17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Effect on Private Companies.
– Will the Leader of the Senate make a statement, before theSenate goes into recess this week, on the matter raised by Senator Spicer last night as to the effect of the Income Tax Assessment Bill on private companies? In the course of the debate on the bill, the Minister said that the question raised was too technical to answer without reference to the officers of the Taxation Department; but I contend that it is of such far-reaching importance that he should state the legal position and say what the Government proposes to do in the matter.
– If the honorable senator will submit to me a question in writing on the matter, I shall see that the desired information is supplied to the Senate.
SenatorCOLLETT asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice - 1. (a) Are Western Australia’s superphosphate requirements for the 1944-45 season being proportionately increased in comparison with the other States; (b) if so, to what extent?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied thefollowing answers: -
Stoppage of Work at Port Kembla.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers : -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Mr. Ryan and Sir Frederick Stewart had been discharged from attendance on the Social Security Committee.
Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - proposed - (1.) That Senator Cooper be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Social Security. (2.) That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Blouse of Representatives by message.
SenatorCOOPER (Queensland) [10.36]. - My reason for tendering my resignation as a member of the Social
Security Committee is not, as Mr. Speaker has said in the House of Repr esentatives, that my colleagues and T could not get our own way. An important principle is involved, and it affects, not only this committee, but also other parliamentary committees. I refer to the right of the members of such committees to conduct their investigations in their own way. A committee has the right to call witnesses, but, according to Mr. .Speaker’s ruling, it has no voice whatever in the choice of its own staff. . I shall briefly outline the activities of the Social Security Committee, which was appointed by Parliament on the Srd July, . 1941. Difficulty was experienced in obtaining a suitable secretary. A fortnight later the then Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) was asked by the committee to release his private secretary, Mr. R. Rowe, to undertake the duties of secretary to the committee, because of his knowledge of the subject-matter to be investigated. The minutes of evidence contain the following statement by the then acting chairman, Senator Keane, who, at the first public meeting of the committee on the 21st July, 1941, at Sydney, said -
It affords me very great pleasure, indeed, to say that after representations had been made to him, Sir Frederick Stewart agreed to release his secretary, Mr. R. Rowe, to act in a secretarial capacity to this parliamentary select committee. Mr. Rowe’s considerable experience is such that I feel we are very fortunate that he is to serve us as secretary.
I feel sure, that in the light of his experience as acting chairman of the committee for a long period, Senator Keane would now re-affirm that statement. The sixth interim report tabled on the 1st July, 1943, immediately prior to the dissolution of the last Parliament, included the following statement: -
Firstly, we wish to express our great appreciation of the valuable assistance given to the committee by its secretary, Mr. R. Rowe. Throughput the investigations of the committee, which covered not only the present inquiry, but also many other aspects of the problem of social security, Mr. Rowe has been untiring in his devotion to his work. Administrative arrangements made by him for the conduct of the committee’s business have never failed, and his help in the compilation of the committee’s reports has been throughout of a very high standard.
For more than two years Mr. Rowe performed the duties of research officer, in addition to secretarial work. He was solely responsible to the committee for the whole of its arrangements and work. When New Zealand appointed a parliamentary committee to report upon two aspects only of social security planning - superannuation and health - it placed at the disposal of the committee no fewer than six highly paid officials. In Australia, the secretary, Mr. Rowe, has done; practically the whole of the executive and research work single-handed. At the request of the committee, prior to the dissolution of Parliament in July last, the Prime Minister made special arrangements for the continuation of Mr. Rowe’s services at his then salary, in order that his services as secretary might be available to’ any new committee appointed to continue the inquiry in the new Parliament, and his services were so continued”.
During the life of the original committee, consisting of four members from the House of Representatives, and two from the Senate, it covered a wide field of social planning in its six interim reports. On the 14th October, 1943, the present Social Security Committee was appointed, consisting of six members from the House of Representatives and two from the Senate, with precisely the same terms of reference as the original committee, three members of the old1 committee being members of the new committee. Immediately after its appointment, the Clerk of the House of Representatives informed the chairman of the committee, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that it was not proposed that the previous secretary should continue as secretary of the new committee, as he was not an officer of Parliament, but that Mr. Speaker had approved the appointment as secretary to the committee of Mr. S. F. Chubb, Second Clerk Assistant, and in the last Parliament, secretary to theRural Industries Committee. The committee has no fault whatever to find with Mr. Chubb. He is an excellent officer, and during the short period during which 1 had dealings with him in connexion with the work of the committee I found him to be a highly efficient secretary, but he had not the background of the previous- secretary. At its first meeting, the committee decided unanimously that it desired continuance of the services of the previous secretary, as the work the committee was engaged upon was a continuation of former investigations. These views were conveyed by the chairman and deputy chairman to Mr. Speaker, who, however, insisted upon a change being made in the position. The committee declined to accept Mr. Speaker’s decision, and instructed its former secretary to continue hia duties as secretary. It also approached the Prime Minister, and the Treasurer, in order to retain Mr. Rowe’s services, which it considered essential to its inquiry. All normal facilities to prepare memoranda for a special meeting of the committee on the 28th October last were denied to him, and lie found his position untenable. He notified the chairman that he could not tarry on under those conditions, and a compromise was agreed to, under which it was proposed that Mr. Rowe be appointed research officer in order to retain his services as desired by the committee, and that Mr. ‘Chubb be appointed secretary to carry out the secretarial and clerical duties of the committee. This proposal was submitted to the Prime Minister, it being expressly stated that Mr. Rowe’s remuneration and status should remain the same as formerly. The proposed arrangement was accepted by Mr. Speaker, who communicated with the Public Service Board regarding Mr. Rowe’s salary, drawing attention to the fact that he was no longer acting as secretary to the committee. Mr. Rowe’s salary was reduced by £147 a year, and the committee was not consulted as to the special arid important work being done by him.
At a conference held at Canberra in December last, comprising the members of the Social Security Committee, representatives of the medical profession, members of the National Health and Research Council and defence services medical directors, it was unanimously decided that certain items on the agenda dealing with the planning of a medical health scheme for Australia be referred for further discussion, and if possible, completion, to a small sub-committee of “the whole. It was highly desirable that this planning be done in co-operation with the medical profession. The subcommittee was to report back to conference at a later date. Mr. Rowe was appointed secretary of this committee. The , committee met in Sydney on the 24th January, 1944, and the proceedings formed an integral part of the Social Security Committee’s work, for which adequate funds are provided by Parliament. When claims covering travelling allowance in attending the meetings of this committee in Sydney were submitted, the Clerk of the House of Representatives refused to pass the account until special funds were provided. These claims have not, to my knowledge, yet been paid. The Social Security Committee is required by Parliament to make reports from time to time on the results of its investigations, and I believe it is not the wish of Parliament to restrict the scope of its investigations by bureaucratic interference in the methods chosen to conduct such investigations, provided always that these methods do not cause an undue increase of expenditure. Actually, the action taken by the committee represented a considerable saving of expenditure. If the procedure adopted by the committee of appointing a sub-committee was irregular, I consider that it was the duty of Mr. .Chubb, the secretary, who was in attendance at the Canberra conference when the resolution was carried, to advise the chairman of any alleged irregularity before the meeting of the committee in January. Had the full committee been called together at that time, and a small sub-committee then appointed, no exception could have been taken; but that would have meant the assembling of members from all parts of Australia at considerable expense in order to achieve the same results as those arrived at by the smaller committee. In view of the restrictive conditions that have been placed on the freedom of the committee for some months past as to how its investigations shall be conducted, I do not feel able to give that full measure of concentration to which such an important subject as social security is entitled. I may add that before reaching this decision several interviews took place with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) in an endeavour to explore every avenue that might lead to an amicable settlement of the points mentioned, but without success. I was not prepared to continue as a member of a committee acting under the authority of Parliament while the committee was not free to carry out its investigations in any manner it saw fit, and, therefore, I had no option but reluctantly to tender my resignation. I feel so strongly on this matter that I ask the Government to appoint a small committee of members of the Parliament to inquire into the whole question of the powers, scope and staffing of parliamentary joint committees, in order that such an unsatisfactory and unpleasant situation as the present may not occur again.
.- I take this opportunity to refer to a statement which appeared in to-day’s press that it was stated yesterday in the House of Representatives that Mr. Rowe had approached the Exservicemen’s Committee of this Parliament for the purpose of gaining its support for his case. The executive of the Federal Capita] Territory Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which has seven sub-branches, met last Monday night. Having read what appeared in the Canberra Times concerning statements made in the Parliament, the executive carried a resolution that the president and the secretary should get in touch with me. I agreed to meet them. When we met, I said to Mr. Crawford, the president, “Did Mr. Rowe tell you to come along to see me?” He replied, “ Mr. Rowe knows nothing about the resolution, or about our meeting you today “. He then told me his story. I said, “What do you want?” He said, “ I should like the servicemen to hear the story”. I said, “I shall use my discretion as chairman and will allow you ten minutes; but I shall not allow any discussion of a subject-matter which is still under consideration and is most complicated “. Accordingly, there was no discussion, and the two men left. Two ex-servicemen sitting on the Government benches in this chamber can substantiate mv statement, which I make in fairness to Mr. Rowe. He did not approach me as a senator, or as an ex-soldier or as chairman of the Ex-servicemen’s Committee of this Parliament.
– I express my regret at the necessity for this motion. I greatly regret that Senator Cooper and a member of the House of Representatives who were my colleagues when I was a member of the Social Services Committee, and did a tremendous lot of work in an effort to solve the difficult problems with which the committee was faced, should have found it necessary to resign from the committee. The task with which the committee has been grappling is one of the most important of the many problems which this Parliament is trying to solve. During my term as a member of the committee no two men could have worked harder, or given more impartial judgment on the many matters that came before us, than did the members whohave resigned. At all times they were most tolerant and understanding, and T felt that so long as such men were associated with the committee those problems would be tackled in the best possible way. I repeat, therefore, that it is with deep regret that I learn that they have resigned from the committee. I do not wish to enter into a controversy regarding anything that happened after the new committee was established and I ceased to be a member of it. I am not competent to judge whether the action taken was, or was not, right. That is another matter. But I do say that during the time that I was a member of the committee we had very little difficulty in obtaining the service that we required. Had we not been able to obtain that service, it would have been difficult for the committee to carry on. Any committee of this Parliament which has an important job to do on behalf of the nation ought to have some jurisdiction over the service that it requires. I regret that two of my former colleagues have thought it necessary to resign in order to protest against what they believe to be a lack of that co-operation which they deserve. As to the former secretary of the committee, who was its secretary when I was a member, I can only say in fairness to him that I found him most competent. hard-working, and efficient. Indeed, the only complaint that the committee had regarding him was that he was disposed to work us too hard. He was most resourceful and efficient, and showed a full measure of ability. At all times I found him courteous and attentive. As the result of my experience, I regard him as a valuable servant of the committee. Without entering into any controversy on this subject I can say that I regret that that official has found it necessary to leave his post.
.- 1. regret the attitude of Mr. Speaker in regard to this matter, ‘because, in my opinion, there can be no doubt that the committee has the right to appoint its own secretary. At the inauguration of the Broadcasting Committee, of which I was at the time chairman, we fought this principle to a standstill. The President and the Speaker at that time held that they had the right to appoint the secretary of the committee, but the committee sought advice and found that the presiding officers did not possess that right. The secretary who was appointed was a man who knew a great deal about broadcasting. If parliamentary committees are to do efficient work, they must have the most efficient secretary passible. I say nothing against Mr. Chubb - I believe that he is an excellent officer - but a committee must have ;is its secretary a man who will specialize in the particular matters with which it has to deal. When the Broadcasting Committee was appointed, both Mr. Broinowski, the then Clerk of the Senate, and Mr.1 Green, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, told me that the committee had not the power to appoint its secretary. However, I stood my ground and, as I have said, the committee sought advice. When the advice that we had obtained was submitted to the Clerks of the two Houses, they had to back down. Later, however, they again came to me, and said, in effect, “All right; you appoint your man, and we also shall appoint a secretary “. I said that there was no need to appoint two secretaries; all that we wanted was a man who knew his job, that such a man bad been chosen, and that the committee would stick to him. I maintain that parliamentary committees have the right to appoint their own secretaries. If they are to be efficient, they must exercise that right.
– I had intended to speak along the lines of Senator Gibson’s speech. This matter is of sufficient importance to warrant a ruling being given by yourself, Mr. President. I have been a member of a number of select committees which, the Senate has appointed, and on each occasion the President, acting through the Clerk of the Senate, has appointed the secretary. Such appointments have Been practically automatic. Other committees, such as the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee, which are standing committees of the Parliament appointed by statute, have had their own permanent secretaries. During recent years various other committees have been appointed, among them the Broadcasting Committee and the Social Security Committee. These bodies represent a new type of committee inasmuch as they are dealing with problems which have not hitherto been dealt with by permanent committees. I agree with Senator Gibson that these committees are entirely different from ordinary select committees which are appointed for a special purpose and may cease to function after a few weeks or months. Committees of this new type are called upon to make careful investigations of important subjects, and need secretaries and officers who are well acquainted with the matters under consideration. I contend that no officer of the Parliament, who has other important duties to perform as a member of a staff of the Parliament should become the permanent secretary of one of these committees. Parliamentary officers already have heavy responsibilities in connexion with their parliamentary work, not only while the Parliament is in session, but also at other periods of the year. I should like to hear your views on this subject, Mr. President. I agree with Senator Cooper that a special investigation is called for so that this matter may be cleared up.
– As a member of the Social Security Committee, I express my deep regret, not only that Senator
Cooper and others have resigned from the committee, but also that the present unsatisfactory situation has arisen. I am not -well acquainted with parliamentary procedure in these matters, and, therefore, cannot speak from that aspect ; but I feel that the resignation of several of my colleagues on the committee will seriously jeopardize the committee’s activities. Despite the unfortunate situation which has been created, the committee has done a great deal of work during the last few months; and apart from this development, the happiest relations exist among members of the committee. I believe that the position of secretary to this committee cannot be filled by anybody, but calls for a person who possesses the requisite background and ability to do research work. It cannot possibly be regarded as a part-time job. The reports presented by this committee both before and since I was appointed to it are evidence of the volume of work done by Mr. Rowe, and I pay tribute to his work in that respect. However, Mr. Chubb, also a highly capable secretary, has been placed in a rather impossible position. We cannot go on when we have two officers placed in a very embarrassing position, and members of the committee themselves are rather embarrassed. The work of the committee is of national importance and should be above individuals and personalities. I regret “that Senator Cooper, who has been a most valuable member of the committee, has found it necessary to resign. I trust that some way out of the difficulty will be found, so that he and the other gentlemen who have resigned from the committee will be able to rejoin it without surrendering any principle. I repeat that this is a most important committee. It means so much to so many people that the sooner it is enabled to continue its work under normal conditions the better it will be for the country, particularly as at present it has under consideration a very important problem, and every day lost in the consideration of that problem will be a distinct loss to the nation. I hope that this difficulty will be solved to the satisfaction of all concerned.
– ‘Controversies of this character are not in the best interests of parliamentary government. Difficulty arises chiefly from the fact that the staffing of committees of this kind has never been thoroughly discussed, or solved. Insofar as the allocation of work of this kind is concerned, Mr. President and Mr. Speaker, in relation to these committees, stand very much .in the same position as the Public Service Commissioner stands in relation to the Public Service. In the past they have exercised control over these committees. Statutory committees, of course, are in a different category. I agree with Senator Tangney that this matter should now be settled on a permanent basis, and I believe that it would be in the best interests of parliamentary government if the determination of the matter were left to the presiding officers. Invariably, in my experience, Mr. President and Mr. Speaker have co-operated with the committees. Senator Gibson has brought a particular case under notice. I am aware that the late President had some very heated controversies regarding the appointment of a member of the Postal Department staff as secretary of the Broadcasting Committee. That was due, mainly, to the fact that these appointments, according to the opinion of the SolicitorGeneral, must be confirmed by either Mr. President or Mr. .Speaker. As a way out of this difficulty, I suggest that Mr. President and Mr. Speaker should confer on the matter. At the same time, I emphasize that when the position of secretary of a committee which is dealing with a specialized subject is under consideration, it may be desirable to appoint an individual who is particularly familiar with the subject. As Senator Gibson has mentioned, that was the case in respect of the Broadcasting Committee. A man who had been schooled in broadcasting for years was appointed secretary of that committee. In such cases, we should relax the rigidity that has been observed in the past in making appointments of this kind. When a committee deems it necessary to obtain a specialist as its secretary, I am sure that the good judgment of Mr. President and Mr. Speaker will enable such an appointment to be made. On the other hand, members of the staffs of Parliament are at the disposal of the presiding officers; and in the past they have rendered valuable work indeed as secretaries of these committees.’ I have had experience with two members of the staff in that capacity, and they rendered very valuable service. Each of those officers was a skilled accountant. But when special circumstances arise, as in the case of the Broadcasting Committee, when a man with a specialist’s knowledge is required, great respect should be paid to the wishes of the committee with regard to staffing. I suggest, Mr. President, that during the recess, you should furnish yourself with the best opinion that can be obtained with respect to this subject, although I ‘am aware that a difference of opinion exists on the matter even in the Crown Law Office.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) 1 11.6]. - The trouble which has arisen with respect to the position of’ secretary of the Social Security Committee is most unfortunate. The principle on which parliamentary committees are set up has been proved to be very sound. Through membership of such committees, members of Parliament are afforded opportunities to study at first hand problems which subsequently come before Parliament for determination; and the committee system enables Parliament as a whole to give thorough consideration to such problems. No analogy exists between the position of Mr. Rowe and that of Mr. Groves, who is secretary of the Broadcasting Committee. Mr. Groves was appointed secretary of the Broadcasting Committee of which Senator Gibson was chairman, because he had a thorough knowledge of broadcasting, not only in Australia but also in other countries. Previously, he had been secretary to Sir Harry Brown, when he was Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs; and he, attended the Communications Conference in the United States of America. He had also been secretary of the royal commission which inquired into broadcasting. He had been associated with broadcasting since its inception in Australia. Therefore, he possessed special qualifications to recommend him for appointment to the position of secretary of the Broadcasting Committee. It is true that at one stage Mr. Broinowski desired to become the secretary of that committee; but Mr.
Groves, because of his special qualifications, was appointed, and he is still the secretary of that committee.
– It would seem that the committee will lose him now.
– I assure the Senate that the chairman of that committee will do his utmost to retain the services of Mr. Groves, because he is too valuable an officer to be lost to that 00IOmittee. However, in my view, Mr. Rowe is in an entirely different position. He was private secretary to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) when he was Minister for Social Services. A request was made to the then Speaker, Mr. Nairn, that Mr. Rowe’s services should be made available as secretary to the Social Security Committee, and th.it request was granted. As I have not been a member of that committee, I am not in a position to express any opinion as to the value of the services rendered to it by Mr. Rowe. However, as a result of the last general elections the personnel of the committee underwent a change; and it must be admitted that the new members were more or less obliged to start from scratch so far as the work of the committee was concerned. In addition, I understand that at the request of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) Mr. Speaker decided to reduce the cost of the committee. He appointed Mr. Chubb, the Second Clerk Assistant of the House of Representatives, to assist the committee. At that stage, a very strange thing happened after Mr. Rowe was displaced as secretary of the committee; and it happened in this chamber. Senator Cooper, who has now resigned from the committee, found some strange reason why he should vote against the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill. We find to-day that the committee is about to make a report to Parliament on one of the most important problems confronting this country, namely, the provision of a complete free hospital and free medical service for the people. It seems strange that when the committee is about to make its report on that subject, three Opposition members should resign from it.
– What has that got to do with Mr. Rowe?
– I do not know what influence Mr. Rowe was able to exert upon those three members, but I know that he did a ‘very strange thing; and that is my main reason for speaking at this juncture. Recently, I attended a meeting of returned soldier members of this Parliament, and to my surprise that meeting was ‘attended by representatives of one sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The latter were there to pull strings with the politicians. They endeavoured to get those honorable members to approach Mr. Speaker to reinstate Mr. Rowe as secretary of the Social Security Committee. Such action was most improper. To my knowledge no executive of a sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has ever before taken such a course. The duty of such bodies is to attend to the betterment of returned soldiers generally. So far as I know, the returned soldier members of this Parliament have not allowed themselves to be used for the purpose of securing personal aggrandizement for some particular individual. I have no doubt that Mr. Rowe was responsible for that action on the part of that executive. It is utterly ridiculous to say that he did not know that the executive of that sub-branch was going to interview the members to whom I have referred on that subject.
– Does the honorable senator disbelieve what Senator Brand has said?
– I am not saying that Senator Brand has made an untrue statement. The honorable senator is entitled to believe what the members of that executive told him. But I do not believe what they said. I believe that they approached us at the behest of Mr. Rowe. I am not so stupid as to believe otherwise. That is where Mr. Rowe made a very bad break, because as members of the Parliament we must have full regard for the authority of the presiding officers in matters of this kind.
– A presiding officer has his limitations.
– He may have, but Mr. Speaker has what I understand to be his rights in this matter.
– The honorable senator did not maintain that Mr. Speaker had the ‘right to override the appointment of the secretary of the Broadcasting Committee.
– The Broadcasting Committee handled that matter well. Mr. Groves is still its secretary, and no member of the committee had to resign or threaten to resign because of him.
– I was a member of that committee, and I know that certain members did threaten to resign.
– That is not true. Mr. Groves would not still be the committee’s secretary if there were some cloud over him, and he had approached an outside organization to pull strings with members of Parliament to get something done for him. I think every member of the committee would agree with that statement.
– That is entirely untrue.
– As I said earlier, it is regrettable that any member of the Social Security Committee should resign because of something that has happened under this system. The matters which the committee was handling were all important to the Australian people, who, I am sure, will not feel very pleased with the action of three members in resigning from the committee and letting the interests of the rest of Australia go by the board for the sake of one individual. I suggest that those members have given very little thought to their action. They have taken this step to protect a man who would not protect them, and have left the people without a report which should have been made to Parliament at the earliest possible date.
– Personally, I deeply regret what has happened, particularly the fact that Senator Cooper has resigned from the committee. Certain comments made during the debate meet with my approval, particularly Senator A. J. McLachlan’s remarks concerning specialists, and as a general principle the need for committees to elect their own secretaries; but there is, of course, a certain procedure to be followed. “We must recognize the powers of Parliament. If these powers are not expressly stated in an act of Parliament, we must be guided by precedent. There is no doubt that Parliament controls its own committees. The House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, control the committees which they appoint, and a joint committee is controlled by both Houses. Secretaries are appointed, and are a part of the staff. Parliament controls the staffs. It is a well-established principle that Parliament is master in it.3 own house. That, however, does not dispense with the fact that at times it is essential to appoint as secretary of a committee a man who is a specialist in a particular direction. At times it may be advantageous for committees to appoint their own secretaries. I admit that, as I think we all do. At the same time, in order to avoid any further regrettable incidents such as we have witnessed in the last few weeks, we should adopt the proper way of approach to the problem. If it be a fact that Parliament controls committees and the staffs and if it is admitted that the secretary of a committee is a member of the staff, then, instead of a committee deciding who shall be a member of the staff of the committee, I suggest that it should be competent for any committee to approach the House concorned, which has power to grant the committee the right to select its own secretary. When the Senate appoints a committee it has the power to confer on it the right to select its own secretary, [f a committee says that it cannot function unless it has that right, the proper course for it to adopt is to inform the House concerned, whereupon either or both Houses, as the case may be, would, I believe, give it that right.
The subject came before the Senate in a general way as a matter of principle on the 1st and 2nd December, 1921, when the appointment of parliamentary officers was being discussed, and the whole matter was debated. A Public Service Bill had been introduced which contained no special provision in regard to officers of Parliament. The then President of the Senate, the late Senator Givens, moved in committee an amendment which I am informed is, in effect, section 0 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Another amendment was moved by ex-Senator De Largie, to give committees some control of staffs. The whole subject was fully debated, and ex-‘Senator De Largie’s amendment was negatived on the voices. I have myself worked on committees, and have realized the need for secretaries with special knowledge and thoroughly acquainted with the business to be considered. I have also realized the need for committees to appoint their own secretaries; but, as I have already said, we must take the proper course, which, I maintain, is that a committee wishing to select, its own secretary should ask the House for power to do so. I inform Senator A. J. McLachlan that I shall consult Mr. Speaker in regard to this matter, and discuss it thoroughly, so that we may arrive at a mutually satisfactory decision which should prevent the regrettable incidents that have occurred recently.
Senator ALLAN’ MacDONALD (Western Australia) 11.23]. - I am sure that honorable senators all appreciate your remarks, Mr. President, on this problem. I think that the incident has got out of all perspective and been given far too much publicity. At the same time, Senator Amour’s speech has impelled me to take part in the debate, although it was not my intention to do so. His remarks about Mr. Groves, as secretary of the Broadcasting Committee, and Mr. Rowe, formerly secretary of the So’cial Security Committee, would convey the impression that Mr. Groves possessed special technical knowledge of broadcasting which warranted his appointment as secretary of the Broadcasting Committee - an appointment with which I agree - whereas Mr. Rowe did not have such good qualifications for appointment as secretary of the Social Security Committee. I have known Mr. Rowe for very many years. He was a Western Australian lad, and I served in the last war with him. He has made the subject of medical services a lifelong study, and I would not mind making the statement here, with all respect to Mr. Groves, that Mr. Rowe has made a longer study of medical services than Mr. Groves has of broadcasting. Not only did I know Mr. Rowe at the last war, but he v.as once my private secretary, so that I know his qualifications and I have every confidence in speaking on his behalf. I should like to deal also with another statement made by Senator Amour. I do not like criticizing other honorable senator’s statements. I like making my own criticism without alluding to other honorable senators; but Senator Amour’s statement regarding the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia forces me to make .a rejoinder. I well remember the time when Mr. Rowe was the president of that branch, and a very hard-working and energetic president he was. Possibly to his later detriment, he was very assiduous in protesting against any action by governments or government departments, whereby preference to returned soldiers was ignored. He put up a great fight for the returned men of the Australian Capital Territory, and any subsequent president of the local branch would show base ingratitude to Mr. Rowe, a former president, if he did not take up the cudgels on his behalf, having in mind the energetic work that he did for returned men in this territory. I, for one, at the meeting of the returned soldier members of this Parliament, accepted the statement of Mr. Crawford, the president of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the league, that Mr.. Rowe knew nothing at all about its deputation to the returned soldier members of Parliament. Knowing Mr. Crawford, I feel sure that he did what he did out of gratitude for the great services that Mr. Rowe has rendered to “ diggers “ in this territory ever since 1928 or 1929. That is my statement in contradistinction to that of Senator Amour. More important still, I should like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), when replying on behalf of the Government, to indicate what course the Government intends . to take to ensure that this very essential committee continues its work on behalf of the medical services and the social amelioration of the people of Australia.
– It is most regrettable that an element of personality has crept into this discussion and that Senator Amour should have made the remarks he did, because they naturally induced Senator Allan MacDonald to rise in defence of the person referred to. Nothing of the sort should have happened. After all, the question of whether committees or Mr. President and Mr. Speaker have the right to appoint the officers of committees, ought to be one of plain fact. The doubt should be cleared up so that there may be no misunderstanding in the future. If it is not cleared up, it will be incumbent on the Government when moving for the appointment of a committee to include in the motion a paragraph to the effect that the committee shall have the right to appoint its own secretary. That seems to be the best way out of the difficulty. In future, unless the matter is cleared up now, so far as I am personally concerned I shall want to know, when a committee is appointed, who is to have the right to appoint its secretary, and I shall ask the Minister concerned to indicate it in the motion. After all. the secretary is a most important officer of any committee. I am not questioning the right of Mr. President and Mr. Speaker to take the action which they deem best, but, unless legal advice has been obtained, I still think that the best course is to state the powers of the committee in the motion for its appointment. I much regret the tone that the debate has taken to-day because it has done to certain officers involved a grave injustice which I do not think is deserved. There should be no recurrence of such a thing. It is only right that the two branches of the legislature should make clear in some way exactly what the rights of- Mr. President and Mr. Speaker are in this regard. If that is done, we shall not have a recurrence of the rather regrettable speeches which we heard this morning.
– in reply - I was one of the original members of the Social Security Committee, and for a while was acting chairman. The committee was set ‘ up by the previous Government, and, like other similar committees, it has done an excellent job. I am not completely au fait with the circumstances surrounding the relinquishment by Mr. Rowe of the position of secretary. All I know is that, whilst I was a member of that committee and acting chairman, Mr. Rowe’s activities related mainly to the preliminary stages of the committee’s inquiries. At that time we were rather at a loss to know which aspect of social services should be the subject of the committee’s first recommendations to Parliament. A vast amount of research, including detailed examination of schemes operating in other countries was involved, and Mr. Rowe’s work was of the highest quality, both with respect to his management of the committee and to his research activities.. I regret that Senator Cooper has tendered his resignation as a member of the “committee, and I believe that even at this late hour be should withdraw it to permit Mr. President and Mr. Speaker to have the whole matter cleared up. The incident is one which must be cleared up quickly. I agree with honorable senators who have pointed out that in staffing of a committee such as this the appointment of «n officer of the department concerned is most desirable. If, for instance, an inquiry were ordered into the import procurement activities of my department, I should say that the best person to be secretary of the inquiring authority would be an officer of my department. Any one else would be a long way behind scratch. It is always preferable to have as the secretary of a committee a person who is in a position to advise members of the committee on matters which are being investigated. The Social Security Committee, of course, is an all-party committee, and although at the beginning of its operation members of .opposing political camps were miles apart in their views upon many social problems, such was the good feeling that existed, and so valuable was the information supplied, that eventually we were able to bring down unanimous reports, some of which have been the basis of social legislation already passed through this Parliament. [ agree with Senator A. J. McLachlan that the whole matter should be reviewed by Mr. President and Mr. Speaker in an endeavour to prevent a recurrence of such au unfortunate incident. As Senator Leckie said this is a matter which concerns both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The existence of committees of this kind is imperative, but their activities should be conducted in such a way that no reflection will be cast upon their officers. Both the officers under discussion have been placed in a very awkward position. I have spoken to Mr. Rowe three or four times, and I have also discussed the matter with members of the committee. All I know abour Mr. Rowe is that he was a very competent officer while I was a member and acting chairman of the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (nide page 2134) on motion by Senator, Collings -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional . Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 2136), on motion by Senator Collings -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I am authorized by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) to say that there is no opposition to this measure. I merely rise to ask the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) a few questions in relation to the work of the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau. I realize that it is most desirable that legislative authority should be given to the board representing the school and the Australian universities. What I am anxious to know is whether the various
State Forestry Departments throughout Australia, which, after all, are responsible in the main for the success of the Forestry School at Canberra, are “ playing ball “ with the Commonwealth authorities. During my term of office as Minister for the Interior, certain States did not assist us very much, although such assistance would have made the work of the school very much more successful than it had been. I made numerous approaches to the various States from time to time in that regard. Can the Minister give a brief resume of the relationship between the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau and the State Forestry Departments at present?
– I am well aware that the state of affairs to which the honorable senator referred existed whilst he was Minister for the Interior. It did not apply to all States, but it applied in particular to one State. Since those days, however, we have managed to overcome some of the little prejudices which existed, and I can assure the honorable senator that all States are now co-operating well. There would be more students at the school at. present had it not been for enlistments in the fighting forces.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 2135), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 2135), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 2138), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Having studied this bill, I draw the attention of the Senate to the regimentation that is to be imposed by the Government on a large section of the people. They are to be submitted to control and discrimination of a very objectionable kind. Much has been heard in the last few months about the four freedoms, but if more measures such as the Coal Production (War-time) Bill and the hill now before the Senate are passed we shall be wanting to know what freedom is left to the people. Under this measure the Government proposes to tax people in respect of the admission charge and the charge for refreshments at dances, card parties and skating rinks. The people should be able to please themselves whether they take their amusements at the races or elsewhere. If they attend race meetings they escape the amusement tax on the refreshments purchased, but if the working man takes his wife and family to the seaside and spends small sums on sideshows or other amusements, entertainments tax will be levied if the charge for each person exceeds 3d. That is a strange policy for a Labour government to adopt.
If a person attends a dance or other place of amusement at which the price charged for the amusement and the refreshments does not exceed 3s., no tax is to be charged, but if the price exceeds 3s., tax will be imposed. Such a discrimination is objectionable. The Senate has not been informed as to how much revenue the Government expects to collect under this proposal, but the Senate is entitled to that information. It should also be told the cost of administration and how much man-power will bo required to administer and police the proposal. It has been admitted that the taxation authorities have found it almost impossible to keep a check on the amount of money paid by the people at places of entertainment such as Luna Park, but now the Government proposes to levy tax in respect of the money paid for admission to small sideshows.
. -I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that the information contained in the speech of the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Keane) is totally inadequate. I suppose that the object of the measure is to raise revenue rather than to penalize people when they attend places of amusement. Therefore, the Government must have in mind the sum of money that it expects to collect by way of tax. Honorable senators have the right to ask whether entrepreneurs and the people generally should be put to the extra expense of collecting so small a tax as1d. where the payment for admission is not less than 3d. but does not exceed 4d. According to this proposal the tax in respect of such entertainment is to be about 25 per cent. If the cost of admission exceeds 4d. the tax is to be 11/2d., which is more than 25 per cent. If it exceeds 51/2d. the tax will be 2d., which is 30 per cent. We have heard of heavy increases of the sales tax, but it seems to me that the Government is going too far in imposing comparatively heavy entertainments tax on the innocent amusements of the poor. Is the objectof the Government to stop all entertainment, or does it wish to get every penny it can by way of tax in respect of money paid for amusements by rich and poor alike? It seems to me that the Government is determined to grab every penny it can. I shall not enlarge on this matter, because I anticipate that the Minister will be able to satisfy the Senate on the points that I have raised.
– The revenue anticipated under this proposal is £150,000. It will cause no increase of administrative costs, and it will involve no extra man-power, but the revenue that will be obtained is most necessary at present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Admission to entertainments) .
– The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Keane) has told us that the anticipated revenue amounts to £150,000, but he also made the astonishing statement that the raising of that revenue would involve no extra expenditure and no additional man-power would be required to administer or police the proposal. At every dance in Australia where the price of admission to the dance, including the cost of refreshments, is over 3s. for each person, the patrons will be liable to the payment of an additional entertainments tax, and I feel confident that hundreds of men will have to be employed to administer and police this proposal. It will means hundreds of hours to the organizers of various entertainments in their efforts to comply with redtape requirements of the department, such as the filling in of various forms. I do not know whether I gained a wrong impression from the Minister’s statement, but that he should say that no extra cost and no additional man-power will be involved is simply ridiculous. Nor can I understand how these entertainments will be policed. At places like Manly and St. Kilda there are numerous entertainments to which the price of admittance is 4d. or 6d., and if a tax has to. be collected on all these forms of entertainment a considerable amount of work will be involved. Either the Minister gave a wrong reply, or I misunderstood what he said. I agree that it may be necessary for the Government to obtain additional revenue from this source, but to inflict on the people who visit the seaside at week-ends and perhaps have a ride on the merrygoround the necessity to pay an entertainments tax seems to be going to extremes.
.- I repeat that this tax is expected to yield £150,000 per annum, and that no extra cost or additional man-power will be involved. I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that entertainments tax is now being charged on composite admission tickets. It would appear that there will be some slight addition to the work of the department; but I can definitely say that no extra cost is expected to be incurred.
.- 1’ can understand the Government seeking additional means to obtain revenue, but surely there could be a distinction between amusement tickets bought by adults and tickets bought by children. At many entertainments, half rates are charged for children. On the other hand, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there is a lot of easy money in circulation, and that much of it is spent on amusements. At such places as Luna Park, where there is a lower admittance charge for children than for adults, would it not be possible to exempt the children from the necessity to pay tax?
– A request had been made for the exemption from tax of children’s tickets to places of amusement. An undertaking has been given on behalf 6f the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to consider the suggestion, but there are obvious difficulties, particularly when it is remembered that some- amusements which are patronized by both adults and children make no distinction as to the price of admission. I t would be practically impossible in such cases to fix a line of demarcation between children and adults. If, howover, there are amusements which are conducted exclusively for children, and the price of admission exceeds 3d., it may be possible to exempt them from tax on the ground that it is not customary for individual patrons to pay amounts totalling ls. Such cases will be carefully considered by the Commissioner.
– Although I am in favour of an entertainments tax, especially under existing conditions, I regard this as a ridiculous proposal. We should be dealing with bigger things. Admittedly, there is a lot of money in circulation and much of it is being spent on amusements, which apparently the people find satisfying, but if the Government were to concentrate on taxing people who attend race meetings, trotting, and such entertainments, it would obtain the additional £150,000 without adding to the cost of administration and without doing any great harm to the people who would be called upon to pay it. I can hardly believe that the proposals of the Government will not involve additional administrative costs in collecting the tax. We shall probably find that a great deal of the £150,000 will be taken up in meeting expenses. Although I am in favour of an entertainments tax, wc should hesitate to tax a child’s 3d. ice cream.
.- When in my second-reading speech I suggested that the bill provided that a child who attended an entertainment and bought a 3d. ice cream would be called upon to pay a tax of Id., I noticed some indecision on the part of the occupants of the Government benches. T therefore direct attention to the following paragraphs in the second-reading Speech of the Minister who introduced the bill:-
In the absence of any special provision to the contrary, it would be necessary for the proprietor of u dunce to have a record of all amounts expended by each patron on refreshments in order to determine the amount of tax payable. This arises from the fact that under the existing law the tax is not imposed at a Hut rate. The rate increase* us the charges increase. It is impracticable for proprietors to keep a record of payments Try individual patrons, and for this reason it is proposed that the following special rates of tax shall apply to separate payments for 1’efireshments : -
Where the charge is not less than 3d. but does not exceed 4d. Tax Id.
Apparently, the Treasurer expects to obtain1d. from a patron of an amusement show who expends 3d. on refreshments.
– At dances only.
– If a child went to Luna Park and bought a 3d. ice cream, would the tax be1d.?
– There is no tax on ice cream. Children do not usually attend dances.
– Does this apply only to dances?
– As regards refreshments, it applies only to dances.
– Does it apply to amusement parks?
– The provision in regard to refreshments does not apply to amusement parks.
– I take it that any entertainment inside an amusement park is subject to tax, but not refreshments purchased there.
– That is so.
– Am I correct in supposing that refreshments are taxable only at dances?
– That is so.
– I am glad to have that explanation. The most extraordinary statement made by the Minister was that the collection of the additional £150,000 expected to be obtained from this tax would not involve any additional man-power. No doubt, the Minister has been advised to that effect, but any one with a knowledge of accountancy doubts the accuracy of that advice.
– We have an efficient Government and an efficient department.
– I agree with the latter but not the former part of the interjection. I hope that experience will bear out the Minister’s statement that no additional cost of administration will be involved, that no additional manpower will be required, and that the tax will yield £150,000.
– The principal objection of the Opposition to this clause relates to the cost of administration. I must confess that I was astonished to hear the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) say that no extra administrative cost would be incurred. Very few members of the public have any idea of government administrative costs. Take, for instance, the Man Power Department. The following statement shows the number of employees of that department in each State, together with their salaries : -
– The honorable senator’s remarks have little to do with the clause under consideration.
– We are juggling with pennies when millions of pounds are available.
– At some night clubs and other so-called high-class entertainments a cover charge must be paid before a person is admitted. All other costs are in addition to that charge. In some instances, the cover charge is 18s. 6d. for each person admitted. Is that charge taxable?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 17 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 2139), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 2140), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a second time.
> I draw attention to the extraordinary liberality of this measure. As honorable senators are aware, workers’ compensation acts are in operation in every State, and also in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, the mandated territory of New Guinea, Papua, :ind Nauru. Iri addition to these, many compensation acts in respect of particular industries, such as seamen’s compensation, are operating. It appears to me that the officers who drew up these proposals were instructed to go through all existing acts and to pick out the highest rates of compensation payable under them, and to embody them in this measure. Not only are the proposed rates of compensation the highest yet provided in this country, but the proposed conditions generally are the most liberal yet to be prescribed in any legislation passed by any Parliament in this country, or, I believe, in the world. Undoubtedly, this measure will come to be recognized as a standard measure throughout Australia. Therefore, it is of very great significance. In entering into these new commitments, we shall enter into obligations far in excess of those anticipated in the principal act. We must remember that the number of Commonwealth employees is constantly increasing. I should like to know whether the measure will apply to employees about whom some doubt exists as to whether they arc Commonwealth employees. I should like the Minister to tell us whether,’ for instance, employees in coal mines taken over by the Commonwealth Government will come under it. I understand that all employees in government munitions factories will be covered by it.
– What about employees in private munitions annexes?
– I do not think they will come under this measure. However, the Minister might answer that point. It would be rather strange should employees in government factories come under the measure, and, at the same time, other rates of compensation apply in respect of employees who are doing exactly the same kind of work in private annexes. I should also like to know whether employees of the Allied Works Council will be covered by the measure. Thus, it will be seen that the scope of this bill is very wide indeed. I should also like the Minister to give an estimate of the COS which will be incurred by the Government under the bill. In ordinary compensation, schemes, private employers can estimate the cost fairly accurately, and can cover their liability with insurance companies.. The Commonwealth, however, will accept complete liability under this scheme. Normally, the rates of compensation payable in respect of schemes of this kind are based on the incidence of accidents in particular industries. For instance, that incidence is comparatively high in the sawmilling industry, and in slaughtering houses, and is comparatively low in respect of clerks and domestic servants. Under this measure, however, the rates will be more or less bulked together to cover all employees of the Government regardless of the nature of their employment. I should like to know whether the Minister can give any reliable estimate of the cost of this scheme, or, at least, an estimate of the ratio of disbursement? to the total wages of employees who will be covered. As I have said, the measure prescribes the highest rates of compensation yet provided in legislation of thi.? kind. For instance, the highest compensation payable in Victoria is £750. and in New South Wales £800, whereas the corresponding compensation payable under this measure is £1,000. Although there is a limit to the amount of compensation payable in a lump sum in respect of death, or los3 of a limb, no limit is provided under the measure in respect of injuries which may permanently incapacitate an employee. An employee who suffers an injury which has disabled him permanently will be entitled to receive compensation at the rate of twothirds of the wage he was receiving at the time of injury, plus £1 a week for his wife; that compensation is payable i indefinitely. Therefore, it will be very difficult to estimate the cost of this scheme. Indeed, if the measure be not policed very strictly this scheme may develop into a malingerer’s dream. The Opposition does not oppose the provision of compensation in respect of employees who suffer injury; and employers generally approve such schemes.
– It will be very difficult for a malingerer to “put it fiver “ a medical officer.
– Any insurance company which handles business of this kind can give many instances of marvellous recoveries from injury after compensation has been paid in a lump sum.
– That is a reflection upon medical practitioners.
– I do not think so, because, usually, general practitioners ure innocent parties in cases of that kind. 1 take it that the Government will employ practitioners with special experience in this kind of work.
– That is so.
– However, as the measure will operate throughout the Commonwealth and the territories of the Commonwealth, it will probably be necessary to rely on outside medical opinion in many cases.
– The honorable senator should know that no legislation can effectively police human nature.
– The “Opposition will not oppose the measure. I simply take this opportunity to warn the people that this scheme, for the reasons 1 have given, will prove very costly. The people should realize that this is not a measure of minor importance but may involve expenditure running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. As I have said, the Opposition approves compensation being paid to employees in respect of injuries suffered in the course of their employment. The bill also opens the door a little to manipulation or malingering. The Minister pointed out in his speech the length of time that might elapse before certain diseases became apparent. Dermatitis, which can bc one caused by the sand of quarries, ran lie dormant for fifteen years. “When it does appear, the sufferer can make a claim against the Commonwealth if, fifteen years before, he worked for the Commonwealth. Such disorders are fairly rare, but not so rare as many people think. To expect any doctor to say that the claimant contracted the malady when working for the Commonwealth fifteen years before seems to be rather placing a premium on manipulation in this regard. The Government, and the officers of the department who administer the measure, will have to be a little harder than previously, and their medical officers will have to be more astute in dealing with matters which they have not had to handle before. Under this measure, they will deal with a very different class of labour from that with which they dealt previously, and I am afraid that the bill will cost the taxpayers somewhat more than appeal1.? likely on the surface. 1 Senator KEANE (Victoria- Minister for Trade and Customs) [12.32]. - iv reply - If there is any form of social or industrial legislation which is long overdue, it is a bill of this nature. It will set for the protection of employees of the Commonwealth a standard which is, 1 suggest, all important. In the “ good old (lays “, when men” were killed or became ill in industry, they were scrapped, and had to face a miserable end in a public institution or elsewhere. Some improvement in that direction has been made in the State arena, and I am glad that on this occasion the National Government is taking action, as Senator Leckie has said, at rates probably higher than those in any other part of the world. The bill is to embrace all Government factories, but will not include annexes. The Civil Constructional Corps has its own regulations, but the permanent officers who operate that organization will come under this measure. The estimate of the cost to the Commonwealth Government last year was £150,000. It is impossible to give Senator Leckie any estimate of what this measure will cost, except that no employee will be eligible for any benefit except after a rigorous medical examination. If it is policed as I saw a corresponding aci policed for .a number of years when I was in the Victorian Railways Department. I do not think that much of the “taxpayers’ money will be wasted. The examinations to which men. who were sick or injured were subjected were the most drastic that I have ever seen.
– What about the members of the Civil Constructional Corps and the coal-miners?
– The members of the Civil Constructional Corps have their own regulations whilst the coal-miners have the same rates as other workers under the New South Wales law. The policing of the measure will necessarily be a Government job. I am glad that at last our standard of £1,000 is equal to what New South Wales has had fora number of years, as the result of a much discussed Labour Government in that State.
– Does the bill cover the miners in the coal mines that the Government takes over?
– When the industry is under our control, it will. There is no need to fear that gross abuse of these provisions will result in a large expenditure of money. That possibility is already well checked. As Senator Leckie has said, the bill will involve some extra expense, but it will also mean, I suggest, the same policing as is operating in other cases. The medical profession has to be relied upon. My observation is that it is a very strong willed body of men. I do not think that doctors give certificates loosely. They may occasionally make bad diagnoses, but I think we can say that the members of the medical profession of Australia do what is right, whether acting for the Government or in any other activity.
Question Tesolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Compensation for Personal Injuries to Employees).
– This clause amends section 9 of the principal act, of which paragraph b of sub-section 1 is as follows: -
If it is proved that the injury to an employee is attributable to his serious and wilful misconduct, any compensation claimed in respect of that injury shall, unless the injury results in death or serious and permanent disablement, he disallowed.
Thus, if owing to his own serious and wilful misconduct, a man suffers injury, he is not allowed’ to receive compensation, but if his misconduct results in his death, or in his serious and permanent disablement, then compensation is payable. Ls that the intention? If the result is not serious and permanent, the man does not come under the bill, but if the result is serious and permanent, he is protected by it. That seems rather inconsistent.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Second and Third Schedules).
– These schedules simply set out, as many schedules do, certain set amounts for certain classes of injuries. Has the Government considered the relative results of different injuries to men in different age groups? For instance, at the age of 22 a man who suffered loss of hearing would be under a far greater disability than a man well advanced in life. It does not seem equitable that a man suffering serious injury in early life should receive no more than a man who is about to retire from an active industrial life, because the older man would be far less disabled industrially. For instance, if a workman of, say, 60 years of age loses a foot he is paid £560, whereas if a young man of 22 years is similarly disabled, he is paid the same amount although he has to suffer thatdisability throughout his life.
.- Consideration will be given to the point raised by Senator Arnold.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 2141), on motion by Senator Fraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 2143), on motion by Senator Fraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Whilst the Opposition supports the principle of invalid and old-age pensions, I take this opportunity to draw attention to an objectionable feature of the present scheme. Having regard to the financial position of this country, and looking back upon the inauguration of our invalid and old-age pension legislation, one can appreciate the great mistake that was made at that time in not placing the scheme upon a contributory basis. Unfortunately, pensions have become the plaything of party politics. Invalid and old-age pensioners in this country number approximately 360,000. If we are to be honest with them wo must remind them of the drift which is taking place in this country’s finances. Our social service commitments for the present financial year include £23,500,000 for invalid and old-age pensions, £11,500,000 for child endowment, £2,000,000 for maternity allowances, and £3,500,000 for widows’ pensions, together with an estimated expenditure of £5,000,000 for unemployment benefits, £8,000,000 for sickness benefits, £750,000 for service pensions and £8,000,00 for repatriation pensions, making a total of £62,250,000. It is not so very long since a financial depression swept this country, and we were confronted with the sorry spectacle of a Labour Prime Minister having to reduce invalid and old-age pensions. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to talk airily about bank credit. I warn t hem that this country cannot go on providing sums as large as £62,250,000 for social services out of bank credit.I admit that having regard to the increased cost of living in this country to-day, 27s. a week is not a very substantial amount for an invalid or old-age pensioner to receive. I am quite satisfied that 27s. to-day will not purchase that which could be bought with £1 before the war ; yet, one continues to hear airy talk of providing finance by means of bank credit and thus forcing up prices and placing an everincreasing burden upon people such as invalid and old-age pensioners. This measure abandons the principle inserted in our invalid and old-age pensions legislation by the Labour Government when during the last Parliament it passeda measure providing that those pensions should vary according to cost of living index figures. The amending legislation provided that should the cost of living increase there would be a corresponding rise in invalid and old-age pensions and that should the cost of living drop there would be corresponding reductions, down to a certain figure at which the pension was to remain stationary. A most extraordinary position has now arisen. In an endeavour to conceal rising prices the Government is paying subsidies to the producers of certain commodities and fixes a ceiling price for those commodities; but it is useless trying to deceive the people in that way. This country is definitely heading towards inflation. For the quarter ended the 30th September, 1943. according to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures the cost of living, based on the prices of certain commodities, fell by 6d., and invalid and old-age pensions automatically were reduced by that amount. However it was not long before members of Parliament began to grow nervous of the reactions produced by that reduction. Obviously they feared a loss of votes at the next elections, and the result was an act of political cowardice on the part of the Government. The law was amended by regulations instead of by Parliament. The political pressure was so great that caucus was able to persuade the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and others that the Labour party could not afford to bear the stigma that it had reduced invalid and old-age pensions.
SenatorFraser. - Parliament was not in session at that time.
– It was quite competent for the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to summon Parliament to discuss the matter. Here we have further evidence of the attitude of the “ learned doctor “ - the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). Legal authorities and many other people in this community are becoming very perturbed at the length to which the Attorney-General is prepared to go to satisfy caucus. Apparently, it does not matter whether or not his action is valid or whether or not it is necessary to call in Professor Bailey or some other authority to support him, so long as he is able to satisfy caucus and obtain his political ends.
I take this opportunity to draw attention to certain statements which the Minister for Health (Senator Eraser) made in his second-reading speech, and which appear to me to be ludicrous, if not comical. I presume that the speech was prepared by the Attorney-General or upon his advice. The Minister said -
There has been some criticism of the use of a regulation under the National Security Act to prevent a reduction in the rate of pension and, in this connexion, I would point out that the National Security Act authorizes the making of regulations for securing the public’s safety and defence of the Commonwealth.
Is it suggested that a decrease of 6d. in invalid and old-age pensions interfered in any way with public safety, or the defence of the Commonwealth? Certainly it had something to do with the safety of the Labour party, and the security in this Parliament of several honorable senators opposite. The Minister went on to say -
In effect, it gives to the Government of the Commonwealth for the duration of the war and six months thereafter, the power to legislate by regulation with respect to the prosecution of the war. The regulation which was made by Statutory Rules 1943, No. 315, was designed to prevent invalid and old-age pensioners from suffering hardship because of circumstances inseparable from the conditions of war and attributable to a great extent to the establishment of war-time controls, war-time restrictions and war-time limitations.
– It is a gem.
– I am pleased to hear that remark from the Leader of the Senate, who is one of the strongest critics of lawyers. Then apparently the person responsible for the preparation of the Minister’s second-reading speech decided that a reference to the High Court might be appropriate. The Minister said - The High Court has held that the National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations we’re valid insofar as they provided for the adjustment of contracts which had become inequitable or unduly onerous by reason of circumstances attributable to the war. It clearly follows from this decision that a regulation designed to prevent such circumstances from causing the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to operate in an inequitable and onerous manner would be valid as being reasonably incidental to defence.
I ask the Leader of the Senate to state whether that is the Attorney-General’s considered opinion and the considered opinion of the Solicitor-General. If, in the opinion of the Attorney-General it is valid, I enter an emphatic protest against the attitude of the Government in seeking political advancement by taking advantage of the National Security Act in this way. The Opposition does not object to invalid and old-age pensions, but it regrets that it cannot agree to their increase beyond £1 7s. a week at present, owing to the increase of the cost of living. Until all social services are provided on a contributory basis, the people will not receive the protection in future years to which they are entitled. This method of financing social services to satisfy political supporters will lead eventually to financial disaster, and I believe that even the invalid and old-age pensioners appreciate that fact.
.- Numerous instances have come to our notice of the Government having acted illegally, and under this bill it proposes to legalize acts which were contrary to the law. During the last election campaign the Government, purporting to act under a National Security Regulation, reduced sales tax for the express purpose of reducing the cost of living. When the Parliament met after the elections, it was asked to legalize the illegal act of the Government. Now we have another illustration of that practice. Because the Government found that the law which this Parliament had made operated in a way which it regarded as politically undesirable, it promulgated a regulation under the National Security Act, overriding the will of Parliament. Instead of the Government telling the Parliament frankly that it had done something illegal and asking it to make the action legal, which with its docile majority it could do, it has the audacity to present in the Minister’s secondreading speech, the most ridiculous arguments that I have ever heard in an attempt to justify its action. I assume that the Minister who made the statement justifying the action taken ti id not make the statement “ off his own bat”. I assume that he at least consulted the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) who is the legal adviser to the Government, lit would not be unfair to assume also that what appears in the speech on the legal aspect of the matter, expresses the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral. I find it difficult to believe that a legal gentleman with the experience of the Attorney-General, who was a High Court judge for some years, could honestly believe in the opinion which is expressed in that speech. If it be true as a matter of law that invalid and oldage pensions can be increased by means of a National Security Regulation, why does the Minister now ask the Parliament to legalize the Government’s action? If we could increase the pensions by that means we. could establish a complete pensions scheme by such regulations.
– Would the honorable senator have the Government ignore Parliament?
– That is what I am complaining of. In the first place, it did ignore the Parliament. The law states clearly that the pensions are to be measured by reference to certain costofliving figures, and, in a particular quarter, having regard to those figures, pensions fell. In making payment in excess of the amount which the statute authorizes this Ministry ignored the Parliament. It now claims, contrary to the view which the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) would apparently put, that it did not ignore Parliament, but that which was done was in pursuance of, and was authorized by, the National Security Act. That Opinion is contrary to the express decisions of the High Court which have been given in the course of the last two or three years. I remind the Senate that the claim is advanced that this increase of pensions could be made under the National Security Act and in exercise of the defence power of the Commonwealth. That would imply that under the defence power this Parliament and the Government, acting in accordance with acts of this Parliament, would be entitled to make any law which would promote civil contentment throughout the community. That very argument was put to the High Court on behalf of the Com monwealth in the case of The King v. Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. That case had relation to Cup Day pay in Victoria. In the course of the judgment of the Chief Justice, reported in 66 C.L.R. at page 509, the following statement appears : -
The substantial argument for the Commonwealth was that, especially in time of war. civic contentment and good feeling is very important and that this is prejudiced if State servants are dissatisfied with respect to holiday pay.
If we substituted “ invalid and old-age pensioners “ for’ “ State servants “ and referred to “ pensions “ instead of “ holiday pay “, the statement of the Commonwealth’s argument in that case would exactly express what the Minister has said in his second-reading speech on this bill. The Chief Justice” continues -
Therefore, it is argued, the Commonwealth must, under the defence power, have authority to take charge of such a matter. This contention inescapably depends upon the proposition that under the defence power the Commonwealth Parliament may pass any law to promote the contentment and happiness of tin; people.
Later, the Chief Justice further states -
As I have already said, the defence power should not, in my opinion, be construed as an unlimited legislative power. It should be interpreted upon the same principle as that which is applied to other constitutional powers. If the alleged connexion between a particular power of legislation and the subject of defence is either non-existent or so attenuated as to be practically non-existent, the legislation cannot be supported under that power. So far as the validity of the regulations in question is challenged the relation which they have to defence is no greater than the relation which an)’ legislation deemed to be desirable in the general interests of the community has to defence. A law cannot, in my opinion, be brought within the defence power merely upon this ground.
Every word of that is applicable to the Government’s conduct in relation to this increase of pensions, and that must have been known to the Attorney-Genera! when he gave voice to the opinions which he has uttered through the Minister in this chamber. The Minister quoted from the High Court’s judgment in relation to the contracts adjustment case, but in that case the court held those regulations to be valid only so far as contracts could be adjusted when they had become inequitable or unduly onerous by reason of circumstances attributable to the war. How could it be said that this act had become inequitable or unduly onerous by reason of those circumstances, when the only thing that had happened was that the very set of circumstances that the Parliament provided for had occurred ?
– Not everywhere in Australia.
– Pensions fell in accordance with the index figures prescribed in the act by the Parliament, and that is the only test in this matter. Because the operation of the law would have been politically undesirable from the point of view of the Government, it deliberately overrode the law. I protest ;i gainst that practice. This is not the first time that the Government has resorted to it. We had another illustration of it last night. The Minister admitted and boasted that the Government had been illegally collecting from certain people sums deducted for taxes although they were not liable to pay it.
– There is nothing like candour.
– The Government is rather proud of its illegal action, but that seems to be very undesirable. How can we expect the members of the con]munity to obey the laws of the country when the Government of the day refuses to obey them, and then relies upon the opinion of some snide lawyer to support the view taken by it?
– Who is the snide lawyer?
– The Minister can apply that remark to anybody he likes, f do not object to the Government reverting to the old practice of pensions being fixed by act of Parliament. That practice will operate against pensioners in the future, because, instead of their gaining the advantage of an automatic rise of pensions when the cost of living goes up, these pensions will be pegged at fi 7s. a week.
– Will they not be pegged again?
– As a matter of law, pensions will be pegged. I hope sincerely that, in the event of the cost of living rising still higher, we shall not have another demonstration of an illegal act on the part of the Government.
– This is a slight anticipation ; we brought it to Parliament for validation.
– The Government asks us to validate something which it. led us to believe was always legal. I do not object to the bill as framed, but, I doubt whether it will operate to the advantage of pensioners, because it, seems to me that, for some time, the cost of living is likely to rise rather than fall. Should that be so, the pensioners would be better ofl with an automatic increase of their pension in harmony with an increase of the cost of living than by having the pension pegged at a fixed amount. However, the Government has seen fit to depart from that principle, and I am prepared to accept these proposals., I do protest, however, against the methods employed by the Government to avoid the operation of a law which was passed by this Parliament.
– Senator Spicer said that the Government had acted illegally. By implication, he asks us to accept him as an authority, but, with all due respect, I say that he was merely expressing an opinion’.
– He quoted a judgment of the High Court.
– As the opinion of the honorable senator differed from that of a man better qualified to give a sound opinion, we should be foolish indeed to accept it. While the honorable senator was speaking, I had the temerity to interject that the Government had not ignored the Parliament. That is so. The regulation which was issued was one which the Government had authority to issue. What is the authority of the Parliament in respect of regulations? As honorable senators know, it is competent for either House to disallow a regulation. That right has been exercised on a number of occasions.
– In this case, the disallowance would have followed the payment.
– That applies to every regulation. Senator Spicer says that the Government acted illegally, but. I remind him that previous governments did exactly the same thing, and were not challenged. I am not astonished that
Senator Spicer should oppose the Government’s action, because he would enforce the policy of his party that old-age pensioners and wage-earners snail receive only as much as will enable them to exist. Whenever a slight increase of wages or pensions is proposed, there is objection by the interests which honorable senators opposite serve, and every effort is made to justify that objection on the ground that the action taken is illegal, t have in mind an act which, in my judgment, was illegal. Speaking subject to correction, I say that that illegal act took place towards the end of 1940. lt will be remembered that a bill to impose a tax on gold was defeated by the Senate, but no sooner had the Parliament adjourned than the AttorneyGeneral of the day issued a regulation to impose the tax. Yet not one word of complaint was heard from honorable senators opposite. When we compare that action with the action of the present Government we can see that there is a difference. I was somewhat astonished that Senator Spicer should refer to. “ snide “ lawyers. Those who study psychology know that people who make use of certain expressions without facts to back them up, often attribute to others the objectionable traits which they themselves possess. In the last analysis, a statement such as that made by Senator Spicer amounts to self condemnation; it is an indication that the person making it is ashamed of himself, and for that reason he attributes to others the faults which he knows he himself possesses-. As to the cost of these social services, I put it to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that when we speak of the cost of this or that, we should take into consideration the cost in terms of commodities as well as the cost in terms of finance. They are two very different things. The fact is that in terms of commodities - what can be purchased with the wage or pension - the cost of these services was never lower. Paradoxical though it may seem, the cost expressed in terms of finance or price was never higher. Apart from other evidence that could be submitted to show that the cost of these services was neverlower, the evidence of the war is to the effect that in both primary and secon dary production the output has never been greater, notwithstanding that fewer workers are employed. If that proves anything, it proves that the cost is lower, although in terms of finance the cost may be higher.
– That is not correct, and the Minister knows it.
– It is correct. In both primary and secondary production we are producing so much more with so much less labour time, that after the war we shall not be able to absorb those who have been put out of production because of the necessities of war.
– Is that why there i-° a shortage of coal to-day?
– That interjection is irrelevant. There is no need, however, for honorable senators to be alarmed. Indeed, it would be much better for us if the coat in terms of commodities, as distinct from the cost in terms of prices and finance, were to increase because it would help to balance production. As Senator Darcey has pointed out over and over again, production cannot be increased effectively unless at the same time we make provision to increase consumption. When this increased amount is paid to pensioners it will be more of an economic necessity than an act of grace, or goodwill, or charity. We should be better off if we increased the invalid and old-age pensions or if we made preparation to do so, in order that after hostilities have ceased we may be able to build up. a demand for primary and secondary products which will be so necessary for the maintenance ‘ of production. The cost of commodities generally is a diminishing factor, due primarily to the fact that we are adopting cheaper and more efficient means of production. As the cost of commodities purchased by pensioners falls, the price in terms of commodities should also fall. For that reason, I am not impressed by the statement of the Leader of Opposition (Senator McLeay) that the present situation is becoming chaotic, and that the Government will not be able to honour its obligations in the future. I believe . that we shall be tetter able in the future than we have been in the past to honour our obligations to invalid and old-age pensioners, and the unemployed, and to all to whom we owe obligations, although it would seem, as I have said, the cost in terms of finance is high. Honorable senators opposite should take that fact into consideration, not only from the point of view of the people generally, but also in their own interests, because unless they develop a more intelligent conception of these things they will continue to make the mistakes which were responsible for their defeat at the last general elections.
Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) 1 3,1]. - There are growing signs of uneasiness in the minds of the people as the result of the Government’s autocratic ;ind dictatorial methods. This development did not occur until this Government came into office but it is becoming commonplace now. The people are alarmed at the overwhelming number of cases in which this Government has departed from the normal governmental practice observed in all British communities. This session will stand out prominently in this respect, because it has brought to light a record number of administrative acts which cut across the basic principle, of parliamentary control. It is unique in the history of this Parliament for a Minister, in this case the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), in a very confident and even boastful manner, to declare that the Government, for the past fourteen or sixteen months, has been illegally collecting taxes from certain individuals in this country. Now, we ore given a further illustration of the doctrine of the Government in such matters when it brings’ forward this measure to validate illegal action which it took a few months ago. The Leader of the Senate who is usually very free with his public statements against law-breakers and blackmarketeers in this country, should be the last to condone acts of this kind. Apparently, he fails to realize that the Government itself is giving a lead to all lawbreakers; and that it is futile for it to -ay that individuals must observe the law, when the Government itself has flagrantly flouted the law in so many instances. “We have had numerous instances in which this Government has broken the law of the land and accepted administrative practice. Indeed, the only authority which it has not yet interfered with is the High Court. God help the citizens when it does that.
– At one stage the Government proposed to do that.
– The Leader of the Senate has often stated in this chamber that he would dispense with the High Court; and I suggest that some weight must be given to such a statement when it, is made by a responsible Minister. Surely the Government realizes that it is not only endangering its own existence but also that of the parliamentary system in this country. We know that this is not the first occasion when the Government has submitted te pressure groups. We know that it has been forced into doing things which, I believe, in its better judgment, it would not have countenanced. But the very fact that it is doing these things means that more pressure groups are being formed, and pressure will be exerted upon the Government from other quarters with, I suppose, the same result. Honorable senators will recall that at. one time many people believed that our industrial arbitration system would succeed only so long as the Arbitration Court granted extra benefits, or higher wages, to the workers. However, the system was completely vindicated when it was compelled, during the depression, to reduce wages. The workers generally responded in a magnificent fashion to those decisions, and accepted the sacrifices they were called upon to make on that occasion. However, this Government, in season and out of season, has helped materially to destroy the prestige which the Arbitration Court has built up. Consequently, we should not be surprised if the Government does not hesitate to adopt similar practices in the social field. 1 protest emphatically against such procedure, and I wish to make known as widely as possible practices of this kind which this Government adopts boastfully from time to time. Honorable senators will agree that the second-reading speech of the Minister for Health (Senator Eraser) was one of the most specious documents which any Minister has yet had the audacity to read in this chamber. I shall not repeat what Senator Spicer has said about certain passages of the speech, because very little of what the Minister said will really stand examination. However, he told us that the justification for this action was that certain hardships may have fallen upon invalid and old-age pensioners had it not been taken.
– Does the honorable senator op.pose the restoration of the full amount of invalid and old-age pensions?
– I say that at all limes all citizens, and particularly the Government itself should abide by the laws of the land. Should it be found that any law inflicts undue hardship upon a section of the community, it should be amended; but the law must in all circumstances be strictly observed. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
As a consequence of a fall in the price index number for the quarter ended the 30th September, 1043, it became necessary to reduce the maximum rate of pension with effect from the 25th November, 1043. The Government, however, felt that a thorough investigation of the merits of this reduction was warranted, . . .
In that statement the Government reflects upon the authority which compiled the index figures. The Minister continued - . . and, after giving careful consideration to the report of a sub-committee of Cabinet appointed for the purpose, reached the conclusion that, as a result of conditions arising out of the war, the operation of various regulations under the National Security Act and the effect of economic adjustments made by or under those regulations, anomalies had been created in rotation to the rates of pensions.
I ask honorable senators whether they can recall the issue of any regulation under the National Security Act which had .that effect. The Minister went on to cite an example which, on the most cursory examination, will be shown to bc fallacious. He said -
For example, in Tasmania the cost-of-living figures for the September quarter of 1043 actually rose, whilst in other parts of the Commonwealth there was also a rise or the downward trend was so slight as to be actually negligible.
One would assume that, as the Government elected to base its action on the position of pensioners in Tasmania, some real hardship was imposed upon pensioners in that State compared with pensioners in other States; but the index figures for last year show exactly what was the position. The index figure for the December quarter last year for Sydney was 1,139, the highest in Australia.
– With Labour Governments in office in New South Wales and in the Commonwealth sphere.
– I agree that that was the cause of that fact. The index figures for that quarter for the other capital cities were, Melbourne, 1,125; Brisbane, 1,072; Adelaide, 1,092; Perth, 1,108; and Hobart, 1,100. It will be seen that pensioners in Tasmania are the third best off of pensioners in any State in the Commonwealth. The cold fact is that no differentiation is made between States in the payment of pensions. Consequently, on the Government’s own argument, the increase should have been applied in respect of pensioners in all States.
– What does the honorable senator object to?
– I object to the Government taking action on completely specious grounds. However, such arguments are in line with those usually advanced by Ministers in this chamber. I hope that, in the interests of good government, and in order to retain the people’s respect for the Government itself, and our parliamentary system generally, this Government will pay greater regard to the laws of the land than it has done in the past. Personally, I believe that the change which has been made is bad, and that ultimately it will operate to the detriment of the pensioners themselves. The system of making the pension rate rise or fall automatically with the cost of living gave justice to the pensioners. If, immediately the cost of living falls, the pension rate is to be pegged,, the pensioners will not know where they are, and the Treasurer, who has to budget to finance the Commonwealth, will be at a disadvantage. Whilst I- shall not vote against the measure, I believe that it will have a bad effect not only on the pensioners but also on the people generally, for the reasons which I have stated.
– Again Senator McLeay, as Leader of the Opposition, warns us against the use of central bank credit. He thinks that we ought to fight the war in some way without it. All wars are fought on credit. There is no other way of fighting them. The Battle of “Waterloo has never been paid for yet. Its cost is part of the national debt of Great Britain. The cost to Australia of the 1914-18 war has never been paid for, but is part of the national debt of Australia. There is not enough money in the country to pay off the national debt, if it were ever desired to do so. Honorable senators opposite were quite satisfied to fight wars on bank credit so long as the credit was provided by the private banks, but they regard national bank credit as the worst in the world, particularly when we get the money from t he Commonwealth Bank without interest. The Lyons Government paid as much as ! per cent, to the private banks for money, although it lowered the rate later. When Professor Redaway, a research scholar from Cambridge, was in Australia, he told us how the Russian Government had a habit of putting loans on the market at 6 per cent, and then reducing the interest rate to 3 per cent. I said to him, “ That is not peculiar to Russia, the same thing was done in Australia by the Lyons Government”. I do not know whether Joe Lyons gave the idea to Joe Stalin, or vice versa. I know that I invested money at 6 per cent, and later received only 3 per cent.
– I remind the honorable senator that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill is under discussion.
– May I not reply to an honorable senator who makes false statements?
– It is quite in order for an honorable senator, in passing, to mention matters other than those conrained in the bill before the Senate, but that does not entitle him to enter into a long discussion on them. He must deal with the question before the Chair.
- Senator McBride spoke of the favorable position of invalid and old-age pensioners in Tasmania. He said that they were the best off in Australia. To my mind, £1 7s. a week is very little on which to keep a man or woman to-day. It is a wonderful dole for any honorable senator to talk about!
I know the position of invalid and old-age pensioners in Tasmania. I am president of the biggest charitable society in the State, and have been going to houses of poor people for over twenty years. I know how far £1 7s. a week goes. Pensioners have to buy clothing and shelter out of it. lt costs them 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week for a single room before they can spend anything on food and clothes. Senator McBride seems to think that Tasmanian pensioners are particularly fortunate because, in effect, they get probably 6d. a week more than do .their fellows in some of the other States. The pension should be increased to at. least £2 a week. The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner is supposed to have fixed prices in order that poor people may not have to pay too much for the things they need, but if honorable senators look at the shop-windows they will be able to see for themselves the prices that are being charged. Instead of being low, they are high. It is being made impossible for people to live on a dole of £1 7s. a week. The old-age pension is only a dole in these circumstances. The people drawing it have to be good citizens. They must have had no record against them, and they must be 65 years of age before they are eligible. What a great contribution from the national fund to offer to a man who has worked all his life and brought up a big family! In the 1931 depression many a man who had worked hard all his life found his married sons and daughters coming back to live with him, because there was no work for them, and he had to keep them as well. That is is the sort of legislation which we had from the Government which Senator McBride supported for so many years. Times are pleasant for the man who takes all the afternoon to drive around hi.* estate and count the hundreds of thousands of sheep that he possesses, but it is disgraceful for any Government to expect a man to live on £1 7s. a week, with the Cost of living as it is to-day. It has been stated that the Scullin Government lowered the invalid and old-, age pension rate. So it did, but the Scullin Government took office after the Bruce-Page Government had been in power for ten years. That Government was the most extravagant, careless and thriftless in the history of the Commonwealth. The Scullin Government found an adverse trade balance of £30,000,000, an empty Treasury and the London market, on which the previous Government had depended, closed to Australia for further loans. Whether we are dealing with pensions or anything else, it all comes back to a question of money or its equivalent, bank credit. Those who believe that a war can be carried on without bank credit, have kindergarten intellects, and that applies to the Leader of -the Opposition. I am not surprised that he understands finance so little, even after the six years of gratuitous tuition that he has had from me. I know the hardships of poverty, because I was one of a family of twelve, and had to ‘be up at 5 o’clock in the morning taking papers round for hours, in order to bring in a little money. Many members of the charitable society <>f which I am president in Tasmania give up most of their time in visiting poor people, making clothes for them, and providing other necessaries to enable i hem to live. The position taken up by honorable senators opposite against any increase of pensions is disgraceful.
– It is this side that gave jil] the increases, and the Scullin Government reduced the rates.
– I ought to disregard interjections of that nature. Itis all very well for honorable senators on <>ur allowances to talk about how well off men and woman are on £1 7s. a week, but it hardly provides them with a little tobacco to console them in their old age. 1. am sure the bill was ‘brought in with the best possible intentions, to give a little assistance to those who need it most, and T trust that it will have a speedy passage.
– It is not a question of whether the pensions under discussion are adequate or inadequate. Our protest i3 that Parliament enacted that the invalid and old-age pension rate should be £1 5s. a week, plus any increase of the cost of living. If the cost of living fell, pensions were not to go below £1 5s. a week. The Government has *et a bad example by amending that act of Parliament by means of a regu lation, and now asking Parliament to validate its action. I have on more than one occasion protested against the wrong use of regulations. The National Security Act was passed exclusively tor the purpose of conducting the war nd matters connected with the war, and was never intended to be used to deal with pensions. Previously, pensions were .always dealt with by legislation. Apparently we are expecting too much of the Government to ask it not to abuse its power to issue regulations. The Parliament should take a very firm stand in matters of this kind. It came as a shock to many people to find an act of Parliament being broken by a Government which talked so loudly about the will of the people, the will of Parliament, and democracy. The action of the Government was that of a dictator. The principle of using a regulation to evade the provisions of an act of Parliament is most vicious. What necessity was there for the haste shown by the Government? What was the fall in the cost of living compared with the maximum amount of the pension? The question of whether pensions should be £1 7s. or £2 a week is beside the point in this discussion.
– Then in the honorable senator’s opinion the human element does not enter into the matter at all?
– Not for the purposes of this bill. If the honorable senator wants to debate the amount of pensions, he should do so on the bill appropriating the money. Parliament has been in session for some time, and the Government, if it wished to amend the act, could have done so long ago. In that manner, instead of a national security regulation being improperly used, Parliament could have restored the small amount by which the pensions were reduced as the result of the fall of the cost of living. It is obvious that power has gone to the heads of Ministers of this Government. They have gone beyond all limits in their administration. Government by regulation has been resorted to in a manner never intended by Parliament.
– Parliament has never said so.
– The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator ‘Cameron) was one of the strongest opponents of the National Security bill, and he expressed great fear as to the results of its operation, but now apparently his view is that the end. justifies the means. I trust that the Government will take note of this warning. Although our numbers will be reduced after the 30th June, I promise that our opposition will not be reduced, particularly to the Government’s illegal acts. As an opposition we owe a duty to the public and this is the only manner in which we can protest against what we consider to be an improper use of regulations. These actions should be the subject of legislation and not merely regulations, lt was never intended that the National Security Act should be used for this purpose.
– When a bill was passed by the last Parliament providing for a rise or fall of invalid and old-age pensions according to cost of living index figures, I was pleased indeed, because I believed that it would take invalid and old-age pensions out of the realm of party politics. However, I . seem to have been mistaken. I protest against the continued imputation by honorable senators opposite that members of the Opposition are not in favour of invalid and old-age pensions, or of an increase of those pensions. I refer particularly to Senator Darcey, who gave one of his worst exhibitions in this chamber. Although he poses as one whose conduct here is beyond reproach, he did not hesitate to-day to distort words used by Senator McBride.
– I rise to order. I ask the honorable senator to give an example of the alleged distortion.
– The honorable senator has not raised a point of order. If he so desires, he may refer to the matter upon the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, or he may at a later stage make a personal explanation by leave of the -Senate.
– I regret that in his last days as a member of this chamber, Senator Darcey should have taken the opportunity to say the things he did about the honorable senators in oppo sition. After all, there are standards of decency which should be upheld in Parliament, and the distortion of the utterances of one’s political opponents is certainly not in accordance with those standards. No honorable senator on this side of the chamber is opposed to invalid and old-age pensions, or has advocated a reduction of them. In regard to the attitude of the Government in this matter, I ask myself, “What is the law?”. Of course, the answer which would be given by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) to that question would be, that the law was something which the Opposition must obey but which the Government could break with impunity.
– Who is distorting words now?
– I ask myself also, “What is a decent standard of conduct ? “ and the only answer I can give is that a decent standard of conduct is something which can be expected only from honorable senators on this side of the chamber. There is no such thing amongst honorable senators opposite. 1 ask myself also, “What is playing the game ? “ and the only answer I can give is that in the opinion of honorable senators opposite, the game must be the Labour party’s game or it is not fair. 3 am sorry indeed that the minds of honorable senators opposite strike only on one side of the box, because that side of the box is becoming very worn indeed. Apparently, they believe that the box has only one side, and that is the Labour side.
The point made by Senator Spicer, and . one which must bc uppermost in the minds of every one who believes in parliamentary government, democracy, and fair play, is that the laws made by Parliament should be observed; yet we find that in this country the laws made by Parliament are being broken flagrantly over and over again by the Government.
– That is only the honorable senator’s opinion.
– No. Apparently, the Minister for Aircraft Production is not prepared to take any notice of decisions of the High Court.
– I have the greatest respect for the High Court.
– I am afraid that die Minister’s interest in the High Court is limited to his attempts to prove that its decisions are wrong.
– I have shown in some cases that the decisions of the High Court have been right.
– That merely proves that sometime during his otherwise confused career, the Minister has experienced brief intervals of lucidity. He agrees now that sometimes the High Court is right. The point about this matter which concerns me ia this : Parliament passed a law which had nothing to do with the principle of the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, nor did it increase or reduce those pensions. If it desired to alter that law, the Government should have come to Parliament and said, “ There is a mistake in this legislation, and we wish to rectify it “. Instead of doing that however, the Government flagrantly broke the law by the use of regulations under the National Security Vet - an act which was never meant to relate to this matter at all. Such action can serve only to bring democracy and parliamentary government into contempt.
– It is not so bad as the previous government’s action in imposing a gold tax by regulation.
– The continued references by the Minister for Aircraft Production to the imposition of a gold tax by regulation are rather amusing. Apparently he believes that the prices of all other commodities should be fixed by regulation, but that the Government had no right to issue a regulation imposing a tax upon gold.
I regret that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) had to read his secondreading speech on this measure. I am sure that had he prepared his own speech he would have been more careful when citing High Court decisions. I am sure i hat the Minister has a high opinion of, i he High Court and would not willingly distort its decisions. Therefore, I am led to the belief that the second-reading speech which he delivered in this chamber was prepared for him.
– I remind the honorable senator that it was the Minister for
Health (Senator Fraser) and not I who delivered the second-reading speech on this measure.
– What I have said of the Leader of the Senate can apply equally to the Minister for Health. 1 am sure that he also would not willingly distort decisions of the High Court, or endeavour to mislead honorable senators in regard to those decisions. I am sure that he has some respect for law. No doubt he has to depart from that attitude under pressure sometimes, and in that way he is distinct from certain other honorable senators opposite, notably the Minister for Aircraft Production.
We on this side of the chamber believe that invalid and old-age. pensioners should have adequate means of sustenance. Honorable senators opposite have been in office for two and a half years, and they have had ample opportunity to increase invalid and old-age pensions if they considered £1 7s. a week to be insufficient. Had they been sincere and honest in their belief that those pensions should be raised, they had ample opportunity to do so ; but now they endeavour to cast upon the Opposition the onus for refusing an. increase of those pensions. Such tactics are too ridiculous and too indecent politically to contemplate. We object to the breaking of the law by the Government of this country. By doing so the Government has set a shocking example to the Australian people, and the effects of that action are becoming manifest throughout the community. This practice of observing laws which suit and ignoring others which do not suit will have a dangerous effect upon the whole national life of Australia.
– in reply - 1 think that the Senate has accepted the principle of the stabilization of invalid and old-age pensions at £1 7s. a week, apart from cost-of-living adjustments. I had the responsibility of dealing with this matter, and the legal aspect of the Parliament’s decision had to be considered. I remind Senator Spicer of the method adopted by a previous administration to give effect to its wishes with regard to the gold tax. The action taken in that regard was illegal, and set a bad example to other governments. Although the Government had a majority in the Senate at that time, the Senate rejected the bill; but, shortly afterwards, the Government, taking advantage of the fact that the Parliament was in recess, imposed an excise tax on gold by means of a regulation promulgated under the National Security Act. That government adopted a back-door method by giving effect to its wishes, and it is of no use for the Opposition to say now that the present Government has acted illegally with regard to invalid and old-age pensions. The recipients of those pensions, and even service pensioners, out of whose difficulties the Opposition tried to make political capital this week, would have suffered a reduction but for the action taken by the Government. The Ministry has not only a legal but also a moral responsibility to the people. Despite all that has been said about inflation, the Government has “fixed ceiling prices of commodities and the application of economic regulations has caused a decrease in the cost of living. T do not think that that will be denied. In Tasmania, there was a decrease of seven units, and in “Western Australia there was neither an increase nor a decrease, yet in those States a reduction of pensions would have been necessary but for the action taken by the Government to remedy the position. I do not suppose that I have had even two letters complaining of the reduction of pensions. Parliament was not sitting at the time, and no caucus meetings were held, so it cannot fairly be said that political- pressure was brought to bear upon the Government. As the responsible Minister, I took the matter to Cabinet, and it appointed a subcommittee to investigate the possibility of restoring -the pension by means of a regulation promulgated under the National Security Act. The Government did not act hastily. The whole position was carefully investigated, and the Government acted on the advice, not of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), but of the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles. The Attorney-General’s Department was asked whether the Government had power to promulgate a regulation to stabilize the pension at £1 7s. a week. The Government acted on that advice, and had a precedent for its action.
– It acted illegally.
– Its action was no more illegal than that of a previous government which imposed a gold tax by regulation. I shall show how the present case was built up.
– The Government built it up, all right.
– There are two sides to every argument. Members of the profession to which the honorable senator belongs would be unable to obtain a living if all lawyers agreed. The following are extracts from the opinion supplied by the Attorney-General’s Department : -
The rate of invalid and old-age pension payable from time to time is determined by the provisions of sub-section (1a.), section 24, of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That sub-section provides for the quarterly review of the rate and for its determination.’ on such review, in relation to the Statistician’s price index number for all items of household expenditure (“C” series) for the six capital cities. The effect of war may be to make that index number rise more rapidly than in times of peace so that « quarterly review would not ensure an adequate increase in the rate of pension. The result would be, then, that one section of the public would suffer exceptional hardship by reason of the conditions resulting from the war. To correct this by a regulation under the National Security Act might conceivably aid in the defence of the Commonwealth as tending to maintain or promote the morale, not only of this particular section of the public, but of the public generally. I am, however, unable to express a confident opinion that an argument along those lines would be accepted by the courts.
In this instance, however, the position is that the index number has fallen, with the result that, by reason of the operation of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the rate of pension has been- reduced. It must be assumed that the reduction is one of the effects of the economic plan which commenced to operate in April last. Part of this plan was the fixation of price as at the 15th April, subject to such exceptions and variations as the Prices Commissioner might deem necessary.’ It may be. therefore, that the reduction in the nominal cost of living is due to the action taken as a war emergency measure to peg prices. On the other hand, it may be that, while the price index number has fallen, the actual cost of living has remained unaltered or has risen, and that these circumstances are attributable to the war or to action taken by the Government to meet the emergencies of war.
The question is, if either or both of those sets of circumstances exist, would that bring the suggested regulation within the defence power. In Peacocks’ case (G7 C.L.R. 25), the High Court indicated that the National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations are within the defence power, although it held the regulations to be invalid because they purported to invest State courts with Federal jurisdiction. Those regulations provide for the adjustment of contracts which become or are likely to become inequitable or unduly onerous because of circumstances attributable to the war or the operation of any regulation made under the National Security Act. lt would seem, therefore, that a regulation designed to prevent such circumstances from causing the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to operate harshly would also be valid as being reasonably incidental to defence.
I may mention that precedents for extending or increasing the benefits provided by an act are to bc found in the National Security (Additional Benefits and Allowances to Seamen) Regulations and the National Security (War Pensions and Repatriation Benefits) Regulations. Indeed, regulation 5 of the firstmentioned regulations provides for the grant of benefits in certain cases of missing seamen whose disappearance may never be attributed to the circumstances arising out of the war. The validity of these regulations has not been, and probably never will be, challenged in the courts.
On that advice, which was signed by the Solicitor-General, the Government acted.
– I am surprised.
– The honorable senator probably thought that I was reading an opinion of the AttorneyGeneral. It is not for me to decide whether the Solicitor-General or Senator Spicer is correct; but the Government did what it regarded as the right thing to do. Would it be right to say that the Government should have discussed the matter of providing relief to sufferers from the disastrous bush-fires which raged throughout Victoria some time ago, before making a grant to assist those unfortunate people?- The Government granted £200,000 overnight for their relief. In one State, there has been an increase of the cost of living, whereas in another State there has been a decrease. Should it be found that a pension of £1 7s. a week is not sufficient Parliament will have to decide what shall bc done. The Government asks the Parliament not to validate something that has been done, but to pass this bill to fix the rate of pension at £1 7s. a week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Fraser) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
There are three cognate bills dealing with the wheat industry, and I suggest that they be debated together.
– Is it the pleasure of the Senate that the three bills be debated together?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– This bill is necessary, in order to carry out the policy of the Commonwealth Government in respect of payments for wheat to growers in Australia. As I have already indicated, two other bills are closely associated with this measure. One of them seeks to repeal a tax imposed when the return on bagged wheat exceeded 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. ; the other seeks to make consequential amendments to restore the position established by the Wheat Industry (War-time Control) Act 1940. The bill now before the Senate provides for a subsidy on wheat acquired by the Commonwealth. It covers the 1942-43 crop and subsequent crops, and gives effect to the Government’s quota plan, which has come to be known as the “Scully plan”. Under this plan, 4a. a bushel is payable to growers for bagged wheat at growers’ sidings; that payment, applies to a quota of 3,000 bushels. Recently a Commonwealth award covering harvest workers had the effect of increasing harvesting costs, and. after an inquiry into the increase, the Government decided to add 1 1/3d. to the advance paid on quota wheat. The amount payable on quota wheat for this season is, therefore, 4s. ltd. a bushel. In addition to the .quota wheat, there is surplus wheat, which consists of the quantity above 3,000 bushels acquired from any wheat-grower. This wheat goes into the same pool and is sold as part of the pool. Growers will receive the ordinary pool return for surplus wheat. As the expenses of the pools have been about lOd. a bushel, it will be seen that the return on quota wheat must approach 5s. a, bushel if the liability of the Treasury for the advance, plus the pool expenses on this wheat, is to be cleared. Payments provided for quota wheat are well above the anticipated receipts from existing pools, and, as a result, it is expected that there will be a substantial loss on quota wheat. The bill provides for that loss, and subsidizes the wheat-growers to the amount of the loss. The quota payment operated for the first time last season, and payments of 4s. a bushel at sidings were made on the 1942-43 crop.
The quota plan adopts the basis of control which was introduced in 1940. Wheat can be grown only on a registered wheat farm by a registered wheat-grower. This prevents an uncontrolled extension of the area under wheat in Australia - an essential feature of stabilization, and one which has the complete endorsement of all growers’ organizations. Of course, some deviations are necessary in circumstances brought about by war, particularly in Queensland, where war-time registration is being encouraged to save transport. Under the original plan, the Commonwealth Bank advanced money to the Australian Wheat Board on the guarantee of the Commonwealth. This money was used to pay advances to growers in anticipation of sales. The Commonwealth was liable for a payment of 3s. lOd. a bushel free on board for a crop of 140 million bushels, but subject to this, growers were to get the exact return from the pool concerned. With growers’ costs rising and the acknowledged right of growers to security and to a better deal for the wheat they produced, the present Government decided that previous guarantees were totally inadequate. The Government decided to attack the problem at its most vital point - the basis of payment. It was here that the previous Government’s plan had principally failed to give a reasonable return to producers. Accordingly, the present plan was introduced. The basis of payment was improved so that growers would all benefit, and small growers would not suffer bankruptcy because of the poor return offered and the protracted period between the first and final advances. Not only was the previous limitation on the extent of the guarantee cancelled, but provision was also made for an immediate payment on a large part of the total crop, thus providing a good return and a greater measure of security for growers. These benefits have been recognized by growers in all States. In determining the quotas, it is# a fixed principle that no grower shall get more than one quota. There are instances of men who own more than one farm, but a quota is not allocated for each farm. Farmers, not farms, is the basis. The grower must be licensed and must grow wheat on a registered wheat farm.
Provision is made to cover special cases, as the crop is grown under widely varying arrangements as to ownership.The various share-farming agreements, partnerships, the complications of family arrangements, and the entangling interests as between husband and wife, make it impossible to work on the basis that every person with a licence or every holder of a registered farm “ shall get a full quota. In many cases, the persons concerned are not fully fledged wheatgrowers, but they do occupy an intermediate position. The bill provides for a reasonable discretion to be exercised by the Minister in charge. This is necessary in order to cover the large number of individual cases and the numerous variations of the manner in which wheat is produced. The method of dealing with what may be described as doubtful cases has been laid down, and growers have been given the right of appeal agains the quotas allotted to them. As a result, allocations are made according to the known merits of a case. Where several persons are involved, it is often necessary, in order to deal fairly with all of them, that more than one quota should be granted for the particular licence concerned ; so in some cases two persons may get 1$ quotas between them. Local committees play a part in dealing with problem cases. Each committee consists of two prominent wheat-growers and an officer of a State government. There is also an appeal committee consisting of two wheat-growers and the State officer in charge. These State committees of review make recommendations on appeals, and the result is that wheat-growers play an important part in the administration of the stabilization plan.
Growers have co-operated in all stages in carrying the Government’s policy into effect, and the Government has encouraged them in the control of their own affairs. In addition to the co-operation of growers, we have in this plan the cooperation of State governments. The detailed work of administration in ea’ch State is carried out toy State officers. Two pools have operated under the Scully plan. The No. 6 pool covers the 1942-43 crop for which the Australian Wheat Board received 143,000,000 bushels. So far, 34,000,000 bushels have been sold and delivered to cover local flour needs. Sales have also been made for forward delivery. In the latter half of the year, these deliveries will he in full swing. With export demands and the local produce trade, it is expected that the quantity of wheat in the pool will be reduced to 30,000,000 bushels by the end of the season.
Payments amount to £28,500,000, and receipts to £6,300,000. The overdraft is just over £20,000,000. Growers have received £23,700,000 in advances, with the expenses account showing £4,800,000. Over 60,000,000 bushels are still to ‘he sold from this pool. ‘Consequently, it is too early to forecast the final return from the pool. With both quota and nonquota wheat in the pool, there is a loss expected on quota wheat, but a substantial additional payment will be made on non-quota wheat. There are 43,000,000 bushels of non-quota wheat, and another advance on this - of ls. a bushel - has now been approved. This means an additional distribution to growers of more than £2,000,000. The loss on quota wheat, of course, will be met by the Treasury. For quota wheat, which represented 70 per cent, of the pool, 4s. a bushel net was paid to growers, and, with charges for storage, handling and interest added to this, the payment is equal to about 5s. a bushel f.o.b. This is substantially above the return likely on the wheat concerned, and the Government will bear the loss. Non-quota wheat, on the other hand, will receive the full payment from the pool after necessary expenses of the pool are deducted.
No. 7 pool covers the 1943-44 crop which has just been harvested. The Australian Wheat Board has received 94,000,000 bushels into this pool. Sales made from it during the season will cover local flour needs only. With these sales estimated at 34,000,000 bushels, there will be 60,000,000 bushels left in this pool to carry over to the next season. Payments are still being made for the wheat delivered, and it seems that the quantity of quota wheat will be almost 80 per cent, of the crop. The board’s accounts show payments of £15,500,000 to growers, and expense? of £250,000, while sales represent £500,000. The overdrafts guaranteed by the Commonwealth for these three pools total over £70,000,000, and there will be still more te come. The actual liability at any given time, of course, did not reach the total after allowing for receipts of the pools, but, at present, total overdrafts outstanding for wheat are over £37,000,000.
Honorable senators will note that the Commonwealth incurs a considerable liability in guaranteeing these pools so that advances can be made to growers. Besides this, the position of each pool is kept constantly under review so that additional advances can be made as quickly as possible. Honorable senators will appreciate that, with growers having a majority of representation on the Aus.tralian Wheat Board, the tendency is for the board to encourage the payment of advances at the earliest possible moment. The rank and file of growers naturally are anxious to get their money quickly, and equally naturally, they tend to take a rather more optimistic view of prospects than is possible for a government which has to guard against losses on future sales. Nevertheless, there is general satisfaction with the manner in which the position has been handled, and the confidence of growers is all the greater because they have a majority of representation on the board handling their affairs.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Fraser) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is one of three associated with the Government’s quota plan for wheat payments. It is complementary to the Wheat Tax (War-time) Repeal Bill 1944. and it is necessary because of the effect of that bill on the Wheat Industry (War-time Control) Act. This measure amends various sections of the Wheat Industry (War-time Control) Act 1939- 1940. The sections affected are those concerned with the application of moneys to be received from the tax on wheat in years when wheat prices are higher than the guaranteed price fixed by a previous government. As a bill has been presented to the Senate to repeal the wheat tax. the provisions for applying the money from that tax are inoperative after that measure becomes law. Accordingly, this measure will repeal them.
An amendment contained in Act No. 70 of 1940, provided that the amount obtained from the flour tax, less certain deductions, must be added to the amount obtained from the wheat tax. After this, the total was to be used, first, in repaying to the Commonwealth Bank the amount due for advances made to the Australian Wheat Board ; and, secondly, to build up a fund to meat the payments made necessary by the guaranteed price of 3s. l0d. a bushel for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels. The guarantee for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels is now replaced by the quota plan which provides for a higher guaranteed price for quota wheat. Any loss resulting from thequota plan will be met by the
Treasury, and so the fund composed of the combined flour tax and wheat tax receipts will not be required. The bill repealing the wheat tax is, to be presented to the ‘Senate and, with the wheat tax disposed of, it is necessary to decide how the flour tax receipts shall be used. This is done by reverting to the position established by the Wheat Industry (War-time Control) Act of 1939. In effect, this measure means that the moneys from the flour tax will be paid to the credit of the Australian Wheat Board’s account with the Commonwealth Bank, as an offset against advances made by the bank.
It is provided that in the rather unlikely event of the Australian Wheat Board not having an overdraft with the Commonwealth Bank, payment may be made direct to the growers concerned. In practice, however, it is safe to assume that, at the time when the funds do become available, there will be an overdraft for the pool concerned and the money will be used to reduce that overdraft. The result is that the flour tax will reduce the overdraft owing by the Australian Wheat Board to the Commonwealth Bank for advances. This will in turn increase the amount, which ultimately is available for distribution to growers from the pool. The Flour tax thus becomes part of the receipts of the wheat pool and growers receive the benefit in the shape of compensation, at a higher rate than they would receive otherwise.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLe a y ) ad j ourn ed .
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Fraser) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now reada second time.
The wheat stabilization plan was introduced by a previous government in 1940. It provided for a guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. ports for bagged wheat, for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels. It was recognized that wheat prices must necessarily vary. The plan provided that growers would receive payment on a 3s. lOd. basis, less freight; for low price years, although this would exceed the actual return from the crop. Against this, a tax was imposed on wheat so that, in seasons of high prices, half the excess amount would go to growers and the other half to a fund to be retained to make up the deficiency in seasons of low prices. Wheat-growers, therefore, would be providing a reserve in good years which would be used for their benefit in lean periods. The ta.x has not operated. The first season to which it was to apply was the 194.1-42 season, on wheat placed, in No. 5 pool. This pool is not yet complete. The full quantity of wheat in the pool has been sold as a result of heavy orders received lately by the Australian Wheat .Board, but it will be several months before the flour can be manufactured, the deliveries made, and payment received. Until then, the result of the pool will not be known definitely.
Later pools still hold a considerable quantity of wheat for sale, and, unlike No. 5 pool, are pools to which quota, payments apply. In view of the quota plan, it is not intended that the tax shall continue, and the Government has also decided that wheat-growers shall receive the full return from No. 5 pool. I have said that No. 5 pool is not completed, but it is clear that it will return more than the guarantee of 3s. lOd. a bushel, f.o.b., for bagged wheat, and this bill will ensure that growers receive the full return from the pool and are absolved from the tax which would be paid under previous legislation. The effect of the bill, therefore, is to abolish the wheat tax. The reasons for its abolition are : first, that the quota plan does away with the need for that tax for No. 6 and later wheat pools; and, secondly, to give wheat-growers the full return from 1941-42 season’s wheat in No. 5 pool.
Debate (on motion by Senator (MoLEAY) adjourned.
Bill received from, the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Fraser) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is designed to extend the duration of the Supply and Development Acts 1939. It requires little explanation. Honorable senators will remember that, five years ago the legislation to set up a special department to deal with supplies for defence purposes was passed. At that time it was considered that the department then set up would not be required for more than five years. It is evident that the act. will have to continue at least for the duration of the war. Accordingly, it is proposed that section 2S of the principal act, which limits the operation of the act to a period of five years, should be amended to continue the act in operation until such date as it is considered expedient for its operation to cease. The determination of this date will depend on circumstances and when necessary will be effected by proclamation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.”
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– As circumstances have prevented me from taking an active part in debates during this period of the session, I desire to take advantage of the Standing Orders in relation to bills of this character, in order to bring under notice several matters which I consider require further contemplation. First, by the bill with which, we are now dealing, Parliament i3 asked to grant Supply for a period covering two months of the next financial year. Between now and the end of that period the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will have journeyed abroad. Recognizing the object and importance of his mission, I am sure that the Opposition has no desire to embarrass the Administration, and for that reason, if for no other, will not oppose the passage of the bill. The Prime Minister is going abroad on business vital to Australia and to the Empire, and inevitably associated with the successful prosecution of the war. I am sure that I voice the sentiments of all honorable senators when I say that we wish him well, that his mission may be productive of all the results that we hope for, and that his health will support him in what are obviously going to be very strenuous endeavours. Some of us may appreciate the pressure which is imposed upon the leaders of this country. It is true that some of this pressure is incurred’ from the peculiar policies which may be followed at the time, but I have, with my limited powers of observation, arrived at the conclusion that Australia does not exhibit those feelings of kindliness which go so far to encourage men to devote the greater part of their lives and talents to the services of the nation. I am sure that other honorable senators agree with me on that point. In this regard, I have not seen any plea, in connexion with the suggested new order, for the inclusion in it of somesystem of encouragement to the ordinary person to acquire a higher standard or sense of public duty and service. That I think is a defect. It is also interesting to recall how the bearing of responsibility and the acquisition of experience broaden the views of men. We have had in this Parliament several striking examples, ft is not so long ago that the present Prime Minister expressed very definite opposition to the then Prime Minister going abroad during a period of war, but we can take comfort from the fact that he frequently changes his views, as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) changes his opinions, when the occasion arises. The country is all the better for it. I wish that some of the Prime Minister’s views might be adopted And held by many of his followers.
I turn from the .question of Supply to the comparatively minor matter of refrigerators. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has control of a. department which decides who shall or shall not have refrigerators. The southern summer is now over, but demands will recur, and I suggest that a more reasonable view may be taken of the requests submitted to the Minister from time to time, especially when stocks are available to meet them. Only recently I met with a refusal, which the Minister will recall, where demands were made for special care in ‘ midsummer of the diets of an old lady of 92, an ailing infant, one of very few in a family to survive owing to poor health at birth, and a totally disabled returned soldier. I understand that refrigerators were available in each one of those cases, but that the department, on the general belief that they were required for the services, refused these very reasonable and urgent requests. 1 know that the Minister is quite capable of exercising his authority in such matters, and I hope that, when the hot weather returns, arrangements will have been made to meet such normal requirements.
I come now to the medical staff of the Repatriation Commission, to which I have referred in this chamber on previous occasions. I am troubled in regard to this staff, which in my opinion needs reform and re-organization. I spoke first on the subject on the 23rd March last year, and again at somewhat greater length on the 15th October, but, despite the expressed desire of the Minister for Repatriation to give the commission’s charges the best possible medical and surgical attention, he seems to have done nothing to bring this about. I view the position with some alarm, and do hope that action will be taken very soon. No one who thinks about the matter can regard without apprehension the return and demobilization of 500,000 men and women who have served in such diverse conditions and countries as have the members of our defence forces. The opportunity to do something now is one that should not be missed. The exercise of some imagination is required in order to guard against circumstances which may adversely affect many human beings. and lower the standard of health of the whole community, by the introduction of new ailments and foreign plagues and pestilences, and may also be the occasion of a heavy charge upon the public revenues.
As regards social security, which I Suppose is the second most prominent subject in the minds of the people to-day, we have, during this period of the session, discussed odds and ends of legislation allegedly devised to ameliorate social conditions. In this regard, there has been promised a comprehensive and allembracing measure. So one knows, or I imagine that no one knows, when this will be brought down. If I may take the cue from an answer given to a question recently submitted by me, I should say that the Minister for Social Services has ‘had neither the leisure nor the opportunity to study and appreciate the broad lines upon which such a measure must be based. I am convinced, as any one must bc who has lived amongst his fellow beings, that it is possible greatly to improve on our present methods of providing relief wherever suffering is apparent, and this at less cost than our present patchwork attempts involve us in, in connexion with which there is much that is obsolete. But we are confronted with the axiom that time marches on, and I remind the Minister that the question which he has more than once hurled across this chamber: “What have you done during the past 25 years?”, and which he invariably answers himself by saying: “You have not done anything”, will be, however unjustifiably, applied to him, unless something very concrete is produced, at no very distant date, and if lie fails to implement the Government’s expressed intention. As we know, stirrings and murmurings throughout the world suggest the advent of a new social era. We know of the existence of the Atlantic Charter, even if we do not understand it, and a Pacific Charter is suggested. We have read the Australian-New Zealand Agreement of 1944 and each one of us has a copy of the Women’s Charter. No doubt, there are other social creeds, and occasionally we get a glimpse of the Australian Labour party’s real policy.
– It is in the book.
– I do not possess a copy. All these factors indicate the mass of material which awaits the attention and very careful examination of the Minister. If he reads, as I think he does, I suggest that he oan take some encouragement from Tennyson’s words in Locksley Hall, written about 60 years ago-
Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.
I am sure that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) will concur with me on that subject. There is need to get away from the catchpenny or catch-vote things - I say this quite seriously - such as not-so-free medicine, and allowances for twins and triplets, and aim at what Buskin, I think, designated a new ethical national dignity. The word “ national “ there is introduced by myself, because that is what I think we need. If we are going to introduce an intensive system of social reform, then we do need a standard of national dignity to which we should aspire. The perilous after-war conditions of the National Welfare Fund and other social service funds is a matter of very grave concern, and I heard with some satisfaction, certain speakers mention that fact during a recent debate. So far as I can ascertain, within two years after the conclusion of this war, we shall be committed to an expenditure on pensions, including war pensions, of an amount equivalent to the total normal expenditure for the year 1938-39, namely. £84,000,000.
In connexion with our national growth and development, we are told that we are to be guaranteed the “ Four Freedoms “. On quite a number of occasions mention has been made in this chamber of those freedoms, but I make no apology for doing so once more. The “ Four Freedoms “ include freedom of speech and expression. I was always under the impression that in British communities, the right of freedom of speech and expression had been enjoyed within the law for at least the last 150 years; but now the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) tells us that that freedom is to be conferred upon us by statute - as if we had ever lost that freedom ! I am reminded of the story of the Roman captain who, fearing political repercussions, released Paul of Tarsus from arrest, saying of himself, “With a great sum obtained I this freedom “. Paul’s comment upon that was, “But I was free “.
Recent references to the operation of the censorship have thrown doubts upon our right to freedom of expression. Admittedly in war-time, censorship is essential because without it the safety of members of the armed forces would be in jeopardy; but censorship for party political purposes is entirely another matter, and has been enforced beyond all reason, resulting, in some instances, in the suppression of facts and opinions of which the public has a right to bc informed. Recently Senator Nash sought to remind Senator Foll that the press of this country was free, but is it? lt depends on what is meant by “free”. It certainly is at liberty to give us lengthy and frequent accounts of the lecheries of certain members of the Hollywood community, the paternity and legitimation of the Derbyshire quadruplets, and other matters far from germane to the maintenance of the morale of the nation, but as Senator McBride has attempted to reveal, it is not permitted to publish facts that would disclose how the public may have been deliberately deceived by a member or members of this Government. When the political history of this war is written, it will throw light upon some very curious activities of this Government.
I come now to the subject of the Army. The knowledge which I have been privileged to acquire over a period of years warns me of the danger of hasty criticism of the fighting services, but there are one or two matters which I feel impelled to mention. Some of these already have been dealt with adequately in the House of Representatives and I do not wish to indulge in unnecessary repetition. Most people, it is understood, take an infinite pride in the Army, without knowing very much about it, or particularly in these days, even of its achievements. So little appears in the press that gives individualism to units necessary to illume their great prestige or the correct perspective of their main achievements that I am prompted to ask, “ Is this a forgotten force?” No satisfactory information as to actual happenings has been placed before Parliament for some time past, nor has the Prime Minister, for reasons which no doubt appear to him to be perfectly good and sufficient, seen his way clear to hold a secret meeting of Parliament, which would be one method of instructing members upon this subject. We are led to believe, however, that members of caucus are more fortunately placed. Hence there is a very natural anxiety about such things as the dispersal to the winds of well-known Army leaders, and the retention of the two-army system which in itself is of no strategical value but, on the contrary, involves the creation and maintenance of many unnecessary commands, and is the cause of wasteful expenditure of effort and money, and of administrative confusion which otherwise would be avoided. The Australian community is a democracy. The Army is drawn from the people, and nothing should be done which would tend to create schisms amongst those serving, or to separate the Army from the nation whilst we are at war. In other words, the control and direction of the Army must remain with the Government of the day and not with any one man who may be influenced, even unwittingly, by divided loyalties. History offers quite ‘a number of striking examples of this precaution being overlooked or neglected. I become fearful also, when I read of the “threat” to the “workers” who refuse to work; when this country requires every ounce of effort to ensure the maintenance of communications, transport, output of munitions and other services required to support the forces engaged in our defence. The threat was that those individuals who were guilty of industrial mutiny would .be called up and posted to the Army. I am sure that honorable senators will agree that the Army, is, or at least was, an honorable institution with traditions of great courage and a high sense of duty and unrivalled achievement. Why then should it have those standards besmirched by the introduction of elements so foreign to its structure? In my opinion civilian recalcitrants should be formed into labour units under quasi-military discipline, and with reduced rates of pay, and their names should be removed from the electoral roles until they have made atonement. Such treatment, I am sure, would have a salutary and very desirable effect.
– What about war profiteers being treated in the same way?
– I entirely agree with that. Before finally leaving the subject of the Army I wish to refer to a remark made by Senator Tangney. The honorable senator said that Australian troops went into battle in this war ill-equipped. The statement was made in the form of an indirect question to another honorable senator. I know the implication of the remark, and I shall not attempt to traverse issues which are known quite well. I desire merely to say that warfare is a progressive art and for that reason, amongst others, calls for frequent revision. Here, I am reminded of the question which one hears frequently from honorable senators opposite - “What did governments of which the honorable senator was a supporter do during the twenty years that they were in office?” Answering that question, I refer honorable senators to recent history which records that the contributing causes of the condition of unpreparedness for war, in which the British Empire found itself in 1939, were, first, the deliberate policy of disarmament pursued by the Ramsay MacDonald Government, and, secondly, the subsequent neglect of the real issue by the Baldwin Government. As for Australia, our history between 1919 and 1939 records many occasions on which the actions of the Labour party were such as to be no source of pride to that great organization. In fact, the contrary is the case. I shall give honorable senators an illustration of that point - it is quite a minor one, but it is indicative of the feeling which existed towards the end of 1938. Shortly after the Munich Pact the then Commonwealth Government inaugurated a campaign to increase the strength of the Militia forces which in 1938 was only 36,000. and even then, probably half of the men were medically unfit. For this purpose, rallies were held all over Australia. One such rally was held in Forrest-place in Perth.
Naturally, I was interested in the project, and in the course of my activities, I approached a prominent member of the Australian Labour party, who was also a member of this Parliament, and asked him to do his best to get his fellow members along to this meeting. He raised his eyebrows and said, “ You know what our fellows are “. Speaking from memory, I think that the present Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) was the only Labour member of Parliament present at that meeting.
I shall now deal with a subject which is not new, but which is of the greatest importance, namely, the granting of preference in employment to ex-servicemen. Statements which have been made by honorable senators opposite have convinced me that the Prime Minister would have great difficulty in bringing down legislation to meet our national obligation in this regard and to implement the promise which he himself gave to members of the fighting forces. For some time, it has been evident to me that supporters of the Government have definitely embarked upon a campaign against the granting of preference in employment to ex-members of our fighting forces. My opinion is that we are all greatly indebted to the men and women of our fighting forces for the great service which they have rendered in defending this country.
– The honorable senator should not forget that we on this side of the chamber also have sons and brothers in the fighting forces. It is not a one-sided war.
– I am not overlooking that. No country has madea more uniform and worthy effort in its defence than has Australia, and whenI refer to Australians I speak of the residents generally. There are some people who have not served their country, but I made no personal reference to any member of this chamber. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd March the following report was published : -
Opportunityfor All Urged
Melbourne, Thursday. - A resolution opposing the policy of preference to Service personnel after the war was passed to-day by the A.C.T.U. interstate conference.
It was stated that the policy was not in the best interest of the nation and should be abandoned, and that the efforts of the nation should be concentrated on ensuring opportunities for employment to all.
Preference proposals carried an implication of intense competition for work after the war and a shortage of opportunity. This would be contrary to the objectives for which the war was being fought, and would introduce a defeatist influence into efforts to provide full employment, social advancement, and security for all.
That part of the report suggests that a person who, for the purpose of defending this country, gave up his joh and went overseas for four or five years, would have to take his chance of getting a. job on hi3 return to Australia. The second portion of the report states -
Conference deferred until later this month a decision on suggested demands on the Federal Government to introduce legislation for compulsory unionism. Members were told that the Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, had intimated that it was not possible, under present circumstances at Canberra, to introduce this legislation, but that an opportunity to introduce it might arise when Labour had a majority in the Senate.
There, I suggest, we have a different story. After .the 1st July of this year, it will be quite practicable for the Government to show its hand and introduce a measure to inflict compulsory trade unionism on the people of this country, thus shutting out the returned soldiers from employment. If we compare the two parts of that statement we shall find that they contain philosophies which do not reconcile themselves. Speaking in this chamber on the 24th February on the subject of preference in employment to returned soldiers, Senator .Nash stated that an attempt was being made to “ split the people “. I believe that those are the words actually used by him, although the words appearing in Hansard are “ divide the soldiers and the workers “. Senator Nash went on to say that the last elections resulted as they did because the people, far from desiring preference to returned soldiers, “wanted to see in operation a social system under which all the people would be guaranteed economic security “.
– Much as the views of Senator Nash are entitled to respect, owing to his wide experience in industrial matters, how can he reconcile that opinion, which is supported by Senator Tangney, with those expressed in the resolutions of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions? I fear that, as indicated by the attitude of the present Government of Western Australia towards unification, he finds himself compelled to advocate a policy with which he does not agree: Admittedly, everybody seeks a system of economic security. We admit too the merit attached to those who initiated the trade union movement, and the great value of the reforms brought about as a consequence. But with the development within the unions of political ideologies, and the use of union funds for political purposes, there has grown up under the hierarchy at the trades halls a tyranny which seriously interferes with the liberty of the subject, and is irreconcilable with other ideals in respect of which claims are frequently made to-day. I refer in this respect to a free parliament, freedom from want and fear, and freedom of ‘ speech. The Parliament should be free from outside influences, and the government of the day should act on its impulsesas to what the country needs. It should not be instructed by one or the other of the hierarchies. Is the freedom from want and freedom from fear to be treated seriously, and are the bodies which I have mentioned prepared to add to those freedoms the freedom to choose one’s occupation, freedom of association and freedom to work without a trade union ticket? I should like an answer to that question. During the recent industrial troubles in New South Wales the trade unions or lodges played a sorry part. What assistance did they render to a harassed Prime Minister who, it is said, offered to “ stand down “ from office, if that step would meet the demands of the malcontents. As one newspaper aptly remarked, it was preferable that the Prime Minister should “ stand up “ for the good order and government of this country. Senator Tangney also stated -
The whole business of preference requires to be reviewed in the light of this war, which is different from the last war. It is not a war in which thousands go overseas and the people who stay at home have no contact with the war. This is a war very neal to our own soil and every man, woman and child in Australia has felt its impact.
How wrong is such an appreciation, even as to the facts! What does the honorable senator mean by “impact”? Is it the impact that has so afflicted the people of the British Isles and elicited such a display of courage and stamina? Of course not. There is no parallel between conditions in Australia and on the other side of the world. Except with regard to definite economic changes, and the withdrawal of many men and women m industry as a result of the mobilization of the defence forces, there has been no sharp impact at all upon our people as a whole. Only at two points in Australia, and those remote, has there been actual physical contact between the enemy and civilians. Fortunately, too, the cost in flesh and blood of our services has been cut. by about half of what it was in the 1914-18 war and we should be thankful for that. Relatively speaking, this is a “ good “ war in some respects. There is no luck of work for those who can and will work. The worker toils for certain defined hours. If employed beyond those hours his pay is increased. He spends every night in bed.
– If he does not, that is his own fault. While resting, the police force provides the only protective outposts needed. He is remote from the danger of bullet, shell or bomb. He has his own home and family around him. If he is interested he can maintain touch with all that is going on in the community in which he lives. He can use or misuse his vote. For the most part, holi-days are allowed the worker. If he takes other holidays he incurs no punishment; whereas the sailor, soldier or airman who behaves similarly is liable to penalties involving as much as two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. I wonder if the Minister who represents the Minister for the Army would like to tell us the number of men to-day in detention barracks who are serving sentences thus incurred, and so enable a comparison to be made with figures supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in respect of such of his charges who have been similarly dealt with.
– Would the honorable senator militarize the whole country?
– No. Recently the Prime Minister stated that he asked only that the coal-miners should work 80 hours a fortnight. It seems that 20,000 civilians can defy the Government of this country, while 500,000 or more men and women wearing the King’s uniform are faithfully performing a hazardous task, in most cases voluntarily assumed, involving the safety of this country, its people and its wealth.
On the claim that the man who makes (lie gun merits the same consideration asthe man who fires it, let us examine the cash rewards meted out to-day in certain selected avenues of the war effort. I set these out in order to remove a common cause of misunderstanding on both sides in politics. Take the case of a married man with a wife and two children under the age of sixteen years. According to my calculations, a miner on the coal-fields of New South Wales earns, at a minimum, £1 8s. 4d. a day, whilst contract earnings amount to from £2 10s. to £3 15s. a day. He works eight hours a day from bank to bank, for a five-day week. He gets overtime at the rate of time and a half, and double time on holidays.
– Is that too much?
– I am making a comparison without comment. I am giving this information for the benefit of people who are capable of making up their own minds on the matter. A waterside worker at the port of Sydney receives 3s. 8$d. an hour for time actually worked. For overtime he receives time and a half up to midnight, double time from midnight to 7 a.m., and double time and a half on Sundays. Where special cargoes have to be handled, special rates, ranging from an additional 3d. to ls. 6d. an hour, have been fixed by a board.
– If those rates were fixed by a competent authority, why does the honorable senator complain about them?
– I am setting out the facts. A member of the Civil Constructional Corps is paid £1 a day for a week of 44 hours, spread over five and a half days. Overtime rates are at time and a half for the first two hours, and double time thereafter. He also receives free food, quarters and medical attention while in camp. An able seaman in the merchant shipping service is paid fi Os. 6d. a day, including a war risk payment of 6s. lOd. That rate is paid for a week of seven days. Overtime is paid for at 3s. 3d. an hour, plus a proportion of the war risk payment. The able seaman is entitled also to certain medical benefits. An able seaman in the Royal Australian Navy receives active service pay amounting to 9s. a day, family allowances 9s. 6d., and deferred pay ls. 9d. a day. In addition, the value of the food, clothing, necessaries and quarters with which he is supplied is set down at 3s. 5d. a day, making his total earnings £1 3s. 8d. a day. A private in the Australian Imperial Force receives active service pay amounting to 7s. a day, family allowances of 9s. 6d., and deferred pay 2s. a day. In his case also, the value of food, clothing and quarters, when occupied, is set down at 3s. 5d. a day, making his total £1 ls. lid. a day. As honorable senators know he does not always occupy quarters, but sometimes sleeps out. A leading aircraftman in the Royal Australian Air Force receives as pay and allowances the same amount as does a private in the Australian Imperial Force; the total value is assessed at £1 ls. lid. a day. In citing those figures, I wish to make it clear that members of the fighting services have certain rights as the result of injuries received in the performance of their duties, and are also entitled to the repatriation benefits provided by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Merchant seamen and coal-miners also have their pension schemes. Waterside workers and members of the Civil Constructional Corps can claim compensation for injuries incurred while actually employed. As honorable senators supporting the Government have stated that returning sailors, soldiers and airmen will have the chances of gaining a livelihood in competition with those who have stayed at home, I draw the attention of the Senate to the terms of the report of the joint parliamentary committee which reviewed the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. On that subject, the committee, in its second report, at page 21, said, under the heading “ Preference in Employment “ -
In making that recommendation the committee was influenced by -the evidence placed before it, and therefore I direct attention to portion of paragraph 22 to which I have referred. It contains an irresistible appeal for simple justice -
We have taken men out of their normal civil employments and have changed them fundamentally. We have removed the motive that would actuate them in their civil life. We have taken from them all striving to gain a livelihood. Shortly, we have changed them ; they are different social beings. In the course of that process of change, we have put them into an environment in which they cannot get a full appreciation of the changes that are occurring in the economic and social structure. . . . They have new interests which occupy the greater part of their time and do not know what is taking place in the environment in which they formerly lived. At the same time, that environment itself is changing very rapidly. . . . They will be competing with men and women who are skilled. Even if they are trained to at least the point reached by the civilian during the war, they will still be at a big disadvantage.
The witness who gave that evidence is not an ex-soldier. In a book entitled The Toughest Fighting in the World, written by G. H. Johnston, there is an introduction *from the pen of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). Among other things, the right honorable gentleman wrote -
The New Guinea campaign emphasises our duty to those who fought.
Those are good words. The AttorneyGeneral then proceeded to make an appeal for an “open-go” -
At the very least we must resolve to avoid the reappearance of the curse of unemployment and poverty which plagued the youth of all countries between the two great wars. I think it is possible to achieve this objective of full employment without that harsh regimentation which is alien to our traditions of civil liberty.
For the time being I am inclined to leave the matter at that, but before doing so, it may be well to bring to the notice of honorable senators an item appearing in a journal much used by the AttorneyGeneral as a medium for the circulation of propaganda. I refer to Current Affairs Bulletin. On page 11 of volume 4, No. 13, of that publication, dated the 28th February, 1942, there is a drawing of a factory surrounded by a high wall, on which, alongside a gate, there is a notice which reads, “ Employees only “. A rather doleful individual is depicted turning away from the gate. Underneath the drawing are the words, “Every Australian has a right, not merely to unemployment relief, but to a job, and a worthwhile job at that “. I apply that inscription to every ex-serviceman who will return from the war, but I fear that on the wall, instead of the words “Employees only”, we may see the words “ Unionists only “. In effect that is what the Australasian Council of Trade Unions seeks to have incorporated in an act of this Parliament. I shall make one further comment on this topic. In reply to the mendacious statement, so often repeated, that, despite an expenditure of about £300,000,000 of public funds on pensions, rehabilitation and welfare requirements. Australia neglected its veterans of the last war and gave them “ a swag to carry “, I again quote from the report of the committee to which I have already referred. That body heard evidence from organizations representing ex-servicemen from all over Australia and from every class in society. Not one complaint was made of neglect, or of any failure in the past to repair or replace by legislation any fault or omission tending to retard the successful application of the nation’s repatriation scheme. On this point the committee, in its first report, said, in paragraph 98 -
The Committee heard evidence on many mutters by representatives of the federal bodies of returned soldiers’ organizations. The representatives expressed their approval of the act as a satisfactory instrument for the conveyance of the wishes of Parliament and were satisfied that it was being administered sympathetically. They were definitely opposed to any change in the present form of administration, i.e., by a commission.
The Committee concurs in the views expressed by the representatives.
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– by leave - This is probably the last occasion on which we shall have with us the six honorable senators who will retire from the Senate on the 30th June next. It, therefore, seems a fitting occasion to say to them that every honorable senator regrets their departure. We have had our differences, but I believe that in this chamber there is a wonderful friendship among all honorable senators. It in only to be expected that there will be casualties after a general election. I know what it is to fall by the wayside. I had that experience when a member of the House of Representatives. In the group of senators who will retire is Senator A. J. McLachlan, who at one time was Leader of the Senate, and for a number of years was a Minister in various administrations. Senator McBride was Minister for Supply and Development when the initial work in connexion with Australia’s war effort had to be undertaken. He did an important job well. Senators Spicer and Wilson have earned the gratitude and the goodwill of their mates. Of the honorable senators now sitting on this side of the chamber, Senators Arthur and Darcey are to retire, having done their work well. They also have the good wishes of all honorable senators. Fiercely as we may fight at times, there is a recognition of the value of the work performed by honorable senators of all parties. I am with Senator Collett in expressing the hope that more capable men in the community will be willing to serve their country in the sphere in which we serve, and also that when men arc elected to the Parliament they will be given that respect to which their position entitles them. On behalf of the Government, and, indeed, on behalf of every honorable senator regardless of party, I say to the retiring senators that we regret their departure, that we appreciate the way in which they have done their work, and that- we shall look forward to the day when they will stage a “ come-back “ and renew the pleasant associations of the last six years. During the short period I have been Leader of the Senate - and I know that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) would say the same in respect of his term of leadership of the Senate - I have had co-operation from each of the retiring senators. On behalf of the Government I wish each of them a long life and prosperity.
– by leave - I express my thanks to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) for his very generous tribute to the work done by the retiring senators, four of whom I have the honour to lead in this chamber. The departure of each of the retiring senators is a great loss to the Parliament. It is fitting that I should pay special tribute to my esteemed colleague, Senator A. J. McLachlan, who has been a member of the Senate for the last 1S-J years, and has held ministerial office for the greater part of that term. I express my great appreciation of the help he has always accorded to me as the Leader of the Opposition, and previously when I was Leader of the Senate. He represents one of the pioneer pastoral families in South Australia whose reputation in that State stands very high indeed. The McLachlans were leaders of the pastoral industry in South Australia, and Senator A. J. McLachlan himself rose to a leading position in the legal profession. At the same time, he has played a prominent role in the political life of this country. I regard it as a privilege to have the opportunity to place on record our high appreciation of the splended service he has rendered to this nation. His loyalty and devotion to his duties as a member of this Parliament are outstanding. Senator McBride was my colleague in ‘Cabinet in the early days of the war ; and it is unnecessary for me to praise the splendid service which he has rendered both as a Minister and as a member of this chamber. To the other retiring senators on this side of the chamber I express sincere thanks for the work they have done. I refer particularly to Senator “Wilson, who is the sole representative of the Senate in the fighting services of this country in the present conflict. I greatly appreciate my association with him in this Parliament.
To each of the retiring senators I extend my best wishes. I know that in the notfardistant future some of them will again be playing their part in. the important work of this Parliament. Having regard to the fortunes of politics, perhaps it is fitting that I should take this opportunity as Leader of the Opposition to say that the Opposition will extend a cordial welcome to senators elect.
- by leave - In politics one must be prepared to accept the approbation or the disapproval of the electors. Naturally, defeated candidates are inclined to regard the decision of the electors as wrong; but, in one sense at all events, the elector is always right at the ballot-box. The pendulum of public opinion will inevitably swing from side to side. At the last general elections- it swung away from the parties on this side of the chamber, and gave to the Labour party a majority in both houses. As at the 30th June next four honorable senators on this side will retire, three as the result of the general elections, and the fourth voluntarily. The three first-mentioned are Senator McBride, Senator Spicer and Senator Wilson. All honorable senators will agree that the debating strength of this chamber will suffer in consequence of the retirement of the senators named. As the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) has remarked, the business of this chamber is not always conducted without heat. The retiring senators have made valuable contributions to debates in this chamber. Undoubtedly, we shall miss them greatly. Some of them are comparatively young men, and I trust that we shall see them again in this Parliament. Senator A. J. McLachlan, who will retire voluntarily, has been a member of the Senate for a very long period and has played a very prominent part in the life of this country. We shall miss him very much. His genial personality has often taken the sting out of his forceful arguments. His retirement will mark the close of a distinguished public career. I trust that he will be spared for many years, and will enjoy good health in quiet retirement on his beautiful property at Millbank. He richly deserves that reward. The other honorable senators will resume their private avocations. I am sure that they will continue to interest themselves in public affairs. At the 30th June next, the Senate will also lose the services of two Government supporters, Senators Darcey and Arthur. To them F extend my sincere wish that they will enjoy health. I have no doubt that they will again submit themselves to the electors. On behalf of the Australian Country party in this chamber, I extend best wishes to each retiring senator.
– On an occasion like this we recognize that we are mortal politically as well as physically. With the swing of the political pendulum, some honorable senators must yield their place to others. From my vantage point in the chair, more or less as an onlooker, I see most, of the game, and I have had an opportunity to study various honorable senators. We must all admit that the debating strength of the Opposition will suffer as the result of the retirement of Senators A. J. McLachlan, McBride, Spicer and Wilson. I take the keenest interest in weighing the merits of speakers in this chamber; and I must admit that Senator Spicer has been outstanding as a debater. Of course, I do not agree with many of his opinions, but I have often been envious of his capacity to present a case. I have the highest personal regard for Senator McBride, except when he is in the chamber. He has something of a dual personality - a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Like the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who also is most genial outside the chamber, Senator McBride becomes a different person when he rises to speak in the Senate. I suppose if a championship for interjectors were awarded., the honours would go to Senator McBride. I regard Senator A. J. McLachlan as a close personal friend. I have no doubt that had I had an opportunity to hear him in his youth, I should have found him to be a powerful personality on the platform, and a most effective champion of the cause he espoused. He still shows evidence of forensic ability and dramatic power, despite his years. Senator Wilson is a gentleman with very strong ideas. Although he sometimes speaks with asperity, he has invariably shown himself to be conscientious in all he undertakes. I shall certainly miss each of the retiring senators from my vantage point in the chair. I extend my best wishes to the retiring Government supporters, Senator “ Tom “ Arthur and Senator “Dick” Darcey. Senator Arthur has been a tower of strength to the Labour movement for many years, and I shall never forget the effectiveness of his maiden speech in this chamber. Senator Darcey has made a name for himself throughout the Commonwealth. I have found that he is known from one end of the continent to the other. As President, I have perhaps been annoyed at times when he has been guilty of tedious repetition; but there is an old saying that one cannot repeat a good thing too often. He has done splendid work on behalf of the cause he espouses, and we must admire him for his tenacity and courage. We shall greatly miss each of the retiring senators. On an occasion like this we cannot help but feel sad at the thought of parting with old friends and colleagues. I say to each of the retiring senators that he leaves this chamber with the goodwill and best wishes of every member of the Senate.
– by leave - I shall violate Standing Orders by addressing honorable senators on this occasion as “ My friends “. On behalf of my blushing colleagues from South Australia, Senator McBride and Senator Wilson, whose modesty is well known to all honorable senators, and on my own behalf, I thank the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and Senator Cooper as the representative of the Australian Country party in this chamber for the gracious tributes they have paid to retiring senators. After being a member of the Senate for over eighteen years, I thank the officers of this chamber and the members of the staffs of the Parliament for the help they have given to me. Particularly do I thank the members of the Hansard staff for the able manner in which they have reported my speeches. Throughout my career, each member of the staffs of the Parliament has treated me with uniform courtesy. Although many of them, perhaps, have not shared my views politically, I have been able invariably to rely upon them. To them I am duly grateful. “Without such a tradition parliamentary government could not be carried on effectively. In voicing the thanks of my colleagues and myself on this occasion, I should like to make this personal remark: After a very lengthy experience in the working of parliamen- tary government, I urge the leaders of the people to ensure that the people, and members of Parliament themselves, stand fast by the principle of parliamentary government. Therein lies the safety of our democracy. No institution has ever reached the pinnacle of splendour, or maintained the position that parliamentary government, under the British system has maintained in British countries throughout the world. The British system of parliamentary government is the envy of the world. My last words to the Senate, by way of advice, if I may put it in that way, are to stand fast by parliamentary government. There are men on my side of the chamber, and probably on the other side, sufficiently young in years to return to the political arena. So far as I am concerned, it is “ Farewell In thanking you, Mr. President, the two leaders, and honorable senators generally for the kindly expressions of goodwill towards me and my two colleagues, I simply say - farewell! A word that must he and hath been -
A sound which makes us linger; - yet - farewell !
- by leave -As Senator A. J. McLachlan of- South A-ustralia spoke formally only on behalf of his two colleagues from that State, I feel that it is necessary that I should express my thoughts to you, Mr. President, to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), for the kind wishes conveyed to me and the other retiring senators. I would not pretend that I am not sorry that the end of my term as a senator is approaching. It has been an extremely interesting experience for me, and one in which I feel that I have learned a tremendous lot which will stand me in good stead wherever fortune may take me. I have endeavoured in the course of my short career in this Parliament to express from time to time views which I held on various subjects that came before the Senate. I have no doubt thai sometimes I was wrong, but frequently I was right. I have endeavoured to express those thoughts as clearly and forcibly as I could. Notwithstanding that, 1 am glad to say, and I am sure that every honorable senator agrees with me, that I have been able to maintain the most cordial relations with every member of the Senate. In my view, the satisfactory working of the parliamentary system requires that, while we express our views clearly and forcibly, that, should not interfere in any way with our personal relations with members on either side of the chamber. I am glad to be able to leave the Senate, after three and a half years, feeling in the first place that I have made a number of new friends, many of whom will be friends for life, and secondly, that I have been able to maintain with all members those cordial relations to which I have referred.
- by leave - Although my colleague, Senator A. J. McLachlan, has replied in very suitable terms to the kind expressions that have been voiced by you, Mr. President, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), the Leader of the Opposition (‘Senator McLeay) and Senator Cooper, I could not allow this occasion to pass without saying that I personally have a very real regret at leaving the Senate. As you know, sir, I do not leave it voluntarily. But on doing so I leave behind me years of experience which have been most interesting and’ useful to me. and which, wherever fortune may lead me in the future, will enable me to become a better and more useful citizen of this country. I join with Senator Spicer in saying that I hope that, although debates have been keen and on occasions perhaps furious, the views which I have expressed have been accepted as my honest opinion, and that, whilst some may have disagreed with me, they have not been the cause of personal enmity to me. Tolerance is one of the characteristics of the British race, and that is one reason why parliamentary government is carried on so successfully in British countries. I am sure that honorable senators have shown that characteristic to a marked degree on many occasions. I believe that I have been able to create, and I hope hold, many friendships during the period I have been a member of the Senate and the House of Representatives. One of my cherished memories will be the number of friends that I have made, and I hope that that friendship will continue. I thank you all very much for the kindly wishes that you have expressed, and trust that our successors during their period in this chamber will receive the same consideration that has been extended to us.
- by Leave - As the only Tasmanian senator whose time expires on the 30th June, I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my six years as a member of the Senate. As one gets on in years, one sometimes claims certain privileges. One of them is that of giving advice. I have been associated with politicians for many years, because as a young man I always felt that the first duty of citizenship was to take an intelligent interest in the government of one’s country. I was very disappointed to note that for eighteen years the Labour party in Tasmania was unable to secure representation in this chamber, so, after one general election, I said to those who conducted the affairs of the party in Hobart: “You should be ashamed of yourselves not to have sent a team to the Senate long ago “. They said, “ We cannot win the Senate, although we have won seats in the House of Representatives “. I. said, “ You can if you go the right way about it”. They asked me if I would stand, and I said, “No”. I never had any inclination to enter Parliament, but I kept on telling them that they could win the Senate and at last they challenged me to prove it, so I came out as a candidate at 68 years of age. f had nobody to help me and no committees, but to the surprise of many people I topped the poll. I also gained the biggest vote in Hobart that anybody ever had. I came here for one purpose, and have driven at it for six years, but I have not succeeded in converting every member of the chamber. I have, however, set a seed that will produce a good crop later on. This is the first time that I have failed to reach any objective which I set myself, and I have set myself some difficult jobs in my time, although nothing so difficult a3 trying to convert the Senate to new ideas. I thank you all for the kindly remarks you have made concerning me. I have received hundreds of letters commending me for what the writers are pleased to call the fine efforts I have made in the Senate. I am proud to know that people think of me in that way, and that I have got on as well with the Opposition as with my own party. I have enjoyed my experience, gained a number of friends, and promulgated some new ideas. I hope that those who follow me in the new Senate will enjoy the experience as much as I have, and I am sure that they will try as hard as I have to adapt themselves to the new conditions.
- by leave - I thank you, Mr. President, and the Leaders of the three parties in the Senate for their kind references to me. I have made some grand friendships here with men who, I trust, will be my friends all my life. I came into this Chamber with an ideal. I believe that Australia can produce the finest type of manhood aud womanhood in the world, establish the highest standard of living in the world, and provide employment for all its people. After I had been here for two years, it became necessary for me to play my part in defending Australia in order that those ideals might be achieved. Although they have not yet been achieved, I trust that I shall return to this Parliament to witness their fulfilment. Prom what I saw overseas, with the lads that came from Australia and offered their all, I am satisfied that magnificent men are produced in this country. With men such as we send overseas, there is nothing that we cannot do in Australia. I thank you, sir, and honorable senators generally for the great assistance which has been given to me from time to time. I have learned a great deal since I have been a member of the Senate. One thing I have learned is that those things which one imagines that he can get done quickly very often take a great many years before they are fulfilled. I have put forward certain suggestions in this chamber, some of which have been carried into effect and others have not. Perhaps the day will come when I shall have an opportunity of again playing my part in bringing about the Australia that I should like to see.
– by leave - I thank you, Mr. President, the Leader of the Government (Senator Keane), the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Senator Cooper) for the remarks made about myself and others who are retiring on the 30th June. My experience in this Parliament has not been something altogether new to me as regards what may be called the political world, because I have been associated with politics in an active way for nearly 50 years. I suppose that to-day will be the last opportunity I shall have of speaking publicly in the Senate for some considerable time. I shall say not good-bye, butau revoir. The chances are that you will see me here again. The interval will be more or less a holiday, because I believe that the people of Australia will be increasingly democratic, and that there will be room in the Australian Parliament for members who uphold the cause of democracy, as I have always done.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 2323).
– In continuing the speech which I commenced earlier to-day, I wish to make one further point on the subject of preference in employment to returned soldiers. I shall quote from Bulletin No. 2, issued by the Industrial Welfare Division of the Department of Labour and National Service, entitled How to Reduce Absenteeism and Increase Production. Portions of this bulletin have been read by Senator Foil and also by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), but I intend to read them again. Commencing on page 13, the bulletin states -
Much harm has been done by uninformed comment on the question of absenteeism. The public has lacked accurate information on the matter, and the average man and woman outside industry has little understanding of the conditions under which war-workers live and carry on their jobs. It is the exceptional that makes news, and the individual’s general approach to the problem is largely coloured by what he has hastily concluded from the day’s happenings. Thus there is a disposition to contrast unfavorably the behaviour of workers with that of the men in uniform, or (to make the point more sharply) the men “in the front line”.
The comparison is misleading. It is misleading to compare the conditions in which front-line troops are fighting for three weeks, or even three months (after which they will have to be rested in special conditions) with those in which industrial workers are expected to work continuously year after year. When daily hours are discussed the intensity of industrial work and its monotony are usually disregarded; yet these might easily make men at the work-benches turn enviously to the idea of an open-air life, with comradeship and a man’s job to be done, freedom from worry about food, shelter, clothes and medical attention, and the prestige of wearing a uniform.
The Postmaster-General apparently finds some virtue in the next paragraph of the bulletin. It may have a virtue, but it does not lessen the sharpness , of the comparison. The bulletin continues -
Moreover, industrial workers and soldiers are not two separate classes. The men and women in overalls are the brothers, sisters, parents, and wives of the men in uniform. And where the services are able to set up permanent workshops, their aim is, rightly to provide conditions not inferior to good industrial practice.
I wonder what that refers to? The services can set up permanent workshops only in base areas. I suggest that these words disclose a complete ignorance of the character of war and the rigours of war. If they were read in the front line, I can just imagine the appreciation which would be given to them. To-day, honorable senators have been given a brochure which depicts a rough outline of a very rough life, and I wish it to be remembered that some honorable senators in this chamber have lost sons in this war. In my opinion, the person who wrote that article is a fool.
I come now to the question of unification - a matter with which many people have been occupying their minds lately.
The Labour party’s policy of destroying the States as self-governing communities has been advanced in three stages during the regime of the present Administration. First of all we had the bill adopting the Statute of Westminster; then the enactment of the so-called uniform tax laws, which removed certain sources of income tax from access by the States; and, lastly, we had the referendum measure, which seeks to amend the Constitution. In regard to the third measure, I suggest that action tending to arrogate and centralize powers ‘ by and in one focal authority, and relatively remote administration, is in conflict with certain natural laws and also is contrary to the teachings of British history. The impelling factor in the establishment and growth of the British Empire, which after all is still a very united nation, has been described by one writer as a centrifugal force. In the case of Great Britain, this force took the form of economic pressure imposed on a dense population, compelling many thousands of people to seek a livelihood abroad, hence the existence of South Africa and the dominions of Canada, New Zealand and even in- part the existence of the United States of America. As for Australia, it is necessary to remember that IGO years ago it had no white population, lt is also necessary to bear in mind the vast area of this continent and the physical features which have prevented an even spread of settlement over its entire surface. The forces which I have mentioned led to various landings on the shores, and in time migrants grew in numbers and the economic strength of this country increased correspondingly, under the aegis and protection of a government situated in London. However, a stage in development was reached when local problems could be solved quickly and satisfactorily only by the acquisition of greatly increased local authority. Consequent upon the existence of thi3 need, there followed representations to Great Britain which, assented to as a kindly parent to a child attaining its majority, resulted by the year 1890 in the creation of six autonomous States, complete masters of their own destinies. These States - three of them huddled together on the eastern side of the con tinent, and the others widely separated and even isolated to the south and west - developed certain characteristics peculiar to internal conditions and general environment. Nevertheless, they had common needs, the attainment of which could be made easier, more effective, and less costly if supplied, controlled or governed by a single central executive authority. Hence the move towards a federation which, after years of consideration and fashioning by far-seeing intellectual and skilful men, culminated in the act of 1900, passed by the British Parliament. Under this act, the six States retained their autonomy, granted by the Crown, but ceded to the Commonwealth Parliament the responsibility for devising and administering measures necessary for foreign trade, post and telegraph services, defence, navigation and coastal lighting, quarantine, currency, naturalization, immigration, the establishment of a High Court of Justice, external affairs and other matters incidental thereto, including the right to levy taxes for the purpose of meeting the costs of administration. The initial charge on the revenues of this federation was in the neighbourhood of £4,000,000, whereas the budget figures for 1939-40 envisaged, apart from expenditure on preparations for defence, an increase to £84,000,000. Meanwhile the country was developed; the people doubled in number - the rate of expenditure of moneys far outpacing the rate of increase - successfully and unitedly encountered two wars, and were about to face a third - the greatest conflict of all time. We are still united. Our national effort is something to be proud of. We may yet have to make even greater sacrifices, and in this event I am sure there will be no faltering; but through all this stress and strain, inseparable from war, each State has retained its identity and aspirations. With the post-war reconstruction period in mind, each State has, whilst denying nothing to the Commonwealth in cases of need, appreciated the problems of the future and the high value of the powers necessary for their solution, which are its inherent and historic right. Briefly, I shall put the case for Western Australia : It is geographically remote from
Canberra and yet it is on the direct route to England and the heart of the old world. Its physical characteristics ure peculiar and the development of its resources requires the study and action >f an . authority on the spot. Western Australia does not desire to be merged with the other 94 per cent, of the population of the Commonwealth. It fears being governed solely from Canberra. For instance, it cannot reconcile ite aspirations with those of the State of New South Wales, which, with a representation of over one- third of the strength of the House of Representatives, must ever exercise a powerful influence on national policy. Western Australia has had its lesson. Ten years ago it voted for secession from the partnership formed in 1901. I do not think that it would repeat What action, but, at the same time, it will not put its neck into a noose and incur strangulation. From the national standpoint, its war effort and record are pre-eminent. In sentiment, it is intensely British. Western Australia was founded in 1829, and when C first knew it in 1884, its population was 32,000. In 1890, 60 years after its foundation, it obtained responsible government, and in 1896 it became entitled to an elective upper house upon a census of 60,000 people. Under its own power, so to speak, and under the protection of the Commonwealth and Empire, its population has grown to the present figures - nearly 470,000. It did not lightly enter the federation. It was fearful for its future, and only after much consultation between Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and Sir John Forrest was the plunge eventually taken. There is no sound reason to regret the step taken. Quite the contrary. I suppose that I am the only member in this chamber who has witnessed the inauguration of autonomous government in the case of two peoples. I was at Perth on the 21st October, 1S90, when Sir William Robinson, the Governor, read Queen Victoria’s proclamation. There was a happy gathering of ‘many thousands of proud people who had already entered upon the high road to prosperity. On the 1st January, 1901, I had the privilege of being one of the representatives of Western Australia who attended at Centen- nial Park, Sydney, where, in the presence of a concourse of 100,000 people, Lord Hopetoun read the great Queen’s authority for the founding of the Commonwealth. That, too, was a happy and proud gathering, but I am reluctant to think of the feelings of the people if the retrograde step now proposed be taken, and the less populous States be thus deprived of the incentive and opportunity for endeavour that has influenced and encouraged them for so many years.
The last subject to which I shall refer is one in which we are all interested, and that is this Parliament. Honorable senators will not be averse from a passing reference to what I may justifiably term the maladministration of this Parliament. Primarily this is a matter for the attention of the Government, which, in the main, determines the business to be submitted to the two branches of the legislature. The present Government is no more at fault than some of its predecessors, but it seems to me that a capable secretary to the Cabinet could so co-ordinate and arrange the Government’s programme as to eliminate the frequent and vexatious delays and discreditable last-minute rushes which we have had to endure and in which we have had to participate. Normally, it is not imperative that the Senate and the House of Representatives should sit simultaneously. This chamber is a house of review and also has limitations in respect of the introduction of bills. Consequently its sittings may be fewer in number, and, under the prevailing habits of our directors, we may have to bear with many waiting days. Such delays must be costly to the country. They certainly are very inconvenient to honorable senators who have also an obligation to maintain contact with their constituents. We are also compelled to incur rather heavy expenditure that might, in other circumstances, be avoided. It may interest honorable senators to be reminded that during the calendar years 1941, 1942 and 1943, the actual sitting days of the Senate totalled 110. In this connexion I may be allowed to illustrate the situation in which my colleagues and I from Western Australia find ourselves. The distance by rail from Perth to Canberra is 2,700 miles. There is only one train each, way weekly, an<l the single journey entails spending five nights in travelling. In the present circumstances a parliamentary recess of at least three weeks is necessary to enable an honorable senator representing Western Australia to visit Perth and return without missing a sitting, and even then ten nights’ train travelling is involved. During 1943 my experience shared by others was this: The parliamentary sitting covered three periods during which the Senate met; during the first period, from the 27th January to the 1st April, the Senate sat on 22 days and honorable senators were absent from Perth for 77 days; during the second period, from the 23rd June to the 1st July, the Senate sat on seven clays and that entailed an absence from Perth of 21 days; the third period was from the 23rd September to the loth October, during which the Senate sat on seven days and honorable senators were absent from Perth for 35 days; the total number of sitting days was 36, and the period for which honorable senators representing Western Australia were absent from their State was 133 days. That time is calculated on the .basis of the last train out from Perth and the first train available for return. I suggest that upon that representation the Leader of Senate (Senator Keane) would be justified in saying that the position would be examined. I feel sure that this muchprized institution, the Parliament, could be made more workable, and that for the convenience of members who are detained here between sitting days the amenities of Parliament House might be made more reasonably accessible and more generally available.
– I did not intend to speak on this measure until certain matters were mentioned by Senator Collett. I have heard him refer to the great debt which the community owes to the returned soldiers, and throughout the present sittings of the Senate a great deal of the debate has been upon the claims which the members of the fighting services have upon the community. One of the most important government instrumentalities is the Repatriation Commission, together with the various appeal tribunals which have been established to deal with claims for war pensions. 1 propose to bring to the notice of the Senate an instance of a grave injustice. I refer to the widow of a serviceman who enlisted and was classified as Al in March, 1942. He subsequently died in a military hospital, yet his widow and child are deprived of a war pension because it is said that the illness which caused his death was a congenital disease of the lungs. If the man did suffer from that disease, the fact should have been discovered before he was accepted for military service and passed as A 1. A much stricter medical examination of men enlisting in the forces is required, because once men have been accepted as , A 1 any physical disability that arises afterwards must be regarded as a responsibility of the country. It is regrettable that a woman who has been deprived of her husband, and a child of its father, should be compelled to struggle on with only a widow’s pension and the small amount of child endowment which the Commonwealth grants, instead of receiving the full war pension which is their due. Therefore, in future all medical examinations of service personnel should be thorough, and every facility should be given to make the examinations as complete as possible, so that a position such as that to which I have directed attention will not again arise. I have seen the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) on the matter, and he informs mc that the tribunal which decides such cases is beyond political control. That is as it should be, but when we know that an injustice has been perpetrated, we, the National Parliament, should be in a position to do something to rectify it. Therefore, I bring to the notice of the Senate the case of Private Rasch, to which I have just referred.
Senator Collett was not quite fair in some of his comparisons between members of the fighting services and men and women employed in industry. I have said repeatedly that I do not consider any sacrifice made on the industrial field comparable with that made on the battlefield. I do not think that any honorable senator would dare to suggest that those sacrifices are comparable. Many men in industry would have been members of the
Australian Imperial Force or of kindred services had they been able to obtain release by the man-power authorities. Insofar as they have been prevented from joining the services they should receive every consideration in the post-war period. I have been twitted with certain remarks on the subject of preference in employment to returned soldiers. Every honorable senator hopes to see some form of social security for all in future, but, if a return to the old order be necessary, I agree that insofar as sacrifices have been made the persons making them should be recompensed. I hope that the community will be able to provide every man and woman with a fair standard of living.
– There will be no preference under the new order.
– Of those who will be seeking employment in the postwar period and who will have no business or profession to return to, more than 80 per cent, are already trade unionists, and I do not anticipate a great clash as to whether preference should be granted to returned soldiers or to other workers. Thousands of men could not get a job after the last war, and I knew hundreds for whom no work could be found prior to the present war. When it became necessary to raise an Army in this country many men found their first permanent job. Those men will have to be rehabilitated in industry after the war, and anything that we can do in that direction will be the least we should do, because of the great sacrifice that they have made. Some have already been out of their normal environment for over four years and everything possible should be done on their return to civil life to provide them with good homes and a fair standard of living. That is the very minimum that the Government should endeavour to provide. It should not be done at the expense of any other section of the community. Let us build a sound social fabric, not a patchwork thing which will not last. All parties are in agreement that we must not have a hotchpotch arrangement such as existed after the last war, but must plan for the future. There is already a good foundation on which to build, so that those who are demobilized from the forces after the war, and others who are now employed in industry, may be able to find a. proper niche in which to serve. A big problem confronts us in this connexion, because there is scarcely a home in Australia which has not felt the impact of war. That is what I meant to convey by the remarks to which Senator Collett has taken exception. I did not suggest that members of the civilian population of Australia had had to face the terrors of war as have the people of Great Britain and enemy-occupied countries. I thought that I had made that point clear. Large numbers of our young men and women are in the services, and the home-life of the country has been disrupted. For the first time in the history of this country, thousands of young women have left their homes to serve in the auxiliary forces ; and I must say that they are doing a magnificent job. Recently I visited an Air Force station, and I was amazed to find what the girls were doing. All kinds of intricate mechanical and engineering jobs were being undertaken by them. These girls have been taken out of quiet homes, cafes, shops, and offices, and are now living in barracks in the auxiliary services. There is no glamour about their jobs. I have seen young women so covered with grease and mud that from a distance it was impossible to tell whether the person in overalls was a man or a woman. These young women are giving of their best. What is true of the station I visited is true of others also. I pay a tribute to them for their magnificent work. The same can be said, of the women in industry; they, too, are doing a national job, and are doing it well. Women .engaged on shift work have their night turned into day; their daily routine is foreign to their former way of life. Many married women have left the comfort of their homes to work in factories and workshops. Although the need for the heavy pressure to which they were subjected until recently has passed, no one can speak too highly of their achievements in .the country’s war effort. Any attempt to rehabilitate the men and women serving with the fighting forces, or in industry, must be allembracing; we must not have regard to one section and not to another. I do not think that the post-war problem of dealing with women war workers will he as great as many people think. I have talked with many of the girls and women in the services and in industry, and generally, they are anxious for the war to finish so that they may get back to their homes, wear feminine clothing, and generally settle down to the more normal life of the women of Australia. There are many people who think that the rehabilitation of these women will present a big problem after the war, but that is not my view following talks that I have had with women in industry and in the auxiliary services. I hope that I am right, because I should not like to think that the life which women have had to lead during recent years will. continue in the future. Senator Collett also compared the pay and conditions of work of men in industry with the conditions under which sailors, soldiers and airmen serve. I remind him that not many years ago many of the men and women now in industry had no pay at all. It was then not a question of rates of pay, but of the amount of the dole. We all hope that those times are behind us for ever. Reference was also made to trade unionists and their support of the political labour movement. It is impossible to divorce the political wing of the Labour movement from the industrial wing. They are complementary parts of the same body; one cannot exist without the other. Industrial workers make sacrifices in order to assist the political wing of Labour, whilst the political wing seeks by means of humanitarian legislation and otherwise to improve the lot of the industrial workers. Without the industrial wing there would be no political Labour party, and without the political section of Labour the trade unionists would have a bad time. I remind the Senate of what happened in Nazi-controlled countries. I do so because some honorable senators opposite have likened the Labour party to the Nazi party. I regard such a statement as slanderous. Almost the first act of the Nazi party in Germany was to destroy trade unionism. For nearly a century the trade unions of this country have fought for good conditions, not only for those who belong to the unions, but also for the whole community. I bear Senator
Collett no ill will for his remarks. As a fellow Western Australian, I was interested in what he had to say about the .State which we represent in this chamber. I agree with what he said regarding the inconvenience suffered by representatives of that State in travelling to and from Canberra to attend the sittings of this Parliament. I agree also with what has been said regarding the amenities available in this building. I have attempted to have the Library facilities extended for the benefit of members who remain in Canberra during week-ends and when the Parliament is not sitting. There are other anomalies also. I receive an extensive mail, the largest portion of which comes from Western Australia. As there, is only one ordinary mail a week to and from that State most of my correspondence must perforce be sent by air. Other representatives in Western Australia must experience the same difficulty. We suffer a big handicap in having to send most of our correspondence by air mail ; were we to rely on ordinary mail much of the topicality of our letters would be lost.
– Most of our telegrams have to be sent at urgent rates.
– That is so. These are questions which ought to be considered, because they represent a hardship to members representing Western Australia.
Another important question which arises is that of transport to and from Western Australia. The transAustralian railway was opened in 1917,’ and it would appear that not a great deal has been done to the rolling stock since then. I suggest to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) that, if possible, the conditions associated with second-class train travel to Western Australia should be improved. A journey from Perth to Sydney necessitates five nights in the train. Travelling eastwards from Kalgoorlie, there is a stretch of country in which, during the summer months, it is not uncommon to find the thermometer showing a temperature of 118 degrees. As the train is not airconditioned, and as second-class passengers travel four in a compartment, it is easy to understand that the journey is far from comfortable, especially when ni others and babies are crowded together with other passengers. The only compartment in which second-class passengers have an opportunity to relax is an area about the size of the table in the centre of this chamber. This area has seating accommodation for passengers travelling between intermediate stations, such as workers travelling from one job ro another. There is not sufficient seating accommodation ; provision is made for only about twenty second-class passengers. On hot days the accommodation does not permit of any considerable degree of comfort, to say the least, particularly as during nine months of the year there is always the possibility of a heat wave. The provision of a separate lounge car for second-class passengers would not entail a great expense. Moreover, as there is no provision for second-class passengers to have a shower on the journey, by the time they arrive at Port Pirie they are covered with red dust. The facilities for washing are primitive; there are two wash-basins for women and two for men. Those basins have to serve about 20 people. Conditions on the train should be improved beyond what was thought reasonable in 1917. “Whatever can be done should be done in the interests not only of the comfort of travellers but also of their health. The second-class accommodation is in striking contrast to that provided for first-class passengers. I know that there is a difference between the first and second class fares, but that does not justify the great difference between the conditions under which the two classes of passengers have to travel. I have discussed with the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) the facilities provided for passengers between Adelaide and Melbourne. Until recently, only six sleeping berths were available on the Adelaide to Melbourne express for passengers from Western Australia. The Minister has decided to put on an extra coach with, sleeping facilities for passengers from Western Australia. It was not right that travellers from a distance, who had already spent three nights in the train, should have had to sit up between Adelaide and Melbourne whilst others who boarded the train at Adelaide were provided with sleeper facilities. Had the six senators from Western Australia been travelling on the one train prior to the recent improvement to which I have referred they could not all have been provided with sleepers. I am grateful to the Minister for Transport for the expedition with which, he rectified this anomaly when it was brought to his notice. The provision of an extra coach on the train leaving Adelaide on Sunday nights will be appreciated by passengers from Western Australia.
I come now to another matter connected with the trans- Australian railway with which this Parliament should be concerned. I refer to the inadequate housing facilities provided for workers along the trans-Australian railway. Honorable senators could not garage their cars in some of the houses in which these people are obliged to live and bring up families. Generally, the structures do not provide very much shelter. J do not know who was the architect who designed them. Apparently, he was not much of an architect, because they were not planned for desert conditions. No allowance was made for extremes of heat and cold. Some of the houses have not had a coat of paint since 1917. Moreover, many of the fettlers along the railway are rearing big families. There are over 40 children in one small settlement. People who are bringing up children in these desert areas should be provided with much better housingfacilities than are made available to them at present. I do not think that the expense involved would be very great, but even if it were considerable, the service which these people are rendering in keeping an essential utility in operation demands that, isolated as they areand denied the other amenities of civilization, they should at least be given comfortable houses. I hope that during the recess the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) will visit Western Australia and inspect the conditions at these settlements along the transAustralian railway. I am- certain that if he does so, he will be as anxious to help these people as are honorable senators who are familiar with the conditions which I have described-. When travelling backwards and forwards on this railway I have been amazed at the fortitude of these women, who are obliged to keep things going in shacks. Furthermore, the rents of the houses occupied by these fettlers wore fixed many years ago; and although they have paid in rent a sum several times in excess of the cost of the houses and the houses have deteriorated in value, the rents still remain at their original level.
– To whom are the rents paid ?
– They are paid through the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to the Department of the Interior. I sincerely hope that the Minister will do something for these people, because they are performing a very necessary service to the community. “We should do all in our power to make their life a little happier and easier.
I propose now to deal with “Western Australia’s attitude to the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. I agree with Senator Collett’s statement, that “Western Australians will never repeat the mistake they made some years ago when they voted in favour of secession. The secession bogy was fostered because the people of “Western Australia had good reason to believe that they had received a raw deal at the hands of the Commonwealth Government. To-day, that idea is being dispelled. “Western Australians are realizing more and more that they are not just “Western Australians, but are part and parcel of the nation as a whole. They realize that, whether Western Australia is governed by the Commonwealth from Canberra or Perth, all that matters is that the administration be in the interests of the nation as a whole. The lack of political consciousness in Western Australia in the past has been due largely to the fact that the people had not much trust in past Commonwealth governments. Previous Commonwealth Parliaments brought upon their own heads much of the ‘opprobrium cast upon them. Members of this Parliament in the past did not help the people to realize what exactly are the functions of the National Parliament, the duty it owes to the States, and the duties which the States owe to the Commonwealth. It is the responsibility of the representatives of the people in this Parliament to ensure that that ignorance is dispelled in order that the people will realize that the Commonwealth Government is anxious not to help one ‘State at the expense of another State, but is endeavouring, in the interests of the nation as a whole, to ensure that every State receives its meed of justice. Western Australia is confronted with unique problems. It has a large area, and a small population. In such circumstances, it has difficulty in financing essential social services. Education, for instance, suffers considerably by reason of the fact that so many small schools must be built in remote localities. The best possible use is made of an excellent system of teaching children by correspondence. I believe that Western Australia pioneered this form of education in Australia. Some parts of that State have not yet been trodden by the foot of the white man. There are vast inland areas the full capacity of which we are still in ignorance. We must take all these factors into account in assessing the position of Western Australia as a part of the Commonwealth. Senator Collett referred to social security, and the provision of social services. As I said on a previous occasion, social services constitute one of .the most important duties of a National Government. In fact, the whole work of the National Government rests upon the social security of its people. Unfortunately, many evils exist in our social system which we must rectify at the earliest possible moment. Each State has a different standard of social services. A dentist who qualifies to practise his profession in Western Australia is not allowed to extract a tooth in Victoria. A few weeks ago, when I was the victim of severe toothache, I should have been glad to have obtained the services of a dentist regardless of the State in which he was qualified to practise. However, a Western Australian dentist is forbidden under Victorian law to practise in that State. We find that no reciprocity has been established between the professions in the different States. This interstate barrier is even apparent in the medical profession. It is ridiculous . for a country like Australia, with so small a population, to erect these artificial harriers, and for the people of one State to regard the people of another ‘State as foreigners. I am sure that not so many years ago visitors from the eastern States to Western Australia were surprised to find that Western Australians were white - and I use that term in its fullest sense. A myth had grown up that Western Australians were inferior to other Australians. The sooner we break down these artificial barriers, and stop talking about unification in the way in which Senator Collett has just spoken of it, the sooner shall we realize that we are all Australians regardless of the State in which we live. Senator Collett spoke of unification as an evil thing. When we mean by unification a united Commonwealth with a united purpose, and with equality of opportunity for the people of all States, we shall fulfil the functions which the . Commonwealth Parliament was endowed by the giants who framed the Constitution to fulfil.
.- There has been a remarkable change in the war situation, so far as Australia is concerned, since the last Supply Bill was before this chamber. Each month places the Allied forces in a more favorable position from which the heart of the Japanese nation can be attacked by sea and air. The lesson learnt from the South-West Pacific operations bears out what any experienced soldier already knew - an enemy cannot be driven out of a locality except by land troops in force and using force in following up any advantage gained. Air offensive in this war is equivalent to heavy artillery in the last war. It softens the positions to be captured, but cannot by itself capture and hold such ground. Much has been said about the value of strategic and precision bombing- in the European theatre. Bombing is important. Its damage to production factories is very considerable and it reduces the output, thus assisting to shorten the period of hostilities. It merely paves the way for the titanic land struggle ahead. I make these observations because so many people are inclined to overlook the fact that the greater portion of Hitler’s armies -are intact. Immense supplies of oil and extensive reserves of war equipment are, no doubt, stored in safe and convenient places, probably well underground. Is Germany likely to capitulatebecause the Nazi cities and factorieshave suffered at the hands of Allied’ airmen? Would we capitulate if Melbourne and Sydney were reduced toruins from the air and our munitionsfactories destroyed? No. With thelarge reserves of oil and war equipment stored in convenient centres, the fighting services would still carry on. Patriotism and national character would override any suggestion to capitulate. Pitted against the German divisions in Italy are British and United States veterans versed in the technique of modern war. Around Cassino, the Nazi troops are contesting every yard. They will do the same when the great Allied invasion troops land on Continental soil. That invasion must come. The Red* armies have done a magnificent job, but cannot be expected to go on for ever doing so.
Once the Japanese naval strength isrendered impotent, the end of the war with Japan is in sight. The factors which have to be taken into account when considering the ultimate course of war in the South-West Pacific Area and in Europe, are totally different. Occasionally, I discuss with colleagues of the last war the situation as we see it, without any secret information to help us in forming an. opinion as to which of the two Axis powers will be eliminated first. The tip has always been that Hitler will hold out longer.
The Allied invasion is imminent. April-November are the most, suitablemonths for active operations, before bridgeheads are established across the Rhine. The combined strength of the Allies will be taxed to the utmost. Food hitherto available to the civilians of Britain will be reduced considerably when the invasion has developed. The starving civilian population of the areas recaptured from the Nazis will expect food supplies. The Nazis will denude the areas of operations of sources of such supplies. Here is where Australia can help, not by despatching troops, but by sending more food to Britain to feed war workers and citizens generally. Are we doing our best now? Is snipping space the real reason that consignments of foodstuffs have fallen below pre-war shipments? True, Australia has to feed not only her own forces but also the troops of the United States of America. Washington might be asked to reduce the scale of ration to that which our troops receive.
– Unfortunately, that could only be done by the passage of legislation through Congress.
– Mr. Roosevelt might bring the matter before Congress to see what assistance could be given. During the last war 1 was attached to the 27 th American Division for the month of September, 1918. We did not receive four eggs and 4 lb. of steak for breakfast. The rations which the “ doughboys ‘”’ had were equivalent to what the “ diggers “ and the “ Tommies “ had. The food problem is closely connected with the release of man-power from the fighting and other services, including munitions factories. The primary producer contends that he can increase food supplies if given help. I have made several applications on behalf of dairy-farmers for the release of their sons from the Army. The Army recommends the release, but the manpower authorities make the final decision. They are guided mainly by the advice of local rural employment committees, but I should say that 50 per cent, of the applications are turned down. Why these committees should hesitate to recommend releases, I am at a loss to understand, [f the fighting services say that a man can be spared, no obstacle should be placed in the way of his release, particularly as the food front is so important. The Government should take a stronger hand in this matter. It seems to devote more attention to post-war problems than to the immediate and, for the time being, more important problems connected with the war.
When money is required for war purposes, Ministers quote the amount spent on this war, as compared with the last one. Such a comparison is of no value. En 1914-18, Britain supplied the Australian troops with their fighting equipment. During this war Australia has had to supply its own requirements. Ministers take a pride in quoting what has been spent yearly, daily, and every minute, and this i3 published in the press under big head-lines. No reference is made to where savings could be or are likely to be effected. The information which the public would appreciate when the next Supply Bill is introduced is an intimation that expenditure had been considerably reduced ; that many of the war committees had been dissolved ; that many thousands of men and women had been transferred from war factories to the production of peace commodities; that the regulations now strangling industry had been cancelled, and that all “hangers-on” were now off government pay-rolls. Next to the cessation of hostilities, this information would be the best tonic for the nation. The sooner preliminary steps are taken . to increase production the better for all sections of the community. By that means we would be building up true wealth and prosperity in place of the present spurious money prosperity. The Government calls recklessly for money, and spends it lavishly, like a bee suddenly determined to eat up all its store of honey, or a frugal man suddenly turning spendthrift. The Government is doing its best to bolster up this fictitious prosperity. The craze for more and more money to keep supporters in alleged war jobs has had the effect of compelling hundreds of people to sell their war savings certificates and bonds to pay excessive income taxation. Responsible Ministers, including the two sitting opposite me now, appreciate the dangers of inflation, and are trying to stave it off. Now that the urgent need for manufacturing war equipment is over, attention should be given to the manufacture of peace commodities, the prices of which, because of scarcity and despite price control, are still soaring. We must put the skilled workmen back into private enterprise as soon as possible. I asked the manager of a big manufacturing establishment now engaged in munitions making, how long it would take to revert to pre-war industry. The answer was that they could within a week transfer a third of their 3,000 employees from war to -peace production. The Govern- ment is toying with socialization schemes, and delaying the country’s return to prosperity.
I wish to draw attention to the position of officers and other ranks who enlisted in the second Australian Imperial Force after being rejected in the early stages of the war. After Japan came into the war a circular was sent to these officers inviting them to enlist. The age limit and medical classification were varied to allow thom to join the Australian Imperial Force. They, as well as hundreds of others, enlisted. The result was that the Minister for the Army was able to say that the influx on the lower standards for enlistment did not warrant any form of compulsion for overseas service. In other words, it was represented that there would be no necessity to use the Militia beyond certain defined limits outside Australia. When the agitation over the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill had subsided last year, a general routine Army order was issued stating that some mistake had been made. The result was that all information in their paybooks and records had to be eliminated. The letter “ X “ before the regimental number, and the basic colour patches denoting Australian Imperial Force, were removed, after these officers and men had been wearing them, for over twelve months. This was a. great indignity to inflict on them. With the turn of events in the New Guinea theatre of operations, it was reasonable to assume that no opportunities would be given them for active service beyond Australia. Quite recently each officer received from the department a circular letter in which he was told that his offer to serve in the Australian Imperial Force could not be accepted on account of age and medical qualifications. He was thanked for the spontaneous offer to serve, but now he is not required. The only conclusion one can come to is that the lowering of standards for enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force was with the object of increasing its strength, for obvious reasons. Whoever was responsible for these rush enlistments must have known that the lowering of these standards would affect campaigning in tropical areas. This is a young man’s war. Some thousands accepted the new terms of service.
Scores were men in business who, in anticipation .of being drafted to an overseas unit, sold their businesses. They waited for over eighteen months for a call-up, which came in the form of an official letter the purport of which was, “ Thank you, but we do not want you now “. Who is responsible for this muddle: the Minister for the Army, or the Army authorities ?
As one or two honorable senators opposite have passed uncomplimentary remarks about Senator Wilson’s war service, I took the opportunity recently to ascertain the facts. Senator Wilson could have remained in Australia and served his country as a member of this Parliament, but he took the more patriotic step and enlisted as a gunner in the second Australian Imperial Force on the 30th May, 1940. His experience in the Militia artillery before the war soon gained for him the rank of sergeant in the 2nd/7th Australian Field Regiment, which landed in the Middle East on the 17th December, 1940. Senator Wilson, still a sergeant, served in this artillery unit during the operations at Mersah Matruh, Bug Bug, and Safafi, near the Libyan border. He was recalled at the instance of the Senate, in November, 1941, to accompany the Australian Empire parliamentary delegates to London. This visit to London was subsequently cancelled owing to Japan’s entry into the war. Whilst awaiting transport to London, Senator Wilson assisted the Deputy Judge AdvocateGeneral at Australian Imperial Force head-quarters, Middle East. Owing to his legal knowledge and eighteen months* experience in the ranks of a fighting unit, he was seconded from that unit to the Legal Corps and granted a commission. The Legal Corps is a corps of officers. He remained at Australian Imperial Force head-quarters until the return of the 9th Division to Australia in March, 1943. Since then, Senator Wilson has been attached to the J udge AdvocateGeneral’s head-quarters in Melbourne. For the information of honorable senators who do not know the functions of that branch of the service, I may explain that it is a court to which ail court martials for serious offences are referred. It is a final court, like a court of appeal.
Li the Army an officer or noncommissioned officer must serve when and where ordered. It is a distinct advantage to have in a legal unit an officer who has served in the ranks. Senator Wilson is too old at 43 to serve even as a. private in the second Australian Imperial Force, should he desire to return to a combatant unit in the field. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear no more uncomplimentary remarks about his war service from honorable senators opposite.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) [9.12”. - I wish to address a few remarks to the Leader of the “Senate (Senator Keane), and to enlist his support for a very urgent, matter affecting Western Australia. I refer to the present position of the milk producers of Western Australia. I should like him to confer with the Prices Commissioner and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in an endeavour to give them immediate help. I have received a communication from their association, which indicates that at present they are receiving the small sum of ls. 5d. a gallon for their whole milk. Out of this they have to pay the depot charges, and freight and so on into the city, and any one who knows the dairying industry must realize that they are selling their product at, if not under, cost. I should like the Minister, who has charge of the Department of Price Fixing, to endeavour to make some amount available immediately in the form of a subsidy to assist the dairy producers of Western Australia. I am confident that he will do his best, and I leave the matter in his capable hands.
I also direct his attention to my old subject of the gold-mining industry. I appeal to him not only as the Leader of the Senate but also as a practical mining man who has some knowledge and experience of this important industry. No one knows better than he does the vital effect which the gold industry has on the western State. It represents, as we all know, slightly more than one-third of the economic welfare of Australia. That is something which we _ must bear in mind, especially in view of the perilous position of the industry. The people engaged in this industry have been extremely patriotic and loyal. The industry has given willingly of its man-power for carrying out the construction of aerodromes and other important works, not only in Western Australia, but also in the Northern Territory. Men have been, sent from Kalgoorlie to places as far distant as Hatches Creek, where the wolfram fields are situated. Experienced men from the gold-mining industry are now scattered ali over north Australia. I suggest that now that there is a tendency to let up upon the pressure of work of the Allied Works Council and the Civil Constructional Corps–
– That is quite wrong.
– That is the information which I have been given. I have been in-formed that there is a tendency to release men not only from Allied Works Council undertakings, but also from, munitions work. If that be so, I enter a plea for the return of experienced gold-miners to the districts in Which they originally worked. As a matter of fact, when the Departof War Organization of Industry made an arrangement with the gold-mining industry of Western Australia in regard to the immediate release of men for high priority work, it was understood that these men would be able to return to their original employment as soon a.? possible. I make this plea now, following upon the question which I asked the Leader of the Senate in this chamber last week. Unless immediate action be taken to save some of the smaller mines in Western Australia., the job of getting them back into production may be very difficult and lengthy. For this work, from 300 to 500 men ave required urgently. When the alkaline impregnated water reaches the inner workings of a mine great damage may be caused. At present, many mines are closed down entirely, and no provision has been made for keeping the workings in order. Some of them are protected only by a caretaker. What is required is the allocation of skeleton staffs to ensure that the mines are properly cared for, the water kept in check, and the various workings maintained in reasonable order so that when the war is over the mines will be able to go into production immediately and so absorb a great number of returned men. If the mines be permitted to deteriorate as they are doing at present, they will not be able to offer employment to any great number of men until several years after the war is over. These are all matters which will be appreciated by the Leader of the Senate, who has a practical knowledge of mining, and I appeal to him to see that something is done towards returning to the mining industry the men who so readily were made available to the Department of War Organization of Industry in the earlier years of the war.
I am very happy to find that in Senator Tangney we have another champion who is prepared to break a lance against the hardened exterior of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) in regard to the transAustralian railway. On many occasions, 1 have referred in this chamber to the deplorable state of the rolling stock, on that line, which is in urgent need of repair and reconditioning.
– That is the case with every railway system in Australia.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD That may be so, but I am making an appeal for the reconditioning of the rolling stock on that life-line which connects Western Australia with the eastern States of this continent. I hope also that in future it will be possible to run more than one train a week between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie.
– Oan the honorable senator say when the Western Australian Government is likely to standardize its section of the line?
– I cannot say that. However, I shall deal with that matter at a later stage. I agree with Senator Tangney that one of the first steps in the reconditioning of the trans- Australian railway equipment should be to give attention to the second-class rolling stock. I agree with everything that the honorable senator said in regard to that matter, and I hope that the Minister for the Interior has made a note of the honorable senator’s remarks.
– We have been attending to that matter during the past year. Thousands of pounds have been spent already.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Many years ago I made the suggestion - it was not original, I admit - that the Chief Engineer of the Commonwealth Railways should consider seriously the introduction of diesel engines on the trans-Australian line. There is a whole file of reports on the subject of diesel traction. Of course the main difficulty has always been the original cost of the engines. After my own personal experience of diesel trains on the American continent, I am perfectly satisfied that with the modern development of the turbo engine it will be possible to obtain a much cheaper type of diesel motor and I should like the Minister to consult the Chief Engineer of the Commonwealth Railways with a view to bringing the reports on this matter up to date. The operation of diesel engines on the transAustralian line would save the haulage of coal backwards and forwards across that part of the continent, and provide a. cleaner, faster and more economical type of locomotion.
With my colleague Senator Collett, 1 agree that the supply of refrigerators is a most important matter. I join with the honorable senator in expressing disappointment at the efforts which have been made in the past to procure this highly desirable equipment, especially for people living in semi-tropical areas, such as portions of Western Australia.
– We are examining that matter now.
– I know that the Minister for the Interior is familiar with the conditions under which refrigerators are supplied to railway employees on the trans-Australian line. I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs to reconsider this question,, because I consider that with modern methods of manufacture, refrigerators should be much cheaper and in much greater supply than they are at present. During the regime of the Lyons Government, a committee of experts watched carefully imports to Australia, with a view to encouraging the production in this country of many articles which at that time were being supplied’ from overseas. I dare say that that committee is still functioning, and perhaps methods of increasing the supply of refrigerators would come within its province. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to use his influence with the Division of Import Procurement of his department to ensure that supplies which cannot be obtained from Australian factories are imported immediately. It is no use waiting until next summer before taking action, because refrigerators are required in many parts of ‘ Australia all the year round, particularly in homes where there are sick people, and in the circumstances mentioned by Senator Collett.
The Government has intimated through the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley) that it intends to pursue :i policy of decentralization. Already I. have had communicationa from Western Australia welcoming that declaration. I suggest that the Government should give an indication as soon as possible of the manner in which it intends to carry out that policy, and also of the financial conditions and term? upon which it will be prepared to assist remote areas of the Common/wealth to establish manufacturing centres. Western Australia welcomes this progressive policy, and I trust that an early announcement of the details will .be made.
A few moments ago Senator Foll asked what was being done by the Western Australian Government to standardize the railway gauge between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. Many. years ago the governments of the various States concerned entered into contracts with the Commonwealth to undertake certain work in connexion with the standardization of railway gauges. However, little progress with that work was made. The passage .of the uniform tax legislation has altered entirely the financial position of the States, and I doubt very much if Western Australia is in a position to embark upon such a costly undertaking as that mentioned by Senator Foll, lt. seem3 that, the Commonwealth will have to bear the burden of this most urgent work. However, I welcome the announcement by the Government that it will again examine the question of standardizing the railway gauges, and I trust that on this occasion the results will be more than mere government announcements in the press. Instead of merely talking about this problem as many succeeding administrations have done, the BrucePage Government did some useful work, as did the Lyons Government by carrying out the Port Pirie-Red Hill-Port Augusta extension. This Government should take action along those lines, but on a much larger scale, because it has much more money available to -it than the other administration to which I have referred.
Recently I referred to the broadcasting of news by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in connexion with the forthcoming referendum. I asked the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) if he would impress upon the Australian Broadcasting. Commission the desirability of having an impartial review of all the facts both for and against the carrying of the referendum broadcast throughout the Commonwealth. The Postmaster.General replied that he was not prepared to give an instruction to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in this regard. I did not ask him to issue instructions to the commission, but merely wished him to recognize that it is essential that the people of Australia should hear an impartial statement over the national network, giving arguments both for and ‘against the Government’s proposals. I again request the PostmasterGeneral to bear this matter in mind. Many people in Western Australia and in other States are opposed to the granting of increased powers to this Parliament, especially during the war, and therefore it is essential that the case for and against .the proposals should be fairly presented to them. I urge the Ministers concerned to endeavour to bring about an improved position with regard to the various matters to which I have referred.
– ‘Comparisons have been made between the positions of soldiers in the front line and workers in the munitions factories, but comparisons are always odious. The inference to be drawn from what has been said is that the Government, is not interested in the members of the fighting services, and would, without hesitation, show preference in employment to trade unionists during the postwar period. Such statements are wide of the truth. The party to which I have the honour to belong does not favour the granting of preference to anybody. Its aim is to give economic security to all. If that were done preference would be unnecessary.
– How would the honorable senator work that out?
– The old conditions arc being changed by the passage of social welfare legislation and the increase of the allowances to unfortunate people, who, through age and infirmity, are compelled to rely on the beneficence of the State. When the policy of the Government has been fully implemented economic security for all will be provided. I say frankly that I am looking forward to a new order, and I do not wish mere lip-service to be given to it.
– Ha? the date for its introduction been fixed?
– That question is hardly worthy of the honorable senator.
– How are we to carry on in the meantime?
– This Government is carrying on fairly well. Its record is second to none in the world. No other government has been able to improve the social conditions of the workers during the war. If I thought that there was to be no change from the present social order, I should be prepared to give as much assistance as possible to everybody, particularly those who are fighting in this war. The preference given to returned soldiers after the last war was the right to go to the business end of a pick and shovel. If we are to talk of preference to returned soldiers to-day, we should be prepared to grant thom the basic wage and any sum they may be able to earn in addition to that. Capitalist society should be mulct in the cost of the war in the postwar reconstruction period and we should make the war so costly that those in whose interests wars are mainly waged, particularly the armament ring, will never want another.
If we provide . economic security for all, we shall help to solve one of our greatest problems - the sparseness of the population. If people find that in the evening of their lives they have social security in this country, and if their industrial conditions are such that they are able to raise families without the fear of poverty and want, the birth-rate will rise, and that will provide the best immigrants which any country could have. The more attractive conditions of life in Australia are made, the more we are likely to induce people of other countries -to adopt Australia as their home, and to a considerable degree we shall be able to choose the type of migrant we desire.
The statement has been made that £1 7s. a week is insufficient to maintain an invalid or old-age pensioner, and I agree entirely with that assertion. 1 hope that the Labour party will in the near future set machinery in motion to determine a basic wage for a single adult, who is forced to rely for his support upon the beneficence of the State. 1 consider that a commission should be appointed to make a recommendation on that matter. We should then be justified in utilizing national credit to enable al] pensions to be increased to at least that basic wage. At a rough computation it would be about £2 a week. Any smaller sum could not be. .regarded even as a living allowance.
– Would the honorable senator favour the payment of that basic wage to single adults?
– It should be paid to single persons who through adversity had to rely on the beneficence of the State. That is the whole basis of my argument. The pension should not be less than the amount fixed by the commission as the basic payment required by a single adult. The old-age pensioner may require certain extras that an ordinary citizen may not need. If the pensioner has lived the life of a respectable law-abiding citizen, he should be entitled to spend the evening of his life in comfort and security.
– If the cost of administration were reduced, the pensions could be increased.
– I agree that the overhead expenses could be reduced with advantage. Some government departments could be re-organized with a view to reduced administrative costs. The present army of public servants could be reduced. I hope that the Government will soon give effect to the principle that the invalid and old-age pensioner is at least entitled to a basic wage. This country should be developed on the lines being followed at the present time, the Government exercising control over essential services. The railway gauges should be standardized and the policy of developing arterial roads should be vigorously maintained. It would be a reflection on our intelligence if, as the result of two world wars, the present transport facilities were not improved. As a result of those wars there has been a big expansion of Australian secondary industries. We now have splendid arterial roads, and in many other directions conditions have improved. But it is an indictment of our intelligence that two world wars had to be fought before we really became awake. If developments were to take place along socialist lines this country would be a better place to live in. We could do a great deal more with our coal supplies. The socialist idea for getting the best use of those supplies is not to send men down into the bowels of the earth to bring the coal to the surface, but to use the Ramsay system, to which reference is made in The Socialist Sixth of the World, written by the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Hewlett J ohnson. The Ramsay system was first heard of about 1884 in England, but the coal barons of that country did not want any change. They were opposed to new ideas, including the introduction of machines. In 1935, the Soviet Government utilized the Ramsay system of winning power from coal without extracting the coal from the earth. When the Germans went through the Donetz Basin there was in process of development about 300,000 horse-power in various commercial undertakings. We could develop our coal resources on similar Lines. We could also make better use of the government munitions annexes which, with the decline of munitions production, will be available for other uses. They could be utilized to make essential requirements of various kinds, and so retain in the country districts the persons now employed in those annexes, thereby aiding decentralization. At the moment, some of these annexes are working only two shifts instead of three, as previously, whilst others which previously worked two shifts a day are now working only one shift. If these government workshops could be converted to the manufacture of essential civil requirements, they would perform a great service to the community.
– That will be done.
– These annexes are not now being utilized to the fullest degree possible, but when additional powers are vested in the Commonwealth they will be developed as trading concerns. The clay will come when the Government will enter the field of trade and commerce on a competitive basis ; working along socialist lines it will prove to private traders that the cut-throat system to which they have been accustomed is obsolete, and that if Australia wants to keep pace with the times industry must develop as government enterprises.
– The people will have something to say about those additional powers.
– I have no doubt what the result of the appeal to the electors will be. The people are not so politically ignorant to-day as they were 20 or 30 years ago. I have observed a great change in public opinion in many directions. Recently a man said to me, “We were a long time learning the lessons of the last war. Germany was winning all along the line. We did not take a trick until the Government took over the railways and other means of transport, as well as the control of foodsi 11 it S and shipping. Only when the Government took those things out of the hands of private enterprise did we begin to win the war “. The lessons of war arc being brought home to us more forcefully in the present struggle. At the outbreak of hostilities the captains of industry realized that the system under which wc had been operating could not stand the strain of a world war. They knew that private enterprise had failed before, and would fail again. That is why prominent people in all parts of the world have said that they would not again go back to the cut-throat system under which the only impelling force is private gain. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has agreed that the profit motive must be taken from industry. Had the conduct of the war ‘been left to private enterprise we should still be in the doldrums, but I believe that we are waging a successful war because of our greater reliance on government control. I am confident that the bill will pass, and that this country will be developed along socialist lines.
– I take this opportunity to bring before the Senate a matter which warrants immediate investigation and attention. During the past week or so we have heard from Government supporters many brave words concerning the “ new order “ that is to come. We have been told that wonderful plans are being made to provide social security for all and to improve the conditions under which Australians shall live. Senator Large boasted that the present Commonwealth Government was the only government that had been brave enough to improve the social conditions of the workers during the war. The matter to which I draw attention relates to a number of schools which were taken over by the military authorities without any suitable alternative accommodation being provided. I allude particularly to certain schools at Charters Towers, a town situated about S3 miles inland from Townsville in North Queensland. Formerly Charters Towers was an important goldmining centre, but, like many other such places, the mines gradually petered out, and the town was left to get on as best it could. The town, which is situated in n healthy district, about 1,000 ft. above sea level, has developed into an educational centre. Some excellent schools, sponsored by various religious bodies, have been established there, and have attained a high standard of efficiency. When Japan entered the war North Queensland became an operational area, and these schools were taken over by the military authorities for hospitals. T agree that in a state of emergency such things must be done.
– The same thing was done in Melbourne.
– Yes. In August of last year I was in Charters Towers when I had an opportunity to visit some of these hospitals. I found them to be well equipped and well staffed. I asked where the scholars who formerly occupied the building had gone, and I was informed that some of them had been accommodated in hostels in the town, whilst others had gone farther into the country. I made inquiries about one of the largest schools, known as “All Souls “, and was told that the boys had been removed to a place on the Burdekin River about 30 miles east of Charters Towers. The boys were under canvas on the banks of the Burdekin River, but owing to the approach of the wet season, and the danger that the river was likely to rise very rapidly and isolate the boys, they were moved back to Charters Towers. This move was made with the assistance of the Army authorities. When the school year for 1943 commenced, there were 240 boys boarding at the school. On its return to Charters Towers, the school was set up at the race-course in that town, the buildings on which are constructed of galvanized iron and rough bush timber. Later I visited the race-course and found that the accommodation provided, for the boys consisted of one marquee, in which twenty boys were accommodated, whilst the remaining 220 boys were sleeping in open horse stalls. These stalls were not enclosed in any way, and each stall had an earth floor, three boys being accommodated in each stall. Meals were served in the structure which was used for the purpose of serving refreshments at racemeetings, and classes were carried on under the grand-stand. These conditions were so intolerable that they were ventilated in the press throughout Queensland, as well as being brought to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). I have here a couple of photographs taken early this year of the horse-stalls in which the boys were accommodated. I also discovered that at that time the school building was not being used as a hospital but solely for administrative purposes. I suggest that the administrative staffs could have been accommodated under canvas, and the school building returned to the school authorities. All of the patients then receiving treatment at the hospital were accommodated in outdoor wards which had been built in the school grounds, and this accommodation proved more than sufficient for that purpose. I visited Charters Towers again towards the end of last year, and found that the boys were still accommodated at the race-course under the conditions I have already described. Early this week I again checked up on the position. I sent a telegram to the diocesan secretary at. Townsville, and was informed that the school was being carried on under the same conditions as when I visited the race-course last August. The telegram which I received in reply to my inquiry was as follows: -
This year extra marquee provided at racecourse by military and certain other works suggested. School building not used for Patients.
Thus the school building is still being, used for administrative purposes only. Last August, when -I first made this investigation, I also visited a Civil Constructional Corps camp situated about 5 miles from Charters Towers. I found that the occupants of that camp were living under ideal conditions, and I give them full credit for keeping their quarters spotlessly clean. They were living in prefabricated huts. The camp kitchens and dining-rooms were also kept spotlessly clean. Much has been said in the Senate during the last week to the effect that the native-born is our best immigrant; and that we are fighting this war for better conditions. Surely, ou» children should bc the first to receive better conditions. Regardless of the cost involved, better accommodation than open horse-stalls with earth floors should have been provided for the boys at this school. As the result of my investigations into this matter, I addressed the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) on the 25th February : -
Is it a fact that certain schools at Charters Towers, North Queensland, have been taken over for military purposes!
If so, what schools have been taken over?
What provision has been made for - (a) The carrying on of the school curriculum: (6) the accommodation and feeding of boarders ?
What schools, if any, have been handed hack to the school authorities?
What schools, if any, are still being used for military purposes?
To those questions I received the following replies: -
All Souls College, Mount Carmel College, St. Gabriels Girls’ School. 3. (o) and (6) Alternative accommodation provided at Commonwealth expense.
Nil; but evacuation of All Souls College and Mount Carmel is dependent upon completion of hospital now under construction, but a firm date cannot yet be given.
All Souls) Mount Carmel and St. Gabriels.
As I was not satisfied with those answers, I addressed the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, on the 17th March -
With reference to the question asked by Senator Cooper on the 25th February, is it a fact that “ alternative accommodation “ provided at Commonwealth expense for sleeping quarters for the boarders at one of the schools taken over by the military authorities at Charters Towers, Queensland, consists of open horse-stalls on the race-course?
If so, will the Minister consider the immediate erection of prefabricated huts to accommodate these pupils?
To those questions I received the following replies: -
No. The racecourse was made available at the request of the school authorities after inspection by the headmaster. The manner in which it is being utilized is for the school authorities.
The question of providing prefabricated huts to supplement space at the race-course is being considered as a temporary measure, pending the release of the school buildings at the earliest opportunity.
Those answers are evasive. On the 20th March, I received the following letter from Mr. Cecil E. Smith, Diocesan Secretary, Diocesan Registry, 98 Flinders-street, Townsville : -
It is noted, from newspaper reports, that you have interested yourself in the matter of All Souls School, Charters Towers, and owing to the unsatisfactory reply which it is reported you have received in Parliament I am sending you herewith a copy of a letter which waa recently sent to the local secretary of the Hirings Committee in Townsville regarding All Souls School, St. Annes School, and St. Gabriels School, the three schools belonging to the Church of England which have been used by the defence authorities.
According to the reply which you received in the Senate it would appear that the school authorities were not taking action for the return of the schools, but I can assure you that ever since All Souls came back to Charters Towers representations have been made to the authorities for the return of our schools.
The neglect of the Army to carry out work, which they had promised at the race-course in Charters Towers, made conditions intolerable. “With that letter, Mr. Smith enclosed the following letter which he wrote on the 3rd February last to the secretary, Hirings Committee, Hirings Department, Towns ville.
Schools Diocese of North Queensland.
With reference to my interview with members of your committee, yesterday, I now place before you for the consideration of your committee the position of the three schools concerned, in the hope that some remedial action might be taken, swiftly, so that the schools may function efficiently and if possible in their own buildings.
All Souls’ School, Charters Towers.
In April, 1942, All Souls’ School was taken over, for military purposes, and the school operated, under canvas, until the end of 1942, at a site on the Burdekin River, 32 miles from Charters Towers. The school worked very successfully in this site, despite the great difficulties encountered by the headmaster and staff.
Fearing a prolonged wet season, which would have isolated the school, a move was made and with the assistance of the Army authorities the beginning of the 1943 school year saw the school established at the racecourse, Charters Towers. Two hundred and forty boys were in residence at this situation and the conditions were so intolerable that every effort was made to have the school buildings returned. The Army authorities promised to spend . a considerable sum of money on making the race-course habitable, by the flooring of the horse boxes, by the provision of class rooms and quarters for maids and in many other ways. This promise was never fulfilled and the headmaster persevered under such trying conditions as it was thought that this transfer was of a temporary nature.
Our hopes for an early return of the school were high, as a result of an approach to the D.D.M.S. in Brisbane by His Grace the Archbishop of Brisbane, in which it was suggested that the school buildings would be handed back contingent on the school authorities allowing the hospital authorities to use the grounds for further hospital building projects. It was on account of this inquiry that the Army authorities did not go ahead on the improvements to the race-course. Nothing materialized from this suggestion and further pressing representations were made to the Minister for the Army, by His Lordship the Bishop and myself. Press reports referred to the handing back of all schools in Queensland by the end of 1943 but still no definite date could be secured.
On the 6th September, 1943, the Minister for the Army wrote to His Excellency the Governor of Queensland, who had interested himself in the return of our schools, “You may rest assured that everything possible will be done to have these schools made available from the beginning of the next school year”. On the 9th September, referring particularly to All Souls’, in a letter to His Lordship the Bishop, the Minister stated, “You may rest assured that everything possible will be done to have the school buildings made available for use of the pupils from the beginning of the next school year “. The chairman of the Central Hirings Committee on the 1st October, 1943, stated in a letter to me: “Every effort is being made to vacate All Souls’ School and I am hopeful that it will be returned to the Diocese by the end of the year although no date can be given at present “. Some time ago, the Minister for the Army made an official announcement that hospital accommodation was being built at Ross River which would allow of the return of the Charters Towers schools to the school authorities.
From the foregoing it was assumed that there was a reasonable prospect of the school beginning 1944 in its own buildings, but the school year has begun, the conditions have not improved and nothing definite can be secured about future prospects. The number of boarders will probably roach 300 and the headmaster is facing a crisis in accommodating such a number of pupils.
Previous letters have emphasized conditions at the school, which are well known to several members of your committee, and the seriousness of the position and the need for definite action does not need further elucidation. The paramount desire is for the return of the school buildings as soon as possible and for a definite date when the school authorities may move in.
It was thought that a request for two buildings within the hospital area for dormitory purposes, might help the position but the headmaster is of the opinion that this would not be practicable at present. The Bishop and I will visit the school next Monday and we may be in a position to offer some Bug- - gestion for temporary relief after the position has been reviewed.
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of bristles (No. 2).
Prohibited places (2).
Taking possession of land. Ac. (38).
Use of land (11).
National Security (Land Transport)
Regulations - Order - No. 17.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations -
Orders by State Premiers -
South Australia (No. 1 of 1044).
Western Australia (dated 11th March, 1944).
Peace Officers Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 53.
Senate adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440330_senate_17_178/>.