17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
. -byleave - I desire to make a progress statement to the Senate on the recommendations of the Advisory War Council which were approvedby the Government and announced to the House of Representatives on the 1st June, 1945. I also wish to clarify certain aspects of these decisions. In my statement to the Senate on the 8th June, I said that the special release of 50,000 men by the end of 1945 was to provide for the discharge of men urgently required in the civil economy ; and to enable certain members of the forces with longservice or who have been prisoners of war for extended periods tobe granted the option of discharge. I also said that the special releases would be arranged in a graduated manner to avoid disorganization of units and interference with operational plans. The first point I emphasize is that the releases are tobe made in a graduated manner. It is obviously impossible to release men with operational experience immedately on the attainment of five years service, without regard to the organization of units and the effect on operational plans. The recommendation of the Advisory War Council, to which the Government intends to adhere, and on which it has given the necessary instructions to the Army and Royal Australian Air Force, is that at least 50,000 men arc to be released by the end of 1945. It is hoped that the number may be greater.
The total number of releases and the monthly rate cannot be determined at this stage, because they are dependent on the fulfilment of operational commitments into which the Commonwealth Government has entered for the use of its forces in the war against Japan, In his speech to the House of Representatives on the 24th April last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) explained the arrangement made in 1944 with General MacArthur under which the advance to the Philippines necessitated a redistribution of forces and combat missions in the South-West Pacific Area, in order to make available forces with which to continue the offensive. The Australian forces relieved the American forces and took over from them in Australian and British territory and mandates in the South-west Pacific Area. In addition, two divisions were to bemade available for the advance to the Philippines. The reasons for non-participation in the Philippines campaign have been explained by the Prime Minister, but alternative and equally important tasks have been allotted to these forces in Borneo and elsewhere. These operations are part of the total plan of the Combined Chiefs of Staff for the defeat of Japan. There can be no question of Australia withdrawing from its assigned task, and disrupting the entire strategic plan of which General MacArthur is carrying outa vital part in the South-West Pacific Area.
The recommendations of the Advisory War Council on the strengths of the forces which should constitute the Australian war effort for the remainder of the war have been communicated to the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), who has had consultations in Washington with President Truman and the United States Chiefs of Staff. The Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Bruce, is also having consultations in London with the British Government and its Chiefs of Staff. The Commonwealth Government is also in consultation with General MacArthur.
It will, therefore, be seen that the governing factor in the total releases and the rate of releases is the progress of operations and the speed with which the units can be re-organized and the strength reduced to the ultimate objectives. I cannot state these publicly at present, because of the consultations to which I have referred and the fact that they would be of use to the enemy. All I can say is that they will permit of a scheme for the option of discharge being given to all men with operational service overseas and five years’ war service. I understand from the Army authorities that the forces are well satisfied with this decision, and realize that its implementation must be fitted into the fulfilment of the operational plans. The decision to release long service personnel was reached after the fullest consideration of all aspects involved. The Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser), in a report to the Prime Minister after his recent visit to operational areas, said -
There is no doubt in my mind that some action should be taken immediately to relieve members of the fighting services with over four or five years’ operational service. Some difficulty stands in the way of giving effect to this, such as, for example, the withdrawal of troops from the 7th and 9th Divisions with such service at the present juncture.
Before making a decision, War Cabinet consulted the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of the General Staff, and it was advised that the releases were feasible but dependent on the progress of operations.
The option of discharge to be granted to prisoners of war, in accordance with the statement of the 1st June, 1945, applies equally to prisoners of war who have ready returned and have been posted to units, as well as to those who have returned and have not yet been posted to units and those who may return in the future. In view of my inability to state the contemplated future strengths of the forces, I make one general statement in order to avoid misunderstanding. It is the view of the Government and the Advisory War Council that our war effort in the future will be worthy of the Commonwealth, and with our past record, should guarantee Australia an effective voice in the peace settlement. The apportionment of the reduction between the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force and the definition of operational service, was referred to the Defence Committee, and the conditions of release to the War Commitments Committee. The reports of these committees will be consideredby War Cabinet next week. I shall then make a further and more detailed statement to the Senate. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Man-power - Releases from Forces - Ministerial Statement, 19th June, 1945.
Ordered to be printed.
– Has the Acting Minister for the Army received any complaint regarding conditions at the prisoner-of-war reception depot at Eastbourne, England? Is he able to say whether or not there is any truth in the statements attributed to several repatriated prisoners of war that conditions at that depot leave much tobe desired? I ask these questions in view of the remarks made to me by a prisoner of war who reached this country at the week-end. Will the Minister have investigations made to ascertain whether or not there is any laxity at that depot, and if so, will he take steps to have the matter rectified immediately?
– I have not received any complaints about the Eastbourne camp. I was in Sydney last Sunday when the ship carrying several hundred prisoners of war arrived. I addressed the men on hoard the ship, and conversed with several whom I knew personally. None of them complained about conditions either during the voyage or in England. However, I have heard it stated that the Eastbourne camp is not of the best, and I have sent a cable to Great Britain to ascertain just what is the position. I assure the honorable senator that I shall do everything possible to eliminate any discomfort which prisoners of war at Eastbourne are alleged to have experienced.
As a representative of the Government I was able to see for myself the splendid work of the Australian Red Cross Society both at the wharf and at the Showground upon the arrival of the prisonersofwar in Sydney. I am sure that every member of the community appreciated greatly the efforts of that organization to have the men transported to their homes at the earliest possible moment.
– Is the Minister aware that, speaking over station 2FC about a fortnight ago, a guest speaker who had just returned from overseas spoke at length about the Eastbourne camp, and expressed a wish to compliment the authorities on the wonderful work that has been done at that camp?
– I am aware of that broadcast. Adverse reports about camp conditions are circulated from time to time. When the vessel which docked in Sydney yesterday was about to depart from England, several men refused to go aboard. It will be appreciated by honorable senators that sometimes, quite apart from the cramped conditions on board ship to-day, there are other reasons for which some men wish to remain overseas. For instance those men might have wanted an extra fortnight in Great Britain.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Arising out of a reply to a question which I asked last week as to coupon free knitting wool and the scarcity of knitting needles, I now ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if he has received a letter from a New South Wales firm intimating that it is now in a position to supply the Australian requirements of wooden knitting needles in all gauges, provided that supplies of suitable timber and labour for their manufacture are made available?
– I have received a letter on the subject, and it is now being examined in consultation with the Minister for Supply and Shipping. I hope to make a statement on the subject not later than to-morrow.
– Can the Minister for
Supply and Shipping give to the Senate any information regarding the continued hold-up on the northern coal-fields and the possibility of gas supplies in Sydney being cut off? Further, can he say whether there is any likelihood of the dispute being settled in the near future?
– I have no information regarding a continued hold-up on the northern coal-fields. There has been a partial dislocation of industry there, 23 mines being affected. The matter is now being investigated by the appropriate authorities.
– I am informed that as the result of the acute shortage of elastic many women are suffering from what is vulgarly termed “ elastic-itis “, which affects them in many ways, and is very uncomfortable and embarrassing. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if he will institute an inquiry into the possibility of allocating synthetic rubber, or other substitutes, in order to overcome the shortage of elastic.
– The supply of rubber concerns the Minister for Supply and Shipping; and should the production of synthetic rubber prove tobe insufficient, he would communicate with me as the Minister in charge of Import Procurement, and wherever possible I would arrange the necessary importations. As the honorable senator knows, all allied countries are short of rubber; and the United States of America has, with a fair degree of success, made synthetic rubber. I am unable to say whether synthetic rubber could be used for woman’s garments, such as corsets, &c., but I shall inquire into the matter raised by the honorable senator.
Mr. E. THORNTON.
-Has the Leader of the Senate read a statement attributed in the press to the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the effect that he was amazed that a man like Mr. Thornton shouldbe sent overseas as the representative of the Australian trade unions? I should like to know whether the Government contributed in any way towards Mr. Thornton’s expenses? If so, how does it justify such action in view of the statement by a senior Minister that Mr. Thornton is not a suitable man to represent Australian trade unions overseas?
– I have not discussed the matter with the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and I shall not accept any statement attributed to him by the press. As to whether Mr. Thornton’s expenses were subsidized by the Government, I shall inquire into the matter and furnish the honorable senator with a reply later.
Licences - HogCasings.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs who controls the Division of Import Procurement, which issues licences for the importation of goods aware of any traffic in these import licences? A ratheralarming statement has been made to me that firms which went out of that line of business some years ago were suddenly able to sell their licences for the importation of hog casings at a huge profit. Is there any truth in the statement that these licences are being hawked about?
– I am not aware of the allegation made by the Acting Leader of the Senate. It would he news to me to learn that licences had been hawked about. There has been a dispute within a section of the hog casing industry, which claims a share in certain hog casings imported from the United States of America under lend-lease. They have complained about the distribution of those casings. I am to receive an urgent deputation on the subject this evening. I shall examine the allegation made by the honorable senator.
– Has the Leader of the Senate noticed in the press a statement by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) that the Australian delegation to the San Francisco conference has now assumed leadership of the smaller and medium-sized powers, of which there are 43 or 44 attending the conference?
Has the Government any information as to whether that leadership has been undertaken with the consent of the nations concerned, or is mere assumption on the part of the Australian delegation ?
– I have read a press statement on the lines indicated, but I cannot accept a newspaper report as being correct. However, if the statement be accurate, it is a further triumph for the Leader of the Australian delegation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
– The Minister for Aircraft Production has supplied the following answers : - 1, 2 and 3. With reference to the AuditorGeneral’s comments on records of assets at annexes, the position is that complete records of assets (equipment and stores) have been established and maintained at all annexes. In the case of three annexes, equipment stocktaking results - one to 30th September, 1944, and two to 31st December, 1944 - have been forwarded to the Auditor-General. Similar results to the 31st December, 1944, for the remaining four annexes, will be forwarded not later than the end of this month. Stocktaking of stores has been for some time effected annually at each annexe. Statements showing results of the last stocktaking in each case have already been forwarded to the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General’s comments do not, therefore, now apply.
asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
– The Minister in charge of War Service Homes has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answers: -
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 15th June(vide page 3152).
New clause 32a.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “32a. - (1.) A person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of this Division, or contravenes or fails to comply with any order of a court made under this Division, shall be guilty of an offence punishable on conviction by a fine not exceeding One hundred pounds or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both. “ (2.) Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may order that a portion of the fine imposed shall be pa id to such person entitled to preferenceas the court specifies in the order.”.
As the object of preference is to ensure appropriate employment to service men and women, the Government has devised and inserted in the bill the most effective means of enforcing the preference provisions. Any person who fails to comply with an order of a court shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or imprisonment, or both. The proposed new clause provides an additional sanction in the bill, namely, a fine or imprisonment. The Government is anxious that this penalty should not obscure the primary purpose of the preference provisions because the object of the Government is to ensure employment. The purpose of the bill is not to fine or imprison employers for breaches of the measure, but to ensure a job to service men and women.
– Members of the Opposition pointed out during the second-reading debate on the bill that an offence without a penalty would be useless, and I am glad that the Minister has seen fit to change his mind.
New clause agreed to.
Clause 33 -
Sections twenty-four to thirty-two (inclusive) of this Act shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities in all the wars in which His Majesty was engaged at the date of commencement of this Division.
– I move -
That the word “ twenty-four “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ twenty-two “.
Clauses 24 to 32 deal with the repeal of the preference provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and with certain provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. We went into the matter fully. Honorable senators on this side pointed out that the repeal of existing legislation provided for by clauses 22 and 23 would be for all time, but the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Keane) said that nothing would be taken away from servicemen, and that they would detain their privileges. Clause 33 means that certain privileges which servicemen have enjoyed for 25 years will be taken from them indefinitely; those privileges will not be restored at the end of seven years. I cannot understand why the Government should do this, because the advantages conferred on returned servicemen by. the legislation which this clause seeks to repeal have been highly valued by men who fought in the last war, and, indeed, by some who fought in this war. The object of the amendment is to restore those privileges at the end of seven years from the cessation of hostilities.
.- The amendment is not acceptable to the Government. The clause gives effect to the policy underlying this measure, namely, that preference shall be given to servicemen for a period of seven years from the cessation of hostilities. The point raised by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) was fully discussed in connexion with previous clauses.
– The reply of the Minister (Senator Keane) means that at the end of seven years from the cessation of hostilities the existing provisions giving preference to servicemen will disappear for ever. This clause takes from returned men a privilege that they have enjoyed for many years. They ure to be robbed of existing privileges under a bill which the Government claims is designed in their interests ! During the 25 years that the existing legislation has been in operation many thousands of servicemen have benefited from its provisions. At the end of seven years many of those affected will be about “>7 years of age. They will then be told that no further preference is to be given to them.
– This is a scandalous provision. If we take our minds back to the eve of the last elections we shall recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gave assurances that the Government’s policy waa one of preference to returned soldiers. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) gave similar assurances. Now the Government has introduced a bill to take away the measure of preference which exservicemen have had for some years. Had the people known what the Government really had in mind they would not have returned it to the treasury bench. It is clear now that the statements of Labour candidates, including party leaders, at the last elections, were so much lying humbug. Now that they believe they are safely entrenched in office, they bring forward a measure to deprive exservicemen of their existing preference rights. There is more in preference than in giving a man a job; matters of status and promotion are involved. I know that the regimented caucus will carry the clause, but I repeat that the history of federation shows no more scandalous proposal than the one now before us. I utter my emphatic protest against the Government’s intention, and strongly support the amendment moved by Senator Leckie.
– Senator Foll has said that Labour candidates at the last election indulged in lying humbug. If there had been any lying humbug in regard to this measure it has emanated from the Opposition. During the whole time that this measure has been under discussion, the remarks of Opposition senators have been nothing but lying humbug.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in referring to honorable senators on this side of the chamber as lying humbugs? I ask that he withdraw those words.
– Senator Foll used the expression in the first instance. He referred to government candidates at the last general elections as lying humbugs in respect of the matter under consideration ; and I and other honorable senators on this side of the chamber were candidates at the last general elections.
– Senator Foll did not refer to any persons in particular when he used those words, whereas Senator Sheehan has applied the _ terms complained of specifically to members of the Opposition in this chamber.
– I ask that Senator Foll first withdraw those words.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Senator Sheehan has distinctly called members of the Opposition lying humbugs, and the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) has said that those words are offensive to him, and asks that they be withdrawn. I ask Senator Sheehan to withdraw the words complained of.
– Should not Senator Foll, who used the words in the first instance, be first called upon to withdraw them ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No point of order was taken at the time Senator Foll used the words to which exception has been taken. Standing Order 272 provides -
Every such objection must be taken at the time when such words are used, and will not be afterwards entertained.
No objection was taken when Senator Foll used the words now complained of, whereas the Acting Leader of the Opposition has taken objection to them immediately Senator Sheehan used them. I ask Senator Sheehan to observe the standing order I have just quoted, and to withdraw the remarks complained of.
– I took exception to the words when Senator Foll used them.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator did not object to the words when Senator Foll used them. He did not rise to order, but in order to speak to the clause under consideration. The honorable senator should have asked for the withdrawal of the words when Senator Foll used them.
– As Senator Sheehan is disobeying a ruling of the Chair, I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that you take action under Standing Order 273, which reads -
If any sudden disorder shall arise in Committee, the President shall resume the Chair.
Senator Sheehan is defying the Chair.
– I am asking that Senator Foll withdraw his imputation that honorable senators on this side of the chamber who were candidates at the last general election are lying humbugs.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I believe that all honorable senators will agree that no objection was taken, as provided by Standing Order 272, at the time Senator Foll used the__ words now complained of, whereas the Acting Leader of the Opposition took his objection immediately Senator Sheehan used them. Therefore, Senator Sheehan’s request, that Senator Foll withdraw those words cannot now be entertained. I again ask the honorable senator to withdraw the words to which the Acting Leader of the Opposition takes exception.
– Does not Standing Order 272 relate solely to Standing Order 270, which deals with objections taken to a decision of the Chair, and, therefore, does not apply in this instance ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Senator Sheehan is not taking exception to my decision, but to the words used by Senator Foll.
– In deference to th» Chair, I withdraw the words to which the Acting Leader of the Opposition takes exception. I now ask that Senator Foll withdraw his remark that all government candidates at the last general elections, who included the Leader of the Senate and myself, were lying humbugs so far as the matter now before the committee is concern 6 el
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Standing Order 272 provides that “ Such objection must be taken at the time “. In these circumstances I cannot ask for b withdrawal of the remarks objected to by Senator Sheehan.
– This is the last time that honorable senators opposite will get away with it. They have already got away with too much in the course of this debate. The Government has given them a “ fair go “ but so far as I am concerned this is the last time. During the last few days we have listened to-
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I draw your attention to the fact that Senator Sheehan is making threats, which, I submit, he has no right to do when speaking to a point of order.
– The point of order has been disposed of. Senator Sheehan is continuing his remarks on clause 33.
– I am replying to arguments used by honorable senators opposite in urging that certain action be taken. Senator Poll said that as the result of the Government’s majority in this chamber, an injury was being inflicted upon the returned soldiers of the last war, who at the moment are enjoying preference under existing legislation. The honorable senator claimed that this measure would take certain rights and privileges away from these men.
– The bill says so.
– The bill does not say anything of the kind. It provides that they will retain their present employment. Any person at present employed by the Commonwealth Government will continue to be so employed until such time as he retires or leaves his job for other reasons.
– Where is that in the bill?
– It is not always necessary for this. Government to specify its intentions in black and white. The returned soldiers remember the treatment they received from governments of which honorable senators opposite were supporters. During the regime of antiLabour administrations, thousands of returned soldiers lost not only their jobs, but also their homes, because of the conditions under which they were forced to live. Those governments refused on every occasion to make it possible for these men and their families to enjoy a reasonable living standard, yet honorable senators opposite now have the audacity to make imputations against this Government. They should be the last people in the world to talk about imposing intolerable conditions upon any section of the community. Despite the preference legislation introduced after the last war. many thousands of returned soldiers were unable to get jobs. This Government is determined to ensure that returned men of both this war and the last war shall receive a fair deal. This measure provides that they shall receive the benefits to which they are entitled. Anti-Labour governments gave only lip service to returned soldiers. In the course of this debate I have heard nothing but hypocrisy and humbug from honorable senators opposite. They should be ashamed of their efforts to make charges against this Administration. The records of the governments of which they were supporters will not bear inspection.
– Apparently the honorable senator has forgotten the years from 1929 to 1931.
– In those years the people of this country suffered because the proposals of the Scullin Government were blocked by an anti-Labour majority .in this chamber. Honorable senators opposite are endeavouring to make political propaganda out of this legislation. They talk of their sympathy with the returned soldiers and shed crocodile tears; but throughout the years the policy of their supporters outside Parliament has been to exploit the community to the fullest by paying as low wages as possible. They have endeavoured to break down almost every improved condition which has been won by returned soldiers co-operating with their fellow workers in trade unions; yet they talk to-day of alleged attempts by this Government to deprive returned soldiers of their rights! Possibly, honorable senators opposite, as. individuals, do not approvathese tactics; but in this chamber they represent a section of the community which is interested only in profits. Whether a worker is a returned soldier or not, when he is no longer able to contribute to the profits of the organizations for which he works, out he goes. I have stood the charges of honorable senators opposite long enough, and I do not propose to stand them any longer. Next time, I shall see that the Standing Orders of this chamber are invoked without delay.
– I have listened with interest to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) and’ to Senator Poll, and I can quite understand Senator Sheehan’s resentment. Senator Foll endeavoured to make political capital out of this clause. The facts are as Senator Sheehan has stated. As a matter of fact, he did not go far enough. After the last war, preference to returned soldiers was observed only by State and Commonwealth Governments. I do not say that all private employers did not do anything for exservicemen, but there was not any obligation upon them to employ returned soldiers, and to a great degree they ignored the matter. There are at least three members of this committee who were in this chamber when the waterside workers’ regulations were introduced by an anti-Labour administration. The effect of these regulations was to squeeze off the waterfront of Australia over 1,900 “ dinkum diggers “. “Was any protest made by Senator Foll on that occasion? No. An industrial dispute occurred and those men had a certain grievance. They took precipitate action, against which both Senator Sheehan and I fought strenuously. The Government of the day, led by the now Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, introduced the “Dog Collar Act” which forced between 1,800 and 2,500 “ diggers “ from the waterfront of Australia, not for a week, a month, or the duration ofl the strike, but practically for all time.
– They were not allowed to join the federation.
– They were members of the federation when the regulations were introduced.
– They had a separate organization.
– The honorable senator is showing his complete ignorance of the facts. The casual waterside workers’ organization came into being a long time after the dispute to which I am referring, which occurred in 1928. I know the facts, because I interviewed the Attorney-General of the day, Mr. Brennan, in an endeavour to have the dispute settled. I did not want the men to be deli censed and I suggested that they should be allowed to go back to work and dealt with in another way. A list of the number of the men, including returned soldiers, who were taken off the waterfront was recorded in Hansard. When the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill was under consideration in this chamber, Senator Brand submitted an amendment providing for preference to exservicemen, but that preference could apply only in respect of the Commonwealth Public Service and government contracts. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser), who was in charge of the bill, pointed, out that it would bp a mistake to include a preference provision in that measure, and the Government fought hard to prevent that amendment from being inserted on the ground that it did not relate to repatriation. A promise was given that the Government would later bring down a proper preference measure, recognizing, first, the rights of ex-servicemen, and, secondly, the rights of other members of the community who were entitled to consideration. I know that 500,000 mer. were out of work in Australia at that time, and that the “ digger “ went into the discard with the others. If anything has been made the plaything of party politics, it is the treatment of the returned soldier. Why do not those who make these wild charges remember that 90 per cent, of the men who enlisted in the forces were members of trade unions. Senator Foll said thai ex-servicemen could not join the unions, but I happen to be at the head of a union that has membership of 100,000 men. If ex-soldier members of the union had a grievance, they conferred with the union and we quickly had it rectified. Some oT the men who were elevated to the highest positions in the organizations had seen war service. A man who has been successful in war is usually successful in other respects. His experience in wai gives him the courage of his convictions. The remarks, of Senators Leckie and Foll are most improper. An attempt has been made to gain party political capital out of this issue, but the fact remains that the Government has looked after every section of exservicemen as well as their wives and children. When I rationed beer supplies, I found that men employed on tha home front were getting beer when men in operational areas were going short of it. A discussion took place between the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator fraser) and myself, and we decided that those serving in operational areas were to -have priority. We should not be squabbling now over a principle which has been discussed in dealing with at least three previous clauses.
– This clause affects the whole body of ex-service men and women. About 330,000 persons went overseas during the last war, and their rehabilitation in civil life was a matter of deep concern to the authorities throughout, Australia. Preference in employment was encouraged and adopted in. practice, without legislation. As the result of the action taken by both government and private employers, twelve or eighteen months after the cessation of hostilities in 1918, fewer than 7,000 persons were registered for employment. That was a very effective repatriation effort. At present we are concerned with the reestablishment in civil life of approximately 1,000,000 persons. The proportion is not so great as it may seem, because the population generally has increased considerably in the last 25 years. I suggest that the problem confronting us again is to enable those who have had war service to become ordinary citizens as quickly as possible. The suggestion that complete rehabilitation should be achieved within seven years is ideal, but this war has been far-reaching in its effects, and almost the whole of the civil population has to be demobilized, before we shall get back to normal times. In these circumstances I hold the opinion that no limitation should be provided in respect of preference to ex-service men and women. For at least five years after the cessation of hostilities employment will be in a continual condition of flux. At the end of that five years the people will be more or less satisfactorily placed in employment. That is a condition which we all hope to achieve. The exserviceman who is satisfactorily placed will say, “ I have got this job and with the aid of preference I shall have a chance to make good “. But under this measure., two years after conditions become normal the protection will be withdrawn. The bill takes away far more than it gives. The repeal of the existing preference would do great injury to many ex-ser- vicemen. I heartily support the views expressed by Senator Leckie.
.- During the last war preference in employment to ex-servicemen operated only in the Commonwealth Public Service, and all of those persons who have permanent jobs in the Commonwealth Public Service at present, as the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Keane) bas pointed out, will continue in that employment. The limitation of seven years will give the Government a chance to review the legislation with regard to rehabilitation and preference in employment to members of the fighting services at the end of that period. A review of the circumstances at that time is guaranteed. I bitterly resent the accusation made by Senator Foll this afternoon. I say without fear of contradiction that the way in which returned soldiers were made use of after the last war constitutes one of the greatest scandals in Australian history. They were pushed from pillar to post in every sphere of employment. No matter where they were working or by whom they were employed, if one of them spoke out of his turn he would be dismissed, whether he was an ex-serviceman or not. I have been a member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League from the day when I was discharged. Even in the government service, if a man asked for a fair deal, the eyes of those in charge would be on him, and whether he was a returned soldier or not, he would be sacked at the first opportunity. The Minister in charge of the bill has said that over 1,900 returned soldiers were victimized by a Government formed by the Opposition parties as the result of legislation passed in 192S relating to waterside employment.. Those men were put out of employment because they did not do what the Government of the day wanted them to do. Yet honorable senators opposite are hypocritical enough to talk about preference. There can be no preference under the capitalist system. Where men have to compete in private employment the “boss” always employs those who will return to him the most profit, and the returned soldier can go to hell. That has always been the policy of private employers and it always will be. I should like to see the patriot who would put the interests of the returned soldier before profits. The class represented by the Opposition exists on the labour power of the workers, and never puts patriotism before profits. This clause provides that the preference shall cease to operate after seven years from the cessation of hostilities. I contend that that provision cannot do the returned man any more harm than is done to him under the capitalist system because, he will always be exploited by private employers.
– I was pleased to hear the remarks of Senator Foll because they show where the Opposition has stood in the past and the views it still holds. I doubt whether Senator Leckie believes what he has said, lie is always asking for facts. I shall adopt the same attitude. Is it not a fact that, when this legislation comes into operation, soldiers of the last war will be entitled! to all the benefits for which it provides?
– Then what will they lose?
– They will lose everything after seven Years
– The whole of the preference will disappear seven years after the cessation of hostilities. I am in favour of that provision because I believe that incompetency cannot continue for ever. If a soldier has not fitted himself, for a job within seven years from the end of the war, he will never do so, and the country should look after him. We must have regard for the younger generation which is growing up. Assuming that the war lasts another two years, the period for which this legislation will remain in force will not expire for another nine years-. How old will the men who fought in the last war be then? The remarks of honorable senators opposite are only so much political propaganda.
– This clause applies also to the younger men.
– I am against the continuance of preference because the young generation now growing up must be given a chance. The sons of men who have been killed in this war ought not for ever to be kept out of jobs. In a capitalist world, there must be efficiency. A period of seven years should be sufficient to re-establish the servicemen of this war. Honorable senators opposite who have spoken against the bill have used different arguments. Some have said that it is no good whatever; others, that the men will just be getting used to it when the seven-year period will expire; still others have said that it will be after the end of the seven years from the cessation of hostilities that men will need to be given preference. If things are going to be so bad seven or nine years from now as the remarks of honorable senators opposite would make us believe, it will be a world hardly worth living in. I do not believe that any person could seriously put forward the arguments advanced by Opposition senators. The Acting Leader of the Opposition . (Senator Leckie) specifically referred to soldiers of. the last war. Does he think that in seven or nine years’ time Australia will be such a poor country that men of 59 or 61 years of age will be looking for jobs in the Commonwealth Public Service? The protests which have emanated from the Opposition are so much ado about nothing. This subject has been discussed at length, and it is time that we got on with the business before us.
– I am sorry that heat has been engendered in the debate, but it shows that the charges made by Opposition senators are true and that Government supporters aro angry because of it.
– I am not angry; I sympathize with the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator does not show his sympathy in the right way. He raises his voice and speaks vehemently. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) says that the existing laws relating to preference have given preference only in the public services of the Commonwealth and States.
– That is so.
– It is not so, but let us assume that the statement is true. In that event, returned1 servicemen were at least given preference in the various public services.
– What preference did they get in industry?
– They were given preference there too. I know of hundreds of employers who insisted on giving preference to returned soldiers. The honorable senator knows that that is true of the majority of employers. Doubtless, there were exceptions.
– The only preference given by many employers is preference to dividends.
– That is a -cheap gibe. Senator Grant asked for facts. His own leader has said that the only preference given by the existing legislation was preference in the public services of the Commonwealth and the States. That preference will be taken away by this bill.
– How old will the men of the last war be seven years from the cessation of hostilities?
– That is not the point. This bill deals also with men who have fought in the present war. They will be of varying ages, from, say, 22 to 45 years. They will have many years of work to look forward to, and they will naturally look for jobs which will enable them to enjoy some comfort. One way to help them will be by appointing them to positions in the public services of the Commonwealth and the States. Those servicemen who, because of the preference given to men who fought in the last war, were appointed to Public Service positions have, for the most <part, rendered satisfactory service. Many thousands have enjoyed the benefits of preference. I want the men of the present war to enjoy similar benefits. Honorable senators opposite say that during the next seven years there will be plenty of employment for all.
– I did not say that.
– (Seven years after the end of the present war the preference to be given under this legislation will cease. ‘That means that a privilege which men who fought in the last war have enjoyed for 25 years, and which men of the present war have a right to expect, will not be available. To whom will this bill give preference?
– The honorable senator has come back to that point again?
– .Yes. It cannot be repeated too often that the preference to be given under this bill will not be given to ex-servicemen only.
– This is total war.
– The honorable senator has asked for facts. The facts arc that this bill takes away from the fighting men of the last war a privilege that they have enjoyed for 25 years, and also robs the fighting men of the present war of prospects that they have a right to expect. In this legislation the fighting men are being mixed up with other sections of the community; yet the Government says that this bill will give preference to the fighting men.
– Previous governments gave preference to the fighting men, but did not provide them with jabs.
– The Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) is talking nonsense. Before the depression, about 6 or 7 per cent, of- the working population of Australia was unemployed. That means that most workers had jobs. Surely the Minister does not contend that the whole of the people in that 6 or 7 per cent, of unemployed were returned soldiers. I doubt whether 1 per cent, of them fought in the last war. The Minister must know that in the Commonwealth Public Service alone preference has been given to between 50,000 and 60,000 men who fought in the last war. This clause will rob soldiers of the last war of valued privileges, and will deprive the fighting men of the present war of what they have the right to expect.
– Men who fought in the last war will not be looking for jobs in tie public services of the Commonwealth and the States seven years after this war ends. They will then be too old to be appointed. They were not given preference in private employment.
– There was preference in private employment after the last war. Men were entitled to reinstatement in their former positions.
– Reinstatement was optional. This bill makes it mandatory.
– Honorable senators who say that there was no preference in private employment after the last war’ are incorrect. It is true that during the depression some returned soldiers were out of work.
– Thousands of them could not get a job.
– Only a small proportion of those who were out of work were returned servicemen. The underlying .purpose of this bill, which is to take away something of value and replace it with something of little or no value, does not appeal to me. A degree of feeling has been created over this issue. At the same time, I hope that the Government has not lost its judgment altogether, and will not deprive ex-service personnel of what is legitimately their due, which it can easily provide for them without acting unfairly towards any other section of the community.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) is an expresident of the Chamber of Manufactures. [ take this opportunity to tell him and his colleagues that when this measure becomes law private employers will not be able to ride their old stalking-horse by telling ex-service personnel that they can get jobs in the Commonwealth Public Service. Personally, I do not like the expression “ preference to soldiers “. It is nauseating to me, and to all ex-soldiers, because the need to give preference in employment does not arise unless employment cannot be found for everybody. The need for preference arises only through lack of work. The point that is worrying the Acting Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues is that after this measure becomes law, any future government politically akin to Opposition parties will be obliged seven years hence to provide for preference to ex-service personnel in the Commonwealth Public Service. I remind honorable senators that the Stevens Government in New South Wales, sixteen years after the war of 1914-18, took such a course for party political purposes, when it passed legislation to provide preference to ex-service personnel in municipal and semi-governmental employment. In taking such a step it merely extended the preference already existing in the Public Service, but, at the same time, it took fine care not to place upon private employers a similar obligation. I believe that immediately this measure becomes law, the interests represented by the Opposition parties will find the money to test the constitutionality of this legislation in the hope of obtaining a judgment from the High Court, which will give to private employers the chance to say to ex-service personnel who apply to then for employment, “ We would give you a job in preference to other persons, but the High Court has ruled that wo need not do so “. I admit that there are returned men in this country who use their positions in returned soldiers organizations merely as stepping-stones for their own social advantage and individual benefit. Only last Saturday, the executive of the Returned .Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia decided to throw in their lot with the Opposition in opposing this measure. That body, which has always proclaimed itself to be nonpolitical, has always been political, although the rank and file of its membership are not of the same mind politically. I have spoken to many members of that organization, and I know that they do not want preference, but are more concerned that employment shall be provided for everybody. They do not want a sevenyear job. They want permanent employment, and in a country with our vast resources I can see no reason why employment cannot bc provided for everybody.
– What preference did they give to the honorable senator after the war of 1914-18?
– None. I and thousands of other returned men of that war were just the scum of the earth so far as private employers were concerned. We returned from overseas with a great flourish of trumpets. Many of those men have died prematurely because they were unable to obtain employment. Today, however, circumstances are different. This Government is determined to compel the boss to give back to ex-service personnel their former jobs. It will not be a case of giving preference to exservice personnel merely in the Commonwealth Public Service. Otherwise, there can be no doubt that, despite the exserviceman’s wounds and the sacrifices he lias made in defence of the nation, including private employers, his former boss in many cases would take the first opportunity to refuse to re-employ him simply because he did not like the way he wore his tie, or parted his hair, or because of his political outlook. Yet, at the same time, the same interests, through the mouthpiece of the Opposition parties, talk about preference to ex-service personnel. 1 shall do my best to ensure that the men who have defended this country and protected the interests of all of us shall receive justice when the war is over. The Government must ensure that all ex-service personnel are .provided with employment in callings suited to their ability, and that ex-servicemen whose health has been destroyed while on active service shall be paid an adequate pension. What the ex-serviceman requires is not preference in the Commonwealth Public Service, but a guarantee of continuity of employment, and the means to provide adequate food and clothing for himself and family.
.– [ did not intend to speak again on this clause, but for certain remarks made by Senator Lamp, in which he made a scathing attack upon private employers so far as the employment of exservicemen is concerned. Senator Grant spoke in a similar strain. He said that the only preference the .private employer wanted was preference to make dividends, f am aware, of course, that honorable senators opposite have very strong views in relation to what they call the capitalist system. They use every opportunity to rave against that system. But what are the facts so far as private employers are concerned? It is most unfair to make the sweeping statement that the average private employer sets out to victimize the returned man. Every honorable senator knows that very many large private employers have made substantial concessions to employees who enlisted for war service. Such employers encouraged men to enlist, and upon their enlistment they contracted, without any encouragement or direction from the Government, to make good any monetary loss of remuneration suffered by men as the result of their enlistment. Included among those employers are some of our great banking institutions, including the Commonwealth Bank.
– And they did the same thing in the last war.
– Yes; and many of our big mutual life assurance companies have given similar concessions to employees upon enlistment. Therefore, because there are a few bad employers, as there are a few bad employees, it is most unfair to make the sweeping statement that private employers generally set out to victimize ex-servicemen. I know scores of private employers who have established funds to assist dependants of members of their staffs who are in the forces.
– Where do they get the money to give those concessions?
– Regardless of the point raised by the honorable senator, to which, of course, one can give a satisfactory answer, the fact remains that those private employers were under no obligation to grant such concessions. Since the outbreak of war, all employers have been subject to pegged prices. And it is significant that no government has made similar concessions to public servants upon their enlistment. Preference involves more than the provision of a job. The principle of preference should apply also with respect to the status of the employment provided, and also promotion. I recall that when I was Minister for the Interior two members of the Commonwealth Public Service were applicants for one of the highest positions in the Service. One was a returned soldier and the other was not. As the policy of the then government was to give preference to returned soldiers - a policy reflected in the Commonwealth Public Service Act - the returned soldier was given the position. The preference clauses of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the Commonwealth Public Service Act represent an added safeguard, and that is why we wish to see them retained. Certain honorable senators opposite have alleged that after the last war returned soldiers were victimized, or that a vendetta was carried on against them. I am sure that even the honorable senators who made these charges know that they are not true.
I have had some experience of repatriation matters, having been Minister for Repatriation in the Lyons Government.
– Nobody said that there had been any vendetta against returned soldiers after the last war.
– ‘One would imagine from remarks of Government supporters that nothing at all had been done to assist returned soldiers after the last war. I remember attending an annual conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia whilst I was Minister for Repatriation, and hearing the federal president say that it was generally recognized that Australian repatriation legislation introduced after the last war was most generous, and was not equalled anywhere in the world.
– The PostmasterGeneral said almost exactly the same thing a few months ago, when he was Minister for Repatriation.
– Yes. The statement has been made by many Ministers. It is unfair to suggest that Australia did not fulfil its obligations to ex-servicemen. Any government which was guilty of such neglect would not remain in office long, and the fact that the government which introduced our repatriation legislation after the last war remained in control of the treasury bench for quite a number of years, is clear indication that, irrespective of its political colour, the people of this country appreciated its: efforts on behalf of the exservicemenHonorable senators opposite have made; sweeping allegations of disregard by private employers of any obligation to give preference in employment to returned soldiers. It must be remembered that until the so-called “new order” forecast, by honorable senators opposite becomes an accomplished fact, private employers in this country will be called upon to provide employment for 80 per cent, of the men returning from the war. “Why then charge private industry with having a “ set “ against ex-servicemen ? I know of one huge organization in Queensland - I know, too, that there are others not only in Queensland, but also in the other States - within which a sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was formed. The company provides a library, sports grounds, and meeting rooms for members of the sub-branch. I could cite for the information of honorable senators opposite a number of private undertakings in Queensland and elsewhere in which the principle of preference to returned soldiers is always observed, irrespective of the dictates of any government. The Australian employer is not a beast of prey; he is a good citizen whose interests, are those of the community.
Senator Grant said by way of interjection, that he always thought that I represented private enterprise in this chamber. I definitely do represent private enterprise, and shall continue to do so because I believe that private employers generally can do far more for ex-servicemen than can be done by any government instrumentality.
Although the preference provisions which this bill will delete from the Commonwealth Public Service Act do not go so far as we would have liked, they undoubtedly represent a substantial advantage to exservicemen. Preference to returned soldiers will be observed at least in both Commonwealth and State government employment, and in the employ of government contractors. I ask honorable senators opposite to believe that we on this side of the chamber are not playing a game of politics. We are in earnest in addressing ourselves to this important matter. The preference provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act have been in existence for a quarter of a century, and have come to be valued greatly by returned soldiers. Why strike them out now? In my view the members of this chamber - I believe that Senator Grant is one of them - who have always expressed definite opposition to preference to returned soldiers are to be admired infinitely more than those who claim to believe in preference, but support preference of the kind provided in this measure, which virtually means preference to none. When the seven-year period expires, and the preference clauses of this measure cease to operate, there should be every protection in the Commonwealth Public Service Act for returned soldier employees. I urge the “Government not to be adamant on this issue, but to agree to the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie).
– It is quite true that so far as granting preference to ex-servicemen is concerned there are good and bad employers. That all employers are not alike has been proved over and over again in tike arbitration courts. A fair employer does not mind a matter being taken to court for determination, whereas an unfair employer objects to that course. The real test of the sincerity of honorable senators opposite in their professed sympathy for returned soldiers is an examination of the record of the governments of which they have been supporters. Without going into details, I can say without hesitation that on many occasions during the terms of office of anti-Labour administrations, opportunities to give preference to ex-servicemen have not been seized. I remind the Opposition that, despite the increasing cost of living, the war had been going for two years before the anti-Labour Government then in office increased the pay of soldiers, and that even then, the increase was only 6d. a day. It was not until a Labour Government assumed office that any real steps were taken to improve the lot of soldiers and their families, but now that honorable senators opposite are on the Opposition benches, they endeavour to make political capital out of this measure because there is a time limit of seven years upon the preference provisions. I point out that legislation providing for preference in government employment beyond the seven-year period, is already in existence in several States. As Senator Lamp has pointed out there might be constitutional difficulties in the way of an outright preference scheme.
– Such difficulties would not affect Commonwealth employees.
– I do not suggest that they would. I remind honorable senators opposite that no attempt was ever made by governments of which they were supporters to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to include any of the benefits now proposed in this measure. I admit that Senator Collett has always worked sincerely in the interests of returned soldiers, but if there had been any sincerity in the professed sympathy of anti-Labour administrations with the principle of preference to returned soldiers, they would have started by applying that principle to the formation of their cabinets, but that was not done.
– Half of the members of the Menzies Government were returned soldiers.
– It is quite easy for the Opposition to subject the Government to >a barrage of interjections because it does not propose to do this or that for ex-servicemen. It is true that after the last war many private employers gave preference to returned soldiers, but as Senator Lamp pointed out. with most of them it was primarily a question of dividends and profits. Throughout this war many private organizations have made up the pay of their employees in the forces. 3 am reminded of the man who endowed a hospital ward at a cost of £20,000. Above the door was a plaque stating that the ward had been endowed by so-and-so, whereas in fact it should have read, “This ward has been endowed by the Commissioner of Taxation “. Out of that £20,000, at least £1S,000 should have been paid in income tax. Private banks, life assurance societies and other institutions which are paying 18s. 6d. in the £1 in income tax find that it suits them to make up the difference between military and civil pay of employees who are in the fighting forces. That expenditure is included in overhead charges, and, consequently, results in a reduction of income tax to those who are affected by taxation. I am not denouncing the employers, because they have done a good job in paying a portion of the wages of employees who are serving with the forces. I merely point out that the whole of that money is not subscribed by the employers, because, in effect, it is subscribed indirectly by the Commonwealth Government. If honorable senators opposite believe in preference to exservicemen, they should have supported that principle after the last war, and should have shown an example to the people of Australia. I could give details of cases in which ex-servicemen were displaced after the last war by men who were not returned soldiers.
– Has the Minister ever tried to get a returned soldier “ sacked “?
– Not to my knowledge. Whatever I may have done will not exonerate members of the Opposition from the charges which I have levelled against them. The measure of their sincerity is to be found in their actions, and they have not adopted in the past the principles which they now support.
.- I am concerned about the welfare of men who served in the last war and have received temporary employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. If the existing preference were repealed, returned soldiers could not be sure of appointment to temporary positions. One or two honorable senators have stated that the preference provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act have not been observed. A week or so ago I asked the secretary of the Postmaster-General’s branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Victoria whether those provisions were operating satisfactorily, and lie said that they were. He remarked that whenever a vacancy arose inquiries were made in order to ascertain whether a returned soldier was available for the job, and if he were he received the appointment. I maintain that if section S3 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act were repealed, returned soldiers now holding temporary positions in the service would have to line up and compete for their jobs with “ cold-footers “ and “ red-raggers “. I asked Senator Amour if. after his return from the last war, he had ever applied for vocational training and he replied, “ No. I did not know that anything of the kind was available “. I told him that 20,000 men who returned, from the last war received vocational training.
– It would be unfair to single out Senator Amour, because on his return from the last war, he was under hospital treatment for years.
– I have no desire to be unfair to him. When I was military commandant in Victoria there was a. liaison between the Melbourne TradesHall and the Repatriation Department on employment matters. A contribution of 40 per cent, of the award rates was made by the government of the day, and a similar contribution was made by theemployers, to enable the wages of exsoldier trainees to be increased to the award rates.
– ‘Returned soldiers employed at full rates were put off so that jobs could be given to men undergoing vocational training.
– I know nothing about that. Out of 27,000 ex-servicemen in the Commonwealth Public Service, 9,256 are permanently employed and 1S,000 are temporary employees. The average age of the returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service would be about 47 years.
– Those who are now in the Service will not be interfered with.
– Whilst I give every credit to members of the present Government for having brought the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act up to date, I remind honorable senators that an allparty committee of returned soldier members of this Parliament waited on the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) and pointed out to him that that act should be overhauled because of certain anomalies. I have since asked for the appointment of another committee to consider other anomalies but without result.
– On several occasions .Senator Leckie has said that he does not understand Scottish, and I have come to the conclusion that he does not understand English. Senator Brand, who is put forward as the champion of exservicemen, obviously has failed to appreciate the provisions of this bill, which supersedes the provisions proposed to be repealed ; but preference to ex-servicemen will still operate. Of course, if there are two applicants for the same job, only one of them can secure it. If a temporary employee in the Commonwealth Public Service is put off, the provisions of this bill will immediately operate in his favour.
Various factors, such as the nature and length of his service and the locality of his service, will he considered. I am astonished at some of the remarks of Senator Brand. The honorable senator admits that the average age of exservicemen of the last war is about 47 years. That means that should the war continue for two years, their average age then will be about 49 years, and after another seven years, 56 years. As the Commonwealth Public Service Act does not provide for the appointment of men over 51 years of age to clerical positions, honorable senators are taking up the time of the committee in talking about jobs for men five years after they will be ineligible for appointment, if that is not reductio ad absurdum, I do not know what is.
– I understand that this bill will come into force when assent to it is given. That assent may be given next week. These temporary employees may be put off next week.
– They will still come under this legislation.
– . Senator Grant either is given inaccurate information from “ the corner “ or he presents it inaccurately to the committee. He has got thing3 a little mixed in his references to servicemen of the last war. We are concerned chiefly with the fighting men of the present war.
– The honorable senator has shifted his ground. He now admits that what I said about the men of the last war was correct.
– Those who came within the provisions of earlier legislation providing for preference were soldiers whereas the persons who will come within the provisions of this legislation will not all be returned servicemen. That that is so was made clear by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who said that he believed in preference, but that every man and woman in Australia was entitled to consideration because of what he or she had done for the war effort. The Minister must be grateful for the heavy artillery behind him which has been used in the debate. I repeat that this bill deals with a great many other persons than returned fighting men. What concerns me chiefly is that it provides for preference to other sections of the community, and that the preference to fighting men will expire seven years after the cessation of hostilities. Senator Grant said that he does not expect that there will be any trouble in providing jobs during the next seven years.
– I did not say that. I wish I could be sure that that will be so.
– The honorable senator seems to be sure that at the end of seven years-
– I cannot ‘be sure of anything seven years hence. I cannot even be sure of what the honorable senator will do next.
– The honorable senator may be sure that it will be something sensible. Some of the arguments of Government supporters are plausible, others are foolish. But they must be answered. I want honorable senators who make charges against private employers to bear in mind that probably 70 per cent, of present-day employers and their managers are returned servicemen who will not see an injustice done to other fighting men. Private establishments have contributed their full share of fighting men. I regret that wild and unfounded charges have been levelled against private employers generally.
-What about the charges of “ lying humbug “ made by Senator Foll against Government candidates at tlie last general elections? He started the bush fire, and other honorable senators opposite have poured kerosene on the flames.
– Should the Government not agree to restore the existing privileges after seven years, it will do a great disservice to soldiers and other fighting men, and the people of Australia will resent its action.
– Although the arguments of Senator Leckie have not impressed me, I have been impressed by the changed attitude of the Opposition during the last hour or so. I was reminded of a phrase used frequently in connexion with the
European war, when it was said that certain forces had “ retreated according to plan “. The Opposition has retreated from the position it took up earlier in thedebate.SenatorFoll attempted a gallant defence of private employers. I am sorry that he took as his example of good employers the banking institutions and large insurance companies. It is well known that during the last war many of their young male employees enlisted. In order to make upfor the deficiency in man-power those institutions employed women and girls for the first time. I have no objections to the employment of females in jobs for which they are competent. Those institutions promised their male employees that if they enlisted their jobs wouldbe awaiting them on their return; but, unfortunately, when the soldiers returned their jobs were not there for them. The employment of women in banks was unknown before the war of 1914-18; to-day many positions in such institutions are held by women. That is because employers can get competent labour at lower rates of pay.
– Does the honorable senator say that the banks did not take back their male employees who returned from the war? They took them back and they also retained the girls.
– Many vacancies were never filled.
– The banks made up the difference in the pay of their male employees.
– Some of them probably did., but the exceptions from the rule were numerous. The fact remains that these institutions employ female labour because it is cheaper.
– Women have a right to work.
– Yes ; but they should be given equal pay for equal work. That the interests which honorable senators opposite represent do not stand for that principle is shown by their action in trying to prevent the Women’s Employment Board from functioning. I speak from experience of the struggle that I have had to ensure that returned soldiers from the last war were given a fair deal. When it suited employers to do so, preference was given to returned servicemen, but other employers relied on the qualification, “ all things being equal “. If a returned soldier was not considered suitable for the position, he was told that the employer was sorry, but that the job had been given to some one else. Honorable senators who stand for interests which treated returned soldiers of the last war in that way now have the audacity to charge the present Government with hypocrisy. The changed attitude of honorable senators opposite during the last hour is, I hope, an indication that they will be more careful in the future.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (SenatorLeckie’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator W. J. Cooper.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause consequentially amended.
– I move -
That, after the word “ shall “, the following words be inserted: - “in respect of any employment the weekly remuneration for which exceeds six pounds.”.
The clause provides that the preference provisions shall cease to operate at the expiration of seven years after the cessation of hostilities. The object of my amendment is to continue those provisions in respect of ex-service personnel whose weekly remuneration does not exceed £6. I have in mind, particularly, exservicemen who engage in seasonal work or who, owing to partial disablement, are not capable of filling positions for which the remuneration exceeds £6 weekly. Such men, for the most part, will receive small wages or very little above the basic wage, and at the expiration of the seven-year period they will still be in a state of flux, shifting from job to job. They will probably suffer recurring illnesses, or, because of wounds, will be incapable of “ sticking out “ a job. “We must provide preference for them after the seven-year period, and I believe that this safeguard should be provided now. They should retain benefits provided’ under this measure after the seven-year period, because their troubles will not end in seven years. We shall always have seasonal workers such as shearers, fruit-pickers, flax-cutters, and the like, who continually shift from job to job. It is all very well to say that they have jobs throughout the year, but they have to arrange to get the same job, say, six months in advance, or find another job. Many of them will either be unwilling or incapable of holding a permanent- job. No provision is made under the measure for men of that class, whereas others who undergo training will be able to enter a trade before the end of seven years, or, if placed in permanent jobs during the seven-year period, will be able, gradually, to work themselves to higher positions. No one can deny that a certain proportion of ex-service personnel will always be incapable ofl earning over £6 weekly, or will have to rely on casual employment.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment, because it sees no reason why an income limit should be fixed in respect of preference.
– I am not surprised, but grieved at the Govern ment’s attitude on this matter. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has not given any reason for opposing the amendment He is content to ignore, absolutely, the rights of lower-paid ex-service personnel, who, at the end of the period of seven years, will be obliged to fend for themselves. Honorable senators opposite will have some difficulty in explaining to incapacitated ex-service personnel in receipt of low incomes why they refuse to continue that protection after the expiration of the seven-year period.
– The clause provides that the preference provisions shall cease to operate at the expiration of a period of seven years, and the objective of the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) is that preference shall continue after that time in respect of ex-service personnel whose weekly remuneration does not exceed £6. As the honorable senator has pointed out, many ex-service men and women will require preference after that period in many classes of employment. Take, for instance, the case of a man who has lost an arm. He may have a job as a liftman, but should he he obliged to relinquish it owing to illness, or other causes, he will not be given preference in applying for another jab, perhaps, as a doorkeeper, or watchman. The amendment would protect the interests of such ex-servicemen. If there is one amendment which the Government, should accept, it is this amendment. The Minister did not give the slightest reason why it should not be made. I am sure that if the honorable gentleman reads it again, he will realize what its effect will be on disabled, men whose injuries are due to war service, and will accept it.
– I should not have arisen to participate in this discussion had I believed that there was any sincerity amongst honorable senators opposite in supporting this amendment. To single out certain sections of the community in this way and to say to the returned soldiers, “ This is the best that we, as your representatives in Parliament, can do for you”, would be shameful. The amendment proposes that at the expiration of the seven-year period, preference should still be given to men earning £6 a week or less; but what about the intermittent worker? He may receive £10 one week, £2 in the following week, and then be unemployed for several weeks. He would not be eligible for .preference. When an intermittent worker is in employment, he usually receives more than £6 a week, hut generally speaking, he does not receive an average of £6 a week. If that is the best that honorable senators opposite are prepared to offer to the men who have been fighting for them, then God help us in the future should an anti-Labour administration ever again assume control of the treasury bench. This Government is endeavouring to guarantee economic security to all exservicemen. Senator Brand suggested that at some time in the future there might be a scramble for jobs by “ coldfooters “ and “ red-raggers “. The honorable member who claims to represent the working soldiers should remember that this Government called (up all men eligible for military service and, that many men to whom the honorable senator referred as having had “ cold feet” pleaded .to be allowed to leave their jobs and join the .fighting forces. They were refused permission to do so because their work on the home front was regarded as essential. These men - technical men and skilled artisans working ten hours a day - stood behind their colleagues at the fighting fronts. The Opposition apparently is prepared to give preference to members of the forces who served in base areas, to many of whom the war has been a godsend, but not to genuine workers. I repeat that the amendment is entirely lacking in sincerity and is further evidence of the political humbug of honorable senators opposite.
.- Apparently Senator Aylett has a good deal of sympathy with the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie), because he has expressed the view that its terms should bo altered to include certain other individuals, namely, intermittent workers. To meet that point, I am sure that the Acting Leader of the Opposition would agree to an alteration of the amendment to specify instead of £6 a week, an annual remuneration of £312. That would provide for the inclusion of the intermittent worker. I realize that the wages of many of these workers are high when they are in employment, because of the intermittent nature of their work. 1 recall that when one ofl the sugar canecutting award’s was being made in Queensland, the judge fixed a wage which made it possible for men to earn sufficient money during their period of employment in the seasonal occupation of cane-cutting, to ensure a reasonable standard of living throughout the whole year. Similar provision is made for workers engaged in ‘harvesting, slaughtering, shearing, and in other seasonal occupations. Senator Leckie’s amendment seeks to make special provision for men who, at the end of the sevenyear period of preference, because of disablement or for other reasons, have not been able to earn a wage of £6 a week or more. I repeat that the Acting Leader of the Opposition, I am sure, would not hesitate to alter his amendment to specify £312 per annum instead of £6 a week, if that would have the support of Senator Aylett. I credit Senator Aylett with more intelligence than some of his colleagues. He has drawn the attention of the committee to an anomaly which would be created if the amendment were agreed to in its present form. Apparently, he is more alive to the needs of these men than are some other honorable senators opposite. I do not think that it is unreasonable to ask the Government to safeguard the interests ofl lowerpaid members of the community by continuing to give them preference in employment after the -seven-year period has elapsed.
– I would agree to Senator Foil’s suggestion if I thought that Senator Aylett or any other honorable senator opposite would support the amendment in another form, but I am afraid that whatever its wording may be, it will not be acceptable to the Government.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Leckie’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator W. J. Cooper.)
Majority …… . 8
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- I ask the committee to vote against this clause, which is the most controversial in the bill. Under clause 27, an ex-serviceman has some semblance of a chance to obtain preference, but under this clause, his. chance after a period of seven years is non-existent. During the last federal elections, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gave his pledge to introduce a measure which would deal fairly, justly and effectively with preference to the fighting forces. I believe that he was sincere when he made that promise, which gained several thousand votes for the Labour party, but if this clause represents the Government’s idea of a fair and just deal, the Government is certainly not in agreement with the ex-servicemen’s organizations. The federal executives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which has a financial membership of over 200,000, the Limbless Soldiers Association, the Legion of ex-Servicemen, and the Fathers Association have all protested, either by deputation or correspondence, against clauses 27 and 33 of the bill. Clause 33, which should be deleted, slams the door on the very men who have done the fighting on land, sea and in the air and those who have had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the enemy. A fair proportion of these men will be able to take their places in the industrial life of (he community well within seven years. But what of those who will take long periods to recover from war disabilities or loss of vitality? Such recovery must take place before a course of vocational training can be commenced to fit them for some trade or profession. What of those whose disability recurs, or reveals itself only long after the soldier has been discharged as medically fit? I know of scores of cases in which a disability caused during the war of 1914-18 developed ten years or more after the Armistice had been signed. Is the inability of these men to regain their health and. learn a trade within seven years to debar them from preference? If any member of the Parliament or other public man had dared to advocate such miserly preference to our splendid young “ diggers “ when the Japanese were being driven from Milne Bay and over the Owen Stanley Ranges in New Guinea, they would have been howled down. Clause 33is an example of rank injustice to exservicemen who may not, within the specified period, he able to make up the leeway lost as the result of fighting for our protection. Until that leeway is made up, the “ shandy-gaff “ preference provided in clause 27 will be worthless. Some honorable senators who support the Government have expressed the fear that, if preference were unlimited, a serviceman’s younger brother, son, or father might be prejudiced when applying for employment. That fear does not square with the Government’s policy of full employment for all. What is the average age of the ex-servicemen who will be entitled to preference, such as it may be? I estimate that the average age of the real fighting man, on discharge, will be 23 years. How many of these men are married? Even if some of them marry when they are discharged, it will be eighteen years or more before their sons are ready for jobs. By that time, the fathers will be settled in employment for which the sons would be unlikely to compete. The same situation arises in relation to an ex-serviceman’s father, who, after the seven-year period has elapsed, will probably be more than 50 years old. As for young brothers, I believe that they will be grateful to their big soldier brothers for having contributed their share to the security of Australia’s future and averted the possibility of Japanese competing for jobs on lower scales of wages. It is unlikely that young brothers will be affected. A few such cases did occur after the war of . 1914-18, but the main principle of preference should not be discarded, to the detriment of those who have earned it because of a few isolated cases. Some of the supporters of a limited period of preference will raise any sort of argument in support of their contention, whether it bo unsound or not.
In view of the progress that has been made in vocational training in recent years, I am particularly emphatic that clause 33 should be deleted. Up to the 1st, June, the number of applicants for training under the Government’s scheme was 11,228, and I assume that this number included civilian applicants. Of these, 5,173 applicants were accepted for training; 801 of them were engaged on full-time courses and the remainder on part-time courses. If this is the best that the Government can do in twelve months, what will happen when the fighting forces begin to demobilize? A big percentage of the 600,000 men still serving are still between 21 years and 25 years of age. Ministerial announcements indicate that the procedure on demobilization will be to release first the married men with families, and then the men belonging to key industries and those who have employment waiting for them. The young men, whether married or single, will be the last to be discharged. It may take from twelve to eighteen months from the cessation of hostilities to bring these young men home and discharge them. These lads have probably had very little industrial or other kind of training. In all probability their preliminary industrial or professional training was interrupted when they were called up for service. The time limit on preference would militate against their chance of securing any advantage at all from the Government’s re-establishment scheme, especially if they should be suffering from a war disability. What is the reason why slightly more than 50 per cent. of those who have sought vocational training under the Government’s scheme have not been accepted for training? Is it lack of facilities, or lack of instructors? Surely, after five years of intense industrial effort, there should be ample facilities for establishing a training scheme. Perhaps, the true reason is that many of the applicants were over the age of 21 years when they began their war service. The general opinion is that the age limit of applicants for training should be increased to 25 years at the time of enlistment, instead of being restricted to 21 years and under. Clause 33 should be deleted so as to give the young ex-serviceman an opportunity to prepare himself for employment. As the clause stands, the opportunity may not be available. Bather than take any risk, it would be better to abolish any specified period.
– In view of the fact that the subject of this amendment has been debated at length, and that I have already indicated that such, amendments were not acceptable, the Government will not agree to this amendment.
Question put -
That the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator W. J. Cooper).
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 37 agreed to.
Clause 3S - (1.) An apprentice who has been absent from his usual employment by reason of his being engaged on war service may, within two months after he ceases to be so engaged, make application to an Apprenticeship Authority for the revival of the contract of apprenticeship.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (I.), the word “two” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ six “.
Under this clause an apprentice is required .to apply for reinstatement with his former employer within two months after his discharge from service. That period is too brief. I could use all the argument that has been used on the clauses dealing with the appointment of Reinstatement Committees and Preference Boards, regarding the mental and physical distress caused to these young men during their war service, but 1 shall not labour the point. In this case, special consideration should be given to these lads, many of whom joined the armed forces after serving only a part of their apprenticeship. In order to provide for these cases, in Western Australia at any rate, the State Arbitration Court has suspended the articles of apprenticeship until the youths return to their employment. The period of two months specified is too brief, particularly in view of the fact that there is no authority which the apprentices can approach in order to secure an extension of time. In answer to suggestions made from this side of the chamber regarding the period permitted to elapse between the cessation of a soldier’s service and the date upon which he must resume his former employ ment, the Minister (Senator Keane) said that, if the employee was not fit to resume work he could apply to a Reinstatement Committee for an extension of time. That is provided for in the bill. The Government should have included a similar provision relating to apprentices. As the bill stands, if an apprentice fails to apply for reinstatement within the two months specified the employer may petition to have the apprenticeship terminated forthwith.
– Clause 39 covers the case.
– The only words I have doubt about in clause 39 are “ or other reasonable cause “. I have submitted my amendment because we should not make too stringent a provision as to the period within which apprentices must resume their duties.
.- The period of two months, which was introduced by the Menzies Government under the National Security (Apprenticeship) Regulations, is reasonable and has been found sufficient in practice since 1939. Obviously, the amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
.- Even if the period of two months operated satisfactorily in 1939, it is not necessarily acceptable in 1945. .Senator Allan MacDonald is to be commended for having brought this matter to the notice of the committee. No doubt many apprentices will wish to visit their home before they resume their former occupations. Clause 39 provides that if an apprentice has failed to lodge an application within the prescribed period, he may be granted an extension of time on application to an Apprenticeship Authority. The apprentice might decide to engage in different work from that to which he was apprenticed before the war, and if the Minister will not accept a period of six months, at least four months should be allowed.
– The two months provision has been included out of consideration largely for employers, and I thought that members of the Opposition would have been quick to detect that. Obviously, employers will need to make arrangements for their post-war activities as soon as possible after hostilities cease. They will need to know what arrangements must be made by them for staffs, particularly if some of their employees have been absent from Australia on active service. It will also be in the interests of employers for them to know how many apprentices they must provide for. It would be unreasonable not to fix some period, and the period of two months has been selected as a reasonable one in which to enable employers to make up their minds as to their requirements and to afford employees an opportunity to give notice of their intentions. Under clause 39 the application to cancel an apprenticeship must be made by the employer after the period of two months has expired, and the Apprenticeship Authority will not consent to that application unless it is satisfied that the apprentice did not have a reasonable cause for failure to notify the employer. There is no time limit on that. The apprentice could be given six months after his discharge from the forces. One reasonable cause for failure to notify would be ignorance on the part of the apprentice. I am sure that if an Apprenticeship Authority were convinced that failure to apply within two months was due to ignorance on the part of the apprentice, it would take care that ;he was not penalized because of his lack of knowledge. I consider two months to le a reasonable period, having regard to the fact that the apprentice is protected from a too stringent application of the provision by reason of clause 39, whilst the employer receives reasonable notice.
– It is a strange argument to say that this clause is in favour of the employer. Clause 36 states that where an apprentice has become or becomes engaged on war service, and an Apprenticeship Authority has not already been notified, by the apprentice’s employer, the employer shall forthwith notify the authority accordingly. How is the employer to know that an apprentice has been discharged, if the latter does not make his presence known; but the employer who fails to notify an Apprenticeship Authority is liable to :a penalty of £50. Having had experience on the Apprenticeship Com mission in Victoria, I am well aware of the difficulties in dealing with employees between the ages of 19 and 22 years. Some of them cheerfully abandon their whole career when they have only another three months of their apprenticeship to serve. They may do this because somebody offers them a job, or because of some domestic trouble. Do honorable senators opposite imagine that the first idea of young men on their return from the war will be to get back into employment? Having been fighting overseas for five years or more, they will be wondering whether they can get a job better than that which they left. They’ will probably be painting rosy pictures about their future. They will perhaps consider trying a different kind of job for six months in order to discover whether they like it, and subsequently they may desire to return to the trade to which they were apprenticed.
– They have not to start work within two months, but must merely make application.
– They would then have to start work within a month or within whatever period might be allowed to them, but it is a strange argument to say that this clause favours the employer.
– The employers will want to know what their former apprentices desire to do.
– The Minister is anxious to look after the interests of the employers, but will the Army authorities notify them when the apprentices have been discharged? ‘They may be discharged in Brisbane and may not reach their home States for a month or more. How would the employers know whether the men had been discharged, or whether they were even back in Australia? If the employer does not notify the prescribed authority forthwith, he is to be fined £50.
– Why do employees join associations?
– His association cannot watch the interests of every em- ,ployer. Many members of the services have been discharged already, and many of them do not desire to go back to the jobs to which they were apprenticed. Will the Government undertake to notify flic employers that their former apprentices have been discharged?
– Any difficulties of that kind would be ironed out.
– From my experience of the last eleven or twelve years, T know that young apprentices have to be treated with understanding. Thousands of young apprentices who enlisted were in the fourth or fifth year of their apprenticeship. In Victoria alone, from 2,800 to -3,000 apprentices joined the services, and many others were prevented from doing so because they were employed in essential industries. A period of two months is not sufficient. After eleven years’ experience, I advise the Government to increase it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 39 to 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 (Modification of conditions of entry into employment).
.- I should like an explanation of this clause, which seems to empower the Government to interfere at any time with the curriculum of a university or a training college, or to alter the terms of apprenticeship. Under this provision the Government could reduce the period of training for a doctor to, say, four years, or the term of an apprenticeship from six years to three years, and so on. Does the Government think that it would be wise to interfere with educational authorities which, after many years’ experience and the example of similar institutions in other countries to guide them, have decided that certain periods of training are necessary? What sort of workmen would we have if the period of training were reduced out of all proportion to the time necessary to make a good artisan? It would appear that the Government does not realize what this clause means. Is it intended, for instance, that after, say, two or three years a lad is to be regarded as being a fully trained carpenter? The position would be different if qualifying examinations were provided for. The clause . authorizes the Governor-General to make regulations modifying the requirements, in relation to the passing of any examination or the holding of any degree or diploma, to be complied with by persons desiring to engage in any profession, occupation, business,- trade or industry. Does that mean that the requirements of various boards which hitherto have set examinations for accountants, auditors, and other professional callings may be interfered, with? If the clause means what I think it does, it will empower the Government to interfere with the decisions of educational authorities, and .to certify that a discharged member of the forces shall be eligible to enter upon a course of university training without the necessary preliminary qualifications.
– The Commonwealth could not override State laws- in regard to such matters.
– If that be so, why has the Commonwealth Government set up a Universities Commission, under Professor Mills, to decide how many students may enter on university courses, and what subjects they shall take?
– Under National Security Regulations alien doctors may be registered, but the power to register them will cease six months after the termination of hostilities.
– That limitation will not apply in these cases. Australian educational institutions have gained a world-wide reputation. For instance, Australian degrees in medicine and law are recognized throughout the world. On the other hand, men with medical degrees issued by some overseas universities are not recognized in Australia because their standards are not considered to be sufficiently high. Does the Government desireto lower our standards by interfering with the training of professional men and others? Is it intended that a man who has undergone a part of a course in medicine and then has had a couple of years in a field hospital shall be recognized as a qualified doctor? If that isto be the standard of the medical men who will be associated with the Government’s free medicine scheme, I can only say that it is a poor outlook for theirpatients.
.- Subclause 1 is drafted in wide, terms so asto ensure that no legislation or practicewill unduly stand in the way of the- proper re-establish ment of members of the forces. In particular, paragraph a may be required to meet the case of trainees who may wish to enter certain occupations as, for instance, that of an electrician, in which a definite term of training under specified conditions is prescribed. The term and the conditions may differ from those under the reconstruction training scheme and adjustments may be necessary. Under paragraph a, alterations may be made to any requirement that a person shall hold a licence or other authority, either personally or in respect of premises on which he conducts his business. A considerable number of businesses are subject to licence, &c, whether by legislation or the practice of the occupation. The effect of sub-clause 3 is to override any inconsistencies in any law. Commonwealth or State. The Government will not use these powers except on the advice of the Universities Commission or the Directorate of Industrial Training. It is not the Government’s intention to interfere with established practices, as Senator Leckie suggests, but it is necessary to take wide powers in order to meet a wide range of circumstances. The powers will be used with discretion.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 46 (Establishment of the Commonwealth Employment Service).
.– Does this clause mean that in those States in which there is already an efficient labour office, as is the position in Queensland, the State authority will be scrapped in favour of a Commonwealth authority? I raise this matter, particularly in relation to Queensland, because already the Acting Premier of that State, Mr. Hanlon, has made it clear to the Commonwealth Government that he will not abolish the State Labour Office, although he is willing to make available the machinery that exists in Queensland for the purposes of the Commonwealth. I understand, however, that he has been notified that that is not sufficient and that the Commonwealth Government is determined to establish its own employment office. Addressing the Australian Labour party conference in Sydney a few day» ago, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is reported to have said that although the controls of labour would cease when the National Security Act no longer operated, and that in future men would be allowed to choose their occupations, that freedom was subject to the proviso that the work in which a man wished to engage must be for the good of the nation. Who will decide that point? The individual may have a different idea on the subject from that of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, especially after the Minister has consulted with his advisers. I should like to know whether the Government intends that the State employment offices shall be superseded. If so, it may lead to a great deal of duplication of effort. I remind the committee that at the last referendum the people of Queensland, by a majority of two to one, rejected a proposal to give greater powers to the Commonwealth at the expense of the State. 1 hope that we shall not see ii Commonwealth Employment Service superimposed on existing State instrumentalities.
.- This clause provides for the establishment of a Commonwealth Employment Service and enables the Minister for Labour and National Service to establish and maintain Commonwealth Employment Offices at such places in the Commonwealth as he deems necessary. This matter is being discussed with the State governments, including the Government of Queensland. It cannot be said that the administration of Commonwealth Jaws and regulations by State officials has been a success. I do not know whether that is because State officers have a restricted outlook, but the fact remains.
– This clause means that man-power controls will become permanent.
– No ; it means that until the defence forces are completely demobilized and industry reorganized on a peace-time basis, we must have some register such as was taken in conjunction with the recent issue of ration books. There can be nothing wrong with that. I agree with Senator Foll that we should not create a new department if we can avoid doing so by achieving smooth working between existing authorities.
– It seems to me that the Government’s idea of achieving smooth working is to squash any other bureaux already existing in this field, that is, to socialize employment bureaux or any other bodies that happen to be operating in that particular sphere. Whether or not that be the objective of the Government, the point I make is that it should not try to sneak such a provision into a bill of this kind. If it proposes to set up a Commonwealth Employment Service it should do so under a separate measure; but clause 47 (b) sets out one function of the Commonwealth Employment Service as follows: - to provide facilities to assist in the reestablishment of civilians who have been engaged in war work. and paragraph g of the same clause reads - to provide such advice and information services, and such other facilities in relation to employment, or to matters connected with employment, as the Minister determines.
Will the advice and information service be along the lines that “A” must go to this job and “ B “ must go to that job, whether or not they wish to go to those jobs? That is what we are afraid of. The Government is taking power to itself which is at variance with the acknowledged purpose of the measure. I am satisfied that ex-service personnel could be better looked after by a body concerned only with their needs rather than a body which is to look after the needs of civilians as well; because any body of this kind must have a divided loyalty. No provision is made to give preference to ex-service personnel over civilians so far as this service is concerned. Presumably, in the Commonwealth Employment Service no preference is to be given to ex-service personnel over civilians. The insertion of this clause in the middle of a measure of this kind uncovers the underlying intention of the Government, which, as I have already said, is not to provide preference to ex-service personnel but to look after civilians as well. If the Government insists that an ex-serviceman must not obtain work in any other way except through this service, we shall witness long queues of ex-servicemen and civilians waiting their turn at these registries, whereas many of them would prefer to be looking for jobs for themselves.
– I have seen long queues standing outside factory gates waiting for employment.
– A man with a little bit of “ go “ does not stand for too long in a queue. He prefers to look for a job for himself. Possibly the honorable senator has had experiences which have made him biased in these matters. Possibly, they made his heart burn. But, Australians will only win out by the exercise of individual enterprise and initiative and not by waiting for the Government to find them jobs.
– In the depression many looked for jobs on their own initiative without success.
– The honorable senator will admit that once the Scullin Government was put out of office, Australia emerged from the depression quicker than any other country, including the richest country in the world, the United States of America.
– In the first two years of the regime of the Lyons Government 28 per cent. of our people were unemployed ; and that was after we had emerged from the depression.
– Surely, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) will not deny that Australia emerged from the depression quicker than any other country, and that this improvement immediately followed the expulsion from office of the Scullin Government. Is it proposed under this measure to set up a Commonwealth-wide employment service which will exercise sole power to direct persons to employment?
– Or, will persons registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service include civilians, and will they have first preference as against some one who looks for a job on his own initiative?
.- A special organization will be set up within the Commonwealth Employment Service to look after ex-servicemen specifically. Lt will be known as the Rehabilitation Service, and will be staffed by exservicemen. Therefore, the interests of exservice personnel will be well looked after. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) need have no worry about them.
– Oan the Minister for Trade and Customs (iSenator Keane) explain what the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) meant when he stated recently to the Australian Labour party conference that after the war persons would be allowed to go to jobs which they choose themselves, but that the occupations they choose must be for the good of the nation. What did the Minister mean when he said, “For the good of the nation”? Did he mean to imply that there will be some continuation of the direction to employment after the National Security Act lapses? Or will the citizen have absolute freedom after the war to select his own occupation?
– 1 am not aware that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) made the statement attributed to him. If he did so, I do not know what he had in mind. All I can say is that until from 800,000 to, 900,000 of our people are rehabilitated in peace-time industry the government qf the day, regardless Qf party, must exercise some control over man-power. In the case of ex-service personnel, I have already stated that when a man is discharged he is his own boss. He cannot be directed ; but there will be a special Service department for the registration of ex-servIce personnel which will be staffed by ex-service personnel. In such circumstances, the interests of ex-service personnel will be completely safeguarded.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 47 (Functions of Commonwealth Employment Service).
– I understood the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to say that two employment bureaux will be set up. One of them will deal with the employment of ex-service personnel, and the other with the employment of civilians. Whilst they will act in co-operation, they will not have anything to do with each other. It must be clear that in such, circumstances these bodies will compete with each other, the first doing its best to obtain all available jobs for ex-service personnel, and the other striving to gain the same jobs for civilians.
– Does the honorable “senator prefer the “ open go “ system?
– The point I make i.i that the Commonwealth Employment Service should be limited to ex-service personnel, If one body is to look after the employment of ex-service personnel, and a second body is to look after employment for civilians, it should be laid down that preference must be given to exservice personnel over civilians. That would satisfy me; but the Government proposes to set up two bodies which, obviously, will endeavour to outbid each Other. Chaos will be inevitable. Therefore, I make my. protest against this provision.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) [8.58 j. - The bureaux to be set up within the Commonwealth Employment Service will do away with the scramble for jobs which we witnessed after the last war. Both exservice personnel and civilians will register foi’ employment, and the respective bureaux will advise applicants where to go to obtain employment. If for no other reason, this proposal is welcome because it will do away with the unscrupulous employment agent, who, in the past, has made a harvest by charging fees of from 5s. to 10s. for directing persons to employment. And it will also be of benefit to the employers in search of employees, because it will relieve them of those fees which they customarily paid to employment agents in the past. We must re member that the employment agent “got it “ both ways. I ask the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) whether he would not prefer the bureaux to be set up within the Commonwealth Employment Service, which will be capable of directing all applicants to employment free of charge to themselves, to the private employment agent to whom the approach of an applicant in the past was, “ I will pay you 10s. if you can find me a job; and if you get me a job within a week I will pay you £1 “. Does the
Acting Leader of the Opposition wish to see our ex-service personnel and civilians exploited in that way? Should queues line up outside these bureaux to be set up within the Commonwealth Employment Service, they will be waiting to be directed to jobs, and, therefore, will be far preferable to the queues which lined up at various centres in the past waiting to collect the dole. I should like the facts to be quite clear in the mind of the Acting Leader of the Opposition.
– As I have already pointed out, there will be a Commonwealth Employment Service within which there will be a section dealing specifically with ex-servicemen. This will not be a different organization as has been suggested by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie). No charge will bc made by the Commonwealth Employment Service. The hybrid registry offices to which the honorable senator has referred are atrocious organizations, and in the city of Melbourne at least have been responsible for grave abuses in the past. They will not be used in this scheme. Lt is hoped that the Commonwealth Employment Service will make its way by rendering good service to members of the community who are seeking employment. This is completely new legislation and will be administered by several Ministers. Its effectiveness can be gauged only after experiences of its operation. For instance, although ‘a seven-year limit is placed upon the preference provisions, the whole matter will be re-opened at the end of that period, and if any additional safeguards for a particular section of the community are regarded as necessary, the legislation can be amended accordingly. It is quite possible that imperfections will be revealed when the scheme is put into operation.
– Apparently the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has not studied paragraph a of clause 47 which provides that one of the duties of the Commonwealth Employment Service will be - to afford Occupational advice, vocational guidance and other services to facilitate the engagements in employment and continued em ployment of persons in the manner best suited to their experience abilities and qualifications.
Apparently a person seeking em ploy - ment will walk into an office of the Com: monwealth Employment Service and thus join the great band of form-fillers which has grown with alarming rapidity since this Government has been in office. After filling in fourteen or 48 forms at this office the man will sit down and wait for something to happen. The Minister has certainly not clarified my mind in regard to this matter. It is obvious to me that the civilian side of the organization, and the section dealing with ex-servicemen will be in conflict. It would be much better to have separate organizations altogether if this proposal is to be adhered to. Any one reading this measure can appreciate readily that it is not designed to help only ex-servicemen. It is designed to benefit a vast number of others who were never at the battle front or in the fighting forces. That is the whole burden of my objection to this measure.
– I rise to deal with the statement of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) that this bill is designed to help persons other than discharged members of the forces. I say emphatically that it is designed primarily to assist discharged members of the forces and incidentally, as in the case of the matter that we are now considering, to help other people. The Acting Leader of the Opposition raised the question of possible conflict between the department of this organization dealing with discharged members of the forces, and the other department dealing with civilians seeking employment. The honorable senator inquired which of these departments would be given preference. I point out that the concern of the Commonwealth Employment Service will be not to give employment, but simply to act as an agency to bring the parties together so that instead of employers and employees groping for each other in the dark, their meeting will be arranged for them. The question of preference in employment, which is set out in another division of the bill, is a matter which will arise as between an employer and a prospective employee. It is perfectly clear that a discharged member of the forces who follows the procedure laid down by the preference clauses, will unquestionably, if he survives the various matters which have to be considered, get preference over civilians. Accordingly, the statement of the Acting Leader of the Opposition cannot be supported. I am certain that the honorable senator himself realizes that, and my object in speaking on this clause is merely to draw the attention of the committee to facts.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [9.6].- Following upon the explanation of this clause given by Senator McKenna, which incidentally is somewhat different from that given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), I should like an assurance from the Minister that the use of the Commonwealth Employment Service will be voluntary; that employers and employees will not be compelled in accordance with any regulations that may be issued, to use this instrumentality.
.- The answer to the honorable senator is that the clause means just what it states. A question has been asked by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) and by Senator Foll, and I have endeavoured to answer it to the best of my ability.I do not intend to repeat myself.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 48 - (1.) The Minister may appoint such committees as he thinks fit to advise him on matters relating to the administration of this Division. (2.) The members of committees so appointed shall be paid such remuneration and allowances (if any) as the Minister determines.
.- I move -
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a.) The majority of members of such committees shall have had war service”.
I move this amendment for the same reasons as similar amendments were moved earlier in the bill, namely, to safeguard further the interests of exservicemen by ensuring that boards and committees set up by this legislation shall consist mainly of men who had had war service.
– Many committees will be set up under this and other clauses. Some of them will deal with highly technical matters, and it may not be possible to ensure that a majority of members of each committee shall have had war service. However, so far as practicable the Government will follow that policy. The amendment moved by Senator Foll is not necessary.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 49- (1.) The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, establish a scheme, to be known as the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, for the vocational training (including training for a professional occupation or for an agricultural occupation) of such classes of discharged members of the Forces and of other persons as are prescribed. (2.) The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, make arrangements with any State for the use, for the purposes of this Part, of any services and facilities of the State in relation to vocational training (including training for a professional occupation or for an agricultural occupation).
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “and of other persons” be left out.
I move this amendment on behalf of Senator Cooper who is occupying the chair. Under the clause as at present drafted any civilian may be brought into the vocational training scheme. The clause does not specify that preference shall be given to returned soldiers. The existing National Security Regulations relating to the age of vocational trainees provide, I understand, that any one who joined the services after reaching 21 years of age will not be eligible to participate in this scheme. I regard those regulations as being too restrictive. I do not think that men of 22 or 23 years of age who returned to this country after war service will have lost their desire to be trained in a trade or calling which will return to them something more than the basic wage. I suggest that the Minister re-examine this matter with a view to raising the age limit. We have passed through extraordinary times and have had to implement some extraordinary measures, involving exceptional risks; but we are dealing with exceptional men. I have no doubt that in the forces to-day there are many hundreds of men who hope that upon their return to this country they will be given training in some vocation or other.
Sub-clause 6 of this clause provides -
The Commonwealth may, subject to such conditions as are prescribed, pay tuition and other like fees on behalf of persons undergoing training under this Part.
I have no quarrel with that provision, but I should like to see it made a little clearer. Exceptional circumstances exist to-day because of the shortage of houses, boarding accommodation and restricted travelling facilities. To find accommodation commensurate with the allowance which they receive under thevocational training scheme, many returned soldiers have to live in distant suburbs. In some cases this involves payment of as much as 15s. a week in fares. I ask the Minister if he will reconsider this matter, with a view to giving more consideration to men who have to travel long distances to attend universities and school in the course of their vocational training.
.- The words “ and of other persons “ cannot be deleted. It may he necessary to bring within the provisions of the bill members of philanthropic organizations attached to the forces, members of the merchant navy and members of other groups. The training scheme is primarily for ex-servicemen, and such men will receive priority in training. I have made that clear already on a number of occasions. In my second-reading speech, I said that many categories of ex-servicemen would be eligible for post-war training apart from those who enlisted under the age of 21 years. These categories will be continually under review, and new categories will be added if necessary. I repeat that, if errors occur in the operation of the legislation, they will be rectified.
.- Earlier this evening, I drew attention to the fact that, since the 1st July, 1944, 11,228 persons have applied for vocational training and only 5,168 have been accepted for training. Is this due to the age limit? According to the Minister’s second-reading speech, an applicant for training is required to have been under 21 years of age at the time of enlistment or call-up. That seems to be the reason why about 5,000 young men have been denied the special training that they need. If the age limit were increased to 25 years, the problem would be solved.
– Would the difficulty be due to lack of training facilities?
– That should not be the reason, in view of our intensive industrial expansion during the war.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.),after the words “ agricultural occupation “ the following words be added: - “, provided that any such arrangement includes discharged members of the forces of any age.”
Under existing regulations, only men who enlisted at the age of 21 or under may benefit from this vocational training scheme. Equal opportunities should be given to men who enlisted at the age of 25 years or 26 years. Most men are capable of learning a new trade at the age of 32 years, and many of them retain that ability to a much later age. Any ex-serviceman who can satisfy the authorities that he is capable of learning a new trade should be permitted to benefit under the vocational training scheme. I ask that the Minister increase the age limit.
.- The arrangement will cover all discharged members of the forces. That is the prime purpose of the clause, which is set out in sulb-clause 1. There is no qualification as to age in the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 50 and 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 (Saving of certain rights).
What is the meaning of this clause? It reads -
Nothing done under this Part shall deprive any employer or employee of any rights under any industrial award, order determination or agreement, or in accordance with any custom or usage in any profession, occupation, business, trade or industry.
I assume that it means that, if a man works in the coal-mining industry and is not a member of the appropriate trade union organization, as is the custom for workers in that industry, he will be debarred from the advantages of the scheme even though he be a returned soldier.
– The training scheme is an emergency plan to compensate for interference by the war wilh the training of service men and women. It provides for intensive training outside apprenticeship schemes. The trade unions and employers are co-operating fully, and each man trained will be welcomed into the appropriate union and will be recognized as a fully trained tradesman on the completion of his training in the school and on the job. The clause has been inserted in order to prevent the reduced period of training being used to lower industrial standards, for instance, by means of applications to the court to shorten the period of apprenticeship training by claiming that the unions agreed to shorten training under the scheme. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) commented on the unions. I remind him that there are also professional unions which insist on unionism, such as the Law Society, and the British Medical Association, the latter ensuring that, if a doctor is not a member of the association, he shall not be allowed to practise. That is a very good union. I wish that other unions were equally well organized.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 53 to 56 agreed to.
Clause 57 (Allowances to disabled persons).
– This bill has been examined carefully by the ex-servicemen’s organizations, and they consider that this clause is unsatistory. Allowances for disabled persons should bc payable for Longer than the maximum period of six months, according to the needs of individual cases. Very often, under orthopaedic treatment, a wounded serviceman takes more than a year to regain the full use of his limbs. Therefore, the restriction on the payment of allowances to three months, or in special circumstances six months, will be very hard on some men. Their disablement ha3 been incurred iu the service of their country, and there should be no time limit. Furthermore, when they arc fit to return to work they should receive all the benefits of preference. Medical men would soon sort out the malingerers from, the genuine cases, and there should be no difficulty on that ground. Sub-clause 2 reads -
The rate per week of any allowance payable to a disabled person under this section shall not exceed the rate per week of the allowance which would be paid to that person if he were in receipt of a re-employment allowance under Division 2 of Part VI. of this Act.
That means that a disabled man will noi receive a very generous allowance, and will have only three months in which to recover from his disability and take up employment. If he has not recovered after three months he may, in special circumstances, have his name entered in the registry for six months, but no provision is made after six months have expired.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 58 to 60 agreed to.
Clause 61 (Advisory Committees).
.– I shall not proceed with an amendment which I had intended to move, because I accept the assurance of the Minister (Senator Keane) that panels of exservicemen will be called for and selections will be made from them. I shall watch with interest the class of persons appointed to the advisory committees.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 62 to 68 agreed to.
Clause 69 (Secrecy).
.- There is a suspicion that this clause may operate harshly in the case of a man who desires his record to be published. Provision should be made so that if an ex-serviceman desires his record to be published it may be done. Damaging accusations may be made about an exsoldier’s career andhe may desire to prove himself innocent of the charges. If he could not produce a document from the defence authorities showing that his record was clean, he would be at the mercy of anybody who chose to level foul charges against him.
.- There is a good deal in what the honorable senator has said, but the secrecy which officers administering this legislation will be called upon to observe is a useful precaution. I see no necessity for the fear expressed by the honorable senator. There would be no difficulty in obtaining official particulars of an ex-serviceman’s career in the forces, if it were necessary to produce them before a tribunal. If any difficulty should arise in this regard it will be investigated by the Government.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 70 to 74 agreed to.
Clause75 - (1.) Subject to this Division, the rate of a re-employment allowance shall be -
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (a), the words “ Two pounds ten “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “Three pounds five”.
I stated in my second-reading speech that the proposed re-employment allowance of £2 10s. a week was far too small.
.- The rate provided in the clause is deemed by the Government to be reasonable. An increased rate would destroy the incentive to seek employment, and, when the allowance for dependants was added, the re-employment allowance would exceed the basic wage. There is no necessity for the amendment.
– I urge the Government to agree to the amendment. The proposal in the clause is to allow only £2 a week in the case of a woman, butI understand that an amendment has been foreshadowed providing for an increase of the rate for a woman to £2 10s. a week. I should like the rate for both a man and a woman to be £3 5s. a week.
A mendmen t nega ti ved .
.- I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (b), after the words “ Two pounds “, the words “ ten shillings “ be inserted.
This amendment is consequential on the Government’s decision that the rate of re-employment allowance for exservicewomen should be the same as that provided for ex-servicemen.
– I congratulate the Minister on having “ seen the light “. As I stated in my second-reading speech, no differentiation should be made between the reemployment allowance provided for a man and that provided for a woman.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
The rate per week of the re-employment allowance payable to any person shall be reduced by the amount (if any) of -
any pension payable to that person or to any dependant of that person ;
.- I move -
That paragraph (a) be left out.
This clause takes into account a soldier’s war pension when computing his reemployment allowance. A similar provision appears in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act which I understand will be brought into operation in July. Previously, it was always considered that a soldier’s war pension was sacrosanct. It is not taxable, and cannot be garnisheed, but under this bill it is regarded as income. I have reason to believe that in the near future the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) will move for the deletion of that provision from the act referred to. Apparently, the Minister has realized the injustice of regarding a war pension as income. When this bill was before the House ofRepresentatives the Minister in charge of it (Mr. Dedman) gave an undertaking to reconsider paragraph a with the object of removing it, but so far I have not seen any evidence of such intention. Naturally, I am disappointed. In fairness to the war pensioner the amendment should be carried without argument.
– An identical provision was inserted by a previous government in regulations under the Australian Soldiers’Repatriation Act. It is necessary to take into account pensions and other income so as not to discourage men from seeking employment. The re-employment allowance will be granted for a short period in order to ensure that service men and women shall have some money to tide them over a short period of unemployment. All other income should be taken into account when considering the payment of a reemployment allowance. The amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
.- Does the Minister’s explanation of this clause mean that the re-employment allowance is not to be subject to a time limit? Some people would regard an allowance of this kind, plus a war pension, as a payment which should continue indefinitely. I understand that the basis of the re-employment allowance is that a suitable job will be found for the serviceman as soon as possible. If a person is not willing to take a job, will the reemployment allowance be continued? Hitherto, a soldier’s war pension has been regarded as sacrosanct and has not been included in his income for taxation and other purposes. In the early stages of our repatriation legislation pensions were liable to income tax, but following representations which I made at the time to the then government they were exempted from tax. I should like the Minister to make clear to the committee what the Government proposes in regard to the re-employment allowance.
– The Minister’s reply that identical words exist in regulations under the Australian Soldiers’
Repatriation Act leaves me unimpressed, particularly when I reflect that the increased cost of living more than counteracts any benefit which a soldier may obtain under that legislation. The pension should not be taken into account when considering the payment of a re-employment allowance. In the majority of cases the men who will be eligible for this allowance will not be in receipt of full pensions ; I should say that most of them would be in receipt of a 20 per cent. or 25 per cent. war disability pension, amounting to 10s. or 12s. 6d. a week. As I consider thatwar pensions should be sacrosanct, I support the amendment.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) must be aware that an alien who becomes unemployed may be granted a full allowance, whilst a soldier who has fought for his country will have his pension taken into account and a deduction made in respect thereof. That is not fair.
– I support the amendment. A war pension is not given to a man merely because he fought, but because he suffered some disability as the result of his war service. It is something given to him by a grateful country because he suffered some disability in its defence. It is a mean and despicable thing to take a man’s war pension into account when considering the payment to him of a reemployment allowance. A tremendous lot of lip-service is paid to the fighting man. I saw much of it during the eighteen months that I was Director of Recruiting in Victoria. When things looked grim, nothing was too good for the men who volunteered to fight. History has repeated itself time after time down the centuries. The fighting man is a great chap when fighting for his country, but after the fighting is over, those who made promises to him frequently resort to quibbling and mean practices. That is despicable. A war pension should be sacrosanct. The Government ought to be ashamed of itself for including this paragraph in the bill, especially as the allowance will continue for not more than three months or in special circumstances six months. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.
– I agree with Senator Sampson that there has been a lot of lip-service paid to the fighting man, but I remind him and his colleagues on the Opposition benches that a similar provision is contained in legislation introduced by a government which they supported, and in regulations under that legislation. Yet Senators Brand and Sampson charge the present Government with lack of consideration for servicemen because such a provision is repeated in this bill ! The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides that war pensions shall be regarded as assessable income. Previous governments which were in power for 25 years prior to the present Government assuming office raised no objection to this practice, but now that they sit on Opposition benches and have not to accept responsibility for the legislation that is enacted, they are prepared to promise the world to the servicemen. The present Government has done more for servicemen than was done for them by any of its predecessors. Remarks in that strain by honorable senators opposite ure mere eyewash. What did governments which they supported do in this respect? It is foolish to say that the present Government is inhuman in its attitude towards ex-service personnel, or that it has not the interest of the returned man at heart. It was not until two years after the outbreak of war that the Menzies Government increased the serviceman’s pay or allowances; and during a period of 25 years, preceding governments which were supported by honorable senators opposite did not liberalize the benefits provided under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
– Twelve amendments of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act were made in that period:.
– They were merely machinery amendments. They did not liberalize the benefits under that legislation in any way whatever. Therefore, honorable senators opposite are insincere when they talk of what they would do for ex-service personnel if they were in office to-day. The acid test is that governments which they supported were in office for 25 years, and had every opportunity to do something for the returned man, but did nothing for him in that period.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Fraser) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Superphosphate : Supplies fob Tasmania.
Motion (by Senator Keane) pre posed -
That .the Senate do now adjourn.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture certain facts regarding the supplies of fertilizer for pasture topdressing in Tasmania. These facts have been supplied to me in a statement which I have received from the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, and have been compiled in reply to a communication received by that body from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). The statement is as follows: -
We appreciate your action in bringing our remarks of the15th April to the attention of the honorable the Minister.
We feel that the matter has been advanced astage and that when the agricultural officers of the various States take a realistic view of the whole problem there should be some improvement in the position of this State. We think the first essential is to put all cards on the table and sweep aside any irrelevant matter.
The only question we have raised is that of better supplies of superphosphate for maintaining the sheep and cattle pastures of this State, and it is essential first of all to clearly distinguish allotments for priority crops from the requirements of non-priority crops.
It is clearly understood that a special allocation is first made to each State for the requirements of priority crops after the State and Commonwealth officers have decided what priority crops can be or must be grown in each State.T he balance of the superphosphate available is then divided amongst the States on the 1939-40 quota basis for non-priority requirements which include oats, wheat and pastures. If, therefore, pastures in one State can get double the 1944 quantity this year or one-half of normal usage, it is strange that pastures in Tasmania can only get 25 per cent. or 30 per cent. of normal usage in the sameyear. The only increase in Tasmania so far announced is from 20 lb. to 30 lb. an acre for fat-lamb raising and 30 lb. an acre would be far short of 50 per cent. of normal usage.
The Tasmanian Department of Agriculture distributes all that is available for non-priority crops to the best advantage. In all fairness to the State Department of Agriculture it is possible that the heavier demands on superphosphate for oats grown in this State may reduce the quantity of superphosphate available for pastures. If this is a material factor in the starvation of clover pastures then some extra allowance should be available for the oats so that the pastures will not suffer. This is only reasonable and logical as farmers have been specially urged to produce more oats for fodder and seed as well as grain.
It is submitted that under the circumstances there is a good case for the provision of additional superphosphate for the oats instead of starving the pastures for the benefit of the oats, if that is what is happening. It is as well to bear in mind that it would be futile to try and grow oats with less superphosphate than is allocated for oats now.
In a nutshell, as oats are needed, oats should have a preference. Extra superphosphate should be madeavailable for oats, and the rations for pastures should not be affected. The case for additional superphosphate for oats is all the stronger because oats and oaten buy are badly needed by the other States.
With regard to the examples quoted by the Minister: -
The special allocation of 3.000 tons in 1943 was for dairy-farmers - was a special allocation for a special purpose - and did not affectthe position as regards pastures for sheep or beef.
This deals with a distribution for priority crops and is entirely outside the question of pasture topdressing.
The Government knew that if it wanted the production of certain priority crops in Tasmania it would be necessary to make available the superphosphate in good time. So why make a virtue or claim credit for what was obviously a necessity from the Commonwealth point of view ? Also time was “ the essence of the contract”.
In any case, example No. 2 is absolutely irrelevant to the question at issue, namely, adequate supplies of superphosphate for Tas- manian pastures.
As regards No. 3, this also is totally irrelevant. The additional superphosphate needed in Tasmania over and above the superphosphatemanufactured in Tasmania is required for the priority crops, particularly vegetables, which can be grown to better advantage in Tasmania, and consequently the Government rules that these crops shall be grown in Tasmania.
Again the Minister takes credit for something that had to be done of necessity, and again “the example” is absolutely irrelevant to the question at issue. Nor have these things been done out of special consideration for Tasmania. Whether the Government admits it or not the fact is they have been done because the Government wanted vast quantities of potatoes and other vegetables and these things had to be done to get the production of those crops which could not have been produced in such quantities orso economically anywhere else.
It is encouraging to note that it is competent for Tasmania to present a case for special consideration and we will take steps to see that a proper case is presented.
The case for Tasmania is contained in our original memorandum as elaborated by the subsequent correspondence, and this will be made available to the officers of the State Agricultural Department to enable them to bring the matter up for discussion at an early date as suggested by the Minister.
What concerns us here and now is the serious deterioration in the general pasture position and the resultant effect upon the whole of the domestic economy of the State. The effects may not become fully apparent in the immediate future, but they are there and they are cumulative and will affect the overall position of this State two or three years hence far more than they are being felt to-day. The danger is very real and requires prompt action to avert or soften the crisis that is as sure to come as the dawn of the morrow.
It is credibly reported that sheep numbers in Tasmania are already down to the extent of about 20 per cent. on the pre-war total. This year the progressive decline will certainly be still more rapid.
I bring this matter to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in accordance with an undertaking which I gave.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 33 of1945 - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association; and Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 34 of 1945 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association.
No. 36 of 1945 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 36 of 1945 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 37 of 1945 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 38 of 1945 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 87.
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations- Order - Military powers during emergency.
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Prohibited places.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - No. 3 of 1945 - Co-operative Trading Societies.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - No. 7 of 1945 - Trustee.
Senate adjourned at 10.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450619_senate_17_183/>.