24 September 1941

16th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 416



Senator CAMERON:

– Will the Minister for Information state whether any money has been paid to the Department of Information, for the purpose of financing any of its activities, from the secret fund controlled by the AttorneyGeneral ?

Senator FOLL:
Minister for Information · QUEENSLAND · UAP

– None whatever.

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Senator KEANE brought up an interim report of the Joint Committee on Social Security.

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Senator BROWN:

– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Army seen a statement in the Sydney Truth of the 21st September that the bombardment of Munster was a reprisal for the execution by the Germans of 25 British prisoners of war? If the Minister has seen the statement will he inquire as to its truth? If it be true that 25 British prisoners of war have been executed, is it not possible that on another occasion a similar number of Australian prisoners of war may be put to death in that way?

Senator FOLL:

– I have not seen the report, but I shall peruse it and bring it to the notice of the Minister for the Army.

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– I have received from Mrs. W. K. Bolton and family a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of ex-Senator William Kinsey Bolton.

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– I have received from the Prime Minister the following letter in response to the request of the Senate that a message be sent to the men at Tobruk:-

My dear President of the Senate -

In accordance with the request contained in your letter of the 18th September, a telegram embodying the text of the resolution passed by the Senate was to-day sent to the General Officer Commanding in the MiddleEast for transmission to the men of Tobruk.

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Senator McLEAY (South Australia -

Minister for Supply and Development). - by leave - I wish to inform honorable senators that, during the absence of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), the Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) will be relieved of his duties as Assistant Minister for Commerce, and as Minister assisting the Treasurer, will concentrate on Treasury duties, so as to relieve the Prime Minister of the bulk of detailed Treasury administration. Mr. Anthony will continue to administer the

Ministry of Transport. The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Abbott) will be Acting Minister for Commerce during the absence of Sir Earle Page.

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Senator FRASER:

– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army inform me whether the subject of compensation to universal trainees for attending preliminary medical examinations, which Ihave referred to on three occasions on motions for the adjournment of the Senate, is receiving the attention of the Government, and when a reply will be given as to the policy of the Government in this respect?

Senator FOLL:

– The matter is receiving the attention of the Minister for the Army, and I shall ask him to furnish a reply to the honorable senator’s question as expeditiously as possible.

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Commanding Officer at Richmond.

Senator ARTHUR:
through Senator Amour

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice - .

  1. In view of the statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 18th September, 1941, wherein the Minister for Air is reported to have stated, in reply to Mr. McCall, that he had found the statement made in the Senate by Senator Arthur regarding the attitude of the Commanding Officer of the Air Force Station at Richmond to be incorrect, will the Minister state in what respect such statement was incorrect?
  2. Is the Minister prepared to meet privately a large number of the personnel of the aerodrome to support Senator Arthur’s statement?
Senator FOLL:

– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers : -

  1. Following the allegations made by Senator Arthur in the Senate, I had a comprehensive inquiry made to ascertain what foundation existed in respect to each aspect of the charges. The substance of these various charges was, upon investigation, disproved. I referred to all these circumstances in a statement made in the House of Representatives on the 28th August, 1941.
  2. I do not consider that an interview with Air Force personnel, such as suggested by Senator Arthur, would serve any useful purpose.

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Senator LAMP:

asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -

  1. How many cases of fruit were carted from Beauty Point to Launceston last season?
  2. What was the mileage involved, and the amount of petrol used?
  3. What was the total cost of transporting this fruit?
  4. Was this extra cost charged to the Federal Government? if so, will the Minister for Commerce take the necessary steps to secure a refund of this money from the shipping company concerned?
Senator McBRIDE:
Minister for Munitions · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

– The Acting Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -

  1. Approximately 31,000 cases of fruit have been carted from store atBeauty Point to Launceston in the 1941 season.
Senator Lamp:

– He is a liar.

Senator McBRIDE:

– I take strong exception to that remark, and ask that it be withdrawn.


– I did not hear the honorable senator’s interjection.

Senator Foll:

– The honorable senator said that the Minister for Commerce was a liar.


– That is a disorderly remark. If the honorable senator used the expression, hemust withdraw it.

Senator Lamp:

– I withdraw it.

Senator McBRIDE:

– The reply of the Minister for Commerce continues -

  1. It is 28 miles from Beauty Point to Launceston. Assuming that the 31,000 cases wentby lorry by road and that each lorry did 12 miles to 1 gallon of petrol and took 250 cases each trip, about 580 gallons of petrol would be used in the cartage of the fruit and the return trip.
  2. Transport cost was3½d. a case, a total of £452 on 31,000 cases.
  3. Handling and freight charges from Beauty Point are higher than from Launceston. Any extra cost incurred in respect of movement of the fruit in question would be a charge to the apple and pear marketing scheme. There would be no case for a claim against a shipping company for the refund of any such additional cost.

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Senator ASHLEY:

asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice-

Has any application been received by the Government for permission to import apples from Canada or elsewhere to Australia?

Senator McBRIDE:

– The Acting Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : -

An application was received for a licence to import apples from Canada for re-export to Pacific Island areas.The request was refused.

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through Senator Ashley

asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -

Is there any truth in the report in the Sydney MorningHerald of the 15th September, 1941, to the effect that thirteen German raiders were destroyed in the South Pacific in the last eight months by Australian and Dutch forces?

Senator FOLL:

– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer : -

Whilst it is not in the public interest to disclose specific details of this nature, it is apparent from the information available in my department that the report is incorrect.

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Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

Bill (on motion by Senator Leckie) read a first time.

Senator LECKIE:
Minister for Aircraft Production · Victoria · UAP

– I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The sole purpose of the bill is to enable the Commonwealth to guarantee to cotton-growers an average net return of 15d. perlb. on raw cotton above the grade of strict good ordinary, i.e., all except low-grade cotton, that will be produced during the 1942 season and thereafter until the completion of one cotton season after the cessation of the present hostilities with the Axis powers. That net return will include any net return to growers from sales of by-products of raw cotton, such as linters, cotton-seed oil, seed cake, oil cake and sheep nuts. The bill seeks to amend the existing Raw Cotton Bounty Act under which it was originally arranged to pay during the years 1941 to 1945 inclusive, rates of bounty which would increase or decrease each week by precisely the same amount as the spot price of American middling raw cotton in Liverpool was below or above 6d. sterling per lb. Under that arrangement, cotton-growers in Queensland had obtained an average net return of11½d. per lb. of raw cotton since 1935. Early this year, however, the war caused the Liverpool Cotton Exchange to close down, and it was recognized by the Government that increased production costs in Australia would need to be covered by a higher price if growers were to produce the increased supplies of cotton which are required by Australian manufacturers, principally in order to enable clothes and equipment to be supplied for the fighting services. Consequently, the act was a mended to substitute the New York spot price for the Liverpool price, and also to guarantee to growers an average net return of 12½d. per lb. of raw cotton. That amendment resulted in the 1941 crop, now almost harvested, yielding about l 2,000 bales, as against only 8,370 bales for the 1940 crop. Meanwhile, however, manufacturers’ requirements had far exceeded local production. These requirements, which were 45,000 hales during 1940, will be 80,000bales next year. In addition, the Government decided that manufacturers’ war-time emergency reserve stocks should be increased by 40,000 bales, so that any extension of active war to the Pacific and Indian Oceans would not gravely affect Australia’s capacity to clothe and equip rhe men of its fighting services. Hence, our aggregate raw cotton needs for the next year amount to 120,000 bales. A close study of this primary industry, which, so far, has been confined to Queensland, has convinced the Government that the present guaranteed net return of 1 2½d. per lb. is not likely to encourage growers to produce more than 15,000 bales during the 1942 season, because of further increased costs and, especially, the costs and hazards involved in preparing and planting many thousands of acres of new land for this crop. On this basis; at least 105,000 bales would need to he imported - four times as much as our record imports before the war. Such a volume of imports seemed to the Government to be too great to rely upon, in view of the growing and serious shortage of overseas ships and the possibility of war approach ing Australia’s shores. As a matter of common prudence, it was deemed advisable to encourage the maximum possible increase of Australian-grown cotton. Recognized authorities, both Federal and State, agreed that a guaranteed average price of 15d. per lb. for the remainder of the war period and one cotton season thereafter, as provided in this bill, is essential to obtain a marked expansion of our raw cotton yield.

Plans are in train for doubling in 1942 the present total area of 55,000 acres now under cotton. From the resultant 110,000 acres, and having regard to an extension of irrigation facilities, it is expected that in 1942 a crop of 30,000 bales will be produced. If climatic conditions are favorable the yield should be as high as 40,000 bales. As the war proceeds, manufacturers’ requirements will continue to increase, and there will be ample scope for the production in Australia of even larger quantities of raw cotton.

The price of l5d. per lb. of raw cotton is equivalent to 5¼d. per lb. of seed cotton as produced on the farm. This is only ¼d., per lb. less than the price paid to growers from 1920 to 1923 when the present industry was started in Australia. From 1924 to 1927, growers received nearly 5d. per lb. After that, their net return averaged slightly over 4d. per lb. until 1940. Although the proposed price of 15d. per lb. represents a substantial increase of the pre-war price, there are good reasons to justify it -

  1. Similar quality raw cotton from the United States of America now costs1s. 3½d. per lb. landed in Australia, free of customs duty;
  2. Price and shipping freight trends are upwards, so that the landed cost of American cotton may advancebeyond1s. 3½d. whilst the war continues;
  3. Australia cannot afford, in these difficult times, to take the great risk of relying too much on imports of raw cotton, which is one of the most important raw materials of war;
  4. Production costs in the large new areas expected to be devoted to cotton-growing will, in general, be higher than the costs in wellestablished farms where capital expenditure has ‘been written down over a period of years. Also, new growers are not likely to be as efficient as experienced’ growers.

It may be asked : What is the need for a guaranteed average net return of ls. 3d. when exactly similar cotton from the United States of America cannot be landed here under ls. did. per lb.? Without the security of the guaranteed price afforded by the bill, it is not to be expected that many new fanners would enter the industry or that existing growers would increase their production substantially, because it is only natural that present and potential growers will consider the position they would occupy should the war end suddenly and cause al! raw cotton values to recede below present levels. That is a risk that governments must shoulder during abnormal times, as, indeed, is being done in many directions by the governments of all the belligerent nations, as well as by the United States of America.

A large expansion of cotton-growing in Queeusland, or new production in other States, will entail the preparation of 50,000 or 60,000 acres of additional land for planting by the end of November nc-xt. Costly work of this nature can be undertaken by many growers only if they receive loans or credits from. State governments or financial institutions. Such aid will not be rendered to a sufficient degree ‘Unless it is clear beyond doubt that all the raw cotton produced will ho saleable at remunerative prices. Such prices are assured by the bill now before the Senate, and the extensive demand by Australian manufacturers.

The extension of the guarantee for one complete cotton-harvesting season after hostilities cease is essential, .because cotton-growers who have incurred considerable expense in the preparation of land, planting operations and cultivation of the crop up to the cessation of hostilities in the belief that a certain price will be received for their crop, are entitled to that price. If the price were not guaranteed in this way, it is clear that fears of a post-war recession in market values would result in cotton-growers adopting an ultra-cautious development policy to the detriment of our war-time needs for this vitally important raw material.

As an essential condition of the Commonwealth’s extension of the bounty in 1940, the Queensland Government ga v, explicit undertakings that it would convert cotton production as quickly a? possible from dry-farming to irrigation by the most economic means for each selected locality, and that it would greatly intensify the instruction of growers in the best cultural methods arid scientificresearch on plant-breeding, pests, diseases, soils and fertilizers. So far, these undertakings have been well implemented, but much work remains to be done. It seems that the very satisfactory average net return of ls. 3d. per lb. now awaiting the approval of the Senate furnishes the cotton-growing industry and the several Queensland Government authorities responsible for giving effect to the Government’s undertakings with an ideal opportunity for greatly improving the efficiency and economics of the industry, so that it may be able to overcome post-war difficulties. Tn this regard, it cannot reasonably be expected that the high price of ls. 3d. per lb. will he enjoyed when this legislation ceases to operate, by which time world prices will undoubtedly have fallen to somewhere near normal prewar levels. The bounty cost to the Commonwealth budget of the present price would then he tremendous.

Despite these remarks, which are made solely for the benefit of the cotton - growing industry, which the Government earnestly hopes will become extensive, permanent and prosperous, there is no need for pessimism in regard to lower postwar net returns. Effective remedies are available to the Queensland Government and to the cotton industry itself, in respect of irrigation and mechanical harvesting. Under irrigation, yields from each acre cropped have been three to four times greater than those obtained as under dry-farming conditions, and the cost of production is thus reduced very considerably. The Queensland Government has frankly recognized this vital fact. The advantages of irrigation are so great to the industry, and so financially found for the State, that extraordinary measures to hasten this reform are justifiable.

Cotton picking by hand is extremely costly in Australia, and far higher than in any other country. It costs our growers from 4½d. to 5d. per lb. of raw cotton. Even in the United States of America, where hand-picking costs little more than one-third of the cost incurred in Queensland, much money and time are being devoted to the development of an effective mechanical cottonpicker. One American machine has been tried in our cotton areas, and offers hope that, under suitable conditions, it will considerably reduce harvesting costs. Taking a long view of the general problem of production costs, it may be said that anything which reduces our costs to such a degree as to permit a large expansion of production is well worth while. In that event, .any loss of employment for hand cotton-pickers would be greatly outweighed by extra employment for additional growers, field workers and ginnery employees.

The bill does not alter the established practice of the last few years, whereunder Australian raw cotton must be sold to manufacturers from time to time at the Australian equivalent of world parity prices of similar cottons. To such a degree as current parity prices permit, the Queensland Cotton Board will be expected to sell its raw cotton to spinners and other users at prices which will not involve the Commonwealth in the payment of any unnecessary bounty. In other words, Queensland cotton should not be sold below import parity .prices. If present parity prices continue little, if any, bounty will be payable under this bill whilst the war is in progress.

The cotton-growing industry is one of great potential value to the Commonwealth, and that value will be realized if successful efforts are made by all concerned to conduct it on the basis of the highest attainable efficiency under Australian conditions. It offers an importanmeasure of diversification of production in many parts of Queensland, a factor of considerable value to primary producers. For many years, cotton-growing has been associated with dairying to the mutual advantage of both enterprises. It is possible, particularly if irrigation methods be applied, that the future will see cotton-growing associated with the sugar industry in certain areas. I understand that extensive experiments in that regard have been planned for the Burdekin River district in north Queensland for the coming season.

Actually, cotton-growing is one of the very few primary industries in Australia in respect of which considerable expansion is necessary in order to supply the requirements of Australia. Many primary industries have more or less acute export problems, and a complete solution of them may not be possible in all cases owing to economic activities and political policies in foreign countries which are our competitors in export markets. Therefore, to the degree to which cotton-growing can be economically expanded in Australia, it will provide a remunerative vocation for surplus producers in other primary industries. During the current season 3,500 farmers grew cotton on 55,000 acres, an area almost exactly the average for the last ten years. The estimated production of 12,000 bales for 1941 was, however, exceeded in four of those years, the highest output being 17,500 bales during 1934.

The outstanding merit of the bill is the confidence which cotton-growers may properly derive from it in their plans for meeting the urgent needs of this country for a raw material that is of first-class importance to our Defence Forces. I feel sure that this Parliament will not look in vain to the cotton-growing industry for an adequate response to those needs.

QueenslandLeader of the Opposition

– It is not my intention to say more than a few words in regard to this bill. Its importance to Queensland has been very clearly set out in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie) ; its importance to Australia and to Australia’s war effort has also been very properly emphasized. We on this side of the chamber have continually urged the introduction of a measure of this kind, and we welcome it. On behalf of the Opposition I give the bill its blessing. I trust that it will have a speedy passage and that the hopes expressed in regard to it by the Minister will be realized.

Senator COOPER:

– I welcome the bill, and I am glad to note that it has the support of the Opposition. Undoubtedly the cotton industry has for many years experienced fluctuating fortunes. It seems incredible that we produce only 12,000 bales of cotton a year when our secondary industries require 80,000 bales annually. The industry has failed to expand because prices have not been payable and growers have preferred to produce other primary products for which more favorable markets were available. We can encourage the industry only by stabilizing the price of cotton. The lod. per lb. for raw cotton for which this bill provides during the period of the war and twelve months thereafter is a minimum price, but the maximum price may be much higher, according to the ruling price of raw cotton imported from America. The industry is thus assured of a remunerative return for its product for the period just mentioned. Australia as a whole will benefit from any encouragement of the industry, which will bc of immediate advantage to our war effort, as well as of great benefit to primary production in Queensland. Cotton-growing is not an industry which is easy to develop successfully. Many diseases attack the plants, and considerable difficulty is experienced in gathering the crop. Cotton-growing is also a family industry. Consequently, its encouragement will help to increase our rural population. I hope that the production of cotton will soon become so well established, that we shall not need to import raw cotton, but shall be able to produce the whole of the requirements of our secondary industries. Such a development will be of great benefit to our internal economy, and will help us to deal effectively with our post-war problems. I congratulate the Government upon introducing this measure, and hope that it will have a speedy passage.


– I support the bill. I feel certain that the cotton-growers of Queensland will derive considerable satisfaction from it. Many farmers will now he encouraged to install irrigation plants. However, it is unfortunate that the Government did not introduce this measure a little earlier. The season is now getting on, and we know that considerable time is involved in preparing the land for the crop. Labour is also a problem in the industry. There is much that I can say regarding the policy of the Government towards rural industries generally. Recently, recruiting drives have been made throughout our rural areas with the result that these districts are being depleted of their young men. Such a development will have serious repercussions in all of our primary industries. I was somewhat disappointed at the second-reading speech of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie). He more or less apologized for the measure. He stated that the chief reason for the introduction of the bill was the high price of imported cotton. The Government long ago should have realized the value of the cotton industry to Australia. However, its general attitude towards the industry has been unsatisfactory. Only a short while ago, it practically decided to discontinue the bounty altogether, with the result that uncertainty arose in the minds of the growers as to the future of the industry. The industry is not prosperous. It is a very exacting industry, involving considerable labour. Yet, it is of exceptional value to Australia, and if it be encouraged, we shall reap the benefit, not only in respect of our war effort, but also in peace-time. The Government has been somewhat slow on the uptake in regard to the industry. Generally, its attitude has been that within a few years, the industry will be well established and securely developed and the need for the payment of further bounty will then disappear. In the past it has not encouraged the industry as it should have done. Indeed, the Government should he a little more generous in its attitude towards our primary industries generally. It certainly did not occur to the Government to apply the cost-plus system to any of our primary industries. Yet those industries are constantly up against difficulty. The Government could safely run the risk of being accused of being too generous to our primary industries. At any rate, its attitude towards the cotton industry in the past does not reflect credit upon it.

Senator McBride:

– The industry has never received better treatment than it has received from this Government.

SenatorCOURTICE. - The Minister must admit that only a little while ago the Government made up its mind to wipe out the industry.

Senator Foll:

– Nonsense!


– Only about eighteen months ago, a definite proposal was made to reduce the bounty gradually until it disappeared altogether.

Senator McBride:

– The Tariff Board recommended that the bounty be reduced, hut this Government ignored that recommendation.


– Unfortunately, the Government is too prone to heed the opinions of experts who pay too much attention to overseas prices. I complain again that the Minister’s attitude in his second-reading speech was one of apology for the measure. He said that the price of imported cotton justified the payment of the bounty. Perhaps, if the price of imported cotton had not increased, the Government would not have taken this step. This bounty will give much satisfaction to cotton-growers, and at the moment it is such assistance that is principally sought by the industry. However, if the industry is to be placed on a permanent basis, the Government should not be in too great a hurry to remind the growers that the bounty will last for onlya brief period, and that it will have to be discontinued on the ground that it is uneconomic. I am a practical farmer, and I realize the great benefits which modern methods and efficiency havebeen to those engaged in primary industries. The sugar industry, due to efficient and scientific methods, to-day is able to sell one-half of its production in competition with sugar produced by black labour. I remind the Government that in most countries cotton is grown largely by cheap labour, and for that reason it is not fair to compare production costs in this country with those obtaining elsewhere. I have no wish to raise controversial issues or to delay the measure, but I ask the Government to continue to give favorable consideration to this industry. I believe that it has great possibilities, and is capable of being established on a sound basis. The Queensland Government has taken a great interest in the industry, but, after all, the Commonwealth Government controls excise and customs duties, and neither the Queensland Government nor individual growers can venture too far without an assurance from the Commonwealth Government that prices will not be interfered with in the near future. Conditions must be stabilized before there can be any real development. I commend the Government upon the introduction of the bill, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage.

Senator BROWN:

– I assure the Government-

Senator McBride:

– Any more Queenslanders?

Senator BROWN:

– I assure the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) that if there were any more Queenslanders in this chamber, they would be just as enthusiastic as we are in support of any measure which will give justice to Queensland producers, who are rendering a great national service. Although it has been admitted that those who arc engaged in the production of cotton are rendering a service to the nation, the whole story of the cotton industry has been one of government expediency, vacillation and the intense antagonism of vested interests. It is only because of the enthusiasm of a number of men, and of the Labour movement generally, in fostering this industry that cotton-growing has been able to survive in this country. I donot believe in complimenting the Government too much upon this measure, because, actually, the cotton-growers are not being given anything. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie), who is in charge of the bill, has admitted because of the present price of cotton that practically no bounty will be paid at all .

Senator Leckie:

– Would the honorable senator like the Government to withdraw the bill?

Senator BROWN:

– -That is a stupid question. We do not want the bill withdrawn. However, I say quite plainly that the amount which is being guaranteed by this measure is the amount that was asked for by the Cotton Board. We should like the bounty to be at a higher rate. As I have said, cottongrowing is au essential industry in Australia, and steps should have been taken years ago to place it on a sound commercial basis. It is true that a considerable amount of money has been expended on the industry. I understand that 1,100,000 has been expended by way of bounty, and also that approximately 400,000 lias been expended to reimburse growers in certain directions. ‘ Had that money been expended scientifically with a view to establishing the cotton industry on an economic basis growers would not now be asking for a bounty. I direct the attention of honorable senators to what is happening in other countries and what should bc done here in connexion with cotton-growing. Senator Courtice mentioned irrigation. That, of course, is essential. Had that £1,500,000 been expended in Queensland on the development of irrigation systems in the cotton-growing areas, we should now be able to produce sufficient cotton an acre to compare favorably with other countries, and the growers would be receiving an adequate return. To my mind, that shows . the difference between the methods employed under the democratic system in which we all believe - admittedly, ours is not the best form of democracy - and those adopted in enemy countries. I have no desire to see our industries regimented as they are in Germany, but surely we can learn something from the Germans. When a new industry is established in Germany, steps are taken to see that it is built on a solid foundation. They do not play about with it. They would not let cotton-growers produce so much in one year, and then reduce tillage by 50, 60 or 70 per cent. in. the next year. They would not put farmers on cottongrowing areas in one year and drive them off in the next.

Senator McBride:

– In Germany the people do what they are told.

Senator BROWN:

– I do not suggest for n moment that German methods should be adopted here. I am merely trying to show the Government the difference between the methods used here and elsewhere in building up industries. We are a democratic nation; we believe in democracy, and in democratic methods. Surely without industrial regimentation we oan learn from, our competitors and place thic highly essential industry on a sound foundation. The whole history of cottongrowing in Australia, reeks with various forms of antagonisms against the growers, and with vacillation and expediency on the part of successive governments. In 1929-31 the Scullin government materially assisted the cotton industry, hut as soon as the succeeding government assumed office - !. think ir was the late Sir Henry Gullett who was the Minister responsible - the difficulties of the cotton-growers were accentuated, and many of them had to go off their holdings.

Some interesting figures supplied to me this morning by Mr. Townsend, who bus done splendid work for this industry, show that the average yield of raw cotton an acre under irrigation in other cottonproducing countries are as follows: - Egypt. 531 lb.; Peru, 483 lb.; Russia, 350 lb.; and the United States of America, dry farming and irrigation. 267 lb. In Australia, where production is mostly done by dry farming, the average production is 120 lb. an acre, which is considerably below the world average of .1.91 lb. I do not wish my statement to bc regarded as derogatory to the cotton-farmers. I” am showing that in this country it is essential that we should adopt the best methods possible in order to improve our yield of raw cotton. In the past, governments have failed utterly and completely to provide assistance in the way that it should have been provided by the development of production by irrigation. Only in that way can yield he increased and an adequate return made to the growers. The Government of Queensland has expended about £650,000 in the last five years to assist the industry and is carrying on certain activities which undoubtedly tend to increase the ‘average yield of cotton to the acre. The Commonwealth Government has declined to assist the growers in the past because of an alleged shortage of money, and the industry has been permitted to lag behind, but I point out that there was no shortage of unemployed persons. To-day there is talk of a new order, and I hope that in future money will be made available as readily for the assistance of this industry as for war purposes. Industries of this kind should be dealt with, not from the point of view of political expediency, but having regard to the economic needs of Australia, so that employment may be found and the drift of population from the country to the cities and towns arrested. I understand that the price guaranteed to the producers, until the end of the war and for one season afterwards, is1s. 3d. per lb., and for this small measure of assistance members of the Opposition arc thankful.

Senator LECKIE:
Minister for Aircraft Production · Victoria · UAP

in reply - I sympathize with Senators Brown and Courtice in their conflicting reactions to this measure. They are anxious to have a tilt at the Government for its alleged sins, and they are also glad of the assistance being given to the cotton industry. I remember the enthusiasm with which Senator Courtice greeted the previous legislation which provided for a guaranteed price of 1s.0½d. per lb. to the grower. Although the guarantee has now been increased to 1s. 3d. per lb., the praise which the honorable senator formerly gave seems to have vanished into thin air. Senator Brown, apparently, forgets that, despite the omissions of the present and past governments, 3,500 farmers in Australia are growing cotton to-day on 50,000 acres. Senator Brown even went so far as to point out how inefficient are the cottongrowing methods adopted in Queensland to-day. According to his argument, land in that State is not fit for cotton production because the output to the acre is lower than in any other part of the world. The Government, on the other hand, believes that cotton-growing will become successful in Queensland, and that, with the co-operation of the State Government and the growers, a valuable national industry will be established. Possibly in their old age Senators Brown andCourtice will admit that the present Government has helped to give this industry a good start. I am glad that its efforts are appreciated on both sides of the chamber, and I shall accept with equanimity the criticism which almost invariably comes from a section of the Opposition. I should have thought that senators who directly represent the Queensland cotton growers would at least have had the grace to express their gratitude to the Government for what it is trying to do for the industry.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

page 424


Use of Intelligence Service Funds

Senator McLEAY (South Australia -

Minister for Supply andDevelopment). - by leave - read a copy of the ministerial statement delivered in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) (vide page 435) and moved -

That the following paper be printed: - “ Special Funds - Use for Security Purposes - Ministerial Statement “.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ceilings) adjourned.

page 424


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

Bill (on motion by Senator Leckie) read a first time.

Second Reading

Senator LECKIE:
Minister for Aircraft Production · Victoria · UAP

– I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The bill provides for the payment of a bounty of 4d. for each 1 lb. weight of copper wire used in the manufacture of rubber-insulated cable and rubberinsulated wire - other than such cable and wire sold by a manufacturer direct to the Commonwealth for use for defence purposes - which has been or will be manufactured during the period from the 1st July, 1940, to the 30th June, 1942, for sale for use in the Commonwealth. Bounty will not be paid to such an amount as may cause the net profit derived by a manufacturer from the manufacture and sale of bountiable cable and wire to exceed 8 per cent, of the capital actually used by him in such manufacture and sale. Furthermore, the maximum amount of bounty payable in respect of cable and wire manufactured during either of the two financial years covered by the bill is £25,000.

The manufacture of electrical cable and wire represents a new industry for Australia. Prior to 1941, Australia obtained most of its requirements of such goods from the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany being the other important supplying countries, although the United States of America sometimes received large orders from local importers. These cables and wires are principally used for telegraph and telephone lines and for electric light and power purposes. In normal times the wholesale value of Australia’s requirements of electrical cables and wires is approximately £1,500,000 per annum.

The establishment of the industry in Australia is due to the enterprise of a Melbourne company, Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Limited, which decided early in 1939 to make plans for producing these goods in the Commonwealth. After executives of the company had inspected factories in Britain and America, it decided to build a factory in Melbourne capable of supplying about one-third of the normal commercial requirements of Australia. Machinery and equipment were purchased partly from the United Kingdom and partly from Australian engineering concerns. Production of electrical cables and wires actually commenced in June, 1940. By that time it had become difficult to obtain sufficient supplies of these goods from Great Britain owing to the preoccupation of British manufacturers with production for defence needs, and to the increasing shortage of overseas shipping. The company’s original intention was to accumulate sufficient stocks to supply orders from all States simultaneously, and it intended to seek tariff protection from the Government before entering the market in that way. Before adequate stocks could be established by the company a survey of supplies of rubber-insulated cables conducted by the Department of Supply and Development disclosed a serious shortage. Considerable quantities of these cables were urgently needed by our fighting forces, for example, for field telephone cables, &c. Consequently, the company was officially requested to release its stocks for immediate consumption, largely for the Department of Supply and Development, the Department of the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Tariff Board has reported to the Government that this premature release of stocks resulted in losses to the company which would probably have been avoided had the company adhered to its original plan to enter the interstate market later on when higher selling prices for these cables and wires would have been obtainable. In this connexion I point out that goods of this nature arriving from the United Kingdom are not subjected to customs duty but they bear a primage duty of only 4 per cent. Even when electrical cables and wires are obtained from foreign countries, the customs tariff is only 15 per cent, plus a primage duty of 10 per cent. In these circumstances the company had to sell its products, at that time, at prices based on virtually a free trade import parity, so far as sales for ordinary commercial consumption were concerned. With regard to the substantial portion of its output sold to the Government for defence requirements, however, the question of fair and reasonable prices, having regard to Australian production costs, has been mutually arranged between the Commonwealth departments concerned and the company. No bounty will be payable in respect of cable or wire sold direct to the Commonwealth for defence purposes. The Tariff Board has given careful consideration to the losses suffered by the company for the reasons I have stated, and the Government has approved of its recommended solution, namely, that the bounty be paid retrospectively on all production for commercial consumption from the 1st July, 1940, at the rate of 4d. per lb. weight of copper wire used in the manufacture of these goods.

Since the industry was started in June, 1940, war-time difficulties, affecting manufacture in Britain and shipping between Britain and Australia, have increased so much that little if any supplies of electrical cables and wires will be obtainable from the United Kingdom during the future progress of the war. Consequently, Australia may have to rely almost entirely on local production for its requirements. In order to meet this serious position, the Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Limited has already taken steps to increase its productive capacity, and a now company, Cable Makers (Aust.) Proprietary Limited, will start production in its factory at Liverpool, New South Wales, in a month or two. These two companies expect to provide the hulk of Australia’s requirements of electrical cables and wires at no distant date, and it is likely that they will directly employ from 800 to 1,000 workers in this new industry. I have said enough to demonstrate to honorable senators that this industry has already proved of great importance to Australia’s war effort, having already met many demands for electrical cables for use by the Defence Forces in Australia and in the various theatres of war. Moreover, after the conclusion, of the war, .the industry should be capable of taking its place among the permanent industries of the Commonwealth, being worth, on a wholesale basis, approximately £1,500,000 per annum, and doubtless capable of further expansion.

The Tariff Board has recommended Commonwealth assistance to this industry in its initial stages by means of the bounty specified in this bill. In this regard, whilst the local industry is able to supply only less than one-half of the requirements of the Commonwealth, the economic cost of assisting it is smaller under a bounty than under a customs tariff. As local production approaches market requirements, however, bounty assistance can be effectively and economically replaced by tariff protection. The Tariff Board has recommended that the Government review the bounty before its expiry on the 30th June, 1942, by which time both companies should be supplying the bulk of our requirements of electrical cables and wires. The Government will arrange for this review. Apart from the extensive direct employment which is assured by the establishment of this new industry, considerable indirect employment will be created by the requirements of local manufacturers for Australian copper wire, lead, tin, chemical ingredients and raw cotton. The only important non-Australian raw material used is rubber, which is obtained from British Malaya.

I commend this bill to the Senate, believing that honorable senators will welcome the action taken by the Government to assist this valuable new industry and the enterprising companies which have expended a great deal of thought and money in its establishment.

Senator KEANE:

.- The Opposition supports this bill believing that it is to be some implementation of the policy adopted by the Labour party during the very short period when, it had an opportunity to establish and to foster Australian industries. I agree that the establishment of an insulated cable and wire manufacturing industry iu Australia is a substantial contribution to the industries of this country. I am glad that the Government has provided in the bill that the bounty is to be reviewed before the date of its expiry on the 30th June, 1942. I say that because the two organizations which arc to share in it, the Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Limited and the new company, Cable Makers (Australia) Proprietary Limited, are organizations with considerable financial stability, and it is possible that, before the expiry date, they may be firmly established and may not require assistance. The Opposition is pleased to note that a provision has been inserted in the bill to protect the wages and conditions of those engaged in the industry. The importance of this new industry can be gauged from the estimate of the Minister (Senator Leckie) that, within a short time, it will be producing material valued at £1,500,000 per annum. I am glad to note that provision has been made in the bill that no bounty is to be paid’ in respect of defence requirements, that the period during which the bounty is to be paid is limited to two years and that bounty will not be paid to such an. amount as may cause the net profit derived by a manufacturer to exceed 8 per cent, of the capital used in the manufacture of bountiable cable and wire. The decision to grant a bounty to this industry was based on a recommendation of the Tariff Board, after that body had fully investigated the matter. With the exception of rubber, which is imported from British Malaya, most of the materials to be used in this new industry will he manufactured or obtained in Australia. It is gratifying to learn that the industry will provide employment for between 800 and 1,000 persons in New South Wales and Victoria. That, at least, is some compensation to the people of those unfortunate States who have continually been helping to foster industries in the less prosperous States of Australia. This bill has been already dealt with expeditiously by the House of Representatives and I trust that it will be passed through this chamber with equal expedition. Imitation i.- the sincerest, form of flattery, and I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of the bill because, at long last, in connexion with this industry, it has adopted the policy of the party which I represent.

Senator GIBSON:

.- I do not intend to oppose the bill, but 1 propose to say a few words in regard to it. It seems to me that, in providing that the ‘bounty is to he paid retrospectively, the Government is adopting an entirely new procedure. Never before have bounties been made retrospective for a period of fifteen months. It is obvious that considerable difficulty will be experienced in tracing sales of materials on which the bounty is payable during till last fifteen months. In introducing the bill, the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie) said that its purpose was to assist an infant industry. I remind honorable senators that it is an infant that has been walking and talking for the last fifteen months, and is now pretty steady on its feet. When the Tariff Board investigated this industry in 1930, it opposed the granting of a bounty or the imposition of a duty because it contended that, if that wore done, the Australian users would have to pay 50 per cent. more for their requirements of insulated cable and wire. The Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Limited is manufacturing insulated cable and wire for use in household appliances such as vacuum cleaners and electric irons, and for the wiring of houses. The Electricity Commissioners in the different States, who objected to the granting of the bounty when the matter was being inquired into by the Tariff Board, said that the granting of a bounty would affect electricity users. The existing duty of £37 a ton on copper used in the manufacture of the cable and wire covered by this bill is substantial. However, my principal objection is to the proposal to make the bounty retrospective for fifteen months. I cannot recall another instance in which a bounty has been made retrospective. Of course, certain safeguards are provided in the bill. Foi instance, the bounty will not be payable if the net profit from the manufacture and sale of bountiable cable and wire exceeds 8 per cent, of the capital employed in such manufacture and sale. But will it not be very difficult to determine what proportion of a manufacturer’s business is in respect of thu manufacture of these particular materials? Further, the wages cost involved in the manufacture of this kind of cable does not exceed 8 per cent. : the bulk of the cost is for material. Consequently, I do not agree with Senator Keane that, the employees in this industry will derive great benefit from thi* bounty. The Minister referred to a new company. Cable Makers (Australia) Proprietary Limited. That, is a proprietary company, and consequently it does not publish -its balance-sheet. That is one objection which I take to this company as a recipient of this bounty. Further, the company has three shareholders, namely, Metal Manufactures Limited, which holds 142,500 shares, members of the Cable Makers Association of Great Britain, who also hold 142,500 shares, and British Insulated Cables Limited, which holds 15,000 shares. The Tariff Board reported that these people intended to commence operations last May. However, according to the Minister, they have not yet commenced operations, hut are now about to do so. I also point out that these people originally did not want a bounty, or duty. They were prepared to make this material in competition with British manufacturers, probably because a big proportion of their capital was to be provided by British companies which in the past had manufactured Australia’s requirements. Metal Manufactures Limited is an immensely -wealthy concern engaged in the manufacture of lead-covered cable. We know that such, cable is made for governments only, being used for telephone purposes. These cables take from ten pairs to 500 pairs of wires. The whole of the underground telephone cable now being laid from Melbourne to Seymour, a distance of 60 miles, has been provided by Metal Manufactures Limited, which also provided at great cost the cable laid from Sydney to Newcastle. When I was PostmasterGeneral in 1927 the Postal Department called for tenders throughout the world for the supply of cable of this kind, and received tenders from companies in Germany, Great Britain and Australia. The amount of the Australian tender was £226,000. The cable called for was to take from ten pairs to 500 pairs of wires. The amount of the German tender, which provided for the use of Australian copper, was £116,000. At that time there was a duty of 40 per cent, on cable of this kind, and the Postal Department also allowed a special preference to Australian companies. That departmental preference, the amount of which I shall not mention here, represented a further substantial duty. Yet, after allowing for the departmental preference and the duty of 40 per cent., the Australian tender exceeded the German tender by £42,000. As Postmaster-General, I did something which, perhaps, was very improper. I sent for the representative of the Australian company and told him that he was going to lose the contract. He replied that if he did so he would have to sack 500 nien. I then replied that the saving which I could effect by accepting a lower tender would provide employment for more than 500 men. I then told him that if he would reduce his tender by £42,000 I would accept it. He replied that he could not do that. However, the next morning he tele- phoned me that he would accept my offer. Consequently, his company reduced its original tender of £226,000 by £42,000. The government of that day was defeated in 1929, and when the new government came into power fresh tenders were called for the supply of this matetrial. Such tenders were, of course, submitted to the Contracts Board. However, I was naturally curious to see what happened. T found that tenders had been called in the United States of America, Great Britain, Germany and Australia for the supply of approximately the same quantity of material. A most extraordinary thing happened. Quotations were supplied for about 30 or 40 types of cables, varying from ten pairs of wires to 500 pairs, yet there was not a difference of £1 between the tender price of any one of those types when the duty was added and the price offered when 1 was Postmaster-General One can read between the lines to discover what happened, because there is not the slightest doubt that something did happen. I repeat that, as a proprietary company will be eligible to receive this bounty, the Government must watch very . carefully in order to ensure that profits on the manufacture and sale of bountiable cable and wire do not exceed S per cent. After all, manufacturers are not above charging governments more than they should be charged. In this case, as the Minister pointed out, bounty will not be payable in respect of any material sold to the Commonwealth Government, but only in respect of material sold to private people; but what about government purchases from merchants? However, I should like to know what method will be adopted to trace the income of this company from the Government as distinct from private customers, particularly in respect of sales made during the last fifteen months. We are adopting a new system altogether in paying retrospectively a bounty in respect of commodities manufactured and sold over so long a period. That is my main criticism of the measure.

Senator LECKIE:
Minister for Aircraft Production · Victoria · UAP

in reply - I thank honorable senators for the manner in which they have received the measure. I explained in my second reading speech that when the Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Limited commenced manufacturing this wire in Australia in 1939 it intended to build up stocks in order that as soon as possible it would be able to supply the requirements of all States simultaneously. However, the war intervened ; and I can only say that Australia should be grateful for the fact that this company was so enterprising as to start this venture before the outbreak of war. We needed supplies of cable and wire urgently, yet we found that we could not get this material overseas. Consequently, it was of great advantage to the Government to find that it was able to call on this company for the urgent requirements of the Department of the Navy and the Department of the Army. The Tariff Board reported that in consequence of the company’s action in making these supplies available to the Government, the company has suffered a certain loss ; and, consequently, the board recommended that the company be paid this bounty retrospectively to June, 1940. I realize that the retrospective provision in this measure is something new, but the circumstances of this particular case are unique. They were brought about simply as the result of war. I should be very sorry to see any company which was of such great assistance to Australia’s war effort as this company has been, suffer any loss in respect of its great enterprise, involving considerable capital, in establishing so valuable an industry in Australia. Therefore, I ask the Senate to agree to the measure. I again remind honorable senators that no company the net profits of which on the basis mentioned exceed 8 per cent, will be entitled to receive this bounty. That percentage is inclusive of tax, so the actual percentage of profit would be something like G$ per cent. Senator Gibson fears that some difficulty will be experienced in separating the activities of these companies in order to determine sales to the Government as distinct from sales to private customers. Clause 13 of the bill provides that a manufacturer shall keep separate accounts, and that such accounts shall be subject to audit. Consequently, hon- orable senators need have no fear in that regard.

Senator Keane:

– Unless proper accounts are furnished no bounty will be payable.

Senator LECKIE:

– That is so. As a matter of fact the new company to which Senator Gibson referred will not commence operations until next December, or January, so that it will have only six months in which to draw the bounty ; and, in the meantime, as I indicated previously, the Government intends to review this matter in order to determine whether further tariff protection is required. I assure honorable senators that the company to which the bounty will be paid retrospectively has rendered excellent service in Australia’s war effort in respect of the supply of not only material of this kind, but also other material.

Senator Gibson:

– I admit that.

Senator LECKIE:

– It is already supplying to the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy, and for defence purposes generally, a vast quantity of material which will not be subject to bounty at all. That quantity represents a weekly production of thousands of miles. I mentioned previously that it was supplying 3,000 miles of field cable for defence purposes. I repeat that this company has done excellent work for Australia, and it should receive every support to which an Australian industry is entitled.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

page 429


Australian Imperial FORCE: Discharged Soldiers ; CIVIL Rehabilitation; Enlistment Age; Butter Supplies.

Motion (by Senator MoLeay) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator COLLETT:
Minister for Repatriation · Western Australia · UAP

– On Wednesday last Senator Cooper asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -

What provision, if any, has been made to rehabilitate, in civil life, members of the military and air forces stationed in Australia who have enlisted for full-time duty overseas or in Australia and have been discharged for medical reasons for which they have no responsibility?

I now furnish the following replies : -

  1. Apart from war pensions and medical treatment available to members of the forces whose disabilities are due to war service, the Government is considering a scheme of vocational training to provide for those who enlisted for service overseas and who are discharged from the forces with war disabilities which prevent them following their prior to enlistment occupations. In this connexion the Government has received a comprehensive report from the Sub-committee of the Interdepartmental Advisory Committee on Reconstructions, which sub-committee consisted of representatives of the Departments of Labour and National Service, Repatriation Commission, Army and Air Force. This report covers a wide field and deals with the question of training and placement of all classes of members of the forces in all its aspects. The Government has not yet reached finality with regard to that report, but in the meantime proposals are in hand to enable the Repatriation Commission to proceed with a tentative scheme of vocational training for war-disabled men.
  2. Provision also exists to obtain employment and for the payment of sustenance for members who have served overseas with satisfactory record.
Senator CAMERON:

– On Thursday last I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army (Senator Foll) the following question, upon notice: -

Has the Government issued any instruction or regulation which would allow any young man under the age of 21 years to enlist as a member of the Australian Imperial Force without the consent of his parents?

That question has not been answered although I am sure that the information I desire could he obtained within 24 hours. The Government knows well what the position is, and all I want is a plain statement of fact. My reason for asking the question is that a number of complaints have been made to me with respect to the attitude adopted by certain military officers in intimidating or coercing young men under 21 years of age into joining the Australian Imperial Force. I am not in a position to say whether these complaints are justified, but the fact remains that complaints are being made. It is also a fact that in regard to one case which has been brought to my notice I have not got a satisfactory reply from the General

Officer Commanding the Southern Division or his subordinates. On the8th September, I addressed the following letter to Major Saber in Melbourne -

Dear Major Saber,

For the consideration of the authority concerned 1 attach hereto a letter from Mrs. Florence Peck, of The Kilkenny Inn Hotel, corner King and Lonsd ale-streets, Melbourne, who desires the release from the A.I.F. of her son, VX56832, Marcus George Moyes,E.T. Division, B Company, Pucka punyal.

As you will note Mrs. Peck has two sons on active service overseas, and as the soldier concerned has not her consent to go abroad, 1. trust, in the circumstances, it may be possible to give favorable consideration to her application.

That letter was accompanied by a copy of the young man’s birth certificate reading as follows: -

page 430



” Extract of Entry No. 71540.

Office of the Government Statist, Melbourne, 8th September, 1941.

Re Application Fol. 34932

Memo. -

According to the Registers in this Office, George Marcus, son of George Ernest Moyes and Florence Moyes, néeStone, was born at Northcote on the 26th November, 1922.

The Official Number of the entry is 34266/22.

  1. Gawler,

Government Statist

I asked Major Saber a very plain question; I did not ask him for his views or opinions. I merely wanted to know the position with respect to an application by a mother for the release of her son, who is under 21 years of age from service in the Australian Imperial Force. On the 15th September, Major Saber wrote the following letter: -

In acknowledging your letter of 6th September relative to the above member of the Australian Imperial Force, I wish to apologize for the delay, due to my absence on sick leave, the correspondence was not opened by my staff, as it appeared to be of a private nature from the envelope. 1.In the case of Private Moyes. - It will be necessary for him to make application for discharge through his Commanding Officer and prove his relationship with the person named in the letter, viz. Florence Peck.

If a soldier has made a false answer on attestation in regard to his age, it does not necessarily become obligatory for his discharge to be effected, especially in view of the fact that he is within two months of the age for

Australian Imperial Force: enlistment, and that Mrs. Peck, from herown statement, was well aware that he had been in the Australian Imperial Force for some months, and was quite happy, that the Government should, at considerable expense, continue to clothe, equip, ration and pay this soldier.

I contend that it is not necessary for Private Moyes to make such an application. An application was made in the first instance by his mother, who, for the reason which I have just stated, objects to her son being in the Australian Imperial Force. Major Saber said - if a soldier has made a false answer on attestation in regard to his age . . .

He does not say that the lad did give a false answer; he uses the qualifying word “ if “. The suggestion is that the boy did give a false answer, but Major Saber is not prepared to say definitely that that is so. Even if Private Moyes did make a false answer, in my opinion the position is not affected, since the mother has brought the matter to the notice of the authorities. Major Saber also said that “ Mrs. Peck, from her own statement, was well aware that he had been in the Australian Imperial Force for some months and was quite happy “. Mrs. Peck denies that she was happy about the matter. This officer evidently adopts a very dictatorial attitude, either on his own responsibility, or under instructions from someone else. When one addresses a courteously-worded letter to an Army officer, or to any one else representing the Government, one is entitled to an answer without an expression of opinion suggesting ulterior motives and reflecting upon a mother. In fact, Major Saber is not even prepared to accept an official copy of the birth certificate. He says it is necessary for the lad to prove his relationship. Surely a copy of the birth certificate supplied by the Government Statistician of Victoria is reasonable proof of age. Major Saber then goes on to say in effect that because the Government has expended money in clothing, equipping, rationing, and paying this soldier, he should not be discharged. I suggest that it is not for that officer to express such an opinion. I was not satisfied with Major Saber’s answer, and on the 19th September I wrote the following letter to the General Officer Commanding Southern Command: -

The G.O.G.,

Southern Command,

Swanston-street, C.I.

Dear Sir,

Re VX56832, M. G. Moyes, E.T.D., B Company.


Representations were made to me by the mother of the above-named soldier, who asked for his discharge from the Australian Imperial Force, as he had enlisted without her consent, and she did not wish him to go overseas at present, having already two sons on active service. I communicated with Southern Command, vide File No. 85393,15th September, but not feeling that the reply was satisfactory,I placed a question on the notice-paper for Wednesday last seeking information as to whether the Army could legally retain a youth in these circumstances. The Minister was unable to supply me with on answer yesterday, but I expect to have one when the Senate reassembles next week.

My reason for writing you is to know if it would be possible for this youth to be retained in Australia pending an answer to my question to the Minister; that is, of course, assuming there is a likelihood that he may be embarked in the very near future.

As I have not yet received a reply to that letter and as the Minister for the Army has not yet seen fit to answer any question relating to the matter, I had no alternative but to bring it before the Senate.

I am informed that men under 21 years of age are not sent overseas if it is known that their parents object to their going. It seems to me that there is something in the contention of young soldiers’ mothers and fathers that they are not receiving from the military authorities the consideration to which they are entitled.

Senator CAMERON:

– The Minister has askedus not to worry him unduly, but surely the Government should not require a week in which to answer a simple question. In the light of the delay that has occurred, and the unsatisfactory attitude of the military officers concerned, it seems to me that the position is not as it should he. I trust that the Minister will take action to see that if the mother is entitled to object to her son being sent overseas he will not be. permitted to go.

Senator Sampson:

– Does the young man wish to go overseas ? Has hebeen consulted at all?

Senator CAMERON:

– According to his mother, he has been consulted and desires to be discharged. This and similar complaints are having an adverse effect on recruiting, because parents discuss these matters with one another, and the position cannot be satisfactorily explained.

Senator SAMPSON:

– I have received a letter from a young member of the Australian Imperial Force now serving in the Western Desert. He has enclosed a cutting from the Melbourne Sun, and has asked me to correct publicly a statement made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender). The newspaper report is as follows: - “ No margarine is being used or has been used by the Army “, declared the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) last night, replying to statements that it was being substituted for butter in the A.I.F. “ These reports are pin-pricking and irritating “, he added. “ Only last week 15,000 lb. of butter was supplied to forces within Australia. “ Margarine does not appear on the contract list of the Australian forces or on lists of supplies from British depots to Australian troops serving abroad.”

This young “ digger “ has written to me in the following terms: -

Did you get the cutting I sent about army foods and Mr. Spender’s assurances on the subject. Mr. Spender had better check up. We have had tinned margarine for many weeks. Sump oil is better. Margarine, he says, is not given to the troops either at home or abroad. Not that I’m making a fuss at having to make do with the stuff, only it just goes to show that the general public are told just what’s considered good for them. Beer is still shipped in unlimited quantity to the army canteens. It must run into ship-loads. If that has space allotted it, I don’t see why Australian butter can’t be sent. We get Queensland meat, which is a bit of an achievement out here in the desert.

The Minister has my sympathy in many ways. He is not a soldier, and knows nothing about soldiering.

Senator Cameron:

– But he is a lieutenant-colonel.

Senator SAMPSON:

– Commissions should be earned. I would not give a commission to any soldier unless he had served for at least two years in the ranks, and I would not give a staff job to a man who had not carried out regimental duties for two years as a commissioned officer. Statementsby a responsible Minister such as that to which I have referred are very irritating to the troops serving in the desert.

Senator FOLL:
Minister for the Interior · Queensland · UAP

– I regret that an answer to the question asked by Senator Cameron has not yet been supplied to him, but I know that a reply has reached Canberra and is awaiting the Minister’s approval. I shall endeavour to supply him with the answer as soon as possible. Only a few days ago the Cabinet reached a certain decision in relation to the age at which members of the fighting services will he allowed to proceed overseas, but 1 do not wish to refer further to the matter because I am not sure whether the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) has yet been notified of the decision of the Government. I shall have the matter raised by the honorable senator placed before the Minister immediately, so that a decision may be reached regarding it, because I can understand the anxiety of the parents of young soldiers who desire to go overseas.

In reply to Senator Sampson, I feel confident that in no circumstances would the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) deliberately make an inaccurate statement in relation to the food supplied to our troops either overseas or in Australia. The honorable senator’s remarks will be placed before the Minister without delay.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 432


The following papers were pre sented : -

Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 228.

Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 194.1, No. 211.

National Security Act -

National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -

Prohibited places (2).

Taking possession of land, &c. (33).

Use of land (2).

Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 219. 220, 221, 222, 223. 225, 228, 227, 220, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234.

Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of the reservation of certain lands in the town of Playford, Northern Territory, formerly reserved for the use of aboriginal native inhabitants (dated 18th September, 1941).

Senate adjourned at 5.16 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 September 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.