17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the. Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD. Some time ago I asked the Minister for the Interior a question regarding a supply of cheap refrigerators to employees on the Trans-Australian Railway on time payment, and he was good enough to give me a hopeful reply. Can he say whether any progress has been made with the matter?
– If the honorable senator will confer with me in my room at a time convenient to himself I shall do my best to give him any information which is available on the subject.
– Can the Leader of the Senate say upon what days Parliament will sit next week? The train services in Victoria are so irregular that it is necessary to make travelling arrangements beforehand.
– The programme next week will depend upon the progress made in this chamber with the consideration’ of the Coal Production ( War-time) Bill. I recognize the force of the point made by the honorable senator in regard to travelling arrangements, and Ihope later in the day to be able to give him some more definite information.
– Last week I asked the Leader of the Senate whether the treaty between Australia and New Zealand had been submitted to the Advisory War Council, and the Minister said that he would make inquiries. Is he yet able to supply me with the information?
– I have not yet obtained that information, but I shall do so during the day.
– In view of the increased cost of producing apples and pears, will the Government confer with the Apple and Pear Acquisition Board with a view to ensuring the payment to the growers of a higher price consistent with the increased cost of production, and more in relation to the price which the consumer has to pay ?
– The Government has already considered the matter and, in the light of existing circumstances, does not propose to take any action to increase prices.
– Can the
Minister for the Interior say whether the dispute between the Department of Health and the Department of the Interior regarding the Canberra Hog Farm has yet been settled, seeing that, in no circumstances, should the farm be allowed to go out of production?
– I am glad that the honorable senator has asked this question, although it is based upon wrong information. There has been no friction whatever between the Department of Health and the Department of the Interior.
– Then some one has a very vivid imagination.
– The fact that a certain newspaper editor has a fertile imagination does not affect the truth of the matter. For years the situation regarding the hog farm in the Australian Capital Territory has been unsatisfactory. We have tried in various ways to minimize “the difficulties associated with the disposal of wet garbage. The Health Department has tried to assist us, and has declared the present situation to be unsatisfactory from a health point of view. With that declaration the Department of the Interior agrees. We have been engaged for some time upon the construction of new abattoirs in the Australian Capital Territory, and we propose, in connexion with that establishment, to arrange for the disposal in a hygienic way of wet garbage. There has not been the slightest friction between the Department of Health and the Department of the Interior, and I am certain that very shortly we shall achieve a satisfactory solution of this problem.
– Will the Minister for the Interior consider referring to the Public Works Committee at an early date the question of the construction of a railway from Yass to Canberra?
– The proposal to construct a railway between Yass and Canberra is not new. It is already on the schedule of post-war work which is being submitted for consideration to the proper authorities.
– How high up on the list is it ?
– I do not wish to deceive any honorable senator who is interested in the matter. The proposal has not been placed high on the list, because the Government is of opinion that several other projects should be completed before this one is given No. 1 priority.
– It is generally believed by the public that, in the terms of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales, the Commonwealth would be required to pay for only that part of the Yass-Canberra railway which passed through the Australian Capital Territory, while the Government of New South Wales would be responsible for the cost of the rest. Can the Minister for the Interior say whether that is correct ?
– The honorable senator is evidently as “Well acquainted with the facts as I am. The only answer which I am prepared to give at this stage is that we are aware of the importance of the matter, and in our own time, and in our own way, we shall go on with the job.
Release of Men
– In view of the fact that 20,000 men are to be released from the Army to assist in primary production, and that only 500 have been released to return to South Australia for this purpose, can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say whether more stringent conditions are applied to applications from South Australia than from other States?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for the Army.
– In view of the substantially increased cost of production of oats and hay, will the Government consider making a recommendation to the Prices Commissioner for an increase of prices of those commodities, so as to offer some inducement and encouragement to men on the land to produce them? The present prices are such that farmers are turning their attention to other pursuits.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and ask him to give them the consideration which the honorable senator desires.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Review bF Wau Situation.
Debate resumed from the 10th February (vide page 49), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the following paper be printed: - “ Review of war situation - Ministerial statement, 9th February, 1944.”
.- A good deal of water has run under the bridge since the paper mentioned in the motion was presented to the Senate and published in Hansard. I was rather struck by the fact that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) did not read it to the Senate in the usual way. This seemed to me at the time to indicate that he did not think it was of great importance, that he was tabling it merely as a matter of duty, and that the easiest way to get rid of it was to’ ask the Senate to allow it to be embodied in the Hansard report, without taking the trouble to read it. When I read it, I did not wonder at the Minister hesitating to read it to honorable senators. I recognized that in his judgment it was valueless, and therefore not worth while reading. I should have expected that, when the Senate met after a recess of two or three months, such a document, dealing with events that were supposed to have occurred in the interim, would be so important as to engage the Senate’s attention almost at once; in fact, that the first thing we would do would be to -bend our minds to questions of national concern. Instead of that, we have for nearly a month been dealing for the most part with bills which the Government does not intend to proclaim for the next nine or ten months. Therefore, instead of the Senate discussing subjects of national .importance relating to the progress of the war, its attention has been taken up with measures which will be absolutely unnecessary for a long time to come. The motion has been left on the notice-paper for what it was worth, and the consideration of great national affairs has been postponed until rather late in the day. I therefore do not propose to go into any detail in discussing the paper. It will be almost impossible to do so, because it contains such stale stuff.
A paper of this kind is almost an insult to this chamber and the House of Representatives, because, although it purports to deal with national affairs, it mentions nothing that was not published in the newspapers months ago. It is rather a slur on members of Parliament to assume, as the document does, that they do not even read the newspapers and are out of touch with current affairs. It is simply a recounting of ordinary events reports of which have appeared in the press during the last three months, and contains not a’ word of new information. I understand that information is very often given, in addition to a document of this kind, at certain party meetings, although it is not revealed to the Senate and House of Representatives at their public sittings. If that be so, it is a complete abnegation of ordinary democratic government. Members of Parliament are surely the first people who should be made cognisant of live questions.
Be that as it may, the paper, as printed in Hansard without being read to the Senate, is quite useless. A few things that could have been included in if were not. ‘Some explanation might have been given of the lend-lease arrangement with the United States of America, with some indication of where it is leading us. Mention might also have been made of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement of 1944. Something might have been included regarding the tendency of war legislation, and the effects that the war is having on the Australian people. A word or two should also have been added to the effect that a state of war in Australia had led to the entire abnegation of the sacredness of private correspondence, not only that between individuals and business firms here, but also that between business firms here and abroad. Not a word, however, was said about that development of the censorship, or the other subjects that I have mentioned. Perhaps they were too delicate to touch upon, but the facts remain that they have been happening, and that we have had no opportunity to discuss them.
As I said, nothing is revealed in the paper about the operation of the lendlease or reciprocal aid agreement with the United States of America. The newspapers have been full of references to the immense quantity of goods and other things coming from America to Australia, and some of them make it appear that Australia’s part in the matter of reverse lend-lease has been small indeed. I am inclined to think that the Australian public has not been given the information to which it is entitled, and that the part which Australia is playing in supplying our Allies with goods and services has not been made plain. I am afraid that our people are not getting the credit to which they are entitled. As an example, I draw attention to the fact that Australian legislation prevents Australia’s magnificent effort in supplying, its Allies from appearing in its true light. Every body who has bought machinery from overseas has been appalled at times at the price charged for it. We, on the other hand, have to supply commodities at a fixed price, with the narrowest margin of profit. I have ascertained that, in many instances, goods which we receive from the United States of America under lend-lease cost three or four times as much as they did previously, and sometimes even more, and that the cause is a difference in the taxation methods of the two countries. In Australia, upon machinery bought especially for war production purposes, the Taxation Department allows only a very small proportion of amortization or depreciation, whereas in America a manufacturer who puts in a plant can write it off in three years. It is idle for me to say which is the proper way. The American method of allowing amortization to be completed, by adding it to the cost of the article, within three years may be the proper one, but there is a big difference between the laws of the two countries. The Government does not take the people into its confidence about things of that kind, which they ought to under- .
Stand, particularly with regard .to many instances in which we accuse the United States of America of overcharging. I know personally of imported machinery costing four or five times what it would have cost before the war, or what it would have cost in Great Britain in the early part of the war. Of course, part of the explanation lies in the .fact that plant and machinery in America can be written off by depreciation in so short a period, whereas in our country it takes from 20 to 25 years to write off the cost of plant and machinery required for manufacturing purposes. That puts Australia in rather a bad light in the eyes of the people, and we are very much inclined to treat the value of the goods that we have supplied under reverse lendlease as small in comparison with what we have received from overseas. The reports which Australian newspapers publish from American newspapers and various other American sources seem to show that America’s contribution to lendlease is immense whilst that of Australia is small.
– At the congress, as the honorable senator knows, Australia was given credit for being the one nation of the 47 which had given the most reciprocal lend-lease to the United States of America.
– That is probably true, and I do not question it. It is also true that Australia is doing an immense job in this respect, but is not being given credit for it. I should like the Leader of the Senate to take notice of what I have said about amortization of plant and machinery.
– I have.
– Bie should do so in order that he may present the facts in a .proper light so that the newspapers shall understand them, when they publish extracts from American .publications and statements by American senators, who seem to have very much more freedom than we have. Their comments arc not censored as ours are. At least, they would appear to place themselves on a higher plane than we do; but, possibly, their telephone conversations are not subjected to official eavesdropping as ours are, with the result that we are hesitant sometimes to say exactly what Ave should otherwise say. I emphasize that under the lend-lease agreement, Australia is doing a good job and I do not want it to be belittled through a false belief that we ought to keep quiet and hide our light under a bushel. The other chaps are bolstering their end of it and we should do the same, because, in the final agreement, we shall have to make as good a bargain as we can. I should not say “ bargain “, because it is hardly the word to use, but there will have to be a cleaning up of the arrangements between Australia and the United States of America when the war is over, and it will be necessary for us to appear in as favorable a light as we can, if we are to get the full credit for what we have done.
– Has the honorable senator anything to say about the effect of the Australian-New Zealand agreement on our relations with the United States of America?
– There will be an opportunity to debate the AustralianNew Zealand Agreement of 1944, possibly next week, but I take this opportunity to say that it does not seem to me that the agreement, coming at the time it did, is likely to enhance the good relations between ourselves and our principal ally. It seems that the Australian and New Zealand Governments jumped a little too soon and that they did not realize the full significance of the agreement. They did not realize the effect that it would have on public opinion on the other side of the world. Numerically, Australia and New Zealand’ are weak and they should not count their chickens before they are hatched. The chickens are hatching, but we should not anticipate that we shall have more chickens than we have eggs.
What this paper absolutely fails to explain is the effect of the war on the national life of Australia, and the policy to be adopted when the war ends. Any one who examines the effect of the war on our national life sees at once that the general effect is the regimentation of the people They are calmly submitting to bureaucratic control of almost every aspect of their lives. It has gone on for so long that the people are beginning to accept, it as an everyday matter which will have a lasting effect on the conditions under which they will, have to live. If I had to live in a country with all the controls which now exist, accentuated by other things that are happening, perpetuated, I doubt whether, after a life of freedom, I should consider it a country worth living in.
– Does the senator think that those controls are necessary now.
– Some are, but some are not. I am afraid that some have got out of the hands of the Ministers into those of individuals who are neither members of Parliament nor Ministers of the Crown. With the multitude of tasks that they have to carry out, Ministers naturally have to resort to the device of shifting a great deal of their responsibilities on to the shoulders of various members of the Public Service. I would be the last one to say anything derogatory of the public servants. Their record of service before and since the war is splendid. We have a fine, well-trained Public Service. But there are in the Public Service many people to-day who are not public servants in the proper sense, in that they have been brought from outside into various departments, subdepartments, boards and organizations expanded or set up to cope with the demands of the war. They are not trained in the traditions of the Public Service.
– Trained men could not be obtained.
– Of course not; but not having been trained in and not having absorbed the traditions of the Public Service, many of the new public servants, who should be only temporary, are running amuck. They need to be controlled by the Ministers in charge of the various departments. They are envisaging a state of affairs in which they will be necessary for the conduct of the Commonwealth’s affairs, and they are trying to develop a system in which they will be indispensable.
– If so, they are in for a rude awakening.
– I do not know that they are, for the tendency of this Government seems to be to encourage them. They are developing huge departments and gradually, as it were, building a rampart around themselves in order to prevent attack. They say to themselves, “ My word ! this civil service is a pretty, good job. There is never any doubt about getting your money regularly. I have a big department under my control. What a pity it would be if it were to vanish into thin . air, leaving me high and dry”.
– Some of those men brought in from outside are doing good work under great difficulties.
– I know that, but, by and large, the tendency to entrust the management of departments to people who have not absorbed the traditions of the Public Service is not having a good effect. In the exercise of their almost supreme powers they are not so courteous as they could be and ought to be, notwithstanding the great strain under which they are toiling. The long-suffering public patiently put up with the lack of courtesy, believing that it is possibly necessary in wartime, but as the insolence grows resentment will increase. I would advise those who are contradicting the words of “ civil service “ by being very uncivil that they mend their ways lest the wrath of the people find tangible expression. I am wondering whether after ihe war those people will go back to their normal vocations or whether the present system of controls over individuals is to be perpetuated. If it is to be, I, for one, will not approve.
– Some of those new departments will have to last for a while after the war.
– Of course they will. All I want the Minister for Trade and Customs to say is that in the shortest possible time we shall see the end of these controls over our national life.
– In the Division of Import Procurement of the Department of Trade and Customs the staff numbers 1,380.
– I am glad to have that information. I know that the Minister had a hard job to staff that division and had to enlist the services of inexperienced men from outside. But I want to know whether the Director of Import Procurement visualizes that after the war he will keep the division intact to act as the universal buyer for Australia, as it now is, or whether the experts, who imported every commodity that Australia obtained from overseas in’ peace-time will once again be able to resume their activities under conditions of normal trade relations. It is useless to blink our eyes at the fact that the Division of Import Procurement has set up various controls and asked various questions which have made the commercial people smile wryly. They have been told that it is the ambition of the division that it shall be perpetuated as an immense department, bigger even than its parent, the Department of Trade and Customs, itself. The commercial world is alarmed at the prospect that after the war the division will continue to act as the overseas buyer for Australia. It is certain that the .members of the staff cannot know very much about the thousands of lines of goods which at present come into this country through their hands. But somewhere in Australia there are experts who know everything that can be known about any particular article. They will want to return to the conditions of ordinary trade when the war is over. Their anxiety will be alleviated if the Minister for Trade and Customs will tell me that the Government has no in- tention to continue after the war to dispense with the ordinary trade channels and that he has no idea of setting up the Division of Import Procurement as the overseas buyer for the Australian market. But if the ambitions of the Division of Import Procurement are to be realized it will be a sorry pass for the traders and people of Australia.
I suppose that in war-time there has to be a certain amount of censorship and that the people get used to it. The speeches of members of Parliament are censored. Recently, action was taken by the censor to prevent a speech made in the House of Representatives being sent overseas, but subsequently, certain statements in regard to that speech were made known overseas, with the result that the people of other countries were unable to understand what had happened. It must have come as a shock to the people of this country generally to find that letters from private individuals to members of Parliament, and correspondence passing between private individuals and business concerns, sometimes containing secret and confidential information, was being opened by the censor, and that copies of such letters were being distributed to various government departments. I shall deal with one instance of this unwarranted interference with correspondence which has come to my notice. It concerns a business firm in Australia which is engaged in a particular industry in which immense advances have been made during the Avar and which is destined to play a big part in the postwar period throughout the world. The Australian concern, being an up-to-date business firm, has been in close touch with its associates in the United States of America in regard to all modern developments in the industry. Recently, certain secret formulae and information were sent from the United States of America to this firm, and upon its arrival at its destination the recipients were astonished to find that the correspondence had been opened by the censor and that copies of the contents had been sent to certain government departments for perusal, presumably the Customs Department, the Department of Munitions, the Taxation Department, and, perhaps, others. Apparently, after having passed through a multitude of hands the correspondence finally reached the firm to which it was addressed. The recipients were alarmed to find that copies of secret formulae had been sent to various officials, and even to the Department of Munitions, the announced policy of which is to continue production after the war in competition with private enter- prise. Naturally, this has caused great annoyance on the part of the American interests which forwarded the information, and they have announced that no more confidential documents will be sent by post to firms in this country. The matter has become so serious that I know of two firms - no doubt there are many more which, instead of following the usual practice of obtaining information from overseas by letter, have announced their intention of sending their own representatives to other countries for that purpose, with instructions that they are not to send a single line back to this country by post. That is a deplorable state of affairs. Are the people of this country to stand for this interference with their personal liberties ? One of the most sacred rights enjoyed by the people of this country has been freedom from “ snoopers “, at least in respect of private correspondence. In the past, the electors of this country have been able to write in confidence to members of Parliament, knowing that their correspondence would not be interfered with, and that they could express themselves freely ; but now we find that letters addressed to members of Parliament are being opened by the censor. There is no mention of important matters such as this in the statement which we are now debating. That is unfortunate because these are things which indicate undesirable trends in this country. I am not making these remarks merely in a spirit of criticism. I am endeavouring to sound a note of warning. These things cannot go on. There must be a change. Steps must be taken to ensure that the many bureaucratic authorities which have been set up to administer our war-time economy do their jobs without interfering more than is absolutely, necessary with the freedom of the people. After all, is not that freedom one of the things for which Ave are fighting? If the people of this country are not to be free in their private lives at least so long as they do not interfere with the happiness and comfort of others or with the safety of the country, Australia will not be a land worth living in. Perhaps I am old-fashioned in regard to these matters, and it may be that the new generation is prepared to accept these interferences, but I, for one, shall fight strenuously against them. I do not subscribe to the belief that the freedom of the individual is something which should be curtailed in order that a certain policy may be given effect. I deplore the fact that the Leader of the Senate did not ‘bother to read the statement which we are now debating; but perhaps the Minister was right, because the speech actually does not contain anything of very great moment. It is notable more for its omissions than for the matters with which it deals. I have endeavoured to fill in one or two of the gaps, and I hope that when Parliament re-assembles later this year, the Government will take honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives into its confidence, at a secret meeting if necessary, and will enlighten us upon many matters which are exercising our minds. I am sure that the Government’s path would be very much smoother if it took members of Parliament into its confidence. That could be done without endangering the safety of the country in any way. There is a general impression that full information on important subjects is made available to members of the Advisory “War Council. I am inclined to doubt that, because, although admittedly members of that body do not inform me of the matters that have been discussed, they do say what information they have not been given. It may be that Government supporters are given much fuller information than is made available to members of Parliament generally, but I can vouch for the fact that we on this side of the chamber are told very little, if anything at all. There are many matters upon which we should be informed with the utmost candour, consistent with the safety of the nation. Australia, to-day, is in a much safer position than it was a year ago, and as we approach nearer and nearer to ultimate victory, many controls which exist to-day should become unnecessary; but I am afraid that, instead of being relaxed, these controls are being tightened. Possibly that is not being done at the wish of Ministers; it may be that some outside authorities which have been constituted for various purposes are getting out of control.
The only other matter with which 1 wish to deal is the grave tendency in this country towards serious inflation. I do not propose to embark upon a financial discussion, but everybody in the community knows that the £1 is not worth what it was before the outbreak of -war. I warn the Government that . it cannot resort to unlimited national credit without depreciating the value of our currency.
– We all know that.
– I was led to make that remark because, during the last couple of weeks, certain honorable senators opposite have advocated strongly the payment of various social service benefits out of Commonwealth Bank credit. The point is that if we make available to the community spending power greatly in excess of the value of goods and services that can be purchased, inflation must result. To-day, our currency is gradually buying less and less, and the state of affairs for which we are now heading will be extremely difficult to remedy. I trust that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will ensure that no more money shall be borrowed from outside this country, and that no more credit shall be obtained from the Commonwealth Bank, unless it is absolutely essential. In war-time we, as individual citizens of this country, cannot afford many of the luxuries which we enjoyed in ordinary times. We have to do our best to pay for the war now, and in the future, and to that end we must postpone so far as possible our purchase of goods and services which are not absolutely necessary.
I have endeavoured not to be too critical of the Government, because I know that it has a big task ahead of it and that the time and energies of Ministers are devoted largely to the work of their departments; but it cannot be denied that there has been set up in this country a multitude of departments, boards and committees, some of which are becoming most difficult to control.
– We had a legacy from the previous Government in that regard.
– The Government may have inherited the beginnings of some of these things, but that heritage has grown to immense proportions. 1 realize that Ministers are pushed from the front and from behind, but I ask honorable senators opposite to fee lenient with them, and not try to force upon them, by virtue of their numerical strength in the Parliament, measures which Ministers themselves must know are not wise at a time like this.
– Does the honorable senator think that Ministers have complaints in that regard?
– If some members of the Government had their way, they would prefer to postpone the implementation of the Labour party’s policy a little longer. When Parliament assembled after the general elections, there was no necessity for some of the measures introduced, but the Government had received orders from its masters that it must try to give effect to the policy of Labour. The party was anxious, after its great victory at the polls, to show that it desired to pay back its supporters to some degree for the help it had received at the elections. To pass measures that were not to come into operation, in some cases, for nine months, and to “gag” some of them through the Parliament, is not a good way to earn a high reputation with the public. At Canberra, members of Parliament are the victims of the representatives of the press, who report especially the spicy incidents that occur in the House of Representatives. I am afraid that the Senate takes a hack place, in the opinion of the representatives of the press, and even of the people themselves, but if accurate reports of the debates in this chamber were published in the press I ana inclined to believe that the Senate would loom just as large in the public eye as does the House of Representatives. I ask the Leader of the Senate not to accept my remarks as harsh criticism, or as inspired by -a desire to injure anybody. I have merely offered a few thoughts as to where our legislative methods are leading us when we depart from the age-old freedom and personal liberty which we should like to continue to enj’oy.
– When we speak of war we naturally consider the cost. First, there is the dreadful cost in human life, which is the greatest of all; secondly, there is the cost in material destruction; and, thirdly, we consider the financial cost. Again I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy President, to the fact that honorable senators are leaving the chamber. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), in the course of a statement on international affairs on the 14th October last, said -
One subject of informal and exploratory discussion was international monetary policy. The period between the two great wars was characterized by fluctuating exchange rates and other exchange difficulties. These made it expedient for nations to introduce special restrictions upon their trading relations. It is the hope of the authors of plans Which have recently been advanced that violent fluctuations in exchange may he avoided by the provision of suitable international machinery. The United Kingdom’s proposal is that of a clearing union; the United States’ proposal is that of providing a stabilization fund. It is obvious that these proposals cannot in themselves solve basic international economic problems. In discussing these proposals in a purely informal way, the Australian mission always insisted that it was dangerous and erroneous to embark upon separate solutions of such problems when all have to be viewed in the light of the overriding postulate of full employment and improving standards. Each of these two currency stabilization plans is in the process of careful examination by the Australian Government.
I have previously pointed out that whilst Great Britain and the United States of America are said to be adopting international currency machinery, the matter is in the hands, hot of the Governments concerned, hut of the financiers in Wallstreet and Threadneedle-street. Governments have no choice in determining currency methods. I referred recently to a statement made by Mr. Churchill on the 21st April, 1932, as to what happened after the last war. That statement could not have been known to Senator Leckie or he would never have spoken as he did this morning. All banking propaganda is put out to mislead the people. I recently read an illuminating article, from a banker’s point of view, which contained these words : -
The essence of credit is faith - faith on the part of the depositor that his money is safe in the bank, and faith on the part of the banker that the money will be repaid at the stipulated time.
I pointed out to a hanker that the essence of bank credit is approved security. We cannot borrow money from a bank on faith. All that the banks do is to monetize real wealth. The banks do not lend money at all. If we want an advance from a bank we deposit our real wealth in the form of the deeds of houses, shops or farms. There is no other way of getting it. We are told this week that £154,000,000, described as surplus deposits advanced by the private banks, has been deposited in the Commonwealth Bank and is earning 15s. per cent, interest. But no money has been deposited with the Commonwealth Bank by the private banks, because they have not got the £154,000,000. If they had, it would belong to the depositors, and would be held on current accounts, on which the banks pay no interest. They are able to lend the people’s money, on which they pay no interest whatever, to the ‘Commonwealth Bank to the amount of £154,000,000. That is another swindle of the banking system.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Courtice). - Order! We aire discussing a statement by the Prime Minister reviewing the war situation and international affairs. It is not a statement on finance.
– I did not expect to be called to order, because Senator Leckie has referred to the trouble due to inflation, and I am showing how to avoid that evil. In reply to a question yesterday I was informed that since 1939 the national debt has been increased by £950,000,000. That should be of concern to honorable senators, even if half, of them have walked out of the chamber this morning. Apparently they do not wish to know the truth. In 1939, the interest bill was £6 12s. 8d. per capita. That also should be of concern to those who are legislating for the people of Australia. The whole financial swindle has been in operation for years, and it will go on until we are prepared to elect to Parliament men who are willing to listen to the truth. Only two members of the Opposition are now in the chamber, although the Senate has been at work for little more than an hour. Russia expects to lose 40,000,000 of its population owing to the war. The treaty of Versailles required £24,000,000,000 to be paid in gold by Germany as war indemnities. Mr. Lloyd George said that the representatives of high finance had laid down their terms with the arrogance of emperors. The Young plan was formulated in Wall-street, and when it was found to be unworkable, Mr. J. R. Keynes now Lord Keynes left the conference table in disgust; but the German people were forced to accept those schemes. After the last war there were 6,000,000 unemployed in Germany, although a democratic government was in power for eight years. Time after time an effort was made to have the war indemnities lifted. At the Peace Conference, the Allies insisted that Germany must pay the reparations in gold, and this reduced the nation to despair. Hitler promised to pursue a policy that would lift the country from its state of dejection, and to create employment. The result, as we know, was that he led Germany to war. Hitler’s rise to power in Germany was assisted by British armaments manufacturers and financiers. The chairman of Vickers-Armstrong Limited, General Lawrence, was asked at the annual meeting of shareholders one year whether he could give an assurance that the guns made by the company were not being sold in Germany. He replied, “I cannot give a direct answer to that question, but I assure you that nothing is done without the permission of the British Government “. The British armament manufacturers advertised in German newspapers their willingness to accept orders for tanks and guns, although that was forbidden by the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. A few days ago I told honorable senators that MrMontagu Norman advanced £50,000,000 to the German Government only six months before the outbreak of this war. On that occasion he was reported as having said, “ We are obliged to give Germany this loan. It may never be repaid, but the loss would be greater if Nazism collapsed “. Further evidence of how international financiers were determined to build up Great Britain’s future enemy is given by Mr. James Griffith, who, speaking, in the House of Commons, said - “ In the spring of 1934, a select group of international financiers gathered around Mr. Montagu Norman, governor of the Bank of
England, in Threadneedle-street. Among those present were Sir Alan Anderson, partner in Anderson, Green and Company; Lord (then Sir Josiah) Stamp, chairman of the P. and O. Steamship Line; Sir Robert Kindersley, a partner in Lazard Brothers; Charles Hambro, partner in Hambro Brothers; and C. Tiarkshead of J. Schroeder and Company (international banking houses) . “… a new power was established on Europe’s political horizon, namely, Nazi Germany. Hitler had disappointed his critics. His reign was no temporary nightmare, but a system with a good future, and Mr. Norman advised his directors to include Hitler in their plans. There was no opposition, and it was decided that Hitler should get covert help from London’s financial section until Norman would have succeeded in putting sufficient pressure on the Government to make it abandon its pro-French policy for a more promising ,pro-German policy. “ Immediately the directors went into action. Their first move was to sponsor Hitler’s secret rearmament, just about to begin. Using their controlling interests in both Vickers and Imperial Chemical Industries, they instructed these two huge armament firms to help the German programme by all the means at their disposal. . . . “ In the same year your English armament films placed huge advertisements in the Militaerischer Wochenblatt offering for sale tanks and guns, prohibited bv the Versailles Treaty. …” ”
I have repeatedly made the statement that governments do not govern, because they are controlled by a higher power. Honorable senators will recall a scandal that developed in France when the German army gained control of a valuable iron deposit a few weeks after the outbreak of war. Approximately, 70 per cent, of the iron ore used in Germany during the war came from that mine. When an inquiry was instituted later it was found that this mine was owned by a French company and the German armament firm of Krupps. French airmen were not permitted to bomb the mine. The elected representatives of the people do not govern, because the supreme power is vested in the hands of a few international financiers. If we cannot attribute present-day conditions, dreadful as they are, to government?, to whom, then, can we charge them? The responsibility lies with high finance, which governs everything. Not until we recognize that high finance is the greatest and most unscrupulous power in the world, shall we get a government that will administer our affairs in the best interests of the people.
The financing of the war effort is now the primary concern of the Commonwealth Government. Senator Leckie stated that the Government must beware of inflation. Honorable senators never heard a word about inflation so long as credits were raised for the conduct of the war from the private banks. For as long as I can remem!ber, the banks have raised the bogy of inflation. It simply mea.ns an increase of the cost of goods, if that cost is not properly controlled. The purchasing power of the people becomes less because of the increase of prices. That is why the Commonwealth Government appointed a Prices Commissioner, and is directing all available money into the war effort. I cannot obtain stock for my business because it is regarded as a luxury. I do not mind that, so long as we are winning the war.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! There is no reference in the review of the wai- situation to the honorable senator’s business.
– I am referring to the effects of this ruinous financial policy, the evils of which I have been exposing in this chamber for six years. The interest paid on money raised for the conduct of the war absorbs 50 per cent, of our taxation collections. Taxation is imposed for the purpose of meeting the costs of government. I have submitted to successive Commonwealth Governments a plan for financing the war without incurring a tremendous interest bill. The Commonwealth Bank can finance all war expenditure free of interest, or at the cost of issue. Even if the bank charged an interest rate of 3£ per cent, on the money,. as the private banking institutions do, it would not matter, because the profits of the Commonwealth Bant revert to the nation. The money would merely be taken from one public pocket and put into another.
– Why does the honorable senator confine, his plan to the financing of the war, if he has such faith in it?
– Public works could also be financed under this scheme. On a previous occasion I read to honorable senators the evidence of Mr. Graham Towers, the manager of a great Canadian Government bank. When asked whether the government bank could lend money free of interest to the Government, he replied, “ Yes. undoubtedly, and there would be no need to repay the capital because the increased prosperity brought about by the expenditure of ‘ the money would enable the Government to get it back in an indirect way “. That is only common sense.
– What would be the position of the individual who lends money to the Government?
– I did not imply that a .private individual, even with adequate security, could borrow money without interest from the Commonwealth Bank. I am not concerned with the interest rates that the private banks charge to private individuals.
– How will the honorable senator separate the two systems of finance if they are to operate in the same community?
– It is working at the present time.
– The Commonwealth Bank is lending money to the public on approved security.
– But not without interest.
– I did not say that the Commonwealth Bank was lending money to the general public without interest. I contend that the Commonwealth Bank could lend money to the Government without interest, because the Government owns the bank.
– How could the money be lent to the Government without interest if private individuals are charged interest upon their borrowings?
– Because the Commonwealth Bank is the people’s bank. I cannot understand how the honorable senator can be so obtuse.
– I am only seeking information.
– T have been explaining this scheme for six years, and the honorable senator has often heard me expound it. I do not advocate the closing down of the private banks; I do not believe in the nationalization of banking. If the Government will socialize the credit of the nation, it will solve most of our difficulties and ensure to our citizens the degree of economic security to which they are entitled.
I have shown that financial circles in England consider that it was a patriotic act to finance Adolf Hitler in his rise to power. After the last war the German armament firm of Krupps sued the British Government in respect of the use of patent caps for shells. International financial and armament relationships are dreadful things. Anzacs were killed on Gallipoli during the last war by shells manufactured by Krupps. What we require is honesty in politics, and in Parliament a body of men trained in political economy, which is the art of government. Such men must serve for what they can put into Parliament rather than for what they can get out of it. For six years I have seen honorable senators utterly unconcerned about the interests of the people. They solemnly swear to serve King and country to the best of their ability, but they neglect their duty in many ways.
I shall now discuss the cost of this war in materials, because of incompetent and corrupt governments. The architecture’ and glories of medieval Europe have .been blown to rubble, and the flower of our manhood has been slaughtered in millions. When I made that statement last year, I was asked to define “ corrupt governments “. I stated that any one who places ‘his own interest or party interest before the national interest is corrupt.
– ‘Coming from the honorable senator, that is a good one.
– - Senator Leckie has done that over’ and over again. He hope3 that the’ present system will not be altered. He has now reached the stage of maturity where he resents changes. He is quite satisfied with the present system that has projected the world into another blood bath.
– It was a pretty good world, too.
– Very good for members of Parliament! I have shown how international financiers through the Treaty of Versailles caused the present war.
– The honorable senator has not shown any one.
– I remind Senator Leckie that none is so blind as he who does not wish to see. The honorable senator is one of the blindest men in this chamber. He is bitterly opposed to changes. Nothing hurts him So much as does a new idea.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT Order! I ask the honorable senator to address the Chair.
– I should not have to remind you. Ifr. Deputy President, that interjections are disorderly and that you permitted Senator Leckie to interject repeatedly.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - It is also contrary to the Standing Orders for an honorable senator to continue a discussion that is not relevant to the subject under consideration.
– I am examining a scheme for financing our war effort 30 that members of the fighting forces, after demobilization, will not be called upon to ‘bear an intolerable burden of debt. What opportunity will they have in the post-war period of reconstruction if the Commonwealth Government does not fully utilize the credit of the nation? Senator Leckie, if given his way, would continue the antiquated policy of borrowing money at 3i per cent., leaving the returned soldiers to .bear the interest burden. Mr. Lloyd Jones declared during the last war, “ We shall make this country a land fit for heroes to live in”. Unfortunately, the banks would not finance the post-war projects that would have absorbed returned soldiers in employment. I have often said that the world is run on credit. In fact, 99 per cent, of the world’s business is conducted on credit, but the only people who issue credit are the banks. They are able to call up overdrafts as they please. The Government is evolving plans for providing employment in the post-war period. That is not the real problem. Nothing justifies pro duction but consumption, and we cannot get goods to consume unless we have the money with which to buy them. The banks are the only people who can advance the money. They can call up overdrafts at short notice, or refuse to grant credit. On a previous occasion, I told honorable senators of the circumstances which brought Sir Otto Niemeyer to Australia during the years of depression. For many years, Australia had been borrowing money overseas from the banks. The Government of Tasmania had a loan of £4,000,000 falling due and instead of putting the business in the hands of the London branch of the Commonwealth Bank, gave it to the brokers. It cost £40,000 to refloat the loan. Incidentally, Mr. S. M. Bruce handed that transaction to a Jewish firm, which renewed the loan at 98 per cent, for a period of only eighteen months. Thus Tasmania lost £2 in every £100. Honorable senators opposite believe that the system which brought the world from success to failure can lead it back from failure to success, because they dislike new ideas, even to meet an ever-changing world situation. But I am thinking of the men who will be discharged from the services after the war. Banks in Great Britain were able to pay dividends of 14 ‘ per cent., 16 per cent, and 18 per cent, in the second year of this war, and the manager of one of them declared that he was able to show such a satisfactory, balance-sheet because the bank was lending hundreds of millions of pounds to the British Government. The national debt of Great Britain has reached staggering proportions, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer relies upon the antiquated system of borrowing money from the private banks -to finance the war effort. We in Australia are the luckiest people in the world in that we have the Commonwealth Bank to rely on for financing our war effort. What I have said is true, but it is not acted on, because honorable senators opposite represent the interests of the big financial institutions and do not want any change.
– What about the views of honorable senators supporting the Government?
– Instead of issuing treasury-bills bearing interest, treasurybills are now issued interest free. What is the difference between borrowing money from the private banks and borrowing it from the Commonwealth Bank?
– The honorable senator’s party is now in control of the Commonwealth.
– I am trying to convert honorable senators opposite. During the ten years that the Bruce-Page Government was in control of the Commonwealth the influence of the private banks was most marked. The swindle that took place when the Commonwealth Bank Act was amended was the most disgraceful thing that has occurred in the history of politics in this country.
SenatorFraser. - It nearly destroyed the bank.
– That is so. The right to draw was the biggest swindle ever put over the people of this country. In 1924, after the constitution of the Commonwealth Bank was altered and new directors who represented the interests of the private banks were appointed to the board, the Commonwealth Bank was asked to print notes to the value of £10,000,000. They were to be taken up by the private banks at 3½ per cent. interest but the notes were left with the Commonwealth Bank. Under the altered constitution of the bank, the private banks had the right to draw on the Commonwealth Bank. In the first year notes to the value of £10,000,000 were printed, but instead of drawing on them the banks raised the rate of interest. The private banks did not take up those notes, but they retained the right to draw. The effect was equal to putting £10,000,000 into their vaults. The next year, despite the advice given to the then Government by Mr. Kell, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, additional notes to the value of £12,000,000 were printed. That made the issue of notes total £22,000,000. Again, the banks refused to take them up. In the third year notes to the value of a further £8,000,000 were printed, making a total of £30,000,000. Wot one note was taken up by the private hanks, because had they done so they would have had to pay interest. But that note issue was as good as presenting the private banks with cash reserves of £30,000,000. They were then able to issue credit for seven, or eight, or even ten times that amount, and were able to buy war bonds to the value of hundreds of millions of pounds. It was the biggest racket ever perpetrated in this country. That is the kind of thing that went on when governments representing the interests which honorable senators opposite represent were in power. The bank rate of interest was raised to7 per cent.
– All the things to which the honorable senator refers occurred many years ago.
– We are still paying interest on that money, and the principal will never be repaid. A moneylender with clients who pay interest to him regularly does not want them to pay back the principal sums borrowed because, in that event, he would have to find other clients. So long as the Government has the power to tax the people in order to pay interest on money advanced by the private banks the directors of those institutions will be satisfied. They know that the money cannot be paid back because it never existed.
– The present Government is still borrowing money.
– Of course it is. Has the honorable senator ever contemplated the cost? I am not defending every action of the present Government, but, just as in every human undertaking, the person who is responsible is the person who has the right to say how and when things shall he done, so the responsibility for the conduct of the present war now rests with the Curtin Government. If the Government decides to finance the war in a way of which I do not approve, that is not my responsibility.
– Then why are we on this side corrupt, and the present Government not corrupt, when it does the same thing?
– Governments which honorable senators opposite supported acquiesced in what was done.
– The honorable senator is now acquiescing in what is being done.
– I am not.
– I ask the honorable senator to address the Chair.
– I am aware, Mr. President, that’ interjections are disorderly and should not be allowed. I sat in this chamber for several hours yesterday and did not interject once. I never interject, and therefore I think that I am entitled to more courtesy when I do address the chamber. I did not come to Canberra to get a job, hut to do a job.
-What a paragon!
– The honorable senator should continue with his speech on the war situation.
– I have always maintained that the most important thing about the war situation is the manner in which the war is to he financed. Apart from the tragic loss of lives caused by the war, the biggest concern of Australia is how money to finance the war is to be obtained, so that the men who fight the war will get a fair deal when they return. They will not get a fair deal if the financial ideas of honorable senators opposite, including Senator Leckie, have sway.
– The parties represented by honorable senators on this side are not in control of the country.
– No man can he moderately honest; he is either honest or dishonest.
– The honorable senator constitutes the Government’s majority in this chamber.
– I do not know about that, but I know that I have been described as the financial brains of this chamber. During the six years that I have been a memberof the Senate, I have given facts whenever I have spoken. Honorable senators can prove that for themselves if they take the trouble to study books which are to be obtained from the Parliamentary Library. Honorable senators opposite are not here in thebest interests of the people. When the men who are fighting to save Australia, and, incidentally, the lives of members of this Parliament, return they would be justified in marching to Canberra with fixed bayonets and turning out the so-called representatives of the people.
– By his vote the honorable senator has the power to control the Government.
– I have always remained faithful to that plank of the Labour party’s platform which advocates monetary reform.
– . The honorable senator has the power to hold up any legislation brought into this chamber.
– Only by breaking my word to my party. I have not come here to do that. I came to Canberra against my will when I realized that thebasis of the troubles of the world was the insecurity of the people. I have done my best to convince my colleagues in this chamber on financial matters, hut I shall soon cease to be a member of the Senate.
– The honorable senator has the balance of power in this Government.
– That may be, but I have never gone hack on my word. I cannot help it if my party is not doing what I want it to do. That the United Australia party seeks to control its members through its caucus is evident from the treatment recently meted out to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender).
– Order ! The remarks of the honorable senator have nothing to do with the subjectbefore the Chair.
– I was replying to an interjection, Mr. President.
– The honorable senator is constantly contravening the Standing Orders by addressing honorable senators opposite, instead of addressing the Chair.
– I ask you to forgive me if, in my excitement, I transgress the rules of the Senate.
– If the honorable senator will address the Chair, and disregard interjections, he will be in order. I shall do my best to restrain honorable senators from interjecting.
– I am doing my best, but finance is an important question in war-time, and I do not speak often.
– I have not said that finance is not a matter associated with the subject before the Chair. The war situation is an important subject, and I realize that finance is necessary to prosecute the war. I have not called the honorable senator to order because he has discussed matters of finance, but because he has insinuated that I am not doing my duty as presiding officer. I resent that insinuation. I shall do my best to keep order, and I ask the honorable senator to help me by disregarding interjections.
– I thank you, Mr President, and I bow to your ruling. I hope that I shall be able to continue my remarks without any breach of the Standing Orders. In any event the interjections are mostly inane and dishonest.
I was referring to the right to draw-
– Order !
– Is your call to order addressed to me, Mr. President?
– I am trying to help the honorable senator by calling on honorable senators on my left to maintain order.
– We do not appear to be getting on too well. I shall refer again to the swindle associated with the issue of £30,000,000 in banknotes, and the effect of that action on the cost of this war. The private hanks used their right to draw to purchase war bonds. That £30,000,000 of bank-notes was created at the request of the Bruce-Page Government, with the approval of the private banks, and interest has been paid on that sum since 1924. Is it any wonder that we are in debt? I am hopeful that future wars will be prevented. During the last war, various war-mongers, including armament firms, made huge profits. They did not care how long the war lasted, but they did not realize then that the cities in which they then made their money would, in another war, be in greater danger of bombing than were the men in the trenches from 1914 to 1918. The money made by them in the last war is now being used to sustain the country’s present war effort. Those are two significant facts which might have a tremendous influence in preventing further wars. Wars arise out of the desire to make profits, and that is why Mr. Montagu Norman lent £50,000,000 to Germany; it also explains why VickersArmstrong Limited sold tanks to Germany.
– That happened years ago.
– Order !
- Senator Herbert Hays does not seem to have progressed beyond the stone age, but I am becoming excited, Mr. President. I abide by the rules of the Senate, except when I reply to interjections. I rarely leave the chamber during a debate, because I believe that it is my duty to stay here. I am paid to be here to assist in carrying on the business of the country. I am always to be found here during sitting hours, and I submit that when I speak I should get a courteous hearing. I am an old man with a lot of experience, and I never express views on a subject which I have not studied. That is why I can never be confounded.
– The honorable senator discusses only one subject.
– That may be, but it is a most important subject - one about which the honorable senator knows very little. When the private banks obtained bank-notes valued at £30,000,000 and left them with the Commonwealth Bank, they raised the bank rate of interest to 7 per cent. The wheatgrowers of Western Australia, who had. previously been financed by the Commonwealth Bank at 4 per cent. interest when Sir Denison . Miller was its governor, were called upon to pay 7 per cent. interest on the export of their wheat to London.. They found themselves in an impossible position; they could not get accommodation from the private banks, nor could they get it from the Commonwealth Bank because that institution was in the control of new directors who had been appointed by the Bruce-Page Government. The wheat-growers of Western Australia then sent to the Wholesale Co-operative Society of Great Britain and borrowed about £3,000,000 in order to transport their primary produce to Great Britain. That money was paid into the Commonwealth Bank in London and it was then transferred to four private banks in Perth, with the result that it cost the wheat-growers £60,000 for exchange. Yet, I am told that I must not criticize a system which stands for that kind of thing. I am a member of the Economic Society of London. I was made a member of that society as the result of a speech which I delivered in this chamber- a speech which took about an hour and a half to deliver. I am proud- of my knowledge of finance. I am glad that I am not a lawyer, because the arguments advanced by members of the legal profession in this chamber have developed in me a measure of contempt for that profession. The despatch of £3,000,000 to private banks in Western Australia proved that even a government-owned institution like the Commonwealth Bank could not act in the interests of the people. The reason was that the Bruce-Page Government was in power at the time. Senator Herbert Hays has said that the Scullin Government had to send to England for Sir Otto Niemeyer in order that the finances of Australia might be placed on a sound basis. I have given the reason for the visit of that gentleman to this country. When the Scullin Government assumed office, it found an empty treasury, an adverse trade balance of £30,000,000, and the London money market closed to Australia for further loans, Sir Otto Niemeyer came to Australia in order to tell the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who was then Prime Minister, that Australia could not obtain more assistance from London unless and until it did what it was told to do. At that time so little was” known about national credit that no attempt was made to use it. The Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems had not then presented a report in terms which supported the arguments which I had been advancing. If the Government of the day had known how to use the national credit, it would, never have suggested the printing of £18,000,000 worth of notes with a view to providing employ- ment for 400,000 persons who were out of work because the banks had called in overdrafts and had refused to issue further credit. Those are the only means by, which a depression can be started. That happened all over Australia. Dur- ing the course of an address that I delivered on one occasion to the Economic Society in Hobart, Gustav Cassell, the great Swedish economist, who is at present lecturing at Oxford University, was asked what had caused the depression, and his reply was that it had been caused by concerted action by the banks in the restriction of credit, dictated by the captains of finance, the result being that primary producers of not only Australia but also the whole world had been ruined. When he was asked how long it would last, he replied that the banks, having deliberately created the depression, could lift it whenever they cared to do so. So terrible was the condition of the primary producers during the administration of the Lyons Government, that that Government decided to borrow £12,000,000 in order to rehabilitate them. That money was provided by the private banks at an interest rate of 5 per cent. The banks assessed the liabilities of the wheat-growers to them, not to the store-keepers or to anybody else. They created £12,000,000 worth of credit out of nothing and loaned it to the Government at an interest rate of 5 per cent. The cheques were made “ not negotiable “, and they were returned to the banks. No money passed in the transaction, and the taxpayers of Australia are still finding the money to pay interest at 5 per cent, on that £12,000,000, Having had governments of that character in the past, is it any wonder that we are up to our necks in debt, and do not know which way to move because of the interest bill? Taxes are imposed in order to defray the cost of government. For six years I have advocated in this chamber a system of finance which would keep down the cost of government. I asked the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), when he was Prime Minister, how long his Government intended to continue to obtain from the private banks the credits that it needed and to pay an interest rate of 3-J per cent., in view of the fact that this accommodation could be obtained from the Commonwealth Bank interest free. The right honorable gentleman merely sat back in his chair and laughed. He said, “ If Senator Darcey can tell me where I can borrow money without paying interest, I shall do so “. That was purely an evasive answer.
– He asked the honorable senator to tell him where money could be borrowed without the payment of interest.
– I told him that it could be obtained through the Commonwealth Bank. I said, “I did not mention the word ‘ money ‘. You are not getting money from the banks. Surely you know that ! Why do you not answer, in a straightforward, honest way, a question that is of the utmost national importance ? “ Whose interests was the right honorable gentleman sent to this Parliament to represent? They are identical with those that are represented by honorable senators opposite.
– The only honest man; look at him!
– I resent that remark; the tone of it is satirical.
– If the remark is offensive to the honorable senator, he may ask for its withdrawal.
– I ask for its withdrawal, because I regard it as an insult.
– Does the honorable senator want me to withdraw the words “ the only honest man “ ? If so, I withdraw them willingly.
– The offence lay, not in what the honorable senator said, but in the manner in which he said it.
– The decorum of debate must be observed. Senator Darcey has said that the remark was made in such a way as to give offence to him, and he has asked for its withdrawal.
– I withdraw the words “ the only honest man “. I cannot withdraw my manner.
– Does the honorable senator withdraw the words, “ The only honest man ; look at him “ ?
– I do.
– I accept the withdrawal. The honorable senator intended to convey the impression that I claim to be the only honest man in the Senate. I do not. But I do claim to be an honest man, and I defy any honorable senator opposite to confound me in any statement I have made in this chamber in a period of nearly six years. Australia, unfortunately, inherited the British banking system. The biggest dividend-payers in this country to-day are the banks in which British capital predominates, and their funds are sent overseas. Previous governments borrowed money overseas, and the nation is obliged to repay an additional 25 per cent. I do not wonder that we are in a mess. I was interested in the inauguration of the federation, of the Australian colonies and attended the meetings that were held when the proposal was being canvassed. The statement was then made that the extra cost of government for which the Federation would be responsible would be not more than the cost of a dog licence and the collar to which it was attached. Yet it was later found necessary to institute two systems of taxation in order to defray the additional cost. Incompetent and corrupt governments were responsible for the present world war. The Government of, Great Britain was warned in 191S that if the existing financial system was continued war was inevitable; and so it came to pass. I stood for election to the Senate in order that another seat might be won for the Labour party. I did not want to enter Parliament, because I had seen a good deal of State politics and considered that it would not be a good place in which to find myself. The seat was won for Labour, but newspaper discussions of the results of the elections did not contain the slightest reference to the fact that I had been responsible. I give my word of honour that my object in seeking election to the Senate, apart from the desire to advance the cause of the Labour party, was to expose the banking swindle, which is the greatest swindle on earth. I have been accused of propounding financial schemes which involve the getting of something for nothing. That is the position in which the banks are placed; they get something for nothing. Over and over again in the last 40 years, commissions have dealt with the subject of unemployment; because, when it exists to any great degree, governments have to provide doles at considerable cost. The inquiries held prior to the McMillan Commission always led to the conclusion that unemployment was due to overproduction. The McMillan Commission expressed tha opinion that it was due, not to over-production but to underconsumption, and said that money would have to be provided from some source without increasing taxation in order that the products of industry might be purchased and people might be kept at work. That was a notable feature of its findings. Every man who is out of work is an economic loss. By means of the tremendous machine-power that is in existence to-day, the whole of the work of the world could be done in three or four hours daily, thus leaving more time for culture and the study of economics, banking and finance. We have made little more than a commencement with the present war. A naval man from the East whom I met said to me that in his opinion we shall need five years to get rid of the Japanese from the places in which they have established themselves. So long a? the war continues, money with which to wage it will have to be raised. A loan of £150,000,000 is to be floated in a few weeks. The cost of raising loans is tremendous.
– Does the honorable senator propose to support that loan?
– I have already supported it. The Government is charged with, the responsibility of conducting the war operations of the nation, and it has the right to say by what means that shall be done, and when. Although I do not approve of the raising of loans, I support them. In my view, money may be raised in a better way. I have proved that in this chamber over a period of nearly six years.
– The honorable senator has not proved it to the satisfaction of his own party.
– The Government borrowed £400,000,000 last year.
– Of course it did, but not from the private banks. My only concern is to protect this nation against having to pay excessive interest on the loans that it raises. If the Government brought forward a measure authorizing the use of national credit in the way in which I have .described, it would be rejected by a hostile majority in this chamber. Senator Wilson knows that very well. He has been told more than once that after the 1st July next the position will be altered. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was asked why national credit was not issued to finance the war, his reply was, “I cannot use national credit to the fullest extent until I have a majority in both Houses of the Parliament “. He will have that majority after the 1st July. National credit will then be used, and the men who are discharged from the services should get whatever they desire under .a sound policy of post-war reconstruction. There will then be no need for Senator Brand and Senator Collett to worry about the granting of preference to returned soldiers, because those men will be able to choose their jobs. They should not have to. ask for preference after all that they have done. But if the present monetary system be continued, they will have to beg for it, and. perhaps their sons will have to do the same. This interest must be paid in perpetuity. The policy of the Bank of England since its inception in 1694 has been financial enslavement of the British nation. It has succeeded to such a degree that Mr. Gladstone, when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer declared in the House of Commons, that he did not know the strength of the “ City “, as he described monetary power. At the commencement of the last war, the Bank of England held only £13,000,000 in. gold and . had to pay out withdrawals, amounting to £10,000,000 within two days. In its extremity, the bank told the British Government that if the Government did not come to the bank’s assistance, every bank in England would be forced to close within 24 hours. The Government closed the banks from Saturday to the following Thursday, and in the meantime passed legislation giving to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the right to issue fiduciary notes to the value of £345,000,000. These notes were delivered in cartloads in order to save the City “. In Great Britain at that time, a: person could claim one sovereign for a £1 note, but clients who made withdrawals when the banks re-opened were not paid in gold, but in “Bradburys” “, that is, notes named after a director of the Bank of England at that time. Those notes were the main currency in Great Britain from 1914 to 1924. However, when the Government required waa- credits, the private hanks said that they would handle that matter, and they “ loaned “ the Government over £5,000,000,000, some of the loans hearing interest at the rate of 6 per cent. Honorable senators should be familiar with the practice followed by private banks in connexion with war loans. The bank manager approaches, say, the owner of an hotel, who has paid £30^000 for his property, and says : “ Mr. Jones, we have to win the war. You should take up some money in the war loan.” When Mr. Jones replies that he has no money to spare, the manager, on being informed that Mr. Jones owns the hotel, tells him that the bank, on the security of his property, will lend him £10,000 with which to buy war bonds. The bank advances that money at 5 per cent, interest, and as the war bonds carry interest at the rate of 6 per cent. Mr. Jones makes a profit of 1 per cent. When the secondwar loan is floated, the bank manager again approaches Mr, Jones and advises him to buy more bonds, and when Mr. Jones replies that he already has £10,000 worth of bonds in the first loan and has no money available to huy more bonds, ‘ the manager tells him that if be leaves the £10,000 worth of bonds with the bank it will lend him another £5,000 on that security. On that transaction, the bank again charges interest at the rate of 5 per cent, and Mr. Jones makes a profit of 1 per cent. When the third war loan comes along, the manager again interviews Mr. Jones, and tells him that, on the security of his £5,000 worth of bonds in the second loan, the bank will advance him a sum of £2,000 to buy bonds in the third loan; and, again, the transaction is very profitable to the bank. Then, after the war, a depression occurs.’ The hotelkeeper finds that not so many people as previously are able to buy beer, and, consequently, his business declines. Then, when business generally is practically stagnant, and just when the hotelkeeper finds himself up against it, the hank calls up his overdraft; and the net result of all these transactions is that the bank finishes up with £15,000 worth of Mr. Jones’s waa- bonds and the deeds of the hotel, whilst all that Mr. Jones gets is banking experience. That practice was followed in England and also in Australia during and after the last war. When the private banks have power to call up overdrafts at a day’s notice, they have their customers completely in their power. [Extension of time granted.’] Ever since I became ‘a member of this chamber, I have endeavoured to persuade honorable senators opposite to be honest with themselves in their study of the existing financial system. However. the first concern of the conservative mind to any reform is: “How will this affect me ? What am I going to get out of it ? “
– Has not the honorable senator any faith in his fellow men 1
– My faith in my fellow men has been rudely shattered. For instance, I cannot fathom the attitude of honorable senators opposite towards the problem of rehabilitating the thousands of our young men who will return from the Avar. My son, for instance, abandoned his profession and an assured future in order to enlist, and after flying Spitfires overseas for the last two years, he has just returned to this country.
Sifting suspended from 12.S8 to 2.15 p.m.
– There has been a great deal of talk about money and what it means. In the economic field it is known as effective purchasing power. It is of no use to produce anything unless you have the money to purchase it. Some years ago Professor Wadham, of the Melbourne University, came to Hobart as a member of a committee inquiring into the plight of the primary producers. A farmer can grow a bushel of wheat, but he cannot grow the money to purchase it. The professor had some years before been a member of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, which took evidence showing that the wheat lands of Australia were mortgaged to the private banks and other financial institutions for £161,000,000. I reminded him of this when he gave an address before the Economic Society in Hobart. He replied, “That is quite right ; I have the report in my bag. _ I do not suppose anybody read it “. I said, “I did. Are you an economist ? “ He said, “ No ; I am a scientific agriculturist “.
I then said, ‘You can show people how to produce the best wheat, but the question is not one of production, it is an economic one, and if you are not an economist it is useless for you to go around Australia on a mission of this sort. There was no need for you ever to leave Victoria to travel around with experts to find out what is the matter with the primary producer. When you found how heavily indebted the wheat-growers were to the banks, what was the price of wheat ? “ He said, “From ls. 6d. to ls. 9d. a bushel”. I said, “ You must be well aware that the farmers were borrowing from the banks at 6 per cent, when wheat was bringing 5s. or 6s. a bushel. How can they meet their indebtedness ? They are well behind, and even if they grow a good crop they cannot’ recover financially. Price levels are determined by the amount of the purchasing power in the hands of the people. The financial system always dominates economics. If you will excuse my saying so, you are the wrong man for the job “. I remember ex-Senator Latham of Western Australia bringing before this chamber a proposal to raise the price of wheat. I said to him, “ When I was in your State three years ago, people were walking off the land in hundreds, yet when a bill came before the Parliament of Western Australia to allow the Commonwealth Bank to help the primary producers, with wheat down to 2s. a bushel, you voted against it”. He said, “It dropped to ls. a bushel”. His financial views were such that he would sooner see the farmers walk off the land than agree to the use of the national credit to help them, although they were absolutely ruined by the private banks calling up the purchasing power of the people. There was actually no wheat then with which to make flour and bread. People wore walking about in the eastern States without enough to eat. The private banks govern everything, and those who have charge of them are working in their own interests instead of the interests of the nation. It is time that the nation realized that. Personally, I do not intend to allow the present system to continue any longer than I can possibly help. The report of the minority section of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems recommended that the Commonwealth Bank should provide the whole of the services now rendered by the private banks. That recommendation was endorsed by the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), among others. It also recommended that all moneys standing to the credit of people and corporations in Australia in respect of loans to the Commonwealth Government be placed to their credit as current accounts in the Commonwealth Bank. People asked me how we could take over mortgages and other liabilities. I replied that I did not believe in the nationalization of the private banks, because it was not necessary. All that we have to do in order to solve the problem is to use the national credit. The head of the great house of Rothschild said, “ Give me control of the nation’s credit and I care not who makes its laws “. That remark shows that he grasped the situation. The financial system governs everything. In the past when the Government wanted a loan it went to the private banks although the Commonwealth Bank was already established. The Commonwealth Bank has made a profit of £30,000,000 since it was founded, and that money has gone to the credit of the people. Some years ago Mr. Casey as chairman of the Loan Council introduced an amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act. The then Government had a majority in both Houses, and was determined to put the bill through. I spoke against it all over Australia, and the opposition to it was so great that the Government had eventually to drop it. The Government put forward a scheme for a mortgage bank department of the Commonwealth Bank, under which it was proposed to sell £30,000,000 of debentures, but the only possible buyers were the private banks. According to company law, if the debenture holders are not satisfied with the way a business is conducted, they can take it over. Had the debentures been sold to the private banks, the profits of the mortgage bank department would have gone to them, but that proposal was knocked on the head. There is now in existence a mortgage department of the Commonwealth Bank, established by the Labour Government, but there are already complaints about it. It has already received 800 or 900 applications for loans, but fewer than 300 have been granted. At the meeting in Hobart to which I have referred, I ask* Professor Wadham how wheat came to drop to such a low price, and some one in the audience said, “ That was world parity “. I asked, “ What brought Canadian wheat down from one dollar to 30 cents a bushel ? “. That happened in Canada when children in that dominion were walking about wearing as clothing sugar bags, with holes in the corners through which they put their feet. The Government of Canada was using private bank credit and got the nation into all that trouble. Later, Canada founded a bank like the Commonwealth Bank. Our bank was the first bank in the world founded by the people to function in the interests of the people. I remember the press tirade against it, and the predictions of failure. Mr. King O’Malley was for ten years fighting to get the Commonwealth Bank established, and eventually he succeeded. If he had not done so, ‘the £30,000,000 profit made by the bank since its inception would all have gone into the coffers. of the private banks.
– Did not the province of Alberta try the methods which the honorable senator is advocating?
– No. The Government there went to the country on the social credit plan, and won 58 out of 62 seats. It’ began to implement social credit, but the Dominion Government at Ottawa said that it was contrary to the North American Constitution, so the Government of Alberta province was not allowed to establish it. Every anti-Labour newspaper in Australia asserted that social credit was a failure in Alberta, but it was not a failure, -because it was never put into operation. Alberta is the richest province in Canada, and the only one which has reduced its national debt. It has built thousands of miles of concrete roads, and has become the most prosperous portion of the North American continent, employing a system which is not quite social credit, but is still a great improvement on the private banking system. I said to a bishop in Hobart, “ In my opinion the socialization of credit would make as great an improvement in the material life of the world as the advent of Christ did in the spiritual world”. That is true, and honorable senators opposite can shut their eyes and ears to. it as long as they like, but unless the national credit is used in full there will be no hope of meeting taxation or doing the best possible for the men who are coming back from the war. After the last war, excessive prices were paid for land on which returned soldiers were then settled. They lost all their small savings, and the whole scheme cost millions of pounds ‘because money was borrowed from the private-hanks. There can be no permanent peace or new order so long as the present monetary system endures. The sooner the members of the Opposition grasp that important fact, the sooner shall we be able to do what we should by the men who are returning from active service. I. have gone through, the financial system from start to finish, and have challenged the Opposition to controvert anything that I have said. I have produced books written by the highest authorities, backing up every word I have uttered, but what can I do when faced with mentality of the kind I see opposite me? I do not claim to be the only honest man in the chamber, as has been suggested, but I do claim to know what I am talking about. I have proved that the sole function of the private banks is to monetize real wealth. They do not lend money at all ; in fact, they have not got it to lend. There are in Hobart three big banks on three of the principal corners of the city, and the fourth corner id occupied by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, another big financial institution, but while the banking businesses on the three corners can create millions of pounds out of nothing and lend them to the people, the Australian Mutual Provident Society has at times to borrow money from the private banks. When the Australian Mutual Provident Society decided to put £1,500,000 into the war loan, its representative told the manager of one of the private banks to apply to the Government for that amount of bonds. The bank sent its own cheque to the Commonwealth authorities, and drew £2,500 commission. The banks get 15 per cent, on every £1 that they raise. That is why the cost of floating the war loans is so tremendous. It cost £175,000 to raise the first war loan of £3-5,000,000. What will it co3t to raise £150,000,000? The newspapers have stuck up for the financial system because they make large profits from it. When the Melbourne Argus was converted into a private company three years ago, it was disclosed that it owed the banks £224,000. Who but the banks controls the policy of the Argus’1. Every other newspaper is in the same position. A Sydney newspaper which attacked me honoured me by devoting to me a leading article headed : “ Victory without tears.” Mr. Churchill promised sweat, blood and tears, but this lying newspaper said -
Senator Darcey has a scheme by which we can pay for the war without paying for it, and win without tears. He is in favour of the nationalization of banking and industry, and of printing unlimited numbers of notes.
The article ended with a reference to “Cheerchasing Eddie Ward “, and to “ sincere but pig-headed Senator Darcey, who thinks that he can hang himself up by his own heels “. I wrote to the editor of that newspaper stating that my attention had been drawn to certain charges which had been made against me in an ‘ editorial article. I made it clear that I had never advocated the nationalization of the banks, or the nationalization of industry; that I did not believe in either; but that I had frequently advocated the use of national credit. My letter continued -
As for paying for the war without paying For it, I cannot comprehend what you mean. As for hanging myself by my own heels, if some editors were hung by their own heels the rush of blood to their heads might stimulate their anaemic brains, and then we might get common sense if not honesty. The servile batik-ridden press is Australia’s greatest enemy. P.8. - Are you free to publish this ?
Some time afterwards representatives of that newspaper were excluded from the galleries of this chamber. About that time I happened to meet the editor, Mr. Penton, in Sydney, and he asked me whether I had been in the Senate when the reporters of his newspaper had been excluded from the galleries. I said that as I had missed my plane connexion in Hobart, I had not been present on the opening day of the sitting when the incident occurred. He then asked me if I were in favour of the freedom of the press, and I said I was strongly in favour of it. He said, “ Will you write a letter to my paper to that effect?”; and I replied, “ Not on your life, Mr. Penton. I have spoken for hours in the Senate in the presence of representatives of your newspaper, dealing with the most important aspect of government, namely, finance, and you have not given my remarks even a line “. Mr. Penton then turned and walked away. I have not been mentioned in any of his articles since. The mistake that I made was in sending my reply to the same newspaper which published the charges against me. instead of to a rival newspaper.
– The outstanding event dealt with in the statement on foreign affairs which was delivered in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is the recent meeting of the three great leaders of the Allied Nations. A preliminary meeting was held at Cairo, and then the leaders themselves conferred at Teheran. Probably that conference was tha greatest highlight of the activities of the Allied Nations since 1939. There is no doubt that earlier in the war grave misunderstanding existed between the Allied Nations, particularly between Great Britain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. However, as the war has progressed that feeling has been dissipated, because each nation has begun to realize that the others are doing everything in their power to defeat the common enemy. The misunderstandings were all swept away finally at the Teheran Conference. Following upon that conference, and the return of Marsha Stalin to Russia, there was an instant reaction in the official Soviet press which adopted a favorable attitude towards the other Allied Nations, and made a public acknowledgment of the great assistance which those nations were rendering to Russia. I believe that that meeting of the three great leaders will have the result of shortening the war considerably.
It is interesting to survey developments of the last few months in the South-West Pacific Area. There has been quite a sudden change in the situation. The actual threat to this country, particularly to our northern areas and to our eastern coast-line, has been removed. Australia is now safe as a base for Allied thrusts northward. It has always been generally recognized that a successful campaign in the South-West Pacific Area depended upon the holding of Australia as a base for intensive and extensive operations against the Japanese. Since the dark days when the Japanese reached Kokoda, and, in fact, were only a few miles from Port Moresby, the situation in New Guinea has changed rapidly. Even when Port Moresby was threatened, and the Japanese were moving towards Milne Bay, one of our military leaders expressed the view that there was no actual danger to our shores, because the Australian forces facing the Japanese at that time were well able to hold them. Fortunately, that view proved to be correct, and the Japanese- were driven hack over the Kokoda Trail by the Australian and American land forces, operating as a combined army for the first time in thi* war. Our soldiers gave to the Japanese their first real taste of defeat, and it is pleasing to note that that action was the first of a series of successful encounters which culminated last week in the terrific American onslaught upon the Marshalls and upon Truk, _ and, this week, in an attack which resulted in the occupation of the Momoto airstrip in the Admiralty Islands.
A very pleasing feature of the war in the Pacific zone is the great value which military leaders are placing upon the lives of members of the fighting forces. That attitude is quite different from that adopted in the war of 1914-18. During that war, there were many schools of thought on military strategy, but finally the opposing forces reached a stalemate in the . mud of France. To the military leaders at that time - I say this with all due deference because I am sure that these men believed that they were doing their best - the lives of soldiers was not the most important consideration. They believed in what was called the “ decisive point” .strategy, the basis of which was that, irrespective of the man-power involved, heavy forces should be thrown against what was considered to be a decisive point in the enemy’s line. It was realized that early losses in such moves would, be terrific, but it was hoped that by continuing to exert pressure on the decisive point, the enemy would ultimately break down. That strategy was pursued for four years in France, with appalling slaughter on both sides. All honorable senators will recall the huge casualties suffered by our forces and by the enemy in the massacre of the Somme. However, that was the policy of tb«; leaders of the British Army at that time. Sir William Robertson, who was chief of the Imperial General Staff during the most critical years of the last war, was a strong exponent of that strategy. FieldMarshal Sir Henry Wilson, the publication of whose diaries created so much interest after the last war, was another leader who did not allow himself to be deterred by possible heavy loss of life in the throwing of heavy forces against a decisive point. It is interesting, therefore, to note that our modern military leaders have learned the lessons of the last war and now regard as their most valuable asset the men whom they lead. They do hot care how much money is spent upon material and equipment in a campaign so long as the lives of soldiers are conserved as much as possible. Apparently due to an error of judgment, the American marines suffered heavy losses in the attack upon Tarawa, in the Gilbert Islands. It has been stated that the loss of life suffered by marines in that engagement was proportionately the greatest in the history of the Marine Corps. Of 5,000 men who participated in the attack more than 1,000 were killed. That caused serious repercussions through America, the feeling, ‘being that the soldiers had not been properly protected and that lives had been lost unnecessarily. It was interesting to note that in. subsequent operations in the Pacific, particularly the latest attacks upon the Marshall Islands, the Americans were able to carry out such an intense bombardment of the atolls upon which the attacks were to be made, that when the time came for the land forces to go into action there was very little organized resistance and, consequently, relatively few lives were lost. In modern warfare the accepted principle now is that the most valuable asset in a campaign is man-power, and the cost of providing material and equipment is regarded rightly as a minor detail.
The American Navy is to be complimented upon the marvellous come-back which it has made since the disastrous attack on Pearl Harbour. It is generally known that after that dastardly assault by the Japanese, on the 7th December, 194-1, the American Pacific Fleet was practically non-existent, at least so far as battleships were concerned. Looking back upon those days, it is interesting to hear the opinion expressed authoritatively that had the Japanese followed the. aerial assault by landings in Hawaii, it is more than possible that the islands would have been lost. Whether they could have been held by the Japanese is another matter, but such was the weight of the surprise attack that the American Pacific Fleet was of practically no value for many mouths. However, so great is the productive capacity of the United States of America that with astonishing rapidity the damaged ships were repaired and replaced in service, and by embarking upon an intensive ship-building programme all over America, a fleet has been built up which is far beyond our wildest expectations of twelve months ago. One has to see American production to realize just how wonderful it is. When the United States of America entered the war it had no man-power problem and it was able to employ tens of thousands of men upon the production of war materials. I remember inspecting one of Henry Kaiser’s ship-building yards in California which employs 86,000 workmen. In that yard, many of the employees are housed, fed and clothed by the Kaiser organization itself. It was not enough merely to build the yard, and then to produce the ships. Housing had to be provided for many thousands of the workers in order that they might reside close to their jobs. We arrived at the shipyard at about 2.30 p.m., and we witnessed the launching of one of the Liberty ships. The wife of a welder had been invited to launch and christen the vessel. When we witnessed that ceremony at 3 p.m. we were informed that that was the second Liberty ship which had been launched that day. The production had reached 28 Liberty ships a month and the organization was also building transport vessels, frigates and a heavy type of armed vessel. A nation, that can organize its industries to that degree in order that its man-power may be used fully to develop its war production must be admired. The American naval forces in the Pacific have bombed Truk almost unmolested, and have nearly subjugated it. At one time we appeared to have been tricked into believing that Truk was the major Japanese base in the Pacific, but we can see now that the Japanese naval forces are stationed nearer to the Philippines and that Truk has been only one of the outposts. The position in the Pacific has so improved in the last six months that my preconceived ideas as to the duration of the war in that region have been drastically changed. I believe that we have not been told the full story of Allied endeavours in the Pacific. I consider that when the newspapers were publishing reports about a holding war in that region, while Hitler was being beaten, gigantic preparations were in progress for a strong offensive drive against the Japanese, simultaneously with the drive against Hitler’s fortress Europe. As these movements develop I think that the grand fleet of Japan and the combined fleets of the United States of America and Great Britain will come together for the final decisive battle in the Pacific. Once the supply lines of Japan are cut, and its navy shattered, the subjugation of that nation will not be long delayed. An interesting discussion is proceeding as to whether the effect of the bombing raids of the Royal Air Force and the American Air Force being carried out on Europe from Great Britain will materially shorten the duration of the war. Some people contend that those raids are making no difference whatever. I read in one of the daily newspapers that the bombing of Germany was not even affecting the morale of the people of that country. When the Empire Parliamentary Delegation was in Great Britain the members were particularly fortunate in having conferences with all of the service Ministers of Britain, and I recall an interesting afternoon spent with the Minister for Air, Mr. Sinclair. He showed us, by means of stereoscopic machines, the effect of the bombing of great German cities up to that time, and T saw that the destruction wrought on the industrial cities of Germany -was such that it could not fail to shorten the war materially and break down the morale of the enemy. London never had to “ take it “ to the degree that the great cities of ‘Germany have. About the biggest bomb dropped on London was a 2,000-b. land mine, but almost invariably the bomb load of the Lancasters includes one 8,000-pounder. I saw damage done by German bombers in London, Bristol and Liverpool and most of the industrial centres. Particularly do I recall Liverpool, the centre of which had been blasted out. In one of the suburbs 90 per cent, of the houses had been damaged. The people in Liverpool said that it was an experience that they did not wish to have repeated. When I suggested to one of the residents that they could “take it”, he replied, “We did not know where to turn “. After the first seven or eight nights of bombing many people had no homes, and men and women and children had to lie in the fields at night without cover. The services had broken down and emergency services of other cities were concentrated to enable relief to be given to Liverpool. The man to whom I was speaking said, “ We were shaking our fists to heaven and cursing the Germans. It would not have taken much more bombing for us to have been broken in mind and spirit “. Not only is the bomb tonnage being dropped on Germany greater than that on London, but the explosives used to-day are more powerful than they were previously, and the method of bombing is more effective. The work of the Pathfinders enables the bombing of Germany’s industrial cities to be carried out with such precision that it will have a far-reaching effect on the duration of the war. I know that the bombing of Germany will greatly shorten the Avar. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has brought to Australia, through the courtesy of the Minister for Air in Great Britain, a stereoscopic machine illustrating the damage done to German cities. The pictures give a good idea of the effectiveness of the bombing. It is possible to see blocks that have been blasted and open spaces that were once covered by buildings. For mile after mile those cities have been shattered. It is true that certain industrial undertakings have been put underground, but that cannot be done in all cases, and the people cannot reside underground. The Germans may scream vengeance on Great Britain and the Royal Air Force, but they started this war, and it is. being finished for them in a way they little dreamt of in 1940. ‘ On the frequent raids by 1,000 bombers the machines fly wing to wing to their targets. When I visited a bombing station manned by Australians I saw a surprisingly large number of aeroplanes, and I asked how the machines were able to leave the ground without collisions. The answer I received was, “ There is no trouble at all about getting the planes off the ground, and there are never any collisions but I cannot understand how we avoid collisions when we are over the targets, because we fly in wing to wing at altitudes varying by only a few feet Sometimes the bombers are over their targets for less than half-an-hour, and in that time they drop over 1,000 tons of bombs. That is an extraordinary feat of organization. The airmen to whom I spoke believe that the bombing of Germany is breaking down the morale of its people and will prove decisive.
When Hitler made’ his drive into neighbouring countries in 19-39, Germany became the dominating force in Europe, but on the eastern front the Russians made a great stand at Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad, have forced back the troops of Finland in the north, and have crossed the Polish border. In the south another Allied landing has occurred in Italy ; but as the story of the Anzio bridgehead has not yet been fully released I shall pass no judgment upon it. We regret that that effort did not culminate in a march on Rome and its final subjugation. Ultimately Hitler’s fortress Europe must be invaded from the west, the east and the south simultaneously. I do not know that that task will require the great effort that some of our people think it will. I hope that it will not entail the enormous loss of life that has been predicted. A year or eighteen months ago, Hitler was strongly in command of Europe, gripping it like a.n octopus. The head and brains were in Germany, and the tentacles extended throughout Europe, but now, because of the Allied offensive, some of those tentacles have been cut off and the octopus is rapidly losing its strength. Hitler hopes to produce a static war in Europe, so that he may be able to discuss peace terms with the Allies, but that hope will not be realized, because he has so weakened himself that, when he is forced back within the borders of Germany, the final assault may not prove so costly as has been feared. Not only is Finland now seeking peace terms, because of the advance of Soviet troops, but the Balkan States also are looking for a way out. Moreover, Bulgaria is sending out peace proposals in an underground fashion in order to ascertain what response will be made. I have no doubt that when the Russian troops are able to move more speedily in the Ukraine, Rumania and Bulgaria will be pleased to get out of the war. One of the most interesting facets of the war situation is the extraordinary resistance of the Yugoslavs. Such achievements were not thought to be possible. Yugoslavia did not offer much to Germany. The main reason why the Germans went into Yugoslavia was that transport facilities were required in that part of Europe; such facilities ‘ constituted a keystone in Hitler’s European architecture. But what has happened? A most confusing position has developed. “We are told, first, that Mikhailovitch was fighting against the Fascists, but, later, when the attack on Italy commenced, he stated that he would not fight until Allied forces had landed in Yugoslavia, yet all the time Tito’s troops, known as Partisans, and armed and financed by the Allied Nations. had held down from ten to fifteen divisions of Germans in Yugoslavia. Liaison officers, including members of the British House of Commons, among them Mr. Randolph Churchill, son of Mr. Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, had been in Yugoslavia, in constant touch with the people of that country since the beginning of resistance. An extraordinary romance of resistance has been written by the gallant partisans of Yugoslavia. To think that in the middle of Europe there was a country, without what was considered primarily necessary to carry on even guerrilla warfare, whose people could fight and continue their resistance against the might of Hitler and his satellites was a thing undreamed of. “When this war is over, and the true story of Yugoslavia is written, I believe that due credit will be given to the brave men and women of that country for the ceaseless war they have fought against Hitler. To the people of Greece we oan only extend our sympathy at this stage and express the hope that every action taken by us will shorten the time when the Allied forces will again march through Greece to liberate them and the rest of the peoples of Europe. The Greeks have paid dearly for their opposition to the Germans, but they have given to the world an example of heroism. Even though their resistance was almost futile, their action has enabled the world to see how Nazi-ism works upon those who resist it unsuccessfully. And so these people in Europe are fighting - mostly underground, although in Yugoslavia the fight is continued above ground - and are accomplishing much. “When the war is over it is to be hoped that they will be given the opportunity to rehabilitate their countries in such a way that Europe will enjoy a long era of peace.
I come now to what is known as the second front. If we can believe the news from all available sources, there appears to be little doubt that this year, 1944, has been selected for the opening of the second front and a drive against the western wall of fortress Europe. It is interesting to note the improvement of the relations between the leaders of the three great nations which lead the fight against Hitlerite Germany. “What is particularly interesting is the fact that publicity is now being given to the aid which the other Allied nations have given to Russia. To them must be given a great deal of credit for the marvellous efforts of the Red Army in the European theatre of war. It is now disclosed that, in two years, American aid to Russia has amounted to $4,244,000,000, or £1,326,000,000 in Australian currency. That was the measure of American lendlease assistance to Russia between October, 1941, and December, 1943. In that period, 7,800 aeroplanes, most of which were combat machines, and 4,700 tanks were sent to the Soviet authorities. Assistance of that kind is aid in its most tangible form. In addition, 8,400,000 tons of arms and supplies were forwarded to Russia. It is pleasing to note that the shipments for last December were the largest on record, showing that, as the months have passed, the measure of the aid has grown. Of the ships sent with lend-lease materials to Russia in 1942, about 12 per cent, were lost, but this year only one in a hundred of the vessels carrying this vital blood plasma - if we may use that term - were lost. The British story is similar, although the figures do not reach the same dimensions. Nevertheless British aid to Russia has reached considerable proportions. That is the more remarkable when we reflect that Britain is only 20 miles across the English Channel from its enemy. Britain made the munitions of war that Russia needed, and they were taken to the front door of Russia by the Murmansk route. Many British sailors lost their lives in that portion of the world because of British aid to Russia. It is interesting, too, to notice the avenues of assistance to the Soviet. Last year America sent 9,000 tons of boots and vital seeds were sent as well as 1,350,000 tons of steel, and considerable quantities of aluminium, copper, and aviation fuel. In order that the Russians could refine their own crude oil, large quantities of refinery equipment were shipped to the Soviet. In addition, a complete rubber tyre-making factory was sent piece-meal to Russia, and re-erected there, in order that tyres and tubes could be made on the spot, thereby saving shipping space for more important war materials. Summarizing briefly what I have said, the position has undergone a change that we would not have thought possible six months ago. It is a change for the better. Things look particularly good now - -because formerly they looked so bad. But that does not mean that our uphill journey is over. On the contrary, I emphasize that for the next twelve months we must go ahead determinedly in order to make certain that the war shall end as soon as is humanly possible. Any slackening now on any front, whilst not necessarily meaning that we should lose the war, would delay ils victorious conclusion. And so all of us, individually and collectively, should take stock in order to see if, in any way, we are evading our responsibility? We must do what we can to finish the great task that lies before us. That may mean greater efforts on the food front, less grumbling, less spending, or more consideration for the other fellow. Whatever it means, it is our duty to find out where we are lacking, so that we may do our job effectively in our own way, leaving nothing undone which will tend to bring the war to its earliest successful conclusion.
– I listened with considerable interest to the fine speech delivered by Senator Armstrong. As a review of the war situation generally he has treated us to a fine exposition indeed. He has. given to us some insight into what has happened in the various theatres of war, and has indicated what people of our own kith and kin, as well as those in enemy countries, are suffering as the result of war. The point that struck me particularly was the possibility that the Allied successes during recent months constitute a danger, in that people in this country may become over-confident, complacent and believe that not much more needs to be done to win the war. I think that it is necessary to stress that note because from time to time we hear complaints that the people of this country are being subjected to too much regimentation, and that those in power are revealing evidences of bureaucratic control. Although, at the moment, the situation seems to be favorable to Australia, my opinion, which also is the opinion of other responsible persons in the community, is that Australia is still by no means safe. I have in mind Senator Armstrong’s reference to sudden changes of strategy on the part of the enemy. Recently, there has been such a change and the result may well be that Australia’s war strategy will have to be “re-organized. We know what has been done to the enemy, but we do not know his capacity to strike again, or where he may strike. The war will not be brought to an early and successful conclusion if the people of this country get the idea that everything is all right, and that we can rely entirely on the armed forces of our Allies. Senator Leckie commenced his speech with the statement that because the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) had not read in this chamber a statement oh international affairs similar to that presented to the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the statement was useless. Later, Senator Leckie said that the Prime Minister’s speech did not contain anything worth while. I regard Senator Leckie as a man of considerable intellectual attainments, and therefore such a statement from him amazed me. It appeared to me to be political clap-trap of the worst kind. In view of Senator Leckie’s remarks, I shall bring to his notice some of the things contained in the statement of the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman said -
I conclude this review of the war situation by saying that in this year, for the first time, the United Nations are on the offensive in all theatres, and, because we are on the offensive, the task of war becomes even more vital; for if mistakes be made our operations will not be so successful as we would wish them to be and will involve losses of our lighting men which could have been avoided.
That statement indicates that the military strategy of the United Nations as a whole has undergone an important change, and that the work that lies ahead of us calls for still greater sacrifices on the part’ of our people. Therefore, I fail to see how Senator Leckie can say that the Prime Minister’s speech contained nothing of value. The Prime Minister continued -
This is a year in which we can win all; but it is also a year iti which we could incur most grievous losses and heavy casualties, resulting in a prolongation of the war, if we diverted from the tasks of war the maximum capacity of the nation, in order that we ourselves might have that which, in the present circumstances of the conflict, we have no title to expect. I know of no burden that the people of Australia are to-day bearing which if comparable with that of the people of China or of Russia or of the United Kingdom. I speak with knowledge of the facts. As we have no burden equal to that which they are carrying, and are asked to make no sacrifices equal to those which they will still he called upon to make, it surely is not too much to ask that every man and woman in this country shall regard this year not only as a year of fate but also as a year in- which the measure of his or her devotion to the total cause will either shorten or prolong the struggle.
Surely no honorable senator can suggest that those words mean nothing. Provided the press give to statements of this kind the publicity which they deserve, they will be a clarion call to the people and help them to realize the difficulties which still lie ahead. Not so very long ago the outlook for Australia was very black indeed. At that time, the enemy could easily have gained a foothold on this continent. Further, had we found it necessary at that time to evacuate the population from those parts of the Commonwealth then under threat of invasion we would not have been able to do so. Therefore, I should be sorry if our people now believe that we have turned the corner, and that Australia is free from all danger. In the existing circumstances, public men who seize every opportunity to attack the Administration ‘on the ground that it is bureaucratic and intent upon regimenting the people, merely play into the hands of the enemy. Such criticism damages our war effort.
– The statement just made by the honorable senator that honorable senators on this side made certain statements with the object of damaging our war effort is offensive to me. Therefore, I ask for the withdrawal of those remarks.
– I was not referring to any individual honorable senator opposite. If Senator Leckie regards my remarks as offensive to him, I withdraw them. I emphasize that carping criticism of the Administration on the ground that its sole object is to establish a bureaucracy in this country and to regiment our people, is, in the present circumstances, detrimental to the best interests of the nation. That is the effect, if not the object, of such propaganda; and those who indulge in it play into the hands of the enemy.
– Does the honorable senator include in that category the recent criticism voiced against the censorship administration?
– We must ensure to every citizen the utmost liberty consistent with the prosecution of our war effort. However, should any mail addressed to me be suspect by the censorship authorities, I should not object to the censor opening it.
– Is not the honorable senator himself capable of taking appro- priate action in respect of any subversive correspondence th at might be addressed to him?
– I should certainly know how to deal with such correspondence. It would seem that our people are not sufficiently aware of the dangers that still confront this country. Therefore, a member of Parliament should act circumspectly in airing grievances concerning the Administration. He should be careful not to do anything that would lessen the faith of the people in the Government’s ability to prosecute the war effort. Senator Leckie declared that the Government was unnecessarily occupying its mind with social service legislation, the consideration of which could be deferred for many years. That is one of the most absurd statements I have heard in this chamber. Apparently the honorable senator does not realize that, during the last 27 years, the people have changed their outlook completely on this subject. The Government is determined to honour the promises it made to the people before the last general elections and, therefore, it has taken the earliest opportunity to introduce measures to provide unemployment and sickness benefits and pharmaceutical benefits. When Senator Leckie says that consideration of those matters should be deferred for many years, he is merely expressing the view which he has always held on this subject. He believes that consideration of these matters can always be postponed. To-day, however, the people look to this Parliament for action in that sphere. Senator Leckie said that the paper before us practically constituted an insult to Parliament. He described it as a rehash of reports which have appeared in the press during the last three months.
– Who gives the information to the press?
– The honor able senator apparently forgets that the press in this country is free. The larger newspaper organizations have representatives at the various battlefronts, and, no doubt, those correspondents keep their offices supplied with up-to-date information about the war. We cannot prevent such information being published in the press before it is presented to Parliament in the form of a paper like that now before us unless we are prepared to ignore the principle of freedom of the press. I hope that we shall always . preserve that principle. The publication of the information in the newspapers is, at least, evidence of its accuracy. If the Prime Minister’s official statement was simply a rehash of what had appeared in the press, it must have been correct, seeing that what the press publishes is passed by the censor. I again take exception to what Senator Leckie said in that regard. He also complained because the statement did not contain any reference to the censorship of letters, the Australian-New Zealand Agreement, or the lend-lease arrangement with the United States of America. The honorable senator may be right in saying that all sorts of information was not included in the Prime Minister’s statement dealing with the war situation, but he was wrong in asserting that it did not contain, any reference to the agreement between Australia and New Zealand.
– It did not contain any particulars.
– It referred to the agreement, and the honorable senator knows that in the same issue of Hansard appeared a statement about the agreement. I have expressed my ideas on the censorship of letters. It is not long since the Leader of the Senate made available to the Senate very extensive information in regard to the lend-lease arrangement now in existence. I do not know whether an official declaration by the Prime Minister regarding the war situation ought to contain references in extenso to all the extraneous matters that the honora’ble senator has mentioned. I therefore do not attach much importance to that section of the honorable senator’s remarks. Despite his reference to regimentation and bureaucracy, which appears to be a common form of propaganda at present, the honorable senator admits that some of the controls now exercised are necessary. He adds that some have got beyond the control of Ministers, but he does not say which, He makes bald assertions which become publicized throughout the Commonwealth, but which in the final analysis mean nothing. The successful position of Australia’s war effort is simply the. result of the economic control: exercised by the Government. Had it not been for price control, the- pegging of wages and the general utilization of national security regulation No. 76, this country could not have conducted its share of the war effort as it has done. If the Government should at one fellswoop abolish regimentation and. the system of controls, with what situation shall we be faced? Where is the equality of sacrifice about which, we hear so much ? I cannot forget that when it was proposed to limit profits by means of regulations, a- government of which the honorable senator, was a member would not agree to it.
– We brought in. regulation 76.
– But the honorable senator’s Government would not allow it to cover the limitation of profits. I know what they brought in-, and what they would, not. The honorable senator made a great deal of noise about the freedom of the people. I do not know that it has been interfered with. I should like honorable senators opposite to tell us definitely how it has been-, so that there may be no misunderstanding about what they mean by the freedom of the people* Whatever the people of Australia- are subject to- at the moment is due to some action either of the honorable senator’s Government or of’ the Curtin Government. The whole of the regulations are subject to review by Parliament, so that, if the freedom of the country is interfered with, the party opposite is just as responsible as is the present Government. Why does the honorable senator- make such silly wild assertions?” His party has had control of the Commonwealth for many years, and- the only criticism that the honorable senator can offer of the present Government is that it has introduced legislation which, in his opinion, it should not have introduced for some considerable time. The Government has the- right to bring down that legislation, because it is endeavouring to take the first steps to meet the post-war period, while at the same time not in any way interfering- with the successful prosecution of the war. The honorable senator, in referring to finance, expressed the hope that the Government would borrow no more money than was absolutely necessary. Senator Darcey has given us quite a long exposition- of the financial set-up. of’ this and other countries. I do not know that the Government has any intention to borrow more money than is- absolutely necessarythan any preceding government has had. I do not know why the honorable senator made such an observation. In the very near future the Government will ask the people to subscribe to what is to be termed the First Victory Loan.
– I was referring to borrowing from the Commonwealth Bank.
– Whether the money be obtained from the Commonwealth or any other bank, the Government, if it intends to borrow at all, must borrow somewhere. The money must come from the Commonwealth Bank, the people of Australia, or some other source*
– Does the honorable senator think that we ought to borrow more than is absolutely necessary?
– i’ do- not, but the honorable senator is, in a sense, suggesting that the Government is borrowing unnecessarily.
– So it is.
– The honorable senator and his colleagues ought to point definitely to any evidence which they possess in support of such a statement, because we are told by those who know - the official’ advisers of the Government
– Po they know?
– I presume that they were the advisers of the preceding Government unless it had advisers elsewhere.
– We did not always accept their advice.
– I do not know who were advising that Government. In my opinion the advisers of the present Government are competent and capable, and know what they are doing. They tell- the Parliament, Government, and the people that a certain suan of money is necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. It is the job of members of this Parliament to satisfy the people that that amount of money is required for that purpose, and: not to- insinuate that the Government is borrowing money unnecessarily. Such a suggestion is most mischievous, particularly in view of the complacency which I said earlier was likely to arise in Australia. The honorable senator’s remarks could be construed as complacency, because he suggests that there is no necessity to borrow the money. He may say that he had no intention of conveying that idea, but dangerous suggestions of that kind should not be made at all. They reach the ears of certain people who do not want to do, on behalf of the nation, something that they otherwise would be required to do.
– In conformity with the sessional order that, unless otherwise ordered, the motion for the adjournment shall be put on Fridays at 3.45 p.m., I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
To His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Your Grace,
We, all of British blood and descent, having; studied the fundamental causes of the present world unrest, have long been forced to the conclusion that an essential first step towards the return of human happiness and brotherhood with economic security and liberty of life and conscience, such as will permit the Christian ethic to flourish again, is the immediate resumption by the community in each nation of its prerogative over the issue of money, including its modern credit substitutes.
This prerogative has been usurped by those still termed in general “bankers” both national and international, who have perfected a technique to enable themselves to create the money they lend by the granting of bookkeeping credits, and to destroy it by the withdrawal of the latter at their discretion, in accordance with entirely mistaken and obsolete ideas which they do not defend against impartial and informed scientific criticism and examination.
In this way a form of national money debt has been invented in which the lender surrenders nothing at all, and which it is physically an impossibility for the community ever to repay. Any attempt to do so produced the artificial “ economic blizzard “ as it did after the 1014-18 war.
That is not merely a statement of my own; it is a statement which has been subscribed to by a recognized world economist, Professor Frederick Soddy. Surely, if such an eminent gentleman felt justified in appending his name to the appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, there must be some truth in the assertions that it makes. The appeal continues -
Under the world’s present financial system the money, except for a now trifling proportion, is originally created by the issue of a loan at interest by the “ bankers “ who lend nothing themselves, but in effect make a forced levy in kind on the nation by conferring on the borrower the power to purchase a corresponding amount of wealth on the market, which wealth does not belong to them, or those who borrow from them, but to the community. The proceeds of the issue of new money - whether of paper or any other form of credit money - belong to the nation in which it is, or is accepted as, legal tender, and not to the issuer. Herein lies the basic flaw of the existing monetary system.
By this .method, which has come to be regarded as legal by virtue of established practice, the banks in our country are responsible for the issue of new money of their own creation amounting to-day to between two and three thousand million pounds - this being the difference between loans extended, including those to themselves, and those repaid since they instituted the system a number of years ago and are thereby extracting by way of interest an annual tribute from the nation of over £100.000,000 for what has now become to them a relatively costless and riskless service.
But the real danger, weir understood in every preceding era of history, is the undermining of all lawfully constituted authority by the creation and destruction of money carried on in secret for private gain and the acquisition of power.
That is the opinion of a group of wellinformed citizens of Great Britain. It bears out the view expressed so frequently in this chamber by .Senator Darcey. The appeal concludes -
It is particularly in view of its devastating effects in the moral sphere that we have ventured to refer to Ecclesiastical Authority, and to invoke the churches to action.
That document represents a request to the churches of Great Britain as represented by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whether or not something will be done to right the wrong remains to be seen; but it is the prerogative of every nation to make available to its citizens the necessary requirements of national credit, on a controlled basis. The difference between national credit and private finance is that, whilst under the present system the people of the British race agree to grant to a few privileged individuals the right to create, issue and cancel credit, they should declare that right to be the prerogative of the government, in the interests of the people. Senator Leckie has declared that we should not borrow money unnecessarily and thereby increase our interest burden; I submit that under a system of national credit the Government could, with the consent of Parliament, release the credit reserves necessary to finance the prosecution of the war. At present that power is in the hands of certain private commercial institutions which are able to make profits at the expense of the people under war conditions. The credit reserves of this country are so great that they cannot be assessed either in actual assets or potential assets. That is the way I see it, and that is the way in which the people of Australia eventually will have to see the whole problem of the financial structure of this country. I concede that the external situation is more difficult; but there is nothing wrong with the internal economy of a country if the Government provides its own financial resources to meet the situation in time of stress or boom, as the case may be. In 1931, the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, desired the Government to make available for the relief of unemployment and to assist the primary industries of this country the paltry amount of £18,000,000. I say “ paltry “ because £18,000,000 compared with £1,500,000 a day now expended on war is paltry. But we were told by the Senate of that time - when the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was Prime Minister - that it would ruin this nation to make £18,000,000 available to meet the exceptional circumstances of the time. Instead of going on the money market and paying inordinate interest rates of 6 per cent., 7 per cent, or 8 per cent, for accommodation from private enterprise, the then Treasurer said, “Let us have this money in what we shall call fiduciary currency ‘ “ ; but “ No ! “, said the Senate, because that was a departure from the profit motive that provides “ perks “ and “ rake-offs “ to people who have no more right to create credit than I have. I should be put in gaol “ quick and lively “ for dealing in counterfeit currency if I attempted to create credit, but we allow the financial institutions to deal in counterfeit currency all the time and pay them for doing so. I submit that when that Government wanted £18,000,000 of “fiduciary currency”, as it was termed, it was simply asking that the principle of national credit be brought into operation to meet the situation. But, in the eyes of the Senate, it was not orthodox finance, because it did not involve the payment of interest. The wealth of a nation is what it produces. There is nobody in this Parliament who can assess the potential value of the resources of this country. So, as a community, as a parliament, and as a government, we doubtless can, without calling upon ourselves and posterity to pay annually £60,000,000 or £100,000,000 in interest to private enterprise, create our own credit, and control that credit. We can release it or withdraw it according to the requirements of society in general rather than have the situation m which we were placed in the depression years when 25 per cent, of the Australian people were forced to suffer starvation and degradation.
Debate (on motion by Senator Amour) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I oppose the motion for the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders. This bill and the second-reading speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) have only just reached me. An important measure like this deserves serious consideration at every stage. The bill was considerably amended during the allnight sitting of the House of Representatives. I have said on other occasions that the practice of suspending the Standing and Sessional Orders to pass a bill through all stages without delay is much abused. I understand that, if the Leader of the Senate succeeds in having his motion agreed to, he proposes to force this measure through all stages before the Senate adjourns. I enter an emphatic protest against that. It is a physical impossibility for us to do justice to this measure under the conditions proposed. I, therefore, hope that the Leader of the Senate will withdraw his motion and allow the measure to take its normal course through this chamber. Under the National Security Act, the Government has all the power it needs to make regulations to deal with the coal-mining industry, but unfortunately it lacks the courage to exercise that power. For political reasons, it, has decided to bludgeon this measure through Parliament as a facesaver, because the coal-miners on the South Coast have been on strike for fourteen or fifteen days. The proposed course is unreasonable and I hope that the Government will not follow it.
.- The course proposed by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) in a deliberative assembly is a travesty on parliamentary government. The bill has only just been circulated, and I have not had a chance to study it. I suppose that I am to be required to digest it before six o’clock, notwithstanding that it is one of the most far-reaching measures that has ever been placed before Parliament. I had been able to comprehend the effect of the bill as it was originally introduced in the House of Representatives, but during its passage through that House in the early hours of this morning it was amended at the instance of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in many directions. What chance have honorable senators on either side had to study the effects of those amendments? Why this unseemly haste anyway? I suppose that the Government has had this measure in mind for months and has brought it down only because of the failure of all the other courses it took in the hope of inducing the coal-miners to produce coal. I shall be able during the second-reading debate to say what I think about the Government’s present course. So I will confine myself now to the motion for the suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders in order that the bill may be passed without delay. It is ludicrous for the Leader of the Senate to suggest that such a measure could be debated intelligently in little more than an hour. I find it hard to believe that the Minister is earnest in moving that this procedure be adopted. The suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders should be resorted to only in an emergency, but the honorable gentleman has moved for their suspension almost every time a bill has been introduced.
– There is no hurry. We can go on until Monday morning.
– Yes. Why does the Minister not agree to deliver his second-reading speech and then adjourn the debate until to-morrow morning when, having studied it and the bill overnight, we shall be able to debate it with minds refreshed. I believe the measure contains 62 clauses and a schedule: The Minister’s second-reading speech occupies several pages of foolscap. That is enough for us to have before us at the moment without our being required to proceed to deal with the bill without delay. I do not know what the people of Australia will think of the Senate when they learn what its Leader has proposed and what, no doubt, he will use his majority to enforce. The Senate does not stand as high in the eyes of the people of Australia as it should, but this action drags its name down into the mud. It must not be forgotten that on previous occasions, except for a few minor instances in which we have not asked for it, the Leader of the Senate, after having obtained the suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders, has allowed the adjournment of the debate after the second-reading speech has been delivered in order that the bill might be examined. On this occasion, however, the Government expects us to pass a bill which we have not examined. We do not know what important Government amendments were made in the House of Representatives, and we have only a vague idea of what was in the original bill. It is a reflection on the Government that after the bill had been printed it was found that it fell short of what was wanted by the Government and that there were discrepancies and shortcomings which had to be removed. We desire to improve the bill. There may be other discrepancies which have escaped attention and we need time to find them in order that they may be eliminated. It is m insult to this branch of the Common wealth legislature for the Government to throw this measure before us and say that we must accept the responsibility of passing it without delay. I ask the Leader of the Senate to display the spirit of reasonableness which hitherto has always marked his conduct of Government business in this chamber and to withdraw his motion so that we shall have the opportunity to consider the bill in detail. The bill commits Australia to a radical departure from policy in regard to the control of industry. It is an intricate measure requiring the closest study. I ask the Minister not to cast his sense of the fitness of things to the wind. In his heart he knows that our request is reasonable. If he prefers to bludgeon this bill through I shall protest will all my power against this grave abuse of power.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has made a reasonable suggestion. It is most unfair to ask the Senate to consider a measure which has just been circulated. There is no urgency about this bill. The House of Representatives has risen, so it cannot become law before next Tuesday at the earliest. We are asked to depart from the Standing and Sessional Orders, which give the right to honorable senators to discuss measures in a fair way.
.- The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) should endeavour to safeguard the rights of the Senate. We should be masters in our own house and uphold the status of the Senate as a house of review. If the Leader of the Senate were guided by his own judgment in this matter the same procedure would be followed in dealing with this measure as with bills generally. After the Minister has made his speech on the motion for the second reading of the measure, he should agree to the adjournment of the debate. There is no good reason why that well-established custom should be departed from, but the Government proposes that a different procedure shall be adopted in considering this bill, which deal: with industrial disputes and embodies entirely new principles. Amendments to the bill were made at the instance of the Government in the House of
Representatives last night or early this morning, and other amendments were submitted by the Opposition in that chamber and accepted by the Government. We should not set up the dangerous precedent which would be established if we agreed to the course which the Government asks us to follow on this occasion. Does the Leader of the Senate believe that the proposed procedure would be fair, since the debate on the second reading could take place to-morrow and the measure could be further considered on Monday. Every opportunity should be given for a close consideration of the bill, so that the new principles involved may be properly examined. The Leader of the Senate, in his usual generous way, should admit that the request is reasonable and that the Senate should have an opportunity to take its own time in considering this far-reaching measure, which may be the forerunner of many other important bills of a similar kind.
– We all claim to be democrats, and believe that the Parliament is the guardian of democracy. The people trust the Parliament to legislate in their interests, and think that it gives adequate attention to the bills presented for its consideration. The Standing Orders are for the protection of Parliament against a dictatorial or tyrannous government, or one which endeavours to use a brutal majority to prevent proper consideration of the legislation submitted to Parliament. Certain honorable senators who support the Government have said that this is not the first time that a motion in these terms has been submitted. It is a very useful motion when applied to bills on which honorable senators on both sides are in substantial agreement. As a rule agreement is reached between the Leader of the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition for the waiving of all obstacles in the consideration of measures on which there arc no differences of opinion, so that they may be passed: without delay. When the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) objects to the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders and asks for a reasonable time to consider a bill of a major kind, the action of the Leader of the Senate in proposing to make improper use of the Standing and Sessional Orders so nearly approaches tyranny that the time has arrived when the practice should be stopped. Either we believe in democracy, and recognize that legislative proposals should be considered by the representatives of the people, or the Government should admit that it believes in tyranny and proposes to legislate regardless of the views of the representatives of more than 40 per cent. of the people. The Leader of the Senate has been noted in the past for fair play, and he should agree not to force this bill through the chamber without due consideration. I do not propose to deal with the measure if the time allowed for its proper consideration is insufficient. I ask the Leader of the Senate to reconsider the motion.
.- I enter an emphatic protest against the motion. I am surprised that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) should seek to force it through this chamber. I and other members of the Senate have been impressed by the fact that the Minister has shown a disposition, during the present sittings, to have regard for the rights and responsibilities of honorable senators, but after 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon he introduces a major bill of 62 clauses, which none of us has previously seen. I agree that the bill is important.
– Its passage is urgently necessary.
– No evidence has been submitted that its passage through all stages without delay is urgently necessary. It is clear that no such urgent necessity arises in the case of this measure. Everything contained in the bill could be provided by the Government in 24 hours by regulations. In fact, most of the proposals contained in it are to be found in regulations already in force. If the existing regulations do not satisfy the Government it is free to make any alterations that it may desire. For reasons best known to itself the Government has said. “ We want to go through the form at any rate of making Parliament take the responsibility for this measure. We want to alter part of the law in respect of the control of coal mines. We will not do that on our own responsibility, but we want the imprimatur of Parliament “.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing at all. If the Government says that it desires honorable senators to do that, if must give them an opportunity to consider what they are asked to do. That contention is unanswerable. Instead of the Leader of the Senate taking the responsibility on his own shoulders, he desires to throw it on this chamber.
– The honorable senator would not approve the proposals in the bill in any circumstances.
– The honorable senator does not know whether I would oi- not. Many portions of this bill I may not approve, but, until I have had time to consider it, I cannot express a conclusive opinion. The chief duty of honorable senators is to consider the wisdom of legislation presented to this chamber. The standing order on which the Minister relies is surely proposed to be misused for this purpose. It states, not in any set of circumstances, but in cases of urgent necessity, that any standing order may be suspended. What is the urgent necessity for this motion?
– That is our business.
– No. We now get that dictatorial attitude, which permeates the Labour party. We are told that whether the matter is one of urgent necessity is no business of Parliament. It is some secret that must be confined to the caucus room. I contend that it is the business of the Senate to require the Minister to satisfy the chamber that the urgency of the situation entitles him to seek the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders. Unless he can establish a case of urgent necessity, his action this afternoon is a misuse of the powers contained in the Standing and Sessional Orders. The House of Representatives has adjourned until next Tuesday.
– Wrong again!
– This time the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is wrongly informed. The Leader of the Senate has declared: “ I insist upon proceeding with the bill. I shall not allow honorable senators time to consider it in order that they may debate it intelligently. I shall use my majority to ensure that the Senate shall not perform its proper functions, and the bill will be bludgeoned through this chamber without the considered views of the representatives of the people being expressed on the proposals contained in it “. I protest as strongly as I can against this misuse of power by a responsible Minister.
.- The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) acted most unfairly in introducing so late in the week a bill of such dimensions and such importance as the Coal Production (War- time) Bill and asking honorable senators to proceed with’ it before they have had an opportunity to give it the consideration that it warrants. Honorable senators perused the measure when it was introduced in the House of Representatives, but last night the bill was extensively amended a.nd we have not had an opportunity to examine the effect of those amendments. I suspect something sinister in this haste to pass the bill. Many regulations relating to the coalmining industry have been promulgated, and, as Senator Spicer stated, most of the powers contained in the bill already exist in the regulations. However, I am gratified that the Government has introduced the bill, because government by regulation is bad in principle and in practice. A few days ago there was one more upheaval in the coal-mining industry.
– Only one?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Another one. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) issued instructions that certain miners should be served with notices calling them up for military service. A time limit was imposed, and presumably if the Prime Minister’s directions were not obeyed before the expiration of that period, drastic action would follow. I ask the Leader of the Senate whether that time limit bears any relationship to the time limit that he has imposed this afternoon. The circumstances lead me to think so. In all its dealings with the coal-miners, the Curtin Government has excused his action in removing the penalties that have been imposed upon strikers.
Before the time limit expires, an excuse will have to be found for withdrawing the call-up notices served on the miners. The probabilities are that the Prime Minister desires to be in a position to say to the strikers : “ Now, boys, the Parliament has passed legislation, and if you will return to work you will not be penalized “. I urge the Minister to treat the Senate with the respect that it deserves’. If he expects this chamber to fulfil its proper functions in the government of the country, he must not act as he has done this afternoon.
. -in reply - I cannot agree to the suggestions of honorable senators opposite for the postponement of the consideration of this bill until next week. I can only describe this measure as one of “ deadly urgency “. No one regrets more than I do the necessity for hastening the passage of the bill; and no one is more anxious than I am to allow honorable senators ample time to consider every piece of legislation introduced in this chamber. But my views and their views are transcended on this occasion by the urgent necessity for increasing the production of coal. Two days ago, I informed the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that I desired the Senate to treat this bill as a matter of urgency. I listened to a good deal of the debate in the House of Representatives last night, and heard the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and honorable members move the amendments to which honorable senators have referred this afternoon. Only one of the amendments was really vital. The Senate must dispose of the bill to-day. I shall not hasten its passage, but it must be completed before the Senate rises. I am not prepared to grant an adjournment of the debate after the second reading of the bill has been moved. This measure relates not to the manufacture of aircraft or the production of food but to the coal-mining industry. The proposals of the Government represent an honest attempt to increase the output of coal. As the original bill was circulated many days ago, honorable senators have had ample opportunity to examine it.
– Not this bill.
– The amendments made by the House of Representatives were, in most respects, of a minor nature. None of the amendments submitted by the Opposition was vital. The most important amendment was that which made the coal commissioner subject to ministerial control. This subject has been talked to death in the House of Representatives. Honorablesenators who object to proceeding with the bill this afternoon, disregard the urgent needs of the country. When the Menzies Government was in office, stoppages occurred in the coalmining industry. The Cur tin Government has given everything-
– That is true.
– What is wrong with that statement? The Government ismaking an honest endeavour to increase the output of coal. Previously, it tried penalties and resorted to every other means to achieve its objective. Its efforts should have the wholehearted support of every honorable senator.
Question put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
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 bill as to secure increased production of coal, to provide for its distribution in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth, the effectual prosecution of the war, and for other purposes. I preface my remarks on the bill itself by admitting frankly that this legislation has become necessary almost solely because of the all-too-frequent interruptions of production which occur with such distressing regularity on the coal-fields of New South Wales. One of the most important phases of the bill is that which permits the commissioner to be appointed under it to take over operational control of any mine, and to become, in point of fact, the employer of all persons normally or usually engaged at that mine. For this reason, it may be opportune to point out that legislation throughout Australia in favour of the Crown ownership of minerals, including coal, is by no means the result of accident, but is, on the contrary, a statutory recognition of what is felt to be a national necessity, and is the outcome of a growing conviction that the country’s interests are best served by public ownership of all minerals. I shall state the underlying reasons for this conviction. First, all lands should be used for the highest purpose for which they are endowed, and no more essential service can be rendered by any portion of the community than the provision of fuel supplies for a country, particularly in time of war.Consequently, it is necessary in the public interests to exercise supervision over methods of working to ensure continuity of production, to conserve the health and safety of employees, and to conserve supplies of coal for future generations by the elimination of all causes of waste. In Great Britain, all coal is alienated from the Crown and the disabilities resulting from private ownership were considered by a royal commission on the coal-mining industry in 1925. The commission, which was presided over by Sir Herbert Samuel, arrived at the following conclusions : -
We concur in the general conclusion that the system of private ownership of this great natural resource is open to grave objection. We are convinced that any unbiased inquiry could not fail to lead’ to the conclusion that the private ownership of minerals has not been in thebestinterest of the community, and it would have been very fortunate for the country if, three and a half centuries ago, when the judges decided that the minerals other than gold or silver belonged to the surface owner, the legislature had reversed that decision and reserved coal to the State.
It will’, therefore, be seen that competent authorities in Britain agree that the title to all minerals, including coal, should remain vested in the Crown. The point I desire to make is that, whilst it is now universally accepted, that ownership of coal should remain in the Crown, this bill makes it possible for the Commonwealth to operate and mine coal for the purpose of maintaining or increasing production, and so meeting this country’s requirements in what may , be regarded as, perhaps, its most essential war commodity. Some people believe that this measure of control of production is one which should be always exercised by the Crown, but I want to make it perfectly clear that the present bill automatically lapses within six months after the end of present hostilities. Honorable senators will remember that coal production reached record proportions in Australia in 1942, and whilst there was a substantial decline of. production in the following year, it is proper to point out that, even in. that year, the output exceeded the average production of all previous years. The Government admits quite frankly that it is by no means satisfied with last year’s efforts. Taking into consideration the productive capacity of the coal mines of Australia, the output should have been substantially greater. In other States of the Commonwealth it is true that production is small compared with the output of New South Wales, but the importance of locally produced coal to the services and industries of the State in which it is produced cannot be over-emphasized. In. all the other States the industry has responded splendidly to the call for increased production. There have been relatively few strikes ; indeed, it is pleasing to be able to say that last year there were none at all in Tasmania, whilst the losses in Queensland from that cause were negligible.
Most of the black coal obtained in Victoria is produced at the State coal mine at Wonthaggi, an enterprise which is often condemned by unthinking people as being evidence of the failure of a State enterprise. As a matter of fact, private ownership would never attempt to develop a coal mine in Victoria of the size of Wonthaggi, because the very nature of the seams being worked prevent any real possibility of those mines being carried on at a profit in competition with much more readily won coal from the New South Wales and other coal-fields. Victorian seams are narrow, broken and badly faulted, and the productive capacity per man employed is necessarily substantially reduced. In Western Australia, officers of the Coal Commission have been most active in planning the opening of new mines and in reorganizing existing mines. Two new mines - one a tunnel, and the other an open cut - are already in production, whilst in the older mines improved methods of mining, as well as improved airways and ventilating systems, are now either operating or in tie process of development.
New South Wales produces approximately 82 per cent, of the total . coal requirements of Australia, and it is estimated that the productive capacity of those mines is at least 13,500,000 tons per annum, after allowing for all reasonable losses of production arising from all causes. It is believed by the Government that with the existing machinery there can be no reasonable excuse for the majority of the stoppages which have occurred, on the coal-fields of New South Wales. The safety and health of employees in that State is protected by probably the most comprehensive code of rules and regulations applying to coalminers anywhere in the world, whilst preceding Governments; as well as this Government, have appointed various industrial tribunals to enable industrial disputes to be determined quickly in the areas in which they arise. The Government has therefore decided to place all the facts before Parliament, and to bring down this bill, so that the representatives of the people will have the opportunity of directing the measures which should be taken to improve the present position, and to ensure that coal is produced and distributed for all purposes essential to the war.
I shall proceed now to discuss briefly the purposes of the bill itself. Honorable senators will be aware that for some time past a Commonwealth Coal Commission has been invested with powers as to the production, distribution, and consumption of coal under the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations. The bill provides for the appointment of a single commissioner, and. empowers the Governor-General to appoint two persons as advisers to assist him. The commissioner will be subject to the direction of the Minister as to matters of policy. In many respects the hill imposes in the commissioner powers, functions and obligations of a like nature to those already existing and imposed in the commission under the National Security Regulations referred to. There are, however, many important additional powers and functions contained in the bill, and. to these I shall more particularly confine my remarks. The commissioner will have power to appoint in any State, or part of a State, a coal production council to inquire into and advise the commissioner on any matter as to production. Power is given to the commissioner to require an owner to acquire, modify, or replace plant or machinery, and to make advances to coal-owners for the purpose of assisting in the operation and development of their mines. The more important provisions of the bill are to be found, however, in Part IV., relating to the control of coal mines. The commissioner will have power to take over the operational control of any mine and to do all things necessary to maintain or increase production at that mine. The owner will be entitled to compensation if he suffers loss or damage by reason of such control. On the other hand, it seems only just that, provided the control of the commissioner is shown to have resulted in additional profits, such additional profits which, on the hypothesis I have mentioned, will not have been earned by the owner; shall not go into his pocket. It is proposed that this excess profit, if any, shall be applied for the advancement of the coal industry as a whole, including social welfare schemes. In order to give full effect to this proposal a Coal Mines Profits (War-time) Bill will be introduced in order to carry into effect the scheme outlined in clause 23.
If the operational control of a mine is assumed, then the manager and all persons employed in administrative and similar capacities, and all persons otherwise employed at the mine, will become officers and employees of the commissioner on the terms and conditions on which they were employed immediately prior to the assumption of control. An employee of any controlled mine who wilfully disobeys any lawful direction, or fails, without leave or reasonable excuse, to attend and perform his duties, shall, subject to the order of the commissioner, incur deductions from pay in accordance with a scale contained in the schedule to the act, and any amounts sd deducted shall be controlled by the Commissioner and used for the same purposes as excess profits already referred to.
Another important phase of the bill is contained in that relating to industrial matters in Part V. The Government has given close consideration to the questions involved and has arrived at the conclusion that industrial matters must be regarded as being completely allied to the problem of securing increased production, and therefore all industrial problems will in the future be centred in the commissioner, and dealt with and determined by industrial authorities appointed by the Minister. There will be a central industrial authority and various local industrial authorities which will take the place of the present central coal authority and existing local reference boards. Broadly speaking, the central industrial authority will deal with all matters which affect the industry generally, whilst local industrial authorities- will deal with all problems and disputes arising within the limits of the locality to which they are appointed. The commissioner will also have power to appoint industrial officers to investigate and report to local industrial authorities on any dispute or matter which arises. At any coal mine the commissioner may also appoint a production committee consisting of an equal number of repre- sentatives of the management and the employees as he thinks fit, and, in addition, he may appoint some person to represent him on any such production committee. These production committees will have power to deal with industrial disputes which arise at a mine. They are to endeavour to maintain harmonious relations, but, in addition, they will have power to advise the management or the commissioner with respect to means by which production at particular mines may be increased.
The other clauses of the bill dealing with industrial matters are mainly a repetition of powers already imposed in these various authorities by the existing regulations. The bill also gives to the commissioner power to acquire land for the purpose of opening or re-opening a mine, and where the commissioner directs or authorizes a person to re-open a mine that person is not liable to any action by reason of complying with such direction. Questions involving the safety and health of employees remain within the ambit of the administration of the Mines Departments of the various States, and in accordance with the laws governing those matters in such States; but if any question arises as a result of which there may be interruption of production on either safety or health grounds, the commissioner is empowered to refer the question to an inspector of coal mines of the State for report to the commissioner. As* far as practicable that inspector will collaborate with the manager of the mine and the check inspector for the district or State, and on receipt of such report the commissioner shall take such action as he considers proper in the circumstances. As I have said, the remaining .clauses of the bill are largely a repetition of the existing regulations under which the Commonwealth Coal Commission has functioned, and the only other provision to which I need expressly refer is that which authorizes the commissioner to direct that a person shall no longer be employed in the coal-mining industry.
The Government appreciates the fact that the obligations imposed upon the commissioner will be heavy and onerous, and that the powers conferred on him by the bill are extraordinarily wide; but as I said earlier, the Government regards all these things as being necessary in order to ensure that all practicable means of increasing production are adopted without delay and pressed forward vigorously, private and vested interests, whether of employer or of organizations of employees, being subordinated to the overriding needs of increased production. For these reasons I commend the bill to the Senate.
– In view of the previous statement of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) I presume that the Government refuses to allow the debate to be adjourned, and for that reason I shall have to discuss the bill without having had an opportunity to peruse the amendments made to it in the House of Representatives. Those amendments can, perhaps, be dealt with best in the committee stage.
The people of this country are tired of the promises of the Curtin Government with reference to strikes in the coalmining industry. The inaction of the Government is unfair to the men and women of the fighting services who are being governed under one law, whilst irresponsible sections in the coal-mining industry are, as the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) put it, dealt with under a policy of miserable appeasement because the Government has allowed the coalmining industry to get out of hand. I hope that the discussion of this measure will be conducted on a high plane. I hope, too, that supporters of the Government . will appreciate the attitude of service men towards the continual hum-bug that is taking place. It is not comforting to the parents and relatives of our fighting men, or to those in the community who are interested, in the war effort and appreciate the splendid work done by our gallant Allies, that for over two years the Prime Minister (Mir. Curtin) has not done more than make promises to act in the interests of the nation. When we compare the statements which the right honorable gentleman has made from time to time on the subject of coal production with the actions of his Government we are forced to the conclusion that the Government has been spineless. Its failure to govern, and its refusal to enforce the law, are unworthy of responsible parliamentary government. I am amazed that a man of the calibre of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who held a high judicial office, should have prostituted it by retiring from it and entering a government by which laws are made giving preference to one section of the community, which consists of prominent political supporters. It is proposed to give to a political supporter of the Government the power to override all Arbitration Court awards, State laws, and Commonwealth laws. There should be candid criticism, in the National Parliament of the manner in which the Attorney-General, with the knowledge that he possesses and the experience that he has had, has allowed himself to toady to the whim and the will of the executive of the Australian Labour party. From time to time, responsible Ministers have stated that the laws of the land are to be enforced. That the laws of the land have not been enforced, that fines which have been inflicted have not been collected. and that the threat that if the miners were not prepared to work they would have to fight has not been executed, constitute a disgrace to this country. After two years of administration by the present Government, the coal position of Australia is worse to-day than it was during any previous period of its history, and worse than that of any other country in the world. It is disgusting to find. men on strike day after day, and the Government issuing the instruction to the censor that candid criticism shall not be broadcast over the national stations. Ministers are ashamed of their conduct, and fear that the people may learn the truth. From time to time, the argument has been advanced that the Government has not had the power to deal with this industry. National Security Regulations give to it all the powers that it requires. From the Sth August, 1941, no fewer than 21 statutory rules have been gazetted dealing with control in the coal-mining industry. The first of these contained 31 regulations. When the regulations under Statutory Rules 1942 No. 11, under which Ministers were given almost dictatorial powers, were discussed in this chamber, the
Minister in charge said that those powers were necessary in order to to deal with the problems of the coalmining industry. To come down at the present time with a comprehensive bill and to say that this is a matter for determination by the representatives of the people, is to indulge in nothing but sheer humbug. Responsible parliamentary government has been subordinated to union control and mob rule. The passage of this measure will not have the effect of increasing the production of coal, of preventing strikes, or of causing irresponsibles to desist from continuing to practise in the future the policy that, they have practised in the past, unless the Government is prepared to act, and to abide by the consequences. I can prove that a display of vaccillation and condonation of lawlessness equal to that of the Prime Minister has never previously been witnessed in this country. I shall recite various important statements that have been made by the right honorable gentleman since early in 1942, when he told the people of this country that the coal-miners would have to either work or fight. I shall select only some of his statements, in order to show that he and his Government have preached in one direction and practised in almost the opposite direction. On the 25th July, 1943, Mr. Curtin said- -
I warn every coal-miner that the law will be enforced absolutely. As a Labour man, I will regard every coal-miner who stops work not only as a law breaker, who should and will be punished, but also as a factor in giving aid to the enemies of his country.
That language is identical with the language that I have used in criticism of the Government. On the 26th October, 1943, addressing a conference of coal-miners, the Prime Minister said -
The difficulties of our comrades in the forces are far more grievous than are ours. I do not know of any coal-miner in Australia who has to put up with the difficulties to which coa.miners in Britain are subjected.
I put it to you that this “ gimme “ attitude can no longer mark the submissions of either the trade unions or the employers’ organizations to the Australian Government.
The success or failure of the efforts of my Government will depend upon you and the men you represent.
I know in my heart that any relaxation of effort at this stage not only would mean failure to carry on with the job, but also would give to the enemy advantages which he ought not to have, and deprive our own forces of advantages in fighting which they could easily gain if we were to stick it out as we should do, and as I am sure we shall do.
On the 26th January, 1944, the Prime Minister said -
One thing at least is clear, that the Government, having applied the law, will enforce it, and, if it cannot enforce it, then it ceases to be the kind of government that the people of this country could respect, and being unable to respect, should no longer tolerate.
On the 1st February, 1944, the right honorable gentleman said -
I address a few quiet words to the workers of this country. . . .
I put it to the workers that as a class they have been given much by this Government. Equally, they have responsibilities not only to the Government and the nation, but they have a duty to their class. For, if they fail the Government and the nation at this crucial period in our history, then they fail their own class for all time. . . .
I put it again to the workers of this country. I see no escape from the strains and stresses that war has imposed. Victory alone can effect the desired change. Without victory, the workers as a class and Australia as a nation vanish. . . .
The Government will not give way to pressure groups.
Have honorable senators ever heard anything so contrary to the policy which the right honorable gentleman has practised during the whole term of his office? He continued -
It will stand as firmly as it does against the enemy. I ask the workers to stand as firmly for Australia.
There are only two references that I shall make to the bill. It is obvious that this is an attempt by the Government to introduce into the coal-mining industry a dose of socialization. It is interesting to note that over a period of eleven years the loss to the taxpayers that has been caused by the State-owned coal mine at Wonthaggi has been more than £1,000,000. The Minister of Mines in Victoria, in discussing this loss, made the following comment : -
When the raine is working, our deportment is losing £3,000 per week, but whilst it is idle wo lose only £1,000 per week.
The price of coal from the State coal mine at Lithgow is higher than that of any private coal mine in the district. In the last four years, the Lithgow mine has shown a profit on only one occasion, and in 1943 it lost more than £16,000. Apart from the State-owned coal mines, there is sufficient evidence inQueensland and in other parts of Australia to show that where Labour governments have attempted to nationalize or socialize industries, in the majority of instances there have been losses, and prices have been increased. With the existence of union control, if the Government intends to pursue this policy in connexion with key industries, it will build up a store of trouble. Prices will be forced up considerably, and the economic effect will be felt by all sections of the community. This bill is a step in that direction.
The other very unsatisfactory feature of the bill is a proposal to set up a central industrial authority. I cannot understand what the Attorney-General must have been thinking about. If honorable senators will read the provision carefully, they will find that the person tobe appointed is to have authority over practically all State coal-mining laws, Arbitration Court judges, andthe like. All parties in Parliament appreciate the fact that the arbitration courts of Australia, whilst not perfect, have been able to improve the conditions of the workers, and to remove the causes of many industrial disputes. They recognize that this method of settling industrial disputes has been of considerable assistance.
– They have not been very successful in the coal-mining industry.
– Because a spineless government has not been prepared to back up the umpire. When such a position arises in any country, the blame is attachable not to the Arbitration Court, but to those who administer the laws. I was amazed to discover that the Government, running true to form, decided to appoint one of its own political supporters, Mr. A. C. Willis, to occupy a high position in the coal industry, in preference to a judge of the Arbitration Court. We have always prided ourselves that the law in Australia provides for fair play and British justice. I do not attack Mr. Willis personally, but his appointment as the central industrial authority is evidence of the Government’s partisanship and political bias, and of its desire to toady to a section of its political supporters.
In these circumstances, how can the owners as parties to disputes in the industry expect to receive justice? Mr. Willis, who was a miner in Wales, came to Australia in 1911. He was general secretary of the ‘Coal and Shale Employees Federation. He founded the Labor Daily, and he was a foundation member of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party. In a statement issued to the press in Sydney on the 26th January last, he said -
It is not easy to sort out the “ incorrigible and impossible “ men in the coal industry.
My sympathies naturally are with the miners, and I have to protect them against employers who would brand men they did not like as incorrigible in order to get them out at any price. At the same time, I have no sympathy with the few incorrigibles still remaining in the industry, and it is my intention to attempt to identify them. 1 desire to say emphatically that there are some employers who should be put out of the industry. They are greater troublemakers than many of the employees.
The action of the Government in appointing a man who made that statement to be the central industrial authority, shows to what extremes the Government will go to offer sops to incorrigibles in the industry. In spite of the fact that Mr. Willis has virtually occupied this position for some weeks, the number of strikes which has occurred since he assumed office exceeds the number which has occurred in any corresponding period since the outbreak of the war. Despite that fact, the Government is prepared to clothe this gentleman with the authority of a dictator. I emphatically protest against that appointment, and the policy from which it springs. That policy will do more harm than good in the industry. Many statements have been made in Parliament concerning coal strikes in other countries. Honorable senators opposite have referred to strikes in Great Britain. We have been told on many occasions that conditions in the coal mining industry are not comparable with conditions in other industries. Honorable senators will be interested in a comparison between results achieved in the coal mining industry in Great Britain and in New South Wales. In 1939, 776,000 employees were engaged in the industry in Great Britain, and that number dropped to 709,000 in 1942, a decrease of 7£ per cent. In the same years, 16,581 and 17,067 respectively .were engaged in the industry in New South Wales, an increase of 3 per cent. For the year 1942-43, the loss of coal production in Great Britain was 750,000 tons, or a loss of an average of one ton for each employee per annum, whereas during the same period the loss of production in New South Wales was 1,294,000, or an average loss of approximately 75 tons for 6ach employee per annum. The Prime Minister has stated that the loss of coal production in New South Wales last year was over 2,000,000 tons, and this indicates an additional huge loss of production which can only be attributed to ridiculous tolerance of irresponsibility on the part of the Government.
My next point is that the Government proposes to take the power to take over and retain control of the mines for the duration of the war and six months after the war ends. I should like to know exactly what is the Government’s intention in this respect. Is it prepared, at the behest of the executive of the Australian Labour party, to implement its policy of socialization in this industry after the war? This measure is but a temporary expedient to tide the Government over its difficulties during the war period, but, we cannot gainsay the fact that any policy now applied to the industry, particularly a policy dictated by the miners, will have serious repercussions on our post-war economy, and will affect all sections of the community. In this respect I remind honorable senators of happenings in the industry in Great Britain after the last war, until the mines were handed back by the Government in 1921. I should like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) to say definitely whether the Government proposes to hand back the collieries to the owners six months after the war. Considerable doubt has arisen on this point because, whilst the Prime Minister has declared that the Government will not implement its socialistic policy in war-time, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) and other Ministers, have said that the Government intends after the war to maintain as government instrumentalities some of the factories established by the Government for the manufacture of war materials. Events in the industry in Great Britain after the last war are of considerable significance in this respect. Many interesting observations are made by Mr. J. B.. Baynes in a review of the conditions which prevailed in the industry in Great Britain. This review was - published by Ernest Benn Limited, of London, in 1928, and before reading some extracts from that report I emphasize our need to give close consideration to the cold hard facts revealed by experience. The Senate will be well advised to consider carefully the implications of these observations insofar as they can be applied to the industry in this country. On page 174 of the report to which I refer the following paragraph appears : -
The 1920 conference of the miners’ federation was informed by Mr. Hodges that “ we are going to create a first-class economic crisis which will reduce the nation to chaos “. The Prime Minister replied vigorously that what the miners wanted was a blank cheque to be met by the taxpayer: If there is a loss, fixing their own wages, their own prices, their own hours of labour, their own conditions, the losses are to be paid by moneys provided by Parliament.
On the next page of the report the following interesting statement appears : -
The successive crises of 1020, 1921, 1924, 1925, and 1920 were one and indivisible in actual fact. Under State control the miners had enjoyed high wages and a better standard of life than they ever knew before. They had secured the seven hours day, and the State was losing money at the rate of £1,000,000 a week. In South Wales, where the rate of production was very low, the loss exceeded 14s. on every ton of output, and something had to be done to make ends meet. Selling prices were raised by the anxious Coal Controller. They were pushed upwards to 84s. a ton for export trade, and they were advanced against the retail customer on eight occasions between 1915 and 1.920. These advances in the price of coal contributed very largely to the increased cost of all other commodities. Not without purpose had the miners’ federation remained aloof from the industrial truce of the war period. The market collapsed under the unjust pressure, and down went the ex.port prices by 10, 20, 30, and very soon 50 per cent. Industries were beginning to stagger, household users were complaining loudly, and it was essential to do something the other way. towards reducing the costs of production.
I shall reserve further comments on the bill until the committee stage. I regret that the Government is not prepared to enforce the law in the coal industry, and has sunk so ‘ low as to appoint a political stooge to arbitrate on disputes in this vital undertaking. In taking this step towards socialization, the Government is merely storing up trouble for itself. Such a policy will not produce coal. It will cause more strikes from which we shall inherit a legacy of trouble in the post-war period.
– This Parliament has at last had a visitation from “ Old King Coal “. The production of coal has been a very difficult problem over a period of years. I recall that Mr. Justice Davidson, assisted by two able men well versed in coal-mining, made a full examination of the industry in New South Wales and other States. Whilst trouble in the industry is not peculiar to Australia it appears to me that troubles occur in .the industry in this countrymuch more frequently than is the case elsewhere. I often wonder whether those associated with the industry, employers or employees, realize the fate which may possibly befall them. The pressure of science on the industry is rapidly increasing. Russia is producing power from coal without mining it at all by a process invented by a great American scientist; and Germany is operating a process which is even more revolutionary. I wonder whether those who have the welfare of the industry at heart, and those who depend upon it for a livelihood or dividends, realize the fate that is likely to befall the industry at the termination of the war. Coal is vital to a country, particularly in time of war. I have been amazed at the ineptitude of governments in dealing with this industry. We had similar troubles in the last war, but we did not learn from our experience on that occasion. There is only one remedy for these troubles, and, perhaps, it i3 somewhat drastic. Coal should be regarded as one of the essential industries of the country, and should be put under the control of the Defence Department. If those controlling the industry refuse to apply methods that should be applied we have only ourselves to thank for our troubles.
– What methods does the honorable senator suggest?
-The only thing that prevents the darg from being doubled, or even trebled, is the high taxes which the miners are called upon to pay. They are human beings like the rest of us, and they react to high taxes as do other sections of the community. A common saying on the coal-fields is, “Why should we work another day for Ben Chifley?”. The remedy lies in imposing discipline on the industry, under the defence powers of the Government. These poor men do not realize the danger which threatens their freedom. They imagine that the danger has passed because our big brother from across the Pacific has lent us aid. This bill will not result in the production of one extra ton of coal. Its effect will merely be to transfer responsibility from the Government to an unfortunate person who is to be known as the coal commissioner. The Government already possessesunder National Security Regulationsall the power that it needs to deal with the situation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has denounced stoppages resulting in a decline of production, and he has power to remedy the situation, but no action has been taken. Now, all the various regulations have been sewn up in statute form, and presented to Parliament as a bill. The coal-miner is a pretty hard-headed person, although possessinga happy-go-lucky nature. He is able to earn high wages by working a comparatively short time. I recognize that he works under difficulties, and that his conditions are hard,, but they are of his own selection. I saw something of those conditions when I addressed some thousands of ‘them at Cessnock on a proposal tointroduce the hydrogenation process for the treatment of coal. On that occasion, I quoted to them the opinions of Mr. Ivo Williams, one of the greatest authorities on coal in Great Britain.
I do not believe that this measure will achieve a settlement of the difficulties confronting the coal industry, because those difficulties arise out of human nature. If we are to produce sufficient coal for the country’s war effort, to supply our Allies, and to drive our ships, then the industry must be disciplined.
Work must be carried on under military discipline, if need be, as men have had to work under military discipline unloading ships at Australian ports. God knows, one does not begrudge the miners the money they make, but they should understand that it is their duty to make their contribution to the national revenue, just as every person who draws £104 a year or more must make his. The Government knows that the socialization of the coal-mining industry will not result in the production of more coal. There is a State-owned coal mine at Lithgow, which has been aptly described as a lying-in home. Socialization would place in the hands of the owners a tremendous amount of money, but it would not afford any relief to the miners who object to working another day for Ben Chifley. One can understand their feeling on that point, but it is difficult to forgive them for their lack of understanding of the tremendous issues involved in this war. They would probably suffer more than any other class in the community if we were defeated, because they would then be subjected to the severest discipline.
I suggest that those engaged in the coal industry should look to this matter themselves, and I refer to the owners as well as to the miners. They should consider the possible effect of mechanization upon the industry, and I have in mind even more drastic forms of mechanization than the introduction of scraper-loaders, those machines which, I understand, pick up the coal and load it after it has been blown down by explosives. I was amazed to read that one objection to them was that they created a great deal of noise, and therefore the creeping of the roof could not be so readily detected. I understand that the safety measures taken in coal-mines to-day are very effective. Of course, accidents will occur, but the number has been reduced to a minimum. Tt does not matter whether the day-labour system or the contract system is in operation, the men get tired of work after a while, and decide that they will take time off to do some fishing. Most of them, I understand, are expert fishermen, and from the proceeds of their fishing they obtain revenue which they do not necessarily include in their income tax returns. If they do not dispose of the fish in this way, it is, at any rate, a welcome addition to the family larder. I do not blame the miners for that, but I blame the Government which has not sufficiently impressed upon them their obligations to their kith and kin overseas and, indeed, to their own country. They should remember how the coal ex- port trade has been damaged by dislocations of the industry due to industrial disturbances. Already oil is a serious competitor of coal in the marine transport industry, and that threat will be greater after the war. Unless the miners resume full production, despite the depredations of Ben Chifley, the industry will be in danger, and those dependent upon it for a livelihood will rue the day that they did not put their backs into the job. For whom are we asking them to make this effort? The Prime Minister would be the last person to ask them to exert themselves to enrich the coal-owners. His cry has always been, “ Produce more coal for the urgent services of the country “. And the response has been “We won’t work another day for Ben Chifley “. It. is a poor lookout for the industry, and for the men and their families. When I was in Great Britain I saw boys and men growing up in the coal districts who knew no other industry. I felt that it would have been better for them to get out of that environment, because, at the time, there were too many of them. One reads that in Russia production has been doubled and trebled by the application of discipline to labour, and of mechanization to the mining processes. There, discipline is more rigid than anything provided for in this bill, however great may be the powers of the coal commissioner. Discipline is necessary if we are to increase production. We are a light-hearted people, and the miners are Australians like the rest of us, but they have a wrong outlook. The Prime Minister was invited to go to the coal-fields and address them, but he did not go. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when Prime Minister, went once, but I suppose the miners declared the meeting black. The miners earn good money, and many of them keep very nice whippets, but they seem to have neglected their homes. No- workers in Australia are in a better position to provide and furnish good homes for themselves than the coal.miners. In the old days heavy levies for war purposes were not imposed on them, and a number of them were entirely freed from taxation.
– They got only four or five days’ work a fortnight.
– If they did, it was their own fault. They did not attend. They went away to neighbouring race meetings to see horses in which they were interested run, they returned somewhat sorry for themselves, and not feeling up to working. I know all about that sort of business. The Leader of the Senate in his secondreading speech said -
The Government admits quite frankly that it is by no means satisfied with last year’s efforts. Taking into consideration the productive capacity of the coal mines of Australia, output should have been substantially greater.
It should have been much greater, and the Government should have seen to it that it was. It has been a long time about it, and it has done very little. We blame our own Government for its lassitude in dealing with the coal-miners. Every one could see the greatly increased production that had to be achieved in order to furnish equipment for our troops and those of our Allies, and food for Great Britain. Three years have gone by since 1941, and all that the Government is doing is to introduce a bill embodying all the regulations that have been passed from time to time. The Government could have enforced those regulations without this bill. As one honorable senator said this afternoon in this connexion, the responsibility is being passed from the Government to Parliament, or from the Government to the commissioner. If the Government is prepared to enforce the law, it can declare the production of. coal an essential service, and, by administering the law impartially,, ensure production. If those producing foodstuffs were to slacken their efforts and absent themselves from their work, I imagine that the people would call on the Government to stand them up against a wall. Yet coal is as essential for transport purposes as food and munitions are for our fighting forces.
All that the bill does is to appoint Mr. Mighell a dictator of the coal-fields of Australia. I wish him well. I hope that he will be able to bring about peace in the industry, but I want peace with production. I warn the Government that the bill will not ensure industrial peace, or bring about an increased production of coal. I regret that we have not had longer to consider the measure.
– The honorable senator can continue for another hour.
– The Minister, kindly as he is, is not extending any privilege to me in that regard. There are standing orders which even he cannot override. I do not think that the bill will result in the production of, adequate coal supplies for our requirements in all the States. The Government so far has been absolutely spineless. I do not know why it should have treated the coal-miners softly, because there are not so many of them, in’ the country. They do not think it is necessary to do their jobs in such a way as to enable Australia to do its utmost for itself and its Allies, and they give the Government little or no help. There is no reason why the Government should not have exerted full pressure on them by means of its powers under the regulations. So far as I have been able to peruse the bill, it does not carry the matter one step further, except insofar as it appoints a commissioner with somewhat dictatorial powers. The Government cannot “ run “ the industry, which, after all, is in the hands of human beings. The coal-miner resents working “ for a couple of days for Ben. Chifley “, but the rest of the community, except those- who have a sense of responsibility, adopt exactly the same attitude. All this has been brought about by the legislation of this and other Governments, which is. slowing down our effort in every part of the Commonwealth. So long as that spirit prevails not very much will be done. The commissioner, whoever he may be, will be vested with wide powers, and be subject to the Minister only in matters of policy, whatever that means, but he will not under this measure be able to produce more coal for the nation. The Government has all the necessary weapons in its hands now, and I do not see how Mr. Mighell’s appointment as dictator will do anything more. The bill, so far from being effective, is rather an umbrella under which the Government hopes to shelter itself from the wrath to come.
– It is unfortunate that this very important bill has been introduced in this way. It is remarkable that on the Government bench at the moment are men who, in and out of season, have vigorously protested against the rights of this chamber being ignored. Whilst I agree that the Standing Orders provide for departures from normal practice in urgent cases, unfortunately on this occasion the Minister in charge of the bill has protested loudly about the urgency of the measure without producing a tittle of evidence to show that any real urgency exists. I suggest that the bill is not urgent. If it were necessary to pass it at the earliest possible moment, I would completely’ support the action of the Leader of the Senate (.Senator Keane), but we know that it contains little or nothing beyond what the regulations already provide, and some of those regulations have been in force for about two years. In the circumstances, it is difficult to consider it in a calm and unprejudiced manner. I recognize that any government which has to control the destinies of a country at war must do its utmost to see that coal and all other essential commodities are produced. I recognize that the Government has in many ways done an excellent job during its occupancy of the treasury bench. I realize also that when it took office a programme existed in Australia which necessitated doing many unpopular things. I sympathize with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and Ministers of various departments who from time to time have been compelled to take unpopular action. In a general way Australia has put up a. very favorable record in this war. I do not wish to belittle in any way what it has done, but, however complimentary we may be, it is unfortunately only too true that there are some very bad gaps in the Government’s achievements. Good as its efforts have been, it has not fulfilled the programme outlined by the previous Government, partly because of the exigencies under which the programme has had to be modified. Only recently the Prime Minister, in a most interesting speech, pointed out how necessary it was, for the sake of the future of Australia and the standing of our delegates at the peace conference, to put up a good performance during the war. I agree entirely with that view. In another statement he said in quite unqualified terms that the measure of Australia’s war effort would entirely depend upon its coal production. That also is, I think, a fairly accurate statement of the position. Consequently, not only the members of the Government, its supporters, and the members of the Opposition, but also the people of Australia, are alarmed at the serious position in the coal-mining industry.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 7 p.m.
– The people of this country are, as I have said, becoming thoroughly alarmed at the continued deterioration of the coal position. The best evidence of that is to be found in the fact that the Government, which is very good at sensing public opinion, has now introduced a measure, the purpose of which is “ to secure greater production of coal, and to provide for distribution of coal, in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth and the effectual prosecution of the present war and for other purposes “. The problem of coal production in. this country is not of recent origin. I admit that trouble occurred on the coal-fields shortly after the war commenced, during the regime of the Menzies Government. I make no excuses for what was done, or what honorable senators opposite may say was not done, on that occasion; but I should like to point out that that dispute was not settled by a craven appeasement policy. It is also true that, at that time, not one member or supporter of the present Government, who was then in Opposition, supported the Menzies Administration in its endeavours to settle the strike. In fact, precisely the contrary action was taken. Members of the then Opposition spoke in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, condoning the action of (the strikers. At that time, too, many people in this country were misled by the utterances of honorable senators opposite, who would have had them believe that the war was “ phoney”, and that Australia was not directly or seriously interested in it. I repeatthatthis problem is not of recent origin ; but, since the present Government has taken over the reins of office, it has proclaimed to the high heavens that increased production of coal hasresulted from its administration. I ask if any increase of, coal production which has taken place is attributable to theefforts of theGovernment? However, there is no doubt that the Government is faced withserious difficulties on the coal-fields to-day and, as the Leader of the Opposition(Senator McLeay)has pointed out, so far back as 1942, the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin) made some very definite statements in regard to coal production. In fact, he made some very strong statements, and took unto himself very wide powersunder the National Security Act ; (but, unfortunately, that was the last that we heard of the matter until now, when theGovernment comes to us and says : “ If you will pass this measure, the troubles on the coal-fields will be solved.” Of course, we all hope that these troubles will be solved, and, whilst I have a complete mistrust of thismeasure, and have no faith inany action of the Government succeeding in increasing coal production, I shall not handicap the Government by opposing the bill. I shall support the measure, but I shall have a few things to say about the Government’s record in regard to coal, and I shall endeavour to assess what are the prospects of this industry.
We have heard a great deal in the past from members of the Government and from its supporters about the alleged iniquities of the mine-owners. As a matter of fact, until honorable senators opposite assumed office, we heard very little else. Not on any occasion did any honorable senator opposite admit that someoftheblame, at least, rested upon the miners themselves ; but nowwe have aStatement bythePrime Minister himself tothe effect that, in themain, the mine-ownersareobservingtheawards and conditionsprescribed for the industry. Onthe other hand, the miners are compl aining continually of infringements of awards, changes of practices, or customs instigated by the mineowners. The Government knows quite wellthat these allegations are completely inaccurate, and that it is not the mineowners whoare endeavouring to alter established practices and customs in the mines, but the coal-miners themselves or their leaders. There has been an instance of that at the Duckenfield colliery, which since its establishment fourteen years ago has been operated on a day-wage basis. The company which owns that mine purposely accepted a moderate quota of production as compared with other small mines operating at that time. At a conference with the then president ofthe northern branch of the miners’ federation, Mr. T. Hoare, the conditions under which the mine was to be operated wereagreed upon. The mine has now been operating for fourteen years on the day-wage system, and during that time only one day has been lost as the result of. a local dispute, and pit committee meetings have become mere pleasant formalities; but nowwe find that a claim has been made, not by theworkers in, theDuckenfield colliery, or by any one directly interested in theoperation of that mine, but by theexecutive of the miners’ federation, for a review of the dailyamount of coal filled by the miners. The employees of that mine gave no indication at all that they were dissatisfied with their working conditions. Here is a case in which the executive of the miners’ federation, which has given its word to the Government that it will do everything possible to stimulate the production of coal, has made an application for a review of working conditions to which no objection has been taken by theminers concerned.
SenatorCourtice. - This is most remarkable. .
– Yes, and it is not unknownto the Prime Minister or to membersof his Government, but no mentionof it has been made in statementsby the Government upon the coal position; yet the Prime Minister is pleading for increased coal production. Infact,the right honorable gentleman calledthe executive of the miners’ federation toCanberra, and sat in secret conclave with them. I donot know what occurred at that meeting, but shortly afterwards he called representatives of the mine-owners to Canberra, and once more held meetings in secret; no doubt his mind was already made up. I understand that delegates from the southern branch of the miners’ federation are in Canberra to-day to consult the Prime Minister - I hope on ways and means of increasing the production of coal. The Prime Minister has said that nobody is able to tell him how to increase coal production in this country; but the right honorable gentleman knows quite well that scraper-loaders - a form of mechanization - which had been used for years in certain collieries in this country, are now lying idle at the pittops. In view of that fact, how can the Prime Minister justify his statement that coal production cannot be mechanized because of absence of equipment? These scraper-loaders are not something new and fantastic; they were used successfully for years, and complied with the conditions laid down in the legislation of New South “Wales. According to the answer to a question which I asked in this chamber recently, scraper-loaders operated in the Coalcliff colliery for three and a half years. “When I asked how many notifiable accidents had occurred at Coalcliff during that period, I was informed that the information was not available. I suggest - and this is my own opinion - that during the three and a half years when these loaders were used in the Coalcliff colliery, not one notifiable accident occurred in the section of the mine where the loaders were used.
– The honorable senator knows that, does he?
– That is my opinion. I should be interested to have some information on the subject; but the fact remains that after having been operated successfully for three and a half years in the Coalcliff colliery, the Minister for Mines in New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, at the instigation of the miners, gave an instruction to the mineowners that they were to discontinue the use of scraper-loaders because of the dangers associated with their operation. The most amazing thing, however, is that Mr. Baddeley gave the mine-owners two months in which to comply with the order, so that in effect for that period, the miners were subjected to the alleged dangers associated with the operation of those machines. It is of no use for this Government to shelter behind Mr. Baddeley. The Government is in control of the affairs of this country, and it has full power under the National Security Act to take whatever action it considers to be necessary, but honorable senators opposite are resorting to the old practice of passing the buck. I shall be interested to learn what change of front will occur when this bill becomes law, because so far the Government has supported the trouble-makers in the industry. This is proved by the fact that every time trouble has occurred the Government has cravenly appeased the trouble-makers, and consequently raised their prestige. The officers of the federation are only human and they depend on their jobs for their livelihood. As those jobs come up for review at every election of office-bearers, it is in their interests to be able to go to the miners and say, “ We have got you this and that “, regardless of the effect that the stoppages involved in the getting of this and that have had on the war effort. Naturally, they receive support at elections, and consequently the prestige of the recalcitrants, or the incorrigibles as Mr. Willis describes them, is enhanced by the weakness of the Government. That has also resulted in an increase of the difficulties which the Curtin Government has encountered on the mine-fields ever since it took office. I have been most interested in the Prime Minister’s efforts to increase coal production, because his approach was typically “Curtinian”. He said to the State Premiers, “ On account of the shortage of coal, we must reduce consumption, and I put it to you that you shall reduce consumption by x per cent.”. He was taken aback by the reply he received from the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, who handed him a li3t of the restrictions on transport that would be necessary in that State if his wish was to be granted. Mr. Playford told the Prime Minister that if it was his desire that those restrictions should be imposed he ought to issue an instruction to that effect He has heard nothing more about the matter from the Prime Minister. That proves conclusively that the right honorable gentleman is ready to take the benefit of unpalatable actionso long as that action is taken by some one else, but that he is not ready to issue a definite instruction that such action shall be taken.
The second-reading speech of the Leader of the Senate contained a paragraph which was peculiarly interesting to me, because I know something about the matter referred to. He said -
In other States of the Commonwealth it is true that production is small when compared with the output of New South Wales, but the importance of locally-produced coal to the services and industries of the State in which it is produced cannot he over -emphasized.
I agree entirely with that, but what has been the Prime Minister’s contribution to extra production in another State? The Premier of South Australia has had courage enough to try to develop the South Australian coal deposits.
SenatorFraser. - With our help!
– As I was about to say. When the Premier submitted the proposition, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth Government would give the venture, not only its blessing, but also some support. Apparently, however, the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister and his colleagues for increased production of coal beyond the boundaries of New South Wales has waned. I do not suggest that the miners’ federation, whose stronghold is New South Wales, had anything to do with the cooling of their ardour, but I should like to know why the enthusiastic support promised by the Prime Minister has not appeared.
– Whence was that coal to come - from Leigh Creek?
– What the honorable gentleman has said is not true.
– The Minister for the Interior may be able to supply the information I need I shall be pleased to get it so that I shall be able to give it to the Government of South Australia. The Commonwealth Government should back up the words expressed in the foregoing extract from the Minister’s speech and encourage the production of coal in other States in addition to New South Wales.
– The honorable senator knows what we have done in that regard.
– I know what the Government has not done, and I shall be interested to. hear what it has done. In its wisdom, the Commonwealth Government decided that power alcohol should be distilled from wheat and for that purpose erected in South Australia a distillery, for the operation of which a considerable quantity of coal is necessary. It was suggested to the Commonwealth Government that the distillery might well use Leigh Creek coal and the State was encouraged to believe that it would be used. Recently, however, it was told that it could not be used because it would entail the alteration of the design of the boilers and largely increased expenditure.
– That is right.
– Unfortunately for the Commonwealth Government, the State Government took all steps necessary to ascertain the value of that coal and just what alterations of the boiler were necessary to enable it to be used. The Leigh Creekcoal was used in certain furnaces of the Adelaide Electric Supply Company. It was also given a trial at Whyalla, not in specially constructed furnaces, but in furnaces in which Newcastle coal had previously and has subsequently been burnt. The furnaces operated non-stop for two days burning the Leigh Creek coal and no difficulty was experienced in the firebox or in the output of power. It was conclusively shown that the furnaces, with the firebars unchanged, could be operated with that coal.
– The very opposite was proved. I advise the honorable senator to have a talk with the Premier of South Australia.
– I have talked with him. In any case, I am not contending, for a moment, that it would not be beneficial to alter slightly the firebars of furnaces if it was intended to use the Leigh Creek coal, either solely, or mixed with other coal. What I am saying is that it was conclusively shown that the alterations at the power alcohol distillery would not be so costly as to put the use of Leigh Creek coal beyond consideration. It is remarkable that, although the admirable statement contained in the extract from the Minister’s speech which I have read was made, the Government, for some reason or other, which I do not know but should like to know,, has discouraged the use of local coal in South Australia..
This bill introduces an entirely new principle in the control of the coal-mining industry.. It provides for the appointment of a Commonwealth coal commissioner, certain State coal committees, central industrial authority and local industrial, authorities and all the rest of the machinery that the Government considers necessary to increase the production of coal. Yet the Government proposes that, if the production of coal increases with resultant enhanced profit as compared with the .previous twelve months, the owners of the mines in which that extra profit has been earned shall not derive any benefit and that such extra profit _shall be paid’ into a special’ fund to be applied’ to. the advancement of the coal-mining, industry. That, in spite of the fact that in the last twelve months those mines were subjected to. continuous hold-ups as the result of direct action by the miners ! T hope that, we are not to have the same experience in the next twelve months. No, wonder profits earned by the mines last year are likely to b’e small compared with the profits that they will earn in the coming year if the purpose of this bill is achieved. If the miners put their shoulders to the wheel’ and produce more coal, the country will benefit, but the owners will be no better off financially.
Senator- Ashley.- Why should they be?
-I shall tell the honorable senator. He ought to know t/hat coal mines, like all other mines, are dwindling assets. Every ton of coal’ taken from a coal mine means that: 1 ton less is. in it. Doubtless; the coalownersknow fairly well what quantity of coal’ they will be able- to obtain from each’ mine. I do not doubt that the kind and cost of equipment installed depends on the estimated life of the mine. But the Government, in this bill, says, in effect, “ Although we shall take out in one year twice as much coal as you would normally take out, we will not allow you to set aside twice the amount that you normally set aside on account of depreciation. Your mine shall be stripped, bare and you shall have useless plant left on your hands.” In other words the Government will say to the mine-owners. “ On account; of the contribution that your mine and management makes to the war effort of Australia you will be worse off “. But the Government does not say to the coal-miners, as it does to the soldiers, that if they do their duty they will still get the same rates of pay. It tells them that if they work harder than at present they will get increased remuneration. I endorse that principle, but it should apply to both the miners and the mine-owners. The Government’s attitude to the mine-owners shows discrimination of the worst possible kind, which cannot be- supported by any fairminded person. The war-time company ‘ tax legislation will take- care of excess profits in coal-mining and in every other industry, and I am in accord with that principle, but to pick out the mine-owners for special treatment is the antithesis- of justice.. The money to be taken from the coal mine-owners will not go into the general revenue to help pay for the war. It. is the carrot that is: to be dangled before the donkey. The Government says! to the miners, “ If you work, harder you will get not only extra wages, but also extra benefits! in other ways “. I do- not think that any money will be available for the welfare fund for which the bill provides, but that is. the carrot held out. The Government has such a low opinion of the people that it “ believes.- they have to be enticed by camouflage and flapdoodle to do- their duty. I believe that they will be prepared” to defend their hearths and’ homes without special inducement, and I shall have no hesitation- in. opposing, that’ provision. We have not sufficient time- to: give- to this- bill the full consideration to which-, it is entitled, but I am prepared to support the Government in any action it may take in conformity with the1 powers) given by the bill to see that coalproduction is increased, and that this country plays its proper part in the war. The Government should see that its reputation overseas is not damaged through action by the craven party now in power.
– I shall not spend a great deal of time in discussing this bill, because I do not regard it as worth the paper on which it is written. Its title is quite a misnomer. It should be described as a measure for the nationalization of the coal-mining industry. The inexcusable practice which was adopted by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in presenting the Constitution Alteration (War Aims and Reconstruction) Bill in 1942 has been followed in the bill now before us, and in the secondreading speech of the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Keane) political placards and extraneous words have been used in order to deceive the public as to the purpose of the measure. On. the day when this bill becomes an act provision will have been made for the nationalization of the coal-mining industry. That is a part of the policy of the Government and of the Labour party. In the printed policy of the Curtin-Evatt Government, to which all members of the Ministry, I presume, are pledged in writing, the nationalization of the coalmining industry is set forth so that he who runs may read. I hope that this bill will bring about increased production of coal, but every power conferred by the measure, with one or two minor exceptions, has already been given by regulations promulgated during the la3t two years or more. In Statutory Rules No. 77, about which much discussion occurred, the Government had all the power it required, but it shrank from exercising it.
I have no great faith that by means of this bill coal production will be increased, but increased production is vitally necessary if we are to pull our weight in the war. The laws of this country should bt obeyed, yet for the last two years they have been flouted right and left, and no attempt has been made by the Government to enforce them. Brave words have come from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), time after time, and the Opposition has stood behind him, but he has spoken to the miners like a “ sucking dove” and has run away from hia responsibilities. I have no great sympathy with the Government or the Labour party, because, as Kipling has written -
For the sins ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one!
As far back as the last war, the Labour party was sowing the wind, and in this war it is reaping the whirlwind. Is it not true that the Prime Minister and other members of the Ministry have preached the doctrine of taking the law into one’s own hands and refusing to work? To-day, when we desire the miners to increase coal production, they apply that doctrine which has been enunciated all through the years. The official history of Australia, written by Professor Scott after the last war, shows that I am not telling a fairy tale. Ten or twenty years hence we shall know something like the truth about the present war. I remember the pitiful bleating indulged in last year by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), when he implored the miners to give the Government “ a go “ until after the general elections. Respect for authority is dead in this country, and discipline is in the discard. The greatest act of criminal folly in the history of Australia was perpetrated by a former Labour Government when Part XII. of the Defence Act, relating to compulsory military service, was suspended from that statute. We are reaping to-day the results of that act of stupidity. The country, from top to bottom, is undisciplined, although we are in the midst of a struggle for our existence. In many instances during the last 40 years, loyalty to Australia has been drowned in the vociferous yelpings of the so-called leaders of the coal-miners. A rabble cannot constitute an army, nor can an undisciplined mob make a successful nation. I take it that on the coal-fields the individual miners are fairly decent men. As individuals they love their country, but from the mass of the miners love of country has disappeared. We have to judge these men by their actions, just as we have to judge the Prime Minister and the Government not by their spate of words, but by their deeds. Any man who is not prepared to do a fair thing in war-time is a traitor to his country. Too many people in our midst to-day, particularly in the coalmining industry, are doing Hitler’s job for him. The loss of output of coal inevitably helps the enemy. It cannot be otherwise. When stoppages continually occur for trivial reasons and apologists explain that the miners work under dreadful conditions, my thoughts go to our troops in the swamps and filth of New Guinea, who carry on in the forward areas 24 hours a day or do hard coolie labour in six-hour shifts under appalling conditions. A few days ago, I addressed the following question to the Prime Minister : -
Is it a fact that coal strikes or other industrial hold-ups are unknown in Russia?
The Prime Minister replied -
So far as I am aware, it is a fact.
I then asked -
Will the Prime Minister instruct the recently appointed Ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Honorable J. J. Maloney, to inquire how strikes are discouraged there with a view to applying the same remedy here?
The Prime Minister replied “ Yes “. That is a good suggestion. Honorable senators opposite are never weary of singing paeans of the greatness ofRussia. If the Government will adopt my suggestion, it will probably receive some very useful information about dealing with strikes. The majority of the coal-miners have a love of country and I do not doubt that, “ in the pub having a pot, a pipe and a yarn “, they are jolly decent chaps. They have a strong sense of loyalty to their own organization. En masse, however, they forget their responsibilities as citizens. The Government should exhibit propaganda films on the coalfields to impress upon the coal-miners what is at stake in this struggle with the Axis, and what others are doing for them. I presume that, when they attend a motion picture theatre, they see the usual Hollywood film and that sort of stuff. The Government would be well advised to exhibit films to bring home to them the horrors of this war and what our kinsmen and allies are enduring. A lot of sound work could be done in that direction if it were properly undertaken by men who know their job.
The Prime Minister told us not long ago that the trouble on the coal-fields was caused mainly by a few hundred misguided younger men, “bookies”, bad characters, and the like. The right honorable gentleman declared that they would be “ cleared out of the industry “. Apparently, they still belong to it, because the output of coal is decreasing every week. I have been informed, whether rightly or wrongly, that there are on the coal-fields in New South Wales hidden enemies who are doing their work underground. If that be so, it behoves the Commonwealth peace officers and intelligence officers to hunt them down. Many people in this country are very heroic on the home front. Whilst they incite strikes and stoppages and lead from behind, they are singularly reluctant to don their country’s uniform and take the risks of battle. No cause could be more worthy than the one for which we are fighting to-day in the defence of this country which gives them food and” shelter, and, I suggest, far too much licence. Discipline must be enforced in this country, but that will never be done while the Government utters brave words and threats and then retreats in craven fashion. The Prime Minister said, “ I wish somebody would tell me how to get more coal “. At a conference held recently in Canberra, the mine-owners informed the right honorable gentleman that the introduction of mechanization in the mines would increase the output by 5,000,000 tons per annum. In view of the Prime Minister’s piteous appeal, I consider that the following lines are most appropriate : -
Brave words I’ve tried, from bounce and blow,
I’ve turned, and almost piteously pleaded
And seen each method of persuasion
Go alike unheeded.
I’ve rumbled like the thunder from above,
But what availed my threats? Men soon forgot ‘em
Then “ roared as gently as a sucking dove “.
The same as Bottom.
I’ve blustered and I’ve smooged alternately.
Veering from sourly grim, to sweetly gracious,
And found alas! both poses equally
Now while I wring my hands in anguish sore.
With every strike the outlook grows more rotten,
Can nobody enlighten me how more
Coal can be gotten?
All silent? Is there none to succor me?
Then let me own, however I regret it,
Thatall I’ve learned so far appears to be
How not to get it.
I trust that the Prime Minister will have better luck in the future, but I suggest to him that the Government must abandon the policy of “ threaten and retreat “. The Government’s vacillation has earned for it the name of the “ cut and run Government”. Not an extra ton of coal will be hewn unless the Government enforces discipline in the industry. Obviously the Government is scared of the miners’ federation. It cracks the whip and tells the Government what it must do. And the Government obeys. This policy, if continued, must lead to absolute industrial anarchy.
.- Apart from being a munition of war, coal is also required for the manufacture of munitions. Whilst the production of many classes of munitions has increased since the outbreak of war, the output of coal, alone of the vital munitions, has decreased. When moving the second reading of the bill the Leader of the. Senate (Senator Keane)said -
In other States of the Commonwealth it is true that production is small when compared with the output of New South Wales, but the importance of locally produced coal to the services and the industries of the State in which it is produced cannot be over emphasized. In all the other . States the industry has responded splendidly to the call for increased production. There have been relatively few strikes; indeed, it is pleasing to be able to say that there were none at all in Tasmania, while the losses in Queensland from that cause were negligible.
He proceeded to explain that Victorian coal seams are narrow, broken and badly faulted, and that mining is a more difficult operation there than in New South Wales. The latter State produced about three-quarters of Australia’s requirements of coal, and is the storm centre of industrial upheavals in this industry. As coal-miners in other parts of Australia have been satisfied with their working conditions and have increased production, there must be a substantial reason for the decline of output in New South Wales. It cannot be that the miners demand the nationalization of the industry because the employees of the
State-owned mines are among the worst offenders.
Another paragraph in the speech of the Leader of the Senate reads -
It is believed by the Government that with the existing machinery there can be no reasonable excuse for the majority of the stoppages which have occurred on the coal-fields of New South Wales. The safety and health of employees in that State is protected by probably the most comprehensive code of rules and regulations applying to coal-miners anywhere in the world, whilst preceding governments as well as this Government have appointed various industrial tribunals to enable industrial disputes to be determined quickly in the areas in which they arise.
One would almost think that those remarks had been uttered by an honorable senator on this side of the chamber, and, therefore, I repeat that they have been taken from the speech of the Leader of the Senate. But the gem of the speech is contained in the next paragraph -
The Government has therefore decided to place all the facts before Parliament and to bring down this hill so that the representatives of the people would have the opportunity of directing the measures which should be taken to improve the present position, and to ensure that coal is produced and distributed for all purposes essential to the war.
Despite that undertaking to place all the facts before the Parliament, the Government has denied to honorable senators on this side an opportunity to decide what measures shall be taken to obtain more coal. I voice my protest in the strongest terms that I am allowed to use in this chamber. The Government has failed in its duty to ensure that sufficient coal is produced to meet the nation’s needs. The Government neither supplies to the Opposition facts nor affords’ opportunities for us to ascertain the facts. We have not even had an opportunity to consult any authorities in regard to matters contained in this bill, because the Government by sheer force of numbers intends to pass it through the Senate this week. It may even be forced through within an hour, or even half an hour. I protest as warmly as I can against the way the Senate has been treated in connexion with this bill. The Opposition has not even had an opportunity to examine the bill thoroughly.
– It was circulated a week ago.
– So far as I am concerned the Government can have its hill, and ride or fall with it.
– I sincerely hope that this measure will have the effect of providing more coal to meet Australia’s needs. This unique bill has been sprung upon us most unfairly at what might be described as the eleventh hour. Since it was introduced into the Parliament vital amendments have been brought forward, yet a proper opportunity to consider the details of those proposals has not been given to us. The bill is unique ina number of ways. If passed it will first destroy certain taxation legislation; next it will demolish the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act; and, thirdly, it will transfer the powers of government in relation to the coal industry from the Government to an individual. An important amendment which was introduced when the bill was in the House of Representatives was designed not to restore the responsibility of the Government, but rather to allow the Government to take credit for any improvement which may be evident after the passing of this legislation.
– “Would the honorable senator deny that to the Government?
– In the bill as it came before the Parliament control over the coal-mining industry was to be vested in a commissioner, who was to be given practically unlimited powers. At that time, nothing was said about the commissioner being responsible to the Minister, but, as I have said, an amendment was introduced in the other branch of the legislature in the hope that some kudos may be claimed by the Government for any improvement of the output of coal which may occur.
– What does that matter so long as we get more coal?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.This legislation is long overdue; a bill of this description ought to have been brought before this Parliament at least twelve or eighteen months ago. Hitherto the Government had been content to attempt to control the coal-mining industry by regulations issued under authority of the National Security
Act. Those regulations were not particularly successful, because strikes and absenteeism have occurred with distressing regularity. Instead of seeking to continue to control coal-mining by the issue of regulations, the Government has introduced this measure. The regulations were never really in operation; but that might have been due to the approach of the general elections. During the recent election campaign government candidates told the electors that if a Labour government were returned the people would be given almost everything that they wanted. They are approaching closely to that state of affairs.
– It is a good thing for a government to honour its promises.
-I admit that the present Government is doing remarkably well in that connexion, but I point out that some day the bottom of the basket containing promises may be reached. This bill is the aftermath of a great mass of regulations which have been ignored by one section of the community. I regard this bill as the -white flag of capitulation which the Government has waved, because it has come to a dead end. Only a week or two ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), speaking in the House of Representatives, said that he had done all that he could to get more coal, and would welcome help from any source.
– The Government still welcomes any offer of assistance.
– Now the Prime Minister says, in effect: “ I cannot do anything, and so I shall pass the responsibility on to the Coal Commissioner. I shall give to him all the powers necessary to control the industry.”
– The honorable senator now complains because that position has been altered.
– . I do not. But I do complain that the commissioner has been made responsible to the Minister in matters of policy.I repeat that the Government has capitulated. By introducing this measure, the Government asks for parliamentary authority to transfer its responsibility to an individual. Even the name of the bill is a misnomer, because it -contains references to an increased .production of -coal. Dame Nature bas been kind to Australia in the matter of coal supplies. We have large deposits of coal, and all that is required is that the coal shall be brought to the surface and made available for use. The fact, is, however, that the quantity of coal that is made available for use falls far short of requirements. That is due to strikes and absenteeism, resulting from causes which are so trivial that they are unworthy of mention. As reference has been made to Great Britain, I, point out that the output of coal in Great Britain ‘ amounts to about 44,000,000 tons a year, compared with 10,000,000 tons a year in New South Wales.
– The New South Wales output of coal is about 13,000,000 tons a year.
– Last year, the loss of coal in Great Britain due to strikes and absenteeism was about 1 ton for each coal-miner employed. The loss in New South Wales was about 84 tons for each miner employed
– That is not right.
– It is right. A coal-miner in New South Wales works only five days a week. The same number of men, working in the same mines with the same machinery, could have produced about 750,000 tons more coal than was, in fact, produced. That additional quantity would have gone a long way to meet our needs. There is only one way to get more coal.
– Dig it out.
– Yes. But something must be done to make the coal-miner, and, indeed, all other persons in the community, amenable to the laws of the country. During the last twelve months, the Curtin Government has been too greatly concerned with community interests. I believe in promoting the interests of the community, so long as they do not clash with other community interests, or with the interests of the individual. The Government’s concern for community interests is seriously interfering with the progress of this country. At present, all sorts of restric tions are in force, such as rationing, price-fixing, and so on. During the last few days, a man was fined £20 for having charged a halfpenny too much for a boxof matches. That shows how the individual who offends against the law is treated. But, as soon as a body of men get together and form a union, they can do practically what they like.
– Anarchy, naked and unashamed, is stalking throughout the land.
– I have said that this bill interferes with our taxation laws. In March of last year, there was probably a number of stoppages and the mines were far from being payable. When this bill comes into operation, we are to suppose, work will’ begin in earnest and the sky in New South Wales will be absolutely black with coal dust. Because the mines will be worked to full capacity, the profits derived from them will be greatly increased. Such profits will not go to the owners, but will be placed in a trust fund for the benefit of the miners.
A coal commissioner is to be appointed and is to be given practically unlimited powers in a certain direction. If the gentleman whom I have in mind is appointed to that position, the Government will have a faithful servant who will do his utmost to make a success of the undertaking. But the bill also provides, by clause 8, that the GovernorGeneral may appoint two persons to act as advisers to the commissioner. What is the reason for that provision ? Surely, if a commissioner who has been given practically unlimited powers wants advisers he will make his own selection!
– He must have experts to advise him.
– He could select experts.
– That might be dangerous.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.This provision may be equally dangerous. The men appointed to act as advisers may fill the role of detectives, and keep on his trail the whole of the time with the object of tripping him up. If any Minister wants advice in his private capacity, he does not ask some one else to select the men but makes his own selection.
– Does the honorable senator object to the appointment of advisers ?
– Not at all; but the commissioner should have the right to make his own selection. Our big trouble has arisen, not out of matters of price, transport or freight, but by reason of inability to induce the miners to win coal. The man who is to control output is to have the designation “ Central Industrial Authority “. This gentleman will “ rule the roost “. He will be able to say when the men shall commence and cease work, what they shall be paid, and what holidays they shall have. This legislation will absolutely override and effect wholesale demolition of the Arbitration Act in connexion with coal-mining operations. “We may, I consider, assume that the aim of the central industrial authority will be to settle any dispute that may arise. If the future maybe judged by what has happened in the past, he will probably make very good terms on behalf of the miners. Surely, if the commissioner has the ability to handle the industry in the manner provided, he should have some voice in determining the remuneration that shall be paid to the employees in the industry. I understand that the gentleman who is to be appointed central industrial authority has already been named. He is in some degree in charge of the industry at the present time. I shall give an idea of the kind of gentleman he is, and the manner in which he delves into matters. He has occupied his present position for a period of only six months, yet he has been impelled to give utterance to the following: -
My sympathies, naturally, are with the miners, and I have to protect them against employers who would brand men they do not like as incorrigibles in order to get the-.ii out at any price. At the same time, T. h.ivo no sympathy with a few incorrigibles still remaining in the industry, anr! !: is my intention to attempt to identify ;’.ic:n.
Note those words - it is Iris intention to attempt to identify them. He went on to say -
I desire to say emphatically that there arc some employers who should be put out of the industry. They are greater trouble-makers than many employees.
– He has been a coalminer all his life.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Yet, in a period of six months he has not been able to identify certain incorigibles! Such being the case, it is not likely that he will be able to identify them in the future.
I deplore the circumstances that ari’ associated with the introduction of this bill to the Senate; they are a blot on this legislature.- Similar circumstances have never been experienced in the history of the National Parliament. I again enter an emphatic protest against the presentation of a bill of this magnitude at the. eleventh hour and against our being compelled to remain here until we have passed it. I conclude as I began: I sincerely hope that this bill, with all its faults, will attain the objective for which it. has been designed, and result in the production of the supplies of coal that are so badly needed in Australia.
– in. reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said that he- was surprised that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who had held a high judicial position in this country, should have prostituted it by resigning from it and entering a Government which placates its own supporters - the miners - instead of taking action with a view to increasing the production of coal. The right honorable gentleman who was thus attacked has performed a colossal task in connexion with the coalmining industry. It is utterly absurd to say that he has placated the miners. On the contrary, he has brought down some of the most drastic regulations that have ever been conceived, in an effort to apply remedies to the ills from which the industry is suffering. Numerous prosecutions were launched against the miners, and fines were collected from them.
– And the fines were remitted.
– That happened on some occasions, in an effort to ensure industrial peace. It ill becomes the Leader of the Opposition to reflect on a Minister of the Crown in that way, especially during a debate on a measure of this kind. Honorable senators opposite who have not spoken have shown that they realize the responsibility that they owe to this country. The topic of coal supplies is a dangerous one to discuss in war-time. Previous administrations failed to obtain the production that was needed, and in some degree the present Government also has failed. This legislation has been designed to increase the production of coal. Any reflection on the Attorney-General is most undeserved and unworthy. I am personally acquainted with the volume of work that he has performed in connexion with the industry, as well as in connexion with this measure. I regret the strictures of the Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Sampson made the excellent suggestion that greater publicity on the coal-fields of what is involved in the present war might have a beneficial effect. Different Ministers have told the miners the war story. Even at this late hour, I assure the miners that at no time in the history of the war has the position of Australia ‘been more serious than it is at the moment. The production of planes, guns and food, although urgent, is not so urgent as is the production of coal. Recently, a small group of miners at Collinsville, for the first time in their career, held up mining operations because they considered that they were not being provided with a sufficiency of meat, and in consequence five ships engaged in the war effort were tied up at Bowen. All of us regret the necessity to introduce legislation aimed at a body of industrialists like the miners. One comment which Senator Sampson made I view with disfavour; it related to the non-enlistment of a number of healthy young men who are engaged in the mining industry. The enlistments from that industry represent a reasonably high percentage. I witnessed an explosion which occurred at Wonthaggi, and I have yet to come in contact with a braver body of men, either in war or in peace, than were those whom I saw on that occasion; 120 of them begged to be allowed to go below, although they knew that the workings were filled with smoke and gas. I deplore unfair statements regarding a body of men who are highly courageous.
The Leader of the Opposition has cited figures comparing the loss of production in England in 1939 by reason of industrial and other troubles, with the losses in Australia from the same causes. The comparison was not a fair one, and the honorable gentleman would have been on better ground had he dealt with the position of the industry in England in 1943. Australia had a record production in 1942, but, unfortunately, it was not sustained. This is a national war measure. Certain honorable senators have complained of not having been given sufficient time to make themselves acquainted with the measure. Longer notice was not necessary because of the simplicity of the measure. The honorable senator who said that he had not had time to prepare a speech has never previously made a more effective speech than he delivered to-night. That applies also to the Leader of the Opposition. The troubles in the coal-mining industry are a household story. We all agree that increased coal production is necessary; without it the munitions programme and transport services cannot be maintained. Neither the Government nor the Prime Minister has said that the attainment of that objective is a certainty under this legislation. I believe that the miners will display good sense when they realize that one of their lifelong objectives has been attained by the assumption of control by the Government. That is not nationalization. An honorable senator has objected to the profits of the mine-owners being placed in jeopardy. The Government will not “ scale “ the mine-owners, but will make certain that every man engaged in the industry, from the manager down, shall come under the control of the Coal Commissioner. The price of coal has already been fixed by the Prices Commissioner. The profits tax, as one honorable senator has correctly said, will take a big “ wad “ from the owners. There will be no injustice in that. All of the trouble has not been caused by the miners; on some occasions the owners have been responsible. But I say that if I were the Attorney-General I would impose a censorship upon press reports concerning the coal-mining industry which would prohibit these scoundrels from publishing in large captions such headings as : “ Twelve more mines idle “, when an investigation would show some of the stoppages to be due to mechanical defects or such causes as water in the mine. The newspapers do not mention those facts, but the morale of the people is adversely affected by misleading publicity of that kind.
This measure is urgent. The Government must have it to-night so that we shall be able to initiate this plan to overcome the troubles in the industry. Our allies want coal, and we want coal for our vital industries. Eighty per cent. of Australia’s high-grade steaming coal comes from New South Wales. I repeat my regret that it has been necessary to deal with the measure rather hurriedly; but, judging by the speeches just delivered, no honorable senator who has spoken has been really handicapped by reason of that fact.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Definitions).
. -Coal is defined to include coke. Does this mean that decisions of the industrial authorities appointed under the measure will apply to gas companies or units in heavy industries, such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which manufacture coke on their premises? Will those decisions affect the industrial conditions in the cokemanufacturing industry?
– The definition applies to coal and coke produced at mines which are brought under control.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Advisers).
– This clause provides that the GovernorGeneral may appoint two persons as advisers to the commissioner. I should like to know whether those advisers will be representative solely of the employees, or of both the employers and employees.
– I shall supply that information later to the honorable
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 26 agreed to.
Clause 27 (Special conditions of employment).
. -Sub- . clause 2 reads -
The Commissioner may, if he thinks the circumstances of any case make it desirable so to do, remit any such deduction in whole or in part.
Apparently, the Government intends to revert to its pernicious habit of remitting fines imposed upon employees. For instance, if a miner is fined, and the union takes up the matter on his behalf, the commissioner, under the clause as it stands, will have power to remit the fine. Surely we should have sufficient regard for the majesty of the law to permit no backing and filling in respect of fines imposed on offenders. Such a policy only incites others to commit breaches of the law. I realize that the Opposition has not the numbers to contest the clause. However, I urge the Government to impress upon the authorities appointed under this measure that they must enforce the law with courage. Only in that way shall we put an end to the stupid policy of backing and filling in. respect of prosecutions.
– This clause embraces the schedule which prescribes the scale of loss or reduction of pay for disobedience or unauthorized absence from work. So far as I can see, persons guilty of inciting miners to strike are not liable to punishment. Is no provision to be made to punish a man who incites his shift mates to stop work?
– Any person who incites miners to strike will certainly be covered by this clause and dealt with accordingly.
– By being fined the paltry sum of £2.
– And larger amounts for succeeding offences.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 (Central Industrial Authority).
– I should like to know whether the report which has been circulated that Mr. A. C. Willis is to be appointed the central industrial authority is correct? Without reflecting personally upon Mr. Willis, I say that it is quite clear thathe is biased against the owners. If Mr. Willis has not been already selected for this position, will the Government appoint a person who is capable of holding the scales of justice evenly between employer and employee? This clause is most objectionable, and I protest against it very strongly. The central coal authority is to be given power to override decisions of the Arbitration Court, State laws and Commonwealth laws. He is not required to worry about technicalities. So far as I can gather,. Mr. Willis is to he appointed to this position as the Government’s political “ stooge “ in order to appease strikers. I regret that ray duty impels me to speak in these terms. The Government is looking for trouble.
.- All I can say in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is that Mr. Willis will probably be appointed central industrial authority. Without pasting any reflection upon the Arbitration Court, I point out to honorable senators opposite that a substantial body of opinion in the industry believes that the form of tribunal proposed under the measure is the. ideal method of dealing with disputes in this industry.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 30 to 32 agreed to.
Clause 33 (Establishment of Local Industrial Authorities).
– The fault of this clause is that it is too vague. Sub-clause 1 provides that, “ The Minister may, on the recommendation of the commissioner appoint persons to be local industrial authorities “. Is it proposed to appoint only representatives of the employees, or does the Government propose to give equal representation to both sides?
– Equal representation to both sides.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 34- (1.) Subject to this Act, a Local Industrial Authority may -
.- I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (a), the words “ and any industrial dispute or matter referred to the Local Industrial Authority by a Production Committee” be left out.
– What is the purpose of the amendment?
– It is consequential on an amendment made in the House of Representatives. Its effect will be to prevent production committees from referring matters to a local industrial authority.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 35 to 39 agreed to.
Clause 40 (Award, order, determination or decision not to be challenged or questioned).
– I enter an emphatic protest against this provision. The Government proposes to appoint a representative of the employees as central industrial authority, and then declares that no decision of his shall be challenged, appealed against, quashed or called into question. I congratulate the Government upon its Nazi methods. Adolf Hitler does not enjoy more power than it is proposed to confer on this person.
– The Government is evidently so intoxicated with the power which it en joys under the Defence Act that it now proposes to take a step that is against all law and equity. It has always been understood that, for the protection of the citizen, he should have the right to appeal to properly constituted courts. This proposal is an example of the Nazi methods pursued by the Government. I should like an explanation of this clause, which confers such extraordinary power, not on theCoal Commissioner, but on the Minister. I have no confidence in the impartiality of the present Minister, or any other.
.- This clause is in exactly the same terms as regulation 17 of the Coal Mining Industrial (Employment) Regulations, which have been in operation for a long time, and that regulation was based on subsection 1 of section 31 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– I know that the Government has been in the habit of issuing regulations which arc sometimes in operation months before Parliament can review them, but here we have a bill before us for consideration, however short the time at our disposal may be. It is time the people understood the Nazi-like tendencies of the Government. Hitler has nothing on it.
– I do not know that the word “ Nazi “ is unparliamentary, but it certainly is an unpleasant word, and I request honorable senators not to use it in the sense in which it has just been used.
– The fact that this clause is based on an existing regulation does not satisfy me that it ought to be put in an act.
.- I am anxious to give honorable senators all the information they require. I have already said that the clause is in exactlythe sam e terms as the existing regulation. The honorable senator discounts that, but surely he will not discount the section of the Conciliation and. Arbitration Act upon which the regulation is based. There is nothing new in this provision. It is designed to ensure some finality in industrial proceedings. Otherwise, there would be no end to them.
– While there might be no objection to the absence of provision for appeal from the decisions of a properly constituted court presided over by a judge, I am not prepared to accept as final the decisions of the persons whom it is proposed to appoint as central industrial authority under this measure.
– Under this clause, the Government proposes to hand over the administration of industrial justice, lock, stock and barrel, to some one whom it will appoint the central industrial authority. The courts are to be eliminated altogether, and the subject is to be deprived of all redress should he suffer injustice.
– As I said during the second-reading debate, this measure overrides the Arbitration Court. It is provided in clause 31 that the central industrial authority may make his own rules of procedure. Now, under the present clause, he is to be authorized to apply those rules, and there is to be no appeal from his decision. That provision might not be objectionable in the case of a duly constituted arbitration court, presided over by a judge, but the central industrial authority, under this measure is to be authorized to delegate his powers to other persons. There may be 30 or 40 industrial committees, and each one of them will enjoy the same far-reaching powers.
– It may be news to -Senator McBride that the regulation, of which this clause is an exact copy, was issued during the term of office of the Government of which he was a member, the actual date being the 10th February, 1941. I say that his Government on that occasion did the right thing. The regulation, as I have said, was taken from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, of which sub-section 1 of section 31 reads -
Except as in this act provided, no award or order of the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question, or be subject to prohibition mandamus or injunction, in any other Court other than the High Court on any account whatever.
If the honorable senator had any knowledge of industrial proceedings, he would understand the need for such a provision. I remember the time when the unions had shillings as compared with the pounds of the employers. They might get a decision from an industrial tribunal, but the bossescould carry the matter from one court to another until the unions were ruined.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 41 to 62 agreed to.
– The schedule is about the most ridiculous feature of the whole bill. The penalties are absurd. They are: - £2 on the first occasion, £4 on the second, £8 on the third, and £10 on the fourth and any subsequent occasion. Such penalties will be no deterrent at all of disobedience of orders or unauthorized absence from work. In some instances they will not represent a day’s pay.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I shall not oppose the motion tonight, but it is about time that some of our standing orders were amended or done away with. In respect of practically 95 bills out of 100 they are suspended. Under the old procedure honorable senators had a fair opportunity of examining hills after the second reading was moved, and before the debate on the second reading took place. The present practice is to introduce a bill without any one seeing it, and suspend the Standing Orders; then the Minister reads at the secondreading stage a statement which any one could read in his sleep, after which the bill is rushed through committee. I suggest : hat the Standing Orders he amended to enable honorable senators to examine bills and form a mature judgment on them. If a bill is really urgent, a motion can be made to suspend the Standing Orders ; but under our present procedure we might as well have no standing orders. The sooner you, Mr. President, call the Standing Orders Committee together to examine them with a view to abolishing or amending them, the better.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The measure emanates from clause 23 of the Coal Production (War-time) Bill 1944 which the Senate has just passed. When that bill was before the House of Representatives, some doubt was expressed as to whether the procedure proposed to deal with profits involved the imposition of taxation. If it did, such taxation would be outside the scope of the bill. It was therefore decided to introduce this short measure as a separate taxation bill. Clause 4, which is the operative part, provides -
Where the amount of the profits derived from the operation of a controlled mine during any period while the mine is or was a controlled mine is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Coal Production (Wartime) Act 1944 to exceed the amount of the profits derived from the operation of the mine for the period last preceding the date on which the mine became a controlled mine corresponding, as to dates, to the first mentioned period, the owner of the mine shall pay to the Commissioner an amount equivalent to the amount of the excess so determined.
The bill is necessary to ensure that owners of coal mines shall receive equitable treatment.
. - We now have before us the second reading of abill for which the Minister claims urgency, although it is noturgent. It will not take effect until some time in the future - how far ahead I do not know. No control is yet exercised over any mine, and no mine is being worked under control,but the Minister has the effrontery to describe the measure as urgent. It is a clear abuse of the standing orders, and shows, as I said before, a definite tendency on the part of the Government to do away with all parliamentary procedure and practice, and togovern the countryby the methods of Hitler and Mussolini.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion(by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday, the 14th March, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Keane) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Senator Hays to-day asked me, as representing the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), the following question, upon notice : -
In view of the discontinuance of the passenger shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland, and as the Government will save a substantial sum through not having: to pay a subsidy during the discontinuance of the shipping service, will the Minister representing the Prime Minister state whether a subsidy will he granted to the air transport services operating between Tasmania and the mainland, so that they may provide additional transport facilities for the people of Tasmania, equivalent in cost to the sum which the Government will save as a result of not having to pay a shipping subsidy during the temporary withdrawal of shipping?
The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer: -
There is no need for the Government to consider payment of subsidy for the additional air services to Tasmania during the temporary suspension of the shipping service as the air company has provided additional services without any such payment and has indicated willingness to provide even further trips if the passenger traffic so warrants.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security ( Supplementary ) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Senate adjourned at9.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440303_senate_17_177/>.