the Prime Minister last week that the conference was inimical to the best interests of Australia? Was everything possible done to prevent those gentlemen from leaving Australia? Is any action against them contemplated by the Government?
– I was told this morning that two gentlemen have left this country to attend the Peking peace conference. I understand that they hold British passports. As the House has already been informed, the action that was contemplated last week had reference to persons holding, not British passports but Australian passports. In the circumstances, there is nothing that we can do in the matter, or that we propose to do. T believe that the action that we have taken has demonstrated to all the world, if demonstration be needed, what the Australian people think of this so-called peace conference.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Opposition whether his attention has been drawn to a statement made by the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions that the Government’s restriction of passports to delegates to the Peking peace conference is contrary to Labour policy. In ‘ view of the right honorable gentleman’s statement in this House when the Prime Minister made an announcement on Government policy in relation to delegates to the conference, will he state whether Labour’s policy is that pronounced by himself in this House, or whether the contention of the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions is the real policy of Labour?
– A question from the acting under-secretary of I do not know what department, is always welcome. In answer to his question I say that I have recently made a statement of my views, and have nothing to add to it. Mr. Monk, who is president of the Australian Council of .Trades Unions, represents a great number of trade unions. Many of those organizations belong to the Australian Labour party and quite a few do not. The view that I expressed is the view of the Australian Labour party.
– In view of the fact that two persons intend to travel from Australia to attend the “ phoney “ so-called peace conference in Peking in defiance of the wishes of the Government, will the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration inform me whether the Government has power to prohibit those persons from returning to this country?
– I understand that the Government has no such power.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Repatriation. The Government proposes to increase the general rate war pension, and war pensions paid to the wives and children of incapacitated ex-servicemen and to the children of deceased ex-servicemen. Will the pensions paid to war widows also be increased? If not, does the Government expect to introduce legislation at an early date with a view to the provision of a better standard of living for the widows and orphans of deceased soldiers?
– As a result of a paragraph that I read, in a Melbourne newspaper, I expected to be asked this question and I have prepared an answer to it in advance. The Minister for Repatriation has advised me that no increase of the war widows’ pension has been made since the last, increase, which was from £3 to £3 10s. a week, was granted in November, 1950. In addition to the pension a further allowance, which is known as a domestic allowance, is paid to certain categories of war widows which include widows with dependent children who are under the age of sixteen years ; widows over 50 years of age and widows who are permanently unemployable. The domestic allowance was increased last October from 10s. to £1 12s. a week, making the total payment received by such widows £5 2s. a week. I point out that that increase occurred during the life of this Government. The dependent children of a war widow receive pensions up to the age of sixteen years. In November, 1950, the pension in respect of the eldest child was raised from 17s. 6d. to £1 2s. a week, and in respect of each younger child from 12s. 6d. to 15s. 6d. a week. It is proposed, in accordance with the provisions of the budget, to increase the pension of the eldest child from £1 2s. to £1 6s. 6d. a week and of each younger child from 15s. 6d. to 18s. 6d. a week. Education allowances are paid to children of deceased, blinded and permanently totally incapacitated ex-servicemen. Provision has also been made in the budget for the commencing pensionable age of a dependant child to be changed from thirteen years to twelve years. All-round increases have been made in allowances and allowed income from other sources, such as scholarships and grants. With the consent of honorable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard a table which has been prepared in relation to the old and new scale of. allowances. It is as follows : -
War widow with three children aged 10, 12 years- and 14 Widow -
This shows clearly that the war widow- with dependent children has benefited, under the budget, 1952.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation a question supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member- for Ballarat. Are we. to understand from the Minister’s- statement that there is to be no increase of the rate of war widows’ pensions ? If so, what is Cohappen to elderly recipients of such pension, who were not mentioned in the honorable gentleman’s statement? Is- he aware that there are immigrants in Australia who fought against Australians- and who are now living on better standardsthan are the war widows who lost their husbands during World War II.?
– I made it clear in my reply to the honorable member foi; Ballarat- that substantial additions, to the> pension and also increased rates were to be paid to those- war widows who had dependants- or were in special circumstances. All the relevant facts were clearly set out in the Treasurer’s, budget speech and the budget has been approved of by this- House.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question that concerns officers of the Public Service, either permanent or temporary, who have been on sick leave as a result of tuberculosis. I explain that a number of instances have occurred, within my own knowledge, of ex-servicemen in the category I have described, who have spent a period in hospital and have then received a clearance from the Repatriation Department as being fit to resume full duties. Such a clearance is not accepted by the Public Service which requires a separate medical examination to be made by Commonwealth health authorities. Will the Prime Minister aave the relevant regulation altered so that, in. cases of this kind, a clearance by the Repatriation Department, which, I believe, has the best obtainable doctors working for it, will automatically be accepted by the Public Service Board?
– I regret to tell the honorable member that I am not familiar with this matter, but I shall have the points he has raised investigated in the appropriate quarters and shall advise him of the result.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether this Government has yet received a firm offer from the Liberal Premier of South Australia that his Government will arrange for the erection of kitchenettes at immigrant hostels if the Australian Government will agree to make the requisite funds available? As that offer was made publicly through the press in South Australia, does the Government intend to make available to the Playford Government the money that is required for this purpose ?
– Following representations that were made by the honorable member for Sturt., departmental officers gave consideration to the possibility of providing kitchenettes at the immigration hostel at Gepps Cross in South Australia and I have had preliminary discussions on the subject with the Premier of that State. Up to the present no decision has been arrived at.
– On the 2nd September, I directed the attention of the Minister for Health to the shortage of supplies of clinical thermometers in Australia. Representations have now been made to me that as a result of the inclusion of such articles in category B of the import licence schedule Australia is receiving from overseas in a whole year supplies that are sufficient to meet requirement in this country for only one month. Has the Minister been able to do anything towards having that classification altered in order that adequate supplies can be obtained? Representations have also been made to me that chiropody felt and surgical elastic stockings are also in short supply because these articles are included in category B. Can the Minister do anything to have the classification of those articles altered so that adequate supplies shall be made available in the interests of public health?
– As a result of the question that the honorable member addressed to me last week with respect to supplies of clinical thermometers, I took up the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs who informed me this morning that he has made provision to ensure that adequate supplies of such thermometers shall be available. I shall refer the honorable member’s question in respect of supplies of chiropody felt and surgical elastic stockings, which he has nnw mentioned for the first time, to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Will the Treasurer state the amount of the total dollar allocations that have been made, or the decisions that have been made to make dollar allocations, for the importation of tobacco and made-up cigarettes? Will the right honorable gentleman, at the earliest possible date, supply to this House the. names of importer’s to whom such dollar allocations have been made or will be made, and the amount of such allocations?
– If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper I shall ascertain whether the required information can be supplied to him. However, I assure him that it is not the custom of any government to disclose information about private firms in any matter of dollar allocations.
– Will the Treasurer make available to the States special financial assistance to enable them to continue urgently needed developmental and defence works? Such works include water conservation, transport development and electrical power projects which have been discontinued or are to be discontinued, because of the financial policy of the Australian Government.
– Any representations that may be made to the Australian Government by the States on their own behalf will receive the usual consideration.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs inform the House when the Japanese election will be held ? Does he believe that the election will be a genuine popular vote? Furthermore, does the right honorable gentleman consider there is any likelihood of a return to power of militaristic elements in Japan?
– The Japanese general election will take place on the 1st October. It would be quite improper for me to make any reference that would impinge on Japanese domestic politics, but I can give some information that will help to answer the honorable member’s questions. The Liberal party in Japan, which constitutes the present Government, is the centre political party and commands a clear majority over all other parties. Its members hold about 280 of a total of 460 seats. The political parties that espouse views both of the right and of the left are represented by very much smaller numbers. Therefore, it would appear that, unless a very big swing takes place, the election of an extremist government, either of the left or of the right, is unlikely. This will be the first general election in Japan since the conclusion of the Japanese peace treaty, although an election took place during the occupation period. I believe that it would not be proper for me to say any more than I have said about the politics of another country.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, is supplementary to a question that was asked on the 12th September by the honorable member for Boothby on the recent recommendation for a contraction of wheat production in the United States of America. Since the losses incidental to the sale of wheat under the International Wheat Agreement or any other governmental arrangement by which American wheat is required to be sold below the export parity price are a charge against the United States Treasury instead of the producers, can the Minister say whether the recommendation to contract production is designed to confine those losses within the limits of the willingness of the United States Treasury to meet them, or whether it is based on any other reason?
– I have no official knowledge of the statement made by the United States Secretary for Agriculture, but I have read the press reports and I presume that they are correct. I do not know the motive that underlies the recommendation that the honorable member has mentioned, but I can confirm his statement that under the parity price support system in the United States of America, the administration engages to buy, or finance, wheat at 90 per cent, of the socalled parity price. As the prevailing price under the International Wheat Agreement is very much lower than that level, sales of American wheat, under the agreement, according to my understanding, which I am sure is correct, involve the United States Treasury in a substantial subvention. I can readily imagine that the United States Treasury wishes to limit its very heavy liabilities in this respect, which would provide a rational explanation for the reported announcement by the Secretary for Agriculture.
– In view of the fact that a tri-weekly air service is now serving Albury, Holbrook and Wagga
Wagga, will the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General consider the advisability of granting an air mail contract to the operator of that service in order to speed up mail deliveries? I point out, by way of explanation, that letters posted to me in Canberra by persons in my electorate have sometimes taken up to four days to travel 200miles.
– The honorable gentleman’s request will be considered.
– Has the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to the affidavits submitted by employers’ representatives to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in support of their claim for a reduction of the basic wage by £2 a week, and the extension of the working week from 40 to 44 hours? I point out that the affidavits claim that the economy of thecountry is on the brink ofruin-
– Order ! If the honorable member is raising a matter which is before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the question is out of order.
– I am referring to affidavits submitted to the court. They are public documents, and their contents have been published.
– I am sorry, but the question is not in order.
– I shall ask the Minister my question in another way.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order! The Chair does not require the assistance of the honorable member for Wills. I ask him to be silent.
– Does the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service support the views publicly expressed by the representatives of the employers’ federations that the economy of Australia is on the brink of ruin, and that business faces bankruptcy if the basic wage is not reduced and the working week extended ? On thebasis of the information available to the Government, does he support or reject that claim?
– Order ! A question which invites a Minister to express an opinion is not in order. However, the Minister may answer the question if he desires to do so.
Question , not answered.
– by leave - Towards the end of last month the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) referred to the fact that, because of confusion about the functions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in connexion with the declaration of the basic wage, many impracticable suggestions are being submitted about the giving of “ directions “ to the court. I agree that there was a good deal of misunderstanding about the position of the Government in relation to the court, and undertook to have a statement prepared and submitted to the House. Let me recall first some simple and familiar, facts. Under the Constitution, this Parliament, unlike the parliaments of the States, has no power to legislate directly on wages, hours or conditions in industry. Many times during the past 40 years, proposals have been putforward for an alteration of the Constitution to give this Parliament such a power. On each occasion, the people have rejected the proposal. Therefore, the only power of this Parliament is that which the Constitution gave it half a century ago - the power to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration, for the prevention and settlement of interstate industrial disputes.
Conciliation and arbitration are processes by which a third party either induces the parties to a dispute to reach an agreement among themselves, or settles their dispute, after hearing them, by making an arbitral order or award. All this Parliament can do is to create what I have called the third party - that is, to establish the machinery or instruments for conciliation and arbitration. It can decide, and, of course, has decided, what tribunals there shall be, and whatshall be the relation between them. But it cannot lay down the terms on whichthey shall settle disputes in general, or any individual dispute. Obviously, this Parliament could never have created the idea or concept of what we know as the basic wage, and could never have directed the court to adopt it. On the contrary, the basic wage, the foundation of all wage regulation in Australia nowadays, was created directly by the court itself. The history of Commonwealth wage fixation illustrates the point very clearly. I shall recall it in brief outline.
The story begins with what is known as the Harvester award in 1907. In the Excise Tariff Act 1906, which was subsequently declared invalid, the Commonwealth Parliament imposed excise duties on agricultural implements, but exempted goods manufactured in Australia under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which were declared by the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to be fair and reasonable. The proprietors of the Sunshine Harvester works applied to Mr. Justice Higgins for a declaration in terms of the act. In working out what was “ fair and reasonable “, the President of the court adopted a standard based on “ the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community”. The wage which he. thought sufficient on this standard, for an unskilled labourer, Mr. Justice Higgins called the living or primary wage. The- secondary wage included margins for skill. The primary wage later became known as the basic wage.
The Bo.-called Harvester award, was not itself made for the purpose of settling an industrial, dispute. But it is not surprising’ that Mr. Justice Higgins thereafter used this same concept of the basic wage- as; the. foundation of the awards which he made- in the ordinary course of the court’s work. The incorporation of the basic wage into the court’s industrial system, however, was not the result of any action on the part of the Commonwealth Parliament. It resulted exclusively from the court’s own action. Exactly the same thing may be said of the quarterly variation in the basic wage, in accordance with variations in the cost of living. The system of making such a variation was instituted by the court in 1922, and was incorporated in its. awards. The. Commonwealth Statistician collates the information which goes into the. C series index of prices, and conveys the result to the court for its assistance. In accordance with the court’s directions, the Industrial Registrar then announces the quarterly variations, but they are. in no sense made by, or under the authority of, the Australian Government.
The basic wage has been altered from time to time, both downwards and upwards, but always by the court, in settling disputes that have come before it. The principles upon which the wage is computed have also been altered by the court. Greater emphasis has been given to the wage-paying capacity of the total industry of Australia. The settlement of a dispute . about the basic wage will, therefore, nowadays involve far-reaching economic inquiries. Information available to the Government is likely to play a larger part in the proceedings than it used to do. But the process is still the settlement of an industrial dispute by the court, and the changes that have taken place do not give to this Parliament, or to the Australian Government, any greater voice than before in the decision of the court.
Certainly this Parliament can decide what tribunal shall have the responsibility of determining disputes involving the basic wage. That power has been exercised. By the Conciliation and Arbitration Act,, the Parliament has precluded conciliation commissioners from determining or altering the basic wage or the standard working week, or from dealing with one or two other general matters: Those are reserved exclusively for the court. However, that is a mere matter of machinery. State parliaments can direct, and have in fact directed, State indus-trial tribunals, to adopt, the basic wage fixed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. But this Parliament cannot direct the court and has never attempted to direct the court, even that such a thing as a basic wage should be fixed. Still less has it attempted to direct the. court what wage should be fixed.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act gives the Australian. Government, through the Attorney-General, the right, to intervene in proceedings before the court, including a basic wage dispute, either to promote a particular view or to assist the court generally. Intervention by the Attorney-General will be undertaken sometimes to present the Government’s view when difficult questions of constitutional validity or of interpretation are raised before the court, and sometimes to emphasize the public interest in a dispute which transcends the private interests of the immediate parties. Rut in matters so controversial, and so open to political acrimony, as the basic wage and standard hours, intervention by the Government would raise quite different questions. In this regard, I have already stated the Government’s position, and there is no need for me to cover the ground in detail again. In our view, the guiding consideration is to maintain the authority of the court as the body charged by the Parliament with responsibility to decide the terms on which these disputes are to be settled. We think that a great disservice would be done to the cause of independent industrial arbitration if we promoted a political controversy, parallel with the examination of facts and the consideration of arguments which are taking place in the court itself.
– by leave - There can be no disagreement with the bulk of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). As a general rule, this Parliament cannot direct what the basic wage or the standard hours shall be. It cannot determine whether there shall be quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. Those are matters for the arbitrator or the conciliator, which, in this instance, is the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. But the Prime Minister, with all respect to him, did not stress sufficiently the point that, because of the lack of legislative power of the Parliament in relation to those matters, the legislature gave authority to the Government to appear before the court, through the Attorney-General, and to place before it the view of the Government upon great economic problems that confront this country. A Labour government extended that power to intervene, and this
Government has extended it still further. In the 40-hour week case and the basic wage case, the Commonwealth intervened and indicated, in relation to some aspects of those matters, the views that it considered should be taken in the interests of the community.
The real question for the Government to determine is whether it can be neutral on the great economic issues that now confront the court. It is perfectly true that those issues have political implications.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) wants a good political brawl while the court is sitting, but he will not get it.
– The Prime Minister has referred to a political brawl, doubtless because he knows that there will be political repercussions to the determination of an economic question. Has the Government any view about standard hours, about the proposed reduction of the basic wage, or about the proposal to abolish quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, which have been made since 1922? Perhaps the Prime Minister and Government have no view on those matters. The Labour party has views upon them. We are. opposed to the proposals that have been made. If we were in power, we should put our view before the court, as we did previously.
– The Labour party professed to be neutral in the 40-hour week case.
– One cannot be neutral on an issue that affects the welfare of our economy, especially in a period such as the present, when there are undoubted signs of a recession in certain industries. The Government must have views upon these matters, and the Opposition believes that it should place such views before the court.
– The Minister for Supply will doubtless recall that last week he asked the honorable member for Watson to produce the discharge of the soldier who, he alleged, was a veteran of the Korean campaign. Has the Minister yet received that discharge? If he has not received it, will he, in view of the complete ignorance of war service matters shown by the honorable member for Watson-
– Order ! The honorable member may not reflect on another honorable member.
– In view of the lack of knowledge displayed by the honorable member for Watson in such matters, will the Minister explain to him exactly what a soldier’s discharge looks like and what information it should contain?
– I have not yet obtained the soldier’s discharge which the honorable member for Watson promised to furnish to me. I am awaiting the production of that document with interest.
– I desire to address a question to the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Commerce and Agriculture.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will not be in order in doing so.
– In view of the recent decision of the House on parliamentary under-secretaries, do you, Mr. Speaker, now rule that, despite the fact that they are recognized in many ways, it is not permissible for an honorable member to address a question to a parliamentary under-secretary on a matter which relates directly to his work in that capacity ?
– I so rule.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration tell me how many members of the staff of Commonwealth Hostels Limited have been dismissed? Why were they dismissed, and who was the gentleman that brought about the dismissals?
– I have no knowledge of the matters to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I shall ascertain the position, and supply the necessary information as soon as possible.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Air. By way of explanation, I refer to the South Australian Government’s desire to undertake immediately additional prospecting for uranium deposits in three large sectors of the State. This can best be done by use of an air-borne scintillometer. Hitherto, the Government has conducted aerial surveys by hiring private aircraft at great expense. In view of the national importance of this work, and its compelling urgency both for defence and civil purposes, will the Minister assist the Premier of South Australia in his commendable enterprise by making available a Royal Australian Air Force plane with the least possible delay?
– The Government is well’ aware of the necessity for carrying out extensive surveys for uranium but the Royal Australian Air Force is over-committed at present, and I am not able to allot any aircraft to carry out surveys for the Premier of South Australia. I have’ already informed him that I cannot make aircraft available for that purpose. However, recently I instructed the Royal Australian Air Force to supply to me a technical memorandum on the suitability of helicopters for carrying out surveys. As soon as a report is made available I shall send it to the Minister for National Development.
– In view of the exaggerated reports that have appeared during the week-end with regard to the outbreak of meningitis in national service camps, will the Minister for the Army make a statement on the precautions that are being adopted and the steps that have been taken to ensure adequate standards of hygiene in the camps?
– The question is a very important one which cannot be answered briefly. It involves consideration of many factors. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition will not object to a statement being made by me to the House later on the matter.
– No ; it can be made at the end of question time.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is possible to arrange that youths who are associated with the wheat and wool growing industries shall be called up at a period other than during the harvesting and shearing seasons? I have received letters from many farmers in my electorate in which they complain that hardship is caused as a result of the call-up of their sons at a time when their services are practically indispensable. These farmers suggest that in the interest of production alone arrangements should be made for such youths to undergo training during the off season in those industries. Will the Minister give consideration to the matter ?
– The call-up of youths for training in any of the three Services comes under the administration of the Minister for Defence in his capacity as Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service. However, I have discussed this matter and similar matters with the honorable member on previous occasions. I have had inquiries directed to the General Officer Commanding Western Command to ascertain whether it is possible to make the call-up of youths for national service training and the ‘annual camps of the Citizen Military Forces to which the honorable member’s question refers at a period that will not withdraw them from the wheat and wool growing industries during the harvesting and shearing seasons. Indeed, that is the intention and spirit of the relevant legislation. When I obtain a reply I shall communicate with my colleague and request that the call-up “be made at a more suitable period. However, we must first ascertain whether it would be practicable to make such an alteration. I am sure that if it is practicable, a change will be made accordingly.
– by leave - Immediately the occurrence of cerebro-spinal meningitis in -the Ingleburn and Holsworthy areas was made known to me,. I realized that mothers ad fathers -whose sons are undergoing dining in these areas would be concerned about their welfare. I conferred immediately with the Director-General of Medical Services, Major-General KingsleyNorris. He has advised me that cerebrospinal meningitis is introduced into ,an area by actively infected personnel or by carriers, that the disease is spread by droplet infection, and that the most effective precaution is the avoidance of crowding in closed spaces. He has indicated to me also that, although the occurrence of four cases of meningitis in an area in such a short period necessitates the application of immediate measures to prevent a possible spread of the disease, it must not be overlooked that, throughout Australia, there are a large number of army personnel, including national service trainees, in attendance at military camps, and that, in proportion to the population generally, the incidence among them of meningitis and other diseases is remarkably low.
However, in view of the concern that I knew would naturally be felt by parents of national service trainees when they learned that the national service areas at Holsworthy were under quarantine, I arranged, purely as a precautionary measure, for Major-General KingsleyNorris to visit the Eastern Command to confer with the army medical authorities in the Command, and to report to me on the further steps, if any, that he considered should be taken to reassure all concerned. He made the visit on Saturday, the 13th September. He reported to me that lie had inspected the accommodation provided in the national service units in Eastern Command and that, in his opinion, the spacing in huts and in tents was adequate; that in the 19th National Service Training Battalion, which is in a tented area, the removal of tent’ side3 during the day provided the best possible ventilation ; that the sunning of bedding was an additional effective measure; that the administration of sulphadiazine to all personnel in the area had been instituted, and that adequate supplies were available.
He advised me further that the organism responsible for cerebro-spinal meningitis is particularly sensitive to this antibiotic, and that the parades -on -a platoon level which have been held regularly for this purpose, under adequate supervision, are comparable with the satisfactory atebrin parades that were held in the last war as a means of comcombating malaria. Major-General Kingsley-Norris assured me that the measures that were adopted in this army area were, in his opinion, adequate, and in fact exceeded what would normally be expected if there were a similar incidence of the disease in a civil community. He further advised me that the measures should, in his view, result in the immediate cessation of the disease in the area, and the elimination of any danger from possible carriers.
The suggestion has been made that the difficulties that are being experienced in connexion with the water supply of the 19th National Service training area at Old Holsworthy, which on occasions have resulted in sanitary flushing facilities not working at full pressure, may be a contributory cause of the outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis there. That suggestion has been discounted completely by the Director-General of Medical Services, who inspected those facilities at my request. The Director-General advised me that, even if the sanitary conditions had not been satisfactory, the outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis could not have been attributed to such a cause. In regard to the sanitary conditions and the water supply at this area, I desire to state that the camp is completely sewered with a separate tank system throughout. Generally, the water supply in the area for army requirements and the requirements of the local population is not adequate, because it is at the end of a 6-in. main which is under the control of the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage. Board of Sydney, which has to meet the greatly increased demand of both the additional number of troops and the increased requirements of market gardeners in the surrounding areas. The board has, I understand, given a great deal of consideration to the requirements in the locality and has recently installed a time switch on the booster pump to provide operation of the pump at the hours when the greatest demand is made on the watersupply. I am informed that since the installation of the time switch there has been a decided improvement, and that during the periods of water failure, which I suggest, cannot be attributed to failure on the part of the Army, the Army has provided water carts as a means of providing for the emergency flushing of the latrines.
Honorable members who have any knowledge of this locality will be aware of the difficulties that have been experienced by local residents in obtaining adequate water supplies, particularly when a heavy demand is made on the available resources. It will also be known that, for some time, the water board has been building a new 15-in. main across the George’s River at Liverpool to provide an improved water service for people on the far side of the George’s River, and I am aware that many difficulties have been met by the board, not only because of the shortage of steel and cement, but also because of the difficulty of crossing the river without interrupting traffic. Departmental officers have been in constant touch with the officers of the board with a view to improving the water facilities in army installations in these areas and, with the measures that are now being undertaken to provide improved means and water storage capacity, it is hoped that the difficulties which are being experienced in army installations in the area will be overcome before next summer. I can assure the honorable member who has raised this matter in the House, and other honorable members who are interested, that. this question has not been left without full consideration, and that every step that it is possible to take to improve the water supply in these and other army installations located on the far side of the George’s River has been taken. Throughout all this difficult period the sanitation of this camp has been well under control and, although the water supply is not as satisfactory as one could wish, it has not resulted in continued and unsatisfactory sanitary conditions. Except for this matter of water supply, the hygiene of the camp has been favorably reported on by hygiene officers who continually make investigations of camp hygiene throughout all commands. Unit inspections take place every day and the Brigade Commander inspects periodically. I am satisfied that the matter is well in hand.
- by leave - I believe that honorable members will not accept the statement of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) as disposing entirely of this very important and serious matter. The statement that the Minister has read was obviously prepared by his departmental officers. No independent investigations have been carried out by the Minister himself on the serious allegation that has been made. As a matter of fact, there appeared to be an air of secrecy over the whole happening until a question was asked on it in this Parliament last Friday. I understand that even the Minister himself had not been informed or kept, advised on the happenings in these military establishments and it was only on the day after the question had been asked in this Parliament that the Director-General of Medical Services, Major-General Kingsley Norris, made a visit of inspection to the camp to investigate this matter. The important point is that the people who prepared the report on the matter, which the Minister has just read, are obviously the people who would be held responsible for any laxity in the camp.
I do not claim to have a great deal of medical knowledge, but I submit that no member of this Parliament would fail to recognize that it is essential to the m ain.tainance of good health in a military establishment, or anywhere else, that latrines should be kept in a proper and clean state. I received a letter from the father of one of the boys at this camp, in which he told me of a visit that he had paid to the camp prior to the outbreak of meningitis. He wrote to me because he had been so shocked by the conditions that he saw there. He told me that the water supply of the camp was defective, that the latrines and lavatories were overflowing and that the camp itself was in a generally filthy condition. The same man was in touch with me only this morning and informed me that an outbreak of German measles has now occurred in the camp. Honorable members will easily realize that the position is unsatisfactory.
It is true, as the Minister has said, that the parents of the boys in camps are greatly disturbed in relation to the present situation. Let us examine what the Government has done. In its desire to get these young men into military training quickly it has called them up before camps have been in an adequate state of preparedness to receive them. There can be no argument about that fact, because the Minister has admitted, in his statement, that the water supply in the camp known as Old Holsworthy, is defective. He said that the water supply might be improved and the difficulty overcome before next summer. I contend that this camp should not be U3ed unless and until it is in a proper state to receive these young men. An inadequate water supply is a most serious matter. Shortly after the national service training scheme was instituted, the Minister invited groups of honorable members to visit the camps. It was to be a sort of ‘Cook’s conducted tour, and no doubt everything would be cleaned up and put ship-shape before honorable members arrived at the camps so that their reactions would be favorable. At the time the party whips were collecting the names of honorable members who wished to visit the camps, I made a request to my party whip that my visits should not be restricted to the dates and times that the Minister might decide, but that [ should be allowed to visit the camps and inspect conditions there at such times as I desired. Such unheralded visits provide the only means of discovering exactly what is happening in the camps.
– The proposed method of visits by honorable members was satisfactory to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order ! The Minister has already spoken on this matter.
– We ought not to accept the Minister’s statement as clearing this matter up satisfactorily and I suggest that, as soon as possible, probably next week-end, the Minister made an inspection of the camp to see what the conditions are. I suggest that he also give to all honorable members the right to visit military camps when they feel disposed to do so. This would enable them to discover the true conditions. Young boys in training camps are often afraid to make complaints about conditions because they fear that if it becomes known that they have complained they will suffer repercussions in relation to their treatment by the officers. The only satisfactory way to clear this matter up is for the Minister to issue instructions that any honorable member may enter camps housing national service trainees at any time that he feels disposed to do so, in order to discover the conditions that obtain there at any particular time. I suggest to the Minister that a3 the meningitis began - in the Holsworthy camp and obviously spread to other camps, and as that camp will not have an adequate water supply for some time, it may continue to be a source of trouble unless it is cleaned up. Its continued use, under present conditions will not only endanger boys in the camp itself but will also endanger boys in other camps. The Minister ought to -close this camp and, if no other camps are available for the accommodation and training of boys now in it, he should return them to their homes until the necessary facilities can be provided. It is useless for him merely to say to the parents of the unfortunate boys who happen to be in these camps that this difficulty will be overcome by next summer. By that time the lives of many of these boys may be sacrificed as a result of the incompetence of the Minister and of certain officers under his control. 1 repeat that the Minister’s statement is not satisfactory. A proper and complete investigation should be made and the opportunity should be afforded to parents who have already visited these camps to come forward publicly and describe the conditions as they found them. Complaints that have been made up to date should be properly investigated, and any honorable member who desires to visit the camps should be given the right to do so at any time to inspect conditions in them. Only by taking such action can the Minister reassure the parents of the boys concerned. I advise him to follow the admirable example that was set by his predecessor, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) who, when he was Minister for the Army in the Chifley Government, raised no objection at any time or placed any obstacle in the way of any honorable member who desired to visit military camps in order to ascertain the conditions in them. The Minister can place the minds of parents of these lads at ease only by adopting the suggestions that I have made.
- by leave - I have no personal knowledge of the conditions that exist at the camps that are now under discussion, but I have considerable knowledge of the efficiency of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, of which I have had first-hand experience in peace and in war. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has just read to the House a statement that was supplied to him by the DirectorGeneral of Medical Services.
– After he had inspected the conditions at these camps.
– That is
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the matter to which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has referred.
– Is leave granted ?
Motion (by Mr. Tom Burke) put -
That the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) be now heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have received from iiic honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely : -
The circumstances associated with the termination of Colonel J. .K. Murray’s appointment as Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and its effect upon the future welfare of the territory and its people.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.- There has been no more bewildering decision made by the Government in respect of its administration of territories than that to terminate the services of the late Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, Colonel J. K. Murray.
The statements that have been made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) since that happening have not helped at all to clarify the position. As a matter of fact they have confused the situation still more. When the Minister first made his statement in this Parliament, I believe it was in reply to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), he said that the Administrator was to be retired because of his age. The Minister said that the Administrator had then reached the age of 63 years, and. it was considered that at that age he should retire. At the time that seemed to me to be a very weak excuse for the displacement of a very efficient and capable officer two years before his term of office had expired. It would appear to anybody who has an impartial attitude in this matter that there should have been no interruption in Colonel Murray’s service, at least until his term of office had been concluded two years from the time when he was forced to retire. The Minister offered this one excuse at the time - that the Administrator was too old for his position. I noted the Minister’s exact words at the time he gave that explanation and they were - because a man has given good service for six years, it does not follow that at a time when very onerous duties are to be laid on the occupant of his office, he is certain to be able to sustain those duties.
That appears to be rather a remarkable statement for the Minister to make, because Colonel Murray had not been iu ill health. He had not undergone any treatment for any serious illness in recent years, -so that there must have been some other motive for the Minister suddenly to decide that the Administrator was unable, because of his agc and failing health, to carry out his duties in the territory. Colonel Murray, quite rightly, showed that he was not prepared to quietly retire and let the Government’s plans develop and let the Government’s excuse make the public believe that there was no other reason actuating the Minister and the Government in dismissing him. Colonel Murray was very definite in his belief of the reason for his displacement. In a published statement he said that the Government had tried to remove him from office soon after it obtained power and that during the past year he had been subjected to a war of nerves by Canberra.
Surely the Minister will not deny that, shortly after this Government assumed office, certain pressures were applied to the Administrator in order to secure his retirement, because I am able to say definitely that the Minister’s predecessor in office, Sir Percy Spender, who is now Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, on his first visit to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, made a suggestion to Colonel Murray that he might like to accept the position of chief Australian delegate with the South Pacific Commission, and also become principal of the School of Pacific Administration at a salary of £2,500. If the Government is sincere in the view it now advances, and in its previous statements, would it be logical to suggest that following the general election in 1949 the Administrator would be offered this important post? The honorable member forCalare (Mr. Howse), when he visited the territory, openly stated, and proper investigation will disclose the same fact, that the Government had nothing against Colonel Murray as an administrator. It has simply adopted the attitude that “ He is not the man we want “. That statement was made within the territory. I say to the Minister that a search has been made of the various records and decisions in the territory in an endeavour, by the Government, to try to secure evidence to establish its claim that the Administrator was inefficient. First of all the Government dismissed the man and then it set out to try to secure the evidence to justify his dismissal. Colonel Murray said in his published statement -
I am sorry to leave the territory but was relieved to escape the methods and manners of the Minister and some of his senior departmental officers. There have been unpardonable delays in Canberra, for instance, in getting the important New Guinea Lands Titles Ordinance into effect, and the appointmentof a Commissioner, which can only be done by Canberra.
From that statement it appears that Colonel Murray was not satisfied that the Government was pressing for the implementation of the same good policy that had been laid down by the Labour Govern ment that preceded the present Government. In reply to Colonel Murray’s published statement the Minister for Territories said -
The late Administrator was obviously speaking under the stress of feeling, and I do not think any good purpose would be served by entering on a personal argument with him. It could only lead to unnecessary bitterness. At a later stage and in a different context I shall make a statement on the matters of policy to which he has referred.
Since then, the Minister has remained completely silent, although he has had ample opportunity to let honorable members know what this is all about if he had wanted to take the Parliament into his confidence. The Minister has said that for twelve months he has had this matter under consideration: There are other people in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea who were, duringthe same period, in a better position than the Minister to see Colonel Murray’s work and judge his administrative ability, because the Minister has necessarily spent most of his time in Australia. When Colonel Murray left the territory, such was the feeling and opinion of its residents, both white and native, that the greatest concourse of people who ever congregated to see a ship off assembled to see Colonel Murray sail. One of the prominent and outstanding missionaries of the territory, who had resided there for a number of years, said -
A great wrong has been done to Colonel Murray, to the dignity of office of Administrator and to the Territory in a way not creditable to those who have done it. We are invited to believe that Colonel Murray is too old for the office of administrator. We can only feel that this is an excuse to cover up the real reasons which it is feared to expose to the light of day . . . because of their unworthiness. As Administrator he had shown himself to be above party and to have the interests of the territory and its people at heart.
Honorable members will appreciate the futility of the explanation given by the Minister to this Parliament that Colonel Murray had been retired because of his age.
I remind the Minister of the Mount Lamington disaster, which occurred shortly before the term of office of Colonel Murray was terminated. Colonel Murray flew fromRabaul to the danger area the day after the tragedy occurred. He was much closer to the scene of the eruption than were any of those who traduce him to-day, and he remained there for as long as his assistance and direction were needed. He flew to the danger area with an officer named Taylor. A strange and significant fact associated with the Mount Lamington disaster is that, although awards for valour and services rendered in the stricken area were made to a number of individuals, none was made to the man who had led the party into the danger area and remained there. Obviously, the Government decided that it could not very well decorate a man for his courageous service in a danger area and then decide within a few months that he was too old and inefficient for his job. Therefore, Colonel Murray’s work in the Mount Lamington district was not officially recognized.
The Minister wrote of Colonel Murray in a newspaper article -
The Government does not regard the administrative capacity of Colonel J. K. Murray at the present day as adequate for the duties of his office.
That was a cowardly attack against which Colonel Murray was not given an opportunity to defend himself. The responsibility is now on the Minister to produce evidence in support of his allegations of inefficiency, but I am sure that he cannot do so.
Missionary after missionary has spoken iii the most glowing terms of the work that was done by Colonel Murray in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea* and those men are in the best position to judge his ability. Colonel Murray has been recognized throughout the world as a man who believes in caring for and protecting the interests of native races in dependent areas. The men who work in the territory, not those at Canberra who conspired to secure his retirement in favour of somebody else more suitable to the Government, are well aware of his excellent record. The National Missionary Council of Australia; the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church of Australasia; the Right Reverend P. N. W. Strong, Anglican Bishop of New Guinea: Dr. Mowll, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, speaking on behalf of the Australian Board of’
Missions; and Archdeacon Robertson, of the Australian Board of Missions, have protested forcefully to the Government against the retirement of Colonel Murray, and, although the Minister has tried to placate them, he has not convinced them that they should withdraw their protests. Lr. Mowll said -
Colonel Murray discharged his duties with conspicuous ability, fairness and success.
He consistently put the policy of “ Papua for the Papuans “ first. . . . We have asked for, but have been given no reasons which, in our opinion, would satisfactorily account for the action of the Cabinet.
The Reverend H. Randall, Rector of St. John’s Church of England at Port Moresby, said -
Neither ill-health, lack of physical fitness, nor poor administration can be advanced as an explanation. … As Rector of Port Moresby, I have the opportunity of seeing the administration at work, and in my judgment it will be very hard to find a successor of Colonel Murray, who has combined sympathy, saneness and wise counsel in an over-all impartial consideration of the territories’ problems. We are rightly suspicious of this sudden move.
And every fair-minded person in Australia is equally suspicious.
The only support that the Minister could obtain was from the editor of the Pacific Islands Monthly, Mr. R. W. Robson, who is the mouthpiece of the vested interests of the territory and thu instrument of the great shipping combines that have stifled development in Papua and New Guinea and exploited its wealth in the past. He complained that Colonel Murray had shocked tradition because he had entertained natives at formal meals at Government House. Another complaint by Mr. Robson was that Colonel Murray had been “ an uncompromising socialist and a close friend of Mr. Ward “. I want the people of Australia, to know the truth about this statement. I had met Colonel Murray on only one occasion prior to his appointment by the former Labour Government as Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.- That meeting had nothing to do with the appointment. In view of the facts that I have stated, the Government will be hard pressed to explain its displacement of Colonel Murray. I shall tell the real reason for its action. As I have said, Colonel
Murray always showed great solicitude for the well-being of the native population of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He believed that the natives were in his charge, and consequently he did not willingly carry out the policies that the present Government tried to enforce. He complained of interference. As Administrator, he prepared an ordinance, which received the approval of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea, for the establishment of a general marketing board to handle the marketing in Australia and elsewhere of all the products of the territory. However, the Minister for Territories, no doubt because of pressure applied by certain groups in Australia, decided that the ordinance should be amended and returned it in an altered form which provided that the board should have power to deal only with the marketing of copra. He decided that it should not have any control over the numerous other commodities which, we hope, will be produced in Papua and New Guinea in large quantities in the future. The Government is out to destroy the native co-operatives in the territory. It found them firmly established when it took office, but it has done nothing to encourage them since then. The missions co-operated with the Labour Administration in promoting the establishment of those co-operative organizations, which have entered into all kinds of activity. The shipping combines have tried in many ways to smash them. They discovered suddenly that they lacked shipping space-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) put -
That the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has given as his grounds for the submission of a matter of definite public importance, the reasons for the retirement of Colonel J. K. Murray as the Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I have the feeling that this debate is being mixed up with matters completely outside that subject, and that it is a part of the general tactics of the Opposition regarding time on the air, and other matters relating to the business of the House to-day. However, I shall confine my remarks, in the time that is available to me, to the broad question which the honorable member for East Sydney has raised; but nothing he has said will lead me to join in any sort of an attack on Colonel Murray, or to express anything else but respect for his character and the general idealism which, I think, he genuinely holds.
The reasons for the retirement of Colonel Murray are reasons relating solely to administration. The first point I should like to establish - and it is one which, I think, no honorable member can dispute - is this: That any government of Australia, being charged with the responsibility for the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, is also responsible for ensuring that that administration shall be carried out effectively, and in a way which, in broad terms, can be described as efficient. Any government would be lacking in its responsibility unless it gave attention to that matter. I am quite aware that my predecessor, the present Ambassador to Washington, when he was administering this portfolio, reached the conclusion, from his own judgment, that Colonel Murray was not suitable for this particular job. Not being able to enter into the minds of other people with that facility with which the honorable member for East Sydney can enter into everybody else’s mind, I have no knowledge of what was in the mind of my predecessor. When I became Minister for Territories, I did not accept the opinion which, I knew, was held formerly by my predecessor, that Colonel Murray was not fit for the job. I started de novo to reach my own judgment. After twelve months, I came to the conclusion that, although Colonel Murray had given creditable service in many directions in New Guinea and although he was a man who had upheld his office with dignity and had shown in the discharge of his office a great deal of idealism and a very commendable sense of responsibility, yet, having regard to both his capacity and his physical energy, it was beyond his present-day power to handle the many complex problems which arise in a territory such as Papua and New Guinea. Honorable members should realize that the post of Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is as comprehensive in its range and as exacting in its duties as is the post of the Premier of a .State. All that multiplicity of matters such as health, education, police, justice, agriculture, lands, mining, and those other manifold things which, in a State, come within the management of a State government, come in a territory such as Papua and New Guinea, subject only to the policy directions of the Government, within the ambit of the Administrator. lt requires a man of an exceptional range of capacity, and exceptional energy, to discharge those duties. It is possible that, at the time of his appointment, Colonel Murray may have been able to discharge those duties. I- have no knowledge of that subject at all. But after actual observation, I came to the conclusion that it was unfair to ask him to continue in that office.
– Colonel Murray did not think so.
– No. It is’ one of the sad facts of life - a fact that is sad and personal in a way that, probably, the honorable member for East Sydney wonk never appreciate - that people do not always recognize the onset of age. I have a great deal of sympathy with Colonel Murray, knowing how he must have felt on that occasion.
The honorable member for East Sydney proceeded to make several particular criticisms which were not very substantial. I shall attempt to go through them one by one, because I jotted them down as they fell from his lips. His first statement was by way of criticism of my public announcement of the retirement of Colonel Murray on the ground of age. The honorable member seemed to suggest that it was either a mistake or was not an honest statement.
– It was the view of the missions, too.
– My original statement was phrased in as kindly a way as this Government found it possible to phrase such an announcement. Coupled with the statement were tributes to the service that Colonel Murray had performed in the past, and an acknowledgment of the work that he had done. It was only subsequently, when some of his socalled sympathizers had forced the matter into public controversy, that we had to make the plainer sort of statement which I also felt obliged to make to the House.
The second point made by the honorable member for East Sydney was that Colonel Murray had been retired two years before the expiration of his term of office. The honorable member, as a former holder of this portfolio, is perfectly well aware that the Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is not appointed for a definite period. He holds office during the Governor-General’s pleasure. It is quite true that when Colonel Murray was appointed, the honorable member for East Sydney, as the Minister for External Territories, wrote to him. The honorable gentleman pointed to the fact that, although Colonel Murray held office during the Governor-General’s pleasure and that no guarantee of a term could be given to him, it was the intention of the honorable gentleman to keep him in office for five years. In recognition of the fact that Colonel Murray might have had a natural expectation that he would continue in the office of Administrator for another two years, this Government made provision, in a generous retirement allowance, to ensure that he should not suffer any monetary loss by the earlier termination of his appointment.
The honorable member for East Sydney also quoted Colonel Murray’s statement that the Government had tried earlier to remove him from office. I have already acknowledged that my predecessor in office had reached the same conclusions as I eventually reached; but I have no knowledge of any transaction that may have taken place privately between my predecessor and Colonel Murray. The statement that a war of nerves had been conducted against Colonel Murray is a complete fabrication. I have carefully examined, as far as my departmental records allow, the allegation that Colonel Murray was subjected to needless irritation. Certainly, there were many reminders and requests to him to answer letters, and many suggestions that this or that matter, which had been referred to him for comment, should receive his attention. On many occasions, formal slips were certainly sent to him in the customary manner of the department, saying, “Please give attention to our letter of so and so.” Unfortunately, that was found necessary, but it was hot to be described in terms of a war of nerves. If I have caused Colonel
Murray any irritation, it has been done unconsciously on my part. I have found that my departmental officers have always conducted themselves with a proper respect for the office of Administrator, and in a proper endeavour to cooperate with the occupant of that post.
I shall now deal with a statement by the honorable member for East Sydney that I can only describe as incorrect. He suggested that some sort of a search was being conducted in the records of the territory in an effort to prove that Colonel Murray was inefficient. No such action has been taken. “We reached our judgment. We are not concerned in building up a case against a man. We prefer very much to remember his service, and the record of what he has done. Certainly, we have no interest in joining in a campaign of defamation against him, or trying to belittle his stature.
Then the honorable member for East Sydney suggested that there was some sinister motive behind the removal of Colonel Murray, and that the reasons of efficiency which I had given to the public earlier, and which I repeat now, were not the true reasons. He implied that the Government had another motive, that some conflict existed between Colonel Murray and the present Government over policy matters, and that Colonel Murray had a greater solicitude for the natives than this Government. The difficulty about the sort of attack that the honorable member for East Sydney customarily makes in this House is that he never places one in the position of being able to do anything else but deny his assertions outright, and to categorize his statements as false. This Government has a consistent and firm policy for the protection and advancement of native welfare in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I make that statement with a full sense of the solemnity and implications of those words. We are not yielding one single point in the regard which we pay, as a government, to the interest and welfare of the natives of New Guinea, and we shall faithfully discharge both our duty towards the natives, and our obligations, which we hold on behalf of the people of Australia, towards them. As the only instance of his suggestion that there is some difference between the ambitions and desires of Colonel Murray in respect of the territory and the desires of the Government, the honorable member for East Sydney quoted a marketing ordinance which, he said, was disallowed by me as Minister for Territories, or in formal terms the disallowance was recommended by me to the Executive Council. That ordinance was introduced for the purpose of transferring to a new instrumentality the activities of the Production Control Board which had operated in Papua and Vew Guinea since the war. This was done in order to carry out the terms of an agreement concerning the marketing of cocoa that was entered into between the Government and the United Kingdom Ministry of Food. “When that ordinance reached Canberra, it was found that in it had been written powers so extensive as would enable at any future time, any future Minister to give to the hoard complete control over the whole commercial activity of the territory. That is contrary to the policy of this Government. In the case of a commodity agreement between one government and another when control is essential for the marketing of that commodity, this Government accepts the necessity for control, “We have not committed ourselves to the idea that every commercial activity must be controlled. Therefore that part of the ordinance which would give this extensive, indefinite and illdefined power to Ministers was disallowed on the recommendation of the present Government. That seems to us to be an action which was very much in the interests of the territory. The honorable member for East Sydney said something to the effect that the Government was trying to destroy native co-operatives. That, again, is a statement that I can answer only by saying that it is incorrect. During my term as Minister we have, in many ways, tried to extend the use of native cooperatives., both those fostered by the missions, and those which were formed and whose functioning was directly assisted by the Government itself.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in defending the charges that were made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) relative to the dismissal of Colonel Murray said, “I am not going to join any attack on Colonel Murray “. But for the whole of the time that be spoke, the Minister gently debunked Colonel Murray and presented him as a figure who staggered out of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea like a piece of white cargo, decrepit, old, unwanted and inefficient. If that be the case - and honorable members on this side of the House contest it hotly - why was the most dynamic statement on the future of Papua and New Guinea made by the retiring Administrator when he said, “ If you do not look after the natives of this community, New Guinea will meet the same fate as Indonesia. The Dutch lost Indonesia because they concentrated on the commercial exploitation of the people, and the same thing will happen in the case of New Guinea unless the matter is watched.” That does not sound like the statement of a man who was finished, who had been beaten by the tropics and who was in such bad shape that he could not even answer correspondence. Colonel Murray finished his service in the territory as he began it, dedicated to the welfare of the native population. I feel called upon to defend his honour and his capacity and to ask the Minister again to explain why Colonel Murray was summarily dismissed.
One of the more realistic of the reasons that were given by the Minister was contained in the statement that there was no fixed tenure of office. All honorable members know that the appointment of the Administrator of the Territory continues at the .will of the Governor-General, but, as the Minister has stated, a tenure of office was implicit in the arrangement that was made by the former Minister. That does not explain why the Government paid the late Administrator £5,500 in lieu of notice. “Was that merely a gesture of goodwill or a pay-off for summary and unwarranted dismissal? It is obvious that he had to get out of the territory. The company that the Minister keeps in Papua and New Guinea is an indication of the facts. The Robson publication, which is notorious throughout the South Pacific for its anti-native policy, boosts the Minister on every possible occasion and derides the former Administrator. Visiting journalists are caught up with a collection of public servants and the minority group whose members want New Guinea for themselves and are not concerned about the natives. The set-up reeks of a plot against the Administrator to get rid of him because he had some humanitarian feelings towards the natives and, by putting them into effect, was disturbing vested interests in Papua and New Guinea. The pallid apology of the Minister implied in the statement that he does not want to destroy this Administrator and will say nothing about him is clearly at variance with the way in which he, as the administrative authority under the Crown for the territory, _ allowed himself to get into a press controversy with one of his own servants. In the course of that controversy, the Minister told the general public, who were not greatly interested until the event happened, why he sacked the Administrator and how that officer was incompetent. In view of those events, why should the Minister be hypocritical now in this House? Everything that he has said has been of a condemnatory nature and it is useless for him to be mealy mouthed about the matter now. He should state clearly why Colonel Murray was superseded. The reasons can easily be found. Honorable members are not children.
Colonel Murray is a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, well known for his scientific bent, and he is a Bachelor of Arts. He proved himself as Administrator during the years that the Labour party was in office, and the good work that he accomplished is widely known. He has been superseded by a lawyer who is a member of the Liberal party. His successor was also interested in New Guinea as he served there with ANGAU, but that service covered years of war when no civil rights were applicable to Papua and New Guinea. The territory then was an armed camp. To contrast the experience of the two men is absurd and ludicrous. I am sure that the missions in the territory did not rush to the defence of Colonel Murray and gently request a Roman holiday without reason. They were concerned because they knew that when Colonel Murray left the territory, it was losing something decent and good. They recognized his consideration for the welfare of the natives. I know that the Minister has claimed that they were protagonists of the native co-operatives, but will he answer the charge that has been made again and again in the territory that as soon as native products are ready for disposal and for transport by sea, no ships of Burns Philp and Company Limited or of any other line call to load them and that they are left rotting on the wharfs waiting for buyers wherever there is something in the nature of a glut? The former Administrator was awake to that problem. He also was fully aware of the problems in relation to native labour and other matters that were set by the standards of the Trusteeship Territories Committee. On another occasion - and perhaps this is the reason for his dismissal - he was under pressure from the Church Missions. The pressure was friendly. The Church Missionary Society requested that he should investigate the tenure of land that was granted in the old days. The London Missionary Society requested the appointment, as a matter of urgency, of an expert committee to make a survey of the territory’s land resources, and Crown lands purchased in the early days of white occupation for nominal sums. It referred to a classical case of an area at Kokoda. In that instance, 93,000 acres of land were purchased about the year 1900 for a fewsticks of tobacco. Going from strength to strength the Administrator tried to find out who purchased the land from the natives. There is the hub of the situation. On one hand there are the planters, vested interests, shipping companies and exploiters of the natives. On the other side there are the humanitarian Administrator, the anthropologists - who know something about native’s, are trying to improve their living standards and are investigating their mode of life - and finally the missionaries. I want to be on the side of the Administrator, the anthropologists and the missionaries, rather than on the side of vested interests who try to get all they can out of the territory.
I believe that the Minister has been deluded on this matter by listening to the wrong people. In the days before he was the Minister, an attempt was made to oozle the Administrator out of office by suggesting that he take a job on the South Pacific Commission. When the parties that now compose the Government came triumphantly to office, they had scores to pay off everywhere and baksheesh to pay out. This sorry case of the dismissal of a faithful servant arose from pressure from people in New Guinea. His service has been excellent on the agricultural side and he displayed courage at Mount Lamington after the disaster there, yet the Minister talks about a few memorandums that have been sent and complains that the Administrator did not answer them. . The matters apparently were purely routine for a few minutes later the Minister referred to the fact that Colonel Murray had a big job to do. Some bureaucrats may have failed to answer the memorandums or they may not even have reached him.
There may have been a miserable plot to get rid of this man and honorable members on this side of the House were justified in bringing the matter to the attention of the House. The Minister has not said why the Administrator was dismissed except to say that he was approaching old age. It is a weak story. On the other hand, the Administrator has been a fighter for the natives, for land reform and for co-operative movements among the natives. He has supported the missionaries and the anthropologists. That is quite a good record for a man who allegedly is in a state of senile decay, and who was supposed to be ready to stagger on to a boat and be carted away from a job that he could not fulfil. The Minister has not given to honorable members a factual story in support of the dismissal of Colonel Murray. He has simply nourished a feeling that all is not as it should be. He has endeavoured to support a pallid story by saying that he does not wish to join in any attack on Colonel Murray while, by implication, he has done nothing but attack him. Is it within the scope of the missions to interfere in the work of the territory?’ Only to the extent that they have a closer contact with the spiritual care and guidance of the natives.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not believe it to be necessary that I should speak at any great length on this subject. It is difficult to talk upon it at all because it reminds one of Pope’s couplet -
When what t’oblivion better were resign’d Is hung on high, to poison half mankind.
The subject has been brought forward for the third time in this House. The Opposition has endeavoured to obtain from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) various documents and statements in order that this argument may be carried much further than the confines of this House. There are times in the career of a person when he may disagree with the Ministry. In the Public Service, it is possible for an officer to do much by not answering letters. There comes a time in a man’s public service when he is no longer capable of carrying on. Some people will then declare that such a suggestion is ridiculous and the person who thinks so most strongly is the man himself. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will agree with me on that point. I must say that nothing in Colonel Murray’s career was less becoming than the manner in which he left the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I am very sorry for that because he had a fine career in the service, and, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for East Sydney have said, he has shown considerablebravery. I do not know why he selected that method of leaving his post. I do not know why he made the statement that he did make. To my mind, it showed that he was, at odd times, what we in the Army used to call “ troppo “.
– The Minister had already attacked him.
– I had not.
– He could have made the statement at any time that he wanted to make it. He made it after he left New Guinea.
– And very properly, too.
– The honorable member for East Sydney considers that it was quite proper. It was a criticism of the Government in general, and of the Minister for Territories in particular. He was quite entitled to do that. But let me remind honorable gentlemen opposite that there are various ways in which certain things can be done. It is interesting to note that the honorable member for East Sydney has supported him so much.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Obviously this hurts honorable gentlemen opposite considerably. Brigadier Cleland has a fine record. Does any honorable member suggest that there was anything sinister, anything of the nature of nepotism, or anything otherwise wrong when the brother-in-law of a Minister in a Labour Government was appointed to a high position in this country? Nobody has made such a suggestion yet. Was any wrong done when the brother of the secretary of the Liberal party was appointed to a high office in the Public Service by Labour Ministers? Nothing is wrong with this appointment. The present acting Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was selected from about 120 applicants.
– He was selected before the other applications had been received.
– Does the honorable member for East Sydney make a similar criticism of the appointment to a high position of the brother-in-law of one of his fellow Ministers in the last Labour Administration? It is easy to make accusations about nepotism and about sinister appointments. The British Colonial Service is one of the finest colonial services that the world has ever known. It does its job efficiently, and acts in the interests of the people whose affairs it administers. Officers of the British Colonial Service retire always at the age of 60 years. Colonel Murray had. passed that age. That fact, and other matters which I shall not bring out in the course of this debate, lead us back to the point that the main objection of the Opposition is that, although he was appointed for a period of five years, he was retired before the expiration of that period. When he was retired, he had already had six years of very strenuous work in office. I do not intend to respond to the baiting to which I have been subjected by some members of the Opposition, and to produce anything along the lines of that which they want.
There is a great deal of work to be done in Papua and New Guinea. I hope that more members of the Parliament will visit the territory and see for themselves the way in which the administration there is doing its work. It is noteworthy that L. P. Mair, in the book Australia in New Guinea, referring to a debate in this chamber on Papua and New Guinea, said -
Neither side of the House distinguished itself by its knowledge of facts. Perhaps the instances of “ exploitation “ quoted on the Labour side took the prize for ineptitude.
The author stated also that Colonel Murray, although he had been appointed as Administrator by the honorable member for East Sydney, had to implement policy in the face of passive resistance from the Department of External Territories, and what too often looked like indifference on the part of the Minister.
– Who wrote that?
– It was written by L. P. Mair, who is, I think, a woman and a supporter of the Labour party. In Papua and New Guinea, we are faced with very difficult problems, the solution of which will require a great deal of strength, energy and knowledge. Australians should ask themselves:For how long can we leave as an antropological museum a country that is capable of producing immense quantities of food for native races? We must evolve a policy that will be fair to the natives. It must not be based upon misdirected idealism. It must be different from the policy which, since the war, has enabled the few to make fabulous fortunes. I should still like a royal commission to be appointed to inquire into the disposals problem. Talk about selling the peoples’ assets! The policy adopted by the Labour party has caused frustration for the many. It has led to forensic forays at Lake Success, and to temporary prosperity for some natives. We must evolve a permanent policy that will be fair to the natives, will ensure that the territory shall produce the food that it can produce - because somebody else will do that if we do not - and will lead the natives along the path towards what is known as, for want of a better word, democracy. I am certain that those objectives will be achieved under the present Administrator and his present and future staff.
I do not dispute that Colonel Murray did good work in the past. I shall not produce here the things the honorable member for East Sydney wants me to produce so that he can carry this argument further.
– The Minister cannot produce anything. That is my complaint.
Mr.KENT HUGHES.- The honorable member for East Sydney is baiting the hook in the hope that the fish will bite, but it will not do so. The reasons for the retirement of Colonel Murray were sound. The manner in which he was retired was perfectly fair. He was over 60 years of age. I do not think that any honorable gentleman, except the honorable member for East Sydney and his supporters, disputes the soundness of the action that was taken by the Government.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to confer certain immunities on representatives in Australia of certain parts of the Queen’s dominions and on certain other persons.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be nowread a second time.
Thepurpose of this bill is to provide that High Commissioners in Australia of Commonwealth countries shall be placed in the same position, as regards immunity from suit and legal process, and inviolability of premises and archives, as are ambassadors and ministers of foreign powers. Honorable members may remember that certain improvements in the status of high commissioners of one Commonwealth country in other Commonwealth countries have been made in recent years. In 1948, it was agreed, at the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, that high commissioners should in future rank with foreign ambassadors for purposes of precedence, and arrangements to this end were made accordingly with the approval of His Late Majesty. In addition, legislative and administrative action has been taken from time to time to bring high commissioners into line with foreign diplomatic representatives in the field of privileges. For example, they are treated in Australia in the same manner as are ambassadors so far as customs and taxation exemptions are concerned.
However, although formal recognition of the status of high commissioners has been given by their inclusion with ambassadors in the precedence list, and although they enjoy taxation privileges and customs exemptions on the same basis as do diplomatic representatives of foreign countries, it has never been established that they enjoy immunity from suit and legal process. Moreover, there are some doubts about whether a high commissioner could maintain a claim in respect of inviolability of his residence, premises and archives, such as can be claimed by a diplomatic representative of a foreign country.
In the light of constitutional developments in the status of members of the Commonwealth it is clear that it is no longer right that high commissioners should enjoy lesser privileges and immunities than are enjoyed by the diplomatic representatives of other countries. Accordingly the United Kingdom Parliament, in consultation with the Dominions, including Australia, some months ago passed an act to provide that high commissioners should be entitled to the same immunity from suit and legal process, and the same inviolability of residence, official premises and archives, as arc accorded to foreign envoys. The United Kingdom act also provides immunity from suit and process to the members of a high commissioner’s family and to the members of his staff, subject to certain conditions. Consideration has been given to the advisability of similar steps being taken by other dominions, and I am informed that all members of the Commonwealth contemplate action on similar lines. The Australian Government, for its part, has accordingly decided to introduce the present bill.
Before dealing with the ends that the bill seeks to achieve, I shall mention two matters with which the bill does not deal. In the first place the bill is not concerned with taxation, customs or what are generally referred to as diplomatic “ privileges “, that is, certain exemptions accorded to foreign diplomatic representatives in accordance with the general principles of international law and custom. The bill deals solely with the subject of immunity from suit and legal process and, as I have said, the reason for the legislation is that the relationship of the countries within the Commonwealth is not that of foreign countries and, in consequence, there are doubts about the position of high commissioners in regard to legal process.
The second matter to which I wish to direct attention is that this bill is not concerned at all with the general question of privileges or immunities of foreign envoys to Australia, a matter which is already governed by the general law based upon international law. The sole object is to place the high commissioners and their staffs in the same position as foreign representatives as regards immunity from suit.
As to the provisions of the bill itself, it will be seen that it will apply to the United Kingdom and all the Dominions represented in Australia by high commissioners. The operative provisions are in clauses 4 and 5 which, as will be seen, will confer immunity from suit and legal process upon the high commissioner, the members of his family, the members of his staff and the members of the families of his official staff. Where, however, a member of the staff of a high commissioner is an Australian citizen, and not at the same time a citizen of the country represented, that person is to have immunity only in respect of his official acts and the members of his family are not to have any immunity.
Clause 6 is designed to ensure that complete reciprocity with the United Kingdom and other dominions shall be at all times obtained. Similar provision is included in the United Kingdom act for the reason that it is considered that all these matters should be based upon the principle of reciprocity. As I have already informed honorable members, the United Kingdom act has been passed and our high commissioner in London, and members of his staff, already enjoy the immunity provided for. The other dominions contemplate legislation along similar lines. It is, therefore, considered desirable, in view of the principle of reciprocity, that we in Australia should take action now to ensure that high commissioners in this country shall be accorded the immunities which our representatives in other Commonwealth countries will enjoy when legislative action has been taken by them. Clause 8 provides that the immunity may be waived in any given case.
Clause 7 will empower the making of regulations providing that occupants of prescribed offices in the service of the government of a prescribed part of Her Majesty’s Dominions, other than countries to which the act applies, may be granted the immunity from suit and legal process to which foreign consuls are already entitled. This immunity in the case of consuls is, in general, confined to immunity in respect of official acts. The object of the clause is to enable provision to be made to cover cases such as that of a colonial representative who performs duties substantially corresponding to those of a foreign consul.
Clauses 9 and 10 are machinery clauses, whilst clause 11 empowers the making of regulations for the purposes of the bill. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 9th September (vide page 1137) on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The argument submitted by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) when he moved the second reading of the bill was, in substance, that, under the law as it stands, delays occur in relation to the administra tion of the Lands Acquisition Act and that the purpose of the bill is, broadly speaking, to permit the responsible Minister, rather than the Executive Council, to acquire and dispose of land. Not content with that, however, the Government has drafted the bill so as to enable the responsible Minister to delegate, to public officials throughout the Commonwealth, authority to carry out functions that he would normally carry out himself. A double delegation is therefore involved’. When this bill becomes law, the Governor-General will cease to be of any importance in relation to the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth. The formal completion of land acquisitions will be made after the Minister has reached a decision. Further. in most cases, the Minister himself will not be required to make the decision but will be empowered to delegate the authority to make the decision to a number of subordinate officials. I wish to say right at the outset that anything that I may have to say about that principle has no application to the present Minister for the Interior himself. The Minister may, and I believe that he does, as his predecessors in the governments of which I was a member did, examine all these matters with the utmost care. We must, however, regard this legislation seriously because, after the acquisition has been formalized by means of a notification in the Gazette, the remedying of any mistake that may have been made willinvolve interminable difficulties. Even that is an understatement because under this bill, I think for the first time, the power to acquire land is to be given to a number of officials. I consider that proposal to be wrong in principle.
The Minister has frankly told the House that this amending legislation is not really the kind of amendment that the Lands Acquisition Act requires. He said that the act requires a more thorough and comprehensive amendment. On behalf of the Opposition, therefore, I ask him to postpone consideration of this measure until he has introduced the comprehensive bill that he has foreshadowed in his speech. The bill deals with the subject that I havementioned, and with nothing else. It is, in a sense, a committee measure. As its provisions have all been cast in the same mould, a few illustrations will suffice to make my argument clear to the House.
Clause 3 seeks to amend section 14 of the principal act which reads as follows : -
The Governor-General may. approve of the acquisition, toy the Commonwealth, of any land by agreement with the owner. (2.) The Minister may, in any case where the interest proposed to be acquired, is a lease for a term not exceeding three years at a. rental not exceeding fiftypounds per annum, approve of the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the lease of the land by agreement withthe owner.
Those are, minor provisions, under which the present law enables the Minister to acquire land by agreement. Under this amending; legislation thewhole power to acquire land will be vested in the: Minister. People sometimes speak as though in such matters the by-passing of the Governor-General in Council will not involve any change of procedure. The place of the Governor-General in. Council in relation to such matters is important, because the necessity for. approval by the Governor-General in Council provides a safeguard in relation, to an involved and important procedure.. The action of a. Minister, of his own motion, is the action of one person Approval of anything by the ‘Governor-General in Council is preceded by the formal consideration, of the matter by, not the Minister alone, but at least two Ministers and, in the absence of the GovernorGeneral, three. Ministers. I do not mean that a. matter that comes before the Executive Council for approval is re-heard at that level. But I have known instances, which occurred during the terms, of office of the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments, when, at. a meeting of the Executive Council, Mr. Curtin or Mr. Chifley, or a senior Minister, raised a question about the desirability of some particular action that had not. been considered by the Cabinet. Sometimes the taking of the action was postponed, and sometimes a modification of it was put into operation. That is an example of the Executive Council system providing a safeguard on the political level. I have also known cases, under various administrations, in which His
Excellency has similarly asked a question about a matter before the Executive Council.
The Minister has given in his speech an illustration of a kind of acquisition that may occur. He has stated that acquisitions made may include the acquisition of land for the erection of new post offices or telephone exchanges, or such acquisitions as. the acquisition of the whole of Darwin by the previous Government or the acquisition, by this Government, of a large area just outside the suburban area of Melbourne for a new explosives f actory. He has said, quite, correctly, that there may be some delay in relation to such acquisitions. But if the Minister had gone thoroughly into the matter, and being important, it had received Cabinet approval - -which matters of land acquisition should certainly have, although it is. not. required under the, law - then any delay likely wouldbe insignificant. The Minister’s recommendations would be simply formalized in the Executive Council minute, and would! then come before the Executive Council, which would be attended not. only by the Govenor-General or Ms deputy, the Chief Justice of the senior State, or the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but also by at least two other Ministers. That is the procedure and I do- not consider it to be unimportant that it should be followed. As- I have: said, L do not suggest that a meeting of the Executive Council embarks on a complete review of a matter; but I do consider that the proposal in the bill is wrong and should not be proceeded with.
Clause 4 of the bill seeks to amend section. 15 of the principal act, which: provides as. follows: -
The Governor-General may direct that any land may be acquired by the Commonwealth from the. owner by compulsory process.
The proposed amendment will give to the Minister complete authority in that direction. I submit that there is neither occasion nor real reason for the change, and that any delay likely to occur under the present law is a safeguard that would tend, in important cases, to secure consideration of the matter by Cabinet. When an acquisition has been approved by Cabinet the appropriate method of putting the Cabinet decision into effect is by a decision of the Executive Council, as honorable members who have had experience as members of the Executive Council will know.
– Under the new law the matter will still have to be laid on the table.
– I agree, but only after the event has occurred. Clause 5 seeks to amend section 57 of the principal act, which deals with an incidental matter, and I shall refer to it later. Clause 6 seeks to amend section 62 of the principal act which is important because it deals with matters that are now becoming extremely important. That section provides as follows: -
The Governor-General may authorize the grant of a lease or licence to any person to mine for any metals or minerals on any land the property of the Commonwealth.
Again, the proposal contained in the bill is to give that authority and statutory jurisdiction to the Minister, and is open to the same criticism as I have ventured to express in connexion with the other clauses of the bill. Clause 7 seeks to amend section 62a of the principal act, which deals with the acquisition of land, by vesting in the Minister powers that are now vested in the Governor-General. Clause 8 seeks to amend section 63 of the principal act by empowering the Minister, instead of the Governor-General, to authorize, in such manner as he thinks fit, the disposal of land that is vested in the Commonwealth but is not required for a public purpose. Clause 9 reads -
After section sixty-six of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: - “66a. - (1.) The Minister or the AttorneyGeneral may, in relation to a matter or class of matters, or in relation to a particular part of Australia, by instrument published in the Gazette, delegate all or any of his powers or functions under this Act (except this power of delegation), so that the delegated powers and functions may be exercised or performed by. the delegate, with respect to the matter or class of matters, or the part of Australia, specified in the instrument of delegation.
That is the second part of the measure. First, the Governor-General gives place to the Minister from the point of view of the statute ; and, secondly, the Minister may be replaced by a delegation of the character that I have described. He may delegate all or any of his powers or func tions under this measure. I do not think that any safeguard is being provided in respect of the person to whom that delegation is to be made, although I assume that he would be a public official. These amendments indicate a bureaucratic trend that is not warranted. I concede that there may be transactions of minor importance with which the Minister should be enabled to deal expeditiously, but such transactions should be placed in a special category as has been done in respect of one section of the principal act. It is wrong in practice to transfer the powers now vested in the Governor-General, that is the Executive Council constituted in the way that I have described, entirely and exclusively to one Minister. Such a provision is not only wrong but also unnecessary. Therefore, I repeat that consideration of this matter should be deferred until the further measure that the Minister has indicated will be introduced to effect more general amendments of the principal act has been presented. I cannot see the slightest justification for the proposed amendment in respect of th, delegation of powers. Persons from whom land may be acquired should be completely safeguarded. Once the axe. falls, the Commonwealth becomes the owner of the property and, therefore, that part of a transaction should be done in accordance with the existing law. I do not suggest that the present Minister would fail to give to such matters the fullest consideration, but we are now legislating in respect of all future Ministers for the Interior. The Government has not made a case for the passage of this measure.
.- I am amazed that the Government should introduce a measure of this kind. I realize that as a result of the growing complexity of Commonwealth powers in this modern age the necessity for the Commonwealth to acquire lands throughout Australia has increased to a corresponding degree. Land acquisition has become a matter of major importance as a result of the substantial increase of our population, the expansion of our industries generally and the consequent increase of governmental activities. Under the Constitution, power is vested in the Commonwealth to acquire land for the legitimate purposes of the Government and to dispose of land that is no longer required for public purposes. However, I am astonished that the Government should seek to remove some of the age;old safeguards that have protected the rights of persons whose property the Government has acquired. Regardless of the size, or value, of a property that the Government may seek to acquire, the owner invariably holds tenaciously to it even though he may realize that he must give way to the needs of the community. Consequently, the necessity remains to retain “every safeguard to ensure that property shall not be acquired unnecessarily or in a vexatious manner. During the recent war when the Commonwealth acquired vast areas of land for defence purposes and in spite of the administrative pressures resulting from war conditions, the government of the day saw fit to continue the provisions of the principal act. During that period the Minister for the Interior was obliged to deal with piles of Executive Council minutes relating to the acquisition of land. On the occasions on which I acted for the Minister for the Interior during the latter’s absence, I used to spend hours perusing such documents before affixing my signature to them. I made it a practice to put aside for consideration by the Minister himself documents that related to proposals which I did not consider to be justified. Conditions that exist to-day are not much different from those that existed during the recent war. There is now a tendency on the part of the military authorities to recommend the acquisition of vast areas of land in the vicinity of military camps. Recently, I cited the proposal to acquire an area of 60,000 acres adjacent to the camp at Puckapunyal. I pointed out that such acquisition would drive many farmers off properties on which they had been born and bred whilst the only advantage that could be gained by acquiring that land would be to facilitate military activities in that area. Frequently, a small landholder in a suburb, or in a country town, is told that his property is to be acquired as a site for a post office or for some other public purpose. In many instances, adequate, official investigation is not made of acquisition proposals. Investigations have revealed that many proposals have been unwarranted. Having regard to those facts, I am astonished that the Government should now seek to remove the necessity for the approval of the Executive Council to transactions involving acquisition of land and, what is more important, to seek to authorize the Minister for the Interior to delegate all or any of his powers under this legislation. Such ‘ proposals are outrageous particularly as they are now being made by honorable members who, during the regime of the Chifley Government, raged and roared in this House because according to their claim, that Government was giving too much power to bureaucrats, which term they applied to highranking public servants. Under this measure the Minister for the Interior will be empowered to delegate all or any of his powers to departmental officers.
– Regardless of the powers that the Minister may delegate, he will remain responsible for the way in which they are exercised.
– The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) is attempting to come to the rescue of the Minister (Mr. Kent Hughes) in this matter. The point that he has just made in his interjection has been made repeatedly in this House in the past, but it is an additional reason why the Parliament should set its face against the tendency to enable Ministers to delegate their powers. I am aware that Ministers would be unable to carry on their administration effectively without delegating certain powers in respect of matters of minor importance. However, I can only express my astonishment that the Government should now propose to empower the Minister for the Interior to delegate all or any of his powers in relation to the acquisition of land, and by so doing endanger what Government, supporters regard as the sacred rights of property. No indication is given of the officers to whom the Minister may delegate such powers. Therefore, I regard this measure with grave mistrust and apprehension. I know that honorable members opposite will, say that the Australian Labour party advocates the socialization of land. That party would sanction such a principle only in respect of land that was not being utilized for the benefit of the community. Members of the Opposition admit that in certain circumstances the Government has no alternative but to acquire land. The point I emphasize is that all the safeguards that have existed up to the present should be retained in order to protect owners of properties and to ensure that they shall not be made the victims of vexatious or unnecessary acquisition. For these reasons the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has suggested that this measure be withdrawn and that consideration of the proposals it contains be deferred until the bill that the Minister has intimated will be introduced to amend the principal act in a general way has been presented. This bill has been introduced hastily. It will tend to set up bureaucratic control of private property and, worse still, to cause a relaxation of supervision on the part of the Minister in respect of proposals for the acquisition of land, and of close attention to the protests of citizens that they are being harshly treated. If we are to use the methods provided for in this legislation, although the bill does not deal with compensation processes, it will probably not be long before the Government introduces legislation to enable public officers to be the final arbiters as to the amount of compensation that shall be paid to citizens whose land has been acquired by the Government. I do not desire to see the thin end of ‘the wedge inserted, and the tendency encouraged to take away from the people the protective rights that they have hitherto enjoyed when their land has been acquired for public purposes. I hope that the Minister will see fit to modify the attitude that the Government has displayed in this measure.
.- It is not often that I find myself in agreement with honorable members opposite, but I cannot see my way clear to accept this bill which removes from the Executive Council to the Minister, and, by delegation, to officers under the Minister, the right to acquire or dispose of land. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) said that the great growth of national activities has caused a corresponding increase of the land and property required bv the Commonwealth. As a Parliament we should not allow the administration of government, or the property, dealings of government, to reach a stage when it may become impossible for the Executive Council to keep a proper control over them. It seems to me that the only interpretation that can be placed upon the Minister’s second-reading speech is that the Executive Council can no longer keep a proper control of the matters the Minister mentioned. I believe that the Minister is quite right in pointing out that delails of land transactions must be tabled in this Parliament; nevertheless such tabling would occur after the acquisition or the sale had been made. 1 believe these to be important matters which should receive the consideration of the Cabinet and the Executive Council before action is taken upon them and before they are actually presented to the House. I appreciate the difficulty of one of the problems that has arisen in this country in relation to matters such as this - that is the rule of party politics. Any party which happens to have a majority in the Parliament can override any objection made by the minority Opposition. I can conceive that if objection were taken to a particular sale or acquisition, the majority would stand behind the Minister or the Government and Executive Council of the day. Therefore, the tabling of matters such as this might prove to be not so effective as it might be under different circumstances. Notwithstanding the aspect of party politics, I consider it to be a pity that we should be reduced to a stage where the actual volume of administration is such that it is necessary for powers to be vested solely in the Minister, or worse than that - and I say “ worse than that “ quite definitely - that the powers should be vested in some other person who is no more than a servant of a particular Commonwealth department. I am in accord with the suggestion that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that this bill be withdrawn so that at least further consideration may be given to the matter, and that perhaps the bill should not again be presented to the House.
.- In view of what has been said by the honorable member for- Petrie (Mr. Hulme), I suggest to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that the bill provides an ideal opportunity for this House to function as a legislature, impartially and free from party political bias. In the circumstances, he should withdraw the bill and appoint a committee from both sides of the House to examine it. After such a committee had examined the matter it should report back to the House along the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Petrie. It is of little use for the Minister to say that there are safeguards against the bureacracy abusing its powers because the papers dealing with matters envisaged by the legislation may be laid on the table of the House. Honorable members know that in order to challenge a land acquisition a private member on the Government side would be forced to submit a motion against his own government and thus do something that might involve the fate of the Government. He would need to feel very keenly about any matter before he would take such action, and since the Government would still have control of the House, after his first move he could be out-voted by the supporters of the Government and his protests would be brought to nought. There is no safeguard in matters such as this, beyond the safeguard of the degree of- publicity that would be provided by the laying of the papers on the table of the House. The Minister is wrong in saying that honorable members need not worry about the delegation of power to public servants because the safeguard of tabling is provided by the legislation. This bill is similar to a number of others that have been introduced by the present Government. It is not long since a Public Service bill was introduced which provided that the Governor-General in Council should not be required to approve orders in council in relation to thu appointments and examination of public servants. Here is another example of Ministers divesting themselves of authorities and responsibilities that have previously been laid upon them by acts of this Parliament.
Ministers have spoken as though the approval of the Executive Council means nothing, and as though the acts of the Parliament which require the Government to secure the approval of the Governor-General in Council are really formalities that may be dispensed with without any worry at all. It is true that in most Executive Council meetings many of the proceedings are formalities, and proposals are laid before the GovernorGeneral and Ministers and are dealt with in a formal way. It is also true that in the past many matters have had to be laid before the Executive Council for approval because they have been considered to be of sufficient importance to warrant the approval of the Sovereign’s representative in council. The fact that a thousand and one decisions are approved does not mean that this safeguard should be withdrawn. It could well be that because the approval of the GovernorGeneral in Council is required, many matters would not be placed before the Executive Council if it was not reasonable to suppose that upon scrutiny they would be approved. It is no argument to say that decisions have always been approved, because obviously the relevant Minister must examine the matters that he intends to bring before the Executive Council in order to make sure whether they will be approved or not. The argument that the approval is a mere formality does not hold water. I again recommend that the Minister withdraw the bill and allow it to be examined by an all-party committee so that honorable members may arrive at a practicable solution of the problem of how to speed up the settlement of land acquisitions. I agree that we certainly do need to speed up the process of the acquisition of land, particularly the settlement of such transactions. A case came under my notice when I was a member of a State parliament prior to 1949. A man’s land had been acquired in 1944 and in 194S he was still battling to have the acquisition settled. The parties were arguing the point about the price, and when they went to look at the land in 1948 they found that a tank factory had been built on it, that roads had been made through it, and that the question of its value was entirely beside the point.
– Similar situations are not uncommon in New South Wales at the present time.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) only serves to emphasize how unwise it is to delegate powers, such as are envisaged in the measure, to departmental bureaucrats. The bureaucrats, whether they are in” the Department of the Interior or in the Treasury, or whether they are the top brass of the armed forces, have a habit of acquiring property which will provide them with the most comfortable and convenient quarters available. Everybody in Melbourne knows the difficulties that have been caused by the acquisition by government departments of lands in Albert Park. The Australian Government simply moved in and squatted on the land, and the citizens of Melbourne cannot get it out. Vast areas of the people’s playing fields are still occupied by Commonwealth departments, and will apparently continue to be so occupied while this Government remains in office. I was astonished because the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) did not have a few words to say about that matter, because it is of great interest to the people that he represents. Those people are very concerned about the restoration of their playing fields. I was also astonished that the Minister for the Interior, who is a former Olympic Games athlete and is much interested in sport, has not been active in trying to get the government departments off the people’s land. He certainly knows that playing fields in capital cities are of great value and are in great demand. Cricket teams, football teams and athletic associations have the greatest difficulty at the present time in getting adequate playing fields on public park lands. I ask the Minister to address himself to this matter and to ascertain whether he can get some of the government departments’ squatters off the public lands in Albert Park so that the lands may be restored to the people who used them before the Army, the Taxation Branch and other Commonwealth departments moved in.
– The Taxation H ranch has been removed.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say that. Let us hope that that is the first of the steps that will ultimately result in the vacation of the Albert Park area. The Commonwealth departments first moved into these park lands as a matter of military emergency, but they have stayed there ever since. 1 take this opportunity of pointing out to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) the necessity of examining very closely any acquisitions of land undertaken by the Department of the Army. On occasions there may be good reasons for the acquisition of some land close to the capital cities for military camps, but if there are good reasons for many of the acquisitions I have not yet found them.
– What acquisitions is the honorable member talking about?
– I am speaking about Watsonia camp and also the camp at Royal Park. No doubt the Army needs some camps close to cities, but everybody knows it to be desirable from the troops’ viewpoint, and from the viewpoint of the citizens, that there shall not be army camps in the middle of large cities. Camps in such areas help neither the army administration, the troops themselves nor the people who live in the areas. All that such acquisitions seem to do is to serve the convenience of the top brass concerned with the administration of the camps. During the war it was necessary for us to do things in a hurry and to use lands around the capital cities because we did not have time to look for more suitable sites. The Minister for the Army should not be prepared to accept the sites that were then chosen as being the final and most desirable sites simply because they are convenient to the homes of the officers, and perhaps the men. In the interests of the Army, the troops and the people, army camps should be located out among the hundreds of thousands of acres of vacant land in the country areas.
Another transaction that Government supporters, to my astonishment, have not mentioned is the acquisition of a large block in Melbourne for the purpose of building public offices. When that area was acquired by a Labour government, the frenzied howls of protest uttered by members of the then Opposition in this Parliament could be heard all over Australia. It was an outrage, they declared. Small business men were to be thrown out of their offices and would lose their livelihood. Numbers of meetings called- to protest against the arbitrary action of the Labour Government were addressed by various honorable gentlemen who are now members of the Government. The government of the day was deluged with telegrams and letters of protest. But what happened when the present Government came to office? One of its first acts was to confirm the action of the Labour Government in acquiring that property with a view to the erection of public offices and a consequent saving to the public purse of hundreds of thousands of pounds annually in rent for accommodation in Flinders-lane and other high-priced areas in the City of Melbourne. I shall be very pleased if any of the provisions of this bill will enable the Government to expedite the final acquisition of that land and the construction of new public offices on the site. Undoubtedly, many persons who occupy premises there were content to accept the original government valuation, but now, after the lapse of a period of time during which land prices have spiralled, they will probably object to accepting payment at rates that will be many hundreds of pounds below current values. The land became vested in the Government when the original notice of acquisition appeared in the Gazette, and,, although the valuation may be made the subject of argument, that argument legally can apply only to the valuation on the date of publication of the notice. Although property owners may have to wait for years in order to obtain payment for land acquired by the Government, they are obliged to accept prices that are sometimes hundreds of pounds below true values at the date of payment.
– But the honorable member wants to pay 1942 values for farm properties.
– No. I want the Government to acquire properties at fair values. I do not want farms to be acquired at values that prevailed when wool prices were inflated beyond all previous levels.
– The proposed amendment would make that sort of thing easy.
– As the honorable member has suggested, the acquisition of properties at 1942 valuations, to which Government members objected so strongly when the House debated a bill relating to the land settlement of ex-servicemen, could undoubtedly be carried out more easily under the terms of the bill thar would be possible if all transactions of this character had to be submitted for approval to the Executive Council which, in effect, is the Cabinet.
In View of the devotion of the honorable, member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) to the rights of private property owners and the strong stand that he’ has made on their behalf, I hope that he will support the efforts of the Opposition to force the Government to withdaw the bill and redraft it. Unless he does so, we shall be justified in assuming that he has been shedding crocodile tears on their behalf. If he helps the Government to enact the bill in its present form, he will make it possible for the bureaucrats to treat landholders in the most cavalier fashion without having regard for the ministerial responsibility to ensure that the provisions of the Constitution shall be carried out so that a fair and just price shall be paid for all land acquired by the Government.
– It is not humbug to ask that the Executive Council be required to approve of such transactions. In fact, if such a procedure resulted in the Government acquiring a little less land than is contemplated on some occasions, I believe that some supporters of the Government would support the practice. The requirement to obtain. Executive Council approval for certain acts is an old constitutional device that was designed to enable the Crown to retain control of certain functions that, were’ considered to be peculiarly within its province. Honorable members may object that the procedure would involve a great deal of paper work in arranging, for instance, for the acquisition of a little block of land on which to build a post office in Bridge-road, Richmond, where I hope a post office will be built one day. The answer to such an objection would be that we should be influenced, not by particular instances, but by the general principle. The acquisition of the property of a subject ‘by a government is certainly of sufficient importance to warrant the calling in of the Executive Council to approve of decisions made by bureaucrats. I earnestly hope that we shall obtain the support of other Government supporters than the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) in our move to have the bill withdrawn and a committee of the House appointed to make recommendations for the framing of a more satisfactory measure than the one that the Government has presented to us.
Another important point in relation to the bill concerns the places where land is -acquired by the Government. We hear considerable discussion of plans for decentralization whenever there is a general election campaign. Everybody pays lip service to the idea of decentralization, and nobody is more fervent in rendering such service than are members of the Australian Country party, although, in practice, nobody gives less service to the theory than they do. It has been during the regime of the Country party governments in Victoria - now happily ended, I hope, although I have not heard the latest news on the subject - that Melbourne has become the swollen metropolis that it is to-day. Governments and other instrumentalities, both public and private, have been induced to establish their head-quarters in Melbourne. I hope that, since the Australian Government is responsible for the defence of the nation and since its defence advisers surely have some idea of the threat to our cities that would be involved in atomic warfare, it will use its power to acquire land in order to ensure that its activities shall . be decentralized.
– The honorable member is optimistic if he hopes that the Australian Country party will support him in any campaign for decentralization.
– I realize that it has never given any real assent to the principle of decentralization. I hope that the Minister for the Interior, who, as
Minister for Works, is vested with power to acquire land for departments, will impress upon his colleagues at all times the necessity for the decentralization of government building activities. We do not want to have Commonwealth offices jammed together in our big capital cities, where they would be within easy range of atomic attack, in the event of war, from submarines and aircraft carriers. The Minister has wide powers under the terms of the Lands Acquisition Act and he should make full use of them in order to plan and execute the decentralization of government activities. During the relatively brief period in which I have been a member of this Parliament, there has been an increasing concentration of government activities in Sydney and Melbourne, and this process has been going on, I suppose, to a lesser degree in other capital cities. I hope that the Minister will reverse that trend. An instance of the peculiar decisions that are made by departments every day was brought to my attention when I received a protest from the Hawthorn City Council against the acquisition by the Government of land in Wattle-grove, Hawthorn, a residental area in the electorate that 1 represent. I understand that the Government proposes to erect in that locality a block of offices worth £110,000. I do not know the purposes for which those offices are to be used or why the department concerned should have chosen a block of land in one of a few well-favoured residential areas in the electorate of Yarra. However, I know that the local council objects very strongly to the plan, particularly because it envisages the demolition of nouses in order to make way for the proposed office building. Houses are scarce enough without the Government authorizing their destruction. I ask the Minister to investigate the proposal to acquire land in Wattle-grove, Hawthorn.
– Departmental officers had a consultation with representatives of the Hawthorn City Council this: morning.
– I am pleased to hear the news. I hope that the Minister will now see the wisdom of following the course that I have suggested.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned..
Sitting- suspended from 5.56 to 8.15 p.m.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 27th August (vide page 642), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is of great importance to exservicemen who are eligible, by virtue of selection and approval during the last five oi- six years, for assistance under the war service land settlement scheme. It is also of vast importance to the national economy and to the people in many other countries. As is indicated in press reports and from statements made at civic gatherings, the Australian people are keenly aware of the necessity for increasing the production of food in the Commonwealth. They have come to realize that if Australia is to maintain its prosperity, the production of food on existing farms must be increased, and the number of farms must be increased. The bill itself empowers the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to raise an amount of ,-£6,000,000 from an issue of treasurybills. I emphasize the word “ treasurybills because it is not so long ago that the Treasurer stated that the Government was strongly opposed to the principle of treasury-bill finance. The amount of £6,000,000 that may be borrowed under this legislation will be used almost exclusively for the promotion of the land settlement of ex-servicemen in what are known as the three agent States under the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945. The three more populous States, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, are not to benefit under this legislation. That is due to the fact that when the Chifley Labour Government made the agreements with the six States, New South Wales;, Victoria and Queensland, which became known as the principal States, elected to finance the acquisition, development and allocation of land, and generally to control their own schemes for the land settler ment of ex-servicemen. South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, which became known as the agent States, elected, because of their lack of financial resources, to become the agents of the Commonwealth for the purpose of the acquisition, development and allocation of land for ex-servicemen.
I emphasize that the Minister for the Interior .(Mr. Kent Hughes), in his second-reading speech, informed the House that the bill, whilst it provided in the main for the financial requirements of the three agent States, also provided that -
Moneys borrowed under this Act shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purpose of financial assistance to the States in connexion with war service land settlement.
That provision is important. It is necessary, because some moneys will have to be allocated to the three principal States under the terms of the agreements to finance sustenance payments and the like, and to provide other forms of assistance to settlers during their first year of production. Yet the provision is worthy of note for another reason. It indicates that the Commonwealth, if it saw fit, could make provision for the raising of £15,000,000, £20,000,000 or £30,000,000, by way of an appeal to the people on the loan market, or through treasury-bill finance. The bill allows that to be done. I emphasize that point for an important reason. The House will recollect that not long ago, certain persons challenged the validity of the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945, and that the High Court of Australia declared it to be invalid. Therefore, this Government, whilst recognizing that the act is ultra vires, has announced that it is prepared to work in a loose sort of fashion with the principal States and the agent States, and, in effect, to honour the agreements by general consent and arrangement.
However, I point out that the Minister has emphasized to the House, and the Government has stressed in the press, that the difficulties confronting the principal States, New South “Wales, Victoria and Queensland, can he overcome only by the governments of those States, because they are ‘parties to the .agreements, and have accepted the responsibility to finance their own war service land settlement schemes. The original agreements have gone by the board. This Government, if it earnestly wishes to achieve increased production, should say to the three principal States, which are now in financial difficulties, “We realize that war service land settlement is of paramount importance. It is a repatriation matter, and, therefore, is a Commonwealth obligation. Therefore, we shall assist you financially to carry out your programmes “. The Government should realize its obligation to ex-servicemen who wish to settle on the land. Let the Government contend, if it so wishes, that the three principal States have made a mistake. I do not say that they have made a mistake, but the Government may choose, for its own purposes, to regard them as incompetent. However, as the War .Service Land Settlement Agreements Act is no longer legally binding on the respective parties, the Government should ensure that New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland shall have sufficient funds, from either loan moneys or treasury-bills, to enable them to promote their war service land settlement schemes. The War Service Land Settlement Agreements, when they were made in 1945, were considered to be a splendid arrangement. The Chifley Labour Government regarded them as almost as perfect as agreements as could be drawn, and they were accepted by six State governments of various political views. I do not believe that the Minister, or any Government supporter, particularly if he be an ex-serviceman, will contend that, as the result of legal complications and political dissension between the Commonwealth and the States, ex-servicemen in the three principal States who wish to settle on the land, must be left on the shelf. Such a position would be outrageous. There is no reason in the world why the Government, if it believes its honeyed phrase that production is all-important, should not make a friendly advance to the three principal States, which are in financial difficulties. As repatriation is a direct Commonwealth obligation, this Government should “provide money specifically to the three principal States in order to enable them to proceed with their war service land settlement schemes.
– The offer was made to them at the last meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and they rejected it.
– Does the Minister tell me, in all seriousness, that he, or the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), made such an offer to the Premiers of the three principal States in plain, simple terms? Were those Premiers told, “ The Commonwealth will make available to you a certain amount of loan money, the .only reservations being that it shall be expended exclusively on war service land settlement, and that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, in conformity with the terms of the agreements of 1945, shall make a survey of the country, and ascertain generally that the land, as subdivided, will be capable of providing a living for an ex-serviceman and his family”? Does the Minister tell me, in all seriousness, that such an offer was made to, and was rejected by, the three principal States?
– They refused the offer.
– The Minister knows that in the agreements of 1945, which, by common consent, are still in operation, although the act is invalid-
– With ,the agent States.
– No, with the principal States. The Minister knows that only a meagre amount of money will be available to the States this year for war service land settlement. Does not the Commonwealth retain its right, under the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945, to approve an area that a State proposes to acquire for war service land settlement purposes? Has the Commonwealth abandoned that right? If that be the Minister’s contention he is not so wise as I thought he was. He does not deny that he still exercises that function. Is he prepared to say that the States would not agree to his doing so. I do not accept his statement. I suggest that there were other ties. If any money was refused by the States, something prevented them from accepting it. I have no doubt that when any offer was made by the Australian Government at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers or at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, the Government would insist on observance of the residue of power that is provided in the agreements under which it must approve of any subdivision of any farm a3 being of economic size. I do not believe that any State would object to that provision, but the overall problem is very serious.
Although the war ended more than seven years ago, only 3,517 ex-servicemen have been settled and 6,694 war service land settlement holdings have been approved in Australia. On the other hand, 28,000 ex-servicemen eligible and suitable for placement on the land are still on the waiting list for farms. The position is entirely the result of some quibble or of some ‘parsimonious delay on the part of the Australian Government. Some condition has been imposed. T freely admit that- enormous difficulties were encountered by all State governments in the first three or four years of the war service land settlement scheme. That applied to the agent States as well as to the principal States. Machinery was in short supply, fencing was difficult to obtain and to erect, damsinking equipment was scarce, labour was short and there was extraordinary difficulty in obtaining surveyors in sufficient numbers to survey the land. All those difficulties are vanishing. Materials are in more general supply. Almost every week large numbers of immigrants are entering Australia. The Government is continuing immigration and it claims that many of the immigrants are suitable for rural work. If that be true, the labour difficulty has been overcome to some degree. If finance is available, the Government is in a position to accelerate war service land settlement in Australia. It has been in a position to do so since it assumed office. Instead, war service land settlement is almost nt a complete standstill in the three most populous States, simply because the Australian Government by a quibble and a piece of humbug refuses to make available, by treasury-bill finance or by some other method free of unnecessary tags, the essential amount of money that would permit it to proceed. In Victoria alone, 6,000 eligible ex-servicemen are waiting for farms. The delay is due not to lack of resources, but to shortage of money. Nobody can say with truth that Victoria has not done a reasonably good job, yet on the 14th September the Melbourne Herald published a statement by the chairman of the Soldier Settlement Commission, Mr. H. L. Simpson, under the heading “ Soldiers Land Scheme Stalls. Occasional Rabbiters Cheaper than Settlers “. How does the Australian Government excuse itself? On the 9th August, Mr. Simpson stated in an article published in the Argus- -
Ex-servicemen approved for settlement blocks will not be allowed to take up their holdings until the Soldier Settlement Commission obtains more money.
If the Government could find £6,000,000 for the three agent States, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, it could find £12,000,000 for the three principal States, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
– Under the same conditions !
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) wants to make the three principal States into agent States. I challenge the Government to deny that the three principal States are prepared to proceed with their schemes, subject alone to the condition imposed on them ordinarily that the Australian Government will not approve expenditure of money that it allocates unless an ex-serviceman’s holding is of adequate size. No State in the Commonwealth would refuse money that was freely offered if only that tag, which is an old one, were attached. Since this Government took office, it has been encumbered with heavy financial difficul-, ties. It is .not prepared to take the bit in its teeth and do the right thing for ex-servicemen who want farms because it fears that, if it does so, it will incur additional treasury-bill finance, which it repudiated, or will have to increase income tax and so place an intolerable and unpromised burden on the people. Instead it has resorted to blaming the State governments on some technicality, and has had the effrontery to say that the State governments have refused to make money available for war service land settlement. I challenge the Government to declare that any State Government in Australia has refused finance that was freely offered by it with only the tag that 1 have already mentioned, a tag that now operates in relation to the few million pounds that it gave from this year’s loan allocation. That is the challenge. The question is not whether the principal States will become vassal or agent States like Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia. I challenge the Australian Government to prove that the schemes of the three principal States have been less economic, less effective and more costly than the schemes that have been carried out by the three agent States. There should be no more quibbling. Mr. Simpson is a responsible individual. He is chairman of the Soldier Settlement Commission in Victoria and a member of the Victorian Country party. He would not be likely to condemn this Government. More probably, he would be friendly towards it if he could be. In the article that was published in the Argus of the 9th August, Mr. Simpson stated that there had- been a virtual cessation of Soldier Settlement Commission work. He added -
The Commission wanted to get new settlers into occupation and production as early as possible. Lack of finance, however, had:
Forced the Commission to withhold blocks from successful applicants; -Steady up progress and other improvements;
Reduce expenditure on roads;
Ease on house building and shedding contracts.
He also said -
The Commission hud not entered into any contract to purchase land or find the finance for single unit farms since June 30. Curtailment of private credit .to farmers and restriction of funds for settlement had forced more farmers to apply to the Commission for financial aid.
Nothing that honorable members on the Government side say will dispose of the fact that financial authority in Aus- tralia is dominated completely by the Australian Government. It can deal with this problem by virtue of its ultimate control of the Commonwealth Bank alone, to say nothing of its capacity to issue treasury-bills. Every year the Australian Loan Council meets and an agreement is supposed to be reached between the six Premiers and the Federal Treasurer. Eternal wrangling takes place and a lump sum is allocated to each State. Each Premier goes back to his State and out of the money, that has been provided he must find capital for education, hospitalization, roads, electricity, police and numerous other requirements within the borders of his State. The Minister might ask why the Premiers do not allocate to war service land settlement the full amount that is given to them, but he cannot be oblivious to the fact that if hospitalization, education, public works, roads, electricity and other public instrumentalities in the -States are starved for money, not only war service land settlers but all other citizens suffer. In view of the paramount necessity for production, about which the Government has been talking for the last two years, the Government could, have departed from the system that it has employed and could have made money available for war service land settlement by means of a special allocation. It need have insisted only on proof of the economic size of the blocks.
When the Chifley Labour Government was in office, it appointed a Rural Reconstruction Commission which made an exhaustive survey of the rural economy and the general economy of Australia. It visualized the future requirements of Australia in food production. The commission prepared a table which showed clearly that 23,000 farmers in Australia, if engaged in diversified farming each according to his bent, could produce in one year sufficient food for 1,000,000 people. To-day, all that knowledge is available. If we put such a scheme into operation at “the rate of 5,000 farms a year, we should have 25,000 new farms at the end of five years. In Victoria alone, 6,000 ex-servicemen are waiting to be settled on the land. Another 7,000 are waiting in New South Wales, and 2,000 or 3,000 are waiting in Queensland. They are waiting patiently, but they are being frustrated because the necessary finance is not made available by the Austraiian Government. This matter affects not only ex-servicemen, but also our whole economy. We should hasten to complete the task of satisfying the requirements of ex-servicemen, and, as that job tapers off, to place ari additional 25,000 farmers on the land over a period of five years. There are 28,000 ex-servicemen waiting for land. If .we put those men and 25,000 others on the land, we should have over 50,000 extra farms,, which would be capable of producing each year sufficient food to meet the needs of 2,000,000 people.
– It is not enough.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) says that it is not enough. I am a modest man. If the honorable gentleman likes to do so, let him say that we should plan to settle 10,000 new farmers each year. But this Government has so damaged the financial and economic position of the Commonwealth during the last two years that it is unable to provide the finance that the principal States require to put 2,000 settlers on the land. hi those circumstances, does the honorable gentleman wish to double my figure of 5,000 new farmers each year ? I am not a partisan in this matter. Mr. McLeod and myself-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman must not use personal names.
– I suppose that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) . and myself are the only two members of the Parliament, who are survivors of the war service, land settlement scheme that operated! after World War I. We know the hardships that exservicemen settlers suffered under that scheme. Ex-servicemen who have been placed upon farms since the end of World War IL. are in a much better position, because there is a wellworked011 t plan for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States: They are almost kings in their own right on their properties. It is tragic and’ frightening that to-day Mr. Simpson, in Victoria, and Mr. Renshaw the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, have to tell the Parliaments of those States-
– The honorable gentle- * man should keep up to date. Mr. Renshaw is not Minister for Lands in New South Wales.
– The Minister for Lands in that State now is Mr. Hawkins. For the purposes of my argument, it does not matter whether the portfolio is held by Mr. Renshaw or by Mr. Hawkins. It is tragic that the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, like the corresponding Ministers in Queensland and Victoria, has to say to the State Parliament that, because of a shortage of finance, the Government of which he is a member cannot do the most important work of an economic nature that ia required to be done in his State. It is tragic that the Commonwealth passes the buck, and. says that it has. made offers of this kind and of that kind. It is tragic also that the Commonwealth is advancing the old argument that it has no responsibility to make available to the three principal States finance for war service land settlement because those States retained their sovereignty over land within their boundaries and said that they would conduct their own schemes, provided the Commonwealth made available loan money for land acquisition. Even if the States, because of a variety of circumstances, have, as it, were, broken down in. this connexion, there is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth from stepping in and allocating money to- them specifically for war service, land settlement, attaching only the tag that the same conditions shall apply in relation to» the expenditure of that money as apply; in relation to the expenditure of the very meagre sum that is made available now from the general allocation of loan money to the States. I arn. quite convinced that the States would respond to such’ an approach, and that the scheme would be brought to a successful conclusion.
I express, the. hope that this- work will not be. made. the. ‘subject’ of a sordid party wrangle.
Government supporters interjecting;
– I knew that honorable members in the Australian Country party corner of the chamber would rise, to the bait. I remind the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) that, as far as the Labour party is concerned, war service land settlement is not a matter for party wrangling. Most of the members of the Australian Country party in this chamber come from Victoria. The body in that State which is complaining most vehemently about the policy of this Government upon war service land settlement is the Victorian Cabinet, led by Mr. McDonald, the Country party Premier. He has been complaining about this Government, in which member .a of his own party hold cabinet rank, for the last two years. The Labour movement is not trying to make political capital out of the present unfortunate state of affairs. This is a matter, not of party politics but of common sense. The way out of our present difficulties is clear. Let the Government cease to quibble, and let it tell the States that money can be, and will be, found for war service land settlement schemes, and that it will be made available subject only to the condition that applies under the present agreements. If any money were allocated to a State by the Commonwealth for this purpose, th° Commonwealth should have the right to decide whether any proposition to subdivide a large estate or to purchase a farm was economically sound. If the Commonwealth decides that a project is not economically sound, it must have th° right to say that a State Government shall not expend upon that project money which the Commonwealth has provided. If it believes that a project is sound, it should say to the State concerned, “Go ahead with it. God bless you. Let us do something for our ex-servicemen “.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has illustrated the weakness of the Labour party’s case on war service land settlement. There are very few land men on the Opposition side of the chamber, and there are fewer returned servicemen. Therefore, the Opposition’s approach to this matter is to snipe at this
Government. On the Opposition side of the chamber, there may be three or four returned servicemen, and three or four land men. On this side of the House, there are over 50 returned servicemen, and four or five ex-prisoners of war. Of the 69 members of the Government parties, 43 represent rural electorates. Therefore, it is obvious that our approach to war service land settlement is sincere.
The honorable member for Lalor advanced the proposition that this Government should advance money to the States specifically for war service land settlement. Let us examine that proposition. The Labour party pays lip service to the sacred trade union movement, lt does not do anything to increase production or to help returned servicemen. In fact, a former Labour Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, and Mr. Dedman, who was then in charge of war service land settlement, apologized to the Labour movement for having promised to rehabilitate returned servicemen. They had to go, cap in hand, and say, “ We arc sorry, but we had to do this “.
Three States, known as agent States, agreed to act as agents for the Commonwealth in war service land settlement. Those States have done a very good job. The three States that are known as the principal States refused to act as agents for the Commonwealth. Let us examine the attitude that they adopted. I understand ‘ that when the Premier of New South Wales was offered funds specifically for the purposes of war service land settlement, he said, as it was quite proper for him to do, because New South Wales is a sovereign State -
That would be a completely untenable position. The Government of New South Wales will decide how much money will be spent on war service land settlement. We will get, as usual, from the Commonwealth Government, our share of income tax collections and loan funds, and we will decide, in the exercise of our sovereign powers, what proportion of that money shall be given to returned servicemen.
For a number of years, when, somewhat belatedly, a returned serviceman was Minister for Lands in New ‘ South Wales, money was expended upon war service land settlement, and a number of ex-servicemen were settled on the land. The present’ Minister for Lands in New
South Wales is not a returned serviceman or a land man. He is the member for Newcastle in the New South Wales Parliament. This year, he decided that no further war service land settlement should be undertaken in New South Wales. He said that, although the New South Wales Government had, on its estimates, £6,000,000 for war service land settlement this year, and although it had expended upon that purpose £4,000,000 last year and £4,000,000 in the previous year, it would reduce its expenditure in that field this year to £2,000,000, which would be used to meet commitments entered into in the previous year. As far as I know, no returned servicemen will be settled on the land in New South Wales this year. The New South Wales Government used some ofthe money at its disposal to purchase an electric light and. power corporation which was already in operation. In pursuance of the old worn-out doctrine of socialism, it used millions of pounds to purchase a corporation which was being operated efficiently by private enterprise. Now, returned servicemen in that State can say to themselves, “Although we have not got our farms, the State now owns an electric light and power corporation. It will not give to us one more kilowatt, because it was in operation when the State bought it. The kilowatts, which are now socialized, have been bought with money that should have been used for war service land settlement “. The State of New South Wales, preserving its sovereignty in relation to the use of its funds, has reduced expenditure upon war service land settlement to nil. I understand that the New South Wales Minister for Lands was sufficiently callous to attend a nonpolitical returned servicemen’s congress, to use it as a political forum, and to tell the congress that 150 farms that might have been allotted to returned servicemen would be returned to their owners, who could sell them in any market in which they liked to offer them.
What promise was given to the servicemen of this country in this connexion? During the war, a paper entitled Salt was circulated among our troops. One edition contained an article headed, “ Land plans taking shape “. They were not taking shape, of course. It was believed at that time that the morale of our troops on the islands was low, because very little fighting was in progress and many of the troops were, so to speak, just standing about, which, in the tropics, was not good for them. It was decided to publish propaganda articles in Salt to lift the morale of the troops. This is the kind of thing that was read by our troops who were waiting to go home in 1944-
Land plans taking shape.
That was an absolute lie by the Labour party.
-.Order! The honorable gentleman must not use such terms. He is at liberty to use them outside the House, not inside.
– I withdraw the word “ lie “. I say that a very inaccurate and very false statement was made. It was a dreadful statement to make to men who were then in the front line.
– What date was that?
– This is the kind of thing that was read by our men in the tropics-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! The House is becoming quite disorderly. I must ask it to take a grip of itself and listen to the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who, in due course, will be answered by somebody else.
– The article read, in part -
For those Salt readers, among the 50,000 men-
Fifty thousand ! - expected to go on the land after the war, here are Federal Cabinet proposals for land settlement of ex-servicemen (submitted to the States ) .
The article continued -
That settlement of servicemen should be carried out where prospects for an adequate reward are reasonably sound.
After twelve years of Labour rule in New South Wales and eight years of Labour rule in the federal sphere only 5,317 men out of that promised 50,000 had been settled on the land up to the 30th June last. The Labour party was never sincere about land settlement of exservicemen. The actions of the New South Wales Government proved how insincere the Labour party is, yet that government has been feeding out to the people nonsense to the effect that the Commonwealth has refused to make available the money necessary for land settlement. Actually the New South Wales Government itself reduced the amount it proposed to expend on land settlement below 6 per cent, of the funds New South Wales had been allocated at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council. The council’s meetings are held in camera and we are not told much about them, but we know that the New South Wales Premier and the Premiers of the other principal States refused to take money specifically for land settlement from this Government, which would do anything on earth to settle exservicemen on the land. The Premier of New South Wales could have had that money at any time. The agreements with the three agent States, which have a good record in relation to land settlement, show what could have been done by New South Wales had it been keen to help ex-servicemen to settle on the land. The figures with respect to land settlement of ex-servicemen in New South Wales show that in that State, up to the 30th June last, only 1,856 men had been placed on holdings, although 18,000 men received A-l qualification certificates. That is to say, New South Wales virtually entered into a contract with 18,000 men who had taken the trouble to obtain A-l qualification certificates. Probably about another 20,000 men did not bother to obtain such certificates because they knew how futile such action would be. They probably thought that by the time they had been settled on the land by the New South Wales Government they would have long white beards. On the loth August, 1945, almost two years after some of these men had come back from the war, only two or three men had been settled on the land in New South Wales because of the New South Wales Government’s dilatoriness.
That is not, however, the worst feature of the situation in New South Wales. I am sorry to say that the New South Wales Government has proclaimed more than 4,000,000 acres of the best land in New South Wales. The existence of the proclamations means that the owners, knowing that they must accept 1942 values plus 15 per cent., under the unfair New South Wales law, have refused to spend any more money on their land. Every honorable member knows that if a land-owner is not prepared to topdress his land or improve it with modern methods and so improve its carrying capacity, the land cannot be put to its proper use. Yet, although these proclamations have had such a blighting effect on a huge area of splendid land, the New South Wales Government has stated that it will not settle any more ex-servicemen this year. Because that land is kept out of full production as a result of the proclamations, probably 8,000,000 sheep which could be pastured on it had it been improved, are not being pastured there. Mr. Blake Pelly, who represents the electorate of Wollondilly in the New South Wales Parliament, has on many occasions directed attention in that parliament to this dreadful situation. I say quite definitely that the Labour party, not only in this Parliament, but also that in the New South Wales Parliament, is insincere in relation to land settlement of ex-servicemen. It has let down returned servicemen dreadfully, it has let down land production, it has let down production of wool, it has let down dairy production-
– The honorable member has repeated the phrase “let down” four times.
– I shall repeat it again.
– The honorable member should be called to order for tedious repetition.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) need not attempt to aid me.
– This is the sort of repetition that might hurt the honorable member for Hunter, who, I believe, is fair enough to agree that if these promises were made in all earnestness to the servicemen of this country while they were on active service thousands of miles away from their homes, then at least onehalf of them should have been kept.
Servicemen were callously told that 50,000 men would be settled on the land. If the settlement of only 5,317 out of the promised 50,000 does not represent the breaking of a promise, then I do not know what does.
– “Was it not the Australian Government that made the promise ?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) for his interjection. It was the Curtin Government, in which Mr. Dedman, as Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, administered war . service land settlement, which made the promise. En an article written by Mr. Dedman and published in Salt, the Curtin Government told the troops that they would be settled on the land after the war. An article which contained the same promise in relation to troops from New South Wales was also written by the then New South Wales Minister for Lands, Mr. Tully. Salt was the official publication of the Army education authorities and in that respect was a government organ. lt was circulated among the troops, who honestly believed that some effort, better than that which eventually materialized, was forthcoming. I shall compare what has been done in the various States in relation to war service land settlement up to the 30th June last. New South Wales settled 1,856 exservicemen; Victoria, which is a much smaller State than New South Wales, settled 1,822, or almost the same number as New South Wales. The number settled in New South Wales included a large proportion of men who went on to the Western Lands Division leasehold area and cannot be considered to be ex-service settlers. Western Australia settled 639 men at a cost of more than £12,000,000, which was more than half the amount that was expended by New South Wales, although that State has, compared with Western Australia, an enormous land settlement potential.
– The honorable member should read the figures correctly. The figure in relation to New South Wales is £6,000,000.
– New South Wales expended much more than £6,000,000. It expended £22,000,000, but it should have expended much more than that sum. That i3 my complaint. I do not know the source from which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr.- Haylen) can have obtained his figures.
– From Hansard.
– Then he is misreading it. I suggest that, before he makes his own speech on the bill,’ he should re-examine the figures. As I was saying, Western Australia expended £12,000,000 on the settlement of 639 men ; South Australia settled 475 men; Queensland 427 men; and Victoria 1,822, or almost as many as New South Wales, which fell down on the job. One of the most serious aspects of the matter in New South Wales is, as I have said, that great areas of land have been frozen by proclamation whilst at the same time ex-servicemen have been refused any further settlement. That means that the Labour party is the enemy not only of ex-servicemen, but also of .rural production. It does not understand the problems connected with either the land settlement of ex-servicemen or rural production. The 1942 values, plus 15 per cent., which the New South Wales Government will pay for land that it resumes for settlement, represents probably only two-fifths of the value that the owners could obtain for it on the open market. The owners, therefore, will not throw good money after bad, and will not improve their land by using subterranean clover, superphosphate dressing or any other modern methods.
– What are the sizes of the areas involved?
-Order! I advise the honorable member1 for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to ignore interjections and continue his speech.
– I suggest that when land is proclaimed, the proclamation shall lapse at the end of one year if the land has not been used for settlement. Instead of the compulsory resumption of land, or the purchase of land under the threat of resumption, which is what is happening now, other schemes should be adopted whereby the owners themselves could select men to settle on the land under the group promotion system. Under that system a number of exservicemen who propose to settle on the land can approach an owner for permission to settle. The system gives to the owner a choice in relation to the people who may settle on his land. It is better than taking land compulsorily from the owners, as was done at Yass in the Magennis case. Under such a system we would get better men on the land.
– The group promotion system has been used in New South Wales.
– Yes, but it has accounted for only a small proportion of land settlement in that State, and it cannot continue because the New South Wales Government has stated that it will not settle any more men this year. The money that would otherwise be expended on land settlement in New South Wales this year will be used for other purposes, which I have already mentioned. There is, therefore, very little hope for ex-servicemen under the New South Wales Labour Government. The Labour party has shown itself to be completely insincere about land settlement .
.- The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) who professed to be a man of knowledge in relation- to rural matters, spent the first few moments of his speech rubbing salt into his own , wounds. I remind him that the party to which he belongs has been in office since 1949 and. that in the interim the responsibility of doing something in respect of the settlement of ex-service personnel has rested fairly and squarely upon its shoulders. But it has done nothing. It is all very well for Government supporters to get into a gaggle of excitement about the agent States and the sovereign States under the existing agreements with the Commonwealth in respect of the land settlement of ex-servicemen. The States themselves chose to act as agent States or principal States, and there is nothing wrong with those arrangements. How.ever, if powers are divisible, repatriation, is not, divisible; and the repatriation of 28,000 ex-servicemen on the land is the Government’s responsibility. When doe.’i the Government intend to get on with the job? It is all very well for the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to talk about difficulties that are being experienced with recalcitrant State Ministers for Lands, who, he has said, have refused to work smoothly with the Commonwealth. That is no way for the Government to discharge its job of repatriating 28,000 ex-servicemen on the land.
The honorable member for Macarthur said that 47 Government members in this House were ex-servicemen, and he chided the Opposition with that fact. I remind him that those honorable members have looked after their own repatriation. They should also look after the repatriation of the 28,000 ex-servicemen who are affected by this scheme. They can do so only by pushing on with the job, and by ceasing merely to excuse their inaction because of a fault in some mechanical process. It is the Commonwealth’s duty to repatriate these ex-servicemen. But Government supporters are content merely to talk about the lack of requisite finance. They are. simply worrying- the problem into the ground while they are doing nothing about it. One would be rather optimistic in asking the Government to evolve a plan; but the people regard the settlement of ex-service personnel as the first call on settlement of any kind and the first step that the Government should take towards increasing the production of food. The honorable member for Macarthur has been selling famine, to the people for the last two years, and his contribution to the debate this evening has added nothing to a solution of this problem, which is most serious. It is not a question of whetherthe plan in respect of agent States or that in respect of principal States under the agreements with the Commonwealth is good or bad. While the Government is bringing hundreds of thousands of immigrants into this country, it has the duty to ensure that they shall be fed
The argument that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) advanced has not been refuted. His remarks in respect of finance were perfectly sound. . He pointed out that the Government has made an eleventh-hour repentance with respect to the use of treasurybills. It proposes hy that method to finance an expenditure of £20,000,000 for housing and also to raise £6,000,000 for the purpose of implementing the proposals contained in this measure. The Government should not set any limit upon the amount that it will provide for the land settlement of ex-service personnel. The honorable member for Lalor pointed out that there is 110 inhibiting factor in this respect and that no alchemy is needed to make this scheme workable. It can be made to succeed by the exercise of common sense on the part of both the Government and the Opposition. As the Commonwealth still holds the purse strings, it. should do something to help the Statesto proceed with the settlement of exservicemen. Government supporters get away from the point by directing attention to the Government’s expenditure on social services and its expenditure on longrange projects. The land settlement of ex-servicemen is an immediate, urgent problem and adequate finance should be made for that purpose. It will -be a sad thing for this country if the Australian Loan Council cannot work out a formula for the provision of the requisite finance.
The honorable member for Lalor put the matter where it belonged when he said that if we are to repatriate exservicemen now is the time to get on with the job. He cited certain figures that can well be repeated. The Minister for Lands in New South Wales has said that in that State 2,000 farms have been surveyed and have been made ready for occupation but will not go into production simply because the requisite finance is not available. Yet the Minister has been content merely to babble about difficulties that have arisen under the two agreements with the agent States and the principal States. A curse on both their houses! Will the present plan prevent ex-servicemen, who have qualified for certificates that indicate that they are competent farmers, from being repatriated on the land? The Minister for Lands in New South Wales has said that the only obstacle to the settlement of those 2,000 farms is lack of finance. Yet this measure embodies a provision for the raising of finance by the use of treasury-bills although, not so long ago, the Government was of the opinion that such finance was not really money. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the joint policy speech of the present Government parties during the general election campaign in 1949, declared that he would refuse to use treasury-bills, whilst the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) expressed astonishment that any government of his party-political kidney would use treasury-bills. To-day, however, Government supporters are all for using that method of finance. That being so, the Government should use it in order to push on with the job of settling the 2,000 farms that are ready to go into production in New South Wales and upon which 2,000 qualified ex-servicemen are eager to start production. Since I last spoke upon this subject in this House I have been flooded with correspondence from ex-servicemen and others who arc anxious to go on the land, praying that in any circumstances all parties in this Parliament and in the State parliaments will resolve their differences in order to get on with the job. Whilst the provision of finance is of paramount importance, it is not the greatest factor to be considered in this matter. The frustrating factor is that the Government, is still on the side of the land monopolists for whom it is stooging. It is merely putting up a smoke-screen in this matter. Where is the merit of the charge that has been made by Government supporters that the Chifley Government muddled this scheme? The honorable member for Macarthur talked about a statement that appeared in a servicemen’s magazine in 1943 to the effect that 50,000 farms would be made available to ex-servicemen. This problem is conditioned by factor? that are apparent. Foremost among them is the attitude of the Government of begging the question. It is useless to talk about the State governments trying to do this job themselves. If they have failed, they have failed honorably because of lack of equipment and resistance on the part of land-owners who have refused to dispose of their fertile properties for this purpose. They have merely worked the surface of fertile lands and in doing so have caused soil erosion for which, in many instances, they should have been guoled. This, of course, does not apply to all those on the land, but to far too many nevertheless.
Where is the honesty of the Government in this matter? I have been nettled by the references of the honorable member for Macarthur to the phalanx of exservicemen in the ranks of honorable members opposite. Those ex-servicemen Iia ve displayed masterly inactivity in respect of the interests of the mass of ex-servicemen. The honorable member also suggested that only persons who have lived in country towns would know anything about the problem of land settlement. I refute such a suggestion. What fs. the ‘real impediment to the proper settlement of ex-servicemen on the land? It is not lack of finance, because, if the Government were sincere in this matter, it could to-morrow launch a £50,000,000 loan for this purpose and in doing so rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the public. Such is the patriotism of the Australian people that they would over-subscribe such a loan. Deposits in savings banks now exceed £900,000,000 and the owners of that money desire to ensure adequate food production, which can be achieved under a proper plan for land settlement. When I asked the Treasurer to elucidate the Government’s plan in this matter he bleated about the problem being one for the States and immediately ran under the cushions, or the treasury bench. Government supporters are implacable on this matter. The honorable member for Macarthur supported my contention that the Government is standing behind the land monopolists who do not wan,t their estates to be cut up for thi.* purpose. The honorable member cried that 4,000,000 acres has been tied up by the States for the settlement of (–servicemen and argued’ that such property should be die-proclaimed. He also cried about the fact that successors of persons, who inherited land 160’ years ago were not receiving a reasonable increment from their properties. Does, he suppose that the 28,000 ex-servicemen who are waiting to be repatriated on the land will, be distressed by the plight in which those squatters find’ themselves? The honorable member also urged that proclamations in respect of land that is declared to be suitable for the settlement of ex-servicemen should remain in fores for only one year. The fact is that landowners are trying to hang on to their properties for as long as possible in order to defeat the scheme, which is lagging as a result not so much of a shortage of equipment or of money as of the reluctance of vested land interests to yield their estates for this purpose. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) told us a terrific story about the decay of rural production, which he attributed to the tug on employment in the cities. Even if he were correct, that factor would not excuse the Government for failing to assuage the hunger of exservicemen for land on which to settle. The Government has no specific plan for land settlement of any kind, or for increasing food production.
The hold-up of this scheme has nothing to do with the States. In the final analysis no problem exists that cannot be solved by the provision of adequate finance. This problem is related to the ‘feeding of immigrants who ar& arriving by the thousand in this country. The only fertile lands-, in Australia, exist in the green fringe where ‘settlers have prospered- for many years. The owners of such land are raising obstacles in the- way of those who aretrying to do- a real job i-n this matter. The honorable member for Macarthur referred to the resumption of Jeir Station in the Yass district. Tha.t transaction was the subject- of a judgment by theHigh Court and illustrates the lengthsto which owners, of large estates are prepared to go in order- to- resist the resumption of their properties to serve the greaterdemand, ofl ex-servicemen and the still greater demands of the nation. The basiccause of the hold-up of this scheme- is the reluctance on the- part of” land monopoliesto yield a«. square inch of their property for- this purpose. Yet, the same’ interests displayed all the- patriotism in- the world about- the serviceman and* the- great jobthat he did in defending this country. They expressed feelings of pride for theserviceman when he went to war and when he returned after- victory had been won, and- they declared that nothing wastoo good for him. But what has- been their attitude towards the exservicemanwhen he’ has demanded’ reasonable wages- and working conditions or fulfilment of the nation’s promise to repatriate him by settling him on the land? That is the crux of the whole problem. Government supporters will boggle on for as long as the Government remains in office. The Government should . evolve an imaginative plan. First, it should re-condition the public mind in this matter. Immigrants are arriving in this country at a rate in excess of 100,000 a year. Already, approximately 1,000,000 new Australians are in this country. The honorable member for Lalor pointed out that 23,000 additional farms would be able to produce sufficient food to meet the requirements of that additional population. The 28,000 ex-servicemen who are waiting to go on the land would be capable of performing that task if means were found to put them on. the land. There i.? no need to argue further about where responsibility rests in this matter. It is time that the Government got on with the job and evolved a suitable plan. It should find the requisite finance for this purpose. 1. repeat that the crux of the problem is reluctance on the part of land-owners to yield their properties on just terms for this purpose. The Minister for the Interior and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), in the course of previous debutes on this subject, were loud in their praise of the squatters and in championing their right to keep out ex-servicemen because, they said, their land was not being acquired o» just terms. I remind honorable members that those two gentlemen are distinguished ex-servicemen. I cannot understand their attitude.
– Does not the honorable member agree that land should be acquired on just terms?
– I do not agree that land should be paid for at inflated prices. The Liberal interpretation of just terms is the largest amount of money that can be paid for the land. If there is a fair standard of value for land what right lias the Government to huy it at inflated prices and carry the cost of the land through taxation?
– Under the Constitution, land must be acquired on just terms.
– The Constitution lays down that land must be acquired on just terms, but I suggest that “ just terms “ would be widely interpreted. If the Government believes that just terms are inflated terms, it had better hold another referendum. - No Government apologetics will blind the people to the fact that nothing of much value is being done by the Government for exservicemen. The old alibi of the Government was that it could not do* anything for ex-servicemen because the States would not allow it to do so. The new alibi is that there is no money available. But the Government is eating its own words about credit, as its recent manipulations of bank credit prove. There is no limit to what the Government can do with bank credit if it is prepared to adopt the view that it can use bank credit for productive works without undue inflation. The Government is now using bank credit, and therefore it should be courageous enough to find from this source the money necessary to make farms available to ex-servicemen. The land settlement of ex-servicemen is a matter for the Australian Government. At the present stage it is a repatriation matter and not a land settlement matter entirely.
The Government must try not to make worse the position of those who have to yield up their land. There is only a certain area, of suitable land in the States, because the vast open spaces about which we so glibly speak are composed of lands that will be of no use until they are developed. Dams will have to be constructed, rivers .diverted and great areas rendered arable. The land settlement of ex-servicemen is closer settlement, and there persons are already in possession of the’ land that is needed. They will have to yield up more of their land or we shall not be able adequately to settle ex-servicemen. The Government is not courageous enough to measure up to the fact that this problem is One fairly and squarely for itself. The problem has nothing to do with the little row that the Prime Minister had. during the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, and it has very little to do with the theories and gibes of the honorable member for Macarthur, who said that Labour had no plan for war service land settlement.
I have at present in my hand the original war service land settlement plan under which the Government is at present operating. This plan was produced and implemented by the Chifley Government. The honorable member for Lalor pointed out that there are two segments to this matter, and that the Government’s policy has fallen down on the legal conditions. If the Government has no legal responsibility for the land settlement of ex-servicemen under the old plan it should devise a new one. This country needs food and it needs development. Discontented farmers’ sons who are working in the city and want to get back to the land should be given the opportunity to do so. Primarily, the ex-servicemen who have gone through a standard training to qualify them for orchard work, sheep or fat lamb raising, dairy work or other agricultural pursuits, should certainly be settled on the land. The. 25,000 to 28,000 ex-servicemen who are still waiting for farms must be settled or the Government will stand indicted of having failed in its duty notwithstanding its alleged patriotism and the tremendous number of exservicemen within its own ranks.
Honorable members on the Government side like to rattle sabre and denounce other parties ‘because they do not contain a preponderance of exservicemen. Nevertheless it is not always parties constituted as are the Government parties that show a full and proper interest in the problems of exservicemen. When the Minister replies in this debate he should not give to us a technical dissertation about the Australian Loan Council, because honorable members want to know why there are still 28,000 ex-servicemen waiting for farms. We also want to know why there are not more farms available, why there is not some money available, what is the system under which the Government intends to work and whether the Government is going to give to these men a right to the land for which they have been waiting for seven long years. He should realize that the Government cannot subsist any longer by criticizing the Chifley Government, which has been out of office for some years. The Government must be fair to the State governments that first began war service land settlement during a worldwide shortage of most things and that faced other problems after those shortages were overcome. This Government should finish the job of repatriation which it has neglected, and which must be completed before it can face the people and tell them that it is honestly trying to do something for ex-servicemen.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that this Government should find out the cause of the slowing down of the land settlement of exservicemen and that it stood indicted upon the fact that 28,000 ex-servicemen were not settled on the land. He knows, as does everybody that one of the main reasons for the slowing of the plan may be found in the principal States. He also knows that the true basis of this scheme is not the number of applicants for land, but the area of suitable land available on which to settle exservicemen. That matter was strongly argued during the initial conferences when the proposal was first discussed in 1944 by the Curtin Government and the State Premiers. The honorable member for Parkes said that the settling of ex-servicemen on the land was a matter of repatriation. It appears from what I have read that throughout Austral ia the members of the Labour party are not in agreement on that matter. In the initial discussion of the scheme in 1944. the then Premier of New South Wales, obviously supported by the Premiers of Victoria and Queensland, because they concurred with every word he said, stated that the matter of repatriation was one for the Commonwealth and that land settlement was a matter within the prerogative of the States. At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in August, 1944, he said - So far I have suggested that the financial responsibility of the Commonwealth should relate only to repatriation. I have said that responsibility in respect of land settlement should rest with the States.
His further statement, also supported by the Premiers of the two other principal States, was -
The repatriation aspect is obviously a Common wealth responsibility, but the proposal that the States should abrogate their responsibilities with respect to land settlement is untenable.
Since that time there has been in some cases slight differences and in some cases great differences of opinion between the principal States and the Commonwealth in the carrying out of this scheme. The honorable member for Parkes said that there were 2,000 farms already available in New South Wales, but that it was impossible to settle men on this land because of the lack of finance. The Labour Minister for Lands in New South Wales spoke on the 10th of this month at a function at which a Mr. Falkiner, representing F. S. Falkiner and Sons Proprietary Limited, presented lOO rams to ex-servicemen settlers. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 10th September reported that function. The report stated, inter alia -
Speaking at the function the Minister for Lands, Mr. F. EL Hawkins, said thu number of soldier settlers who would be placed on X.S.W. farms this financial year will compare favourably with last year.
So that is the position in New South Wales. Next year will be the crucial year insofar as ex-service settlers are concerned. “ The honorable member for Lalor said that it was high time the Government pushed on with the scheme and made funds available to the principal States, or made a. friendly advance to them, by saying, “ We are prepared to help you to push this scheme ahead “. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, Mr. Foley, the Queensland Minister for Lands, met the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) with a view to seeking a loan of about £3,000 a farm to enable the establishment of ex-servicemen on the land. At that time he said -
The question arises whether the Commonwealth should have made a greater contribution towards the capital cost of placing a settler on the land. This matter is really a Commonwealth one.
The Minister for the Interior - and the minutes of the conference will show this - then offered to take in the principal States on the same basis as the agent States. The honorable member for Parkes said that we should float a loan of £50,000,000 for this project. If the responsibility for finding money in this regard is to rest with the Commonwealth, then the Commonwealth is entitled to have some voice in its allocation. That problem has arisen in connexion with another matter since 1944. It is very pleasant to have a wealthy father to whom one can say “ I have run up a few bills, will you pay them for me ? “ Private persons never get anywhere under a system such as that, and the same thing applies to governments. If this Government is to have the responsibility of raising the finance it should have the responsibility of seeing how it is allocated. The Minister for the Interior told the last Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers -
It seems to me now that you must either put up to the Commonwealth that you want to become an agent State or that you want to continue to be a principal State. There can be no half measure.
As soon as that was said the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria ‘ and Queensland fluttered up like a gaggle of frightened geese. The Premier of Victoria accused the Minister of something that he had done while he was a member of a State government. The Premier of New South Wales said : “ We did not think it would be a loan, we wanted it as a grant.” We intend to raise money by means of this legislation to make grants to Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, but in making that money available the Commonwealth will have some voice in the class of land that exservicemen will be settled on, and the amount that will be paid for it. The only straight-out prerogative of the agent States will be that of administration. If the principal States want to get money under the same terms as the agent States observe they will have to come into the agreement on those same terms and allow the Commonwealth to see how the money will be allocated. This Government does not wish to carry the odium of raising money and then find that New South Wales has expended it on the eastern suburbs railway, for instance, or some other scheme that is designed merely to serve the people of the city. If the Government is to supply money for war service land settlement it must have some voice in the manner in which the money is expended.
Mr. Tom Burke interjecting,
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) appears to be wanting to say something. I recall that the honorable member said on many occasions, particularly following the referendum on prices, that the Australian Government was not going to make money available to the States if it could not have some voice in the administration of its expenditure. We are witnessing to-night an exhibition similar to that which occurred at the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers when the Minister for the Interior offered to undertake that the Commonwealth would carry the burden for the principal States and treat them as agent States. The Premiers of the three principal States ran away from the offer. The Minister for Lands in Queensland declared in the Legislative Assembly of that State on 2nd September last that he could obtain no response from the Australian Government.
– That is true.
– The minutes of the conference in July state clearly, in simple language, that the Australian Government declared its willingness to treat the principal States as it was already treating the agent States. Nothing could have been fairer than that.
Let us consider the position in the principal States. We have heard the complaint that this Government will not make money available for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. The honorable member for Lalor referred to an article in the Melbourne Herald under the heading, “ Soldiers’ Land Scheme Stalls. Occasional Rabbiters Cheaper Than Settlers “. He said that the latter statement had been made by the chairman -of the Soldier Settlement Commission in Victoria, but the Herald attributed the article to a staff reporter, and I am prepared to put the blame on the reporter. I am astonished that any newspaper should publish such an article without having checked the facts. The article included the following passage in heavy type: -
Victoria’s soldier settlement scheme - the only one in the Commonwealth which gives former servicemen the chance ever to own their own farms - has ground to a halt.
When this Government came to office, it enabled settlers in the agent States, who previously had been tied by the Labour
Government to perpetual leases, to exercise the option of acquiring their properties on freehold “or perpetual lease terms subject to the land laws of the respective States. In Western Australia, for example, State law provides for both leasehold and freehold tenure of properties. Therefore, ex-servicemen who acquire land under this scheme in the agent States are able to make their choice between leasehold and freehold tenure.
Critics of the Government have said that lack of money has caused the breaking down of the war service land settlement scheme, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland. I shall concentrate my attention on those two States, because Victoria at least is making some sort of an attempt to assist ex-servicemen. By the end of the current year, Victoria will have provided about £32,500,000 for the land settlement of ex-servicemen, compared with about £24,000,000 which will have been provided by New South Wales. In 1946-47, New South Wales made available for war service land settlement £1,260,000, or 8.5 per cent, of its loan allocation. In 1947-48, it made available £3,200,000, which was 12.5 per cent, of its loan allocation. In 1948-49 it reached the peak of its generosity when it made available £4,500,000, which Was 27.7 per cent, of its loan allocation.
– A Labour government, was in office in the Commonwealth then.
– In 1949-50, before the election of this Government, New South Wales received a loan allocation of £29,500,000. It made available for war service land settlement only £4,360,000. In other words, although its loan allocation had been increased by £13,000,000, it decreased its allotment for land settlement of ex-servicemen. In 1950-51, New South Wales received a loan allocation of £40,744,000, which was £11,000,000 more than it had received in the previous year and £24,000,000 more than it had received in 1948-49 under a Labour Government. Of that total, it made available for war service land settlement a sum of £4,581,000, or 11.2 per cent.
– But the £1 was worth 20s. when the Labour Government was in power.
– At least the New South Wales Government should have maintained the proportion of its allotment for the land settlement scheme. Its loan allocation was increased in order to compensate it for higher costs, hut it allowed the provision for ex-servicemen, for whom Labour supporters so frequently shed crocodile tears, to fall down the scale. The loan allocation to New South Wales in 1951-52 was increased by £24,000,000 to £64,000,000. But it? allotment for war service land settlement was only £4,023,000, or about 6 per cent of the total allocation.
The more money the New South Wale? Government reecives from the Australian Loan Council, in which it exercises a considerable influence, the more it seems to indulge in wasteful expenditure on grandiose schemes in the overcrowded City of Sydney, where it is already impossible to provide adequate facilities for the seething population, instead of using the extra revenue to develop the sparsely settled regions of the State by acquiring land on just and reasonable terms for the settlement of ex-servicemen. I come now to the figures for 1952-53. It- i* estimated-
– By whom?
– By the Australian Loan Council, of which Victoria and New South Wales are influential members, not by the Commonwealth Treasurer. It i3 estimated that £70,370,000 will be made available to the New South Wales Government this year, but it has decided to make only the paltry sum of £2,000,000, or 2.8 per cent, of the total, available for war service land settlement. Thus, its provision for land settlement of ex-servicemen has decreased from 27 per cent, in 1948-49 to an estimated 2.8 per cent, in the current year. That is an absolute disgrace. When the Minister for the Interior, who is an ex-serviceman, like many others on this side of the House, offered to take the three principal States into the land settlement scheme on the same basis as the agent States, so that they might have an opportunity to place applicants on the land before they grew beards to their knees, the Premiers, of those States rejected the offer. The honorable gentle man made the proposal in this chamber at the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in July and repeated it through the newspapers and by means of every other medium of publicity available to him. The Premiers rejected the offer on the ground that the ‘ determination of war service land settlement policy was the sole prerogative of the States, but they claim that repatriation is a prerogative of the Commonwealth. Members of the Opposition have said to-night that this Government has fallen down on its job. The fault does not lie with this Government. War service land settlement has come almost to a standstill in the three principal States because of the ineptitude of the State governments.
– The situation is due to the failure of this Government to provide enough money for land settlement.
– The truth is that the New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland governments have not made proper use of their revenues.
I was amazed to read in the Queensland Gazette of the 19th August this following statement in the record of the Governor’s speech at the opening of the new session of the State Parliment: -
Queensland’s contribution towards war service land settlement is in the ratio of approximately 10 to the Commonwealth’s 1.
What has the Queensland Government actually expended on its war service land settlement scheme? The land provided under the scheme is available only on leasehold tenure. Each settler is required to pay immediately 1.5 per cent, of the unimproved value of the land and to purchase the structures and other capital improvements on it. What direct contributions is the Queensland Government paying into the scheme ? Every new settler can borrow from the Agricultural Bank up to an amount of £7,500, but he must pay interest on the loan. Every penny paid into the scheme by the Queensland Government, except for the cost of administration, is an investment on which it collects interest from the ex-servicemen. The Commonwealth meets any administrative costs that it incurs, pays a living allowance for the first twelve months while the settler’s new property becomes productive, pays for any training that is required, meets half the cost of writing down if writing down be necessary, and also, if necessary, pays one-half of any losses sustained. Therefore, the fact that the war service land settlement scheme is languishing is the fault, not of. this Government, but of the State Government, which has insisted on conducting the scheme in its own way since 1944 at the expense of ex-servicemen.
The G overnments ofWestern Australia, South Australia and Tasmania - and I remind honorable members opposite that a Labour government has been in power in Tasmania for a long time - did not accept the conditions imposed upon them as agent States solely because of their financial position. They took other factors into consideration as well. The honorable member for Lalor twitted the Minister for the Interior and said that he had not offered to place the principal States on the same footing as that of the agent States. Let us see what the late Mr.Curtin said in 1944, when he was Prime Minister. On the 5th October of that year, at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, he was asked the following question by the Premier of Victoria : -
Is this agreement limited to the three States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, or can any other State come in if it so desires?
Mr. Curtin replied
No, because we have drawn up a plan for the three States which, having regard to their financial position, are entitled to an arrangement different from that with the other States.
When a similar question was put to the present Minister for the Interior at the conference last July, he said to the representatives of the principal States -
Yes, you can come into the scheme as agent States.
In the so-called “ good old days “, under a Labour government in the Commonwealth, the three principal States were refused a chance to accept the status of agent States. But this Government ha.” reversed the decision of Mr. Curtin. The Minister for the Interior has made a clear offer, and that offer still holds good. The principal States will be accepted as agent States if they agree to abide by the terms and conditions that apply to the present agent States. There is nothing wrong with that offer.
Great progress has been made in Western Australia, where ?12,000,000 has been expended on the war service land settlement scheme. I admit that many complaints have been made in the three agent States, but they are not so serious that they cannot be settled by the State administrations. The ex-servicemen who have been settled on the land in those States are as pleased as Punch with the system. They are prospering, and money is flowing back into the scheme as men begin to repay the advances that were made to them. Furthermore, that money, instead of being returned to Consolidated Revenue, remains in arevolving fund so that it helps to finance the settlement of other applicants. If members of the Opposition from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have any genuine concern for the interests of ex-servicemen who want to establish themselves on the land, they will urge the State governments to accept the terms that were offered to them by the Minister for the Interior at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
.- The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has wriggled in a vain endeavour to place on the shoulders of the State governments responsibility for the breakdown of war service land settlement. He has made all sorts of excuses in an effort to shield this Government, which has failed completely to repatriate ex-servicemen. Guilty men always try to place the blame on to some one else. This Government is only following the traditional line of previous tory governments in this regard. Tonight, I shall indulge in some plain speaking. At all costs we must avoid a repetition of the mistakes that were made with war service land settlement 30 years ago, but I fear that if this Government remains in office a repetition of them is inevitable.
– Tell us the old story again.
– I blame the Australian Country party more than the Liberal party in this matter because members of the Australian Country party mislead the people, and, unfortunately, some of the electors take them at their word and believe them to be genuine. The members of the Australian Country party think that the virtue of sincerity in repatriation matters resides solely in members of the Government. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) made such a claim. Few ex-servicemen will be settled on the land in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland this year ; yet, six years after the end of World War II., the war service land settlement should be progressing favorably. That it is being retarded by the policy of this Government is shameful. Honorable members opposite claim that there are more ex-servicemen in the ranks of the Government parties than there are among members of the Labour party. If that be so, the exservicemen opposite should be “ game “ to stand up to the Government. Instead of so doing they sit in their places like hacks behind the Government and do as they are told. They accept everything that the Government does without voicing a protest. Why have not the ex-servicemen opposite supported the Country party Premier of Victoria in his battle with the Commonwealth for additional loan moneys? In my opinion, he has done a good job in settling ex-servicemen on the land, through the instrumentality of the Soldier Settlement Commission.
Unfortunately, the position of the war service land settlement scheme is deteriorating. I shall go directly to the genesis of its deterioration. The scheme was progressing satisfactorily until the Menzies Government assumed office. During the last two years, its progress has slackened as the result of a lack of loan funds. The Government has endeavoured to place the blame for that position upon the Australian Loan Council. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) informed me, in reply to questions, that the loan allocations to the States were being reduced. That statement cannot be denied. Vet the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who introduced this bill, complained that the States had reduced their allocations of money for war service land settlement by a greater percentage than they had re duced their allocations for other purposes. The Government should have at heart the interests of all ex-servicemen, and should remember that all of them do not wish to settle on the land. The States were compelled to reduce their allocations of loan moneys for various works. But the allocation for land settlement in Victoria was reduced by a smaller percentage than was the allocation for any other purpose. The allocations for some projects were reduced by 40 per cent, or 50 per cent. What was the effect of such reductions on employment? Some of those projects were great works that were indirectly connected with the land. When the allocations for them were severely curtailed, other ex-servicemen were put out of work. An ex-serviceman does not wish to settle on the land at the expense of his brother ex-servicemen. I blame the Minister for this tragic position, because he is an ex-serviceman.
The Government is not honouring its pre-election promises, regardless of the excuses that it may make. The responsibility for the unsatisfactory position of war service land settlement schemes rests squarely upon the shoulders of this Government because it is responsible for arranging the necessary finance for that purpose. The War Service Land Settlement Agreements, which were made in 1945, no longer exist ; the act was declared invalid by the High Court of Australia. However, the agreements state that -
All financial matters relating and incidental to the carrying out of the scheme 6hall .be arranged in a manner satisfactory to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and’ the Treasurer of the State.
Under the agreements, the responsibility for the provision of finance was placed upon the Commonwealth. The repatriation of ex-servicemen is also a responsibility of the Commonwealth. The promises of rehabilitation that were made to members of the services were made by the nation and must be honoured as a national responsibility. No matter how Government supporters wriggle and twist, they cannot pass that responsibility on to the .States.
As I stated a few minutes ago, the war service land settlement scheme was progressing fairly satisfactorily in all States until this Government assumed office. So far as I am aware, no complaint had been made about the operation of the scheme up to that time. I ask the Minister to bear in mind, because I am placing the whole of the responsibility on his shoulders and he cannot shirk it, that the progress of the scheme began to be retarded after this Government came to office. In 1951 the Soldier Settlement Commission in Victoria had ready for acquisition an area of 228,500 acres, which was held by fourteen land-holders, when the loan cuts were applied. However, a. reprieve was immediately granted to the wealthy owners of the land concerned who were the supporters of the Minister and all that he represents in this Parliament. They were not supporters of the war service land settlement scheme. That is the whole point. We recognize, in the granting of that reprieve, the traditional policy of to ry governments which invariably take n p the cudgels on behalf of the great landowning class and completely ignore the claims of ex-servicemen. The sooner exservicemen realize that fact, the better their position will be. If they require evidence of that fact, let them speak to the survivors of the war service land settlement scheme that was initiated after World War I., who were given the poorest class of land that could be bought. Some of them were even settled in the Mallee! I wonder whether the Minister knows that 6,000 ex-servicemen of World War II., who are qualified practical farmers, are still awaiting holdings. The next question that I ask is : Have we suitable land for war service land settlement purposes? I do not suggest that ex-servicemen should be settled on small farms that cannot provide them with a reasonable standard of living. The ex-serviceman who settles on the land becomes a big asset to the national economy. For war service land settlement purposes, land is required that is not being used to its full capacity. Such land exists. I have in my hand a report submitted by the Soldier Settlement Commission of Victoria to the State Parliament in 1951, which shows that negotiations were progressing at that time for the purchase of certain large estates of a total area of 228,500 acres. The acquisition of those estates was rendered impossible by the financial restrictions announced by the Prime Minister.
– Into how many holdings, would that area have been subdivided?
– Approximately between 400 and 500 holdings. The estates are situated in the best part of the western district of Victoria, which enjoys a good rainfall and is well served by roads and railways. We have the land, and the men who are eager to settle on it, but the Government informs us that money is not available for the war service land settlement scheme. Is not the reason that is influencing the Minister to retard the progress of the scheme rather obvious? He explained, in his second-reading speech, that many years would elapse before the requirements of all exservicemen for holdings would be met. Well, six years have elapsed since the end of World War II. At the present rate of progress some of the applicants will be old men before they are granted holdings. This year, the Soldier Settlement Commission will be able to place only 62 ex-servicemen on the land. At that rate of progress, nearly 100 years will pass before some of the 6,000 applicants will be granted holdings. Obviously, this Government is abdicating and is repudiating its responsibility to ex-servicemen. It refuses to acquire the big estates that are owned by its wealthy friends. The sooner the public realize that truth, the better will it be. The Government . has failed to honour the promise that was made to the men when they were in the services that, upon their discharge, the Commonwealth would rehabilitate them. How can the Government contend, with justification, that the repatriation of ex-servicemen is the responsibility of the States? Yet Government supporters have the audacity to claim that they, and not members of the Labour party, genuinely have the interests of ex-servicemen at heart. How do they explain the collapse of the war service land settlement scheme since this Government assumed office ?
– The scheme has not collapsed.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) does not believe in war service land settlement. He does not believe in socialism, and, in his view, the land settlement of exservicemen is a socialist scheme. That is the point. Whenever he makes a speech in this House, he asserts that the Labour party has no time for exservicemen. However, that is by the way. The nation must purchase land for the exservicemen. The wealthy banking institutions and other supporters of this Government, who pour in money to assist it when a general election approaches, do precisely nothing for ex-servicemen. They do not say, “Because of your service in defending this land and our property, out of a sense of duty to you, we shall now purchase land for settlement and allow you to buy it from us on easy terms “. They will not do so. The Minister himself has no intention to do so. He said, in his second-reading speech -
In Victoria no new land will be acquired to provide more farms.
That is an admission. He continued -
No money is to be allotted for any advances whatever under the single unit farm purchase scheme. No development will be undertaken in the Heytesbury Forest area. The £ 2,000,000 that has been ma.de available for State farms will be expended largely on purchases’ now in process to provide for between 264 and 284 new holdings.
The Minister made a mistake, because only 60 ex-servicemen will be settled on the land in Victoria this year. Although the honorable gentleman has tried to place the responsibility upon the shoulders of the States, the whole of his speech is a condemnation of this Government. Lest some people may believe the Minister’s words, I want the public to know that responsibility for repatriation matters, and for arranging the necessary finance for them, rests squarely upon this National Parliament.
Let us return to the position of the individual ex-serviceman, because all members of the Labour party like a man to achieve his ambition. If he wishes to be a farmer, he may not be content as a bricklayer, a carpenter or other artisan. If he will make a competent farmer, it is in the national interest that he he settled on the land, and not be wasted as a truck driver. Ex-servicemen who settled on the land after World War I. are not becoming any younger. Anno Domini is having its effect upon them. Some of them have been obliged to retire because of age and because their children have engaged in other occupations. Perhaps a dairy farm, when it is offered for sale, is purchased by the owner of the adjoining farm who does not use the land for dairying purposes, but grazes sheep or shorthorn bullocks on it. Let us not waste our assets. We have the land and we have an even greater asset in the person of the young ex-serviceman who will get married as soon as he is granted a holding. A still greater asset will be the family that he will rear on the land. Incidentally, families in the rural areas are generally more numerous than are those in the urban areas. The exserviceman settler is definitely an asset to the economy of the country. The Minister should realize that fact. Yet he explains that money cannot be provided for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. I can come to only one conclusion, namely, that this Government does not propose to offend- in any way its wealthy land-owner friends.
Earlier, I referred to a proposal to acquire substantial estates in the western district of Victoria. One of those estate? was Banongill, a property of 24,000 acres in the Skipton district, lt was owned by C. O. Fairbairn and others, who are members of the great landowning aristocracy. Another estate was Carngham, a property of 17,000 acres in the Carngham locality, owned by P. Russell. Does the honorable member for Mallee contend that it is in the best interests of the nation that such large estates should be retained? If they were subdivided, many families could be settled on them: In my district one of the smaller estates was divided into fifteen farms. Development began only two years ago and the area is not yet in full production. Previously it yielded 50,000 lb. of wool but after it was subdivided into fifteen farms, wool production increased to 107,000 lb. Previously that land was used only for wool production but now it is producing also 2,896 lb. of butter, 655 tons of cereals and 2,743 dozen eggs. The settlers who occupy those blocks have liabilities and they will work hard. They will produce far more relatively than will wealthy individuals on large holdings. The Minister has said that the more populous States elected to become ‘principal States. About three months ago the Government’s alibi was that the decision had been made by the Australian Loan Council. This is not a party matter. All honorable members are concerned first with the welfare of the nation. “When the servicemen went away to fight we promised that we would honour our obligations to them. The Australian Loan Council agreed that £240,000,000 should be made available. The provision of that money would have permitted the war service land settlement scheme to be continued as it was planned. Money would have been available also to provide water and power for farms. In that event exservicemen other than settlers would have been found employment also. But the decision of the Australian Loan Council was not put into effect. I always believed that the Australian Government was responsible for putting into effect the decisions of the Australian Loan Council, but this Government disclaims such responsibility. While it talks about more production, it is doing everything possible to stop further production.
The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) spoke of the value of scientists and I do not decry their work, but science alone will not increase production. The only way to get greater production is to put more farmers on the land, but they should be settled on properties as big as 17,000 and 24,000 acres in Victoria and similar States. Honorable members on this side of the House are not seeking political gains. We want to see war service land settlement accomplished in a reasonable way. The Labour party will have the responsibility of government soon and it is likely to inherit a burden in respect of land settlement if this Government continues its present policy. The economy of the nation is failing. Some people are pessimistic about the future. Australia is in a bad way because of bad government. We are not on the rocks but we are on a mud bank. There are two captains on the bridge. Honorable members on the Government side ask, “ What would yon do ? “ My reply is that we would survey the damage and soon get the ship back into safe water. But this Government is driving the nation towards more stagnation. I was depressed when I read the Minister’s speech because he knows what is happening and will do nothing to stop it. The responsibility for finding money lies with the Australian Government. I agree that it should have some right to make l.ho conditions. If I lend money to a man, 1 show an interest in the way in which it is spent. All the States will be parties to a war service land settlement agreement provided they can get the necessary money. Victoria has done great work since a Labour government first settled ex-servicemen on the land in that State. The Labour Government required them to pay an interest rate of only 2 per cent. Honorable members on this side of the House do not seek any kudos for that, but they suggest to the Government that it must find the money through treasury-bills or in some other way. Money that is put into the land is well invested. It is’ an asset which must be improved in value by the work of the settlers. Why is the Government afraid ? The nation as well as the farmers will reap the reward from land settlement. This Government is deliberately slowing down war service land settlement in Australia and pressure is being applied to it to refrain from taking over the big estates.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has said that the Australian Government is not honoring its promises on war service land settlement. I remind him of the figures that were given to the House by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). In 1951-52, the Government expended £6,350,000 on war service land settlement in the agent States. In this year’s budget, the Government is providing £7,800,000 in addition to payments to all States for living allowances, interest, rent concessions and various other items. The Government is honoring its promises, but what are the principal States doing? I remind honorable members of the figures that were given to the House by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). He stated that in 1951-52. New South Wales expended £5,750,000 on war service land settlement. This year, with an increase of loan funds of nearly £16,000,000, New South Wales will expend only £2,000,000. Expenditure by that State on this form of land settlement has been reduced steadily from 27 per cent, of loan funds to 2.8 per cent. Victoria is in much the same position. This year no new land will be acquired in Victoria and £4,000,000 that was’ made available for State funds will be expended largely on purchases that are now in hand to provide between 264 and 284 new holdings. Many ex-servicemen in the principal States are beginning to realize that their only hope of obtaining land is to go into the agent States. To-day I received a letter from the Minister for the Interior in reply to inquiries that I had made on behalf of a resident of my electorate. He had been in one ballot after another since war service land settlement was started seven years ago. He is tired of trying to draw a farm. He made inquiries about the prospects in the agent States, and this is what the Minister replied -
Replying to your personal representations on behalf of- as to whether there are any ballots available in the agent States for which he could apply so as to obtain a farm under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme, it is advised as follows: -
There are dairy farms available in King Island and if your constituent is interested in this sphere of primary production, be should apply to the Director of War Service Land Settlement, Tasmania.
Should he be desirous of obtaining a wheat and sheep farm, the States of South Australia and Western Australia will accept his classification and application, but he would nevertheless have to take his chance with ether applicants in these States. In this respect he is advised to apply to the Director of Lands in Adelaide, South Australia or to the Chairman of the Land Settlement Board, Perth, Western Australia.
That man can hope to obtain land only by going to one of the agent States. The war ended seven years ago and this is the time to appraise how far the war service land settlement scheme has progressed. I do not say that it has been unsuccessful. Many people have gone on to the land in ideal conditions and have had every opportunity to make good. If the scheme has failed in any respects, it is in the number of farmers who have actually been settled on blocks. The Commonwealth has expended £21,836,000 on this scheme from its inception until the 30th June, 1952. Has greater production resulted from this expenditure? In some cases that has been achieved. I know one property of 15,000 acres in my own district in an area of high rainfall. Before the war it was farmed by one man and his son. It was said by the locals that one could go into a back paddock, put in 1,000 acres of wheat and strip it without any one knowing thai somebody had been there. That property was taken over for war service land settlement, and since then its production has increased enormously.
Let us examine this scheme in order to see whether it has achieved greater production and, if not, to ascertain its faults. I think that the first fault, certainly in New South Wales, is that a great number of people have been issued with qualification certificates^ I apologize for not citing more up-to-date figures, but the report of the New South Wales Department of Lands for 1951 arrived in the Parliamentary Library only four days ago. By June, 1951, 18,002 certificates had been given to ex-servicemen to go on the land in that State, and 1,540 men had been settled on the land. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) cited a higher figure, but I think that his figure included a number of men who have received assistance from the Commonwealth Bank. I do not believe that they can be’ regarded as coming within the war service land settlement scheme. New South Wales has been responsible for issuing those certificates and also for settling men on the land. It should have realized that it had issued an enormous number of certificates, and that it was beyond its capacity to settle on the land every man who held a certificate. 1 believe that qualification certificates have been issued to many people who are not adequately equipped, ‘through experience, to make a real “ go “ of a farm. The honorable member for Wannon said that we need more farmers in Australia. I say that we need more good farmers. Let us ensure that certificates will be issued only to those men who are most likely to make good on the land.
This is a war service land settlement scheme, not a” closer settlement scheme. Therefore, our primary object should be to settle on the land first people who have fought for this country. When the requirements of those men have been satisfied, we should make the scheme a general ex-servicemen’s scheme. If it be a war service land settlement scheme., the first people to benefit from it should be those who have served overseas and have fought in defence of their country. Men who have served overseas, some of whom were prisoners of war, are unable to obtain land, but they know that blocks have been allotted to men who, having been called up, probably spent a year in Queensland or in New South Wales and did not leave this country. I suggest that we should recall all qualification certificates and issue new ones only to those ex-servicemen who are qualified to become members of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which includes men who served in the Darwin area and in other places like that. I believe that the points scheme in operation in Victoria is an excellent one. Points are allotted on the basis, not only of service overseas but also of qualifications.
One of the mistakes that we have made is that we have approached war service land settlement from the viewpoint not of increased primary production but of settling people on the land. I believe that any land in an area where the rainfall is adequate can be made good land. Scientists have proved that all that is required to increase the production of land is to apply the right quantities of superphosphate and of molybdenum, copper and other trace elements. We have tended to say, “ This is beautiful country; let us take this land.” Land every bit as good has been rejected. I read recently of a typical example of that attitude. There were- two adjoining farms in the north of New South Wales. One was a very good property, with improved pastures and good hay sheds. The owner took a pride in it. The adjoining propery was a worn-out farm. Its owner lived in Sydney. It was overrun with rabbits and the soil was eroded. The war service land settlement author]. ties did not decide that the poor property should be acquired and that action should be taken to improve it. They acquired the good farm, and left the absentee landlord in Sydney in possession, of the poor one. Let us concentrate, not upon the settling of more farmers on the land, but upon the settlement of more good farmers.
In New South Wales, the scheme has failed because the Government has fought the land-owners. It has attempted to socialize the land cheaply. It has passed legislation which provides that the owners of land that is acquired shall be reimbursed on the basis of 1942 values, or latterly, on the basis of those values plus 15 per cent. Is there any justice in that? Should a government be permitted to say that a man who has 3,000 sheep should have only 1,000 and that it will take over 2,000 of his sheep and pay compensation on the basis of 1942 values plus 15 per cent.? A landholder might be paid only lis. 6d. for something worth £3 on the open market. I see no valid reason why any government that wishes to acquire property should not go into the market and bid for it, in the same way as other prospective purchasers do. That would obviate constant legal arguments and quarrelsbetween landholders and governments. Every week, thousands of acres of land are advertised for sale in newspapers such as The Land and Country Life. Why should not governments’ send buyers to attend those sales and, if land is offered for sale at what they regard as a reasonable price, purchase it on behalf of exservicemen? Let me remind the House that if the price of a block of land is high, the Commonwealth is prepared toshare its part of the burden of writing down the cost.
Another fault of the war service land settlement scheme is. that no finance isavailable for it. I understand that thescheme in New South ‘ Wales made a profit of £1,500,000 this year, and that that sum was paid into Consolidated Revenue. Surely, if it be difficult, toobtain money for the scheme, profits should be utilized to put more peopleon the land. I have already said that this year New South Wales will expend upon war service land settlement 50 per cent, less than it did last year. If a shortage of finance is causing difficulties, why not give to settlers the right of conditional purchase? “Why not permit them to pay instalments on the purchase price of their properties ? Those payments could be utilized to put more people on the land. I do not advocate that the purchase should be compulsory. I believe that it should be a voluntary system.* Some men may prefer to remain permanently on a leasehold basis, but I know that others desire to purchase their farms under a conditional purchase agreement. It may be said that settlers are not in a position to make reasonable repayments. All I can say is that, by the end of 1951, of the £5,600,000 that had been advanced to ex-servicemen settlers in New South “Wales, 52 per cent, had been repaid. Surely under a conditional purchase scheme such as I have advocated, it would be possible for New South Wales to obtain between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000. If it could obtain £2,000,000, its allocation for land settlement of ex-servicemen could be doubled, and that would immediately double the number of estates that could be made available to ex-servicemen.
The war service land settlement scheme has failed because, as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said earlier to-night, a large number of holdings in this country have been held under proclamation for many years. I think that 3,250,000 acres of land in New South Wales is held under proclamation. The owners of that land are living under the sword of Damocles. Most of them undoubtedly want to increase production, but they know that, at any time, their land may be resumed at its 1942 value, plus 15 per cent. How far would such a payment go towards paying for a woolshed which, in 1942, could have been built for £800 but to-day would cost perhaps £4,000 ? Would a person consider himself to be justified in spending money on building haysheds, improving fencing, and increasing the fertility of the soil knowing that, at any time, his land might be acquired at its 1942 value plus 15 per cent.? I believe that those proclamations should be lifted immediately.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) spoke of land monopolists. I say that there has been no difficulty in acquisition where State governments have been prepared to pay to land-owners a fair value for their properties. By a fair value I mean the price that the landowner could get by selling his land on the open market. If there are land monopolists, the fault lies with the State governments because they are entitled under State laws to acquire land that is needed for closer settlement. Although the honorable member for Parkes may not know it, the relevant law in New South Wales states that a land-owner may keep a. retention area, the improved value of which, does not exceed £14,000. In other words, if there are estates larger than that, it is because the State Government, which is a Labour Administration, has not seen fit to resume them. The honorable member for Wannon, who supported the honorable member for Parkes in this matter, should realize that, in Victoria, the law provides for a retention area, the unimproved value of which is £3,000. The State Government has a perfect right to acquire any land in excess of that area. The honorable member for Wannon claimed that my cousin had too large an area in the western district of Victoria. I do not know that land very well, but I have been on the property and I can say that it is one of the best farmed areas that one could find anywhere in the Commonwealth. I should be willing to bet that if one were to compare the productivity of the property owned by my cousin, with that of the land owned by the honorable member for Wannon, my cousin’s property, Banongill, would prove to be by far the better.
The honorable member for Parkes said that the war service land settlement scheme had been slow because it had met resistance. I can speak from personal experience on this matter. I was a joint owner of a small property that was taken over for war service land settlement. There was no reluctance on my part at. all. The moment the property was signed up, I was prepared to hand it over. However, it was visited successively by an array of inspectors including soil errosion experts, agronomists, agrostologists. soil surveyors, and members of the Land
Board. I lost count of the number when it reached twelve, but I believe that ultimately it rose to about twenty. The property was not finally handed over until two years and two months after it was signed up. Was that a case of a land-owner holding up acquisition? Obviously it was a case of a transaction being completely smothered by red tape. War service land settlement is a proud responsibility, and I am proud that the Commonwealth is playing its part fully.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to say only a few words-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Ordered to be printed.
Audit Act - Finance -
Treasurer’s statement and receipts and expenditure for year 1951-52, accompanied by the report of the AuditorGeneral.
Lands Aquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Department of the Interior purposes -
Port Hedland, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Burrandana, New South Wales.
Yarrabandai, New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Defence Production - A. A. Anderson,R. B. Rogers.
House adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The following are the numbers of persons registered with the Common wealth Employment Service for employment who stated at the time of registration that they were not in employment. The dates given are those nearest the dates nominated for which figures are available: -
Some of these would probably have obtained employment but failed to notify the District Employment Office by the reporting dates.
Not all the vacancies filled were those recorded as unfilled on the reporting dates. New vacancies arc constantly being’ notified to employment offices, and the honorable member will appreciate that if the vacancies are filled almost immediately, as many of them are at the present time, they will notbe recorded as unfilled on the statistical reporting date.
e. - On the 12th August the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) asked the following question: -
I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development a question concerning a report which I have received to the effect that an officer of the State Materials Procurement Branch, Queen-street, Melbourne, informed a constituent of my electoral division that Australian galvanized iron could be purchased in Singapore without a permit out of stock, although Australian primary producers are required to wait for up to two years for their orders to be fulfilled. Will the Minister state whether this report is true? What are the circumstances relating to the matter? Will he take action to ensure that Australian galvanized iron is fairly distributed?
The Minister for National Development has now supplied the following information : -
The director of the State Materials Procurement Directorate in Melbourne has ascertained that a visitor from Singapore, who recently called at the State Materials Procurement office stated that Australian galvanized iron was available in Singapore. Apart from this statement, the State Materials Procurement office has no information on the matter raised by the honorable member. The export of galvanized iron is controlled by the Department of National Development. The only exports to Singapore were in 1948 and 1949, when approval was given to export small quantities to an Australian company in that city for the purpose of completing a factory. The Commonwealth has no control over the local distribution of galvanized iron. . The manufacturers themselves determine the quantities which shall be sent to each State, hut it is. claimed that available supplies are being distributed on as equitable a basis as possible. Any control over distribution within a. State would be the responsibility of the State authorities.
n asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 18th August, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked the following questions : -
Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government has granted licencesfor the export of Callide coal from Queensland to Pakistan? Does theGovernment intend to ban the importation of coal from India, and thus save expenditure from our sorely depleted overseas balances as well as subsidy payments on imported Indian coal?
Further to the answer that I gave to the honorable member at the time of his asking the question I am now able to supply the following information: -
The Minister for Trade and Customs has authorized the issue of licences for the export of up to 30,000 tons of Callide coal to Pakistan. This quantity of Callide coal is surplus to the Australian market. A quantity of steam raising coal and gas coal is at present being imported into Australia from India. The coal is used in Victoria in railway locomotives and by the gas-making industry. Callide coal cannot be substituted for either of these purposes. The importation of coal from overseas will be discontinued as soon as coal of the required quality is produced locally in sufficient quantity.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The answer to part of the honorable member’s question was given on the 27th August, in answer to a previous question by him. As to the rest of the question, no motor car is retained for the exclusive use of a Minister or of a Minister’s wife, although, in practice, one car in Canberra is almost wholly used by me or, in my absence, the Acting Prime Minister. While Ministers have first call on certain cars in the pools, those cars are available for other purposes when not required by Ministers. Generally the provision of cars is the same as that existing under the Labour Government.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– On Thursday, the 28th August, I said in the House that I would make a statement concerning the Australian National University. That statement will be made at an early date and will deal with the matters raised in the honorable member’s questions.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– On Thursday, the 28th August, I said in the House that I would make a statement concerning the Australian National University. That statement will he made at an early date and will deal with the matters raised in the honorable member’s questions.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– On Thursday the 28th August, I said in the House that I would make a statement concerning the Australian National University. That statement will be made at an early date and will deal with the matters involved in the honorable member’s question.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– On Thursday the 28th August, I said in the House that I would make a statement concerning the Australian National University. That statement will be made at an early date and will deal with the matters involved in the honorable member’s question.
on. - On the 9th September, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked the following question : -
I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs. The belief exists in the timber industry that an excellent opportunity is offering to develop a substantial export market for Queensland sawn hardwoods with New Zealand and other countries provided that doubts that now exist with respect to the exportation of timber are clarified. As a very substantial export market is known to exist in New Zealand for such timber, will the Government encourage the development of this trade by accepting responsibility for the issue of export permits instead of leaving that responsibility to the State Timber Controller in Queensland?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
The approving authority in the matter or timber exports from all States is the DirectorGeneral of the Forestry and Timber Bureau in the Department of the Interior for whom the State Timber Controller is delegate and adviser in matters relating to the export of timber from Queensland. The export of quantities of Queensland sawn timber is at present permitted as stocks of such timber are tern porarily in plentiful supply. However, as the forests of that State are already being overcut on a sustained yield basis a long-term substantial export trade is not warranted and would be detrimental to the essential timber requirements of Queensland and Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
on. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520916_reps_20_218/>.