25 June 1943

16th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read, prayers.

page 354



Senator ASHLEY:
Postmaster-General · New South Wales · ALP

by leave - I move -

That the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, so far as members of the Senate are concerned, hare leave to sit during the sittings nf the Senate on Monday and Tuesday, the 28th and 29th June, 1943, respectively.

I understand that the committee desires to complete its report for presentation, to the Parliament.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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Senator FOLL:

– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state the conditions under which licences -were recently granted to four Communist newspapers permitting their publication in the capital cities of Australia? Will he also say whether any newsprint has been made available from the newsprint pool in order to enable those newspapers to be published?

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

– At the time of the suppression of the Communist organization, it had been publishing certain newspapers. As a corollary to the lifting of the ban on the organization, it became entitled to a permit to publishthose newspapers. About 29 tons of newsprint belonging to the organization which had been seized is, I believe, still held by the Government. The organization has made application to me for 83 tons to provide it with a sufficient supply for a year. That application was referred to the newsprint pool, and has been declined. No newsprint has been issued by me to the Communist organization.

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Senator COLLETT:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

Will the Minister consider directing the Australian Broadcasting Commission to arrange and broadcast a “ Command Performance “ so that a message and greetings to the services and people of the United States of America may be conveyed on the lines of that recently addressed by our ally to the services and people of Australia?

Senator ASHLEY:

– I shall not consider directing the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but the honorable senator’s question has been brought to the notice of the commission.

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Transfer of Land

Senator COLLETT:

asked the Minis ter representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -

What regulations, made under the National Security Act, or other acts, govern or permit of the sale or transfer of landed property to aliens or naturalized aliens?

Senator ASHLEY:

– The Attorney General has supplied the following answer : -

The National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations prohibit the sale of land, without the consent of the Treasurer, to all persons, whether they be naturalized born British subjects or otherwise. In addition, the National Security (Lund Transfer) Regulations absolutely prohibit the sale of laud to enemy aliens and prohibit, without the con sent of the AttorneyGeneral, the sale of land to naturalized persons of enemy origin or to subjects of countries in enemy occupation.

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Operations in Greece and Crete - Repatriation.

Senator AMOUR:

asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -

  1. Has his attention been drawn to an official publication by the British Ministry of Information on military operations during the present war in Greece and Crete?
  2. Is it a fact that this publication pays extraordinary tributes to the tenacity, courage and fighting ability of the Australian troops in those theatres of war?
  3. Will he arrange for his department to have this publication circulated to the Australian press andpromulgated generally among all units of the Australian fighting services?
Senator ASHLEY:

– The matter has already been brought to my notice, and the department is taking steps to obtain a supply of the publication.

Senator BRAND:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -

  1. Have any steps been taken to declare specified areas within the Commonwealth as “ combat areas “ for the purpose of giving effect to section 55a of the Repatriation Act, dealing with preference of employment to members of the forces?
  2. Will instructions be given for the insertion of the words “served outside Australia “ or “ served in a combat area “ on the certificate of discharge of members of the forces who have so served?
Senator CAMERON:
Minister for Aircraft Production · VICTORIA · ALP

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

  1. No. It is not considered that the necessity has yet arisen.
  2. This is a matter which comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Army, to whom the matter has been referred.

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Senator SAMPSON:

asked the Minis ter for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. What arc the powers of the Tea Control Board ?
  2. Can the board alter the status of any firm trading in tea?
  3. What were the names of the members of the sub-committee set up by the Tea Control Board to define “secondary wholesaler”?
  4. Has the Tea Control Board power to deprive any firm or individual who has been dealing in tea by wholesale and retail for many years past from continuing to doso?
  5. Does the board override the Prices Commissioner’s regulations regarding discounts enjoyed prior to price control?
  6. What constitutes a “ secondary wholesaler “ registered with the Tea Control Board 1
  7. What is the meaning of “ licensed primary wholesaler ‘“>
  8. Can a firm or individual be both a “primary wholesaler “ and “ secondary wholesaler”’
  9. Are there any secondary wholesalers in Tasmania V If so, what are their names?
  10. Are secondary wholesalers prohibited from selling tea by retail?
Senator KEANE:

– The information is being obtained.

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Senator WILSON:

asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that the Treasurer stated, during the Third Liberty Loan campaign, that it costs £400 per annum to maintain a soldier in an area of operations?
  2. If so, will the Minister inform the Senate how much it costs, including wage, to maintain a member or the Civil Constructional Corps (a.) in a base area, (6) in an area of operations?
Senator KEANE:

– The Treasurer states that inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.

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Debate resumed from the 24th June (vide page 311), on motion by Senator Keane -

That the following paper be printed: - “ Financial Statement, 24th June, 1943 “.

Debate (on motion by Senator MoLeay) adjourned.

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Senator WILSON:
South Australia

.- I move-

That the Senate is of opinion that the repatriation and rehabilitation of members of the fighting services will involve temporary difficulties of adjustment at the close of the war; that these difficulties will be aggravated if there is then a wholesale immediate demobilization; that the rate of demobilization should therefore be related to the availability of civil employment; and that to give effect to this policy no member of the fighting services should, after the termination of hostilities, be discharged (except for disciplinary or the like reasons) unless and until he has civil employment or has refused a reasonable offer of employment.

I ask for the support of this motion by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. During recent months, appreciation of the services of our fighting men has been expressed generally. We all have a sense of gratitude to them and a determination to see that those who have done so much for Australia shall not be dumped when the war is over. I urge honorable senators to discuss this matter on a higher plane than that of some of the debates that have taken place in this Parliament recently. Something more than preference in employment is necessary for our fighting men. Legislation providing for preference to returned soldiers was found to be essential, but I ask the Senate to express the opinion that something further is necessary, because a number of men in the fighting services, even though preference be granted, are not “ in the race “ - to put it in common parlance - in the competition for civil employment. Many of these young men left school at the age of 17 or 18 years, and immediately enlisted in the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force. They have had no trade or occupation; they have not made the contacts that a lad ordinarily makes in commerce and industry. They have been taught and trained to fight; they have been trained well, and they will fight well until victory is won. Although their pay has been low compared with that received by civilians, the men in the fighting services have not complained; they have realized that Australia, and, indeed, the Empire, is fighting for its very existence. They know that everything depends on the winning of the war, and therefore their one thought is to get it over as quickly as possible. But these men are troubled about what is to become of them in the future. The longer the war lasts, the less opportunity they will have to compete with those who have not gone away, and are now firmly entrenched in commerce and industry, because they have made contacts which will assist them in their future careers. I ask, therefore, not only that the Parliament should make it perfectly clear to servicemen that their future will be assured, but, in addition, that that assurance be given now. The discipline and morale of the fighting services is a credit to Australia, but the longer we postpone putting their minds at rest the more we endanger their morale. In the Middle East high tributes were paid to Australian troops by General Alexander, General Montgomery, and other leaders who said that they were among the best disciplined and the best fighting troops in the Allied cause. Those tributes to our fighting services are an honour to Australia. It is essential that that high morale and excellent discipline shall remain. These men will take a big part in the future of Australia; but I assure the Senate that it has been rather a bitter shock to many of those who have returned to Australia to see the lack of discipline that exists at home. While this unfairness continues, it cannot fail to have a worrying effect on these young men, who will wonder what is to happen to them in the future. This motion aims at their protection ; it provides, in effect, that when the war is over, the Government will not be in a position to say simply, “ You have done a grand job. Thank you. Here is your discharge. Now go out and look for work “. Rather, will it say to them, “ We asked you to risk your lives to protect this country. You offered your lives, and some of your mates have given their lives. Those of you who have come back will not be discarded”. What is required is a simple, plain statement, guaranteeing that these men will be kept in the Army, where they will be fed, clothed, trained and disciplined until civilian employment for them is available. That is not a tremendous thing to ask. The country needed these men in time of war; it needs them in time of peace also. Until they - can be usefully employed, they should, and must, be kept in the armed forces. That would not mean such a tremendous obligation as may appear at first sight. For thousands of them jobs will be waiting when the war is over. Those men will ask for and obtain their discharge as soon as hostilities cease, and they will immediately resume their civil occupations. A further large number will be needed as members of Australia’s permanent army* I trust that never again will the defences of this country be allowed to get in the pitiable state in which they were in 1931. For many years to come it will be necessary to maintain a large permanent army in Australia, and for that army a large number of the younger men now in the armed forces will be required. This motion is designed to cover the remainder - those who have no jobs awaiting them, and who will not be required in the permanent forces. I suggest that, unless they themselves express a desire to get out of the Army, these men should be kept in the forces, where they will be fed, clothed and paid during the post-war reconstruction period. Honorable senators will no doubt ask what they will do during that period. That question is easily answered. The Australian soldier is the most adaptable person in the world; there is hardly anything that he cannot do. But quite apart from that aspect, this proposal is worth while; even if these men were given no useful work to do, they would be kept trained and disciplined, their teeth and their general health would be looked after, and their high standard of discipline and morale would be maintained. Far be it for me to suggest that during the reconstruction period they should remain idle. I assure the Senate that there is nothing that the Australian “digger” loathes more than idleness, or, as he calls it, “ being mucked about “. What I suggest should take place during the reconstruction period is that the men should be trained for the civilian occupations to which they will go two or three years after the war has ceased. Australia willneed many big works carried out; but many of the works will not need large numbers of men for some years after the cessation of hostilities. There will be a change-over period, during which factories will have to be erected, plant procured, raw materials produced and purchased, and so on. During that period the men could be trained to go into those industries when the preparatory work has been completed. I suggest that during the postwar interim period the men should be retained in the Army, where they should be classified and trained for the jobs that they are to be given. In other words, I suggest intelligent planning. The Government will say, “ We propose to establish, or see established, or assist in establishing, such and’ such an industry “.

Senator Ashley:

– Does the honorable senator suggest government industries?

Senator WILSON:

– I do not suggest that the proposal should be limited to government industries; that would depend on circumstances. There could be both private and government industries. I suggest that the Government should look ahead, and say, “ Such and such an industry will he established. It will take, say, three years from the cessation of hostilities, and it will require 2,000 employees. Therefore, we will allocate out of the armed forces 2,000 men who will be trained for that particular job. When the preparatory work has been completed the men will be ready to step out of the Army into the occupation for which they will have been trained “.

Senator Ashley:

– That sounds socialistic.

Senator WILSON:

– If honorable senators opposite desire to know my opinion, I say now that I prefer that these industries should be established by private enterprise rather than by governments. That, however, is immaterial to my proposal. It does not matter greatly whether the industries are controlled by private enterprise, or by governments, or by some combination of the two.

Senator Darcey:

– Where is the money for these enterprises to be obtained?

Senator WILSON:

– I shall mention certain industries which I predict will be established shortly after the cessation of hostilities. They could provide a large volume of employment for members of the fighting services. I mention, first, home-building. At least 300,000 houses will be required after the war. The building of those homes will require the services of every bricklayer, carpenter, plumber and other tradesmen in the building industry in Australia, whether in or out of the armed forces. Some time ago the Minister for Post-War Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley) issued a statement in which he said that the Labour Government proposed to erect 40,000 houses a year after the war. If that is the case, some men after their return will have to wait ten years for a home.

Senator Aylett:

– Did they not have a home before they left?.

Senator WILSON:

– No ; most of them were young boys living with their parents, and since going away to fight for their country they have married, and, at present, their wives are living with their own parents. So soon as the war is over, those men will require to establish their own homes, and they will want to do so immediately. Therefore, more than 40,000 homes a year will be required. Thus, there will ‘be ample work for men trained as building tradesmen in the armed forces immediately the war is over. For them it will simply be a matter of waiting while the plans are being prepared and the necessary material collected for the homes required to be constructed. Then, there is the motor industry. After the war, we are going to manufacture the complete motor car in Australia, and nobody is going to say that Australia cannot do it. Australia can do it, and will do it. Our fighting men can be trained, so soon as the war ceases, to take their places in that industry. It may take us two years to establish that industry ; but, during that period, men can be kept in the Army and trained for that work, and absorbed as quickly as the industry - in this case, I think it will be private enterprise - can absorb them. I refer also to the tinned plate industry. Honorable senators will remember a proposal before the war to establish the tinned plate industry in Australia, but because of the “can’tdoits and because State jealousies crept into the matter, the proposal was blocked. But after this war, the people are going to insist that this industry be established ; and it will absorb from 2,000 to 5,000’men. Then, there is the plastic industry, which has made such tremendous strides in the United States of America, and, obviously, will be one of the great industries of the future. I have not the slightest doubt that private enterprise already has plans for the full development of the plastic industry so soon as the war is over. There, again, is a field which will be capable of absorbing thousands of our fighting men. I refer also to the china industry. As is well known, it is almost impossible to-day to purchase a china cup or plate in Australia. We have the clay,’ and all the raw material required for the industry. What we need to do is to train artisans in the manufacture of china. That is a very skilled trade. Thus, instead of dumping men out of the Army, leaving them to walk the streets, and lose their discipline and physique, we can retain them in the Army, and keep them fit, until they can be allocated to a job. Any man who expresses a desire to enter a certain industry, and shows aptitude for that industry, can be trained for it, and absorbed in it so soon as it is established. Under such a policy our fighting men can rest assured as to their future in industry. I also instance the magnesium industry which has already been established in a. small way in this country. That will expand very rapidly, and is another field in which we can absorb great numbers. We know that certain persons prefer to remain unskilled, and that nothing in the world can change them. Those men can be employed on the construction of roads, bridges, and water conservation work, and in afforestation. To those people who would say that the Army cannot do things, I answer that the Army could employ the whole of our fighting forces in constructive work which would be of great value to Australia. I do not suggest that that would be the best method; but I point out that, if governments, or private enterprise, have not any place for our fighting men, the Army could, if needs be, employ them in useful and productive works. I should like to instance certain things which happened in the Middle East. Our Army authorities decided that a railway had to be put down urgently for defence and strategic purposes. The civil authorities were asked to give an estimate of the shortest time in which they could construct that railway. The Army consulted some of the best experts in the world on the matter, and they reported that the railway could not be constructed in less than three years. Our military leaders replied, “ That is no good. We must have it immediately”. The Australian Bail-ways Construction Company was called in, and it said it would do the job. The military authorities said that the job must be done in twelve months. The company built that railway in eleven months. To-day, it is one of the greatest military assets in the Middle East. Australian privates were placed in charge of from 500 to 1,000 Arabs, who carted the stone in baskets, because at the outset no machinery for that purpose was available. All the first diggings were done by pick and shovel, and the material carted in baskets, because the job was urgent. Over 8,000 natives were employed on the construction of that railway from Beirut in Syria to Tripoli, over some of the most difficult country in the world. When the history of this war is written, great tribute will be paid to the Australian Railways Construction Company for that magnificent piece of work. I trust that after the war, honorable senators who have an opportunity to visit Syria will make a point of inspecting the huge bridges and concrete works . on that railway. On those works they will see the Rising Sun, which signifies that the railway was constructed by Australians at a time when civilian experts said the job could not be done in the time specified. I also point out to those who question the ability of the Army to get things done that during the time our forces were in the Middle East there was never a day when the men, whose line extended over thousands of miles from the Turkish border to Tobruk, were without food or clothing. If Australians can organize things on such a scale during wartime, I am sure that they can do so with equal success during peace.

Senator Cameron:

– Governments which the honorable senator supported did not do so before the war.

Senator WILSON:

– I ask honorable senators opposite to forget about post mortems. To-day, I ask them to look for once to the future. I have outlined a plan for the rehabilitation of our fighting men. This debate should not be marred by people who look only into the past, and turn their backs on the future. One honorable senator opposite interjected, “What about the cost?” I anticipated a question of that kind. We have been able to afford to keep these men when their services were needed for war, and we can equally afford to employ them after they have done their present job in the defence of this country. I emphasize that the moral contentment ‘of our people is worth more than anything else. These men and women have been asked to fight and work in defence of this country. If, when they come back, they are discharged, surely they could not but feel disgruntled as persons who have done a job, and then are not wanted. If they .became sour, could we be surprised? It is our job to see that they do not become sour. It is our duty, not only to sing their praises now, but also to translate our words into action, and ensure that they are not allowed to become disgruntled citizens of this nation. I feel that not only our fighting men, but everybody else, would feel disappointed in Australia if those conditions were allowed to come about. All that I ask this Government to do is to accept an obligation similar to that accepted by our fighting men. They have offered to fight anywhere for any period of time. They have enlisted for the duration of the waT, without knowing how long it may be, and twelve months thereafter. I ask the Government on its part to give an undertaking to these men that when that time comes it will not say to them : “ Now we do not want you, therefore we are going to discharge you “. This motion has been introduced to establish a general principle, and I ask honorable senators to discuss it upon the basis of principle. They may perhaps think that it goes a little too far.

Senator Cameron:

– It does not go far enough.

Senator WILSON:

– I was just about to say that some might think that it does not go far enough, but I suggest to honorable senators that, if we establish the principle, then, when the government of the day brings down a bill to carry it into effect, there will be ample opportunity to define the limits of the obligation which is being taken by the government.

I do not propose to gloss over some of the difficulties and suggestions that have been put up to me. It has been suggested, for instance, in some quarters that the obligation should be limited to those who serve overseas or in combat areas. Personally I should not like to see a limitation to that effect imposed. However, all these things can and will be discussed when eventually a bill is brought forward and reaches the committee stage. Certain other suggestions have been put forward for limiting the period of time during which this undertaking or obligation should last. Of course, men of 80 years of age could not be kept in the

Army, and after complete and thorough investigation it may be necessary to place a limit on the time during which the obligation should remain. Perhaps the guarantee could be limited until those affected reached the age of 50 or 55, or whatever honorable senators may deem advisable in the circumstances. I wish to make it quite clear, although it may not be as clear as it should be in the motion itself, that it is not my desire to keep any man in the Army against his will. If he desires his discharge from the Army after knowing that he has a right to remain there until civil employment is available, he cannot afterwards complain if, having voluntarily asked to get out, he then finds himself for the time being out of work. I trust that that situation will not arise, but at the same time it would be very inadvisable to compel anybody to remain in the Army against his will, particularly in a free country like Australia.

The question of the women’s services has also cropped up. So far as the women are concerned, first the number of women is very small in comparison with the number of men in the services. Therefore in considering the total scheme and the total number affected that is not a very big matter. It is obvious that the great number of women who have joined up purely out of a spirit of patriotism and the desire to serve will be very anxious to get back to their homes immediately after the war. I think that every woman realizes that she has a much more important function, in normal life than to remain in the services, and the great majority of women will decide to get out immediately the war is over. Whether the scheme should cover the balance or not is a matter which honorable senators can discuss when any measure dealing with it reaches the committee stage. I have explained the general principle of my proposal. I wish now to give instances of what was done in America during the great depression of 1933. Honorable senators will remember that in that year there were 10,000,000 unemployed in America. Various schemes and proposals were devised to meet the situation. Most of them were either failures or only temporary expedients, but one was an outstanding success. That was the Civilian Conservation Corps, which is not to he confused with our Civil Constructional Corps. The Civilian Conservation Corps took young unemployed men, put them under army discipline in army camps, trained them, and gave them three years’ useful work. Of all the plans, this one was the outstanding success. It did not do what I suggest now, because under my proposal the men will not become unemployed, seeing that they will remain in the Army. In America, they had become unemployed, and army organization had to be sought to provide training and employment for them.

Up to 1938, after five and a half years of operation, 2,300,000 enrollees had gone through these camps. At the time of the report from which I am quoting, there were 300,000 enrollees in various camps throughout America. During that period they had planted 1,501,000,000 forest trees, removed tree diseases from 17,000,000 acres of land, erected 66,000 miles of telephone line, built 41,300 bridges, erected 45,000 buildings, constructed 4,132 dams, planted 175,000,000 trees for the purpose of stopping erosion, prepared 4,105 pools for rearing fish, and stocked the pools with 636,000,000 fish. They had brought! under control 30,000,000 acres which were rabbitinfested. That report, which I have before me now and which is available for any honorable senators who desire to see it, proves that the Army can do much more than I am asking should be done here. That is, it could take men who had no training, who were undisciplined, unemployed and down and out, whose morale was broken and who were disgruntled, bring them under military control, place them in camps and finally, after their physique had been built up and they had become trained, send them out to useful civilian employment. So not only did this Civilian Conservation Corps perform very valuable work while the men were in camp, but, in addition, as I have mentioned, 2,300,000 men went out from those camps to useful civilian employment in private enterprises.

I do not wish to delay the Senate longer, but I do earnestly ask every honorable senator to consider this proposal seriously, because it is in the mind of every one of our fighting men. Since 1 first put it forward, I have had letters from people in every corner of Australia, including men in lonely outposts who heard my broadcasts. They have written stating that it is the first concrete proposal that has been submitted for postwar reconstruction, and urging me to go on with it and push it on as far and fast a3 I can. From returned soldiers all over Australia, from civilians, employers and employees, I have received tremendous support for the proposal. So I ask honorable senators not to dismiss it simply because, from their point of view, there may be no party kudos in it, but to look at it from the point of view of Australia. This is a big Australian job that we have to do, and I ask honorable senators to assist me in tackling it.

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

.- The Government welcomes the honorable senator’s motion because it brings to public attention a phase of reconstruction policy to which the Government has been devoting a good deal of thought and attention. I am able to repeat the assurance already given publicly, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), to the effect that the Government has already accepted the principle now embodied in the motion. Wor is this all. The Government is strongly in favour of the principle of the motion in regard to reemployment, not only for service personnel, but also for all those engaged in the war effort. It is because the Government is in earnest about these obligations that it introduced the Commonwealth Powers Bill into the National Parliament. The Commonwealth Government which has to assume responsibility for raising men for the armed forces and for the war services generally, must also have the responsibility of finding employment for them after the war. Therefore, it should have control over employment and industry in the post-war period. Without this power, post-war plans and our obligations to our fighting men and others will remain mere scraps of paper. As I have said, the Government is entirely in accord with what it takes to be the spirit of the motion, namely, that, at demobilization, the men and women of the forces should be afforded the fullest possible economic protection during the period of transition back to civilian activities. But the Government goes far beyond the intention of the motion. The Government’s interest in the men and women of the armed forces of this country is not confined to the assurance of employment on their discharge from the forces. The Government is determined that the manhood of this country shall not rot in unemployment as they did a year or two after the last war. It is interested in full employment, not only for a few months after demobilization, but also for the whole post-war period. I emphasize that the later years of the peace may be more critical than the immediate postwar months, and that the Government will not regard its obligations as at an end when the man has received his discharge. However, all this does not mean that the Government commits itself precisely to a single means of affording economic protection and security to members of the forces. There are other means besides postponing the demobilization of the individual in every particular case until he or she has found civil employment or has refused a reasonable offer of employment. Such a stipulation, if it were mandatory, and applied generally, would create difficulties for the Administration and for the individual alike, as I shall show presently. Alternatively, it would constitute an empty statement of principle with which members of the forces are as impatient as the rest of us. However, the method of affording protection and security is of less importance than our goal, about which., fortunately, there is common agreement. I am glad to assure the Senate that the Government has already taken its reestablishment plans far beyond bare statements of principle. It has set about giving a practical shape to its plans. It has taken steps to see that careful plans are prepared to give effect to the obligation to re-establish and provide for the advancement of members of the forces. The Government has given directions to plan and organize, in order that such conditions shall be created as will afford economic security and protection, and employment suited to their capacity, to members of the fighting services. By direction of the Government, the Department of Post- War Reconstruction, in co- operation with the Defence departments, the Repatriation Commission, the Department of Labour and National Service, and the Director-General of Man Power, is examining the problem of demobilization and re-employment in all its aspects, so that demobilization procedure may fit in with plans for re-employment and national reconstruction. Parliament and the country may be assured that the provision of economic protection during the period of transition back to civilian activities will be as comprehensive and effective as foresight and careful planning can ensure. The precise form that protection must take will be decided by the Government after the vast and intricate problem of re-establishment has been examined thoroughly. In this field of policy above all, we must avoid hasty solutions or plans made inapplicable by the march of events. We must continually adapt our plans to changing circumstances. The agreed aim is to bring demobilization policy and ^establishment policy so closely together that men and women may move from the services to civil employment and other forms of civilian activity with the least possible delay. At the same time, there should be the minimum of interference with the liberty of the individual to exercise His personal judgment and initiative in his own re-establishment. Of the many aspects of the problem of re-establishment referred to in the Senate, I can confidently say that there is not one that has not already been under review by the departments concerned in co-operation with the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. As is natural, the Government’s plans in some aspects are farther advanced than in others.

As regards vocational training, the plans of the Commonwealth for a Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme are well under way. The categories of ex-service personnel eligible for free vocational and professional training, and the living allowances to be paid during training, have recently been announced by the Government. These provisions are wide and generous, and are the result of many months of careful work. Administrative machinery has already been established in part, and within a very short time the Government should be in a position to establish the nucleus of the training organization, so that men and women -who are honorably discharged from the services during the war may receive training benefits in so far as training is compatible with the need to employ these persons in the war effort during the war. Perhaps I need hardly say that in the latter case the training opportunities of these men will not be lost, but merely postponed. The Government is justly satisfied with the development of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, and it is reasonable to ask the Senate at this stage to accept this scheme as an earnest indication of its intentions as regards other aspects of its rehabilitation plans, for which final decisions cannot yet be reached. This, however, is not to say that planning has not yet begun. As regards demobilization policy itself, it will readily be appreciated that a most intricate complexity of factors is involved. The motion suggests that special action should be taken to prevent the service authorities from precipitately “emptying men out of the demobilization pool after the war. If the experience of the last war - not only our experience but that of the belligerent countries in general - is to be taken as a guide, these service authorities will rather be inviting advice as to how to keep them until all can be dealt with properly. The quite natural desire of nine out of ten who have had any length or severity of service and who are in the demobilization pool is to get free of service restraints at the earliest possible moment after the guns have ceased firing. Writing in his capacity as Director-General of Repatriation and Demobilization at the close of the last war, the late General Sir John Monash stated that -

Instantly upon the cessation of hostilities, the common outlook of the members of the forces was violently extinguished …. the great compact war organizations became resolved into an agglomeration of individuals, each with his own different outlook upon the future, each animated by different aims, ambitions, desires and tendencies. There was no longer any common purpose, any mutual binding force.

In other words, the Army had ceased to exist in its operational form as a disciplined military organization. I do not believe any one would wish to keep men in the forces against their will after the war, and this, I take it, is not in the mind of the mover of the motion. He would be a rash man who would disregard this warning of the late General Sir John Monash. ‘ All the factors affecting the order and the rate of demobilization cannot be known until hostilities cease. It is hard, if not impossible, to forecast even the basic military factors in the problem. We can, however, be certain that the release of our large forces cannot take place in one huge wave even if we wanted things that way. For military reasons, we may possibly have to be prepared for the retention under arms of probably quite considerable forces during the armistice period. This period may be protracted. There is also the shipping factor on which will depend the repatriation of prisoners of war and personnel serving abroad at the cessation of hostilities. For these reasons, the numbers flowing into the demobilization pool in the first stage will be somewhat smaller than we imagine. The immediate strain on the nation’s powers of civil rehabilitation may therefore be less stupendous than is evidently feared by some who have been thinking over and discussing this matter.

Even so, there must be a carefully planned order in the release of men from the great war organizations. This order has to be a compromise between the public interest and the human desires and interests of the individual. To achieve this compromise will not be an easy task. The national interest will demand the earliest possible reconstruction of peacetime industry. This will involve a demand from different fields of industry and agriculture for more or less of particular skills, and more or less of manpower in general. The individual, however, will be influenced mainly by considerations, such as age, length and nature of service, family responsibilities and health; the desire to resume interrupted apprenticeships or courses of training, to commence courses of training; or to return to old or to take up new positions; to resume self -employing activities, business or professions; or perhaps merely to get out of uniform and. go home. Consequently, a demobilization plan which will fit into plans for re-ordering the national life after the war, while, at the same time dealing justly with individuals or groups of individuals, calls for careful thought and some ingenuity. It is perhaps unnecessary to stress the complexities of the demobilization problem. I mention these matters merely to assure the Senate that the Government is not overlooking or underestimating the difficulties of its responsibility. I can assure the Senate, that each one of the matters I have mentioned has already been explored and analysed by some part of the departmental machinery which has been recently established under the coordination of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. I may mention that the analysis and appreciation of the situation has now proceeded far enough for special planning staff to be proposed for the preparation of a provisional key plan for demobilization. In a matter of this kind, it is clearly undesirable that I should go into any more details. I am confident that what I have said will satisfy the Senate, of the earnestness of the Government’s intentions on this aspect of reestablishment. Of the whole re-establishment problem, however, actual re-employment is naturally the crux. Demobilization and re-employment policies, on the one hand, and plans to swing over to industry, agriculture and building construction, as well as to get under way a flexible programme of national works, on the other hand, must be linked together in a closely knit scheme to provide opportunities for suitable employment for all those engaged in the war effort.

On the question of national works, 1 may say that Commonwealth and State Governments alike have dissociated themselves from any idea that a major purpose of public works is to provide “ relief “ jobs. National works have a positive function. To be acceptable to the community and worthy of men from the fighting and other war services, works projects must be carefully and imaginatively planned as part of a programme to develop our national estate, and to round off industrial and economical plans. As such, they will afford a vocation and not mere “ relief “. Works projects, Commonwealth and State, will be co-ordinated with the general recon- struction programme so that they may be readily expanded to meet any slackening in employment.

Before addressing themselves seriously to the task of becoming working citizens, or before they finally re-establish themselves, some men may need , a short breathing space after their discharge from the forces. Obviously, any procedure decided upon must be so contrived as not to encourage undue postponement of efforts by the individual to get back into harness directly a suitable opportunity presents itself. If it is a question of vocational or professional training, the categories of eligibility under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme recently approved by the Government are wide and generous. The applicants selected for training will receive an adequate living allowance, with additions for dependants, during the transition period. If it is a question of employment, the men will be assured of suitable leave with pay or a livelihood during the period when they may be moving from the services into their old job, taking up a new job, or changing from one job to a more suitable occupation.

What I have said will, I believe, satisfy the Senate that the Government is not behind in its plans for the protection of ex-service personnel. This is not the time at which the Government can be expected to prepare a complete blue print of its rehabilitation plans, though within a short time it will be in a position to bring forward substantial instalments of these plans. To translate these plans into effective action will be more difficult. Without adequate constitutional powers, the task will be well nigh beyond the capacity of any government. It is essential that our machinery of government should be as simple as possible, and we must have adequate powers so that it will work swiftly and without any delay arising out of legal and constitutional disputation. During the great testing time of demobilization, whether it be military or industrial, we shall have no time for long drawn out negotiations or for constitutional or legal doubts and disputes. Every ounce of our energy, all our ingenuity and power will have to be focussed on the promotion of employment and the transfer of our resources to peace-time use as quickly and smoothly as possible. This is a matter of common concern to all parties. Irrespective of what party is in power when the war ends, or how far-sighted and complete the planning may be, the government of the day will be unable to discharge its considerable national obligations unless it has constitutional power to act on a national scale. There is general agreement now that this is the most critical political issue that Australians have ever had to measure up to.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collett) adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 12.18 to 2.15 p.m.

page 365

SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1943-44

Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -

That the bill be now read a first time.

Motion (by Senator McBride) put -

That the debate be now adjourned.

The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.)

AYES: 17

NOES: 15

Majority . . 2



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Debate adjourned.

page 365


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

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

page 365


Motion (by Senator Collings) pro posed -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Monday next, at 3 p.m.

Senator FOLL:

.- I desire to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who represents the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in this chamber, at what time next week it is necessary for the Supply Bill to be passed. Honorable senators on this side do not wish to hold up the services of the country, but they do ask for a reasonable opportunity to deal with the various subjects which can be brought forward on the first reading of an Appropriation Bill. The Opposition would like to know what time will be allowed for the discussion of the Supply Bill when the Senate meets next week.

Senator McLEAY:
Leader of the Opposition · South Australia

.- The Opposition is quite prepared to pass the bill providing for the appropriation of £20,000,000 through all stages today. I understand that, for the convenience of the treasury officials, that bill is more urgent than the Supply Bill. If the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) will move that the motion which we have just carried that the resumption of the debate on the first reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1942-43 be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting be rescinded, the Opposition is prepared to pass that bill through all stages today.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 365


Clothing Coupons for Timber-workers - Middle East Campaign : Commemorative Medal - Volunteer Defence Corps : Clothing ; Arms - Business of the Senate.

Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator SAMPSON:

– I bring to the notice of the Minister for Trade .and Customs (Senator Keane) the need to grant extra coupons for clothing to timber-workers, particularly bush-workers in the sawmilling industry in Tasmania. I have had several letters on this subject from individuals, and also one from the secretary of the Australian Timber Workers Union. I have been associated with the timber industry for some years in the north-west of Tasmania, and I know from personal experience how heavy is the wear and tear on the clothing of bush-workers. Tasmania is a State in which there is a heavy rainfall and dense forests, and I am convinced that the number of clothing coupons issued to timber-workers is quite inadequate. I shall be pleased to hand to the Minister the letters that I have received on the subject. I urge him to give to this matter his serious consideration, and I suggest that a representative of the Rationing Commission should visit Tasmania to investigate the claim.


– I support the request of Senator Sampson that more clothing coupons be issued to timber-workers in Tasmania. Representations on this subject have previously been made to the Minister by Tasmanian members of this Parliament. These men work in dense forests where the climate is usually wet, particularly on the west coast. They have few opportunities to dry their clothing, and are compelled to do so over the camp fires at night. This causes the clothing to deteriorate rapidly. In addition, the nature of the work is severe on the clothing. The men are in a reserved occupation, doing work for the Defence Department. I am glad that Senator Sampson has raised this matter. It is only fair to provide additional clothing coupons for these men.

Senator J B HAYES:

– I support the request made by Senator Sampson and Senator Herbert Hays. I have been approached on the matter by many of these men. Their problem, however, is not confined to an extra issue of coupons. In the country districts of Tasmania it is very difficult to-day to purchase clothing at all. Retailers in those parts have told me that they cannot replenish their stocks, particularly working trousers. Further, the quality of the articles now available has greatly deteriorated during the last year. One retailer told me that whereas working trousers sold for 8s. a pair eighteen months ago, they now cost £1 ls. or fi 2s. 6d., and are of such poor quality that they last only a few days when the wearer is engaged in heavy work of this kind. I hope that the Minister will give the relief requested.

Senator FOLL:

.- During the last period of this session, I suggested that active service medals should be issued to members of the Australian Imperial Force who serve in any theatre of war. Not only did I raise the matter in this chamber, but I also communicated with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on the subject. From him I received a very courteous reply, but he said that he did not consider this matter could be dealt with at present. A large number of men have returned to Australia from the Middle East and New Guinea, but apart from the blue chevrons which they are entitled to wear on their cuffs, they have nothing to indicate that they have seen active service. In that respect they cannot be distinguished from soldiers who are engaged in home service. There is much to be said for the issue of a medal, or at least a medal ribbon, to those men to signify that they have served in combat areas. I understand that our Allies who, f ortunately, are here in great numbers, are issued with an active service medal immediately they enter a forward base, or go into action. The only Australian soldiers who wear distinctive insignia of that kind are those who have won the Military Cross or the Military Medal or some other highly coveted award for bravery or distinguished service, and it is not until after a man is discharged - and in some cases a considerable time after he is discharged - that he is issued with an active service medal. Recently, I was told by an officer in the personal service branch that after the last war, in one State alone, 8,600 active service medals were never claimed because the individuals concerned did not take the trouble to collect them. I admit that a soldier does not fight for medals, but for the honour and glory of being a defender of his country. However, every soldier who sees active service should be given an opportunity, during the time he is on service, to wear a medal, or a medal ribbon, signifying that fact. Under the present system under which active service medals are not issued to men until after their discharge, the recipients rarely wear them except on special occasions such as when they participate in an Anzac Day procession. An officer who served in the Middle East informed me only to-day that it is the intention of the British Government to issue a special medal to members of the Eighth Army to commemorate their great exploits. I should like to see a similar system adopted here in respect of all men who see active service, because I am sure that while they remain in the forces they will be proud to wear such distinctions.

During the last period of the session I requested the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to grant an extra issue of clothing coupons to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps. As honorable senators are aware, I have been attached to that corps for some time. In that period I do not think I have visited a battalion area without being asked about this matter. These men are not issued with any working dress at all. They are issued with one uniform only, and in that they have to carry out parades and drill. Recently, the members of the Volunteer Defence Corps have taken over operational roles in connexion with the handling of anti-aircraft defences, light and heavy coast artillery, and searchlights. The work involved in those operations is very severe on the clothing worn by the men, particularly in. the handling of heavy ammunition, and the mechanism of guns and searchlights. I remind honorable senators that these men serve in their spare time, and at their own expense. Therefore, it is unfair to issue them only with parade dress. Although I, and other honorable senators, have made repeated representations to the Army authorities to issue these men with working dress, our request has not been granted. They are obliged to wear their own clothes, with the result that they now feel the shortage of clothing coupons. If the Army authorities are not prepared to issue the men with dress for training and drill, the Government should at least provide a special issue of coupons in order to enable them to buy the requisite clothing for themselves. That is all they are asking for. I also remind honorable senators that in the majority of Volunteer Defence Corps units, with the exception of those in tropical areas, shorts and shirts are not issued. The only uniform issued to the men is the heavy woollen uniform which they wear all the year round. However, in many cases, owing to the climate, they find it almost essential to wear shorts and shirts, and these they buy for themselves, providing the necessary coupons out of their ordinary civilian issue. One reason given for the rejection of our request is that there is not sufficient khaki in Australia to enable this type of uniform to be issued to the Volunteer Defence Corps. At the same time, one is able to purchase khaki shorts and shirts in practically every men’s wear store in Australia. I recall that in one city in New South Wales the commander of a Volunteer Defence Corps unit which is attached to a particular industry, said he thought he would be able to raise sufficient funds to purchase khaki shorts and shirts for the whole of his unit, provided that the necessary coupons were made available. With this object in view he inquired of one storekeeper if he could supply 1,000 shorts and shirts, and the latter told him that he could, but that it might take him six weeks to get them. If an individual store can supply an order of that kind, it cannot be said that .there is a shortage of khaki. The members of the Volunteer Defence Corps are not asking that the shorts and shirts be issued to them, although such a request would be quite justified. Whilst khaki shorts and shirts are recognized as the summer uniform of Australian soldiers, civilians should not be entitled to wear them. Honorable senators, particularly those who have . served in the forces, know that it presents a very difficult problem if the civilian population is allowed to walk about in what is practically the recognized summer dress of the Australian Imperial Force. Should we be unfortunate enough to suffer a commando raid on the coast, or an invasion, small or large, any civilians who were wearing khaki shorts and shirts, which are practically the same costume as the soldiers wear, would be liable to be shot by either side. So long as shorts and shirts constitute the recognized summer uniform of the Australian Imperial Force, the khaki drill of which they are made should not be available to anybody else.

During recent months important operational roles have been given to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, who have devoted a large proportion of their time to their training in order to make themselves fit to repel invaders. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has announced his intention to make them largely responsible for certain forms of defence, and in view of the continued statements that have been made by members of the Government as to the great improvement in the output of various forms of weapons and equipment, I suggest that the Volunteer Defence Corps battalions, particularly those in the more vulnerable areas of Australia, including all coastal areas and possibly some interior ones, be equipped immediately with the .303 rifle instead of the .310, which is only a small cadet weapon, although quite a good one of its class. Of course, it was all that was available to these men at the time, and they made the best of it, but additional responsibilities are continually being placed upon their shoulders, their training has made them accomplished soldiers, and they should be given the 303 whenever possible, and supplied with more automatic weapons. I know that the Prime Minister has said that the position is much better than it was, and we hope that it will go on improving until victory is won. But there is always the possibility of a raid, and our defenders in the more vulnerable sections of the country should be equipped with the best weapons possible. The members of the Volunteer Defence Corps have already rendered most valuable service to Australia. During the time that I have been with them, I have realized and appreciated the sacrifices that many of them are making, especially those who travel many miles at night to attend drill. They find it difficult to get petrol and petrol tickets, and there is a good deal of wear and tear on their tyres, which cannot be replaced, but they are sticking to their job, and will continue to do so. They are proud of their units, and I am sure that they will continue to train. I urge that the matters which I have mentioned receive the serious consideration of the Government.

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

.- I desire to inform Senators Sampson, J. B. Hayes and Herbert Hays, who raised the question of additional clothing coupons for the men in the timber industry, that as the result of representations made to me by Senators Aylett and Darcey au officer has been sent to make the necessary investigations. I shall see that the matter is followed up, because I believe that, in view of the representations that have been made here, it calls for adjustment. Honorable senators can rely upon me to do everything I can in the matter.

Minister for the Interior · QueenslandMinister for the Interior · ALP

m reply - The matter mentioned by Senator Foll regarding medals for active service men is already receiving the attention of the Government.

Senator McLeay:

– Will this speech close the debate?


– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has asked whether, in the event of the Leader of the Senate proceeding, his speech will close the debate. It will. The Minister and Senator McLeay rose at the same time; and I gave the Minister the call. It is for him to make way for the Leader of the Opposition, if he so desires.


– I do not. The matter referred to by Senator Foll, with regard to medals for men serving in the forces of the Empire, has been considered not only by the United Kingdom Government but also by the Government of this country. With regard to the exhibition we have had this afternoon, involving delay in the business of this chamber, and taking the conduct of business out of my hands, I had only one objective in view in the procedure that I desired to follow, and that was to study the convenience of honorable senators so far as it was possible to do so. The fact remains that between now and the 30th of this month certain financial bills must be passed, and they will be passed if we have to sit all night long to do it.

Senator McBride:

– The Government could have had two of them passed this afternoon.

SenatorCOLLINGS.- We could have passed the Supply Bill if the members of the Opposition had not been ungentle manly and unfair enough to prevent it. We were not in a position to go on with the next bill, and consequently the only course open to me was the one which I took. In spite of the hurry with which the Leader of the Opposition arranged to scamper up to the press gallery and provide pressmen with his statement about the situation, I want the public to know that it was for powerful party political reasons thatthe honorable senator adopted those obstructive tactics this afternoon. If that is the procedure to be followed, all possibility of honorable arrangements with the Opposition must be at an end.

Senator McLeay:

– I rise to order. The Leader of the Senate said that I scampered up to the press gallery. That statement is not true, and I ask that it be withdrawn.


– I did not intend to say, nor did I say, that the Leader of the Opposition himself scampered up into the press gallery. That would be a physical impossibility, but I know, and he knows, that he made arrangements for the press to get a statement immediately. I shall see that the people of this country get another statement immediately.

Senator McLeay:

– I rise to order. The Leader of the Senate said that I made arrangements for the press to get a statement immediately. That also is untrue, and I ask for its withdrawal. I never saw the representatives of the press.


– As the Leader of the Opposition considers certain remarks made by the Leader of the Senate are offensive to him, I ask that they be withdrawn.

SenatorCOLLINGS. - With the pleasure which I always feel in conforming to your wishes, which is no less now than on any previous occasion, I withdraw the remark.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 369


The following papers were presented : -

Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -

Amberley, Queensland.

Bullsbrook (Pearce), Western Australia.

Drayton, Queensland.

Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

Longreach, Queensland.

Mount Lofty, South Australia.

Tottenham, Victoria.

National Security Act -

National Security (Aliens Control). Regulations - Orders -

Aliens employment.

Aliens restriction (Fishing vessels and other small craft).

National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - Military powers during emergency.

National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -

Control of highways (2).

Merchant ships (Passive defence).

Post and telegraph censorship.

Prohibited places (3).

Prohibiting work on land ( 4 ) .

Prohibition of acquisition and sale of censored envelopes.

Protected areas (2).

Registration of outboard motors.

Removal of direction signs (Revocation ) .

Taking possession of land, &c. (180).

Use of land (14).

National Security (Internment Camps) Regulations - Rules - Camp (2).

National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (78).

National Security (Medical Coordination and Equipment) Regulations - Order - Control of Medical equipment.

National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations-

Order - Prisoners of War Camp.

Rules - Camp.

National Security (Rationing) Regula tions - Orders-Nos. 23-28.

Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirty second Annual Report, for year 1041-42.

Senate adjourned at 2.54 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 June 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.