20th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mb. Speaker (Hoa. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 desire to address a question to the Treasurer. Is it the intention of the right honorable gentleman to resign his office as Treasurer, and is it the intention of his colleagues in the Australian Country party also to resign their ministerial offices as the result of the decision of the Liberal party to contest the Gwydir seat, as a part of its. campaign to destroy the Australian Country party, and force it from the political life of this country?
– The honorable member will get no consolation from my reply, because it is “ No “.
– My question to the Prime Minister is based on a reply given to me last Thursday by the Minister for Air, and also allegations on telephone tapping made in this House by the honor.orable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The Minister for Air stated last Thursday that a question which I asked him about the crash of a Royal Australian’ Air Force Bristol freighter aircraft at Mallala was based on a telephone conversation I had had’ earlier. Will lie Prime Minister have inquiries made with a view to ascertaining whether the telephone line was tapped when I was having my conversation? If my line was” tapped, was the information conveyed to the Minister for Air? Will the right honorable gentleman take immediate action to ensure that this practice is stopped? I may add that the call came to me from a constituent in -South Australia. The call was not made from this House and was not paid for by the Government.
– In the absence of the Postmaster-General, I have no doubt that I can say at once that the honorable member’s telephone conversation was not tapped. Such a thing would be entirely unpardonable, and it does not occurSome honorable members make it clear when they ask questions, that they are basing them on telegrams or on telephone conversations. Other honorable members allow that fact to be understood by implication. I have no doubt that the Minister for Air. made a pretty good guess.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth security service, if it so desires, is permitted to tap telephone lines and record conversations without seeking any extension of its authority or permission from the Prime Minister or the Government. Has any telephone-tapping incident in which the Commonwealth security service has indulged been reported to the Government or to the Prime Minister personally?
– That is a hypothetical question. The authority of the security service, a very important service and a service that was established by the Government of which the honorable member for East Sydney waB a member, is identical with the authority which it enjoyed when he waa a Minister.
– Will the Prime Minister deny that the telephones of private citizens or of members of Parliament have been tapped by the security service?
– I have no knowledge of the matter one way or the other.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot deny it.
– I have said that I have no knowledge of the matter one way or the other. I deprecate this obviously political attempt to suggest that the rights of private citizens are being invaded. I have not the slightest doubt that our enemies, the Communists, are quite capable of tapping telephones if they get a chance and I have not the slightest doubt that a security service in this country that is worth its salt has to deal with those fine gentlemen as it finds them.
– Did the officers of the security service tap telephones !
– Is the honorable member for East Sydney objecting to the methods of investigation directed against his friends and supporters, the Communists ?
– That is a lot of rubbish and a deliberate lie.
– Order ! I did not hear the remark made by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– The honorable member was simply using his characteristic language. Nobody pays any attention to it. . As long as I am responsible for the security service I shall treat it as my distinguished predecessor treated it.
– He did not make it a political instrument of the Government.
– I shall treat it as my distinguished predecessor treated it. I have no doubt that he did not take the honorable member for East Sydney into his confidence.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order! If the honorable member for East Sydney does not cease interjecting I shall deal with him.
– Beforethe Minister for the Navy reaches a final decision on the extension of the naval air arm land base centres on the Australian coast, will he give consideration to the opportunities offering at Hervey Bay and the Maryborough Airfield, which weredeveloped and used by the British Navy in World War II.? Will he personally visit that area, if possible, before a decision on further extensions in that direction is made?
– I give the honorable member an assurance that, beforeany further decisions are made on the establishment of naval air stations, his representations will receive every consideration. I went with him a few months ago to inspect the airfield that he has mentioned and came to the conclusion that it was a first-class airfield and could be used by the Navy should it wish to establish a station at Hervey Bay. I shall be much obliged if another invitation to visit Hervey Bay with the honorable member is extended to me. I remember the great courtesy and the hospitality that were showered upon me by the people of the honorable member’s electorate, and I think anybody would be well advised to accept such an invitation from the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that H.M.A.S. Queensborough, which- is being fitted out for anti-submarine work, has been damaged. If so, was that damage the result of sabotage? If not, how was it caused? Has any investigation revealed the necessity for any improvements in security?
– H.M.A.S.- Queens.borough is in the hands of Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited’ for a refit and reconstruction. One day last week a small - break was discovered in some electrical equipment, but there was no .evidence to support a suggestion that sabotage was committed. It is more probable that the damage was the result of either an accident or negligence Toy one of the employees. As the honorable member well knows, in such cases an immediate inquiry is carried out automatically. Such an inquiry has not yet established the cause of the break. Inquiries are still proceeding.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware of the poor living conditions provided for many naval personnel at Flinders Naval Depot? Will he join me in an inspection of the depot, and, in particular, of the living quarters, with a view to remedying the present unsatisfactory conditions? Will the Minister arrange for the inspection to take place during the coming recess of the Parliament?
– Living conditions at Flinders Naval Depot are up to the required standards. I shall carry out an inspection at’ the most suitable time at my disposal. I shall advise the honorable member when I intend to make the visit. If he cares to accompany me I shall be only too glad to allow him to do so. I fully understand the situation at Flinders Naval Depot. A considerable extension and development programme for the depot is under consideration. I shall be only too happy to make full details of the programme available to the honorable member.
– The question that I wish to ask the Minister for Supply is supplementary to a question that I asked him on the 6th October regarding the report of the Auditor-General to the effect that, for the year ended the 30th June, 1952, he was unable to certify to the balance-sheet of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. In his reply on that occasion, the Minister stated that at the end of the financial year 1952-53 there was no difficulty in obtaining the AuditorGeneral’s certificate.- I now ask the honorable gentleman whether his attention has been drawn to the last report of the Auditor-General, which clearly indicates that the Minister’s statement on that occasion was not correct because the Auditor-General states that neither the 1951-52 certificate nor the 1952-53 balance-sheets has yet been submitted to him.
– I shall have the AuditorGeneral’s report examined again, and I shall also examine the reply I gave to the honorable member. If I misled him in the previous reply I shall say so, but I hope it may be found that the two statements are reconcilable.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that a rumour has been circulated in certain areas of New South Wales to the effect that this Government intends to> increase the age limits for eligibility for the age pension from 60 to 65 years in the case of women and from 65 to 70 years in the case of men? Will the Minister confirm or deny this rumour, which is causing some concern in that area?
– I had not heard that rumour, but, like a lot of other rumours, it is just plain nonsense.
– I ask the Treasurer a question about the taxation deduction to a farmer in respect of an employee whom he boards. Recently I placed on the notice-paper a question asking what amount is the purchasing equivalent to-day of 15s. when the deduction was fixed at 15s. in 1941. The written answer failed to supply that information, stating that it would be of little value to me. Does the Treasurer agree that, when great expense or difficulty is not involved in providing information, it should be provided and the honorable member concerned should be allowed to be the judge of its value? If so, will he have inquiries made to see whether the information can now be supplied to me?
– Yes, I shall have a look at the matter.
– My question is directed to the Vice-President of the Executive Council as the Minister in charge of the Royal tour of Australia. In view of the many representations that I have received for Her Majesty the Queen to visit centres in my electorate, can the Minister inform the House whether it is a fact that the State governments, not this Government, are entirely responsible for the itineraries of the Royal- visit within their own boundaries?
– I have had many requests, not only from the honorable member for Calare, but also from other honorable members and representatives of outside organizations, such as town, municipal and shire councillors and State members of parliament, who are eager for Her Majesty to visit the centres that they represent. I can readily understand their enthusiasm. ‘ However, the fact is that I have no jurisdiction over State itineraries for the Royal visit. They are matters entirely for the State governments. When representations have been made to a State government to include a certain centre in the itinerary for that State, in some instances the State government concerned has suggested that the period of the tour should be extended to enable Her Majesty to visit the centre. That is impossible, The period of the tour has been determined, and the itiner ary for each State has been arranged. The only way in which it would be possible for a* State government to include in the itinerary for that State a centre not included at the moment would be to exclude a centre already in the itinerary and substitute the other centre. That would have to be approved by the Royal tour authorities.
– A statement is being circulated in “Victoria to the effect that the parliamentary retiring allowances fund in that State is £18,000 overdrawn. Is the Treasurer aware that many people believe that that fund affects the Commonwealth Parliament? Will the right honorable gentleman say whether the Commonwealth parliamentary retiring allowance fund is solvent?
– The Commonwealth parliamentary retiring allowances fund is solvent, and will remain solvent so long as this Government is in office.
– I wish to make an appeal to the Minister for the Army on behalf of farmers in Australia, especially those in Tasmania, whose sons are continuing their national service training at weekend camps after completion of three months’ initial training. Will the Minister consider whether such trainees could be exempted from attendance at weekend training camps during the harvest months of December, January and February? Absence from a farm at that vital period, even for a weekend, could not only disrupt the work of the farm but could also cause a loss to the farmer through delay in harvesting crops. Will the Minister take into consideration the fact that many farmers are dependent on an only son for labour at harvest time ?
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. National, service trainees undergo training in camp for 9S days, and thereafter they are required to do only seven days home training in a period of 365 days apart from the annual camp of 14 days. That training consists of two or three week-end bivouacs, and three night parades. In those circumstances, I cannot imagine that the training would interfere with harvest work. If a training bivouac occurs during harvest time, commanding officers of units have power to arrange, if necessary, for trainees to attend a later bivouac. In any case in which attendance at a training period would cause hardship to a trainee, an exemption is granted. That is one of the reasons why the national service training scheme has been so successful.
– Recently I have received a number of complaints about the slowing down of war service land settlement in New South Wales. I ask the Minister for the Interior whether there is any way in which he could discuss this matter with the New South Wales Government, with the object of speeding up war service land settlement in that State?
– New South Wales is a principal State, and as such handles its own war service land settlement scheme under the original agreement with the Commonwealth. I believe that last year the New South Wales Government ‘allocated less than £2,500,000 to war service land settlement, although its loan funds were increased. This year I am glad to say it has increased its allocation for war service land settlement to only £3,000,000, although its sister State of Victoria has allocated £5,500,000 for the purpose.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Eisenhower Administration has decided to abandon the policy of dear money in the United States of America, will the right honorable gentleman take immediate action to return to the policy of cheap money which the Chifley Government pursued in Australia, and which was abandoned by the Australian Loan Council on the recommendation, and insistence, of the present Government?
– The honorable member’s question concerns a matter of policy.
– I ask the honorable member for Melbourne, who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whether it is a fact that a substantia] sum of money was contributed to the Australian Labour party by the motion picture industry? Is it also a fact that that contribution was made conditional upon the Australian Labour party opposing the introduction of television into Australia?
– The answer to the first question is “ No “. The answer to the second question is the same as the answer to the -first. Any money that any person ever gave to the campaign funds of the Australian Labour party was given without tags and without obligations, and would not have been accepted otherwise. The amount of money that the motion picture industry may have given from time to time to candidates of the Australian Labour party, or to the trustees, is so infinitesimal that it is hardly worth mentioning.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it would be possible for you to do something in the time between the termination of this sitting of the Parliament and the visit of Her Majesty the Queen, to get rid of some of the smells from the corridors of this building ?
Opposition members interjecting,
– I am not referring to the Opposition. My question arose from the fact that in the corridors, and even in King’s Hall, during the week, one has to put up with the smell of cooking food which comes from the dining-room.
Honorable members interjecting,
– The honorable gentleman will resume his seat until the House comes to order. When honorable members are prepared to listen, we will proceed.
– I am not criticizing the excellent cuisine with which honorable members are provided. One likes to enjoy a meal in the dining-room and for a very short time afterwards, but he does not like the smell to be continued between meals. It is obvious that something should be done either to the airconditioning plant or to the ventilation of the building. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether anything can be done in order to obviate these smells?
– Such matters are primarily for the consideration of the House Committee. If the honorable gentleman has any complaints, he should make them to the committee. I deprecate the increasing tendency to direct to me questions about the administration of the House which might be better cleared up in my room.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether an instruction has been issued to Commonwealth departments that where retrenchments are occurring, or likely to occur, the employees being retrenched, or likely to be retrenched, shall be told by the employing department that they should do their best to secure employment outside the Public Service? Is it a fact that, when such employees secure employment outside the Public Service they are told that, because they left their employment of their own volition they are not entitled to long service leave under the provision of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act? Irrespective of whether such an instruction has been issued, is the Prime Minister aware that employees of Commonwealth departments, who have been retrenched and who have obtained employment elsewhere of their own volition, are being deprived of their right to long service leave ?
– Do I understand that the honorable member’s question relates to employees of the Commonwealth in one way or another ?
– I cannot answer the question by the book. I shall at once cause an inquiry to be made. I hope to be in a position to answer the honorable member’s question at the meeting of the House to-morrow.
– In view of the number of requests made by honorable members for the provision of hearing aids for pensioners and the advice of the Minister for Social Services that it is not possible for him to provide them, will the Minister assist pensioners who have hearing aids by providing batteries and other accessories used in connexion with the contrivances, which are very costly at the present time?
– The provision of hearing aids has been raised on a number of occasions. There is no provision in the Social Services Consolidation Act to enable hearing aids to be provided by the Commonwealth. The Government believes that this is one of the social services that should be provided by the States. The honorable member, I am sure, understands that the Commonwealth makes available to the States huge sums’ of money for the provision of social services, such as the supply of blankets, firewood, spectacles and necessaries of that kind. That is the source from which pensioners with hearing aids should be helped.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has received any information about, or copies of the report on, the. atrocities committed on United Nations prisoners of war by Communist forces in Korea? The report is being discussed by the United Nations at the present time. If the Government has received a copy of the report, will he make it available to honorable members, the press arid the public? If a copy of the report has not yet been received, particularly that part in which references are made to Australian prisoners of war, will the Government obtain the details, and make them available to the House?
– In the temporary absence of the Minister for External Affairs, I undertake to ascertain whether that information is available, and if it is, I shall certainly supply it to honorable members.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether any information has come to hand concerning the threat of the Indonesian Government to annex Dutch New Guinea at an early date. If any information has been received, has appropriate action been taken by the Australian Government to make our position clear in the matter?
– I have not seen any official communication on the matter to which the honorable member for Melbourne has referred. My only knowledge of the situation is similar to that of the honorable gentleman, and has been obtained from a newspaper cable on it. in this morning’s press. If any information comes to hand, I shall take the opportunity to inform the honorable member and the House about it.
– by leave - Notwithstanding a great deal of publicity has been given in the press about uranium mining in the Northern Territory, inquiries now being received show that many people are still in doubt about whether they can prospect for, and mine, uranium-bearing ores. Therefore, I wish to make the position clear.
In the Northern Territory, any one may look for uranium and obtain a lease to mine it if he finds a deposit. The only places in which this cannot be done immediately, are the Bum Jungle area, and in the few small areas temporarily reserved for the operation of the Bureau of Mineral Resources for the purpose of gaining more knowledge of the mineral for the benefit of uranium mining generally. Elsewhere in the Territory, mining for uranium is governed by the same laws, generally, as mining for any other minerals. The few areas now temporarily reserved will be released soon. The Australian Government is eager that private enterprise should enter the uranium mining industry, and will do everything it reasonably can do to facilitate this participation. Already a number of private companies are operating in the Northern Territory, and other mining companies are displaying a keen interest.
As announced in the press recently, the period during which the Government will buy uranium bearing ores at specified prices has been extended from 1958 to 1962 in certain cases, as an added incentive to those who are interested in this new industry. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission will distribute from time to time, maps which show the location of radio-active anomalies located by the air-borne scintillometer surveys which have been con- ducted by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Those anomalies do not necessarily mean the presence of uranium deposits, but the maps on which they are shown indicate generally the areas where the greatest radio-activity has been detected from the air. In addition, the commission will distribute other geological and geophysical information compiled by the bureau as a result of its search for uranium in parts of the Territory.
When the first scintillometer survey map was issued in October, it was stated that rewards would not be paid for uranium deposits located as a result of the information shown on the map. This restriction on the payment of a reward for the discovery of a uranium deposit has now been withdrawn. Uranium discoveries have been claimed over a wide area of the Northern Territory, although some of the claims have still to be confirmed. Apart from the Rum Jungle area, claims had been made in respect of areas near Katherine, near Brock’s Creek, and in an area about 80 miles inland from Pine Creek. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission has invited applications for the exclusive rights to prospect in an area of 36 square miles immediately south of Rum Jungle. Applications closed with the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Darwin, on the 23rd November, and the rights will be allocated to the applicant with the best resources in staff, equipment, finance, and experience to do the job.
I have recently returned from a visit . to the Rum Jungle (project, and I can say that there has been excellent progress there by Territory Enterprises Proprietary Limited, a subsidiary of the Zinc Corporation Limited, which is developing the project for the Commonwealth. I was told by the company’s representative that it was hoped to reach production by the 1st July, 1954, which is earlier than the original target date. Already a substantial quantity of ore has been stockpiled, and is ready for treatment when the plant goes into operation.
– As chairman, I present the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the following subject: -
Ninth Report - “ Stephan ‘’ pre-fabricated buildings together with Treasury Minutes on the First and Third Reports of the committee and statement on the privileges and immunities of the members of the committee.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Minister for Social Services consider extending assistance from the War Service Homes Division, or extending eligibility under the War Service Homes Act, to members of the forces in receipt of war pensions, and to those servicemen who served in the Darwin area and are, too, receiving war pensions in respect of their service in that area ?
– I shall be pleased to consider the proposition put forward by the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that there is still a great shortage of homes for the workers and that the cost of building is exceptionally high, will the Minister give consideration to taking action through either the Commonwealth Bank or the Australian Loan Council to ensure that money is made available for genuine home-builders at considerably lower rates of interest?
– The question touches upon a matter of policy.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely: -
The administration of the War Service Homes Division and the failure of the Government to provide the Division with sufficient fi nance to meet the home requirements of eligible approved applicants for homes.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
– I raise this matter for two reasons. The first is to provide an opportunity for a discussion on the administration of the War Service Homes Division. The second, which is more important, is to initiate a discussion on the failure of this Government and, for that matter, of the Parliament, to make adequate funds available to the War Service Homes Division to enable it to meet the reasonable requests of exservicemen who have an entitlement to a war service home under the provisions of the act. I notice that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is mumbling and muttering as he walks out of the chamber-
– Order 1 That remark is completely out of order.
– The honorable member for Gippsland commented that I was mumbling, and I submit that I was entitled to reply to him.
– Order! The honorable gentleman himself is not without fault in that respect.
– Very well, I shall proceed to discuss the administration of the War Service Homes Division and, in doing so, I wish to remind the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), who is in charge of war service homes, to the fact that I made some allegations in the House some months ago about the standard of construction of some war service homes at Glenroy. I think that the honorable gentleman will now admit that he dismissed that complaint somewhat hastily as the rumblings and ravings of some irresponsible farmer. In fact, he pointed out that I was a farmer, and he asked whether I was qualified to discuss the standards to which war service homes should conform. I resented his statements at that tune. Subsequently, the Minister produced a document in the House, and alleged that the ex-servicemen on whose behalf I had spoken, had repudiated me. At a later date the exservicemen concerned asked me to meet them. I did so, and at that meeting they asked me what step they should take next. I told them that I could raise the matter in this House, but I advised them, in their own interests, to invite the Minister to visit, Glenroy in order to inspect the homes in question and hear their views, so that he could judge the situation for himself. They accepted the suggestion, and I interviewed the Minister, who readily consented to meet them. He brought with him to Glenroy the Director of the War Service Homes Division, the Deputy Director, a government architect, a legal adviser, his own private secretary and some other gentlemen. Over 100 purchasers of war service homes were present, and I think the Minister will admit that they stated their case reasonably, temperately and clearly. The result was that the Minister agreed that an inquiry was needed. He did not say that it would be’ an independent inquiry, and I assumed that he meant an inquiry by senior officers of the War Service Homes Division. He was so strongly impressed by the representations that were made to him at the meeting that he agreed to inspect the houses on the following day. I am grateful to him for having carried out his promise to meet these people and attend to their complaints, but he has never admitted that the milliner in which he treated my original complaints was entirely unjustified.
After he had visited Glenroy, the Minister, in conjunction with his departmental officers, apparently took some action because every purchaser of a war service home in that settlement was given an opportunity to lodge complaints in writing. Since that date, many improvements have been made and faults have been corrected. The occupiers of the homes are grateful for that attention, but I point out that some serious complaints have not been dealt with yet. An unsatisfactory and dangerous type of electric stove is installed in a number of the homes. As a result of complaints about this’ type of stove, the Minister communicated with me and said that the War Service Homes Division would be prepared to advance further loans to the owners to enable them to purchase better stoves. Howover, as far as I have been able to ascertain, no provision has been made for the cancellation of the loans, of approximately £40 each, which were made to cover the cost of the unsatisfactory stoves. I have here a list of 33 written complaints about these stoves. The fifteen minutes allotted to me in this debate will not enable me to read them in detail, but I know that they are from reliable people. They specify in detail the unsatisfactory features of the stoves. I d© not want to name the manufacturer of the stoves; but I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that their purchase by the division was unwise and that the manufacturer ought to do what any decent manufacturer would do in the circumstances, and make an allowance to the Government, which should install a better type of stove at only the extra cost represented by the difference between the price of the unsuitable type and the new type. The 33 written complaints that I have here represent only about 70 per cent, of the complaints that have been made on this subject. The War Service Homes Division has announced that it will send a cookery expert to the settlement in order to show the housewives how to use electric stoves. That is a fine but unnecessary gesture for the wives are all competent and experienced in the use of modern kitchen appliances. But the fact remains that the faults of this type of stove are so bad that nothing but the installation of a better type will satisfy the people concerned.
I refer now to the financing of war service homes. The Minister for Social Services knows that the Director of the Wai’ Service Homes Division has issued to his deputy director in each State an instruction that applications for war service homes must be listed according to an order of priority. Ex-servicemen who lodged applications later than the 1st September last apparently will have to wait until some time after June, 1954, to have their applications approved. This indicates that the amount available for the financing of war service homes this year is inadequate to meet the demand from ex-servicemen. So serious is the position that an ex-serviceman who is offered a new house ready for occupation cannot buy it, unless he can obtain the money from other sources, and the contractor must have his money immediately so that he can go on to build other houses. According to the direction issued by the War Service Homes Division, applicants will be permitted to obtain temporary financial accommodation from outside sources. That clearly indicates, notwithstanding anything that the Minister may say in reply to me, that the Government is not making sufficient money available to the War Service Homes Division. A similar situation existed last year, when £27,000,000 was made available for war service homes. This year, the allocation is only £28,000,000. Effective applications last year numbered approximately 11,000.
This year, the total is approximately 13,000, and the allocation of £28,000,000 is insufficient to provide for that number. Therefore, applicants are told that they must wait their turn, which mav involve a delay of twelve months, if not longer, and that, if they can arrange financial accommodation in the meantime with a commercial trading bank, a State savings bank or the Commonwealth Bank, the Division will be prepared to take over their mortgages at the end of the waiting period on the conditions that usually apply to war service homes. What does that mean?
It means that the unfortunate exserviceman who wants to buy a home must go out and try to obtain a loan on his own account. Where can he obtain the. money ? In most cases the answer is, “ Nowhere “. An occasional applicant succeeds if he has £700 or £800 in the bank and needs a loan of perhaps only £1,200. The only documentthat such a man has from the War Service Homes Division to support him in his search for financial accommodation is a letter to say that his application for permission to purchase a certain house has been approved, that the valuation of the house has been approved, and that, after about twelve months, if the title is in order, the division will give him the benefits of war service homes finance. For about a year he has no other documentary evidence to help him in his efforts to obtainloans from other sources. The situation is untenable. If he goes to the Commonwealth Bank, the bank officers say to him, “We are interested in housing, but we are not interested in a proposition of this sort. You cannot provide a substantial deposit and you have no security to offer other than a letter from the War Service Homes Division to say that the house you have selected is suitable for purchase under the war service homes scheme and that the valuation is satisfactory”. If he goes to the State Savings Bank of Victoria, for instance, which provides finance for housing, he will be told that the limit of the bank’s loans to home-builders is £1,200. The cost of the house probably will be not less than £2,000. But he will be able to obtain only £1,200, if anything, from the State Savings Bank. Of course, if he has a rich uncle who trusts him, he may be lucky enough to obtain a loan from uncle for a period of twelve months on the strength of his letter from the War Service Homes Division. Here is a government, pledged to provide war service homes for the people, which tells applicants for assistance under the war service homes scheme that despite the fact that they have located houses which the War Service Homes Division has valued and approved as suitable, they will have to wait their turn for a loan because the Government has not provided the division with, as it were, the sinews of war. They are told to try to arrange loans of £1,800 or £1,900 for a period of twelve or eighteen months. How many trading banks are prepared to lend money to an ex-serviceman on the strength of a mere letter from the War Service Homes Division? Even if the trading banks are prepared to do so, is it not a scandal that this Government is depriving the Commonwealth Bank of business and pushing that business into the hands of private enterprise? I have never heard of such a strange state of affairs in my life. As far as I can ascertain, this position has not arisen previously. I have examined the annual reports of the Director of War Service Homes and I have found that the first report in which the director has directed the attention of the Government publicly to the need for more money to be made available for war service homes is that for the year 1952-53. In that report, the director stated -
It is important to keep in mind also that a bigger percentage of the building applications being lodged since firm prices were established will be effective. This combined with a quicker rate of completion of homes makes it necessary to provide additional funds for the satisfaction of an equal number of applications, and with the increase in the number of applications being received, the provision of additional funds becomes even more necessary unless the waiting period is to increase progressively.
In 1951-52, there were approximately 11,000 effective applications for assistance from the War Service Homes Division, and in 1952-53 there were approximately 13,000. In 1951-52, £27,000,000 was made available by the Government to the War Service Homes Division, and in 1952-53 £28,000,000 was made available. During those years, hundreds of ex-servicemen were waiting for financial assistance from the division. They had located new homes - not old ones - but they were told by the Government, “ You must arrange for temporary finance, although we know that that will be a catch-as-catch-can business, until the War Service Homes Division, which we are responsible for financing, can deal with your application in its turn “.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We expect the honorable member for Lalor (Mr.
Pollard), now that he is in Opposition and not a Minister, to be a little critical of the operations of the War Service Homes Division. His function as a member of the Opposition is to criticize, but there is a great contrast between the picture that he has painted and the picture painted by ex-servicemen, who, after all, are the people most interested in the work of the division. Let me read to the House some extracts from letters that I have received from ex-servicemen. The first is as follows: -
During recent parliamentary broadcasts, so much has been heard of the difficulties and delays said to be connected with the acquisition of a war service loan, that I feel in fairness to your department, at least one i-ase of speedy and satisfactory finalization should be brought to your notice.
Without any personal connexions whatever, J submitted to the office of your deputy Director in Victoria, in late May, 1953, an application for a loan of £1,000 to assist in the purchase of an existing house.
The property had not been previously known to the .Department, yet I am happy to say that by 3.1st July, 1953, all the necessary surveys, valuations, reports and negotiations hud been finalized, and I. had possession of the house.
Further, I cannot speak too highly of the courtesy shown to me by your officers, and of the prompt and efficient way in which my request was attended.
I point out to the honorable member for Lalor that there was no rich uncle in that case. Another letter states -
Recently I moved into a home built through the War Service Homes Division of your department, and I should like to express my appreciation of the courtesy, efficiency and assistance afforded me by every officer, and experienced in every department of the Division, which I contacted.
The method by which the activities of the Division are coupled with the efforts of the individual provide an efficient way in which ex-servicemen can be efficiently housed in areas, and in homes built to designs, chosen by themselves. I should like to commend the smooth running and efficiency of this organization, and feel it to be one of which you, and your Government, can be justly proud. Might 1 place on record my experience as giving sound evidence that the objects for which the Division were founded are being ably realized?
In a letter written to the deputy director of the division, a group of exservicemen stated -
We are all aware of the kindly, helpful assistance you have extended to so many ex-service men and women during your fruitful term of office. Many of us have had personal exper- ence of your practical help over the past six or seven years.
Those are some of the letters on the files of the War Service Homes Division and on my own files from ex-servicemen who have gone out of their way to express their appreciation of and satisfaction with the work of the division. The hundreds of words uttered by the honorable member for Lalor can be summarized as a statement that this Government has not provided as much money for war service homes as it should have done, and an implication that if a. Labour government were in power, it would provide much more money for this purpose. Let me remind the honorable member that in each of the last three financial years this Government has provided approximately £28,000,000 for war service homes. More money for this purpose could be obtained from only two sources. It could be taken from funds now being used for other purposes, or it could be obtained from increased taxation. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. Does he want the Government to reduce pensions or to abolish the tuberculosis allowance? Does he want the £12,000,000 for hospitals reduced? If so, he should say so. If he wants taxes to be increased, let him say so. The honorable member has talked about the £28,000,000 that the Government is providing annually for war service homes as though it were a mere bagatelle. I am one of those people who believe that £1,000,000 is a lot of money and that £28,000,00 is a very great sum indeed. I think it is time we put this matter into some sort of proper perspective.
I was interested to read recently that the gold mines at Coolgardie, in Western Australia, produced, in their first five years of operations, 1,900,000 oz. of fine gold. At current market prices, the proceeds of five years’ output of the Western’ Australian gold-fields represents what this Government has expended on war service homes during each of the last few years. I point out that the Commonwealth assists ex-servicemen through authorities other than the War Service Homes Division. During the last three years, £115,000,000 has been made available to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for houses for rental purposes. The agreement provides that at least a half of the houses built must go to ex-servicemen. In addition, £19,000,000 has been paid to South Australia and Tasmania for housing purposes ‘ under similar conditions. So during .the last three years the Commonwealth has made available’ about £150,000,000 for houses for ex-servicemen. That money has been provided by the taxpayers of this country. In the last three years this Government has required the taxpayers to find no less than £.150,000,000 for war service homes. Let us consider the figures of the Commonwealth Bank for the last financial year. That bank provided £20,000,000 for all kinds of home building, but the War Service Homes Division provided £28,000,000 or nearly 50 per cent, more than was provided by the Commonwealth Bank for all home-building purposes. Each year during the last three years this Government has provided for war service homes a sum of money equivalent to the total gold production from the Coolgardie goldfields for five years. A further illustration of the Government’s actions is that the Commonwealth has provided as much money each year for war service homes as the States are allocated under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. For the 30 years before December, 1949, when this Government assumed office, all Australian governments had provided £52,S00,000 for war service homes. This Government has provided £9S,800,000 for the same purpose during the last three and a half years. In other words, we have provided nearly twice as much in three years for war service homes as all other Australian governments had provided in the preceding 30 years. Yet, the honorable member for Lalor has the temerity to say that we should have provided more.
Now let us consider the other proposition of the honorable member. He said that if a Labour government had been in office it would have done much for ex-servicemen. I believe that every exserviceman will welcome the opportunity that the statement has given me to make a comparison between the actions of the last Labour Government and the actions of this Government in that regard. The comparison will show the vast difference between the Australian Labour party in Opposition, when it only has to talk, and the same party when it is ‘in Government and had to act. If the last Labour Government had not had a chance to do anything about war service homes, we could understand that the people might be misled by the Opposition’s attacks on this Government. But it had chance after chance for eight long .years. In the last three and a half years of office of the last Labour Government - when there was an opportunity to retain man-power restrictions and when the economy was completely controlled and everything was at hand - the Labour Government provided 16,51S homes for ex-servicemen, which cost £22,300.000. Let us compare that with this Government’s record. In our three and a half years of office we have provided 4-8,784 homes at a cost of £89,700,000. In other words, in three and a half years the Menzies Government has provided three times as many homes and four times as much money as the last Labour Government did in the same time. Yet the Opposition has the temerity to attack this Government for what it has done.
Let us make another comparison. Under the. last Labour Government war widows were not allowed to have war service homes, for the devastating reason that they were unacceptable risks because their pensions were too low. To-day I am proud to say that this Government has on its books no less than 2,516 war widows who have been accepted as good risks. The maximum amount of money that the Labour Government provided for any exserviceman was £2,000.
– But this Government allowed costs to get out of hand and had to increase the financial provision.
– The Labour Government, in allowing a maximum amount of £2,000, required ex-servicemen to pay a deposit of £200, or 10 per cent, of the £2,000. This Government has not only increased the maximum loan to £2,750, but it has also reduced the deposit to £175. In the last three years this Government has insured war service homes for about half the outside insurance company rate, and in each of the last three years we have rebated 66§ per cent, of the insurance premiums that have been paid by ex-servicemen. Of course, there have been difficulties with war service homes, but anybody who has built a home in the last three or four years knows that all home-builders have difficulties. There have been shortages of man-power, materials, and, indeed,’ shortages of everything unt’il quite recently. If any home-builder will multiply his own difficulties by 100,000 he will get some idea of the difficulties of the War Services Homes Division. Not only have we provided three times as many houses as did the last Labour Government, but we have also benefited exservicemen in other ways.
When we assumed office there was a system in operation in contracts known as the rise and fall clause. Say an exserviceman took a contract, and his house was expected to cost £2,000. There was a clause in his contract which made him liable if costs increased, and many of the men had to pay up to £400 more than they expected to pay when they started building. For more than a year now we have had all our war service homes contracts on a fixed price basis, and we have found that contractors have taken a far greater interest in their work, and that prices are coming down. Of course, there will be delays in allocating finance, but the reason is that there are so many applications. The flood of applications causes the delay in building homes, but that is the greatest evidence of the popularity of our scheme with ex-servicemen.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I join with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in his protest about the handling of the war service homes scheme. Whatever the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) may say about the expeditious way in which applications were dealt with earlier this year, the Government’s policy from the 1st September is quite clear. That policy is that in the future there must be a waiting period in respect of the building of new homes, and that an applicant may be given permission to arrange temporary finance to cover the period between the time when he builds his home and the time when finance is granted to him by the War Service Homes Division. There are at present many such delays, and they will continue. We all noticed, the joy with which the Minister quoted astronomical figures representing present inflated prices, and how he compared them with prices during the Labour regime when money had real value. The fact is that the last Labour Government did an excellent job in regard to war service homes. That is clearly seen by the whole trend of the figures in this year’s report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division. I refer honorable members to page 6 of that report. In the year 1945-46, the war was ending and the country was in a most confused state. I invite the Minister to indicate the opportunities that were available for the building of houses when soldiers were scarcely out of their uniforms, when many of them were untrained as tradesmen, when there was a great shortage of materials and when there were piles of war materials that were awaiting disposal. Every one can recall those conditions. Every one knows the difficulties with which the Labour Government was faced. Nevertheless, the report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year 1952-53 shows that in the year 1945-46 the Government built 319 homes. In 1946-47 there was a big improvement and 1,761 homes were built. I am referring only to homes that had to be built and not those which it was possible to transfer merely on the payment of a sum of money. In 1947-43 the Labour Government built 2,430 homes and in 1948-49 it built 3,559 homes. Those figures indicate the progress of the scheme and the increased output of homes for ex-servicemen.
– And at half the cost.
– And a.t half of the cost of a home to-day. A home at that time cost £1,100 less than a similar home would cost to-day, and figures can be produced to support that statement. The figures I have cited indicate the advancement that was made arid that that advancement was carried into the first year of office of the present Government. I do not deny that in 1950-51 a certain number of houses were built. I do not give the credit to this Government for the number of houses built in 1950-51; I give it to the Labour Government which laid the foundations upon which the scheme was based and to the men who built the houses. The Director of War Service Homes, in his report for the year 1952-53, said-
The increased emphasis on building for which there is a higher maximum loan than for other types of assistance, combined with the increase in the number of applications received, has made it necessary, so that the funds provided in the Estimates would not be exceeded, to place .various types of applications on priority lists to be dealt with in order of date of lodgment of the application.
He further said -
The easier flow of materials combined with the increased output by employees has contributed to the absorption of the balance of the cost of living adjustments prior to the 30th June, 1953.
I now wish to deal with the subject as a whole. The Government has failed to take into account the keen disappointment in the minds of many ex-servicemen and their wives and families who have waited for years for their own homes. Those people have gone through a period of rehabilitation during which they have bad to live with their parents or with their sisters and brothers. Sometimes two or three families have lived in the one home. Those people have patiently “ made do “ while there was a shortage of materials and they have waited patiently for the Government to put value back into the £1. They can see, however, that the Government does not intend to restore value to the £1. One can easily see why ox-servicemen are not prepared to wait any longer for their own homes. They do not wish to grow old in the homes of other people. They wish to own their own homes in which they may rear their families. It is a natural hope and one which the Opposition completely understands. They see that labour, materials and such services as water, gas and electricity are now available.
Ex-servicemen know that the Government will do nothing to reduce costs and they see no sense in waiting any longer. They want comfort and shelter for their families, and that is the reason for the flood of applications received by the War Service Homes Division over the last few months. This Government, is supposed to appreciate the effect .of current events. Was the Government surprised when the War .Services Homes Division received this flood of applications? Of course it was not a surprise. The Government is correctly informed by capable departmental officers. Those officers keep the Government informed not only in relation to the number of applications that have been received, but also in relation to trends generally. The Government was warned of impending events, but it failed to take any notice. The Government .cannot claim that it was unaware of the people’s thoughts or of the opportunities that have been provided for ex-servicemen to own their own homes. The Government has failed completely to appreciate the position with the result that there is now a long delay in the allotment of the necessary funds. Ex-servicemen in Victoria, who now apply for assistance receive a letter which tells them that they must wait up to thirteen months before their application will be considered. That position has arisen because there are insufficient funds available. The Government has allotted only £28,000,000 this year, which is the same sum as that which was allotted last year.
The Minister said that the funds must come from revenue or from increased taxation, but on all occasions he has been careful to avoid any reference to other sources from which this money might be obtained. It is completely untrue to say that the Government has not at its command the means of. providing the necessary money. The money is provided from revenue, but there is no reason why it should be provided from revenue. The erection of war service homes is one of the best avenues for the investment of money. The money and the interest thereon i? repaid by the ex-servicemen. Why should it come from taxation? There is no reason at all. The necessary money might have been provided just as easily from loan funds if the Government had not ruined the loan market. I quite agree that the necessary money cannot now be provided from loan funds because the Government has ruined the loan market. So the Government has provided £28,000,000 from taxation! The Minister said that any extra money would have to come from increased taxation or only one other source. That is completely ridiculous. The provision of funds for the erection of war service homes would be an excellent type of investment for the Commonwealth Bank. The money could be provided by the central bank. All of it, and all of the interest on it, would be repaid. The Government has the resources, and it should have made use of those resources to provide the money.
– Where will the Government obtain the labour and materials?
– There is a good supply of labour and materials. The position would be better if the Government did a little more in relation to immigration.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The apparent lack of interest by members of the Australian Labour party in this debate is borne out by the fact that during the time when honorable members opposite were speaking only eight members of that party were in the House.
– There are only eleven supporters of the Government present.
– Order !
– I rise to a point of order, ls the honorable ‘member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) entitled to reflect on honorable members on this side of the House when only fourteen out of approximately 70 Government supporters are present?
-Order! That is a matter between honorable members themselves.
– That is not true, the Government benches are full. I thought that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) , who is an ex-serviceman, would have had some sincere- objective in bringing forward this matter. I thought, that perhaps he would give the House concrete suggestions that would enable the Government to improve the present very good system of financing the erection of war service homes. But the honorable gentleman was completely lacking in sincerity. His statements were merely based on political expediency. The only suggestion that he made was that the ‘Govern ment should increase the amount of money that is made available to the War Service Homes Division for the erection of homes for ex-servicemen.
– Hear hear!
– The honorable member for. Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) says, “ Hear, hear !” I had some regard for the honorable member who, I thought, was a deep thinker; but it is clear from his remarks that he has given this matter no thought or consideration. Suppose we made available, from one source or another, an amount of £100,000,000 for war service homes purposes in an attempt to overcome the so-called backlog in the provision of war service homes. Do honorable members believe that exservicemen would derive any additional benefit from such a provision? We have made inquiries in order to ascertain whether, in the event of additional funds being made available, any added benefit would accrue to ex-servicemen who are still waiting for homes. According to expert authorities the building industry is now passing through a period of mild boom. ‘There are shortages of competent and skilled building labour and shortages of certain building materials. There is no possibility of bringing about a sufficient expansion of the building industry to absorb a provision of £100,000,000 for war service homes even if such a huge sum of money were made available to provide the houses about which Opposition members speak so glibly. According to a considered opinion of experts in the building industry such a move would only result in a boom in the industry which would be accompanied by shortages of materials and the creation of a blackmarket in houses. Ex-servicemen instead of benefiting from such a move would have to pay prices for their homes equivalent to the 1 lackmarketprices that were demanded and paid in the years when the Labour Government was in office. Every piece of homebuilding material and every home was paid for at blackmarket prices during the regime of the Labour Government. Opposition members would be glad to bring about such a situation again after this Government, had done so much to remedy it.
When this Government took office the maximum advance for war service homes was £2,000. It had been increased from £1,750 to £2,000 only shortly before the Government assumed office. During almost the whole of the period of office of the Labour Government it was a paltry £1,750, and only a very small number of ex-servicemen could afford to build a war service home because they were unable to find the difference between the amount of the advance and the total cost of the structure.
The present Government inherited a backlog of 24,000 unsatisfied applications for Avar service homes and there was a twelve months’ delay in the consideration of applications for advances. Soon after the Government took office the situation showed marked improvement. The Government increased the advance to £2,750 and enabled an ex-serviceman to obtain the full amount of advance on the basis of a deposit of £175. It has been able to reduce the number of outstanding applications from 24,000 to 16,000. Let us compare that record with the record of the Labour Government. In a period of three and a half years the Labour Government, built 5.7S9 war service homes. In the same period this Government has built 15,731 homes. How then can it be said that there is any sincerity in the utterances of honorable members opposite during this debate? The honorable member for Lalor raised this subject for discussion solely as a matter of political expediency. In a period of three and a half years this Government has provided for war service homes purposes a total amount of £89,663,020. If additional funds had been provided no greater benefit would have accrued to ex-servicemen. The difficulties that now exist in the building industry result from the maladministration of Labour governments. Labour governments gave effect to Labour’s socialistic theories and provided money for the State governments to build homes for occupation on a rental basis and deprived ex-servicemen and other members of the community of an opportunity to own their own homes. Labour believes that a person who owns his own home is a capitalist. The maladministration of Labour governments has been responsible for the so-called housing shortage, which is not really a shortage of homes, but a shortage of privately owned homes. As the result of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement countless thousands of people are forced to live in rented homes. A great rush of applications for war service homes has occurred because finance through the War Service Homes Division is the only kind of finance available for the ex-serviceman on a small income who seeks to provide a home for himself and his family. If the honorable member for Lalor had been sincere he would not have concentrated his attack on the war service homes policy of the Government. He would have acknowledged the fact that the ex-serviceman represents the only section of the community which is now being catered for by a home-purchase scheme.
Let us consider the plight of the countless thousands of young married people who are living in homes rented from their landlords, the State governments. The Queensland Labour Government will not supply an ex-serviceman with a war service home which is financed by the War Service Homes Division. How insincere then are the honorable member for Lalor and his colleagues of the Labour party in the Commonwealth and State spheres, when they speak about this matter?
– I invite the honorable member to be careful of his blood pressure.
– The hypocritical attitude of Opposition members on this matter is sufficient to cause one’s blood pressure to rise. State Labour governments’ ha ve denied not only ex-servicemen, but also all other sections of the community the right of home ownership, which is the inalienable right of every Australian family. ‘ This Government is doing everything possible to remedy the position. In three and ‘ a half years it has done more to provide war service homes than Labour governments did during their eight years of office. Since the inception of the scheme 107,416 war service homes have been provided. In three and a half years this Government has provided 52,875 war service homes or almost onehalf of the total number. When we recall that the scheme was first implemented on the 6th March, 1919, and that since then 107,416 homes have been provided-
– Order ! The honora ble member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 18th November(vide page 202), on motion by Sir Philip McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Chifley Labour Government introduced the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill in 1948, which gave to members of the Permanent Defence Forces who had an entitlement to deferred pay the right to elect either to contribute to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund for full benefits or limited benefits, or not to participate in the scheme.
Conversation being audible.
– Order ! I must direct the attention of the House to the disorderly conversations that are taking place.
– Some members of the permanent naval forces who elected not to contribute to the fund, have since realized the advantage of the benefits to which they would have become entitled had they elected to become full contributors to the fund, and, accordingly, they have made representations for permission to withdraw the election which they previously made, and become contributors to the fund. The principal purpose of this bill is to permit them to revoke their earlier election, and allow them to contribute to the fund on a full contributory basis. Certain officers of the Royal Australian Air Force, who had the option to elect for limited benefits in July, 1948, are also to be given the right to become contributors for full benefits. All personnel affected by this legislation will have four months from the date upon which it receives the Royal assent within which they may elect to become contributors. I am given to understand that almost every member of the permanent naval forces and a large number of members of the Royal Australian Air Force are contributors to the fund.. Indeed, I understand that all army personnel participate in the scheme.
– Except quartermasters.
– I am gratified that service personnel realize the great advantage of participation in this scheme, which was initiated on their behalf by the Chifley Labour Government, and are taking advantage of it. The Opposition will not delay the passage of this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Francis) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-52.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) : [Quorum formed.]
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th November (vide page 203), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition is opposed to this bill. We also opposed the original bill in 1952, which this legislation seeks to amend. The original bill proposed the establishment of a joint company in New Guinea for the exploitation of the timber resources of the Bulolo Valley. The bill specified that the capital of the company should be £2,000,000, and authorized the raising of £1,000,000, of which the Commonwealth was to contribute £500,001. The purpose of this bill is to authorize an increase of the capital to £1,500,000, of which the Commonwealth is to contribute £750,001. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in his second-reading speech, has sought to pay a tribute to the company which has operated to date, and to commend the bill to the House as heartening evidence of the rapid progress which is being made in a great joint enterprise. He said that that should be of marked value in the progress of the Territory. I have no doubt that some progress is being made, but that fact does not remove most of the objections that the Opposition had to the passage of the original legislation.
The Chifley Government, when it gave consideration originally to the recommendation of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who was then the Minister for Territories, wanted to form a 100 per cent. government company, but a departmental committee recommended the establishment of a joint enterprise. Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited held out against the Chifley Government because, although it wanted government money to be invested in the concern, it wanted to have control of the enterprise in its own hands. The present. Government, when it introduced its legislation in May, 1952, provided that the Commonwealth should control the company by holding £1 more than Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited. The Opposition’s fear is that, when the enterprise becomes properly established, this Government will cry out about its desocialization programme and will want to sell out to the private company without any consideration for the interests of the Australian taxpayer. It may sell the enterprise, as it has sold a lot of other Commonwealth investments, such as its holdings in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, for inadequate sums. The Opposition had another objection to the original legislation. The Government gave Australian investors, particularly Australian companies engaged in the manufacture of furniture, no opportunity to invest in Commonwealth-New Guinea Timbers Limited. Thus, the Australian companies which had reason to fear competition from timber produced by cheap labour were given no chance to protect their interests by buying shares in the new company.
Nothing untoward has happened to date, but it is always possible that timber produced by natives who are employed for about £1 a week and their keep will be flooded on to the Australian market to the detriment of Australian manufacturers and workers in this particularly important and developing industry in Australia. I have made some inquiries on this matter, and I have learned that Australian manufacturers were exceedingly disappointed when they were not permitted to become partners in the Bulolo venture. Many of them have said, “ Well, it is too late now. What cannot be cured must be endured, and we must put up with the situation as best we can “. These people do not object greatly to the investment of more money in the enterprise by the Commonwealth, but the Opposition still maintains that the Commonwealth should have a greater measure of control over the venture than it has and that Australian companies that wish to buy some of the new shares should be given the opportunity to do so. For the time being, Commonwealth-New Guinea Timbers Limited is co-operating with the Australian timber industry. It is negotiating to sell most of its products to the various recognized distributors throughout Australia. That may not always be so. A time may come when this company will decide to flood the Australian market and cause serious difficulties for Australian plywood manufacturers. If the company carries out its expressed policy to supply only the quantity of plywood that the Australian Plywood Board is unable to supply, no great harm will be done to the Australian industry. However, there is no legal obligation on the company to limit sales in Australia to that quantity. There is no provision anywhere for the application of sanctions to it.
The agreement between the Commonwealth and Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, provides that a certain number of superficial feet of timber may be milled by the joint company each year. I am not in a position to say whether that total has been reached, or, if not, when it will be reached, because the Minister for Territories, in his second-reading speech, confined his remarks entirely to what he described as the purpose of the bill, which is to increase the capital that the joint company will have at its disposal. I thought that the honorable gentleman, when he praised the company for its achievements, might at least have been more informative about the progress that it bad made, and about which he was so eulogistic. He took the opportunity to express appreciation of the way in which the company had applied itself to the purposes for which it was formed. The Opposition still has its doubts on this matter. We do not like the idea that a company, which may or may not have foreign capital invested in it - and there is some suggestion that Canadian interests have a big say in the company if they do not, in fact, dominate it - should have such a powerful influence in the development of a very rich timber reserve in an Australian territory. Therefore, the Opposition opposes this bill for the same reasons that it opposed the original legislation last year. We want a different sort of measure to be devised for the work that is being done and is to be done in the Territory. The Labour Government thought that, after a period of years, the Commonwealth should have the option of acquiring the interests of Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited in the joint company, but there is no provision for any such transaction in the Menzies Government’s legislation. In fact, the rights that were granted to Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited in the first instance are preserved to it in perpetuity. Provision is made for the issue of permits to the joint company for successive ten-year periods, and future governments may be issuing such permits even after the lapse of 50 or 60 years, by which time new timber will have matured.
The Opposition considers that, unless the agreement is eventually cancelled, neither this Government nor any future government will be in a position to gain complete control of the timber industry in New Guinea. The Commonwealth may be involved in the payment of heavy compensation to the private company at some future date because this Government has placed it in a privileged position. The Opposition considers that this is not in the best interests of the Territory, the natives employed in the Territory, or the Australian industry. We should like to be sure that Australian plywood manufacturers will not in future, in the event of a reduction of prices on the world markets, find themselves unable to compete with the product of cheap labour employed by the joint company in Australian territory. Australian workers in the industry are paid much higher wages than the natives receive in New Guinea, and they enjoy much better conditions of work. They have paid holidays and all the other advantages of the average industrial award. The Australian plywood industry, like most other industries in this country, is worried about its cost structure. It knows that our economy is balancing on a knife edge, and it has great fears for the future. That is all I propose to say on the bill at this stage. In the committee stages I may emphasize further the objections of the Labour party to this legislation, which involves the Commonwealth in a huge expenditure without giving it any really effective control of the company concerned, beyond that ofa nominal capital control over its activities in New Guinea and the disposition of its products.
– in reply - With all respect, I submit that what the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has done is to debate a measure which this Parliament passed in a previous session, instead of the bill that is now before the House. As the honorable gentleman rightly pointed out. the bill before us to-day does not introduce any new point of principle or policy. It simply provides that an additional amount be appropriated for the purpose of increasing the capital of CommonwealthNew Guinea Timbers Limited. The amount proposed to be appropriated is within the total amount which was provided in the original legislation and approved by this Parliament in a previous session. The arguments which the honorable member has canvassed really boil down to a difference of opinion between the Opposition, which is, according to its own light, socialistic in theory, and the Government, which is non-socialistic. The Opposition approves of one method of developing the resources of New Guinea, and the Government has chosen another method. That is the fundamental difference between us. The Government believes that its method not only will secure the speedy development of the resources of the Territory but also will do so in the best and most efficient manner, having regard both to the operations of the company concerned and to the national interest.
The honorable member for Melbourne was good enough, when recapitulating the fears that had been expressed by the Opposition last year, to say that nothing untoward had happened to date. The agreement between the Commonwealth and Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited contains safeguards which ensure that the government of the day will be able to maintain the national interest on all points in the operations of the joint company. The fact that nothing untoward has occurred is a tribute to the way in which this Government has watched the national interest.
– What wages does the company pay to its native workers ?
– The wages paid in New Guinea to European workers would be rather higher, I submit, than the wages paid to European workers for equivalent work in Australia. The wages paid for native labour, as well as the conditions of work, are controlled by ordinances of the Territory. I may say that the wages and conditions of natives to-day, as a result of the amendment of ordinances during the term of the present Government, are rather better than the wages and conditions received under the ordinances that applied when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was Minister for External Territories.
– What is the native wage now?
– It would be difficult to recite, point by point, the wages paid for different classes of work to different classes of workmen, but, if the honorable member is really curious on this point, I shall obtain the information for him. The rates are strictly in accordance with the ordinances and regulations. CommonwealthNew Guinea Timbers Limited is not placed in a special position. I repeat that the purpose of the bill is merely to appropriate an additional sum of £250,000 for the capital of CommonwealthNew Guinea Timbers Limited in order that its operations may be extended.
Question put -
That the bill be now reada second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I think the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) should give honorable members more information about the bill, particularly in connexion with the basic wage for natives that obtains in New Guinea to-day under the ordinances in force there. The Minister has not yet supplied us with that information. Do natives of New Guinea get only £1 a week and their keep, or do they get more than that? It is important that we should know the answers to those questions, because we are being asked to vote away another £250,000 of Commonwealth money. It will be voted away, because the Minister believe this is a non-socialistic measure. It is in accordance with the Government’s non-socialistic beliefs. The Government puts up the money and runs the risk, and the company takes the profit. I think the Government’s non-socialistic approach to the matter will be expressed eventually by the sale of the Commonwealth’s interest in the company to its private enterprise partner. The present arrangement is not exactly non-socialistic. It is a marriage of socialism and private enterprise. It is different from the arrangement for which the Labour party made provision under its scheme.
The Minister should be a little more communicative about this matter than he has been, because honorable members want to know the competition that Australian workers have to face from the employment of New Guinea natives, and Australian manufacturers want to know something about what their costs will be compared with costs in New Guinea generally.
– From the way in which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has raised the question of wages, it is obvious that he is interested mainly in the effect of wages on costs of production in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I regret that, at such short notice, I am unable to give the exact figures, but I want to refer to certain factors that are relevant to the point raised by the honorable member. The employees of the Commonwealth and New Guinea Timbers mill in New Guinea will not be only natives. Some Europeans will be employed and, as I said during the second-reading debate, the wages and conditions of the European employees, determined by private negotiation, will be rather better than those for equivalent work in Australia.
Native labour is not cheap labour in the sense in which some honorable members habitually interpret that term. An employer who engages native labour in Papua and New Guinea must comply strictly with the requirements of the relevant ordinances.We and the Administration make it our business to see that the ordinances are complied with in every particular. The cost of native labour commences at the time of recruitment. Recruiting involves some expense. That expense is increased by the cost of transporting the labour from more or less distant parts of the Territory to the place where it is to be employed. The expense is increased further by the necessity to provide the housing, accommodation, food and other requirements, upon which we insist. The food of native labourers must be supplied according to a strict dietary scale. After the term of employment has been completed - it is a short term - native labourers have to be returned to their own villages at the expense of the employer. It is impossible to calculate the cost of native labour only on the basis of the weekly wages paid to the natives. In estimating the cost of such labour as a factor in costs of production, a great number of other items must be taken into consideration. I regret most sincerely that, because I did not anticipate this question, I have not the figures with me, but I shall obtain them, as closely as they can be estimated, in order to give the honorable member an indication of the part that native labour plays in the costs of production at this timber mill.
– Will the Minister table the information?
– I undertake to do so.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked for information about the wages paid to native labour in New Guinea, but, as I expected, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) did not know what those wages were, or what provision was made for them in the appropriate ordinances. That lack of knowledge is rather strange. I recollect that when I raised this matter in a debate last year the Minister did not know then what the ordinances provided for in respect of the wages of native labourers. It seems to me that there is an uncanny lack of knowledge on the part of the Minister in regard to this matter. If he had due consideration for the welfare of the natives under his control, their rates of pay would be in his mind every minute of the day. But, apparently, he is so unconcerned about the rates of pay to which natives are entitled under the ordinances that he has not the foggiest idea of what they are.
– I bet the Minister knows the dividend rates!
– I daresay that if we asked him to tell us the dividend paid by the Bulolo Gold Dredging Company, he would be able to give us the information at once. As an Australian parliament, we must take stock of what we are doing in New Guinea. Unless we pay a little more attention to the welfare of native labour there than we have done during the last three or four years, the natives will have every justification for rebelling against the oppression of the white man in New Guinea, as they have done in other parts of the world. We have no right to go into the country of another race and alienate their land unless we are prepared to take adequate steps to ensure that native labour will not be exploited.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is getting away from the bill. He must come back to it.
– I shall come back to the remarks made by the Minister about the bill. The honorable gentleman said that employers in New Guinea were doing all that could be expected of them because they were complying with the ordinances. He did not know what the ordinances provided for, but he assured us that employers were complying with them. He said that employers had to return natives to their villages after a period of employment, and implied that the natives should be very grateful to the employers for doing so. He referred to white labour. We know that white labour is quite capable of safeguarding its own interests in New Guinea. While there is a shortage of labour of a supervisory nature in New Guinea, white workers will make sure that they do not get less than the award rates. The fact that white labour in New Guinea is receiving a little more - I think that was the term used by the Minister - than the rates prevailing on the mainland is nothing to boast about. Departmental officers employed in New Guinea are paid salaries substantially higher than those paid for the same class of work performed on the mainland.
I want to know why it is that, when attempts are made to induce native
Labourers to join trade unions, vigorous steps are taken by the employers, backed by the Administration, to prevent them from doing so. I ask the Minister to say definitely whether the Government is prepared to give an assurance that employers will be prevented from trying to stop the natives from joining unions.
– Order! That matter does not come within the ambit of this debate.
– With all i respect to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if the House is to be asked to sanction an increase of capital, surely honorable members are entitled to obtain an assurance from the Government that the increased capital will not be used for the exploitation of the natives.
– Order ! Such a request would be in order.
– Accordingly, I ask the Minister whether he will give the men concerned the right to join a union?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I have ruled such a request out of order. The honorable member must not attempt to circumvent a ruling from the Chair.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th November (vide page 574), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this measure, which is designed to enable members of the defence forces who are serving outside Australia to be enrolled on the electoral roll under certain conditions. The number of persons who will be affected by the measure is _ not known, but any person who is entitled to vote in Australia should be provided’ with an opportunity to vote while he is outside Australia. No person can vote unless he has been enrolled, and. this measure makes his enrolment possible. Under the measure a person serving with the defence forces outside Australia will be entitled to enroll in the sub-division of the electorate in which he resided prior to his. departure, from Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The bill proposes to enable certain persons in the defence forces outside Australia to become enrolled. After they have been enrolled justice will have been done to the men concerned, but the Opposition desires to know whether any machinery will be provided for the appointment, by party organizations, of scrutineers. I have not a clear recollection of the present Commonwealth Electoral Act because, unfortunately, it is four years, since I was a Minister. Although I shall not have to wait long to return to office, nevertheless I am concerned at the possibility that scrutineers may be provided for the Government and the Opposition, but that perhaps the Australian Country party will be left out, as they seem to be left out of everything else these days.
– Under the defence regulations that were in force during the last war the forces overseas were provided with a method of voting. I believe that a similar method will be .provided for the forces now serving outside Australia. I was behind bars when the defence regulations were promulgated and, therefore, I am not quite certain of their contents. However, I believe that the same principles with regard to scrutineers will apply in the future as applied to the defence forces overseas during war-time elections. During the last session the Parliament approved legislation to provide for the appointment overseas of assistant divisional returning officers, and the conduct of future elections will be in their hands - not in the hands of military personnel. I shall look further into the matter of scrutineers as raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Cal well), and inform the honorable member of the result of my investigations.
– The legislation approved last year was for the purpose of appointing an assistant returning officer at Australia House, London.
– And also for appointments at other places, wherever such appointments are necessary.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) - by leave - proposed -
That the billbe now read a. third time.
.- I ask the Minister to give consideration to certain views that have been expressed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in respect of this matter.
– in reply - The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) raised the matter of certain phraseology in clause 3 of the bill. The words that he referred to were - a person… who accompanies a part of the Defence Force . . . and he suggested that they were dangerous words. I asked the Parliamentary Draftsman to comment on the honorable member’s views, and he has now stated- I certainly do not consider that the phrase, “ a person who accompanies a part of the Defence Force “ could be taken as including a person who, without official recognition, follows a unit of the Defence Force around.
In the case of the Navy, I believe that such persons are known as “ Albatrosses “. The Parliamentary Draftsman continued -
On the other hand, “a person providing amenities or welfare services for members of the Forces or performing services for the Defence Force “ might well be construed as including persons who neither accompany a part of the Defence Forcenor receive official recognition.
The particular phraseology to which the honorable member for Parkes referred has already been used in defence regula tions with regard to voting power, and has proved satisfactory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 27th November (vide page 681), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, as the Minister has stated, is largely a machinery measure. However, there are some clauses in it that deserve attention by honorable members. The bill will make certain minor amendments to the Nationality and Citizenship Act, which have been deemed necessary by the legal advisers of the Government. This action should have been taken when the legislation was originally enacted, because those who are now advising the Government to amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act by this measure, are the same persons who drafted the original legislation. It seems that some of the amendments are of a more technical nature than necessary, and perhaps some of them need not have been introduced at all. The first amendment to which the Minister drew attention provides for a more accurate definition of “ Australia “ than is to be found in the act. The present definition includes Norfolk Island and the Territory of Papua, but it is now proposed to include Macquarie Island, Heard Island, Ashmore Island and Cartier Island. I do not know how many people are living in those islands at present, in addition to the expeditionary forces that are sent there from time to time to study the weather, and I do not know how many aliens will be found among those inhabitants. Indeed, it is safe to say that there will be no permanent settlement on any of the islands at any time in the foreseeable future. However, if the principal act will be made clearer by the inclusion of the amended definition, so much the better. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) discussed clauses 3 and 4, which relate to subjects of administrative concern. The draftsman has discovered that if the. original act were Strictly interpreted regulations would be required to prescribe in detail every word on the forms of application, and that every time an improvement was to be made it would have to be done by means of a new regulation. That seems to be stretching the legal aspect of the matter a little too far, but if this matter, which is mainly one of administrative concern, can be cleared up by the bill, then again, so much the better.
Proposed new sub-section (2n.) of section 15 of the principal act is more important, because it relates to claims by persons for naturalization, and the fate of such claims tinder the existing legislation. The Minister said -
I’t lias been possible tn accept war service in Allied forces only in cases where such forces came under the direction of a,n officer who received his’ command directly and solely from a British Government. It has not been possible to accept service under commanders who. though British themselves, held their command, joint’ appointment by the allied powers. For example, service under Lords Wavell and Mountbatten while they were Supreme Commanders for the Allies in South-East .Asia has not been acceptable.
Lord “Wavell commanded an army anil at one time Lord Mountbatten commanded sections of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. When I was Minister for Immigration, I regarded service under Lord Mountbatten as service that was acceptable within the terms of the act for the purpose of granting to the person concerned a concession in relation to the qualifying period of residence. I am certain that a number of Dutch soldiers, naval and air force men who served under Lord Mountbatten, were naturalized because I ruled that Lord Mountbatten was a British officer in command of forces in South-East Asia. The fact that he derived his authority from an American commander did not seem to me to make any difference, but the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) thinks that the position should be clarified. I hope that there are not many people whose naturalization is being delayed because of the existence of such a technicality. If the Minister knows how many aliens are affected, perhaps he will tell us. I think I was the first Minister for Immigration who decided that anybody who had served under a British commander anywhere in the world should count his period of service as being equivalent to a period of residence in Australia, with the exception of the requirement that a person must reside in Australia for the twelve months preceding bis naturalization. .The provision has existed for many years, but I do not know whether it was applied in relation to any of the French people who came to Australia after World War I. and who served in British sectors during that war. Clause 5 (a), insofar as it will help people who wish to become naturalized British subjects. i.« a good clause.
A number of Dutch people who caine from Indonesia found that under existing State laws, if they were not naturalized British subjects, they could not obtain employment. Such provision in State laws affected such organizations as harbour boards and marine boards. I do not know whether the Minister has given consideration to the desirability of overriding any State laws which seek to prevent aliens from obtaining employment. It seems to me that for the States to say that certain unnaturalized persons shall be denied employment is an invasion of the Commonwealth’s prerogative. I think there should be a Commonwealth law which prescribes the occupations in which unnaturalized people may be effectively employed. The fact that a man is told that he cannot obtain employment because he is not naturalized may be regarded in certain circumstances as a reflection upon his character, and it may stamp him as a security risk in spite of any distinguished war service be may have to his credit.
Clause 5 (b) relates to the naturalization of aliens under 21 years of age. The Minister told the House that he bad exercised the powers that reside in the Minister for the time being in order to permit minors to become naturalized after only two years’ residence. I do not think that that is a very wise action, because there is uniformity throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations and there is an agreement which preserves that uniformity. Under the agreement, no adult is naturalized unless he has lived for a period of five years in the territory of which he desires to become a citizen, subject to the provision in relation to service under British commanders in time of war. The question may be asked why, if naturalization can be granted to minors after two years’ residence, it cannot be granted to persons who have reached their majority. Suggestions have been made from time to time in relation to the acceptance of a shorter period of service as a qualification for citizenship. I had hoped that the Minister would discuss this question with the authorities in Great Britain or would lui ve it raised at the level of a Prime Ministers’ conference in order that the proposed action would receive the approval of the other dominions. It would be wrong if a minor in Australia could be naturalized after two years’ residence and if a minor in Canada had to wait the full five years. I hope that the Minister will give further consideration to this matter, because there are dangerous possibilities involved.
– I shall not interrupt the honorable member now, but I shall comment on that matter at the committee stage.
– I shall be very pleased to hear the Minister’s comments on that point. I think there should be a better way in which to deal with the situation. That leads me to another point. An alien father, by the act of naturalization, also naturalizes his dependent minor children. I do not know whether any such provision is made in relation to a mother who becomes naturalized in such cases where the father of her children is dead or has deserted her or has become a patient in a. mental asylum or similar institution. In view of the fact that recognition has been given to equality of the sexes in relation to their rights of citizenship on naturalization, and in view of t.Tm fact that women have been given tho right to retain their nationality unless they elect to change it on- marriage to- a foreigner, we should do something for the mothers of families where the father is dead, or is no longer the breadwinner of the family or the head of the household.
I refer now to clauses 6, 9, 10 and 11 of the bill which the Minister says are complementary to one another. That is true. Provision is made for the making of an affirmation by a person who, on the grounds of conscience, objects to swearing an oath. There is a further provision that the oath need not necessarily be made before one of the officers who are prescribed by the act. It was intended originally that it should be so, but, on the advice of the Government’s legal advisers, an alteration is being made in order to remedy a deficiency. The third aspect of this matter to which the Minister drew attention in his second-reading speech was the proposal that, in addition to the judges and magistrates who are authorized to administer the Oath of Allegiance at naturalization ceremonies, the mayor of a city should bc allowed to do so in certain circumstances. I think that is a worthwhile provision. It was not contemplated, when provision was first made for the adoption in this conn- try of the American practice of having a public ceremony, that sufficient judges . and magistrates would not always be available. Some of these ceremonies are now being conducted in city halls and town halls in .country districts and the mayor is being asked to perform the. task of administering the oath. If -the mayor is not a magistrate, he is not eligible under the present provision of the act. The Minister proposes to take the power to permit a mayor or the presiding officer of a municipality, who is not a magistrate, to perform the duties that a judge or a magistrate would otherwise perform. I commend that portion of the proposal.
Another class of person who is covered by the bill is an alien who is serving with the Australian forces. The Minister has stated that an alien who is serving with the Australian forces in Korea is eligible in every way for naturalization, but that there is no judge or magistrate in that area who can perform the ceremony. The bill proposes to give authority to the commanding officer, or I presume some other officer, to perform the necessary duties. This proposal raises the question of the adoption of a constant policy by the three Australian defence services in relation to aliens. Although the Army will accept an alien, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force will not do so. I do not know why there should be that differentiation. I should imagine that, if an alien were a menace, he would be as great a menace in the Army as in any other service. I do not think that the application of such hard and fast rules by the Navy and the Air Force assists the assimilation of new Australians. I have mentioned several times that Australia should adopt the law that obtains in the United States of America so that, if forces are being raised compulsorily, persons who reside here should be obliged to serve in the forces on a basis of residence and not of nationality. I know that reference to the national service training scheme is extraneous, but, if this Parliament rnakes provision for the granting of citizenship to an alien who has joined the Commonwealth Military Forces, it also should require aliens to serve as national trainees. Aliens in the prescribed agc groups should be obliged to serve in the Australia u forces in the same manner a.- a natural-born citizen is required to serve. I have raised that matter in this ] louse several times, but with no apparent result. I should like to know why that is so, and I should be pleased if the Minister would give that matter further attention.
Clause 7 of the bill will clarify an obscurity which, the Minister says, exists in the act. I do not know why these obscurities exist, because the Chifley Government gave much consideration to the drafting of the Nationality and Citizenship Bill 194S. ‘ It “was debated thoroughly in this House, and I should have imagined that the Government’s legal advisers could have foreseen these obscurities which are now found to exist. Clause 7. amends section 25 (4”) of the net. which confers Australian citizenship on any British woman whose husband became, or would but for his death have become, an Australian citizen at the commencement of the act. The Minister pointed out the difficulties that exist in the case of a man who was born in Australia but who died before the 26th. January, 1949, when Australian citizenship was first provided. The proposed amendment, to the extent to which it clarifies the law and places the widow of such a man in the favored position in which it was intended she should be, isto be commended. The Minister stated that the bill proposes no very farreaching changes in the law relating tonationality and citizenship, and that is correct. There is an implied comment favorable to the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 and I think it is right that the Minister, by inference, should pay tribute to the manner in which thisAct lias operated since it was passed by Parliament in 1948. The Nationality and Citizenship Act was a new practice in Australian law which represented a departure from a great deal of existing practice. It arose out of decisions taken at a conference of representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations held in London. Legislation to give effect to those decisions was passed by the legislatures of the other dominions as unanimously as it was by the Commonwealth Parliament. Because the act is working well and is helping in the assimilation of newcomers to our shores - I suppose 350,000 or more have come here since it was first placed on the statute-book - the country might well be proud of it. The amendments proposed by the Minister for Immigration will greatly facilitate the working of the legislation in the interests of those persons who, having come to make their lives among us, and having served the required period of residence here, have shown a desire to become Australians, not merely in name, but also in fact. They are eager to pass from the position of new Australians to that of Australian citizens and to become as much Australian as is any one of us who descended from first generation or maybe third or fourth generation Australians. I commend the bill to the House and I support the Minister’s remarks in relation to it.
.- The ceremony of the granting of citizenship to new Australians is a very important function which should not be undertaken lightly by the person who administers the oath of allegiance. It should not be lightly regarded by those who, having come to Australia from other parts of the world to live among us, have qualified for naturalization. The ceremony should be as dignified and formal as possible. In it should be stressed, not only the advantages gained by the person upon whom citizenship rights are conferred, but also the responsibilities that thereafter devolve upon him. I do not believe that it is desirable that the classes of persons before whom the oath mav be taken should be unlimited. That function should be entrusted only to persons who occupy responsible positions in the community. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners have come to Australia during the last few years. Among them there are many who would gladly accept all the benefits but none of the responsibilities that flow from Australian citizenship. That, unfortunately, is also true of many Australian-born citizens. Those who are charged with the task of administering the oath of allegiance to newcomers should be imbued with the importance of their task. They should take care to advise those to whom they administer the oath of their future responsibilities as well as the advantages that they will derive as Australian citizens.
The Department of Immigration conducts a. number of naturalization ceremonies in the cities and towns throughout Australia. At most of the ceremonies that have been held in Melbourne representatives of the department and of the Good Neighbour Council and of members of the Commonwealth and State parliaments have been present. There is a tendency for some Commonwealth departments, and to a lesser degree for Ministers, to end ceremonies of that kind as quickly as possible. Because of the great number of immigrants who qualify for naturalization there is a tendency on the part of those responsible for administering the oath of allegiance to complete the function as quickly as possible, without properly impressing on the newcomer the rights, privileges and responsibilities that go with citizenship of this country. Those matters were stressed during the period of office as Minister of Immigration of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Whoever administers the oath, whether he be a judge, a police magistrate, a shire president, a mayor, or, if the mayor is busy, the town clerk or his assistant, the responsibilities as well as the advantages of citizenship should be fully outlined. The Government should hesitate before it further increases the classes of persons before whom the oath may be taken. The Minister should impress on those charged with the responsibility of administering the oath the need for carrying out the function in a dignified and impressive manner, so that those who are about to become Australian citizens will realize the importance of the benefit which is being conferred upon them and also the responsibilities which it entails.
.- As chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, I have attended a great many of these naturalization ceremonies. I assure the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) that his wishes are being carried out. When the oath of allegiance is administered by a police magistrate the ceremony is usually held in the town hall, away from the court house which, is too sordid a place for such a purpose. The holding of the ceremonies in town halls makes the immigrant feel that he is being accepted into the civic life of the community. Naturalization ceremonies are held, not only in the capital cities and suburbs, but also in country centres. Recently, I attended a ceremony at Yallourn in which a magistrate, in a very dignified ceremony, administered the oath of allegiance to about six immigrants. I agree with the honorable member for Burke that these ceremonies must be as dignified and impressive as possible and that the person who administers the oath should stress, not only the benefit’s, but also the responsibilities which citizenship of this great country entails. I assure him that the ceremonies that I have attended have been dignified and impressive and that the importance of these matters was kept prominently in mind by the presiding magistrate.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred to the naturalization of minors. That aspect of citizenship was considered by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. The arrangements for the naturalization of minors are, I believe, quite satisfactory. In the ordinary way minors who take the oath of allegiance are the wards, or are under the guardianship of, the Minister. In such cases it may be desirable to allow the naturalization ceremony to take place before the expiration of the prescribed five years’” residence in Australia. I recall two or three cases in which the oath of allegiance was administered to children of about fifteen or sixteen years of age, who had been educated in Australia for two or three years and had done very well at school. One child, a Dutch girl, had done extraordinarily well at high school and had won a scholarship which entitled her to continue her studies at a university. In such instances the holding of the naturalization ceremony before the expiration of the prescribed residential period appears to be wise and helpful. It. also leads to a greater desire on the part of parents to become naturalized as quickly as possible. Many immigrants do not appear to appreciate the value of naturalization as a means of enjoying the advantages that flow from Australian citizenship. The naturalization of minors is a very great incentive to their elders to seek naturalization.
The honorable member for Melbourne has said that aliens may serve in the Army, but are not accepted for service in the Navy and the Air Force. That matter should be investigated by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council.
.- Like the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), I believe that we must be careful to preserve the dignity of naturalization ceremonies. The holding of these ceremonies in town halls and in other im press] vp surroundings and the decentralization of the ceremonies is a step in the right direction. In my electorate recently a naturalization ceremony was held for the first time. It was conducted in a very efficient and impressive manner. Unfortunately, owing to a misunderstanding on the part of the Department of Immigration, federal members, were not given an opportunity to be present at the first of the ceremonies of this kind held in their electorates. That was apparently due to an oversight. From all reports, these ceremonies have been most successful. They will continue ‘to be successful provided the safeguards suggested by honorable members are taken care of. Those of us who are concerned with immigration, as every Australian should be who wishes this country to develop to the degree to which it is entitled to develop, must feel a little alarm on some occasions at the lack of desire on the part of a considerable number of immigrants to seek naturalization. I refer particularly to those persons who came to Australia in the early stages of the immigration programme under the International Refugee Organization. There is a noticeable reluctance on their part to adopt Australian nationality. I suppose that such an attitude is inevitable among people who came here as refugees from the terror which hung over their own countries, and who still consider themselves exiles and look forward to the day when they may play their part in freeing their countries. Their reluctance to seek naturalization is so pronounced as to warrant an investigation by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Immigration with a view to ascertaining whether anything can be done to point out to those people the great privilege it would be to become Australian citizens. A determined effort should be made to persuade them to accept the idea that fate and circumstances have ejected them from their native lands, and that they should regard Australia as their new home, and should take the necessary steps to become Australian citizens.
I believe that the Minister should consider the advisability of softening the repudiation part of the naturalization pledge. Many immigrants hesitate about the naturalization ceremony, because of the requirement for the specific and somewhat stark repudiation of their nationality. They cannot be simultaneously Australians and the nationals of their native countries, and they must make up their minds that they desire to become Australian citizens, but it i3 important to remember that they feel, while they take the oath of allegiance, that they repudiate, not only allegiance to the governments of their native countries, but their whole background and culture. They feel that they cannot possibly divorce themselves from such sentiments. Perhaps the Government can find some means to soften the pledge of repudiation without lessening the firm declaration of loyalty to Australia, so that immigrants will not feel that they are repudiating their culture, and their country of origin. The sooner we can persuade immigrants to think of themselves as Australians, the better it will be for this country ; and the best way in which we can achieve that objective is to prevail upon them to apply for naturalization as early as possible.
I believe that they should be allowed to apply for naturalization in a ‘ very limited time after their arrival in Australia. An immigrant who makes up his mind to seek Australian nationality has made an important decision, but once he has done so, it means that henceforth, irrespective of the slowness of his assimilation into the Australian community in respect of language, he begins to think as an Australian, and no longer has the same concern about events in his native country. He no longer worries or wonders whether he. is likely to be called up by the government of the land in which he was born, because of some military trouble in that country. We should encourage immigrants in every way to become Australian citizens, and to start to think as Australians. We consider that immigrants are granted a tremendous privilege when they are permitted to come to this great, free country, and become citizens of it. We should tell them about the rights and privileges that they will enjoy as Australian citizens, but there is always a danger that, because of their nostalgic feelings for their native lands, and their old culture and background, they will hesitate to take the step unless we actively encourage them to do so.
I do not like the presence of a large body of aliens in Australia. If our immigration policy subsequently attracts the number of immigrants we are seeking, we shall have a considerable number of aliens in this country unless we shorten the period for naturalization. I know that the Minister for Immigration is eager to proceed with the immigration programme, which our national development requires, and, therefore, I strongly urge him to give careful attention to the period that an immigrant is required to reside in Australia before he may apply for naturalization. I have had conversations with officers of the Department of Immigration, immigrants, and Australians, and I conclude that an immigrant suffers from homesickness during the first year of his residence in Australia, and yearns to return to his native land. After the first year, the immigrant begins to settle down to the Australian way of life. An immigrant who begins his third year of residence in Australia seldom wishes to leave this country. He is prepared to spend the rest of his life here.
I believe that we should make it possible for immigrants to become Australian citizens at the end of their third year of residence here, because they are beginning to think and act as Australians by that time. We are conferring a privilege on them when we allow them to become naturalized, but we should make it possible for them to acquire that privilege at the earliest possible moment. Any risks that may be attached to a reduction of the number of years, or the qualifying period for naturalization, would not be so great as the risks to be run by the presence here of a large body of persons who are not Australian nationals, and whose loyalty is given to the governments of other countries. Some people consider that the qualifying period of three years’ residence is too long. Personally I am prepared to run plenty of risks in that respect. The sooner we get the newcomers to think as Australians, the better it will be; and to the degree that this bill enables immigrants to feel that their destiny lies irrevocably in Australia the better it will he.
I support the bill, but I ask the Minister to give serious, consideration to the two important propositions that I have advanced. I refer to the softening, in some way, of the repudiation part of the pledge^ and to the qualifying period that an immigrant is required to reside in Australia before he becomes eligible to apply for naturalization. We could well devote serious attention to those problems, and make the position much easier than it is at the present time, to enable immigrants to start to. think as Australians and to ‘become real Australians sat the earliest possible moment.
– I received an invitation from the mayor of a municipality in my electorate “to attend a naturalization ceremony in the local town hall about a week ago. Unfortunately, I was not able to be present at that ceremony, because I was attending to my parliamentary duties here in Canberra, but I wrote to the mayor a letter in which I expressed my regret at ray unavoidable absence.
I have been concerned for many years about the rights and privileges that are granted to aliens in Australia. An immigrant who becomes naturalized does not gain any substantial material privileges, except in respect of certain forms of employment and the right to vote, compared with those available to an alien. I remind the House that at the outbreak of World War II. the nationals of various countries, who were then residing. in Australia, were recalled to their native lands in order to take part in the conflict. Some of those people became our active enemies, yet they were simultaneously bona fide property-owners in Australia. I raised that matter in the South Australian Parliament on one occasion, and I questioned the wisdom of the policy under which the subjects of other countries were granted full rights to own property in Australia. The act of naturalization does not confer upon a person any material rights and privileges that arc not available to an alien. I consider that we confer on aliens too great a privilege when we allow them to own property on a large scale. If I had my way, I would make it compulsory for an. alien to become a naturalized Australian before he could be permitted to own property here.
I realize that that subject is outside the scope of this bill, but I have raised it because I consider that aliens who have privileges in Australia should also have certain obligations. An alien who desirethe right to own property should be prepared to become an Australian citizen and accept the responsibility to defend this country, if necessary. I recognize the need for this amending legislation which, among other things, will enable a mayor or some other responsible person to conduct a naturalization ceremony. I express appreciation to the officials and others who undertake that work.
– in reply - I am most appreciative of the thoughtful and constructive way in which honorable members on both sides of the House have debated this bill. I am particularly indebted to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who has been in charge of the debate on behalf of the Opposition. He has been able to draw on his own detailed knowledge of the administration of this section of the Department of Immigration, which dates back to the period when he was the Minister for Immigration, and was closely concerned with the problems that are dealt with, in part, by this amending legislation. Several matters have been raised in the debate which I can answer more conveniently now than in committee, because the honorable members who mentioned them’ are present in the chamber. I may not deal with all the matters that have been discussed, but honorable gentlemen may rest assured that their suggestions will be closely examined by the officers of the Department of Immigration and myself.
The honorable member for Melbourne, whilst he gave general support to the bill, queried the wisdom of the policy under which naturalization is granted to’ minors who have had only a short term of residence in Australia. The honorable gentleman considered that we might be departing, in that respect, from the general practice throughout British Commonwealth countries, I am unable to state offhand the practice in every country of the British Commonwealth, but I am in a position to inform i lie honorable gentleman that a similar provision exists in the United Kingdom legislation. In my opinion, sound reasons exist for its application, not in all cases, but in particular cases, and, of course, the discretion rests at all times with the Minister. The honorable gentleman is doubtless aware that children have come to Australia who are under the guardianship of the Minister for Immigration. It is desirable that many of those children should feel that they belong to a particular country. They may be orphans, or children who have been selected to come here from an institution in their country of origin. Generally speaking, these younger people are assimilated more rapidly than people of more mature years and are in a state of mind to accept naturalization after a shorter term of residence than people whose roots have gone down deeply into the countries of their origin. As the honorable member for Melbourne will be aware, the lack of Australian nationality is sometimes an impediment to the securing of a better position or an official position. The honorable gentleman himself referred to the disqualification from enlistment in the Navy and the Air Force which applies to immigrants who are still of alien nationality. I assure him that the power that resides in me as the Minister for Immigration is exercised with discretion and with a proper regard for the circumstances of each case. On the subject of disqualification from enlistment in the Navy and the Air Force, I point out that the Department of Immigration strongly favours the removal of this bar. However, the decision rests with the services concerned, and apparently they have reasons which they consider to be stronger than the wishes of the Department of Immigration and of various members of this Parliament. The views that the honorable member has expressed will be brought to the notice of the Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon)’.
– What about the national trainee question?
– This subject has been under the consideration of the Government. The honorable member may be aware that there are some complications on this issue which derive from our diplomatic relations with various countries. However, the matter is by no means dormant and I hope to reach a conclusion soon.
Uniformity of naturalization laws between Australia and other British Commonwealth countries is desirable but not always practicable. This subject was considered at the 1947 London conference, at which representatives of the various Commonwealth countries decided to enact their own separate laws in relation to citizenship. Delegates at that conference realized that the different circumstances of the various countries made separate legislation desirable. Although Commonwealth countries have the same general approach to problems of citizenship, differences develop according to the conditions that prevail in the respective countries. Australia, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has pointed out, has a rapidly growing body of aliens in its population, and, therefore, our problems are different from those of countries which admit a relatively small number of aliens. We want to encourage the movement of new settlers to Australia, and it may well be that, from their point of view, we have a more attractive and more liberal policy in. relation to naturalization than have other countries that are by no means so eager as Australia to attract alien settlers. The honorable member for Yarra spoke of the desirability of inviting members of Parliament to attend naturalization ceremonies. I agree entirely with the honorable member, and the instructions that I have issued to the department should have had the effect that he desires. I understand from officers of the department whom I have consulted that various town clerks have been instructed that, when naturalization ceremonies are to be held in the town halls where they officiate, the department wishes to have the local representatives in this Parliament and the appropriate State parliament invited to be present. I have learned that some of these ceremonies have been held when this Parliament has been meeting, and accordingly I have asked that, as far as possible, such ceremonies be arranged to take place on Mondays or Fridays when the Parliament is in session so that honorable members will have a better chance to attend. I should appreciate their attendance at these functions, and I think it would have a. beneficial influence on new citizens, who would be encouraged if members of Parliament gave their blessing to the act of conferring citizenship upon immigrants.
The honorable member for Yarra also referred to the desirability of expressing the form of renunciation in terms that would not be repugnant to a person about to adopt Australian citizenship. The honorable gentleman may be interested to know that the form of words for this declaration lias been amended for the reason that he stated. The present form is as follows: - 1 renounce allegiance to any sovereign or Slate of which J j»m v bc a subject or citizen.
The previous form required the new Australian to renounce nationality. The present form requires him merely to renounce allegiance to a sovereign or a State, not to renounce his nationality. Even the present form will be examined at the forthcoming citizenship convention with a view to further amendment if necessary. Honorable members generally will be interested to know that declarations of intention to seek naturalization, which are the first formal steps taken by prospective new citizens, are now being lodged at the rate of 1,400 a month, which represents an increase of 50 per cent, over the rate of lodgment last year. I hope that the rate will increase as more and more immigrants become eligible to make the declaration and as the desirability of naturalization becomes more apparent to them than, perhaps, it is at present. If I have overlooked any point of consequence that honorable members have raised, I assure them that it will be examined carefully when the text of this debate becomes available for consideration by departmental officers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by have - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to S p.m.
Debate resumed from the 27th November (vide page 677), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
.- The bill provides for the establishment of a trust to distribute prize money in respect of enemy ships and goods captured during World War II. It is appropriate that, the Government should seek to establish such a trust, but it is regrettable that the bill was not introduced until long after the prize money became available. However, better late than never. I am glad that the trust will be fairly representative. It will consist of three persons appointed by the Governor-General, who will hold office during the GovernorGeneral’s pleasure. However, we know that the government of the day could remove either one or all of them at any time, and for any reason. It is unfortunate that the Government has decided that the persons to be appointed as members of the trust shall be officers. I have no objection to officers as such, but I think it is unfortunate that the measure should provide that the members of the trust shall be commissioned officers. In view of the fact that we arp not now :11 war, I think it would be proper to state that the members of the trust should be returned servicemen, one of whom has been a member of the Royal Australian Air Force. He might have been a sergeant, a corporal or a humble aircraftman. Rank should not affect eligibility for appointment as a member of this trust. There are many rankers of all arms of the services who are capable of undertaking this, one might say, sacred trust. I cannot see why, in a time of peace, we should provide that the persons appointed to administer this trust fund should be officers. I think rankers should be eligible for appointment.
The Opposition has no other substantial criticism to make of the bill. I have not studied the measure extensively. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who was Minister for Air in the Chifley Government, has given a great deal of attention to trusts of various kinds that have been established to handle money on behalf of ex-members of the forces. He has studied the measure thoroughly and will be able to offer constructive and friendly criticisms. I have no doubt that he will also be able to offer some destructive criticism, but he will not do so in an unfriendly spirit, because we realize that the object of the measure is to ensure that prize money, to the earning of which members of all arms of the services, except, I understand, the Army, contributed so much, will be’ distributed justly.
.- lt is obvious that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was right when he said he had not made a very close study of the bill, because he stated that it provided that the three persons appointed to constitute the trust should bc commissioned officers of the services. I’n fact, the bill provides that only the representative of the Royal Australian Air Force shall be, or shall have been, a commissioned officer. The other two members of the trust could be commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers or other ranks.
I do not want to delay the passage of the bill, because I think it is, on the whole, a very sound measure; but I wantto refer briefly to the fact that the prize money made available to this Government amounted to £249,000 for the Royal Australian Navy and £229,000 for the Royal Australian Air Force. Whereas there are only 30,000 members of the Royal Australian Navy entitled to receive a share of the prize money, there could be approximately 200,000 members or ex-members of the Royal Australian Air Force so entitled. The sum received by each member or ex-member of the Royal Australian Navy if the Royal Australian Navy prize money were shared would be quite substantial, but if 200,000 people were entitled to a share of the prize money allotted to the Royal Australian Air Force, each of them would receive only about £1 or £1 10s. - a fairly insignificant sum. Although some persons would like to have their £1 or £1 10s., T hope and believe that the vast majority of members of the Royal Australian Air
Force hold the view that the money should be used to assist those of their comrades who are in necessitous circumstances. In quiet periods of the war, servicemen said that when the war wasover they wanted to do something to help their squadron mates, shipmates or battalion mates, if the need arose. That was not a glib sentiment, and something: should be done to give expression to it. in a practical way in peace-time. Thisbill will do so, and I support it strongly for that reason.
I have one fault to find with themeasure. I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) previously. Although the bill makes provision for the accommodation in residences of married couples and, if a husband dies, of his widow, no provision is made for war widows and their children. The Minister explained in his second-reading speech that the Services Canteens Trust. Fund and the Repatriation Department could look after the dependants of deceased servicemen, but I am not completely satisfied with the present position. I realize that the Services Canteens Trust Fund and the Repatriation Department can do alot in that way, but no provision has beenmade for something that I regard as fundamental - that is, the housing of war widows and their children as family units. That is the main criticism that I have to make of the bill. Doubtless it will be said that the money available is very limited, but I say that the trusteesof the fund should be given a discretionary power to take into these residences war widows and children of the- 1939-45 War and extend .to them the preference that will be extended to former members of the Royal Air Force whoserved in that war.
Doubtless, some comment will be made cither in this Parliament or outside about the possibility that residences provided under this measure will be erected only in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, the three major States. I come from what may be described as a minor State. It is likely that no residences of this kind will be built in Tasmania. Although I think it would be very desirable to erect some of them in
Tasmania, I do not quarrel with the concept expressed in the measure that they should be provided in the main centres, in order to get the most benefit from what is in truth, a limited amount of money. I support the measure and express the hope that it will have the support of all other honorable members.
– I agree with what the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has said. He speaks with the authority of an experienced and distinguished member of the Royal Australian Air Force. When I was Minister for Air it was felt that prize money and other similar funds should be used to assist ex-members of the Royal Australian Air Force who were in necessitous circumstances. We realized that if the prize money allotted to the Royal Australian Air Force were divided among all members of that service, the amount paid to each individual would be very small. When the war ended, the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force was 1S3,000. Many men had been killed and others discharged from the service as a result of injuries. We decided that, by establishing a trust fund, greater provision could -be” made to assist people who had been disabled in the war than could be made by distributing the money among all members of the service.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said a good deal of what I have to say. I am disappointed that provision has not been made for the appointment as members of the trust of persons who were not commissioned officers. I do not suggest that commissioned officers would not be sympathetic to persons who did not hold commissions. But we all know that many men who did not have an opportunity to obtain a commission are quite capable of carrying out the duties of a member of the trust. I think clause 5 should be amended to provide for the appointment of persons who are not, or were not, commissioned officers.
– Two of the three members of the trust could be persons who had not held commissions.
– But there is no specific provision for anybody who has not been a. commissioned officer. It seems to me that the provision could have been extended to provide for perhaps five persons to be members of the trust. I do not propose to move an amendment because, like the honorable member for Franklin. I believe that this bill should not. meet with adverse criticism. I do not blame the Air Board, or the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon), for not, having made a provision such as I suggested, and it may be that they would be willing to take into consideration the request that the number of persons to be appointed to the trust should be increased. Clause 5 of the measure provides, inter alia - (2.) The Trust shall consist of three persons appointed by the Governor-General to be members of the Trust. (3.) One member shall be a person who is or has been an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force. (4.) One member shall bc a person who holds or has held office in the Air Force Association.
I was closely associated with the Air Force Association when I was a Minister in the last Labour Government, and I believe that not many persons have held office in that association who had not previously held commissioned rank in the Royal Australian Air Force.
– A high proportion of those who now hold office have not been commissioned officers.
– That may be so, but it was not so when I was Minister. I hope that the Minister will find it possible to appoint some one from the ranks of the non-commissioned officers under sub-clauses (4.) or (5.) of clause 5 of the measure. Sub-clause (5.) of clause 5 reads - (5.) One member shall be a person who has had substantial business and financial experience and is, at the date of his appointment, a member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
As the measure is at present drafted I have no doubt that the Minister for Air and the honorable member for Franklin will agree that all the members of the trust could be ex-officers, and that in that event ex-non-commissioned officers and airmen would feel that they had not been properly provided for. Perhaps the Minister, in his reply, could state whether he considers that the regulations which may be made under this bill could provide for the inclusion on the trust of some representation for non-commissioned officers. I cannot find much fault with the bill, or with the purposes to which the money in the Royal Australian AirForce Veterans Residences Trust will be devoted. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
The purpose of this bill before the House is to place the £229,000 standing to the credit of thePrize Money Trust Account established under section62a of the Audit Act 1901-1953 at the disposal of the trust for the purposes of the Air Force Veterans Residences Trust Fund.
We all approve of that. I believe that if the money had been distributed, the members of the Royal Australian Air Force who were entitled to participate would have received about £1 each from the prize-money, and the members of the Royal Australian Navy would have received about £8 to £12 each from their share. That being so, the distribution of the money to individuals is hardly worth while, and the proposal in the bill seems to be most satisfactory. The honorable member for Franklin indicated that perhaps his State, being a small State, would not receive much consideration. However, I take it that the Minister could, if he should think fit, establish smaller residences in the smaller States. The fund is designed to provide a residence or “ residences “, so the honorable member for Franklin will see that the fund is not to be devoted to merely one residence. The purpose of the fund is - the provision of a residence or residences in which former male members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are in necessitous circumstances and, if the Trust so approves, the wives of those members, may be accommodated or supported.
Therefore, it should be possible to erect a number of residences for former membersof the Royal Australian Air Force, their wives or widows. I take it that that provision will not only apply to women who have become widows since the war ended, but will apply also to those whose husbands died while serving their country. If that should be so, in view of what I have said I believe that the honorable member for Franklin need not be particularly disturbed. As far as representation is concerned, I believe that this trust fund could have been on the same basis as the Canteen Services Trust Fund where no provision was made in respect of the rank of the trustees. There may be plenty of men who did not reach commissioned rank during the war, but who have had excellent business experience and would be very useful as members of the trust. The Chifley Government did not exclude any one from its trusts merely because they had not attained the rank of officer. In that regard I refer honorable members to the Services Trust Funds Act 1947. No doubt the Minister, the honorable member for Franklin and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), who has had considerable experience in the Air Force, could discover some way in which the Opposition’s suggestions could be carried out. In any event, the Opposition is glad to see the way in which the Royal Australian Air Force has been provided for in this measure, and we do not oppose it.
.- It is quite clear that all honorable members are in general agreement with the terms of this bill. It is a measure designed to provide for a pressing need, and I believe that the limited amount of money available as prize money to the Royal Australian Air Force can best be spent in the way outlined by the legislation. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) criticized the bill, and I subscribe to his criticism up to a point. One always deplores delay in matters such as the one before honorable members, but one must remember that there was a good deal of difficulty in arriving at a final amount. The establishment of the claims and the decision as to the purpose to which the money is to be put, had to be considered by many people. Therefore, while the delay is regrettable, I believe that it has not been unnecessary.
The honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) have criticized clause 5 of the bill which deals with the constitution of the trust. They have both maintained that the measure does not allow adequate provision for representation of ex-non-commissioned members of the Royal Australian Air Force. I submit that that is not the case, and that the composition of the trust is in the best interests of the administration of the fund. Clause 5 provides that only one member of the trust out of three is to be a commissioned officer of the Royal Australian Air Force, and I believe that that is right and proper. Ex-officers have shown in war-time their ability to command and control, and furthermore one must remember that in the Royal Australian Air Force the proportion of commissioned ranks to non-commissioned ranks was very much greater than was the proportion of commissioned officers to other ranks in the Royal Australian Navy. Therefore, it is only right and proper that the large proportion of ex-officers of the Royal Australian Air Force should be given representation on the trust. Neither of the other two prescribed members has necessarily to be an ex-officer-, and it is unlikely that he will be. In any case, they will bc selected for their ability irrespective of their war-time service. One member of the trust shall be a person who is, or has been, an officer who holds or has held office in the Air Force Association. Large numbers of ex-members of the Air Force who are at present holding office in the Air Force Association were noncommissioned officers and airmen during the war. Consequently; it is probable that a man selected under sub-clause (41.) of clause 5 will not be an ex-officer. Moreover, it is extremely likely that the person selected under sub-clause (5.) of clause 5 shall also be a man who has not held commissioned rank. This member must have business ability. In fact, I believe that there will be one ex-officer and two ex-non-commissioned officers or airmen on the trust, and I believe that that is only right because of the relative proportions of officers and other ranks in the war-time air force.
I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that it is unfortunate that provision has not been made for the widows of ex-airmen in necessitous circumstances, but, after all, £229,000 is not a great deal of money these days, and one realizes that in setting up homes such as those contemplated under the measure our activities must be restricted to essentials, while having in mind that there are avenues for the assistance of widows of airmen in other directions. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia can assist in this way, and there are also benefits under the Commonwealth repatriation legislation. Therefore, while I should like to see eligibility for benefits under the bill widened, I believe that the limit has been set by the finance available. I believe that there is no substance in the contention that residences are likely to be set up only in the “bigger cities. It does not matter whether a man comes from Tasmania or “Western Australia. He is still eligible to enter one of those homes if his circumstances warrant it. I admit that there is some disadvantage in moving that man, but, because of the limited amount of finance available, 1 think that the scheme should be kept on the most economical basis. I am sure that both the Opposition and supporters of the Government support the bill wholeheartedly.
.- I am sure that every honorable member supports the spirit of this bill. I think that every ex-airman would prefer to see a fund of this nature used for the alleviation of the distress of his comrades rather than see a proportionate distribution. I am sure that ex-servicemen would not like to see State claims enter into this matter. Ex-servicemen do not wish to see the larger States claim, as they so often do, that because they have the largest number of ex-airmen, the homes should be allotted exclusively to those States. I have just received a letter from the South Australian division of the Air Force Association in which it strongly protests against a report that appeared in the Adelaide press in relation to the expenditure of this £229,000. The letter, which is signed by Richard Knight, the State secretary of the Air Force Association, states -
R.A.A.F. Veterans Home.
I desire to bring before your notice an article appearing in the Adelaide Press wherein it is stated - “the prize money, totalling £229,000 would probably be used to purchase and establish a large country residence either in N.S.W. ov Victoria.”
My Association is most concerned that the smaller States may not be recognized in t.b? establishment of a R.A.A.F. ‘Veterans Home, nuri would ask that you bring before the notice of tha Bight Hon. The Prime Minister that the South Australian Division of the Air Force Association recommends that if possible, a Home be established in each Capital State of Australia. Failing sufficient funds being available foi- the purpura, we very strongly recommend that consideration be given to the establishment of a Home in South Australia.
Lt is pointed out that with the large number of cx-R.A.A.F. personnel in this State, that South Australia would undoubtedly bp a more central place to establish such a Home, from the point of view of travel, in preference to either N.S.W. or Victoria.
I sincerely hope this request can be submitted to the Prime Minister for presentation to the present Session of Parliament.
This bill does not restrict the trustees in any way in their decision as to the location of particular residences or homes. All reports that have appeared in the press are only forecasts, because, obviously, the trust cannot formulate a policy until the trustees have been appointed. The bill is very wide, and it seems to me that there would be complete power in the trustees to establish for ex-servicemen in distress groups of, say, three homes of which they would become tenants at a. certain rental, or at no rental at all, according to their financial position. Clause S of the bill gives the trust the power to acquire and dispose of land including land upon which buildings are erected ; to erect, alter, enlarge or rebuild the buildings on land vested in the trust; to improve, decorate, furnish and equip land or buildings vested in the trust; to determine the conditions under which former male members of the Royal Australian Air Force and the wives of those men are eligible to receive accommodation or support at residences maintained by the trust, and the .charges, if any, to be paid by a person receiving such accommodation or support. In South Australia, the organization which is interested in the provision of accommodation for aged persons is building cottage homes which, at a cost of approximately .£5,000, will house three families. T think the trustees envisaged by this bill should give consideration to the provision of such homes either in groups or separately in order to provide accommodation for airmen in distress and their wives and children. They should make provision for that accommodation, not only in all capital cities of Australia,
Mr. Wilson. but also in other towns. If the trust provided something of that nature and if it took the figure of £5,000 as the eoss of building a group of three homes-
– The honorable member for Henty said “Eh?”. He lives close to New South Wales and is conversant with the very high costs in that State. I desire to inform the House that only last week the organization in South Australia which is providing those cottage homes, and of which I am chairman, signed a contract for £5,000 for the erection of three homes in a group. The Savings Bank of South Australia granted a mortgage on those homes, so that institution must be satisfied with the whole proposition. Although in one sense £229,000 may not seem a very large -sum, it is a sum that can provide a lot of accommodation for airmen in distress. I ask the Minister, when he discusses this matter with the trustees, not to do so with any preconceived ideas. I am opposed to institutional life. I think it is contralto the British way of life and that it does not provide contentment. If individual accommodation, however small, is provided for an airman in distress he is enabled to follow the British way of life of privacy and comfort. I think that the sum of £229,000 would be much better expended in the provision of individual homes, although they might be in groups, than a kind of hostel where there must be community feeding with all its disabilities, community life with all its disabilities and institutional discipline which is inevitable where large groups of people are concentrated in one home.
I support this bill because I think it gives the widest possible scope to the trustees, but I should be a very disappointed man if I learned that the trustees had exercised their discretion by providing one or two or three large institutions. I, too, am disappointed that provision has not been made for the widows of airmen who have given their lives for this country. I do not think that that is any reason why we should oppose the bill, but I do think that it is a matter to which the trustees should give consideration. The act can be amended at a later date. if necessary, to include a provision for the widows of deceased airmen. I seriously suggest to the Minister that he should give consideration to the provision of individual homes rather than institutions. In that way the claims of all the States, as well as those of the country areas and the cities, will be met and these airmen will be provided with homes which would make their lives happy and contended.
– in reply - The Opposition rested its first objection to the bill on the fact that clause 5 (3.) provides that one of the trustees shall be a person who is or has been an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Opposition suggested that it might be preferable for the bill to provide only that the person should be a member of the Air Force. I think that my colleague, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), gave the perfect answer to that objection. In this ease it is intended that the person appointed shall be a member of the Royal Australian Air Force Head-quarters. I think it is only proper that a person in the Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters should be appointed to this trust, because that would enable the trust itself to be guided by the Department of Air, and, in a final analysis, to be guided by the Minister for Air. The second objection is in relation to the fact that sub-clauses (4.) and (5.) of clause 5 provide that of the other two people who shall be appointed to the trust one shall be a person who holds or has held office in the Air Force Association and the other shall be u member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League nf Australia. In both of those cases the person appointed may have been a member or an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force. It will be seen that, of the three persons who may .be appointed to the trust, two may have been ordinary members and the third an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force, or all three officers, or some other combination of that kind. For those reasons, I do not think that the bill should be amended in that respect. If, during the operation of the act, it is found that an amendment is desirable, it can be considered at the appropriate time. I should like to point out, in reply to the question raised by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), that the terms of the gift from the United Kingdom Government provide that the trust shall be for the benefit of members of the Royal Australian Air Force. If the explicit terms of the trust had been carried out, therewould have been a distribution to members themselves. It was decided, because of the practical difficulties that were associated with that matter, that it would beunwise and imprudent to make a distribution, but that the Government wasunder an obligation to keep as closely as possible to the terms of the trust. I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to havebeen one, but I know that there is a doctrine in law that if one cannot carry out literally the terms of a trust,’ hemust keep as close as possible to them. The Government has tried, in this particular case, to keep as close as possibleto the terms of the trust under which the money was granted by the United Kingdom Government. The amount of money involved is very small and both I and the officers of the Royal Australian Air Force were afraid that, if the scope of the trust had been extended, we would not have been able to introduce a scheme that was efficient and satisfactory from an administrative point of view. Forthese reasons, and for others which I mentioned in my second-reading speech,, it is desirable to restrict the trust asclosely as possible to ex-members of theAir Force. Upon reflection, honorablemembers will concede that if Ave extended the terms of the trust to provide accommodation for, say, children and widows, we would be compelled to appoint personnel in such large numbers to look after them that we would probably wreck the scheme.
It is not anticipated that the fund will consist only of the amount of moneymentioned in clause 3 and now transferred to the trust. It is hoped that benevolent citizens, in their wisdom, will make donations to the trust. If they do so, that money will be expended on thepurchase of suitable homes in the States.
Finally, I shall touch briefly on theproblem mentioned by the honorable- member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson.) and the honorable member forFranklin as to where residences will be erected. That is, of course, a matter for determination by the trust. We encourage honorable members to make suggestions to the trust as to where residences should be erected or purchased. Although I do not think that it would be proper to exclude Queensland, South Australia or any other State from consideration by the trustees, that problem is a matter which should be dealt with by the trustees themselves and not by this Parliament. I hope that the fund will grow to such an extent that the trust will be able to provide residences in the various States. Latterly I have seen an example of what can be done by voluntary effort. At Nowra, where the naval air station has been established, a few well-intentioned and vigorous citizens have set themselves the task of collecting £50,000 to erect a club for ratings of the Fleet Air Arm. The success they have achieved over the last three months is an example to all citizens who would like to make voluntary efforts in the interests of the welfare of the members of the defence services. I am confident that when this scheme gets under way citizens will use their energy in raising additional funds to extend the facilities provided by the trust.
I thank the House for its very careful consideration of this bill. I assure honorable members that the suggestions they have made will be considered by the Air Force. If it is subsequently thought that an amendment of the legislation is desirable, I assure them that their recommendations will be fully considered, and, if thought desirable, implemented.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– My only object in rising is to clear up any misapprehension that may have arisen in the minds of honorable members as to the purport of my remarks during my second-reading speech. The Opposition has no objection to this bill or to the establishment of the trust fund, but it believes that the classes of persons who may be appointed as trustees to the fund should be extended to include noncommissioned officers and rankers. I indicated that such a provision should be specifically included in the bill. However, the Minister has met our pointby indicating that the suggestions made by honorable members will be given careful consideration. I am satisfied with that assurance.
.- The point I wish to make has already been supported by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and by the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon). . I believe that something should be said about the type of person to whom the proceeds of this fund may be applied. As a member of the permanent forces I should be inclined to say that the proceeds of this trust fund would be applied mainly to former permanent members of the Royal Australian Air Force. I am glad to notice that that matter has been covered by clauses 4 and 5. In the Air Force a number of servicemen carry the rank of warrant officer. These men in the main have devoted themselves to the service with an affection which is rather rare compared with that of the average flying man to whom the flying of an aircraft was perhaps the most important part of his service. The Minister may feel proud that a veteran’s organization will look after those who provided the real core of the Royal Australian Air Force but who are now in necessitous circumstances. As one who was privileged to be a member of the General Duties Branch of the Air Force it is my hope that retired personnel from that branch will benefit from the provisions of the’ bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 679), on motion by Sir Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure provides for the vesting in the Australian Wool Bureau, the successor of what was formerly known as the Australian Wool Board, the storage sheds utilized by the British Government and the Australian Government, and subsequently by the Joint Organization, for the storage of vast yields of wool during the war period. Honorable members will recollect that in 1945, the Chifley Labour Government decided to buy a half share in the accumulated wool stocks held by the United Kingdom Government in Australia. The half share was purchased out of the revenue of the Commonwealth, the cost to the Australian taxpayer being no less than £40,000,000. The wool stocks represented wool for which the British Government had already paid the Australian wool-growers. The Australian Government, in conjunction with the Governments of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South Africa established the Joint Organization, the Australian subsidiary of which was the Australian Wool Realization Commission. The commission was charged with the function of liquidating the accumulated wool stocks which the Australian Government had purchased from the United Kingdom Government. The purchase included not only surplus stocks of wool but also a half share in all the great wool stores that had been erected throughout Australia together with the freehold and leasehold rights over the land on which they were erected. These great stores were constructed principally on the outskirts of the capital cities of Australia and numbered in all 400 stores. As time wen t on they became very valuable. When they were first constructed it was thought that when the war had ended they would be pulled down and their component parts sold. The Joint Organization has completed a very satisfactory finalization of i fs affairs. The investment of £40,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to acquire a half share in these great wool stores and the surplus wool stocks has shown a profit of at least £93,000,000. Although that profit is the property of the ‘Commonwealth, the Labour Government considered that as the wool-growers had contributed
– Order! The honorable member is getting altogether outside the scope of the bill, which deals with wool stores.
– I think that I should be given an opportunity to demonstrate, Mr. Speaker, how the property in these stores was accumulated. It is’ all a part of the story.
-Order ! I shall not permit the honorable member to discuss the subject of wool realization.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I was about to complete my passing reference to the matter by saying that the Labour Government decided in its wisdom to return the profit made on the stores and the wool to the Australian wool-growers. Had a loss been incurred on the venture, the Australian taxpayers would have had to meet it.
The Minister explained in his secondreading speech that the Joint Wool Disposals Organization went into liquidation on the 22nd January, 1952, and that unless arrangements could be made for the continuance of the stores under new management, they would have to be sold. At that time, 334 stores were left, one-half of them being on freehold land and the remainder on land held under lease, licence or some other agreement. The stores were no longer required for the purposes for which they were constructed, and a decision had to be made about the use to which they were to be put in the future. Apparently, the Government has decided that the stores should be retained .by the Commonwealth. I agree with that decision. We pray that the world will never again be plunged into war, but if an international conflict should occur, the stores will be available to house wool until it can be shipped overseas. The Government decided to purchase the stores from the Joint Wool Disposals Organization at a cost of £1,250,000. 1 have a long association with the administration of the wool industry, and a fairly intimate knowledge of the value of the land on which the stores have been built, and I express the view that the purchase price is exceedingly cheap, and that, in fact, the Government has made a good deal in the transaction.
– To whom is the money to be paid?
– If the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will be patient, I stall tell him. The Australian Government purchased those stores, and the money was paid to the Joint Organization. One-half of the amount then became available for distribution to the United Kingdom Government, as a shareholder of the Joint Organization and as a part-owner of the stores. The remaining amount £629,000, was returned to the Australian Government by way of profits from the Joint Organization, and is being distributed to war-time wool-growers in the form of Joint Organization profits. The position at the present time is that the woolgrowers are the actual owners of the vast and valuable wool-stores. The whole business is most involved, but I shall do my best to clarify it. The wool-growers through the Government have contributed one-half of the purchase price from the Wool Contributory Trust Account, which contains the collections from a wool contributory charge levied on the sale of all incoming wool clips from 1945 to the date of the completion of the sale of surplus wool. In the first year of the operation of the scheme, the wool-growers paid a contributory charge of approximately 4½ per cent. of the proceeds on the sales of current clips. The Australian Wool Realization Commission, which is the subsidiary of the Joint Organization, always imposed a safe charge, and as time passed, the sum of money collected from the growers exceeded the amount required to cover administration expenses, even when it was reduced to¾d. per lb. This surplus was held in a trust fund and was actually used to purchase the half -share in the stores by the Australian Government. The position to-day is that those valuable stores are available to be let as a commercial enterprise, and the income therefrom could make a useful contribution to the well-being of the wool industry. This bill provides that the Australian Wool Bureau, formerly the Australian Wool Board, shall have control of those stores, the value of which is between £4,000,000 and £6,000,000. The Labour party, for whom I am speaking, does not object to the vesting of the property in the wool bureau, but I say to the leader of the Government in charge of the bill-
– The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) is in charge of the bill, and he is not leader of the Government.
– In view of certain events recently, he may become the leader of the Government.
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to deal with the bill.
– The Australian Wool Bureau consists of threepersons nominated by the Australian Wool Growers Council, three persons nominated by the Australian Wool Producers Federation, and the Commonwealth Wool Advisor. Obviously, the bureau consists almost entirely of representatives of the wool-growers. No other interest is represented on it. I say frankly to the Minister that a representative of the people should be appointed to the bureau, in view of the fact that all right and title is vested in it to property valued at between £4,000,000 and £6,000,000. The appointment of a representative of the public is necessary in order to ensure that the wool-growers’ representative shall not “ get off the rails “ and take action detrimental to the interests of the people generally. The activities of the bureau primarily affect the wool-growers but indirectly they also vitally effect the welfare of every man and woman in this country. Australia has a population of approximately 8,000,000 persons, of whom between 90,000 and 100,000 are woolgrowers. Surely the8,000,000 persons are entitled to representation on the bureau. Provision is made in this bill to enable the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who, of course, is a representative of the people, to exercise certain powers of veto over decisions of the bureau, but I consider that those powers are inadequate for the protection of the Australian people. I agree that the Minister is a responsible person, but every honorable member knows that all Ministers are exceedingly busy individuals. That statement applies particularly to a Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The six representatives of the wool-growers on the bureau may, in certain circumstances, disregard the overall interests of the people of Australia. A representative of the public should be appointed to the board in order to bring to the notice of the Minister any decision of the bureau which, in his opinion, was detrimental to the best interests of the people of Australia.
Apart from those criticisms, I cannot see any great objection to the bill. T frankly admit that the bureau and its predecessor, the Australian Wool Board, have done splendid work on behalf of not only the wool-growers but also the people of Australia generally. The bureau may engage in wool publicity campaigns, through the medium of the press, literature, films and lectures, in Australia and in other countries. In that work, the bureau is associated with the International Wool “Secretariat. The bureau makes a substantial contribution to the funds of the international body. Australia exports a big percentage of its wool clip, and, therefore, a major part of the wool publicity work must be conducted in other countries, including North and South America, Europe and the United Kingdom. I have no doubt that wool is advertised in the Far East to the extent that the bureau considers that the people of that part of the world are sufficiently in the “ chips “ to purchase the product from our sheep. I hope that the work of the bureau will be conducted on the same basis as hitherto. At this stage I offer a word of warning to the Minister. A tax of 4s. a bale has been levied on Australian wool for publicity purposes, and the Australian Government makes a contribution from Consolidated Revenue of £360,000 per annum.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are outside the scope of the bill.
– I am discussing the functions of the Australian Wool Bureau, and, therefore, I submit that my remarks are relevant to the bill.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the bill.
– I’ think they are.
– Order ! The honorable member may relate his remarks to the bill, or resume his seat, whichever he chooses.
– I shall, not resume my seat unless I am ordered to do so. Because the bureau will handle this vast sum, together with other sums the sources of which I have indicated, it will bear a much heavier responsibility in the future than it has borne in the past. I hope that the Minister, through the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, will guide the bureau in this great work. The Opposition gives its assent to the bill but may seek further information during the committee stages.
– m reply - By a strange chance I was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at the beginning of World War II. and arranged for the acquisition of the wool stores, to the sale of which this bill refers. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said that he agrees with the form of the hill and with its objects. However, he asked whether it provided for sufficient governmental control over the handling of the money that will be entrusted to the Aus- tralian Wool Bureau. I remind him that, the bureau consists of six wool-growers and one government representative, who is the Commonwealth Wool Advisor, Mr. J. G. Crawford, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, or, in his absence, the Deputy Commonwealth Wool Advisor, Mr. K. M. Fraser. The government representative maintains a close watch over all the activities of the bureau, and he will protect the national interest. However, in order to make sure that proper control will be exercised, the approval of the Minister will be required before any major decisions of the bureau can be implemented. Any proposal to dispose of the stores will be subject to ministerial control. This provision has been included in the bill because it is necessary to prevent any frustration of the Government’s object of repurchasing the stores for use in the event of emergency. Ministerial approval will be needed also in relation to tenancy agreements. There must be some limit to the duration of the agreements if compensation to lessees, in the event of reacquisition by the Commonwealth, is to be kept within reasonable bounds. The period of leases will be fixed generally, not necessarily in respect of individual stores.
The approval of the Minister will be required also in the event of reacquisition by the Commonwealth. Obviously there must be machinery to ensure that the stores can be repossessed quickly in the event of war or danger of war. The honorable member for Lalor has acknowledged the wisdom of this provision. The Minister will be required to approve of anyproposal for the acquisition of further property and rights. The provisions of the bill must be in general terms in order to cover all contingencies. However, it is necessary to impose a limit on the powers of the bureau to acquire more property, and this will be achieved by requiring the approval of the Minister for any such proposal. The defence aspect of the location of any new stores is also important, and thereforethe bill includes provision for ministerial oversight. Similar control will be exercised in relation to the demolition or removal of stores. There will be ministerial supervision of the use of rental income. This power will be exercised only in the event of any delay and will allow the Minister to overcome the situation that might arise if the bureau provided insufficient funds for the maintenance of stores or inadequate sums for theWool Statistical Service. The stores must be kept, in good order so that they will be available in the event of war. There should be no delays in such circumstances as there were when stores had to be built in 1940 and 1941. It is also desirable to ensure, in case of need, that the Commonwealth shall be properly reimbursed for any compensation payments that it may have to make in respect of the stores. The Minister must also give his approval in relation to the insurance of stores and the payment to the Wool Stores Capital Account of proceeds from the sales of stores. Therefore, there are sufficient safeguards to meet the wishes of the honorable member for Lalor. I trust that the bill will have a speedy passage through its remaining stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to certain wool stores.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee : Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Powers of bureau in relation to wool stores).
.- This clause provides - (1.) Subject to this Act, the Bureau has power to manage and control -
I should like the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to explain what is meant by the reference to the appointment of agents of the Australian Wool Bureau in sub-clause (2.). Is it intended that estate agents shall be appointed by the bureau for the purpose of leasing buildings to companies, educational authorities, semi-governmental instrumentalities, State governments or other authorities? By what process will the agents be appointed, and how will they be selected? Will some particularly favoured individual or company be selected? After all, agents’ fees are substantial, and I imagine that some existing government authority that has had experience of this sort of work could well carry out the functions which normally are performed by a commercial agent. Sub-clause (2.) also provides that the powers of the bureau shall extend to the work of effecting improvements to buildings. Perhaps some of the stores will be in need of repair or structural alterations to make them suitable for use by a manufacturing company. The committee is entitled to know what authority will effect the improvements. Will the Australian Wool Bureau be authorized to appoint any authority that it wishes, will the work be done by the Department of Works, or will State governments be required to do the work? What process does the Minister have in mind? The same sub-clause also refers to the removal or demolition of buildings. The demolition of a store may become necessary as the result of dilapidation or the unsuitability of its site. Will the Minister be responsible for the approval of any such work, after consultation with the bureau?
I have in mind an instance in which the bureau might exercise the powers conferred upon it by this clause in an undesirable way. At Brooklyn, in Victoria, the Department of Immigration has subdivided large numbers of wool-sheds into cubicles for the accommodation of immigrants. The establishment includes cafeterias and kitchens of the most modern type. In one of these large huts, under an arrangement that has been made with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), a co-operative housing organization established by British immigrants conducts a work shop. The organization has purchased about 150 acres of land at Altona, near Brooklyn, and, by cooperative effort, involving work at week-ends, at night and on holidays, its members are constructing no fewer than 147 houses. The houses are valued at over £3,000 each, but, as a result of the co-operative efforts of the immigrants, they will cost not more than about £1,700 each. With the consent of the Minister for Immigration, the hut to which I have referred is used by the group for its prefabricating work. It would be a tragedy if the Australian Wool Bureau used the powers to be conferred upon it by clause 7 to evict these immigrants. The group is doing a magnificent job in overcoming one of the chief causes of unrest in immigrant hostels. The Australian Wool Bureau will have power to say to it. “ You must rip out your plant and find accommodation elsewhere “. I hope that these people will be protected so that they will have the right to remain in occupation of the hut until their cooperative work is finished.
– Similar arrangements have been made in other States by groups of immigrants.
– That is probably so in’ every State. The bureau will have the power to demand rent for such buildings. In fact, its function will be to obtain revenue by letting the wool stores to tenants. I suggest that, unless the bureau is prepared to make available buildings rent-free to groups of immigrants who are doing such useful work, the Department of Immigration should undertake to pay the rent so that the work of these people from the homeland will be allowed to continue.
– The main reason for requiring, the consent of the Minister is to cover cases of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). All these contingencies cannot be covered in detail in a bill of this kind. That is the reason why the measure has been drafted in these terms.
.- The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) should go further and give the committee an assurance that, while the immigration programme continues, no attempt will be made to disturb these people in these buildings. If we passed the bill, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture might tell the immigrants to find accommodation elsewhere. It was not intended originally that the people who were accommodated in woolsheds throughout Australia should stay in them for very long, but, even though they have been in the woolsheds for four years, they still find it difficult to get reasonable accommodation elsewhere. That is not the fault of the unfortunate people concerned. The British immigrants left their homes. They were bombed homes, if you like, but they were still separate habitations. It is a pity that we ever asked them to live in hostels. It was not intended in the days of the Chifley Government that these woolsheds should be used for British immigrants. We were trying to increase the flow of immigrants from Europe. Those immigrants Were living under deplorable conditions in camps in Europe, and we wanted to put them into woolsheds, which offered better accommodation than their camps. But this Government, in its wisdom or lack of wisdom, put British immigrants into the woolsheds, and many of them have been living there for years. In desperation, they have formed their own co-operative building organizations. They cannot get the financial accommodation that they ought to get from the Commonwealth Bank, which has £25,000,000 worth of applications stacked up, so to speak, and will not help these co-operative undertakings. The result is that British immigrants living in the wool stores at Bunnerong in Sydney, Brooklyn in Victoria and in other places are anchored to their present settlements until such time as they can build their own houses, more or less by their own unaided efforts. It is to the credit of the British immigrants that they have started a cooperative settlement at Altona in Victoria. I believe the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) opened the first house there recently.
– Order ! A general debate on immigration is not permissible.
– I am afraid that when the bureaucrats in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture get this bill, they will tell these unfortunate people that they must get out of these sheds. That might be satisfactory for the department, but it would not be at all helpful to the immigrants, who are encountering great difficulties in finding accommodation or in obtaining financial assistance to build their own homes. They are tied down to these places - the only places of residence they have known in Australia. So I ask the Minister for Health, who is in charge of the bill, or the Minister for Immigration to tell us what the Government intends to do about the present occupants of these woolsheds. If the Minister for- Immigration needs any assistance, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who was so anxious to hand over to him the case of Ung Chan Bunn, might come to his assistance and tell us what he thinks should be done to help the unfortunate British immigrants who occupy these buildings to-day, and who should be left undisturbed in them until such time as they have all built houses for themselves, obtained houses from State housing commissions or provided themselves with alternative accommodation better than that afforded by the wool-sheds covered by the bill.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is usually so well informed on all aspects of the immigration programme, seems to have got somewhat out of touch with present developments, at any rate so far as the accommodation of British immigrants is concerned. I assure him that at the present time wool stores are being used to accommodate immigrants only to a very limited degree. The honorable member will recall that when he was Minister for Immigration he wished to bring into the country tens of thousands of European settlers. At that time, there was a serious shortage of accommodation in Australia. He arranged for wool stores to be converted to accommodation units to provide temporary accommodation for immigrant workers until they obtained permanent accommodation. When this Government decided to increase the flow of British immigrants, there was still a shortage of houses in Australia. We decided to make use of wool-store accommodation until we could replace it with hostel accommodation of a better type. That process has been going on steadily. I should be astonished if more than a fraction of the total number of British immigrants was accommodated in wool stores to-day. I think the British immigrants who are accommodated in wool stores have remained iri them because the stores are near their places of work, rather than because there is a shortage of better hostel accommodation. Owing to the reduction of the flow of immigrants during the last twelve months, ample hostel accommodation has become available, and it has not been necessary lately to. use these converted wool stores. I am certain that, if we require any portion of this accommodation in the future as a result of an alteration of the immigration programme. no difficulties will be caused by this legislation that cannot ‘be resolved satisfactorily between ourselves and those who will be in control of the wool-store areas. 1. assure the honorable member for Melbourne and other honorable members that the temporary accommodation now being provided for British immigrants who come to this country under Commonwealth nomination is much more satisfactory than it was previously, and that we are continually improving it. As the honorable member for Melbourne showed some concern about this matter, I wanted to assure him that there was no cause for concern.
.- I do not think the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) was in the chamber when I spoke previously. He stated that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was somewhat out of touch with the immigration programme, especially with developments in connexion with the accommodation of immigrants in wool stores. The Minister knows that there is still a large number of immigrants accommodated in wool-sheds at Brooklyn.
– They are accommodated in nissen huts.
– The nissen huts are situated on property that will he vested in the Australian Wool Bureau.
– The immigrants are not in the old wool-store buildings.
– I understand that their kitchens and dining-rooms are still in those buildings. The kitchens and dining-rooms cost between £50,000 and £60,000. The nissen huts are on land that will be vested in the bureau. Previously, I mentioned the wool store at Brooklyn which is used by an immigrant cooperative group as a prefabricating workshop and factory, and sought an assurance that an arrangement would be made between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for Immigration that would ensure the use of the building by the co-operative group until the group had completed the construction of 147 houses at Altona. The men have their equipment in the shed, and the Minister for Immigration has assisted them in their project. I think we are entitled to an assurance that they will not be asked to pay rent for the shed or be summarily ejected from it by the new authority.
– We have not asked this co-operative group to pay rent for the shed that it is using.
– What about the future? The Department of Immigration will lose control of it soon.
– We have discussed this matter with representatives of the British immigrants. I am confident that we shall be able to make some arrangement that will be satisfactory to them. Like the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I admire the manner in which these people have set about constructing their own houses, largely with their own hands. We have been glad to co-operate with them. I appreciate the valuable assistance that the honorable member for Lalor and the Victorian Government have given us to overcome difficulties that have developed. I assure the honorable member that the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service will do everything possible to ensure that this problem will be solved satisfactorily.
– Will the Minister ask the Commonwealth Bank to help them?
– We have been active in that direction also.
.- It is all very well for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) to give us undertakings about immigrants and their co-operative building projects, and to assure us of his sympathy, but this will be a matter for tie Australian Wool Bureau, and the Minister in charge of these stores will be the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. As everybody knows, at the present time the Liberal party is at the throat of the Australian Country party and the Australian Country party is at the throat of the Liberal party. In those circumstances, what assurance have we that an undertaking given by a Liberal party Minister will be adhered to by an Australian Country party Minister?
Mi’. KEON.- Yesterday or the day before, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) said that the Australian Country party was engaged in a war to the knife with the Liberal party.
– Order! If the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) will not confine himself to the clause under discussion, he must resume his seat.
– The matter I am discussing is very important.
– It has nothing to do with the clause, as the honorable member knows.
– You have already permitted the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the Minister for Immigration to make two speeches in relation to it.
Che CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The clause has nothing to do with political parties.
– I suggest. MY. Chairman, that you should have thought of that a little earlier. If this matter has nothing to do with the clause now, it had nothing to do with the clause previously. We want a firm undertaking from somebody in the Government who can give us a firm undertaking. At the moment, it seems to be quite impossible to get such an undertaking, because the Minister who will control this measure is a member of the Australian Country party who is threatened with opposition from the Liberal party in his own electorate.
– Order ! If the honorable member continues to defy the Chair, I shall ask him to sit down.
– In the circumstances, I am afraid we cannot accept the soft words of the Minister for Immigration. He hopes that something will be done. We, too, hope that something will be done, but the prospects are not particularly bright. The clause gives immense powers to the Australian Wool Bureau, which will run these stores. I do not know whether this further instalment of socialism from the Government is also a matter of acrimony between the two Government parties, but it is obvious from the powers that are to be given to the Australian Wool Bureau under this clause, that a further interference in business is contemplated by the Government.
– Nonsense !
– Those who know the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) will realize that his interjection is quite in character.
– The honorable member for Yarra is rather like Satan reproving sin.
– The Labour party is in favour of government action in relation to the wool stores. We realize that there must be stores available if trouble should occur overseas, but it ill becomes the Ministers, who are supposed to be champions of private enterprise, to attempt to set up an instrumentality under statutory authority with wide powers to acquire property and so on, and still, to try to tell the people that the Labour party is doing a terrible thing in advocating the extension of State control to certain aspects of our economy, when any man of common sense realizes that such extension is necessary. I believe that the Government should intervene in connexion with the matters referred to in the bill - even the Country party agrees with that - and, therefore, I hope that we shall not hear too much talk in the future by the Government parties about the evils of government interference with private enterprise.
– In what way will the measure interfere with private enterprise ?
– The bill is designed to set up a government authority to control wool stores.
– Only wool stores that are at present owned by the Government.
– Order ! There are too many interjections.
– When reading the policy produced by the Country party at its conference last week-end-
– Order! If the honorable member refers to political parties again I shall order him to resume his seat.
– Am I not at liberty to refer to the Country party during the course of this debate?
– Order! The honorable member is so entitled, but be is not entitled to do so inhis present strain.
– I realize that youhave to protect your party, Mr. Chairman, because you are under assault from both sides.
– Order ! The honorable member will not obey the ruling of the Chair, and he therefore must resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr. Daly) put -
That the honorable member for Yarra be further heard.
The committee divided. (Thechairman- Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority … . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
– This bill is intriguing, because it will establish an Australian Wool Bureau to take control of property and rights that at present vest in the Australian Wool Realization Commission.
– Order! The committee is discussing clause 7, and I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to that clause.
– I shall do so. I am astonished that the Government intends to give to the Australian Wool Bureau a power that usually vests in specialist government departments. Most government departments are designed to look after special interests, and the property and rights that are to vest in the Australian Wool Bureau could probably be taken over by some established departments. There are several large wool stores in my electorate which were built during World War II. to hold wool that could not be sent overseas. They are huge buildings, and after the war some of them were used to house displaced persons from Europe. After the defeat of the Chifley Government, they were used to accommodate British immigrants, and their use for that purpose rather shocked me.
– Order ! I do not intend to allow discussions on immigration; the honorable member should deal with clause 7.
– These large buildings were used for immigrants, but some time ago the Department of Immigration- .
– Order ! We are not dealing with any clause before clause 7. The honorable member should confine his remarks to that clause.
– In my electorate there are several great wool stores, and. more are in course of erection. One is now being built for Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited, and it is pertinent to ask whether the Government intends to do anything about those stores. They must be utilized for some purpose, but is it right to allow the Australian Wool Bureau to decide what they are to be used for? I hope that the bureau will ensure that the stores are used to our best advantage. At present we are short of storage places and factories throughout Australia, and while I do not suggest that wool stores should be used as factories, I do suggest that they could be used to the great advantage of the districts in which they are situated. I trust that those in Port Adelaide will be utilized in the interests of the community. I know that the Government is trying to deal with this matter in the manner it thinks is best, but I do hope that the Australian “Wool Bureau will see that, if it cannot make good use of these stores, it will make them available to people who may require them for either storage purposes or for suitable manufacturing work. It is not likely that these stores would be needed very much in the ordinary course of events; there would have to be a big accumulation of wool for them to be required purely for wool storage purposes. I hope that the bureau will confer with other government departments which are responsible for the letting of stores and it will not allow them to remain idle.
.- As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted, the degree of the extension of socialism that is proposed by this bill-
– I rise to a point of order. I distinctly heard the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) say, “As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted “. I think that is a reflection upon you, Mr. Chairman, because the only interruption was when you asked the honorable member for Yarra to resume his seat a moment ago.
– I regard his statement as a reflection on the decision of the committee. I ask the honorable member to withdraw the reflection.
– I withdraw the reflection. The degree of the extension of socialism that is proposed by clause 7 of the bill can be ascertained by a very brief examination of the last annual report of the Auditor-General. The report of the Auditor-General shows that for the period from the 23rd January, 1952 to the 30th June, 1953 the receipts for store rentals and other charges amounted to £608,178, that interest on fixed deposits amounted to £535 and that sales of land and buildings amounted to £153,546. The Auditor-
GeneraL’s statement on the accounts of the Joint Organization, and particularly those accounts in relation to these stores, shows that over that period of approximately eighteen months a profit of approximately £500,000 was made. Therefore, the committee is not dealing with chicken feed, but it is dealing with very large amounts of money. The Government proposes to allow the Australian Wool Bureau to enter into private business as a controller of stores which will affect, not only the wool industry, but also other industries. In view of the very large profits that are being derived from these stores and in view of the fact that a much larger profit will be made in future from the storage of goods other than wool, honorable members are entitled to ask, “Where are we going?” Should this Parliament allow such vast sums of money to be tied up in the operations of stores that will be used for all sorts of purposes other than the storage of wool and should it allow the profits from those stores to go back into the funds of the Australian Wool Bureau to be used, as the Minister said, foi1 the advertising of wool? Are these profits, which amounted to approximately £500,000 over eighteen months and which will be greater in future, to be used for a bonanza by the newspaper proprietors ?
– The amount of money is dealt with in other clauses. At present the committee is discussing the powers of the bureau in relation to wool stores. Clause 7 states particularly what those powers shall be. The honorable member will confine his remarks to that clause. ‘
– In the exercise of its powers in relation to the letting of stores, the bureau obviously will be making charges. This clause of the bill, which gives the bureau power to let the buildings and to appoint agents for the letting, obviously has a great- deal to do with the amount of money to which I have referred. I do not desire to delay the committee any further in relation to this matter, but I do think that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), despite all his difficulties with the Liberal party-
– Do not be silly.
– Well, is it the Liberal party that is in difficulties?
– If the honorable member for Yarra wants to be named, he is going the right way about it. If he defies the Chair again, he knows what the result will be. The honorable member will deal with clause 7.
– It is quite obvious that it is impossible, in discussing this bill, to refer to the Australian Country party or anything else while you, Mr. Chairman, occupy the chair.
– Order !
– If you, Mr. Chairman, are going to persist in restricting debate in this way-
– The honorable member for Yarra, knows that the matter before the committee is clause 7. That clause deals with the powers of the bureau in relation to wool stores.
– I rise to a point of order. As long as I can remember, Mr. Chairman, it has been the practice, during the second reading and committee stages of bills to allow members of any party to refer to the attitude of members of other parties towards measures that are being discussed. All that the honorable member for Yarra did was to make a passing reference to the Liberal party and the Australian Country party and to quarrels in which they are engaged. Such references are everyday occurrences and are matters in respect of which it is seldom necessary for the Chairman to call honorable members to order. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that, in these circumstances, you should allow the honorable member for Yarra to follow the practice that has been adopted in the past.
– The Minister for Health can take it. He is not thin-skinned.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) knows that I am not forbidding reference to the names of parties or to the attitude of parties to the subject under discussion. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) knows quite well that he is trying to make reference to a report that has appeared in the press. The honorable member will not be allowed to disobey the ruling of the Chair in relation to a matter that is not relevant to the clause under discussion. If the honorable member does not obey the Chair, he knows what the penalty will be.
– There was nothing further from my mind than any desire to attempt to refer to the quarrels between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party.
– What a whopper !
– All I wanted was an answer from the Minister for Health in relation to this clause. I pointed out to the Minister the very large profits that have been derived from the letting of these stores since the Government acquired them. I pointed out also that these profits have been derived, not only from the storage of wool, but also from the storage of commodities which are outside the ambit of the activities of the Australian Wool Bureau. Does the Minister think that it is reasonable that such large sums of money should be devoted exclusively, as he said in his second-reading speech, to the advertising of wool?
– And research.
– I think the committee is entitled to receive an assurance from the Minister that he will examine this measure in the light of receipts from this fund so that the taxpayers may get some benefit from the profits that will be earned. That is the only reason why I raised this matter. I had no desire to embarrass the Minister for Health in relation to his quarrels with the Liberal party.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Bureau to insure wool stores).
.-Clause S of the bill provides that the bureau shall insure its property and rights in and in respect of buildings referred to in the act to the satisfaction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. That is a very wide power. The only person who has to be satisfied in relation to the insurance is the Minister. The bill doe’ not indicate whether the Minister has to be satisfied with the value for which the property is insured or with the insurance, offices or instrumentalities with -which the authority shall insure its property. The property may be worth at least £6,000,000, and it will bring in annually a vast amount of revenue. It is obvious that the provision of insurance on this property will involve the expenditure of a substantial sum of money. I should like the Minister to indicate the type of insurance and the particular instrumentalities with which he will be satisfied. Honorable members know that insurance is a very rich field for insurance companies. They know that insurance should be vested in a Commonwealth instrumentality on behalf of the people of this country. They know also that, in relation to government property, the insurance is carried by the government itself. I ask the Minister whether there is any reason why, in the case of an instrumentality of this kind, the insurance should not be carried by the authority or by the Government itself. I ask him also whether, if that is not possible, there is any reason why the insurance of the valuable wool stores in Queensland should not be insured through the Queensland Government Insurance Office.
– The War Service Homes Division carries its own insurance.
– In New South Wales, a .State that has enjoyed more Labour government than most of the other States, there is a government insurance office. If I were the Minister in charge of this bill, I should like to see this authority insure its buildings and property in the State of New South Wales through the office that is owned directly by the people of that State. I understand that in Victoria the State Accident Insurance office has no authority to engage in fire insurance. I should like an assurance from the Minister for Health that he will confer with his colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in relation to the question whether, when these properties in Victoria are insured, the insurance can be carried by the Government as it does in relation to its other buildings. If State authorities cannot carry the insurance, I should like to see that insurance effected through some of the co-operative agencies in which the farmers of this country are shareholders.
I understand that the Wheat and Woolgrowers Co-operative Limited in Victoria conducts an insurance fund. I understand also that there are various farmers’ co-operative organizations that conduct insurance business, although I presume they re-insure with other offices. I assume that the members of the Australian Wool Bureau are excellent people and that they are competent in their own field, but I imagine that they are rather conservative and that it would be very easy for them to hand over this vast and profitable field of insurance to some overseas insurance company that simply has an agent in this country, and the dividends of which are sent overseas with the result that the people of Australia reap no benefit therefrom. The honorable member for Yarra pointed out that, the War Service Homes Division carries its own insurance. I am sure that the honorable member for Yarra could make a valuable contribution to the debate in this respect, but it might be possible for this authority to carry its own insurance. The more effectively it can be carried, the greater will be the amount of money that will be available to the wool-growers of this country. It is interesting to note that although Ave are trying to sow a seed in the mind of the Minister which will help him to ensure that the provisions of this legislation shall be administered efficiently, only one representative of the Australian Country party, apart from himself, is present in the chamber. The Minister himself would not be present but for the fact that he is in charge of the bill.
– Order ! If the honorable member does not discuss the clause I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– In contrast to the attitude of the representatives of the Australian Country party, my colleague, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr! McLeod). whose constituents in the main vote for Labour candidates-
– Order-! The honorable member must deal with the bill.
– Sub-clause (2.) reads as follows : -
In the event of the loss or destruction of. or the occurrence of damage to, a building as a result of a risk against which the Bureau has been insured in pursuance with this section, the Bureau shall pay the proceeds of the insurance -
in the case of the total destruction of the building - into the Wool Use Promotion Fund or, with the approval of the Minister -
into the Wool Stores Capital Account established in pursuance of section 12 of this Act: or
as to part of the proceeds into the Wool Stores Capital Account and as to the remainder into the Wool Use Promotion Fund; and (b ) in the case of damage to a building not involving its total destruction - into the Wool Stores Rentals Fund.
If the Commonwealth itself cannot carry the insurance of these stores, will the Minister arrange for the insurance to he carried by an instrumentality in which the wool-growers or the people have some pecuniary interest? I trust that the Minister will indicate his intentions in regard to this matter.
.- I have already explained that the Australian Wool Bureau must obtain the consent of the Minister before it may do certain things in order to ensure that the Government shall have a definite voice in its administrative acts. First, the Minister must be satisfied with the form of insurance proposed to be elected. Secondly, he must be satisfied with the amount of insurance cover proposed, and, thirdly, he must be satisfied with the companies which undertake the insurance. There is very strong competition for this business and there is no reason why a State insurance instrumentality should not seek to obtain it. The insurance of the stores must be effected on a business-like basis. If State insurance instrumentalities are prepared to undertake this business every opportunity will be given to them to do so. Why should the Commonwealth pay the insurance premiums out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund when the bureau is to receive the proceeds of the insurance in the event of loss or damage? In those circumstances, surely it is only fail that the bureau should pay the premiums. In the event of destruction or damage to the stores the bureau will be required to pay the proceeds of the insurance into the funds or accounts specifically mentioned in sub-clause (2.), all of which are under the control of the growers. The funds controlled by the bureau must be expended wisely and prudently. We propose that the insurance shall be affected with the company or instrumentality which quotes the lowest premium rate. In other words, the business will go to the lowest tenderer.
– Will the Minister give us an assurance that tenders will be called?
.- That is very helpful.
– The Minister’s decision will probably be reversed by the Cabinet.
– Will the Minister indicate whether tenders are at present being called by the authorities which control the stores ? I have no doubt that the business will go to the private insurance companies. I should like an assurance from the Minister that if the lowest quotes are received from State insurance instrumentalities the busines will be given to them.
– The lowest tender will be accepted.
.- The Minister has said that the affairs of the Australian Wool Bureau must be conducted on a business-like basis. I agree whole heartedly with the right honorable gentleman. If he took the trouble to examine the annual report of the War Service Homes Commission he would find that the Commission was able to reduce premiums on war service homes by more than 50 per cent. as the result of undertaking its own insurance. There is a practical example of a Government authority insuring its own property on its own account and being able to charge premiums 50 per cent. or more below those charged by the private insurance companies. There is no reason why the bureau should not establish an insurance reserve fund, or why some portion of the large amount of money which still remains in the Wool Contributory Charge Trust Account should not be used as a basis for an insurance fund. If the Minister wishes the insurance of these stores to be effected on a business-like basis at the lowest possible premium rates, he could do no better than follow the example of the “War Service Homes Commission. However, I have no doubt that the Government will give the business to the private companies. That raises an important point regarding statutory authorities which have no responsibility to the Government. The six wool-growers, who are the members of the Australian Wool Bureau, and whose main business is the growing of wool, will undoubtedly place th insurance of these stores in the hands of their associates and friends in the private insurance companies. They will make their decision, not as Government officials charged with the impartial care of Government funds, but in accordance with the wishes of their connexions in the business world. That is a very bad feature of this kind of statutory authority which has no official responsibility to the Government for its actions. However, the Government has made its decision and we can do nothing to unmake it. I point out for future consideration the undesirability of establishing authorities of this kind. Decisions relating to such matters as insurance should be made by full-time officials responsible to the Government whose impartiality is unquestioned and whose livelihood depends upon their continued employment in the Public Service. I ask the Minister to investigate the practice followed by the War Service Homes Commission in relation to insurance.
– We know all about that practice because we instituted it.
– Indeed, it is one of the few successes achieved by this Government. The same practice should be followed by the Australian Wool Bureau in relation to the insurance of the wool stores.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Wool Stores Rentals Fund).
.^Subclause (4.) reads in part as follows: -
Moneys in the fund not immediately required for the purposes specified in the last preceding sub-section -
may be lodged in an account at call or on fixed deposit, or partly in an account at call and partly on fixed deposit, at the Commonwealth Bank of ‘ Australia or at any other prescribed bank.
I am aware that other measures, including those introduced by Labour governments, have contained a similar provision. It may be necessary to provide that moneys may be lodged at banks other than the Commonwealth Bank in places where no branch of the Commonwealth Bank has been established.
– That is so. In some places where moneys will become available under this legislation no branch of the Commonwealth Bank has been established.
– I should like the Minister to give an assurance that the business of the Australian Wool Bureau will be transacted mainly through the Commonwealth Bank. The Minister, even though he is a member of the Australian Country party, has some socialistic inclinations on the subject of banking.. The committee is entitled to the assurance that the major portion of the bureau’s banking business will be conducted with the Commonwealth Bank.
– The question is, “ That the clause be agreed to “.
– The Minister has not answered my point.
– If the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) so desires he may take his- second period.
.- The Minister has refused to give the committee an assurance that the banking business of the Australian Wool Bureau will be transacted in the main with the Commonwealth Bank. It is the policy of the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues to insist that the major portion of the banking business of instrumentalities of this kind shall be transacted with private banking institutions.
Primary producers during periods of dire distress were assisted, not by the private banks-
– I rise to order. I point out, Mr. Chairman, that the subject with which the honorable member is dealing has no relation to the clause. I ask you to direct the honorable member to relate his remarks to the clause.
– Order ! That is a matter for the Chair.
– Primary producers look for assistance more to the Commonwealth Bank than to the private banks. The AustralianWool Bureau should transact the major portion of its banking business, not with the private banks, but with the Commonwealth Bank. I have asked the Minister for an assurance that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will give effect to that policy, and the right honorable gentleman refuses point blank to comply with my request. I can only express astonishment at his attitude. Such an assurance could well be given by some of the more advanced-thinking members of the Liberal party. I hope that members of the Australian Country party will bear in mind the attitude of the Minister for Health, who is their deputy leader, to this important matter.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is talking nonsense. An examination of the history of the Commonwealth Bank discloses that a Labour government stripped it of a good deal of the authority with which I vested it in 1924. Since then, the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has given much greater assistance to the bank than was granted to it by the preceding Labour Government.
-Order ! I cannot allow the Minister to discuss the activities of the Commonwealth Bank.
– The honorable member for Lalor had a “ fair go “, and I should like to inform him, briefly, that we are not ashamed of the assistance that we have given to the Commonwealth Bank.Everybody knows that the bank will get a fair deal from this Government.
.- The request made by the honorable mem ber for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who is a member of the Australian Country party, for an assurance that primary producers will be adequately protected, has a Gilbertian flavour. The people know that the Australian Country party has always done everything possible for the primary producer. The situation becomes ridiculous when a member of the Labour party seeks to take public advantage of this matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 15 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave- read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday, the 20th November, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) referred to the caseof Melvin Ray Anderson, who suffered a brokenthigh in a company physical fitness test at the national service camp at Wacol on the 22nd July, 1953. The honorable member stated that I had been wrongly advised by the Army authorities at Wacol that Private Anderson had sustained his injury while taking part in organized sport, whereas he had been injured while playing football. My advice to the honorable member was correct. Private Anderson, at the time of his injury, was on duty and was taking part in physical efficiency tests as prescribed in Military Board Instruction 78 of 1953. This instruction provides, among otherthings, for recruit tests, agility tests, standard tests, and battle tests. The latter includes sections dealing with agility, strength, endurance, and swimming. Private Anderson, while engaged in the strength test, met with an accident, which caused his injury. He tripped when his rifle came between his legs, and fractured his thigh.
The Courier-Mail Cup, which is donated by the Courier-Mail, is a competition in efficiency on an inter-company basis in conjunction with these events. Because of the interest of the CourierMail in the events, this newspaper had full knowledge of the accident and published Private Anderson’s name without the knowledge of the Army authorities before the next-of-kin had been notified. The honorable member then proceeded to state that, in correspondence with him, I had advised him that Anderson was not injured in the course of training and that, in consequence, the Army would not accept responsibility for the payment of compensation. I cannot understand how the honorable member could have made such inaccurate statements, for at no time did I advise him that Private Anderson was not injured in the course of training, nor has he been advised, either by myself or by my department, that the Department of the Army would not accept responsibility for payment of compensation. The reverse is very definitely true.
Private Anderson, who was injured on the 22nd July, remained on full Army pay for the whole period of his liability for full-time national service training, and for a further sixteen days thereafter to the 19th August, 1953, when his compensation payments took effect. He has been in receipt of compensation for loss of wages under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act at the rate of £6 a week since the 20th August, 1953, and, according to departmental records, the following payments have been made to him : -
These payments represent compensation at the rate of £6 a week up to and including the 20th November, 1.953. The next payment, representing a further four weeks’ compensation, will be made to Private Anderson in December and before Christmas Day.
The honorable member for Herbert claimed that he was acting in the interests of Private Anderson when he made his statement in the House, but the fact that he was not aware at that date that Private Anderson had been receiving monthly payments of compensation since August, 1953, clearly indicates that he has been out of touch with Private Anderson since that date and is using the case, not in Anderson’s interests, but for political motives.
Private Anderson is still in the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital, and is receiving hospital treatment at public expense, because his injury has been accepted as having been received while on military duty. The statements made by the honorable member for Herbert, which he claims to be facts, are far from the truth, as the information I have already given to the House indicates. He has also repeated charges that he made previously in the House that the Army authorities in the Northern Command have shown a complete lack of regard both for Private Anderson in his injury and for the feelings of the parents by their failure to notify them immediately the accident occurred. I have already written to the honorable member indicating to him that every care was taken of Private Anderson from the time he received his injury and during the time he has been in hospital, and that advice was given to the parents about the accident as soon as his injury was diagnosed after an X-ray. This is the regular procedure.
I regret that the honorable member for Herbert still sees fit to challenge the integrity of the Army authorities in the Northern Command in . connexion with this case, but I assure honorable members that it is my experience in all commands that the national service training is being carried out with complete efficiency, and in the interests of the national servicemen. There have been so few complaints with regard to the manner in which the training is conducted as to justify commendation of the Army authorities rather than the destructive criticism that has been made by the honorable member, because of the action taken in one particular case. However, I have shown that the “ facts “ of this case, as given by him, are far from the truth and that there was little cause for his criticism.
The honorable member for Herbert also referred at the same time to Private Stafford, who, while undergoing training with the Citizen Military Forces at Sellheim, was granted leave from the camp and, while on leave, was seriously injured in a motor accident. Mr. Edmonds was informed on the 28th October that Private Stafford’s claim for compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act had been admitted, and that he would be paid compensation in respect of the period of incapacity in accordance with the provisions of the act. Payment of compensation amounting to £69 12s. was made to Private Stafford on the 30th October, 1.953, covering the period from the 15th May to the 5th August. Private Stafford, who is an employee of the Queensland Railways, resumed work on the 6th August, 1953, Mr. Edmonds also objected to the fact that Private Stafford was required to make good the value of a blanket that had been on issue to him and had not been accounted for.
– I rise to order. The Minister has referred several times to Mr. Edmonds. Is the reference to the honorable member for Herbert?
– Order! The Minister should refer to an honorable member by his constituency.
– I shall do so. The honorable member for Herbert was informed that the debit against Private Stafford for the missing blanket was in accordance with Army instructions. This matter is at present under review, and consideration is being given, as a special case, to the waiving of the claim for the missing blanket, in view of the serious injury which was sustained by Private Stafford.
.- Once again, I shall attempt to direct attention to a serious and urgent matter, which relates to the tapping of telephones into and out of this building, and in Canberra generally by the security service. It is perfectly true that this service was established by the Chifley Labour Govern ment, but I point out that when the Chifley Government was in office the organization was used fairly as a security service. No member of the Labour party denies that a security service can perform valuable and important national work; but when it becomes a political instrument in the hands of the Government, and taps telephone lines for the purpose of getting scraps of information which, it is believed, will be of some use to the Government, it becomes a menace to the Australian democracy, and is used for purposes for which it was never intended. It is no different from the O.G.P.U. in Russia and the secret police force used by the Nazis when it spies on what public men are saying and doing in this country.
Let us examine the position. From time to time over a fairly long period, honorable members have raised the query whether some one was listening in to their telephone conversations. About twelve months ago the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) raised in this chamber the possibility that telephone lines were being tapped, because he referred to certain noises which he had heard during his telephone conversations. The allegation, when he first made it, was denied, but after he had pressed the matter, he was informed that a good deal of interruption had occurred to telephone services. He was told that the lines had been tapped, because it was desired to check the load into and out of Canberra. Any telephone technician will laugh at the idea that it is necessary to tap telephone lines in order to ascertain the load into and out of an exchange. All that is necessary to obtain that information is to record the number of calls, and their duration. It is not necessary to tap a telephone line, or listen in to conversations.
I shall tell members of the Government what happened at the time the honorable member for Herbert raised the matter in this House. A gang of technicians was in Canberra to instal a special apparatus for the purpose of tapping telephone lines and taking tape recordings of conversations over the trunk-line system. That was actually happening. -Is it not rather significant that when the matter was raised here recently by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and myself, we could not get an emphatic denial from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). Honorable gentlemen will recall that the Prime Minister, in reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh, did not refer to the alleged tapping and tape recording of conversations, but said that he did not know that the security service had an office in the Australian Capital Territory. He added that he would make some inquiries. All I can say is that the right honorable gentlema ii, if he spoke the truth, must have been going around with his eyes closed, because the security service has its office in Canberra in the block of offices where fcl i e Prime Minister’s Department is situated. “Who would believe, in these circumstances, that the Prime Minister did not know that the service had an office in Canberra? If the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J’. Harrison) cares to accompany me, after the House has adjourned, to the building where the security service has its office, I shall show him exactly where the telephone lines are tapped. I have never been inside the building, but I have information and I am satisfied that it is reliable.
What does the security service do when it listens to private telephone conversations? I understand that tape recordings of such conversations are taken as a matter of routine, after which the recordings are played back, the speeches are taken down, and security officers examine them. Naturally, one would assume that they would record only conversations that might be considered to affect security. But that is not so. They record extracts of conversations which they believe will be of value to the Government, and these extracts are added to dossiers of members of this House and are made available to the Government. This is a serious matter because the officers of the security service are principally ex-army officers and ex-police officers who have a very sketchy idea of the real meaning of democracy and the standard of conduct that ought to be observed in a democracy. It is an extremely serious matter if honorable members are to be treated, in a sense, as suspects, and if their conversations are to be checked. Do honorable members know that every time this House meets the security force in the Australian Capital -Territory is reinforced ? Seven additional security officers, I understand, are brought to Canberra whenever the House is in session because of the additional work that it entails for the security service. The Prime Minister has said that he does not know where the Canberra office of the security service is situated. I had a look round and I found that it was situated in the same building as the Prime Minister’s Department. However, there are no names on the doors, the doors are locked, the windows are frosted, and it is impossible even to look into the interior. Also, it is impossible for Labour members of Parliament to interview any of the officers.
I went to the office in order to try to interview some of them. I did not act surreptitiously, but went straight to the main door of the office, of the existence of which the Prime Minister said he was unaware, and spoke to a guard there, who had a book. I told him that I wanted to see the officer in charge. He made a call on the telephone. There did not appear to be a great deal of secrecy observed at the office at the time, and there was no security about the conversation that he conducted because we could hear it as well as he could. He held the telephone receiver away from his ear because the officer to whom he was speaking apparently shouted so loudly that he could not bear to hold it close to his ear. As a result, we were able to discover-
– Who does the honorable member mean by “ we “ ?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh and myself. If the honorable member wants us to tell him the names of these officers, we can easily do so because we heard them in the course of the telephone conversation. The first officer passed the guard on to somebody who was evidently a little higher in the service, and we heard that gentleman say, “ Oh no. We don’t want to see them. Tell them we cannot see them “. He seemed to be in a panic. How did the members of the security service know that the honorable member for Hindmarsh and I did not have some valuable information to give to them? We could not get in touch with them. I have marvelled in recent weeks at the absence from this chamber of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). We know when they are absent from the House that they could possibly be up to all sorts of mischief, because the honorable member for Wentworth was found on one occasion on the uranium fields with a Geiger counter.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– ‘Like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I am not satisfied with the replies that we have received from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to questions that we have asked in relation to the tapping of telephone conversations. Serious allegations have been made in this chamber concerning the activities of the security service. Questions have been asked for the purpose of ascertaining whether, in fact, the security service listens in to private telephone conversations and the telephone conversations of members of this House and departmental heads. Not one of the Ministers who have been questioned on this matter has given a definite denial. Indeed, the Prime Minister could not have done so, because he said that he did not know whether the security service had an office in Canberra. It is an amazing state of affairs if the Prime Minister, who is in charge of the security service, is prepared to allow questions on such an important matter to go by without even making inquiries to determine what is going on. It is all very well for Government supporters to smile and take this matter lightly, but I wonder whether they will smile when I put the proposition to them that the security service might easily be compiling a dossier on the private conversations of members of this honorable House and of persons outside this House. It is an absolute certainty that, if members of the security service are taking tape recordings of the conversations of honorable members they will not confine those recordings to the conversations of members of any particular party, for the very good reason that the service, once given the right to listen to private conversations, is not likely to surrender that right easily.
What could be more convincing from their point of view than to be able to say to the Prime Minister of the next government that comes to office, “ Here is some very interesting information. It is true that we have been tapping telephones and listening to private conversations, but we think you will agree, after you read the dossier that we have prepared on the honorable member for Timbuctoo, who is a member of the Liberal party, that it is a valuable service to continue. Here is a record of what he said in 1951. Listen to this. He telephoned Mr. Treatt and he agreed to put up such and such a proposition “. I guarantee that conversations of every member on the Government side of the House have been overheard by the security service, and there are two members of the present Cabinet who’ probably know that a dossier has been prepared on every honorable member by the security service and that it includes a record of private conversations that he has had with people outside this House. I am not stating a case for’ members of the Opposition against Government supporters. I submit that this matter concerns every honorable member. If this Government i3 having private telephone lines tapped, it will establish a precedent that might very well be followed by another government. It is all very well to sit here and laugh about this matter while you are in power, but how would you feel if, with the turn of the tide, you found yourselves on the Opposition side of the House ?
– Order ! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– Howwould Government supporters like it then if they knew that their telephone conversations were being tapped? I do not believe that we can jettison the security service. We must have a security service, but we do not want a secret police force, and that is what is developing in this country.
How easy it would be for the Prime Minister to check ou his Cabinet Ministers. Cabinet Ministers present please pay attention ! How easy it would be for the Prime Minister to learn of the conversations that they have over private telephones. How easy it would be for him to check on the conversations between pressmen in Canberra and their chiefs of staff in the various capital cities in order to verify their sources of information, the Cabinet leaks, and the names of Ministers who speak secretly to pressmen in the corridors. What terrific power this procedure places in the hands of the Prime Minister of a free country. I believe that every honorable member is affected, and every free citizen outside this House ought to sit up and take notice because Australia is a free country which cherishes the ideals of liberty and British justice. Yet, if a complaint is raised in this House, the Prime Minister refuses point blank to answer the charge. .1 simply put it to the House that the attitude of the Prime Minister and the Post.master’G.eneral on every occasion when this matter has been raised has been unsatisfactory. No honorable member will agree that it is a satisfactory state of affairs. I am noi prepared to give the Prime Minister, whoever he may be, the right to check on the private conversations of free citizens through the security service. If we sit idly by and do nothing about this serious inroad into our freedoms, how can we consistently object to the security service intercepting letters in the mail, reading them and preparing dossiers from their contents? In times of war, of course, there is an excuse for following certain procedures that we would never tolerate in times of peace.
It is absolutely useless for the Prime Minister to say that he does not know where the office of the security service in Canberra is situated because ii is next door to the telephone exchange and his own office at East Block. Nobody can convince me that he does not know of its existence. Honorable members will recall that he said that, even if he did find the office, it was doubtful whether he would tell me. The honorable member for East Sydney and I went to the security service office and made a frantic effort to get into the place in order to interview the officers there. But they refused to see us. How did they know what we wanted to discuss with them, and what right had they, therefore, to refuse to see us? Eoi- all they knew, we might have had some valuable information. That is an unimportant point, of course. The important factor that overrides all other considerations is that private telephone conversations arc being tapped. I recollect clearly an occasion in this House when I discussed the use of ministerial motor cars and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) looked across the chamber at me and said, “ If you want to talk about cars, we shall also discuss’ telephones and the use to which some honorable members put their telephones “. That may have been an idle threat. It probably was. However, it might have had some semblance of earnestness in it. If it was not an idle threat, I should like to know how the Minister for the Navy was able, if challenged to do so, to give information about the use to which members put their telephones. I challenged him to do so at the time, but he did not accept the challenge, perhaps because discretion proved for him to be the better part of valor. This charge cannot be scrubbed off lightly. It is too serious to be disposed of in that way. But, if the Government tries to scrub it off lightly, let it not complain a few years hence, when it finds itself in opposition, if the government of the day uses it in relation to some of the information that the security service is now gathering by listening in to private telephone conversations.
.- The matter with which I want to deal touches the subject that has just been discussed, that is, the security of Australia. One honorable member opposite admitted to-day that the Australian Labour party has received some money from the motion picture industry in this country. He said that the sum involved was infinitesimal, but he did not deny that the Labour party had received some money from that source. I should like to know why he did not disclose the amount that was received. Previously, the honorable member had condemned this Government and done his utmost to encourage it to arrive at a decision. Now, apparently, he has changed his mind and is using delaying tactics. I should like to know whether he is doing so with the object of securing the appointment of another royal commission that might be more favorable to some of his friends.
The second matter with which I want to deal relates also to the security of Australia. Certain rumours have been circulating in Parliament House for some time. I do not say that the rumours are necessarily accurate, but I do say that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should be made aware of them, if he is not already aware of them, and that he should give a public explanation of them. I ask honorable members opposite whether it is a. fact that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) - I shall use names in dealing with this matter - has stated that the federal secretary of the Australian Labour party received £13,000 from Mr. Hill, the Victorian secretary of the Communist party?
– He did not make any such statement.
– I am not asking people who may be friends of the honorable member to make statements on the matter. I should like a statement to be made by the Leader of the Opposition, because I believe it is vitally important that the people of Australia should know-
– This is a smear campaign.
– It is not a smear campaign. All that I request is that the Opposition should answer ray questions. I do not want honorable members opposite to adopt the tactics of the New South Wales Government. I do not want them to attempt to hide things that should be brought out into the open. I am asking for a straightforward, honest answer to the questions that I am asking. The trustees of the funds of the Australian Labour party have denied that £13,000 was received from the Victorian secre tary of the Communist party, but they have never explained why, according to rumour, one of the members of their party spread the story that Hill went to the house of the federal secretary of the Labour party and, giving a false name-
– The honorable member has been tapping telephones.
– I am glad to know that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) admits that such a conversation possibly took place. Is it a fact that this man Hill went to the house of a nian named Kennelly, the federal secretary of the Australian Labour party, and offered him, on behalf of the Communist party of Australia, a certain sum of money to fight a certain election campaign, that a certain amount of haggling occurred, and that the federal secretary of the Australian Labour party said, “ If you blokes do not pay us, you will be behind bars”?
Opposition members interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite^ adopt the technique of ridicule in relation to all questions of national importance. All I am asking for is an honest answer to my questions. It is utter hypocrisy for honorable members opposite to talk about telephone tapping and the. taking away of the rights of individuals when they must have, at least, a suspicion that their own party is using funds provided by the enemies of Australia.
.- The House has just been treated to an exhibition of buffoonery.
– I take exception to the word “ buffoonery “, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the remark.
– I said that the House has just been treated to an exhibition of buffoonery.
-Order! I shall not allow that word to be used.
– I withdraw it, but I point out that it has been used very often by honorable members opposite.
– Order ! The honorable member must not use the word. He must withdraw it.
– I have withdrawn it. The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) has excelled himself to-night in his attempt to smear the Australian Labour party. He has said, in effect, “ This is what is being said round the House. Let somebody on the Opposition side say whether this rumour is true,- or whether some other rumour is true or whether they are all untrue “. That is the defence offered by a backbencher to the charges that have been made, in quite moderate and reasonable language, by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) that telephones are being tapped. The honorable member for Hindmarsh put a perfectly reasonable proposition to the House. He may have been completely wrong in his remarks, but nothing that he said was offensive to any honorable member. Whatever he said was designed, in his view, rightly or wrongly, to preserve the rights and privileges of honorable members. Then the honorable member for Bowman, in a supercilious manner and with a degree of unctuousness never before exhibited in this House, asked whether Mr. Hill had gone to- Senator Kennelly’s house. The trustees of the funds of the Australian Labour party have denied that they have ever received any money from any Communist source, but the honorable member for Bowman has said that something like that must have happened, because somebody has told a story to that effect.
Let me give a categorical denial to these filthy smear stories about honorable members on this side of the House receiving any money from the Communist party at any time. The Labour party is in the front trenches all the time in the fight against ‘the Communist party. The Communists hate us. They know that if they can destroy the Labour party, they have nothing to fear from the people who are now sitting on the Government benches. The Labour party is the party that the Communists fear most. Is it reasonable to suggest that the Com munists would go to the Labour party and say, “ Here is £13,000 with which to try to defeat the Menzies Government “ ? If the Communists have £13,000 to spend, they will spend it themselves for the same purpose as we should spend it, if they have a common purpose with us, but they will also spend it in the way in which the Communists always spend their money - with a long-range plan in view to cause a revolutionary situation. The Communists do not give their money to other people to spend. They spend it for their own purposes. It is most regrettable that any honorable member should stand in his place in this House and say, “ Here is an allegation. Disprove it “. According to the honorable member for Bowman, the onus is on the Labour party to prove that it never received money from the Communist party.
We have never received money from the Communist party, or from any sympathizers of the Communist party. There have been times when the Communist party has wanted to give money to individual candidates of the Labour party, but we have always spurned it because there have always been traps involved. I would not mind betting that some of the money that the Communists offered on those occasions was supplied by members of the Liberal party. On occasions, there is a pretty close alliance between the Communists and the Liberals. They are united to-day in New South Wales in opposing compulsory unionism. They have been united on many occasions in election campaigns. Liberal party candidates have been elected because they have received a majority of the preferencs of Communist party candidates. That is demonstrably true. In an election at Prahran, 49 per cent, of the preferences of a Communist party candidate went to the Liberal party candidate. Some of the preferences went to the Labour party candidate and others went elsewhere. I have not the slighest doubt that the honorable gentleman who has made these charges is trying to influence the result of an election to be held in New South Wales next Saturday. I have no doubt that, with a long-range shot, he is trying to do some harm to the Labour party candidate in the Gwydir by-election. Senator ‘Kennelly has denied emphatically that he has received money from the Communist party at any time. The honorable member for Fremantle has denied that he made the statement that has been attributed to him. It may interest the honorable member for Bowman to know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), whom he supports vicariously and occasionally, has denied at a press conference that the honorable member for Fremantle ever came to him to tell a story of the kind that the press has circulated throughout Australia.
I want to refer to the close alliance that exists at times between the Communist party and the Liberal party, particularly when the Liberal party can get any advantage from it. During the 1949 coal strike, the Communist party had no better backers than the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The Communists hoped that the people of Australia would be starved into subjection by a Communist conspiracy, and they were not at all happy about the legislation introduced by the Chifley Government to break the strike. If the honorable member for Bowman is so anxious about party funds and corrupt funds, let him have a look at some of the money that comes into the coffers of his own party. Let him ask where the Liberal party and the Australian Country party got at least £250,000 with which to fight the 1.949 election campaign. This is what it cost them to buy newspaper space and radio time and to finance John Henry Austral for months before the 1949 general election. The federal president of the Liberal party is one of the chief executives of the Shell Oil Company Limited. Perhaps, he, too, helps to finance the Liberal party. He is obviously the president of the Shell Oil-Liberal party. These people who are talking about party funds ought to be the last people in the world to raise that matter. Perhaps the day will come - it cannot come too soon for me - when we shall adopt a law similar to that which obtains in Great Britain. In that country, there are no party funds and everybody is on an equal basis when it comes to fighting elections. In Great Britain, there is a tradition of decency that makes every candidate for election to parliament, no matter what his party allegiance may be, respect the law. They do not start insane democracy leagues and so-called constitutional leagues consisting of two persons handling slush funds and tainted money with which to poison the minds of the people. I hope that this House will never again be inflicted with a speech of the type delivered to-night by the honorable member for Bowman. Indeed, I feel sure that we shall not have to put up with that type of speech much longer, because after the next general election the honorable member for Bowman will be among the missing men.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) stated that I was trying to put the onus of proof on honorable members of the Opposition. I said that if they believe in their own statements and their own integrity, then they will ask for an inquiry into the matter.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question l;e now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
War Gratuity Act - Report of the Central War Gratuity Board on the Administration of the Act.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Annual Reportby the Trustees for year 1952-53.
Commonwealth Railways Act - Annual Report for year 1952-53.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence Production - V. B. Mursell.
Repatriation - R. S. Flynn.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1953 -
No. 78 - Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers’ Association.
No. 79 - HospitalEmployees’ Federation of Australasia.
House adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
New Service Rifle.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 December 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531201_reps_20_hor2/>.