16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from Mrs. T. Brown a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of her father, the Honorable John Henry Keating.
– Can the Postmaster-General state the policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission with regard to the necessary work of erecting a national broadcasting station at Geraldton, Western Australia?
– It has been recognized by the Government for some time that Gerald ton is entitled to a national broadcasting station. The work would not be authorized by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but by the Government through the Postal Department. I hope that, as soon as funds are available, the people of Geraldton and the surrounding districts will be provided with the station to which they are entitled.
- byleave - I desire to bring under the notice of the Senate what I consider to be an unwarranted evasion of questions that I have asked in this chamber concerning Mr. E. M. R. Lewis, who has accompanied Sir Bertram Stevens, leader of the Australian delegation to Delhi as his personal secretary. Lack of frankness in answer to questions, asked purely for the purpose of obtaining information in the public interest, is, to my mind - and I think honorable senators will agree with me - much to be deplored, and is calculated at all times to cause unnecessarily serious conclusions to be drawn. It is quite definite, at least, that any suspicion that may be harboured in the first place must, of course, he accentuated by patent evasion. With regard to Mr. Lewis, I asked, among other things, whether the Investigation Branch of the Attormey-General’s Department had had occasion at any time to pay attention to the alleged alien affiliations of Mr. Lewis. In his reply the Minister, Senator McLeay, who represents the Attorney-General in this chamber, said that the Investigation Branch had never ‘been asked to make inquiries regarding either Mr. Lewis or his associations. Strangely, the Minister went on to say, “ Even if such inquiry had been made, the nature of the inquiry would not, in accordance with the established practice, be made public “.
Apart from the established practice, I claim that the Australian public is entitled to know the credentials of any person appointed to a position of public trust in our war organization. Mr. Lewis may be a very worthy gentleman, and I asked questions concerning him solely to clear my mind of suspicions that havebeen raised. But, in answer to the most vital of my questions, which concerned the interest of the Commonwealth in Mr. Lewis’s political activities, I was told only a half-truth.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to say that. I call on him to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. Up till a little more than a year ago, Mr. Lewis was editor of the London financial publication known as The Statist, but he obtained permission, on the ground of ill health, to leave England for a year. He has not gone back. He came to Australia some time last year, and was immediately employed bySir Bertram Stevens, for whom he wrote financial articles. When Sir Bertram became a director of Jobson’s Digest, he immediately appointed Mr. Lewis to a position on the staff of that publication, but Mr. Lewis wrote such defeatist articles that the other directors determined that he should not carry on. However, Mr. Lewis continued in Sir Bertram’s private employ. About last July, a German national named Singer, who had been employed for some time by the Japanese Government in Japan, came to Australia under mysterious circumstances, and, by processes not disclosed, struck up an intimate friendship with Mr. Lewis. But the Commonwealth authorities very rapidly descended upon Mr. Singer, and he was interned. Mr. Lewis thereupon shifted heaven and earth to have Singer released, and succeeded only in interesting the Commonwealth authorities in himself. Now this is where I consider that the Minister has evaded my question. Mr. Lewis’s affairs and associations with Singer were investigated, not by the Investigation Department, but by the military police, and, when they raided Lewis’s flat, they found documents and property that Singer had apparently left there in anticipation of his arrest. In view of these disclosures, Mr. Lewis’s appointment deserves some explanation in the public interest. It is all very well for the Government or the Minister to say that this cannotbe done “in accordance with established practice “. Established practice and the old school tie methods once brought Britain into grave straits, and this must not be allowed to happen here. With the increasing importance of Australia in international affairs, our representatives abroad mustbe above suspicion.
– by leave - Iwas not aware of the particular matter on which Senator Amour was given leave to make a statement. As I have stressed in this chamber on previous occasions, I think that honorable senators should jealously guard their privileges, and be careful in making statements about persons who have no opportunity to defend themselves. The matter raised by the honorable senator willbe referred to the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes).
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to say whether the department has received any complaints regarding the alleged shortage of Australian tobacco leaf on the retail market? If so, will he inquire into the method of distribution of Australian blended tobacco leaf, as apart from imported blended leaf, in order to ascertain the reason why the smoking public of Australia is being denied certain types of Australian blended tobacco ?
– I am aware that a conference dealing with tobacco leaf Was held during the last two or three days in Canberra, but so far I do not know the result of it. I shall have inquiries made and furnish a reply to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for the Interior make a statement to the Senate in explanation of the granting of naturalization to36 aliens as disclosed in a list published in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 20th March?
– In the absence of the Minister for the Interior, who isat present engaged on important Government business in Queensland, I undertake to obtain a reply to the honorable senator’s questionas soon as possible.
FORMal Motionfor Adjournment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have received from Senator Ashley an intimation thathe desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the allocation of expenditure in regard to the requirements of the defence forces “.
. -I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– My object in moving this motion is to draw attention to the unfair and unjust allocation of defence expenditure. This is not the first time I have made complaints on this subject; I have been protesting against the unfairness of the Government’s allocation of this expenditure for the last two years, when I have drawn attention also to the unfairness of the allocation of factories for the manufacture of war material.
– I do not think that New South Wales has any ground for complaint in this matter.
– I shall endeavour to show that New South Wales has very good reason for complaint. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, the Government established the Supply and Development Department, under the direction of the then right honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey). Mr. Casey’s first action was to wire to the manufac turers in all of the States to meet him in Melbourne. Many manufacturers proceeded, at their own expense, to Melbourne, and there attended a meeting at which a Mr. Smith presided, and the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) was also present. As chairman of the meeting, Mr. Smith requested the manufacturers in attendance to co-operate with the Government in the manufacture of clothing for the military forces, and urged them to abandon their civilian work,if necessary, in order that the needs of the Defence Department could be supplied. He made the following promise to those manufacturers -
Those who will come to the assistance of the department at this crucial moment would notbe forgotten by the Government when the Army was fully equipped and would receive preferential treatment for future orders as the preference they would be giving to the Government orders would militate against them in the civilian trade and therefore would have to receive the full protection of the Government by the supply of military orders to keep their plants going.
The position to-day is that many, who were not manufacturing clothing material at that time, have now come into the business and are being given orders in preference to many manufacturers who, in response to the Government’s appeal and promise of protection, turned over their factories to the manufacture of military clothing. I also draw attention to the following statement which was made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) in reply to criticism by me of the Government in regard to the allocation of military clothing contracts -
So long as 1 remain TreasurerI will not agree to the granting of defence contracts on a basis merely of distributing them widely among the States.
I made no suggestion that the Government’s defence expenditure should be distributed among the States on a £1 for £1 basis. I said, and I still contend, that, having regard to sound business principles, and recognizing the claims of particular States which enjoy certain advantages over others, in addition to the severity of unemployment in different States, it is the duty of the Government to allocate its defence expenditure between the States as fairly as possible. The Acting Prime Minister went on to say -
In many instances firms in other States cannot compete in price with the Victorian firms to which contracts have gone.
I refute that statement. Mr. Fadden said -
I will not be a party to allocation of contracts, possibly at a price of 60 to 80 per cent, higher than we can get the work done for, simply to see that the work goes to a certain State.
Towards the end of last year several small contracts were let by the department, the following being typical: Life jackets, S. Plotkin, 68 Wentworth-avenue, Sydney, contract price £853 ; McWhirters, Brisbane, £141 ; cooks caps and aprons, Pioneer Softgoods Industry Proprietary Limited, New South Wales,’ £125. I shall not weary the ‘Senate with the whole list. We were told that employment of union labour at award rates and award conditions was to be a condition of all contracts. Yet, I have been told by the secretary of the union that Pioneer Softgoods Industry Proprietary Limited and Pelaco Limited, Victoria, employ non-union labour and that Murdoch’s Manufactories Proprietary Limited, New South Wales, employs at least, in the manufacture of shirts, girls who are non-unionists. The latest figures obtainable show that in the last few months Victorian firms have received service clothing contracts to the value of £87,765 as against £52,425 worth of contracts given to firms operating in New South Wales. The amounts allocated to other States are too insignificant to mention. As I have already said the Acting Prime Minister claimed that to distribute contracts more widely among the States would result in a loading of costs by from 60 per cent, to 80 per cent. In rebuttal I present the following official tabulations showing the contracting firms, locality, quantities, and accepted prices. The tenders were invited in all States late in . 1940-
It will be seen that the price quoted by the Sydney firm was lower than the price of any of the Melbourne firms which shared in those contracts. Thus the excuse offered by the Acting Prime Minister is refuted in that particular instance. The next table shows the following : -
That table also proves conclusively that the argument adduced by the Acting Prime Minister is entirely misleading.
– Were not the lowest tenders accepted?
– Those are the accepted prices. The other tables are as follows : -
Another matter to which I wish to direct attention relates to the manufacture of jackets for theRoyal Australian Air Force. Two contracts were let to two manufacturers in Sydney - the Chief Clothing Company and Esquire Proprietary Limited. The price tendered by one company was £17 17s. a dozen, whilst that tendered by the other was £19 3s. 6d. a dozen. Those companies were supposed to be manufacturing articles of the same quality, yet there was that great disparity in price. Obviously, either the company which quoted £17 17s. was making an inferior article, or the other concern which quoted £19 3s. 6d. was being paid an excessive price for the work. It is apparent that something is wrong. It is also rather significant that the firm which is doing the work at the higher price has, as one of its directors, a brother-in-law of a Cabinet Minister. I do not suggest that great significance should be attached to that fact, but it is something which causes immediate suspicion. Not only is that company receiving preference in the matter of contracts, but it is also securing a higher price foi” the goods produced. I should like the Minister for Supply and Development to explain the disparity in the contract prices for identical goods.
Complaints have been made concerning the unsatisfactory position in Victoria. I. have been reliably informed, and my information has been supported by reports in the press, that unless a manufacturer is financed by a certain person in Victoria who has been financing some clothing manufacturers, orders cannot be obtained. Perhaps that is one reason why the New South Wales manufacturers are being discriminated against. The New South Wales manufacturers are able to finance their own contracts, and as a result they have not received a fair share of the defence orders. I have received from Victoria a statement in which it is claimed that at least 50 per cent, of all clothing contracts for uniforms, greatcoats, shorts and shirts, have been placed with foreign-controlled firms presided over by a Mr. Rabinor. No doubt honorable senators have heard of that gentleman, and I understand that the department has made some inquiries concerning his activities. Perhaps the Minister, in his reply, will let the Senate know the result of the inquiries in that regard. Some firms which have obtained contracts were on the verge of bankruptcy when the war started. Mr. Miller, of Miller and Clark, of Flinders-street, Melbourne, a firm controlled by Mr. Rabinor, admitted that he was paying £100 a week to Mr. Rabinor. being his share as a sleeping partner in the business. The statement also discloses that although a greatcoat can be made for 29s., and return a profit to the manufacturer, the price charged to the Govern ment recently for greatcoats was 39s. 6d. each, representing a profit of 40 per cent. The Government supplies all materials and the firms do not even have to seek the business. There are no losses; only huge profits. An air force greatcoat costs the Government at least 47s. 6d., but the cost of manufacture is actually less than that of a military greatcoat. Air force shorts are sold to the Government at 6s. lid. a pair, yet only three-quarters of a yard of single width cloth, costing only ls. 9d. a yard, is required. The ordinary Australian Imperial Force jacket can be made profitably for 19s., but the Government is paying as high as 22s. 6d. The attention of the press has been directed to the activities of Mr. Rabinor. Last week, the following paragraph appeared in Smiths Weekly: -
Last week Smiths Weekly was asked by a clothing manufacturer, who has an oldestablished business of high standing in the trade, to visit his office in Flinders-street, Melbourne.
This man had a strange story to tell. “ I would ask you please not to mention my name in anything you write “, he said, at the outset, “ for I know that, if it came to the cars of certain people that I had appealed to Smiths I would be cut out of any further defence clothing contracts I might seek.
At the moment, I have not got any such contracts, and I am puzzled about what is happening. “ For a considerable time, I was a successful tenderer. Here are my vouchers to prove that what I say is correct. In all, I have made up approximately 15,000 garments for the military. “ I tell you this so that you may be sure that I know my business.
In May of last year, I tendered for 500 air force jackets, drab khaki drill. Contracts Board increased my order to 2500 jackets at £13 13s. a dozen. “Just about that time I also received an order for 4000 khaki shorts at 81s. 2d. a dozen. “ There were no complaints concerning my work on those orders. In fact, although I have made up, as I told you, at least 15,000 military garments, I have not had one rejected. “ Last November, a young man called to see me, produced a notebook, and was able to tell me just how much I had to do before finishing the contract I was on. “ I thought he was from the Contracts Board - an inspector, maybe - so I said ‘ Yes, that’s right ‘. “ Then he asked, ‘ You want further contracts ‘ ? “I told him I did. He said, ‘Well, you let us finance you, there will be more contracts. If you don’t your tenders will be turned down ‘. “ I said to him, ‘ What does this mean ? Are you from the Contracts Board’? “‘No’, he replied, ‘I am not. I represent private financiers, and we have plenty of money ‘. “ I told him I did not want to have anything to do with him . . . that I could finance my own contracts. He went away, and I heard nothing further. “ It is significant that my subsequent tenders for air force clothing have been turned down, though I know that the air force authorities were pleased with my work. As a matter of fact, when I told them what had happened they were most surprised. There is no nonsense about that, for the other day I was asked by them if I would supply them with some model garments for use as patterns for contractors in other States “.
That statement shows that there is dissatisfaction in Victoria concerning the carrying out of orders for army requirements. I do not claim that all the allegations made against the Department of Supply and Development are true, but I maintain that the figures submitted by mc concerning the contracts are accurate because they were obtained from the department. It is not proper for the Acting Prime. Minister (Mr. Fadden) to make misstatements deliberately. I have proved that certain articles of clothing are being made at lower cost in New South Wales than in Victoria. Surely the Minister of Supply and Development will regard this matter as one of great public importance, and I contend that it is so important that it demands investigation by a select committee of the Senate. Our forces at home and abroad should he supplied with articles of the best material; and the taxpayers should not be called upon to pay more than a reasonable price. As the Department of Supply and Development has been established for a long period, its officers should now be qualified to check the cost of all articles required. Therefore the officers should have sufficient authority to tell contractors that, in the event of their not manufacturing articles at such and such a price, they will not be given a contract. The graft involved in the subject of my speech should not be permitted. It is a public scandal, demanding the most searching investigation. Every avenue where there is suspicion of graft or overcharging on army contracts should be fully investigated. I appeal to the Government to have regard to the best interests of Australia when allocating defence expenditure. If it is more economical to place an order in New South Wales or Queensland or Tasmania, then it is the duty of the Government ito place the order there.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate has been treated to a dissertation by Senator Ashley in which he set out first to show that a malignant factor was operating against New South Wales in the allocation of army contracts, but later he diverted his remarks to a general criticism of the Commonwealth Contracts Board. I direct the attention of the Senate to the actual situation relating to munitions production at the outbreak of the war. The production of munitions in Australia was then confined to four government factories, three being in Victoria and one in New South Wales. Consequently it was the Government’s duty to obtain munitions in the most expeditious manner, and obviously the facilities existing had to be used to capacity and every means adopted to expand those facilities regardless of the State or States in which they were situated. It is not surprising that the Government, in its endeavour to meet the requirements of our forces in Australia and overseas, utilized the existing facilities and the opportunities offering for their extension. Consequently, I have no apology to offer for the Government making full use of the facilities existing in two States in the early stage of the war and, by doing so, possibly overlooking the claims of some of the other States. I can assure honorable senators that before the end of the war the Government will be utilizing facilities, not only in Victoria and New South Wales, but also those that can be provided in the other States. We have shown evidence of our desire, as far as our capacity permits, to distribute the work throughout all the States. It is obvious that we must use all the facilities we have at hand, and that is being done. So far as we have the machines, tools, jigs and skilled personnel, a definite distribution will be made of the government factories and annexes and privatelyowned factories in every State.
– Meanwhile, the Government is withdrawing skilled workmen from the States in which factories have notbeen established.
– I am sure that the honorable senator would not suggest that the Government is permitting skilled workmen to remain in States where they have no opportunity to employ their skill.
– The Government would not permit industries to be established in Tasmania.
– The honorable senator’s interjection is entirely untrue. The Government, instead of preventing industries from being established in States other than New South Wales and Victoria, has endeavoured , to set up industries in such States. I shall quote figures showing that that transference of industry is now proceeding and that there is substantial evidence of it in the production of those States.
I shall refer briefly to some of the difficulties that confront us, particularly in regard to our effort to produce munitions’. At the beginning of the war we had four very efficient factories, but their output was relatively small. Although prior to the war we tried to expand our activities, the war caught us in the transition stage with our programme unfinished.’ As we realized early in the war that the call on our capacity to manufacture munitions would be very great, we immediately set about doing some of the things which would obviously be necessary. The bottle-neck in our munitions programme is due, in the first place, to a shortage of the machine tools which are essential to a large output.
– Are these tools used in the manufacture of clothing?
– The war effort calls for the manufacture of many things besides clothing. Owing to the complexity and the fineness of the work necessary in the manufacture of munitions, the supply of the requisite tools, gauges and jigs constitutes the real bottle-neck. Where we have these things we have to make full use of them, and, in our endeavour to increase the supply we have been confronted by the problem of a simultaneous demand for these tools from Great Britain and other parts of the
Empire, and, latterly, even from the United States of America. Theref ore, the things that we need most are also required by other countries, and this seriously restricts our capacity. We have had to rely on our own engineering capacity to produce many of the tools which, before the war, we should not have dreamed of making in Australia. Whereas, at the beginning of the war, there was only one machine-tool shop in Australia producing lathes and other necessary equipment, in quantity and also, to a lesser extent, we now have over 50 firms producing such equipment which is required most urgently. It may interest Senator Ashley to know that the value of machine tools purchased in New South Wales now exceeds that of the purchases in Victoria. The facts contrast strongly against what has been alleged by some honorable members of the House of Representatives. Figures in my possession show that machine tools delivered from New South Wales were valued at £1,072,000, as compared with tools to the value of £1,034,000 delivered from Victoria.
I point out to Senator Ashley that one of the difficulties confronting the Contracts Board in all States is the urgency of demands frequently received from the services. We have endeavoured to obtain from the various services details of requirements over a long period, so that we could organize the industries concerned and place with them orders that would keep them in operation on a. uniform scale for a period of months . In some directions we have achieved a measure of success, but the results of our efforts have not been entirely satisfactory. We hope to be able to do much better in the near future than we have done in the past. Frequently the Contracts Board receives a demand from one of the services for certain goods, and only a short period is available for delivery. A case in point is the demand for military clothing, which matter was referred to by Senator Ashley. The board is, willynilly, forced to split up contracts among a number of firms irrespective of the price tendered for particular articles, in order to meet, the delivery dates demanded- by the services. Consequently I make no apology, for saying that frequently we accept tenders involving three or four prices from different firms for the same articles. Frequently we have to accept tenders providing for low prices in Victoria and higher prices in New South Wales and Queensland, or the reverse position may obtain; hut there is no discrimination against States. The Contracts Board must be able to get the goods demanded within a stipulated period.
– The blame is laid on the Army Department.
– My department often is called. upon to supply goods at short notice. In cases where the board considers that a price is not fair and reasonable, it lets the contract on the condition that its accountants may go into the factory concerned and check the costs of production. If these costs are shown to be- such that the manufacturer is obtaining undue profit, the price is accordingly reduced. We have done this on many occasions, and some substantial reductions of prices have been made. The board takes every opportunity to assure itself that undue profits are not secured by contractors. Early last year, complaints were made by suppliers that the department was cutting prices too finely, but, owing to the larger quantities now being ordered, the factories are now able to turn out goods at much lower prices than formerly.
I understand that, as soon as Senator Ashley read a certain statement in Smiths Weekly, he referred the matter to my department for investigation and report. It was -a general statement in which the person responsible for the allegation refused to reveal his name, and, therefore, we were hampered in our investigation. Within the last fortnight I have received a letter from a contractor who is willing to reveal his name and to set out his complaint. I am having this case thoroughly investigated, and I can assure honorable senators that the department does not condone any action such as that alleged in the statements published in Smiths Weekly. If we find the statements to be true we shall take prompt and effective measures with regard to them.
In the early stages of the war, we were forced to use the f acilities at hand, and to build up existing industries, but since then we have endeavoured to spread our manufacturing activities over a much larger area. I have before me particulars of contracts let since the beginning of the war. From the 1st September, 1939, to the 31st August, 1940, contracts let by the Contracts Board for foodstuffs, clothing, &c, amounted to £9,300,000 in New South Wales and £13,288,000 in Victoria. From the 1st September, 1940, to the 28th February, 1941, contracts let in New South Wales amounted to just over £7,000,000 as against £6,700,000 in Victoria. Whereas there was a large preponderance, in the first twelve months of the war, in favour of Victoria as compared with New South Wales, during the last four or five months the contracts let in New South Wales have exceeded in value those let in Victoria.. I also point out that even the figures which I have just given may, to a degree, be misleading, because it does not necessarily follow that contracts nominally let in any one State are carried out in that State. It is impossible to give a complete statement of that aspect by any dissection of contract figures, but a statement which I have had prepared shows that in the first twelve months the war contracts let in Victoria were valued at £16,000,000 and in New South Wales at £9,000,000. Of the Victorian figure, however, contracts to the value of £3,500,000 were fulfilled outside that State, over £2,000,000 worth of the work going to New South Wales, and £1,400,000 to South Australia. The contracts actually fulfilled in Victoria, therefore, amounted not to £16,000,000 but to £12,500,000. I also point out that, probably, a large proportion of the raw material used in the fulfilment of the contracts actually carried out in Victoria was supplied by New South Wales. The claims of New South Wales are receiving the fullest consideration by the Government. I assure honorable senators that the Government has no intention of confining the manufacture of war material to any one State. Its first consideration is to use to the greatest advantage the capacity available regardless of State interests.
Finally, I point out that before we proceed much further it will not be a question of allocating orders as between firms or States; our main problem will be to obtain sufficient manufacturing capacity to complete orders which will be coming to us from abroad. Honorable senators are aware that following the initial conference of the Australian delegation in Delhi the Eastern Group Supply Council was set up a few months ago. Since then we have received orders from that council for materia] which, despite the greatest goodwill and readiness on our part to meet such orders, we were unable to accept owing to our limited capacity. We shall fulfil such orders to the utmost of our capacity. I want honorable senators to realize, however, that the demands that are going to be made upon us of the kind to which I have already referred will undoubtedly impinge upon the supply of civilian requirements. I feel sure that honorable senators generally support the policy of the Government to give preference to the manufacture of defence needs. In carrying out that policy we shall undoubtedly experience, at least, temporarily, some dislocation of the manufacture of civilian supplies. Undoubtedly, we shall experience a shortage of raw materials and labour for civilian needs owing to transfers for the manufacture of defence requirements. Consequently, when complaints are made - and I have already received such complaints - concerning these shortages of civilian requirements, honorable senators, I am sure, will realize that we are doing the right thing in subordinating civilian requirements to defence needs. However, I give the assurance that, although such shortages will undoubtedly cause inconvenience, they will at no time amount to real hardship.
.- For some considerable time, Tasmania has been dissatisfied with the treatment meted out by this Government to its manufacturing industries in respect of defence orders. Recently, a deputation consisting of Tasmanian members of Parliament, led by the Premier of that State, put before the Government Tasmania’s requirements. Consequently, the Government now has a good idea of that State’s desires. If it takes notice of the deputation’s representations, Tasmania should, in the future, receive a fair share of defence expenditure. In view of the sympathetic hearing given by the Government to that deputation, I should be unfair if I traversed the ground- covered’ by the deputation, or put forward any further claims on behalf of Tasmania at this juncture. Rather should we wait and see what the Government does in regard to the deputation’s requests before we offer any further criticism of the Government’s expenditure on defence contracts.
– Honorable senators will agree that carping criticism of the Government’s war effort cannot be justified. The task before the Government is colossal. Whatever party were in power at the present time would, as a government, be obliged to meet our present problems in the same way as this Government is doing. I pay a tribute to the Government, to those captains of industry who are co-operating in our war effort, and also to those experts who are advising the Government as to the best way in which the resources of this country can be utilized in the present crisis. Therefore, I, personally, have no criticism to offer of the Government’s major policy in this matter. All parties agree on the Government’s defence policy. Senator Ashley has made allegations which, if they be well-founded, must be regarded very seriously. I feel sure that if the honorable senator possesses information which discloses improper conduct in respect of the letting of defence contracts, those allegations will be readily and thoroughly investigated. I have no doubt that the honorable senator’s only motive in raising these matters is to ensure that the right thing is done. However, I deprecate the characteristic outlook of the honorable senator in playing one State against another in so serious a national crisis as now confronts us. He should remember that our war effort is a national war effort. It is only natural that the Government should make the greatest use of existing heavy industries, irrespective of the State in which they may be located. The honorable senator must know that, so far as the Government is concerned, this is not a matter of New South Wales versus Victoria. However, he has made that his main issue. Looking at the figures quoted by the Minister, the honorable senator should feel very happy about the position of New South
Wales. The expenditure in that State has been of such huge proportions that it could not possibly escape the notice of any honorable senator. Senator Ashley, for instance, did not even mention the expenditure on the construction of >a graving dock in Sydney, which will amount to millions of pounds. That work has been undertaken in New South Wales, not in order to appease that State, but solely on the advice of experts. I repeat that if the Opposition were in power it would be guided by the same basic principles by which the Government is guided to-day, namely, the advice of its military experts and our captains of industry. Honorable senators opposite would’ then he only too anxious to .call the latter to their assistance, despite their past repeated denunciations of our industrial leaders.
In dealing with this problem, the Government should not overlook the claims of the less populous States. Experts very often pay no regard to government policy, and, consequently, .there is a danger of many of our war industries being localized in two or three States. I. urge the Government to watch carefully lids aspect of the problem, and to beatin mind at .all tames its duty to safeguard the interests of the less populous States. Wherever possible, expenditure on the production of munitions and war material should be allocated to those States. The Minister misunderstood my interjection. I do not suggest that skilled nien in Tasmania whose services are needed in other States should remain in Tasmania, but delay in using industries in the less populous States, which have been expanded in anticipation of receiving war orders, will deplete those States of skilled workmen. Men drawn from one State to work in another State are apt to become citizens of that State. Every reduction of population increases the disabilities of States in compensation for- which this Parliament makes annual grants. That being the case, it is time that the Government took full advantage of .industrial facilities offering in the less populous States. I agree with Senator Lamp that representations on behalf; of Tasmania have been made to the Government. I shall no.t discuss those representations beyond saying that the
Government should give favorable consideration to the requests made. The Government has appointed technical advisers whose advice must not be disregarded, but they tend to advise that the man-power resources of the less populous States should be tapped so that the policy of centralizing industry may be maintained. That policy, if persisted in, will increase the acuteness of the housing problem in industrial centres on the mainland and leave vacant in the other States business premises and houses which will be a liability to the local authorities in those States, and consequently to the States themselves. Tasmania’s engineering shops are well equipped, not to engage in heavy industry, but to make a substantial contribution to our output of armaments. If necessary, components manufactured in Tasmania could be assembled in the industrial centres on the mainland. Another way in which Tasmania could assist in the war effort is in the provision of service clothing. I do not ask or expect that clothing should be made- in Tasmania at, costs higher than on the mainland, but I emphasize that clothing factories in Tasmania increased their equipment at. the invitation of the Defenceauthorities in order to share in the work. 1 believe that where the Commonwealth Government can either give or withhold it should give. It .must not lose sight of the benefit that will in the long run accrue generally if the less populous States are given an equitable share of defence expenditure.
– I have always been of the opinion that all governmental work should be distributed among the States on a population basis. Early in the war I said in the Senate that soldiers should be clothed and equipped by the State in which they enlist. Had that policy been applied, there would have been none of the present quarrelling. I say nothing about the recruitment of artisans from Western Australia for work in the eastern States, because men are free to go where they like, but I disagree with the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) when he says that the Government is doing its ‘best. If what the Government is doing is its best, it is a very poor best so far as Western Australia is concerned. One aspect of the Minister’s reply to Senator Ashley which- struckme as significant was that he contrasted the millions of pounds that were being expended in New South Wales and in Victoria, but omitted to mention huge sums which are being expended in South Australia. The people of the less populous States have good reason for dissatisfaction when they read in the press that the per capita expenditure on war materials in Victoria is £27 14s. 10d., in New South Wales £190s. 7d., and in South Australia £22 8s.10d. Either the writer of the article which contained that information forgot to mention the per capita expenditure in the other States or the other States were too ashamed of the paucity of . their share to reveal the figures. My view is that the engineering capacity of each State should be examined by a committee of experts. An expert with knowledge of Western Australian industrial conditions would know that in Western Australia there are many opportunities for that State to partake in the manufacture of defence requirements. There are plenty of tailoring establishments which could be used for the manufacture of service clothing. Western Australia lately has received clothing contracts,, but not sufficient to absorb the whole of its productive capacity. Western Australia has also received contracts for the supply of military boots, the quality of which is higher than that of any other military boots made in Australia. I could supply a. list of trades whose manufacturing capacity is far from exhausted. It should be borne in mind that the port of Fremantle is closer than any other large Australian port to Singapore and that, should the need arise, the Australian troops at Singapore could be equipped from Western Australia in half the time that it would, take to equip them from any other part of Australia. I still adhere to what I said on the adjournment last week, namely, that the engineering capacity of each State should be investigated by a committee on which the State under review would be represented.
– That is now being done.
– I am glad to hear that. All the same, Western Australia is not receiving a fair deal. The Minister, as a West Australian, should be one of the first to demand fairer treatment for his State, which is the worst treated of all States. Tasmania and Queensland are receiving at least something, and South Australia is having the best time that it has ever had, but Western Australia has been almost entirely neglected in the expansion of industry. There is no more patriotic State than Western Australia. It has been above the average both in recruits and in the provision of patriotic funds, but in the allocation of work it has not even been considered. I insist that work should be allocated on a population basis. If that policy were applied, the ill feeling which now exists between States would give way to national unity.
– I agree with Senators Lamp and Herbert Hays that a deputation of Tasmanian s waited on the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) requesting increased defence expenditure in Tasmania, but it was not the first deputation that we have had on that subject. We have had deputation after deputation in the last two years, but we have received no more than sympathy. I hope that we receive something more tangible than sympathy as the result of the last deputation. I agree with the statement of the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) that in the initial stages of war it is necessary to make use of available facilities, but we are not now in the initial stages of war. We are well into the second year of war. Meanwhile the less populous States are languishing. Their skilled men are being enticed to the more favoured States. It is quite true that skilled workers could not be expected to stay in any one State if they were needed elsewhere, but there is nothing, to prevent the Government from starting on a small scale works in the less populous States which would enable them to retain their man-power. There is no need to expend all the defence money in the more highlydeveloped States and so starve the less populous States that a drift of population occurs. The time will soon -come when there will be insufficient workers in the last mentioned States to undertake defence work should annexes eventually be erected. It is quite true that the Government had first to utilize fully all existing factories, and machinery, but, in addition to doing so, it has expended millions of pounds on the construction of annexes for private firms, some of which could have been expended in the less populous States. When the war started we suggested to the Government that annexes be built at the Tasmanian railway workshops for the manufacture of arms and munitions. At first the suggestion was turned down, but after repeated representations had been made to the Government, consent was given for the construction of an annexe at the Launceston railway workshops. That annexe could have been built twelve or eighteen months ago, and could have been in full operation now. The expenditure involved is only about £14,000, whereas money expended on a factory in South Australia, now approaching completion, amounts to approximately £3,000,000. I repeat that, unless something is done, the drift of population to the more important States industrially will be such that, even if new annexes be established in the other States, insufficient labour will be available to operate them. I strongly support Senator Ashley’s protest. Much better use could have been made of the States such as Tasmania, had there been a more equitable distribution of defence expenditure. Tasmania is quite capable of producing such military requirements as clothing and boots, but it has had nothing like its share of orders for these commodities. There are many manufacturing organizations in Tasmania which are quite prepared to accept defence contracts if the Contracts Board will only give them an opportunity to do so. The people of Tasmania will not allow this matter to be ignored. Several days ago I received a circular - no doubt other honorable senators received one also - from a big municipality in Tasmania, demanding that a firm stand be taken in support of a fair share of defence expenditure in Tasmania. The alternative is that support for the Government be withdrawn. I might point out that it is not my support that keeps the Go- vernment in office. Probably that circular is meant for honorable senators opposite. Representations of that nature make it perfectly plain that we in this chamber are not voicing merely our own views; we are speaking on behalf of the entire population of Tasmania. That we are entitled to protest in connexion with this matter is shown very clearly in an answer which I received to a question a few days ago. I asked what amount of money had been expended in Tasmania on munitions, &c, during the year 1939- 40, and what was the estimated expenditure in that State during the current year. The answer was that expenditure in 1939-40 had been nil, and that the total contemplated expenditure for 1940-41 was only £138,000. Even that small amount represented only contemplated expenditure, and the actual figure will probably not be so high.
I trust that this discussion will bear some fruit, and that a more equitable distribution of defence contracts amongst the States will eventuate. I trust also that the Government will immediately realize that we are no longer in the initial stages of the war, and will look upon Australia as a united nation, and not merely as one of two States - New South Wales and Victoria.
– The motion moved by Senator Ashley has served a good purpose. Unlike Senator Herbert Hays, I think that at times it is good to have criticism, provided that criticism be constructive. I commend Senator Ashley for the trouble he has taken to bring such valuable information before the Senate. In time of war united people such as we are in Australia have no time for those who stoop to underhand methods or take advantage of the war position, whether they be contractors or workers. T know that the Government has had many difficulties to overcome, and no doubt, at times, very stiff problems have been encountered, but that does not mean that there should be no criticism of its activities.
I recall an occasion when Senator Cunningham, Senator Clothier and myself made an endeavour on behalf of Western Australia to bring under the notice of the Government the position of the unemployed in that State. At that time it was stated that because of the geogra’phical position of Western Australia, and because of the industrial laws and higher arbitration court awards in that State, the costs of production exceeded those in the more populous States, and consequently Western Australia could not compete. However, this afternoon the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride), and the figures quoted by Senator Ashley, indicated quite clearly that previous statements made in regard to tender prices were incorrect. It is apparent that the Contracts Board does not necessarily accept the lowest tender. I remember Senator Cunningham asking certain questions concerning the industrial laws of Western Australia, and suggesting that, in allocating contracts, consideration should be given to those laws. I think that the Minister concerned promised that that would be done. Whatever the Minister may say about using all available machines to their fullest capacity, there are idle plants in Western Australia. Having received some contracts for the supply of clothing, certain concerns in Western Australia expanded their plant to cope with the orders. No more orders have been forthcoming and the firms have been left practically high and dry with over-capitalized organizations. To my knowledge, there are about 200 operatives and machinists out of work and walking the streets in Western Australia. That, of course, is in addition to the 6,000 parttime workers provided for by the State Government out of loan money. That is the position in Western Australia. I suggest that the dearth of defence orders in Western Australia has not been owing to the high prices submitted by tenderers in that State, as the Minister said some months ago.
– What sort of machinists are out of work?
– They are girl machinists and clothing trade operatives. In placing orders for defence equipment the Contracts Board should take into consideration the fact that Western Australia receives a very small share of war expenditure. The Minister admitted this afternoon that although definite allocations of defence expenditure were made it did not necessarily follow that the amount allocated for any particular State would be expended in that State. For instance, £1,500,000 was allocated to Western Australia for defence purposes, but all of that money has not been expended there, because some of the material on which that £1,500,000 was to be expended was manufactured in the eastern States.
– Is not that inevitable in the case of raw material?
– Yes, but that condition also obtains in respect of the manufacture of that raw material. In one instance of which I heard, the quality of the material submitted by a Western Australian firm was superior to that of the contractor who was subsequently given the order. One firm in Perth tendered for 10,000 pairs of khaki drill trousers for the Permanent Forces. One order was placed with the Rivel Manufacturing Company of Victoria, the price being £5 16s. a dozen pairs. An order for 4,000 pairs was placed with Ryzman and Brooks, of Victoria, at £5 16s. 8d. a dozen pairs. The Western Australian firm quoted £5 16s. a dozen pairs but did not receive an order. Such matters are liable to create a very unfavorable impression. From investigations which I have made I have ascertained that in some instances when tenders have been called, and before a tenderer has quoted a price he has investigated the position with regard to the purchase of the necessary raw material should he obtain a contract. After the tenders closed he was notified that there was a certain quantity of material available. I am certain from my investigations that everything is not square and above board. On reliable authority I am informed that it is common practice in New South Wales and Victoria for certain persons to approach’a manufacturer who has little work on hand and advise him that they can obtain a contract for him, and if he has not sufficient money available they will finance him on their terms. That practice should not be tolerated. The Minister for Supply and Development informed the Senate that the people of Australia must be prepared to make an additional sacrifice by allowing defence needs to have priority over civil requirements.
If that is so, I want the sacrifice to be borne equally. That is not the case now. Steel manufacturers in Western Australia are confronted with many difficulties. If those senators who advocated three years ago the fullest development by the Government of the iron-ore deposits at Yampi Sound had succeeded, Australia would be able now to supply not only her own iron ore requirements but also those of neighbouring countries.
-Australia is not short of iron ore.
SenatorFRASER.- No. But it is short of steel. If proper action had been taken by the Government to develop our iron ore deposits the importation of steel would not now be necessary. Iron ore is the basis of our national economy and the Government should not delay in the development of the iron ore resources of Western Australia. The responsibility of that development should not be left to the huge companywhich has now complete control of the situation. Manufacturers in Western Australia claim that they are. not receiving sufficient raw materials to keep their industries operating.
– The Government has not delayed the expansion of the iron ore industry in Western Australia.
SenatorFRASER. - The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited should not be allowed to hold a monopoly in the development of our iron ore resources. Even at this stage it would pay the Government to develop the iron ore resources of Western Australia. Decentralization of our great industrial fields must become a reality.
– Despite the views of interests in New South Wales?
– I am not parochial. If an artisan in Western Australia cannot make good in his trade in that State he is at liberty to transfer to the eastern States, and such transfer might be to the advantage of Australia as well as to himself. The Government should prosecute vigorously the development of the mineral resources of Western Australia. I appreciate that the Government has assisted such development, but greater activity is needed.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Senator James MacLachlan). - The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I want the Government to order a general survey of factories in Western Australia capable of assisting in the production of munitions.
– That proposal is not new..
– No, but it has never been put into effect.
– That statement is not correct.
– The proposal is so old and feeble that it is my duty to try to restore it to good health. I ask the Minister (Senator Collett) to use his influence in Cabinet to have the survey undertaken. It appears to me that the Government is ignorant of the possibilities of development in Western Australia because it has failed to use the means of production available. Recently I visited Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. Not long ago it was an important seaport but it is now neglected. A ship rarely calls there. As a result . of the tying up of shipping which, I understand, is at the disposal of the British Government, the people of Albany are unable to ship apples or pears or even wheat. The last shipment of fat lamb carcasses was in a vessel that was sunk by a raider 400 miles off the coast of Western Australia. I believe that that was the last large ship to call at Albany. There are three workshops at Albany, one of which is capable of repairing the tailshaft of a large ocean going steamer. Such a workshop ought to be capable of producing munitions even in a small way. No attempt has been made to survey the possibilities of such workshops in Western Australia. Albany has little industrial activity other than the woollen mills and that state of affairs applies also to other towns in Western Australia and no doubt many towns throughout the Commonwealth. I am not satisfied that a complete survey has been made of the possibilities of Australia to speed up munition production. In Perth there are factories equipped with lathes used in the manufacture of tools of which there is a scarcity. The Department of
Supply and Development is not in possession of all the information required for the proper carrying out of its work.
– I think that the State Government of Western Australia made a survey of the possibilities of munition production in that State.
– What is important is not what the honorable senator thinks, but what I know. I am under the impression that the Minister (Senator Collett) said that a committee was appointed in Western Australia to furnish information required by the Contracts Board in Melbourne. I understand that there is such a committee in each State. I asked the Minister for Supply and Development if the committee had ever furnished a report to him. I do not think that that committee is functioning for the purpose for which it was appointed. However, the Minister for Supply and Development could inform me whether he has received any reports from the committee. I suggest that he investigate the work clone and the advice submitted by the committee so that a determination can be reached whether it should be permitted to continue functioning. I want a general survey made throughout Australia of the possibilities of industry to manufacture goods that are not now produced here but could be produced for defence purposes. I suggest that a survey should be made of the alloys associated with the manufacture of steel. In Western Australia there are large deposits of scheelite, wolfram, manganese and bismuth. Deposits of the first three minerals have been found in payable quantities. If the Government provided the financial encouragement necessary the exploitation of these mineral deposits would be expanded. There are also in Western Australia deposits of bauxite from which aluminium is extracted. It would be of great advantage to Australia if that industry could be established. There are also immense deposits of graphite in Western Australia. Even if factories were not established on a large scale for the production of munitions, great opportunities are available for a tremendous expansion of the mineral resources so necessary for the production of munitions.
An investigation should be made in connexion with the coal deposits in Western Australia. It was mentioned by Senator Fraser that there is a huge deposit of iron ore at Yampi. A preliminary survey has, I believe, been made on more than one occasion, but no permanent survey has been carried out. The Government should endeavour to build up industry and develop the resources, not of particular States, but of Australia as a whole. In many respects excellent work has been accomplished, and I do not wish to take from the Government any of the praise that it has earned in that regard; but it should not be content to rest on its laurels. The time is now opportune for greater industrial expansion than has already been achieved. There should ,be a wider distribution of defence expenditure, so as to give every State an opportunity to build up its industries. We should prepare for the period when there will he a transition from war to peace-time activities. The Government now has an opportunity to consider its defence vote, with a view to spreading war expenditure over the whole of the States with an eye to future needs.
. : - So far as the promotion of the interests of Western Australia is concerned, there is no difference between the views of Senators on the Government side and those of members of the Opposition. One statement made to-day was that hundreds of clothing workers are walking the streets of Perth unemployed. Only recently I spoke to the manager of the largest clothing manufacturing company in Western Australia, who informed, me that he could not get all of the workers he needed. On the other hand, the head of a smaller firm said that he had recently put off about twenty employees because he had no work for them to do. Within the last few days I have been informed that this man has received a contract from the Munitions Department for the manufacture of articles to the number of some tens of thousands. As to the possibility of Western Australia making a contribution to munitions production, there is a board of area management, and, as the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) has said, he has been in conversation with the chairman of the board within the last fourteen days in Melbourne. I also have been in conference with that official. Purchases made by the Contracts Board in “Western Australia up till recently amounted to just under £1,000,000. At the present time the Government railway workshops in that State are engaged in the production of articles to the value of over £250,000, and three or four firms have orders running into tens of thousands of pounds. Twelve months ago the representative of one small firm came to me for advice as to conditions of tender, wondering whether his firm could undertake certain work. To-day that concern is carrying out orders, amounting in value to £7,000, for the manufacture of a small article, and the total value of the work it has undertaken runs into £15,000 or £20,000. The Government, and particularly the Minister for Munitions, is not satisfied at present with the volume of work being done by the less-populous States. We are anxious to develop to the maximum Australia’s capacity to contribute to the winning of the war by an increased production of munitions, and such States will, in due course, get their share of this work. It is, however, necessary to arrange for a supply of raw materials, skilled artisans, and the proper organization of the factories.
– Much has been said about the disabilities of Tasmania in regard to defence expenditure and war contracts. Two statements have been made which appear to indicate bribery and corruption in connexion with these contracts. One statement was that a certain contractor in Melbourne was approached and told by a financial firm that, if he would use it in order to finance a contract, it would see that he got the work, I have already submitted a scheme to this chamber which would obviate any possibility of that kind of thing happening.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - The honorable senator may discuss the allocation of war expenditure but not the means by which the money is to be provided.
– I have been referring to the allocation of war expenditure. I heard of a case in Sydney this week, which, in my opinion, shows poor business acumen on the part of the Government with regard to a certain contract. The firm to which I am referring had not been in the habit of making a particular article required by the Government, but it put in a tender which was accepted. There is an axiom of economics and production that all costs incurred by the manufacturer of an article should be recovered by means of the price charged for it. This firm had to make dies, jigs and various small machines to enable it to complete its first order of 100 articles, and the cost of the jigs, &c, was covered by the price paid. It was delighted later to get an order for a further 1,000 articles at the same price, although it should have immediately occurred to the Contracts Board that the price should have been much lower than on the first order.
– The honorable senator is entirely mistaken in assuming that all costs were covered by the price paid on the first 100 articles.
– Not at all. I obtained my information from the manufacturer concerned, who also received a further order for several thousands of these articles at the same price. If proper inquiries were made with regard to contracts of this kind, a considerable saving could be effected. I have shown that the danger of corruption in regard to these contracts could be eliminated by inserting a clause in all contracts providing that the successful tenderers should if necessary be financed through the Commonwealth Bank. This would bring hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds to the Government in revenue. It should be the first concern of the Government to obtain all the revenue it can, in order that taxes might be reduced. When I asked a question on this matter in the Senate, I was informed that the Government would not consider my suggestion, which I regard as a most businesslike one.
– This motion has served a very useful purpose.
I think that honorable senators on the Government side must have been impressed by the restraint displayed by members of the Opposition, and by the capable way in which they have approached the matter under discussion. I shall make a very small contribution to the debate. It was stated by Senator Cunningham that the Opposition did not desire to take from the Government any praise which was its just due in connexion with Australia’s contribution to the Empire’s war effort.With that sentiment I entirely agree, but members of the Opposition are sometimes able to suggest ways in which more effective work might be done. This is an all-in war, and an all-in effort by Australia is required. Full use has not been made of the whole of the available man-power of this country. I am not content to be told that unemployment has fallen to an unprecedentedly low level. It would be strange if that were not the position, considering that many millions of pounds have been expended in connexion with the war effort; but in every State a considerable number of men who are physically fit are out of employment. So long as those men remain unemployed it cannot be said that we are making a maximum war effort. It is true that in some sections of industry it is difficult to place unskilled men, although, I might observe, that difficulty is often exaggerated. Whatever may be the position in that respect, however, there is no shortage of unskilled labour. It is unnecessary for me to detail works on which unskilled men can be employed provided they are physically fit. To-day many men are not only able, but also exceedingly anxious, to do such work, because unless they do it their wives and families will not be provided for. These men could be used in connexion with our war effort in such directions as the construction of arterial roads which will be required for military transport, if, unfortunately, war should come to our shores. They could also be used in the building of emergency shelters on which comparatively very little effort is being expended at present in any part of Australia. The Government is doing a good job in certain directions ; but for that reason are we to wait until an emergency is actually upon us before we make pre parations for the safety of our own people? It is unnecessary for me to indicate further avenues in which unskilled labour could be immediately and effectively employed in connexion with our war effort. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to the suggestions made by honorable senators in the course of this debate.
– in reply - The Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) stated as a reason, partly, for the centralization of the production of munitions and war material in Victoria, that three factories were in existence in that State compared with one in New South Wales.
– He said that that was the case at the beginning of the war, not to-day.
– Yes, and prior to the outbreak of the war. I remind the Minister that on several occasions in this chamber I have urged the advantage of establishing factories adjacent to the source of supply of basic raw materials such as coal, iron and steel. I then endeavoured to illustrate my point by showing that if private enterprise intended to erect a coke works, f or instance, it would build them adjacent to supplies of coal. The Minister emphasized that a higher percentage of machine tools is being made in New South Wales than in Victoria. I do not deny that fact. However, I feel sure that it will be found that those tools are being made by big engineering firms such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Australian Iron and Steel Limited, and such firms which are the wealthy friends of the Government. The Minister must recollect a deputation of small manufacturers which waited upon him in Sydney some time ago. They stated that they could increase tenfold their facilities for the production of machine tools within a very short time if the Government gave them the requisite orders.
– When we asked the same men to do some turning work on another project they said that they did not have the capacity.
– I am simply repeating what the deputation told the Minister.
– But the statement was not true.
– One firm, which was represented on that deputation, has since received orders for machine tools. It is turning out two or three lathes a day. Is that correct?
– Not a day.
– I shall check up on that point. When my time expired in my opening speech I was stressing the fact that I have never suggested that the Government’s defence expenditure should be allocated between the States on a £1 for £1 basis. I contend that the Government should allocate this expenditure, having regard to the economic advantages, the severity of unemployment, and the natural resources in particular States. Senator Herbert Hays declared that the Government is confronted with a colossal task, and is endeavouring to do a good job. I entirely agree with that statement. Every honorable senator realized the magnitude of the task which confronted the Government at the outbreak of the war, but we on this side say that, surely, after eighteen months the Government should now be in a position to rectify such anomalies and wrongs as have been pointed out in this debate. When the honorable senator was speaking I interjected that there were 40,000 unemployed in New South
Wale3, and another honorable senator opposite denied my statement. According to a statement issued by the New South Wales Government last week there are 2S,000 males, 7,000 females and 1.0,000 youths unemployed in that State.
– They are not the latest figures.
– They were issued only last week. It cannot be said that we are making a maximum war effort when there are 40,000 unemployed in one State. Those 40,000 people have a just grievance against the Government. They have a right to work in order to be able to feed and clothe themselves decently, and to house their families comfortably. As my leader has pointed out, those unemployed could be immediately engaged in various avenues in connexion with our war effort. In order to give some indication of the seriousness of the unemployment position in New South Wales I point out that the following numbers of employees have been put off by their respective firms : Acme Clothing Factory, 90 girls ; Cooney No. 2 Clothing Factory, 221 employees; Brooke’s Factory, S2 employees; and Shire and Bradley, 24 employees. In the case of the two lastnamed factories, 62 machines and 24 machines, respectively, are idle. I have proved that prices for defence material are lower in New South Wales than in any other State. It is the practice of the Defence Department to allow its requirements to mount up before it attempts to place its orders. It then rushes to the Department of Supply and Development, and claims that it must have its huge orders fulfilled within a fortnight. I do not blame the Minister for Supply and Development ‘for that position, but, surely, it is the duty of the Government to rectify such a state of affairs. The Defence Department must be able to estimate fairly accurately at least a couple of months beforehand, its needs for the equipment of the military trainees. The Minister explained that, owing to this rushing of orders, his department was obliged to pay as much as £2 a dozen extra for various articles of equipment. Surely, private enterprise would not work on that basis. It would estimate its requirements well beforehand to enable it to be able to place its orders to the best advantage. This state of affairs reflects upon the Government, and should be thoroughly investigated. Industry generally is anxious to assist in the national war effort, and the Government should afford every facility to every unit of industry to enable it to play its part efficiently in that work. The Commonwealth is hindering the States by preventing them from engaging in tlie production of defence requirements. It is the duty of the Government to agree to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into this matter in order that satisfaction mav be given to all.
Motion - by leave withd rawn
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
That the Orders of the Day be postponed until after questions on notice have been answered and Government Business, Notice of Motion No. 1, has been dealt with.
Mr. S. J. McGIBBON.
Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Acting Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
Training of Apprentices
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers: -
Western Australian Workers
asked the Minis ter for Munitions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
By arrangement with the British Wool Control, the Central Wool Committee has to date allocated large quantities of wool for scouring and carbonizing in Australia.
Fellmongers are at present seeking more sheepskins than in normal times and, in addition, the Central Wool Committee is allocating for treatment a large number of sheepskins which have been appraised for and on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
On what grounds has the lay-by system been excluded from the inquiry of the special Parliamentary Committee into cash order and hire-purchase credit systems?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
The Treasurer’s object in appointing a Board of Inquiry under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations, was to obtain a report on the subject of cash order and hirepurchase systems of financing consumer credit. Lay-by systems do not come within this category.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
How many Germans and Italians have been interned in Australia?
SenatorFOLL (through Senator Collett). - The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers: -
It is not in the interests of national security to disclose the number of Germans and Italians interned in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Who fixes the Australian interest rates on Commonwealth treasury-bills and what is the usual duration of these bills?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The discount rate is fixed in consultation between the Commonwealth Bank and the Treasurer. The usual currency of the bills is three months.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Australian banks can convert their holdings of treasury-bills into Commonwealth notes on demand?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Commonwealth treasury-bills are rediscounted by the Commonwealth Bank at any time at rates fixed by the Commonwealth Bank when the application for rediscount is made.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Australian bankers reduced the interest rate on treasury-bills from £1 15s. per cent, to £1 10s. per cent, as from June last?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The discount rate on treasury-bills in Australia was reduced from13/4 per cent, to11/2 per cent, on the 1st May, 1940.
Application to Civilians
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - 1 to S. The Government is at present considering the whole question of compensation in respect of death or injury suffered by civilians, or damage to property, occasioned by hostilities. No official statement has been issued to the press. The Government will make an announcement in due course.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
The approval was made subject to certain conditions which were subsequently reviewed, and confirmed in the following form: -
Application to Railway Employees
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In view of the increase in railway business resulting from the shipping shortage, will he consider exempting railway running grades from military service, such grades being drivers, firemen, engine cleaners, guards and shunters?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
It is considered that reasonable provision is made in the present list of reserved occupations which includes engine drivers, guards and shunters of all ages, firemen (locomotive) over 25 years and engine cleaners over 23 years of age.
Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
The general conditions are that the Commonwealth provides the machinery and plant, and if desired by the State authorities finances the erection of the building usually by way of loan free of interest, to be repaid at the expiry of ten years after deduction of any depreciation which may have been charged into production of munitions. 4. (a) To provide for increased production it has been necessary to obtain the assistance of engineering industry. Annexes have, therefore, been attached to commercial establishments and State Railways Departments principally for the manufacture of ammunition and ammunition components. In certain cases the Commonwealth has provided the buildings. In other cases buildings have been provided by annexe operators and plant installed therein at Commonwealth expense.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. The Minister made a statement on the subject of emergency supplies of foodstuffs and household goods, on the 9th of March, and he made a further statement on the subject in Parliament on the 25th of March. The plan, as explained by the Minister, contains provisions for financial co-operation by Commonwealth and State Governments.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - ].. This item was portion of a contract of £2,335 let for stormwater drainage.
Motion (by Senator Collett) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend section four of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1937.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 19th March (vide page 110) on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– To some degree this bill is of importance, but I regret that it is not of a more important character. If there is any activity which requires a searching inquiry and extensive reformation it is the control of radio in this country. In this chamber at least, it has been common knowledge for many years that there is intense dissatisfaction with the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Some years ago I played no small part in the criticism of that body voiced in this chamber. I had good reasons for the criticism which I then offered, and I have good reasons for even more severe criticism to-day, although that criticism would not now be concerned so much with administrative details as with vital principles and interests which are at stake. The Government would have been well advised had it postponed the introduction of this measure, or refrained from bringing down the bill at all. It would have been more fitting had the Government shownthat it has a greater appreciation of the immensity of this wonderful modern physical factor which we know as radio, and its relationship to the people and to the Government of this country. In Avireless, there is a most powerful instrument for the dissemination of ideas. That being generally admitted every precaution should be taken to see that control is exercised by somebody responsible to the Parliament of this country, and through Parliament to the people. Such a person should possess an understanding of what a wonderful power radio possesses for the formation of public opinion. It must be obvious to the Government, if not to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that radio is very closely allied to the press of this country. Later I shall show just how close that alliance is. In fact, the degree to which the press and the radio are able to mould public opinion and influence it in the desired direction is such that to-day only one class of public opinion is being developed and fostered by wireless transmission.
– The national stations have no connexion with the press.
– I made no such assertion, and I have not said anything that could have conveyed that impression. But if I can show that this bill is only playing with the subject of broadcasting, does nothing to benefit the people of this country or to ensure that, so far as the national stations are concerned, opportunity shall be given to all classes of people who desire to mould public opinion, I shall at least be making a suggestion which, if adopted, would be of value to the nation.
The Postmaster-General (Senator McLeay), in his second-reading speech, quoted remarks made by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) some time ago. I shall not read the whole of the paragraph, but I direct attention to the following passage: -
It will have a potent influence on speech. That is most desirable, because slip-shod speech connotes slip-shod thinking. It will educate the people to an appreciation of the higher classes of music, and instruct them in literary, scientific, and general knowledge.
Then, according to the Minister, the late Mr. W. A. Holman, said -
The proposed commission is not to prepare a balance-sheet which is to bo measured in pounds, shillings and pence. No doubt it will be expected to make broadcasting pay . . . but not by appealing to the most ignorant prejudices of the community and prostituting this new and extraordinary scientific service to the baser instinct of the poorest, intellectually, of our community . . . This is an opportunity to revitalize the spiritual and intellectual life of the nation.
Both the statements were timely. I agree also with what these gentlemen said should be the ideal, but I do not agree with the late Mr. Holman’s statement that. “no doubt it would be expected to make broadcasting pay”. Why should the commission be expected to make broadcasting pay? If the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or any other body set up by the Government to conduct a public utility, has a surplus at the end of its financial term, it is obvious to me at any rate that either the service that should be given to the community for the tax which is imposed upon it is not being provided, or that those who are doing the work of that instrumentality are not being paid sufficient for their services. I do not suggest that there should not be a balance. There should always be a reserve to cover contingencies, but large surpluses should not be accumulated by governmental undertakings which are charged with the responsibility of rendering a service to the nation, and no higher service could be rendered than that to which the Australian Broadcasting Commission is committed. Of course, a balance-sheet is issued annually and placed before members of Parliament for scrutiny. I shall read to the Senate a brief summary of the Australian Broadcasting . Commission’s eighth annual report and balance.sheet: for the year ended the 30th June, 1940-
Revenue is shown at £733,865, an increase of £53,732 for the year.
The commission has a book surplus of £47,000, It was £100,493 the previous year.
There are 80,721 more listeners, bringing the total to 1,212,581, whose licence-fees contributed £700,071 of the total revenue, an increase of £41,335.
Assets, at £513.254, are £02,380 higher than in 1940.
At this stage I should like to express very definitely my views on what national stations should be accomplishing, and what the Government should do in regard to the matter. If I had my way I would abolish the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There is no need for it. Very often when such bodies are set up by governments, the creature becomes greater than its creator. I am glad that, in some respects, this bill does make provision for decreasing the virulence of that effect. That is one satisfactory feature of the bill. As a matter of fact, to be perfectly candid, it is the only good feature that I find in the bill. There should be no delegation of the power of this Parliament to commissions which are superior to Parliament in their daily operation. There should be in this chamber a minister for broadcasting, or a representative of that minister should he be a member of the House of Representatives. Broadcasting should be the responsibility of such a responsible minister. In a democracy, the people elect the members of Parliament, and through its Ministers can exercise complete control over the creature which it creates. I have no desire at this stage to comment upon the individuals who comprise the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have spoken on the subject on different occasions and I may have to refer to it again in this speech. I shall quote from a letter which I received from the late Mr. Savage, in 1937, when Prime Minister of New Zealand, after the New Zealand broadcasting station 2YA, which I understand is the most powerful in the Southern Hemisphere, was officially opened by Mr. Savage. I received the letter first because Mr. Savage was my personal friend, and secondly because I had listened-in to his talk on the day the station was opened, and to the address delivered by his Minister for Finance (the Hon. Walter Nash) from Geneva and relayed to New Zealand. I wrote to Mr. Savage expressing my pleasure at having beard his talk and he sent me the letter from which I shall quote two extracts : - I think it is a great pity that the Labour movement in Australia is sp handicapped in the matter of radio broadcasting facilities, but, of course, until Labour in this country gained the Treasury benches it was in a similar position. We were also placed at a disadvantage in the matter of the dissemination of our policy through the press. The New Zealand newspapers, with few exceptions, being hostile to Labour, we naturally received very little support front that source. The Labour papers, The Standard (weekly) and Grey River Argus (daily), were the only journals we could rely upon to make a fight for us. The Grey River Argus is published in Greymouth and has a circulation which covers only the West Coast of the South Island. The Standard is published in Wellington, and whilst it lias greatly increased in the last twelve .months, its circulation before the elections was not large, and, of course, a weekly paper is wholly inadequate when righting against the dailies. We will therefore find the broadcasting service of great assistance now that we control it.
I consider that the Government of this country should control the nation’s broadcasting service, although I realise that the use the present Government would make of that service would not please me on all occasions. I shall now quote some of the statements made hy Mr. Savage in his broadcast address when he opened the New Zealand broadcasting station on that wonderful afternoon in 1937. He said - 1937 is the centenary of the invention of lite Morse telegraph which has played such a wonderful part in world affairs during the lifetime of many who are still with us; and radio broadcasting is undoubtedly one of the most revolutionary agencies of modern times.
In Australia, the control of broadcasting has , been handed over by Parliament to a commission consisting of a few men and one woman. Mr. Savage proceeded : -
Radio will soon be as necessary for the mind of an active citizen as water is for the body, and will be laid on to every home in a similar way. It is the instrument par excellence for unifying the thought of mankind and making possible a real democracy - for training men and women to consider different opinions and so developing that thoughtful tolerance upon which peace and democracy are based.
While the chief broadcasting stations are owned and controlled by the state, as in the case of New Zealand, vested interests are not likely to be given preference over the common welfare.
No space limit can be set to broadcasting - it scorns national boundaries, and conquers space so easily that, in sympathetic hands, it will do much to remove international misunderstandings and other human barriers to universal peace.
We in New Zealand are anxious to listen to the voices and messages of the peoples of other nations; we are also anxious that they should hear our voices and messages, and we propose to plan accordingly. In a few minutes’ time the great possibilities of radio will be illustrated by an address which will be delivered at Geneva by the Hon. Walter Nash, Minister of Finance, and relayed in New Zealand.
As a means of publicity radio stands in a class by itself - it delivers messages as between citizens and nations just as they are spoken and for that alone we should be truly thankful.
The New Zealand Broadcasting Service is gradually becoming the Information Bureau of the Dominion, and in the near future it will be the centre of a news service which will bc first-hand, prompt, and practically universal in its application to New Zealand citizens.
Those words of Mr. Savage expressed a noble conception of the power and usefulness of radio broadcasting. There is no evidence in the bill under discussion, or in the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that we in Australia have risen to such a noble conception of this powerful instrument of propaganda.
I noted that the Postmaster-General went to some pains in his second-reading speech to explain the activity of the commission in relation ‘to radio talks. All the facts that he gave are more or less elaborated in the commission’s last annual report. After pointing out that the discussion of controversial subjects is a stimulus to thought and an essential and valuable element in democratic communities, the Postmaster-General said : -
Indeed, this attitude towards freedom of discussion of controversial questions is not only characteristic of democratic peoples all over the world, but is one of the features which distinguishes Democracy most sharply from Totalitarian states. Some years ago, thu House of Commons, discussing the activities of the British Broadcasting Corporation, resolved “that controversial matter is right not excluded from broadcast programmes, but that the Governors should ensure the effective expression of all important opinion relating thereto “. Later, a representative committee of inquiry into broadcasting in England reaffirmed and enlarged on this view in tinfoil owing words: -
We think it important that controversial topics should continue to be discussed. If broadcasting is to present a reflection of its time, it must include matters which are iii dispute. If it is to hold public interest, it must express living thought. If it is to educate public opinion, it must look upon tinquestions of the hour from many angles.
I make bold to say that in Australia one cannot get the national stations to broadcast talks on all angles of subjects in dispute. I do not refer to controversial subjects directly connected with the war, but I contend that the rights of minorities in this country are not protected by the policy adopted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission with respect to the broadcasting of talks on controversial subjects over the national stations. If one wishes to have a talk of that character broadcast, one must go to a commercial station and pay for the service.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– A remark of mine prior to the suspension of the sitting prompted an interjection from an honorable senator opposite to the effect that the commission had nothing to do with the commercial broadcasting stations. Of course, I know that, but surely it is appropriate to say that the Government ought to have something to do with those stations. In the second-reading debate on this bill, I think that I have the right to state the opinion of the Opposition with regard to wireless broadcasting generally. I have made reference to the alliance between the press and the radio. Those of us who have taken an intelligent interest in this matter have noticed that the press has been gradually acquiring the ownership of many broadcasting stations, and we now get news from the syndicated press not only through the newspapers, but also over the air. A Washington message states -
The Federal Communications Commission plans an investigation to determine the policy concerning newspaper ownership of radio stations.
The action was prompted by the increasing number of applications from newspapers for permission to operate stations on the high frequency system. The commission said that the action did not imply opposition to newspaper ownership of radio stations.
SenatorCollett. - What does that indicate?
– That there is a growing public fear that, instead of an informed matured public opinion, the people are being fed on the opinions of the owners of the great capitalist newspapers. A great republic with which Australia has recently been fraternizing considers that there is something sinister in this powerful combination of radio and newspaper activities. The United States of America is not alone in this fear. The following statement was published in the Canberra Times of the 26th June, 1937 : -
About a year ago, a great deal was said from both sides of. Parliament about regulations made for the purpose of limiting ownership of wireless stations. At that time, the Minister for Defence named some companies that were steadily extending their grip on radio stations and there was agreement that a danger existed of radio stations, which are, to some extent, a natural monopoly, coming into the control of a few companies. The spokesmen of these interests have been busy, however, and little has been heard of these regulations since. Radio stations have been purchased by companies already owning chains of stations and there are fewer individual owners of radio stations to-day than 12 months ago. Some of the big radio companies make no secret of their interstate networks. Some are busily extending their grip with Ministerial patronage. One of the companies mentioned by the Minister for Defence had its new station opened by the Prime Minister recently. Apparently the regulations have been allowed to die, for there canbe no other explanation of the absence of signs of their enforcement.
In its issue of the 2nd December, 1938, the Canberra Times further stated -
Every wave length is a monopoly and every radio broadcasting licence is a monopolistic right. Why these monopolies were ever alienated has never been explained. Whythey should continue to be the property of private interest cannot the explained. The time has come when the ownership of all radio rights should be strictly reserved by the Government and the private exploitation of public opinion and the degradation of public entertainment by private radio monopolists terminated. If we do not want Hitlers and Mussolinis to run this country, we must not only prevent their advent to office in our governments but we must prevent them dictating public policy and controllingpublic affairs for self-interest and enrichment to the detriment of the public. For thus the bulwarks of our liberties are to-day being assailed.
Ever since the establishment of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I have been an applicant for a broadcasting licence for the Brisbane Trades and Labour Council, and I have been told that no wave length is available for that body. Although I am not a radio technician I do not believe a word of that, because since my application has been lodged radio stations have been opened under the aegis of the Labour party’s political opponents in various parts of Australia.
– Not in New South Wales.
– The fact remains that, under the present control, one section of the community has not a fair chance over the air. I do not ask for a chain of Labour broadcasting stations, but I claim that the Government should take control of the whole system. When a change of government occurs the Labour party will at least have the same opportunity as its opponents have had.
The Leader of the Senate concluded his speech by expressing the pious hope that broadcasting would not become the plaything of party politics.
– Why “pious”?
– Because that is all that it was. If the Minister believes in the party to which he belongs, he should drop this sneering at party politics, because all members of this Parliament arc adherents of political parties. If he believes in the policy of his party, why sneer at it? I do believe in the policy of my party, and I believe there is nothing equal to it for the interests of this nation. I recall that the Canberra correspondent to the Sydney Morning Herald recently referred to three-card tricksters, and added, “ Not of the political variety “. Such sneering at party politics is ill-advised and wholly unjustifiable. In a leading article regarding this bill on the 21st March, the Sydney Morning Herald stated -
The useful provisions of the hill, including the clarification of the commission’s legitimate sphere of activities, arc so slight that it is haul to understand why tile Government should introduce a broadcasting bill at all, unless it were prepared to carry out thorough-going reforms.
My complaint with regard to the bill is that it will accomplish practically nothing. The only good thing that it will do will be to give to the Government the power to veto decisions of the corn mission in certain circumstances. I had hoped for something better than that. The Opposition accepts the measure for what it is worth, and hopes that before it emerges from die committee stage it will be made more useful than it now is by the addition of certain amendments which tlie Opposition proposes to submit.
In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
After the outbreak of war, a full-time news representative was appointed in London, and the commission also secured a service from the Exchange Telegraph Agency. In April, 1040, the commission dispensed with the Australian Associated Press service which, up to then, had been its main source of overseas news, and purchased the right to re-broadcast any or all British Broadcasting Corporation bulletins in full. For this right it agreed to be responsible for the payment to Australian Associated Press of £3,000 per annum, 1 have never heard of such a racket in nil my life. This Government had to go cap in hand to the press of this country to get the right to broadcast over its own radio stations information which it thinks of importance to the people of this country. “We talk of democracy, yet this is the kind of thing we hear in a secondreading speech by a Minister of State for the Commonwealth ! Then the Minister went on to say - lui If of which was to be contributed by t.he Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations who were thereby entitled to re-broadcast the British Broadcasting Corporation news bulletins.
The Mother of Parliaments, and the great city of London where the British Broadcasting Corporation operates, are anxious to give to Australia news from the centre of the Empire, hut before we can get it we have to subsidize the press of this country. I am not quite sure whether that agreement is still in force. If it is, it is a disgrace to our so-called democracy.
– Like Senator Darcey, the honorable senator wants something for nothing.
– It is a sorry state of affairs if Australia has to go cap in hand to the syndicated press of this country before it can inform the people over the air what is going on in other parts of the world.
I notice that the bill contains a proposal for an increase of the number of members of the commission. In my opinion, an increase, would be anything but satisfactory; J desire to see the commission abolished. The Opposition will have nothing to do with this proposal except in certain circumstances. We are satisfied that five is a. sufficient number of members, and, if that number is to be retained, we wish to see a Labour representative placed on the commission. If the Government increases the membership to seven, wo shall fight for the appointment of two I/a bour men. If, on the other hand, it is intended that thu membership remain at five. Labour shall nsk for one representative. The Government also proposes to stagger the membership of the commission. That is designed deliberately to prevent Labour from ever securing more than one representative on the commission. I am now assuming that the Government intends to give to Labour at least, one representative. In respect of clause 17 the PostmasterGeneral in his second-rending speech said -
This clause has huon framed with the. intention that the commission shall act under the powers conferred on it by the act, and shall only be subject to restraint when any of the actions of the commission are considered to be at variance with national or imperial policy or in conflict with public interest.
I submit that the Government should always have the final say irrespective of the point at issue.
– Whether the commission be right or wrong?
– Of course; surely the Government which creates the commission is superior to its creature.
– Parliament created the commission.
– The Government is merely the executive of the Parliament, and we are merely the executive of the people. Under clause 17 the Governor-General in Council, which means the Cabinet, will be empowered to exercise a veto over the commission, but then the Government proposes to circumscribe the powers of that veto. The Commonwealth Bank Board is analogous to the Broadcasting Commission. I remind honorable senators that the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems stated that, in the final analysis, the Government must lay down policy, and if the Government and the Bank Board cannot come to an agreement upon any point, then the Government’s policy should prevail. I submit, therefore, that in this case the Government should lay down the policy, and itsdecision should be final when its policy conflicts with a decision of the commission.
I now wish to refer to the information supplied by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) when he was Postmaster-General, in reply to a request by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives to bring up to date the return published in Hansard on the 25 th August, 1937, showing the ownership of B-class broadcasting stations. The list supplied by the PostmasterGeneral shows that the ownership of the commercial broadcasting stations is gradually being absorbed into fewer and fewer hands. It gives details of the ownership of the different stations, and reveals the amount of shares which various commercial broadcasting companies own in other broadcasting companies. It is evidence of a complete link-up between the press and the radio in this country. This measure does not deal with B class stations, but I submit that the Government should entirely control broadcasting in this country. At present we have two divisions; first, the national stations; and. secondly, the commercial stations; but already we have ample evidence of a combination between the press and the radio which is dangerous, and, therefore, should be prevented.
Reverting to the commission itself, honorable senators who were here five or six years ago will recall that I then raised some very pertinent questions with regard to the whole subject of broadcasting. I submitted what I considered to be a serious position with regard to the activities of the Broadcasting Commission in Queensland and New South Wales. On that matter I interviewed Mr. Cleary, who is still the chairman of the commission. He received me very courteously. I placed before him what I considered to be a very serious condition of affairs. Anticipating from what I gathered from him that an inquiry would be held into the matter I wrote to him on the 20th August, 1934, as follows: -
Re previous correspondence and interview, I have now to advise you that the following persons desire to appear at the inquiry which you will institute into the position.
It is not necessary to further explain to you my desires in the matter. They were stated in Parliament both by myself and Mr. George Lawson, M.H.R. (Brisbane), and in our interview later with your good self.
With that letter I submitted an enclosure giving the names of six persons in Queensland, and five in New South Wales, who were anxious to give evidence at such an inquiry. On the 29th August, 1934, I received the following reply: -
Mr. Cleary has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your letter enclosing list of persons to whom you referred in your interview with him.
The interest which the commission takes in representations made to it by responsible members of Parliament is evidenced in this case. Up to the 2nd November of the same year it had taken no action in this matter. On that date I forwarded the following letter to Mr. Cleary : -
Further to previous correspondence and with reference to yours of the 20th August last, will you kindly inform me what progress, if any, has been made in connexion with the promised inquiry into administration matters in Queensland and New South Wales.
On the 5th November I received the following reply: -
Bear Senator Collings,
Replying to your letter of the 2nd instant, I brought this matter before the commission, which decided that no further action was called for.
The facts which I placed before the commission on that occasion certainly deserved more than the scant courtesy revealed in the commission’s failure to take action from the 20th August until the 2nd November, and its action in closing the matter with such a curt reply. That is one reason why I submit that we cannot afford to have this great activity controlled by anybody but the government of this country whatever form of government that may be. The whole history of the personnel of the commission condemns the commission itself. Particularly is this criticism justified when one knows the members and their capacity to do their job. None of them possesses the requisite qualifications for the job they arc asked to do.
– They are just as well qualified for the job as members of Parliament.
– I am not a candidate for membership of the commission. I have not the qualifications for the work, but, even so, I could do a better job than some of the members of the commission. In order to emphasize the necessity for the Government to take complete control of this great activity I shall read the following list of office-holders in New South Wales under the commission : -
I have met the- general manager, Mr. Moses. As the result of conversations I have had with him, I think that he is the right man in the right place. The list I read is certainly imposing. I am not a judge of the qualifications of these officials, and I do not criticize them in any way. All I say is that the list is sufficient to indicate the importance of broadcasting operations. It justifies my contention that this activity should be completely under the control of the Government.
I regret that the Government does not propose under the bill to effect a complete re-organization of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We must accept the measure because it goes a step in the direction we desire. However, I hope that the day is not far distant when this Government will see the wisdom of taking full control of all radio activity in this country. If it does not do so, then I hope that a government of another kind will soon effect this long-overdue reform.
– I shall refer to two aspects of the second-reading speech delivered by the Postmaster-General (Senator McLeay). My first reference will be to the emphasis laid by him on education. The honorable gentleman quoted the characteristic statement made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) that the Australian Broadcasting Commission would be composed of men possessing qualities which would ensure that broadcasting would be used, not only for entertainment, but also for the education of the people. I contend that the broadcasting commission is not a medium of education. I admit that it is a medium of entertainment; of the musical selections broadcast some are very good and others not so good. It is a medium for supplying news, which is very heavily censored and, therefore, practically valueless. It is a method of broadcasting censored addresses on various subjects. On the subject of censorship I shall refer to an invitation that was issued by the broadcasting commission, in 1938, to Judge Foster of the County Court of Victoria. He was asked, among others, I assume, to broadcast an address on the freedom of speech, which he consented to do, over station 3AR, Melbourne. The 2nd May, 193S, was the time chosen for the address, which was to be part of a series entitled “ Changing Viewpoints “. Having submitted the manuscript of his address, Judge Foster was invited to discuss it with an official of the Victorian division of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who informed him that large sections of the address, which he specified, must be deleted before the talk could be given. Those sections included passages relating to’ censorship by church and government and to his own personal experience of official interference with th<; liberty of the subject. He proposed to state facts - not mere assumptions, opinions, views, comments or criticism. In the eighth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended the 30th June, 1940. there appears this statement -
Any aspiring speaker may have his scrip read and be given an audition. Most serious subjects are to an extent controversial; in respect of some there is wide and well-marked cleavage of opinion; but the commission lias not hesitated to programme them on that account, lt recognizes the necessity, in the interests of democracy, of stimulating listeners to form their own opinions rather than .adopt standardized opinions.
The body which issued the report containing that passage suppressed facts which cannot, be denied and which have been stated over and over again. Yet the commission claims that it allows freedom of discussion. After having had that interview, Judge Foster wrote to the commission as follows: - f have spent the hours since our interview in thinking over the problems it involved, I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to fit my thoughts on the subject of “Freedom of Speech” within the narrow limits which the restrictions which you so politefully and tactfully indicated allow.
It is a little humorous, perhaps, to contemplate a broadcast on free speech under restrictions that are so obviously a denial of it.
With regrets, I must decline to speak on this subject under the limitations the Australian Broadcasting Commission feels compelled to impose.
I should like my withdrawal to be regarded as a protest against this denial of democratic liberty.
Judge Foster is a man whose standing and probity in the community are equal, and possibly superior, to the standing and probity of Mr. Cleary, who is chairman of the commission. Mr. Cleary, according to the Melbourne Argus, dated Thursday, the 5th May, 1938, said -
He had approved of the censorship which had been applied to Judge Foster’s notes. The address contained an unnecessary attack, he said, and would have had a bad influence on a section of the listening public. It was unnecessarily offensive.
Later I shall read the portions which were censored from Judge Foster’s proposed address, so that, honorable senators will be able to form their own judgment of the bias displayed by Mr. Cleary when lie said that the address was offensive; but, first, I shall give the text on which Judge Foster proposed to make hi.address. I shall quote that text, because 1. consider it appropriate to the times through which we are passing when we have so many persons, who, regarding themselves as the intellectual superiors of their fellows, use the powers they possess to suppress others who would not state opinions in conformity with their own, and then claim to be democrats. Without any hope of my suggestion, being accepted, I submit that Ministers might well have the text of Judge Foster’? proposed address typed and pasted in their bats for reference. Judge Foster proposed to take as the text for his address the following from Milton’s Areopagitica. dated 1644-
Censorship will conduce to the discouragement of all learning and the stop of truth not only by disexercising and blunting our abilities in what we know already, but by hindering and cropping the discovery tli.it. might be yet further made both in religion* and civil wisdom. If the waters of truth flow not in perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.
To create the muddy pool of conformity and tradition is exactly what the Australian Broadcasting Commission would do. The sections objected to in the address proposed to be delivered by Judge Foster read: -
The world owes much to the early Greeks as the originators of liberty of thought and discussion, but by the Middle Ages we find Reason in chains, and a fight for freedom against the powerful opposition or the organized Church of the time that has not been completely won yet.
No particular church was named. Judge Foster decided to state his case as dispassionately and as fairly as one should in the circumstances. It continued: -
The Church’s desire to drive out heresy may have been perfectly well motived, but it nevertheless resulted in enormous physical suffering, as well as a considerable suppression of freedom. Heresy included all matters from opinions about the circulation of the blood - for which, Dr. Harvey was condemned - to the denial of a geocentric universe, for which Galileo suffered imprisonment and worse. As late as the beginning of last century sixteen booksellers in England were in prison at the one time for selling Tom Paine’s Age of Ranson, and as recently as twenty years ago a Victorian publisher was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for publishing a facetious article on a religious topic.
That is what this gentleman, Mr Cleary, decided was offensive and should not be broadcast Another passage which was censored referred to Judge Foster’s personal experiences with a government. What he said is based on fact, because I was present when he was arrainged before the court and charged under the War Precautions Act. Had he not been the capable lawyer that he is possibly he would have been either fined or sentenced to jail. The crown prosecutor at the time, just as crown prosecutors do today, tried to submit as evidence that which was not evidence according to the law, but Judge Foster was able to convince the magistrate of that fact, and the evidence was not allowed. This is what lie had to say about his own experiences : -
During the two conscription campaigns I opposed the Government proposals and engaged myself upon the publicity side of the anti-conscriptionist’s campaign. I thus had an opportunity of becoming acquainted at first hand with the suppressive rigors of the censorship imposed under the War Precautions Act. Concerning these times, Dr. Bean, Dr. Jauncey and Professor Scott have all written, but none of . them has by a long shot estimated the extent and severity of that censorship. Few public men on the anti-conscription side escaped prosecution or conviction, though they, as it turned out, represented the majority of citizens and soldiers. I myself was prosecuted and subjected to a long trial for a speech I made in a city hall, in which I had the audacity to criticize the Prime Minister, the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes. . .
That is another reference which Mr. Cleary describes as offensive. It is a fact, which has been stated over and over again. Yet we are asked by Mr. Cleary and his colleagues to believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission recognizes the necessity in the interests of democracy to stimulate listeners to form their own opinions rather than adopt standard opinions. That was stated in the commission’s report for 1940-41. Judge Foster’s proposed address was censored in 1938, before the war. We are asked to accept the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission as democrats, as the educators of what they regard as public opinion. In his address Judge Foster proposed to say something which is appropriate nowadays, seeing that suppression is being practised with greater severity. Another portion reads -
It is interesting to note in passing that the development of executive action is one of the gravest menaces of democracy, lt was uwu at its worst during the Great War, when the legislative powers of Parliament were largely usurped by the Cabinet. The War Precautions Act had conferred powers on the Government-in-Council to make regulations upon almost any subject. . This power was freely availed of, and laws in the shape oT regulations were turned out over night at secret meetings by Cabinet, sometimes two members only. Under these regulations all the fundamental liberties were curtailed or destroyed ; trial by jury; sanctity of home; habeas corpus, Magna Charta; free speech. The story of some of these regulations would make astounding reading to this generation - but I am to talk about free speech ….
The series of regulations being issued at present will also make astounding reading for generations to come.
– Regulations issued to-day have nothing to do with broadcasting.
– That is absolutely incorrect. All I have said is that in his proposed speech Judge Foster directed attention to what had been done to deny freedom of speech to citizens. He intended to give information based on facts, yet; because he proposed to make those facts public, his speech was censored. That occurred in 193S, before. the war started. From information which I have received, I believe that hundreds of instances of harsh censorship could be cited. I propose to mention another instance to give an idea of the policy that has been followed by those in control of our national stations. Mr. R. W. G. Mackay, who arrived in Australia from England recently, and who, T understand, is a solicitor and a member of the British Labour party holding a very responsible position in the community, proposed to give an address over the air. He submitted the text of his broadcast to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I shall read to the Senate some of the passages which were censored.
– Be fair. The censoring was not done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The honorable senator is making an unfair attack on the commission.
– Judge Foster’s speech was censored on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Mr. Mackay’s speech was to have been delivered over a national station.
– But it was not censored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I fail to see that that makes any difference. I can quite conceive of those responsible for censoring Judge Foster’s proposed address taking similar action with respect to the address which Mr. Mackay proposed to give.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in levelling a charge against the Australian Broadcasting Commission for censoring a speech when actually the censoring was done by the Department of Information? The honorable senator is abusing the privilege he enjoys as a member of this chamber.
– If the censoring was not done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the honorable senator is not in order in proceeding on those lines.
– At the moment I am not making a charge against the Australian Broadcasting Commission other than that Mr. Mackay’s speech which was to be delivered over a national station was censored.
– By whom?
– So far as I know by somebody acting on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– That is not time.
– If it was not censored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or at the direction of the commission, the honorable senator is not in order.
– I rang Mr. R. W. G. Mackay last Saturday morning, and the impression he gave me was that he had submitted his address to representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the ordinary way, and that it had been censored. Mr. Mackay was under the impression that the censoring had been done by persons representing the Australian Broadcasting Commission or acting on its behalf.
– The honorable senator must accept the Minister’s assurance that the censoring was not done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and that being so, the point he is discussing is irrelevant.
– All I know is that a gentleman named Mackay arrived in this country from England recently, and was invited by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast an address. He agreed to do so, and prepared his address in the ordinary way. He submitted the script to persons whom he believed to be acting on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the address was censored. Honorable senators will recall that last week I asked a question in regard to this matter, and the Minister (Senator Foll), in his reply, did not indicate in any way that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not responsible for the censoring. He said, in effect, that, in his opinion, those responsible for censoring the speech had acted rightly. He did not say, as the PostmasterGeneral now says, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not responsible. If the Minister’s action is merely a ruse to prevent me from reading what was censored, I accept it as such, but, viewed in the light of the circumstances in which Judge Foster’s speech was banned, I can quite conceive of those responsible for censoring Judge Foster’s speech acting in the same way with regard to Mr. Mackay’s speech. I shall observe the ruling that the matter is out of order.
I contend that the rigid censorship of broadcast matter both before the war. and since the outbreak of the war, is unduly harsh. I do not know whether the responsibility lies with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, with the .Department of Information, or with anybody else.
– I again rise to a point of order. Censoring is not done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but by the military authorities in conjunction with the Department of Information. It is unfair of the honorable senator to make an attack upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the way he is.
- Senator Cameron is pursuing a border-line argument. At the moment he is dealing with censorship generally, and that has some relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Surely I am in order in dealing with the case of Judge Foster.
– Although I am speaking under privilege, I remind honorable senators that the Australian Broadcasting Commission denied a privilege to Judge Foster, and thus abused its privilege in a. manner that cannot possibly be justified. It is necessary for me to speak under a privilege in order that these matters may be ventilated. Should the occasion demand it, I would not hesitate to speak outside this chamber and without the protection of privilege, in more forcible terms than I am now employing. The arguments which I am now putting forward in this chamber are based on facts. When the Postmaster-General tells me that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not responsible for censoring Mr. Mackay’s address. I have still to learn that that is
– The honorable senator must accept the Minister’s assurance.
– I accept it under duress. I should like to point out that after Judge Foster’s proposed address had been censored by those responsible for deciding what is fit for the ears of the public, the Melbourne Herald and other papers published every word of it. The newspapers are supposed to reflect public opinion. ‘ Those in control of broadcasting in this country would have us believe that they are democrats, and are quite impartial. I think it was the late Mr. G. K. Chesterton who said that no man could be impartial without honestly confessing that he was partial. I commend that thought to Mr. Cleary. The policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has not been to educate the people. Educate means to draw out the best that is in a person; not merely to instruct; to inform; not merely to plant in the minds of people ideas which it is thought should be held, or, in other words, to create a community of animated phonograph records, without the capacity to do independent or original thinking. But, apparently, the people are only to be permitted to listen to what these gentlement think is fit to be heard. Facts, not merely views or opinions, but facts, that they do not like, they would suppress, and listeners would become second editions or echoes of those in charge of the Australian Broadcasting Commission If the Australian Broadcasting Commission has no real idea of what, education really means, I submit this for their consideration: Education means training men and women to think for themselves; not merely to repeat their views or my views, or to express ideas which are second-hand. People cannot be taught to think unless they have the facts to study for and against. Another aim of education, is to establish the relationship between cause and effect - the pros and cons - but our broadcasting dictatorship does not propose to do that. It would not permit Judge Foster to state his case. It suppressed the facts that he would have stated.
– There must be discrimination between liberty and licence.
– The honorable senator’s interjection reminds me of an alliterative and true statement of the late John Burns; “ Most people are slaves of shibboleths and prisoners of phrases “. I suggest that when the honorable senator makes an interjection of that sort he is either a slave of shibboleths or a prisoner of phrases. If the Australian Broadcasting Commission were an educational body, it would do a great deal more than it has attempted by encouraging persons to study the problems of life in the light of the evolutionary process through which we are passing. Let one liston to speeches or lectures broadcast by the commission’s stations. I do not refer to text-book lectures which are useful in their way. No attempt is made to deal with the problems of life. We are now engaged in a war unprecedented in the history of the world. The commission deals wholly with the effects of the war and not the causes. If any person proposed to give in a radio talk any idea of the causes of the war and stated the fact’s ascertained from the best authorities, I suggest that that person would not be permitted to speak from the commission’s stations. ‘Che PostmasterGeneral stated at the conclusion of his second-reading speech -
Honorable senators will admit that during the past niue years enormous development has taken place and that despite whatever mistakes may have been made, the Broadcasting Commission has never allowed party politics to influence its deliberations. I hope, therefore, that in view of its great national and international importance broadcasting will never become the plaything of party politics.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission is not the plaything of party politics; it is the instrument of party politics. The commission is a creation of a party government. Most of its members are famous or infamous for the stand they have taken against the Labour party. In my opinion, party politics in the light of the, circumstances in which we are living, is a better proposition than a dictatorship similar to that of Germany
Or Italy. Australia would have a dictatorship if we did not have party politics.
– Which party had the advantage during the last election?
– The party to which, the honorable senator belongs and it got the advantage through the medium of the broadcasting stations.
– That statement is not true.
– The party to which the honorable senator belonged faked the records broadcast during the last election. One of its slogans was “ Vote for Labour and lose the war “. Another was “ Labour fiddles while London burns “.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not discussing the subject-matter of the bill.
– The electors gave the honorable senator his answer in New South Wales. Party politics is a necessary state of affairs under existing conditions. In my judgment party politics originated about 1215 when the struggle between King John and the barons and serfs led to Magna Carta.
– Order ! The honorable senator must address himself to the subject-matter of the bill.
– I do not think that any member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission would deny that at some time or other, particularly before his or her appointment, he or she was closely associated with the Ministerial party.
– That statement is unfair and untrue.
– The chairman of the commission is William James Cleary, B.Ec. I have read many of the statements that he has made whileoccupying that responsible position, and I am convinced that he was closely associated with . the Government that appointed him.
– On a point of order, I contend that the honorable senator is again abusing his privilege. The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has never been associated with any political, party. For tcn years he was a lecturer for the workers’ educational movement at Sydney University.
– That does not make any difference. The vicechairman is Edward Charles Rigby, C.B.E. The woman member is Elizabeth May Ramsay Couchman, O.B.E., B.A. I had vivid recollections of that lady’s political activities. Other members are Richard James Fildes Boyer, M.A., and Sinclair James McGibbin, F.C.A. The members of the commission should not be ashamed to admit that they believe in one party as opposed to another and act accordingly. I repeat again that I have no criticism to offer of the musical items selected by the commission. I believe it does a good job in that branch of its activity. As a medium of entertainment the musical items are very good. The news given over the commission’s stations is heavily censored and that, I think, causes discriminating persons to suspect its accuracy. The text-book addresses are useful. I am prepared to give credit where credit is due, but when I am told that the commission educates the people in the true meaning of the word “ educates “, I reply that the facts are otherwise. The commission may inform and instruct the people, but it does not educate them, because it attempts to suppress all ideas contrary to its own. I trust that with the passing of this hill some improvements will be made in the direction which I have indicated. In time of war there is a tendency to suppress all views which conflict with those held by persons in authority.
– Views which interfere with the war effort.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– It would not do to let the honorable senator be the judge.
– I am as capable of judging these things as is the honorable senator and my opinion is worth as much as his. All I ask is that he shall have the same privileges as I have, and that he shall be as free to place his views before the people as I am. I am content to let the people be the judges. He, however, asks that his opinions shall be stated and mine suppressed. That is what the commission is doing.
– What else can the interjection of the honorable senator about interference with the war effort mean? If I challenge the Government in relation to its policy with respect to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, does that interfere with the war effort?
– If I challenge the Government in connexion with its financial policy as I shall challenge it, does that constitute interference with the war effort? If the policy to which the commission seems to be committed is to be given full effect, we may find ourselves denied the right to speak in this chamber, in which event we should be in no better position than that which exists in the totalitarian countries, where the broadcasting stations express the views of the few who speak in support of the state and suppress all other views. The reason why the British Empire stands head and shoulders above other empires is that Britishers have fought for freedom of speech since long before the time of Milton. The result is that we have an empire for which we are prepared to fight; it is a better empire than any other. Nevertheless, some of our subordinate governing institutions would suppress the very liberty on which the empire is based.
– The honorable senator is drawing on his imagination.
– I am not. Mr. Mackay, a responsible member of the British Labour party, has expressed astonishment at the degree to which freedom of speech, particularly through the medium of the press and the broadcasting stations, is restricted in Australia. He says that there is nothing like so much restriction in Great Britain. Certainly, I have not heard of any woman in England with a baby in her arms being given six months imprisonment, as happened to a woman in Geraldton recently because she made some stupid statement about the integrity of the empire.
– Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I submit, Mr. President, that my remarks are relevant to the bill, because the commission is guilty of attempts to suppress freedom of speech. I should like to know how many other addresses have been censored to the degree that Judge Foster’s speech suffered. Information along those lines would make illuminating reading. Even if the Labour Party cannot obtain the information now, it may be able to do so later on. In a changing world it is possible that some changes for the better may take place sooner than some people imagine. The day may soon come when people whose views are now ‘being suppressed will be able to find out these things, and as in New Zealand, may be able to suppress their suppressors.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the discussion on this bill. Since hearing the speech of the Minister who introduced it, I have studied the measure carefully. Two years ago there was a complaint in this Chamber that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was neglecting Australian artists and paying high salaries to artists from overseas, and therefore I am glad to find that, whereas last year the commission paid £26,810 to visiting artists, the amount paid to Australian artists was £279,580. That proves conclusively that the complaints made here have had some effect in encouraging Australian art. Since the Australian Broadcasting Commission was appointed, there have been great developments in connexion with broadcasting. The commission has had at its disposal considerable sums of money. In 1932 the number of licences gran-ted to listeners was 362,936; to-day it is 1,268,130. Those figures show that the commission is instructing the people as well as entertaining them. People of all ages, from the kindergarten stage onward, can obtain valuable information, which should be of great ‘benefit to them, by listening to the various sessions of the commission’s programme. Already there is one lady on the commission, and if two more members are to be appointed I suggest that one of them should be a lady. There is a strong body of opinion in my State in favour of that being done. Women understand children, and an additional woman member of the commission would be able to suggest programmes which would be of benefit to them. I agree with those who say that as only one political party is represented on the commission the Labour Party also is entitled to representation. I do not wish to introduce politics into the control of the commission, but it seems to me that the strongest party in this chamber should have some say in the making of appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I observe that the chairman is to be appointed for three years’ and is to be eligible for reappointment;
That, I , believe, is the usual provision. I often wonder what the emoluments of the members of the commission amount to when all payments to them are taken into consideration. I have in mind the amounts paid to members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I know Mr. Moses, the general manager of the commission, and some members of the commission. Mr. Orchard is an old friend of mine. He has done good work. I hope that two more appointments will be made to the commission, and that one of them will be a woman. In these days women are doing the work of men to a greater degree than formerly. They frequently complain that they are not paid at the same rates as men. In some respects the women of Australia are showing up better than the men. I should like to see another woman on the commission if additional appointments are “being made.
.- Following my usual practice, my remarks on this bill will be brief. I stand, and have always stood, for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is a. national body unlike the B class stations, which are controlled by private enterprise and used to the detriment of the Labour party. Both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, I have heard the commission strongly criticized. During the last 25 years nonLabour governments have been in control of the Commonwealth, and during that period every appointment has been made from the Tanks of the parties which support the Government.
– That is not so.
– I knew Mr. Cleary, the chairman of the commission, when he was connected with the Railways Department of New South Wales. He did excellent work in that capacity. I repeat that every appointment made by the present Government has been made from among its supporters. It has been a case of the spoils of war being shared with its friends. There is nothing wrong with that. If I were Prime Minister, and certain positions had to be filled, a good many of them would go to the members of my party. The Government should be just as frank, and admit that most of the appointments that it has made have been from among its own supporters.
Mrs. Couchman is an excellent woman with a great capacity for work, but in a political capacity I have found her one of the foulest opponents against whom I have ever waged a campaign. This woman, who is an organizer for the Australian Women’s National League, came into my electorate in Bendigo with her organization and maligned me in every part of it. She led the fight against me. She is now a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The proposal that the number of members of the commission should be increased from five to seven leaves me cold. I can see in it no likelihood of gain to my party. The membership of the commission is to he increased from five to seven, and one of the new appointees is to be a representative of Labour. I have yet to learn from what section of the community the seventh nominee will be drawn. I suggest that he should be a representative of the working journalists. So long as a man with a keen news and literary sense be appointed, his services will be most useful to the commission.
With Senator Darcey I am pleased to learn that at long last a big proportion of the fees disbursed by the commission is being paid to Australian artists. Generally speaking, perhaps, details of fees paid to artists should not be published; but when an honorable senator asks for details of fees paid to a certain individual such information should be given.
On page 12 of the eighth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission appears the following: -
After the outbreak of war a full-time news representative was appointed in London, and the commission also secured a service from the Exchange Telegraph Agency. In April, l!)40, the commission dispensed with the Australian Associated Press service which up to then had been its main source of overseas news, and purchased the right to re-broadcast any or all British Broadcasting Corporation bulletins in full. For this right it agreed to be responsible for the payment to Australian Associated Press of £3,000 per annum, half of which was to be contributed by the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, who were thereby entitled to rebroadcast the British Broadcasting Corporation news bulletins. It was then no longer handicapped by having to keep back overseas news until it had appeared in the newspapers.
A cable service from New York still further enriched the news service to Australian listeners.
The bulk of the Australian news is still taken from newspapers but is now re-written in suitable broadcast form.
Shortly after the war broke out I pointed out in this chamber that the British Broadcasting Corporation had indicated its willingness to supply a service covering the latest war news to Australia in common with other dominions. At that time the news was very grave. It was broadcast for a while for two or three nights a week. But suddenly that service was discontinued; and the allegation was made in this chamber, on very reliable grounds, that it had been abandoned as the result of action by the press interests in this country for tlie obvious reason that if such news were broadcast every evening very little fresh war news would be available for publication by the daily papers. I sincerely hope that the re-constituted commission will revive that service.
Some months ago the commission appointed a commentator to cover directly political happenings in Canberra. That gentleman has done an excellent job. Quite recently two important announcements were made in this Parliament dealing, first, with the arrival of the Japanese ambassador, and, secondly, the arrival in Sydney of a squadron of the American navy. Each of those events was of sufficient importance to warrant an adjournment of this Parliament. Japan is a country with which we are desirous of establishing the greatest friendship. On each occasion important speeches were delivered by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) and by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin). Those events presented a golden opportunity from a news point of view to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s commentator in Canberra. However, he was allowed only ten minutes in which to deal with those matters, and that brief opportunity was provided at 10.30 p.m. when the majority of theatre-zoe-.s had not returned home, and those who remained indoors for the night had gone to bed. Every honorable senator, irrespective of party, has objected to this ostracism of reports of important debates in this Parliament. In contrast, we read in the Melbourne daily press columns of reports of debates in the State Parliament. If the Victorian Parliament imposes a tax on bulls, the Melbourne press devotes half a column to the matter. I have not the slightest doubt that the press of this country, as well as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, is deliberately ostracizing reports of debates in the Federal Parliament. By that method the belief of Australians generally in our democratic form of government is weakened. I say, therefore, to the controllers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that greater opportunity should be afforded to broadcast news of proceedings of this Parliament. I have not the slightest doubt that the debate in this chamber to-day will be covered in less, than six inches in the whole of the press of Australia to-morrow. However, when the race-horse, Ajax, was sold at auction for only £6,500, columns of space were given in every newspaper to reports dealing with that fact. This policy is adopted with a view to weakening the belief of Australians in our system of government. I support the present form of control of our national broadcasting services. I again urge that the personnel of the commission should be representative of all sections of the community. This organization can render great service to the National Parliament of Australia in the way I have just outlined. The officers of the commission are doing a good job. The commission has rendered a valuable service to the community in establishing permanent orchestras, thus providing employment for musicians who would not otherwise have a job, and at the same time, raising the standard of music in this country. I have found many of the lectures broadcast from national stations of the greatest educational value. Such facilities are proving of the greatest value to young students in this country. Many men in the Labour movement are well qualified for appointment to the commission, in which capacity, I have no doubt, they would render signal service to Australia. I again suggest that the seventh member of the commission should bc chosen as a representative of the working journalists of Australia.
– I support the bill. I agree with my leader that it can be greatly improved in many respects. I am an enthusiastic listenerin. A great service can be rendered internationally through the proper use of broadcasting. As I have said on previous occasions, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is doing a very good job. Apart from those improvements to the measure which the Opposition will seek to effect in the committee stages, I propose to offer several suggestions for the improvement of broadcasting services. The people of northern Tasmania are not being given as good a service as they arn entitled to. Another station in addition to 7NT should be established in northern Tasmania. The reception from the two stations in Hobart is bad. Because of the great metallic belt running from east to west of the island, interference from static in Launceston is so bad that it is impossible to listen-in to either of tho-.e stations. However, as two-thirds of the population of Tasmania is situated in the north and north-west, a better broadcasting service should be established to serve that area. The listening panels could be asked to do more work than they are doing at the present time. The panel in Tasmania does not understand the requirements of the listeners-in. Most, people in the populous centres in Tasmania are able to go home from their work to lunch every day. From noon until 2 p.m., however, the national broadcast service consists of market, and stock and share reports. These are of no interest to the average man. Again, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. the national programmes consist of sporting results, weather reports and such things as rifle club notes. In place of such items it. would he far more preferable, particularly in the case of Tasmania, to provide musical programmes at such hours. Whereas on the mainland most workers in the metropolitan areas do not return home until 7 p.m., the evening dinner in Tasmania is usually from 5.30 p.m. until 6.30 p.m. Consequently, the conditions obtaining on the mainland are not applicable to .Tasmania. The commission, therefore, should study local conditions. This can best be done by the listening panel, to which I suggest a representative of the working classes should be appointed. I believe that the national stations are presented with their best opportunity to provide entertainment on Sunday afternoons and Sunday evenings after church. At present, however, at these hours the programmes are noticeably poor in comparison with those provided at the same time by B-class stations. My ideal programme is one which satisfies the majority. For instance, the session “ Do you know music 1 “, although it is acceptable to me, because I take an interest in music as a subject, does not accord with the desires of the majority of listeners, who are not interested in who wrote this or that piece of music. The majority want light entertainment, especially on Sunday, which is about the only time that they have available for entertainment. The Sunday programmes should be composed of popular entertainments.
Some time ago I raised the question of the need for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to conduct Australia-wide competitions. In his second-reading speech, the Minister said -
Radio play competitions were held. A playreading and advising department was created to search for and develop talent by advice and otherwise. The result of this policy has not only been to bring about a great improvement in the standard of play-writing and production, but has led to a remarkable development of Australian- talent. Some idea of the work involved may be had-
I believe in those competitions, but in my opinion the commission should also conduct singing, band, and instrumental competitions. Annual Australia-wide competitions, conducted under the auspices of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, would be of great value. State competitions are now held and there are also some so-called Australian competitions, but there are no recognized championships of Australia in the various branches of music. The commission should issue a certificate bearing its own seal and the emblem of Australia to the champion of each section in the musical field. The successful contestants would be given contracts and those worthy of further education would be sent overseas in order to receive further tuition as the prize for their efforts in the competitions. I hope that that suggestion will be favorably considered.
The Minister’s second-reading speech referred also to broadcasts for schools. He said -
Before the commission was appointed in 1932, there were no broadcast services for school children, except for some experimental work done for a few months in Victoria. The commission appointed special school broadcasts officers in most States, and was fortunate, eventually, in securing the fullest cooperation from the State and private educational bodies throughout Australia. As a result this important branch of its work has developed greatly. Last year the number of schools regularly listening totalled 1,900, and it is estimated that the number of children listening to the school broadcasts was about 100,000.
I and my sons have listened on numerous occasions to those education broadcasts, which are good. The only objection I have is that the schools are required to pay the wireless licence-fees. That is unjust. There are 1,900 schools which scholars listen to those educational broadcasts and the least that the Government should do is grant them free licences. The licence-fees are paid, not by the scholars, but by the parents’ and friends’ associations which conduct concerts and other entertainments in aid of school funds. Not much revenue would be lost in giving the concession of free licences to 1,900 schools.
The A.B.C. Weekly is a wonderful journal, which has made great progress since the first issue, but I think that it is capable of expansion. I believe also that it could be issued free to every holder of a wireless licence. Not long .ago, in Tasmania, I conducted at a profit a journal which was issued free. The profit resulted from payments for advertisements. The A.B.C. Weekly, with a circulation of 1,212,581 readers, could be made the greatest advertising medium in Australia. The facilities with which to make it such are available, except, of course, the scarcity of paper might prevent the project from being put into operation immediately. The Commonwealth Government could allow the distribution of the A.B.C. Weekly through the post free of postage. In my opinion, the wider distribution of the A.B.C. Weekly as a free publication would be a great stimulus to education, to broadcasting and to the reading public. When the necessary paper supplies are available, the distribution of the A.B.C. Weekly on a free basis should be given a trial. I give a guarantee that the journal could be conducted at a substantial profit on those lines even if postage had to be paid.
Another important phase of broadcasting matter is the operations of the bushranging organization known as the Australasian Performing Eight Association. The annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission states -
There has been little change in the position since the last report. The commission has continued to pay the Australasian Performing Right Association at the rate fixed in 1938. The commission contends that this rate, especially when taken in conjunction with fees paid by commercial stations to the Australasian Performing Right Association, is much higher than is justified, having regard to payments made by comparable organizations in England, Canada, New Zealand, and certain other countries. Being interested in music and having conducted at various functions in Tasmania, I have come in conflict with the Australasian Performing Right Association. Even a person who plays records at a skating rink has to pay tribute to it. I see no reason whatever why the organization should be allowed to exist in Australia. I recognize that a copyright should last for a few years, but I refuse to concede the right of anybody to obtain perpetual copyright in order to suck the lifeblood of the community merely by altering a few words in the copyright matter. The Government has the power under the National Security Act or will have the power under the proposed legislation, if it cares to take it, to regulate payments to the Australasian Performing Right Association, and in future the Government, on the advice of the Broadcasting Commission, should from time to time issue regulations stipulating the fees to which the Australasian Performing Right Association should be entitled. Those payments should be small. I am an enthusiastic listener-in, and I think that the Broadcasting Commission is doing very good work, but I sincerely suggest that it should take cognizance of the views and the suggested amendments of the Labour party, which would make for better working and greater interest in the commission’s activities.
– The bill is a step in the direction of meeting the views of the Labour party on broadcasting namely, that the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be finally vested in Parliament through a responsible Minister. Whenever criticism has been levelled against the Broadcasting Commission I have felt that it should have been levelled, not so much against the commission as against the Government itself, because, although the Government disclaims any authority over the commission, in reality, the commission’s actions are largely dictated by the Government. I believe that the incident related by .Senator Cameron was the fault of the Government rather than the commission. Our view is that parliamentary responsibility should not be delegated completely to any board or commission, and that all boards and commissions should be under the direction of a Minister.
It is unnecessary to increase the membership of the commission from five to seven in order to give representation to Labour. The term of the present commission will expire on the 30th June next, and, although I have nothing against any of the present members, the re-constitution of the commission would provide a splendid opportunity to appoint a Labour man qualified to go on to the commission without increasing the number. That is what the Government should have done. I trust that the bill will be passed.
– I am perfectly sure that all honorable senators were interested to hear of the progress being made in the various programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but, as one who has brought this matter up before, I think that this bill does not go quite far enough. In that respect I am very disappointed. In the first place, I should like to have seen the bill provide for taking over all technical services associated with broadcasting. I have advocated that course in this chamber on previous occasions. At present, the commission depends on the services of the Postmaster-General’s Department for carrying on many important functions including the dissemination of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s war news and various educational features broadcast from London. All phases of broadcasting, including issue of licences and technical services, should be under the direct control of a full time commission, and not merely a part time commission as we have at present. I understand that the existing commission has not sufficient work to do in regard to broadcasting, and I cannot understand why the Government proposes to increase the personnel from five to seven. In my opinion, the commission should consist of three practical men who have made, or are making, a full study of the whole subject of broadcasting. It is far too important to be guided or influenced by a part time body, however efficient or expert it may be. That applies not only to technical services of broadcasting, but also to research into broadcasting which I consider has not been given sufficient attention. In the realm of broadcasting science, changes occur almost daily, and I would like to see the Australian Broadcasting Commission give greater attention to research by the employment of experts from such advanced countries as the United States of America or Great Britain, so that we could build up in Australia a broadcasting technique which would be the envy of all nations. That will not be accomplished until all phases of broadcasting are regulated and governed by a small full-time board of say three persons.
– Is the honorable senator also speaking of “ B “ class stations ?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.No, I am dealing with national broadcasting. “ B “ class stations are in a totally different category.
With respect to the broadcast of news bulletins, Western Australia is very much handicapped by atmospheric inductions on the land line from Port Augusta to the west, and instead of the commission making profits on its operations as it has done, I should like to see some money expended on the improvement of that land line and other technical adjustments. Listeners in Western Australia are unable to tune in to stations in the other States, and, with the exception of those who are able to afford dual wave receivers, we are entirely dependent for our programmes which come over the land line from Port Augusta. Despite replies which I have received from the Postmaster-General in relation to this matter, I urge that some of the profits made by the commission be devoted to the improvement of the land line for the benefit of Western Australian listeners.
Another matter concerning news broadcasts which I have already mentioned in this chamber concerns the splitting up of the 7 pAn. news programme from Sydney, which we in Western Australia hear at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I admit that the commission must have some regard for the Australian Associated Press to which it is indebted for news items, the collection of which has to be paid for. It is not right to impinge upon the work of the Australian Associated Press, but many Australian news items are denied to Western Australian listeners until the following morning. The news programme starts with the overseas news, which is followed by national items of general interest and a commentary upon the overseas news by some eminent authority, usually a professor at one of our universities. Listeners in the eastern States then hear the Australian news, but that is not broadcast to Western Australia. Many items in that section of the programme, including important announcements made by Commonwealth Ministers, would be of just as much interest to the citizens of Western Australia as they are to the people of New South Wales or Victoria, and I cannot understand why the programme given to the eastern States should not be relayed to Western Australia in its entirety. Many persons in the back-blocks and mining areas of Western Australia rarely see a newspaper and depend entirely upon radio for their news. Those persons are as much entitled to receive news immediately it is broadcast as are citizens in other parts of the Commonwealth. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to arrange for the entire news bulletin to be transmitted .to Western Australia.
Another matter concerning new3 to which I should like to direct attention is that of broadcasts from the United States of America. The last broadcast we heard from that country was President Roosevelt’s famous speech, and listeners were thrilled to hear that wonderful radio voice saying words with farreaching international implications. There are many other interesting broadcasts which dual-wave sets receive, but which are denied to the ordinary radio listener here, and I am sure they would be of great interest and value to the Australian public. Whilst the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to be complimented on the improved quality of programmes, including many educational commentaries which are being received from the British Broadcasting Corporation, I should like to sec a similar service arranged with the National Broadcasting Corporation of America. I am sure that such a service would be very much appreciated by listeners in Australia.
I repeat that I fail to understand why the Government has seen fit to increase the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which I understand has not nearly enough work to do now, and I object very strongly to the proposal that a nominee of a political party should be appointed. I hope that the Government will maintain its policy of disregarding the political affiliations of any man who is appointed either to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or to any other commission. I would be loath to see the Government make an appointment from, say, the Trades Hall group or any other political group. Such political affiliations should not be a condition precedent to an appointment to this or any other commission. No political movement in Australia has a right to be represented on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I would sooner see a nominee of, say, the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia appointed, because Such a representative would be more entitled to a place on the body controlling our national broadcasting service than a political nominee. I would not object to the appointment of a nominee of, say, Australian journalists or literary men, but to suggest that the
Trades Hall is entitled to representation is just as logical as saying on behalf of our Scottish friends that a man of the Presbyterian persuasion should be appointed. I am opposed to the appointment of a representative of any political group or movement, whether it be the Australian Labour party or the United Australia party, and I object to the suggestion that by increasing the personnel of the commission there will be room for such a nominee. The bill does not go far enough in the matter of the technical services of broadcasting, and I hope that the Government will tackle that problem in the very near future.
– in reply - I do not propose to speak at any length because the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has foreshadowed amendments which will be moved in committee. I appreciate the favorable references which have been made to the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to the advancement made in broadcasting generally, but I regret that an attempt was made by some honora’ble senators to criticize unfairly certain members of the commission. To those honorable senators who raised the question of the amount paid to the Australian Associated Press for copyright, I would point out that the Australian Associated Press has the press and radio copyright of Reuters news supplied to the British Broadcasting Corporation. The Australian Broadcasting Commission arranged for the use of that news for a payment of £3,000, half of which is collected from the commercial stations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator MOLEAY’ l ead a first time.
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend section 29b of the Crimes Act 1914-1937. That section makes it an offence to impose or endeavour to impose upon the Commonwealth by any untrue representation, made either verbally or in writing, with a. view to obtaining money or any other benefit or advantage. At first sight the words “ made either verbally or in writing “ may appear to cover all possible methods of making untrue representation, but that is not the case. An untrue representation resulting in fraud may be made by false conduct, and this would not be covered by the section by reason of the specific reference to the representation being made either verbally or in writing. The bill proposes to amend the section by omitting the words, “ either verbally or in writing”, and inserting in their stead the words, “ in any manner whatsoever “. The bill is to be made retrospective to the 3rd September, 1939.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
Restoration of Weekly Shipping Ser vice to Cairns - Firearms Regulations - Petrol Rationing - Telephone Directories - National Credit - Munition Annexes - Government Securities and Treasury-bills.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland-
Leader of the Opposition) [10.19]. - On the 14th of March I received the following telegram from the Mayor of Cairns, an important centre in northern Queensland : -
Public meeting inclusive public bodies and strongly representative of commercial and industrial life this district held Cairns Wednes day 12th inst. to consider matters prejudicially affecting the city and district at the present time and for purpose of immediately representing to the Government the extremely serious situation which has developed as a result of the drift of population from Cairns and district to southern centres on account of munition manufacturers and other wartime activities there. Unemployment in this city and its immediate environs estimated to approximate one thousand men and unless measures are taken to rectify theposition by a tangible recognition immediately of the claims of this highly productive area the general set back to all industry would prove disastrous to many. Meeting entered emphatic protest against termination’ of northern voyage at Townsville of weekly passenger and insulated vessels resulting in great inconvenience of passengers and deprivation of service to importers shippers comprising principally primary producers and further affecting waterside workers and general traders. Such shipping service offers the only refrigerated space available for our butter and meat industries which necessarily in their business incorporate interstate and intra-state activities with their export trade. Respectively suggested that restoration of weekly shipping service be made to Cairns in evidence of an appreciation of our difficulties and urgent significance to this community.
The city of Cairns has a. population of 15,200. The exports and imports in the year 1939 were : Exports 141,000 tons, imports 89,000 tons, a total of 230,000 tons. The gross cash receipts of Cairns Harbour Board for 1907 were £12,795, but in 1939 they were £67,091. The value of the production in 1939 of the area served by the port of Cairns was as follows : -
Those figures have been taken from the 34th annual report and statement of the Cairns Harbour Board. I suggest that this is a serious matter worthy of sympathetic consideration by the Government. I shall hand the telegram to the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) and I trust that he will refer it and my representations to Cabinet.
– I desire to discuss the regulation of the use of firearms in Australia. On the 12th December last I asked a question in the Senate on the subject. From the information that I have gathered I consider that in time of war there is insufficient control in the States to govern effectively the use of firearms allowed for the protection of employees engaged in establishments where firearms are registered as protective weapons. I consider that the regulations should be tightened. All firearms must be registered and the Commonwealth Government plays an important part in that respect but it does not deal with the use of firearms after registration. I have been approached by scores of people in Launceston and I have received a large number of letters asking me to assist in bringing about the tightening of the regulations governing the use of firearms in the interests of the protection of employees in business houses. Some of the States have regulations governing the use of firearms but I consider that all regulations in operation now should be overhauled by the Commonwealth authorities. 1 shall cite a specific case to support my representations. A young man, Allan Green, was at work ait his desk in a Launceston bank when one of his colleagues, a junior, walked behind him. Green heard the command “ Put them up “ and then a revolver was discharged and he was shot, the bullet passing through his chest. A large number of the letters I have received refer to this accident and I shall read only six or seven of the shortest of them. They are as follows: -
I have been in close touch with a case over here in Launceston where a young fellow by the name of Allan Green was accidentally shot while on duty in a certain bank, by a junior of the bank staff.
Since the affair, it has seemed strange to me that such a thing could happen. Would the law allow a weapon to be in the possession of a junior? If not, should it have been about where an irresponsible person could easily pick it up?
Being in close touch with the young fellow Green all through his many months of hospital treatment, and knowing what a desperate fight he and the doctors had for his life, and the very heavy expense to the father, I feel that if the law does not provide for a stricter supervision of firearms, it would be a distinct service to the community if you or someone could take the matter up in the House and secure greater security for those who, like young Green, might be future victims of the indiscretions of others.
I tender this suggestion in what I feel to be the best interests of employees who have to work in places where firearms are a necessary part of the business equipment.
In view of the serious shooting accident which occurred in the Bank of Australasia in this city some months ago, and considering the suffering and agony the victim, Allan Green, has gone through, I am of the opinion the law in respect to the use of firearms should be reviewed with the object of safeguarding the lives and persons of those employees engaged in establishments where firearms are registered ns protective weapons.
Can I be informed please, what steps the Government arc taking to fully protect employees in respect to the use of firearms? My reason for desiring this information is that, although I have watched the newspapers since the occurrence, I have not yet seen any reference as to what action has been taken relative to the case of a youth named Allan Green being wounded in a Launceston bank some months ago through the indiscriminate use of firearms.
I am strongly of the opinion that adequate steps should be taken to more fully protect employees as far as the use of firearms is concerned.
am writing to you as a representative of the people. A friend of mine, Allan Green by name, was shot and badly wounded by a youth in the bank in which he was employed and very seriously injured, after over four months he recovered, the expense of which his parents had to bear.- I understand, they have not yet received compensation of any kind which he is entitled to as a worker under the laws of the country, also it is almost twelve months since it happened, yet the police themselves do not seem to be doing anything about holding an inquiry into it but just letting your laws slide. It is bad enough for his parents to have to bear the strain of their loved one’s sickness without having to bear the expense which he is supposed to be covered from.
Hoping you can do something for this family.
I have noticed in your Tasmanian paper the Examiner of 19th December, 1940, where you have brought before the notice of the Trades Hall, a serious shooting affair which happened in a Launceston bank, and I am lead to understand by the way it is printed that the parents of the victim have not only had the anxiety of such a serious illness brought upon them by indiscriminate people, but have had to meet a tremendous financial strain. These circumstances seem to me to be grossly unjust, and if the injuries were received on the bank’s premises, I do not think the bank concerned is acting with the principals we are fighting for at the present time. I therefore consider asking you as a Senator to bring this bank to ite senses in respect to justice.
I have been trying to contact you for some time but unfortunately failed, hence my letter now.
It is in reference to an occurrence in the Bank of Australasia where a youth named Allan Green was seriously wounded by a revolver, while on duty, by another employee.
I do not know the law in respect to registration of revolvers, but I do think this case warrants a tightening up of the act so as to prevent firearms being used by irresponsible persons.
Green was eight months in hospital and for four months no hope was held out for his recovery. The medical, hospital and other expenses cost his parents £3S0 and until I took action they could not obtain compensation from the bank. Eventually the bank made an offer of £298.
– Was he insured ?
– I understand that he was covered by insurance. He made a statement which did not suit the bank manager, who thereupon deleted a portion and substituted another paragraph which he told the boy he must sign otherwise he would not get any compensation. I understand that the bank manager said that he would get £25 compensation from the insurance company.
– Was it an accident?
– There has been no public inquiry into the occurrence, and therefore the boy who did the shooting may be under the shadow of suspicion. I believe that it was an accident.
– The local police must have made some inquiries?
– They probably did so. I understand that they did not ask the boy who was shot for a statement until some months later, because until then he was not in a position to make a statement. For months he hovered between life and death. My point is that the Commonwealth Government should make inquiries into the State regulations governing fire-arms with a view to giving greater protection to employees in industry.
– That is the function of the State.
– It is the function of the State up to a certain point, but the
Commonwealth Government, under the powers conferred on it by the National Security Act, has made regulations governing many things. It has recently introduced a bill to deal with people guilty of fraud and negligence in respect of certain acts and it could go further to protect employees against injury from fire-arms.
– How could employees be protected against accident?
– A revolver which is registered should be in charge of some responsible person. In this case the revolver should not have been left lying on the counter where it was available for use by any irresponsible person who saw it. If the regulations governing fire-arms in Tasmania are lax, the Commonwealth Government should take action not only in the interests of persons whose lives may be in danger but also as a precaution against the activities of “fifth columnists “.
– What would the State government say to that?
– I am not a State member, and I cannot help what the State Government thinks. I have been requested to bring this matter before the Commonwealth Government with a view to protecting employees in industry.
– What about protecting the employers also?
– I understand that in this case the revolver was registered in the name of the employer. I imagine that an employee would have some difficulty in obtaining a licence to carry fire-arms.
– The revolver would be for use by the staff in case of need.
– That may be; bu if under the regulations it is allowed to lie on the counter it is time that they were amended.
– Generally, the teller of a bank is placed in charge of the revolver.
– I understand that the Attorney-General of Tasmania has said that nothing can be done in the way of tightening up the regulations controlling fire-arms. If the responsible Minister here thinks that it is all right for fire-arms to be left lying about and not placed in the charge of some responsible persons, it is useless for me to say more, but I do not think that that is his opinion. Some member of the staff should be responsible for the custody of such weapons.
– Wa3 not the revolver registered under the State law?
– I am aware that, at present, the matter does come under the State law, but under the National Security Act the Commonwealth Government can supersede any State law if such action be necessary for the security of the people. That is my point. The Commonwealth Government could intervene if it desired to do so. I have brought this matter forward in the hope that action will be taken to prevent a re-occurrence of such happenings. What can be done in banks can be done in factories. The Minister knows that this country is not free from “ fifth columnists “, and he must be aware that if fire-arms are left lying about indiscriminately, as in this case, they may be used by disloyal persons for subversive purposes.
– I have received a communication from the Moora Roads Board on the subject of petrol rationing for members of the board who have to travel long distances to attend board meetings. 1 wrote the following letter to the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) because the State Liquid Fuel Control Board has no power to increase the special allowance granted in such cases.
Following on representations made to me by local authorities in this State, members at whom travel long distances to attend meetings of their boards, it is pointed out that the allowance made by the State Liquid Fuel Control Board is far short of the requirements necessary.
I have represented the matter to the State board and am informed that the power of the board is limited and under the present schedule they could not exceed that laid down by the Central Fuel Board.
I take one local authority as an example - I would refer to the Moora Road Board, and of course this applies to many other country boards in this State. At’ the present time; a preferred mileage of 50 per cent, of the mileage covered in attending meetings of local authorities has been approved. Ten members of the Moora Road Board are farmers and they already find difficulty in carrying out their farm work with the petrol allowance granted. Of the ten members referred to, three travel not less than 64 miles to attend meetings of their board, while of the remainder four travel not less than 50 miles and three travel 12 miles. From this it will be seen that the allowance of 50 per cent, is unreasonable. It must be borne in mind also that in addition to board meetings, there are many functions in connexion with patriotic appeals that these gentlemen are expected to attend and in all this it must not be forgotten that their services are given in an honorary capacity.
I therefore respectfully suggest that the State Fuel Board’s powers should be enlarged so that cases of this nature could be dealt with here on their merits and with the cooperation of the various local authorities in this State. I feel sure that if the geographical position of many of the local authority members were given consideration it would be admitted that 50 per cent, would not be sufficient for their needs.
I received from him the following reply:-
I have received your letter of the 5th instant with reference to petrol allowances to members of local authorities, and particularly to the Moora Road Board. I note that farmer members of this board have difficulty in carrying out their farm work, and further difficulties in attending the board meetings, even with the special allowance provided.
I am afraid with the further restrictions that have been thrust upon us by war conditions, we may require to reduce even the special allowance already given, and that there is no alternative for such local authority members as you mention than that of readjusting their private arrangements to suit the new conditions. We had not expected that ordinary pre-war habits could be maintained under the stress of war conditions, and I think it is not too much to expect that, in their cooperation with the Government, consumers of petrol will find ways and means of reducing their consumption even though it means inconvenience to a serious degree.
I would be very much assisted in the work of the department if you could take this view of the problem.
The word “ habits “ should not have been used. These gentlemen are not continuing their pre-war habits, but use their cars to carry out work which they do in an honorary capacity.
– Those boards are also engaged on air raid precaution work.
– I did not inquire fully into the ramifications of their activities; but I know that in the course of their duties members of such boards are obliged to travel great distances. The secretary of the Moora Road Board wrote me as follows: -
May I give you one instance of their effort in the matter? Namely, that on the 7th instant, the board met at 2 p.m. for a conference with local authorities from as far north as Three Springs and Gin Gin in the south. Followed by an Appeal Court at 4 p.m. and by a Revision Court at 5.15 p.m. and at 8 p.m. by the annual meeting of ratepayers. This meeting was followed on Saturday, 8th instant, by the regular finance committee meeting, and the board meeting extending from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It is proposed that at our next meeting of the board to hold a conference with other local authorities, but it should be appreciated that these meetings, in addition to travelling some 00 miles or more as some members have to, is rather a big demand on their time and energy.
We trust, therefore, that if it is possible at some later date to give further consideration to our request that these disabilities will be taken into consideration.
In order that claims of this kind can be considered in the light of conditions peculiar toWestern Australia, I again urge the Government to appoint a direct representative ofWestern Australia to the Central Liquid Fuel Control Board. I fully appreciate the necessity for conserving our petrol supplies. Upon receiving these representations, I examined the schedule covering petrol rationing in Western Australia. I find that, despite the severity of the restrictions in respect of certain classes of users of motor vehicles, considerable room still exists for tightening up the schedule. Many persons are receiving much more petrol than they really need. For instance, nothing in the regulations governing the issue of licences prevents unscrupulous persons from obtaining a ration far in excess of that which can be obtained by legitimate farmers and tradesmen. Confidence tricksters and “ magsmen “ can obtain a ration up to 71 gallons a month, provided they declare that they are engaged in a trade, or calling, which places them in a business class.
– The State Liquid Fuel Control Board requires something more than a mere declaration that one is engaged in a certain calling.
– If a man has two bottles of hair oil and a toothbrush to sell he can claim, under the regulations, to be a salesman, and he thereby becomes entitled to a ration up to 71 gallons a month. Compare this allowance with that meted out to a farmer who owns a 42 cwt. truck with which he does the whole of his farm work, including the cartage of stores. His ration is limited to 32 gallons a month.
– That is not correct.
– I assure the Minister that what I say is correct. The farmer may obtain an additional six gallons a month, provided he proves that he needs the additional petrol to cover a corresponding additional mileage. Legitimate tradesmen, whose petrol requirements are much in excess of the quantities provided under the schedule, are also unfairly rationed in comparison with the treatment given to “magsmen” and racing men whose main occupation is visiting country shows. A butcher, baker or milkman, engaged in the distribution of the necessaries of life, is restricted, irrespective of the mileage covered, to a ration of 39 gallons a month in respect of a commercial vehicle up to 24 cwt. In many cases this quantity represents but one-third of the tradesman’s previous consumption. Special licences may be granted to tradesmen, but such licences are given for a specific period only, and the State Liquid Fuel Control Board can cancel them at any time. I emphasize that members of local governing authorities and roads boards are doing valuable work. They are entitled to more generous treatment under the petrol rationing scheme than they are receiving to-day. Much of their work is of an honorary nature. I again ask the Minister to give urgent consideration to the matters I have raised.
.- To-day I asked the following question: -
The Postmaster-General’s reply was as follows : -
That reply is most unsatisfactory. Only to-night I looked up the Melbourne telephone directory for the address of a doctor. After the doctor’s name appeared the word “ Flinders “. How is a person who is not familiar with Melbourne to know whether “ Flinders “ indicates a suburb of Melbourne or Flinders-street? It is not correct to say that in the condensation of entries in telephone directories no information essential to the identification of subscribers has been omitted. In addition, the type used in the new directories is too small. I have been obliged repeatedly to take the directory outside of a public telephone box in order to be able to read it. I have seen users of public telephones at the Perth General Post Office doing the same thing. The print is too small.
– It is ridiculous economy.
– Yes. The change may represent some saving to the Postal Department, but many people will ruin their eyesight in trying to read the small type in the new directories. I urge the Postmaster-General to see that the next issue of directories is printed in much larger type. Only to-night, I was speaking to a man who had just used the public telephone in King’s Hall. He told me that, owing to the smallness of the print, he had asked for the number shown above that which he required.
– The answer which I received to-day to a question bears out all I said last week concerning what I described as the treasury-bills racket. For once I received a straightforward answer. I was informed that the discount rate on treasury-bills in Australia was reduced, as I suggested previously, from If per cent, to per cent, as from the 1st May.
The rate of 1^ per cent, for three months works out at 6 per cent, per annum. Of course, as I have pointed out on previous occasions the Government would have no need to issue treasury-bills at all if it adopted a sound system of finance. The following news item appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald: - “ An invitation to the Commonwealth Government to commit national suicide “ is the description applied by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) to a resolution passed in November by the Western Australian Legislative Assembly.
The comment is made in a letter from Mr. Fadden to Senator Johnston … In his letter, Mr. Fadden said that in one sense to say that national credit should bc used i.’i this way came very near to being a statement of the Commonwealth Government’s policy, for essentially that was what it had been doing on a bold scale ever since the outbreak of war.
I defy Senator McBride or any other honorable senator to reconcile those two statements. As Sir Grafton Smith said “Most men, even without being consciously dishonest or willingly stupid, seem to be unable to examine advanced views with understanding and impartiality “. That is my difficulty in this chamber.
– Is the honorable senator’s difficulty here any greater than it is in the party room?
– Yes, for in the party room I have to deal with reasonable men, whereas in this chamber I am up against conservatives on the government benches who have a good deal to answer for in this crisis. Honorable senators opposite smile when I make the most serious statements, but there is no doubt that government is finance and finance is government. The money with which to carry on the war must be expended, but the raising of it is my greatest concern. We were told when the first war loan of £20,000,000 was floated that the money would be raised through the agency of the Commonwealth Bank in conjunction with the private banks, but when I asked a question on notice about how much was raised through the Commonwealth Bank and how much through the private banks the information was refused. We eventually got the information from the press. I am at a loss to know why we have to depend on the newspapers for information which we have the right to expect direct from the Government. I was told to-day that the interest rate on treasury-bills was 1^ per cent, for three months accommodation, but those treasury-bills can be discounted at any time by the trading banks.
– But not at par.
– The reply that ] was given to-day was that the Commonwealth Bank and the Treasury fix the rate of interest on treasury-bills. The bills can be taken back to the bank, but they are not, because they are deposited and counted as cash reserves against which further treasury-bills can be financed. The process of multiplication goes on. “When legislation to reimburse the Commonwealth Bank to an amount of £750,000 advanced to the Apple and Pear Marketing Board was before the Senate last session, I asked whether the bank had charged any interest for the accommodation and was told that it had charged 3% per cent. I then asked why interest had been charged in view of the fact that the interest would come back to the Commonwealth Government as part of the profits of the bank, my view being that the whole process involved unnecessary book-keeping. That transaction proves that the Commonwealth Bank can lend money to the Government free of interest. Recently, the manager of the Bank of New South Wales regretted that his bank was receiving only 10s. per cent, on treasury-bills financed in England from its London funds, whereas it was receiving 35s. per cent, on treasury-bills in Australia. If that bank can lend money at 10s. per cent, in London it should be compelled to lend it in Australia at a much cheaper rate than it does. An attempt was once made to allow members of the general public in Australia to subscribe, in the same manner as they do in England, to the issue of treasury-bills, but the worth of the attempt was nullified when the minimum subscription was fixed at £10,000. The banks still hold a monopoly because very few private citizens can find £10,000. Moreover private citizens have to contribute cash, whereas the banks pay for treasury-bills by cheque in the same way as they pay for interest-bearing bonds.
– Private subscribers to loans also pay by cheque.
– Yes, but their cheques must have the backing of funds in the bank.
– That also applies to the banks.
– That is not so. The last two annual statements from the Commonwealth Bank about the note issue show that the banks hold only £15,000,000 worth of notes and yet are able to invest. £20,000,000 in one loan.
– .What are the deposits in the savings banks worth?
– On another occasion Senator Dein asked me how close deposits were to advances and I then told him that the banks regard the loans they make as deposits. That is why the ratio between the two is so close. It should be axiomatic that if a bank holds £50,000,000 worth of deposits and lends £5,000,000 it should have only £45,000,000 left, but it does not work out that way. Lord Derby, the greatest coal-mine owner in England and a representative of orthodox finance, addressing an English school said that as soon as this war was over the battle for markets must start again with the same inevitable result of more war. According to the London Times Germany so far seemed to have no serious difficulty in financing the war. Years ago I told the Senate that Germany had been using national credit for five years and that that accounted for its huge strength. Great Britain has not yet used its national credit. Although under the Attlee bill it could take over every bank in England, it is not doing so. Questions in the House of Commons about finance remain unanswered in the same way as do my questions on the same subject in this chamber. According to the Parliamentary Debates of the House of Commons -
Mr. J. Wilmot, Labour member for Kenji ington, asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the average rate of interest and the total amount paid by way of interest, issued since 1st September, 1939, and the corresponding figure for the similar period a year before? Sir John Simon. - For treasury-bills issued from 1st September, 1939, to 4th May, 1940, as a result of public tender the average rate was £1 9s. Gd. and the total amount of interest paid was £7,225,957. For the period from 1st September, 1938, to 4th May, 1939, the corresponding figures were 15s. lOd. and £2,359,224.
Had Britain been using national credit instead of borrowing from the private banking system, that great interest bill would have been averted. If at the beginning of the war this Government had had sufficient pluck to use national credit we should have saved the £600,000 in interest on the £20,000,000 war loan. I concede that tha Loan Council is not a legislative body, but it is in that council that the protest against paying interest on money required for war purposes should have been made.
– Can the honorable senator tell me any country where money is obtainable free of interest ?
– Yes, Germany to start with.
– Why, Germany is plundering other countries.
– The London Times itself says, as I said five years ago, that so far Germany seems to have no serious difficulty in financing the war. It goes on to say -
Nothing is ever heard of the necessity to increase taxation, compulsory saving, or the issue of enormous war loans. Quite the contrary. Recently one important tax was abolished, savings bank deposits are increasingly large. Hitler seems to have discovered the secret of making something out of nothing -
Hitler is using national credit. The only people who make something out of nothing are the private bankers.
– The honorable senator mentions the London Times as being the source of his information, but omits to say “who wrote the article.
– It is an editorial. I do not speak at random. The editorial continues - and to have evolved a system based on perpetual motion. The secret is the use of national credit. The State controls the banks. Monetary policy is subservient to national interests.
In Australia the national interest is subservient to the private banks. I repeat what I said two years ago, that Australia is governed by the associated banks with the assistance of the Menzies Government.
– There is no truth in that.
– It is true. The honorable senator cannot controvert it.
– I do controvert it.
– Then tell me why the whole of the first war loan was floated through the private banks. The only description that can be applied to that loan flotation is that the Menzies Government conspired with the private banks to enable them to create £30,000,000 out of nothing. There is a difference between giving credit and creating credit. The banks have the sole right to create credit; that accounts for their strength and for the proportions of our national debt to-day. All money created by the banks becomes real money because the banks inaugurated the system by which their credit becomes equal to gold. Actually no money reaches the Treasury. The Minister representing the Treasurer should know that. What happened in England under the Johnson bill?
– Tell us what happened in Alberta.
– That is a foolish question but I shall answer it. Alberta is the only country in the world which is paying off its national debt, reducing taxation and developing the land.
– The honorable senator would believe anything if he believed that.
– It is a pity that the Minister will not believe any one in this chamber with honesty of purpose. On several occasions I have offered to supply him with official documents published in the province of Alberta. I often wonder if it is worthwhile saying anything here at all. Since I started as a lone wolf in this chamber, four State parliaments, commencing with the United Australia party State of South Australia, have passed resolutions supporting every word which I have said in this chamber on finance. I can prove that by giving the names of the States and the dates on which the resolutions were carried. The Minister laughs at what I say, but I assure him that it is not a laughing matter. I have seen the agenda of the Country party for the approaching election in South Australia, and on it there are five resolutions dealing with this matter. The resolutions advocate the action which I have long supported in this chamber.
– The States have not taken any action to give effect to the resolutions.
– They cannot. They can only make protests against the unsound policy of the Menzies Government. If two more States carried similar resolutions the Government would he unable to laugh it off because it would mean a line up of all States in the Commonwealth. It is time the Government took some notice of the resolutions that have been carried. Hundreds of public meetings have been held, and resolutions have been passed and forwarded to the Government.
– The State governments have never made representations to the Commonwealth Government.
– They are not in a position to advise the Commonwealth Government. They can only pass the resolutions. If any one thinks that I can be choked off with a smile when I speak on finance he is making a big mistake. For two-and-a-half years I have been advocating financial reform in this chamber, and so long as I have strength enough to stand up, smiles will not stop me.
– I understand that, in financing the construction of munitions annexes by State governments, the Commonwealth Government is charging 4 per cent, interest. Why is it that State governments engaged on war work are being charged 4 per cent, whilst interest payable on war loans is 31/2 per cent., interest on war savings certificates is 21/2per cent., and Commonwealth Savings Bank interest is less than 23/4 per cent.?
– The conditions mentioned by Senator Allan MacDonald operate under an agreement arrived at between the States concerned and the Commonwealth. Until the States actually use the annexes, no interest is charged, but when used by the States, the interest payable will be 4 per cent, for ten years, at the end of which period the annexes will be handed over to theStates. Depreciation is written off at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum. That arrangement was approved by the States, and I suggest that it is a very good arrangement from their point of view. Ten per cent, depreciation is a very high rate for annexes and plant of that kind.
– It is a reasonable rate.
– It is a very generous rate, and the States themselves apparently think so, because they have agreed to the conditions.
– Much of the machinery will not last more than ten years.
– I think it can be assumed that most of it will last much longer than ten years.
On the 13th March, Senator Darcey asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following question, upon notice: -
Is it a fact that since the war started the private banks have taken up £32,000,000 of government securities and £23,000,000 of treasury-bills, a total of £55,000,000, and that during that time the Commonwealth Bank has reduced its holding of government securities by£ 9,200,000?
The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
The latest issue of the Commonwealth Bank’s Statistical Bulletin shows that between August, 1939, and January, 1941, the trading banks increased their holdings of government securities and treasury-bills by £34.2m. and £21.6m. respectively. Apart from short-term treasury-bills, the holdings of which fluctuate between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks, the amount of government securities held by the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank has increased since the outbreak of war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Elections andReferendums - Statistical Returns in relation to the Senate Elections, 1940 ; the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1940; Detailed Return in relation to the Election for the House of Representatives, 1940, for the Northern Territory; together with Summaries of Elections and Referendums, 1903-1940.
Elections, 1940 -
Statistical Returns showing the voting within each Sub-division in relation to the Senate Elections, 1940, and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1940, vis. : -
New South Wales.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirtieth Annual Report, for year 1939-40.
Bankruptcy Act - Rules - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 55.
Commonwealth Public Service Act- Appointment Department of Health - W. B. Kirkland.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No.50.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Rottnest Island, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
National Security Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 51, 52, 53, 54, 59, 60,61.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 57, 58.
Senate adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 March 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19410326_senate_16_166/>.