16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
National Security Regulations
– When does the Leader of the Senate propose to lay on the table of the Senate Statutory Rules, 1942, No. 92, which gives to the Minister for Aircraft Production power to fix wages and conditions for female labour that override those determined by the Arbitration Court?
– That is a question which I am not prepared to answer offhand. I should have to road the regulation referred to. If the honorable senator will see me later, I shall probably be able to meet his wishes in the matter.
– The regulation was circulated among all honorable senators yesterday. If the Senate is to adjourn to-day it is of the utmost importance that important regulations such as this should be laid on the table promptly.
– The Leader of the Opposition is not in charge of the Government procedure in this chamber. The Government will decide when regulations shall be tabled without instructions or suggestions from him.
Statement by Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Will the Minister for Information state whether the. Australian Broadcasting Commission was instructed not to broadcast any of the criticism levelled yesterday against the Minister for Labour and National Service for his statement regarding the repudiation of liability for the payment of interest on Commonwealth loans? Did the Minister or any member of the
Cabinet give instructions that the criticism was not to be broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission ?
– I have given no such instructions,and I have no knowledge that the Government has given any instructions regarding the matter, or that any such restrictions have been imposed.
Application of Standing Order No. 423.
– Standing Order No. 423 provides that when any honorable senator objects to words used in debate and desires them to be taken down, the President shall direct them to be taken down by the Clerk accordingly. During the course of a debate in the Senate yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) requested that certain words used by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) be taken down. I accordingly directed the Clerk to take down the words and to read them aloud. Upon this having been done, it appeared that the words were not offensive or disorderly, and that Standing Order No. 423 had been misapplied. The purpose of this standing order is to protect honorable senators from objectionable, offensive and disorderly expressions, and it should be applied for that purpose only. The reading of such words must be followed by an explanation, withdrawal or apology by the honorable senator deemed to have offended against the standing order.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Concerning the joint committees on apples and pears, broadcasting, profits,rural industries, social security,and war expenditure - 1.In respect toeach committee (a) how ninny meetings have been held, and where;
what reports have been submitted; (c) have its inquiries been closed; and(d) what is the total cost to date?
Public Works Committee Act of 1913, that may be spent by any committee without a special appropriation by Parliament?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
The information is being obtained, and will be communicated to the honorable senator as early as possible.
Operations and Cost
asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following a nswer : - 1., 2. and 3. All aspects of the question of the sale of intoxicants in their relation to the discipline and efficiency of the Australian lighting services are being considered by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following a nswer : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answers: -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Mr. Morgan had been discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on War Expenditure.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders sus pended.
Motion (by Senator Keane) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– As this is a bill which the Senate cannot amend, I take this opportunity to refer to a number of important matters.
– This is a bill which cannot be debated on the first reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain a further loan appropriation of £75,000,000 to finance war expenditure from Loan Fund, and to authorize the raising of an equivalent amount of loan moneys to finance that expenditure. Loan Act (No. 2) 1941, which was approved by Parliament in October last, appropriated an amount of £50,000,000, which amount together with the balance of appropriation which was available at the 30th June, 1941, covers war expenditure from Loan Fund up to about the middle of March, 1942. A further appropriation is therefore necessary to carry on our war plans. In the present circumstances, it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty what our requirements will be, hut it is anticipated that the present bill will cover loan expenditure to the 30th June next. Since the beginning of the war, Parliament has granted war loan appropriations totalling £234,000,000. The total war expenditure to the 31st January was £148,000,000. The estimate for thefinancial year 1941-42 exceeds £260,000,000 ;it may reach £290,000,000. On the basis of the foregoing estimate, the appropriations will be -
I commend the bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition will support the bill, but I take this opportunity to comment on statements made recently by Ministers which must have a damaging effect on any future loans which may be raised in this country. I asked the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) some questions on this subject yesterday,but with his usual skillbe gave to me replies which I regard as unsatisfactory. Parliament is the place in which honorable senators should be free to criticize the government of the day; and whatever government is in power it should appreciate the position of the Opposition and not resent criticism by its members.I trust that in the discussion of this bill, there will he no repetition of the heated comments which marred yesterday’s proceedings, but that Ministers will take notice of remarks made by senators sitting in Opposition. I wish to refer particularly to statements made by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). The Leader of the Senate gave no indication yesterday of his attitude towards such statements. I shall be satisfied if he will tell us whether or not, as the Leader of the Government in this chamber, he approves the statements of his colleague. I am not satisfied with his statement that the matter has been referred to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). I remind the honorable gentleman that the Senate has equal rights with the other branch of the legislature, and that we expect the Leader of the Senate to announce Government policy, and not merely to state what has taken place in the House of Representatives. I mentioned yesterday that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), when speaking in Adelaide recently, made a stirring appeal to the people to support the Liberty Loan and I am pleased to know that numbers of small investors have contributed to that loan.
– Their support of the loan is a vote of confidence in the Government.
– I am prepared to accept that view if the Leader of the Senate will dissociate himself from the interpretation placed on statements made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and by his colleague in this chamber, Senator Cameron. In the Adelaide News of the 2nd March, the Minister for Labour and National Service was reported as follows : -
Declaring that no war was ever stopped because of limitation of finance, he continued: Wars are fought out of current production. Workers are paying for the war now by their overtime and other sacrifices. We should not be asked to pay for the war afterwards by paying interest on any loans that are raised now. 1 ask the Leader of the Senate to say whether or not he approves that statement. The people of Australia see in it a threat of repudiation. Those of us who know the record of Senator Cameron and believe that the leopard cannot change his spots, are perturbed. The Minister was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th March as . follows : -
The Minister for Aircraft Production, Senator Cameron, to-day attacked people who were, lie said, seeking to remove the Minister for Labour, Mr. Ward, from the Federal Cabinet . . . ‘ I would never dream of criticizing Mr. Ward for expressing a viewpoint which has been voiced countless times by the Labour party “, said Senator Cameron.
Statements of that kind are having a damaging effect on the financial structure of this country.
– Parliament is the place in which the people of Australia should be told the truth. Throughout the length and breadth of this country, Senator Cameron is known as a professional agitator, and therefore when he, as a member of the Cabinet, makes a statement which causes great misgivings among the people, his leader in this chamber should be prepared to say whether ur not he agrees with that statement.
The present Government is promulgating in great numbers regulations of far-reaching importance. I mentioned yesterday that by such means it is interfering with the work of the Federal Arbitration Court. There is evidence that miners have suggested that the Minister for Labour and National Service should intervene to override an award of Judge Drake-Brock,nan
– What has that to do with this bill?
– In discussing a bill “to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money “, I claim the right to suggest that any hint of repudiation by a responsible Minister is a matter for concern, in view of the fact that the bill contains a promise to repay the loan, together with interest. Moreover, we have a right to know that the money raised will be expended wisely.
The people of Australia want to know why workers who are sheltering in munitions factories are receiving double the pay of members of the Australian Imperial Force. For two days I have had on the notice-paper a question asking if the Government proposes to pay to members of the Militia the same rates as are paid to members of the Australian Imperial Force. In the opinion of many people, the remuneration of munitions workers is out of proportion to the pay of the soldiers. Under the guise of war necessity, some Ministers in the present Government are attempting to override decisions of the Arbitration Court by rising the rates to be paid to females employed in certain industries. Statutory rule No. 92 contains tlie following provisions :: -
After the coming into operation of regulations to be made under the National Security Act 1939-1940 governing the employment during the present war, of females on work reserved to males, whether by force of law or because of widely accepted custom, the employer of any female employed under this regulation shall be liable to pay to that female, as from the commencement of the employment, the rates of pay prescribed by or under those regulations, and, pending the prescription by or under those regulations of rates of pay and conditions of employment in respect of that female, the rates- of pay and conditions of her employment shall be as determined hy the Minister of State for Munitions or the Minister of State for Aircraft Production.
– What has that to do with this bill ?
– The fixing of wages and conditions of employment is a matter for the Arbitration Court, not for the Minister for Aircraft Production, who takes his instructions from trade unions with which he has been associated for many years. I deplore that policy. Yesterday 1 drew attention to the enormous amount of expenditure now being incurred, and the influence which the trade union movement is exerting upon this Government. I again protest against the policy of the Government of empowering the Minister for Munitions and the Minister for Aircraft Production to fix rates of pay in industry. That is political interference with the Arbitration Court, and political pandering to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. I sincerely trust that when Parliament next meets we shall have an opportunity to discuss the regulation to which 1 have just referred. If the Government wants to create unity, and influence all sections to pull together inour war effort, it must not, under the guise of war emergency, implement the policy of advanced socialism which has been advocated in this Parliament by certain members over a number of years.
Motion (by Senator McBride) agreed to -
That the document quoted by Senator McLeay during his speech be laid on the table.
– I lay on the table the following document: -
Statutory Rules 1942, No. 92 - Regulations under the National Security Act 1939-1940 (Employment of Women).
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I rise to a point of order. I was on my feet, Mr. President, when you put the question, “ That the bill be now read a second time “. You were looking towards honorable senators opposite, and perhaps did not see me. I should have been given the call.
– I have the same complaint to make, Mr. President. I also was on my feet when you put the question.
- Senator Cameron and Senator Darcey will have an opportunity to address the Senate on the motion for the third reading of the bill.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Authority to borrow £ 7 5,000,000).
– I should like to explain, particularly to those honorable senators who do not appreciate discussion, that the borrowing of this amount of £75,000,000 involves the payment of a considerable amount of interest.
– No mention is made of interest in this clause.
– The payment of interest is implied in the clause. Am I to understand from the honorable senator that no interest should be paid?
– The honorable senator has suggested that already.
– Although this clause does not provide specifically that interest is to be paid, I submit that that is the intention.
– As the honorable senator is a Minister he ought to know.
– I know what is intended; but Senator Gibson stated that interest was not mentioned.
– Is the Minister in order in referring to interest under this clause in which no mention of interest is made.
– Is not interest always paid on inscribed stock? This clause provides that the Treasurer may from time to time borrow under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1940.
– The clause gives authority to borrow the sum of £75,000,000. An honorable senator, therefore, cannot discuss the payment of interest under this provision.
– In view of the damaging statements which have been made concerning the intentions of the Government, which, I submit, are honorable in the highest degree, and in order that any false impression which may have been deliberately and maliciously created in that respect shallbe dispelled, and the actual intentions of the Government set out in crystal pure light, may I, through you, Mr. Chairman, ask the Minister in charge of the bill if it isthe intention of the Government to pay interest onthe money proposed to be borrowed under this bill ?
– The Minister will have an opportunity on the third reading todeal with the subject he mentions. At this juncture, he must confine his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– If the Minister in charge of the bill would only say “ Yes “ to my question, I shall be satisfied, and, perhaps, honorable senators opposite also will be satisfied.
.We have witnessed the extraordinary exhibition in this chamber this morning of one Minister asking another Minister whether the Government intends to pay interest on the money proposed to be borrowed under this bill. The spectacle is ridiculous.
– The position is not ridiculous. The honorable senator suggested that it was not the Government’s intention to pay interest.
– Order !
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
.-I move -
That thebill be now read a third time.
As the Minister in charge of the bill, I take the opportunityon behalf of the Government to clear up any misapprehension which may have arisen from any statement published in the press or in any quarter concerning the payment of interest. The Government shall honour the advertised rate of interest on any loan. It shall persist in the same attitude as the Labour party adopted when it was in office in 1929-31. At that time, when this country had 400,000 workers unemployed, the Government paid an annual interest bill of £39,000,000 despite the fact that it could not obtain £18,000,000 to assist the unemployed and the primary producers in this country. I make that clear to the people of Australia, despite what may be said by anybody, irrespective of the position he may occupy. The current Liberty Loan is proving most successful. We want it to be even more successful. Indeed, if the people of Australia realized the seriousness of our position, we should not be getting the amount sought, hut eight or ten times the amount asked for.
– I express extreme regret concerning the method adopted by the Government for raising these necessary war credits. Tasmania, through its Premier and Treasurer, has strongly objected to this method. At the recent Loan Council meeting, the Premier of that State, Mr.
Cosgrove, proposed the following motion : -
In order to give effect to this policy in a practical manner, the Loan Council recommends to the Commonwealth Government the adoption of the following principles: -
The Loan Council agreed to consider at its next meeting a proposal by the Queensland Premier (Mr. Forgan Smith) that the procedure should be varied to enable expenditure by a semigovernmental body tobe authorized to cover a term of years instead of having to be authorized piecemeal from year to year. The first money raised for the defence of this country was £10,000,000 by way of a loan which was approved by the Loan Council. Mr. Dwyer-Gray, then Treasurer and Acting Premier of Tasmania, expressed the opinion that to continue to borrow money in the ordinary way from thebanks was an ignoble concession to an antiquated system of finance. He said that it was just as necessary for us to beat the present banking system as itwas to beatthe Germans. The motion moved by the Premier (Mr. Cosgrove), which 1 have just read, was ruled out of order by the chairman of the Loan Council, who is now Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. For the last four years I have been trying to impress upon honorable senators the suicidal nature of the policy of borrowing money from the private banks when, according to the finding of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, there is no necessity to do that at all. That is made quite clear in paragraph 504 of the royal commission’s report. Paragraph 530 of that report is also important. It states that ultimately Parliament is responsible for the finance and good government of Australia. The Commonwealth Bank has certain powers delegated to it to be used in the interests of the nation. If at any time there he a difference of opinion between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Government, there should be a free and frank discussion on the matter, and if that discussion fails to clear the position, the Commonwealth Government should tell the Commonwealth Bank Board that it proposes to take full responsibility and instruct the Commonwealth Bank Board how to act. This private bank racket has been going on long enough. To-day there is a nation-wide demand for monetary reform. Already five of the six State Parliaments have passed resolutions demanding that the findings of the royal commission be put into effect, and that the Commonwealth Bank Board be asked to finance all the necessary credits for public borrowing. Over and over again I have exposed the swindle of our private banking system.
– The honorable senator should not use the word “ swindle “.
– I repeat that it is a swindle, and honorable senators opposite have acquiesced in it for years. Every bank branch throughout the Commonwealth has a notice over its door, “ Buy War Savings Certificates “. Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer in this chamber what was the value of war savings certificates sold by the private banks. The answer I received was £15,000,000. On that occasion I pointed out to honorable senatorsjust what the selling of war savings certificates over the counter of a private bank involved. I asked further, how did the banks pay the Treasury for the war savings certificates which they sold, and the answer was that payments were made by cheque. That merely proved what I have always said, namely, that when a loan is floated no actual money reaches the Treasury. The hard-working public has been asked and urged to buy war savings certificates, and latterlythey have been threatened that if they do not give their money voluntarily it willbe taken from them. The money obtained by the private banks from the sale of war savings certificates merely goes to swell their cash reserves. Not one penny reaches the Treasury. Any one with a know ledge of finance knows that cash reserves of the banks represent their lending or purchasing power in government bonds. After selling £15,000,000 worth of war savings certificates, the banks are in a position to purchase war bonds from the Commonwealth Government valued at about £130,000,000, Can honorable senators imagine a bigger racket than that ? Am I not right when I call it a swindle? I have drawn attention to this matter time and time again and no one has been able to contradict my claims. If I am wrong then it is time that honor able senators opposite were able to prove it. but beyond a sneer or a jeer there has been no attempt to prove that my statements on finance are not correct. I also brought to the notice of honorable senators the fact that in 40 years a balancesheet has never been presentedby any government showing how thiscountry stands as a trading concern. That shows how little most people know about the principles of political economy. George Bernard Shaw once defined political economy as the art of spending the national income in such a way as to bring happiness and prosperity to the greatest number of people. Surely no honorable senators can claim that this Government or any other government of Australia has ever worked on that sound principle. It cannot be denied that the incompetence and inefficiency of democratic governments brought dictatorships into being and is directly responsible for the rotten state of the world to-day. People place their destiny in the hands of their governments, and the present world conditions can be charged only to democratic governments. At this stage I thinkI am quite justified in reading to honorable senators the objectives of the Australian Labour party in the matter of banking -
AUSTRALIAN LABOUR PARTY.
Platform and Objective - Progressive Reform.
Banking. 1.The Commonwealth Bank to he developed onthe following lines: -
A Credit Foncier system for the purpose of providing advances to primary producers and home builders.
Purpose. - The utilization of the real wealth of Australia to ensure a maximum standard of living consistent with the productive capacity of the Commonwealth through national control of its credit resources and the establishment of an efficient medium of exchange between production and consumption.
Principles. -1. The direction and control of credit resources and banking to be vested in the Commonwealth Bank, operating under the powers and responsibilities defined by the Commonwealth Parliament.
Plan of Action. - 1. The operations of the Commonwealth Bank to be removed from and made entirely independent of private banking interests and free from sectional influences or constraint.
Bank Board and the re-establishment of the original method of control as set up at the time the Commonwealth Bank was founded.
National Credit. - A national credit advisory authority will be set up to collaborate with the Commonwealth Government and the bank to plan the investment of national credit and thus utilize to the fullest extent the real wealth of Australia.
Objects to attain include -
I should like to read also an extract from an article by the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin)which appeared in the Locomotive Journal, volume 2, No. 3, of the 14th December, 1939. The article is headed “Labour and War”, and contains the following statement: -
Everything in war must be paid for - not by reducing wage standards but by the use of the national credit. Because of a Labour government in the Federal Parliament, there is a Commonwealth Bank. It was created as a means for releasing national credit. But because Labour lost office the national bank has been transformed by our opponents into a mere puppet of the private banks. Asa requisite to national defence the Commonwealth Bank must have restored to it its original charter. When we are in power, we shall proceed to redeem the national bank from its slavery. The cost of war can be met without piling up huge debts, andwithout interest payments sucking our national lifeblood.The Commonwealth Bank must, witha Labour government, work out a freer and fuller life for our people.
The old bugbear of inflation which ha? been used by the banks in the past to intimidate the people can no longerbe used, because it has been proved tobe only a bogy. To-day there is a nationwide demand for banking reform, and it is time that this Government decided to use the national credit to the fullest possible advantage, in accordance with the Labour platform. I must confess that I am amazed at what is going on. If the banks were actually lending money it would he a different thing. We are now told that bank profits are to be limited and controlled, but I am not concerned at all about the 4 per cent. ; I am concerned because I know for certain that loan subscriptions by the private banks are not in the form of money at all. All that is used is credit which the banks themselves create out of nothing. According to the chairman of directors of the largest private bank in New South Wales, all the money for the Commonwealth Government’s £20,000,000, floated some time ago, -was subscribed by the private banks. When the bill providing for the loan came before Parliament, I asked how the money was to be raised and I was told that it would be raised through the agency of the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks. I was very doubtful . at the time as to how much was to come from the Commonwealth Bank, and when the loan was floated I asked how much of it had come through the Commonwealth Bank and how much through the trading banks. The Government refused to reply to my question. Surely members of Parliament should know something about the Government’s financial transactions. We were asked to pass legislation under certain conditons -, those conditions were not fulfilled, but the Government refused to tell us what had been done. The men who come back from this war will be taxed to meet the cost of it, just as the soldiers of the war of 1914-18 were taxed. There has been no alteration of the financial system since then. The men who return from this war, and the widows and orphans of those who are killed, will have to pay in perpetuity simply . because government after government in Australia has adhered to the old orthodox ideas of finance. Conditions have never been so unorthodox as they arc to-day. Under the present system, governments do not govern at all. They are under the thumb of high finance, and must do -what the banks tell them to do. The banks also control the newspapers and the radio stations, which have great power to’ mislead the people. I have often heard it said that the people get the sort of government that they deserve. I do not agree with that. Millions of honest- people in Australia would like to have a different system of government.
– They would like a different government.
– They want a policy different from the policies of all governments since federation. The hon orable senator smiles. We are asking men to face all the horrors of war, and even give their lives, for 6s. a day. I cannot, see anything to laugh about in that.I have not smiled in this chamber for a long time. The things that happen in. here hurt me very much, as they would, hurt any man with honesty of purpose. After serving in the Senate for fouryears, I have reached the conclusion that, whatever party may be in power, the people will never receive the consideration to which they are entitled. I am. sorry to have to say this, but the conclusion is inescapable. The people of England are talking to-day about restricting, the profits of the hanks. But nothing has been done in Australia to restrict banking profits, nor has anything been done to prevent the banks from creating credit out of nothing and charging it up to the nation at 3½ per cent. I am not concerned about the amount that the banks make in their ordinary profits. If people are prepared to accept 2¼ per cent. on their deposits and to pay 6 per cent. for their overdrafts, that is their concern. But are we prepared to allow the private banks to create out of nothing the hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of credits that will be wanted for the prosecution of the war, as they have done in the past? No man can truthfully deny that they have done so. We should use our own credit through our own great national bank for the needs of the war. That was the purpose for which the Commonwealth Bank was created. But no government has ever used it for that purpose. Australia has never had a government worthy of our heritage. I am an old man with a lot of experience, and I attended meetings at which federation was advocated by the great orators of the early days. Those men sold the people. They told us that the cost of federation to each taxpayer would be little more than the value of a dog licence. If the early Commonwealth governments had- understood finance, we should not be in the shocking position that we are in to-day, nor would we be at war.
– That is nonsense.
– Six months before the outbreak of war, I read to this chamber a statement entitled “Warning
Europe”, which had been prepared by Major C. H. Douglas, the only man who told the people of Europe that war was inevitable under the existing monetary system. Unfortunately, that statement has proved to be true. I recall attending a ceremony at the Cenotaph in Sydney a couple of years ago, when a wreath was placed on the monument with a large placard bearing these words, “ Because you would not think, we had to die “. That was a true statement. Because there has been no constructive thinking by Australian governments, hundreds of people are dying to-day and millions more will have to die. Until we have in this Parliament men of character who will put what they can into it instead of taking all that they can out of it, there will be no change of the present shameful system. A committee of members of this Parliament is at present considering social reforms. What is the use of that? We all must know that our rotten monetary system hasbrought the existing dreadful social conditions into existence. We cannot improve social conditions until the cause of our present bad conditions is removed. Professors tell us that, in the physical world, there is no effect without a cause. Why do we not get down to fundamentals, and find the cause of all the trouble in the world? Since I have been a member of this Senate, I have learned that no members of any government that has been in office during that period has tried sincerely to find what must be done in order to improve social conditions and make the world fit to live in.
– We cannot alter the human system.
– The character of a human being is determined by his environment. Give to the people economic security, which they have never had under any government, and all this grasping and fighting and cheating to try to make themselves secure will gradually fade away and we shall have common decency prevailing in the world. We were told when old-age pensions were introduced that the system would do away with thrift.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the motion, “ That the bill be now read a third time “.
– Then I shall deal with bank profits. The English banks are at present paying dividends of from 14 per cent. to 16 per cent.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to discuss bank profits on this motion.
– The banks are supposed to provide the money for this £35,000,000 loan. I have already told the Senate how these single contributions, about which so much has been said, are made. Every body with an overdraft has been compelled to subscribe to these loans. If these people do not take up bonds at the instance of the banks, they are compelled to pay off their overdrafts.
– That is untrue.
– I know that it is true. I ha ve been told that it is so by a bank manager. Perhaps the honorable senator has not been bothered in this way so far. One honorable senator said to me several days ago that it is almost impossible to change the monetary system for the reason that members of Parliament with bank overdrafts dare not open their mouths in an attempt to do so. That is a fact. If a member of Parliament is muzzled by thebanks in this way, he has no right to draw a salary as a representative of the people. I asked the Government what it cost to float the last loan. I was told that the costwas £41,800. All of these costs would be done away with if we used the Commonwealth Bank.Stock Exchanges are complaining because their operations have been restricted. When an inquiry took place, it. was found that the banks did not hold a great number of stocks. I investigated the big amounts that were subscribed to the last loan. The Australian Mutual Provident Society subscribed £1,500,000.
– What has this to do with the bill?
– We are discussing the means of raising an amount of £35,000,000, and I am showing how it can be raised without cost to the country. The Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act provides for the selling of inscribed stock to the banks instead of the utilization of national credit. The first bill that this
Governmentintroduced was for the purpose of raising £50,000,000 by means of inscribed stock.
– And the honorable senator supported it.
– I am not the Government, and I am not responsible for its policy.I am exposing the rotten financial system of the governments that preceded the present Government. The loan proposed in this bill is to be raised according to the old Menzies-Fadden system. Eighty per cent. of all war loan subscriptions come from the banks in various ways. A bank manager told me that he made one man take up £1,000 worth of bonds. Although he had previously told the man that he must pay off his overdraft, he informed him that, if he took up the bonds, he need not worry a bout the overdraft. The bank bought the bonds and drew the interest. Yet that would he called a voluntary contribution to the loan. That is only one of the swindles that is being perpetrated on the public. Does any honorable senator think that an organization as big as the Australian Mutual Provident Society would have £1,500,000 waiting tobe invested in a war loan at 2½ per cent. when it could charge the people who have given it business in the form of life assurance policies a rate of 7 per cent. for overdrafts? That sum of £1,500,000 carried a bank commission of £2,750. The manager of the Australian Mutual Provident Society instructed the society’s bank manager to apply for £1,500,000 worth of bonds. With that application, the bank received £2,750, which represented 5s. per cent. on the whole loan. I do not know whether the bank would split that commission with the society or not, but it would hold the bonds as security against the overdraft advanced for the purpose of purchasing the bonds. Not one of the big business concerns which contributed to that loan is operating without an overdraft.
– Nonsense !
– Then where do the banks get their profits? As a business man with 50 years’ experience, I know that hardly a firm in Australia operates without an overdraft. Nevertheless, businesses with big overdrafts can make applications for bonds up to an amount of £750,000. All that their banks have to do is to send a cheque for the amount of the subscription, just as they do for war savings certificates. The war savings certificate swindle is the biggest racket that has ever been operated. When the banks learned that no person would be allowed to hold more than £250 worth of certificates, they made their employees subscribe. Every £1 taken over their counters for the sale of certificates goes to swell their cash reserves, which represent their lending power. In Great Britain, people have tried unsuccessfully to obtain information about the operations of the banks in that country. Sir John Simon was asked whether he would bring in a bill to alter the charter of the Bank of England so that the people could learn who owned the bank and in whose interests it was working. He refused to do so. Great Britain ran up a bill of £6,000,000,000 for the war of 1914-18 and is now paying £300,000,000 a year interest on that amount. Does the Government think that it can raise the £300,000,000 said to be required for this year’s war expenditure merely by selling war bonds? The nine associated banks of Australia are holding only £14,000,000 worth of notes between them and this, with their holdings of silver and copper coins, represents the whole of their real purchasing power, except by means of cheques. Yet in the first year of the war they bought £67,000,000 worth of bonds and treasury-bills. The only way in whichthey could do this was to write cheques. All that they had to do then was to honour their own cheques. The period that elapses between the time when money leaves a bank to pay wages and dividends and when it returns to the bank is nevermore than ten or twelve days. If we asked a working man how much he had left of his last week’s wages, he would probably say that he had paid his butcher, his baker and his landlord and had had a few beers; but his wages would have gone back to the banks, because he had paid various tradesmen and other accounts. This shows that it does not require a great deal of money to keep the banks in operation.
Some time ago I offered a suggestion as to how the Government could reduce its expenditure. I gave to the Menzies Government an idea which I claim is worth millions of pounds, but it was turned down. It was also rejected by the Fadden Government, and I have put it before the present Government. There is such a thing as reciprocity in business, If I sold a watch worth £10 to a man who was a tailor, I could arrange to take payment in the form of a suit of clothes. As the Government is paying out scores of millions of pounds to contractors, I suggested that every contract should contain a clause requiring the successful tenderer to use the Commonwealth Bank in order to finance his operations. By teaching the people to use their own bank, millions of pounds of revenue could be obtained. The credit of the nation stands behind every advance made by the Commonwealth Bank. If a contractor sent in a bill for £50,000 worth of goods, he could be paid by means of a Commonwealth Bank cheque, which he could put back into the bank in order to reduce his overdraft. We have been told that the problems of finance can be grasped only by those who have special training in monetary matters. I remember reading an article in which the writer said that the essence of credit is faith - faith on the part of the depositor that his money is safe in the bank, and faith on the part of the manager of the bank that his client will repay the advance at the right time. But that is a fallacy, because the essence of credit is approved security. I remember reading a statement by Professor McConnell, of the Sydney University, who said that banking is a business. He contended that a banker sold credit the same as a butcher sold beef, but I claim that there is no analogy between the two transactions. Before a butcher can sell beef he has to buy a bullock on the hoof, have it slaughtered and cut up, and put on view, and he can sell a bullock only once; but, metaphorically speaking, if a banker has one bullock on the premises he can sell seven or eight bullocks, and be paid for them by way of interest.
At the outbreak of the last war, the Prime Minister, the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, pledged Australia to the last man and the last shilling. But what happened ? Not knowing anything about finance, Mr. Fisher ran up a bill of £335,000,000, on which Australia has already paid over £400,000,000 in interest. When the “ diggers “ came back from the war, their last shilling was taken in order to pay the bank interest. When I became a member of the Senate I was told that I was a voice crying in the wilderness, but, so long as this chamber remains a financial wilderness, and I am here, my voice will still be heard on monetary matters. It has not been raised entirely in vain, because a resolution has been passed in the House of Assembly of South Australia, where there is a government’ of the United Australia party variety, backing up al) that I have said regarding monetary pro blows.
– The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the motion before the Senate.
– The views that I have expressed are in accordance with my confirmed convictions. I notice more smiles from honorable senators opposite, but I can see nothing to justify them, is the interest on the huge sums now being raised by way of loans for the conduct of the war to be charged against the widows and orphans who will be left as the result of the deaths of our fighting nien overseas? I can do no more than express my disapproval of the way in which loans are being raised in order to finance the war.
– 1 regret that I missed an opportunity to speak on the motion for the second reading of the bill. Any government thai enters into a contract should honorably abide by it, and I consider myself committed to the same degree as any other member of the Government. In my opinion, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), both by direct statement and by implication, would have it believed that I would repudiate a contract into which the Government had entered. I give that assertion an emphatic denial. Portion of a statement made by me, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, was read by the Leader of the Opposition, but for some reason best known to himself, he did not read the whole of the statement. Had he done so, he should have appreciated the reason* which prompted my remarks. The statement in the newspaper referred to is as follows : -
The Minister for Aircraft Production. (Senator Cameron) to-day attacked people who were, he said, seeking to remove the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) from the Federal Cabinet.
These people, Senator Cameron said, expected that doves of peace could be thrown intothe air and come down service aircraft laden with large profits.
They had fondly imagined that by leaving the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits near Broome to the Japanese, Japan would never kill peace-loving Australians on their own soil by bombs made, perhaps, from the very metal sold them by profit-seeking Australians.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator discussing the bill before the Senate?
– If the honorable senator will cite the standing order which he considers has been infringed, I can consider whether a point of order arises.
– I suggest that the statement read by the Minister has nothing to do with the bill.
– The statement which the Minister has read is a portion of a statement quoted by the Leader of the Opposition when speaking on the second reading of the bill. The Minister is in order and may proceed.
– The remainder of the statement reads - “I would never dream of criticizing Mr. Ward for expressing a viewpoint which has been voiced countless times by the Labour party,” said Senator Cameron. “ Labour had given away all along the line as regards political sacrifices,” he said. “ Apparently, however, the Nationalists were not big enough to concede the point. It had to be taken from them. “ They wanted to conserve their interests, despite the fact that Labour had cut its policy in half in taxation measures, holidays, hours, conditions, and dilution of labour. “ The release of ‘ Nationalist propaganda for the removal of Mr. Ward, coinciding with bombs on Broome and the raid on Wyndham, did not cast Labour’s opponents in the best of light.”
Those remarks were made for the purpose of defending a colleague. If the Leader of the Opposition, having made a statement, were attacked regarding it, I should expect that, in ordinary circumstances, his colleagues would rally to his support.
– I suggest that Standing Order 419, which provides that “ No senator shall digress from the subject-matter of any question under discussion . . . “, does not allow the Minister to digress in this way.
– He may proceed until I am able to appreciate whether his remarks are relevant to the third reading of the bill.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service gave expression to an opinion that had been voiced by many people associated with the Labour movement and by many others outside.
– Does the Minister support or repudiate the statementby the Minister for Labour and National Service ?
– I stand solidly against any act which would have for its object the repudiation of the Government’s obligations, and I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service stands in the same category. I shall not submit quietly to allowing a bill of this kind to be used for the purpose of trying to persuade the people of Australia that the Government intends to repudiate its obligations. That, I submit, was the intention of the Leader of the Opposition. When the last loan was raised, I received a request from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to appear on the public platform to support the loan, and I did so, in deference to his request.
– Will you, Mr. President, inform the Senate under what standing order an honorable senator is allowed to make a second-reading speech on the third reading of a bill?
– I do not regard any of the speeches made on the third reading of thisbill as second-reading speeches although advantage has been taken by several honorable senators who have spoken to this motion to refer to statements made by the Leader of the Opposition during his second-reading speech.
– In my judgment, the Leader of the Opposition went out of his way to try to discredit certain members of the Government and, through them, the Government itself. Holding that opinion, I consider that I should have been remiss in my duty as a member of the Government had I not replied to his statements.
The policy of the Government is to maintain national unity so far as that is humanly possible. In order to attain that end, the Government has made concessions which practically amount to a sacrifice of its policy, it is entitled to credit for what it has done.
– I ask the Minister to address himself to the third reading of thebill.
– I shall do so, Mr. President, but first I wish to express my appreciation of the compliment paid tome by the Leader of the Opposition when he referred to me as a professional agitator. In so doing he classed me with prominent lawyers and other professional agitators, and I realize that I am in good company.
– I rise to a paint of order. I submit, Mr. President, that the remarks of the Minister have no reference to the third reading of the bill before the Senate.
– The Minister is not in order. He would be in order if he were to give reasons why the third reading of this bill should, or should not, be agreed to.
– I agree that the third reading of the bill should be agreed to and, when the vote is taken,I shall support the third reading. In view of the disorderly and untruthful statements of the Leader of the Opposition who has endeavoured to discredit members of the Government-
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister has said that I made untruthful statements. I quoted from press statements which the Minister has not contradicted. I ask for the withdrawal of the word “ untruthful “.
– As the Leader of the Opposition has objected to the word “ untruthful “, I must ask the Minister to withdraw it.
– In deference to you, sir, I withdraw the word to which exception has been taken. I regret thatI was not as careful as I usually am in my choice of words and terms. Withyour permission, and subject to the approval of the Leader of the Opposition, I shall substitute the word “ incorrect”. Although the honorable gentleman referred to me in what he believed were disparaging terms, he has, in fact, placed me in thesame category as prominent lawyers and clergymen, and, therefore,I regard his. remark more as a compliment than an insult.
.- It is unusual to have a debate of this kind on the third reading of a bill, but from the discussion which has takenplace one or two things of value have emerged. I refer, particularly, to the forthright statement from the Minister in charge of this bill (Senator Keane). He made his meaning clear and his speech, which was most welcome, has disposed of the idea, which was gathering ground throughout Australia, because of statements by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), that the Government contemplated repudiation.
– Our remarks have been misrepresented; a false construction has been placed on them deliberately for party political purposes.
– The impression may have been wrong, but that it was gaining ground cannot be denied. The Minister for Aircraft Production, whose statements gave rise to that impression says that he does not agree with the policy of repudiation, but he still adheres to the view that interest should not be paid on borrowed money.
– I did not say that; I said that the Government was bound by contracts into which it had entered.
– Obviously the two honorable senators who have occupied most of the time taken up with this debate - Senators Cameron and Darcey - do not believe in the system of finance which the present Government is following.I repeat that the clear statement of the Minister in charge of this bill is welcomed, not only by the Senate, but also by the people of Australia as a whole, because they will now understand that this Labour Government does not subscribe to the tenets of some of the wildest of its supporters, but intends to adhere to the terms of the contract which have been entered into and to pay the interest that it has undertaken to pay, both now and in the future. That is the plain meaning of the statement of the Minister in charge of the bill, and I welcome it.Whether or not the impression that was gaining ground was the fault of certain persons or the result of incorrect newspaper reports, the belief was widely held throughout the Commonwealth that certain Ministers were prepared to repudiate contracts for the payment of interest. I compliment Senator Keane on his plain, forthright statement, which I believe will remove much misunderstanding as to the intention of the Government regarding interest payments and other obligations into which it has entered.
– Before members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives living in Western Australia left their homes for the meeting of the Parliament, they were invited to join in a broadcasting campaign designed to assist the Liberty Loan. I was one of many who offered to do what I could to make the loan a success, and the Treasury has evidence of my efforts in that direction.I was therefore astounded to read in the press that there was good reason to believe that the Government might repudiate its obligation to pay i nterest.
– A mountain has been made out of a molehill.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The success of the loan speaks volumes for the patriotism of the people of Australia, especially the small investors. That the loan will be oversubscribed is in my opinion conclusive evidence of what the people think of the views expressed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). Investors have ignored those two irresponsible Ministers, and have willingly invested money in the loan believing that in due time they will receive their interest.
The reference by Senator Cameron, as reported in the press, to the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound was most unfortunate from the point of view of the
Trades Hall party. As a member of the Government at that time, I know that it had to resist strong pressure to permit the Japanese to exploit the deposits of ironore at Yampi Sound. The strongest pressure came from the Labour Government of Western Australia which appeared to be most anxious that the Japanese should be permitted to work the deposits and that the profits from the enterprise should go to a firm in London whose antecedents were doubtful. When he again attempts to support a colleague. Senator Cameron should be more careful in his selection of subjects. However, the success which has attended the flotation of the loan is clear evidence that the people of this country have ignored both the Minister for Aircraft Production and his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service.
Sitting suspended from12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
– I support the bill. With other honorable senators on this side, I realize that we cannot change the present orthodox system of finance overnight; it is changing automatically. A change for the better is being achieved gradually. I do not agree with the comment made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Allan MacDonald on the statements made by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) and Senator Darcey. Those honorable gentlemen were merely expressing their personal opinions. I agree with them that so soon as the time is opportune to improve, or abandon, the old orthodox system of raising loans, which is an inevitable cause of war because of the emphasis it places on the profit motive, we should follow such a course. Neither of those honorable gentlemen uttered one word which implied repudiation. Neither is repudiation implied in the measure now before us. I regret that honorable senators opposite have taken the opportunity during this debate to make a vindictive attack upon the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Aircraft Production; each of whom is endeavouring to do all he possibly can in the prosecution of our war effort. The
Leader of the Opposition had much to say with respect to the expenditure of this money. He complained that much of it would be devoted to the payment of huge wages to workers in the munitions industry whilst, at the same time, our soldiers were receiving only 6s. a day. He added that he would like to see our munition workers placed on the same rate of pay as the soldiers. I also should like to see that change brought about provided that every individual in this country was placed on the same basis, including members of this Parliament, Ministers, our captains of industry and all individuals now in receipt of high salaries. All of us, with the soldiers, should he placed on the basic wage; and every civilian from the GovernorGeneral down should be set to work at which he can best serve the nation in its present crisis. If that were done, much expenditure could be saved and, at the same time, we should bring about a 100 per cent. war effort. That is my reply to the Leader of the Opposition. Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the statements of Ministers who, he said, were irresponsible. I have found no member of the present Cabinet to be irresponsible. On the other hand, the honorable senator himself made several irresponsible statements. I trust that the bill will receive a speedy passage, and that in the near future we shall be able to finance our war expenditure out of taxation and through the people’s bank instead of resorting to the old orthodox method of raising loans.
. - My reasons for supporting the bill arethe same as those which actuated the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) in making the remarks to which honorable senators opposite have taken exception. I do not subscribe to the principle of paying interest on public loans, because I do not believe that any section of the community should make a profit out of the horrors of war. No individual should be permitted to enrich himself in a time of war. I should certainly oppose the payment of interest on public loans if the economy of this coun try were such that the non-payment of interest would be equitable to all of our citizens. However, our economy being what it is, it would be most unfair to penalize those persons who invest their money in war loans. By placing portion of their wealth at the disposal of the Government they show their preparedness to make sacrifices. It would be wrong to penalize that section of the community. For that reason, I definitely subscribe to the payment to investors of interest at the rate prescribed in respect of past and current loans. That is definitely the policy of the Labour party. We have never entertained any thought of repudiation. At the same time, we regret that the Government has found it necessary in this period of crisis to follow the course dictated by expediency rather than mobilize the whole of our resources in the same way as it has attempted to mobilize our man-power. If it is right for the Government to take our manpower, transferring men from their homes and families to the defence forces, where they will risk their lives, and to our war factories, it is equally right that it should take control of all of the assets of our nation and use them for the defence of this country.
– The Government is doing that now.
– To some degree that may be so; but I submit that if we are to have a total war effort, the whole of the resources of the nation should be at the command of the Government. We know very well, however, that when an attempt is made to act a little harshly in respect of profits which have been made out of war contracts and war activity generally, the indignation of honorable senators opposite is immediately aroused. Whilst I realize that it may not be in the best interests of Australia to raise this controversy at this juncture, I deplore the fact that we are not able, as a government, to take control of the whole of the resources of this country for the time being by completely eliminating the profit motive. To-day we must first give consideration to profit-making in order to obtain our requirements of war material. Should the profit incentive be suddenly eliminated we know very well that industry, as it is now constituted, would not supply that material at the rate at which we require it. “With the Minister for Aircraft Production, I regret that we still find it necessary to pay interest on public loans. However, as the Government, rather than disrupt our economy in a time of crisis, must resort to the expediency of raising loans, I am confident that it will honour its obligations to investors.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 25th March next, at 3 p.m., unless the President shall, prior to that date, fix an earlier hour and date of meeting, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
It is the intention of the Government that Parliament shall meet on the fourth Wednesday in each month.
– So far as the motion moved by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) provides for the meeting of Parliament on the 25th of this month, I approve of it, but I am sure that the Government does not suggest that the proposal to call Parliament together on the fourth Wednesday of each month is to be an immutable arrangement. Can we take it that circumstances may cause an alteration of that arrangement at any time?
– Yes, any alteration will be announced.
.- The announcement by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) that Parliament may meet before the specified date leads me to suggest that, if that happens, some consideration should be given to members and senators who have to travel from Western. Australia. The congestion on our railways and air-lines is such that it is practically impossible to obtain bookings for less than a fortnight or three weeks ahead. Shipping, of course, has been cancelled. There is another matter relating to this question which, I think, should be investigated, and thatis the practice of giving priority on our transport system to various individuals whose status or mission is considered to be important. I have travelled with men who have been enjoying such priority, and usually I have found that their mission has not been important at all, except perhaps to the commercial houses which they represented. The whole question of priority should be given a thorough investigation. I consider that members of the Commonwealth Parliament travelling to and from sittings at Canberra should be ranked fairly high on the priority list. On my last trip to Canberra I was denied priority in the plane service from Melbourne, and yet on that plane were men who were solely on business trips. That state of affairs should not be allowed to continue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the second interim report of the Joint Committee on Social Security.
australia-first movement- national Security Act : Regulations - Blue Peas - Gold-mining Industry - Australian Broadcasting Commission : War News Service - Liquor Trade:
Hotel Trading Hours ; Bottled Beer - Australia’s War Effort - Producergas Units - Situation in India - Maj or-General Bennett - Preference to Returned Soldiers - Members’ Transport - Contract for Floor Boards - Case of Mb. f. L. R. Polak - Economic Organization Regulations - Case of Captain Conway - Malayan Campaign - Defence Act: Proclamation - Tabling of Regulations - Ban on Horse-racing and Betting Shops - Business of the Senate.
Motion (by SenatorCollings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– During the last two strenuous years, large numbers of regulations under the National Security Act have been issued, and it has come to tuy notice that in many distant localities people do not understand just what is being done. The difficulty is obvious. I realize that governments have to act suddenly at times, but such action leaves the public in a very uncertain state. I have heard conflicting views expressed, not only by individual citizens in the localities in which I move, but also by public men in responsible positions. Nobody seems to know just what he has to do, and what he has not to do. The air-raid precaution regulations are a good example. The general public is not aware of what is required <>f it, and guidance and advice should be given. I suggest to the Government that if one of the officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department were associated with some one who had the journalistic touch and could make a precis of the various regulations for publication in the press throughout the Commonwealth, the position would be greatly improved. If necessary, the Government could compel the publication of such statements, or pay a remuneration for the space occupied, if that be considered necessary. Apart from a relatively small number of people in the capital cities, the people of Australia generally are unfamiliar with the laws under which they live. I have . spoken to one or two Cabinet Ministers in regard to this matter, and I am sure that they appreciate the difficulties. It is important at this stage that people should have a thorough, knowledge of matters which affect them closely, and that could bo done by the publication in the manner I have suggested of a précis couched in plain language and entirely free of the legal terms in which regulations must necessarily be framed.
– The honorable senator’s remarks will be noted.
– Earlier to-day Senator Collett asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Has the Minister any knowledge of an organization styling itself ““The Australia-First Movement and giving as its address “ Room 45, Fourth Floor, 26 O’Connell-street, Sydney “T
The Attorney-General has supplied the following answers : -
This morning Senator Herbert Hays asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce -
In view of the fact that the Government has acquired the blue peas crop in Tasmania when will the first advance be made to growers;
On behalf of Senator Fraser I now supply the following information -
The question of payment of the first advance will be decided when the price of peas acquired has been decided by the Prices Commissioner.
The chairman of the Field Peas Board con suited with Professor Copland, in Canberra, on Wednesday, and when the price is fixed it will then be possible to arrive at the amount of compensation to be paid to growers and also the amount of the first advance.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate last night Senator Allan MacDonald submitted to me a number of questions relating to the future of the gold-mining industry. I have to inform the honorable senator that these questions involve matters of government policy on which no decision has yet been given. I undertake to see that the honorable senator receives replies as early as possible.
.- In the course of my recent speech on international affairs, I referred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news sessions and the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) informed me that the news sessions from Canberra were entirely the responsibility of the commission. I think he also stated quite clearly that neither he nor the Government of which he is a member gave any direction to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in regard to these broadcasts. I accept the Minister’s assurance that all the responsibility lies with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Consequently, any criticism which I may voice in regard to these sessions must necessarily be directed to the commission and not to the Minister either as PostmasterGeneral or Minister for Information. I have received a number of communications in regard to these sessions. One of them was from Miss B. A. Leeper, of SouthYarra, Melbourne. The letter states -
I note in to-day’s press that in answer to a question from you, the Postmaster-General is reported tohave declared that the broadcasting commission was given an entirely free hand in the presentation of its news services and commentaries. The letter of which I enclose a copyis aflat denial of this statement. The matter to which I had taken particular exception in my letter of the 21st January (to which the commission had taken a fortnight to reply ) was the interpolation into the midday session of oversells news of comment from two newspapers (apparently of Sydney, though this was not stated) violently attacking the British Government and Mr. Churchill in particular. I stated in my letter that this was the first timeI had ever heard local comment interpolated in overseas news and that this could notbut give rise to the suspicion that we were being given coloured, rather than objective, news, and that we were being told what the Government wishes us to hear, while English comment was withheld from us as far as possible. I am sure that I speak for a great many who resent the changed presentationof news and suspect the motives behind it, and I sincerely hope that it may be possible for you to bring to the attention of the Minister the flat contradiction between the reply stated to have been given by him in the Senate and the letter from the manager of the broadcasting commission.
The following reply was sent by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to Miss Leeper: -
Thank you for your letter of the 21st January in which you offer further comments on certain of the news sessions.
From its terms it is evident that you assume that the commission is entirely responsible for all broadcasts that are made from its stations. That is not so. The act under which the commission works gives an overriding authority to the Government through the Minister. In these circumstances I am sure you will understand that it would be improper for me either to indicate whether, and, if so, to what extent such authority is exercised, or to express an opinion on the merits of the broadcasts to which you take exception.
In that letter Mr. Bcarup, the acting general manager of the commission, shifts the responsibility from his own shoulders on to the shoulders of the Government. On the other hand, the Government says that the entire responsibility rests with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I consider that the commission should be held responsible for its own utterances. 1 realize that governments have a perfect right to give to people, through the medium of all broadcasting stations, any information which is likely to be of value to them, but no government has the right to use the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the purpose of disseminating coloured political propaganda. There is a great difference between the statements made by the Minister for Information on this subject and those made by the acting general manager of the commission in the letter which I have read. This is a very live question, and many people are concerned at the change that has been made in some ofthe alleged news broadcast in the Canberra news session. The following is a letter written by a resident of Randwick, and it is typical of many letters thatI have received : -
Will you bring before the House or before the Prime Minister personally, as seems best to yourself, the use of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to foster a feeling of disunity within the Empire? I and others have noticed the following features of recent Australian Broadcasting Commission policy:-
British Broadcasting Corporation commentaries have been discontinued.
In the news sessions, unimportant items which reflect unfavorably on the British Government are given prominence and important items are omitted. The news is all out of proportion and has at times an antiBritish bias. (c) The Canberra sessions (news) consist largely of unimportant statements by Ministers. It is put on in place of commentaries by Wickham Steed and others.
Some Australian commentators whose talks display independence of judgment are heard less frequently than they used to be. Others show a tendency to blame Churchill and the British people for all our troubles.
Nothing which appears to suggest that the Australian Government could do better is allowed to appear.
Such letters show that there is a great deal of concern in the minds of the public at the change that has occurred in our national news broadcasts. At this time, the entire radio system of both A class and B class stations should be used to the very best advantage for the stimulation of public morale. I was glad to notice recently that the Minister for Information stepped in and prevented a continuance of broadcasts such as those in which prominence was given for fifteen minutes in one session to a wrangle between an ex-Minister and a Minister of the present Government. The honorable gentleman is to be commended for stopping that sort of thing. Many of the statements that have been broadcast in the Canberra session have not been of sufficient importance to warrant their publication. I agree that important matters, such as statements in connexion with air raid precautions and announcements of government policy, have news value, but I have frequently heard long, rambling statements made by one Minister or another, which had no real news value, whilst commentaries by competent men have been almost discontinued.Never before in the history of Australia has it been more desirable to create in the public mind confidence in our governmental institutions and to maintain moraleby giving to the people plain statements of fact that have real news value.
Reference has already been made in this Parliament to drunkenness caused by sly grog selling which, according to press reports, is on the increase in a number of our cities to-day. Whilst I do not object to a man having a glass of beer when he wants one, I consider that the Government must take action to prevent this sort of disorderliness.
– We shall take action. The shutting down of our own bar at Parliament House would be a good start.
– It is not necessary to close bars altogether, but it would be wise to change the hours of trading. Hotel bars could he closed during some hours each morning and afternoon, as is done in Great Britain. I do not believe that six o’clock is a suitable closing hour, or that it reduces the consumption of alcohol. In fact, the early closing hour is responsible for a certain amount of drunkenness that occurs each evening. Large numbers of soldiers often arrive in a town, after a hard day’s work, just before closing time. A soldier has just as much right to his glass of beer as anybody else; probably he has mors right than others, because he is doing a wonderful job for his country. However, when these men arrive from their camps they have to join in a mad rush to get their drinks, because the bars have to close at 6 p.m. Consequently, instead of having an opportunity to drink in comfort, they have to swallow their beer hurriedly to the sound of the cry, “ Time, gentlemen, please “. But that is not the worst feature of early closing. Crooks who run sly grog dives wait outside the hotels to meet the soldiers at closing time and direct them to sly grog shops. I should like to see hotel bars closed for some hours during the day and kept open later than 6 p.m. so that soldiers on leave who want to have a drink can do so under decent conditions. I should like the hotels to be kept open until 8 p.m. if necessary; that would be a much better time than 6 p.m. I am glad that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) referred some days ago to the increase of drunkenness in the capital cities. All sorts of low class dives have sprung up where undesirable people congregate for the purpose of taking in our own soldiers, and perhaps the fighting men of Allied nations, who may be visiting this country. These men are liable to he taken in, given “crook grog”, and robbed. This evil is partly due to the fact that there are no other places of entertainment for our soldiers to attend. Many of them are strangers to the cities and when they are on leave they want to have a look around town. As the result, they are taken in tow by undesirable people. No matter what a man’s views may be in relation to temperance, he must be deeply concerned, if he is a good citizen, at some of the things that are happening in the cities. I hope that the Government will give early consideration to this problem, because many good young lives are being mined by this evil. I do not believe that the men want to over-indulge in drinking. The circumstances which force them down into these hovels, which in :owe cities the police are apparently unable to control, are responsible for the trouble.
Senator BROWN (Queensland) [2.56 J. - J. am greatly troubled by many problems in relation to our war effort, but I rise to speak of them with considerable diffidence because I fear that I cannot speak frankly without risk of acting detrimentally to the national interest, lt would be wise for Ministers- and honorable senators to meet in secret from time to time so that honorable senators, who have many questions to nsk in relation- to the war. could do so without giving away vital information. The general public has a tendency to condemn the Parliament wrongly because members of Parliament are prevented from speaking openly by the fear that they may damage our military, naval or air situation. The people should know the reason for our reticence. Many of us would speak frankly to the representatives of the Government if they were to meet us in secret. I have said before that the war effort would benefit if the people were told the truth, and I still contend that the Government should tell more of the facts- of our situation to the public. Senators and members of thu House of Representatives have met in secret and have heard certain things that have not been told to the public. I believe that the complacency that has been evident in Australia since the beginning of the war has been largely due to the fact that we have not trusted the people to the extent that they should be trusted. Had they been told more of the truth wc should now be in a better position tha it we are to meet the onslaughts of the enemy.
– Does tin.* honorable member suggest that the pres.1should not be censored at all?
– I am not so foolish as to say that. There is a happy medium in all things, and I believe that wrong methods are being used both in Australia and in Great Britain with the result that there is complacency where complacency should not exist. The farther south one travels in Australia, the more one notices indifference in the attitude of the public towards the war. I know that residents of Queensland and other northern parts of Australia, who are virtually in the front-line, take a more serious view of the war than people in the south.
There are some things that I should like to speak about with regard to Queensland, because there is no doubt that the people of that State are apprehensive. They are as full of fighting spirit as are the people in other parts of the Commonwealth, and they desire to fight. They are right in the front-line, and areanxious to be armed so that they can take their part in keeping the Japanese out of this country, or, if that cannot be avoided, in beating them back when they arrive. I should like to see the Senate spending most of its time in dealing with the immediate perils that confront US instead of discussing matters of comparatively minor importance. We should set to work to find out how we can best utilize the powers and courage of the people in order to defeat the enemy. If the courage and power of our people were efficiently organized, it could be used against the enemy, but are we fully utilizing the powers of the people for the purpose of safeguarding Australia? It does not matter to me what brand of government is in power at the moment. Under our democratic system of parliamentary government we have reached a standard that is not efficient in dealing with a totalitarian enemy. I do not blame individual Ministers. They are bound by the present system, and are affected by their environment; but there is always a tendency on the part of Ministers to excuse the mistakes of the governments of which they are members.. lt is a very serious matter when men in power think more of excusing their departments than of prosecuting the war.
Before we meet again, God know3 what may happen. I am anxious that something should be done in those parts of Australia that are immediately affected by the present war situation. We should consider how we can best utilize all of the forces that are at our command for the purpose of defeating the enemy. I do not understand military strategy, but I know “hat has happened in other countries, i feel certain that if we went about our tusk in the proper way we could coordinate the fighting power of tlie people in order to prevent the Japanese from advancing further southwards. We know that a defensive policy is wholly wrong and that the audacity shown by the Japanese has proved, and will continue 10 be, the winning policy. People in both political camps are blameworthy for the fact that the preparations that should have been made in Australia have not been made. Now the position is so serious that, every moment when the Senate is sitting, it should be discussing means of successfully fighting the Japanese.
I do not wish to speak disparagingly of any honorable senator, but, viewing i lie matter in a general way, I consider that our methods of finance have had a had effect on the organization of industry find have not secured the best results from defence point of view. I shall refer, by way of illustration, to what has happened to a certain firm at Sandgate, near Brisbane. I realize, of course, that the war effort has been retarded in the other capital cities also, because of the outmoded financial methods adopted by both Tory and Labour Governments. The firm to which I am referring was manufacturing producer-gas units, and was capable of turning out one high-quality unit every quarter of an hour. Last June, it made .an application for a certificate of approval of its unit, and it was not until October that a movement was- set on foot to supply the .necessary certificate. Because this firm had put every penny it had into the laying down of a plant, which is admittedly one of the best of the kind in “Queensland for the mass production of producer-gas unite, and because it was short of money, it. was prevented- from making over 1,000 units available for motor cars and trucks. Despite the fact that the firm had a contract for 1,000 producer-gas units at £35 each, and had tlie necessary artisans, moulders and fitters to carry out the work, production was held up because the firm could not get the necessary financial accommodation. I have approached the Government and have asked- that something be done to assist the firm. Under the parliamentary system of government, public officers who are men of probity, and are anxious to do their best for the community, are victims of the vicious system under which they operate. Everywhere 1 have moved with the object of assisting this firm, I appear to have been confronted by a stone wall, as though there is some antagonism to the war effort in this particular direction. Men have come to me in my office in Brisbane with similar complaints. One of them said he believed that some fifth column was at work, because weeks went by without his being able to move goods from the control of the customs authorities. “ Everywhere I move “j he said, “ a hand seems to be held up to frustrate me”. Would the Japanese prevent a manufacturer of producer-gas units from carrying out a contract merely because of lack of finance1? The greatest crime of this firm was that it was unfinancial.
– If it was a good firm, why was it “ broke “ ?
– The contract was given by the Government for 1,000 units at £35 each, and the tenderer was asked whether he required bank accommodation. Naturally, he thought that he would receive accommodation to enable him to carry on, but he did not get it. He mortgaged his home in order to raise sufficient money, and, with ‘the help of a clever Russian, he erected the necessary plant, at a cost of £4,000. That is why the contractor “ went broke “. Is it right that a small firm which is not a member of the Manufacturers Association, but which desires to do its best in the interests of the community, should be prevented from contributing to the war effort because of lack of finance? Undoubtedly, we are “ on the spot “ in Australia, and anything that would help to safeguard this country should be considered seriously by every member of the Senate. Honorable senators opposite have laughed at Senator Darcey and the Labour party as a whole because new methods of finance have been advocated, but I ask whether it is right that an industry, no matter how small, should be closed down because it does not happen to have the necessary finance. Such treatment of a firm is damnable. The cry has gone up that we should save petrol, but when a firm desires to provide necessary producer-gas units, it is prevented from doing so because of the rotten financial system in operation in Australia.
– Has the Capital Issues Advisory Board given approval for the raising of the necessary capital ?
– There appears to have been underground engineering. First of all, the proprietor of the firm is not a member of the Manufacturers Association.
– Is he competent?
– Tes. Every unionist in the trade is behind him. Having failed in my approach to the Commonwealth Government, I shall now go to the Government of Queensland. I ask whether similar happenings have occurred in other parts of Australia. Steps should be taken to see that the war effort is not being retarded because of lack of finance. Referring to the plant at Sandgate, Mr. Watson, of the Main Roads Commission, declared that it was shameful that such a plant should be standing idle. If a dictator were in power, he would say that wherever there were men and machines, they should be set to work, and the question of the necessary capital could be discussed afterwards. Possibly I have shown some heat in bringing this matter forward, but I do so in order to show how, under our obsolete system of finance, a man is prevented from doing useful work because of lack of funds.
Burma should be given a certain measure of self-government. If newspaper reports are correct, as I believe they are in this instance, there is considerable unrest in Burma. So serious is the situation there that many Burmese are said to be assisting the enemy. Should that be so, we in Australia are affected, because we are vitally interested in the success of Allied troops in that country. Burma is being invaded by the Japanese and, according to reports, many of the native Burmese are allowing themselves to be used by the Japanese against the Allied troops. It may be that we cannot now help what has happened in Burma ; hut there is still India to consider. Mr. Amery has expressed himself as being favorable towards giving to India a measure of home rule, but we know that the conservative element in Great Britain is bitterly opposed to any such reform. J shall not mention names, but I point out that when the British India Bill was before the House of Commons it was bitterly opposed by certain people in high places. There are strong forces at work against giving to India any measure of self-government. I shall not at this stage discuss the reasons for and against giving to India a measure of self-government, but I want something to be done in this matter.
– Did the honorable senator hear the announcement over the radio to-day on this subject?
– I believe that Britain takes notice of Australian views. I believe also that Australians generally favour some measure of self-government being given to India. If we can do anything to rouse in the Indians sufficient enthusiasm to lead them to stand by our cause, even to the degree of risking their lives, the situation will be saved. Last December I was pleased to read in an editorial in the London Herald - an influential newspaper with a circulation of a bout 2,500,000 copies daily - a statement somewhat as follows: -
There is no doubt about it that the Indian* generally, from one end of the country to the other, are opposed to the Axis. They have no time for Germany or Japan, but they are very lukewarm indeed towards Great Britain. The reason for that is that they have not received that measure of self-government to which they think they are entitled.
I am not au fait with matters connected with international diplomacy, but I do ask whether representations have been made to the British Government, or whether they can now be made, in such a way as will give a fillip to those reformers who are anxious to see India become a self-governing dominion. ~No one knows better than I do that difficulties stand in the way. I know the disputations which have taken place between Hindu and Moslem, and the difficulties confronting statesmen in England in attempting to do the best for India. But I believe that if the dominions were to make representations to the British Government on behalf of India, the conservatism in Britain, which is a danger and may even mean the losing of the war by the Allies, could be overcome. That is my reason for bringing this matter forward. I hope that I have not said anything detrimental to our cause, but I repeat that should India become enthusiastic for the Allied cause, Japan and Germany would have no ground to hope for final victory.
I could refer to a number of minor matters, but. having brought before the Senate the important subjects with which T have already dealt, these other matters seem somewhat paltry, and therefore I shall not deal with them now, but shall bring them before Ministers in other ways. I hope that what I have said this afternoon will assist the Allied cause and that victory will soon crown our efforts.
Senator COLLETT (Western Australia; 13.20.] - I listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Brown, whose opening statements must commend themselves to every one who is concerned about the proper conduct of this war.
I wish now to bring before the chamber a number of matters, the first of which relates to a question which I asked this morning, but to which a reply is not yet available. I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army -
Is it the intention of the Minister, having regard to tlie interests of the Army, to convene a court of inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining the circumstances under which Major-General H. G. Bennett, of the Australian Imperial Force, recently departed from the Island of Singapore?
I had the privilege of knowing MajorGeneral Bennett in the last war, and I have met him since then. He is a man with a remarkable record of good service. He proceeded to Malaya in command of the Australian forces and is now back in Australia in circumstances which have left him open to criticism.
– A lot of criticism.
– One of the honorable senator’s colleagues does not endorse that statement.
– On this subject I desire to read the following extract from to-day’s Canberra Times.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission correspondent in Malaya (Mr. Stokes), who is in Sydney, said to-day that he had heard completely unfounded criticism in Australia of Major-General Gordon Bennett. Pointing out that every man in Malaya respected their commander, he added that if any of the Australian Imperial Force hoard the critics he would knock them down or shoot them.
– ‘One of the things which make for a good and efficient army is discipline; and discipline is based on mutual understanding and respect between all ranks of the services. Major-General Bennett had that respect. He is now back in Australia in circumstances which prompt the question : “ Did he leave Singapore before an armistice was agreed to ? “ If he did, he deserted his men. If he did not, another question which may -be asked is: “Did he remain in Singapore until after the signing of the terms of surrender and then leave ? “ If he did so, it may be assumed that he disobeyed the orders of the commanderinchief on the spot. If, however, he left after the surrender, and after being placed in open arrest, which is the equivalent of close confinement, he is to be congratulated on making his escape. I want to put the case impartially. Major-General Bennett was our general in Malaya, and was responsible for the care of some thousands of our men. He has been brought back to Australia and promised a good post here where he can exercise his talents. I repeat what I said earlier that discipline and efficiency are based, not only on training, but also on mutual confidence and respect between all ranks. It is only fair to this country and to Major-General Bennett that the proper course should be taken, namely, that a court of inquiry should be convened to ascertain the circumstances in which he left Singapore. That, at least, was thecustom in my early years in the service. Whenever a man’s conduct came into question, a court of inquiry was convened, and the man concerned was either acquitted or otherwise dealt with. Should an officer of the Navy lose his ship, he is brought before a court of inquiry, and either cleared of blame or suffers the consequences of errors. The Government owes it to itself, to the country, and to Major-General Bennett to convene a court of inquiry which, I remind the Senate, would be composed of Major-General Bennett’s peers, and would be impartial.
I endorse the remarks of Senator Poll in regard to the control of the liquor trade. Some of us who have been in the services know the effects of the indiscriminate sale of liquor in time of war. My suggestions to meet this problem are simple, namely, that the hotels should remain open until 9 p.m.; that their control should be tightened; that the sale of liquor in bulk should be forbidden; and that the hands of both the civil and the military police should be strengthened. If those remedies were taken, I think that most of the trouble would quickly be removed.
I come now to a question which I asked in November last and repeated to-day, hut to which I have not yet received a reply. It relates to the Government’s policy in respect of preference in employment to returned soldiers. I know that this question has placed the Government in a dilemma, but I ask the Government to come to a decision in regard to it. In view of the number of men in uniform to-day, and of the number who at the end of the war will have done front-line service, and also of the possible clash between the interests of those men and the interests of other men who have stayed at home, I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration now to the granting of preference to the men who run the risk and take the blows. Four months should suffice for the Government to make up its mind. I ask for an early decision in this matter.
Having dealt with those important issues I now turn to a more prosaic matter, namely, the transport of Western Australian members of this Parliament to and from Canberra. I suggest to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) that he should consider the setting aside on the Western Australian railways of certain accommodation for the use of members travelling to and from that State, so that the continual bargaining and worrying about accommodation on trains may he eliminated. My appeal should have some weight with yon, Mr. President, as you know the difficulties associated with travelling to and from Western Australia.
SenatorFrASER (Western Australia - Minister for External Territories) [3.28]. - This morning Senator Aylett asked the following questions of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development: -
I am now able to supply the following answer : -
As to those questions which so far I have been unable to answer on behalf of the Minister for the Army, I point out that it is common knowledge that MajorGeneral Bennett interviewed the Prime Minister and members of the War Cabinet in Melbourne recently. A sufficient answer to any criticism which may be levelled against Major-General Bennett is provided by the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). For that reason I fail to see the need for an inquiry. I feel sure that appropriate action would have been taken by the War Cabinet and the General Staff had there been any ground for the suspicion which the honorable senator says exists in the public mind that Major-General Bennett left his troops before the armistice was actually signed.
– I am sorry to say that those rumours are increasing.
– Rumours are hard to scotch at any time. If any ground at all existed for that suspicion, I am certain that it would have been probed by the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Army, and the General Staff.
– Can the Minister say whether Major-General Bennett has asked for a court of inquiry?
– I cannot say. I think that the honorable senator will agree that Major-General Bennett did what was right in the interests of this country, because the experience he gained in the Malayan campaign will prove invaluable in respect of any future campaigns.
– I asked my question in the interests of the Army. I should like the Minister to keep that, point in view.
– I shall do so; but I ann doubtful whether any military court would calm public suspicion if such exists.
– It. would be a court of his peers.
– I do not think that such a tribunal could obtain any information in addition to that obtained by the Prime Minister.
– The Minister is speaking without knowledge of the subject.
– It. seems to me that any decision arrived at by this Government in respect of this case will not satisfy the honorable senator unless it is based on an inquiry by a military tribunal. In my view such an inquiry is not preferable to one conducted by the Prime M’inister or directly by the Government.
– The Minister is not justified in making that remark.
– I am quite sunthat neither the Prime Minister nor any of his colleagues would be easily satisfied in this matter. However, I shall endeavour to obtain the information asked for by the honorable senator. I again assure him that the Government investigated the matter fully, and is satisfied that Major-General Bennett did the right thing.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON (Western ber last, I -brought before the Government the case of a Mr. F. L. R. Polak, previously of Western Australia, who received a writ for £3,039 12s. lOd. principal and £1,281 Ss. 3d. interest, making a total of £4,321 ls. 6d., in respect of an ancient debt, from one of the trading banks. I then set out the facts fully, but I invite the Minister to look into the case again. This gentleman had a farm in the Western Australian wheat belt. Ho invested a lot of money in the farm on which his sons worked until 1933 when they were obliged to leave the property. They then asked the bank to take it over but the bank refused. I do not think that the property was worth very much at that date; and since that time it has certainly deteriorated. I suppose that in the ordinary course of events the bank, like any other financial institution, would have had to stand its loss. However, Mrs. Polak subsequently came into a little money, and bought a farm in Victoria. The sons also have a place there, and both properties are heavily mortgaged. The bank has not only issued the writ to which I have referred, but has followed it up with a bankruptcy notice. I know that in ordinary circumstances banks and other creditors get their pound of flesh ; but it appears to me that when a family like this is threatened with being driven out of their home and with bankruptcy, this Government, which, like its predecessor, is doing much to protect people in similar circumstances, should take a hand in the matter. It is the duty of the Government to protect innocent debtors in war-time. Mr. Polak was in a business. For a time he worked for me, and his sons worked on his farm. The family put their money into the farm. We have had- quite a lot of regulations lately in order to help people in similar circumstances. Under the Government’s economic organization plan, of which a good deal has been heard lately, people have been prevented from selling their land, but an exception is made under that regulation in respect of persons whose land is sold for them under legal process or under the Bankruptcy Act. Such sales can still go merrily on.
– The. honorable senator will find that that is not the case now.
- Mr. Polak told me that his elder son has enlisted in the Air Force, but has not yet been called up. That son’s wife is on one of the properties. Probably when he is called up his mother, who owns the property in Victoria, which the bank is trying to sell up, may secure some relief. I suggest that this is a case for Government action, particularly by a government which is following the example of its predecessor in affording protection to people in similar circumstances under war conditions. Some provision should at least be made to ensure that this man cannot he sold up and his family driven off their property in Victoria without the matter first being considered by some tribunal. A tribunal should be set up to prevent creditors from making unjust use of the bankruptcy acts during the war. The bank’s writ, being No. IS of 1941, was issued out of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. While some people would like to see fewer regulations passed under the national security legislation, the Government might well consider the wisdom of giving more protection to debtors. I urge the Government to look into this case not only as a special case, but as one of a class. All of us are aware that occupants of wheat properties have had a difficult time during the last ten or fifteen years. I should not like to see people who have made a start in another State unfairly pressed for an ancient debt.
– I understand that a minority report was presented with the report of the joint committee which considered the Government’s economic organization regulation. The latter has been circulated among honorable senators. I should like to know whether a copy of the minority report will also be furnished.
Honorable senators will recall that a select committee of the Senate, which reported on the case of Captain Conway, recommended that an ex gratia payment of £100 be made to Conway, and that the previous Government refused to make such a payment. I should like to know whether this Government has given any consideration to that case, and whether it is prepared to make that payment, which 1 consider should be made.
Dealing with the point raised by Senator Brown, I am of the opinion that the greatest crime which any government can commit against its people is to withhold information concerning the war from them. Such a practice lulls them into a sense of false security, as has been shown by the experience of the peoples of many countries in Europe during the onward rush of the German hordes. I do not wish to see Australians have a similar experience. For that reason 1 support Senator Brown in urging the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) to ensure that proper and full information is given to the people concerning the war. The dissemination of such information, of course, must be subject to the requirements of national security. I also suggest that members of Parliament should be given more information than has been made available to them in the past. Such information should be given, not sporadically, but regularly. When the secret meeting of senators and members concluded, the Prime Minister intimated to those who had attended that all the facts had been given, but I am confident that all the facts were not given. I contend that we should have been consulted prior to the Malayan campaign. Secret meetings should be held more frequently in order that members of Parliament may know what is happening. In a statement made on behalf of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) last week, the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) hinted that there might be an inquiry inro the Malayan campaign. I hope that an actual court of inquiry will be set up so that the point raised by Senator Collett in regard to Major-General Gordon Bennett may be considered. I do not make this suggestion in any carping manner, but I think that the people of this country should be made aware of the facts. At present, even members of Parliament do not know the full facts. Members of Parliament, who are the representatives of the people, should bc told, at secret meetings if necessary, exactly what is happening, so that they may be of some assistance to the Government. At the last secret meeting, we, as private members, were of absolutely no assistance to the Government. Private members should be taken into the confidence of the Government, and their services used to a greater degree than at present.
– I should like to make several observations, two of which relate to the speech made by Senator Brown. First, it is true that the minds of most people have been greatly exercised with regard to the situation in India, especially in view of the fact that our aggressors in the Pacific belong to the coloured race. The honorable senator will be gratified to know, as I am, that steps are being taken to give to India a certain degree of autonomy. It was reported on the short-wave radio to-day that a certain gentleman whose enthusiastic support for a measure of reform in India is wellknown is likely to enter the British Cabinet.
Reference was made by Senator Brown to a certain manufacturer. It seems that somebody is blocking the firm which desires to engage in the production of necessary appliances. There is no shortage of finance. I assure the honorable senator that government assistance has been given for the manufacture of many essential commodities. I know that quite well from my association with the Joint Committee on War Expenditure. Hundred’s of thousands of pounds have been made available to people requiring assistance. I am sure that if the honorable senator puts his case before the appropriate authority, action will be taken. The Director of Finance has authorized the advancing of large sums of money, in varying circumstances, for the manufacture of essential requirements. These advances have been made throughout the Commonwealth, and I believe they have extended even to the north of Queensland, an area which is exercising our minds greatly at present. Even the benighted and- forgotten State from which I hail has had a fair share. There can be no doubt that producer-gas unite are urgently required in this country if motor transport is to remain on the roads, and if the case be placed before the Minister concerned, I am confident that there will not be the slightest difficulty in securing assistance, provided of course that the firm concerned has sufficient equipment to do the job, and is producing an article that the Government requires.
I am afraid that the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) did not get the point made by Senator Collett. There is not the slightest doubt in regard to Major-General Bennett’s courage or his worthiness as a man.
– That was the point raised. There was a doubt.
– I am sure that Senator Collett did not suggest ‘ anything of the sort. I point out to the Minister that laymen such as myself rather rejoiced when we heard what Major-General Bennett had done. We thought that he had achieved a personal victory over our enemies, and would be able to give the military authorities here a great deal of valuable information. However, a closer examination of the esprit de corps, and the degree of liaison existing between military authorities in other countries of the world, shows that for centuries it has been recognized that no commanding officer should desert his men. In these circumstances, it seems desirable that in order to rehabilitate Major-General Bennett in the eyes of the people - not in the eyes of the Prime Minister or other Ministers who have interviewed him, because they are more than satisfied - an inquiry of a military character should be held.
– The old school tie.
– Certainly not. What we have to bear in mind is this: It has been intimated that Major-General Bennett will be given a high command in the fighting forces in this country. Therefore, in the interests of all those who serve in our military forces, from the private to those holding the highest rank, it is essential that there should be some pronouncement by a military authority. That is well known by Major-General Bennett himself, and no doubt he is prepared to stand up to the fullest examination by men of his own rank. I have no doubt that he will be able to justify his action. I have great admiration for the courage, skill and intrepidity of Major-General Bennett and the others who participated in the daring escape.
– It certainly took a bit of doing.
– Yes. It showed tremendous courage and great organizing capacity. However, the defence authorities have to go a little farther than that, because, in the first blush of the affair, many people said unpleasant things and are continuing to whisper them, to the detriment of those concerned. If a military inquiry be held, these people will have to remain silent. I only say this because of my desire to assist in the rehabilitation of this soldier, who I believe has done a good job for Australia. I am sure that that is the opinion of the Government. The honorable senator who has brought this matter forward has done so in the best interests of Australia and of Major-General Bennett himself. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the representations made by honorable senators, with a view to doing what is best in the interests of the officer concerned, and of the men whom he is to command. It is essential that the men who are to serve under him should be inspired with confidence in their leader, and an inquiry such as has been suggested will create that confidence.
– I had no intention of taking part in this debate, but I should like to add a few words to what my friend SenatorCollett had to say. As one who has been a soldier for more than 40 years in this country and in other countries, I personally shall withhold judgment until I know all the facts, hut all the circumstances of Major-General Bennett’s escape from the Japanese should be investigated by a court of inquiry composed of officers of his own rank. That is owed to Major-General Bennett himself; it is owed to the men who remained in Malaya and who, in fact, are still under his command because he has not yet been relieved of that command. It is owed also to the men here in Australia who to-morrow may be serving under Major-General Bennett, possibly with the Japanese on our shores. I support what Senator Collett has said. There can be no doubt that there is an uneasy feeling and an underlying stigma which will remain until the full facts are known. 1 talked this matter over with brother officers at my club recently, and asked them what they thought.
– The old school tie.
– No. The honorable senator cannot talk about the old school tie to me. I served as a trooper for years and I had to work hard. I was 30 years of age before I received my commission. The fact remains that until a military court is convened - it could be done by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to-morrow - and the evidence is sifted, that feeling will remain among all sections of the community and particularly among the mothers and fathers of those lads who are prisoners of war in Malaya.
– In conformity with the sessional order that unless otherwise ordered, the motion for adjournment shall be put, on Fridays, at 4 p.m., I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I hope that the Minister will place the views expressed by Senator Collett, myself and others before the Minister for the Army. To my mind, a court of inquiry should be held in the ordinary course of events. In my Army experience, whenever an officer’s conduct has been questioned, or when material has been lost, a court of inquiry has been established for the purpose of clearing or convicting the man concerned.
– It is extraordinary that this matter should have been brought up and pressed in the manner in which it has been pressed this afternoon. I approach the subject simply as a layman, as do most other honorable senators. The community generally is in great heart because at least one responsible officer has returned from Malaya and can give the benefit of his experience to the Government. Senator Sampson spoke of courts of inquiry to deal with stolen material. Such inquiries often involve a great deal of waste of time and energy, and they only add to the paper war that is being fought within the Army. If a tin of petrol is missed from Army supplies, a court of inquiry is established, and sometimes it takes a fortnight or longer to decide whether the petrol was wasted or stolen. Surely honorable senators realize that, in these days, we are not counting the days but the hours. It would be ridiculous to pull MajorGeneral Bennett out of whatever job he has been given and force him to wait about while half-a-dozen “brass hats” consider whether he should have stayed in Singapore with his men, or whether, having done all that he could, he should have endeavoured to escape to his country in order to make his knowledge and experience available to us. British newspapers regarded this officer as the one general in the Malayan campaign who fought from the word “go”. Mis last cable message to the Australian Government, as published in the press, was that the Australian Imperial Force line would “hold as usual “. When the flag of surrender unfortunately had to be raised, and the Australian troops had to lay down their arms, he had done all that he could do. His next responsibility was to the Commonwealth, and he endeavoured to discharge that responsibility in the right way. I believe that the great majority of Australians approve his action. If the military gentlemen opposite want to stand by what has been happening in the Army for 40 years, they should wait for the war to finish, and then hold a court of inquiry at leisure. In my opinion the sooner we forget about what has been done in the Army for the last 40 years, the better it will be for us. The Japanese will not wait upon the decisions of any courts of inquiry. Anything that impedes speedy action by our military leaders and the Government in preparing, first, for the defence of this country, and, secondly, for the offensive that must be initiated in this country, is criminal. I hold strong views on this subject. f am pleased that MajorGeneral Bennett has escaped and returned to Australia. He fulfilled his duty to his men, and then he successfully endeavoured to do his duty to the Commonwealth. He should be placed immediately in a position in which he can use the knowledge which he gained under extraordinarily trying conditions in Malaya and Singapore. If a court of inquiry is to be held, it should be held in happier circumstances, when there will be plenty of time for the members of a court to make whatever long-winded decisions they want to make. Apparently there are still many men in this country who would rather die, choked by the old school tie, than live without it.
Senator COLLINGS (QueenslandMinister for the Interior [4.6]. - in reply - Several important announcements have now to be made. First, I inform honorable senators that a proclamation has this day been issued under the Defence Act calling up persons specified in classes IV and V. of sub-section 3 of section 60 of the Defence Act to enlist and serve as prescribed by that act and the regulations thereunder. This has been done because of the serious position which confronts the nation.
A rather clever plot was unfolded before the eyes of the Senate this morning. Senator Spicer arranged that certain action should be taken which undoubtedly was intended to be ultra-smart. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) read a regulation. Senator McBride promptly demanded, under the Standing Orders, that the document should be tabled. I inform the honorable gentlemen concerned in that very smart move that there was not the slightest occasion to do anything of the kind. It is not necessary to table a regulation at all. Honorable senators can move for its disallowance without the regulation being tabled. This is due to a High Court judgment, which is as follows : -
Held, by Rich, Starke and Dixon JJ. (Gavan Duffy G.J. and Evatt -/. dissenting), that it was not a condition essential to the validity or operation of a resolution of disallowance that the regulations should first be laid before the House and notice of such resolution given.
I pass that information on to honorable senators opposite. Honorable senators can move for the disallowance of a regulation so long as they do so within fourteen days of the assembling of Parliament.
– If the honorable senator will read the report of that case he will see that precisely the same procedure was followed then.
– That decision showed that such procedure was entirely unnecessary.
Earlier to-day Senator Brand asked the following questions, upon notice: -
A reply was given, but the Prime Minister has since furnished me with the following additional answer: -
Consideration will be given to the questions raited. Two of them affect the responsibilities of the States.
To-day the Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Security the following question: -
Will the Minister inform the Senate, in connexion with the recent betting and racing ban imposed by the Premier of South Australia, whether such ban was imposed after consultation with, and with the approval of. the Commonwealth Government ? “With regard to the order issued on the 6th January, 1942, by the Premier of South Australia restricting racing, the Premier acted under regulation 26 of the National Security (General) Regulations, which does not require a Premier, before making any order thereunder, to consult the Commonwealth or obtain its approval, and accordingly the State Premier did not approach the Commonwealth before making the order. The Commonwealth was, in pursuance of regulation 35a of the National Security (General) Regulations, consulted by the State Premier with regard to the making of an order imposing a ban on betting shops, and the Commonwealth concurred in the making of the order.
Senator A. J. McLachlan’s request that a precis of regulations be prepared and published will be passed on to the appropriate authority. Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the subject of train and aeroplane transport to Western Australia and, presumably, to other places, for members of Parliament. That subject bristles with difficulties, but it is being very carefully examined by my department. In passing, I point out that matters such as this which have been raised in this chamber could have been dealt with much more effectively if the responsible Ministers had merely been interviewed by the honorable senators concerned. The subject of hotel trading hours, mentioned by Senator Foll, is receiving the very serious attention of the Government at the present time. I was interested to hear Senator Foil’s remarks about the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Apparently he is entirely dissatisfied with the commission’s methods of disseminating Australian news. Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the same subject. I suggest that when the parties represented by honorable senators opposite were in power, they were treated exceedingly well, and it ill becomes them to complain, before this Government has been in office for six months, that Ministers are, in their view, obtaining a monopoly to which they are not entitled. The questions regarding the war situation and the other points raised very ably by Senator Brown will be considered. Some investigation should be made into the production of producer-gas units by the firm at Sandgate which he mentioned, and, in collaboration with him, I shall see that inquiries are made. Senator Collett spoke about MaajorGeneral Bennett. We can let that matter rest where it is, but I undertake to draw the attention of the appropriate Minister to the statements that have been made about it in this chamber. Senator Collett also referred to liquor trading hours, and his suggestions will be carefully noted. He further discussed the subject of preference to returned soldiers. I point out that we have been at war for a long time. The previous Government knew all of the facts of this matter and had every opportunity to decide what action should be taken. SenatorCollett evidently realizes that difficulties have to be overcome, and I suggest that he should not be in a hurry to ask this new Government to make a statement on the subject until it has had an opportunity to consider every phase of the matter.
– The previous Government made its decision and announced it months ago. This Government has not done so.
– The honorable senator’s statements will be properly investigated. That question bristles with difficulties, hut the Government is doing its best regarding it.
Senator E. B. Johnston referred to the position of a family that had been dispossessed because the banks had called up a mortgage. That matter will be looked into after consultation with the honorable senator tosee what measure of relief, if any, recent regulations provide, and, if they do not give any, whether relief can be provided.
Senator Allan MacDonald, who referred to the case of Captain Conway, will be interested to know that this Government has decided to pay to Captain Conway the sum of £100.
The honorable senator agreed with Senator Brown on the subject of giving additional information to the people of Australia regarding the war situation. I remind him that there was no attempt to circulate complete information when the tragedies of Greece and Crete occurred. I do not remember Senator Allan MacDonald being vocal on that occasion.
– But the war is closer to our shores now.
– Of course; and because of that it would hove been much wiser if the time spent in discussing matters which, in the final analysis, are of little account, had not been so employed. This would have made it possible to close the proceedings of the Senate and allow Ministers to devote the whole of their attention to their responsible task of devising every possible means of successfully carrying on the war.
– The Minister was not ready to close the proceedings until after 4 p.m.
– Ministers were prepared to close at any time, if they could have stopped the flow of talk. It is very difficult to curtail the proceedings when honorable senators opposite discuss various matters that are not of real importance, having regard to the magnitude of the issues raised by the war.
– We received a note informing us that the Government did not wish the Senate to adjourn until a certain message had been received from the House of Representatives.
– I acted on instructions from the House of Representatives. My intention was to ask the Senate to suspend the sitting until the ringing of the bells. That would have served my purpose, but the procedure of the House of Representatives was suddenly altered, and that was the cause of the alteration in this chamber. I am offering no apology and I do not detract from anything said by me yesterday or to-day about honorable senators occupying valuable hours in discussing matters which, in the final analysis, are comparatively unimportant. I do not include those matters which have been mentioned on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. I have noted every one of them, and I intend to see that they are passed on to the appropriate Ministers for comment, if not action.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security ( Economic Organization) Regulations -
Report of Special Committee appointed to considerthe Regulations.
Addendum to Report by Senator Spicer.
Mr. Anthony and Mr. Spender.
*Wool - Report of the Central Wool Committee in respect of the Wool Season 1940-41.
- Ministerial suggestionmade that, In order to conserve stocks ofpaper, thepaper be not printed.
Senate adjourned at 4.18 p.m. to Wednesday, the 25th March next at 3 p.m., or an earlier date to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1942/19420306_senate_16_170/>.