House of Representatives
16 September 1954

21st Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 1297




– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Earlier in the session the Prime Minister, in replying to a question, intimated that a bill to give assistance to the gold-mining industry would be introduced during this session. Can the Treasurer, before he leaves Australia on his overseas mission, confirm the Prime Minister’s undertaking?


– Certain complications and difficulties have arisen in relation to the scheme to assist the gold-mining industry, and these problems cannot be resolved in time to bring down a bill this session.

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– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question that is prompted by the tragic crash of a British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited aircraft at San Francisco some months ago and by other accidents that have occurred on international airline services. What protection have passengers by way of life insurance, and what compensation is payable for death or injury? How may claims be made by passengers or relatives against companies operating international airlines unless international legal arrangements exist?

Minister for Air · DENISON, TASMANIA · LP

– Every passenger on the Australian domestic air services is automatically covered by insurance.

Mr Dean:

– To what amount?


– £2,000. In international aviation the position is a little different. Under the Rome convention, which has been agreed to by all the nations, a sort of third-party insurance cover against damage or injury caused by an aircraft is provided. The matter of compensation is covered by the Warsaw convention, of which Australia is a signatory. Under that convention, a claimantwho can establish injury to himself, or relatives who can establish the death of a passenger, at the hands of an international air carrier, may claim up to £A.3,867, provided that the carrier cannot establish that he has taken all reasonable care in the conduct of the air service. If the claimant can prove wilful misconduct on the part of the operator the amount is not limited to £A.3,867. It is not the custom of international aircraft operators to insure their passengers automatically, but they make provision at airports for passengers to take out special insurance cover for their journeys.I understand that the relatives of some of the persons who lost their lives in the San Francisco crash have made claims against British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited, which, of course, is not now an Australian company.


– Has it been brought to the notice of the Minister for Civil Aviation that there are airlines which regularly ask their passengers to sign their tickets, and thereby contract themselves out of any right to make a claim, in the event of a disaster, against the companies? Is the House to understand, from the answer given by the Minister to the question asked by the honorable member forRobertson, that irrespective of the fact that persons who travel by air sign the ticket, they are nevertheless automatically covered by the insurance to which he has referred ?


– No, I did not mean that at all. There may be airlines which do not insure their passengers. I referred in my answer to the honorable member for Robertson to the major airlines. Most of the companies of which I have a knowledge in Australia take out an automatic cover for every person who travels on their aircraft. There may be some smaller airlines that do not provide that service for their passengers. I do not know of them, but I shall make inquiries into the position, and supply the honorable member with an answer.

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– When the Treasurer made his statement about taxation concessions, he stated that deductions from taxable income would be allowed for certain gifts made to non-profit making schools. Did the right honorable gentleman intend that statement to apply to denominational schools, particularly those schools that charge fees in respect of the attendance of their pupils?


– The allowances that I mentioned will apply to all public schools of a non-profit making nature; consequently denominational secondary schools to which the honorable member referred will be included.

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– By way of explanation of my question to the PostmasterGeneral, may I say that I received a letter from a constituent in which it was stated that this constituent spoke to a telephone lineman and was told -

It is no good you writing to the Canberra politicians; they will only ask for a report unci we will reply saying no cable, no men.

Many honorable members have had the experience of being informed, in reply to their letters that the Postal Department cannot perform certain work because of the lack of cable and men. Is it a fact that if an elector writes to a member and the member makes representations for him, the elector is deliberately told, “ No cable, no men “, merely because he has appealed to his parliamentary representative? Does that mean that persons who later apply for telephones will then be given a higher priority than those who wrote to their members ? Will the Minister give an assurance that that will not happen?


– That is a Country party matter.


-Order ! The honorable member for Watson is out ‘of order.

Postmaster-General · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– In the course of a year hundreds, and maybe thousands, of letters are received by the Postal Department from members of the Parliament in respect of various postal facilities, and those representations are always treated with the greatest respect by both myself and the departmental officers. An inquiry is made in each case’, but unfortunately it is frequently not possible to accede to requests, and the reasons for not so acceding have to be given to the member who ha.s written. For example, we may have to say that there will be no cable or other particular facilities available. It does not follow at all automatically that because a constituent writes to his member his request is treated with anything but the greatest care. As a matter of fact, many honorable members know that their requests have been granted whenever it has been possible to do so.

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– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that there has been an alarming increase of disease among troops stationed in Korea a.nd Japan, and whether it is true that the Director-General of Army Medical Services has been sent to these areas to investigate health conditions.

Minister for the Army · MORETON, QUEENSLAND · LP

– The imputation contained in the honorable member’s question is quite unfounded, and I regret that he should have made it. Even if the question had some basis of fact, it. would be quite improper for him to ask it. The Director-General of Army .Medical Services, Major-General Sir Kingsley Norris, is making his periodical visit to Korea, and that is all he is doing.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I understand that the Government has held the view that the interests of certain primary industries require some modification of the specific rates of duty embodied in the Ottawa Agreement, in order to give the Australian products concerned the measure of protection on the British market which they were intended to enjoy as against foreign products when the Ottawa Agreement was made. Is this a matter that can be adjusted by mutual agreement between the Australian and the United Kingdom Governments, or do the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade prevent this problem from being solved by simple negotiation between two British countries ?

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP

– It is true that certain Australian products enjoy the preference in the United Kingdom market of a specific rate of duty, notably wine, dried fruits and butter. It is true that, due to increases in the value of these products since the Ottawa Agreement was negotiated, and due also in respect of wine to the increased selling price which is the result of United Kingdom excise and customs policies, the measure of effective preference, which was intended to be enjoyed by Australian products and which, in fact, was secured for them at the time of the Ottawa negotiations, no longer pertains. I think it is common knowledge that the Australian Government has not been satisfied with this condition, and has repeatedly made representations to the United Kingdom Government for the appropriate adjustment of the protective measure of the duty on wine. It is our view that the industries in this position not only need protection, but that there is a case founded upon the reciprocal preference that British products enjoy in this country. It is also true that as both Australia and the United Kingdom are parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, this is not a problem that can be resolved merely by bi-lateral negotiations between the two countries. It involves two stages of negotiation. The first is agreement between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government and the second, if the agreement is secured, is some modification of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade rules that would make it possible to give effect to it. So, the House will see that the problem is real, and, indeed, complex. It is not the view of the Australian Government that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade should be so loosened as to facilitate irresponsible alteration of the reciprocal tariff preferences between any two countries. We had an experience in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when a wave of economic nationalism throughout the world produced great obstacles to trade, which was attended by most serious consequences to all the trading nations. Australia is a great trading nation. We may be only a small nation in respect of population, but I think we rank about tenth of all the nations in the world in international trade. Accordingly, we desire to protect our vital interests, but at the same time, try to preserve real order in. international trading - in short, to have a code of rules.

page 1299




– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. Oan you inform me how long it is proposed to continue to operate the central heating system throughout this building? Is it proposed to continue it throughout the spring and summer months, or do you think that you can arrange to refer it to some of the professors at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, who might establish an experimental station with a view to trying the heating system on a few days before it is inflicted further on honorable members and visitors?


– As on all other things, it is quite impossible to get unanimity in this House with respect to heating arrangements. Some honorable members want the atmosphere hot and others want it cold, whilst still others want it luke-warm. . I think that those who want it luke-warm are in the majority.

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– Is the Minister for Air aware that revolutionary experiments are reported to be under way in respect of new sources of power for use in aircraft engines? In particular, is he in a position to give any information as to the progress being made in the adaptation of atomic power to aircraft? Have steps been taken to keep this country informed on such developments?


– The Royal Australian Air Force is keeping itself as fully informed as possible on all new developments in respect of all aspects of aircraft development, including engines and fuels. A technical unit consisting of highly qualified specialists keeps in touch with latest developments in this sphere, both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I am aware that the honorable member has a particular interest in the scientific side of aviation. His question calls for a technical reply which is not easy for me to give. I believe that experiments in jet propulsion will keep every one busy for a long time yet. With respect to the adaptation of atomic power for use in aircraft, I inform the honorable member that nuclear turbine and thermo-nuclear fuels are still in the experimental stage, with some success being achieved. The processes involved are highly complicated and can be simplified only if the secret of direct conversion is discovered for the use that the honorable member has indicated. Much work is being done, however, on refined molecular propulsion. There is a still more revolutionary theory, a highly technical theory, known as Massive K, which neither I, nor many other people, understand. Briefly, it is a combination of Einstein’s theory of relativity and the unified field theory. It is largely theoretical, if not speculative. I think it boils down to electro-magnetism and gravity as a source of propulsive power. I repeat that the Royal Australian Force is kept fully informed of the latest developments overseas in this, sphere, and that its experts investigate all modern improvements and inventions from the aspect of technology and scientific advancement.

page 1300




– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the American three-point proposal to dispose of over 6,225,000,000 dollars worth of surpluses of foodstuffs by exchanging 1,000,000,000 dollars worth for strategic metals for stockpiling, and by supplying 2,000,000,000 dollars worth for needy people in the United States of America, and 1,000,000,000 dollars worth to needy persons in other countries and to defray freight, processing and. transport costs involved in making these supplies available? “Will the Minister examine this humanitarian proposal and consider whether Australia’s surplus wheat could be disposed of in one or all of the ways indicated in the American proposal?


– Frankly, I am not aware of the American proposal as it has been so precisely stated by the honorable member, but I am aware, in broad terms, that the United States of America has made a proposal along those lines. I am aware also that the United States has, through its President and other spokesmen, indicated that it will not dispose of surpluses of foodstuffs either by giving them away or by selling them below ruling commercial rates in quantities or upon markets if this would dislocate the normal pattern of trading of other trading countries. That policy has the full support of this Government and we are watching the position very closely. It is the subject of particular representations from time to time by this Government when we have cause to fear that actions on the part of the United States of America in giving effect to such a policy threaten to “dislocate our norma) pattern of trading. This policy, which has practical purposes domestically in the United States of America and in its application in certain spheres, is based on humanitarian motives. This Government has been very generous, indeed, in this humanitarian and economic approach to this kind of concept. For example, this Government makes provision in the budget each year for substantial sums which are given, under the Colombo plan, to South-East Asian and other countries. But we have not the deep purse of the United States of America nor the tremendous surpluses that that country has. We are not able, and not eager, to attempt to keep pace with the United States of America. Within the limits of our capacity, however, particularly having regard to the need to develop and defend this country, and to give effect to the domestic policy for which the nation is clamant, we do as much along these lines mentioned by the honorable member as we consider to be fair and appropriate to our circumstances.


– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that, as a result of a black ban that was imposed by the Communistled Seamen’s Union of Australasia, a cargo of flour intended for South-East Asia was held up in the ship Mildura in Sydney Harbour. Was that cargo of flour a gift from this nation to a nation in South-East Asia for the relief of famine? Was it delayed by the black ban so long that it went had and had to be destroyed ?


– Yes. That incident, which “ occurred some little time ago, was substantially as- the honorable member has described it. Although the incident extended over a considerable period of time and was well known publicly, no member of .the Opposition, which now advocates the making of more gifts to South-East Asian countries, opened his. mouth in this House or anywhere else in an effort to terminate the ban. The action of the Government in making available money and gifts of food to countries that are in need is without equal in the history of any country with a population of the same size as that of Australia.

Conversation being audible,


– Order ! I must direct the attention of honorable members co the continuous buzz of conversation, In addition, there are too many interjections. Interjections are disorderly.

page 1301




– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the provision of finance, materials and services required for the establishment of television, as proposed by the Government, will in any way retard the present rate of installation of telephone services.


– During the last four and a half years, within the life of the Government, the rate of telephone installations has been an all-time record. I understand that more than 250,000 telephones have been installed in that period, and I think that a very big proportion of them have been installed in country districts, largely due to the policy of the Government which has made it much easier, financially, for a farmer to obtain a telephone. My opinion is that there will be no slowing down in the rate of installation of telephones as a result of the advent of television. The DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, when he gave evidence before- the Royal Commission on Television, said, amongst other things, that possibly the introduction of television would aid the development of telephone facilities because of the adoption and installation of microwave relay stations as each microwave channel could carry not only television, but also 600 trunk line channels.


– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the Telephone

Branch of the Postal Department has abandoned the idea of installing exclusive telephone sets. I have received from the department a letter which states that the Telephone Branch may find it .necessary to provide a duplex service for an applicant although the person concerned has indicated that he wants an exclusive set.

Mr Ward:

Mr. Ward interjecting,


– Order ! Somebody interjected. I do not know who it was, but I repeat that I shall name the next honorable member I find interjecting.


– There are very many outstanding applications for telephones, particularly in the metropolitan area of Sydney. It is not possible to provide everybody with an exclusive set. Unless we use the duplex system, many thousands of people will be denied telephone installations while others, who may use the telephone only once or twice a day, or even less than that, will have the monopoly of channels which could provide two services instead of one. Therefore, in -areas where duplex services can be arranged, the department reserves the right to instal duplex sets if it thinks fit to do so. A duplex service is not installed where the calling rate of a subscriber is likely to be high, for example, if the subscriber is a business house, a solicitor, or the like. These services are connected only where it is believed that the calling rate will be very low. The calling rate of about 70 per cent, of the private telephones in Sydney is fewer than two calls a day. Many thousands of duplex services are now installed. Very little dissatisfaction exists among the subscribers who have them, and the department will continue to install them.

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– I direct to the Minister for the Interior a question that relates to the fact that the combined efforts of all the governments of Australia last year succeeded, at immense cost, in settling only 569 people on the land. As the number of farmers in Australia is many thousands lower than it was in 1939, whilst the population has increased by millions, and as the Government has announced its intention to bring more rural workers into the country this year, I ask the Minister whether he will confer with the State governments for the purpose of establishing a committee, or commission, to investigate all the problems inherent in land settlement.

Minister for the Interior · CHISHOLM, VICTORIA · LP

– The problem of land settlement is entirely a problem for the States over which the Commonwealth has no control, except in relation to war service land settlement. The Government recently convened a conference with State ministers to discuss war service land settlement in an effort to speed up the programme by giving extra Commonwealth assistance. The question of closer settlement is one that is entirely the responsibility of the States. As there are five Labour ruled States, I suggest that the honorable member should direct his question to them.

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– Will the Minister for Defence state whether it is the intention of the Government to abandon North Queensland in its defence programme ? If not, will he indicate the measures that are being adopted for the defence of that area?

Minister for Defence · WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– It is not the intention of the Government to abandon North Queensland, and proper measures are being taken to provide for tha adequate defence of that area.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I refer again< to the problems of the Australian dried fruits industry, and ask the Minister whether he has received a reply from the British Ministry of Food to his request that the period for the support price, which will terminate on the 31st March, 1955, be extended to give sales coverage of the full United Kingdom pack from the 1954 Australian dried fruits crop. If not, is a reply expected soon? If a satisfactory decision is not made, will the Minister personally represent the industry in London during his forthcoming visit? Will he state what action the Government is willing to’ take to help growers who are in urgent need of financial assistance because the slow sale of fruit in the United Kingdom has prevented the implementation of their normal financial arrangements, and because they are already carrying the burden of heavy expenditure in relation to the next crop? As a means of overcoming the same problem next year, will the Government consider the adoption of a policy of government advances against the whole crop immediately after the harvest, as -is the case in relation to the wheat, butter and egg industries, so that substantial payments may be made without the producers having to wait until their product is sold?


– Order! This is an example of a question that is altogether too long. It is, however, not a singular example.

Mr Turnbull:

– My’ questions are usually short.


– I do not know what the honorable member said. I should like him to repeat his statement.

Mr Turnbull:

– I stated that my questions are usually short.


– The honorable member for Mallee, as well as the honorable member for Angas, has been a constant advocate of the welfare of the dried fruits industry.

Mr Bryson:

Mr. Bryson interjecting,


– Order! The next interjector will be named.


– Pursuant to the reports of the dried fruits industry and of the honorable members to whom I have referred, and other honorable members, the Government has arranged for the British Ministry of Food to underwrite, at a certain figure, the sale of last year’s crop of Australian dried fruits on the United Kingdom market. The Ministry placed a terminal date upon that arrangement. There have been slow sales on the United Kingdom market due to a variety of reasons, two of which were the disposal of accumulated government stocks in the United Kingdom and purchases from other countries. In direct negotiations with the Ministry of Food, I have been supporting the proposal mentioned by the honorable member that the underwriting terminal date should be projected to a time which would ensure that it would cover the disposal of the whole of last year’s crop. At the present time, I have to say that approval of the proposal has not yet been secured, but I am optimistic that it will be secured. If the decision on the matter has not been notified by the time I reach the United Kingdom myself within the next couple of weeks, I shall take the matter up personally. I hope that the industry will have the protection of such an arrangement. The Government is keenly conscious, as I personally am, of the acute cash problem that has been produced for dried fruit growers by the slow disposal of last year’s crop and the consequent slow rate of payments to them. At the same time, I am glad to say that, following some adjustment of the quoted prices for Australian fruit in the last few weeks, there has been a very satisfactory up-turn in the rate of disposal. The rate is now satisfactory, and we are approaching the Christmas season, when dried fruit sales reach their highest peak. In addition, I assure the honorable member that the Government will seriously consider the proposal, which he has advanced, that a basis should be established upon which the Government itself could guarantee advances to producers of Australian dried fruits prior to their ultimate disposal, according to the practice which applies in respect of wheat, butter and eggs. I point out, in conclusion, that those products are sold by monopoly ownership arrangements in Australia, whereas dried fruits are sold on a trader-to-trader basis.

Mr Keon:

– I rise to order. Is it in order for the Minister, in answer to a prearranged question of great length, to give a statement which is also of great length and thus take up half the time allotted for the asking of questions?


– I have no knowledge that the question was pre-arranged or otherwise. Obviously a long question needed a long answer.

page 1303


Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Sir Eric Harrison) read a first time.

page 1303


In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 15th September (vide page 1293).

Department of Defence

Proposed vote, £715,000.

Department of the Navy.

Proposed vote, £48,165,000.

Department of the Army.

Proposed vote, £72,185,000.

Department of Air

Proposed vote, £57,406,000.

Department of Supply

Proposed vote, £14,960,000.

Department of Defence Production

Proposed vote, £6,479,000.

Civil Defence

Proposed vote, £90,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)


– I classify the defence services as one department. The total cost of defence services in 1953-54 was £190,660,507, according to the Auditor-General’s report for the financial year 1953-54, and the total proposed vote is the largest for any one department. Before I address myself to the provocative subject of the construction of service barracks on parklands, I want to refer to a matter that is mentioned in the annual report of the Auditor-General for the financial year 1953-54, which criticizes the store accounting methods of the three services. The criticism is serious, as a lot of money is involved. In these days of a tight economy, it is important that the appropriations of public money should not be in excess of requirements for the efficient conduct of each of the three services, and each of the services should maintain an efficient system of stock control so that waste may be avoided. That practice would be adopted by any efficient commercial firm that had to carry large stocks of spare parts and valuable technical equipment. The Auditor-General’s criticism of the store accounting methods of the three services causes one to doubt whether the values of arms, equipment and stores have been correctly assessed by the services. The Department of Air, particularly, is scathingly criticized by the Auditor-General, who begins by saying that some progress was made during the financial year 1953-54 towards correcting the unsatisfactory stores accounting mentioned in earlier reports. The report continues: -

However, Treasury approval has still to be obtained, in certain instances, for the acceptance of a commencing date for full post-war accounting.

Although improvement has been noted in expediting the clearance of inter-unit issue vouchers, the position is not yet satisfactory.

The Department of Air seems to have been the chief offender. How it could keep accurate cost records of its stores is beyond my comprehension. One has only to see some of the very large stores of the service establishments in the capital cities, crammed to the doors with the most expensive technical equipment and in the control of limited numbers of service personnel, to begin to doubt whether an efficient check can be kept. The hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of technical equipment lying in those stores requires careful assessment to determine its truevalue and worth. I am sure that it would be impossible for the services to tell whether some of the equipment in those stores was stolen or not accounted for. But equipment and stores represent, money, and a. careful and searching inquiry would be made into the loss of any large sum of money.

The services are entitled to priority in finance, but the Chiefs of Staff of the services must appreciate the need to work within our means in the present tight condition of the economy, because many sacrifices are being made by commercial undertakings, and the Government is postponing many important projects, so that the services may obtain the funds that they require for proper defence preparations. At the same time, the service chiefs must appreciate that we must win a cold war if we are to avoid fighting a hot war, ,and that the economy is at present finely balanced. The services have an obligation to help to strengthen the economy, and must not undermine it by poor methods such as those pointed out in the Auditor-General’s report.

Civil staff should be employed in service stores in the base areas. Possibly, this practice already is being followed to a degree, but the Department of Air, at least until recently, did not employ civilians for this purpose. It is asking too much to expect servicemen who undertake short tours of duty in large stores in which valuable equipment is stored to maintain a proper continuity of effective storekeeping methods. The Minister should carefully consider the Auditor-General’s report on that matter.


– It has already been attended to.


– If an improvement has already been effected, there must bp some remarkably clever people in the community, because it is very difficult quickly to take over the effective control of millions of pounds worth of spare parts and expensive technical equipment. If that has now been done it has been accomplished within a very short time, because I know that such a system was not in operation a few months ago. However, I am quite sure that the Minister is very anxious to ensure that this kind of control is adopted and carried out, and J hope that he will do his best to see that it is.

I am well aware that trained civil staff to control and care for expensive equipment in civil undertakings is not easy to find, and many industries are anxious to train such staff, but they have experienced great difficulty in getting suitable persons to train. That sort of training cannot be carried out in a day or a month; it takes a long time. However, I do believe that if we can institute a system of this kind in the services the Government will save a great amount of money. Apparently the Auditor-General appreciates that point, because he has stated that he has raised this matter of control on previous occasions. My remarks apply with equal force to the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army, but apparently those services are not so greatly affected as the Royal Australian Air Force, which fact the Auditor-General apparently appreciates.

I now turn to what I consider is a most important matter. That ia the fact’ that service barracks are still located in parklands. I am continually receiving letters from people to the effect that they believe that the time has now arrived when the head-quarters of the various defence services should be removed from our parklands and playing areas in the congested parts of our cities, particularly in Melbourne. I was rather astonished that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) did not raise this matter in his speech yesterday, as there are large areas of land in his electorate that are at present occupied by service headquarters. [ notice that there is no indication in the Estimates that the buildings associated with these head-quarters will be removed, and, therefore, I assume that it is intended to retain the temporary buildings which are located on some of the most valuable land in the Melbourne metropolitan area. I particularly draw attention to Albert Park and Royal Park in the Melbourne area, and I presume that there are very valuable blocks of land in other Australian cities that are occupied by barracks and temporary Army buildings. In Albert Park particularly, service headquarters occupy 46^ acres of land for which £4,650 a year is paid as rent.

I submit that the land on which the service headquarters are built really belongs to the people, and they are anxious that it should be returned to them. These areas of land began to be occupied at the beginning of the last war, when the defence services erected temporary buildings on some of the finest playgrounds in the Melbourne area. Successive Australian governments, including the present Government, promised to remove those buildings, hut to the present time nothing lias been done to honour the promise. I can only conclude that the service chiefs are anxious to retain their headquarters on these parklands because they are particularly accessible to the city. I should think that there is some collusion between the trustees of Albert Park and the service chiefs, to ensure that the service head-quarters shall remain on the park. I understand that a certain Senator is chairman of the trustees of Albert Park, and I do not know whether or not he is anxious to keep the services head-quarters on the park and continue to receive the rental for the use of the land. I am told that both the landlord and the tenant of this area are very pleased with the present arrangements and the only party that is dissatisfied is the general public which owns the land. The people are anxious to break up the unholy ‘alliance between the trustees and the services, and are endeavouring to have these lands returned to them for the purposes for which they were originally designed.

I suggest that the Army buildings on Albert Park constitute one of the most serious risks that we could have in these times. There is a very serious risk of them being destroyed by fire, and they are very close to the city area. Honorable members well know that the servicesare continually advocating decentralization and wide dispersal of military and! strategic buildings, but apparently these authorities do not apply those principles to their own head-quarters at Albert Park. There is great traffic congestion at peak periods in the park area because all the members of the services employed at the Albert Park headquarters appear to have motor cars. In the evening of each working day all those vehicles converge on a narrow piece of roadway which is the only exit from the area. Therefore, the congestion in the evening has to be seen to be believed. 1 suggest that in every way Albert Park is one of the worst possible locations for service head-quarters. All civil industries that employ as many people as the Albert Park service head-quarters are planningto get out of city areas, but the services seem to disregard all the well established principles of decentralization. Moreover, local residents and sporting bodies are denied the use of these 46£ acres of land.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Mr. JOSHUA (Ballarat) ] 11.24] .-1 appreciate the broad approach that has been adopted by honorable members who have spoken about the Estimates in this chamber. The Government has asked us to vote it a very large amount of money this year, and in considering that request we must adopt a broad approach. However, I intend to confine myself to only a part of the group of proposed votes now under consideration. I shall speak about the national service training scheme, ‘particularly the part of it that relates to the Army. I shall not confine myself to the Army because I believe that national service training for the Army is any more important than for the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force, but because I have had a better opportunity to study matters connected with the Army. Also the Army takes the greatest number of national service trainees, and I believe that many of the statements that I shall make about the Army will apply with equal force to the other two branches of the armed forces.

We have had about 43 years’ experience of, and experiment with, military training, but no one can say that we have worked out a perfect military training scheme. We have seen and tried many things but we are still in the experimental stage. I have been one of the experimentalists for about 36 years.

I believe that we should have before us clear objectives of what a training scheme should include, and then we shall not be led astray by any further suggestions. An Australian army of any consequence in the future must again be an army of civilians reconditioned for battle, as it has been in the last two wars. We are a peace-loving nation. We are not a warlike people, such as the people of New Guinea, who crowd the hilltops and are always looking for a fight. We like peace, and we desire to get on with our peaceful occupations. Therefore, we need to remember that’ our peace-loving citizens will have to be reconditioned for battle, and form the army of the future. The permanent forces, which have been established since the end of World War II, have an important place. They will represent the vanguard of our army, and will meet the first onslaughts of an enemy. That is their role.

However, I particularly desire to deal with the civilian army, which must form the great bulk of our defence forces. It will be an army of reconditioned civilians. When that fact is recognized, the inescapable foundation of our future military might is quite clear, and we can see the objective of all civilian military training. Any expenditure of money or effort on civilian training is useless unless the residual value is high. It is futile to train our young men, if that training is to be lost some months later. The training must have a high residual value, and whatever scheme is introduced, it is only the residual military training value that is any use. Young men who have carried out various exercises during their training and learnt arts with which they had not previously been familiar, forget some of those things after they have resumed their civilian occupations. It would be safe to say that many young men, six months after they have completed their 90 days camp, are not in a state of training at all. It is quite clear that a good deal of the training that they have received has not much residual value. They invariably forget some of their training. Whatever they learn must stick if the training is to be of any use to Australia when the country needs their services, and we do not know when Australia will need their services.

With this fact in mind, we must examine our present training scheme, and endeavour to ascertain whether we arc receiving value for the expenditure of the huge sum of money on it. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) stated that £70,000,000 has been provided for the national service training scheme. I think that we should reduce that figure to £55,000,000, because the Minister informed us that £15,000,000 had been spent on camps and training areas. The expenditure of the £15,000,000 has almost an indefinite residual value, and it has not been a waste. However, the figures given by the Minister show that £55,000,000 has been allocated for the training of the members of the three services. I believe that we should carefully examine the results of that expenditure, and the residual value. Every one will agree that the association of young men of all types under capable command can bring out the many good qualities in them. Some of the training is highly residual. The elementary training in particular, stays with the boys. Not all of it is lost some months later. Some of the training will stay with the boys for a number of years.

The most important things are highly residual, and should not be lost sight of. [ speak of the test of ability which enters into the training of every young man. This test often overcomes an inferiority complex which is likely to develop particularly in boys who live in the bush. Of course, an inferiority complex can also develop in boys who have lived all their lives in the cities. The competitive spirit in army training overcomes the inferiority complex that some of the lads, and confidence will remain with them for the remainder of their lives. It is highly residual. Competition breeds confidence in the boys, and therefore, must improve morale and self-reliance. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made an important statement about confidence, and the spirit to resist an attack and to retaliate. That spirit is most important in any community, and our national service training scheme is doing much to foster it. I should be very sorry indeed to see anything done which reduced the improvement in morale which our national service training scheme brings to young men.

One of the most important things about the national service training scheme is that it gives to every young man his first serious thoughts about the defence of his country. Many hoys would never think of that matter if they were not called upon to do national service training, and then they have to devote some thought to it, and ask themselves what it all means, and what their part in it is. That, also, is highly residual.

I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) about the assimilation of new Australians. What better process of assimilation could take place than to put new Australian boys with their Australian companions in the national service training scheme? It must make for better assimilation of immigrants, and thus, for a more unified nation. The honorable member for Calare is to be complimented on his suggestion. These factors, which do not appear obvious to everyone, are present in the national service training scheme, for which we provide such a large amount of money, and their residual value is very great indeed.

That thought brings me to the first point which I desire to make. We must make sure that the scheme is not altered in any way which will lessen this great residual value. We should also make sure that these benefits will be received by all young men, and not merely by some young men. But more is required if we are to make an army that will be able to function quickly when it is required. The most important need of any army of civilians reconditioned to war must be a good supply of officers and noncommissioned officers. In World War II., the officers and non-commissioned officers, for the most part, undoubtedly came from the Militia, the Saturday afternoon soldiers. They were much despised, and most wrongly so. They formed the backbone of the Second Australian Imperial Force, and such men must be regarded as important when we come to consider our national service training scheme.

The Citizen Military Forces have had a rough spin since the end qf World War II. Servicemen got out of uniform, and hoped that they would be able to forget about war, because Australia is a peace-loving nation. But the Citizen Military Forces have had to get back on their feet again, and I am glad to say that many men have returned to the ranks. Its numbers, however, were not sufficient, and it was misunderstood. I mentioned in a speech last year that more could he made of the national service training scheme by indicating, after a suitable period of observation, those young men who would probably make good noncommissioned officers and others who would probably make efficient officers. From the check that I - have undertaken with my own local battalion, I find that this is now done, and that the Citizen Military Forces are receiving a valuable influx of suitable men who will be the officers and non-commissioned officers of any future army.

Mr Gullett:

– There are not enough of them, though.


– That is so, but nevertheless, the result is most gratifying. I find that our own battalion, the 8th/7th

Battalion, estimates that it will have a full complement of officers after the examinations in November, and hopes to have a reserve of 20 per cent, after the examinations to be held next May. If that keeps up, I hope that the day will come when the Minister for the Army will approve of a 50 per cent, reserve of officers, or even a greater reserve if it can be built up.

Mr Francis:

– I place no limit at all upon the strength of the reserve of officers.


– I am glad to hear that. Nothing should he done to alter “this scheme which is providing leaders for the Citizen Military Forces and the Army. The role of the Citizen. Military Forces must be that of a continuous cadre which need have no troops in it at all. I have attended many parades on which every one had stripes, or pips. For many months before the war I trained many young men only some of whom had stripes but, a few months after they had gone to the war, every one of those men had stripes, or pips. These men should be encouraged by being given opportunities for promotion. They should not be kept down to a too hard and fast establishment. I repeat that the role of the Citizen Military Forces should be that of a continuous cadre. It does not require troops at all.. The cadre should be a crack corps, and I hope that it will be developed along those lines.

I direct attention to the disparity between the conditions applying to national service trainees and to members of the Citizen Military Forces. Of course, the more advanced soldier knows that he must have tough conditions, but this aspect should be looked at in a way that will not discourage boys. Summing up, the present national service scheme, on which we have expended £55,000,000, provides a valuable residue of military training. I am aware of the backlag, and I hope that any scheme that is adopted will cover everybody. The present scheme is a means of providing leaders, in the Citizen Military Forces whose residual value will continue so long as they are physically capable of continuing in this field. Last year, I congratulated the Minister for the Army and his officers on the work that they have done. I appreciate the difficulties with which they are confronted.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) has paid a well deserved compliment to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), because it is a fact that under his guidance the defence forces committed to his care have made immense strides. Conditions have been improved for all ranks. A good deal has been done to attract men into the services on both a full-time and a part-time basis, and the Minister has to his credit considerable achievements in the development of our Army. I rise mainly to support the remarks that were made last night by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) concerning the alteration in the national service training scheme which he outlined. The present national service training procedure represents for many in this chamber, including members of the Opposition, the expression of a principle which we hold very strongly. When I first stood as a candidate for the Parliament in 1943, the thing that moved me to do so was my belief, based, indeed, upon certain knowledge, that at that time a proportion of the men of this country was being exploited because the Government - I do not blame it entirely on this score - and the country did not have the moral courage to impose responsibility for the defence of the nation upon all its available suitable citizens. This caused great hardship and suffering for certain small sections, and was a grave injustice which gave rise to a residue of ill-feeling which, I remind the Minister, it would be a great mistake to underestimate.

The present scheme has done much to increase good feeling in the fighting services. When this Government came into power one of its principal attractions for many who sat behind it, because they had had experience in these matters, was that it stood for the principle of universal military service in the firm belief that responsibility for defence in a country threatened as Australia is must rest upon all. We were pleased to see the introduction of the present national service training scheme for which there was co-operation and support by honorable members opposite. As -time went on, we saw it produce results. I believe that they have been uniformly good. The scheme stands to the credit of everybody who took part in its establishment, including the Government and those honorable members who supported it as well as the services, particularly the Army which, for obvious reasons, has facilities to deal with large bodies of men. The result has been the building up of a defence force, of a sort, :and the conferring of a great benefit upon the boys themselves. I think that all honorable members will agree on that point. To my way of thinking, one of “the great bases of citizenship and patriotism, and of any other desirable feeling in a country, is that people should serve for a time in the armed forces of their country. The scheme has not been an unqualified success, but it has, over the years, been getting better, to the great credit of all who were concerned in it3 establishment.

Now, the Government proposes to abandon universal military training. There are many honorable members who question the wisdom of that decision. “Universal” means applying to all. Any scheme under which certain classes of persons are exempt on the basis of their occupation or their place of residence is not universal. And, contrariwise, when certain people are excluded, other persons are involved. It is selective training, and a reversion to the old, rotten attitude, of which I thought I had seen the last - the attitude that the defence of the nation will rest upon a few. I have never accepted that as a right point of view, and I do not accept it now. Goodness knows, the present scheme is not exhaustive. As the honorable member for Ballarat has pointed out, only the minimum is being done. The GovernorGeneral, who is an authority on this matter, has said, in effect, “You are just playing with national service “. We shall have ceased even to play with it if this sort of thing goes on. I also deplore the manner in which the decision of the Government was made known. The decision was announced in the press last week shortly before it was announced in this House. What is the reason for any hurry? The present trend in the figures must have been obvious not for months but for years past, and, if it were not obvious, our expert advisers should be sacked. If it were obvious, then we should have been so informed. The Minister smiles at my mention of expert advisers; but they can be expected to say anything. Since I have been a member of the Parliament, chiefs of staff have recommended that univefsal military training was undesirable and, a year later, that it was essential; and, now, we are told that it is impossible. With great respect to those advisers, I say that, dependent as they are upon the positions which they hold for their own welfare and that of their families, including housing and retiring allowances, they cannot be expected to stand up against a government; and they do not do so. We may take it that they are giving this advice whilst knowing perfectly well that it is what the Government wishes them to say. Let us hear something about the reason for reducing the intake of trainees? Has the emergency passed? Is it no longer necessary for us to make a maximum effort? If that is the case, then the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself is sadly misinformed. He came into this chamber not a month ago and warned us, and the country, in the gravest terms, of the challenge we might have to meet in a measurable period of time. And, of course, the heads of the services think along similar lines. All this is happening at a time when we are negotiating with other countries, and telling them that we are prepared to stand with them in arms against the onward march of communism and to play our part to the maximum degree. This proposal makes a farce and a nonsense of the whole proceeding. It also gives the lie to any claim made in this chamber that we regard defence as a first priority, in relation to which we should make sacrifices.

I believe in universal military training as a principle, quite apart from its defence aspect, because of the benefit it gives to this country in the long run.

Has the expert advice given to the Government been to the effect that our strength in new arms is so great that we need no longer rely on great masses of men for our defence? I am not competent to say whether or not that is so, or whether our chiefs of staff believe it to be so. If they do believe it, they should say so. It would be an argument to which we should have to listen. In the course of this debate, however, which is occurring at a time when a diminution of the scope of national service training is proposed, nobody has said that we need not continue to make a full military effort, because a full military effort is no longer needed. If people like Air Marshal of the Royal Air Force, .Sir John Slessor, the Governor-General, who is himself a great soldier, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and others - and I mention people who are outside this country because of the fact that they are noc affected by our polities, and not because our own advisers are not expert - took the point of view that a full defence effort of the conventional kind was no longer necessary, we should have to give serious consideration to it. But, as far as I .can see they do nothing of the kind. ‘ I have here a copy of a statement on defence that was made in the House of Commons this year. It contains no suggestion of any diminution of the number of call-ups. On the contrary, the statement deplores that it is so difficult to keep the number up to the requisite level. We all are aware of the sacrifies that the British people are making, not only in their own interests, but also in our interests. How will England receive the news that, with our twiddling army, as it is in numbers, we are no longer able to cope with the intake of national service trainees? It is, as I say, a matter of principle.

As a warning to the Government, which, if it wishes, it may interpret as a threat, I say that it is not to be expected that people who hold principles strongly will readily agree to a complete alteration of them without at least great prior thought and discussion. We are told that financial reasons make the continuance of universal military training impossible. Yet we are told, almost in the same breath, that we are to expend a huge sum of money on the introduction of television. It just does not add up to horse-sense. There is no sense in such an approach. I regret greatly that the Minister has seen fit to take this step. I understand that it is an irrevocable step, and that nothing said or done here about it will matter a jot. At least the Minister makes no answer to that. I say that the committee has been brought into contempt in relation to this matter. There is not a majority opinion on either side of the chamber in favour of this proposal, nor is there a majority opinion in favour of it in the country, particularly among the ranks of those who know something of service matters. Therefore, I think the proposal is most strongly to be deplored and criticized.


– I regret that, unlike the two previous speakers, I cannot congratulate the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) on his administration of the Department of the Army. The concluding remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) should at least give the Minister something to think about.

Mr Wheeler:

– Tell us all about Stockton Bight.


– I shall deal with that matter, too. It is a pity that the honorable member does not go to Stockton Bight to be tipped into the sea, in the same way as a number of national service trainees were tipped into it. The proposed vote for the Department of the Army provides for an expenditure this year of £72,185,000 on the Army alone. Yet not one penny is to be expended on the welfare of serving personnel, either in the Permanent Military Forces or in national service units. For some time I have been pointing out in this chamber the need to ensure that greater justice is meted out to national service trainees and members of the regular forces during peace-time. Repeatedly, major accidents occur and young men become incapacitated, or suffer ill health . as a result of their service in the Army. I know that it is said that the legislation that governs compensation to Commonwealth employees applies to national service trainees and regular army personnel who sustain injuries in the course of their service. I believe, however, that it is the duty of the Minister to see that provision for compensation for such injuries is made in the Defence Act, the Repatriation Act, or another act that will make the Minister for the Army immediately responsible in the matter.

This week a former national service trainee came to see me about an accident in which he had been involved. Apparently the Minister is not interested in my remarks, because he is not even listening to them. On the 7th May, this young man broke camp at Singleton at 12.30 o’clock and had tra velled 40 miles on his motor-cycle when he met with an accident. The injuries he sustained led to the amputation of his right arm at the shoulder. Since that date he has not heard one word from the military authorities, or from the Commonwealth compensation authorities, regarding the payment of compensation to him. All he receives is social services benefit. He was discharged from liability to national service training on the 12th August, on the ground, that he wa3 medically unfit. The document forwarded to him in that connexion gives the length of his service, and states that his only distinctive mark or scar is a scar from an appendicitis operation. It makes no reference to the fact that he has lost an arm as a result of an accident that occurred while he was returning home from a military training camp. This lad has been sent out into the world with no chance of rehabilitating himself or of finding himself employment, because his right arm is missing.

The mother of young Moran, who lost his life in the Stockton Bight disaster, was recently^ supplied by the military authorities with a form which she has to complete in order to show that she was dependent on the son who lost his life. Although that lad served in “World War II., and made an allotment to his mother during the period of that service, 3he has to inform the military authorities now of her weekly household expenses for food, electric light and gas, her general expenses, the amount that the son contributed towards these expenses, including the amount he contributed towards the payment of the electric light bill each quarter, the amount her husband earns, the amount she receives from another son, the amount of expense that was incurred in meeting medical and dental bills, and the contribution the son made towards the education of another son. They also want to know the household’s assets. All this rigmarole is the result of the loss of a young man’s life in a disaster. It can be seen that the Army is providing nothing towards the welfare of those persons whom the honorable member for Henty suggests should be giving their services to the nation.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5 th August, highranking Army officers have stated that the flow of enlistments is not half sufficient to meet the current wastage. The Minister for the Army, and other supporters of the Government, believe that the Army can function effectively, even when existing conditions are made known, but I suggest that, if the Government wants young ment to join the Army, it must give them the necessary encouragement. It must provide some assistance to those men if they are placed in adverse circumstances and are. unable to continue their normal form of civilian life upon the conclusion of their army service.

I again refer to the Stockton Bight tragedy and direct the attention of honorable members to a statement which, apparently, was made by the Minister for the Army only a week or two ago. The report of the Minister’s statement is contained in an article entitled “Mr. Francis Sits Pat” in the Melbourne Argus of the 6th September. The article contained the following paragraph: -

Mr. Francis further asserted that “ everyone was satisfied “ with the fairness of an Army inquiry into the circumstances of an accident, in which three youths were drowned, in an amphibious operation at Stockton, New South Wales.

I ask the Minister to indicate who was satisfied. We have not received a copy of the report. Honorable members do not know the contents of the report, and only those of us who live in the area know the circumstances of the tragedy.

The Minister also made the following statement : -

It’s all so futile. There might not be any more fatalities. ‘I he Stockton Bight fatalities have been the only ones.

The young lad Moran, who lost his life on that occasion, was in a similar tank to the one that sank in Stockton .Bight last year. On that occasion the authorities were able to extricate the tank with bulldozers. It can be seen that there have been other accidents.

Because the Minister has consistently attacked me on this matter and has stated that I have told lies, that I have handled the truth very carelessly, and that I was out of control, and because people may think I appeared in the chamber in a semi-intoxicated condition, I have been forced, at my own expense, to purchase from the New South Wales Attorney-General a copy of the depositions taken in the coroner’s court. It is a shame that time will not permit me to reveal all of the contents of the depositions because, if I did so, there would be no other result than the holding of an inquiry. The Government should appoint a select committee cf members on both sides of the chamber to inquire into this matter, and to ascertain whether I am. a liar or whether the Minister has been told untruths by the officers of the Department for the Army. All we are concerned about is whether these vehicles are seaworthy, and whether they should be sent to sea again. When a witness in the coroner’s court was asked whether future operations would be conducted with these vehicles, the solicitor who represented tie Commonwealth objected and the question was disallowed.

The first witness at the coroner’s inquiry was Lieutenant-Colonel James. He stated -

On Saturday, 6th Mardi, 1!)54., J entered Camp Shortland for training anr! I arranged for an amphibious training exercise from Camp Shortland to .Broughton Island and return.

It will be seen that the officer had been in camp on the Saturday and Sunday during which time he could have gone 100 yards across to the breakwater to inspect the ocean to see if it -was safe for the exercise; but he did not do so. I thank the Minister for the courtesy that he extended to me last night in attending; a screening of a film that I showed to members of the Opposition. That film revealed that a heavy surf was running, some hours before the convoy had got under way. I have not made any reference to gales at any timewhen dealing with this matter. I claim that these vehicles are not seaworthy, and. that statement can be proven. I ask the Government to take some action in the matter, because the father of thecommanding officer has written to me and attacked me. He has stated that I havenot the courage to face his son, and that I have made wild, unfounded, statements-

Mr Francis:

– That is quite right.


– That is not quite right, and the honorable gentleman knowsit. I shall prove that it is not right, if he will give me time. If the Minister wantsto have the matter cleared up, let him arrange for an .inquiry so that it may be cleared up for all time. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following words of the commanding officer himself:

Prior to the convoy leaving Camp Shortland I left the Camp in an L.V.W. at 1.40 a.m. onthe morning of the 8th March. I went out to sea to observe the weather and sea conditions.

Last night, I showed that the length of the Newcastle breakwater from Camp Shortland to its outer end was a distance of, probably, one and a quarter miles. If the commanding officer went only to the end of the breakwater and returned, as he said he did, in a vehicle that was travelling at between four and five knots, it would take over half an hour to complete the journey. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) told me that he was informed on good authority that the commanding officer went 5 miles beyond the breakwater. If he did so, he could not possibly have left Camp Shortland at 1.40 a.m., have gone out o miles and have returned, have circled in the harbour until eighteen other vehicles entered the water, and then have led them, out to sea by the time indicated in the evidence. The commanding officer further stated -

The convoy left the entrance to the Newcastle Harbour at about 2.05 a.m. on the 8th March and proceeded out through the Newcastle Heads.

The evidence proves that somebody is telling lies.

The commanding officer stated that the length of the convoy was three quarters of a mile. He stated that at about 3.15 a.m. he noticed distress signals coming from the rear. He stated that the crew of the work boat had instructions to attend to a vehicle in distress, and then went on to state -

I went along the line to investigate and found one boat 400 yards off course.

He stated that there was no further trouble at the rear and that he thought everything had straightened itself out, but actually, in that time, one vehicle had sunk. The officer or the other personnel who were on that vehicle did not come before the court, because this man stated that the first sinking had nothing to do with the deaths of the lads who were drowned. I should like to know the exact time the sinking took place. It took place shortly after the vehicles went outside of the heads but, in spite of that, the convoy continued. The commanding officer further stated -

I gave directions for my vehicle to be moved to the front of the column and approaching the hoad of the column I noticed it had appeared to have stopped. I then saw that an L.V.T. 4a was disabled. The engine had apparently stalled on that vehicle and I took it in tow and moved towards the rest of the vehicles which were then circling. I noticed a number of kits floating in the water and I was informed that there had been a sinking.

Already, half an hour .before, there had been trouble at the rear. Although there had been a sinking, there had been no communication with the work boat or any other boat.

I now invite honorable’ members to listen to the following statement of the commanding officer:-

It was an Jj.V.W. commanded by Corporal Wyborn. I gave instruction for a search to be made for the missing man and for them then to proceed on their course.

Why did the remainder of the convoy have to proceed on its course after he had taken ;i. vehicle in tow? He had discovered that there had been a sinking and that possibly a man was missing, but he told the convoy to proceed while ho, the commander, took a vehicle in tow to Stockton Beach or some other part of the bight. Was it not his job as commander to delegate to one of the other vehicles the task of towing the disabled vehicle while he stayed with his own outfit? Was it not his duty, once he had ascertained that there had been a sinking and a possible death, to say, “ Go back inside the heads “ ? But he continued on until 6.15 o’clock, at which time his own vehicle was sinking. He further stated -

It was approximately O.lo a.m. when my vehicle was sunk and at that time I was not aware of the difficult)’ experienced by the vehicles controlled by Serjeant McHattie, Corporal Gibson and Lieutenant Pye.

Those vehicles sank in deep water three miles out to sea. At least half of the vehicles that sank were not’ affected by the beach, because they were never on the beach. They sank out in the middle of the ocean in the early hours of the morning. Yet the commander told the convoy to go on! The Minister introduced a very important matter into this issue after I had asked him certain questions. He said that he had statements from Trooper Richardson, Trooper Bruce Power, the co-driver and Dr. Edmeades Although Dr. Edmeades is the regimental medical officer, he was not referred to at any time during the coroner’s inquiry.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- I am prompted to join in this debate by the criticism of the Government’s defence policy that has been uttered by members of the Opposition, particularly the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon), who stated last night that the Government should dam the Ord River in Western Australia. As an ex-Minister for Works and Housing, the honorable gentleman ought to know better than to make such a statement. He must be aware that it is not within the province of this Government to go into a State and undertake any work that he might wish to have done. I regret very much that some members of the Australian Labour party from Western Australia are not in the chamber at present, because the remarks that I propose to make will refer particularly to the defence programme in that State. A few months ago, the Australian Labour party decided at long last, at its federal conference, to advocate the provision of defence establishments on the western sea-board of this continent. I had been waiting for eight years, ever since I became a member of this Parliament, for the Australian Labour party to take that stand. However, although the Government wants to press on with its defence programme in Western Australia, the Labour Minister for Housing in that State has refused point-blank to permit bricks to be made available to the Director of Works. Some of the contracts for defence works have already been let, but the contractors are not able to obtain bricks from the State brickworks, and the private brickworks have been so tied up that they are not permitted to release any bricks for Commonwealth projects. This is an ungrateful return for assistance that Commonwealth departments have given to State authorities during the past few years.

When the Western Australian Government was going ahead with the construction of a new hospital, a causeway, and the present State brickworks, it found that there was a shortage of steel and so it approached the Commonwealth Director of Works at Perth for help. The Department of Works, which is always willing to co-operate with State authorities, made steel available to the State so that it could get on with its works. Only recently, a State-owned ship struggled back from north-western ports with a burst steampipe. The only source from which a new pipe could be obtained for the ship was the Commonwealth store £t Perth. The Commonwealth made the necessary pipe available.

Mr Edmonds:

– I rise to order. I have, been waiting for the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) to mention anything that applies to the defence services, but up to the present he has not done so. He has merely indulged in an attack on the Western Australian Government. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to remind him of the group of Estimates that is before the committee.


– Order! I certainly heard the honorable member for Canning refer to the construction of defence works, even if the honorable member for Herbert did not.


– For the benefit of the honorable member for Herbert, who has announced that he is an aspirant for the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives and who, therefore, might reasonably be expected to listen closely to speeches, I shall specify some of the defence projects to which I have already referred in a general way. One of these undertakings is H.M.A.S. Leeuwin, at Fremantle. I shall mention others later in my speech. I repeat that the Commonwealth Department of Works endeavours to co-operate with State departments but that, now that the Commonwealth has planned these defence works, it is being obstructed by the State authorities. I hope the honorable member is still paying close attention. There are four drill halls to be built. I remind him that many people to-day are critical of the national service training scheme. How. can we carry on .with that scheme, and with the training programme of the Citizen Military Forces, if we cannot have drill halls? If the honorable member says that they should’ be made of timber, or purchased as prefabricated structures, I point out that all the authorities in Western Australia, and throughout the rest of Australia as well, would come down like a ton of bricks .on this Government if it erected temporary structures. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. I go a little further. We need a job done at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Pearce. Surely that, like the work at H.M.A.S. Leeuwin, is connected with the defence programme?

Obstruction of the Government’s defence plans in Western Australia at present is not the whole story of Labour’s culpability. About seven years ago, the former Labour Government decided to erect a building for the Repatriation Commission in Perth. For seven long years we have waited for that work to be done for the benefit of ex-servicemen who suffer from disabilities. Now, when work is ready to go ahead, the State Labour Government has decided to delay the Commonwealth further by refusing to supply the necessary bricks. It has also withheld bricks for the construction of telephone exchanges and other Commonwealth undertakings. If members of the Labour party earnestly advocate the provision of defence establishments in Western Australia, I make a strong plea to them to give practical effect to their protestations. The present Minister for Housing in Western Australia is a Labour Minister. I have approached both him and the Premier in an effort to have bricks made available for Commonwealth works, .but nothing has been done. I now ask honorable members opposite who represent Western Australian electorates to approach their colleagues in the State Government with the object of having bricks released.

Sir Philip MCBRIDE:

– They are not interested.


– I do not think they are, but this is a test of their sincerity. Do they want this Government to go into Western Australia, or any other State, and take over State establishments such as the brickworks at Armadale? If not, let them say so. It is of no use for them to jump on the defence band wagon and criticize the Government if they are not going to follow their expressed policy to its conclusion.

Mr Ward:

– What is private enterprise doing about the situation?


– The honorable member probably understands the difficulties of private enterprise better than I do. If he were in power, lie would probably emulate his colleagues in the Western Australian Government, who have used snide methods to prevent private enterprise from supplying bricks f or defence works. I could refer also to telephone exchanges, post offices and other projects that are held up because the State will not release enough bricks. However, as the committee is dealing with defence services, I shall confine my comments to such matters.

It is absolutely disgraceful that a State Minister should refuse to allow a small quantity of bricks to he released for defence works. The Commonwealth would need only about 1,700,000 bricks to carry out its defence programme in Western Australia, but the quantity it is asking to be made available has been whittled down to 500,000 bricks between now and the 30th June, 1955. Even so, the Commonwealth has been unable to obtain enough bricks for the job at H.M.A.S. Leeuwin,. If members of the Opposition are as eager as they claim to be for the defence programme to be carried out, here is a wonderful opportunity for them to do something constructive instead of merely criticizing the Government. I shall not leave this matter in the laps of Western Australian Labour members alone. I say to all members of the Opposition, from the Leader of the Opposition down to the newest member, that, if they really have an interest in defence, here is a chance for them to assist the Government by persuading the members of the Western Australian Government to talk turkey and issue permits for the release of bricks so that the Commonwealth can get on with its task. I mention that matter in this debate, because I have heard much criticism, not only during the discussion of the Estimates, but also ever since the Parliament met, about the Government’s attitude towards defence. If the delays that I have mentioned occur, it will be impossible to fulfil the Govern- - merit’s defence programme.

I want to refer now to the naming of a Western Australian army unit that I know very well - the Western Australian Mounted Infantry Regiment, which fought under that title in the Boer War. After the Boer War, it, in common with other units, was not very actively engaged. On the outbreak of World War I. it became known as the 10th Light Horse Regiment. The unit is world renowned, and the fine officers and men that have served in it have a wonderful record. I understand that the regiment is affiliated with one of the British Hussar regiments, to which the present Governor of Western Australia belonged. Though the unit retains the traditions, colours and other characteristics of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, it is to revert to the name of the Western Australian Mounted Infantry Regiment, which, in its abbreviated form Wami, leads people to think that the unit is a women’s organization. The serving officers and men of the regiment are hostile to the proposal, and rightly so. The advisers of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) have told me that the proposal to change the name cannot be abandoned. The regiment is at present in earnt) in the Northam area of Western Australia, and will, I understand, break camp on Sunday. The personnel are a grand body of men, who are keen to get on with their job, and I appeal to the Minister now to take the matter up with his advisers in the Department of the Army and to ensure that the term “ 10th “ shall continue to be associated with the regiment. Let the unit be called dimply the 10th Regiment or the 10th Armoured Regiment, but at least let it preserve a link with the 1.0th Light Horse, the famous traditions of which it preserves. It is of no moment whether the regiment now uses horses. I understand that the Hussar regiments and the famous Scots Greys have not used horses for many years, but they preserve their old titles and traditions.


– -When my time expired earlier I was telling the committee that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) had pro.duced in this chamber statements from three members of the crew of the duck of the .commanding officer of the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers, the unit that was involved in the amphibious disaster in Stockton Bight. Those statements were not produced until after I had asked questions in which I indicated that I believed a conspiracy had been entered into with respect to the testing of the sea by the commanding officer. The Minister, when he read extracts from the. statements, stated that I had approached Trooper Richardson, the driver of the commanding officer’s vehicle. It is perfectly true that I saw Richardson. National service trainees had asked me to see him, and I took the trouble and incurred the expense of going to an almost inaccessible place known as Boat Harbour, where I interviewed him with his father and three or four other men. He said to me, in effect, “ I am out of the Army. I have had it. I want nothing more to do with it. I have claimed on at least four occasions for expenses for the loss of my personal belongings and have received no reply. They cannot get me in HF again. As far as getting me into one of the tanks and going into the surf is concerned, they would have no chance. Though I want, nothing to do with this matter. I say that if the commanding officer went out and tested the sea, I did not drive him. We put our duck into the water, and we circled the harbour while the other eighteen craft formed up and got under way. We then headed in line ahead for Cemetery Point.” Nothing was said about the hour of 8 a.m., to which the Minister referred. I was not interested in the time of 8 a.m., because I knew the story. I know the beach and the locality very well, because I have lived nearby, and for more than 30 years I have fished there. Neither the Minister nor any one else can tell me much about the area- that I do not know. Much of the evidence that appears in the depositions of the coroner’s inquiry shows that some one has been badly led astray.

The Minister produced a statutory declaration made by Dr. Edmeades. the regimental medical officer, who made a full statement of everything that occurred up to the time when the men landed on the beach. Two young trainees were dragged out of the water onto the beach between 6 a.m. and 6.30 a.m., but, strangely, it was not Dr. Edmeades who was called upon to pronounce, life extinct. Corporal Gibson went to Anna Bay for help. If he was not familiar with the beach and the general locality, it would have taken him a considerable time to get to Anna Bay, for he would have had to traverse half a mile of sandhills and a dense tract of forest. Corpora] Gibson made a telephone call from Anna Bay to H.M.A.S. Assault. The police constable who was notified said, in effect, “At 8.30 a.m. I received a telephone call that there had been a fatality off Cemetery Point “. He and Dr. Welch, of Nelson’s Bay, ultimately made their way to the beach. I do not know the time the constable and Dr. Welch reached the beach, but it must have been after 9.30 a.m. because the police did not receive the message until 8.30 a.m., and the constable and the doctor had to travel between 15 and 20 miles by road, and take a sandy track through bush, and across the sandhills to the beach. The constable would be familiar with this route. What was Dr. Edmeades doing in the intervening time after the two young men had been dragged up on the beach ? If it were reported that he had fainted or was indisposed, we could understand why no reference was made to him at that stage. Gould he not have instructed some of the men on the beach to go to the Stockton mental hospital, to enlist the help of the institution’s medical officers and to obtain supplies of oxygen? “Why was it necessary for some one to go to Anna Bay and ring some one who had to go 20 miles to the beach where the victims were lying? The mental hospital is within half a mile of the beach and possibly 5 or 10 miles from the spot where the two men were lying. We do not know exactly where* they were because the Minister has not told us. The Stockton mental hospital cares for approximately 1,200 patients, and one would expect that it has available all the facilities required for the saving of life. But the depositions of the coroner’s inquiry make no mention of an effort to obtain assistance from that source.

Where did the eleven vehicles that did not sink go ashore? Did they all make land at Cemetery Point, or did they go ashore at various points along the 20 miles of coastline - between Stockton and Cemetery Point? If they all landed at Cemetery Point, it is difficult to understand where the national service trainees who were seen at 5.30. a.m. by a milkman going his round’s in Stockton, came from. Those trainees were seeking the lifesavers, and they said that a number of men had been in the water off the coast a little south of the mental hospital for more than three hours. Why was the northern division of the Newcastle police not notified at that time? The public generally, and the relatives of the victims, are entitled to know what was done between 6 a.m. or 6.30 a.m., when the two bodies were -dragged ashore, and 9.30 a.m., or later, when the doctor from Nelson’s Bay arrived at the scene. What had Dr. Edmeades been doing? The Minister for the Army said that the doctor, in his statutory declaration, stated that he went out with the commanding officer to test the condition of the sea, knowing that it was a journey of at least 2i miles to the sca at the end of the breakwater and back.


– It was a mile and onequarter last time.


– It is a mile and one-quarter each way. Any one would know that it would be double the distance for the return trip. The honorable member for Evans said that the commanding officer and his crew went out 5 miles. When the story turns, against honorable members opposite they try to drag in side issues, but those side issues will not stand testing. The honorable member said that he had great experience in these matters and that it was impossible for boys who had been seasick for only a short time to vomit blood.

Mr Gullett:

– So it is.


– The interjection is indicative of the honorable member’s lack of sympathy for the victims and their relatives. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported, the day after the tragedy-

The first soldier rescued had been, unable to inflate his Mae West.

He was taken to the beach and was spitting blood and salt water. He was suffering from serious exposure.

If the reports are not correct, why does the Government not correct the record? Why does it not prove me and other persons to be liars? If I were proved to be telling lies about the disaster and a person unfit to sit in this chamber, I would resign my seat here. It is notright to try to hide the facts. My principal concern is that a similar tragedy shall not occur again. My son has just attained the age of eighteen years, and I should not like to think that he or any other young man would be the victim of a similar disaster.

One of the men said that he did not know what caused his boat to sink 2-J- miles out to sea. He said, in effect, “ There were eight men on my craft and, when we were about 2 to 2^ miles south of Cemetery Point, the engine of - my vehicle failed, and efforts by my driver to start it were not successful. I could not start it either. It was about ten or fifteen minutes before the vehicle actually sank. I do not know what made it sink”. I can suggest the possible cause of its sinking. I have been told that a steel plug is normally fitted to a hole through which water is drained when the vehi les are ashore, and that on occasion plugs are lost and wooden replacements are knocked into position. If anything needs inquiring into, that does. I could obtain a statutory declaration from the person who told me that. lt is not likely that, in the normal course of events, anything would happen, hut in rough seas, with waves up to 8 to 10 feet high, the plugs could be displaced. According to reports the seas were very rough. The stresses on the vehicles, which are extremely rigid, would doubtless displace the wooden plugs.

Mr Howse:

– If they had been fitted correctly everything would be all right.


– It is not merely a matter of correct fitting. It is a question whether they should be used at all on sea-going craft.

Mr Howse:

– “Wooden plugs are used in boats.


– They should not have been used in the ducks. Only steel plugs, screwed into position, should be used. I do not know of my own personal knowledge whether the wooden plugs were displaced, but that is the way it appears from the reports.

Mr Gullett:

– If the honorable member does not know, why does he mention it?


– I can obtain statutory declaration to verify the fact that wooden plugs were used at different times.

A fortnight ago, the parents of Trooper Mornement told me that they had been in Australia a little over twelve months and that they did not want to cause trouble in their new country. They stated that their son had come to Victoria before they arrived in Australia, that he held a diploma of engineering, and that he wished to become an agricultural engineer. When the parents arrived in Victoria, they found it necessary to go to Newcastle to obtain work. The son followed them and transferred to the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers. Trooper Mornement had told his parents a ‘few hours before the exercise began that the crew had had great trouble in repairing the bilge pumps on his vehicle, and had worked all night and one day on them.

Another witness told me that one crew had to take a bilge pump to pieces and found that a large piece of wood, which had jammed in it, prevented it from operating correctly. It appears that the intake pike had no gauze over the top of it. I suggest that there should be an inquiry to ensure that that sort of thing does not happen again. The commanding officer said that he had caused inquiries to be made at 5 o’clock about the state of the seas. The observer who was on duty at Williamtown was an observer only, and could not make forecasts. He said -

On Sunday, I recall having: received an inquiry from the Army about the weather. I don’t make a record of the calls received. To the best of mv recollection the time 1 received the .call from the Army was about 9 p.m.

He added that a number of people had asked about the weather, and that as far as he- could say the weather would be clear with light south-easterly winds and good visibility. Trooper David Richard Nunn, who made the inquiry, said that he made his inquiry on Sunday the 7th March, at , about 5 p.m. It is pertinent to ask why there is four hours difference in the times 1 stated by the observer and Trooper Nunn. ‘ What inquiry was made by the coroner to ascertain why there was such a difference in the stated times, one witness having said 9 p.m. and the other having said 5 p.m. Trooper Nunn was allegedly told that the sea would be smooth, and that everything would be satisfactory. I repeat now that the commanding officer had to walk only 100 yards to look out to sea. There was a swell of 8 to 9 feet in the sea on Sunday, with a wind of 15 miles an hour, but by 2 o’clock-3 o’clock the wind had increased to 25 miles an hour, and at 3 o’clock it dropped to 20 miles an hour and remained at that velocity for the rest of the day. Why could not the commanding officer have gone and had a look at the swell? The Minister, even now, should be able to perceive that the craft used could not survive in the sort of swell that there was in the sea on that particular day. Indeed, there were breakers 300 yards out from the shore. I suggest that the members of the Government would do well to see the film that was sent to me by a man whom I have never seen in my life. He sent me that film because he believed that in this matter he had a duty to the country.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- I do not desire to enter into the Stockton Bight controversy. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has told us a very distressing story, and I have no doubt whatever that the honorable member believes honestly and sincerely that it is a true story. However, I have confidence that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) can explain all the apparent discrepancies in the evidence mentioned by the honorable member for Shortland, and I hope and believe that the Minister will ultimately be able to satisfy the honorable member. My purpose in rising is to make some comments about the Estimates for civil defence. I understand that the only material proposal in regard to civil defence is the proposal to set up a school to train a limited number of persons in civil defence requirements, with the presumable objective of using them as instructors in some future more extensive plan. While I agree that that is a step in the right direction, I believe that it does not go far enough. When I consider the unchallengeable evidence that is available to us about the international situation, the development of weapons for mass destruction and the possibility, and, I believe, the probability, of the use of those weapons in the not-far-distant future, I am convinced that we should do something more towards preparing the public to look after themselves as adequately as possible in an emergency.

The evidence available to us makes it quite clear that atomic weapons of the hydrogen variety are capable of destroying whole cities. Not only will the material destruction be of enormous magnitude, but the after-effects from radiation, disruption of ordinary services, probable epidemics and similar disasters, make it quite probable that a whole city would become untenable after an atomic attack. That observation applies to cities with a population of up to 2,000,000 people. Such cities can be rendered quite uninhabitable by modern weapons, not only during an attack but also during considerable periods after it.

Therefore, I believe that it is essential for us to educate the people in the action that they should take if any such an emergency should occur.

We need some organization which can provide adequate rescue services, fire-fighting services and similar services to deal with any emergency. Of course, hospitals will become completely overcrowded within a few hours, and medical services will be required beyond their ability to cope with the situation. If we are to mitigate in any degree these probable dreadful tragedies, we should m.ake an immediate start on establishing an organization to enable the civilian population of cnr great cities to help themselves. We must not divert the armed services to such a task. The organization must be on a civilian basis. I suggest something like the air raid precautions organization which operated with such outstanding success in London during the last war. We need an establishment organized to provide efficient rescue services, fire-fighting services, control of crowds, emergency communications and matters of that nature.

If cities the size of Sydney and Melbourne had to be evacuated, it would have to be done -by the citizens themselves. With an established organization, trained to carry out such work, that could be done successfully. Panic must be avoided at all costs, and the best method of preventing panic- is to inform the people of the sort of thing that they must expect. They should be organized and disciplined to carry out the emergency tasks that will fall to their lot if they are to survive. The evacuation of 1,000,000 people is a task of enormous magnitude. It involves not only the preliminary work of rescuing the injured and giving them first-aid, and of controlling crowds and preventing panic, hut also all the problems of emergency communication, transportation to other areas and emergency housing and feeding of the people. Those tasks can be carried out only by the people themselves, and then only if they are trained to do that sort of work. Such arrangements are necessary and urgent. We could organize something along those lines in the next few months which could be at least partially effective. The more lime that we are afforded to organize such a system the more efficient it will become.

I believe that any government that ueglects the ordinary prudent precautions necessary to safeguard our population against an emergency of that nature, however improbable such an occurrence might be considered to be by some people, lays itself open to a charge of carelessness, and, in fact, of criminal negligence. Such an organization would require relatively little financial backing. It could be put on a voluntary basis, and sufficient propaganda could be used to ensure that the people understood the necessity to join such an organization and train themselves. If that were done, the financial cost would be negligible in comparison with the benefits that would accrue to us in an emergency. With all the conviction at my command, I urge the Government to give some consideration to making an immediate start on a voluntary civil defence system so that people can be partially trained to meet the emergency which must follow any attack with atomic weapons on the large centres of population. But that is only the minimum and emergency requirement which is needed immediately.

Proper civil defence lies in wholesale and complete decentralization. I know that decentralization presents almost insuperable difficulties, and I do not suggest that it could be carried out in the near future or even in the next 10, 20 or 30 years. But that is no excuse for not making a start on it at once. Decentralization of our big cities is an essential prerequisite to reasonable security against atomic attack, and even though we do not believe such attack is imminent, no one can say that it is impossible within the next 20 or 30 years unless there is a complete change of heart among the nations of the world. Therefore, there is no excuse for not starting a policy of decentralization of our crowded capital city areas.

Mr Ward:

– How could that be done without Government direction?


– I realize the difficulties, and I know that we have other commitments of almost equal importance which, at this stage of history, we are likely to regard as more important. I know that the development of our country is one of the biggest factors in our ultimate adequate defence and security,, and any plan to abandon all other effort and decentralize our cities immediately asa first charge against our resources isimpracticable; but I believe that it could’ be effected by natural means under u long-range plan. By “ natural “ means. I mean a plan administered by legislative action through the laws of the country so that it will become apparent to industries of all kinds that it is to their definite and material financial advantage to set up factories in rural areas. If that could be achieved by voluntary means there would be no need for any government to take action. If we can convince individual industries, that they will make more profit by setting up their factories in rural centres rather than in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney or Adelaide, decentralization will come about of its own accord. That could be done quite readily by means of taxation concessions to industries which set themselves up outside the congested metropolitan areas, by the imposition of additional taxes on those industries that prefer to remain in the city areas, by subsidies and by any other appropriate means. Our objective should be to convincemanufacturers and employers of labour,, who propose to establish businesses and industries which will concentrate large numbers of people in thebig cities, that it will be to their own material advantage and profit to transfer their activities to rural areas. I firmly believe that if those methods are employed, decentralization is not merely possible, but also a certainty. I hope that the Government will give this proposal some consideration, because our ultimatesecurity depends to a large degree on decentralization.

Sitting suspended from 12.^8 to 2.15 p.m.


.- The sum of £212,000,000 which is provided in this year’s Estimates for defence services is one of great magnitude. It is about 20 per cent, of the total budget, and 6 per cent, of our national income.

Consequently, I consider that the committee should give the most careful consideration to this proposed vote with a view to> ensuring’ that th& money shall be spent wisely. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated in his budget speech that an additional £35,000,000 would be provided this year for Defence Services, compared with the actual expenditure last year. I. have discovered, on investigation, that this additional £35,000,000 consists of £12,000,000 which will be taken, if necessary,’ from the Strategic Reserve Fund, and £23,000,000, which is the unexpended portion of last year’s vote for Defence Services. I would be the first to admit that every possible precaution should be taken to ensure that extravagance on the part of any government department should be curbed. Nobody would desire a defence department to spend to the limit of its vote, merely for the sake of getting rid of all the money that had been allocated to it. But the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) have repeatedly stressed during the last twelve months the seriousness of the international situation, particularly in South and SouthEast Asia. In view of their emphatic declarations, why has not the amount of £200,000,000, which was allocated last year for defence, been expended? The leaders of the Government would have us believe that Australia is in dire peril, and I do not delude myself that we are not in some danger, but I find it difficult to understand why the Government did not expend the total provision for defence in 1953-54. It is not as if the money could not have been spent. Numerous examples have been cited by members of the Labour party and some Government supporters, in the last twelve months, to show that the defence forces have been hampered by a serious lack of equipment. I should like to know whether the Government was not able to obtain that equipment from local or overseas sources. Has the Government, in the last twelve months, been practising frugality at a time when such a policy was not warranted? Opposition members have produced conclusive evidence to show that defence projects in northern Australia have not been started, yet the

Government retained millions: of pounds that the Parliament had voted to defence services. I consider that the money should have been spent on defence projects.

I also find it astonishing that Australia, on the basis of a defence allocation which is only a little larger than last year’s vote, should send delegates to the conference convened to establish the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Doubtless the. Australian delegates would be asked about the steps that this country proposed to take to arm itself to the limit in order to shoulder the additional responsibilities that would be incurred with the signing of the treaty. The Government has consistently warned us of the dire perils confronting Australia, and is preparing to sign a pact which, I suggest in all seriousness, means that wc shall be required to provide larger armed forces and much more materiel for the purpose of conducting war, should the occasion arise to do so. Yet the Government has allocated approximately the same amount of money for defence a? was provided in the last couple of years. To me, that just- does not make sense. The slump in defence expenditure in the last twelve months, in view of the gravity of the international situation, appears to me to be inexplicable.

The Labour party, despite the gratuitous remarks that are made occasionally by Government supporters about its defence policy, believes that all possible steps should be taken to provide for the defence of our homeland. “We aver that the prime responsibility of the Government, whether it he a Labour government or a Liberal government, is the maintenance of the sovereignty of the Commonwealth. “Whilst we support to the utmost the provision of adequate supplies of modern military equipment, we should not delude ourselves that nothing else is necessary, because an adequate defence policy, in the opinion of the Labour party, envisages a number of other vital factors.

The first factor is clear and unequivocal, and should be accepted by honorable members generally. It is that definite and inspired leadership must be given by the Government. Any defence scheme must, of necessity, be innocuous that does not get a positive and practical lead from the nation’s leaders. Whilst room exists for honest differences of opinion, there must be no ambiguity about the direction in which Australia is heading. But it would appear from the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) this morning that the Government does not know where it is heading in relation to the national service training scheme. Apparently the Government is not prepared to give a lead to the nation on that all-important matter. It is time that the Government made up its mind. In my view, the national service training scheme should be national within the true meaning of the word. I hope that the Government will give to the nation as early as possible some information about its ‘ proposals in that direction, because the present policy of vacillation and uncertainty is not giving a lead to honorable members and the people.

The second factor in any sensible defence system is that the people must share a deep and united belief in the cause which preparations are being made to defend. All members of all political parties must unite on one matter. We must resist any internal inroads upon our democratic system of government, and our way of life. Those must be the focal points around which collective determination to resist aggression must revolve. It is idle to deny that the expenditure of £212,000,000 on defence in the current financial year, and the expenditure of large amounts in the last two years for the same purpose, do not mean a curtailment of expenditure in directions that can cause hardship and social stresses, strains and sacrifices. We are frequently told, when we advocate a social reform, or the granting of a modicum of tax relief, that the Government must reject our requests because of its heavy defence obligations. However, my knowledge of the Australian people leads me to the conclusion that they will be prepared to make sacrifices cheerfully and willingly only if they are deeply convinced that there is no other way in which to protect the things that they value most in life. That view can be conditioned only if the people believe that the Government has a practical and sensible approach to defence.

I firmly believe that the great majority of Australians expect the Government to make a dual approach to the problem. First, we must. under all conditions and in all circumstances, cultivate amicable relations with our Asian neighbours. The Colombo plan, is a step in the right direction. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said this morning that the Australian Government had provided a substantial sum of money for the Colombo plan. I make no secret of the fact that I consider that the amount of £5,500,000 is completely inadequate for the purpose of the plan, which is to make a practical approach to the solution of international problems in this part of the globe. In my opinion, the amount should be doubled or even trebled. I believe that it is a constructive approach to only one aspect of defence. Whether we like it or not, our future security depends, in part, upon the elimination of race or colour as a factor dividing the world. The Colombo plan is a definite step in the direction of eliminating the racial and colour problem for us. I hope that the Government, if it is still in office twelve months hence, will substantially increase its contribution to the Colombo plan.

The people expect the Government’ to implement a comprehensive defence policy covering all aspects of industrial, mill.tary, naval and aerial preparedness. Primary production must be stepped up, and young men must be encouraged to go on the land. Strategic railways and roads must be constructed in northern Australia. Nothing causes me greater regret than the continual wrangling that occurs in this Parliament over’ the question whether the Commonwealth should provide money for the construction of railways or roads in Western Australia and Queensland. Those works, in my opinion, are clearly a national obligation, yet Ministers in reply to questions about Commonwealth aid to the States, almost invariably say, “ The State Government should do this “ or “ the State Government has done that”. It is a bad approach to a problem which should be above party politics or State jealousies. I suggest that the Government, at the earliest opportunity, should shed its prejudices against the Queensland Government and the Western Australian Government because they happen to be Labour administrations, and seek their co-operation to draw up a practical plan to provide modern strategic highways and railways to serve vital parts of our. northern coastline.

We should also ensure that our industrial potential, which was raised to such efficient heights in World War II., shall not be allowed to languish. The Government should remember that, in the event of another war, the provision of raw materials is likely to present even greater difficulties than were experienced in World War II. Some years ago, an amount of money was set aside in a budget to finance the stock-piling of essential materials. I should like the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), or one of his colleagues who has the information, to tell the committee about the activities of the Government in that direction at the present time. Some vital materials that are required for the successful prosecution of a war are now drawn from countries in South-East Asia. Those countries are our logical suppliers in peace time, but should we be engaged in hostilities in South-East Asia, we cannot hope for the continuance” of existing arrangements. This presents problems of stockpiling such vital requirements as rubber, tin, oil, phosphates, sulphur, antimony, copper, manganese and chromium, to name only a few of them. I hope that the Government will take further measures at the earliest opportunity to increase our stockpile of such materials, or arrange that, in the event of an outbreak of war, immediate steps will be taken to obtain supplies from alternative sources, perhaps from Australia itself..

We must realize, perhaps reluctantly, but nevertheless remorselessly, that Eastern power is steadily growing in South and South-East Asia, and that Western power is steadily diminishing in that part of the world. Unfortunately for us, Australia’s geographical position will not change. We must reconcile ourselves to the knowledge that, so long as Australia is populated by a white race, we shall be a distant outpost of the Western world. That involves responsibilities which we must not shirk. I am satisfied that the people will shoulder those responsibilities if they are given a positive, practical and intelligent lead by the Government.


– I have listened with great interest and substantial approval to remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), particularly to his statement about the dual problem which faces us for the defence of this country. When I say “ us “ I mean, not the Government only, but all Australians. The first is the diplomatic problem of getting on terms with our Asian neighbours so that the constant threat, which could come to us from Asia, will he minimized by good feeling on all sides. The other problem is to ensure that our powder is dry, that our defence forces are adequate, and that the nation is trained and prepared to defend itself. I can only add that I agree with the honorable member as to the dual nature of the problem. However, when we. come to the .diplomatic side of the problem, I do not believe that it is possible for the free democracies to negotiate with the Communist totalitarian countries - I refer not only to Communist countries in Asia but also the countries behind them - except from a position of strength; and, therein, lies the importance of Australia, at this moment, making its adequate contribution to the defence of the free democracies. Before I proceed to develop my theme, I shall answer, in passing, some remarks that were made by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) about the unfortunate disaster that occurred at Stockton Bight in the course of Army exercises. The honorable member returns continuously to this subject. We are aware that there was a tragic accident in which three young men lost their lives. I sympathize deeply with the relatives of those men, and I sympathize also with the honorable member for Shortland in his concern about this matter, a concern that appears to be becoming an obsession with him. A coronial inquiry was held into the accident to determine whether any breach of civilian law was involved ; and there has also been an army inquiry, from which the Army, no doubt, will draw the lesson which every service draws from an experience of that sort. What more does the honorable member want? Does he want to have some one hanged, drawn and quartered? What good does he do by going over the matter again and again? Does it do any good for the bereaved relatives of the young men who lost their lives? Does it do any good to the Army to have doubt about its administration thrown up again and again in this Parliament? There has been a coronial inquiry, and also an army inquiry. So, let the matter rest at that.

I revert to Australia’s defence responsibilities. These Estimates, taken as a whole, provide for an expenditure of £212,000,000 on defence. That is a notable increase on the sum that was provided for this purpose last year, and an enormous increase compared with the financial provision that was made in the earlier post-war years. However, we must ask whether this proposed vote is enough. Do the people of Australia as a whole realize the serious threat that exists to this country and to the free democracies? Do they realize our need to have strength from which to negotiate, and also our need to prepare years ahead for defence?’ And do they realize the sacrifices that will have to be called for from them ? Is the sum of £212,000,000 sufficient for defence purposes? Admittedly, the first necessity for the defence of this country is to populate and develop it. I do not suggest for one moment that our defence expenditure should be increased at the expense of national development, but, having regard to the enormous sums that Australians are expending to-day in order to maintain existing standards of living, we must ask ourselves, in view of the threat with which we are confronted to-day, whether we can afford to expend on defence so small a proportion of our national wealth as is represented by the sum of £212,000,000. The answer to that question is “ No “. It is the duty of every honorable member -to go through his electorate and throughout Australia and point out to the people^ the danger that exists to this country and to impress upon them the need to be prepared to make greater effort and sacrifice.

This is not only a question of money, but also a question of the extent to which the people of Australia are prepared to play their part as individuals in preparing the defence of this country not only foi the present but also for the future; an, it is in that respect that the system oi national training is to be seen in its proper perspective. I do not believe tha) this country, undeveloped and young as it is, and with an immense responsibility for populating and developing this continent, can afford to maintain very large permanent forces. The fact is that we have not got such forces. We have a navy with a personnel of 14,000 odd. We have one light aircraft carrier in commission, and one in reserve which is being used for training purposes. We have nine destroyers and a handful of frigates, five old destroyers which are being refitted to fast frigates, and an, entirely inadequate number of minesweepers. Our air force has a personnel of 15,000, and I believe that it has fewer than 100 operational aircraft. I was interested to read in the press to-day that a single American aircraft carrier is capable of putting into the air 147 aircraft, which is nearly half as many again as our air force possesses. These facts emphasize Australia’s need to develop its armed services. In the Army we have three battalions which could be sent abroad in the event of an emergency. I do not believe that in the present state of affairs Australia could afford to maintain large forces; but do not let us delude ourselves into thinking that we have adequate forces. With the exception of the Navy, much of the armed strength that we possess at present exists in reserve forces ready for mobilization in the event of an emergency.

This fact emphasizes the importance of an adequate training scheme. The present scheme has its limitations. It does not cope with the training of naval and air personnel; it provides, principally, training for the Army. In other respects, too, it has its limitations. I admit that soldiers cannot be adequately trained within a period of three months. Nevertheless, under the present system, much useful work can be done towards providing an army for war. The remarks of the honorable member foi- Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) were much to the point, and 1 am in agreement with much of what he said. The present training scheme is of great value, but its principal value lies in intangibles. The fact that every young Australian man grows up with the knowledge that he is obliged by . law to complete three months’ training will have a tremendous effect on the future attitude of our people. That effect will be not only of social value, but will also have real defence value. The fact that we have a nation growing up on the understanding that all of our young males must make their contribution to the defence of this country must help Australia to make its contribution to the defence of the free world. As I have said, that consideration is not only of great social value but also of real defence value. I was greatly perturbed during the past week to learn that the number of those young men registered for national service who are not to be called up for training is to be substantially increased. If I understand the Government’s intentions correctly, the same number of young men are to be trained each year, so, although the number of young men available for training will increase at the rate of 4,000 or 5,000, the percentage who will not be called up will increase. That is a great mistake. I realize that the Government can afford to expend only a certain amount on defence, and I am not suggesting that the defence vote should be greatly increased at present. The problem is principally one of priorities. The universal training of young men for military service is the last thing that should be sacrificed. I believe that the Government has seriously misinterpreted, not only the feeling of its own parties, but also the feeling of the country in proposing that the number of young men who will be called up each year will not be increased in spite of the fact that, annually, increasing numbers will become available for training as the years go by. I accept the fact that this year the Government can train only 33,000 of the 50,000 young men who will be subject to call-up. I accept the fact that the Government cannot train the overlap of young men available for training from last year, but I ask whether the Government’ is prepared to increase the percentage of men subject to call-up who will be actually trained in each succeeding year. Will it ensure that the percentage of untrained men each year will be steadily decreased? For instance if 50,000 young men are available for training and an additional 3,000, or 4,000, become available for training next year, can we be sure that the number tobe trained this year, namely 33,000, will be increased correspondingly next year,, and that there will be a steady increase of the number to be trained each succeeding year ? If the Government would give me that assurance, I should feel infinitely relieved. This principle would be of great value to the present and future defence of this country, and I sincerely trust that the Government will give the assurance that the number of young :nen who will not be called up will be progressively decreased each succeeding year.

The national service training scheme has been operating for the last three or four years, and it has been an immense success. I pay tribute to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) for his contribution to that success. It has been of very great value. I trust that now that he has again assumed control of the Navy he will direct his attention to the use that the Navy is making of the national service training scheme to see whether a vast improvement cannot be effected in that respect. The Navy is a professional service of very great efficiency, but I make this complaint largely against the Administration, that it has neglected its obligations in respect of the mobilization of naval personnel in the event of a war. It has persistently overlooked the fact that its efficiency in peace must be judged by its ability to mobilize in the event of war. Whilst the strength of the permanent naval force is 14,000, it has a mobilization figure of 27,500, but the existing naval reserves and the permanent personnel combined total only 21,700. Thus, it appears that the Navy is 6,000 short of its mobilization target. I know that many available for mobilization are not prepared for it, but exist as so many names on paper. Those persons are not trained or organized and they would not be ready to go to their stations in the event of war in the immediate future. If the Navy, for whose professional proficiency I have nothing but admiration, is to be made an effective instrument in defence, it must be judged in peace-time by its ability to mobilize in war-time, and judged by that standard its mobilization efficiency is lower than its professional efficiency. At present the Navy calls up 1,200 national service trainees annually and the period of training is four months. As the number of applicants for training in the Navy is comparatively large, it would be easy to select those who would give an undertaking to serve for three years, following the termination of their training, in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve. That would enable those forces to be integrated. At present, however, the 1,200 trainees receive four months’ training and are let go. Inevitably, that practice undermines the morale of the Reserve. Those trainees are not as proficient and as competent as they should be. I sincerely trust that the Minister will direct his attention to this matter. .

As it is useless to offer criticism without making practical suggestior.3, I make the suggestion, first, that a member of the Naval ‘ Board should be appointed with the sole duty of attending to the reserve fleet and to training. Such an officer should be a senior officer of Commodore’s rank, and his first duty should be to report on the readiness of the Navy for mobilization.


– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation · Denison · LP

– I rise solely to correct the statement by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) that the Royal Australian Air Force has only 100 operational air-: craft. That figure is not correct. We have at least 100 aircraft on operations at present. There are 70 Meteors in Korea with No. 77 Squadron, and there is the No. 1 Bomber Squadron in Malaya. There would be at least 100 aircraft actually on operations, but that does not mean that that number would represent our total operational strength. We ‘have a considerably greater number of operational aircraft, but for reasons of security, it is not possible for me to state the exact number. ,


– It is little wonder that the Australian people feel disquiet and uncertainty about our defence preparedness, when such incidents as that which occurred a moment ago can take place in this chamber between members of the Government parties. The Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) found it necessary to correct a statement made by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who is a Government supporter. This debate has produced a variety of views from Ministers and honorable members who sit behind them. It must be as obvious to honorable members as it no doubt will be to the people, that there is no unanimity among honorable members on the Government side about the methods to be employed in the expenditure of this defence vote. During the past four years a total amount of about £800,000,000 has been extracted from the nation’s pay envelopes for expenditure on defence, yet the manner in which this colossal amount has been, and is being expended, is the cause of division among Government supporters. I suggested to the Government recently the appointment of an all-party parliamentary committee to examine defence expenditure. The existence of such a committee would enable honorable members on the Government side who consider that they have a contribution to make to the shaping of policy in relation to defence expenditure, to make, in company * with honorable members from this side of the chamber, the fullest possible investigation into all the ramifications of such expenditure. The committee could also take steps to ensure that we shall be prepared for any eventuality, and that the defence vote is being used wisely. I repeat that suggestion now. We should not shirk our duty, or shrink from our responsibility to have a committee of that kind appointed. Surely it is necessary that the Parliament should have supreme control of the expenditure of revenue. We should know all that is going on and all that is proposed. It should not be found necessary for a Minister to rise in his place here to correct a statement made by one of the senior back-benchers on his own side of the chamber who had some earnest comments to make on the Government’s expenditure on defence. I suggest that the honorable member for Evans would be suitable for appointment to any standing committee that might be entrusted with the task of investigating our defence preparedness and the use to which the defence vote is put. My views on this matter are fortified by the strictures contained in the annual report of the Auditor-General upon the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure and upon other accounts for the year ended the 30th June last, in which he commented on expenditure by the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army and the Department of Air. These comments are of such a character that they demand unequivocal answers from the Ministers in charge of these departments, who are answerable to this Parliament for their actions. I should like to know what has been done to correct the irregularities mentioned by the Auditor-General. Has any action been taken? Has any officer been relieved of his command? What action has been taken to correct the wanton waste and extravagance in the various service departments? The AuditorGeneral made the following comment in reference to a naval station: -

The accounting for victualling, naval and naval air stores at this station was unsatisfactory. Stocktaking disclosed substantial discrepancies which departmental investigations have determined as mainly due to failure to observe prescribed accounting and stocktaking procedures and to laxity in supervisory control.

The responsible Minister has made no reply to that comment. The AuditorGeneral has also been caustic in a reference to stores and stores accounting in the Department of the Army. Amongst other things, he had the following comment to make: -

The lack of protection from the weather of certain stores and motor vehicles, referred to in the first Annual Report for 1952-53, has been remedied to some extent. In one Command, however, the position has deteriorated.

Surely that is a matter of great importance to this committee, to the Parliament as a whole, and to the people. The AuditorGeneral made the following comment on store accounting in the Department of Air : -

Treasury approval has still to be obtained, in certain instances, for the acceptance of a commencing date for full post-war accounting.

Although improvement has been noted in expediting the clearance of inter-unit issue vouchers, the position is not yet satisfactory. The departmental investigation, mentioned in the first Annual Report for 1952-53, found that further simplification of equipment transfer procedure was impracticable. Increased effort is now being made to ensure effective compliance with existing store administration instructions.

He also said -

Delay still exists, however, at certain units in dealing with reports of losses and deficiencies.

Investigations by a departmental committee into past unsatisfactory storekeeping found that at most units the large discrepancies which were disclosed in stock items were mainly through unsatisfactory store administration due to inadequate supervision and instruction at appropriate levels. Excessive stock holdings were also a contributing factor. The Department is now considering the committee’s recommendations for the introduction of remedial measures.

These statements command the respect of all honorable members, and it would be logical for this Parliament to take action in respect of them. It is obvious that the Ministers concerned are incapable of dealing with such situations. I intend no personal reflection on them. In this enlarged Parliament there are honorable members who, if appointed to a committee such as I have suggested, would be available to make inspections, to call for reports, to demand the presence of officers before the committee, and to check on the buying of stores and materials. It could do similar work to that done during the war by the War Expenditure Committee, and could enable considerable savings to be made in these departments. I am. convinced that our defence preparedness could also be brought to a much higher level than it has reached so far.

I am alarmed that the proposed vote for the Department of Defence Production, despite the record estimated’ expenditure of £212,000,000 on defence generally, has been reduced from £8,767,000 to £6,479,000, by almost one-quarter. Honorable members will appreciate that we have in this country men of great capacity and ability. We have proved that we are able to produce jet aircraft, for instance. The work done by the men who produce our arms deserves the greatest credit. We know that Australian manufacturing skill is unsurpassed. I desire to pay a special tribute to the employees of the Commonwealth small arms factory at

Lithgow, whose ability to produce service rifles has won the admiration of people throughout the world since 1914. Marksmen everywhere have acclaimed the efficiency of rifles produced by that factory, which belongs to the people, and which has rendered such outstanding services to our defence forces in the past. It is still capable of doing a magnificent job in helping us to meet our defence requirements. The Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) is to be commended for keeping the factory in operation during this peace-time period, although that is only what should be done. Recently I asked the Minister whether he was in a position to inform us that the new standard service rifle so urgently needed by the Australian armed forces was to be manufactured at the Commonwealth small arms factory at Lithgow. He replied as follows: -

That matter is under consideration, at the moment, by the Government. I have no doubt that if satisfactory arrangements can be made with the originators of the weapon we shall eventually go into .production of that rifle.

There should be no ambiguity about the ability of that factory to manufacture rifles, because it has a long and honorable record in that respect. This country should not surrender to any other country its sovereignty- in respect of the making of such arms. “We should not have to buy our arms and equipment overseas. The type of war that we may have to fight may be such as so to disturb the world that other countries will not be able to supply us with weapons. For that reason we should now be manufacturing in Australia all the weapons that we require for our defence. The precision engineering equipment at the Lithgow factory ‘is, beyond question, of a high standard, and the workers in that factory are capable of manufacturing any weapon that they may be called upon to produce. I hope that the Government will not be swayed by the narrow section of the Australian Country party in this Parliament, which wants us to import all our manufacturing requirements in return for the export of a few primary products, even if such a policy means that we shall dia.sipate our overseas balances.


-In order to obviate the necessity to rise later to reply to the honorable gentleman in respect of one matter, I now inform him that we have already placed orders for the new standard service rifles, which will be manufactured at Lithgow.


– I appreciate the Minister’s assurance. It shows the value of ventilating a matter in this Parliament. I believe that my persistence in relation to the matter has been rewarded, and I personally thank the Minister for his interjection. However, more than the manufacture of rifles at Lithgow is involved. I believe that everything we need for our defence should be manufactured in Australia. It is a tragic state of affairs, and a tragic commentary on the ability of the Government, that we are still obliged to import vast quantities of defence materials. I support the remarks that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) made in his dispassionate speech. Australia’s first need is to seek the way3 of peace, because that, is the best way to see that this country will remain secure. If that way fails, we should fall back on an efficient defence scheme that will be adequate to our needs. There must, be a thorough reassessment of our defence needs. We must go beyond the mere servicing of the various departments and the provision of certain training.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- I wish to speak for a few minutes about a sum of £3,500,000 which is not included in the defence vote, but which Ibelieve should be included in that vote. I say that, because I have the strongest conviction that it is a vital defence matter. The Government proposes to make that sum available to ensure that sufficient storage will be provided in Australia for the 1954-55 wheat crop. I quote the following statement of Sir John Teasdale, chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, which appeared in the Farmer and Settler of the 27th August -

At the beginning of the- year I took’ extreme steps to warn wheat-growers and Australia as a whole of the serious marketing situation., and advised farmers to voluntarily, reduce output in their own interests.

On the 9th January, the. Minister then acting for the Minister for Commerce and

Agriculture (Senator McLeay), made a reply to the statement of Sir John Teasdale, which was reported in the press in the following terms: -

Commenting upon advice to reduce acreage given by the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale and some others, the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Senator George McLeay, made it quite clear to-day that such advice was not an expression of Commonwealth Government policy. The Government was not an advocate of acreage restriction.

Then, on the 11th January, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made the following statement: -

As has been stated clearly by the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Senator McLeay, the Commonwealth Government is not a party to acreage restriction. It does not believe in this policy. On the contrary, it believes that the future of the wheat industry justifies a return tothe acre- ages which ruled before thewar and which have only begun to recover from their low level under the stimulus of this Government’s policy. Any expression of view by Sir John Teasdale was a personal one arising out of his concern over the temporary storage problems.

I am certain that both the Prime Minister and the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture made those statements, with which honorable members on this side of the chamber agree, because they realized that, in a hungry world which is in a state of cold war, the storage of food is a vital defence measure. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has stressed the urgent need of a decentralizing of our stores of food, medical supplies, and strategic materials, as a deterrent to a possible aggressor. If an aggressor feels that he can win with a knock-out blow, he will not hesitate to deliver that blow. On the other hand, if he sees that we can survive the first blow because of our preparedness for retaliation,he will not deliver it. I believe that the degree of our preparedness can be assessed by the state of our decentralization of supplies.

We are not alone in thinking in that manner, as the following press report indicates : -

page 1329



New Method of Defence

U.S. civil defence authorities have reversed their thinking concerning the best method of saving those who escape the first attacks of World War III.

Rather than order civilians to remain huddled in atom or hydrogen bombed shells of cities, they will permit them to slowly leave the area.

Hope is then that some may be able to survive with stockpiled food and medical supplies.

When the world had only the atom-bomb to worry about, the U.S. civilian defence authorities ruled that in case of attack everyone would stay where they happened to be when the bomb blasted.

After the U.S. experts measured the results of the Bikini hydrogen tests, they threw away their plans for forcing survivors of the atombomb to remain put, and decided that those who did survive could move away from the danger area.

Those authorities, too, agree that throughout the country there must be stores of food, medical supplies and strategic materials.

Early this year, the Government, because it realized that wheat was difficult to sell and that there would be a carryover of supplies, used the facilities of the Australian Wheat Board to examine the position. That examination revealed that, in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, storage to accommodate an additional 45,000,000 bushels would be required before the beginning of the next wheat season if those States were to be in a position to hold the carryover of this season’s wheat and, at the same time, to take the new season’s crop into store. I now quote the following statement that was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) on the 30th April: -

The Commonwealth Government has worked out the most practical method of meeting the situation. The arrangement decided upon is that the Australian Wheat Board should be enabled to obtain the necessary capital funds to bear the cost of erecting the storages. . . The State bulk handling authorities, through their respective governments, will be given an option to purchase these storages. For its part the Commonwealth will not expect any more for the storages than their depreciated value at the time of sale. This means that if the States are unable to finance the purchase of these storages for some considerable time, much of their original capital cost would have been written off and the State authorities could then purchase them at a low price for incorporation in their total storage facilities.

This new storage, which, at the present time, can be described as largely necessary to meet an emergency situation, will, in due course, as wheat production increases, and as bulk handling extends, becomes a normal requirement for the handling of larger quantities of bulk wheat in later years.

If the growers had accepted the advice of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, the existing stores would have been able to accommodate the crop. Bearing in mind the statement of the Government that a restriction of acreage does not form part of its policy, and also considering the cold war situation, and the need to store emergency food, I am convinced that the cost of tha extra storage facilities should not be a charge upon the growers, but that it should be financed by the taxpayers in general through revenue and paid out of the defence vote. If the Government cannot see its way clear to grant my request, I hope that, at the very least, it will carry the burden of the interest charges “on the amount of £3,500,000 involved.


– I am in substantial agreement with the statements that have been made by the honorable member for ‘Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne). The honorable member for Evans made some constructive suggestions, and it is for that same purpose that I rise, on this second occasion, to speak about the national service training scheme. On Friday last and this morning, the press published suggestions to the effect that the national service training scheme should be altered because of the backlag of young men who have not yet received their training and because of an anticipated larger intake in future years. We should make a realistic approach to this question. It must be remembered that the system is experimental and that Australia has not yet succeeded in providing the . perfect national service training scheme. It. must be a progressive scheme.

We should direct our efforts to ascertaining whether the benefits that are being derived from the scheme could be obtained with the expenditure of less money, whether we can overtake the backlag, and whether we can arrange for an increased intake. If any alteration of the scheme is contemplated, it should be with a view to ensuring the personal liability to service of every young man so that the whole of our available man-power will be trained as time goes by. The provision of finance and the time factor are two matters that affect our ability to overtake the backlag and to handle an increased intake. A reduction of the training period would help us, to a large degree, to overcome the problem. We should direct our attention towards ascertaining whether we can achieve the benefits that are now being achieved with a reduced period of training.

Mr Hamilton:

– What would be the position in relation to the technical services of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy?


– I have no hesitation in stating that the benefits that are now being obtained under the national service training scheme could still be obtained if the training period were reduced. I think that, whereas young men are now required to attend a 90-day camp, the same result could be achieved with a 60-day camp. If the period of training were reduced from 90 days to 60 days, the Army authorities would be able to train a greater number of young men each year. Not only would they be enabled to overtake the backlag gradually, but also they would be placed in a position in which they could handle an increased intake. The Army authorities, who have been described as the “ brass hats “., probably will say that a useful training programme cannot be covered in less than 90 days. I think it is time that Cabinet Ministers faced up to their responsibilities and told the Army authorities that our brand of politics is much better than the brand of politics that went out with Cromwell. Ministers have a clear responsibility to say that honorable members on both sides of the chamber have stated, in the most emphatic terms, that there should not be any alteration of the training scheme, and that every fit young man who reaches the age of eighteen years should be trained.

Mr Turnbull:

– Does the honorable member not wish to have foodstuffs produced ?


– In reply to the interjection of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), let me state that the Government is proposing to release certain people. If it releases anybody, it knows very well what it can expect.

It can expect every major football club to establish, hostels beyond the 5-mile limit, and to place in them, for the purpose of avoiding national service training, young men who are valuable footballers. I think I have made my position perfectly clear.

I wish to offer one final constructive suggestion. The Government is not making as much use of the enormous amount of available and useful man-power as it might. Anybody who knows anything about the Army, and who has seen a war start and finish, knows that, on the outbreak of war, battalions are called up, that they conduct their own training, as any good battalion should, and that they move to the theatre of war. There are no instructors left to supervise the training of two or three times as. many more men for reinforcements. The best instructors go away with the battalion. The facilities for instruction are very much impaired, because the cream of our army instructors are sent away. As I said last year, at 48 years of age, my fighting days are over. However, if I were in my former occupation and had the time, and if any one asked me whether I was able to instruct other soldiers, I think my attitude would he different. I should say that I would be useful for work of that nature. I know of many ex-servicemen who, I am sure, would go back into the Army to instruct trainees and would be prepared to remain on the reserve of officers so that they could do instructional work in the event of war.

Mr Francis:

– Will the honorable member give me their names?


– Yes, I think I can do that. In fact, I think every honorable member could name ex-servicemen who would be prepared to serve in that way. I do not make such statements without a sense of responsibility. The disbandment of the Australian Instructional Corps was a great loss to us. We benefited greatly from its work before World War II., but we have nothing to take its place now and I suggest that the Minister should establish a similar organization, if not on the same lines as the former corps, at least with similar objectives. I believe that many men would be eager to take their places in some sort of instructional organization if it were made sufficiently attractive to them.

Mr Francis:

– The Director-General of Recruiting is doing his utmost to obtain men like that now, and has been doing so for many long months.


– The Director-General of Recruiting needs something behind him, and money could well be spent on such a project. It is conceivable that a mau who had been on active service in a former war would not be attracted by the idea of home service in the future, but he could be attracted if the best possible facilities for his work as an instructor were provided for him. Special opportunities should be given to men of this sort to learn the best modern methods of training troops. Such opportunitiesmight take them overseas. Instructors should have a high status and enjoy good conditions. They should be enabled to visit various parts of Australia and to attend schools at frequent intervals. I an; sure that an instructional corps could be started on a voluntary basis if the Government would adopt my suggestion. T appeal to it to do so. If there is to be an increased number of trainees in our national service training camps the home training problem will be magnified. The problem could well be solved by establishing an instructional corps. Any alteration of the scope of the compulsory training system would be a most retrograde step, which I should regret very deeply. The national service training scheme has achieved good results, and it will continue to do so as long as we do not muck around with it, but try to make good use of it and improve it as we go along.

New England

– I suppose there is no more difficult task for a human being than that of trying to visualize the whole range of government operations necessary for the good of the community. One of the functions which a government is called upon to discharge is that of trying to achieve a balance between the requirements of all sections of the community.- It must decide where emphasis should be placed on national security, and generally plan a well-balanced effort for defence, whether it be in the ordinary sense of the term or in the .sense of defence in a time of total war. As a man of peace myself, I wish to examine a few aspects of the problems that are posed by the group of Estimates now before the committee. I remark, in passing, that I am sure that no thoughtful listener to the discussion this afternoon could fail to be impressed by the greatly improved approach to the subject of defence by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. I refer particularly to the speech made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). Honorable members appear to have adopted the sort of committee approach that was suggested by another honorable member in a more specialized form. No matter what sort of committee might be set up to deal with defence problems, I am sure that the Government in power would still have to maintain certain reservations. Having set forth the general facts, it would have to withhold certain detailed information from the committee. There are some reticences which, as the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) suggested, must be observed.

One strikingly important aspect of defence was discussed by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) in a speech that he made in this chamber not long ago. His remarks were directed mainly to the importance of making proper preparations for defence against atomic attack of any kind. The significance of his comments is greatly emphasized by an article which appeared recently in the journal Industrial Victoria. The article, which was written by a former chief technical instructor in civil defence for New South Wales, referred to the effects of atomic bombing just before the end’ of World War II. It stated -

The Hiroshima atomic bomb had a destructive power equivalent to 20,000 tons of T.N.T., and it now has the symbol 1 (x). … Careful measurements made by the Americans reveal that a 10 (x) bomb destroys 3 square miles and damages a near-miss area of 53 square miles. The 50 (X) bomb does not multiply these areas by 5, for its measurements (given by the Administrator) are 11 square miles of virtual complete destruction and 159 square miles of near-miss area damage. Near-miss areas, where effective steps can be taken, are now measured in tens of square miles.

The point that I wish to emphasize is theextraordinary vulnerability of Australia from the point of view of defence production and supply.

In total atomic warfare, which is thekind of warfare that we may expect in the event of future hostilities, every person and every activity must beassociated in some sense with the defenceproblem. I remind honorable members of the fact that, during World War II.,, a small Japanese submarine surfaced not far from Sydney and plugged a few shells into- its suburbs. Fortunately most of the shells were duds. Some or them landed not far from the placewhere I lived for some time. Had those shells carried atomic charges, instead of being defective ordinary shells, the effect upo.n Sydney would have been too horrible to contemplate. We should realizethat, although the biggest submarine in use at the end of World War LT. weighed”: over 3,500 tons, there are probably submarines three times that size in operation to-day. Such vessels could stand well off shore and fire shells into placeslike Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Newcastleand Wollongong. Consideration of these facts leads to some appreciation of the danger to which we expose ourselves by allowing our productive capacity tobe concentrated in key cities which arehighly vulnerable to attack.

People who have studied this problem admit that we cannot put the clock backand disperse industrial concentrations in cities that are already established. However, they urge with all the force at theircommand that we should decentralize our industries to the greatest possibledegree. To me it is absolutely fantastic, in these days of scientific development and atomic power, that anybody could, talk of decentralizing industries by shifting them from one suburb of Sydney toanother. Whyalla, where there is a great steel industry, represents my idea of decentralization. I submit with respect, in the knowledge that the Government hasmany complex problems to solve, that it should deal urgently with the need fordecentralization. It should call together - the best industrial and organizing brainsin the community, and the most capable - leaders of finance and industrial production, and ask them to draft a scheme for the transfer of such industries as can be transferred to selected localities where there are natural resources of power and materials, either actual or potential. Such a course of action is long overdue. It should have been embarked upon by previous governments.

I pass now to another subject that is not so closely related to the problem of defence but which is of considerable importance. It affects food supplies. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) last night delivered a blistering attack upon the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The honorable gentleman did not suggest that its dividends were too large, that it did not look after its employees, or that its industries were not up to date and efficient, but he did complain that it was a monopoly. Well, I do not hold a brief for the company, but I have learned from experience that it is producing, for example, wire netting, wire and steel posts for people on the land, .as well as steel products for various other purposes, at about half the cost of similar imported materials. I agree with the honorable member for Yarra that the company cannot increase its production sufficiently to satisfy Australia’s needs. Therefore, I submit that Australia must obtain steel products in greater quantities from other sources if its progress is not to be continuously retarded. The company, which produces the cheapest steel in the world, has announced that it will spend about £8,000,000 on capital expansion. That will help to reduce the shortage of steel products needed for primary production, but it will not solve the whole problem.

Therefore, I suggest, in all seriousness, that the Australian Government and the State governments should get together and agree upon a quota for imported steel products, having in mind the known productive capacity of the company. As this Government controls imports, and the State governments control prices, it should be possible for them to evolve a scheme to import sufficient steel products to bridge the gap between the company’s production and local needs and to distribute all supplies at equated prices so as not to make a sort of Tattersalls prize-winner of one man and a loser of another. This would enable the development of Australia to be speeded up. I shall not delay the committee further. I rose merely for the purpose of making these remarks as briefly as possible with a serious realization that defence is not merely a matter of putting men in uniform. Defence involves the mobilization of our brains and every form of our military and industrial strength for the benefit of the nation. It should not involve the crippling of the ordinary processes of production, or the slowing down of education, upon which we must depend for the constant supply of trained brains. Obviously, defence poses a vast and complex problem, every phase of which must be investigated if we are to succeed in the task assigned to us.


.- Some valuable contributions to the discussion of defence problems and the expenditure of the defence vote have been made by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. By way of introduction to my very brief remarks, I Want to say that I am one of the old-timers who trained under the compulsory military training scheme of the Fisher Labour Government. I have always admitted that that training “was of advantage to me, as it was to others of my generation, in service in World War I. But I have never forgotten my impressions of the deficiencies of training under those circumstances for the type of fighting that occurred in World War I., and of the deficiencies of the British and Australian armies compared with the German and Italian armies, the German army in particular. It was my elementary assessment of the position that the Germans had tremendous advantages over the British and Australian armies, because the German education system incorporated, either compulsorily or otherwise, technical training with facilities that were provided to give young Germans all the advantages of technical education in training for armed service. World War I. and its “weapons were not nearly so highly technical as were World War II. and the more modern weapons that were used in that conflict. I have not the slightest doubt that the time taken by the British forces to bring their armies in World War I. to the state of technical efficiency of the German armies was one of the principal factors that caused that war to be prolonged. I have always fell that the situation in World War II. was similar. For a brief period, I had the opportunity to learn something of the heavy obligation that rested on the Royal Australian Air Force in training men in even the elementary principles necessary to the understanding and operation of the highly technical machine that the modern aircraft has become.

In World War II. the Germans initially had a substantial advantage over the British forces, including those of Australia, which had to train men entirely lacking in secondary education to a high pitch of technical efficiency. I am sure that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) will agree with me on that. If it had not been necessary first to overtake the German advantage in technical training, I am sure that World War II. would not have raged for so long as it did. In that war, the army, to a lesser degree than the air force, was a much more technical service than it had been in World War I., and therefore it required a higher degree of technical understanding, efficiency and training. As a consequence, a considerable delay occurred while schools were established to train men in the highly technical aspects of modern infantry and artillery warfare. The German troops, on the other hand, had been gaining this knowledge and training for years in their ordinary civil education.

These considerations pose a problem to which, I have no doubt, the defence chiefs have given thought. Much of the huge expenditure on the maintenance of training camps where soldiers can be marched backwards and forwards and put through the elementary forms of training that I undertook 45 years ago, could be better devoted to other purposes. Much time is being wasted in elementary infantry training that, perhaps, was necessary in my training days, but much of which could be entirely eliminated with great advantage in these times. I acknowledge that it is necessary to teach soldiers to move in unison, to assemble in orderly fashion, to co-operate among themselves, and to take orders and follow directions ; but many millions of pounds that are being spent on this elementary training are being wasted. My mind is untrained in the technicalities of defence. It is merely a layman’s mind, but it is an observant one, and it seems to me that it would be better to spend perhaps £100,000,000 in making grants to education authorities throughout Australia, so that they might, by arrangement with the defence authorities, establish additional technical schools to give scientific and mechanical training, which will be seriously and dangerously lacking, should the unfortunate day ever come when we shall be engaged in another war, if we continue to spend millions of pounds on the extensive elementary training that is being undertaken at present.

In the cities and provincial towns of Australia, technical schools in which may be taught the arts and crafts that have become essential to a successful war effort, are deplorably lacking. In secondary education far too much emphasis is placed upon the commercial training of both boys and girls. Much more scientific, technical and semi-technical instruction is needed. If a great part of the enormous expenditure that is being undertaken on useless elementary training were devoted to a diversification of instruction, with the emphasis on technical training, a considerable force of young men with a high degree of technical training that would be invaluable for service in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force would be readily available in the event of war. The war of the future will not be fought by sloping and presenting arms, and punching bayonets into sandbags. It will require, even by ordinary soldiers, the considerable degree of technical knowledge which is necessary for the operation of the modern weapons that are being pui into service. Doubtless the education system is more advanced than it was in my young days, but I am reasonably certain that in Australia’s secondary schools there would be hardly a youth with the scientific training necessary to enable him to pinpoint the target of an artillery weapon of the type that he might be required to fire against an enemy.

Technical training is sadly lacking, and the Government should give immediate attention to that aspect of defence training. I deplore the fact that in towns throughout Australia groups oi youths congregate on street corners instead of undertaking useful training.

They should have the option, not of entering training camps to slope arms and play about on parade grounds, but of obtaining exemption from national service training and spending several hours on one or two nights a week at technical schools where they could gain knowledge that would be of value to them, not only in assisting in Australia’s defence, but also in playing their part in Australia’s industrial development. Surely the funds could be found for such a scheme. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has pointed out that training camps are largely concentrated in the coastal areas and that a few atomic bombs could blow them out of existence. In the event of an atomic war, they would be of little value. We should decentralize our education system, particularly our secondary training institutions, and ensure that they provide all the facilities that are required for proper scientific and technical training for the purposes of both peace and war, and to this end we should abandon a great deal of the useless expenditure on infantry training camps that is being undertaken at present.


.- Many of the debates that have taken place in this chamber since I was elected to it have served to indicate that the time when Australia might be attacked mp.y not be far distant. Last financial year a big surplus of defence funds was not expended, chiefly because labour and materials were in such short supply that a great deal of construction work could not be put in hand. But there are some projects that do not require the expenditure of much money and may be undertaken by voluntary workers in their spare time.

I should like to discuss two aspects of the defence Estimates. The first matter that I want to mention relates to rifle clubs. The pastime of rifle-shooting has become very popular, and Australia’s young men are keenly participating in it, with the result that miniature rifle clubs are being established in most townships. Under an old law, clubs of this kind are entitled to grants of £30 to meet their establishment costs. This sum was sufficient for the purpose years ago when materials were cheap, and £30 might be almost enough even to-day in the bush where there would be little danger of injury being caused to any person while shooting was in progress, and where extensive safety precautions would not be necessary. The present high prices of materials make it impossible to provide, proper safety measures for the sum of £30, and a fence to enclose the club property would probably absorb the entire sum. In any event, £30 would be equivalent to the purchase price of only one and a half rifles. I remind the committee that when the rifle clubs have been established they have been of value to the Citizen Military Forces and school cadets for training. This may seem a trivial matter compared with the weight of other things to which the Ministers who are concerned with defence problems have to give their attention, and it might perhaps pass almost unnoticed. But I suggest that a more liberal grant could readily be made for the assistance of rifle clubs without crippling other projects and with great benefit to aspiring clubs and to Australia’s young men, who would become more defence conscious and would have something useful to do during the evenings if more rifle clubs could be established.

The second matter to which I wish to refer is slightly more weighty than the first. It concerns the senior service - the Navy. Special emphasis * has been placed on naval and air defence. That is natural and proper, because Australia is an island continent, and must be prepared to meet external attack. The senior cadets at the Royal Australian Naval College will be passing out at the end of their course during this month. Two years ago, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), with whom I have not often seen eye to eye during the short time that I have been a member of this chamber, asked a question about a passing-out parade. He wanted to know whether there was any significance in the fact that the parade and the declaration of the poll in the Flinders electorate were to take place on the same day. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who was at the time Minister for the Navy, replied that he considered that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro wished to crow about the occasion, and he added that honorable members who sat on the Government side of the chamber, felt the greatest optimism about the future. On the 23rd March, 1953, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro again asked the then Minister a question about the transfer of the college back to Jervis Bay. The Minister replied that transfer to its traditional home had been approved by the Government, and had been approved in principle. He also said that unfortunately it could not be undertaken during that financial year, because other projects had been given greater priority in allocation of finance. The matter came up again on the 22nd1 September, 1953j when, in answer to a question, the Minister said -

I should like to- have the college moved as soon as1 possible and also to have it. in the Australian Capital Territory.

The Minister referred to the- traditional home of this college, and Jervis Bay is its traditional home. I point’ out that officers are probably the heart of any armed service, and that it is therefore absolutely essential that they should be trained in a place where they can have traditions :md esprit de corps. It is also essential that they should be trained in a place where. their training is separate from that of ratings. That atmosphere of a Royal naval college is- impossible to-day because: the college is run as a department of a naval depot. Jervis Bay. also has several advantages which, commend it very highly as a place for the specialized training, of young officer cadets. There is deep water in the bay, and ships, are readily available in which cadets may get their sea training which, of course, is essential. The: fleet, air arm has its; school nearby at Nowra, and there is also a submarine school adjacent to Jervis Bay. Both the college and the depot in which it is situated will have to expand, and, indeed, I believe that they will both be extended shortly. Should war come they will both be greatly expanded, and then there will not be room inside the depot for both the depot and the college.

Canberra is the seat of government, and it is therefore of greater national importance than either Melbourne or Sydney. Honorable members: know that Army cadets are proud of the Royal Mili- tary College at Duntroon, and the very name “Duntroon” brings to mind a place where: officers are trained’ for the Army. The Royal Australian Naval College: should also be an institution of which we can be proud, and it should be capable of turning out the very best officers to man our ships. Should the Minister be considering the enlargement of this sub-standard college in its- setting of cookery and other schools, I ask him to consider- spending the available money while there is time, to return the ISO cadets to the college at Jervis Bay which was built in 1 91 5 as the Royal Australian Naval College.


’.- 1 desire to take this opportunity of drawing the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) to the sadly neglected landing grounds in the northern part of Western Australia. Only those who have had experience of living in isolated outback areas can fully appreciate the value of air services to the people there. That remark applies particularly to services in wet seasons, when there is practically no other means of transport available. On numerous occasions I have appealed to the Minister, and to his predecessor, to make a real effort to improve air services to- the. people in the back country. I direct attention particularly to landing grounds at Norseman, Nullagine, Marble’ Bar, Fitzroy Crossing, Turkey Creek, Hall’s Creek and Wittenoom Gorge. I suggest that those landing grounds should be sealed so that they can be used in wet weather, and I mention the names in order that they will be recorded in Hansard. That record will assist the Minister to remember them and .give attention to them. I suggest that if those landing grounds were sealed, not only would the people who live in the vicinity benefit by having transport available in wet weather, but the country also would benefit because our defences would be greatly strengthened.

In many of the centres that I have mentioned, mining work is being carried on. If a bad accident should occur during mining operations no medical assistance could reach the- people concerned except through the Flying Doctor Service. That service is able to use the landing grounds in dry weather, but not in wet seasons. Consequently, in wet weather there is a danger of people being deprived, not only of transport, hut also of medical services. Because of the vastness of the country and its sparse population, local authorities have not sufficient money to pay for the sealing of the landing grounds, and the sooner the people in general take a greater interest in the development of our back country the better it will be for the nation.

This Government continually prates of its .belief in decentralization; .but I have made appeal after appeal in this Parliament for some assistance to be given to the people in outback areas, and nothing has ever been done in response to my appeals. This morning, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) .said, in reply to a question that I asked him, that this Government was paying a subsidy to the air beef scheme in order to help in the transport of cattle from Glenroy to Wyndham. That is true. The Government is paying a very 3inall subsidy to foster the air beef scheme, but that is of very little value to any one except MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Company Proprietary Limited and the local squatters. It is greatly appreciated, although it does not help the area to which I have referred, where most people have no transport facilities in wet seasons. If the landing grounds that I have mentioned were sealed, they could be used by aircraft in all weather conditions, and would also he of some help in the defence of the north-west coast of Western. Australia.

I again refer the Minister to the appeal made by the people of Laverton for a small subsidy so that they can arrange for an aircraft to call there once a week. Until recently, Laverton has not made much progress. It is one of the many ghost towns in a big mining area in Western Australia, but a few stout hearts believed that it would revive, and now two mines are being worked there. One of them promises to employ a substantial number of men in the near future. I have appealed to the Minister to give a small subsidy to the Australian National Airlines Commission so that that concern can arrange for an aircraft to call at Laverton once a week. I suggest that if the ‘Government favours a policy of decentralization and wants to encourage people to live in the outback, here is an excellent opportunity for it to put that policy into effect. It is >of no .use. to try to populate the outback by talk.; the Government must take some practical action. The Minister has informed me that if the local roads board will guarantee a certain sum, the commission will arrange for an aircraft to .call at Laverton once a week. I have no doubt that the company would do that if the guarantee should be forthcoming, but the local authority cannot raise the money to give that guarantee.

Minister for Shipping and Transport · BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– Order! The honorable member is referring to matters that come within the jurisdiction of the Department of Civil Aviation. Unless he is attempting to link up these remarks with defence* he is out ,of order.


– I am endeavouring to show the defence value of developing the outback. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) pointed out that it. was necessary to decentralize the defencesof this country. During the last w,ar, when the enemy came to the shores of Western Australia we had no defences there to deter him. It was not until after the Japanese had bombed Darwin, Broome and Wyndham that a few military aerodromes were established in the area. Since that time, nothing of any consequence has been done by this Government to (organize the defence of that area. I suggest that if we are to depend on mud landing .strips, then in wet weather we shall not he able to defend this country. My main point is that the Minister for Air should try to give some encouragement to the people who are stout-hearted enough to try to develop our outback country. They have not the amenities that are freely available to city people, and so I suggest that they should be given some guarantee of security in regard to illness and accident. I am very pleased to see the Minister for Air present in the chamber, and I hope that he will take some notice of my submission, and endeavour to give some relief to the people I have mentioned.

Minister for the Navy and Minister for the Army · Moreton · LP

– I know that there are about twelve or fourteen honorable members who are still anxious to speak in this debate. Therefore, although I desired to make a lengthy speech covering proposals for the expansion and development of the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army in the coming year, I shall do that at some other time. But I hope-

Mr Daly:

– The Government has changed its policy. That is the reason.


– The Labour party never had a policy, and never will have a policy. However, I am endeavouring to make a brief statement on behalf of the Minister for Air in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. The honorable gentleman made some observations about the Royal Australian Air Force, and complained of inadequate treatment of certain areas in the back country. I desire to give tie honorable gentleman an assurance, on behalf of the Minister for Air, that all the points which he has raised will be examined, and if it is possible to assist in anyway, the Minister will be pleased to take the necessary action. I inform honorable members that since 1949, 45 new government aerodromes have been established, and 171 private aerodromes have been licensed. That is not a bad effort for a government in these difficult times. Improvements have been made at a cost of £5,000 each to 65 aerodromes in country districts and seventeen aerodromes in metropolitan areas. Between the 1st July, 1949, and the 30th June, 1953, cash expenditure on fixed capital assets at capital city airports was approximately £9,000,000, and about £7,000,000 was expended in a similar way on other airports. Those figures show clearly that the Minister for Air is doing a splendid job.

I thank the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) for the tributes which they have paid to the administration of the Department of the Army, and those who are co-operating with me in that work. I shall give careful consideration to all the representations that have been made by honorable members to-day on matters relative to the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy. I shall make a careful examination of Ilansard, and any worthwhile suggestions made in this debate will receive my personal attention.

The honorable member for Evans has referred to the need for stepping up the strength of the naval reserve. As an observer from afar of late, I came, to the conclusion that the naval reserve was not doing the job which I considered that it would do. I, personally, shall see that this very important branch of the Department of the Navy shall be expanded. The naval reserve provides in war-time the personnel who build , up the strength of our naval forces which, to-day, are more or less on a nucleus base.

I should like to refer briefly, and I hope finally, to the extraordinary observations made by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) on the unfortunate accident that occurred during amphibious exercises at Stockton some time ago. The honorable gentleman got himself into a frightful tangle to-day. He read certain passages from the report of the evidence, and made it quite clear that he did not understand it. He said that he did not understand it. I emphasize that all the evidence which the honorable gentleman read, and misread, was placed before the coroner in open court. Newspaper reporters attended the inquest, and the coroner found, on the evidence, that the deceased had lost their lives through an unfortunate accident. That official paid a special tribute to the commanding officer of the unit for the way in which he had handled the whole problem. Every newspaper in this country has endorsed the findings of the coroner, and not one newspaper has referred to the matter since.

One other observation about this unfortunate case I make with a great deal of regret. The honorable member for Shortland referred to the medical officer, Thomas W. Edmeades. a medical practitioner of high standing and suggested, by implication, that he failed to do his duty, and had run away from the task that he should have performed when the boys met with the accident. I say that that statement is reprehensible, and entirely untrue. It is improper for the honorable member when he makes such observations to use the forms of this chamber in order to protect himself. I hope that the incident is closed. The onlypeople who are suffering as the result of repeated references to the accident are the relatives and friends of the lads who lost their lives. A complete and absolute assurance was given that everything that could be done was done by the Army. This chamber accepts it, and every rightthinking man will endorse it.

I shall now deal with the case of exPrivate Binden. He had attended annual camp at Singleton with his unit, the 2nd Infantry Battalion. He left Singleton at 12.45 p.m. on the 7th May, to return on his motor cycle to his home in Wallsend at the completion of the camp. On the way, between 2 p.m. and 2.30 p.m., his motor cycle ran off the road into gravel approximately 40 miles from Singleton on the main Maitland road. Binden was crushed, and suffered the loss of an ann. This exserviceman is entitled to compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. We endeavoured to get this matter settled, and ultimately an application for compensation was lodged. However, the legal advisers of this ex-serviceman have not yet decided whether they should make a claim on his insurance company for compensation under the third party policy. If such a claim should be made, and allowed, the amount received by Binden would be deductible from the compensation payable under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Until the legal advisers made their decision about their course of action, there was certainly no cause for an attack on the Department of the Army. As a matter of fact, the matter comes under the administration, not of the Department of the Army, but of the Department of the Treasury. I have issued instructions that any serviceman who meets with any kind of accident is to be given assistance to make his claim, because a great number of young lads in the services to-day. could not properly make the claim under the act. I have instructed the command secretary in every State to assist any nian, who has met with an accident, to make his claim. However, the legal ad visers of ex-Private Binden seem to be unable to make up their minds yet about their course of action.

The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made a most valuable contribution to the debate when he directed attention to the urgent need of the three services for persons with industrial skill. All three services are becoming more and more technical. Movements, big and small, are carried out by mechanical vehicles, and an extraordinary number of persons are needed to keep them in running order and undertake repair and maintenance work. We are endeavouring to meet this situation, and I consider that we have met it fairly well. I hope that the suggestion of the honorable member for Lalor will be taken up by the States in their educational systems, because I regard this section as vital at this time - -

Mr Pollard:

– It is a national responsibility.


– I point out that we have established an apprentices training school at Balcombe, in Victoria. Approximately 470 lads are undergoing training at that centre at the present time.

Mr Bryson:

– The Labour Government introduced it.


– The Labour Government introduced it, and fell down on the job. It was the worst thing that I have ever seen in my life. It was more like a blackfellows’ camp than anything else when I saw it the first time.

Mr Haworth:

– What sort of camp?


– Well, a piccaninnies’ camp. However, it is one of the best activities in my department to-day. It has gone ahead very well. I make these observations now, because we require additional numbers of young lads to enter this industrial training school. Very shortly, we shall call for applications, because more lads are needed, and I hope that my references to the matter to-day will help us to get the required numbers.

The next observation that I desire to make is about the Auditor-General’s report. If time permitted, I would read the observations of former AuditorsGeneral about the service departments when the Labour Government was in office. Those observations would make honorable members shiver.

Mr Calwell:

– The Minister should read them. We can take it.


– I shall ask the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) to read them. He is considering them now. When we were in Opposition, we dealt again and again with page after page of criticism by the Auditor-General of the day. This afternoon, however, I merely wish to direct attention to the fact that the Auditor^ General,, in his latest report, has made the following reference, to the. Department of the .Army: - lt is expected that the remedial measures taken by the department during the year Will result in ultimate, improvement.

I did not read a similar comment in the Auditor-General’s report when the Labour Government was in office. We have made a great effort completely to reorganize the accounting systems of the Department of the Army and the. Department of the Navy. We are as eager as anybody else to ensure that such matters shall be properly dealt with. The Army and, for that matter, the Navy, have been expanding so rapidly that it is difficult to obtain all the skilled personnel that are required to deal with intricate methods of accountancy. Those methods have been entirely reviewed. We have brought experts from the British war office to advise us on the- reorganization of this branch of the service. I agree with the Auditor-General that the steps taken will relieve us of any anxiety about the future.

The allegation in the Auditor-General’s report that many of our vehicles are left out of doors exposed to the weather must also be answered. I point out that even though the Auditor-General makes that statement, such is not the position. All the vehicles are under cover with the exception of a limited number which are undergoing repairs. We. are using vehicles from the last war and the cost of maintenance and repairs of some of them is distressing, so much so that we have decided to purchase brand new vehicles. All vehicles which should b-a. under cover are kept under cover. The limited few which are not under cover are undergoing repairs and maintenance work.

I shall not detain the committee any longer. I am well aware that many other honorable members desire to make their contributions to this discussion. All the points that have been raised, and have yet to be raised, will be carefully examined by me. I hear an interjection from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).’ I shall not worry about any observations that he makes, because I realize that he is worried about his own lender.


.- The speech of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has added nothing to the knowledge of honorable members about the part played by the Navy and the Army in the defence of Australia. The Minister has told us precisely nothing. Of course, he is a past-master at the art of talking for long periods without saying anything. Once again, the good old round figure of £200,000,000 that has been voted for defence services in each of the last three years is being sought for under this heading for this year. That amount sounds a lot of money. It is, approximately, one-fifth of the Government’s total annual revenue, and when such substantial expenditure is proposed honorable members should not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by mere statements that the Government is doing its defence job efficiently. However, whilst the Government has expended the greater proportion of that sum each year for the last few years, the fact is that it is definitely not doing this job efficiently. I realize that heavy expenditure in the interest of defence is unavoidable, and I do not object to the amount that is being sought in these Estimates. What worries me, and many people in the community today, is that whilst a sum equal to onefifth of the Government’s total annual revenue is devoted to defence, very little evidence exists of the results of such expenditure. Now and again we hear of the introduction of new types of uniforms and of the production, very slowly, of a fighter and a bomber, and it has

Also been suggested that the Government intends to purchase, at great cost, an aircraft carrier for the Navy. We have also been told that training is to be provided for increased personnel in, the Air Force, and, from time to time, Ministers inform us that the Government is revising its policy in order to concentrate to a greater degree on the development of the Air Force. However, honorable members cannot discover any ^evidence that our air defences are actually being strengthened. Recently a very modern Australian-made fighter was tested; but we know that that aircraft was one of only three that have yet come off the production line, and we do not know when any more will be produced in this country.

Statements made by the services Ministers are usually of a contradictory nature with the result that honorable members are left entirely in the dark and in a state of anxiety on whether the Government is .doing the job efficiently, or whether it is doing even a reasonable job in preparing the defences of this country. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) has told the committee about the lack of air-fields in the north-west of Western Australia which is a strategic region of this country. He explained clearly the requirements of that region and indicated things that had not been done, but he was unable to point to anything that had ‘been done to strengthen air defences in that area. We have heard disquieting statements by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and other honorable members about the lack of defence preparations in any of the armed services in the Northern Territory. From all thi information that has been given to the Parliament, I understand that, at present, at Darwin our naval strength consists of one frigate and that our air strength there consists of a total of three aircraft. Statements of that kind are most disquieting. Darwin has been described as the gateway to Australia. It is most vulnerable, more particularly having regard to the activities that are now being carried on in the Northern Territory, including the production of uranium, which is one of -the most important minerals from a defence viewpoint. However, in the light of information that has been given to honorable members, it would appear that the defence of the Northern Territory has been completely neglected and that the Territory is as defenceless to-day as it was iri 1942 when the Japanese first bombed Darwin. Similar stories have been told by honorable members about the lack of defence preparations in northern Queensland. Service Ministers merely reply to these representations by stating that these matters are being attended to. The fact remains that airfields, or naval bases, or even Army units, have not been provided in northern Queensland.

In respect of communications, the existence of which should be essential in the event of attack, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made the irresponsible statement that the provision of strategic roads and railways in northern Queensland is the responsibility of the State Government. When representations have been made to the Government that it should provide a rail link between Dajarra and Newcastle Waters, which is not in Queensland but in territory controlled by this Government, the Treasurer has replied that such an undertaking was the responsibility of the Queensland Government. The provision of railways that are essential to the effective defence of this country are a national responsibility, because an efficient railway system would be indispensible in repelling an aggressor if this country were attacked. We remember the difficulties that were experienced during World War II. because of the. lack of an efficient railway system. During that conflict the railways in Queensland were practically run into the ground in meeting the demands that were made upon them,’ not for the development of the State, or for the convenience of its residents, but directly for the military defence of this country. Having regard tb that fact, it cannot be said that the provision of railways having defence value is the responsibility of any State. That is the responsibility of the National Government, and until this Government realizes that fact is will continue to fall down on its job. I do not need to weary the committee by giving details of the makeshifts to which we resorted during World War II. At that time, we were obliged to ship trains from Hobart to Brisbane and to truck trains from Alice Springs to Birdum for use on the railway line between Birdum and Darwin. During the war, a strategic road was constructed in the Northern Territory from Alice Springs to Darwin.


Sir Eric Harrison interjecting,


– I know that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) is prone to exaggerate, but I trust that he will not claim that this Government constructed that road. It was constructed by a Labour government, which also constructed a strategic road from Mount Isa to Tennant Creek. They are the only good roads in the Northern Territory. Nothing has been done by this Government in that direction in spite of the fact that the ‘ sura of £200,000,000 has been appropriated annually for defence for the last three years. Indeed, our transport system today is in a worse position that it was in when World War II. ended.

Mr Hulme:

– That is due largely to the road taxes that have been imposed by State governments.


– We must forget about State governments in dealing with this problem. In passing, I make the comment that several honorable members opposite who come from Queensland always give one the impression that they think they are sitting not in the National Parliament but in a State parliament. It is time that such honorable members began to think nationally.

The provision of defence preparations in any State must be considered regardless of the party political complexion of the government of that State. Whilst the construction of railways for the direct convenience and benefit of the residents of a State is the responsibility of the government of that State, the National Government, generally speaking, is responsible for providing railways that are essential to the effective defence of this country. It is the responsibility of this Government to prepare adequate defences, and one of the primary needs in that respect on the home front is the con struction of a railway system that will be adequate in time of war. It is time that this Government undertook the task of building strategic railways, and of standardizing railway gauges for the linking of capital with capital, east and west, and south and north. That is a defence responsibility of the National Government. The same observation applies in respect ‘of the provision of arterial strategic roads. Our road system may be adequate to cope with peacetime requirements, but it would be hopelessly inadequate under war conditions.

Mr Hulme:

– What is the estimated cost of building the roads and railways to which the honorable member .refers?


– The cost would be substantial, but a reasonable proportion of the hundreds of millions that have been appropriated for defence purposes since this Government assumed office could have been expended on the construction of strategic arterial roads and the standardization of railway gauges. . If that had been done, we should now have something to show for that expenditure. But whenever this matter is raised, the Government, characteristically, cites a good round figure as its annual expenditure on defence. The amount sought is appropriated and if the full sum has noi been expended within a financial year, the Government becomes desperate and begins to stockpile material which we really do not need to stockpile. But such action is taken in a determination to expend whatever money is voted for defence purposes. The year before last, the Government had an unexpended balance of £20,000,000 of the amount that had been voted for defence. Last year, the old round figure of £200,000,000 was provided in the Estimates, but for some unexplained reason, in April last, Supplementary Estimates were presented to the Parliament which included a sum of £13,668,000 for defence services.

Mr Hulme:

– The honorable member would not understand the reason for that.


– I am open to be instructed upon the matter. Allowing for that additional appropriation, a total sum of £213,680,000 was appropriated for defence during the last financial year, but. as -at the 30th June last, of that sum only £189,725,012 had been actually expended. Having regard to the unexpended balance of the original vote, I cannot understand why the additional appropriation was sought in April last; and 1 doubt whether the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) can understand it either. Why should the Government have sought an additional appropriation when it had not expended the original appropriation? Perhaps, the Treasurer Can explain the reason for such action. 1 should be very pleased if the honorable member for Petrie explained to the committee the Government’s reason for seeking an additional appropriation foi1 defence when it was obvious that it would not expend during the financial year the amount that had already been appropriated for that purpose. Talking in large sums of money will not provide adequate defence preparations. In the early days of World War II. the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was Prime Minister also at that time, declared that, although Australia had become involved in World War II., the people should carry on business as usual.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- It is refreshing to hear honorable members opposite advocate a strong defence policy. Some of them have even gone so far as to contend that the Commonwealth should take over the State railways. What nextwill honorable members opposite wish the Commonwealth to take over? However, do not let us allow the present advocacy of honorable members opposite to make us forget their attitude not so long ago, when this country and its friends were in danger. I do not know what the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) had to say in those days, but certainly, some of his leaders used some strong words in the dangerous times before and during the last war. Even as near to the outbreak of war as the 3rd November, 1938, a Labour party leader, Mr. Holloway, had this to say in this chamber -

The Government is expending much too rapidly on defence. It is making plans for more than the adequate defence of Australia. I make no excuse for saying that;

In November, 1939, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said -

Instead of carrying on this stupid conflict, an effort should be made at the earliest moment to summon a conference of the major nations for the purpose of ending it.

In December, 1939, Senator Collings said -

I would not negotiate with that scoundrel Churchill. I regard Mr. Churchill as a mad dog let loose for the purpose of spreading hatred where previously none existed.

These are only a few of the statements that Labour party leaders made in those days. Even the wonderful Empire Air Training Scheme was bitterly opposed by Labour when it was in Opposition. So. it is refreshing now to hear honorable members opposite support a -strong defence policy.

The defence vote is substantial, and I believe that we should do our utmost to ensure that we get the best value and the highest possible degree of efficiency for its expenditure. We should be considering how we can protect our northern approaches. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) believes that we should concentrate on defence in the Darwin area. He is completely wrong. Before we decide to rely on Darwin as our defence bastion we should think hard about what happened in the last war, when we were mesmerized by stories about the impregnability pf Singapore and the Maginot line. The enemy bypassed, and took these fixed defences. Our defence line should be in the islands to the north of Australia where we are less vulnerable.

Mr George Lawson:

– Not in Brisbane ?


– No, not in Brisbane. I was glad to have a reassuring statement from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) regarding a matter that I have previously raised in this chamber. I refer to the need to increase the strength of the Pacific Islands Regiment from one battalion to one brigade. That regiment has a wonderful tradition of loyalty and efficiency. The men in it are proud to belong to the Queen’s armies. Experience in the last war showed the immense value of these native soldiers. The men who join that regiment not only gain military training, and become partners in a great military tradition; they also benefit in education and hygiene, and by learning a trade. A native who enlists in the Pacific Islands Regiment wins great standing in the native community. His fellow villagers look on him as a man of distinction. The regiment also gives the natives of the region an opportunity to share in the defence of their own land. The native soldiers are familiar with country in which they may be called upon to fight should another war occur. Their local knowledge and their military training will make them highly efficient island fighters on whom we can rely in an emergency. The despatch of Australian troops to the islands, in an emergency, would be a process that might take so much time to complete that it would perhaps be of little ultimate use unless an experienced force had already gone into action on that front. The Australian troops that we might send, however well-trained they might he, would possibly lack training in tropical warfare. Delay in getting them to the islands would therefore be inevitable and it would “also take time to give them - the specialized training necessary for island fighting. If the Pacific Islands Regiment were raised to brigade strength now, we should have, already on the spot in an emergency, a formidable force that would bo capable of extension. In any event, unless we expand the Pacific Islands Regiment, we might find ourselves in a position in which we would have to send, all our available Australian forces to thu islands, and thus be deprived of their services nearer home.

The cost of equipping and training a brigade, which is not a very large military body, would be equal only to the cost of equipping and training one battalion of Australian troops. That means that we can have an effective defence force in the islands for only a third of the cost of equipping and training a similar force in Australia. That consideration should appeal to the Government, as it will enable us to save expenditure. We would be able to equip a Pacific Island brigade without depriving our present forces of equipment. Expansion of the Pacific Islands Regiment to brigade strength will be possible only if the Government sends an officer of the best typeto the islands to take command of it. The officer in command of native troopshas a great influence, not only on the outlook of the troops, but also on their whole lives. The officer selected should be carefully chosen and should be, aboveall, a man who believes that his’ task lies among the people of the islands. He should be prepared to remain in theislands for a long time. With care, and the use of common sense, we could develop a very efficient and effective force of natives on our northern perimeterI ask the Government to take immediate steps to increase the strength of the regiment from one battalion to one brigade.

I turn now. to the subject of national service training. Many of us cannot help but be disturbed by the rumours that the Government proposes to abandon the present national service training scheme. I shall not, however, traverse ground that has been covered by other honorable members. I appreciate that the steady increase of the number of youths who are reaching the age at which they are liable to undertake military training presents a real problem to the Government, because of our limited training capacity. I must confess that, from what I understand of it, the Government’s proposal will cause great hardship to certain sections of the community, and will be unfair to other sections. I hope that the proposal is still in a nebulous stage, and has not proceeded so far that it is now too lata for the Government to reconsider it. I ask the Government to examine the national service schemes that are in operation in Great Britain and America, because I am not convinced that it is necessary for us to abandon our scheme. The American scheme, which is naturally larger in scope than our scheme is, must have had to meet, and overcome, problems similar to those that face us. I believe that certain aspects of.” the ° American scheme deserve a detailed study by the Government. I have not so far heard any Minister indicate that the Government has examined the American scheme and I shall therefore give the committee some information regarding it. J1 A statement about the general principles i- of the scheme, which I have taken from an American official publication, reads as follows : -

General principles of classification, (a) The Universal Military Training and Service Act, as amended, provides that every male citizen of the United States, every other male person admitted to the United States for permanent residence, and every other male person who has remained in the United States in a status other than that of .permanent resident for a period exceeding one year, who is between the ages of eighteen years and six months and 20 years, shall be liable for training and service in the Armed Forces of the United States.

Classification is the key to selection and it must be accomplished in the spirit of the Universal Military Training and Service Act, as amended, in which the Congress has declared “that in a free society the obligations and privileges of serving in the armed forces and the reserve components thereof should be shared generally, in accordance with a system of selection which is fair and just, and which is consistent with the maintenance of .an effective national economy “.

That statement lays down principles that are much the same as the principles that govern the Australian scheme. It expresses the same spirit as is successfully expressed in our scheme. The statement continues -

  1. If is the local board’s responsibility to decide, subject to appeal, the class in which cadi .registrant shall be placed. Each registrant will be considered as available for military service until his eligibility for deferment nr exemption from military service is clearly established ‘to the satisfaction of the local board.

I understand that in America the local boards are responsible for meeting certain quotas necessary for the training programme in each year. The statement mentions many classifications, but I shall not weary the committee with the details.’ It is possible that the scheme, which has been in operation in the United States of America for many years, has drawbacks of which we do not know, but apparently- it has stood the test of time. It is obvious that, despite such faults as it may have, it must also have compensatory advantages. A study of the statement shows that very few people within the prescribed age limits are exempt from training under the American act. I should like the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to have the most exhaustive and extensive study, made of the American act. If necessary, he should appoint a small committee to inquire into it and to take evidence from American citizens on the working of the American scheme, with particular ref erence to such defects as it may have, and as to how it might help us to solve the difficulties with which the Government is at present faced. I conclude by repeating my request that the Government increase the strength of the Pacific Islands Regiment from one battalion to one brigade, which it could do at relatively small cost, and which would pay handsome dividends, not only to the natives, But also to this country ; and that the Government make a detailed analysis of the American system of national service training, which has apparently been working with a degree of success.

Mr. HAYLEN (Parkes) £4.43].- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) made, when he was left to himself, his usual good-tempered, temperate and well-reasoned speech. But he was provoked by the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison), who now sits conversing on this side of the chamber, to devote part of his speech to digging up old bones. The Minister always carries around with him some musty old Liberal party propaganda dated, the 20th June, 1938. He supplied the honorable member for Calare with a booklet so that that honorable member could reiterate the old jibe that Labour is not interested in defence, because in the past some of its more aggressive characters made certain statements. These statements have been taken out of context and quoted. At the present time, when real dangers are confronting us, it is useless to discuss the utterances of the past. They mean nothing now. If the honorable member for Calare wants to cite that sort of evidence, I remind him of the appalling state of our defences, early in the war, when the people were moved by horror to throw an anti-Labour government out of office because they considered it unfit to be in control of our defences in war-time. Tt is fantastic for honorable members opposite, in the face of their own inadequacies,, to resort to trifling arguments based on remarks made by members of the Labour party. The fact that a member of the Labour party made an unusual kind of remark about Mr. Churchill does not mean that the Labour party is opposed to the provision, of our defence requirements. The honorable member’s reference to some opinions expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is almost on a par with his statement about building up our defences. He said that we should have a fuzzy-wuzzy army in the islands. According to him, it would give us prestige, and would be very good for the prestige of the people who participated in it. He said a member of that army would be rooked up to in his village. He would be able to get a more numerous collection of Marys about him because he had a uniform and a rifle.

Mr Howse:

– It seems rather stupid to talk like that.


– Not at all. If the honorable member has a rural mind, I cannot apologize for him. I was merely talking to honorable members who understand what I mean and who do not misunderstand me. I find that the honorable member is an extremely gentle revolutionary. According to the press - and it is usually accurate in relation to these matters - he is one of the leaders of the revolution within the Government parties in which the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) is concerned. Although Government supporters prate about things that may have happened in other parts of the chamber, it has troubles at its own doorstep, one of which has been a full-scale revolt against the proposal to jettison a section of the national service training scheme. In spite of the efforts of the Government to hide it, the fact remains that its supporters who are exservicemen have examined its proposals and have discovered that there is a plot on behalf of the Australian Country party to have certain young men_ in rural areas exempted from training. Those honorable members are loud in their declamation of the manner in which the Australian Country party makes for itself the same reservations in relation to a universal training scheme that lt has made as a partner in its unholy coalition with the Liberal party. The Government is in trouble at the present time, and the honorable member for Calare, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and other honorable members, have shown great wisdom and a consider able degree of courage in deciding that the Government’s plan shall not succeed.

The Government should review its proposals. While it is talking about preparedness and the requirements of defence, its supporters are running around to ascertain the method by which the French call up their troops, and the details of the American ballot system, to see whether they can patch up the Government’s proposals for the call-up. Then they begin to talk about preparedness. But it is a joke. The Government has not got a plan. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) comes into the chamber, pontificates to a very high order, then, says something that is unintelligible, and leaves the chamber by one door as the Minister for the Army and by another door as the Minister for the Navy. I want to know the details of this vaunted, tremendous, upsurge of defence preparation. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who has made our nightmares more hideous by thoughts of atomic warfare, warns the Minister for Defence, on every occasion on which he is able to participate in the debate, that he has not formulated any strategy in relation to atomic warfare. Government supporters who are exservicemen state that the Government has not a plan even for what. is alleged to be a meagre contribution in relation to universal training. Its present proposals have been thrown up to satisfy the requirements of the Australian Country party. The Australian Country party adopts the attitude that, if myxomatosis cannot kill the rabbits, the boys should stay at home to dig them out, and to hell with military training.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member may not use that expression.


– I apologize, but when discussing these matters I am inclined to become a little heated. If the Government has an incipient revolution on its hands, why does the Minister for Defence not tell us about it? We accept the soft impeachment that the Australian Labour party has made mistakes in relation to defence, but, when the Chifley Government was in office, it was getting men out of the army as quickly as possible in response to a popular demand in which

Liberal party and Australian Country party members joined as vociferously as did members of the Labour party. The Government takes the problem out of its context and says that the apparent rundown has nothing to do with the present emergency in relation to defence. The Minister talks about what was being done in 193S. The pleas of the Opposition in this chamber were made in an effort to urge the Government to take some cognizance of what was actually happening. When the Labour party assumed office, there was scarcely a smear of oil in the reservoirs, and there wa3 a dry dock at Newcastle that had been cut into two pieces. Not only had every attempt been made to render impossible a quick resurgence of defence preparations, but also the work had been sabotaged - not intentionally - by inaction, by laisserfaire. There were plenty of pious platitudes and honeyed words, but surely the signs and portents were as important and as significant then as they are to-day. A leopard does not change its spots and, in a political sense, the Government cannot get away from this problem with which it is confronted while it makes the hottest protestations of its desire to make preparations for defence. It has not a practical plan.

The Government proposes to expend £200,000,000 on defence. No onn, except by reading about the requisite quantities of uniforms, boot polish, brasso for the brass hats, and braid for the bands, can discern any real scheme. It is possible for a government to expend the sum of £200,000,000 foolishly. Is there any awareness of the essential points of what is being done? The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who has just retreated in high dudgeon, will not stay to answer the charges that are made by the Opposition. If ever there was a charge of unrealism in relation to defence, it did not relate to the Australian Labour party. Bather does it belong to the history of the Liberal and Australian Country party coalition which was kicked out of office because it could not, even in war-time, mount an offensive worth two bits. Is that not true? Of course it is true. The Government sits by glumly, with another problem on its hands because two hostile and intelligent young servicemen who support the Government have told it that its plans for defence are corny, that they are washed-up, that they are finished with before they are placed on the table in this chamber. The first indication of disagreement is a revolt by those men in an effort to ensure that the national service training scheme is made more realistic, more up to date and all-embracing. They have shown a more logical, and indeed a more Australian-like, approach to the subject of defence than is usually shown by honorable members opposite.

Some honorable members say, “ We have a quota of 100,000 men. Why do we want any more “ ? The demands of the pastoralists could sabotage the national service training scheme, but the honorable members to whom I have referred have had the courage to say that it shall not happen. The demands of the Australian Country party upon the Government in the past have always led to the destruction of its coalition with the Liberal party. If the Government yields to its demand on this occasion and does not consider the propositions that have been advanced by the young rebels on the back benches, it will be in trouble. The Minister for Defence is a very sincere man, and an administrator of high quality, but be is not at his best in relation to matters of defence. He should examine closely the representations that have been made. I suggest that, if any contribution is to be made to the defence of this country, we should not have any niggling, irrespective of the party to which we belong, about what some one said in 1938. .1 want to know what some one is prepared to say to-day. I want to hear about something that is vital and dynamic, in order to ascertain where we stand in relation to this matter. I want to know what will be said about the statements of the intelligent ex-servicemen who say, “ There is something wrong in the state of Denmark. To wit, your service training scheme will not work. Your allocation of money is not close enough to reality”. For a Minister of age and experience to go to a junior member and feed him with some old-fashioned doggerel about what some one said in 1938 in relation to a matter of this nature is nothing short of nonsensical. The honorable gentleman does not appear to realize the danger of the problem, although he has been warned by honorable members on both sides of the chamber.

The Labour party is just as anxious as is the Government to see that everything possible is done to provide for Australia’s defence. The Government speaks about the” lack of dynamism on this side of the chamber. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) gave an indication of the manner in which, if there is surplus money, a government can begin to construct strategic roads and railways. If this government does not ‘build them now, it will have to build them when it has a war on its hands. How many strategic roads and railways are available for use in the event of war? It is a good thing not to throw surplus funds back into the pool, but to get on with the construction of some strategic roads and railways. I know, as well as does the Minister, the constitutional problem that is involved, but the suggestion that I made last night was made soberly. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), who is an exserviceman, expressed some very constructive thoughts about universal training, which, in spite of the old jibe “You sit there and do nothing because you are in Opposition “, should be accepted by the Minister. I suggest that the constructive suggestions that have been advanced during this debate have <some from this side of the chamber. The old-fashioned cry about the Labour party not having a defence plan is completely outmoded. The Minister who resurrected it should be ashamed of himself, because the record of the Government in relation to the completely run-down state of the country’s defences upon the outbreak of World War II. is notorious. There was no oil; there were no rifles; there was no organization; there was no hope. That was the story that hit the world, and that was the reason why the Government was dismissed. It was in exile for eight years. It should have been in exile for 80 years, but the Australian people were generous and they gave it another chance. We warn the Government against allowing such a run-down state of affairs in defence matters to occur again.

Dynamic thought in relation to the subject of defence does not come from members of the Government. That has been evidenced by the revolution that is blowing, up on the Government back benches. Let the Government put its own house in order. Let it do something that belongs to 1954 and not to Omdurman and the battle of Kandahar.. If it does something that belongs to the present, honorable members on both sides of the chamber, as well as the general public^ will applaud its actions. The attempt of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to confuse the debate by giving to a junior member some doggerel to repeat to the committee is an indication of the Government’s inattention to the question of defence. On behalf of my colleagues, I express resentment at the Minister’s action. We suggest to the Government that, to use a colloquialism, it should pull up its socks, formulate a plan, and present it to the committee before the debate on the Estimates is concluded so that honorable members will be assured that the vaunted spending of millions of pounds- is not so much money going down the sink and that, so far as defence is concerned, we are not as vulnerable as the Liberal and Australian Country party coalition made us in 1939.


– It is a matter of some importance that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay), in his second speech in this chamber, should have made a plea for the return of the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders to Jervis Bay. People who are aware of the situation at Jervis Bay know that something which should not be occurring is happening there, and that the college should be re-established at that place. I believe that that area was taken over in the first place as a Commonwealth port. Later it became known as the home of the Royal Australian Naval College, which was established there in 1915. For financial reasons, the college was removed to Flinders, the naval base in the south of Victoria. The case in support of its return to Jervis Bay is very well known. The area belongs to the Commonwealth. The bay is a very large one, and it has great natural advantages and is very beautiful. It is a large area of land-locked water which is deep enough for large fleets. Large ships may be moored very close to the site at which he college could be established. It has a more temperate climate than has Flinders for the training of men who may !be required to serve in the tropical areas to the north of Australia. It is decentralized. It is removed from any large docks, and it is within ten or fifteen miles of the Royal Australian naval air station, H.M.A.S. *Albatross, near Nowra, where 2,000 pilots and aircraft-carrier personnel are being trained.

Sir Philip McBride:

– That is a slight exaggeration.


– The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), with a peculiar sort of smile, states, “ That is a slight exaggeration”. This is not ‘a laughing matter, or a smiling matter. It is a very serious matter, because it involves the cream of the Royal Australian Navy. Surely this island continent should have a naval tradition. It should have the best possible place for the training of its naval officers. I refer honorable members to the words of Lord Moran, who was a close advisor of Sir Winston Churchill, when he made the following statement in relation to the Navy: -

It is a picked service; of four ratings who present themselves at the recruiting offices the Navy accepts only one. Selection is at work too among officers. That a boy has set his heart on this tough service goes for something. He has initiative; he is a cut above the ordinary. Long before the Hitler Youth was thought of, the Navy caught him young and soaked him in the pride and joy of a great tradition. t think it is the duty of the Parliament to ensure that the future naval officers of Australia also are soaked in a great tradition, but the only way in which they can be soaked at Flinders is by being placed in the swampy waters that surround the hase. I have not had an opportunity of viewing the area, but I have been informed on reliable authority that, in places where the area should be well drained, it is under water, and that, where water is needed, it is to be seen only at high tide. The college is surrounded by mud flats. If the Navy wants to take an aircraft carrier to Flinders for the benefit of cadets, it must be berthed a long way from the college, whereas at Jervis Bay the vessel could be moored a few yards from the college site. Jervis Bay is the place that was chosen for the college. It is the birth-place of the college, and it is the proper place to train potential naval officers. It is a place of great natural beauty, where trainees would be close to one of the most glorious stretches of water in the world.

What is the other side of the picture? We have been told that we cannot afford to spend £100,000 in order to bring the college back to Jervis Bay. However, if we leave it at Flinders, the expenses will grow as the establishment expands. Another argument in favour of Jervis Bay is that it is close to the greatest naval air station in the southern hemisphere. Should we allow objections to the initial expenditure of £100,000 to prevent us from transferring the college to Jervis Bay again? What is happening in that part of the Australian Capital Territory? It is being used as a tourist reserve, and everybody knows that it is not a function of the Commonwealth, under the Constitution, to conduct a tourist resort. If we are not going to use it for the Naval College, let us get out of the area because it is just draining away taxpayers’ money. Honorable members must be aware that interest and sinking fund charges, and the costs of painting, repairing and maintaining buildings at Jervis Bay are so heavy that tourists who go to the area stay there largely at the expense of the taxpayers. Although only a miserable amount is yielded to the Treasury for rent the Territory swallows a large sum of public money each year in expenses. Yet the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) had the audacity to protest against the proposal to return- the Naval College to its rightful home, because tourists wanted to say there !

It is disgraceful that people can obstruct correct naval procedure simply because they want to enjoy the salubrious surroundings there in the name of tour. ism, which is not a function of this Government. If the Government does not want to bring the college back to Jervis Bay, it should get rid of the land. It has no right under the Constitution to retain a large area in an ideal situation just for the benefit of tourists. It is degrading to realize that people interested in tourist trade can prevent the return of the Royal Australian’ Naval College to that site.

Mr Calwell:

– In which electorate is Jervis Bay?


– The district is partly in the electorate that I represent, and I know the facts. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) represents the area where the Naval College is now situated, and he has said that it should go back to Jervis Bay. I agree wholeheartedly with him. The honorable member and I know the facts, not from stories that have been told to us in the cabinet-room or in this chamber, but from direct observation. “We maintain that the present situation is intolerable. The proper place for the college is at Jervis Bay. People who have raised a clamour through the press and at public meetings have scared the Cabinet. That is why it will not agree to make the change. Let us have the job done at once so that the college shall be located in a suitable area. Let us hear no more of these complaints that the transfer would cost too much, because I, for one, do not believe them. The move would be cheaper in the long-run than the continued waste of public money on upkeep costs and the interest and sinking fund charges- for which the Government is now liable in respect of Jervis Bay, plus the cost of expanding the establishment at Flinders. I call upon the Government to consider this matter fairly and squarely with some horse-sense, and to return the Naval College to its proper site.


.- I want to say a few words in answer to statements that have been made by honorable members on the Government side of the chamber concerning the attitude of the Labour party to defence. The Labour party, since it has been in opposition, has never opposed any defence measure brought forward by the Government. It has agreed without question to appropriate every penny that the Government has sought for defence. We have concurred in the appropriation of £200,000,000 a year for the last three years, but the country, in spite of that vast expenditure, remains practically defenceless. Honorable members need not take my word for that. I ask them to look around any part of Australia. Near Sydney on one side of the continent, or near Perth on the other side, they will find very little evidence of defence.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself must’ be concerned about the situation, because he relieved the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) of the portfolios of Air and the Navy and gave the portfolio of Air to the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Townley), whom he displaced as Minister for Social Services because of his dissatisfaction with the honorable gentleman’s administration. The Prime Minister would not give the new Minister for Air two portfolios, so he gave the portfolio of the Navy to my friend the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), a tired, over-worked old gentleman who already had too much to do anyhow. At least, if that honorable gentleman does not have much energy, he has the benefit of experience and is not likely to get the Government into as much trouble as other honorable members might. The situation was very well put several years ago in an article in Hard Comment, which is published, of course, by the reactionary elements in New South Wales. The present honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) was then a constant contributor to the journal and, in an article published in it in 1951, he stated -

Every day the evidence increases, in Australia at least, that bureaucracy has defeated democracy.

Then, no doubt having in mind what was happening in regard to the defence portfolios that I have mentioned, he wrote -

There cannot be a shadow of doubt that in recent months, as crisis after crisis - domestic and international - piled Pelion on Ossa, the Cabinet in Canberra has been quite unable to exercise any collective control over the ministry and over the several departments.

Mr Bland:

– When was that published ?


– In March, 1951. The honorable member can make his apologia and his fitting withdrawal later. He commented at a later stage in the same article, as if he wished to mollify some one or other -

It is not suggested that officials are either malicious or wicked, but it is clear that

Ministers, in their desire for a quiet life, have refused to take the action that alone would give them time to play their proper part as a government.

That is the opinion of the honorable member for Warringah, one of the staunchest supporters of the Government in this Parliament - and the Government needs some staunch supporters at the moment because, if the press is to be believed; and, of course, I do not often quote it in the belief that it is right - the back-benchers on the Government side of the chamber ave going to cause trouble over the national service scheme.

WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP; LCL from 1951; LP from 1954

– McBride. - The wish is the father to. the thought.


– The Sydney Sun to-day has an interesting news item under the headings, “Liberals to revolt - Plans made, in secret “. The item begins with the following statement : -

Discontented Liberals have decided to defeat the Government in Parliament, with Labour support.

That would be the best thing that could possibly happen for the future defence of Australia. The whole trouble apparently arises from the attitude of Ministers towards a number of young ex -servicemen in this Parliament who wish to continue compulsory military training.

The Government, we are told by the press, has decided that an intake of 30,000 youths a year will provide a satisfactory defence reserve. Well, I suppose that would be so if there were no war in the future, but, if the international position is as dangerous as we have been told, an intake of 30,000 youths a year obviously will not be enough. The younger members of the Liberal party in this chamber have not been comforted by a speech made to them by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who assured them that the Government’s defence advisers were satisfied with the intake that I have mentioned. According to the Melbourne Herald, the Minister said that the Government would not modify its plans just to meet party pressure. If that is the situation within the Liberal party, the Parliament will soon have an opportunity to decide whether or not it wants to have compulsory military training. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) has put forward the best proposal I have, heard so far, and that is that, instead of putting youths into camp for 90 days, the period should he 60 days. That might not be enough, but it would be better to have more trainees in camp for 60 days than to have fewer for 90 days.

Apparently the Government is concerned with the cost of the scheme. As in 1939, if war comes, we shall not worry about the cost. I well remember the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), when he was Treasurer ft the outbreak of World War TI.., saying that, in matters of war finance, the sky was the limit. Of course the sky must be the limit! We have to act in war-time regardless of cost. If we have reason to fear that we shall again be involved in war, we ought to act much more energetically than the Government is acting. It is as lethargic, apathetic and indifferent now as it was when the honorable member for Warringah scarified it in 1951, before he entered the Parliament and became a seat-warmer for the present Australian Ambassador in Washington. It is a notorious fact that, had there been no World War II., we probably would not now have a bitumen road between Alice Springs and Darwin. People would still be travelling along a bush track beside, the overland telegraph line. Apparently we can make great forward moves for the development of this country only in time of war. Well, members of the Opposition say to Ministers, without any desire to criticize them unduly, that now is the time to start on big developmental works that have defence importance.

Unfortunately, instead of setting to work on such projects, the Government has been cutting down some of the defence services. We have seventeen squadrons in the Royal Australian Air Force, I understand, and some of them have been stationed overseas, where they have gained valuable experience. However, No. 87 Squadron, the reconnaissance squadron, has been disbanded. This squadron operated from a date some years prior to World War II. until quite recently.

It was engaged on photographic work in Australia and the adjacent islands. The Government has now given the work of photographing the mainland of Australia, and also New Guinea and adjacent areas, to private companies. It may have saved money by doing that, but the Opposition considers that it is far better, even if it costs more, to have trained men in a reconnaissance squadron doing that sort of work. Now,’ if war came, we should have to recruit a squadron somehow or other, and its members would have to be trained before they could do’ the work that would be required of them. The Opposition considers, therefore, that it was false economy to disband No. S7 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force. It is false economy, too, not to have proper defence establishments around Australia.

I have here a copy of the Queensland Digger for February, 1954, which contains an interesting resolution adopted by the .annual congress of the Queensland branch .of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers., .and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The league decided to ask the Minister for the Navy, in view of the fact that Army and Air Force installations were functioning in the far north, to give early consideration to the establishment of a permanent naval depot in far northern Queensland. The reply of the ‘then Minister was that the Navy had one of its head-quarters at Manns Island and another at -Sydney. There was a naval officer residing at Brisbane, and the Government did not propose to establish a naval depot in far northern Queensland. In fact, Queensland youths who serve in the Navy during their period of national service have to come south to Sydney. ‘That .seems to me to be nonsensical. ‘The United ‘States Navy used the port :of Cairns during World War II. and kept the neighbouring malaria swamps under control. The Chifley Labour Government promised after the ‘Avar to subsidize a scheme for the eradication ;of malaria by widening the creeks that lead into ‘Cairns harbour, ‘but that .promise was repudiated .by -.this Administration.

Mr Davidson:

– Does the honorable member suggest that Cairns should he made -a naval base’?


– I said that Cairns was used during the war by the United States Navy.

Sir Philip McBride:

– Labour promised a lot, but did not redeem its promises.


– This Government has repudiated the promise to Cairns,, which was made by the Labour Government, in the same fashion that it repudiated the promise that was made in relation to the Burdekin River proposal.. Cairns or some other port in north Queensland should be developed as a naval depot.

Sir Philip McBride:

Sir Philip McBride interjecting.


– If the Minister, as I have done, talked to the people of Cairns, especially to the brother of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who is the police inspector there,-he would find that the local citizens are highly critical of this Government for its failure to honour the promise to eradicate mosquitoes in the area surrounding Cairns, and for its refusal to develop Cairns as a naval depot, as the Americans did during World War II. I considered that it was necessary to say these things, because honorable members opposite “have fallen into the habit of saying that nothing that the Australian Labour party did was good enough, and that it merely prepared blueprints and broke promises. The truth is that the Labour Administration began every project that this Administration has in hand. The Government and its supporters have no ‘creative ability, hut I pay them the compliment of saying that they are very good imitators.


– Honorable members opposite do not even co-operate with the Government in support of the recruiting programme.


– The Vice-President of the Executive Council is well aware that it was .this Administration’s alteration of the Labour Government’s scheme that determined the attitude of honorable members on this side of the chamber. This Administration wanted to recruit troops for -service overseas, whereas the Australian -La-bour party wanted to recruit them for the defence of Australia. That matter -concerns the Citizen Military

Forces^ and has nothing to do: with volunteer forces for overseas service.

Sir Philip McBride:

– Does the honorable member want the fighting to take place in Australia?


– It may come here, and. much, sooner than any of us think. We should be totally unprepared for it if it did, and that is the. burden of the complaint of Opposition members. We on this side of the chamber will not mind if the Government expends money on equipping 34 squadrons, of the Roya] Australian Air Force. At the present juncture we should prefer emphasis to be laid upon development of the air arm rather than on any other defence measure.


– Opposition members opposed the national service training scheme.


– That is not true. The Vice-President of the Executive Council knows very well that Labour did not oppose the scheme, and that Opposition members voted for the National Service Bill when it was under consideration in this chamber. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said, all the constructive criticism of the defence programme has come from this side of the committee. If Government back-benchers offer any further criticism of the national service training scheme or of the failure to accelerate the defence programme, they will receive plenty of support from Opposition members. We, on this side of the chamber, would not sacrifice Australia’s future merely to save a few millions of pounds here or there. It is to the credit of the Curtin Labour Government that 1,000,000 men who volunteered their services, or who were called up, were clothed, fed and equipped, and served with distinction in one or other of the three branches of the services in World War II.


– - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- First, I should like to remind the honorable pretender-

Mr Calwell:

– I ask that that remark be withdrawn. I do not pretend.


– Order ! The observation was offensive, and I ask the honorable member for Bowman to withdraw it.


– If the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) considers my remark to be offensive, I shall withdraw it. The* honorable gentleman forgot an important matter - a statement made by the- late Mr. J. B. Chifley to the effect that most of the groundwork’ on which Australia’s effort in World War II. was based was laid by a government that was led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The honorable member for Melbourne cannot deny that statement, which constituted a great tribute to the first Menzies Government. We should have less hypocrisy in the discussion of these matters.

I want to mention also the newspaper report that the honorable member read. I dare say that it might be as accurate as were some recent newspaper reports to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had said that there are paid informers and treacherous liars in his own party.

Mr Haylen:

– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member not only has made an inaccurate statement,, but also has not correctly described the newspaper reports which made no mention of treacherous liars. That phrase is merely an embroidery of his own mind.


– That report was published in the Melbourne Age.


– Order ! In quoting a newspaper report,, the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) did exactly as did the honorable member for Melbourne.


– The matter mentioned in the report to which the honorable member for Melbourne referred is not within my own knowledge. I am sure that members of the committee in question would bear in mind that if they allowed any leakages of information they would be likely to destroy the committee system that the Government is trying to establish.


– Order! The honorable member may not discuss, that matter. He must confine his observations to the Estimates at present under consideration.


– The press of Australia, if it printed such reports, also would be helping to destroy what might be an effective instrument of this Parliament.

I wish to refer particularly to two matters - the Australian aircraft industry and national service training. I am not certain in my own mind that we are wise in trying to manufacture our service aircraft requirements in Australia. In recent years we have witnessed the expenditure of the fantastic sum of £8,000,000 on the production of only ten army tanks.

Mr Gullett:

– Was it not SO ?


– I thought that it was ten.

Mr Greenup:

– Does the honorable member suggest that they should have been purchased overseas?


– I shall come to that in a moment. What useful purpose are we serving by producing two aircraft and ten tanks at fantastic cost? We should bear in mind the realities of the situation. At present Australia has not a sufficiently large domestic market nor an export market sufficiently near for it to afford the cost of supporting an aircraft designing and manufacturing industry here. Such an industry can be successfully maintained only if the population of the country in which it is situated is large enough to provide a domestic market, or if another market is available nearby, and if the aircraft can be manufactured at reasonable cost.

Mr Haylen:

– Where would we get our technicians in war time ?


– I did not know that the honorable member had much knowledge of aircraft. There is no point in developing an aircraft industry unless if will serve a useful purpose. The costs of aerial warfare are very high, and our present rate of production would not enable us to replace the aircraft losses that we might expect to incur in war-time. An important aspect of the aircraft industry is that almost any aeroplane that we might propose to manufacture in Australia would be either obsolescent or obsolete before we could get it into production. I suggest that the Government give thought to the wisdom of buying aircraft, which, though they might be obsolescent, would not be obsolete, wherever it can get them overseas, and in the numbers in which we require them, and that it devote the manufacturing potential of the existing Australian aircraft industry to the production of important replacement parts for those aeroplanes. This would serve a valuable purpose for the maintenance of our own industry, and it would save us many millions of pounds.

National service training is the second matter with which I should like to deal. I appreciate the difficulties with which the Government is probably confronted in making the decisions that it has to make at present. I am not satisfied, on my own knowledge of the facts, as a private member, that the decision about which rumours are circulating would be wise in the existing circumstances. As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said this morning, there may be very good reasons why the Government might arrive at the decisions that it is supposed to have made, but at present I am not convinced that the reasons that I have heard ad,vanced justify the proposed alterations of the national service training scheme.

Mr Haylen:

– Is the honorable member one of the rebels?


– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes must cease his running fire of interjections.


– National service training gives Australia’s young men an increased sense of responsibility and of discipline that is of inestimable value in making them better citizens of our Commonwealth. This aspect of the scheme is, in its own way, perhaps of greater value than the actual defence training, and the money expended on it is by no means wasted. I firmly believe that if any one is to be required to undertake defence service, all a.ble-bodied persons should be required to do so. The additional expenditure that might be required for the training of all able-bodied men would be well warranted. Selective national service training can be justified only if we place ourselves almost on a war footing, and introduce a scheme under which every one shall be liable to direction as to where he shall work. But I do not believe that we have reached the stage at which that is necessary, and such a proposal is absolutely abhorrent to my mind in peacetime.

Mr Curtin:

– Who is the leader of the rebels ?


– It is strange that the honorable member should make that interjection. We have seen in this chamber to-day one of the finest things that has been witnessed in this Parliament for many years. We have seen supporters of the Government criticizing proposed Government policy, and I suggest that they have been quite within their rights in doing so. A most satisfying feature of that criticism is that it has been made without any personal bitterness or rancour of any sort. That is true Liberalism. I am a firm believer that in a time of national emergency, those who are elected to represent the people should do so by means of a coalition government. Throughout the history of democracy, the democracy that was founded in the United Kingdom, in times of crisis the government has become a national government, and the leaders of it have brought to the service of the country all their ability and brains. It would be quite stupid to say that there are not honorable members opposite who have brains and ability, but in times of crisis they refuse, on party political lines, to give the benefit of their brains and their ability to the country in the way that they should. It would be difficult for any government with a sense of responsibility, to consider coalescing with honorable members opposite, because I suggest that honorable members opposite would not know whom they were siding with. I conclude by saying that until I obtain further information to alter my opinion, I shall oppose any attempt to alter the principle of the universality of national service training.


.- My speech will be mainly addressed to the Department of the Army, and I intend to say something about what appears to be the rather controversial subject of national service training. The remarks of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) about forming a coalition government seem to indicate that the present Government is starting to break up, that it is in trouble and that signs are appearing similar to those that appeared before the collapse of the anti-Labour government during the last war. At that time, two supporters of the then Government decided that only a Labour government could successfully continue the prosecution of the war, and they put their ideas into effect. It seems that the same situation will shortly arise again. The mere fact that an honorable member on the Government side should mention that there are brains to be found on this side of the chamber seems to indicate that at least some supporters of the Government are looking for the leadership on this side that they have failed to find on their side.

I shall now address a few pertinent remarks to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis). The honorable ‘ member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has spoken on many occasions recently about a tragedy that occurred to certain national service trainees in New South Wales. I desire to refer to a matter that I spoke about on the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 13th April. That is the tragic death of a national service trainee, the late Trooper Lennie aged twenty years, who was burnt to death when a Staghound armoured car exploded at Unley in South Australia on the 27th March. I anticipated that after my speech on this matter I would have received some information about it from the Minister for the Army. However, to the present time he has not referred to it in this chamber. Before the inquest was to be held into the death of this national service trainee, I asked the Minister for the Army whether the Department of the Army would be prepared to pay for legal assistance at the inquest for Trooper Lennie’s father. The Minister was not able to see his way clear to grant that request, and the father had to engage counsel to appear for him.

The inquest was held, and many facts were disclosed at it. Evidence was called from three national service trainees, and that evidence indicated that the armoured car was ordered to move off from its position before the driver of the car was able to get it- ready to take part in the movement. Evidence was given that 30 minutes was required to prepare these cars for movement, and that a period of only 15 minutes was allowed on this occasion. The driver of the car stated in his evidence at the inquest that the intercommunication system was not working, and was not in order when he was commanded to move off. However, he had to obey the order, and move. Evidence was given by the three national service trainees that an unidentified officer of the Army gave them an order to store a can of petrol inside the armoured car, contrary to practice andcontrary to good judgment and the recognized method of servicing these cars. Evidence was given that that instruction had to be carried out, and that the trainees had tried to strap the can of petrol on the outside of the armoured car in the position where it was supposed to be strapped, but that there were no straps there with which it could be fixed. While they were trying to find means to fix this can of petrol, the officer came along and ordered them to stow it inside the vehicle. They were then forced to move off before they were ready to do so, with the result that before they had gone very far a tragedy occurred which resulted in the death of a young national service trainee.

The evidence at the inquest given by the three trainees, Wingate, Briscoe and Cottle was very clear. I attended the inquest and so I am not relying on anything that I have read, I am relying on what I saw and heard. The coroner said that the cause of death was accidental, but that there was evidence that an unidentified officer had given the order to move off and to stow the petrol inside the vehicle.

Mr Bowden:

– Has not the honorable member ever carried petrol in his car?


– I hope that “the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) knows the difference between carrying petrol in a private motor car and carrying it in one of these armoured military vehicles. The fact that a boy of large size could not get through the escape door of one of these armoured cars shows that in this case there is evidence of a bungle by the Army authorities. This young man lost his life through obeying the order of an officer of the Army. At the inquest there were at least four high-ranking officers, and’ all of them were familiar with the circumstances of this accident. Yet the only persons to give evidence were the three national service trainees, who all stated clearly that an officer had commanded them to move off before they were ready, and to carry a can of petrol inside the vehicle when it should have been strapped outside. I want to know why at least one of those Army officers was not called to give evidence. Moreover, why did the Army not protect itself from criticism by making some statement about the reason for not calling its officers to give evidence? Why has it allowed the evidence of the national service trainees to. go unchallenged? No one has come forward to give any reasons at all why this tragedy should have taken place. The coroner himself said that there wasroom for further investigation, but that he did not believe that it was his duty to apportion the blame in an incident like this. I do not know whether the Army has held a further inquiry, but if it has the public should have been told the facts .about the whole of thisincident. We should have been told who the officer was who gave these orders.

Mr Brown:

– We know.


– Perhaps the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) knows who it was, but . the people of South Australia do not know and the parents of the boy who lost his life do not know. It is all very well for the honorable member to smile about this matter, but I wonder what he would think about it if it had been his own son who had lost his life. What would he feel like if three fellow trainees of his own son had given evidence that some officer was responsible for his son losing his life, and the Army had said nothing at all about the matter? I ask the Minister for the Army to produce the Army files relating to this matter, and to lethonorable members know whether the Army did hold a real inquiry into the incident. Moreover, he should tell this Parliament what has happened to the officer who gave the orders to these trainees. Is he still in the Army? The Minister should make it clear to the people that never again will such an officer be allowed to instruct trainees that petrol is to be carried inside a vehicle. Honorable members should also note well that it is quite contrary to all practice that petrol should be so carried, and that carrying it inside the car caused the loss of this lad’s life.

Much has been said about national service training, and I was pleased to learn of a suggestion that certain young men may be exempted from this training. I believe that men of service age who are engaged in primary production and who are apprentices in industry like the metal trades industry, should be exempted from national service training. Such apprentices would be exempted from call-up if war should break out to-morrow, because they are needed to do vital work in the munitions factories.


– They would also be needed in the services.


– I suggest that they would be needed more in the Department of Defence Production and in the munitions factories which would be doing absolutely essential work. Apparently, the Army believes that it is unable to train a large number of. youths who are coming of age for service, and the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has showed wisdom in considering a system of exemptions to overcome the difficulty. I believe that it might be worthwhile to provide that national service trainees shall fulfil all. their training obligations during one term of training. I believe that youths would benefit more from the training and would learn more, if they were trained in one operation rather than by three months’ camp training and then by odd night and week-end parades in the Citizen Military Forces. Honorable members know that night training parades are not a very serious matter in many Army units. Possibly, it would be a sound move to abolish the present citizen force units, in which the youths are placed when they complete their national service training. The money which would be saved by the abolition of the volunteer units could be used to provide a better method of national service training. Perhaps, the youths could be given intensified training for five months, and at the con clusion of that period they would have no further obligation to undergo military training. The next group of eighteenyearolds could then be given a similar course of intensified training.

I ask the Minister for Defence to examine the compensation cover now provided for national service trainees. I do not consider that the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is adequate in respect of such persons. Special legislation should be introduced to cover them. I think that the Minister for the Army recognizes that considerable difficulty has arisen under the existing system, and I hope that he will improve the position. Compensation should be paid without delay to national service trainees who become entitled to it, and the many legal formalities that must be complied with at the present time should be abolished. Some parents have had to engage solicitors to make application for compensation, and they can ill afford to incur these legal expenses. I believe that provision should be made for counsel to be engaged to advise in a case when a national service trainee is injured, becomes ill, or loses his life.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- The defence estimates, I think all honorable members will agree, have a greater significance this year than possibly at any time since 1945. We know all too well that there is a virtual state of crisis in East Asia. Recent events in Indo-China have been a very sharp reminder of that. We are aware that an explosion may occur within the next few days, or weeks, in the straits of Formosa. We are also apprehensive of a situation of the greatest delicacy which has arisen in Western Europe, consequent upon the rejection by France of the European Defence Community. Last month, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in an historic and momentous utterance, committed Australia to international obligations, the like of which we have not undertaken hitherto in peace-time. These obligations will entail, one must assume, a larger regular army, to be available for service anywhere at almost instantaneous notice; a far more powerful air force than we now possess; and emphasis, above all, on mobility and a condition of preparedness such as Australia has not experienced except in war.

The circumstances in which, most unhappily, we find ourselves situated, must, I suggest, place additional stress on the value of national service training, which has flared up into a matter of some controversy in the debate to-day. The success of the Government’s national service scheme has been widely acclaimed in all quarters. It is no exaggeration to say that it has exceeded the most optimistic expectations. Perhaps it is not so suitable in the Navy and for the Air Force, but so far as the Army 13 concerned, and, indeed, for all branches generally, it provides a groundwork which is quite invaluable. It was interesting to hear the views of Opposition members this afternoon on this matter. Do not let us forget that they were most strenuous, most bitter and most vigorous in their opposition to the national service legislation when it was passed through this chamber in 1950 and 1951. But many of the erstwhile opponents of the scheme are now, it seems, quite converted to the great benefits which flow from this fine achievement of the Government.

Mr Tom Burke:

– That statement is quite incorrect, of course.


– If it h incorrect, the official records of this Parliament in Hansard are also incorrect. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) is well aware of the situation.

New circumstances have now arisen resulting from a growth of population, it seems, according to various statements that have appeared in the press, that the intake this year is expected to be between 33,000 and 34,000, and we are informed that this figure will continue to grow to perhaps double that number in a future which is not far distant. It must be quite apparent to the committee that if all those men are to be trained, quite considerable extra cost will fall upon the Treasury. I have not got the figure, but it may be between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000. It must also be apparent that this increase in the number of poten tial trainees will entail larger camps and more instructors.

Let me say at once that I hope that these conditions, which ought to have been anticipated both by the Government and its advisers, will not induce Ministers to depart from the principle of universality of military training, which the two parties on this side of the chamber so strongly support. National service training, we cannot emphasize too often, is not only a defence measure but also a great social experiment. On the defence side, it should be axiomatic in any nation in the contemporary world that every man should know how to defend both his country and himself. Three months may be too short a time for him to learn this art, but at least during that period he can acquire the rudiments of training. Whatever the character of warfare in the future, training in physique, discipline, team work and the use of arms must be accepted by all honorable members as indispensable.

On the social side, nothing can lead to a greater understanding in the community between the different classes and occupations pf which any nation is made up, than the community life of its young men in camps for a period of three months, or longer. The experience is, in a sense, a matchless one, an immeasurable one, and I say to the committee that, on this ground alone, the expenditure of many millions of pounds is amply justified.

This is not an occasion, of all periods in history, to mark time with such a scheme. We are still aware of the Prime Minister’s warning which rang in our ears only last month. We know only too well that within the past fortnight, the Minister for Externa] Affairs (Mr. Casey) has played a leading part in Manila in negotiating the Seato agreement. It is no exaggeration to say that the world to-day is looking to Australia not merely to continue as hitherto, but to do more in the sphere of national and international defence. Therefore, it is not a valid objection to say that the calling up of our available youth would cost us another £10,000,000, or that instructors are not available. We all know that if the will is there and the desire is there on the part of the Administration, the money can be found; and I believe, too, that the instructors would be forthcoming.

Some honorable members on this side of the chamber and, I hope, elsewhere, are disquieted at the rumours that have appeared in the press that the Government is considering amending the scheme so that primary producers and rural workers, and men beyond the five mile limits of a training camp, will henceforth be exempt. I, personally, am disturbed at this rumour, because if the amended scheme were brought into effect, it would be an infringement of the whole principle of universality of military training for which we on this side of the chamber stand. Furthermore, exemption of those groups would be, in practice, quite untenable. For one thing, this country would be denied, at a blow, the use of its finest and most valuable potential troops - the men who come from the country. Secondly it would, in operation, be an unfair discrimination not only between metropolitan areas and rural districts, but also between the citizens of different occupations in rural areas. Consider, for example, the position of the son of a primary-producer. The parent might be a notable grazier, a fruit-grower or a farmer. If the son were working on his father’s property, he would be exempt from training. But living perhaps only a mile or so away in country towns, there are men engaged in business. They include storekeepers, the proprietors of garages, professional men or whatyouwill. I have many of them in districts in the electorate that I have thi; honour to represent. The sons of these men would have to do their training under the scheme that we read about in the newspapers, whereas the sons of their neighbours, engaged in rural production or in the production of raw materials, would be excused from national training. Only a moment’s thought must reveal that a situation of that kind would lead to great bitterness, to a sense of imposition and discrimination, which would react against the scheme in its entirety.

It is also arguable that if the proposals which are being mooted were put into effect, we might run into difficulty with the international obligations that we have assumed under the Anzus pact, and also under the recent Seato agreement. May I remind the committee of Article II. in the security treaty, commonly called the Anzus pact which, with one addition, has been virtually reproduced also as Article II. in the Seato agreement? The article reads in these terms -

In order more effectively to achieve the objective of this Treaty the Parties separately and jointly by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.

The effective phrase is not only maintain, but develop, their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack. Well, if marking time, though not an actual cutting down of our national service training, is not run-‘ ning counter to this undertaking, if not in language then at least in spirit, I do not know what is. I hope that before the Government makes up its mind finally on this matter, it will consider the effect that its action might have both upon Anzus and upon Seato. It is perfectly obvious that it is no use concluding a great international agreement, and trumpeting its effect all round the world, unless we are, right from the beginning prepared to live up to the obligations that we assume. All this talk of altering the basis of national service training is foolishly timed, discriminating, unfair, and unsound.

If the chiefs of staff are pressing the Minister for Defence and other Ministers to agree to the alteration, well, then, I agree with what my friend the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said in such challenging and ringing tones this morning, that the Government should seek other advisers. And to do so the Government would not have very far to go. Do not let us forget that in this Parliament there sit two generals and an air-vice marshal, and many members on the Government side who had most distinguished careers in the three services in the recent war. I earnestly beg the Government not to yield to siren voices. If it does, it will be an act of grave misjudgment, and it will also be a departure from the election pledges made by the coalition in 1949.


.- These Estimates represent, probably, the most substantial section of government expenditure and involve some, of the most essential services that. are. provided in this- country in peace as well as in war. It is, important that the committee, should examine, what. the. Government is doing in respect of defence services and ascertain not only whether the administration of those services is all that might be desired but also whether the expenditure of this sum of over £200,000,000 will be incurred in a way that will ensure the adequate defence of this nation. In common with other honorable members on this side of the chamber and a large section of the. Australian community I am disturbed at the manner in which expenditure under this heading is’ being incurred. Intense . dissatisfaction exists in the community with the manner in which the. Government is implementing its defence, plans. The people are concerned about the fact that no worthwhile results can be seen for the expenditure that has already been incurred. It is obvious that members of the .Government parties are at sixes and sevens on the problem of defence. The Government is constantly changing its defence policy. Only a few nights ago in this chamber we’ witnessed the spectacle of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) being unable to make a speech in the course of this debate because the Government had changed its defence policy in respect of national service practically in mid air. To-day’s Sydney Sun publishes an article which states that certain members of the Liberal party are in revolt against the Government’s policy in that respect. That article reads -

Discontented Liberals have decided to defeat the Government in Parliament, with Labour support.

They will seek a minor issue on which to stage their revolt,, because they do not wish to wreck the Goverment, only frighten it.

The members held a secret meeting on Tuesday night.

Causes of discontent are the Government’s decision to curtail national service training, and its policy on television.

These members say that if youths who live more than five miles from a drill hall, are exempt from call-up, every squatters’ son would escape training.

I shall inform the Government about a few matters on which it appears to be most ill-informed at present. The honorable member for ‘ Henty ‘ (Mr. Gullett), the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse.) and the honorable member for Evans. (Mr. Osborne), who are the. rebels in the Government’s ranks as a result of this change of policy, realize that under the Government’s new proposal, whereas every youth who resides in a large town, or city, will be obliged to undergo national service training, the sons of. the squattocracy will not be called upon to perform that service. The Australian Country party dictates to the Government what it must do with respect to this aspect of .defence. The” members of the Australian Country party are prepared to sacrifice all city interests in order that the vested interests which they represent in the Parliament might be enabled to avoid making their contribution to national defence.

The Government has expended over £700,000,000 on defence since it assumed office at the end of 1949. On the eve of the last general election, it changed its policy completely with the result that, to-day, it has nothing to show in the sphere of defence. Its supporters are fighting among themselves. Socalled militants within the Government parties are staging a palace revolution ostensibly because of the Government’s action in changing its defence policy. Although the public was advised in the press and over the air that the Minister for Defence was to ‘speak in this chamber at 8 o’clock on’ a certain night, he was precluded from doing so because of this sudden, revolutionary change in the Government’s policy on national military training. To-day, the Government is unable to make any pronouncement on this subject, and its supporters can only give lip service to its so-called defence policy.

While,, personally, I like the Minister for the Army and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis), he must go on record as an incompetent administrator of those services. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has repeatedly dealt with the tragic accident. involving the deaths of three young men, in the, course of army exercises recently in Stockton Bight, but that matter is still clouded because the Minister refuses to answer the challenge that that honorable member has thrown out to him in respect of that accident. “What can that Minister, or the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) and other service Ministers show for their administration? What is the state of our defence preparations at Darwin, for instance? At that centre our air force consists of one Dakota, one Wirraway, and one Lincoln bomber. I understand that the Lincoln bomber is falling to pieces, and that no facilities are available at Darwin to effect repairs to aircraft. Recently, when an aircraft engine broke down it had to be flown to a city in the south and returned by air to Darwin at a cost of thousands of pounds. That expenditure was incurred because facilities are not available at Darwin to effect repairs to aircraft. The defence of the Northern Territory is vital to the defence of this country as a whole, yet, at present, there are only 500 army personnel in the Territory, including cooks, clerks and batmen. That force has the responsibility of guarding 4,000 miles of coastline and of providing .adequate protection to the people in the Northern Territory, the Gulf country and in the Kimberley region. Yet, this Government objects to criticism that members of the Opposition have levelled at the administration of the defence services. Is such criticism cause for wonderment when every one is aware of the discontent that exists within the ranks of the Government parties?

Practically on the eve of the last general election, the Government changed its policy with a view to concentrating to a greater degree upon strengthening our air defences, but, to-day, the Government has nothing to show in the Northern Territory, or in other vulnerable regions of this continent for the huge defence expenditure that it has incurred. In other words, it is back where it was just after it assumed office at the end of 1949. It is only natural,therefore, that the people should bo wondering how this money is being expended, and how much more is to be poured down the drain, and what plan, ultimately, will the Government evolve for the defence of this country. Last year, the Government budgeted for an expenditure of £200,000,000 for defence, and of that amount it had an unexpended balance of £23,000,000 at the end of the financial year. Honorable members have, not yet been given details of that expenditure. Some of it, however, has been incurred in the procurement of luxury motor cars for service officers and in the construction of luxury quarters for service officers at Manus Island. Furthermore, the committee has not been informed of the proportion of that sum of £200,000,000 that has actually been expended in making provision for effective defence, particularly in the form of grants that should be made available to the State governments to enable them to increase the nation’s productive capacity and thus ensure our safety should we be challenged by an aggressor. As the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) pointed out, the Government has refused to make adequate loan moneys available to. the Queensland Government to enable it to provide strategic roads. Why has not the Government provided financial assistance to the States for developmental works that are essential to effective defence? The Government would be far better occupied giving attention to those matters than in con.sidering haphazard schemes. I am not the only one who is critical of the Government’s defence measures. Sir John Storey, who was formerly chairman of the Joint War Production Committee, said a year ago -

We are spending £200,000,000 a year on defence. The defence services and manufacturers are not working closely together and much of the .benefit of this huge expenditure is being lost. There is no crusade, no target to which to build.

I do not doubt that the Government has no defence target. A few years ago, as a result of the action of the Government in imposing severe financial restrictions, the Department of Defence Production hardly let one contract for the supply of defence material, although, at that time, industries in this country were crying out for assistance. Those industries were forced to close. An examination of the Government’s record on defence will show that it has never made any real effective approach to this problem. 5 marvel at the confidence with which service Ministers claim that the Government is doing a good job in this sphere. A few days ago the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) visited the Northern Territory and announced publicly that everything was O.K. with our air defences and that there was no need to worry about the defence of the Territory. However, while the Minister was still in Darwin a civilian entered upon the airfield at Darwin and attempted to steal an aircraft belonging to Trans-Australia Airlines. His attempt would not have been frustrated but for the fact that another civilian happened to spot hiro. Yet, The Minister declares that our defences at Darwin are in working order !

I should like to be able to give my full support to * the Government insofar as defence is concerned, but, having regard to its present policy, I cannot do so. The Australian Labour party is the only party in this country that has ever effectively defended it. I am not quibbling at the amount that is being expended on defence. Unfortunately, such expenditure is essential. But with other members of the community I am concerned about the way in which that expenditure is being incurred. If I were assured that the administration of our defence services was effective and cohesive and that the Government had a definite, worthwhile plan, I should give my full support to its programme. However, when one ser.vice Minister refuses to answer inquiries by honorable members with respect to matters of Army administration, and another service Minister . is precluded from making a speech on the Government’s defence policy because honorable members on the Government back benches revolted against a sudden change in its policy, one can only wonder what the Government really intends to do. The Minister for Defence Production, who has a full-time job in administering the affairs of this chamber when the Parliament is in session, has not given any indication that his department is dealing effectively with defence production. I regret that my time is about to expire, but I am pleased to have had this opportunity to place on record the views of members of the Opposition with respect to the manner in which the vote for the defence services is being allocated and administered. “When honorable members on this side of the chamber vividly remember the record of the anti-Labour governments prior to 1939 they can have no confidence in this Government’s policy. After the outbreak of two world wars, anti-Labour governments which were then in office were thrown out in order to make way for Labour governments to provide effectively for the defence of this country. I trust that the services Ministers and the militant back-benchers in the Government parties will inform the committee of their views on this important issue. I trust that they will inform the committee whether the Government has a defence policy and, if it has, that they will give us some idea of it. Furthermore, the Government should inform the committee of the ways in which it has expended moneys that have been voted for defence since it assumed office.


– I am astonished that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who is Opposition Whip, left himself so wide open to the answer that must inevitably be evoked by his remarks. He quoted from a press report, and sought to derive political advantage from it. I notice that he did not say that he vouched for the truth of the report. I do not know whether he would vouch for the truth of the press statement attributed to his leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), that there were paid informers within the Labour party. If he would vouch for the truth of one it could be expected that he would vouch for the truth of the other. It seems to me that if the Leader of the Opposition has so little confidence in his own party as to tell the world that there are paid informers in its ranks, the once great Labour party has sunk to an extraordinarily low level. After having read the press canard, the honorable member for Grayndler went on to say that the Labour party is the only party that has attended to this country’s defence needs. Speaker after speaker on the other side of the chamber has sought to take political advantage of the vital importance of national service training. They all embrace the national service scheme with open arms. Let us examine, however, the Labour party’s record with regard to national service. First let me remind honorable gentlemen opposite of the statement made in the 1953-54 edition of the publication Australian Labour Party Rules and Constitution, and the Policy and Platform. Under the heading “Defence” on page 58, the following statement is made regarding the party’s policy -

Amending the Defence Act by deleting all clauses relating to compulsory military training and service.

So honorable gentlemen opposite are bound by their party platform to oppose national service training. And they have opposed it! They have been true to their platform.’ In 1931, the then Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, suspended compulsory military service, which had meant so much to this country in World War I. He also reduced the average defence allocation from about £6,700,000 to about £3,200,000. Those are small figures compared with our present annual vote of £200,000,000 for defence. Those actions are the clues to Labour’s attitude to defence. Time and time again honorable members on this side of the chamber have quoted some extraordinary remarks about defence that were made by members of the Labour party. I do not wish to add to the list although I shall possibly do so later. I notice that on the Opposition front bench at the moment sits the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). On the 12th October, 1938, almost on the eve of World War LT.,1 the honorable member for Lalor said in this chamber -

Personally, I would not spend threepence on armament works or on defence works of any kind in Australia.

The then honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked-

Then why not cease all defence preparations?

The honorable member for Lalor replied -

I would.

I am quoting these remarks from Volume 157 of Hansard, at page 641. So even honorable members opposite who were

Ministers in the Labour Government, and are now members of the Labour party’3 parliamentary executive, ran true to form. Honorable members will also recall that before the National Service Bill was introduced in this chamber its principles were violently opposed by Labour. Mr. Kennelly, who was then” secretary of the Australian Labour party, and who is now Senator Kennelly, said on the 28th September, 1950, that the Labour party would use its majority in the Senate to defeat any legislation that the Menzies Government introduced to authorize compulsory military training. On the preceding day the federal executive of the Labour party had reaffirmed its opposition to compulsory military training.

The committee can easily see that Labour has been at least consistent in its opposition to national service. The National Service Bill was passed through the House of Representatives by a majority on the Government side of thi) House. Its passage through the Senate was delayed for about sixteen weeks by the Labour majority in that chamber. The bill was not passed by the Senate until the federal conference of the Australian Labour party directed the Senate to pass it. After that direction had been given the professed representatives of the people changed their minds rapidly, took the advice of the outside executive, and voted to allow the bill to go through. That is some of the history of the Labour party with regard to national service. But now honorable gentlemen opposite come forth as supporters of national service, and demand that more attention shall be given to our defences. Who opposed the national service scheme when we introduced it? The Labour party! Who opposed our recruiting campaign, which was designed to increase the strength of our- forces? The Labour party! Honorable gentlemen opposite were not even prepared to help us with recruiting. So what is the use of honorable members opposite talking with their tongues in their cheeks in an endeavour to capitalize on statements that may be made by honorable members on this side of the chamber who have fought for their country and have distinguished themselves on the field of battle, but who may have a difference of opinion with the Government in connexion with one section of the services? It is ill-advised of honorable members opposite to adopt that attitude, because their own records in regard to defence are against them.

The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) said that he considered that our defence machinery was not perfect, because we were unable to build modern aircraft in Australia. He said he would rather that we purchased our fighting aircraft overseas, that we should use our government aircraft factories for the making of parts, and destroy our present potential for manufacturing complete aircraft. His contention was that by the time we had produced aircraft of a certain design they were already becoming obsolescent. I should be happy to make arrangements for the honorable gentleman to inspect the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s factory and the government aircraft factory. I think that after he has inspected them he will alter his opinion. I point out to him that the government aircraft factory went into production of the Canberra light bomber at about the same time as the United States of America started to produce it, and beat the United States of America in getting the first bomber off the line. I remind him that the Canberra bomber was one of the most outstanding of the aircraft that took part in the recent London to” Auckland air race, and stood up to all the demands made on it in that race. I remind him also that the Avon Sabre, which is a purely Australian adaptation of the American Sabre, is about 50 per cent, greater in power, and has a greater striking capacity, than the American Sabre has, because it is armed with cannon. The Avon Sabre is powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon engine. The entire fuselage was re-designed. Honorable members who are familiar. with the performance of American Sabres against top-line Communist planes, and know that they proved themselves more than the equal of the Communist planes, will have some idea of the value of the Australian version of the Sabre, because, as I have said, it is more powerful than the American Sabre, which has already proved itself in battle. I do not know of any better fighting aircraft at present in production than the Avon Sabre. I also remind the honorable gentleman of the difficulties that face a country such asAustralia, which lies so far from the main.” centres of aircraft and armament production. Everybody will recall that during the last war we were unable to obtain aircraft from overseas, and had to manufacture our own. We then produced in our factories more than 1,000 aircraft. ¥edid not lose one aircraft out of that great number made in Australia through a structural fault. We can repeat that performance if ever we are called upon todo so in case of war. We must have, in this country, the potential to defend ourselves, because we are so far removed from the main world centres that we arenot likely to receive, in time of war, theconsideration from the major aircraftproducing countries that we should receive. We must, therefore, be in a position to manufacture aircraft for ourselves. It is important that we should’ have in existence an aircraftmanufacturing industry that can be expanded to meet any emergency.

A great deal has been said to-day about the Auditor-General’s remarks in. relation, to the various services departments. Thatis fair. I have been in Opposition, and I have used the Auditor-General’s comments as ammunition to fire at the government of the day. So a familiar chord was struck when I heard the honorablemember for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) quoting in his arguments against the Government remarks made in the AuditorGeneral’s report. I remind the honorable member that when the Labour Government was in office it was not guiltless, if the degree of guilt is to be measured by the nature of the commentsmade by the Auditor-General. In his- 1947-48 report, the Auditor-General said that in spite of criticism by him which had extended over five years, little had’ been done to prevent thefts of property from service departments, and that the total lost to the 30th June, 1948, was £420,536. Referring to the Department of” Air and the Department of the Army he said that little had been done to rectify grave accounting deficiencies to which previous reports had drawn attention. Discusisng munitions establishments, theAuditorGeneral said that the practice of engaging in civilian production and of charging the difference between costs of production and quotations, when lower, to parliamentary appropriations, continued during 1947-48. He said that the amount reimbursed to munitions factories for the year ended the 30th June, 1948, amounted to £304,855, making the aggregate charge to public funds at that date £959,350.

So the honorable member will realize that the Labour party is not guiltless. The Auditor-General had something to say in hi3 annual report for 1943-44 about the Department of Supply, which had something to do with the control of leather and footwear. He drew attention to the refusal of the Department of Supply and Shipping to meet claims made by the Controller of Leather and Footwear, who had claimed £2,462 for the use of government cars as a charge on the department. The department met claims for £1,233, but refused to meet the balance on the ground that “ the mileage represented by these accounts cannot be regarded as transport undertaken in the course of his duties as Controller of Footwear “. This balance was then charged to a division “ Conveyance of Members of Parliament and Others”. The total claim of £2,462 was in respect of the eighteen months from the 1st July, 1943, and represented a considerable mileage. When the controller, the person responsible, was spoken to about it, he said, “ I am not much concerned about what the Auditor-General has to say “. That remark sums up the attitude of the then Labour Government. It was not concerned with the Auditor-General’s remarks. Honorable gentlemen opposite should remember these very stringent remarks made during the Labour party’s regime by the Auditor-General, and compare them with the comparatively mild criticisms that he has directed against the departments controlled by this Government.

I have shown how the honorable member for Grayndler has laid himself open by quoting newspaper reports, little thinking that other newspaper reports of a much more devastating nature could be quoted against his party. The honorable member for Macquarie quoted from the Auditor-General’s reports, little thinking, that much more violent criti cisms by the Auditor-General against a Labour administration could be quoted here. I put it to the committee that I have proved conclusively that the Labour party .is not interested in national service. Again and again, the Labour party has been proved to be recalcitrant in relation to this matter. Let me remind the honorable member for Macquarie, and honorable members opposite who have recently been elected to the Parliament, that they would do well, before rising to criticize the Government, to examine the record of their own party in relation to defence. If they examine that record, I venture to state that, if they are sincere in their approach to the subject, they will be too ashamed to rise in their places to criticize a government the record of which is typified by the presence in its ranks of a number of men who have rendered gallant service to their country.

Honorable members interjecting ,

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Adermann:

Order ! When the committee comes to order, we shall proceed.


– I do not want to take up further time, because I think it is desirable that other honorable members should have an opportunity of speaking. I felt that I should reply to misrepresentations that have been made throughout the day. I sat and listened until I became so overcome with emotion that I was forced to rise to my feet to defend the Government.

Port Adelaide

– I am sorry that the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) is so overcome that he is able to smile happily about it. I challenge the statement of the right honorable gentleman that this Government is the only one that can defend this country, and that it has had results. He went back to 1931 and referred to the suspension of the nationalservice training scheme, but he did not tell the people that, at that time, the Treasury was nearly empty, and that there were hundreds of thousands of people who were unemployed. I was then a member of a State parliament which sought financial assistance from the Australian Government to help unemployed people, but, because of the manner in which the Commonwealth Bank was tied up and of the dictatorial methods that were employed, it could not obtain that assistance. Mr. Scullin was responsible for the suspension of the scheme. If it was wrong to suspend the scheme, I remind the right honorable gentleman that his Government was returned to office in 1931. But when it assumed office, what did it do? It drifted along and drifted along. In spite of that record, Government supporters talk about the ability of this Government to defend this country. The Government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member was turned out of office in the middle of the war years, when defence of the country was needed. Then the Australian Labour party, a minority party, assumed office and continued the war effort.

Government supporters speak about compulsion and about wanting men to defend Australia. Which government compelled men to take up arms and go outside this country to defend it? Did the Liberal and Australian Country party Government do it? No, it did not. I was present at the conference at which Mr. Curtin took upon his own shoulders the responsibility of saying to the Labour party, “ It is essential that we have compulsory military service outside Australia “. The party which Government supporters are now trying to deride decided at that conference that the whole of Australia’s resources of men, money and materials should be used for the effective prosecution of the war effort. The Labour party made that decision when we were in the middle of World War IT. At that time that party sought to defend this country in the way in which it should be defended. I do not like the type of argument that was advanced by the Minister for Defence Production. He said, in effect, “ If wo are sincere, we must acknowledge that a Liberal and Australian Country party government is the only government that can defend this country, and that the Labour party cannot defend it “. The right honorable gentleman made a snide reference to a statement that was made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He quoted from Hansard the statement of the honorable member for Lalor that he would not spend 3d. on armaments. But the right honorable gentleman did not tell the committee that, in that same speech, the honorable member for Lalor stated that, while there were hundreds of thousands of people unemployed in this country who were not able to get a job, he would not spend 3d. on defence.

Government supporters interjecting,


– A Government supporter asks, “What is the difference ? “. There is a tremendous difference. The Government talks about national service training. The Liberal and Australian Country party Government introduced national service training. I have stated before that when this Government introduces a scheme, in twelve months’ time it invariably discovers that, it wants to alter it. When this Government introduced national service training, I argued that, if it was good enough for one, it was good enough for all. I still argue that, if it is necessary to train the young men of this country, it is necessary, not only for a few of them, but also for all of them. If the Government does not wish to retain the national service training scheme, let it abolish the’ scheme. It should not allow the existing act to remain on the statute-book and then say that a man who is beyond the five-mile limit of a drill hall is not obliged to undergo training. Such an attitude is ridiculous. One Government supporter cited the case of a dairyman whose son was required to undergo national service training. There are men in’ my electorate who have saved and put all of their money into a business, and who have pleaded with me to try to have them exempted from training because they have not been able to find anybody to conduct their business during their absence in camp. When such cases have been submitted to the appropriate department, it has stated “ No, we cannot exempt this man. He must undergo his national service training “. I suppose the Government would say to every young man in my electorate, “ You arc within 5 miles of a drill hall”. It is not the hardship of going to a drill hall, and the hardship that is occasioned to a young man who works on a dairy farm and whose father has a motor car in which he may travel 10 miles to a drill hall, about which honorable members are complaining. They are complaining about sending young men to camp for three months. There is not a camp within 5 miles of any one who resides in my electorate. The nearest camp is 40 or 50 miles away. If the Government is honest, if it is straightforward, and if it is fair and square when it speaks about the limit of 5 miles, it should say to the men in my electorate, “ You are more than 5 miles away from. Woodside or any other camp in which you would have to do your training. Therefore, you will be exempt “.

Another honorable member suggested that the Government should exempt apprentices. Does the Government intend to tell a lad who is not an apprentice that he must do three months’ training? One Government supporter who is an exserviceman, referred to the fact that in the past, on the outbreak of war, men have had to be sent away without proper training. If the Government gives effect to its proposal, it will place men in a position where they will not have a fair chance of saving their lives during the fighting. It has stated that it wants the men to be trained, and that it wants them to be trained properly. If it wishes young men to receive proper training, how can it ensure that all of them are properly trained if it accepts some but tells others that they need not undergo national service training? The Government will say to those men who are trained, “ When you are trained, we are going to compel you to go away first to hold the fort until we train the other men”. I remind Government supporters that the argument that they advance to-day is different from the argument that was advanced when it introduced the national service training scheme three or four years ago. One Government supporter stated to-day that the annual intake of youths will rise from 30,000 to 33,000 and, with an increase of population, it may go to 40,000. Even if the figure rose to 40,000 or 50,000, would the Government be right if it told 25,000 men that they must, undergo training but told the other 25,000 that they need not undergo training? If, as honorable members have stated, it is a good thing to introduce discipline into the lives of young men, and if it is good to give them training that will improve their physical condition, why reserve it for only 50 or 60 per cent, of those who are eligible for training? Any attempt by this Government to single out certain sections of the community for national service training, and to exempt others, will meet with my opposition.

My personal opinion has always been that national service training is a good thing. I believe in it. But, I abide by the decisions of the party to which I belong. I know that supporters of the Government do likewise. Reference has been made to rebels, but I do not speak about rebels. I remind honorable members opposite that, when they supported the introduction of legislation for the establishment of the national service training scheme, they believed that that legislation was intended to provide for national service training and not sectional service training. If I were a supporter of a government that wanted to turn tail and change the nature of the scheme, and if that government wanted me to support its action, I would say, “ No. I agreed to the introduction of national service training. If you do not retain it as a national service training scheme, I will not support anything else”. I think that supporters of the Government are entitled to adopt that attitude without being described as rebels.

If there is not sufficient money available to train all of the men for the prescribed period, I suggest that the Government should reduce the period sufficiently to enable all eligible young men to undergo the necessary basic training. Let all of them do their share. Do not limit it to sections of the community. Certain classes of men may be exempt, but it seems to me that the poor old labourer is included every time. It seems that an effort is being made to give protection to certain sections of the community.

Mr Hamilton:

– Rot!


– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) may say ‘ Rot ! “, but it would be unfair to the young men of this country if the Government were to decide that those who were beyond the five-mile limit did not come under the scheme.

I was pleased to hear the Minister for Defence Production refer to the manufacture of aircraft, but I was amazed when I heard a Government supporter state that Australia should not be making aircraft. My thoughts went back to the days of World v War II., and to the manufacture of Beaufort bombers. I thought of the blueprints that were sent from England, and which came into the heart of my electorate, and of the men who were employed in the manufacture of those aircraft. I remind the Government that it cannot buy all the aircraft it wants years before it wants them. We might have a good reserve of aircraft, and we might make them, but we must be in such a position’ that, when the need arises, we are able to manufacture more with the plant we have. I know that the Minister expressed the Government’s point of view. I believe it is essential that Australia should have the means of producing the aircraft that it requires. Even if it costs us a lot of money to build them, surely it would not cost much more than it is costing the Government to do other things.


– Order! The time for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Defence, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Air, the Department of Supply, the Department of Defence Production and Civil Defence has expired.

Proposed votes agreed to.

Miscellaneous SERVICES

Proposed vote, £22,199,000.

Refunds of Revenue

Proposed vote, £22,000,000.

Advance to the Treasures.

Proposed vote, £16,000,000.

Bounties and Subsidies

Proposed vote, £20,250,000.

War and Repatriation Services

Proposed vote, £17,593,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)


.- I shall direct the attention of the committee first to the cotton bounty, and later, if time permits, to the generous subsidy that has been paid by this Government in order’ to foster the . development of the Callide coal industry. Honorable members will recall that the cotton industry was in a bad state when the present Government took office in 1949. Ninety per cent, of the cotton grown in Australia is produced in the electorate that I represent. You, Mr. Chairman, will recall that, as the honorable member for Maranoa in the closing days of the Eighteenth Parliament in 1949, you asked the Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, whether Cabinet had considered the Tariff Board report on the cotton industry and requested him to indicate the Government’s attitude towards the industry. Mr. Chifley made the following answer to your inquiry: -

In reply to the honorable member for Maranoa, and to honorable members on thiGovernment side of the House who have questioned me or written letters to me on the subject, I can say that Cabinet has done as I said it would do. This morning, it considered the Tariff Board’s report on the cotton indue try. Ministers have had an opportunity to study the board’s report, and the Government has decided to pay off the debt owing by the Queensland Cotton Board, so that the board and the growers will be able to make a fresh start. Nothing more than that ha.s been done.

I remember how irate you and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who is now the Minister for the Army, were when the Chifley Government turned the cotton industry down flat and said that there was no future for cottongrowing in Australia. That Government refused to pay a bounty or to protect the industry in any way. Thus, it was left, for this Government to deal with the problems of the industry. Most of Australia’.? cotton supplies at that time were being imported, and the development of the local industry had the virtues of effecting dollar savings and establishing a vital strategic asset for the defence effort. Therefore, at the first opportunity thi” Government introduced legislation to provide for the payment of a bounty on Australian cotton. The guarantee was made applicable, not for one year, but for a period of five years, so that the industry could prove to the satisfaction of everybody concerned its ability to produce good-quality cotton at an economical price.

The response to this stimulus in the first year was fairly small, but, with the passage of time, trie industry has demonstrated conclusively that cotton is a profitable crop and that it is of importance to Australia’s economy. It is significant that only £17,651 was disbursed by the Government for the assistance of the industry last year although- an amount of £65,000 was available. This year, the Government proposes that £50,000 should be appropriated for the scheme. It is a tribute to the cotton-growers and the Cotton Marketing Board of Queensland that, in the four years during which government assistance has been provided, expenditure has remained remarkably low although the area under cotton has increased from 600 to 8,000 acres. I am confident that, if the crop had not’ been spoiled by the disastrous flood in the region of the Fitzroy tributaries this year, the total of 2,800 bales of raw cotton lint garnered in the recent harvest would have been substantially exceeded. The Cotton Marketing Board has contributed in a large measure to the success of the industry. It now has about twelve cotton harvesters moving about the countryside at harvest time so that the crop can be gathered economically.

The fifth and last year of the current scheme will cover the. 1955-56 harvest. The ] present guaranteed price is 14d. per lb. The success that has attended the Government’s efforts to give the industry a fresh start, warrants a continuance of the bounty scheme for a further period of five years in accordance with ruling, world prices. Upon the authority of the Cotton Marketing Board, which has made a survey of the world economic situation,. I confidently predict that, if the scheme is cowtinued, Iit will not be necessary to guarantee a price of more than 14d. per lb. until the 1958-59 harvest.’ It is expected that continuation of the guaranteed price arrangement will lead to- an extension of cotton-growing, not only in the region of the Fitzroy tributaries, but also in the Burdekin area and the northern parts of Queensland, which will increase the acreage from the present 8,000 acres to not less than 60,000 acres within three years. Such a development will make a valuable contribution to our economy, and therefore I ask the Government to make an early announcement of its plans for the future: I urge it to do so soon because growers at present do not devote the whole of their time to cotton production. Cotton is a rotational crop, and the growers must be able to make plans for some time ahead. Many farmers are changing over from the growing of sorghum to cotton-raising. Dairymen, too, have begun to look upon cotton as a good rotational crop for the improvement of their pastures. If they are given a calm assurance by this Government that the guaranteed price scheme will be extended for another five-year period, I have no doubt that the future of the industry in Queensland will be bright and prosperous.

I hope that the Queensland Government will help the industry. When the Chifley Labour Government refused to help cotton-growers in 1949, the Queensland Government also withheld practical help. This Government, however, has demonstrated that the industry deserves encouragement because it is already contributing to the stability of the national economy. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) has listened sympathetically to representations that have been made to him at various times, not only in favour of the bounty system, but also in favour of the release of sufficient dollars, at a time when the dollar shortage was serious^ for the purchase of cotton harvesters abroad. I am sure that he and his colleagues in the Government will continue to look sympathetically upon this growing industry, which has been, able to resurrect itself after having suffered a death stroke- from the Chifley Labour Government.

I refer now to the proposed subsidy of £150;000 for the Callide coal industry this year. Honorable members will recall that, before the present Government took office, the Chifley Labour Government and the Government of Victoria investigated the potentialities of the Callide coal-field in Queensland. The present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) played a significant part in that inquiry because he was then a member of the Victorian Government. The honorable gentleman has already delighted us on several occasions by giving us a. summary of the efforts that he made to assist the Callide industry and by describing the frustration of his efforts by the Queensland Government, which refused to permit the export of Callide coal during those vital years when Victoria was badly in need of coal and Queensland had an abundance of it. Again this Government had to deal with the problem. It has done much to foster the coal industry in central Queensland, apart from granting the subsidy which will be continued this year. It assisted in the construction of a road between the coalfield and the port of Gladstone. It also made vital- supplies of iron and steel available to the harbour authorities at Gladstone, and did all that it could to provide ships to lift Callide coal at the port. As a result, increasing tonnages of coal are being shipped from Gladstone to Victoria. Although the Government was bound to assist the Callide industry only for a limited time, it announced, to my great pleasure, that it would continue to pay the subsidy after its legal obligation had expired and until the full quantity of coal specified in the contract had been delivered. Last year over £200,000 was paid by way of subsidy. The expenditure for the present year is expected to be £150,000.

The two examples of the encouragement of industry to which I have referred emphasize very clearly the difference between the approach of the present Government to the problems of Queensland and that of the Chifley Labour Government. The Chifley Government refused to do anything more for the cotton industry in 1949, but this Government was able to resurrect the industry and develop it until it became a valuable part of our economy. The Chifley Government said that it could not, and would not, do anything to foster coal production on the Callide field. Therefore, again it was left to this Government to take action. Its efforts to develop the industry, under a contract which will expire about ten months from now, have been so successful that the industry looks forward confidently to a renewal of existing contracts, or the conclusion of fresh contracts for the delivery of coal to other parts of Australia. That is a phenomenal achievement at this time, when many coal-fields in Australia are being closed down because they cannot obtain sufficient orders. Costs on the Callide field have been so efficiently reduced, with the co- operation of all parties concerned, that we can expect the mine to continue to produce cheap coal to the advantage of the national economy. I commend the Government for these achievements, and I trust that the cotton bounty will be extended for a further period of five years so that your efforts on its behalf, Mr. Chairman, will reach the fruition which I know you earnestly desire. On behalf of the coal hauliers, the miners and other persons engaged in the industry, I thank the Government for at least putting the industry on a sensible and stable basis with good prospects for the future.

Mr. GALVIN (Kingston) “9.0]. - I desire to take the opportunity to discuss the grants to life-saving bodies in Australia. The Estimates for the Miscellaneous Services of the Prime Minister’* Department make provision for grants of £5.000 to the Surf Life Saving Association, £4,000 to the Royal Life Saving Society, and £1,000 to a body called tho Australian Life Saving Society, which, l:-:st financial year, received a grant for the first time. The Government is to be commended for’ its assistance to these bodies, which are doing a great service to the community. The members of the Surf Life Saving Association patrol Australia’s beaches and take care of bathers who prove venturesome and get into danger in the water They risk their lives and are always available and willing to rescue others. My colleague the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald), who is now on his way to the Northern Territory as a member of the parliamentary delegation to the official opening of the Rum Jungle uranium treatment plant, is deeply interested in the great work that is done in his electorate by life savers, and I hope that on Tuesday next he will have the opportunity to tell the committee of their fine work.

This evening I want ‘to address myself . principally to the grants to the Royal Life Saving Society and the Australian Life Saving Society. As I have said, the Australian Life Saving Society first came into the picture last financial year. That body, by claiming that it was doing the job of the Royal Life Saving Society in New South “Wales, succeeded in obtaining a grant of £1,000 from the Government, to the detriment of the Royal Life Saving Society. Last week a representative of the Australian Life Saving Society came to Canberra and lobbied vigorously for a grant of £15,000 for a proposed water safety campaign, which would be a very commendable objective. That gentleman would have honorable members believe that the Royal Life Saving Society was doing very little to earn the money that the Government has made available to it. I have with me this evening a report recently published by the South Australian branch of the Royal Life Saving Society, which reveals that in the 1953-54 season 5,108 awards were gained by members of the Royal Life Saving Society in South Australia. 2,000 of them by national service trainees from the Woodside camp, who were trained in life-saving methods by instructors of the Royal Life Saving Society. I am told that in some other States, the Royal Life Saving Society has a far better record than it has in South Australia.

I do not want to set one organization against another, but I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who is now seated at the table, to recall to the mind of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the fact that throughout the years the Royal Life Saving Society has done magnificent work in teaching life-saving methods throughout Australia. Doubtless the new body, the Australian Life Saving Society, is doing good work also, but I urge the Prime Minister to be cautious in acting upon that body’s plea for a special grant for its water safety scheme. I suggest to- the Government that next year’s Estimates should make provision for grants to swimming associations throughout Australia, as well as to the life-saving bodies. Life savers do a magnificent job, but, were it not for the swimming associations, which teach our boys and girls to swim, no life savers would be available to the life-saving bodies. In Victoria last year the swimming associations, in conjunction with the Melbourne Herald learn-to-swim campaign taught 19,000 persons to swim. The swimming associations in Western Australia, in conjunction with the National Fitness Council of Western Australia, last year taught more than 500 persons to swim. In Tasmania, also, 500 swimmers were taught last year by the swimming associations, and other people learned to swim under a scheme conducted by the Education Department. The swimming associations in Queensland last year taught more than 4,000 people to swim, and in .South Australia more than 5,000 were taught. The swimming associations receive no grant from this Government for their work of teaching swimming, and they have never sought one. I suggest that the Australian Life Saving Society, which merely teaches lifesaving methods, would do well to leave the teaching of lifesaving procedure to the Royal Life Saving Society in the States other than New South Wales, and to leave the teaching of swimming to the swimming associations, which are doing the job magnificently. I ask the Minister for the Interior to bring these matters to the attention of the Prime Minister, and I appeal to the Government to consider making provision in next year’s Estimates for special grants to the various swimming associations.

Closely allied to the grants made to the lifesaving bodies is that made, in the Estimates for the Miscellaneous Services of the Department of Health, to the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, which is totally inadequate. The committee has been told to-day of the benefit that Australia’s young men receive from the physical development that national service training promotes. The directors of the National Fitness Councils in all the States quickly exhaust their available funds every financial year, and are greatly hampered in their efforts to organize adequate national fitness programmes. I commend the Government for the grant that it makes for this purpose, and I appeal to it to increase the amount next financial year. I suggest, also, that it arrange for annual conferences of the State directors of the National Fitness Councils to be held in Canberra under the auspices of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), so that a better understanding may be obtained of the work of the National Fitness Councils. I doubt whether the Minister for Health or honorable members generally are familiar with the work of those bodies, and an annual conference at which the national fitness directors could describe their programmes would be of much benefit. The national fitness organizations work in conjunction with youth clubs and boys’ clubs, and the directors in the various States are al- ways ready to give assistance to sporting bodies that need it. I sincerely hope that in the near future arrangements will he made for the annual conferences that X have suggested.

The Estimates for the Miscellaneous Services of the Office of Education, ;under the Prime Minister’s Department, provide for the vote for the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. A few weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister why parttime students in South Australia who had won Commonwealth scholarships to enable them to undertake courses in arts, science and economics at the University of Adelaide, had suddenly been deprived of the benefits of those scholarships. Part-time students are to be commended for their industry in trying adequately to equip themselves for their life’s tasks and for battling to obtain university degrees. The University of Adelaide, at the insistence of the South Australian Government, has deliberately kept its fees at a low level so that students who wish to attend the university shall not be prevented from doing so by the lack of funds. The scholarship commision has recently decided that students whose fees are not at least £10 a year shall not receive the benefits of the scholarships that they have won. The result is that a number of students who are taking one or two arts or economics subjects at the University of Adelaide are denied the benefits of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme, whereas students in New South Wales or Victoria, where the university fees are much higher, continue to receive the benefits of their- scholarships, as they should do. I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister took the matter up immediately following my question, and I believe that he will rectify the anomaly.

I should like to see the Commonwealth scholarship scheme enlarged so that it might apply to students at the Roseworthy agricultural college, in South

Australia. Australia is crying out for skilled and highly trained men on the land, and about fifteen Commonwealth scholarships in South Australia are unused because the Commonwealth scholarship scheme does hot apply to students’ at the Roseworthy agricultural college. It is wrong that students who wish to be farmers or who want, in some other way, to play their part in primary industry, should be excluded from the scheme. I ask the Prime Minister to take the matter up with the Office of Education in an endeavour to make the Commonwealth scholarship scheme more flexible so that any student who has the ability and intelligence to win a Commonwealth scholarship may reap the full benefits of his talents and industry.

In conclusion, I want to refer to the proposed vote for war and the repatriation services. I trust that that vote will be more wisely spent this financial year than it has been expended in the last three financial years. I have said before, and I repeat, that in the last three years six Deputy Commissioners of Repatriation have held office in South Australia. One recent appointee had only two ana a half months to run before he was due to retire. The regular six-monthly changes in the office of Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in South Australia have caused South Australians to refer to the department- jocularly as “ Cooper’s Tours “, because it seems that the Deputy Commissioners are allowed to flit about Australia, and spend six months in each of the capital cities. I have no objection to their seeing Australia, but the efficient conduct of the department, and effective liaison with ex-servicemen’s organizations and members of the Parliament, require that the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in each State shall serve a reasonable time in that position. A young officer with an excellent record of service was appointed Deputy Commissioner in South Australia ,when a vacancy in the office was last filled, but his appointment was soon upset on appeal. I sincerely trust that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) will give consideration to the points that I have mentioned.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- I desire to speak briefly on a matter that is perhaps a small point but is something that should be discussed by the committee, because it involves a grave waste of public funds. That is the use of government transport by people who should not be allowed to use it. I refer honorable members to the Estimates for Miscellaneous Services of the Department of the Interior, where they will see that an amount has been set aside for the registration of Commonwealth motor vehicles. Of course, those registration fees constitute a very small proportion of the total amount that it is costing the Government to run its transport service. When the registration fee is added to the cost of petrol and the depreciation for about 100 Commonwealth motor cars, and then the salaries of the drivers, I would say that the cost of Commonwealth motor transport would be well in excess of £100,000 a year. It is obvious that although it may not be possible to make a great saving on Commonwealth vehicles, nevertheless this committee has a duty to ensure that those vehicles shall not be misused by honorable members, and certainly not by secretaries and higher civil servants who should set an example to the rest of the community. It is no secret that the use of Commonwealth motor cars is greatly abused. Of course, the abuse is far less than it was under the regime of the previous Labour Government-

Mr Curtin:

– How can the honorable member say that?


– I shall mention one example of misuse by the previous Labour Government. One Minister of that Government sent a Commonwealth motor car from Sydney to Brisbane, during a time of petrol rationing, to pick up and bring back his wife’s suitcase.

Mr Gullett:

– Who was that?


– That was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). But there are abuses at the present time under the present Government, as there were abuses under the previous Government. Recently a DC3 aircraft arrived at Mascot in Sydney from Canberra with 21 passengers aboard. That aircraft was met by eighteen Com monwealth motor cars. Two of the passengers used the airways bus to get them from Mascot to the city, one person obtained a lift in one of the Commonwealth cars, but seventeen passengers each had the sole use of one Commonwealth motor car.

Mr Curtin:

– Was the honorable member one of them?


– When I arrive at the aerodrome closest to my home, I have to drive my own car 70 miles from the aerodrome to get home. Recently a junior private secretary obtained a Commonwealth motor car for four hours in order to drive him 3 miles to an hotel, wait for him there and then drive him back again.

Mr Gullett:

– Who was that?


– I do not think that it would be in order to mention his name, but he admitted on oath that he had not signed any sort of docket or chit either when getting the car or after leaving, it. There are very many other cases of such abuse of Commonwealth vehicles. Recently I read a letter, published in a Melbourne newspaper, from a person who claimed to have seen - and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the statement - three girls driving through Toorak one Saturday afternoon in a Commonwealth motor car.

Mr Gullett:

– Who were they?


– History does not relate. The abuse of the privilege of using Commonwealth motor vehicles even extends to ministerial ranks. I have asked Ministers what authority they have to use ministerial cars to drive private persons from this building to their hotels, and I have been told that the authority has been given by Cabinet. If so, why should not the people and the Parliament be told the reason for that decision. I want to know whether the authority is or is not by Cabinet decision. An honorable member of this chamber told me this morning about a letter that he had received from one of his constituents who lives opposite a Minister. The letter stated that the’ writer felt a certain amount of anger because he sees the ministerial car taking, the Minister’s wife out to do her shopping.


– There is nothing wrong with that.


– There is no need for the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) to exercise his mind about this matter, because not by the greatest stretch of the imagination could any one imagine him having the right to use a Minister’s car. However, I do not believe that there is any reason why a Minister should not use a Commonwealth car in the course of his duty, and there is no reason why he should not use it to send his wife to a function that he is not attending himself. Also there is no reason why Commonwealth vehicles should not be used to take private secretaries to and from work, particularly in Canberra where it is difficult to get transport from the aerodrome. But what is the reason for the enormous fleet of motor cars meeting aircraft in Sydney and Melbourne to take members of the Parliament back to their homes, when 95 per cent, of ordinary private citizens take the airways buses and 5 per cent, use taxi-cabs, hire cars or private vehicles? Why should members of the Parliament be privileged when private citizens have not the same privilege? I believe that the Commonwealth motor car pool is too large, and I hope that the Minister will investigate the use of these vehicles. I ask him whether he will inform me of the instructions that the Government has given regarding the use of Commonwealth vehicles, and whether he will drastically overhaul their use?


.- I have no desire to comment on the remarks of the honorable member for Farrar (Mr. Fairbairn) except to say that in our present financial system, when the Ministers have so little control of the expenditure of various authorities, abuses of the sort mentioned by the honorable member must take place. I do not begrudge private secretaries the use of Commonwealth cars when they have to travel on urgent business, hut at a time when all additional and unnecessary expenditure causes greater pressure on prices, the Government should exercise more supervision over all items of expenditure. It is not bad business if Commonwealth vehicles are used where slower forms of transport would unnecessarily delay government business, and when the nation requires work to be done speedily.

There are several items in the Estimates to which I desire to direct atten-tion. The first is under Division No. 217 Department of the Treasury, Item No. 4 “ Exchange on remittances for payment of interest in London, £118,000 “. That sum of money was voted last financial year and represents the difference between sterling and Australian money used to pay interest on loans borrowed in Britain. Tragic errors have been made in the past by governments of the same colour as this one, through borrowing overseas. We have felt the serious repercussions of such borrowing time and time again throughout our history. To provide £118,000 solely in order to cover the exchange rate -between our money and British currency, draws attention to the part that, the Government is contemplating obtaining another large loan from Britain, possibly carrying some guarantee by the British Government. Any such loan seems to be completely unjustified by our present circumstances. I have no objection to overseas borrowing, if we cannot get in any other way the capital goods that we really need to develop this country, increase its population and make its defences stronger. But while we have large balances overseas sufficient for all our needs, there is no excuse to undertake further heavy borrowing outside Australia.

As I suggested by question to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to-day, we have no possibility of raising a loan on reasonable terms in Britain unless we put our own house in order first. Australian loans carry an exorbitant rate of interest which is wholly unnecessary, imposes a. heavy burden on our industry and unnecessarily inflates our high cost of production. Therefore, any contemplated further loan seems to be completely unnecessary, and merely a further drag on our national revenues because of increased exchange payments. Because of the situation in Australia, any additional overseas loans are completely unnecessary. All that this Government needs to do is to face the situation as it has been faced in Great Britain and the United

States of America. Those countries realized that the high rates of interest imposed a crippling burden on their economies. Therefore, they reduced the discount rate, which is equivalent . to our interest rate. This Government, however, has steadfastly refused to follow the trend downward overseas, although it followed the previous trend upwards. The trend downward has been followed by every industrial country in the world, and to my mind is quite justified.

We have about £1,000,000,000 in our savings banks. That money is on call, at relatively low rates of interest. I have no doubt that a large proportion of it would be made available if the security of the capital was assured. It cannot be assured hi this country an ace trustee investment if Government bonds, depreciate solely because of the lack of financial knowledge on the part of the Government, or the pressure of vested interests which have forced up the interest rate. The Opposition has urged the Government to push down the interest rate, and our views have been supported by financial publications of all kinds. When the last Commonwealth loan was put on the market, the Sydney Financial Review expressed the opinion that it carried a high rate of interest. It also expressed surprise at the high rate of interest of short-dated securities which were issued at a discount of £1 10s. per cent. Interest rates on such loans are increasing the price of all Australian products, lessening our efficiency and imposing a life-long burden on home buyers.

The two major factors which cause concern to all sections of our population are, first, the high ruling prices, and, secondly, the certainty that at some time our increasing costs will stop; and not only stop, but come crashing down. That situation is clearly before the minds of the people, and is causing confusion and a lack of willingness to branch out into new enterprises. .The Government has two major means by which it can reduce the pressure on many of the goods, and thus stabilize and perhaps bring down prices in our economy. One is by a properly balanced income tax structure, which we have not got to-day. The moves of the Government in recent times have accentuated, by their effect, the pressure on prices, and the demand for luxury goods. The policy of the Government has caused, to a large degree, a rush of luxury imports, which are reducing our overseas balances to a precarious position. It is also making more and more certain the introduction of a temporary expedient in the form of import control. The money which is now received’ by individuals from transactions involving luxury goods would cause little hardship if it were removed by means of a properly stepped-up income tax system.

The other major means which the Government can adopt is to immobilize the vast amount of money that is deposited to the credit of individuals in savings banks. The Government should have an ordered, loan policy to take off the market money which might otherwise make itself felt in the pursuit of goods and services from time to time. The Government should be willing to follow the advice of Labour leaders, reinforced as it is by all the financial journals which speak their mind on the financial situation. It should also promptly reduce interest .rates to 3 per cent., and certainly to not more than 3i per cent. A reduction of interest rates should be followed by a reduction of prices, because many of our industries operate on overdraft or other forms of financial assistance. This policy would also arouse in the people a great willingness to invest money in industries, particularly the basic industries, which return a relatively low rate of interest. If a return of 4£ per cent, can be obtained on a gilt edged security, capital will not be readily available for investment in industries which return only 5 or 6 per cent.

A reduction of interest rates, with all the attendant benefits to which I have referred, will result in the stabilization of the capital values of loans, and loans in future will be fully subscribed. The full capital price cannot be obtained for a loan which bears interest at the rate of 3£ per cent, when people can immediately buy, by advance subscription, a £100 bond bearing 44 per cent. But the Government is unwilling to take the positive steps which are available to it. It is also unwilling to do a belated act of justice to people) who trusted governments in the past, and restore, by a simple and positive economic measure, the capital value of their holdings. The Government, seeking an easy way out of its present dilemma, proposes to embark again upon a heavy borrowing programme in Great Britain. I have no objection to borrowing on the British market if the money is required to purchase urgentlyneeded capital goods for the development of this country, or to raise our defence potential, and if the capital goods cannot be obtained by other means. On those tests, such borrowing can be amply justied. But there is no excuse for this policy at the present time. Certain heavy annual commitments will be the result of this completely unnecessary move. The Government has not denied the report that it proposes to raise a loan in Great Britain. Apparently it has decided to borrow heavily on the British market. If the Government is allowed to embark upon that venture, in total disregard of the prevailing rate of interest and the insecurity on the Australian market for investors, it is almost certain that a loan, unless guaranteed by the British Exchequer, will fail; and failure of that kind will do irreparable harm to 1 Australia’s credit in the United Kingdom.


.- I desire to reply briefly to the comments of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). It seems to me that his remarks would have been an ore relevant to the Estimates for the Department of the Treasury, rather than the Estimates now before the committee. He explained that his remarks were related to an exchange item of £118,000, and he proceeded r.o deplore certain borrowing overseas in the past. I consider that I should mention at this stage that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will proceed overseas in a few days, and that one of his mission is to conduct negotiations in respect of a loan which was raised in New York. It so happens that this loan bears interest at the rate of 5 per cent. The money was borrowed in New York because a Labour government some years ago had its nose put out of joint when it proposed to borrow on the English market, and proceeded to raise the money in New

York at a higher rate of interest than would have been charged in the United Kingdom. So it seems ridiculous for Opposition members to criticize high rates, of interest on Commonwealth borrowings.

The explanation has been given on many occasions, but I feel that it is desirable once again to remind honorable members of the basis of the determina-tion of interest rates on Commonwealth loans. I believe that Labour members, when they blame the government of the day in the federal sphere for the prevailing interest rate on Commonwealth loans, are approaching the stage of dishonesty. Opposition members have been told often enough that interest rates are determined by the Australian Loan Council, and that the representative of the Commonwealth on that body has two votes, and the Treasurer of each State has one vote. That is to say, the Commonwealth representative has two votes out of a total of eight. At present, five of the States have Labour governments, and, therefore, Labour Treasurers command a majority at meetings of the Australian Loan Council, which determines the rate of interest on current borrowings.

Mr Keon:

– That is only a part of the story.


– I should be pleased if the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) will tell me the rest of the story, because, candidly, I do not know it. I believe that I have told the full story in relation to the determination of interest rates on Commonwealth loans. It is a pity that Opposition members continually endeavour to mislead the public on this matter. I believe that an interest rate of 44 per cent, is necessary at the present time, and in that respect, I am in agreement with State Labour Treasurers.

We have heard a good deal in this debate about lack of development in this country. Developmental works require money. Every honorable member knows that since the last war, it has been impossible for governments to raise sufficent money for developmental purposes in Australia. This Government came into office in December, 1949,. andit has not used one penny of loan money for developmental purposes. As a matter. of fact,, the Commonwealth is entitled to claim 20 per cent, of all borrowings for its purposes, but it has not asked for one penny because it recognizes’ that the States must have money for development. In addition, this -Government has provided for developmental works more than £350,000,000 from its own resources in less than five years. Surely, then, it is ridiculous for Opposition members to say that the interest rate should- be lower, when in point of fact, sufficient money cannot be obtained from the investing public for developmental projects.

Development, of course, is essential, and we should endeavour to obtain the maximum amount of money possible for that purpose from the public. The honorable member for Perth has given us a dissertation on savings bank deposits, which amount to approximately £1,000,000,000, and on bank deposits generally. It has been pointed out on many occasions that deposits are not allowed to stay in the vaults of banks, but are in circulation within the community. That money is not just available to any government, the Commonwealth Bank, or even the directorate of a trading bank. The money is used day by day for many purposes within the Australian community. It is ridiculous to give the impression, as the honorable member for Perth has tried to do, that an amount of £1,000,000,000 is lying in the savings banks just for the taking, or the asking, for developmental purposes.

I believe that this Government has adopted the right policy not only -in raising the maximum amount by way of loans in Australia, but - also by borrowing from America. “We undoubtedly require heavy equipment for developmental works, and the United States of America is the only country that can supply the necessary machinery. All the money that has been obtained from the International Monetary Fund, and other external sources, has been used to purchase heavy equipment, which is required for our development. I make those explanations, because I consider that the comments of the honorable member for Perth have been completely misleading. Some of the matters that he has raised need to be put into their proper perspective, so that

Opposition members, and the public, may clearly understand the position.


.- I agree with the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) that the question of interest rates in Australia must be put in its proper perspective. In order to do that, I propose to refer to the Monthly Review of Business Statistics, which is published by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician under instructions from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). On the last page but one of that publication, there regularly appear the interest rates charged in this country. One observes that at the time this Government came into office, the prevailing interest rate on long-term Commonwealth loans was 3’£ per cent. On the 21st August, 1951, the rate rose to 3.75 per cent., and on the 25th November, 1952, the rate was increased to 4.5 per cent. It has remained at that figure since that date, and Australia enjoys the unenviable reputation of having to pay a higher interest rate on long-term loans than the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand or India. The interest rates which rule in those countries are given in the monthly reports of the Commonwealth Bank.

The honorable member for Petrie has said that interest rates on loans are determined by the Australian Loan Council. He has also pointed out that the representative of the Commonwealth on that body has two votes, and that the Treasurer of each State has one vote. I should add that, when the voting is equal, the Commonwealth representative has a casting vote. It is strange to hear a Government supporter suggest that the Loan Council has the deciding influence in the determination of loan flotations and interest rates. Australia has had good reason in recent times to know that the decisions of the Loan Council can be readily defied by the Commonwealth Treasurer. He is the agent of the Loan Council, and if he does not choose to implement a decision of that body, that decision is not implemented. That applies to interest rates, as it applies to the amount of money that is raised by way of loans. It is true, as the honorable member for Petrie has said, that the Australian Government has been obliged to pay out of revenue or, more often, by way of treasury-bills, the amount of deficit in loan raisings; but the Government has only itself to blame if it has not been able to raise the amount that the Australian Loan Council decided could and should be raised. The Government’s juggling with interest rates has influenced investors to put off the day that they will invest their savings in developmental works, because they realize that if they wait they will receive higher rates of interest for their money. At present some investors are receiving £90 for every £100 that they invested in Commonwealth bonds. v

It cannot be said that the Australian Loan Council determines the interest rate on overdrafts or the rate on loans for housing which the banks approve. The Monthly Review of Business Statistics shows that when this Government came into office the overdraft interest rate charged by the private banks was 4£ per cent. On the 29th July, 1952, that rate was increased to 5 per cent., and, on the same day, the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank increased its rate from 4^ to 4$ per cent. But the increase, very largely, was due to central bank policy. If the Government does not like that policy, it can overrule the central bank. However, it does f not need to do that, because its appointments to the central bank show that its policies are being silently, one might say clandestinely, implemented through such appointments. In July, 1952, the Commonwealth Bank, which advances £9 out of every £10 lent to building societies, increased the interest rate on loans to those societies from 3 per cent, to 4^ per cent., and the consequence has been that everybody who, before or after, borrowed from such societies had to repay his loan over a period increased by one year in every ten years, or increase repayments by £1 in every £10. I trust that I have put the subject of interest rates in its proper perspective. Any one who examines the Monthly Review of Business Statistics will realize that high interest rates are the badge of conservative governments.

I turn to an aspect of housing, which is directly referable to the Estimates now under discussion in respect of war and repatriation services, namely, war service homes. You will have observed, Mr. Chairman, through your long and distinguished career in this chamber, that honorable members who support the Government, particularly those of them who come from Queensland, attribute any fault in their States to the State Labour Governments and credit any virtue to the Federal Liberal Government. They apply a simple formula which appeals to simple souls. But those honorable members can pass no buck and plead no alibi with respect to war service homes. Over a generation, the provision of war service homes has been the responsibility of the Australian Government alone. The War Service Homes Division is the greatest housing organization in this country. A fair test of the sincerity of honorable members on the Government side of the chamber, who have spent the better part of this day waving the flag and polishing up the badges and, in fact, being quite moved to an- excess of patriotic, chauvinistic and jingoistic zeal, is to be found in their actions with regard to war service homes, because the provision of finance for homes is one of the tangible advantages that should be made available to war veterans in this country. By contrast, during the five years that this Government has been in office, war pensions and repatriation benefits have degenerated to a lower value in terms of cost of living than has been the case during the 40 years that they have been provided in Australia. “What is the position with respect to war service homes? Last year, the waiting list for homes was greater than it had ever been previously. The number of homes provided for applicants last year was fewer than that provided in any of the preceding three years under the administration of this Government. At present in New South Wales where, I admit, the waiting list is longer than in any other State, no man who applies for a loan to build a war service home on a block which he owns will receive the loan until after sixteen months elapse. That means that anybody who applies now for a loan to build a war service home in New South Wales can confidently expect to receive the loan when the year 1956 dawns. In other States, the waiting period is not so long. In the smaller States, a man who applies now for a loan from the War Service Homes Division can expect to receive it by next Easter; and, in the States of Queensland and Victoria, if a man applies now for a loan he will receive it at the dawn of the next financial year. The full responsibility of the Government with respect to war service homes can be best appreciated by a study of the white paper that was presented with the budget. That paper shows that last financial year less money was expended in building private homes in Australia than in the immediately preceding years. Last year, under this heading, £177,000,000 was expended whilst, during the year before that £182,000,000 was expended, and, during the year before that, the expenditure was £209,000,000. And in each of those three years the amount which this Government expended on war service homes remained stationary at under £28,000,000.

The magnificent bait has been held out that £30,000,000 is being made available for this purpose during the current financial year. That sum compares with the sum of £28,000,000 that was provided for this purpose under each of the three preceding budgets, and with the sum of £25,000,000 that was provided in the financial year immediately preceding that period. Having regard to the degree to which the value of money has declined, one can fairly draw the inference that the sum now being provided for the current financial year will meet the cost of fewer homes than could be constructed with the sum of £25,000,000 that was provided in the year after this Government assumed office. I am not surprised that catch-cries, slogans, and shibboleths come easily to the lips of Government supporters. They came into office on them, and they will try to hold on to office by the same means.

You, Mr. Temporary Chairman (Mr. McLeay), as a fine old soldier, will remember that the Chifley Government doubled ‘ its appropriation for war service homes in each of the years that it was in office, and also that during that period the number of homes provided in each of those years was double that provided in the preceding year. By contrast, this Government has placed a ceiling upon the amount to be provided for war service homes in any one financial year, with the result that the number provided has levelled out and dropped. I shall cite the precise figures. The present Government provided .15,579 houses in 1950-51, 15,817 houses in 1951-52, 13,070 houses in 1952-53, and 12,399 in 1953-54. So, one finds that this bunch of patriots provides for ex-servicemen fewer homes each year and that the waiting list for war service homes increases each year. The waiting list for war service homes has never been so long as it is at present. When one considers that the amount of money expended in providing private dwelling-houses has decreased in each of the last three years, that the number of people engaged in building construction of all types is less than it was three years ago, and that fewer homes were commenced, completed, or under construction last year than in the financial year two years before that, one realizes the full measure of irresponsibility in this matter of honorable members opposite who say what should be done for ex-servicemen. When one looks at the record of Government supporters in this sphere, one finds that they provide promises but not performances. Is it any wonder that ex-servicemen, through their organizations - honorable members have received the annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, that will be presented at the annual meeting of the league to be held in Canberra next month - are persistently demanding that the rate of interest on loans for war service homes should be reduced to 2 per cent., which is the rate at which housing loans are made available to employees of the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks, and that the total allocation for war service homes should be increased to £35,000,000, which would still leave the expenditure incurred on the construction of houses in this country lower than it was two years ago. Above all, ex-servicemen demand that the waiting period shall be reduced so that people who are entitled, under the statute, to loans for the construction of war service homes shall receive their advances not next financial year but this financial year - not in 1956, but in 1954.


– I suppose that no honorable member is more glib than is the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). One would think that he was appearing before a royal commission, judging by the way in which he tried to mislead the committee, because he knows that the number of war service homes that have been provided by this Government has steadily increased and that the number being provided to-day is far greater than the number that was provided under the Chifley Government. I shall give the figures. The number of war service homes built in 1948-49, the last full year of office of the Chifley Government, was 2,500, whereas during the last three years the numbers provided under this Government’s administration have been, respectively, 4,500, 5,800 and 6,300. The number of war service homes now being provided is approximately from two to three times as great as the number that was provided by the Chifley Government, whilst the number of homes financed has increased from 3,500 to 6,100. This Government has provided a great many more war service homes than all previous governments combined provided. It is also true that the lag to-day is not as great as it was under the Chifley Government, when there were over 7,000 more waiting applications.

The remarks made by the honorable member for Werriwa about interest -rates also require comment. The honorable member, although glib, displayed what I can almost describe as a lawyer’s ignorance of the subject about which he is trying to talk. He neglected two salient facts The first is that at present, with existing interest rates there is, unhappily, an outflow of overseas funds. It is not a disastrous outflow, but it bears careful watching. Any further reduction of interest rates might turn that outflow into a disastrous outflow. The other fundamental point which he neglected is that at present our savings are not sufficient to cover our needs for development and security. When he advocates measures that would further depress savings and increase demand he is advocating something that will aggravate the already existing situation. The reason why, even a number of years after the end of the war, the Chifley Government was doing so badly in relation to the provision of homes, was that its financial policy was of such a character as to make it impossible for the requisite volume of building materials to be provided. The years 1947, 1948 and 1949 were the years of lost opportunity in Australia’s history.

I turn now to subjects covered by other items in the proposed votes that we are discussing. I refer the committee to Division 199 of the Estimates, which deals with financial provision for assisted immigration. I am glad to note that the proposed vote is increased to £5,927,000 compared with the actual expenditure last year of £3,644,650. That increase gives evidence of the Government’s plans to increase the rate of immigration. It is particularly pleasing to note that the allocation for assistance to immigration from Britain has been increased to about £3,000,000 compared with actual expenditure last year of about £1,800,000. That is important, although it may not measure up to the magnitude of our opportunity.

If I may return to a theme I mentioned earlier in the debate, Great Britain itself is under a much greater threat from atomic attack than we are. It would be by no means unreasonable to expect that at this time there should be a particular pressure on immigration from Great Britain to Australia. Indeed, I hope that that pressure will be of such magnitude as to bring into being an immigration scheme different in scale from any we have experienced, at least in recent times. It may be possible to transplant to Australia, under the pressure of events, and establish here at decentralized points, comparatively large sections of British industry. That would not in any way involve the defects in relation to foreign borrowing that the honorable member ‘for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) mentioned, because the British people who might come to Australia : under such circumstances would bring their funds with them as well as capital goods which represent funds. As British people they would soon become part of our Australian community. The funds that we want from Britain are not funds that we borrow, but funds that will come along with British people who might immigrate to Australia as permanent members of our community. By bringing their industries here they will increase Australian output, and improve our development and security. I point out to- the committee that that may not involve any great increase of governmental expenditure. It can be done if the will to do it exists in Britain, and without calling to any great degree upon the Australian Government’s funds.

Because of the completely new situation which is now coming into existence over the whole world as a result of atomic developments, there may be a completely new pressure of immigration from small, endangered Great Britain towards the greater safety and the wider spaces that we can afford to the British people. If the Government seizes its opportunity, and makes the correct representations to the British Government, it may do something not only to advance the interests of Australia but also to make more certain the survival of a larger part of the British people in the event of atomic war. . It could also increase our security and the security of the British Commonwealth and the free world.

I wish now to refer to a related but separate matter, which is covered by Division No. 196, which is the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and by Division 201, which covers the proposed vote for the Department of National Development. I have pointed out that our great need to-day is security against the devastation that would result from an atomic attack. We have to establish stores of manufactured goods, including imported goods and all goods that would be difficult to make in an atomic war, at decentralized points where they could not be destroyed by a small number of bombs. I point out again that we cannot hope, in the event of an atomic attack, to make, after the attack has occurred, any significant volume of the things that we may need for survival in the aftermath. In these circumstances, the war would be won on stores. It is not production after the war that is important, because we cannot conceive that it would be possible to reach significant production figures soon after an atomic attack. What is important is production before the attack, and storage of the goods produced. The need to store goods at decentralized points is much more urgent than is decentralizaton of production facilities, because one can be achieved in a relatively short time, and the other will require a long time. I agree with the statements made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) and other honorable members on both sides of the chamber who have spoken about this problem.

Decentralization of production facilities cannot be a quick process. I am not suggesting that we should not start on such decentralization now, and’ press on with it, but I put it to the committee, as a matter of stark reality, that we cannot hope to achieve much in that direction for many years. It is in that intervening time that we shall be in danger. The proper precaution against that danger is the establishment, with the least possible delay, of stores, at decentralized points, of the various goods that we shall need in order to survive an atomic disaster. Happenings after a general atomic war throughout the world would be decided by the stores that had been put away before the war started. This is different from the normal defence situation, which is such as to give time, after the commencement of hostilities, to get our production facilities going and make a significant contribution to production needs during the course of a conflict. Atomic warfare may well be different. I agree that we should decentralize production facilities, but much more urgent is the decentralization of stores. I have tried to show how, in certain practical ways, the principles that I have enunciated can be applied. It all depends on whether we believe that there is a serious emergency If we admit the physical facts, and agree, that any future attack on us may be a devastating attack, I suggest that the kind of action that I have outlined is completely justified. I believe that more attention should be paid, in the Estimates for the services departments, to storage of essential goods at decentralized points.


.- I regret that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) stooged for the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) and tried to allege dishonesty on the part of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) in relation to the statistics that that honorable member cited regarding the provision of war service homes. I have here the official report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division, which shows distinctly that the figures quoted by the honorable member for Werriwa are correct. It shows that since 1950-51, which was the first, complete year of office of this Government, the number of war service homes provided was 15,579, and that that figure had fallen to 12,399 in 1953-54. In other words, during the life of the Government there has been a drop of more than 3,000 in the number of homes provided each year. For the honorable member to cite simply the figures in relation to houses built is to beg the question completely. The job of the War Service Homes Division is to provide means by which ex-servicemen can acquire their own homes. The report of the director presents the relevant figures under the heading “ Homes provided “, and those figures show that the total number has fallen by about 3,000 during this Government’s term of office. Those are the figures that the honorable member for Werriwa cited, and they constitute the accusation that the Government has to answer.

No matter what honorable members opposite may say about the number of homes provided, they cannot deny that the waiting list to-day is greater than it has ever been in the history of the War Service Homes Division. The time which elapses between the date of application for financial assistance for the purchase or construction of a war service home to the date of receipt of that assistance is greater than it has ever been. The questions that the Government has to answer are these : Is it not a fact that today there are more people waiting for homes from the War Service Homes Division than ever before; and is it not a fact that the delay in obtaining financial assistance in relation to war service homes is greater than it has ever been ? Instead of concentrating their attention .on attacking honorable members on this side of the chamber who point out the weaknesses in the present situation, the honorable and gallant members opposite would do better to use their energies to see that the Government that they support gets on with the job and reduces the waiting time for homes. I did not wish to speak on that matter but I considered that it was necessary for me to do so in order to correct the mistake made by the honorable member for Mackellar after the Minister for Social Services had asked him to answer the correct and stringent criticism of the honorable member for Werriwa about the inactivity of the Government in relation to the provision of war service homes.

I turn now to the provision by the Government of a sum estimated at £14,000, for housekeeper services, which is advanced to the Departments of Health in the States, which in turn provide these services. The provision of £14,000 has remained unchanged for years. The Australian Government promised the State governments that it would provide finance for home-help services. It made provision for the expenditure of £14,000, but, although the State governments are expending vast sums in excess of that amount, this Government refuses to increase the grant.

Mr Gullett:

Mr. Gullett interjecting,


– This is a matter to which the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) might well devote his attention. I know that he does not often bother about the problems of his electorate, but I think that on occasions, for the sake of outward appearance, he ought to devote attention to the problems with which the less fortunate of his constituents are confronted. Not” only has the Government failed to increase the grant for this service, but it also insists thai the service shall not be extended to include assistance for aged or infirm people. I am fortunate, because I represent an electorate which is represented in the Upper and Lower Houses of the Australian and State parliaments, and in the municipal sphere by members of the Australian Labour party. It is a constituency which naturally, in accordance with the philosophy of the Labour party, believes that its first duty is towards the less fortunate members of the community. I make no apology, and the Labour party makes no apology, for the fact that, when budgets and financial problems are being discussed, it directs its attention to the problems of the less fortunate members of the community. It was for that reason that the Labour party came into existence. It is the proudest boast of the Labour party that it represents the less fortunate sections of the community, and that it believes that its first duty is to help those people. I suggest to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that, by the provision of greater financial assistance for the home-help services, and the extension of those services to the rendering of assistance to the aged and infirm-

Mr Kent Hughes:

– The home help service was commenced in Kew, not in Richmond.


– That may be so, but it was started in Kew with the aid of money provided by the Australian Government. Let mc remind the Minister, however, that the Richmond Municipal Council, a Labour council, was caring for the aged poor long before the Australian Government thought of them. I am now asking the Government to authorize the municipalities to which this money is being given to extend the activities of the home-help service to provide for the care of the aged and infirm. Not only should the Government do that, but it should also provide much more money for this service. If it did so, it would save money in other directions. Every honorable member knows that there arc many aged people who are living in cottages. Others are living in quite substantial dwellings which they cannot afford to keep in good repair. But all those people are unable to provide their own meals, or to care for themselves, when they become ill for two or three days. If the Government permitted extension of the home-help service to provide for the care of the aged and infirm, it would alleviate the strain on hospital accommodation and would prevent much unnecessary hardship. Contrary to the directions of this Government, the Rich mond Municipal Council is using its home-help service to care for the aged and infirm, and it will continue to do so. because it believes that those people are in urgent need of assistance.

Mr Duthie:

– How far does this scheme extend?


– All that this Government provides at the present time for the whole of Australia is £14,000. It does not propose to increase by Id. the sum that was provided last year. It tells the State governments that if they establish home help services, it will pay a subsidy of 50 per cent. However, when the State governments establish those services, they discover that the Commonwealth grant is limited to £14,000. This is a matter that the Department of Social Services might well consider. If aged and infirm people could be visited by other people when they were ill, if they could have their meals prepared for them and if they could have their homes cared for, much hospitalization would be avoided, and the total cost to the Government would be much less than the cost of caring for such people in hospitals and institutions:

I note that the Government proposes to provide £1,500,000 for the establishment of .institutions for the aged’. I hope that, when the Government works out the details of its scheme, it will not confine itself to institutions as we know then., because the majority of old people do not wish to enter institutions. The majority of aged people desire to preserve their independence. I think it would be a very good thing if the Government not only subsidized the building of institutions as we know them, but also assisted municipalities to provide groups of units of one or two rooms to which pensioners could be moved under the care and general supervision of a trained nurse. In spite of the criticism that has been levelled against the Queensland Government, it has provided an excellent example of a settlement’ in which old people live in flatettes and where they are cared for by people who are available to assist them when they are ill or require attention. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) to ensure that, when the Government is working out the details of its proposal, it gives consideration to my suggestion. I also ask the Government to advance money to the various charitable organizations, and to municipalities and State government instrumentalities, for the erection of settlements of flatettes of the type that I have mentioned.

Honorable members who represent inner metropolitan areas in the capital cities can relate very sad tales about old people who live by themselves in their own little cottages or rooms, who become ill, who are unable to care for themselves, who are unable to get out of bed to cook, themselves a meal or to make a cup of tea and who, in some cases that have been brought to my attention, have literally starved to death. I am hoping that the Government will co-operate, not merely in a small attempt to overcome this problem, but in the formulation of a scheme for the provision, throughout Australia, of the type of accommodation that I have suggested. Old’ people do not want to go into institutions nowadays, and we do not want to put them into institutions. While they are able to move about and care for themselves, we ought to help them to preserve their own independence and to care for themselves. We should persuade them to enter hospital, or go into an institution, only when they can no longer care for themselves. In many cases, they are sick for only a day or two. In other cases, they are sick for a few weeks, but then they are again able to care for themselves.

Although the Government has a responsibility in relation to the care of the aged and the other classes of people to whom I have referred, there are many respects in which no Government can help. I have been appalled by the neglect of the aged, not only by governments, but also by their children. We talk about helping and teaching the Asians, but, in spite of the economic circumstances of the Asians they do not neglect their aged parents. They would not think of deserting their aged parents in the same manner as so many thousands of Austral ‘.ans desert their aged parents. The lack of money is not the only problem with which aged persons are confronted. The real problem consists in their loneliness and neglect by their children. It is of no use for governments to spend money unless the children of aged parents also are prepared to’ accept their responsibility. In many cases, aged people live in their little cottages, they have enough to feed themselves and to keep a roof over their heads, but they are heart-broken as a result of lonelinessand neglect by their children. I suggest to Australians that, before they think about helping or teaching Asians, they ought to take note of the lessons that Asians can teach us in relation to thecare of aged parents. The economicproblem exists in Asian countries, but it exists for the whole family unit. In those countries, one does not witness the frightening neglect of aged parents that is witnessed in the Australian community. I hope that the Government, in its programme to help aged people, will endeavour to ascertain whether the many Australian children who neglect their aged parents can be persuaded to take the trouble to pay them an occasional visit to relieve their loneliness.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Minister for Social Services · Lowe · LP

– I rise, with some reluctance, to deal with the question of war service homes. I do so, because, during the last few weeks the Division of War Service Homes has gone to considerable trouble to supply accurate figures to any member of the Opposition who has cared to ask for them, so that misunderstanding would not occur. Notwithstanding the great trouble to which the Director of War Service Homes has gone, Opposition members persistently misrepresent the figures or, if they do not misrepresent them, just do not understand what has happened.

Mr JEFF Bate:

– They juggle them.


– Yes, and I am sorry that it continues to happen. So that it shall not happen in the future, unless a charge of deliberate misrepresentation can be preferred against the honorable members concerned, I should like to make these figures clear to honorable members on both sides of the chamber. It was stated to-night that there is a greater number of unsatisfied applications to-day than at any previous time in the history of the War Service Homes Division. I let the facts speak for themselves. I make no statement about them, and I draw no deductions from them. I leave that to the intelligence of honorable members. On the 31st December, 1949, when the Labour Government went out of office, there were approximately 28,000 unsatisfied applications for homes. On the 30th June, 1954, there were 20,815 such applications. In other words, there was a very substantial reduction of the number of unsatisfied applications between the end of 1949 and the end of June, 1954. I wish to make that perfectly clear, because I do not think the Government should consistently have to suffer accusations in this chamber that there has been an increase of the number of unsatisfied applications. In truth and in fact, there has been a very substantial reduction of the number. Up to the date E have mentioned the number was being steadily reduced and the back-lag steadily overtaken. Applications are now increasing substantially.

The question of the number of homes that have been provided has been raised also. As honorable members know, the homes that have been provided can be divided into two” groups - homes that have been built, and existing homes that have been purchased. If honorable members look at the number of homes that have been built, they will observe the steady rate of progress that has been made by this Government. They will see that, year in and year out, the Government has been increasing the number of homes that have been built for applicants for war service homes. Again I stress these figures only for the purpose of making clear the point that if, in the future, honorable members want to quote figures, it is wise that they quote them accurately and draw accurate deductions from them.

Mr Ward:

– That would be something new for the Minister.


– If the honorable member will have the courage and decency to listen and be prepared to exercise his brains to discover the meaning of the figures, it will become perfectly “ clear to him that the number has increased year in and year out. In 1948-4.9, the last complete year of the Chifley Government’s period of office, 2,525 war service homes were built. The number increased in 1949-50 to 3,171, in 1950-51 to 4,022, in 1951-52 to 4,205, in 1952-53 to 5,848, and last year to 6,290.

Mr Ward:

– Not enough.


– I do not know whether the honorable member, who is bursting to interject, would like to argue on those figures .that there has been a steady decrease in the number of homes built. I suppose he would. The facts have never meant anything to him. However, I ask that other honorable members study the facts, and I think they will agree that the War Service Homes Division has done a magnificently good job and that the director and his staff should he complimented rather than have the facts misrepresented on the floor of this chamber. I have mentioned these figures because they speak for themselves. They show a steady record of progress. They show that the Division of War Service Homes knows the problems of exservicemen, is anxious to solve them, and is doing its best, which is, in fact, a very effective job.

If I may go into the political aspects of this matter I shall state one or two things that were mentioned during the course of the election campaign. These are political, but nonetheless they are facts and well worthy of record. At the close of 1949, the end of a 30-year period of war service homes administration, 54,541 homes had been built or purchased, but in three and one-half years to the 30th June, 1953, the Menzies Government had already assisted exservicemen to build or purchase ‘48,784 homes, which represents more than 80 per cent, of the total for the previous 30 years. That is an achievement of which any government may be proud. In three years it was able to build more than 80 per cent, of the number of homes provided over the previous 30 years! I do not make any comment about that other than to say that any honest person would be compelled to accept the fact that this is a very efficient job and an outstanding achievement for any government.

In terms of expenditure, when the appropriation for 1953-54 is taken into account, the Menzies Government had spent £110.000.000 during its first four full budget years. During the last four years of the Chifley Government’s period of office, £22,000,000 was spent on war service homes. An increase from £22,000,000 for the last four years of the Chifley .Government’s period to £110,000,000 under the Menzies Government is a record which speaks for itself. As I said, I rose to-night not to make political capital out of this, because I do not think a Minister should make political capital out of his own department, but I want to make it’ perfectly clear for the future that, if honorable members will persist in deliberately distorting the ‘ facts, or if they cannot understand the facts and mislead the Committee on them they will deserve what is coming to them. The department, and I as its Minister - and I am proud to serve as its Minister at this time - will be very happy always to go out of our way or to make the director and the staff of the division available so that members cannot be under any misapprehension. They only have to ask if they have the energy - they have the tongues - and the information will be freely made available to them.

T now make one comment about the building industry. This is a point that should be made known. There are a lot of political and financial theorists in this chamber. In most cases they are people who have not been here for a very great length of time. They are persistently urging that more money should be put into the building industry.

Mr Ward:

– Why not?


– During the budget debate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made it clear that to-day we have over-employment in the building industry, and that it would be wrong and would lead to inefficiency, higher prices, less building and a lower quality of building if any more money were pumped into the industry at this time.

Mr Jeff Bate:

– Black markets, too.


– That is quite right, ft would lead to black markets and to the same inefficiency _ as there was, say, from 1945 to 1949. I do not want to be political about this, but I think it is wise, when the Opposition raises th question, to make it clear that we should not at the present time pump much mort money, if indeed we could pump air more, into the building industry unless we take the grave risk of less productivity, higher prices, a lower quality of work, black markets and everything else that was associated with over-full employ ment in 1950-51. Let us remember thai that condition applies not only to th building industry but also to the Australian economy generally. The task of the Government under the present budge is to see, as it was under the previous budget, that the quantity of expenditure does not get out of hand and that, by restricting the quantity of expenditure, we restrict the inflationary forces that may be operational throughout the community The Government is carrying out that job. It is desirous of seeing that war service homes are efficiently provided, and in the required quantities. I personally want te say, as my tribute to the War Service Homes Division, that the director and his men are doing an exceptionally good joi] and, far from being criticized, are usually complimented by most members of the Opposition who have an intimate knowledge of their activities. I am prepared to say that members on this side of the chamber, who know better what is happening, are fulsome in their praise of the work of the division.

Unfortunately, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. K.0on) has left the chamber, and so I do not know whether it is necessary to give some short comment relating to his problem of the aged, but I could assure him if he were here thai the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has taken a special interest in this problem. Both he and the Treasurer have stated that £1,500,000 will be allotted this year for homes for aged people. This matter has received the most careful attention of the Director-General of Social Services and of the Government itself. We hope that in the future this will make a notable contribution to the problem of helping elderly people who cannot look after themselves. I can say that only on Sunday I was able to go and visit quite a number of old people over the age of 75 years. I asked them, what they wanted.

Was it more money? They almost universally said, “ No. We do not want money. We want to be looked after.” This Government, recognizing that problem, will do something that no Labour government has ever done.

Mr Ward:

– Where did the Minister visit these people?


– At quite a number of places.

Mr Ward:

– Give me the names. The honorable gentleman did not visit them.


– -I will give the honorable member the names.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Adermann:

Order! Honorable members must keep order.


– I say that never before has this problem been approached with such sympathy. The Government will attempt to provide homes and comfort for these people just as is reasonably practicable. But this is not a problem that can be looked at and disposed of with a clip of a finger. It demands that a most careful study be given to it. When the Government has given it careful study and decided what is in the best interests of elderly people and how it can bring comfort to them in the declining years of their lives, it will bring down proposals which, I believe, will make a notable contribution to the welfare of old people and will certainly do something that no other government has ever attempted and, therefore, that no other government could ever have achieved during the whole of the lifetime of the Commonwealth Parliament.


.- I always enjoy listening to and watching the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I was very interested in the theory that he advanced. He referred to the flow of capital from Australia, which he believed might become a flood if the interest rate were reduced. Apparently he is one of those men whom the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) regards as a theorist. It would appear that he takes the view that the fewer the houses that are built, the greater will be the degree of economic security in the Commonwealth. That is a rather odd view, expressed by rather an odd man.

I want to direct my remarks mainly to a speech made” earlier this evening by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), who is notable for speaking always on one subject - the Queensland Government. The honorable member referred to a grant which is being made by this Government for the development of the Callide coalfield. It is interesting to note that the grant is being made, not so much to develop the Callide open-cut field, as to subsidize shipping freight on coal transported from Gladstone to Victoria. I notice that the subsidy has been reduced from £300,000 last year to £150,000 this year. I can say without fear of contradiction that the subsidy was initiated by this Government some years ago, not to promote the development of the Callide open-cut field, but to subsidize the transportation of coal to a State governed at that time by a tory government. That is born out by the fact that now, when Victoria is being wisely administered by a Labour Government, the subsidy has been cut by a half. It is noticeable that this Government is determined to give assistance only to States administered by tory governments.

At about the time when the Menzies Government entered into the agreement with the Victorian Government to subsidize coal shipped from Gladstone to Victoria, representations were made by electricity authorities in Brisbane, which were compelled to draw their coal from the Callide open-cut field, to be given the same treatment as that accorded to the anti-Labour Government then in power in Victoria. The authorities were the Brisbane City Council and the Southern Electric Authority of Queensland, the successor to the .City Electric Light Company Limited. It was necessary for them to draw their coal from the Callide field because of the failure of privately owned mines in the West Moreton coalfield, adjacent to Brisbane, to supply coal of a proper quality. The privately owned mines did supply coal of a sort, but a considerable portion of it was stone. As the production of these mines in the West Moreton field was not sufficient to meet the growing demand for coal by the two electricity authorities, it was necessary for them to bring coal to Brisbane from the Callide field. A request was made that the Commonwealth should treat the electricity authorities in Brisbane in the same way as it was treating the Victorian Government. But this request fell on deaf ears. I suppose the electricity authorities in Brisbane were unduly optimistic in expecting generous treatment from this Government, but there was no harm in trying.

We must remember that the cost of transporting Callide coal to Brisbane is considerable, notwithstanding that the Queensland Railways Department charges a very low concessional rate on coal brought from Callide to Brisbane. West Moreton coal, which comes from the Ipswich field, costs about £2 14s. a ton delivered to the city power houses. Callide coal brought by rail costs about £5 10s. a ton delivered to the powerhouses, and if it is brought by ship to Brisbane it costs between £6 10s. and £7 a ton. This Government refused to assist the Brisbane electricity authorities; The taxpayers of Queensland in general, and of Brisbane in particular, were compelled to bear that charge, although they were making a contribution, by way of taxes paid to the Commonwealth, to the cost of the subsidy paid on coal bought by an anti-Labour Government in Victoria. That was an injustice to the citizens of Brisbane and to those people who lived in the area served by the Southern Electric Authority, an area represented by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The Queensland Government, which desired to assist in the development of the Callide field, proceeded to construct a rail link between Biloela and the Callide field, with no assistance from this Government by way of subsidy.

How different is the attitude that this Government adopts to the undemocratically elected South Australian Government - a minority Government which, by seat rigging, controls the South Australian Parliament! In the Estimates we are discussing, there is an item of £800,000 in respect of the carriage of Leigh Creek coal. That sum will be paid to the South Australian Government. I have no objection to subsidies on the transportation of coal if the coal is to he used in the production of electricity, par- ticularly in a growing industrial State or city, but I say the policy of the Government in relation to such subsidies should he absolutely uniform. If a. policy of subsidizing the transportation of coal is to apply in Victoria and South Australia, it should apply also in all theother States of the Commonwealth. It is not asking for too much to suggest that the Government pay a subsidy tothe Queensland electricity authorities which are drawing coal from the Callide field, particularly in view of the fact that it is paying a subsidy on the transportation of coal from that field to Victoria.

I felt that I should draw the attention of the committee to this example of unjust treatment of Queensland by this Government. It may be thought that honorable members from the northern State are continually, harping on this point, but we are compelled to do so. Labour members from Queensland are compelled to battle continually to protect the interests of their State, which has been abandoned by honorable members opposite who represent Queensland electorates. We hope that if we continue to agitate for Queensland to be treated in the same way as other States, Queensland will eventually get justice from the Commonwealth.

Progress reported.

page 1388


Motion (by Sir ERIC Harrison) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

East Sydney

.- Mr. Speaker-

Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -

That thu question be now put.

The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. ARCHIE Cameron.)

AYES: 42

NOES: 26

Majority . . 16



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1389


The following papers were pre sented : -

Lands Acquisition Act -Land acquired for - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization purposes - Griffith, New South Wales.

Postal purposes -

Berrigan, New South Wales.

Lower Portland, New South Wales.

Table Top, New South Wales.

House adjourned at 10.57 p.m.

page 1389


The following answers to questions were circulated: -



Mr Lawrence:

e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -

  1. What were the amounts at first recommended by the Australian Wheat Board to be allotted to the separate States of the £3,500,000 which the Minister announced on the 30th April, 1954, was to be made available for erecting storage necessary for the 1954-55 wheat harvest?
  2. Have these allocations been altered; if so. what, at the present date, are the separate amounts to be available to each participating State?
  3. If there is a difference between the figures in answer to paragraphs 1 and 2, what is the reason for the difference.
  4. What steps have been taken by each of the States to use its allocation, and what was the date of commencement of the necessary emergency storages in each State?
Mr McEwen:

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

  1. When the Australian Wheat Board reported in March last on the necessity for special emergency storage to be provided in certain States to accommodate the 1954-55 wheat crop in addition to the anticipated carryover from the 1953-54 season, the board did not recommend any specific financial allocations. 2 and 3. The State wheat handling authorities in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia first provided estimates of their physical storage requirements. At that time it was understood by the Australian Wheat Board that the Western Australian and Queensland State authorities would themselves finance the erection of any additional storage accommodation required in their respective States. After consideration of the Wheat Board report and of preliminary cost estimates, the Commonwealth’ Government agreed to guarantee an amount of £3,500,000 to be made available by the Commonwealth Bank to the Wheat Board for the provision of emergency storage in New South Wales, Victoria and

South Australia. Following a conference between the parties concerned, the following tentative maximum allocations were agreed upon: -

New South Wales-£1.400,000 for the erection of approved storages tor 13,000,000 bushels.

Victoria - £1,750,000 for the construction of storage facilities at Geelong for 18,000,000 bushels.

South Australia - £300,000 for approved bagged storage, facilities. a general reserve of £50,000 was created against contingencies. Subsequently Western Australia and Queensland’ sought Commonwealth financial assistance for emergency storages. It had by then become obvious that the Victorian costs had been considerably overestimated earlier, although the Victorian Grain Elevators Board had been a party to the conference which, after consideration of the estimates for the individual States, had recommended £1,750,000 for the erection of storage in Victoria for 18,000,000 bushels. The Government then decided that the Western Australian and Queensland requirements and minor additional requirements in South’ Australia would be mct within the limits of the £3,500,000 originally arranged to be made available, it being clear that the amount of storage recommended by the Australian Wheat Board as necessary in Victoria and New South Wales would be provided at much less than the original cost estimates.

  1. I am informed that the, approximate dates of commencement of these emergency storages in the various States are -

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.