17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took thechair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
– In view of reports received by honorable senators from time to time that members of the Australian Imperial Force are being overworked, and that other troops, particularly mem- ber’s of the Militia, who are not permitted to serve ‘beyond n prescribed area, are underworked, will the Acting Leader of the Senate give to honorable senators an opportunityto discuss the movements of troops at a secret meeting of honor-able senators during the present sittings?
– I shall consult vith the Acting Prime Minister and advise the Leader of the Opposition regarding the mat-tier before the present sit tings are concluded.
– Has the Acting Leader of the Senate read the cablegram from Washington.- published, in the Canherra Timestoday, stating that the American Society of Newspaper Editors has “ resolved to campaign until freedom of news becomes . a living reality ; everyvliore in the world”? If not, will he read the report, and afford that society all the help possible in its novel and difficult enterprise?
– I have not read the. report, but I take it that it refers to the publication of any information if interest to the people p’f Australia. I notice that not one word of an important statement made in this chamber yesterday , by -way of a correction appears in the press of Australia to-day. I shall consider the request’ of the honorable senator.
– I present . the first -report of -the Printing Committee. “Report - by leaver- adopted.
– I present the seventh progress report of the War Expenditure Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
High Court Proceedings
– I understand that a statement was made in the House of Representatives that no action is to . be taken by the Crown Law Department in the case of Watson v. Collings. Will the Acting Leader of the Senate table the report of the Crown Law officers with regard to that case?
– I shall consult with the Attornej-General as to advisability of doing so.
– Yesterday, Sena tor Leckie asked mc, without notice, whether the amount of £550,000 given as the estimated cost of each of the thirteen . 9,000-ton vessels being built in Australia, was the estimate ibefore the ships were started or after some of the vessels had been completed. I now wish to advise the honorable senator that the amount stated is the present estimated cost.
– by leave - On the 24th November, iSenator Finlay asked a series of questions -concerning the Go”rernment’s policy m relation to the ‘manufacture of motor cars in Australia and the importation of chassis, which would be pwmittcd. The questions asked by the honorable senator were as follows-: -
Thehonorable senator also asked whether any applications bad been made by motor body-building firms in Australia for the release of labour in preparation, for the building of motor car bodies, so that production could be recommenced immediately the war ceases.
With, regard to Questions. Nos. 1 to 4 inclusive, these are all matters which are at present under consideration, and the honorable senator will realize that the Government cannot make a statement: on such matters until such time as all proposals for the manufacture of the locally built car are received, and the Government has had the opportunity to consider them.
As to Question. No. 5, a press statement on the subject of importations of chassis was, released by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) on the 16th November. That statement included, inter alia, the following : - “Although the Government is determined, to push ahead with its plans for securing the manufacture of the complete motor car in Australia, it recognizes that, there is a need for a programme of importation of chassis, frames,, engines and the like for an interregnum period between the termination of war production and the commencement of production of the Australian-made car “. “In response to the request from this industry, I make i.t known that it is the. Government’s intention to permit the importation of motor car chassis for an interregnum period of at. least twelve months as soon as the exigencies of war permit and chassis again become available firom overseas. It is not possible at this, stage to say what quotas or exchange allocations shall apply. An announcement regarding, them will be made, as soon as events enable the Government to make such announcement.”
Regarding, the question concerning the release, of labour for; preparation for the building, of motor car bodies, the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Trade and Customs, have advised me that as far as they are aware, no application of this nature has been received.
– I have received from
Senator Brand an intimation that he desires to move theadjournment of the Senate for the purpose . of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance,, namely, “ The complete anc deliberate disregard! by the- Govcrnmen; of a law of the land in relation to preference to returned- members’ of the fighting services “.
.- I move -
That the Senate, at its rising,adjournto Mondaynext, at9 a.m.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I take this action to draw attention, to the attitude of tint Governmentin side-stepping the law for giving preference in employment to oxservice men and women. A period, of 21 months has elapsed since this Parliament inserted new section 55a. in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. providing for preference” to members of the fighting services. On the ISth March. 1943, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) promised that the Government would iutroduce a bill to enlarge the scope of the preference provided under section 83 of the Commonwealth Public ‘Service Act. which applied only to members of the fighting services in the war of 1914-13.I do no doubt the right honorable, gentle man’s- intentions, because he asked the federal executive of the Returned Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to submit the substance, ofa bill for the consideration of Cabinet. A comprehensive document was submitted by the league,, but despite promises given at least half., a dozen times since then, it replies to questions asked in this, chain be: as to when the bill would be introduced, nothing has, been done-. The proposals of the league have been cast aside-. Within recent months the State governments in Victoria and South Australia and the Labour Government in Queensland have passed legislation to afford preference to ex-servicemen, and that is now the law in those States. Why has the Commonwealth Government, deliberately flouted a majority decision of this Parliament? I give credit tothe
Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) for ensuring that returned men of the present war are given preference in his department, but what about the Munitions Department, the Department of Aircraft Production and all other Commonwealth departments. I have only secondhand information concerning what has happened with regard to this matter in South Australia, but no doubt the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) will state the full facts. Despite the goodwill and sympathy of the Government and its supporters there may come a time . when outside pressure will overcome that goodwill, unless provision be made in black and white to give effect to the- principle.
SenatorFraser. - A little more than lip service is required.
– The Government now has a chance to give a lead in the matter. Ir is lime that the Government came out in the open and declared itself on this important question,and I challenge it to do so now. The Returned Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, is unequivocally in favour of preference, as is the Fathers’ Association. Since the league declared itself on this vital subject, its membership in Victoria has risen from 27,000 to 45,000. The membership of the Victorian branch of the Fathers’ Association is 14,000. These organizations are looking to the Commonwealth Government to do the decent thing, but so far they have looked in vain. They expect some measure of priority in return for the part played in preserving for this country its standard of living and security. I believe in trade unionism and in urging preference to servicemen. I do not ask that anything shall be taken away from trade unionists. They have as much right as have members of the Employers’ Federation, and kindred bodies, to band together for collective bargaining and the safeguarding of their special interests. Preference to ex-service personnel is something in the nature of compensation to make up the leeway lost by men while fighting for their country - something to “ even up “ the advantages gained by others, as for instance, in craftsmanship, which have left the ex-service man well behind scratch.
– Would the honorable senator include members of the mercantile marine?
– I should be willing to do so. On further consideration, I favour a limit of, say, ten years, for preference to servicemen to operate, but that can be decided when the promised bill is before the Senate.
– Would the honorable senator favour the application of the same principle to private enterprise?
– Yes. Provision for that to be done is included in the bill which has been prepared. Honorable senators opposite are continuously referring to some nebulous thing called a “ New Order “, wherein every one will have a job. If they really believe such a laudable economic objective can be brought about and sustained, why is there so much agitation over preference to unionists? This agitation is the real reason why the Government is marking time over a bill to give preference to ex-service personnel. Outside pressure groups are opposed to putting into operation a law made in this Parliament 21 months ago. What an outcry there would be if the boot were on the other foot ! Let us suppose that legislation were passed of which the Employers’ Federation did not approve, and that that body said to a nonLabour government, “ This law does not suit us ; we defy you to put it into force “. There would be an outcry, and rightly so, if that government, bowed to such dictation, and refused to implement the law of the land. This inaction is only one feature of the Curtin Government’s weakness, but this is not an occasion on which other weaknesses can be reviewed. I have at different times referred to the difficult tasks confronting a war-time government, and I appreciate those difficulties; but when an obvious injustice is contemplated or perpetuated, I believe it to be my duty to criticize the Government’s actions or, in this case, inaction.
– Can the honorable senator refer to any specific instances of injustice ?
– Yes. The delay in introducing legislation to give preference to ex-servicemen constitutes an injustice.
I am one who believes that Labour should have a bigger share in production efforts, but the trend of things under the present, Commonwealth Government forces the conclusion that neither preference to unionists nor active servicemen, nor a greater share in. production profits will check the downward race to bankruptcy and ruin. The Government and the pressure groups outside Parliament should remember a few facts which will keep our young nation on the right track -
We cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
We cannot builda great future by ignoring or belittling the useful and worthwhile agencies developed in the past.
We cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
We cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
We cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
We cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
We cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.
We cannot help men. permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
We cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than our income.
We cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.
We cannot disobey the laws of a democratic Parliament without sowing the seeds of dictatorship and anarchy.
By ignoring the law giving preference to ex-service personnel passed in April, 1943, the Curtin Government is pandering to dictators and anarchists. I hope that next session the promised bill will be presented to and passed by this Parliament.
. - The Government is accused of “ the complete and deliberate disregard of a law of the land in relation to preference to returned memibers of the fighting services “, but the honorable senator who has moved the adjournment of the Senate has not given one instance of such disregard of the law, nor has he named one person who has complained or one, organization which has passed a resolution of protest. Yet we are asked to accept his statement that there has been a “ complete and deliberate disregard of a law of the land “. I ask him and other honorable senators opposite, Where is the evidence? Certainly, Senator Brand has not supplied any evidence, hut possibly some of his colleagues may be able to come to his assistance. Can any one imagine a man appearing before a court of law and charging another person with a “ complete and deliberate disregard of a law of the land “ and nol being able to produce any evidence in support of his charge? The court would want to know - and rightly so - what evidence he had to adduce in support of his charge. It would require facts and evidence by witnesses. If the plaintiff merely made a statement to the court similar to that which constitutes the charge levelled against the Government here this morning, the action would be dismissed with costs against him. I assume that Senator Brand had in mind section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. which provides for preference to returned soldiers “who are competent for the work required “. That provision deprives returned soldiers of any preference. The only preference that it gives is given to the employer; it gives to him the right, to choose from among the applicants the man whom he thinks will suithim best. It. is the prerogative of an employer to decide for himself who is or is not competent; and so a returned soldier may not get the job, even though he reminds the employer of the provisions of the act. If, in the judgment of the employer, the returned soldier is not competent to do the work required, the employer is under no obligation whatever to extend preference to him. That law is not worth the paper on which it is printed.
– Not while the present Minister is in office.
– Competent, workers do not require the assistance of the Government, or of any law, because in nine cases out of ten the employer will naturally extend preference to the most competent, man, because that is the man who is most profitable to him. Employers are in business for the purpose of making profits, not in order to provide employment. Competition among businessmen is such that employers must be discriminatory in. choosing their employees; and, therefore, the most competent worker, always receiAres preference, according to the ability of the employer to judge the qualifications of the applicants. The returned servicemen who should receive preference are those who aus the least competent,, but the law of the- land makes no provision whatever to protect, them.
– Provision is made for suchmen in the bill that has been pigeonholed.
– After the war; it will he found that many returned servicemen have never had an opportunity to qualify as competent workers. Such men will not have the ability possessed by others who have ‘been cmployed in civil occupations during the war, and under the existing law of the land the employer will be under no obligation togrant preference to- such servicemen,Yet, they are the men for whom provision must be made; they are deserving of our best consideration. The object of preference is to discriminate between one man and another.
– Is that why the Minister gives preference to unionists?
– Personally, I discriminate between a unionist and a non-unionist.
– The unionist is the Labour supporter’s- first preference.
– Labour supporters received first preference at the last elections. That is why we are now in office. Our policy is generally endorsed. The object of preference is to discriminate between those who are competent and those who are not competent. In my judgment, all returned soldiers are entitled to the best consideration we can give to them. We should not discriminate between any of them for any purpose whatever. All of them are entitled to employment in accordance with their ability and qualifications; and, as will bc the case after this war, thousands- who have never had an opportunity to qualify in a trade will seek employment and we must provide for all of. them. In that respect, we should do what we ha-vp been doing in aircraft production. While a man is qualifying to become competent he should receive at least the basic wage, and as he becomes coimpetent, and takes his place as- a skilled man in industry, he should bo paid the margin, for skill. But that is” not the intention of the huw as- it stands. When Senator Brand, was speaking,, some honorable senators on this side asked him what governmentswhich he supported did in this matter? I shall enlighten him on that point In 1924, the police force of Victoria, which included a large number of returned soldiers who have given splendid service, and many of whom had won decorations for meritorious service,, had the temerity to challenge the Government with respect to the conditions under which they were employed ; and because they went to the degree of refusing duty until their grievances were- considered, all of” -them were discharged. They received neither preference nor employment. At the same time, the very conditions of which they complained, and the injustices to which they had directed attention, were rectified later by the Government; but whilst the men who directed attention to those conditions were not, reinstated, others who were not returned soldiers were employed. A similar happening occurred in 1928. At that time, approximately 2,5”00 returned soldiers were employed on the waterfront at Melbourne and Port Melbourne, and an attempt was- made through the Arbitration. Court to lower their standard of living, and’ to make their conditions of employment more arduous. The nien resisted that attempt, and, for that reason, were discharged. Subsequently, they received neither preference nor employment, but their jobs were given to aliens: Germans, Italians, and others. A government which honorable senators opposite supported was responsible for that action, yet, to-day they would have the country believe that they sincerely intend,, what they have promised so many ti raes in the. past, to give preference to returned soldiers; When returned soldiers challenged, their conditions of employment on the waterfront; they were discharged; the homes of” many of those men were broken up; and hundreds of them nvore reduced to ‘(ike dole, whilst their . jobs were ; given to enemy aliens. Tha1), is -what, ‘happened in “the past, -yet wc are asked tobelieve “that ‘honou-anTe senators ‘Opposite aro sincere when they ‘advocatepreference to ‘returned soldiers. Senator Brand accused the Government of completely disrega’rdin(r the law giving preference to returned soldiers, hut ‘he ‘failed to produce one iota of evidence in support of “that contention. On the contra 17, this ‘Government, whenever it has been able +0 do so consistent with the rcsoirrces at its disposal, ‘has . given pre- i’ermce to returned soldiers. ‘Senator Brand asks the ‘Government to come out into “the open. The ‘Government came out ill the open when it proposed certain amendments to the Australian ‘Soldiers’’ “Repatriation Act ‘before the ‘last elections, but the honorable senator- Trim self moved an amendment which ‘he refused to “withdraw when asked to do so in order to enable the Government to introduce a coinpr.ehensive -measure to include provision in Tespect of members of the Heron 11 tile Marine and others actively and usefully engaged in “the fighting services. The honorable senator refused to “withdraw that amendment, and, thereby, denied the Government the opportunity, when it did not have a majority in this chamber, to introduce a comprehensive ino.’isure on this subject. Therefore. I find it difficult to believe that ‘honorable senators opposite are as sincere 011 this matter as they would have us believe. If they were sincere they would say, as I, and, I believe, all honorable senators, should say, that every man and woman who has rendered useful service in “the fighting forces should receive the best conditions which lie within our j>ow.er to give to them. All of them, and not merely one section of them, are entitled to such consideration. That is not impossible. Indeed, it is well within the possibility of practical -politics to provide employment for not only returned soldiers, but also every man and woman able and willing to work. But that is not done. Tt has never been done in the past by an-ti-LaSbour governments-; and up to dale 110 ‘Labour government has yet been given the opportunity to implement its policy in that direction.
Therefore, one can only conclude that when honorable senators opposite speak oj- preference “their object is ‘to discriminate in order to cause dissension.
– The Government, discriminated !by having two armies.
– Both of those armies are fighting; but the bonora’ihlr: senator is not doing any worthwhile fighting.
-Stick , to politics, and do not indulge in. personalities.
– I have never descended to personalities in any . remarks I have made in this chamber. Only persons who are baifkr.upt of argument r.eso.rt to such tar-tics. But when inane interjections arc made solely forthe purpose of scoring points for ulterior motives, one is entitled to act in selfdefence.
SenatorMcLeay. - The Minister . had to act in self-defence in . the last war.
-Yes, andI succeeded, whereas the honorable, senator was defeated. I served in -the wasbef ore the last, in which the honorable senator w,as eligible far service, but failed to serve. By . a . process of mental projection, . the . honorable senator attributes to others his . own traits, of which I believe he . is heartily ashamed. The personnel of our fighting -forces as a whole, . as . and when they -return to civil life, should receive the consideration to which they arc entitled. Tt. is wrong that . an [employer . should Iiave the unchallenged right to . say whether I shall ‘.be permitted “to earn . a livelihood or . not. I claim for ia.ll workers, and all men and women, the . right of . access to fhe means by which they live through the . medium of -useful employment; . and they should have equal rights in that respect with all others. I have always denied fhe right of any employer to say whether 1. should . go 011 the breadline or whether 1 should enter his employment subject to his will. Therefore. I am. opposed to discrimination . between man and man in the provision of employment. All ‘this advocacy by honorable senators opposite of -preference to returned soldiers on paper and ‘-not preference in practice las its origin in “the conditions under “which wc liv.e- to-day. Preference ‘is extended always to the person who is willing to work the hardest and fastest and for the lowest wage, and that is the policy of honorable senators opposite. That is the policy that is implied, if not actually stated., in the law as it now exists. The most competent receives preference, but the least competent - the man who has never had a chance to become a skilled worker, who has been obliged to work as a labourer all his life, or whose parents have never been in a position to give to him an opportunity to qualify as a. skilled worker - receives no consideration whatever. He is reduced to the breadline, as he was after the last war ; and that is exactly what is going to happen after this war should honorable senators opposite be in a position to apply their policy to the degree they desire. Judging by what I read, there is in the Allied countries a sustained and vicious agitation on the part of employers’ organizations and their representatives in Parliament for an immediate restoration after the war of. the status quo ante, which means in effect that all our war-time industries, including the annexes, which the workers have been taxed up to the eyebrows to pay for, shall be handed over to private employers for a mere song and the Government workshops shall go out of existence. Generally the intention of private employers is to enforce after this war the policy which was enforced after the last war. The result then was that, nearly 10,000,000 men, women and children in America, at least 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 in Great Britain, and hundreds of thousands in Australia, were reduced to the breadline, working in return for the dole, and depending on the Government for barely sufficient to keep them alive. But for the war, that condition of affairs would still prevail. The war made the difference. People who previously were dispensable, and who had been reduced to living in semistarvation conditions, became almost overnight indispensable. It was then discovered that thousands and thousands of people had been debilitated to such an ox tent, that they had to be given medical treatment immediately and provided also with good clothing and food, and warm housing, in order to recondition them for the purposes of war. That showed that the policy of preference which was applied after the last war, and for which honorable senators opposite appear to be very much concerned now, had had very disastrous results. But for the ingenuity and the inherent capacity for sustained effort of the working classes of all the allied countries, we should not be in our present fortunate position. No thanks whatever are due to the antiLabour governments of Australia or any other allied country, but all thanks are due to the working and fighting forces who rose to the occasion and saved the Empire in spite of all its governments. When preference for returned soldiers is agitated for, is not my claim that all should receive consideration a just one? The policy in force in the past should no longer be tolerated. Then when eventually war comes again we shall be prepared, and not have on our hands thousands of semi-starved people not qualified to do anything very useful in industry. That is a claim which should be sup? ported by every intelligent man and woman. Senator Brand has rolled out a series of platitudes about social relationships - all words, meaning nothing. What really matters is what is done. Some of those on this side of the Senate have suffered as the result of the policy pursued in the past. The preference given in their time to the workers was the preference to handle a shovel. Some returned soldiers received a preference in the Victorian Police Force, and on the waterfront, but the choice which most workers got was between the handle of a shovel and starvation. The ease submitted by Senator Brand is not, worthy of consideration. The Government without being asked has already given effect to the policy of preference, ft has been done in my own department wherever possible. I have given instructions, as I think I arn entitled to do, that wherever we can fit in a returned soldier it shall be done even to the extent of making allowances for him where we would not make them for other? who are not returned soldiers. The object is to give the returned men an opportunity to readjust themselves to civilian conditions, because it is well known to everybody who has been on active service that those who return from service find it impossible to adjust themselves to the same extent as they were able to do before they went away. Consideration should be extended to them in that respect, and they should be given every opportunity to become re-established in civil life. So far as I know my department and most of the other Government departments have done so, but in addition the Government proposes to make it the law of the land, so That if it should go out of office in years to come the law will still be there, making it mandatory on the government of the day to provide full employment for all those able and willing to work.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I support Senator Brand’s motion, and greatly appreciate the fact that he has again brought the subject before the Senate. I had the honour of serving under hint in the last war, and know from personal experience the genuine concern that he has always had for the welfare of the servicemen and women, of the war of 1914-18, and that that concern is also extended to those who are serving in this war. This subject; was raised in the Senate on the 24th February of this year. During the intervening period nothing has been done to grant any form of preference to returned servicemen and women of this war, although I understand that a bill drafted by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was submitted to the Government for its consideration eighteen months ago. There is definitely a large body of persons in Australia who desire to see an act giving preference to returned servicemen passed by this Parliament. But unless the Government is prepared to bring down a bill for the purpose there is no possibility of Parliament enacting the desired legislation. It is clear that a majority of thepeople desire a bill to be passed, to give preference to ex-service personnel. Action has been taken, both in South Australia and Victoria, in this direction by the State Parliaments, and as late as last Friday, the Minister for Labour and Employment in Queensland, introduced in the State Parliament, a bill giving full preference to returned servicemen, both in the Government service and in private employment. I realize that in Queensland there has been preference to unionists for several years past, yet the Queensland Government has introduced a bill to give preference to returned servicemen. We should not approach this problem on a political basis, because it is too big for that. It is a non-party question, because men and women of all shades of political opinion, and of all creeds and parties, are now on active service. They are a combined force giving of their best to defend democratic principles and defend the country itself. If we look at the problem from a. purely impartial and non-political viewpoint, we must come to the conclusion that preference is very little to ask for. The Government has suggested that after the war there will be a new era, and jobs for all. We all sincerely hope that that will be the case. I believe that after the war, for some years at any rate, there will be unlimited work in Australia, but although that may be the case why not make employment a certainty for the servicemen who are away fighting at the present time? We can do so only by granting them preference of employment in return for the services which they have given to their country. It is incumbent on all of us who enjoy security and comforts at home to make some provision at least for those who are away fighting our battles for us. so that when they return they also may be certain of comforts and security. When the war ends, and of course no one can say exactly when that will be, there willbe “many in the fighting services who have been away from civil employment for six and seven years or more. These men will have lost touch entirely with their civilian avocations. Many of them have not even had an opportunity to engage in civilian employment, because they enlisted or were called up at an early age. When this war ends they will be 24 or 25 years of age or more, will have no skilled training. Every year that goes by will intensify the problem of fitting these men into civilian life. Those of us who served in the last war know from our own experience the conditions that are likely to arise when this conflict ends. Generally speaking, training for war is not sound training for civilian employment. In war, men are; tuained en masse. They- are trained to destroy the enemy. That is the sole pur.p:ose of. their, training. When, they return to civilian- life they will be- called upon to engage in work- of construction instead of destruction. Admittedly many, service men and. women, particularly in technical units- of the Royal Australian Air Eorce, have had an opportunity to Learn, a trade- whilst they have: been-, in the services, but that is- not so with- thou.wundis of infantry men and artillery men whose jobs are to do only fighting: I- hey will have been away from civilian work for the whole of their war service. Naturally., upon their return, through” no fault of tli ei 1: own, they will not hii able fco> commute with their, more fei-fcuuaie- fellows’ who have had. to- remain in. this, country to caTry on civilian i-ctiiivitiosi Quite « number of service men and women- will, be able to1 go- ba.ck to. their oldi jobs and. in; that regard nospinous problems will arise. Preference will not- be* required* so. far as they, are concerned,, but it will, be required for men who- have been completely out of touch; with civilian employment; of any kind throughout, the wan. I realize that many civilian’, workers are not out of the services- from, choice.. Undoubtedly, a substantial! proportion! of. them, would he in< the airmed. forcesi if they could ; hut somebody, has to’: undertake- the taskof. manufacturing, munitions- and carrying on- normall civilian activities. I Believe that these-, mem and- women i will* be quite- prepared when the war ends- to paavide some assistance, for their lessfortunate fellows- who- for many yearshave not, enjpyed1 the.- Gomf orts of civilian, life:.. I have no< doubt tihat, most> homefr.onfci woiker-s^ will he willing, to make
Fom.e.-small sacrifice- so that tihe.- meni who ha ve- been, away fighting, will be. assuredof some security andr comfort upon’. their, return-.. Hemher.s.-of the Onpositiou’.would like, to: see some practical evidence that, tha-t. will- be done… That is all we ask. The internists-‘ of’ members off ourfighting, forces must be safeguarded! Thepassing, of. at bill establishing., the. prin:ci.plo of preference, in. employment, to returned! ser.vicemenr would be. only- asmall, gesture of a”, grateful nations inreturn. f6r.rthe sacrjfices.ma.die bymom’bersnf our. fighting services..
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services)[12.6] . -Listening to Senator Bra/iid’s speech,. I was s-twk by the fact that lie did not ov.ew mention the purpose’ of die motionnow under discussion. He spoke of what he termed a= deliberate disregard by the Governme’nb of the laws o’f this country relating to- preference hi employmerit to returned servicemen. It is; tr-ite that, such a: law was- given- effect” by” tliisParliament;., but the BrinVe MiW-istei” (Mi’.. (Surtii))’ Iras staged fihwt it 13 the’ intention of the Govern in e 11 fc to introduce comprehensive! legislation embodying, the principle which, honorable senatorsopposite sought to establish by amending the Australian Soldiers’” Repatriation. Act.. Senator Brand has failed to’ cite one instatrce in which this Government liais failed to give effect to the laws of this country. I remind the honorable senator that although for many years he was a supporter of governments f.ornieoi by the parties* now” sitting., in Op-position,- and- despite the fact that iii this cha-nnner he has always posed as a champion of the serviceman,, lie did- not raise his; voice on- one occasion’ to protest against the continued, failure of non-La bouts government’s to improve our repatriation legislation.
-I rise to’, order. What’ the honorable’ seittftoif” has said- is nW conrexsfc- If’he will-examineHansard-
- Order’!1 The’ honorable’ senator lias n’ot’ r’afs’ed a”’ point of ord’e’r. If he considers th’a’t’th’e Minister’ is- misrepresenting- him’ lie’ will have’ an opportunity t’o make a’ personal’ explanation at a later’ stage.
SenatorFRASER. - I remind Senator Brand tliat. after the last war 2,500 returned soldiers- were put off the Melbourne wha.rfs by- the passage through this Parliament of what is known- as the “ Dog-.Oollar “ act.- As a representative ofretnimed” soldiers, what- steps did’ the honorable senator take in - this chamber to prevent the- passag-e of” that’ legislation by an anti-Labour” adininisbr^.- - tion? . A.s the^Minister. for. Aircraft. Production (.Senator- Gameron), has’pTointedout we all? have;, vivid, reoollect-ion-sf of conditions which existed during-, the’ last’ depression when tlic ‘.parties to which I ion ora bie senators opposite belong held oflice.
SenatorMcleay. - The Minister should not . sidestep the issue.
– I am not sidestepping it. The Prime Minister has made a declaration, and I have every confidence that effect will be given to that declaration. I trust that, the . Government’s plan for the rehabilitation of servicemen will be a better one than that followed by anti-Labour governments after the last war.
– The Minister does nol; know the who’le story.
-I think that I do.I have yet to learn that on that occasion, ‘Senator Brand who was then on this side of the chamber spoke in support of Mr. Harding, who was displaced from his job. The sequel to that case occurred in the High Court last -week. The Government wished to rectify the position, but was not able to do so.
– The appointment was made bv the Government.
– No. [t was made by the Commissioner for Hailw.ays. The court upheld that appointment.
– Is the Minister in favour of preference to returned soldiers or is he not. 2
– Again I say that in accordance . with the declaration of the Prime Minister this Government will put. into operation a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation of ex-service . men and women. Already this Government has effected substantial amendments to the Australian Soldiers’ Rena’trlation Act so that it will provide adennately not only for soldiers of the last war hut also for men returning from this war. Senator Brand said fhis morning that, the -poor could -not liv* without, the rich ; I say to him thaft bheauch . could not live without the poor - the workers nf this country, including . the ‘fighting men . anil -women. T -do mot aguoe twill Senator Cooper’s version of ‘the political motives -of honorable senators ‘opposite in supporting this motion. Our returned servicemen will look for something more than imer-e preference in employment and something more than acts of Parliament. The ^Government intends . to ensure that in this democracy, for which men and women have given, their lives, every member of the counn unity shall have . the right to a job. That is the . basis of democracy. Even an the . midst of war this Labour Government . has made . provision foi social security, and legislation has ‘been , passed for the . protection of those who., through circumstances over which they have no control, are unable to provide for themselves. . 1 . am disturbed . because . of the fact . that. I could refer to many instances ish owing that the present ^Government’s jpredecessors, which were anti-Labour governments, have not . adhered to . the principle . of preference in employment to exservicemen.
– Two wrongs do not make ia right.
– The present Government has corrected wrongs done ‘by the previous Administration, not : by Tip service, but. by implementing a policy which secures to the people their rights under the democracy for the preservation of which large numbers of them “have fought and died. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, ‘has been amended -at the ‘instance of the Curtin Government for . the purpose of . increasing the benefits to ‘ex-service personnel.
– Who urged the Government to do that.?
– Honorable . senators opposite have done all . Hhe urging, but the present ‘Government has done fthe (job. ‘The -facts ; speak for . themselves. For 25 yeans the opposition parties were in office, but all they did for ex-service personnel iof Ihe last war was to give ithem lip service and . leave them to starve. I have seen men who are now fighting in New ^Guinea and ‘who were living in camps during the . last ‘depression. They obtained their . first- job on . the outbreak of the -present -war. I venture to say that nothing will ‘be done for the : exservice ^personnel of the present war sinless a strong and capable Labour government takes drastic steps to ensure that the democratic rights of the people are maintained.
– No parliamentarian, regardless of his party political beliefs, has fought harder in the interests of ex-service personnel than has Senator Brand.
– Lip service!
– If the Minister said that in Victoria, he would be pitched out on his neck.
– I regret that personalities have been introduced in this debate. Senator Brand has made two charges: First, that the Government has refused to honour a promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and, secondly, that although the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act has been amended to provide that preference in employment bc given to ex-service personnel in the ‘Commonwealth Public Service, in semi-governmental departments, and in the carrying out of contracts let on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the Government had not given effect to that legislation. On the 19th March, 1943, the Prime Minister said: -
Since the report of the inter -departmental committee on this question has been presented, the Government has taken action; it has directed that legislation lie prepared to deal with this matter. . . . The subject covers so wide a field that the proper way to bring it before the Parliament so that a decision can be obtained is :by the submission of a bill. I undertake to introduce a bill for that purpose, … I hope to be able to introduce it during the next term of the Parliament.
That statement appears in Hansard, Vol. 174, at page 2047. The Prime Minister’s promise has not been carried out, although it was made 21 months ago. The law, as expressed in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, is not being enforced. “When I made a charge based on a report submitted to me by returned soldiers in South Australia, the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) denied my statement. I said that at Finsbury North, in that State, returned soldiers were being demoted and dismissed. Yesterday, Senator Mattner received a telegram from the South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s
Imperial League of Australia stating that the man who had taken up this matter and reported it to me had applied to the appeal board established by the Man Power Directorate, which had decided that the officers of the directorate should reinstate him. I am prepared to give full particulars of those cases to any member of the Government in this chamber, but I do not wish to mention the names of the men concerned. If the Government will allow its officers to victimize returned soldiers, something ought to be said about it in this Parliament. Various branches of the league have expressed disappointment because the Prime Minister has not .honoured his promise, and Senator Brand regrets that the Government has not enforced the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. On the 2nd November, the following letter was forwarded to the South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia : - 1 respectfully appeal against the notice received by me from the Munitions Supply Store and Transport Officer, Finsbury North, terminating my services as from the Hist October, 1944. “
From the day on which I took up my duties there, it was noticeable to me that there was an undercurrent, and as time went on :t became more pronounced. I did not take any notice of this, because I felt that I was there for the war effort, and not for any individual.
About eighteen months ago it was whispered that a reorganization of the staff was to take place, which eventually came into being To my astonishment the positions were given to all non-returned . men, including eligible who had not volunteered. Here are some of the names . . .
I shall not quote the names mentioned in the letter, but the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) may peruse the letter. It continues as follows: -
A - No service. Aged 40 years. To Accountant.
B - -No service. Aged 28, single. As Transport Officer with no experience in transport ot official administration.
B - No service. Aged 30 years. As J’aymaster. On loan from State Bank, Adelaide.
E - No service. Aged about 32 years. As Magazine Holder with no previous experience of office administration.
Since then the following have been appointed assistants: -
F - No service. As Assistant Store Officer with no previous experience in store or administration.
Mention must be math; thata returned soldier with 30 years’ experience in business, was holding a position as Senior Clerk. This position was made redundant, and he was demoted to a position of maintenance.
During my service at the establishment it was conspicuous that the men who had served their country did not appear to be required; in fact, six out of . seven of the staff who left of late because of certain individual pressure were all returned men. All were capable, but were not allowed to settle down.
I challenge the Ministerfor Munitions to produce the order which he has issued to responsible officers of his department that preference in employment must be given to returned soldiers. Is he prepared to appoint an independent tribunal to inquire into the specific charge which I have made, and which, if the statements are correct, shows that a scandalous position has arisen? The telegram received by Senator Mattner yesterday proves that the man who made the charge and was dismissed, or reduced in his position, brought the matter before the appeal board in South Australia, which gave instructions to officers of the Munitions Department that he was to be reinstated. The telegram reads -
Case taken up by us. Appeal was successful.
Now being reinstated.
Returned Soldiers League, Adelaide.
If anybody in the Munitions Department in South Australia is prepared to take further action to victimize these men, because the matter has been raised in Parliament, more will be heard of it. The Opposition will insist on justice being meted out to the employees. My colleagues from South Australia are as anxious as are any other honorable senators to see that justice is done, but from experience we know that instructions issued by Ministers are not always observed by departmental officials. In various government departments throughout Australia, men who have remained at, home, and have worked themselves into key positions, obtain priority over newcomers, with regard to appointments and promotions, even though they be returned soldiers. Why are Ministers afraid to tell the world that they are in favour of preference to returned soldiers? The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) stated in the House of Representatives at the time when the Prime Minister’s promise was given, that the right honorable gentleman knew that the Australian Labour party executive would not allow him to implement preference in employment to exservice personnel, yet, when the issue is raised in this Parliament, Ministers try to side-step it by saying that the Government desires to provide employment for everybody. It is known to everybody that one of the reasons why preference in employment should be given to exservice personnel is that, because of their absence on active service, they lost opportunities for practical experience in their civil avocations. The least that this country can do is to honour the pledge to give preference to servicemen, other things being equal.
– The law provides that preference shall be given to ex-service personnel provided that they are competent to do the work.
– I am pleased that the Parliaments of South Australia, Victoria and Queensland have enacted legislation to give preference to servicemen, but the National Parliament, which should set an example to the rest of Australia, has not done so despite the fact that 21 months ago the Prime Minister promised that that would be done. The Government has not had the courage to give affects to that promise or to enforce the law. Senator Brand was justified in bringing this matter before the Parliament. I am convinced that some government departments are not carrying out the instructions of Ministers in this connexion - that is if such instructions have, in fact, been issued. In order that the matter may be put beyond all doubt, Ministers should produce in the Parliament their instructions to the departments under their control. I challenge the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) to prove that what he has said is correct, and to disprove that the man referred to was sacked and reinstated later. I also challenge him to produce his instructions that preference shall be given to ex-servicemen when appointments are being made.
– The motion before the Chair is merely propaganda in the interests of the proposed new political party.I recall that the last time the subject of ; > reference to returned -servicemen was before ‘the ‘‘Senate the country mis on ‘the we ‘otf an election. On this . occasion the matter is brought forward prior *o a d-athcring which . is to take place at Albury with a view to establishing a new political party. Senator Brand has charged rhe Government with having completely and deliberately disregarded a law in relation to preference to returned members -of the ‘armed services. He said that it had not given jobs rn returned servicemen, and that -men who had served with the fighting forces had been displaced by others. . The honorable senator did not give any specific instance of a returned ‘soldier having ne.n displaced by a non-soldier. I am reminded that when the honorable sena tor moved an amendment to the Auscralian Soldiers’ ‘Repatriation Bill he ‘had i he numbers to carry . any amendment tha t lie cared to move. On that occasion he oulcl have moved for the insertion of a clause to provide for the things which he Leader of the Opposition . (Senator YLcLeay) says should “be incorporated in. iur legislation. Instead of doing so, Senator Brand . was so niggardly that !t, said -
The Australian Soldieu’s’ Repatriation Act jiiovidcs tor the rehabilitation of members rf ‘the defence services, andneither merchant >eivmen aior icivill ; uir -pilots ‘and crews . come vithin the -definition. No lone will deny the -plcndid war services that these men have
Hindered, but the correct . place to give some nnrrc’te appreciation of those -services is not in ‘the . “bill now -before the . committee.
The ‘honorable senator did not move to : ncludc them in his ‘amendment. ‘On tire contrary, the said that there would be plenty of work for civil air pilots »nd members of the ‘mercantile marine after the war. This morning thehonorsb’le senator did not mention airmen who have served at battle stations in Australia and who have “been prepared to undertake duty in a -conilbat area at any rime. Had all the equipment, necessary been provided for them they could have rone a valuable job, ‘but tlrey “have oeen ienied that chance because of lack of proper provision. Should a measure be introduced to give . prefierencc to service- ii-pn, I hope ‘that it wiM diMslucle members “f the mercantile marine, airmen, members ‘of the women’s services and of rhe
CivH ‘Constructional ‘Corps, and also the employees of water boards and others who have served in areas designated “battle areas. I hope, too, that such legislation will cover employment with such bodies as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited., banks, shipping . and insurance companies, and business houses such as Anthony Horderus’ Limited and theMyer Emporium Limited. Should such a measure come before us, 1 shall support it.
SenatorBrand. - Provision along . those lines is included in the bill which has been shelved. The honorable senator should ask that it be introduced.
– There isno such provision in any bill, and it is useless for the honorable senator to say that there is. The ‘Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to pass such legislation. Senator Brand professes to Ibo anxious to improve the lot of returned servicemen, yet he opposed (he granting to this Parlniaroent «rf . additional powers ivJiidh would enable it to provide for preference to ‘iiebtrr.neel servicemen in tih.c . making of . appointments to positions, not only an government departments, but also in private concerns. The Commonwealth act can apply only to that part of Australia and to those services which are controlled by the ‘Commonwealth, such as the Northern ‘Territory and rhe Australian ‘Capital Territory, the ‘CoirmronweaWh railways, the Commonwealth Public ‘Service, and contracts entered into with the -‘Cominonwea’lth Government. Even then, -the act provides that preference shall . be given ‘only if the servicemen are competent to do the work. The action taken here to-day is only so much more showmanship on fhe part of the Opposition.
– It would be ridiculous to appoint, say, a hutcher to a position requiring teclmical and scientific knowledge merely ‘because ; he was a returned soldier.
Seanator AMOUR. - An applicant For a jab with a private concern may have ail the (qualifications -necessary, yet the employer . can . reject Jum on the ground that . he as not, competent to perform . the work.
– Theim lis an appeals committee.
– Wh ere is it?
– Provision for it is ebiitaih’ecl in the bill to whichI have referred.
– In. the amendment of. the honorable.senator to which I, have
K-feried, and which, big party had the lumbers to carry, there was no. provision fqr any appeal by an applicant who was regarded as incompetent to do the work.
SenatorBrand. - The honorable sena tor knows that provision to that effect would have been made in a machinery measure.
– Honorable senators opposite, frequently charge the Governmen’t’ with Having do’ne nothing, for returned Servicemen”, but I remind them that fft the recent, congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial Leagi’i’e o”f Australia, held in Adelaide; Sir Gilbert TJyctt’ said’ that flic present L’a’bour Government li’a’d done more for retirrnda1 scfvi’cfcmen than had any previous” government. , In life fign’t o’f thai statement f r6m the president of the Iciigu’e, all the talk of the Government’s disrega”rd of the interests” of returned men is of little value. ‘When I first oil’tered the , Sen”afe the parties i-epresen’ted hy boiio’rnble senators WOW in opposition were in power, yet thousands of returned ?’oldicrs walked our streets seeking employment. They could rfot got sufficient food” for themselves a’nd’ their families, to say nothing of clothing; shelter and other necessaries.. When appeals, were made to tlie then” Government to assist the growing army of unemployed Senator Brand a’nd his colleagues did not raise their voice to urge that preference’ should he given to such men. For political purposes the Parliament, of New South Wales some years ago passed legislation to grant . preference . to. servicemen.. The. first position to, be filled after it became lav,; was, that, of, secretary to’ the . Prince Alfred” Hospital but although the” man’ who, was’ appointed to it. wag. riot a villi rned. sqldi’er, the organization . whieti claimed to ..act on! behalf of servicem.eji’ look nonaction v The^ reason was. that, this wordi’iiguof . the . act^.wa.s such, that an employer eojuld employ . any gne whjom^he. wished” a Tliere was very Uttle^ground pn^ which l!q hike a^ case to the coiirJ.,._ I , havet in mind* an, . instance,, which occurred in connexion with a body with which I was associated. A… municipal counqilj pi which 1 was, a member, employed a. man who was not a returned sold.ier^.. whereupon the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia advised the council that, it had violated 44 provisions of the act providing for preference , to returned soldiers. It tbreaI’ehetl, to take action against, tlie council A’s the first n:ibve rested with’ the lea’gut. ihe council did nothing in the matter; bu; ho move to u^set the. appointnienf was made by the league. The State, law doe> ifot provide for any real preference t( serviceinen, because it. a’ p plies only te State enterprises and such governmental uiidefjaiings as municipal and slim e&uncilsV the Ma’in Roaqls BoaW, the MetroppTitaji Water, ^ewerage . and ifra’inage Board, and the . Stetropolitai) Eire Brigade. The emphasis placed by honorable, senators’ opposite on the need to . grant preference to servicemen indicates that, in their view, there will be considerable unemployment- in tli’e p’bs’f-war years;’ otherwise there would be no need for preference.’ J; would appear that the Opposition wishes to have a’ considerable . army o: unemployed in this country. Hono’r.a’bhseriators) opposite ‘ bel’ieye that,, if theriwere a fairly considerable number . of.. unemployed waiting outside the gates o: factories the workers in such factories would be less Tiliely to’ seek, . iniprpveo industrial conditions. It would appeal, also, that honorable senators opposite desire an ofvp” ortiihity to ‘h/ike p. searchiri’jex’^inina’tioi.ij of the applicants” for . gooci jobs, in order tp ascertain “who is who ‘” among the soldier applicants’.
Sitting suspended, from 12.45to 2.15 p.m.
Sentitof SAMPSON (Tasmania) [2.15] - -Although some ..beat was, eugnijdcrco into tlie discussion this morning, I propose to address myself to this subjec: in”, a caTm and dispassionate nianije; Tfti-eent, his’tpi’y of (tl’i;is matter gojls bac$ t<March, 1943,. and for the benefit of thos! honorable senators who were not members o.f the Parliament at that . time,” I shall bri.cfly grave-rise it. .. The arheiidmcii” movqd. . by. ijena.tor Brand, and carried in. this cha.in!bei;’_ wa’sl transmitted td thi Ilonse, of . Representa.tiveis, . where after, ^ f.11,11^ discussion . )t,was agreed to on. the 31 s’t March” 1943. When the inat’tei’ was ‘brought up in that chamber on the 18th and 19th March the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin), in the course of his remarks, said -
The subject covers so wide a fieldThat the proper way to bring it before Parliament so that a decision can be obtained is by the submission of a bill. I undertake to introduce a bill for that purpose.
Answering an interjection as to when he proposed to bring down that bill, the Prime Minister said -
I hope to be able to introduce it during the next term of the Parliament.
The Prime Minister gave that promise on the 19th March, 1943, which is a long while ago. The Senate amendment which was inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and was approved by the House of Representatives on the 31st March. 1943, read as follows : -
Senate’s AmendmentNo.3. - After clause 42 insert the following new clause: - “ 42a. After section fifty-five of the Principal Act the following section is inserted in Part IV.:- 55a. - (1.) . Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of the Common wealth or of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth or in any award, order or determination of any industrial tribunal or of any industrial agreement, preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Common wealth, be given tope rsons who have been members of the Forces and have served outside Australia or iu any area prescribed as a combat area for the purposes of this Act and who are competent for the work required. (2.) All contracts entered into with the Commonwealth for the performance of works or services shall . be deemed to contain a clause whereby the contractor with the Commonwealth binds himself, under a . penalty of Fifty pounds in respect of each breach of the cla use, to grunt, in engaging employees for the purpose of executing the contract, preference to persons Specified in sub-section (1.) of this section. (3.) For the purposes of this suction, “ authority of the Commonwealth “ includes any commission, board or other body created by or under any la w of the Common wealth or Territory of the Commonwealth or which declared by the Governor-General by Proclamation to be an authority for the purposes of this section.’ “ .
Many of us have been disappointed that the bill which was promised by the Prime Minister such a long time ago, has not yet been introduced. As an observer, I attended the Federal Congress of the Returned’ Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s
Imperial League of Australia held at Hobart in November of last year, and much disappointment was expressed at that congress at this delay. Similar disappointment was expressed at the annual congress of the same body held at Adelaide this month. As anold digger of the last war. I have been barracking for the principle of preference to returned servicemen since my return from active service in 1919. Those who have been fighting for this principle have suffered many disappointments, not only at the hands of governments but also municipal authorities and private employers. Some public authorities and employers have given a fair deal to the returned man, but many have failed to do so. The problem is not, so simple as it might appear at first glance. It has many complex phases, but in the principle itself I believe absolutely. How much should the soldier expect in the way of preference? What about equal qualifications? There are many difficult aspects of the matter; but, as I have done on many previous occasions in this chamber, I again emphasize the point that the fighting soldier, during his period of service, sacrifices in the interests of his country the opportunities and. experience he would have gained had he continued in his civilian work for that period. For him, that loss is irrecoverable. After this war, as was the case after the last war, a young man who, perhaps, was a junior clerk at the date of his enlistment, will return from active service at an age when, with average luck, he should have risen in normal circumstances to be a senior clerk, cashier or accountant. In serving his country he sacrifices that opportunity to advance himself personally. As self-respecting and decent citizens we must do our utmost to recompense him for that sacrifice. But what is a fair thing to do for him - fair to him and fair to. the community as a whole? That is the crux of the matter. Because of their environment and the life they lead on active service very few men, when they return, can be said to be normal. The majority feel disillusioned and frustrated; and after having been out of touch with civil life for so long, they take time to re-establish themselves in the society of which they were civilian members before they went to the war. A political set-up under which trade unions hold the reins, as they do to-day, is tough on members of the fighting forces. The serviceman himself is prevented from forming a. union of any sort. God forbid that he should do so; because that would be the end of efficient military organization. As a member of the services, he cannot strike for better pay or improved conditions. But the servicemen as a class are doing much more for their country than any other section of the community. That is indisputable. But I am afraid that the man who, by virtue of his deeds and sacrifices, should have first preference in our society, is among the “also rans”. I have vivid recollections of what happened after the last war; and human nature, being what it. is, I am. afraid we may witness a repetition of such occurrences after this war. One Minister said that previous governments supported by honorable senators on this side rendered only Up service to the principle of preference. The expenditure of over £300,000,000 on repatriation, and the provision of 37,000 war service homes, cannot be dismissed as lip service to the principle of preference to returned men. Governments during the last 25 years have done much for returned soldiers. I sincerely hope that we shall do as much in that direction in the years to come. I trust that the Government will honour the promise given by the Prime Minister over eighteen months ago, and introduce the bill which he promised would be introduced. There has been a grave delay in the fulfilment of that promise. We do not demand that the returned man be given a job at the expense of some other man. Of course, that argument is often advanced; but it is utter nonsense. Our desire in this matter is to see that the thousands who enlisted as youths and who will return from active service as men shall be treated with the practical sympathy they deserve. We must help them in every way, because it will take all the sympathy and wisdom we possess to guarantee them a fair deal. I cannot understand how any citizen in this country could oppose tlie policy of preference to returned men. I again urge the
Government to honour the promise given by the Prime Minister, and introduce, at the earliest possible date, the measure about which we have heard such a lot during the last eighteen months.
– I can agree with much that Senator Sampson has said, because in the main he definitely supported the arguments advanced by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) that we should do something to help the incompetent. We as a party are definitely going to help the incompetent. We shall give to all those young people who have either never had an opportunity for a career, or whose career has been interrupted, a chance to fill a profitable niche in life, which will put them on an equal footing with their fellows. Senator Brand has charged the Government with total disregard- of the law, but he did not adduce any case which supported the charge. His indictment, therefore, would not stand in a court of law. Certainly the Leader of the Opposition (Senator MeLeay) did cite several cases, but they appeared to me to be more or less
Co. parte, and none of them had at any time been tested. Senator Brand had two golden opportunities to support the principle that he enunciated to-day. He had the first opportunity when he moved his amendment, as quoted by Senator Sampson, limiting the Government’ to the principle of preference only within government institutions or corporations over which the Government had power. He then included in his amendment that fatal phrase: “ and who are competent for the work required “. At that time, as members of the Opposition know well, senators on this side said that we were prepared to consider an amendment of the type then introduced if it were made wider in its application. For instance, if it included the merchant seaman, who is and has been engaged in probably the most hazardous and perilous task of anybody in the war; the air force personnel who, through some adverse circumstance over which they had no control, did not fly more than a mile and a. half out to sea. and therefore were not considered eligible, and also the
Allien Works’ Council nien who were in New Guinea. (Miga”ged iii perilous occ’up’a- <ion5, Or in Darwin, which, to r’riy regret, ha« never beciV counted as a combat . area. Xor did Senator Brand’s’ amendment include those soldiers, nurses and various oilier liieiii’bers of the Services who had to spend so much time in . Darwin, an area which, even at the time that the a’rhendinent was moved in this chamber, was undergoing a se’rios of blitzes and raids fr’diii the Japanese air force. The honorable senator missed an opportunity to help” his cause when lie rftuck rigidly lo His amendment- limiting’ preference’ to flic (Commonwealth I’nbli’r; Service and to undertakings’ ov-er which it’ h:fd’ control. Not only did’ ho mis? another opportunity of widening’ the ambit” Of federal control! but. ho also opposed it iii the1 referendum campaign. Had the’ proposals then put to the people’ been carried, the’ Government would hrfve’ been given poxver Over’ all enterprises. Federal; State and private.
– How; does” the honorable senator know that Senator Brand opposed the” refpr’e’n’duhV propo’salsT ,
-C know that he did nut support fheiiV. He missed- a- glorious’ opportunity then to’ prove Iris bona fide conV-ern for* returned’ servicemen’. I cannot accuse Him of having’ improper motive’s, but T have a ve’ry grave suspicion tha’t the honorable sbnalror or thos’e’ who prompted” this fn’oVe were actua’tecl’ primarily’ by’ a’ desire to emVarins’s the Government.
– Th’6’ ii’oiVdivibl’o’ sena tor’ is absolutely wrong;
– I say tha’t I have a suspicion’. I rera’hi that suspicion because th’p’ libn’oraule sena’tor’ ha’d two1 excellent5 opfi’drf unities’ to’ fm’flnbr’ his case, rtiid failed1 to fake advantage of either of. them’-. Tit all- the cire’uWtniiceV, I a’iii justified- fri’ s’u’spr’bring’ that the’ motion- Was’ infro-‘ diicpd as a’.pa’rty political move. We have lir-irrd’ in’ fins’ chamber within the last! few days accusation’s” of improper” political action. I remember* aJ certain- pronnneh’t. ci t i z’e’n* a nd- ni em b’er ‘ o f ‘F’a rl i am’en tl r’etiir hin’g! to AYrsTralia’ th¥ee or” four yeaVs-‘ ago. KveryTib’dy* Was u’a^tirig-‘for-‘ him* to1 make” a’ promised- ahnoiVnpb’irien’t, and- wh’eh hp landed* at TW6 Bay li’e’ delivereH an’ address. Talk of a mountain iii travail producing a mouse! I never heard anything so typical as the honorable gentleman’s speech. In three-quarters of an hour he impressed up’on. the general public only two point’s, the first being to beware of the Communist, and the second a n expression of regret oii his part that he llad had to conic back “ to take part in the diabolical gaiiio of politics”. I ; emc’inber many occasions on which “diabolical” could have beijh applied to political actions which have taken place since that speech was’ made, and they did not emanate from this side of the Seriate. Therefore. T throw back the imputation at. the gentleman^ who uttered if. T, as ti member of the.Labbur parry but speaking only for’ . myself, am opposed to a system o,f preference to returned servicemen. There is’ no equivocation a’bo’u’t tluit sfi/tcnieni’. I t caii be broadcast anywhere. The reason why . 1. am opposed to it is . bcWu’sW . 1 belong to a party . which is pledged- to give economic s’ec’urity’ to all. If we gSve’ economic s’c-ei’frity tn all there is no need for pVcfeVp’n’ce to any One.
– What about preference to unionists?
– Frefe’rcrfce to un’ionis’ts is pferha-ps^ in’ a1 different category. See’iiig that wagqs awa’rds haVe to be bought nSid paid for’ b’y trade unMonis’ts-, any in’rfn talking* a’dvantagc of or receiving’ benefits’ i’ron’i thenr must pay his lioWtribut’iqn i’o secure tlia’t result. Tha’t is’ why f believe iu preference I” li’h’ioi’iis’fs1. .
SenatorHerbertHays. - Preference t” one class!
– The soldier’ Wi6 is a’ unionist is’ o’f my class, an’d1 I Ivnow that’ m will eiVri’drsd* ptefeitmV to; unibn’ist’s. Talking o’f classes’,, I know of hvo” other powerful uifions winch* obtain preference, Whether we like it’ or not’. 1” refer to’ the liitw Institute ari:d!the’Bri’tis’h’ Medical5 Ass^cfation’. They are’ of’ a* different class. Where is’ tli’e . fairness o’f as tting’riia’t preference lie niWtVqiie’sec’tibii of thb commun’i’t.y’ -lrejV every’’ section i.’ giyin^iti’best’?’ AVc^d goingto p^naliyc’ the’ Voniig” lad who. when M** waiAecl to join tnie. f6rk=;Mviis’-‘SVp’veiVted’ frora,!rloW.r -8;.; ah<.lf put into soiWe useful ; %V-tfi’in’o’ o’<!f*np.’itibn, stlc’li’ afc making munitions
Many young men have been “ breaking their necks” to enlist, and have not ‘been allowed to do so. A few weeks ago I bad atalk with a young fellow who wanted to enlist in the Air Force. I told him that his duty was to engage in . making the implements which would make it possible for the armed forces to carry on the war efficiently. Only to-day I read an account of an American Minister making urgent appeals to manufacturers of munitions to step up production. The article added that 27 officers had been released for the purpose of bringing home to the munition workers the fact that in some operations munitions had been rationed., and the soldiers were not able to fight because they did not have the necessary materials. That is a very recent case. Theman, youth or girl who gives up the possibility of a career, or breaks a career, to help to secure a 100 per cent, war effort, is just as much entitled to consideration as the man who goes abroad and takes part in actual combat. So also is the youth whohas spent a lot of time in Darwin, eating his heart out because he wants to go on active service, although to-day heis not considered eligible -for membershipof the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and . Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. That league is inflicting -a great, injustice in calling men of that, type ineligible for membership. Any talk of preference which eliminates such men is not honest or just. Those who have ‘been specially selected, put into jobs and prevented from enlisting should not haveadverse treatment. How has preferenceoperated? I have told this story before, but I think I should repeat it now. I was in the position of introducingthe firstsection of relief wark an New South Wales Occasionally a job had become vacant, and onone such . occasion, knowing the various men who were obtaining relief through my depot, I selected , a young lad of seventeen to fillthe position.He caine back -an hour later.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s funichas lexpired.
SenatorLECKIE (Victoria)[2.46].- I compliment Senator Largeon Iris honesty. He has madeit.quiteclear that ho is not in favour of preference in employment to returned soldiers. It would appear from other speeches . made duringthis debate that all honorable senators . opposite : a-re of the same opinion. Certainly the Ministry does not favour preference to ex-servicemen.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– I base that statement upon the remarks of Ministers who have spoken to this motion, particularly the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), who presumably replied on behalf of . the Government.
– We claim that preference is not enough. We want more than that.
– The Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator Fraser) also said that he was not in favour of preference to returned . soldiers.
– No. I said that governments of which thehonorable senator wasa supporter gave only lip service . to returned men.
SenatorLECKIE.- The Minister for Aircraft Production said, “ The object is to have no discrimination. I claim for all men and women the same consideration “.
– Hear, hear! They should all have the right of employment.
– If . that means anything, it means that there will not be any preference to returned soldiers. Another speaker on the Government side aaid that whether a man was a returned soldier or not his job would be secure. That of course means the same thing.
– No. It means exactly the opposite
– I do not agree. The honorable senator said that the Government would iensure that even if ever the present Opposition . returned to the treasury bench, everybody would he in employment -because on the statute-book there would be an act providing that everybody shall have a job.What a wonderful thing it would be to have on our statute-book legislation providing that everybody shall have a job.
Dealing with the preference clause which was inserted by the Opposition in theamending repatriation legislation,
Senator Large said that the Government would have been quite willing to accept that amendment had provision been made in it for merchant .seamen. However, apparently all honorable senators opposite do not share that, view because several of them, including Ministers, said that the preference section in that legislation was not worth the paper on which it was printed, and did not go nearly far enough. The Opposition agrees that it does not go far enough. That is why we have been pressing for the introduction of the comprehensive measure which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) promised nearly two years ago would be brought down. In any case, is the preference section ‘ of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act such a small thing after all? It provides that ex-servicemen shall have preference in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, in government instrumentalities, and in work carried out under contract for the Commonwealth Government. That is not a very small thing; it is a substantially wide provision, and if the Government were in earnest in its professed desire to further the interests of exservicemen, it would have implemented that measure. But the Government has not implemented the law. The preference clause was inserted against the Government’s wish and in the face of its violent opposition. Apparently the only objection which the Minister for Aircraft Production could raise to that provision is that it specifies that appointees must be competent to do the work required of them.
– Yes, the employer will be the judge.
– Private employers are not involved, because the provision relates only to the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities. Therefore, it will be the Commonwealth which will be called upon to decide whether or not a man is competent to do a job.
– ‘Government contractors will have to make the same decision.
– The Commonwealth will be the real judge. Any man who is refused a job will have an appeal to the Commonwealth. Of course, there have not yet been any such appeals because the Government has not implemented the law. Honorable senators opposite should be honest about this matter.
– T am honest.
– Surely the Minister cannot expect us to believe that in view of his past performances. If he were honest he would say straight out, “ I do not believe in preference to returned soldiers”. Senator Large was the only one who was honest enough to proclaim for everyone to hear that he did not believe in preference to returned soldiers. True, some of the reasons which he gave for his belief were absurd, but I admire his courage. However, I do not have any admiration for Ministers who have failed to implement legislation passed by this Parliament, and have rejected the principle that ex-servicemen be recompensed for the dangers and hardships which they have undergone. Surely every man who has devoted some of the best years of his life- years in which normally he would be learning a. trade or profession and settling down to civilian life - is entitled at the very least, to preference in employment. I admit that the workers on the home front have done a great job, but to compare them with our fighting men is nonsense. Although many servicemen may not have given their mortal lives in battle, at least they have mortgaged their future. The home front worker has merely been carrying on with his normal job, and in most cases when the war ends he will be more thoroughly trained than he was before, because he will have had the advantage of extensive facilities for training, especially in the engineering and allied trades. In 99 cases out of 100, if he is not a far better artisan than he was before the war, it will be his own fault. The man who has been at the fighting front for four, five or six years will return lo civilian life older in years and experience, and less able to acquire knowledge and skill rapidly. We must ensure that his interests shall be safeguarded, if not by this Government, at least by the people of Australia. The first duty of citizens of this country is to the men who saved Australia.
– That duty was not performed in 1924, 1928, or at any time after the last war. .
– Every man who went out of Australia during the last war has cost the Commonwealth an average of. £1,000 in repatriation benefits to date. It may be that in some individual cases hardships have been suffered, due perhaps to harsh administration, but generally speaking, returned soldiers have not complained about their treatment. It may be that in some instances the interests of returned soldiers of the last war were prejudiced because this country was not equipped psychologically to deal with men whose outlook was affected merely because they had been to war; but by and large, the people of Australia have not ‘been unmindful of the sacrifices of their fighting men. The lesson of the last war is that rehabilitation of ex-service men and women is a. specialist’s job.
Uppermost in the minds of the people of this country is that their first duty is to the men who kept Australia safe; yet in this chamber to-day when the Opposition is seeking the introduction of legislation providing for preference to exservicemen, we arc told by honorable senators opposite, including the Government spokesman, on repatriation matters in this chamber, that they do not believe in preference to returned soldiers.
– Preference to all returned men ?
– The Minister’s contention was that all men. and women should have the same consideration.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I have listened with a great deal of attention to this debate, and I regret that the problem as to whether preference in employment should bc granted to exservice personnel has become a matter of party political barter. This matter should stand far and above the arguments that have been advanced to-day. I am astonished that this discussion has been introduced by Senator Brand, who welcomed me with open arms when I first entered the Senate because I was a returned soldier. He invited me to attend the meetings of the joint committee which had been established to look after the interests of returned soldiers, and I was happy to do so because I have their interests at heart as much as the honorable senator has. I should have thought that before any move was made in this Parliament to consider what was fair and equitable treatment of ex-service personnel, the matter would have been discussed by that committee which was appointed for the purpose. If any request was to be made it should have emanated from that body. I am more than surprised to find that it has originated from Senator Brand, in order to make party political capital out of the returned soldiers’ disabilities. I was pleased to see the public galleries filled to-day by men returned from the present war, many of whom are sick and disabled, but I should shudder to think that their attendance had been arranged for political purposes. That would have been a most contemptible action.
– It is a strange coincidence.
– Yes, and I leave it at that. While I arn a member of the Senate, I shall not discuss the claims of returned soldiers as a. matter of political barter. I hope that honorable senators will view the matter from a much broader aspect than that from which it has been discussed to-day. No matter what political party happens to be in office, the returned soldiers themselves will take steps to see that their interests are properly safeguarded. The unfulfilled promises made to ex-service personnel of the last war still remain vividly in the minds of the fathers of the soldiers who are fighting to-day, and I feel confident that the legion of broken promises will not be repeated after the conclusion of the present, war. The returned soldiers of the present, generation will see that their interests are protected more effectively than their fathers were capable of doing after the last war.
I regret that. Senator Brand, whose honour ranks high among returned soldiers, has stooped to introduce an industrial issue in a. discussion of this nature, by trying to draw a comparison between trade unionists and returned soldiers. If the Senate were discussing an industrial problem I could understand the matter being introduced. Whether action has been taken ‘because I happen -to be the secretary of one of the largest trade unions in the Gomni.on.wear.th I . do not know, hutls’ball not allow my ‘association with that -body to influence my mind in this debate. By far the ‘greater proportion of the men who sacrificed their lives in this and in the last war were members of trade unions. When the great majority of the servicemen return -from the . present Armageddon fhey will range themselves with the industrial movement, because the economic system of this country almost compels them to do so. In these days of collective uargain-ing for the industrial rights of our people, there are organizations of employers, and it is essential that the workers also should organize themselves. The rehabilitation in civil life of ex-service personnel is a much bigger problem to-day than it was in 19 14-18.
No honorable senator who has spoken on this motion has referred to the vast army of men who will not be qualified to call ‘themselves returned -soldiers. Those who served in the war of 1914-18 went overseas of their own free will, and when they came ‘back the great majority of them enjoyed a certain degree of prosperity for the first few years, font, before long, all the promises about security of employment were dishonoured because of the economic system under which we live. The larger proportion of servicemen to-day have not had an opportunity to go overseas, not because they desired to remain in Australia, but -because they were kept in this country for defence reasons. Will anybody say that -any members of the Militia or of the Women’s Army, who have been called upon to render national service, and have had to sacrifice their training, whether in industry, in the commercial world, or in the professional sphere, should be made to suffer hy reason of granting preference in employment -to service personnel who have been sent -overseas ? The (picstioH as -to what shall be done with all ex-service personnel goes far ‘beyond that of . preference in . employment. Preference presupposes tfhat there will be another calamitous period when a selection will have to be made of those to whom the a v-a liable job* -arc to be allotted. The pri.-iblewi irf much larger th-aw that, and
I should aiot like to think . that the . ‘Senate, in its deliberations as to the best way to rehabilitate ex-ser.vice personnel, would favour . -granting preference to those whohave served overseas.
There is another -army which is doingan important work in the winning of the war. I refer to those -who -are engaged in the production of the munitions of war. Is it suggested that they should be displaced in their employment for the purpose of -making way -for others whohave contributed to the war effort in another sphere? I say in all -sincerity that had it not been for the defeat . of Dhe referendum proposals, this -Government, would probably have implemented plans for the neabsorption into civil life of all ex-service personnel. When one examines what the Government has already done in providing for the repatriation -of exservice personnel one must admit that it is to ‘be highly commended upon its work. What lias ‘already been -achieved stands to t-he undying credit of the Labour party. As . Senator iLockie has said, surely we can profit by experience. This -‘Government has certainly avoided a repetition of mi-stakes of the past. Let us -glance for a moment at’the benefits already provided for ex-service personnel of the present war, as compared with those given after the last war. The remuneration of soldiers and their dependants is considerably greater now than in fhe war of 3914 to 391S. The present land settlement proposals are infinitely superior to She scheme implemented after the last war, because they provide greater safeguards than on the previous occasion. The vocational and professional training of ex-service personnel to enable them to be restored to civil occupations is more extensive in its scope now than- was the case After the last war. Already -many returned soldiers tire enjoying the repatriation benefits sponsored by . the present Government.
The Leader of the Opposition(Senator McLeay) made the astonishing statement that he wanted the Government to declare its -policy on the subject of preference in employment to ex-service personnel, “ all things being equal “. What a ridiculous request’! Ttlie ‘iiicliipiio.ii of . Dhose wiord? iM.’t’de it ian possible to apply the princioie irf preference” to ‘returned soldier-; after i lie last war,- because there cannot be’ any equality. Many of our soldiers- hive returned from the present war suffering disabilities such as malaria and other diseases. They may not, have been shot to pieces, but their disabilities are such that tlieir capacity for employment will never be eq’ual to* that of persons without war injuries or disabilities due to disease. I prefer” to retain- the preference provisions already ill the Coin.TnoiiWesfl.rli Public Service Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act than accept any p’rOposirls1 sik’I! a* fliat suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. The inclusion of the- words “‘all things b’eiu* equal “ gives a loop-holp of epcape for’ every piVrploy’C’r Vho dot’ noli wish 1” give work to a returned soldier. The1 preference is limited to the Commonwealth Public Service’ a’nd lo ein5loyii>Prt-f in connfxion with- cpiH’r’iVc’Rr let” Ivy” fife”. Gove ru’inen’t: I1 slva’ll c.vain’iiie the” position wiifh- rega’-rd’ to’ preference’ aud son how it operates iif practice’. Section 1:1-7 state–
Xolwi’fel’istan’ffinp: anything- coiila’i’ilcd iii’ n-iiy law of- tlio Gnmi’npn wealth”) or- of, any Stiito or IVrritory of tlie Commonwealth, or in’ any awa’rtT. order of” fKtci’ini’rtatioit of any iiufiiiiTriiVl tmbiiiVHT.-or of airy inYTnstriifl ttgf&nieiit, preference shall1, in thu appbintment of persons to the Public Sorvioo of tbc Commonwealth or to flio service of a’li authority’ of’ t’lu- Co….. loii’woa-lt1i;. be ft-iVcn to ilei’sdns’ wbM have I icon” member!? of blib” Forces’” . tiiH! lilivu served outside’ Australia, or in niiy area prescribed at a- combat’ area for tlie’ piirjVof.eS” of’ this’ act! lilifl w’hb art-‘ eom^Vdtfe’u’t foi’- tlio wiii’b rWpii’red.
The a’cf contains1 provision’s which ex-‘ elude1 tbousawds1 of men who have rendered’ lrViliHiVy service during- tltte war.
– The- honorable senator’s time lias- expired.
SenatorCOLLETT (Western Australia) [3.l6]. - If- it would’ not be regarded’ as an impertinence should- like to com-‘ pi intent- Senator Einlay on- being, one of 1’li’p l’ev honorable* senators” who have’, put ihi1’ cBSe’ for’ preference” to’ returned service-men before the. Senate” oil broad lilies: With- much that- lie said- amincliiipd to agree. As I hfcve’ expressedniV1 view-s oil” this subject on’ a- number of previous””’ oeTiff sittHSJ Tsha’ll’not’ db’-so’at’ leng’tli. to-day-:- Jn” saying; til at- l’ emphasize that L do nofr detract’- from’ anything that T have previously said1” on the” subject. If is a mutter for regret that whenever the” subject’ of preference to returned servicemen is discussed there ie” generated’ a’ considerable amount of I’.eitf whicli, in nVy opinion1, should be dissociated from a’ topic of this’ kind. The- questioii of tf-hat a country shall do’ to “reward its Saviours “ tuts” exercised the’ best min’ds in the community, arid if fc* reg>cf’fa’ible tha’t at aMy time it -“hou’-ld he made flic ground’ fo’r a pa-‘ri’y pOlific’a’l’ discussion. The object of flic mover of tlie motion was to’ expe’ditc a’ d<c’isiori in1 reg’a’r’d fo the’ ihfr’odife’taoii of legislation’ fo’ provide snclf- preference’.- i’ have no- doubt wliti’deVer rfs1 fo where I lie Piini’e’ Minister (Mir.- CuVtfti) s’trfnVI? in regard fo this matter’. Recently I’ attended a gathering in’ Perth’ wMion fli’c Prime’ Minister a’ddressefl an aud’iencc’ w’liic-Ii T: a’rii sure he appreciated. He nia’d’c tlie soft’ of speeeh th’af he likes- to in’ak’e’; ^ a’nd if was a good’ speech. He spolce of Au’st i^l ill’s contribution to the War; Ausini’liaV 5la!e’e’ as air infeg-ral part? of the British- Empire ; a’nd . iu’straiia’” t its” the custodian of the ifrnion’ Jack within! its’ own flag-. T-h’e. Prime Miirist’ei’s a’ddress- to’ flic’ Sfa’te’ Executive of flic RefiT-i-iied Sailor’s, Soldiers a’nd Airmen’s Imperial League o’f Australia. which1 was entertaining’ him on the 2-3rd Obtob’ei’,, 194’4^ is” reported in’ the *West Xustralii’ari Of tlie’ succeeding day as follows- -
There is no ambiguity a?bout; the right honorable gentleman’s st’itemeiit. In my 0]iini(Jri. the reasoii’ for’ th’e” delay in bringing- forward legislation providing for- preference- is1 of- political- origin. First;’ thVAusti-aiasia-n Cou’neil1 of Trade TJiiioiis’ lS’a’s defini’tely’ declarba’ itself ag-a-inst- preference to returned soldiers as not’ beingi. in’- the* national- interests,* andha’s _ called’ upon’ tile- Government’ to’ initiate’ at* ah” early date legislation’^ to confer preference on unionists.- The other cause is the difference among mem- bers of the Labour party on this subject. As I have said, the Prime Minister has declared himself in unambiguous terms, but the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) holds other views. Among my colleagues from Western Australia in this chamber are the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Eraser) and Senator Clothier, who, I know, are not opposed to preference to returned soldiers. But there are others who have not yet made themselves clear on this subject. Until the party and those influences which react upon it are reconciled there will be delay in introducing this legislation. Regarding the need for speed in dealing with this matter, I shall quote from the West Australian of Tuesday, the 28th November. Under the heading, “Preference; Ex-service Personnel; The R..S.L. Dissatisfied “, that newspaper states -
At a meeting of the State executive of the Returned Soldiers’ League preference to exservice men and women was mentioned in a report of the pensions and employment subcommittee. A number of appointments made or contemplated in the service of the Government and of public bodies . all seemed, to be against the returned soldier, it was stated.
After a long discussion in which all delegates expressed dissatisfaction and regret that the ex-service man appeared to be losing ground where jobs were concerned, the following resolutions were carried: -
In view of the fact that the State and Federal congresses have carried resolutions that the league press for direct representation on all committees which may be formed under which rehabilitation of ex-service men and women is concerned, this Western Australian branch now urges the federal office of the league to take immediate action, and further that similar representations be made to the State Government,
That the Premier be again asked to receive a deputation from the State executive, this deputation to urge that a preference bill be immediately drafted for presentation to the State Parliament,
That all appointments of trade instructors at technical schools under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme be submitted for ratification by the appropriate regional reconstructional training committee. It was pointed out that the Empire had fought for its existence and had only survived by the courage and endurance of the men and women whohad enlisted in its defence. No provision had been made to place these people in any better position than persons who had stayed at home.
I submit that there can be no comparison between the man who stays at home - regardless of how he works - and the man who goes abroad and offers his time and energy, and possibly his life also, without regard to overtime payment, in the service of his country. The article continues -
Delegates considered that the same preference . that was shown to the men of the First World War should be given to those who fought in the present conflict.
We want, not the same preference, but something better. I know that the Prime Minister is in earnest in this matter, and if the Government can improve on the existing legislation, it will earn my gratitude.
– The discussion on the motion before the Senate has been varied. The charge levelled against the Government was that it had not given effect to the law providing for preference in employment to discharged members of the fighting services. Honorable senators have talked all round the subject; the only specific charge was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), who said that in South Australia the law had not been observed. I communicated with the Minister for Munitions ( Mr. Makin), and he has supplied me with the following report: -
With reference to the honorable senator’s remarks concerning Mr. Buckingham, I am advised that following his appeal to the ManPower Appeals Board, his employment witli the Munitions Department was continued on his previous salary. The request to dispense with his services was first made to the manpower authorities because his position had become redundant. He was offered another position in the stores and transport branch, but did not avail himself of the offer.
With regard to the senior clerk, who was stated to have been demoted to the maintenance section, I understand he was unsatisfactory in the performance of his duties in his former position, and was consequently transferredto the maintenance section, and is still on the same rate of pay.
It is not possible to reply to the charge that a number of men have been retained in preference to returned soldiers, unless specific names can be given. I am assured that preference for any appointment is invariably given to returned men.
I might Mild that there is a standing committee, composed of members from the various Commonwealth departments and the Public Service Board, and it ensures that the rights of the returned man are fully safeguarded.
I understand that early this month, when the Minister for Munitions was visiting Adelaide, he answered a charge by the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber that the principal of preference to discharged servicemen was not being faithfully observed when retrenchments were necessary in munitions factories. The Minister then indicated that a. definite instruction had been issued that, other things being equal preference should he given to servicemen. The Minister invited the honorable senator to furnish him with the names of men who were affected, but although nearly a month has elapsed since then, nothing further was heard on the subject until to-day.
– The man’s case was sub judice, and had his name been given he would have been victimized.
– I was glad to hear the admission by honorable senators opposite that many problems are associated with the granting of preference to discharged servicemen. T agree that that is so. I do not blame past governments for their inaction in regard to this matter although they must accept their share of responsibility; but I point out that nonLabour governments were on the treasury bench for 23 out of the last 25 years, such period including two years of the present war, and that if the problems associated with preference following the war of 1914-18 were so great that those governments could not solve them, the problems associated with, the implementation of the principle of preference to discharged servicemen are tenfold more difficult to-day. We must consider not only the claims of the fighting men but also the claims of those who because of their industrial skill were compelled to serve in munitions factories, and were refused permission to enlist in the armed forces. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite would suggest that any discharged single serviceman should be given preference of employment over a married man with, a family who, because of his employment in war industries, was not permitted to enlist. I also point out that the only contribution to the war made by many men in uniform to-day has been to serve at bases in the capital cities, walking, or travelling by tram, to and from their offices. Many of those men have never slept one night away from home. Surely, it will not be suggested that those men, simply because they are in uniform, should be given preference of employment over members of the Civil Constructional Corps who have served in operational areas, and have been bombed, and exposed to risks almost equal to those taken by the fighting man. Should not those men enjoy equal preference with men in uniform who have spent the whole of their period of service at bases in capital cities and country towns?
– That is not a fair comparison.
– It is a matter of degree of service. Although no justification existed for the failure of previous governments to ensure actual preference to returned men. this Government is confronted with a. problem much more complex, and, therefore, can justify any delay that has occurred in the matter. The promise given by the Prime Minister that a. comprehensive measure will be introduced on this subject will be honoured. However, if is entirely wrong for honorable senators opposite to initiate debates on this matter simply for the purpose of party political propaganda. I recall the tactics to which they resorted in 1943 when the Government sought to liberalize the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, although governments which they supported during the preceding twenty years made no effort to improve the act along similar lines. Simply in order to embarrass the Government, Senator Brand submitted an amendment which he refused to withdraw in order to enable the Government to deal with the matter in a comprehensive measure. The hypocrisy of the Opposition in. the House of Representatives on that occasion is proved by the fact that they moved for an increase of 50 per cent, of the rate of pensions for disabled soldiers, when they knew that the amendment would not be carried.
Honorablesenators opposite bringup this subject and stoppages in the coalmines atevery opportunity presented to them to do so.But. for those ‘two matters they wouldbe at agreat disadvantage. I assurethe Senate that, preference to discharged servicemen will be considered by the Government at the appropriate time, and in the appropriate manner, if anticipate that the relevant measure will be introduced early next year, and I hope that when it is before Parliament members of all parties will -accept their responsibility in the matter. This problem., which bristles with difficulties, calls for the wisdom of not only the Government but of all parties in order to enable us to evolve a form of preference that will do justice not only to discharged servicemen but also all who have rendered service in the war effort, including those who were not permitted to enlist because of the urgency to utilize their skill in industry.
Motion (by Senator James McLach- lan) put - that the question he now put.
The Semite divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate interrupted tinder Standing Order 64.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon, notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture,upon notice -
SenatorFRASER. - The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers: -
Sena tor BRAND asked the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will the Minister consider the discharge of ex-prisoners- of war,who, on return to Australia, have been, classed medically as Class B?
SenatorFRASER. - B class men are capable of performing valuable work in many types of units and thereby making fitter men available as much-needed reinforcements for operational units. The term B class does not denote general unfitness, but merely that the member has a disability which restricts his employment to particular areas or particular duties. Repatriated prisoners of war, namely, prisoners sent back by the enemy on the decision of a mixed medical commission because of serious illness or serious wounds, will not be employed in any expeditionary forces or in any operational zone. They will not in any circumstances be posted to or proceed to the Northern Territory, New Guinea or any operational area outside Australia. For the reasons for which they were repatriated.; it will be appreciated that the great majority of this class are discharged from the Army on medical grounds on their return to Australia. The Prisoners of War Convention, 1929, places no restrictions on the further military employment of the following classes of personnel : - (1) Protected personnel, such as chaplains or medical or dental personnel who have . fallen into the hands of the enemy and have -been recovered in. any way; (2) escaped prisoners of war; (3) prisoners of war who have been freed by His” Majesty’s Forces or forces of any Allied or associated power.
These personnel, if they are medically fit for further service, are at present posted to duties and areas in. accordance with their medical, classification. In the case of the prisoners recently recovered from the torpedoed Japanese transport, a special exception was approved by War Cabinet on the grounds of the exceptionally harrowing experiences which they had suffered that these members are to be given the option of continuing to serve or- be discharged. The general question of the treatment of repatriated and other prisoners of war, on return to Australia, is at the present time under review by the Government.
Australian-New Zea-lan d Agreement 1944 - Warcrimes Commission.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
International Affairs - Statement by the Minister for External Affairs, dated 2Mb November, 1944. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator M cLea y ) a d j o ur n ed .
Australianm an Power.
Debate resumed from the 22nd November (vide page 1935) on motion by Senator Ash ley -
That the following paper be printed: - “ Review of the War and Australia’s War Effort - l5th November. 1944 - Ministerial Statement.”
– It is disappointing, I am sure, to all honorable senators that it has not been possible up to date to hold a secret meeting of senators and members of the House of Representatives to permit a discussion on a number of matters which have been brought to our notice, but cannot be debated in public.I still hope that the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) will be able to give members the opportunity to attend such a meeting before Parliament rises on this occasion, because a number of distinguished exsoldiers on both sides of this chamber would, I am sure, like to get some information from the Government, and put to Ministers certain questions which it is not advisable to ask in public. So far no reason has- been advanced for not holding a secret meeting, other than- the regrettable illness of the Prime Minister (Mr. Cur.tin). I. join with the Government in congratulating all our gallant Allies on their splendid performances since the last statement, on the war situation was made in this chamber. Whilst I have no desire to make invidious comparisons,
I think that I can say that we areall pleased with the repeated successes of our American Allies in the Philippines. I suggest to the Government that, in view ofthe altered situation and the fact that Great Britain will be sending conscripts to take part in the war in the SouthWest Pacific Area, where our American Allies are playing an important part, reconsideration should be given, even at this stage, to the desirability of establishing one Australian army, in order to help to solve the man-power problem. It is most regrettable that we have that division in our army organization which causes all sorts of complications so far as returned soldiers’ organizations are concerned, and so much ill feeling in many directions. Seeing that the Australian Labour party executive has approved a limited alteration of its traditional objection to service overseas, and having regard to what our Allies are doing, it is not too late even at this stage to remove what some regard as a dreadful stigma caused by two armies. If that could be done, it would help not only to bring about a better feeling amongst soldiers, and make things easier in the post-war period, but it wouldalso help considerably in the man-power problem. I have been approached from time to time, as I suppose have other honorable senators, with complaints from soldiers personally and soldiers’ relatives that a feeling exists that some of our volunteers are being asked to do more than their share. I cite the type of case that I brought before the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser). He kindly looked into the matter but was unable to get the military authorities to agree to release the soldier concerned, or even to give him compassionate leave during a period when his wife was most anxious that he should be at home. The man is a member of the 43rd South Australian Infantry Battalion. Of800 original members I think that 36 are left, of whom he happens to be one. He has fought in the Middle East and in New Guinea, and has not had any considerable leave. He had the misfortune to be wounded on three occasions, and yet. for some unknown reason we are unable to obtain for bini either compassionate or extended leave. I suggest to the Minister that in cases where fighting men have rendered service in combat areas for such long periods, amounting sometimes to three or four years, they are entitled to special leave. That request comes not from one soldier but from many, and I am sure that other honorable senators have had similar requests. I cannot understand why some men have been overworked, while at the same time we get letters and reports stating that others who have had extensive training for a period of years and are fighting fit and anxious to go farther afield, have not been asked to go into combat areas. That, however, is a matter for the Minister and the Army authorities, but the attitude of those responsible for refusing leave in cases such as I have quoted seems to be unduly harsh, dominated very largely by those who have not had as much active service as those for whom we are appealing. I hope that the Government will continue to give special attention to this question. It is deplorable, when we are fold of the thousands of Australians who are prisoners of war in Malaya and other parts, to feel that, now that the Americans are in the Philippines, our Australian militia cannot be taken either to the Philippines or to Singapore. They can serve in only a portion of the Netherlands East Indies, and it is obvious even to a layman that owing to restricted area in which they can serve that they will not be asked to do very much fighting in the future. I do not expect the Minister to state publicly what the work of the Australian troops will be in the future. If we are allowed to have a secret meeting before Parliament adjourns, I hope that he will be able to oblige us.
SenatorFraser. - It would be quite safe to say that they will be used.
– All I can say is that from reports coming through from America, and from quarters where conscripts are doing the real fighting, a number of people are becoming very restless as to what the Government intends to do.
SenatorFraser. - There are quite a number of arm-chair strategists.
– The Minister himself, judging by his speeches and actions, truly represents that type. In reading the statement on the war situation I feel that we must all be concerned about the dreadful condition of muddle which the Man Power department has reached. On the one hand we are told that there is a shortage here and a shortage there, and jet we have “go slowism “, absenteeism, strikes and deadwood in a number of the departments where orders have ceased to come in. It seems to me that in dealing with the manpower problem the various departments pass the buck from one to the other, with the result that the position is chaotic. In the rural industries the problem of food production is serious. The Government has diily-dallied for a period of years about releasing from the Army a number of men who could be spared to help in rural production. I know from reports that I have seen that men state that they have been idling their time away in Queensland for month after month, but are not allowed six month’s’ leave without pay to help their parents to produce butter and other essential foodstuffs. For some unknown reason it seems impossible for those responsible to get themselves out of the muddle: At one time it was suggested in Parliament that it would take ten months to release 45,000 men from the armed forces. With the continued drought and the shortage of foodstuffs, it is obvious that the food position will become more and more serious in the near future. The information contained in the paper tabled by the Postmaster-General has already been published in the press, and I shall reserve any further comments for the secret meeting which I hope will be held, if not within the next few days, then at the latest in February next. It is deplorable and depressing to find throughout the length tand breadth of Australia such a serious shortage of hospitals. Every day one reads in the press statements by responsible authorities that it is impossible to provide hospital accommodation for expectant mothers, sufferers from tuberculosis and other serious illnesses, and patients requiring urgent surgical attention. That is the position all over Australia. Although requests have been made by medical men to the man-power authorities over and over again, it seems to be impossible to impress upon them the urgency of this matter. A week ago it was reported in a newspaper that the chairman of a certain hospital had stated that there were thousands of urgent cases for which beds could not be found or, if beds were available, sufficient nursing staff could not be obtained. I trust that the position will not be allowed to become any worse In South Australia the Minister for Health stated that there were 51 beds ready to receive urgent cases of tuberculosis, but because the staff could not be procured the unfortunate patients could not be admitted to hospital.
SenatorFraser. - Does the honorable senator suggest that nurses should he released from military hospitals to undertake civilian nursing?
– The Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator Fraser) cannot shirk his responsibility in that way. A sufficient nursing staff to care for urgent cases must be provided at all costs. If the Government is not prepared to take action, and is quite content to allow rural ‘production to deteriorate and the present undesirable conditions in hospitals to become worse, the country soon will bc in a state of chaos. I am sure that the Minister will agree that there are hundreds of men and women on the head-quarters staffs of the various services, working in munitions factories, or stationed in various parts of the Commonwealth where their services are not urgently required, who could be released to take up this work. Wliy is the shortage of nurses so acute? One reason is that whilst, the Government apparently is prepared to go to any length to improve working conditions in munitions factories,, it is not willing to take similar action to improve the conditions of nurses who spend many years in training and engage in laborious work for many hours each day. The Government eventually will be forced to direct women to this important work, and to ensure that the remuneration of nurses shall be more comparable with that of women working in munitions factories and in other attractive avenues of employment. I make these suggestions because the position is becoming alarming.
.- Having beard ihe speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) I have the deepest- sympathy for the honorable senator. For a period which we on this side of the chamber regarded as far too long, honorable senators who now occupy the treasury bench were in opposition. It was believed by that Opposition as no doubt it is believed by the present one, that the duty of an Opposition is to oppose1; but I do believe that in the days when the Opposition in this chamber was composed of you, Mr. President, myself, and certain other distinguished members of the present Government party, whilst we certainly made our presence felt because we were the Opposition, usually we had a connected story to tell, and any criticism of the then Government which wc presumed to offer was always of a constructive character, although it may have been preceded by a measure of destructive argument. On most occasions, after telling the Government what an’ exceedingly unfortunate choice it was, we concluded our criticism by suggesting means whereby the Government could retrieve its character. This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition succeeded only iu demonstrating that he is in such a condition of mental indigestion that he is incapable of being anything but destructive. In fact he was not destructive in a methodical or orderly manner, because he began his speech by saying that whilst he had regrets about the general chaos prevailing in. this country at present, he was glad that the war was progressing so well, and he desired to pay a tribute to our gallant Allies, the Americans, for the wonderful job that they were doing. I do not know why the honorable senator selected only one of our gallant Allies for his commendation. ls not his mind constructive enough to appreciate that on the various battlefronts of this unfortunate struggle, we have numerous Allies, every one of which is rendering distinguished service? Obviously, it is not. No doubt the honorable senator singled out the Americans, because by so doing he was able to add that Australians should be doing a particular job, too. Surely we show some gratitude te the people of the United Kingdom - that wonderful country of which we are all proud; the heart of the Empire to which this country belongs - for having stood alone and kept the torch of liberty aflame, eventually to be handed on. And what about the Chinese people who were fighting the Japanese for many years before we over dreamed of entering the war, and whose distinguished representatives we have in this National Capital? Would it not have been gracious for. the honorable senator to have mentioned the people of that great country? Surely any honorable senator wilh a constructive mind can see the whole war picture without the assistance of the secret meeting with which the Leader of the Opposition apparently is so obsessed! One would have imagined that the honorable senator would have had something to say also about the wonderful job that our Russian allies are doing on a long battle front; but no, he merely talks because he is the Leader of the Opposition. It does not matter what he says or whether it assists public morale or contributes anything of value to the discussion, so long as he talks. I said before that I was sorry for the honorable senator. Now I am beginning to feel that I am even more sorry than I was when I began my speech.
– The honorable senator was sorry for himself yesterday.
– The Leader of the Opposition is entirely wrong in that as he is in every argument he raises. 1 was never happier in my life, or less fearful of the awful consequences that might await some people, but from which I knew I was entirely immune. Further, I was in a position in which I know the Leader of the Opposition will never be; I was satisfied about the righteousness of my conduct. If the Leader of the Opposition ever finds himself in that position, he will be as wrong then as he is now.
The Leader of the Opposition objects to the existence of two armies in this country, and wants to know why, in the interests of good tactics, we cannot amalgamate them. I remind the honorable senator that in this country there are also certain political armies. For instance, there is the army holding the high principles which we on this side of the chamber espouse; and then there is the other big -conglomeration of political nonentities which honorable senators opposite represent in this chamber. Recently, an attempt was made to make one army out of that conglomeration. The various factions decided that they could not wage effective warfare without unity, and so they devised a scheme whereby on the one hand there would be be great fighting army of Labour., and, on the other, the fighting army of those who opposed Labour. They had very serious heart searchings. In physical agony they journeyed all over Australia holding conferences here and there, and, finally, they decided to form one united army to fight the Labour army. They roped in battalions here and there, but when they reached’ Queensland they found that one section of their army was a little hostile. That section said, “ We are not going to have anything to do with the organization which you formed in Canberra, and we shall not be represented fit your military political head-quarters in Albury where the next conference is to be held “.
Instead of indulging in destructive criticism, the Leader of the Opposition might have attempted to say something which would lift up the morale of this country in view of the exceedingly dangerous time through which we are passing. He could have said, for insistance, “Mr. President, we are proud of the fact that Australian soldiers, airmen and sailors are fighting in every theatre of war”. But no; he tried to prove to the people of this country that we are a nation of poltroons, prepared to allow- other people to fight our battles. The Leader of the Opposition knows quite well - and this is where his political crime is committed - that no country engaged in this struggle has made a greater effort either on the fighting front or on the industrial front than this nation with its population of only 7,000,000 people. The Leader of the Opposition should use his privileged position here, not to deteriorate public morale at this critical stage of our history, but to lift public morale, so that when this Parliament adjourns to-morrow we could all go back to our respective States and electorates, and, proud of the country to which we belong, point to the
Leader of the Opposition in this chamber as we do to our illustrious leader who unfortunately has been temporarily laid aside, and say, “ This is the type of -man that Australia has produced. In the National Parliament, even the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate agrees that Australia is doing a mighty fine job”.
Let us examine something else which the honorable senator said : I was not here all the morning. I was away on a very important job, and I do not know why the Leader of the Opposition did not get all these things off his chest before I returned, because his speech has served only to give me an opportunity to talk when I did not intend doing so; but I feel obliged to say something to retrieve Australia’s fair name from the position of darkness into which the honorable senator endeavoured to plunge it. He had something to say about the position of ex-servicemen. The Postmaster-JGeneral (Senator Ashley) also mentioned that matter, and if the Leader of the Opposition had any finer feelings at all, after the dressing clown which the Minister gave him, he would have sunk into oblivion instead of endeavouring to re-assert himself in this manner. The Leader of the Opposition knows quite well that it is the policy of this Government to accord complete protection to ex-servicemen - and I emphasize the word “ complete “. We do not propose, if we can escape it, to have anything to do with the hybrid kind of preference for which governments formed by the parties now in opposition were responsible for a quarter of a century. We are out to give real preference to them, and I know no better form of preference than to organize the industrial economy of this country so that all exscrvice personnel and the rest of the community will not have to worry about preference again. We could bring about an economy which would guarantee ample employment for all for at least the next twenty years.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the necessity for leave for volunteers in the Australian Army. He said that our brave comrades are being overworked. That is true, and nobody knows better than the honorable senator that that is one of the exigencies of war that cannot be overcome. We cannot relieve the fighting services with physically unfit men. We know that base jobs have been man-powered, and that many of those who fill them have been selected because they are returned soldiers of the last war. We cannot relieve the industrial army, either, to the degree to which they are entitled, because we have not sufficient men capable of doing their work. Instead of the Leader of the Opposition recognizing the serious responsibilities devolving upon the Government and offering to help it all he can by useful advice, he suggests to the public that Ministers are merely poltroons who are indifferent to the sacrifices of the men and women in the fighting services, and are not prepared to tackle the problem seriously. That is unworthy of the honorable senator. He has slandered not only the Government, hut also i he people of this country who have given to the Labour party a. mandate to take over the administrative reins. He took iia on a veritable Cook’s conducted tour, and told us where Australian soldiers are not allowed to serve. He mentioned the Philippines and other places, but he knew perfectly well that Australian soldiers are already in some of the regions to which he referred. Then he said something which I think, in the quietness of his home, he will regret. He remarked that this differentiation was causing unpleasantness between the Militia and the Australian Imperial Force. On reflection, I think that he will not be proud of having made that statement, because it is untrue. The greatest comradeship prevails between the Militia and the Australian Imperial Force, the two sections of Australia’s fighting forces. Members of the Australian Imperial Force have repeatedly said that they have found true comrades in members of the Militia, men who are as capable, as brave and as heroic as any members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– Why have two armies?
– The honorable senator cannot escape my criticism by asking that question at the present stage.
Speeches of the kind to which we have listened do not raise the standard of ethics in this chamber. If we desire to make any contribution to the ultimate victory for which we all hope, we should be exceedingly careful of any criticism we offer of the fighting services. I agree with the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser), who interjected that the Leader of the Opposition did a disservice to the cause which he seeks to espouse. He said that the position at present is chaotic, but that is not a correct statement. Those who are charged with the responsibility of disposing of the fighting services in the various theatres of war have such a clear conception of the materials with which they have to deal, of the transport facilities available, and of the food and equipment which will be required, that there is no chaos and no conflict of opinion regarding it. On the contrary, General Mat-Arthur, for instance, has been able to say, with a remarkable degree of certainty, not only what shall be done, but also on what day he will bc with his forces at a particular place, and what their achievements will lie on that occasion. Whilst: it is wrong for an honorable senator to say something which is not in accord with the facts on such an important matter as this, it is doubly wrong for him to make statements which are the very opposite of the truth. He lias discovered a new form of ethics, and has suggested in an obscure manner that one section of the community is guilty of “ go-slowism “. There are many other “isms” such as Nazi-ism, a n ti.socialism, and, if I may complete the chamber of horrors, “McLeayism”. I trust that we shall find among members of the Opposition honorable senators who are capable of clear thinking, and able to raise the standard of debate so that the people will be proud of this National Parliament and of the part which Australia, as part of the great Commonwealth of Nations, is playing in the war effort.
Senator MATTNER (South Australia) ‘ 4.26]. - The circumstances which necessitated the election of a new senator in South Australia caused wide and deep regret, and I take this early opportunity to express my intense personal regret at the illness of my dear friend ex-Senator Oliver Uppill. Honorable senators will agree with me when I say that he is one of nature’s gentleman. The respect, esteem and affection in which he ia held by all sections of the community are well known. I regret exceedingly to have to inform honorable senators that his health is not improving.
Reviewing the war situation, it seems to me that there is at least one imperative objective, that is, to win the war as quickly as possible and with a minimum loss of life and resources. To prolong the war one hour longer than is necessary would be a national crime. I, like many others who have responsibilities, can perceive the growing sense of complacency with regard to the war situation, and, therefore, it is the duty of all legislators in this country to drive home again and again to our people the urgent necessity for an early and successful conclusion to the war. The ministerial statement reviews the war in both major theatres. Lt also covers at considerable length an analysis of Australia’s major problem to-day - that of man-power. I realize the -difficulty of the task that confronts the Government. As the executive authority of the nation, it is charged with the successful prosecution of Australia’s war -effort. Its energies, in addition to a strenuous concentration on the battlefront needs, must also be directed to the important function of supplying civilian needs. The Government must profit from experience, work for the present, and plan for the future. In the light of present-day knowledge and experience, some past decisions have been proved to be errors of judgment, but I believe that the responsible Ministers who made them believed them to be correct. Let us take from the past all that is sound, and continue to build on firm and reliable foundations. Mistakes must be regarded as danger signals. Recriminations never create; action is what is needed. The Government’s statement emphasizes that Australia is short of man-power, and therefore a searching investigation must be made in order to determine whether we can utilize to better advantage the manpower at our disposal. Broadly speaking, the chief allotments of man-power have been to primary industries, secondary industries and the fighting services. The greatest shortage of man-power exists in our primary industries; the Government acknowledges that that is so. Nevertheless, more must be done if we are successfully to produce even the bare essentials required from the land. The dairying industry, which is so vital to our national life, is in sore need of workers. My experience in this industry, and the experience of others, is that, even in normal times, men are not anxious to engage in dairying. That is understandable when we reflect that dairying is neither congenial nor profitable, whilst, unfortunately, there is too often an absence of the comforts which are enjoyed by people in other industries. The Government’s policy in relation to’ the production of munitions - I believe it is a sound policy - is that munitions are necessary, and therefore must be paid for on the basis of fair production costs. Food comes under the definition of munitions of war; hungry men cannot fight. The dairying industry will not attract workers because it involves drudgery for seven days a week. Even men accustomed to’ agricultural pursuits will nol engage in dairying if other agricultural work is available. I do not blame them, because in those other occupations they can start work on Monday morning and finish on Friday night, or, in some instances, Saturday morning. I speak from experience. Whilst I emphasize the vital- and urgent need of making manpower available for this section of primary industry, I realize that no one can be expected to engage in dairying under present conditions. Subsidies have been devised as a means of overcoming the difficulties, but that’ is only playing with the problem; at best, a subsidy is only a temporary palliative. The returns from dairying are below the fair costs of production. That statement applies to the returns from primary industries generally. I wish to refer briefly to what is set out on page 33 of Facts and Figures, No. 6, a publication issued by the Department of Information, because it reveals the serious state of the dairying industry. I repeat that, if the country desires more food to be produced, it must be prepared to pay at least fair production costs for it. The existence of a payable price would remove the need for a government aubsidy. A manufacturer in a secondary industry is not expected to sell his products at a loss. Why, therefore, should the man on the land be compelled to go cap in hand .to the Government ‘for a grant out of general revenue to tide ‘him over his difficulties? At a later date I may discuss other vital problems .associated with primary production and the difficulties under which primary producers gallantly attempt to carry on.
In referring co our secondary industries, I shall not attempt to cover all the problems associated with this aspect of our national life, but shall leave them to others more qualified to deal with them. Australia is in short supply of many requirements of varying importance. To-day many men and women are in their -first regular job for years, and naturally they wish to retain them, with their regular pay days and greater economic security. I pledge myself to do all in my power to ensure that for those willing to work means will be devised to provide real employment. I fear, however, -that some individuals desire to make their jobs last. That is because the future otherwise will be obscure. We need stimulation of our production, and, in my opinion, the essential requirement of that stimulation is that people shall know that real prosperity awaits them in the years following the war. We must provide that stimulation if we -are to achieve greater production and, therefore, I stress that every person in the community must be prepared to render adequate service for a fair return. How I wish -that that need to render service would bite into the physical and mental structure of every individual in this country! It may be appropriate at this stage to suggest that some equitable system of national savings now would be of great benefit in the post-war years. To-day we have money,- but few goods; to-morrow we may have goods, but little money.
T come now to the third direction in which a diversion of man-power would benefit the nation. To outsiders, the present Army set-up indicates a clear duplication of the functions of our commands. I make no apology for saying that “I believe strongly in one Australian Army indivisible in form and objective. During the present war my service in the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia forces gave me .ample opportunities to observe at first hand the wastage of manpower resulting from dual control. When it was my privilege to accompany about 5,000 Militiamen to Papua, I .was greatly disappointed ‘by what I regarded .as ;the error of judgment displayed by those in high places in sending lads between the. ages of 18 and 21 years to protect such a vital area. I pay tribute -to the excellent work performed by those Militia lads. I say, “Well done” to the men of the 39 th Victorian Battalion, the 49th Queensland Battalion, and 8th Field Ambulance of the 13th Field Brigade from South Australia. They did grand work in the early days of 1942, despite many difficulties. Many of them had been denied the right to join the Australian Imperial Force. At some future date I propose to say something regarding the callous disregard of their safety exhibited in certain official quarters. What I learned in Papua has burned deeply into my heart. As an old soldier o’f the 1st Australian Imperial Force, I repeat that these lads of the Militia are entitled to our highest -tributes for what -they did in the Port Moresby district and the surrounding areas in the early days of 1942. But. to me one Army -stands for unity, whereas a division of control tends to disunite what should be vital and essential features of our war machine. We boast of our great war effort, but it may not be as great as we have deceived, ourselves into believing. We should indeed be foolish to judge the nation’s efforts by the volume of money expended, or the number of men who had enlisted in the fighting services. Our war effort, in a primary sense at least, must be judged by the results attained. Thousands of people, including many men in the fighting forces, are asking what part Australia is playing in the w.ar. to-day. I should like to know from the Government the ratio of men in the services who can be described as belonging to com!batant units with battle experience -to the total number of enlistments. In my opinion, the percentage is not what it ought to be. Actual fighting contributions to victory will loom largely in the minds of those who will sit around the peace conference table and judge the war effort of the various nations. Vital decisions at the peace conference and subsequent conferences will go far beyond mere questions of geographical boundaries and freedom from fear and aggression. They will centre largely on questions of international economic security. Australia as a primary producing country must look to the other United Nations for generous treatment on overseas markets. During the brief period I have been a member of this chamber I find, when industry applies for the release of an essential man from the Army, the reply given by the Minister in nine cases out of ten is that the man is a trained soldier and cannot be released. That attitude provides an easy way out for the military authorities. It does not square with our knowledge of the disposition and activities of our fighting troops. How does the high command expect to replace casualties in future engagements if it has no reserves of trained personnel in the total enlisted forces of 600,000 men? That admission is a reflection upon army organization and training methods.
I now wish to deal with the subject of temporary rank in the Australian Army. Appointment to temporary rank gives enormous power to the CommanderinChief, who, incidentally, must approve every appointment beyond field rank. That system centralizes authority, and, obviously, must create bottle-necks and involve considerable waste of time. Efficiency should be the only test for promotion in a well-trained army; and a man who is worthy of holding temporary rank has complete claim to’ substantive rank. Should it be said that appointments to substantive rank in cases where only temporary appointment is now made, would exceed the war establishment, let us increase our war establishment in order to overcome this disadvantage. We have been led to believe that during the last two and a half years we have never had more than two brigades in the line at one time; and in the absence of definite information from the Government as to the part being played by our forces in the field, the general public is bound to draw conclusions from faulty premises; The oft-repeated departmental answer that for security reasons such information1 cannot be made available is merely a shield for inefficiency. If the Government does not regard with favour my suggestion that more man-power should be released from the armed Services, and we have no alternative but to accept the conclusion that Australia is short of man-power, then, in order to preserve this country, every one must work longer and give more service in the future than we give to-day. Australia demands that we make that sacrifice. That is the call - to save our country for ourselves and our children. Do we need a greater urge?
No one hates war more than I do ; but I believe that when actual hostilities cease we must establish and maintain universal military training of the youth of this country. We must disabuse our minds of the conception that the military training of the individual consists merely of elementary drill, turning right and left, and sloping arms. The future education of our men in uniform must play a more important part in their lives than has, unfortunately, been the case up to date. I believe that the school leaving age could be extended to eighteen or perhaps twenty years, and that during the last two years or so of a scholar’s education a certain period could be devoted to military training. The years of service in uniform are the most impressive years of youth. Therefore, we should pay particular attention to the moral training of our future soldiers. Too often we ignore our duty to ensure that our Army officers, in addition to their” military experience and qualifications, are men of high morals whom our boys can regard as models on which to fashion their lives. The Army should not be divorced from the decent ways of living. In the last war many of us may have done things in the exuberance of youth which called for admonition. I was admonished on those grounds, but when, in company with others, 1 was so reprimanded by senior officers, we could look up the line until we saw General Birdwood and the late General Sir John Monash and say to ourselves, “ You have the right to reprimand us in view of your own high moral worth and behaviour “. The high moral- standard of those men was reflected in- the Army which they led.
In those circumstances we had no cause to “ kick “. That ideal permeated the whole of the Australian armed forces. Our Army is a grand institution. My boys and your boys will be members of it, and I am sure that we wish our lads to be men of moral worth.
If Australia needs an incentive to push ahead and finish this war as quickly as possible, it is supplied in the story of our 8th Division, and also in the story told by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) of the treatment at the hands of the Japanese of the men who were recently rescued from the enemy. One of the rescued men is a particular friend of mine. I saw him grow up as a lad. To-day, he is a married man with a family; and he is a man of an excellent type. It was the things that he did not tell me about the trials of imprisonment that made me realize what the lads of the 3th Division are suffering. “What thrilled me most about his story was the very great regard which those men had for their leader, Major-General Bennett. I have no doubt now that he was with his troops both before and after hostilities ceased at Singapore. I was delighted to hear the high tribute payed by my friend to that gallant leader. The judgment of the Acting Prime Minister in revealing to the Australian people the horrid experiences suffered by those men has been questioned; but I believe that the right honorable gentleman displayed sound judgment and courage in telling the whole story. For us in Australia, with its panorama of peace, plenty and loveliness, it is hard to visualize the slaughter, horrors and strife of war. To me, Australia is the finest country in the world. “We have many problems to solve, and we are here to help to solve those problems, because as true Australians we have a desire to help our country achieve a high destiny. Let all of us feel that Australia is our country, and resolve that whatever else we may do, we shall not forget that Australia comes first.
– I congratulate Senator Mattner upon his maiden speech, the standard of which is evidence of the fact that South Australia returns able representatives to this Parliament. The honorable senator should play a prominant part- in future debates in this chamber, provided that he adheres to some of the principles which he has just enunciated. When, unfortunately for him, I was on the right hand side of the returning officer at the declaration of the poll after the last general elections, I commiserated with him upon his defeat. On that occasion I told him that I and my colleagues had no fault to find with the manner in which he had conducted his campaign, and that if every one had his just due he should be a member of the Australian Labour party. Some of the principles he has enunciated are embodied in Labour’s platform. Unfortunately, that cannot be said of some portions of his remarks. After enunciating very high principles which should be observed in the provision of social security, he said that action and not recrimination, was wanted in this Parliament. I agree with him on that point, but he added that despite the short period he has been a member of this chamber he was already beginning to view certain pronouncements by Ministers with suspicion,. I am sorry that the honorable senator is being contaminated in that way. For that I blame his colleagues. His implication that the Government was not acting was groundless, because the facts are that since this Government assumed office it has achieved an unprecedented record, for effectiveness in the prosecution of the war. It has done everything possible within its power to prosecute the war, and to co-operate with the other United Nations. It has mei every demand made upon it by the Allied Command. Therefore, bearing in mind our small population and limited resources, the Government cannot be accused of inaction. Senator Mattner committed the same blunder committed by the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot understand the reasoning of honorable senators opposite. They contend that more men should be released from the armed services, and complain when applications for release of individuals are refused, but in the same breath they criticize the Government because we have only two brigades engaged on active service, whereas we should have many more men engaged in the front line.
The men who make these statements do not examine the position properly. It is necessary to have proper co-operation or linking up between the civil services - by which I do not mean only the Public Service - and the war services, so that when a number of divisions are sent to the front, remembering that, as Senator Mattner said, food is the first munition of war, a proper balance must be preserved, so that sufficient food may be produced to feed them. At the same time other men must be available to provide them with other munitions of Avar. It stands to reason that the greater the volume of men sent to the fighting’ front, the fewer are left at home to produce the necessary food and munitions. We cannot drag men back from the fighting front to work on the home front, and keep them at the front also. We must do one thing or the other. It, is also forgotten by some honorable senators that we have allies who need food, and at the same time demand that a certain percentage of our forces shall be kept at the front. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) very properly rebuked the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for mentioning only one ally in his speech. The Leader of the Opposition also appears to have forgotten that the armed forces contain other arms of the fighting forces besides the infantry. [ pay tribute to the women in the forces, who are doing a magnificent job, better in many spheres than any man ever did. When honorable senators opposite talk about releasing men from the Army to do something else they must realize that the Government has utilized all the services at its disposal to the full extent of its ability. We cannot release men from the Army to engage in food production, and still think that we can keep them in the Army. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about a number of people walking about doing nothing, and in this he was supported by Senator Mattner, but they cannot know whether those people are idle or not. I was once walking along a street in company with an officer in army uniform, and a bystander made a remark about this man in uniform walking around when he should be at the front.
He did not know what he was talking about, because the officer had been to the front, and had been in hospital. He did not like the hospital uniform and wore his army uniform. As a matter of fact he was on his way back to the front again. I remember an incident that happened before the war. A driver went to a factory where he had to wait for a load. The proprietor of the factory asked him what he was doing, and he replied that he was just waiting about for some goods. The proprietor said, “We do not keep idlers here. Go and get your time “. He insisted on sending the man to the office, but naturally the clerk could not find the man’s name on the list of employees, and had to tell his employer that the man was not on their pay-roll. The Leader of the Opposition and others know nothing about what other people are doing, but they like to talk about them and find fault with them. After all, the Prime Minister and other Ministers have stated over and over again that the decision on military matters rests with the heads of the Army. The Leader of the Opposition must be one of those armchair critics referred to to-day by the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser).
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that I am an armchair critic?
– I was referring to the Leader of the Opposition, but Senator Mattner may come within that category, because he has left the Army, and may criticize things that he knows nothing about. He speaks with authority regarding the production of butter and cheese, because he has been associated with the industry. He compared secondary and primary industries. He said that manufacturers did not receive subsidies and asked why primary producers had to receive them. He suggested that those in secondary industries could get fair prices for their commodities, whereas primary producers could not obtain a fair return for theirs. Manufacturers, although they seldom receive cash subsidies, are given a great deal of protection by means of concessions and tariffs, which enable them to charge higher prices for their produce. In some instances secondary industries receive direct bonuses and subsidies as well. The manufacturers have succeeded, because they have organized systematically and much more perfectly than any trade union has ever done. The chambers of commerce and manufactures throughout the States are so interlocked that they send indentical letters to every member of Parliament. Recently every honorable senator has received a copy of a resolution protesting against some nebulous form of banking control which the Government proposes to institute. These people have from time to time taken part in politics, and have put into this and other Parliaments representatives who have become controlling factors. Instead of working for straight out subsidies such as the primary producers get, they manage things in a nice “ snide “ fashion, which nobody knows anything about and which results in some advantage to secondary industries. That has been going on for years, particularly among those associated with the party opposite. “We are now told that the subsidy paid to the primary producers is not the way out of the difficulty. Nobody on this side ever claimed that it was the final way. We believe that the proper way out is the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The subsidies are only one temporary method of lifting the primary producers to a higher standard than they have ever reached before. Senator Mattner and all other primary producers, particularly of butter and cheese, know that they are getting more to-day than ever before for their produce. The return obtained by dairy-farmers for milk delivered at cheese and butter factories is 4d. a gallon higher to-day than it was in 1938. Also, suppliers of bulk milk to cities and towns are receiving 6d. a gallon more to-day than the rate ruling in 193S.
– Producers are receiving11d. a gallon for bulk milk supplied to the city of Adelaide with a 4.4 per cent. test. In 1919 butter was 2s. 6d. per lb.
– I am speaking of 1938 ; but now that the honorable senator has mentioned the year 1919, I recall that at that time the price of chaff went up to approximately £22 a ton in the district in which I live. The honorable senator cannot have it both ways. He claims that growers are not getting a sufficient return for their products; but dairy-farmers are now charged £9 a ton for bagged chaff and £7 a ton for bagged oats. What I am endeavouring to establish is that in the pre-war years, producers of milk, butter and cheese were getting a considerably smaller return than they are to-day. In fact, their return to-day is greater than it has ever been. In the south-eastern district of South Australia, on the 15 th and 30th of each month, one can see the farmers coming into town for their butter and cheese cheques, and these cheques are more substantial than they have ever been in the history of the Mount Gambier district. The payment of subsidies is not the final solution of the problem. Under the Labour Government primary producers are now being assisted by this means more than ever before. Senator Herbert Hays apparently agrees with what has been done by this Government to assist primary producers.
Senator Mattner referred also to the military training of school children under certain conditions. I think that honorable senators know my attitude towards that matter. I believe that if living conditions in this country weresuch that social security would be guaranteed to every member of the community, there would not be any need for conscription or compulsory military training. I do not believe in teaching militarism to school children in the Fascist style. That is quite wrong, and may lead to the setting up of a military dictatorship in this country. I agree that there is a need for a standing army in Australia, and I believe that if our social conditions are such that full employment was available to every man or woman who sought it there would be no difficulty in obtaining a voluntary standing army, and that would be much more efficient than a conscripted one.
Speaking of the moral standard of army officers, Senator Mattner conveyed an impression which I am sure he did not intend. The honorable senator claimed that because of the moral worth of men like the late General Sir John Monash and Field Marshal Lord Birdwood, they were entiteld to admonish offenders, hut he ignored entirely officers of this war, and therefore unintentionally, I am sure, cast aspersions upon their moral integrity.
– No. Senator Mattner was speaking of his personal experiences in the last war.
– Of course he was, but he specifically mentioned General Sir John Monash and Field Marshal Lord Birdwood, and claimed that in future all officers should have moral training. But we are at war. “What is wrong with the officers fighting in this conflict? Is their moral worth not just as great as that of the officers of the last war to whom he referred? The distinction is invidious. If the honorable senator considers that officers of this war are not moral, then let him say so. It is unfair to reflect upon present army officers in that way.
– The honorable senator is doing Senator Mattner an injustice.
– I trust that I have done Senator Mattner a service by drawing attention to the construction which maybe placed upon his remarks. The deterioration of a nation’s moral standards in war-time is a serious matter. To-day, attention is being directed to this problem by leading churchmen and others who are seeking a solution of the problem. A similar state of affairs existed during the last war and every other war.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney/) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Fraser) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the measure is to ratify an agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and Tasmania to establish the aluminium ingot industry in Australia. That industry is essential to future defence requirements, and it would be folly for a country isolated as Australia is to neglect to establish it. The bill provides for the setting up of theAustralian Aluminium Production Commission. The commission is to consist of” four members, two representing the Commonwealth, one of whom will be chairman, and two representing Tasmania,, one of whom will be vice-chairman. Mr, A. V. Smith, secretary to the Department of Supply and Shipping, who will be chairman, and Dr. I. W. Wark, Chief of the Division of Industrial Chemistry, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, are to be the Commonwealth representatives, and Mr. L. R. Benjamin, general superintendent of Australian Newsprint Mills Proprietary Limited, of Tasmania, and Mr. W. H. Williams, Director of Mines in Tasmania, are to be the Tasmanian representatives. Mr. A. C. Smith, of the Department of Supply and Shipping, is to be secretary to the commission.
The bill provides for the appropriation of £1,500,000 by the Commonwealth, with a contribution by the Government of Tasmania on a £1 for £1 basis towards the cost of establishing the industry, the total cost of which is estimated at £3,000,000. The estimate is based upon the best available information from overseas, but the eventual cost may be more than £3,000,000, because unpredictable factors may operate. The commission cannot, without approval . of the Minister administering the act, undertake any single project involving an expenditure of more than £50,000. Before giving approval for greater expenditure the Minister must consult the Premier of Tasmania, and take his views into consideration. Subject to that limitation, and to any direction which may be given by the Minister, the technical and commercial management of the enterprise will be entirely in the hands of the commission.
It is provided that the commission shall not be in any way concerned in, or act in concert with, any commercial trust or combine, but shall always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking.
That is an important feature of the agreement. The commission has wide scope for its activities. It has power to acquire land, buildings, plant and equipment, and to obtain supplies of electricity, bauxite, alumina and other materials. It has power to encourage and assist the production and manufacture in the Commonwealth or its territories of all materials required for the production of ingot aluminium. It has power to determine the processes to be employed for the production of ingot aluminium, to arrange for the construction and maintenance of works, and to conduct scientific research, which is an important provision. It may engage such experts and appoint such officers and staff as it thinks necessary. It may dispose of ingot aluminium and other products and property of the commission, and may enter into contracts and agreements, and do such other acts necessary for the performance of its functions as shall bt approved by the Commonwealth and the State.
The commission is to debit its accounts with interest on the amounts appropriated or contributed by the Commonwealth and the State. The rate shall be as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth may determine from time to time. Any profits not required for the development of the undertaking shall be used, first, in equal payments to the Commonwealth and the State of interest owing or accrued, and, secondly, the profits will be used in equal repayment of the capital sums appropriated or contributed by the Commonwealth and the State.
The Commonwealth Government has made preliminary inquiries overseas about plant, and there are prospects of obtaining either a 5,000-ton or 10,000-ton plant for the smeltery, which is to be established in Tasmania. Power for the smeltery will be made available through the Tasmanian Government’s hydro-electric scheme, which is to be expanded to ensure that all power requirements are provided at reasonable cost, and at a cost comparable with that for power at the large aluminium smelters overseas. Every ton of ingot aluminium produced requires 4 horsepower electric power. . Therefore a unit for the production of 10,000 ton? of ingot aluminium per annum would require 40,000 horse-power. Nowhere else in Australia is there sufficient electric power available for this purpose ai present, nor could it be supplied at anything like the price at which it would be available in Tasmania.
No decision has been made yet as to where the alumina factory is to be established. That will depend entirely upon economic and technical factors. Australia is fortunate in having large supplies of good-quality bauxite. Aluminium ingot is produced from alumina, which in its turn is obtained from alumina-bearing materials, the chief of which is bauxite. The great aluminium plants in North America have to draw their bauxite from distant places such as Dutch Guiana.
The best Australian deposits oi bauxite so far discovered are in the Boolarra-Mirboo district of Victoria. Deposits also exist in the Ouse Valley in Tasmania, in the Emmaville-Inverell and the Bundanoon-Marulan-Crookwel) districts of New South Wales, and in the Darling Range about 30 miles from Perth in Western Australia. In addition, there are large supplies of alunite al Lake Campion in Western Australia. Experiments are being carried out by the Western Australian Government, in cooperation with the Commonwealth, to determine whether satisfactory alumina can be produced at reasonable cost from the Lake Campion alunite. Western Australia already has a potash industry using alunite as the source material. It is to these alunite residues that attention is being given. The Commonwealth Copper and Bauxite Committee carried out a comprehensive survey of the bauxite resources of Australia. It is due to the efforts of that committee that we possess such a complete knowledge of the bauxite resources of this country. Certain preliminary steps towards the establishment of the industry have already been taken. Members of the commission to be appointed held their first meeting at Hobart on the 19th April last, following immediately upon the signing of the agreement between the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) on behalf of the Commonwealth and the Premier of Tasmania on behalf of the State, and they have collected much valuable technical and other data. This hill represents the culmination of investigations and endeavours extending over the last four years. The industry would have been established already had it been possible to obtain plant and equipment; but despite the most exhaustive inquiries and efforts in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom, it was impossible, owing to war demands, to see any prospect of obtaining plant before now.
A detailed survey has been made of Australian requirements of aluminium in the post-war period. This survey has indicated a minimum consumption of 8,000 tons per annum, but this may be increased during the time required to construct and bring the plant into full production. Estimates which have been made show that Australian labour costs should compare favorably with those overseas. It is estimated that approximately 800 men will be required for operational purposes, and approximately the same number for constructional work. These estimates are based on a 10,000-ton plant.
Australia must preserve its aircraft production industries after the war, and these industries will require a considerable quantity of aluminium. High strength alloys will also be in demand for a wide range of munitions and other essential governmental requirements. The Government, therefore, as I have indicated, considers this industry absolutely vital to the welfare of the country. The agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Tasmania also marks a further step, towards establishing industries in one of the smaller States where manufacturing has not been developed to the same degree as in the more populous States. The agreement is another illustration of the Commonwealth Government’s policy of decentralizing industry wherever and whenever possible.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
.- I confess that I am at a considerable disadvantage in discussing this bill. Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber when the Minister made his second-reading speech, and a copy of the bill has been in my hands only long enough to enable me to glance through it. Ordinarily, when a bill of this kind is presented to the Senate, honorable senators are provided with an opportunity to study it at least overnight.
– An agreement waa entered into with the Leader of the Opposition regarding the discussion of the bill.
– That may be, but it does not alter the fact that in discussing it I am at a disadvantage. Once again the Senate is being made the “whip boy” of the House of Representatives. Instead of the Senate exercising its right to have the fullest information, we in this chamber are expected to proceed immediately with the discussion of a bill involving the expenditure primarily of £1,500,000 by the Commonwealth and a similar sum-by the Tasmanian Government on the basis of information supplied only about an hour ago. The Senate is just as important in the legislative life of the Commonwealth as is the House of Representatives, and honorable senators should he able to have before them all the information that is available to Ministers before they are expected to discuss any matter of importance. I do not know what arrangement was made by my leader, as I was not here at the time. Notwithstanding the disadvantage from which I suffer through lack of opportunity to study the bill, I shall endeavour to deal with its general principles. 1 have not had an opportunity to read the voluminous reports which were made available only an hour or two ago. Such treatment of honorable senators is unfair; we should have sufficient . time to study the measure to enable us to discuss it intelligently. As the bill relates to the first example of a government manufacturing concern, let us see how far it conforms with recognized business principles, or whether it resembles a gift from “ a rich uncle in Fiji “ or a “ gold brick “ from some other place. It reminds me of the South Sea Bubble. If a prospectus containing only the meagre information that we have in connexion with this bill were issued, no investor would think of investing in the project.
– The law would not allow such a prospectus to be circulated.
– That is so; the law insists that certain information shall be given to prospective investors. That has not been done in this case. The only information that is supplied is that the taxpayers will have to provide a certain sum of money. There is no information about methods of manufacture, or costs, or whether the enterprise will be capable of competing against bigger concerns in other countries.
– Countries in which there is cheap labour.
– The chief sources Of aluminium goods are the United States of America and Canada, where there is no cheap labour. The interjection by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) can only have been made in an attempt to deceive the Senate. The Minister assumes that I have no knowledge of these things, but I am not so ignorant as he thinks.
– The honorable senator is concerned only with profits.
SenatorLECKIE. - There has been no attempt by the Government to estimate the quantity of aluminium that will be used in Australia in the future; nor have honorable senators been supplied with information as to the quantity of aluminium used hitherto. No attempt has been made to show that any surplus aluminium will find a market outside Australia at prices which will enable it to compete with the product of bigger concerns in other countries. It would appear that Australia’s produc- tion of aluminium will be dependent upon internal consumption, and not on overseas markets, and therefore we should be told what quantity of aluminium was used in Australia before the war, how much is now being used, and what the consumption of this material is likely to be after the war. If our only market is the local market, it would appear that the Australian aluminium industry will have to be highly protected in order to compete with outside supplies. That may mean high costs for articles made of aluminium such as kitchen utensils, &c. The bill opens up great possibilities. It means that the Government is about to establish in Australia a monopoly in regard to aluminium supplies and articles made of aluminium. I fear that the result will be the imposition of high import duties, or the total prohibition of the importation of articles made of aluminium. The Go-, vernment proposes to establish an industry capable of producing 10,000 tons of aluminium ingots a year. Before the war our imports of ingot and sheet aluminium amounted to about 1,500 tons a year. If Australia is to produce between 6,000 and 10,000 tons of aluminium a year, the Government ought to be able to tell us in what way that material will be utilized. It is not sufficient for the Minister to say, as he did say in his second-reading speech, that aluminium is necessary for defence purposes, because the proposed factory is not likely to be completed for three years.
– Does the honorable senator think that defence will not have to be provided for after another three years?
– We have reason to hope that the present war will be over in less than three years, and, therefore, it cannot be said that this industry is necessary in the interests of Australia’s war effort. It is true that during 1939, 1940 and 1941 the Ministry of which I was a member faced a great scarcity of aluminium. I was Minister for Aircraft Production at that time, and I know of the difficulties that the government of the day experienced in getting supplies of this material. In order to meet our requirements we had to set up a big rolling and extrusion plant in Sydney. We experienced great difficulty in importing ingots of aluminium, and we foresaw the possibility of not getting any supplies at all. Accordingly, the Government decided that it was necessary to establish the aluminium industry in this country for war purposes, and an announcement to that effect was made by the then Minister for Supply (Senator McBride). I believe that his decision, and that of the Cabinet, was wise at that time, because no one could foresee what would confront us. But, to-day, circumstances have altered completely. Aluminium production has gone ahead with great strides overseas, and there are now surplus stocks in the United States of America and Canada. Australia can get as much aluminium from those countries as it is likely to require. This proposal first arose in 1941, but since that time the war has forced ahead production and many big plants have sprung up overseas. Today there is a world surplus.
– That surplus seems to have been discovered only since Australia contemplated establishing this industry.
– Surely, the Post- m aster-General (Senator Ashley) does not expect us to believe a statement of that kind. Does he mean to say that the big factories overseas, which are producing hundreds of thousands of tons, would be so concerned with Australia’s requirements of from 2000 to 3000 tons annually that they would anxiously build up surpluses in order to . render this venture unnecessary? Although in 1941, when we were absolutely starving for aluminium, the proposal to 3et up this industry regardless of cost seemed quite proper, the proposition is entirely different to-day. Yet this Government proposes to go ahead with it caring nothing, apparently, about the cost, or whether the industry will be economical,
Or how, in fact, the industry will be operated. The Government is concerned solely with the point that the geographical situation of the industry will be acceptable to certain sections of the community. The Government affects to tell Us that the industry will be a purely Australian industry, because the commission which will be placed in control of it is forbidden to enter into any association with any combine or company overseas. The commission is forbidden to have any dealings with any overseas concern. Yet, cryolite which is obtained from Greenland, and which is essential in the making of alumina blocks, is controlled by the Aluminum Company of America known as Amcoa which is one of the biggest combines in the world. “We shall be obliged to import our requirements of that material unless we are able to find a substitute catalyst. I am informed that 1000 tons of cryolite are required for the manufacture of 2000 tons of aluminium. Vast quantities of other materials also, such as carbon, which is not produced in Australia, are essential in the manufacture of aluminium. Therefore, the Government cannot get away from the fact that the industry will have to import large quantities of essential materials. Consequently, its claim that this will be a truly Australian industry cannot be substantiated. Although, the bill purports to forbid the commission from having anything to do with overseas concerns, the fact remains that supplies of cryolite are entirely controlled by one of the biggest combines. Unless we can invent, or discover, a substitute to take the place of that material we shall be dependent upon overseas combines in respect of not only essential materials but also market prices of the product.
– “We are producing synthetic cryolite in Australia.
– That is not so. We may be able to do so, but so far we are not producing synthetic cryolite ; and the Government knew nothing about that possibility until two days ago. It got the surprise of its life when it learned that it would be possible to produce synthetic cryolite in this country; but, it still does not know how, or at what cost, it can be produced. This proposition bears all signs of a hasty conception. It has no merit whatever, and if it is the first example of the Government’s attempt to produce a commercial commodity, all I can say is that Australia is in for a bad time. Like the explanation given by the Minister in charge of the measure, the bill itself is delightfully vague. It appears that the Commonwealth will provide £1,500.000, and Tasmania will provide an equal sum. In addition, Tasmania is to provide sufficient electricity to meet the requirements of the industry. I do not know how Tasmania expects to benefit from the venture. It is true that the commission will pay so much for the electricity supplied by the Tasmanian Government, but, strange to say, the price at which it will sell electricity to the commission must be satisfactory to the commission. Therefore, on the whole, Tasmania will have to provide about £3,000,000. The Commonwealth cannot afford to embark on a “wild cat” scheme of this kind without obtaining reliable estimates of costs of production and market possibilities. Those are the first two considerations in any business proposition. The bill itself reveals evidence of haste. Clause 6 provides -
1 ) The Commission shall consist of -
Commonwealth, one of whom shall be the Chairman; and
I understand from the Minister’s speech that those commissioners have already been appointed. Judging from their names, none of them has been connected, or has been even indirectly connected, with large manufacturing concerns. That is a vital handicap.
Sub-clauses 2, 6 and 9 read -
The members of the Commission shall be appointed -by the Governor-General, those members representative of the State of Tasmania being nominated by the Governor in Council of the State.
In the absence of the Chairman from any meeting, the Vice-Chairman shall preside, and in the absence of both the Chairman and ViceChairman from any meeting, the members present may elect one of their number to preside.
At any meeting of the Commission, three members shall form a quorum.
Those sub-clauses are remarkable. The commission is to consist of four members, and three members shall form a quorum; but provision is made that in the absence of both the chairman and vicechairman, the members present may elect one of their number to preside. Obviously, if both the chairman and vice-chairman be absent, only two members will be present, whereas three shall form a quorum. The schedule constitutes one of the best pieces of optimism I have read for many years. Paragraph 3h provides that -
Any profits derived from the operations of the Commission shall be applied firstly in payment to the Commonwealth and the State in equal proportions of the interest debited in accordance with the last preceding paragraph . .
A peculiar feature of the proposition is ‘that although the Government proposes to establish the industry without taking any notice of business principles, it expects to make a profit. I should like to be told how the commission expects to make a profit? It can only do so by having a monopoly and charging a ridiculously high price for its product. If that is done, the present prices of the articles manufactured from aluminium, which include saucepans, and other household utensils, will be doubled or trebled. The Minister has not even told us the price of aluminium ingots before the war, or at present, and he gave no estimate of the world price of aluminium ingots in the post-war period. One would have thought that the Government would have investigated all those matters most thoroughly before embarking upon a proposition of this kind. Every item of the production and marketing costs deserves to be laid bare before the Commonwealth is committed to the initial expenditure of £1,500.000. This is only a first instalment. In enterprises of this kind, up to the present, all estimates have been found woefully below the eventual cost. I was told to-day, in answer to a question, that the cost of constructing 9,000- ton ships was considerably over £500,000 each, whereas the price for similar ships before the war was about £100,000 each. If the production of aluminium is to be on a similar basis, we should be told plainly what the price of the product is to be. In this proposition we, as senators, represent the investing public. It is our duty to go carefully into the whole of the circumstances of the case. All the facts should be disclosed to us, as members of Parliament and custodians of the money of the people, and the people themselves should be put in a position to estimate whether it is worth spending this large amount of money for this purpose. I should probably be accused of being a traitor to the secondary industries of Australia because, being a manufacturer, I am looked upon in this chamber as being their guardian, but I do not think that that has been either my aim or my object since I came into the Senate.
Iwas born in the country and I think my heart is still there, although I have settled down in a city. This is a proposition hastily conceived, and in an endeavour to gain the sympathy of the people, the article to be produced is described as a war product.
– The honorable senator was a member of the Government which gave the project its blessing.
– I have said so, and explained why. The reasons which seemed to make it necessary at that time do not obtain to-day to anything like the same degree. There was then a scarcity of aluminium ingots in Australia. They could not be bought and ships were not available to bring them here if they could have been purchased. Circumstances have entirely altered. Aluminium can be bought freely and the shipping is available, so that there is no need to hurry with this proposition. It should be investigated by an impartial and entirely disinterested tribunal, so that we may learn the facts of the case. I cannot understand why the proposal made in the House of Representatives to refer the bill to the Tariff Board for investigation was negatived. The Tariff Board is trusted by all sections of the community. It has done a really good job since itwas set up, both for the people and for the industries of Australia, lt has a specialized knowledge of most manufacturing industries, gained during years of investigation. The only reason why the Government will not hand the matter over to the Tariff Board for investigation and report is because it is afraid that an independent inquiry would show the proposition to be hopeless commercially. If the Government is not afraid of that, it should immediately comply with the request. In the circumstances the proposal is “fishy”. In all manufacturing concerns the raw material, if heavy, should be as near as possible to the manufacturing unit. No one can deny that bauxite is a heavy material. It is also a fact that the deposits in Gippsland are the best of their kind in Australia, and show the highest percentage of the essential alumina, probably 50 to 70 per cent, and averaging as much as 66 per cent., whereas the percentage of the Tasmanian deposits is probably somewhere in the vicinity of 40 per cent.
Honorable senators must therefore realize that the nearer the works are to the source of supply of such a heavy material, the better. I do not know why the plant is to be established in Tasmania. The only proposition put up to us is that it is to be near where the electric supply is greatest or cheapest.
– That was said about the manufacture of paper in Victoria.
– The paper factory was located in Tasmania right alongside the trees, which produce the raw material. When they began to make paper in Victoria they went to Gippsland to be close to the source of the raw material. That is the gospel I am preaching. It would not be economical to bring heavy logs from Tasmania to the mainland on one or two small steamers, to make them into paper. Certain business principles must be observed in every manufacturing concern.
SenatorO’Flaherty. - Is bauxite the raw material of aluminium?
– What about the water and power?
– I have just said that the only reason given for establishing this industry in Tasmania is that some time in the future the State will have a big enough supply of electricity to serve the commission.
– Why was the electrolytic zinc industry established in Tasmania ?
– Because the power was available, and much of the raw material is there.
– Do not the zinc concentrates come from Broken Hill?
– Some of them do. It was necessary to bring them either to Tasmania or Victoria, to obtain the electric power.
– The industry was established in Tasmania in order to obtain cheap power.
– It was easier to establish it in Tasmania than in Victoria, and probably the electric power was available there also. Very likely the deciding factor was that Tasmania could supply ample power from its hydro-electric works. We are not told any of these things about the aluminium industry, either in the bill or in the Minister’s explanation of it. Where is the commission to, get the bauxite, what are the percentages and is the Gippsland bauxite the richest in Australia? I would not advocate establishing this undertaking in Gippsland on the information available.
– The Premier of Victoria did so.
– He may have done so, but I do not advocate establishing it anywhere until the most complete information is available.
SenatorFraser. -Why did not the Menzies Government refer the matter to the Tariff Board ?
– I have already told the Minister twice. I admit that we announced that w.e would start an aluminium industry, for the reasons I have already given. We were starved foc aluminium at the time, it was h proper war-time proposition, and there was no time to refer it to the Tariff Board or any other body. We were going to. do it, whatever the cost.
SenatorFraser. - And in Tasmania.
– Mr. Menzies did not announce that the undertaking was to be established in Tasmania. He simply said that we intended to make the aluminium in Australia. The bill before us embodies a commercial proposition, and not a war-time undertaking, and we, as. the custodians of the money of the people, must look at it from that point of view. I repeat that I am at a considerable disadvantage in this, discussion. Ministers apparently believe that very little explanation of important measures such as this is. necessary. We have not even had an opportunity to examine thoroughly the Minister’s second-reading speech. Of course, it is a grea.t compliment to honorable senators to, assume’ that, they can absorb in an hour or so wha.t members of the House of Representatives take, se veral, days to. understand:. I donot know much about aluminium, but I do know something about business principles. In his. second-reading. speech the Minister said -
It, is provided that the commission shall not. be in, any way concerned in or. act. in concert, with any commercial ‘ trust or combine, but shall, always be and remain an indepcndent. Australian undertaking.
The fact is, that we shall be. dependent for certain essential materials, required’ in the manufacture of aluminium upon, an organization on the other side of the world which can only be described as- a commercial trust or combine. It is quite wrong to say that this will be a purely Australian undertaking.
SenatorFraser. - To what materials is the honorable senator referring.
– Cryolyte and car bon., or their derivatives. We are not selfcontained, so far as these materials are concerned. We shall have to purchase them on the world’s markets, and we shall be dependent upon the world’s markets also for the disposal of our surplus aluminium or aluminium products. The Government has not. indicated how it proposes to. utilize or dispose of the difference between the 1,700 tons of aluminium used annually in this country before the war and the 6,000. to 10,0.00. tons which it hopes to produce each year under this scheme.
The Minister said also that this, measure represented the culmination of investigations and endeavours extending, over the past four years. If that be so, I am sorry for the investigating’ authorities. Either the Government is., doing a great injustice to those men, or else, having- been told a few home truths by them, the Government is, afraid to place the results of the investigations before Parliament. Although we are told that this, measure represents the culmination of investigations and endeavours extending over th,e past four years, theonly information that has been placedi before honorable senators is the fact that theCommonwealth will exp.end £1,500,000 on the project, and, that the State of Tasmania will make available a similar, sum - which, incidentally it does not possess at the moment- to provide hydro-electric power for the undertaking…
– Apparently, the honorable senator is not inf avour of the establishment of this industry:
– On the contrary; I. should like to see it established, but on strictly business! lines. If honorable senators opposite can- assure- me that, the investigations, carried out over a period of four years have shown- this project will be a commercial proposition,. I shall be delighted’ to support the bill. I have always favoured the establishment of new industries in this: country on a commercial basis because only by doing so can we have a prosperous country, a balanced economy,, a high standard of living, and full employment. I advise the Senate and the people of this country, that in the light of information that has been made available to honorable senators, the establishment of this industry is not a good, business proposition, and that the initial contribution of £3,000,000 by the Commonwealth, and Tasmania is a mere trifle compared with the sums which will be involved in trading losses.
– Does not the honorable senator want to see aluminium produced in this country?
– Of course I do, but on an economic basis.
– That argument has been used against the establishment of every secondary industry in this country.
– If the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) believes that the proposition is an economic- one, he should tell the Senate what the cost of. aluminium will be when the scheme’ comes into operation, what the cost was before the war, and how it is proposed to use the aluminium which will be produced in excess of our pre-war requirements because I believe that in view of the tremendous developments which have been made in the production of plastics and light alloys containing magnesium, our post-war demand for aluminium will not be any greater than it was in 1939. What new aluminium articles are to be manufactured in Australia to absorb the surplus’ production of this industry? I repeat that on the face of it this is a bad business proposition. That the Government is quite aware of that is shown by the fact that it will not permit an investigation of and a report upon this proposal by an independent tribunal. I contend that the bill should be withdrawn temporarily at least, until further inquiries can be made. If all aspects of this project were examined by the Tariff Board, and the scheme were found to be a business proposition, profitable to this country and providing’ employment for thousands of Australian workmen, there would not be a whisper of Opposition- to’ the bill from honorable senators on this side of the chamber. As business men we expect to be shown a prospectus just as a prospectus is shown to shareholders or investors in an ordinary business undertaking.
– YesterdayI listened with great interest to a debate in this chamber on a bill providing for the payment by the Commonwealth and certain States ‘ of £3,000,000 for drought relief. Honorable senators were unanimous that something had t’o be done for the’ unfortunate farmers, and it was suggested that action should be taken to prevent soil erosion and other undesirable conditions, so that the necessity for relief measures would not be so great in the future. To-night we have before us a bill providing for the expenditure of the same amount of money and its object is to ensure the supply in this country of an essential material for defence and civilian use in the post-war years. Senator Leckie has raised all kinds of’ objections to the establishment of this industry because he believes that no benefit can accrue to Australia unless the undertaking is based’ on business principles. I should tell honorable senators something about the economic set up of the world-wide aluminium organization, which, of course, is a combine. Aluminium is one of the materials that have fallen into the hands of a few people who derive vast profits every year from its production. These individuals are not concerned with the interests of the people generally, and even go so far as to exploit their own workers as reports- which have come into our hands from time to time have shown. In the course of this war, the combine has succeeded in exploiting the United Nations one of which is Australia. A report dated August, 1944, which was sent from the United States of America when the Australian press delegation was in that country recently stated that Aluminium Limited has a perpetual charter from the Canadian Government, which in the past four years has conceded to the combine a- special depreciation allowance of more than £50,000,000. This sum represents more than 86 per cent., of the total capital expenditure of the company since 1941. The net result of that and other concessions was that the entire cost of the company’s aluminium plant extensions, and 60 per cent, of its war plant development, have been paid out of war contracts. The company will enter the post-war era with the world’s largest aluminium plant, which will have been paid for by the governments of the United Nations, but will be owned entirely by the company.
When the Government introduces a measure to enable the people of Australia to be assured of an adequate supply of material for the production of the many essential articles that are manufactured from aluminium, a loud protest comes from members of the Opposition. We have had cause, during the last two or three years, to realize the seriousness of the shortage of this vital material, which has caused grave alarm to the Government. We recall that not long ago boy scouts and the members of various other bodies throughout Australia were called upon to collect scrap aluminium, so that it could be put into a common pool in order to supply vital war needs. When Australia’s need in that respect was greatest, no assistance was received from the overseas combine. As Senator Leckie has pointed out, there may eventually be a glut of aluminium on the market, and then Australia could obtain as much of that metal as it required ; but the Government is wise in making provision to ensure that this country will never again be short of that important commodity. It has been said that, had Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited not established its vast steel works at Newcastle, Australia would have been short of iron and steel, yet, when the Government makes provision for a supply of an equally important material, strong complaints are heard from honorable senators opposite.
Fifty years ago the aluminium industry was unknown, but this product has now become indispensable. Its importance has been realized during this war, and when peace comes the demand for civilian, use will be increased. There is every -justification for the action of the Government in taking steps to prevent the people of Australia from again finding themselves in the invidious position in which they were placed three years ago. No doubt there are certain reason* why the aluminium combine has kept the price of aluminium at a fairly low level. Even though it may be able to supply the metal at a price lower than that which the proposed Government undertaking will manufacture it in the early stage* of the industry, the present proposals should be given effect in the interests of future generations.
I draw the attention of honorable senators to the conditions of employment at the great Arvida plant in Canada. Only 10 per cent, of the employees are engaged on salaries. The rest work at daily rates, and can be dismissed at a week’s notice. The legal working week consists of 48 hours, but the employees frequently work for eight or nine days without a day off, and they have worked sixteen or more hours daily without a break and without overtime payment. There are no statutory holidays, and no special rates of pay for working on holidays. We hope that Australian workers will never he called upon to slave under such conditions as those imposed by the combine in Canada.
The Government has made an agreement with the Government of Tasmania, and both governments have given much consideration to the proposal, a report on which has been presented by Sir Ronald Charles. Admittedly, we have not been supplied officially with working costa. Were it proposed to compete as in private enterprise in the production of aluminium ingots, details as to costs and profits might reasonably be demanded, but the vital consideration is to ensure that the aluminium will always be available to the nation. It is necessary to establish the industry where it can operate economically, and therefore Tasmania has been selected as the place for its establishment. That State enjoys certain natural ‘ advantages over the other States. It has ample supplies of Water, which is essential to the industry. Various deposits of bauxite are available in Australia, and the Government will have access to them, if necessary. Already a substitute has been found for cryolite, which is used as a flux in the production of aluminium ingots, and the supplies of which are at present under the control of the aluminium combine.
When the industry is established in Australia I have no doubt that the ingenuity of our technicians will be sufficient to overcome all technical difficulties. Our experience during the war period has proved that our chemists and technicians are unrivalled in research matters.
Electrical power is required in the production of aluminium ingots, and, as Tasmania has developed hydro-electric power to a large extent, the establishment of the industry in that State will give it access to cheap power. I understand that it will be provided at a penny a unit.
-Less than that.
– No State in Australia can. compete with Tasmania in that respect. The Government of that State will provide £1,500,000 towards the cost of establishing the industry. No complaint was heard regarding the introduction of the aircraft industry in this country, although huge sums of money had to be expended in order to produce aeroplanes in Australia.We could not allow the Japanese to fly over this country unchallenged, but without aluminium we could not put a plane in the air. I am glad that the Government has seen fit to co-operate with the Government of Tasmania in the establishment of the aluminium industry. Many things have been done in recent times to build up secondary industries in Australia and various government officials have been most helpful in searching out means of overcoming the technical and other difficulties under which the nation has laboured. I commend them for what they have done in demonstrating to the Government that this country can be made independent of the overseas combine with regard to supplies of this vital metal. I commend the bill to the support of honorable senators generally.
.- Like Senator Leckie, [ am greatly disturbed by the proposal to establish the aluminium industry in this country having regard to the information now before us. Senator Arnold has informed us that it is to be established in Tasmania because that State has plenty of water with which to develop electrical power. He also said that the aluminium company in Canada exploits its workers. Surely that is entirely a matter for the government of that dominion.
– I did not say that that was a reason why we should establish the industry in Australia.
– That is one of the reasons advanced by the honorable senator. With Senator Leckie, I deplore the absence of particulars in regard to this industry. While the honorable senator was speaking, 1 interjected to point out that a private company would not be allowed to issue a prospectus containing only the information given to us in the Minister’s second-reading speech on this bill. We are entitled to much more information, than has been given to us. Senator Arnold said that a private concern would go into such matters as costs and quantities. The inference is that such things do not matter when it is a government concern. No estimate of the cost of producing aluminium has been supplied to us; it may be £50 a ton, or it may be £100 a ton. In the United States of America the production of aluminium has amounted to nearly 2,000,000 tons a year, but that quantity is now being reduced by about 400,000 tons a year. In the face of that fact, the Government proposes to establish the aluminium industry in this country in order to produce only 6,000 tons a year. That does not seem reasonable, particularly as Australia has a lend-lease arrangement with the United States of America, one of its allies in the present war. We must also bear in mind that after the war there will be conferences to decide not only territorial boundaries but also matters affecting trade and commerce. In an ordinary business transaction two questions have to be answered : first, whether the proposition is economically sound, and secondly, what tariff protection it will require. We have not had any information on those points. A good deal has been said about the decision of a previous government in 1941 to establish the aluminium industry in Australia, but, as Senator Leckie has pointed out, conditions have changed considerably since then. In 1941 there was a great shortage of aluminium, but that stage has passed. It cannot now be claimed’ that this industry is required for defence purposes ; it is a post-war project, and it is to be a government undertaking.
– Is that why the honorable senator does not like it?
– I do not like government undertakings, because in the past they have proved to be uneconomic. I doubt whether any government undertaking has proved of advantage to Australia. Honorable senators will remember that some time ago a proposal was before us for the” production of petrol from shale. Eventually, it was decided to proceed with the project, on the understanding that Davis Gelatine (Australia) Proprietary Limited would provide £166,000, the NewSouth Wales Government a similar sum’, and the Commonwealth Government £332,000. It was expected that 10,000,000 gallons of petrol a year would be obtained from shale.
– That production will bc reached in 1946 at a cost of about ls. a gallon.
-So far, only about 2,000,000 gallons of petrol from shale have been obtained and I predict that before long the plant will cease to operate. Another instance of a government enterprise being conducted at a loss occurred in connexion with the Cockatoo Island’ Dockyard. The dockyard was purchased at a cost of about £220,000, and we were told that wonderful things would be done; instead, losses occurred each year. Finally, the dockyard was handed over to a private company, which in addition to paying rent is making profits. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Government has 51 per cent, of the shares, has been of practically no use to this country.
– It has paid dividends as high as 12 per cent. ; last year if paid a dividend of 8 per cent.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That may be, but it has been of no use to Australia.
– I should consider a dividend of 12 per cent, as satisfactory.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.There was probably no dividend at all for a- number’ of years. I should like to know the average dividend paid by that concern. The bill has been hastily conceived, and, apparently, the Minister in charge of it has not read it. According to clause 6,. a commission of four members is to be established; two of whom will represent the Commonwealth, and one of whom- will be chairman ; the other two members will represent the Government of the State of Tasmania, and one of them will be the vice-chairman.. In the absence of the chairman, the vice-chairman shall preside, and in the absence of both the chairman and the vice-chairman, the members present may elect one of their number to preside. By that time there will be only two members at the meeting ; yet according to sub-clause 9 of clause 6, three members shall form a quorum. I should like the Minister to explain the discrepancy.
– The bill provides for deputies.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.There is nothing in the bill about deputies’. I challenge the Minister in charge of the bill to deny that he did not know that the bill’ contained certain provisions until I drew attention to them. It is a pity that the bill has not had more consideration’, and that honorable senators have not been supplied with more information concerning it. It may be all right,, but surely honorable senators should have more information than has been supplied to them.. For instance, we should have been told in. what Way it was expected to dispose of 6,000 tons of aluminium a year, when hitherto Australia’s consumption of aluminium has not exceeded 1,750 tons a year. We are also entitled to know what the cost of production is likely to be. Had we been supplied with information of that, nature, we would have been better able to judge the advisability of establishing this industry in Tasmania. I admit that Australia needs more: industries; but before establishing them we are entitled to have all the- information possible placed before us. Two reports lia’ve- been presented . to us, but I understand that altogether five reports have been submitted to the Government; Where are the- other three- reports?! Doe’s” their absence indicate1 that the Government, is not prepared to give to us any more information than it can avoid regarding this industry?
– I support the bill. The only objection which Senator James Mclachlan raised to it was that as a neighbouring country has, a surplus of aluminium, it might be unwise to establish, the industry here.. I remind the honorable senator that many thousands of tons of coffee have been destroyed at times when large numbers of people have been needing, it. What has happened in connexion with coffee can happen also in connexion with aluminium- It may be that the Aluminium Company of America - generally referred to as Alcoa - has thousands of tons of aluminium to spare at the present time;, but if we could not produce our own aluminium, or obtain it, elsewhere, we should have to. pay exorbitant price? for it; and then we should get only as much as that, organization thought fit to supply to us. Honorable members- will recall that early in the war householders were asked to take scrap aluminium to various depots, and that many pots which had still months of -useful service ahead of them were deposited by patriotic householders. But when the establishment of the aluminium industry in this country was mooted,, we were able to get, all the aluminium we required from Alcoa. That is the kind of thing that we are up against. I realize that, in establishing this industry, Australia is likely to meet, with opposition from one of the biggest combines in the world.. Probably that, accounts for the opposition to the bill h.y honorable senators opposite, because they always support monopolies. Honorable senators opposite have displayed anxiety over the fact that £3,0.00,000 will be expended, in. establishing this, industry. When, the same figure was mentioned as the amount of the Government^ subsidy to private interstate airline companies they treated it as insignificant. Let us examine the objections which they
Ii a ve raised to this proposition. Senator Leckie said that the Government had gwen no. figures: regarding produce tien. costs. Production of no. other metal has expanded to a greater- degree during the last half century. During the last war, world production of aluminium increased by over 200 per cent. In 1914, total world production was 69,000 tons, whereas the annual production during the period for 1925-29 was 223,500 tons. The only period in which production slumped was from 1930 to 1934; but in the same period production of all other metals declined to a very much greater degree. In 1919-20, Australia imported only 36 tons of aluminium, whereas in 1938-39 we imported 1,320 tons. The Government has made the fullest investigation of this proposition, and on the best expert advice available it is estimated that we shall require at least 6j000 tons annually in the immediate post-war period; and1 there is every reason to believe- that our requirements will continually increase in later years. We are reliably informed that in the United States of America themetal is- being used extensively in themanufacture of movable- bridges, locks, gates, and trains. Every year a new use1 for the metal is- discovered1, and there is noreason to believe that the demand for themetal will1 not increase correspondingly in Australia. When Senator Leckie saysthat the Government has not given figures-, of costs of production, he forgets that that, aspect did not worry the Government which he sup-ported when, after theoutbreak of war, it handed” over the manufacture of munitions and war materials to private enterprise on a cost-plus basis1. I have no doubt that if this Government were prepared to hand over this, industry to private enterprise on a similar basis he would not raise any objection to. the proposition. He also said that in view of our high standards of living and1 costs of production, the industry would not be able- to compete with overseas concerns. Production overseas is. controlled entirely by one combine, and aluminium is ‘being- produced in. countries whose standards, in some* respects, are higher than linos© in Australia1. The honorable senator belittles the- Australian worker- when he> says that we cannot compete in this- industry because of the- high costs’. A fabrication plant which has already .been established at Wangaratta .cannot continue, operation.? unless material is fed to it.
Incidentally, honorable senators opposite raised no objection to the establishment of that plant at Wangaratta. They did not ask that that proposition be inquired into by the Tariff Board. Senator Leckie, who represents Victoria in this chamber, did not raise any objection to that proposition. He must know that if we fail to establish this industry for the manufacture of aluminium ingots, the plant at Wangaratta will become a white elephant, because, otherwise, it will have to depend wholly and solely on overseas combines for supplies of aluminium ingots. Once we establish this industry, we shall be independent of overseas supplies. The industry is absolutely essential to the future defence of this country. No one can say for certain that we shall not be obliged to rely upon it to meet our needs before even the present war is finished. We appear to have reached the turning point of the war in Europe, but it may take years to drive the Japanese out of China, and the war so far as we are concerned will not be concluded until that is done. No one can say whether that will take two, six or seven years. The war in China has already been going on for eight years. Thus, there is more than a possibility that we shall be obliged to rely upon this industry for our needs even in the present conflict. Senator Leckie said that the proposition was not sound from a commercial point of view. Many successful industries established in this country, particularly those established with government assistance, are not regarded as good propositions by gome members of this Parliament. Any industry which is essential to our future defence must be a sound proposition. Further, in order to increase our population and hold this country for the white race, we must establish sufficient industries to provide increased employment. This industry, I repeat, will make Australia independent of overseas supplies of aluminium and will help to develop the country. From whom could the Government obtain more reliable information than it has already obtained? The real purpose behind the suggestion of honorable senators opposite that the matter should be referred to the Tariff Board for further investigation is simply to delay tlie bill in the hope of destroying the proposiiton. This industry should have been established in Australia three or four years ago. We know that once the industry is established on a sound footing, it will interfere with vested interests which are represented in thu Parliament by honorable senators opposite. However, the policy of the Labour party is to ensure that Australia is selfsupporting by making it independent of monopolies. This is a golden opportunity for a Labour Government to show that il has the courage of its convictions. Some honorable senators have asked why Tasmania should be the State in which the industry is to be established. Tasmania and Queensland are the only two States in which it could be economically established, but Tasmania has been chosen because it has greater hydro-electric power resources, an abundance of fresh water essential to the industry, and more conveniently situated deep water ports, whilst, the bulk of the raw materials essential to the industry are available in abundance in that State. Thus, Tasmania has by far the better claim. The agreement embodied in the bill has already been ratified in both Houses of the State Parliament. The bill ensures that the industry will not fall under the control of overseas combines. In other words the commission cannot dispose of the industry without the consent, of both houses of the Commonwealth Parliament and of the Tasmanian Parliament. The agreement appears in the bill in perfectly plain language. Everything about it is fair and aboveboard, but I cannot say that all agreements made, by previous governments in connexion with war industries are as fair and aboveboard as is this agreement. If honorable senators opposite wish to criticize the bill on the ground of the agreement entered into by the Government, we can go back to some of their agreements in relation to the flax and other industries,’ under which, in the course of about, ten years of writing off their interest at the rate of 10 per cent., the whole undertaking would have reverted to private enterprise without the taxpayers, whose money had been spent on it, receiving any compensation. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McLeay) does not deny that, because he knows that some of the agreements made by the Government to which he belonged were, investigated, and that government had to buy out certain people and clean up what appeared on the face of the evidence to be an awkward and nasty lookingmess. I appeal to the (Senate to pass the bill with the least possible delay, so that we may get on with the job and establish in Australia one of the most essential industries ever required here, and one that will be necessary in preparing for the future defence of this country.
– It is needless for me to say that. I support the second reading of the bill, but, in common with many other honorable senators, I should have liked a great deal more information, because it is all so delightfully vague. We have the ministerial statement, the notes for the minister, and the report furnished on the 19th May, 1941, by Major-General Sir Ronald Charles, who was, I think, at that time, Chief Royal Engineer, and had been Master-General of Ordnance. I believe he retired from the Army about 1934, He was also an expert on metals and is Bill a member of the Council of the Institute of Metals and Royal Institute of International Affairs. His report which I have only been able to study since the suspension of the sitting is not very cheering, if we are to consider this ae an economic proposition. On the face of his report, the establishment of the industry as proposed would undoubtedly be uneconomic and, I think, unsound in principle, but there is not the slightest doubt, whichever way we look at it, that it will be beneficial to the State of which I am a representative. Without being cynical, I say: by all means let it be in Tasmania. I think that, with the wonderful natural resources of that State, with its hydroelectric power, that is the natural place to establish the industry. Of course, it will need tariff protection. E was surprised to read in the report that the number of people which the undertaking will employ in the State is only 800. Power will be supplied at a cheap rate, because the price will have to be satisfactory to the commission, as was the ease when the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited started business at
Risdon. It was guaranteed some 40,000 horse-power for a long term at a very cheap rate, and it really paid the State to get that industry established in the State and to supply it with electric power at a price which was almost below the cost of production. From the Tasmanian point of view I welcome the bill, but I have very grave misgivings about the wisdom of establishing the industry under present conditions. The only real justification that I can see for its establishment is contained in the notes for the Minister - that it is an industry essential to future defence requirements and it would be folly for a country isolated as Australia is to neglect to establish it. 1 concur in that statement.
– We were very fortunate to have the steel industry the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited established in Australia.
– I agree most heartily that without the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the wonderful industry it has established we should have been almost powerless. Disarmament has been mentioned, but it is really impossible to disarm a country which has a steel and iron industry, a large chemical industry, and coal and power. We may for a time disarm such a country, but its people will be in a position to rearm themselves, if they are given time to put themselves into a state of defence. For that reason alone I am prepared to support the bill, because I believe that the industry is essential to Australia’s future defence. We do not know what the future has in store for us in the way of inventions, or in the discovery of other metals, or what improvements may be made in aircraft or munitions of war. For all these reasons, I have no hesitation in supporting the bill.
SenatorNASH (Western Australia) [9.53]. - I am pleased that the Government has brought down this proposal, which after all is a joint agreement between the State of Tasmania and the Commonwealth, to establish the industry of producing aluminium ingots. It seems to me, however, to be somewhat belated. It would have been greatly in the interests of the war effort, and of
Australia’s financial resources, had this industry been established some years ago. The Australian people would be. interested to learn the cost of our aluminium requirements in the manufacture of aircraft for the prosecution of the war. They would probably be astounded to learn that the price demanded of this country waa excessive. Whilst some, of the people of this great continent were prepared to sacrifice their all to ensure its safety, no similar sacrifice was demanded of the profit-mongers. Senator James McLachlan said that it was somewhat peculiar that Australia was. embarking on an industry of this character to supply 6,000 tons of aluminium a year, whereas the United States of America was reducing its production of the metal by 400,000 tons, from which he argued that the proposition would be uneconomic and unsound. But the Commonwealth is prosecuting a war effort in association with the United Nations. I do not. know whether this will be the last war with which this; country will be faced, but the whole purpose of the proposal is set out as follows : -
It shall be the duty of the commission with all possible expedition, in order to promote the naval, military and air defence of the Commonwealth and its territories, to do all such acts and things as are necessary for the production of ingot aluminium, and for that purpose it shall have and may exercise the powers and functions, and shall perform the duties and obligations, of the commission set out in the agreement.
Recently we had in Australia a drive for all the aluminium that could be obtained from the general public for use in the manufacture of aircraft. We do not want to find ourselves in the same position in the future. At that time the shipping position was most precarious. A large proportion of the shipping of the Allies having been sent to the bottom, and one of the main commodities required for defence having to come from overseas, were a sufficient indication to the people of Australia of the wisdom of undertaking and thoroughly developing the production of aluminium in our own territory. Some honorable senators opposite appear to object to a joint undertaking between the Commonwealth Government and the State of Tasmania. If it were proposed to allow private enterprise to exploit the possibilities of the industry, with a monopoly of the sale of the commodity throughout Australia, they would probably favour it, but, whether the project is or is not economically sound, I subscribe to the view that the production of this essential requirement in the manufacture of aircraft must be undertaken in Australia. It is therefore our duty to do all that we can to ensure that this product is made available for the purpose. Whilst this scheme is of particular importance to Tasmania, it is also of considerable interest to Western Australia. On the 22nd November, 1943, together with some other members of the Commonwealth Parliament I attended a conference with the Minister for Industrial Development in Western Australia, Mr. A. R. G. Hawke, M.L.A. The purpose of the conference was’ to ascertain what Western Australia was doing in connexion with the development of new industries. The Government of Western Australia had set up a number of panels one of which was designated the alunite panel. Members of that panel were Professor N. S. Bayliss, B.A., B.Sc, Ph.D., F.A.C.I.; Mr. H. Bowley, F.A.C.I., Government mineralogist, analyst and chemist; Mr. E. J. Martin; Mr. M. Martin; and Mr. A. F. B. Norwood, A.R.S.M., B.Sc. (Eng.), A.I.C,
The function of that panel was to examine the possibility of exploitingcommercially the Lake Campion alunite deposits. The industry has been established and is controlled by a board of management consisting of Mr. N. Fernie, M.E., M.I.E. (Aust.), chairman; Mr. H. Bowley, F.A.C.I., Government mineralogist, analyst and chemist; Mr.. A. J. Reid, B.A., A.I.C.A., undertreasurer; and Mr. E. J. Martin, representing private shareholders.
A report upon the production of aluminium ingots in Australia was made by Sir Ronald Charles.
– He was a representative of Alcoa.
– Yes. In the course-, of his report Sir Ronald Charles stated -
The. suitability of Australian bauxite forthe: extraction of alumina, by the Bayer process has. yet to be. proved. The. best known, deposits have a low alumina content, and, ae, far as one can gather from official sources, are very variable in quality, often running to high percentages of impurity.
Later in his report he stated-
In view of tlie prevailing lack of experience on Australian bauxites, and because one dare mot try experiments in war-time, it is essentia! that the alumina factory should Operate at the outset with an ore of proved and consistent purity, such as is obtainable from the Dutch East Indies. Once the factory is producing alumina from this good ore, it will be time enough to experiment with Australian ore. The Government have already sanctioned the purchase and import of 25,000 tons of bauxite from the Dutch East Indies - this quantity should suffice for the first year’s operation of the plant.
Therefore, whilst it may be argued that Sir- Ronald Charles’ report was not altogether satisf actory in some ways,, it does concur in the proposal that’ an industry of this kind should be established, and states’ that for the first year of its operation, the ore should be imported from the Netherlands East Indies. In the Minister’s second-reading speech on this measure, he indicated that the great aluminium plants in America obtained their bauxite from distant sources such’ as Dutch Guiana. Therefore the transporting’ of bauxite over, considerable distances is not anything, new.
I return now to the- interview with Mr. Hawke in respect of what is known as> the Campion Alunite Industries- At Lake Chandler; approximately 30 miles north of Merredin there is’ an: extensive deposit of alunite,. which it is estimated, will provide Australia’s requirements of potash1 fertilizer’ and potassium1 salts for 100 years. It is from the residue of potash fertilizer that alumina is obtained. Tn view of the plans- of the Commonwealth’ Government’ to establish the aluminium industry in Australia, the efforts of the Department of Industrial Develop,ment to; stimulates a commercial process for- the production of as high grade alumina, from- the residues- of Lake Campion Alunite- Industries are -of particular importance. As a> result- of research; work: on at laboratory scale, a process has been evolved by means of whick.it is possible” tv produce– alumina conforming to the- high specifications necessary for the- manufacture’ of aluminium. As: a direct’ result” of the Department’s .recommendations- the. State
Government has provided funds to proceed with the erection of a large scale pilot plant capable of treating 1 ton of alunite residues a day* This will p’rovide the data necessary to determine the economics of the process which would obtain on a’ large scales Te help them to solve the problems associated with the design, the staff working on the alumina pilot plant recently made a tour of the eastern- States, where they gathered a considerable volume of valuable information, particularly in regard to acidresisting materials. The design of the pilot plant is being proceeded with and several units have already been constructed. When Campion Alunite” Industries has been expanded to the total planned capacity, the residues will yield 20,000 tons Of refined alumina a year - sufficient to maintain production of aluminium on the scale at present contemplated by the Commonwealth Government. It is hoped that due consideration to Western Australian enterprise will be given- when final plans are being made for aluminium production in Australia. I understand that at present one unit in production at Lake Campion is producing 5,000 tons of potash a month. What the’ alumina by-product of that potash is I am not in a position to say, but I do know that when the plant is brought to full Capacity of three units it will produce 15,00’0 tons of potash monthly. Therefore’, th’e’ development of this industry in Tasmania is’ important not only to that State, but also to Western Australia and other States where potash can be obtained. In that regard it is interesting to read’ th’e conclusions of the Commonwealth Copper and- Ba-ux-ite- Committee, which set out where this requirement for the manufacture’ of aluminium- can be obtained.
There is one other point which appeals to me very strongly in respect of the successful inauguration of- the industry in Tasmania. When we produce the’ aluminium ingots provision will have to be made at a later stage for their fabrication: As the result’ of the war” the Com.monwealth has had’ to expend many million’s’ of pounds in” the erection’ or purchase of factories for” the production of war materials’. Already’ a factory has been constructed by the Government for the fabrication of aluminium ingots into household commodities. One honorable senator opposite said that in his opinion whatever instrumentality was set up by the Government would not be of any use, and he cited the case of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. However, he forgot to mention that that dockyard was prevented as the result of High Court litigation from manufacturing articles for consumption by the general public of Australia. We shall have to find a way out of that difficulty.
– There would not be any difficulties had the referendum been carried.
– That is true; but, unfortunately, the people of this country were not told the whole truth during that campaign. The aluminium industry in Australia is to be placed in the hands of a commission which will have full authority. That may be a means by which the long-suffering people of Australia will be able to secure housebold commodities which at present are in short supply.
Senator James McLachlan, who endeavoured to ridicule the measure, referred to the constitution of the commission set out in clause 6; but he did not draw attention to sub-clause 12 of clause 6, which, is as follows : -
The Governor-General may appoint any person to be the dputy of a member of the Commission representative of the Commonwealth, and may appoint any person nominated by the Governor in Council of the State of Tasmania to be the deputy of a member of tlie Commission representative of the State, and any person so appointed shall, in the event of the member of whom he is the deputy being absent, for any reason, from any meeting of the Commission, be deemed to be a member of the Commission for the purposes of that meeting.
I admit that the phraseology possibly i3 somewhat obscure, but there is the answer to the questions raised by the honorable senator.
I look upon the expenditure envisaged in this measure as necessary in the interests of this country. I am more than pleased that the undertaking is to be under government control. Most pleasing of all is the fact that in no circumstances can this body become associated with any world combine interested in similar products.
– I believe that the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia would be justified even from a commercial point- of view, and the Government, having come to the conclusion that it should be established, there is no part of the Commonwealth which offers so many facilities for its successful operation a* Tasmania. The industry requires a large block of hydro-electric power, and that can be supplied at a lower rate in Tasmania than anywhere else in the southern hemisphere. I do not know the price at which the electric power is provided in the United States of America, but I should be surprised if the cost is lower than in Tasmania. The quality of the bauxite available in this country has been questioned, but a large quantity of that ore, equal in quality to that procurable in other States, is obtainable in Tasmania. The report of the Commonwealth Copper and Bauxite Committee states, inter alia - .
High-grade bauxite occurs in the BoolarraThorpdale district in Victoria. The largest worked deposit has proved and possible reserves each of about 140,000 tons. Run of mine oncontains 53 per cent, alumina and 5 per cent, silica. Other deposits of comparable grade, appear likely to contain noteworthy tonnage* but have not been sufficiently prospected toenable reserves to be estimated.
In Central Tasmania newly-discovered deposits are being prospected. It seems likely that there will be at least 1.000,000 tons available in one deposit containing 43.4G per cent alumina and 4.12 per cent, silica.
The bauxite deposits of Western Australia, are of about the same grade as those of New South Wales. Queensland and Tasmania asregards alumina, but are more siliceous. It is probable they could be improved by cheaporedressing processes. The reserves are very large.
Most of the New South Wales and Western Australian deposits have little or no overburden. Th is also applies to the largest deposit in Tasmania. The Victorian depositshave a sandy overburden ranging in thickness from 7 to 35 feet.
In mining for metals, the quantity of overburden is an important factor that has to be considered in determining the cost of operations. Tasmania has 1,000,000 tons of bauxite of a grade comparable with that in other parts of Australia, and no overburden, and as the- deposits are close to the site of the proposed factory, that state is obviously the best place in Australia in which to establish the industry. I am unable to speak authoritatively regarding labour costs in the United States of America, but f gather from conversations which I have had with Americans that the wages paid there are higher than in Australia. Labour should be available in Tasmania at as reasonable a price as in any other part of the world where aluminium is manufactured. The works of the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited were established in Tasmania, on the recommendation of American experts, because of the cheapness of hydroelectric power and the potential supply of ores in that State. I am convinced that there is a good prospect of the aluminium industry proving a sound commercial venture, because of the natural advantages possessed by Tasmania. It certainly affords exceptional facilities for the successful establishment of the industry. The policy of this country is to manufacture locally as many kinds of goods as we can, and had we been influenced by the fact that we could obtain certain goods more cheaply elsewhere, we should not have had any factories at all. It may not he necessary to give tariff protection to the aluminium industry.
– There is no such protection against steel.
– That is so. Australia exports steel at prices comparable with those ruling in other parts of the world. Because of the bright prospects of the success of the industry in Tasmania, I cordially support the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Herbert Hays) adjourned.
Australian Broadcasting Commission: News Service - Preference to ExSERVICE Personnel.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– When the Broadcasting Committee presented its report to Parliament last April on the broadcasting of news and the news agreement entered into between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the newspapers of Australia, attention was drawn to the importance of the Commission having a complete and independent news-gathering service. Since that time representatives of the Sydney Morning Herald have been in touch with the secretary of the Broadcasting Committee, and they have also interviewed me for the purpose of ascertaining when the evidence on which the committee’s findings were based would be printed. On Tuesday the printed evidence taken from November, 1943. to June, 1944, became available. On Wednesday and again to-day, the Sydney Morning Herald has published misleading stories in its news columns. They concern the proposed agreement* for the supply of < news to the Australian Broadcasting Commission by Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited and the Australian Newspaper Proprietors’ Association. To-day, the Sydney Morning Herald goes further. It devotes its leading article to an attempt to whip up support for its own distorted and inaccurate stories appearing in its supposedly objective newt columns. In that article it claimed that criticism of the press by Commonwealth Ministers was published in the newspapers. This was apparently part of an effort to establish as a fact that the Sydney Morning Herald is impartial and prepared to give both sides of any such criticism. As a test of the honesty of this claim, I challenge the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald to give sufficient space in that newspaper to my comments in reply to the sis columns of criticism which have been levelled, in the last two days, against governmental control of broadcasting. Il will be interesting for members of Parliament to note how much space if given to my reply. I claim the right to reply, because the extracts of evidence published over the last two days in the Sydney Morning Herald were from a document distributed only to member* of the Broadcasting Committee, of which I am chairman.
I regard this attempt by the Sydney Morning Herald to undermine confidence in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s war news service, which is widely listened to at this vital stage of the war, as amounting to fifth column activity. So keen is the newspaper’s desire to discredit this important service that it declares editorially -
If any listeners, accustomed to hearing the news bulletins of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the last three years, have still retained the illusion that this service has been providing them with untainted information, they will find conclusive evidence to the contrary in the evidence given before the parliamentary committee on broadcasting.
On matters great and small, on broad policy and on minute details, there has been consistent interference by one Minister after another. Sometimes personal ends, sometimes party political ends have been served, but it is abundantly true that this supposedly independent commission, despite its protests, has time after time been forced into the position of a subservient tool of the Government.
That is a lying and vindictive statement, and quite against the weight of evidence heard by the Broadcasting Committee. I have served on that committee since its formation by the Menzies Government and have given particularly close attention to all matters relating to- the commission’s news service. The true position is that the newspaper owners generally, and the proprietors of the Sydney Morning. Herald in particular, have been “ scared stiff “ of the commission extending its independent news-gathering service. Especially did they want to prevent the expansion of those branches responsible for the commission gathering its. own war front and federal parliamentary news., So eager were the. newspaper proprietors, to stifle this independent voice that they were willing to sell a thorough coverage of overseas, and Australian news surprisingly cheaply to the commission. For some years these newspaper, barons had been opposed to helping the commission to get news to. listeners before it had been published by them, but in February, 1943, these kindly disposed citizens had a strange change of heart. They offered, as T have said, a complete service to the commission at bargain rates.. According to the estimates of two of the commission’s own officers who “ dickered “ with the newspapers, and about whom I shall have something to, say later, the ratifying of this agreement’ would have- saved the Australian Broadcasting Commission £21,429 a year. Of course, this agreement would have meant that the Australian Broadcasting Commission would have to rely almost entirely on what news the. newspaper proprietors supplied to itAnd presumably it would have been supplied with the type of potted’ misleading and mischievous material of which I am complaining. Unfortunately we already have a partial syndication of press reports from theCommonwealth Parliament to newspapersin three States. This may extend, but happily, owing to the Broadcasting Committee’s majority decision, the Australian Broadcasting Commission will not become a “ subservient tool “ of the newspaper proprietors in this connexion. Let us now consider these allegedly objective storiespublished in the news columns: of the Sydney Morning Herald.
On Tuesday, that newspaper purported to show that- the commission had been subjected to extreme political pressure, cunningly selecting such parts of the evidence as lent colour to its distortions. The evidence has been carefully combed,, and such parts of it as support this incorrect theory have been published.. For instance. much is made of the comments of the chairman/ of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Cleary, about a visit that he made to Canberra, in January, 1942, in order to interview^ Ministers with the then acting general’ manager, Mr. Bearup. The- Sydney Morning Herald report quoted Mr.. Cleary indirectly as saying -
At that time Dr. Evatt and Mr. Beasley had’ been empowered to direct the Australian Broadcasting Commission in- respect to. broadcasting.. The Prime Minister had authorized them. In other words, these two Ministers had superseded Senator Ashley..
The article also says that -
At the same sitting of the committee, thechairman of the committee read a letter from Sir Keith Murdoch in which he stated that theCanberra news service had been- at times under the influence of party propagandists. Thegrossest instance of this was when the Cabinet sub-committee, comprising- Dr. Evatt, Mr. Beasley and Senator Ashley, was appointed and. overhauled the Canberra news- service. But. there had been many occasions when it had appeared to him as a listener that both emphasis and space- had been loaded’ in- the interests of. a political, party.
Yet, oddly enough, the Sydney. MorningHerald has. not published an illuminating reply by the- chairman of the commission! in answer to a question of mine at that same committee meeting in Sydney on the 12th January, 1944. Asked about the overhaul, Mr. Cleary replied -
Had the commission believed that there was any party political principle involved in the Government’s action, it could have protested -against it just as it had resisted pressure from another /government on another occasion in connexion with the A.B.G. Weekly.
Surely, the omission of this significant statement clearly indicates the bias of the Sydney Morning Herald in this matter.
In his letter to Mr. Cleary, Sir Keith Murdoch says that members of the commission and the editor of the A.B.C. Weekly, Mr. Deamer, when they initiated their negotiations with the newspaper proprietors, were apprehensive of the effect of the suspicion of propaganda in their Canberra news service. In my opinion, it is more than coincidental that Mr. Deamer, after these negotiations for a syndicated news service had fallen through, left the Australian -Broadcasting Commission and joined the staff of the Sydney Morning Herald. He did not stay there long; I think it was less than three weeks. Now, I understand he is press relations officer to one of Australia’s biggest monopolies. So much for the story in Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Heraid.
I come now to the -effusion appearing to-day. The main point of this story, to which three columns of rationed newsprint are devoted, concerns criticism by Mr. Cleary of evidence previously given to the committee by two officers of the Australian Journalists Association - Mr. S. E. Pratt, general secretary of the association, and Mr. J. C. James, secretary of the New South Wales district-of the Association. Mr. Pratt tendered a prepared statement and replied to many questions asked by members of the committee. Mr. -James was also examined at length. Yet with the partiality that is a feature of its campaign, the Sydney Morning Herald does not summarize the sound and extensive arguments put forward by those officials against the Australian Broadcasting Commission taking ;a syndicated service. It merely selects -certain of Mr. Cleary’s replies when he was questioned about a part of their evidence. The Sydney Morning Herald does not attempt to give the other side of the case against -syndication as explained by such newspaper “ big shots “ as Sir Walter Layton, who came here with a British press delegation as a representative of the metropolitan press; Mr. .S. Storey, the provincial press representative on that delegation; Mr. Ezra Norton of Sydney Truth and Sportsman; or the commission’s own chief news editor, Mr. Dixon. I shall quote some of their remarks. Sir Walter Layton told the committee that -
I should find it hard to argue against the proposition that a broadcasting organization should have its own correspondents. It would be unfortunate if the whole business of news gathering were concentrated in a single organization. Any agreement which bound the Australian Broadcasting Commission to refrain from supplementing what it gets from existing sources would be a mistake. If I were responsible for the Commission I would not like to surrender the .right to supplement sources of information. In England I should never have agreed to tie my hands entirely to accept only press association news. Although my own newspaper concern is financially interested in Reuters I would not wish to see the supply of news to Great Britain confined to what was obtained from Reuters. Judging the matter on my experience as a newspaper proprietor - if I were on your side o’f the table I should not be willing to give up the right to have my own special correspondents.
Mr. Storey, who was formerly chairman of Reuters, declared -
It would be foolish for the commission itself to contemplate the expenses of bringing out to Australia the whole of Reuter’s service but I should want access to it. The relinquishment of the Australian Broadcasting Commission service would be too great a price to pay for the use of the Australian Associated press service, plus the right to have observers, and personally I would not pay it.
Mr. Norton said :
Whether the Australian Broadcasting^ Commission decides to maintain or disband its own independent news gathering organization is a matter for the commission itself. I do not know whether I should offer an opinion but my company would be seriously alarmed if any steps were contemplated immediately or in the t near future by which the newspapers produced by my company were beholden to what we consider rightly or wrongly the monopolistic daily press for our Canberra news. Our organization thinks that the commission is doing a very good job. lt sets a certain standard and puts the newspapers, both the members of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors’ Conference and ourselves, on our mettle. I am referring particularly to the Canberra notes, gossip, interviews and official releases and other matters ‘of -that kind. The present service which the Australian Broadcasting Commission is giving to the public is well received and it is looked upon as an independent service.
In reply to further questions, Mr. Norton said -
If it became known that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had to rely for its news upon a newspaper agency at Canberra that was governed by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors’ Association the public might not accept it as an independent service. Am I to understand that the offer to supply overseas and local news for £7,500 is contingent upon the disband ment of the Canberra news organi- zation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? If so, though the price may appear to be cheap, it would be highly undesirable from the point of view of the public. Radio listeners and those who own radio sets are entitled to have an independent service supplied by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Our papers have been criticized that we have not put fairly the views of certain personalities and so have other newspapers, t have never heard that criticism of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is generally considered that it does a very good service and is highly thought of. I consider it is verv impartial. That also is the general public’s view as far as we can ascertain.
I believe the whole trouble is that the Australian Newspaper Proprietors’ Association is unnecessarily alarmed that the Australian Broadcasting Commission may eventually build up a very efficient, independent news gathering organization locally and perhaps overseas. I do not share that fear.
Nor did the Sydney Morning Herald in its three columns find much space to quote the remarks of Mr. Dixon, chief news editor of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the tenor of whose evidence was : -
I have always stood for independence. In addition to any source of news that might be contracted for and supplied to us by the papers, we must always have the right to check the news and supplement it. That I regard as imperative. I am now talking about Australian news. We must not be in the position of giving the Australian newspapers the sole right to decide what Australian listeners shall hear.
No wonder that Mr. Dixon was not consulted about the terms of the proposed agreement with the newspaper proprietors that the scheming Mr. Deamer and Mr. McCall were trying to negotiate.
Surely these views - and I could quote others should honorable senators like to near them - indicate that the position is not as stated by the Sydney Morning Herald. There are several other points in the stories of the Sydney Morning Herald which I shall touch upon briefly.
First, there has been a lot of loose talk about the ministerial direction of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news policy. I remind honorable senators that the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act of 1942 laid it down that each commission’s report presented to Parliament shall include details of each transmission arranged at the written direction, of a Minister. Only two such items were broadcast under ministerial direction in the year ended the 30th June, . 1943. The first, which was dated the 12th February, was that stations must refrain from broadcasting race barrier positions until the completion of the day’s racing; and the second, dated the 21st May, related to the earlier closing of post offices. I find it hard to see any sinister ministerial intervention in those two directions. But there was governmental interference in commission matters when the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was Postmaster-General. This is shown by Mr. Cleary’s evidence before the committee in Sydney on the 15th November, 1943, when he said -
When Mr. Harrison was PostmasterGeneral, there was a man doing commentaries known as “ The Watchman “. He succeeded in treading on the corns of various parties and probably would have claimed as proof that he was unbiased. The trouble was that each party which was trodden on only dealt with its own corns. The pain was not softened by the fact that he had trodden on other corns a other times. Mr. Harrison telephoned me from Canberra and told me that the Cabinet had considered this question and objected to any criticism of the Government going over national stations. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I was given a direction on the telephone purporting to be in compliance with the act. and making me personally responsible for seeing that “ The Watchman “ did not from that moment criticize the Government. In order to test the matter, I asked whether “ The Watchman “ could criticize the Opposition. The reply was that they were not concerned with that, but he must not criticize the Government. I asked for confirmation of that in writing, but I did not get it. I was obliged to write that day to confirm my remarks and my confirmation was never challenged. The manager in Melbourne was instructed to see “ The Watchman “ and tell him he must not criticize the Government.
That was in 1939-40 when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister and the honorable member for Wentworth was
Postmaster-General. In comparison, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has, since the Labour Government was responsible for the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act of 1942, been protected against any possibility of a recurrence of dictation such as that carried out by the Menzies Government. The arrangement between the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the commercial stations and the Government early in 1943 for an Australia-wide news service at regular times was, as I have previously stated, an entirely voluntary arrangement. Its object was. to provide the people all over Australia, and particularly in the country districts where daily newspapers were delivered many hours later than in tho cities with authoritative news of the war at a most critical period. I emphasize that it was voluntary. A condition of the agreement is that the news shall be factual and objective. When the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act was assented to a few months later, the Australian Broadcasting Commission was immune from any governmental direction excepting requests which had to be in writing and reported to the Parliament by the commission. As [ said earlier, in more than two and a half years since that act was assented to, only two directions, both on non-political matters, have been given by the Postmaster-General. That is a complete answer to the attacks for propaganda purposes by tho big Australian newspapers which are suffering frustration from the failure of their plan, which went so near to success and was designed to neutralize radio news as a counter to the influence of their newspapers.
Another point to which I should like to refer is that among the quotations by Mr. Cleary which were included in the Sydney Morning Herald report to-day, was his opinion that if the Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited provided a syndicated service for news on national stations, the commission would get the sort of independent news it wanted, by having issued suitable directions. If this point of view is accepted, I would like to know how Mr.Cleary and the Sydney Morning Herald can reconcile their allegations of government’ interference with the national news services over the past three years, with the fact that when the present system of news at fixed time’s on all radio stations in Australia was instituted in February, 1942, a specific clause of the voluntary agreement was that the. news must be “factual and objective”. That was an agreement reached voluntarily between representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, and the Government, which was represented only in order to assist the national and commercial broadcasting organizations to come to a mutually acceptable arrangement to ensure regular and authoritative newt for the whole of Australia at a critical period of the war. The Australian Broadcasting Commission Act, which was passed by the Parliament in 1942, gave the Australian Broadcasting Commission unfettered control of specific programme items and news bulletins, so that the commission had a dual guarantee of freedom from interference in the preparation of any news bulletins. This double guarantee was provided, first, by the stipulation agreed upon between the Government and’ the commercial stations that the news must be “ factual and objective “ ; and, secondly, the legislative protection given to the commission in 1942. Therefore, if the Australian Broadcasting ‘Commission has failed to provide an independent news service compiled from the news value of various items available to it, and has failed to win the approval of the public, and the Sydney Morning Herald, the commission itself has failed because the sessions were entirely under the control of the_ commission and its officers. It is significant that there has not been a single word of criticism on the same lines from the commercial stations, which take the same news relay from the national stations under the Agreement arranged voluntarily between the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations and the commission in February, 1942. Yet every commercial station in Australia takes that news.
Another point which worries the Sydney Morning Herald is. the use of Ministers’ names in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s broadcasts. It is common usage in the Australian press to give Ministers’ names when they are making official announcements on behalf of the departments under their control. The Sydney Morning Herald itself follows this practice, presumably, to indicate what is official and what is merely some reporter’s speculation about what might or might not occur. Yet the Australian Broadcasting Commission, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, should not use Ministers’ names. Why should there be different rules for newspapers and for the Australian Broadcasting Commission? I have given, in substance, the report of the Broadcasting Committee, and the evidence on which it based its report.
.- This afternoon Senator Finlay took me to task because I moved the adjournment of the Senate in order to discuss the subject of preference- of employment to discharged servicemen and women, instead of bringing the matter before the ex-Servicemen’s Committee which comprises members of thisParliamnet. Unfortunately, preferencehas become a party question; and as chairman of that committee, I always endeavour to exclude controversial party subjects from its proceedings, because no good purpose can be served in permitting an acrimonious discussion within the committee. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia -and the Fathers Association have expressed grave concern at the Government’s delay in introducing the bill promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on the subject; and my object in moving the adjournment of the Senate was to remind the Government that the fulfilment of its promise is long overdue. According to the honorable senator’s remarks, he appears to believe that I am opposed to trade unions. That view is unwarranted. I believe that employees are as much entitled as employers to band together for collective bargaining, and in order to safeguard their special interests.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Nineteenth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1943-44. together with Statement by Minister, regarding the operation of the Act.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired. - For Commonwealth purposes -
Lake Bolac, Victoria.
Singleton, New South Wales.
Meat Export Control Act - Ninth Annual Report of the Australian Meat Board, for year 1943-44, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
National Security Act -
National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations - Order - Aliens ( Queensland Curfew).
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Essential Materials (No. 10).
Footwear (Styles and quality) (No. 5).
Senate adjourned at 10.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19441130_senate_17_180/>.