25 March 1942

16th Parliament · 1st Session

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

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Ser vice Outside Australia.

Senator McLEAY:

– In view of the Government’s recent decision to place militia troops on the same financial footing as members of the Australian Imperial Force, and having in mind the approaching allied offensive against the Japanese, will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Government will now give urgent consideration to the removal of the restrictions preventing the use of militia troops outside Australian territory, so that the troops of the allied nations will have the full support of, not only the Australian Imperial Force, but also the Australian Militia?

Minister for the Interior · QUEENSLAND · ALP

– The Leader of the Opposition has been sufficiently long in this Parliament to know that it is not usual to state matters of policy in answer to questions.

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Senator GIBSON:

– As Chairman, I present the report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting.

Ordered to be printed.

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Senator BRAND:

– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say whether the Government will consider the appointment of Major-General Bennett to a definite command under the General Officer Commanding the Australian Army? Would it not be advantageous to make such an appointment at once so that Major-General Bennett might become acquainted with the units under that command, particularly if they should be entrusted with the defence of north Australia?

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

– The Prime Minister has indicated on behalf of the Government that Major-General Bennett will, at some future date, be appointed to a very responsible position in connexion with the armed forces of this country.

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Senator COOPER:

– I present the third interim report of the Joint Committed on Social Security.

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Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– Will the Leader of the Senate state what steps have been taken to bring about the reform, to which I referred in the Senate recently, of preparing and publishing in the press a precis of the effect of the numerous statutory rules that arc promulgated’ from time to time, in order that the people may be familiar with the laws under which they live ?


– That matter is under consideration by the Government.

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Suggestions by Mr. Colin Clark, M.A.


– Has the Leader of the Senate read the article by Mr. Colin Clark, M.A., Government Statistician of Queensland, which was published recently in the Brisbane press, and reported in many newspapers throughout the Commonwealth? Will the Government consider the advisability of implementing any or all of the suggestions contained in the article and inform the Senate of its decision?


– I have not seen the article to which the honorable senator has alluded, but if he will furnish me with a copy of it, I shall give consideration to it.

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Western Australian Gold-fields.

Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Will the Leader of the Senate state whether it is a fact that the Government recently deputed the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to proceed from Canberra to various parts of the Western Australian gold-fields in order to break the news to those vitally affected that by diversion of man-power the Government intended to bring about the cessation of gold production? Did the honorable member for Kalgoorlie receive his instructions in writing, and, if not, why not? What facilities were granted, and at what cost, to enable the honorable member to visit the gold-fields for the reason that I have outlined?


– I have no knowledge of the matter to which the honorable senator has referred.

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Personal Explanation


by leave -I find that I inadvertently misquoted my leader, Mr. Fadden, when on the 5th March I said in the Senate -

There appears to be a lack of co-ordination between the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, because at the very time when notice of a motion for the disallowance of this regulation was given in this chamber, Mr. Fadden is reported to have said in the House of Representatives that three minutes of the day devoted to our war effort by Ministers was better than three hours devoted to a debate such as this. We have already had about three hours of debate on this motion. Perhaps Mr. Fadden was a prophet when he mentioned that period, but I agree entirely with his view, and Iam sorry that Ministers in this chamber have not been able to devote the last three hours to their departmental activities and the war effort.

My attention has been drawn to Mr. Fadden’s remarks, as reported in Hansard on the 25th February, 1942, as follows: -

The view of the Opposition is that the loss of three days’ debate is preferable to the loss ofthree minutes war preparation.

It will be seen that Mr. Fadden mentioned a period of three days, whereas I misquoted him as having referred to a period of three hours. In other respects I correctly quoted the honorable gentleman’s remarks. I now make this correction in justice to Mr. Fadden, and am pleased that on this point his views and mine are in complete accord - indeed, they are more completely in accord now than when I misquoted the honorable gentleman on the occasion to which I have referred.

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Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.;Will the PostmasterGeneral inquire into the reasons why the citizens of Reid, on the TransAustralian Railway, continue to receive their mail in a loose form and in an irregular manner, although they have applied for better facilities? Can he say whether it is possible for them to receive their mail in a sealed bag?

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

– I shall certainly make inquiries as to the reason for the mail being delivered other than in a sealed bag. As to the irregularity of mail services, I point out that, like other Government departments, the Postal Department is severely taxed owing to war conditions. In the circumstances I do not hold out any hope of improved postal services being provided. I fear that people in remote places, as well as in metropolitan districts, will have to put up with the inconvenience of irregular mail services, and regard it as a small contribution to the country’s war effort.

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Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inquire into the reason why a reply was not sent to my telegram of the 21st March from Kalgoorlie, asking what arrangements had been made for the supply of beer to various military camps and canteens, especially those which were not in existence last year? Will he indicate the basis on which this year’s quota of beer to those new messes will be arranged; and also state what the Government proposes to do in regard to supplies of beer to militia camps which, I understand, are now to have wet canteens?

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

– I shall have the honorable senator’s telegram examined, although I have no recollection of having received it. As the honorable senator is aware, beer has recently become an issue of considerable national importance. Daily I receive numerous letters and telegrams intimating that various localities have not sufficient beer to meet the demand. It would appear that the population of almost every hamlet in Australia has increased overnight, and that movements of the Australian Imperial Force and of allied troops justify a more liberal supply of liquor to various places. The whole subject is now under consideration, but the honorable senator can rest assured that, should any section of the community have to go without beer, it

*Minister for* [25 March, 1942.] *External Affairs* 309 will not include members of the Australian Imperial Force, munition workers, and members of allied forces in Australia. {: .page-start } page 309 {:#debate-10} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-10-0} #### LIAISON OFFICERS {: #subdebate-10-0-s0 .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLEAY: -- Can the Leader of the Senate say whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that two prominent Labour men have been appointed liaison officers, one, **Mr. "** Jock " Garden, to assist the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the other, **Mr. Crofts,** to assist the Minister for "War Organization of Industry? If so, will he state whether these gentlemen are tobe paid salaries and travelling expenses ? {: #subdebate-10-0-s1 .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS:
ALP -- I have no knowledge of the press report to which the Leader ofthe Opposition has referred. {: .page-start } page 309 {:#debate-11} ### LOAN BILL 1942 Assent reported. {: .page-start } page 309 {:#debate-12} ### JOINT COMMITTEE ON RURAL INDUSTRIES {: #debate-12-s0 .speaker-JTK} ##### The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon J Cunningham:
WESTERN AUSTRALIA -- I have to advise the Senate that a letter hasbeen received from **Senator Aylett** resigning from the Joint Committee on Rural Industries owing to the pressure of other duties being performed by him. Motion (by **Senator Collings)** *- by leave* - agreed to - >That **Senator Aylett** be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, and that the foregoing resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives by message. {: .page-start } page 309 {:#debate-13} ### MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS Visit to the United Statesof America - Re-allotment of Ministerial Duties. {: #debate-13-s0 .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS:
QueenslandMinister for the Interior · ALP -- *by leave -* I desire to announce to the Senate that the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs **(Dr. Evatt),** by direction of the Government, is at present in the United States of America, where he is carrying out a special mission on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. This mission involves, as an essential part, **Dr. Evatt** proceeding to the United Kingdom as early as possible. During **Dr. Evatt's** absence from Australia the Prime Minister **(Mr. Curtin)** will act as Minister for External Affairs, and the Minister for Supply and Development **(Mr. Beasley)** will act as AttorneyGeneral. The Honorable J. B. Chifley has been sworn in as a member of the Australian Advisory War Council. {: .page-start } page 309 {:#debate-14} ### GOLD-MINING INDUSTRY {:#subdebate-14-0} #### Formal Motion for Adjournment {: #subdebate-14-0-s0 .speaker-JTK} ##### The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon J Cunningham: -- I have received from **Senator Allan** MacDonald an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, " The critical position of the gold-fields communities following upon . the Government's intimation that gold production must cease". {: #subdebate-14-0-s1 .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MacDONALD:
Western Australia -- I move - >That the Senate, atits rising, adjourn till to-morrow, at 9 a.m. {: #subdebate-14-0-s2 .speaker-10000} ##### The PRESIDENT: -- Is the motion supported ? *Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,* {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MacDONALD: -- I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Senate a matter which is considered to 'be of extreme urgency by the people of Western Australia. This afternoon I asked the Leader of the Senate **(Senator Collings)** whether it was a fact that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Johnson)** had been deputed to visit the gold-fields in Western Australia in order to advise those vitally concerned in the industry of the Government's intention that the production of gold would virtually cease. To my astonishment, the Minister replied that he had no knowledge of the matter. Coming from a senior member of the Government, that is an astounding statement, because, I suggest, he must know that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie did visit various gold-fields in Western Australia. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- I take very strong exception to the statement just made by the honorable senator. In reply to his question this afternoon, I informed the Senate that I had no knowledge of the statement to which he referred. The honorable senator now says that I must know of it. I repeat that I do not know of it, and I ask the honorable senator to believe me. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The PRESIDENT: -- The honorable senator is not in order in interrupting the speech of another honorable senator. If he wishes to correct a misstatement made by the honorable senator he must do so at a later stage. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MAcDONALD: -- I accept the assurance just given by the Leader of the Senate. I have just returned to Canberra from Kalgoorlie, where I was reliably informed - as a matter of fact the dogs were barking it - that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie had visited Kalgoorlie and other goldmining centres and had informed the people directly interested in the production of gold that he had been deputed by the Prime Minister to advise them of the Government's intentions with respect to the industry. I was informed that he pointed out that man-power allegedly available in the industry would be required for other purposes, and that the mines would have to cease production. In other words, the Golden Mile must be left in the hands of a caretaker. He also informed them that the Government of the United States of America would compensate the industry for any loss incurred as the result of the Government's plans. He stated that when employees in the industry had been drafted into labour corps for the purpose of making roads and doing other works in other centres, their wives and families would be compelled to remain on the goldfields. This information has astounded residents of mining centres from Marble Bar to Norseman. The livelihood of over 40,000 people depends directly on a continuance of the industry, and in the interests of those people I now bring this matter to the notice of the Senate. My primary duty as a member of this chamber is to protect the interests of residents of the State which I represent. Whenever I feel that those interests are likely to be jeopardized by federal action I shall raise my voice in protest, regardless of the political colour of the Government which may be in power. Were the party which I support in office to-day I should take exactly the action I am now taking. However, I do not think that if the former Government were still in office it would be necessary for me to do so. When I visited Kalgoorlie I made it my business to discuss this matter with representatives of the Chamber of Mines, the local governing body, the Chamber of Commerce and other bodies which are vitally concerned in the production of gold. I pointed out, as it was my duty to do, that there was no reason why the goldmining industry should he singled out for complete sacrifice, because that is what it will mean. To intimate the Government's intentions at a series of small conferences and not at a public meeting, was quite wrong, and that is why I want to know whether or not the honorable member for Kalgoorlie received his instructions in writing from the Prime Minister or from the Government. But no one seems to know and that is the reason I am raising this issue now. With regard to the allegation that the Government of the United States of America was prepared to indemnify the gold-mining industry, the suggestion was that such action might be a condition to the granting of assistance to Australia in our present critical hour. I told the gold-fields officials - they are responsible men - that I did not believe that to be the case, and that it was not a method of approach which would be adopted by any government. Furthermore, I reminded them, if any reminder were necessary, that this was still a British community; we were the lords of creation here, and had voices to raise in protest against any disabilities which we might suffer or anticipate. I do not believe that the Government of the United States of America imposed any such condition, but even if that were so, I have yet to learn of the Government of the United Kingdom refusing to come to the assistance of any section of primary producers in the Dominions. As a responsible citizen of Western Australia, I am confident that the United Kingdom Government would be quite prepared to take over all the gold produced in Australia just as it is taking over all the wool, and other commodities produced in Australia. Furthermore, I believe that the producers of gold are entitled to go to the Commonwealth Government in the same way as the wheat-growers, apple and pear growers, and other primary producers Iia ve done, to ask that the same consideration be extended to the gold-mining industry as has been granted to the people engaged in the other industries which I have mentioned. I can see no economic reason why the Treasurer **(Mr. Chifley)** should refuse the request made 'by the gold producers, either to finance or purchase their annual production, amounting to approximately £15,000,000, because gold is an asset. It floes not have to be shipped overseas, and it is not subject to destruction by pests iu the same way as wheat can be destroyed by weevils. It may be argued that there is no need for the further production of gold in this country because people cannot eat gold and it cannot be fired at the enemy, but my view is, first, that the possession of gold is essential ro the well-being of any nation. At the termination of hostilities, we shall be very lucky to own the clothes that we stand up in, and something will be required in the post-war period to stabilize our financial affairs, both inside and outside the Commonwealth. The only commodity which can do that is gold. I defy any one to suggest that at the conclusion of the war, any country which grows products or manufactures goods which we cannot grow or manufacture, will refuse to supply those goods to us if we are prepared to exchange gold for them. In addition, the possession of gold will help Australia in its negotiations with other countries for the supply of goods which could not be obtained without gold. Secondly, I believe that our currency should be harnessed to a gold reserve. As ii matter of fact, many of our troubles commenced, as did those of the United Kingdom, when the gold standard was abandoned, and the sooner our currency is again attached to the gold standard, the better it will be for us. I go further and suggest as I did to a Commonwealth Treasurer four years ago, that it would be better for us if gold were once more used as a token of currency. As soon as that happens, the threat of inflation caused by huge over-production of paper money will disappear. Only by the reintroduction of gold as the basis of our currency can we return to a properlybalanced and stabilized economy, and when we do so, we shall hear less from financial theorists who have solutions of all our monetary problems, but only on paper. Those engaged in the gold-mining industry are not asking for any special privilege in regard to the man-power regulations, and if the industry were carried on as it is at present, the man-power situation would not be jeopardized at all. Last week I had a look at the recruiting figures in Kalgoorlie, and on unimpeachable authority, they indicated that Australian Imperial Force enlistments in the Kalgoorlie and Boulder districts were the highest in the Commonwealth. Furthermore, there was every indication that the weekly number of volunteers offering was regular. Therefore, the action which I have suggested would not prejudice recruiting for our armed forces in any way. At one meeting which I addressed, it was stated by a councillor who claimed to represent 98 per cent, of the miners, that the miners themselves considered that they should be doing more important work in our war effort. The speaker said that he had heard such remarks made at crib time. Later, however, I discovered that the man was a carpenter and did not go underground at all. Therefore his statement was incorrect. As a matter of fact, I know from long experience that it is very difficult to persuade even three gold-miners to agree on a debatable point. The statement suggested that many of the workers in the industry were prepared to support the proposal made by the Prime Minister's deputy, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, merely on party political grounds. It is my earnest desire to prevent this discussion from following party political lines; I am concerned only with the future of the goldfields communities in Western Australia, whose livelihood is jeopardized. If the mines are closed down, property values on the gold-fields will virtually disappear, overnight, and the homes of miners and their families will be worthless. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B Johnston: -- Property values throughout the State would suffer. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MacDONALD: -- That is true, because every part of Western Australia has benefited from the prosperity of the gold-mining industry. I need only refer to the great economic depression of 1929-33 in order to bear out that statement. In that period, the price of gold appreciated so greatly that we in Western Australia were able to organize large numbers of prospecting parties amongst the unemployed in the coastal areas, with the result that the demands on Government sustenance funds were greatly reduced and many men were given effective work to perform. This increase of employment on the gold-fields took up the slack in coastal areas and bolstered up commerce from Albany to Wyndham. Western Australia would have suffered far more severely than it did during the depression if it had not possessed its gold-fields. Those of us who had experience of the depression in Western Australia will not forget what we owe to the gold -mining industry. In the latter part of last year, I was a member of a deputation which waited upon the Treasurer. We told him that rumours which were 'being circulated had given us the impression that the gold-mining industry was in danger, and we pointed out to him, as I have pointed out to the Senate this afternoon, the great importance of the industry to Western Australia. We went so far as to say that, in the economic sphere, gold was as important to Western Australia as sugar is to Queensland. If the sugar industry were destroyed, the whole Commonwealth would suffer, and the effect upon Queensland in particular would be almost disastrous. Queensland representatives in this Parliament would be. the first to make a most emphatic protest against any threat to the sugar industry. I can well imagine that the Leader of the Senate, as a good Queenslander, would have been thrown into a frenzy if any government of the political colour of the Opposition had threatened the security of the sugar industry. I am sure that he will agree that my claims regarding the gold-mining industry are worthy of careful examina tion. Representatives of Western Australia again waited upon the Treasurer during the last sittings of Parliament in order to repeat our request that the goldmining industry should be protected, because rumours of restrictions upon gold production were still circulating. The Treasurer then informed us that a committee of experts, comprising a representative of the Department of Trade and Customs, a representative of the Taxation Department, and a representative of the Treasury, was investigating the position of the gold-mining industry in order to ascertain its needs of fuel oil, flotation oil, cyanide, quicksilver, and the many other commodities that have to be imported for the purposes of gold production. He indicated that, when the departmental committee had completed its survey, the Government would be in a position to make a pronouncement of policy. We accepted that assurance, because, only a few days previously, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs intimated that the Government did not intend to cripple the gold-mining industry. Naturally, people employed on the gold-fields regarded that intimation as reliable. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator Keane: -- We said that no new mines could be opened. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MAcDONALD: -The statement was .that, although no extension of the industry would be encouraged, there would be no restriction of existing operations. In view of this assurance we considered that every thing in the garden was lovely. But, lo and behold, a bombshell has been exploded on the gold-fields. The Leader of the Senate has no knowledge of it, but every body employed on the goldfields knows that their -future is in jeopardy. Something is wrong somewhere. The Treasurer has been most discourteous to the parliamentary representatives of Western Australia, especially Western Australian senators. He should have consulted us before any overtures were made to the industry by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. We represent the gold-fields just as much as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie does. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator Keane: -- Most of the large mines are in his electorate. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MacDONALD: -- We represent the -whole State. We are just as concerned about the future of the industry as is the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. The Prime Minister should have consulted us before action was taken, and he should have appointed a Minister of the Crown, instead of a private member of Parliament, who could have intimated the Government's intentions to the industry without holding surreptitious holeandcorner meetings about which no announcements were made in the press. The procedure that has been followed requires the closest scrutiny. I raise my voice in protest, and I have no doubt that other Western Australian senators will also do so. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- The honorable senator raised his voice at the Kalgoorlie Town Hall. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MacDONALD: -- I shall continue to do so as long as Western Australia suffers from any injustice. This matter is of particular importance to Western Australia at present, in view of the announcement that the Government intends to reduce wheat production in that State by one-third. The first rumour that we heard in Canberra was that there was to be a 75 per cent, reduction of wheat production in Western Australia. This caused such an outcry that the rumoured reduction was decreased to 60 per cent., and since then the Government has announced a reduction of 33^ per cent., which means that all marginal areas will go out of wheat production. If all goldmines within a range of 360 miles of the coast are to be forced out of production, there will be no reason for anybody, with the exception of a few caretakers and others, to be employed in the hinterland of Western Australia; people will flock to the coast. The suggestion, which was made to shopkeepers and others in Kalgoorlie, that the Government would ensure that the families of miners transferred to the Labour Corps would not be allowed to leave the goldfields, was all " bunkum The Government cannot control even the coal-miners in New South Wales, who are now working under the best conditions that they have enjoyed during the last 40 years, so how could it ask miners to live apart from their wives and children, particularly in view of the present threat of invasion ? That proposal waa preposterous, and it was foolish to employ such language in dealing with members of the Chamber of Commerce who represented the shopkeepers and other property-owners on the gold-fields. I suggest to the Government that it should make a close scrutiny of what has been done, and of its intentions in that matter. I was taught very early in my career that the law of supply and demand is one that cannot easily be overcome. The fact remains that gold is of the highest value, particularly under war conditions, and the more gold Australia can produce the better it will be for us. Gold is still valued at £9 12s. an oz., after the deduction of the Commonwealth gold tax. If gold had deteriorated in value to such a degree as was suggested to people on the gold-fields, it would not command its present price. If it has no economic value, as suggested in some quarters, the Governments of the Dominion of Canada and of the Union of South Africa, as well as the United States of America, would not be increasing their production of gold as they are to-day. Even at the instance of the Government of the United States of America, I do not see why the complete cessation of gold production in Australia should be ordered. Man-power is available in many other industries of less importance than the goldmining industry. All that the goldproducers of Kalgoorlie ask is that they be given treatment similar to that received by those engaged in other industries. There are no more loyal employees in Australia than the goldminers. This is proved by their enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force. The industry asks for equity, not obliteration. During my visit to the Western Australian gold-fields, the impression was gaining ground that the mines would be closed in less than three weeks, and on that account I felt compelled to send the following telegram to the Prime Minister from Kalgoorlie on the 21st March : - >After consultation with people vitally concerned with the fate of the gold-mining industry, I feel certain that protests will be made at this important Western Australian industry being singled out for complete sacrifice. I strongly recommend that any proposed action by your Government towards diverting man-power bc suspended pending receipt of representations from the industry and the local governing bodies. I understand that the local governing bodies, representatives of the goldproducers, the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Commerce, and others, intended to wait on the Premier of Western Australia either yesterday or to-day. Prom what I learnt in Kalgoorlie, they proposed to enlist the support of the Premier of that State in approaching the Prime Minister, asking him first to back up his public statement that the industry would not be placed in jeopardy, and, secondly- {: .speaker-10000} ##### The PRESIDENT: -- The honorable senator has exhausted his time. {: #subdebate-14-0-s3 .speaker-JTR} ##### Senator DARCEY:
Tasmania -- 1 am not at all surprised at **Senator Allan** MacDonald moving the adjournment of the Senate in order to deal with the gold-mining industry, but I think that he defeated his own object when he remarked that gold was not a commodity which could be eaten or fired at the enemy. Therefore, to compare it in importance with sugar, wheat or any other foodstuff seems absurd. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B Johnston: -- Is that a good reason why the industry should be annihilated ? {: .speaker-JTR} ##### Senator DARCEY: -- Australia is not the only country in the world that realizes that gold is of no value to-day in the war effort, A serious discussion has taken place in the Canadian Parliament as to whether 60,000 men, which is three times the number employed in gold-mining in Western Australia, should be taken out of gold production, because Canada is satisfied that gold-mining is not an essential industry. For many years various countries have been taking gold out of the holes where it is found, and putting it into another hole in the form of a vault in the United States of America. In 1940 the gold reserves in the United States of America were valued at $8,126,000,000, whilst the gold reserves of other countries were as follows:- Great Britain, $2,396,000,000; France. $1,435,000,000 ; Holland, $595,000,000 ; Belgium, $318,000,000 ; Switzerland, $407,000,000; Germany) $17,000,000; Italy, $124,000,000; and Japan, $97,000,000. We notice that the three powerful countries of Germany, Italy and Japan are practically doing without gold. Gold had a great value some years ago, and it was used by the Bank of International Settlements to pay off the debts existing between various nations, but the debts became so great after the 1914-18 war that there was not nearly sufficient gold for the purpose. During times of depression the gold-mining industry of Western Australia has undoubtedly been of immense value to Australia, but the Government now realises that the men employed in the industry could be more profitably used in the construction of aerodromes and roads for military purposes. Since Japan is apparently striking towards Madagascar, it is only reasonable to expect an attack on the coast of Western Australia, and I believe that the authorities of the United States of America are urging that the construction of aerodromes and roads in Western Australia should receive first consideration. Why should not the wives of miners remain in Kalgoorlie? One would think that the danger of a Japanese invasion would prevent them from desiring to live near the coast. Our troops who serve overseas are called upon to leave their wives behind in Australia. A sufficient number of men should be left on the gold-fields to keep the mines in order, but the provision of man-power for the construction of roads and aerodromes for military purposes is ten times more important than providing man-power for the gold-mining industry. Why should not the price of gold keep up? Three men meet in London everyday to fix the price, and when the gold is supplied the producers receive paper money for it. They can never obtain gold coin in return for that paper, although a person once had the right to demand a sovereign in exchange for a £1 note. The Government of Great Britain went off the gold standard from 1924 to 1934, and at that time "Bradburies" filled all the requirements of the nation for commercial purposes. One result of the British Government returning to the gold standard was that Birmingham and Manchester factories were covered with, cobwebs. So pronounced was that depression that the Government had to go off the gold standard again and it has never returned to it since. {: #subdebate-14-0-s4 .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator KEANE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Victoria · ALP -- I look on this matter in the same light as **Senator Allan** MacDonald. For some period the Government has been considering the needs of the gold-mining industry. A declaration was made at the end of last year and it was repeated recently, that the industry would be allowed to continue as long as possible, but the opening of new mines would not be encouraged by the Government owing to the shortage of man-power and owing to the fact that the industry used a considerable quantity of steel and iron as well as oil and certain chemicals which are needed in our war industries. The whole position has been examined by a committee, but I have not yet seen the report of that body. Goldmining is a vitally important industry in Western Australia, and honorable senators will recognize that great benefits have resulted to Australia from gold-mining. Another outstanding fact is that a very extensive programme is being implemented in Australia at the present time in connexion with Allied works, and 50,000 men are required. These must not be unskilled men and it may be necessary at some stage to draw some of them from the gold-mining industry. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- The industry does not mind that so long as it is not obliterated. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator KEANE: -- The Government would not contemplate the closing down of the mines, thus bringing about the ruin of the industry. That would be madness, because when this war is over the mining industry will again be one of the greatest work providers in this country. In Western Australia about 19,000 men have found work in the industry, and in the event of the Government finding it necessary to call up gold-miners for service in other avenues, it will take care that the mines are maintained in a safe condition. Safety men must be retained in the mines and certain machinery kept in order so that the works shall not be destroyed. Any losses to the mining companies should be a national responsibility, whether that responsibility be accepted by the United States of America or by Australia. Any one who says that the American authorities have stipulated that they will not help' us unless we close the mines is saying something which is far from the truth. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- I am glad to hear the Minister say that. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator KEANE: -- The American authorities have not made any proposals to the present Government which were not made to its predecessor. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- Have they said that they will not take our gold? {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator KEANE: -- I point out that gold-mining is an Australian industry for which this country is responsible. When the industry is re-established, it will again be a producer of wealth for this country, without any help from the United States of America. In its re-establishment, we shall not ask for the help of that country. Reference has been made to the goldmining industry in South Africa. In this connexion, I point out that some big orders from the South African mines have been refused on the ground that the Allied war effort is of more importance than the gold-mining industry; the machinery, steel, oils, chemicals and other things required for gold-mining are more urgently required in the prosecution of the war. {: #subdebate-14-0-s5 .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator MCBRIDE:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA -- Has the gold production of other countries fallen? {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator KEANE: -- I am not in a position to answer that question, but I emphasize that no different treatment is being meted out to Australia than is given to other parts of the Empire. There is a shortage of man-power, and, in order to meet it, many industries have been affected. Indeed, some industries have been entirely closed down during the last three or four months. The people concerned have not protested strongly. For instance, in one stroke, imports from Great Britain - a sterling country - were barred, with the acquiescence of the authorities there. That action meant that hundreds of importers in Australia were deprived of their means of livelihood. We have also blocked nearly all imports from the United States of America and Canada, thereby affecting tens of thousands of other people. The gold-mining industryhas not been singled out for harsh treatment by either this Government or its predecessors. I emphasize that it is just as important to have men working in labour battalions as in fightingbattalions. This war is awar of men and machinery; and the sooner that fact is realized, the sooner will the Allies make the advances that we are looking for. It is true that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Johnson)** visited "Westem Australia and that before he went he conferred with the Treasurer **(Mr. Chifley).** On arrival at Kalgoorlie, **Mr. Johnson** said practically what I am saying here to-day: He told the people interested in gold-mining that difficult times may be ahead of them. The honorable gentleman could scarcely be accused of hoeing his own row, seeing that the majority of the mines which may be affected are in his electorate. I am reliably informed that his views are supported by many leading bodies of men in Western Australia, who, as **Senator Allan** MacDonald has said, have shown their support of the Allied cause in a practical way by the number of enlistments that have taken place from among them. The citizens of Western Australia, including those engaged in gold-mining, are ready to stand behind the Government in its war effort. I agree with all that **Senator Allan** MacDonald has said about the importance of gold-mining to Australia, but. the fact is that the war has reached a critical stage, and that additional skilled men are required to further the war effort. I say emphatically that mining in its various phases has a most important bearing on the industrial life of this country, and that mining is an occupation calling for skill, resource and courage. The efforts of those engaged in this industry are of the greatest value to Australia and to the Allied cause. The action of **Senator Allan** MacDonald in bringing this matter forward to-day should clarify the position, but I repeat that those engaged in mining are entitled to know that the industry in which they are employed is under review, and that action in regard to it is contemplated. In the circumstances which now exist, the opening up of new mines would be madness. In Bendigo and Castlemaine, in Victoria, as in Western Aus tralia, there are men engaged in goldmining who have no greater desire to leave the industry in which they are now employed than have their fellow workers in the western State. As the honorable senator knows, miners are controlled by the Engine Drivers Organization of the Australian Workers Union. Measures have been taken, and will continue to be taken, to see that the men engaged in industries likely to be affected by Government' action are consulted before action is taken. No Minister should take action against any section of the community without first consulting those who will be affected. I maintain that the visit of **Mr. Johnson** to Western Australia was the proper action to take in order to inform those associated with gold-mining of the position confronting them. In administering the department under my control, I have had to take action in regard to tobacco, beer and other commodities. In dealing with them, I have consulted men associated with the industry concerned. I have merely done the same thing in connexion with gold-mining. Unless a Minister consulted with those intimately associated with an industry, he would get into " Queer Street ". I repeat that the gold-mining industry has not been singled out for harsh treatment. There will be no interference with it unless action is necessary. However, 50,000 men are wanted for the war effort. It would be useless to provide aeroplanes in large numbers and not have aerodromes for their use, and repair shops to service the machines. Wharf accommodation needs to be increased, and in various other directions skilled labour is required. It is for that reason that the Government is looking to the skilled men now engaged in gold-mining. {: #subdebate-14-0-s6 .speaker-K7M} ##### Senator COLLETT:
Western Australia -- I am grateful to the Minister for Trade and Customs **(Senator Keane)** for the statement which he has just made. Nevertheless, I think that **Senator Allan** MacDonald was entirely justified in bringing before the Senate the position confronting the gold-mining industry. As honorable senators are aware, goldmining is of great importance to Western Australia, as the figures supplied by **Senator Allan** MacDonald have made clear. A stoppage of gold-mining would greatly contract the industrial life of that State. We all recognize that the war is making great demands on industry generally, particularly on labour; but I emphasize the importance of the goldfields to Australia. I point out also that in other industries labour is not being used to the best advantage. Men who work only four or five days a week, could have their working hours extended with advantage to Australia, and strikes which hinder the war effort and make more difficult the task confronting the Government should be eliminated. Recently, a deputation waited on the Treasurer **(Mr. Chifley)** in regard to the gold-mining industry, and it is to be regretted that no supporter of the Government was able to attend. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Johnson)** was in the building, but he could not attend because he was awaiting a telephone call. On that occasion, the Treasurer waa not frank with those who appeared before him on behalf of the gold-mining industry. Although **Mr. Johnson** was sent on a special mission to Kalgoorlie, we have not yet been apprised of the nature of that mission. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator MCBRIDE: -- The Leader of the Senate knew nothing about it. {: .speaker-K7M} ##### Senator COLLETT: -- The honorable gentlemen's statement will require a good deal of explanation. I have placed on the notice-paper a question on this subject to which I hope to receive a satisfactory answer. The Prime Minister **(Mr. Curtin)** has been placed in a most awkward position through things being done without his approval. At least, that appears to be the position. The effect of any interference with gold-mining will be most severe in Western Australia. The State has done its share towards Australia's war effort. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- It has done more than it's share. {: .speaker-K7M} ##### Senator COLLETT: -- The people engaged in gold-mining will respond to the Government's appeal more quickly if they are treated with candour and frankness, and if the views of the Government are placed clearly before them by men authorized to speak on its behalf. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- It must not be forgotten that Western Australia has its own State Government. {: .speaker-K7M} ##### Senator COLLETT: -- That is so, and it is composed of men belonging to the same political party as is in office in the Commonwealth. I admit that the situation confronting the Government is complicated and difficult, and therefore I ask that the Government will give to this matter its most serious attention. I hope that in any statement which may be made on the subject, all the points which have been raised this afternoon will be covered. {: #subdebate-14-0-s7 .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER:
Western AustraliaMinister for External Territories · ALP -- I am not astonished that this subject should have been raised in the Senate, but I am astounded that **Senator Allan** MacDonald should say that the motion before the chamber has no political significance and that party political considerations do not arise. I remind the honorable senator that he and I travelled on the same aeroplane to Western Australia, and that if the control of gold-mining had been a matter of such importance as he has suggested this afternoon, he might have taken me into his confidence and discussed it with me as well as with the secretary of the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Mines, when the aeroplane arrived at the aerodrome there. We were at Kalgoorlie for about 40 minutes during which time the honorable senator was in earnest conversation with the secretary of the local Chamber of Mines. I imagine that they discussed the visit of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Johnson)** to Western Australia. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- **Mr. Johnson** had not arrived there then. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER: -- I am aware of that. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- That being so, how could any one have known what he was going to say? {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER: -- The honorable senator has taken no steps whatever to discover whether the honorable member for Kalgoorlie actually made the statements attributed to him. The honorable senator has yet to learn the mission on which that honorable member was sent by the Prime Minister **(Mr. Curtin)** to Western Australia. I say advisedly that, for security reasons, it is undesirable that the details of that mission be disclosed. We must remember that **Mr. Johnson** is the representative of the electorate of Kalgoorlie in this Parliament. He is a member of the Government party. I remind **Senator Allan** MacDonald and **Senator McBride** that, when their party was in office, the Government which they support did not consult Opposition members from any State on actions it proposed to take in respective States. To a large degree, however, this Government has followed that procedure. The main point in this matter is that **Senator Allan** MacDonald called a meeting at the town hall in Kalgoorlie with the object of making political capital out of this incident by arousing the local people over statements which, on his own admission, are only alleged to have been made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I repeat that, for security reasons, it is undesirable to disclose at this juncture details of the mission which the honorable member undertook on behalf of the Government. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B Johnston: -- His statement, is reported in the press. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER: -- The press report was merely to the effect that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was engaged on a mission for the Government, but it gave no details of that mission. When I last visited Kalgoorlie, the secretary of the Chamber of Mines, **Mr. Anderton,** hadevery opportunity to bring the matter tomynotice. I have not the slightest doubt that he would have done so if he believed that there was any foundation for the allocations now made by the honorable . senator. It is clear however, that in the interim, -party political considera tions have entered the matter. I say that with all respect to **Mr. Anderton.** I remained at Kalgoorlie for one day and one night. and had interviews with various people directly interested in the gold- mining industry. None of them raised this matter with me. Sena tor Allan MacDonald. - The honorable member for Kalgoorlie had not made hisstatement then. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER: -- He had visited Kalgoorlie at that time. During my stay in Kalgoorlie, I heard nothing about the possibility that the mines would be closed down by the Government; but I heard very definite statements that the industry was not making as great a contribution to the war effort as it should. At all times, the safety of this country must he our prime consideration. In no circumstances must preferential consideration be given to shareholders in any mining company. Unfortunately, vested interests have not shown a willingness to play a part in the winning of this war. Should the machinery or man-power available in any town in the Commonwealth, whether it be Kalgoorlie or any other centre, be required for the prosecution of the war, and should such action involve the closing down of local industries, we shall not allow any section or industry to maintain an attitude which will imperil our war effort. We shall allow no one who simply wants to maintain dividends from gold-mines to frustrate that effort. In any case, should action he taken along the lines alleged to have been indicated by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie,I assure honorable senators that the interests of all sections affected willbe protected by the Government. It will not be the first time that industries have been closed down, or man-power transferred to other localities for the prosecution of our war effort. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBride: -- The Minister for Trade and Customs spoke more frankly. He was not concerned about security reasons. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER: -- I am concerned about security reasons. One of our difficulties to-day is that too much information dealing with our war effort is published prematurely. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBride: -- Especially by spokesmen for the Government. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER: -- This Government is doing a good job, and honorable senators opposite do not like it. As the Prime Minister said, they are endeavouring to put gravel in the Government's shoes. Regardless of class, our people must contribute to the war effort. **Senator Allan** MacDonald should have endeavoured to verify the statements which he attributes to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie before raising the matter in the Senate. He could have inquired from tlie State Government whether it was acquainted with this Government's plans. When I saw the Western Australian Minister for Lands and Agriculture, **Mr. Wise,** a fortnight ago in Melbourne, he did not know anything about this alleged plan. The burden of the honorable senator's complaint is that he was not co-opted by this Government to make certain inquiries concerning the industry. Had he approached the proper quarters instead of rushing to Kalgoorlie to make political capital out of these alleged statements, he would have obtained all of the information he required. The miners on the gold-fields in Western Australia declare that their services are not being used to the greatest possible degree in the prosecution of the war effort. I admit that shareholders in gold-mining companies may not share' that view. I again assure the Senate that whatever action is taken by the Government with regard to the industry, the interests of all affected will be fully protected. {: #subdebate-14-0-s8 .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B JOHNSTON:
Western Australia -- I compliment **Senator Allan** MacDonald on bringing this matter before the Senate. He has raised it in the right place and in the right way. The people of Western Australia, par.ticularly those whose livelihood depends upon the gold-mining industry, have I'very reason to complain at the lack of frankness on the part of the Government and its inconsistency in regard to this matter, at least up to the time when the honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Johnson)** held his semi-secret meetings in Kalgoorlie. When I came to Canberra a fortnight ago I received representations from various people on the gold-fields who expressed alarm at the statement that it was the intention of the Government to close down the industry. The matter was ventilated by **Senator Allan** MacDonald, with the result that the Prime Minister **(Mr. Curtin)** stated that the Government intended to permit, the industry to continue on its present scale, but that no new mines were to be encouraged. That statement relieved the minds of the people of Western Australia who are well aware that a large number of industries, of much less importance than the gold-mining industry, have not yet been incorporated in our war effort. I do not think that the Minister for External Territories **(Senator Fraser)** did himself justice when he referred to the eagerness of shareholders in gold-mining companies to maintain dividends. The crux of the matter is that a large population depends for its livelihood upon the industry. The Minister for Trade and Customs **(Senator Keane)** said that it employed over 20,000 miners; and it is estimated that employment is given directly and indirectly to five people throughout the States for every miner employed in the industry. We must protect the livelihood of that big community. We must ensure that the industry is not destroyed. I remind the Minister that there is no secrecy about this matter. In last Saturday's issue of the *West Australian* the following paragraph appeared: - After an extensive tour undertaken to acquaint the gold-fields people with the immediate need to divert the greatest possible amount of labour from the gold-mining industry to more urgent war work, **Mr. Johnson,** M.H.R., arrived in Perth on Thursday night. I take it that that was the mission entrusted by the Government to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- No; that was not his only job. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B JOHNSTON: -- At any rate, the statement attributed to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is inconsistent with that made by the Prime Minister about a fortnight ago that the gold-mining industry was to continue on its present basis, but that no new mines were to be developed. The same newspaper also published a report in which it attributes to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie the statement that " the need for the diversion of labour was keenly appreciated, and all seemed ready at any time to go anywhere, and do anything if it would further the war effort ". As all hon.orable senators representing Western Australia are aware, that is the spirit which r orme a tes every community on the goldfields in that State. It would be difficult to find more adventurous or more loyal communities in any other part of the Commonwealth. Apparently, the honorable member visited all the gold-mining centres with the exception of Mount Palmer and Southern Cross. Information in regard to what he said has been forwarded to me by people who were present at the various meetings. At one centre he said - I am convinced that my informant is reliable - that the Commonwealth Government, in conformity with the wishes of the Government of the United States of America, had decided to close down the gold-mining industry throughout Australia. That is the point which, very properly, was raised by **Senator Allan** MacDonald. The people of Australia, especially those engaged in this industry, are entitled to know whether or not it is the intention of the Government to close down gold-mining throughout the Commonwealth. The economic effects of such a step on Western Australia would be almost indescribable. The cessation of gold-mining would have a detrimental effect on big towns and centres of population, such as Norseman, the Golden Mile, Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Wiluna, Leonara, and many others. Such drastic Motion should not be taken by any Government, even for war purposes, except as a last resort. {: .speaker-KQH} ##### Senator Large: -- Is that authentic? {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B JOHNSTON: -- Yes, I have obtained my information from men who were present at the meetings. I am informed that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie said that sufficient men would be left on the gold-fields to protect machinery and secure the underground workings against floodings. That is to say, there would be a few caretakers to see that the mines were kept in operable condition. He is reported to have said also that compensation would be paid for the losses incurred in consequence of the suspension of operations, but by whom, in what way, and on what basis, was not explained by the honorable member. It was certainly not suggested by the honorable member that compensation was to be paid by the Government of the United States of America. The honorable member is reported to have said also that when the miners were taken away to other centres to engage on war work, their wives and families would remain on the gold-fields. Personally, I am inclined to doubt that the honorable member for Kal goorlie did say that. He is held in high regard by his constituents and knows the gold-fields communities well, and I am convinced that if the miners were taken to other parts of the Commonwealth, as soon as they obtained permanent employment and saved sufficient money, they would send for their wives and families. That, of course, would mean further dislocation on the gold-fields of Western Australia. Such a long and unnatural separation would not be tolerated. The gold-mining industry is the greatest primary industry of Western Australia, and is the greatest source of direct and indirect employment in that State. The closing of the mines would mean the ruination of towns and the depopulation of districts throughout the State, such as Kalgoorlie, Boulder, Coolgardie, Norseman, Wiluna, and the whole of the Murchison area with its scattered but important towns. {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator Cameron: -- The petering out of gold has the same effect. **(Senator E. B. JOHNSTON.- Yes, but the mines are not petering out. Some of the biggest and oldest established concerns still seem to have quite a long life ahead of them. I cannot imagine any thing more likely to result in a permanent abandonment of the gold-fields than the alleged temporary closing down of these concerns while they are still working. A large deputation from the local government bodies throughout the goldfields waited on the Premier of Western Australia yesterday in an endeavour to secure the support of the State Government to oppose the proposed closing down of the gold-mining industry which, I repeat, would have disastrous effects on the whole economic life of Western Australia. Repercussions would be felt, not only on the gold-fields, but also in all ports and cities, because gold production is the mainstay of Western Australia's economic welfare. It has been suggested that the decision to close down the goldfields is in accordance with the wishes of the Government of the United States of America, but I should like to know whether or not Great Britain has been consulted in this matter. I know that in South Africa, the gold-mining industry was approached by the Government of the United States of America with a suggestion that there should be a general closing down of the mines. Such action in South Africa would have meant the collapse of the entire South African economy, but the mines are still being worked, largely, I admit, by coloured labour. Also, we have heard no suggestion that the Canadian gold-mines should close, and their production is greater than that of Western Australia.** {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- Russia has not ceased gold production. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B JOHNSTON: -- Of course not. We are all aware of the colossal quantity of gold that has been acquired by the United States of America, and I imagine that it would not be in the interests of the British Empire if gold production in Empire countries were restricted in any way. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- The Government of the United Kingdom would not agree to the transference of the registration of a company to Western Australia. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B JOHNSTON: -- The burden which Great Britain is bearing probably did not justify the giving up of a source of revenue which in peacetime has been enjoyed unchallenged for decades. However, that is quite another matter. Surely no one could expect Great Britain to renounce a legitimate source of revenue at a time when its very existence is threatened. I believe that in normal times the transfer of that mine's registration to Western Australia would have been readily and properly approved. Many indications of indifference to the interests of Western Australia have been given by this and, in fact, by all Commonwealth Governments. We all know the feeling which was prevalent in Western Australia with regard to federation, when a referendum was taken a few years ago. I venture to suggest that there are many other industries of lesser importance from which man-power could be drawn before the gold-mining industry is destroyed. The people living on the gold-fields would expect, at least, equality of treatment with other industries in regard to any draft on its man-power. I hope that the views expresesd by **Senator Darcey** to-day, and on many pre vious occasions, are not influencing the Government in this attack on the goldmining industry in Western Australia. Until now it has appeared that the Government has been willing to continue to finance the war by what may be called orthodox methods. That is evidenced by the recent war loan, the success of which indicates clearly that the people of Australia are behind the Government in its endeavours to adhere to orthodox financial methods. However, it is well known that the majority of the Labour party, led possibly by **Senator Darcey,** is opposed to the principle of a gold backing for our currency. On two occasions the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia has passed resolutions calling on the Commonwealth Government to finance the war, social services and public works by means of Commonwealth Bank credit, without interest, in order to avoid debt, but so far this Government has not been convinced that such a course is practicable. It seems that the majority of the Labour party has been persuaded to consent to the flotation of loans as a temporary expedient until some new excuse can be found for putting **Senator Darcey's** social credit into operation. I fear that the fact that the suspension of gold-mining would destroy anything in the nature of backing for our currency, is one of the main considerations behind the present proposal. It seems that **Senator Darcey's** work in this chamber and elsewhere is beginning to bear fruit, and is having an effect on the Government, as evidenced by its attitude to the gold-mining industry. I endorse **Senator Allan** MacDonald's protest and commend him for his action in bringing this matter forward. I repeat that the gold-mining industry is invaluable to Western Australia and to the Commonwealth. {: #subdebate-14-0-s9 .speaker-K6N} ##### Senator CLOTHIER:
Western Australia -- My intention in contributing to this debate is to defend the honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Johnson).** I remind you, **Mr. President,** that you and I travelled to Western Australia with the honorable member a few weeks ago, and several times I asked him why he was going to Kalgoorlie. True to his Government, he would not divulge the nature of his mission. He had a set purpose which he kept to himself. I admire him for that. Only too often in the past governments have been lackadaisical in their methods, and the task undertaken by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie shows evidence of planning ahead in an endeavour to let the people know what the future holds for them. As the Minister for Trade and Customs **(Senator Keane)** has said, we can rest assured that the goldminers will not lose anything. I have no fears whatsoever on that score. I repeat that in the past governments have been too lackadaisical in their methods; but on this occasion definite action is indicated. So many thousand men are needed, and the Government knows where to get them. No body is more anxious than I am to keep the gold-mining industry in operation, but an assurance has been given that the gold-miners will be cared for. The Minister for External Territories **(Senator Fraser)** mentioned the profits of mining concerns. I point out that when the You and Me gold-mine in Western Australia was closed down I wa3 the only federal member in that State at the time, and a deputation waited on me in regard to the matter. I was informed that the revenue was not sufficient to keep the concern going and that it had been decided to sell some of the pumping plant and equipment to obtain revenue. That mine closed down, and 70 families left the district. It has been stated that if the miners left Kalgoorlie, many other people would leave also, but that is not right. Many hundreds of people are travelling to such places as Kalgoorlie and Norseman to get away from the dangers of war. I am convinced that more people are going to the mining districts than are leaving them. The remarks made by the Minister for Trade and Customs should convince honorable senators that the mines will be safeguarded. As **Senator Collett** has said, we Western Australians are very patriotic, and we have contributed our full share to the war effort. I am impelled to defend the honorable member for Kalgoorlie because I know that he has performed his task with fidelity. He refused even to tell his mates the nature of the mission on which he was engaged before he reached the gold-fields. I am satisfied that he has done a good job. We may rest assured on that point. {: #subdebate-14-0-s10 .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE:
Victoria -- The debate so far has dealt with the future of the Western Australian goldmining industry and the close secrecy which the Government has preserved with regard to its intentions. But there are gold-mines in States other than those in Western Australia. There are gold-mines in Victoria and Queensland. I presume that the Government does not wish to single out the Western Australian mines. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- Of course not. {: .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE: -- Then why not say so? I object to secrecy in a matter of this kind. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- The honorable senator wants a forecast of Government, policy. {: .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE: -- If the Government has made up its mind, it should say so. It should not conduct its negotiations in a cloud of secrecy, and it should not have sent a junior member of its party to Western Australia in order to ascertain how the miners of Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie and other places would regard the proposal to curtail production. If the Government considers the restriction of gold production to be a matter of sound national policy, it should state that policy without equivocation and submit arguments in favour of it. So far, it has behaved in a hole-and-corner fashion by starting a whispering campaign. I do not know what object it had in doing so, and I do not know whether a similar campaign has been started in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. If the Government intends to restrict gold production, it should announce its decision at once, tell the people employed in the industry that they will bc compensated, and explain how they will be compensated and from what source the compensation will be drawn. If it can prove that the man-power which it requires is essential to the war effort and cannot he obtained from any other industry, nc honorable senator will say a word against its decision, and it can be assured of the support of the people employed on the gold-fields. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- The Government would not curtail the gold-mining industry except for the better prosecution of the war. {: .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE: -- The Government is full of good intentions with respect to the prosecution of the war, but it is also full of good political intentions. Many other industries, apart from the gold-mining industry, are to be closed down or curtailed. I do not advance any arguments against such action if it be necessary for the defence of the nation. But if the Government has decided that it must draw man-power from the goldfields, it should be honest and say that it proposes to do so, giving good reasons in support of its decisions. If it had already decided to curtail production, why did it send the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, as its accredited representative, to Western Australia in order to test the reaction of interested people in. that State? {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator Cameron: -- There was no secrecy, because the honorable member for Kalgoorlie told every body of the Government's intentions. {: .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE: -- The Government did not tell every body about its plans. T. have noticed many cases of underground engineering by the Government, and I have heard of many whispering campaigns. This is a good example of a whispering campaign. The people are being told that the Government is considering whether it will take away the livelihood of certain persons, whether it will ruin Western Australia, and whether it will ruin Bendigo and a few other gold-mining centres, but that it has not made up its mind. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie went into his electorate in order to find out how The scheme would be received in Western Australia. That is not an honest way of doing a job. Nobody in this Parliament will object to the Government's plans, if the Government can prove that curtailment of the industry is essential to the prosecution of the war. But the Opposition wishes to ensure that, in the event of gold production being curtailed, the livelihood of employees in the industry, and others who will be affected, will be made secure now and when the war is ended. It also wishes to ensure that the mines will be kept in proper condition so that the men will be able to return to their proper avocation after the war. The Government does not appear in a very good light as the result of its actions in this matter. I ask the Government to say straight out that every gold-miner in the Commonwealth will be placed on the same footing, and that, if all of the goldminers in Western Australia must be ruined, the gold-miners in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland will also be ruined, so that there will be no discrimination. As the scheme now appears, Western Australia will suffer whilst the other States will not. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator Keane: -- - That is not so. {: .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE: -- If it is not so, the Government, or the Government spokesman, whoever he may be, should say so. This " Government spokesman " seems to be an almost mythical personage, who only speaks to the people through statements published in the newspapers from time to time. He seems to be very well informed about the inner counsels of the Government, and I am not sure that the cloak of the " Government spokesman " is not. transferred occasionally from one Minister to another. In this case, the Government spokesman has been remarkably mute. He has had nothing to say about this proposal, which affects the livelihood of at least 100,000 Australians, although he is usually very garrulous. Apparently the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was sent to Western Australia in order to find out whether the Government spokesman would be in order in announcing as Government policy a proposal with which the people of Western Australia, and a number of others, disagree. I want the Government to do two things. First, I want it to make a declaration that gold-miners in all parts of Australia will be treated in the same way, that their livelihood will be preserved to them, not only now, but also after the war, and that the mines will be kept in proper condition. Secondly, I want it to ensure that no one State shall be singled out to make sacrifices on behalf of the whole of Australia. Debate interruped {: .page-start } page 323 {:#debate-15} ### DISTINGUISHED VISITOR {: #debate-15-s0 .speaker-JTK} ##### The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon J Cunningham: -- I desire to inform the Senate that the Honorable Daniel Clyne, M.L.A., Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable senators I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the Senate beside the President's chair. Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear ! **Mr. Clyne** *thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.* {: .page-start } page 324 {:#debate-16} ### GOLD-MINING- INDUSTRY {:#subdebate-16-0} #### Formal Motion for Adjournment Debate resumed. {: #subdebate-16-0-s0 .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON:
Minister for Aircraft Production · Victoria · ALP .- The developing war-time situation constitutes a supreme acid test of mankind and its institutions. The institution which we are discussing at the moment is the goldmining industry. At the beginning of the war, gold was an essential commodity; it -was necessary for us to have gold in order that we could meet our commitments overseas. But the situation has changed, and now it is not necessary for us to produce gold in order to meet our commitments. As the war-time situation develops, it does two things: it closes down our dispensable industries and extends our indispensable industries. If this did not occur, the war effort could not be carried on effectively. In my opinion, we have not closed down our dispensable industries as quickly as we might have done, and, therefore, our indispensable industries have not been extended as quickly and as effectively as they could have been. The reason for this is that men and women are reluctant to abandon their old ideas. Only when the alternatives become clear - that they must abandon their old ideas or suffer defeat or death - do they abandon their old ideas. One of the old ideas, which, in my opinion, will be abandoned, is that gold is a necessary commodity. The use of gold evolved from the abandonment of what is known as the system of direct barter, under which one commodity was exchanged for another. This system was succeeded by what is known as the system of indirect barter. Then, as the result of experience over the years, gold became accepted as the most suitable medium of exchange and a standard measure of value. That system of exchange continued to operate until the war of 1914-18, but ever since then gold has gradually gone into cold storage, as it were. That system is no longer workable as it was workable when gold was first adopted as a medium of exchange. The old idea to which I have referred was expressed by **Senator Allan** MacDonald and **Senator E.** B. Johnston, who said that we must have gold. The fact with which we are faced to-day is that we can do without gold. That fact cannotbe denied. It seems to me that the developing war-time situation has exposed the fallacy of the idea that gold is an essential commodity. I have spoken of dispensable and indispensable industries. The closing down of gold-mines will always be opposed by the "powers that be " if it is possible, during the war, to keep them going as profitably as before the war. However, we are forced now to choose between the profits of gold-mining and the success of the war effort, and " the powers that be" will he literally driven to choose success in the war effort in preference to profits from gold-mines. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- I am not interested in profits from gold-mining. {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON: -- If gold-mining were not profitable, there would be no gold-mines. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- I am interested in the poor people who live on the gold-fields. {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON: -- When a mine ceases to pay, it is closed down overnight. {: .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLeay: -- Would the honorable senator keep it in operation after it had ceased to pay? {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON: -- A mine could be worked if it could break even, but, unless it showed a substantial profit on the capital invested, it would be closed down. The miners would not be consulted. They would be told, as the workers generally are informed, that a matter of that kind was no business of theirs. We see numerous examples in Western Australia, Victoria and other States of gold-mining towns having been abandoned, and of the residents having been forced to leave their homes in order to seek other avenues of employment. **Senator Allan** MacDonald declared that if gold-mining activities in Western Australia ceased, that part of Australia would be in a state of chaos; but I point out to the Senate that it would still be possible to grow wheat, fruit, and all the other commodities that are essential to the maintenance of a growing population, without gold. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B Johnston: -- The honorable senator knows the effect that the closing of the gold-mines would have on the economy of Western Australia. {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON: -- Any change that may be necessary in connexion with the industry will be due to war conditions. If gold production were abandoned, it would merely involve a reorganization of our internal, economy, involving possibly the adoption of a medium of exchange other than gold. The only occasion when gold is used nowadays Ls in paying our debts overseas. Gold is still used in our international economy, but, I believe that as a result of the war we shall cease to employ it even in our international economy. The demand for man-power is becoming increasingly urgent, and it should be clear to the Opposition that *men* could be more profitably employed in the construction of roads and aerodromes for national defence than in producing gold mainly for the profit of private shareholders. I point out to **Senator Leckie** that the position of the present Government is similar to that of the previous Government. The policy of the present Ministry is being decided, not so much by what it would like to do, as by the exigencies of war. The Government has to meet situations from day to day, as they arise. It has found it necessary at times to change its policy, almost overnight, without consulting the Opposition, in order to meet totally unexpected conditions created by the war. Yet **Senator Leckie** contends that the people should be told many things of which they are kept in ignorance. It is impossible for the people to be informed of matter's of which the Government itself is unaware. The honorable senator appeared to be much annoyed because the Opposition has not been consulted by the Government regarding the goldmining industry, but the question whether mines should be closed down or whether the production of gold should be reduced has never been discussed officially in my presence. The more widespread the war becomes, and the larger the number of people involved in it, the more will it be necessary to cease producing those things which we can do without. {: #subdebate-16-0-s1 .speaker-10000} ##### The PRESIDENT: -- The honorable senator has exhausted his time. {: #subdebate-16-0-s2 .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR:
New South Wales -- The matter to which **Senator Allan** MacDonald has directed attention should receive much closer consideration than has been given to it this afternoon. Having regard to the development of goldmining in Australia from the time of the Eureka incident, and considering the large number of lives that have been lost in the mines, the industrial conditions of the workers employed in them, and the avariciousness of the mine-owners, it is most desirable that the Senate should give close attention to the motion before it. Gold-mining has been responsible for more ill-health among the workers and it has created more widows and orphans than any other industry. I have in mind particularly the effect of dust on the lungs of the miners. The curtailment of mining operations in order to release man-power for war work has been considered by the present Government, as it was by the previous Administration. I believe that **Senator Allan** MacDonald voted against the Government which preceded the Curtin Administration on its proposed gold tax, particularly as it applied to gold-mining in Western Australia; but to-day thi: Commonwealth is led by a government that has given careful consideration to the best means of procuring the necessary man-power to prevent the Japanese from taking possession of our gold-mine3. In order to hold off the enemy, it is essential to build roads and provide aerodromes for the use of the allied forces now in this country. Honorable senators should decline to support the motion submitted by the honorable senator, in order that some of the " boodleiers " that have robbed the working miners in the past should be enabled to Barry on their operations. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- It is not my intention to help the " boodleiers ". {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR: -- Let us glance at the quotations for shares in gold-mines. They are issued in London, where some of the " boodleiers " are - Bulolo hasbeen bombed several times by the Japanese, yet sellers are holding their shares and asking £2 for shares for which buyers offer only £1. {: .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLeay: -What did the sellers pay for their shares? {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR: -- In many instances, they bought them for a "mere song". They were encouraged by action taken in this Parliament in connexion with New Guinea leases. {: .speaker-JQP} ##### Senator Cooper: -- What is the honorable senator trying to prove? {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR: -- I am showing that, at a time when it is suggested that men engaged in gold-mining may be withdrawn from the mines in order to do essential war work, such as the construction of aerodromes and roads, stock exchange quotations from London show that sellers are asking much more for their shares than buyers are willing to offer. One is tempted to ask whether those who hold shares in mining companies have been given to understand that the Government will not be allowed to interfere with gold-mining. I have a practical knowledge of many classes of mining, as I have been engaged in connexion with the mining of copper, silver, lead, gold, antimony, scheelite, wolfram, opals and other metals and precious stones. My close association with the miners has convinced me of their loyalty. {: .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLeay: -- Has the honorable senator sold any shares for profit? {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR: -- Yes, and I have sold shares at a loss. We are told that men are required to construct aerodromes, roads and other works, but I point out that there are other spheres in which men now engaged in mining gold could be employed with profit to the nation. We are short of various metals required for this country's war effort. I know of places in this country where fairly large quantities of tin could be obtained. Men could be withdrawn from the gold-mines and employed in mining tin. Unlike gold, which cannot be made into bullets and is useful only in order to make profits for shareholders, tin. is urgently required for war purposes. Antimony also is in demand. The following paragraph from to-day's *Sydney Morning Herald* sets out the position in regard to supplies of antimony : - >ANTIMONY SUPPLIES. > >Big Anti-Axis Advantage. > >Supplies of antimony available to the demo cracies this year are likely to remain about four times those of the Axis, even should exports from China be entirely cut off by Japan se occupation or by severing of transport lines. > >Prior to the Sino-Japancse war, China had produced over two-thirds of the world's antimony, chiefly from the Hunan province. Subsequently, dislocation of the industry led to an export of only 5.493 metric tons in 1940, against 16,348 tons in 1930, says *The Economist.* This decline has been more than offset by expansion of production in Mexico and Bolivia. Output of these two countries, with financial aid from the United States of America, was raised from 12,759 tons in 1930 to 20,099 tons in 1940, while last year's output is estimated at 25,000 tons. Usually, the whole of this supply is available to the United States of America. I suggest, for the consideration of the Government, that men now engaged in mining for-gold could be diverted to other mining activities, so that metals needed for our war industries may be obtained. The **DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown).** - The honorable senator's time has expired. {: #subdebate-16-0-s3 .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS:
Minister for the Interior · Queensland · ALP -- I. feel that I have good reason to say something on this matter because recently. Western Australian newspapers stated that I, in my capacity as Minister for the Interior, had declared that it was the policy of the Government to shut- down on the gold-mining industry. When i hat statement appeared, I immediately took steps to find out who was responsible for it, and when the source of the report was traced, it was found that there was no basis for it. In this connexion, I pay a tribute to the fairness of the Western Australian newspaper concerned, which when the error was pointed out, magnanimously withdrew the statement. Although I should hesitate to suggest that any honorable senator should not take advantage of the Standing Orders in order to move the adjournment of the Senate as **Senator Allan** MacDonald has done to-day, I do say that when it is known throughout the Commonwealth that we spent this afternoon discussing a motion for the adjournment of the Senate, the prestige of this chamber will not be enhanced. I am confident that our Allies, who are giving to us such willing and wonderful help, will be astounded to know that in a time of national crisis, when we do not know at what moment bombs may fall on our cities, we can take things so calmly, and fritter away our time on a subject such as that which has occupied us to-day. {: #subdebate-16-0-s4 .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator MCBRIDE: -- That is a matter of opinion. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- I regret some of the expressions which have been used during this debate. Honorable senators opposite have spoken of " hole and corner " tactics in connexion with the action of the Government in sending an emissary to Western Australia. The term " surreptitious methods " has also been used. In an effort to embarrass me, **Senator Allan** MacDonald wanted to know how I would react to similar action taken in connexion with, the sugar industry. I regard such tactics as unworthy of this chamber. Tn this time of testing every industry in Australia must stand or fall on its merits. **Senator Leckie** admitted that he did not know anything about gold-mining, but he was full of all kinds of doubts. He questioned the motives of the Government. He said that if the proposal of the Government were based on national security reasons, no member of the Opposition would oppose it. What other purpose could the Government have in mind? Does the honorable senator suggest that the Government is prepared to take action which may destroy an industry without having good reasons? **Senator Leckie** shed tears over the possible fate of the men engaged in the industry and the future of the mines. Those tactics art' unworthy of honorable senators in the nation's present crisis. Let me tell the Senate what happened. The Government sent the honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Johnson)** to Western Australia on a mission. I do not know of any member of this Parliament better qualified to undertake this delicate mission. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- The honorable senator said that he knew nothing about this matter. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- I did not know anything about it when the honorable senator asked his question this afternoon ;. but I have since taken the opportunity to inform my mind on it. Honor abbsenators from Western Australia know that what I say concerning the qualifications of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to undertake this mission is true. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBRIDE:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP -- That is a matter of opinion. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- It is a 001( fact that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was the secretary and organizer of the workers throughout the whole of the territory involved. No other member of this Parliament knows that country and its people, or the industry itself, as well as that honorable member. He was asked to go to Western Australia to tell the people interested in the gold.mining industry certain things. What, were those tilings? This is what I mean when I said that we must get a proper picture of all of the factors involved. First, we are faced with the problem of obtaining man-power for the prosecution of the .war without interruption, and with all the vigour and enthusiasm we can put into our effort. We must find man-power to provide the equipment for our soldiers in the firing line. That cannot be done without a scientific exploration of the possibilities of every industry, not only non-essential but also essential industries in their order of priority. We must find out where we can employ more men and so concentrate more and more manpower on doing the one thing that matters at this juncture of our history, the defeat of the Japanese who are now dropping bombs on different parts of our soil. There are other metals more vital and valuable than gold in the prosecution of the war. If we have man-power capable of mining those other more valuable metals, then regardless of what may happen in any particular State, we must divert it to the one job that matters. When the Government comes before Parliament, with a proposition of that kind, it does not blazon it to the world. It did not ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to 'blazon it to the world. However, it becomes necessary in this chamber this afternoon to say more probably than the Government originally intended to say. **Senator Arthur** said that thereare other metals more valuable than gold in the prosecution of the war. The Government is aware of that fact. It has taken the advice of experts of the mining departments in the various States to find out where these other metals exist, and where they can be more easily developed. In that way, we obtain a picture of all the factors as a whole. We want to get on with the job, but this afternoon,we have debated something which is not of primary importance. I do not impute motives to **Senator Allan** MacDonald, who initiated this debate. He has a perfect right to do things in this chamber which he thinks proper, and especially things which he thinks will ingratiate him more securely in the thoughts and votes of the people he represents in this chamber. We are wasting time this afternoon; and we are faced with another time-wasting procedure to-morrow. In view of all that is happening in this country, when members of the staff of my department are being murdered in Darwin bythe Japanese, and friends of mine have been slaughtered by the Japanese on our own soil, it is unworthy of this deliberative assembly to have to listen to the kind of thine we have been obliged to listen to this afternoon. {: #subdebate-16-0-s5 .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBRIDE:
South Australia -- I congratulate **Senator Allan** MacDonald upon bringing up this very important matter for the purpose of eliciting information from the Govern ment. I deprecate very strongly the remarks of the Leader of the Senate **(Senator Collings).** Invariably, when honorable senators on this side rise to speak, the honorable senator has, since he has sat on the Government benches, endeavoured to lecture us and tell us that we are wasting the time of Parliament. If we look through the pages of *Hansard* over the last seven years, we shall find that the honorable senator has wasted time to such a degree as to make even himself ashamed. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- Before the war. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBRIDE: -- And since the outbreak of war. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- That is not true. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBRIDE: -- In a democracy, which Australia claims to be, one prerogative of a member of Parliament is to bring before Parliament matters which vitally affect the interests of the people whom he represents. On this subject we have had a variety of explanations from honorable senators opposite. The Minister for Trade and Customs **(Senator Keane)** gave a very reasonable explanation of the Government's purpose in this matter.' The Minister for External Territories **(Senator Fraser)** said he could tell us a lot. but for security reasons was prevented from doing so. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- That is true. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBRIDE: -- Then the Leader of the Senate tells us what he says is the actual position, but he is not hindered by security reasons at all. A full explanation of this matter can be revealed to the Senate and the public without endangering the security of this country. Consequently, we are entitled to such an explanation from the Government. It has been said that honorable senators on this side seek to obtain a political advantage out of this debate. However, the speeches of honorable senators opposite revealed an agitation of mind as to the possible political effect of the Government's decision on their erstwhile supporters. We have not been given one tittle of information as to the Government's motive. It is just as well to examine the subject a little more closely, because, if any party political advantage is to be gained, the Government certainly has missed no opportunity to obtain that advantage. It is well known that during the previous sittings of this Parliament a deputation of honorable senators from this side waited upon the Treasurer **(Mr. Chifley)** in relation to this subject. The fact that the deputation did not include any honorable senator opposite was due simply to chance. I make no reflection on any honorable senator opposite in that respect. I was not a member of that deputation; but I have been reliably informed that the Treasurer told the deputation that it was not the intention of the Government at that time to damp down the mining industry although the opening of new mines would not be encouraged. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- That was before the Japanese began to bomb our northern ports. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBRIDE: -- That was just a fortnight ago. The very night on which the Treasurer made that statement, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was despatched on his mission to the goldfields of Western Australia. Thus at the moment that the Treasurer was telling the deputation that the Government did not intend to do certain things, a representative of the Government was about to leave for Western Australia to tell the people on the gold-fields au entirely different story. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- No; he was going to investigate the position. {: .speaker-KOL} ##### Senator McBRIDE: -- From the facte 1 have cited, it is clear that any political advantage to be gained from this decision will clearly go to the Government. 1 make it perfectly clear that honorable senators on this side will not obstruct the Government in any action related to the prosecution of the war. Indeed, we applaud the Government for the action it is taking in diverting man-power from non-essential to essential industries. The only qualifications we make to that support are that where such transfers of labour are made they shall be carried out equitably; and tha.t before men are transferred from one industry to another, it must first be shown that they are required, and, secondly, that they cannot be obtained from any other source. Responsible Ministers have made certain statements regarding the degree of unemployment in certain States. If so many men are unemployed, which I doubt very much, surely some of them can be used for this purpose. If miners are required for war work, and they cannot be obtained from any other source, these men must be taken. We shall give full support to such action. However, the Government must not endeavour to get out of its difficulty in a matter of this kind by saying that for security reasons an explanation cannot be given. Frankness will evoke greater support from the people. We have not only a right, but also a duty to our constituents, to bring up this matter in order to be assured that this decision is necessary. Once we obtain that assurance, the Government can count on the full support of every member of the Opposition for its action. {: #subdebate-16-0-s6 .speaker-K0Z} ##### Senator AYLETT:
Tasmania -- I am at a los3 to know why the goldmining industry has been singled out by honorable senators opposite for special attention. Members of the Opposition are well aware that there are other industries and businesses which are being encroached upon every week for the simple reason that man-power now engaged in them is required, urgently for work which is of far greater importance in our war effort. The gold-mining industry must take its turn. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie **(Mr. Johnson)** has not been doing any more than I and many others have been doing, namely, advising people that as labour is required the activities of industries which are least essential to the war effort must be curtailed, and labour now engaged in them diverted to war undertakings. So far, that is all that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has been accused of doing. I have been doing it practically every day for the last mouth. **Senator Allan** MacDonald. who moved this motion, claims that goldmining is an essential industry inasmuch as if it were closed down the livelihood of the men engaged in it would be taken away from them.. But the honorable senator knows perfectly well that as soon as a man is displaced from the goldmining industry, employment will be open to him in other avenues of production more vitally concerned in the prosecution of the war. No one will be ruined by the transition as he has suggested. The honorable senator also stated that Western Australia would be thrown into a state of economic chaos, but I fail to see why that should be so if the workers who lose their employment in the gold- I mining industry are employed immediately on more essential work in Western Australia, as they probably will be. Their energies will be absorbed in various avenues of our defence programme. In other words they will be given a greater say in the determination of whether Western Australia shall remain part of the Commonwealth or be occupied by the Japanese. That is what is intended, and I am sure that the honorable senator knows it quite well. For his information I point out that miners are required urgently to produce commodities essential for the manufacture of munitions. Four hundred men could be pm on to-morrow to increase the production of tin and copper in Tasmania alone, and probably a far greater number could be employed in Western Australia on war work when the labour becomes available. I ask honorable senators if gold is an essential commodity. **Senator Allan** MacDonald suggested that we should return to a gold backing for our currency, and to the use of gold coins, but where would we get sufficient sovereigns to meet even one-tenth of the deposits in the banks of Australia? The honorable senator knows quite well that such a proposal is sheer lunacy and would result in chaos. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator Keane: **- Senator Allan** MacDonald supported the Government which sent our gold away in 1931. {: .speaker-K0Z} ##### Senator AYLETT: -- Yes, because he knew that we could do without it, just as wc are doing without it to-day. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- I was not in Parliament in 1931. {: .speaker-K0Z} ##### Senator AYLETT: -- But the honorable senator was a member of the party which supported the Government of the day. What is the use of gold to-day? If the whole of Kalgoorlie were made of gold, it would not assist us one iota in our task of defeating the Japanese. Our enemies cun be fought only with man-power and war materials. There is no way of using gold in the production of armaments, and so the continuance of gold-mining would be of no advantage to our war effort. Metals such as copper and aluminium are of vital importance in time of war. If the present objections referred to a tin mine or a mine producing some other essential metal, we could understand them, but even if we had a mountain of gold our war effort would not be advanced a step. We could not eat it, and we could not make bullets of it. Lead is much cheaper and much more satisfactory. More effective still is steel, which is urgently required to-day. 3 regret that .honorable senators opposite do not recognize that this is part of a nation-wide policy which must be followed if the defence of Australia is to be assured. No protest has been raised about the shortening of hands which has been taking place in many other industries for weeks, but now that an industry carried on largely in the State which **Senator Allan** MacDonald represents is affected, he forgets about the necessity to heat the Japanese, and endeavours to keep men at work in gold-mines. Apparently he is not concerned about the possibility of the Japanese taking over Australia, including the gold-mines. That is the only construction that I can place upon his action in moving this motion to-day. I hope that, in future, he will concern himself more with the safety of this country than the continuation of goldmining. {: #subdebate-16-0-s7 .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MacDONALD:
Western Australia -- *in reply* - I should like to thank all honorable senators who have contributed to this debate for the time and attention which they have devoted to this very important, matter, which is vital to Western Australia. I make no apology for having delayed the business of the Senate for two or three hours this afternoon, and I remind the Leader of the Senate **(Senator Collings)** that his side of the chamber contributed more speakers to the discussion than did the Opposition. In fact, Labour spokesmen included four Ministers, so that, if there is any charge of holding-up of the business of the Senate, the Government must accept a greater share of the responsibility than the Opposition. The Government's position could well have been left at the statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs **(Senator Keane).** I applaud the Minister for his very reasonable attitude, and thank him for his statement which, I presume, he made on behalf of the Government. Unfortunately, his declaration as to the position has been somewhat clouded by the statements of three other Ministers, and I really do not know what to believe. I am sure that the people on the gold-fields will not appreciate the confusion either, and, after all, they are the ones who are most vitally concerned. The Minister for Trade and Customs and several other speakers referred to essential man-power requirements for various war purposes, and I agree that the gold-mining industry should contribute its quota. However, I! remind honorable senators of a statement which I made earlier in the day, namely, that the gold-fields have already contributed a larger proportion of the Australian Imperial Force recruits than Any other part of the Commonwealth. The gold-mining industry is quite prepared to contribute its share of manpower to assist the war effort. What the people in that industry resent is the attitude adopted by the Government, which means a virtual suspension of goldmining. In the mines there are many men who would be of no use whatever in any other job, and to say in a lighthearted manner that it would be quite easy to transfer them to road-making or aerodrome-building is unreasonable. Quite a . substantial proportion of gold.miners are not fit for other employment. The following is a brief excerpt from a letter from the secretary of the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia, **Mr. J.** W. Anderton, dealing with the subject of man-power - >In this connexion it is the opinion of the Chamber of Mines that the number of suitable men who will be made available by the closing down of the mines is nowhere near as great as the Federal Government anticipates. In this respect it is well known among men conversant with mining that men who have spent many years working underground are not suitable in most cases, and, indeed, in some cases are not able to stand heavy workin the open under a hot sun. I think that you, **Mr. President,** as a former gold-fields identity, will agree that that is so. As a result of their work, many men employed on the gold-fields are affected by silicosis and pneumoconiosis. They receive a pension and are able to live only a quiet and uneventful life. These men would not be suitable for road-making or aerodrome construction. Then again, there are the prospectors who are mostly elderly men. Not many of them could do the work suggested by honorable senators opposite. It is just as well to look at this matterin a calm way. I have had technical advice on this subject from men on the gold-fields and, with all due respect, I am more inclined to rely upon their advice than upon the statements of honorable senators opposite. I do not say that in any unfriendly spirit; I am stating a cold fact. The Minister for Trade and Customs also said that gold-mines required certain annual supplies of equipment in order to continue operations. I have made inquiries into that matter also and in some cases I discovered that certain mines were carrying up to two years' stocks of essential requirements so that if they received no imported material at all they could continue to produce gold for the next two years at least. I go farther than that ; I know of one concern operating a very low-grade ore which is improvising every day in order to overcome shortages caused by the war. The necessity for oil fuel has been eliminated entirely and the whole plant is driven by producer gas. A producer-gas unit of 3,000 horse-power which, as honorable senators will realize, is a substantial engine, has been installed. In some concerns, aborigines and halfcastes are being employed to take the place of men who have enlisted. They are paid the union rates, as are all employees on the gold-fields. In that respect, the aborigines and half-castes have done a very good job. Unfortunately, their numbers are not large, and sometimes when a fracture is let off the aborigines take to the bush and it is four or five days before their return. However, they always come back and they do a good job. I assure the Minister for Trade and Customs that 1 did not raise this matter for party political purposes. I did so because 1 considered it to be my duty ; I would have done so if a government of my own political colour had been in power, and *1* would have used exactly the same arguments. The suggestion of the Minister for External Territories **(Senator Fraser)** that I went to Kalgoorlie merely to gain party political advantage with the electors was not correct. I have been chided by the Goldfields Firewood Supply Limited because I did not investigate the position of that company, which is dependent for its existence upon the production of gold. I did not have time to interview representatives of the company because I had to come to Canberra, and only one train was available. If I had not travelled by that train, I should have been obliged to remain in Western Australia. I did not overlook the position of Goldfields Firewood Supply Limited, but I did not have time to deal with its case. **Senator Fraser** was a little confused about dates in his speech. I did travel to Western Australia with him by aeroplane, but that was two days before the honorable member for Kalgoorlie arrived by train. Therefore, neither **Senator Fraser,** myself, nor **Mr. Anderton,** the secretary of the Chamber of Mines, knew, when we were in Kalgoorlie, that **Mr. Johnson** was on his way to explode the bombshell. I cannot understand **Senator Fraser's** argument, because we did not know then what was going to happen. The last time that I saw the Minister for Aircraft Production **(Senator Cameron)** in Kalgoorlie was on the occasion of the by-election at which **Mr. Johnson** was elected to the House of Representatives in succession to the late **Mr. "** Texas " Green. I should have liked to have heard **Senator Cameron** say in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall then what he has said in the Senate to-day. I admit that the war has intervened, but had the Minister used on that occasion the language which he has used to-day, he would not have received a tearing from the people of Kalgoorlie. The Minister also said that when mines ceased to be payable they were closed down and their employees thrown out of work. That is not so, Many gold-mines continue to operate after they become unprofitable because of the lure of the gold that may be discovered at the next 50-f t. level. Of course, certain mines do close down immediately they reach the non-paying stage, but new mines are always being opened up, and these absorb the men who are thus thrown out of work. Many mining companies also improvise cheaper methods of working in order to reduce their operating costs and continue a little longer without loss. **Senator Arthur** said that we must have manpower to build roads. If the honorable senator will examine the loan appropriations of the Western Australian Parliament, he will find that provision has been made in that State for all sorts of public works, including the planting of pine trees, and nobody can convince me that pine trees are essential to the conduct of the war. Many other arguments have been advanced, but time does not permit me to answer each one. I repeat that all that the gold-mining industry seeks is equitable treatment. It should not he asked to bear a burden which other less important industries are not asked to bear. I thank honorable senators for the interest that they have taken in this debate and for their constructive speeches. Motion - *by leave* - withdrawn. {: .page-start } page 332 {:#debate-17} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-17-0} #### MAJOR-GENERAL BENNETT {: #subdebate-17-0-s0 .speaker-K7M} ##### Senator COLLETT: asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, *upon notice -* >Is it the intention of the Minister, having regard to the interests of the Army, to convene a court of inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining the circumstances under which MajorGeneral H. G. Bennett of the Australian Imperial Force recently departed from the island of Singapore? {: #subdebate-17-0-s1 .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER:
ALP -- The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : - >No. The Government has already issued a public statement that " We have expressed to Major-General Gordon Bennett our confidence in him. His leadership and conduct were in complete conformity with his duty to the men under his command and to his country. He remained with his men until the end, completed all formalities in connexion with the surrender and then took the opportunity and risk of escaping." {: .page-start } page 332 {:#debate-18} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-18-0} #### DEFENCE FORCES Pay and Allowances {: #subdebate-18-0-s0 .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLEAY: asked the Leader of the Senate, *upon notice -* >In view of the active participation of the Militia in theatres of war. when will the Government take action to place the pay, allowances, &c, of these troops on an equal basis to that of the Australian Imperial Force? {: #subdebate-18-0-s1 .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS:
ALP -- The Government recently approved of uniformity in the rates of pay and allowances for members of the Australian Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force serving in Australia. The principle was also applied to the Permanent Military Forces and the Royal Australian Air Force, and revisions were effected in the pay of the Naval Auxiliary Services. In applying the principle of uniformity, the rights and benefits of members of the forces serving outside Australia were fully preserved. A full statement of the new conditions was announced in the press on the 23rd March. {: .page-start } page 333 {:#debate-19} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-19-0} #### JOINT COMMITTEES {: #subdebate-19-0-s0 .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS:
ALP -- On the 6th March, **Senator Collett** asked the following questions, *upon notice: -* >Concerning the Joint Committees on Apples and Pears, Broadcasting, Profits, Rural Indus tries, Social Security, and War Expenditure - > >1 ) In respect to each committee - > >How many meetingshave been held. and where? > >What reports have been submitted? > >Have its inquiries been closed? > >What is the total cost to date? > >Is it a fact that, despite the admitted need for war-time economy, the daily allowances to members have been substantially increased and with retrospective effect? > >Will the Government give consideration to the fixing of a maximum amount, as provided for in section 39 of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act of 1913, that may be spent by any committee without a special appropriation by Parliament? The Prime Minister has now furnished the following answers: - 334 *Order of* [SENATE.] *Business.* {: type="1" start="2"} 0. The amount paid for travelling allowance to members of the above-mentioned Joint Committees which were still functioning was increased to £2 10s. per day for the chairman, and £2 2s. per day for members on and from 1st January, 1042. 1. Funds for Parliamentary Committees are subject to annual parliamentary appropriation.T he following amounts are provided on the estimates covering the committees in question for the current financial year - Division 1C, Item 2, Senate - Select Committees' expenses, £1,900. Division 2C, Item 2, House of Representatives - Select Committees' expenses. £5,000. Division 108, Item 23, Prime Minister's Department, inquiry into administration of the Apple and Pear Board, £1,000. Provision is also included on the Supplementary Estimates for 1940-41 under Prime Minister's Department for the amount of £1,120 which was expended during that year in connexion with the inquiry into administration of the Apple and Pear Board. The Government will give consideration to the question of fixing a maximum amount that may be spent by each Parliamentary Committee in the future. *Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 8 p.m.* {: .page-start } page 334 {:#debate-20} ### ORDER OF BUSINESS Motion (by **Senator Spicer)** put - >That Notices of Motion Nos. 1 and 2 be postponed until after the consideration of Notice of MotionNo. 3. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.) AYES: 16 NOES: 16 Majority Nil AYES NOES {: #debate-20-s0 .speaker-10000} ##### The PRESIDENT: -- There being sixteen " Ayes " and sixteen " Noes ", the question is resolved in the negative. {: .page-start } page 334 {:#debate-21} ### CONTRACTS ADJUSTMENT {:#subdebate-21-0} #### Motion to Disallow Regulations {: #subdebate-21-0-s0 .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER:
Victoria .- I move - >That Statutory Rules 1942, No. 65, under the National Security Act 1939-1940 [National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations], be disallowed. This statutory rule provides in general terms for the adjustment of contracts by reason of circumstances due to the war, and the regulations under it deal with a most important subject. Contracts, past, present and future, are all within its scope. In dealing with contracts of such a wide range, the regulations touch the economic and social life of the community in a great variety of way, and it is desirable to stress that a great deal of care and caution should be exercised in interfering with the rules governing contracts, if we do not wish to cause a state of great uncertainty in the community. I have already said that these regulations apply to every kind of contract - those which were in existence when the regulations came into operation and those which may be made in the future by people who have full knowledge of the conditions that now obtain. They enable applications to be made to police magistrates and to certain courts for adjustment of contracts, in cases where there is an impossibility of performance, where the performance of the contract is likely to become impossible, or where, so far as the applicant is concerned, the further performance of the contract is rendered inequitable or unduly onerous. Those are fairly broad terms, and they obviously give to courts an extremely wide discretion. The remedies which may be applied in favour of the applicant are that the contract may be cancelled, that it may be varied, or that provision may be made for the repayment of money that has been paid under the contract.I emphasize the fact that the tribunals are given power to cancel the contract, or to order the return of money paid, or to make a new contract for parties without the consent of those parties. This is an extremely important jurisdiction. {: .speaker-K3L} ##### Senator Sampson: -- Does it apply to leases ? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- I am not ready to express an opinion offhand on that point. Personally, I have considerable doubt on the matter. {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator Cameron: -- Who would apply *to* the magistrate in the first instance? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- A party to the contract. I have said sufficient to show that the matter deserves the careful consideration of every honorable senator. I believe that there is need for some provision of this kind. The law on the subject of impossibility of performance, I am prepared to concede, is not completely satisfactory, from the point of view of meeting the kind of circumstances with which we are now faced. The view under the common law in relation to these matters was, in substance, that if you made a promise by way of contract it was your job to perform it, and it was your duty to see that you contemplated all the possibilities that might arise to make the performance of the contract difficult; but, if you did not do that, the law was that, as the loss had to fall somewhere, it was not unreasonable that it should fall on the party who happened to make the promise. Over a period of years, there were some qualifications of that position. I could express them briefly by saying that, if, looking at a contract, the court came to the conclusion that it was based upon the continuance of a state of circumstances which was in the minds of the parties, and that that state of circumstances had ceased to exist, the court said that the contract came to an end when impossibility of performance arose. That was well illustrated by a series of cases known to lawyers as the Coronation cases. Honorable senators may remember that arrangements had been made for the coronation of King Edward VII. and that many people had either paid, or had agreed to pay, considerable sums for the right to occupy certain rooms along the route of the procession. However, the illness of the King caused the coronation procession to be cancelled, with the result that all sorts of cases arose. The decisions in those cases illustrate the view of the law in relation to this subject, and that is my only reason for referring to it. In effect, it was held that the holding of the procession was in the contemplation of the parties when they made the contracts, and as the circumstances contemplated did not arise the contracts came to an end at that moment. In other words, persons who had paid for the right to occupy particular places along the route of the procession could not get their money back - the contracts just came to an end - whilst other people who had contracted to pay various sums for the same purpose but had not actually paid the money were not bound to pay owing to the fact that circumstances contemplated did not actually come into existence. Briefly, the decision in those cases indicates the view of the law in relation to impossibility of performance. I am prepared to concede that those decisions do not completely meet the circumstances in which traders find themselves to-day. The real problem is how this matter should be dealt with. I propose to place before .the Senate two proposals, to neither of which I am wedded, but which I believe would be a great improvement upon the regulations which the Government has promulgated. My chief objection to the regulations as they stand is that extensive powers are given to tribunals without any right of appeal whatever, and without any principles to guide them. When it is realized that thousands of contracts may be affected by these regulations, and that in matter? in which under £200 is involved, the cases will be dealt with by police magistrate? without appeal, those police magistrates acting as the spirit moves them, it will be agreed that it is not a satisfactory position. {: .speaker-KQH} ##### Senator Large: -- It is unkind of the honorable senator to say that police magistrates will act just as the spirit moves them. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- I have no desire to be unkind, and if I have said anything to which exception is taken, I am prepared to withdraw it. When I used the words " as the spirit moves them '". I had in mind that police magistrates would deal with these regulations without anything to guide them as to principle. One police magistrate in one part of the country may give a particular decision. whereas another police magistrate dealing with precisely the same kind of contract entered into under precisely the same conditions, may give an entirely different decision, and yet both of them may act with perfect honesty of purpose. I agree that that difficulty cannot be entirely eliminated from the judicial system, but in the ordinary administration of our law we have a system of appeal, as well as the rule of precedent to guide us. In that way, a considerable degree of uniformity in regard to the principles to be applied in determining particular questions exists. The difficulty in this case is to determine what principles should be applied. I confess that [ would have great difficulty in formulating beforehand a set of principles, and 1 believe that most lawyers would find themselves in the same position. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator Keane: -- What about applying a little logic? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- I have no doubt that logic would take its place - at least I should hope so - hut we should strive to obtain the greatest measure of uniformity that is possible. {: .speaker-KQH} ##### Senator Large: -- Why not give the regulations a trial? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- We could give them a trial under better auspices if we amended them than in their present form. The idea of a trial with the law of contracts does not appeal to me. Indeed, if we wished to create a state of confusion in the community, a trial would probably be the best means of doing so. It is my desire to avoid that confusion. There seem to me to be two ways in which this matter could be approached so that the difficulties to which I have referred may be avoided. I now make the suggestion, which I have placed formally before the Government in writing, that a much more satisfactory way to deal with this problem would be to create in each State a single contracts adjustments tribunal consisting of, say, a judge, a business man and an accountant - a tribunal consisting of three members. I am not concerned about its precise personnel. The tribunal unpointed in each State should then be charged with the function of considering applications that are sent to it within a limited period. People who want to have their contracts adjusted should be re quired- to make their applications for adjustment within, say, a month of certain happenings. I am convinced that such a tribunal would deal with most of the cases which are likely to arise far more expeditiously and efficiently than they will be dealt with if they are left in the hands of judges and police magistrates acting individually throughout the country. {: .speaker-JQY} ##### Senator Courtice: -- That would mean six different kinds of tribunals throughout the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- That difficulty could be overcome by appointing an overriding tribunal, if necessary. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- That would make the arrangement even more complicated. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- No. I shall illustrate what I mean by reference to a type of case which exists in the community at the moment, and which was, in fact largely responsible for these regulations. Thousands of contracts had been entered into by shopkeepers and others all over the country for the supply of neon signs. Does it not strike honorable senators as somewhat ridiculous that every one of those customers should approach a separate police magistrate, or judge, to have his case decided? Obviously, a loss has been suffered, because a commodity which was in use has suddenly become of no value. However, the whole of the loss is not suffered by those who would use those signs for business purposes, as obviously the company and its shareholders also suffer loss. If my proposal were adopted, the tribunal to be set up in Victoria would probably receive 2,000 or 3,000 applications from people who had dealings with that one company. The tribunal would be in a position to call the company before it in order to ascertain how it stood in relation to contracts into which it had entered. I have little doubt that in the course of a week a board of competent men dealing with that problem could work out a scheme which would meet the position of the people concerned. It would be in a position to determine the proper principles to apply to such cases, because it would be able to get all of the facts; and, having obtained them, it would be able to formulate principles to apply to the contracts concerned. I do not say tha t precisely the same principles would necessarily apply to every class of customer, because there might be reasons why one class of customer should be dealt with on a different basis from another. That, however, is not the only kind of case with which such a board could deal more effectively than is possible under the method provided in the regulations. Should that proposal not be acceptable, I have an alternative proposal which I suggest is better than that set out in the regulations. The alternative proposal is that we should vest this jurisdiction in the courts of the land as courts, not as special tribunals. In other words, I suggest that there should be an alteration of the existing law to give to the existing judicial tribunals, within their respective jurisdictions, and with the normal rights of appeal, a special jurisdiction to deal with this matter. This problem was dealt with in Great Britain during the last war, although, so far as I have been able to ascertain, it has not been provided for during this war. However, it proved effective and simple when it was in operation, and I see no reason why the same method should not be effective in Australia. Sub-section 2 of section 1 of the Courts Emergency Powers Act of 1917 provides - {: type="1" start="2"} 0. Where, upon an application by any party to any contract whatsoever, the court is satisfied that, owing to any restriction or direction imposed or given by or in pursuance of any enactment relating to the defence of the realm or any regulation made thereunder, or owing to the acquisition or use by or on behalf of the Crown for the purposes of the present war of any ship or other property, any term of the contract cannot be enforced without serious hardship, the court may, after considering the circumstances of the case and the position of the parties to the contract and any offer which may have been made by any party for the variation of the contract, suspend or annul the contract or stay any proceedings for the enforcement of the contract or any term thereof or any rights arising thereunder on such conditions (if any) as the court may think fit. SenatorFraser. - Does that contain the right of appeal ? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- Yes; because this is part of ordinary law, and is vested in the courts to be exercised as part of their ordinary jurisdiction. An important point is that that act does not in express language give to the courts the power to vary. It does not say to the courts that they can set to work to make a contract for people which has never been agreed to by those people at all. However, under that act, power is vested in the courts to suspend, or annul, the contracthaving regard to any offer which may have been made for variation. In other words, the law encourages parties to come to a variation of their own contract. SenatorFraser. - That may involve a High Court decision. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- What is wrong with that? I have no objection to a High Court decision if it be involved with the maintenance, on proper principles, of our social and economic system. The fear of a High Court decision is a poor reason for refusing any kind of appeal in a jurisdiction of this kind. I wish to refer to two other matters relating to the power of variation. In Great Britain these problems are not attacked in the somewhat hasty fashion in which we have attacked them in this country. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B Johnston: -- It is a very protracted procedure. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- It is not a very protracted procedure having regard to the nature of the subject. I am pointing out that this matter received very serious consideration in Great Britain. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- It is receiving serious consideration here. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- Up to date it has not received any consideration at all. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- That is not true. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- -Recently I submitted, in writing, one of the propositions which I have just put to the Senate to the Ministry and I have not had a reply. I sought an interview with the Minister in relation to the subject, but I was unsuccessful. I was told that the Minister's mind was made up. In Great Britain the proposition to vest in courts power to vary contracts is viewed with disfavour. SenatorFraser. - That was in relation to the last, war; what about this war? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- I now refer the Senate to a decision by a committee of the House of Commons in 1939 in relation to this war on this very matter. I refer to the report of the Committee on Liability for War Damage to the SubjectMatter of Contracts. That committee was dealing with the very case of impossibility in the performance of a contract arising as the result of factors of production being destroyed. It was called upon to consider the very problem with which we are dealing here, namely, the subject of variation. Paragraph 14 of that committee's report reads - >The committee agree with the Buckmaster Committee that it would be unwise to give arbitrators or the courts any general power to vary the terms of contracts. Organized trade associations may in some cases usefully have and' exercise such powers in respect of contracts between their members, but to confer a discretion to revise contracts - a discretion necessarily conferred in general terms - upon a judicial body is- in their opinion out of the question. It would in their view lead to a greater mischief in its consequences than that intended to bc obviated by it. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- What happened? {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- They did not even implement the 1917 provision. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- No; the only suggestion they made was a slight implementation of the 1917 provision which had already been brought into operation in Great Britain by an amendment of the 1919 act. That is the view of that committee in- relation to the question of variation. We are asked to hand over the general power of variation in relation to thousands of contracts to police magistrates and county court judges without any right of appeal. {: .speaker-KTR} ##### Senator A J McLACHLAN:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT -- Does regulation 5 mean that this tribunal can revive a contract which has been rescinded by a court? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- I am inclined to think that that is so. Regulation 5 provides - >Where any , party to a contract or agreement has rescinded the contract ot agreement by reason of the default of the other party thereto in the .performance of any term or provision thereof and a tribunal is satisfied, on application by that other party, that the default was due to circumstances attributable to the war or the operation of any regulation made under the National Security Act 1930 or under that net as subsequently amended, the tribunal may make an. order reviving the contract. At any rate, the tribunal may revive a contract which has been rescinded by the parties; and that rescission by the parties may have been implemented by an order of the Supreme Court saying that it has been rescinded. In those circumstances, if the value of the matter in issue was not more than £200, a police magistrate would be authorized to revive the contract, as the honorable senator suggests. I now refer the Senate to the report of a committee appointed by the Parliament of Great Britain, which makes very pointed reference to the general question of cancelling contracts of this kind. I put this as indicating the very great importance of the subject-matter with which we are now dealing. In 1917 a very distinguished committee was appointed to consider the position of pre-war contracts in Great Britain, having regard to the circumstances of the war and the position in which British manufacturers and merchants found themselves. One of the remedies which was suggested to this committee, of which the chairman was Lord Buckmaster, was that all these contracts should be cancelled. The committee had this to say on that subject - > *Cancellation* - The committee are unable to recommend this relief. It is only natural that each person who has suffered by the war should seek a remedy that will alleviate his difficulties and leave to others the means' by which that remedy oan be reconciled with the general position of commercial mcn. But in fact each contract, however small, is nothing but one mesh in the great web of contractual obligations in which society is bound up, and it is impossible to foresee the full extent of the disaster to which any scheme of general cancellation might give rise. I have put to the Senate two propositions which seem to me to be more satisfactory methods of dealing with this matter. {: .speaker-KP8} ##### Senator E B Johnston: -- Would the carrying of this motion establish either of them? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- That is not the point. The only way in which an honorable senator can question regulations of this kind is by moving a motion for their disallowance. If I had the power to propose amendments to these regulations I should be following such a course to-night; but honorable senators do not possess that remedy. The only remedy we possess to deal with a regulation which we find to be unsatisfactory, is to move foi its disallowance. I say frankly that I have no desire that this motion should go to a vote. My desire is that the Leader r-f the Senate should at least accept my suggestion for the appointment of a small committee to examine these regulations. All I am asking is that an investigation be made with a view to finding out whether some improvement of these regulations cannot he made. {: .speaker-KQH} ##### Senator Large: -- To the verbiage of t he regulations? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- To the application of the regulations ; that would be involved in any alteration of the verbiage. It is not merely a matter of words; it is a matter of principle. The Government itself has recognized that the regulations it introduced on the 12thFebruary were not completely satisfactory. For example, the regulations dealing with this subjectmatter contained the most extraordinary provision that a person could not be represented in these proceedings by counsel, solicitor or paid agent. {: .speaker-JQY} ##### Senator Courtice: -- That is done in lots of cases. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- Yes, but I have never understood the justification for it. Apparently, in this instance, the Government realized the error of its ways because, by means of a subsequent regulation, the original provision was amended to provide that barristers and solicitors could appear before these tribunals. Obviously, the Government realized that the regulations as originally framed were not perfect. , I understand, also, that jurisdiction has now been given to Supreme Courts for the first time, in cases where the sum at issue exceeds £2,000. I have not seen the amending regulation, but I have been informed that such a regulation is either in process of formulation or has been promulgated. To some extent that removes my objec- tion to these regulations, but it still leaves us in the position that this extraordinarily important power is vested in tribunals of the kind to which I have referred, without any right of appeal from the decisions of these tribunals. I suggest to the Government that an adjustment tribunal would be a far more satisfactory, expeditious, and less expensive way of dealing with these matters. I do not know what is going to happen when all these cases are thrown into the hands of police magistrates who have also to attend to their ordinary duties. They are busy men as it is, and these regulations will place in their hands perhaps thousands of contracts to be dealt with under a jurisdiction in which they have nothing to guide them at all. I repeat that it would be better to deal with these matters by means of a tribunal. If necessary some scheme such as that operating in Great Britain during the last war could be adopted. In that case power was given to the courts to investigate the whole of the position from the point of view of both parties.. One objection I have to these regulations is that they appear to me to be unfairly loaded in favour of the applicant For example, regulation 4 includes the following words: - . . the performance, or further performance, of a contract or agreement to which that person is a party in accordance with the terms thereof, has become or is likely to become impossible, or, so far as the applicant is concerned,has become or is likely to become inequitable, or unduly onerous . . . That is one side of the picture, but on the other side the regulation does not provide that the tribunal should have regard also to the effect upon the other party to a contract, of any proposal to vary or cancel the contract. {: .speaker-JQY} ##### Senator Courtice: -- What about regulation 9? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- Regulation 9 authorizes the tribunals to disregard the ordinary rules of evidence and to act in accordance with " equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case". That is practically meaningless. {: .speaker-KQH} ##### Senator Large: -- It is common sense. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- That may be, but I am not prepared to leave the whole question to mere common sense. If some one goes to a police magistrate and says "I am the applicant; so far as I am concerned this contract is unduly onerous", that is all that concerns the magistrate. If he has to take into account the other side of the picture as well, then why not say so in the regulations? Why not specify that the police magistrate should have regard to the effect of cancellation or variation of the contract upon either party to that contract? Take for instance the neon signs contracts. When considering one of these applications, does the police magistrate have to consider what the effect of the variation and cancellation of the contract will be, having regard to the fact that thousands of other people have similar contracts? If so, then that should be specified. That seems to reinforce the arguments that I have advanced in favour of dealing with such matters by the appointment of a contract adjustment tribunal. I repeat that it is not my intention to-night to seek a vote on this motion. I do not want a vote on it, but I ask the Government to be reasonable about the matter and to realize that this is an extremely important question. Again I urge the appointment of a committee to investigate all the implications of this matter, and to make recommendations accordingly to Parliament. I have no doubt that if such a committee were appointed, its recommendations would be along the lines that I have suggested. {: #subdebate-21-0-s1 .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS:
Queensland Minister for the Interior · ALP -- I compliment the mover of this motion on the exceedingly calm and logical manner in which he presented his case. However, we are accustomed to such a treatment from the honorable senator. I should like to point out also to **Senator Spicer** that with all his legal knowledge and capacity, his address on this motion was characterized not so much by what he said as by what he omitted to say. These regulations are the most simple and easily understood which could possibly be drafted, but to listen to **Senator Spicer,** and to the authorities which he quoted, one would imagine that it required a genius of outstanding legal capacity to understand them. As a matter of fact, he had to travel to Great Britain for one authority. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- There was no harm in that. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- No ; but the effect of the honorable senator's learned discourse would be, if we on this side of the chamber were innocent enough to accept his statements, that we would believe that there was something in these regulations which could be fully understood only by a trained legal mind. Actually, there is nothing new in this manner of presenting a case; it is just one more chapter in the age-old struggle against those who believe in less law and more justice. A little quiet reading of the regulations which the honorable senator seeks to disallow should be very helpful. **Senator Spicer** has adduced arguments merely for the extreme satisfaction which he derives, as a legal man, in confusing those who are listening to him. Let us read regulation 4 with minds quite unclouded by legal procedure. It states - >Where a tribunal is satisfied, on application by any person, that, by reason of circumstances attributable to the war or the operation of any regulation made under the National Security Act 1939 or under that act as subsequently amended, the performance, or further performance, of a contract or agreement to which that person is a party, in accordance with the terms thereof, has become or is likely to become impossible or, so far as the applicant is concerned, has become or is likely to become inequitable or unduly onerous, the tribunal may make an order cancelling the contract or agreement or may make such order as it thinks just varying the terms of the contract or agreement, or may provide for the repayment, in whole *or* in part, of any amount paid in pursuance of the contract or agreement. Nothing could be plainer than that. In his reference to an earlier regulation in these statutory rules, **Senator Spicer** urged that there was no reason why we should not leave a decision on these matters bo the ordinary constituted courts of the land. Those are his words. I point out to the honorable senator that that is precisely what these regulations propose to do. They go further than that: They specify the particular courts that are to be utilized. Therefore, there would appear to be nothing objectionable in that regard. We come now to regulation 9, which states that - >In exercising its powers under these Regulations, a tribunal shall act according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform its mind on any matter in such manner as it thinks just. If there was anything in **Senator Spicer's** speech at all, there was a statement that the applicant had only to go to a court and assert that his contract was impossible of fulfilment, was unduly onerous, and so on, and that would be the end of it; the other party to the bargain would not come into consideration at all. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- I did not say that at all. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- The honorable senator said quite definitely that the other fellow would be neglected, because he was not the applicant. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- I said - that the regulation was loaded against him. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- That is a charge which not only is unfair, but also is impossible of substantiation. The regulation is perfectly clear. If anything could be fairer and more impartial to either party, I have yet to learn something new about the English language. Let us look for a moment at regulation 16, which provides that - >Subject to regulation 7 of these Regulations, any order of a tribunal determining an application under these Regulations shall bo final and no order, whether interlocutory or final, in the matter of any such application, and no other proceedings under these Regulations (including a determination as to the value of the matter at issue in any application) shall be appealed against, questioned or reviewed in any manner whatsoever, or be restrained or removed by prohibition, injunction, certiorari or otherwise. Let us ignore the phraseology of the regulation for the moment, and see what the Government desires to accomplish. I want to be perfectly fair and to give **Senator Spicer** full credit for his point of view. He entertains a lot of fears about the outcome of that regulation, and he honestly envisages a number of difficulties. But Australia is faced with a more serious position to-day than that which arises from that regulation. I had something to say about that this afternoon, and I do not want to repeat myself unnecessarily, but I point out that the Government is charged with the immense responsibility of ensuring that every act which it performs, whether it involves new legislation or the promulgation of a regulation, is adequate to meet the needs of that position. With the continuing deterioration of the war situation, the Government has had to take certain important steps hurriedly. It has realized that much of its legislation will inflict untold hardship on different sections of the community, but it has endeavoured to minimize those hardships as much as possible. One of the difficulties which it encountered in this connexion was this problem of contracts which are impossible of fulfilment or, at any rate, unduly onerous upon the parties to them. A long time ago, somebody said to me, "With regard to any important action, be sure you are right and then go ahead and see if you are right ". That has been of great assistance to me on many occasions. In this case, the Government is sure that it is right, and it Ls now determined to go ahead and see whether it is right. If, in the course of its experience, it encounters any of the difficulties which members of the Opposition have conjured up, either from their knowledge of facts or from their fertile imaginations, it will do something to improve the position. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- Damage may be done by that time. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- -I say to the honorable senator in all earnestness that while we are wasting time here discussing these things, irretrievable damage may be done to the nation and then there may be no question of the sacredness of contracts, and no legal argument about methods of overcoming our difficulties. **Senator Spicer** said that he does not regard the tribunals set up under these regulations as satisfactory, and suggested that these matters should be left to the courts of the land. I point out that we are leaving them to the courts of the land, because the regulations provide that courts already constituted in the various States and territories shall deal with applications. What is the value of **Senator Spicer's** alternative suggestion? He asks that a contracts adjustment tribunal be established in each State, to consist of a judge, a business man, and an accountant. Perhaps such a tribunal would be more satisfactory than the courts which are provided by the regulation, but it is unlikely that one tribunal in each State would be sufficient to handle all applications. Even if more than one tribunal were appointed in each State, delay would inevitably occur by reason of the necessity for the tribunals to move from place to place. The question therefore arises as to whether it would not be wiser to retain the existing provisions in preference to those suggested by **Senator Spicer.** If the honorable senator will examine the National Security (Debtors Relief) Regulations, Statutory Rules 1941, No. 194, he will find that the tribunals there vested with jurisdiction are similar to those specified in the National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations with which we are now dealing. The Government ha3 received no reports indicating that there are grounds for complaint in respect of the operation of those tribunals. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- That is a different matter. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- But the tribunals are similar to those specified in this regulation. **Senator Spicer** endeavoured to becloud our minds with the awful possibilities suggested by the Neon sign contracts. Thousands of these contracts have been made, and he suggested that thousands of applicants would be rushing to the courts to seek relief from them, thus clogging the legal machinery. The same difficulty would be experienced no matter what kind of tribunals were established. The honorable senator proposes to establish a tribunal which could not begin to deal with these applications in the same manner as they can be dealt with under this regulation. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- I said that it would get rid of them in a week. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- Neon sign contracts extend over terms of varying periods. They were to the effect that Neon Signs (Australasia) Limited for a certain price, would erect a sign, maintain it in good order and condition, and put certain advertising on it. Then the Government took certain steps in connexion with the vital necessity for prosecuting the war. One of these steps, which provided for brown-outs, required that these signs should not be used. But even before this edict was issued some of the signs w*ere advertising, on behalf of the contracting firms, services which could not be performed on account of other war-time restrictions. For instance, in Goulburn I was interviewed by a garage proprietor who had a large neon sign bearing the words, "All night service". At that time petrol rationing had restricted the use of motor cars and there was no occasion for service even after about 6 p.m. This man asked me what he should do. The sign advertised a service which he could not provide. Nevertheless, he had to continue payments under the terms of his contract. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- I do not dispute the existence of such cases. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- The Government has simply provided, under this regulation, that authority shall be given to tribunals to deal with these cases in the most direct way possible, that no more legal jargon than is strictly necessary shall be involved, and that the whole process shall be based on a judgment to be given having full regard to equity, good conscience and justice to all parties concerned. Is it not desirable at least to give this scheme a trial? Nothing is to be gained by delaying operations so that **Senator Spicer's** alternative scheme can be carried into effect. The Government has given this matter serious consideration. To the best of its ability at the moment, it has provided for the shortest cut to be taken in order to secure equity between the parties to such contracts as are now impossible of fulfilment. **Senator Spicer** says that there may be a better method. That may be true, and in a few months' time we may find, that there is some merit in his proposals. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- It will be too late then. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- There may then be no need, for any proposals of any sort to deal with such matters. But in the meantime we can at least relieve a measure of injustice which is being done to parties to these contracts. We propose to go on with the job and to stick to the letter of this regulation. I do not wish to adopt a schoolmasterly attitude, as I was accused of doing earlier to-day, but I do not want to leave any doubt in the minds of honorable senators. The Government proposes to continue with these regulations. It will accept no compromise and it wall stand by the result of its action, whatever that may be. I say this not because I want to be brutal or to do anything improper or unfair, but because we cannot afford to waste time with alternative proposal ? after we have given the problem thorough consideration and promulgated these regulations. I wish to discourage the Opposition from continuing any longer with this frightful time-wasting business of everlastingly moving for the disallowance of regulations. {: .speaker-K3L} ##### Senator Sampson: -- The honorable senator does not like his own medicine. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator COLLINGS: -- I do not quite understand **Senator Sampson's** interjection. At the moment, Australia needs medicine very badly and it needs drastic medicine. In this case, the Government is doing its best to administer one dose in order to ensure as far as possible that there shall be no avoidable suffering on the part of parties to contractsas the result of the things which we have had to do, and which are harsh in their incidence. These things are incidental to a state of war, and I hope that everybody will share equally in the national suffering. In our time of tribulation, there is no reason why the Government should not endeavour, to the best of its ability, to water down the harsh effects of its war-time legislation wherever possible. That is all that this Government seeks to do under these regulations. I have endeavoured to put the Government's case as succinctly as possible, and I now ask the Senate not to agree to the motion. I inform the Opposition that in no circumstances will the Government agree to any compromise with regard to those regulations. Motion (by **Senator A.** J. McLachlan) put- >Thatthe debate he now adjourned. The Senate divided. (The President - . Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.) AYES: 16 NOES: 16 Majority . . Nil AYES NOES {: #subdebate-21-0-s2 .speaker-10000} ##### The PRESIDENT: -- There being sixteen "Ayes " and sixteen "Noes ", the question is resolved in the negative. {: #subdebate-21-0-s3 .speaker-KTR} ##### Senator A J McLACHLAN:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT -- As I was expecting a long-distance telephone call, I asked for the adjournment of the debate, but the request was refused. I scarcely appreciated the tone of the refusal of my application for an adjournment of the debate on an abstract question on which I venture to think that the mover of the motion was endeavouring to assist Australia to prevent confusion arising in the administration of what I, and I think the mover also, must regard as a necessary measure. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator Keane: -- Particularly regulation 13. which provides that no lawyers shall appear. {: .speaker-KTR} ##### Senator A J McLACHLAN:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT -- Let us see how much the Government knows about its own regulations. "When I saw them I realized that confusion would arise. **Senator Spicer** spoke to me about the matter. He only needed to mention it to the Attorney-General **(Dr. Evatt),** who understands something of the difficulties to be encountered, and within a week, we have a proposal for the repeal of the very provision with which the Minister for Trade and Customs **(Senator Keane)** seems so familiar. I had hoped that when the Leader of the Senate **(Senator Collings)** ceased to shout, we should see some degree of reason brought to bear by the Government as to why it should summarily reject the temperate proposal made by **Senator Spicer.** I agree with the Leader of the Senate that it is necessary to get on with the prosecution of the war, but the Government said that it desires the machinery to work smoothly. We were endeavouring to improve that machinery. It is clear from the remarks of the Leader of the Senate that he is not quite so ignorant of the regulations as is the Minister for Trade and Customs. But he has not quite appreciated the effect of what has been done. It is proposed to hand over to the courts, the Leader of the Senate tells us, the power to do certain things, and, because those courts are named in the regulations, the Leader of the Senate says, " What better could we have ? They are better than the tribunals suggested by **Senator Spicer** ". I am not altogether disposed to disagree with the Minister in that observation. But I say that the jurisdiction is not beinghanded over to the courts with the full rights that they have enjoyed under the statutes under which they exist. They are to be hamstrung because there is no appeal tribunal by which the principles can be brought into line. One decision may be given in South Australia and another in Victoria. To-day, an application for relief was made in Victoria, I am informed by a colleague in this chamber, and the judge refused the application; but, owing to the provisions of these regulations, there is no appeal from that decision. I do not know the merits of the case. It may be that relief was merited, but now the party concerned must abide for ever by the decision to which the judge came on the first application made under these regulations. There is no method by which relief can be obtained. We have never had legislation of this class in operation, under which the decisions by half a dozen courts in different States may all vary in the principles applied in determining the rights of the parties. The matter will be in a hopeless muddle unless the efforts of certain large companies to get their people to agree to an arrangement, postponing the incidence of the contracts until after the war, are successful. Personally, I think that it would be better for the matter to he dealt with under the regulations submitted this evening, which would have regard for the rights of the various parties, and by providing for the right of appeal. I hoped that the Government would see the necessity for making proper representations to the 'Crown law officers that there should be some right of appeal in order to bring harmony into these transactions. {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator Arthur: -- Does regulation 6 provide for an appeal? {: .speaker-KTR} ##### Senator A J McLACHLAN:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT -- No. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -Read subregulation 2 of regulation 3. {: .speaker-KTR} ##### Senator A J McLACHLAN:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT -- That sub-regulation states - >If, on any application to a tribunal under these regulations, any objection is taken to the jurisdiction of the tribunal based on the value of the matter at issue, the tribunal shall determine the objection summarily, but the decision of the tribunal shall not operate as an estoppel between the parties or other privies in any other proceedings. That relates only to the question of jurisdiction. The jurisdiction is of two classes, both of which have reference to an amount in dispute. Regulation 16 begins - " Subject to Regulation 7 of these regulations". That regulation refers only to the right of the particular tribunal to adjudicate because of the amount involved in the particular contract before it. There would he a dispute as to whether the case should be dealt with by the superior class of tribunal, or by the other class of tribunal, but when we come to the merits, the jurisdiction is established and the tribunal decides. Regulation 16 states - >Subject to Regulation 7 of these regulations, any order of a tribunal determining an application under these regulations shall be final and no order, whether interlocutory or final, in the matter of any such application, and no other proceedings under these regulations (including a determination as to the value of the matter at issue in any application) shall be appealed against, questioned or reviewed in any manner whatsoever, or be restrained or removed by prohibition, injunction, certiorari or otherwise. Under regulation 13, practically the same thing as is set out in regulation 7 is provided for. I was wrong, therefore, in admitting that there was an appeal with regard to value, because, with great skill, that has been omitted under regulation 17. The appeal as to quantum under regulation 7 vanishes into thin air. **Senator Spicer** brought this matter to the notice of the Attorney-General **(Dr. Evatt)** before he left Australia for the United States of America, and pointed out that it might give rise to great hardship in numerous cases. As a Minister in a previous government, I had the experience of dealing with people who had formed companies for the purpose of obtaining benefits and royalties to which they were legally entitled, and I found them to be particularly skilful in all matters concerning their own interests. They had minds as keen as the edge of a razor. Are we to deprive individuals of the assistance of a paid agent and leave them to battle alone against astute men, who will not be slow to take advantage of every point in their own favour? After this matter was pointed out to the AttorneyGeneral, we heard no more of it, butI noticed that the regulation was deleted. I had hoped that we might have been able to show to the Crown law officers the error into which the Leader of the Senate has fallen when he says that the matter is left in the hands of the courts. If we were giving the jurisdiction to the courts with the right of appeal - {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- "We are still giving it to the courts. {: .speaker-KTR} ##### Senator A J McLACHLAN:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT -- When a matter is given to a court, it is given to the court with all the rights that pertain to that court. For instance, dissatisfied litigants in the Local Court of South Australia have certain appeal rights. If we take the case that has been mentioned, it will be seen that a body of people may be deprived of relief because of provisions which the Government has inserted in these regulations which prevent any appeal from the decision of the tribunal. Is that right? The Leader of the Senate talks about vesting jurisdiction in the court and he thinks that he triumphed over **Senator Spicer,** but the lower courts cannot get any help from the higher courts in regard to the principles which should operate. I admit that the Government has endeavoured to place the decision upon the conscience of the tribunal, but we all know how consciences differ. If there is to be no set of principles to guide these tribunals, I fear that there will be a great deal of confusion. What possible objection can there be to restoring the right of appeal to the appropriate tribunal under the law which brings these courts into being? I realize that the setting up of these tribunals may cause more confusion than would be caused by giving the jurisdiction to a Court, but, when the jurisdiction is given to a court without any appeal, the confusion, particularly among the courts of inferior jurisdiction which will have nothing to guide them, will be considerable. It is because of new conditions for which there is no precedent that these regulations have been promulgated. I realize that the Government has much to do, and that the preparation of regulations may, in consequence, be somewhat hurried; but, when the position is pointed out calmly and dispassionately, as **Senator Spicer** has done, the Government should give further consideration to it with a view to putting things right. The Opposition takes no credit to itself for raising these matters. We on this side believe that it is our duty to bring to the notice of the Government what we believe to be weaknesses in the various regulations that are promulgated from time to time. In these regulations we see a contradiction between regulations 7 and 16. I do not know what the Crown law officers will have to say on that matter when their attention is drawn to it. The Leader of the Senate says that there is the right of appeal in relation to quantum, but that there is no appeal on any other point. I do not know how these tribunals are to function to their own satisfaction, or to the satisfaction of litigants without some principles to guide them. I agree that the words " equity and good conscience " are high-sounding, but I am reminded that a prominent man once said that a man's conscience varies according to the length of his foot. I fear that we shall get a medley of decisions which will lead to trouble, and therefore I urge that we should get uniformity if we possibly can. The Leader of the Senate says that he is sure that the Government is right, but the fact that he was far from right in regard to regulation 7 should be sufficient to shake that supreme confidence in himself which he so frequently displays. I advise him not to be too sure about anything which may lead to a disturbance of the economic life of Australia. I shall support the motion, which is an effort on the part of the Opposition to grease the machinery which the Leader of the Senate says it is the duty of the Governmen to set up. If the Government will not accept our help, it must accept the responsibility for so doing, but I predict that the Government will soon find itself flooded with letters pointing out the lack of uniformity among the decisions "that will be given. I do not urge the disallowance of regulations which can be made workable, but in this instance I urge the Government to accept the view of the Opposition. Should it fail to do so, the responsibility will rest on the Government. {: #subdebate-21-0-s4 .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR:
New South Wales -- I shall cite two or three specific instances in order to show that these regulations ate essential to the safety of Australia. Regulation 4 provides that - >Where a tribunal is satisfied, on application by any person, that, by reason of circumstances attributable to the war or the operation of any regulation made under the National Security Act 1939 or under that act as subsequently amended, the performance, or further performance, of a contract or agreement to which the person is a party, in accordance with the terms thereof, has become or is likely to become impossible, or, so far as the applicant is concerned, has become or is likely to become inequitable or unduly onerous, the tribunal may make an order cancelling the contract or agreement or may make such order as it thinks just varying the terms of the contract or agreement, or may provide for the repayment, in whole or in part, of any amount paid in pursuance of the contract or agreement. I bring to the notice of the Government a particular contract which is governed by this regulation. First, I refer to the admission to Australia of two aliens less than twelve months ago, who became enemy aliens when Rumania entered the war. Permission for the admission of these two gentlemen was given by **Senator Foll** when he was Minister for the Interior. Their names are D. E. Sheaffer and J. Nacht. Shortly after their arrival in this country they combined with other aliens to form a company known as Austral Hardware Proprietary Limited. Early in July last year they entered into a contract with another company which is making a unit that is essential in every engineering workshop throughout Australia engaged in the manufacture of munitions. Prior to the war the manufacturers of this unit entered into a certain contract with the Bank of New South "Wales under which this bank secured a debenture for £7,500 over the assets of the manufacturing company. After the outbreak of war, when the owner was putting all profits back into the factory in order to speed up the production of war materials, he came into contact with the two aliens to whom I have referred, and those two gentlemen lifted the debenture from the Bank of New South Wales. Immediately after completing this transaction the same two gentlemen entered into a similar contract with another company in Sydney engaged in the manufacture of munitions, and thus secured control of another factory. In the latter case they took the factory out of the hands of two other enemy aliens, two brothers named Vider, who were interned and later released on appeal last January. Sheaffer and Nacht later purchased by contract the undertaking of A. P. Donney and Sons, . and Components Proprietary Limited when the latter company was in liquidation. When Rumania came into the war, these two men became enemy aliens and were interned last Tuesday. They immediately initiated litigation, which resulted in the holding up of the manufacture of the particular units to which I have . referred. The manufacturers undertook to carry out their part of the original contract by utilizing all profits made by them for the purchase of material from which the particular unit is manufactured. On the 17th February, however, the two aliens, in order to defeat that procedure, served a notice on . the manufacturers demanding that the debenture be reduced by the sum of £300 monthly, plus the sum of £178 every three months by way of interest at the rate of 8 per cent. The manufacturers immediately complied with that notice and posted a cheque for £300 on the 19th February. On the 11th March the two aliens served this notice on the manufacturers - >Austral Hardware Proprietary Limited hereby demands from *you* the payment to it forthwith of all sums of money due by you to it under and by virtue of - > >Equitable Charge dated the fifteenth day of March One thousandnine hundred and thirty-eight made by you in favour of the Bank of New South Wales as varied by Variation of Mortgage made between you and Austral Hardware Proprietary Limited on the fourth day of September One thousand nine hundred and forty-one which said Equitable Charge was transferred to Austral Hardware Proprietary Limited by Assignment dated the fourteenth day of July One thousand nine hundred and forty-one, and > >Equitable Charge dated the seventh day of April One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight made by you in favour of United Dominion Export Company Proprietary Limited as varied by Variation of Mortgage made between you and Austral Hardware Proprietary Limited on the fourth day of September 1941 which said Equitable Charge was transferred to Austral Hardware Proprietary Limited by Assignment dated the eighth day of July One thousand ninehundred and forty-one. The aforesaid sums of money including interest amount in the aggregate to the sum nf Seven thousand three hundred and seventyiour pounds seventeen shillings (£7,374 17s.) and accordingly Austral Hardware Proprietary Limited hereby demands from you the payment of the said sum of £7,374 17s. together with interest on Seven thousand two hundred and sixty pounds three shillings and seven pence (£7,200 3s. 7d. ) of such sum at the rate of eight pounds (£8) per centum per annum calculated from the eleventh day of March instant until payment. Dated this eleventh day of March 1942. These aliens have virtually hung up the production of a unit which is essential to munition production. {: .speaker-JTR} ##### Senator Darcey: -- What is the unit? {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR: -- Grinding wheels. The manufacturers supply these wheels to the following important concerns : - Garden Island, the Government Railway annexe, New Sou,th Wales, the Tramway annexe, New South Wales, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia.) Limited, Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, General Motors-Holdens Company Limited, and i he Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The financial difficulties encountered by these manufacturers arose directly out of the war. Under these regulations these manufacturers may, therefore, secure relief from the terms of the contract with which I have dealt. If the Senate disallows these regulations these men will not be able to secure any redress whatever, and, consequently, the production of munitions will be held up. After these two aliens were interned they refused to sign a cheque last Friday, the 20th March, authorizing the payment of wages to employees of the manufacturers. Any honorable senator who votes for the disallowance of these regulations will deprive these manufacturers of the opportunity to secure relief from difficulties arising from the war, and will hold up the production of war material just as effectively as these aliens are capable of doing in the absence of regulations of this kind. I now refer to contracts" which have been entered into by hotel licensees with the brewing companies. The latter are very well represented in Canberra at the moment. I saw here to-day Tom Watson and his henchman, Tom Murray, and also representatives of Tooheys Limited, the Tasmanian brewing interests and the Carlton "crowd". They are hanging around the lobbies to-day. {: .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator Allan MacDonald: -- What do they want? {: .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLeay: -- They have come here at the invitation of a Minister. {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR: -- Probably they have come here with the object of trying to pass on to the public any loss involved in the latest imposition placed on the brewing trade, just as they passed on to the public the recent increases of duty on alcoholic liquors. Many hotel-keepers have entered into contracts to pay from £2,000 to £15,000 annually for hotel leases from the brewing companies. Recently their trade has been restricted by one-third. This restriction is due to war causes. It will have no effect on hotels which are run by managers for the brewing companies. Such hotels will still be able to obtain unlimited supplies. I have no doubt, however, that the restriction will be fully enforced in respect of hotel licensees who have paid thousands of pounds to tlie brewing companies under their leases. Under regulation 4 such licensees will be able to seek relief from the terms of their contracts, on the ground that their difficulties are due to war causes. Another class of contract which comes within the ambit of these regulations is represented by that which has been entered into by Commonwealth Aircraft Components Limited, of Lidcombe, Sydney, with a number of enemy aliens in conjunction with another Sydney firm for the supply of a certain kind of hammer. These hammers are being manufactured by a firm of enemy aliens for 9s. each and are supplied to Smith, Sons and Rees, of Wentworth-avenue, Sydney. The latter firm has not a factory, but has a contract for the supply of the hammers to the Commonwealth Government at 12s. each. Surely that is a contract which is subject to war conditions, and should come within the ambit of these regulations. The disallowance of these regulations is not advisable ; in order to help the public they should be kept in force. I have given two or three instances in which they could be brought into operation, and I have also given one instance in which, if the regulations were disallowed, we should be playing into the hands of enemy aliens who, as late as Friday last, refused to sign the cheque for their employees' wages. These people are doing everything possible to restrict the production of a necessary unit which is required in munitions and other factories throughout the Commonwealth. I hope that the regulations will stand and that the Government will be allowed to go ahead with business vitally connected with our war effort. {: #subdebate-21-0-s5 .speaker-K3L} ##### Senator SAMPSON:
Tasmania . - I have no desire to prolong this debate and I should not have taken part in it had it not been for a telegram which I received to-night. I consider that these regulations are necessary. It was evident when the war started that eventually it would be necessary to introduce some control of this kind. It seems, however - I have had the opinion of a lawyer on this matter - that leases are not contracts for the purpose of these regulations. In my view leases are, in effect, contracts because they are entered into by two or more parties, and they impose conditions which must be adhered to by all signatories. I should like to obtain some information from the Government in regard to this matter. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- These regulations cover leases. {: .speaker-K3L} ##### Senator SAMPSON: -- I am glad to hear that. However, if the Leader of the Senate **(Senator Collings)** will be kind enough to listen to a document which I shall quote, he will understand why I am taking part in this debate. It is a telegram from a club of which I am u member and which, of course, has a licence to sell liquor. It reads - >Have wired Dedman Minister War Organization as follows quote National Security Contracts Adjustment Regulations stop Judge Richardson in case of Boston shoes and Gai,din County Court Melbourne this morning ruled that these regulations do not apply to lenses in so far ns covenants in leases were not contracts or agreements and refused relief stop Refer your statement Melbourne *Herald* 83rd March that regulations covered rent stop Urgent amendment imperative end quote Club has pending application for relief from leases of Doncaster course including rent and very onerous covenants for maintenance of course and club house stop Effect of judges decision in case quoted above is that clubs leases are not covered by regulations also hotel leases not covered stop. This quite contrary to above statement of Minister stop Please urge immediate amendment regulations to include leases. Like many other organizations and, of course, private individuals, clubs have found themselves in financial difficulties owing to the necessity of members having to conserve petrol. Their attendances have fallen off considerably with a resultant drop in revenue. They have entered into leases which are still in force, and in some cases, the position is desperate. That is why I raise the question of whether or not leases are included in the scope of these regulations. I cannot see any reason why a lease should not be regarded as a contract. I repeat that regulations of this kind are absolutely necessary in time of war, and I should not like to see them disallowed, but like **.Senator Spicer,** I wish to indicate directions in which they could be amended. That is the only reason why I am participating in this discussion. {: #subdebate-21-0-s6 .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLEAY:
Leader of the Opposition · South Australia -- 1 appeal to the Leader of the Senate **(Senator Collings),** who made a very eloquent speech on this motion, to clarify the position. He has made a definite statement that leases come within the scope of these regulations, but to-day **Senator Sampson** has received a telegram indicating that a judge has ruled otherwise. The Minister for War Organization of Industry **(Mr. Dedman)** also made a public statement to the effect that the regulations covered leases. I ask the Government to agree to an adjournment of this debate until it has had an opportunity to look into this matter, and eliminate some of the confusion which now exists. I point out that under these regulations there is no right of appeal. I do not favour the disallowance of these regulations in their entirety, because I think that they are necessary, but I resent the attitude of the Government and its supporters in suggesting that the moving of a motion for the disallowance of these regulations is' a waste of time. **Senator Spicer** has made it perfectly clear that this is the only method by which we are able to obtain a debate on these regulations. The Opposition has given an assurance that if the Government is prepared to consider amendments upon the lines suggested, the motion will be withdrawn. We cannot do more than that. I again appeal to the Government to use a little common sense and intelligence in regard to this very important matter. {: #subdebate-21-0-s7 .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER:
Minister for External Territories · Western Australia · ALP -- I understood **Senator Spicer** to say that he had made a written application to the Attorney-General **(Dr. Evatt)** in regard to these regulations, and had outlined certain proposals. I suggest to the honorable senator that before the Attorney-General refused such a request, he would make a thorough examination of the suggestions put before him. However, apparently **Senator Spicer** is not satisfied with that because he has sought a ventilation of the matter in this chamber. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- The AttorneyGeneral did not reply to my letter. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER: -- Undoubtedly the honorable gentleman considered the matter and in his wisdom declined to accept **Senator Spicer's** suggestion. Unlike **Senator Spicer,** the Attorney-General apparently was quite definite in his opinion. That was not so with the honorable senator because first of all he suggested the application of the House of Commons determination of 1917 to meet the position. It was found, however, that during this war that course had not been even suggested by the British Government. In fact, there is no similar provision in the United Kingdom at all. The Attorney-General has set. the matter out quite clearly here, and there can be no doubt as to his qualifications for doing so. A difference of opinion is not uncommon among legal men. The only difference here is in regard to the right of appeal. **Senator Spicer** will admit that many cases have gone from the lower courts of this country through the Supreme Courts, the High Court, and even to the Privy Council, involving vast expenditure on legal fees although the amounts in dispute might have been very small. The prospect of meeting such costs very often deters an applicant. despite his conviction as to his legal right. In this case, rather than face such a prospect, an applicant might be prepared to lose his £200. That is not equity or justice. Consequently the Government believes that when a decision has been given by a judge or magistrate, there should be only a right of appeal for a re-hearing of the case. If anomalies occur, or if misstatements are made in evidence, and a rehearing is granted, does that not constitute an appeal? I suppose that **Senator Spicer** would say that that would be an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. I am surprised at the arguments of honorable senators opposite, and particularly those of the Leader of the Opposition, who apparently only required the Government to reconsider its decision. **Senator Spicer,** who submitted the motion, admitted that he had made certain representations to the Attorney-General to have the regulations amended before they were promulgated. He made those suggestions as from one legal man to the another. But the Attorney-General decided to adhere to his draft of the regulations, which has received the endorsement of the Government. The Government is not prepared at this stage to consider any alteration of the existing provisions. {: #subdebate-21-0-s8 .speaker-K0C} ##### Senator ARMSTRONG:
New South Wales -- This debate has taken a disturbing turn as the result of the statement made by **Senator Sampson.** There is no doubt in my mind that these regulations were intended to cover leases. The Minister for War Organization of Industry **(Mr. Dedman)** informed me personally that, in view of the statutory reduction of the quantity of liquor permitted to be sold by breweries, ir was intended that there should also be a statutory reduction of rents and bonuses paid by hotelkeepers. This statement was also made to every body engaged in the liquor trade. I accepted that statement. However, in view of what **Senator Sampson** has said, it is apparent that the Government's intention in this connexion has not been fulfilled. Unfortunately, this happens very frequently when new laws are made. It is my considered opinion that very few people know exactly how new legislation will act or react until it actually comes into operation. My belief is that the Government intended to achieve a special purpose, but when the regulations actually came into force and became the subject of a court judgment, that purpose was not achieved. In view of this, even if the Leader of the Senate is not prepared to accept the Opposition's suggestions, I am certain that he will, in conference with the Minister for War Organization of Industry, draft another regulation immediately to cover the position adequately. {: #subdebate-21-0-s9 .speaker-KOJ} ##### Senator HERBERT HAYS:
Tasmania -- I believe that every honorable senator will agree that the problems with which these regulations were intended to deal need immediate attention. **Senator Spicer,** who dealt with this matter at some length, pointed out to the Government many of the weaknesses that he saw in the regulations, and a number of difficulties which were . likely to occur in their administration. There canbe no division of opinion as to the need for these regulations. However, the remarks of Ministers and their supporters would lead one to believe that the Opposition was acting outside of its province even in suggesting amendments which would make the regulations more workable. I have no quarrel about the tribunals provided under these regulations. In the circumstances, the Government has made a wise decision and has provided for the comi table solution of problems that will arise. I am surprised that leases and other similar agreements will not be affected by these regulations. The Government admits that its intention was that such leases and agreements should be covered, but the message read by **Senator Sampson** made it abundantly clear that the wishes of the Government have not been fulfilled. In view of this, the Government would be wise to withdraw the regulations in order to insert the provisions which it intended that they should contain. **Senator Spicer's** suggestion that the matter be referred to a committee was reasonable. His speech was calculated to demonstrate to the Government the good feeling and desire of the Opposition to co-operate with the Government. But the Government has rejected his overtures, and, if it presses for a division on this motion and if the Senate should decide that the regulation be disallowed, applicants for relief from onerous contracts will find themselves without means of obtaining justice. This would be entirely the fault of the Government. In spite of the disabilities which exist, I am not prepared to vote for the disallowance of these regulations and the removal from people who are suffering hardship under contracts, of the opportunity to obtain immediate relief. The Opposition has drawn the Government's attention in unmistakable terms to the pitfalls and difficulties created by these regulations. I shall not vote for the disallowance of the regulations simply because it is claimed that the tribunals which they provide might be ineffective. That would be a grave reflection on stipendiary magistrates and county court judges, who adjudicate in all sorts of legal problems. Whilst there may be differences of opinion as between one magistrate and another, it has never been suggested that the people have no confidence in the judiciary. Furthermore, these gentlemen are sometimes sworn in as royal commissioners to inquire into cases which do not fall within the ordinary ambit of their duties. Therefore they must be competent to deal with applications under these regulations. The Opposition has made out a strong case in support of the granting of the right of appeal to applicants, and if the Government does not accede to **Senator Spicer's** request for the establishment of a committee to inquire into this problem, it will not be able to claim in the future that its attention has not been drawn to this disability.I shall not vote for the disallowance of the regulations because I believe that some form of tribunal is necessary to handle applications for relief, and, if the regulations were disallowed, no such tribunals would exist. **Senator** COURTICE (Queensland; [10.28]. - **Senator Spicer** stated his case in favour of the disallowance of this regulation very thoroughly. But I have noticed that no honorable senators opposite have supported his arguments. His chief argument was that the regulations should be amended in order to provide for appeals in the ordinary way. The Government was fully seised of that aspect of the situation when the regulations were drafted, and the alteration that **Senator Spicer** proposedwould ob one of the moat serious that could be made. It would occasion very serious delay and expense and would delay the implementation of the Government's intentions, which should be put into effect expeditiously. I believe that the tribunals provided for in the regulations would deal with applications in a reasonable way and would remove a great deal of the hardship which is being occasioned by the present state of affairs in relation to contracts, leases, and rents. **Senator Spicer's** suggestion was not a good one, because it would involve a great deal of delay and expense. Therefore, his motion should be rejected by the Senate. If what **Senator Sampson** has said about leases be true - and I am surprised at his statement - the Government must make immediate provision to deal with that aspect of the matter. If necessary the Government could review the regulations. If, as **Senator Sampson** has said, no provision is made for policing contracts of that nature, other regulations should be promulgated to deal with that matter. {: #subdebate-21-0-s10 .speaker-K0W} ##### Senator ASHLEY:
Postmaster-General and Minister for Information · New South Wales · ALP £10.31]. - I recognize the importance of the statement made to-night by **Senator Sampson.** The Government definitely intended that leases should be included. The decision given by a judge to-day will be reviewed, and, if necessary, regulations will be .promulgated to cover leases. {: .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLeay: -- Will consideration be given to the other suggestions that have been made? {: .speaker-K0W} ##### Senator ASHLEY: -- I am not in a position -to reply to that question. The chief argument advanced by the Opposition has referred to the right of appeal, but appeals involve endless delays. I can visualize the case of a storekeeper, who, although not in a strong financial position, might be involved in a dispute over a neon sign, and might have to follow the matter as far as the Privy Council. {: .speaker-KTR} ##### Senator A J McLACHLAN:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT -- Appeals could be limited to the High Court, or even to the Supreme Court of a State. {: #subdebate-21-0-s11 .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE:
Victoria -- Ministers have my sympathy in this matter. At first the regulations were claimed to be without any flaws at all, but now it is admitted that leases were intended to be covered. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER:
WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP -- Whether the regulations are defective in regard to leases is a matter of interpretation. {: .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE: -- The judge who gave a decision on the matter to-day declared that if the Government meant leases to be covered, it was not so stated in the regulations. Since Ministers now admit the possibility of the need for slight amendments of the regulations, I suggest that it might be better to postpone the discussion until to-morrow, so that further consideration may be given to the matter. When the first appeal has been determined, the lower courts are invariably guided by the decision, and thus uniformity of judgment is secured throughout the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Senate **(Senator Collings)** claims that the Opposition has been wasting time by unnecessary discussion, but I 'ask him -why the Parliament has been called together, if it is not entitled to submit suggestions to the Government for the improvement of legislative machinery. Regulations of this kind are not considered in detail before they are promulgated, as are the various clauses of bills, and therefore the Opposition is well within its rights in offering suggestions for the improvement of regulations, yet Ministers declare that the Government is always right and that parliamentary discussion results only in a waste of time. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- Oh, no! {: .speaker-KR9} ##### Senator LECKIE: -- Because the Opposition suggested amendments, the Leader of the Senate accused us of wasting time at a most critical period of the war. Immediately regulations are criticized, the cry comes from Ministers opposite, ' " Look at the dreadful war in which we are engaged ! " It is unfair for Ministers to accuse the Opposition of wasting time. If the Government has no legislative programme to submit to the Senate, it, and not the Opposition, is guilty of wasting time in calling the Parliament together. In the House of Representatives, Ministers who realize their responsibility, and have some appreciation of the meaning of words, have recognized the necessity for slight amendments of regulations when defects have been pointed out by the Opposition; but in this chamber the Leader of the Senate claims that no regulation submitted by the Government can possibly be wrong. When the Opposition in this chamber points out the weaknesses of slip-shod regulations promulgated by the Government, all that the Leader of the Senate can say is, " The Opposition is wasting time ".' {: #subdebate-21-0-s12 .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON:
Minister for Aircraft Production · Victoria · ALP -- The fact that a certain judgment has been given in respect of one phase of the regulations does not necessarily imply that that judgment is sound. As has been pointed out by the Minister for External Territories **(Senator Fraser),** legal minds are frequently at variance, and it may be that the AttorneyGeneral **(Dr. Evatt)** is as reliable nil authority as the judge who determined to-day that leases were not covered by these regulations. The approach to this matter can either he subjective or objective, and we find that legal minds are reading into these regulations the fact that they do not apply to leases because the word " leases " is not mentioned. The regulations could be amended to include the word " leases so that judges could make an objective approach to the matter. Effect could then be given to the intention of the Government. All judges do not view legislation in the same light as legislators. They regard it as they think it ought to be viewed, and express their individual opinions. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- Contrary to their conscience, in some cases. {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON: -- I sometimes wonder whether they have a conscience in the true sense of the word. Legal training militates against the development of a good, healthy conscience. {: .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLeay: -- What about the training of an agitator? {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON: -- As the greatest agitator that the world has ever known was Jesus Christ, I regard it as a compliment to he referred to as an agitator. I agree with the Leader of the Senate that **Senator Spicer** has been putting up straw men for the purpose of knocking them down. These regulations have not yet been tested, and it is merely an assumption on the part of **Senator Spicer** to say that this or that will happen. He cannot dogmatize and say what will happen until something actually does happen. The Government does not claim to possess all of the wisdom in the community, or to be omnipotent ; it holds the view that necessity makes its own laws. War-time necessity has forced the Government to promulgate these regulations, which provide that contracts which have been entered into and cannot be fulfilled, or which will have consequences that are obviously unjust, shall be capable of amendment or cancellation. Such a provision is necessary. Let us suppose that bombs fall on Sydney or Melbourne as they have fallen on Darwin and that, in consequence, a man's business is ruined because enemy action has made the fulfilment of a contract impossible. **Senator Spicer** admits that legislation to meet such instances is necessary. All that the Government is attempting to do is to meet such a situation as well as it can be met. So far, the only fault that has been found with the regulations is that they are not in accordance with the procedure which **Senator Spicer** thinks should operate. They are, however, in accordance with the procedure which the Attorney-General **(Dr. Evatt)** thinks should be followed. Obviously, the only way to prove who is right and who is wrong is to allow the regulations to be put into operation so that they can be tested. It is only reasonable that, the Opposition should allow that opportunity to test the regulations. **Senator Spicer** says that he is more concerned with guiding principles and the right of appeal than with the application of common sense to the regulations, but I remind him that, in the last analysis, every law depends for its effectiveness on the common sense of the people. The power of the law is relative. The law, as passed by the Parliament and as given effect by the courts, can go only as far as the common sense of the people will permit. Any attempt to rule out common sense in the administration of the law is foolish. Magistrates are men with legal training and experience; otherwise they would not have been appointed. To them the Government says, "Here are regulations to deal with contracts which, in your opinion, should be either revised or cancelled ". Surely that is only reasonable in these abnormal times! In my opinion, every regulation should be tested before it is disallowed. In the case referred to, one legal mind is in conflict with other legal minds. Are we to say that the judge is right and that the Attorney-General and his advisers are wrong ? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- The trouble is that ne man's decision is made final. {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator CAMERON: -- The honorable senator holds the view that the judge is right and the Attorney-General and his officers wrong. The decision of the judge is not final simply because certain precise terms are not used. That is a matter which can easily be overcome. However carefully a legal document may be drawn, its meaning is a matter ot interpretation. I am sure that if there is a sympathetic approach by capable judges to these regulations very little fault will be found with them. {: #subdebate-21-0-s13 .speaker-K0N} ##### Senator ARNOLD:
New South Wales , - These regulations have been designed to meet circumstances which are unusual in the history of this country. Under normal conditions, our legal system would provide an equitable solution of the problems with which they deal. The regulations have been objected to by the Opposition on the grounds that the procedure to be followed is not tb, best possible, and that no right of appeal is provided for; but I point out that the Attorney-General **(Dr. Evatt)** who is a highly-qualified legal man, has given to them his considered judgment and therefore the Government believes that it is justified in acting on his decision which ha? the support of the Crown law officers. Only those contracts in which less than £200 is involved will be dealt with by a police magistrate, stipendiary magistrate or special magistrate; contracts involving more than £200 will be heard before a district court, a county court, or a local court of full jurisdiction. That arrangement provides for quick access to the courts, and will expedite decisions, whereas if the procedure advocated by **Senator Spicer** were resorted to, there would be congestion in the courts. The regulations have been designed to meet a war-time emergency and under our system of justice there is no cause for fear. When there is congestion in the courts, there is danger of inequitable decisions being given. Contracts with and makers of neon signs provide for a reduction of one-third of the rental during the course of the war. Then the full rental is to be paid. At present, neon signs are not allowed to be used and they therefore become a liability to those who have them. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator Spicer: -- And also to the company. {: .speaker-K0N} ##### Senator ARNOLD: -- That is so. Inability to use a sign may considerably affect a man's business, even to the extent of making it difficult for him to carry on. In that event, he may apply for a revision of his contract. Should he approach a court in the matter, the case will be heard promptly and a quick decision be given. The lessee of the sign may not be in a position to make an appeal to a higher court. If a right of appeal were allowed, the company, having huge financial resources, might force the case through the Supreme Court and the High Court, thereby involving the lessee of the sign in considerable expense. It is only right that the first court should decide the case, and so avoid that state of affairs. I see no reason why an appeal to a higher court is more likely to result in justice being done than if the decision is left to a lower court. Because of the danger of war-time damage, many traders are being forced to alter their trading activities, and therefore some means of providing simple justice and of righting existing wrongs is required. In my opinion, the procedure laid down in these regulations is the best that can be devised. {: #subdebate-21-0-s14 .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER:
Victoria *.- in reply* - I do not believe that the suggestions I have made were ever considered by the Attorney-General **(Dr. Evatt).** {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- I assure the honorable senator that they were considered by the Attorney-General. I can show him the evidence. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- I sent a letter to the Attorney-General on this matter on the 9th March. That would be about the time when he must have been leaving for the United States of America. I have not received a reply to that letter. When I inquired yesterday at the AttorneyGeneral's office as to what was the reply, I was informed that the letter had been sent to the Administration. In other words, a decision had not been got from the Attorney-General. The only reply I received in the matter was in consultation with the . Secretary to Ministers in the Senate, who informed me that my proposal had 'been considered, and had been rejected. After listening to the debate, it seems to me that most honorable senators, were they to express themselves freely, are of opinion that there should at least be some form of appeal. The need for it could not be better illustrated than by reference to the case which **Senator Sampson** cited. A judge of a county court has decided that leases are not contracts for the purpose of these regulations. Some people seem to be a little surprised at that decision;but I am not surprised at it. Under the regulations as they now stand, that is, with no right of appeal or co-ordinating authority of any kind, the position is that although that county court judge decided to refuse relief to **Mr. X** on the ground that the contract does not come within the regulations, we may get a decision to-morrow from a police magistrate, or another county court judge, giving relief under a lease. That shows how ridiculous is a system of this kind which provides no form of appeal likely to establish uniformity in the principles to be applied. That is why I am most concernedabout these regulations. Reference has been made to Neon Signs (Australasia) Limited. It seems to be assumed that the only problem is to decide how much relief is to be given to the person who is in possession of a sign. If applications involving that company are to be dealt with singly, we must face up to the situation that we are merely passing on the problem to somebody else. There is a loss in connexion with these particular things which is attributable to the war, but that loss is being carried not only , by the people who rent the signs, but also by the people who supply them. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- The company itself can be an applicant under these regulations.. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- Let us consider that proposition. A single case involving less than £200 is brought before a police magistrate. In considering what relief he shall give in that one case, he is to consider the effects of the relief tobe granted to, say, 3,000 other people who have contracts with Neon Signs (Australasia) Limited. No magistrate can do that. That is why I appeal in respect of the Neon signs company for a single tribunal at least which would be able to look at that company's position as a whole. Let us suppose that a police magistrate said to every person who rents these signs, "You are completely freed of your liability under your contract." That would create an entirely new set of problems. It would throw a tremendous liability on the shareholders of the company, and would involve them in a tremendous loss, I suppose that we shall then anticipate that the company in itsturn will come along to the tribunal to be relieved of other contracts, because it cannot meet its commitments as the result of the decisions of magistrates in individual cases. Thus the thing becomes a snowball. In such cases as that relating to the neon signs where thousands of parties have a contract with one other contractor, applications for relief could be referred to a single tribunal, and the whole relationship between the customers on the one hand and the supplier on the other could then be looked at as a whole and some general principles applied. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- The company can apply for relief under these application.'. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- It is not so easy as that. Let us assume that **Mrs. X** applies to a police magistrate for relief in respect of a neon sign which is exhibited outside her sweetshop. She claims that it is costing her so much a month, whereas she is not able to get any benefit from it. Neon Signs (Australasia) Limited then asks the police magistrate, in dealing with this particular application, to consider the ramifications of all its contracts. Is the company to take such action in every case? Is the magistrate to consider the ramifications of all the company's contracts in deciding what relief he shall give to **Mrs. X?** Must he also consider all the other contracts in respect of which other police magistrates and judges may have given relief? Must he guess the kind of relief which has been given to those other applicants? {: .speaker-L8E} ##### Senator Cameron: -- Cannot the honorable senator imagine that circumstances may vary in different cases? {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- Yes; but I also imagine that a tribunal which deals with all the contracts of one company, like theNeon Signs (Australasia) Limited, will be available to lay down a general principle application to all cases, and will thus be enabled to see at a glance the whole of the operations of the company in relation to its customers, and to see in advance what is going to be the effect of its decision on the customers and on the company. I do not think that any single police magistrate can possibly be in a position to do that. In order to do so, he will be obliged to engage in a long investigation in respect of every application brought before him. I am very disappointed at the attitude adopted by the Government in relation to this matter. When I see a regulation which I believe is capable of improvement, as I think this one is, I regard it as my duty to direct attention to the nature of the alterations which might be made. I agree that that is a matter of opinion; but I do not think that an opinion expressed off-hand and which does not involve a detailed consideration of the whole of the circumstances amounts to a proper consideration of a problem of this kind. The Government is thoroughly careless in introducing regulations dealing with matters of this kind. The history of the last few weeks is such that the Government could scarcely expect appreciation of any one in this community who understands what it is doing. But for the intervention of the Opposition one set of regulations introduced by this Government would have ruined thousands of people in this country. Unfortunately, the operation of those regulations in the course of about ten days ruined thousands of people who cannot recover their loss under the regulations even in their amended form. The position is much the same in respect of these regulations. We are told that, they have not yet been tested. Regulation 76 was tested for only ten days, and the Government was not even game to table it in Parliament. It appointed a joint committee to examine the regulation. That is an indication of the recklessness of the Government in the introduction of regulations. The conduct of its members in this chamber tonight is another example of its recklessness in these matters. One honorable senator said, " You have not allowed the regulations to be tested". The point is that we cannot allow a thing like this to be tested without creating the damage. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- We should create bigger damage if the regulations were not tested. {: .speaker-K6Z} ##### Senator SPICER: -- No. The only suggestions which have been made by honorable senators on this side have been made for the purpose, not of destroying, but improving these regulations, and for the purpose of avoiding the very difficulties which are likely to create real damage in the community. It is possible for men of reason to see where dangers lie; and it is possible to devise ways by which some of these dangers can be avoided. That is all I have suggested to-night. But the Government says, " No, we have made these regulations, and they must stand. We shall allow them to be tested." Thousands of cases, perhaps, will be decided according to no principle at all, because no principle will exist. They will be decided according to the particular whim of a particular tribunal with no principle to guide it as to how it should reach its decision. I repeat that I am greatly disappointed at the attitude of the Government towards these regulations. It could well have appointed a committee of the Senate, or a joint committee of both Houses, to consider the propositions I have made. I still commend those propositions to the Government. I am not bound by any one of them in particular ; but they are worthy of consideration. I believe that before long, perhaps, we may yet see some of those proposals inserted in these regulations The sooner that is clone, the better it will be from the point of view of the administration of these regulations. Question resolved in the negative. {: .page-start } page 356 {:#debate-22} ### ADJOURNMENT The Right Honorable R. G. Casey: Appointment as Minister of State of United Kingdom : Statement by Government Spokesman - Air Transport for Members of Fighting Services - Enemy Aliens : Internment ; activities- MajorGeneral Bennett - Taxation of Service Men - Reserved Occupations - Acquisition of Pea Crop - Rail Transport of Members of Parliament - Taxation of Profits - Defence: Secret Meeting of Senators. Motion (by **Senator Collings)** proposed - That the Senate do now adjourn. {: #debate-22-s0 .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLEAY:
Leader of the Opposition · South Australia -- In the House of Representatives to-day the Prime Minister **(Mr. Curtin)** tabled a White Paper relating to the appointment of the Right Honorable R. G. Casey to the position of British Minister in the Middle East, but I have been informed by the Leader of the Senate **(Senator Collings)** that that White Paper is not to be tabled in this chamber. While regretting that it was necessary for the Prime Minister to table the White Paper at all, I suggest that when important documents are to be tabled in Parliament, it is very discourteous of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Senate not to appreciate the fact that the Senate has equal rights with the House of Representatives in all matters, excepting those relating to certain financial and taxation measures. I. hope that the Leader of the Senate will see that in future the Senate is not treated in this manner. I repeatthat I regret that it was necessary for the Prime Minister to announce that he proposed to table a White Paper on this subject. In times such as these, it should be the object of all of us to strive for political unity. The Opposition stands for unity amongst the Allies and within the Empire, because it realizes that anything that tends to create disunity will disrupt our war effort. I understand that it is the wish of the Government that this incident should be regarded as closed, and I agree that that is very desirable. {: .speaker-K7P} ##### Senator Collings: -- Then why open it ? {: .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLEAY: -- I do so to enter a protest against the manner in which the Senate has been treated. 1 take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work done by the Right Honorable R. G. Casey in the United States of America on behalf of the Commonwealth, and to congratulate him upon his new appointment. There can be no doubt that **Mr. Casey's** work in the part of the world in which he is to serve, will not only be of great service to Great Britain but also to Australia and the Empire generally. There is another matter to whichI should like to make special reference. I protest emphatically against the action of the person designated the Government spokesman. It is unpardonable and deplorable that this so-called Government spokesman, whoever he may be, was allowed to divulge to the world the contents of a private and confidential cable of the utmost importance from the Prime Minister of Great Britain to the Prime Minister of Australia. I hope that the Leader of the Senate will place this matter before the Prime Minister, and that the people of Australia will be told who the Government spokesman was on this particular occasion. It has been said that the Government spokesman who made the statement in this instance was the Prime Minister himself. If not, then was it the paid Publicity Officer of the Government, or some other person in Canberra, because the cable mentioned was sent to the Prime Minister? I hope that it will never happen again. It would do enormous harm to Australia if men occupying important official positions overseas thought that their confidential cables were to be divulged to the world by a Government spokesman at Canberra. {: .speaker-JQY} ##### Senator Courtice: -- How did the Prime Minister hear of **Mr. Casey's** appointment? Over the wireless! {: .speaker-KUA} ##### Senator McLEAY: -- The Prime Minister knew on the 14th March that **Mr. Churchill** intended to offer the position to **Mr. Casey.** If the honorable senator wants any evidence of that I refer him to the cable sent by **Mr. Churchill** to the Prime Minister on 14th March which read: - >I am greatly obliged and will now telegraph to Casey. Of course he can wait to discuss everything with Evatt. We have been told that the Prime Minister was peeved because he heard the announcement of **Mr. Casey's** appointment over the air. The Government spokesman announced .the contents of the cable and then the Prime Minister informed **Mr. Churchill** that he proposed to table in Parliament a White Paper containing all the cables on the matter. It is a deplorable and disgusting state of affairs. Whether by accident or design the Government spokesman's statement misled the people of Australia and the people of Great Britain because it did not quote **Mr. Churchill's** cable of the 14th March which I have just read. If it were done by design, then it is further evidence of the Labour party's policy of isolationism and of the Government's antiBritish attitude. {: #debate-22-s1 .speaker-KQF} ##### Senator LAMP:
Tasmania -- I desire to make an appeal to the Minister for Air **(Mr. Drakeford),** through his representative in this chamber, to make available to members of the fighting forces facilities to travel between Tasmania and the mainland when on leave. A short time ago seven army men informed me that they could save at least four days of their leave if they were permitted to travel by air instead of being compelled to depend upon the boat service. I was asked to see what could be done in that regard. Unfortunately those seven men made the supreme sacrifice in the battle of Java. I contend that if it is at all possible to provide improved travelling facilities for members of our fighting forces, we should do so. What happens at present in regard to the air services is this : When people travel to or from Tasmania by air on holiday it is whispered to them as soon as they land that they should book for the return trip. The result is that the aeroplanes are always full and a prospective passenger is lucky to get a booking a fortnight ahead. I contend that members of our fighting forces should have precedence over holiday-makers, and I appeal to the Minister to do something, by regulation if necessary, to provide seats for soldiers and airmen travelling to and from Tasmania on leave. Recently a nurse who had to join a hospital ship in Sydney was unable to secure a passage in the aeroplane. She was informed at the airways office in Launceston that the aeroplanes were booked out. I stood down in order to give the nurse a seat, yet the aeroplane contained holiday-makers and others engaged on non-essential travel. Our air services use thousands of gallons of petrol every week, and as petrol is urgently required by our fighting services, the only justification for its use in that way is the provision of a transport service for officials engaged on war work and members of our fighting services. The Government should give every consideration to those many excellent men and women in the various services, and make sure that accommodation is available for them when they require it. That could be done if a certain number of seats were retained until the day before an aeroplane was due to leave, so that last-minute bookings could be made. {: #debate-22-s2 .speaker-JQP} ##### Senator COOPER:
Queensland -- On 21st February a certain returned soldiers' organization in Brisbane - The Diggers' organization - applied for a permit to hold a meeting in the Domain in order to discuss the necessity to intern all enemy aliens. The organization was granted a permit by the State Government, but the day before the meeting was to be held, word was received from the military authorities that the meeting could not be held. Strong objection was taken by the organization to what they considered was an attack upon liberty and freedom of speech. Had the meeting taken place there is every reason to believe that it would have been one of the biggest public gatherings ever seen in Brisbane. The internment of enemy aliens in Queensland is a very important matter, especially in the northern districts. I had an opportunity during the recent Parliamentary recess of visiting Queensland, especially the Townsville district, and of making my own observations in regard to this problem. I understand that during the last few weeks the Government has made a much greater effort to clean up this menace. It was put to me that in the event of parachute landings by the *Japanese* - a contingency which is quite probable - many of these aliens would be ready to assist the enemy and provide shelter. The people in the northern areas consider that more attention should be given to the internment of enemy aliens. [ have been supplied with a copy of the following letter from the Northern Queensland District Council of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, which was sent to the Prime Minister **(Mr. Curtin)** on the 9th March: - >A meeting of members of Northern Queensland District Council of the league was held on the 3rd instant, when there was an animated debate on this vital subject. Reviewing what had happened since the despatch of our telegram to the Prime Minister, members appreciated the prompt action taken and realized the marly difficulties in rounding up mid transporting to proper quarters large numbers of men. Disappointment and dissatisfaction were, however, generally expressed that the internment of these enemy aliens has not he carried out on a more extensive scale. It was particularly stressed that reference to ' enemy aliens " intended to cover all enemy subjects, naturalized or unnaturalized, as it is our considered opinion that the naturalized enemy alien is a source of greater danger than t lie unnaturalized, as he is able to cloak his nativities under his naturalization. Our members are able to speak with authority on this subject, having had years of close contact with these people, especially in the sugar areas - I would point out that our district embraces the coastal districts from Proserpine to Ingham mid extends west to Boulia and Mount Isa. We are therefore particularly anxious to impress on the Government the urgency of having u complete round-up of all enemy subjects, whether naturalized or unnaturalized, without delay, faced as we are with the prospects of early enemy action. It would be appreciated by members of my council to receive some indication as to the Government's real intentions on this very vital matter. > >Commending the matter to your earnest consideration and thanking you in anticipation for your further communications. This organization is appreciative of the work that has been done by the Government in the last few weeks, but it considers that many of the enemy aliens who are still at large in the northern districts of Queensland constitute a menace to the safety of that State. A number of prominent residents asked me to appeal to the Government to take further and more drastic action to round up these people. To-day, I received a letter on the same subject from **Mr. H.** S. Williams, of Brisbane, who is a Company Commander in the Voluntary Defence Corps. His letter is as follows : - >I am a Company Commander in the Voluntary Defence Corps; the membership is well over 200 men, and they reside in Griffiths and Moreton electorates. > >We are all very concerned at the apathy displayed by the Government in the matter of the internment of enemy aliens. It is considered they are a distinct menace to the country and could form part of the mighty fifth column which has proved of such value in the strategy and tactics of our enemies. Our men think it unfair that these aliens should be free to work their machinations at such a serious time in our country's history and ask you, as their parliamentary representative, to do your utmost to induce the Federal Government to intern all enemy aliens at once. > >A copy of this letter has been sent to both members of the House of Representatives for above, and I hope we will not seek your support in vain. There is no need for me to tell honorable senators what has happened in the countries that have been conquered by Germany and Japan. Fifth columns played an effective part in defeating all of them. I know that the Government does not intend to allow Australia to have a fifth column, but such an organization could be developed by enemy aliens. Naturalized enemy aliens often have better opportunities to do damage than unnaturalized aliens. I ask the Government to do all that it can to speed up the work that it has already commenced in Queensland in order to remove this menace from our midst. {: #debate-22-s3 .speaker-K2F} ##### Senator BRAND:
Victoria .- This afternoon, the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, in answering my question as to the future employment of Major-General Bennett, said that the Government had in view an important appointment for him. I asked the question on behalf of a large section of the public, which desires to see more stability in the command of Australia's Army. In other words, they wish spare eligible generals to be allotted to definite commands, with one senior general in supreme command. This officer should be a man with whom General MacArthur can confer regarding offensive operations, and one who would carry out his decisions. With Japan standing at our back door, this matter requires urgent attention. I now draw attention to whatI consider requires an amendment of our Income Tax Assessment Act. A letter has reached me from a person who was in a good civil position before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force, foregoing a salary of about £9 a week to accept 5s. a day to serve his country. At the end of the financial year, he sent in his income tax return, showing the salary received during the period of the year when he was in civil employment. On receiving his assessment, he was surprised to find that the income tax authorities had added to his taxable income an amount representing his keep for 206 days in camp. It was news to me to learn that the cost of a soldier's daily ration is subject to federal income tax. The act ought to be altered to remove such an imposition. The Government is to be commended for its action in drastically reviewing the list of occupational exemptions from military service, but what of the exemptions granted on other grounds? I am constantly receiving letters pointing out the laxity with which exemptions are granted. In a letter to me last week, a farmer, who has three sons in the fighting services, strongly condemned the Government for asking him to register for service connected with the war, when four sons of another farmer - each of military age - are exempted from service in the fighting forces. Both fathers are engaged in the same type of farming, with approximately the same acreage. "I am just under 60 years ", he wrote, " and willing to do my share if the Government will make others do their bit. What is the use of the Prime Minister talking of a total war effort if man-power officers issue exemption on the flimsiest excuse ". My correspondent also drew attention to the Postmaster-General's Department giving a mail contract to a physically fit man of military age in preference to a man over the age for military service, hut able to do the work. I agree entirely with what my farmer friend has written. Every exemption must be reviewed, not by the local man-power officer, but by an official specially detailed to . look into doubtful oases. {: #debate-22-s4 .speaker-KOJ} ##### Senator HERBERT HAYS:
Tasmania -- I direct the attention of the Government to a matter which is occasioning much concern in the minds of a number of primary producers in Tasmania. The Government has acquired the entire blue-pea crop from the Tasmanian growers. They have no quarrel whatever with the Government for acquiring the crop, if blue-peas are needed for the fighting forces and others, because they consider that Australia should have first call on their product. However, the conditions under which the crop was acquired have caused not only disappointment but also hostility to the Government, at a time when the Government should hesitate to take any action contrary to public feeling. Blue-peas produced in Australia have been sought by the United Kingdom Government each year. Substantial quantities have been shipped to Great Britain, and the price paid to the growers both last year and this year has been £1 a bushel f.o.b., and in some cases more than that. This year the United Kingdom Government offered, through the Department of Commerce, to purchase all of the bluepeas that could be produced. The Department of Commerce passed the request on to the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, and an appeal was made to the growers to plant heavily because of the ready market provided by the United Kingdom. An implied contract was entered into by Great Britain to take the entire crop. Last year the growers in Tasmania estimated that they would be able to produce 16,000 tons, but as the result of adverse seasonal conditions the crop will not amount to half of that quantity. The Commonwealth Government knew all of these facts and, although the crop for this year had been virtually sold to go to the United Kingdom, some shipments being already on their way overseas, the Government acquired the balance of the crop at a price 25 per cent. lower than that which was obtainable on the open market. The consternation and disappointment of the growers can well be imagined. The crop should have been acquired by the Government at least at a price approximating to that offered by the United Kingdom Government under the terms of the implied contract. The Common wealth Government cannot justify its action in compulsorily acquiring the crop, which, had virtually been sold for £1 a bushel, at a reduction of 25 per cent. The growers are as loyal as any other section of the community, but they are naturally annoyed at the Government's action. The Government is making contracts with other primary producers for die purchase of vegetables at good prices because there is an acute shortage of vegetables in Australia. Its treatment of the blue-pea-growers is tantamount to the making of a contract with a primary producer for the purchase of his commodity and then reducing the contract price by 25 per cent, [f the growers are to receive a fair deal, and the implied contract into which they entered at sowing time is to be honoured, the Government cannot justify the action taken by it with regard to the present crop. Had the Government not acquired the crop, the growers would have received £1 a bushel for their commodity and would have been paid cash as soon as the peas were marketed. As far as I am aware, no payment has yet been received by the growers although they have had liabilities to meet with regard to seed, labour and all harvesting operations. No information has been received by the growers as to when payment is likely to be made for their crop. The Government is expected to set an example to those worthy people on the land who are willing to assist it in time of war by producing necessary crops. They are willing to do all they can to help in the war effort, but the Government is shaking their confidence for the future when it may again desire to appeal to them to do the things which they alone can do. Even at this late hour, I urge the Government to review its decision and see that justice is meted out to these growers. The British authorities are ready and anxious to take a portion of the crop, and blue peas stand about fifth on the priority list for shipment overseas. I believe that the British Government lias asked that .1,000 tons of peas should be released this month, and that it is willing to meet all transport costs. The Commonwealth Constitution provides that if the Commonwealth Government acquires any property belonging to the citizens it shall do so on fair and reasonable terms, but I contend that the condi- ti ons under which the pea crop was taken over from the growers were not fair and reasonable. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court fixed the basic wage at £1 a day, would members of the Government consider that the workers had had a fair deal if, under National Security regulations, that wage were reduced to 15s. a day? I am surprised at the action of the Government, but it is not too late for it to make amends and see that justice is done to the worthy section of producers to whom I have referred. {: #debate-22-s5 .speaker-K0Z} ##### Senator AYLETT:
Tasmania -- The Government did not make any contract with the growers of peas but the peas were planted on the definite understanding that the growers would receive at least £1. a bushel. According to information received by the Premier of Tasmania from the Australian High Commissioner in London, the Department of Commerce and the Agent-General for Tasmania, the British Ministry for Food was prepared to take 30,000 tons of peas at £30 a ton sterling. The farmers are very disappointed that they will not receive about £1 a bushel for their product. Information was received that a portion of the crop was sold at as high a price as 26s. a bushel. Seeing that the Prices Commissioner has seen fit to fix the price of peas at 15s. a bushel, I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce will indicate to-morrow whether the price of 15s. a bushel will be clear to the growers, or whether insurance, storage, wharfage and expenses of the board will be deducted, thus bringing the price down to approximately 13s. a bushel. This year growers in Tasmania have experienced an adverse season, and it now appears that the crop will not total more than about 6,000 tons, in which case even a clear 15s. a bushel would not be a particularly attractive price to the growers. {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator Keane: -- -How did the growers carry on when the price was only 6s. 6d. a bushel? {: .speaker-K0Z} ##### Senator AYLETT: -- The Minister is referring to a period over the last ten years, which included a depression, during which time the price of peas was very low. Damaged peas which were sold at from 3s. to 4s. a bushel were also included in the average price of 6s. 6d. a bushel. This was an unprofitable price to the farmers, because allowance has to be made for the cost of seed, harvesting, threshing, and other operations, leaving about 15s. an acre for ploughing, cultivating and looking after the crop during its growth, and for the rent of land. That would be definitely an unpayable proposition. Blue peas are grown as a rotation crop, and farmers plant them in the hope of receiving an improved price in the following season. Peas are a very delicate crop and are most susceptible to damage by rain and frost. I understand that negotiations are in progress for the purchase of 6,000 tons next year at 15s. a bushel, but I am doubtful if that quantity will be available. If the farmers respond well and the crop realizes 12,000 tons, will the Government then give to pea-growers similar consideration to that received by the growers of other primary products such as wheat and wool? Will the Government acquire (he whole of their crop for the duration of the war and for twelve months afterwards ? {: .speaker-KE4} ##### Senator Keane: -- The peas were acquired at the request of the Government of Tasmania- {: .speaker-K0Z} ##### Senator AYLETT: -- Nobody has followed the history of this matter more closely than I have. In the first place, owing to the merchants making a profit of 9s. to 10s. a bushel, consideration was given to the practicability of forming a pea pool to be controlled by the growers themselves. The growers were quite satisfied that they could get £11s. a bushel for their product; but, when the proposal was submitted to the Commonwealth Government, it was not inclined to acquire the crop and establish a pool. We went further. The Deputy Prices Commissioner in Hobart intimated that if the crop were acquired, the price of peas would be fixed at 15s. a bushel. He had been in consultation with the merchants. When that announcement was made, we dropped the idea of establishing a pea pool for fear of getting only 15s. a bushel. We wanted 21s. a bushel for the grower. After that, the Commonwealth Government found it required the peas itself, and set up a pea pool, and I understand that peas will be acquired at.15s. a bushel, which was the price decided on by the merchants in the first place. I hope that the Government will see that 15s. a bushel clear is paid to the growers, and that the pool will operate for the duration of the war and twelve months afterwards, as is the case in connexion with other pools. {:#subdebate-22-0} #### Thursday, 26 March 1942 {: #subdebate-22-0-s0 .speaker-KS7} ##### Senator ALLAN MacDONALD:
Western Australia -- I ask the Minister for the Interior **(Senator Collings)** to give consideration to the arrangements for the transport of Western Australian members of this Parliament to and from Canberra. I suggest that he should instruct an official of the Commonwealth Works Department of Perth to arrange for the transport by rail of members travelling between Perth and Canberra. The present position is most unsatisfactory. On the 5 th March I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. In view of the Prime Minister's statement that the limitation of profits to 4 per cent will not apply until the 1st July of this year, does that mean that the tax will apply to the profits made in the gold-mining industry from the 1st July, 1941, to the 30th June,' 1942, or will the tax be collected monthly on the profits commencing on the 1st July, 1942? 1. In view of the fact that a number of gold-mining companies have already distributed interim dividends for their operations commencing on the 1st July last year, is the distribution of these dividends now prohibited if over the 4 per cent, limit under section 5, of the regulations in question? 2. In the amending regulations or taxing legislation to bo introduced on the 1st July next, will the Minister representing the Treasurer insist on a proper definition of profits. These should be expressly defined, as being the taxable profits within the meaning of section 3 of the War Time Company Tax Assessment Act, which is the taxable income of the taxpayer as assessed under the Commonwealth Income Tax Assessment Act? I have now received the following answers to my questions : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Your attention is invited to the statement made by the Prime Minister on the 4th instant that the taxation proposals relating to the limitation of profits would not operate until the financial year commencing on 1st July. 1942. The statement means that the proposed tax will not apply to profit derived by a. business during the year end ing 30th June, 1942, but it will apply to profit derived during the year commencing on 1st July, 1942. It is not proposed to collect the tax monthly but to assess the amount payable on the year'* profit. 1. As the tax will not apply to profits derived during the year ended 30th June, 1942, the distribution of the dividends referred to in your second question will not be affected. 2. Full consideration will be given to your suggestion that a proper definition of profits " be inserted in the proposed taxing measure. No doubt taxable income as assessed under the Income Tax Assessment Act will form the basis for the ascertainment of profit for purposes of the proposed tax. [ thank the Minister for his courtesy in having these questions submitted to the Treasurer and for the answers which have been supplied to me. {: #subdebate-22-0-s1 .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR:
New South Wales -- I draw the attention of the Senate to the activities of enemy aliens in this country. An enemy alien can, if be so desires, and if he has the means to lo so, obtain the possession of property in Australia such as factories, flats or -Iia res in companies. Many enemy aliens in that way are doing their best to sabotage our war effort. I urge the Government to issue immediately regulations prohibiting enemy aliens from possessing property in this country. Another matter associated with the treatment of enemy aliens was referred to me in the early days of the war, and I again bring it under notice. Notwithstanding that the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, as well as the investigation branch associated with the Army, in addition to the Minister, may decide that an. alien should be interned, his case must go before a committee of three before he can be placed n an internment camp. The committee consists of a citizen, a retired police magistrate, and a legal gentleman. In -Vew South Wales the legal representative is a gentleman who is a good representative of the class to which he belongs. The committee of three to which I have referred may allow an enemy alien to go free. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator Fraser: -- That is not so. {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator ARTHUR: -- An enemy alien who is interned is given the right of appeal. When these appeals are heard, strings are frequently pulled. Two enemy aliens who were released from an internment camp last January are still at large, walking about the streets of Sydney and doing their best to sabotage Australia's war effort. Regulations should be issued to provide that an enemy alien who has been interned shall be kept in custody for the duration of the war. It should not be possible for parasitical lawyers, many of whom are fifth columnists, to obtain the release of these aliens. 1 recognize that there must be a distinction between the naturalized enemy alien and the real enemy alien who has been the subject of a report by the military authorities. In his case, ne appeal should be entertained, and he should be debarred from holding property. Earlier this evening I mentioned the names of two enemy aliens in connexion with another matter, and I now wish to say that they have purchased twoblocks of flats, one at Point Piper overlooking the harbour and the harbour bridge, and another at Vaucluse. They are drawing £60 a week from each of these blocks and, though they are interned the wife of one is free and may be given a power of attorney to carry on business on their behalf. That should certainly not. be permitted. {: #subdebate-22-0-s2 .speaker-JQY} ##### Senator COURTICE:
Queensland -- I wish to impress upon the Government the advisability of holding a secret meeting of the Senate todiscuss matters associated with the defence of Australia, and particularly of Queensland. At such a meeting I would be able to say many things which I would, not like to say in open session. We al! realize that the present position is veryserious. All along the coastal districts of Australia there are men, many of them: past military age, but good rifle shots, and keen to serve, who are prepared togive their lives if necessary in the defenceof Australia. However, they need equipment, and this is one of the matters which could be profitably discussed at a secret, meeting. Such meetings have been held before in the other chamber with membersof the House of Representatives present, but they have not been altogether a success. I do not want a long meeting,, but merely an opportunity for honorablesenators to bring before the Government matters which they think should be brought to the attention of the Minister. {: #subdebate-22-0-s3 .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER:
Minister for External Territories · Western Australia · ALP -- It is not correct to say that enemy aliens are allowed to transact business in connexion with property. They must have permission from the Government before they can do so, and many applications which I have handled have been refused, even in the -case of naturalized aliens. Neither is it correct that interned enemy aliens can give a power of attorney to their wives, and thus transact business just as freely as can ordinary citizens. {: .speaker-K0P} ##### Senator Arthur: -- The Minister does not know what he is talking about. I can prove what I have said. {: .speaker-KKR} ##### Senator FRASER: -- As a matter of fact, an ordinary citizen to-day must obtain permission from the Capital Issues Advisory Board before he can build a residence. I am pleased that **Senator Cooper** raised the matter of enemy aliens in Northern Queensland. I . wish honorable senators to understand that it is sometimes very difficult to deal with naturalized aliens married to Australian women, whose children, being born here, are Australians. It is necessary to have substantial grounds for interning such men. Even so, I can assure the honorable senator that many of them have, in fact, been interned. Reference was made to Major-General Bennett. That is a matter for the Advisory War Council and for theChiefs of Staff, and I have no doubt that it is receiving their attention. Question resolved in the affirmative. {: .page-start } page 363 {:#debate-23} ### PAPERS The following papers were pre sented : - Senate adjourned at 12.18 a.m. (Thursday).

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