25 February 1942

16th Parliament · 1st Session

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

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Senator GIBSON:

– Seeing that the State Governments are providing means of having charcoal made available to those who require it, will the Leader of the Senate state what action the Government has taken in order to provide charcoal in the Australian Capital Territory, since none is available here?

Minister for the Interior · QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.It is not quite accurate to say that charcoal is not obtainable in the Australian Capital Territory.

SenatorGibson. - Supplies are not available at private motor garages in Canberra.


– There is plenty of charcoal in Canberra. Later:

Senator GIBSON:

– Will charcoal be made available to members of the Senate whose cars are fitted with producer-gas units?

SenatorCOLLINGS. - I am afraid that, through partly answering the question of the honorable senator, I have caused slight confusion in his mind.I am aware that he was withoutcharcoal at the week-end, but I do not know that private garages in Canberra are unable to supply charcoal. I asked the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper in order that 1 might be able to furnish him with full particulars. In submitting his question, the honorable senator made the statement that charcoal was not obtainable in Canberra ; but there is plenty of it here, and it is being used in Government motor cars as rapidly as they can be fitted with gas producers.

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– Referring to the interest that the Government has properly shown in the wheat industry, can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce say what plans, if any, have been made for the restriction of wheat production in South Australia and Western Australia, and for the payment of compensation to the growers?

Senator FRASER:
Minister for External Territories · WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– The matter is receiving the consideration of the Government, but no definite action will be taken until after a meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture in the various States, which will probably be held at an early date.

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Canberracommunity Hospital

SenatorFOLL. - Has the Minister for the Interior read the statement in the local press this morning by the Superintendent of the Canberra Community Hospital to the effect that, although application had been made on numerous occasions for the digging of slit trenches or other suitable air-raid shelters for hospital patients, he has been unable to get the work done! Is the Minister taking action to see that this work is done, and, if there is a shortage of labour for the work, will he give instructions for the organization of working bees, such as have been formed in other parts of Australia, in order to provide air-raid shelters atthe hospitals and schools in Canberra ?


– The whole matter of the proper protection of the people of the Australian Capital Territory is being effectively looked into by the officers of my department. The suggestion made by the Superintendent of the Canberra Community Hospital that trenches should be built, so that patients could shelter in them, is too silly for words. We do not propose to do anything of the sort. We have ample labour, and we are getting on with the job as rapidly as we oan; buttrenches are not the only things necessary for the protection of the people. All necessary precautions are in train, and will be given full effect as soon as possible.

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Senator FOLL:

– Is the Minister re presenting the Minister for Commerce aware that, on account of drought conditions in certain parts of Australia, and also because of the urgent demands being made by the military forces, there is a distinct shortage of certain kinds of green vegetables and other produce? Will the Minister give instructions that, in suitable areas, prisoners of war and internees shall be employed immediately in the production of vegetables and other foodstuffs which are required in Australia, and which will be needed in increasing quantities to meet the requirements of the military forces and of the people generally ?

Senator FRASER:

– That matter is receiving the attention of the Government. A committeehas been appointed to investigate the problem of food production in this country, and I have no doubt that, at a later date, the honorable senator will learn that action has been taken along the lines suggested by him to augment our food supplies.

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National Security Regulations

Senator KEANE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Victoria · ALP

– I lay on the table the following paper : -

National Security Act - National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 76

The Government invites members of both parties forming the Opposition to appoint representatives to a committee to examine such regulations with a view to setting up the machinery necessary to implement them.

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News Services and News Commentaries

Senator FOLL:

– Can the Minister for Information say whether instructions have been issued to the Australian Broadcasting Commission setting out the procedure which must be followed in relation to news services and news commentaries, or is the commission free to broadcast whatever news or news commentaries it thinksfit?

Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Information · NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The present Government has not offered any advice to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or placed any restrictions upon that body, in relation to its news services, but I understand that a previous PostmasterGeneral did instruct the Australian Broadcasting Commission that no adverse comment on, or criticism of, the Government at that time was to be broadcast.

Senator FOLL:

– The Minister has just made a serious allegation.


– The honorable senator is not entitled at this stage to make a speech; he may ask a question.

Senator FOLL:

– I ask the Minister for Information if he will elaborate his previous answer by setting out the circumstances in which a Postmaster-General in a previous government issued instructions to the commission that the Government of the day was not to bt criticized, which Postmaster-General issued them, the nature of the instructions, and the date on which they were issued ?

Question not answered.

Senator Collings:

– The honorable senator knows all about it.


– Will the Minister for Information inform the Senate why the playing of the grand old tune, “The British Grenadiers”, prior to the reading of the new3 has been discontinued by the Australian Broadcasting Commission?

Senator ASHLEY:

– Previously, the overseas news was readbefore the Australian news, but with the reversal of that order “ Advance Australia Fair “ has been played prior to the reading of the news,

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by leave - In accordance with a previous announcement that Ministers would utilize the services of private members to assist them in administrative and other work connected with the war, I now inform the Senate that the Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Curtin) has requested the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) to act for and with him in a series of capacities, and that the right honorable gentleman has consented to do so. I desire also to announce that the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) will also assist the Minister for Munitions.

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Reviewof War Situation

Senator ASHLEY:
New South WalesMinister for Information · ALP

by leave - read a copy of the ministerial statementdelivered in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) (vide page48).

Motion (bySenatorCollings) proposed -

That the following paper be printed: -

InternationalAffairs - Ministerial State ment, 25th February. 1942.

Senator McLEAY:
Leader of the Opposition · South Australia

.. - In supporting the motion, I wish to express my appreciation of the courtesy of the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) in supplying me with an advance copy of the statement which he has just read. All honorable senators have listened to the statement with great interest and although it maybe said that most of what we have heard to-day hasalready been published in the press, it is only right that the information should be incorporated in the official records of the Parliament. It is to the credit of the Australian press generally that newspaper reports on international affairs have been similar to the official statement which has been presented to the Senate this afternoon.

The Opposition also appreciates the opportunity to discuss in open session important matters associated with the war, to pay our tribute to the United States of America for its support of the Allied cause, and to say how we value the splendid service rendered by members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia in various theatres of war, as wellas the gallant performances of our neighbours in the Netherlands East Indies, whom we wish success in resisting a powerful enemy..

In the absence of a national’ government, the Opposition considers that it is necessary that the Parliament should meet as frequently as possible. I hope that the splendid example set by Mr. Churchill in inviting’ full criticism’ in open session will be f ollowed by the Commonwealth Government. We on this side of the chamber realize the tremendous task which the Government is called upon to perform and when it was suggested to us yesterday that the Parliament should adjourn this evening until Thursday week in order that Ministers may attend to urgent and important matters associated with the war, the suggestion was readily acceded to by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fad den) by myself and also by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McBride). We insisted, however, that the Parliament should meet as regularly as possible, and I trust that when the sittings are resumed next week we shallhave the opportunity to deal with the international situation as it affects Australia, and to express freely views which may assist the Government in its difficult task. I trust that the Government will not resent our candour.

During this war wide powers have been given to the Executive. I imagine that those supporters of the present Government who, when in opposition, opposed the granting of such powers, are now grateful for their existence. A grave responsibility rests on both Houses of the Parliament to keep a close check on all regulations that are promulgated, in order to ensure that powers exercised ostensibly in the nation’s war effort do not merely camouflage some pet idea of advanced socialism held by some Ministers.

I greatly regret that the present. Government did not accept the offer of the Opposition to form a national government. Had it done so, there would have been presented to the country an example of unity in high places which could not have had other than a good effect. As one who had experience in a previous Administration of the difficulties of government in a time of war, I believe that in refusing to agree to a national government the present Government has done a great disservice to Australia. Had the offer of the Opposition been accepted, our preparations for the struggle in which we are engaged would have been more advanced than they are. I am confident that when the history of these days is written, historians will be forced to say that the attitude adopted’ by the present Government has left an indelible stigma which time will never erase.

I am not satisfied with the action taken by the Government to deal with the manpower problem. It is not necessary to remind the Senate of the shortage of manpower in essential rural industries, as well as in the manufacture of munitions. As far back as last October, when the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) introduced his budget speech, he promised that every effort would be made to divert man-power from non-essential industries, or less essential industries, to those industries which were necessary to the nation’s war effort; but, although the present Government has been in office for nearly five months, that promise has not yet been fulfilled. It is true that recently the Minister for War Organization of Industry. (Mr. Dedman) announced that the manufacture of certain goods would be prevented in South Australia and Victoria. The reason given was that such action was considered necessary in order to save raw materials required by war industries and to divert to .such industries much-needed man-power; but I am constrained to ask why articles considered to be non-essential in South Australia and Victoria should not be similarly regarded throughout the rest of Australia.

The Government has not had the courage to impose industrial conscription, or compulsory service, in war industries. I regard such compulsion as a matter of the utmost urgency and importance.

Senator Courtice:

– Was it lack of courage which prevented the previous Government from imposing industrial conscription?

Senator McLEAY:

– No. Action in that direction was prevented by a few extremists then in opposition, who now sit behind the present Government. I remind Senator Courtice that when a proposal to amend section 13a of the National Security Act was before the Parliament, ten members of the Labour party voted against the proposal and against thenLeader (Mr. Curtin).

Senator Clothier:

– Why does not the honorable senator include the conscription of wealth in his proposals?

Senator McLEAY:

– We already have conscription of wealth. An examination of the taxation measures enacted by this Government will show that substantial, and even vicious, taxation is now levied on wealth in this country. I should fee happier if the same degree of compulsion were exercised in respect of all persons between the ages of 18 ond 65 in order that every one available can be called upon to do a specific war job. I urge the Government to take the power necessary to do this. Only in that way will it be enabled to tackle our immediate problems. In South Australia, for instance, at least 20,000 additional men and women will be required for war industries by June next. Ministers are just as much aware as I am that in many industries to-day hundreds of single men are engaged on process work and could be quickly released for service in the defence forces. Many more men who are now listed in reserved occupations should be serving in the armed forces. I had hoped that by now, following the repeated statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and various Ministers, we would have 100 per cent, mobilization.

Senator Keane:

– It is on the way.

Senator McLEAY:

– This Government has been in office for five months, h.. it has not yet introduced total mobilization. The man-power regulations were introduced on the 31st January. They are to be administered by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). It seems to me that that Minister is more concerned about getting men out of the Army than into it. In that respect we know, of course, that he is running true to form. I regret that a recent meeting of representatives of the trade union movement in Victoria was discourteous enough to criticize the Prime Minister because the Minister for Labour and National Service had not been consulted in respect of certain economic regulations. Those representatives declared that they would accept those regulations only because the Minister for Labour and National Service, who, as we all know, is an extremist and opposed to compulsion, is to administer them. However, after this Government has been in office for five months we are now told that a questionnaire is being circulated in order to find out what men are available.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon J Cunningham:

– The honorable senator is not in order in describing the Minister for Labour and National Service as an extremist.

Senator McLEAY:

– If I have transgressed against the Standing Orders, I withdraw the remark. Section 15 of the man-power regulation reads -

  1. – (1.) The Director-General may direct any person registered as unemployed at any National Service Office to accept such employment in Australia as the Director-General thinks fit, and, in that employment, to perform such work or services as the DirectorGeneral specifies, being services which that person is, in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral, capable of performing.

If men are wanted in various areas for the production of munitions they must be obtained. In the present crisis we must not let anything baulk us. Even if some of these men be required to live in tents they will still be much better off than our soldiers who are fighting overseas. I repeat that the Government lacks the courage to deal with this problem. Whilst it does not hesitate to call up married men 35 years of age with children to serve in the Militia Forces, it is not prepared to transfer single men from the dog-racing industry, or some other equally unessential industry, to the manufacture of munitions simply because some unions are opposed to such action. I urge the Government to realize the seriousness of the present situation. The people of Australia are staggered at its attitude, for instance, in respect of the recurrent stoppages in the coal-mining industry.I know that the position is difficult; but is the Government or the unions going to run this country? I want to be fair to the Prime Minister and his colleagues in respect of the attempts they have made to deal with this problem; but the difficulty mainly arises because of lack of courage on the part of the Government. This is clear from the following extracts which I have taken from press reports during the last month : -

January 5th. - Mr. Curtin called for report from Mighell on mining stoppages involving thousands of miners.

January 8th. - Mr. Curtin in an unequivocal ultimatum dispatched to the Miners Federation threatened that the Government would take drastic action if the mines were not re-opened at once. Miners given until noon to-morrow.

January 8th. - Mr. Curtin said that the Government would be traitorous to Australia if it tolerated the stoppages.

January 9th. - “Work or fight!” Because there was no general resumption of work at the New South Wales coalfields this morning, the Federal Government at noon to-day promulgated a new National Security Order making it an offence against the National Security Act for any person, normally employed at a coalmine, to refuse to work when the mine is open and when he has been directed, or otherwise advised, to work by the committee of management of his union. Persons who contravene the regulation are liable for a fine of £100 or imprisonment for six months or both if proceeded against summarily, or for an unlimited fine and unlimited imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment.

The regulations also enable the right of exemption from military service now accorded to employees in the coalmining industry, to be withdrawn from a person who refuses to work, thus rendering him liable to be called up for military service.

I challenge any Minister in this chamber to state that that has been carried into effect. Has any miner been fined, or has exemption from service in the Militia been withdrawn from any miner who has been on strike?

January 9th. - Mr. Curtin said that the Government was determined that every body able to do so must work or fight to win the war, and those who refused without reasonable excuse to work in essential industry would be called up to fight.

To-day’s penalty regulations are aimed at coal owners and coalminers as individuals who refuse to work, but they pointedly avoid the inclusion of the union within the scope nl the new penalty clauses.

January 16th. - No action is likely to be taken by the Commonwealth to intervene in the coal strikes in New South Wales until after the week-end. Mr. Lazzarini left for Wollongong, where to-morrow he will address Bulli miners.

January 10th. - Three New South Wales, mines idle to-day - more than 1.500 nien.

January 21st. - Seven New South Wales mines idle yesterday. Arising out of minor local disputes.

January 21st. - The persistence of local disputes in the coal industry will be discussed at Canberra on Saturday at a conference to be arranged by Evatt, Beasley, Ward, Mighell, and representatives of the Miners Federation. lt was stated in well informed circles to-day that the Government would not permit the disputes to go on, and would if necessary further amend the coal control regulations to establish adequate discipline.

The regulations issued a fortnight ago are proving deficient in that the strike is punishable only when held in defiance of union instructions.

In spite of these facts we are told that we have a 100 per cent, war effort and total mobilization, and that the Government intends to administer vital war measures without fear or favour. The press reports continue -

February 12th. - Loss of 22,000 tons in coal output! Effect of disputes this week.

A large deputation from the Miners Federation will submit to the Prime Minister and other Ministers in Canberra to-morrow a new code of demands which they consider should be conceded if coal production is to be increased.

February 13th. - Mr. Beasley announced tonight that a meeting of the Council of the Miners Federation in Sydney earlier to-day had decided to direct all members of the union at all pits, except the Richmond pit. to resume work forthwith.

Following their secret interview with Mr. Curtin this week, leaders of the Miners Federation decided to-day to convene aggregate meetings on the coalfields on Sunday to discuss a recommendation that all strikes should be abandoned and that the future policy of the Federation should be continuous production.

February 12th. - The Federal Council of the Miners Federation to-night issued a request to all coalminers throughout New South Wales, except the Richmond Main colliery, to resume work immediately. To-day’s request by the union council followed a conference in Canberra of council representatives with the Prime Minister and Evatt and Beasley.

February 24th. - Eight pits stop work! Two thousand nine hundred miners out; Cabinet action. Eight coal mines are idle to-day, involving more than 2,000 men. The Federal Government is considering what steps to take.

Thus from the 5 th January till yesterday, the 24th February, we have a recital of stoppages in the coal-mining industry. Such a position is deplorable. The Government’s negligence in this respect is most unfair to our soldiers who are giving their lives for this country. I again urge the Government to tackle this problem courageously. I assure it that every member of the Opposition will stand behind it in any action which it takes to steer this country through the present crisis. Two days after our shores were bombed, and Australian lives lost on our own soil, a strike is tolerated in an essential industry. Such a position cannot be allowed to continue.

The regulations recently issued dealing with economic organization are also causing grave concern. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) announce, in effect, that the Government has now realized the error of its ways, and intends to call upon Opposition members to assist it in amending these regulations. I presume that that is the request which the Government will make to us, although the Minister stated that we are to be asked to assist in setting up the machinery to implement these regulations. I now tell the Minister that we propose to co-operate with the Government by pointing out how some of these drastic proposals will cause economic chaos, and instead of helping the war effort will do a great disservice to a large number of people in the community. I do not propose to deal with these regulations in detail at this stage. I merely take this opportunity to say that if some of these proposals are not modified, I, personally, shall do all I can to have them disallowed. We are prepared to discuss them with the Government.

Senator KEANE:

– The Japanese will not debate them.

Senator McLEAY:

– These regulations will not do anything to help to defeat the Japanese.

Senator Keane:

– The honorable senator wanted action and we are providing it.

Senator McLEAY:

– Yes, action of the wrong kind; action designed to enable some members of the Labour party to inflict upon this country a form of socialism and a changed economic structure which will be detrimental to the lives of a large section of the people. I am not prepared to support that change. In so far as the regulations are designed to stop profiteering, speculation and inflation, I shall support them, but I wish to enter an emphatic protest against the introduction of such drastic provisions without giving Parliament an opportunity to debate them. Some of these regulations will create chaos in industry and throughout our entire commercial and social structure. I remind honorable senators that when the Prime Minister spoke on this subject, he said that the regulations had been approved in principle, but that the details had not been worked out. A close examination of the regulations reveals that the details were obviously not worked out. because their effect will be to inflict great hardship on the middle class and poor people of this country, without assisting the war effort in any way. I refer particularly to Regulation No. 5, which deals with the limitation of profits. The result of this drastic provision will be absolute chaos. Nobody knows exactly what the Government wants, and this provision constitutes a threat.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– Nobody knows what the regulations mean.

Senator McLEAY:

– That is obvious. Regulation No. 5 reads -

Except in the case of unavoidable expenditure or under process of law, a person deriving profits from the carrying on of a business shall not part with such assets as will preclude his paying to the Commissioner of Taxation (in accordance with legislation to be enacted by the Parliament) so much of those profits as arc in excess of an amount equal to four per centum of the capital employed in the business.

The Government should have had the legislation framed so that it could have been discussed in detail by Parliament before becoming operative, or should have set up an advisory committee asis now suggested. Instead, however, the regulations were promulgated on the 10th February, and became operative from that date, although it was claimed that the details had not been workedout. Already the regulation prohibiting the transfer of certain property, including shares, has done enormous harm.

SenatorFraser. - The poor people of this country do not hold many shares.

Senator McLEAY:

– That is just wherethe honorable senator shows his ignorance. In reply to that interjection, I shall cite only three companies - The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has 20,000 shareholders; the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited has 10,850 shareholders averaging 246 shares each; the Australian trading banks have 70,000 shareholders, of whom 52,000, or 74 per cent., own shares the value of which does not exceed £500. Obviously, Senator Fraser does not know the position. Thousands of small shareholders are affected by this freezing order.

Senator Fraser:

– The regulations do not trouble them. All they are concerned with is winning the war.

Senator McLEAY:

-If the honorable senator were a small shareholder, it would trouble him. Many small income earners, including widows whosesons are fighting at the front, have had their income reduced by 50 per cent. In fact, their incomes have been reduced to such a degree that, unless they obtain some relief, they will be unable to meet their taxation commitments, and the greatest injustice will be done to them. By one stroke of the pen, this regulation has taken away the livelihood of thousands of people. How can these people fulfil their financial obligations? I trust that after these drastic provisions have been considered carefully and fairly, something will be done to remove what has been justly described as the economic paralysis which now prevails.

I again suggest that the Government should assume the necessary power to enable it to sendour Militia Forces overseas to fight for this country and for the Allied cause.We appreciate greatly what is being done for us by the UnitedStates of America, whose conscripts are already in this country, and by Great Britain and the Netherlands East Indies. We realize that, for the present, at least, we must fight a rearguard action,but, as has been indicated in the Minister’s statement, the time will come when we shall take the offensive. What will be the position of the Government and the people of this country when we find that our Militia Forces cannot be sent to such places as Timor and the Netherlands East Indies? If we are to win the war, our troops should be able to go to such places. They must stand shoulder to shoulder with the conscripts from the United States of America and Great Britain, fighting in the common cause. Australia will not bc able to hold up its head if it persists in its present selfish attitude and insists that Australian troops shall fight only on their own soil. The National Security Act should be amended to enable the Government to send our Militia Forces overseas should that action be considered desirable. Those who oppose permanent legislation for conscription for overseas service will not be prejudiced because the National Security Act operates only for the duration of the war and six months thereafter. I earnestly hope that the Government will give immediate consideration to this most urgent matter. We must take a long view of this war. After all, the Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Air Force are already serving in theatres of Avar overseas.

I should like to take this opportunity to refer to a matter which has been misunderstood and misrepresented by a number of people. Personally, I regret exceedingly that the statement was ever made, because it has created a wrong impression in other parts of the world and has not helped the great cause for which we are fighting. On the 29th December last, the Prime Minister made the following pronouncement: -

Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to the traditional links of kinship with the United Kingdom.

I dissociate myself entirely from that criticism of the United Kingdom and of its war effort.

Senator Courtice:

– The honorable senator is reading into the Prime Minister’s statement something that was never intended.

Senator McLEAY:

– For the information of the honorable senator, I propose to quote the following extracts from a report by an Australian correspondent in London, who cabled to this country the impression created in that country by the Prime Minister’s utterance: -

There lias been created here a damaging impression, which obviously was never intended, of Australia’s reaction to the threat of invasion. Various speakers in the recent debate in the House of Commons and in general conversation, have said that Australian outspokenness was merely to awoken people here to an appreciation of realities, and that it represented no weakening of affection or denial of obligation to Britain. The facts remain that both high Government and unofficial circles have been and remain deeply distressed, not about Australia’s claims, which ure overwhelmingly admitted as undeniable, but about the tone of the statements by some spokesmen and some Australian newspapers. Nobody here believes that they represent true Australian opinion, least of all Mr. Churchill.

Many public mcn are saying that some Australian attacks, particularly the apparent resentment against Britain as a whole, are unjust, and they hope that they are no more representative of real Australian opinion than utterances seeming to suggest that Australia is squealing. Nobody here thinks that Australians are squealing. Everybody believes that the courage of Australians and the qualities of their soldiers are unsurpassed. Brutal frankness is expected from Australia, and perhaps is appreciated as being much needed, but there is much wonder why often of late this has been overshadowed by what seem to be ungenerous sneers.

I repeat that I dissociate myself entirely from the Prime Minister’s utterances, because I am confident that they did not represent the true Australian opinion. In fairness to the PrimE Minister, I admit that his statement conveyed an impression which was never intended by him. However, unfortunate statements such as that create a very bad impression. Following the discussion of that statement, which occurred in the United States of America, Great Britain and New Zealand, I was pleased to see that the following resolution was carried by the New Zealand Parliament, after a snare t session lasting two days: -

After a two-day secret session discussing the war situation, the House of Representatives decided to cable to Mr. Churchill New Zealand’s appreciation and understanding of the position. It assured him of the unshaken determination of Now Zealand to prosecute thu war to victory irrespective of fluctuations in the struggle.

That is the spirit that represents Australia. Let us therefore display in the Parliament and in the civil life of the community the spirit that has been displayed by the Australian Imperial Force.

Senator Ashley:

– This is merely political propaganda.

Senator McLEAY:

– The honorable senator is a past master at that. We know the sacrifices that Great Britain has made, we remember the battle of Dunkirk, the battle of the Atlantic and the battle for Britain, and we appreciate the herculean task that has confronted that country-

Senator Ashley:

– The honorable senator forgets about Greece, Crete and Singapore.

Senator McLEAY:

– We are engaged in a common struggle and instead of arguing now about what Great Britain has done, we should set ourselves this question : What is the best that Australia can do? Australia must do a lot more than it has done before it can equal the accomplishments of Great Britain.

In conclusion, I summarize the points on which the Opposition bases its criticism of the Government’s war policy. The Government is branded with an indelible stigma because of its persistent refusal to join with the Opposition in the formation of a national government. It has a vacillating policy on man-power problems, and it has avoided the only solution to those problems - the introduction of compulsory service in essential war industries. It has failed completely to rule or discipline its own supporters - the coal-miners. Its treatment of these men provides a classic example of governmental inaction. The latest economic organization regulations provide indisputable evidence of muddled thinking, which is causing complete disorganization with little actual benefit to the war effort. We criticize also the Government’s persistent refusal to amend the National Security Act in order to provide for the movement of Australian troops to theatres of war beyond Australian territories. Finally, honorable senators on this side of the chamber dissociate themselves from the Government’s unfair criticism of Great Britain’s war effort.

Senator BRAND:

.- When Darwin was bombed the comment was : “ This should wake Australia up “. It has done so to a great degree. Unfortunately, the people’s hitherto complacent attitude is giving way to a de featist attitude. Many citizens, including politicians, have “ the wind up “, to us 3 a Great War expression. There is no need for alarm. Japanese activity in the near north is a clarion call for a greater war effort, with a background of calm confidence that we not only “ can take it “ but also “ can give it “. We all deplore past governments’ indifference towards adequate, well-equipped, welltrained sea, land and air forces. The nation is now paying heavily for thai folly. But commendable progress has been made, since war was declared, to make good our shortcomings. The Axis powers have, in actual combat, acquired the greatest respect for the offensive fighting qualities of our sailors, soldiers and airmen. The time is fast approaching when our home forces too will have an opportunity, in conjunction with our latest ally, to show their mettle. When the time comes for them to strike, the enemy must be hit hard wherever he may be. The old Australian Imperial Force won all its battles by taking the offensive. A purely defensive attitude is the next step to a withdrawal, and finally defeat. The static, or position warfare during the greater part of the 1914-18 struggle, engendered a “ dug-out” complex, so that ii became necessary to carry out night and even day raids against the enemy. Only when a grand offensive was launched, was the road to victory cleared.

I stress the importance of offensive action because I fear that the Curtin Government has a defensive complex; many Government supporters, I believe, favour a “ last ditch “ defence. There is not mi ex-service man in either the Advisory War Council or the War Cabinet. A leavening of men with war service would be an advantage. When tlie time is opportune to strike there must be no legislative obstruction to hinder co-operation with our Allies. At present Australia can use her home forces to clear the Japanese out of our mandated territory, but cannot despatch one Militia man to remove the menace in Japaneseoccupied Dutch or Portuguese territory closer to Darwin and the north-west of Australia. If we allow United States troops to do this job for us, we will be discredited for all-time on the other side of the Pacific. Section 13 a of the

National Security Act, which allows only voluntarily enlisted men to serve in territories other than those under the control of the Commonwealth, must be amended as soon as possible.

  1. draw the attention of the Government, to r.he danger menacing Australia as the result of the unrestricted liberty of enemy aliens. The wholesale and retail fruit and vegetable trade in this country is almost exclusively controlled by enemy or naturalized aliens. They are benefiting by the enlistment and call-up of Australia’s manhood. They are extending their productive holdings. Short supplies and consequent higher prices are playing into the hands of these sheltered aliens. More first-class land is coming under their control. They constitute an internal enemy force of some thousands, which would cause a great deal of trouble if Australia were invaded. Prompt action is needed to deal with the man-power problem in rural districts. It is so acute that it is impossible for Australian producers to obtain starts and maintain production. Alien producers have no man-power trouble.* with which to contend. I understand that these aliens have formed the workers of each holding into a sort of company, which escapes the provisions of wages boards, and the employers’ payroll tax for child endowment. They are so organised that they can transfer their countrymen to any given point at any time in order to work alien holdings. Behind all of this organization are master minds who have in view the capture of the whole of our fruit and vegetable trade. A sinister ring is thus in operation. While Australians are fighting and dying for love of country, and while Australian producers are being forced off their holdings, these aliens are making large profits and consolidating their position. What is the solution? The Government should exempt those called up for military training who are engaged in those avocations. It should fill the vacancies so caused in the Army from the hundreds of men who have been granted exemption on the flimsiest pretext that they are doing essential war work - work that could be done by women - and men not liable to be called up. The Government’s policy of compulsorily registering aliens and allotting them to work of a national character is a step in the right direction. Many of these conscripted aliens could be employed growing vegetables in the proximity of our biggest camps for the troops.

The Government is to be commended on its decision to intern enemy aliens in north Queensland. But why only in that part of the Commonwealth? A general round-up of naturalized aliens with axis sympathies is long overdue.

Recently a weekly newspaper contained a scathing article concerning the absence of Public Service clerks from Victoria Barracks, Sydney, during weekends. I made it my business to inquire if the same applied at Victoria Barracks. Melbourne. As expected, I found that the article was true in some respects. In each section of the administration, military clerks work side by side with civilian clerks, both doing almost identical duties. The uniformed men have no specified hours for Sundays or week-days and draw no overtime. The civil clerks’ hours are specified in the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations or arbitration awards. Overtime for thom has recently been abolished, mainly because. the practice was abused. The system is all wrong. In these critical times the Public Service statutory hours should be made more elastic. No one expects a man in uniform or plain clothes to work continuously every week without relaxation or recreation. The senior official should have authority to grant time off as he thinks convenient, but under the regulations, the civil clerks must “ clock off “ when the statutory hours per week have been worked. In war-time, particularly with the threat of invasion hanging over us, there should be a continuous service. The most important events requiring urgent attention usually occur during week-ends, when half of the clerical staff is away. I do not blame the individual who, in the mass, is loyal and anxious to give the maximum service. It is the system which is all wrong. Hidebound regulations are clogging the wheels of our war effort. When will somebody in authority take action to remove these obstacles?

Senator DARCEY:

.- The statement’ on international affairs which was read to the Senate this afternoon by the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) reminded me of the many fine speeches that were made last week at the combined secret meeting of senators and members of the House of Representatives. However, not one speaker at the joint meeting dealt with fundamentals. Before we can do anything to introduce a new social order we must find the cause of the present disorder in the world - and “ disorder “ is a mild term to express our present position. In 1916, the late President Wilson, of the United States of America, said that America came into the war “ to make the world safe for democracy”. I maintain that there has never been a true democratic government in any country. President Wilson’s illustrious predecessor, Abraham Lincoln, defined democracy as “government of the people, for the people, by the people “. It is a. truism to say that the destiny of the people lies in the hands of its government. I repeat that at no time lias there been true democratic government in the world. In 1914 the whole of Europe, with the exception of Russia, was controlled by so-called democratic governments. Nevertheless, we were forced into war in that year. After that war, we were told that democratic government continued. But what has happened in Europe since then? Take Italy as an example. Within two years there were three so-called democratic governments in that country - the Orlando, the Nitti and the Facta - and yet it continued to go to the dogs. In their fight for the fruit? of office they altogether neglected the goodwill of the people. As a result, the Communists took charge of the big Fiat factory at Turin, and the Socialists took charge of Milan. On this wave of disorganization, Mussolini and his Blackshirts were swept into Rome. We recall how he walked into the Senate, and said : “ To hell with democracy, I spurn its corpse “. Mussolini introduced many great reforms, and, if he had not become obsessed with the idea that he was a modern Julius Caesar bent on forming a new Roman Empire, Italy would have been better governed under fascism than under any so-called democratic system.

What happened in France? Within two years,, that country had four governments - those led by Blum, Daladier, Reynaud and Laval - and over 100 Socialist deputies were cast into prison. This caused the greatest possible resentment throughout France, with the result that the war effort was held up. Blum tackled the Bank of France on the devaluation of the franc, but the. moneypower was too strong for him, and a similar experience befell the other governments of France which succeeded him. When Laval made a compact with Sir Samuel Hoare, to the disgust of the people of England, proof was given once more that democracy has never been in power in Europe. If we are to have; real democracy and a new order, we shall have to find out what is wrong with the present order. .Nothing has been done to bring about a new order. Conditions were almost as bad in England as they were in France. When Mr. Baldwin faced the electors on the last occasion, there was a strong peace move. He won the elections, but fell in with the peace movement by reducing the grants to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, notwithstanding the fact that, week after week, Mr. Churchill had informed the House of Commons how powerfully the Germans were arming.

In 1936, Mr. Churchill pointed out, without avail, that Germany had exponded £800,000,000 on armaments; but he was too big for his associates, and was kept out of the Ministry, because he wanted democratic government and thought that the safety of his country should be the first concern of members of Parliament. The tremendous task that he has undertaken to-day was handed down to him by mcn who forgot the real principles of democracy. Sir Stafford Cripps, as soon as he returned from Russia, said it would bc a good thing if the Government of Great Britain told the people what they were fighting for. He remarked that it was not sufficient merely to tell the people that they were fighting for the conditions experienced by them prior to the war. The people should be guaranteed new social conditions, because the conditions obtaining in England three or four years ago were dreadful. When Sir

John Boyd Orr was asked to bring up a report on nutrition, he said that 4,000,000 people in England were each living on 4s. worth of food a week, 6,500,000 on 6s. worth, and 9,000,000 on only 9s. worth. That meant that almost 20,000,000 persons in England were living near, or down to, the bread-line. It is logical to say that the people who govern are those who get what they want, but do they want war under these dreadful social conditions? Of course not. Conditions to-day are as bad as they can be in Australia, but there is no effort by a democratic government to bring about better social conditions, and this is due to one particular fact. The present monetary system has brought about these conditions, and there is no chance of peace and better conditions while the present monetary system remains. Abraham Lincoln once said : “ I have two enemies. One is to the south, to which I am advancing, and the other is the enemy behind me, the money-power. Of the two, the enemy behind me is the greater.”

The Commonwealth Bank was established despite the strong objections of all of the private banks. Mr. King O’Malley fought for ten years to bring the Commonwealth Bank into existence, and the late Sir Denison Miller, as governor of that bank, did a splendid job for Australia during the last war, when he raised money at one-tenth of the cost charged by the private banks for the same service. His death, however, gave to the private banks their chance. When the Bruce-Page Government was in power, the constitution of the hank was amended in such a manner that, as a people’s bank, it was practically strangled. I told Mr. Bruce that in my opinion the amendment to the Commonwealth Bank Act in 1924 was the greatest piece of political treachery ever perpetrated on the people. That was followed by the attempted Casey amendment. Mr. Casey proposed a further amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act, and also desired to establish a mortgage bank. At that time the Commonwealth Bank had .assets valued at £19,000,000 and had made advances amounting to £184,000,000. There was plenty of money with which to establish a mortgage bank, but that would not suit the private banks. The proposal then submitted was to sell inscribed stock and debentures, and the only people who could buy the inscribed stock were the banks themselves. They were to sell £20,000,000 worth of debentures to raise the money required to found the mortgage bank. That would have given to the private banks another tremendous advantage, because, under company law, if th, debenture holders were not satisfied with the way in which the business was being conducted, they could have taken it over. But there was such an outcry .against the Casey amendment at the time that the Government of the day dropped the proposal.

I remind honorable senators that it is their duty to endeavour to meet the new conditions. The old orthodox ideas will have to go by the board, particularly in regard to finance. I was in Martin-place, Sydney, last week, and saw a representation of “ Britannia “ on a fancy motor car surrounded by flowers. On my right hand was the head office of the great Commonwealth Bank, which could advance £100,000,000 of credit to-morrow in order to carry on the war. There is no need for the present heavy taxes, of which even members of the Opposition complain. It has been proved by a royal commission that the Commonwealth Bank could lend interest-free money to the Government, whilst the private banks can lend only against their cash reserves.

Senator E B Johnston:

– What about the present loan? Could all the money that is required be advanced by the Commonwealth Bank?

Senator DARCEY:

– Easily. There is no need for the loan to be floated in the way it is.

Senator Allan MacDonald:

– Why not tell that to the Treasurer?

Senator DARCEY:

– I have said that in this chamber for the last three years. I have given the number of the paragraph in the report of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems which .shows the absurdity of going to the private banks for money when hundreds of millions of pounds could be advanced by the Commonwealth Bank*, but I have been unable to make either the present Government or past governments act on my suggestion. I am speaking as a man who has the interests of the nation at bea.vt, but this action has not been taken.

Senator McBride:

– Does the honorable senator suggest that the present Government has not the interests of the people ar. heart?

Senator DARCEY:

– I referred on one occasion to the honorable senator who interjects as the minister for jeers and sneers, because he always makes inane remarks when I speak on finance.

As other honorable senators have said, we are in a desperately bad position, but I believe that we shall win the war. Our soldiers won the last war, but the banks won the peace, and that is why we are in the present war. Members of this Senate have taken a solemn oath in this chamber to put the interests of their country first, [n my opinion we shall have to drop all parties. When we are at war there should be only one party, and that -is the nation. Some of those who have jeered and laughed at me in this chamber because of nay views on financial matters now admit that I am right, but it is against the traditions of the Opposition to agree to anything that comes from this side of the chamber. That applies to whichever party happens to be in power. In this great crisis, however, I suggest that the Opposition should take a new view of finance, and take the right view of it, even if it means a departure from it. traditional performance of the past. I hope that in the present crisis some notice will be taken of what I have said with regard to the financial situation.

A few weeks ago the people were told that the currency of the United States of America had been incorporated in the currency of Australia. This is the first time in the history of the world that any nation has accepted the currency of another nation. .When our men were fighting in France they were paid in the currency of France, and, with the thousands of Americans in Australia to-day. I ask whether any pressure was brought to bear on. the Commonwealth Government by Wall-street to compel traders in Australia to accept dollar bills as currency. The exchange, as all honorable senators know, is the amount one country charges another for the use of its currency. The United States of America has been charging us 6s. 3d. for its dollar of 4s. 2d. ever since the outbreak of war, and also prior to that. Now an American citizen can present a dollar bill to any trader in Australia and demand for it 6s. 3d. worth of goods or services. Not only is Australia in the hands of the private banks, but the currency of the United States of America, created by banks over which we have no control, is also coming in. The Federal Reserve Bank of America, which has the same standing a* the Bank of England, must have exerted influence over the Commonwealth Government. We are not getting anything from the United States of America for nothing, but I do not think that that country has any right to demand 6s. 3d. worth of goods and services for its paper dollar.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– I have listened with interest to the carefully prepared statement which is the product of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), and which was read to the Senate by the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley). There are one or two matters upon which I desire to touch, because we may get a little further enlightenment in the event of the queries which I shall submit being capable of being answered without giving information which may be of value to the enemy. I read into the ministerial statement a suggestion that there appeared somewhere on the horizon some prospect of Russia engaging in war with Japan. If I am wrong in that inference I shall be glad to bc corrected, because I think that it is of most vital importance to the conduct of this war, both in the west and in eastern waters, that we should know exactly whether that is to take place. In’ my opinion Japan must ultimately be stopped. I do not take the pessimistic view that appears, unfortunately, and, perhaps unintentionally, to have been created by statements by various members of the Government. I .regard the present position with optimism, compared with my state of mind some eighteen months ago. I look with confidence to the great democratic forces which represent threefourths of the population of the world and which are associated with Great Britain, the United States of America, and our other great Allies. I can see in those forces the overwhelming of the people of the other one-fourth of the globe, which stands for tyranny and everything contrary to those principles which we support and admire. I look therefore; to the subjugation of those enemy countries and to a future in which Japan will have been overthrown. That Japan will be beaten I have no doubt, but I want that result to be accomplished with the least possible sacrifice of life. That can be done only by attacking Japan at home - by striking at Tokyo and other Japanese cities and towns. In order to do that we must have air bases at Vladivostock and in China. Recently I was astounded to hear over the. air that the United States of America was already negotiating with the Chinese authorities for the establishment of air bases in China. Japan is full of vigour and fight and, so far, its armed forces have had the luck of battle at Pearl Harbour and elsewhere. Considerable success has attended Japan’s exploits, largely because in such places as Malaya and the other countries where fighting has taken place the nature of the country has suited Japanese fighters. Before long Japan’s successes may laud Australia in difficulties, but should that cause us to despair? Even though our tribulation may be great this country will continue to carry on. On one occasion recently I rather admired a gentleman with whose politics I am generally not in agreement. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), when sponsoring the present war loan, exhibited some of the spirit that should animate the people of this country. He said that Australian!! would fight on, if necessary to the last ditch. For years we have known what was going on in Japan, but. we have failed to prepare against attack. However, now that the trial has come, we shall not shirk the ordeal. The Japanese out-manoeuvred us at Darwin. On trams and trains, and in clubs, it is freely said that Japanese aeroplanes attacked Darwin from the south - a direction from which they were least expected. Without those modern instruments which can detect the approach of aeroplanes, it is not to be wondered at that the authorities at Darwin were taken by surprise. The pity of it is that some of our aircraft were struck upon the ground. That, however, is one of the fortunes of war. Pearl Harbour had its warning; Darwin did not. Pearl Harbour neglected its warning. The commanding officer there said that it was foolish to talk of a Japanese invasion of Hawaii. Serious though they be, such incidents are bound to occur especially when a nation has made preparation for more than a dozen years to strike outlying posts in the Pacific. In Java Japan is meeting foemen worthy of its steel, and Japanese soldiers can expect a. lively time indeed. I have always visualized the closest co-operation between the Dutch people of the Netherlands East Indies and ourselves. I remember the Dutch as a nation which held command of the seas for many years and whose people have never lacked courage and enterprise. I speak only as a layman, but I should regret exceedingly if tUe higher war strategy should leave J ava without support. Of course, it may be that that would be a wise course to adopt, but I cannot easily forget an appeal on behalf of Java which I read in last night’s Melbourne Herald. Ii was an appeal by a Dutchman for his country similar to that which any one of us might make on behalf of Australia.

When I heard the Minister’s statement regarding unity of command I recalled that lack of a single command greatly prolonged the war of 1914-lS and, indeed has produced some degree of chaos in our ranks in the East during recent months. Let us sink our differences so that our men may go forward to the place where they can serve Australia best. Let us put our forces on sea, on land and in the air in charge of one man whom we can trust, and let him do the job. In this respect, we may learn something from dictator countries; in Italy and in Germany one man gives commands which are obeyed throughout the country. Should the man entrusted with that authority fail, he may be punished, and although that will probably he his fate in the long run, the policy is sound. In Russia, Stalin is supreme. He says to those under him, “ Go “ and they go, and to others “ Come “, and they come. In Russia, that policy has met with considerable success. I am delighted at the success which has attended the effects of General Timoshenko - a man who I generally refer to as “ Tam-o-S banter “ because he is so like the Tam-o-Shanter of old. Russian strategy is left to him to devise and carry out. A nation engaged in mortal combat cannot afford to have divided control. Nor can it afford to be bound by red tape. For the edification of those honorable senators who share the responsibility of governing the country, I shall mention a story which I heard recently in Melbourne. An officer belonging to the forces of one of our allies took a lady guest into dinner at a social function, where the all-absorbing topic of conversation was, of course, the war. The lady asked whether her companion thought that the Japanese would invade Australia, and he replied: “I do not”. The lady was greatly reassured, hut she wanted to know on what his opinion was based. The reply of her companion was illuminating : “ They would be very soon entangled in red tape “. We do not want too much red tape; but we do want to have in command men who know their job. I urge that the man on the spot should be trusted, for, after all, it is he who must accept the responsibility. Generally, we have not failed when we have trusted the man on the spot, for, realizing his responsibility, he has risen to the occasion, although, at times, he has been mistaken and perhaps beaten. In the interests of our own safety and of democracy, we must have unified command. Whatever our present shortcomings may he in this respect, I believe that they will shortly be remedied. We have the men and also the material. We are inclined to forget the enormous burden which the old Motherland has carried throughout this war. We are inclined to forget the enormous length of coastline that Britain has to police in order to reduce Germany to commercial impotence. We are inclined to forget also the success which has attended the campaign against raiders, submarines and torpedo-boats in the North Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean. I commend to honorable senators, particularly those who are inclined to dwell upon the failure of our cousins in the Old Land to do what they think should have been done, a book by G. H. Johnston entitled Battle of the Seaways, which has recently been, published. It would bring to the notice of honorable senators the endurance and courage of the men employed on trawlers. Only this week, we all read with pride of the gallantry of the man who placed the destroyer under his control between a torpedo and a troopship, knowing as he did so that it meant the doom of himself and his crew. We should read these things rather than discuss the reasons for the fall of Singapore. What right have we in Australia to blame any one else for what happened there? I shall not indulge in party recriminations, but we all know that a government of a certain political colour in England refused to continue to make Singapore a bastion of Empire. Because of my connexion with certain business interests at Singapore, I have reason to know that many things which ought to have been done at Singapore were not done. But what have Ave in Australia done in the way of providing a “ backstop “ behind Singapore? I believe that experiences at Singapore will teach a lesson to Australia. So far as I am aware, no nation ever came to full nationhood without the shedding of blood. The Japanese have proved that they have the capacity to wage war and, indeed, to do many things successfully. Seeing that they have allied themselves with the Axis powers, and are aiming at domination over other peoples, we. have to meet them, and beat them. By waiting until the Axis forces were on the wane, they played their part well in Axis strategy. Japan’s entry into the war, while giving a temporary advantage to the Axis powers, has brought into the war on our side the great United States of America. What must be the result on the future of civilization of the participation of our American allies in the struggle? But this is no time to be thinking about our new policies, or our new orders. We must first preserve our freedom ; and when the appropriate time arrives I. think that even-handed justice will be dealt out to the world as a whole. The regulation of international trade, for instance, will help to stem the petty jealousies which have arisen throughout the -world. Some people would revert to our old system of international trade; but that cannot be done. During a short stay in Europe on one or two occasions, and when I represented this country at meetings of the

League of Nations at Geneva, I saw much of the dishonest machinations and methods that were current, and the efforts that were made to overcome restrictions in international trade. Whenever I think of those things I am impelled to ask how the world can go on under such conditions. I think that the import duty on wheat, into France, in the interests of French growers, was Ss. or 9s. a bushel, whilst, I believe, it reached 14s. a bushel in Germany. Are the people of the world, the ordinary human beings, to be deprived of commodities vital to their existence when such commodities can be produced in profusion in the Americas and in this and other countries? One could cite hundreds of instances to show bow the present unrest in the world has arisen. There is that seething mass of international jealousies between the people of the various countries of Europe, jealousies which I am afraid will take centuries to eradicate. When one crosses the border from one country to another one must produce a passport. If you go from one country into another country, perhaps not half a mile, you sense the venom :with which the workmen on one side of the border regard those on the other side of the border. They have nothing but hatred in. their souls toward one another. On one occasion I journeyed as a guest from France to a beautiful spot a short distance across the border of Switzerland. It was a Sunday, a market day for the French. Our driver was a Swiss. The party consisted of three or four cars. As we left the market town we encountered a few co;vs on the road under the care of a herdsman. Our Swiss driver got out of the caj- and urged the boasts off the road in order to allow the cars behind us to proceed. The herdsman spoke to him in pretty strong language. He called him a pig of a Swiss and used certain adjectives, and a few rocks were hurled at our retreating ear as an expression of the herdsman’s ill will towards us. When one crosses the border from France to Italy one experiences the same thing. There is not a spirit of friendship, peace or goodwill.

We must he guided by the higher strategy of our Pacific War Council. I implore the Government to harken to the words of those strategists, and not to endeavour to insist on Britain doing this, and Australia doing that, or Britain not doing this and Australia not doing that. Let us follow the lead of the President of the United States of America. He has sent his people forward. He has taken many things in his stride, and has dealt shattering blows to the enemy. J have no doubt that he will deal him more blows. Do not let us have bickering. 1 regret the atmosphere generated recently by certain words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Probably they were uttered on the impulse of the moment. At any rate, they were put over the air. He withdrew them, but not before one or two of his Ministers, who are great proBritishers a.s we all know, were at great pains to explain to the people of this country that the Prime Minister had no reflection to make on Britain. We have no reflection to make on Britain. During the past :I50 years we have been protected by the strong arm of Great Britain.

With regard to the regulations which have been discussed in this debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), I fear that it is a case of forgiving the Government for it knows not what it does. Evidently, the Prime Minister has now realized his error, and it would ill become me at this juncture to add fuel to the fire that has been created by these regulations. The fire is exceedingly dangerous to the welfare of this country. It is a fire of which the Treasury officials and representatives of the Commonwealth Bank are fully aware; they have taken prompt steps to quell it. When the Prime Minister assumed office he stated that he was not going to tear up the economics of Australia by the roots. Let us see to it that he does not do something worse .than that. I welcome the suggestion made to-day by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) on behalf of the Treasurer, that these regulations be reviewed by a committee representative of the Government and the Opposition. One of the regulations is perfectly meaningless. The Leader of the Opposition has vigorously criticized the other regulations. But this is not a time for criticism. The Government has admitted its error. The particular regulation to which 1 refer reeks with injustice. If we must be taxed to the tune of 20s. in the £1, we must pay the tax;but do not let us do something that will reduce the capital value of the assets in this country. I noticed a statement in last night’s Melbourne Herald that the effect of this regulation would be to reduce the capital assets of the people in this country by £500,000,000.

SenatorBrown. - Surely the honorable senator does not believe that?

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– I have no reason to doubt it. I am able to speak with freedom on this matter because I happen to be one of the fortunate ones. On a certain stock exchange, for instance, 10s. shares paying 5 per cent. are still selling at 3s. That is what tie people think of them. When this regulation was mooted I was approached to sell those shares for 4s. I did not do so. But from this instance alone, honorable senators will realize the effect of this regulation. The particular company involved is not a prosperous concern ; its reserves are bad. Large concerns with big reserves are allowed to earn 4 per cent. on the whole of their capital. Probably, such concerns can go merrily on; but what is the position of the unfortunate preference shareholder? [ am not criticizing the Government on this matter; it was rushed through and there it is. Take8 per cent. shares in concerns like Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, or a brewery. What do sellers get for 8 per cent. preference shares? A couple of pounds, perhaps. The buyer believes that the concern will probably accumulate more reserves and he will probably get 5 per cent. on his money some day. He is looking ahead. Under this regulation, however, what is the investor going to get? He is going to get 2 per cent instead of 4 per cent. In view of these facts, does not Senator Brown realize that there will be a shrinkage. I suggest that the honorable senator look at the stock sales effected immediately after this regulation was promulgated. He will see that there was a shrinkage of investments in giltedged securities to an amazing degree. I do not propose to refer to those other happenings which all of us engaged in the commercial life of this country know about. It was the immediate effect of this regulation that induced the Prime Minister to make his statement. I am sure that we do not want to embarrass the Government, but I implore it not to take risks with things that matter. I. cannot conceive that politics were involved in this instance, because such a procedure will obviously destroy the source from which the Government obtains revenue. I welcome the gesture made by the Minister this afternoon. Fromhis remarks I understand that the objectionable regulations have been placed on the table of the Senate, and that the Leader of the Opposition will be asked to appoint representatives on a committee similar to that which was appointed to review the budget.

Let us ensure that even-handed justice shall be meted out to our people; but at the same time let us resolve to do nothing that will re-act unfavorably on the revenue of this country. I sayagain to the Government that there is no need for panic or alarm. Our forebears at Home have taken a much more devastating gruelling than we shall ever be called upon to face in this country. They were practically unarmed after Dunkirk, and incapable of resistance. If the German monster had moved on at that moment we may not have been in the position we are to-day. However, he halted; and during that brief period the people of Britain armed themselves so effectively, and used their , air force with such brilliant strategy, that they defeated subsequent attacks by Germany in the air and in the Atlantic. There can be little doubt that those attacks will be renewed. However, the valiant efforts of our Russian allies preclude their immediate renewal. I welcome the inclusion of China which stands for peace, and, I believe, for liberty, among our allies. I believe that we should use the vast man-power of China and of India to the utmost. In regard to India, I echo the sentiments expressed by the Minister for Information : We must make every endeavour to bring the people of that great nation into linewith us. Whatever the difficulties may be, surely there is genius enough’ in the British Empire to find a formula of government which will be satisfactory to the people, of that great dominion.

Senator FOLL:

.- I realize that the Government is faced with great difficulties in these troublous times, and consequently it is not my intention to stir up discord. However, I do think that the Government would be well advised to consult more freely with the Advisory “War Council on matters which so seriously affect the whole economic life of this country as do the regulations which have been referred to by Senator A. J. McLachlan. I realize also that no matter how serious the position in this country may become, the Government has set itself determinedly against the formation of a national administration. For that reason no good can be done by continually raising that subject, although honorable senators on this side of the chamber are convinced that a national government would be in the best interests of the country. We understand that whatever may be the individual opinions of members of the Labour party as to the merits of a national government, they are powerless to act because of the strong forces which control them. However, when the war situation deteriorated suddenly by the entry of Japan into the conflict, we on this side of the chamber were informed that we would be freely consulted by the Government, through our representatives on the Advisory War Council, not only on questions of war strategy, but also on all important matters affecting the economic and financial life of this country. Naturally it was only to be expected that proposals of such a revolutionary character as those contained in the regulations recently promulgated would be discussed by the Advisory War Council. Unfortunately, that was not done, and now we find that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), realizing the difficulties which they have created by the sweeping nature of the regulations, have decided to set up a joint committee representing all parties in Parliament to devise ways and means of overcoming these difficulties. It will be recalled that when the Treasurer tabled his first budget, members of the Opposition told the Government in no uncertain manner that it would not be possible to raise the required revenue by means of the methods proposed in that budget, and that it would be necessary to vary the financial proposals at a later date. After considerable debate, a committee representing all parties in Parliament was set up to deal with the matter, and certain compromises were agreed upon. I say now that if t%e Government is really sincere in its consistent appeals for unity throughout the Commonwealth in this time of crisis, it should consult the Opposition through its representatives on the Advisory War Council on all important matters, and not merely on questions affecting what might be called the strategical direction of the war. I consider that many of the difficulties which appear on the surface, and much of the criticism which is being levelled at the Government, would disappear if a true spirit of compromise were shown. One of the reasons why the Government finds itself in difficulties to-day is that it will not face up to some of the things which are absolutely necessary if we are to achieve a 100 per cent, war effort. In the first place, when the last Fadden budget was brought down, an endeavour was made to secure equality of sacrifice among all sections of the community by means of a system of compulsory loans. Although I firmly believe that the people of Australia will respond generously to the appeals that are now being made by the Government in regard to loan subscriptions, it would have been far more equitable to have introduced a system of compulsory loans under, which every body would have been asked to contribute to our war effort according to his financial position. No doubt thousands of patriotic citizens will lend their money freely without thought of interest, because they know that it is going into the common defence pool, but I still believe that in an all-in struggle, such as this, no one should be allowed to escape his obligations, financial or otherwise. All we have is at stake, and it would be a far better scheme to say to every one, “You will lend or give, according to your means “. I am not very much concerned with the appeals which, are now ‘.being made to many of of us by members of the stock-broking profession because they in common with every one else will have to make sacrifices, but I do say that although on the surface it may appear that stock-brokers will be the main sufferers under these regulations, that is not so. The people who will really suffer are those whose legitimate transactions have been held up deliberately. For instance, a man might find it necessary to sell a small farm or to dispose of some stock in order to re-invest the money in some other project, but under these regulations he cannot do so. I hope that difficulties of this nature will be ironed out by the committee which the Government proposes to set up. These are the things which cause damage, and usually they are not examined sufficiently by governments when recommendations are made by officials. I urge the Government in all sincerity and in the interests of national unity to utilize the services of members of tie Advisory “War Council to a far greater degree. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have not been appointed to the Advisory War Council merely for the purpose of attending meetings and obtaining information ; their function is to give solid support to the Government an all matters of national interest, and if the council is to become in fact what we all want it to be. namely, a truly national body representative of the various elements in this Parliament, the Government must take Opposition members of the council .more into its confidence.

I believe also that the Government is not standing up to its responsibilities in regard to the problem of rationing various essential commodities. We have always considered Australia to be a land of unlimited wealth> .but because of certain large -demands that have been made to supply not only Australia’s requirements but also the requirements of some of out Allies, there is a shortage of certain foodstuffs. It is true that we have an unlimited supply of wheat, but the supply of beef, for instance, has caused us great ‘ concern. It cannot bc denied that there has been considerable hoarding of foodstuffs in this country, just as there has been in Great Britain. Certain individuals who are more liberally endowed with wealth than others have been taking every opportunity to put away stores of certain goods. I agree that in ordinary conditions that might be a very estimable practice, but not so to-day.

Senator Allan MACDONALD:

– The Department of Commerce has been encouraging the practice.

Senator FOLL:

– I am not referring to store-keepers, but to individuals.

Senator Fraser:

– It has served a verygood purpose.

Senator FOLL:

– I realize that in the past when supplies have been plentiful encouragement has been given, particularly to country store-keepers, to lay in stocks of certain foodstuffs, but the position to-day is different. As the Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce knows, there are limits to the supply of certain foodstuffs, and I contend that no one should be given an advantage over others in conserving supplies. To overcome that difficulty I suggest that a system of rationing should be introduced.

Senator Fraser:

– It is not correct to say that there is a shortage of foodstuffs.

Senator FOLL:

– I understand that the Department of Commerce is having difficulty in obtaining supplies of various commodities because of extensive buying in certain quarters.

Senator Fraser:

– That is so. Stocks are depleted for the time being.

Senator Allan MACDONALD:

– Sugar is being rationed in Western Australia.

Senator FOLL:

– Yes, but in that connexion I think that the main -difficulty is transport.

There is another matter to which 1 should like to refer, and I make this point in all good faith. I suggest that when the Government is contemplating drastic changes it should first consult carefully the interests concerned and also the Advisory War Council. Secondly, ii should not give undue notice of the action which is contemplated. I refer, particularly., to the new man-power regulations, of which four or five days’ notice was given. When it was noised abroad, through the press and the broadcasting stations, that employment in certain industries was to be pegged, many men engaged in remote country districts began te* seek employment in the cities where working and living conditions are more congenial. As the result,- country establishments were deserted by large numbers of highly trained and skilled tradesmen. If the regulation had not been implemented soon after the announcement was made, many industries would have been stranded and unable to secure capable men. I agree with the Government’s action, in pegging employment. Skilled tradesmen are not numerous at present, and continual staff changes, ddue to’ the movement of workers from one place of employment to another, cause inefficiency in important industries and have a bad effect on individuals. Soldiers, sailors and airmen have to stay at their posts, and men employed in war industries should ‘be compelled to do likewise, particularly as the Government has granted them many concessions, such as exemption from military service. After consulting representatives of the industries and trade unions affected, the Government should have put its plan into operation immediately. The rush that occurred in some industries was almost as chaotic as if the Government had given two or three days’ notice of a new excise tariff and every business concerned had rushed to “get from under” before the axe fell.

This afternoon, I asked the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) whether any instructions had been given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the Government regarding the policy to be adopted by the commission in its news broadcasts and commentaries, or whether the commission was entirely responsible for all news and commentaries broadcast in. the “ This is Canberra “ session and in the national news service. An interjection which was then made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) impels me to refer to the subject again in order to make my position clear. I consider that publicity of the Government’s activities- is an essential contribution to our war- effort and plays an important part in sustaining the morale of the people. The Minister, in answer to my question, said that no instructions had been given by the Government to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in relation to its news services, thus infer ring that the commission formulated its own policy in that connexion. He added that a Postmaster-General in a previous government had instructed the commission to follow certain lines in relation to criticism of the government at that time. I thereupon asked the honorable gentleman to state the circumstances associated with this instruction and to name the Minister concerned. The Minister did not reply to my question, but the Leader of the Senate interjected : “ The honorable senator knows all about it”. I assure honorable senators that I know nothing whatever about such an instruction, and that I heard about it for the first time this afternoon. Furthermore, I have never held the portfolio of Postmaster.General. If any such instruction were given, it was wrongfully given. I believe that the national news service, above all things, should be entirely free from the taint of party political propaganda. I ask leave to continue my re marks at a later date.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned.

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Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to -

That tho Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Thursday, the 5th March, at 3 p.m.

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Australian BROADCASTING Commission: News SERVICES

Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator ASHLEY:
New South WalesMinister for Information · ALP

– On the 20th February, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) alleged in the House of Representatives that on that day the Australian news session broadcast from Canberra included: a statement that no further cables to members of the Australian Imperial Force should be lodged at post offices. Even before the honorable member made that assertion I had shown to him the press statement which I had issued that afternoon, and from which the broadcast, news item had been prepared. It was indicated clearly in the press statement that the suspension referred only to cables and mail matter for members of the Australian Imperial Force who were known to have been in Malaya and Singapore. The honorable member for Barker insisted that his hearing was good, despite the fact that at least one other honorable member interjected to the effect that Malaya and Singapore had been mentioned in the broadcast. After a thorough examination of the announcer’s script, I am obliged to challenge the effectiveness of the hearing of the honorable member for Barker. The actual item broadcast in the Canberra news at 1 o’clock that night was as follows: -

The Postmaster-General said to-day that the transmission of telegrams and postal articles to Australian forces in Malaya and Singapore had been entirely suspended. The public was requested to discontinue lodging cables, telegrams or postal articles for members of the forces who had been known to be there.

On the same night, at 10.15 p.m., the following statement was broadcast : -

The public is asked not to lodge cables, telegrams or postal articles for members of the Australian forces who have been known to be in Malaya and Singapore. The PostmasterGeneral pointed out to-day that transmission to these places has been entirely suspended.

The fullest investigation in Sydney and Canberra proves that these were the only references to the subject in the Canberra news, and in each case it was clear to all but the honorable member for Barker that the advice referred to telegrams and postal articles addressed to members of the forces who had been in Malaya and Singapore. The statement was issued by me, following a suggestion from ihe Department of the Army, because large numbers of telegrams, cables and letters were still being despatched to our forces who had been in Malaya. It was done in the public interest, and the information was faithfully broadcast. By giving his distorted version of this news item, and denying the use of an important qualification the honorable member for Barker suggested that the implication was that Australia’s overseas cable service was interrupted by enemy action - a fantastic and entirely foolish interpretation. It is unfortunate that this news session should have been subjected to such an irresponsible attack the effect of which would be to undermine public confidence in an official news service conducted to provide authentic information for the benefit of the public.

I assure honorable senators that the whole object of the Canberra session is based upon the understanding reached recently by myself and both national and commercial radio services that the news should be factual and objective. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the significant fact that, on the same evening that the honorable member for Barker made his comments, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) also criticized broadcasts made by a government department. It was on the same day also that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, publicly condemned certain aspects of the Australian news broadcasts from Canberra - a veritable “ broadside “ from South Australia. Mr. Playford’s attack was as unreasonable as that of the honorable member for Barker, and was couched in general terms in order to make another political attack upon the broadcasting services of this country, which have done everything requested of them in connexion with the Commonwealth war effort. The honorable member for Grey complained that information of value to the enemy had been broadcast on Sunday evenings in the “ All Australia “ sessions of the Department of Information. He cited the broadcast statement that Japan could approach Australia by by-passing the Dutch East Indies as a typically dangerous statement. That was a general statement of an obvious fact, and Japan needed no help from us in that respect if it wished to follow such a course. Eather, was it a means of bringing home to the people of Australia a realization of the fact that they must be prepared for all eventualities, and must not regard one course of action as the only logical one. Too many countries have fallen as the result of an overdose of “ honeyed “ words, and T believe that the people should be cognizant of the danger which confronts us. All matter broadcast in the Sunday night sessions of the Department of Information is scrutinized with the greatest care - as is all matter broadcast by censors who operate in close co-operation with the defence authorities.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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The following papers were pre sented : -

Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure, for year 1940-41, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.

Cableand Wire Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1041, No. 257.

Commonwealth Public. Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 309, 310; 1942, No. 45.

Lauds Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Bacchus Marsh, Victoria - For Defence purposes.

National Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No.76.

Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 1 of 1942 - Licensing.

Scat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulation No. 3 of 1942 (Careless Use of Fire Ordinance).

War Service Homes Act - War Service Homes Commission - Report, together with Statements and Balance-sheet, for year 1940-41.

Senate adjourned at 6.15 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 February 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.