17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown)’ took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Initiation in the Senate.
– Has the Leader of the Senate read the suggestion of the Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives that the use of the “guillotine” and the “ gag “ could be avoided if more legislation were initiated in the Senate? If so, and in order to enable members of both Houses to give proper consideration to legislation, by sitting reasonable hours, will the Minister bring the proposal before the Acting Prime Minister?
– I agree with the use of the “ guillotine “ ; if .there is urgent business to be transacted, and the Minister in charge of a measure considers that there is unnecessary delay in dealing with it, the fixing of a time limit on the discussion is only reasonable. Various governments have followed that procedure. The other part of the honorable senator’s question is a little more difficult to answer; but I am able to inform him that yesterday the Government considered what measures of its programme for the session might be introduced in this chamber. As the result, I can say definitely that a measure to consolidate social service, legislation will be introduced in this chamber. Later this week I hope to be able to give to the Senate details of the Government’s legislative programme, some items of which it in hoped will be initiated in this chamber. When honorable senators have that information before them, they will be convinced that there will be no more delays in .this chamber.
– Will the Acting Minister for the Army consider the ordering of an inquiry into the conditions at the Army detention camp at Albury? Will he say if he has had his attention directed to a statement that in that camp the conditions are the toughest and most brutal in Australia?
– It, has been dimcult to arrange for inquiries to be made into conditions at the various detention camps, but, following .the inquiry into the camp at Grovely, it is the desire of the Government, that the conditions at all the detention camps in Australia shall be investigated. The chief difficulty has been .to secure a judge of sufficient standing to carry out the investigation. 1 assure the honorable senator that this matter has not been overlooked. Indeed. I have already discussed it with the Acting Prime Minister, with ti view to action being taken.
– Will the Minister give consideration to the future policy in relation to detention camps? In particular, will he consider whether instead of keeping men in these camps, they should be transferred to New Guinea or other forward areas as members of labour units?
– The future policy in regard to men undergoing detention is a matter which will be covered by references to the person to be appointed to inquire into matters relating to detention camps.
– Yesterday the Leader of the Senate laid on the table a white paper dealing with employment, hut, so far,copies of it have not been made available to honorable senators. As it is an important document, which justifies careful study, will the Minister see that copies are distributed to honor- able senators?
– Ample copies of the statement are available, and I shall see that they are distributed.
Army Huts and Vehicles
– In view of the great public interest in the disposal of equipment by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, particularly motor vehicles and tyres, and hutments,will the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate whether he proposes to continue along the lines already adopted in connexion with the disposal of these articles ?
– In response to an earlier inquiry I have arranged for a statement to be prepared. Within a day or two I hope to be able to give to the Senate the information asked for.
– Can the Minister say whether catalogues setting out the goods available for disposal are available and, if so, to whom application for them should be made?
– I should be glad if the honorable senator would define the goods which he has in mind, because some of them will be sold through the usual distributors, whereas others will be sold by auction. Catalogues will be available in respect of all goods to be sold by auction, and will be obtainable on application, to the War Disposals Commission.
asked the Minis- ter for the Interior, upon notice: -
Is the period of internment of enemy aliens counted in the five years’ residential qualification for naturalization?
SenatorCOLLINGS. - In some cases where internmenthas been purely a precautionary measure, and where full investigation has shown that the applicant has not in any way behaved so as to warrant security objection being raised to his naturalization, the period of internment has been allowed as part of the qualifying period. Practically all the cases where this applied were in respect of persons who were only technically enemy aliens at the time of arrival in Australia and were subsequently classified as refugee aliens. Apart from this class, the applicants were permanently domiciled in Australia prior to the outbreak of war and with few exceptions had the qualifying period of five years residence independently of any period of precautionary internment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
-The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. In the case of the Navy, it is impracticable, having regard to manning requirements of highly specialized and experienced men, to give all personnel who have over five years’ war service the option of discharge. As indicated by the Acting Prime Minister on Friday last, however, consideration will be given to the treatment of special cases in the Navy on a basis parallel to that of Army and Air.
Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
SenatorFRASER- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers: - 1. (a) It is a fact that there are large quantities of potatoes pitted or stored in Tasmania, (b) It is not a fact that general or undue deterioration has taken place in these potatoes. The Tasmanian field officer of the Australian Potato Committee has been Suspecting pitted and stored potatoes over the past few days and his reports, up to the present, do not disclose general or undue deterioration. 2.The Commonwealth will make appropriate arrangements for payments to growers of pitted or stored potatoes if and when general or undue deterioration becomes imminent.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
In view of the excellent shipping facilities existing in Newcastle, and the necessity to call a number of waterside workers to Sydney, will the Minister give early consideration to diverting shipping to the Port of Newcastle?
– The Port of Newcastle is being used to its maximum capacity consistent with cargo consignments. If Sydney cargoes were unloaded
At Newcastle the strain on transport and man-power would be increased by double handling of the cargoes. Everything possible is being done to decentralize shipping north and south of Sydney.
– At the request of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) I ask all honorable senators to assemble forthwith in the Senate Club Room for the purpose of having an official photograph taken for historical records purposes, and to re-assemble at the ringing of the bells.
Sitting suspended from3.13 to4p.m.
Debate resumed from the 5th June ( vide page 2470), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a second time.
andhis colleagues will not adopt that attitude in this debate. I believe that the bill can be improved, and that within its framework, if we really get down to work, we can evolve a measure that will be worthy of Australia and the members of the fighting forces whom we are desirous of helping. But if we are to be faced simply by the blunt statements that the Government will not agree to any amendment, the debate in this chamber must degenerate into a party political fight. I trust that the Government will not adopt that attitude. Ministers in this chamber must realize that the full significance of many clauses in a bill of this magnitude are not apparent. Therefore, when their full significance is made clear, the Government should be willing to agree to amendments which, in the light. of fuller information, will improve the measure. I ‘attribute the attitude adopted ,by the Government towards the debate on this measure in the House of Representatives to a rather queer case of an inferiority complex, and I might add that that attitude is often adopted by- the present Government. It has shown that it does not like to take advice from the Opposition. Members of the ministerial party wish to appear before the people as being solely responsible for laying down certain plans which they insist are perfect, and must not be altered. They are rather afraid of themselves, and, therefore, are afraid to take advice from any one outside their party. It had been said that in considering rehabilitation of ex-service personnel we must start from the point that the members of fighting forces deserve the best that we can give them. I agree with that, view; but, whilst this bill represents the host that the Government can give them, if does not represent the best that the country can give thom. Indeed, a more fitting title of the measure would be, “ A bill to preserve the privileges of those who did not fight “. The fact that ex-service personnel are to take second place to persons who did not fight, stands out prominently when one studies this measure. The bill has been overloaded, and it has been overloaded with intent. Any one who ha3 a proper conception of the problem realizes that this measure should be concerned only with the rehabilitation of members of the fighting services. Otherwise, we shall create chaos, and shall never do justice to those who alone are entitled to the best that we can give them. But the bill contains provisions with respect to matters which have nothing whatever to do with the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel.
Several ambiguities contained in the measure should be cleared up before we can hope to debate the measure intelligently. I note that the phrase “cessation of hostilities” recurs many times in the measure. Certain provisions of the measure are to operate as from the “ cessation of hostilities “. But nowhere does the measure define the meaning of that phrase. Yet, the Government should know exactly what it has in mind in that respect: ‘What does it mean ,by that phrase? Does the phrase mean when fighting ceases, or when a truce is proclaimed, or when the peace treaty is signed which may not take place until many years after actual hostilities cease? To the ordinary layman “ cessation of hostilities “ means when the guns stop firing; but if the lawyers argue the matter, and other definitions are evolved, we may find that it may be five or six years before we determine the meaning of “ cessation of hostilities “, as undera stood in this measure.
– Surely the honorable senator has not lost his respect for the: lawyers?
– No, but I shall lose respect for the Leader of the Senate if he is unable to define exactly the meaning: 01 that phrase; and I suggest that we should have his definition before we proceed very far with the debate.
The attitude of the Government on this measure is that it represents the beginning and the end - the Alpha and Omega - of what the country is capable of doing. The most significant parts of the measure are its title and sub-clause 2 of clause 136. The title reads -
A Bill for an Act to provide for the Reestablishment in Civil Life of Members of the Forces, for facilitating their Employment, and for other purposes.
But we find in the bill itself that many of the benefits purported to be given to the persons classified above are also to be given to people who were never even in the forces, and were never in uniform. Then sub-clause 2 of clause 186 reads -
During the war, the regulations may provide for the repeal or amendment of, or addition to, any of the provisions of this Act.
That is an unprecedented provision. It gets away entirely from the regulation process, and gives power to the Government right from the day the measure becomes law to alter any clause in tho measure, to repeal any clause, to delete any clause, and, if necessary, to abandon all the measure. In such circumstances, is it not useless for us to, discuss the measure at -all? I trust that the Government approaches this measure with the gravity which this problem deserves, namely, the responsibility of laying down the lines upon which the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel shall be carried out. However, subclause 2 of clause 136 vitiates all the work we may do in enacting this measure. Would it not be better to be quite plain and frank with the people of Australia and say that the Government wants full power to do anything it likes, at any time and anywhere? In this respect the measure is not an honest measure. It is not ordinary legislation, because it cuts across the dignity and rights of Parliament. It deprives us of our rights as members of the legislature, because under clause 136 the Government later can say, “ No matter what Parliament has done, this clause gives us the power to alter or repeal any provision in the measure as passed by Parliament “. I admit that clause 136 gives that power only for the duration of the war. However, should any clause be amended, or repealed, by the Government during that period, such decision will continue until the bill itself is repealed. That means that perhaps for the next four, five or six years, the Minister administering the measure can do anything he likes under it. He has power to bring within its ambit any class of persons he wishes, including civilians. In fact, he can do things which cut right across the spirit and purpose of the measure. Indeed, so far as ex-service personnel are concerned, we might just as well not enact the measure.
The problem to which the measure is directed is threefold. First, we should pay adequate compensation to dependants of those who have been killed in war, or who died subsequently, owing to war service. Those people, of course, are covered under our repatriation legislation. The second phase of the problem is to pay adequate compensation to those partially disabled, but who will be able to be trained for, and engage in. somesort of work. In respect of disablement, such persons will receive compensation; but. in addition, they will have to be trained and found positions not only for the sake of the community, but also for their own sake. They must be put back into useful occupations. Should they bp unable to resume their former occupations, they must be trained to do work which they can be enabled to perform. Yet we find further on in the bill that partially dis abled ex-servicemen who are in receipt of a disablement pension will have the amount of the pension deducted from their re-employment allowance should they be out of work. I have never heard of a more unjust or cruel provision. I ask honorable senators opposite to read clause 75. It states - (1.) The rate per week of the reemployment allowance payable to any person shall bereduced by the amount (if any) of -
Clearly its effect is that an unemployed person may receive an allowance from a friendly society, or from a union, or elsewhere, without suffering a deduction from his re-employment allowance, but if he is in receipt of a pension such as a disablement pension the amount of the pension shall be deducted. The men who will be most likely to change their occupations are partially disabled men and seasonal workers.
Apparently honorable senators opposite were not aware of that provision; yet they claim that this is a good bill. Now that I have drawn their attention to this matter, I hope that the anomaly will be rectified .
The third problem with which we are faced is that of replacing in civil life those members of the community whose careers have been interrupted by their war service, or who during the formative years of their lives have been engaged in the defence of this country. This is a problem of great magnitude. How is the Government facing it? It is facing it by extending the benefits of this legislation to an unlimited number of civilians. A board is to be appointed which is to have the right to determine who shall be entitled to come within the provisions of this measure. That is most remarkable. When the bill was before the House of Representatives, it was discovered that certain enemy aliens would be able to enjoy the same benefits as Australians, and a government amendment eliminating that, anomaly was inserted. So, on the Government’s own admission, the bill as originally drafted contained errors.
In clause 4, paragraphf, a “member of the Forces “ is defined as - a member of theNaval, Military or Air Forces of any part of the King’s dominions other than Australia, who is or was, during the war, engaged on, or called up for, active service and was born in Australia or was, immediately prior to his becoming a member of any of those forces, domiciled in Australia.
Paragraph / of the definition of “war service “ states - in relation to any of the provisions of this Act, the continuous full-time service of any person as a member of an organization or pm-t thereof which is declared by proclamation to be an organization in relation to which those provisions apply.
That, of course, means that simply by issuing a proclamation, any organization may be brought within the provisions of this bill. That is why I say that the bill is over-loaded, and obviously is not only for the benefit of ex-servicemen, ll is for the benefit of any one whom the Government may proclaim as coming within its provisions. Therefore, instead of being confronted with the problem of rehabilitating or re-establishing 800.000 or 400,000 ex-service men and women, we may have to deal with double or treble that number. The terms of the measure are so wide that preference to ex-servicemen - if it can be called preference at all - is negligible. The rights of returned soldiers are to be whittled away by the extension of the scope of this measure to civilians whose claims upon the community ‘ cannot by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as equal to those of returned service personnel.
Clause 33 provides that clauses 24 to 32 inclusive - the preference clauses - shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years “ after the cessation of hostilities in all the wars in which His Majesty is engaged “. Again we have the words “ cessation . of hostilities “, and I repeat that the meaning of those words should be defined clearly. I am puzzled as to how the period of -even years was determined. Several honorable senators opposite, including Senator Large, have stated publicly and plainly that they are not in favour of preference to returned soldiers. How has the Government been able to satisfy such people with the inclusion of preference proposals in this measure? Trade unions, particularly in Victoria, were adamant against the introduction of legislation giving preference to returned soldiers. Something had to be done to overcome these objections, and so it was decided to limit the preference to seven years. But every one agrees that for seven years at least after the war, work will be plentiful in this country. The meeting of ordinary civilian requirements in itself will be an immense job, and in addition, there will be public works projects, and so on. In these circumstances, it is unlikely that many people will be out of work. Therefore, the granting of preference for only a limited period of seven years after the war means virtually that ex-servicemen will not receive any benefit whatever. The time limit is not fair to men who will be changing their jobs frequently, as in seasonal work such as shearing, fruit-picking and jam-making. In seven years’ time, these people will be as badly off as they are now. Seasonal work will still go on and the partly maimed man will still suffer from his war injuries. If this Government represented the workers in fact, as it claims to do, it would have more regard for the welfare of the lower-paid workers, who will be most hardly dealt with under this clause.
– What did previous governments do for returned soldiers after the last war?
– They expended an average of £1,000 on every man who left the country on war service. Those governments made some mistakes, but they did many good things. This cry of “ stinking fish “ about the treatment of returned soldiers after the last war leaves me cold, because the critics who raise the cry speak only of the failures and not of the successes of other governments. The failures were often due to personal factors which could not he governed by statute. It was the will of the people that soldiers who returned from the last war should be well cared for and the same thing is true tn-day. This bill discloses no intention on the part of the Government to look after ex-servicemen as the people expect it to Ho. I now indicate to the Minister that I shall move in the committee stages to amend clause 33 to read as follows : -
Sections twenty-four to thirty-two (inclu sive of this act shall cease to operate ait the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in all wars in which His Majesty was engaged at the date of commencement of this division in respect of any employment the weekly remuneration of which exceeds £6.
That will enable the provisions of the measure to continue to apply to lowerpaid workers after the expiration of the seven years’ period. I hope that the Government will agree to my proposal. I consider that lower-paid workers will have the hardest time of all exservicemen ; others will probably be secure in their positions at the end of seven years.
The bill not only gives privileges to exservicemen but also takes away some of the rights which they now possess. For instance, it will remove the right of preference in the Public Service of the Commonwealth and the States. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) has twitted me about things that happened after the last war. At anyrate, returned soldiers of the last war had preference in the Commonwealth Public Service. This bill proposes to repeal certain sections of the Commonwealth Public Service Art which relate to returned soldiers. This provision will not operate for only seven years; it will be permanent. Many clauses will be dealt with in detail by members of the Opposition during the committee stages, but I shall mention some of them now in order that the Government may understand our views. Clause 27 is so indefinite that employers will not know where they stand. The clause provides that employers shall give preference to exservicemen unless they have “reasonable and substantial cause for not doing so “. Sub-clause 3 reads -
In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference, the employer concerned shall consider -
the length, locality and nature of the service of that person ;
the comparative qualifications of that person and of other applicants for engagement in employment in the position concerned;
the qualifications required for the performance of the duties of the position ;
the procedure (if any) provided by law for engaging persons for employment in the position; and
any other relevant matters.
That does not state how much importance is to be attached respectively to length of service, locality of service, or nature of service. That decision is left to the employer.
– How will the employer find out those facts?
– He has no opportunity to do so. They are not set out on a soldier’s discharge certificate.
– Yes, they are.
– No, they are not.
– A soldier is given an honorable discharge and that is the end of it. I imagine that the Government will have great difficulty in compelling any employer to engage a man under the provisions of paragraphb of that sub-clause. It will be hard to define “ comparative qualifications “. Paragraph d presupposes that the Government will establish labour bureaux to control employment. That is the only assumption that can be made from the wording of the paragraph. Therefore, an employer wishing to engage a returned soldier will have no chance of doing so unless he first obtains a manpower direction from the Government. The reference in paragraph e to “other relevant matters “ is extremely vague. Sub-clauses 4 and 5 of clause 27 are as follows : - (4.) In determining, as between two or more persons entitled to preference who are applicants for engagement in employment, which of those persons shall be engagedin employment, the employer shall consider -
Paragrapha of sub-clause 5 will mean that promotions within the Commonwealth Public Service, or for that matter in any form of employment, in respect of the period during which an employee has been a member of the fighting forces will not be affected by the provisions of the bill.
Apparently services to the country are of no account in that respect. Paragraph b of sub-clause 5 was originally drafted to refer to a person who had been convicted of “ an indictable offence “. That term was difficult to define, and the paragraph was amended in the House of Representatives to its present form. The paragraph refers only to convictions after the termination of a man’s period of service, which may have lasted only three months. Therefore, employers will be obliged to give preference to men who may have served terms of imprisonment prior to the war, so long as they have not. been convicted after discharge. It is wrong that a man should be forgiven for offences against the law merely because he has served in the fighting forces for only a few months. Surely that is not the Government’s intention. Also there are likely to be cases in which employees embezzle funds, and in which charges are not laid by the employer. Unless the employer does lay a charge against a man guilty of such an offence, ho will not be entitled to discharge the man within the period of seven years stipulated in the bill. Many employers would not want to prosecute a man guilty of a small offence in order to secure the right of dismissal. Many of the clauses are badly worded and are capable of interpretations which I am sure that the Government did not intend.
Many industrial strikes have occurred in Australia since the arbitration system lias been developed because of the employment of non-union workers. Whether that should be allowed or not does not concern me at the moment. The Government proposes under this measure to train people for various trades, but when they have completed their training they will be unable to get work unless they arc members of a trade union. The bill should contain a clause to compel trade unions to admit to membership all persons who are qualified for membership.. Since the training will be useless to a returned serviceman unless he is a member of a trade union, it follows as a corollary that the unions should be compelled to throw their ranks open to anybody who is certified as properly qualified for membership. Severe penalties should be provided to meet cases where trade unions fail to observe those conditions; otherwise the whole of the training will go by the board. I know that certain trade unions have refused to admit further members and before the bill is passed I hope that the Government will rectify this error of omission.
– Does not the honorable senator’s objection apply also to employers? Were not the brickworks in New South Wales closed by the employers and kept closed ?
-I am aware thai brickworks and other industrial establishments have been closed, but the reasons why they have not been re-opened are unknown to me.
– That happened even in the piping times of peace.
– I and other members of the Opposition would be adamant in support of the principle that employers who wilfully close their works should be compelled to open them, but the trade unions should not exclude ex” servicemen who desire membership.
– After the last war, returned. soldiers who were employed as trainees were allowed to remain members of trade unions after having finished their training.
– No doubt thai will happen after the present war, but the Government is inaugurating a system of training for servicemen and its benefit should not be lost.
– It is one of the best, features of the bill.
– Yes. I consider that the -Government has been well advised with regard to the scheme, but the training will go by the board unless the trainees can get work on completion of their studies. It would be undesirable to dump large numbers of trainees on the community at any one time, expecting employment to bc found for them immediately. They should be returned to industry gradually. We should seek key men first, and I should say that the key men during the next few years will bc the apprentices and those who commenced university courses prior to enlistment. The Government would bc wise to release those men as soon as possible, to enable them to complete their training.
I draw attention to clause 75, which provides that in the case of a man a re-employment allowance shall be paid at the rate of £2 10s. a week, and in the case of a woman £2 a week.
– The Government will submit an amendment in respect of that provision.
– I recall that in the House of Representatives, the Government refused to alter it.
– But an amendment will be submitted in this chamber.
– I am glad to know that. I pass to the grants for the re-establishment of men in business, or to enable them to settle on the land. Some of the proposals in the bill appear to be satisfactory, but on close examination they are found to be defective. This proposal clearly shows the justification for my comment at the beginning of my speech that one of the objects of the bill is to preserve the rights of those who did not fight. Sub-clause 2 of clause 94 reads -
In determining whether a loan should be made or a guarantee given to an applicant, the prescribed authority shall take into account -
the effect of the applicant’s war service on his capacity and opportunities to establish or re-establish himself in civil life; and
where there are limited opportunities for the establishment of a business, practice or enterprise of a particular type or in a particular locality - the applications of other eligible persons and the effect of the establishment of the business, practice or enterprise on other persons conducting businesses, practices or enterprises of thesame or a similar type, or on persons who have ceased to conduct such businesses, practices or enterprises by reason of circumstances attributable to the war.
– That is a safeguard against what was done by the Opposition when in office after the last war.
– Of course it is a safeguard, but under this clause no exserviceman could start, business on his own account with any hope of success. Hemight be willing to risk what little capital he had, but before he could get agrant consideration must be given to the effect which his action in starting in business on his own account might have on a civilian who had a shop a few doors away. A returned man could not get a grant if he intended to compete with anybody. Of what use would a grant of that kind be? He would have to go to a locality which was uninhabited and wait for the people to come along. Thousands of ex-servicemen will desire to establish themselves in one-man businesses, but, in view of the conditions imposed by the bill, it appears that they will not be free to act in. accordance with their own judgment and will be prevented from obtaining the grants which they expect under this measure.
– They will be protected from “ go-getters “.
– Many “ go-getters “ who did not go to the war and have established businesses throughout the Commonwealth are not even British ; yet the effect on their enterprises will have to be considered before a serviceman can restart in his own business.
So far,I have touched only the fringe of the matters that require rectification; I have not wished to overburden honorable senators opposite with new ideas.I hope that in committee I shall have an opportunity to deal with other matters. If the Government really is sincere in its desire to treat ex-service men and women fairly on their return to civil life, it has an opportunity to do so in connexion with the aluminium industry. This new industry will probably absorb a considerable number of men; the Government would not have proceeded with the legislation otherwise. What would be wrong with promulgating a regulation that in that industry only returned servicemen shall be employed ? There would be no difficulty in getting servicemen with the required qualifications.[ Extension of time granted.] My suggestion would not mean putting any one out of a job, unless some persons have already pegged out their claims. Is there any objection to the idea?
– It would split up homes because itmight mean that a son could not work in thesame industry as his father. Would the honorable senator apply thesame principle to the coalmining industry?
– It would appear that some of these jobs have already been pegged out.
I shall conclude with a few words of praise of the bill. I believe that the training scheme which it envisages is on right lines, because many of the young men who joined the services when nineteen or twenty years of age will be grown men on their return, and will need further training. I point out, however, that our technical schools are neither big enough nor well enough equipped to train large numbers of men. I say that after having served for some years as a member of the Apprenticeship Commission, and as the result of my association with technical schools over a considerable period; in many of the schools the machinery is obsolete. A training scheme for adults calls for great care to ensure that the establishments will be right, that competent teachers will be engaged and properly paid, and that up-to-date equipment willbe installed. A week or two ago, I visited an Army training school at St. Kilda where men are being trained to become motor mechanics. It was the best laid-out establishment that I have seen. The method of instruction is such that a man with any aptitude for mechanics can become a first-class motor mechanic in a few weeks, whereas under ordinary teaching methods years would be required for him to reach the same standard. In addition to training in connexion with motor vehicles, instruction is given in connexion with tractors and engines of various kinds, as well as in refrigeration work - things all needed in various Army establishments. The layout of the school seemed to me to be just about perfect and the system of instruction to be good.I suppose that there are other similar schools, and I hope that the Government will preserve them because the one I visited is better than any technical school thatI have seen. What I saw there was an eye-opener. I believe that there are other establishments connected with the Army in which training in other trades is given. These establishments shouldnot be closed when the war ends, but should be retained for the training of service personnel.
I do not condemn the bill entirely althoughI believe that it has many grave defects. I hope that those defects will be remedied before the measure leaves this chamber, and in particular, that it will be made to apply only to service men and women; if other people are entitled to benefits, those benefits should be provided by other legislation. I also hope that the Government will not spread the administration of this legislation over four or five different departments. Nothing could be more fatal to legislation of this kind than for returned men and women to have to go to four or five different departments to get what they require. There must be a central headquarters, and I hope that before the bill leaves this chamber the Government will agree that its administration shall be placed under one Minister. There will, of course, have to be sub-departments to deal with various aspects of rehabilitation, such as housing; but unless the administration is under one control I am afraid that the benefits of the bill will largely disappear.
I have referred to housing. In this connexion, I point out that returned servicemen will not get. preference but will have to take their stand with others in the queue. I hope that the experience and advice of men who have long been closely connected with the rehabilitation of members of the fighting services - men like Senator Brand and Senator Sampson - will be heeded, and that when the bill emerges from this chamber it will ensure that fair play will be given to all men and women of the fighting services. In that event. I am sure that it will give satisfaction to the people of Australia generally, and will remove for ever any carping criticism that the people of this country are not grateful to the men and women who made such great sacrifices for the nation.
Senator NICHOLLS (South Australia; [5.11]. - I associate myself with this bill, which has been aptly described as one to give legislative expression to our sense of obligation to the members of the fighting services and the auxiliary services, for the magnificent part they have played in all theatres of war from the inception of hostilities. The bill embraces all phases of re-establishment and rehabilitation, and is a genuine attempt on the part of the Government ito do something worth while in the interests of the men and women who have sacrificed the best years of their lives in a war which, for the first time in history, has seriously threatened Australian territory - men and women whose gallant efforts, together with those of our allies, saved Australia from invasion. That we were indeed fortunate to avoid invasion by a ruthless enemy is now comprehended in some measure, but the narrow margin by which we escaped will not be fully realized until the history of the war has been officially recorded. These are the men and women whose future interests this legislation seeks to protect - men and women who, in Australia’s darkest hour, placed themselves between the enemy and. the people of the Commonwealth. They deserve the very best that this country can give; for to them atg owe a debt of gratitude which we can never fully repay.
As indicated by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), the bill provides for the establishment of a decentralised employment service, which will also bc utilized to facilitate the Government’s scheme for social service benefits, particularly in connexion with sickness and unemployment. It also provides for the continuance of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, with expenses and allowances to trainees, as well as for loans to persons who wish to set up in business on their own account. Such loans normally will not exceed £250, but the amount may be increased to £500 if the Government, after investigation, is convinced that the higher amount would be a more appropriate limit; also up to £1,000 for those wishing to engage in rural and agricultural pursuits. ]rehabilitation allowances may also be paid to persons to whom re-establishment leans have been made. The complete plan depends upon the Government’s post-war objective with regard to full employment being achieved. That objective, is to provide a high and stable level of employment in which work, as well pi being available to all, will be adequately rewarded and directed towards raising living standards. The tremendous problems that will face the Government in the rehabilitation of exservice personnel can readily be visualized* when we remember that approximately 900,000 service men and women will need jobs, homes and training during a process of psychological and physical readjustment from the strenuous days of war to the tense experimental days of peace-time employment. Many men and women now in the forces practically went direct from school to war, and their minds, during the most impressionable period of their lives, will have absorbed only lessons appertaining to the most efficient means of waging war. These lessons are more or less useless in peace-time life, with the result that their minds will have become hardened to a considerable degree. To many of them technical instruction in class rooms and work-shops will be tiresome, and petty laws and unnecessary restrictions will not assist but will only antagonize them. For that reason, sympathetic understanding in the administration of their rehabilitation is essential until such time as they have settled down in civilian life. University students who enlisted in the middle of their courses will probably find it difficult to concentrate on their studies, and apprentices, on their return to peacetime employment will probably find routine jobs monotonous, and will resent, taking orders from civilian foremen. Service women cannot be expected to make the change from the ordered- life of the Army to an office, factory or a domestic job without difficulty. These are some of the many problems which will arise and which must receive sympathetic understanding and administration if the scheme is to be successful.
Part IV. of the hill is most important. It deals with the re-establishment of disabled service personnel. Obviously, our first duty to disabled service personnel is to do everything humanly possible to restore them to normal health. The bill provides for disabled persons to be assisted. The necessary appliances and medical aids will bc provided to enable them to participate in civilian employment; but their restoration to normal health is paramount. Medical science to-day is playing its part in no uncertain manner in this direction. Practically every day we read in the newspapers of startling and miraculous inventions which promise to revolutionize medical science. Delicate operations, which are astounding and amazing, are performed daily. The miracles performed by surgeons upon soldiers on the battlefield during this war have saved and restored them to normal fitness and health, whereas men who suffered similar injuries in the last war died before reaching the nearest hospital. Plastic, or reconstructive, surgery is also playing a major part in this war, and has reached the stage to-day where it is doubtful whether any man, notwithstanding the extent of his facial injuries, will emerge from this war, whose features cannot be restored to normal. Medical science, inspired by the outstanding success achieved by the blood banks, is concentrating on banks to store spare parts of the human body for use in emergencies. Nineteen hospitals in New York have established the first eye bank. They negotiate and make arrangements with donors and furnish the necessary legal documents to be signed to enable surgeons to remove the eye immediately after death and rush it to a plasma bank where the eye is stored at a proper temperature until it is required. The dedication of the eye ofa person who has passed away to restore the sight of a living person who, otherwise, would be compelled to sit in darkness, is in my view a glorious and beautiful memorial.
In the United States of America, approximately 200,000 persons whose sight has been dimmed, or lost, through damage to the cornea, the clear transparent membrane which covers the iris of the eye, are patiently awaiting operations which will restore their sight. Unfortunately, because of the paucity of material to work with, and facilities to train others, there are only approximately twenty doctors in the United States of America, to-day who are quali- fied to perform such operations. Similar operations have also been performed in Australia, but the same difficulties prevail here. These difficulties must be removed, and will be removed just as soon as we realize how much it means to those people to sit in darkness awaiting their turn for this operation. Dr. Paul Wiess, of the Chicago University, is concentrating to-day on the urgent need of storing and preserving spare sections of nerves for emergency purposes; and Dr. R. H. Klemme and his associates at the St. Louis School of Medicine have performed outstanding work in the grafting of nerves. In one case, Dr. Klemme and his associates saved the entire group of nerves in a human arm. This operation is unparalleled, and is described by Dr. Klemme himself as being the outstanding operation of his career. Exactly what miracles medical science has in store for the future, we as laymen, are unableto forecast; but it is quite feasible that within the next five years human spare part banks and eye banks will be established in every capital city throughout the Commonwealth. In the interim, disabled service personnel can rest assured thateverthing that can possibly be done by medical science to restore them to health will be done to enable themto take their place in civilian life under, we hope, a decent social system for which they have fought so tenaciously and heroically.
Part II of the bill, which deals with the re-employment of ex-service personnel, appears to have created considerable controversy as to whether preference should be limited or unlimited. The preference provided under this measure is limited to a period of seven years after the cessation of hostilities. This is more or less in accordance with the result of a recent Gallup poll of a cross section of the community on a Commonwealth basis in which 65 per cent, of the people interviewed indicated that they favoured a limited preference of from five to ten years. The question submitted to the people interviewed was, “What do you think of the plan to give first preference in jobs to servicemen for seven years after the war?” The result, whichwas published in the Adelaide Advertiserof the 17th May last, showed that 65 per cent. favoured the proposition, 28 percent, opposed it and 7 per cent, wereundecided. According to the people who conducted the poll, party voting was most interesting, 70 per cent, of non-Labour voters, and 60 per cent, of Labour voters favouring the proposition. A majority in every State in theCommonwealth favoured limited preference, including the most industrialized States - Victoria and New South Wales. In those States, only 30 people out of every 100 approached opposed the plan. However, exactly what value can be placed on results obtained from Gallup polls is more or less doubtful. Apparently, the newspapers themselves place very little value upon them, because a few day* after the results of this poll appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser, that paper published a leading article condemning the Government’s proposal for limited preference under this measure, and advocated unlimited preference. I do not believe that any soldier desires unlimited preference at the expense of his son who was too young to go to this war, or at the expense of his father who was too old, or at the expense of his brothers who were pegged in industry and were nol allowed to enlist notwithstanding their desire to do so. What the soldier wau is is a reasonable opportunity to reestablish himself in civil life, and future economic security for himself and his dependants. The Government plans to achieve this within seven years of the cessation of hostilities. At the same time, it will concentrate on implementing an economic policy that will, in accordance with its promise, provide economic security for every one. It will also do everything humanly possible in co-operation with other nations to implement the principles of the Atlantic Charter whip!: promised economic security to the people of all nations for all time.
Part VIII. of the bill empowers the appropriate Minister, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to enter into agreement with any of the States for the allocation i.mong members of the services of houses erected under any Commonwealth-State agreement. The problem of housing is most difficult mainly because preceding governments, which had every opportunity in co-operation with the States to rectify the position in the pre-war years, particularly during the depression when abundant man-power and material were available, failed to do so. Unfortunately, because the exigencies of war have placed unprecedented demands upon the manpower and industrial organization of this country, the Government has not been able to concentrate on internal problems to the same degree as would have been the case in peace-time. Obviously, an all-in war cannot be waged and thousand* of homes built at the same time. Realizing that, the Government took immediate action to ensure that the man-power and materials available would be utilized to the greatest advantage, by establishing an administration to investigate all building requirements, and to issue permits on a priority basis in accordance with urgent national needs. For such a scheme to be successful, the wholehearted co-operation of all sections of the community was necessary. If complete .success has not been achieved and the scheme is operating unsatisfactorily, it is only because certain individual? have not realized their obligations and have placed their personal interests before the needs of the nation. Pressure groups in the various States are endeavouring to capitalize the position. Under the guise of “ homes for the people “ campaigns, these groups are obtaining assistance from many reputable citizens, who apparently are unaware that they are being used for political purposes in an endeavour to discredit the Government. The Adelaide News. on its leader page, published a series of cartoons, which, to say the least, were most unfair. One in particular depicted :i person representing the Commonwealth Government addressing a group of exserviceman and saying, “Welcome home “. In a chorus, the ex-servicemen are replying. “ Thanks, but where is it? “ The :Ane newspaper also published two articles hy a special correspondent, dealing with the housing problem, and stressing the disabilities under which many families are living to-day. The writer’s solution of the problem was the appointment of a director-general of housing to implement a housing plan on a Commonwealth basis, or the removal of the shackles from private industry so that it can go ahead with all the manDower it required and do the job. The first suggestion is all right, and such an appointment may be necessary in the post-war period, but the second scheme has been in operation for the past, 50 years or more, and has failed miserably to provide homes for the people. The Government is fully conversant with all phases of the housing problem. That problem was caused mainly by the maladministration and1 procrastination of previous governments, which were more concerned with individuals who build homes for investment than with the needs of inadequately housed members of the community. For that reason, this Government is starting a long way behind scratch, and is finding it exceedingly difficult to rectify the position and at the same .time fight a total war. Obviously, it, would be impossible to fight a total war and at the same time launch out on a full-scale building programme. It is easy to say that because of housing conditions to-day the building of homes should” be our No. 1 priority task; but how can such a claim be reconciled with our commitments to our Allies, and our declared intention to play our part in full in bringing this war to a swift and successful conclusion? Surely it is not suggested that at this most critical period of the war in the Pacific, when we are all keyed up for victory and at this very moment are carrying the fight to Tokyo, Yokohama, and other Japanese cities, we should repudiate our commitments to our Allies, knowing that every moment is bringing its closer to that wonderful day when 20,000 Australian prisoners of war in Japanese hands will be released and restored to their loved ones. It is easy to criticize the administration of any government, especially in time of war, when of necessity many commodities are in short supply, but the fact remains that we are winning the war, and the Government is determined, by all means in its power, to co-operate fully with our Allies until victory has been achieved.
The Government, realizes that 1945’ will be a most difficult year for this country. Our lines of communication have lengthened, and additional men and .1, ins are required for transport purposes. With the conclusion of the European war. huge numbers of allied service personnel are being rushed to the Pacific war theatre to continue the war against Tapa.n. These .movements, obviously, will
Mi row a tremendous burden upon our food production organization, because larger quantities of foodstuffs will be rein i red. British forces are now in the Pacific theatre of war, fulfilling the pledge of the Government of the United Kingdom to play its full part in the war against the Japanese, notwithstanding urgent and pressing internal problems, particularly the reconstruction or replacement of millions of homes which have been devastated by enemy bombs. Australia, which has scarcely been harmed by enemy action, must continue to play its part in co-operation with the Allies. It cannot do so by withdrawing necessary service personnel to engage ina full-time building programme at the expense of our allies whose housing problem is many times greater than ours. However, that does not mean that the Government will procrastinate or evade its responsibility to grapple with this very important problem. Every avenue will be explored. All available man-power and materials will be diverted to the building industry. The Government’s proposals were outlined by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in the House of Representatives last week. The honorable gentleman stated that War Cabinet had decided that 50,000 men should be released from, the Army and the Air Force before the end of the year to meet urgent civil requirements, and also that special committees would be established to review all non-operational establishments and war-time staffs of government departments with a view to the release of excess labour. He also indicated that advice is being sought from the highest authority to ensure that Australia shall not accept commitments to Allied nations greater than it is capable of fulfilling, and that the Production Executive has been asked to fix ceilings for those commitments in the light of the programme announced. These steps are an indication of what the Government intends to do in the face of the present difficulties. In co-operation with the States, the Commonwealth Government will build 50,000 homes in the first post-war year, 80,000 in the second year and will continue building at that rate until the shortage of 257,000 homes has been overtaken. In conclusion, I emphasize that I am pleased to be associated with this measure, which is a genuine attempt on the part of the Government to do something worth while for men and women who have served their country and now are patiently awaiting the promised new order for which they have fought so tenaciously and heroically.
The title of the bill is -
A Bill for an Act to provide for the rehabilitation in civil life of members of the Forces, for facilitating their employment, and for other purposes.
That sounds well until the measure is studied closely. It would be more appropriate to call it a bill for the full employment of servicemen and civilians. During the referendum campaign last August, the “ Yes “ speakers said that if the referendum were not carried, widows’ pensions and child endowment payments might cease. The referendum was not carried, yet these social benefits have been paid regularly every fortnight. The same speakers also claimed that u “ Yes “ majority was necessary to make possible the rehabilitation of members of tho fighting services, yet we have before us a bill to give effect to what the Government claimed it could not do. Unfortunately, it falls short of what service men and women expected, after the promises made during the referendum campaign. The bill could be improved very much, therefore I suggest that it be withdrawn and that an all-party committee of ex-service members of this Parliament or of representatives of exservicemen’s organizations, with a Minister as chairman, be appointed to make recommendations to the Government. Civilians employed during the war in essential work are in an entirely different category to service personnel and separate legislation should be introduced to meet their need for re-establishment. The bill bears all the marks of a compromise between the section of the Government which supports the principle of preference as a political necessity, and the other section which advocates preference to unionists but not to ex-service men and women. The success of any rehabilitation plan is dependent upon a strong centralized administration such as fan be obtained only by the establishment of a single authoritative department under the charge of one Minister. As the bill stands, it perpetuates the ;y.stem of authority divided amongst many departments, which has been the cause of much frustration in war-time administration. As a sop to those who object to special consideration being given to servicemen who have given up everything to fight the country’s battles, the bill attempts to include on the same employment basis every class of service man and woman, and even brings civilians within its scope. A war worker who never enlisted for combat service may be entitled to a priority in employment equal to that of the sailors, soldiers and airmen who have borne the hardship and danger of fighting. Fair terms of preference are admittedly difficult to define, but the definition given in the bill could not la&ve been drafted better had it been the avowed intention of the Government to emasculate the principle of preference to ex-servicemen. The obligation »n an employer to give preference is subject to the qualification of these words - “ unless he has reasonable and substantial cause for not doing so “. An employer may base his reason for refusing preference on length of service, comparative qualifications, or “ any other relevant matters “. This will offer too many loopholes to the unpatriotic and selfish employer who does not wish to give preference. So many weaknesses have crept into clause 27 that it will defeat its own purpose. Least definite of all the provisions in the bill is the political compromise in the shape of a time limit on preference of seven years after the cessation of hostilities. The necessity for preference can end only when every ex-serviceman has received full opportunity for rehabilitation according to his individual needs. It may not be his fault, but that of the administration if, at the end of seven years, he is still incapable of taking his place in the community on equal competitive terms with other men. There will be a boom period seven years after the cessation of hostilities. The following years might be termed the settling down period when the ex-serviceman will need all possible assistance to rehabilitate himself. Of what use is a seven-year limit to a serviceman who has contracted malaria? He will, as many men are doing now, work for a period, go into hospital, return to work, and go back to hospital again. Doctors contend that malaria does not lea’ve the system in less than seven years. Are men who are suffering from -war disabilities -which cause them io go into hospital intermittently for periods of months at a time to be allowed to battle along unaided after seven years? I know of scores of cases in which disabilities due to service in the w.a.r of 1014-18 did not reveal themselves until ten years after the Armistice was signed. Are exservicemon of the present war, who are still temporarily incapacitated after .seven years, to be denied preference when they ais finally restored to health and able to seek permanent employment? Such treatment is incompatible with the highsounding terms in which members of the Government allude to Australians as the finest soldiers in the world. The Government has two front-line soldiers - Senator Amour aud Senator Lamp - amongst its supporters in this chamber who arc still far from a normal state of health a? the result of their service in the war of 1914-1,8. The same can be said of Senator Allan MacDonald, who has been absent from this chamber from time to time on account of a disability incurred in the last war. What is the good of fixing a seven-year limit? It is ridiculous.
One often hears the slogan, “ Why talk about preference for the serviceman ? Give us work for all “. That is a very laudable ambition, but it would probably mean work at the end of a pick or a shovel for the serviceman. I have io quarrel with those who seek to eliminate unemployment, but the serviceman should still be entitled to preference. He should he at the right end of the queue when jobs are allotted. “ Work for all “ would certainly assure the employment of servicemen, but in the offering of employment, from the pick-and-shovel job to the highest position in the land, competent servicemen should have preference over others because of the sacrifices that they have made and the services that they have rendered to their country. They are entitled not to a mere job but to a job consistent with their ability. Let us scotch once and for all the catchcry, “ No preference, but work for all “. Let us have work for all and give preference to servicemen in jobs that are worth while. Those who advocate “ Work for all “ are silent about the good jobs that have often been acquired by nonservicemen whilst servicemen have been sweltering on the sands of a Libyan desert or wallowing in the marshes of New Guinea. Are our soldiers not entitled to something more than a mere jab? They deserve some compensation for the years of lost opportunity when they were paid a few shillings ,a day whilst civilians reaped the harvest of high wages.
– And while the parties now in opposition, were in power.
– If the honorable senator would read Ilansard of the 2nd May, 1930., he- would forever withhold from jibing at honorable senators on this side of the chamber about preference to returned soldiers. In May, 1930, the Scullin Government altered the conditions relating to government contracts so that preference to returned soldiers was withdrawn after having been in operation for about sixteen yeaTS.
– It was not being observed.
– It was being observed. Soon afterwards, the Scullin Government went out of office. White papers, blueprints, and graphs on office walls will not achieve the ideal of “ work for all “. Production is the basis of prosperity and development, and full employment follows full production in the natural course of events. Release the shackles from industry and reduce taxation and the first steps will have been taken towards full employment. There will always be a certain amount of unemployment due to such causes as intermittent breakdowns of health and temporary slowing-up in some industries due to lack of raw materials. However, the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act provides for such contingencies. In order to provide work for all, the Government should start at the right end by reducing governmental expenditure to a .minimum, with the object of reducing taxation. Instead of toying with socialist theories with which the Australian people do not agree, as they showed* at the referendum, the Government should display more energy in recapturing our pre-war overseas markets and securing new ones. In the race £or the disposal of surplus secondary and primary products, Australia is lagging behind Great Britain and the United States of America. Unless we have markets, our production will stagnate. The effective rehabilitation of service men and women can be achieved only by giving full rein to production. On the subject of unnecessary expenditure, I refer to the group of Australian “ tourists “ at present at San Francisco. They are being charged £40 a week each for accommodation at a San Francisco hotel. The taxpayers are paying their bill, but what value is Australia getting in return ? That is one of the first directions in which we can reduce expenditure.
Honorable senators interjecting,
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
Gordon Brown). - Order! I am anxious to hear what the honorable senator has to say, butI cannot concentrate on his speech owing to interjections and constant conversation. I ask honorable senators to maintain order.
– I am not a. member of the War Expenditure Committee, but I have talked with members of the committee and I know that it has investigated many items of war-time expenditure and has sent its reports to the appropriate authority. Those reports should be laid on the table of the Senate.
– They have been.
– I have been unable to obtain copies of them. Somebody is making money out of war industries, and the profiteers should be exposed. Therefore, the reports of the committee should be tabled in this chamber. Housing is mentioned in the bill, and there are signs that the Government is at last moving in the right direction. The best counter to Communism is a contented working man living in a home, preferably his own, and subject to little or no taxation. No real progress will be made with thehousing problem until it is tackled as the production of war equipment was tackled. A leader like Mr. Essington Lewis should be found and given a free hand.
– Does the honorable senator believe in a dictatorship?
– I remind the honorable senator that we should be grateful to Mr. Essington Lewis. War equip ment was produced in Australia at very short notice, and every one should be thankful that we had such a man. The time is ripe for us to appoint a man of similar ability to deal with the housing problem. In many other respects the bill is defective. It makes no attempt to allow for the mental effect of life in the services and the necessity for mental and moral re-orientation of ex-servicemen. It contains no provision for the readjustment of neurotic ex-servicemen by means of the appointment of specially trained officers to deal with such problems and the establishment of institutions for their welfare. It does not provide for any financial assistance to compensate exservicemen for the deterioration which has occurred in their homes, furniture, and personal property, nor docs it, guarantee to them an adequate clothing issue on discharge. Whilst it provides for certain meagre assistance for men wishing to start in business, the bill does not establish the principle that assistance should be provided in accordance with men’s needs and the requirements of individual businesses, instead of according to some low statutory maximum. It doe? not deal with the position of disabled men by providing for amendments of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to ensure payment of pensions sufficient to maintain incapacitated servicemen’s families in the standard of comfort to which they are entitled. It does not provide that every man discharged from service with a lower medical grading than on acceptance for operational service shall be provided with a pension commensurate with his disability. Nor does it contain a satisfactory definition of “ operational area “ or “ theatre of war ‘” to avoid the necessity for a decision by some official, who may not act justly towards servicemen. The definition should include “back areas” over which enemy airmen frequently operate with deadly effect.
Sitting suspended from, 6 to 8 p.m.
– The families of men discharged as incapacitated through mental derangement, tuberculosis or other disabilities not directly related to war service should be suitably maintained while such disability continues. The present system of hearing appeals in respect of pensions behind closed doors, and in the absence of the press or the public, should be abolished. Full medical and hospital treatment should be granted to every unpensionable person discharged as medically unfit. Above all, the bill omits to establish a rehabilitation fund to assist financially and care for all ex-servicemen and their dependants who need financial assistance but who are not covered by the existing provisions. The omissions to which I have directed attention are repatriation matters, yet they come within the scope of rehabilitation.
The worst feature of the bill is that when the act is proclaimed it will supersede the repatriation acts in operation in Victoria, South Australia and Queens- land whose repatriation legislation is operating satisfactorily. It is true that certain anomalies have arisen which could be removed by appropriate amendments, but ex-servicemen’s organizations are satisfied with the State acts. With the bill now before the Senate, not one of those organizations is satisfied. The measure should be withdrawn and redrafted in order that it might deal with every phase of a rehabilitation plan distinct from one applicable to homefront workers. I shall have more to say concerning the measure at the committee stage.
I shall now indicate certain amendments which I, or some of my colleagues, will submit when the bill is in committee. Sub-clause 2 of clause 12 provides that an application for reinstatement in employment shall be made not later than one month after the completion of the period of war service. I intend to move to provide that the period be three months instead of one. The period for which the bill provides is totally inadequate and would not allow time for a mental readjustment from service conditions to a civil outlook, nor would it give sufficient time for an ex- serviceman to decide whether he wished to return to his former employment. Clause 22 provides for the repeal of section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. That section has many features which are not embodied in this bill, and I shall move for its retention. Sub-clause 3 of clause23 provides for the repeal of section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which states that where the employment of a returned soldier has been terminated owing to temporary assistance not being further required’, he shall be eligible for further employment at any time after the termination of his previous employment. I desire that section also to be retained.Clause 27 is one of the vital provisions of the bill, and, as it is unsatisfactory to the organizations of servicemen, I or one of my colleagues will move for its deletion. An amendment will be proposed that a clause on the following lines be inserted in its stead : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in any Common wealth, or State legislation, statute act. regulation or measure, or in any award or industrial agreement, every employer shall give first and complete preference in employment to any person defined in this act as a member of the Forces, and to those who served in the 1914-18 war. including the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force.
I shall move also for the deletion of clause 33, which provides that clauses 24 to 32, inclusive, shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities. The regulations dealing with the central vocational training committee provide that the age at which a person can be accepted for training is up to 21 years. An amendment will be proposed that the age be raised to 25 years. Under the proposal in the bill, young men aged from 19 to 21 years who enlisted at the early stage of the war will not be available for training unless the age be increased. I would even be prepared to increase it to 30 years. I should say that training should be undertaken in any case in which it would he of advantage to the individual and the community at large. Provision is made in clause 75 for the payment of a re-employment allowance of £2 10s. a week to men and £2 a week to women. I shall submit an amendment that the rate be increased to £3 5s. a week in the case of men and to £2 10s. a week in the case of women.
Senator Leckie has dealt effectively with the provision in sub-clause 2 of clause 77 that the re-employment allowance shall not be payable to any person in respect of any period after the expiration of twelve months from the date of his discharge. I understand that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) is particularly concerned about this matter and intends to seek an amendment of the Employment and Sickness Benefits Act to provide that the soldier’s pension shall 110 t be taken into account when assessing unemployment benefits. The present law adversely affects servicemen who are in receipt of a pension and have family responsibilities. Under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act a person who becomes unemployed is entitled to £1 5s. a week and an additional £1 for his wife. If he has a pension of 15s. a week he receives, not £1 5s. a week, but only 10s. a week. When a man is a member of a trade union the benefits received by him from the union are not deducted, nor are lodge benefits. If an alien becomes unemployed after six months’ residence in Australia he is entitled to the full benefit of £1 5s. a week. I hope that this anomaly will be corrected in committee. Clause 99,
Which relates to business reestablishment allowances for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen in business, has been dealt with effectively by Senator Leckie.
– The task confronting the Government in the preparation of this bill was one of great magnitude. The whole of the man-power of Australia has been either conscripted for war service or has voluntarily devoted itself to the defence of the nation. Skilled men have been drafted to factories, and women have given up their home duties and have undertaken work in factories or in the fighting services. The population as a whole has played some part in the country’s defence. There has been a change-over from a civil economy to one of total war. That has happened for the first time in the history of Australia, and we are now faced with the problem of transferring -ex-service men and women from war-time activities to a peace-time life. Many new and involved problems have to be solved, and one of the greatest of them is to fit ex-service mcn and women back into civil life. The Government has submitted a comprehensive measure that fits in well with its general plan for a better Australia when the war is over. I shall not raise a cry of “ stinking fish “ because of events that succeeded the last war in connexion with the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. The problems associated with that war were less difficult of solution than those confronting us at present. We have broken new ground on this occasion. When the servicemen returned from the last war the predecessors of the Labour party did not take control of private enterprise but applied preference in employment only to the Commonwealth Public Service. The Government now considers that it should give direction to private enterprise with regard to the employment of ex-service men and women, and therefore this measure provides that it shall be mandatory for their former employers to re-engage them.. If some one else is doing his job that person, will have to be put off when the serviceman returns. That is an advance on what occurred after the last war. At that time I was not old enough to be eligible to join the services, but I had brothers who fought in that war. I know that on their return they had great difficulty in keeping the wolf from the door, despite the so-called preference of those days. On this occasion the Government is determined that the preference provisions shall apply to all employers, and so under the defence* powers of the Constitution it has included in the bill provisions which will make it mandatory for the whole of the employers of Australia to give preference to servicemen. The bill sets out that a person who served on the battlefields in. the Middle East, New Guinea, or elsewhere, shall have some substantial claim, for preference over members of the forces who never left Australia. I believe that that is a right principle.
– Where is that provision in the bill?
– In making provision for preference, the period and place of service will be taken into consideration. In my opinion that is a just provision. If a man has suffered disabilities because of his service for the nation, he should receive some special consideration when he returns to civil life. But that measure of preference is not the only benefit which the soldier should, have on his return. It was the main provision of the legislation passed! to assist men who fought in the last war, but I am glad that on this occasion the Government proposes to go farther. It must be remembered that when the war is over there will be about 1,000,000 servicemen, out of a total working population of approximately 2,800,000, who will be entitled to preference. That represents considerably more than onethird of the workers, and therefore the measure of preference provided after the last war would not be sufficient. Accordingly, the Government . tackled’ other problems which it knew the men would nave to face on their return. What will those problems be? What will be the chief requirement of the men who will be demobilized? Briefly stated, they will want homes to live in, suitable jobs, and a chance to advance in life. That is all that the men now in the forces ask for: they want homes, and jobs, and a chance to rehabilitate themselves, not at the expense of the nation, but with its help. This bill will give to them that chance. Lu my opinion, it is wrong to pit one section of the people against other sections. When these men come back they will want to fit into the life of the. community and marry or live with their parents, and to have some security for the future.
And so I commend, first, the Government’s intention to see that their jobs will be available to them on their return and, secondly, the provision which is to W made for those members of the fighting services who until the war broke out never had any regular employment. There are many such men now in the services. In the district from which I come many boys had never had a full week’s work from the time that they left school until they joined the fighting services. I have in mind one young man who from the time that he left school until he joined the Army had been in receipt of the dole. He now lies in New Guinea, and will not come back. Many young men from the coal-fields never had a chance. We want to give to them a chance to fit themselves for civil life, with a prospect of advancement in the future. The Government’s proposals for vocational training will provide that opportunity. The provisions in the bill relating to apprenticeships are wide. If a boy who had served two or three years of his apprenticeship left to fight for his country, it is appropriate that provision should be made for him when he returns, as otherwise be would be penalized for his patriotism. The Government will ensure that when he returns he will be able to take up his apprenticeship where he left off, and that until he is capable of earning full wages, his earnings will be brought up to the rate paid to skilled workers. He will be given a chance to make a good citizen, and in that way he will be repaid in some measure for his service to his country. In my opinion, the bill will meet all the problems that are likely to arise; it makes provision foi1 vocational training for a man who has been disabled, a.nd for reestablishment leave. On demobilization, a man will be given a period in which to adjust himself to the new conditions, and during that period he will be entitled to certain allowances or loans. The provisions of the bill relating to loans to men who wish to establish businesses of their own are a generous gesture on the part of the Government. We could outbid one another as to the amount of loan which should be granted to a serviceman. I believe that an advance of up to £500 will enable many men to set up in business for themselves. As one young airman put it to me, “We don’t want the Government to keep us; all we want is a chance to get ‘ cracking ‘ “. That is what the Government proposes in this bill. Problems associated with land settlement, housing and similar matters will be handled by the States in co-operation with the Commonwealth. That is a wise policy, because the States have all the facilities necessary. The bill contains other provisions which will make for the easier reemployment of the men on their return. I was astonished this afternoon to hear the only two speakers from the Opposition benches say that for seven years after the war there will be no unemployment in Australia. Evidently, they have been convertd from their previous way of thinking. The plans of the Government are such as to give full employment not only for seven years, but for as long as the people have the good sense to return a Labour government.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) raised the question of the admission of. servicemen to trade unions. He said that there is nothing in the bill to compel the unions to admit to membership servicemen who had received training in various trades. There is only one union that I know of which has closed its books and will not admit newmembers; I refer to the Waterside Workers Federation.
– That union has taken in over 1,000 members from among servicemen in this war.
– Yes, and it has made provision to cover its members serving with the forces. Their work is unskilled, and if the union had too many members there would not be enough work for all nf them. I remind the Acting Leader »f the Opposition that the Amalgamated Engineering Union has accepted a large number of dilutees, all of whom are members- of the union. It is extraordinary that any honorable senator should think that men trained, in various trades will not be allowed- to become members of a trade union.
– Does the honorable senator say that there will be no objection to their joining trade unions?
– There will be no abjection. On the contrary, the unions will welcome skilled tradesmen into their ranks, because they know that the sooner nil workers are members of trade unions the greater will ‘be their collective bargaining power.
The measure before us is an instalment of the Government’s plan for a better Australia after the war. I remind the Senate that two or three years ago there was a lot of talk about a “ new order “ after the war. When Australia was in danger, the young men of this country were told ‘that if they would fight to preserve their .country they would be guaranteed better conditions after the war. I am glad that the Government is taking some practical steps to ensure a better order after the war. I regard, this bill as a step in that direction in that it will give to servicemen greater security in the future.
– Whatever government was in power during the closing; stages of this war, it would he faced with a herculean task in making .preparations for the re-establishment m civil life of the men and women now serving: with the forces. The Government is tobe applauded for taking early steps tothat end. But my congratulations end there; I fear that I cannot go farther in praising the Government. I realizethat some haste was necessary in thepreparation of this legislation, but no bill of such importance should, have required so many amendments as the Minister in. charge of its passage through the Houseof Reppresentafives had to move. Thaifact shows that there is something radically wrong in either the conception or drafting of the measure. Without being censorous, too. I believe that thepeople of Australia are suspicious of the bill. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber appreciate the fact that this Government has been faced with even* a greater problem than would have confronted a Liberal-Australian Countryparty government in dealing with thismatter. Australia’s political history showsclearly that the Labour party has onefaith and one faith only, namely, that of preference to unionists. Members of theLabour party have been most loyal to that principle. But that very fact makes thisGovernment’s approach to the problem of preference to soldiers most difficult, and some of the provisions of this measureare the result of its efforts to meet that difficulty. For that, reason, many people, including members of the forces, suspect that in the bill, particularly in relation to preference in employment for ex-service personnel, the Government has compromised with its conscience; and, like most compromises, this compromise is open to suspicion. I have always believed in preference in employment to ex-service personnel, and1 have done my very best in various ways to see that principle given effect. To set a limit to the period in which that preference shall prevail, as is proposed”’ under this measure, cuts right across theprinciple of preference in employment to ex-service personnel. For that reason, I was astonished when the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia more or less accepted this measure on the principle, apparently, that half a loaf is better than no bread, forgetting the fact, which no English-speaking person should ever forget, that appeasement always involves partial sacrifice of a principle. Preference in employment to ex-service personnel is a cardinal principle in returned soldier organizations from which members of those organizations should never deviate. My astonishment in that, respect was shared by many other lifelong members of returned soldier organizations who have been fighting for preference for many years. The very suggestion that, perhaps, this Government may not, be in office seven years hence and, therefore, those organizations could then endeavour to have the period of preference extended, also amounts to appeasement, and represents a deviation from_ this cardinal principle.
The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) in his second-reading speech stated, and rightly in my opinion, that this measure represents the parent plan for the Government’s policy for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel, and that in the near future subsidiary aspects of that plan would be covered by supplementary measures. He said in effect that this measure represented the blue-print of the Government’s policy for rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. It is not to be expected, of course, that all phases of that problem could be dealt with in one measure. The subject is too immense to be covered even in a bill such as that now before us. . Details in respect of administration, for instance, must be covered in other ways. We hear much to-day about new ideas and newplans, and about what we have been fighting for, but despite the statements of supporters of the Government to the contrary, this measure breaks very little new ground, because existing Commonwealth and State legislation deals with most, if ;not all, phases of the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel of the war of 1914-18. In those circumstances, I support Senator Brand in urging the Government to withdraw the bill and redraft it. By taking that course no serious delay would be incurred, because, as 1 have said, existing legislation is sufficient to cope with most if not all of the immediate phases pf rehabilitation. The postponement of this measure for six months would be more than justified in order to enable us to evolve a really superb rehabilitation measure which would redound to the credit of the nation. The members of this Parliament include many men who have the ability and the sympathy to evolve such a measure. Therefore, although the matter is of some urgency, I submit that in the circumstances I have mentioned the matter should be referred for investigation to a joint committee with a view to producing a bill that would be foolproof so far as ex-service personnel are concerned.
– And such a bill would still be opposed by members of the Opposition.
– .1 do not think that that would be so. particularly when we remember that the recent amendments to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which were based on the recommendations of an all-party committee of returned soldier members of Parliament were enacted without opposition. The Government appointed an all-party committee to make recommendations with respect to the payment of war gratuities to service personnel in this war, and I have no reason to believe that legislation based on that committee’s recommendations will be opposed by the Opposition parties. I urge the Government to make a similar approach to this problem, and to appoint, an all-party committee to consider it and furnish a report as the basis for legislation on the subject. I have not the slightest doubt that if that course were followed greater benefits would be given to our ex-service personnel.
I am rather sceptical of the Government’s proposal to place rehabilitation under the control of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. The personnel of the staff of that department includes many experts, and, being a good Western Australian, I am a little diffident about some experts. I recall our bitter experience, on the gold-fields in the early days when, after the experts declared that gold would not be found in certain districts, or at certain levels at Kalgoorlie, each of them was confounded by results of actual mine development; and consequently the people of Australia have been sceptical of experts ever since. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction has rather a modernistic sound. Perhaps, the explanation for my distaste for that department is explained to some degree by the fact that I am old-fashioned in many respects. However, for the last quarter of a century the Repatriation Department has accumulated immense <md valuable experience in handling the problems of ex-service personnel of the war of 1914-1S and this war. To-day, the officers of that department are noted for their experience, sympathy and fair dealing in handling the cases of applicants. I know that that department has many critics, but from long personal experience of a large percentage of those critics, I believe such critics condemn themselves because in most cases they are endeavouring to bolster or fight hopeless cases. Therefore, they do not. like the Repatriation Department. Those are the people who say that the Repatriation Department stinks. But my own experience as an outsider who has had considerable dealings wilh the department, not only on my own account, but also in sponsoring the cases of other applicants, convinces me that the officers of that department have during the last quarter of a century built up knowledge and experience which no academic expert can hope to achieve in the next ten years, bor that reason, the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel should be dealt with entirely by the Repatriation Department, whose officers are returned men, and I urge the Government, even at this late hour, to reconsider its decision to place that phase of the work under the Department of Post-war Reconstruction.
– The Repatriation Department will continue to carry out its present duties.
– I am aware of that; but the fact remains that the returned men and women look to government officials in this matter for more than mere academic advice. They must have sympathetic mentors. Ex- service personnel have a psychology peculiar to the individual. The more seriously disabled a man may be, the greater is his problem psychologically. Therefore, it is not a matter of providing mass attention, or mass service,, to ex-service personnel. In the majority of eases, individual attention is imperative. I repeat that the officers of the Repatriation. Department have not only the qualifications but also the requisite sympathy to deal effectively with the problems of ex-service personnel, whilst, at the same time, I doubt very much whether the ex-service mau or woman will find ‘anything like the same measure of sympathy iri their dealings with officers of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. The Leader of the Senate in his secondreading speech also dealt with the continuance of free legal aid to ex-service personnel, which, will be the responsibility of the Attorney-General’s Department. That is a very good service; but. here again. I do not believe that the Government has gone far enough. This work should be transferred to the Repatriation Department, and there should be appointed to that department a qualified legal man, possibly a former magistrate, or at least some one with legal standing, not only to give advice to exservicemen on the many complicated aspects of repatriation, but also to take legal action where necessary. The Leader of the Senate said that the Legal Aid Department would continue to give advice freely to ex-servicemen; but it is not so much legal advice that these men require, as legal action. In many cases a “ Digger “ is reluctant, even after receiving legal advice, to take legal action, and if a legal officer were attached to the Repatriation Department for this purpose, ex-servicemen generally would appreciate his services. That scheme, of course, is not new. After the last war, in Western Australia at least, a qualified legal officer was attached to the War Service Homes Department to assist exservicemen to cope with the problem of obtaining a house.
– He also evicted some ex-servicemen from their homes.
– If conditions were such that eviction was required, a tenant could be brought before the court and his case determined on the evidence submitted. I do not think that there were any evictions without proper cause. Ex-servicemen were not evicted from their homes just for the pleasure of “chucking” them out in the street. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), of course, could enlighten honorable senators on many phases of eviction. The legal officer attached to the “War Service Homes Department in Western Australia after the last war subsequently became a police magistrate. During his service with the department ho helped many “ Diggers “. In fact, he helped me without fee, and thousands of others also have reason to appreciate his services. The activities of the Legal Aid Department referred to in this measure couldbe extended in a similar manner. It may be necessary for the Repatriation Department to survey the regulations relating to the training of disabled ex-servicemen, and vocational training generally. In fact, the whole question of pensions, allowances, medical benefits, hospital treatment, &c, could be reconsidered, and I think that in that regard officers of the Repatriation Department co uld do a better job than any one else.
The Leader of the Senate rather begged the question when he referred to the general preference provisions of this measure as being something which had not been attempted by any government in any other country during this or any other war. At one time, I believed that the general preference provision inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act by this chamber, would be instrumental in bringing about the general application of preference not only in the Commonwealth Public Service, but also all over Australia, in both government and private employment; but that hope was not fulfilled, and this is an attempt - unfortunately very limited in point of time and too wide in scope - to provide for general preference. The proposed preference boards will be an important feature of the whole structure of preference in employment to ex-servicemen. Each preference board is to consist of a chairman, one member to represent persons who have rendered war service, one member to represent employers, and one member to represent employees.I believe that at least the member appointed to represent persons who have rendered war service should be nominated by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. In Western Australia, there was such a board after the last war. The government appointed its own representatives and I was elected representative of the returned soldiers. We had to consider all cases in which it was considered that the government’s policy of preference to returned soldiers was not being given effect. Our job was to see that the policy was applied in a fair measure, and the board functioned quite satisfactorily.
– I have noted the honorable senator’s proposal.
-I should like the Leader of theSenate to consider providing that all members of these boards shall be returned soldiers. Sub-clause 8 of clause 31 reads -
Unless in any particular case the Minister is satisfied that it is not practicable, a majority of the members of a Preference Board selected from the panels shall be persons who have been members of the Forces.
I do not. like the words “ unless in any particular case the Minister is satisfied that it is not practicable”. I defy any Minister to say that it is impossible to find suitable members for these boards from amongst persons who have served in the Australian armed forces. There is a wealth of talent amongst members of the Navy, Army, Air Force or auxiliary services, past and present from which to make a selection, and there isno need for that qualification. If all members of the boards were ex-service personnel, returned soldiers coming before the boards would know that they would receive a fair and sympathetic hearing when preference in employment was in dispute.
The Leader of the Senate stated also that entitlement to training under proposed training schemes would be enlarged. This is a very wise provision because as the scheme develops and more men are released from the forces, anomalies will be found and corrections will have tobe made. However there is one phase of this proposal on which I would like to elaborate. I contend that there should not be any age limit to the scheme. In our armed forces to-day are many young men who were at school, or left school in the depression days, receiving little or no early training, and quite a number of them have never been able to surmount that handicap. War service will create other handicaps for these men so far as their training is concerned. If there are to be any age or time restrictions at all in this scheme the Government would be well advised to make these provisions more elastic. Here is an opportunity for the Treasury, which to-day has ample funds, to do something for these unfortunate people. The need is all the greater because of the great sacrifice they have made in defending our country.
The Leader of the Senate also referred to the problem of assisting self-employed persons, particularly small farmers. I suppose it is necessary to include in this bill reference to matters such as soldier settlement, war service homes, moratorium, legal aid, and so on, but the point that strikes me is the reference to i he amount of capital normally required for farming as being greater than that necessary in most types of small businesses. The limit of the loan in respect of agricultural pursuits has been raised to £1,000. I ask the Minister, as a former resident of the agricultural district of Ballarat, what he could do on a farm with only £1,000?
– He could buy a tractor.
– I am not dealing with the man who has an established farm, but with the man who has served for five and a half years under most excruciating conditions, and who then takes up farming after a brief training period of three, six or perhaps twelve months. A grant of £1,000 would not do much to help such a man, who would be suffering mentally and physically from the effects of war service, even if he had only a very small farm. This is one of the provisions which the Government will eventually have to amend. The Minister must have had a quiet smile to himself when he referred to the amount to be advanced in the ease of the rehabilitation of small farmers. The honorable gentleman said that the provisions of this measure would not be fully applicable until general demobilization commenced at the cessation of hostilities. But many men have already been discharged from the armed services for various reasons, and it is not fair to keep them in suspense regarding their future. I know the man-power authorities have allocated them to industries which have a high war priority, but the men are keenly aware of the fact that they are merely filling temporary gaps. For them, the future for which they fought just as much a? the men who are still on service is still very dark and doubtful. In those circumstances, it might be wise to implement the full provisions of this measure as soon as practicable although the possibility of such action being prejudicial to men who are still in the forces should, first be considered. At any rate, the Government should examine this matter in the interests of men who have already been discharged. Senator Leckie has already raised doubt as to the meaning of the term “ cessation of hostilities “. Few of us know exactly what that means. It is generally accepted by the public that the order to “cease fire “ will be regarded officially as the time at which hostilities cease but, from the character of our Japanese foe, I imagine that even after the “ cease fire “ order has been given by the Japanese High Command, our soldiers will still be required to clean up suicide squads and other groups which will not obey the order. There should be a clearer definition of the term. However, the point at issue is that the future of men who have been discharged and who now occupy temporary positions will not be clarified, according to the Minister, until the cessation of hostilities. I suggest that, thMinister consider the advisability of implementing the measure as soon as it is passed.
I refer now to the repeal of sections of our Commonwealth laws which already give some measure of preference and safeguards to returned soldiers. These acta are not subject to any time limit, whereas preference under this bill will cease at the end of seven years. I deplore the fact that the Government, has imposed a rime limit. The provisions which I have mentioned are contained in section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and section 11S a of the Defence Act, and in the Commonwealth Public Service Act, and some of them date back to 1917. [ should be sorry to see them repealed, as the ex-serviceman will be the loser, even though it is alleged that it would be impracticable to have conflicting laws on our statute-book. The Minister said in his speech that the problems of to-day are radically different from the problems of 25 years ago. He referred to the State ownership of land in relation to soldier settlement schemes. The fact is that the problems of to-day are not dissimilar from those of 25 years ago, because the land is still owned by the States. At the last referendum, the people refused to give to the Commonwealth the powers which it sought in relation to soldier settlement and rehabilitation generally. Therefore, the exserviceman who wishes to go on the land, either as a novice or as one experienced in agriculture, will be faced with problems much the same as those which faced returned soldiers in 1918, 19.19 and 1920 under State land laws, r do not believe that the men will suffer by reason of that fact, because the Lands Departments of the States have highly qualified men on their staffs who possess great administrative ability and a knowledge of farming. I deprecate any suggestion that this bill is full of new ideas. This subject is far too important to exservicemen and to Australia generally, ro permit of petty, nonsensical squabbling. The Government which will be charged with administering the affairs >f ex-servicemen will have no light task. The returned soldier is a temperamental man who has done much for his country and who should be given much in return. Ee does not ask for much for himself. He is a generous subscriber to our war loans, and that in itself is proof of his good citizenship. I am sure that, if the Government will look upon this problem more sympathetically than it did during the passage of the bill through the House of Representatives, a plan for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen of which Australia will have every reason to be proud will emerge from these discussions.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) ‘9.12 . -I commend the Government for taking the initiative in tackling one of the most important problems that has confronted the nation since the marshalling of our forces to defeat the enemy. The reestablishment of members of the fighting services and those members of the community who were taken from their ordinary employment and transferred to essential defence industries places a great responsibility upon the Government of the day. As a great deal has been said on the subject of preference in employment by Senator Brand and by Senator Allan MacDonald, whom I commend for his fine speech, I shall discuss that matter first. I was amazed to hear Senator Brand say that he would like this bill ro be withdrawn and redrafted so as to deal entirely with preference in employment to ex-servicemen. I want something more than preference given to our fighting men; they are entitled to something more than mere preference. We have been given an indication that there mav be a scramble for jobs after the war. and, if so, a returned soldier may have to compete against his father, or his brother, who, through no fault of his own, may have been unable to serve in the fighting forces, with the result that the preference provisions would be exercised on behalf of the man who had been on service. I do not want to see anything like that happen. In fact. J. hope that soldiers will not have to use the preference provisions of this bill at all. In this measure the Government is laying the foundations for a more assured future than preference will ever give to ex-servicemen. Senator Brand, who has dwelt so much on the subject of preference, should have studied the bill more closely and taken cognizance of the fact that the Government is planning now for the reestablishment and training of members of the forces who, as the result of their war service, were unable to take up trades or professions in the normal way. The Government proposes to train them so that they will be able to take their place in civil life without being at a disadvantage. If the Government withdrew this bill and brought in a measure providing only preference in employment, what would be done to provide vocational training for members of the fighting services who have sacrificed so much for Australia? If the honorable senator had suggested that the Government had not gone far enough in this bill I should probably have been inclined to agree with him. The Government has endeavoured to do the necessary spade work, and the measure could be improved in future, if experience of its operation proved that to be desirable.
– Now is the opportunity to deal with the problem.
– I agree with the honorable senator. The Government has seized the opportunity to provide for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel, and as the honorable senator has made no concrete proposals which could be accepted in lieu of the provisions of the bill, he should, be the last to criticize the measure. It has been said by members of the Opposition that preference in employment should not cease to operate seven years after the cessation of hostilities, but let us hope that after the lapse of that period the government in power would take care that there would be no necessity for a scramble on the part of exservicemen for employment. By that time ex-members of the fighting services and other mem’bers of the community should be so well-established in their peace-time pursuits that no unseemly scramble for jobs will be necessary. A state of economic security should then prevail, and the subject of preference in employment to exservicemen should have been forgotten. [ do not believe that the members of the fighting services really desire preference. All that they expect is re-establishment in their former avocations, or something better, if possible. Those who missed opportunities through war service should be established in the avocations which they would have followed had the war not occurred. Security for the future is what they are entitled to, and if they get that I do not think that they will ask for preference. I should be ashamed of my son, who has had four years of war service, if on his return to civil life he took advantage of his fellow men by availing himself of the proposed preference provisions.
I have great respect for Senator Brand, who is probably one of the best soldiers that Australia has produced, but t am disappointed “with him as a politician when he claims that this measure sth ould be withdrawn. Does he say that the proposed training centres and the scheme for the granting of loans to assist members of the forces back into civil life should be abolished? Some aspects of the bill may need further consideration in future, if not at present. I am glad that the Government has included in the measure provision for the granting of loans to enable members of the forces to be established in business, on the land or in any occupation in which they could make good. I rather agree with Senator Allan MacDonald with regard to exmembers of the forces engaging in primary production. I should like provision made in this bill that the interest charge on loans advanced for this purpose shall not be greater than that paid to subscribers to the war loans, in respect of which the maximum rate is 3^ per cent. It should be made mandatory that any institution making loans to members of the forces should not be permitted to charge higher interest rates than that. After the last war the interest rates were not pegged., and the private banks increased the charges on overdrafts and small loans to 1i per cent, or 8 per cent. Those high rates probably did more than anything else to cripple those returned men who borrowed money in order to settle on the land. Therefore, a safeguard should be inserted in this bill. I should like to see a measure providing, for the settlement of ex-members of the forces on the land introduced immediately after this measure has been dealt with. I understand that negotiations are taking place between the Commonwealth and the States with regard to that matter. This measure provides that those desirous of settling on the land may borrow amounts up to £1,000. After the last war that would have been regarded as a large sum to advance to enable a man to take up a small farm, but under present conditions it may be looked upon as a comparatively small amount. After the last war a person could be established in a small way on the land and the cost of his equipment would be about £300. At that time he could carry on with horsedrawn implements, but at present, owing to the mechanization of rural production, a large expenditure would need to be incurred. A tractor alone would cost up to £1,600. Without up-to-date machinery a farmer is unable to compete with his fellow farmers who are so equipped.
I hope that when a land settlement scheme is introduced ex-members of the forces who go on the land will not be burdened with a heavy debt owing to over-capitalization of their property. There is great danger of such overcapitalization, because of the prices now received for primary produce. The price of milking cows has increased to £27 a head, but the price of butter fat has not increased proportionately. The farmers have been receiving substantial prices for their products, but there is now an indication of reduced production. If the same acreage is planted there will be a surplus of products on the Australian market, which will cause prices to fall to the level of the prices received in past years. No government has power to stabilize the prices so that economic security may be guaranteed to the producers. The Constitution would prevent the passage of legislation guaranteeing economic security to ex-members of the forces who go on the land. No government would be bold enough to sponsorsuch a proposal.
– It would not be bold ; it would be foolish.
– It would not be foolish. I do not often challenge the Opposition, but I challenge any honorable senator opposite to prove that the Constitution empowers this Parliament to pass legislation to stabilize the markets and the prices of the primary products of this country. Had the proposals submitted to the people at the recent referendum for an alteration of the powers of this Parliament been agreed to that could have been done, but at present the Government is powerless in the matter, and it will not be able to do anything in future along those lines, unless agreement can be reached between the Commonwealth and all of the States for the granting of the necessary power to this Parliament. It is a big task to get seven governments to agree to a common plan owing to the state of the present so-called democratic laws of this country. Ex-members of the forces should not be required to purchase farms at all. The property should be acquired by the Federal or State authorities and the exmembers of the forces should be allowed to occupy them by the payment of rent fixed in accordance with the productive value of the land. If an ex-serviceman occupied a farm at a nominal rental and obtained financial assistance under the bill for the purchase of his farm equipment, he would be on an equal footing to that of other settlers on the land. Unless something of that kind is done, it, will be futile for this or any other government to think of settling soldiers on the land.
– They were “settled” last time all right.
– That is so; after the last war they were well and truly “ settled “. Many years passed before there was an adjustment resulting in the removal of their burden of debt. When a check was made, it was found that a big percentage of the returned servicemen who had taken up land had already been starved off their holdings under the soldier settlement schemes of previous governments.
Some honorable senators opposite have said that they hope that this legislation will be brought under one administration. That may be difficult, because the scheme covered by it will affect so many walks of life that it might be better if separate departments administered various portions of it. For instance, technicians in a training college would not know anything about the needs of a man who wished to purchase cows for a dairy. If the scheme can work efficiently under one administration, so much the better; but I want to see each phase of the scheme administered by the department which will render the greatest service to the men who will return from the war. Should that necessitate the control being divided between three or four departments, that cannot be helped; in such circumstances, it would be best to divide the administration. I am a great believer in the principle underlying the saying, “ Every man to his own job “. I believe r.hat good results cannot be obtained by trying to fit square pegs into round holes, or vice versa.
When a soldier receives a pension for a war disability the practice has always been not to interfere with that pension. That is to say, if he obtained a job, whatever pay he received would be in addition to his war pension. That has been the rule hitherto, and I hope that it will not be departed from. Whatever assistance is to be given to servicemen by the Government, it should be in addition to any pension paid to him by the Repatriation Commission.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to have Senator Sampson’s support of my view. Senator Brand said that there should be a conference of returned soldier members of this Parliament to redraft the bill. Evidently the honorable senator has great faith in returned soldiers; but if they are so sympathetic co their fellow returned soldiers, what is the reason for the numerous complaints by honorable senators opposite at the treatment of returned soldiers by the Rehabilitation Commission? In the whole of that administration it would be difficult to find a man who is not a returned soldier. Honorable senators opposite should check their speeches on rh is ‘bill with, their criticism of administration by returned soldiers in the past. [ have in mind a number of instances in which I do not think that returned servicemen have been given fair treatment by the tribunals and authorities which have dealt with their cases. Returned soldiers do not always get as sympathetic
Treatment from fellow returned soldiers as from non-returned soldiers who are not biased, against them. I am delighted that the Government has introduced this measure, which I regard as a most necessary piece of legislation, in that it will lay the foundation for the solution of one of the biggest problems which this country has had to face since it marshalled its forces against its enemies. Opposition senators have said that the bill should be amended, but in my opinion none of the suggestions made by them would improve it.
– I am delighted to be a member of a legislature which is called upon to deal with a measure of this nature. In the press and elsewhere there has been a good deal of criticism of this bill by people who desire to make political capital out of the treatment of members of the fighting services. The views of certain members of organizations of returned soldiers have been given space in newspapers, especially if they amount to criticism of the Government. Had this measure been confined to the granting of preference to servicemen in the Commonwealth Public Service, we should not have heard it so strongly condemned. It is because the Government intends to force private employers to give preference to service men and women that so much opposition to it has been aroused. I foresee that when this bill has become law members of the “ master class “, such as the master builders and the captains of the metal industry, will be consulting their legal advisers with a view to an. application being made to the High Court to declare this legislation ultra vires the Constitution. It is because the proposals of the Government are distasteful to the captains of industry that their views, and the views of their stooges, are given so much newspaper publicity. Members of the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliamen have urged that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted, or that it be submitted to a parliamentary committee with a view to its being brought more into line with existing legislation. “For seven years I have listened to similar speeches as I have watched the passage of legislation through the Parliament. For the last 25 years, with the exception of two short periods, Labour has been in opposition in this Parliament. For one period of three years the only Labour senator was ex-Senator Gardiner. At that time, therefore, the anti-Labour forces had a majority of 35 to one. On another occasion the Labour party had only three representatives in this chamber. It will be seen, therefore, that had the parties now in opposition really desired to help returned servicemen, they could have done so when they were in power. The fact is that thousands of returned soldiers were denied any chance of employment during those years. Although non-soldiers were appointed to many vacant positions, the parties then in office took no action to force the captains of industry, or even those in control of government hospitals, to appoint returned soldiers. There was no definite move to give permanent positions to men who served in the last war. As long as I can remember, and even before I was born, men of progressive thought have urged that the people of this country are entitled to conditions which will ensure continuity of sufficient food, clothing and shelter for their requirements. They have fought for the things which are contained in the White Paper on employment which was tabled recently in this Parliament. That paper sets out the Government’s proposals for economic security. After the last war men who had served their country faithfully had no economic security. On the contrary, they were turned off their farms, driven out. of industry, and ostracized. The present Government has shown that it is mindful of the services that its fighting men and women have rendered in time of war. Many of the youths who joined the first divisions to be formed had been unemployed from the time that they left school until they enlisted with the armed forces; the first job that many of them ever had was a job in the Army. Numbers of them have told me that they joined the forces in order to get a pair of boots and an overcoat. They had no trade or calling, because they had never had a chance in life. Some of them will return to Australia after five or more years in the Army and unless given special training, the only work for which they would be capable will be work with a pick and a shovel, or selling goods from house to house.
– That was the kind of preference which the honorable senator “ enjoyed “ !
– - I could say a great deal about the preference given to returned soldiers after the last war. Rut this Government is very mindful of what happened in that respect after the war of 1914-18, and, therefore, is determined to give to the men who return from this war an opportunity to follow up their Army education courses, and to attend technical colleges for the purpose of learning trades. I should suppose that most of them would enter the building trades. , This provision is a fine gesture by the Government, and will be very helpful to those men. Although after the war of 1914-18 a system of vocational training was provided for ex-service personnel, very few really required vocational training; whereas 8 large proportion, of the ex-service personnel of this war entered the forces before they had commenced work. Consequently, unless they are trained, they would have no option but to undertake labouring work upon their discharge. The Government is determined to prevent that state of affairs by giving to these men the opportunity to undergo training for the vocations they choose. This service will be of particular benefit to members of the Royal Australian Air Force, who in many respects are in a different category from members of the Army. Many lads went straight into the Air Force from school, but most of them had obtained their Leaving Certificate, whilst a fair proportion were attending the university and had completed a year on two of their courses. Those boys who have done a very fine job for Australia will be given an opportunity under this measure to. rehabilitate themselves by being enabled to resume their university and professional studies and to undergo training for the vocations they choose. Provisions of this kind commend themselves to the Australian people. In addition, the Government proposes to provide allowances to exservice personnel while they are undergoing training. These payments will be even more liberal than those indicated in the measure. For instance, additional provision will be made in respect of ex-service personnel who are married.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie), Senator Brand and Senator Aylett dealt with the position of ex-service personnel who are wounded or suffering from injuries or sickness due to war service. In respect of such disabilities they are paid a pension by the Repatriation Department. I emphasize that that pension is paid specifically in respect of disabilities. I have been told on many occasions by medical officers of the Repatriation Department that the pension is paid solely in respect of disabilities. For instance, were a man receiving an income of £100 a week, he would be entitled to a pension in respect of his war disabilities. Men in the front line in any theatre of war, and as members of the Air Force, flying over Germany, Greece, Crete, Italy, and now over t he Pacific Islands, China, Burma, India, and even Japan itself, undergo a special strain, and as the result of such service are entitled to a pension. Actuaries know that the average life of persons who undergo such service is greatly reduced ; and pensions are paid having regard to the fact that such service takes years off a man’s life. It is not an easy matter for any serviceman, unless he has lost a limb, or his sight, or has obviously been very badly injured, to obtain a disability pension from the Repatriation Department. The medical officers of that department subject all applicants to a very severe examination and in all cases award the minimum of pension. I do not believe that the Government seriously proposes that pensions payable in respect of disabilities will be taken into account in computing the allowances to be paid to ex-service personnel during the period they are undergoing vocational training. I repeat that sustenance payments are provided in respect of unemployment. Once a recipient of sustenance allowance commences vocational training, it is only right that he should forgo the sustenance allowance. From my knowledge of the Repatriation Department, I am sure that once an ex-service man or woman commenced vocational training and received the allowance provided in respect of such training, it would immediately cancel any payment in respect of sustenance, or would review the sustenance allowance in relation to the vocational training allowance received by the trainee. However, I emphasize that the disability pension must be considered entirely apart from the sustenance allowance, because the pension is paid specifically in respect of disabilities which an ex-service man or woman may suffer all their lives. It is significant that whilst approximately 63,000 Australian service personnel lost their lives during the war of 1914-18, a far greater number of persons died within the corresponding period immediately following that conflict mainly as the result of war service. And many of those did not die normal deaths. The records are full of cases of suicides. Men jumped under trains, or over the Gap, or into rivers, or used the razor, because they became deranged mentally as the result of their war service. No government should take into consideration apension payable in respect of disabilities in computing the allowance to be made available to ex-service personnel while undergoing vocational training. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Keane) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I bring to the attention of the Minister representing the Minister forCommerce and Agriculture a matter of vital importance to growers of vegetables in Tasmania. I refer to the reduction of contract limits for 1946. I am aware that circumstances beyond the Government’s control has forced it to make these reductions, because smaller quantities of vegetables will be required for members of the fighting forces. However, in the reduction of contract limits, Tasmania has. been treated most unfairly in comparison with the other States. Here are the relevant figures, excluding potatoes -
It is clear from these figures that Tas.manian growers have not been treated fairly in comparison with those in the other States, particularly, South Australia. Furthermore, Tasmanian growers have prepared their land in anticipation of producing to the contract limits ruling for 1945, and it is now too late for them to bow that land for pasture, or for any other purpose. They should he compensated in respect of that loss, because had they been notified earlier of the Government’s intention to reduce the contract limits for 1946, they could have utilized the land for other purposes. I understand that these contracts are in respect of supplies for the fighting forces only. Therefore, I suggest that the Government should make it clear to growers that these reductions will not affect requirements of the -general public, which it is anticipated will absorb many additional thousands of tons. Should that be so, Tasmanian growers, provided sufficient shipping Ls available, could supply greater quantities of vegetables. I am doubtful whether they would grow more merely on that basis. They would do so at great risk, unless they received, an assurance from the Government that they would be able to export such vegetables to the mainland. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to ascertain whether it is not possible at this stage to increase the contract limits for 1946 so far as Tasmanian growers are ‘concerned, taking into consideration the fact that the public will require greater supplies, and also the fact that we do not know whether sudden variations of the market will call for an increase rather than a reduction of. the Government’s orders. I repeat that under the- contract limits for 1946, the Tasmanian growers have been victimized.
– I support the representations made by Senator Aylett with respect to vegetable production. I believe that the reduction has been brought about very largely because of a general surplus. Tasmanian growers have just experienced one of the host seasons on record for growing vegetables. There” is a surplus in vegetables, particularly potatoes, in most districts. That is not the fault of the growers. They contracted to plant certain areas, and if the season had been normal production probably would have been just sufficient to meet demands, but we have had a most prolific season.
– It is a pity that more vegetables were not available for Canberra. A small cauliflower
– That of course is a matter of transport. There is any quantity of vegetables of all kinds in Tasmania. Last year, I saw tons of cabbages not used at all. That was not anybody’s fault. The dehydration factories could not process them. If acreage were curtailed this year, and the season were subnormal, a serious shortage of vegetables might occur.
In the north-eastern districts of Tasmania - areas for which Launceston is the port - the potato season has been one of the most f avorable in memory, production being estimated at about 500,000 bags. When I was in Tasmania last week, I heard that up to the present only 114,000 bags had been shipped, leaving approximately 400,000 bags yet to be despatched. This is now June, and half of the shipping season has passed, yet less than a quarter of the total production of potatoes has been shipped. It is easy to see that unless something is done before long, large quantities of potatoes will go to waste. I emphasize that I am referring to first-grade and not to secondgrade potatoes, many tons of which are still lying on the ground. Earlier to-day, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture if the Government would consider assessing the value of and paying for all potatoes that could not be shipped. 1 point out that these potatoes had been grown under contract and that growing costs had been exceptionally heavy. In reply, I was informed that so far, deterioration of potatoes, pitted and stored, -was not apparent, and that arrangements would be made for payments to the farmers when deterioration was imminent. Something should be done now. The farmers consider that they have a right to ask that .transport be provided to remove the potatoes, or that the quantities in the pits be assessed and paid for now.
In the district in which I live in Tasmania, there is a dehydration factory. So far, that factory has not started on this season’s crop of potatoes. It is still dehydrating parsnips and next month will dehydrate carrots. Probably it will be the first of August before a start can be made on potatoes. The factory is turning out excellent products. I have tasted various dehydrated vegetables, and have found them to be excellent. However, reports from the forward areas indicate that the troops are not keen on them. I suggest that the Government should have some of these vegetables brought back to ascertain whether they are still in good condition. Then, if they were found to be not in good condition, they could be returned to the factories in which they were prepared to be examined with a view to finding out what was wrong with them.
– They are spoiled in the cooking.
– That may be so. The ones which 1 tasted were certainly well cooked ; but I have heard servicemen say that cooks in forward areas are doing a good job. However, that is something which could be established. My view is that as these dehydration factories have cost so much money to establish, they should not be allowed to go out of production after the war. Not only are they providing farmers with an outlet for their vegetables, butalso they are employing considerable labour in the districts in which they are situated. If the Government wishes to have full employment after the war, this is an industry in whichconsiderable employment can be given. I hope that the Government is taking steps to establish the good name of Australian dehydrated vegetables overseas.
I should like to know also something about the cost of vegetable dehydration. If trade in these goods is to be built up, a first-class product must be provided at a price which consumers can afford. It might be a good plan to publish production costs at various factories. The publication of these figures probably would create keen rivalry between factories, and might result in a reduction of costs and the establishment of a trade which would be of great benefit to the farmers and to the community generally. The dismantling of dehydration factories after the war because of lack of work for them would be a retrograde step’, and could be obviated if the Government were to take action now.
– In reply - The remarks of honorable senators will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 84, 85.
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations- Orders - Nos. 91-93.
Senate adjourned at 10.9 pm.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450606_senate_17_182/>.