16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President ( (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the assurance that we have received of the improbability of the invasion of Australia, will the Minister for the Interior direct that some improvement be made to the lighting of the approaches to Parliament House?
– The whole subject of the restrictions imposed generally, because of the possibility of invasion, is now under review.
What salary and/or allowances have been claimed and/or paid to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) up to 31st May, 1943, for the performance of duties by that honorable member as assistant to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) , or in any other capacity, since October, 1941 T
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following .answer: - £427 7s. lid. as allowances.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What salary and/or allowances have been claimed and/or paid to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) up to 31st May, 1943, for the performance of duties by that honorable member as Chairman of the Rationing Commission and Chairman of the War Damage Insurance Commission, or in any other capacity!
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner has been requested to supply the information.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer states that the information is being obtained.
Debate resumed from the 28th June (vide page 448), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– It would be well to recall the circumstances in which the present Government came into power. The two previous Ministries were practically houses divided against themselves, and as such they were incapable of carrying on the government of this country. There was internecine strife amongst the members of the parties represented in those governments, and there still is. They were continually divided among themselves, and repeatedly set up new leaders. I have no quarrel with that; if they considered that it was the proper thing to do, the responsibility was theirs.
– The honorable gentleman has not mentioned the bribing of two political “ rats “.
– Certain honorable gentlemen who are described as the National Service Group recently “ ratted “ on their party. That, however, is by the way. I have no wish to descend to personalities, and would not dream of calling an honorable senator a “rat” merely because he had exercised his right to act according to the dictates of his conscience and the best of his ability. I discovered at a very early stage that one does not get very far by calling others offensive names. It is undeniable that lack of capacity for leadership and the absence of team work were perfectly obvious among those who now comprise the Opposition parties. On that account, the present Government came into existence. Had it not possessed those two very necessary and desirable attributes - capacity for leadership and team work - it would not now be in existence.
I have said in answer to a question that I agree with those who alleged that Australia was practically defenceless when the present Government came into office. I am in entire agreement with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), that a responsible Minister in another government made the statement that at a certain period one Japanese division could have walked through Australia. The ex-Minister who made that statement was in a position to speak authoritatively.
– Where was it made?
– I am prepared to honour a compact that was entered into to observe secrecy, even if the honorable senator is not.When he asked the question, he knew perfectly well where the statement had been made.
– He also knew that the Minister ought not to have repeated it.
– He further knew by whom it was made. The Prime Minister could have gone farther. The circumstances under which it was made do not matter.What matters is whether it was true or untrue. In a time of war those who, like ourselves, are responsible to the people, should not and cannot ignore the statements that are made by responsible men.
– In secret.
-Where the statement was made does not matter.
– Not to the honorable gentleman.
– The object was to make us aware of the position and to warn us of what to expect, and we were entitled to take notice of it.
– As usual, the Minister has repeated only one-half of the statement.
– Another statement reported to have been made, not by a politician but by a professional soldier, was to the effect that, in the event of invasion, we would have barely a sporting chance. “We are entitled to take notice of that statement. It will thus be seen that, in saying that this country was in a state of unpreparedness, we are supported by men who, at the time, were in the best position to form a judgment as to the nature of the situation. Subsequent events have proved that they were correct.
What waa the position in the Aircraft Production Department when this Government came into office? The conditions were so chaotic that the men in charge, actuated though they were by the best of intentions, and capable of doing splendid work, were prevented from doing so. Control was divided among a number of conflicting authorities, which were working at cross purposes. No matter how able or wellintentioned men may be, it is obvious that under such a system of control the best results cannot be expected. I learned, from reports that I had received, that aircraft was grounded all over the country awaiting spare parts which, although available, were not being forwarded because of the situation that had arisen on account of divided control. Fighter planes were not being built; at that time their construction was not considered necessary. Beaufort bombers were just commencing to come off the line. Because of the existence of that state of affairs, I conceived the idea of calling together the principals of the different establishments, with the object of determining whether or not more satisfactory results could be obtained, and, if possible, establishing better team work and more cordial relationships. I submitted to the meeting a long list of spares which had been supplied to me on that very day by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). I pointed out the position in which we were placed, and said that in my judgment we could achieve the more successful results that were expected of us.
– When was that meeting held?
– It was held at Fisherman’s Bend quite early in the piece; speaking from memory, about December, 1941. It resulted in the setting up of the Aircraft Advisory Committee, which is now functioning. In my opinion, all managerial and working: staffs in war-time industries should! be directly responsible to the Government rather than to boards of directors, and others who style themselvesmajor contractors, because these do not obtain the best results. The situation was met in some degree by the setting upof the Aircraft Advisory Committee. At the outset, meetings were held weekly.. At these, the men most prominently and actively associated with aircraft production discussed at length the problems with; which they were faced and the difficulties which they had to overcome. Excellent results accrued from the meetings that were held under those conditions. According to press reports, Sir Stafford Cripps had to go so far as to take over some of the aircraft workshops in Great Britain because private control was either incompetent or indifferent. Whatever thereasons, the results required were not forthcoming. Under him a big change for the better took place.
Senator Spicer referred to a statement which I made regarding the manufacture of 1,000 aeroplanes. It is true that 1 made a statement on the subject. We had some training planes, but we had nol one fighter aeroplane. The training machines, although useful for training purposes, were practically useless for combat. When I said that the position was satisfactory, I was paying a tribute, as I think I ought to have done, to the men who were responsible. But the fact is that when fighter aeroplanes were wanted, we did not have them. One of the first submissions that I was privileged to make to the War Cabinet, in co-operation with the Minister for Air, was that fighter aeroplanes should he manufactured in Australia. When that proposal was made, many persons were sceptical about the results; they did not think that it was possible to build in Australia the fighter aeroplanes that we desired. I suspect that they were suffering from what is frequently described as “ inferiority complex “ - something which had been cultivated to an enormous degree in this country. There was a time when it was said that motor car engines could not be manufactured in Australia, and that it was quite impossible to manufacture here so complicated a piece of machinery as an aeroplane engine. However, ‘ my colleague and I persisted that the matter should be proceeded with, and the result is that, Australia has a wonderful achievement to its credit. Designs for the new fighter aircraft were on the drawing board in February, 1942, and bv July of that year the first machine was in the air. I am informed that in other countries it is usual for about two years to elapse between the setting out of the design on the drawing board and the machine taking the air. That is because of the exhaustive tests to which new machines are subjected. However, time was of the essence of the contract, and we had to take the risk. The result is that fighter aeroplanes are now being built in this country. Previous governments did not consider it necessary to build fighter aeroplanes. I attribute that inaction to a lack of imagination and initiative, and also to a reliance on promises which might never have been fulfilled. When the proposal was placed before me, I said that I preferred to make the attempt to build fighter aeroplanes, even if we failed, rather than not make any attempt at all. Many difficulties had to be surmounted ; for instance we found that certain officers were attempting to set themselves above the Government. In my opinion, they were doing incalculable damage to our war effort. When we found that we could not get far by talking to them, we had to take other action. All I say is that those officers are not now hold’ing the same positions. I could say a great deal more, but the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has already spoken along the same lines in the House of Representatives. He could also have said something about the lack of docking facilities. It was thought by previous governments, and also by many other people in this country, that all the docking facilities required for capital ships were provided at Hong Kong and Singapore, where labour was cheaper than in Australia. However, Hong Kong and Singapore fell, and we were faced with the necessity to provide in this country facilities for the docking of capital ships. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) could tell the country of other shortages which existed when the present Government came into office. I say these things, not in any boastful spirit, but because honorable senators opposite have said that the present Government has done practically nothing. Senator Wilson had a lot to say about things of which he knows nothing.
Senator McBride said that since the present Government came into office the currency of this country has been inflated. I have already pointed out that the Government inherited an inflated currency. On taking over the reins of office the Government decided to make the best of the internal economic system that then existed. We thought it better to do that than take action which would lead to a major political upheaval. As far as possible, the Government has refrained from implementing its own policy in regard to currency matters - a policy which is based on the principle of value for value. The existing internal economy of this country is fraudulent in its incidence against the workers. That is shown clearly by the fact that in a country with practically unlimited resources there was abject poverty in the midst of plenty before the war. There was inaction, there was inertia, there was lack of initiative, and stagnation, and as a result, when the Labour Government came into office, there were many thousands of men on the dole. The younger generation was growing up untrained and unfitted for the work which they are being called upon to do to-day. When I was president of the Working Men’s College, in Melbourne, I suggested that some of the 13,000 young fellows between 18 and 21 who, at that time, had never done a day’s work after leaving school because it was impossible for them to get jobs, should be put into our classes at the college, and paid while they were qualifying to become skilled workers and useful citizens. I was told that the idea was Utopian, and the orthodox economists raised their voices asking, “Where is the money to come from?” Now, under the pressure of war, we are doing those very things which we would not do before. I cite those examples in order to show how the existing economic system operates against the workers. Not only does it deprive them of food, clothing and shelter, and a meagre share of the other amenities of life, but it also deprives them of an opportunity to become skilled workers. Not until we became involved in the worst war the world has ever known were we able to do the things which it was obvious should have been clone all the time.
When this Government came into power, it had to choose between implementing its policy and making its supreme objective the winning of the war. The Government chose the latter, with the result that its policy has been practically placed in cold storage. The Labour Government has given way all along the line, and the trade unions have done the same. The dilution of labour was referred to by Senator McBride. What does this expression mean? It means the reduction of the average rate paid to the worker. It means the deskilling of skilled workers. Where a skilled worker was required to bore a cylinder from the solid metal, it can now be fabricated hy a process worker. When the unions agreed to the dilution of labour, they agreed to a reduction of the average rate paid, and they did it with the knowledge that, after the war, the employers would approach the Arbitration Court for a declaration that the work was no longer skilled, and that a lower rate should be paid for it. That is the penalty which thousands of unionists will pay because they, like the Government, were prepared to make sacrifices to win the war. They were prepared to take a risk with’ their political opponents rather than risk losing the war to the enemy. Still, Senator McBride sneers and jeers at them, because the dilution of labour was not so extended as he, a mere neophyte in these things, thinks it should be.
Reference has been made to prices. I agree that prices have risen. Prices can rise because of inflation,, but that is not why they have risen recently. They have risen because of restricted production, and that was the policy of the United Australia party years before the Avar started, and right up to the outbreak of war. Prices have risen because of hoarding. When war broke out, many leading merchants, with big stocks of commodities in popular demand, immediately raised their prices.
– The honorable senator knows that they were not allowed to do so.
– They did it, and afterwards the Government took action. These gentlemen, who pose as patriots, immediately increased prices when the opportunity presented itself, with the object of increasing their bank balances. Then the Government stepped in, and several prominent firms were declared. I have no doubt that those same firms will provide the election expenses for our friends opposite during the coming federal election campaign. We know that where there is inequality of incomes there is a tendency for prices to. rise. If people really want goods that are in short supply, and they have at their disposal more money than the basic wage-earner or the munitions worker, they will be prepared to pay a high price, and naturally the shopkeeper will sell, to the person who pays the most.
Honorable senators opposite have spoken of strikes, and the waterside workers and the coal-miners have been selected for special mention. I have always maintained that practically all strikes have their origin in unbalanced and provocative management. That is notorious in the coal-mining industry. In Australia, the coal-miners have been starved, and equipment has been starved, in order that increased dividends shall be distributed to the shareholders. One prominent coal-owner, now dead, used to put all the money that he derived from the industry into the breeding of race-horses, with the result that the mines were not made as safe as they should have been, nor was the equipment as up to date as was’ required. If profits were used, without inflicting any hardship on the owners, for the purpose of improving the conditions in the mines, the average mine would be as safe as an underground railway, and the machinery would be up to date. What is done with respect to coal-mining in this country has been done in Great Britain. For years past, millions of pounds which should have been used to build up the living standard of the coalminer, and to make the mines safe, were paid away in the form of royalties to all sorts of persons who did not do any useful work whatever for society. War has been the acid test of industrial management. Wherever the management is unbalanced and provocative, strikes will occur. If the coal-miners and the waterside workers were treated as well as public servants, railway workers, employees of the Postal Department, and workers in some engineering works owned by private enterprise are treated, there would be no strikes in the coal mines or on the waterfront. However, we know perfectly well that, owing to the system of management, the standard of the miners and waterside workers is kept down to the irreducible minimum. Let us take, for instance, a firm like General Motors-Holdens Limited in whose works compulsory unionism exists with the complete concurrence and agreement of the directors of that company. So far as is practicable, that company allows the workers in the industry to have a voice in deciding what should or should not be done with respect to the conditions under which they work, and, invariably, so I am assured by the men in charge of that concern, particularly Mr. Hartnett, most of the suggestions made by the men are adopted. That is an instance of compulsory unionism at work, and no strikes occur in that industry. But I have yat to learn that the coal -barons, or the shipowners, are prepared to go so far in their dealings with their employees. For the benefit of honorable senators, I quote the following extract from writings by the late Mr. J. A. Spender, who was editor of the Westminster Gazette and for 50 years exercised considerable influence behind the scenes in British politics : -
The .productive process is in its essence a partnership, and it -is the failure to realize this aspect of it which is in large measure responsible for the modern arraignment of capital. The worker is not only discontented with his earnings; he has the sense of being constantly at the mercy of invisible powers, who misdirect his energy, take him on and throw him out at their convenience, treat him as an automaton without will or mind of his own. His demand is for a status which will give him freedom, security, and self respect. It is also, one may say, .the demand of vast numbers of middle-class people who, too, feel that they are not free, and suffer mortifications and anxieties that take the savour out of life. But the class-consciousness of which so much is heard in these .times is peculiarly the protest of the manual worker against industrial conditions which, in his view, have reduced -him to a chattel or a robot. This is entirely rational and human, and there is no permanence for any system that turns a deaf ear to it. - In so far then as it rules out socialism, capital must he prepared with answers of its own to the questions which socialism raises, and it must embody these answers not in pious opinions or generalities, but in its own practice within its workshops and factories.
Self-government has proved to be the wise answer to rebellion in the sphere of politics, and it may yet, with the necessary differences, be the right answer to industrial revolt. In any case economic absolutism is no more likely to survive “than political.
That was not written by a leader of the Communists, or a leader of the Labour party. In effect, the late Mr. Spender contended that balanced and sympathetic management in industry is essential, and the workers must have a voice in the working of their industry in precisely the same way as they have a vote in the election of the Parliament. But I could not imagine honorable senators opposite agreeing with that contention. They would reject it as rank anarchy. However, honorable senators opposite can say what they like and do what they like; and Senator Wilson can have recourse to his regiments and bayonets but such measures will not prevent strikes from occurring in the coal mines, or on the waterfront, or in :any other industry. Strikes will not be prevented until managements are prepared to take an intelligent and sympathetic view of the workers’ position. Under the caption, “Labour and ‘Capital Fight On “, Sir Herbert Gepp, writing in Rydge’s Magazine of June of this year, quotes the above statement from the late Mr. Spender’s writings, and goes on to say that as the managing director of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, he has set up production committees in that industry in order to give to the workers in it the opportunity for self-expression to which they are entitled, and which he contends is essential for the preservation of industrial peace. I have yet to learn that a strike has occurred in that industry. Sir .Herbert Gepp states -
The consequences of a further deterioration in industrial understanding are grave indeed. Thinking and free people have no desire to tread the “ one sure modern road to totalitarianism “. The first objective of industrial management must, therefore, be to try to improve the present situation. It will make a serious error if it supposes that it can do this while “ standing pat “ on old rights or by holding fast to ideas which have outlived their usefulness. Great leadership in industry is urgent.
I commend that article to honorable senators opposite. I repeat that the cure for strikes is balanced and sympathetic management in industry. The approach to the workers in any industry where strikes occur must be different from the approaches that have been made to such troubles in the past. Honorable senators opposite are simply wasting their time when they utter the worst possible condemnations of strikers and attribute to them ,the most ulterior of motives, while postulating that they .themselves are ultra-patriotic and are doing great work, whereas the workers are doing nothing. I commend the reading of this article by Sir Herbert Gepp, who is not a Communist, or a member of the Labour party, but has years and years of experience of the management of industry and capitalist publication. h&3 come to these conclusions, which are contained in what we would call a
– Why do the unions not go into industry on a cooperative basis? That would remove all those difficulties.
– It all depends on what is meant. If the honorable senator, by “ co-operative basis “, means a basis on which the wage is assessed in accordance with the cost of living, it certainly will not work, because the labour time in the manufacture of any commodity is a diminishing quantity, owing mainly to the mechanization of industry and to improved methods, and it follows, as night follows day, that the purchasing power of wages is also- a diminishing quantity. What is done under existing conditions is to try to patch it up with loadings, margins, or what are called social services. Co-operation under the present wage system would not work, but with equal rights in the management of industry and production would, in my judgment, be a workable and desirable proposition.
– What did the strike against the butter ration have to do with the management?
– If the honorable senator had had the same experience as I have had, he would see that in almost every instance of arbitrary action there is also objection. Society should be run on the principle of conference and agreement as far as possible, but the honorable senator’s attitude is that of a dictator. He would say, “ In the name of the law this is to be and that is to be “, and, because he had spoken, so it would be. That seems to be his mental approach to all these matters.
– The honorable senator does not believe in enforcing the law.
– There are laws and laws. I come now to our friend, Senator Wilson. He said that the Government had deliberately fostered strikes and absenteeism. No qualification! No reservation! Just a bald, dogmatic statement ! I reply, with all due respect, that that is a deliberate untruth, and nobody should know it better than the honorable senator himself. I could excuse him if ho were just a person without education, a person incapable of doing any study or research work, a person influenced mainly by his prejudice rather than his reason; but here we have a man, who has had a university education, is a qualified legal practitioner, making a statement of that kind, knowing, as we all know, that quite the reverse is the case.
– Tell us what the Government has done.
– We have done our best under almost impossible conditions to prevent strikes. We have had persons like the honorable senator himself, biased and prejudiced, and the subsidized press doing their very best to provoke strikes and attributing evil to men who spend most of their lives down in the mines. Those men are doing work that the honorable senator is not capable of doing, and which, if we could weigh it on the scales on judgment day, would prove to be infinitely more important than that which the honorable senator has done in making society what it is to-day. But, instead of a reasoned and sympathetic approach, instead of a mantoman approach to the miners, the honorable senator places himself on a pedestal. He is the great judge who will wield the big stick and drive these men, as, they have been driven in the past.
My friend will live to be dis.illusioned or, if lie is not disillusioned, he will live to pay the cost. The men will not tolerate it any more than he would have if he were in their position. I could quite imagine that if he were a coal-miner, working in the bowels of the earth day after day, constantly in danger from an explosion of gas or the collapse of the walls and so forth, he would be a member of the Communist party advocating the overthrow of the capitalist system by violence.
All the authorities that have examined the position during this Government’s term of office have agreed that there has been a remarkable increase of production despite hold-ups, despite adverse decisions in the law courts, and despite the sustained criticism of the press. I have been privileged since I have been a Minister of the Crown to meet many experts from overseas, persons whom I possibly would not have met had I not been in my present position, and, in every instance, they have said that it is incredible that the Government should have been able to do so much to increase production in such a short space of time. One of the last men to say that was Lord Burghley, whom I «vas privileged to meet on his arrival in Melbourne in the Lancaster bomber in which he flew from Britain. I assisted in the making of arrangements for him to visit all our workshops and to see exactly what has been done. He has a most favorable impression of what has been done. He is, as honorable senators are aware, associated with Sir Stafford Cripps, Minister for Aircraft Production in Great Britain. Yet, against what has been done, and against all the authorities, we have Senator “Wilson saying that the Government has deliberately fostered strikes and absenteeism. If that were so we should not have had the results we have achieved. I have no objection to Senator Wilson’s criticism, none at all, for I think that all criticism serves a useful purpose, and, in my generous moments, I have said that I have learned a great deal more from intelligent critics than from kindly disposed friends. I repeat, therefore, that I have no objection to the honorable senator’s criticism, but, to say the least of it, for a man in the honorable senator’s position to make a statement of that kind is unmanly and is not playing the game.
Senator Wilson has condemned the action of the Government in bringing back the 6th, the 7th and the 9th Divisions of the Australian Imperial Force. What has been done by the Government in that respect, and in other respects concerning major operations, has been done after consultation with the High Command. We must ask ourselves whether Senator Wilson is a higher authority than the officers of the High Command, who all through have conferred with the representatives of the Government. With all due respect to the honorable senator, I prefer to accept their opinion. I am proud and happy to say that, so far as I have been able to judge, all the negotiations that have taken place have been conducted with the best of feeling and with honest intentions. There have been differences, but these have been thrashed out dispassionately and, when decisions have been made, they have been effectuated. Yet Senator Wilson tells us that the Government has done a cowardly thing. I ask again, whom are we to accept as an authority? Possibly Senator Wilson, like the man to whom I previously made reference, is allowing bis political prejudices to override his better judgment. I am certain that, if he could, examine the records which are available, and see for himself what has been done, he would no more think of coming to this chamber and making such a wild and irresponsible statement than he would think of cutting his own throat. He has condemned political interference in military matters. In Great Britain it was political interference that prevented British capital from building up the German military machine, and removed from command men who were obviously incompetent. In both Great Britain and Australia, it was political interference that made it possible for us to do ever so much better within the recent past than we did at the beginning of the war. To imply, as the honorable senator has done, that, because he is privileged to serve as a major, he or anybody else should be regarded as the last word on the subject, is again to ask us to concede the impossible. We must have balance in our political affairs. Those who hold political power confer with the military authorities, and as a result of the conference they act from time to time. In no other way can we achieve the results that we desire. To allow military heads to be the sole arbiters of what is or is not to be done would result in permitting those who were mainly responsible for the disasters at the beginning of the war, such as the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore, to remain in power. Unfortunately, it seems that these things have to -happen before it dawns upon other responsible people that military leaders are not the last word on any subject. They are no more capable than other men, but are as just as other men, and are influenced by the same forces. Some are very good, and some very bad. Were it not for political interference, the bad ones would still be in. command, and, if they were, our position to-day would be a great deal worse than it is.
Senator Wilson has condemned those who are opposed to sending men overseas without their consent. He thinks that he should have the right to pack them off anywhere. He went of his own volition, and all credit is due to him for doing so, but he is not prepared to extend the same right of choice to others. He had the right to refuse to go. He could have stayed in this chamber instead of going overseas, but to his credit he volunteered. The name of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has been mentioned. It might be useful to remind Senator Wilson that higher authorities in military circles than he is were opposed to conscription. Among them were the late Honorable G. A. Street, the late Captain Hawker, the late Sir Henry Gullett, and, above all, one of the highest military authorities in this chamber, as he has demonstrated not by words but by deeds. I refer to Senator Brand, who knows what he is talking about. He was most emphatic against sending men overseas compulsorily. Before Senator Wilson and Senator McBride again attempt to blame Labour members for opposing conscription, let them have a quiet talk with our friend, General Brand, CB,, C.M.G., C.V.O.,
D.S.O. He hap been right through the business from beginning to end. The unfairness of our critics opposite is that they attribute everything wrong to honorable senators on this side, and say not one word about honorable senators who sit opposite. For the information of the Senate, and particularly Senator Wilson, because he may not know it, in my judgment, Australia leads the world in the matter of volunteering for active service, because at least 70 per cent, of the eligible manhood of> the Commonwealth volunteered to go to any part of the world - not a few inches on this or the other side of the equator, but anywhere. They are to-day, prepared to go to any part of the world to which they are directed, and yet this small Australian who has been attacking us says that that is no credit to Australia. I have yet to learn of any other country of which it can be said that at least 70 per cent, of its eligible men volunteered to fight overseas.
– All the others, including Great Britain, have conscription, so that the honorable senator cannot make any such comparison.
– Here is another honorable senator who reasons in terms of the absolute. He asserts that conscription is right and, therefore, any one opposed to it is wrong. Australia in the last war led the way with volunteers; it has done the same in this war. In my judgment the objective of those who try to enforce military conscription in Australia is the same as in European countries. Conscription is required for two reasons. One is to reduce the cost of the maintenance of soldiers to the irreducible minimum, and the other is to use the conscripted military forces in times of peace to suppress the trade union movement. I say, further, that war would not be possible were it not for military conscription. If the Allies had acted promptly when Germany reintroduced military conscription, this war might have been averted. Millions of men are not prepared to take part in a war of aggression unless they are forced to do so. They never of their own volition take part in a war of aggression. But in a war of defence, when men feel inspired to defend their Fatherland against the enemy, conscription is not necessary.
In my judgment, those who advocate conscription and the amalgamation of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces, are taking a long-range view, because they will require force for post-war purposes rather than for immediate military purposes. They will require this force for use against the waterside workers, coalminers, railway employees and post office employees who perform the work of society, and on whom we depend to build up the prestige and power of the nation. If the workers demand, as they are entitled to demand, better living conditions and an equal voice with other people in determining who shall govern this country, conscription will be used in Australia as it has been used in Europe. In addition, conscription will be used to prepare for another war that will possibly be worse than the present one. All wars of aggression have their origin in military conscription, which is not necessary in a country like Australia. On two occasions, it has been demonstrated that a big majority of our eligible men were prepared to enlist for active service without asking the reason why. They simply said : “ The call has been made in the name of our country and the Empire. We trust our leaders who have made this call, and we respond to it “. They accepted those who made the call at their face value. After the last war, when readjustments were being made, thousands of returned soldiers were forced to work in return for the dole. If military conscription is enforced after this war, thousands of men will again be forced into that humiliating position. As the late Mr. J. A. Spender implied, the only safety valve to prevent the return of such a state of affairs is to grant as far as is humanly possible the right of selfgovernment to every man and woman in the country. Conscription would prevent this being done.
I was amazed that Senator Wilson did not refer to the position of Australia in this war, instead of directing his attention wholly to the campaign in the Middle East. He did not seem to be concerned in the slightest about the necessity for protecting Australia, and made no reference to the probability of Japan invading this country. The inference is that the honorable senator is either ignorant or unconcerned regarding the position.
– I consider that our aim should be to keep the war as far from Australia as possible.
– We now have to fight in Australia, whether we like it or not. A few hours ago, Darwin was raided again. We do not have to go beyond Australia in order to meet the enemy.
– We should defend Australia by keeping the enemy as far as possible from these shores.
– Senator Sampson is another strategist who is 1,000 years behind his time. He would not have received a hearing on military matters even in the days of Julius Caesar. Senator Wilson complained because the Government had been obliged to divert labour from civil to war-time production, and because he does not get sufficient butter to spread on his toast at breakfast-time. Is it a really great hardship if some one has a reduced butter ration, and is prevented from maintaining his wardrobe at its peace-time level? The people will not be deluded into thinking that Senator Wilson is a great statesman who speaks in their name. When men are withdrawn from civil production, the output of goods must be reduced. When production declines, less butter and fewer clothes will be available for the general public. Senator Wilson desires the maintenance of peace-time conditions, namely, as much butter as he would normally consume and his peace-time wardrobe, despite the fact that Australia has been engaged for nearly four years in the greatest struggle in history.
– There is not a word of truth in that statement.
– The honorable senator complained about butter rationing.
– Is this more evidence of “ Wardism “ ?
– The demand for compulsory unionism, about which Senator Spicer complained, represents the self-defensive reaction on the part of the workers, where essential production is being monopolized by private capitalists to the degree that it is to-day. Management is unbalanced and the control of primary and secondary production is centralized in fewer hands. When that occurs, a dictatorial or unbalanced management is created which demands that workers shall either accept employment on the employers’ terms or starve.
– Is that why the Government introduced compulsory unionism into the Commonwealth Public Service ?
– I did not introduce it. What I am trying to establish is the relationship between cause and effect. The demand for compulsory unionism arises, not primarily from the workers themselves, but from the fact that primary and secondary production is being monopolized by fewer people to a greater degree to-day than it was before the war. What defence have the workers against low wages and unjust conditions of employment? What defence would legal practitioners have unless they had formed the Law Institute? When Senator Spicer believes in the legal profession standing firm for the scale of fees to which its members consider that they are entitled, and which makes it possible for them to enjoy a high standard of living, he is in the same category as the waterside worker, with the exception that the demand of the waterside worker is supported by greater justification. The demand for compulsory unionism arises from that condition of affairs. Sir Herbert Gepp has ably argued, in the article to which I directed attention, that unless this fact is taken into consideration, and a better system is introduced, revolts will continue to occur in industry. In the final analysis, it will be found that the employing class will be defeated and the workers will be victorious. But it will be a long and costly process. I plead that this subject should be approached by honorable senators opposite with more sympathy, and with more receptive minds. They should try to visualize the long years during which unionists have been striving to secure greater protection; they should realize the conditions under which these men had to work. Unless they are absolutely bankrupt of imagination they will, in their calm meditation, determine to adopt an attitude different from their present one.
I was impressed by Senator Spicer’s appeal for freedom for the individual. I agree that the individual should be as free as possible. But individuals will never be free while a few people in the community own the means by which the many live. So long as the many are expected to subject themselves to the will of the few, and as long as the few retain control of the means of livelihood of the many, and deprive them and their dependants of reasonable food, clothing and shelter, to say nothing of other amenities so long will the freedom of the individual remain unachieved in any collective sense. So long as the conditions which existed in every Allied country prior to the war are allowed to continue to exist, to cause increasing unemployment and poverty, so long will freedom for the individual remain a dream. So long as women and children are denied the right to adequate food, clothing and shelter, and the opportunity to qualify themselves to become more useful and desirable citizens, freedom must remain out of reach of many individuals. Honorable senators opposite, and the members of their political parties in the House of Representatives, have made no promises whatsoever that they will act differently after this war from the way in which their political predecessors acted in 1815 after Waterloo, in 1854 after the Crimean War, in 1902 after the South African war, and in 1918 after the last war. Senator Wilson expressed some opinions concerning what should be done, but they were merely his opinions. Similar opinions were expressed by adherents of his political faith 25 years ago, but no concerted efforts were made to translate those opinions into action, or even to express them in acts of Parliament. I can imagine Senator Wilson telling the people during the coming election campaign that it is desirable that service personnel should not be demobilized until work is provided for them. He may say, in effect, “ These are the opinions that I expressed in the Senate, and they were endorsed by the Senate “ ; but history will repeat itself. The same old story will be re-written, and the intentions of honorable gentlemen opposite will remain unfulfilled.
The members of the Opposition were responsible for including preference to returned soldiers in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which was amended a few months ago, hut we have to face the fact that at the very time that measure was before Parliament the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was considering the appointment of a secretary. Many applications had been received, some of which were from returned soldiers qualified to fill the position. At the board meeting nineteen members voted in favour of a returned soldier, and nineteen against; and it remained for the Labour member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), to direct the attention of the board to the fact that the qualifications of the returned soldier concerned were at least equal to those of the other individual who was being considered who was not a returned soldier. In spite of this, the chairman gave his casting vote against the returned soldier applicant, who had no redress. No protests were made by honorable gentlemen opposite.
– All this happened a fortnight before that bill was passed.
– That is not so. I was under the impression, in my extreme innocence, that in the light of these happenings Senator Sampson, or Senator Wilson, or possibly Senator Brand, who usually can be relied upon to say a word for returned soldiers, would have made a protest in this chamber, but scarcely a word was heard about it. It would seem from that happening that the preference that has been provided is scarcely worth the paper that it is written on, for the power to grant it rests with the employers. We have no power to enforce the preference provisions.
I have no doubt that many sob stories will be told during the election campaign with the object of securing votes, but the electors will also be told that not until the driving force of the Labour party was applied to the war situation was anything effective done. A careful examination of the record of the last two or three years provides an unanswerable case for support for the present Government. The charges that have been made against it cannot be sustained. The Curtin Government has demonstrated, by the results it has achieved, its worthiness to hold office. Honorable sena tors need not take my say-so for this, because ample evidence to this effect is available from independent authorities at home and overseas. If honorable senators opposite and their colleagues in the other House should win a majority at the next general elections, I fear that the returned soldiers, and also the workers of this country, will receive treatment similar to that which they received after the last war. The Labour party has shown its ability to do what is necessary in the interests of the people at large. It has given many evidences of its sincerity and capacity, and I believe that the people will show that they understand the position. The appeal of honorable senators opposite to prejudice and phobias of one kind and another will get them, nowhere. Since the Curtin Government has been in office it has done, in the words of the honorable member .for Henty (Mr. Coles), “ a wonderful wartime job “, and the kind of job which the previous Government, as a government, was incapable of doing. In making that statement I do not criticize individual members of that Government. The previous Government felt the pressure of war-time demands and exigencies immediately it assumed office, and it failed to stand up to them. The Curtin Government, on the other hand, has vindicated itself. Its members are able to hold up their heads because, in the darkest hours of the nation’s existence, the Government in which they held membership rose to the occasion and did a war-time job in a way that no other Government had done it. This Government has been able to marshal our fighting forces and our internal resources in such a way as to save the country. Without its administration the country might have been lost.
.- We are discussing the first reading of a bill to grant Supply for three months. In the ordinary course of events, that would seem to be too long a period, but members of the present Ministry have been enjoying themselves for the last eighteen months, and I have no objection to allowing them a lingering farewell to the sweets of office. The Curtin Ministry began its career by governing this country by bureaucratic methods. Under a successful bureaucracy, the general public must, of course, be inconvenienced as much as possible. The ordinary member of society is exceedingly loyal and wishes to do something to help the country in time of stress. The Government, therefore, said, “ We shall inconvenience the people as much as possible, so that every member of the community will feel that he is taking his proper part in the winning of the war “. Labour Ministers are propagandists of the first water, and that is the procedure adopted by the Government from the outset. The policy of the anti-Labour Governments which preceded it, was to get the best results with the least possible inconvenience to the people, but the present Government has obtained the poorest results with the greatest possible inconvenience to the public. The Labour party fought the last general elections on promises. It promised everything to everybody who it thought, would vote for it. The Government is on a different footing to-day, and will have to fight the coming elections on its performances. So we have the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) first proclaiming to the world in general what a remarkably good job he has done in his ministerial capacity, and, secondly, in the same ‘terms as he has employed time and again, he has given to us extraordinary opinions and advice about industrial management. There is one thing which this Government has done better than any one in the industrial world. It has been said that the abattoirs in Chicago are so well organized that when a pig is slaughtered everything is made use of except the squeal. The Government has improved on that, and the squeal is usually its first by-product. What does the honorable senator think of the United States of America, to which this Government has squealed so loudly for help? I quote an extract from an article written by the Minister and published in Melbourne in 1927-
The Americanizing of Australia means that, as in America, and as the inevitable outcome, we would have here in Australia more of the ignorant and arrogant type of employers and their degenerate progeny.
Is it their degenerate progeny which is now in Australia and helping to defend this country?
More crime and private murders, such as street executions and mob lynchings; more corruption and immorality both in public and private life; more religious bigotry; more sexual grossness and perversity in literature and the theatres; more drug fiends and freak social reformers; more weird negro jazz music and the antics and dancing of primitive man; more of the extremes of the uncultured and the cringing poor, and more generally of men and things that are not only positively dangerous, but also the very antithesis of healthy and progressive social life.
How does the honorable senator reconcile his statement that America is a country of degenerates, in view of what Americans are doing for Australia now? Although he formerly condemned those people right and left, he enthusiastically accepts their help at a time when Australia needs it.
I desire to clear the air about certain statements that have been made by the Minister regarding aircraft construction. The Royal Australian Air Force had bombers before the present Government took office. It had over 1,000 trainer aeroplanes in use.
– What sort of bombers?
– They had to be taken back and remodelled.
– They were remodelled long before the present Government assumed office. A certain schedule was laid down by me as Minister for Aircraft Production, but the schedule for the construction of Beauforts and other aeroplanes has not been reached during the time the Labour Government has been in power, despite the fact that before it assumed office we had established an aluminium extrusion plant in Sydney. Although the Government with which I was associated had put in the big forging plant required to make the engine blocks and other parts, and although the factory for the construction of engines, probably the best plant of the kind in Australia, was established and brought into production, the production schedule has not come up to that laid down by me when in office. Had the honorable senator told us the production of Beauforts at present, I am sure that honorable senators generally would be amazed at the falling-off of production.
The Minister also spoke about the docking facilities necessary for capital ships. He seems to be fathering the graving dock in Sydney, but the construction of that dock was started long before the present Government came into power. He referred to the essential need for docking facilities, and I agree with him. That is why the Government of which I was a member started the graving dock in Sydney and made other provisions. I am reminded of the old fable of the bullfrog who blew himself up in order to make himself important, until finally he burst. This Government having hit “the Brisbane line” it, too, will burst.
The Minister for Aircraft Production has spoken of the technical training of operatives. He has ignored the fact that many thousands of operatives were trained in technical schools before his Government came into office.
His reference to coal-miners not having equipment, reminded me that strikes have occurred time after time, because of the mechanization of the coal-mines. I suppose that that sort of “ guff “ goes down at the meetings which the honorable gentleman attends. Coal-mining has been made a new aristocracy of labour, members of which receive special pay and privileges. The patriotism of these persons is such that they cheerfully deprive war industries of their necessities, and cause the people to go cold in the severest winter we have had, in order that they may enjoy the luxury of a few days on strike, although they are receiving the highest wages that have ever been paid in the industry.
It is asserted that the war has imposed the acid test on industrial management. I agree. The acid test has been applied to industrial management by governments. It has been revealed that under government control the cost of almost everything produced is twice as great as it was under private enterprise. Let us consider the performances of the waterside workers in Sydney. These are experienced men, who have been working on the waterfront for years. Of necessity, for the safety of Australia, the Commonwealth Government was compelled to utilize the services of soldiers in the loading and unloading of vessels that arrived in the port of Sydney, and they did twice as much as had been done previously by experienced men who had followed the avocation for years. The people are beginning to realize, by the difference in the cost of living, what government management in primary and secondary industry has effected.
– The honorable senator has said that government servants have done twice as much as was previously done by men who were privately employed. He has thus contradicted himself.
– It is very nice of the honorable senator to try to correct me. I need mention only one matter, the manufacture of the Bren gun, or the Owen gun.
– The honorable senator should keep away from the Bren gun ; it is dangerous.
– It is dangerous when handled by inexperienced persons. Let us take a machine that is constructed more simply and cheaply - the Owen gun. “We were informed that arrangements had been made for the production of that.gun at a cost of something less than £5 apiece. Will any honorable senator in authority state what the cost now is? I am afraid that the costing system has been so badly organized under the marvellous industrial management of the Government that we cannot be told what the Owen gun is costing to produce. The cost is not £5, but more than £10.
The Minister for Aircraft Production has said that night follows day as a natural consequence. It does. But day also follows night; and, at some time in August next, night will pass, and day will return. The last eighteen months has been a black period for a lot of people in this country, and they very greatly resent the fact. Until a little while ago, members of the Government said that they were concerned for the welfare of him whom they described as “ the small man “ ; he was their foster child. I point out that the small man has been having a very bad time. He was promised all sorts of things, but under the regime of this Government he has gone out of business whilst the big concerns have grown larger. The small shopkeeper - the little sweets shops conducted by a couple of maiden women who probably could not do anything else - throughout the suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and other cities and towns, has gradually gone out of business. These shopkeepers say, “ When we go into Coles or Woolworths, we see the shelves filled with different things that we sell “. How are those large stores able to obtain supplies? The reason is that the present Government looks after big business. It affirmed its intention to abolish big business, but instead it has abolished small businesses. On that account, it has not approached to within measurable distance of the fulfilment of its promises or expectations. Despite the boasting of its members, the haloes they are supposed to be wearing, and the rosy picture which they paint of the Government’s achievements, it has a record of blundering and futility. It has, of course, been actuated by the best intentions. I should be very sorry to impute anything else to honorable senators opposite. I would not impugn their loyalty, earnestness, or faith in their peculiar political beliefs. But they must be realizing daily that, in the acid test of war, those beliefs with which they embarked so gaily, have let them down badly. They intended to abolish big business, but it is growing larger. They were anxious to look after the small man, but he is going out of business.
– We made one of the honorable senator’s friends in Melbourne disgorge £250,000 to which he was not entitled.
– Well, that is one good mark to the Government, and about the only one it “has. Let us put it up on the wall in chalk that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and his crowd did that one good thing. I am confident that the mark- will remain there for ever without a companion. The Government proclaimed its intention to be kind to people who had small savings, but the savings of the thrifty have disappeared. This doctrine that the thrifty man is a danger to the community, standing between the Labour party and the application of its policy, is something new. The whole effect of Labour’s programme and administration is gradually to diminish the savings of the thrifty. The Labour Government began by stating that it proposed to erect big factories in country districts, and it has kept its promise. The factories have been erected, the machinery has been installed, and now it has been found that no houses are available for the workers to live in. That is a supreme example of lack of foresight. Surely it should have been recognized from the beginning that where you had factories you would need operatives, and that the operatives would need somewhere to live, but that elementary fact never seemed to occur to the Government.
– Evidently the honorable senator has not heard of the Housing Trust.
– Yes, I have, and 1 have heard all about the thousands of houses that must be built in the big cities in order to house munitions workers and the ordinary civil population, but not one thing has been done by the Government to provide the houses, or to make material available so that some one else may build them. The Government says, “ We cannot build houses, but we will take jolly good care that no one else builds them while we are here “. And, of course, the best way in which to ensure this is to see that no materials are made available.
– The honorable senator is a political Rip Van Winkle mumbling in his sleep.
– I am not a Rip Van Winkle, and I am not mumbling. The Minister has a longer memory than I have, because he has lived longer, “but I do not know that it is any virtue to have lived longer than other people. When he eventually wakes up from his long sleep he will find that he is no longer m the Senate. The Government set out on a policy of inconveniencing the people of Australia, hoping thereby to persuade them that it was doing something helpful in the direction of winning the war. It called up men and women, all and sundry, but what did it do with them? It wasted their services, and it took no steps to prevent absenteeism. Hundreds of thousands of men are working at only half their capacity. Any one who visits the barracks in either Sydney or Melbourne can see a great number of people there with nothing to do.
– Has the honorable senator seen them?
– Yes. Why, there are two whole divisional head-quarters staffs in Australia, with all the paraphernalia of majors and captains, and all the expense incidental to such organizations, but there is not a soldier with them. That is what the people ought to be told. The Government is wasting man-power, not only in the industrial field, but also in the military field, at the very time that it is starving the dairy-farmers and other primary producers of essential man-power. It has created a condition, in country districts under which the elderly man, perhaps of poor physique, with no ambition but to live an easy, comfortable life, cannot now get a job, and the Government will not provide any job for him. Therefore, he will be forced to go on the dole, because there will be nothing else for him to do. He is not worth £4 16s. a week. He knows it, and the employer knows it. Honorable senators opposite declare in every speech they make that, under Labour rule, there will be no unemployment.
– And there is none now.
– One of the first things which this Government did when it got into office was to establish a fund of £30,000,000 for the relief of unemployment. It had so little confidence in its own nostrums, or hopes that it would be able to redeem its promises, that it arranged to set aside £30,000,000 for the relief for the unemployment that would be inevitable under its ‘ regime. Ministers say that they are opposed to class legislation, vet the Government has legislated directly for the benefit of that class which pays a tax to the trade unions, as against those who merely pay taxes to the Treasury. The unions must, in all circumstances, come first, while the country comes next. According to the Government, there is one class in this community which deserves .the best that it can give them. It must receive special privileges. This is the class which helps to pay the salaries of honorable senators opposite when they are not in Parliament. The unionists constitute a specially privileged class under this Govern ment. They are even given judicial privileges. Although they may have broken the laws of the country, the Government declares that they may not be prosecuted. It says, in effect, “ No, they are unionists. They must not be prosecuted. They are incapable of committing an offence - they are immaculate “. It is true that in a moment of aberration one of the boards started proceedings against unionists - a foul crime indeed! But the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) at once stepped in and said, in effect, “ The minion which started these proceedings is mad. There is no such thing as a unionist being guilty of a crime “. But, fearing that somewhere there might be a judge with a sense of fair play who would fine even a unionist, the Minister said, “We will withdraw the proceedings “. That from a government which preaches against class legislation !
The Government professes -to keep down the cost of living, and at the same time it seeks to compensate producers for extra costs of production by granting subsidies to them. Moreover, those subsidies are paid, not out of revenue, but out of loan money.
– Where will the Government get the loan money for all these subsidies ?
– Every one knows that Senator Darcey will fix that matter. That the cost of living can be kept down by paying subsidies out of loan money ‘ is something new to me.
– The honorable senator is still in the dark ages and does not like anything new.
– I admit that I think that I am in the dark ages when I walk at night between Parliament House and my hotel.
– The honorable senator is mentally in the dark day and night.
– The Minister for the Interior wears different spectacles at different times. On some occasions he wears his thickest glasses, so that he cannot see through them; on other occasions when he makes statements he puts on his thinnest glasses, because he wants to see whether every one else is as credulous as he is.
A few days ago Senator Aylett complained bitterly about manufacturers not making billy-cans, kitchen utensils, and other articles of domestic use. He put all the blame on the manufacturers, and said that they were deliberately refraining from making the household articles required by the poorer people in the community. But what is the real position? The whole of the tinned plate in Australia is controlled by the Tinned Plate Board. Any one who wants to make an article out of tinned plate must go to that board and sign a form setting out particulars of the number and kind of articles that he proposes to make.
– Every one knows that.
– Then why blame the manufacturers as the honorable senator did a few days ago? The board, which works directly under the Government, is responsible for. every sheet of tinned plate in Australia, and controls the use to which it is put. However, I shall not attempt to draw attention to all the foolish blunders which the present Government has perpetrated during its too long term of office.
– That is the honorable senator’s trouble - the Government has been in office too long to suit him.
– That is so. The longer it remains in office the more serious will be the bungle.
I doubt whether, in all its record of maladministration, there is anything worse than the Government’s bungling in connexion with clothing coupons. First, the people were given so many coupons, some of which could be used up to November last, and the remainder until some time in June of this year. Persons who wanted winter clothes expected that they would be able to get them during the currency of those coupons ; but many who went to the shops in May found that their coupons were useless because there were no winter clothes there for them to buy. The remarkable thing, however, is that as soon as the new coupons came into use the shops seemed to be full of winter clothes.
– That was because the wholesalers sabotaged the Government’s plan.
– I should like to know whether the Government issued instructions to wholesalers not to supply clothing in the final weeks of the coupon year. . I cannot see that it mattered to a storekeeper whether he sold his goods in May or in June. It certainly seems suspicious that, whereas buyers could not obtain clothing during the currency of the first issue of coupons, plenty of clothes were available after the new issue of coupons had been made. That state of affairs existed, not in a few shops, but in almost every shop. The Government, which is soon to go out of office - for ever I hope - is a time-payment government; it has bought its majority on timepayment.
– At half-a-crown a time.
– It has to make payments by instalments. Every now and then its majority has to be given a payment under -the time-payment system. One part of the majority is placed, first, on one board, and then on another. The Government, wise to its own interests, says, “ What sort of payment must we give ? “ It answers its own question by saying that the best payment is to build up the ego of that part of its majority. It says, “ We will make him important ; wo will let him see that he really controls the destiny of Australia; and so we will place him on board after board. In that way we shall secure his support.”
– Members of Opposition parties have rushed to accept positions on boards.
– The other portion of the Government’s majority is in a class by himself. As its first payment to him, the Government said, “ We will build you up in your electorate “, and it proceeded to establish at Warracknabeal, in the electorate of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), a distillery for the production of power alcohol from wheat. The experts say that is the worst site in Victoria that could have been chosen for a distillery. However, it has the outstanding qualification that it is situated in the electorate of Wimmera. The Government’s second payment to that honorable gentleman was even more material than the first. In answer to a question to-day, it was disclosed that the honorable gentleman had received £427 7s. lid. for special services. The Government’s third payment to the honorable gentleman was to send him to Great Britain for a trip as a Labour representative. However, travelling by boat was too common, so the Government sent him by a special aeroplane.
– He travelled in the same way as the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies).
– But the honorable member for Wimmera is much more important than the right honorable member for Kooyong. At the time the right honorable member for Kooyong went abroad he was only the Prime Minister of this country, whereas the honorable member for Wimmera is the Government’s majority. So this time-payment Government will go on paying its instalments at the expense of the taxpayers until its majority has melted into thin air, and at the end of August, following the general election, it will say to the taxpayers, “ Good-bye. We enjoyed ourselves while we were there at your expense. We have done incalculable harm, but we have boasted about the things we have done, and our performances have been just as good as those of certain Ministers who comprised our outstanding government “.
– Senator Leckie has been speaking of haloes, and he has tried to put one around his own head. He succeeded to such a degree that he gave himself a political headache. His effort reminds me of the story of a gentleman who consulted a Chinese doctor in order to obtain a cure for a headache. The doctor told the gentleman to cut out smoking, and the latter replied that he did not smoke. “ Well,” said the doctor, “ you will have to cut out drinking”. When the gentleman replied that he did not drink, the doctor asked him, “ Are you true to your wife ? “. When the gentleman replied in the affirmative, the doctor said, “ Well, your trouble is your halo is too tight”. I propose to loosen the halo with which Senator Leckie has encircled his own head, and I hope that as the result he will be better able to see the position as we on this side see it. In all seriousness,
I ask honorable senators opposite to keep a grasp on realities, to realize that we are the representatives of a nation at war. Although we have had pleasant news lately from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) I realize that the people can become too complacent altogether if they imagine that we are entirely free from the consequences of war. I do not believe that we are completely free from the possibility of an invasion. We may be free from a major attack in which the whole country may be subjugated by the Japanese, but, at the same time, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, we may have raids and experience considerable suffering. Therefore, it behoves the Parliament to face realities and to remember that we are still at war. We should do our best to organize a maximum war effort, and to keep up the community’s morale so that we shall obtain the best results for Australia. I remind honorable senators that we have not yet made contact with the main Japanese fleet. As I have pointed out on previous occasions, that fleet is an unknown quantity, because no naval writer has been able to tell us with certainty what is its strength. We shall ascertain how strong it is only when it meets the American fleet assisted, of course, by the ships that we are able to place at the disposal of our Allies. Therefore, it ill behoves any parliamentarian to say, or do, anything that will give rise to complacency among our people and adversely affect our war effort.
I intend to speak up plainly and clearly for my party, and in doing so I shall not draw my punches when I speak of honorable senators opposite. Honorable senators generally will admit that I am an amiable man. I do not seek to quarrel with any one. For many months in this chamber I have endeavoured to raise debates to, as high a plane as possible, and to a degree I have succeeded. At the same time, I realize fully how ungenerous are some honorable senators opposite. I regret that in their attacks upon one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers they have sunk so low. Listening to a debate in the House of Representatives last week I was surprised at the tone of the attack levelled by the Opposition against the Prime Minister.
The British Prime Minister, and the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), have spoken in the highest terms of “ Jack “ Curtin ; and we know that our great military leader, General Douglas MacArthur, has the greatest affection for Mr. Curtin and is aware of his great mental and moral qualities. Therefore, it ill behoves any little, lickspittle, yelping dog of a politician to bark at a man of “ Jack “ Curtin’s calibre. He has done a splendid job for Australia, and his achievement in organizing a 100 per cent, war effort in this country is recognized among the leaders of the United Nations.
– Is the honorable senator trying to tighten his halo?
– I am speaking from the bottom of my heart, because I know of no man more earnest than “ Jack “ Curtin, or of any man in this country who has tried to do his bit as he has.
– Senator McBride is one of those narrowminded gentlemen from the Adelaide Club who displays the meanest spirit towards his opponents. Even on the battlefield opponents who are prepared to slay in combat have the greatest respect for each other; but on the political field we find gentlemen with minds as big as a peanut, who are not sufficiently generous to recognize qualities in an opponent. I am surprised that Senator McBride acts the way he does. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to give to the Prime Minister the credit to which he is justly entitled. I ask them not to be so petty. Senator McBride may laugh. All I can say is that I am sorry for him in much the same way as I am sorry for any person who is mentally defective. I feel sorry for the honorable senator, but I am sure that he is not typical of parliamentarians generally. I pay tribute to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who has done splendid work, though Senator Wilson does not think so. But Senator Wilson is another South Australian who represents the members of the South Australian Club, I believe it is.
– The honorable senator may get it right if he makes a few more guesses.
– At any rate, Senator Wilson is associated with the political troglodytes that come from , South Australia.
In the matter of fighting, it is admitted that, no matter how good a political leader may be, whether he be a Curtin, a Menzies or a Hughes, the war cannot be won without efficient armed forces, and, in that respect, I pay tribute to members of our three armed services, the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, for the spendid work they have done in every theatre of war. None of us would be backward in paying the tribute that those men deserve ; but, at the same time, it is necessary in the proper conduct of the war to have a political leader who has the confidence of his party and the community. In “ Jack “ Curtin we have such a leader, but what have we amongst the ranks of the Opposition? More in sorrow than in anger, but truthfully, I say that the Opposition has no one who meets with these requirements. On our side we have “ Jack “ Curtin as leader. If any one wanted to displace him - and no one does - he would have no hope, because we know the .right honorable gentleman’s worth. He is Prime Minister as the result of a unanimous vote by the Labour Caucus. It is vital, I repeat, that we should have as leader a man who has the complete backing of his party and the confidence of the community. On the other side, however, there are several contestants for the honour of leadership, and it would be fatal for this country’s interests if the people were so misguided as to replace in power those honorable gentlemen whose record in the last few years has been one of intrigue, jealousy and questionable tactics. What .a fight there would be among the aspirants on the other side for the Prime Ministership. We have “ Bob “ Menzies as one aspirant. Well, he is a very proud gentleman who stands aloof from the hoi polloi
– He is a rejected remount.
– I do not say that. His father-in-law, Senator Leckie, on one occasion when I spoke in high terms of the right honorable member for Kooyong, interjected, “Don’t spoil a good speech “. I have a high personal regard for the right honorable gentleman, but I say that he has not the qualities essential for leadership, especially in war-time. He is a man of great ability, standing head and shoulders above his colleagues, but he is a proud and aloof man. Then, we have the right honorable member for North Sydney, William Morris Hughes, at one time a member of the Labour party, a man with outstanding characteristics, one who has made his mark, a most unusual man, but very subtle in political intrigue, as we in the Labour party well know. That right honorable gentleman is now somewhat senile. Then we have the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), a gentleman from Queensland with whom I am very well acquainted. He is a friendly soul, but somewhat fatuous in many ways. We also have the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner). He is a rather sour individual from New South Wales whom I have never met personally. He is slow moving, but I assure you, Mr. President, that he is no Simple Simon. Probably, if he got the leadership, he would make a good leader. We also have the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), a King’s Counsel, whose greatest achievement was to make himself, while Minister for the Army, a lieutenant-colonel. I do not think that he has any chance of making the grade and becoming the leader of the four parties on the opposite side of Parliament.
– Four parties?
– Yes, four- two United Australia parties and two Country parties. The next aspirant is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), a man after my own heart, filled with good humour, but, at the same time, an arch Conservative, also from South Australia, the home State of the most ardent and most case-hardened Conservatives. He is one of the seventeen good and true who branched out to form the National Service group in order to put “ ginger “ into the United Australia party. Those seventeen need to put some “ginger” into themselves. I say that in passing, but to revert to the aspirants for the Prime Ministership, I class my South Australian friend, Mr. Archie Cameron, as not only a Conservative, but also a would-be fascist. I have had many conversations with him and know that, like many others, he would have fascism if he could be the Fuhrer. Next we have the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), whom the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) fittingly described recently by paraphrasing Markham’s great poem, The Man with ti Hoe, in these words: “As stolid as the ox with the vacancy of centuries on his. brow “.
I think that that covers all the aspirants in the House of Representatives. In the Senate we have the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) personally a very good friend of mine, but he is Pickwickian, ponderous and pugnacious. My gaze shows me no others on the Opposition benches who would enter into the fight, but those whom I have named are the people who aspire to lead this country in this crisis of war should the Opposition have the good fortune to be returned with a majority at the forthcoming general elections. I put it to the people of Australia that, on the one side they have a man in the right honorable member for Fremantle who, as Prime Minister, has led Australia through the greatest crisis of the war, a man of outstanding ability who possesses the backing of his party and should possess, as I think he does, the faith of the people. On the other side, there are five, six or seven - I do not know how many - who aspire to leadership. If the people show sufficient lack of wisdom to send the Opposition parties back into power, I should like to be at the meeting which elects the leader.
– As a special privilege, the honorable senator may be invited.
– No, I am debarred ; but it would be interesting to be present. I have my own opinion of the right honorable member for Kooyong; I like him personally, but his politics are-
– That will do. I was about to use a more vulgar expression.
– I shall tell the right honorable member for Kooyong what the honorable senator thinks of him.
– There is no need for Senator McBride to do that. The right honorable member for Kooyong knows my views. He has listened to me here before. Moreover, he will be able to read my speech.
– I do not think he does read the honorable senator’s speeches.
– He will read a good speech if he does. Some time ago the right honorable member for North Sydney sent to me a pamphlet entitled Mr. Menzies and Unity. It was signed thus : “ By the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, Leader of the United Australia party “. I do not know whether copies were sent to any one else, but I know that my copy is printed on glazed paper. I read its contents with great interest - I will not say with pleasure - and I think that, in the interests of knowledge, every citizen of Australia should have a copy of this pamphlet written by the octogenarian Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He is attacking not Labour, but Mr. Menzies and his fellow-workers Senator McLeay and Senator James McLachlan, and the rest of the seventeen members of the National Service group. I do not know whether Senator Wilson is in the group, but I can check that by reference to the Sydney Morning Herald, which published the letter which was sent by the seventeen to the right honorable member for North Sydney. It is as well to have the names of those seventeen honorable gentlemen recorded in case I should have occasion to refer to them while I am on the hustings. Under the headlines “ United Australia party cave formed - seventeen send letter to Leader “, we find the following signatories to the letter: -
South Australia. - Major Cameron, Messrs. ‘ Duncan-Hughes, Price and Stacey, Senators McLeay, McBride, A. J. McLachlan, James McLachlan. Uppill and Wilson.
Yes, Senator Wilson is amongst them. From Victoria there were Mr. Menzies, Senator Leckie, who is Mr. Menzies’ father-in-law, and Senator Spicer, for whom I have a great regard. From Tasmania there were Mr. Beck and
Senator Sampson, another good friend of mine. From Western Australia there was Senator Collett, and from New South Wales the “Hollywood special “, Captain Harrison. Those are the gentlemen who formed a party within the great United Australia party, which is now appealing to the electors to return it to office on the one ground that we should form a national government. It is simply Gilbertian that these people, who cannot unite among themselves, should say to the Labour party : “ For God’s sake take us in, and let us have a national government “. The reason why they formed this party within a party, so they said, was that they wanted new ° and vigorous leadership. Poor little “ Billy “ Hughes, time has been hard on him, and he bears the snow of many winters on his brow. He is very frail, and not fighting as he should, and the same applies to Mr. “ Artie “ Fadden, and so Mr. Menzies got busy. Let me quote what Mr. William Morris Hughes, who is the Leader of the United Australia party, says about Mr. Menzies getting busy. This is the Mr. Menzies who is a member of the United Australia party and also a member of the National Service group. After flagellating the new National Service group unmercifully, Mr. William Morris Hughes, referring to Mr. Menzies’ speech, gives us this gem -
His speech, like the composite letter of the group, is a palpable sham, intended to distract the minds of the public from his humiliating failure to secure the leadership, and to create the impression in the public mind that this group of party wreckers had been inspired to take action by altruistic motives in order to save the Commonwealth from some national disaster, overwhelming and imminent, due to the deplorable policy of the Government, and the ineptitude of the Opposition leaders.
That “group of party wreckers” included Senator McBride, Senator Sampson, Senator McLeay and Senator James McLachlan. I should like Senator “ Macbeth “ McBride, the great troglodyte Tory from the Adelaide Club, to listen to what “ Billy “ had to say further -
What miserable humbug all this is! He deplores self-seeking, whispering campaigns and petty intrigues; he passionately urges the need for unity but is himself the great selfseeker, the man behind the scenes in every intrigue, the fountain head of every whispering campaign, the destroyer of unity.
There you have Mr. William Morris Hughes, the Leader of the United Australia party, castigating Mr. Menzies, another member of the United Australia party, yet they propose to go round the country appealing to the electorates to put them into power once more. So far as leadership is concerned, we must have men who are true to one another. To my mind there is something deplorable in a democracy when people cannot be true to one another. There is something wrong in our mental make-up if even parliamentarians cannot be true to each other. I well remember when our good friend Mr. Archie “ Fuhrer “ Cameron left the Country party, of which he was leader. I apologize to the country for bringing this matter up, but I feel very strongly that it is necessary that the electors should know what these people are like, in order that they make no mistake when the elections come around. Mr. Archie Cameron, M.P., when he resigned the leadership of the Country party, sent a letter to little Mr. “Artie” Fadden, as he is called by the cognoscenti. “ Artie “ is a very fine fellow and I have enjoyed his company and his stories. Mr. Archie Cameron, who aspires to be the leader of this divided country party once more, said in his letter to Mr. Fadden -
When I assumed leadership, disruption, doubts and divided counsel ruled the party . . Everlasting intrigue ami manoeuvring for personal advantage reached its zenith in ruptures of the seal of Cabinet secrecy, which must ultimately make any Minister’s position, inside or outside either a party or a cabinet, untenable. No party can function if its internal state is n stew of simmering discontent, spiced by insatiable personal ambitions and incurable animosities. . . . That call to national unity was unheard or unheeded in the party’s own room. Australia expects something better, and the times demand it.
Therefore the people of this country cannot afford to send men of this description back to power. Away from the party political room they may be the nicest of gentlemen. Indeed I have met them and appreciated their company, but within the ranks of the party opposite there are so many antagonisms that I feel certain that it will be impossible for them to reach the treasury bench. If they do, God help Australia, because these antagonisms will show themselves again, and we do not want that sort of thing in war-time.
– Tell us something about the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and his loyalty to the Prime Minister and his other comrades.
– I shall come to that in good time, Mr. “ Macbeth “ McBride. The prediction has been going around Queensland that the two United Australia parties and the two Country parties are going to have a victory. They may. I am not a prophet, and do not believe in prognosticating at all, but I remind honorable senators that we have in Queensland a solid Australian Labour party. We also, it is true, have two United Australia parties and two Country parties, who are fighting one another tooth and nail.
– “Solid “ is the right word to apply to the Labour party - solid right to the top.
– The honorable senator is solid from the neck up, but the divided United Australia parties and Country parties are not very solid, because recently they have been fighting one another, and telegrams and letters have been exchanged. A member of one party says that he sent a letter, and a member of another says that he never received it, so I suppose they both blame the postman. So far as the Country party ia concerned, I am pleased to find that they are coming nearer to the Labour party. I have fought for many years to bring the light into the minds of our farmers, and to make them realize that their proper position was side by side with the Labour party, as representatives of the rural producers, and not with the representatives of the coupon clippers or interest mongers. For many years, however, the members of the Country party were so mentally affected that they linked up with the United disunited Australia party, although in that united dis-united party are men who represent the big financiers, the big industrialists, the mortgage companies and all the rest of them, who somehow were able to persuade the Country party that it should link up with them. But now the light has entered their minds, and we find them forming a party of their own.
In Queensland we still have the Fadden Country party linked up with the United Australia party, but we also have another Country party sticking to the old organization that has been built up over the years. The politicians have pulled out and those who are in . this Country party are going to run candidates of their own. I am sorry that the Country party is not entirely with us, but it is taking a step in the right direction, because I believe that the farmers of Queensland or anywhere else will never make any headway until they are completely separated from the exploiting section, which comprises the rentier class and the financial class as we know it. I shall not use my own words about the United Australia party, but I propose to tell honorable senators what “ Artie “ Fadden said about it. He represented the Country party before it was united to the United Australia party, when he first stood for Parliament, and I am responsible for making him the Prime Minister of Australia. He stood for Mirani, a blue ribbon seat in Queensland, which had never before gone to Labour, but the Labour party sent me out on the job, and its good candidate defeated “ Artie “ Fadden. Later on he stood for a federal seat, and won it, and eventually became the Prime Minister of Australia. This excellent description of the United Australia party was given, not by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings), the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), or Senator Darcey, but by “ Artie “ Fadden. He said -
The United Australia party gave its allegiance to the big financial and manufacturing interests of the cities and to the middlemen and to the monopolists, because it received its support and power from those people. How could the United Australia party serve the countryside as well as the cities, who sucked the’ lifeblood from the countryside?
Since then, the right honorable gentleman has changed his views. No one will deny that the previous government did a certain amount of work to prepare the defences of Australia. I do not detract from the efforts of Senator McBride and other ex-Ministers, and a former Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, who had to work very hard, indeed, because of the internal intrigues against him. But their efforts reminded me of a visit that I one paid to a lunatic asylum. I saw a patient who had been digging holes for twenty years. He was obsessed with the idea that one day he would find gold, but though he worked hard, he had no success. The trouble with the United Australia party, which is now disunited, and the United Country party, is that they worked hard without achieving satisfactory results. That the defences of this country were in a parlous condition when the previous Government was in office is indisputable. That is not a political untruth.
– Yes, it is.
– To convince the honorable senator, I shall cite an example. As Australia was open to attack from many directions, the previous Government should have ensured that our reserves of petrol were adequate. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) have revealed that, when the Labour party took office, stocks of petrol were very low. On several occasions in this chamber, I directed the attention of Ministers of the previous Government to the serious position of our petrol reserves. I indicated that, in the event of an outbreak of war in the Pacific, the enemy might be in a position to prevent oil tankers from reaching this country.- I urged the establishment of vast reserves of oil in underground tanks, in order to ensure that Australia would have adequate supplies in an emergency. Senator A. J. McLachlan, then a Minister in the United Australia party Government, replied that he had been advised that if petrol were stored in tanks, it would evaporate. The honorable senator has now been abandoned by his own party and after next June will not be a member of this chamber. The Prime Minister has revealed that the then Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McLeay) allowed the petrol stocks to be reduced to a dangerously low level. Only two years ago, the Premier of Victoria, who is opposed to the Labour party, declared it was a tragedy that Australia should be practically without local supplies of petrol, and without a plan for obtaining it. Those statements cannot be denied. I concede that, when the United Australia party Government was in office,
Japan had not entered the conflict; hut I recall that the former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) coined the slogan, “ Business as usual”, and that, despite the setbacks of the Allies, the Australian public was immensely complacent. Because of internal dissension and intrigue, the United Australia party Government lacked driving force, with the result that the defences of this country were in a serious condition.
In 1937, the Leader of the Labour party emphasized the importance of air power, and if the government of the day had heeded his prophesies, Australia would have been better prepared to meet the blows of Japan. He declared : “ Australia’s defence lies in aviation”. He forecast that our Wavy would not be Sum- went to ensure the defence of this country, and he urged that, if our resources were inadequate, at least one section of them should be so improved as to meet the national requirements. But just as in Great Britain, the previous Government pinned its faith on the Navy. The “blue water school” of thought predominated. The political “ blimps “ of the United Australia party listened to the old “ fogies “ in Great Britain who did not wake up until Japanese aircraft had sunk the Prince of Wales and Repulse. Their whole outlook was antagonistic to the possibilities of the air weapon. The honorable member for Barker described the forecasts of the leader of the Labour party as “ stupid “, and the Defence Council resolved that the basis for our defence was the maintenance of the Royal Australian Navy. Whilst that decision was partly correct, we, unfortunately, placed all our eggs in one basket. A former Prime Minister, the late Bight Honorable J. A. Lyons, pinned his faith on the “blue water school “, and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) stated that the defence policy of the Labour party was an invitation to commit national suicide.
– That is still correct.’
– The Labour party was actively engaged in promulgating the idea that if Australia was to be made safe against invasion, we must not depend entirely upon the Royal Australian Navy for protection, but should establish a strong air force. After the outbreak of war, the right honorable member for Kooyong admitted that it would have been an advantage if Australia had concentrated more upon developing the air weapon. The London Times published the following comment on the 25th June last: -
Many things, no doubt, could have been done had greater foresight been shown by earlier governments in direction of the war effort.
A former Minister for Defence, “Policeman” Thorby, who no longer graces this Parliament, answered our fears regarding the defenceless state of Australia by saying that “neither Mr. Curtin nor anybody else could improve on the action that had been taken to expand the Royal Australian Air Force “. These things happened seven years ago. The Sydney Bulletin, an anti-Labour journal - some people describe it as a Fascist journal - published the following article on the 15th September, 1937, when Mr. Thorby was being so complacent : -
Australia’s air force is growing, but at the moment is probably unequal to that of Siam. Its roads were not built for defensive purposes. Its railways are a jumble of gauges placed in positions which - as Chauvel and other authorities have pointed out - are highly vulnerable. Coast defence guns for the whole Commonwealth would be considered inadequate for a second-rate European port.
Nearly four years ago the Defence Department issued this announcement - guns and ammunition for the first stages of the defences of the main ports are now being manufactured by the Munitions Supply Board, and it is expected that the first consignment of guns will be finished next year. The first antiaircraft gun was completed only the other day, and the Minister has suddenly discovered that there is a need for minesweepers, mmelayers and harbour booms. And because the gentleman feels that it will be “a valuable experience “ for a reconnaissance squadron “ in the type of work which it will be called on to perform in war “. the Albatross, which can speed at a whole 20 knots - sometimes - and carry nine seaplanes under very cramped conditions, is to have the weed hauled off her. Canberra and Australia are to be rearmoured, though nothing can change their towering hulls; Brisbane which is 21 years old - there are only two cruisers in the British Navy as old, and they are to be scrapped this year - is to be replaced by something a bit more modern. Above all, Adelaide, of the 1918 vintage, is to have £50,000 spent on converting her into an oil-burner so that she may be “ a valuable standby “ while Australia and Canberra are in dock.
That is one more illustration of what was behind our defence activity a few years ago. The Labour party was poohpoohed when it said that our position was not sound, and that the building-up of a huge air force was a first essential if we were to win out in the struggle.
Let us consider what measures were taken for the defence of Queensland. I say definitely and categorically, knowing whereof I speak, that Queensland was to have been abandoned militarily, and that the people of that State were to have been left to their own devices. Honorable senators opposite cannot disprove that statement. I shall give another example of the weakness of many of our leaders. A member of the House of Representatives, on a visit to North Queensland, asked a general, whom I shall not name, “ What are you going to do in connexion with a scorched earth policy? What steps do you propose to take in regard to the evacuation of cows, pigs and horses?” The general replied, “My dear Mr.- , the Japanese are rice-eaters. If they started eating our cows and pigs, they would all get stomach trouble.” The general suggests that, had the Japanese landed in Australia, they could have been killed by means of ulcerated stomachs instead of with bullets. Is there any wonder that in certain respects Australia’s defence policy had a defeatist complex? It may be said that there was no idea of abandoning the north of Queensland. I inform honorable senators that the military conception was to abandon not only Queensland, but also a portion of Western Australia.I am not blaming the military authorities for one moment. A military leader has to act according to the circumstances in which he finds himself. It is of no use for him to throw out his chest, display his medals and be a hero. He has to deal with the facts of the situation; and the fact is that this country was governed and controlled politically by a party opposed to Labour which, for some reason or other, did not do its job properly. The people of North Queensland cannot be convinced that they were to have been safeguarded. I have in my hand an article published in The Clarion, a newspaper printed in Townsville, dated Friday, the 7th July, 1939. This was long before the Labour Government came into power. The article was written by Mr. J. Hanlon, Minister for Home Affairs in Queensland; consequently, it is official.
– A Labour Minister in Queensland. With the exception of a period of three years, during which Mr. Moore had control and Queensland “ went to the dogs “, there has been a Labour Government in Queensland since 1915 - ten years under Mr. Forgan Smith, and latterly under Mr. Cooper, who has continued to receive the support that was formerly given to Mr. Forgan Smith. The article is headed, “ Queensland’s defence neglected by Menzies Government. Labour Minister hits out.” It reads -
During recent months alarm has been expressed by the Premier of Queensland, myself, and many of Queensland’s leading citizens at the neglect of defence measures for Queensland.
Replying to such statements the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence have suggested that we are taking a narrow view of defence matters in Queensland, and are suggesting measures for our own safety without regard to the defence of Australia as a whole.
That suggestion is entirely unjustified. We are alarmed for the safety of Australia as a whole and our statements have been made to show the danger to the Commonwealth that exists by leaving an unprotected gateway through Queensland to attack the Commonwealth.
To appreciate the position, it would be necessary to view defence measures as they exist in Quensland. There is no provision of military equipment in any part of Queensland exist in Queensland. There is no provision of course, in central and north Queensland Militia detachments, but they are ill-equipped for actual defence operations.
There was a battery in the neighbourhood of Gympie, approximately 1,000 miles south of Cairns. The article continued -
The only coast defence works of any value in Queensland is the one fort protecting the entrance to Moreton Bay. There is no artillery of any kind in north or central Queensland, nor are there any engineers’ stores, so essential to the defence of any part of the coast.
– That was before the declaration of war.
– I admit that it was. From statements that were made in 1937 and 1939, I am endeavouring to depict, for the benefit of honorable senators, the background of Australia’s defence organization prior to the war. There is no doubt, according to Mr. Hanlon, that the plan for the defence of the Commonwealth, under the Menzies Administration, coincided with the prewar plan, the so-called “ Brisbane line “- The article went on to say -
There is no doubt that Commonwealth defence is still based upon the pre-war plan which caused so much controversy at the time that it was established. That plan provided that ih the event of an attack on the Queensland coast, of which the most likely location would be at a point between Gladstone and Maryborough, it was proposed to establish a line of defence on the Maroochy River extending across the dividing range tn Towoomba
It might be noted that the Maroochy River is only some 60-odd miles north of Brisbane. That line would, of course, be an excellent one for a defending force, but it entailed the abandonment of the whole of Queensland north thereof. Since that time, there have been great changes in Queensland and great changes in methods of war.
– Is that the Mr. Hanlon who advocated that New Guinea should be given back to the Germans?
– I do not know anything about that.
– He made a public statement to that effect.
– If that is Senator Foil’s belief, I shall not question his veracity. I have no knowledge of the matter.
– He wanted a German base in New Guinea.
– I continue the quotation -
In the first place Queensland coastal railways have now been linked, and rail communication extends direct from Brisbane to Cairns in the north, a distance of 1,043 miles, with the great inland railway, linking up the north-coast line at Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns. Railways have also been constructed which have opened up the Dawson Valley connecting with Gladstone and Maryborough. Whereas in 1911, the white population north of Gladstone was about 100,000. to-day it is over 300,000.
The article went on to say that an enemy which occupied the country north of the Maroochy River would have enormous supplies of foodstuffs and raw materials at its disposal, and added -
When that plan was proposed aerial warfare had not been developed. How long would Brisbane exist with an enemy little mort* than 60 miles away? What would be the fate of the so-called “ economic heart of Australia “. stretching from Newcastle to Port Kembla, if enemy bombing squadrons could operate from Queensland ?
Mr. Hanlon showed clearly that practically no provision had been made for the defence of Queensland, and that the plan contemplated in those days provided for the evacuation of the northern portion of the State and a withdrawal to the vicinity of Brisbane. I personally observed the utter defencelessness of central Queensland. I saw men with rifles guarding millions of gallons of petrol. The sights of the weapons were soldered down, and one man informed me that he would not use his rifle for fear it might explode. The people of north Queensland sent a deputation southward with a view to rectifying the position, because the civilians were prepared to fight rather than evacuate. I challenge honorable senators opposite to visit them and ascertain for themselves whether my remarks are not correct. I think that the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and Senator Courtice were closely associated with the efforts made at that time, and in due course the vigorous action of the Labour Government resulted in provision being made for the defence of north Queensland. As honorable senators well know, the Government approached the United States of America, and General MacArthur came here with thousands of American troops, to whom we owe much. The people of north Queensland have suffered considerable hardship, because they are practically in the front line. Thousands of Australian and American troops have been billeted with the residents in the north, and many commodities have been in short supply. Queensland, has suffered more than any other State, because it is in the firing line. The men and women of Queensland have stood firm, and have been prepared to lay down their lives in the defence of Australia. They were anxious to be supplied with all kinds of munitions. As a result of the policy put into operation by the Labour Government, and the operations of the Allied Works Council, startling changes have been wrought within a few months. On two visits to the north recently, I found that where there was previously no provision for defence, the Civil Constructional Corps had laid down all kinds of runways constructed aerodromes and had built thousands of miles of roads. I saw many American and Australian aeroplanes, and was satisfied that, as the result of the vigorous policy of the Labour Government, North Queensland, and, indeed, the rest of Australia, had been made safe. If John Curtin and his Government have done nothing more, they have made Australia inviolate.
It would be tragic to include in a national government men who quarrelled and intrigued among themselves in an effort to destroy the government with which they were associated. A government that is unified and is soundly and brilliantly led would do more for Australia than a collection’ of nondescripts who are constantly fighting and intriguing. It is well, at times, for a Labour politician to quote the remarks of non-Labour men. In his Jackson- Day address, several years ago, President Roosevelt said -
Long before Jackson became President, the two-party system of government had become firmly entrenched in American political life. It had shown its value as a method of obtaining free and open discussion of public issues. The dictators of some lands seem unable to realise that our people can maintain two parties and at the same time maintain an inviolate and indivisible nation. Totalitarian mentality is too narrow to comprehend the greatness of people who can be divided in party allegiance at election time, but romain united in devotion to their country and to the ideals of democracy at all times.
Honorable senators opposite seem to think that there is something wrong in the Labour party attempting to maintain its present position. If honorable senators opposite get into power the Labour party will act as the Opposition. Some time ago the Sydney Bulletin emphasized the necessity for an active Opposition. It stated -
It might also be a good time to remind people bursting with the ideal of a “ nonparty “ government that it takes pretty cunning work to hide abuses and attempted abuses from an alert Opposition. In parts where parliamentary government is unknown any sort of ramp can be indulged in by the ruling clique. There is always the chance, even with a parliament, a (so-called) united government might be able to keep back from the public things likely to make that public indignant.
It is desirable to have an Opposition which is prepared to criticize and analyse all legislation brought before the Parliament. The Labour party hopes, of course, to be able to present such a policy to the people that it will be returned to power, and it is sanguine of success.
I pay a tribute to Senator Wilson. He is, perhaps, one of the most modest men I have met. In the course of this debate he advocated a great reconstruction scheme, and spoke as though nobody had ever thought of it or taken action about it before. The Labour party has spoken, not only during the war but prior to it, of the necessity for reconstructing the system that put 400,000 Australians out of work. Senator Wilson was so modest that he sard he was the only man in this country who had raised the matter, and he asked us all to assist him in this task, because he had received telegrams and letters from many parts of the Commonwealth telling him what a splendid fellow he was. As a matter of fact, many of the ideas promulgated by him have been put forward by Labour men for many years, and are being acted upon to-day. If the Labour candidates are returned at the general elections they will try to reconstruct society in such a way that we shall never see hundreds of thousands of men out of work again. By wise statesmanship it is possible by parliamentary means to organize the industries of Australia so that there will be employment for all. The Labour party would bring the same spirit of national unity to bear upon the problems of peace as that which is apparent in connexion with the war. There is no reason why we should not find employment on their discharge for all members of the fighting services, as well as all other workers. We should put into operation a huge plan for the building of houses, of which there is a great shortage. The Lyons Government spoke of spending £20,000,000 on homes for the people, but no houses have been built by the Governments formed by the present Opposition. The day of political humbug is past. The time has long gone by when the people can be bulldozed and misled. If soldiers are told in these days that houses will be built they must be built. The soldiers will not stand for political humbug, or the old political manipulations. Action is necessary. I tell honorable senators and I tell the country that, if in war-time, it has been possible for the Minister for the Interior to provide money to construct thousands of miles of roads, huge aerodromes and barracks of every description to meet war needs, and as it has been possible to remove carpenters and people of other trades from one area to another and as far away as north Queensland in order to provide the huge works that I have mentioned, it must also be made possible to do that sort of thing in peacetime. The work of this country must be so organized that those engaged in it will be kept in continuous employment, and will be able to obtain a competence. The people will refuse to be bulldozed in the future. When the soldiers return from the war they must not be placed on unfruitful and barren land and robbed of their money, as they were after the last war. They must be provided with good land and homes and under reasonable conditions. A few days ago I met a returned soldier of the last war who is still paying for the home be bought on his return, and he owes more now than when he first took posses-; sion of the property. For many years he was unemployed and was not able to maintain his periodical payments. All that kind of thing must be swept away. A political party must be placed in power, and kept there, which will use all the force at its command to see that the people are adequately clothed, fed and housed. I shall declare from every platform from which I speak in the coming election campaign, and with all the sincerity and passion at my command, that the policy of the Labour party is to feed, clothe and house the whole community in a proper way. I shall put these points : I cannot see how the disunited United Australia party and the two Country parties, which are governed and dominated by big financial interests, can possibly serve the needs of the nation. Honorable senators opposite say that they believe in private enterprise. Let me make it clear that I also believe in a policy which will preserve and increase the initiative of the people. I fail to see, however, that honorable senators opposite, and the parties to which they belong, can achieve this end if, undoubtedly, as is the case, they are dominated by vested interests of one kind or another. The moneyed interests of Australia, the rentiers, and the interest mongers, must be controlled in the interests of the people. I can see no reason why our primary producers and industrialists should be called upon to work to their utmost, in order to meet interest charges, and yet not obtain even a fair return for themselves from their labour.
The Labour party has done well for Australia. It has placed the dairying industry, in particular, on a firm foundation in recent days, and has guaranteed to the dairy-farmers a sufficient return to enable them to meet their commitments and live comfortably. What it has done for the dairy-farmers it has done for other workers and will do for still more workers. In our great work of reconstruction the people must be taken out of the jaws of the interest mongers. It is entirely wrong that men, women and little children should have to slave from daylight to dark on dairy-farms in order to pay interest. I conceive of a government in office in this country which will make available all the resources of modern machinery of every description in order to rescue the workers on the land and in industry generally from the drudgery to which they have been subjected, and enable them to win a fair return for their labour. To enable this to be done a social-minded government must be placed in office which will not allow 100,000, 200,000, and even up to 400.000 of our people to be unemployed. The soldiers who come back to the civil life of this country will expect to work under an economic system which will enable them to render service one to the other, and live on the basis of comradeship for the benefit of all, and not for financial benefit of the few.
– This is the first time that I have had the opportunity in this Parliament to listen to the policy speeches of honorable senators. To me, this is an innovation. My only regret is that more of the electors cannot hear the speeches that are being made, for I believe that they would then be more competent to judge which honorable gentlemen are best able to serve the interests of this country. I do not know whether it is a matter for regret or otherwise that the people of the Australian Capital Territory have not a vote, because I consider that they would be able to exercise a sound judgment upon the policy speeches that are being delivered in this debate. I have listened attentively to all the speeches that have been made, and have come to the conclusion that we have many military strategists in this chamber. If we are short of military equipment or personnel, -we certainly are not short of advisers. In reply to the remarks that Senator Brown made on the military situation, I say that any one with the slightest common sense must realize that a country with a population of fewer than 7,000,000 people, including women and children, would find it impossible to protect its coastline of 11,307 miles. If the attempt were made to do so we should simply have a long thin red line. We could have nothing else. We cannot expect every part of the Commonwealth to be protected to the satisfaction of the local residents. Senator Brown spoke of political happenings as far back as 1939, but it must be admitted that even the Labour party in those days believed in the League of Nations. The British people love peace. In 1935, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain did everything possible to maintain the peace of the world. That applies also to the late Mr. Chamberlain. When he went to Munich he believed that the prestige of the British people was sufficiently great to impress on the rulers of foreign countries the need to maintain peace. When he went back to Great Britain and waved the piece of paper he had brought from Munich he believed that it was a document that would ensure the maintenance of peace. If we had a war-like outlook at that time, we might have been charged by honorable senators opposite with being war-mongers. It might have been said that we wanted war.
– It was said of us.
– I read with considerable interest the reports of debates on Australia’s defence estimates presented about ten years ago. I have no doubt that the speeches made then were just as earnest as the speeches that are being made now. The contentions put forward by members of the Labour party at that time were not at all convincing to me, and it must be admitted that the Labour party did not do much to help to strengthen the defences of our country. Their present claims to have been particularly clever in that respect in the last year or so are not at all convincing to me. It is easy enough to find fault now with what was done several years ago. Every Government which tries to do anything will make mistakes, only the people who do nothing are infallible. I make no charges against honorable senators on either side of the Senate, but I realize that a lot of wonderful work was done by the previous Government. In fact, that Government laid the foundation upon which the Labour Government has built, and the foundation was solid. We shall not get anywhere by recriminations. Surely we have a big enough job to perform without attempting to mislead the people of Australia.
– Is the honorable senator big enough not to mislead the public?
– Yes. I fear, however, that in the forthcoming election campaign miserably despicable tactics, unworthy of a great nation, will, be resorted to. I have fought a goo’d many elections, but I have never stooped to those things which I fear will be common during the forthcoming campaign.
Having listened to the debate that has taken place on this bill, I point out that it is not the function of an Opposition to provide a policy for the Government. If it were so, we should have a national government, in which the best qualified men in all parties would co-operate.
– In that event, there would be no need for an election.
– I do not mind the holding of an election, but if we had had a national government during the period that has elapsed since the war began, we should have done better than we have done. I believe that the fact that in Great Britain and in New Zealand a national government has stood behind the fighting forces accounts for the wonderful things that have been achieved by those countries. My contribution to this debate will not consist of fault-finding, but I believe that I have a perfect right to point to mistakes which, in my opinon. the Government is making. I hope that the forthcoming election campaign will be fought without petty bickering, and with a greater regard for the truth than at the moment seems likely.
A good deal has been said about the abandonment of North Australia under certain conditions. I agree that it would be impossible for Australia alone, with its small population, to defend its territories; outside assistance is necessary. For nearly 40 years the policy of this country has been against the admission as residents of Asiatic peoples. We have been able to keep out Asiatics not because of cur own ability to do so, but because the world has known that we could depend on receiving assistance from other parts of the British Empire. For many years Australia will continue to depend on outside assistance. Some years ago men of big vision, in both State and Federal Parliaments, saw the need for a much greater population, but they received little encouragement from the Labour party. In all States the Labour party, whether in office or in opposition, opposed immigration. Our cheapest form of defence is the peopling of this country. In this connexion I commend the attitude of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who has been sensible enough to realize Australia’s need for a much greater population, and has made some effort to attract to Australia people from the overcrowded parts of the Empire. I do not know whether his actions will have the support of his party, but I hope that he will be successful. Whatever government is in office after the elections, it will have to give consideration to increasing Australia’s population. We hear so many glib speeches about providing employment for all in the post-war period that post-war governments will have their hands full in giving effect to promises that are now being made. I emphasize the importance from a defence point of view of populating this country with a virile people.
I think that I can make a small contribution to the controversy which has raged around the so-called “ Brisbane line “. After I had been elected to the Senate at a joint meeting of the two Houses of the Western Australian Parliament, I saw the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) when he visited that State in October of last year. At that time Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett was in charge of the defence of Western Australia. I discussed with the Prime Minister what was taking place with a view to removing women and children from the metropolitan district of that -State; and I pointed out how impossible it would be to provide accommodation for them in other areas, particularly in respect of hospital facilities and water supplies. The Government of Western Australia was fully acquainted with what it was asked to do - to prepare for the evacuation of those people - as late as October of last year, twelve months after the Labour Government came into power. I can provide proof of what I say. I do not say that that proposal was wrong, because I realize that with our limited supplies of equipment and of trained personnel it would have been necessary to limit our defence operations. However, our Allies were able to send men and equipment to assist us, and the whole outlook changed. I believe that to-day, Western Australia is as safe from invasion as is any part of Australia. That position has been due to our ability to strengthen our defences, not only by the return of our own fighting forces from abroad, and by the provision of additional equipment, but’ also because large numbers of American troops have come to Australia, bringing with them equipment that we were unable to obtain as recently as last October.
With the approach of general elections T notice that certain restrictions which had been placed on the people have been lifted. I wonder if this action is in the nature of an armistice such as that which the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) advocated recently. If restrictions be necessary, they should not be lifted merely because a general election is approaching. That is an entirely wrong principle, and only tends to cause confusion among the people.
– What restrictions have been lifted?
– I shall supply the Leader of the Senate with particulars.
Now that the Prime Minister has admitted thathis Government has not a sufficient majority to enable it to carry on the government of this country, I hope that it will use more care in the promulgation ofregulations under the National Security Act.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That during the unavoidable absence of the President, the Deputy President be authorized to call upon any of the temporary chairmen of committees to relieve him temporarily in the Chair.
Honorable senators will understand that the reason for this motion is the illness of the President.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I undertook to supply some instances of the relaxation by the Government of the restrictions imposed under National Security Regulations. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Senate himself supplied an instance this afternoon in answer to a question, when he said that the Government was investigating a suggestion that the brown-out regulations be lifted. It looks as if, just on the eve of a general election, the people are to be permitted to have a little more light. I trust that that will not be the only way in which they will be enlightened.
– The only people who will benefit from the relaxation of the order are those who have no vote.
– Those people who are fined for showing motor car headlights or for showing too much light from their houses have votes. There has also been an easing of the restrictions imposed upon the purchase of tea and sugar. So much is this the case that I am convinced that there is now no reason for the restrictions.
– There has been.
– There may or may not have been. I am convinced that the people of Australia would willingly respond to any reasonable request. The trouble is that immediately there is any talk of restriction it creates an abnormal demand for the article in question. There is also the case of the “ victory “ suit. A little while ago we were told that it was almost impossible to obtain material for clothing; waistcoats were banned, and the number of pockets was reduced. Now, it appears that there is a sufficient supply of material to meet the needs of the public.
There is a serious shortage of certain articles in Western Australia. For instance, working trousers are almost unprocurable in that State, either in the city or in the country. The same applies to oilskins, which are a necessity in the south-western part of the State, where there is a rainfall of 40 inches spread over a period of only five months. It must be remembered that it is now the old men who are left on the farms, and they cannot stand up to hard conditions. It is necessary that they should have oilskins. It is also impossible to buy towels, although I can see no reason why they should be in short supply.
– What about the shortage of cotton?
– I know that cotton could be imported if the Government were to lift the present restrictions upon its importation. I can supply the name of a firm which is prepared to import cotton from Britain.
– But we cannot get the shipping.
– There has been some difficulty in regard to shipping, I admit, but now that the Mediterranean has been cleared I am hopeful that we shall be able to restore trade with the Old Country so as to be able to dispose of the large quantity of surplus goods which we have here. It is impossible to buy mantles for Aladdin lamps, which are used extensively in country districts, and no substitute for them is available.
-What about using the slush lamps, such as were used when the honorable senator and I were boys?
– The Minister is trying to drag us back to the dark ages in which he and I passed our boyhood in New South “Wales. I am not prepared to go back to those times, even to please the Minister. The Government should try to meet, as far as possible, the ordinary requirements of the people. It was stated the other day that boys’ caps were unprocurable, and I cannot see why that should be. I can understand that there was reason for a shortage of material for civilian needs at the time when uniforms were urgently needed for men and women in the fighting services, but members of the services do not need new uniforms every day, and there must be times when the clothing factories could turn their attention to supplying civilian needs.
– If we were to do the things which the honorable senator is now advocating he would accuse us of bribing the electors. In fact, he was making that charge just before the dinner recess.
– I have not yet reached the stage where I charge the Leader of the Senate with bribery, but I do not think that he should encourage me to do so. These interjections are intended to lead an unsophisticated senator like myself astray, but I do not propose to be led astray by a wily old campaigner like the honorable senator. I appeal to the Government to lift the restrictions upon the building of houses. The other day, I received a telegram urging me to interview the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), and ask him to release material for building at least cheap wooden houses. Recently, several cottages were built at Tarcoola. I do not object to that, because those who have to live there need decent houses, but I cannot see any reason for enclosing the¼-acre sections with galvanized iron fences.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of the sand drift there ?
– The honorable senator suggests that the galvanized iron fences have been erected to stop the sand drift, but I remind him that the railway buildings have no galvanized iron fences around them. The fact is that galvanized iron fences are of no help at all, yet no fewer than twelve blocks have been enclosed with galvanized iron fences, thus using sufficient iron to roof quite a number of houses.
– This is a big national issue !
– It is no smaller than some that I have heard raised from the Government side of the chamber. “When we are asked to authorize the expenditure of large sums of money, we are entitled to draw the attention of the Government to unnecessary expenditure. In fact, it is our duty to do so, seeing that the Government is taxing industrial resources and individual incomes to the utmost.
-We had a hard job to get sufficient carpenters to work on necessary buildings.
– That is probably true, but there is not so much Government building going on now as there was a while ago. I know that a considerable number of men have recently been put off. As a matter of fact, many master builders are prepared to undertake the erection of houses if permission be given. Recently, one master builder whom I know offered his services to a government department, and he was asked if he was a trade unionist. He replied that he was not, that he was a master builder and an employer of labour. He was told that he could not get a job with the department until he joined a union. I am convinced that labour could be made available for building houses. I undertake to find it, if the Government will release materials for home building.
– If the honorable senator will tell us where the labour is, we shall call it up for war jobs.
– Has the Government still got building jobs to do?
– Yes, and we are una’ble to get sufficient labour.
– Recently, I hurt the feelings of the Leader of the Senate when I said that there was a fulltime job for every Minister. if he turned his attention to the war effort. I maintain that the Government is using the National Security Regulations in an effort to apply its socialistic policy. I read a statement by the Prime Minister a little while ago that the Government would not use the war to give effect to this policy, but he did not say that the policy was not being applied. There seems to be a steady trend towards what the Labour party describes as the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Probably, this Government is not so experienced as other Labour governments have been. Some years ago a Labour government in Western Australia conducted fish shops, butcher shops, quarries, brickworks, sawmills, agricultural implement works and hotels. Of these undertakings, only the sawmills and hotels were profitable.
– Has the honorable senator never heard of the Post Office?
– That is in a totally different class from the undertakings I have mentioned, because the Postal Department enjoys an absolute monopoly. In any case, the Postal Department found it necessary recently to increase postal rates by 20 per cent.
– As a war measure.
– That may be so, but it is another illustration of the fact that some governments, when they are “ up against it “, act on the assumption that they can call upon an unlimited number of taxpayers. In Western Australia, the State fish shops, butcher shops, quarries and brickworks showed- a loss year after year. The annual loss to the State implement works was approximately £12,000 for many years. None of these undertakings, or the State sawmills and the State hotels, which were the only two to show a profit, contributed to the State revenue by way of tax, or to the local authorities by way of rates. To that degree they enjoyed a very unfair advantage over private enterprise. I again warn the Leader of the Senate to advise his inexperienced colleagues that it will bc most unprofitable for the Government to dabble in socialistic enterprises. Such a policy is ruining the small tradespeople. A Labour government should not desire to prevent a man from rising from the lower ranks of labourers. I used to be a labourer.
– No !
– The Leader of the Senate does not believe that. I agree that he is one of the old Labour men who knew something about labour;. but to-day the Labour movement is feeling the influence of younger men who are coming into it mainly because they have the gift of the tongue. They do not represent the good old Labour man as the Leader of the Senate does.
– He is not like Jack Scaddan, who “ scabbed “ on the Labour party and was accepted by the honorable senator’s party.
– The Honorable John Scaddan was prepared to admit, that he was wrong. Probably, if the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) lives for another 100. years he also may see the light; but I am afraid he is rather slow on the uptake in that respect. I again warn the Government not to do anything that will force small tradespeople out of business. Many of them have already lost their businesses, which represented their life savings, and it is now too late for them to build up a competence for their old age. Perhaps the Leader of the Senate will tell me that such people will be able to receive compensation under the Government’s national welfare scheme. Benefits proposed to be made available under that scheme will not really compensate these men, because every man hates to ask for charity from his neighbour after he has lost a business which he thought would give him independence for the remainder of his life. Honorable senators on this side have shown that many of these men have already been forced out of business.
I stall now deal with the Government’s subsidy to the dairying industry. The Government says that it has been very generous to the dairymen. I do not know of a worse slave industry than dairying. There is no 44-hour or 48-hour week in it. The people engaged in it work seven days a week wet or fine. The Government has made the sum of £6,000,000 available to stabilize the price of butter, and to help these people who have always been below the breadline.
– And since 1932 governments whose policy the honorable senator supported failed to do anything for the primary producers.
– The honorable senator will, admit that, under our National Security legislation, the Government to-day can do a great deal more in this direction than was possible for a government to do in normal circumstances, because of the restrictive provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution. As the result of the declaration recently of an award for the dairying industry, the farmer and his family will not derive very great benefit from this subsidy. The application of that award will have the effect of re-introducing child labour into the industry. “We shall find that children of eight or nine years of age will be obliged to milk cows before they go to school in the morning, and after they return from school in the afternoon. I was hopeful that in this great country we had seen the last of that sort of thing. Without the aid of the Labour party, child labour disappeared from the industry some years ago. Not very long ago child labour was employed in coal-mines, but, fortunately, that evil also has disappeared. The point I make is that the Government should thoroughly investigate conditions in an industry before it allows an industrial award to be applied to it. It should first enable the principals engaged in it to obtain a fair return. This award will force child labour back into the cowyards. If we desire to enable the industry to employ labour at decent wages we should first ensure that farmers themselves are able to make a reasonable living. I have no doubt that the figures cited by Senator Gibson are correct, although I think that the figure he gave in respect of the earning capacity of a cow is a little too high. It may be correct in respect of farms in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland, where the land is comparatively rich. However, it will take probably from ten to fifteen years to build up the farms in Western Australia to the standard of those in the other States. The farming areas in Queensland, of course, are very much richer and do not require top-dressing, as is the case in Western Australia.
I protest against the method of fixing the prices of various commodities. Professors are hardly the most competent people to do this work. At any rate, they might humble themselves so far as to consult with the people who know something about an industry the commodity prices of which they are fixing.
– Professor Copland worked under previous governments.
– That is so; and he has made mistakes under both previous Governments and this Government. Even were the Fadden Government still in office, I should feel obliged to criticize his administration. For instance, he has arbitrarily fixed the price of oats at 2s. lid.’ a bushel, which was the price ruling on the 16th June, regardless of whether that price is payable or not.
– He does not fix the price of any commodity until he has consulted with the producers of it, and has taken into account all costs of production.
– With respect to the price of oats, he may have consulted the .agents who handle primary produce in the cities, but they are not concerned with the cost of production. I have not looked at the price of oats quoted in the Western Australian for the 16th June, but on that date there may have been a glut in the market. It is most unfair to fix the maximum price of a commodity in that arbitrary fashion. Maximum prices should be fixed on the cost of production.
– That is always done.
– I deny that it is done. A very slipshod method was followed in the fixing of the price of meat also. I should like to meet the professional man who can determine prices of joints of meat when there are so many kinds. It is useless to ask a professor to do the impossible. He may be a very good man professionally, but in matters of this kind” we should consult the business expert, who is able to tell us a good deal more about costs than any professor can. I have heard many people say that the last man they would place in charge of a business would be one of these professional gentlemen. I again urge the Government to ensure that the prices of commodities in future will be fixed on the basis of the cost of production.
– This Government has no future.
– It may possibly remain in office for another two months. I repeat that it is not only unwise, but also dangerous, to fix a maximum price which will involve producers in a loss.
I wish now to refer to an answer given to-day by the Leader of the Senate to a question asked by Senator Brand concerning the differential treatment of public servants who are members of unions, compared with those who are not members of unions. I cannot understand how any government could favour such a policy. In order that honorable senators may realize the position, I shall read the question and answer to which I refer. Senator Brand asked -
Is there any difference in the pay and allowances for members and non-members of the Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Union; if so, what is such difference?
The answer was -
Yes; so far as male temporary clerks, who are not returned soldiers, are concerned. The temporary clerks’ award does not provide salary rates for female clerks, who are paid under decisions of the Women’s Employment Hoard.
I intend to say something about the payment of women. The next State elections in “Western Australia will be fought on more or less small issues, one of which is a statement which I made in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia about the services of women. I warn Ministers, and particularly the Minister for External Territories, that the Government will be charged with not having given effect to its own policy, because I know of no woman employed by it who is paid the same wage as would be paid to a man in the same position.
– The honorable senator is wrong there.
– There may be an odd one or two.
– Plenty of women in the Postmaster-General’s Department are receiving the rate of pay for males.
– There is a differential rate in the Post Office, too.
– The honorable senator should not shift his ground.
– I am not shifting my ground. In every Commonwealth department differential rates are paid for the same work. In Western Australia the Government will be charged with not having given effect to its own policy. In order that the Minister for External Territories may understand the charge that he will have to answer to the electors at the forthcoming election, I tell him that when I was in the Parliament of Western Australia the Minister for Railways told me during the debate on the railways estimates that he had to pay to the wife of a man who had enlisted the same pay as he would have had to pay to that man had he retained his position. Later, I pointed out privately to that Minister that, in addition to such payment, the woman received a separation allowance, a military allotment and a further payment in respect of her children, and that she, therefore, received a great deal more than her husband would have received in the same position.
– She was entitled to it if she was taking the place of a man.
– In Western Australia - I do not know about the other States - the basic wage is fixed at a rate that will give a reasonable degree of comfort to a man, his wife and two children. This woman’s husband was away and therefore she is not in the same position as her husband would have been in, because, instead of having to keep the four family units, for which the basic wage makes provision, the wage she receives has to keep three family units, namely, herself and the two children, of whom the Arbitration Court takes cognizance in fixing the basic wage.
– The single man gets the same basic wage as the married man.
– I know that there is no distinction between single men and married men. Neither is there full provision for a man and his wife who have six children. As far as the Arbitration Court is concerned all children in excess of two are left to starve.
– The honorable senator’s State is not a good criterion.
– It certainly is not, because it has been ruled by a Labour Government for the last nine or ten years. The women, who are earning the same wage as was paid to men who formerly occupied their positions, will eventually have to revert to the basic wage plus margins for skill, and, therefore, they will not be in the same happy position as they are now under war conditions. That is why I ask that these people should have the opportunity to use the extra wages that they are earning to build houses in order that that money may be spent sensibly and not wasted.
– The Arbitration Court bases its awards on needs and the Women’s Employment Board bases its awards on capacity.
– Of course. Before he enlisted, the husband was working under an award of the court, but there was no award for the woman who took his place. Let us consider the case of tram conductresses. There was no award for them. They are paid in accordance with an agreement between the Government and themselves, whereby they receive the same rate as their husbands received before enlisting. But the wives who are occupying their husbands’ positions in their absence in the forces receive considerably more than their husbands received, because, they not only receive various additional allowances, but also do not have the responsibility of keeping their husbands. The responsibility on a husband to keep his wife is one of the considerations of which the Arbitration Court took account when fixing the basic wage. For the time being, the women are receiving about half as much again as their husbands would have received had they remained in their positions.
– It is the same in Melbourne.
– Yes. On their return, will the husbands be entitled to ask that the Government shall pay them the same money as it paid to their wives ?
– Of course they will not. That proves how wrong the present system is.
– If a woman does a man’s job, she is entitled to a man’s pay.
– The answer to Senator Brand’s question continues -
Members of the Temporary Clerks Association and/or returned soldiers are paid under the Determination of Public Service Arbitrator. The rates, 4c,’ applicable to members and/or returned soldiers and non-members are as follows, according to the value of duties : -
I tell the Senate, asking the Minister to correct me if I am wrong, that no payment was made to returned soldiers in accordance with the first table until the last Public Service pay day, when it was made retrospective to about the date on which the Commonwealth Public Service (Preference to Returned Soldiers) Act was passed during the last sessional period. No such payment would have been made, but for the fact that the matter was raised last week in this chamber.
I do not know who the Public Service Arbitrator is or anything about him, but evidently he is not working under an award, because, if he were, he could not have made such a determination as that which contains the foregoing figures. I ask honorable senators to consider those figures very deeply, because they show the way in which this Government’s mind works. Those temporary clerks who are neither members of the association nor returned soldiers, and whose salaries are in the lowest scale in the foregoing table, receive £24 a year on the minimum and £36 a year on the maximum less than those temporary clerks who are members of the association or are returned soldiers. In the next range the non-members and the non-returned soldiers on the minimum scale receive £12 a year less than members of the association or returned soldiers on the minimum. On the maximum scale there is no difference. When we come to the third range, we find the difference of £25 repeated on the minimum scales, but no difference on the maximum. In the fourth range, the difference is again £12 on the minimum scale. When one gets into the fourth range and thereafter, there is no difference between the two sets of standard rates. Temporary clerks in the lower ranges of income are therefore penalized because they have not joined a political organization from which the Labour party draws funds. The tables will soon bo turned and honorable senators now enjoying the comfort of the Government benches will be sitting on this side of the chamber. If we did anything like that, they would loudly protest and lay against us the charge that we were penalizing men in the lower ranges of income. Yet, that is exactly what this Government is doing, because it discriminates between the “ true-blue “ unionists and the non-unionists in the lower ranges of income, whereas those in receipt of the higher ranges of income receive exactly the same treatment. The differentiation is scandalous. In all my life I have heard of nothing worse, and any government which perpetrates such a thing deserves the censure of the people. The Government says that it does not believe in compulsory unionism, but believes in preference to unionists.
– What about the differentiation in the payment of travelling allowances ?
– I intend to deal with that later. Meanwhile, 1 am confining my attention to this particular punishment of people who may not regard it as being part of their duty to subscribe to political organizations which provide funds to the Labour party. Not worse, but much more petty, is the fact, as disclosed in the Minister’s answer to Senator Brand, that the Go vernment has stooped to discriminate between unionists and non-unionists to the extent of determining that unionists shall receive 2s. 6d. tea money as against the 2s. paid to non-unionists. Anything more despicable I could not imagine.
– It would be a good investment if the non-unionists became unionists.
– All that the Government is concerned about is the building up of its political funds. I believe iii unionism.
– I belong to a union and I am not ashamed to admit it.
– The farmers’ union.
– I have done a great deal more for the farmers than has the honorable senator. I know so much about farming that the farmers decided I would make a very good representative of them in the Senate, and after the next elections I shall be back here representing them again, whereas Senator Clothier and his two Labour colleagues in the Senate will have been rejected. The differentiation to which I have called attention is so shocking that it will go down in history as one of the most disgraceful acts of administration by any government. I appeal to the Ministry to correct the situation before it is too late. It will have my forgiveness if it does so.
– Will the honorable senator vote for us?
– ‘Certainly not. What would government supporters say of a man who, when his home was visited by another man accompanied by a chauffeur, said, “ The chauffeur shall go to the kitchen, but you shall come into the dining room”? But that is exactly what this Government has said to non-unionists. That is my charge and the Government cannot answer it.
– Do not bank on our not being able to answer that.
– Well, here it is in the Government’s own figures. I now come to the matter of overtime rates. The Minister’s reply sets out that temporary clerks, who are neither members of the association nor returned soldiers, shall be paid overtime at time and a half rates for duty in excess of 82$ hours a fortnight, whereas the rates for unionists and returned soldiers is time and a half for duty in excess of seven and a half hours a day. Honorable senators can see how that works to the detriment of the non-unionists, for they can be worked excessively for three, four or five days and then laid off so that they shall incur no overtime, but a unionist or a returned soldiers who works beyond seven and a half hours, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on any day from Monday to Friday, and three and three-quarter hours between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays, becomes entitled to overcome. Such differential treatment does not make for good working arrangements. How can the best service be expected from men sitting at the same table and doing the same class of work, but receiving different rates of pay? I hope that the Government will realize that it has made a mistake, and rectify it. If it does not, I still have this document, which is well worth keeping, and I shall use it where it will be most effective. If the Government can explain it and convince me that it is still doing the right thing, I shall not require to use it. The secretary of the Non-official Postmasters and Postmistresses Union wrote to a postmistress in “Western Australia informing her that unless she joined the union she would not get the increased pay allowed by this Government. I have that letter, signed by the secretary of the organization.
– Compulsory unionism!
– It is more than that; it is the worst form of coercion that I have ever heard of. There was a necessity for the introduction of trade unionism and the creation of the Labour party, but now that the trade unions have got- to the top of the tree they have become much worse taskmasters than were the people who drove them to organize. It is about time that we did something about it. Two things that a man is entitled to are his politics and his religion, but this is a case of forcing people to change their politics and subscribe to the funds of political bodies in which they do not believe. Whenever an election comes along, if they do not make a direct contribution an appeal is made to them, and any one who does not subscribe is soon black-listed.
– Will the honorable senator supply me with a copy of that letter?
– Yes. I believe that the Minister will be decent enough to see that this kind of thing shall not be done, because these people render a service to the Government at a very low rate of remuneration. They have done good service in the past by making their stores available without charge to the Government as unofficial post offices.
– They were never recognized before this Government came into power. We were the first to give tl em an increase.
– I have known increases to be given to them before.
I wish now to deal with another matter of great importance to the State of Western Australia, and particularly to the farming community. I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the fact that despite representations made to the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) in Perth by deputation, which I introduced, urging an early settlement of the rates of remuneration to be paid by the Australian Wheat Board for handling bulk wheat throughout Australia, no settlement has yet been reached. As a senator representing Western Australia, I am firstly concerned with the rates to be paid in that State, but I am also concerned indirectly with the interests of growers in other States. It is a striking commentary on the business methods of the Australian Wheat Board that it should be necessary at this date, the end of June, to ask for a determination of the rates to be paid for handling the bulk wheat of the season 1941-42 which commenced to be received in November, 1941, over a year and a half ago; the season was completed months ago. Yet such is the fact. None of the bulk-handling organizations in Australia yet know what they are to be paid for their services in that year. Of course the same applies in regard to last season’s wheat, now all received at sidings. Honorable senators will remember that prior to the war, elevator charges for handling and storing wheat were subject to regulation by State Parliaments. Naturally, these rates differed to some degree as between State and State, and therefore when the Australian Wheat Board came into being, one of its early tasks was to devise a schedule of rates which would be uniform throughout Australia.
The need for such uniformity will be appreciated when it is remembered that all wheat-growers throughout Australia pay a pro rata share of the general expenses arising out of receiving, handling, storing and selling the crop. In order to achieve this measure of uniformity on an equitable basis, a conference was held between the Ministers of Agriculture from New South Wales and Victoria, assisted by their officers, on the one hand, and the general manager of the Australian Wheat Board on the other. As a result of this conference it was agreed that the rates should be 2d. a bushel for handling, ½d. a bushel for shipping, and free storage from date of delivery by the farmers till the ensuing April; after the 1st April in New South Wales, and the 14th April in Western Australia and Victoria respectively, the storage rate was to be one-sixteenth of a penny a bushel a week.
I should like honorable senators to note carefully that no representative of the Western Australian organization was present at the conference to which I have referred, and notwithstanding the fact that the directors of Co-operative Bulk Handling Limited pointed out that they preferred the existing schedule as laid down by the State Parliament, since the total annual revenue arising therefrom was mora predictable - this applies particularly to the storage revenue - the Western Australian organization was compelled to accept the same rates as those applying in New South Wales and Victoria. The schedule was duly approved by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for the No. 2 pool year, which was 1939-40. In the following year, 1940-41, the same schedule was again applied to the No. 4 pool, with the full approval of the board and the Minister. Just about the time that the third wheat-receiving season, 1941-42, was due to commence, the Wheat Board called into conference representatives from each of the three States with a view to considering the schedule for the ensuing period. The general manager of the Wheat Board indicated tha.t his board did not propose to vary the rates already applying for handling and shipping, except for a minor adjustment to meet new award rates and so on, but Mr. Thomson indicated that his board desired a review of the payments to be made for storage. In view of the fact that storage payments would not in any case be incurred till the following April, five months distant, it was agreed, after some discussion, to leave that item of the schedule over for further consideration.
For some months prior to that time the campaign against the Western Australian system of storage of bulk wheat had been waged throughout Australia. One of the objects of the campaign was to prevent similar buildings from being erected in Victoria. However, it was beginning to be apparent that, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, the Western Australian system of depots was turning out a success, and that similar depots would have to be erected in Victoria, and probably New South Wales, too. That a farmers’ non-profit cooperative organization should be able to prove that it could service the growers’ wheat with greater foresight and economy than others was not to be tolerated. The ability to meet the war-time situation economically, which the grower-owned facilities in Western Australia possess, arises from two factors - their capacity for rapid expansion, and the low capital cost. Two or three members of the board decided that the time was ripe to abandon the principle of uniform charges and substitute a much lower schedule for Western Australia, and by so doing deal a body-blow to the growers’ organization. It is quite obvious that some hidden hand was behind the move, but I am utterly at a loss to identify it. Were some head officials of the Commerce Department seizing the opportunity to push for bureaucratic control of the industry? Were the international wheat merchants or the jute merchants at work, or was it just a combination of the lot ? In regard to the total amount to he paid for servicing the crop, the Western Australian organization has, to my knowledge, written to the Minister indicating that it is not so much concerned with the general level of rates as it is with the principle of equal pay for equal services. This view has been conveyed to the Wheat Board also, but the chairman, Sir Olive McPherson, who is, of course, the representative of the Government, denies that the board has ever agreed to the principle of equal pay for equal services. The contention is an amazing one, seeing that the schedule of rates for the first two seasons was entirely based on that principle, and had the full approval of the board and the Minister. Furthermore, the records of the board show that the following resolution was carried unanimously at a full meeting of the board on the 16th May, 1941 :-
That the general manager’s report be received, and that the board expresses its absolute satisfaction with it and with the contract with Co-operative Bulk Handling Limited for both the 1930-40 and 1940-41 seasons.
I very much doubt whether the Minister fully appreciates that this victimization is contemplated against a cooperative instrumentality, organized in such a way that all margins of revenue over expenditure automatically return to the growers pro rata, to the bushelage delivered by each. The bulk-handling organizations in all the States are integral parts of the wheat marketing machinery of Australia. They are just as essential in war-time as is the Australian Wheat Board itself, and, may I add, a great deal more efficient. Real endeavour should therefore be made to secure the maximum amount of cooperation in the common task, thereby assisting in the war effort. I trust that the Minister will see that this policy of victimization shall end at once.
In conclusion, let me make a suggestion which might assist the Minister to get rid of that bone of contention, the storage rates. On the 11th February, 1943, the Minister stated in the House, in reply to my question, that millers throughout Australia are paid storage on the following terms: -
The board’s agreement with the millers provides that the quantity of wheat required by the miller for four weeks’ gristing shall be stored by him free of charge. If the board so desires it may deliver .to the miller wheat in excess of that quantity, but if it does so it is obliged to pay storage at a flat rate of Id. a bushel on the maximum quantity of such wheat stored during the twelve months covered by the agreement.
Under this clause of the agreement, the board paid the millers of Australia £160,331 in three years. Millers store wheat in all kinds of cover, from concrete orthodox silos to open bag sheds, and the Minister and the board must have approved of the above payment. If such rate of payment is suitable for wheat in millers’ stores, then it must be about right for the bulk-handling organizations. 1 suggest that the organizations of Western Australia be offered the same rate as is being paid to the millers, namely, Id. a bushel, calculated on the peak point of the storage during the twelve months covered by the agreement. If, on the other hand, the Government is determined to impose upon Co-operative Bulk Handling Limited the principle of a smaller pay than applies in eastern States for an equal service, then I suggest that the difference a bushel paid in Western Australia as compared with that paid in New South Wales and Victoria be set aside and paid direct to the growers of wheat in Western Australia as a special bonus. If such a course be adopted, it will be a valuable example of the merits of self-help activities by the growers themselves. Indeed, it might be as good seed planted in good soil, and bring rich fruits in the days of the “ new order “. Knowing the directors of Cooperative Bulk Handling Limited as I do, I feel sure that they would accept such a plan, since their only desire is to preserve to the growers the full return for the years of painstaking effort in building up their own servicing organization. Senator Brown contended that the people who do the work should get the profits resulting from their labour. The Government now has an opportunity to give effect to that policy by returning to the farmers through their own organization the sum of money which has been saved by the facilities that Cooperative Bulk Handling Limited has provided in Western Australia. Any attempt to justify differential treatment between “Western Australia and the other States because “Western Australia has established cheap storage facilities is illogical.
– What is wrong with the principle of equal pay for equal work?
– There is no objection, although the Government differentiates between the rates payable to unionists and non-unionists. When the deputation waited on the Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture some months ago, he agreed with our representations, and I now ask him to give effect to them. The fact that the values of the 1940-41 wheat pool have not yet been determined is t>ad business.
– Because of differences of opinion regarding it.
– It is not the duty of the Minister to perform the administrative work of his department, but when these disputes occur, he should give a decision upon them.
– I am not the responsible Minister.
– I am aware of that. I merely ask the Minister to bring these facts to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and urge that the business shall be completed. Cooperative Bulk Handling Limited desires to transfer the whole of its assets to the growers themselves, under a trust deed. This decision was reached about the time that this scheme was formulated. In order that the arrangements for the transfer may be completed, I urge the Minister to ensure that the necessary adjustment shall be made without delay.
I hope that this will not be my last speech in the Senate. In common with other honorable senators representing Western Australia, I shall have an interview with my masters in the near future. I thank honorable senators for the kindly reception which they have given to me while I have been a member of this chamber, and I shall be very happy to rejoin them later.
– Senator Latham expressed the praiseworthy hope that the general elections will be lifted on to a high plane, and will not be contested on a series of small catchcries. He said that Australia required a substantially larger population, and agreed with the efforts of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to attract to this country after the war a good type of migrant. I trust that any large-scale entry of migrants into Australia will be directed by a Labour government in order to avoid the tragic mistakes that occurred in 1920-25 under anti-Labour administrations. During that period, thousands of migrants were brought to Australia, but they had to return to their native lands because there was no employment for them. I forecast that Australia will experience great difficulty in attracting suitable migrants, because the male populations of European countries will be greatly reduced as a result of the war, and the services of the remainder will be required for the purposes of reconstruction.
Senator Latham complained that the policy of the Labour Government towards the dairying industry would lead to the introduction of juvenile slave labour. In an article in the Quarterly News on the Liberal Country League of South Australia last year, Senator McBride declared that during the previous ten years dairymen had not received one increase of price for their commodities. He made that statement immediately after the Prices Commissioner had announced an increase of Id. peT lb. in the price of butter and 1-Jd. per lb. in the price of cheese. Since then, the Labour Government has twice granted financial assistance to the industry. The first occasion was last October, when a subsidy of £2,000,000 was paid, and the second occasion was a few weeks ago, when an additional subsidy of £4,500,000 was granted. In addition, employees in the industry will in future enjoy the benefits of award rates and conditions. Broadcasting last Friday evening, the president of the Australian Dairy Farmers Association, Mr. G. C. Howie, asserted that the Government had now carried out all the recommendations of the Special Committee on the Dairying Industry which had been appointed by the Curtin Government. If the United Australia party, when in office, had possessed the will to assist the dairying industry, production would not have declined. The United Australia party government neglected the industry and had no sympathy for those engaged in it. Those facts will reveal that Senator Latham’3 forecast of the introduction of juvenile slave labour in the dairying industry is baseless.
Honorable senators opposite have complained bitterly about war-time restrictions which the Labour Government has introduced. Their objections are based on the fact that people of the class they represent are no longer able to hoard goods to the detriment of other classes.
Their selfishness explains why the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) withdrew his support from the United Australia party. He declared, “Again there is the same coterie under the same leader and showing its unwillingness to make the sacrifices that are needed”. Because he had the courage of his convictions, he has been pilloried by the United Australia party.
The complaint of Senator Latham about differential rates of pay for unionists and non-unionists does not require a lengthy examination. The simple solution is for non-unionists to join a union; and upon doing so, they will be eligible to receive award rates and conditions.
When Senator Wilson returned from the Middle East, he delivered in this chamber a speech which reflected upon the honour of Australia and caused his audience a feeling of shame. Last night, he renewed his attack on the Labour Government, declaring that it had destroyed the good name of Australia abroad, because it had “ let down “ the fighting men. That statement was unjustified. Speaking without a knowledge of the facts, he was determined, because he is wearing a uniform, to belittle the achievements of this Government. He dismissed as unimportant the transformation that the Government has effected in the defences of this country, and avoided making any reference to its resolve that no Australian soldier shall go into battle unless he is fully equipped and adequately fed. The honorable senator also asserted that the Govern- ment had wrecked the national credit, and claimed that it was the duty of Australia to fight this war in the Middle East. The Labour Government has exerted every effort to safeguard the lives of Australian soldiers and civilians. As the result of its wise administration, civilians are still able to buy the basic necessaries of life - bread and butter - at practically pre-war prices. What sympathy has the United Australia party for the average man? A few years ago, the Labour party urged the United Australia party Government to make available £20,000,000 for the purpose of providing work for the unemployed. Their plight was desperate. They required money to enable them to avoid being ejected from their homes, and to preserve their children from malnutrition. ‘ But the reply was that such a loan would wreck the credit of the nation. The honorable senator also accused the Labour Government of having fostered strikes and absenteeism. As the result of its handling of industrial matters, miners are producing more coal to-day than they did at any time during the regime of the Menzies Government. Senator Wilson protested that the Government has interfered with the course of justice. I agree that it has; but if that be a crime, the Menzies Government also offended. The Labour Government did not create a precedent when, in order to preserve industrial peace, it ordered the withdrawal of prosecutions against certain men. He endeavoured to make political capital by accusing the Government of having bungled the manpower problem. Admittedly, large numbers of men nave been called up for duty under the Allied Works Council. They have been forced to leave their homes and go to Queensland in order to build up a strategic system of defence) because the Menzies Government left that State and Australia generally defenceless. The honorable senator said that that deprived some people of their homes. The Government used all of the man-power available for the purpose. As the Minister for the Interior said to-night, if the Government could get more carpenters it would call them up in order to get these necessary jobs done. It would be of no use to wait until the Japanese invaded this country, and for that reason the Government called up the men and material required.
– How many strikers has the Government called up?
– It has never proposed to call up strikers, and I hope that it never will do so. No doubt it will continue throughout its period of office the good work that it has put in hand, and will strive, as far as possible, to maintain peace in industry. The honorable senator stated that a Labour government would make post-war reconstruction difficult, but I believe that this Government will be in power in the post-war period, because only on such a government could the people depend for the proper development of Australia. The remarks of the honorable senator were without foundation, and were made merely for party political purposes. Another statement by the honorable senator was as follows : -
At that stage, when the 0th Division had merely to pick up the remnants of the kill, the Curtin Government desired to prevent them from collecting their prisoners.
That statement, to my mind, is a serious reflection upon the Government; no government would draw men from the fighting line and prevent them from taking prisoners.
– Why was the 9th Division withdrawn?
– I shall tell the honorable senator before I resume my seat. When that division was withdrawn the honorable senator who makes the charge was not at El Alamein, but at head-quarters in the Middle East. He had been there for a considerable period, from the 18th December, 1941. He was there as a lance-sergeant, waiting for the Empire Parliamentary Delegation, which was proceeding to Great Britain, but he was informed on the 2nd January that the parliamentary party’s trip had been cancelled. By the 3rd March, 1943, he had been elevated from the rank of lancesergeant to that of major. He was associated with the court martial section. Upon his return to Australia, he wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) as follows : -
It is my duty to remain in Australia with my unit, and not go away with the parliamentary delegation.
The honorable senator’s division is in northern Australia, but he is still at headquarters in Melbourne, in the court martial section. He court martials the men of the 9 th Division, yet in this chamber besmirches the good name of a Labour government. He said that the country could have been protected better by destroying the Axis army in the Middle East than in any other way. I remind him that had we had the necessary equipment at Darwin when the Japanese Zeros tombed that town, the approach of the Japanese planes could have been detected. The postmaster at Darwin, his sister and children were blown to pieces. Many other residents lost their lives and hundreds of seamen were killed in the harbour, but the honorable senator claims that it was better to send our men to the Middle East or to any other theatre of war and allow the Japanese to bomb Darwin and’ invade Australia! What protection would our women and children have if all our soldiers were in the Middle East and the Japanese were to overrun Australia? I remind the honorable senator also of his statement that the 9th Division was withdrawn “just as it was to claim its prisoners “. That is an insult to all of the other British, New Zealand and South African troops who participated. Was not the battle successfully waged by the Allied troops? Was it not disadvantageous to Australia that its divisions were absent from this country? I admit that the honorable senator might have been sent back to the Middle East for all the benefit Australia was deriving from his services. If the 9th Division had remained a little longer the honorable senator might have become a general in even a shorter time than it took him to rise from lance-sergeant to major. He has further stated -
The Government, by its failure to adjust the soldiers’ rate of pay, let down our armed forces and let down Australia.
I remind him that the Menzies Government made four attempts to arrive at a decision with regard to soldiers’ pay. Its first proposal was to grant 5s. a day and ls. a day deferred pay to soldiers, 2s. 6d. a day for a wife, and 9d. a day for each child under the age of sixteen years. Its second proposal provided for
Os. a day and la. a day deferred pay for flic soldier, 3s. a day for a wife, and ls. a day for each child under sixteen years of age. The third proposal was for 5s. a day and 2s. deferred pay, after embarkation, for the soldier. Under the fourth proposal the rate for children was increased to ls. 6d. a day. The Labour Government increased the daily rate of the soldier to 6s. 6d. It increased the rate for a wife from 3s. to 4s. 6d. a day. It provided for an increase of 2s. 6d. to 3s. a day for the first child, and from ls. 6d. to 2s. a clay for the second child. The weekly payment to the wives of soldiers was increased by 14s. In respect of a wife and one child, the weekly allowance was increased by 17s. 6d., and that of a wife and two children was increased by 21s. The honorable senator stated that the Government, by its failure to adjust the pay, had let down our armed forces and had let down Australia. I point out that the Labour Government has granted 2s. a day deferred pay after six months’ training, instead of upon embarkation. Within a few months of taking office, it had vastly improved the pay of our soldiers; whereas the Government with which the honorable senator was associated had been in office for two years of the war period and had made four attempts to arrive at a solution of the problem. The honorable senator has returned to Australia imbued with the sentiments that he expressed when he was in the Middle East. He was sad when he discovered that a Labour Government had come into power. That upset him, and he has never recovered.” He returned to Australia full of bias, and has not been particular in the statements he has made. Being a solicitor, he should know better than to utter such insults, which arc without foundation, concerning a Labour government that has done much for Australia. In 1941 Australia was in a helpless position. It is extremely doubtful whether it could have successfully resisted even a small-scale attack by our enemies. Immediately prior to the Labour Government assuming office, a member of the Government which the honorable senator supported admitted that one Japanese division could have walked through Australia. That statement, cannot be repeated too often. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 29th December, 1941, the position was summed up in the following words: -
They (the Government) are starting behind scratch with a country unprepared for war, a country that even after two and a-half years of war still lacks essential weapons and supplies.
There was not one modern fighter aeroplane in Australia.
There were no serviceable tanks.
There were no aerial torpedo bombs.
There was only one radio directional finding equipment set, which meant we had no means of knowing if enemy planes were approaching and would not have known until they dropped their bombs.
We had about 15 rounds of anti-tank ammunition per gun.
We had about 60 per cent, of the rifles required to equip our forces.
We had only 20 per cent, of the number of light automatic tommy guns required and very few machine guns.
We had very little oil or petrol.
Had it not been for the fact that the present Government faced up to the realities of the situation which confronted Australia, and took drastic action - some of which, though not too popular, was nevertheless essential - we would not be so favorably placed as we are to-day. I ask honorable senators opposite whether Mr. Menzies, Mr. Fadden, Sir Earle Page, or Senator McLeay would have brought our troops back from overseas. They were opposed to bringing them back. Twenty thousand Australians were lost in Malaya, lt was the Menzies Government which decreed that those troops should be sent there. Despite this, Mr. Menzies and his colleagues on the Advisory War Council wanted to divert to Burma a large number of the Australian Imperial Force troops who were returning to Australia, but the then Labour Government would not agree to the proposal.
– We would be holding Burma to-day had that been done.
– The holding of Burma would have done a lot of good to Australia had the Japanese, in consequence, been allowed to overrun this country.
– The Japanese would not then have held either Burma or Australia. The Government gave them Burma.
– If the United Australia party and Country party are returned to office, they will send our men not only to Burma but also to other operational theatres overseas. Of the troops sent to defend Greece, 85 per cent were without proper equipment. They had approximately 100 tanks, many of which were useless owing to missing parts. There was no air support for the Australians and New Zealanders. Mr. Menzies and his colleagues agreed to that. The honorable senator knows that. He also knows that Mr. Menzies stated that Singapore was impregnable. Would the Menzies- Government have obtained Spitfire squadrons from Great Britain? According to Senator Wilson, it would not. Certainly it would not have fought for them as did Dr. Evatt during his first visit to London. Would that Government have fought so persistently as has the Curtin Government, which sent Dr, Evatt on a mission overseas to obtain planes, tanks and equipment? Senator Wilson bitterly complained about Dr. Evatt having been sent abroad.
– My complaint was that he was seeking to obtain conscripts from America when the Government would not allow our men to go over there.
– Senator Wilson objects to the Government obtaining equipment for the purpose of defending Australian men, women and children. As the. result of the strong representations that were made by Mr. Curtin and Dr. Evatt, Australia obtained from America additional aircraft which will increase our Air Force strength by 60 per cent.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to allow our men to assist in regaining American colonies which have been captured?
– We are prepared to allow America to use Australia as a base for operations in the South-West Pacific Area. The strength of the American forces in or assigned to the South-West and South Pacific Areas corresponds to the strength of the Australian forces. Equipment and stocks of munitions have been immensely improved during Labour’s term of office.
– Whose speech is the honorable senator reading?
– A speech that I prepared in the light of my knowledge of the position. It was not handed to me by any fascist organization whose aim is to destroy the Government.
– I thought it had been prepared by the honorable senator, because it is completely wrong.
– At the end of March the enlistments in the three services totalled 825,000, of whom 530,000 had volunteered to fight anywhere in the world. Since October, 1941, the personnel of the Army has increased by 70 per cent., that of the Navy has doubled, and that of the Air Force has increased by 120 per cent. The aggregate increase in the three services is 11 per cent. In 1939, 1 per cent, of the man-power was in the forces and in munitions and war factories. To-day, the figure is 41 per cent. Of the remaining man-power, 31 per cent, is engaged in other essential services and 28 per cent, in less essential services and other activities. There are 90,000 in the Volunteer Defence Corps, and 321,000 men and women in the voluntary civil defence services, including 133,000 air raid wardens, 16,000 auxiliary fire-fighters, and 8,000_members of the rescue and demolition services. Yet Senator Wilson says that the present Government has done nothing. It was the Curtin Government which had General MacArthur appointed CommanderinChief of the South-West Pacific Area, and which urged the establishment of the Pacific War Council in Washington. The ineffective Army Board was abolished and was replaced by a unified command system, operated by efficient and experienced officers. The old Inventions Board was discarded, and a new one, consisting of capable and experienced men, was established. Additional types of arms and ammunition are being manufactured. Ships of all descriptions are being built and repaired. Mass production of the Owen and Austen guns has been ordered. When Japan came into the war, four munitions factories were operating in Australia ; now there are 48 factories and 180 munitions annexes. Over £80,000,000 has been expended by this Government in connexion with the manufacture of munitions. More than £60,000,000 has been expended in one year in constructing urgent strate- gic roads, aerodromes, graving docks, buildings, petrol dumps and other works. Our oil reserves have been trebled, and our storage capacity doubled. Of the 5,000,000 men and women in Australia between the ages of 14 and 65 years, in April, 3,400,000, or 68 per cent., were in war occupations, including the fighting services. To-day, 735,000 persons are employed in factories on work of all kinds, 535,000 factory workers are employed on war work, and 138,000 women are doing direct war jobs in factories. An Allied Supply Council was established to ensure supplies for the production of munitions and equipment. In addition to the National Food Council, the Food Executive has been established for the purpose of increasing production and controlling distribution. Yet Senator Wilson has argued that the Government has done nothing and has let Australia down. The Allied Works Council was established in February, 1942.
– That is the organization which pays the billy-boy £22 a fortnight.
– Displayed in King’s Hall of this Parliament are pictures, not of kings and queens, not of lords and dukes, not of prime ministers, but of men who, by the sweat of their brow, have done something to make Australia in a certain degree militarily selfcontained. I have heard honorable senators grumble at the exhibition of these pictures, and ask how long they were to remain in the King’s Hall. To me, and to every fair-thinking Australian, these men have acquitted themselves excellently in laborious tasks. They were called up and taken from their homes. Machinery was impressed from municipal councils in order that the wonderful work which these men have done might be undertaken. The achievements of our fighting men, the members of the Civil Constructional Corps, and the workers in war factories will be recorded in history as having been second to none in any other part of the world.
I direct attention to a circular that has been issued by the New South Wales branch of the United Australia party for the information of its members. It records utterances by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service, made as far back as 1929. In view of what the Curtin Government has done, it is a scurrilous circular, the aim of which is to divert the attention of the people from the omissions of preceding administrations by stressing statements that were made by Mr. Curtin and Mr. Ward before they attained to office.
– Read it.
– I shall not give myself the bother of reading it.
– Because there is too much truth in it.
– Even if it is true, it relates to statements that were made in 1929.
– Are the statements correct?
– They may be correct. But the statement that the parties which sit opposite left Australia undefended, and that they had a “ Brisbane line “, north of which the people could evacuate themselves in any circumstances which they could provide on their own behalf, is more correct. On the motion picture screen I have witnessed films showing the evacuation of the people of France when that country was invaded by the Germans. I have witnessed scenes of women, children and old men tramping along the roads as best they could, while overhead aeroplanes bombed and machine-gunned them. The pictures also provided grim evidence of the starvation which existed in that country. The Menzies Government did not do anything towards the standardization of the Australian railway gauges, nor did it expend money in providing strategic roads and railways for the defence of Australia. General MacArthur described as a defeatest policy the proposal of that Government to have a defence line running west from Brisbane. The Opposition now endeavours to cloud the issue, so that its own shortcomings will not be revealed.
– The Prime Minister has denied that there was a “Brisbane line “.
– No, he has not. He has denied that certain words were used, but he has not denied that previous governments failed to provide for this country’s defence.
– He said that there was no “Brisbane line”.
– General MacArthur said that there was, and I prefer to accept his word to that of the honorable senator. The Menzies and Fadden Governments will have to answer to the people for their neglect of the defences of this country. The Allied Works Council was set up in February, 1942, and in a short time it provided strategic roads and railways, aerodromes and landing grounds, in various places for the defence of the north of Australia. Those undertakings, coupled with the assistance Australia has received from Britain and America, enabled an effective resistance to be offered to the Japanese when they bombed Darwin.
I regret that not all honorable senators opposite will have to face the electors within the next few months, because I am confident that in that event few of them would return to this chamber.
The Curtin Government obtained for wool-growers of this country increased prices for wool aggregating £9,000,000. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), former Ministers for Commerce, refused to take action to obtain increased prices for wool-growers. Wheat-growers also have received an additional amount of approximately £4,000,000 under the Scully plan since the present Government came into office. During the life of the Menzies Government, the various State governments struggled unsuccessfully to implement orderly marketing schemes for potatoes; in .1.941, growers of potatoes received less than £2 a ton for their crop. Action by the Commonwealth Government at that time could have avoided financial losses to the growers, but the Menzies Government did nothing in the matter. Since the Curtin Government came into office, guaranteed prices for potatoes have been paid to growers, and for next year’s crop an average of £13 a ton will be paid.
The Menzies Government refused a request from the Primary Producers
Union of New South Wales to subsidize purchases of wheat by dairymen and raisers of pigs and poultry, whereas the Curtin Government agreed to pay the subsidy, and has already expended approximately £1,000,000 in that way. In the early months of 1941, pig prices collapsed, but the Menzies Government failed to assist the producers, notwithstanding that repeated requests to do so were made to it by members of this Parliament. Late last year, the Australian Pig Industry Council, fearing another collapse of prices, approached the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and asked him to provide stabilized prices for pig products. The Minister agreed to do so, and the plan will come into operation shortly. Leading producers of pigs, including the president of the South Australian body, have publicly commended the Government for its support of the industry. As the result of the fertilizer subsidy introduced by the present Government, increased costs of fertilizer, amounting to £1,000,000, have been saved to producers.
The present Government inherited a legacy of neglected primary industries, but it has done much to improve the position of producers. The Government is continuing its good work, and it would be a tragedy for the primary industries of this country, as well as for other sections of the community, if the Opposition parties were returned to power before this work can be completed. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has had much to say regarding the wheat industry, but the honorable senator’s remarks have been repudiated by the South Australian Wheatgrowers Association and the Graingrowers Association, which supported the Scully plan and asked the honorable senator why he had suddenly become interested in wheat-growing after having neglected the wheat-farmers when in office. I well remember the mass meetings of protest which the honorable senator attended in Victoria during his term as Minister for Commerce, and the criticism by growers of the policy which he enunciated. It is little wonder that the wheat-growers regard his recent protestations as valueless.
Finally, I remind those who have been associated with the attack on the Government that it was the Fisher Labour Government which established the Royal Australian Navy; that a Labour government in New South Wales, acting on the advice of Admiral Henderson, who came to this country in 1911 and reported that foreigners were becoming better acquainted with Australia’s coastline than were Australians, established a fishing fleet, which was sold later by a Nationalist government. I remind the Opposition also that a Labour government introduced compulsory military training, and that Labour established the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers in order to assist the farming community to obtain lower freights. It took a Labour government led by John Curtin to provide strong defence measures for the people of this fair land.
.- I wish to draw attention to the unnecessary expenditure incurred by the appointment of a pensions officer in the Commonwealth Free Legal Section of the Attorney-General’s Department in Sydney. Mr. E. A. Roberts was for several years the pensions officer of the New South Wales branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Every State branch employs a pensions officer, whose duty is to give advice and assistance in all matters connected with the Repatriation Act and regulations. Such officer frequently acts as an applicant’s advocate before the appropriate appeals tribunal. Why should the Government become a competitor in the recognized field of the league’s activities? Ever since the last war, the league has zealously attended to the repatriation problems. There is no question of the league being unable to cope with pension queries incidental to the present war; it has already handled scores of cases, and should the volume of work increase an assistant could be appointed. In that event, his salary, like that of the pensions officer, would be paid out of league funds. There was no necessity to set up a government bureau to embrace repatriation guidance. The league’s representative follows an applicant’s eligibility or appeal right through to the final tribunal.
Can Mr. Roberts, even with the extra £100 per annum above his former league salary, carry out his new duties as effectively as he’ has done in the past? No! He is now a government servant and he cannot with the same freedom and persistency successfully deal with pensions for ex-servicemen and war widows. As a paid official in one government department, Mr. Roberts will not have the same latitude when dealing with senior officials of another government department. His appointment is a further example of the Government’s extravagant policy of creating unnecessary sub-departments. Mr. Roberts will need, a clerk, a typist, and office essentials. No doubt, similar appointments will be made in other States, notwithstanding the league’s objection to the Government duplicating its longestablished machinery for guidance in repatriation matters. In the interests of economy, this officer’s appointment should be cancelled.
There is much dissatisfaction with the administration of the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations. I have referred several cases to the appropriate Minister, drawing attention to unfair and too rigid adherence to these regulations, but I have received’ no satisfaction. The wording of the regulations ought to be such as would give wider executive authority to deal with cases in which hardship to the owner is obvious. I shall cite one example which has come to my notice. In 1933, a married man, well on in years, bought, out of his hard-earned life savings, a five-roomed house in a Melbourne suburb. He occupied it for a period, but vacated it just before the outbreak of war in order to take over a small business in the country. The business was eventually closed. His son received a position in the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory; his daughter joined the Australian Women’s Army Service. The husband, with his invalid wife, desired to reoccupy his small suburban home, which had, in the meantime, been occupied by a single man in an essential Army position, and his aunt, who was not dependent upon him. On making representation to the Fair Rents Court, the owner was told he could not, under the regulations, re-occupy his home. He is a South African war veteran, and he also served in the war of 1914-18. He receives 30s. a week for his suburban house, but has to pay £3 a week for a small flat. His son has to board elsewhere, and his daughter has no home to go to when on leave. Is this fair to an old soldier who fought for his country and by thrift became the owner of a house wherein to spend the eventide of his life with his family under the same roof? Has a landlord no rights under these regulations? Surely such a case should be considered on its merits.
During the recess I had occasion to probe certain allegations that the principle of preference to returned soldiers was not being observed in some appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service in Melbourne. I ascertained to my satisfaction that the preference law was being observed in the normal peace-time departments, but that in the mushroom, war-created departments, not entirely under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board, it was being flouted. Appointments to positions in these -departments are not necessarily or usually made by the Public Service Board, and it is in those departments that the returned soldiers are getting a raw deal. According to a determination issued on the 23rd January, 1943, members of the Commonwealth Temporary Clerks Association, and returned soldiers, are entitled to certain benefits. However, many returned soldiers in the. departments to which I have referred were told that they must join a union, or they could not receive the benefits. Why should they be required to join a union? Their positions are only temporary. Somebody -must have been aware that I was on the war-path because last Friday, which was pay day, all the returned soldiers who had been denied the benefits under the determination, received the back pay to which they were entitled from the 23rd January.
– Good old General! He put the wind up them.
– Yes, I did. I trust that the Minister will see that whoever was responsible for holding back this money shall be required to answer for his conduct, and that the regulation shall be properly policed in future.
During the Victorian State election campaign no fewer than nine Federal Ministers took the platform in support of Labour candidates. They must have been disappointed with the result of their efforts, and particularly with the fallingoff of the Labour vote in country electorates. Of course, they made a good story out of what the Federal Government has done. No one objects to that, provided they give some of the reasons why it was possible to achieve so much. I did not notice any reference to the foundations which had been so well laid by the Menzies Government, nor was any credit given to the tens of thousands of non-Labour supporters who helped to make a success of the war effort. No credit was given to the Menzies Government for its prompt and effective cooperation in the Empire Air Training Scheme, which has provided hundreds of trained airmen for the defence of Australia. Credit ought to have been given to the British Government for releasing our battle-experienced Australian Imperial Force divisions, and sending them home, fully equipped, at a cost of approximately £3,000,000, provided by the British taxpayer. Neither was any thanks given to the Royal Navy or to the Merchant Service for bringing the men safely back. The majority of Labour representatives are decent and fair-minded fellows, but it seems that, when they get on to a political platform, they become one-eyed. If the Curtin Government had agreed to the formation of a national government there would have been less need to turn the searchlight on its shortcomings. Indeed, the forthcoming election might have been obviated if there were a national government.
The United Australia party and United Country party candidates will now have to remind the electors of the Labour party’s apathy to defence preparations prior to and during the early part of the war. They will have to speak of the hostility of the Labour party, when in opposition, to the introduction of the National Security Regulations, and particularly to the provisions relating to industrial conscription. If we turn to volumes 161 and 162 of Hansard, in which are recorded the parliamentary debates from September to November, 1939, we can see what political acrobats are honorable senators on the ministerial side- The Curtin Government came into power because the Labour party succeeded in defeating the proposal of the Fadden Government to institute a system of compulsory loans. I am convinced that no matter what government is in power when the next war loan is raised, it will have to introduce compulsion, the very thing which the Labour party turned down at the end of 1941. Of the last £100,000,000 loan, 915 subscribers provided nearly three-quarters of the total. One-tenth of the amount was provided by persons who subscribed amounts ranging from £10 to £100. Altogether, there were only 384,131 subscribers. If a system of compulsory loans were introduced under which every one would subscribe according to his ability, there would be no need to have an army of loan organizers, and the expenses of raising a loan would be very much less than £115,000. Thoughtful members of the community will not forget the Government’s aversion to amalgamating the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces. Any person controlling two similar businesses in proximity to one another would understand that a saving of man-power could be effected by amalgamating them. If f were given a free hand I could amalgamate the two forces, and, without impairing their efficiency, release many men for the dairying industry and other primary industries.
– Yet the honorable senator does not believe in giving votes to members of the fighting forces.
– I would guarantee them jobs and, if under 21, they can earn their vote when they move over the line which this Government has drawn to mark the limit of their compulsory service. Every reasonable person will admit that the Curtin Government has had a difficult task in marshalling Australia’s war effort. There would have been fewer mistakes, less friction and less suspicion that it was implementing its political policy, and more confidence would have been shown in its plans for post-war recon struction, had it sought expert advice on these matters, and acted upon that advice. The Government, in its war administration as a whole, has supplied abundant evidence of partiality towards those who support Labour at the polling booths. It has made a definite advance towards socialism. People will put up with almost anything when a war must be won. They are prepared to forgo much of their freedom under democracy. The Government has taken advantage of the war situation to implement phases of its party platform, for which it has no mandate from the people.
It must be obvious why the so-called “ Brisbane line “ has been raised on the eve of the general elections. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) might well have remained silent on this matter. His utterances will postpone any possibility of forming a national government, and will tend to divide the nation at a time when it should be united to defeat the Japanese. If ever a man should be silent on prewar defence preparations, it is this gentleman. If he had had his way, there would be no “Brisbane line”, or any other line. He and his pacifist followers in this Parliament did their best to make Australia defenceless.
When the Chamberlain-Hitler talks ended unsatisfactorily at Munich in September, 1938, it was obvious to any school-boy that a world war was inevitable, a war in which Australia would be involved. At that time, the Menzies Government accordingly sought an additional £8,000,000 for expenditure on war equipment, and for the strengthening of the garrisons at Darwin, Port Moresby and Rabaul. The Labour Opposition was reluctant to give approval to that expenditure. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who was then Leader of the Opposition, speaking in the House of Representatives on the 2nd November, 1938, said-
I say that any increase in defence expenditure, after the Munich Pact, as far as Australia is concerned, appears to me to be an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda.
That was nine months before the war commenced, and at that time the Government of the day was making violent efforts to make up for our shortcomings in the past. Critics might argue that because a limited force was despatched overseas, our defence was weakened. But what were the ultimate gains? The majority of that force returned fully equipped and with a thorough knowledge of modern battle technique which was passed on to the Militia in time to prevent the Japanese from getting a firm foothold in New Guinea. Further, the Australian Imperial Force put Australia in the proud position of enabling us to hold our head high and say to the allied nations, “ We have done our bit in the Allied cause in the Middle East; come and give us a hand to keep the Japanese away from our shores “.
Honorable senators opposite have referred to the fact that I advocated that no force be sent overseas, but they do not refer to my strong advocacy for a larger and better-trained home army, a bigger reserve of officers and ample equipment. If the conditions which prevailed at the time I opposed sending troops abroad existed to-day, I would say the same again. The uncertainty of Japan’s altitude was my reason for that opinion, but the Labour party made it an excuse. For some considerable time after the outbreak of the war, we had no indication of what Japan was likely to do. In fact, Tokyo bluffed London and Washington, particularly after the signing of the Russo-Japanese non-aggression pact. Evidently the British secret service also was hoodwinked. Presumably, the British Prime Minister passed the information to our Prime Minister that Japan’s entry into the war was not imminent. That was why divisions of the Australian Imperial Force were sent abroad. I voted for that proposal because the vital interests of the Empire, and the strategy of the day, dictated that course. As I have already pointed out, we gained considerable advantage as a consequence. The defence policy of the Menzies Government was not defeatist. It provided for local and distant protection of this country, having regard to our resources. There was no definite indication after Pearl Harbour that the United States of America would come to our aid in the splendid manner in which it has done so. The European situation was still black, with no possibility of military aid from Great Britain. The chief military adviser to the Government took these factors into consideration and suggested, so we are told, a rear line for the defence of Australian eastern territory. It was called “ the Brisbane line “. It was really a tentative line in case of eventualities. There -were other defence lines from which the offensive could be launched later. There was nothing unsound in that strategy. Russia’s armies retired 300 miles and made Hitler lengthen his communications, and Red guerrillas played their part. In the extreme necessity of evacuating the Northern Territory and the extreme north of Queensland, the Japanese would get a rough handling by our guerrilla fighters, who can shoot straight and ride fast. There are no better defenders in the world. Out defence coat had to be cut according to the cloth available, that is according to our limited resources of trained troops and equipment. When General Auchinlech withdrew the Eighth Army early in 1942 over hundreds of miles to a more favorable position to defend Egypt, and, indirectly, to protect Australia, was his plan defeatist? It was good generalship. The rearward position protected his flanks and gave him breathing time to re-organize and strike again when he had the necessary numbers, equipment and air cover. The British Tommies fought as gallantly as their ancestors. General Montgomery, and later, General Alexander, outwitted Marshal Rommel, giving the lie to those small-minded, cocksure Australians who regarded the British as a decadent race, and said that. British generals were second-raters. When Marshal Rommel found his adversary too strong, did he not retire across miles of country to await a more favorable opportunity to meet General Montgomery ? Was that a defeatist plan ? No!
It makes my blood boil when I hear politicians who have never done a day’s soldiering in their lives, who have always opposed the training of any one to defend this country, and who never raised their voice, or lifted a finger, to help us in the first world war, airing their views on military strategy and battle tactics. The flood of American troops and war equipment has changed our whole defence plans. Who is to blame for such shortages in trained manpower and equipment? The people of Australia. For years they treated defence expenditure as so much waste of money. They are now paying in full for that mistake. When I was elected to the Senate eight years ago, I urged that greater attention be given to the development of our defences. It is useless for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), or any one else, to blame the Menzies-Fadden Government, because, when it made a belated effort, in 1938, to restore our defences, the people who gave it the least support . were the very people who are criticizing it so much to-day.
– That Government had a majority in both Houses.
– Of course we did, but we got no help from the Opposition.
So far I have made no reference to private enterprise, but the forthcoming general elections will decide whether, for the next three years, Australia shall be governed by a socialist crowd, which will bring us all down to the same level, or by a ministry which will encourage individual capacity, initiative, ingenuity, enterprise, striving and drive, the characteristics which have made Great Britain so great and the United States of America =o mighty.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland) . 10.20]. - I doubt very much whether much good will come to the country from prolonging a debate of this kind. Wo have reached the stage at which it is well (o wind up Parliament and ask the people to determine the issues that must be determined in the best interests of Australia. I am disappointed that this debate has not been on the supreme subject of the Government’s war policy. Most of the speeches of honorable senators opposite have dealt with matters of very minor importance, and there has been not one word of appreciation or condemnation of the policy which the Government has applied in dealing with the major matter of winning the war.
– What about the Militia Bill?
– I have followed the debate very closely and there has been no mention of that in my presence. but it may have been debated during the rare periods in which I have been absent from the chamber. The people of Australia are quite satisfied with the policy applied by the Government in that respect. 1 repeat that I have been disappointed by the Opposition’s failure to offer one word of appreciation of the Government’s war policy. I do not intend to hold a post mortein now, because, as I said at the outset, the sooner the debate ends the better, but we do know that when Japan entered the war this country was in a very bad state of preparation to meet any invasion that might be attempted. I do not lay the blame for that situation on either the Menzies Government or the Fadden Government, but I do take this opportunity to point out to honorable senators the wise steps taken by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to. meet the serious situation that confronted us on Japan entering the war. I shall not say much about “ the Brisbane line “, because I do not think that any line existed. Queensland was absolutely undefended. I shall not say who was to blame for the nakedness of the north in regard to defence, but I do say that this Government splendidly met the situation that arose when Japan struck and that this country has had a wonderful deliverance as the result.
I am not one who seeks to besmirch the Opposition for its defence policy when it was in power. On the contrary, since I have been a member of the Senate 1 have, been prepared to give to whatever party has been in office all the assistance that it has been within my power to give. It is useless for honorable senators opposite now to blame the Labour party for the fall of the Fadden Government, or its predecessor, the Menzies Government, because, as we all know, those governments crumbled because of the disunity within their own ranks. It was apparent to the whole Parliament that the Fadden Ministry could no longer govern the country satisfactorily because of disunity and quarrelling amongst its members. It had to be displaced by the party led by the right honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), and I am satisfied that the steps that this Government has taken have saved the nation. When th<’
Prime Minister first suggested the need for assistance from the United States of America he was sneered at by many responsible members of the Opposition, but it was because of his taking steps to bring American aid to Australia that the enemy was beaten hack from our, doorstep.
So serious was the situation in the early part of 1942 that some system of evacuation of northern parts of Australia was under consideration. Unfortuately, it would have been impossible to evacuate the people from the far north of Queensland. Imagine their feelings of relief when the first Plying Fortresses came overhead. I was at Port Douglas when fourteen, the first the people in the far north had seen, came into view. The people there were thrilled to realize that at last had come a very tangible form of aid, which would enable us at least to make a fight ,of it if the Japanese attempted to invade our shores. Before then it would have been physically impossible to have done so. The people in the far north had even been deprived of their .303 rifles, with which they had planned, long before Japan came into the war, to defend themselves against the Japanese, because they knew full well that eventually they would have to do so. I do not cavil at the policy which decided that those rifles had to be taken, even from men highly skilled in their use, because I realize that it was probably necessary to send them elsewhere; but the fact remains that, after they had been taken, the men up north had to drill with wooden guns in order to prepare themselves against’ impending invasion.
– The honorable senator knows that we had to send everything we had to Great Britain in order to help to replace the armaments that were lost at Dunkirk.
– Exactly. Since my election to this Senate, in 1937, the Labour party has stressed the need to defend Australia to the utmost, but no useful purpose is served by quoting the speeches made in either House on that subject. In 1937 the present Prime Minister urged the people to take some steps towards the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia. I do not want to indulge in tedious repetition in regard to these matters, but we do know that when Japan struck and came rapidly down towards our coast Australia was in a parlous position. We also know that the present Prime Minister, with great initiative, vision and wisdom, made a suggestion which reflects great credit on him. I am disappointed that members of the Opposition are so tardy in expressing appreciation of what he did. We hear over the air and read in the press eulogies’ by honorable senators of Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt, but we never hear a word of praise for our Prime Minister for all that he has done. When the history of this war is written it will become known to the people that he played a splendid part in this great time of crisis, and was successful in preventing the Japanese from landing in this country. We have heard, during this debate, a great deal of criticism of certain actions of the Government in regard to its administration, and some paltry arguments about the rationing of foodstuffs, although wc know very well that the reason for such rationing was to ensure in the first place that the fighting forces should have adequate supplies. That is true of clothing also. What other purpose could the Government have in view. Senator Wilson ridiculed the idea of rationing butter, sugar and tea, but this was essential in time of war, especially when we had a very good idea that a large number of allied troops would come to Australia in order to drive the Japanese back, and that our resources would be heavily taxed. Some system of rationing is the only reasonable and fair way to deal with the food situation. We know that the ration of butter in this country is much greater than the people of Great Britain enjoy, and there can be nothing wrong in asking our people to make some little sacrifice in order that butter may be shipped to Great Britain. I am surprised and disappointed that Senator Wilson should make such observations. Senator Latham also tried to ridicule the rationing of sugar and tea, but we know that early in the piece transport arrangements of this country were so heavily taxed that we could not get our foodstuffs to the places where they were needed. This made rationing necessary.
It is not always because we have not got the foodstuffs; transport also is a very important factor in our war effort. Consequently, I do not think that the Government has any apology whatever to make for its rationing policy in relation to foodstuffs, clothing, or anything else that it is necessary to conserve, in order that our resources may be apportioned in a rational and fair way.
There has been a good deal of talk about our man-power, and the way in which it has been used. I believe that in implementing the Government’s policy certain people who have been appointed have not been able to discharge their obligations as well as they might have, and, consequently, there has been a good deal of disturbance in industry in regard to man-power. It is unfair of the Opposition to saddle the Government, as it has attempted to do, with the responsibility for all the difficulties and evils that have arisen because of its man-power policy. Very early in the piece, from my place in the Senate, I urged the then Government to give consideration to the necessity for conserving rural man-power. I was in the country districts, and witnessed the constant recruiting drives that went on, denuding the country of its efficient and contented labour. As we all know, the men in the country are the first to enlist, and the recruiting drives were very effective, but the result of the action of the government of that time is a great scarcity of man-power in rural industries. The rectification of the shortage is a difficult problem. I have here the first progress report of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, tabled on the 17th September, 1941, while the Fadden Government was in office. The fifth paragraph on the first page is as follows : -
Owing to enlistments in the fighting services, the calling up of men for militia training, and the requirements of the munition works, the scarcity of labour for rural industries becomes daily more pronounced. Many farmers intimated they were only just able to carry on at present, but that the position would become more acute as time proceeds. Others were already faced with the serious problem of having to decide whether to sacrifice the harvesting of present crops and curtail production in the future.
This was before Japan came into the war, and before the present Government took office. As far back as September of 1941 it was realized that the rural manpower situation was becoming very serious. On top of that, Japan entered the war, and the requirements of the Army were so great that no government could attempt to put men back into industry, rural or otherwise. The demands made by General MacArthur on this country for more men were very great indeed. After all, that was the paramount necessity, because it was essenlarly at that time, when there was a tial that General MacArthur should be supplied with the greatest possible number of men for our defence forces, particupossibility of an invasion, and it was seriously thought by our military advisers that the very maximum man-power of Australia had to be recruited and trained to defend Australia. The committeee’s report also contains the following paragraphs : -
Representative witnesses from the Atherton Tablelands emphasized the urgent need for labour to harvest the balance of the existing maize crop. Many instances were given of the unsuccessful efforts of growers to obtain labour or even exemptions from military service for harvesting. If crops were not harvested, besides losing the existing crop the planting of next year’s harvest was jeopardized, and if cows could not be milked herds would have to be dispersed.
One witness told the committee - At the second time he was taken away I wrote to the area officer in Cairns, setting out the facts and asking for an exemption for him. I said that otherwise I would have to dispose of my herd. The area officer did not answer my letter. He served a lot of people the same way. I rang up three days before the man was due to go into camp and the area officer said to me “You can carry on until he comes out of camp “… My neighbour, a widow with two children, had a young man milking 70 cows. They had to sell 50 cows the week following the call-up … It appears to me that men arc called up in an indiscriminate fashion, regardless of the effect of the call-up on primary-producing industries … In two instances to my knowledge, men with 130 acres of maize standing ready for the harvest have been unable to harvest it . . . The unsympathetic and unbusinesslike methods adopted in connexion with the call-up and applications for exemption have made many farmers hostile I recommend that there should be a local committee consisting of, say, the Clerk of Petty Sessions, the Land Commissioner, and an officer of the Forestry Department, to deal with these matters. Three public servants like that would act without prejudice to any farmer.
An honest endeavour was made to meet the very serious position in the rural industries. It is foolish for the Opposition to attempt to saddle this Government with the responsibility for all the difficulties that have arisen in primary industries as the result of the shortage of labour. Foreseeing this development, I protested strongly to the Government of the day against the withdrawal of man-power from primary production. I realized that the food problem would become acute. Whilst I do not desire to pit the record of the country against that of the city, 1 point out that many country men enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and recruiting drives absorbed most of the labour available to primary industries.
Senator Latham prophesied that slave conditions would prevail in the dairying industry. All my life .1 have been associated with primary production, and I inform the honorable senator that the Government of Queensland has done a great deal to enable primary industries so to organize as to be able to exercise some control over their products. What has the United Country party done to assist primary production ? It has always been hostile to the adoption of an Australian policy. It has been definitely an ti- A ustralian in its attitude towards secondary industries. The Labour party, early in its history, declared that the only solution of many of our problems was an increase of population. How can we have a greater population without secondary industries? What government, apart from the Scullin Government, has done anything worthwhile to establish secondary industries in this country ?
– A bedtime story!
– The United Australia party has built on the foundations laid by the Scullin Government. People should be grateful to the Labour party for having established the nucleus of our great industries, because its wisdom has enabled this country to achieve its magnificent record for the production of armaments. The United Country party and the United Australia party have never attempted to raise the conditions prevailing in primary industries to the standard enjoyed by other industries. The Labour party is pledged to improve the conditions of rural industries.
– The Labour party believes in the socialization of industry.
- Senator McBride sneers at the Labour Government, but within the last twelve months it has granted to the dairying industry a subsidy of £6,500,000. Why do honorable senators opposite object to that subsidy? Is it too small? Do they consider that it should be increased? They have not yet declared why they object to it. I agree that the subsidy might not be adequate to ensure to dairyfarmers a fair return for their labours, but more than subsidies are involved in this problem. Provision must be made for the purpose of enabling primary industries to become more efficient. For example, interest rates must be revised, and Senator Latham knows it. His voice has not been raised loudly and enthusiastically in favour of reducing interest rates, although the rates applicable to advances to rural producers have been too high in relation to the prices of primary products. The policy of the Labour party is to reduce interest rates to a fair figure. It ill-becomes Senator Latham to criticize the Labour party for its policy towards the primary industries.
Transcending in importance all domestic issues is the winning of the war. That has been my chief anxiety. Australia has been in grave peril, and we shall be fortunate indeed if the war imposes no additional hardships upon us. Honorable senators opposite complain of the discomforture and inconvenience caused by war-time restrictions, but they must realize that we are not yet “ out of the wood “.
– Does . not the honorable senator believe the statement of the Prime Minister?
– I was pleased to hear the statement of the Prime Minister, but we must try to understand what he meant. The people of Queensland, in particular, were deeply anxious about the progress of the war. Their peril has been a nightmare to them. I was in northern Queensland when Japanese planes flew overhead, and when one expected at any moment a raid upon our coast. The people of Queensland have been more warminded than the residents of any other State, and are greatly relieved at the improvement in the situation. They are grateful to this Government for the manner in which it has improved the defences of this country by constructing strategic roads and aerodromes. Innuendoes have been cast against the wages earned by members of the Civil Constructional Corps, but many of those workers receive only the basic wage. They have worked in northern Queensland, where the temperature was 114 degrees in the shade, but their efforts did not flag, and they displayed great enthusiasm. The Government had advised them that the outcome of the Battle of the Coral Sea would depend partly on the rapidity with which they constructed roads and aerodromes, and the men responded nobly to the call, lt is unpatriotic and unfair constantly to traduce the war effort of the workers. Admittedly, strikes have occurred. Some of them have shocked us and we deplore them.
– What has the Government done to prevent them?
– It has exerted every effort to prevent them. Even in the coal-mining industry, which is perhaps the greatest offender, the output of coal per man has increased, particularly in New South Wales, since the outbreak of war. In fact, -the production of coal per man in Australia is greater than it is in any other part of the world. Many ex-miners have emerged from retirement to return to the industry, and thousands of the most capable miners have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. When the matter is thoroughly considered, it must be admitted that the workers have rendered a great service and have responded nobly to Australia’s call.
– Ask the soldierswho are working on the wharfs for their opinion of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– The Menzies Government was in power for two years, and more strikes occurred in Australia then than at any other period. The Prime Minister of the day discussed the industrial position with the miners, but met with little success. The Opposition might at least show some appreciation of the efforts of the present Government to solve the man-power problem. Administrative action in matters of this kind under war conditions is admittedly difficult. At times I have thought that perhaps the allocation of men to various industries could have been more satisfactory than it has been, but on the whole, a fairly satisfactory job has been done to meet the situation, particularly in seasonal industries.
I am disappointed that this discussion was not placed on a higher plane than that on which it began, because the paramount issue is the winning of the war.
– Does the honorable senator favour the formation of a national government?
– No. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said that if there could be anything worse than a two-party government, it would be a three-party government.
– Or a Labour government.
– The honorable senator who interjects is not making it easy for the present Government to work in closer collaboration with the Opposition. Did we hear anything about the necessity for a national government during the two years when the present Opposition was in office? Nothing was said about it until the parties then in power saw the writing on the wall.
– The Labour party was invited to join a national government at the very outbreak of the war.
– We submitted a proposal regarding the Advisory War Council, and honorable senators opposite were tardy about accepting it. How could the Labour party work in collaboration with the Opposition at a time when drive and action were required? I am not happy in discussing the domestic affairs of my political opponents at any time, but we are told that even at present certain honorable senators opposite are trying to undermine the leader of their party. We find support of that statement in the remarks contained in a booklet issued by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who is leader of the United Australia party in this Parliament. The right honorable gentleman there states -
The people looking to the national parliament to set them an example of that unity without which we cannot win the war,’ have been treated, in these last few days, to a deplorable exhibition of intrigue and reckless disregard of national interests, calculated to bring into well-merited contempt the institutions of democratic government.
– That shows that we stand for freedom of speech.
– It certainly does. Referring, no doubt, to the South Australian bloc led by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator McBride, the booklet published by the right honorable member for North Sydney also states -
They pretend that they are “gravely anxious “ about many vitally important matters, which they allege justified their action, but the real reason is that they failed to depose me and put Mr. Menzies in my place. Had they succeeded, we should not have heard a word about any of these things about which they pretend they are so “ gravely anxious “. On the other hand, the imperative need for unity and 103’alty to the leader would have been shouted from the housetops. For a brief season the intriguers might have ceased to plot, but after a short breathing spell, would most certainly have concentrated all their forces against Mr. Fadden, for nothing short of leadership of the combined parties will satisfy Mr. Menzies - or them. They know by a sure instinct that he is the man for them, that in his capable hands the new order will be reserved for the right kind of people - their kind.
The talk of a national government is a mere catch-cry to mislead the people. There is no sincerity in the claim. For two years of war, while the Menzies Government was in power, no proposal for the formation of a national government was made.
– That is not true.
– The offer was made on the day on which the war commenced.
– I believe that the present situation would not be met by the formation of a national- government. At the time of the Munich crisis, a year before the war broke out, we were having an anxious time. I came to this Parliament one evening thinking of the possible developments, but I found that, instead of discussing the probability of war, the parties comprising the present Opposition were discussing the number of portfolios the Country party would expect in a coalition with the United Australia party. That quarrel has been in progress ever since. The people of Australia are not anxious for a national government. They believe that an Opposition can render valuable service in time of war and as in time of peace. If the Opposition points out the errors of the Government, it will do good service.
Senator Wilson has referred to our postwar problems, and his remarks surprise me. In his contact with soldiers, I thought that he might have gathered some useful ideas as to how the economic conditions of the country might be improved. He asked us to come to his assistance in bringing about an improved economic system, so that we might be able to avoid the evils that have been experienced in the past. He said that the Government should build houses for the people. I was in north Queensland recently when an attempt was being made to obtain carpenters, in order to complete certain urgent works. At a time like the present, it is most difficult to undertake a house-building programme and other large-scale projects. If preceding administrations which had control of national affairs for a lengthy period had had the best interests of the people at heart, they would have made an effort to solve the housing problem. I remember the late Mr. Lyons, as Prime Minister, urging the need for a homebuilding programme, and I believe that this Parliament many years ago voted ?20,000,000 for the purpose, yet not one house has been built out of that appropriation. If it is necessary to undertake such a national work in a time of war when our men are needed to protect the country, surely it was more necessary in a time of peace when men young and old were searching for employment. The combined intelligence of members of the United Australia party and the Country party ought to have been sufficient to devise means whereby the severe distress which existed at that time could have been eliminated ; yet they were content to allow the matter to lapse, on the ground that money for the purpose could not be obtained. During the depression period, 1 asked wiry money for such works could not be provided in peace-times,. seeing that it could be so easily raised for purposes of war, and I was told that as the country was in danger in a time of war defensive operations had to be financed, no matter what the cost might be. The fact that the working-class people were in the frontline trenches durong the depression period did not weigh with the governments of the past. The living standards of the people were in danger, but the government of the day was unable to alleviate t heir distress.
– There was then a Labour government in Queensland.
– In that State, there was less unemployment, a higher standard of living, and a lower cost of living than in any other State.
I am greatly concerned in regard to the food problem, which is not confined to Australia. Under the heading “Food Crisis feared for America “ the Melbourne Herald recently published the following: -
America is heading for a grave food crisis, according to competent sources, which describe the present shortage of some commodities as just a foretaste of what is coming.
The feeding of the people of the world at the termination of the war will be a colossal task. Australia will need to keep all its industries, but particularly ite primary industries, so organized that they will be able to advance rapidly and increase their efficiency in order that they may provide the foodstuffs that will then be so badly needed.
With general elections approaching, it is not of much use to appeal to honorable senators opposite to give to the Government greater co-operation and assistance, or to attempt to do anything that might make this country more secure, because, in their view, credit for any achievement would accrue to the Government. Judging by the tone of this debate, they have made up their minds to make an issue of paltry, minor matters, and to appeal to the most selfish instincts of the people. If the issue were the manner in which the Government has served Australia during a time of war, I should not have any doubt as to what the verdict of the people would be.
I fervently hope that before many months have elapsed we shall again meet in the Senate under less strain, and in circumstances that will enable this National Parliament to apply itself diligently and. earnestly to the problems which confront this country. Senator Latham said to-night that population will be the keynote of whatever progress’ we are likely to make. I contend that the basis of our national life should be the marriage of the young men and women, of the nation. They should be guaranteed the security of a home and continuous employment. We should not be discussing preference to unionists, or preference to soldiers. We should determine to regard as a crime conditions which would prevent any able-bodied man from securing work. Australia has the material and other resources necessary to raise it to the highest pinnacle of success. I have a great respect for our young people, who in my opinion have advanced considerably beyond the point that we reached in our youth. They want to forge ahead. In order to do so, they must have security in regard to employment. If industrial problems be tackled wisely, the nation will not need to concern itself about the socialistic practices that are worrying Senator Latham. Great changes have already been made. The accomplishments of the Allied Works Council during the war period have been an eye-opener to many persons. The great problems that will have to bc dealt with will be beyond the resources of private enterprise. Huge irrigation schemes, and the development of our national resources, will have to be undertaken in an organized way by the people as a whole. If Senator Latham can suggest any more suitable authority than the Government, we shall be pleased to hear of it.
I hope that we shall soon be released from the terrible strain to which the nation is being subjected in connexion with the war, and be able to apply our energies to the industrial development of this country and the economic problems of its people.
– A couple of days ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) intimated that, so soon as the Supply
Bill that we are now discussing, together with a few other measures, had been passed, he proposed to advise the Governor-General to dissolve the Parliament. A crisis has occurred in this National Parliament, and, as usual, the brunt of it has to be borne by this chamber. The decision of big questions when they arise is usually left to the Senate. That is but natural, because it represents the people as a whole. At the last general elections, more than 400,000 electors voted for the .parties that now sit in Opposition. Members of the House of Representatives are returned for constituencies, and consequently represent different interests. The Senate represents the people as a whole. Judging by the debate which took place in the House of Representatives a few days ago, it would appear that big questions in that chamber are sometimes settled under “ Rafferty’s rules “, whereas in this chamber there is greater evidence that decisions are arrived at only after the fullest consideration of the facts. It is clear that the Prime Minister was convinced a fortnight ago that the “ writing was on the wall “ for his Government. Had things not taken the turn that they did take in the other chamber, the responsibility of doing the job would have rested on the Senate. The Government’s majority in the House of Representatives had almost disappeared, and the Prime Minister, recognizing the strength, of the Opposition in the Senate, wisely decided to take the initiative and ask for a dissolution of the Parliament. His Government has already been too long in office. A prominent plank in the Labour party’s platform is the abolition of the Senate, but I am confident that the people are more than ever convinced of the necessity for a bi-cameral system of government, and will never agree to the abolition of this chamber. A. few days ago, when a Minister in the present Government was addressing a conference in Melbourne, he was asked why the Government did not legislate for compulsory unionism. His reply that he was unable to do so because of a hostile Senate was. in my opinion, a compliment to this chamber, because it proved that the Senate is the real bulwark between the people and irresponsible government. Without the Opposition in this chamber, even a greater degree of socialistic legislation than is now on the statute-book would have been foisted on the people under the guise of war-time necessity, and we should have been in almost as bad a position as if under the Japanese or the Germans. Throughout the country large numbers of people are applauding the work which the Senate has done during the last twelve months, and now the Senate has earned the further gratitude of the people by assisting to send to the country probably the most partisan government that Australia has ever known. As an instance of the way in which Ministers in the other chamber regard their Senate colleagues, I draw attention to an incident which occurred in this chamber some time ago. It is an example of the schoolmasterly tactics frequently adopted by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings), necessitating the subsequent withdrawal of a firm statement. Apparently, his colleagues in the other chamber totally ignored him. On the 26th March, 1942, the Leader of the Senate, replying to the debate on a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for the disallowance of the Women’s Employment Board Regulations as contained in Statutory Rules 1942, No. 92, said -
The Government will not accept any whittling down of the terms of these regulations. 1 ask the Senate to refuse to disallow them because they are essential at the present time. They are a part of the chain of regulations which the Government has found necessary to promulgate in the interests of the maximum war effort.
As the Minister spoke those words he drew himself to his full height, which appeared to me to be nearly 7 feet; but 25 minutes later he appeared much smaller in stature when he said -
I have been informed that on the 2.’5th March, Statutory Rules 1942, No. 92, containing .the regulations which were the subject of the debate which has just been adjourned, were repealed. . . .
Twenty-four hours after the repeal of the regulations the Leader of the Senate did not know anything about it. I sympathize with him in the unenviable position in which he was placed by his colleagues.
– I do not need the honorable senator’s sympathy.
– Apparently, the Prime Minister was not greatly concerned about his colleague in this chamber.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– The work which this chamber has done during the regime of the present Government will commend the Senate to the people when an appeal is made to them in a few weeks’ time. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is a pity that we are to have an election in war-time. Not only will considerable expense be entailed, but also, judging by the speeches which have been made in this chamber to-day, the occasion will not tend to create unity among the people. A dissolution could have been avoided in this country had we followed the example of Great Britain and formed a national government. However, that was hardly to be expected when we recall that the present Leader of the Senate, not long ago, described the Prime Minister of Great Britain as the “ mad dog “ of Europe, who was always stirring up strife.
– The Leader of the Senate was not the only one who held that opinion.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That may be, but he was the only member of the Senate who expressed it. Had a national government been formed, an election could have been avoided, and the country would have benefited.
– The Constitution does not permit of that being done.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.lt could have been done. Unlike the present Administration, previous governments acted in the interests of all sections of the community; but when the present Government took charge of the treasury bench it immediately transferred the control of affairs to the trade unions of this country. Before any big issue has been brought before Parliament it has been submitted to the trade unions.
– The consideration of some big questions by the trade unions has been postponed until after the elections.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN Before the Government introduced a bill to extend the area in which the Militia could serve, that measure was submitted to a conference of trade union representatives. Another example of the domination of the trade unions is seen in the number of strikes which have occurred since the war began. Since this Government came into power it has had the right to legislate by regulation, and it has promulgated a great many regulation*, dealing with strikes, but nothing has been achieved worth recording. A fortnight or three weeks ago regulations under Statutory Rule No. 144 were framed in regard to strikes, and the Prime Minister took over from the then Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). He said, “In future, I am going to deal with these strikers “. He knew that he was in a precarious position, but he was very astute. He declared that he would not do anything hastily. He would get all the facts together, and then he would give what, I suppose, the lawyers would call a con-: sidered judgment. I do not believe that the Prime Minister meant that at all. I do not believe that he meant one word of it. He knew that there was to be a conference of trades unions in Melbourne in three weeks’ time, and he was sparring for time until he could go down and talk to the conference about the matter. However, he did not go. Some of the other Ministers went, and they addressed the trade union representatives, but I do not know what is going to happen now.
– There are no strikes.
– The Minister says that there are no strikes, yet a coal-mine stops work because the miners are not allowed to have more than half-a-pound of butter a week.
– That never happened.
– It did happen. Ever since this Government came into office it has been divided. At the trade union conference in Melbourne recently, one Minister said that he could not do what he wanted for the workers because the Prime Minister would not let him. Another Minister said that he could not do what he wanted because there was a hostile Senate.
– It never happened.
– Well, that is what, was recorded in the press, and I suppose we are entitled to give some credence to newspaper reports. There has been a militant section in the Government attached to a leader who was determined that the workers should have everything they asked for. There has been another section which, for the most part, has acquiesced in that policy, although occasionally raising a protest. It was unfortunate for Australia when the present Government took office, but
So far as the Government itself was concerned, it caine into power at a fortunate time. It took over when the finances of Australia were probably in a sounder condition than ever before. I doubt whether ever before had tile value of outstanding treasury-bills been as low as £2,000,000. The ‘labour Government (Same in when we had laid a very solid foundation for the defence of Australia. A previous government had passed the National Security Act. In war-time, decisions have to be made quickly. Under that act, the Government took power to enact legislation by regulation. Honorable senators will remember that, when the bill was being discussed, the Labour party Was very angry. Labour senators did not like the bill, and fought it strenuously. Strangely enough, their main argument was that it was very far reaching, and that if an unprincipled government got into power it could abuse the provisions of the act. God knows, they proved to be right. The act has been abused, and by a Labour Government. One of its first actions was to regiment all those who were politically opposed to it, while extending to its supporters almost complete immunity from the consequences of lawbreaking. We have had some striking examples of that. Men have been charged with breaking the law of the land, but the Government has said, “No, you must not prosecute these men. They have not done anything wrong”. A Minister of the Crown attempted to dictate to a judge of the Arbitration Court what decision he should give. The Government has used the National Security Act for its own purposes.
There has been much talk about the defence of Australia, and the condition iii which our defences were when the
Labour Government took office. The fact is that the Labour party never had a defence policy.
– Who set up the first Australian defence system ?
– The defence of Australia, as we know it, was organized by the Menzies Government. The present Prime Minister, speaking in the Sydney Town Hall, in October, 1941, admitted that Labour had no defence policy. He said that the Labour party in Australia, in common with Labour parties all over the world, had no defence policy. They believed that butter was preferable to guns, and that the League of Nations, or some other organization, would banish war for ever. The Labour party declared that it was prepared to help the Government in the defence of Australia, but when it came to giving actual support there was nothing doing. I remember that when the present Leader of the Senate was Leader of the Opposition on this side of the chamber, a budget was brought down providing for the expenditure of £16,000,000 on defence. He was astounded, and used words like these, “Who is your enemy? Whom do you want to fight? What is this money for? I repeat that they merely gave lip service to that idea. When they were in Opposition, they promised the previous Government that they would do all they could to help it prosecute the war, but when that Government asked for the requisite funds for defence purposes, they refused its request.
– That is incorrect.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Fadden Government was defeated on its budget proposals under which it sought to raise the money required for the prosecution of the war. Therefore, I ask, “ Where does this great patriotism, which honorable senators opposite now display, spring from? Does it spring from love of country, or from any anxiety to defend Australia?” Clearly, honorable senators opposite boast of their patriotism merely in order to save their political skins. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -Ul verstone, Tasmania.
National Security Act -
National Security (Egg Industry) Regulations - Orders - Egg Industry (4).
National Security (Emergency Control ) . Regulations - Orders - Military powers during emergency (2).
National Security (Emergency Supplies) Regulations - Rules - Queensland.
National Security (General) Regulations -
By-laws - Controlled area.
By-laws and Order - Controlled and protected area.
Prohibited places (4).
Taking possession of land, Ac. (69).
Use of land (15).
Orders by State Premiers - Queensland,
Rules - National Security (Representation before Compensation Boards).
National Security (Internment Camps)
Order - Internment Camp.
Senate adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 June 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430629_senate_16_175/>.