16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. j. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Aircraft Production state whether the Government has yet taken any steps to produce first-line fighter aircraft in Australia? If it has not already taken action in that direction, will it do so?
– The Government will take all possible steps to produce in Australia the latest and best fighter planes in the world. It is going ahead immediately with this work.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state the date of arrival in Australia of the American oil experts, who are to make an investigation of the Lakes Entrance deposit in Victoria?
– They will arrive in Sydney from America by clipper next Saturday. In the meantime, all necessary data have been sent to Auckland, so that on the flight across the Tasman sea they may acquaint themselves with the details of the work that they have been asked to do.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development state whether his department realizes the effect on Tasmania of the very large number of people required in South Australia to carry on war industries in that State? Many of the necessary workers will have to be drawn from other States, because only 8,000 persons suitable for the work are available in South Australia?
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that in the gold-mining industry serious financial repercussions are occurring, owing to the prevailing idea that the Government intends to draw man-power from the gold-mining industry for war purposes ?
– I shall draw the attention of the Treasurer to the honorable senator’s statement.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister supply the names of gentlemen whose services are used by the Government, but whose remuneration is not entirely paid by it?
– Ishall refer that matter to the Prime Minister.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will the Government set up the necessary machinery to control the marketing of blue peas?
– The Minister . for Commerce has supplied the following answer : -
The Tasmanian Minister of Agriculture was advised some months ago to arrange with the industry to set up the necessary organization and he indicated his intention to doso.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
When a man has served for a period in the Royal Australian Air Force and falls sick, through no fault of his own, and is discharged - does he receive any pay or pension to tide him over a period of unemployment that may follow his discharge?
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answer : -
A pension may be paid under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, if an airman’s disability is directly attributable to his employment as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, provided that his incapacity is not due to his own fault or any breach of discipline. In othercases no payments are allowable unless the airman had been on active service outside Australia. If an airman after service outside Australia is discharged for medical reasons and is unemployed, he may apply to the Repatriation Commission for sustenance payments.
asked the Minis ter for Munitions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Cincinnati - Cheltenham tool-room; 1 milling machine, Cincinnati - C. Telford Smith; 1 milling machine, Cincinnati - Sonnerdale Proprietary Limited; 2 grinding machines, Brown and Sharpe - Johns and Waygood Limited; 1 ggrinding machine, Brown and Sharpe - O rdnance Factory, Maribyrnong; 1 grinding machine, Brown and Sharpe - Sydney Williams and Company Proprietary Limited; 1 grinding machine, Brown and Sharpe - Cook and Williains Proprietary Limited; 1 grinding machine, Brown and Sharpe - Nilsen Cromie Proprietary Limited; 1 grinding machine, Brown and Sharpe - Sutton Tool and Gauge Proprietary Limited; 1 grinding, machine, Brown and Sharpe - -South Australian Railways tool-room; 2 shaping machines, Smith and Mills- Colonial Sugar Refining Company; 1 shaping machine, Smith and Mills - Perry Engineering Proprietary Limited; 1 shaping machine. Smith and Mills - J. N. Kirby; 1 planing machine, Cincinnati - Quality Engineering and Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited ; 1 planing machine, Cincinnati - Chas. Ruwolt Proprietary Limited; 1 planing machine, Cincinnati - A.G. Healings Limited.
– On Thursday last,
asked whether the Postmaster-General (Mr. Collins) would request the technical experts of the department to take into consideration the rebroadcasting in English of news from radio stations in Russia, so that the people of Australia might be informed as to the position in that theatre of war. In reply, I have to inform the honorable senator that authoritative news from Russia of the progress of the conflict with Germany is contained in official communiques issued daily from Russia. These arc immediately given to the world press, and are relayed through the ordinary news channels for publication. Unofficial news in communiques broadcast from Moscow radio is received by the Department of Information’s listening post, and a summary is provided for the Australian press and broadcasting stations for background information.
. -by leave - Some time ago, Senator Brown asked if I could give to the Senate a brief outline of the functions and activities of the
Department of Information. In accordance with that request, and in view of recent criticisms of the department, I welcome this opportunity to do so. I shall not take advantage of the occasion to enter into a political discussion.
Honorable senators are probably aware that the publicity censorship is under
Khe control of the Department of Information. In order that press cables and statements may be bandied with the least possible delay it is necessary to maintain in each State a 24-hour censorship service. Despite what is sometimes said to the contrary, it is the desire of the censorship authorities to give the fullest possible assistance to the press, and to make available the maximum quantity of information compatible with national security. All matters intended for publication are supposed to be handed in to the censors, but in practice that is not always done because of the existence of an honour system. Representatives of the press are told from time to time which matters are to be kept out of the columns of their newspapers and, with rare exceptions, the honour system has worked entirely satisfactorily. In addition to maintaining a continuous censorship service in each State, it is necessary to have in Melbourne a chief publicity censor and his staff to deal with matters in dispute between newspaper proprietors and the censorship, or between department and department. Only when there is a deadlock is a matter referred to the Minister for his final determination.
I mentioned a few days ago that all government advertising, other than what may be termed routine advertising, is now under the control of the Department of Information.
– “What is the cost of such advertising?
– It is difficult to say, because the quantity of advertising depends on such things as the flotation of loans, recruiting campaigns, the need for tradesmen for the Air Force, or for additional recruits for the Navy.
– To which departmental vote is that advertising debited ?
– The charge may, in the first place, be made against the vote for the Department of Information; hut for work carried out on behalf of other departments, a transfer is made later. The department under my control carries the overhead costs of advertising, but the amount is small. The long overdue policy of concentrating government advertising under one control has enabled the Government to secure better rates than when each department controlled its own advertising. The Government now hae the advantage of the commercial master contract rates. In addition to advertising recruiting campaigns and such matters, the Department of Information supplies posters, and arranges for radio appeals for recruits, and for window displays aimed at encouraging the sale of war saving certificates and war bonds, and so on. Moreover, it has full control of al), short-wave broadcasting from Australia. For eight hours every day speeches and other items of information are broadcast on the short-wave system in the English, Spanish, French and Dutch languages. Until recently, the Government used the 10-kilowatt station of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, at Sydney, but now it has the use of two stations under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Honorable senators will remember that I announced yesterday that the Government bad decided to build ia 3-frequency 100- kilowatt station so that it could engage in short-wave ‘broadcasting over greater distances. Obviously a station with a power of only 10 kilowatts has a limited range. Our programmes must be capable of being heard in other countries without difficulty, otherwise foreign listeners will not bother to listen to them. Steps have been taken by the Government to establish a short-wave station of 50 kilowatts. No difficulty is anticipated in securing the necessary apparatus for this station. In order that the voice of Australia may be heard in all parts of the world, it is hoped that ultimately the power of the station will be increased to 100 kilowatts. It is highly desirable that in times like these the voice of Australia should be capable of being heard throughout the world, in exactly the same way as we, in Australia, are able to listen in to short-wave broadcasts from -other countries. In addition, the broadcasting section monitors foreign short-wave transmissions from a twenty-four hours a day listening post. Daily and weekly reports of all incoming transmissions are prepared for background information for the press and for radio purposes. That section also arranges hook-ups with American networks to relay Australian news. Land-lines are provided nightly to one-third of the commercial stations to enable the national news to he broadcast in country centres. Certain districts of Australia cannot be reached by the Aclass stations at present, and the department pays the cost of land-line connexion to B-class stations in order that listeners in those areas may be provided with a good news service.
– Does the Minister suggest that the short-wave stations will reach those people?
– No, the new shortwave stations will probably “ skip “ them. They are not provided for that purpose. Originally, when the first short-wave station was established, its purpose was to supply news bulletins and programmes to people in outback areas; but the function of the new short-wave stations is to broadcast the voice of Australia to the world. The department also supplies every Sunday night a special quarter of an hour session dealing with the war to 94 commercial stations. In this way news of national importance reaches a large number of people. The programme time is made available by these stations free of cost to the department. The broadcasting section also supplies scripts for radio commentators and daily broadcasts in tho women’s sessions. Recently the Department of Information took over from the Department of Commerce the administration of the Commonwealth Cinema Branch. That branch produces war. shorts and gazettes for exhibition, not only in Australia, but also overseas, and, in addition, training films for the service departments. As honorable senators are probably aware, the branch also maintains two cinema units with the Australian Imperial Force abroad. After the films have been exposed overseas, they are brought to Australia, developed, suitably reconstructed and distributed to picture theatres for exhibition. Copies are also sent overseas. Copies of the first Aus tralian war film, depicting .the capture of Tobruk, were sent to the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, China, Thailand, and the United States of America, and served a very useful purpose in bringing prominently before the eyes of people of other countries the exploits of our Australian soldiers. We have had requests for more films of that kind to be sent overseas. In addition, the department makes available to the State governments and to charitable bodies 60 mm. educational films. In this way, not only do we assist charitable organizations, but we also engage in very valuable propaganda work. The department sponsored the “March of Time “ film made in Australia by Mr. Jurgens. That film has been exhibited throughout the length and breadth of the world. The department also maintains photographic units to record the embarkation and return of our troops and their doings abroad. Copies of these photographs are provided for the press and other journals. This is quite an important feature of the work of the department. On the editorial side, there is a regular daily supply of editorial items to the press. These items have not been largely utilized by the metropolitan press, because they already have ample means at their disposal for gleaning and publishing news; but this service has been freely availed of by the country press. Resumes of the war position from day to day are regarded as of great value by the provincial press. The department is also responsible for the expense of maintaining the official war correspondents in the field. During the last war, this expense - and it was very considerable - was borne by the Defence Department. Now, the whole cost is charged against the vote of the Department of Information. We prepare material for release to 700 newspapers and 1,200 other publications in Australia, and make available press articles on behalf of patriotic organizations. We distribute pamphlets and posters compiled locally and in conjunction with the British Ministry of Information. We also supply an Air Mail Weekly News Letter to the Australian Imperial Force abroad, and news for short daily transmissions to Australian troops in Malaya, as well as a weekly cable of Australian news to members of the Royal Australian Navy on ships with which we are able to get into touch, members of the Australian Imperial Force wherever they are located, and the members of the Royal Australian Air Force in Great Uri tain. We dispatch daily to the United States of America an Australian news summary. The department maintains a news bureau in New York which is serving news agencies throughout that country. That bureau is supplied with services by the pictorial and editorial branches of the department. A check-up on the activities of the bureau reveals that Australian news is receiving very wide publicity in the press of the United States of America. That bureau was established only sis months ago, but already it, is doing an extraordinarily good job in publicizing Australia in that country, with which it is the desire of Australians as a whole to establish closer relations. Regular checks are made by the bureau upon the space given to Australian items in American newspapers.
The department also maintains various artists who are attached to different arms of the services. In the last war this expenditure was charged in the first place to the Army, but later such artists were attached, I think, to the War Memorial Committee. At present, we have two artists attached to our forces in the Middle Ea3t and one artist at sea with the Royal Australian Navy, as well as a number of official photographers who are making photographic and painting records of the activities of our troops abroad. When the War Memorial in Canberra is opened on the 11th November next, our people will have an opportunity to view the wonderful collection of pictures produced during the last war. All of these are from the brushes of famous Australian artists. Other well-known Australian artists are attached to our forces in order to perpetuate on canvas the activities of our troops in this war.
I have made these remarks in answer to criticism which has been levelled at the department from time to time, particularly in relation to its cost, by people who are not fully acquainted with its various activities. This brief resume of the duties falling upon myself as Minister for Information, and the officers of the department, who are doing exceptionally good work, should do much to refute that criticism. It will also make honorable senators generally more acquainted with the work of the department.
– Has the Minister anything to say regarding the changes in the department which he recently forecast?
– A conference was held in Melbourne yesterday between representatives of the various services and officers of the Department of Information in order to draw up a plan to enable us to improve still further the usefulness of the department. To some degree, I concur in the criticism which has been made regarding the department’s facilities for supplying news. I do not think that we are in a position to enter into competition with the press and broadcasting stations in supplying news services.
– Nor with the British Broadcasting Corporation.
– That is so. However, it is possible that with a closer liaison between the department and the services, we shall be enabled to supply to the people of Australia fuller information regarding the activities of our defence services. We must always bear in mind that the enemy alao would like to hear much information of the kind which many people ask for. For that reason we must be very careful what information which is available from. the various services is disseminated.
– by leave - I intimate to the Senate that Senator H. V. Keane has been elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber.
Debate resumed from the 25th June (vide page 348), on motion by Senator FRASER -
That u. joint committee of the Parliament bc appointed to inquire into and report upon all matters related to the manufacture and sale of superphosphate in Australia.
That three members of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
That the committee be empowered to send for persona, papers and records, to move from place to place, and to sit during the adjournment of Parliament. 4.That a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting its concurrence, and asking that four members be appointed to serve on such committee.
.- The Government is opposed to the motion. SenatorFraser proposes that a joint committee of the Parliament be appointed to inquire into all matters relating to the manufacture and sale of superphosphate. I cannot understand what facts the honorable senator desires to discover which would necessitate the holding of such an inquiry. I realize his anxiety concerning the price of superphosphate. Every one knows that it has been increased.For that reason the honorable senator is genuinely anxious to protect the interests of the primary producers, particularly in Western Australia, who regard the high price of superphosphate as a very heavy tax. However, the honorable senator simply proposes that an inquiry be held into the sale and manufacture of superphosphate. No facts could be disclosed by . such an inquiry which are not already known to all honorable senators. In addition, investigations into the industry have been made by the Tariff Board and by the Prices Commissioner. Indeed, the latter is conducting daily an audit of the price of superphosphate. Therefore, all of the facts which enter into the matter are now known. In the language of the famous country from whose stock both he and I are descended, I remind the honorable senator that “ Facts are chiels that winna ding and downa be disputed “. That is something which probably only Senator Fraser and I understand. I shall endeavour to give all of the facts, or at least the most important relating to superphosphate. In the past,’ the average quantity of superphosphate manufactured in Australia annually has been approximately 1,000,000 tons. This year, owing to depleted supplies of rock phosphate, it is expected that the tonnage used will not exceed 600,000, or a reduction of 40 per cent. The pre-war price of superphosphate was about £3 10s. a ton. For various reasons there was a variation of a shilling or two in the different States. Since then the price has increased by 24s. a ton in the eastern States and by 26s. a ton in Western Australia and the Eyre Peninsula. That has been due to reasons which already have been plainly stated. First, it has been due to the increase of 13s. a ton in the price of rock phosphate.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the landed cost?
– Yes, the cost of phosphate rock landed from Nauru and Ocean Island.
– Has the f.o.b. price of rock phosphate increased in recent years ?
– The phosphate rock supplied by the British Phosphate Commission, on which Australia is represented, is supplied to each State of the Commonwealth at the same price. As I have said, the landed cost has increased by 13s. ‘ since the outbreak of war. Sulphur costs have risen by 3s. 6d. a ton, the price of bags by 4s. a dozen, and the manufacturing costs have advanced about 5s. a ton. Those increases make a total of 25s. 6d. a ton. Some explanation of the various items may be necessary, but I point out to honorable senators that this matter has been fully investigated and is always under review by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner with a view to ensuring not only that profit is kept to the standard existing before the war, but also that that standard should, if possible, be reduced.
– Has an increase of price occurred since the outbreak of war?
– The price of rock phosphate landed in Australia has risen from 29s. 6d. a ton to 52s. a ton. Fiveeighths of a ton of rock phosphate will produce one ton of superphosphate, the balance being made up of sulphuric acid and other chemicals.
– The increase of the price of rock phosphate has been due to the higher handling charges and also to the destruction caused at Nauru by enemy action?
– That is so. Enemy action considerably damaged loading facilities at Nauru, but the increase has been due mainly to higher shipping freights and war risk insurance premiums.
The pre-war price of hags was 6s. a dozen and they are now 10s. a dozen. The pre-war price of sulphur in Australia was £6 a ton, but it is now £14 a ton. Honorable senators will recall that a bounty has been paid on the production of sulphur from pyrites and zinc concentrates. That bounty was to cease so soon as the price of imported sulphur increased to £7 7s. a ton. As the price is now £14 a ton, the bounty is no longer payable. In all the eastern States, with the exception of factories at Geelong, in Victoria, and in one’ small place in South Australia, Australian pyrites and zinc concentrates are used to produce sulphur, but Western Australia and Eyre Peninsula have always had to depend on imported sulphur. Owing to the large increase that has taken place in the price of imported sulphur, the Government has under consideration a bounty system which will stabilize the price in such a way that all States will receive superphosphate at the same figure. In view of that fact alone, Senator Fraser should be satisfied with the Government’s action, and the same should apply to Senator Johnston, who is equally interested in the position that has arisen because of the marked increase of the price of superphosphate. Under the bounty scheme formerly in operation, the Government paid out approximately £87,000 in one year. It will be appreciated that I have given the only facts which could be obtained by a committee such as that proposed by Senator Fraser. We might just as well set up a committee to find out how many letters there are in the alphabet. The facts which I have related are plain enough for every body to understand.
– The Minister has not supplied all of the facts.
– Yes. The Tariff Board conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the superphosphate industry, and the Customs Department, with its price-fixing machinery, has also fully investigated the matter. It seems to me and to the Government that an inquiry by a Parliamentary Select Committee would be quite useless, because it could not reveal anything that every body does not already know. What will be the future of this industry, which is of vital importance to Australia, no one can say, but it is generally believed that owing to the disruption caused to shipping facilities at Nauru, increased war risks, higher shipping freights, and the scarcity of shipping space, the price will probably be higher in the future. I can only assure the Senate that the Government will make every endeavour to see that superphosphate is supplied to the primary producers of Australia at the lowest possible price, thus enabling them to keep production at the highest level. Although I sympathize with Senator Fraser and other honorable senators in their desire to see that the price of superphosphate is kept as low as possible, I cannot understand of what use such a committee a3 that asked for would be. Anybody’ not interested in this matter would say that, from a business point of view, the facts are plain to every body, and that no useful result could be obtained from such an inquiry while another body is actively carrying on an investigation. For that reason alone the Government opposes the motion, and asks the Senate to reject it.
.- One must compliment Senator Fraser upon bringing this matter forward, because an adequate supply of superphosphate is necessary for the production of cereals and for the topdressing of pastoral properties. It seems to me that judging by the present position with regard to superphosphate, and the statement by the Minister (Senator Leckie), there is every possibility of superphosphate being rationed throughout Australia. Such action would probably solve some of the difficulties of the Government with regard to the wheat industry, because less wheat would be produced. Many areas throughout Australia, cannot produce wheat without superphosphate, and I have no doubt that that is the position in many areas in Western Australia. I am inclined to think that the figures supplied to the Minister are wrong. His remark that the annual output of superphosphate in Australia is 1,000,000 tons is probably correct, but he also said that five-eighths of a ton of phosphatic rock is required for the manufacture of one ton of superphosphate. If that were so, 625,000 tons of rock would be required annually and 375,000 tons of sulphur or sulphuric acid would be added to that rock.
– That is how the Minister’s figures work out. The phosphatic rock obtained from Nauru is 22 per cent, pure, and so is the superphosphate supplied to the farming community. Nothing is added to the rock except sulphuric acid to make it available for plant life. I believe that Senator Fraser also made a mistake. As the Minister rightly pointed out, the motion limits the proposed inquiry to the manufacture and sale of superphospate. His doubts in that regard could easily be got over, because if he examined the balancesheets of the co-operative companies engaged in handling the rock, he would find that no profit is being made by them. If he happens to be a shareholder of one of these companies, he will get a substantial rebate, which reduces the cost of his superphosphate to a much lower price than that quoted by the Minister.
To my mind, the difficulty will be to obtain phosphate rock from Nauru. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, owing to enemy action, the cantilever machinery for loading the rock from the island to the ship was destroyed. The plant was installed on a precipitous coast where vessels could go alongside in 600 fathoms of water, but before the cantilever system was installed, the rock had to be carried by baskets and barges and hand-loaded. ‘Severe tropical storms had to be contended with at times, and a vessel always had to be in readiness to leave at a moment’s notice, often with only half a load of the rock. It then proceeded to Ocean Island to complete its load with rock of a much lower quality than that obtainable at Nauru. The system in operation at Nauru, which was destroyed, made it possible for a vessel to complete its loading in one or two days, the system of loading being similar to that adopted at the wheat silos at Sydney and Geelong. Owing to the increased demand to-day for phosphatic rock, it has been found impossible to load about 1,000,000 tons of rock annually by hand. Therefore, independent of shipping or other considerations, it seems that until repairs are effected to the cantilever plant at
Nauru Island, the supply of phosphate will have to be rationed. I consider that Senator Fraser’s fears could be removed by the simple process of examining the balance-sheet of the Australian Phosphate Company, whose works are situated at Geelong, which has been the means of keeping the price of superphosphate at a reasonable level. I am sure that the prices charged by other companies would have been higher but for the operations of the Australian Phosphate Company. I suggest that all of the information desired by Senator Fraser is available without much effort. Australia gets 42 per cent, of the phosphatic rock that comes from Nauru, and is also interested in the deposits on Ocean Island. The balance of the output of Nauru is obtained by Great Britain and New Zealand. But Great Britain is able to get supplies from other sources on a more economical basis than from Nauru and Ocean Island. I agree with the Minister that it is unnecessary to appoint a committee to investigate this matter.
– I am surprised at the statement by Senator Gibson that the shortage of superphosphate will help to solve the problems associated with the wheat industry. In my opinion, the affairs of that industry have been sadly mismanaged. Millions of people are starving in Europe, and probably scores of million* will starve next year. The policy of Australia, should be to grow as much wheat as possible, and store it in silos. I understand that scores of millions of bushels of wheat could be stored in airtight silos without deterioration. There seems to be a wrong conception of Australia’s duty towards the people of other countries. It has been well said that without vision we perish, and I regret that the policy of the Government is to restrict wheat production.
– I support the motion, and endorse the views expressed by my colleague, Senator Fraser. The Government of Western Australia has appealed on many occasions for reductions of the price of superphosphate, but those appeals have been of no avail. Farmers in Western Australia have been driven off the land as the result of the increasing cost of superphosphate, and a further increase of the price would cause more producers to leave their holdings, with the result that unemployment would be increased. A committee such as that proposed to be appointed could investigate the possibility of finding phosphatic rock in Australia. This country should produce wheat for people throughout the world. The time has come when Australia should look to its responsibilities in that direction, because, particularly after the war, the demand for wheat will be abnormally heavy.
– I hope that this motion will be agreed to. The inquiry suggested by Senator Fraser would cover a very wide field. The honorable senator is in practically a similar position to that in which I found myself yesterday with regard to the flax industry. Certain information has been given to him in confidence, and he cannot disclose it. He has told us that the price of superphosphate has been raised several times since the Prices Commissioner has taken a hand in this matter, but the Minister (Senator Leckie) did not refer to the profits made in the manufacture and sale of superphosphate.
– There is no profit.
– If there were no profit, there would be no superphosphate.
– Then the honorable senator does not buy it.
– I have bought it, and at prices representing increases of 5s., 10s., and 15s. a ton respectively. If this commodity could be sold at a profit when the price was increased by 5s. a ton, was not profit made when the price was further increased by 10s., and later by 15s. a ton? “What will be the position of the rural producers if these increases continue, in view of the fact that they have already experienced several reductions of the prices of their products. The Minister dealt extensively with the increasing cost of commodities that had brought about the increase of the cost of superphosphate, but has the Prices Co]n.missioner gone carefully into rises and falls of the cost of the commodities used in the production of superphosphate? Senator Fraser desires a committee appointed to make an inquiry into the whole matter, in order to ascertain whether superphosphate could be delivered to the primary producers at a cheaper rate than that now paid by them. I do not doubt that Senator Fraser had in mind certain information which an inquiry by a committee would bring to light. The Minister said that Senator Fraser had not proved that the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner had been wrong in fixing the price of any commodity. It is not necessary to prove that I know Professor Copland, and I regard him as a man who would not intentionally do anything wrong; but that is not to say that he has explored every possible avenue, or is incapable of making a mistake. First, he permitted an increase of 10s. a ton, and later, a further increase of £1 a ton. Still later, he reduced the price by 4s. a ton, but he offered no explanation of his action. It is possible that he made a mistake on one or more of those occasions. Certainly, there are grounds for doubt as to whether all of the information on which he acted was authentic. If the Government cannot see its way clear to appoint a committee to undertake a thorough investigation, I suggest that it should follow the method which has been adopted by the Government of New Zealand, and pay to the farmers the difference between the pre-war price of superphosphate and the present price.
– What would it cost to do that?
– I shall not discuss that point now, but I ask the Minister what it will cost the country if two-thirds of its wheat-growers are driven off their holdings ?
– Don’t talk nonsense!
– The Minister knows that the price of superphosphate has increased and that wages are rising. It may be that he has in mind the employment of members of the Girls Land Army at 7s. 6d. a week.
– The honorable senator will probably suggest the appointment of a parliamentary committee to investigate the rates paid to those girls.
– I do not ask that that be done, because, at a meeting of the Tasmanian Producers Association, in reply to a question as to whether members of the Girls Land Army would be paid at rates comparable with those paid to girls in munition factories or in domestic service, the lady who is in charge of the Girls Land Army in Tasmania answered : “ No ; they will be paid 7s. 6d. lor the first week, and after a month their wages may rise to a maximum of £1 a week, plus their keep “. If the Minister proposes to supply farmers with that kind of cheap labour, and assuming that a woman on a farm can do the work of a man, the farmers may be able to carry on, despite the increased cost of superphosphate. I assure the Minister, however, that he will not get that cheap labour.
– I do not want that assurance.
– The cost of labour, as well as the cost of superphosphate, bags, machinery, and other farm requisites, has risen, whereas the price received for farm produce has fallen.
– Is the honorable senator unaware that the country is at war?
– I am aware of that. When the Minister talks of equality of sacrifice, he does not appear to know that there is a war on. Senator Fraser objects to a heavier burden being placed on that section of the community which is already suffering great hardships as a result of the war. He claims that the appointment of a select committee may reveal ways by which the burden on the primary producer can be lightened. I hope that the Senate will agree to the motion, because an investigation may lead to a reduction of the price of this very necessary commodity.
– The motion before the Senate raises the question of price fixation. I shall support the motion because it provides that a select committee be appointed to go into the whole question of the price of superphosphate.
– No; only the manufacture and sale. The motion does not affect phosphate rock at all.
– It is all a matter of interpretation. I am placing my own interpretation on the motion, and am not accepting the honorable senator’s interpretation. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie) said that we know all of the facts. I join issue with him there, because, after listening to the Minister and Senator Gibson, it is obvious that they do not know all of the facts. Further facts are ascertainable.
In any references which I may make to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner I wish it to be clearly understood that I do not reflect on him personally. I regard that officer as one who fixes prices in accordance with instructions received, and not as a free agent. Consequently, I do not hold him responsible for the policy which he carries out. I say this now because my remarks on a previous occasion were construed to be adverse criticism of the Prices Commissioner. I assume that that officer operates on the basis of passing on increased charges to the consumer.
– In what other way can increased charges be passed on?
– It is possible that the capital charges and overhead charges are capable of reduction. Into these aspects of increased costs there should be a full inquiry. It is not a sufficient reason for raising the price of any commodity to say that the price of this and that has increased, and therefore the increased cost must be passed on to the consumer. As honorable senators opposite have said that no profit is made in this industry I draw attention to the report of the Tariff Board which went exhaustively into this subject in 1929. On page 17 of its report, the Tariff Board stated -
A summary of the results obtained ls shown in the following compilation: -
Although the average profit is shown as 12.9 per cent, on the capital employed, this figure is understated for the following reasons : -
The output from the factories whose particulars are included in this table totalled 345,510 tons, and the profit per ton on sales was 13s. 2d. A reduction of approximately 3s. in price would have reduced the profits to 10 per cent., providing the output remained the same, and a reduction of 5s. per ton would have made, the profits approximately 8 per cent, on the same tonnage.
– To what companies does the honorable senator refer?
– The companies referred to in the report are those which supplied balance-sheets to the Tariff Board. I have quoted from the report of that body.
– The honorable senator referred to companies which are manufacturers in a big way.
– The honorable senator said that no profits were made in the manufacture of superphosphate, but if the figures in the report of the Tariff Board be correct the investigation carried out by that body proved otherwise.
– What is the date of the report from which the honorable senator has read?
– It was issued in 1929.
– Does it refer to the activities of the companies in respect of chemicals?
– The report points out that the profits are greater than those shown by the companies. In September, 1929, Mr. John Gunn, who at the time was Director of Development, directed attention to the huge amount of the debts owing by farmers to various companies. Mr. Gunn reported that the unpaid debts of farmers due to the companies amounted to £2,000,000. Apparently they can afford to lose £2,000,000 in bad debts, and still show high profits. From that point of view, it is evident that this is a highly profitable industry.
– The honorable senator is comparing entirely different years. The bad debts to which Mr. Gunn referred were incurred in or about 1931-32.
– . This industry made high profits in 1932. Since then, its output has increased. We are justified in assuming that its profits have increased proportionately. The minority report of the Tariff Board, at page 33, stated : -
One of the most unsatisfactory phases of the fertilizer industry in Australia has been the high cost of mixed fertilizers. This has been particularly true in Queensland, where all the ingredients except organic nitrogen for mixed fertilizers are either imported from overseas or obtained from the other States. To the consequent high prices has been added the high charge of £1 per ton for mixing. The prices of the resultant mixtures have been so high as to greatly discourage their use, and production has thus been retarded. This is now being recognized, and although we have no record of the actual reduction in cost of mixed fertilizers, we understand that the prices are being lowered.
According to the minority report, every advantage was taken at that time to increase prices with the object of increasing profits. To date it can be assumed that from 1929 to 1932 the position of the industry has improved as the result of the increased use of superphosphate and, incidentally, that the profits of the manufacturers have increased proportionately. A large portion of those profits have been capitalized. I think that Senator Gibson made some reference to the capitalization of profits although he did not actually use those words. When the Prices Commissioner investigated- this matter, he was shown where increased costs were incurred. The Commissioner and the Government have yet to inform us to what degree, if any, they have investigated capital charges and unnecessary overhead charges.
– They have been investigated very carefully.
– If that be so they have never informed us of all of the facts. The Minister says that all the facts are known. I say that all the facts in connexion with capital charges and unnecessary overhead charges are not known to the members of this Senate and I doubt very much indeed whether they are known to the Prices Commissioner or even to the Government itself.
– The Prices Commissioner said in his report that he had investigated them. He told us by how much they ‘had increased.
– That is true, but he did not go into the matter as thoroughly as the Tariff Board. Under cover of the war, production is being restricted.
– By whom?
– By the demand and possibly by the Government’s action in reducing the acreage on which wheat may be sown. Production will no doubt be restricted if the Government adopts the policy of rationing superphosphate. The point is that, whatever happens, the profits of the manufacturers of superphosphate are not being reduced. If superphosphate be rationed and wheatgrowers are not able to cultivate their land as they have done hitherto, they will, for all practical purposes, be driven off their land. If that be done do the Minister and Senator Gibson propose to provide other opportunities for displaced wheat-growers to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families?
– Of course we do.
– I view the position with a good deal of alarm, and I am challenging it now so that it cannot be said after the war is over that honorable senators on this side of the chamber acquiesced in the Government’s policy or, not knowing what waa going on, failed to rise in protest.
– That has nothing to do with the motion.
– The motion provides for the appointment of a joint select committee to inquire into the whole of the ramifications of the industry with the object of assisting farmers to obtain their requirements of superphosphate. To-day, as the result of the increased profits made by the manufacturers, farmers cannot obtain the superphosphate they require. The Minister would leave the position as it is and say that it is irrelevant for honorable senators to deal with the position of those who will be penalized. I maintain that a discussion of the effects of the high price of superphosphate is relevant to the motion. I go farther, and say that it is a major issue.
– The motion was submitted by a member of the party to which the honorable senator belongs. In view of that, why was not provision made in it for the proposed committee to inquire into these matters?
– The motion asks for the appointment of a joint select committee of the Parliament to inquire into and report upon all matters related to the manufacture and sale of superphosphate in Australia. The wording of the motion is all-embracing. It refers to “ all matters “ which includes the displacement of wheat-growers from their land because of their inability to purchase superphosphate. It could not have been, worded in clearer or more convincing language. It proposes a thorough and all-embracing inquiry into the manufacture and sale of superphosphate, and the way in which farmers will be affected by the high price of superphosphate.
– The motion refers to “ all matters connected with the manufacture and sale of superphosphate”.
– It reads, “ All matters related to the manufacture and sale of superphosphate “.
– The Minister is merely quibbling.
– That is so ; but his dialectic acrobatics will not influence me. It has been estimated by Senator Fraser - and he has based his estimate on the best of information obtained from Western Australia - that, if the increased price of superphosphate has to be paid, the added burden on wheat-growers in Western Australia will be between £360,000 and £400,000. We know perfectly well that before the price was increased the position of the farmers was desperate. That has been admitted by the Government over and over again and by the best authorities on the subject. It follows that if this additional burden be imposed, their position will become even more desperate. Then we may have rationing of superphosphate, which means that an increased number of farmers will be either starved off or driven off their land. That, in turn, means that those wheat-farmers who possess the largest areas will have a monopoly of wheat-growing. What will happen in Australia if that be done is what has already happened in the United
States of America. There we find that, for all practical purposes, primary production has been monopolized practically 100 per cent. Freehold farmers, sharefarmers, tenant farmers and individual farmers do not exist to anything like the degree that they did before this monopolization of industry took place. Millions of them to-day now constitute a permanent army of unemployed with nowhere to go and no means of earning a livelihood. They depend solely upon the charity of the Government in order to live and bring up their families. That state of affairs has arisen in the United States of America as the result of the very policy which this Government has adopted. It is a policy to restrict the growing of wheat, rationing, and other ingenius and insidious devices adopted for the purpose of driving the smaller man off the land and concentrating control and ownership in the hands of a few monopolists who, in most cases, are financial institutions. “When this has been achieved the whole of the industry is mechanized, and fewer men with uptodate methods are able to operate large areas that formerly supported thousands of small families. Yet the Minister is satisfied and says that nothing should be done to interfere with the Government’s policy. He claims that all the facts are known and that we, too, should be satisfied. We would be remiss in our duty if we did not point out these things. The time is overdue, I submit, for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into this industry. In fact, if the Government were prepared to take the action it should take, it should not have to wait for a select committee to say how this question should be settled. It should take immediate action to ensure that all our primary producers are at least given an opportunity to earn a decent livelihood. It is well within the realm of practical politics. The Government, however, has refused to take action along those lines. It proposes wherever possible to raise barriers in order to prevent anything from being done for the relief of the wheat-growers. In view of the facts we already know - and we do not know all of the facts - and in view of the way in which the war is being used as a cover *in order to maintain increased profits at the expense of the farmer, a select committee should be appointed to inquire into the industry. We must also bear in mind that the farmer is obliged to sell his product at the minimum price, whilst he is compelled to buy superphosphate at the maximum price. Such a committee could, go into the matter even more thoroughly than did the Director of Development in 1932 and the Tariff Board in 1929. We are expected to rely upon what the Prices Commissioner has told us. I have no intention of reflecting upon that gentleman, but I remind honorable senators that the Commissioner is responsible to the Government. He is a Government servant, and carries out the Government’s policy ; but a parliamentary select committee i3 under no obligation to the Government, particularly when it includes members drawn from this side of the chamber. The only obligation we recognize is our direct obligation to the farmers, who will be victimized by any increase of the price of superphosphate. How can we reasonably be expected to accept what the Commissioner says, or even what the Governmentsays in view of its policy of private monopolist ownership of primary production? Briefly, that is the policy of this Government.
– Several of the companies in Western Australia are co-operative companies.
– They are cooperative in name. Real co-operation cannot be achieved when farmers are hamstrung. Farmers, or any other section of the community, can co-operate only within the limits of the present economic system. Men 011 the basic wage may co-operate for the purpose of purchasing bread and meat, but their cooperation is restricted by their purchasing power. That is not co-operation in the broad sense of the word, which itself is used merely to camouflage the real position, and to mislead people who do not know better. Nobody knows better than Senator .Johnston the restrictions and obstacles that are placed in the way of the primary producers of Western Australia. They can co-operate as much as they like, but until they co-operate to change the Government and its policy they will not get very far under existing conditions. All that their present cooperation will do will be to prolong the agony.- So long as I have an opportunity to protest against this iniquitous and infamous method of driving men off the land, and depriving them of their livelihood under the cover of war and patriotism, I shall protest as strenuously as I am doing now, and even more vigorously in future.
, - I commend Senator Fraser for having brought this motion forward, because the price of superphosphate is now a burning question among primary producers in Western Australia. But the best way to deal with this matter is not by appointing a parliamentary select committee to inquire into the sale and manufacture of superphosphate. We shall not be able to secure relief for the producers by following that course. Yet the farmers in Western Australia need help immediately, because the price of superphosphate in that State has been increased from £3 12s. 6d. to £4 18s. 6d. a ton with the approval of the Prices Commissioner, who has carefully scrutinized the cost of production. Had this motion been proposed a few weeks ago, I should have been very tempted to support it. However, within the last ten days the Government has appointed over 50 members of this Parliament to act on special committees, including one whose duty it will be to inquire into all matters affecting rural industries. Therefore, I hesitate to support the appointment of another parliamentary select committee to cover once again the inquiries made by the Prices Commissioner. The farmers need relief, not only because of the increase of price by 26s. a ton, but also because in Western Australia, and, I think, in the other States also, a further increase of from 35s. to £2 a ton is now forecast, owing to the difficulty of securing phosphate rock from Nauru and Ocean Island, and the scarcity of shipping. For those reasons it is said, not only will the- price be increased, but supplies will be rationed as well. Consequently, a serious outlook confronts the farmers, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia, where much settlement in light soil areas would not have been possible but for the application of phosphates. We must give relief to these farmers very soon. I think that relief will be obtained by political action. We must insist that this Government give to these farmers consideration equal to that given by the Labour Government of New Zealand to farmers in that dominion. A few days ago, I asked a question on this matter, which evoked the admission that the Government of New Zealand was carrying the whole of the increase of the price of superphosphate imposed since the outbreak of war. Thi« Government includes one section which is pledged to look after the interests of the men on the land who are the main users of superphosphate. It is up to the Country party in this Parliament, therefore, to insist that this Government should show at least the same consideration of the needs of primary producers in this matter as has been displayed by the Government of our sister dominion. I am prepared to play my part in that direction, and to join in any action that will have the result of securing this relief. Thanks to action taken by their Government, the primary producers in New Zealand are still paying only the pre-war price for this necessary commodity.
I should like to say a word about the: history of this motion. It is said that great men think alike. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) gave notice of a similar motion in the House of Representatives a day or two before Senator Fraser gave notice of the motion we are now discussing. To-day, I received a note from that honorable member, stating that he had withdrawn his motion in the House of Representatives, in view of the appointment of the numerous committees to which I have referred, and also because of the fact that the Western Australian superphosphate industry has asked the Government to grant relief in respect of the cost of the transporting certain materials, which will enable the ‘price in Western Australia to be maintained at the level obtaining in the other States. I understand that the Government is being pressed on this matter, and that it is giving very sympathetic consideration to that request. Unless something more than sympathetic consideration on the part of the Government be forthcoming, the superphosphate companies in Western Australia, which are cooperative, will not be able to carry the high cost of transport from Nauru and Ocean Island and, at the same time, sell at the price obtaining in the eastern States.
– The honorable senator can take it that the- Government will give that relief.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister. The farmers in Western Australia need practical assistance from the Government to maintain the price at the same level as in the other States, and in seeing that it is sold to him at a pre-war price. The Government is now considering the whole matter from this aspect. However, I do not think that the appointment of a parliamentary select committee will solve the farmers’ difficulties in regard to superphosphate.
– What does the honorable senator suggest as a solution?
– One solution is that when the Country party, which is an integral part of the Government, is convinced as a party of the urgency for relief being given along the lines I have indicated, it has it in its power to see that such relief is given.
– in reply - I shall deal first with the remarks of Senator Johnston, who, as a member of the Country party and a representative of Western Australia in this chamber, has endeavoured to find a way out of the predicament in which my motion has placed him. Although he complimented me upon bringing this matter before the Senate, he sought to throw cold water on my proposal, simply because a Western Australian member of the House of Representatives gave notice of a similar motion. The position in that respect is not exactly as the honorable senator has stated. During last session I made it known that I intended to give notice of this motion. I am not accusing either Senator Johnston or the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick), but strange to relate, after I, as a representative of the Labour party, had raised this matter, the honorable member for Swan placed it on the notice-paper in the House of Repre sentatives although, as stated by Senator Johnston, he has now withdrawn it. I have been urged by honorable senators opposite to consider the advisability of withdrawing my morion and allowing the matter to be investigated by the Rural Industries Committee. With all due respect to the honorable gentlemen who are members of the committee, my opinion is that that committee is not competent to deal with the subject. In fact, it has not sufficient power. No doubt the Government will delegate to that committee many other matters which it considers require investigation.
– The Rural Industries Committee will have power . to deal with this matter.
– It will not have the powers that a select committee would possess. .!
– Exactly the same, power ? :
– No. Despite his’ emphasis of the urgency of this matter’. Senator Johnston says that it cai) be referred to a committee which it to investigate all problems relating ta rural industries. Can Senator Johnston assure honorable senators that the price and manufacture of superphosphate will be the first matter on the agenda whan the Rural Industries Committee meets? I am sure that he cannot give that assurance, despite the fact that this matter affects almost every primary producer. It is apparent that notwithstanding the honorable senator’s sympathetic lip service, and all his excuses for not supporting this motion, he is not prepared to act in accordance with the wishes of his own party in Western Australia, or of the Western Australian Parliament in which all parties unanimously decided to support the action I have advocated.
– Selectcommittees have never yet given relief to the farmers.
– Senator Johnston says now that a select committee would not be able to give relief to the farmers, yet he wants to delegate this matter to the Rural Industries Committee.
– This is not a matter of relief; it is a matter of the manufacture and sale of superphosphate.
SenatorFRASER. - Senator Johnston knows that 13s. a ton is the f.o.b. price at Nauru.
– It is. The price of phosphate rock has not increased to any great degree in recent years. I say to the Minister . that the difference between 13s. and £4 18s. 6d. and contemplated additional increases should be investigated.
– That is where they get their profits.
– There are no profits.
– Phosphate rock is sold to all States at the regulated price.
– I do not dispute that, but as I pointed out when moving this motion, that acting on instructions from the Prices Commissioner the Australian Phosphate Company in Victoria, generally known as the Pivot Company, had to increase its price to £4 18s. 6d, That company was the regulating factor in the sale of superphosphate in Australia, but that position has now been altered. I realize that Senator Johnston is a member of the Rural Industries Committee. The honorable senator has admitted that the farmers are in urgent need of relief, but he claims that a select committee would never give them that relief. I should like to know what he expects the Rural Industries Committee todo? His attitude does not appear to me to be reasonable or consistent. The Minister has only told us what we already knew. He did not tell us, for instance, if the commissioner, in fixing the price of superphosphate, made a retrospective examination of this industry. That was one of my objections.
– The Prices Commissioner takes all these things into consideration. Regardless of the previous price if he finds that the present price is exorbitant he pegs it. He does not take any notice of the previous price.
– Of course he does not. The Minister admits then that in fixing the price the commissioner considered only the figures obtaining at the 31st August, 1939. He did not make a retrospective inquiry to find out whether these companies were making big profits before the war. If they were making big profits before the war, they must be making ‘big profits now.
– Despite the investigation and report made by the Commerce Department, the Western Australian Parliament is not satisfied. Unfortunately, we on this side of the chamber have not got the numbers to carry the motion, and it seems that this matter will be delegated to the Rural Industries Committee, but I assure the Senate that that will not satisfy farmers in Western Australia or in any other part of Australia. The price they have to pay for superphosphate is affecting them severely, and the inevitable result will be that they will use less. Perhaps that is the intention of the Government.
– The farmers might be forced to use less.
– Quite possibly. I shall come to that point later. Is the Government trying to find a way to starve the people off the land? Are those the tactics which are to be adopted?
– Do not be stupid.
- Senator Uppill is probably one of those fortunate members of the Senate who are in a position to pay cash for superphosphate, but I remind him that there are many other farmers in Australia who are not so well placed, and have not the necessary ready cash to enable them to secure the rebate of 5s. a ton. Senator Gibson has said that the supply of superphosphate may be rationed. That is quite true, and in view of that possibility I should like to know what has been done since Mr. Gunn’s report on deposits in Australia was made in 1932.
– They are of a very low grade.
– That may be so in some cases but I notice that some of the deposits contain 50 per cent, of fertilizer content. That is one of the points that have been raised in connexion with the increase of the price of superphosphate.
– But not of pyrites?
– No, but these deposits do exist and the people should know just what development has taken place since the report on them was made nearly ten years ago. The rationing of superphosphate would be disastrous to this country, and the sooner that this Parliament sees that something is done in regard to the development of our own resources the better it will be. I was struck by a comment made by Senator A. J. McLachlan several days ago, when he was speaking of the possible restriction of the acreage under wheat. The honorable senator said that we were facing a dangerous position. I agree with him that we should make every effort to keep all available land in production, because, perhaps sooner than we expect, millions of people in Europe will be starving. In view of that possibility, why should we talk of acreage restriction in Australia? As Senator Cameron pointed out, an accentuation of the position will mean that farmers on small holdings will go off the land, just as the small man is being forced out of business, and the wealthy landholders will ‘benefit. If ever there was justification for the appointment of a select committee, it exists in connexion with the superphosphate industry. Despite all that has been said by Senator Johnston in favour of referring this matter to the Rural Industries Committee, I am not at all satisfied. I do not believe that that committee could reach a decision in time to save the small farmers from bankruptcy. At least I have carried out the wishes of the Labour party, and of the Western Australian Parliament, many members of which represent a large farming community in that State.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to..
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.)
Majority . . . . Nil.
– There being fourteen “ Ayes “ and fourteen “ Noes “, the question is resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.12 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Leckie) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have great pleasure in moving the second reading of this bill. It has my entire concurrence and I feel sure that it will receive a speedy passage through this chamber. The object of the bill is to make permanent a provision introduced two years ago under which the Commonwealth provided £20,000 a year for the purpose of financing a national fitness campaign. Every body realizes that there is much to be done in this direction, and that physical training plays an equally important part as mental training in the life of the individual. Teachers cannot train their pupils effectively unless they have a proper conception of the principles of physical training. One of the objects of the bill is to train leaders to encourage others to improve their physical fitness. I think that I may claim to have a special interest in this scheme and probably know as much as anybody else of the improvement of health that follows planned physical exercise. The value of physical training is seen in the improvement of the health standards of those of our young men who have spent a month or two in our military camps. The exercise in the open air and the good food served in the camps improve their physique to a remarkable degree.
– Many of them did not get good food before they went to camp. They should have had it before.
– Many of those I know had plenty of good food before they went into camp, though it may not have been as nourishing as the food supplied in the camps. As I feel sure that every honorable senator will support this measure I need not continue on those lines.
The national fitness movement, as a truly national and Commonwealth movement, was begun in 1939 by the present Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll), who appointed a council of persons selected because of their association with sports movements in the States. A conference of State Ministers of Education which met in Sydney endorsed the movement, and the representative Commonwealth council met in January, 1939. The movement developed and spread, and ultimately the Government decided in July, 1939, to provide a total sum of £100,000 to be expended over five years for the promotion of a national fitness campaign. The annua] allocation of that money was as follows: - £1,000 to each of the State Governments for organizing purposes, and the following amounts to the universities: - Sydney, £2,000; Melbourne, £2,000; Brisbane, £1,500; Adelaide, £1,500; Perth, £1,500; Hobart, £1,000. The balance was left in the hands of the Commonwealth Minister for Health. It is now proposed to increase the grant to each of the States by £500 for the specific purpose of training leaders. State Governments were invited to form State Councils. The New South Wales Government had already a State Council in existence. The other Governments followed its example and State Councils were appointed on the following dates: Victoria, the 10th February, 1939; Queensland, the 12th August, 1939; Western Australia, the 14th March, 1939 (approximately) ; South Australia, the 20th October, 1939; and Tasmania (approximately), August, 1939.
– These are all honorary bodies?
The Commonwealth money was allocated for two main purposes - (a) organizing expenses; (6) subsidies to universities for the establishment of diploma courses.
Honorable senators will notice that paragraph (o) of sub-clause 5 of the bill has been amended by the insertion of the word “ schools “ before the word “ universities “. That has been done in order to widen the scope of the scheme. All States have appointed organizers and all of the universities have accepted the conditions. In Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, diploma or certificate courses have been established. In Western Australia and Tasmania it was decided to provide scholarships for selected persons to attend courses at other universities. The movement has been very enthusiastically taken up in every State. It has found expression in police boys’ clubs, the formation of municipal centres, country permanent camps and summer schools for the training of group leaders, combined activities with such bodies as Young Men’s Christian Association, &c, and the formation of a youth hostel association.
The enthusiasm with which this movement was adopted encouraged the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, at its last meeting in November, 1940, to express itself in these terms -
While the success achieved in each State ha* been noteworthy, it has recently become very apparent that the national importance and value of this movement has not been adequately recognized or expressed.
The Council expresses its strongly held opinion that there is an imperative and immediate need to use the vitality of this national fitness movement as one means for securing a high ideal of national service. Central stimulus is necessary. Commonwealth direction and encouragement is desired and expected, and Commonwealth assistance must be given if the enthusiasm now available is not to reach its maximum and then fade away to nothing.
Some satisfactory organization by which the Commonwealth gives evidence of its intention to foster this active enthusiasm is necessary if this movement is to be recognized as an integral part of whatever form of organized national service is adopted. That it is a rigorous movement, arid that it can be capitalized as a vehicle for carrying national efficiency and national unity to a high plane, should ‘be recognized.
The council also expressed strongly its view that a central focal point was essential for all purposes of co-operative action. The constitution of the council was changed subsequent to the third session : instead of. being directly nominated by the Minister the council is now composed of the Commonwealth Minister for Health, the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Director-General of Health, and one nominee from each of the- State councils. The newly constituted council met on the 9th and the 10th May, 1940, and in November, 1940, held a very valuable joint session with the National Health and Medical Research Council.
This bill contemplates the maintenance and development of this national movement adapted to the needs and local enthusiasms in each State, in association with related activities, and in close cooperation with the National Health and Medical Research Council. I have before mc notes relating to similar acts adopted in the United Kingdom and in New Zealand in 1939, and to a bill which recently camo before the Congress of the United States of America. In those countries the movement has been enthusiastically advanced along parallel lines. The fund in the bill now before the Senate will consist at first of the £20,000 per annum allocated under the original grant, and any moneys later appropriated by Parliament or gifts specially made for this purpose. In the United Kingdom, the grant approved under the relevant act amounted to £1,468,000 in 1939. On a population basis, the Australian equivalent would be about £200,000 per annum - ten times the present amount. I may be asked why it is necessary to introduce this bill while in fact the Commonwealth has for two years subscribed £20,000 per annum for the purposes mentioned. The universities and others interested in the scheme desire that it be given permanence so that they may plan ahead. It is desired that lecturers and teachers should have security of tenure of office. In order to achieve that object the Government has decided to ask Parliament to place this measure on the statute-book.
– What check is imposed on the expenditure of this money!
– The Commonwealth Council will check all expenditure, as also will the State Councils. I point out to the honorable senator that this money is being granted on certain specified terms, to each university, for the training of leaders and also for the expenses of the main council. The expenditure from the fund will also be audited by the Auditor-General. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Power Alcohol Production - Statement by Senator Crawford: Commercial Activities of Senator Foll - Business of the Senate* - TransAustralian Telegraph Line - Repatriation: Case of H. F. Brockley - Gold-mining Industry - Flinders Island Post Office - Enlistments : Married Men with Dependants; Miners - War Industries in Tasmania - National Oil Proprietary Limited.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– A few days ago, the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) tabled the report of the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry. The Minister did not then indicate the Government’s view of the findings of that committee, but the following report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald : -
The Federal Government has decided, ns a first objective, to produce 22,000,000 gallons of power alcohol a year.
This was announced to-day by the Minister for Supply, Senator McBride, when be tabled the Power Alcohol Committee’s report in the Senate.
The output of 7,000,000 gallons from existing distilleries, said Senator McBride, would be produced from molasses, supplemented by 4.000 tons of raw sugar, each year.
The new distilleries, with an estimated output of 10,000,000 gallons, would use wheat only. They will be located in Western Australia (estimated output 2,000,000 gallons), South Australia (3,000,000 gallons), Victoria (2.000.000 gallons), and New South Wales (2,000.000 gallons).
The capital required for these distilleries would be £1,100,000, and their establishment would be discussed by the Federal and State Governments and representatives of private enterprise to evolve mutually satisfactory arrangements.
I now ask whether the Government intends to implement the recommendations of the committee, which the committee summarized in its report as follows : -
During peace-time, the normal consumption of petrol in Australia is 350,000,000 gallons, of which 52,500,000 gallons of power alcohol would represent 15 per cent. The committee has recommended that all motor fuel consumed in Australia should be a blend containing somewhere between 12 per cent, and 20 per cent, of alcohol. In these proportions both the petrol and the alcohol give the highest standard of efficiency in the average petrol engine. It can safely be said that the motor transport community would in present circumstances be happy to pay the slight extra cost of the new fuel. In a country like Australia we must experience drastic economic repercussions as petrol rationing becomes essentially more severe. I do not intend to discuss the technical aspect of the power alcohol industry. The committee recommends the manufacture of alcohol from molasses, supplemented by a quantity of raw sugar, estimated at 40,000 tons annually. Personally, I think that that is the most efficient manner in which power alcohol can be manufactured, because distilleries already exist, and their capacity can be readily stepped up as required. However, the cost of transporting raw sugar and molasses to the distilleries is an important item of cost. For that reason, I believe that the committee had in mind the establishment of distilleries adjacent to the sugar mills in Northern Queensland, with perhaps a distillery in New South Wales. Alcohol can be manufactured more economically from syrups than from raw sugar. I realize that the establishment of distilleries will involve heavy expenditure, but the Government should, in the national interests, adopt the recommendations of the committee and go ahead immediately with preparations for the manufacture of 52,500,000 gallons of power alcohol annually, as recommended. lt may take up to two years before the required number of distilleries are in full production. At this stage, however, I should like to know whether the Government has evolved any definite plan for implementing the recommendations of the committee. The Government, of course, recognizes that if it intends to do so it must take steps immediately to purchase machinery or, perhaps, arrange for its manufacture in Australia. Up to date, however, the policy of the Government has been to hand over this matter to the Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels. That committee has never been very sympathetic towards this industry. But I know that the Government has handed over the report of the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry to that body. I am anxious, therefore, to discover whether the Government intend® to be guided by the opinion of the Standing Committee. If the recommmendations of the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry be implemented, the manufacture of power alcohol will absorb a quantity of sugar which cannot now be exported. That committee recommends that for that sugar the growers be paid £9 a ton - the export price. On that basis, power alcohol can be manufactured and sold at a price which compares favorably with that ruling for petrol to-day. But if the
Government intends to be guided, as has hitherto been the case, by the advice of economists in this matter, it will not do the right thing by the sugar industry. We know that, had it accepted the advice of so-called economists in the past, neither the sugar industry nor our steel industry would be in existence to-day. The Government can safely implement the recommendations of the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry, because, by doing so, it will help to tide Australia over the difficulties now being experienced due to the shortage of petrol. The committee has made it clear that no technical difficulties arise; we can manufacture alcohol. Therefore, I urge the Government to give immediate and urgent consideration to the committee’s recommendations. That committee consisted of practical men. It should not be thought for one moment that the power alcohol industry is going to prove a very great boon to the sugar industry. That will not be the case. However, as the sugar industry is now unable to dispose of the surplus which hitherto it exported, we must find some market for that surplus. Otherwise, ‘we shall have to abandon a great proportion of our sugar lands. That, of course, is unthinkable. I again ask the Minister to indicate whether the Government intends to implement the recommendations of the Power Alcohol Committee, and to outline briefly what plans it has in mind in that respect?
– On the 30th June last, I completed 24 years of service in the Senate. I have reason to believe that for eighteen of those years every (member of this Parliament was my personal friend, and that there existed between me and each member a friendship which I appreciated and heartily reciprocated without exception. However, for the last six years, a certain member of the Senate has maintained an attitude of hostility towards me; and it is upon that matter that I now, reluctantly, find myself obliged to speak. The first evidence of this development occurred in connexion with the preselection of a candidate from among Government supporters for the presidency of the Senate. On the following clay, the 24th September, 1935, the follow ing report appeared in the Melbourne Age : -
Ministry’s Choice Defeated - Senator Lynch Re-appointed.
Senator P. J. Lynch, United Australia party, Senator for Western Australia, was re-elected President of the Senate ata meeting of United Australia party senators this morning. Hit election is a tribute tohis popularity with individual members, as he retained the Presidency in face of opposition from Senator Foll, of Queensland, who was the Ministry s choice.
The vote was close, the preferences of the other five candidates. Senators Millen (Tasmania), Foll (Queensland). Crawford (Queensland), Plain (Victoria) and Payne (Tasmania) being distributed before the count turnedin favour of Senator Lynch.
Features of the election were the large number of candidates and the hasty return from England by air-mail ‘plane of Senator Foll, who was a member of the parliamentary delegation which attended the King’s Jubilee celebrations.
On that occasion, the pre-selection was by exhaustive ballot, and not by ordinary preferential voting, as indicated by that report, which would be perfectly correct if the contest had been conducted under donkeyrace conditions, when the first is last and the last is first. It is rather surprising that the candidate who was the second to be eliminated in the exhaustive ballot is reported to have been the runner-up. The report which appeared in the Queensland newspapers was quite different. It stated that the election was carried out by exhaustive ballot, but, in my opinion, there was one very serious mistake in what was alleged to have taken place at the party meeting, because the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) took my place, which was higher, and I was given his. I shall not go into the many details of that matter, nor shall I give an account of every instance of hostility shown to me during the six year* under review, but I should like to draw attention to the fact that in June, 1938, the Queensland press was deluged with telegrams from Canberra to the effect that on the 1st July, when Sir George Pearce and ex-Senator Lynch retired, the Minister for the Interior would become the father of the House.
I never thought of publishing anything like that, although I had an equal claim to do so, having been returned at the same time as Senator Foll. I did not think it necessary to telegraph to every newspaper in Queensland. I believe that a correct report appeared in a Queensland Sunday newspaper in which the original statement had not been published. Apparently a. way of retreat was left. The statement appeared in three issues of the Brisbane Courier and in four issues of the Brisbane Telegraph. 1 do not say that the Minister was responsible for that propaganda, but he was the only one who could have profited by it, if there was any profit in it. I know that in similar circumstances, had I been the one apparently profiting, 3 should have taken it upon myself, as a man, ‘ to contradict such incorrect publicity. I shall pass on now to the last federal elections, about which I shall say very little except to mention, incidentally, that a colleague of mine for three years was working most assiduously to secure the substitution of a Country party candidate in my place, but he failed, and both organizations unanimously endorsed my selection. As honorable senators are aware, there was a drastic change in the form of ballot-paper used at the last general elections - ia horizontal ballotpaper was used - and it was the luck of the government candidates to be placed in the first column. At the previous election, the government candidates were at the bottom of a vertical ballot-paper, and she instruction given to voters by government supporters on “ how to vote “ cards, was to begin at the bottom and vote up. A great many people in Queensland did that at the last elections, and as a consequence, the Minister for the Interior received quite a number of primary votes, and so did I, although my nairne was in the middle of the list. When the count was about half completed, the honorable senator’s publicity agents managed to get the following report published in one of the Brisbane newspapers- : -
A striking feature of the Senate poll is the high personal vote for Senator- Foll. Although he was placed third on the list of the government team, Senator Foll has polled more than 1 0,000 votes, more than two and a half times as many as the No. 2 candidate, Senator Crawford.
– There was nothing wrong with it until the final count was reached, and then its purpose was revealed, as well as the purpose of something else. This was how the Brisbane Telegraph reported the final figures -
The retiring United Australia party-United Country party team - Senators W. J. Cooper, T. W. Crawford and H. Foll - have been reelected in the Queensland Senate ballot with much larger majorities than Uley had when they were elected in 1934.
Senator Foll, after the distribution of his colleague’s preferences, had an absolute majority of 32,103 over the Labour and independent candidates, and his total was 59,087 greater than the highest Labour total. At the 1934 election Senator Foll had a majority of only 4,585.
Senator Cooper had an absolute majority of 2,227 over the combined total of Mr. W. Bertram, Labour, and Senator Foll, after the other candidates’ preferences were distributed, had a majority of 25,513 over Mr. Bertram. This compared with a majority of 6,335 at the 1934 election.
Senator Crawford had a majority over Mr. Bertram of 32.31], compared with 6,793 at the 1934 election.
The final figures in the election were - ‘
First vacancy - Senator Cooper, 269,129; Mr. W. Bertram, 243,010.
Second vacancy - Senator Crawford, 289,171 ; Mr. Bertram, 246,800.
Third vacancy - Senator Foll, 284,007; Mr. Bertram, 224,980.
I v/ish to make two or three very brief comments on that statement. It is stated that the Minister’s total was 59,087 more than that of the highest Labour candidate’s total. That figure was arrived at by including Senator Foil’s preference votes and excluding Mr. Bertram’s. Apparently it means something to a candidate to have a departmental publicity agent working for him at election time. With regard to myself, in the statement which I have read, 10,000 votes were lopped off my majority so that the final statement - no doubt that was the object - would correspond with the statement made at the middle of the count, when it was alleged that the Minister’s popularity was shown by the receipt of two and a half times as many primary votes as were given to me. No contradiction or correction of those figures was published. If these things can happen in these allegedly democratic days, then
God help democracy, unless something be done to put a stop to such practices. But that is not the finish of the matter. The following is an extract from a report which appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph on the 26th September, 1940:-
With the ink on the ballot-papers for the Senate hardly dry, the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) has already settled down to hard work.
Although the poll only concluded on Saturday night, Senator Foll visited Melbourne on Tuesday for a meeting of the War Cabinet and from there he came to Canberra on Wednesday to attend to routine departmental matters. Last night he left for Sydney and will go from there to Brisbane to watch the final count in the House of Representatives and Senate elections.
Senator Foll revealed while in Canberra that throughout the election campaign not one matter referred to him by his departmental heads had failed to receive his attention within 24 hours of leaving the department.
All urgent subjects were forwarded to him by air mail, or any other expeditious transport service available, while he was campaigning in Queensland, he said.
Senator Foll will be included in the new Ministry to be formed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
What are the facts? How much campaigning did the Minister do when chased by departmental documents requiring his attention? The truth is that while Senator Cooper and I were scouring the country by rail and road addressing meetings wherever they could be arranged by the respective party political organizations, the Minister for most of the time was sitting, or lying, in Brisbane nursing a minor ailment. At last, the Minister travelled by mail ‘plane and addressed meetings at Rockhampton and Townsville. It is worthy of note that Townsville is the port for Mount Isa and no doubt the Minister had some Mount Isa business to transact at Townsville. Although honorable senators have apparently enjoyed what I have said, some of. them may think that it should have been left unsaid. I have made these remarks only because I felt that it was my duty to do so. I have done it very reluctantly, but as a justification for at least part of what I have said, let me read the following lines : -
The toad beneath the harrow knows,
Exactly where each pin point goes,
The butterfly beside the road
Preaches contentment to the toad.
I trust that the butterflies beside the road will not get busy until I have finished what I have to say. At this stage I shall interpolate an extract from one of those very fine articles which Professor Murdoch contributes to a number of weekly publications. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the following which appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail of the 21st September, 1940 : -
We are fighting for the right to live in a country ruled by decent blokes, not by crooks; for the right to choose decent blokes to carry on the government for us. We are fighting for all decent blokes everywhere who are assailed by crooks. We know that if the standards of the crook prevail the world will not be, by a decent bloke’s standards, a place fit to live in: we believe that to save our children from having to grow up in such a world would be something worth dying for. This is all that the forbidding term “ Christian ethic “ really means.
I now pass on to another subject, and quote the following extract from a statement published in the Brisbane Courier Mail in February, 1939 : -
On his way to inspect the Mount Isa Mines. Earl Castle Stewart. Chairman of Mining Trust Limited, arrived in Brisbane yesterday.
Mining Trust Limited has its head-quarters in London. It was formed in 1929, and in 1930 issued 1.245.988 shares to American Smelting and Refining Company for 408,395 shares in Mount Isa Mines, Queensland,
It has a large holding in New Guinea Goldfields, Limited, in Anglo-Queensland Mining Proprietary Limited, and other mining ventures in various parts of the world.
The most important feature of that statement is that it discloses that Mount Isa Mines Limited is part of a vast international mining organization, and that the company principally interested in it is the American Smelting and Refining Company. This international organization is generally alluded to, I understand, as the Guggenheim group. It is not many years since Mr. Guggenheim came to Australia under the name of Gregory, and acquired an interest in Mount Isa Mines Limited. If Mount Isa Mines Limited were controlled by a local company and bv local people, it would be quite a different matter from its being part of a vast international organization producing, to a very great degree, the minerals used in the manufacture of munitions. It is only natural to conclude that the longer the war lasts and the more it spreads, the greater will be the profits of the shareholders of this group of mining companies. I venture to assert that the fact that a director of Mount Isa Mines Limited is a member of the Australian War Cabinet creates :» situation which has no parallel in the countries constituting the British Commonwealth of Nations. I shall go farther than that, and say that it produces a situation which, in the minds of most people, is regarded as having a definitely treacherous aspect.
The Government should, at the first opportunity, introduce legislation to control the operations of public companies in this country. I believe that, under the Constitution, this Parliament has power to pass such legislation. Shortly after he became a member of the Commonwealth Cabinet, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) spoke on several occasions in favour of abolishing the State Parliaments and placing the whole of Australia and its governmental activities under Commonwealth law. That is a big issue, and I shall not discuss it now, but I am strongly in favour of the Commonwealth Parliament controlling public companies, so far as it has the constitutional power to do so. Should it puss such a law, I hope that it will make a better job of it than when it passed the act by which the bankruptcy laws of the States were superseded. I do not know much about bankruptcy, although it- was my duty, as a member of the government of the day, to take charge of the Bankruptcy Bill during its passage through this Senate.
The next company with which I wish to deal is known as Queensland Forests Limited. I shall not describe it in detail, but it was a company which derived the whole of its income from the sale of worthless bonds to unwary persons, and its canvassers concentrated their blandishments on widows. They fold bonds to them of considerable face value in the aggregate, and such transactions may be described as robbery of widows and the fatherless. This practice continued for years until the Government of New South Wales, yielding to public indignation, and as the result of a judicial investigation, passed amendments of the Public Companies Act, putting a stop to the predatory practices to which I have referred. On the 1st April, 1936, the following appeared in the Cairns Post: - “ Corruption is going on behind the backs of shareholders “, declared Mr. J. J. Nesa (member for Dulwich Hill), in the Assembly to-day, when he made serious charges against Amalgamated Forests Limited, which controlled a dozen subsidiary companies.
Mr. Ness quoted an affidavit that hod been made concerning an objection to the liquidator. There were, he said, as subsidiary companies, Queensland Forests Limited, Commercial Credit Co-operation of Australia, National Tobacco Corporation, Australian Trustees and Executors, Associated Tobacco Manufacturers Proprietary Limited, Queensland Timber Millers Limited, Victorian Securities Proprietary and Mount Etna Fertilizers Limited. Control was in the hands of Moulton Brothers while there were 500 shareholders and the money involved was about £70,000.
The company had gone into voluntary liquidation and the shareholders were taking exception to the executor appointed. Mr. Ness, continued, that these three Moulton brothers, together with others, control the whole of the companies. They purchased 2,700 acres of land at 27«. fid. and 30s. Od. an acre and Bold 2,500 acres at £14 and £1G an acre to one of their directors, who resold at £16. These men realize .that the new act is coming into force and are getting out before it comes.
The Minister for Justice (Mr. I. C. Martin) said that unfortunately the statements by Mr. Ness were largely true. As soon as the matter was mentioned to him he placed it in the hands of the Criminal Investigation Department for investigation, but as yet the Government had no.t been able to take action regarding the winding-up.
I can see no difference whatever between the hawking of bonds and the hawking of shares. I shall quote a couple of sentences from the remarks of the judge who tried the Woolcott-Forbes case in Sydney some time ago. His Honour, addressing the accused, Walker and Levitus, said -
Assuming that you were led astray by a man cleverer than yourselves, I think that the verdict the jury arrived at was the only one which was open to them on the evidence. In recent years share hawking has become an infamous trade.
– The agents of the company, I assume. Some of them were most attractive :young men, whose special business it was to interview widows and endeavour to persuade them that they could double and redouble the small sums that their husbands had left to them and to their children by investing the money in Queensland Forests Limited.
It seems to me that the Government and the Parliament has an imperative duty to perform, and that is to prevent the commercialization of the honorable title of senator. I suggest that without further delay every member of this Parliament should be required to furnish a return showing all directorships held by him and the remuneration received. “.No member of this Parliament should be allowed to be a director of an international company whose interests may clash with those of this country, and probably with those of the Empire and all for which it stands in these perilous days. I have spoken longer than I intended. Perchance I have adopted the style of the hustings rather than that to which honorable senators are accustomed in this chamber, but I can plead that I am somewhat out of practice. Having broken the ice, however, I may be heard in this chamber more frequently. As I said earlier, I have spoken reluctantly. I have taken this step only because it appeared to me to .follow naturally on the oath which I took yesterday to serve my king and country.
– Who is associated with Queensland Forests Limited?
– The same honorable senator as is interested was in Mount Isa Mines Limited. He has a flair for that sort of thing.
– That is a deliberate lie.
– If the Minister says that, he is a deliberate liar.
– Order !
– I have given a Roland for an Oliver; that is all.
– The honorable senator may proceed with his remarks.
– In referring to Queensland Forests Limited, I said that it was a group of companies, and that the whole group was controlled by Moulton Bros, and others. Then came a time when Moulton Bros, considered that a director of one of these companies could render better service overseas than he could render in Australia. Accordingly, he was provided with a sum of bondholders’ money to go abroad. He went abroad, and he stayed away until the clouds rolled by. I do not hold the Minister wholly responsible for the position he is in to-day. There has been a great deal of publicity about Mount Isa Mines Limited and the Minister’s connexion with it. Some one higher than he in this Parliament, and in the Government, is cognizant of the position, and must share the responsibility for its continuance. I must say that I have thought a great deal about the reason why the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) permits it. It may be - and this is the conclusion at which I have arrived - that under the spell of his own fluency, he has become obsessed by the idea that his super-excellence would sanctify, if necessary, a whole Cabinet of Horatio Bottomleys or Al Capones. So we are in the position that we must, review the whole situation in order to satisfy ourselves whether or not we arc protecting our democracy from internal decay - that democracy which so many thousands of sons of Empire are fighting, bleeding and dying to maintain.
– I am both astonished and disappointed at the outburst of Senator Crawford in relation to myself. As he himself said, we were sworn yesterday for the fifth successive time. For 24 years, we have been colleagues representing the same State, having been originally elected to the Senate on the 5th May, 1917. The honorable senator has amazed me in some degree, but not altogether, by his outburst this evening.
– The Minister thought that I was a worm that would never turn.
– I certainly thought that the honorable senator was a worm, but I did not know whether or not ho would turn.
– I did turn.
– I did not imagine that the honorable senator would aLow his bitter jealousy, because of the fact that I occupy a position in the Cabinet, so to overcome his sense of propriety and decency as to indulge in conduct of the kind of which he has been guilty this evening. I do not wish to take up a great deal of the time of the Senate, but I remind honorable senators that this honorable gentleman, who is so ready to charge members of this Parliament and of the Government with being associated with outside business interests, is himself engaged in business.
– He is not in the Ministry.
– Even when he was in the Ministry, he was the paid president of the Australian Sugar Producers Association. He has received payment from that organization every year since he has been a member of this Parliament.
– About £100 a year.
– He has received payment as president of that association. As the paid servant of the Australian Sugar Producers Association he has received money, over and above what he is paid as a senator representing Queensland, in order to advocate the cause of the sugar industry. The honorable senator has been overpaid, because on every occasion that I can recall some matter of importance to the sugar indus. try being discussed in this chamber, he has been either absent or asleep.
– That is absolutely untrue, and the Minister knows it. It is another, of his fabrications.
– “When I was Government Whip in the Senate, at a time when the sugar industry was dependent for its existence upon regulations rather than upon an act of Parliament as it is now, a motion for disallowance of the protection given by the Government to the sugar industry was moved by Senator Colebatch. I do not say it egotistically, but it was only by careful whipping that that motion was not carried.
– Were not some Tasmanian senators away?
– Yes ; and one Queenslander also was away - the man who was paid by the Australian Sugar Producers
Association to be here to represent that body. Senator Crawford was not here on that occasion. I assure the honorable senator that I would not have indulged in a speech of this kind had he not thrown down the challenge. The honorable senator must learn to take what he gives. There is no member of the chamber with a worse record of attendance over a period of years than has Senator Crawford.
– I was on leave for a considerable time.
– I shall give the honorable senator’s attendances record, and will show the number of days that he has been absent without leave.
– The Minister furnished that information to the press.
– From 1929 to 1931 there were 154 sitting days. Senator Crawford, who was here as the alleged champion of the sugar industry and as the representative of Queensland, attended on only 93 of those days. On 59 days he was absent without leave, and for two days he was absent on leave.
– The Minister has been absent from Queensland for twenty years.
– In the 1932-34 session, the sitting days numbered 115, but Senator Crawford was present on only 74 of those days. For the remaining 41 days, he was absent without leave. For not one of the days that he was absent was he granted leave. Out of a total of 269 days, this man, who was prepared to draw the pay provided by the people of this country for attending to his duties, attended on only 167 days. During the session from 1934 to 1937, there were 95 sitting days, but only on 39 of those days was Senator Crawford in his place. For 31 days he was absent without leave, and for 25 days he was absent with leave. During another period of 21 sitting days, in 1937, he was present on fourteen days and absent without leave on seven days.
– And yet the Minister asked the people of Queensland to rote for him.
– I did so, because throughout I have shown more loyalty to Senator Crawford than he has shown to me.
– The Minister has not resided in Queensland for twenty years.
– In the years from 1937 to 1940, there were 85 sitting days. Senator Crawford attended on 73 days, and was absent on twelve days. The sitting days in 1940 numbered 23, on three of which the honorable senator was absent. Out of 23 sitting days in 1941, he has been absent on eight days. I remind the honorable senator, who finished his speech with such an impassioned appeal on behalf of King and country, that when the National Security Bill was introduced by the Government, in order to provide means for prosecuting the war with the utmost vigour of which Australia was capable, this man’s vote was the only one not recorded. He went away from Canberra unpaired.
– I object to being referred to as “ this man “. Such language is not becoming in this chamber.
– Order! Does Senator Crawford raise a. point of order ?
– I submit, Mr. President, that it is disorderly for one honorable senator to point at another honorable senator, and refer to him as “ this man “.
– The Minister may resume his speech.
– I withdraw my reference to the honorable senator as a man.
– There will be a to-morrow.
– I shall give another example of the kind of man that Senator Crawford is in order to show how much notice can be taken of him. He has been attacking me in the presence of my friends, and his friends, for years. The only reason why he has attacked mo is because the Prime Minister saw fit to honour me by asking me to accept a seat in his Government. From that time onwards the honorable senator’s attitude towards rae changed. Not only does he now seek to defame my character, but he has descended so low as to write anonymous letters to the then Acting Prime Minister, some of which I have here in my file. They are in his own handwriting and one is signed “ A Senator “. He has not the courage to say outside this chamber what he has said here.
– I should like to see that letter.
– The honorable senator may see it.
– I do not remember ever writing such a letter. When I wrote letters to the Prime Minister I signed them.
– Order! I ask Senator Crawford to refrain from interjecting.
– I can understand the honorable senator saying that he doe not remember signing the letters. He did not sign them; they were anonymous letters. His obsession against me has become a kind of madness.
– Why did the Minister oppose my nomination for three years ?
– I shall revert to that later. At present I am endeavouring to show what kind of man the honorable senator is by proving that he was the author of filthy anonymous letters written to the Acting Prime Minister concerning me.
– Read the letters!
– I do not intend to do so. So that there could be no doubt as to the source of these letters, I sent them, together with samples of the honorable senator’s handwriting, to two handwriting experts, one of whom is employed by the Commonwealth Government when it requires evidence in relation to identification of handwriting, and the other, a handwriting expert employed by a State Commissioner of Police. Both experts agreed that Senator Crawford wrote the letters. What notice can be taken by the Parliament or by the people of a man who is prepared to descend to those depths?
– I never wrote such a letter. It is faked, just as the figures which secured the Minister’s promotion were faked.
– The reports received from one of the handwriting experts reads as follows: -
Documents A, B, C, D, E have all been written by the same person. The case is sufficiently clear for demonstration and proof, if need be, in courts of justice.
– I repeat that I have never written anonymous letters.
– I have produced incontrovertible proof that the honorable senator has done so. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.
I propose now to refer to what I consider to be a very paltry matter. The honorable senator attacked me because of the publication of a press report when he was nominated for the position’ of President of the Senate. The honorable senator knows that I am not responsible for what is published in the press. He said that I had been instrumental in having published in the press a statement that I had flown back from London by air in order to contest the Senate election. Every body .knows that I returned by boat. As a matter of fact, I met some honorable senators at Fremantle on my way home. The honorable senator was apparently affronted because some newspaper referred to me as the father of the Senate. If I thought it would please him, I would be quite willing to refer to the honorable senator as the mother of the Senate.
– The honorable senator has admitted that his private secretary deluged the press with statements that he was the father of the Senate.
– The honorable senator also said that, for a number of years, I endeavoured to run a Country party candidate in opposition to him. The time of the National Parliament should not be wasted by replying to .paltry statements of that kind. However, I shall not allow the statements made by the honor.able senator in connexion with my association with the Mount Isa Mines Limited to go unchallenged. I have never made any secret of the fact that I have been a director of that company for many years. Mount Isa Mines Limited is a public company, and every body knows that I have been associated with it. When I was first asked by the late Mr. Lyons to join his Ministry, I told him that I was a director of two companies, and two only - Mount Isa Mines Limited and New Guinea Gold-fields Limited. I said that, whilst my association with those companies would not clash in any way with my ministerial duties, if at any time he felt that such association embarrassed him or his Government, I would immediately resign from the directorates. I am prepared to do so to-day if my continued association with the two companies causes embarrassment either to my leader or to the Government. I was elected to the boards of those companies by the shareholders. No organization in Queensland has done more to develop the northwest portion of the State than Mount Isa Mines Limited. It employs between 1,200 and 1,300 men under conditions which compare favorably with those existing in any other organization of its kind in the world. The company has expended hundreds of thousands of pounds in the amelioration of the conditions of its employees. To-day, between 6,000 and 7,000 people depend upon the Mount Isa mine for their living. If Senator Crawford could forget his bias against me, he would be the first to admit that the company has been a veritable godsend to northern Queensland. The honorable senator referred to the output of the Mount Isa mine. Every ounce of lead taken out of that mine since the outbreak of war has been shipped to England as soon as shipping space was obtained to carry it away. The whole of the lead output of the mine was sold to the British Government at £15 a ton, a price which leaves little or no margin of profit for the company. The company has expended hundreds of thousands of pounds in wages and freight in order that every available ounce of lead could be placed ai the disposal of the British Government. Shares in the company, nominally valued at £1, are quoted on the London market to-day at 2s. Id. It has not yet paid a farthing in dividends, and it has no hope of ever recovering the money it has expended in building up its organization. The honorable senator also referred, to my association with New Guinea Gold-fields Limited. I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a director of that company, which, as honorable senators know, has had a very bad time. Shares in New Guinea Gold-fields Limited of a nominal value of £1 are quoted on the Stock Exchange to-day at ls. 4d. I give honorable senators these particulars to show the difficulties with which these companies have been faced. The honorable senator also said that I am a director of Queensland Forests Limited. He must he aware of the fact that I have never been a director of or owned a share in that company. His attempt to link me up in some way with it is dictated by personal animosity in an endeavour to discredit me. in the eyes of honorable senators. The subject of my alleged association with various companies was raised in this chamber eleven or twelve years ago, when the affairs of the National Tobacco Company were under discussion. During the debate, it was said that I was a director of that company. As a matter of fact, I had relinquished my directorate of that company immediately after my return from England some years before. I have never made a secret of my associations with business undertakings. I have no desire to engage in a vendetta with Senator Crawford. I regret the unseemly and unwarranted attack launched upon me by the honorable senator to-night. I appeal to him to get out of his mind the belief that I bear him ill-will.
– I am prepared to get out of the Senate.
– On numerous occasions I have endeavoured to make peace bet-ween us.
– Will the Minister furnish the figures of the last Senate election?
– The first I saw of those figures was when I read the anonymous letter dated the 19th October, 1940, which the honorable senator sent to the Treasurer. On five different occasions, the people of Queensland entrusted the representation of that State to the honorable senator, myself and another honorable senator ; but I am sure they will not welcome displays of the kind that the Senate has been forced to witness to-night between two of their representatives. I trust that I have dealt fully with the various points raised by the honorable senator. My only regret is that the prestige of this august assembly should be jeopardized by such a regrettable incident as has taken place to-night.
– I congratulate the Government upon its action this evening in agreeing to the adjournment of the second-reading debate on the National Fitness Bill. I trust that it will adhere to that procedure in this chamber in the future even if, at times, it means keeping the House of Representatives waiting for the return of bills. The Senate must not continue to act merely as a rubber stamp, or a sausage machine, by putting through important measures immediately they are transmitted to this chamber. Honorable senators should be given sufficient time to study such measures in order that they can debate them intelligently. That procedure was followed in this chamber for a few months after the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McLeay) was appointed Leader of the Senate, and it did much to improve the prestige of this chamber. I am glad to notice that the Government is again reverting to that procedure.
I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to the urgent necessity for erecting a second telegraph line between Western Australia and South Australia. When the Minister for Supply and Development was PostmasterGeneral, he visited Western Australia and inquired into this proposal. I know that the postal authorities in Western Australia are most anxious that the additional line be provided. The Minister gave the matter sympathetic consideration. The work is estimated to cost £175,000, but such expenditure is amply justified, particularly in view of conditions caused by the war. In ordinary circumstances civilians find it most difficult to obtain telephonic communication with the eastern States, but under war conditions that difficulty is magnified many times, because the military authorities, (mite properly, have first call upon the existing line. Often these authorities utilize the line for hours at a time, and during that period civilian communications are held up. In view of the very sympathetic consideration which the Minister for Supply and Development gave to this proposal when he was Postmaster-General, I am extremely sorry that the work was not undertaken before he relinquished control of the Postal Department. I now ask him to bring the matter to the notice of his successor in order that his promise that the proposal would be urged upon the Government may be honoured. I understand that a second line will provide not merely a double telephonic and telegraphic service, but will also enable the present broadcasting service to be multiplied tenfold. I hope that this additional communication between Western Australia and the eastern States will be provided as soon as possible.
– I wish to inform the Senate that the Hon. Joseph Bertram Sleeman, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, is within the precincts of the Senate. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall provide him with a seat on the floor of the Senate beside the President’s chair.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Sleeman thereupon entered the chamber and was seated accordingly.
.- I bring to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Collett) the case of a Victorian soldier, Harold F. Brockley, who met his death while a member of the Australian Imperial Force abroad. This man left behind him a wife and three children. I knew him personally to be reliable and decent. To my knowledge he was not addicted to any vice. While serving with the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt he was absent one night without leave. During the evening he became embroiled in an affray with some Arabs. He was wounded, and subsequently died from those wounds. When I made representations to the Repatriation Department for a war pension for his widow and children the chairman of the commission replied by letter on the 24th June last as follows : -
The death of this soldier resulted from a shooting affray in which he was involved whilst absent without leave from his unit. In the circumstances the commission, to comply with the law was obliged to reject the pension claim in accordance with that provision of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act which excludes a grant of pension where death or incapacity from any occurrence happening during the commission of any breach of discipline.
I realize that under the law as it exists at present a war pension cannot be granted to his family, but I suggest that certain features of the case call for special consideration. Were it not for the sacrifice which that man made in leaving his wife and children in order to serve his country as a soldier abroad, and the fact that he was on war service, he would not, in my opinion at any rate, have met with his death in such circumstances. The bald fact remains that this unfortunate woman is now left with three children. As an ex-soldier himself the Minister, and other honorable senators who have served in the field, know that not infrequently members of the forces absent themselves without leave. As men of the world they can readily realize that this man, when absent on the evening of his death, probably had a few shillings in his pocket and had a bit of a night out. His widow is known personally to me. At present, she is doing domestic work. She must now face the world with her three little ones. I repeat that I knew her husband to be a decent and courageous Australian. I hope that the Minister will be able, at least, to give to this unfortunate family a compassionate allowance. Such action will help to reassure our young men who enlist in the fighting services that the Government is prepared to face its responsibilities towards them, and in their day of trouble to stand by their dependants.
This afternoon I asked whether the Government would make a pronouncement along certain lines regarding the gold-mining industry. I point out that a number of mines are being worked successfully at Bendigo, although none of them is controlled by a limited liability company. The works programme of each mine depends entirely upon call money. Because the impression has got abroad that the Government is not very anxious about the maintenance of the gold-mining industry, many investors in these mines are responding very slowly with their call payments, with the result that the mines are finding it difficult to continue operations. Some of them have reached s highly productive stage. I ask the Government, therefore, to make a pronouncement that in the sifting of essential and non-essential industries the ^old-mining industry will not be unnecessarily restricted. The Government should also give the assurance that it considers this industry, which it has assisted over a period of many years, to be vital to the financial stability of this country.
– The case mentioned by Senator Keane seems to involve questions of both law and fact. The honorable senator has advanced a somewhat specious argument in support of his request that further consideration be given to the matter. I cannot admit the validity of his argument, but I shall be pleased to go thoroughly into the case. At this juncture I point out that all responsibility for a breach of discipline must rest upon the delinquent.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to a question which I asked recently. In reply I was asked for further information. I thought that the facts of the case were made known to the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) when he was Postmaster-General, and that he would have passed on the information to his successor. Evidently he has not done so. The matter involves a violation by the Postmaster-General of his power under the National Security legislation insofar as he has failed to compensate a tenant whom his department pushed out on to the street. The answer which I received to my question was -
This is a hypothetical question, which is difficult to answer. If the honorable senator will give details of any specific case which he has in mind an endeavour will be made to secure information in regard to the matter.
I now propose to give such details. The case concerns the leasing by the Postal Department of a guest house on Flinders Island for the purpose of converting it into a post office. The officers who effected this transaction knew that the tenant was paying £1 a week for the building, but the department agreed to pay a rental of £2 5s. a week. I admit that under the new tenancy certain improvements are to be made, but they are not so extensive as to warrant an increase of the rent by 25s. a week. This guest house was not the only proposition put before the Government for the purpose of providing a post office on Flinders Island. Private enterprise on the island offered a block of land free to the Govern ment provided it erected a post office thereon. Alternatively those interests offered to erect a building to the plans and specifications of the department, and lease it to the department for use as a post office. The department turned down that offer. I cannot understand why. The only explanation given to me is that it was turned down “ for obvious reasons “. The department decided instead to rent this guest house. The man to whom I refer is a cripple and is unable to work. However, because he has not been judged to be totally incapacitated, he cannot obtain an invalid pension. In their patriotism, he and his wife invested their savings, amounting to £150, in war savings certificates. The balance of their money was invested in the purchase of a “drive yourself” car which is now of no use whatever. They were turned out of their home in order that the premises could be used as a post office. The last communication which I have received from the man indicates that the only place he and his wife have available to them to live in is a hut belonging to a friend. He has stored his furniture in a garage. Under the National Security Regulations the Government prohibits the increase of rentals without the authority of the Fair Rents Court, and the Postmaster-General’s Department should not have been allowed to violate those regulations by taking this place at 25s. a week more than the previous occupant was paying. In addition, it has turned out on to the street a crippled man who is not getting a pension, and has no other means of livelihood. It is up to the Government to make some recompense for the injustice it has done to these people. The man has a block of land and £150 in war savings certificates, which he will have to dispose of in order to live. If he can get sufficient capital ho will be prepared to have new premises built. He hopes to obtain some money by selling the car which has been left on his hands owing to petrol rationing, and if the Government will not do anything else, it should take over that car as it is taking over many other private motor vehicles, and thus provide this unfortunate man with a little money to carry on. The man’s name is Mr. Charles Gray. As I have said, he was conducting a guest house on Flinders Island, and either by back-door or by front-door methods, the premises were taken over by the Government for use as a post office despite the fact that other buildings which would have satisfied the requirements of the department and the people were available.
Another matter with which I wish to deal concerns members of the first Australian Imperial Force who are engaged on military service to-day. I have here a letter from a soldier of the last war who has been serving a military camp as an instructor. He is only a young man, and, so far as I can see, is very capable. He has been forced to leave the camp because of the distance which he has to travel in order to reach his home occasionally on week-ends. In the camp to which I am referring, there are 30 of. these instructor officers. At week-ends, a large majority of the men leave the camp and only a few officers are required to supervise those who are left. Some of these instructors have other callings to attend to. Naturally, they cannot live on the remuneration paid to them by the military authorities, particularly if they have families, and it is necessary for them to get home occasionally at week-ends. If they cannot do that, they find themselves unable to continue their work in camp and, in many cases, they have to return to civil life. In the case with which I am now dealing petrol rationing made it impossible for this officer to reach his home as he had done in the past, and he applied for transfer to a camp which is only a few miles from his home. The reply read -
Reference your letter dated Jun« 14th, kindly note that married men with more than three children under sixteen years of age cannot be enlisted for military service. Your certificate of discharge (12th Training Battalion) is returned herewith.
Nation-wide appeals are being made for young men to enlist either for overseas service or for service in the home defence forces, yet this man, who went through the last war, and who has been for several months an instructor in a camp, is discharged from the military forces, because he has three children under the age of sixteen years. He is a comparatively young man of the right type and his experience should make him valuable in a camp as an instructor. I should like to know whether the regulations relating to the enlistment of married men with families are as had been stated in the letter received by this man. If not, when I receive the Minister’s reply I shall take the matter farther in this chamber, and perhaps give my opinion as to why this man has not been allowed to remain in the service. If men are being turned down in that way I fail to see any justification for the hue and cry now being made for recruits for overseas service and for home defence. I also fail to see any reason for an appeal to young men to join up and be trained as officers, when this man who has undergone that training has been discharged.
– There is a matter concerning the three services which I should like brought under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies). Some time ago it was represented to me that a number of. men with mining experience were joining the services, and mining concerns were fearful of the consequences which would result from the engagement of unqualified men on the gold-fields. I interviewed General Durrant on this matter and inquired whether the military authorities had power to refuse to accept such men in the forces. General Durrant indicated to me that the list of reserved occupations was not sufficiently comprehensive to cover these men in the gold-mining industry, and consequently, they could not be prevented from joining up. An officer was sent to Kalgoorlie to interview the members of the Chamber of Mines, and to obtain from that organization some idea of how enlistments were affecting the mining industry. I understand that the Chamber of Mines asked the Government to review the position, and I should like to know what action, if any, the Government has taken. This is a serious matter in view of the danger which may be caused by the employment in mines of inexperienced workmen. If no action has been taken, I ask that the matter be regarded as urgent and given immediate attention. As I said, I approached General Durrant on this matter. He seemed to me to be a very capable and approachable officer. I regret that he has now been transferred to Queensland; he knows the facts of the case which I am putting up.
– From time to time statements are made to us by Ministers regarding the development of war industries in the various States. For some time there was a great deal of jealousy between New South Wales and Victoria in regard to the letting of contracts. In fact, I heard it stated in Sydney that it was time that New South Wales got into this Victorian war. However, I should like to bring to the notice of the Government the neglect of Tasmania in regard to war industries. We have no major war undertakings whatever, and in addition we have lost a great number of men, and some women, to the mainland. Some months ago, a promise was given that a munition factory would he established in Tasmania, and I should like to know how far that project has proceeded. Tasmania’s position is serious indeed. It is not an industrial State and; therefore, we cannot suggest to the Government that premises already in existence be taken over and converted into war work. However, something should be done for the people in that State. Apart from that aspect of the matter, Tasmania has no defence system whatever, and the war position is rapidly becoming worse. For a long time it was impossible even to get an aeroplane for training purposes, and I do not think that there is even one antiaircraft gun on the island. Yet military authorities state that should an enemy come to our shores, the first objective would be Tasmania, which would he used as a hopping off place for an attack on the mainland. Tasmania has a claim to military protection and is also entitled to a share in the war industries. Can the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) furnish any information regarding the establishment of a munitions factory in Tasmania? I understand that annexes have been built at the railway stations at Launceston and Hobart, but, so far as I am aware, no contracts are being undertaken . there. Tasmania is the smallest State of the Commonwealth, and, perhaps, for that reason, is looked upon as the least important of the States, but I remind the Senate that it has produced some distinguished politicians. A few years ago, when I was visiting north Queensland, one of my friends there said that they heard very little of Tasmania in that part of Australia. I replied, “ Well, the present Prime Minister of Australia is a Tasmanian, the President of the Senate is a Tasmanian and the Commonwealth Statistician is a Tasmanian.” At one time, a royal commission was appointed in Tasmania to investigate the reason why 16 per cent, of the population of that State migrated to the mainland States. Prior to the inception of Federation, Tasmania managed to keep out of debt, but since then it has experienced very difficult times financially. I hope that the Government will take into consideration the establishment of factories in Tasmania to enable it to share in the work done in war industries.
– Senator Courtice has inquired regarding the policy of the Government with respect to power alcohol. I suggest that the Government’s attitude in that regard was illustrated by the fact that’ it deemed the production of motor spirit in Australia to be of such importance that it has encouraged the manufacture of spirit of several kinds in order to relieve the petrol shortage due to the war. Knowing the possibilities with regard to power alcohol, the Government appointed a committee some months ago to investigate the matter and report upon it. As the honorable senator said, the committee made a careful investigation of the whole field in Queensland and in the other States, and presented to the Government a comprehensive report. Briefly stated, the recommendations of the committee were that the total production of power alcohol in Australia should he stepped up from its present low level of from 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 gallons a year to 52,000,000 gallons a year. It was pointed out that, in order to do this, certain commodities would have to be distilled, and those recommended were sugar and wheat. It was also recognized that power alcohol could not be distilled commercially in competition with petrol and several other forms of spirit that are now being produced in Australia, but it was pointed out that its production would not only help the motor industry, but would also assist in utilizing a certain proportion of our primary produce which is at present difficult to ship overseas. The Government carefully considered the report presented to it, and has decided to step up immediately the production of power alcohol at the distilleries at Sarina, Pyrmont and Yarraville from 2,000,000 gallons to 7,000,000 gallons a year. It has also decided to erect further distilleries capable of producing 10,000,000 gallons of power alcohol a year, and it has suggested that the raw material to be used shall be wheat. A further examination is being made of the possibility of producing rectified spirit, or 95 per cent, spirit, in the various distilleries in the Murray Valley. It is expected that with a slight expenditure it will be possible to step up their production to a total of 5,000,000 gallons C rectified spirit a year. This means that the Government has decided immediately to put in hand the expansion of power alcohol production in this country until the total output reaches 22,000,000 gallons a year. Whilst I agree that that does not completely implement the recommendations of the committee, I think that honorable senators will recognize that the Government has taken a step in the right direction. I call the attention of honorable senators to the fact that, whilst this production will be extremely useful to Australia, particularly in a time of petrol shortage such as that now being experienced, the committee itself- suggested that a period of two years would elapse before the output which it recommended could be obtained.
In order to supplement the petrol supply further, the Government is also supporting financially and in other ways National Oil Proprietary Limited, which is engaged in the production of petrol from shale. Although difficulty has been encountered in connexion with that project, the Government is hopeful that before the end of this year, a substantial output of petrol will be obtained at Glen Davis. In addition, the Government has decided that the gas companies in the various cities of Australia shall produce benzol, and it is expected that within a reasonably short period about 8,000,000 gallons of benzol will be manufactured annually. It will thus be seen that the Government is not unmindful of the difficult position at present confronting Australia, and is taking action in the ways that I have indicated that will help the country in this time of need.
asked to-day, sought a statement setting out the wishes of the Government with regard to gold-mining. I indicated at the time that I would obtain from the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) a considered statement of Government policy in this matter, but without referring to the Treasurer I can assure the honorable senator that the Government has not at any time lost sight of the value of gold production in Australia, and particularly at the present time when overseas exchange is a matter of great importance. Therefore, the Government places gold-mining in a very high order of priority, and would - do nothing to suggest that it does not wish gold production to continue. I can assure the honorable senator, that the Government will assist in every practicable way to maintain the present output of gold, and also to expand its production as far as possible.
Senator Darcey referred to the manufacture of. munitions in Tasmania. I announced some time ago that the Government had decided to establish a small arms ammunition factory in that State, and that the project was to have been started almost immediately, but, in view of the fact that Tasmania produces some essential war materials for gun ammunition, namely copper and zinc, the Government has now decided to establish a gun ammunition factory, together with a foundry and rolling mills, which will use the raw material produced in Tasmania, and convert it into brass and roll it into sheets for the production of gun ammunition cases. I can assure the honorable senator that that project is being put in hand almost at once, and the Government hopes that within a reasonable period, employment will be given to a considerable number of persons in Tasmania who are prepared to engage in the production of munitions.
I cannot tell the honorable senator precisely when the factory will be in operation, but every effort is being made to construct it, and to build the necessary machines. At the earliest possible opportunity it will afford employment to some of those Tasmanians, who, as the honorable senator has said, find difficulty in getting work in that State, and are being encouraged to seek employment as munition workers in other parts of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations Statutory Rules 1941, No. 108.
National Security Act–
Butter and Cheese Acquisition Regulations - Order - Acquisition of Cheese.
National Security (Rabbit Skins) Regulations - Order - Returns.
Rabbit Skins Export Charges Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1941, No. 107.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Regulations - 1941 -No. 3 (Building and Services Ordinance).
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 142.
Senate adjourned at 10.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 July 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19410702_senate_16_167/>.