17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers*.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 28a, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senators S. K. Amour, J. IT. Arnold, W. E. Aylett, “W. J.’ Cooper and Herbert Hays a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether Western Australia has been exempted from the provisions of the daylight saving regulations! Is the Government aware that strong objection is taken to daylight saving, particularly in the northern portion of Queensland, owing to the tropical conditions prevailing there? Will the Government consider the exemption of Queensland, or, at any rate, the northern part pf that State?
– It is a fact that Western Australia is to be exempted. The representations of the honorable senator with regard to Queensland will be considered.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take up with that Minister the matter of making shipping space available to enable some of the surplus stock food such as wheat now obtainable on the mainland of Australia to be sent to Tasmania to assist in overcoming the shortage of stock food in that State?
– T shall bring that matter to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture!
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate what steps have been taken by the Government to make wheat available to the starving millions of Bengal? In view of the food shortage in India, and the need to make provision to supply food to people in enemy occupied countries when they are released from the Nazi yoke, will the Government remove the restrictions on the production of wheat?
– The Government has already been supplying wheat to India and other countries in need of it, as for as shipping space will permit, but great difficulty has been experienced because of shortages of man-power and railway rolling-stock. The lack of .shipping space and difficulty in obtaining the necessary railway rolling-stock have reduced the quantity of wheat that can be sent overseas. The Government is fully aware of the seriousness of the position.
– What about the retriction of production?
– 1 have never favored that, having regard to the need for wheat in’ European and other countries.
– The Minister has not answered my question. I again ask what steps the Government intends to take to remove the restrictions on the production of wheat, so as to prevent famine in countries which are at present under the Nazi yoke, and which we trust will soon be released from that hold ?
– The honorable senator is well aware that the restriction of production has not been compulserily imposed by the Government. The honorable senator knows that there is a serious shortage of fertilizers and also a shortage of man-power. Those are factors contributing to the restriction of production. The Government has the matter constantly under it3 attention, and, when additional supplies of fertilizers are available, steps will be taken to increase wheat production.
– Is not the Government continuing the practice of licensing wheat-farmers? If so, does not that result in a restriction of production?
– It is one of the contributing factors.
– Last year licences were not granted to farmers until the seed wheat had been planted. Had not the farmers to fallow their ground in preparation for the next season’s crop, and should not the licences be granted now to enable farmers to produce the next season’s crop?
– That is not altogether correct. There may have been isolated cases of that kind, but that has not been the general plan in regard to wheat production.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Tariff Board - Report for the year 1942-43, together with summary of recommendations.
The report is accompanied by an annexure, but as the recommendations contained therein have already been adopted and the reports based thereon have been tabled in Parliament, it is not proposed to print the annexure. I move -
That the report be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator LAMP (through Senator
Aylett) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
. Has the Minister seen the statement in the Tasmanian press of Saturday, the 18th September, by F. W. Beven, president of the Primary Producers Union, that government control, and not a shortage of fertilizers, is hindering the war effort? 2.If so, will he make a statement to the Senate on the position?
Is it a fact that fertilizers cannot be imported from Victoria into Tasmania without the consent of the Tasmanian Government; if so, why?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
Senator LAMP (through Senator
Aylett)asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Government fix the price of bran and pollard in Tasmania so as to bring about a reduction that will allow poultry-keepers to make a profit on the present and future prices of eggs?
– The price of bran and pollard in Tasmania has not been increased for nearly three years. A reduction of price at the present time would need to be compensated for by an increase in the price of flour and consequently the price of bread. The large order for flour recently lodged by the United Kingdom may eventually change the production costs in the flour-milling industry to the extent that a reduction of bran and pollard prices might be equitably made without a compensating increase in flour prices. This aspect of the matter will be reviewed by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner when further experience has been gained by flour mills working on the increased production basis.
– On the 29th JuneSenator Collett asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Is this medical personnel, taken as a whole, to be considered as supplying a “medical service”; if so -
The answers are as follows : -
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the days of meeting of the Senate, unless otherwise ordered, be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each week; and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be 3 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and 10.30 a.m. on Friday.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That on all sitting days of the Senate during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, government business shall take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions, and except that general business take precedence of government business on Thursdays, after 8 p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, general orders of the day take precedence of general notices of motion on alternate Thursdays.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at 3.45 p.m. on Fridays the President shall put the question - That the
Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate; it the Senate be in Committee at that hour,, the; Chairman shall in like manner put the question - That he do leave the Chair and report to the Senate; and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not bc open to debate : Provided that if- the Senate, or the Committee be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been, declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the- notice-paper for the next sitting da.y.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That, during; the present session, unless otherwise ordered’, the sittings of the Senate, or of a. Committee of the whole Senate, be suspended from 12.45 p.m. to 2.15 p.m., and from, (i p.m. to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended. /
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed” -
That, the bill be now read a first time.
.- I take advantage of the opportunity afforded by this motion to draw attention to various difficulties which, exist in the northern: part of Queensland’. These came to my notice when in that portion of the State recently. Honorable senators who enjoy the privileges and comforts associated” with life in the southern States need’ to visit north Queensland if they desire to understand the conditions of life there at the present time. It is- generally recognized that war brings about abnormal living conditions; nevertheless, I draw attention to a number of matters in the hope that some relief will be given to the residents of that portion of the Commonwealth. I direct attention first to the problems associated with the impressment of homes. “When tha Japanese entered the war, it was obvious that the personal comfort and: convenience of many people would- have to be disregarded in the building’ up of our defences. To-day. however; many of the homes and private buildings which were then impressed by our Army authorities, and those of our Allies, could easily be restored to their owners or previous occupants. For security reasons, I shall not mention the names of certain towns in the north where changes of this kind could now be conveniently effected. In one of those towns, a permanent base for out Air Force has been established. The majority of the personnel attached to that station are living in private houses, which were taken over fully furnished, and’ at such short notice that occupants did not have an opportunity to take any of their goods with them. Those people did not raise any objection to such action at that time, because they realized the great dangers then threatening- this country, particularly the far north. However, in. view of the reassuring, statements which have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the commanders of our military forces that the danger of invasion is past, many of those houses should now be returned to their previous occupants. In the particular town to which I refer, the name of which I shall later supply to the Minister, a complete street was taken over by the Royal Australian Air Force. The housing shortage in that town is appalling. That station should be immediately converted into a hutted, or tented, camp to enable Air Force personnel to vacate those homes. In addition, the houses themselves are being considerably damaged by reason of the fact, that they are being occupied by service personnel. That is not surprising, because, service men have not the time, or the facilities, necessary to maintain, in proper repair, private buildings which they occupy ; and, in many, cases, service men have little regard for people’s property when it is a matter of making alterations, or erecting additional buildings around such premises. Any one who has visited Townsville in recent months will agree that tie local housing position is dreadful. Practically all the .hotels are crowded and the larger ones have been taken over by the military authorities.. With an influx of. civilians, as well as troops, the result is that accommodation is almost unprocurable in most towns in the far north. The way in which the military authorities, both our own and those of Allied forces, have occupied private houses in the far north is in marked contrast to the attitude adopted by the Australian Imperial Force and the. New Zealand forces towards the civilian population in Cairo at the commencement of the last war. I was a member of the first Australian Imperial Force that went overseas in the last war. The first 30,000 Australian and New Zealand troops to arrive in Cairo on that occasion wore sent to hutted and tented encampments situated from 10 to 15 miles outside the city. However, the military authorities to-day do not seem to entertain the same outlook. Too many people associated with our forces seem to think that it is necessary that they live in private houses. Those people who have been forced to vacate houses for this purpose have already, with other residents in the towns affected, suffered considerably, owing to the shortage of supplies due to transport difficulties. From conversations which I have had with officers associated with these various units in the north, I know that it is not conducive to discipline to have members of the units broken up by living in different places. Those officers informed me that it would be better if all members of a unit were in the one camp. However, others deem it better that service personnel should be accommodated in private homes. I urge the Government to take a firm stand on this matter, and to see that these private homes are restored to their previous occupants. I do not blame the Government in this respect, because the emergency created by the entry of the Japanese into the war forced the military authorities to commandeer all available accommodation.
I also bring to the notice of the Government the seriousness of the manpower problem as it affects the sugar industry in North Queensland. During the election campaign, I visited many sugar-growing centres, when I learned that one of the greatest difficulties confronting sugar-cane farmers was that of obtaining sufficient cane-cutters. Application was made to the military authorities that certain personnel be released from the armed forces to assist in cutting the cane. One would imagine that once the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) decided to grant that request, a little common sense would have been exercised in the selection of the men to be released from the Army for that work. It is well known that, in both military and Civil Constructional Corps camps in North Queensland, there are many men who have spent practically the whole of their lives in North Quensland, and are accustomed to the climatic conditions there. Many of those men could have been released for this work for a period of from eight to ten weeks which would have been sufficient to help the sugar-cane farmers to get their crops harvested. However, that was not done. Although it was obvious that the work of cutting cane in the climatic conditions prevailing in the far north would be too severe for men who had notpreviously engaged in that work, young men in Melbourne who had probably never worked outdoors were released for the work. Senator Courtice will agree that such men would not last long at cutting cane. As was to be expected, the young men worked in the cane-fields for only a few days. They became so badly sun-burned, and their hands were so badly blistered, because they were not accustomed to handling cane knives, that many of them had to give up the work. I attribute that mistake to sheer blundering on the part of the Army authorities. You, Mr. President, as a Queenslander, will probably endorse what I am about to say. Although we have had a surplus of sugar in days gone by, such a reduction of production has been brought about by man-power difficulties on the farms, and there has been such an increased demand for sugar, that if we play fast and loose with the industry a serious shortage in this important primary product is likely to occur. I therefore urge the Government to make an investigation into the utterly stupid manner in which the problem of providing man-power for the harvesting of the sugar crop has been handled. The way in which it has been muddled in the course of the last two years makes me very glad that a new Minister is in charge of the Department of Labour and National Service. I only hope that the present Minister (Mr.’ Holloway) will make a better showing in charge of the department than his predecessor did, so far at least as concerns the handling of man-power in relation to our primary industries. Let me give another example of the stupid manner in which man-power is being handled in the north of Queensland. Owing to the heavy influx of troops and other personnel the consumption of beer has naturally increased. There is in Cairns a brewery which is reputed to brew as good a beer as can be made in any other part of Australia, but because the district was so bled of man-power, and the brewery was deprived of the services of 20 or 30 men whom it urgently needed, it was able to work only 12 instead of 24 hours a day. Owing to the Cairns brewery being put in that position- the already acute shortage of beer in the north of Queensland was greatly accentuated.
– Would the honorable senator take men from the dairying industry to put them into a brewery?
– Wo, I would not, but there was never any need to call up all the men who were called up for the work that they were put to do. There are in the Army a lot of men who could very well be out of it.
– The honorable senator is one.
– I may be one and the Minister may be interested to know that I have already applied for my discharge. There are in the Army at the present time plenty of B-class men who, if released to help in the dairying industry, would be doing much more valuable work than they are doing now. The Minister will have to take action or those men will never be released, because many of the senior officers in the Army do not agree with what I am saying. These men will not be allowed to go unless the Minister is very much firmer with his senior officers than he has been. In the instance I am speaking of, the Cairns brewery could easily have worked round the clock and helped to supply the shortage of beer in North Queensland. There is no more reason why the people there should be deprived of that commodity than any other section of the Australian people. The Government, in order to make up the shortage of beer, is sending supplies from Melbourne to North Queensland thus occupying space on ships that should be carrying munitions. I hope the information which I am now giving the Government will be of some use to it. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) sneers, but surely he does not suggest that he and his colleagues are infallible, or that nothing that they or their servants inside or outside the armed forces do can be improved upon
I believe that there are in the Army and in the Air Force, numbers of men, who are not A-class men, debarred through no fault of their own from going into the fighting line, who would be doing a much better and’ more effective job in primary production or in some other form of enterprise than they are doing now. These matters are brought to my notice times out of number in my position as a junior officer in the military forces by men who know what they are talking about. When I was in Queensland recently several officers in charge of personnel told me that they had a number of B-class men under their control for whom they had no useful work and who could not be used in the fighting forces because of their medical classification.
– Does the honorable senator infer that there is in the Army a surplus of personnel?
– There is a definite surplus of B-class personnel. I am not referring to A-class personnel, who can go into the front line, but to men who are ineligible for the front line and cannot, be made medically fit for combat areas. In addition, a number of men on the head-quarters staff in Australia could be dispensed with without being missed.
– They were there two years ago, were they not?
– No, they were not. So far as army personnel is concerned, we have now reached the stage in Australia that we cannot have a large influx into the Army of young and fit volunteers such as we had in days gone by. We have used up our man-power in that regard, and the same number of young men are not now coming forward. All we can depend upon now to reinforce our flighting forces are the men. who are reaching military age and are not in exempted industries. The result is that the inflow into our armed forces is getting steadily less. It is obvious that that must be the case in a country with a. small population such as ours. It is nonsense to suggest that we can continue in the sameway as we started. The Minister for the Army knows that if certain head-quarters staffs were to disappear to-morrow they would not be missed.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the activities with which he is associated?
– I have no wish to discuss this matter from a personal viewpoint, nor do I wish to refer specifically to any particular head-quarters staff. In the House of Representatives yesterday, the Honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) who is a member of the Advisory War Council referred to this matter, and speaking from my own personal experience I heartily endorse what the honorable gentleman said. The proportion of head-quarters staffs to fighting men is far too great.
I draw attention also to the fact that considerable damage is being done by military vehicles to roads in certain northern areas where there are large concentrations of troops. I assure honorable senators that the people of those districts are not unappreciative of the fact that the presence of large numbers of troops is essential to the defence of this country, but the huge volume of heavy traffic which is passing over roads in those areas is heavier than that for which they were constructed, and unless something be done very soon to provide more adequate maintenance, when the wet season sets in, serious difficulties will arise. “What will be the policy of the Government when the troops are moved away from those areas? Will the roads be left in their present shocking state, with damaged surfaces, torn-up culverts, and weakened bridges, or will the Government undertake their rehabilitation as part of its reconstruction programme ? It wouldbe grossly unfair to compel the ratepayers living in those municipalities and shires to bear the whole burden of rebuilding roads that have been wrecked by army transport. I mention this matter at this stage because I am afraid that when the war is over it may be forgotten completely.
I urge the Government to give serious attention to the matters that I have raised. A thorough survey should be made immediately of the man-power position not only in the fighting services, but also in government departments. There appears to be no end to the creation of new administrative staffs, and I amjust wondering when the Government will man-power the Man-power Department and the many other departments that are being brought into existence every day. If the present rate of expansion continues, very soon every one will be public servants. Now that we have a new Minister controlling man-power, I trust that the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin) will allocate to him the job of putting right some of the errors committed by his predecessor.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Supply Act No. 1 appropriated revenue for the services of the Government until approximately the 1st October next. This bill provides supply for a further period of two months to cover the intervening period from that date until the passage of the annual Appropriation Bill.
The amount proposed to be appropriated is £25,961,000 under the follow- ing main heads: -
The amounts included in the bill are based on the rates of expenditure for essential services approved in the appropriation for 1942-43. Except in isolated cases where some special necessity arises, the individual items making up this total represent not more than one-sixth of the appropriations of last year. War expenditure, excluding special appropriations, is estimated to amount to £243,000,000 in the first five months of the year. To meet this expenditure, revenue amounting to £50,000,000 will be available after providing for other obligations. Of this amount, £30,000,000 was appropriated by Supply Act No. 1, leaving £20,000,000 to be provided by this bill. The balance of war expenditure will be met from loan fund.
Under the heading “Treasurer’s Advance “, £1,000,000 is included to permit uncompleted civil works to continue and also to meet unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
.- Can the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) inform the Senate when the new power alcohol distillery in South Australia will commence production?
– The date of completion of the power alcohol undertaking generally is governed by the availability of the necessary materials and man-power. Consequently, the Government is not able to state a specific date upon which it is expected that the plans provided for in this vote will be finalized. However, the Government is taking all possible steps to expedite the completion of the plant to which the honorable senator has referred.
.- In speaking on the motion for the first reading of the bill, I referred to several matters, and, although they may have appeared insignificant to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), they are of importance to the people whom they affect. Instead of replying to the points raised by me, the Minister immediately proceeded to move tie second reading of the bill.
– I regret that I inadvertently overlooked the matters referred to by the honorable senator. 1 made a note of them and intended to refer to them. The honorable senator spoke of the impressment of homes in Queensland by the military, authorities. That practice has been followed throughout Australia in areas where there has been great military activity. I understand that in Queensland some improvement of the position has taken place. In Melbourne large military barracks have been erected in Albert Park, and this has obviated the necessity for the impressment of flats and private homes in that city. I confess that the Hirings Administration has had a very difficult task, but the matters mentioned by the honorable senator will be brought to the notice of the Government, and an effort made to provide the relief sought. The man-power difficulty is even greater than the financial problem. Our objective is to win the war, and the strongest claims are those of the secondary industries, the primaryproducing industries and the fighting -services. The Government has not been idle, and at long last it has an overall picture of the man-power situation. The food programme presents a colossal task, and it will be necessary to release many men from their present activities to enable them to engage in primary production. Senator Foll, as a military man, knows that the Government would not expect General Sir Thomas Blarney to release 60,000 men from service in New Guinea. Reference has been made to the possibility of releasing members of the head-quarters staffs and others -engaged in certain government departments. The War Commitments Committee met recently, and on Friday morning the War Cabinet will consider the recommendations of that committee with regard to the man-power problem. The whole economy of this country will have to be recast if we are to see the war through to the end, and solve the problems of finance and post-war reconstruction. The budget figures with which honorable senators will shortly be presented are appalling, but not so appalling as the man-power problem which confronts this country with its population of only 7,000,000. The first job was to ensure that this country was not invaded by the enemy. That danger having passed, the War Cabinet will deal on Friday with the urgent matters to which I have referred. It desires an early start te be made in providing the man-power required. It must decide the tremendous issue as to whether Australia is to continue supplying the needs of the fighting services and also feeding the people of other countries. We are committed to providing food and clothing for many of those people. Although Australia is obtaining assistance under the lend-lease arrangement with the United States of America, it still must budget for the money required to carry out its heavy commitments The matter of damage to property by Army transport vehicles is one for the Army authorities. When hostilities are over, the cost of repairing Tile damage due to -Army vehicles travelling through certain properties, could well be made a charge on the Commonwealth Government.
.- The schedule shows that £10,000 is to be provided for machinery and plant for mills required to process flax straw. What is the necessity of such expansion in connexion with the flax industry, since I understand that flax production has been curtailed? The farmers in many districts are going out of flax production, and could not the plant that will fall into disuse be transferred to other districts where it is needed rather than incur additional expense for new machinery? This appears to me to be a most, appropriate time for the Minister representing the Minister for Supply AntI Shipping to furnish information with regard to flax production generally. In some of the States great disappointment has been expressed at the decline of flax production, because it was hoped that the industry would be kept in full production during the war, and that flax cultivation would become a post-war industry. Now, however, the industry is struggling, even under war conditions, and the production of flax has fallen con siderably. The industry gave great promise of helping the war effort by supplying a commodity which is in great demand in Great Britain.
– I regret that I am unable to supply the information asked for by the honorable senator, but I shall obtain a general statement on the matter and produce it at a later hour.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I lay on the table the following papers : -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and
Estimates of Expenditure for Additions
New Works, Buildings, &c., for the year ending the 30th June, 1944.
The budget 1943-44 - Papers presented by the Hon. J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the budget of 1943-44.
Motion (by Senator Keane) put -
That Standing Order No. 14 be suspended to permit the moving of a motion for the printing of the Papers before the Address-in-Reply is proceeded with.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the papers be printed.
When delivering his budget speech in the House of Representatives the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) stated that when he brought down the budget last year Australia was still facing the threat of invasion, and that in order to meet that threat all our fighting forces were mobilized. The immediate danger to this country has now passed, but victory has yet to be won, and nothing less than our utmost efforts will suffice. It is essential, however, that our efforts be re-organized to take account of the very definite limit of our physical resources, and to ensure a balance between our military and civil activities, and the Government intends comprehensively to review the Australian war programme. That, however, will not result in any lessening of our efforts, but will necesarily involve some changes in the order of priorities obtaining during the crisis period. The best evidence of the magnitude of our war effort is the use of man-power and woman-power. The total working population, of Australia now numbers 3,370,000 persons, an increase of 620,000 since the outbreak of war. That result has been achieved by bringing into employment 250,000 persons previously unemployed, and 220,000 who do not normally seek work. The remaining 150,000 has come from the natural growth of the working population. Including persons in the fighting forces and those engaged in defence construction and the manufacture of munitions, and in producing food, clothing and other essential supplies and services for both our own and Allied forces, more than 50 per cent, of the entire working population is engaged in the war effort. Nearly the whole of the remainder of the workers is engaged in essential work - feeding and clothing the civilian population and producing the minimum of other goods and services. This great diversion of workers from civil to war needs has about reached its limit. Even with the most determined combing out of unessential industry, the increased numbers available have been small for some time past. We must, therefore, now review the war programme as a whole and make certain that our man-power is used to optimum effect.
The food front is engaging the earnest attention of the Government. Australia is now being asked to provide more food for the United Kingdom, and vastly more for Allied forces in Australia and elsewhere. To meet, this situation, the Government has established a food control, and a directorate of agriculture. Action is being taken on a wide front through local organizations. But the two main difficulties associated with the expansion of production are road and rail transport, and man-power: these are now receiving special attention. The overcoming of both is bound up with the re-alignment of Australia’s total war effort to accord with current strategic needs.
Last month the war cost Australia £47,000,000 compared with £20,000,000 in the corresponding month of 1941.
The current rate of outlay represents about one-half of the entire national income of Australia. The total war expenditure to the 30th June last was £1,107,000,000, of which revenue provided £363,000,000, loans from the public £474,000,000, temporary use of Treasury funds £11,000,000, and treasurybills discounted with the Commonwealth Bank, £259,000,000. Heavy wartime increases of taxation have been necessary. The burden of Australian taxation in general is now as severe as in any other allied country. The total taxation for all purposes was about £74,000,000 in 193S-39 compared with an estimate of £270,000,000 for the current year.
Our war debt, which in respect of the present war amounted to £731,000,000 at the 30th June last, is building up a postwar obligation for the payment of interest. For the current year, interest on war loans of this war amounts to about £20,000,000, and this must necessarily increase as the war continues. The newdebt, however, is almost entirely an internal one, and although the payment of the interest on it involves a transfer of funds within the community, it does not reduce the income of Australia as a whole. There can be no doubt of our capacity to pay interest on even a greatly increased war debt and to reduce it gradually by substantial sinking fund contributions. Treasury-bills account for £259,000,000 of the increase in our debt. The Government, however, has taken resolute measures to ensure that the excess spending power remaining in the hands of the public is prevented from causing a continuous rise of prices and an inequitable distribution of the goods available for civilian consumption. To this end, rationing of several commodities and other controls have been introduced.
The Government’s price stabilization policy will ensure that civilian goods available for purchase are sold at reasonable prices. An important step was taken on the 20th July. The prices of tea and potatoes were drastically reduced, and sales tax on clothing and textiles was also reduced from 12-J per cent, to 7-i per cent. These commodities were selected on three grounds. First, the existence of the Tea Board, the Potato Committee, and the Sales Tax Department eased the administrative problems. Secondly, they were all important commodities the prices of which had risen markedly. Thirdly, and most important, they were commodities consumed by most people, which ensured that the reduction of prices was enjoyed by all consumers: Special arrangements have also been made to ref und to employers the increased wagecosts incurred by them, but which, they cannot recover by price increases;..
Our utmost efforts are needed to achieve victory, and there can be no relaxation on the home front merely because our operations in the field are going well. Restrictions on consumption must be fully maintained ; they will’ probably be increased, and it must not be expected that they can suddenly be relaxed in the immediate post-war period.
To the 30th June last our total war expenditure overseas was £178,000,000. Apart from the £12,000,000 sterling loan raised in London by the previous Government, it has not been necessary to borrow overseas for war purposes; and that loan is now being repaid. In the past four years our total overseas earnings have been more than sufficient to cover all overseas payments, including war expenditure, and to provide for a net reduction of Commonwealth and State overseas debt by about £9,000,000 sterling since the outbreak of -war. We hope that the present satisfactory position of our overseas income will continue. If not, we still have the benefit of the arrangement, with the United Kingdom Government under which we can draw on that Government for assistance to our London -funds.
Under the lend-lease plan, Australia has received, valuable assistance by way of war equipment and essential goods. The volume and range of lend-lease goods are very considerable, embracing such items as aircraft and parts, armoured fighting vehicles, weapons and parts, ammunition, motor vehicles and petroleum products, machine and hand tools, radio and electrical machinery, raw materials including tinned-plate, metals, woodpulp, chemicals and minerals. We are deeply grateful to the people of the United States of America for their generous help. We are happy to be in a position, to give in return, assistance, known, as reciprocal aid, to the United
States forces, in Australia and the SouthWeSt Pacific Area. This consists of foods, supplies, clothing, buildings, aerodromes, aircraft maintenance, transport, ships and shipping repairs and many other items. Last year reciprocal aid cost £59,000,000, and is expected this, year to approximate £100,000,000, or, about one-sixth of our total war expenditure. Lend-lease aid given to. Australia has substantially exceeded the aid we have been able to give in return. Reciprocal aid has increased rapidly, and we can. reasonably feel proud of our present rate of aid.
I turn now to the accounts of last year. Total expenditure reached £670,000,000, of which war expenditure accounted for £562,000,000. In Australia, war expenditure absorbed £483,000,000 and overseas £79,000,000. Revenue collections for the year amounted to. £257,000,000, or £1S,000,000 above the budget estimate. After meeting non-war expenditure, the revenue budget provided £160,000,000 towards war expenditure. Public loans and war savings certificates contributed £215,000,000, and treasury balances £8,000,000. whilst treasury-bills discounted with the Commonwealth Bank provided the balance of £179,000,000.
During 1.943-44, revenue from all sources is expected to reach £312,000,000, or £45,000,000 in excess- of last year’s collections. Income tax, which mainly accounts for this increase, is expected to produce £160,000,000, or £45,000,000 more than the figure for last year. The yield from customs is estimated to decline by £3,306,000 and. sales tax by £3,346,000 as compared with 1942.-43. On the other hand, excise is expected to increase by £2,4.00,000. From all sources the anticipated yield of. taxes- is £273,000,000, or £4.3,000,000 more than last year’s collections.
Statutory payments to the States in respect of income and entertainments taxes- total £34,000,000. After allowing for arrears collected by States actual payments by the Commonwealth will amount to £33,000,000. This is a self-balancing item and has been omitted from comparative total’s of revenue and expenditure for Commonwealth purposes quoted elsewhere in this speech.
Non-war expenditure is estimated at £145,000,000 for the current year, compared with last year.’s outlay of £108,000,000. A large part of this increase of £3:7,000,000 is due to the National Welfare Fund., to which the first contribution, estimated ait £29,750,000, is payable this year. This sum is a quarter of the estimated collections of income tax on individuals for Common wealth purposes. Payments out- of the f.und are estimated at £2,100,000 for maternity allowances and at £230,000 for funeral benefits this yeal-.
Other main increases in non-war expenditure are war pensions in respect of the war of 1914-18 which, as the result of the 20 per cent, increase of the rates of pensions, .are estimated to cost £1,090,000 more this year than was the case last year. Invalid and old-age pensions at £23,100,000 will require £807,000 more than last .year. Allowances for wive3 and unendowed children of invalid pensioners, which became payable in July last, account for £640,000 of this increase. Child endowment at £12,255,000 will cost £595,000 more this year, while the anticipated o03t of widows’ pensions at £2,780,000 will exceed last year’s outlay by £421,000.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission, in its tenth report, recommends special grants totalling £2,470,000 for this year. The actual payments recommended are: - South Australia £900,000, Western Australia £850,000, Tasmania £720,000, as compared with £800,000, £800,000 and £575,000 respectively last year. The Government will bring down legislation shortly to give effect to the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
Estimated war expenditure this year is £570,000,000, an increase of £8,000,000 over last year’s actual outlay. Australian expenditure is estimated at £500.,000,000, and overseas expenditure at £70,000,000. The expenditure for the Departments of Navy, Army, Air, Munitions and Aircraft Production, and reciprocal lendlease, together are estimated at £503,000,000. “ Other war .services “, it is anticipated, -will require £67,000,000. Among these appear the items, primary production, and, for the first time, price stabilization.
Food production is engaging the special attention of the Government. I shall briefly mention some items which involve expenditure from Commonwealth revenue during the current year. A subsidy, at the rate of £6,500,000, is now being -paid to the dairying industry under the Dairying Industry Assistance Act of 1943. It is expected that £7,000,000 will actually he disbursed this year. This amount includes some payments applicable to 1942-43. ‘ The Government’s wheat plan, under which licensed wheatgrowers are paid 4s. a bushel, on a bagged basis, at growers’ sidings for the first 3,000 bushels, and an advance of 2s. a bushel for wheat in excess of the 3,000 bushels quota, will be continued this year. An amount of £1,750,000 has been provided for the losses which will have to be met under the plan during the current financial year. Compensation for compulsorily reduced -wheat acreage in Western Australia during the 1943-44 season will require a further sum of £550,000: In addition, £500,000 is provided to meet the costs of the Government’s plan of purchasing wheat to be sold as stock feed to producers of pigmeats and eggs. In order to meet deficiencies in the Nos. 3 and 4 Apple and Pear Pools, an amount of £670,000 is provided for the current year. The increased costs of obtaining and manufacturing superphosphate which are being met by the Government are expected to absorb £1,100,000 this year. The Government has successfully sponsored an expansion of factory capacity for the dehydration of fruit, vegetables and meat. About £450,000 will he expended during the year, mainly upon the purchase of plant to be hired to operators. Total expenditure direct from Commonwealth funds on primary production arising out of war needs is expected to reach £11,851,’000 this year. Last year the actual outlay was £3,085,000. Total expenditure under the Price Stabilization Plan is estimated at £12,000,000 for the current year. This includes £4,500,000 for the tea and potato subsidies and £1,’500,000 to cover refunds of increased wage costs to employers. Among other items requiring subsidies are coal, vegetable seeds, linseed, milk for human consumption and miscellaneous imports.
As from the 1st July, 1943, additional active pay at the rate of 6d. a day has been provided for army privates and lance corporals and equivalent ranks who have completed six months’ service with good conduct and have proved .by test that they arc proficient soldiers. Members holding lance corporal and lance bombardier appointments have been granted, in addition, an increase of active pay of 6d. These active pay increases will involve additional expenditure at the rate of £1,800,000 per annum. In March last deferred pay was granted to members of the “Women’s Services on an appropriate basis and retrospective to the 7th December, 1941. The credits thus established approximate £750,000 per annum.
Tn March last parliamentary approval was obtained for Increasing the rates and widening the field of income tax on individuals. These increases take effect in the assessments for the present financial year and thus form an important contribution to the present budget. Income tax on individuals this year is expected to exceed last year’s collections by £43,000,000. This’ will cover the requirements of the National Welfare Fund and will also make some provision for other expenditures.
The burden of income tax on falling incomes may conveniently be mentioned here. With the existing high rates of tax, taxpayers whose incomes decline may find themselves in some difficulty. The Government is not unmindful of this problem and is closely examining all aspects of the matter.
The Estimates of revenue and expenditure can be summarized as follows: -
This brings me to the subject of war loan appeals. .Subscribers to one loan last year numbered 455,000, a record for Australia. The Government will “not feel satisfied unless subscribers to its next loan exceed 750,000. War loans are a means by which each person can take a share in the common struggle. It is the duty of every one to assist by personal subscriptions and by encouraging others to subscribe. Total- contributions to public loans, &c, last year amounted to £215,000,000. The gap between expenditure and revenue for this year is £403,000,000. With the current level and volume of incomes, the Government sees no reason why it cannot expect the public of Australia to subscribe to our public loans an aggregate of £300,000,000. That would enable us to reduce very considerably our dependence on treasurybills.
Another matter is the urgent need to avoid unnecessary government expenditure. In the light of experience gained, the Government will redouble its efforts to secure economies and to eliminate all wasteful expenditure. The financial proposals I have just summarized have been framed on that basis.
The Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank commenced operations this week. The facilities provided by the new department should be of valuable assistance to rural producers, particularly in the period of reconstruction. During the year, the Government’s war-time control of banking proceeded smoothly. At the 30th June, 1943, the Commonwealth Bank held £101,000,000 in war-time deposits of the trading banks, as compared with £37,000,000 at the corresponding date last year.
Early in 1943 the Government set up the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction. The Ministry will, in collaboration with other Commonwealth or State authorities, be responsible for planning the transition to a peace-time economy, and devising measures for obtaining a high level of employment and economic security in the post-war years. In this work the rehabilitation of demobilized service personnel will receive particular attention.
A NationalWorks Council was established in July last. The CoordinatorGeneral of Works will present to the Commonwealth Government at the earliest possible date a schedule, including both new works and maintenance projects that have been deferred during the war. This schedule will of course be discussed by the National Works Council.
Commissions have also been appointed within the Ministry to prepare plans for housing in the post-war period and to deal with questions relating to rural reconstruction.
The Tariff Board has already submitted to the Government a number of reports on the post-war prospects of secondary industries. A special Planning Commission is being set up to advise the Government on the basis of these reports and the executive action needed to ensure that the productive capacity created by the expansion of war industries will be effectively converted to the service of the people of Australia.
Among the lessons this war has brought home to all Australians is the urgent need for increased population. Our aim must be to ensure social and economic conditions which will foster a vigorous growth from our own stock and encourage an inflow of. suitable migrants.
Concluding, the Treasurer said that we have entered the fifth year of war with a much improved outlook, but there must be no relaxation in our efforts. Until our enemies are completely overthrown, we must accept whatever sacrifices are necessary. Then we hope the people of all nations will be able to settle down to a long and just peace.
Debate (onmotion by Senator Mcleay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to provide £10,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. The bill is similar to that submitted to Parliament from time to time for the purpose of appropriating an amount from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for payment into a trust account to enable pensions to be paid at rates which have already been approved by Parliament. The balance of appropriation now remaining is sufficient only to meet pension payments to the end of October next. Expenditure on war pensions during the present year is estimated at £11,036,000. The expenditure last year was £9,008,000. The additional expenditure is due to the 20 per cent. increase of the rate of war pensions recently approved by Parliament and an increase of the number of pensioners arising out of the present war. The appropriation of £10,000,000 which Parliament is being asked to approve is the usual amount appropriated. This sum, however, will not be withdrawn from revenue immediately. Revenue is drawn upon only for payment to the trust account as required to enable pension payments to be made as they become due. This measure has no relation whatsoever to the rates or conditions under which war pensions are paid, but merely authorizes the provision of funds for the purpose. I commend the bill to the Senate.
– I take this opportunity to express dissatisfaction with the manner in which war pensions are being paid and administered at the present time. There are many cases of men who have been accented in the Australian Imperial Force, classified as Al, and sent overseas. They have offered their lives for their country, fought in combat areas as A-class men, and then have been returned to Australia as medically unfit, discharged from the Army and told that they are not entitled to a pension. I contend that there is not only a defect, but also a serious injustice in the present act. If a man is A class and sufficiently fit to ‘be sent into a battle area, then if he becomes sick, the country is under a definite obligation to see that he shall not want. The situation at present is that such a man is not entitled to a pension, unless a tribunal finds that he received his disability on war service or suffered an incapacity while serving.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator is not in order in discussing the matter which he has raised. The object of this bill is to appropriate a certain sum of money for war pensions. x
– The point of order taken by the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) is that the bill is one to appropriate a sum of money for war pensions and that Senator Wilson is not in order in discussing the conditions under which such pensions are paid. The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– That is exactly what I am doing. The bill is to appropriate money for war pensions, and I am dealing only with war pensions. I am perfectly in order in dealing with the subject I have raised. If we are not permitted to discuss the manner in which money appropriated for war pensions is to be spent, I fail to see what is to be gained by discussing the bill at all.
– I press my point of order.
– In dealing with this measure Senator Wilson is at liberty to express his views only upon the subject of whether or not the £10,000,000 provided for in this measure shall be appropriated for the payment of war pensions.
– That is exactly what I am doing, Mr. President. I contend that this sum of money should be appropriated for the payment of war pensions, and I am merely drawing attention to the fact ‘that certain men accepted by the Army as class Al, who have seen service overseas, and have since been discharged as medically unfit, have been refused a pension. Surely, if a man is accepted as being sufficiently fit to fight for his country, the authorities should not seek to deny him a pension when he is discharged as a result of a disability resulting from war service or .received whilst on war service.
– I rise to order. In my second-reading speech on this .measure I stated -
This measure has no relation whatsoever to the rates or conditions under which war pensions are paid, but merely authorizes the provision of funds for the purpose.
Senator Wilson is dealing specifically with the conditions under which war pensions are granted, and that is not a matter which comes within the scope of this measure.
– Standing Order 419 provides that -
No senator shall digress from .the subject matter of any question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appeal’s on the Notice Paper:
The subject under discussion is whether the Senate shall agree to the appropriation of .£10,000,000 for the payment of war pensions ; not whether war pensions should be paid in specific cases.
– I support the appropriation of this money for the payment of war pensions, provided that pensions are payable to the men who have done the real fighting for this country, and who, after having been accepted as class Al and sent into action, have been discharged- subsequently as medically unfit. One case of this kind which has been brought to my notice is that of a member of my own regiment who was accepted by the Army medical authorities as class Al, and served with me in action overseas. He was evacuated because of sickness, returned to Australia and discharged as medically unfit, but when he applied for a pension he was informed that he was not entitled to one.
– Again I press my point of order. I contend that the honorable senator is entirely out of order.
– That is a matter which has to be determined by the President. The Postmaster-General is not in order in questioning my ruling. It is my desire to give to every honorable senator an opportunity to express himself fully and I do not wish to be harassed or hastened in .my judgment upon this matter. I ask that I be given an opportunity to consider the point at issue without the assistance of honorable senators. My present opinion is that, it is quite in order for any honorable senator, in passing, to state the reasons which, actuate him either in opposing or supporting an appropriation of this kind. Should I, in the course of further consideration of this matter, reach a different conclusion. I shall say so.
– The tribunal which denied a pension to the soldier to whom I have referred held the view that his illness was not due to war service or incurred whilst on war service, but had been contracted prior to enlistment. It is most unjust of the Government to adopt the attitude that although a man was considered fit to fight for his country, he is not entitled to a pension upon his discharge’ from the Army as medically unfit. I have interviewed the repatriation authorities in relation to this case, but, unfortunately, their hands are tied by legislation passed by this Government.
– -That is entirely incorrect.
– At an early date the Government should introduce legislation to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act by providing 1 hat once a man is1 accepted by the Army as Al, and is sent into action, he will be eligible for a pension should he be unable to earn a living upon his discharge because he is medically unfit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 38, I hereby appoint the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns, and Qualifications: - Senators- J. I. Armstrong, R. E. Clothier, J. S. Collings, B. Courtice, W. G. Gibson, B. Sampson and 0. Uppill.
– I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate and from the. Leader of the Opposition in the Senate nominating, in accordance with Standing Order No. 36a. Senators D. M. Tangney, R. H. Nash, W. J. Large, W. E. Aylett, W. J. Cooper, Herbert Hays and Allan MacDonald as members of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Debate resumed from the 2,4th September (vide page 39), on motion by Senator Takone! -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency .the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to”: -
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to- Parliament.
– I congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. I also congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) upon his appointment as Leader of the Senate. As Leader of the Opposition, I appreciate the fact that the Government has been given a mandate by the people to carry out the programme submitted by it to the electors. It has received a substantial majority in both branches of the legislature, and after the- 30th June next that majority will be particularly noticeable in the Senate. I draw the attention of the Leader of the Senate to the fact that the representatives of the United Australia party and the Australian Country party received over 1,500,000 first preference votes at the last general elections. Although the members of the Opposition represent a minority of the electors, minorities have rights. No doubt the Leader of the Senate is conscious of the fact that minorities in this Parliament have rights, and I assure him that, having regard to the difficult problems that confront the Government, the Opposition will do its best at all times to co-operate with the Ministry by presenting its- Views regarding the difficult matters that will demand attention. I remind honorable senators that although the Senate is elected by the same people as the House of Representatives it is elected on a different basis. I regret that in past years the Senate has not functioned as was intended by the framers of the Constitution. I trust that this chamber will not” act merely as a rubber stamp for the House of Representatives, but will exercise its rights fully. It has rights equal to those of r 11 n House of Representatives, with the exception that it cannot originate bills dealing with such matters as taxation. I trust that the Government will allow a certain number of bills to be originated in this chamber.
In the appointment of standing committees, I personally prefer that the Senate should select the representatives of thi3 chamber on such committees. It has been mentioned in the press that the Government proposes to appoint a joint committee to deal with statutory rules and regulations. For some time the Senate has had a standing committee that has done exceptionally good work in connexion with regulations and ordinances. Owing to the fact that the Parliament has conferred extraordinary powers on the Executive under the National Security Act, to enable it to act quickly under regulations, the work of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has been somewhat limited. As a chairman and si member of that committee in the past, I recall that there have been sharp differences of opinion between the Government, and the committee on matters of policy. Generally speaking, the committee has not taken action on matters of policy, but under war conditions questions of policy arise in connexion with practically every regulation that comes before the Parliament. I hope that the Government will allow the present standing committee to function, and will not press for members of the Senate to be appointed to a joint committee of the two branches of the legislature.
On matters such as the development of this country there is no better guide than practical experience. This chamber has never given the close atten- tion that it should to the differing conditions prevailing in various parts of Australia. It is the duty of members of the Senate to pay particular attention to the needs of Western Australia. When war threatened us, the position was that one-third of this continent was populated by fewer than 500,000 people. On examining the position, we were forced to the conclusion that governments in days gone by had not paid sufficient attention to the need for the development of this country, particularly from the point of view of defence; Western Australia being especially vulnerable, it is necessary that it should be more thickly populated and adequately defended. Problems such as these could well be considered by the Senate. I was pleased to hear to-day that the Government had decided to establish the aluminium industry in Tasmania. In the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, the population is not increasing at the same rate as in the other States, and the Senate should give particular attention to the needs of those States and of the Northern Territory. The Senate is better able to deal with the problems arising in those areas, because its members comprise six representatives from each of the States. I hope that the Leader of the Senate will draw the attention of the Government to the importance of this chamber from that point of view, and that the Senate will be enabled to function more effectively in the future than in the past. I hope that it will be enabled to discharge fully the functions which the framers of the Constitution intended it to exercise as a second chamber and as a house of review. I join with His Excellency and his advisers in expressing appreciation of the splendid work that has been done by the fighting forces of Australia and its Allies. I share their regret at the loss of brave men, and I express sympathy with the parents and relatives of those who have made the supreme sacrifice. We are all agreed that our most urgent job is to do all that we can to enable Australia to pull its full weight in winning the war. Now that the situation has eased somewhat, so far as Australia is concerned, because of the successes which have been achieved, I fear that there may be a tendency to slacken our efforts. I hope, therefore, that the people of Australia will take the advice of their leaders and resolve that, although we have turned the corner, and have seen the end of the beginning, there will be no slackening of effort, because it is realized that difficult days still lie ahead. “Whatever our view regarding the future may be, I suggest that we in this Parliament, as the leaders of the nation, are in duty bound to prepare for the worst whilst still hoping for the best.
I do not propose to deal in detail with matters of policy, because the Governor<General’s Speech is rather a general review of the war than a detailed statement of policy, although it draws attention to a few matters which the Government considers to be of outstanding importance in connexion with post-war reconstruction. I agree with paragraph 22 of the Speech, which reads -
My Government will continue to pay tuc closest attention to the changing events in the outside world and, in particular, to the Pacific Area, where Australia’s future lies. To achieve this, my Government will act in full collaboration with the United Nations, in order to secure lasting conditions of peace and security in the Pacific and elsewhere in the world. “We all realize that the most pressing problems confronting us are of an international character. I noticed in the press to-day a statement that the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) was considering questions relating to international air transport. Prom time to time the advisability of convening an Imperial conference has been mentioned and recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) suggested the establishment of an Empire Council. “When we reflect that such important matters as the terms of the peace, the future development of Australia, international transport, immigration, and other problems of great complexity will have to be considered, it seems proper that the Prime Minister together with some of ‘ his . senior Ministers, should accept the invitation of President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill to visit Great Britain at the earliest opportunity. In my opinion, the time is overdue for a survey of pressing problems which are of great importance to Australia and to the whole of the British Empire.
His Excellency’s Speech referred to the strengthening of the External Affairs Department. In this connexion, I congratulate the Government on having sent a Minister to Russia, and on having appointed a High Commissioner to New Zealand. A forward step in this direction was taken when the Menzies Government decided that Australia should be represented in the United States of America, China and Canada. The appointments made for the representation of Australia in those countries were well timed ; our representatives there have done splendid work for Australia. Before the war there was a tendency to regard too lightly the Department of External Affairs, and not sufficient interest was taken in the islands close to Australia. Australians have been inclined to live in the past. I congratulate, therefore, the Government on being alive to the importance of these matters, and I repeat that no better service could be rendered to Australia than for the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues to meet’ with the leaders of Great Britain and the United States of America in discussing the various problems which will. mean so much to the world.
As indicated in the Speech, the matters which will be brought before t,he Parliament are those mentioned by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. “We shall have a better opportunity to discuss those matters in detail when the measures designed to give effect to that policy come before the Senate. I shall refer, however, to paragraph 26 at this stage. That paragraph reads -
My advisers, confident in the ultimate victory of the Allies, are preparing plans for the organization and development of the resources of Australia in peace. Already preliminary surveys have been made upon which those plans- may be brought to fruition.
I stress the need for expediting those plans, because of the tremendous amount of detail involved in them, and the need for the fullest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. The Government acted wisely when it appointed a Minister for Post-War Reconstruction. I cannot say how much time the Minister will be able to devote to problems of reconstruction, because he already has a big job in connexion with the finances of this country. “Whilst I have a great admiration for Dr. Coombs, and for Dr. Ross, a prominent trade unionist, who has been appointed to assist him, I suggest that it would be well if the department had the benefit of the advice of men experienced in secondary and primary industries.
– The officers of the department should not consist solely of university professors.
– I agree with Senator Foll that there is a tendency to overload the department with men of limited experience. Only men of practical experience in commerce and rural industries can devise a balanced plan. I regret to note that some misunderstanding has arisen between the Commerce Department and the Victorian Department of Agriculture. From my experience as Minister for Commerce, I believe that the Australian Agricultural Council, which was established by the Bruce-Page Government, . and in which Commonwealth Ministers meet the State Ministers for Agriculture, has done a splendid job. The Commonwealth is working along the right lines to-day in utilizing the assistance of the State departments in the important work of increasing our food production. Those departments are administered by experienced men who have special knowledge of local conditions. I do not propose to deal at length with the manpower problem to which honorable senators have drawn the attention of the Government from time to time. Owing to the exigencies of war, men were wanted everywhere, and the job of allocating our available man-power has never been so easy as some people seem to imagine. On this point, however, interesting figures have been provided by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician concerning the withdrawal of men from rural industries since the outbreak of war. Up to the 30th March last, the number of male employees in rural industries decreased by 80,000, and the number of farm-owners, lessees and unpaid male relatives engaged on farms had decreased from 300,000 to 240,000. At the same time, female employees in rural industries increased from 20,000 to 60,000. Allowing for that increase of female employees, the number of employees in rural industries to-day is 100,000 less than that engaged in those industries at the outbreak of the war. Wherever possible, man-power must be released in order to engage in the production of food. At the same time, I sound a note of warning. In our endeavours to increase the production of foodstuffs we should ensure that we do not repeat the mistake so often made in the past of encouraging industries for whose surplus production we have not been able subsequently to find a market. I refer particularly to the pig industry and the fresh fruit and dried fruit industries. In planning to increase food production, the Government must look at least ten years ahead. .Some people have the idea that this problem can be solved simply by setting up a new department and calling for reports. I realize how difficult it is to get action in matters of this kind. In the past, there has been a marked tendency to set up new departments and call for reports. Mr. Churchill once said of some departments established in Great Britain as the result of such a policy, that there was “ too much harness and not enough horse “. In order to meet the problem of increasing our food production, the Government must guarantee to producers a payable price and security of tenure, and make available sufficient man-power to do the work. Recently I had an opportunity to tour country districts in various parts of Australia, and I was forced to the conclusion that no section of the community has suffered more under war-time conditions than those engaged in rural industries. I was amazed to find -that elderly men were left alone to do impossible tasks. At the same time, in other spheres I noted many people taking it easy. Therefore, there is room for a thorough overhaul of our man-power position.
We have been told that housing will form an important part of the Government’s post-war reconstruction . plan. I was pleased to note the announcement made this week by the Premier of South Australia that his Government has prepared plans for the construction of at least 5,000 homes in .that State. The Labour Premier of New South Wales has also announced that his Government has already prepared plans for a housing scheme. From experience we know that the States have been able to build homos of a better standard and at less cost than the Commonwealth Government. Senator Nash has told us of the splendid housing scheme which has been adopted in Western Australia. In any housing scheme it adopts, the Government should not duplicate State machinery. It should provide the money required, and ask the States to carry out the work. A comparison of homes constructed in Adelaide by the State Government with those constructed by the Commonwealth Government shows that the State has built brick houses of a high standard at much less costs than the Commonwealth Government has incurred in the construction of weatherboard houses, which are unlined, and which have not nearly the same standard of conveniences as are provided in those constructed by the State. The State Governments have a better appreciation of local requirements and conditions, and are better able than the Commonwealth to carry out work of this kind under a scheme administered from Canberra. I recall that in 1926, under the federal aid roads agreement, the Bruce-Page Government provided a certain portion of the revenue derived from the petrol tax for the construction of roads, but left the carrying out of that work to the States. Honorable senators know how effective that arrangement has proved. The Commonwealth should adopt a similar policy with respect to housing.
The speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General did not refer to any comprehensive scheme of compulsory insurance for health, sickness or old age. I hope that the Government is giving attention to a comprehensive plan for that purpose, and that we shall have an opportunity to discuss such matters fully. I again suggest to the Leader of the Senate that, in view of the importance of international problems, he will, from time to time, make available to the Senate information on such matters, as well as progress reports from the Department of Post-War Reconstruction. I notice in to-day’s press a report that Dr. Coombs addressed an organization in Canberra. So far as I am aware, no interim report from that department has been, submitted to Parliament. We are entitled to such information because we cannot be expected to obtain all the facts necessary to enable us to pass judgment on the complex matters being handled by that department. I hope that the Government will give consideration to the matters I have brought forward, particularly with respect to such subjects as international problems, defence, and post-war reconstruction, which are of the utmost importance.
.- Paragraph 12 of the Governor-General’s Speech is as follows: -
My Government wishes to express, on behalf of the people of Australia, our deep thanks to Great Britain and the United States of America, for the assistance which those countries gave and are continuing to give to Australia in resisting Japanese aggression. We also pay tribute to the noble sacrifices which have been endured by our gallant Russian and Chinese allies. Deep appreciation is expressed of the valuable co-operation of the Netherlands Government in the common cause in the South-West Pacific Area.
Those acknowledgements had to be made, but why is no mention made any where in the Speech of Britain’s magnificent effort, the noble sacrifices of its citizens and the splendid record of its fighting services, including the merchant navy? Whilst other nations were looking on, and Russia was completing her war preparations and perfecting her mobilization, Great Britain, singlehanded, fought the battle for world freedom. Had Britain been defeated at that time the whole course of the war would have been changed. Germany would have used Great Britain as a base for operations against the United States of America. In such an eventuality, that country, unprepared as it was, would have been so involved in its own immediate protection that it could never have come to Australia’s assistance in stemming the Japanese invasion. Its full resources of man-power and material would have been utilized in the European theatre of war. With Great Britain under Nazi domination, Japan would have entered the war long before it did. The United States would have regarded the lost Philippine Islands as something to be regained at some future day. How about Australia? However stubbornly we had resisted, the chances are that, but for Great Britain’s heroic stand in the dark days of the Luftwaffe fury in 1940 the Japanese flag would .be flying over this Parliament House to-day.
The omission from the Speech of any special tribute to Great Britain will be resented by the majority of Australian citizens. I do not say that the omission was deliberate. Still, it is unfortunate and is likely to leave in the minds of the younger generation the impression that Great Britain is some foreign country on the other side of the world. Amongst the adult population there are hundreds who would like to forget or belittle Great Britain’s efforts. Their sympathies are directed towards the United States. Their half-baked ideas cause them to believe that our ally from across the Pacific was the one and” only saviour of Australia. By all means give credit to what the United States has done for >us, but we should not ignore Great Britain’s achievements on our behalf.
With the threat of invasion becoming more remote every week, and the territorial limits beyond which the Militia may not operate almost reached, some reference might have been made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the role which the Militia is to play in the future. Perhaps for security reasons the matter has not been referred to. The people having endorsed the Government’s policy of limiting the Militia’s sphere of operations, the question now for consideration is whether or not any good purpose is served by keeping some thousands in camp when they are not likely to face the enemy. If I were Minister for the Army I would call upon the Commander-in-Chief to submit a report on the advisability of reorganizing our land forces. If I were that officer my advice would be to have one army - the Australian Imperial Force - and strengthen it by the formation of one or more divisions staffed by the redundant staffs of the present higher formations; transfer certain personnel from the veteran Middle East divisions and complete the two new divisions with Militia personnel who have already volunteered, or are likely to volunteer for the Australian Imperial Force. I would reduce to a minimum the troops necessary to protect strategical localities and defended ports, and retain sufficient for lines of communication duties; in short, expand the Australian Imperial Force to give the requisite reliefs and periods of rest from active operations, and reduce the Militia to the minimum requirements for the protection of Australia as a base for Allied offensive operations. “What would you do “, honorable senators may ask, “ with the surplus Militia and the new drafts called up under the Defence Act?” I would put those who wish to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force into Australian Imperial Force recruit training depots and then into Australian Imperial Force reinforcement camps, and. draft others into home defence training camps for replacement as required. Any surplus could then be discharged or allotted for duty with the Civil Constructional Corps at soldiers’ rates of pay, to construct, under skilled supervision, earth tanks and dams for the conservation of water in districts where rainfall is insufficient for pastoral and agricultural needs. Other major works of post-war utility might also be undertaken.
The people of Australia said in no uncertain voice at the recent general elections that the Militia must not meet the Japanese. That being so, why retain an army which is not going to fight? Let there be only one army - a fighting army - and keep it up to strength. Divisions under strength, with no relief, means casualties and loss of efficiency. The flower of the nation’s young manhood is in the fighting services. Why recklessly destroy them ? The nation will be al] the poorer in the next generation.
In the Governor-General’s Speech there was no indication that the Government intends to explore avenues where economies in man-power and war expenditure can be effected. To any intelligent observer there is colossal ‘waste. That might have been unavoidable in the frenzied haste in which our war machine was built, but it is now rectifiable. If only half the stories told of the time wasted in Government-controlled war factories and the war-time public service departments be true, then a stern duty devolves upon the responsible Ministers te rectify such complaints with the least possible delay.
There seems to be an impression, amongst some honorable senators on the Government side that the war-time policy of extensively using the nation’s credit through the Commonwealth Bank should be followed in the post-war period. War is waste, war expenditure is unproductive. War is an epidemic which must be encountered by raising money from every conceivable source. To use a homely example, war to a nation is like a deadly illness to a family. No expense would be spared by a father to cure illness in the family. Once the crisis is over, and the patient or patients are convalescent, the head of the family takes stock of his assets and earning power. He dispenses with needless expenditure and strives to attain his former position for the sake of his children. He knows that the heavy expenditure incurred to fight illness was necessary. Like such a father, the thoughtful people of Australia realize that expenditure to fight this war is necessary, but once the war is won serious consideration to living within our means is essential. I do not hold with the honorable senator who said that if Australia can raise £200,000,000 apart from loans and taxation in war-time, we can and should raise a similar amount for peace-time. If that money is to he utilized in developing economically sound enterprises, giving employment on works of a national character, such as the unification of railways, oi- building homes for workers and others on a sound financial basis whereby the cost of the homes is repaid to the nation in small long-term instalments, then bank credit should be resorted to. Here is an example of what I mean by economically sound enterprises. Early in 1919 a group of returned soldiers proposed to establish a woollen manufacturing factory at Geelong. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the late Sir Denison Miller, was approached through the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The proposition “was looked at from every angle. Would it be economically sound ? The governor of the. bank asked how much we were prepared to put into the concern. Eventually some hundreds of returned soldiers collected about £5,000, each subscribing his war gratuity of £100, and the bank advanced £60,000 at a low rate of interest - no doubt, a portion of that sum was made available by means of bank credit. Fourteen years later, the £60,000 was paid off, and not long afterwards, small dividends were paid to the shareholders. What was the reason for the success of this enterprise which, in pre-war days, employed nearly 1,000 persons? The reasons were, efficient management free from political and government control and up-to-date machinery. A manager and several expert foremen were brought out from Bradford, England. With the late BrigadierGeneral R. Smith, the manager visited every woollen mill in Europe and America and brought the most modern machinery to this country. The Geelong Returned Soldiers and Sailors Woollen and Worsted Co-operative Manufacturing Company Limited, with 4,830 shareholders, most of them ex-servicemen of the last war, is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished if there is no political or governmental interference. Out of the profits made by that organization a provident fund of £6,000 a year has been built up and augmented each year. If the Commonwealth Bank were to advance money for economically sound propositions, there is no reason why we should refrain from utilizing the nation’s credit through that bank.
There are several other matters to which I should like to refer, hut I shall bring them to the notice of honorable senators when the budget is under discussion in this chamber.
– Now that the general elections are over, one thing that is almost certain is that the party representation of the various States in this chamber cannot he altered for some time, although the personnel of the various parties may be changed slightly. This chamber is a deliberative assembly in which the States have equal representation, and for once, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) when he said that the Senate should be able to make its presence felt. I have always believed that the Senate should take a more active part in the affairs of this country, and I have been pleased to note that such has been the case during the past two years at least. Apparently, it has taken a general election to wake honorable senators up to what is going om in this country, and to impress upon them just what the functions of this chamber should be.
Before leaving the subject of the elections, I draw attention to the fact that certain remarks have been made which might be construed as an unwarranted reflection upon members of our fighting forces and munitions workers, and I do not propose to let such remarks pass unchallenged. I refer to the statement by Senator Sampson at the declaration of the Senate poll in Tasmania that the vote recorded at the elections was a “ yellow “ vote. I am not quite sure what the honorable senator meant by the word “ yellow “. If he meant that all those members of our fighting forces who voted Labour - a huge majority of them did support the Labour candidates - had a yellow streak in them, it is well that our sailors, soldiers and airmen should know just what that honorable senator thinks of them. If the honorable senator meant that the munitions workers, many of whom are working very long hours, had a yellow streak in them because most of them voted Labour, then they also should know of the opinion held by the honorable senator. Members of our fighting forces, and workers in our . munitions factories, including the sons of Opposition senators as well as of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, are doing a magnificent job, and I shall leave it to them to place their own interpretation upon Senator Sampson’s remarks.
Returning to the eye-opener which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) received during his recent election tour - apparently it was the first time that he gained any inkling of what is going on in this country - the honorable senator quoted figures showing that workers in rural industries numbered 100,000 fewer than they did in pre-war years. I shall not challenge those figures, but I do say that, if they be correct, it is a remarkable tribute to the rural workers who have been carrying on the job on our farms.
– The figures which I quoted were issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician.
– I do not doubt for one moment that they are correct.
I am merely drawing attention to the fact that production not only has been kept up, but ako has increased with 100,000 fewer employees in our rural industries. In view of Australia’s food commitments in the near future, steps must be taken immediately to ensure “that those who have been carrying on primary production by working longer hours than they are physically able to do, are not permitted to become so run down in health that they have to cease work and .so allow their farms go out of production. In my opinion, primary production and man-power is a problem equalling that of providing the finance to carry on a maximum wai1 effort. I believe also that the control of man-power in this country is a full-time job for one Minister. I am sure that a Minister charged with the responsibility of regimenting this country’s labour resources thoroughly, would find that he would have to work twelve hours a day to keep up with his job. I consider also that the preparation of plans for post-war reconstruction is a full-time ministerial job. Problems associated with pOst-war reconstruction in this country will be just as difficult and joist as serious as the immediate problems of war with which we are dealing to-day. When the war is over, Australia will be clamouring for equal representation with other Allied Nations in post-war development. Although Australia is a sparsely populated country, I venture to say that its potentialities, both in regard to the production of raw materials and the building up of secondary industries, is the greatest in the world. No matter how this war finishes, nobody will be able to predict What will happen ten, fifteen or twenty years hence. Australia must start to plan for those years now. When the war is over, the millions of Asiatics living in countries not far distant from Australia, whether they be friends or foes in this conflict, will settle down to become even more highly industrialized and civilized than they are at present. They will seek industrial expansion and an outlet for their population, and whatever government is at the head of affairs in this country, will be faced with the problem of ^bringing to Australia sufficient white population to enable us to hold this country. Therefore, our past- war reconstruction plans must envisage not merely the 7,000,000 people who occupy this country at present, but ako another 7,000,000, or even another 14,000,000 on top of that. We may set up a league or council of nations, but in the course of time the people of other races will multiply and will demand entrance to Australia. If this country is not adequately populated it will be hard to refuse such requests. Preparations should be made now for the absorption of a large influx of people of the right type, and preferably of the English-speaking races. Industrial and social conditions that would entice them to come here should first be provided. Good wage standards and adequate social services would induce migrants to come here without much other assistance. Those are problems with which the governments of the future will have to deal.
The Leader of the Opposition .referred briefly to compulsory national insurance. It is- not necessary to have a compulsory contributory scheme. The Government has already provided improved social services and it has money in band to give increased benefits. The present services are provided on a basis which enables those who can best afford to pay for them to do so. The Leader of the Opposition favours a contributory scheme, and no matter whether a man is in receipt of £2, £5 or £10 a week, or whether he has a family of twelve children–
– He should pay according to his ability.
– Such a scheme is already in operation. Those who are contributing to it to-day are those who can afford to do so, whilst those who cannot, afford to pay into the scheme do not contribute.
In reply to observations by Senator Brand I remind the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Our tin) has paid outstanding tributes at various times to the Government of Great Britain for the assistance which it has rendered to Australia. No one doubts that Australia fully recognizes the help that it has received from Great Britain, and its appreciation has been expressed in no uncertain terms.
– There has been almost daily consultation with the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
– That is so. 1 can assure honorable senators that the Government fully appreciates the valuable assistance that it has received from both Great Britain and the United States of America. If the latter country had not entered the war on the side of the United Nations, it would, in the course of time, had to face our enemies alone. That country has entered the war in the Pacific not only in the interests of Australia, but also to protect itself.
– Our men who went to the Middle East helped to protect Australia.
– Nobody denies that.
– If they had remained in the Middle East they would still have been protecting Australia.
– When they were brought back to Australia this country had no protection at all.
– That is not correct.
– An ex-Minister, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), declared that one armoured enemy division could have gone through. Australia at that time. The only fully equipped men Australia had when Japan came into the war were the members of. its divisions in the Middle East. If our men had not been brought back to Australia, and if the United States of America had not come to our assistance when it did, the Japanese could have marched through this country without serious resistance; but Japan knew that 60,000 Australians had returned from the Middle East fully equipped and that we had appealed to America for assistance.
– The Labour Government “ squealed- “ to America.
– Had it not done so, it would have been a case of “ God help Australia “. Nobody in this country regrets the action of the Prime Minister in that regard.. If he had not “ squealed “ to the United States of America, Senator McBride would have been looking for an aeroplane in order to evacuate from Australia. Senator Brand was rather cowardly iri saying that the electors in no uncertain way had declared that the Militia should never meet the Japanese. He knows that the Militia met them before the Australian Imperial Force came in contact with them and has been meeting them ever since. Members of the Militia are still putting up a brilliant performance in combat against the Japanese. Senator Brand stated that if he had his own way he would transfer the Militia to the Civil Constructional Corps at Army rates of pay. Personally, I would require everybody in the community, including members of Parliament, to accept industrial rates of pay. I would not single out men who served in the last war and put them on Army rates, but those returned men who are now employed on garrison work are classed as members of the Citizen Military Forces. Apparently, the honorable senator has not yet awakened, because when he talks of putting the steel rod over the Militia he suggests that it should be put over his comrades in the last war, many of whom would like to fight in this war. It ill becomes an honorable senator to cast a slur on any section of the community when he does not know the facts.
It is true that over £200,000,000 of credit has been used to finance the war. That expenditure has been used for purposes of destruction. The only pleasing feature of Senator Brand’s speech is that he is coming round to the view that the use of credit is justified if it results in the creation of assets, such as houses. It is gratifying that some members of the Opposition are now prepared to join the Government in giving effect to its post-war reconstruction policy, and are agreed that if credit can be released to destroy life and property, it can also be used for the creation of assets which will be of a reproductive nature. Since the war began the Australian national debt has increased by leaps and bounds, and in consequence the interest burden has become heavier year by year. There is, however, a definite limit to the amount of interest on borrowed money that the people can pay, and therefore we shall have to resort more than formerly to the use of credit.
– We shall still have to pay interest.
– I have no objections to paying interest on money advanced by the people’s bank, because the interest so paid .goes back into the pockets of the people and does not swell the profits of a few financiers. Now that members of the Opposition are disposed to agree with the Government, I visualize closer agreement in matters affecting post-war policy; many of the difficulties which otherwise would have been surmounted will not have to be faced. The election has done good if it has convinced members of the Opposition that the issue of credit is justified so long as it results in the creation of assets. The outlook is therefore more promising, because it reduces the fear of another period of depression such as’ we experienced in 192.9 and succeeding years.
Sitting suspended from 545 to S p.m.
– I congratulate Senator Tangney and Senator Nash on the excellence of their maiden speeches in this chamber. I. trust that debates in the Senate will be maintained upon the high plane of those addresses which marked the opening of this session. I propose to discuss two recent announcements of government policy. The first is contained in the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General, and the second is a statement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) during the ejection campaign. I suggest that in view of those two statements it is essential that we reorient our ideas with respect to the number of men that are required in our armed forces. His Excellency said that we acknowledge with deep thankfulness that the threat of invasion has now been removed though we are still open to marauding attacks. His Excellency also said that we are all delighted to know that the Government has had placed before it facts which enable us to come to that conclusion.
The second statement, that made by the Prime Minister, was to the effect that the Government proposes to make available one army corps for offensive action. An army corps consists of 60,000 men. Our present situation, therefore, is that the threat of invasion has now been removed, and the Government proposes to use only 60,000 men for offensive action. I submit that that is far too small a part for a great nation like Australia to play in the present conflict. I remind the Senate that during the last war we maintained overseas five divisions of infantry and one and a half divisions of cavalry, and that during the first two years of this war we maintained overseas four divisions. The Government has now changed that policy, and proposes that Australia’s part in this conflict, in spite of the fact that we are now free from the danger of invasion, is to be confined to the utilization of one army corps-
– Is the honorable senator forgetting the number of men already in action?
– The Prime Minister has stated that we have 820,000 men in our armed forces which include, of course, the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. I do not know the number of men in the Navy or in the Air Force.
– That number also includes those in the auxiliary services.
– Yes; but it would bc no exaggeration to say, although I do not use the figure -with definite knowledge, that we have in our Army 500,000 men. If we have 500,000 men under arms, and only one corps, or 60,000, are to be used for offensive operations, I ask the Government what it is going to use the other men for. In view of these facts it is necessary for us to reorient the whole of our ideas, and to ascertain whether a great number of men who are not to be used for offensive action would not be better utilized in the production of articles that are so urgently required by Great Britain and our Allies. First, I put forward two suggestions in respect of the policy that was laid down by the Government prior to the elections, and endorsed by the people. Although I do not agree with that policy I, as a democrat, realize that we must accept the mandate of the people. If the Government proposes to use 60,000 men for offensive action, another 60,000 will probably be required as reinforcements for those men, and as advised by the military authorities men will be required from time to time to maintain that corps up to strength.
– Ten per cent, a month is a fair ratio for reinforcements.
– That is so. This corps should be reinforced with the best men that Australia can produce and not along the lines of past policy under which munitions factories and the Air Force have picked the cream of our man-power, and the Army has had to take what is left. The reinforcements to this corps must be the best, and nothing but the best. In the selection of men to act as reinforcements to this army corps, that will fight our battles overseas, our military commanders should have No. 1 priority, or a priority equal with that enjoyed by the Air Force. Further, I suggest that far greater discretion should be given to our army officers and formation commanders to enable them to weed out men who are now in that corps, and in any reinforcements to that corps, who, in their opinion, will not make efficient soldiers. In the past, formation commanders and commanding officers have not had sufficient discretion in that direction. They have had no option but to accept the men who have been drafted to them, and they have had to keep men who they found were never likely to become efficient soldiers. Never again must we allow our fighting troops to be short of reinforcements ; and all reinforcements must consist of the best men. and nothing hut the best.
I have dealt with the subject of our fighting troops and reinforcements to them. Bearing in mind the fact that we are now safe from invasion, I suggest that after we have dealt with those two classes, we shall find that, in the light of the present policy of the Government, a great number of men are not serving any useful purpose in the Army, and, therefore, the Government, acting on the advice of its military experts, should ascertain, after setting aside the required army corps and reinforcements to it, how many of the men remaining in the armed forces are available for return to production.
– The trouble to-day is that it is very hard to get them out of the Army.
– In the past the release of men from the Army has been done in the most haphazard manner, without any consideration being given to the needs of our total war effort. First, the Government has waited for men to apply for such release, and when men have applied, and have stated for what purpose they desire release, their applications have been investigated by the man-power authority which, in respect of many men whom the Army was quite willing to release and, in fact, would have been happy to release, has refused to grant that release. There has been a tremendous amount of bungling in the handling of the man-power problem, and that bungling is more the responsibility of the man-power authority than the Army. In the past, the whole basis of releasing men from the Army has been wrong. Surely this matter should be approached from the point of view as to where a man can render the greatest service to the country. I say deliberately that hundreds of dairymen who could be rendering a magnificent service to the country producing milk and butter and other products for Great Britain, are now in the Army doing base jobs, or are engaged as mess waiters, or picking up cigarette butts and cleaning camps, and other menial jobs. Only one test should be applied as to whether a man should be released from the armed forces and that is where a man’s services can best be utilized. Every man’s usefulness should be examined from that point of view. However, at present, we have hundreds of square pegs in round holes. We have men in the Army who are never likely to become efficient soldiers, but who were excellent primary producers, and as primary producers were rendering a great service to the community. After ascertaining the advice of our military experts as to how many men are required in the Army for the new role which Australia is now to take in this conflict, and after picking the men to fulfil that role, every man excluded from that number should be examined individually in order to ascertain whether he can render greater service in industry than in his present occupation in the Army. The Army authorities will not resist such a policy. They will readily release men who can render greater service to the country in their civilian occupation. I press that submission from the point of view of the Army itself, and also from the point of view of discipline and morale, because it is absolutely dangerous to keep thousands of men in an army which has no offensive role and in which, virtually, they have nothing to do. I refer honorable senators to Andre Maurois’s brilliant book Tragedy in France. He attributes the fall of France to the fact that men with the fighting spirit stood month after month behind what was believed to be an impregnable line, with nothing to do, with the result that finally the army lost its morale, and when the Germans made their push it did not fight. There is nothing more dangerous to the morale and discipline of the Australian Army than to idle about with no offensive role; and it is a fact that, apart from the army corps and the reinforcements for it, the remainder of our army has no offensive role. I refer the Senate to a statement by Lord Gort on the subject, quoted by Maurois. Lord Gort was asked during 1940 the state of the morale and discipline of his British troops, who also had been standing for many months behind what was believed to be an impregnable line, with virtually nothing to do. He replied -
I have nothing in front of me except Belgium, a neutral country. It is not easy in these circumstances to maintain a fighting spirit.
Maurois says also -
In the city of Arras, where I was stationed, there were several thousand French territorials, old soldiers who had been mobilized - I never really knew why - and of whom the Army made no use whatever. Their officers employed them as best they could to plant kitchen gardens, start poultry yards and raise rabbits and pigs. These were praiseworthy enterprises, but it might, perhaps, have been more useful to fortify Arras.
I think I know the Australian soldier, and I am sure that there is nothing he hates more than being, as he describes it, “ mucked about “. What can the commanding officer of an army do to keep up the morale and fighting spirit of his men when they have been through their training over and over again, and he knows that they are never going to fight - not that they are not willing to fight, but because the role that they are given is not a fighting one? I suggest that, from the point of view of morale and discipline, it is extremely dangerous and unwise for the Government to keep this huge army in a role that will never be offensive. I base my plea also on the interest of Australia. During the election campaign I toured nearly the whole of South Australia, and saw many farms manned only by the old farmer himself, often aged 60 years or over. All his boys were in the services, the fences and machinery were out of repair, and the old man was trying to carry on, but the farm was going to rack and ruin. Production in this country ie falling off at an alarming rate. We have had record seasons in Australia, and in spite of them we find shortages. The Government must do something better with its man-power than it has done in the past eighteen months. Action cannot bc delayed for one moment longer; we must get our men on to the production of commodities that are urgently required by our allies and by our own people.
– We have not enough men to relieve our boys in New Guinea.
– During the last war we had five divisions of fighting troops overseas, in addition to one and a half divisions of cavalry, but the total number of our troops overseas was only 360,000. During this war we had three divisions in the Middle East, yet we never had. more than 110,000 troops there. In other words, for each fighting troop we never had more than one base and line of communication troop. After the 6th and 7th Divisions were withdrawn, and we had only the 9th Division there, the total number of men available for that Division, its reinforcements and base and line of communication troops, was only 35,000. .Putting it bluntly, for each fighting troop you may have one base and lino of communication troop, but if you are going to have only 60,000 fighting troops, why do you need 400,000 base and line of communication troops? The people of Australia like to believe that this is a total war. If it is let us reinforce our fighting troops with the best we can get, let us find what we need in this defensive role against marauding attacks, and release the remainder for the production of necessary commodities.
In releasing men and determining priorities, I also ask the Government to consider the case of married men with children. Great hardships occur where a man posted to Queensland leaves a wife and four or five children in another State, and sickness affects the home. The first consideration in deciding priorities and releases must be: where can a man best render service to the community? If the problem is tackled intelligently we can play a much greater part in the war effort than we are playing to-day. We have heard much about poverty in a land of plenty. Judging by the way the Government is acting, this is going to be a land of scarcity. Already the Government is falling down on its contracts with Great Britain for the supply of foodstuffs and materials. We can, with the country we have at our command, produce a f ar greater quantity of goods than we are doing to-day, but we must utilize our man-power to the maximum of its capacity.
– Does the honorable senator claim that that is not being done now ?
– I do most definitely claim that there is a tremendous waste of man-power.
– Can the honorable senator prove it?
– I can prove it without any difficulty whatever.
– Then I think the honorable senator ought to do so.
– Very well. With post-war reconstruction to be dealt with - fortunately it comes nearer to us every day - we have problems of the greatest magnitude to solve. The great majority of the 820,000 men that the.Prime Minister spoke of as being in our fighting forces are now living under canvas, or in barracks, or in the swamps of New Guinea. When they come back they will require homes, but at present there are insufficient homes to house the population that is left in Australia.. Something must be done to provide housing accommodation for all those men promptly when the time comes for their discharge. That means that, in considering the release of men from the forces, a high priority should be given to builders, carpenters, plumbers and others connected with the building industry, so that they may get on with the job of making homes available to the men in the forces on their discharge. I shudder to think that nien who have gone through the horrors of New Guinea and fought at Tobruk and at El Alamein may not find homes to go into when they are discharged.
We must also consider the question of furniture, which is almost unprocurable in Australia to-day. When these men are released they must have furniture to put in their homes, and therefore a high priority must be given to those who are skilled in the furniture trade. The same applies to the clothing operatives. All the troops will require suits and other civilian attire. At present there are insufficient operatives in the trade to provide them. Of course, the greatest priority, as I mentioned before, must be given to those who are needed in primary production.
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) stated in the House of Repsentatives that the procedure is that a soldier applies for his discharge, a national service officer investigates and then the commanding officer expresses his willingness or otherwise for the man to be discharged. In my opinion, that is the wrong principle to adopt. The proper way should be to ascertain where the man can best serve, and then the commanding officer should be given wider powers to say whether he wants him or not, and he should also have the power to draw on reinforcements whenever necessary.
I put forward these views, which I submit are constructive, because I realize that the problems which I have been discussing are of the greatest importance. The Government has a difficult task before it, but I feel that the man-power problem has not been intelligently handled during the last twelve months. It is time that a general principle be laid down, and that power should not be left to a man in the armed forces to apply for release in a haphazard manner. Each man’s position should be investigated, so that the Army may be able to say to him : “ Your services can best be employed on a dairy-farm, in a coal-mine, in a factory, or fighting in New Guinea - in fact, wherever you can render the maximum service “. I trust that the Government will review the entire problem in the light of the principles that it has laid down in regard to the number of men required for offensive operations.
– I preface my remarks by congratulating you, Mr. President, upon your election to the office which you now hold. I am sure that you will uphold the high traditions of that office and that honorable senators, realizing that dignity and decorum should predominate in this chamber will give you all possible assistance. I congratulate also the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. We have just returned from an election campaign - victors and vanquished. I have made it a rule through life, not only in the field of sport, but also in all other spheres of activity, never to question the decision of the umpire, and never hold post-mortems. The people have spoken, and have elected a new Parliament; the Labour party has elected a Government, and that Government has a job to do. I admit that it is a most difficult job, and that it would be so regardless of the party which occupied the treasury bench. I can only say to honorable senators opposite, that so far as lies within my power, I am prepared to assist them in every way possible. They have many problems to face, not only at present, but also in the future, and I am confident that I speak for all honorable senators on this side of the chamber when 1 say that the Opposition will assist the Government at all times to do the right thing.
The speech delivered by His Excellency was mainly a resume of the war position, which, we are all thankful to know, has improved vastly within the last few months. Paragraph 16 of the Governor-General’s Speech reads -
With the improvement in the strategical position, the time is now due to reconsider those classes of production which have been unduly depressed because of the earlier paramount urgency of other demands.
Paragraph 23 reads -
The programme which my Government put before the people of Australia prior to the elections will be prepared by my advisers, and, at appropriate times, measures to bring into effect the Government’s decisions will be placed ‘before Parliament.
Although I have perused the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr.
Curtin) very carefully, I have been unable to find very much which would give a clear indication of what his Government proposed to do if returned to power. The Governor-General continued -
The Government will ask you to provide the finance necessary to enable the war to be waged to the greatest capacity of our Australian resources.
The Government may rest assured that the Opposition will assist it in every way possible to raise that money.
In my view, the Prime Minister’s policy speech could be regarded more as a recital of what had been done up to that date rather than an indication of what the Government proposed to do in the future. The right honorable gentleman painted a really good picture, and probably an accurate one, of the situation in Australia and on the war fronts generally at that time, but in my opinion,e should have cast his mind back a little bit further than he did. In that regard I am reminded of the story of the professor who, on speech night, stood with his best scholar in front of him, and told the people in the audience what a puny, ignorant little fellow that scholar had been when he first came to the school, whereas he was now 6 feet tall, a good athlete, and had passed the intermediate examination. The professor completely overlooked the fact that the student had grown up naturally. So it is with our war effort; we had to start right at the beginning, but now it has grown into something of which we are very proud.
– .Surely the professor is entitled to claim some credit.
– I Yes; but, on the other hand, some credit should be given to those who laid the foundations of our great war effort, which I am confident will play a big part in securing a lasting peace.
A notable feature of the Prime Minister’s policy speech was the absence of any reference to our industrial position. I am sure that every Australian man and woman is ashamed of the dislocation on our industrial front to-day. I have some figures relating to coal production which I shall quote to honorable senators. I do not propose to analyse them or to make any comments about the state of affairs which they reveal; 1 shall merely take them as an illustration of my argument. According to a statement by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 27th September, the production of coal during the past twelve months totalled 15,000,000 tons. The honorable gentleman compared that figure with production in 1940. That was a most unfair comparison, because it will be recalled that in that year we had the most disastrous coal strike that this country has ever experienced. In fact, for nearly ten weeks no coal was produced. Had the Minister gone back to 1939, he would have found that coal production that year totalled 13,500,000 tons, and the installation of more mechanized equipment in the mines alone” would have increased that output to 15,000,000 tons.
– The honorable senator should remember that thousands of coal-miners have enlisted since’ 1940.
– That is quite true; but according to reliable estimates, the loss of production owing to stoppages during the past twelve months and absenteeism totalled about 2,000,000 tons, so that even with the fewer operatives in the mines, had there been no strikes and no absenteeism, production would have been 2,000,000 tons higher during the past year.
– But the output of coal per man was a record.
– will not argue about that. I am stating plain facts. During the first quarter of this year the loss of production owing to strikes and absenteeism increased. There were 2,143 strikes, involving 856,000 people and a loss of 268,299 working days. Prior to that time the greatest number of working days lost during any whole year had been 378,195, so that during the. first quarter of this year the working days lost represented two-thirds of that total. What is the position in Great Britain?
– They have strikes there, too.
– I shall quote figures given by Dr. Lloyd Boss, secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union, who recently visited Great Britain. According to Dr. Ross, in Great Britain during 1941 and 1942 there were 2,554 strikes, involving 816,000 people. Compare those figures with the position in Australia where we had 2,143 strikes, involving 856,000 people, in the first throe months of this year. Dr. Ross also said -
Compulsory arbitration in the Australian meaning of the term does not exist because there are voluntary agreements covering almost every eventuality in most industries.
It can be seen, therefore, even with arbitration courts to settle disputes, more strikes occurred in Australia in three months than in Great Britain in two years. I quote these figures because I consider that it is the responsibility of all sections of the community to assist the Government to ensure that this state of affairs does not continue.
– How does the honorable senator suggest that strikes could be stopped?
– In reply to the interjection of the Minister for Trade and Customs, I shall quote remarks of Sir Walter Citrine, Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, in a report to the Congress on the meeting of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee, published in a newspaper on the 11th September, 1942. This is what Sir Walter Citrine said -
We cannot allow a committee founded for trade union purposes to get into a realm of discussion which might easily lead to serious divergences between our peoples and Governments.
An analysis of that statement reveals the basis of a method by which we could do much to eliminate industrial stoppages in Australia. I trust that the Government will take up this matter, and will deal firmly with the problem. I understand that a conference will be held in Sydney on Monday next to deal with this matter, and I trust that from that conference some concrete proposals will emanate. Two honorable senators who should be well qualified to offer reliable opinions on the matter have referred to the employment in the Army of more men than are necessary, and who could with advantage be transferred to civil activities. I entirely support that criticism. Nobody believes for a moment that all of the men one sees in uniform to-day are profitably employed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has stated that the time has arrived when some of the men now engaged in military duties should be released for service in primary production. Valuable work has been carried out by the Allied Works Council in the construction of roads, aerodromes, and similar undertakings, but we have been told repeatedly in the last few weeks that the danger of invasion has almost disappeared. I ask, therefore, whether it would not be reasonable to call a halt with regard to some of that council’s undertakings.
– All of those works are requested by the High Command.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN. “The Government should determine those matters under present circumstances. Many strategical roads that have been built recently will be of great use to the country in future, but the traffic over some of them after the war will not justify their upkeep.
– It was better to build those roads than to allow the Japanese to take possession of this country.
– Quite so ; but, if the opinion of the Prime Minister is worthy of acceptance, the programme of the Allied Works Council could now be curtailed. I was much impressed by a recent statement from a reliable source in India with regard to the Burma road. It was that 35 modern transport planes could handle all qf the traffic that has been carried over that road by 7,000 motor trucks. This shows that after the war the problem of transport will have undergone changes.
If there are any people who have suffered through the war it is the primary producers. (Senator Aylett. - They have never done better for themselves than now.
– That statement is absurd. From 1914 to 1920 the cost of agricultural products including hides rose 140 per cent, and the price of meat increased 160 per cent.,. whilst the cost of dairy produce rose SO per cent. During this war the prices of many commodities have been pegged, but they have been pegged from the wrong end. The primary producer is entitled to a fair return for his labour.
– The Government supported by the honorable senator disallowed regulations which would have ensured a fair return to the farmer.
– That is merely a matter of opinion. In the fixing of prices, instead of considering what the producer is entitled to, a calculation is made on the basis of what the consumer can pay. A deduction is then made of the profits of the middle man and the cost of freight. If there happens to be anything left, the producer gets it. Not often does a public servant announce to the public what he is and what he is doing, but, in a broadcast statement over the air some time ago, the Prices Commissioner said, “ Mine is the silent service, working in the interests of the consumer “.
– Be fair. Do not select only one line of his statement.
– The honorable senator may quote the rest of the Commissioner’s remarks, if he desires to do so.
We have been told in the budget speech to-day what is to happen with regard to the price of wheat. Last year, and again this year, the Government has seen fit to request the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to issue a log of wages for rural workers. If the Government thinks that is wise it is entitled to do so, but, if rural workers are to get a wage determined by the Arbitration Court, the primary producers are equally entitled to a fair return. Considering the prices now received for wheat it is impossible for the farmers to produce that commodity, observe the rural workers’ log and keep out of the insolvency court. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the method adopted in the United States of America in fixing the price of wheat. It will be wise for the Government to consider such a plan. There the price of the product is governed largely by the cost of living. In the base years, 1909 to 1914, the price was fixed at 84.4 cents a bushel or equivalent to 3s. S£d. a bushel in Australia. The price in Australia was practically the same in 1911 a3 in the United States of America, being 3s. 6d. a bushel. In subsequent years the parity prices were 5s. 3d., 6s. Sd., 6s. 5d., 5s., 4s. 11¼d., 4s. Hd., 5s. ld., os. l-d., 5s. 4d., 5s. 9-Jd., 5s. lOd. and 6s. a bushel. The present price of wheat is 8s. 5d. a bushel in the United States of America, 8s. 5d. a bushel in Great Britain and 6s. 1½d. a bushel in New Zealand. In Australia the price is 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels.
– Plus freight and handling charges.
– Yes. That makes the price equal to about 4s. 6d. a bushel, taking the average for the whole of Australia.
– What of the price in the case of crops over 3,000 bushels?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The same price should be paid for that in excess of 3,000 bushels as for the first 3,000 bushels.
– It may realize the same price.
– It may. If the Leader of the Senate thinks that there will be a profit on the wheat on which 2s. a bushel is to be advanced, why does not the Government give the farmer 4s. a bushel for the whole of his crop ? The party to which I belong was . prepared to give to the farmers 5s. 2d. a bushel. That is the home consumption price in Australia, and it would not have raised the cost of bread to consumers.
One of the most urgent problems with which this country will be confronted after the war is that of population. We cannot continue to hold this vast continent with only 7,000,000 people. Means must be found of bringing more people and of retaining them. Before we embark on a policy under which large numbers of migrants will be induced to come to Australia, we shall have .to add to the Four Freedoms embodied in the Atlantic Charter. For a migration policy to be successful it must provide for freedom to work; and that freedom must not be subject to the whim of any trade union. We should endeavour to inculcate in migrants that individuality which characterized the
Australian pioneers. If we ensure to every migrant the right to work we shall be able to absorb large numbers of people from other countries. That may involve some rather radical changes. At a recent Labour conference in South Australia some sensible delegates expressed the view that the “White Australia Policy may have to be overhauled. When we reflect that the Chinese people are our Allies we must agree that this is a matter which is likely to arise at the peace conference. As some of the present occupants of the treasury bench may sit around the table at that conference, this is one of many matters to which consideration should be given .before the terms of the peace are settled. Constitutional difficulties may be involved, and therefore, this is a matter to which the Government should give early attention.
In my opinion, it is scandalous that in this national capital approximately 12,000 people have no direct, representation in this Parliament, and so far as the exercise of the franchise is concerned are no better than aliens or criminals. The people of Canberra are thoughtful and industrious men and women, and why they should not be entitled to a vote I do not know. Although residents of the Northern Territory are entitled to elect a. member to this Parliament, their representative has no vote. Any scheme of migration must visualize the settlement of large numbers of migrants in the Northern Territory, and it seems to me that the right of those people to full citizenship and to the exercise of the franchise should be given early consideration.
Another paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech relates to the treatment of returned soldiers. I hope that the men who return from the war, as well as the dependants of those who will not return, will be well treated, and that some recompense will be given to them for what they have done for Australia. When men were asked to fight in the war of 1914-18, they were told that on their return they would be treated as befitted heroes. Unfortunately, not all the promises made to them were fulfilled, but according to the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) no country treated its soldiers better than did
Australia. I draw attention to a speech of the Minister on the 23rd March last, in which he said -
I say without fear of contradiction that no member of the British Commonwealth of Nations has shown its gratitude to its defenders in a more generous and practicable form than has this country. In proof of this claim, let me mention that up to the 31st December, 1942, more than £270,000,000 was expended in repatriation and general rehabilitation in connexion with the last war.
The Minister would not have said that if it were not true. I hope that we shall live up to that standard, and treat generously the men who return from the present war.
.- I offer my congratulations to the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. In doing so, I express the sincere conviction that it was most appropriate that Senator Tangney, the first woman member of the Senate, should be included among the senators representing Western Australia, because of the noble part that the women of Australia are playing in the defence of this country. We welcome Senator Tangney to our midst, and I personally wish to congratulate her on her maiden speech. I also compliment Senator Nash on the speech in which he seconded the motion. I hope that during the time that those two honorable senators are members of this chamber they will find happiness in rendering useful service to their country.
I wish now to refer to some matters to which reference is made in His Excellency’s Speech, as well as to other matters not included in the Speech. Senator James McLachlan referred to a subject which is causing a good deal of concern to the people of this country, namely, the difficulty associated with the winning of coal, one of our most vital primary products. I have no desire to engage in a tirade of abuse of any section of the community, but it is most alarming and unsatisfactory to read in our newspapers that the rationing of lighting and heating is contemplated because of a shortage of coal. If it were necessary to restrict these services because the country’s war industries demanded greater supplies of coal for fuel, I do not think that any householder would be unwilling to give up his hotwater service or to economize in the use of gas for cooking; but it is a damnable thing if householders are to be rationed solely because some people will not work in order to produce a commodity which is available in large quantities. I know that I may be asked what previous governments did in regard to this matter, but that is not the solution of the problem. The coal-mining industry has been spoonfed more than has any other industry in this country. Special machinery has been set up to deal with industrial disputes in that industry, and at times urgent sittings of the court have been held in order to settle differences that have arisen. The miners have been given special facilities to present their case for determination by the court. In view of the grave crisis confronting the Allied Nations, special appeals to the coal-miners have been made, not only by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), but also by his predecessors. Honorable senators will recall that when Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister he paid a special visit to the coal-fields in an attempt to secure an increased production of coal. Secretaries and other union officials have also urged the miners not to cause any hold-up of coal production. Yet scarcely a day passes without two, three, or more coal-mines, some of them among the biggest mines in this country, being idle. For how long will the rest of the community submit to being held to ransom by a few people in the community who take the law into their own hands and are prepared to jeopardize the war effort by refusing to produce the coal required for industry in war-time? It is all very well to say that coal-mining is a highly specialized industry with its own peculiar problems. In other industries men and women are working long shifts in order to help Australia in this time of need. Many factories are operating for 24 hours a day. Why should the coal industry be the only one in which hold-ups occur almost continuously? Is it. that the patriotism which is so evident among members of the fighting forces and workers in industry generally is not shared by the miners in the same degree? If the Government is content to deal with this problem by introducing a system of rationing it should be ashamed of itself, and it must cease to be worthy of the esteem and confidence of the people. Why should a man who has worked hard for many hours in a munitions factory be deprived of lighting and heating merely because men engaged in coal-mining decide to go on strike?
– ‘Previous governments failed to do anything effective.
– It is useless for the honorable senator to continue to lay the blame on previous governments. The present Administration has been in office for practically two years, and will soon have complete control of both Houses of the Parliament. Although the Government does not command a majority in this chamber, it knows well that it can rely’ on receiving the support of honorable senators on this side in any action taken for the prosecution of the war and for the welfare of the country generally. That help has been, and will be, forthcoming so long as the Government acts in the best interests of the country. I desire to know whether the Government proposes to deal with the coalmining industry in the interests of the nation, or whether it will allow the people generally to be held to ransom by a few individuals.
Senator James McLachlan referred to governmental expenditure. It is quite obvious that the Government confuses the war effort with war expenditure. All its stories about its war effort are based on the amount of money it is expending. One has only to travel around the country, particularly in the far north, to see that money is being lavishly expended on various defence works. I admit that we must meet extraordinary expenditure on defence works, but on such works, almost without exception, one sees wasteful expenditure. Foremen on various works now being carried out by the Allied Works Council can tell one of the unnecessary material and machinery that are being put into government contracts. I was told by many men of valuable material that was left on the ground for months, and much of which may never be used. I was also informed of extravagant specifications which called for the use of very heavy material where light material could be used just as satisfactorily. I urge the Government to see that it gets value for every £1 it expends because, although in time of war it may appear to be easy to raise the necessary revenue, the money which is being borrowed to-day will have to be repaid, and interest on that money has also to be paid. All expenditure must be accounted for. I mention one very important job which was commenced when I was Minister for the Interior. I refer to the construction of a graving dock. In connexion with that project we secured the advice of the best graving dock engineers in the world, who were responsible for the construction of the docks at Singapore and Plymouth. From them we got a complete specification and estimates which were checked up by our own experts and advisers, and on a very liberal basis it was estimated that the work would be completed in the prescribed, time at a cost of £3,000,000. Just prior to the recent elections I paid a visit to those works for whose commencement I was responsible when I was Minister for the Interior. Naturally, I was interested to see what progress had been made. Every honorable senator should pay a visit to those works. It is a remarkable job which reflects credit upon those responsible for its construction. However, the engineer in charge, who was the same man who occupied that position when the work was commenced, informed me that the completed job is now estimated to cost between £6,750,000 and £7,000,000. That is for the same job, without any variation whatever, which, at its commencement, was estimated to cost £3,000,000, and the portion of the work which had been completed when the Menzies Government went out of office had been done within the original estimate supplied by our consulting engineers. However, that is only one great public work now being carried out by this Government in respect of which the original estimate has already been more than doubled. On many other public works money is being expended regardless of the taxpayers’ interests. That can be said of almost every job that is now icing undertaken by this Government. We may boast that Australia is a rich country, but that is not the case. Aus- tralia has no great reserves of national wealth in the same sense as other countries have. This is a young country, and we have not had the opportunity to build up reserves of wealth. Further, we are a debtor, and not a creditor, country. “We have not any foreign investments which bring in finance from overseas, and we have not a great carrying trade from which we can derive revenue from outside this country. All the money we can obtain from expenditure on works is confined to the wealth which we ourselves can produce within Australia. That is the basis of our wealth. It is all very well for some honorable senators opposite to talk about the utilization of national credit. Because our country is so vast, and we have a population of only 7,000,000, we must inevitably carry a huge overhead expenditure to provide for the maintenance of this country. In the long run we can expend only to the extent to which we can produce in this country. After making all allowance for our abnormal expenditure due to war requirements, far too much government expenditure is incurred with too little regard to the value received. Honorable senators do not require that I, or anybody else, should give them instances of extravagant expenditure. They need only travel around the country to see for themselves what is going on. Already the finances of the country are almost out of the control of the Government. Therefore we need men in our public service who will not try to see how much they can spend in order to justify their jobs, but men who will see how much they can save.
I now propose to deal with post-war reconstruction. The term has become a blessed word like the word “ Mesopotamia “ was a few years ago. “We are told that this, or that project, is to be carried out under thi Government’s policy of post-war reconstruction. What does that policy mean? Does it mean that after the war all the evils of the day are to be cured through government expenditure, and by the Government taking control of industry and carrying on -all enterprises which normally are carried on by private enterprise? Much is heard about housing schemes. Are we to understand that the
Government, and the Government only, is to be responsible for the building of houses after the war? We have heard suggestions that factories now producing munitions are to be converted to the manufacture of such things as washing machines, refrigerators and gas stoves. Does that mean that after the war the great government organizations which are now being established for the manufacture of munitions are to be run by the Government to make household equipment which people are unable to buy to-day owing to the fact that our industries are confined to the manufacture of war material? What is meant by honorable members when they talk about postwar reconstruction? My own view is that post-war reconstruction is something for which every individual should save. Post-war reconstruction should be the aim of the individual just as much as it is the aim of the Government. People who to-day are unable to obtain commodities which are rationed and are wasting much of their money on non-essentials should invest in war savings certificates and war loans. By saving in that way they will have a nest egg to carry on post-war reconstruction for themselves. I believe that we shall witness an era of post-war reconstruction ; but we should not talk of it in such a way as to imply that it means that every one in the community can continue merrily spending extravagantly, as they are at present, because money is coming in easily and, therefore, can be spent on luxuries. The community which, is wearing out its goods should itself bc saving in order to replace those goods when the war is over. I believe that after the war great housing schemes will be undertaken. I also believe that household equipment, such as air-conditioning equipment, refrigerators, water heating facilities, washing machines and washing-up machines, which in the past have been regarded as luxuries to be made available only to the privileged few, should be placed within the reach of all sections of the community, and that such equipment should be part and parcel of the normal home. At the same time, in discussing these matters, we should not create in the minds of the public the impression that post-war reconstruction means that after the war the Government will act as Santa Claus and will provide the people with all they want. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister’s appeal for 750,000 subscribers to the next war loan will be realized. Indeed, I believe that that expectation can he exceeded. However, the time has come when all of us should realize that the present orgy of spending cannot last forever. After all, the men who are fighting the battle for Australia are not getting the benefit; it is being derived by those more fortunate persons who are working in industries behind the lines. I do not begrudge our workers good wages which they are earning to-day, but I advise them not to fool themselves into believing that this country can go on forever expending £600,000,000 a year. I remind them that the economic difficulties which confronted us -before the war will confront us again after the war. Nothing can arise out of the war which can remove those difficulties which “will arise as a result of competition in international trade. We know perfectly well that other nations will endeavour to rehabilitate themselves, particularly those nations in Europe which have been invaded and oppressed by the enemy. We cannot deny them the right to rehabilitate themselves. Naturally, they will -want to reconstruct their industries, and to sell their products to other countries. All countries will want to trade with one another, and we shall not be in a better position than any other nation -when it comes to selling our products on the markets of the world. Therefore, let us have some regard to the cost of production, in relation to which we seem to have lost all sense of proportion, and let every individual realize that post-war reconstruction not only concerns the Government, but also belongs to the people.
It has been suggested in ministerial circles that a referendum of the people should be taken with a view to obtaining an extension of Commonwealth powers. As a result of the last elections, we have the amazing spectacle of Western Australia which has probably , been the most anti-federal of any of the States, having given a 100 per cent, vote for representation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate- by members of the Labour party, which stands for the abolition of State Parliaments, a policy that has been bitterly opposed at all times by the representatives of that State in this chamber. South Australia and Tasmania are in almost the same category.
– Queensland has not lagged far behind.
– Queensland has never been an anti-federation State. I am anxious to know from the Government whether, in view of the overwhelming endorsement it has received from those and other States, it intends to give to their people the opportunity to signify by their votes, at a referendum, whether or not they favour the abolition of State Parliaments. I have made my position perfectly clear. I strongly favour an extension of federal powers, so long as there is no undue withdrawal of rights that should be exercised and privileges that can be enjoyed by the States. It is possible to have the Commonwealth vested with greater powers, and at the same time confer greater rights on the States by the delegation of power in certain directions, on the understanding that the Commonwealth shall remain the controlling body. I shall be interested to learn whether or not the Government, which will soon have a substantial majority in both Houses of the Parliament, proposes to press on with its unification policy, and take a referendum in order to determine whether or not the people favour the abolition of State Parliaments.
I am also concerned about the policy of the Government in relation to its socialistic aspirations. Shortly before the date for the holding of the elections, when the Government appeared to be faring somewhat badly, although not so badly as I should have liked, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), a very shrewd political tactician - I give him full marks for that–
– He was sent to bed with the measles.
– I do not know whether or not he had political measles. Almost immediately after he had surveyed the situation, he made the following pronouncement : “ The comrades do not seem to be swallowing too well this socialistic policy of ours. If we are returned to power, there will be more scope for private enterprise, and no socialism in our time “.
– That is not correct.
– I should like to know whether Senator Nash, whom we welcome, fully endorses the policy enunciated by the Attorney-General; whether during the next six years, as a representative of Western Australia, he will refrain from pressing for the introduction of socialism.
– The honorable senator should prove his assertion that the Attorney-General made the statement which he attributes to him.
– That can best be done by asking the Minister whether or not he made the statement which the press reported him as having made. I wonder whether the powers that be operate at some times a little gently and at other times not so gently, behind the comrades in the Parliament; whether they will induce their members to sit down quietly, and give effect to the Attorney-General’s policy of an extension of private enterprise and no socialism in our time.
– Watch him and see what he does.
– We intend to wait and see.
– A similar statement was also made by the Prime Minister.
– During the war.
– During the war, the Government does not intend to socialize anything. In spite of the promises of no socialism in our time, a gentle easing has been going on, by the closing down of the annexes attached to some of our private munitions undertakings; and the machines installed in private annexes are being quietly taken out in the dead of night and transferred to government annexes. I do not know whether or not that is intended to be regarded as the first instalment of socialism.
We do not begrudge the Government its strength in both Houses of the Parliament. That is the decision of the people, and as a democracy we accept it.
I trust, however, that the assurances given by the leaders of the ministerial party will be honoured. As my leader, Senator McLeay, has said, we shall carefully watch what the Government does, that being the responsibility imposed upon us by the electors. Nevertheless, we shall be constructive and useful. Irrespective of our political beliefs, we can only hope fervently that the state of the war in the different theatres of the world, good though it is, will continue to improve, and that we shall soon return to an era of peace.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 turn.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 28 of 1943- Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
Australian Broadcasting Act - Parliamen tary Standing Committee on Broadcasting - Report to Governor-General for Session ended 7th July, 1943. lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Mile End, South Australia.
Newcastle, New South Wales.
North Adelaide, South Australia.
Welshpool, Western Australia.
Medical Research Endowment Act - Reports by National Health and Medical Research Council on work done under the Act during 1941 and 1942.
National Security Act -
National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations - Order - Aliens (Queensland curfew).
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Orders - Military powers during emergency (3).
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Cinematograph films censorship.
Control of -
Machine tools (No. 2).
Overseas postal communications.
Traffic at ports.
Press and Broadcasting censorship.
Prohibited places (2).
Prohibiting work on land.
Taking possession of land, &c. (377).
Use of land (15).
National Security (Maritime Industry)
Regulations - Order - No. 41.
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Orders -
Prisoners of War (Pay arrangements) (No. 4).
Prisoners of War (Payment) (No. G.I.A. 1).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 29-31.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 235, 236.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations: - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 237.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
National Memorials Ordinance - Determination by the Minister for the Interior regarding the nomenclature of public places in the Canberra City District, together with plan (dated 23rd , July, 1943).
Regulations of 1943, No. 4 (Education Ordinance).
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943. No. 238.
Senate adjourned at 9.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430929_senate_17_176/>.