17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the following questions of the Minister representing le Treasurer: -
– The suggestion of the honorable senator will .be considered by the Government.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say whether the Allied Works Council has taken over the control of the hydro-electric construction works at Butler’s Gorge and other centres in the highlands of Tasmania? If so, on what terms and conditions has’ it assumed such control, and can the Minister indicate when the work will be commenced?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is, at the moment, “ No “, but negotiations are now proceeding between the Government of Tasmania and my department.
– Can the Postmaster-General say what progress lias been made regarding the transmission of a greater volume of telephonic business between Adelaide and other capital cities.
– I have’ a full appreciation of the importance of improving the interstate telephone and telegraph service, and everything possible is being done to expedite the manufacture and delivery of the plant and equipment needed for this purpose. However, much of the equipment, which is of the modern carrier-wave type, must be procured overseas, and, unfortunately, due entirely to war-time conditions, unavoidable delay has taken place in the delivery of the material on order. Outstanding orders include several twelve-channel carrier systems for capital city trunk routes. It is proposed to install initially one of these systems between Adelaide and Melbourne, and to provide the second unit at a later date. Action is now being taken to establish a third trunk-line channel between Adelaide and Perth, and two further circuits will be provided when a suitable carrier system becomes available.
– In view of the grave shortage of wire, wire netting, and galvanized iron in Tasmania, can the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions say whether it would be possible, owing to climatic conditions in Tasmania, to make available an additional supply of these materials to that State in order to help primary producers?
– Owing to shortage of manpower it has been difficult to secure an output of these materials equal to the demands which are being made for them. Efforts are now being made to secure the number of persons required in this industry in order to make increased supplies available for civilian purposes. Men engaged on this class of work have to be physically suitable, as the heat encountered in the furnace operations demands men of the highest physical condition. This factor has added considerably to the difficulty of supplying the manpower essential to the industry. The Department of Munitions is anxious to relieve the conditions, not only in Tasmania, but also in other parts of Australia, and as soon as there can be an easing of demands from the services for materials required for other urgent war projects, supplies for thecivil community will be increased. In connexion with plain fencing wire and wire netting. I have to state that added supplies of zinc have been made possible for the galvanizing of these commodities, and that in respect of plain fencing wire, deliveries throughout the Commonwealth have increased from approximately 200 tons in January to, 600 tons during May. Similarly, deliveries of wire netting during the same period have increased from 290 tons in January to 500 tons in May. Notwithstanding these increased deliveries, however, and the screening of orders by District War Agricultural Committees, the supply of wire is inadequate to meet the accumulated demands.
– Has the Leader of the Senate seen a report in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald of a speech made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in the House of Representatives, in which he said that “the help of black, white, yellow and bridle races had been accepted in the defence of Australia, but the White Australia policy told those people,’ You can shed your blood for us, but you cannot come and live with us’. I feel rather inclined to decline to have anybody coming to defend me unless I can say, ‘ Welcome, brother, come and live with me ‘.” ? If so, can he say whether the honorable member for Hunter was speaking on behalf of the Government? Should the reply be in the affirmative, does that mean that Australia will decline to fight so long as members of any coloured race are fighting on behalf of the Allies, or does it mean that the Government contemplates removing all immigration restrictions?
– I read what the honorable member for Hunter is reported to have said. The report indicates the views of Mr. James, M.P. The policy of the Government is the “ White Australia Policy “ ; the fact that certain coloured persons havebeen brought to Australia as members of Allied Forces is a matter solely for the Commanderin Chief of the Allied Forces. The views of the honorable member for Hunter dc not affect the policy of the Government or of the Australian Labour party.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture - upon notice -
What is the total amount of subsidy and other financial assistance given to primary producers in Australia for the years 1940-44?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer: -
It is not possible to state the total amount of subsidy and other financial assistance given to primary producers in Australia for the years 1940-44 as such assistance coversa wide field of production and marketing and has often assumed an indirect as well as direct nature. The BudgetPapers indicate that from the 1st July, 1939, to the 30th June, 1943, a total of £18,571,989 was expended as assistance for relief of primary producers and afurther expenditure of £1 3,636,025 was estimated for the current financial year, making an estimated total of £32,208,014 from the 1st July, 1939, to the 30th June, 1944. However, under special conditions arising out of the war, direct and indirect relief has been afforded primary industries by subsidies and guarantees which it is not possible to segregate from other expenditure by various Commonwealth departments and to this extent the above figures are incomplete.
Whilst the above payments have been made to the primary producers they include very large funds due to the Government’s policy of the stabilization of prices and are designed to obviate the passing on of high production costs to the public which would involve an increase in the cost of living.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as f ollows : -
– On the 19th July, Senator James McLachlan, asked, upon notice, the following question: -
Are coupons required in England for woollen or part woollen goods, socks, pyjamas, underwear or skein wool?
As promised, I have had inquiries made and I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that on the latest information in the possession of the Rationing Commission coupons are required in England for woollen or part woollen goods, socks, pyjamas and underwear. Coupons are also required for handknitting yarn and yarn containing more than 15 per cent, by weight of wool.
– In the question asked yesterday the inquiry was as to what coupons were required.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions arc as follows : -
asked the Minister in Charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
– The Minister in Charge of War Service Homes has furnished the following answers: -
Debate resumed from 19th July (vide page 183), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency, the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– The granting of additional powers to the National Parliament as sought by the Government would increase our measure of self-government as a nation. The additional powers which the Government enjoys temporarily under the National Security Act, and which it has used to meet not only our war-time but also our peace-time requirements have been proved to be of incalculable value. If Parliament did not possess them it could not have done what it is now doing in time of war; and it follows also that if the additional powers now being sought are not granted much of the legislation passed in recent years and which will obviously prove of incalculable value in peace may be declared invalid if challenged before the High Court. Therefore, the success of the referendum will make that legislation secure. Political power is one thing, but the manner in which it is used is quite another thing. That brings me to the argument, of honorable senators opposite that the additional powers if granted may be used to implement Labour’s policy; and, of course, those honorable senators are uncompromisingly opposed to Labour’s policy.
If the Opposition were the Government of the day, it would not have the slightest objection to granting to the National Parliament the powers now sought. In fact, past governments politically akin to the Opposition parties have endeavoured to persuade the people to agree to vest the National Parliament with additional powers. Much has been said in this debate concerning the relative merits of private and government enterprise. Although private firms are manufacturing aircraft in this country, 85 per cent, of the aircraft actually produced have been manufactured by staffs directly controlled by the Government. I can see no reason why government control cannot establish equally as favorable a record in other fields of manufacture. Managerial efficiency is the main factor in successful industrial enterprise. I can see no reason why with competent managerial staffs the record of governmentcontrolled undertakings should not be superior to that of private enterprise. Senator Leckie endeavoured to refute a statement made by an honorable senator on this side that the workers are exploited by the employers. If he would inform his mind on this subject he would discover the degree to which the workers are exploited directly by being forced to work for low wages, or for wages which represent only a portion of the value created by their labour, or, indirectly, through taxation. He might be prompted to ask these questions: What is the total amount of money representing overcharges that has been recovered by the Government from firms authorized to execute orders for war-time requirements under the system of costplus? What are the names of the firms involved, and what was the amount of money recovered from each? The answers to those questions would reveal that private firms, which he suggests are above exploiting the workers, have attempted to obtain from the Government hundreds of thousands of pounds to which they are not entitled. Although the Department of Aircraft Production is working with a skeleton accounting staff it is recovering approximately £9,500 monthly in Sydney alone on account of overcharges by private firms. Private enterprise misappropriates that money; and in doing so it taxes the workers to the degree that they must be taxed to meet those charges which are not justified, and which constitute downright fraud. In that way the workers are exploited because, ultimately, they pay all taxes both direct and indirect. Thus the evidence is conclusive that the workers are exploited ; directly, when they are sweated in the form of low wages and receive only a small portion of the value created by their labour and, indirectly, when they are taxed to meet unjust charges by private enterprise of the kind I have just described. If private employers, including the owners of the coal mines, were as patriotic as Senator Leckie would have us believe, and were prepared to do their duty to the nation they could improve upon their present efforts, first, by releasing thousands of men and women now engaged in unnecessary administrative work of the kind I have mentioned, and, secondly, by making better use of the tune, money and man-power at its disposal. But private enterprise will not do that until it is forced to do so, either under the threat of extinction by the big monopolists, or by remedial action by the Government. Over 600 contractors, most of them engineers, are engaged in aircraft manufacture alone; and 70 per cent, of those engineers are highly skilled men who are carrying on in small workshops mostly in back streets. If those workshops were merged, the machinery now supplied by the Government to each contractor could be used to much better advantage, and better use could be made of the man-power without loss of status, or ‘pay, to the men now engaged in that work. Imagine the volume of man-power, time and money that could be sa ved in that way ! The same observation applies to the coal-mining industry. Although honorable senators opposite persistently condemn the coal-miners and other workers, sufficient evidence is available to show that the average coal-miner and worker stand head and shoulders above the coal-mine owners and private employers so far as patriotism is concerned. It is necessary to remind honorable senators opposite that there is still an enormous wastage of man-power and material by private enterprise. In peace, this wastage constitutes the safety valve of the industrial system, because if .the multifarious units of production in industry were organized in peace on a more economic and efficient basis, unemployment would be trebled overnight. To-day, private enterprise duplicates unnecessarily and wastefully many services and employers concerned are working at cross purposes. “Whilst that system is tolerated in peace, it cannot be tolerated in time of war. If we are to make the best use of our man-power, industry must be organized on a more efficient basis. By eliminating the small workshop we could avoid an enormous wastage of manpower, time and material. I commend that thought to honorable senators opposite when they emphasize the scarcity of man-power for the manufacture of this or that article. Under existing conditions, such a. scarcity exists, but, at the same time, we must realize that there is an enormous wastage of man-power for which private enterprise alone is responsible. It is criminal on our part to tolerate such a wastage in time of war, because if there is one duty we owe to the fighting forces it is that we shall provide them to the limit of our resources with everything they need to defend the nation. When that is not done, we are recreant to our trust and condone all those things to which I have directed attention, particularly when overhead charges and costs are deliberately and knowingly loaded for the purpose of robbing the people. That is my answer to the criticism that has been levelled against the coal-miners and the workers generally, because they have dared to challenge these extremely provocative conditions which not only make their own position impossible, but at the same time prevent us from using the resources at our disposal in the best interests of the nation.
– I join with other honorable senators on this side of the chamber in extending our welcome and congratulations to the newly elected senators. If we are to be guided by their maiden speeches in this chamber, their moderation and, in many cases, their constructive ideas, I am sure that the Senate will at least not lose anything by their appearance here. We all enjoyed, and were much impressed, by the speech which Senator McKenna made when moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. We were particularly struck by its constructive ideas and its moderation. I hope it is evidence of the moderation and the goodwill that the honorable senator will show towards the members of the Opposition. I hesitate to offer advice to, or to lecture, new members, but I suggest that they would be wise not to take too seriously some of the speeches that have been made on the Government side by older members who, although they support the Labour Government now, seem to me to have forgotten that they are not still in Opposition. That applies particularly to the speech of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). It is one that he has made many times when in Opposition, and I am not quite sure whether he is now speaking as a private member, or has forgotten that he is really a responsible Minister of the Crown, or what is prompting him to repeat many of the things which we were not surprised to hear him say when he was sitting on this side of the chamber.
Previous speakers have referred to the much regretted departure from this country of Lord and the Lady Gowrie. I join with them in the good wishes that have been expressed towards Their Excellencies, and endorse every word that has been said about, the splendid manner in which Lord Gowrie discharged his responsibilities as Governor-General.
I should like also to refer to the position in which we find ourselves as an Opposition. Those who now occupy the Government, benches number 22, as against our fourteen. I am glad to say that it is many years since the party opposite controlled the destinies of the Commonwealth. We might almost describe this as D-day for them - the day for the invasion that they will now make. For many years they have told us what they would do if they had control of both Houses of the Parliament. Even when they had a majority in the House of Representatives a few years ago, their one complaint was that they were in office, but not in power. To-day they have the ball at their feet. They can no longer complain that they are not in power, because they have full power to do all those things which they said were necessary to be done. We are waiting almost impatiently for some of the things which they said they would do in the interests of Australia, and we are sadly disappointed to find that the things which they said they would do are left undone, whereas many of the things they said they would not do are the very things that they have already done.
I wish to deal particularly with some of the remarks of the Minister for Aircraft Production. The speech which he commenced yesterday and concluded to-day is no surprise to us on this side of the chamber, because he has made it many times before.
– Not the same one. This was with variations.
– The Minister may have put it in reverse order, but it is the same old speech. If ever there was a time when everyone of us should give evidence of co-operation and goodwill towards the people, it is now, and more especially should we look to a Minister of the Crown to set an example along those lines. When a Minister is sworn in and takes office, while he may be a member of the United Australia party or the Australian Labour party, it is his duty as a Minister of the Crown to serve all the .people. If ever there was a speech that savoured of class distinction and a continuation of class hatred, and completely lacked co-operation and goodwill, it was the speech which the Minister has just concluded. Naturally, we all expected him to say something about aircraft production, but he would lead the Senate and the country to believe, because he has said it many times, that he was responsible for the whole of the aircraft production in Australia, including the laying of the foundations and the carrying on of this great enterprise. I pay a tribute to the wonderful job that
Australia has done in this direction. It was said by many that this country could not build aircraft, but we have the evidence now that these things have been done. It is to the Minister’s credit that he had the good sense to keep out of it himself, and leave it to those who knew something about it. The foundations had been laid when the Minister took over, and aeroplanes were being produced. The whole organization was complete, and he carried on with the staff that was there. Now he says, “ What an achievement! This government department has manufactured 80 per cent, of the aircraft in this country”. But the Minister was not satisfied to leave it at that. He wanted to make a comparison with, and depreciate, what he termed the small effort that had been made by private enterprise. But what are the facts? The Department of Aircraft Production, under the control of the Minister, has full authority to call up man-power for its own use. If anybody goes short of material, it is not a government department. The Minister did not say that the much abused private enterprise in different factories throughout the Commonwealth had made a substantial contribution towards producing the parts required for the manufacture of the aeroplanes which he says are being produced in Government factories. I admit that the department under his control has done well, but still some meed of praise is due to those captains of industry who have co-operated, not, as the Minister said, thinking only of profits, but because they are patriotic men. All the assembly lines are under the control of the Minister, and therefore, quite properly, all these parts are brought from all ever the Commonwealth to one centre where they are assembled. That is the modern method of construction which has been adopted to produce many essential war requirements. Why did not the Minister mention that? Is not some credit due to those people who have made their contribution in that way? If the Government thinks it fit and proper, it is quite within its power to commandeer any of these factories. It has unlimited power to deal with the enormous profits of which the honorable senator speaks. Whatever he may have said as a private senator, surely it was his duty as a Minister to deal with this matter fairly and to give some credit to his predecessors in office. Anybody who has a fair mind will admit that when this Government came to power it took over war-time establishments in a sound condition, and in efficient working order. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to say that the La!bour Government made major alterations in any of these departments. Ministers have had the good sense to carry on the munitions production on the sound foundations laid down by previous governments. Private enterprise has played its part in this war, and has played it well. That is a tribute which more fittingly could have been paid by an honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber. The Minister for Aircraft Production should have been generous enough- to admit that whether the treasury bench is occupied by a Labour government or by an antiLabour administration the burden of the work in war-time industry rests upon individuals of outstanding ability drawn from private enterprises. I refer particularly to the dozen or more captains of industry who at the outbreak of hostilities offered their services to their country without payment, and have since played such an important part in the development of our war production. These men are still in control to-day. The mastermind, of course, is Mr. Essington Lewis, whose guidance has been of immense value to every undertaking engaged upon the production of war material. Whilst the Minister for Aircraft Production expresses his pride at the achievements of his department, he should remember that those achievements are due substantially to the men whom I have mentioned. They are none the less patriotic because they are industrial leaders, and their assistance to this Administration and to previous governments has been such that we should all express to them our profound appreciation and gratitude. Surely, it would have been most appropriate had the Minister for Aircraft Production paid a tribute on these lines.
At a time like this one would expect to hear from a responsible Minister a word or two calculated to foster peace and goodwill between employers and employees. This week, or early next week, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will meet both the coal-miners and the mineowners in conference with a view to settling some outstanding problems; yet the Minister for Aircraft Production, when dealing with coal production, apologized to the miners and virtually encouraged them to continue striking unless they secured improved working conditions and increased rates of pay which lie claimed had never been commensurate with the services they rendered to this country. On the other hand, the Minister represented the mine-owners as always grasping for profits and being not in the least concerned with the welfare of their employees. Surely, that is not an attitude calculated to create good feeling between warring factions in industry.
– It is hardly the right spirit.
– It is a bad spirit and I am surprised that it has been shown by the Minister for Aircraft Production, particularly as he is connected with various industrial organizations to which we should turn for assistance. Let us recall what was said in Parliament when the Labour party was in opposition, and trouble occurred on the coal-fields and in other industries. It was claimed that the then governments did not understand the psychology of the workers, and that when a Labour administration assumed office the disputes would be settled because it would understand the ways of the employees and would provide sympathetic administration, thus bringing peace in industry. So far we have not had any evidence of that peace in industry, but we are still hopeful that honorable senators opposite will live up to their promises. There are now no obstacles to the sympathetic administration of which they spoke, and therefore no excuse for continued industrial unrest. In these circumstances, after the war this country should prosper as it has never prospered before, >and there should be no depressions under the “ new order “, of which there is so much glib talk. Members of the Labour party have stated in the past that all that they required was complete power in this Parliament ; they now have that power and can go right ahead.
More than two years ago, the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) was drawn in this Parliament to th© position of the blue peas industry in Tasmania, and the Government’s action in connexion with that industry has recently been the subject of High Court action, known now as the “ blue peas case “.
– “ The blue peas scandal “.
– I was surprised when the Minister made that remark recently, and I am surprised that he has repeated it.
– They were robbing the public.
– For the information of honorable senators who may have forgotten the circumstances, I shall summarize the events leading up to the High Court case. Prior to the acquisition by the Government of the total crop ‘of blue peas, the , price on the open market was about 14s. or 15s. a bushel, but it rose in a matter of weeks to £1 and subsequently to fi 5s. a bushel. At that time seed peas reached £1 10s. a bushel. A request was received from the United Kingdom Government by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) .and subsequently passed on to the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, for a maximum production of blue peas. Speaking from memory, I think that the request was for about 40,000 tons, of which the quota for Tasmania was fixed at 20,000 tons, the balance to come from New Zealand. There was a. tacit understanding - one might call it a contract - that Tasmanian growers should produce the maximum quantity of blue peas required for export to the United Kingdom. A promise of a minimum of £1 a bushel was made, and when the crop was ultimately harvested, the firm of Stenhouse and Company - not growers, but merchants - bought peas for export to the United Kingdom a t £1 2s. 6d. a bushel, and paid cash for them. When some of these peas were en route to Sydney for transhipment to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Government acquired the total crop, on the farms, in the stores and in transit. The market price was then £1 a bushel, but at first the Government offered only 10s. a bushel, although subsequently the figure was fixed at 15s. a bushel. Firms such as Stenhouse and Company had already paid cash to the farmers for their crops. I am sure that no one engaged in private business would have dreamt of acting in the manner in which the Government acted on this occasion. Surely, it is not honorable to deprive any individual of 25 per cent, of his income. I emphasize that there has been no complaint about fixing 15s. a bushel as the price for future crops. That is a guaranteed price, and it has been accepted ; but there is a strong objection to action being taken by the Government under National Security Regulations to deprive certain persons of 25 per cent, of their income. To whom should we look for an example in the matter of fair dealing between man and man? Above all we should look to the Government for an example of fair treatment of one section of the community as against another. This may not be of great moment to many people, but the principle involved is important. Many of the peagrowers are poor people and they could not afford to have 25 per cent, of their income confiscated. The firm of Stenhouse and Company and Mr. Peterson were financially strong enough to take action against the Commonwealth Government in this matter. Their interests were substantial, but the other growers could not afford to refuse the payment offered to them and remain without their cash for two and a half years. It is asking too much that a citizen should be compelled to go to the High Court in order to obtain the justice that would be meted out to him by merchants in the ordinary course of trade. It remained for the Government to commandeer a substantial part of the income of these men. I have interviewed Ministers witha view to the right thing being done to the growers this year, so that they may get the market price for their peas. Their produce is badly needed by the Government of the United Kingdom, and it is said that the British authorities are making provision for foodstuffs which are urgently required to be transported overseas.
– When the honorable senator presented this case last year it was based on the argument that the growers were guaranteed £11s. a bushel. They were never guaranteed that price by any department.
-I am talking of the year prior to the time when the Government commandeered the crop.
– We fixed the price at 15s. a bushel, which was 200 per cent, higher than the price previously obtained.
– I am somewhat surprised at the attitude of the Minister, because it was obvious that the case would go against the Government. Stenhouse and Company and Mr. Peterson took the risk of testing the matter in court, but the other growers accepted the 15s. a bushel under protest. I shall read what the judge who heard the case said about this matter.
– That will not “cut any ice “. The case was dealt with by a single judge.
– In a game of cricket, when the umpire calls “ out “, the batsman leaves the wicket, and does not complain about the judgment of the umpire. It remains for the Minister to say that, because the case has gone against the Crown, the Government intends to see to the matter. The judge said -
Compensation meant the money value or money equivalent of the property, acquired or taken, so that the owner was put in as good a position as he would have occupied if his property had not been taken. Usually, the market value of a commodity was the standard or measure whereby the value of pecuniary equivalent of the commodity could be ascertained, but there might be cases in which market quotations would afford no true criterion of value; for instance, if the market had been rigged or cornered. There might also be cases in which there was no market, and, therefore, no value. In such cases the courts would resort to other methods of determining values. The present cases presented no such difficulty, for the market value of field or blue peas, A grade, on or about the 28th January, 1942, was about £1 2s. 6d., f.o.b., at the main ports of Tasmania.
The Constitution clearly provides that if the Commonwealth Government acquires the property of any citizens it shall be acquired on just and fair terms: therefore, there is a moral obligation on the part of the Government to see that growers whoare not in a sufficiently strong financial position to tate action in order to get justice for themselves are fairly treated. I am well within the mark when I say that these growers were improperly deprived of 2-5 per cent, of their income. In making payment to those growers who were successful at court, the Government should recognize the moral claim of those who were unfortunate enough, according to the judge, to put themselves outside the pale of the law. The Government, in acquiring the property of citizens for the ‘benefit of the people, should set an example qf fair and honest dealing,- and at least observe the standard set in ordinary trading circles. They should certainly see that no injustice is done when property is acquired for the benefit of the nation.
A good deal of time was devoted by Senator Nash to the subject of the referendum, and the desire of the Government to secure increased constitutional powers for this Parliament. Probably every honorable senator on the Opposition side was surprised to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs and other Government supporters say that, because this Parliament had agreed to a bill for the taking of a referendum, it was bound to support the proposals to be submitted to the people by means of a referendum. That is a most extraordinary line of argument. The fact is that the measure providing for the taking of u referendum was agreed to in this chamber by a majority of only one vote.
– If a vote were taken ro-day, this chamber would probably endorse public opinion by 22 votes to 14.
– The bill to which I have referred did not provide for the making of a law. Should the referendum be carried, we must accept the verdict of the people, but I point out that the bill to which reference has been made was not legislation designed to govern the lives of the people indefinitely, but was merely a measure to authorize the submission of certain proposals to the electors. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that, because a bill to authorize the holding of a referendum was agreed to by the Parliament, every member of the Parliament is in duty bound to support the proposals to be submitted to the people. It has been said also that members of the constitutional convention which was held in Canberra are pledged to support the Government’s proposals, but that is not so. The fact is that the delegates agreed to refer certain matters to their State Parliaments. Moreover, whatever their views were at the time the conference was held, the actions of the Government ii: the meantime justify a changed attitude on their part. Statements by Ministers regarding the intention of the Government to enter into competition with private enterprise, abuses of censorship, and other administrative acts, justify any member of the convention changing his views. The Government will submit dragnet proposals to the electors on the 19th August. No supporter of the Government has yet defined the limits of the powers sought; even the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has not attempted to define them. The powers which are sought have nothing to do with the war, but are proposals in respect of the postwar period. There is no need for additional powers in war-time, because, under the National Security Act, which will operate until six months after the cessation of hostilities, the Government’s powers are unlimited. That means that those unlimited powers may continue for many years, because, in the light of what happened after the war of 1914-18, no one can say definitely when treaties of peace will be signed. Many years may elapse after fighting ceases before the nations are technically at peace again. However, the electors are waking mp to what these dragnet proposals of the Government mean, and are not likely to be deceived by the sugar-coating on the pill. The first proposal to be submitted to the electors has reference to the rehabilitation of service personnel. Does any honorable senator suggest that since the last war successive governments have been hampered in the repatriation of servicemen through lack of power? No attempt in that direction has been made; no specific instance of Commonwealth impotence has been presented to us. I point out that no new powers are to be created; all that is intended is that certain powers now vested in the States shall be transferred to the Commonwealth. The powers which the
Commonwealth, now has were once held by the States, which under the Constitution, ceded them to the Commonwealth. Does Senator Sheehan, who spoke of the intellectual giants who framed the Constitution, suggest that the development of the Commonwealth has not been up to their expectations ? No country has made greater progress during the last 40 years than has been made by Australia. But most of the development, such as the provision of railways, roads, water supplies, schools and other developmental undertakings, has been the work of the States. Let us leave to the States the functions which they have exercised in the past - functions which rightly belong to them - and let the Commonwealth concern itself with matters affecting the nation as a whole.
– All that is being sought is a loan of powers for five years.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that after five years’ experience of uniform company law throughout Australia we should revert to six separate laws? Can he not visualize the disturbance that would mean? Surely he does not suggest that that power should not be retained by the Commonwealth indefinitely.
– The people would be so satisfied with the Commonwealth’s exercise of that power that they would not want it to revert to the States.
– .The framers of the Constitution had in mind a federation which would be a true partnership. It is true. that certain specific powers were vested in the Commonwealth under the Constitution, but, believing that a true partnership involves harmonious working together, those who framed the Constitution provided also for the joint exercise of certain powers. That system has worked satisfactorily. Since the passing of legislation for uniform income taxation, the control of the public purse is in the hands of the Commonwealth. Should the Commonwealth exercise to the full the powers it already possesses, the States could scarcely continue to function. Already three of them’ receive financial assistance from the Commonwealth, and under the agreement relating- to such grants, the Common wealth has a voice in the expenditure of that money. What greater power could the Commonwealth have than that? We hear much about friction between the Commonwealth and the States, but not so much of the co-operation that already exists. I draw attention to the smooth working of the agreement between the Commonwealth and three States in regard to the use of the waters of the River Murray. The Federal Aid Roads Agreement also has worked smoothly. There is no need to rob the States of any of their powers, nor is there any evidence that Australia has suffered because of any lack of power on the part of the Commonwealth. Whatever powers may be transferred to the Commonwealth, there will always be some borderline cases. The Constitution provides that such cases may be determined by the High Court.
The decision to hold a referendum has been taken. We should have acted more wisely. Instead of holding a referendum in time of war, we should have provided for the calling together of a convention, representative of all sections of the community, at which the various problems associated with the Government’s present proposals could have been thoroughly thrashed out. Even if such an assembly found it necessary to sit for twelve months, its time would be well spent. That course would be far more preferable than asking the people to agree to proposals the effect of which will be to deprive the States of vital rights. We should not whittle away the rights of the States which have done so much for the development of this country. I hope that the referendum will be defeated. Indeed, I again forecast that it will be defeated. When the people are in doubt, as they are in doubt on this occasion, they always reject proposals of this kind.
– I congratulate the Governor-General on his speech. Honorable senators generally will share my pleasure in contrasting the story which His Excellency has told us on this occasion with that which he was obliged to recite when he opened the previous session of this Parliament. Honorable senators, particularly from Western Australia, realized only too well the dire peril which then confronted this country. I note with regret that His Excellency and the Lady Gowrie are about to take their leave of the Commonwealth, and on behalf of the people of Western Australia I wish them happiness in the future. When I attended the parliamentary dinner tendered to His Excellency early this week I was deeply impressed with the acknowledgment made by representatives of all parties of his service in this country.
It would not be out of place for us to adopt the same principle in assessing the merits of our public men. Invariably, on the opening day of each session, we pass 1 notions expressing sympathy with the relatives of members and ex-members who have died during the recess ; and on such occasions we praise their achievements during their public careers. I fail to understand why we always decline to voice such tributes when the men themselves are living. With that thought in mind I take thi3 opportunity to pay a tribute to the great work which Ministers in the Senate have performed since this Government assumed office. When the Government look office, honorable senators opposite promised that they would co-operate with the Government. They have not lived up to those promises. On the contrary, with one exception, they have taken every opportunity to harass the Government. That exception is Senator J. B. Hayes to whom I pay a tribute for the spirit of co-operation which he has always exhibited towards the Administration. I pay tribute to the great work which has been performed by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) as Minister for Trade and Customs, the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser), and the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), and to you, Mr. President, and Senator Courtice, as Chairman of Committees, for the services you have rendered in this chamber. I also congratulate the new senators upon the admirable contributions they have made to this debate.
I do not propose to speak at length upon the Government’s referendum proposals. The necessity to hold a referendum would never have arisen but for the somersaulting of the members of the
Opposition parties following the Constitution Convention. I listened to the proceedings at that convention. I recall how enthusiastically the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) declared that he was pleased to have played a part in the drafting of the bill agreed to by the convention, which he described as an historic document. That was in 1942. Having been defeated aT the last elections, the Opposition parties abandoned the undertaking they gave at the Canberra Convention; and it is because of such opposition the Government is now obliged to hold a referendum. The powers now being sought are essential to enable the National Parliament to provide adequately for the safety and happiness of this nation in the future, and particularly to rehabilitate our ex-service personnel. All of us realize that our first duty is to do all in our power for the members of our fighting services upon their return to civilian life.
Recently the Postmaster-General announced that the- Postal Department had drawn up plans for a construction programme in the immediate post-war period. I ask that one of the first works to be undertaken in that programme be the construction of a new post office at Inglewood. The previous government had completed plans for a new post office at that centre. The site for the new building has been purchased, and. preliminary arrangement? completed.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the officers of his department upon issuing the booklet, Know Australia. The preface to that book reads -
It’s a great place Australia - and it’s also a great continent.
No one knows all the answers about it because its range of life and living, its development, and, above all, its possibilities are too vast.
But here in handy form is a booklet which can tell YOU many of those things you want to know.
With its help you will he able to enlighten any one’s interest in Australia and its people.
There are plenty of figures in the book because a great story can’t be told without big figures.
Some of the facts you may already know, but others will surprise yon. Perhaps you think you know. Make sure!
This booklet will prove of interest to ever; true Australian. I urge the Government to make a copy of it available to each student in our schools. Before I was elected to this chamber I did not have an opportunity to travel beyond Western Australia; and, therefore, like so many other Australians, perhaps, I knew only my own State. With respect to publicity generally of this kind we can learn a lesson from the United States of America.
I should like to reply to certain remarks made by Senator Herbert Hays. Apparently, he has no conception of the disabilities which members from Western Australia have to endure in attending sessions of the Parliament here in Canberra. We leave Perth by train on Wednesday, and do not arrive in Canberra until the following Monday. On our journey we change trains on six occasions. Has not the time arrived when, for security purposes, if for no other reason, the railway gauge from Perth to Brisbane should be standardized? On the other hand, members from Tasmania can fly across Bass Strait, in a little over an hour, and, after leaving Melbourne by train at night, arrive here the following morning. I know that State jealousies are mainly responsible for the fact that our railway gauges are not standardized. This fact alone should make our people realize the necessity for granting greater powers to this Parliament in order to enable it to develop this country.
– I note with regret the retirement of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral after his long and meritorious service in Australia, not only on behalf of His Majesty but also in the interests of the Australian people. His Excellency has been an inspiration to this nation, and the Lady Gowrie has been a source of encouragement to Australian women. We regret that the time has now come when they must sever their official relations with Australia. However, I am sure that during their retirement they will prove to be among the best ambassadors of Australia overseas. Not only as GovernorGeneral, but also as a distinguished soldier in his earlier life, has His Excellency been an inspira tion to our people, as was illustrated on every occasion he attended meetings of returned soldiers of the last war. In the anxious days before andafter the Munich crisis, he assisted the voluntary recruitment of our young manhood in the Militia Forces, when its numbers rose, within a few months, from about 37,000 to 85,000. Australia owes to him its deep gratitude for his assistance during that critical period of our history. Like other honorable senators, I join in wishing Their Excellencies the very best of health and happiness for the remainder of their lives. Lord Cowrie’s successor, His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, will, I feel sure, eminently fill the position of GovernorGeneral. He also has been trained as a soldier, and I amsure that he will render very valuable service and have a happy time in Australia while representing his brother, His Majesty the King.
Speaking of projected visits to Australia, I notice in to-day’s press that there is a possibility of Mr. Churchill coming to Australia. I should also like to state that His Majesty the King may also visit Australia. That will of course be contingent on the cessation of hostilities, and on the world returning to normality under peace-time conditions. I say that because while some members of this Parliament were in the Old Country last year several of us made the suggestion to His Majesty in his own home that he and the Queen, together with the Princesses, would receive a wonderful welcome in Australia should they visit us. We all cherish memories of the last time their Majesties visited this country, at the opening of the Commonwealth Parliament in this building, and I am sure that the King, as a more matured man and as the ruler of our great Empire, would receive a very warm welcome from every Australian.
We can, I am sure, look forward in peace-time to visits from many notable people throughout the world. I can forsee that, in normal times, people will be inclined to move about the world much more freely than hitherto. The greatest, living exponent in that respect is Mr. Churchill, the British Prime Minister. It has been wonderful to see the way he has travelled, often from continent to continent, in times of crisis. He has braved dangers at sea, in the air and on land to carry out his missions which have been on behalf not only of the English-speaking peoples but also of the peoples of the world. Mr. Churchill and J Eis Majesty the King have set an example by visiting Tunisia and Normandy. We also have the example of Mr. Roosevelt, a man who is much more handicapped physically than any other prominent world figure, but whose handicap in that respect has not debarred him from making long and wearisome journeys. Such journeys, I think, presage an immense volume of travel by important people, and I am sure that Australia will receive its share of their visits.
I was also delighted when it was announced that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was to visit the Old Country during March of this year. I was pleased that be completed his important task mid returned safety to his homeland. It was only right that he should confer with the leaders of the United Nations, and lim Prime Ministers of other dominions on the conduct of the war. I believe that he was very successful in that regard. I regret that he did not stay longer, because there is much to be seen in the Old Country. Judging from the time that he was in Great Britain, he could not possibly have seen even a. fraction of its war effort, and for that reason I was rather disappointed that he returned so soon. I do hot know why he did, and I am not in a position to judge, but the resume of his speech real by the Leader of the Senate conveys little or nothing to mc as to what the Prime Minister actually did when he was in the Old Country. The members of the parliamentary delegation which visited Great Britain last year were given the privilege of visiting all of the senior Ministers in their own ministries, seeing them at work and obtaining from them, in some cases, quite an extensive resume of what they wore doing and why they were doing it. What impressed me more than anything else was going from one ministry to another and finding in different departments as Ministers a Conservative member of the House of Commons, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, a
National Liberal, an eminent socialist, an independent Labour member, and so on. We met men of every shade of political thought amongst the Ministers who were all at work in their own ministries. These gentlemen were all working in harmony in a united Cabinet. It was united not only in the sense that the individuals were united, but also in the larger sense that they were united so far as their political beliefs were concerned for the duration of the war, forming what we generally term here an all-party government. We saw that form of government actually at work. I was very pleased to learn that the Parliament of the United Kingdom was united in its effort to bring about the defeat of its enemies, and that harmony existed not only openly but also in the hearts of its Ministers and members. That is what I should like to see in Australia. That ideal was brought very forcibly home to me, and I am indeed sorry that our Prime Minister did not enjoy the privilege that we had of seeing those Ministers at work, and getting the atmosphere of that unison without which we in Australia are, I think, going to suffer.
Another matter about which I should have liked to hear more was our lack of population and the need for migration, a subject which this war had brought very forcibly before everybody in Australia. There is in the Minister’s remarks a very brief reference to the subject, indicating that it was discussed “on the official level “. I am not quite sure what that means.
– It moans officers only, not Ministers.
-That is what I wanted to know. The term is used several times, and I wondered if it meant that those present at the discussions included only officials.
– So that the Prime Minister did not take part in them, as I had hoped, because nothing is more important to the people of Australia to-day than the need for increased population. I should like the Prime Minister to deal with the subject in greater detail and assure us that this matter is regarded by Great Britain which, afterall, has been the source of most of our migration as of major importance. I know that it is not a simple matter. Immense organization is required. We know what happened after the last war when a policy of migration, which had been, introduced by the Hughes Government, was augmented by the Bruce-Page Government. It will be necessary to re-establish that organization. I made inquiries at, Australia House in London and found that they still have there a skeleton, organization to deal with migration. It will, however, require to be strengthened, especially by senior men, who will have the authority to negotiate with the British Government on this subject. It is of such great importance to the future of the people of Australia that one cannot over-stress the need for the immediate re-establishment of the organization. There are still at Australia House some very competent nien, well versed in migration matters. They should be given additional staff, and wider . authority to conduct negotiations with the Government of the United Kingdom. This work cannot be started too soon. We must face the problem now because every month’s delay will increase the difficulties.
Another matter on which I should have liked some detailed information in the Prime Minister’s speech is the future of our overseas markets. Because of the stress of war and the restriction of shipping, the primary industries of Australia are having great difficulty not only in sending all their goods to the markets of the United Kingdom, but also in ensuring a degree of permanence for those markets in the postwar world. The encroachment by the South American countries upon the markets of the United Kingdom is causing a great deal of alarm. To some degree, of course, this was inevitable, owing to shipping restrictions, but the fact remains that the South American Republics, at least one of which has doubtful sympathy with the Allied cause, obtained substantial markets for primary products in the United Kingdom. That happened also during the last war, but on that occasion, the South American countries were on the side of the Allies much more wholeheartedly than they are to-day. We have seen press reports recently to the effect that there has been a large influx of gold to South America from the Axis countries, and these reports remind us of what happened in South America after the last war. No sooner had hostilities ceased, than German commercial travellers were at work in the South American Republics securing markets for their goods, before the British industrial community had time to draw its breath. It would appear that the same thing is about to happen again, unless precautionary steps be taken. Commercial interests, not only in the British Empire, but also in the United States of America must do everything possible to check this tendency in a very drastic manner, even to the extent of appropriating all that gold, most of which, if it bas not been actually stolen, has been sweated from the people of the occupied countries to whom it rightfully belongs. We have a foe not only worthy of our steel in battle, but also worthy of our keenest competition in commerce, and such undesirable tendencies must be watched. They can be countered successfully only by progressive consultations in London between dominion Prime Ministers and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Not only do I commend the Prime Minister for his recent visit to London, but also I hope that before long he will be able to return to Great Britain and continue the negotiations which he has started.
The third matter to which I should like to direct attention was also mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement, namely, the intention of the Allied countries to bring to justice Axis individuals who, since the beginning of hostilities, have been guilty of war crimes. It has been stated authoritatively in Great Britain and the United States of America that it is the intention of the United Nations to pursue these villains to the very end of the earth if necessary, and to bring them to justice ; that an organization will be built up for this purpose, and that there will bc no escape from retribution. I should like to hear a definite announcement by the Australian Prime Minister of the attitude that this country will take in that matter. If one-half or one-quarter of what we read about the Hunnish brutalities in occupied Russia be true, it will take a long time to bring all these criminals to book, and I trust that the joh will be done thoroughly. If only onetenth of what one reads in regard to the treatment of British subjects on the Island of Hong Kong alone be true, we shall have a grim day of reckoning with Japan. I say that, not in a vengeful spirit; my desire is to see the organization which is to be set up to try and to punish these guilty individuals, so firmly established, and so determined in its policy that it, will stand as a monument to justice and a warning to any future potential war criminals.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the important subject of medical services and free hospital treatment. Whilst I have no doubt that the Minister for Health (Senator Eraser)- is most sincere, I consider that the policy which he is applying is quite wrong. Judging by his reply to the second-reading debate on the measure passed by this Parliament lastsession granting free medicines to the people of this country, he is starting at the wrong end of the problem. The right approach to this important problem is by the provision of medical advice. Free medicine and hospital treatment are consequential developments. I urge the Minister to do all that he can to reach an agreement with the British Medical Association as to the best method of tackling this problem. I realize that the task bristles with all manner of complications and difficulties, but in the brief period during which Parliament has been in recess, I have talked the matter over with several medical men, and I have not yet found one who believes the Government’s scheme to be a good one. They are all very critical of the Government’s health policy, and of the Commonwealth Health Department - I do not say that they are critical of Senator Fraser as Minister for Health - and some of them are even inclined to criticize their own medical colleagues. A solution to this problem must be found, and my own view is, and always has been, that medical services should be provided for the community on ‘ a contributory basis, as was proposed under the national health and pensions insurance scheme propounded by a previous administration. Accepting such a scheme as a basis, amendments and alterations could be effected as the need for them became apparent. In that way, we could obtain an efficient medical service for the whole of the Commonwealth.
Another matter which has been brought to my notice by members of the medical profession is the organization of X-ray services on a Commonwealth basis. When the Minister next visits Perth, he should have a talk with a wellknown medical man that he, Senator Collett, and I all know very well, about the establishment of X-ray services, particularly in country districts. Throughout Western Australia, as in other States, there are scattered many small hospitals, some of which have their own elementary X-ray plants, but whilst that equipment may be quite helpful in many cases, it takes a trained radiologist to carry out X-ray effectively. Recently, in Western Australia, a young man developed an eye affection. He was X-rayed at one of those small hospitals, and advised that there was no foreign matter in the eye. However, the trouble persisted, and finally he went to Perth for expert advice. Unfortunately by the time he reached Perth,, the eye had become so bad that its removal was necessary, and expert examination revealed that foreign matter was present. Had the country doctor been a highly qualified radiologist the eye could have been saved. I urge the Minister for Health to pay a visit to this eminent radiologist on his return to Perth, for I am sure that a visit would prove as instructive as mine did.
I agree with Senator J. B. Hayes that the dairying industry in Australia is experiencing a very difficult period. The Government’s hit-and-miss policy of giving a subsidy for a limited period to milk producers is not the correct way to approach the problem.. I realize that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has a wealth of expert advice at his command, but despite the increased subsidy granted to the industry, I regard the Government’s policy of nibbling at the matter as unwise. The industry should be guaranteed assistance on an annual basis. I have received a wealth of information regarding the increasing difficulties and costs of the men who supply milk to the people. The blunt truth is that too many dairymen are going out of the industry. They are working till well after dark, and are not getting a fair return for their labour. The killings of fat cows anddealers at the Midland Junction abattoirs are rapidly increasing, and the future safety of the industry, so far as Western Australia is concerned, is threatened. The increased killings bring home to my mind more vividly than any other argument the fact that the dairying industry, so far as whole milk production is concerned, should be placed on a permanent footing. The problem of providing manpower for the industry has been discussed by several honorable senators. Acute cases of disability have been brought to my notice. Even a man who served in the last war, and who has a “ peg “ leg, could not get his son-in-law out of the railway construction corps. Cases of that kind demand quick decisions. In order to give adequate encouragement to the industry, the necessary manpower should be released as soon as possible, particularly where dairymen are asking for the services of members of their own families. Only by that means can more milk be made available.
Damage has been done to many country highways and district roads by iron tyred military vehicles. The Minister for Health knows a good deal about this matter. I have received complaints from the Northam, Nungarin and Merredin areas, where these vehicles are doing great damage to the roads. En these days of restricted output of farm products and the reduction of the income of the farming community, the local residents will be unable to meet the increased rates imposed for the repair of local roads. The farmers of Western Australia, particularly in the light country, are entitled to a chance to keep their loads in good order, to enable them to transport their produce to market. They should not be called upon to pay increased local rates because they happen to live in a locality where there is a military establishment, whilst other farmers who have nosuch establishment in their locality are free from such increased charges. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for the Army will look into this matter.
In Western Australia there is a general scarcity of many commodities. Many of our citizens call Western
Australia the Cinderella State, because, being remotely removed from the more populous States, it is often forgotten: but with proper organization the shortage of many commodities could be overcome. Firewood provides the bloodstream of the Kalgoorlie gold-fields at the present time. The scheme providing for the pumping of water to the gold-fields is operated by means of wood fuel, and the provision of wood is one of the principal industries, apart from gold production. When the stocks of wood were getting lew, the local governing bodies on the gold-fields met in conference at Kalgoorlie for the purpose of organizing themselves on a proper basis. They discovered that they could not obtain axes.
– I had some axes sent to Western Australia.
– We have been short of various commodities, and that should not be allowed to happen. Only twelve axes were available in the whole State for the production of the emergency timber which was required.
– There was a shortage throughout the Commonwealth.
– Yes. The twelve axes were only third and fourth grade implements, and I advised the Kalgoorlie people not to buy them. Luckily, a consignment of “ A “ grade axes arrived later, but a considerable time elapsed before they were available. Axes are one of the main tools of trade in the huge timber industry of Western Australia. Another article that has been in short supply is the ordinary household blanket. One cannot purchase a good pair of blankets in or around Perth at any price, and one cannot buy ordinary kitchen utensils. A young married couple wishing to set up house would experience great difficulty in these small matters, which do not sound very important in the Senate at Canberra during our discussions on world-wide problems: but the trouble experienced in obtaining many of these necessary articles is most irritating, and arrangements should be made to overcome the shortage. When there was a release of cotton prints and other materials, people in Western Australia were kept waiting for the Prices Commissioner to declare the prices.
– That matter was investigated.
– I sent a telegram to the Minister inviting him to visit Western Australia, because I thought that his presence would energize certain officials and the public would not be unduly irritated. The Minister did not respond to my request, as he was about to visit New Zealand. We desire an increase of the population of this country, yet when young folk get married they cannot buy a pair of good blankets or a kitchen kettle.
Much has been said about the referendum. In Western Australia I listened to many talks over the air when I was confined to my bed through sickness, and I was astonished at the inaccurate statements that were made. I have also heard inaccuracies in this chamber. There is room to conduct a campaign for cither a “Yes” or a “No” vote, without indulging in inaccuracies. In the heat of the campaign one is liable to be extravagant in one’s statements, but there should be a limit to that failing. I personally consider that the Government is putting out too much propaganda emphasizing that the ex-servicemen will not get a deal at all; to say nothing of a fair deal, unless the powers to be sought fit .the referendum are granted.
– That is a fact.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD I have not yet done any broadcasting, but I shall do so. I can only cite my own experience after the last war, when I received a fair deal from Australia. At that time the Commonwealth Parliament had loss power than at present with regard to the repatriation of soldiers. It has unlimited financial powers compared with those possessed prior to 1928. I received a fair deal under the Repatriation Act, as did thousands of other returned soldiers. If speakers in favour of the referendum proposals say to-day that this Parliament does not possess the powers now sought the present Government is a party to an illegal act. I may illegally be registered as the owner of my home because a Commonwealth authority built ray war service home and is still accepting monthly payments, covering interest and principal, on the loan advanced to me. That has been going on since 1920, and. the home is not paid for yet. My case 13 typical of that of thousands of returned men from the last war.
– I also have a war service home.
– What applies to me and other returned soldiers who occupy war service homes applies also to those returned men who took up land and are still paying interest and principal on the money advanced for the purchase of their holdings. These men are not conniving at breaking the law, nor, in my opinion, is the Government doing so in accepting payments from them.
Much the same can be said on the subject of employment. The theme song of speakers on this subject over the radio is, “ Do you want to see your boy on the dole ? “ That appeal is addressed to the mothers of servicemen, and is a most extraordinary way to present a case. In my opinion, it verges on criminality to talk to women in that way, especially when every mother’s son who is discharged will have the best chance that ever existed of getting a job. For the ten years following the cessation of hostilities Australia will be one of the best countries in the world in the matter of employment. The re-stocking of the country’s granaries, wholesale and retail warehouses; the provision of foodstuffs, clothing and the like; the replacement of furniture, and so on, will provide employment for many people for a long time. The demand for labour to produce these goods will exceed anything that we have ever known, and therefore I say that to suggest that these boys will have to accept the dole soon after their discharge because no jobs will be awaiting them, is utter nonsense. I regard it as criminal to say such things over the air. Such talks should cease. The Director-General of Man Power, Mr. Wurth, said recently that over 60 per cent, of the men of the second Australian Imperial Force and the Militia who had been discharged from the Army had automatically returned to the jobs which, under the law of the land, were awaiting them, the greater number being provided by private enterprise or in agricultural or pastoral pursuits. The rehabilitation of these men has taken place without much assistance from the man-power authorities beyond certain formalities which must be observed. If that be the position now, it is easy to visualize what would happen with industry working under more normal conditions. To-day, industry is disrupted and disjointed, and is not in the welloiled, smooth-working condition of normal times. Mr. Wurth’s figure of 60 per cent, would probably be increased to 75 per cent, if conditions were more normal. As conditions in industry improve, more men will automatically return to their jobs; and apart altogether from their legal obligations employers will be glad to have them back. Statements that returned men may have to accept the dole unless the referendum proposals be agreed to are not in the best interests of Australia. The people . of this country deserve something better than to have to listen to such flap-doodle over the air. It certainly disturbs the peace of mind of mothers, wives and sisters. Moreover, such propaganda is doing the “ Yes “ cause no good, and my advice to those who authorize it is to tone down the exaggerations that are broadcast over the air.
Senator Clothier repeated a statement which I have heard frequently in Western Australia, namely, the desirability of having a railway of standard gauge from Brisbane to Perth. All of us would like to see a standard railway gauge throughout Australia, but a railway of standard gauge between Brisbane and Perth can be provided without any alteration of the Constitution. There is no need to wait for the passing of the referendum proposals for that work to be undertaken, although it is true that difficulties exist in regard to man-power and materials. The Bruce-Page Government did not wait for a referendum before Queensland was linked with New South Wales by a railway of standard gauge from Kyogle to South Brisbane. Nor did the Lyons Government wait for the holding of a referendum before it extended the 5 ft. 3 in. railway from Redhill to Port Pirie and the standard gauge line from Port Augusta to Port Pirie. Any suggestion that the passing of the referendum proposals is necessary before these things can be done is an attempt to mislead the people. These extensions of the standard railway gauge system in Australia can be done as soon as the governments concerned can provide the man-power, money and materials for the job. Questions regarding the legal power, or lack of it, to do these things should not be allowed to confuse the minds of the people regarding the referendum issue. I am concerned more than anything else that the public mind is being disturbed as the result of the referendum campaign. Had the Government set out wilfully to disrupt the people’s mind, it could not have chosen a better instrument for the job. To-day, the people of Australia are disunited and upset, largely because of the conflicting opinions that ‘they hear in connexion with the referendum campaign. If ever there was a time when we should aim at unity, it is now. What Australia needs is a greater measure of that unity which resulted in the successful invasion of Normandy, but the referendum campaign is making that goal recede farther into the distance. The action of the Government in proceeding with the referendum is to be deplored. I agree that there i3 scope for considerable alterations of the Constitution, but there is ample time to undertake that task. I have supported previous proposals to alter the Constitution, and would be prepared to support some of the proposals now about to be submitted to the people; but the present is not the time to deal with the matter. Rather should we wait until more normal conditions return - when the mothers, wives and sisters of our fighting men are no longer worrying about the fate of their loved ones, and when the men now in the forces have themselves returned. It will be time then to set about re-modelling Australia with a view to introducing a “ new order “, which Australia does not need, because a new order is being inaugurated every month by a process of evolution. Australia is not standing still. There is ample time to convene a properly constituted convention to deal with Constitution alterations, and for such a body to sit, if necessary, for two years. Even that period would not be wasted if the job were done properly. Members of the convention should have the support of the best available legal advice; there should not be any hasty rushing about by the delectable doctor from one chamber to another with alterations of his original script. The whole thing should be considered calmly and decorously as its importance deserves. I have spoken in this strain to the people of Western Australia because I believe that that is the best way to deal with this matter. I am opposed to any suggestion that the Commonwealth Constitution should be amended for only a limited period. In my opinion, the States have no right to delegate powers to the Commonwealth for a limited- period. If the Constitution be altered at any time, I submit that those alterations should stand until again varied by the people. T repeat that I deplore the present disunity of the people of this country, and I lay the blame for it at the door of those who insisted on holding this referendum campaign. I support the motion before the Chair, and express my regret at the early departure from these shores of a great and gallant man.
– I take this opportunity to congratulate those new honorable senators who made their first appearance in this chamber this week. When they become more accustomed to the atmosphere here, I am confident that they will be a valuable addition to the ranks of Government supporters. Listening to the Governor-General’s Speech I was greatly impressed by His Excellency’s account oi the victories won by the United Nations on all fronts during the last twelve months. We heard with pride of the successes which have been achieved by the men and women serving in our own fighting forces on land, on and under the sea, and in the air. The picture, indeed, differed very greatly from that which His Excellency placed before us in the dark days between 1940 and 1942. 1 sincerely hope that those days will never return. However, we should not be overoptimistic as the result of the present turn of events in our favour. We shall be wise to recall the years when our position seemed hopeless, when the Axis powers had not only overrun immense territories, but were marching forward on every front; when our Russian Allies were fighting with their backs to the wall, with the fall of Stalingrad imminent, and in Africa it seemed that the gate to Egypt through Alexandria would fall. In the Pacific the Japanese had taken Malaya and the islands north of the Solomons, and were about to land in Australia. Our present fortunes have been due to the courage, initiative and tenacity of our servicemen and those of our Allies. I also pay tribute to the great work which has been performed by the men and women of Australia as a whole. They have carried on their fight under irksome restrictions on food on the home front in order to provide the food, clothing and material essential for the prosecution of the war. The work they have performed has not been spectacular ; but they have gone about their daily tasks, refusing to complain of the restrictions which have interrupted the ordinary routine of civilian life. Those men and women are representative of all shades of political opinion in this country. They are not confined to one class. At the same time, they realize that they have not been called upon to face the hardships which have been experienced by members of the fighting services. It appears that the United Nations have now reached the turning point in the war, and that a little extra effort by all servicemen and citizens in Allied countries will turn the scales definitely in our favour, and bring victory much sooner probably than many of us anticipate.
His Excellency stated that the time had now arrived for him and the Lady Gowrie to say good-bye; and he did so with profound regret. I am sure that the people of Australia feel keenly their departure from our midst, and wish them every happiness in the future. Since the Parliament last met the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has been overseas. I recall the occasion at the conclusion of last session when we wished him God speed and a successful trip. I believe that the contacts which he has made with the leaders of the United Nations, and representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations, will be of mutual advantage. It was the first opportunity afforded him to visit those countries, and I am sure that the impression he gave to people overseas of Australians and their war effort redounded to our credit. Like other honorable senators I should like to have heard more about bis discussions with the Allied leaders overseas. However, for reasons of his own he feels, perhaps, that at this juncture he cannot give us more information on those subjects. I accept that decision. I should have liked him to explain a little more fully his discussions with those leaders concerning their proposals for post-war rehabilitation. Paragraph 2 of the Governor-General’s Speech reads -
The war continues to be the predominant and outstanding occupation of my advisers, and the measures essential to its full prosecution are the paramount concern of the people.
I agree with that sentiment; but I find it difficult to reconcile the speeches made by some honorable senators opposite with the first part of that passage, because they have been provocative and designed to stir up the old bogy of class distinction.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m. ‘
– Before the suspension of the sitting I said that the speeches from the Government benches savoured more or less of a deliberate attempt to stir up class hatred. This is a time when we should be doing all Ave can to create good feeling amongst the people, especially between employer and employee in industry, so that the country may get the best results from the efforts of both parties. “When I listen to such speeches it sometimes strikes me that those who deliver them may be suffering from a permanent inferiority complex, and that they make them merely to bolster up themselves, by constantly saying what good fellows they are, and what wonderful work they are doing, until eventually they believe that they are doing a really marvellous job. A stranger coming into the Senate on such occasions would carry away the impression that honorable senators on this side had no human compassion in their natures, and were not in any way interested in doing the best they could for their country, when actually the reverse is the case. We have only to look at the progress that this country has made during the last quarter of a century to realize how untrue such an impression would be. Ministers themselves have expressed their appreciation of the progress that this country and its industries have made. They have praised the speeches of visiting delegates and others who have voiced their amazement at the progress that this young country has made in its short history of a little over 100 years. When we look back we find that for the last 25 years a government of our shade of politics has been directing the affairs of this country, except for a three-year period from 1929 to 1931. That, quarter of a century includes the most troublesome period in our history up to the beginning of the present war. Remarkable progress has been made not only in the prosperity of the country itself but also in the humanitarian legislation which has been passed for the benefit not of one section but also of every one throughout the Commonwealth. There is no doubt that the foundations laid by the previous Government and its predecessors were solid and well laid. On them we have been able to build up our successful prosecution of the present, war. It has also been suggested that members on this side of the Senate represent merely one class - the moneyed class, the capitalists of this country. Honorable senators opposite apparently genuinely believe that, but if it be correct this country must have the greatest number of wealthy people of any in the world, because, even at the last elections, nearly 50 per cent, voted for anti-Labour candidates, so that about 50 per cent, of the people of Australia must belong to the extremely wealthy capitalist class of whom our friends opposite talk. Of course we know that that is nor a fact, and that many people, not of the capitalist class at all, believe in the policies expressed by us.
The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) also mentioned class antagonism, and asserted that strikes had their origin in the treatment the employees received from employers. To show the inaccuracy of that statement, and how uncalled for it is, I point out that in many government undertakings and instrumentalities strikes have occurred. There was quite recently a strike in the Sydney tramways service. There was a strike of firemen in Sydney because they could not get an issue of overcoats. There were strikes at the
Lithgow coal mine and munitions factories, also a strike of some week’s duration of cooks in the Civil Constructional Corps. In my own State there was a strike at the State Coal Mine, at Collinsville.
– That was a matter of only a few hours.
– I know that the trouble was adjusted. I am only saying that all strikes do not occur in undertakings conducted by private enterprise. There was a strike recently at the Homebush abattoirs and another at the Brisbane abattoirs, so that they arc unfortunately liable to occur under government control.
The debate on the Address-in-Reply has developed more or less into a debate on the referendum. We all know that before this meeting of Parliament many of us were taking one side or the other, and that as soon as Parliament goes into recess we shall be on the hustings again. I realize that many members rather like to give their speeches an airing in the Senate, and I intend to comment on the remarks that have Deen made on the Government side about the referendum. It has been said that if the referendum be passed it will be an experiment. I suggest that we cannot afford to risk an experiment at this period of the war when we are appealing for unity, and asking everybody to give his last ounce.
– There were two referenda during the last war.
– That makes no difference. Are we to disturb the people throughout Australia by pitting one side against the other, and making them decide whether to Vote “ Yes “ or “ No “ in regard to altering the Constitution? I do not think that this is an appropriate time for an experiment of that kind. If we are to ask for an alteration of the Constitution, it should be a permanent alteration. If the people say that it is desirable, it should become a permanent part of the Constitution. But an experiment for five years, with the proviso that if the people do not want it at the end of that time they can change it, is all “ hooey “. We know that it cannot be changed without great inconvenience and cost, because the Commonwealth, as it is entitled to do, will build up departments and organizations in order to exercise the powers given to it. We know that to disperse the powers at the end of the fiveyear period would create chaos throughout the Commonwealth. The Government’s proposal of a five-year period is putting the country to a lot of expense and trouble and creating a great deal of friction.
It has been stated that the referendum it* carried will bring in a “new order”. We have heard of “ new orders “ not only in this country but in others. If we look back over the last 100 years, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We should be proud of the progress that this young country has been able to make. It has been developed, step by step, by the initiative of the early pioneers, by private enterprise and sane administration, with governmental assistance when necessary to aid industrial development. We may term that the old order. I admit that some of the piles supporting the old order may have rotted a little in the process and need re-placing ; ‘ but it is far better to replace them than to destroy the whole structure and start off again on some new plan which is considered by a section to be a better one.
– We want to put in fourteen new piles to replace the rotted ones.
– If the referendum be carried, the Government wishes to pull down the whole structure and re-build. In some cases it is necessary to re-build, but when the structure has been praised by Ministers and members of both sides in Parliament, and by visiting delegations from America, Great Britain, and Canada, it is senseless to do away with all that has been done and try to strike out in a fresh direction with entirely new methods. There is no need to destroy the present structure. It is suggested by honorable senators opposite that unless additional powers be granted to the Commonwealth, at some future date a Prime Minister of this country might be embarrassed when endeavouring to make agreements with other countries. My reply to that is that many agreements have been made in the past, particularly in regard to the marketing of Australian products, and have remained in force unchallenged. . For instance, we have had agreements in respect of the marketing of wine, dried fruits, butter, meat, sugar, and many other commodities, and the Government’s power to make such agreements has never been questioned.
– What of the Ottawa Agreement ?
– The only people who disagreed with the Ottawa Agreement were members of the Labour party. The power sought in relation to primary production, even if granted, cannot be given effect until certain legislation is passed by the State Parliaments. If the Commonwealth wishes to have full powers, why make an exception in the case of primary production ?
The first power, dealing with the rehabilitation of service personnel, has been inserted merely to obtain the sympathy of the people of Australia. It is quite right that the Commonwealth Governmentshould have all the authority necessary 1o legislate adequately in respect of service personnel and their dependants. We have a definite responsibility in that regard which I am sure no honorable senator, on either side of the chamber would attempt to evade; but let us examine the matter a little more closely. The Government’s claim is that unless additional authority be conferred upon the Commonwealth, it will not be possible to rehabilitate ex-servicemen. That is entirely wrong. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has spoken df a £200,000,000 works programme. I remind honorable senators that during the war an enormous volume of work has accumulated in this country, and that immediately the war is over, our man-power will be occupied to the fullest supplying a large variety of commodities which have been in short supply owing to war-time restrictions. Never in the history of this country have the needs of civilization been so neglected. We are told that in the first three years after the war, houses will be built throughout the Commonwealth at the rate of 50,000 a year, and that after that the figure will rise to 80,000. That in itself is a tremendous task which would absorb most of the available man-power, and I venture to say that man-power will be just as hard to get after the war for civilian work as it has been in the course of the war for munitions production and Other essential industries.
– But what will happen after the period to which the honorable senator has referred ?
– I will come to that. Ample finance will be available in the immediate post-war period because, in respect of income tax, the Commonwealth will still be the sole taxing authority. Therefore, as the work and the money will be available, there should be no unemployment. Savings bank deposits, and money held in notes and bonds throughout the Commonwealth today is far greater than ever before, and immediately the war ends ample purchasing power will bc available. So, we shall have the purchasing power and the work.
– But the Commonwealth must have increased powers.
– Prices control will cease to exist if the powers are not granted.
– Let me advance my argument in this way : After the war, there will still be a need for certain restrictions. Obviously, if all war-time restrictions were lifted simultaneously whilst a large amount of purchasing power remained in the community and goods were in short supply, prices would rise steeply and ruination would result for many people. Certain restrictions must be retained for some time at least, and the Government will still be able to impose these restrictions because the National Security Act will not become inoperative immediately upon the cessation of hostilities. I realize that honorable senators opposite will raise the old bogy that our war-time legislation will be operative for only six months after the war ends; but we all know that after the last war the peace treaty was not actually signed until the 30th December, 1921, despite- the fact that the armistice had been declared on the 11th November, 1918.
– The cost of living -jumped 60 per cent, when the last war ended.
– That is so, but there were no restrictions after the last war. The Commonwealth Government will have power to impose restrictions for a considerable time after this war.
– Unless the High Court rules otherwise.
– That is another bogy. War-time legislation was kept operative after the last war, and it will be kept in force on this occasion.
– It was not retained after the last war.
– There was no National Security Act at that time, but its counterpart the War Precautions Act was in force.
– As the Minister for Trade and Customs has pointed out the cost of living rose by 60 per cent, in a few months after the last war.
– That was because there was no control of purchasing power. There was no rationing during the last war. When it ended there was a shortage of goods and an abundance of money, and naturally prices rose ; but the Government will still have power to control prices when this war is over.
– There was no short supply of commodities after the last war.
– I repeat that there was a scarcity of certain commodities in this country after the last war, and that an over-supply of purchasing power caused prices to rise steeply. Honorable senators opposite know very well that whatever government is in power, restrictions will be retained after this war for a certain period until supply and demand are approximately equal.
– That is a pious hope.
– It can be done. 1 draw the attention of honorable senators opposite to the fact that the propaganda which the Government is broadcasting in this country will be heard not only by people in Australia, but also by people overseas. What kind of impression will be created overseas when people hear broadcasts to the effect that after the war Australian servicemen may be back on the dole? That is entirely wrong. There is not the slightest chance that any man who has fought in this war will go on the dole upon his release from the services. Any intelligent man who has studied history knows that after all wars, the boom conditions which prevailed have been followed by periods of depression. It is when such a depression period again threatens this country that the Government can step in. In the immediate postwar period there will be no need for enormous public works programmes because private enterprise, if left to its own devices, will be able to provide work for most of the available man-power. Up to date 60 per cent, of the men already discharged from the forces have gone back to their original jobs. However, after the period of boom has passed, and depressed conditions seem imminent-
– We shall stop all that, there will not be any more depressions.
– The honorable senator must realize that the last depression was world wide, it did not happen only in Australia. It will be to safeguard against such a depression that we shall require a £200,000,000 works programme, judiciously administered. Such a scheme could absorb the man-power overflow from private industry because obviously the time must come when the leeway in the manufacture of essential supplies caused by war-time restrictions will be made up and demand will drop considerably.
– Under what power could the Government take such action?
– Under the power of the purse. No greater power than that is required.
– What of the High Court ?
– The High Court has not given any decision which would prevent the Government adopting the course which I have suggested. The Commonwealth could spend money in cooperation with the States.
– When the Lyons Government wished to carry out the standardization of railway gauges, the Victorian Government would not permit the scheme to be undertaken.
– I am sure that if any State government were to refuse to allow the Commonwealth to spend a large sum of money in that State upon an essential undertaking which would give employment to many hundreds of people, it would not survive the next elections.
The repatriation legislation passed by this Parliament last year was designed to bring up to date the original measure passed 22 years ago. So far as I am aware, the Government has been able to take whatever steps it considered necessary in the interests of returned service personnel. Also, during the 22 years which elapsed between the passing of the first measure and the recent amending bill, the Government did all that it wanted to do in the interests of returned soldiers. Australia has a proud record, compared with that of other countries, with regard to the treatment of its exservicemen. At the present time, 220,339 soldiers and their dependants are drawing war pensions and 3,468 are receiving special pensions. During the period of 22 years that has elapsed since the passage of the principal act, about £300,000,000 has been expended in pensions and in the rehabilitation of exservicemen of the last war. No fewer than 25,000 children have benefited under the educational scheme, and 38,000 homes have been provided for soldiers and their dependants. Although, in 1921, the number of war pensions totalled 223,072, there were 223,807 in 1942, the Repatriation Department having paid pensions in all cases where it could be’ proved that the disabilities were due to war service. No other country now accepts disabilities due to service in the last war as sufficient justification for the granting of war pensions. Therefore, ex-servicemen have not been forgotten, and there is ample power to look after them as they should be treated.
– In this war vast numbers of non-soldiers will have to be restored to civil life, and that did not happen after the last war.
– Surely the Minister does not think that after this war there will be no employment at all. I have no doubt that the great majority of those now employed in war activities will be absorbed in industry. After the last war suitable workmen were hard to get, and there were plenty of jobs to which they could go. There was no shortage of materials at that time. If the Government thought that a depression was likely to occur, it could then put a large public works programme into operation. The Government has the power of the purse now, and that is the greatest power that any government can hold. It has been pointed out that Great .Britain has a centralized form of government at present, and that there is no fear of a depression there.
– The Government of Great Britain is not handicapped by the conflicting claims of different States.
– But it had central control after the last war, and, despite that fact, it experienced a worse depression than that felt in Australia. The United States of America also, notwithstanding its great wealth, had a far worse depression from 1929 to 1932 than did this country.
I regret .that the proposals to be submitted to the people at the referendum will split the country from one end to another. Many of the electors will not understand the proposals. The referendum will cost a great deal of money, and a considerable volume of man-power and woman-power will be required in taking it. At this critical period of our history we should do all we can to unite the people rather than divide them into two sections. In my judgment the referendum is not at all necessary.
– Did the general elections in August last split the country ?
– Yes, but the elections had to be held in accordance with the Constitution. Even on that occasion the man-power required for holding the election could have been employed to better purpose. The referendum is to be taken in order to satisfy the Government’s thirst for power. The holding of it is not mandatory under the Constitution, and I hope that the people will vote “ No “. The far-reaching proposals .to be submitted to them should be considered calmly in time of peace. Even members of the Government cannot tell how far-reaching are the powers sought with regard to employment. Are we to have industrial conscription?
– The answer is “ No “.
– Could any government introduce such a policy?
– It could, but would not.
– The present Government may not be in power three years hence.
– It will be in office tor at least another five years, and the increased powers are sought only for a period of five years from the cessation of hostilities.
– The Government is asking the people to grant these powers to the Parliament as an experiment for five years. I regret that this action is being taken at the present time, and feel that the majority vote of the people will be “No”.
– The motion before the Senate expresses thanks to the Governor-General for the speech with which he opened the Parliament. Like other speakers, I consider that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral and the Lady Gowrie have discharged their high duties in a way with which none of us could find fault, and I trust that, when they leave the shores of Australia, and return to their homeland, they will enjoy the best of health in their retirement. I congratulate Senator McKenna and Senator Grant, who had the honour of moving and seconding the motion, a3 I also congratulate the other newly elected senators, upon their addresses.
Senator ‘Cooper appears to imagine that every honorable senator on this side who has spoken has introduced a bogy, but he himself has been playing bogyman so much that he probably believes that all he says is true. He said, in effect, that no fault could be found with the way in which governmental affairs bad been conducted in this country in the past and that during the last century great developments had occurred. He pointed out that, for over 25 years, governments which he had supported had had control of the Treasury. Those governments held office for 30 years, and one of them was in power when the last war ended. At that time we saw thousands of ex-servicemen, who had been fighting to make Australia a place fit for heroes to live in, tramping the streets of our capital cities in search of employment. Daily they visited the offices of the Repatriation Department, but were denied employment. During the period referred to by the honorable senator we witnessed the sale, at a gift price, of the Australian Commonwealth
Line of Steamers. The unemployed were placed on the dole, and many children suffered from rickets and malnutrition. When Japan entered the war we discovered that there was a “Brisbane line “ beyond which the government of the day was prepared to hand over this country to Japan. Wheatfarmers were evicted from their holdings. Farmers and their families were left to starve during the period of which the honorable senator said Australia should be proud. In August last, the electors determined to return to Parliament a Government that had done such excellent work during the previous twenty months of office that the people wished it to carry on for a further period of three years.
Yesterday, Senator Leckie made a cowardly attack on the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) when he said in effect that the right honorable gentleman had run away from the flying bombs. The Prime Minister left Australia at the invitation of the British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, in order to attend an Imperial Conference, at which the Prime Ministers of all the self-governing dominions were present. While in London the Prime Minister attended the conference regularly and carried out the duties that he had to discharge. When his work there was completed, he returned to Australia. Obviously, the mind of the honorable senator is warped by his political outlook. He is upset because the Prime Minister is so popular with the electors that the Government’s referendum proposal will be agreed to. The honorable senator also had something to say about the broadcasting of new3. He objected to a statement that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) had appealed to the coal-miners to return to work being included in the “ main points “ of the news items. Does the honorable senator say that it was not in the public interest that the Acting Prime Minister should do his utmost to secure more coal for the nation? Perhaps it was because the appeal was made by a Labour Minister that the honorable senator objected to the item of news being included among the “ main points “. Senator Leckie poses as a champion of the workers, but for a number of years he was chairman of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. The referendum proposals had to run the gauntlet of a convention. From that convention the fourteen proposals on which the electors will be asked to vote on the 19th August emerged. According to a report of the convention every delegate with the exception of the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber agreed that those fourteen powers should be given to the Commonwealth. The delegates agreed to return to their States and to advocate in their State Parliaments the transfer of those powers to the Commonwealth. However, so many tricks were employed that the legislation placed before the State Parliaments received so much opposition, that it was either rejected or amended in several States. Subsequently legislation, generally known as the Powers Bill, was introduced into this Parliament. When that measure came before the Senate the atmosphere was electrical. The Opposition hoped that Senator Crawford would vote against the bill, but that honorable senator cast his vote with the Government, and so the necessary majority to secure its passage was obtained. A remarkable feature of the proposals to grant additional powers to the Commonwealth is the changed attitude of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies). There was a time when the right honorable gentleman believed that this Parliament should have greater powers but, following a decision by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures early in January this year to oppose the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth. The right honorable member for Kooyong turned a complete somersault. Whether Senator Leckie had anything to do with that change of front I do not know.
– There were no referendum proposals then.
– After that date, the right honorable gentleman opposed the granting of greater powers to the Commonwealth.
– I had nothing to do with that result.
– It is at least strange that the right honorable gentleman should have somersaulted about the time that the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures decided to oppose the transfer of certain powers to the Commonwealth. Since that time he has stated that the- vesting of additional powers in the Commonwealth would not be in the best interest of Australia, and, in particular, that Victoria would suffer. No doubt he had in mind the attitude of Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria, to the transfer of powers from the States to the Commonwealth. From that time onwards Mr. Menzies, although Leader of the Opposition in one branch of this legislature, has been, not a Commonwealth politician, but the champion “ States-righter “. The Opposition has endeavoured to persuade the people that public funds are being improperly expended in favour of the “ Yes “ campaign, but I point out that when legislation has been passed by tha Parliament, the responsibility rests on the whole Parliament, not on a section of it. Therefore, the expenditure of money with the authority of the Parliament means that the whole legislature accepts the responsibility. There is no justification for the criticism voiced by Senator Leckie. What is the source of the money expended in an attempt to secure a “ No “ vote? It comes from such bodies as the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures, the Automobile Association, the Graziers Association, and the private banking institutions. The advocates of a “ No “ vote expend large sums of money in advertisements the nature of which only proves that they have no real case to put before the public. I am confident that on the 19th August the electors will indicate clearly that there is no sound reason why greater powers should not be granted to the Commonwealth. At the last elections the present Government received the support of large numbers of members of the fighting forces,, and I am confident that these men and women will vote in favour of the Government’s proposals on the 19th August. No one knows how long the war will last, but whenever hostilities cease the problem of finding work for servicemen and servicewomen will have to be faced. That the New York Herald Tribune believes that the members of the fighting forces will cast a “ Yes “ vote is indicated in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 19th July, which states -
Soldier Vote Hailed in United States.
New York, Tuesday.
The Herald Tribune to-day publishes a threecolumn picture of an Australian soldier voting in New Guinea while American soldiers look on. The caption reads : “ ‘) he soldiers of three nations voted from foxholes. Can we do as well?”
The paper points out that last year Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans voted in the general elections in those three countries.
It adds-: “ The ‘ globe-ranging ‘ Aussies turned in a whooping encore for Mr. Curtin. His tight austerity programme polled a khaki count almost twice as big as the two rival parties together.
It was democratic justice that the soldier vote should register so impressively in the democrats birth-place of the secret ballot *’.
In the same issue of the Daily Telegraph is an article by Peter Gladwin entitled “ Airmen Want Powers Vote “ in which the writer says -
Wherever I have been in England la tei), Royal Australian Air Force men have been ban-aging me with questions about the Commonwealth powers referendum. They are terribly” keen to get the fullest information which they realize will profoundly influence their lives in the post-war Australia they are fighting for.
Australian servicemen are to be found in almost every country, and they know that when the war ends it will be necessary for them to find employment in civil occupations. Industry will have to change from a war-time basis to a peace basis. That will mean that instead of factories making various classes of war equipment they will have to be converted to the manufacture of peace-time goods. But more than that will be necessary : great public works will have to be undertaken. In the past the Commonwealth has been prevented from doing anything unless it was prepared to provide the necessary finance to the States, and allow them to carry out undertakings without any reference whatever to the Commonwealth. That was the order of the day up to the outbreak of this war. The Commonwealth could provide employment only on aerodromes and at ports. The Chamber of Manufactures, the Chamber of Commerce and similar bodies have now developed hysterical opposition to the Government’s proposals. They have been thrown into a panic by the statement made by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) that the Government does not intend after the war to close down the annexes and factories which it has erected for the production of war material, but will utilize those units of industry to provide urgent peace-time requirements for the people. In effect, the Minister declared that the Commonwealth intends to go into business; and I am confident that the Minister meant what he said. That is why bodies such as I have mentioned, as the representatives of vested interests, now violently oppose the Government’s proposals, and are prepared to expend thousands of pounds on subtle propaganda in an attempt to defeat them. Vested interests prefer to see this country thrown into economic chaos after the war. They want to see the annexes and factories erected by the Government during the war thrown idle to become covered with cobwebs. The present Government is doing something worthwhile for the nation. It is planning te provide the machinery necessary to enable the National Parliament to find employment for all Australians in the post-war period. For instance, it has already inaugurated a programme of home-building to overtake the acute housing shortage. The bogyman who has just resumed his seat was a very great admirer of the late Mr. J. A. Lyons, who, when Prime Minister of this country, won two elections on the promise that his party if returned to office would immediately undertake a programme of home-building involving an expenditure of £20,000,000. That promise was never honoured. However, when the present Government commences to plan for post-war reconstruction we hear the same old cry from honorable senators opposite : “ It is too early to plan for the post-war period; let us get on with the war “. Such a policy would mean chaos upon the demobilization of our service personnel, lt is imperative that we plan now for the transition from war to peace. However, chaos has ‘been the order of the day in industry in this country under anti-Labour governments. I need only -mention the great struggles of the workers in the timber and coalmining industries and the general strike of 1917. Invariably anti-Labour governments in this country have been only too happy to see chaos in industry. Australia is not the only country which is already planning for the post-war period. In 1942, when bombs were falling on London, the House of Commons devoted special sessions to the consideration of post’war reconstruction. The British Government has already appointed committees to plan for the post-war period in respect of the production of every class of commodity which Great Britain exports. The Mother Country realizes that a flourishing trade is vital to its existence, and, therefore, plans must now be made to safeguard British industries in the post-war period and thus ensure employment for .all its people. Great Britain realizes that it has a formidable and astute competitor in the United States of America. And the latter country has not been idle in this respect. The American Exporter, of February, 1943, published the following statement : -
American exporters are advised that the world will need the American exporter and importer in a gigantic plan of post-war reconstruction. There was a good indication of old and new customers in North Africa.
That was in February, 1943, after Rommel’s advance towards Alexandria. The report added -
They could not expect to do very much private trade with North Africa until July.
By July of that year Rommel had been driven out of Egypt. and American trade representatives were immediately on the spot. The Commonwealth is planning to improve upon our pre-war export figures generally. 1 understand that it has set up an export committee to investigate the possibilities of developing trade in the islands adjacent to Australia. I urge the Government to make that committee representative of people who truly have Australia’s interests at heart. Provided we take adequate measures to develop such markets government factories can be kept running to full capacity, thereby providing work for our ex-service personnel. “When the war ends ‘there will be a greater China and a free India, and the peoples of those countries will be only too willing to buy Australian products.
I do not believe for one moment that the people of Australia are prepared to trust themselves to the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), who is the leader of the opponents of the Government’s referendum proposals. Speaking at the Constitutional Club in Sydney on the 24th October, 1938, the right honorable gentleman said -
Australians should realize that democracies have much to learn from other systems of government. Democracies cannot maintain their place in the world unless they are provided with leadership as inspiring as that of the dictator countries.
In the same speech he also said -
Why was Hitler able to tear up the treaty of Versailles, absorb Austria and the Sudetenland without firing a shot? The dominating reason why he was able to do it all is that he gives the German people a leadership to which they render unquestioning obedience. If you and I were Germans sitting beside our own fires in Berlin, we would not be critical of the leadership that has produced such results.
The right honorable gentleman read a paper to the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science held in Canberra in January last, in the course of which he said -
The real pacification of the world and the real restoration of world prosperity would require, among other things, that we .should work not only for our own prosperity and that of our Allies, hut also for a prosperous Germany and a prosperous Japan.
The right honorable gentleman made that statement on the 29th January of this year. It is clear, therefore, that he still holds the views which he expressed when speaking at the Constitutional Club in Sydney in October, 1938, when he praised the leadership of the dictator countries. He has not lost his Nazi sympathies despite the record of the Nazis in this conflict. I thought that every member of this Parliament was sincere in his desire that Japan and Germany be so completely crushed that they will never be able to rise again. For these reasons, I do not believe that the people of Australia will take much notice of the leader of the “No” campaign.
Several members of this Parliament swank around in military uniform. I ask the Government to prohibit members from wearing uniform. It is wrong that a man should occupy a military job while retaining a seat in Parliament. I am astounded to learn that ex-Senator Wilson who recently vacated his seat in this chamber,, received in addition to hi3 parliamentary allowance the sum of £1,997 14s. 4d. in military pay. Senator Poll received £790 6s. lOd. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) received £1,296 6s. 10d., the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) £2,720 3s., and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) £3,211 6s. 2d., in addition to their parliamentary allowances. I ask those people who talk about wasteful expenditure to tell me whether that is not a waste of money. Plenty of others could do the jobs which are being done by those honorable members, whose place is in Parliament. I believe that every member of Parliament who is in the services should be brought back to Parliament, and receive only his parliamentary allowance, but if he wants to remain in the Army he should not receive remuneration from two sources. To my mind, it is quite a wrong procedure, and I waa surprised when the information was conveyed to me that those sums had been paid to those members in addition to their parliamentary allowances. I trust that the Goverment will do something to alter that position.
I sincerely believe that when we reassemble in this building, when the referendum has been held and the votes have been counted, the Commonwealth will have the additional powers that it seeks for a period of five years, and that the Government will then have the opportunity to do something in earnest for those whom it proposes to protect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the Address-in-Reply be presented to his Excellency the Governor-General by the President and such senators as may desire to accompany him.
– I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply at Government House at 11 a.m. tomorrow. I invite honorable senators to accompany me on that occasion.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into and report upon war expenditure, and requesting the concurrence of the Senate therein and the appointment of two members of the Senate to the committee.
Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Senate agrees to the appointment of a. joint committee to examine current expenditure defrayed out of moneys voted by the Parliament for the defence services and other services directly connected with the war and to report what, if any, economies consistent with the execution of the policy decided on by the Government may be effected therein.
That Senators Large and Sampson bc appointed to serve on such committee with members of the House of Representatives.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders - (re) the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee ie empowered to examine; (&) the committee or any sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of Parliament; and have leave t’> report from time to time the evidence taken;
the .committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report;
.three members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee; and (fi) the committee have power, in cases where considerations of national security preclude the publication ot any recommendations and of the arguments on which they are based, or both, to address a memorandum to the Prime Minister for the consideration of the War Cabinet, but, on every occasion when the committee exercises this power, the committee shall report to the Parliament accordingly.
That these resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into and report upon social and living conditions in Australia, and requesting the concurrence of the Senate therein, and the appointment of three members of the Senate to the committee.
Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Senate agrees to the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into and, from time to time, report upon ways and means of improving social and living conditions in Australia and of rectifying any anomalies in existing legislation.
That Senators Cooper, Foll and Tenancy be appointed to serve on such committee with members of the House of Representatives.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee may add a protest or dissent to any report; and
three members of the committee constitute a quorum.
That these resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
– I have received a letter from Senator Allan MacDonald resigning his position as a member of the Broadcasting Committee.
Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the date on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by the President which time of meeting shall be notified to each Senator by telegram or letter.
Statistics: House Rent Figures - Settlement op Discharged Servicemen: Government Land Settlement scheme- post-war reconstruction Department : Regional Committees -Claim Against Department of the Army by Mr. B. Coath - Repatriation.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Lamp has asked me. as representing the Treasurer, the following questions, upon notice : -
I have now received the following answers : -
Senator Cooper has asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction the following questions, upon notice: -
What progress is being made in supplying training facilities?
I have now received the following answers : -
Senator Cooper has also asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction the following questions, upon notice: ;
I have now received the following answers : -
Department of Labour and National Service (Industrial Training Division), Universities Commission, employees, employers and exservicemen. The functions of the committees are to assist in the organization and administration of the Commonwealth Reconstruction training scheme in the States.
– Senator Collett has asked me as representing the Minister for the Army, the following question, upon notice: -
Has a payment been made to Mr. B. Coath. of Rockingham, Western Australia, who made a claim against the Department of the Army for damage to his property alleged to have been caused by troops?
I have now received the following answer : -
No. The Government is considering the general policy in conjunction with a number of other claims for alleged injury to persons or damage to private property arising from actions technically described as “ frolics “ by members of the forces.
.- The answer to a question which I asked to-day as to why building should not be commenced on land already owned by the War Service Homes Commission, was that manpower and materials did not permit of an immediate commencement. If the Government were serious in its expressed desire to rehabilitate exservicemen it would place the building of war service homes on a No. 1 priority. I understand that at present servicemen have only a No. 4 priority. Many discharged men and their families are living in temporary sleepouts or sharing homes with other families. Is that the way to treat men who in many oases have suffered^ incapacity while serving in the armed.. forces protecting this country? A little jess talk about our brave fighting men and a little more practical proof that their services are appreciated would be much better.
I wish to refer also to the treatment of mentally sick or what are known as “ bomb-happy “ servicemen who are’ detained in mental hospitals. The responsibility rests with the Army authorities to give the best possible medical treatment to those men, but when it is considered that no further treatment can be given - usually after a period not exceeding six months - the patient has to go before a medical board. His future then is placed in the hands of the Repatriation Commission. If his disability can be traced to war service, a pension is granted; but if it cannot be traced to war service, the patient does not receive a pension. Provision is made for an appeal against this decision. The plight of mentally sick men is pathetic. ‘When a mental patient passes from the hands of the Repatriation Commission and enters a civil mental hospital he has to contribute towards hia maintenance. These mentally sick or insane men were passed as medically fit when they enlisted and served overseas. Now they are returned to civilian life without a pension. Who is responsible for this state of affairs ? The Government has all the power that it requires to treat these men decently. It should direct the Repatriation Commission to grant a pension in such cases.
. - by leave - I am rather concerned at some of the statements that have been made by Senator Brand. The honorable senator was a supporter in this chamber of successive governments which made no effort to improve our repatriation legislation. It was left to a Labour government to liberalise the provisions of the Repatriation Act, and to increase the pay of servicemen. When, in the course of this war, antiLabour governments Were ] in office, Senator Brand did not on any occasion raise his voice in an appeal f or increased pay for the mcn of whom he now speaks.
The honorable senator knows quite well that if instances of alleged unfair treatment which como to his notice are deserving ones, they can be remedied. He can approach the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) or the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), and make representations on behalf of the unfortunate ex-servicemen concerned. I object strongly to the honorable senator making, charges in this chamber in vague generalities. He knows quite well that in the past our repatriation legislation has proved quite adequate to meet the needs. As a matter of fact, it is not the responsibility of the Government to administer the Repatriation Act. That act is administered by the Repatriation Commission. Last year the Government made substantial amendments which had the approval of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Whilst governments of which the honorable senator was a supporter were in office I brought to the notice of the repatriation authorities hundreds of cases, the circumstances of which warranted special consideration; but very seldom was I able to have the anomalies remedied. I realize that when Senator Collett was Minister for Repatriation he tried to do his level best in the interests of returned soldiers, but he was restricted by the terms of the act. Under the act, the Repatriation Commission is all powerful, and no one knows that better than Senator ‘Brand. This disposition to ride on the backs of returned soldiers ib deplorable. All that these men want is justice; they have no time for party politics. I ask Senator Brand’, has he placed the oases to which he has referred to-night before the Repatriation Commission or the Minister for Repatriation?
– No; but the men have.
– If the Repatriation Act has to be amended to give justice to these people, -the Government will not hesitate to amend it. it is all very well to make general statements as to what the act does or does not provide. As a member of this Government I am not prepared to permit unwarranted criticism such as that offered by Senator Brand to-night to pass unchallenged.
– in. reply - The matter raised by Senator Brand is serious. I agree with the Minister for Health (Senator Eraser) that it would have been better had the honorable senator made his representations to the Minister concerned. I listened with interest to what Senator Brand had to say, and I noted his suggestion that the men to whom he referred should he paid a pension. In my view, that would not be the correct way to tackle the problem. Something more than that is required. I have had some contact with similar cases from the last war. In fact, a close relative of mine who went to the last war, a fine physical and mental specimen with a clean military record, became a complete drunkard upon his return to this country. There is no power in the Repatriation Act to deal adequately with such a case. What would he the use of givinghim a pension ; he would probably spendit all on liquor. The act should make some provision for mandatory treatment in such cases. I consulted the State Lunacy authorities in regard to this man, but they could not do anything. The police also were unable to offer any assistance. The man is at liberty to return to his home in a drunken state and smash the place. No care is taken of him. He is by no means the only one in such unfortunate circumstances. When I was associated with the Victorian railways I came in contact with a score of such cases. It is a most lamentable state of affairs and something must be done. If Senator Brand will makea list of the cases to which he has referred and give it to me I shall see that a proper inquiry is instituted as soon as possible.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
The following Papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act - Nineteenth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Financial Assistance to Tasmania - Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated 9th June, 1944, on the application made by the State of Tasmania for additional financial assistance in 1943-44 under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942.
Lands Acquisition Act-Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Port Pirie, South Australia.
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Supplies) Regulations - Rules - Queensland.
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Requisitioning of property other than land.
National Security (Meat Industry Control) Regulations - Order - Meat (Controlled area) (No. 1).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 50-52.
Senate adjourned at 9.40 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 July 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440720_senate_17_179/>.