15th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Pkesident (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Commerce state whether any decision has been reached by the Government, in conjunction with the Australian Wheat Board, in respect of an advance or a final payment to the wheatgrowers of Australia ?
– That matter is nowunder the consideration of the Government.
– Will the Leader of theSenate obtain and give to the Senate information as to the names of aliens who have been interned since the outbreak of the war, and who have subsequently been released, giving all particulars as to the reasons for and conditions of their release?
– I shall make inquiriesinto the matter and give a reply to the honorable senator to-morrow.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state when the Government intends to take swift and effective action to round up all Nazis and Nazi sympathizers in Australia, and place them in internment camps?
– Action in regard to such persons is constantly being taken. The matter is under the close attention of the Government at the present time.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Commerce state whether, with the object of preventing waste in the apple and pear crop nest season, the Government will place before the conference to be held in June, on the apple and pear acquisition scheme, a proposal to allow State-aided hospitals to collect at their own expense, from the growers in the various States, apples and pears that are not required by the Apple and Pear Board ?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion before the Minister for Commerce for his consideration.
Transfer to Australia
– Can the Minister for the Interior give to the Senate any information in respect, of the report in the press with regard to bringing children from Great Britain to Australia?
– That matter is now under the consideration of the Government. Certain communications in connexion with it are passing between the Governments of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Considerable public feeling has been aroused in regard to the proposal, judging by the amount of correspondence that honorable senators are receiving about it; but it presents many difficulties, owing to the distance that these children would have to travel, and the shortage of shipping. I am quite sure that the desire of the Government, and of the people generally, is to do all that they can to help in this matter, and so soon as further information is available as to the practicability of undertaking a scheme of this kind, I shall make it known to the Senate.
– Has any complaint been received by the Minister for the Interior on account of the delay experienced in obtaining berths on iiic cast-west transcontinental railway? H so, lias consideration been given to 1 he desirability of adding another train weekly (o the service?
– No complaint has l,een made to me directly, but. I shall communicate with the Commissioner for Railways, and ascertain if extra accommodation is required.
Report No. 1 of the Printing Committee brought up by Senator Leckie, and - hy leave - adopted.
– On the 24th May, Senator Cunningham asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am no,v in a position to supply the following information: -
After the closing of tenders for the piles, special representations were made by tha Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to the Conservator of Forests, Western Australia, who advised that he regretted piles could not bc supplied, due to the necessity for conserving for State requirements the long piles immediately available.
Will the Assistant Minister for Commerce make inquiries and advise the Senate regarding the progress made by the Department of Commerce with the Admiralty in connexion with the proposed marine survey of the northwestern coast of Western Australia?
I am. now in a position to inform the honorable senator that the Naval Board, which is responsible for the actual carrying out of hydro-graphic surveys, has advised the Department of Commerce that, owing to commitments in connexion with the present war with Germany, it has” not been possible to commence the contemplated hydrographic survey of the north-west, coast of Western Australia. The matter will be reviewed with the Naval Board at a later and more opportune time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce. upon, notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : - 1, 2 and 3. Only one tender was. received for supply of flax fibre and tow. A satisfactory contract is now in process of preparation and ii full statement of terms and conditions will be made as soon as the necessary formalities have been completed.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied
Hie following answers to the honorable senn tor’s questions: -
Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited, Atlantic Union Oil Company Limited, and Texas Company (Australasia) Limited.
Arc magnesium alloys of any benefit in the manufacture of defence armament?
Is any magnesium being produced in Australia: if so, where and what quantity per annum ?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Will the Minister make available to the Senate the number of employees now engaged in the manufacture nf arms and munitions in the Government factories, also the weekly wages bill paid to such employees?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The number of employees as at the 30th April, 1040, was 10,737. Weekly wages bill (first week in May, 1940), £50,400. These figures exclude army and naval inspection staff at factories employed by the Departments of the Army and the Navy respectively.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1940.
Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1940.
Sugar Agreement Bill 1940.
– by leave - read the statement made in the House of Representativesby the Minister for Supply and Development (vide page 1560).
The PRESIDENT announced the receipt of a letter from Senator Wilson requesting his discharge from further attendance on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator K. C. Wilson be discharged from further attendance on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
That Senator A. J. McLachlan be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
The PRESIDENT announced the receipt of a letter from Senator Wilson requesting his discharge from further attendance on the Printing Committee.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator K. C. Wilson be discharged from further attendance on the Printing Committee.
That Senator Allan MacDonald be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Printing Committee.
Debate resumed from the 29th May (vide, page 1435), on motion by Senator McBride - .
That the paper be printed.
. The financial statement which was presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) in the House of Representatives on the 2nd May outlines the Government’s proposal to spend the sum of £125,000,000 during this year and next year in connexion with its war preparations. A portion of this amount has already been expended. Since the statement was presented to Parliament very grave events have occurred overseas. Germany has overrun Holland and Belgium and invaded Prance. In order to assist the Allies to withstand the present menace it is likely that the people of Australia will be called upon during the forthcoming year to provide a great deal more than has been indicated in the financial statement. Even at this moment British and French forces in Flanders are fighting for their very existence, and it is not known whether they will be able to get away or be completely annihilated. The position has steadily grown more grave. From one hour to another we do not know exactly the balance of gains and losses by the Allies in the European conflict. Australia is a long way from the actual scene of war, and we have not the stimulusof war in our own country. We all hope that the horrors of war will not be brought to this land, but no one can say to-day to what extent the man-power and wealth of this nation will be called upon before victory is won. I am sure that the Australian people will play their part willingly and well, and will be with the Allies to the end. In his speech at the “ Win the War “ Rally in Sydney on Tuesday night, the Primp Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that we came from a race which did not surrender, and I think I am justified in claiming that we Australians, the progeny of that race, will live up to that high tradition, which was so faithfully upheld during the last war by the Australian Imperial Force. I am confident that, should the situation become even worse, and the threat of invasion hang over this country, every Australian man and woman will fight to the last, to maintain the freedom of this nation and the principles for which the British race has fought through the centuries. There is no doubt that “ Australia will be there “, and will do its best. It is the duty of every Australian to put forth, his or her best effort in order that the maximum service may be obtained from the wealth and man-power of this country. “Wealth wre have here in abundance ; the resources of Australia remain practically untapped, even after 100 years of settlement and industrial expansion. Although perhaps we have not actual gold in our banks, the natural resources of Australia can provide wealth untold. It is man-power of which we are short. Australia is a. very large country with a very small population, and we should make every effort to use our man-power to the fullest possible degree during the months or years of (struggle which we may have to face before victory is assured to us. We must not overlook any avenue by which the use of our man-power could be increased; neither must we overlook any useful suggestions that are made to that end. For some months past, representations have been made by various branches of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia tha.t exmembers of the Australian Imperial Force be organized in association with able-bodied men who are now too old to enlist, or who”, owing to illness or physical deficiencies, have been unable to pass the rigid medical examination for entrance to the Australian Military Forces. These men would number roughly 150,000 to 200,000, and I am sure they would be only tpo pleased to give their services voluntarily to their country, providing they were given some semblance of recognized organization, and some facilities for training to fit themselves for any job they might be required to do. Very drastic changes have .been made in Great Britain during the last few weeks. Owing to the gravity of the situation there, men who were classed as unfit for active military service because they are above the age limit have been called upon to undergo training to fit them to meet, attack by parachute troops. There may not be the same danger in Australia, but the present conflict in Europe has changed so frequently and with such rapidity that no one can be sure of what may face us in the future even in this country. Therefore the Government would be well advised to take time by the fore- lock, and accept the services of men who are joining local defence corps in such large numbers and who desire to be officially recognized as an integral part of our defence organization. I have received a communication from the Townsville branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League impressing upon me their earnest wish to help Australia in this crisis. It is not the idea of those who join these local defence corps that they should be isolated bodies acting without military oversight. Their desire is to be definitely linked in some way with the defence forces, so that their services may be more readily available and more efficient.
I agree with the remarks made recently by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) that it may not be advisable to have isolated organizations having no connexion with the defence forces springing up all over the Commonwealth. It is not suggested that these defence corps should be units of some free-lance organization. They claim tha t they should be recognized as part of our home defence system. The meeting at Townsville to further the objects of this movement was attended by about .100 ex-service men, and in the communication which was sent to me the purpose of the organization and qualifications for membership are clearly defined, thus -
Objects. - The defence of out citizens, our homes and ourselves from aggression in any form.
Membership. - Hie qualifications for membership shall be -
loyal member of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia:
citizens over or under military age;
citizens of military age who have enlisted and been rejected for active service ;
members of rifle clubs not otherwise on reserve.
If the members of such local defence corps were properly organized and had official recognition, they could be of very material assistance to the Commonwealth Government. In north Queensland it would be quite easy to link them with the two militia battalions that are stationed, one at Townsville and one at Cairns. In a certain event the northern portion of Queensland could easily become the scene of disturbances. The country between Townsville and Cairns lias a large population of foreign mi’ grants. The north is far away from centres where military forces are established. This being so, if the war should go definitely against Great Britain and our Allies, a force of loyal citizens having official standing as part of our home defence system might be needed very quickly to quell disturbances that might occur as the result of over-jubilant demonstrations among foreigners in northern Queensland. I know of no better means to ensure peace, in the circumstances I have indicated, than the encouragement of local defence corps. Its members need not be issued with uniforms, although the issue would be an advantage. In order to expedite the formation of this -force an arm or other badge could be issued which would ensure legal military standing in accordance with international law. I do not wish to labour this subject, because the movement has extended to nearly every capital city in the Commonwealth, and I am at a loss to understand why, to date, the military authorities have not taken action to fit local defence corps into the general scheme for home defence. If the military board cannot see its way clear to en-; courage this most laudable movement, I should say the time has come to consider changes in the personnel of the board, in order to make our defence system sufficiently elastic to embrace all bodies of loyal citizens . who may band themselves together for the purpose of defending this country. I would emphasize that time is the most important factor in the building up of any part of our home defence system. Events in Europe must surely have impressed our military authorities with the need for speedy decisions. Only n few weeks ago the British and French soldiers were strongly entrenched behind the Maginot line and the Belgian lines of defence and there was, I have no doubt, n confident belief that they would be able to stem the tide of the German invasion not ‘for some weeks only, but for many months. But the lightning attack by immensely powerful German forces and the adoption of new methods of warfare have caused the allied command to reconsider their plans. It is clear that in order to ensure the success of the allied arms, we must meet the challenge and,, perhaps, adopt new methods.
A great deal has been said about the shortage of mechanics in that most essential of our fighting services - the Air Force. The best pilots in the world would be useless without an adequate supply of trained mechanics to keep their machines in good flying order. We are told that Australia is short of air mechanics. I suggest that full use should be made of female labour. When I was on leave in Great Britain during the last war, I saw much of the work being done there by women and girls. The manufacture of shells, which was then a much more skilled job than it is at the present time, was being carried out almost entirely with female labour, although men were employed as heads of departments and supervisors. Parts of shells could be made in Australia hy women, and the semi-skilled men who are now doing thatwork could be released to attend technical schools in the various capitals in order to qualify as aircraft mechanics. Much of the work done in munition and other factories engaged in supplying defence equipment is done by means of lathes and could well be carried out with female labour. During the last war, most of the work on the land in Great Britain was done by women and that released men who were badly needed at that time to fill the ranks of the army overseas. Much of the transport work in England also was done by women. Increased efficiency could be obtained in Australia by the training of women for work now being carried on by men, thus relieving man-power for more importantwork.
Our Light Horse troops include some of the finest soldiers to be found in the Commonwealth Military Forces, but their services .are not being utilized. Cavalry and other mounted regiments are rarely used in present-day warfare, mechanized units having taken their place. If there are not sufficient tanks in Australia to enable the services of the Light Horse to be used in operating them, some form of training should be given to these regiments, in order to prepare them, for service in the event of their being required to form mechanized units. I understand that the crews of tanks receive training somewhat similar to that of light horse and artillery.
Reference was made by Senator Ashley to the government annexes that have been attached to factories and workshops. He said that little output had come from those establishments, but I am glad to be able to say that 10 of the 26 annexes are 11OW in production. Their output includes shell forgings, machined shell bodies, trench mortar bombs, aircraft bombs, hand grenades, smoke grenades, fuses, primers and gaines. Production has, in some instances, been delayed or suspended, through shortage of materials due to the coal strike, but this has now been overcome, as the result of instructions issued to suppliers to give urgent priority to defence orders. The principal cause of the non-completion of the remaining ten annexes is the difficulty that has been experienced in obtaining a comparatively few machine tools and master gauges, hut these are now coining forward. Many of the tools, jigs and gauges have been supplied from the toolroom annexe at the South Australian Government Railways workshops at Islington, which have been working at full capacity for a considerable time, and are being extended as rapidly as essential plant oan be obtained. In view of these facts, Senator Ashley should realize that the Government has not been negligent in this matter, and that the workshops to which the annexes have been attached are making every effort to provide war materials. I had the pleasure of visiting recently the annexe of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla in South Australia. This establishment was engaged in the manufacture of o very important part of an aeroplaneengine, and output commenced towards the end of December last, although the shop is not yet fully equipped. I was impressed by the efficient manner in which the premises were being provided with all necessary plant. The engine part had to be true to one-thousandth part of an inch, and, to make this possible, the whole of the workshop had to be air-conditioned, because a variation of temperature of a few degrees would have prevented accurate work. ( trust that prompt consideration will be given to the points which I have raised, in order to determine whether more can be done to increase Australia’s war effort. The training of men over the military age should not impair our war effort in any way, because they would be trained in their own time.
– In view of the fact that another £70,000,000 will be needed in the next financial year to provide for the defence of this country, and to aid in the successful prosecution of the war, I venture to suggest that, owing to developments in Europe within the last few days, the amount mentioned will be merely pocket money in comparison with what will be needed in the future. Although pome details ha ve been given showing how the £70,000,000 is to be- raised, we have not. yet had any information as to how further future commitments are to be met. I trust that in this time of crisis when our liberty, democratic institutions, privileges, and in fact all we hold dear, are at stake, we shall not allow the orthodox system of finance to prevent the effective defence of Australia and the successful prosecution of the war. Honorable senators will admit that nations cannot be defended and wars won with money alone, and that a nation’s security depends upon its man-power, guns, aeroplanes, tanks, munitions and foodstuffs. Therefore, it is undesirable that any expert or committee of experts should tell us that our limits in financing our war operations are governed by the issue of credit or the raising of loans. As I have stated, success depends upon the quantity of equipment and foodstuffs we can produce, and the man-power we have available. That is the position which we shall have to face in Australia in the near future. The remarks which I propose to make later on the burden of taxation will support the comments which I am making at this juncture. To say, as some do, that if Britain bc beaten, we also shall be beaten, is the worst kind of propaganda. Even if Britain were defeated that would not mean that the whole British Empire was defeated. We know the serious degree to which Britain is menaced, and at present it is impossible to say what may happen within the next twelve months, or even within the next few weeks. It is foolish to say that if Britain falls the whole British Empire also must fall.
– Who has said that?
– Such statements have been made repeatedly by members of this Government, who regard themselves as statesmen. Britain is only one part of the British Empire, and if the British Government thought that Britain was to be defeated its Ministers would have sufficient confidence and foresight to retreat to some other portion of the Empire, where a further stand could be made. Is it suggested that if the worst should happen, Britain would surrender everything, including its fleet, to Germany without making another stand? Any member of the British Commonwealth of Nations which was not prepared to make a. second stand if one corner of the Empire were lost would be displaying a streak of yellow.
We appreciate what the Government is doing up to a point; but much greater energy must be thrown into our defence efforts. For . instance, an enormous number of men are unemployed while unnecessarily long shifts are being worked in sonic establishments. In Great Britain some of the factories are working two shifts of twelve hours and others longer shifts, in an endeavour to increase production. At this critical juncture no one in Australia should be idle, and in order to increase our war effort every man should bc employed in some form of production. rf. as Ministers have said, we are short of technicians and skilled tradesmen, additional technical schools should be established where men could be trained as rapidly as possible, in order to bring them up to the standard required’ for the production of arms and munitions. It has been suggested that the Opposition should co-operate with the Government with respect to its defence activities, by forming a national government, but when advice is tendered to the Government it is disregarded. About two years ago at a conference of Ministers of Education, Mr. Ogilvie, who represented the Tasmanian Government, and Mr. Drummond, the Minister for
Education in New South Wales, in advocating an extension of the technical training system, said that there was a shortage of trained mechanics in Australia. It was suggested that the Federal Government should assist financially iD order to overcome the shortage, but the representations made on that occasion were completely ignored. The shortage with which we are now confronted is due entirely to the lack of foresight on the part of the Commonwealth Government. Every effort should be made to ensure that past blunders shall not be repeated. Every available workshop capable of producing arms and munitions should be brought into production. We have said from time to time that it is most unfair to concentrate production of Australian defence requirements in the eastern States, and that effect should be given to a policy of decentralization. Up to the present the Government has ignored the advantage of such a policy, but now, when the guns are almost thundering at our doors, other avenues are being explored, and outside workshops are being brought into production as we suggested some months ago. I trust that the Government will expedite a policy of decentralization with the least possible delay, and arrange for every available workshop to be utilized for the production of arms and munitions. All plant, in the mechanical workshops in Tasmania can be driven with electric power, which is always available at a comparatively low cost, and as coal is not required to produce electricity in that State, production would not be delayed a.« it was recently owing to a stoppage of work on the New South Wales coal-fields. In this respect Tasmania offers outstanding advantages. At the same time, several workshops in that State could easily be converted into munition factories.
Although magnesium alloy is being used extensively overseas in the manufacture of armaments, the Government has refused to assist in the development of deposits of magnesium in Tasmania. Its attitude in this matter is most discouraging. We have been told that wlcan secure all of our requirements of magnesium alloy from Great Britain. 1 dispute that statement. Here is a cablegram which was despatched from London on the 17th May -
Production and purchase of magnesium now matter within control of Air Ministry who reply: Prepared to consider purchase of any surplus magnesium produced in Tasmania. Pinal decision must however depend on quantity available, programme deliveries and price, therefore inquire what is maximum tonnage of pure metal and of alloy which is expected will bc available for export to the United Kingdom during 1.941 and 1942 and what would be the price. At the present time Is. 5d. per lb. would be considered reasonable for 99.8 per cent, of pure metal.
From this message it appears thai Great Britain it-self is short of this metal. I again appeal to the Government immediately to assist in the development of the magnesium deposits in Tasmania. These deposits are easily accessible, and a company in Tasmania is prepared to work them, provided it receives the assistance it has requested.
– If a market exists for the metal why should the company require Government assistance?
– Why has this Government in the past niven assistance to companies engaged in boring for oil?
– In order to assist them to discover oil, but the honorable senator has said that the magnesium ha* already been discovered.
– The Government has given financial assistance to those companies because they have been una hh’ to secure sufficient capital to enable them ro carry on their work. The particular company to which I refer is prepared to accept a very low profit, and in submitting its proposal to the Government it has been actuated mainly by patriotic motives.
– Cannot the State Government give the assistance required ?
– The honorable senator is well aware that because of its own financial requirements, the Government of Tasmania relies to a large degree on assistance which it secures annually from the Commonwealth by way of grants. In addition it Ls well known that the Tasmanian Government has never been able to secure from the Loan Council loans sufficient to enable it to :meet its requirements. Therefore, tha request to the Commonwealth Government to assist this company is reasonable.
Honorable senators opposite alleged that the Labour party refuses to co-operate with the Government in ite war effort. Yesterday, we listened to a speech from Senator Dein which consisted of nothing but vulgar abuse of the Labour party. Yet in the same speech the honorable senator appealed to the Opposition to participate in the formation of a national government. In view of that speech, not one honorable senator on i his side would be prepared to join, a government with which Senator Dein wo* associated. The honorable senator himself must realize that. We on this side are prepared to give every assistance to the Government in the prosecution of its war effort. We have not opposed any war measure yet introduced into this Parliawent. In our criticism of such measures we have suggested improvements, but I regret that honorable senators opposite have ridiculed those suggestions. However, we find that the Government has subsequently embodied many of our suggestions in its policy. All men and women in this country must throw their weight into the struggle. We on this side intend to do everything possible to help the Government in the prosecution of the war. However, it would be futile, for us to join in a national government with parties from which we differ on major defence issues. We have already had the spectacle of the Leader of thiCountry party, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), stating that if a certain man, despite his admitted ability to fill the position, were appointed co-ordinator of works, the Country party would withdraw- from the Ministry. How can we be expected l-> work in harmony with a party that adopts such an attitude? In fighting for democracy we must be careful that we do not lose the democratic privilege.-; which we already have. I am impelled to make that observation as the result of the statement made by the -Minister for Commerce in an address recently io the Millions Club in Sydney, that the time lias arrived when the Government must govern and nobody must be permitted to criticize its policy. I hope that when he used those words, the Minister was speaking for himself and not for the Government. Is it in accordance with democratic principles to deny to an Opposition the right to criticize government policy, particularly when such criticism is constructive? We are here *o protect the .rights of the general public. If the public think I am making a mistake, it is at liberty to say. so ; similarly if the public thinks that the Government or any member of the Government is making a mistake, then so long as tincritics keep within the bounds of the law, they are at liberty to draw attention to 5 u oh mistake. There is no reason why we should overburden the .people with restrictions and unnecessary laws in our endeavour to carry on this fight foi democracy. Mention was made in this chamber the other day of the methods employed in Germany. I refer to this matter because it illustrates just what can be clone if a genuine desire to build up a nation exists. The question was asked, how did Germany finance its amazing economic development? The answer is to be found in the words of Hitler himself, and from them Australia could well learn a lesson. When Hitler came into power in Germany he said in effect, “I have been elected your leader. I possess very little more than the clothes F stand up in. Germany has no foreign credits, no gold, and no money whatsoever; the one thing we have is a nation willing to produce and to build “. Germany has built, and has produced, to such :good effect that a. mighty nation has arisen. Hitler did not allow money to stand in the way of Germany’s progress, and in this country there is a willing body of men, women and children, capable of producing wealth from our natural resources, we should not. let antiquated financial methods block our progress. Important defence projects should not have to be abandoned or held in abeyance, merely because under our -existing system insufficient money can be found for them. We must use our national wealth to overcome all difficulties in the same way as Germany, Russia and other countries have used their national wealth.
– Tell us how to do it.
– I shall refer to these matters as I proceed, and if the honorable senator who is so fond’ of inter jecting will use his ears a little more and his tongue a little less, he will be considerably enlightened before I have finished.
I shall now deal with the Governments taxation proposals, mainly with the object of combating some of the criticism which has been levelled against Tasmania. According to the Treasurer’s statement, indirect taxation during this year will’ amount to approximately £60,000,000, which, with the increased army expenditure of £7,000,000, will make a total of £67,000,000. On the other hand, direct taxation will amount to £20,000,000. Included in indirect taxes are the flour tax and the sales tax, both of which place a very heavy burden on the workers. During the term of office of this Government and its predecessors of the same political colour, the sales tax has been progressively increased from 4 per cent, to 5 per cent., from 5 per cent, to 6 per cent., and now to 8 1/3 per cent. On a conservative estimate made by a draper, this latest increase will mean a reduction of 2s. 6d. in the £1 in the purchasing power of the people, at least so far as drapery is concerned. In other words, people wishing to purchase £1 worth of drapery will have to pay £1 2s. 6d. for it. This is an imposition which will bear heavily upon people with low incomes, such as invalid and old-age pensioners. In effect it means a reduction, of the pension.
– How does the honorable senator work that out?
– Owing to the increased prices which the traders will charge as a result of the raising of the sales tax. That cannot be disputed.
– The traders do not make a profit on the sales tax.
– When a trader invests a sum of money in the purchase of commodities, he fixes retail prices that will, return to him a certain amount of profit, including interest on the money which he has invested. If the cost of an order for drapery is increased by £5,000 in respect of sales tax, that sum, and interest on it, will be added to the retail price. Therefore, apart from the sales tax itself, an extra, charge is imposed by the retailers. The point I wish to stress is that the sales tax and the flour tax bear heavily upon the poorer sections of the community, because they are paid by every body, even though wages may be as low as 10s. a week. Yet this Government has also reduced the land tax by £8,000,000, the property tax by £16,000,000, the companies tax by £5,600,000, taxes paid by life assurance companies by £4,500,000, and “taxes paid by shipping companies by £150,000. Although the Government increased the sales tax and the flour tax, both of which are heavy imposts on the less fortunate sections of the community, it was not until the guns were thundering in our ears that it thought about restoring the land tax to the 1914-18 level. Yet the property owners are those who have the most to defend. All sections of the community are desirous of prosecuting this war in the most effective manner, but it is our contention that the financial burden should be more equitably placed than it is to-day. Had not taxation remissions amounting to £35,000,000 over the last few years been made to the wealthy interests which I have mentioned, that money could have been devoted to our war effort to-day. The low wage-earners should not hai.: been taxed to compensate for those remissions.
– The Labour party opposed increases of defence expenditure. That may be checked up in Ban-sard.
– I challenge Senator Dein to produce any speech by a Labour senator opposing the voting of money for defence purposes.
– The Leader of the Opposition (.Senator Collings) did so, and he will not deny it.
– The honorable senator is so used to making incorrect statements that it has become a habit with him, and so we take no notice of what he says. It has been stated that taxation increases are not yet finished, mid that an even heavier burden has yet to come. In view of that warning, I urge that no further impositions be placed upon the low wage-earners, pensioners, and other members of the poorer sections of the community. Taxation increases should be confined to people whohave higher incomes, and are better able to pay. The system of indirect taxation is nothing more than a method of inflating the prices of goods so that the Government may wheedle money out of people on the lowest rungs of the social order. Honorable senators on this sideof the chamber have more than once indicated how the Government could obtain all the money required for war purposes without imposing unnecessarily heavy taxes on people who have to struggle to pay them. If only the Government had the courage to restore the Commonwealth Bank to its original charter, an abundance of cheap money could be made available by that institution for defence purposes. I do not agree with honorable senators who have said that the Commonwealth Bank should issue unlimited credit. It could, however, issue sufficient money to meet defence and war requirements.
I propose to deal now with allegations of extravagant expenditure made against the Tasmanian Government. These charges were made by members of the Commonwealth Government, and also by the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament. I state emphatically that there has been no extravagant expenditure by the Tasmanian Government. I shall cite some figures to show that Tasmania’s finances are wisely administered, and that apart from Victoria, Tasmania is the most economically governed of any State of the Commonwealth. In 1934-35 expenditure from Consolidated Revenue in the various States was as follows : -
The increases of State expenditure from Consolidated Revenue in 1934-35, compared with 1933-34 were as follow :–
The totals of State expenditure in 1938-39 are given in tie following table : -
The increases of expenditure in the various States from Consolidated Revenue since 1933-34 are shown in the following figures : -
The expenditure from Consolidated Revenue per head of the population in 1088-39 was as follows:-
The average for all States was £18 15s. per capita.- The increased expenditure per head of population in 1938-39, as compared with .1934-35, is shown in the following figures : -
The average for all States was £2 3s. 9d. The above figures show that the per capita increase of expenditure was much lower in Victoria than in any ether State. That no doubt explains the lower level of social services provided for the people there, compared with similar services in other States.
– Those figures do not necessarily mean that States showing the greatest increases provide better social «?? vines. For less money the Victorian Government provides better services.
– 1. do not agree with the honorable senator. An examination of the figures relating to expenditure by State Governments on education, including universities, technical and agricultural colleges, libraries, museums, observatories, teaching of the blind, deaf and dumb, public health, including care of the sick and mentally afflicted, the aged and infirm, recreation, police, family endowment and miner’s phthisis, &c, will support my contention. To New South Wales must be given the credit of being the only State which makes provision for family endowment. On. all these social services the expenditure in 1938-39 in round figures was as follows : -
Victoria is again seen to be the lowest on the list as regards expenditure per head of population. I feel sure that if Senator Gibson will study the figures he will admit that the other States provide social services on a more liberal scale than is done in Victoria.
Se’nator Fraser. - The Commonwealth Grants Commission made some pointed references to expenditure by some States on social services.
– I know that it did. I fully approve of the action of those State governments which provide a high level of social services for their people.
– The higher expenditure on social services by some States was used by the commission as an argument against allocating to those States amounts which they claimed.
– I contend that the commission was entirely wrong in its attitude to States which have made more liberal provision for social services. Notwithstanding all that has been done in Tasmania, the social services there are not what I would like to see provided for the people.
– Why not take the matter up with the Tasmanian Labour Government ?
– Finance is always the stumbling-block. The States are compelled to meet the whole of the expenditure for education. The coat of that service should be borne, in part at least, by the Commonwealth. Tasmania has done much to further technical education, its purpose being to turn out trained technicians and skilled operatives who, as we now know, are urgently needed in our munitions factories. If the Federal Government had accepted its responsibility in this direction, there would not now be a shortage of skilled workers for defence factories.
I come now to the figures relating to the public debt. In 1938-39 the public debts of the Commonwealth and States stood as under - (Leave to continue given.’] Tasmania has proved, again, that it has exercised greater economy than any other State, except Victoria. Consider now the interest, sinking fund, and exchange charges on the public debts of the States, including the short-term debt. The following table shows the figures in respect of each of the States for the year 1937-3S -
The figures in the third column are based on the mean population in each financial year, as adjusted in accordance with the 1933 census results. It will be seen that these charges are lower in Tasmania, per capita, than in any other State, except Victoria. Therefore, the accusation against Tasmania of wasteful expenditure cannot be sustained. That State has fewer industries than have the other States, and the population does not include large, wealthy sections such as live in the other States. The wealthy class in Tasmania carries, proportionately, as heavy a burden of taxation as is borne by the corresponding class in the other States, but, as there are fewer people in Tasmania with large incomes, the amount of tax contributed per head of the population is lower. Therefore, Tasmania should not be charged with having failed to impose taxes to the same degree as other States have done.
In conclusion I wish to say that the Government can be assured of the full co-operation of the Opposition in the defence of Australia and in the prosecution of the war. Many people have offered their assistance to the Government, and are anxious to be trained for home defence. They should be given an opportunity to undergo training voluntarily.
– Everybody who so desires. Every able-bodied man will, I think, be anxious to do his utmost to assist the Government.
– Then everybody will be trained.
– Not necessarily. Many men have voluntarily offered to undergo training for service in the Militia forces, so that they will be prepared to defend Australia if called upon to do so.
– Is that the only kind of training which the honorable senator can call to mind?
– When a man volunteers for service in the Militia forces he is asked in which branch he desires to serve. I claim that a volunteer army should be in training. I do not suppose that the Government would be in a position to accept such service from everybody who volunteered; but the position in Europe is changing from day to day, and nobody knows from what quarter an attack may come. “Volunteers for service for home defence should not be informed that they are not required, as they have been told in the past. Provision should be made for the utilization of the services of those who are willing to come forward in. the interests of their country.
– Why should anybody be unwilling?
– I am stressing the point that many people are willing, to serve, but are debarred from training. Those who are not willing to give their best service in the defence of their country at a time when it is threatened with invasion, are unworthy to be called Australians. I am not levelling criticism at the Government. I am merely appeal, ing to it to make the necessary facilities available for the formation of a standing army on a voluntary basis for the defence of Australia. I am sure that if a request were made by the Government for volunteers for such a purpose, the response would be immediate. I, with thousands of others, offered myself for training for the defence of Australia, but my offer was refused. We are willing to offer our services again.
Debate (on motion by Senator Clothier) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McBride) read a first time.
Senator McBRIDE. (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Commerce) 1 5.15:] . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. Parliament has already authorized expenditure on defence and war services up to the 30th June next. That provision was included in the amount of the annual appropriation of December, 1939, for £13/780,000, the Loan Bill of September last for £18,630,000 and that of December foi- £25,235,000. I remind honorable senators that the loan appropriation taken in September was an interim measure which was introduced to carry on services until more adequate plans had been prepared for financing the increase of Australia’s defence effort brought about by the war. The December appropriation was designed to complete the authorizations of liabilities to be incurred to the 30th June, 1940.
The present bill is for £68,740,000, and will cover authorizations of expenditure to the 31st December next. As I have explained on a previous occasion, loan appropriations are based on the amount of the liability to be incurred by a certain date, and not on the amount of expenditure which it is anticipated will be made before that date. This course is necessary to enable Parliament, not only to authorize expenditure, but also to authorize the incurring of the liability and the placing of orders for that expenditure.
The hill covers the period up to the 31st December only for two reasons. The first is that the Government considers that the financial aspect of the war effort and the huge liability incurred thereby, should be submitted to Parliament at intervals of not more than six months, thus ensuring control by Parliament. Secondly, this arrangement will enable the Government to provide for revisions and additions which may become necessary in the intervening period.
The amount included in the bill would have been greater hut for the fact, which the Treasurer announced in his financial statement of the 2nd May, that the revenue of the current year has substantially exceeded the estimate. It is expected that the excess receipts will be in the vicinity of £9,000,000, instead of £8,000,000 as previously forecast, and later a bill to provide for an additional appropriation of revenue of that amount will be introduced. If the excess revenue had not been available the amount to be appropriated under this bill would have been £77,740,000, instead, of £68,740,000.
The Treasurer in his financial statement referred to the fact that less than two years ago a total defence programme of £43,000,000, extending over three years, had. been laid down. At present, it is not passible to say to what figure the programme may eventually expand. The outlook on the struggle in which we are engaged is changing rapidly, and it is obvious that no limit to our war effort can now be regarded as fixed or final. Already the Commonwealth Government has authorized the raising of a third division for active service, and is definitely committed to the maximum effort in the output of munitions. Mr. Essington Lewis has been appointed with authority to speed up production, and already plans are in course for organizing a still greater output. To further the munitions effort, plans are under way for intensive training of toolmakers and tradesmen.
The services included in the bill cover the whole range of Australia’s war effort, and such part of the original pre-war defence programme as has not yet been completed. The pre-ivar programme has been combined in one schedule with war expenditure. The schedule does not separate items of expenditure specifically, hut gives the range of expenditure to be covered, and the comprehensive wording is so arranged as to allow for greater plasticity. With the passage of this bill the total authorizations by Parliament in 1938-39 and 1939-40 for war and special defence, expenditure will amount to £153,000,000. This figure excludes defence departmental expenditure, which, in 1939-40, is approximately £10,000,000.
A large proportion of the loan expenditure will be devoted to the vital air arm”. This, of course, is due mainly to the Empire air training scheme, which will provide the Commonwealth with a large force of trained pilots, mechanics and ‘planes. The programme includes provision for the construction of up-to-date service aircraft, and for the manufacture of twin-row Wasp engines. In addition, the manufacture of Wirraways is being accelerated, and provision is being made for other fighting and training planes to be built both overseas and in Australia. The Aircraft Production Committee has been given very wide powers, which it is using to the full in order to speed up the production and purchase of aircraft.
The Treasurer’s financial statement set out the Government’s proposals to meet war expenditure in 1940-41. The
Government anticipates that taxation on the basis of 1939-40 will provide for defence and war charges of £16,000,000 from revenue account. The taxation proposals already submitted provide for raising an additional £20,000,000 for defence purposes, making a total provision of £36,000,000.
The amount of liabilities incurred is of course an index of our war effort, but the amount of expenditure also furnishes an interesting measure of what has been accomplished. The following table, which sets out expenditure in recent years, demonstrates clearly the progress made with our defence preparations: -
A feature of the bill is the provision, in the clause authorizing the raising of money, for part of the necessary funds to be borrowed from the Government of the United Kingdom. The Treasurer in his statement of the 2nd May announced that arrangements had been made with Great Britain to finance our commitments up to a maximum of £12,000,000 sterling in London up to the 31st December, 1940, after which fresh arrangements would have to be made. The necessary moneys will be loaned to the Commonwealth on the same terms as those on which the original loan was raised. The bill provides for such borrowing. As the financial statement was prompted largely by and covered the defence requirements, I do not propose to prolong my remarks on this occasion. I stated earlier that this bill covers commitments up to the 31st December, next, but I. cannot give any guarantee that further appropriations will not be necessary before that date. The outlook ia dark, and it seems inevitable that further and greater efforts will have to be made to meet the menace of war conditions. Consequently Parliament may have to be asked before the end of December to sanction still further appropriations of moneys for war purposes.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McBride) vend a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Treasurer, in his financial statement of the 2nd May, reviewed the prospects of the budget for the current financial year. Honorable senators will remember that he stated that owing to the unexpectedly high customs receipts, as compared with the estimate, the total revenue would be considerably in excess of expenditure. The amount of the excess was then estimated at £8,000,000, and the Treasurer intimated that this amount would be made available for war purposes by means of an appropriation to be brought down at a later date. This bill is to give effect to that plan. Since the financial statement was presented, customs receipts have maintained a high level, and it is also anticipated that other taxation revenue for the year will be greater than the recent estimate. In addition, the now duties recently imposed have contributed to the increased revenue. In view of present prospects, it is considered that the excess of receipts over expenditure for the financial year may more nearly approximate £9,000,000 than £S,000,000.’ The effect of the bill will be to enable the Consolidated Revenue Fund to take up expenditure of £9,000,000 which would otherwise remain a charge to loan funds. It will merely effect a transfer of charge and will not provide for additional expenditure in 1939-40. It will, however, relieve the loan fund and reduce the amount which would otherwise have to be raised by loan in 1940-41. This relief was taken into account in estimating the amount to be borrowed between now and the 30th June, 1941, with the exception that the relief is £9,000,000 instead of £8.000,000. The schedule to the bill provides for services which have already been voted by the Parliament in a previous loan appropriation, and the items were included in similar wording in items of the Estimates submitted to Parliament in November last. It will be seen that this is a machinery bill to give effect to the course of action announced on the 2nd May. As this subject was covered exhaustively early this month, I do not propose to weary senators with a repetition of what is contained in former statements.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from, page 1529.
– I realize the tremendous responsibility which the Government has to shoulder in financing the defence of Australia and meeting the cost of transporting and maintaining our men and nurses overseas. We appreciate fully the responsible and hazardous nature of the work which our fighting men have to undertake; but the valuable service which the nursing staff is rendering is often overlooked. The Government has adopted various means to raise money to finance its defence programme, but apparently it is not utilizing the Commonwealth Bank as it should be used. We have been told that “ Free money makes free people; but debt money makes slaves “. The Commonwealth Bank, which is the nation’s bank, should be used to provide the necessary finance to meet our tremendous defence commitments. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and other honorable senators on this side of the chamber have dealt fully with taxation and the financial problems confronting the Commonwealth, I .propose to confine my remarks more particularly to the production of arms and munitions. Again, I stress the necessity for a policy of decentralization. On page three of the financial statement it is said that, a “ three-fold task confronts the Government “ and reference is also made to “ general levels of income and employment “. I emphasize the complaint which I have made on previous occasions that Western Australia is not receiving its share of the work which is being undertaken in connexion with the production of arras, munitions and aircraft. Last night Senator Ashley, who dealt very fully with this subject, said that although a number of annexes had been constructed only one is in operation, but I assert that if an annexe were erected in Western Australia, where we have a population of only 500,000, it would soon he in operation. In that State we have railway workshops second to none in the Commonwealth in which arms and munitions could be manufactured expeditiously, but, unfortunately, the opportunity to do so has not been afforded. Some contracts have been let in Western Australia -to those engaged in the leather trade, but there are many other directions in which production could be undertaken economically. The equipment for soldiers who enlist in Western Australia should be provided in that State, and not imported from tho eastern States. This policy should be followed, even if it involves an increase of the cost. Honorable senators opposite are prone to say that the cost of manufacturing military equipment in Western Australia is too high. Such a statement indicates that high wages are paid in Western Australia, and, I contend, reflects credit upon the State. I regret that most of the Government’s orders for military material are placed in the eastern States, whilst the claims of Tasmania and Western Australia are ignored. In this connexion South Australia is now receiving much better treatment than it did not so many years ago. Several factories in Western Australia are capable of handling these orders. Tho woollen mills at Albany are working at full capacity, and are turning out excellent material. If the Government had listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) two-and-a-half years ago, when ho urged that aeroplanes should bc manufactured in Australia, the taxes required to meet much of its war expenditure would have been spread over a number of years, and the burden would not now fall so heavily upon the people. Facilities already exist in Western Australia for the manufacture of complete aeroplanes. To-day, however, aeroplane parts are being manu- f actu red in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, whilst Tasmania and Western Australia are excluded from sharing in this work. Manufacturers in Melbourne and Sydney ignore the claims of the smaller States. So much has been said of the efficiency of factories in those centres that one would have expected the manufacturers to extend their operations to the other Slates. They have not done so, however simply because tho profits to be made there arc not high enough. Western Australia is the gateway to the Commonwealth, and for that reason alone we should encourage an increase of population in that State. If this were done our nation would be more secure.
I am pleased that the Government intends to build ships in Australia. Facilities exist in Sydney for the complete construction of not only vesselsrequired for the transport of our primary products overseas, but also lesser craft for the use of the navy. I do not complain because this work is to be givenfirst to Sydney.
– The first ships will be built, in South Australia.
– Only punts can be built in South Australia. In placing its orders for war material, the Government should give equal consideration to the claims of all of the States. It should bear in mind the importance of increasing employment in every part of the Commonwealth. I am concerned not about our menfolk only. We must give to our women and children every chance to develop into healthy and useful citizens. To-day, however, many volunteers are, being rejected because, in their youth, they did not receive the foods necessary for their proper nourishment. And many men between the ages of IS and 20, whom we see walking our streets, are of poor physique. It is a crime that every child in this country is not enabled to develp into a healthy citizen. I again appeal to the Government to give equal consideration to the claims of the smaller States when it is placing its orders for the supply of military material.
Senator JAMES MCLACHLAN (South
Australia) [5.43]. - For the information of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, I point out that slips are now being laid down at Whyalla, in South Australia, on which it will be possible to construct vessels of up to 20,000 tons. Equal facilities for this work do not exist elsewhere in Australia. I agree that the taxes proposed in this measure are absolutely essential if the Government is to be enabled to secure the revenue it requires for the prosecution of the war. We should conscript both manpower and wealth.
I propose to deal with a few matters, which, though they may appear to the Government to be of minor importance, ire taken very seriously by the general public. I draw the attention of the Minister to the following advertisement which appeared in an Adelaide paper a few days ago: -
Commonwealth OB’ Australia
Storeman in Charge. Small Arms Ammunition Factory, Hendon, South Australia. Kate nf pay £5 per week subject to quarterly adjustments. Selection subject to medical examination.
Applications in writing should bc addressed to the manager, Ammunition Factory, Footscray. Melbourne, and will bc received up to 10th May, 1940.
Surely we have any number of men in South Australia who are capable of filling this position, and, also, there must be many officers in the department who are capable of making a selection from the applicants for this job. It would appear, however, that this matter is to be handled by an officer stationed in Melbourne, who will, of course, require to proceed to Adelaide at considerable expense to the Government in order to interview applicants. Such a procedure is ridiculous.
In to-day’s Canberra Times, appears the following paragraph : -
From over 250 applications from Australians in every State and. abroad, the Commonwealth Government has selected four officers to fill vacancies in the Department of External Affairs.
They are Mr. L. E. Mclntyre, Mr. B. h. Harry. Mr. J. P. Quinn mid Mr. Ii. M. Murchison.
Mr. Mclntyre was a Tasmanian Rhodes scholar and for the past two years has been on the staff of the High Commissioner in London.
Mr. Harry is also a Tasmanian Rhodes scholar, and Messrs. Quinn and Murchison are distinguished graduates of Sydney’ University.
I should like to know whether these gentlemen possess other qualifications in addition to being Rhodes scholars “ and very successful students at the University of Sydney. Both inside and outside of the Public Service are many men who are capable of filling these positions. Some of the gentlemen, who once sat in this Parliament and took an active part in- an administrative capacity in the last war, should receive such appointments. The Government should display more readiness to go further afield in order to get the best men available for jobs of this kind. It should not confine its search to Rhodes scholars, or men who hold university degrees. In this matter we can learn much from the enemy. I have not the slightest doubt that in choosing his leaders., Hitler is not concerned whether men he finds suitable hold university degrees. Undoubtedly, he looks for the old war horse, the man who knows the game, and is not likely to fall into the errors to which young men are prone.
I deplore the attitude often adopted by Ministers in this chamber when information is sought by honorable senators regarding the Government’s war’ activities. They have a tendency to say, “You must not talk about that; we are doing so and so. If you only knew what we know, you would be satisfied “. To-day the people are demanding to know exactly what the Government is doing, and, generally, they are entitled to that information. It is useless for Ministers always to say that information should not be given, because it might be bruited abroad to the advantage of the enemy. I have no doubt that the enemy is kept well informed of events generally in Allied countries. I am certain that the Germans heard the full story of the recent coal strike in this country. I can see no reason why, instead of hushing up many of the things we are doing, wc cannot frankly tell the world that we shall be able to handle the enemy.
The Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) made a statement to-day setting out the progress that has been made with the manufacture of aircraft. That statement gave to us a little information, but, not as much as we are entitled to. It pointed out that our programme way being held up to some degree because of ihe shortage of mechanics and material. I fail to understand why we should experience any shortage of mechanics. Some time ago legislation was enacted in this Parliament to provide for the compilation of a national register. That register was compiled, and from it we should be able to learn exactly what every man in this country is capable of doing. We know that large numbers of competent mechanics are working in factories scattered throughout the Commonwealth. In a time of crisis we should have no hesitation in commandeering the services of those men in order to speed up the manufacture of munitions and materials of war. We were also informed that Australia is short of materials required for the manufacture of aircraft, and that a contract for the supply of 100 engines has been let to General Motors-Holdens Limited. In Australia there is machinery’ capable of making these engines. Are the factories housing that machinery working 24 hours a day? They are not. It is not a matter of letting contracts to ‘General Motors.Holdens Limited, or to any other organization; it is a matter of getting on with the job. It should not be necessary to let any contracts. Mechanics and machinery are available, and all that the Government has to do is to pay the men and work the factories 24 hours a day. If the problem were tackled in this manner wo would be much better off than we are to-day.
I take exception to statements made in the House of Representatives a few days ago with reference to the building of a graving dock in Sydney. I am not opposed to the construction of such a dock in this country - we should have had one long ago - and I am not paro-eliia.1 enough to urge that the dock should be built in one State rather than in another; but my opinion is that this is not the time to build a dock, because our men and money should be used to tho fullest, possible degree in the production of more urgent requirements. By the lime this huge dock is ‘built the crisis will have passed. In the present time of national peril, we should not be considering the expenditure of a huge sum of money on a graving dock. That work can -well be deferred till better times.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Wherever it is to be built, this is not the time to build it. Naturally, if times were normal and the sun were shining brightly, I would put forward the claim of South Australia.
I should like now to refer to proposals made by some honorable senators opposite in regard to the sittings of Parliament. It has been urged that, owing to the gravity of the situation, Parliament should be kept continuously in session. I am perfectly willing to come here and participate in the work of this Parliament as long as I am wanted, and as long hr my presence can do some good, but what have we done during the last three or four weeks?
– [ am addressing my remarks to the Government. I repeat, what have we done during the last few weeks? For a whole week we debated the Electoral Bill, and, for another week, Ave debated a sugar agreement of which every honorable member of both chambers was entirely in favour before the bill was introduced.
Seantor McBride. - The Government did not debate those measures.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.T know that, but there was no need for the Government to introduce the Sugar Agreement Bill at all, because the existing agreement has eighteen months to run. If there is work to be done here, no doubt all honorable senators are perfectly agreeable to come here and do it. It is our earnest desire that our services (should be of some use to the country, but while we are here, give us a bone with some meat on it. If we are doing useful work, the people will be satisfied that Parliament is really worth while.
Another matter to which I should like to refer is the amount of talk which has been indulged in with reference to the Communist party in Australia. That party has received attention from honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. Some honorable senators on this side wish to lay all the blame on honorable senators opposite, who, in turu, endeavour to pass the responsibility back to this side. I do not care on what side the blame lies ; the influence of Communists must be combated because it is a menace to the good government of this country, and to the people generally. The Government has taken steps in the right direction by imposing a censorship upon undesirable literature, and I support its action wholeheartedly.
– Would the honorable senator also include Nazi sympathizers ?
– Yes. I have before me a letter - no doubt other honorable senators received copies of it - dealing with the Government’s action in connexion with a Communist publication. The letter begins: -
We look forward with confidence that your interests in the welfare of Australia and the preservation of the democratic rights of our publication will prompt you to raise the question in the House for the immediate removal of the ban on our magazine.
That of course Ls from the organization known as the Friends of the Soviet Union and refers to their magazine Soviets To-day.
– Apparently the honorable senator keeps in touch with the Communists.
– I have no doubt that the same letter was received by Senator Ashley.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN The senders of the letter have asked me io bring the matter up on the floor of tho Senate at the earliest possible opportunity. I am here to represent the people of this country, and when any matter is raised by my constituents, I always endeavour to deal with it. In this case, I wholeheartedly support the action which the Government has taken to suppress undesirable publications such as the one referred to. With this letter f also received a list of names of people who apparently are thinking along the same lines as are the Friends of the Soviet Union, and as there has been so much controversy with regard to where the Communists belong it is interesting to peruse that list. It might be advisable for the Government to check up on these people.
– Let us have the names.
– lt is a lengthy list and to read only some of the names would be invidious.
– The honorable senator could have it incorporated in Hansard; if that were done we ali would be able to read it.
– 1 suspect that the honorable senator himself received a copy of the letter and the list of names. If he did not I shall be pleased to let him have my copy. It is possible that the people whose names appear on this list are not active Communists, but undoubtedly their views are not in the best interests of this country. If I had my way, instead of interning them, T should pay their passage to Soviet Russia, which they esteem so highly.
– I do not suppose that all the names on the list are those of trade union leaders.
– Certainly not; but the honorable senator probably knows all about it, as he no doubt received a copy.
– No. -Senator Ashley. - Apparently these letters were forwarded only to Government supporters.
– As I said, before, I do not care in which political camp the Communists are to be found, they should be rounded up and interned.
Senator McLEAY (South Australia -
Minister for Trade and Customs) [6.0]. - I do not propose to go into all the financial matters raised during thisdebate, but I wish to refer to several points mentioned by Senator Cameron. The honorable senator .made certain references to price-fixing in the Commonwealth, and I am sure that on reflection he will have realized that what he said was incorrect and misleading. In order that honorable senators may not be under a. misapprehension, owing to Senator Cameron’s remarks, I shall make a few observations on the subject of pricefixing.
Senator Cameron said that up to date the Government had not attempted tosolve the problem of the increasing cost of living. I draw the honorable senator’* attention to the fact that shortly after the outbreak of war the Government set up an organization to control prices, and so successful has this been that, apart from normal seasonal price movements in commodities like potatoes, eggs and meat, the problem mentioned by Senator Cameron does not exist. The statement made by the honorable senator that “ the present form of price control exist* merely to stabilize and prevent a reduction of profits “ grossly misrepresents the position. The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner has full authority to vary profits, and he has used his powers extensively to ensure that the minimum of cost increases is passed on to the public. Prices Regulation Order No. 100 issued by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, under which many companies trading in declared goods operate, contains an important provision that the Commissioner may determine a higher oi- lower rate of gross profit than that which operated before the war, and that the maximum price at which goods may be sold by the trader or manufacturer shall be varied according to the variation in the gross profit margin fixed by the Commissioner. Under this provision substantial reductions have been made in gross profit margins since the outbreak of war. The investigating officers of the Prices Branch of the Customs Department are constantly examining profit margins in industries which make applications for an increase of prices. Senator Cameron’s statement, “ It is not suggested by those controlling prices that profits should be reduced “, is a base reflection upon the work of disinterested and able members of the Public Service who have been called in to undertake the highly responsible work of price-control luring the war period. I wish to assure the honorable senator that these men are just as interested in protecting the public and just as devoted to their duty as he is. Many of them are returned soldiers who served in the last war, and it may be assumed by Senator Cameron that they have a full realization of the duty they are called upon to perform in this country. I can assure the honorable gentleman that in case after case the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner has decided on the reports of these officers that gross profit margins should be reduced, and that, in fact, they have been reduced. There are many important trades in the community which depend upon imports for their business ; which, therefore, have experienced increases in landed costs; and which have had to accept a lower percentage gross profit margin. i.n regard to local manufacturing industries not so directly affected by increased costs of imported goods, the Commissioner has, in many instances, refused to allow an increase of price before the profit position in the industry concerned was such that it could absorb the increased costs for the time being.
Senator Cameron is very unfortunate in the two examples of specific commodities which he selects to give point to his remarks. In the case of tea, the increase of price on account of higher landed costs at one time reached 5d. per lb. In New Zealand at the same time it amounted to 6d. per lb., and this may surely be taken as evidence that the price- fixing methods in Australia were at least as rigorous as those operated by the Labour Government in New Zealand. Since the maximum of 5d. per lb. above the pre-war level operated, there have been two reductions amounting to 2d., so that the maximum increase now in operation is 3d. The whole of the increase is due entirely to the increased landed cost of tea in Australia and not to any increase in costs in Australia.
Senator Cameron’s reference to Victorian bread prices was but a half-truth. As the result of an investigation carried out by the Victorian Wheat Products Prices Committee the price of a 4-lb. loaf of bread was increased by 1/2d. in fifteen municipalities, and by Id. in four municipalities. These increases had been made necessary by the position of bakers, some of whom were in desperate financial straits, and the prices in Victoria compare favorably with bread prices in other capital cities. I remind Senator Cameron that the Wheat Produets Prices Committee is set up under joint legislation by the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria, and that in permitting the rise of prices of bread in the municipalities referred to, the Prices Commissioner was acting on the advice and representations of that committee.
These are the only increases of the price of bread in Victoria. No other increases have taken place in the mainland States. In certain areas in South Australia there have been reductions, and in Tasmania the only increase of bread prices has been id. per 2-lb. loaf. This increase is not proportional to the increase of the price of wheat experienced by the Tasmanian millers. Any increase of the price of bread, which at present is limited to a fraction of the bread consumed in Australia, influences the cost of living; and Senator Cameron is wrong in asserting that “ as there has been no corresponding increase of purchasing power of the people fewer loaves will be baked”. This, I may add, is only a sample of the half-baked statements which abound in Senator Cameron’s remarks- This is the evidence ‘ upon which Senator Cameron asserts that “ the Government’s pricefixing scheme in operation to-day is merely a pretence and a fraud “. Honorable senators will, I believe, treat this remark with tho contempt it deserves.
– I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Government the desirability of using its powers under the National Security Act to improve the amenities of a considerable number of men employed in the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, which is now working two 12-hour shifts. Men who start work at 7 o’clock in the morning do not cease until 6 o’clock, and after the strain which continued work for so long entails, they feel that they are entitled, if they are so inclined, to obtain a drink. Under the licensing law of New South Wales, hotels arc supposed to close at 6 p.m. This regulation is not observed in every instance, and in Lithgow two licensees oblige certain customers at almost any hour of the night. Their contravention of the law is winked at. Other licensees, however, are forced to close at 6 o’clock and get their customers out of their bars as soon as possible. It has been suggested to me that if the Government used its powers under the National Security Act, which is wide enough to meet any contingency, an arrangement could be made for hotels in Lithgow to remain open until at least half-past nine at night, and thus meet the convenience of the men who work the long day shifts.
– That is a matter for the State Government.
– I am well aware that it is the function of State governments to fix the hours of trading for hotels; but in the circumstances it would not be unreasonable for the Commonwealth Government to use its wide powers in the way I have suggested. At present it is impossible for workers on the day shifts to get a drink if they feel so disposed.
The need for securing ample supplies of petroleum in Australia is most urgent. This is a matter which I have mentioned in the Senate on several occasions. The other day the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll), stated that I was using my privileged position as a member of this chamber for the purpose of boosting a company in which I had some personal interest and he went on to say that my attitude was highly improper. On that point, all I wish to say is that I shall certainly not be guided in matters of ethics by the code observed by the parties supporting the Government.
– The honorable senator could not aspire to that code of ethics.
– I am convinced that the code which I observe is far superior to that followed by the Minister’s political friends. I say that because, since I have been a member of this chamber, the New South Wales Parliament has had the extraordinary experience of hearing a Minister charging his leader, the Premier, with having faked the budget.
– Order ! There is nothing in the financial statement relating to the finances of New South Wales.
– Well, as Senator Foll has suggested that my attitude with respect to certain companies prospecting for oil in this country was improper, let me remind the Senate that not . very long a Minister of au earlier Commonwealth government, referring to representations from the unemployed for relief said, in effect, that the position of the country was such that some men, at least, would have to become accustomed to unemployment. I also remember a more recent move in financial and business circles by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who found it expedient to resign from the directorate of several auxiliaries of J. B. Were and Son, : a Melbourne financial firm having wide ramifications in Australia through six or seven auxiliaries. J. B. Were and Son have, on a number of occasions underwritten important semi-governmental loan flotations. I recall these things because SenatorFoll said I was guilty of improper conduct when I was trying to place before the Senate certain aspects of one of the most important subjects that has ever been dealt with by this Parliament, namely, the need for discovering adequate supplies of flow oil in Australia. I need hardly impress upon honorable senators what this would mean totheCommonwealth if, unhappily, war should actually come to these shores. War has become mechanized in all its phases and oil is a prime essential. Unless we discover petroleum wells in Australia we shall be dependent on vested interests which, of course, will insist on profits. Quite recently - since the outbreak of the war - those vested interests raised the price of crude oil by 15s. a ton. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from page 1530 (on motion by Senator McBride) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In view of the debate that has taken place on the motion for the printing of the Government’s financial statement members of the Senate have had a reasonable opportunity to express their views on the Government’s proposals, and they will have a further opportunity to offer constructive criticism when the Supply Bill is brought down. As the Opposition has agreed not to cavil at the amount of loan money asked for by the Government for defence purposes, I do not intend to delay the passage of this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Purposes for which money may be expended).
– I notice that the huge sum of £346,000, or about1/2 per cent. of the total of £68,740,000, represents the estimated cost of raising this loan. The Government has” made a present of a huge amount to its friends, the press, for advertising the loan campaign. It seems to me that, at a time when men are offering their lives for their country, it should not be necessary to publish fullpage advertisements in the newspapers to induce people to subscribe to war loans. The national broadcasting facilities should be sufficient for loan advertising purposes. I hope that in launching future loans, the Government will not waste money on newspaper advertisements. A broadcast announcement before or after the reading of each news bulletin would be sufficient.
– I should like to know whether this money is to be raised through the medium of the Commonwealth Bank or the private banks, or from private individuals
-The sum of £346.000 is only the estimated cost of raising this loan. During the last war, government loans were floated at an average cost, of 5s. per cent. The 10s. per cent. provided on this occasion will cover advertising, stationery, and all other expenditure incurred in the raising of the loan. The Commonwealth Bank and the private banks have assisted in the raising of the loan in Australia: but a portion of the sum required will be borrowed in England, and the expenses in that regard may be heavier than those in Australia. It is hoped that the average cost of raising the money to be borrowed under this bill will not exceed the cost incurred in connexion with loans floated during the last war.
– I desire to know how much of this money is to be borrowed in England. The 25 per cent. exchange rate will operate greatly to the disadvantage of the Commonwealth. Why should we go outside Australia for this loan?
– I stated in my second-reading speech that up to ?12,000,000 may be borrowed in England.
– The Government is making a very great mistake. If it would use the national credit borrowing outside Australia would be unnecessary. Will the Minister state why the Government intends to borrow in England? We already have heavy interest commitments overseas. I am more concerned about how the money is to be raised than how it will be expended. I have given instances in the past of the heavy cost of converting loans when they mature, and t have drawn attention to the tremendous exchange that has to be paid. I thought it was understood that the Governmentwould cease overseas borrowing. If a nation utilizes its credit it has no need whatever to borrow.
– If goods are purchased overseas, how can we pay for them?
– Payment can be made in goods, and we can send an extra 25 per cent, worth of goods to cover the exchange.
-(Senator James Mclachlan). - The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I protest against borrowing overseas.
– I oppose the clause. Would I be in order in discussing whether a portion of the loan should be raised overseas?
– No; but the honorable senator may discuss the cost of raising the loan.
– I object to the raising of any loan overseas, as the financial resources of Australia have barely been tapped. We hear a great deal about equality of sacrifice, but the wealthy section of the community has not yet made a sufficient sacrifice.
– I agree with Senator Fraser. The sum of ?346,000 is more than enough to cover the expenses in connexion with the raising of this loan. The Government should follow the precedent established by Sir Denison Miller during the last war. Although ?90,000,000 was borrowed overseas, over ?280,000,000 was raised through the Commonwealth Bank by utilizing the credit of the nation. That sum was borrowed not for one-half of 1 per cent., but for 5s. 8d. per cent. In those days, the financial brigands charged the people ?3 per cent, on paltry loans raised to carry on the industrial activities of this country. Twenty-four years later, this Government is presenting to this Parliament a bill to authorize the borrowing of ?68,000,000, of which ?346,000 is to be actually squandered.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to make a secondreading speech on this clause.
– I am objecting to an overseas loan, interest on which will have to be paid by the people, when the necessary . financial accommodation could be obtained through the Commonwealth Bank. We have been asked to co-operate with the Government. I am now showing that by utilizing the resources of the nation borrowing overseas can be avoided.
– Unfortunately, it. is sometimes necessary, particularly during war-time, to borrow overseas. Whatever financial legerdemain may be employed we can meet our overseas commitments only with commodities and services. At present, Australia may be in such dire straits that the value of its exports may not be sufficient to pay the overseas commitments. Great Britain has undertaken to purchase the whole of our exportable surplus of primary products and I should like to know whether the funds available from that source are sufficient to provide the amount to be borrowed overseas without adopting the course .proposed in this bill. Do financial circumstances compel the Government to borrow in this way? The Opposition is opposed to overseas borrowing, because it imposes economic strain upon Australia. Our external debt is at present approximately ?30,000,000, and the total of our external and internal indebtedness is approximately ?50,000,000. I realize the difficulties of the Government; but I should like to know whether it is imperative to borrow £1 2^00.0,000 in Great Britain, and in that, way add to our external debt and increase the everlasting economic drain upon this country.
.- I support the opinions . expressed by honorable senators opposite who object to borrowing overseas. When Britain is . fighting for its life it is absolutely wrong to adopt such a policy.
– This clause does not relate to overseas borrowing.
– If I am out of order those honorable senators who preceded me also must have been out of order.
– Clause 4 reads -
The amount borrowed may be issued and applied for the expenses of borrowing and for the purposes set forth in the schedule to this act.
This measure provides that money may be borrowed overseas, and we are objecting to the expenditure that will necessarily be incurred in doing so.
The OH AIRMAN. - The honorable senator should have expressed his objection when the motion for the second reading of the bill was before the Senate.
– In answer to a question the Minister said the amount of £346,000 is .provided for flotation expenses in borrowing £12,000,000
– That subject can be debated on clause 5.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Conditions of borrowing from United Kingdom Government).
.- When Britain is fighting for its life and every penny which it possesses is needed for its own defence, a wealthy country like Australia should not lean on the United Kingdom. I quite agree with what the Minister has said. It is nonsense to say that by using so-called credit, or by any internal monetary scheme, it would he possible to increase our credit ‘ overseas. Only by two ways can we avoid the necessity for borrowing overseas : first, byincreasing our exports - and I do not think we can do much more in that direction than we are doing a.t presentand. secondly, by restricting imports. At the present time we are importing articles to the value of many millions of pounds which we could easily do without. Month after month I have urged the Government to restrict imports. If we aru going to play our full part in this war, we must be prepared to make some sacrifices. It is not right to expect our allies only to make sacrifices. Motor cars, clothing and foodstuffs are being imported daily in considerable quantities. On a previous occasion I mentioned a protest which had been raised against the restriction of imports of tinned salmon and sardines. Will it hurt us very much if we arc obliged to do without tinned sardines and salmon for a while? In the interests of our war effort the Government must, take much stronger action to restrict imports. If it does so, we shall not need to rely upon the United Kingdom Government for credit. Instead of borrowing from that government at the present time we should be supplying to it commodities, and supplies on credit, so as to help the Mother Country in the vital struggle in which it is now engaged. I earnestly plead with the Government to take much more drastic action than it lias yet taken to restrict imports.
.- I think that the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) is in possession of information which would clarify the meaning of this clause. We are now being asked to grant certain powers to the Government.
– The Assistant Minister explained the reason for this clause in his second-reading speech, when he told us that the Government had already arranged to borrow from the British Government moneys which we require in order to meet payments overseas.
– Tho Assistant Minister’s explanation may have satisfied the honorable senator who has just interjected, but other honorable senators would like a fuller explanation of this clause. Therefore I ask the Assistant Minister to take the committee into his confidence. If he does so he will find that the measure will be dealt with much more quickly, and with greater satisfaction to honorable senators- generally.
, - The Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) has not explained why the Government has adopted this method of raising money. I am tired of quoting from the report of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems. The Assistant Minister should explain why the Government refuses to take any notice of the recommendation of that commission, which was appointed by the Lyons Government. Why does the Government propose to borrow this money overseas, when the Commonwealth Bank can make this money available to the Government free of interest?
– The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the cla.use under discussion.
– Unless the Assistant Minister gives an explanation on the point which I have raised, it is impossible for the committee to deal with the clause intelligently, because by itself the clause is ambiguous.
Senator DEIN (New South Wales) S.35. - When the committee agreed to clause 3 it agreed to give to the Government authority to borrow this money, and that authority cannot now be disputed.
– I point out to honorable senators that this clause deals solely with the conditions under which the sum of £6S,740,000 is to be borrowed, and I ask them, therefore, to confine their remarks to that issue.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Spender), in his financial statement, on the 2nd May, which all honorable senators have seen and should understand, stated -
Thu rate of expenditure overseas has, of course, increased since the Australian Imperial force embarked some weeks ago. As provision for such expenditure, the Government raised a defence loan of £0,000,000 sterling in London last June. The question of finance of. further overseas war expenditure is one that raises special difficulties. A temporary arrangement has been made with the British Government to make finance available by way of loan to meet the balance of our overseas war expenditure up to the end of December, 1940.
When I was speaking to that statement I dealt with what appeared to me to bo the unwisdom of borrowing abroad. However, the fact is that a certain amount of money has actually been borrowed overseas. In his second-reading speech the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) said -
As 1 have explained on a previous occasion, loan appropriations are based on the amount of the liability to be incurred by a certain date and not on the amount of expenditure which it is anticipated will ho made before that date. This of course is necessary to enable Parliament not only to authorize expenditure but also to authorize the incurring of the liability and the placing of orders for that expenditure. 1 agree with both that statement and theextract which I have quoted from the financial statement. This Opposition is not opposing, and has not at any time opposed, the proposals of the Government with regard to its defence expenditure. That is definite. The fact remains that certain expenditure has been incurred overseas, and that we shall be obliged to meet further commitments of the kind. We must meet those commitments in some way or other; we can do so by exports, or by restricting imports; or by doing what is proposed under this measure; or we can use all three of those methods simultaneously as is now being done. For my part, I do not propose to delay the passage of the bill. Anything which honorable senators might like to say with regard to the Government’s loan policy generally, can be said on the Supply Bill. I regret very much the tone which has been introduced into this debate- Honorable senators on both sides have raised matters which are irrelevant to this measure, and have no relation to the difficulties which the Government is encountering. When we undertook not to oppose these proposals we thereby agreed to share with the Government the responsibility for them. “ Senator. AMOUR (New South Wales) [S.41]. - I should not have felt so surprised if the remarks just made by the Leader of the -Opposition (Senator Collings) had come from the lips of the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride). Senator A. J. McLachlan said that arrangements had been made to borrow a sum of £12,000,000 from the British Government. I point out that paragraph a states -
The rate of interest, the date of repayment and the form of security may be such as arc approved by the Governor-General.
The Leader of the Opposition declared that honorable senators on this side have nothing to say about this provision. But I want to know why the Government does not intimate what the rate of interest for this loan will be? The clause simply says that the rate of interest shall be such rate as is approved by the GovernorGeneral. In view of Senator A. J. McLachlan’s statement that arrangements have been made to borrow this money, the Government should disclose what rate of interest has been agreed upon- The committee is entitled to that information, and it is useless to tell us a lullaby story that everything is all right. I do not oppose this expenditure, although I have already expressed the opinion that this money could in some respects be more wisely expended. However, at this juncture, I should like to know what rate of interest is to be paid on money borrowed overseas? I concur with Senator Darcey’s statement that it is not necessary to raise this money in the United Kingdom. Of course Ave have been told repeatedly that the money is required to meet commitments incurred by the Government in respect of expenditure in connexion with the Australian Imperial Force now abroad. I can see no reason why thu Government could not secure this money through the London branch of the Commonwealth Bank. I feel sure that the people of Australia would like to know exactly what arrangements have been made to borrow this sum of £12,000,000, and what rate of interest the Govern.ment proposes to pay for it.
– In my second-reading speech I stated that arrangements had been made for the United Kingdom Government to borrow on behalf of the Commonwealth £12,000,000, which is needed to pay for certain goods and services obtained abroad. The arrangement is that Australia will pay exactly the rate of interest and the flotation costs paid by the British
Government. As the loan has not yet been raised, I am not able to inform the Senate what the rate of interest will he, but-it is reasonable to assume that it will be between 3 per cent, and & per cent., as that is the current rate in the United Kingdom for loans of this character.
– I thank the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) for his explanation. Despite all that has been said by my leader (Senator Collings) I do not agree that Ave should not seek all possible information on matters such as this.
– The facts were given in the financial statement.
– If I Avant any information on details of the bill the committee stage is the time to obtain it. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that during the last Avar money was borrowed by the Australian Government from Great Britain, and thi rate of interest charged waa higher than that which Great Britain itself paid for money borrowed from the United States of America.
– The British Government gave us £18,000,000.
– That is quite all right, but we are now starting out on a new borrowing programme, and we should know what we are doing. I am strongly opposed to any money being bor- rowed overseas, and the statement made by Senator Wilson is very opportune. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we cannot oppose this measure, but we can protest against the manner in which loans are to be raised under the provisions of this clause.
– Honorable senators opposite ‘ seem to be rather resentful of the fact that some information has been sought in 0regard <o this measure, and when questions have been asked they have been answered rather reluctantly. I do not wish to do the Assistant Minister an injustice, but the impression I gained from the way in which he hesitated before answering a question which had to be repeated several times, was that he was reluctant to give the desired information. It is the duty of a committee to analyse legislation clause by clause. If, in the opinion of any honorable senator, a point requires to be cleared up, he is perfectly justified in asking for information. I am entitled to place my own construction on the Assistant Minister’s attitude.
The wording of sub-clause a of clause 5 with regard to the rate of interest, is such that I suspect the whole bill. I believe that it is not impossible for the Government to say exactly what the rate of interest will be. The Assistant Minister suggested that the rate would be approximately 3 or 3£ per cent. But it is to depend on the price that the Government will pay to private individuals who, even in this time of unprecedented war effort, make the lending of money for war purposes a gilt-edged business proposition, in the interests of investors, speculators and others. That is well known, and it lias happened in the past. It has happened to the degree that, instead of using our own resources as they should be used to greater and better advantage, wc are now pledged to pay enormous sums every year in interest. This clause authorizes the Government to pay any rate of interest which it sees fit.
– It is a blank cheque.
– Exactly. I cannot imagine honorable senators opposite who have had a life-time of experience in the business world and have had extensive dealings with banks and other financial institutions allowing the lender te fix any rate of interest he chooses. Yet, we find them in this chamber doing something in the name of the people, which they would never do in their own affairs, because if they did. it they would not be very long in business. Therefore, I submit that the objection to paragraph a of clause 5, in which the rate of interest is not specifically set out, is justified, and worthy of consideration if it is our aim to carry on this war in the interests of the nation.
– To me the position is perfectly clear; the Government must have money and Parliament is quite prepared to let it have money. Accordingly the Government has made arrangements to borrow a certain sum, and to obtain at least a portion of that money in London. To that end the London market has been sounded, and the Government’s advisers have found that the money is available; then, in a business-like manner, the Government has asked Parliament for authority to borrow. The Government is not in a position to say what the rate of interest will be, because rates vary from week to week. When Parliament gives to the Government authority to proceed with the borrowing of this money, the Government will naturally get in touch with its representative in London, the High Commissioner, who is a very capable man in financial matters. In co-operation with the United Kingdom Government, Mr. Bruce’s object will be to raise a loan on the terms which will bo most advantageous to Australia. Surely honorable senators cannot believe anything else. Whether the rate will be 3 per cent, or 3J per cent. I do not know, and the Government does not know. I am quite prepared to leave that matter to our representative whose task is to provide the money at the least possible cost to this country.
– The Senate is devoting quite a lot of time to a matter which, is really quite simple. The statement made to Parliament by the Treasurer on the 2nd May was that, a temporary arrangement had been made with the British Government to make finance available, by way of loans, bo meet the balance of our overseas war expenditure to the end of December, 1940. I do not think that any member of this chamber - least of all Senator Wilson - believes that having secured that temporary accommodation, we should not pay it back. The Treasurer’s statement is definite -
These loans will bear interest at the effective rate which the British Government itself is paying for loans of similar maturity and similar amortization. The interest rate, it i.» known, will be low.
Cannot we accept that as being the position which now prevails? We shall repay tho money by loan, because if we do not do so we shall have to pay it by means of exports, or a restriction of imports, or perhaps by a little of all three methods. For my own part, I can say nothing more than that we should agree that the loan shall bear interest at tho effective rate which the British Government is paying for loans of similar maturity and similar amortization.
– And the Government takes the responsibility for the interest rate.
– Of course. I do not wish to appear in the role of an apologist for the Government, but we should not keep on bea.ting the air, when the documents before us definitely set out as plainly as the English language could possibly do it, the conditions of this loan.
Clause agreed to.
– I take it that of the £6,016,000 to be appropriated for the Department of the Navy, £1,000,000 will be earmarked for the construction of a naval dock at Sydney. That, I understand, will be the first instalment. As the construction of the dock will take three years, I fail to see any good reason for starting it at this time. I hope, and 1 am sure that hope is shared by every member of this Parliament, that the war will be over long before the dock can bo completed. Therefore, expenditure on that work at this juncture can hardly be justified. The money could be put to better use on other defence projects. If. the dock had been started five years or even three years ago, the work would have been nearing completion now, and it would have been of some use to the nation in connexion with its war effort.
Senator Mc-BRIDE - How long does tho honorable senator think that the war will last?
– I cannot say, but as the construction of the dock will take about three years, it can hardly be of an’ value as a defence measure.
– Senator Fraser is unable to say how long the war will last, but judging from his remarks, he apparently believes that it will soon end. I sincerely hope that he is light. He objects to the construction of the dock because the work will take about three years. Are we to assume that he takes the same view of shipbuilding, because ships, also take one or two years to build ? The Government ha3 acted on the advice of experts, and intends to make an immediate start upon the construction of the dock.
– I fail to 3ee any connexion whatever between the construction of a naval dock and the Government’s shipbuilding programme. And may I add that if the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) and the Government were always so interested in shipbuilding, they have had ample opportunity to start on that industry during recent years. I maintain that it would be in the best interests of the people if the £1,000,000 to be set aside for dock construction were applied to shipbuilding, and I am convinced that this opinion is held by many thousands of people in thi3 country.
– It is not my intention to follow my leader (Senator Collings) and assist the Minister to pilot this measure through the committee. I have no doubt that the Minister in charge of the bill is much obliged to my leader for his explanation of one or two items in the schedule. I agree that the matter raised by Senator Fraser with regard to the proposal to spend. £1,000,000 as a first instalment for the construction of a graving dock at Sydney is causing a good deal of discussion amongst the people, and I should like further information about it. The Labour party has always favoured a vigorous shipbuilding programme, to which, at last, the Government has somewhat reluctantly given its approval. But, having regard to the present war situation, many people are wondering if it would not. be more advisable at this stage, to spend an additional £1,000,000 on the construction of aeroplanes- instead of on the dock? People generally are so apprehensive about the immediate future, and about the lack of initiative on the part of Commonwealth Ministers, that I am sure they would welcome an expansion of the Government’s activities in connexion with our Air Force. On that aspect of Australian defence, the Labour party has always given a definite, lead. Ministers now have, apparently with some reluctance, come round to our view. This proposed expenditure on the dock is belated. That work should have been started years ago, instead of at this eleventh hour and in the midst of a world crisis. Senator Fraser has expressed the thoughts that are in the minds of many thousands of Australians in connexion with the proposal for the construction of a dock. But I give to it my approval and trust that the Government will get on with the work as soon as possible.
– Our Leader in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin) has expressed exactly the opinion voiced by Senator Fraser this evening. We do not deny the need in Australia for a graving dock capable of accommodating capital ships; but we do say that, at this juncture, there is no evidence that we can afford to spend £1,000,000 as a first instalment on what will bc a costly undertaking, which, however valuable it may bc at some future date when completed, cannot possibly bc of immediate value in our war effort. The Government has had in its possession for some considerable time the Savile report on this subject, and we contend that, .the work should have been proceeded with long ago.
– How long does the honorable senator say we have had the report ?
– For some time, 1. understand. At all events, Ministers have had the report long enough to know their own minds. This Government and earlier governments of the same political character knew many years ago that Germany was preparing for this war, and it should have taken steps to put Australian defences in a more efficient state.
– That view about Australia’s defences is not admitted by the honorable senator’s friends.
– Senator Sheehan has just mentioned something that was demanded by Labour’ members of this Parliament several years ago. We told the Government definitely that the next war would probably be decided in the air, and we urged succeeding governments to take all measures necessary to establish a strong air force. As a matter of fact, the Leader of our party in the House of Representatives, speaking on sound technical advice, told the Government the number of air squadrons that would be required effectively to defend Australia against aggression. I agree with the remarks that have already been made with regard to the proposal to construct a dock. Although we do not intend to ask for a reduction of the vote- we have declared that we intend to support .the Government in its war effort - we do suggest that this £1,000,000 could be expended more wisely.
.- Will this be the last opportunity that we shall have for the discussion of the ‘proposed construction of a graving dock in Sydney ?
– It could be mentioned in the debate on the financial statement.
– We have not had an opportunity to discuss it yet.
– I shall be obliged if the Minister will tell me whether or not this will be the only chance we shall have to debate that subject.
– I assure honorable senators that the Government has carefully considered the objections that might be raised in connexion with the proposed construction of the graving dock at Sydney, and that the proposal has not been brought forward at the expense of any other aspect of the Government’s defence programme. We know from the estimates that the great bulk of the materials to be used for the dock will bc produced in Australia, and that in its preliminary stages it will absorb a large number of unskilled workers. In the later stages of construction there will be a relatively small proportion of skilled tradesmen employed, but their employment will not interfere with other defence projects such as aeroplane construction. Senator Sheehan is always wise after the event. He is very fond of telling us wha t we should have done some years ago. Three years have elapsed since the first contract was let by the Government for the construction of aircraft in Australia, and that fact shows that, even then, the Government had some prescience of what might be required for the development of the Air Force. The Leader of the Opposition has made great play on the criticisms levelled at his party concerning the best kind of defence for Australia. I suggest to him ‘that, although aircraft will undoubtedly play a big part in our defence preparations, we shall be’ misled if we imagine that war- in Australia will be waged in the same way as it is in Europe tb-day. Whilst aircraft are playing a wonderful part in the operations there, it is most unlikely that they would figure so prominently in any attack that might be made in Australia. Of course, the technique of war is rapidly changing, and the expert advice that we might have received a year ago would be much modified by that obtained at the present time. The best way to keep up to date with our defence preparations is to act on the best advice available at the moment, and the Government is doing that, as far as lies in its power.
Senator CAMERON (Victoria) [9.17’. - The sum of £50,000 is proposed to be expended by the Department of Supply and Development in the training of toolmakers and tradesmen, but it will be necessary to expend a much larger sura than that on the training of these men, if the Avar lasts for any great length of time. Even if it should end soon, a larger sum than £50,000 should be provided. Before war was declared, a deputation representative of employers and organized labour requested that £30,000 be provided for the purpose of installing the most up-to-date machinery at the Melbourne Technical College for the purpose of training toolmakers. At, that time the State Government did not see fit to grant the request. Later, second-hand machines were purchased for training purposes. Being a past president of the Melbourne Technical College, I have taken a great interest in the work of teaching young men to become proficient tradesmen. Large numbers of them are anxious to take advantage of every opportunity afforded for technical training.
that, if the Labour party had been in power, and had encouraged the production of aircraft for defence purposes several years ago, the machines would now be obsolete; but, if large aircraft factories had been established when the Labour party first drew attention to the importance of air defence, opportunities would have been available for the training of the 80,000 young men who now wish to serve in the Air Force.
– If the Labour party had not abolished compulsory military training, Australia would now have many more trained men than are available.
– That is another matter. The Minister has not replied effectively to my contention. I am glad that the Government proposes to proceed with the construction of a graving dock. The first instalment of expenditure on this work will be £1,000,000, and will provide employment for many people. Although it is estimated that three years will be occupied in completing the dock, I consider that the expenditure is justified.
– I desire to know whether the Government is quite certain that the floating dock is to be constructed on the most suitable site available. We are told that British naval docks are not built, in the chief commercial ports, but the Government, with the lust for centralization that is characteristic of Commonwealth ministries, proposes to put this dock in the very heart of Australia’s greatest commercial port, Sydney. Statements have been made on behalf of the Government that the land required for the purpose between Pott’s Point and Garden Island will be resumed, irrespective of the tremendous expenditure involved, and despite the fact that, in placing the dock in the heart of the commercial and main residential area of Sydney, the population in the immediate locality will be exposed to tremendous risks should the dock be attacked by an enemy. Apart from the report by Sir Leopold Savile, Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson recommended some years ago that Australia should have two naval bases, including docks., of equal size and importance - one at Sydney and the other at Cockburn Sound, near Fremantle, in Western Australia, which is well sheltered, has an adequate depth of water, and is some distance from commercial centres.
– Would not Albany be suitable?
– Yes, entirely, but £1,000,000 has already been expended at Cockburn Sound. Sydney has a bigger population, and consequently more votes, and the policy of centralization continues. I realize that in this instance the Government is acting on expert advice; but it lias also had professional advice from one of Britain’s greatest admirals, who recommended that two naval bases and docks should be constructed in Australia. The tremendous Commonwealth expenditure already incurred at Cockburn Sound should be taken into consideration and the first dock should be built there before any outlay is undertaken in Sydney.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to discuss the site, but he will be in order in referring to the cost.
– Before this appropriation is agreed to., the committee should determine whether the best site has been adopted. I contend that Sydney is most unsuitable, owing to the concentration of a dense population. Britain’s practice is to keep naval defences far removed from the civil population, and in that respect Cockburn Sound has advantages immensely superior to those at the proposed site at Sydney. I am opposed to all this defence expenditure being concentrated in the wealthy eastern States to the detriment of Western Australia. From the point of view of national safety the Government should act on the advice of Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson and construct two naval bases with docks, one of which should be in the western State. One of these docks should have priority in construction.
– Will the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) state whether apprentices or adults are to be trained as toolmakers and mechanics? Under the Empire air training scheme provision is made for the appropriation of £1,700,000 for maintenance, stores. &c. ; £3,430,000 for training in Canada ; and £270,000 for other expenditure, making a total of £5,400,000. There is a further item of £559,000 for maintenance, repairs and stores. Under the heading of “ Capital “ there are additional items for aeroplanes and equipment, buildings and stores, aeroplanes and equipment, warlike stores and equipment and buildings and works totalling £16,254,000. Is the Minister in possession of details of the proposed expenditure? I also understand that the Government has decided to make available a certain number of aeroplanes to the British Government. Is the purchase money of those planes included in the amount set out in the schedule? The sum of £790,000 is provided for the establishment of an aircraft factory, but has any amount been appropriated for the purchase of the machinery to be installed in the factory?
– I am sure that Senator Sheehan does not expect me to be in possession of full details of the expenditure to be incurred on the items he mentioned. The aeroplanes to be made available to Great Britain are those which Great Britain offered to Australia as a gift, but owing to the exigencies of the moment it has been decided to allow the aeroplanes to remain in Great Britain. Senator Cameron, who referred at length to the training of toolmakers and tradesmen, urged an extension of the present plan. Recently a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held in Canberra on the subject of technical education, when it was decided to provide for a substantial expansion of the present training scheme. The £50,000 he mentioned is for the maintenance of the scheme, but iu the “ capital “ group there is another £43,000 for plant and equipment to be used by the trainees.- The Government is pushing on with the extension of the scheme so that more apprentices and adults may be trained to equip them for important defence work which they are to undertake. I cannot give to Senator Sheehan, offhand, details of the expenditure on the specific items he mentioned; but if he requires information on any particular item I shall endeavour to obtain it for him.
– Unfortunately Western Australia, owing to its geographical position, is Unable to obtain a share of the work of manufacturing munitions. Whilst two shifts of twelve hours are being worked in some of the factories in the eastern States, in Western Australia many mechanics are compelled to do unskilled work. Several days ago I pointed out that when technical men were sent abroad to undergo special training not one Western Australian was selected. A sum of £50,000 has been allotted for the purpose of training tool-makers and tradesmen. Can the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) give me an assurance that artisans in Western Australia, who are unemployed or engaged in unskilled work, will be given an opportunity to take advantage of this scheme? Should it not be possible to provide training facilities in Western Australia, I suggest that the Government would be justified in paying the fares of men of the class 1 have mentioned in order to enable them to enter training establishments to be set up under this scheme in the eastern States. The national register will disclose the number of these men. I point out to the Assistant Minister that the whole of the amount of £1,400,000, which he mentioned recently as having been set aside for the production of war material in Western Australia, has not been spent, in that State. I do not suggest that all of the material in question could be manufactured in Western Australia. However, 1” wish merely to correct the impression which the statement of the Assistant Minister is likely to convey. The Government would he still more justified in bringing artisans to the eastern States to be trained in this work if, as is probable owing to the shortage of skilled men, twelve-hour shifts are to be worked in some factories. The Government should abandon its policy of centralization in favour of the eastern States. I recall that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), before he joined the Cabinet, expressed disapproval of such a policy, and I endorse what Senator Johnston has said in this respect. I. again urge the Government to provide facilities for the training of the men to whom I have referred.
– From the two schedules which we now have before us. it is apparent that allo cations in respect of certain kinds of work have, to some degree, been duplicated. In view of the enormous amount of money which the Government is nowseeking authority to borrow, we should scrutinize each item very closely in order to avoid wasteful expenditure. How does the Government intend to expend the sum of £50,000 which is allotted for the purpose of training tool-makers and tradesmen? Does it propose to subsidize technical schools, or to set up special schools for this purpose? Does it propose to train youths or adults in this class of work? The Assistant Minister’s reply concerning the aeroplanes to be utilized in Great Britain under the Empire air scheme differs from a ministerial statement broadcast’ over the national network this evening. According to that announcement the Commonwealth Government is making a fine gesture, and is presenting to the United Kingdom Government a certain number of aeroplanes. The Assistant Minister, however, stated that those aeroplanes had nothing to do with us at all. brit that the Commonwealth Government has merely asked the United Kingdom Government to reserve for its own use a number of aeroplanes originally intended for Australian defence purposes. I also ask the Assistant Minister to explain where the aeroplanes, equipment, buildings and stores, in respect of which ihe allocations in one schedule total £2,254,000, are to be located, and where the aeroplanes and equipment, war-like stores and. equipment, and buildings and works in respect of which. the allocations in the other schedule total £16,254,000, are to be located? Is any of this material to be located in Canada?
Senator McBRIDE (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Commerce) 1 9.59].- The money allotted for technical training, will . mainly be expended on courses to be provided in existing schools, and the trainees will be mainly adults who already possess an elementary knowledge of’ the jobs to which they are to be assigned. In regard to the supply of aeroplanes, the answer which I gave to .Senator Sheehan was quite correct, but I did not realize at the time the exact matter to which, he referred. It was announced over the air that aeroplanes now on order for Australia in America would he taken over by Great Britain. Obviously Great Britain will pay for those ‘planes. None of their cost is included in this schedule. The £2,2541,000 to which the honorable senator referred is for the provision, of buildings, stores, equipment, &c, for our ordinary air defence scheme. As the Empire air scheme is being contributed to by Great Britain, it is being kept entirely separate from our- own air defence scheme.
I am not able to give Senator Fraser an assurance that a substantial proportion of this money will be expended in Western Australia. The main centres in which technical training is to be carried out are Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, and, up to the present, no arrangements have been made for any substantial training scheme in respect of Western Australia. The Government is just as desirous as is Senator Fraser to distribute expenditure and the training of defence- personnel as equitably as possible throughout Australia, but, owing to the urgency with which that training must be undertaken, the money cannot be spread to the same extent as il might have been in normal times.
The location of the proposed graving dock for capital ships was raised by Senator Johnston. ‘Sir Leopold Savile who came to Australia and made a thorough examination of all suggested ?ite3, recommended Sydney as the most suitable location for the dock, not only from the point of view of cost, but also because of the fact that Sydney is most conveniently situated in relation to sources of available labour and raw material. The honorable senator said that the building of the dock in Sydney harbour would cause the cost to be much greater, but I assure him that Sir Leopold Savile’s finding was that .the Sydney ?.ite would be the cheapest of all those which he examined.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, read a third time.
Debate resumed from page 153.1. (on motion by Senator McBride) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill appropriates a sum of money for the purpose of carrying on war services until the end of June of this year, and details of the expenditure are shown in the schedule. There is no need to debate the bill, as it is purely a machinery measure.
.- A portion of the money to be raised by this bill is to be devoted to “ pay and allowances in the nature of pay “, to members of the Commonwealth Military’ Forces. I should like to know whether or not some of this money will he paid to members of the garrison battalion to recompense them for expenditure which they have incurred in connexion with their duties. It was not until some months after these men entered camp that uniforms were provided, and, in the meantime, some of them were put to the expense of purchasing uniforms and underclothing. They were informed that they would be reimbursed that expenditure, but no payment has been made. I trust that the Government will see that the claims of these men are promptly dealt with. They receive only a pittance in military pay, and some of them, when they entered camp, borrowed money to pay for uniforms and underclothing which they were compelled to have. They were provided with a list of what to take to camp, and were required to fill in forms showing what items they had purchased and the cost of them. Until the beginning of this week at any rate, no compensation had been paid to them. Representations have been made to the Minister, but have met with no success, and I trust that the money to be appropriated by thic measure will enable the Government promptly to fulfil its promises.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses i to 4 agreed to.
– I should like to know whether or nol this bill makes .provision for the payment of compensation to soldiers who are injured while in camp, and are discharged f rom the Army on account of those injuries.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) 1 10. .1.1]. - I support Senator Aylett’s inquiry. A soldier who was employed in a camp as a cook was injured while carrying a side of beef. He was conveyed to the Randwick Military Hospital and treated for bronchitis. He was X-rayed and attended by a specialist, but the authorities refused to pay any compensation to him. He was a married man with five children, and but for the aid given by a charitable organization, his family would have had no food. A certain person in Randwick telephoned to me and drew my attention to the plight of these people, who, although the soldier had been in hospital for three weeks, had been paid no money. I communicated with the Finance Officer at the Water Board Office, but was unable to secure any information. Eventually, the soldier was paid £5 from an encouragement fund. _ [ should like to know whether that encouragement fund will be financed under this bill; if not, how has the fund accumulated? I submit that the Government should pay to soldiers who are injured in camp the same compensation as is paid to employees in industry.
– If a soldier is injured while he is in camp, his ordinary military pay continues until such time as he is discharged. After his discharge, he is .paid under the provisions of the Repatriation Act. The Government will shortly bring down a Repatriation Bill relating to soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force, and when that measure comes to this chamber honorable senators will be given ample opportunity to discuss these matters. I do not know anything of the encouragement fund mentioned by Senator Amour.
– I assure the Assistant Minister for Commerce (‘Senator McBride) that there is an encouragement fund, and if it is not being financed by the Government, it must be receiving money from members of the division.
– I direct the attention of the Minister to another instance of unnecessary expenditure in the training of soldiers and unfair treatment of them upon their discharge. One young man 1 know completed his training in camp in New South Wales and embarked for overseas. When the vessel arrived in Western’ Australian waters he was taken off the ship and discharged. This man left a good job to join the Australian Imperial Force and was in camp for several months. Upon his return to Sydney he was unable to find employment and, so far as I know, he is still out of work.
– Was his discharge from the Australian Imperial Force due to illness?
– No ; all that was wrong with him was a cut round the palm of the hand towards” the wrist, an injury sustained many years ago. His hand was as strong -as that of any other man. If there had been any objection to his service with the Australian Imperial Force on that score, it should have been discovered when he joined. The Government would then have saved the expense of training him.
– How did he pass the first medical inspection?
– I assume that the inspection was faulty, just as mistakes are made by some medical officers in connexion with claims for invalid and oldage pensions. For all practical military purposes this man is as good as any other man.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) [10.18’J. - I should like to know whether the schedule covers volunteers in the militia forces. I know of one young man who volunteered to serve in the Militia and while in camp met with an accident and was placed in hospital. After his discharge from hospital, the military authorities offered him £3 10s. a week as compensation for the time that he had been ill. He signed the necessary document and returned it to the department, but, instead of receiving payment, he was asked to sign another document consenting to accept £1 a week which, he was informed, was all that he was entitled to. “Will that compensation come out of the amount of £1,500,000 provided in this schedule?
– I have no knowledge of the case mentioned by the honorable senator, but it would be covered by regulation.
– Since the 18th April last I have been endeavouring to obtain some information with regard to military matters, and I am wondering whether the subject is covered by this schedule. On that date I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether certain locations being utilized or proposed to be utilized by the Defence Department, for military purposes had been abandoned or were about to be abandoned, and if so what amount of expenditure was involved. The Minister, in reply, stated that considerable expenditure would be incurred in compiling the information, and I informed him that .1 would be satisfied if I could get the particulars for Victoria. Can the Minister now say if provision is made in this schedule for such payments?
– There is no provision in this bill for capital expenditure. It covers only salary payments, maintenance and repairs.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McBride) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn til J 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
Recruiting - Enlistment of Senator Wi i,soN - Defence Measures - Treasury Operations on Stock Exchange - National Government - SHIPbuilding in South Australia. Motion (by Senator MoBride) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
, - In to-day’s Melbourne Herald there appears the following statement, attributed to Brigadier-General W. H. Lloyd, the Director-General df Recruiting: -
If Australia did not have conscription, the people should see that voluntary service was equal to what conscripted service might be.
That statement was made at. a meeting of citizens in Geelong. I should like te know whether it was made with the authority of the Government, and if not, will Brigadier-General Lloyd be told about it? The voluntary system for enlistment is providing more recruits than can be handled by the authorities, so there is no reason whatever for such a provocative statement. If further pronouncements of this nature are made, I imagine that the military authorities will hear a great deal about the matter from members of this Senate. Conscription is not necessary to obtain men either for overseas service or for the defence of Australia itself. Conscription is favoured solely for financial reasons. We have been told that the shirkers must be made to do their duty. Shirkers are few and far between. If the Government is now acting in collaboration with military authorities in trying to .stampede the people into accepting conscription, the support which the Government desires for its war effort, and which it should have from members of this Parliament, will not be so readily forthcoming. The people of Australia arc fully seised of the seriousness of the war situation. Whenever an appeal is made to them, as it is being made now, the response will Ih- far more satisfactory than it would he in other circumstances. But if, in the face of assurances which we have had from the Government from time to time, high military officers are allowed to make statements implying that the results of the voluntary system are not satisfactory and that conscription must be resorted to, friction is bound to arise. Will the Minister say whether this statement was made by the authority of the Executive, and. if so, will the Minister indicate clearly the intentions of the Government?
for his readiness to grant me a pair during my absence from Australia.
Before my departure I would like to mention certain things which I consider are urgently necessary in the interests of the Empire and Australian defence. I want to make it clear, however, that I am not offering these comments in a spirit of criticism. At the outbreak of the Avar the Commonwealth Government intimated to the Government of the United Kingdom that Australia stood with Great Britain and intended to fight this Avar to the finish. It also asked Britain to say what was expected of Australia. Australia has done everything that Britain has asked it to do; hut, unfortunately, as circumstances have since proved, the advice that Britain gave was based on certain assumptions and on assurances given to it by General Gamelin, then Commander-in-Chief of the French forces, and probably by its own officers. I should say that that advice was to the effect that the Germans could not break through the Maginot line. The plan adopted by the Allies, and the plan with which Australia was asked to keep in step, was based on that assumption, which subsequent events have shown to be incorrect. The part that Australia has to play to-day is a very much greater and more important one than was premised some months ago. I submit that not only Britain, but also every part of the British Empire, is directly threatened. If Britain and France were defeated Australia would soon have to face an enemy on its own shores.
– It might be only a matter of months.
– That is true. To those who remain behind, is entrusted the responsibility of seeing, not only that those who go abroad are properly equipped, but also that Australia is properly defended. I urge the Government, as I have done for some time, to c.ill “up every male between the ages of 18 and 60 years for national service. The Government has the power to do that under the Defence Act; all that is needed is a proclamation. That would not mean that any man would necessarily be taken from his civil occupation immediately. It would not, and could not, result in conscription for Over.seas service, but the Government could call up every male, between the ages that I have mentioned, to serve as, and when, required. If the Government needs mechanics is it not right, in a time of crisis, that it should not be able to call upon them, since there are thousands of them in workshops and garages throughout Australia doing work that is in no sense Avar work? Under this proclamation, it would have the right to take such men as it requires for aircraft production. My suggestion is that the Government should exercise the powers that it already possesses under the Defence Act, not to call up men immediately and take them from their civil occupations, but to draft them to the various spheres where they could be most usefully employed, as and when they were required.
I also urge the Government to make more use of ex-servicemen than is being made of them at. the present time. I have been ‘ in a militia training camp for four months in the last six months. When officers who served with the old Australian Imperial Force have come into camp’, T have ‘ heard the men say, “Heavens : ‘.these’ officers do not know elementary drill orders “ ; but at the end of a week, the same men have said, “ Tho best officers Ave have are these ex-service men”. It is admitted that they are not up to date in their knowledge of methods of drill, but, with their experience, they do not take long to prove their ability to command troops and to train them in the way in which they should be trained. Ex-service men should be used for the training of the additional numbers of men which, I contend, should be put under training immediately.
Without any cost to the Government, thousands of men are asking to be trained during evenings and at week-ends. They do not ask for uniforms; they are prepared to turn out in flannels, or any other costumes. They want to know . how te use tlie rifle and the machine gun. On the one hand, we have ex-officers saying, “ Can we not do something to help in the training” and, on the other hand, civilians are asking, “ Can we not be trained ? All that we want is an opportunity to use our leisure time, so that, if Australia were attacked, we could play our part as efficient trained soldiers “.
At the present time, many militia officers are enlisted in. the Australian Imperial Force. They are familiar with the latest methods of warfare, but some of them have been rejected as medically unfit, and have been discharged from the Australian Imperial Force and also from the Militia. Some of them feel that a penalty is being imposed for enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force. As (hey were prepared to offer their lives for their country, their services should bo retained as militia officers for the training of the home forces. They may be medically unfit for service overseas, but they are still capable of training men, as they have done in the past. I urge the Government to use this available manpower.
Some weeks ago, I referred to Australia’s home defence. I pointed out that our military advisers, with whom I entirely agree, are of opinion that, while the British fleet remains at Singapore, an attack on Australia by a. large army is unlikely; but what is quite likely is a raid, either from the air or from an enemy cruiser. It is against such an attack that we must prepare. If honorable senators were standing on th» steps of Parliament House to-morrow, looking over the beautiful green lawns to the hills iti the background, and suddenly saw a plane from which -twenty armed men, whom they knew to be enemies, were dropped, what would they do? They would probably rush to a telephone, and ring up the local police, who are probably armed with batons and, possibly, revolvers. What could be done to combat a force of twenty men armed with machine guns? What could Canberra do about it? Does anybody know at what centres ammunition is available throughout Australia ? Is there a force in each town and hamlet that could withstand an attack by parachute troops? When I mentioned this matter on the last occasion, the press stated that, if such troops were landed in the north-western portion of Australia, they would starve; but I point out that parachute troops land, not On a desert, but on golf links in a town. If parachute troops landed in Canberra, how could we repel them ? We could ring up Duntroon, but, whether a supply of ammunition would be available there, I do not know. I hope that the Government does. Other countries have smugly and complacently imagined themselves to be perfectly safe, but. through being unprepared, have been overcome by small forces. Australia must not be left in that predicament. At every police station throughout the Commonwealth, there should be ammunition, antiaircraft guns, and machine guns. Attached to each station, or under some person in authority, should be at least 30 volunteers trained in the use of those weapons, so that, if a landing were made by enemy troops, they could be dealt with immediately. It, will perhaps be suggested that the picture I have painted is fantastic. It was regarded as fantastic in other countries. We heard about the parachute troops that Russia landed in Finland, and we were told that they had not .proved effective, but they have proved effective in other countries. Germany has aircraft carriers which take on board a number of aeroplanes, and aeroplanes carry troops. Members of the German death squad have the courage to descend from aeroplanes in parachutes. Despite the magnificent British fleet at Singapore, no naval force in the world could prevent a raider from descending on our shores.
I also ask the Government to expedite enlistments in the Empire air training scheme. I know that it has done an extraordinarily good job, but in view of the. seriousness of the situation the scheme must he developed more rapidly. We must have bombers. The statement read by the Minister disclosed that we are making training and fighting planes, and anyone who has visited the Commonwealth aircraft factory must realize that those responsible for that undertaking are doing wonderful work. Australia is under a debt of gratitude to the designers and erectors of those great works, which to-day are manufacturing aeroplanes as efficiently and as rapidly as they are being manufactured in any part of the world. All the material used, with the exception of magnesium and aluminium, which have to be imported,, is manufactured in Australia. Mr. Hartnett, Mr. Wackett and others who are responsible for the control of the operations at the Commonwealth air factory deserve our sincere gratitude for the excellent services they are rendering to Australia. They have done their work well, and many fine fighters are being produced from that factory. This week I placed before the Prime Minister a proposal under which Australia should be able to manufacture bombers within five months, and I trust that it will be favorably considered. The only bombers we can get are those which we manufacture ourselves. The proposal was made by a company which will not fail in its obligations; it has never yet done so.
On the subject of equipment there has been a good deal of criticism of Ministers; but it is only fair to say that they cannot do more than appoint departmental heads whose responsibility it is to carry out the work. We have to admit that certain equipment is not coming to band. The members of the Seventh Division of the Australian Imperial Fore( who are being enlisted in South Australia have not been supplied with shirts, singlets and underpants. When I came to Canberra I explained the position to the Minister for Supply and Development, who said, ‘‘What! Are they not getting them?” Had the Minister known, the necessary equipment would have been supplied. He now knows the position. If some of these departmental heads will not do their jobs we should get. men who will do what is expected of them. Of course the Minister has to take the responsibility but it is unfair that he should be required to take all the kicks for everything that goes wrong. When I brought the matter under the notice of the Minister he said, “ That equipment will be provided on Monday next “. 1 venture to say that when I return to South Australia and enter camp on Monday the shirts, singlets and underpants will have been supplied. Unfortunately, the Minister never hears of such things. I urge the Government now, as 1 have done before, to appoint a liaison or welfare officer to act between Ministers, officers and the department - a man to whom the men can bring their complaints. The non-commissioned officers are not growlers. We never hear complaints from them. They are as anxious as is any one else to see that the organization is 100 per cent, efficient, but they are not allowed to complain. There is too much “ hush-hush “ in the Army. If complaints are made some one is placed on the mat. Complaints must go through a certain channel. A welfare officer could go in to camp and say, “ Well chaps, are you getting what you need ? “ They may say that they are getting everything but, say singlets ; the welfare officer would pass the word on, and the singlets would be provided. The shelves in big stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide are stocked to capacity with the things that are needed, but members of the Australian Imperial Force cannot be supplied with their requirements. The fault lies not in the policy of the Government, but in the inefficiency of blundering officials. Someone has fallen down on his job; but it is difficult to ascertain who is responsible for the failure. I told the Minister that although I had been in camp for three months a dummy round for the 18-pounders could not be provided, and we had to imagine that we were doing what we would have been doing had the dummy been available. A wooden dummy filled with shot could have been made within a few hours. A requisition was put in on the first day we were in camp, but the dummy was never supplied. As I was a soldier I was not allowed to write to the Minister, but when I came out of camp 1 told him. He said that what had occurred was disgraceful and he could not explain it. I am not criticizing the Government’s defence policy; the departmental heads and junior officers in charge of supplies arc responsible. There are some very good men, but there is a good deal of bungling somewhere which should be corrected at the earliest possible moment. The way to do that is by appointing a liaison or welfare officer who is not bound by the regulations which provide that no commissioned officer or non-commissioned officer shall make a complaint to any member of Parliament. The men should be able to bring their grievances under the notice of a. welfare officer who would immediately take the necessary steps to have them rectified. The victualling and the system of training are excellent; but it is the little things that are causing all the friction. At Woodside, South Australia, where the members of the Seventh
Division of the Australian Imperial Force are in training there are four dentists and eight dental mechanics but there is only one old dental chair and one drill for their use. They should have at. least four chairs, but they really need eight. Are the men in training there to go abroad before their teeth have received proper attention? When I mentioned the matter to the Minister he said that lie knew nothing about it, and that it would be attended to immediately. I have seen these things with my own eyes, and all of them “could be dealt with speedily by a welfare officer. I have been told that an officer has been appointed for this purpose, but I have not seen him.
– Cannot the officer on the spot do something?
– If a complaint were made in an artillery regiment the Battery Commander would pass the complaint to the Brigadier, who would pass it. ku to the State Commandant, who would Forward it to the Southern Command whence it would be forwarded to the Military Board, and by the time it had reached head-quarters and found its way back by the same circuitous route the trainees would have left the camp.
– There must be something wrong with the officer on the spot.
– I have received the following letter from the president of the Australian Dental Association, dated the 23rd May, 1940-
At a meeting of the South Australian brand held last night, it waa reported that the provisions for dental services for the Australian Imperial Force were grossly deficient. It would appear from the report all supplies for military purposes in this State must be procured through the head-quarters of the Southern Command in Victoria.
The facts, as regards, were as follows: -
Full personnel for the continuous service of four dental officers (with the necessary dental mechanics, orderlies, clerks, &c. ) had been summoned to report for duty for the treatment of Australian Imperial Force recruits as from Monday next.
The dental equipment at Woodside at present consists of one dental operating chair and one dental foot machine; in fact it is efficient for one dental officer as a field unit, but falls short of efficiency as a base unit.
In these circumstances, i.t would appear that less than one-quarter of the necessary treatment can be given at present. By contact, it is understood that in Victorian camps the most modern dental equipment is fully installed and consequently the dental units are enabled to handle large numbers of men with efficiency and expedition.
I can quite understand that, because it was intended to send all of the Australian Imperial Force to Puckapunyal. However, that policy has now been changed, unfortunately, I. think, and as the result it is only natural that camps in Victoria should be efficiently fitted up. At the same time, it does not seem right that dentists should be sent into camp without essential equipment. The letter continues -
It is felt that the experience of the last war 1914-18 cannot be overlooked. Once soldiers arrive in the war area, military exigencies may not permit of full remedial measures being taken to render those who are dentally unfit being made so before being engaged in active operations. In present circumstances, enlisted nien in South Australia may have to be sent abroad as less effective because less’ prepared physically as compared with men from other States.
Let it be emphasized that dental officers are here ready and willing to give their services, but nothing can be done without adequate equipment.
May we beg you, sir, to take up this mutter with the Defence Minister and to use your best endeavours to secure immediate relief.
H. J. FISCHER,
I feel sure that the people of Australia are prepared to make every sacrifice in defence of the Empire and Australia. Our factories should work 24 hours ;i. day, in three shifts of eight hours each, and if sufficient men are not. available for certain classes of work, I am satisfied that Australian workers in those fallings will be prepared to work longer hours. I urge the Government to speed up every phase of its programme. This’ does not necessarily mean that its policy has been wrong. We know that it was advised by Great Britain to take a certain course of action, but that advice unfortunately has now been proved unsound. We must readjust our whole outlook, and realize that Britain and Australia are definitely threatened. Every Australian must, and will, play his full part in the defence of the Empire.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride), as representing the Treasurer, a matter in respect of which a considerable saving can be effected if the suggestion’ which 1 am about to make be acted upon. All honorable senators are aware of the procedure followed by the Treasury in order to stabilize interest rates. For the service they render on behalf of the Treasury in that respect, stock and share brokers charge 5s. per cent. The practice followed is that the Treasury asks certain members of the stock exchanges in Sydney and Melbourne to buy treasury bonds up to a certain amount. Very little work is involved in this transaction. The suggestion now has been made on behalf of brokers operating on the two exchanges that they would be prepared, in view of existing circumstances, to spread this work among their colleagues, so that this job could be done at no cost to the Treasury. At the present time nol. more than seven, or eight, brokers on the Sydney Exchange, and probably a lesser number on the Melbourne Exchange, do this work for the Treasury. It is well known that brokers receive a very large remuneration for buying and selling treasury bonds on behalf of private clients. Particularly is this the case when a new loan is being floated. A reply given to a question in this chamber last week gives some idea of the remuneration for this work. I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) or the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should ask the chairmen of the Sydney and Melbourne stock exchanges that this work be spread among all members of both exchanges, and that it be handled at no cost to the Treasury. I feel certain that such a proposal will be accepted. Whilst the charge for this service is comparatively low, the total cost is fairly considerable. In view of existing circumstances, the Treasury should be assisted as much as possible in its efforts to stabilize interest rates, and I am sure that members of the exchanges I have mentioned would -be only too willing- to co-operate in the manner I have indicated.
– In my speech on the Address-in-Reply I advocated the formation of a national government, and urged honorable senators opposite to follow the example set by the Labour party in the Mother Country. In the meantime the war has taken a grave turn., and considerable unrest has developed in country districts among loyal and public-spirited citizens, who consider that a greater measure of unity should be achieved in the national parliament in the prosecution of our war effort. Many meetings have been held at country centres, at which this view has been made manifest. I have received quite a number of resolutions of that kind, and I am sure that honorable senators generally have noticed many that have been published in the press. Only to-day I received the following telegram : -
Tinkurrin meeting urges full mobilization all resources and immediate formation national government under now leader if necessary or, alternatively, national war cabinet under Lord Gowrie.
This statement, I suggest, reflects the feeling of unrest in country districts, and the desire of our people as a whole, that a national government should be formed and that they should be given greater opportunities for public-spirited national service. I commend it to honorable senators.
– Speaking on the financial statement this afternoon, I said that South Australia at the present time waa capable of building only punts. At the time, I was dealing with the Government’s proposal to revive the shipbuilding industry. Subsequently Senator James Mclachlan informed me that slips are being laid down at Whyalla, on which it will be possible to build vessels up to -20,000 tons. I take this opportunity to say how pleased I am to receive that information, and to wish the enterprise every success. It ia indeed heartening to hear of the establishment of an important industry in any of the outer States.
– The speech just delivered by Senator Wilson was excellent and showed that within recent months, in addition to serving his country as a soldier, he has been making a careful examination of conditions existing in military camps. I agree with him that half of the complaints made concern only minor matters, but those matters aTe irritations which arouse much comment unfavorable to the Government. I assure honorable senators that the Government does not intend to adopt a cheese-paring policy in equipping our military forces. When we originally launched our programme, owing to the rush of volunteers and the work of recruiting a division’ for despatch overseas, a great deal of difficulty was experienced in providing equipment. Today, however, that, work has been accelerated. Senator Wilson will readily agree that the Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) has worked like a Trojan since he took over the control of his department, and I feel sure that the difficulties which the honorable senator enumerated will shortly he overcome. I shall bring under the notice of my colleague; the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street), the whole of the honorable senator’s remarks, particularly his suggestion for the appointment of liaison or welfare ameers. I understood that sufficient staff was available in the ordnance section to ensure that the* requirements of the various units would be met. The honorable senator suggests that the Minister should appoint special inspectors to report to him direct. I do not know whether that procedure can readily be followed.
I am sure I am expressing the feelings of all honorable senators when I say how much we appreciate the fact that’ Sena-‘ tor Wilson himself, in answer to the call of duty, has enlisted in the . Australian Imperial Force. We shall miss him very much from this chamber, because he has distinguished himself as a hard fighter, and a fearless, but just, critic. We look forward to the day of his return, after victory has been achieved,’ as we are confident it will he achieved. We can rest assured that Senator Wilson, in whatever capacity he may be called upon to serve, will carry out his duties as a soldier just as faithfully as he has carried out his duties as a senator. We wish him well, and applaud his patriotism in giving his services in the Australian Imperial Force.
Senator Johnston stated that a certain amount of unrest existed among people who desired to take a more active part in the service of their country at the present time. Some of these people, he said, were urging the formation of a national government, and others were desirous of rendering help in any capacity in which their services could be utilized. A certain amount of unrest is bound to exist at present, because we all are on tenterhooks, waiting for the latest news to come through, and wondering what is happening in Flanders and on the Somme where the Allied troops are now fighting. Fired with a natural patriotism for their country and- the Empire, many people are eager to know what they can do in this time of crisis. The number of letters which have been received by the Government - and no doubt by private members - containing offers of assistance in any capacity, is surprising. Only to-day I received a communication from one of the biggest and most successful contractors in Queensland offering, free of charge, his full-time assistance in tin? construction of the new graving dock at Sydney. Many similar letters have been received by the Government. To those people who feel that they are not doing as much as they would like to do, I say that it is of the utmost importance thai Australian industries be carried on, and that there bc no serious disruption of the economic life of this country. For that reason, those now engaged in industry, far from not contributing a valuable service to the nation, are doing very important and necessary work. Primary producers, factory workers and others - all are carrying their share of our great responsibility.
The Government agrees with Senator Wilson that it is necessary to take men from non-essential services and place them in vital industries, and at the moment it is taking steps to secure recruits from various trades for service in the Royal Australian Air Force, whilst technical instruction is being given to men who have had no previous experience. It is hoped that by voluntary enlistment in the various arms of our fighting forces we shall be able to secure all the man-power necessary for n successful prosecution of our war effort.
Senator Wilson suggested that in addition to the Militia, a special defence organization should be set up in this country to deal with such dangers as landings by parachute troops, and internal disorders. I assure the honorable senator that the Government is giving very full consideration to this problem at the present time, and an announcement will be made very shortly.
– Before Parliament adjourns ?
– I am hopeful that the announcement will be made before Parliament adjourns, but if it is not, it will be made at the earliest possible date. The Government is fully occupied in dealing with many urgent and vital matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired at -
Broome, Western Australia - Kor
Puckapunyal, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1940, No. 87. The Senate adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 May 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1940/19400530_senate_15_163/>.