17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a ware of the dire need of Tasmanianpastures for more superphosphate than is now available, in order to prevent their rapid and progressive deterioration? Is be also aware that the claim for increased supplies of superphosphate in Tasmania is based upon the necessity for a realistic andpractical survey of the overall position, taking into consideration the nature and needs of the soils in that State, its climatic conditions, the difference in the breeding season in Tasmania as compared with the mainland States, the predominant position of Tasmania’s pastoral industry in relation to the whole of the domestic economy of the State, and Tasmania’s ability to contribute its quota of meat to the war effort, provided it can maintain its pastures, but not otherwise?Will the Minister have such a survey made forthwith?
SenatorFRASER.- The honorable senator notified meof his intention to ask that question, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer : -
I amaware that all pastures in Australia normally requiring superphosphate are showing the effects of phosphate shortage. During the lasttwo years ithas been possible to make some improvement in the condition of irrigated and dairying pastures by means of increased dressings of superphosphate, but the overall supply position has not yet improved sufficiently to permit special allocations for other types of pastures.
Allocations to individual States are based on a crop priority plan approved by the Australian Agricultural Council. The Tasmanian allocation of superphosphate for 1944-45 was made in accordance with this plan, and in common with the other States the requirements of pastures, other than for irrigated and dairying pastures, have had to be met out of what is known as the “ other crops quota “. The distribution of the “ other crops quota “ among specific non-priority crops, in any particular State, is a matter for determination by the State Department of Agriculture. Whilst the disabilities mentioned by the honorable senator are fully and sympathetically appreciated it is regretted that the position cannot be improved until the world supply of phosphate permits a larger allocation to Australia. The honorable senator may rest assured that the Government is doing everything possible to press Australia’s claims overseasfor additional supplies. If these supplies are obtained, then the claims of Tasmania in common with those of the other States will have full consideration.
– Will the Government consider the erection of statues in Canberra to two great Australian soldiers, namely, the late General Sir Harry Chauvel and the late General Sir John Monash ? If so, will it consider whether an appropriate location for such statues would be in the proposed Anzac Gardens, south of the NationalWar Memorial?
– I shall place the honorable senator’s suggestion before the Prime Minister.
Sleeping Accommodation on Trains.
– On the 1st March,
asked if I could inform the Senate whencoal stocks are likely tobe sufficient to enable sleepers to be restored to the railway transport system of Australia. I am glad to say that stocks of coal held by railways departments have shown some improvement. The question as to whether or not sleepers should be restored is, I am informed, to be reported on by the “War Railways Committee at its next meeting.
– On the 1st March,
asked the following questions, upon notice : * -*
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) Apples, 1,566,578 bushels; (b) pears, 76,740 bushels. 2. (a) Apples, 751,689 bushels;(b) pears, 65,017 bushels. 3. (a) Apples, 254,607 bushels; (b) pears, nil.
– On the 1st March,
asked, without notice, whether the Prices Commissioner had increased certain nurses’ pay by £11s. a week, and had limited the increase to New SouthWales. He also asked whether nurses in Victoria and other States should be excluded from that decision. I have now to advise the honorable senator that the increase of £11s. a week in the maximum rates for services rendered by visiting nurses was granted on the application of the New South Wales Association. There is no evidence that the fees charged for the services rendered in other States are inadequate, but it is open to nurses in those States to make application to the Deputy Prices Commissioner, in which event their claims will also be considered on their merits.
– On the 1st March Senator Leckie asked the following questions: -
What time doesthe Postmaster-General consider should normally be taken in obtaining a telephone connexion between Canberra and Melbourne? Is it one, two or three hours? If it be two or three hours, will the Minister make an effort to improve the service?
The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Equipment in New Guinea.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence if he has seen a photograph published in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, captioned “ On the Shores of Iwo Jima “, and under which appears the following letterpress, “Amtracs (amphibious tractors) and trucks used by the ‘Fighting Fourth ‘ Marine Division as it battled its way ashore at Iwo Jima litter the black sands of the beach on the afternoon of D day, February 16 (U.S. Signal Corps photo) “? Has he also seen a photograph which was published about a fortnight ago which was captioned “ Soldiers as Bulldozers “, and under which the following letterpress appeared, “Backs were bent to the strenuous rhythm of the pick and shovel swing where Australian engineers dug the side out of a mountain to cut a road through Aitape sector, New Guinea. Hundreds of tons of dirt were shifted by these men in record time. - Australian official photo “ ? In view of the serious charges made by Senator Mattner some days ago, will the Minister assure the Senate that Australian soldiers engaged in this difficult work in New Guinea will be supplied with modern equipment of the kind illustrated in the photograph published in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald?
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I shall give a complete answer on the matter he raises when I am speaking on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army if it is a fact that members of the 8th Division and other members of Australian forces serving in New Guinea have been denied the 1939-43 Star? Is it a fact that doctors and nurses who served on hospital ships have also been denied the 1939-43 Star whereas members of the crews of those ships have received that star? Will the Minister inform the Senate what is the Government’s policy in relation to the issue of the 1939-43 Star?
– I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that the Government proposes to set up an anti-black-marketing organization along the lines of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America? If so, has consideration been given to the appointment of an officer in charge of such an organization, and when may we expect the new authority to commence operations?
– Already there is an extensive organization in existence combating black-marketing operations relating to prices control, rationing, and liquor control. The suggestion that this organization should be developed along the lines of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in America has. been discussed by Cabinet, which nas decided against such action. I hope to make a statement to the .Senate within the next day .or two on what is being done to counteract black marketing in all its phases. By reading the press of this country one might be led to believe that the existence of black marketing was a recent discovery. The fact is that for some time now, we have had special staffs combating illegal activities so far as prices control, rationing and liquor control are concerned. A considerable body of manpower is .being employed in an endeavour to stamp out these evils. The suggested formation of a Federal Bureau of Investigation is excellent, but, bad as the black-marketing evils are, the building up of such an organization is something for which we cannot wait. A subcommittee of Cabinet is considering the matter of wharf pillaging, and early additional action to minimize this practice is expected.
– Is it a fact that when questioned by representatives of the 1Dress regarding the committee which is to be set up to deal with the case of the wife of a prisoner of war, upon whom notice- to quit her home has been served, the Minister for the Interior said, “ It would ill-become me to endeavour to influence a tribunal which has been or is to :be .set up If so, is the Minister prepared now to admit that he was quite wrong when he endeavoured to have false evidence given in the Gahan case?
– I have nothing to add. to my statement which the honorable senator has read.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate, if he agrees with the habit which is being formed by certain of his colleagues of refusing to answer questions directed to them? When an honorable senator asks a question in this chamber he expects to receive an answer, and not to be side-tracked by comments such as, “I do not wish to add anything further to what I have already said “, or “ Come to my office and I shall discuss the matter with the honorable senator “. Is it to be the policy of Ministers in future not to answer questions without notice?
– I am not aware of the action complained of by the honorable senator. Honorable senators are given all available information in replies to questions. If one Minister chooses to use certain .phraseology when replying to a question, that is his business and not mine.
– As the Senate is likely to adjourn this week for a considerable period, is it your intention, Mr. President, to approach the Government with a view to giving to the Senate an opportunity to discuss a matter which is causing grave concern to all members of this chamber, namely, your order of precedence at official functions? During the week-end I examined a great number of photographs of functions held in the course of the 2S years in which I have been a member of the Senate, and I found that on all occasions up till recently the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives occupied respectively fourth and fifth positions in order of precedence at all functions held at Parliament House - in fact, at all functions at which the President and Mr. Speaker were present. Since this is a matter that concerns the Parliament as such, and not merely yourself, Mr. President, I ask if yon will consider the question of getting into contact with the Government and later reporting to the Senate in order to give members of the Senate an opportunity to discuss a subject which I believe is as of grave importance to honorable senators as to yourself. May I add that we all commend you, sir, for the strong stand that you have taken.
– It is not my intention to approach the Government in any shape or form. Honorable senators have various opportunities to discuss matters such as these. They can discuss them, for instance, on the Address.inReply, and on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate; so I do not feel inclined to approach the Government at all so far as this question is concerned, and I may say that I have not asked that it should be brought up here this afternoon, nor do I seek publicity in connexion with it. I have not approached any pressmen in the matter. They have approached me on occasions, and I have spoken a few words to clarify the issue. I have asked them not to write too much about it, because I believe it to be one for internal adjustment, and feel that it will be adjusted in due course.
I have approached this whole matter in an impersonal way. I have not desired to seek any social limelight personally in regard to meeting His Royal Highness. I have met the Governor-General, and we have had several very interesting conversations; and’, by the way, we have not discussed this matter. I found His Royal Highness to be a fine English gentleman. I enjoyed his company, and I feel sure, by the way in which he expressed himself, that he enjoyed mine. In fairness to myself, and to Mr. Speaker, I desire to say that there has been considerable publicity - unsought publicity - which has given a wrong turn to events. It is necessary, now that the opportunity has been afforded me, to point out clearly as far as Mr. Speaker and I are concerned that we do not desire to force ourselves upon anybody; nor do we wish to force the present position - that is, except from the point of view that we are entitled to certain recognition as the presiding officers in this Parliament. It is in that connexion that we are entitled to our proper position.
I do not care whether I dine with dukes or eat with dustmen, so long as I get something to eat. I do not believe that any good is to be derived by being hungry. When people have told me that I have been anxious to dine with His Royal Highness I have pointed out that it is not a matter of dining with him, or of being on his right or his left hand. The matter of precedence should receive full consideration by every member of this Parliament. I say that in all sincerity because I believe in the
Parliament as an institution. It is the highest institution in the land, but it has been attacked over the years by those who wish to see it destroyed. I emphasize that its presiding officers are entitled as such to receive the fullest consideration and that those who hold the office respectively of President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives should receive the prestige that is due to the Parliament and themselves. Fights have occurred in the past on matters of precedence between governments and kings. The Parliament represents the people; in fact, the Parliament is the people. That fight was won by the Parliament, but to-day there is a tendency to forget the position which the Parliament holds. The Parliament comprises every member of Parliament, not merely a few men who happen to bp members of a ministry. I say nothing against them, but the general public lacks a proper understanding of the position. The Parliament is paramount. I refer to the Parliament as a whole, and not merely to a section of it. It is not a question of the rights of the Labour party, the Liberal party, or the Australian Country party; it is a question of the Parliament upholding its rights. Those individuals who happen for the moment to be the President and Mr. Speaker should see to it that the prestige of the Parliament is upheld. I approach the matter from that point of view only. The people of the country should support the President and Mr. Speaker in the attitude that they have adopted. In Great Britain the high position of the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Speaker is recognized by the Parliament and nothing is done to demean it. When we demean the position of the President and Mr. Speaker we demean the Parliament, for members of the Parliament are then demeaning themselves. Several instances of failure to observe the order of precedence due to the presiding officers have occurred lately, and I do not intend to dilate upon them; but I should be lacking in my duty if I did not take a firm stand in the matter. If honorable senators knew what has been done on several occasions they would fully support Mr. Speaker and myself in the position we have assumed. I do not know who was responsible for the alteration of the order of precedence in placing the members of a temporary committee above Mr. Speaker and the President. Certain inquiries have been made, but I have been unable to ascertain who was responsible for it.
– They were placed even above Ministers.
– Yes. It is not merely a matter of social standing but a matter of recognizing that the Parliament is paramount, and that its presiding officers should, therefore, receive the recognition to which they are entitled. In Great Britain the order of precedence is different from that observed in Australia. In Canada the order is similar to that in this country, but in ‘ South Africa it is slightly different. I hope that, in future, it will be recognized that the President and Mr. Speaker represent the Parliament and that, the Parliament being paramount, every respect should be shown to those who for the time being have the honour to be its presiding officers.
– Will you, Mr. President, inform the Senate whether you have been reduced in your order of precedence from a top position to about the fourteenth place because you have not donned the dignified robes of office?
– I do not think that the wearing of a robe or a wig would make any difference to me at all, except from a photographic point of view.
Honorable senators of the Opposition. - Yes, it would.
– I realize that honorable senators on my left would like to see me wearing a wig and .robe. I oan say in all sincerity that, since I have occupied the position of President, I have had in view the dignity of the Senate, and the proper conduct of the business of this chamber. I consider that I have been able at all times to maintain order in this chamber without the assistance of a wig or a gown. I do not deem it necessary to wear them, as I regard them as having nothing to do with the matter of dignity. I stand here as your President, hoping to carry out my duties in a proper way in future as I have done in the past. I trust that every honorable senator will recognize my reasons for the stand which I have taken with regard to the order of precedence. I have acted, not in my own interests, but for the sake of the honour and dignity of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– hy leave - I am glad to be able to inform Honorable senators that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) is making satisfactory progress following the injuries received by him in a motor car accident on Sunday last. During his absence the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) will act as Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions, and Minister for Aircraft Production. In the House of Representatives, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) will represent the Minister for the Navy, the Minister for Munitions, and the Minister for Aircraft Production.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The War Expenditure Committee has presented to Parliament seven reports. In addition, the committee has, in accordance with its terms of reference, addressed to the Prime’ Minister twenty-five confidential memoranda for the consideration of War Cabinet. Owing to the nature of these memoranda, as indicated by the terms of reference, it is not desirable to comply with the honorable senator’s suggestion.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
News Services - Broadcasting Committee’s Report - Station 2HD Newcastle.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
SenatorCAMERON. - The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice-
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. Information is being obtained a nd will be supplied to the honorable senator.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping,. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
As the Royal Commission on Banking, in paragraph 105 of its report, stated that the method of financing the Sixth War Loan, between 1918 and 1920, enabled investors to subscribe by the use of overdrafts from the banks ofup to 90 per cent. of subscriptions at 4 per cent. interest per annum, the Treasury undertaking to make available to any bank a loan of notesup to the amount of overdraft granted to customers at interest rates of 3 per cent. will the Minister supply the following information: -
What was the total sum of loan money created by this use of Commonwealth notes as outlined in paragraph 105 of the report?
What is the total sum of interest received to date by the investors financed under this system ?
Wha t are the names of the banks who financed their overdrafts by Commonwealth notes ?
How much of this interest is still being paid annually?
Who was the Commonwealth Treasurer who authorized this system of finance?
Has this system of finance been adopted since the commencement of the present war?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
Debate resumed from the 2nd March (vide page 270), on motion by Senator Nicholls -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Royal Highness the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to : -
May it please Your Royal Highness:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, to extend to Your Royal Highness a welcome to Australia, and to thank Your Royal Highness for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– When the debate was adjourned on Friday last I was dealing with the criticism of honorable senators opposite concerning the disposition of Australian forces. I do not profess to know very much about military strategy, and, therefore, I reserve judgment on the point, knowing, however, that if the complaints made by honorable senators opposite are justified they will be rectified by the War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council. Honorable senators opposite have repeatedly requested the Government to arrange a secret meeting of senators and members in order to enable them to ventilate matters associated with the prosecution of the war. I do not agree with the idea of holding a secret meeting, because I do not believe that it would serve any good purpose. Indeed, Itake the view that all matters which the Government deems it advisable to discuss with the Parliament should be debated in open session, and full publicity given to such debates in the interests of the people as a whole. Despite the attitude of honorable senators opposite, I still have complete faith in the War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council. Those two bodies are doing the best possible job in the defence of this country. I suspect that the advocacy of a secret meeting on the part of honorable senators opposite is allied to a desire to deprecate the work that is being done by those two bodies. Honorable senators opposite allege that our armed forces are not playing a worthy role in the prosecution of the war. However, the fact is that members of our Army, Navy and Air Force are still engaging the enemy in al] theatres of war. That should answer the criticism of honorable senators opposite on that point. Since the outbreak of hostilities members of our armed forces have been putting up a magnificent fight alongside their Allies on all fronts.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) had much to say with regard to our man-power problem. “We must recognize that we have only a small population of which only 50 per cent, are males from whom ia large proportion must bo reserved for essential services. Whilst it is easy to criticize the Government with respect to man-power, we must realize that in the matter of releases we have reached the limit. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government had made a muddle of man-power, that it was afraid to take firm action, and deal effectively with the problem. Listening to his speech, his charges sounded serious; but the fact remains that he mentioned only a few isolated cases in substantiation of his allegations. He also said that in every government department men were tumbling over each other looking for work to do. That is a very serious accusation, which should be supported with concrete evidence. The honorable senator, however, attempted to justify .it simply by citing isolated happenings, and even in respect of the cases he cited he spoke in generalities. Obviously, his main desire was to make party political capital out of the matter. I should agree with his suggestion that the Government appoint a committee of three experienced men to comb out our man-power, provided that he substantiates his charges with definite and specific evidence to show that his complaints have an Australia-wide application. He also declared that many men in our armed services were idling their time. That is an easy statement for any one to make, but he again failed to produce any evidence in support of that charge. For instance, he did not indicate any particular unit in which men had nothing to do. It is rather curious that the honorable senator should urge the Government to make available expeditionary forces for services in Singapore, Malaya, and the Netherlands East
Indies, and, almost in the same breath, ask the Government to release immediately 50,000 men from the fighting forces for civilian work. That would make it appear that our man-power is unlimited.
In paragraph 12 of his Speech, His Royal Highness said that, from 1942 to 1944, the Australian Army had played an outstanding part in the defeat of the Japanese plans for the conquest of the South-West Pacific Area, and that its striking forces were now poised for future operations against the enemy. That is a definite indication that, although many of our fighting men may not be playing an active pant in the war at present, they are ready for operations against the enemy in the near future. If time is being wasted at present, apparently it is because of military necessity. We all know that highly .trained soldiers become irritated when they have nothing to do, and that some of them begin to feel that they could be more usefully employed in their ordinary peace-time avocations; hut that is a matter for determination :by military strategists rather than by honorable senators.
A feature of this debate was the assertion by an honorable senator that it would be far better if our Military Forces were engaging the enemy in various theatres of war instead of doing a “face-saving” job in New Guinea. Surely the feelings of relatives of these men should be considered. They are fighting for their country whether their battle front be in New Guinea or in any other theatre of war. To say that troops engaged on operations on islands to the immediate north of the country are doing a “ face-saving “ job is very unfair not only to the people of this country, but also to the Government. I should like to know what the honorable senator had at the back of his mind when he . made that statement. Does he suggest that military operations in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons should be abandoned? I believe that an obligation rests upon this country to restore civilian administration in those ureas as quickly as possible. General MacArthur’s bypassing strategy has resulted in the isolation of more than 100,000 Japanese troops in those islands. Those troops can be regarded as virtually besieged because their means of communication are most difficult; but their presence in those areas is preventing the restoration of civil administration, and I believe that this country is under an obligation to remove them at the earliest possible moment. If we were to withdraw our troops from these “ face-saving “ operations, and to employ them upon the task of rescuing their kith and kin who are prisoners of war in Malaya and elsewhere, and, ultimately, in the final defeat of the Japanese forces, who, then, would be charged with the task of eliminating the 100,000 besieged enemy troops in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons? “Would the Australian soldiers, after playing a leading role in the Pacific war, have to start on the task of digging the enemy out of those areas?
– Obviously, the peace terms would demand that the besieged enemy garrisons lay down their arms.
– That may be the honorable senator’s opinion; I am inclined to place more faith in the opinion of the High Command. Military strategists have more knowledge of the requirements of the Pacific campaign than any honorable senator.
I was astounded to hear Senator Foll say that the - Commander-in-Chief of the Australian armed forces, General Sir Thomas Blainey, should resign, and that the Australian Army was seething with discontent because administration was not all that could be desired. Once again, I do not profess to have any inside knowledge of Army affairs, but the honorable senator’s allegations are very serious indeed, and I should like to know exactly what was the motive behind his remarks. Any honorable senator who makes such statements in this chamber should offer some evidence in support of them so. that military authorities will have an opportunity to rebut the allegations and, if necessary, place the true position before Parliament and the people of this country. It is a serious matter for an honorable senator, speaking under the privilege of Parliament, to say that our Commander-in-Chief should resign, and I hope that Senator Foll will tell us what his object is. Is it a matter of incompetence on the part of General Sir Thomas Blarney? I recall that, whilst Senator Foll was speaking, one honorable senator opposite, referring to General Sir Thomas Blarney, interjected that he was an excellent soldier. Apparently, then, his ability is not being questioned. There must be some other motive, and they ought to be exposed. I hold . the view that, when any honorable senator takes advantage of tine privileges of this Parliament to say that a person such as General Sir Thomas Blarney should resign, that officer should be afforded an opportunity to place before Parliament his side of the case. The attack upon the Commander-in-Chief has been most, unfair, and I emphasize my view that he should be given the same opportunity to defend himself as has been given those who have attacked him.
– That is a matter for the Government.
– I have made my statement, and I stick, to it.
– With all its faults!
Sana lor NASH. - With all its faults, and I do not think that there are too many of them. Dealing with the activities of our fighting services, it may not do any harm if I recall to honorable senators the words contained in paragraphs 11 and 13 of the Governor-General’s Speech. In paragraph 11, His Royal Highness says - .
The Royal Australian Navy lias operated on all the oceans of the world, whore it has built up a tradition in keeping with its earlier record and that of the Royal Navy. In the South-West Pacific, Australian naval units operating under United States control have participated in practically every amphibious operation since the tide of war turned. Their work in the recent operations for the reoccupation of the Philippines has been outstanding.
There we have a reminder that, after all, Australia ha3 three distinct and separate fighting arms, and, so far as the Royal Australian Navy is concerned, its record throughout the war is worthy of the highest commendation. Its ships have increased in number, although it has sustained terrible losses, both of ships and personnel. Yet we do not hear too much praise given the boys in blue, who have had to face the enemy perhaps in some of the roost critical positions of any section of our armed services. I happen to know something about the Royal Australian Navy, not because I have had active association with it, but for the reason that there are people dear to me who have had that association. I know of the hell that Australian boys went through, for example on Australia, Shropshire and Arunta in connexion with recent naval engagements, and I am pleased indeed that the GovernorGeneral emphasized the very great services that our naval personnel have rendered and are continuing to perform. Paragraph 33 of the Speech of His Royal Highness makes reference to another arm of our fighting forces, in the following terms: -
Thu Royal Australian Air Force has participated in operations with the Royal Air Force throughout the European theatre of war, in the Middle Bast, Burma and in the SouthWest Pacific Area. In the South-West Pacific the Royal Australian Air Force lias operated in close collaboration with the American Air Forces, and in all the phases of the Allied advance to the Philippines it has carried out the tasks assigned to it in a highly efficient manner.
We know that Australian airmen have risked their lives unstintingly. and in large numbers have made the supreme sacrifice in operations over Europe and elsewhere. We know how honorably they have been associated with the. prosecution of the war in practically all its theatres. So when people suggest that the Army is seething with discontent and that the Commander-in-Chief should resign, we must still remember that there are three fighting services and that their record from the outbreak of the war, and in every part of the world where battles have been fought, possibly surpasses the record of the services rendered by any other force fighting with the Allied Nations in any theatre of war.
I speak in this strain because there is a danger in this country of many people becoming complacent in regard- to the conflict. Complacency is perilous and it must be combated by every member of this Parliament. The mere fact that statements are made suggesting that there is something wrong with the Australian Army and that our fighting men are wasting their time, helps to spread the feeling of complacency among the people. We must impress it upon them that it is our task to continue to provide the essential sinews of war so that we may carry on to victory. Next month we shall be asking the people of Australia to contribute to another victory loan of £100,000,000. How are we going to appeal to them to make available that tremendous suan, so urgently necessary, when it is stated in this chamber, the highest tribunal of its kind in the land, that the Australian fighting forces now in New Guinea, are engaged on a “face-saving” campaign? The position will not bear investigation. This country is still at war, and the Allies have still a long way to go. Germany is not defeated; Japan is not yet beaten. Until final victory has been achieved we have the obligation, the urgent duty imposed upon us., to tell the people of Australia that - no matter what may be said to the contrary - the prosecution of the war to its successful completion is paramount. It is our task to remind our fellow citizens of their favoured position in this world conflict, and to point out to them that they have not known a scintilla of the suffering endured by the people of Great Britain and other countries that have been drawn into the arena of world combat.
Reference has been made to what I may term drastic criticisms of the home front. Honorable senators opposite are continually telling us that the Government is still only muddling along; that the food front is in a deplorable position, and that things are going to be a great deal worse even than they are to-day. In paragraph 14 of the Speech of His Royal Highness it is stated -
Australia’s effort on the home front is a noteworthy one. Diversions of man-power and woman-power to the war effort have been made to the limits of her capacity.
I wish to stress those latter words. The paragraph proceeds -
Australia has provided munitions of war, ships, aircraft and supplies of all kinds for the fighting forces. She has contributed in full measure to the needs of the Allied forces in the Pacific and she has accepted substantial new commitments for the provision of base facilities for the British Pacific fleet. . . .
There we have .an indication that, despite all the difficulties on the home front, the efforts of Australia to-day are of a noteworthy character. We have had to deal with the production of munitions, warships, andaircraft, and, in fact, with the essential fighting material for all branches of the fighting services. The remarks of His Royal Highness with respect to shipbuilding interested me particularly. In this regard I desire to say that a member of this chamber who is not of the same political faith as myself but is a representative of the same State - I refer to SenatorCollett- is doing, perhaps quite inadvertently, a disservice to the people of Western Australia so far as concerns the construction of ships in that State.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator.
- Senator Collett may do so after I have concluded my remarks with respect to the matter. On the 28th October last year he made a statement to the Western Australian Daily News.
– I did not make a statement to the press. The newspaper published an extract from a speech which I had made in this chamber.
– Was the report correct?
– Then I accept the correction. The press report stated - “ Bearing in mind the transport means of the future, and prospects of the industry, the absurdity of the position is revealed by comparison of these costs with those prevailing elsewhere in the world “, he said. “ Wooden ships of a nominal 350 tons burden can be used most successfully between points on the long coastline of Western Australia. “I have visited the shipbuilding yards, and the time I inquired of the Government I was informed that the estimated cost of each ship was £20,000. “However, quite recently Attorney-General Dr. Evatt said that each ship was costing £30,000 - or more than £85 a ton.”
Apparently the argument advanced is that the estimated cost of each ship was £20,000, whilst the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has said that the cost was now £30,000, or more than £85 a ton. The newspaper report further stated -
Higher-quality American cargo liners cost up to £84 a ton, whereas Swedish cargo liners capable of doing 15 knots cost £58 a ton.
It is obvious that some adjustment will have to be made if this industry is to remain in existence in this country after the war. We have an excellent team of craftsmen in Western Australia, brought together with some difficulty.
I agree with the last sentence. As the result of the publication of that statement, I became somewhat concerned, because I know the difficulties experienced in Western Australia in connexion with ship construction. From a reliable source I have ascertained that, when the design and specifications of the vessel were in a nebulous state, the original estimate of cost of each vessel was £20,000. It would be unreasonable to assume that the demands of the services for quality and refinements of a high standard could have been anticipated at that time. In addition, the preliminary plan provided for only one engine, whereas the final plan provided for two. When the original estimate was made, it was thought that the vessels would not be subject to the provisions of the Navigation Act applying to ships of 300 tons and upwards, but subsequently that was found necessary.
– Was that due to bad planning?
– No. In the first stage, the shipbuilding had to be initiated quickly and the figure of £20,000 was suggested as a suitable one, but in the process of construction it was found that, because the men were not working to plans and specifications, that price would be exceeded. The report which I have before me also states -
I would draw your attention at this stage to the fact that comparative costs on a deadweight basis of ships can be very misleading. Vessels with the same cargo-carrying capacity, and even outwardly the same appearance, can vary in cost to such an extent to frequently alarm the layman. The cheaper vessel, say, is given no economy of operation, its speed is cut to a minimum, and refinements of crew’s quarters, handling gear, navigation safety devices are also cut to a minimum under the Navigation Act. The second vessel is given refinements of economy involving additional costs and propelling machinery, extra speed, and generally is brought up to the standard of a present-day, first-class cargo vessel, and it is well within the knowledge of experts who say, for example, two cargo vessels of 9,000 tons, built in the same shipyard, can vary in cost as much as £75,000.
I also have a statement giving the following summary of the total cost incurred to the 30th November, 1944, in the construction of wooden vessels in Western Australia : -
When shipbuilding was started in a nebulous way, without plans and specifications, the first ship cost £44,973, but the last vessel cost only £23,652.
-What is the wages bill for the first ship as compared with that of the last?
– In the case of the first vessel, the wages bill was £21,215, and for the last ship £10,859. In order to indicate how the original estimate was affected, I shall deal with ships Nos. 1 and 2, which are already commissioned. The alterations from the original design provided for the following : -
Additional floors - scissors type.
Arched keelson - 2-ft. 11-in. maximum depth.
Sister keelson, 12 inches by 8 inches added at bilges -60 feet long.
Bilge keel - decreasein size; alteration in position.
Stringer : 8 inches by6 inches ; added inside bilge keel. 8- in. by 8-in. fore and afters through hold made continuous. 6-in by-in mild steel ties fitted inside bulwarkstanchions and on each side of 8-in. by 8-in. foreand afters. 8-in. by½-in. M.S. diagonal straps in hold.
Two guns added - platforms required.
Provision for native crew.
Provision for ammunition lockers.
Resiting of boatswain’s store.
Addition of native galley.
Addition of native lavatory and coal scuttle.
Resiting of two mastson twoseparate occa sions.
Addition of two derricks and all necessary fittings involving alterations to mast bands andgoose neck, &c.
Provision of four winches instead of two; also extra electrical connexions.
Deckhouse and Boat Deck
Reduced deck locker to provide for extra refrigerator.
Stowage for two life-rafts.
Provision of one gun - platform required.
Alterations to steering frame, &c.
Strengthening of deck for davits.
Providing snatch blocks and deck eye plates for lifeboats.
Alterations to galley stove to provide boiler for hot-water service.
Change of engine beds for Gardner engines in lieu of Ruston Hornsby - lateral stiffening.
Reiner auxiliary unit installed instead of Ruston.
Southern Cross unit athwart ships over stern tubes in lieu of on starboard side.
Fresh-water tank provided for Southern Cross unit with cooling coil.
Two engine bilge suctions provided and crossconnected between engines.
Independent sea suction for Southern Cross unit.
Provide spare shaft.
Provide spare propellers - left and right.
Time waiting on arrival of Sonnerdale reduction gear boxes - harbour dues, &c.
Those were some of the alterations made during the construction of the vessels, but not all of them. When an honorable senator offers a criticism of the kind levelled by SenatorCollett he should at, least ascertain the facts. Criticism of the kind I have referred to could bring about the complete cessation of shipbuilding in Western Australia and I do not desire that to happen. In the early stages great difficulties had to be overcome. There were very few shipwrights in that State, and they were engagedentirely on repair work. The costs incurred with regard to shipbuilding in Western Australia leave no cause for justifiable complaint, and the cost of construction is rapidly declining.
– I hope that it will, and our job is to see that itdoes.
Reference was made in the Speech of His Royal Highnessto food distribution. After all, the control of shipping in this country is in the hands ofthe British shipping pool. Astoair transportation, I am pleased to note the intentionof the Government to nationalizethe interstate air lines. I believe that alltransport in Australia, on the land,onthesea,and in theairshould be nationallyownedand controlled.Ihavereceivedfromoneor twopublicbodiesinWesternAustralia arequestthatIshouldopposeinterference with private interstateair services.
Paragraph 35 of theGovernorGeneral’s Speech states that theGovernment intends to introduce a comprehensivebill providing for the reestablishmentof members of the fighting forces. The Speech further states -
It isproposed thatpreferencewill apply toemploymentgenerally,whethergovernment orprivate,andthatitwillbe available to members of theforcesand to civilians who havebeenin actual contact with theenemy. Reinstatement pro visionswill be transferred fromexistingNationalSecurityActregulationsto the bill.
I do not intendtodiscuss the subject of preferenceinemployment to ex-service personnelat thisstage. Ihad proposed todebatethe matter la ter, but whenthe measureis before honorable senators I shallprobably beoverseas. It is significant to notethat the Leader of theOpposition(Senator McLeay) indicatedthat the Government’spreference proposals were notof anyvaluetoex-members of theservices. I hopeand believe that, when the proposals of theGovernment are given consideration by this Parliament,they will befoundto constitute the first real effort to dosomething worth whileon behalf of thefighting services.
I realize the tremendousdifficulties which people throughout theCommonwealth are experiencing as a result of the shortage of houses, but approval has been given for the erection inWestern Australia of a theatre, which, I understand, is to be an open-air building. This type is quite common in that State and consists, in the main, of four walls. I understand that such a building is to be erected at Scarborough. It is probably desirable that the residents of that area should have the benefit of a motion picture theatre, but I strongly urge that priority be given to the construction of homes for the people. In some ofthe homes which have been constructed recently green timber has been used, with the result that it has warped badly - in some instances even before the completion of the building. I realize that there is a shortage of suitable timber which, in turn, is due to lack of man-power, but the use of such timber is not in the interestsof the purchasers of homes. I refer to this matter inorder toemphasize mycontention that other building constructionshould not be permitted until the demand forhomes hasbeenmet. I was pleasedto notice in theSpeech ofHis Royal Highness that theGovernment intends to relax war-time controlsassoon as possible.
The people of Western Australiaare atadisadvantagecomparedwithcitizens of theother States becauseof the practice ofreferring so manymatters toCanberra fordetermination. Inorder tomeet this difficulty, I suggestthat the Government should set up in eachState acompetent authority, with full power to deal with minor matters ofadministration. Let us consider, for example, the position which exists in regard to the supply of refrigerators. As honorable senators know, refrigerators are on the restricted list; before one can be purchased an application must be made on the prescribed form and approval by the authorities in Canberra isnecessary. I suggest that the overall requirements of the Commonwealth for articles of thiskind should be determined and that each State should beallocated its quota on a population basis.That having been done, some person in each State should be given complete authority to deal with applications. People living in many parts of Western Australia, particularly in the far-northern areas, where there are few towns, and where settlers are separated by long distances are entitled to greater consideration than is now given to them. In each State there is a Deputy Commissioner of Taxation who is authorized to make decisions, and I suggest that a similar arrangement should be made in regard to other matters.
I have received numbers of complaints from persons living in various parts of Western Australia regarding the difficulty ofobtaining tyres for perambulator wheels. I have taken this matter up with the Ministers concerned, and I know that they are doing every thing possible to meet the situation, but a supply of 10 cwt. of5/8-in. rubber tyring per annum which is sufficient for only 400 wheels of10 inches diameter, does not nearly meet the needs of Western Australia. I have been informed, on what I regard as reliable authority, that recently a representative of a firm in Western Australia visited Melbourne and was told that 1 ton of rubber tyring suitable for perambulators could be made available to Western Australia, but that the Department of War Organization of Industry would not grant a permit for the additional quantity. I hope that this matter will be given earnest consideration, because many of thechildren’s vehicles in use to-day provide clear evidence of the poor quality of the rubber in their tyres. I hope, too, that consideration will be given to the granting of increased benefits to invalid and old-age pensioners.
It is high time that the responsible authorities made available an additional train each week on the Trans-Australian Railway. For some time there has been only one train weekly between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie; there should be at least two trains each week. Many people in Western Australia wish to visit the eastern States, but they find it almost impossible to do so because of the shortage of accommodation on trains. Between the other capital cities there is at least one train daily and I consider that the time has arrived to provide an additional train each week on the Trans-Australian line.
On the last occasion on whichI travelled on that railway I had an opportunity to inspect a troop train which was travelling in the opposite direction. Although the time available to me was not long it was sufficient to reveal the conditions under which troops travelto and from Western Australia. Honorable senators have no doubt heard that on occasions difficulties have arisen because of men having to travel in cattle trucks. My observation showed that the authorities generally allot twenty men to a. truck. As each truck is a separate unit, passengers cannot pass from one truck to another; they can move about only when the train has stopped at a station. On my journey between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie I travelled in a first-class carriage and was able to walk from one carriage to another, and have a rest in the lounge ; but troops travelling in cattle trucks have to sit where they are, and for the whole 1,140 miles can stretch their legs only when the train stops. Their seating accommodation consists of two ordinary wooden seats - one on each side of the truck. The swaying of the truck is such that men must take care to avoid injury. The truck which I saw had an open wooden floor, which was both draughty and dusty, whilst the doors of the truck are so placed as to increase the draughty conditions. The palliasse’s supplied to the men consist of hessian bags filled with straw. I do not say that they were dirty, nor do I say that they were clean : I would describe them, as “grubby”. That is the accommodation provided for men who risk their lives in the defence of their country! The only provision for hanging articles of clothing consists of a number of nails driven into the walls of the truck. When the twenty men lie down at night they are packed tightly together. Sleep is almost impossible because of the vibration; indeed, they sleep only when they are physically exhausted. The dust makes breathing most difficult, and the personal gear of the men becomes smothered in dust. The lighting of each truck consists of two small globes, but the vibration and movement of the vehicle make reading impossible in any case. In the worst period of the war such conditions might have been necessary but the time has come when they should no longer be tolerated. That such conditions exist to-day could be said to indicate a lack of interest in our fighting men.
SenatorFraser. - It indicates a lack of rolling-stock.
– That is a matter to which the Government should give consideration. I have noticed some new coaches for the ordinary travelling public on the Trans- Australian Railway. If these improved facilities can be provided surely something better should be provided for our fighting men. It is gratifying to know that the age of chivalry has not passed, and that servicewomen are not forced to travel in trucks, but are accommodated in carriages. It is not uncommon to find in these cattle trucks men liable to attacks of malaria, or suffering from shrapnel wounds which are liable to be re-opened by the jolting. I support the suggestion which has been made to me that it would be better to remove all of the partitions in some of the ordinary coaches now in service, and erect collapsible ship bunks in three tiers along the length of the carriage. Such bunks would enable the’ troops to travel in a reasonable degree of comfort. The Commonwealth, within its own railway services, should endeavour to provide new rolling-stock. The average mixed train on the Trans-Australian Railway includes three cattle trucks which are used for this purpose, from 60 to SO men travelling in those trucks. I am not a little disconcerted when I enjoy the privilege of travelling in a comfortable railway coach while men, who are risking their lives in defence of this country, are obliged to travel in cattle trucks. I sincerely hope that when r,l:ie Government undertakes the standardization, of railway gauges it will commence that work in Western Australia.
– I congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion on their speeches, and join with honorable senators generally in welcoming His Royal Highness the Governor-General, the Duchess of Gloucester and their family to this country.
My main purpose in participating in this debate is to reply to irresponsible statements made by honorable senators opposite particularly with respect to the equipment and disposition of our .armed forces. I shall make it clear not only to the Parliament but also to the people that; those statements are inaccurate, and that the honorable senators who made them were not in possession of the facts. I pay a tribute to the splendid war record of Senator Mattner, and in answering him I shall deal strictly with his criticism of the Government. In the course of hisspeech he said -
In making these comments I do not hold myself up as an expert; at the samp time, I do not think I have ever said anything publicly that might have an ill effect upon our war effort. The second of the reasons which t have in mind has to do with the type of employment allotted to our three Australian Imperial Force divisions.
I hope that this Parliament will never attempt to usurp the prerogative of deciding how and where our armed forces shall be employed. I think that honorable senators opposite will agree that the disposition of our troops must be left to the High ‘Command. At the same time, of course, Parliament has an obligation to see that certain things are done.
– That is the Government’s responsibility.
– The Government has made it clear to the CommanderinChief of the South-West Pacific Area that certain of our forces are .available to him; and it is for him to decide the disposition of those forces. I shall never support the idea that Parliament should say where those troops’ should be engaged.
– That was never suggested.
– Yes. I revert to the statements made in this chamber on the 28th February by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Mattner alleging lack of modern equipment for four fighting forces serving in New Guinea. It is unfortunate that, the supposed shortcomings of individuals and of the services are publicized to the exclusion of the successes which those services have achieved in five and a half years of war. It is true that Senator Mattner referred to 1942.
– And 1945.
– That is so, and 1 shall deal later with present conditions; but it is true that in 1942 we were very short of equipment despite the fact that we had then been at war for over two years.
– And we are still short of equipment.
– If the honorable senator is not too biased to acknowledge facts, I shall convince him that he is wrong. It is inevitable that in one of the greatest organizations in the Southern Hemisphere, the Australian Army, as in any commercial undertaking, certain weaknesses will be disclosed from time to time. Apparently, it has suited honorable senators opposite to cite those inescapable incidents as being indicative of the general efficiency of the forces. The
Leader of the Opposition and Senator Mattner referred to reports received from time to time that men in New Guinea are not satisfied with the equipment provided for Australian troops; and Senator Mattner also questioned the employment of our troops. When dealing with such criticisms, it is necessary to take into account essential differences between the South- West Pacific Area and other theatres of war, particularly the difference in the operations called for in the South-West Pacific Area.
General MacArthur’s magnificently successful strategy over the past twelve months has led him to the realization of his objective in the recapture of the Philippines. Nothing has been allowed to stop his swift forward movement; but when one examines an operational map of the area, it will be seen that except in New Guinea, which was recaptured principally by the fighting efforts of Australian, troops, Allied holdings in and around the chain of bases leading north to the Philippines are minute in proportion to the area of island territory still held .by the Japanese. Higher strategy dictated the possession of these bases, selected carefully by General MacArthur with :one objective, which was the securing of a line of communication for his assault on the Philippines. The forces’ and the material available to General MacArthur were used to seize those bases, and were gradually built up, conserved and moved forward in the strategic advance. Eventually, in October and November of las’t year, the last substantial bodies of American combat troops were withdrawn from the New Guinea, Bismarck and Solomons areas, with the bulk of their equipment, to take part in the Philippines assault.
Their role, in those nearer islands, had not been to conquer all, hut simply to seize in each island, or section of coastline, a, small staging-base, and to hold it against enemy attacks. Their troops were used after such assaults in a garrison role only, repelling in some cases savage counter-attacks by the enemy, but not exploiting their small hold. Their massive and lavish supplies of equipment were designed to build, in the swiftest possible time, strategic air bases and all the installations which go with such bases ; and their equipment went on with them from base to hase on the road to the Philippines. Such equipment as they left behind had been used to the limit of its capabilities in the unremitting labour of building new bases, had become unserviceable and when left was’ stripped of all serviceable replacement parts. Such equipment wastage had to be replaced from the United States of America and simultaneously with those replacements, heavier and heavier demands were being made for General MacArthur’s strategic drive. A truly enormous weight of material had to be built up by his commanders to maintain the impetus of the drive and to ensure its full and effective impact on the Philippines, and of the enemy forces there.
I ask honorable senators to remember that in addition to these demands, which were the first priority in that theatre of war American industry had to assist in the supply of material of war, particularly to their own troops on the three major fronts in Europe, and as well, through the pooling authority established in the United States of America, to the forces commanded by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten in South-East Asia. There are other factors which I am unable to discuss, but honorable members will understand me when I state that in the mechanical equipment needs of actual warfare the Australian Military Forces are supplied to the limit of the material available to the Australian Government. With regard to the allegation that Australian troops who have been rested since their last strenuous campaigns may not have been fully equipped with the most modern weapons of war, every honorable senator can rest assured that the equipment of the Australian Army in basie weapons is second to none in any army in the world. In many respects, havingregard to the peculiar character of the war which we are called on to fight in the Pacific, we are better equipped. I refer particularly to the degree to which the Australian troops have been armed with automatic weapons, chiefly of Australian design and manufacture, for closequarters jungle warfare.
Senator Mattner attempted to make capital of the term “ a pauper Army “, his reference being to the respective merits of American and Australian equipment. If weapons were meant, it is necessary to quote only two instances in reply. The first is the light automatic weapons of short range with which the respective forces are equipped. The American forces use the heavy Thompson sub-machine gun with its bulky and heavy .45 calibre ammunition. The comparable Australian weapon is the light, easily handled, compact and small Owen gun, or the Austen gun, which fire the much lighter and, therefore, the much more easily transported.38 calibre ammunition, and which will stand up to the rigorous conditions encountered in the tropics far better’ than any comparable weapon. Secondly, there is no American counterpart of the short 25- pounder field gun, an effective weapon of Australian design and manufacture, easily transported and of inestimable value in support of infantry. It is suggested that we should abandon those and other items of proven value and adopt much heavier and no more effective weapons, in the handling and firing of which our entire Army would have to be retrained, and the transport of which would present innumerable problems having regard to the terrain over which we have had to fight and will have to continue to fight.
In basic arms - small arms, automatic weapons and machine-guns - and in artillery support weapons of all types, including mortars, Australian troops are fully supplied in accordance with scales of equipment which have been steadily revised and increased throughout five and a half years of war, and I can state confidently that this equipment is not inferior to, or less efficient than, that used by United States forces in the same general area. Through constant close liaison, Australian Army tables of equipment conform largely to the standards progressively adopted by the British Army. However, in many respects, because of what could be called the pioneer efforts of Australian troops in successful jungle fighting in NewGuinea, advances made by the Australian Military Forces in the type and scale of equipment issued to its troops have been copied and adopted by both the British command in the SouthEast Asia theatre of war and the United States forces in this nearer jungle theatre of war in the South-West Pacific Area. Fortunately, I am in a position to speak with greater knowledge on this subject than would normally be the case. When Acting Minister for the Army I personally investigated the basis of provisioning of munitions, equipment, materials and plant for the Australian Military Forces and found that all formations of the active fighting forces were being completely provided, not only with all requirements of initial equipment, but also with complete and adequate reserves of such equipment to meet war wastage and unforeseen emergencies.
On the 28th February, the Leader of the Opposition stated -
Thewashas continued for live and a halt years, and there is now no excuse for our fighting troops not being supplied with equipment equal to the best that is available in any part of the world, even if we have to pay for it.I hope that during this debate Ministers will deal with this matter.
My reply to the Leader of the Opposition is that we are not only providing our fighting troops with the best and most modern equipment, but also we are providing it twice and even thrice over, so that whatever contingency may arise those troops will have adequate reserves and replacements to draw upon. Compared with the basis of provisioning of any well-conducted business establishment, these initial requirements and war wastage and emergency reserves appear to be calculated on a most extravagant basis, but, unfortunately, this is one of the many mounting costs that must be met as the price of war, and the Government has not hesitated to supply the necessary funds to meet all requirements of battle units as forecast by the Army authorities and confirmed by the Defence Committee. On the other hand, there is an obligation on the Government to ensure that wasteful expenditure is not incurred in the provision of unnecessary items or the over-provisioning of necessary items. Honorable senators on the Opposition benches do not hesitate to. stress waste and extravagance whenever it suits them politically to take the opposite view to that to which they now apparently subscribe. Therefore, to ensure that my remarks regarding the basis of provision of Army requirements will not be misconstrued at some later stage as an indication of a lack of a proper review of such requirements, it is desirable to indicate that these requirements are continually under review to ensure that with the ever-changing war situation, the requirements of equipment and stores are consistently related thereto.
A consideration that has a vital effect on the location and continuity of supplies and equipment for our forward troops in operational areas is the availability . of shipping, the shortage of which was referred to in the Speech made by His Royal Highness and also by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in a statement in the House of Representatives. Supplies and equipment have been moved forward to the maximum degree that shipping has been available, and operations already in progress were delayed for some time because of the necessity for building up an adequate supply and reserve in the bases which we occupied as a preliminary to attack. Notwithstanding this major movement of equipment and supplies, and that all available shipping has been used to its full capacity in keeping our troops supplied, approximately 3,000 to 4,000 shipping tons of equipment, including tractors, bulldozers, angledozers, power shovels, road graders, cranes and the like, are still awaiting shipment from the mainland at the present time.
Criticism has been expressed regarding the mechanical equipment of the Austraiian Army. The following is a press report of what Senator Mattner said : -
This meant that communications under the American methods wore always secure, because if one road was temporarily closed by air bombardment, a second or third was available, and damage could bc made good almost at once.
On the other hand, the Australians had their communications interrupted altogether until labouring pick and shovel teams could re-open damaged roads.
There seems to have grown up an idea that road-making, anywhere and everywhere, has ceased to involve manual, labour and has become exclusively a mechanical operation. This is very far from the truth, as troops know. Bulldozers and similar equipment cannot beput to the task of making roads over precipitous jungle razorbacks without preparing the way for them, but such simpleequipment as the pick and shovel and the jungle knife can be used to clear a foot track through the jungle and toprepare ground for the air-dropping of supplies to areas which could not be reached by any road without weeks of labour and a huge outlay of men and materials. Quite clearly, there hasdeveloped a tendency to confuse the rapid laying down of air strips and the subsidiary roads which serve them, in flat coastal areas - the only type of country from which modern combat aircraft can operate - with the opening up of access tomountain fastnesses. In many of the areas where Australian troops are now operating it is impossible to make largescale use of mechanical equipment. For instance, on Bougainville Island, wherethe Americans had built within their perimeter an extraordinary network of roads, Australians have carried the fight scores of miles within the past three months, through neck-deep swamps and over a precipitously rising system of razorbacked ridges to which it would be quite impossible - and I stress that point - without long preparation of the ground, to bring heavy mechanical equipment. Much the same condition exists in the Aitape area of New Guinea. Surely no one will suggest that the war of patrols in. the Torricelli mountains should be preceded by an invasion of bulldozers making a two-lane highway. If axe, shovel and pick have to be used, it is not because we do not possess mechanical equipment, but solely because of the impossibility of making it available. In contrast, the Australian troops operating in New Britain seized a new base at Jacquinot Bay, and have made extensive use of mechanical equipment to establish a base in a manner comparable with the efficiency and speedy construction of similar American developments. Vital roads radiate from that base to carry supplies forward, but naturally they cannot keep up with the leading troops. Inevitably, as the Australian troops get into the rugged mountain country - often virgin territory - behind which the main J apanese forces are concentrated, the bulldozer and mechanical transport will have to give way ito patrols on foot and supply-dropping from the air, involving again the pick-and-shovel work which is spoken of with such horror. The real answer to the critics who say that the Americans use mechanical equipment whilst our troops are back to the pick and shovel is that the American troops were not required to fight in the type of New Guinea country over which Australian troops are now operating.
Senator Mattner quoted a critic who stated that we did not own such things as “ ducks “ or amphibious trucks. The facts are that our initial requirements of these have been received and that further orders are awaiting execution, but the demand greatly exceeds the available supplies. It is easy to criticize the absence of amphibious vehicles, but in one of our areas of operations experience has proved that the use of such vehicles is severely limited ‘because of high seas and dangerous surf, inseparable from the prevailing tropical weather. In any case, it is doubtful whether a “ duck which cannot safely carry another vehicle, is an efficient substitute for a washed-away bridge in areas where shallow rivers quickly flood and as quickly subside; but I can assert, without doubt, that the full quota of emergency bridging material was available in the area which had heavy floods about the date mentioned by Senator Mattner - the 4th February - and that this was used. In the operational areas, the Australian Army has been steadily building up a fleet of Australian-made assault landing and supply craft as fast as they have come from the stocks, to take the place of those which the United States Forces were unable to leave us when they moved on in the Pacific and which we could not replace from- any allied source.
After Senator Mattner had made his speech in this chamber on the 28th February, it was reported in the daily press that he had amplified his statements by referring to the unsatisfactory condition of the defences at Port Moresby, just two and a half years ago. While I wish to remind honorable senators that if these defences were unsatisfactory, it was not the fault of this Government, which was not in office at the time, I would like to advise the Senate that, according to information which is available to me, the position was not as the honorable senator is reported to have indicated. When this Government assumed office it was confronted with the task of building up the defences of this country, despite the fact that the war against Japan’s Axis partners had been going on for two and a half years.
– The Labour Government did not give the poor devils at Port Moresby much of a run in 1942.
– I remind the honorable senator that at the time to which he is referring this Government had been in office for a little more than six months. What action had the Menzies Government taken to marshal the resources of this country during the previous two and a half years of war ? They took no action at all. I know that men who bad gone to the Middle East had not the equipment with them when they came back to face the Japanese in the jungles of New Guinea.
– I often wondered why this Government denied us the 25-pounders that had been promised us in October of that year.
– I intend to deal with that matter. Reference was made to the condition of the 18- po under guns which were ready for the seaward defence of Port Moresby when a Japanese attempt to seize that port was a distinct possibility in 1942, as being a menace to the crews and to the “Australian infantry they were supposed to be supporting “. Guns mounted for coast defence and pointing out to sea could, however, not menace Australian infantry. Reference was also made to the danger of worn barrels bursting, endangering the crews, and to the allegation that, due to wear, the range was undependable and the shells might fall far short of the target and into our own lines. Having regard to the direction which these guns faced and to the position of our lines into which the shells might have fallen, the infantry would have had to be some thousands of yards out to seafrom the beaches of Port Moresby.
– The whole trouble is that the defence of Port Moresby was wrong.
SenatorFRASER. - Let us examine what the honorable senator said. He made certain specific charges, and I intend now to repeat what he said so that the whole matter shall be recorded in Hansard. Involving the efficiency of artillery provided for the defence of Port Moresby in 1942, the honorable senator stated that this artillery comprised eighteen guns in all, of which twelve were 18-pounders, four were 4.5-in. howitzers, and two were fixed 6-in. harbour defence guns of a very old pattern. The 18- pounders, which comprised the backbone ofthe artillery, were completely unsuited for the war in any case.Of these, at least two were so badly worn that they constituted a grave menace both to their gun crews and to the Australian infantry, theywere supposed to be supporting. There was always a danger of the worn barrels bursting and annihilating the crews when the guns were fired; or because, due to wear, the range was undependable, and the shells might fall far short of the target into our own lines. Moreover, the ammunition provided for these guns was of a much more powerful type than that for which they had been built. This meant that the calibrations on the range drums borenorelation to the actual range of the powerful ammunition, and the guns had to be withdrawn one by one for emergency recalibration at a time when they might, at any moment, have been needed to meet a Japanese attack.
– I ask the Minister what he is reading from.
– I am reading a statement made by Senator Mattner; it is in the form of an extract from the press.
– I would remind the Minister of the provisions of standing order 414, as follows : -
No senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other Documents except Hansard, referring to Debates in the Senate during the same Session.
-The statement read by me is a correct report of the utterances of Senator Mattner which are reported in their amplified form in Hansard. I have theHansard record here before me. Let us see where we are getting in regard to all this.
– The Minister is getting into deep water, I think.
– No, but I am correcting a good many irresponsible statements. I shall proceed to read a report of the commanding officer of the regiment at Port Moresby at that time. He is now on dutyin Australia, and he does not share Senator Mattner’s views, for he has, reported in these terms -
On9th June, 1942, IarrivedinMoresby to take over the command of 13th Australian Field Regiment.The Regiment had arrived in MoresbyinJanuary,1942, and was armed with18-pounder guns and 4.5-in. howitzers. All these guns were of last war pattern and manufacture, but had been modified by the addition of new axles, wheels and pneumatic tyresfor towing by Motor Transports. They wereall inserviceableconditionandatnotime wasthere any question of their being unsafe for firing.
The18-pounders were sited singly along 15 miles of coast-line in abeach defence role, for which this type of gun was very suitable. The howitzers were inreserve with positions selected for covering fire on any beach which might be threatened.
– Will the Minister have inquiries made as to whether two guns were withdrawn from the original allotment?
SenatorFRASER. - All I can say is that this statement which Iam now reading is the report of the commanding officer concerned. I am not going to enterinto an argument with the honorable senator. I appreciate that it is the duty of any member of this Parliament to direct public attention to matters of publicinterest such as possible deficiencies in the fighting equipment ofa country which is at war. But I wish to add emphatically that when a public statement of the kind is made it should be backed with facts. AsI stated in replying to a question by Senator Leckie, this country has spent many millions in equipping the Australian Army. To-day there are 3,000 to 4,000 shipping tons of that equipment awaiting despatch to the islands.
– That is the trouble ! It is here, and not there.
– Of course, the honorable senator can construct a ship overnight! Lack of shipping has been amongst the greatest difficulties, just as it was prior to the present Government coming into office. TheGovernment of which Senator Sampson was a supporter had practically no equipment at all. I donot say that that Administration did not lay the foundations of some of the existing organizations engaged in the production of the necessary equipment of war. I do not say that that Government did nothing at all, but I repeat and emphasize that for two years this country was at war and no attempt was made to marshal the resources, human and otherwise, that were available in order to prepare the defences of this country. The report of the commanding officer of the regiment at Port Moresby continues -
Allbeach guns were firedfrom theirbeach positions and behaved normally. Shortly after arrival I obtained permission towithdraw four guns at a time from beach defence positions for practice shooting on an artillery range. The purpose of this was to exercise all ranks in their normal field artillery role as they hadbeen so long in their detached positions. This withdrawal of guns for tactical exercises and shootingwas continued periodically. At no time were they withdrawn for any special calibration or test. During those exercises all guns andhowitzers were laid and fired in the normal way and never showed any sign of abnormal inaccuracy. On several occasions the Observation Post was on a hill in the line guns-target with shells passingclose overhead -but no additional safety precautions were considered necessary.
Ammunition was of standard service types for which the weapons were properly equipped.
In July, 1942, another Field Regiment arrived equipped with 25-pounders. In the following month two further Field Regiments arrived bothequipped with 25-pounders.
I propose to say a few words now with respect to the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces. At the outset I wish to remind the Senate that it was the previousGovernment that appointed General Sir Thomas Blamey.
– Not as CommanderinChief.
– Of course not. But Senator Foll, who has been a member of the military forces of the Commonwealth, and continued to be a member until only a few months ago when he was released, has since come here in his civilian clothes and the first thing he has done is to condemn the Commander-in-Chief and to suggest that he should resign. I ask, has all this happened in a few months ?
– Has all what happened ?
– Has General Sir Thomas Blamey done something since Senator Foll was released from the fighting services, or has he heldthat opinion all along?
– I had hoped that it would be one of the first jobs of the present Government to appoint a new Commander-in-Chief,
SenatorFRASER. - I am not a military strategist, and I certainly have not the qualifications to express an opinion on a change such as the honorable senator suggests. I do know, -of course, that we have and have had some great men in the highest ranks of our military forces. I take this opportunity to lament the tragic deaths of MajorGeneral Vasey and Major-General Downes, as publicly announced to-day. Major-General Vasey was indeed a great soldier. I am not in a position to say whether GeneralSir Thomas Blamey will resign from his position asCommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces or should remain in that post. I would remind his critics, however, that the war has been proceeding for about five and a half years. Iwould remind them, too, that General Sir Thomas Blamey was brought back from the Middle East to organize the defences of this country. Will anybody in this chamber say that he has not done that job to the best of his ability, particularly in view of lack of material at the time when he took command of the defence of Australia? Certain criticism has been made both in this chamber and elsewhere of General Sir Thomas Blamey, but it is well for honorable senators to keep in mind that when the entire command of the Australian Military Forces, with regard to both operations andadministration, was placed under a Commander-in-Chief with direct responsibility to the Government, the enemy was attacking in force close tothe mainland of Australia, and it appeared that at any moment the mainland itself might be invaded. In those circumstances it was resolved to appoint one man, who could make decisions promptly. The enemy might have to be pushed out at any point on the Australian mainland, and a man was selected for’ that job who had been chosen by the previous Government as the General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force, which went overseas and made an imperishable name for this country. The security and integrity of our homeland demanded that the appointment should be made immediately, and, when the Government selected Genena) Sir Thomas Blarney to this command, the appointment received general approval throughout the Commonwealth.
Now that the danger of invasion is past and we are enjoying the contentment and happiness of a nation free from any possibility of attack, it is surely the height of ingratitude to forget the dangers that were looming so heavily then, and to subject the leader of the Australian Military Forces to the bitter criticism that has been hurled at him in certain quarter’s, both in this chamber and elsewhere.
The Australian Government has not lacked enterprise in its approach to the problem of the higher command. It was a party to the appointment of General Douglas MacArthur as the commander of the naval, land, and air forces in the South-West Pacific Area. It was the only appointment of this nature at the time in any theatre of war, and proved to be most successful. The Prime Minister in his statement on the 1st March said that by June certain events will have taken place which will involve a revision of the man-power allocation of this country as between the services and civilian industry. The changes that are taking place in this war as a result of the enemy being thrust back from these shores may thus require consideration by the Government of a re-organization of the composition and command of the Australian Military Forces. The history of this war has been one of change to meet a varying strategical position. It was not laid down at .any time that the existing set-up should continue indefinitely, and it is for the Government to decide if and when the time has arrived to make a change. In view of the successes which have attended the operations of our troops to date, the Government must strenuously refute any charges which may be made, either in this or in any other place, which reflect on the command of, or reflect upon, the Australian Military Forces, whose * operations against the enemy have been so successful. In the meantime, the plans and. strategy underlying the operations in which those forces are at present participating are the responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief, and I am quite sure that the success achieved in the past will crown their future operations.
At no time has the Government refused ‘ any request from the fighting forces for equipment, but I also make it clear that there is a common pool from which we have to draw. It is untrue that, full advantage has not been taken of the lend-lease agreement. The Government has done everything possible in that direction, and I know of no instance where the forces have gone short of mechanized equipment where it was possible to provide it. Even the Opposition will admit that, the shortage of shipping has occasioned the greatest difficulty. I have had as much anxiety as any other honorable senator regarding the release of the Sth Division. The day will come when the Australian troops will play a prominent part in the war theatre in the South-West Pacific Area. At present they are engaged in the important work, which would have to he done sooner or later, of disposing of from 80,000 to 90,000 Japanese ‘ in the islands immediately to the north of Australia. That work is being done under conditions which do not admit of the use of mechanized equipment. Food for the troops in the forward areas has to be dropped by parachute. It is not possible to provide the forces operating in certain areas with bulldozers, and statements such as. those emanating from honorable senators opposite should not be made in this Parliament without an effort to ascertain the facts.
– They are facts.
– No ; they are irresponsible statements. Whatever the future may hold for us, the Government can look back on an unequalled record of service to this country. That is admitted by all distinguished visitors to Australia. They agree that the fighting forces and the industrial workers have established a record of war service of which Australia should be proud.
– A fortnight ago we listened to a Speech by His Royal Highness the GovernorGeneral, and I think that, all Australians were delighted at having a member of the Royal Family as GovernorGeneral. A closer link with the Crown, the official bond between the independent members of the British Empire, has been created by the installation of His Royal Highness as Governor-General, and as the King’s personal representative in Australia. The ties of Empire are as unbreakable as they are intangible. They unite kith and kin with common ideals and aspirations, in struggles shared and battles lost and won, side by side. All Australians unite in wishing His Royal Highness and the Duchess of Gloucester a happy sojourn in Australia.
I congratulate Senator Nicholls, who submitted the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, upon his speech. He talked to, and not at, the Senate, and I thoroughly enjoyed his remarks. I also congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senators Foll and Mattner upon having ventilated a subject which has been simmering throughout Australia for many months. Although there is a close press censorship of the written word, it is fortunate that members of the fighting services, who are suffering, fighting and dying in the beastly swamps of New Guinea, and in the Solomons, Dutch New Guinea and elsewhere, return on leave to their homes in Australia occasionally. Then their relatives, friends and acquaintances get at first hand a fair and accurate picture of conditions at the front, as far as it is possible for anybody to imagine what the conditions in New Guinea are like, if they have not visited that country.
The reply of the Minister who represents the Minister for the Army in this chamber (Senator Fraser) proved conclusively that a service has been rendered, particularly by Senator Mattner, when he spoke about shortages of necessary mechanized equipment from which our troops are now suffering, and not in 1942 or 1943 as was suggested by the Minister. “We have an admission from him that the Americans, as they have moved forward to other theatres of war, have taken their equipment with them. On his own admission there is » shortage of such equipment as bulldozers, and earth-moving ‘machinery still lies in Australia awaiting shipment. Therefore, T congratulate Senator Mattner upon having introduced this topic. For many years I had a military command, and from men who served with me in the Militia Forces, I became aware of many of the facts mentioned. I learned that “ diggers “ had acted as bulldozers. That is not a flight of the imagination, but it is true, and it is of no use for theMinister to get hot under the collar about it and deny it. Throughout the operations in New Guinea, particularly in Dutch New Guinea, our forces have been greatly beholden to our American Allies for the use of mechanized equipment. We are fighting in a. common cause and the Americans and ourselveshave common ideals. When they came to Merauke with their mechanized equipment, with which they were very generous,, its use made a world of difference.
The Minister also stated that it wasnot the business of Parliament to say where the Australian troops should go, or should be used, but that that was the responsibility of the Government. The Government cannot evade that responsibility. Whose was the responsibility when the Australian Imperial Force waswithdrawn from the Middle East in the first jittery reaction to the threat of Japanese invasion? It must have been’ the Government. It was not the responsibility of any commander-in-chief. We did not think that when the Australian Imperial Force was recalled it would lead to a general shrinkage of the Australian war effort, which it certainly did,, as far as fighting troops were concerned. The last few months have put Australia in a most invidious position vis-a-vis New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and India,, whose troops are filling an honorable place in the allied campaign. It gives one furiously to think, when our most senior and war-skilled officers, with notableexceptions, are filling roles to-day that keep them far apart from field commands which I know they would wish to occupy. I shall mention one officer, who is known personally to me, and with whom I served on Gallipoli and in France. I refer to Major-General Gordon Bennett. I quite realize that the position is unfortunate and delicate. Rightly or wrongly, he resigned from the command which he held in Western Australia, and I shall repeat what I said at the time regarding hig escape from Malaya. Senator Collett also mentioned the matter in this chamber at the time, and his remarks provoked a 3neer. I then said that an inquiry should be held by a number of his peers, say, five majors-general, into the circumstances of his leaving his command after the surrender of Singapore, and his escap© to Australia, Had I been MajorGeneral Gordon Bennett I should have demanded the appointment of such a tribunal to hear the case, because many hard things have regrettably been published and said about him, and even his courage has been impugned. That I resent, because the Official History of the War of 1914-18 furnishes a record of his services in that campaign. I have vivid recollections of his actions and of the way he behaved in the battle of Krithia, at Helles in May, 1915, when all the senior officers, including Brigadier McCay, had become casualties. Major-General Gordon Bennett (practically took command of the 2nd Brigade, although at the time he was only a junior major. Again, at Anzac, he displayed splendid qualities, as he did later in France when he was a brigadier. It seems that this man, who led two brigades of the 8th Division in Malaya, is not to be given a fighting command; yet we all remember bitterly that the men of that division, and other men also, are still captives in the hands of the vile Japanese. Who better could, lead a division of troops to effect their release than Major-General Gordon Bennett?
The path to victory in the Pacific will be stained with blood, and sweat, and tears; a long, hardi, dreary job lies- ahead. Few people in Australia, have any true conception of the savagery of the foe, or any real understanding of the tremendous obstacles of distance, climate, and nature that must be overcome. From letters that I have seen, and from convernations that I have had with officers and men who have recently come from the scene of operations, it appears that Australian troops are sadly hampered through lack of tanks and flame-throwers. There is no question that there is a lack of these things. In order to get the Japanese soldier out of his foxholes and destroy him, tanks and flame-throwers are required. I know that he can be destroyed in the old “blood, and guts” way; but that is an expensive method in the matter of human lives. It is most regrettable that our armies should be short of bulldozers, trucks, ducks, and earth-moving appliances; and the sooner the present situation is remedied the better.. For the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to say, as he did in the House of Representatives, that these charges about shortages of equipment were fantastic, is nonsense. The charges are, unfortunately, well founded and true. In this connexion, I shall read from an article published in the Bulletin of the 28th February, 1945, under the heading “ Australia’s Own War “, because what, is stated there is worth recording in Hansard. The article is from the pen of- “ Ek Dum”, whom some honorable senators may know.
– The Bulletin, is the foulest journal in Australia.
– The writer of this article has- a first-class military record. He has also travelled, extensively in Russia, Japan, Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Africa. In his article he points out that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) had said that “ while it was not for a member on either side of the House to determine military questions,, it was always- open for the Government to decide in what theatres and under what command Australian forces should be engaged “. The article goes on to say -
The Prime Minister said lie “ agreed entirely “, but “ the Government had- made the decision that Australian ground, troops shall all be assigned to the command of General’ MacArthur in the South-West PacificArea. The Government made the assignment with the concurrence of other Governments under a directive given to the CommanderinChief, and his appointment was made in agreement with other Governments- “.
The position is surely unique, for the Constitution provides that the GovernorGeneral shall he Commander-in-Chief. General Blainey is titular Commander-in-Chief Land Forces in the South-West Pacific, but he is not Commander-in-Chief Australian Forces, cannot issue his own communiques, and cannot lie held to any military responsibility for the supremo control of war taking place on Austraiian territory.
In fact, the Government is in the happy position that neither it nor anybody else oan be pinned down to responsibility for what happens to Australian troops under the present arrangement. The forces have been placed under the control of General MacArthur, a very fine soldier, but not accountable to the Australian Parliament or the Australian people.
While his head-quarters was on Australian soil and his supplies were being routed through Australia or were mainly derived from Australia, the position hud some justification. Now it is different. livery newspaper reader was told within the last fortnight what American divisions were engaged in the advance on Manila and whence they were advancing and who was in command of them and where exactly they were at given times. From the moment troops were landed on Iwo .lima the world knew the names of the divisions involved and the names of their commanding officers.
But the name of the field commander in Australian Mandated Territory is an official secret. The names of divisional commanders are hidden under a blanket and nobody seems able to explain why it is that a command which seems to bo unified both “ in chief “ and in regard to the land forces feels it perfectly safe to give detailed information about the American commanders and formations - sometimes even units - but imposes security silence whenever Australian forces are involved.
There is probably no previous instance of & self-respecting English-speaking country as powerful as Australia allowing, an Allied commander to direct from foreign soil a campaign against an enemy within its borders, carried out by its- own land forces. There is less excuse because Australia possesses senior officers with fighting experience scarcely surpassed in any Allied army.
For the present position there is no excuse save that this country has a Government which has so odd a sense of responsibility that it is not even ensuring the safe delivery of parcels and comforts for its soldiers in New Guinea bases, which are the prey of unwhipped bands of looters.
The country also has a Parliament of sorts. If it is a real Parliament, it will press for drastic action to clear New Guinea under Australian command with the use of Australians own resources, and for Australian participation in the rescue of the Australians “taken prisoner in the Dutch East Indies and Malaya.
I subscribe to that, because it practically sums up the position in relation to the Australian Army. It is time that that position was rectified.
The Speech of His Royal Highness also refers to certain happenings in the international sphere, and to other things that are about to take place. I shall refer to the conference held at .Dumbarton Oaks last year, which was reminiscent of the conferences which took place in 1919 and 1920 after the war of 1914-18 - a war which at the time was said to be “ a war to end Avar “. Obviously, a conference such as that which took place at Dumbarton Oaks had to come, because plans for the future must be made. The same may be said of the forthcoming conference at San Francisco to which Australia will send representatives. Every intelligent person hopes and prays that at that conference machinery will be evolved which will prevent another blood bath in 20 or 30 years’ time. I have vivid recollections of a. conference which took place in Paris in 1919, because at that time I was Officer Commanding Australian Imperial Force troops in Paris. I found it intensely interesting to watch the arrival in Paris of men from the four corners of the earth - men of varying nationality, colour and language - to participate in the preliminary discussions which followed th© unconditional surrender of Germany. At that time every one thought that there would never be another war. The same atmosphere seemed to pervade the recent conference at Dumbarton Oaks, according to the record of the proceedings as published in the Free World, and other magazines. Some years ago I found myself unpopular with “ old ladies “ of both sexes because of my views concerning the League of Nations and the mystic word “ sanctions “. From all sides we continually were told that sanctions would stop wars, and that therefore there was no need to prepare for the defence of this country by having an efficient, well-trained army, and that navies were obsolete. We were told that the League of Nations would apply sanctions against any would-be aggressor, but the same dear “ old ladies “ could never explain either what sanctions would do, or how they would prevent wars.
– Where did the honorable senator meet those “ old ladies “?
– Some of them were in this chamber - on both Government and Opposition benches. In the years between the war of 1914-18 and the present war 1 pleaded in this chamber and elsewhere for preparation for war, and because I did so I was called a war-monger, a militarist and a nuisance.
Sitting s’uspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was touching on that, blessed word “ sanctions “, and I am pleased to see that in the proposals agreed to at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference that word does not appear. I sincerely hope that no one will revive it. This time the term used is, “ preventive or enforcement action and that has a much better sound. Even so, everything will depend upon the Security Council, five of the eleven seats on which will bc held permanently by the great powers. The fact that the Security Council can, on its own responsibility, use force is as discreetly veiled as possible in that document, the terms used being, “ and other operations of; war” following “demonstrations and blockades “. That is what fan be done, and, I take it, will be done to prevent an aggressor nation from starting a war. Delegates to the conference discussed what means should be taken to restrain an aggressor nation, and dependence for immediate action is, apparently, to be on air forces. Everything, of course, will again be dependent upon whether the force of which the council disposes is adequate to deter an aggressor nation. Insofar as an international air force is concerned there always have been in the minds of all people very great difficulties of organizing, maintaining and operating an international air force, but I suggest that it is being shown by the Royal Air Force that these difficulties and objections are now much less than was anticipated in the pre-war period. In Great Britain there has been operating under the Royal Air Force a very wonderful international air force. During the battle for Britain in 1940 one of the best squadrons in it was a squadron of Poles who were using Spitfires. Practically every one of the United Nations was represented in that striking force, which was a superb international force fighting with and under the command of the Royal Air Force. However, that force was really only achieved after a couple of years of this war, and then under extreme pressure. But it worked, and it gives great hope that a similar force after this war is over will bo able to function and, if necessary, to strike. It remains to be seen, of course, whether similar results can be obtained in peace in order to prevent another war in, say, 20 or 30 years. In any case such a plan involves certain essentials. The force must be adequate in numbers and equipment, and it must be trained to the last pitch of efficiency, ready to go into action at the shortest notice, possibly within a matter of hours. Our history shows that it is next to impossible to get the British Parliament and the dominion Parliaments to vote enough money in time of peace to ensure this happy state of affairs. In all our history we have never been ready, equipped, trained and prepared for war. The British people so far have only achieved a reputation for winning the last battle, and our past record in the prevention on war, or even in. the preparation to meet an attack, is, to say the least, a sorry one. Britain and the great powers have now to make it clear beyond a shadow of doubt that in the future they are sure to win the first battle. Only by such a policy, I suggest, will we be able to prevent war in the future. To do this will entail expending vast sums of money on the three services in. time3 of apparent safety. I suggest that a graph showing the comparative expenditure of the British and dominion governments in peace and in war during the last 50 years would resemble a saw-backed feverchart, all ups and downs. There has been no continuity of policy. This expenditure lias gone up and down. The services havebeen starved, and then given a little more money, and then starved again, with tha result that in this and the last war the Empire was taken totally unprepared. It had to improvise and do the best it could in a very limited time, and at dreadful, cost in human life. The difficulty in a democracy is to get sufficient money voted year in and year out for defence purposes when no danger of war is obvious to thepeople. The discussion on this subject. at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference is intensely interesting, and I should imagine that our military advisers during that discussion had painful reminiscences of the outbreak of both wars. On both occasions the Army lacked men, arms, equipment and ammunition, and what troops were available were inadequately trained due to lack of ranges, training grounds and training grants. To be ready for a war a nation must do its training in time of peace, if it is not to pay, and pay grievously and bitterly, when war comes upon it. But to all demands in time of peace to governments in democracies to prepare adequately for defence the reply always is, “ No money “. And the two old adages “ A stitch in time “ and “ Prevention is better than cure “, never seem to penetrate the mind of democratic governments. That fact has been illustrated in this country time and again. We saw it in the years 1929-31 when the services were utterly ruined. At that time the Royal Military College at Duntroon for training staff officers, and the Naval College at Jervis Bay were closed down. The gift submarines which we had received from Great Britain were sent back to the Homeland. The permanent naval and military staffs were rationed. Universal training was . abolished, and the Militia was reduced to a shadow.
– And governments which the honorable senator supported never revived it.
– Exactly. Succeeding governments did not revive it. I pleaded with them time and again to do so, but they did not have the courage to do the right and proper thing. I am afraid now that history will repeat itself. In a time of peace it is extraordinarily -difficult in a democracy to get anything done in this direction. In the greatest democracy, the United States of America, it has been the old, old story. That country had to pay a tremendous price in the last war, as it is paying a dreadful price in this war, for its unpreparedness. Therefore, reading between the lines of the proceedings at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference it is some faint relief to those whose lives pay forfeit for any shortcomings in our national insurance to see the words “ force “ and “ power “ prominent. In a world in which moral standards are definitely on the down grade the power to apply force in support of policy is the only possible safeguard for the future of civilization. I can find nothing in the Speech delivered by His Royal Highness to encourage me to believe that this fundamental truth has as last sunk into the mind of the Government. At the same time, in all democracies, and particularly in this country, we are talking very cheerfully of allotting many millions for what is termed social security. That policy gives food for thought, because, presumably, such expenditure can be met only after we have provided tor three essentials, namely, the servicing of the national debt, the normal expenditure of government, and, last but not least, national security. We cannot have social security without national security, and what the cost of national security in time of peace will be no one can yet foresee. It is sure to be enormous. At any rate, during the cleaningup period, which is likely to extend, for the next ten, or twenty, years, our Army budget should be heavy, whilst the budgets of the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force will not be light. I have long been an enthusiast for social reform, but, equally, I have not been able to see whence all the money that is really necessary let alone desirable is to come, if, at the same time, we are to keep the country in a state of preparedness. I hope that the Dumbarton Oaks’ Conference, and what will follow it, will safeguard the future so far as war is concerned. We in Australia will have to play our part and pay our fair share of that responsibility in maintaining a force that will stop an aggressor nation. We talk about the League of Nations, but it failed. It was not the small nations but the big nations in the League that caused its failure; and that is the point I make. Who is going to stop the aggressor in the future? Boiled down it will resolve itself into the great powers remaining together, particularly the greatest democracy, the United States of America, and the British Empire, working together, speaking the one language, and being prepared to act without hesitation in order to stop any aggression in its very earliest stages.
Failure to prevent war and inability to finish it within five years - the final colossal cost of the ‘conflict is yet unknown -seems to indicate that the social mil.lenium is further off than ever. Yet the Government has stated that it is satisfied that .money can be provided for schemes of social security, presumably, I hope, after basic expenses for defence have been met. I do not wish to prophesy, but I fear that history will repeat itself, and I trust that the next war on our home front will hot be between national security and social security. Without national security we cannot have social security. The two must go together. The Dumbarton Oaks conference, and other meetings which are to follow it, encourage one to hope for something better in the future.
Unfortunately, there are many things which His Royal Highness the .GovernorGeneral omitted to mention in his Speech. However, there is one item with which I will deal. In paragraph 33 His Royal Highness said -
Attention lias been given by my Government to air transport within the Commonwealth and proposals for a statutory authority to control interstate airlines will be brought before Parliament.
The Commonwealth already exercises, and for many years has exercised, very wide powers over civil aviation. The Commonwealth controls the routes covered, stopping places, fares and freight, time-tables and frequency of services, subsidies paid to companies for the carriage of mails, and the safety of aircraft and aircrews, ground engineering staffs and navigation. What more do we want? To-day we have an efficient air service in this country, and I trust that no drastic interference with it will occur.
We all recognize that an increase of the population of this country is absolutely vital. A recent Australian Information Bureau bulletin stated, “ It is believed that this country could maintain a population of 20,000,000”. I believe that to be a fair assumption. In my opinion, the number of people who could be maintained in this country is governed by our water supply. In spite of our need for population, so far only two positive measures have been adopted.
One is that children who have been sent to this country during the war will be permitted to stay here, and the other is that war orphans from Europe will fee admitted to this country. I understand also that the United States of America servicemen who wish to settle in Australia , may apply for a permit to do so. What we need, and what we owe to the world, is to admit immigrants by the thousands, to cultivate land now not in use, and thus increase production, security and strength. Foreigners must not be dumped into our slums, but guided to the right places and occupations, so that instead of becoming burdens upon the country they will become real assets both as producers and consumers and so promote rather than retard the full employment of our people. The exclusion of foreigners from this country after thewar will breed hatred and keep out many prospective immigrants who would hopeto become good Australian citizens. To keep these people out means isolationism with a vengeance, and such a policy will not pay. It is very evident that if wedo not welcome people from other countries, we shall never make this a great country nor -shall we be able to defend it unless, of course, we have substantial assistance from other nations, as we have to-day.
There is one strange omission from the Speech of His Royal Highness the Governor-General. I cannot find in that document any reference to the commodity upon which our entire war effort is based, namely, coal. The coal position continues to be a constant menace to our war programme. In 1942, production of coal in Australia totalled 12,205,915 tons. In 1943, it had dropped to- 11,473,499 tons, and last year there was a further drop to 11,042,739 tons. The demand for coal is increasing every week, yet the New South Wales miners,, under their Communist leaders, work, strike and loaf when and where they please. Hundreds of men have been taken out of the armed forces to mine coal, the lack of which is hindering “the finishing of the war in the shortest possibletime. It is most significant therefore that the subject of coal should be entirely ignored in the Speech given to His Royal Highness to read. Why? Because of the- cowardice and ineptitude of this Government - cowardice to face the facts. Honorable senators opposite have dodged the problem. Paragraph 23 of the Speech states -
The tightening tonnage position emphasized Hie need for all concerned to make the greatest possible effort to speed the despatch of vessels and to eliminate all avoidable causes of delay.
Is that being done? Of course not; yet the Speech contains not a word of reproach or warning to waterfront strikers. There is no promise of action against looters of ships’ holds, wharfs and sheds, though in some instances this offence warrants the death penalty, imposition of which would snuff these practices out immediately. I cannot find any promise of action against black-marketing thieves who have become so bold in Sydney that laws, regulations, police and magistrates are laughed to scorn.
I admit that His Royal Highness made some reference to the granting of preference to returned soldiers, but mention is not made of the first string to be tied to the granting of that preference, namely, a limit of seven years.
There is also mention of the Third Victory Loan of £100,000,000, which will be opened next week. I suggest that the worst possible preliminary to such a loan is the issuing of threats of political control of banking. However, the loan will be a success because these hated financial institutions and the little capitalists will be loyal. They are always loyal, although their loyalty is of a different brand from that of the unpunished mobs el’ strikers, lootei’3 and black marketeers, against whom this Government is not game to take action. We have not yet seen the banking legislation, but we have heard all kinds of statements in regard to it - some of them wild, some not so wild, and some quite tame. It appears that the credit policy of the Government is to become a one-man show. There is only one man who could possibly be described as a banking expert, and he is the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, who presumably will have a say in the credit policy of the nation, but according to what I have been told, and have read in the press or gleaned from statements made by more or less irresponsible Ministers and others, he is more or less under the control of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) who, in turn, bows to the will of caucus, “ or else “. There are no banking experts in caucus so far as I am aware, although there are many cocksure and dangerous ignoramuses. The Government should watch its step because if it destroys the confidence of the people, as it was destroyed in one State of the Commonwealth on a previous occasion, stark ruin will result. That is the lesson of history.
I congratulate the Government upon the setting up of a special committee to consider the payment of a war gratuity to members of the fighting forces. This committee is faced with a most difficult task because of the many intricate problems which have- to be solved. There will be no plain sailing as there was after the last war, when all members of our fighting forces enlisted for service outside Australia. I do not know how many members of the House of Representatives and the Senate took the time or the trouble to state their views in writing to the committee but, unfortunately, the number was not very great. Whatever recommendations the committee may make, or whatever plans the Government may decide to adopt, it is certain that not all members of the fighting services will be pleased. However, I congratulate the Government on having established a committee of this nature, the members of which, with two exceptions, are servicemen of the last war.
In conclusion, I desire to say that the thing that has hit me harder and harder every day for many weeks past is the lawlessness in our community. This has accumulated such strength that it can only be overcome by strength. In this regard-, the call to all men and women of good- will who still believe in patriotism and in the rights and obligations of free individuals is insistent and demands a ready response. Unless the law is respected:, unless it is enforced, life becomes unbearable. That is the note on which I will end. Lawlessness has accumulated great strength amongst us to-day. We see it in all walks of life throughout the Commonwealth. It is getting away with its objective and it must be met with strength. One cannot dodge or run away from, it; it must be grappled with, and that is all I ask this Government to attempt to do.
– I congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion to be presented to His Royal Highness the Governor-General in reply to his long Speech to this Parliament. I was proud to sit here and to realize that it was His Royal Highness himself who was reading to Parliament the statement that the Labour Government, with strength in both Houses, was at last endeavouring to move forward by means of many pieces of legislation to improve conditions throughout Australia in keeping with its obligations. I have since listened to those honorable senators who have participated in the debate on the Address-in-Reply. I listened to Senator Leckie, who had quite a lot to say about the dispersal of our military forces. He wanted to have them released to build houses and help on farms. I listened also to various speakers among honorable senators opposite who condemned what has been and is being done by the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces. I read into those speeches that the honorable senators making them wanted men released from the armed, forces to go back to the farms. If they had any real feeling in that regard I contend that they would have prevented the drift from the farms in 1939 and 1940 and would have seen to it before those days that the conditions of mien working on the farms were improved. Then those men would not have rushed away from their jobs at 10s. to 30s. a week to join the armed forces and leave this nation without those very important items of our staple food supplies^ - milk and butter. Among those honorable senators who have addressed the chamber are some who are concerned with having our troops engaged in a daily and nightly blood bath at the fighting fronts. Unlike the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, who would like to see our population greatly increased, they would have it greatly reduced. That is why they are attacking the Australian command; it is so that the McCormick press in America might be in a position to publish that our armed forces are decaying here in Australia and are not sent out into the islands to the north and north-east of this territory to engage in a struggle in which their numbers would be greatly reduced.
There are very many people in this country who are living under, bad conditions, but I know that the Government is not unmindful of the fact and that it promises to deal with the situation as the conditions of war are relieved. I wish to remind Senator Leckie and other honorable senators who support his views that in past days, when there was full and plenty in this land and there was no war, men were walking the country seeking employment. There were then plenty of men to mill the timber and build the homes. There were plenty to make the cement and bricks and haul the materials to the sites for building. The labour of thousands of men could be bought very cheaply. At the same time, many thousands of our people were living in tents and other such places and had not sufficient to keep body and soul together. To-day, we have to ‘be prepared at all costs to defend our nation and to provide our fighting men with equipment and food of the highest quality. Even so, we are building houses. Recently, when I was in Melbourne, I inspected a number of houses that had been built or were under construction by this Government in the suburb of Coburg. I understand that about 500 houses have already been completed and that the objective in that neighbourhood is the construction of 1,000 homes. I spoke to numbers of the people residing in those houses and I was assured that they are quite happy and contented and that they were living in almost palatial structures.
It is well that the Government, should be proposing to go on with its project to build houses for the people in keeping with its scheme of decentralization. No doubt, there are many persons who are entitled to and should receive permits to build homes. At the same time, there exists a very serious position with respect to the supply of building materials, but the situation would be far worse than it is if all the people seeking permits were granted them. They would find it almost impossible to secure the necessary material and the outcome would be to aggravate a state of affairs to which Senator Sampson has just referred, namely, black marketing. If all the people wanting permits ware granted them, the prices of building materials would soar; in fact, the materials available would be sold to the highest bidder, and by many devious ways. I am pleased to note that it is the intention of the Government to settle people on land that will have been made suitable for settlement.
Recently, I had the pleasure of accompanying the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) on a tour of the Northern Territory. We travelled by aeroplane from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and thence by road to Darwin. - a. distance of about 970 miles over a bitumen highway. It has taken the war to teach many thousands of Australians the possibilities of the Northern Territory. As visitors we availed ourselves of the opportunity of making a reasonably comprehensive tour of the country along the route over which we travelled. As honorable senators are aware, the troops sent to that part of Australia have been used to do certain work. “With the main roads boards of various States - South Australia., Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland - the men have done an excellent job in making conditions of travel much better than they were when the forces were first sent there. Tremendous difficulties confronted those at that time responsible for the transport of food and other supplies from the rail ‘ head at Alice Springs to the rail head of the line from Darwin. There was no road between the terminal points, and men driving lorries to cover the gap would sometimes have the experience of seeing their vehicles and contents washed down creeks which had ‘become suddenly flooded. They would be bogged for days at a time, but, despite these awful conditions, they managed to supply the food requirements of the troops in the forward areas.
It was only after tremendous difficulties had been overcome that the great north.sou t:h road was constructed. This road should be maintained. On our visits tocamps of the Allied Works Council we were received very courteously and given all the information Ave sought. We were informed that a number of the personnel engaged upon the making of the road and its maintenance were most anxious to remain in the Northern Territory so as to continue the good work of maintenance. This Parliament should never agree to that road being allowed to deteriorate and decay. The route over which it has been laid may not be the best that could have been selected; but if it is not the best route, it i& a road, aud as a road it should be maintained. If it should become necessary for the development of our great Northern Territory, other roads should be constructed. I wish to emphasize the difficulties of maintenance in parts that are subject to sudden flooding. As we travelled over the road a storm developed perhaps 20 miles away. No rain fell near us, but the waters came down suddenly along a previously dry creek and carried the road away with them; the flood just took the bitumen along with it.
In connexion with the maintenance of this highway, ample financial provision should be made for the construction of bridges over numbers of small creeks and usually dry water-courses. Over the smaller creeks there should be concrete dish crossings for the protection of the highway and to ensure its permanency. When the rivers “come down” - I have in mind particularly the Katherine - debris is often deposited on the bridges, although the one I have in mind is as high as the ceiling of this chamber. That route is the only one over which the traffic can move. There has been provided a structure 54 feet in height to carry the road over two rivers, and there the traffic has at times to use the railway track. There is a low-level crossing which is normally used, but in the wet season the bridge carrying the railway line has to be used as the highway. The Katherine, Victoria and Daly Rivers have a combined catchment area of 86,000 square miles, which is approximately 3,000 square miles less than the total area of the State of Victoria. Unfortunately, the water rushes down those rivers at a rapid Tate, and most of it empties into South Australia and forms a lake.
Senator Sampson remarked upon the necessity for increased population, which could be encouraged by providing permanent water supplies. Some years ago the late Dr. Bradfield drew up proposals for the provision of permanent water supplies for portions of Queensland, but in the Northern Territory one hears nothing about the building of weirs by which sufficient water to irrigate large areas could he impounded. Nature is so lavish there that by sinking a bore to a depth of from 60 feet, and sometimes less, to 200 feet a permanent water supply can be obtained. Water is required for irrigation for only eight months of the year. Those who do not wish to see the great Northern Territory properly developed remark that in the rainy season it is impossible to live there; but that is the. time when the water required for irrigation purposes should be stored. When travelling from Adelaide to the Northern Territory one passes over a thousand miles of desert, but in parts of the territory there is an average rainfall of 70 inches a year I believe that many millions of people could be successfully settled there. The climate is good and for eight months of the year the nights are cool. During the remaining, four months - the rainy season - the climate is very humid. Many members of the fighting forces who have served in the forward areas desire to take up land in the Northern Territory after the war. I have frequently been asked in Sydney when land would be available there for settlement. When ex-servicemen have been placed on the land in the territory, it will be necessary to provide means for transporting their produce to the city markets, which could be supplied during the winter months. Tomatoes weighing 1$ lb. each, and cabbages turning the scales at 20 lb., have been conveyed by aeroplane from the Northern Territory to the Melbourne market in six hours. Those fine specimens have been grown without fertilizers of any kind.
The area of the vast and sparsely populated Northern Territory is 523,000 square miles, or 335,116,800 acres. Only 194,000 square miles have been taken up for pastoral purposes, and there are only 130 holdings. This does not imply that there are 130 separate lessees, as « considerable portion of the country is held by one company. Victoria River Downs, comprising 13,000 square miles, is the biggest holding in one block in the world. It is 2,000 square miles larger than Belgium, which has a population of 8,300,000. I believe that, when the war ends, air services will have been developed to such a degree that it will be possible to transport perishable products from the territory to the large cities in other parts of Australia. Eventually, however, I see no reason why large cities should not be established in the territory itself. We have seen our capital cities grow, and many country towns have developed into cities, although the surrounding land is not equal in quality to that of much of the soil of the Northern Territory. Land that will produce grass 6 feet high should grow anything. I have seen sorghum growing in the Northern Territory more luxuriantly than in the Maitland Valley. Lucerne can be grown there without difficulty. All kinds of vegetables can be produced from about March to October. Near one military establishment, in northern Australia, in one season, eight men under a corporal provided the following vegetables, among others, for a large section of the Army: -
We should not hesitate to encourage settlement on- the land in the Northern Territory. A committee should visit the various States and interview applicants for such land in order to ascertain their suitability for rural life. Persons having a knowledge of the territory should visit members of the services, and ascertain whether they .desire to go on the land. A million people could be settled in the territory at short notice. Permanent water supplies could be secured by means of wells and bores. The set-up is wrong, because the present landholders are not concerned about the development of the territory. There are no fences and stock is allowed to roam at will. The land could be divided into blocks of, say, 30,000 acres, or less. Lucerne and grasses could be planted, and, if certain roads were constructed, timber could be provided for the building of fences. I heard one proposal for fencing with steel posts. These could be mass-produced at a cheap rate, and their production could be subsidized by the Government. I am satisfied that settlers could make a good living in the territory, and that the conditions of work would be easier than in some of the farming districts in other parts of Australia. I was pleased to be able to visit Darwin. When the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) was Acting Leader of the Senate, he was asked whether arrangements would be made for a few members of Parliament to visit the forward area. The Minister replied that such arrangements would be made, and I therefore availed myself of the opportunity. I suggest that other members of the Senate should endeavour to pay a visit to the Northern Territory. I am convinced that every honorable senator who visited that territory would concur with what I have said as to its great potentialities.
.- The Speech which His Royal Highness was pleased to deliver is marked by references to the satisfactory progress of the war, and the honorable part taken in it by the Australian fighting forces. As to the strategic direction of the services, we should be gratified with the Prime Minister’s assurance and his definite statement that the Government must, and does, accept full responsibility. There should be no need to question that attitude. We can. judge the wisdom of the Government’s decisions by the results which accrue from them. Good results will be achieved only by complete and willing co-operation with the other members of the British Empire. On this point, I recall a statement made by Mr. Neville Chamberlain, when Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the promise which it contained as to the protection of the Dominions. That that promise has been magnificently implemented by Mr. Churchill, we have proof in the presence of a major fleet of the Royal Navy in Australian waters. I do not think, however, that this Parliament is as fully informed as it should be as to the part that Australia is taking in current operations1, or a3> to the order of battle, and Australia’s commitments in respect of the future. I have a fair idea of what forces should be available, and capable of being maintained in the field, but whether those forces actually exist I have no means of ascertaining. ‘Senators Aylett and Nash said that no doubts should remain in our minds as to the value that they set on arm-chair critics, but they, perhaps unconsciously, have often assumed the role of arm-chair critics in respect of a number of subjects. Although that may be a part of our functions, I am of the opinion that a man who has participated in a war has a wealth of information and experience which should be of. assistance to other members of the Senate who have not that knowledge. Among those possessing that knowledge and experience are Senators Brand, Cooper, Finlay, Foll, Lamp, Allan MacDonald, Mattner, Nicholls, Sampson, and, myself.
– What about Senator Amour ?
– I did not mention Senator Amour because I understand that he is not particularly happy about his experiences in the war of 1914-18, and does not speak with the same voice as others.
– He is a returned soldier.
– That is so. If I may say so, my own experience is not inconsiderable. Moreover, it is backed by some study and training, both before and after the last war. On the 30th November, 193S, I addressed the Senate, and I then gave what I thought were the requirements of an efficient defence system, for Australia. Reviewing that speech in the light of subsequent happenings, there is very little in it that I should desire to alter.
I wish now to refer to the Army and the existing system of command. Statements have been made in this chamber with respect to the status and powers of the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces and of the Allied land forces operating under General MacArthur. Of General Sir Thomas
Blarney’s service in the war of 1914-l8 we can form an accurate estimate by a perusal of the official history of that war. That service commenced with the formation of the first Australian division, and continued through the landing on Gallipoli Peninsula until the end of the campaigns in France and Flanders. Of his appointment to succeed General Sir BrudenellWhite as Chief of the General Staff to the Australian Corps prior to the commencement of the series of victories commencing on the 8th August, 1918, the Official Historian, in volume 6 of the Official History of Australia in the War, states -
As Chief of the Corps Staff General White would be replaced by Colonel Blamey, another officer of the Australian Permanent Staff who had passed through the Staff College and. except for a short term in command of the 2nd Battalion and 1st Brigade, had been employed continuously on the Staff, rising from G.S.O. (3) of the 1st Division at Menacamp to be its G.S.O. (1) atPozieres in 1916. A man of nimble intellect and wide comprehension, he had set himself to follow the footsteps of White, whom he greatly admired. Blarney had no real competitor in the present selection; his capacity was outstanding, andno other available officer of the General Staff in the Australian divisions had anything approaching his experience. Apart from some possible doubt as to his possessing the necessary tact, there was never any question as to his suitability for the post.
General Sir John Monash, to whom he acted as Chief of Staff, writing after the cessation of hostilities in his book The Australian Victoriesin France, said on page 296 -
No reference to the staff work of the Australian Corps during the period of my command would be complete without a tribute to the work and personality of BrigadierGeneral T. A. Blarney, my Chief of Staff. He possessed a mind cultured far above the average, widely informed, alert and prehensible. He had an infinite capacity for taking pains. A Staff College graduate, but not on that account a pedant, he was thoroughly versed in the technique of staff work, and in the minutiae of all procedure.
He served me with an exemplary loyalty, for which I owe him a debt of gratitude which cannot be repaid. Our temperaments adapted themselves to each other in a manner which was ideal. He had an extraordinary faculty of self-effacement, posing always and conscientiously as the instrument to give effect to my policies and decisions. Really helpful whenever his advice was invited, he never obtruded his own opinions, although I knew that he did not always agree with me.
Some day the orders which he drafted for the long series of history-making military operations upon which we collaborated will become a model for staff colleges and schools for military instruction. They were accurate, lucid in language, perfect in detail, and always an exact interpretation of my intention. It was seldom that I thought that my orders or instructions could have been better expressed, and no Commander could have been more exacting than I was in the matter of the use of clear language to express thought.
Blarney was a man of inexhaustible industry, and accepted every task with placid readiness. Nothing was ever too much trouble. He worked late and early, and set a high standard for the remainder of the large Corps Staff of which he was the head. The personal support which he accorded tome was of a nature of which I could always feel the real substance. I was able to lean on himin times of trouble, stress and difficulty, to a degree which was an inexpressible comfort to me.
That is praise indeed. Shortly after the present war broke out in 1939 MajorGeneral Sir Thomas Blarney was selected to command the first unit of our new expeditionary force. We all know something of the achievements of that unit. I was a member of the Government which appointed General Sir Thomas Blarney to that position, and if the same circumstances recurred the same appointment would be made. When Japan entered the war against us a critical situation arose which we were hardly in a condition to meet. It was, indeed, a national emergency, and the Government was at its wit’s end to deal with it. Indeed, some members of the Government gave evidence of panic. Fortunately, General Sir Thomas Blarney returned from the Middle East about that time. The Government was relieved and abandoned another appointment which was then under consideration. It appointed General Sir Thomas Blarney as CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces, and suspended the functions of the Military Board. In. my opinion, the circumstances of the time justified the course that was followed. An immediate all-round improvement was the result, and something resembling confidence returned. The measures taken by General Sir Thomas Blarney for the defence of Western Australia alone are deserving of the highest commendation, and subsequent operations in and near to New Guinea removed the menace from the north. Australia consolidated its forces for defence. After the crisis had passed, administrative difficulties arose. That was bound to be the case, where one man was required to control so vast and diverse -a machine, and at the same time be responsible to a higher authority in the field - General MacArthur - and two Ministers at home, namely, the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army. It has been alleged by some critics that there has been a loss of man-power and a wastage of materials and money; that the best use has not been made of some senior officers; and that this discontent exists in other directions. I do not know these things. Unfortunately, I have had no direct persona] experience of the Army as it exists to-day, but I am not insensible to its spirit. My few contacts with the personnel of the Army do not allay the feeling that all is not well. Above all, it is necessary for any general in the field to feel that he has not only the confidence of the nation but also the complete confidence of the troops he leads. It is not for me to criticize General Sir Thomas Blarney. I served in the same division as he did in the last war, and I know him to be a good soldier as that term is understood in the service. Ultimately, the Government must accept responsibility for the acts of the commanders it appoints. I emphasize what I said on a previous occasion in relation to another case that one thing which makes for a good and efficient army is discipline; and discipline is based on mutual understanding and respect between all ranks. There was no greater brotherhood in the last war, or in any war, than that which existed between General Birdwood and his staff and his corps and divisional commanders. The standard then set by General Birdwood, and! the spirit it evoked, are reflected’ in the splendid achievements of the Australian Imperial Force and the great traditions which survive. The second Australian Imperial Force was modelled on the men of the (first, and the deeds which they did in 1914-18. I do not know what has since transpired so far as the morale then created is concerned; but many of us are perturbed in mind and inclined to move for the appointment of a. parliamentary joint committee to examine our present system of army organization the like of which does not exist, nor would be tolerated in any other part of the Empire. Such a committee would also have to consider the basis upon which the adequate defence of this country in the future must be established.
I wish to refer to two other Army matters. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), whose statement has been repeated by the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) who represents him in this chamber, has lightly turned aside Senator Mattner’s allegation of deficiency of equipment for the forces engaged in the islands to the north. The Minister did not deal with the real issue which concerned the supplies of engineer’s stores, tools and mechanical equipment. Senator Mattner spoke with the advantage of having received information directly from the forward areas. The points he made certainly merit inquiry. I cannot imagine any chief engineer of an army neglecting to provide adequately for the service of his troops. I cannot imagine that there would, be any stinting of expenditure on the part of the Government in the provision of necessary stores. If these tools, stores and equipment have been asked for and supplied, and the report that they are not in forward areas be true, where are they? .Surely, they are not rotting in dumps and depots. Senator Mattner is to be commended for bringing this matter forward. I am sure that the Government recognizes not only the earnestness but also the importance of his complaints.
The second matter I have in mind I have stressed on previous occasions. It is the lack of information concerning the activities of the men in the armed forces. Our Army to-day is a national Army. It is of the people; and relatives attach great value to frequent reports of the deeds of the men in uniform. But seldom is such information given. Let us. take, for example, the case of, say, Bill Jones. When he returns on leave after a period of hard fighting he finds that he has to convince his friends that he has really been at the war at all. That is one way of putting the position which exists to-day. The press appears to be permitted to publish reports dealing only with matters concerning the Commanderin.Chief. certain oddments operating in New Guinea, the unfortunate ease of Gunner Wilson, and the Service Police. Those are really all the items which are dealt with in the press to-day, so far as the doings of the Army are concerned.
I am sure that every honorable senator was pleased to be present on the historic occasion when for the first time in its history this Parliament was opened by a Governor-General who was not only a Viceroy but also a member of the Royal Family. The warmth of the welcomes already extended to His Royal Highness indicate not only the high personal regard in which he is held by the Australian people, but also their sincere appreciation of the honour conferred upon the Commonwealth by His Majesty the King in sending his brother to occupy suich an important .posit. During the last 100 years, the throne has endeared itself to the people of the Empire. That period has been marked by development towards better government of the people, the encouragement of science and the useful arts, as well as the stabilization and enrichment of the Empire, which has withstood . magnificently the shocks and attacks of a world in arms. It is generally agreed that in a benevolent and limited monarchy together with a theoretically free parliament we have found and proved the best form of government for our needs in Australia. Under it we can strive with freedom to achieve the ideals which are considered to be the basis of the future well-being and happiness of all the people. I have referred to a “ theoretically “ free parliament. I make this reservation because we are, I think, conscious that this Parliament is in danger of losing that freedom. The Constitution provides for the government of this country by the Governor-General, the Senate, and the House of Representatives with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet as the Executive of the whole. Danger has arisen because the present Government has admitted departures from the principle of the collective responsibility H: the Cabinet by consulting, and admitting the influence of, extraneous bodies and deferring too often to the all-powerful Australian Labour party in conference which discourages liberty of thought and seeks restrictions on liberty of action. It is not to be wondered at that the people are increasingly concerned. Already they are enduring the severe restrictions inflicted by the war measures and by recent happenings are led to fear the loss of our traditional freedom.
An additional cause for alarm arises in the growing activities of the Communists. Theirs is a philosophy of an entirely foreign origin which was expelled from the place of its birth, flourished for a while elsewhere but was eventually overridden and now seeks to batten on us. The Government must be aware of the danger, and yet it seems reluctant to take action to avert it. In fact, it Fas gone out of its way to protect these aliens from the natural consequences of their subversive acts, and even provides free trips abroad for its agents. One of the most thorough condemnations of communism I heard over the air in Perth some two years ago. It was delivered by my colleague Senator Nash who, I am sure, is not alone in his views on the Government side of this chamber. The Communists almost invariably aim to white-ant the armed forces of constituted authority. Here is an example of the methods and work which these people engage in. I quote from the Daily News, Perth, of the 12th January last -
Sydney, Friday. - Petition asking the trade union movement to urge the Government to grant a 6s. a day .battle bonus for troops has been received by the Services Committee of the Now South Wales Labour Council which supports the request.
Petition was signed by 3,243 members of the Ninth Division, Australian Imperial Force. It asked that the bonus payment be retrospective, to include all Australian servicemen who have been in action since the start of the war.
Payment of the bonus to dependants of deceased servicemen is also sought. “We feel that the arrival of this message, coinciding as it does with the first announcement of battles now being fought by men of the three Australian services, places a heavy burden of responsibility upon our shoulders stated secretary J. Hooke of the Services Committee.
We hud already determined to enlist the support of a large number of Australians to indicate the widespread nature of feeling among ali Australians -to favour of a battle bonus.”
Services Committee is getting up a petition addressed to Prime Minister Curtin for circulation throughout New South Wales and Labour councils in other States are being asked to do likewise.
Apparently, this was read by a soldier on leave from the front, for he wrote to an officer of the Returned -Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in the following strain– in thu interests of the league I should like to give you some information regarding the enclosed cutting from the Daily Neus of 12t.li January.
I returned to Perth a few days ago on leave from the battalion, which, as you know, is part of the Ninth Division. A few days before I left camp a recently joined member of the unit, who admitted to me his membership of the Communist party, canvassed the unit with a petition which appears to be identical with the one mentioned in the press report, excepting that it was addressed to_ the Australian Communist party in addition to the New South Wales Labour Council (which is probably Communist-controlled) and, instead of asking for u battle bonus congratulated those bodies on their efforts to obtain one. This person also told me that similar petitions were being circulated in the Sixth and Seventh divisions. From inquiries I made throughout the brigade it is perfectly evident that the whole business has been organized by the Communists, and I hare no doubt that it is a shrewd and ingenious attempt to ingratiate themselves with the rank and file. It is rather strange that there is no mention of Communists in the press report, but perhaps for the time being they consider it inadvisable to associate themselves publicly with the campaign.
There arc certain aspects of the matter I should like to point out. There is nothing wrong, of course, in the advocacy of a battle bonus (personally I don’t favour it), but it is any odds you may mention that 00 per cent, of the men who signed the petition had never heard of the move to obtain a bonus until the petition was put under their noses, when they willingly signed in the good old freeandeasy Digger fashion. The implication, therefore, that there is a strong concerted body of opinion in the Ninth Division in favour of a bonus is just sheer boloney, and I think it is highly desirable that the real attitude of the men should be made public.
Secondly, it is most emphatically not in the interest*! of the men themselves and the league for political and quasi-political bodies to concern themselves with matters that properly belong to servicemen’s organizations, notably the league.
Thirdly, apart altogether from military discipline, it is distinctly bad for anything savouring of politics and political propaganda to. be introduced iata -the Array. There is net the slightest doubt that the Communists arc assiduously at work in the Army and that, they have singled out the Army Education Service as the best vehicle fu* their work, whcb it undoubtedly is.
That is a very interesting statement and is indicative of what many of us know has been going on for some time.
I join with other honorable senators in welcoming back to this chamber the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane). The Minister has been abroad on a most important mission and so far as I can learn has carried it out with advantage to this country and credit to himself. It is a good thing to send Ministers abroad so that they may have an. opportunity to study public administration and extend their knowledge on matters of high import. I trust that the practice will be extended.
I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Nash on being selected to attend the forthcoming San Francisco conference. I wish I could offer my good wishes to some other individuals who will be going with them. I do not know what is expected of the conference so far as Australia is concerned. This Parliament has not been consulted on the matter nor has it been informed of the Government’s views of Australia’s position and weight in the post-war world.
In an interesting and instructive speech Senator Armstrong again advocated greater publicity overseas for Australia. That leads me to mention appointments of a diplomatic character which have been made, or are under consideration. For such posts only our best qualified men should be selected. The responsibility which they will be called upon to carry is great. We need representation, but we do not desire to see money wasted. Discretion should be exercised in the choice of countries with which we wish to cultivate close relations. For instance, I doubt the wisdom at this stage of establishing a legation in Paris before we have representation in Pretoria or Cape Town. Senator Armstrong’s views on an efficient and enlarged consular service have a greater appeal to ma.
I have been interested, Mr. President, in press reports concerning your attitude towards the dignity and rights of this chamber and the high office that you hold. We trust that you will secure that which is due to you by tradition and also that you will feel yourself called upon to revive other traditions which are within your province to observe.
There is another matter which might concern your mind. I have a high respect and regard for our Public Service, but on the question of precedence, I fail to see justification for affording to heads of departments and others priority over Ministers of State, members of the Executive Council, and the elected representatives of the people. Perhaps this is not your immediate or personal affair, Mr. President, but it does have a bearing on the prestige of Parliament.
I have a great feeling of obligation to Senator Nash in view of the results which he has secured from his investigation of the ship-building industry in Western Australia. He has proved to my satisfaction that my original comments were justified. The conduct of the industry was being adversely criticized frequently, and it was realized that unless something were done the industry would not survive the war. The cost of the first vessel constructed has been reduced from £44,000 to £23,000 for the last vessel, and the labour is now so much more skilled and organized that the wages bill has fallen from £21,000 to £10,000. I believe now that there is hope for this industry and that enterprise and skilled direction will meet a great and urgent transport need on our long western coastline.
I commend Senator Nash also for his research into the make-up of troop trains. Such action helps to enlarge the picture of what our defenders have to put up with in time of war. We are making some progress. Before railways were invented, soldiers had to march great distances, and in the last war cattle trucks or box wagons were not furnished with palliasses.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
War Gratuity -Report of Committee of Senators and Members ofthe House of Representatives appointed to consider and report on methods of recognition of the services of the fighting forces.
The report recommends that this matter be dealt with apart altogether from repatriation or re-establishment proposals and therefore it is proposed that a separate bill be introduced to make provision along the lines indicated in the report.
Motion (by Senator Keane) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring to the notice of the Senate the position of a number of meat inspectors who for many years have been employed temporarily by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I have already introduced a deputation of members of Parliament to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) in regard to this matter. The Minister was most sympathetic and, I understand, recommended to the Public Service Board that temporary officers of the Meat Inspectors Association who have had more than five years’ continuous service with the department, should be made permanent officers of the Public Service. The association also has made complete representations, but nothing has been done yet to rectify a situation which is causing a grave injustice to many of these officers. I received the following letter recently from the secretary of the association : -
I am instructed by a committee of the Queensland branch of the Meat Inspectors Association to forward to you a copy of a case for a greater number of appointments of meat inspectors to Commonwealth Public Service as permanent officers. The position as it exists to-day,65 permanent officers and 297 temporary employees or 17.7 per cent. permanent, is much worse than when the first award was gazetted in 1918, i.e., 40 permanents and 34 temporaries or55.5 per cent. of staff permanent. This situationhas long been the subject of much unsuccessful effort by theabove association, and, as it is, does nothing to create harmonious working or relations among the officers of this department of the Commonwealth Public Service. We solicit your earnest endeavour to assist us gain somesmall measure of justice in our repeated efforts to have this ancient anomaly rectified.
I shall summarize the efforts that have been made so far by the association to secure permanent positions in theCommonwealth Public Service for these inspectors. In 1911 or 1912 Board of Health inspectors were loaned to the Department of Trade and Customs for export meat inspection in Queensland, and by 1916 all inspectors doing export meat inspection were under the control of the department. In 1918 the first award was made by Mr. Justice Powers. On page 2 of this determination Mr. Justice Powers remarked, when dealing with the efficiency of inspectors, that if, was confirmed that on average only 10 per cent. of those who sit for examinations were successful.
On page 3 His Honour said that the inspectors were exempt employees and were not entitled to the benefits of permanent officers under the Public Service acts.Mr. Justice Powers further said -
I suggest that the Government should in the public interests and in the interests of the meat inspectors reconsider the question whether the meat inspectors who are generally employed permanently should not be appointed as permanent officers subject to the Commonwealth Government continuing the workof inspecting meat for export and also subject to the good behaviour and continued efficiency. Security of tenure and the certainty of a yearly salary would make officers more independent where independence is necessary and induce good men to enter and stay in the service.
Finally, in fixing conditions and rates of pay, Mr. Justice Powers proposed to recognize that from 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. although nominally temporary exempt employees were in reality permanent employees.
In 1921 before Mr. Atlee Hunt, then Public Service Arbitrator, the Meat Inspectors Association made another attempt to clarify the permanency question. On page 1 of the determination made by Mr. Atlee Hunt, he said that the examination apparently was a severe test as it appeared that only 10 per cent. of those who sat for it were successful. The Government of the day, acting partially on Mr. Justice Powers’ s recommendation, made 40 meat inspectors permanent officers and left 34 still temporary - 55.5 per cent., which is far from the80 per cent. as recommended by Mr. Justice Powers. The staff at that time was: permanent 40, temporary 34, a percentage of 55.5. The staff at the present time is: permanent 65, temporary 297, a percentage of 17.7, or an increase of 500 per cent. in personnel with a decrease of 38 per cent. of permanencies.
In 1933 a deputation of meat inspectors detailed from a meat inspectors conference met the Secretary of the Public Service Board, and was successful in obtaining ten permanencies. In 1938 the Meat Inspectors Association made another attempt by arbitration to have the permanency question resolved, Mr. Westhoven being the Public Service Arbitrator. Mr. Westhoven made the following comment : -
In the light of the analysis given above, itis clear that the permanent work of the department is not provided for by the creation of an adequate number of permanent positions. Even the addition of twelve new positions seems insufficient in view of the fact that there are so many exempt inspectors with five years and over continuous service. However, the number of permanent positions to be provided for the working of a department is not for this tribunal to determine; it would be an interference with the details of management. The claim is therefore disallowed, but the hope is expressed that in the public interest, the administration andthe Public Service Board will reviewthe question anew in the light of the comparatively settled condition of the meat industry, and create additional permanent positions sufficient to ensure the application of the sound principle thatthe permanent work of a department shouldbe provided for by permanent staff.
In the early days of the Commonwealth meat inspection system, veterinary meat inspectors were also on a temporary basis, but to-day all veterinary meat inspectors are made permanent after six months’ period of probation. Dealing with the history of meat works, a great change has taken place in killings. In the old days a seasonal kill was common, but to-day killings are staggered and inspectors are required as members of a permanent staff at all works. Also to-day there is an expanding export trade plus inspection of meat and fruit canneries, which all tends to stabilize the administration of the department from the inspection staffing viewpoint.
Although the Meat Inspectors Association has followed closely a policy of appealing to Public Service Arbitrators, its efforts have not met with success in this very important matter, notwithstanding the very trenchant criticism levelled at the Public Service Board by Public Service Arbitrators. Statements by ministerial heads on the importance to the Australian economy of meat exports have appeared in the press recently; yet the successful 10 per cent, of examinees, who later with the valuable empirical knowledge, guard this industry, their standard of inspection having been accepted by United Kingdom and United States Army Authorities without question, are still fighting hard for justice in a claim that was recognized as just by a Public Service Arbitrator as far back as 1918 - 26 years ago.
After discussing the anomalies caused by the present method of appointing men to the permanent staff as meat inspectors the association has asked me to emphasize two points. First, the department employing these men as meat inspectors is not a war-created department, and following the war’s termination meat exports must again play a big part in balancing Australia’s economy and will necessitate the increase of staff personnel. The fact that they ask for a five-year probationary period establishes this point. Secondly, continuity of killings to-day as against the seasonal killings as practised in the early days of the meat export industry definitely alters the whole aspect of inspection staffing by the Department of Commerce. The anomalies which I shall mention are all of Queensland origin, but the other States are quite able to quote anomalies in their own set-up. The object of citing these is to demonstrate in no uncertain manner how men have been penalized by the present unsatisfactory manner of promoting men from the temporary exempt rank? to permanent status. In other words, I wish to show how men have had their chances of promotion nullified with a consequent effect upon their finances. In 1929 and 1930 the following qualified persons, amongst others, were appointed to the Meat Inspection Service of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in Queensland as temporary exempt employees. These men were named Bongers,’ Murray, Levy, McAuslan, Keen, Smith, Bryan, Howse, Power, Corfield, Marsh and Beaumont. Of these men, McAuslan was made permanent on the 16th May, 1935, and Howse and Beaumont on the 15th February, 1937. Bongers, Marsh and Corfield were appointed later. At the time of joining the department as temporary exempt employees, only a matter of weeks or months seniority existed. Now McAusland has a clear-cut gain in seniority of nine years over the five men appointed in 1930 who have not been favoured by a permanent appointment - nine years of all Public Service privileges, including superannuation at the rate of 3.1 a unit instead of 4.8 a unit. As a matter of fact, one of these individuals has refused the benefits of the amended Superannuation Act because his rate of payment to the fund is so high at his present age as to be economically unsound. Could the men appointed to permanent status claim greater efficiency? The association says emphatically that they cannot. To support their contention they quote the following facts : -
Mr. Keen has been inspector in charge at Oxley, Murarrie, Zillmere, Toowoomba, Cairns, Oolbun, and was the first inspector to take charge of the military works at Cape River. In addition, Mr. Keen has had full control of all killing floors at the Brisbane abattoirs.
Mr. Levy has been inspector in charge of Redbank Cannery at Stanley-street, Oxley, Doboy, Murarrie, Cairns, V.C. Cannery, Oolbun, Ross River, and like Mr. Keen, Mr. Levy has also been placed in charge of the killing floors at the Brisbane abattoirs.
Mr. Murray has likewise been in charge of various works, and Messrs. Bryan and Smith, too, have held many responsible positions, and in many cases these nien have followed permanent officers as inspectors in charge, taking over control from them and doing an efficient job eminently satisfactory to the State department of the Department of Commerce.
Attention has been drawn to these facts to illustrate that these men are no less efficient than their more fortunate fellow inspectors. Referring again to Keen and Bryan, let me state a further anomalous position. Keen, Bryan, Moran and Mercer joined the department within a year of each other, yet to-day Moran and
Mercer areGrade 2 Inspectors, or, in other words, Senior Inspectors, as naturally they ought tobe after fourteen years of service, butKeen and Bryan are still only temporary exempt employees after the same period of service and holding down many responsible positions. In Queensland, broadly speaking, the position of these men, still temporary exempt, is that their more fortunate fellow inspectors will be in a position to compete for Grade 2 positions rendered vacant by retirements, whilst they will in all probability look on as temporary exempt employees, cheated of public service privileges of superannuation, long service leave, rights of appeal, promotion chances, andall other rights to which conscientious officers are entitled. In citing these examples, I wish to draw attention to the fact they are not outstanding. If it were desired, other examples of equal qualification and experience could very easily be cited. There has been witnessed in Queensland the position of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture accepting men on its staff for the purpose of meat inspection, bearing the cost of training these men to the high standard of efficiency required to do meat inspection for export purposes, and then having them leave to take a position with the Queensland Government on a lower salary, but safe in the knowledge that after a twelve months’ probationary period they will enjoy permanent status and all its privileges and rights.
The Commonwealth Meat Inspectors Association is now hosing a claim for permanencies to be allotted on an automatic standard and have chosen the amended Superannuation Act on which to build the claim.Under that Act - the Superannuation Act 1942 - the relevant sections give the authority to the permanent head of a department to certify that the person concerned has had five yours’ continuous service, and his services are unlikely tobe dispensed with. The employee then undergoes a medical examination by a Commonwealth medical officer, who certifies as to the health of the applicant. The employee concerned then commences to pay premiums and if necessary will draw benefits under the act. I would like at this stage to point out that itwould not cost the department any more if the claim is successful, because the permanenthead of the department will have certified that these men havehad five years’ service and are unlikely tobe put off. Mr. Justice Powers also madethe same assertion. This act to all intents and purposes makes meat inspectors of temporary exempt status permanent employees,but on analysis it leaves much to be desired and creates anomalies quite distinct from those previously mentioned. It still leaves temporary exempt employees without classification, full rights of appeal, equality of promotion chances, loss of seniority, and denial of leave of absence. Dealing with these more fully, let me quote specifically the following statement of facts: -
It can readily be seen how loss of seniority has followed the departmental policy of granting permanencies on a rationed basis. From what was almost an even start about 1929 and 1930 with, as far as Queensland is concerned, twelve inspectors involved, one inspector has jumped to a nine years’ seniority gain, two inspectors seven years’ gain, and four inspectors five to six years’ gain, whilst five inspectors have been overlooked completely, having to be content with a nebulous temporary service seniority, not worth a great deal. The anomalies as presented willbe perpetuated as an increasing disadvantage unless something is done to rectify them.
In conclusion, the Commonwealth Meat Inspectors Association wishes to emphasize that the claim for more permanencies is not a claim for new appointments but is one for rectifying anomalies of many years’ standing. Accordingly, it suggests that its objective, based on the amended Superannuation Act, is fair both to the department and the inspectors. It allows the department a five-year probationary period - theNew SouthWales and Queensland State Public Service require only twelve months to assess the capabilities ofan inspector, and to the inspector it gives the satisfaction of knowing that when the five years are ended he will, if his service has been satisfactory, be elevated to permanent status in the Commonwealth Public Service and entitled to all rights and privileges. In Queensland at present there are employed as meat inspectors by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, in a temporary capacity, officers who have had periods of continuous service ranging fromthree years to seventeen years. Thereseems to be no doubt of the justice of the claim of these officer, andI would request the Government to take appropriate action to ensure that their claims are recognized. I have done everything I possiblycould to secure justice for the persons concerned. I have brought before the Minister for Commerce and Agricultureall the fact, and these he has placed before the Public Service Board, which, however, will take no action. Evidently, under the amending Superannuation Act the department can take certain action in the interests of men who have given it many years of conscientious service.It is to this department that we must look after the war for men who have had long and skilful training in connexion with our export trade in meat. I ask the Leader of the Senate to bring this matter again to the notice of the responsible minister to see if he cannot take action as has been suggested.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Broadcasting Act - Twelfth Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the
Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1943-44.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 23.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - TwentiethReport on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Public Service Board, for year1944.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 22.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquiredfor Commonwealthpu rposes -
Perth, Western Australia.
Sydney, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of overseas postal communications (Prisoners of war).
Ta king possesion of land, &c. (68).
Useof land (6).
Order by State Premier - South Australia (No. 2 of 1945).
National Security (Supplementary) Regu lations - Order by State Premier - Queensland (dated5th February, 1945).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 24, 25.
Taxation Acts - Twenty-filth Report of the Commisoner of Taxation, dated 1st November,1944, together with Statistical Appendices.
Senate adjourned at9.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 March 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450307_senate_17_181/>.