22 August 1941

16th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon.

J. Cunningham) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.

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Has the Minister for Supply and Development any comment to make on the statement published in several sections of the press to the effect that from one ton of copra, costing about £4, 100 gallons of second-grade motor spirit could be produced, and that this spirit would be quite useful when mixed with petrol?

Senator McLEAY:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

– For some years the Government’s technical advisers have been examining the possibility of manufacturing substitutes for petrol, but in the reports that I have had up to the present, the use of copra has not been recommended. It has been suggested that molasses, sugar and wheat are the most suitable products for the manufacture of power alcohol, but I have asked the technical officers to consider the possibility of obtaining power alcohol from copra, and to make inquiries whether it would be worth while developing such a proposal with the object of increasing the supply of much-needed motor spirit.


– Can the Minister for Supply and Development inform me whether thedistillery to be erected in Western Australia for the production of power alcohol from wheat will be located in a country town in or associated with the wheat-growing districts of that State?

Senator McLEAY:

– Arrangements have been made for representatives of the various State governments concerned in the production of power alcohol from wheat to suggest to the Department of Supply and Development sites which they consider suitable for the establishment of the necessary distilleries. Those Governments have been advised as to essential features in connexion with the erection of these plants. They have been informed that it is desirable to build the plants on sites away from the seaboard, and certain sites have been recommended. The Government of Western Australia is anxious to confer with the technical officers of the Commonwealth Government regarding the large plant to be erected in that State, and the question asked by the honorable senator will receive due consideration when a decision is being made as to where the distillery shall be erected. It is proposed to provide a distillery in Western Australia capable of producing 3,000,000 gallons of motor spirit a year, and for defence reasons it is intended to build this plant first.

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Senator KEANE:

– Can the Minister for Repatriation now furnish me with an answer to the question that I raised on the adjournment of the Senate on the 2nd July last regarding the case of Harold F. Brockley, a member of the Australian Imperial Force, who was killed in Egypt while absent without leave ?

Senator COLLETT:
Minister for Repatriation · WESTERN AUSTRALIA · UAP

– When the honorable senator mentioned this matter previously, I told him that the circumstances of the case were such that questions of both law and fact had to be considered. The case is still under consideration, because there are some important features connected with it. These must be carefully investigated before definite action can be taken.

Sitting suspended from 11.10 a.m. to 3.35 p.m.

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Tariff Board Report

Senator LECKIE laid on the table the report and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -

Fishing industry.

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Wheat: Acquisition of 1938-39 Crop; Personnel of Australian Wheat Board - Richmond Aerodrome: Trainees’ Conditions - International Aluminium Trust - Universal Trainees: Medical Examination

Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator McBRIDE:
Minister for Munitions · South AustraliaMinister for Munitions · UAP

– This morning Senator Fraser addressed the following question, upon notice, to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce : -

On what date previous to the outbreak of war were plans made to acquire the 1938-39 wheat crop, and what was the personnel of the Australian Wheat Board at the timet

The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : -

The Australian Wheat Board did not exist prior to the outbreak of war, and no plans to acquire wheat were made prior to the outbreak of war.

Senator ARTHUR:
New South Wales

– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Air to a matter of the utmost gravity to the members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are undergoing training at the Richmond aerodrome. The condition of affairs of which I complain is due to the treatment received by the men from the officer in charge of the aerodrome. This officer, whose name is Wilson, has recently received a promotion, possibly because of the defects of his administration. Owing to the treatment received by the airmen employed there they decided to have a one-day sit-down strike on the 11th August. This matter came to my knowledge through a private individual who, when taking a morning stroll past the aerodrome, heard the commanding officer requesting the personnel at the aerodrome not to hold the proposed strike, because the fact might reach the ears of the enemy and be used as propaganda, which would help to undermine Australia’s war effort. The men decided to strike because they had been granted shorter periods of leave than had been given to the personnel at other aerodromes. The personnel of the Richmond aerodrome were getting four days’ leave a month, whilst at other training centres, five and six days’ leave were allowed. The Air Board issued an instruction from Melbourne that the men at Richmond were to have four days’ leave, and later this was increased to five days. The commanding officer then decided that the men should be given two and a half days’ leave each fortnight. During the first fortnight, this arrangement was adhered to, but because some of the men desired to catch a particular train to enable them to get the benefit of their leave, their autocratic commanding officer cancelled the whole of their leave. I understand that he has since been promoted to the Central Area Command in New South Wales. If he is still adopting the same Hitler-like tactics there as he did at Richmond, he will cause considerable dissatisfaction among members of the air force. When the personnel ceased work on a recent occasion, rain was falling. The practice of the men, at the end of each day’s training, is to wash their hands and parade in order to go to the mess. Owing to the fact that the men were hurrying to escape the rain, he marched thom backwards and forwards three or four times in the rain, and as recently as last Friday evening, this treatment was repeated, merely because they endeavoured to avoid the rain.

I have also ascertained that when the men leave camp to catch a train at the Clarendon station, they have orders that they must not board the train from the railway platform. They have to climb into the carriages from, the end of the platform which is reserved for officers whose rank is above that of flightsergeant. The platform is at a long siding which is used for race trains. Two or three hundred yards away from the station there is a militia camp, and all of the militia-men are permitted to ascend the platform and wait for the train, but the air force personnel are noi allowed to do so because a “ Brass Hat “ named Wilson has so decreed. This state of affairs at the Richmond aerodrome cannot be permitted to continue. I urge the Government to take steps to see that the new commanding officer does not act in this autocratic manner towards the airmen. Harmony at this training centre should be restored. There is a stupid regulation which prevents a member of the Defence Forces from presenting complaints to members of this Parliament, and I suggest that conduct of that kind resembles what might be expected from Hitler. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Air will immediately bring this matter under the notice of the Government, so that the war effort may not be impaired by irritating tactics such as those to which I have referred.

Senator AYLETT:

– On the 9th July, last, I addressed the following questions to the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McLeay) : -

  1. Is it a fact-

    1. that the great International Aluminium Combine known in

America as Alcoa has been indicted by the Government of America(or subversive action in that by keeping the production of aluminium low and the profits high it has prevented aluminium from being made in adequate quantities for munitions of war?

  1. that some of the directors are now released on bail pending further hearings? and
  2. that Mr. Ickes, on behalf of the Roosevelt Administration has declared that Alcoa was the most perfect monopoly ever devised by man?

    1. If so, will the Minister ask the Commonwealth representative in America to furnish immediately particulars of this indictment and a summary of the evidence for the information of the Government?
    2. Is it a fact that the Aluminium Company of Canada, which is a subsidiary of Alcoa, is one of the principal shareholders of the Australian Aluminium Company?
    3. If so, will the Government take steps to prevent the great International Aluminium Trust either directly or through its subsidiaries from obtaining a stranglehold on the infant Australian aluminium industry?

The replies which were posted to me when the Senate was not in session, are as follows : -

  1. It is general ly known that investigations are being made in America concerning the company mentioned, and that such references to the investigations have recently been published in the press.
  2. Yes.
  3. I understand that the Aluminium Union of Canada holds one-third of the shares in the Australian Aluminium Company.
  4. Yes.

Referring to the second question, I should like the Minister to inform the Senate whether he has been able to ascertain from the Commonwealth representative in the United States of America any further information on this matter. If he has, will he enlighten the Senate as to its nature? I have a considerable quantity of information in my possession regarding the history of the international aluminium combine known in America as Alcoa, but I do not desire to use it in advance of any particulars which the Minister may be able to furnish. If he has not yet obtained such information, I shall reserve, for the present, the details in my possession as to how the Australian Aluminium Company is interwoven with the great aluminium trust of America, which, until quite recently, was supplying every nation, whether friend or foe, with aluminium.

Senator FRASER:
Western Australia

.- On the 25th June, I brought before the Senate the inconvenience and loss sustained by some universal trainees when called up to undergo a preliminary medical examination prior to entering militia camps. I referred particularly to lads in outback districts who lose a day’s pay or portion of a day’s pay and incur expenses in travelling to the nearest centre at which medical examinations take place. These lads are at a disadvantage compared with other young men who live in the vicinity of the depots where the examinations are conducted. The matter was referred to head-quarters in Western Australia, and I interviewed Colonel Hoad regarding it. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for the Army will look into it and let me have a reply at an early date, as many representations have been made to me on the subject. To say the least, there has been considerable delay in announcing the policy of the Government in this matter.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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The following papers were pre sented : -

Abbco Bread Contract - Report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the contract with the Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited.

New Guinea - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea, for the year 1939-40.

Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 148, 168.

Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Scottsdale, Tasmania - For Postal purposes.

National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Eighteenth Annual Report, year 1940-41.

Patents Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 198.

Senate adjourned at 3.49 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 August 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.