15th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Training of Air Force Recruits
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air -
– The Minister for Air 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 the following answer.’ -
In acquiring commodities for use in connexion with the Government’s war effort, tha utmost care is exercised in securing them at the best possible prices. In this connexion the Government has had the assistance of the highly competent services of the Board of
Business Administration and experienced officers associated with the Central Contract Board and the district boards in the respective States. As a result of the watchfulness of these bodies, we have been able to secure improved purchasing conditions in respect of
Rome of the items involved.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer is not yet at hand. I have discussed the matter with the Postmaster-General, and I now suggest to the honorable senator that I make an appointment for him with the Postmaster-General. The honorable senator may then discuss the matter with the Minister, and in that way the information desired will be obtained.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Immigration Bill 1940.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill 1940.
Gold Mining Encouragement Bill 1940.
Gold Tax Collection Bill 1940.
Income Tax Collection Bill 1940.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1940-41.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1938-39.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1938-39.
Motor Vehicles Agreement Bill 1940.
Patents,Trade Marks, Designs and Copyright (War Powers) Bill 1940.
Trading with the Enemy Bill 1940.
Rabbit Skins Export Charges Appropriation Bill 1940.
Rabbit Skins Export Charges Bill 1940.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Bill 1940.
Loan Bill 1940.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1939-40.
Trade Agreement (Greece) Bill 1940.
Sales Tax Exemptions Bill 1940.
Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 1) 1940.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have received from Mrs. E.Wilks a letter of thanks for the resolution of sympathy passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of the Honorable W. H. Wilks.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will, I think, appreciate the circumstances in which this bill is now before us. It is based on the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1940 of Great Britain, which was passed on. the 22nd May. In the passage of the bill, the proceedings in both Houses of the British Parliament occupied less than three hours.
The principal provision of this bill will enable the Governor-General to make regulations which will require persons to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of the Commonwealth, as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth and its Territories, or the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty is, or may be, engaged.
At no time in our whole history has it been found necessary .to pass such a measure. The powers conferred on the Governor-General will enable the Executive Government to take complete control of the man-power, property, and resources of the Commonwealth. The necessity for the passing of this bill is obvious to all of us. We are fighting an enemy whose philosophy of life is one of primeval savagery.
All of us have witnessed in the last few weeks the spectacle of our gallant ally, France, being overrun by the greatest military machine ever created by man. And this has been accomplished with a ruthlessness and ferocity surpassing in intensity anything previously known in human records.
After attaining its first object, the possession of the French ports on the English Channel, the army of Germany proceeded with the second stage of its attack - the move against Paris. This city fell a few day3 ago.
When it became clear that the French army was reeling against the attacks of the invader, we received a treacherous blow in the back. Italy declared war on .England and France. Italy had apparently become mesmerized by the German successes, and envisaged an opportunity to obtain territorial expansion at no expense to itself. A victorious Germany would mean the end of British and French dominion in the Mediterranean Sea and the attainment of Italian dreams - naval supremacy in those waters and Italian lands in North Africa. In other words, Italy, by falling on Germany’s side before it was too late, was to obtain everything without, perhaps, being required to fire a shot.
While we sit here, the negotiations are apparently taking place between France and Germany for the purpose of arriving at either an armistice or a peace. We do not know the result of these negotiations, but, whatever may come, Britain and all British communities will fight on till the end. There can be no peace for us till Germany is for ever disarmed. This is a bill to mobilize our whole national life, .and everything we possess, in the furtherance of our fight to bring about such a time. I need hardly remind honorable senators that that time may be a long way off, that we may see a complete change in the whole of our ordered lives, and that we may have to endure untold hardships before that goal is attained; but it can only be attained by the marshalling of all our forces, and it is for this purpose that the bill is presented.
The only limitation on the powers to be conferred by the bill is that no regulations may be made which will authorize the imposition of any form of compulsory service beyond the limits of Australia and its territories.
I remind honorable senators that u similar bill was passed in New Zealand and assented to on the 31st May last, about a week after the passage of the Imperial act. The Government is most anxious that this bill shall have a speedy passage. I am hopeful that it will bo disposed of by 12.45 p.m. to-day.
, - At no time during my membership of this Senate have I had to make a speech so little in accord with the one that I should like to make. That does not imply any doubt as to the attitude of the Opposition to this measure. We are .supporting it, and we shall do our best to give it a speedy passage, in accordance with the wish of the Government, consistent, of course, with the exercise of our undoubted right to express out opinions regarding it. I am sure that all of us would have liked to make a speech in .this chamber to-day along the lines of peaceful reconstruction, after all the damage of war had been done. But the damage has not been concluded, and Australia, and members of this Parliament, must do their part.
The Australian Labour party, which the Opposition represents in this chamber, is not a body of sporadic growth. Half a century has been occupied in building it up as an organization. Its history is the history of Australia. In whatever good or bad there is in the accomplishments of the Australian nation during the last half-century, the Australian Labour party as an organization has played its part. Its constitution provides that, on all matters relating to Commonwealth policy, the Federal Labour Conference shall be the governing “body 10 the movement. This conference is convened from all of the States. Each State has equal representation, and appoints six delegates to the conference. Its decisions have to be obeyed by all loyal members of the party, and, between conferences, the federal executive of the movement is charged with the responsibility of making decisions on matters of policy that arise unexpectedly, on which the platform of the party is silent. This week, the organization to which we on this side of the Senate belong held a conference, at which it laid down the Australian policy that the Australian Labour party will now follow. The decisions of that conference were as follows: -
Having regard to the gravity of the world situation and the imminent danger to the Commonwealth of Australia, the Empire, and the Allies, this conference of the Australian Labour party definitely declares as its policy -
Complete and indissoluble union with the Allies in the war;
The entire resources of Australia (which include all productive and financial organizations) to be under the control of the Commonwealth Government for national service in the urgent and adequate defence of Australia and the prosecution of the war;
That, to secure maximum productive efforts, all idle employable labour be absorbed into industry;
Speeding up of our war and other services on a planned scale, aiming at the highest efficiency and the most economic use of the resources at our command ;
National training for defence, in terms of the existing Defence Act, to be maintained on the highest basis of efficiency, and provision for an adequate system of physical training throughout Australia.; complete participation in the Empire Air Force scheme; necessary provision for reinforcement of the Australian Imperial Force divisions; the extent of European participation by volunteer army to be determined by circumstances as they arise, having regard to the paramount necessity of Australia’s defence;
Full recognition of trade unions, safeguarding industrial standards, and the participation by labour organizations in the successful organization of the nation;
An excess war profits tax of 100 per cent.
This conference is firmly convinced that Australia can be united on these principles, and calls to Australians to stand together in resisting aggression from any source, to bear willingly any burden that may be imposed in the interests of Australia’s security, and to demonstrate to the Empire and its Allies that we shall not be found wanting in the struggle for human liberty.
In order to implement effectively the policy agreed upon by the conference, and to achieve and maintain the maximum of national unity, and to ensure the preservation of the utmost degree of civil liberty consistent with the conduct of the war, this conference declares -
That Parliament should be regularly consulted;
That the Labour party should maintain its integral identity in the people’s interests;
That a national war council, including representatives of labour, should be established to advise the Government in respect of the conduct of the war and in preparing for the post-war reconstruction.
I have read that in detail in order to secure its insertion in Hansard, in reply to much that has been said by honorable senators who sit on the other side of the chamber during recent months, and in justification of the attitude which the Opposition has always maintained with regard to our national responsibility. I emphasize the fact that this party is prepared to accept the full responsibility of government at any date fixed by the people as the date on which they wish us to assume that responsibility - either this week, next week, next month, or next year. I say quite definitely, too, that this party will not shirk all that that responsibility entails, as it has not, at any stage of the defence preparations, refused to give to the Government the fullest co-operation in the passage of any legislation which the Government desired to enact. Our grievance against the Government is, that it did not undertake defence preparations as early, as persistently, and as efficiently as we desired. I say now that, in respect of the major portions of the Government’s defence policy, it has accepted our advice and is doing to-day, or is attempting to do, the very things which all along we have suggested ought to be done.
– The Labour party has just had to review its own defence policy. The honorable senator has placed it before us in the matter he has read.
– -If the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) can discern any considerable difference, in respect of fundamentals, between the old Labour policy and the new, he does not understand what policies mean. Does he think that any sane party, in view of all that is happening in the world to-day, would neglect to review its policy and bring it up to date?
– Not when it had a deficient policy.
– Would it not try so to mould its policy as to make it fit existing conditions? I said in my opening remarks that I should have liked to make a speech different from that which I am making. I should like to have made a speech consistent with the half-century-old ideals of this party regarding war, and its antithesis, peace. But I am prepared to abandon the attempt to do anything of the kind, because the whole of the history, the training and the activities of this party have made it a realist party. While actuated with the highest ideals and the purest of motives, we have at all times attempted to make our policy fit in with the realities of the immediate situation, whether in relation to industrial turmoil, industrial constructive activity, or a serious position such as that with which the nation is faced to-day. I submit that we should not be blamed, we should not be sneered at, we should not have interjections of the kind that have just been made.
– That is the wrong spirit.
– My Deputy Leader affirms that that is the wrong spirit. I, too, hold that opinion. I say that, if unity be desired, it is here for the asking, it is here for the taking. But, by heavens, honorable senators opposite must themselves exhibit the spirit of unity if they want us to enlist the aid of the great army of artisans, toilers and soldiers who come from the class that we represent. Your artisans, your tradesmen, your labourers, are drawn entirely from the ranks of the class that we represent.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. Our soldiers come mainly from the class that we represent.
– The honorable senator has no right to say that.
– If the Government wishes us to take a lead in this fight for national safety, if it wishes us to bring to its aid, to the aid of the nation, and to our own aid, the best that can be given by men who belong to the class that we represent in this chamber, I respectfully suggest that honorable senators supporting the Government might at least attempt to restrain themselves. It appears to me that, however dangerous may be the situation, however tremendous the issues involved, these gentlemen who appeal for unity are still unable to forget their political alliances and allegiances and the class that they represent, and cannot refrain from exhibiting class hatred and bitterness in this chamber. However strongly I may fight the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) politically, at least it can be said to his credit that, in another place, he did not indulge in any recrimination such as we have just heard from the Government benches in this chamber.
We have listened to the speech delivered by the Leader of the Senate (Senator MeLeay) this morning. We have also heard and read on numerous occasions what the Prime Minister of Australia, as the mouthpiece of his Government, has been pleased to say on this very important matter. Honorable senators on this side of the Senate are prepared to accept the statement of the Prime Minister; we are ready to believe that he means all that he has said ; but I want to be quite sure that this Opposition leaves no loophole for later misunderstandings should anything happen which does not justify the faith that I have just professed. We are told, and we know that it is true, that legislation similar to this was passed in the Parliament of the United Kingdom in a few hours, and that similar legislation was also passed promptly by the Parliament of the Dominion of New Zealand. I direct attention to the fact that in the United Kingdom this legislation was neither passed, nor even pronosed, until the assistance of the great Labour movement of that country had been enlisted to enable that to be done, t also point out - what our opponents in chit, chamber are so anxious to conceal - that the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand is a Labour government. Honorable senators cannot have it both ways; they cannot charge the Labour party of Australia with being rotten, when all that they are now proposing under this bill has been achieved in the interest of the nation and the Empire by the Labour party, and no other party. Let that go on record.
– That is not correct.
– They first sacked the Prime Minister of England.
– No individual is more hopeful than is the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that the day is not far distant when there will be a change of Prime Ministers in Australia. I mean not a mere re-shuffling of Prime Ministers, but a change from government of the type that we have had for years to a government and a Prime Minister of an altogether different kind. If we are to retain our faith in the bona fides of the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies, he must do in this country what he proposes to do, and what he says that he is doing, on lines identical with those that are being followed in England, with one exception. We shall hope and, so far as we are able, insist that he does all of the things which this bill implies - a bill that he has modelled on what has been done by the Government of the United Kingdom. Let me place before honorable senators the remarks of the Labour leader, Mr. Attlee, in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, when introducing similar emergency legislation: Mr. Attlee said -
The situation was so critical that th« Government was compelled to seek special powers by a bill to be passed through all stages in both Houses of Parliament that day (22nd May, 1040). A ruthless enemy, restrained by no considerations of international law,* justice or humanity, was throwing everything into the scale to force a decision. We were resolved that he should not, succeed. The Government- was convinced that we must mobilize to the full the whole resources of the country. Every private interest must give way to the urgent needs nf the community. It waa necessary that the Government should be given complete control aver persons and property, not just come persons in some particular class of the community, but all persons, rich or poor, employer or employed, man or woman.
– Hear, hear!
– The Assistant Minister for Commerce says “ Hear, hear!”. I should like to know what is to be done in Australia, and how far this Government proposes to go in that respect. This Labour man, who has been the saviour of the situation in the United Kingdom, continued -
Indicating the kind of regulations and control that might have to be exercised under the bill, the Minister of Labour would bo given power to direct any persons to perform any services required of him.
On how many occasions have I suggested in this chamber that even under normal conditions the Government should plan the economy of the nation. We are now able to see what can be done in wartime, and every effort should be made in peace-time also to use our man and woman power and our national resources generally in order to obtain the best for every human being in the community. Mr. Attlee continued - *That applied to everybody. No one could tell what these days might bring forth or who might be .required to dig defences or do anything else, but everybody alike must b» under this control. The Minister of Labour would be able to prescribe the terms of remuneration, the hours of labour and conditions of service. Remuneration would be on the basis of remuneration for the job. lt waa proposed to carry out wherever they existed industrial agreements which had been arrived at already, and wherever such agreement had not been arrived at to observe the rate normally paid by good employers.
Will the Leader of the Senate bring that statement under the notice of the Prime Minister so that he may be assured that he is travelling along the right road, and so that he may follow the course which he has so definitely indicated he is prepared to follow? Under the British legislation provision is made for the inspection of premises and for employers to produce their books. Years ago the Labour party insisted that legislative provision should be made in that direction. That is one feature of our industrial legislation for which the Labour party has been entirely responsible. Mr. Attlee also said -
Some establishments would be controlled altogether right away. Others might be eontrolled later. They would, in effect, be working on government account. Wages and profits would bo under government control. The excess profits tax. would be at the rate of 100 per cent. There would be no profit out of the national emergency. Other establishments might be ordered to carry on, and they might perhaps be ordered to carry on at a loss, but there must be power to carry on essential services. If people were put in a position where they were making a loss they must have adequate remuneration to do their job effectively. The essential thing was that over a wide field of industry - how wide one could not say at the moment - industry would be carried on for the community in fact and not for private profit. There might be cases where firms would have to close down, and there might be destruction of property here and there. One could not tell what would happen. There would he difficult questions of compensation; but in an emergency these things could not be worked out precisely. In the meantime there would have to be interim compensation.
We should like to be assured that this Government proposes to control all profits. We have been informed that the excess profits tax in Britain will be at the rate of 100 per cent. There should be no hesitation in taxing all profits, and profits made as a result of war activities should be at the rate of 100 per cent. Ordinary profits should be taxed at a Specified rate after allowing to those who make them the same opportunities to live as are available to the workers in the community. Mr. Attlee also said that there would have to be control of the financial institutions and of the banks. We have. not, heard. a word, about the Government following Great Britain in that respect.
– That will come.
– The Government will be forced to control the financial institutions.
– The Government has complete control now.
– It has nothing of the kind. The statement continues -
There would have to ho control of the finance of the country and the banks. It might be done centrally, or, if conditions required it, done through regional commissioners and financial: advisers.
We have heard that advisory boards and committees have been appointed to undertake certain work in connexion with the Government’s defence scheme. I am not quarrelling with that; but I am strongly opposed to the salaries paid to some of these so-called advisers. I should like to know when the Government proposes to supply us with the names of its financial commissioners and advisers through whom it proposes to control the banks and financial institutions generally, as is being done in Britain. Mr. Attlee concluded -
These things were to be done under the orders of the Government, and the orders would be given by the competent authority - the Minister concerned with that particular national activity. It was essential in this crisis that we should produce to the full all our essential munitions, and the Minister of Labour had been given the responsibility of supplying the labour required for the programmes of the various departments. He proposed to set up, at once, a production council.
It was proposed to set up a Director oi Labour Supply with full-time assistance drawn from trade unions and employers. There would be local organizations based on area boards. There would be full control of building operations. That was essential. At all important centres labour supply committees would be set up to organize local self-help for meeting difficulties in the labour supply. It was proposed that firms should be grouped for the best utilization of labour and to prevent waste.
Firms engaged on munitions would become controlled establishments. The Minister of Labour intended to work in the closest cooperation with trade unions and employers’ organizations. It might be that cases would arise where, under this stress, agreements were reached to set aside for the time being customs in industry that had been agreed upon between employers and employees.
It was essential that all engaged in this great effort should be satisfied that their rights would remain alive and in being, and it was proposed that there should be an addition to the fair wages clause whereby employers who did not, at the end of this war, restore any customs or conditions which had been set aside for the war would be ineligible to go on the list of Government contractors.
What other action was taken must depend on how events moved. It must be in the minds of all that everything for which we stood was in jeopardy. Our political Tights, our rights of conscience, our industrial rights - everything would go If we did not defeat the enemy. He. was quite sure that everybody knew what was at stake, hut while the powers envisaged by the bill were necessary,, the real force behind the Government was the will and determination of a free people.
The Prime Minister, who has used language similar to that employed by Mr. Attlee, stated -
The man who has property as well as life, liberty and his pursuit of happiness, may well be expected to place that property to-day at the disposal of the country in order that those intangible things of his may be protected.
We. agree with that, but I direct attention to the fact that no distinction is made between persona. Reference is made to the placing of property at ‘the disposal of the Government; but I have not heard anything definite of any properties being placed at the disposal of the country, or of ‘amy attempt being made to -do anything of that kind. Yesterday, Senator -Sheehan complained because he could not obtain particulars concerning the cost of acquiring and -preparing certain lands and buildings for defence purposes, which ‘later were vacated; he ‘was informed that the expenditure on one property was only £400, whereas he has reason to -believe that the cost was nearer to £40,000.
– T.hat was not the purchase price.
– That was the price paid for the purchase of the site For a military -camp. Instead of paying the exorbitant price mentioned, the Government should have taken over the property; it should have confiscated it t-n the national interest under the powers it possesses. The Government should have informed the owner that for the duration of the war, and for a certain period thereafter, the property was required in the national interest, and that it was taking it over “without cost to the country. If the owner was being deprived of his means of livelihood, some arrangement could be made whereby he could obtain sufficient to sustain him on the same basis as others who are serving Australia And sacrificing practically all that they have. Hitler does not negotiate in the way which this Government does. He does not ask who is in charge of a property, but smashes his way through and takes all he wants. If the Government intends to defend this country and to protect women and children from all the horrors of invasion, it should take control of all the property it requires, regardless of the rights of individuals. That will have to be done in the interests of Ohe whole community. “What is the -use of a government messing about?
– I suppose the Leader of the Opposition has heard of the refund made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
– I have. I understand it was quite a decent act on the part of the company.
– ‘The company’s action has never been appreciated,
– Tire ‘suggestion that the company returned a (portion of the .profits made on ‘certain munitions ‘is not quite the correct story. The company, after producing certain -munitions, found that the price it was to receive was exorbitant. The fact “that a contract was let a* .an unnecessarily high price “shows the inefficient way in which the defenses of this country are being controlled. This great concern learned that the Government was actually being robbed by paying the .price which it -had agreed to pay. That is something of which the Government has no reason to be proud. The Prime Minister continued -
First, it -will continue -so %& ‘order the business which it does with manufacturers, with contractors and with all others who may be engaged in the supply of materials of war-, that ‘there will he no profiteering in this war.
That is a very laudable declaration. I have already said that I believe the Prime Minister means what he says, but I should like him to ** deliver the goods “ by legislation to prohibit profiteering. He said further -
It will continue to exercise its control over prices in this country so that there will be no war profiteering of any kind in this country But, if somebody escapes through the net, U it turns ‘out that there is -ti war profiteer., that there are war profits in this sense iri Australia, we shall regard ourselves as noi only entitled, but also bound, to take the whole o’£ those profits by taxation.
I ask the Leader of the Senate: Is he not aware that many companies are still making huge profits which are not directly associated with defence activities? Those profits are in excess of what anybody should be allowed to make in this country at any time, and we should not allow the draining of the life-blood of the nation to such a degree. I ‘could mention the names of the companies, hut honorable senators opposite know them as well as I do.
– They are being well taxed.
– Let us hear something about the taxation.
– A. J. King and Company is one.
– Exactly. We had a debate on taxation in this chamber and I pointed out how inadequate and how improper the incidence of taxation was and how infamous the Government’s taxation proposals were, how immoderate they were, how they pressed so hard on the middle incomes and so lightly on the big. I know of one big soft-goods firm in Brisbane which only recently called its employees together for a meeting after “ knock-off “ time. The employees thought that they were being assembled for the purpose of being invited to join in a fund to contribute for war savings certificates, a purpose with which they were perfectly in accord. When they went upstairs to the meeting they heard a pianist playing patriotic airs. Then the general manager of the company addressed the employees and told them that he wanted them to agree to contribute one-twelfth of their wages every week for twelve weeks to the patriotic fund, for which they would get nothing whatever, but through which the firm would get free advertisement and “ boost “ for business. In an attempt to justify hia demand, he said, “ I as your general manager am subscribing one-twelfth of my own salary for the period “. He is being paid £ 1,200 or (£1,500 a year. How does one-twelfth of his salary compare with one-twelfth of the wages of his hands, the vast majority of whom would earn a maximum under the award of £4 19s. fid. a week? I mention that to show how ridiculous it is for the Government to talk about what it is prepared to do by way of taxation, when it takes so little account of the taxpayers’ ability to bear taxation, and so staggers the rates that taxes hit the lower grades far more than the higher.
T shall now quote briefly from the remarks made by the Prime Minister on the question of what the Government proposes to do under this bill, so far as organized Labour is concerned. The Senate heard what I read about our conference decision, which I hope will come to fruition, namely, that there should be a war council in which all of these things should be discussed and common-sense arrangements arrived at. The Prime Minister himself has said that that is what he believes. He said -
That is a very comprehensive power to take. lt ie a power which is capable of abuse. All great powers are, but it is a power which I believe, properly understood and wisely exercised, can be used to the enormous advantage of Australia.
Then he went on to say that unionists generally were as patriotic aa any other section of the community. We have asserted that over and over again. He said -
The fact that I am asking, and that the Government to-day is asking, Parliament to give powers of compulsion leaves the principle of working quite unchanged. We want cooperation. We may have compulsive authority in our pocket, but we are going to get the best results from the trade unionists of Australia … by a system of co-operation, by saying, as I have repeatedly said, “ Come in and co-operate with us “.
Whether the right honorable gentleman believes that, and I believe that he does, whether he intends that, and I think that he does, we shall see as things progress. I finish, Mr. President, where I began. T say that if this Government really desires unity, really desires co-operation, it must forget a lot of things which, in the past, it, like the. elephant, has never seemed able to forget. It should not say the things that make for disunity rather than unity. It must recognize the fact that Labour is the only party which can bring to this essential effort that unity amongst those that can contribute most which is so urgently necessary at the moment. I think that Senator McBride asked, by interjection, why we do not go into a national government. That is a threadbare suggestion. Ministerial supporters know, because we have told them often, why we will not come in. First, we do not believe that that is the best contribution we can make to the solution of the problem which confronts this nation. We do not for a moment believe that our opponents really want us to come in. I go further, and say for myself, that I am absolutely certain that they do not want us to come in. They could not really want members of this party to come into co-operation with them as part and parcel of the Cabinet when they have never had a kindly word to say either about any one of us as senators and members of the class that we represent, or about the leaders whom we follow in our industrial and political organizations.
– That is a tisane of untruths.
– The Minister should restrain himself, but it is all right, Mr. President; my superiors might insult me, but there is no possible chance of my inferiors doing so. I know that our opponents do not want us because I know that they hate us, and the policy that we stand for.
– Rubbish 1
– Senator Abbott says that I am talking rubbish, but, I remind him of one proposal made, not by an outsider, or by the Labour party. A meeting of the Loan Council was recently held in this parliamentary building, and at that meeting a certain gentleman, who had not been asked or consulted, was mentioned as a man of outstanding ability for the position of Co-ordinator of Works, but, because he was once a Labour leader, a Labour leader in this Parliament-
– Because of his record.
– The honorable senator does not know anything about his record. I grew up with Ted Theodore, know him as a boy. There is no need for me to champion him.
– The judge had something to say about him.
– I know this man and the honorable senator can show mo nothing said by a judge which casts any reflection on his character.
– The honorable senator’s own party put him out.
– Nothing of the kind. Mr. Theodore had to beg the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) - then Prime Minister - to accept his resignation on the ground that under the then existing circumstances his remaining in the Cabinet would compromise the party. He went to Queensland and demanded that the State Government, not a Labour government, should prosecute him criminally so that ho would get a verdict which would either damn him for ever or reprieve him for ever. Because he was a Labour leader, honorable senators opposite talk about this man and Senator Dein interjects, “Because of his record “. What about the record of
Blarney? You accepted him without any hesitation. You do not want me to give the sordid details in this assembly. What about some of the others you took to your bosom and put into these jobs - men who barely escaped conviction for conspiracy? You have given opportunity to those men, but, when Mr. Theodore’s name was mentioned, you went berserk and refused to have him. Because we belong to the Labour party you hate us and you do not want us.
– Order! The honorable senator must address the Chair.
– If I addressed those remarks to you, sir, I might be in order, but I would not be accurate, because if there is one man in this chamber who, in spite of his political allegiance, does not hate us he is our worthy President. My remarks are intended for the gentlemen on the Government benches, who have been so unkind in their interjections. We are not going into their Cabinet, because we will not accept responsibility for their sins against the working class.
– You are not allowed.
– So the offer is off, then ? Senator Dein himself said the other day in this chamber that I would be a wonderful administrator.
– But you are not allowed to be.
– Well, if the offer is off, there is no need for me to occupy further time regarding it. I considered that it was essential on behalf of this party that I should say what I have said. We shall watch these things very closely. We shall do our very best to support this great national necessary effort, not only by facilitating the passage of this bill, but also by doing everything that we can do to produce unity, at least among our own class, in order to help to solve the problems that beset us.
– I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) on his peroration. It was the one part of his speech that I greatly admired. In this grave time we would do well to refer to the cabled report yesterday of the wonderful speech made by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, about past faults and the need now not to spend time in attributing blame -for earlier failures or semi-failures in the war effort. No one pretends that Australia kas been thoroughly alive to the real necessities of our present situation, but, ‘happily, we are awakened. I hope that that awakening will not be ‘accompanied by any feather -suggestion of hatred or bitterness. That is a danger *o the country - a weak spot through which the enemy may pierce our armour and through which propaganda may leak. The Leader of the Opposition should be the last good Australian to indulge in recrimination of that nature. I deplore the application of the word “ hatred “ to the relations of parties in this Parliament. I repudiate any suggestion that we on this side ‘hate anybody opposite, because, although our political opinions differ on many matters, there axe many other matters upon which we are absolutely united. The things that unite us> axe far-greater than the things that divide us, and that fact should be kept in mind.
As 1 listened to the honorable gentleman’s speech I was ‘reminded of the extra cost that too often occurs in connexion with governmental undertakings in this and every other country and which undoubtedly interferes with the carrying out of public efforts and public works. My mind went back to a little passage in an old book, Pepys’ Diary. Honorable senators, probably, are aware that Mr. Pepys was Overseer for the Navy in Britain nearly SOO yeaTs ago. He relates how on one ‘Occasion he visited one of the great ports of England, and inspected work being done on one of His Majesty’s ships. The vessel was being shored, and engaged in the task were the crews of a number of other warships then in the port. He saw that many hundreds more men than were necessary were being employed to do this job, and at the same time work on other warships was being interrupted. He summed np the position by saying, “Wherefore, I perceive it is impossible for His Majesty to have his work done as cheaply as can another “. I suggest that waste of this kind is inherent in all Government effort, and I do not think it is fair that nearly 300 years after Pepys made that observation the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) should refer to wasteful Government expenditure in matters of this kind as , some.thing new. I do not think that the Menzies Government can .be blamed .for what Pepys so long ago found ito be unavoidable in government effort. 1 do not intend to enter into any controversy over the matters which the honorable senator has raised. 1 assure him and his colleagues that it is nonsense to sUggeSt that honorable senators on this side entertain feelings of hate towards them. Class should not be allowed to enter into these matters. All of us are at one in our effort to resist the pernicious danger that is now threatening the world. I wish to refer briefly to two aspects of the war. One of them is expressed in a motion which stands in my name on tha notice-paper; hut the first and paramount consideration, on which I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition will agree absolutely with me, as I believe he does in respect of the -second consideration, is that it is essential first to win the war, and win it so convincingly that we shall be in a position to dictate to the aggressors a set of conditions which will make it impossible for aggression of the kind we are now facing to occur again in this world.
– We said that during the last war.
– I ask the honorable senator not to interject merely for the sake of saying something smart, but to endeavour to understand proposals which are made seriously for the consideration of honorable senators. If he does so he will realize that all honorable senators wish to prevent a recurrence of just those conditions which he knows have arisen since the last war simply because of the inability of the League of Nations to preserve the peace of the world. He must realize that if such a scheme as I propose can he carried out, all of the wealth and energy now devoted annually to the building up of huge armaments for the destruction of human beings will be released for the purpose of social improvement. Only under such conditions can the workers hope to attain happiness. However, we cannot consider that proposal for the present. We must immediately bend our every effort and thought with an inflexible will to win the war so convincingly that we shall be in a position to dictate the peace of the world, and thus guarantee at least some security as a basis for the provision of those things which the human race cherishes. 1 believe that at this moment the waves of Hitlerism and Nazi-ism are lapping the very rock upon which they will be broken, namely, the solidarity of the British peoples of the world. No doubt the tide of Hitlerism will endeavour to submerge that rock, but it will fail to do so, and it will not be very long before that failure is apparent in the retreat of the German forces. I have no doubt that when that day arrives we shall continue the struggle in the Balkans. Eventually, the ships of the British navy will bring Hitler to his knees. He will then realize that it is impossible for any nation to dominate the world unless it has sea power. I thank God that the Allied forces to-day possess in their navies the means to check this robber.
I again urge honorable senators opposite not to assume that any honorable senator on this side is their personal enemy. Neither should they ascribe to us uncharitable thoughts which we do not hold.
– Did not the honorable senator hear the interjections made by his colleagues while I was speaking?
– Tes, and I thought that it would be far better if we had no interjections at all of that kind. The honorable senator certainly did not hear me interject when he was speaking. In his speech he asked, “Do we hear of property being offered to the Commonwealth?” I, myself, know of certain people who have given for the use of the Government, free of interest, hundreds of thousands of pounds. No doubt they are wealthy people, and, probably, can afford to make such gifts to the Government. The fact remains, however, that they have acted generously in this matter, and without seeking any advertisement for themselves. Their names have never been published. Our job to-day is to pass this measure in order to enable this country to make a supreme war effort. We must win this war, but we shall not do so if we display the petty spirit reflected in some of the interjections made in this debate. I urge honorable senators to give this measure a speedy passage.
I propose to leave in abeyance the motion standing in my name on the noticepaper, in which I propose the establishment of a world armament commonwealth. I have no doubt that we shall win the war, and it will then be the time to press that matter. I hope that all of us will retain our faith in ultimate victory. I have not the slightest doubt that we shall win this war, although in winning it we shall be called upon to go through a Garden of Gethsemane and to endure terrible sufferings. In order to remove any misunderstanding, I intend to eliminate clause 4 of my motion, which deals with an armistice. Experience has taught us that we can make no compromise with Hitler. Either we shall go down or Hitler will. We have the will to win, and we must hang on to the bitter end, using every effort to achieve victory. By the grace of God we shall eventually smash Hitler.
– I oppose the bill. I do so because the Government has had every opportunity to prosecute the war to the fullest possible degree without creating the panic in which the people of Australia find themselves at the present time. Under the Supply and Development Act and the National Security Act the Government took all of the powers it requires in order to enable it do its job. It failed, however, to do that job. As the result of that failure and the criticism levelled against the Government in the press in connexion with the bungling of work in annexes, the people became panicky. The Government has now decided to nullify the provision inserted in the existing law at the instance of the Labour party, whereby the workers are protected against industrial conscription. It hopes to achieve that object under this. measure, but before introducing the amending bill it deliberately created panic among the people in order to win support for its present action. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has spoken for this purpose over the air, and press criticism has helped to increase the fear among our people. The cry was sent forth that Parliament must be re-assembled immediately in order that more far-reaching powers might be vested in the Executive. I repeat that the main object of this measure is to enable the Government to go back on its word that it would not resort to industrial conscription. When this change of attitude became apparent many in the Labour party determined to resist industrial conscription. That was the reason for the formation of the non-Communist Labour party in this Parliament, which I have the honour to lead in this chamber. My party was created in order to safeguard the interests and rights of the working class. Some of those rights, I am sad to say, have been 3old to the Government by the Leaders of the Opposition in this chamber and the House of Representatives. On the plea of emergency, the Government has called Parliament together, and has asked us to give to it dictatorial powers. But why, at this late stage, should such action on the part of the Government cause any surprise? Why should the Government ask Parliament to give it authority to do certain things when it has already assumed that authority? Prom the evidence available it would appear that Ministers want the Labour party to give its blessing to the mistakes which the Government has already made in connexion with its war policy, and further mistakes which it will make in the future. In effect, it has asked the Labour party to give to it a blank cheque in order that it may escape condemnation for any mistakes which it may make in the future. There can be no doubt that the Government has been responsible for one bungle after another. It has appointed certain people to help it to do its job and, constantly, we see it exercising more and more power. The Government already possesses power to do everything necessary to prosecute its war effort, but the object of this measure is to enable the Government to go back on the assurance it gave to the Labour party that there will be no industrial conscription. Perhaps there is more to it than that. The Government’s proposal may be divided into three requests. The Prime Minister has announced that the Government proposes to conscript men for home defence in order to build up a force of 250,000, to conscript wealth, and to conscript man-power in industry. We are told that the first proposal involves the conscription of an additional 80,000 Australians. I challenge any one to contradict me when I say that the Government has already failed to equip, or accommodate, all of the volunteers who have offered their services in defence of this country. Not one Australian would refuse to defend his country. The fact is that the Government has refused to accept the services of many volunteers. Consequently,” it now invites this Parliament to give approval to its record of bungling. But Parliament should not put the stigma of conscription upon the manhood of Australia, for our men are prepared to do voluntarily all that is asked of them. There has been no dearth of volunteers for the Army. The fact is that the Government has not been able to deal with all the men who have offered their services. Men have volunteered in their thousands. Many in country districts have waited for three or four weeks after volunteering, and when no reply has been received to their offer to serve, they have then rushed to recruiting depots and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force under fictitious names. There is no need whatever for the Prime Minister to talk about conscripting men for Militia training, for our men are most anxious to be allowed to do some useful work. If the manufacture of armaments and equipment is required any number of men will volunteer at once for the work if they are asked to do so, for they are looking for an opportunity to serve. I am quite confident that the men of Australia will readily offer to undergo physical training, and to receive instruction in military service, without the application of conscription.
I wish to say a few words about the annexes. We have been informed through the Government, no doubt upon the authority of certain officers in charge of the annexes, that it is impossible to secure precision art-sans in sufficient numbers to operate the machinery in the factories. On Wednesday of this week I had occasion to visit the Sydney Showground. In one building I saw about 200 men lying about because rain was falling outside. They consisted of fitters, turners, electricians and precision workers of many classes. When I asked what they were doing there I was informed that they had been told that there were no schools available in which they could be put so that they could use their brains in the service of the nation. Yet, certain people in charge of annexes have declared that they are unable to obtain instructors to train men to work the machines required for the manufacture of arms and ammunition. I read in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that the Railways Commissioner of New South Wales proposes to release 1,000 apprentices who are in their third or fourth year of training so that they may be permitted to join the Australian Imperial Force. On the one hand, therefore, we find 200 men lying idle in a building at the Showground on a wet day, or simply marching about on a fine day, because there are no schools in which their training would fit them to be instructors and the like; and, on the other hand, we read of a proposal that 1,000 apprentices shall be released in order that they may join the Australian Imperial Force. If the railway authorities can spare these men from their normal duties, surely they could be employed in the annexes where skilled and partially skilled men are needed. While I was at the Showground the other day I inspected the quarters in which the men were located and also the buildings in which the sheep show was being held. It seems to me that the sheep show could well have been abandoned for the time being. Of course the sheep are valuable animals, but they are not so valuable, nor is the show so urgent a need, as to justify the shifting of the men into inferior quarters. I am glad that the men had sufficient courage to say that rather than go into a building in which they would be compelled to sleep on wet sand they would walk out of the camp. The building in which the sheep were penned at least had a good floor.
The Government has indicated that it desires this bill to be passed in order that certain work may be pushed ahead in some of the annexes that have been built in establishments adjacent to private engineering plants. The Government says it wants co-operation. Actually, however, all it wants is the co-operation of “ yes men “, and co-operation in order to introduce industrial conscription. It will not get such co-operation from me. The passing of this bill is not likely to be of any benefit to Australia. With Mr. Beasley I visited the establishment of the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company, where there is an annexe in which a number of machines are installed. I suppose that 45 per cent, of the machines came from Germany, and another 45 per cent, of them from America. The rest were of British manufacture. The German machinery, which was bought before the war, had been erected in the factory for seven months. When I visited the establishment with Mr. Beasley, no men were engaged and the manager informed me that be was then examining his papers in order to marshal his staff. We then went round to the annexes at Duly and Hansford Limited and at the Eveleigh workshops. We walked into the Eveleigh workshops without being challenged in any way. We discovered that some of the machines that had been put up there months ago had been found to be out of alinement and had had to be taken down. That visit was made on a Tuesday. On the following Monday, after the Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) had been informed that Mr. Beasley and I, on one day, and Mr. Beasley and Mr. Rosevear, on another day, had been around, he consented to allow a party to accompany him ou a visit to various annexes. Although only a week had elapsed between our visit and the visit of the party, a good deal had been got under way. A certain amount of showmanship was demonstrated. Our last visit that day was to the Eveleigh workshops where men were working machines. Twenty minutes after we left the building no men were working the machines, and the shell cases that had been manufactured were sent back to the furnace because they did not measure up to the required tests. Is thai the way to do things? Can co-operation be expected when that kind of thing is going on
When we got to the annexe of the Colonial Sugar Henning Company Limited we found 150 or 200 men clamouring at the door and demanding employment. This shows clearly that there is no need whatever to conscript men for industry. The men are anxious to do the work that needs to be done. I believe that the “ Quislings “ and the “ Leopolds “ are not in the workshops ; they are up here directing operations. The Government asks for co-operation in respect of this, that and the other activity, but, after what I have seen, it will not get it from me. Every honorable senator on this side of the chamber knows that the purpose of this bill is to conscript the very men whom they represent here - that is, the organized trade unionists of Australia; and, to my surprise, some of them are apparently prepared to agree to the bill, notwithstanding that the people that they represent are protesting very strongly against it on the ground that it is not necessary.
It has been said that the position will be all right after this bill has been passed, and that Mr. Essington Lewis will then be able to do his job. According to the Commonwealth Gazette of the 20th March, 1940, Mr. Essington Lewis was appointed chairman of the Board of Business Administration, other members of which were the Right Honorable Sir George Pearce, Mr. Norman Myer, Sir Walter Massy-Greene and Mr. Edwin Van-der-Vord Nixon. I think that Mr. Essington Lewis was also chairman of the first industrial panel appointed by the Government. Now, he is to be given oven wider authority. I wonder what more power ‘he requires. In Australia to-day, there are 100,000 men out of work. Does Mr. Essington Lewis require more power to enable him to employ some of these men in useful occupations? Does he require power to conscript industrial employees in order to set them to work in munitions annexes? I appeal to the Government to get on with the joh, and not to take away from Parliament the rights which it possesses. The setting up of panels and boards is not necessary; all that is required is that this Parliament shall
Senator Amour. be called together frequently, so that members of both Houses may have an opportunity to offer constructive criticism. The people now at. the head of these boards and occupying executive positions, together with a number of departmental heads, should be removed, and their places given to men who would get on with the job. Parliament is quite capable of handling, much of the authority which the Government is now delegating to outside instrumentalities. There is an ample supply of trained artisans in the workshops, and there is a sufficient number of capable organizers who, although not so high up in the government service as others, are willing and anxious to servo.
Returning for a moment to the inspection of munitions annexes made by members of Parliament in company with the Minister for Supply and Development, I shall deal with a visit which was paid to the workshops where an attempt is being made to manufacture Beaufort bombers. These machines are to be made in three sections, which will be transported to a central workshop for assembly. Members who made the inspection were accompanied by Mr. Storey, who, we are informed, has forgone a large private income in order to devote his energies to defence work in Australia. Also in the party were 20 or 30 pressmen and others. Mr. Storey said that it was hoped to have 1,500 planes fifteen months hence. A question was put to him with regard to the supply of aluminium, and he replied that production of planes, of course, depended upon an ample supply of white metal. Somebody suggested that if we had not that supply of white metal, we would have no aeroplanes at all, and Mr. Storey admitted that that was the position. Utterances such as that by men in responsible positions strike panic to the hearts of the people. It is high time that something was done to prevent damaging statements. Speaking over the national network recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) declared that Australia would throw its weight behind the Empire’s defence effort until its financial resources were completely exhausted. As the result of that statement, next day there was a run upon the banks, and the Prime Minister was forced to announce that the Government had no intention of confiscating the people’s savings. Panic can only hamper our national effort. Australia requires capable leadership and I am sure that the people of this country have not confidence in the Prime Minister, -whose frequent statements tend to :give the impression that, although the position is getting worse and worse, nothing is being done about it. Honorable senators should not regard die Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) as a .good fellow because he has consented to support the bilL We should not assume that we .are doing a good job hy supporting a measure -such as this. Of what use will 250,000 troops be if there are no war implements for them to operate? Direct .action is necessary to put our munitions production -on a sound basis. Why not give jobs to the 100,000 men who are now out of work? If there are capable artisans in other industries, get them to the annexes. This is no time for showmanship. I point out that all completed shell cases, including nose caps, which are made .in New South Wales, have to be sent to a Victorian establishment to be charged. There is only one charging factory in Australia, and no doubt its location is well known. -Should this country be attacked, and that factory put out of action, no shells could be produced. This industry should be decentralized. Today, .the Government is worried about what it should do, and has decided to seek additional power. We are fighting a very .strong nation- a nation whose currency at one time became valueless on the world’s market. Undeterred, however, the German people set about building up their country, and by means of a system of barter, and an internal currency they have been able to organize huge .industrial resources. It was claimed that their financial methods were a violation of international principles, and of established banking practice, and Great Britain, France, and other democracies elected to stick to the orthodox methods. Because they did that, they were unable to keep pace with Germany’s development, and to-day are unable to do the things that should have been done in time of national emergency. They have found “ Quislings “ and “’ Leopolds “ in hundreds and thousands As has already been pointed out, there is no provision in this bill for taking over the private banking institutions. Obviously, the Government does noi want to do that, and is content .to meddle and quibble. I understand that a bill is to be submitted to us for the raising of another £20,<000,00.0 in Australia, but this piecemeal borrowing will be of little use. To defend this country we must utilize the -credit of the nation to the fullest possible degree, or very -soon tvt shall have no country to defend. What is lacking in our war effort to-day is not co-operation but action. We should -not delude ourselves. Under the National Security Act, the Government has all the power it needs to defend this country, and pursue our war effort. There is no necessity for industrial conscription while there are 100,000 men out -of work. Apparently, it is the intention of the Government to create something in the nature of a state of panic in order that attention may not be focused upon the Government’s muddling policY. The Government knows that that is true. No doubt the newspapers will name all those who vote against this bill. I shall vote against the bill, because I do not trust the Government to handle the situation. I have already explained the reason for my attitude; I want action. The old orthodox methods are of no use to-day. If this country were attacked, we would have only a couple of pop-guns to defend it. Some years ago, Admiral Henderson visited Australia and reported on our naval defence. He stressed the necessity to encourage a fishing fleet, which, he said, would provide the nation with useful vessels and. give our seamen a wonderful knowledge of the Australian coast. A Labour government in New South Wales established a fishing fleet which did valuable work in the training of seamen on the Australian coast, but a government of the United Australia party sold the fleet to the Italians. Today, it is not the Australians who have a wonderful knowledge of the Australian coast, but the Italians. The Commonwealth Government to-day is recreant to the trust imposed in it, and if it is not prepared to do its job, it will not have my support. I am surprised that the
Leader of the Opposition has fallen into the trap set for him, and has decided to support this measure. It is true that the Prime Minister has said that industrial conscription might never have to be employed, but what advantage of this legislation will be taken by employers such as Mr. Essington Lewis? How will this power be applied to the workers employed by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and in other industries? I can visualize what will happen. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), with whom I disagree, has stated that he is proud to support this measure which, as I have shown, will give to the Government power . to conscript the workers of Australia for industrial services without, at the same time, taking over the ‘banking institutions. There is no intention on the part of the Government to conscript the wealth of this country.
– The bill empowers the Government to take over all property.
– The Government has that power under the present act and so far has done nothing in that direction. The Ministry is now seeking wider power which will be used to mishandle the workers of this nation. I regret very much that the Government has not made better use of its authority under the existing act. Evidently it intends to carry on with the same old- gang, and I very much fear that when the Senate reassembles after the impending recess, the position of Australia will not have improved very much, if at all. My fear is that there are too many “ Quislings “ and “ Leopolds “ about, not among the workers of this country, but among those higher up in the social scale. The Government should clean them out and get on with the job of defending Australia. Under existing conditions any co-operation which the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters may give ro the Government will not achieve the desired end. Even the formation of a National War Council, as has been suggested, would not improve the position. The responsibility rests on the Government to put the position right. Whether we have a national government, as distinct from the present Administration, or a National War Council, if the Ministry adheres to the present orthodox method of finance, and if Australia goes down in this struggle, the Government and its supporters will deserve all the obloquy that future generations may heap upon them. I urge Ministers to shift over from the orthodox system of finance in this grave crisis, to take charge of our banking institutions, and make full use of the credit resources of the nation. Germany was able to do that and trample over opposing nations, and we should meet the menace of to-day by adopting new financial methods. The proposal to raise another £20,000,000 will not be sufficient. We shall require another £20,000,000 a week or two later. The Government has the power to do everything that would be expected of a strong administration in this crisis, and it should, without further hesitation, take over all banking institutions and thus do something really effective for Australia at this time.
.- During the last fortnight public opinion throughout the Commonwealth has been urging the Government to follow Great Britain. Canada and New Zealand’s example by marshalling all our manpower, materials and wealth in a combined national war effort. This bill is the Government’s answer. The only weak spot in it is that the proposal to utilize man-power is not wide enough. Omitting lines of communication and garrison units, and men guarding essential services and important localities, there should be an active field army of not only 250,000, but also another 150,000 standing by as replacements. Such a force, irrespective of our contribution to the Empire Air Force, and the voluntarily enlisted Australian Imperial Force for overseas service, would be a deterrent to any nation contemplating an invasion.
The passing of this bill will be a definite forward step towards providing the necessary equipment and mechanical aids for that force. We have the men, if the Government will set the example by having a scheme to replace those of military age in every department by older men and even retired public servants. Such men thus released should do ‘their three months’ camp training in the Militia and be ready to take their places in our home defence field army on full mobilization. The only persons exempted should be those engaged in producing war material. The Government should implement to the full the provisions of section 60 of the Defence Act. Some might call this conscription; others, compulsory military service. The correct designation is “ national service for home defence “. The Government must take a determined stand in this matter. What more is wanted for an “ all-in “ man-power call up than the present war situation? “J.u the last few days, the war has been brought perilously near this continent. Who can say what the line-up of nations will be when Britain is fighting on its own soil for the Empire’s very existence?
My attention has ‘been drawn to the lack of enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force signals service. That branch of the Army requires telephone mechanics and telephonists. In the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are many men with these qualifications, anxious to enlist, but not permitted to do so because exemption is claimed for them under the Reserved Occupations Regulations. It is time that these regulations were revised, and the age limit increased by ten years or more.
Recently I suggested to the Government that all fit young men in the Defence Department and certain army units should be replaced by older men with, of course, the necessary qualifications for the respective positions. Similar action is recommended in respect of other Commonwealth departments, including the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I admit that it will be difficult to replace those officials in permanent employment, owing to superannuation and promotion rights and other considerations. The war has been responsible for an influx of a large number of temporary hands, many of whom are of enlistment age. These temporary appointments should be for men over military age. No doubt scores of Commonwealth and State public servants, now permanently employed, are anxious to do something more practical for the defence of Aus tralia than wielding a pen or striking a typewriter. Are heads of Federal and State departments giving every facility to do so? I have my doubts. The Commonwealth Public Service needs to be told that there is a war on, a war perilously close to Australia. It should be placed on a war footing. We must not have a repetition of what happened in the Defence Department at the last week-end - public servants signing off at 5 p.m. on Friday until 9 a.m. on Tuesday, while military, naval and air force clerks worked right through without that holiday week-end. Routine and procedure must be cast overboard.
Is this the time for the Public Service Board to hold a clerical examination for further promotions? Some hundreds of men of military age are studying for that examination which will take place in October next. The holding of the examination prevents numbers from enlisting. Enlistment now is far more valuable than it will be when disaster overcomes the Empire. Further, this is unfair to those young patriots who have already enlisted and cannot take the advantage of possible promotion in the Commonwealth Public Service, as they will miss this examination. The Government should instruct the Public Service Board to postpone this examination for at least two years.
I commend the Government for ‘being more active in rounding up persons linked with the fifth column. A good start has been made, but more should be interned. There is plenty of room in the Dhuringhille camp for hundreds more. In this connexion I draw the Government’s attention to the amount of petrol used by wives of internees in that camp. When I was there last Monday, five cars arrived during the afternoon - expensive cars driven by alien females. At least two of these cars came over 100 miles. Why should they be allowed to use petrol freely now, when the supply is so limited that rationing is shortly to be imposed on loyal citizens? Why cannot those well-dressed dames use the train and hire a jinker to drive them the ‘7 miles from the station to the camp if they want to see their men folk?
– Did they have chauffeurs ?
– No they drove their own cars and the look which some of them gave me- was enough’ almost to kill me.. .1 am pleased’ that the- Government has decided to utilize the services of the old Australian Imperial Force. A scheme for this phase of home defence preparation should have been evolved long ago:. it appears- Co me that the services of another body of patriotic citizens -members of rifle clubs - are not being utilized to the full. A great number of rifle club men have enlisted. The remainder constitute a reserve to the Militia. Those skilled riflemen are anxious §0- do something more than be an academic reserve. If I were Minister for the Army, I would employ these men in instructing eligible men in the use of the rifle so- that when called up for their three months’ camp, they would have so much less to learn. Hundred’s of men of military age would gladly put in their Saturday afternoons in this manner. The rifle is not obsolete. Oh Sunday last I gave a public address1 in Melbourne on1 what will be known in history as the- “Epic of Dunkirk”. In preparing material for that half-hour talk, I had to check up on certain details. 1 found that the British Expeditionary Force in withdrawing the 40 miles to the sand dunes of Dunkirk used the rifle, the Bren gun and the Vickers gun with deadly effect. The field guns and tanks had. to Le abandoned owing to enemy pressure on all sides. Retiring and fighting,, fighting and retiring, those gallant men, with the weapons they carried, eased the German pressure on their comrades who were being evacuated at Dunkirk. A decision to use our skilled rifle club members for the purpose suggested, would arouse greater enthusiasm amongst our young men. At present they think that the Government is only luke-warm. I know the reason why my suggestion is not likely to be adopted.
– What is the reason ?
– I cannot state it publicly, but I shall be pleased to give it to the Minister privately.
– But the honorable senator is attacking the Government ; he should be able to give the reasons.
– The .Ministerknows the reason as’ well as. I1 do.. Thisobjection should be. overcome and an “ all-im “ policy of training pursued with greater enthusiasm. I support die bill wholeheartedly.
Senator KEANE’ (Victoria) [II.57J.- In view of the limited time allowed for the debate on this bill I shall speak more briefly than some other honorable senators have done this morning. As a member of the Opposition, in normal times I am opposed to the Government whether inside or outside this chamber, but in the present war situation I consider that opposition should be suspended while this, legislation is under discussion. The Leader of my party (Mr. Curtin) thought in Ms wisdom that the war situation was so serious as’ to render advisable the calling of a. special conference of Labour organizations’ in order to consider Labour’s war policy. My leader in this chamber (Senator Ceilings’.) has read the resolutions of. the conference and with them the Parliamentary Labour party is in accord. We are also in sympathy with, the purpose of the bill now under discussion, except in one respect. Members of my party in the Senate and in the House of. Representatives have some doubt as to the manner in which the Government will utilize the powers given by this measure over the industrial life of the country. Consequently when the bill is in committee an amendment will be submitted for the purpose of safeguarding the position. I suggest that no government could carry on during a great national crisis without the support of the workers. I believe that this Government will not abuse the wide power* to be conferred upon it. If the Opposition were now in office, it would certainly see that the man-power of this country was used in the most effective way.
I could say much about things that this Government has failed to do. Senator Sheehan and 1 suggested last year that the State railway workshops should be used for the manufacture of munitions.
– Those establishments are now to be used for that purpose, but a year has been allowed to pass without their modern equipment being availed of for war purposes.
– It is absolutely necessary to use the services of the large bodies of skilled men who are employed in the various railway workshops throughout the Commonwealth. The services of the workmen who built the Spirit of Progress and the masterpieces of railway locomotive engineering in use in Victoria and New South Wales are available to the nation, and I am glad that the Government intends to take full advantage of their skill. I« its arrangements for the defence of Australia, the Government should not forget the value of the railway systems. If heavy guns had to be hauled from place to place, the present roads would not stand up to the strain that would be imposed on them. Therefore, the railroads should be maintained in perfect order, and if the State governments have insufficient funds for this purpose, the Commonwealth Government should provide the requisite money. One of the great dangers that confront Australia during this crisis is the possibility of a stoppage of Australia’s supplies of petrol from overseas. In such a catastrophe we should be largely dependent upon the State and Commonwealth railways, which could be operated by coal, supplies of which are obtainable throughout the States.
It is not right that members of the various political parties in this Parliament should have to get news relating to war activities through their own leaders. Those leaders are not in a position to inform members as to the full gravity of impending dangers, and I believe that at some stage it will be desirable to hold a secret session of this Parliament. Then the members could be told the full story, and they could be depended upon not to make improper use of the information supplied to them. I do not share the fear of conscription of industry.
– What does the honorable senator mean by that term?
– The fear has been expressed that, under the present bill, the Government might prevent the operation of industrial awards, or tell workmen to leave one job and take up another. Had I been Prime Minister, I should have accepted the amendment proposed in the House of Representatives by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and I suggest that honorable senators could support such an amendment in this chamber without weakening this bill. Another form of protection for unionists is contemplated. I believe that trad*union panels would prove valuable, despite the present hold-up in that regard owing to the fact that a large number of unions desire representation upon them.
I have yet to learn why the Government did not carry out its expressed intention to appoint an ambassador to Japan. An effort should have been made in that direction. If Australia has antagonized that country, the blame cannot be laid at the door of the Opposition.
I commend the Minister for the Interior (Senator Poll) and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) for their effective handling of the enemy within. I am glad that this work has not been delegated to military officers, but that the services of the efficient State police forces are being used. The police know who are aliens, and do not act harshly towards innocent people, many of whom are probably as loyal as any member of this Parliament. I hope that the Government will take care that only trained detectives are employed in this work. This, I understand, is the present practice. There are 80,000 aliens in Australia, including 27,000 Italians. We can well imagine how we should be treated if we were living in an enemy country at the present time; therefore a constant watch should be kept on all aliens.
I visualize Australia being eventually protected by a large number of fighting aeroplanes, and we should never relax our efforts to have these machines built, as far as possible, in our own country. Certain metals required for their manufacture may be unobtainable at the present time, and substitute metals may have to be used, but every honorable senator believes that Australian workmen are capable of doing this job. The Government has undertaken an enormous task in trying to place Australia on a war footing within a year, and no doubt mistakes have been and will be made.
The members of the Opposition are members of a great national party. The people who sent us here are anxious that we shall see that their lives and homes are safeguarded, and that is my principal concern. Therefore, it is imperative that we should support this bill. If the Opposition were in office to-day it would need all of the powers now sought by the Government. I should like to see this measure being administered by a Labour government. Some day the Opposition will be in power, and I hope that, when that time comes, the dreadful conditions now being experienced will have passed. In my opinion, the proposed trade-union panels will be helpful to both the workers and the Government. The promises given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with regard to the National Security Act were honoured, and I believe that his undertakings in regard to this amending measure also will be honoured. But if they were not, would the leaders of the trade unions allow their men to be victimized ? Of course not.
– It would be impossible to prevent it.
– The trade unions have always stood firmly against victimization of any kind. The Australian Labour party stands behind the Government 100 per cent. Small sections in the various States, whose representatives we have in this chamber, will try to make themselves out to be the saviours of the workers by opposing this bill, but I am prepared to support it on any platform, telling the people that it is on all fours with the resolution of the special conference of the Australian Labour party. Some doubt has been expressed regarding the value of the amendment submitted in the House ofRepresentatives. A similar amendment will be moved in this chamber, and, in the event of its being defeated, Labour men will jealously watch to see that the rights of the people are not abrogated. If we are not satisfied with that, at a time when the very existence of the Empire is threatened, we are not big enough to hold our seats in this Parliament. The federal conference of the Australian Labour party is attended by six delegates from the rank and file in each of the States. I am not interested in sectional movements that may occur in various States. The Australian Labour party has spoken; it has issued a mandate to Labour men in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. My Leader (Senator Collings) has read that decision, and it substantially conforms with the proposal submitted by the Government. We must stop the rule of violence, in order to save what we have achieved in this and other parts of the Empire. I support the bill whole-heartedly, and urge that, even at this late hour, the amendment to be submitted by the Opposition be accepted.
– On Monday last, a conference of the Victorian Labour party was held, and the matter of granting additional powers to the Commonwealth Government was discussed at length. The delegates numbered 200 or more, and they knew exactly what the Government intended to do. As they had listened to the speech broadcast by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the decision reached was not a hasty one, but was arrived at in full light of the facts, and after long discussion. The following resolution was adopted : -
That for the purpose of achieving full and complete defence of Australia in this war, delegates be instructed to vote for the following alteration to our existing defence policy: -
1 ) That the ownership and control of pro ductive and financial organizations be vested in the Commonwealth to be employed for national purposes requisite for the defence of the Australian people.
That to secure maximum productive efforts, all idle employable labour be absorbed into industry.
The establishment of air ports and depots with necessary supports at strategical points inland and on the coast and coastal surroundings.
Participation in the Empire Air Scheme.
No raising of military forces for service outside the Commonwealth other than is necessary in the land and waters adjacent to Australia and New Zealand for the strategical defence requirements of the Commonwealth and New Zealand.
) In view of the Government’s declared policy that there will be no conscription for overseas service, the plank for the deletion from the Defence Act of all clauses relating to compulsory training and service stand in abeyance for the duration of the present war.
That resolution was carried after a full discussion during which delegates were informed of the incomplete nature of the
Government’s .plans. Reports had been received from various workshops and annexes, and the delegates were in a position to know the delay which has occurred in carrying out certain essential work. They also knew from the Prime Minister’s speech, the additional powers which the Government intended to seek under the bill which we are now discussing. Subsequently, on Tuesday last, a federal conference of the Australian Labour party adopted the resolution which was read by Senator Collings. I am committed, as he is, by the terms of that resolution. Even if this measure be passed, as I suppose it will be, international events, rather than any law which may be placed on the statute-book, will determine the Government’s future policy. That is really what has happened to-day; events are master of the situation. If it were not for the events which have occurred during the last few weeks, this measure would not have been presented for our consideration. Included in recent events is the tragic disclosure of the unpreparedness, not only of the Commonwealth Government, but also of the British Government. Events determine the policies of all governments. The British and Australian Governments have taken too much for granted, and have assumed that they were much stronger than they actually are. These governments have refused to accept tho advice that has been offered to them. We are now faced with the most serious position in which Australia has ever been placed; but years ago the members of the Labour party directed attention to what should have been done. I make that assertion not with a desire to score at the expense of the Government, but solely in order to emphasize that events which have occurred with such tragic and devastating suddenness %have brought about a state of awareness which I trust will raise us to greater heights and enable us to face fully and completely the situation now confronting us. These events annihilate false ideas and dilapidated and decadent institutions. In the past, war has had that effect, and it is having it again. Practically every school of thought sees the result of war, and what it means to civilization. Whether wo like it or not, we shall have to re-organize our internal economy, and the first thing to be done in that direction is to secure national control of all essential land industries and services. Without such control, we cannot, by any procedure, give effect to a national policy worthy of the name or of a defence policy which will enable us to survive. If there is to be, as there is and has been, divided control of our national resources, so that the Government has to plead on its bended knee for loans for war purposes, we cannot hope to succeed. Apart from the time and expense involved in this state of affairs, is the Government likely to be able to give effect to a national policy worthy of the name? The present system could not possibly continue to operate if the danger becomes even more acute than it is to-day. If the enemy were at our doors and the firing of guns could be heard, there would be no suggestion of advertising war loans or the issue of war savings certificates, because the Government would take control of all our resources in the interests of the nation. We should endeavour to benefit by experience and to make some worthy effort. Included in national services is banking. At a time such as this, we cannot allow private banking institutions to dictate to the Government or to the people as to the way in which money or credit shall be made available to the nation. The Government, through the Commonwealth Bank, must control all banking activities. There are also non-essential industries and services which should be closed down immediately. For instance, there are advertising, insurance and other agents performing work which is unnecessary at this juncture. If we are to organize the maximum effort, such services should be discontinued. If they be permitted to continue, hundreds ot thousands of men so engaged will not be rendering a more useful service to the community. If we are to make the best use of the man-power and of the resources at our disposal, I say emphatically that non-essential industries and services must close down. In war-time, economy must be on a war-time footing, and we cannot afford, to repeat the hackneyed phrase, to continue “ Business as usual “. In the present circumstances business cannot be conducted as usual; it must be transacted more effectively than in the past. If that were done, production would be increased to the maximum, and we should not be concerned because we have a carryover of 60,000,000 bushels of wheat.
– We ought to be glad we have that surplus.
– I was about to say that we should congratulate ourselves that we are in such a fortunate position. In these circumstances we should not consider for a moment removing men from the land, but should allow them to grow wheat even if we cannot use it immediately. It would be infinitely better to have a surplus of meat, wheat, wool and other primary products rather than continue to restrict production. If non-essential services and industries were closed we would have an immense reserve of labour power at our disposal to increase production to the maximum. We must also encourage consumption of foodstuffs and endeavour to raise the living standards of those who have to work and to fight. To-day there are 20,000 men knocking at the door of the Maribyrnong munitions works seeking employment, and thousands in the other States are similarly placed. A great majority of those men and their families are not receiving sufficient food and clothing, but their needs could be met without inflicting any hardship on any individual or without impairing the national effort It could be done by increasing production to the maximum and increasing consumption to a degree compatible with the maintenance of the proper health of the community. We should then have the necessary margin to assist us to meet our supreme war-time effort. I know that the task is difficult. It has been said that our difficulties are almost insurmountable; but the situation with which we are faced is not impossible. Those responsible will, I trust, rise to the occasion, because, as I have said before, the strongest bond of unity between man and man is danger faced in common. The danger is imminent, and it becomes more so as the position develops.
– The honorable senator should have delivered this speech on Tuesday in Melbourne.
– I made a similar speech on that occasion. We cannot expect to succeed under the present system of divided control. All our essential land industries and services must be under the direction of the central authority. Frequent reference has been made to the formation of a national government. We cannot have a national government that is responsible to private interests. That is the fundamental point. A national government that is true to name should be responsible to the people as a whole and not to any section. That is just where we part company. Honorable senators opposite are responsible to private financial institutions. The Labour party can never agree to participate in the formation of a national government when it knows that such a government, for all practical purposes, is subordinate to vested interests. My objection to the proposal is that the Labour party should not accept responsibility without power. If the Labour party participated at this stage in the formation of a so-called national government responsible to vested interests, it would be held responsible for what that government did, but it would have no power to improve the present position. However, if it attained power by joining a national government we should have no objection to accepting responsibility in such a government. Let us look at thu position which developed overseas. It should be apparent to honorable senators that, as the result of divided control, and the conflict between private interests before the outbreak of war, Great Britain was not in a state of preparedness. That Government did not have its disposal the information necessary in order to enable it to maintain a strong stand against a common enemy. Now, however, after incalculable damage has been done, and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, we read in the press that it it making the efforts that should have been made long before the war commenced. I say to the Commonwealth Government in all sincerity that if it will be convinced by the lessons of the immediate past, and will operate on the lines- 1, have suggested to make the Government supreme and not subordinate- to private interests, it will do much better in the future than it has done in the past.
I now propose to deal with industrial conscription. Many supporters of the Government think that if the wages of the workers be reduced almost to the irreducible minimum,, the workers will give of their best. Representatives of the Government say that we shall have industrial conscription, which means that men will be employed at peace-time occupations under military control and at military rates of pay. If such a policy be adopted the Government will not get the best results from the workers. When we were discussing the proposed trade-union advisory panel, I said to the Prime Minister r “ If you want the best results from the men and women whom we represent, then you must be prepared to do the very best you can in return. There must be reciprocity; all of the sacrifice must not be on one side”. If honorable senators opposite can convince the average worker in every sphere of industry in this country that the Government is doing a fair thing by him, and will continue to do so, we shall not need to drive the workers to make them give of their best. The workers realize that the danger to this country is great and they will respond readily in order to increase production, and will improve our present position in this respect beyond all recognition provided they are treated justly. It has not been denied that under this measure the Government will be given power to enforce industrial conscription. Members of the Government have said that the Government intends to do so.
– What does the honorable senator mean by industrial conscription !
– Exactly what I explained a few minutes ago. Apparently the honorable senator was not 1 listening
– What does it matter?
– It matters everything. Does the Government want to secure the best results from our workers I Does it want to Bee the economy of. this nation organized on a basis which will enable us to defend this country! Does it want to see the present position improved, or does it want to perpetuate the mistakes: it has made in the past? This problem matters everything to the workers of this country. If the Government does not treat them fairly it will not get the best results from them. It must treat them as free men, and convince them that it intends to do the best by them. Once the workers have that assurance from the Government they will give of their very best.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South
Wales) [12.37].- I oppose the bill. Its effect is to remove certain safeguards which were provided in the National Security Act. Honorable senators will remember that when we were dealing with the national security legislation the Government, at the request of the Labour party, agreed to provide three safeguards in that measure: First, that there would be no conscription for overseas service; secondly, there would be no industrial conscription; and, thirdly, civilians would not be subjected to military tribunals. That request was granted by the Government of the day which believed that the case put forward by the Opposition was such that those safeguards were not only desirable but also necessary. The principal object of this measure, however, is to remove two of those three safeguard* The third, which will remain - although I wonder for how long - is that there shall be no conscription for service overseas. Industrial conscription can now be introduced at the will of the Government. Before I conclude my remarks I shall prove that attempts have already been made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to introduce industrial conscription in its undertakings. In addition, we find that civilians will now be subject to military tribunals. I had an opportunity to listen to the debate on this measure in the House of Representatives, and I heard the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) prove beyond all doubt that under this legislation labour can be conscripted, whereas property cannot be conscripted without compensation. The only thing that can be conscripted without compensation will be labour. As I am confident that the rank and file of the workers and the trade unions have done everything asked of them by this Government, I can see no necessity for this measure. The position would be different if we were facing a situation similar to that which confronted Hitler when he said that Germany was short of man-power. Under such conditions I could understand the necessity for this Parliament to consider some proposal to conscript man-power in industry in this country. However, in Australia to-day we have over 100,000 men who are anxious and willing to work, but to whom the right to work is denied. Important defence works are crying out to be done, yet no effort is made to undertake them. In New South Wales we find many works of this class on which untrained labour could be employed immediately. We have only a thin ribbon of road connecting our two most important capitals. This highway would be practically useless for defence purposes. In addition, the railway connexion between Sydney and the Blue Mountains consists of a single line which crosses a narrow bridge over the Nepean River. Both this line and the bridge could be easily destroyed by an active fifth columnist. If we were obliged in an emergency, which I hope will never arise, to evacuate civilians from Sydney, we should be in a hopeless position. Our thousands of unemployed could be engaged immediately in constructing important arterial roads and bridges which are obviously necessary for the better defence organization of this country. Only within the last month or two the Government announced its decision to construct a graving dock in Sydney Harbour. All along this work has been considered urgent in order that suitable dock accommodation might be available for capital ships visiting Australia. Although the Government has only now made up its mind on the matter, it has given no encouragement to the Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board in Sydney which has offered to carry out this work. That authority has available the necessary machinery, valued at over £500,000, whilst its employees number over 3,000. During the last few months, because of the refusal of the Commonwealth Government to approve of the flotation of loans by the board in order to enable it to carry out certain works, this authority has been obliged to dismiss many of its employees. Despite the serious delay which has already occurred in connexion with this project, the Government still seems incapable of coming to a decision on the board’s offer.
In no instance have the workers of Australia refused to do anything asked of them by the Commonwealth Government. Indeed, within the last week, 200 men employed by the Westinghouse Company in Sydney sent a deputation to the manager of that company and told him that if their services were not utilized in defence work they would down tools and seek employment where their labours would be applied to the war effort. No one appreciates more than the working man the danger that now confronts Australia. Nobody realizes more than he does that this war is going to be won in our factories and by the workers and the trade unions. Consequently no necessity for industrial conscription exists.
– Who said that the workers would be conscripted?
– I say so ; and the Prime Minister himself admitted in the course of his remarks in the House of Representatives that the conditions of the workers must necessarily undergo a change.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - The honorable senator is not in order in referring to a debate of the current session in the House of Representatives.
– No demand has yet been made upon the working class organizations of this country by the Government, because, apparently, the Government has not yet engaged an officer capable of co-ordinating national works, and of directing workers of different classes into channels where they can be. enabled to give their best services in the defence of this country. I had an opportunity within the last ten days, in company with other members of this Parliament, to visit munitions works and annexes in Sydney and its suburbs. 1 cannot understand the mentality of a Minister who invites a body of men, possessing ordinary powers of observation, to make such an inspection when the sad state of affairs which we found existing in these works prevails. Wo went first to the annexe at the establishment of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. We found it to be one of the most active of these annexes; operations were stepped up for that particular day in order to make a good showing for our benefit.
– That is entirely incorrect.
– I know more about this particular annexe than does the honorable senator. Perhaps he does not know that it has a shell examination section. In that section we found half a dozen men, but they did not have one shell to examine. What were the men there for? They were there solely to give an appearance of activity and to create in the minds of those making the inspection the impression that something was being done. I am not blaming the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. I was at the annexe on the Saturday before the inspection was made, and the sentiment expressed to me by the employees was “ Why should we worry about these things? Over the road we have one of the greatest engineering plants in Sydney, and we would like to be engaged on the production of guns, tanks and other things that will really matter in this war”. I repeat that I do not blame this company for the lack of activity. I blame the Government for the lack of direction. We also found about 100 men outside the sugar company’s annexe waiting for jobs.
– There were not half that number.
– There were 120.
– -Apparently Senator Arthur counted them, but I know that there were at least 100. They were gathered outside the annexe in the hope that they would be given work.
We then went to Waterloo and once again, there was a superficial show of activity. A large amount of German machinery was installed, but obviously it had scarcely been turned over. About
half a dozen men were working on machines which did not total 10 per cent, of the plant, and it was apparent that most of these men were operating the machines for the first time. I watched a couple of them and saw them seeking for control handles and levers. It was clear that they were unfamiliar with their machines, and had not done the job before. They were there only to create an appearance of activity. Once again we heard talk of what would be done in that annexe next week or the week after, but the important question is what are these annexes doing to-day. We have heard talk of intentions for the last nine months. When we realized just what the state of affairs in the annexes was, and heard the Minister for Supply say that the coal strike had interfered with production, a good deal of amusement was caused, and the general view was that if that was the best excuse that could be offered for the inactivity, somebody else should be employed to write the Minister’s speeches.
Prom Waterloo we went to Marrickville and a similar story was unfolded. Once again we found that German machinery had been installed. It was an education to members of Parliament to see the large numbers of lads, employees of another branch, who stood in the doorways and watched the inspection. They were mere children. I made a point of asking two of them what their ages were and they said fourteen years. I am sure that they did not weigh more than 4 or 5 stone. They had weedy, thin, baby-like figures which took my mind back to the exploitation of child labour in England prior to the passing of the factory acts.
– How Senator Dein can dispute that is beyond my comprehension. In the factory owned by Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited - not that portion engaged on defence work - members of the inspection party were interested to see the kind of labour employed by engineering firms in Sydney. Whether the employees of that organization are typical of others I cannot say, but I sincerely hope that they are not. The ages of the lads were such that I would have been ashamed to take any one /rota another country around the factory to see what we allow to be done in Australia.
The party found that the most active of the annexes was that owned by R. B. Davies and Company Limited. There the activity was intense, and apparently the output was considerable, but unfortunately there is a sad story behind that organization also. Something must be wrong with the production system, because information conveyed to me last week was that of 600 grenades examined, 300 had to be rejected because of faulty construction.
We then went to the annexe of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and found that the soldiers guarding the works outnumbered the workers themselves.
– Sow many soldiers did the honorable senator see?
– There was a corner cottage which must have held 30 and at least ten or twelve were on duty. There were not so many workers on the job.
We then went to Chullora to see if there was any evidence of aircraft manufacture, and once again we found that there was a facade of activity - an outward appearance of work in progress. We saw 30 or 40 young fellows standing at benches and giving an impression of activity and purposeful movement; but when some of these young men were quietly questioned, it was revealed that they were only practising with the tools. There was no production of any kind. One young man at a bench was making intricate patterns on metal. He was asked what part he was making and he said, “ This is for nothing at all. I am just getting some practice with this tool “. All this preliminary work should have been done six or eight months ago, and it would have been done but for negligence on the part of the Government.
– Be honest and tell us the reason for it.
– I blame one thing only - lack of direction on the part of the Government. That is the outstanding reason.
The party then went back to Eveleigh workshops and we saw a scene which obviously had been specially staged for our benefit. Half of the area occupied by the annexe was not in operation, and there was activity in the other half. In that section we saw machines being operated in a businesslike way, but the actual result of the work which had been going on for at least a fortnight was no more than 60 shells. We were delayed at Eveleigh on an inspection of various other sections not connected with defence work, and half an hour later we returned through the works. Other members of the inspection party had gone, and although the time was only 4.30 p.m. half of the men had left the machines.
– Did the honorable senator see anything good at all?
– To be perfectly frank, my impression after the visit was that if the annexes were worked to their full capacity, the munitions which they produced would be insignificant in proportion to Australia’s requirements. In fact, they would be only a drop in the ocean of our needs. We have now reached the state when our defence work must be of some real value. There is no need to conscript the men and women in the factories, and make them work for longer hours on jobs which they do not want to do. The workers are ready to do their bit, and to undertake their share of the national burden of defence, but there are also 100,000 unemployed workers who are prepared to do likewise. It is deplorable that, in a time of national crisis, when 40,000 men have enlisted for service overseas, 100,000 men are out of work. It is a tragedy and an indictment of those who are in control of the Government to-day. If it is deemed necessary to switch men fromone occupation to another, that should be done. In Sydney to-day, and no doubt in other capital cities, there are many thousands of men whose training as artisans would be of wonderful value to the defence of Australia, but they are wasting time on jobs which have no value whatever. If some controlling authority were to send these men to jobs which are of some real use in the defence of this country, they would be happy to do the work and the country would be glad to have them do it. I have before me an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald in connexion with the conditions of munitions manufacture in Great Britain. I believe that the statements made in this article with regard to Great Britain can be applied to the position in Australia. The article reads -
The original British Expeditionary Force was sent away largely with re-conditioned artillery from the last war. Even the schools of artillery in England were left short of guns to equip them.
That is precisely the position which we are facing here to-day. “We sent away many field pieces to Palestine with our Sixth Division.
– The honorable senator is a great patriot.
– I am merely* trying to stir to life some of the honorable senator’s associates. I live in an industrial area, and I know where the first bombs will fall. The first targets will be the waterfront areas of Pyrmont and Darling Harbour, where the munitions annexes are, and highly industrial districts, but the Government has taken no steps to see that these areas and the workers in the munitions factories are protected. The war has been in progress for nine months, and the map of Europe has been radically changed, but what has the Government done ? It has merely erected a mausoleum - outside, glittering granite, but inside, only rottenness and decay. It is the job of the Labour party to bring to the notice of the people of Australia the rottenness and decay in our war effort. The Prime Minister has talked over the air and at meetings about what the Government is going to do. He has told us what is going to happen next week, when two shifts will be worked, or the week after when three shifts will be worked. I ask the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues to tell us what has already been done in the defence of this country. The fact is that the Government has fallen down on the job. It dreams only of the future; but we have now reached the stage when immediate action is imperative. My job. to-day is to endeavour to see that that action is taken.
– Why not form a national government?
– And provide a scapegoat for the Government’s mistakes? If a minority of Labour members were admitted to the Cabinet they would be outvoted, but it would be claimed that they were party to whatever mistakes were made.
– But the honorable senator claims that a minority rules the Cabinet even to-day.
– I do not know what happens in the Cabinet today. I am merely drawing attention to what would assuredly happen should Labour join the Government. A national government would enforce industrial conscription, and the next step would be conscription for service overseas. For both Labour would have to accept a share of the responsibility. That is why Labour will not support a national Government.
The article in the Sydney Morning Herald continued -
There is still disturbing evidence of continued inefficiency and obstructiveness at Whitehall, where, although certain ministers have been removed, the old Civil Service cliques which are equally responsible for the mistakes of the last nine months remain.
That accusation could justly be applied to Australia. The men directing our war effort are entangled in red tape, and they must be removed. Let us send them to Alice Springs for the duration of the war and six months thereafter. Remove those impeding forces that are tying up the war effort of this country with red tape. The Sydney Morning Herald went on to state -
The working men in the factories and the soldiers, to the best of their ability, are making the nation ready to face the coming battle.
That is precisely the position that obtains in Australia. At least two sections of the people here are doing their part - the Australian Imperial Force and the workers. Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2 p.m.
– My next reason for objecting to this measure rests upon the fact that the Government will no longer control those things which the Opposition would prefer to be under its control - Arbitration Court awards governing the conditions and hours of labour in our industrial establishments, which the trade-union movement of this country has secured for the workers. All these matters will, in future, be controlled by leading industrialists of Australia.
– That is sheer nonsense.
– No. It is a plain statement of what will happen in this country. In this morning’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, there appears a statement from its Canberra correspondent that the Prime Minister had announced the Government’s plans for the organization of the Munitions Supply Department under the DirectorGeneral, Mr. Essington Lewis. The Prime Minister added that Mr. Lewis would be assisted by certain other leading industrialists.
– Mr. Lewis may be assumed to know something about organization of industrial effort.
– That may bc true, but it does not touch the point of my objection. Mr. Lewis has chosen the following for his assistants: - Director of Explosives Supply, Mr. Thomas Donaldson, of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited ; Director of Ordnance Production, Mr. J. L. Hartnett, managing director of General MotorsHoldens Limited; Director of Gun Ammunition Production, Mr. W. J. Smith, managing director of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited ; Director of Materials Supplies, Sir Colin Fraser, a director of various metal-production companies; Director of Machine Tools and Gauges, Mr. F. G. Thorpe, of Associated Machine Tools (Australia) Proprietary Limited. Boards of management are to be set up in each State. The New South Wales Board will be under the chairmanship of Sir Philip Goldfinch, managing director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and will include, among others, Mr. Kneeshaw, the general manager of the Australian Portland Cement Company. The Victorian board will have as. chairman Sir Alexander Stewart, a director of many subsidiary concerns of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and he will be assisted by other prominent industrialists of that State. My point is that having in mind the part played by those leading industrialists in the past, the Government is expecting too much of us when it asks us to accept its assurance that there will be no attack upon existing industrial standards.
– Does the honorable senator expect existing standards to be attacked?
– There has never been a suggestion that those standards will be interfered with.
– On the contrary, an attack has already been launched against them. Unfortunately, with the passage of this bill, we shall no longer be able to depend on the word of the Prime Minister or any member of the Commonwealth Government that the position of the workers will be adequately safeguarded, because, as I have shown, the control of industrial conditions in the various establishments will pass to the industrial leaders who have been appointed to these boards. This is what the Labour movement fears, and this is what its leaders have for years been fighting against.
We believe also that material benefit will be given to these industrial leaders, whose names I have mentioned, if, during the progress of this war, they can introduce into Australian factories and workshops a greater proportion of female and child labour. If, unhappily, that is allowed to happen, we shall find at the conclusion of this war, as we found at the conclusion of the last war, large numbers of women and children working in places where formerly men were employed. It is the duty of my party to see that that does not happen and to do all that is possible to circumvent any move in that direction. Under military conscription, the authorities must at least wait until a youth is eighteen years of age. Under this form of industrial conscription, men who will control the destinies of the workers of this country may do almost as they please. In future, they will be able to conscript industrially all persons over the age of fourteen years.
I have already mentioned the claim for holiday pay made by employees of Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited of Sydney, many of whose employees should still be at school, and in receipt of suitable and nourishing food, instead of working under conditions which must seriously impair their health. In to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph there appears a report of a complaint made on behalf of the employees of this firm. They state that they were ordered to work on Monday last, which was an official holiday, because the factory is engaged in the manufacture of ‘munitions. It was understood that they would receive holiday pay. The newspaper report stated -
The 500 employees were asked by the firm to work on a holiday. They turned up for work, but only 10 of them were put on munitions making. The others turned out motorcar parts for the firm. There is no indication yet that they are to be paid overtime. When the Governor, Lord Wakehurst, inspected the factory, the employees were all working on munitions whilst hu was there. Tools which ware used in the making of munitions were scattered about the workshops. Yesterday the Daily Telegraph tried to submit these mutters to Mr. Duly, a senior member of the firm, but lie refused to be interviewed, and through an office assistant statoil that he would not supply any information.
Let me take this matter a step further. Within the last three weeks., an application was made in the New South Wales courts by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited whose managing director, Mr. Essington Lewis, is now .Director-General of Munitions Supply, for permission to allow its employees to work on Sundays at ordinary rates. Last week, that application was withdrawn. Would honorable senators like to know the reason for that withdrawal? It is to be found in the provisions of this bill. When this measure has been passed, there will be no need for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to make application to the court for permission to work its employees on Sundays at ordinary rates of pay. This bill will give to the industrialists power to compel employees to work on any day. That is one reason why we are opposing it.
– Does not that apply to work on munitions?
– It does not matter. When this bill has passed, there will be no restriction on the employer of Australian workmen in Australian factories. Surely, even the blind can sec that. And that, I repeat, is why Mr. Essington Lewis withdrew the application of his company from the New South Wales court last week. In future, it will he possible to employ Australians on any day of the week, and nothing will lp paid about it in the newspapers. In my mind, there is no doubt whatever that ti te industrsi lists of this country will exploit the rank and file of the workers before this war is finished.
During the nine months of the war, we have heard much of the Goverment’s intentions to organize Australia on a war footing, and a number of bills to that end have been submitted to this Parliament. It must, however, be apparent to most people that all this display has been so much window-dressing. The compilation of the national register was supposed to be for the purpose of facilitating the preparation of categories of citizens according to their suitability for various occupations. We were told that, at the first sign of conflict, the men in these various categories would be drafted to those occupations for which they were fitted, in order that there should not be any waste of effort. But has the national register been used to any extent?
– Of course it has.
– It has not been used in the slighest degree for that purpose.
– Has the honorable senator seen the long list of reserved occupations prepared from the national register?
– I want to see, not lists of reserved occupations, but men at work producing munitions for the nation’s war effort. We were told that when the national register was completed and applied, we should find no more industrial square pegs in round holes. Does any one deny that the position has not been improved in that respect, despite the fact that the war has been in progress for nine months?
By this time, if the Government had properly used its powers under war-time legislation passed by this Parliament, we should have seen sustained activity in shipbuilding and other heavy industries. We might even have expected to see establishments working on the manufacture of tanks. But apart from the construction of two boom defence vessels, little has been done at Cockatoo Island” Dockyard, which has all the facilities for the construction of cargo vessels of 10,000 tons. Mr. Joe Brown, the secretary of the Balmain Ironworkers Federation, informed me that in the last six weeks he has had a longer list of unemployed ironworkers in the Balmain section than even during the depression years. I know that the position is as stated, because I have these men coming to me day after day to inquire whether they can be employed at either Mort’s Dock or Cockatoo Dock. They are anxious to get on with the job of working for Australia’s defence.
The 1920 Law Reports of the House of Lords record that in 1919, the liquidators of the firm controlling De Keyser’s Royal Hotel Limited, applied to the Imperial Government for compensation from the Crown in respect of land and buildings taken possession of by the Crown for use by the Royal Air Force since 1916. The decision of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords was that the Government could not take plant or property for use without compensation. It appears to me that the same arguments may be employed in respect of any action which may be taken by the Commonwealth Government under this amending bill. The judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council stated -
Neither the public safety nor the defence of the realm requires that the Crown should be relieved of a legal liability to pay for .the property it takes from one of its subjects. The recognized rule for the construction of statutes is that, unless the words of the statute clearly so demand, a statute is not to be construed so as to take away the property of a subject without compensation.
It is definitely laid down that the Government will be unable to conscript wealth and property without reasonable compensation of the persons affected. This was admitted this morning by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) in the House of Representatives in answer to a question by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan). Whether the Government itself uses this wide power, or whether it is used by the Director-General of Munitions and those associated with him, somebody will exercise it. The point is that the only persons who can and will be conscripted are the workers. This bill removes certain rights of the individual that were safeguarded under the principal act, and it will now be possible for a civilian to be court martialled. I see nothing to prevent a work- man who objects to a particular kind of industrial conscription being court martialled. The workers may find themselves living under worse conditions than those experienced in Germany.
– The workmen would have a voice in that.
– They will be expected to obey the instructions issued to them. Apparently there is something to be feared, or the Prime Minister would not have admitted that there may be a breaking down of the industrial conditions formerly enjoyed.
This Government is not a fit custodian of such wide powers as those conferred by the bill. If the Government had given proof of its fitness to exercise totalitarian powers, I might have felt inclined to trust it with the further powers now sought, but the fact is that it has fallen down on the job of preparing for the defence of Australia. I shall not be a party to granting it any extension of power, because it has already abused the authority that it now possesses.
– To me it is a matter of deep regret. and, in fact, distress, that at such a time, and on such a measure as this the cloven hoof of partyism should have obtruded itself into this debate from three angles. The fate of our Empire, which has stood for the advancement of civilization and’ the uplifting pf humanity, is trembling in the balance. In the great democracy of New Zealand wider powers than have obtained under any other regime have been given to a Labour government. When the republic of France has been practically disintegrated, when its people are flying before the human monster that is pursuing them, when women and children are without food, when Europe is faced with the probability of a famine next winter, when, millions of our fellow creatures face the prospect of suffering the tortures of hunger followed by pestilence that may well devastate the oldest civilizations in the world, we sit here and find fault with each other’s actions in the political arena! This day should be one of atonement for all of us.
For over three years, I have heard certain honorable senators opposite, who now lay charges against the Government, refuse to collaborate with the Government in order to regulate industrial conditions and increase the output of munitions. Although, in its broader issues, the defence, policy of the Government is not my policy, I stand behind those who are for Australia, and [ share with Senator Keane the view that, if we are not able to protect our people from the devastation that threatens us, we are unworthy to hold our seats in this Parliament. I compliment Senator Keane on his manly and wholly British utterances, because we stand as a democracy to defend our people against all wrong. That is the main purpose of this Parliament. At a time like this, we should not have certain honorable senators telling us that the Arbitration Court is not functioning in .the right way, or that only ten tuen were employed out of 400 who were summoned. These things are as the twittering of the sparrows in the trees when considered in relation to the crisis that now confronts our Empire.
I contend that we should have had an impregnable navy, and then we should not have been in the unhappy position in which we find ourselves to-day. A few minutes ago the news came over the air that the Roosevelt Administration is taking into its ranks, in the hope of forming a national government, two leading republicans. Why? The reason is that the United States of America, with its population of 120,000,000, has fears for the future. A portion of the American fleet is now off the coast of South America to prevent uprisings in Uruguay. This is more than a world war; it is a world crisis. We must win, and we will win, but we have to bend every effort to the task.
To those who criticize this bill because it gives to the Government plenary powers, I say that they are admitting themselves to be incompetent to defend the people in this chamber and elsewhere. If an injustice were done to an individual - not in a trifling matter, but when a principle was involved - I should join with Senator Keane in saying that such a point was capable of amicable adjustment. Surely we are relinquishing the powers which we claim to have if we say that we are unable to tell the Government when it is not dealing fairly with the people. We consider that it is essential to adopt this totalitarian measure, because the German machine is operating under extraordinary and emergent conditions. Does Germany or Italy ever pause to act, when men or munitions are needed % If we are to fight a machine, we cannot do so by words. The time for talk has passed; the moment for action has arrived. Australia, with its small population, will be in greater danger than probably any other part of our great Commonwealth of Nations if the great British fleet should meet with misadventure. Should we hesitate to do what is necessary to implement the powers of the Government in every possible way!
Senator Keane effectively disposed of the speech by Senator Amour, which was merely intended to embarrass those who sit on the same side of the chamber as himself but who are not now his allies. That speech was designed to put certain members of the Opposition in the wrong with their electors. The answer is that fifteen or sixteen men on the Opposition side will continue to be able to voice the complaints of the workers if they should be ill-treated, and on the Government side are eighteen or twenty honorable senators who can voice complaints from all quarters. Underlying Senator Amour’s remarks is a denial of democracy, because this Parliament will retain in its own hands the remedy for any injustice. Its doors will not be closed. Some of the matters mentioned in this chamber could be better ventilated at some district council meeting rather than in this national Parliament.
Senator Amour stated that a distinguished industrialist had suggested that sufficient white metal for the manufacture of aeroplane engines was not available in Australia. I tell the honorable senator and the Government that in the Dominion of New Zealand the raw material is obtainable, and, with the cheap electrical power available in that dominion, the metals could probably be manufactured there much more cheaply than in Australia. Already a company is operating in New South Wales for the supply of white metal. In Tasmania, aluminium could be produced in large quantities from, tlie deposits of dolomite in that State. One would imagine from the remarks of some honorable senators opposite that because we cannot obtain such materials from the United States of America or from some other country production of munitions in Australia must cease. That is not the position at all. Time may be required to obtain all the metals that we need, but they will he obtained, and production will not be held up unduly on account of them. Senator Amour, who also referred to the conscription of labour without compensation, dealt with the subject in a way that would make it appear that the Government’s proposals are appalling. I recalled a conversation I had a few nights ago with a lad who is piloting one of those magnificent planes recently imported from the United States of America - unfortunately to be used to destroy human beings - and who receives the magnificent salary of 10s. a day. In reply to some queries I put to him he said, “Yes, we feel a bit sore about it, but we may be working for nothing directly “. That spirit should be more prevalent amongst our people to-day. An eminent banker to whom recently I addressed a question as to how our finances will stand the strain of this war replied, “ What does money matter? What becomes of our money, our wealth, liberty, property, and conditions of life? All these things are nothing in comparison with our individual freedom and security “. Money, he said, has been employed to improve the standard not only of those who have more than sufficient of this world’s goods, but also the conditions of others not so well circumstanced. Let us consider what is happening in Germany and the conditions to which the people have to submit in order to meet the cost of providing the necessary finance. We know the conditions of our people here and what they are likely to be in the event of this country falling into the hands of the foe. Honorable senators opposite speak of the conscription of labour. If we should fall, those whom Senator Amour and Senator Armstrong claim to represent are the people who would suffer; they would be like the toad beneath the harrow. When they speak of conscription of labour they seem to suggest that some one is to be murdered. The word “ conscription ;” has become a political tag thai is used to frighten the people of Australia. The time may come when we all shall be conscripted, but I hope that if we have to face such a position, we shall go to our doom with the flag of democracy and liberty still flying. It is in that spirit that we should approach the consideration of this legislation. What does it provide? It merely gives to the Government plenary powers to govern this country in the most efficient manner in the national interest. Mistakes have been made, and I suppose mistakes will be made in the future. God knows there are enough mistakes at the feet, of honorable senators opposite. We recall very vividly the conditions which existed in 1930 and 1931 when the party to which they belong stripped Australia of its best military intelligentsia at Duntroon. It is true that the circumstances were exceptional, and the Government of the day was forced to reduce expenditure. Many of its acts were, I believe, performed with great reluctance. Members of the Labour party also refused to support the League of Nations and many other organizations and activities functioning in the interests of international security and liberty. I accept my share of the responsibility, as must every public man; honorable senators opposite must also bear their portion of the blame. But for God’s sake let us bury the past and act as one man. Let us get behind the Government ami together put forward our best efforts on behalf of the Empire in the interests of humanity and on behalf of those who have suffered more than I hope we shall ever be asked to suffer. This is a time when we should face the position squarely. We have seen what has happened in other countries, and we have read in the press of the activities of the Austrian monster, whose one ambition is to dominate the whole world and reduce the standard of ail peoples to tha.t of serfs and slaves. Since the days of Magna Charta we have stood for liberty, and now when a determined attempt is being made to inflict upon us :i form of slavery little better than death we must do everything that is humanly possible to protect our country. For my part I would go to my death rather than sec this country fail, in ite duty. Whatever benefits have been conferred upon Germany under the Nazi regime they have been obtained at a terrible cost. The whole of the German press speaks only with the voice of the Minister for Propaganda. Family ties are shattered and espionage is found even in the households of German families. Mothers and fathers do not know to what degree to trust their children, and children do not know whether some glib remark made concerning the Nazi regime may be misconstrued by their parents or some one in the household. A distinguished Chinese writer has written in eloquent terms concerning the domestic life in Germany and all its horrors and how Germans are deprived of the fellowship of even their own families. To conditions such as those we would have to submit should we not be victorious in this great conflict. This is no time for party politics or party recriminations; it is a period in our national life when we should go forward as one man and display that spirit which is permeating Great Britain and the United States of America. Let us be one people mid let our cry be, as it was at the inception of federation, “ One people, one destiny “. Let us protect that destiny, ,ind work to the best of our ability in cooperation, not only with the great Mother Country, but also with our sister dominions, because only in that way can our safety be assured.
T remind Senator Armstrong, who said that the national register had not been utilized by the Government, that the list of reserved occupations which has proved very useful during recent months was compiled from that register. The information it contains has been most beneficial in connexion with the economic life of this country. It contains other data which have been particularly useful in arranging the disposal of foodstuffs for sale overseas, and in making available the number of fitters and other trained artisans who can be employed in the production of munitions.
Senator Brand referred to internment camps, which in my opinion should be removed from the mainland. I had some experience in connexion with the control of such camps in 1914-18, and I think that it would be an advantage if they were removed from the main centres of population. There are some delightful islands on the coasts of Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria where these internees could be accommodated, and in that way prevented from communicating with their people, some of whom may be disloyal. I believe that it was a Minister in New South Wales who said that important information had been transmitted from a novel unlicensed transmitting wireless set. All suspected persons should be interned as far away from the general community as is practicable. I support this legislation wholeheartedly. We should trust, the Government, but unfortunately some honorable senators opposite are not prepared to do so. If they will not trust the Government, they should trust the Parliament of which they are members. I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) upon the splendid British sentiments which he expressed, sentiments which I hope I shall hear repeated in this chamber more frequently.
– This debate is being conducted in the most critical period not only of Australia’s history, but also in the history of those countries which form the British Commonwealth of Nations, and at a time when a great democracy is on the point of destruction. That democracy has been associated with Australia in many ways, and we trust that it will be able to survive the great onslaught which is being made upon it by an overpowering adversary. Not long ago the great Australian Labour movement pointed with pride and satisfaction to the fact that the Government of France had agreed to a 40-hour week. The members of the Labour movement passed resolutions congratulating that Government upon the advances which it had made in the interests of the workers. While that was taking place another strong nation, one which had been almost in the shadows of death, was moving in another direction.
That was the nation we know as Nazi Germany. We saw that country becoming greater and greater, not by the granting of additional privileges to the workers^ but by the destruction of their rights. The trade unions in Germany were driven underground. Thus was built up the vast war machine which, to-day,’ threatens all of those things which we hold near and dear. Last Sunday evening, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a speech to the nation which was a prelude to the measure we are now considering. On that occasion he made some very pertinent remarks. He said that for the time being, we should put away our dreams of greater social security, greater prosperity, more pay, and peace. Some day those dreams would come true, but at this hour action was what we required. He went on to point a moral to certain sections of the community. He said that the employer must say to himself, “ No greater profit can I make “ ; and the worker, “ No longer can I expect improved conditions.” Whilst we do not minimize the urgency of the present crisis, the Labour party does not believe that it is necessary to surrender all of its ideals. It is not necessary to forget, even temporarily, the great principles for which Labour stands. At the very moment when the Prime Minister was making his address to the nation, the Victorian branch of the great Labour movement was holding its annual conference in Melbourne, and was considering the position of Australia as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the present orisis. At that conference were assembled men and women from every sphere of life. They included members of the rank and file and officials of trade unions, farmers’, professional men, and business men. They gathered at that conference to discuss the vital problems with which this (301111try is now confronted, and after thoroughly considering them, after restating Labour’s principles and examining and re-examining statements of those principles in the past, they decided in. this emergency to hand to the Government powers which, under different conditions, they would never dream of surrendering. If the Labour movement stands for anything, it stands, for the vesting of supreme power in the National Parliament. We have realized from past experience that we shall never be able to give practical expression, to the great ideals of our movement, unless all of the powers now enjoyed, by the State Parliaments are vested’ in the National Parliament. The measure now before us which, as our leader has intimated, wu shall support, is framed upon those lines. It may be argued that this involves the surrender of power to the Executive rather than to Parliament.. However, in announcing its willingness to hand over this power to the National Government, the Labour party makes the qualification that certain safeguards should be provided. One of these is full recognition of trade unions in order to guarantee the maintenance of industrial standards, and the participation of Labour organizations in the transformation of the nation to a war footing. We also ask that Parliament be consulted regularly. We stipulate those safeguard* because we appreciate the possibility of these powers being abused. I emphasize that we did not simply agree to hand over these powers to the Government. We bore in mind the possibility of these powers being abused by those to whom they are entrusted in the national interest. Indeed, under our system of parliamentary government, the people hand over certain powers to certain persons to do things on their behalf. The people are prepared to do this simply because they know that at the ballot-box they can pass judgment upon those of their servants to whom they entrust their destiny from time to time. Consequently, in granting these powers to the Government we must have the assurance that Parliament will meet regularly in order to enable us to keep a check on the Government’s exercise of such powers.
Senator Amour and Senator Armstrong described certain conditions existing in New South Wales, which they said are unfavorable to the prosecution of our war effort. I have no doubt that honorable senators from each of the other States could give instances of similar conditions. Only the other , day, a winthewar rally was held at Castlemaine,
Victoria, where one of the most uptodate engineering works in the Commonwealth is situated. That meeting was addressed by the Consul for France at the very moment when the country he represented was being almost obliterated by the enemy. One can imagine the feelings of that man. If the French are noted for anything, it is their love of country and soil. For that reason, we believe that, notwithstanding what is happening in France, the French eventually will defeat the German invader. The French Consul made an appeal to us to stimulate our war effort. He made one suggestion to which I hope the Labour party will never consent, namely, that we should conscript men for service overseas. I do not think that it will ever be necessary, if the cause for which we are fighting be just, to impose conscription on Australians in order to get them to defend their country. In every other respect, however, that gentleman’s appeal was most eloquent. During the meeting, the head of the great engineering firm of Thompson and Company stated that young apprentices in his works had come to him and asked to be given work of a defence nature. He replied that he had no war work upon which he could employ them. They were anxious to serve their country in that capacity, and because that privilege was denied to them, they were inclined to join the Australian Imperial Force. A petition has been presented to the Prime Minister by the residents of that locality asking that machinery be installed at these works, in order to enable work of a defence character to be undertaken there.
– I think that such machinery will soon be installed in those works.
– -It certainly should be, in view of all the publicity we have read on the subject. Recently, we read in the Melbourne press that 1,000 employees in the Newport workshops waited on their manager, and said to him, “ Give us something to do in order to enable us to help in the national defence preparations in this time of trouble “. Nearly twelve months ago I asked certain questions in this Senate with regard to the construction of an annexe at the Newport workshops.
I wanted to know why it was necessary that a new system should be introduced in the Railway Department for the construction and alteration of buildings. Hitherto, the policy of the Department was to undertake reconstruction work by day labour. However, contracts were to be let for this work, and, when I asked for an explanation of the change, I was informed that it had been made because time was of the essence of the contract, and it was necessary that these buildings be erected with the utmost speed, in order that we might be able to get on with the great work of building aeroplanes and other essential war material. To-day, nearly twelve months after that reply was made to me on behalf of the Government, we find 1,000 employees in that workshop clamouring for work of a defence character. Nothing has yet been done in the annexes in Victoria. Instead of glossing over these matters, and putting ourselves to the greatest trouble in order to find excuses for delays, we should deal promptly with complaints of this kind, and endeavour by all the means in our power to remove every obstruction which would prevent industry in this country from being fully employed on work of an urgent defence nature. That brings me to another point. A great deal of stress has been laid upon the necessity for a national government. The Labour party suggested the formation of a national war council, but we have been told that that would be of no avail. My opinion with regard to a national government is that the mere displacement of some members of the present Cabinet by Labour representatives would not overcome all the difficulties with which Ave are faced to-day. Surely those honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives who to-day are entrusted with the Government of this country are striving to the best of their ability to remove the obstacles of which wo have spoken. If Labour joined the Ministry would the elimination of those obstacles follow automatically? I think not. That is where a national war council would come in. A group of individuals conversant with all phases of industry could, as a result of their experience, regiment all the artisans necessary for defence work, and could very soon locate the obstacles which are at present impeding our effort. Inspectors could be appointed to go into the factories and find out where production is being held up. This is a serious matter, and it is of vital importance that the reason for our hitherto slow progress should be found.
– Refusal to co-operate.
– That is a paltry thing to say at a time such as thi3. As I have said, this is a serious matter. Great nations have been and are being destroyed, not only by the enemy without but also by the enemy within. If the Ministers who have been occupying the treasury bench since the outbreak of this war are unable to discover where the hold-up in our defence effort is, how can it be expected that that hold-up will be eliminated merely by the entry into the Government of a few Labour representatives? In the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) we have a practical soldier, who has been through the ordeal of war service, and yet there is dislocation in our military organization. The Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn), is a pilot of the last war and has a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of flying. Yet he cannot discover where the obstruction is. Young men have offered their services to the Air Force, have been examined and told that they have been accepted; yet they have not been called up. What is wrong with our organization ? Is it that “ fifth columnists “ are holding responsible positions where they can thwart the efforts of this country? We are told that at this moment Australia is in imminent peril. If that is so, should we not take action while time is yet available? I repeat that the mere transfer of a set of people from one side of the chamber to the other will not solve our difficulty. As we have said all along, the Labour party is prepared to co-operate to the fullest possible degree. I ask honorable senators opposite to believe that. It is not for some smart journalist to try to interpret the soul and aspirations of the Labour movement. Those of us who ire closely associated with that movement know full well for what it is striving.
Criticism has been voiced of the wide powers to be conferred upon the Government by this measure. Tt is feared that it means conscription of labour. I como now to the use or abuse of power. Senator Keane referred to the creation of industrial panels, and, in that connexion, let us for a moment consider the position of the Australasian Council of Trade Onions. Too frequently we speak of the “ A.C.T.U.” and that is all we know of it. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions represents every organized industry and the whole of the trade unions of Australia with the exception of Western Australia. To-day it is endeavouring to bring about the creation of industrial panels. Its representatives have discussed with the Prime Minister all aspects of this matter, and I say to honorable senators opposite that if the Government wishes to secure the confidence of the trade union movement in its war efforts, it should create those panels with the utmost speed. It is only natural that the workers should look upon legislation such as this with apprehension, because the people who are to be entrusted with the wide powers have for a long period been regarded by the workers as their natural enemies. The Government has appointed to an important executive position, Mr. Essington Lewis, chairman of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which in season and out of season has fought the workers all along the line and endeavoured by every means in its power to keep away from them conditions to which they are justly entitled. In years gone by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has sent thousands of men to their graves because of the lack of safety precautions in its mines. It wasonlY because of the organized strength of Labour and the industrial movement, that that company was forced to recognize that its workers had a place in t,h, scheme of things. If good conditions exist to-day in the organization of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited they are wholly the result of the efforts of Labour. Workers do not easily forget these people, and I repeat that if the Government wishes to remove from the minds of the workers the fear that under this legislation they will be industrially conscripted, it must set up industrial panels. The mere passing of this legislation will not eliminate all the trouble. The important thing will be the manner in which the comprehensive powers we are granting will be used. Senator Cameron rightfully reminded the Senate this morning that if the Government wants the co-operation of Labour, it must first do certain things, t do not intend to debate this matter further. We have decided to support the bill, and by so doing we shall give to the Executive extreme powers, which we believe it should have. In handing over these powers, we ask the Government not to abuse them. We accept the assurance given by the Prime Minister yesterday that it is not the intention of the Government to conscript industrially the people of Australia. That is a sacred promise given to us as the representatives of the people in this Parliament, and I warn the Government that that promise must not be broken. If events show that we have misplaced our confidence in the Prime Minister there will be a day of reckoning. We shall play our part loyally and well, and we expect the Government to be just as loyal in honouring its pledge.
There is just one other reason for our support of this measure. The Prime Minister has said that, there are certain obstacles in the way of the Government. That is the answer to the charge of incompetence that has been levelled against the Government, not only by members pf this Parliament, but also by the public generally, by the newspapers, by people who normally are supporters of the Government, and by representative gatherings of business men who have met to discuss this matter. Yesterday the Prime Minister said that the Government had insufficient power to overcome the obstacles. Very well, if this Parliament wipes out the last excuse for the Government’s inaction, and the inefficiency of the past continues, the Government will be exposed as the incompetent administration that quite a number of people believe it to be. The passing of this legislation will give to the Government all the power that it desires. It is for the Government now to bring Australia to the state of preparedness in which it should have been long ago. If the Government fails to do that, it must make way for a government which will do it.
– I listened with interest to the biased protestations made by Senator Sheehan, and I am amused at the graceful way in which the honorable senator has handed to the Government the powers for which it has asked. Actually he has handed over nothing. I believe that Senator Sheehan is supporting this bill because he realizes that the people of Australia want this legislation. In .a time such as this we need all the optimism that it is possible to have. We are in dire straits. The world is in chaos. I have a good deal of optimism, but it has been severely shaken during the last day or so. When we were summoned to Canberra, I fully expected that by the time we assembled here a much talked of conference at Melbourne would have reached a decision. I had hoped that the conference would have decided to recommend Labour members to join a national government. Apparently I was too optimistic. Such a recommendation did not come from the conference. I listened attentively to all of the speeches that have been made in the debate on this bill, and I heard no valid argument against the formation of a national government. Undoubtedly the people of Australia would like to see a national government, and I believe that the decision of the Labour conference was not the decision of the workers.
– Of course it was.
– I am quite certain that it was not. . Many thousands of workers throughout the Commonwealth are clamouring for the formation of a national government.
– Does the honorable senator Oh ink that they regard this Government as incompetent ?
– No, but they believe that this Government would he materially assisted if it had tha full co-operation of all partial represented in this Parliament.
– There are other reasons for the decision of the conference.
– Possibly there are. The Leader of thB Opposition (Senator Collings) this morning, in reply to an interjection from the ministerial bench, used the phrase, “If yon want us to help you “. Those words were significant. They indicate the attitude of the Opposition. It is as well to remind the honorable gentleman that, in this hour of dire need, the nation, not the Government, looks for the full co-operation of the Opposition in the government of this country. The people expect the full strength of the Labour movement to be exerted in order to ensure our safety.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should ‘be the basis of representation in a national government ?
– 1” should expect the basis to he that adopted for the formation of any other coalition government.
– The Labour party is the largest party in the House of Representatives, and should have representation in proportion to its numbers.
– I have no doubt whatever that, in any negotiations for the formation of a national government, the claims of the Labour party would have every consideration
– We cannot be bought with portfolios.
– Not unless there are fifteen portfolios. “Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Senator Aylett has perhaps unwittingly let us into the secret of Labour’s reluctance to join a national government at (his crisis in our history. The Labour conference in Melbourne decided to recommend the formation of a war council and we have had the merits of the proposal explained by Senator Sheehan. It seems to me, however, that tlie reasons which prompted the Labour conference to recommend the formation of a’ war council might with equal force be applied to the formation of a national government. Apparently our Labour friends believe that if they were represented in a war council, they would be able to exert a certain amount of power without accepting responsibility, and would still be free to criticize the Government as they do now.
– A war council would act in an advisory capacity only.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.And it would have no responsibility.
– Would the honorable senator agree to the representation of Labour in a national government in proportion to its numbers?
– If Labour members were sincere they would not quibble over the number of portfolios to be allotted to them. They would freely co-operate with the Government in order to bring this war to a successful conclusion. Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have never heard so .many speeches delivered in direct opposition to a bill which, I feel sure, will be carried almost unanimously when the vote is taken on the second reading. I believe that many honorable senators who have spoken against the measure intend to vote for it; so their speeches were intended for advertising purposes rather than to indicate their real intention. They know that the people of Australia demand that they shall stand behind the Government in this crisis.
– Senator James McLachlan confined his remarks chiefly to an examination of the reasons that have prevented the Labour party from joining a national government. The proved incompetence of some Ministers and the criticism that has been levelled against them in Parliament and outside has not enhanced the possibility of the Opposition joining in a national government. I doubt that honorable senators on this side would care to accept responsibility for the misdeeds of this Government since the war started. The bill seeks to amend the National Security Act, which, as some speakers have pointed out, gives to theGovernment almost unlimited power over the people of this country. Many of the regulations that have been promulgated under the present act operate harshly upon sections of our people. I refer particularly to the regulations dealing with censorship of working-class literatureand censorship of broadcasting. But the Government has gone farther than that. It has even repudiated contracts. Under the wider powers which the Ministry is now seeking, its authority will be almost without limit. Proposed new section 13a provides -
Notwithstanding anything contained in thisact, the Governor-General may make such regulations making provision for requiring- persons to to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of the Commonwealth. , . .
Undoubtedly lat n reference is to the workers of this country.
Sena tor Gibson. - No ; to every body.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. -Menzies) in his broadcast speech on Sunday night, said this -
The employer must no longer says “ What extra profit can I make?”. He must say, “How can 1 help” my country?”. The employee in st n ho longer think in terms of new advantages or benefits. He must say to himself, “ Am I giving so mdi 0 of my titime and Skill and sweat to the service to Australia that I can look a soldier in the eye and be unashamed? “
The point I want to make is that the Supply and Development Act gives certain protection to the workers of Australia.
-*-Does the honorable senator think that the people who gave that protection would take it away?
-.~-This amending measure takes away that protection, though it contains the following valuable provision
Providing that nothing in this section shall authorize the imposition of any form of compulsory service beyond the limits of Australia.
It is well known that owing to its remissness the Government is not able” pro’perly to equip recruits Who are offering themselves for military training. I am not blaming this Government for its’ inability to transport Australian soldiers overseas, because the circumstances are beyond its control. But I fear that when industry h&g been mobilized, when sufficient equipment and munitions have been supplied, and when the necessary transport facilities are available, another bill ‘Will bo introduced giving to the Government power to conscript the man-power* of Australia” for overseas service.
Senator 3-erbebt Hats.- The Defence Act prevents that from being done’.-
– If the Defence Act- is an’ adequate safeguard,- this bill is” a subterfuge and there is no’ reason” for the insertion of the1 proviso in proposed new section 1M. Much publicity has been1 given- to’ the inactivity df the annexes in New -South Wales. Since I have been a member of this chamber I have seized every opportunity to refer to the failure of the Government, to take
Steps to provide for the proper defence of Australia; I visited the annexes in New South Wales last Monday week, and I found that the statements made regarding éiti a are quite true. Last session I pointed out that half a dozen annexes in Sydney were idle. Is this bill Being submitted to cover up the neglect, of the Government to have them put into operation? The excuse of the Government, at all times, in regard to the inactivity df the munitions works has een t that a sufficient supply of skilled labour, particularly toolmakers j is unobtainable. The reason for that is that the. Government is” reluctant to interfere with monopolies. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is making thousands of new models of wireless sets every month) and skilled engineers are constantly employed in tlie motor industry for the purpose” of producing new models of motor car bodies. Why has this skilled labour not been made use of by the Government? The people would not be* much worse off if they had to go without new models of motor cars and wireless sets until the war is over. A statement appeared in the press recently that a new factory, costing millions of pounds’5 is to be established for the” manufacture of munitions, and that it will employ hundreds of thousands of men and Women. I suggest tei the Government that consideration should be given to the claims of New South Wales when the site df this’ factory is being selected. Approximately ten men are engaged in the production of munitions in Victoria, to” every one so’ employed in New South Wales. Tim yearly wages bill in Victoria runs into millions of pounds,- compared with £500,000 iii New South Wales, despite the fact that New’ South Wales is the most highly industrialized State in the Commonwealth, arid produces .90 per cent, of tlie’ iron,- steel arid coal used in Australia. The State’ which I represent has the greatest population, and it also’ has the largest number of unemployed. Its people constitute about one-third of the population of the’ Commonwealth, and within the State’ are to bc found all that is necessary for the economic and successful manufacture of arms and munitions. If the Government contemplated the establishment of coke works, it would not erect them in Victoria and transport the necessary coal from New South Wales. Most of the Government factories in Victoria have been placed on the coast where an enemy could destroy them overnight. We hear a good deal about the need for decentralization, and there is much to be said in favour of establishing munitions factories in inland districts. Three similar communications on this subject have reached me to-day. One is a telegram from the Mayor oE Lithgow. It states -
Suggest you strongly urge Marrangaroo as site proposed new explosives factory. Every facility available, including adjacent centre large population, on State highway and railway, abundant water, electricity, protected by hills.
I have received a second letter on this matter from the Blaxland Shire Council, and a third from the editor of the Lithgow Mercury. I urge the Government to have a proper investigation made as to the best site for the proposed new factory. It should be established in the State in which production could be carried on most economically and successfully. It is wrong to manufacture almost the whole of our defence requirements in Victoria. New South Wales, having onethird of the population of the Commonwealth, will be called upon to defray onethird of the expenditure incurred by the establishment of these works; there.fore, it is entitled to greater consideration than it has received in the allocation of defence expenditure.
Reference has been made to the danger of the workers losing the advantages of award rates and conditions which they have enjoyed in the past. Only yesterday, the secretary of a large union in Sydney told me that; last week the head of a certain firm had informed him that he proposed to call upon his employees to work overtime without pay. The suggestion was offered that a mutual arrangement might be made between the firm and the union. The union was not inclined to agree to the proposal, and the employer replied that, when this bill became law, he would be able to call upon his men to work any hours he cared to impose.
I hope that the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he said that it was not the desire of the Government to break down industrial awards and the living standards of the workers, will be honoured. Although he said that he could not guarantee that those conditions would be observed, he declared that the Government did not wish to see them swept aside. So long as those conditions are observed, the Government can depend upon the full cooperation of the workers. In some factories, the workers are now employed for two shifts of twelve hours each. I point out that many thousands of men who nave been rejected from military service are idle, and are quite capable of working in factories. Would any honorable senator opposite, who has had experience of manufacturing enterprises, say that better work can be obtained by means of two shifts of twelve hours than by three shifts of eight hours?
– Of course not.
– That being so, I ask the Government to introduce three eight-hour shifts in the munitions factories. and thus provide employment for the maximum number of workers. If that were done, the men who are enlisting for war service would have the satisfaction of knowing that their brothers in industry were being assisted to some degree. In cases where there is a shortage of technicians, the workers would not object to any hours that might be arranged. Where only process work is required and there are idle machines, the workers should be employed for three eight-hour shifts instead of two twelve-hour shifts. I trust that the organization of the establishment will be such that three shifts will be worked, as they can be in many sections, and in that way ensure, not only an increased output, but also more satisfaction among the men concerned. I appeal to the Government to give full consideration to the claims of New South Wales when the location of a new factory is being considered. I do not wish to repeat the arguments which I have already advanced in that respect; but I would be neglecting my duty to my constituents if I did not ask that full consideration be given to the claims of New South Wales.
– I declare the National Security Bill an urgent bill.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the time allotted in connexion with the consideration of the bill be as follows -
For the second reading of the bill - until 4.15 p.m. this day.
For the committee stage of the bill - until 4.45 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages of the bill - until 4.50 p.m. this day.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . ….. 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I would not have participated in this debate but for the fact that certain statements made by honorable senators opposite indicate that there is a complete misunderstanding on their part as to the purpose of the bill. I know that some will say that they have been brought up in the Labour movement, and, having worked within it all their life, know its soul ; but it seems to me that they do not know the soul of the Labour movement, which is much bigger than they believe. Apparently they are so close to the movement that they cannot see the wood for the trees, and in endeavouring to assist those who support the party to which they belong, they are not acting in the best interests of those whom they are supposed to represent. The suggestion of industrial conscription has no foundation in fact. Honorable senators opposite overlook the fact that this measure is necessary to enable the Government to preserve the industrial conditions which have been in force for a number of years. Senator Ashley wanted to know whether I thought that the same results could be obtained from two twelve-hour shifts as from three eight-hour shifts. I say emphatically that they cannot. Better results can be obtained if the work is carried out in three shifts of eight hours. In order to provide three eight-hour shifts at the Commonwealth aircraft factory an additional 200 skilled men would be necessary, but at present the men are not available.
Under this measure the services of the additional men for service in that factory can he secured. A number of skilled men possessing the necessary qualifications for aircraft construction at present engaged in industries which are not essential in war-time could be directed to relieve men who are now working twelve-hour shifts in the Commonwealth aircraft factory, and so enable three shifts of eights hours to be worked. In these circumstances where is the danger of industrial conscription? It means transferring men from non-essential work to defence undertakings. Many skilled artisans who have been employed in factories for many years do not wish to leave their jobs where they are well treated and have made friends; they believe that if they did so, they would be unable to return to their ordinary occupation when the war is over. Under this measure their rights will be preserved, and they will be able to return to their ordinary occupation, when they are no longer required to produce munitions or other defence requirements. Some honorable senators opposite have missed the whole point of this measure. We have been told that 20,000 men have applied for work at the Maribyrnong munitions works and the first thing 1 want to know is whether the applicants were qualified. Of course, I doubt very much whether 20,000 applicants have applied for work of this kind. We know, for instance, that a shortage of 20 per cent, of skilled labour is being experienced in Australia to-day. This measure must be passed in order to enable the Government to secure all of the skilled labour it requires for defence work.
– How do we know what shortage of skilled labour exists?
– Every private engineering works in the Commonwealth is crying out for skilled labour, because the competition for such labour is so severe. If I wished to indulge in recriminations,.! could easily explain the reason for this shortage. I could explain, for instance, the opposition offered during the last twelve months to the training of apprentices in these particular trades’. However, I do not wish to go into that phase of the matter. I lay the blame on no one. Every apprentice who knows anything about machines, or is capable of being quickly trained to a certain standard, is needed for the manufacture of ordnance and munitions, of which we must produce as much as possible for our own use, if not for use overseas. Honorable senators opposite have missed the point that this measure is necessary in order to protect the rights of workers under the new conditions which will prevail^ particularly workers who will be required to labour for long hours.
Honorable senators opposite declare that they will not participate in the formation of a national government, because this Government is responsible to outside private interests. I can only describe such a statement as a sample of soap-box oratory. Every one knows that it is untrue. Complaints have also been made by honorable senators opposite because, under this measure, it id proposed to compensate persons whose property is commandeered by the Government for defence purposes. If, for instance, the Government should require to take over my house, I should not object, but; surely, I alone ought not to be picked out of all the property-owners in the Commonwealth and forced to make the sacrifice that would be involved without compensation. It would not be just that I should be obliged to give up my house for nothing. All of us agree that the sacrifices which we must make in this crisis should be shared equally. Consequently, any person whose property, whether it be plant or machinery, is taken over by the Commonwealth should be compensated. Otherwise, such persons would be” obliged to’ make an unfair sacrifice.. Under this bill, the Government will be empowered to take over any particular property-11 may be machinery or factories or plant -which it considers essential to our defence programme, but it will be enabled under this legislation to take’ over such property at once. It will not be obliged to argue as to what compensation should be payable, and thus be forced to incur a serious delay in it’s defence preparations. Under this measure, it will be enabled to say to property-owners: “We want your property, and we shall take it immediately. We shall argue later about the compensation to be paid “. I am aware that some honorable senators opposite object to the payment of compensation to individuals under any conditions. However, I cannot see the justice of that contention. I know that the fact that compensation will be paid to certain individuals under this measure will be used as an argument against the Government, but surely it is only fair play and justice that an individual who is obliged to surrender his property in the interests of the community shall be entitled to ask the community to share his loss.
Much criticism has been levelled against the Government because of delays incurred in commencing work in certain annexes. I am inclined to think that in most instances the reasons for these delays are well known to those who make such complaints. At the same time, the Government is to a great degree tonguetied in matters of this kind. It is compelled to observe silence, even to the degree that, it cannot lay the blame in the quarters responsible for such delays. It must observe silence for grave national reasons. Let us take one example in this respect. Every honorable senator knows that aeroplanes which we were promised, and which we thought would have been delivered by now, have, owing to the grave rum of events on the other side of the world, been withheld. Similarly, certain parts of machines required for the manufacture of war material, and which were ordered from Great Britain, have been commandeered in Great Britain, because they are more urgently needed there. We know also that machinery and aeroplanes ordered from America, delivery of which was promised before now, have to be given up by us to another part of the Empire where they are more urgently needed than in Australia. In many of these matters, therefore, we shall be obliged to start almost afresh. Probably we shall be obliged to build some of the large machine tools which wo require. We have the skilled labour necessary for this work, and all we need is time. Meanwhile, however, recriminations are indulged in against the Government. If those who make such complaints know the reasons for the delays to be legitimate, they should not make attacks upon the Government. Such complaints are usually made simply with a view to gaining some party political advantage.
– The newspapers are mostly to blame for the criticism which has been levelled against the Government. We have been somewhat restrained in our criticism.
– I admit that the newspapers are not without blame in that respect. I also admit that if the critics of the Government were as restrained, or as British at heart as the honorable senator, our task in this crisis would be made much easier. The blame for much of this unfair criticism can be placed at the door of newspapers, and some members of this Parliament, as well as certain people who gather in the corners of their clubs and spread rumours that the Government is neglectful of its duty. Such tactics are not fair or British. Take, for instance, the attacks that have been made on Mr. Essington Lewis. That gentleman is one of the greatest industrial managers in Australia. The attacks made upon him make me feel ashamed. The conditions enjoyed by employees of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle constitute a model for any employer who desires to give the utmost protection to his workmen. Nevertheless, we hear from time to time, in both this chamber and the House of Representatives, attacks made on this great industrial leader, who as devoting practically the whole of his time to advancing the interests of Australia in the present crisis, without compensation from the Government in any form whatever.
– Tell us something about the watering of capital in his company.
– I know that if it had not been for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, with Mr. Essington Lewis at its head, we should find it practically impossible today to undertake defence preparations with any degree of success. Without that company and its resources we should be as helpless as babes. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is our key defence organization, lt has been built up to a high state of efficiency in a comparatively short period and on that account is one of the wonders of the industrial world. This key industry has been responsible almost entirely for the defence of Australia, yet it is the one company in this country, with its manager, that is attacked in a most outrageous and sinister manner by members of this Parliament and certain people outside. I give honour where honour is due, and when I see a man of the calibre of Mr. Essington Lewis maligned in this way I do not hesitate to see that some measure of justice, at least, is done to him. At the same time, i realize that in our midst we have many men, including the great majority of the workers of Australia, of great heart who, in the interests of our democracy, are prepared to pull their weight in the present struggle. To them I give all of the credit that is due to them.
– T followed with interest the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) regarding the measure similar to the one we are now considering, which was piloted through the House of Commons by the Leader of the British Labour party, Mr. Attlee. That enactment will have a profound effect upon the legislation of the British Empire as a whole. For the first time in 250 years the people of Great Britain have realized that the only way in which a government can be enabled to function with absolute effectiveness is by taking control of the national credit. However, it is a great pity that we should be almost on our deathbed as a nation before awaking to this realization. The action of the British Government in passing such legislation justifies every statement; which I have made in this chamber during the. last two years. We in Australia are better situated even than the people of Britain to deal with the problem of national credit in relation to national defence. I am familiar with the history of the Bank of England over the last 250 years, so far as its transactions with the British Government are concerned. Indeed, in that respect only are we able to learn anything of the activities of that institution. I have no hesitation in saying that the objective of the Bank of England, since its inception, has been to keep the British
Empire in financial slavery to itself. Now we find that that power is being taken out of its hands. Honorable senators will recollect what happened in regard to the transfer of the gold reserve of Czechoslovakia. Originally it was transferred to the Bank of England, but later, after the conquest of Czechoslovakia, the bank yielded to the German demand that the money be handed over to the Reich. When a question was asked in the House of Commons as to how such a transaction took place the questioner was told that the Bank of England had no control over the matter, and that the disposal of Czechoslovakia’s gold reserve was a matter for the Bank for International Settlements. We know that when the German nation defaulted in the payments of reparations Mr. Montagu Norman provided the gold reserve required to start the Reichsbank. Today that bank is flourishing. It is an ironic, fact that Germany to-day derives its financial strength from English gold. I recall that when Germany proposed a Customs Union with Austria, France strongly objected. Eventually, however, Mr. Montagu Norman came to the rescue of Austria and, much to the disgust of the French Government, supplied the credits of which Austria was then in need. I attended the great win-the-war rally which was held recently in the Sydney Town Hall. At that meeting I heard the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) make a speech which was full of patriotic sentiment. I clapped him. I also heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) give a very fine speech at that gathering. He too was greeted with rapturous applause.
– Did the honorable senator clap him too?
– Yes, in the excitement, I clapped him too. To-day, howover., when I think of the way in which these two Ministers have let down the Australian nation in respect of the Government’s financial proposals I should like to put the pair of them in gaol for the duration of the war and for twelve months afterwards.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - The time allotted for the second-reading stage has expired.
Question put -
That the bil) be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Emergency powers).
– I move -
That at the end of proposed new section 13a the following further proviso he added: - “ Provided further that in relation to industrial standards variations thereof will not he made without prior consultation with the trades union of the craft or industry affected by the proposed variation “.
I shall not labour the point because the amendment speaks for itself. A similar provision against industrial conscription, although not in the same phraseology, was inserted in the National Security Act. As that act is now abrogated to a considerable extent by this legislation, honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and, judging from what we have heard, honorable senators opposite as well would like tosee a safeguard inserted.
. -The Government will not agree to the amendment. It accepts full responsibility for the powers which this legislation confers upon it, and it wants no restrictions or delays. I assure honorable senators that the Government will see that justice is done to all sections of the community in the administration of these powers which have been rendered necessary in order that we may do our utmost to win the war.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber support the general principle of the bill but there is one point on which we disagree, and that is the legal right of the Government to interfere with working standards and conditions now prevailing. The amendment merely asks that the Government shall co-operate with the various industrial organizations. There is no better way to antagonize the industrial movement than by forcing something upon it without first calling its representatives into consultation. I do not agree with the allegations made to-day by certain honorable senators that the Labour party has “sold out” because of its support of this bill. I do not believe that the Government will so abuse the powers conferred upon it by this legislation that the workers of this country will be reduced, to a state of slavery. The Government realizes that if it should abuse these powers to any great degree the industrial workers would not quietly submit. There should be nothing which might; cause friction in this time of emergency. All we ask is that the Government shall add to this clause a proviso providing that no variation of industrial standards may be brought about unless the labour organizations concerned have first been consulted. I shall not deal, as some honorable senators opposite have done, with the formation of a national government, but will confine my remarks to the amendment. As the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) has said the defence needs of the nation are urgent. We are passing through a period of great crisis. Never before has Australia faced such grave danger.Were the Labour party in power it would undoubtedly seek powers such as those contained in this measure, and for that reason we do not oppose the bill in general principle. We realize that the Government must have the widest authority in order to discharge its obligations in the best possible manner.
Honorable senators on this side are fully prepared, and will be so in the future, to give the Government every assistance in the passing of legislation necessary for the adequate defence of this country and the full prosecution of the war. Should the workers be called upon to work twelve hours a day, they would do so willingly, provided the Government did not attempt to break down their working standards. The necessity for unduly long hours has not yet arisen, but it might easily arise in the near future, and, should that be the case, I am confident that Australian workmen would not hesitate to work longer hours in order to provide the munitions and equipment required by the men in the field who might he called upon to fight 24 hours a day. I am hoping that the Government will not attempt to bring about industrial conscription. We have had the Prime Minister’s assurance on that point; but governments change and another Prime Minister holding different views may take the place of the present leader of the Government. I have a certain degree of confidence in this Ministry, hut I have not complete confidence in every member of it. I believe that some Ministers would, if they had their way, attempt to interfere with industrial conditions in this country with the view of lowering our present standards. Whatever influence I may have in this Parliament will be exerted to have adequate safeguards inserted in all legislation passed by this chamber. I have in mind a well-known gentleman in the Cabinet who is being boosted by several newspapers with the idea, apparently, of elevating him to the position of Prime Minister. That is one reason why we desire to have this proviso inserted. Our purpose is to safeguard the workers of this country. I feel sure, also, that the carrying of the amendment will ensure closer co-operation between trade unionists and the Government, and thus lead to the best possible results from the Government’s war effort. If there is to be co-operation there must also be conciliation. The just claims of the workers must have consideration. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to accept* the amendment.
– I intend to support the bill, but I do not think that the proposed new section 13a goes far enough in relation to the financial position of the Commonwealth. We shall have to face the position sooner or later. There is nothing in this measure to provide that the Government shall make full use of the national credit through the Commonwealth Bank, in the prosecution of its war effort.
-(Senator James McLachlan). - The committee is discussing the amendment, not the financial position of the Common wealth.
– We are discussing the proposed new section 13a which deals with emergency powers. I think that explicit power should be given to the Government to take over the whole of the financial system of the Commonwealth. The bill makes no mention of that, nor is there any reference to the use of the national credit for national purposes. This will have to be done, not only in Australia, but also in Great Britain, because for the first time in 250 years-
– Why not speak to the amendment?
– I am referring to the emergency powers to be taken by the Government,- and I repeat that it should use the Commonwealth Bank to further its war effort, as the Government of Great Britain will have to use the Bank of England.
– Order ! There is nothing in. proposed new section 13a relating to the Commonwealth Bank or any other bank.
– That is the burden of my complaint. There should he in the bill specific provision for wider powers relating to finance.
– The omission may be unfortunate, but the honorable senator must discuss the amendment.
– Does not the word “ property “ in the new proposed section include finance’?
– My objection is that in this respect the bill is incomplete.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I remind you that you allowed Senator Abbott, in the discussion of a bounty bill, to criticize the Labour party without once mentioning the provisions of the clause before the committee; yet you now prevent Senator Darcey from continuing.
– I have said all that I wish to say at this stage.
– I intend to support the amendment for the reasons given by other hon- orable senators of my party. Its insertion will go a long way to ensure cooperation between the workers and the “Government.
– - What does the amendment mean?
– If the honorable senator will read it he will discover its purpose. It provides that before any variation of industrial standards is brought about there shall be consultation with responsible trade-union officials. A few moments ago Senator Leckie complained of a 20 per cent, shortage of craftsmen in certain industrial establishments. This bill gives to the Government power to transfer skilled workmen from one factory to another. Such transfers may involve certain expenditure in respect of living conditions, and it is proper that the trade-union officials, whose members are so vitally concerned, should be consulted. The co-operation of trade-union authorities will make for the smoother working of the act and lead to greater efficiency. The Government is asking for the fullest co-operation of the industrial movement. This is one means to secure that co-operation, yet the Minister in charge of the bill has told us that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment.
– Industrial panels would do all that the amendment provides for.
– The acceptance of the amendment would, I am sure, be in the best interests of the Commonwealth, because it would make possible the fullest co-operation, and at the same time it would safeguard the interests of the workers. I see no reason for its rejection.
, - Proposed new section 13a gives to the Government power to make regulations. I should like to have an assurance from the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) that the principle to be observed will be the same as that which operates in connexion with men who enlist in the Australian Imperial Force or other services. That is to say, they are given a guarantee that, when hostilities cease, they will be returned to their normal civil avocations without the loss of any of the rights which they would have enjoyed had they remained in those occupations. Under this bill regulations may be promulgated for the transfer of artisans from one trade to another trade in which their services will be of greater value to the nation. It is only right that men who are transferred to an establishment for the making of, say, munitions of war, should when hostilities cease be guaranteed a return to their former occupation and be given any accrued privileges which would have been enjoyed by them had they not been transferred from their normal occupations. I ask for this assurance because even in my own State there is some doubt in the minds of many people as to how far the national regulations apply to men who have enlisted. As I read the regulations they apply to all employers, governmental, semi-governmental, or private. Men who may be transferred from civil establishments to defence annexes should have an assurance similar to that given to men who enlist for overseas service.
– I am not prepared, at this stage, to give a complete assurance in respect of the point raised by the honorable senator, but I assure him that the Government will do justice to all men who may be affected by the regulations. As far as may be possible, their interests will be protected.
.- I support all that has been said in favour of the amendment. I ask the Minister to take steps to ensure that any regulations issued under this measure shall be made available promptly to honorable senators.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That the wordsproposed to be added (Senator Collings’ amendment) be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - In conformity with the sessional order I now put the. question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McBride) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As recently as last month Parliament appropriated an amount of £68,394,000 to cover commitments for war services up to the 31st December, 1940. In introducing that bill, I said that I could give no guarantee that further similar appropriations would not be necessary before December. I also stated that it appeared to be inevitable that further and greater efforts would have to be made, and that Parliament would have to make additional moneys available for war services. In view of recent developments, further financial authority is now sought from Parliament. The purpose of this bill is to provide authority to raise and spend £20,000,000 for war purposes generally.
In previous loan acts details of the proposed appropriation have been given in a schedule. It is not practicable to give such details on this occasion as elasticity of appropriation is required to meet any emergency. Consequently a wide authority is being sought.
It will not be necessary to borrow this £20,000,000 for some little time. “We have ample loan funds available at present and will use them as required for war purposes - subject, of course, to the appropriations actually approved by Parliament. One of the main purposes to which the money will be devoted is munitions. Mr. Essington Lewis, Director-General of Munitions, has made a thorough survey of the position in respect of munitions production, and has submitted plans to the Government for intensifying the production of equipment for war and for defence purposes. His plans, which have been considered and approved by Cabinet, provide for the speeding up of all production at present in hand, the opening of new factories for the production of additional types of munitions, an increased range nf weapons and ammunition, and the production of machine tools, as well as for an expanded plan for the training of munition workers. Although Australia has recently greatly enlarged its output of munitions, many of the articles now to be produced have not hitherto been manufactured in this country. Mr. Lewis’s plans provide for an extensive programme for the manufacture of various types of modern artillery, including, particularly, anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns.
An immediate objective of the new Munitions Department in connexion with gun ammunition will bc to develop the annexes already established up to the maximum production they can undertake. At the same time, industries not yet engaged in such production will be utilized and developed to the utmost. If necessary, entirely new factories will be built, but that will be decided only if a survey of our existing commercial capacity indicates that it cannot produce all that is required. Briefly, our policy will be to utilize the commercial productive capacity of Australia to the utmost and to expand Government factories or build new ones only when commercial industry cannot be used or adapted. The foregoing remarks relate particularly to gun ammunition production, but the principle is also being applied wherever possible to gun and machine gun production.
Another important industry which must be developed, although it does not come within the usual meaning of munilions, is the production of the large number of machine tools that will be required for making munitions and for making the tools and gauges that are essential in the production of munitions. The facilities for munitions production already available in Australia, together with the new additions just outlined, will not only provide for the adequate defence of Australia, but” will also afford invaluable assistance to the Empire in its general war efforts.
I may add that already large quantities of ammunition and other defence materials have already been exported from Australia to Great Britain. It is hoped that with our expanded production we shall be able, in the near future, to assist to a greater extent than in the past in this important direction.
– In conformity with the policy, frequently expressed by the Opposition of late, of not cavilling at the financial requirements of the Government for the purposes of the war effort, the Opposition intends to support this bill. I was hopeful that the Minister would be able to give an indication in his second-reading speech of what the requirements of the Government are likely to be in the near future, and whether an attempt will be made to use the third method for the raising of money which the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) mentioned in his financial statement as being available to the Government. On that occasion he said that, money could be raised in three ways - by taxation, by loans, and by an extension of bank credit. I do not propose to examine the differences between those three methods, but the Opposition should be enlightened as to the Government’s intentions. Australia is now incurring an expenditure of £1,000,000 a week in interest, and it must be obvious that there is a limit to the distance we can go in that regard. The time will come when saturation point, will be reached as regards both interest and taxation, and the community will no longer be able to bear the burden, even should the interest rates be lower than those to which we have been accustomed. I admit that the field of taxation has not yet been fully explored, but we do not know how long the war may continue. What, then, arc the intentions of the Government regarding the extended use of bank credit?
.- My leader has referred to three ways in which money could be raised for the purposes of this war. Honorable senators should realize that when the war began the money required to carry it on was not in existence, and had to be created in the best possible way in the interests of the taxpayers. The bill passed this afternoon gives to the Government unlimited power over practically everything, including the banking system. Australia is fortunate in having the Commonwealth Bank. The British Government will have to deal with the Bank of England, which, in the past, has absolutely deified it. That bank’s transactions with the British Government are the only things one can find out about it, because its employees are bound to secrecy. When Sir John Simon, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was asked in the House of Commons, by Mr. Stokes, whether he was prepared to bring in a bill to alter the constitution of the Bank of England, which has stood since 1694, so that the people of Great Britain might know who owned the bank, and what its policy was, he said that the British Government was not prepared to tackle that institution. Perhaps that Government was thinking of the fate that befell Blum, Laval and Daladier, when they tackled the Bank of France. Those three leaders went out of office because they dared to challenge the financial monopoly in France.
I have already told honorable senators that the Bank for International Settlements, founded by Mr. Montagu Norman after the last war, led to the formation of centralized banks throughout the British Empire. There is much misconception in the public mind regarding the Commonwealth Bank. It is said to be a central bank, which controls the credit of
Australia; but it is not the central bank: of Australia. It is the very antithesis of a central bank. It is the leading bank, of the private banking system. Therefore I protest against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) calling the Commonwealth Bank the central bank of” Australia.
There are three ways in which themoney required for war purposes could be raised. Taxation involves the actual confiscation of the people’s money and a lowering of their standard of living. No security is given for the money taken by way of taxation. Money collected in taxes is real money, but the people do not get interest-bearing bonds for it. When a bank gives a cheque it issues counterfeit money which has never been the subject of an investigation by a Prices Commission. I am trying to pursuade theGovernment that, if it were to finance the war effort without increasing the people’staxes, it would be doing something to protect the interests of the taxpayers. Only this week the Government foreshadowed a tremendous increase of taxes. Bank credit, a3 I have previously said, is counterfeit money, but, when the banks give cheques to the Government, they receive interest-bearing bonds. Referring to the loan of £9,000,000 floated when Mr. Casey was Treasurer, I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer how much of the money raised through the banks consisted of bank credit and how much had been subscribed by the public. I was informed that, of £4,840,000, £3,750,000 was bank-created credit.
No person is entitled to hold war savings certificates to a greater value than £250. The banks found it hardly worth their while to bother about these certificates, but they decided to buy them for their employees, and they have probably bought hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth in this way. The contributions of the employees for the purchase of the certificates are deducted weekly from their wages, and the banks hold the money, which becomes part of their cash reserves, on which they can lend ten times the amount of the employees’ savings.
It was announced at a great “ winthewar “ rally, recently, that the Australian Mutual Provident Society had loaned £1,500,000 to the Government. As all amounts applied for by banks carry a commission of i per cent., the bank which applied for these bonds pocketed £3,750. Some members of the public have made loans available to the Government free of interest, but I have not noticed that any bank has offered to do that. Would not the Government be justified in asking the banks to lend a few millions of pounds without interest, since they could produce the money at no cost to themselves? They do not lend money. I once stated in this chamber that deposits are the liabilities of a bank. Have honorable senators ever known of an institution which could lend its liabilities? I should like to see a balance-sheet passed by a qualified accountant which showed that a business had lent its liabilities. I do not want continually to quote paragraph 504 or paragraph 530 of the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. Honorable senators should know those paragraphs by heart, but apparently the truth contained in them has not been absorbed by them.
– Has the honorable senator read what Mr. Craigie said about paragraph 504?
– Yes. Mr. Craigie is a single-taxer. The idea of a single tax was wonderful when it was first proposed, but although it has been before us for over twenty years it has never been given effect, and now it is out of date. Under the authority conferred on it by the national security legislation the Government should borrow the money it requires through the Commonwealth Bank, free of interest. That can be done, because the country owns the Commonwealth Bank., all the profits of which go to the nation. That institution has already made profits amounting to £30,000,000. In company with a leading accountant of Sydney, I studied the balance-sheet of the bank for the period ended the 30th June, 1938, and saw that on a capital of £6,000,000 the bank showed ft profit of 25 per cent. Yet we are told that there is no profit in banking. The Commonwealth Bank is refusing business every day; and still it makes enormous profits.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - The honorable senator is not entitled to discuss the whole gamut of banking under this bill.
– I am showing how the money can be obtained. The duty of the Government is to borrow through the Commonwealth Bank. No supporter of the Government can prove that that cannot be done. We have before us legislation empowering the Government to take complete control of everything.
– The honorable senator is discussing other legislation, not the bill before the Senate.
– This bill relates to the issue of treasury-bills, which are undated promissory notes, and can bc taken to the bank at any time and changed into notes. I do not know why the Government should pay 35s. per cent, interest on treasury-bills which can Be turned into notes at any time. In England the rate of interest on treasury-bills is only 10s. per cent. What the Government proposes is not sound finance, nor is it fair to the taxpayers for the Government to act in this way. The Loan Council compelled the Government of Tasmania to pay 30s. per cent, on treasurybills; it generously lowered the rate from 35s. per cent, to 30s. per cent., but even, the lower rate is three times as great as that paid in England for similar accommodation. 1 wonder how much nearer to the grave this nation must get before the Government realizes the truth of my argument. We should do all that we can to reduce government expenditure at a time like this. Why should the Government go to the banks and insurance societies for this money and pay interest on it to them? The assets of the Commonwealth Bank exceed its liabilities by £19,000,000, whilst behind that institution is the productive capacity of the nation, valued at £700,000,000 annually. For a number of years I have asked why this interest is not saved. Australia pays £1,000,000 a- week as interest on past loans. We cannot continue to do so, because that policy will lead to financial ruin. The Government has now an opportunity to adopt a different policy, and unless it does so it will not act justly towards the taxpayers or the electors. I have shown the strength of the Bank of England, but the strength of that institution is likely to be tested severely in the near future. Why does not the Government proceed along the lines of the bill introduced into the House of Commons by Mr. Attlee? If the Government wants £50,000,000, all that the Prime Minister has to do is to tell the manager of the Commonwealth Bank to issue that amount of credit. The Commonwealth Bank has had delegated to it by statute wide powers which should be used in the interest of the community. If it does anything contrary to the interests of the community, it violates those powers. In the last analysis, the Parliament has complete control of banking and everything necessary for the good government of Australia. The Government is the executive of the Parliament, which has full powers conferred on it by the Constitution, and can borrow money up to the full productive capacity of the nation. The royal commission has stated that if at any time there is a difference of opinion between the Government and the Commonwealth Bank Board on matters of policy, a frank discussion should take place; should their views still be irreconcilable, the Government may instruct the Bank Board and accept full responsibility for what is done. That is why I say that all that the Prime Minister has to do is to instruct the Commonwealth Bank to issue £50,000,000 of credit- I repeat that the banks do not lend money but merely advance credit - and it can be done. If that were done, the interest bill could be saved, and the burden on the taxpayer lessened. Why is it not done? Last session I told the Senate that when the Scullin Government asked the Commonwealth Bank for credit, in order to relieve unemployment which was sending thousands of people bankrupt, the bank refused to act. The Bank Board told the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, that until the Government cut down wages, salaries and social services-
– The honorable senator is out of order.
– I am showing how the Commonwealth Bank should be used in the present emergency, and I submit that I am in order. I have shown bow favorably situated we are in com parison with the people of Great Britain. We have in the Commonwealth Bank all the machinery necessary, and Ave can use that machinery just as we like. Why does not the Government use it? When that question has been asked of me outside the House I have replied, “ The reason is that the Government is a banks Government and must stick to the people who put it into office “. That is my honest opinion. Surely in this crisis the Commonwealth Bank should be used in the interests of the people. If the Minister representing the Treasurer is impressed with my arguments, I ask him to confer with his colleague with a view to taking action. One honorable senator said that after I had reasoned with him for an hour and a half he knew no more than when I started. I have wonderful perseverance and patience, but sometimes I become exasperated. Recently, it was my fortune to travel in the train with six members of the United Australia party. I talked to them on finance for six hours, as a result of which I am still suffering from a sore throat, but I am afraid that I did not convert any of them to my view. The Government should realize the seriousness of the situation and do something to meet it. It should use the resources at . its disposal in the interests of the nation. I suggest that, instead of increasing taxation, it should use the Commonwealth Bank to its full capacity and thereby save the taxpayers from being weighed down with excessive taxes.
– I rise to point out that the policy of the Labour party in relation to the raising of money for war-time needs is that money required for naval and military expenditure shall be derived from direct taxation. The proposal contained in this bill cannot be justified at a time like the present, because it provides for the payment of profit to those who invest their money in order to enable the nation to carry on its war-time activities. In a time of crisis, moneys which are not being usefully employed in industry should be made available to meet the war-time needs of the nation. There is no need for the country to incur a heavy burden of interest. Honorable senators will remember that the interest commitments of this country in 1932 were responsible for the introduction of the Premiers plan which caused widespread poverty throughout the country, What will happen after this war is over? Will this country be in a position to meet its increased interest bill ? Should it not be in a position to do so, one of two things must happen : either there will have to be another Premiers plan, with more devastating results than on the former occasion, or there will have to be a repudiation of our obligations. Honorable senators will remember that after the last war there was repudiation by some nations. Do they wish that Australia shall be placed in that category? Can the Minister representing the Treasurer give to us any idea of the way in which Australia will meet its war-time commitments after the war is over, assuming, of course, that we win the war ? Where there is no scarcity of man-power and materials, there should be no scarcity of money. After all, money is only the medium whereby we exchange one commodity for another. This bill provides for the payment of profit to those who invest money to enable the country to carry on the war. The greater the interest bill the less money there is available for expenditure in other directions. I enter my protest against the continued capitalizing of the war-time distress of the nation. A bill with which the Senate has just dealt contains a provision enabling the GovernorGeneral to make regulations requiring persons to place themselves and their property at the disposal of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing a bill that has been dealt with.
– I shall refer to a speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in which he used similar words. He said that the Government would ask working men to place themselves at the disposal of the Government. The Government will not strengthen the confidence of the working community in its administration by adhering to a financial policy under which millions of pounds are paid in interest while the wages of the workers are being cut down to an irreducible minimum. Wages must be reduced if we are to meet the enormous commitments into which we have already entered. We have been told that every one should be prepared to make a sacrifice, but perhaps not to the same degree as those who fight for us overseas. The Government expects the workers in the factories to make sacrifices to the limit, but at the same time, it will not ask those who lend money to make any sacrifice at all. Those who advance money or credit will not make it available until they are assured that a certain rate of interest will be paid, and because of that the Government is building up a huge liability which will have to be met when the war is over. Honorable senators opposite who speak of the necessity for equality of sacrifice cannot justify the proposals contained in this bill, because the money lenders do not make any sacrifice. That is a phase of the Government’s policy to which the members of this party are uncompromisingly opposed. If the Government continues to give effect to this policy, it must lead either to repudiation or to the lowering of the standard of living. There is no middle course, and for that reason, if for no other, I am opposed to the passage of this bill. Senator Herbert Hays. - What does the honorable senator suggest as an alternative ?
– The alternative, I suggest, is that money not being used in essential war industries should be taxed to the extent of the Government’s requirements.
– That means confiscating the people’s capital ; that can be done only once.
– The whole financial system is one of confiscation where the workers are concerned, because they are paid not on the value of the commodities which they produce, but in accordance with the cost of subsistence plus a small margin for skill. All excess wealth created, principally through the medium of machinery and improved methods, is confiscated by the employers in the form of profits. Senator Herbert Hays should bear in mind the degree to which the surplus value created by the workers is confiscated daily, and should remember that the additional capital secured is used to purchase luxuries, which, are denied to the workers. We heard to-day of the wives of internees travelling in highpowered expensive limousines and using petrol for unnecessary purposes, but that is possible because of the proposals contained in this bill. If the Government wishes to secure the best results from the people during the present crisis, business must not be carried on as usual as was suggested by the Prime Minister; we we must depart from that policy and compel men possessing capital to make sacrifices to the same degree as the factory workers and the soldiers who are fighting for us are compelled to do.
– Generally speaking, I support the opinions expressed by Senator Cameron, concerning our financial position. Honorable senators opposite have said that interest is paid on depositors’ money; but I remind them that there are many deposits on which no interest at all is paid. On a previous occasion, I pointed out that the Commonwealth Bank, with the support of the Government, made £21,000,000 available to finance the sales of wheat to Great Britain. When I said that the wheat pool was to be charged 3 per cent, interest on that amount, the Leader of the Senate asked if I thought that the money should be made available free of interest. When I contended that it should, he asked whether the depositors were not entitled to interest on the money which they had placed in the Commonwealth Bank. I shall show that interest is not paid on all deposits. I agree with Senator Cameron that we shall soon reach a stage when it will be found that the interest burden on the community is so great that the standard of the living of the workers will have to be reduced, as it was during the depression of 1931, or the nation will have to repudiate. Senator Darcey mentioned that 30s. per cent, is being paid to the Commonwealth Bank, which should be functioning as a central reserve bank, and under its charter, should make money available at a lower rate. Is it not possible for the Commonwealth Bank to come to the assistance of the nation and thereby reduce our financial responsibilities?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there is no limit to the nation’s credit?
– I have never mentioned unlimited expansion of credit.
– What should be the limit?
– The Government is the best judge of that. I am satisfied that credit has not been expanded to the degree that it should be. The Leader of the Senate said that depositors had to be paid interest at the rate of 3 per cent. or 4 per cent., but according to paragraph 18 on page 267 of the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking systems, the balance-sheets of the trading banks for 1936 show that the total shareholders’ funds amounted to £70,000,000, and the Commonwealth’s quarterly statistics show that for the first quarter of that year the sum of £290,000,000 was deposited by the public in the trading banks, of which amount there was £110,000,000 on which no interest was paid.
– Were they current accounts ?
– It does not matter. The trading banks advance credit far in excess of the amount of their deposits on large amounts of which no interest whatever is paid.
– What does the commission’s report say on that point?
– The commission directed attention to the dangerous nature of the expansion of credit on deposits with the trading banks; these activities are reflected in many directions, particularly in Tasmania, where mortgages were called in, thus driving settlers off their properties.
– That action, was taken by a government-controlled bank.
– Not at all. The persons to whom I am referring sought assistance from the Commonwealth Bank, and were sent to the associated banks which in one period held on deposit £110,000,000 on which no interest was paid. That money was used to expand credit. Instead of the depositors receiving interest at the rate of 3 per cent, or 4 per cent., many of them do not receive any interest at all. Those who receive accommodation from the bank have to pay 6 per cent, interest on money for which the bank does not pay anything at all.
– The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the bill.
– I am doing so. The object of the measure is to appropriate £20,000,000 and I am rather perturbed at the manner in which the Government is raising money for war purposes. I trust that the Government will exercise with great care, the authority given to it to-day and ensure that high interest is not paid when credit can be obtained free of cost. It would be very interesting to know the exact profits made between 1914 and 1918 by the associated banks, despite the fact that, during that time, the Commonwealth Bank was in competition with them. Probably the profits will be greater now that the Commonwealth Bank is no longer on its original charter.
– What did they do with the profits?
– They went to » well the dividends received by those who had invested money in the banks. On the £110,000,000 of depositors’ money which the associated banks held at that time not one penny of interest was paid. If it is possible for the banks to hold this amount of money without paying interest-
– The banks do not hold it; they lend it.
– I know. They lend four or five times as much as they hold, and at good rates of interest. I say that the Commonwealth Bank, in making available £21,000,000 at 3 per cent, for financing the operations of the wheat pool, is doing an unjust thing. The Minister asked, by interjection, about the rights of the depositors. Well, I am pointing out now that the banks held £110,000,000 of depositors’ money without paying any interest on it. If the associated banks can make profits by lending three or four times the amount of the deposits they hold, surely it is possible for the Commonwealth Government to take charge of the Commonwealth Bank, and use it in this time of emergency.
– There must be a limit.
– I am not advocating expansion without regulation. I do not believe in inflation, but if the associated banks are to be handled as other interests in the community are being handled, the job is before the Government.
Senator MoBRIDE (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Commerce) [5.50]. - in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) asked for information about the immediate financial requirements of the Government. I am not in a position to give any definite information on that point. Only a month ago we asked for authority to raise £68,000,000, which wo expected to carry us on until the 31st December next. Unfortunately, owing to the expansion of our war effort, and the consequent increase of expenditure, it is now necessary to ask for authority to raise a further £20,000,000. When the last budget was brought down, we expected to find £14,000,000 out of revenue for defence purposes. Then the country embarked upon a policy of expansion in regard to defence, and this amount was increased by £9,000,000, representing the surplus for the year, making in all £23,000,000 from revenue. In 1940-41 we are budgeting to take from revenue £36,000,000 for defence purposes out of a total estimated expenditure in Australia of £79,000,000. There has been further tremendous expansion since then. Mr. Essington Lewis has made a survey of the possibilities of the country for the further production of munitions and military equipment, and it is expected, as a result of his recommendations, that considerably more than the estimated amount of £79,000,000 will be required. Therefore, it is probable that the amount of £68,000,000 which we have authority to raise will not be sufficient to cover necessary expenditure, and we have introduced this bill giving us authority to raise another £20,000,000. Even that may not be sufficient.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the expansion of bank credit. The Treasurer, with the full support of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, has said on several occasions that no part of our war effort would be retarded for lack of money. I have indicated what we propose to expend out of revenue, but no undertaking can be given that even more than the amount of £36,000,000 will not have to be expended from revenue. In regard to loans we have, up to the present, followed the system of voluntary contributions. There again, should the result prove insufficient, I have no doubt at all that consideration will be given to proposals for raising compulsory loans. It is not necessary for me to tell the Leader of the Opposition how the balance of the money will . be raised if these methods prove insufficient, I suggest, however, that it is not good for the Government to broadcast to ‘the country its intentions regarding credit expansion. I can assure the honorable senator that that method has been used in the past, and we shall have no hesitation about using it in the future to the extent that is necessary. I was pleased to hear Senator Eraser say that, while he agreed with the principle of credit expansion, the extent of that expansion should be controlled by the Government. I assure him that the Government is taking the necessary steps to bring about what degree of credit expansion is necessary in addition to other methods of raising money.
Senator Cameron said that we should confiscate what wealth we need to finance our war effort. I remind him that even compulsory loans are not necessarily free of interest. Appeals have been made to the public to help the cause at this time of need, and the response has been very gratifying. We have received over £3,000,000 in interest-free loans, and that is a worthy contribution. It shows that persons with money are not always hungry for interest, as is so often suggested in this chamber.
Senator Cameron, in the course of his speech, repeatedly referred to profits made in business as representing the confiscation of what was due to the workers. The honorable’ senator is a high official of an industrial organization, and has control of considerable sums of money. I suggest that if it is so easy to organize business in such a way as to make profits, and if he believes that all profits should go back to the workers, he should use his organizing ability, intelligence, and knowledge to set up a trading organi- zation for the benefit of the people whom he claims to represent. Then, let him hand back to the workers the whole of the profits derived from his trading operation. If such business enterprises prove successful - and if they are properly handled they can be successful - the honorable senator’s success will give greater force to the accusations which he is continually levelling against the ‘ business community for making profits, and, allegedly, exploiting the workers. I believe that the conditions enjoyed by the workers of Australia are equal to the best in any other country. Whilst I do not say that those conditions represent the ideal, I maintain that the workers here are very well cared for. It is not the purpose of this Government to cut down the standards of the workers in any way beyond what may be rendered necessary by force of circumstances, and by events which no one can foretell.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator MoLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, the 6th August, at 3 p.m., unless the President shall, prior to that date, by telegram or letter addressed to each senator, fix an earlier day of meeting.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 11 of 1940 - Postal Overseers Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior - H. C. Wickett.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Alburv, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Amberley, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Brisbane, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Camp Hill, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Ingleburn, New South Wales-For Defence purposes.
Narellan, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Rathmines, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Tatura, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
National Security Act - National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations - Orders - Exemptions (2).
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act -Ordinances of 1940 -
No. 8 - Land Tax (Repeal).
No.9 - Public Service.
Supply and Development Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos. 99. 100.
Meat Export Charges Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1940, No. 95.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 97.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 98.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 94.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator - No. 12 of 1940 - Professional Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seatof Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1940-
No. 8 - Regulations Publication.
No. 9- Juvenile Offenders (Probation).
No. 10- Canberra Community Hospital (No. 2).
Senate adjourned at 6.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 June 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1940/19400621_senate_15_164/>.