8 June 1945

17th Parliament · 3rd Session

The President (Senator the Hon, Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.


Senator BRAND. - I desire to make a personal explanation. During my temporary absence from the chamber yesterday, I understand thatSenator Finlay, in a sneering, contemptuous tone, referred to me as a “ brass hat “. Had I been present I would have asked for a withdrawal of that offensive expression, the origin of which dates back to the earlier days on the 1914-1918 war. Influential society dames in London were very active in securing for their male friends appointments to various army head-quarters in Trance. These men had not measured up to the physical standard required for active service, and so were rejected; but society ladies succeeded in having them posted to unimportant staff positions. The headgear of officers holding staff appointments gained by study and long experience was a cap with a gold wreath on the peak, not unlike brass. The wearers of this distinctive badge quite rightly resented the presence of these untrained and inefficient society pets. It did not take the newCommanderinChief, the late Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, long to estimate the value of these interlopers, and he had them promptly sent back to London. Sir Douglas cared nought for aggressive female society heads or interfering politicians. It soon became common knowledge, through the weekly London newspaper, John Bull, that incompetent staff officers were being combed out, and so it came about that the troops, chiefly Dominion troops, regarded the wearer of a staff cap as inefficient, and they alluded to such an officer as” only a brass hat “.

The expression is not always used in an offensive tone. For instance, when a group of “ diggers “, up to some mischief, saw such a person approaching, they usually called out in a carefree, bantering tone, “ Look out, here comes a brass hat “. In the Australian Imperial Force the ex pression was not necessarily used in a sense of derision. The “ digger “ had a quiet appreciation of the generals in their respective spheres of activity, who, they knew, never hesitated to go into danger spots to see for themselves how their plans were maturing. In performing this necessary duty an undue proportion of Australia’s front-line generals, including myself, were wounded ; some twice. Three of them, Generals Bridges, Holmes and Glassfurd, died of wounds.It ill becomes an honorable senator, who should know these facts, to use an expression which, uttered in a sarcastic tone, is offensive.

Senator Keane. - Honorable senators on the Government side have been called worse than” brass hats “.

Senator BRAND. - But always as a term of endearment.

I thank honorable senators for having allowed me to show my resentment of the use of an expression which would also be resented in similar circumstances by other Australian Imperial Force generals and staff officers, who planned and controlled the operations so brilliantly carried out by our”diggers” on Gallipoli and in France. I hope that the term “ brass hat “ will never be used seriously in this chamber again.

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Senator FOLL:

– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for the Army been directed to reports of a charge made by an officer of the 17th Brigade who fought through the New Guinea campaign that men suffered unnecessarily, attacks were held up and the whole campaign delayed in the Maprik village area south of the Torricelli Range in February and Marchbecause of a serious lack of supplies and services ? Is the Minister aware that this officer said that the morale of the men of the 6th Division was seriously affected because they knew they would have to fight without necessary equipment, and that the officer claimed that the shortages existed throughout the Wewak campaign? Has the Minister any statement to make to the Parliament on this matter?

Senator FRASER:

– If the honorable senator will confirm the accuracy of the statement, I shall let him have a reply.

Senator LAMP:

– Will the Minister see that in future all such statements are made under the Maine of the individual concerned ?

Senator FRASER:

– The Government has no control over the publishing of articles in the press in which the name of the officer concerned is not mentioned.

Senator FOLL:

– I regarded it as my duty to ask the Minister whether the statements wore accurate or not. 1 now ask whether he will have investigations made to ascertain their accuracy?

Senator FRASER:

– That is an entirely different question from the one previously asked by the honorable senator. 1 shall have inquiries made as to the accuracy of the statement, but, in fairness to the department and the Government, I consider that the officer’s name should be given. I have seen the article to which the honorable senator has referred. The alleged happenings took place nine days after my visit to Aitape. There may be pome truth in the charges; I can neither confirm nor refute them. It would help materially if I knew the name of the officer who made the statement. Similar statements, have been made at various times, no doubt, in some instances for political purposes.

Senator FOLL:

– I desire to meet the Minister’s wishes, but I do not know whether he wishes me to place a question on the notice-paper. Am I to understand that he will have inquiries made, and later will make a statement on the subject?

Senator FRASER:

– The Acting Prime Minister made a statement on this matter a few days ago, in which he showed the difficulty of getting mechanical equipment to places 60 miles from the coast in the Torricelli Ranges.

Senator FOLL:

– The article to which I referred appeared in the Melbourne Herald yesterday.

Senator FRASER:

– I shall have inquiries made, but I should be glad to he supplied with the officer’s name; that would help to trace the political motive underlying the question.

Senator LAMP:

– Will the Minister give an assurance that inquiries will be made to ascertain the name of the officer who made the statement?

Senator FRASER:

– That would necessitate asking the press to give his nameThere may be some difficulty about that.

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SENATE debates - Patent Medicine Advertisements - (Station 4AT.

Senator LECKIE:

– I ask the Leader of the Senate if he has noticed the great publicity which the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been giving of late to debates in the Senate? Does he not think that a word of thanks should be forwarded on behalf of the Senate to the Australian Broadcasting Commission noting that a t long last this chamber has come under the commission’s notice?

Senator Foll:

– When did that happen f

Senator LECKIE:

– Some rather important speeches have recently been made in the Senate.

Senator KEANE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · VICTORIA · ALP

– I am afraid that the publicity given by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to proceedingsin this chamber is too limited to attract notice; but I believe that the time is approaching when we should insist upon more realistic reports of proceedings in the Senate. If the press gallery, staffed as it is with so many reporters during the whole of our sittings, is unable to give reasonable publicity to debates in the Senate, I shall seriously consider asking the Government to arrange for the broadcasting of debates in this chamber, and thus enable us to be independent of press publicity.

Senator FOLL:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Has be seen a statement appearing lithe press reporting him as having stated tha’., certain commercial broadcasting stations ii advertising patent medicines made statements which were “misleading”, and which “condoned the taking of money by false pretences “, and that as a result of complaints some scriptshad been called in for examination ?
  2. Did he make these statements?
  3. Is it a fact that, since 1942, as a result of action by his own Government, every commercial broadcasting station has to submit a copy of all advertising script in relation te [latent medicines to the Director-General of Health, Canberra, without whose approval the advertisement cannot be broadcast?
  4. If so, and if the answer to No. 2 is in the affirmative, is not this a serious reflection on the Director-General of Health whose duty it is to ensure that advertisements of the kind’ suggested by the Postmaster-General are not allowed to be broadcast?
Senator CAMERON:
Postmaster-General · VICTORIA · ALP

– I repudiate the suggestion by the honorable senator that in my recent statement to the press concerning the broadcasting of advertisements relating to medicines I made any reflection whatever on the DirectorGeneral of Health. I am well aware that under the provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Act the licensees of commercial broadcasting stations are not permitted to broadcast an advertisement relating to any medicine unless the text of the proposed advertising matter has been approved by the Director-General of Health, and any observations which I may have made were of a general character and had no connexion whatever with the responsibilities imposed on the Director-General of Health under the terms of the act. My remarks were intended to invite public attention to the excessive use of broadcasting facilities as a medium for advertising patent medicines. In this respect it is pertinent to mention that the Broadcasting Committee presided over by. Senator Gibson, in its report to Parliament early in 1942 reached the conclusion that there was cause for justifiable complaint about the manner in which false pseudoscientific statements were being broadcast for the purpose of exploiting the credulity of the sick and suffering. The committee also expressed the view that equally reprehensible were the attempts to foster by. broadcast advertising the sale of certain patent medicines and other concoctions at a price many times above the cost of production. In these circumstances, and notwithstanding the safeguards provided in the Australian Broadcasting Act, it is questionable whether it is in the public interest that so much broadcasting time should be devoted to the advertising of medicines.

Senator COOPER:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Is the Postmaster-General correctly reported in the press, in relation to the acquisition of the station 4AT Atherton, Queensland, by the Australian Broadcasting Commission as having made the following statement, viz. - “ It won’t go back to private ownership if I i;an help it. We want all the stations we can set.” ?
  2. If so, does Iiia statement indicate that the Government favours the socialization of commercial radio stations; if so, when is it intended to give effect to that policy?
Senator CAMERON:

– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -

  1. Yes. The Government has acquired the assets of Broadcasting Station 4AT Atherton, which is now a unit of the national broadcasting system.
  2. I am not clear as to what the honorable senator means by “socialization of commercial radio stations “. I would add, however, that any change in the method of control of commercial broadcasting stations would involve questions of government policy, and, in the circumstances, I am not in a position to make any statement at this stage.

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Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Supply and Shipping · New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping · ALP

by leave - This report, which is furnished for general information, describes the organization established, the policies and procedures which have been developed, and the progress made so far by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission in the liquidation of surplus stocks. The end of the war in Europe may well substantially increase the extent of the commission’s operations, and the report, therefore, dot only reviews action already taken and the policy being followed, but also outlines some of the problems that are likely to arise. It is emphasized that the planning of disposals policy must be on a long as well as on a short term basis to be effective, and special action is being taken by the commission to develop its organization to this end.

In November, 1943, the Government decided that an authority should be established for the consideration of the problems associated with the disposal of war surpluses of all kinds. A cabinet sub-committee of five members, presided over by the Minister for Supply and Shipping, was set up to implement this decision. Preliminary planning by this sub-committee was completed by June, 1944, and National Security (Disposals of Commonwealth Property) Regulations were promulgated, establishing the Commonwealth Disposals ‘Commission. The commission held its first meeting on the 14th September, 1944, and has since met regularly at fortnightly intervals. Members of the commission are: -

Chairman - Mr. G. T. Chippindall, Secretary, Department of Supply and Shipping

Members - Mr. H. F. Richardson (Deputy Chairman), Mr. C. Godhard, Mr.O. Schreiber, Mr. W. E. Dunk (Treasury representative).

General manager - Mr. G. A. Davis.

Secretary - Mr. W. Howie

Mr. A. V. Smith was chairman until the end of December, 1944; Mr. H. F. Richardson was acting chairman from December to April, 1945; and Mr. H. W. Buckley replaced Mr. Dunk during his absence overseas.

The commission is under the ministerial direction of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who is also chairman of the Cabinet sub-committee on Disposals, comprising the Minister for Supply and Shipping, the Treasurer and the Ministers for the Army, Munitions and the Interior. The commission is responsible for the disposal of all Commonwealth stores, equipment, and property, both military and non-military, declared to be surplus to requirements. It is the responsibility of every department to review its stocks and declare to the commission those items which are no longer required. Disposal action by the commission commences when the lists of surplus stores are forwarded by departments, although the commission may urge the prompt submissionof such lists. The commission is responsible for determining the method and time of disposal.

The central head-quarters of the commission are in Melbourne, and regional offices have been set up in each State. In addition, district representatives have been appointed at Townsville and Alice Springs. Liaison officers have been appointed by the major Commonwealth departments to expedite the submission of lists of goods available for disposal, and to enable the requirements of all State governments and semi-governmental instrumentalities to be assembled through one channel, each State government has established a liaison authority. Close contact is also maintained with the Board of Business Administration, whose inspectors in each State have an intimate knowledge of service depots, stores and equipment, and are able to assist the commission particularly in the direction of surveying and reporting upon goods declared surplus by the service depart ments. The deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is also deputy chairman of the Board of Business Administration and the main point of contact with that body. A number of trade advisory panels has been created to assist the commission in its policy of marketing through trade channels. Examples are those on clothing and textiles, motor cycles, aeroplanes and mechanical transport. The chambers of manufactures and commerce are fully consulted where matters affecting industry and trade arise. Due regard is paid to employment and labour problems, and a member of the commission advises on behalf of trade unions.

The commission keeps abreast of overseas developments by a continuous exchange of information with the High Commissioners in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia’s Minister in the United States, and with the Australian Trade Commissioner in India. Action is being taken through the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to appoint Australian trade commissioners overseas as representatives of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission in regard to the marketing in their respective countries of surplus goods not required in Australia.

The policy of the commission is directed to ensure an orderly and widespread distribution of surplus war goods at fair market prices and under conditions that will not prejudice thenational economy and the achievement of full employment in the post-war period. In implementing this policy, the commission has carefully reviewed the activities of similar organizations overseas, and has studied the special conditions existing in Australia. The following principles have been laid down to govern the dealings of the commission’s executives and its agent departments : -

  1. Where suitable, goods will be made available to Commonwealth and State government departments and instrumentalities prior to being made available to the public.
  2. All sales, including those to government departments, will be at fair market prices.
  3. The commission will normally market through recognized trade channels.
  4. The commission will utilize, wherever possible, existing Commonwealth instrumentalities as its agents in effecting disposals of surpluses.

Surpluses declared to the commission may arise from the following sources, and are dealt with in the manner outlined : -

  1. Australian Service Departments. - Surpluses from the services are declared direct to the commission, which determines the conditions and method of disposal.
  2. United States Forces. -Surpluses from these forces which are released in Australia are routed either direct to the commission or through the Australian service departments. Goods which are the property of the United States are declared direct to the commission, and, after disposal, the proceeds are credited to the United States Government. Operations under this head are restricted to disposals totalling not more than £100,000. Goods supplied to the United States forces under reverse lend-lease agreement, and no longer required, a re returned’ to the Australian service departments and, if surplus to the latters’ requirements, are declared to the commission, the proceeds being credited to the reverse lend-lease account.
  3. The Main Production Departments. - These departments effect disposals themselves under delegation from the commission, subject in all cases to a fixed monetary limit beyond which they cannot proceed without reference to the commission. Any cases where questions of policy are involved must also be referred to the commission.
  4. Non-war Departments. - Most of these departments have always had freedom, subject to Treasury regulations, to dispose of accumulations arising from time to time, which generally consist of unserviceable stores and scrap materials. Such disposals are continuing to be made under delegation from the commission, subject to monetary limitation and periodic review.

The list of delegations set out in Appendix A illustrates the extent to which the commission has utilized existing agencies for disposals purposes. This procedure is in accordance with the practice being followed in Great Britain, the United States of America and Canada. The main agency departments and the types of goods they handle are as follows : -

Department of Supply and Shipping: Clothing, hardware, personal equipment, camp utensils and miscellaneous goods.

Department of Munitions : Machine tools, steel, industrial chemicals, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, small tools, hand tools, electric motors, radio and signal equipment.

Allied Works Council : Earth-moving equipment, general hardware.

Department of Commerce and Agriculture: Food

Department of the Navy: Small craft. - The Salvage Commission has been appointed an agent of the commission for the sale of secondhand and obsolete military clothing. In addition to maintaining a continuous oversight over the activities of the agent departments, the commission itself directly markets surpluses in cases where no agency has been established. The main items which have so far been handled directly include mechanical transport, including motor cycles, buildings and real estate, and aircraft. After the requirements of Commonwealth and State departments, including public instrumentalities, have been met, the most suitable method of disposal is selected and, having regard to the condition of the goods and, to some extent, their location, trade channels, public tender or quotation, auction, or private treaty will be used. Sales by private treaty are negotiated only in those cases where competitive methods are not practicable, and sales outside prescribed financial limits are subject to the approval of the commission.

Full co-operation exists with the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner regarding the rates at which goods will be sold.

The total value of disposals effected from the 14th September, 1944, when the commission commenced operations, to the 30th April, 1945, is £3,518,280. Disposals took place in respect of items held by the following departments : -

The main categories of sales are as follows : -

Motor Transport. - So far, approximately 3,000 motor vehicles and 2,000 motor cycles have been sold. The commission has recently achieved its first target of the sale of 1,000 trucks monthly. The majority of these trucks are being utilized in rural areas, and their disposal is made in consultation with the Department of Transport. The commission has also realized its immediate objective of clearing those vehicles originally declared surplus by the services. The commission considers that it is urgently necessary to maintain, and if possible accelerate, the flow of vehicles for civilian purposes, in view of the great need for road transport. An organization has been built up in collaboration with the motor industry which has effectively handled the vehicles made available by the services. It. has been found that excellent civilian work is being performed by many vehicles of a war type, including the famous “blitz buggies “ us’ 1 in the battle of El Alamein.

Buildings, Camps and Hutments. - “Whilst releases in considerable quantities are being made in Queensland, surpluses so far made available in the southern

States are comparatively few. The commission is in touch with the housing authorities in all of the States, and will release to these authorities whole camps or individual buildings, as well as materials for immediate use in connexion with housing, wherever they may be surplus. In view of the general scarcity of timber, galvanized iron, fibro cement and other materials required for housing, the utilization of these surpluses should considerably alleviate the current housing position. The question of using hutments suitably converted into temporary dwellings is being explored by the commission in consultation with the Commonwealth Department of Works, the War Housing Division of the Department of Labour and National Service, and the State Housing Commissions, lt is hoped that it will prove practicable to release buildings and materials in greater quantities in the southern States to meet’ the foregoing purposes.

Clothing and Textiles. - Considerable releases have already been made, and the goods marketed through recognized trade channels. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures and of Commerce and the Australian Council of Retailers have established a Federal Clothing and Textiles Advisory Panel, which has assisted the commission and the Department of Supply and Shipping as agent for the commission in disposing of surplus clothing and textiles.

Ships. - Sales to date through the Navy Department, as agent for the commission, have mainly been restricted to small vessels, launches, trawlers, luggers and other small craft. These vessels are finding a very ready market, and their release for fishing purposes should assist, in some measure, in rehabilitating the fishing industry.

Food. - Releases up to date have not been extensive, but it appears probable that some large parcels mainly of preserved food will be made available in the near future. The Controller-General of Food, who is an agent for the commission, is applying these surpluses where necessary to meet other service demands.

Hardware and Engineer Stores. - Considerable releases of these items are being made through trade channels. It is interesting to note that the first co-operative non-profit-making organization, similar to those established in the United Kingdom for disposals purposes, has been developed in Western Australia by the Hardware Association to assist the commission in marketing the fairly large quantities of engineer stores declared surplus in that State.

Sales by Auction. - The commission considers that the speedy clearance of huge quantities of second-hand goods and non-commercial surpluses can, in the main, best be achieved by an extensive and continuous system of public auctions. As an illustration, an auction sale held during May at the Army Salvage Depot in Melbourne, covering 600 lots, was completed within two days, and resulted in every item being sold at a net return of approximately £7,000. The commission will continue these sales throughout the Common wealth, believing that they represent one of the fairest ways of throwing goods open for public sale, particularly to the small purchaser.

Aeroplanes. - By judicious publicity and effective sales promotion, the commission quickly sold 77 out of a total of S5 aeroplanes, this being the first and only release of aircraft so far made by the Royal Australian Air Force. The sale of the remaining eight planes is held up pending review of the airworthiness certificate by the Department of Civil Aviation. It is interesting to note that there is a waiting list of numerous applications for aircraft. It will be appreciated that a number of aircraft built specifically for war needs will not be suitable for civil purposes, and their disposal will require special consideration by the commission.

Activities in the Northern Territory and North Queensland. - A representative of the commission is stationed at Alice Springs and another at Townsville. The distribution of surplus goods from the Northern Territory is a most difficult problem. Action is being taken, however, to market as much as is possible within the Territory, and remaining surpluses will, where this is economically desirable, be brought to Adelaide for disposal. Already considerable quantities of motor transport from army depots in the north have been brought by road to Alice Springs and railed to the southern capital.

Large quantities of motor transport, buildings and other equipment have been sold through the commission’s organization in Townsville. This organization is being strengthened to deal with the additional surpluses now arising not only from our own armed forces, but also from the United States services in the northern areas.

The commission, in consultation with the Department of the Army and the War Damage Commission, is reviewing the problem of disposals in New Guinea and other northern island areas where the military administration is still in control. It is expected that as operations move northwards, considerable progress will be made towards determining the future of surplus stocks in these areas.

Unrra. - It is hoped that a substantial proportion of the Commonwealth’s commitments to Unrra may be met from surplus goods. Already transfers have been made to Unrra and other overseas relief organizations. One transfer to Unrra, exceeding £200,000 in value, included new and second-hand clothing from the services and the Department of Munitions. At the moment, the commission, in consultation with the Commonwealth Food Control, is reviewing requests from Unrra for canned foodstuffs in store in Western Australia. The commission is further reviewing the position in regard to clothing, textiles and footwear, and it is expected it will be possible for a number of items, new and partly used, to be made available in the near future.

The report has so far reviewed the activities of the” commission during the first six months of its existence. It will be seen that, although good progress has been made in disposing of the relatively small quantities of goods which have been declared surplus to date, and the basis of an organization established which should enable the commission to achieve its objective, the most important work lies ahead. Forward planning is fundamental to the success of the commission. A long-range programme of sales must he determined, having regard to the necessity for releasing surplus goods in ways which will assist the restoration of the Australian economy to the maximum extent, and which will avoid any disturbance to industry. The commission is anxious that the largest possible quantity of goods should be made available during the period of the war, so as to contribute to urgently needed civilian supplies of such items as clothing, food, transport and housing, and to enable relief to be provided for war-devastated countries. It is obviously desirable that as much as possible of the surpluses should be disposed of now, when stocks of so many civilian commodities are in extremely short supply. At the end of the war, vast quantities of goods will be declared surplus by the war departments, and the effect of heavy disposals at that time on Australian industry and employment will have to receive the fullest consideration by the Government and the commission.

The war in Europe having terminated, the Allies will be able to devote their full attention to the prosecution of the war against Japan. At the same time, public pronouncements in allied countries have made it clear that plans for a conversion of some measure of their industry to civil production during this period have been drawn up. This changed war position emphasizes the need for co-ordinated planning of industrial and disposals policies in Australia. The commission is endeavouring to obtain estimates of the quantities and types of goods likely to become surplus to the. needs of the Australian war effort. Action is now being taken which it is hoped will both expedite the release of surplus goods and inform the commission fully upon the extent of the surpluses likely to arise between now and the end of the war and thereafter. This will enable future planning to be founded on a satisfactory basis. An. appropriate research organization is being established in the commission to undertake the necessary investigations into tie problems associated with the marketing of surpluses and the capacity of the Australian economy to absorb them. Close and continuous collaboration is being maintained with all sections of industry.

The commission will issue its first annual report in September, 1945, when it is expected that substantial progress will have been made in determining future disposals policy. It has been stated that the commission’s work begins only when items have been declared surplus to requirements. The commission considers that the importance of establishing suitable disposals organizations within departments, particularly the services, to ensure the early release of all surpluses cannot be over-emphasized. A better picture of what goods will be available and when they will be released must also be obtained, so that their disposal may take place on a planned basis. The commission is confident that the urgency of these problems will be fully recognized, and that departments will co-operate .by taking immediate effective action to achieve their solution.

I have received a letter, dated the 5th June, from the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, which states: -

Dear Sir,

I desire to convey the terms of the following resolution carried at the recent annual conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia held in the Melbourne Town Hall: -

That this conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce expresses pleasure that the policy to be adopted by the Government for the liquidation of surplus war materials recognizes the principle of distribution through normal trade channels, and this conference gives its assurance of utmost co-operation with the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and its delegated departments.

That this conference is of the opinion it is essential that all surplus goods or material for disposal be handled through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, andthat all Government departments holding such goods should only dispose of the goods under instructions from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.

It gives me pleasure to convey the above resolution to you, and to express the satisfaction of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia in the harmonious relations and co-operation which exist between the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and this organization.

I lay on the table the following paper : -

Commonwealth Disposals Commission - Review of Activities - Ministerial Statement. and move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.

Senator GIBSON:

– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has tabled a paper relating to the disposal of goods by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. As some of these goods will be disposed of through the ordinary trade channels, can the Minister say whether they will be taken over at a ceiling price, and whether there will also be a maximum price when the goods are eventually sold to purchasers? If so, will he state what margin of profit is to be allowed between the two prices?

Senator ASHLEY:

– I think that provision is made for a maximum selling price. If the honorable senator will place a question on the notice-paper, I shall obtain the information for him.

Senator Gibson:

– I shall confer with the Minister on the subject.

page 2769



Review of Man-power and Material Resources.

Senator KEANE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Victoria · ALP

by leave - I wish to inform the Senate of certain recommendations which have been made by the Advisory War Council and approved by War Cabinet, regarding the direct war effort. The main decisions relate to.

The reduction of the man-power strength of the forcesby at least 50,000 special releases from the Army and Air Force by the end of this year. This is to provide for the discharge of men urgently required in the civil economy, and to enable certain members of the forces with long service, or who have been prisoners of war for extended periods, to be granted the option of discharge.

The review of programmes for the material requirements of the services in respect of munitions, aircraft, small marine craft, supplies, and works, with a view to their reduction and the diversion of additional man-power and materials to the civil economy.

The creation of a series of special committees with the urgent task of reviewing all non-operational establishments in the Navy, Army and Air Force, and the civil staffing of war-time activities of Commonwealth departments with a view to the release of excessive personnel.

Following a review of the man-power position in February, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) stated that our commitments for the assignment of forces of certain strength for operational plans in the South-West Pacific Area precluded, at that stage, any further reduction of the forces. It was promised that a further review would be made as soon as a new phase of the war was reached and a clearer view of our military requirements couldbe obtained. The defeat of Germany has definitely resolved a factor in our calculations relating to the dimensions of the Australian war effort. The victory in Europe now enables the United Nations to concentrate their strength in the Pacific in order to defeat Japan as quickly as possible, hut it is important that Australia should continue to play a notable and worthy part until final victory is achieved. There will be a considerable demobilization of forces in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Canada, and probably also in New Zealand. Australia’s war record entitles us to carry out an adjustment of the man-power position which, while providing for a military effort in the war against Japan which will be equitable in comparison with those of other allied countries, will also enable the acute stringencies to be removed, and place the civil economy on a more satisfactory footing for transition to the post-war period.

In its last report, the War Commitments Committee stated that there would be a gap of 45,000 in male labour requirements of essential civil industry in the first half of 1945. The Advisory War Council has recommended, and the Government has approved, the release of at least 50,000 men from the Army and Air Force by the end of 1945, in addition to normal wastage which, on present figures, will be approximately 20,000. The special releases are to commence as early as possible on a graduated scale to be approved. As the primary objective is to restore a proper balance between the direct military effort and its industrial basis appropriate to the present and immediately prospective stage of the war, the conditions of release, subject to any mandatory directions in regard to special categories of service releases as mentioned later, will he drawn up by the War Commitments Committee, on which the services are represented. The War Commitments Committee and the Production Executive, in consultation with other bodies such as the Export Committee, will also make assessments of the priority and allocation of man-power for the civil economy, and will coordinate them with the conditions of release from the services to ensure the placement and re-settlement of all released persons.

All members of the Army and Air Force with operational service overseas and who have over five years’ war service will be given the option of taking their discharge. In respect of Navy personnel, consideration will be given to the treatment of special cases on a parallel basis. Members discharged this year will be part of the 50,000 special releases which will be arranged in a graduated manner to avoid the disorganization of units and interference with operational plans. Special consideration for priority of release will be given to married men with family responsibilities. All Navy, Army and Air Force prisoners of war who were captured during the campaigns in the Middle East will be given the option of discharge on repatriation to Australia.

This course was approved for the prisoners of war who were recovered from the torpedoed Japanese transport, and willalsobe applied to future prisoners of war who may be released from Japanese hands. Members of the forces who were captured in other theatres, and who have been prisoners for a similar periodwill be given the same option. The position in regard to other prisoners of war isbeing examined. Members to be discharged this year will be part of the 50,000 special releases.

In view of the termination of training under the Empire Air Training Scheme Agreement, the cessation of hostilities in Europe, and the prospective return of Royal Australian Air Force personnel from overseas, the following has been approved : -

Aircrew personnel who have completed their training and are not required by Royal Australian Air Force for commitments for operational purposes, will be transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve and released for civil life.

Current aircrew basic training will be discontinued, and the organization adjusted to utilize the minimum of resources necessary for refresher training and for minor commitments.

Personnel undergoing basic training will be given the option of remuster to ground staff or release to civil life. The monthly intake will be reduced correspondingly to the remustering of aircrew as ground staff.

Aircrew recruitment is to be suspended and the monthly intake adjusted accordingly.

The War Commitments Committee is to co-ordinate the conditions of release with the principles being laid down for releases generally.

The Defence Committee is to submit its recommendation for the apportionment of the special release of at least 50,000 men between the Army and Air Force. The committee is also, in association with the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, to submit its recommendations in regard to the future organisation and strength of the forces that should he maintained after the end of the next phase of operations and after providing for the special releases. Recommendations are also to be made regarding the monthly recruitment necessary for the maintenance of the reduced establishments.

A War Establishments Investigation Committee has been created for each of the services. It will be the duty of these committees to examine all nonoperational establishments. This will bring under review the large number of personnel at present employed in the various head-quarters, base and other administrative units in the Navy, Army and Air Force. The committees will have independent chairmen appointed by the service Ministers, and they will be men who will be capable of taking an independent view in ensuring that excessive numbers are not being employed. A similar body has also been created to make a general review of the civil staffing of war-time activities of Commonwealth departments, boards, commissions, &c., including those not functioning under the Commonwealth Public Service Act.

It is the custom for the service departments to submit to the Defence Committee for review at the 30th June and the 31st December, programmes of their munitions requirements for the forces expected to be maintained during the next eighteen months. These programmes are based on. provisioning scales prepared in the light of the strategic situation and the nature and scale of forecast operations, account being taken of stocks on hand and prospective deliveries. They enable recommendations to be made as to the priorities of manufacture and the production rates to be maintained. In regard to programmes for eighteen months’ requirements, the crucial question is the probable duration of the war with Japan. Mr. Churchill has said that, on military grounds alone, it would not be prudent to assume that a shorter period than eighteen months would be required after the defeat of Germany for the destruction of Japanese military resistance. Now that the war in Europe has ended, and as the might of the United Nations can be concentratedagainst Japan, the Government is seeking the advice of the highest authorities as to whether the period of eighteen months which governs the basis of provisioning, can reasonably be reduced. In any event, the services and the Defence Committee have been directed to review existing programmes immediately, in the light of the present stock position, taking into account the decisions affecting the reduction of the future strength of the forces. The provisioning scales for each of the services are also to be reviewed, with particular regard to forward ordering for maintenance and reserves. An urgent review is also to be made of the rates of production of items in the munitions programmes, after allowing for the requirements of United Kingdom and Allied Forces, for which commitments have been accepted. Similar reviews are to be made of the aircraft and small marine craft programmes. Immediate reviews along the same lines are also to be made in respect of all supply items, such as clothing, boots and blankets, and of the food requirements of the services. The reduction of the programmes of material requirements will enable man-power materials and production resources to he diverted to non-war purposes, and will thus supplement the releases from the forces in overcoming the deficiencies that exist in the civil economy.

It is a matter of paramount importance that surplus stores should be cleared while a demand for them exists in the civil economy, rather than that they should be released later and cause a glut when civilian production has overtaken arrears. Under the present procedure, it is left to the services to decide what is surplus to their requirements. However, the services have been directed to submit immediately statements of all stocks held by them and not only what they consider to be surpluses. These statements will be subjected to a priority scrutiny as to the classes of items which can and should be released for urgent civil purposes without prejudicing the essential operational needs of the services.

The Defence Committee has been directed to make a further review of works programmes in the light of the changed circumstances, as well as the priorities at present allotted to the various works. All new works for the services, costing £5,000 or over, are in future to be subject to the approval of War Cabinet. The Army and Air Force have been directed to review their camps and establishments in the light of the disposition of their forces and their prospective reduced strength, with special reference to-

  1. The number and location of camps, establishments and hospitals, nominated for retention -

    1. until demobilization;
    2. for permanent post-war requirements.
  2. The number and location of camps, establishments and hospitals awaiting decision regarding disposal.
  3. The need to ensure that all possible measures are taken for maximum economy in the use of buildings materials and manpower, and that no camps, establishments or hospitals are retained beyond those considered necessary for essential requirements.

These reviews will be submitted to War Cabinet to ensure that effect is given to its directions.

There has been some reduction of commitments to the United States forces under the reciprocal lend-lease agreement. The expenditure for this year to the end of April is £81,000,000 against an estimate of £95,000,000 to the end of June. The expenditure last financial year was £110,000,000. This reduction has been more than offset by commitments of over £25,000,000 which have so far been accepted for theRoyal Navy. Of this sum £4,400,000 is for works which have a critical bearing on the diversion of manpower and materials from the reduced Australian and American programmes. The fullest co-operation of the United States authorities has been sought in the release of facilities which will avoid the need for new construction for the Royal Navy.

It has been made clear from the start that there are considerable limitations on Australia’s capacity to accept additional commitments for the maintenance of forces from Australian sources of manpower and materials. It is of vital importance to other governments that we should not make promises which we cannot fulfil. It is of equal importance to the Commonwealth that it should not undertake commitments which are beyond the capacity of its resources to provide. It is the duty of the Production Executive to consider Allied proposals in relation to other aspects of the war effort, in order to assess the capacity to provide for them. To guard against the neutralization of the measures being taken to establish equilibrium in the war effort, the Production Executive has been requested to fix ceilings for the Allied commitments that can be undertaken.

It was mentioned earlier that the future organization and strength of the forces is to be reviewed. This is related to the form of the machinery for their higher direction, which again is linked to the command set-up in the South-West Pacific Area. These matters, as well as the principles governing the staffing of the post-war forces, are at present receiving consideration. Basic to all questions of the future strength and organization of the forces is the relation of post-war defence policy. Under instructions issued by the Minister for Defence some time ago, an examination is being made of the nature, strength and organization of the post-war defence forces, including the maintenance of production capacity for munitions, aircraft and naval shipbuilding. Stocks of munitions, aircraft and other material held at the end of the war will probably meet the requirements of the post-war defence forces for some time. As nucleus production in many of these items should be retained for expansion in an emergency, the review of the programmes of the services in regard to the present and future rates of production is to be related to the post-war aspect of maintenance of nucleus capacity.

I summarize the situation by saying that the man-power resources are spread over the following commitments: -

  1. To maintain the Australian forces at a strength which will provide for the organization approved from time to time.
  2. To maintain the material needs of the Australian forces.
  3. Having regard to the extent of commitments and the limitations of man-power and material resources: -

    1. To assist in the provision of the material needs of the British Pacific Fleet which is based on Australia.
    2. In accordance with the terms of the reciprocal lend-lease agreement to assist in the provision of the material needs of the United States forces.
    3. To assist, if possible, in the provision of the material needs of other allied forces which may be based on Australia.
  4. To provide for the essential needs of the civilian population on standards appropriate to the present stage of the war, and the civilian standards of the countries whose forces will be supplied from Australian sources. This includes the provision of increased man-power and materials for housing.
  5. To provide for the maintenance of food exports to the United Kingdom and India at the level agreed upon.
  6. To provide for the production of such goods as may otherwise be approved for export, including supplies for United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

I have outlined decisions for the reduction of the strength of the forces by at least 50,000 special releases by the end of the year. It is possible that a larger reduction may be made, but it is difficult to speak with any certainty on this at present, as a number of factors are imponderable - the speed with which current operational commitments can be liquidated, the re-organization entailed in releases and reductions, and the availability of shipping for the movement of personnel, particularly the return of Royal Australian Air Force personnel and prisoners of war from the United Kingdom. In addition to this number, there will be the normal wastage from the forces estimated at 20,000 for the last six months of the year, and the present intake of the forces will be reduced. There will also be the releases arising from the reduction of staffs of civil departments.

Finally, there will be the diversions of man-power arising from the curtailment of the munitions, aircraft, small craft, supply and works programmes, though the latter is to some degree offset by commitments accepted for the Royal Navy. Public announcements have already made it plain that, in other countries, extensive reductions in the scale of the war effort will be made as the result of the end of the war in Europe. It is understood that the United Kingdom will substantially reduce both the strength of the services and munitions production by the end of the first year after the defeat of Germany. In the United States, it is reported that the industrial war output will be reduced considerably in the same period, and that the strength of the services also will be substantially reduced. In Canada, industrial war production will be greatly curtailed, and the strength of the forces considerably reduced. In New Zealand, similar action has been taken already and, no doubt, will continue. In all these countries, many wartime controls will be removed or eased, and particular attention is being given to the early development of large housing and export programmes. In Australia, wartime controls are being examined continuously with a view to their relaxation and removal as early as possible. As mentioned earlier, it is the duty of the War Commitments Committee and Production Executive to prepare a new manpower budget, making the most effective use of men released from the services and war industries to strengthen basic industries. To this end, it must be given an effective voice in the conditions of release to ensure that the priority needs of industry are provided for.

With the conclusion of the war in Europe and the progress made in the Pacific, a stage has now been reached at which preparedness for peace has become vital, if we are not to dissipate the fruits of the victory for which we are striving. In the international sphere, questions of armistice and post-war control of enemy countries to prevent the resurgence of aggression, and a world organization for the preservation of peace, have become matters of cardinal importance and the highest priority. In the realm oi national policy, there are the problem!” of re-establishment and rehabilitationThey cover essential aspects of the lift” and welfare of the individual citizen, the defence and security of the Commonwealth, and the entire national economy.. on the development and expansion of which the size of the national income depends. Permeating the whole question it the orderly rediversion of resources from war to peace purposes. From the aspect of government and administration, we ar«now in the complex period of maintaining our war effort and preparing for peace. It is supremely important that we should keep our attention focussed on both objectives. While not neglecting the prepara tions for peace, we must not allow them, to become predominant over the measures-.’ still necessary for final victory. Thesematters are broad and national in their scope and appropriately originate as recommendations of the Advisory War Council. The Government would like topay a tribute to the co-operation that has been extended by the non-government members and to thank them for the valuable contributions they have made to the decisions. The progress of the measures decided upon will be reportedregularly to the council, which will blame to keep in review the re-adjustmemt of the war effort to conform with the progress of the war and the transition of th,national economy to its post-war footing.

Arrangements have been made by the Government for a review of man-power employed in Commonwealth instrumentalities, including the service departments, to Be undertaken by foul committees, all of which will report itfthe Prime Minister.

The first committee, will make a general review of the civil staffing of wartimeactivities of Commonwealth departments, boards, commissions and the like, including those not functioning under theCommonwealth Public Service Act. Il will comprise Mr. J. T. Pinner, Assistant Commissioner of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, Mr. A. A. Fitzgerald, accountant, of Melbourne, and a third member who will be an officer of each department or activity as it is being* examined.

The three committees to deal with the service departments will be presided over by Mr.R. C. D. Elliott, a former member of the Senate, in respect of the Department of the Navy; Mr. H. G. Conde, general manager of the Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation Limited, of Sydney, in respect of the Department of the Army; and Mr. W. Slater, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, a former Speaker of that chamber, and a former Australian Minister to Russia, in respect of the Department of Air.

Senator LECKIE:
Acting Leader of the Opposition · Victoria

– I move -

That the document quoted from by the Minister for Trade and Customs be called for and made a public document.


– The Acting Leader of the Opposition may take that action if he wishes, but I point out that the statement will appear in Hansard.

Senator LECKIE:

– Standing Order 363 states-

A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature, or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public Document.

I do not see how the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) can regard the statement which he has just made as of a confidential nature, therefore I consider thatI am quite in order in moving that it be made a public document.

Senator Keane:

– I decline to make it a public document.

Question resolved in the negative.

page 2775



Senator COOPER:

asked the Minister for Health and Social Services, upon notice -

  1. When is it intended that the Government’s hospital benefit scheme, under which patients in public hospitals will get free treatment, will come into operation?
  2. Will not the co-operation of each State Government be necessary in order to make thescheme effective?
  3. If so, have agreements been submitted to the States?
  4. What is the attitude of each State to the Commonwealth’s proposal?
  5. Will the hospital contribution schemes now operating in certain States be affected by the Government’s proposals? 6.If so, how will they be affected?
  6. Have the organizations now conducting these contributory schemes been consulted by the Government in connexion with its proposed hospital benefit scheme?
  7. If so, what is their attitude?
Senator FRASER:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. The Government is working with the object of introducing the scheme on the 1st January, 1946.
  2. Yes.
  3. Draft agreements are being prepared for submission to the States.
  4. Premiers at the Premiers Conference in August, 1944, agreed to the main principles of the scheme.
  5. Yes.
  6. The Government scheme inevitably will to some extent replace the functions now being performed by these organizations in respect of certain categories of patients.
  7. The organizations have consulted the Government in connexion with the proposed scheme.
  8. We understand that the organizations are examining their own schemes in the light of the Government proposals.

page 2775


Debate resumed from the 7th June (vide page 2684), on motion by Senator

Keane -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Senator MATTNER:
South Australia

– When the debate was adjourned last night, I was referring to regimentation of the civil population during the war. Whatever may have been demanded of any of us on the home front, that effort was a small price to pay for our own safety. Weighing the pros and cons of the situation, it is obvious that the majority of people on the home front have not felt the impact of the war very seriously. To many people it has been a good war. Therefore, let us be generous enough to acknowledge our great personal debt to our fighting men in a tangible way by re-establishing them in civil life so that they will realize that they are wanted and have a big part to play in Australia’s future. The war has been a long one, and the end is not yet in sight. Only about 40 per cent. of our enlisted personnel have seen service outside Australia. We have a large number of women in our services and unfortunately large numbers of our men, many more than during the last war, are prisoners of war. They will need all the help that we can give to them. Whatever scheme may he adopted for their re-establishment, I know that every honorable senator will endeavour to see that their needs are not overlooked. In addition, we must consider the incidence of tropical diseases and other ailments due to war service. Some honorable senators have had personal experience of front line service. Others have their kith and kin serving at the front, but anybody who has not been in action can never realize what front line service does to a man. It is impossible to imagine the physical hardships which he survives and the strain of nervous tension under which he labours. All that I can say about war is that it is “ hell with the lid off “. Let us bring these men and women back to our community in the knowledge that they are wanted by us. In referring to them as men and women I use the term * in the highest sense. They were good citizens of Australia in civil life, and I hope that many of them will in future occupy positions in this chamber and in other legislative halls in Australia so that they may continue to serve their country in other directions. These men want homes, and jobs, businesses or farms. The question which we must ask ourselves is whether this bill will fulfil their requirements. We know that there is a six years lag in the housing programme, and I am delighted to see such great public interest in housing as has recently arisen. Home building will be a valuable means of providing profitable employment for many ex-servicemen. I hope that, in the training scheme which is envisaged in this bill, due attention will be paid to the training of men in such unglamorous, but nevertheless important, trades as building, plumbing, tin-smithing and painting. Many of our older servicemen could well be diverted into such employment by means of an adequate training scheme. Part VIII. of the bill deals with housing generally. No doubt in the committee stages the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Keane) will give further information regarding the Government’s proposals; I realize that he could not give specific details in his second-reading speech. One reason why I stress the importance of housing is that we shall not be dealing only with men and their wives, but also with their children as well. I hope that the raising of families will once more come into general favour in Australia. I express that hope after giving the subject a great deal of thought. What will be the effect on the child of to-day? Many of the rising generation have never lived in a home of their own. They have been brought up by fond grandparents or other adults. Many of them have not had the privilege of enjoying the company of their fathers. That is one of the dear prices which servicemen have to pay for their voluntary effort in going to the war. No matter how capable or loving the grandfather or grandmother may be, the influence of his mother and father in their own home is the child’s right.

I hope that provision will be made in this bill to enable the wife of a prisoner of war to make application for a war sendee home now. She should not have to wait until her husband has returned from the war. I should also like provision to be made to enable the widow of a soldier to apply for a home. We shall, perhaps, have to give more attention to soldiers’ widows who require homes than we have done in the past. Many returned men will have their old jobs waiting for them on their discharge. Let us deal with the reinstatement of these men as a very personal affair. We should not leave it wholly and solely to the cold hands of officialdom. . The majority of employers are anxious to get their soldier employees back into their old jobs. Therefore, we should take a personal interest in them and give preference to them in the sense of advancement and opportunity. After the last war the returned serviceman was a suppliant. The men who have actually fought in the present war are those whom we should particularly desire to protect up to the hilt. It has been my privilege to serve with all kinds of men, and, no matter in what walk of life they may he found, beneath their skins there is very little difference between them. Many members of the forces are trade unionists. We all have our own aims and ideals, and the people generally look to the members of the trade unions to give a lead in the successful rehabilitation of those of their number who joined the fighting services. I say that because the unions possess enormous power, and with that power comes heavy responsibilities which the members of the unions should not shirk. I hope that discharged menwill be big enough to prove that they are not deserving of having fastened on to them some of the criticism which has been levelled at ex-servicemen of the last war. I hope that the unions will cordially co-operate in the re-establishment of their members who are now in the fighting forces. Many young men also will he available for union membership and for various trades when they have successfully completed the course of training to be provided under the scheme outlined in the bill.

I regard the training scheme as a very sound one. It may require slight amendment at the committee stage. The proposal to pay men £2 10s. a week and women £2 a week as a reemployment allowance is not quite generous enough, but I understand that the Government is prepared to increase the amount. There should be no desire on the part of either the Government or the Opposition to compete with one another for party political reasons in matters of that kind. The principle established by the Government is sound, and I think that all honorable senators appreciate that fact. I should like to see no age limit with regard to the training scheme. Many men have been entrusted during the war period with entirely different jobs from those followed by them in times of peace. They enlisted at a time when the avenues for employment were limited, and they accepted certain positions because no others were available. They may now have found that they prefer other avocations, and they should not be debarred on account of their age from entering trades or callings for which they are well fitted. They will have a new outlook on life, and we should not let the slogan “ Work for all “ be a cloak to cover our own unworthiness. We should bend to the task of providing work for all, and realize that preference to the fighting man means advancement in his job.

I get hot and bothered sometimes, because many people are under the impression that returned soldiers are failures. By taking a cross-section of exservicemen, one finds that they are not failures, despite the difficulties that they may have had to overcome. When I glance around this chamber, or note the men in jobs in the business world, I find that returned soldiers are everywhere playing a vital part in the affairs of the community. There may be a few unlucky men among them who are failures, but they are not the only persons who have failed to discharge their responsibilities as citizens. Perhaps ex-servicemen generally are not very enthusiastic over some of the strikes which occur in industry from time to time, but they are generous enough to say, “This is my country and, whatever its faults and failings may be, I shall ever try to make it better “.

Criticism has been levelled at the efforts made after the last war to reestablish ex-servicemen in civil life. I claim that the expenditure of millions of pounds in that direction did much good and that the people who received benefits are grateful, but the duty devolves upon us to do what we can to improve upon the repatriation methods adopted after the last war. To-day we realize that the Government and the people are the employers of ex-service men and women. The fact that they ask for preference should not be a “let out” for our own meanness. Let us give according to our means, and not according to our meanness. After the last war, discharged servicemen were too self-conscious to ask for help, but to-day they have the right to expect preference as a reward. To those who served in the front line preference should be the rewardofa grateful people.

Among those in the fighting forces to-day are many sons and daughters of men who served in the 1914-18 war. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have admitted that hardship was experienced by returned soldiers and their families in the period between the last war and the present struggle. We admit that, but we should not allow any disadvantage to continue if it can be overcome. The sons of the men who fought in the last war experienced the handicap of the depression days, and in addition to that they have given war services. Those are two heavy handicaps which I hope the rising generation will never have. En the post-war world, boys and girls will have far greater opportunities for advancement than the present servicemen. I pin my faith to the future of Australia. From the point of view of employment the prospect is bright. Straight-out preference with no time limit is little enough to give to any man who has taken part in the actual fighting. Our fighting men will be the last to he demobilized, and perhaps the last to be fitted into civil jobs. Therefore, they will need every consideration that can be shown to them. They may have been in the forces for four, five or six years with regular pay, food, clothing and billeting. During that period they will never have had to think about their temporal needs. They, have never been called upon to decide what they will do in the future. We shall have to exercise great care in directing this class of youth into right courses. Our aim should be to make good citizens and to create in them that love of country that is so necessary. The bill makes provision for loans to men who wish to start in small businesses, but whether or not the amount is sufficient I am not in a position to say.

Senator Large:

– It establishes a principle.

Senator MATTNER:

– I hope .that this portion of the bill will work satisfactorily. I am not quibbling about the amount of the loan, because I believe that the Minister will pay due attention to what men of experience in this chamber and elsewhere will place before him on that subject.

I desire to add to what has already been said about the settlement of servicemel] on the land. I point out, first, that even if the land settlement schemes which were inaugurated after the war of 1914-18 were not 100 per cent, efficient, they did an enormous amount of good. Many men who fought in that war have made a success of their holdings, and are very grateful to the government and the people of Australia for what was done for them. I speak personally on this matter, because after the last war I changed my pre-war occupation and settled on a farm with assistance given by the Repatriation Commission. From my experience I say that any man who decides to go on the land must be prepared to work hard for long periods each day; he must be interested in his job; and he must not measure his profits by £ s. d. only. Life on the land has many compensations which, are not measurable in terms of money. There are hardships and difficulties; there are such things as markets and prices to be considered, and rain and drought to cope with. The greatest asset that any man on the land can have is a good wife; it will account for 99 per cent, of hi; success. When it was my privilege to say something on the subject of laud settlement in South Australia, I expressed the view that when the serviceman’s application comes in, the authorities should make certain that his wife shall know something of the difficulties which she will have to face with her husband, and will be prepared to remain on the holding with him. Let us make sure that the holding is large enough, and is in a good rainfall area.; particularly we should be sure that the incidence of the rainfall is suited to the type of production in which the settler proposes to engage After the last war some land settlement schemes failed because the authorities took various rainfall charts, which showed that there was a certain average rainfall in the district, but did not consider the incidence of that rainfall. For instance, in some areas in which wheatgrowing was attempted, the average rainfall was 16 or 17 inches a year, but as most of it fell between January and March, the land was useless for wheat production. We must see that the price of the land is not exorbitant, and that the rate of interest charged on loans i« not too high. The initial years on the land are always difficult and it is then that the rate of interest should be as low as possible. Last time, loans were interestfree for the first year, 2J per cent, was charged during the second year, and thereafter 5 per cent, per annum. Many settlers could not pay those rates. In my opinion, advances should be interestfree for the first two years, then at *2) per cent., rising to a maximum; of3 per cent. That, however, is a matter for discussion in committee. Before detailed arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States are decided, I hope that this Parliament will be consulted as to the conditions which should apply to soldier land settlement. I assume that the Commonwealth Government will provide the finance for land settlement schemes, and will lay down the broad principles of policy to be carried out by the States. That would be a good plan because all the States possess valuable officers in their land departments who will assist the returned serviceman settler in every way possible. I believe that it is a good plan to settle men in districts with which they are familiar. Individual farm settlement under the control of a land settlement board has much to commend it. Assistance from neighbours is of great value. Safeguards must he provided to protect the settler from bad buying; the settlers of 25 years ago will be able to suggest what precautions are necessary. Let us not “settle” the serviceman and reestablish the seller of the property. Unfortunately, the lads who are being discharged to-day and wish to settle on the land cannot yet obtain advances. Could

We not make a start now, before launching any great scheme, and thereby prove in some degree whether our methods are right or wrong? That would enable us to remedy some of our mistakes. In order to give security to these settlers, they should be able to make their land freehold. I should also like to see some means of preventing persons other than servicemen from taking advantage of the terms enjoyed by soldier settlers when a property is resold. The bill provides for an advance of up to £1,000. I agree with Senator Aylett that the amount is not sufficient. I hope that in committee the honorable senator will give his views as to what the amount should be. I take it that once we establish certain principles, we shall have an opportunity to elaborate them in some detail. The Government of South Australia, and probably the other State governments, are already proceeding to acquire land for settlers. I doubt whether there will be a great rush of applicants for farms. In my opinion, most of the applications will be from men well fitted to become good settlers if given a fair start. Fortunately, the war in Europe is over, and that should allow us in this country to vary our war commitments and establishments. Could we not make a start with the demobilization of our forces at an early date? I have in mind forces associated with coast defences, radar stations, anti-aircraft batteries, members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, and personnel at various base depots. This morning the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) gave to the Senate an outline of the Government’s proposals in regard to demobilization. My idea is that we should get large numbers of people back into jobs gradually, so thatthere will be the least possible dislocation associated with the reabsorption of men and women in employment. When the fighting is over and the frontline men come back, it will be impossible to hold them in camps. They will want to go home - and rightly so. Military discipline is irksome ; I use that term not as meaning that a man wishes to shun it, but it is irksome to find, when the day’s job is finished, that it is not possible to go home, and put one’s feet under the table and say, “ I am going to the pictures to-night”. Before a man in camp can go to the pictures he has to obtain a leave pass. If he is lucky, he gets one, but before he can leave the camp he has to attend a leave parade, and prove that he is “ spick and span “. That is all right. He has to be back in camp by a certain hour. That is one of the things that Australians do not care to have over them longer than is absolutely necessary. It may be only a small thing, but those who have escaped it may not know how lucky they have been. The soldier will want to go home; and he will have a right to do so. It is better that men should be discharged from the forces gradually, so that there will be no large body of men to deal with at any one time. I realize that this bill must have caused Government supporters deep concern. It may be, as some have said, that the bill is a compromise. Some honorable senators on the Government benches have been honest and straightforward enough to say that they are not in favour of preference at all. Others -

I mention particularly Senator Finlay - has championed the cause of the serviceman, or, as he said, the real fighting man. I favour all-out preference for those men, and I hope that we shall yet see that preference established in this legislation. The Government has taken a big step; it has made a start towards the rehabilitation of service men and women. But I emphasize that we have two conflicting elements in the community. I agree that in a democracy every person is entitled to have his own opinion; even if I differ from the opinion held by others, it is my job to try to convince them that they are wrong. I believe that we can say that some honorable senators opposite have been convinced in the matter of limited preference. I wish to emphasize that, in my view, the Government has taken a big step in making this start towards the rehabilitation of service men and women. Let us remember that there are many men and women who have alreadybeen discharged and are anxiously awaiting rehabilitation. That is why I am anxious that this bill, even with its limitations and provisions with which I do not agree, should be passed. In the committee stage I shall endeavour to improve it, but I urge that we should get on with the job because the people have been waiting for this bill for years. At least, let us do something to_ set in motion the real job of rehabilitating the members of the fighting forces.

Western Australia

– It would indeed be a miracle if this bill, which consists of 136 clauses set out on 55 pages of print, were to contain no mistakes. However, it would appear from the debate that little has been omitted. It is clear also that the Government has profited from our experience in dealing with this problem following the war of 1914-18. At that time, I occupied a position in Western Australia, in which I came into close contact with exservicemen, and had much to do with the placement of many of them in industry. Unfortunately, in many cases employers would not accept ex-servicemen when more efficient applicants were offering. Their attitude at that time was that they could hire and fire as they wished. That evil will be obviated under this measure, which will give to every ex-service man and woman the right and opportunity to be reinstated in civilian life, and also, as Senator Mattner has said, some reward to those who have saved our skins.

Following the war of 1914-18, many ex-servicemen were settled on the land under starvation conditions. They did not have the slightest hope of making a “ go “ of it. They found their capital costa too heavy a burden, at a time when those, who were fortunate enough to reap a few bags of wheat, could not obtain a better price than from ls. to ls. 6d. a bushel. It was impossible for any farmer to carry on under those conditions. Soldier land settlements in all States failed completely, mainly because of high capital costs combined with low prices. The need to provide adequate housing for our soldier settlers in the future has been emphasized by honorable senators generally, but more important even than a house in such a scheme is the provision of dams, or bores, because without an adequate water supply even the most experienced settler must fail. Shortly after the last war, I had an interest in a farm on which there was a dam, which was the only source of water for farmers from adjacent areas, whilst others went farther afield to the nearest bore. The provision of adequate water supplies is the first requirement for successful land settlement. Plenty of land suitable for large-scale settlements is available in Western Australia. It is now held by wealthy companies and individuals, some of the properties being up to 30,000 acres in area. During the last election campaign, I traversed one property of that size. It was owned by a wealthy company, and included 1,000 acres under crap. The time has arrived when the Government should subdivide such properties for the settlement of ex-servicemen in lots of from 1,500 to 2,000 acres. Most of these properties are situated in good rainfall areas and are ideal for» this purpose. Similar holdings exist in other States. I recall having seen very large holdings of the same type in the Perth district in Tasmania. Each settler should be provided with an area large enough to enable him to run sheep should he so desire, and to go in for mixed farming.

Senator Gibson:

– All of those properties! would be cultivated if it paid the holders to do so.


– Most of those holdings are held for special purposes. Unfortunately, after the last war the land purchased for soldier settlements from big companies was unsuitable for the purpose, and the only people who made any profit out of the transactions were the original owners, who in most cases were bag companies. They got a good “ rake off “. In Western Australia, for instance, soldiers were settled in the Peel and Southern Cross districts. Not one crop was obtained in the former area, and only one crop, in the first year, at Southern Cross. In the settlement of exservice personnel, first priority should be given to men who have had experience on the land, or who genuinely desire to settle on the land, and remain permanently in rural industries. Every facility should be provided to train such personnel upon their discharge. At the same time, reasonable amenities should be provided for the wives and families of the new settlers. That is the least we can do to reward the men who have interposed their bodies between us and the enemy. Many years ago, the Midland Junction Railway Company sub-divided a large area of land at Midland Junction and erected homes and other improvement.!:, such as fencing, on each allotment. Those properties were sold on easy terms at a low rate of interest. That is an example which the Government would be wise to follow in settling ex-servicemen on the land. However, not all of our ex-service personnel will wish to take up life on the land. Many young men will wish to learn trades, and training facilities should be made available to them. They must be enabled to compete with others who have acquired i high degree of skill during the war years. Since the outbreak of the war, thousands of pounds have been expended on the erection of annexes to technical colleges, and Dull use of these facilities should be made in handling this problem. Many young men are now learning trades at those establishments, and that scheme should be considerably extended. State ments by honorable senators opposite that ex-servicemen who learn trades will find it difficult to join unions are all “ hooey “. Of course, honorable senators opposite have not had experience as members of trade unions. Possibly Senator Foll is an exception, because he said that he was once a member of the Australian Workers Union but resigned because he failed to secure election to the position of secretary of his branch. 1 recall that following the last war ten returned men entered upon training in a boot factory ofl which I was foreman. Those men completed their time within two years, whereas I, and older tradesmen, took up to six years to complete our apprenticeship. Those trainees were paid a certain amount by the employer whilst the Government made up the balance of the award wage during their period of training. Subsequently, one of those men went on the land, and another died; but the remainder continued in the trade, four of them now being leading hands in various factories. I have not the slightest doubt that, given proper opportunities, our ex-service personnel will readily adapt themselves to useful occupations, whether it be on the land or in secondary industries. Above all, we must ensure that we obviate the mistakes made following the war of) 1914-18. I well recall the difficult times experienced by returned men in those days. Very often they referred to their pension as the “ small fortune “ they had received as a reward for fighting for their country. Hundreds of returned men, in order to augment their pension, were obliged to hawk goods from house to house. Honorable senators know the class of goods they sold - cotton, tapes and patent medicines. On many occasions a returned man knocked at my door offering these articles for sale, and, before leaving, said to me, “ Can you help a returned soldier? My pension is too small. I have to do this for a living.” We hope that ex-soldiers will never b° reduced to those straits again. Never let us again raise the cry that there is not sufficient money to enable us to do justice to ex-service personnel. No man should be discharged from the forces until provision has been made to reabsorb him in civil life. After the last war hundreds of returned men were obliged to earn a living singing and playing musical instruments on street corners. It -will be a disgrace to this country should we allow that condition of affairs to recur after this war. Honorable senators opposite suggest that difficulty will be experienced in setting up ex-servicemen in business premises alongside well-established shops. I am certain that the committee which will be charged with the responsibility of arranging finance for such persons will do everything possible to safeguard the business future of applicants.

Honorable senators opposite have criticized the limitation of preference under this measure to a period of seven years. At all events, this is a start. Many servicemen still in the forces have never had a chance to earn a living, whilst many have died on active service fighting for a security and freedom which they themselves never enjoyed. Many others found their first job when they enlisted in the armed forces, and have since had a constant job fighting in our defence. “What is required is full employment and security for all and that is what this Government hopes to achieve. These men placed their bodies between us and the enemy, and we who kept things going at home must not let them down. After the last war we had depressions. Ample money had been found to fight and kill, but when it came to peace-time employment, the people of this country were told that there was no money left. Money could not be provided even to save people from starvation. ¥e learned during the early 1930’s that depressions can be bred by capitalists and monopolies; and the stale of affairs that existed then will never be tolerated again. The people will not stand for it. The old bogy “ No money_ “ is dead. I recall that during the administration of the Scullin Government a move was made to provide £18,000,000 - £12,000,000 for industry and £6,000,000 for the farmers - but the legislation was rejected by this chamber which had an anti-Labour majority. The provision of that money would have put new life into industry, and would have enabled farmers to receive 5s. a bushel for wheat. During the term of office of a previous administration, a £20,000,000 housing scheme, at a time when ample supplies of material and man-power were available, wasinaugurated. I should be interested to know exactly how many home? were built under that scheme? I am sure that the number was very small indeed. There were no obstacles to that plan such as the necessity to secure agreements with the States. In its own territory, Canberra, the Commonwealth could have gone ahead and built hundreds of homes. Had that been done there would not be a shortage of 450 houses in the National Capital to-day.

Now that the war is receding from Australian shores we must act. After the war, it may be too late. Let us lay the foundations at the earliest possible moment. Had our fighting men faltered or failed, there would be no four freedoms, no prosperous civilians, no bank accounts, no trade unions, and no members of Parliament to-day. We would have been slaves of a coloured race, working under military discipline and enduring coolie conditions. It is not so long since some members of this chamber feared for the safety of their homes. I was one of them. The immediate threat was to Queensland and Western Australia. At that time the Government had the full co-operation of honorable senators opposite; but to-day. when the enemy has been chased away from the territories immediately surrounding this continent, the Opposition does not lose any opportunity to harass the Government. Ex-servicemen received little consideration from anti-Labour Governments after the last war. This time we must see that all promises arp fulfilled. Any government which fails to keep fighting men on the pay-roll till work is provided for them should be put out of office. I pay a tribute also to the women of all the services. They, too, have done an excellent job. and must not. be forgotten. After the last war, many promises were broken or quietly forgotten. That must not occur again. For what jobs did returned soldiers of the last war receive preference? Knocking at doors in an endeavour to sell small articles, and of course, pick and shovel work. Many of them lost all their money in bad farming propositions. Even in government employment returned soldiers were engaged mainly on pick and shove work. [ remember hearing men say that all they could get was “ the old mick and the banjo “. I wondered what the expression meant, until I realized that it meant pick and shovel work. Surely men who fought for their country merit better treatment than that. They should have the best that is available in this country.

Senator Keane:

– The dole in Victoria was only 6s. a week at that time.


– And in Western Australia it was 7s. During the depression I was the member for Maylands in the Western Australian Parliament, and my home was a very busy place. For years I was unable to enjoy & breakfast free of interruption by visitors, many of them unemployed and seeking work. Most of them were genuine in their desire to have a job, but of course there were some who did not want to work, and that is a difficulty which this Government also will have to face. It will find that many people do not want to work. I recall that on one occasion men were wanted to cut down some trees round the Maylands school. Four men accepted that work, but a fifth said to me, “Why pick on me”? However, after he had watched the others working for a couple of .days and receiving the basic wage of £3 18s. a week whilst he received the dole of 7s. a week, he decided that he would work, and J managed to have him employed on that job.

The construction of houses is one of the biggest problems facing the Government, because it involves a large number of trades. As I said earlier, previous administrations had ample opportunity to undertake a large-scale housing programme, but declined to do so. That dereliction of duty has imposed an even heavier burden upon this Government. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) has announced that large numbers of men are to be released from the armed services during this year. I hope that many of them will be given work in the timber forests so that adequate supplies of timber will be available when large-scale construction of homes becomes possible. Some time ago, I attended a meeting of the Timber Workers Association of Western Australia, and at the request of that association I asked a question in this chamber relating to the release of men for work in the timber industry. I understand that some men were made available. To-day houses are being built of unseasoned timber, and maintenance costs will be unduly high. The boards will warp and the roofs will crack. Buying a house of that type would be like buying an unprofitable farm. The cost of present-day houses is too high. Mention has been made of homes costing £1,200 or £1,000 ; but I am afraid that many families will have to seek houses built at a figure considerably lower than that, otherwise they will have a millstone of debt round their necks for the rest of their lives. No man cai,i afford to pay more than one day’s wages in weekly rent. In Western Australia, brick houses of a good type, erected on & quarter of an acre of land, can be bought for £850, or, at the most, £1.000. Timber houses solidly built of jarrah cost somewhat less than that. These figures have never been bettered in the eastern States even before the war. I have seen houses of an inferior type at Preston and Brunswick, in Victoria, costing £950.

Senator Large:

– Victoria must bo » backward State.


– I do not agree with that. Unfortunately, the less populous States, such as Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, have to depend upon the eastern States for many essential commodities. In fact, Victoria and New South Wales are usually fighting about who is to make these supplies available. Sitting suspended from 12. J/5 to 3.15 p.m.


– I am opposed to the construction of expensive homes which would be a burden on exserviceman. The Government should initiate mass production of houses so as to reduce costs. It should be particularly careful, however, not to build thousands of house? of the one design. They should be built on blocks not less than one-quarter of an acre in size. We have plenty of land in Australia, and it would be foolish to continue to build on restricted areas. In the cities, we see houses built on blocks with 30 feet to 40 feet frontages and about 60 feet deep.

That sort of thing is ridiculous, and leads in deterioration into slums. If a man has a quarter acre block he is able to make a garden and plant fruit trees.

Senator Gibson:

– lt would be better to have blocks of 1^ acres.


– I shall refer to that suggestion later. To-day we find many examples in our cities of lack of foresight in house construction. We often see terraces of houses erected by governments for employees such as railway workers, and every house in each block is of the same design. People point them out as examples of bad government policy. Climate should also be taken into consideration. For instance, houses suitable for the Melbourne climate would be distinctly unsuitable in Kalgoorlie, where the most appropriate type of construction is the bungalow style. Senator Gibson has suggested that blocks should be at least li acres in area. That is a reasonable suggestion. Many ex-servicemen may wish to build small homes on the outskirts of cities, say 10 or 12 miles into the country, where they could grow their own vegetables and fruit and keep a cow. I consider that an area of 1£ acres -would not be too large. Whatever happens, the Government must avoid repetition of past mistakes and must ensure that houses are not crowded together as they are in the capital cities to-day. Also, as 1 have said before, it must ensure that the houses are well built with good material and that no unseasoned timber is used in the frames.

Civilians will have a great responsibility after the war. They should cultivate a spirit of tolerance and understanding towards men who will be returning to civilization after having been exposed to the horrors of war for five years or more. They have lived hard under rigid discipline and have fought hard to kill and in doing so incurred the risk of being killed. Their life under those conditions has been greatly different from the life of civilians, and on their return many of them will be unhappy, unsettled, and impatient with the petty restrictions of civil life. We civilians must do everything in our power to help them to return to a normal way of life. Unfortunately, after the war of 1914-18, many civilians forgot the debt that they owed to returned soldiers, hut I am hopeful that after this war civilians will remember their obligations. Nearly every one of us has had some close relation serving in the fighting forces, and this fact should help to keep their needs always in our minds. There are many avenues of employment that the Government should investigate. We have a very valuable asset in Australia in the form of an undeveloped fishing industry. About eight months ago I asked the Government to consider establishing ex-servicemen, particularly those who had experience of the sea, in the fishing industry by making minesweepers and other small craft available as trawlers. By doing this the Government could help large numbers of men to earn a good living. Recently I read where fishermen were earning up to £70 a week each by catching baracouta. If that can be done in one part of Australia it can be done in other places. Certain remarks were made in this chamber recently about “ spare parts “. One of the most regrettable features of the years following the war of 1914-18 was the way in which industries treated returned soldiers as though they were worn out spare parts which could be discarded. I hope that, when our service men and women return from this war, employers will have bigger hearts and better minds and will do everything possible to assist in re-establishing them in civil life.

Senator LAMP:

.- In considering this measure we must first examine the magnitude of the task before us. We shall be required to re-establish in civil life nearly 900,000 soldiers and 700,000 civilians who have been engaged on war work. This will be a very big job.

Senator Gibson:

– Does the honorable senator suggest that civilians will be given preference ?

Senator LAMP:

– The honorable senator should not be silly. The Government and the people generally recognize as a primary obligation the reestablishment of ex-servicemen in their pre-war occupations so that they will suffer no penalty on account of the period during which they have been absent with the fighting forces. It is estimated that 50 per cent, of ex-servicemen will wish to resume their former employment. The Government is endeavouring to make this possible. This, bill has for its principal objective the reinstatement in permanent employment of the 900,000 service men and women and 700,000 civilians, who have been serving their country. Senator Mattner said that we should do everything possible in order to repay our personal debt to them. Everybody agrees with the honorable senator on that point. The best repayment that we can make to exservicemen and civilians who have been engaged on special war work is a guarantee of steady jobs, good homes, and comfortable living conditions. That is all that they require. The chief: problem is to provide full employment. I believe that employment in Australia should be equally divided between the farming community and the industrial community. Nothing helps the prosperity of a country more than a stable farming community. If we .are to develop healthy primary industries free from the danger of the periodical droughts which occur in this country, we must undertake big irrigation, schemes. Irrigation is essential to successful production. We have a warm climate, we have fertilizers, and we have water. All that is necessary is to make use of our water supplies in the proper way. The Government should consider the Bradfield scheme for supplying water to the central areas of Queensland. The Government should also carry out the Snowy River waters scheme for the irrigation of the Murray Valley, and it should implement the Clarence River scheme advocated by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The importance of these water supplyprojects was impressed upon my mind recently when the Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, was interviewed at. Singleton by a deputation ofl farmers’ representatives. The deputation pointed out the immense potentialities of the Hunter River district if properly irrigated.. It stated that thousands of families could be established in that area, and that good incomes could be obtained from the land. .Senator Mattner also said that the raising of families should be in greater favour in Australia. I agree that more importance should be given to family life. I am a family man, and I believe that a country’s prosperity depends on the family unit. What has been done to encourage the development of family life in Australia? In 1927, the Bruce-Page Government enacted legislation to make £20,000,000 available for the building of homes. That Government did not have one house built; as a matter of fact, it did not try. This Government must make labour and materials available for the construction of houses, and it must provide the people with employment so that they can live comfortable lives in those homes. Senator Mattner expressed the hope that the trade unions would assist the rehabilitation scheme, if the honorable senator had listened attentively to the speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) he would know that the unions have already agreed to enrol men who are trained in the government’s reestablishment scheme. During the war, the trade unions have agreed to the dilution of labour, and young people have been taken into almost every trade and given the protection of the unions. I believe in unionism. The unions should be given credit for what, they have done for the country. During his speech the Minister made the following statement: -

If an applicant for reinstatement cannot be reinstated in the job which he occupied before war service, whether because of disabilities which render it no longer possible for him to perform the duties of the job or some other such cause, the employer and the applicant may agree on some other position which the applicant can occupy or, in the event of their disagreement, a Reinstatement Committee may investigate the matter and determine it for the parties.

I have previously pointed out in this chamber that preference will be of no avail unless we have some authority to decide whether men who apply for preference will he capable of doing the jobs which they seek. The establishment of rehabilitation boards, therefore, is a move in the right direction. Ex-servicemen will be given a fair chance to obtain employment in jobs for which they are suited. The problem oft preference affects the whole economic system. If there are not sufficient jobs, exservicemen will not be able to secure the degree of preference to which they are entitled.

In order to illustrate my point, I shall relate my own experience after the last war. 1 was working in an industry in Tasmania when I enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. My employer was a colonel in the permanent forces, and he was very pleased when I offered my services to the country. But when I returned, and applied to be reinstated in my job, he was not so pleased. He said, “ Look here, Lamp, I am employing a man who has to keep his mother. How about having look around to see if you can find another job ; if you cannot I shall have to reconsider my attitude.” The employee to whom he referred was a single man, as I was myself at the time. I “ told off “ the employer there and then. I informed him that I had never lacked a job in my life and that I did not want to beg one from him. Then I began work under another boss. Tn the early period of my activities in the Labour party, I was elected to attend the interstate conference of the Australian Labour party, to be held in Sydney. When I applied to my boss for a fortnight’s leave, in order to go to the conference, he said to me, “ I wish to Christ you were not here at all “. That is the preference which I got. A little later I was working for another man, who said to me, “ Lamp, you are a sinister influence in the shop “. That was because I stood up for the rights of my fellow workmen and saw that they got a fair deal. It was amusing to me, after I became hardened to the tactics of these employers, to watch how they acted towards me. If they had a difficult job to do they always gave it to me, but they did not know whether to question my ability as a workman or take exception to my agitation for better conditions for the employees in the shop. They were constantly weighing those two factors one against the other, until finally I was elected to the Senate.

Unless full employment for all can be provided, ex-servicemen are entitled to due consideration, and I would give it to them ; but I believe that, as Australia is only half developed, full employment can be provided for all workers, and that eliminates the necessity for preference. When promotions are being made exservicemen should receive first considera- tion. Some time ago I was a member of a Wages Board, and the employers’ representative said to me, “We have known one another for many years. The position on these Wages Boards is that standards are set. It is not the good employer but the bad employer who seta the standard. Under the capitalist system, competition. sets the standard all the time. You organize the whole of the trade and if you make the employers all pay the same wage everything goes on smoothly. But if I have to bring down my wages to compete with a sweater who has reduced the wages of his employees, I have to do the same or go out of business. I recognize the value of industrial organization. You organize my competitor and make him pay the same wages as I have to pay, and I shall not argue the point with you, because it will not make any difference to me. As long as everybody is on the same basis, it is all right with me”. Under the system of capitalism, the Lord Himself could not make a man employ a returned soldier if a better man was offering for the job. The business man who gets the best employee will win and his competitor will go under. Australia needs an economy in which everybody in the community is guaranteed full employment. That would obviate the necessity for preference to ex-service personnel, and even preference to unionists.

A squatter in the midlands of Tasmania, who is a friend of mine, employed two members of the Australian Women’s Land Army and they contracted ringworm. He told them that it would, be better for them to return to their homes until restored to normal health. He promised to look after them while they were absent, and said that on their recovery they could return to their jobs. While they were sick he paid them full wages. About a fortnight later a lawyer representing the Farmersand Stock-owners Association waited on this employer and said, “ You are paying these girls while they are sick. You should think of the other fellows. If you do that everybody else will have to do the same “. It was a terrible crime, in the opinion of the association. It favours preference when it wants the girls to- work, but when they are sick it does not want them to be looked after at all.

The training scheme for which the bill provides is most commendable. Lads who have never had a job, and who joined the Army at the age of about eighteen years, should receive special consideration. Many of them have been in the Army for about five years and have not had a chance to show what they can do. It is the duty of the Government to take them in hand when they are discharged and see that they are given every opportunity to prove their capacity for useful employment. I say without hesitation that all of them should be given a chance even to take up university studies. If they have reached the age of 23 or 24 years, they should be given an apprenticeship at the expense of the Commonweal th .

Too many ex-servicemen of the last war are operating lifts to-day. No matter how badly a man may be disabled he is capable of undertaking some worthwhile job. Servicemen of this and the last war who are now on full pensions should be allowed to augment their incomes by light employment. It is better for them and for the community that they should be usefully employed. I have known men who have lost arms, legs, or eyes, but they are quite capable of useful work and every effort should be made to assist such men to find profitable employment. During the depression years we did not know how many people were out of work from day to day, but it would be a simple matter for the proposed employment bureaux, in cooperation with the trade unions, to obtain that information. Small businesses frequently change hands, and women often transfer from one office or shop to another. If a fair trial is given to the proposals embodied in the bill before us, it will be found that this Labour Government is sympathetic to ex-service men and women and will not allow them to be left wanting in the aftermath of the war.

Senator SAMPSON:

. I shall endeavour to discuss the bill without heat or party feeling. Calm consideration is called for in dealing with the momentous problem of the reestablishment in civil life of ex-service men and women, and others who have been employed during the war in munitions factories and in other essential services. The second-reading speech delivered by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) was a vast improvement on that delivered in the House of Representatives, and the measure has been slightly improved since its introduction in the other chamber. I heartily endorse the Minister’s concluding sentence, in which he said that he felt certain that the measure would be received in this chamber “ in a generous spirit” and considered “with the solicitous care its subject-matter deserves “. In dealing with a. bill of this kind, we should make a careful study of every feature, clause by clause.

We have heard much criticism of the work of the Repatriation Commission. I remind honorable senators that that body has to interpret the law as laid down by this Parliament, and it has no option but to observe the provisions embodied in legislation dealing with repatriation and war service homes. This legislation is the charter text-book and manual of the departments which have to administer it and they must not depart from it. I have read the criticism offered in the House of Representatives of the repatriation officials, all of whom, by the way, served in the last war, or the present war. I have been incensed because in most cases the criticism has been most unjust and uninformed. They frequently have to deal with complex and difficult cases, and sometimes with the exception that proves the rule; but from my long, personal experience of repatriation matters since I was demobilized in 1920, I have found that the commission gives most sympathetic consideration to the cases coming before it. A similar remark applies to the work of the deputy commissioners in the various States. I say that in all fairness to a body of extremely hard-working officials who have done a good job. The task which had to be undertaken in 1918 was stupendous. The commission had no precedent to guide it. Its work had to be done by trial and error, but its administration has been good. The complaints of disgruntled outsiders, and the so-called grievances published in the more or less yellow press, make one realize that the whole story has not been told, especially when one has personal knowledge of the cases mentioned. A bill of this nature is absolutely necessary, and I welcome its introduction, but I must confess that in many respects I am sadly disappointed with it. After the mountain had been in travail it brought forth a small and insignificant mouse.

One section of servicewomen is not covered by this bill for the rehabilitation of service men and women. I refer to that body of noble women who are members of the Australian Women’s Land Army. I am open to correction, but I believe that the idea that such an organization should be formed originated in Tasmania. These women have done and are still doing, a work of great national importance, but they enjoy none of the amenities of the women in the services. There is no glamour about their work; they have no camp or barrack life where numbers of them can come together, and so make life easier for all of them. No provision for these women is contained in the bill; their future is not protected; no measures have been taken for their rehabilitation when their job is done. I know that some of them wish to remain on the land after the war. Although they are not enlisted personnel, as are the members of the Australian Women’s Army Service, the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service and the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, they sign an agreement to carry out to the best of their ability, the work given to them and to go wherever they are sent. The Australian Women’s Land Army was formed in the face of strong opposition and prejudice, but after farmers, pastoralists and others had had experience of the service rendered by these women, they found that in most cases the women could do all but work requiring a man’s strength as well as it could be performed by men, and in some cases even better. Their uniform is provided by the Government and their badge is surmounted by a crown. I suggest that their badge entitles them to inclusion in this rehabilitation scheme. These women have signed an agreement to engage in work designed to increase the food production of this country, which honorable senators will agree is of prime importance in time of war, especially when the great bulk of the men formerly employed on the land are now either in the fighting forces or working in munitions factories or other establishments of national importance. The work which these women have done has not received proper recognition, and I earnestly urge the Government to include them in its rehabilitation scheme.

I cannot see why there should be any differentiation between the rates paid to men and women in connexion with the re-employment allowance. Surely it costs a single woman just as much to live as it costs a single man?


– Does the honorable senator believe in that principle in industry also?

Senator SAMPSON:

– I do. I believe in equal pay for men and women. I can see no objection to it, because if women cannot do a job as well as men can do it, the matter will right itself. I always have been of the opinion that it is most unfair that women should be penalized just because they are women.

Senator Tangney:

– Hear, hear!

Senator SAMPSON:

– The allowance should be the same for men and women and I propose later to move in that direction. On this subject I have received the following statement from the Servicemen’s Parents and Wives Association of Tasmania : -

  1. The employment allowance for the unmarried returned servicemen is £2 10s. per week. This is no more than the wage of messenger hoys who have just left school. In the” army, the private soldier received 6s. 6d. per day. plus keep. The “ keep “ may have reached a low level at times overseas, but at least he survived, otherwise his bones would be bleaching in some far-off land like those of many of his fellows who will not return. Now he is back with us. and remembering the pay of the messenger boy, surely until we can find him suitable employment we can continue his pay of (is. Od. per day, plus a subsistence of. say, £1 ls. per week, that is, £3 6s. 6d. in all.
  2. In respect of married members, the employment allowance, prescribes an additional payment of £1 2s. per week for the maintenance of the wife. The Army pays a dependant’s allowance of £1 Ils. 6d. for a wife even where the husband never enlisted for overseas service anr! still resides at home.

Whythe reduction in the allowances to the wife of the fighting man when he returns home and awaits employment?

  1. The employment allowance also includes provision for the payment of 9s. per week in respect of each child, with a maximumof £1 7s. per week, that is, no allowance is provided in respect of children in excess of three. The Army allowance, on the other hand is £2 5s.6d. per week in respect of the first three children and 10s.6d. per week in respect of each child beyond three with no limit. Why does the child of the returned man have to suffer because when his dad returns home from fighting his grateful country cannot find a job for him?
  2. Let us see what change there is in the family income after the fighting man returns home, is discharged, and awaiting employment. We will suppose he is a private with a wife and three children.

Prior to his discharge his wife received a weekly income of £51s.6d. made us as follows : -

When the serviceman is discharged, the income of the wife and children is reduced by more than one-half from £51s.6d. to £2 9s. per week, made up as follows: -

The husband’s allowance of £2 10s. per week cannot help the family budget much, for he had become an additional family liability and has to be provided for. not only with food, but clothing, &c.

  1. The employment allowance is not payable beyond an aggregate period of three months. What happens after this period to men who have risked their lives for their country, but for whom suitable jobs have not been found?
  2. The employment allowance is payable in cases only where returned servicemen after discharge are awaiting suitable employment. Entitlement ceases if an applicant refuses to avail himself of the offer of any suitable employment. Thus it will be noted that payment of the allowance is limited to genuine cases only.
  3. There has been employment for all while these men have been away fighting and wages have reached the highest peak in Australian history. At the same time they have fought, suffered and bled that their country should be saved from slavery (and do we realize what this would mean?) for a wage of6s.6d. per day. plus keep. Their hours of work have been long, their conditions of life intolerable, but they have received no big overtime cheques, no double pay for war risk. They have not received pay of £20 per week as potato diggers, nor £15 per week-end as waterside workers, nor £4 per week as received by office girls still in their teens. What would have happened if they had gone on strike on account of their low pay, their bad food, their lack of shelter or their long hours? Can a country which has seenfit to pay such high wage rates to those sheltered from the hardships and risks of the fighting man retain its self-respect if it. is content to compel the returned fighting man to exist on a pittance much less than the basic wage, simply because on his return from his period of sacrifice he cannot be readily absorbed into the economic life of the country which he has helped to save?
  4. It might be advanced in justification of the rate of the employment allowance that payment should only be necessary in a few isolated cases. We, as a people, are concerned if there were only one case involved, for no man who has fought for his country should, if we can avoid it, suffer any loss in income as a result of his sacrifice. Our guiding principle should be to place the man who went away to fight in at least no worse financial position for the rest of his life than the man who, for any reason, stayed at home. When all the arguments of sectional interests are sifted to their dregs, the stark fact still stands out clearly that if our men had not fought we who stayed at home would now have no homes, no income, no smugness.

That statement was sent to me by the Servicemen’s Parents and Wives Association of Tasmania, and insofar as it deals with the re-employment allowance, I heartily endorse every word of it.

This measure deals with the problem of housing, which is one of the most important and vital problems confronting the nation to-day. For the last six years the building trade, apart from the construction of barracks, buildings and factories of national importance, has been practically at a stand-still; and I suggest that the War Service Homes Commission, with its machinery, has been idle for so long that this most urgent and vital problem should be tackled forthwith. It is an urgent economic problem, and no doubt it will become the largest project of all.

Clause 27 lays down the conditions with regard to preference in employment to ex-service personnel. I could say a lot on this subject, much of which I have said previously in this chamber. Although two years ago certain promises were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who said that he believed in preference, what is offered in this measure is not preference at all. The bill offers preference to all, which means preference to none. Although I am disappointed, at the same time I did not anticipate that the representations with respect to preference expressed in the draft bill submitted to the Government by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia would be adopted. That draft bill was presented to the Government as long ago as 1943.

Senator Clothier:

– This measure is an improvement upon it.

Senator SAMPSON:

– An improvement! If I am promised something, and when the time comes for that promise to be fulfilled, I am offered nothing, is that an improvement? That is what this measure amounts to. However, as I have said, although I am disappointed I am not really surprised. I was a member of the Senate on the 2nd May, 1930, when Sir William Glasgow moved the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing the subject of preference to returned soldiers. On the same day, the then member for Lilley, Mr. Donald Cameron, now Sir Donald Cameron, moved the adjournment of the House of Representatives for the same purpose. Senator Cooper, Senator Foll and Senator Herbert Hays and I were members of the Senate at that time. The motion resulted from the action of the government of the day in altering by ministerial direction the clause contained in all government contracts which provided for preference in employment to returned soldiers. The original clause read -

In carrying out work under this contract preference shall be given-

Then wo come to the snag - other things being equal, firstly to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory records of service, and secondly to members of trade unions.

In place of that clause the government of the day, by ministerial direction, substituted the following clause: -

In carrying out work under this contract, preference shall be given to unionists.

That was the cause of all thefuss at that time in this chamber and in the House of Representatives. Honorable senators who wish to read the debates which took place in this chamber on the motion will find them recorded in Hansard, Volume 123, page 1375. Having regard to the speeches delivered fifteen years ago, one is not really surprised at the meagre and miserable preference that is offeredto ex-service personnel under this measure. Clause 27 lays down what the employer must do, and what he must consider. Other honorable senators have already cited that clause. It would be utterly impossible for an employer to determine the degree of preference under the conditions laid down, because it is impossible for him to obtain the requisite information to enable him to do so. He cannot obtain such information from the Army authorities, and it. is not set out on the soldier’s discharge papers, whilst ex-officers have no discharge papers. Therefore, the employer cannot obtain the information necessary to enable him to decide the degree of preference in the case of two applicants, although that duty is placed upon him under this measure. I shall place briefly before the Senate the principles laid down with respect to preference by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which has always striven for preference since its foundation following the war of 1914-18. It is true that preference in actual practice has in very many cases been dodged in the commercial world, by local government bodies and State governments, and, in some instances, by the Commonwealth Government itself. One can nearly always dodge it, if one is so minded, because of the provision “ other things being equal “ ; and that has been the case very often in the past. Here is the view of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia upon the subject of preference -

The principle of Preference is one of the most important planks in the League’s constitution. It is a principle for which the League has fought during the twenty years between the two wars, and for which the League is still fighting. As the result of past efforts, the Commonwealth Government long ago accepted the principle by inserting a preference clause in the Commonwealth. Public Service Act, but the inclusion of a proviso, “ all other things being equal “, made the loop-hole through which the principle was so often shot in the back. Even ihen, the existing legislation referred only to returned servicemen of the last war. Repeated attempts were made by, and on behalf of the League to wring from the Commonwealth Government some statement of policy in regard to preference for men of this war. The Government however, maintained an oyster-like silence until the recent action of the Senate ( March 1943) made the preference question a major political issue.

Within the past fortnight, there have been signs of an organized attempt to foment an agitation against the principle of preference. The main arguments used - if such emanations from muddled thinking can bo dignified by the name of arguments - are based on points that were raised by the opponents of preference during debates in both Houses of the Federal Parliament. One was that in the new world order that will succeed this war, there will be jobs for every body, and preference will not be needed. The other was that many others are doing good work, and even dangerous work, for the war effort and are, on that account, just as entitled to preference in employment as members of the fighting forces.

It is not on selfish grounds that we insist on preference for members of the fighting forces. The claim is based on fairness and common justice. Surely the basis on which you give preference to a returned member of the fighting services, is that something has been taken out of his life. During his long and continuous war servicehe has been away from his job. He comes back to find others more advanced in skill. The war service of many of these young men will have covered the years during which young men in normal times prepare themselves for their life’s work. The experience of the last war, and this experience is being repeated this time, is that oven when young men are. to all outward appearance, physically unscathed by their war service, they come back the prey to a mental unrest which hinders concentration on the learning of a civilian vocation.

Preference is given to compensate him for what he has lost, to restore him to the position he would have been in, if he had not abandoned it to become a member of the fighting forces. It is idle to argue that civilian war workers make equal sacrifices to those made by members of the fighting forces. The latter have gone out of civilian life for the duration. The former undoubtedly does work of great value and he may, under unusual circumstances, do his work in some danger, but the fundamental fact is that, by the very nature of his work, he is continuing his civilian employment, and, in point of skill, he finishes the war a better man than when he started. The man who has been in the fighting services in point of civil employability, finishes the war a worse man, in that he is less com petent and less experienced than he would have been had the war not occurred. That is the true principle on which preference should be based.

In the course of the debate Senator McKenna jibed honorable senators on this side of the chamber because he said we did not vote “ Yes “ at the referendum. He added that had a majority of the people voted “ Yes “, the Government to-day would have no difficulty in providing for the proper rehabilitation of ex-service personnel, or in dealing effectively with the problem of preference. I remind the honorable senator that a voter at the referendum was required to vote “ Yes “ or “ No “ to seventeen questions as though they were one question. The great majority of Australians probably would have answered “Yes” to a number of those questions, but in respect of at least two of them I could not answer “ Yes “ in any circumstances, and, therefore, like so many thousands of other people, I had no option hut to vote “ No “. Therefore, it is not correct to say that the opportunity was there. Had the questions been put to the country singly, the people could have voted for or against any one of them; but that was not done. The seventeen points were all in the one packet. We had to take the lot or leave the lot.

Senator McKenna said that the seven years’ limitation on preference was most desirable because during that seven years we would be able to see how the scheme was working and to determine whether preference would still be required after the expiration of that period; hut why have a limitation at all? Like Senator Finlay, I would insist upon preference in employment being given to the men of our fighting forces who actually saw service at the battle-front. Quite a number of people in this country - hundreds of thousands, in fact - have had preference in employment during the war. Whilst living in comfort at home, they have had an opportunity to improve their skill and dig themselves into their jobs, whereas their fellows who either volunteered or were called up for military service, have been enduring hardships and learning only the trade of killing. Are these soldiers to be forced to compete for employment against the more fortunate civilians who have had preference for nearly six years? It was necessary, of course, that many men should remain in civil life. The work of the country had to go on. Our fighting forces had to he supplied with food, equipment, munitions, weapons, and all the things necessary to keep them in the field. For every man at the battle-front six men are needed to provide the war material which he requires. However, it is petty and indescribably mean to deny preference to our fighting men upon their return. If that happy state of affairs which the Government visualizes - employment for all - comes to pass, preference may not be needed, but why grudge preference to our fighting men for all time, even though it may he only a gesture?

On the 17th February, 1943, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said -

Whatever government is in power, 1 pray tha;t it will see that the men and women who have fought are given the place that their services merit.

I arn sure that the right honorable gentleman meant that, and I am in entire agreement with his sentiments. Later, he said -

As a particular principle, the Government believes that preference to returned soldiers should be integral to the general administration.

Later still, he said -

There should be preference to returned soldiers.

Recent press reports stated that the Prime Minister had pleaded with his masters, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, but without success. So we have the compromise of seven years, which, upon examination, proves to be only a fantastic shadow. Preference to all is preference to none. However, I believe that our fighting men can be sure of some degree of preference, upon their return to civil life, not because the Government believes that their service to their country warrants it, but because the granting of preference may keep the Labour Government in office, whereas denying it would certainly result in its defeat. As I have said, the Prime Minister has been in favour of preference all along; but it appears that there are certain elements in caucus and in the Cabinet which would be only too ready to drop the right honorable gentleman, and preference with him, if they thought they could do so and survive. The Prime Minister was absent owing to ill health when this matter was first considered by Cabinet and I understand that there was disagreement. That, of course, is old history. The principle of preference was accepted ultimately, hut there was a substantial difference of opinion in regard to the sections of the community to which preference should be extended. Quite a number of Labour supporters wished preference to he given to everybody who was engaged in any form of war work. That, of course, would mean the inclusion of men such as coalminers and wharf labourers. Could any honorable senator honestly approve placing those men in the same category as ex-servicemen who have fought for their country? In view of this divergence of opinion, a final decision” on preference was postponed and we all wondered what was going to happen. Honorable senators opposite apparently believe that in any proposal for preference there will be a fight and a scramble for jobs in the post-war period, and that the ex-servicemen will jostle somebody else out of a job which he should have by rights. That is not so. While the cabinet discussions on preference were in abeyance, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions - the Government’s main directors - took a hand in the matter and began to crack the whip. The council said to the Government, “ There must be a conference with us before any decision is made on the question of preference “. I understand that a telegram to that effect was sent to the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde). The president of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Clarey, then made a statement which was published in the press, that the policy formulated by the interstate executive of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions last March still stood. That policy was against any privilege or preference for war-time service being given to any section of the community on the ground that the all-embracing nature of the war required a contribution from the whole of the community to secure an all-in war effort.

Mr. Clarey also said ;

Proposals for preference to ex-service people carry with them the implication of there being competition for jobs in the post-war period, which is contrary to the objectives for which the war is being fought.

There, we are getting hack again to the cry of full employment. I believe that there will not be any unemployment in this country during the next seven years. To suggest otherwise is absurd when one recalls the happenings in this country during the war. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned.

page 2793


Production of War Equipment - North-South R a it. w a y - Workmen’s Compensation : Taxation - Case ok Mb. D. J. Bourke - Apples. Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Supply and Shipping) [3.25] .-I move-

That the Senate do now adjourn.

In this morning’s press prominence is given to a statement made by Senator Foll in this chamber yesterday. Under a double column headline appears the following report, dated Canberra, the 7th June -

A firm was still manufacturing articles no longer required for the war effort, Senator foll said in thu Senate to-day. The articles are being sent to the Disposals Commission for sale to the public.

That is a very serious statement and one which if true would mean that this Government was not worthy of continuing to occupy the treasury bench. I approached Senator Foll this morning to secure further information in regard to that statement. The honorable senator said that he was bound not to divulge the name of the firm, and all he could say was that the articles referred to were ballbearing winches and were being made in Victoria at ?25 each. I cannot trace anything to substantiate this statement. The Department of Supply and Shipping has only two contractors in Victoria supplying winches, and these are of the plain bearing, not ball-bearing type. One firm is the Leyshon Spring and Engineering Company which recently supplied 78 No. 30 cwt. winches for

India, and these are in store in Melbourne awaiting shipment. The Dawn Manufacturing Company has a contract for 2-ton plain bearing type winches for the Army for use with recovery kits on “jeeps “, and we have been advised that a further demand for 1,500 similar winches is on the way to us from the Army department. Enquiries from the Department of Munitions reveal that it has let contracts for ball bearing winches to Malcolm, Moore and Richardson Gears of Melbourne for 5-ton and 30-ton types for use at operational bases. The officer in the Department of Munitions handling this production assures us that the allegation cannot have any reference to these orders. It was ascertained, however, from the Department of Munitions that Tomlinson and Company of Wellingtonstreet, Perth, who have a contract for the supply of 2-ton ball bearing winches on account of the Department of the Army, were being pressed for delivery. Mr. Tomlinson wrote to the Department of Munitions complaining of being pressed for delivery whilst quantities of these winches were stored at the munitions store, Welshpool, Western Australia. This is the only trace that can be found of anything which would lend colour to Senator Foil’s statement. The Commonwealth Disposal Commission advises that no ball-bearing winches have been declared surplus for disposal by the commission.

I trust that my explanation will clarify the position and that the newspapers will give to it as much prominence as they have given to the allegation by Senator Foll.

South Australia

– I refer to the recommendations made by Sir Harold Clapp in his report on the standardization of railway gauges. The report gives a comprehensive survey of existing railways systems and contains recommendations for the construction of certain new railways in the Northern Territory. I do not question any of the proposals for a standard gauge system. However, the report contains a suggestion for linking the Northern Territory railway system with other lines by extending it from Birdum to Dajarra, in Queensland. This suggestion pays no regard to the agreement that was made between the Commonwealth Government in 1907, through Mr. Alfred Deakin, and the South Australian Government, through the then Premier, Mr. Thomas Price. This agreement was reached after prolonged negotiations and is ratified by acts of Parliament, which provide for the ceding of the control of the Northern Territory by South Australia to the Commonwealth. In general, the agreement authorizes the transfer of the assets held by the South Australian Government in the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth at a given price and subject to the condition that the Commonwealth shall build a railway line connecting Darwin with the railway systems in the northern part of South Australia. In effect, it provides that the Commonwealth shall construct a north-south railway line. Apparently, no cognizance has been taken of this agreement by Sir Harold Clapp. The agreement ought to be honoured before any other new lines are constructed in the Northern Territory.

Senator Allan MacDonald:

– A number of important factors are overlooked in the Clapp report.


– That may be so, but I am particularly concerned with the completion of the north-south line and the fulfilment of the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia. Sir Harold Clapp’s recommendation is extraordinary in view of the relative distances between Darwin and other strategic parts of the Commonwealth by the direct north-south route and by the route suggested in the report. The distance from Perth to Darwin by the north-south route would be 1,265 miles shorter than the distance by way of Sir Harold Clapp’s proposed route. Adelaide would be about 1,089 miles nearer, Melbourne about 680 miles nearer, and Sydney would be only 160 miles farther. Sir Harold Clapp proposes the conversion of the existing line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie to a standard gauge and, for the purposes of comparison, I point out that the rail distance from Darwin to Sydney, via Birdum, Alice Springs and Broken Hill would be only 4.1 miles longer than by way of Dajarra.

Senator Lamp:

– Why not complete both lines?


– I am concerned about the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia. The other line could be constructed later.


– The agreement has never been honoured.


– That is so. As a matter of fact, many people do not know anything about it. I raise the matter now, because I am aware thai many honorable senators have not even heard of it. I do not pose as a strategist, even of the armchair variety, nor am 1 a “ brass hat “, but the circumstances of this war have made it obvious that the western and north-western parts of Australia are highly vulnerable to enemy attack. If honorable senators will study the situation of territories to the north and north-west of Australia, and particularly those islands which have been under Japanese occupation, they will realize the vulnerability of the areas which 1 have mentioned. I remind them also that future attacks will not necessarily come from Japan. I ask the Government to implement the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia by completing the north-south railway line before any other extensions of the railways in the Northern Territory are carried out. I do not blame this Government for failure to honour the agreement, because it has not had time to consider the Clapp report yet, but previous governments have ignored its existence. It has not been cancelled, and therefore I ask the Government to put it into effect.

Senator LAMP:

.- I draw attention to the serious anomaly that exists by reason of the taxing of workmen’s compensation payments. 1 believe that such payments were never intended to be taxed. The effect of such taxation upon recipients of workmen’s compensation is very serious. Many cases of such anomalies have come to my notice in Tasmania. When a man suffers the loss of a limb or an eye in the course of his employment and is unable to continue in his job, he is placed on half pay. The total yearly amount of hi;- half pay is deducted from the total amount received as compensation for his injury, and the balance is subject to tax. In one case which came to my notice, a tax amounting to £14s. was levied on a man’s wages and a tax totalling £14 was levied in respect of his compensation payment. The basic wage is established according to a certain regimen of goods, with a certain margin added for skill. Therefore, it does not provide for many of the small luxuries of life. It is merely an existence wage. A man living on half pay takes years to recover from the effect of payingtax on a lump payment of compensation. This is a serious anomaly, and the Government should consider allowing workmen’s compensation payments as deductions for the purposes of income taxation.

Western Australia

– I refer to a matter connected with an aircraft worker, which I raised with Senator Cameron while he was Minister for Aircraft Production. It relates to a man named Mr. David J. Bourke, formerly of Western Australia, and now residing at Essendon in Victoria, who was dismissed by the Department of Aircraft Production after his return from overseas service with the armed forces. I drew the attention of the Minister to this case last year, and he supplied me with particulars relating to it. However, Mr. Bourke wrote to me a second time, challenging the statements made on behalf of the department, and once again I raised the matter with the Minister from whom I received an astonishing reply, which rankles in my mind. The Minister said, in effect, that he would not give me any more information about the case, because he had received notice that a member of the House of Representatives proposed to “kick up a shindy” about the same matter. What is done by members of the House of Representatives does not concern me in carrying out my duties in this chamber, and I believe that you, Mr. President, will agree with me on that point. I hope that you will join with me in pointing out to Ministers that, when honorable senators make inquiries from them concerning matters of public interest they should supply the informa tion required without regard to what may be contemplated by members of the House of Representatives.

Debate interrupted..

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon Gordon Brown:

– In conformity with the sessional order that, unless otherwise ordered, the motion for adjournment shall be put, on Fridays, at 3.45 p.m., I formally put the question -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Question resolved in the negative.

Debate resumed.


– I have now received a third letter from Mr. Bourke, whom I have never met, dated the 2nd June. It appears that a further anomaly has arisen. This man is an artisan, qualified to work on the construction and repair of aircraft. In his letter he states -

All that I have been offered by Man Power’s rehabilitation section is employment as a wharf labourer.

Something must be radically wrong. A man who has fought for his country, and who is qualified for skilled employment as an aircraft worker, deserves better treatment than that. Surely a niche could be found for him at a higher rate of remuneration than that of a wharf labourer. We should not try to put round pegs into square holes. Something more than has been accorded to him is due to this man from the Commonwealth, and I should like to hear what the Minister has to say on the matter.

Correspondence has taken place for a long period on the subject of the increase of cost of picking the apple crop in Western Australia. The Western Australian Fruit-growers Association at Mount Barker has been negotiating with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) for an increase of the payments made for the picking of the crop. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to take the matter up with him with a view to action on the lines requested. The correspondence indicates that not only have the rates of wages increased in the industry, but also the cost of fertilizers and other commodities, whilst the phosphoric content of artificial manures has decreased from the proportion of 22 per cent, in the pre-war period to as low a figure as 17 . per cent. On behalf of the associated fruit-growers in the apple and pear districts of Western Australia, 1 urge the department to give favorable consideration to their request.

Senator CAMERON:
PostmasterGeneral · Victoria · ALP

1 3.49]. - I am indebted to Senator Allan MacDonald for his courtesy in informing me that he intended to refer to the case of Mr. David J. .Bourke. I referred the matter to the Minister for Aircraft. Production (Mr. Makin), whose reply has come to hand. As the position is one in which, in my judgment, a good deal of misrepresentation has been indulged in, I have prepared a statement setting out the facts. It is true that, when I was Minister for Aircraft Production, I informed Senator Allan MacDonald that I was unable to supply any information on the matter, because I had been given to understand at that time that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) intended to apply for the appointment of a- select committee to investigate the case, and that if that were done the committee would go fully into the matter. For reasons best known to himself, that honorable member has never asked for the appointment of a. committee. The matter dates back to October, 1943, and the facts are set out in a statement by the Minister for Aircraft Production, who has replied as follows : -

I have made a very thorough examination of the case of Mr. David J. Bourke since I became Minister for Aircraft Production.

I cannot offer any comment regarding Mr. Bourke’s negotiations with the rehabilitation section of the Man Power Directorate, other than to repeat that my department has on no occasion attempted to influence any aircraft contractor or other prospective employer against engaging Mr. Bourke.

So far as my department is concerned, the position is that Mr. Bourke was engaged on the 22nd February, 1943, as zone service engineer in the maintenance division.

After seven weeks on the staff as the zone service manager at Essendon, during which time he should have acquired a reasonable working knowledge of departmental procedures affecting his position, he was sent to the Perth zone to become second-in-charge of the zone.

Immediately after his arrival in Perth, he was called upon to take charge of the zone temporarily pending the arrival from Brisbane of the Queensland zone service manager, who was being transferred to Perth for departmental reasons.

The Western Australian zone service manager, who met Mr. Bourke on his arrival in Perth, but who was able to spend only very limited time with him, left for Brisbane two days later to take charge of the Queensland zone.

This transfer was arranged because he was considered to be the most highly qualified zone service manager to control the Queensland zone, where rapid increases in the overhaul capacity had to be established urgently to meet the requirements of the American Air Force authorities, and the exchange of managers was brought about for that reason.

In his position as acting zone service manager in charge of the activities of the. Western Australian zone, the manager was not expected to he an expert in every detailed phase of aircraft engineering - the zone service engineer, the supervisor of the machine shop and other zone officers are expected to attend to the detail in their respective sections - but to maintain close contact with the zone service manager in matters of policy, &c.

In taking charge of the zone, Mr. Bourke was required only to assume control of activities that were already established and functioning smoothly. In this he had the assistance of three experienced senior officers in charge of sections of the zone activities.

With this assistance, hacked by his own aircraft experience, not only at Essendon before his transfer to Perth, but also in commercial flying and in the Royal Australian Air Force, it was considered that Mr. Bourke should have been competent to handle the functions expected of him as acting manager of the zone for a limited period.

During the period Mr. Bourke was acting zone service manager in Perth, his salary of £556 per annum was increased by a “higher duties allowance” to £610. the allowance being payable after 26 days of service in the higher position. The salary of the zone service manager in Perth was £1,000 a year at that time, but has since been reduced, together with that of other officers in the same capacity, to the salary range £594 to £672 per annum, plus cost of living allowance of £40 per annum at present.

Unfortunately, it transpired later that Mr. Bourke had become imbued with the idea that he was entitled to appointment as zone service manager, although such an appointment had not at any time been promised to him.

With the arrival in Perth of the zone service manager from Brisbane, Mr. Bourke apparently decided to indicate his resentment by declining to co-operate with him. This attitude was placed on official record by Mr. Bourke on the 14th September, 1943, some three months after he ceased to be acting manager of the zone, when he reported : - “ . . . In addition, and quite frankly, it is not the intention of the writer to supply the material and experience to enable an officer of twice the salary, but no aircraft experience, to hold down a job he could not successfully do alone “.

The zone service manager was expected to be the administrator of the zone with experienced technical officers - Mr. Bourke and others - to attend to the detailed work of the individual sections. By declining to pull his weight in the team, Mr. Bourke showed that he was ready to let his personal opinions outweigh his responsibilities to his department, which expected him to assist in securing the best possible results from the zone.

The position was eventually reached where it was concluded that Mr. Bourke’s resignation should be asked for. He ceased duty with my department on the 27th October, 1943.

Instead of exercising the usual channels for redress, Mr. Bourke went to Smith’s Weekly with his story, and a statement on his case appeared in that newspaper on the 4th December, 1943, together with a rejoinder from the Minister for Aircraft Production. From that moment, Mr. Bourke closed the door to any further consideration of his case by the department.

The history of aircraft maintenance during the period of the war is a story of providing facilities ahead of requirements in accordance with operational forecasts of the Air Force authorities, and, in consequence, of changes in the course of the war, facilities provided have subsequently been found, in some instances to be no longer required.

In Perth, we sot out to provide facilities that were thought to be necessary at the time, but which were eventually proved to be in excess of actual requirements. That is not an unusual happening in times of war, when it is impossible to predict where the enemy will strike or the strength with which he will strike at any point.

Mr. Bourke has been labouring under the impression that the Department of Aircraft Production was opposed to his being employed in the industry by any private contractor or other employer. That is not correct. On the 6th May, the Director-General of Aircraft Production, Mr. McVey, and the Director of Administration, Mr. Letcher, discussed the matter with Mr. Bourke, and, according to my information, Mr. Bourke expressed himself as quite satisfied, provided a letter was sent to the firms engaged in aircraft production to the effect that no objection was offered, as far as the department was concerned, to his being employed by any of those firms. A letter in the following terms was addressed by the Director of Administration to the managing directors of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Ansett Airways Limited, Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and Guinea Airways Limited : -

During the course of an interview which Mr. David J. Bourke, of 98McCracken-street, Essendon, had with the Director-General of Aircraft Production (Mr. D. McVey) on

Saturday morning last, Mr. Bourke stated that there was an impression that, due to the circumstances under which he had left the service of this department, it was the wish oi this department that he should be excluded from employment by any departmental contractor engaged in the aircraft industry.

Mr. McVey explained to Mr. Bourke that this impression was quite erroneous, and he instructed me to advise you that, so far as this department is concerned, there is no objection to Mr. Bourke being offered any position tl at might become available in your organization for which his qualifications might justify consideration by your company.

When Mr. Bourke said, in effect, that the only employment o Herod to him was in the capacity of wharf labourer, or work of that nature, he may he correct, but the door has not ‘been shut against him in connexion with other departmental contracts. The department adopted the attitude that, for reasons best known to himself, Mr. Bourke would not avail himself of the opportunity to have his case inquired into in the usual way. Instead he went to Smith’s Weekly and made strong charges against the department - charges which, in my opinion, were, not based on facts. Any employee who does that, without availing himself of the machinery at his disposal to have his grievance remedied, puts himself out of court. However, the department has not tried to prevent him from obtaining employment in which his knowledge and experience could be used. I am informed that at the conference between Mr. McVey, Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Bourke on Saturday, the 26th May, Mr. Bourke intimated that he would bo satisfied if the letter to which I have referred was sent to die directors. I understood that he had no further wish to re-open the matter. I have put these facts before the Senate because the case has been going on since Mr. Bourke resigned from his position on the 22nd October, 1943. A great deal of what has been said has been based upon a lack of understanding of the position and .a desire to override the authority of the department.

Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Supply and Shipping · New South Wales · ALP

, - vn re-ply - The matter of the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia in connexion with the north-south railway, to which

Senator O’flaherty referred, will be brought to the notice of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) with a view to the whole matter being examined.

The taxation of workmen’s compensation payments, to which Senator Lamp made reference, will bc brought to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley).

Senator Allan MacDonald mentioned the increased costs associated with the production of apples, and asked that picking rates bc increased. I shall refer his remarks to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully).

Question resolved in the affirmative. .

page 2798


The following papers were presented : -

National Security Act - National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (88).

Senate adjourned at 4.3 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.