17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - As Acting Minister for the Army I wish to refer to the return of Australian prisoners of war from Europe. I have read in the press a number of references to complaints that Australians who have been released from prisoner-of-war camps in Europe were not given a fitting welcome on their arrival in Australia last Sunday and Monday. The Sydney Morning Herald referred, in a sub-leader, to a number of ex-servicemen having been entertained at Buckingham Palace by the King and Queen, and the Government is grateful to Their Majesties for paying that compliment to our soldiers.
The circumstances with respect to their arrival in Australia were very different, and the first consideration here was “What would the men desire J” They were returning to their homes and their loved ones. The press suggests that the Government should have arranged a procession, provided bands and flags, and paraded these men through the streets of the capital cities. I think that the newspapers have failed to gauge the feelings of the Australian people. We are all proud of the deeds of these men, who fought valiantly before they were captured. Will any one forget the bravery of our men in Greece, in Crete and in the North African campaigns? I am sure that the defence of Tobruk will not be forgotten.
Let me refer to the attitude of the soldier himself. After all, he is the person most concerned, and I am sure that his views should be considered. The men are home and are seeing their families for the first time for years. Do they want such reunions to be private? I say most emphatically that the wish of the men is that the reunions should he private. In support of this contention, I shall read a telgram which I received yesterday from a member of the contingent which arrived in Sydney last week-end. It states -
Home again by grace of God and Australian Red Cross. Press clamour for circus-like reception not necessary and was the one tiling which myself and mates feared as we approached Heads on Sunday. Sunday’s dignified home-coming mostpleasing also arrangements and efficient handling at Showgrounds left nothing to,, be desired. Was agreeably surprised to receive registered post yesterday, morning property left at base Palestine over five years ago. After over four years sojourn prison camps Italy, Germany the meeting with family and friends is great emotional strain and must be leapt private so do all you can to keep it so and you will have the esteem of those still to return. My grateful thanks.
That telegram, I believe, expresses the views of the men, and, therefore, I consider that the Government acted wisely when it decided that the arrival of these men in their homeland should take the form it did. As I have previously informed the Senate, I was present when the ship-carrying these men arrived, and I spoke to them on board the vessel. They were disembarked and taken to the Showground, and while there I saw how the arrangements in respect of medical examinations, payment, issue of ration books, feeding and other matters, were carried out. Everything was done in an efficient and orderly manner, and the men themselves were full of praise for the satisfactory arrangements that had been made. I hope that the arrangements made for last Sunday will he repeated on subsequent occasions. I saw the strain on the men and their dependants, and I agree with the sentiments” expressed in the telegram which I have read.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st June, (vide page 3421), on motion by Senator
That the bill be now read a first time.
– When the debate on this bill was adjourned last night, 1 was referring to the broadcasting of the proceedings of the National Parliament. I believe that the people of Australia want first-hand knowledge of what takes place inside these walls, and as certain interests, including a section of the press, seem to be desirous of discrediting our parliamentary institutions, it is timely that efforts should be made to broadcast the speeches delivered in the National Parliament. That may necessitate the appropriation of a sum of money for the installation of dual stations in certain areas where listeners have little choice of programmes, but in view of what hat been done in the Newcastle district to enable the people to select their programmes, I do not foresee any great difficulty in that connexion. I regard this matter as of such importance as to justify the installation in this building of a transmitter capable of supplying an additional programme. I am confident that the great majority of the people would welcome such broadcasts. Having regard to the large number of letters which I have received commending the broadcast of speeches in the House of Representatives on V-E night, I know that the people generally desire such broadcasts. In addition, it will be necessary to establish a national newspaper in order to give a true picture to the people of what is happening in Parliament. I have very vivid memories of the occasion when an ex-President of the Senate was obliged to expel the representative of the Sydney Daily Telegraph from the precincts of the Senate as the result of a publication in that newspaper of a certain picture. To-day in the same journal appears a disreputable cartoon allegedly depicting a scene in the House of Representatives. That cartoon is published for only one purpose, namely, to discredit Parliament. We must realize that there are many Fascists in our community who wish to destroy Parliament, and they are prepared to carry on subversive activities in that direction. What advantage is it to the people to see a cartoon of that character in their daily newspaper? The fact, of course, is that Ministers have much work to do while Parliament is sitting, and members themselves have to take every opportunity to attend to matters raised by their constituents. For these reasons, neither members nor Ministers can be present in the chamber throughout the whole of a sitting. I believe that a national newspaper would give to the people a true view of what happens in the Parliament. For that reason I hope that the Government will establish such a journal and use the Australian Broadcasting . Commission’s national broadcasting instrumentality for the same purpose. To-day, the Australian Broadcasting Commission publishes the A.B.C. Weekly, which circulates in all States. The news staff of that, journal could be employed to enable it to provide a complete news gathering service and develop the A.B.C. Weekly into a daily newspaper. Senator Gibson, who was chairman of the first Broadcasting Committee, will remember that when we discussed suggestions for the broadcast of proceedings in Parliament we approached the subject from the point of view that Parliament should have the opportunity to make known its views to the people, and not be obliged to rely solely upon newspapers in that respect. Ac that time, the committeeunanimously agreed that all parties in the Parliament should be given equal opportunities in such broadcasts. For instance, should the Prime Minister go on the air one night from 7 o’clock to 7.30, the Leader of the Opposition would go on the air on the following night at the same hour.
There are other reasons why action should be taken to curtail the newspapers in their abusive campaign against Parliament. The newspaper organizations have a subtle way of discrediting any individual. Some time ago in Melbourne, when discussing a matter which affected the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I had the temerity to ask the commission to give some attention to the latent talent of young Australians. I suggested that the commission organize a session somewhat along the lines of an amateur hour for the benefit of sons and daughters of our citizens who desire that the talent of their children be developed without being commercialized. The committee’s attitude on this matter has been widely supported, but, because I asked certain questions, the newspapers of this country claimed that I sought to drag down to the gutter the cultural level of the nation, and to destroy our art galleries and conservatoriums. The evidence given before the committee is public. I did not use any such words. When the newspapers were unable to obtain the news that they sought, they had their “ stooges “ write letters to them, which were published in their columns. Disreputable letters appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and other journals. When it was rumoured that the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was going to resign, every newspaper in the Commonwealth claimed that I had been in conflict with Mr. Cleary. I was not in conflict with Mr. Cleary any more than any other member of the committee was in conflict with him.
– But the honorable senator had one or two verbal clashes with him.
– No. I merely asked questions and Mr. Cleary was quite free to answer them as he wished. The honorable senator himself was a member of the Broadcasting Committee at one time, and he is quite aware that Mr. Cleary is well able to speak for himself and requires no urging. The campaign against me and against other members of the committee was continued for weeks. The West Australian claimed that it had authentic information that Mr. Cleary had resigned because of me. However, at a farewell given by senior officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Cleary gave certain reasons for his resignation, and immediately the press campaign against me was dropped. The newspapers did not even have the decency to admit that their attempts to discredit me and members of the committee were without foundation.
Whilst the campaign of criticism of my actions as chairman of the Broadcasting Committee was at its height it was alleged that I had stopped the broadcasting of anti-V.D. propaganda by the Department of Health in New South Wales. The Sydney Daily Telegraph published a statement by the Minister for Health in that State, who said that he had never known such action to have been taken before. I point out that the committee did not have power to stop these broadcasts. I would not have raised this matter had it not been for the statement of the State Minister for Health that one person in every ten in the Australian community was suffering from some form of V.D. I suggest that if the Minister really believes that to be true, he should consult with the medical authorities and examine statistics. I know, from my own knowledge, that this country is not as rotten as he would have us believe. I should like to see a national newspaper in which the truth of matters such as these would be published. I am sure that if a mistake were made, such a newspaper would have the courage to admit it. This attempt to discredit myself and the committee was made for a specific purpose. The Australian Press Association was seeking to form a syndicate through which all news of the proceedings of this Parliament would be disseminated to the big newspapers, and to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The committee objected. Ever since then, there has been a campaign to discredit the Broadcasting Committee, the Government, and, above all, the Parliament. Candidates for Parliament have stated that the parliamentary institution is declining, but I am wondering if that decline has been hastened since some of them were elected.
Recently I travelled from Alice Springs to Darwin, and since my return I have received letters containing suggestions that machinery and men able to do maintenance work should be allocated to that 900 miles of road in order to keep that highway in proper repair. It is a valuable and vital road to our nation, both from a commercial and defence point of view. The Northern Territory conies under the control of the Commonwealth Government, and although State instrumentalities have been working on the road, this Government should determine what authority should be set up to provide men and machinery for maintenance purposes. The standardization of railway gauges should be proceeded with as speedily as possible so that the main railway systems might be linked at the earliest moment. This also is vital for the defence of our country. Water conservation and irrigation undertakings require urgent attention. Not only should the Government advance money to establish irrigation systems but it should also resume land in the areas served by the irrigation channels and re-allocate it so that sons of farmers and soldiers might he able to ballot for it. Instead of making that land available at inflated values it should be leased in perpetuity and so give the settlers an opportunity to make a living.
-For 400 miles along the river Murray land which could easily be irrigated can be purchased for practically nothing.
– When I was at Deniliquin I was informed that land adjacent to irrigation channels would carry only one sheep to 10 acres. The price was £8 an acre, and to install irrigation involved a further £5 an acre. If a soldier has to begin by paying £13 an acre for his laudhe will not have much chance of making a living.
According to press statements it is. proposed to release a number of women from the various services. The time has arrived when all women other than nurses and Voluntary Aid Detachment personnel should be released. If women are required for stenographic or clerical work they should be content to wear civilian dress.Women are employed in various offices in this Parliament who do excellent work and of a much more important nature than that carried out by women in the services, but they are not arrayed in a uniform. Civilian clothes are much more becoming and feminine and it would be a good thing if those now wearing uniforms in the services, but doing the same kind of work, were released and carried out their duties in civilian dress. Certain women in the Armidale district who linked up with other women in the north coast and other districts of New South Wales have done every conceivable kind of farming work. They have driven tractors and horse-drawn vehicles, and have picked peas. They have done a remarkably good job, but there was no glamour attached to it and no mention has been made of it, simply because they did not wear uniforms. I made representations on their behalf in order to obtain suitable clothing for them, because they wore clothes which they had purchased with their own money. I can see no good purpose in maintaining a large number of women in the armed forces, if all they get out of it is glamour.
– J. direct attention to the report of Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C., dealing with alleged happenings in the Port Moresby area in the early days of the war, when militiamen were stationed there. I agree with Senator Sampson that this report should warn us against ever ‘being caught as unprepared as we were in those days. I shall not delve into history in order to indicate at whose door blame should be laid, but we should profit by our mistakes, and, if possible, avoid them in future. Honorable senators seem to have been talking at cross-purposes on this matter. The report refers to looting, and I suppose that is a correct term for what took place, but we should examine the circumstances at that time. Looking back on the matter coldly, perhaps it was looting, but let us consider whether the lads referred to in the report were as undisciplined as they are represented to have been.
I join issue with Senator Sampson on that matter, because there were certain distressing circumstances. Some of the units were extremely good and were commanded by excellent men who had rendered service in the last war. There was the 49th Battalion, under Colonel Oliver, who was one of the most capable men under whom I have had the privilege to serve. His discipline was excellent and his troops were well trained and a credit to Australia. We had a battalion from Victoria, which was also a very good one. Then we had the Army Medical Corps under Colonel Gunning, the Field Ambulance and the 13th Field Regiment. It was my privilege , to act during the transport of the troops from Australia in command of a good many of them. I have also taken troops to the Middle East. The control and the discipline of the units en route to Port Moresby was all that could be desired. I insist on discipline and I may be a little hard, but I say without hesitation that those lads were the finest it has been my privilege to command. The discipline under Colonel Fox, who commanded the Artillery, was extremely good.
Mr. Barry questioned Colonel Gamble on the subject of looting, and the following evidence was elicited : -
So the looting did not take place till the stores were actually damaged? - No, till the stores had all the windows blown out.
Till the stores presented a derelict appearance? - That is so.
After those air raids was the view strengthened that it would not be long before Port Moresby fell into the hands of the Japanese? - I th ink the general impression was that they would be in it at some stage. How long they did not know.
Mr. Barry stated in his report ;
I am satisfied that the looting did not assume large proportions until after the second bombing raid but thereafter it is undoubted that the theft and destruction of civilian property was general and extensive. I do not consider it is part of the duties imposed on me to examine the question of looting generally, but it is proper, however, that I should make some observations upon it . . .
If such an attack and invasion had been undertaken by the enemy at that stage it could have had only one outcome.
That implies that Moresby would be occupied by the enemy. That was the general opinion -
Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that respect for private property, particularly where there was any appearance of abandonment, diminished to such an extent ns no longer to act as a restraining influence.
Those lads were not well equipped, and their food supply was not of the best. The stores were bombed open and the civilians had gone. It appeared as though Moresby would fall, and that those supplies would naturally fall into the hands of the Japanese. I ask anybody who has seen war what would be ‘ the result in those circumstances? What would honorable senators have done? It was not a rabble or anything like it. I say that in fairness to the commanding officers. It is extraordinary that in this report not one of the commanding officers was examined, although the discipline and the control of the troops was definitely their responsibility. Many of the troops were only eighteen and a ‘half years of age and had not had more than possibly a few weeks’ training,” but they were certainly not the rabble which the report would lead one to believe. General Sir Thomas Blarney had. something to say regarding what happened there. I have a recollection that the conduct of some of our supposedly trained officers who had seen service overseas waa not so good as it might have been, when they returned to Australia. I do not say that all the men at Port Moresby were angels, but I do say that they did a wonderful job. Their commanding officers were men of the highest integrity, who also were good disciplinarians. In this connexion, I refer particularly to the Queensland and Victorian officers of the Australian Army Medical Corps, the Field Ambulance and the Field Artillery. An outstanding feature of the men’s conduct which impressed me, was the great respect that they always showed to the nursing sisters and the few womenfolk with whom they came in contact.
Australia’s dairy production, particularly of butter and whole milk, is falling rapidly. Although some of the factors which have contributed to that decline are beyond our control, we may be able to do something to increase the production of milk and milk products. I refer particularly to the decision of the authorities not to allow milk carters to enter dairying properties to pick up milk. As I know the position in South Australia best, I shall refer to the effect of that decision on dairymen in that State. Prior to the war, lorries were allowed to enter the properties of dairy farmers to pick up milk, but under National Security Regulations that was prohibited, with the result that farmers now have to take their milk from the farms to the roadside. I understand that the decision of the authorities was made in the belief that it would save petrol and tyres, but it has had the opposite effect. Moreover, it has thrown much additional labour on the d,airy farmers, who already are working under great difficulties. In many instances, dairy farms are being conducted by elderly men and their wives, who work for very long periods each day. In my own case, it meant rising an hour earlier each morning. When the lorry was permitted to pick up milk at the farm, we were able to start the milking machines at 6 a..m. Milking was finished by 7.30 o’clock, when the lorry called and took the milk away. Under the new arrangement, we have to start milking at 5 a.m. Three of us have to get up an hour earlier each day because, as we have no lorry, we have to get horses, and harness them, to take the milk to the road. The driver then has to wait till the lorry comes so that he will not have to make an extra trip to pick up the empty cans. A further point is that, owing to decisions b1 local governing authorities, dairymen have to bear any losses which may be incurred through damage to the roadside platforms which they have had to erect, or loss of the milk left there. The arrangement has meant the loss of many man hours to dairymen. I am a member of a dairymen’s association of South Australia, which has presented its views to the authorities in South Australia. I believe that they are sympathetic. figures prepared on a conservative basis show that under the regulations now in force, there has not been any saving of either tyres or petrol, because the Liquid Fuel Control authorities have granted increased supplies of petrol to farmers to enable them to take their milk from their farms to the roadside. I hope that the authorities will see their way clear to allow lorries to enter farm properties to pick up milk. Such an arrangement would not affect the petrol and rubber position and would be of great convenience to dairy farmers generally.
– I again bring to the notice of the Government and honorable senators the tremendous losses that are being caused by the depredations of dingoes in pastoral districts. During the war years, dingoes have increased in numbers to an alarming degree, because man-power has not been available to destroy them, and also because traps, poison, firearms, and ammunition have not been procurable. The position in relation to these supplies has improved recently. When I referred to this matter previously, I suggested that .303 rifles and ammunition should be made available to pastoralists and others whose sheep are in danger of attack by dingoes, and. I asked that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should conduct experiments with a view to introducing a disease to destroy dingoes. I frequently receive letters from people in country districts which previously were not subject to the depredations of the dingo pest, stating that they are now sustaining heavy losses of sheep. Owing to lack of labour, many wire netting fences which, were erected to protect sheep, have got into a state of disrepair, whilst damage by wild pigs, which also are increasing in numbers, is making the fences of little value as a protection against dingoes. To-day, the dog-proof fences are to a large degree useless. When a dingo gets inside a dog-proof fence it is much more dangerous than when it is in open country, because the fence which was erected to keep him out serves to keep him in ; and he gradually gets used to the country inside the fence, and lives among the sheep themselves. Honorable senators who have had anything to do with sheep raising realize the tremendous danger of dingoes when they actually live among the sheep. In such circumstances losses are stupendous. To-day, many settlers in Queensland who are not facing the usual difficulties such as drought are losing large numbers of their sheep. Yet they can only sit by and see their flocks gradually killed off. Honorable senators are aware that just after the outbreak of the war, all rifles and ammunition were called in. All graziers, particularly in north-west Queensland, immediately handed in their rifles at local police stations, because it was thought that that part of Australia was in danger of invasion. They have not received back any of those rifles, with the result that many holdings which previously possessed two or three rifles now have no weapon at all with which to combat the dingo. I have made repeated representations on this matter to the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Supply and Shipping with a view to obtaining the release of some of those firearms aud supplies of ammunition. I admit that numbers of rifles and a certain quantity of ammunition have been released, but not sufficient. In some cases people who have been given back their rifles have no ammunition. In view of our present output of small arms ammunition, and the position of the war generally, we should now be able to make available rifles to replace those called in. This matter is most urgent. I have been in communication with the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser), who has informed me about the shortage of ammunition. He said that the matter was being investigated. But that is not satisfactory. While the matter is being investigated, thousands of sheep are being slaughtered by dingoes with the result that settlers are becoming very restive, if not hostile, on the subject. Only this morning I received the following letter from the owner of a property in the Longreach district, dealing with the depredations of dingoes.
We are having an absolutely frightful time with dingoes. For instance our dingo syndicate of seven members who own properties on the Thomson River (I amongst them) have paid £11. “5 10s. for dogs since our syndicate started to function in October, 1944. We had a large meeting with the Longreach Shire Council yesterday and two members of the new co-ordinating board to try to evolvea scheme satisfactory to all to place before the Minister for Lands who is introducing a new bill to take effect from 1st July. The majority of the members seem to have the idea that netting the areas and repairing existing netting might save them, but as I pointed out wild pigs are very numerous along the Thomson and Vergemont Creek, and they are notorious for the damage they do to the netting, and added that unless wo could be given ammunition and rifles (our own as you know were taken when the Japanese were menacing Australia) to destroy the pigs as well as the dingoes it was pretty hopeless to trust to netting to check the inroads of dingoes.I suggested that the members of this new board should ask if it would not be possible for quantities of Japanese rifles and ammunition now being captured in the Islands to he made available to us. One of themen present said that he had bought a rifle from the Government and the date on it was1876. That is a mockery and an insult. Captured Japanese arms and ammunition wouldbe much better. Will you therefore see what you can do about getting some of it distributed as it is needed so badly. The Government assures us that our Australian Imperial Force is extremely well equipped so they would not need it. The matter is very urgent. One man alone is losing twenty sheep a night.
Ithas come to a survival of the fittest. We shall finish off the land (and 1 venture to believe that we graziers are a priceless asset to our country).
I informed the Minister of the seriousness of the position on the 7th June. One means of destroying dingoes is to shoot them, but without ammunition settlers cannot combat the pest.
– We have released quite a lot of ammunition to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
– An individual can obtain only one packet of ammunition, and that is useless.
– I do not think that the damage being done by the dingo is fully realized in responsible quarters. Last year -I was one of the lucky ones - I purchased 1,000 rounds of ammunition. When I mentioned that fact to the Minister, he seemed to think that that quantity was unusually large, but 1,000 rounds is not very much for use on a station which is infested with kangaroos, dingoes and other pests. I point out that one firm alone in Brisbane now has orders on its books from settlers in pastoral country for 60.000 rounds of ammunition. The Acting Minister for the Army will admit that I brought this matter to his notice at least five weeks ago, but these people are still waiting for ammunition. One dingo will kill from 20 to 50 sheep in one night. Honorable senators, therefore, will realize the plight of settlers who must sit helplessly by while they see their flocks being decimated by this pest. These people become very dissatisfied because, at the same time, they read in the newspapers of the capture of millions of rounds of ammunition and thousands of rifles from the Japanese. They naturally ask why some of that ammunition cannot be made available to them. I realize that transport difficulties must be taken into account. They also read reports that 50,000 men are to be released from the services. They assume that each of those men has had a rifle and they ask why such rifles cannot be made available for purchase. Feeling is running high on this matter among these people, and I do not blame them, because, in many cases, it looks as though the dog will beat the settler. I also point out that this wholesale destruction of flocks by dingoes represents a substantial loss to the nation. Every sheep is a national asset, producing not only wool, but also meat, and the loss to the revenue from the point of view of taxation is also very substantial. I ask that the responsible authorities give urgent attention to this matter. They could immediately supply 60,000 rounds of ammunition to the Brisbane firm to which I have referred.
– And also give the settlers back their own rifles.
– That might not be wise because they are unable to obtain ammunition for their old rifles, most of which were . 32’s. The rifle that is required is the . 303, for which ammunition could be released. The Army authorities have released a number of these rifles, but the demand far exceeds the supply. If the Acting Minister for the Army cares to make inquiries of Captain Clapham in Brisbane, he will find that not 50 per cent, of the rifles applied for were supplied, and that the deposit money had to be returned to unsuccessful applicants. Something should be done immediately. The provision of rifles and ammunition would give the producers new spirit to go ahead and deal with this menace, the seriousness of which is not appreciated by people living in the cities. The destruction of these pests is necessary in the interests not only of the farmers, but also oft he nation.
– I hope that the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) will heed what has been said by Senator Cooper. The same difficulty in the matter of ammunition is being experienced by farmers whose land is overrun with rabbits. In a season such as this, grass is scarce and rabbits are plentiful. One can dig out the harbours for these pests, but insufficient small-calibre ammunition is available to destroy them. I can use a year’s supply of 22-calibre bullets - 100 cartridges are available to each farmer annually - in two evenings. After I have used my own supply I have to go round my neighbours who have not any rabbits on their properties, ask them to obtain permits to purchase ammunition, and let me use them. The position in Queensland with regard to the dingo menace is most serious, and I venture to say that Senator Cooper has not told his own story. Probably the honorable senator himself loses thousands of sheep a year. If rifles and ammunition were available dingoes could be kept down. In the district in which I live, foxes are a. menace to sheep. In a season like this, if a ewe falls down, next morning one finds that a fox has eaten the udder, with the result that the animal has to be destroyed. Sufficient ammunition cannot be obtained to destroy these pests. I trust that the Acting Minister for the Army will take this matter up immediately, and will have some ammunition released. Thousands of rounds of . 303-calibre cartridges issued to our Militia forces some years ago are still stored in drill halls. I am sure that if a search were made, ample ammunition could be found and made available to the man on the land.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Keane) put -
Thatso much of the Standing and Sessional Ordersbe suspended as would prevent the hill beingpassed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to obtain parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure of an additional amount of £20.000,000 of revenue for war purposes. In the budget which was presented to Parliament in September last, it was estimated that the total revenue would be £359,000,000. The budget was framed to provide an appropriation from revenue of a like sum, of which £177,000,000 was for war purposes and the balance for other expenditure. From a review of the budgetary position, it is apparent that revenue items will exceed the budget estimate. Income tax may yield an increased amount of £15.000,000, while sales tax is expected to exceed the estimate by £2,000,000. Revenue from customs and excise, the Postal Department and other items of receipts may exceed appreciably the budget estimate. Nonwar expenditure, it is expected, will be approximately the same as the budget estimate. Whilst it is difficult at present to forecast accurately what the total revenue for the full financial year will be, the indications are that the improvement will be from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000. Whatever the amount of such improvement might be, it is necessary that an additional appropriation be provided to enablethis increased revenue to be utilized to meet war expenditure. Therefore, parliamentary appropriation of £20.000,000 is sought.
Inthe September budget, war expenditure in 1944-15 was estimated at £505,000,000. Because of unavoidable delay in the rendering of accounts for heavy overseas liabilities, there has been a substantial falling off in the rate of expenditure and it is now possible that the expenditure for the year will not exceed £470,000,000. I would emphasize again that the purpose of the. bill is solely to enable additional revenue to be utilized for war expenditure. If the improvement in the revenue budget amounts to £20,000,000, the effect of the proposed appropriation will be to relieve loan expenditure and charge revenue with £20,000,000 without increasing our total war expenditure, which, as I have already indicated, will be substantially below the budget estimate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from the 21st June (vide page 3391), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be read a first time.
SenatorLECKIE (Victoria - Acting Leader of the Opposition) [11.35]. - The debate on the Appropriation Bill which has just been passed was fairly extensive and it is not my intention to speak at length on this measure. The amount set out in the bill has been provided for the coming financial year and has not been spent. The Minister indicated that there will be an excess in revenue of £20,000,000, and since that has been derived largely from income tax I should like to know if there is any hope of relaxing some of the super taxes that have been imposed on certain sections of the community. Fortunately, revenue has been buoyant and it is time the Government considered granting relief to people who are highly taxed. The fact that there is £20,000,000 in. the Treasury relieves the Government of the necessity to borrow to that extent for war expenditure. The sooner some of the shackles are taken from industry, the better. If private enterprise or industry of any kind is to be given a better opportunity than has been the case in recent years, the Government will have to accelerate the release of servicemen so that they may return to their civil occupations. As a text, I take an item from the Auditor-General’s report which relates to the Civil Constructional Corps in the Northern Territory. Statistics reveal that in April, 1944, the employees in that corps numbered 6,216, and the administrative staff 639. In 1945, the employees had been reduced to 3,616, but the staff had increased to 839. Although there were 2,600 fewer employees, there was an increase in staff of 200. I am afraid that sort of thing is happening throughout the services and the Department of Munitions. Although operatives are being discharged, administrative staffs are increasing. It is understandable that when an administrative organization has been built up, there is a considerable reluctance for the members of a staff affected to give up their jobs or for the strength of that organization to be reduced. I realize that re-adjustments cannot be made in a day, but an example such as I have cited indicates that something is wrong. There may have been some reason for it, but. it is hard to imagine what it could be.
– If this practice is allowed to continue a situation will arise similar to that in an army where there may be a complete organization of administration from general’s down to captains, but not one private. Thousands of workers have been released from the Department of Munitions, butI do not know whether they have been absorbed in other occupations. The need for labour in many civilian occupations is extremely acute, and, in order to meet it, the Government would be wise to release men from the services where they are no longer required. The Government would not be doing men out of a job, because there are opportunities offering on every hand for re-employment. The Government would do well to engage the services of two or three good outside men to go through the departments and say to the heads of the administration, “Are these men necessary? Are they doing worth-while jobs? Can you employ them full time?” It would then be found that thousands of men could be released and engaged in occupations vital to civilian welfare.
SenatorFraser. - That is already being done.
– The Minister is well aware of the housing problem and of the shortage of women for domestic service and, in view of the slackening of departmental needs, I urge that action should be taken along the lines I have indicated. If men such as were engaged in building up those industries were employed elsewhere, a big saving would occur.
Reference has been made by Senator Amour to the broadcasting of parliamentary debates, of which I am in favour; but I view with horror the idea of this Government establishing a national newspaper, of which the managing director would, I imagine, be the Prime Minister. I cannot imagine that such a newspaper would give impartial news. It would he deplorable to have to depend for our news on the will of the political party that happened to be in power.
– There would be plenty of criticism, and if that were broadcast, the people could get the true picture.
– A national newspaper would merely reflect the views of the party in power. Prom the present newspapers the people are able to obtain something like accurate reports, but a national newspaper, the editor-in-chief of which would be the Prime Minister of the day, would be fatal to freedom of speech and thought. Some of us are rather thinskinned with regard to criticism, by the newspapers.
– Why did the honorable senator complain about, a newspaper report this week?
– I explained that a mistake had been made by attributing to me words which I did not use. The newspaper concerned gracefully accepted my correction and published my explanation,. I deprecate as much as anybody any slur on the dignity of this Parliament, but as individuals we are apt to overestimate our personal importance. We sometimes consider ourselves badly treated by the newspapers, and do not receive the publicity we should like; but the deal we get from them is a thousand times better than what we could expect from a national newspaper conducted in the interests of the political party in office.
– Does the honorable senator agree with the broadcasting of news by the Australian Broadcasting Commission ?
– I have heard broadcasts regarding debates in the House of Representatives, but I have heard no accounts of debates in the Senate. Possibly the Australian Broadcasting Commission does not consider them of any importance. It is noticeable that the press reports give prominence to debates in the House of Representatives, whilst those in the Senate are barely mentioned. That is the treatment we could expect from a national newspaper. We should be well advised to be satisfied with the present service from the press than to rush into a scheme which might lead us into a worse position.
– I desire to correct Senator Amour in his reference to l he Broadcasting Committee. I think that he said that the committee disapproved of the proposed agreement for the collection of news. What he should have said was that a majority of the committee, comprised of the Labour members of it. disapproved, but there was a minority report which represented the views of four-ninths of the committee. I was one of the minority, and I consider that the weight of evidence was entirely in favour of the consummation of the agreement.
In considering the suggested broadcasting of parliamentary debates, I am reminded of tho trouble experienced in Western Australia in obtaining the broadcasting in that State of new9 sessions, concert items and other matter which had to be transmitted by land line. If broadcasts were made of parliamentary debates, people in Western Australia would have little chance of hearing them, because the programmes would have to be transmitted to that State over a land line, and the traffic on the lines is so heavy at present that I see little possibility, if any, of listeners in Western Australia hearing the broadcasts. The cost of erecting an additional land line would be so prohibitive that I doubt whether the difficulty could be got over that way. lt might be possible to resort to short-wave transmission for recording purposes in Perth, from which centre the debates could bebroadcast through the national stations, I should welcome the broadcasting throughout the Commonwealth of the debates in this Parliament.
An attack has been made in the House of Representatives on Scotsmen generally, which I understand has now been qualified by the honorable member who made the attack. I asked a question on the matter, and judging by the Hansard report, the offence has been mitigated somewhat by a qualification. Had I known the intention of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) in alluding to Scotsmen who were Communists, I should have agreed with him wholeheartedly, but I could not understand how any good, decent Scotsman could be a Communist. If such a person exists, I should be one of the first to help to deport him, but I think that the honorable member’s information in regard to the nationality of some of the Communists he mentioned is open to question, because he is wrong with regard to Mr. Thornton. Apparently, the latter cannot claim the distinction of having Scottish blood in his veins, for which I am devoutly thankful.
I should hesitate in my support of the proposal for the broadcasting of parliamentary debates, if I thought that the already short supply of land lines was to be cluttered up with a lot of noisy haranguing. I hope that that aspect of the matter will not be overlooked when the proposal is given further consideration ; but, if there is to be “ a bit of a circus”, the people of “Western Australia desire to enjoy it.
Referring to the investigations now proceeding with regard to pillaging on the wharfs, I consider that “pillaging” is a polite word for the crimes being committed. “Stealing” is the proper word to employ. Various shipping firms engaged in the transport of goods from State to State by sea have been confronted with this’ problem for a long time and have taken various measures to correct it. Even when some of the culprits have been caught and haled before a magisterial court the penalties in some cases have been inadequate to meet the crime.
– Particularly in Western Australia..
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD That could happen in any State and it is no excuse for the offence.
– It is a State matter.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The fact remains that the public has to pay in the long run, because the shippers of goods are put to increased cost in trying to protect their property. In one shed in Sydney Harbour I drew the attention of a shipping man to the use of large crates, which were iron bound and locked, and I asked what was in them. He told me that this was one of the means by which an effort was being made to give added protection to cargo in the shipping of goods in small parcels, especially if they were of high value, the theory being that if all these small parcels were locked within one huge, strong, iron-bound crate, it would be impossible for the whole crate to be stolen, whereas there is always a possibility of small parcels being stolen. But even specially constructed crates have been broken open, notwithstanding that watchmen have been on duty on the wharfs all night. The worst feature is the theft of goods consigned to troops in northern battle areas. A person who could steal such goods, which may mean the difference between life and death to men at the front, is too despicable for words. Nevertheless, these things do occur. I should like the Minister to inform the Senatewh ether there has been any alleviation of the trouble as the result of the investigations made by the subcommittee of Cabinet.
– There has been a considerable improvement.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The theft of goods from wharfs and other places is a dark blot on Australia’s fair name. In the Department of Trade and Customs there are some excellent officers who, if allotted to this work and given every encouragement, could, I believe, cope with the problem. The overcoming of this evil may take some time, but I believe that these officers, with the assistance of Commonwealth and State police, and given full powers, could remove this blot. I hope that in his reply the Minister will give an outline of the progress already made.
Primary producers in Western Australia, and probably in other States also, are concerned at the growing rabbit menace. Although not wishing to hurry the Minister unduly, I ask him to make an early statement as to what encouragement the Government is giving to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in its research work in connexion with this pest. In view of the great need for increased food production, the destruction caused by rabbits is a matter of major concern.
Before war broke out with Japan, Australia obtained supplies of phosphatic rock from Ocean and Nauru Islands. On several occasions I have been asked by people in Western Australia whether there is any likelihood of those islands being reconquered in the near future, so that supplies of high-class phosphatic rock could again be obtained. I do not ask flint naval or troop movements should be disclosed publicly, but I think that an announcement should be made that as soon as those islands have been reconquered no delay will take place in bringing from them the high-quality phosphatic rock which is to be found there. In Western Australia, particularly in areas where the land is of a light character, superphosphate is an essential requirement. Good-quality phosphatic rock is needed, rather than the poor-quality rock which is available.
– All superphosphate is brought to an average of 18 per cent, phosphoric content.
– I shall be interested in the Minister’s reply to my representations.
I wish again to refer to the menace of synthetic fibres. This subject is exercising the mind’s of many people besides wool-growers and sheep-breeders, because they realize that the wool industry concerns all sections of the community. Many people in Western Australia, and probably in the other States also, believe that the Government is giving too much encouragement to the synthetic fibre industry, which they fear may well put the axe to the root of the tree of Australian wool production. I should like the Minister to make a statement on this matter at the earliest possible moment.
– When I spoke on the first reading of another measure last night I referred to vegetable growing in Tasmania and cited certain figures showing that the Government had in mind a reduction of the area to be planted. The figures that I gave to the Senate were supplied to me by the Minister in answer to a question. Since I spoke last night I have made inquiries at the office of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and I find that yesterday another arrangement was made. I asked the Minister’s secretary what I could say on the subject, and he agreed that I could send the following telegram : -
Minister Commerce and Agriculture advised me last evening that he has arranged (or review vegetable production targets Tasmania with view to ensuring same ratio reduction as applies to other States.
I emphasize that I quoted the figures given to me correctly when I spoke last night, but I did not then know of the determination arrived at after the figures were supplied to me. I am pleased indeed that the Minister has been able to arrange that Tasmanian farmers will be given something more satisfactory than previously appeared likely.
– I agree with Senator Amour on the subject of broadcasting the debates in the National Parliament. Honorable senators may have noticed in to-day’s press reports of alleged disturbances in the Senate yesterday during which the President was said to have threatened to expel certain honorable senators. A friend of mine from Apollo Bay in Victoria, who had been in the Senate gallery listening to the debates, asked me afterwards at what stage of the proceedings the disturbance occurred. I told him that the “ disturbance “ referred to in the press report took place while he was in the gallery. . His reply was that he could not believe that such a report could appear in any reputable newspaper. The trouble is that a nonsensical remark, or some slight disagreement among members, is given prominence whereas serious debate is frequently not recorded. Therefore, I believe that the broadcasting of the proceedings in the National Parliament would be a good thing. I agree with
Senator Amour that that would probably necessitate the construction of a special transmitting station, but I do not think that it would be asking too much that it should be provided. Last night, Senator Allan MacDonald objected to the proposal on the ground that Western Australia might be left out, but that need not be so; the speeches could be relayed to Western Australia by wireless and broadcast from that State, in which event listeners in Western Australia would be able to hear as well as those in other States. The circulation of Hansard is about 16,000 copies of each issue. That is not many in a population of over 7,000,000 people. It is true that on sitting days the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasts u commentary on the proceedings in this Parliament, but the views of only one man are given. He picks out what he thinks will interest the people, but, at best, his remarks have to be confined to a period of about three minutes. Moreover, rarely is anything said about what has occurred in the Senate. The broadcasting of speeches might mean some re-arrangement of amplifiers throughout the chamber, but that should not present any great difficulty. As I have said, an independent transmitting station would probably be necessary. There should be no great difficulty in making good use of it when Parliament is not in session. I do noi agree with Senator Amour that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should issue a daily newspaper. In my opinion that would be entirely wrong, as it would mean that the views of whatever government happened to be in power would be disseminated, whilst the views of members of Parliament generally would not be made known. The broadcasting of speeches would enable electors to become more conversant with the actions of their representatives. I think that the idea is a good one and I hope that the PostmasterGeneral (,Senator Cameron) will continue his investigations with a view to establishing such a broadcasting service at an early date.
Senator Amour also referred to irrigation, a subject on which I have spoken on many occasions. I have, however, a different view concerning irrigation from that of most honorable senators. I believe that we have in Australia large volumes of water of which proper use if not being made. People generally do not realize that in the River Murray there is a body of water 400 miles long and 3 feet deep at its shallowest points, and that that water is navigable for the whole distance. The whole of that water is available for irrigation purposes. But none of the land on either side of the river, in Victoria or in New .South Wales, is utilized at all. In addition, 500,000 acre feet of water in Lake Victoria in New South Wales has been specifically set aside for irrigation in South Australia. There is a field on which a start could be made immediately. All that country could be irrigated, not by gravitation, I admit, but by pumping; but in these days of cheaper electricity, pumping would not be very difficult. However, the cost of installing pumps would be too much to expect the individual to carry. Then we have the River Murray Waters scheme. It is not generally known that the Hume Reservoir has submerged more ground than is irrigated from the reservoir, and that the ground submerged is much better than that now being irrigated. The governments concerned have agreed to raise the height of the Hume Weir to provide 2,000,000 acre feet. I do not agree with that proposal. The original scheme envisaged the provision of three reservoirs, and any action taken now should be to provide two smaller reservoirs farther up the river in suitable catchment areas. This scheme could also provide electric power : but equally important it would prevent silting in the Hume Reservoir. The danger, of silting is emphasized when one studies the history of the Loddon River irrigation dam. That dam was. constructed at a. cost of £250,000 over 40 years ago, but to-day half of the dam is filled with silt. That is what will happen in the Hume Reservoir; but silting can be prevented by the construction of two reservoirs farther up the river as was originally planned, and the cost would be less than that of the proposal now under consideration.
With regard to taxation, I recall the keen debate which took place last year on the Government’s pay-as-you-earn proposals. I should like to know what amount of additional tax has been collected since the introduction of the payasyouearn method. At the time we were led to believe that taxpayers would be relieved of 75 per cent, of one year’s tax, but honorable senators who have received their provisional assessments will know that that is not the case. When I received my assessment it nearly knocked me flat. As a matter of fact, taxpayers are paying 25 per cent, more tax this year than in respect of last year. Instead of taxpayers being relieved of tax, the Government will receive £30,000,000 more tax this year than in respect of the previous year. The only benefit arising under the pay-as-you-earn method will be received by a taxpayer’s beneficiaries after hi.9 death. The provisional tax is murderous, because it is based on the preceding year’s income. For instance, a man whose income has dropped from £1,000 to £400 is assessed in respect of provisional tax on his income at the rate of £1,000 a year, and he is obliged to pay that tax on his income of £400 for the current year, in which case, of course, the tax will practically absorb the whole of the current income. I admit that an adjustment will be made at the end of next year, but the demand made in the interim is most unfair. One can only conclude that the pay-as-you-earn method was sheer camouflage, because, as I have said, the Government, as the result of that system, will collect- £30,000,000 more in tax this year than was collected last year. I agree with Senator Leckie that unless1 income tax is reduced, employers will not be able to provide the volume of employment requisite for the rehabilitation of exservice personnel. Obviously, if half an employer’s income is taken from him in tax, his ability to provide employment is correspondingly reduced. Indeed, I have met a surprising number of people who confess that they have no incentive to be enterprising because of the high rates of tax which they are obliged to pay. We are now reaching a stage when the Government should have a complete combout of many departments. I have never complained about our huge war expenditure, although I doubted whether the expenditure was really necessary in some cases. At the same time, we were obliged, to undertake expenditure for purposes the urgency of which suddenly disappeared. For instance, up to £3,000,000 was expended on individual aerodromes, which, owing to a favorable turn in the war, were not required for use upon completion. But those days are gone. The Government should now comb out departments and war industries generally. It will now be found that many industries are not necessary.
With regard to competition of synthetic fibres with, wool I said all that I wished to say on that subject when I was speaking on the Wool Use Promotion Bill.- However, since that measure was passed, I have seen samples of imported synthetic materials which even an expert could not distinguish from the woollen article. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) will permit woollen materials, to he sold coupon-free, while, at the same time, retaining the coupon rating for synthetic fibres. 1 believe that the Government is giving too much assistance to the interests behind synthetic fibres. Recently, it made available to those interests a factory at Rutherford which had cost £875,000. Those people are in direct competition with our wool industry. At a time when wool-growers have their hands full trying to keep their flocks alive, I hope that the Government will not give undue encouragement to an industry which threatens our great wool industry.
.- in reply - The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) urged the Government to give early attention to reductions of income tax rates. That matter will be dealt with when the next budget is presented. I also inform him that the Government is considering the combing out of man-power in war industries. I was under the impression that an announcement to that effect had been made. A special committee is being appointed to examine the manpower position in each branch of the service. The committee will consist of an Assistant Public Service Commissioner, Mr. Fitzgerald, an outside accountant, and an officer of the department being examined. The committee will consider the comb-out, of government departments, in order to ensure the earliest possible release of redundant personnel. Every Minister has been instructed to see that no surplus personnel are retained in their respective departments. This is in order to relieve the shortage of man-power. Three committees have also been appointed to deal with service departments. Therefore, honorable senators can rest assured that overstaffing of departments and public works is being kept under close observation. As a matter of fact, a huge number of men have been released from munitions factories. The Allied Works Council was mentioned. As Senator Large has said, the position of that body was examined by the War Expenditure Committee; but the council will come under the same review as will be made in respect of other government activities. We are hopeful that employees of the Allied Works Council would be available for housing construction, but, as honorable senators know, their services were retained by the council in order to carry out an £3,000,000 construction programme, including houses and other buildings, urgently required by Royal Navy personnel now in this country. I am hopeful that substantial numbers of men. will be released by the council at an early date.
Senator Allan MacDonald referred to pillaging on the wharfs. A subcommittee consisting of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley), the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and myself has examined this matter, and our report has been embodied in a statement made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). We found that looting was not so prevalent as many had been led to believe. In respect of overseas ships there was a doubt as to whether the looting occurred at the port of departure, on the voyage, or in Australian ports. Our view is that not much of the looting occurred in Australian ports. Certainly, some small articles were purloined and sonic cargoes broached in Australian ports: but in few of these cases was the loss very serious. We came to the conclusion that the Army, Navy and the Air Force must guard their own cargoes, employing on this work members of their special inquiry branches. These men are specially recruited from the respective services in order to guard service cargoes in respect of which the looting has been appalling. However, as the result of action taken by the committee to which I have referred, looting of those cargoes has been reduced to a minimum. If we are able to produce similar results with respect to civilian cargoes, we shall be doing very well. The problem is fraught with difficulties, and the committee 1 have mentioned will sit whenever required to study the situation from time to time. We believe that the only effective way to police the wharfs is by the use of State police officers and customs officials. Special officers are now being recruited from State police forces for that purpose. This system has been followed in Melbourne for many years with good results. I believe that the presence of skilled officers of this kind on the wharfs will probably prevent men from getting themselves in serious trouble. Many people have been led to believe that most of the looting is perpetrated by waterside workers. That is not so. At a conference of police commissioner? held in 1942, all of them admitted that they were doubtful where the looting actually occurred. That aspect of the problem has still to be cleared up. However, in Western Australia, for some reason, magistrates have been somewhat lenient with men caught looting on the wharfs. I do not know whether the position has improved in that State in the interim.
– It has.
– We have experienced somewhat similar difficulties with respect to black marketing prosecutions. In many cases, the courts have been too lenient with persons convicted of offences inthat sphere. It happens very frequently that after a conviction has been secured, in what one might call a big case, the individual appeals to a higher court and manages to get off lightly, if not altogether. As I have said a standing committee will review from time to timethe figures with respect to looting on wharfs. As every wharf labourer is obliged to be registered, we believe that every carrier and clerk engaged on wharfs should also be registered, because when a case of looting is discovered, investigators are unable to pursue their inquiries satisfactorily if they have not full information concerning all persons who might have handled the particular goods. I can assure the Senate that steps to combat pillaging are not new. The press of this country would lead us to believe that pillaging broke out only in 1945. The fact, is that in .1942, when this matter came within my jurisdiction, an active campaign against pillaging was conducted, Ever since then, successive Ministers for Supply and Shipping, have continued this work unremittingly. The press also endeavours to create the impression that black-marketing is allowed to go unchecked. Within the next day or two, I shall make a statement to this chamber showing how many prosecutions have been launched against persons indulging in all forms of black-marketing, including breaches of prices regulations, liquor con t] 01. rubber control and housing regulation?. That statement, will confound the impudent, press of this country which seeks to convey the impression that the Government has not endeavoured to counteract these abuses. The fact is that the cream of our investigators have been engaged on checking there practices. A campaign is being waged also against rent racketeers - property-owners who are receiving extortionate rents from invalid and old-age pensioners and other low-income earners. Always it is the object of the press of this country to find some reason for flogging the Government: but so long as this Ministry is in office, the newspapers will not get away with it. I agree with Senator Gibson, Senator Amour, and others who have suggested that the proceedings of the Senate should be broadcast, so that the people of this country may form a proper appreciation of the work of the National Parliament. This legislature is belittled by almost every newspaper, whereas no opportunity is lost to aggrandize the State Parliament. If (lie Victorian Premier, Mr. Dunstan, makes a speech on hos; feed, it is given a column in the Melbourne newspapers, but when something is done by this Parliament to help Victoria, little or no notice is taken of it. Mr. Dunstan is always ready to criticize this Government and has no trouble in securing the widest publicity for his utterances. Yesterday, the Acting AttorneyGeneral made a statement, in the House of Representatives on the fodder position in Victoria, andi, despite its importance, I venture to say that, it will receive little publicity in the press of that State. Not long ago, I visited the United States of America as the representative of this Government, and I think 1 can say, without egotism, that I was able to achieve some good results. Upon my return, 1 prepared a press statement of what had been accomplished in regard to the lend-lease agreement with the United States of America and the mutualaid agreement with Canada, but, the only journals which gave it any prominence were the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Daily Mirror; the others publishing only a few inches of my report. Recently, T made it possible for certain trade unionists who were doing a week’s hard work away from home, to obtain small supplies of tobacco and beer. The result was a half-column attack in the press and the publication of large cartoons. These things emphasize the need for the broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament at the earliest possible date.
Senator Gibson raised the question of the coupon rating of wool and the wool industry generally. That matter is under consideration at present. The rayon works at Rutherford have been leased and the industry will be supplied with raw material from the United Kingdom. It is alleged that synthetic products are rivalling woollen goods. I am not an expert, and I am not able to say whether or not that is true.
– I have seen rayon articles and they are quite good.
– I admit that the synthetic fibre, products are of an excellent quality.
asked why Nauru and Ocean Islands have not been recaptured by the Allied Forces in order io ensure supplies of phosphatic rock. That, of course, is a matter for the Allied High Command.
Other matters that have been raised by honorable senators in the course of this debate, will be brought to the attention of the appropriate Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to secure the necessary appropriation of moneys to carry on the normal services of government for the first three months of the financial year 1945-46. The amount required is £55,557,000 and the provision may be summarized under the following headings : -
The bill provides only for the estimated requirements to carry on the essential services on the basis of the provision in the Appropriation Bill passed by Parliament for the financial year 1944-45. With minor exceptions, the amounts set down for ordinary services represent approximately one-quarter of the 1944-45 appropriations. It is estimated that, after excluding special appropriations, the total war expenditure in the first three months of 1945-46 will amount to £105,102,000. This amount is substantially less than one-quarter of last year’s appropriation, due principally to the reduction of expenditure in Great Britain and America, to the lag in expenditure in the first quarter of the financial year and to some degree to a falling off in war expenditure in Australia. The provision of £40,000,000 for war services represents the estimated amount which will be available from revenue receipts for the first three months of the year to meet war expenditure after making due allowance for other obligations. The balance of war expenditure will be met from loan appropriations.
The usual provision is made in the bill for “ Treasurer’s Advance “, the amount being £5,000,000. This amount is required mainly to carry on uncompleted civil works which will be in progress at the 30th June, and also to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure. Except in respect of defence and war services, no provision has been made for any new expenditure and there is no departure from existing policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Proposed votes - The Parliament, £62,450, and. Prime Minister’s Department, £333,160- agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £60,820.
. -I wish to refer to the extraordinary lack of news concerning the proceedings of the United Nations Conference on International Organizations now being held at San Francisco. Rumours of all kinds are being circulated, but even the major events of the conference are so scrappily reported that the people of Australia do not know just what is happening. The Government would be wise to make an authoritative statement on the work of the conference, even before the Australian delegation returns. If such a statement is not made in the near future, there will be considerable harmful speculation and unnecessary doubt. Some people are inclined to think that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) may have taken a little too much responsibility upon himself in certain directions and may have risked the reputation of this country.
.- Voluminous cables dealing with the proceedings of the conference have been received in this country. The question of issuing a public statement was considered only this week bythe Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who, like Senator Leckie, is of the opinion that a clear announcement should be made of the objectives of the conference and the results that have been obtained. In my view that statement should be made within a few days. .
– I notice that the expenses of Australian legations in various countries vary considerably.For instance, the Australian legation in China is being voted £11,220, whereas the appropriation for the Australian High Commissioner’s office in New Zealand is only £2,470. Is that difference due to the difference in the size of the respective staffs or to the higher cost of living in certain countries ?
– The high cost of living, I suggest.
– Are the staffs in some countries higher than in others?
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
-What would appear to be a hiatus occurs in respect of the legation in China. That is due to the fact that Chinese currency is inflated beyond recognition and charges are abnormal. For instance the equivalent of £2 Australian is charged for a pound of meat.
– Would the position be the same in Russia?
– I have not considered Russia.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of the Treasury, £577,930; Attorney-General’s Department, £91,670; Department of the Interior, £113,990; Department of Works, £38,000- agreed to.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote, £102,610.
– I should like to know if there is any intention of increasing the staff of the Civil Aviation Department, in view of the declaration of the Government’s policy concerning future interstate air services in Australia.
.- When the measure dealing with the subject is before this chamber I shall give the honorable senator the information he desires.
Proposed vote agreed to.
DEPARTMENT OF TrADE AND CUSTOMS.
Proposed vote, £187,150.
. -I should like the Minister to inform honorable senators when some of the controls of the Division of Import Procurement are tobe removed. Trade in Australia is now in an artificial state and this division has been acting as a buying agent for importers. At the same time it has succeeded in earning for itself the nickname of “ Division of Import Prevention “. Great Britain and other countries are restoring their normal trade facilities and the manufacture of goods for civil use is being resumed. Seeing that Australia will be able to import those goods and is keenly desirous of doing so, will the control exercised by the Division of Import Procurement be relaxed in order to allow normal trade procedure to be resumed?
.- The Division of Import Procurement will continue to handle what remains of lendlease goods fromthe United States of America and goods obtained under the Canadian mutual aid agreement. The restriction imposed on imports is now the subject of a close inquiry by myself and I am hopeful of being able to make a general announcement at an early date. This question is wrapped up with the Government’s export policy and will be discussed by Cabinet probably next Monday week. The Government will give it special consideration so that a general announcement might be made to the public at an early date.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Health, £53,270- agreed to.
Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
Proposed vote, £95,150.
.- Recently the Government stated that huge quantities of fodder had been purchased in America and New Zealand for shipment to Australia. Could the Minister state whether they will arrive before the grass grows and so be quite useless, or in time to be of value in the feeding of starving stock?
– I understand that there has been some difficulty in connexion with the quantity of fodder purchased overseas by the Government and less than the quantity first acquired will now be forthcoming.
– Is it being diverted?
– Probably some of the fodder is required for stock in the exporting countries.
– Despite some good things that this department has done it has been responsible for more bungling than any other department in the Administration. Its wheat policy and its handling of flax are two examples. In the Auditor-General’s report the statement is made that on tinned or dehydrated vegetables a loss of £144,000 has been sustained. The losses on flax must have been colossal. There is room for a thorough overhaul of this department because some one has been making grave mistakes. The circumstances relating to the purchases of fodder are extraordinary. An explanation has been given of the Commonwealth’s action in arbitrarily acquiring quantities of fodder intended for Victoria, which Victorian fodder merchants, who had sufficient foresight to prepare for a bacl season, had purchased. Almost everything the department has done has been marked by administrative blunders. I do not know if the officers are incompetent or whether the department is adopting an autocratic attitude, but certainly its results are not satisfactory. Its officers should certainly include men who are thoroughly acquainted with the conditions and needs of the primary producer. Australia will have to depend on its primary products for many years, and so far as I can see, the only satisfactory arrangement made to date has been in connexion with the wool industry.
Even there, I am not certain that the out-look of the people responsible is altogether right. The Government has proclaimed the great advantages it has secured for the wool-growers by obtaining an increase of the price of wool, and also by its legislation relating to the woollen industry. The way to sell wool is to show the purchasers that it is better and cheaper than other products. The price of wool or any other commodity must not be based on the production costs of the small growers - such as those of a wheat-grower in the Mallee in a bad season. I repeat my suggestion that the time is ripe for a searching investigation of the affairs of this department.
.- Recently the Government gave an assurance that stocks of fodder would be coming from New Zealand and the United States of America, but the Minister has stated to-day that they will not be available.
– All the anticipated stocks will not be available.
– Apparently, they will not arrive in time to save the starving stock. Many times, honorable senators on this side of the chamber have pointed out that there would be a shortage of wheat, but the Department of Commerce and Agriculture assured the public that there would be no shortage of wheat for fodder. To-day, wheat cannot be bought for fodder and farmers are restricted to about one-third of the previous supplies. That is. not sufficient to keep the sheep alive. The department has fallen down on its job in regard to the importation of fodder. It is not possible to buy seed oats and, therefore, there will be a shortage of oats next year. The department stated there would be plenty of seed oats available but I defy anybody to be able to buy oats either for fodder or for sowing. At least the department should state the facts so that farmers may know where they are.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Social Services.
Proposed vote, £124,690.
– In view of the inordinate delay in implementing the social services legislation, could the Minister state whether he has any idea of when the provisions of the acts will be carried into effect? I should like the Minister to inform honorable senators if he knows the reasons for the delay. Accord ing to a press statement a further delay is contemplated.
– The unemployment and sickness benefits will take effect as from the 1st July.
– Has the Minister arranged an agreement with the doctors?
SenatorFRASER. - That is not necessary. The delay which has occurred with regard to the operation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act is due entirely to difficulty in obtaining the staff required. The services of experts are needed, and I have endeavoured to obtain the release ofa few of them from the armed forces. I have been able to secure the release of one or two of them, and I am hopeful that the scheme will be in operation by the end of the year, but no definite date can be fixed.
– Why is the funeral allowance granted in respect of invalid and old-age pensioners not extended to pensioners who are widows?
– That matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
– Referring to the attendance allowance in respect of invalid and old-age pensioners, I point out that although a wife is allowed 15s., no allowance is provided for a daughter who often has to give up her employment in order to attend to an aged parent.
– In my secondreading speech yesterday on the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, I indicated that a . consolidating measure would be introduced later, and I have in mind a few amendments for the improvement of pensions legislation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Supply and Shipping, £71,390; Department of External Territories, £7,720 - agreed to.
Defence and War (1939-45) Services.
Proposed vote, £40,000,000.
– I notice that the proposed votes for the Departments of Defence, the Navy, the Army, Air, Munitions and Aircraft Production and for the Reciprocal Lendlease to the United States forces aggregate £91,096,000, and that a note appears at the bottom of the page intimating that for security reasons it is not desirable to disclose the details of this expenditure. I desire, however, to refer to the Department of the Navy, because it seems to me that some of the officers in the service are getting a poor deal during the war. I realize that the administration and customs of the Royal Australian Navy are based on those of the British Navy, which are regarded as sacrosanct. The members of the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve have voluntarily enlisted for the duration of the war, and they must go wherever they maybe sent. Many young officers who are in receipt of thepay of a lieutenant would, if they had enlisted in the American or other navies, now enjoy the pay and status of a major. I understand that in the permanent service certain allowances are made which to some degree compensate for the disparity in pay. The higher officers in the Navy are better off than officers of equivalent rank in the Army and the AirForce, but from lieutenantcommanders down the members of the reserve are on a very unsatisfactory basis. I know a man who has been serving with the Navy for four or five years, and he is still drawing only a lieutenant’s pay. An investigation should be made so that fair play may be given to the younger men who have spent four or five years in the Navy, whether on the administrative side or on active service.
.- It seems to me that an important omission has been made from the schedule, as no provision has been made for the purchase of the land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. The States cannot purchase the land required for this purpose until the money is made availableby this Parliament.
– Legislation willbe passed to enable an agreement to be made between the Commonwealth and the States with respect to the purchase of the necessary land and the provision of the requisite finance.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Miscellaneous services, £140,000;War (1914-18) Services, £316,000; Commonwealth Railways, £693,000; Postmaster-General’s Department, £5,808,000; Northern Territory, £63,910; Australian Capital Territory, £115,090; Norfolk Island, £1,000; Refunds of Revenue, £1,500,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £5,000,000 - agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have pleasure in submitting for the consideration of honorable senators a bill to amend the Child Endowment Actby increasing the rate of endowment for every endowed child by 2s. 6d. a week. The new weekly rate will be 7s. 6d. a week in lieu of 5s. a week, as provided in the principal act. I feel sure that all honorable senators will give their support to this measure, which will add materially to the comfort and well being of the children of Australia. Since the introduction of child endowment in 1941, reports have been received from many sources which give ample proof of the advantages derived from this benefit. The number of children in respect of whom child endowment is at present being paid is 935,411, and the annual liability in respect thereof is £12,160,000. The increased rate will advance this liability by £6,080,000, making a total annual expenditure of £18,240,000.
As an alteration of the rate of child endowment involves considerable administrative work, it is desired that this measure shall be passed as early as possible. Later during this session, the Government will introduce a bill to consolidate all social service legislation in one act, and I give to honorable senators the Government’s assurance that they will have an opportunity for a full discussion of all matters contained in that bill. I, therefore, seek the co-operation of all honorable senators in securing for this bill a speedy passage.
– The Minister (SenatorFraser) has asked for the speedy passage of a bill which increases the liability in respect of child endowment by £6,080,000. That means an increase of the present liability by 50 per cent., and the matter cannot be taken lightly. The Minister should have given an indication as to why this increase is necessary. I thought that he would have dwelt on the fact that the cost of living had risen, and that he would have attempted to justify the increase. Is this a game in which there are 2s. 6d. “ rises “.
– It is a case of rises when the honorable senator is a member of the Opposition, and of decreases when he is a member of a government.
– Senator Grant seems to forget that it was a government comprising members of the parties now in Opposition which first brought in legislation to provide for child endowment. I had the honour of steeringthat measure through the Senate.
– Child endowment was previously in force in New South Wales as a result of action by a Labour government.
– I know well that that was so, because the Government of which I was a member had to make provision for taking over the New South Wales administration. After careful consideration, the Commonwealth Government of the day considered that an initial child endowment payment of 5s. a week was fairly liberal. Now the Minister seems to take it for granted that that rate should be increased by 50 per cent. At the time that the original bill was introduced, members of the Labour party welcomed it, and did not seek to have the payment increased beyond 5s. a week. What is the reason for increasing the amount now? The Minister should not run away with the idea that because the Government has the numbers, there is no need to explain fully the provisions of the bill. That is not the way to treat the Senate. This bill involves a permanent increase of expenditure amounting to £6,080,000 a year, and it is only right that before we vote on it we should know why the increase is thought to be necessary. The increase may, or may not, be justified, but how all these liabilities are to be maintained in the post-war world I do not know. However, the responsibility rests on the Government, and I can only protest that the Minister has not even attempted to justify the proposals that he has placed before us. Had I not told the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that the Opposition would not delay the passage of this bill, I should have submitted it to a closer examination. As however, I understand that the early passage of the measure is sought, so that arrangements can be made to pay the extra amount for which it provides, I shall not say more than that adequate reasons for the increase have not been placed before us. [ view with considerable alarm the continual increases of this class of expenditure without adequate reasons for them being given.
.- Honorable senators may remember that legislation to provide for child endowment was first introduced into this Parliament as the result of an agitation by the trade unions of Australia for an increase of the basic wage. The Arbitration Court refused to make a judgment while this matter was pending. It has not yet given a judgment in the matter, and no increase of the basic wage has taken place. In my opinion, the proposals contained in this measure are amply justified.
Is the Minister in a position to inform us of the amount of the original pay-roll tax? Honorable senators will recall that when the first bill relating to child endowment was before the Parliament, a pay-roll tax was imposed on all pay-rolls of over £20 a week, the money so obtained to be credited to a fund out of which child endowment payments were to be made. Can the Minister say what amount was derived from that tax, and what funds are available to meet this extra 2s. 6d. a week?
– I support the bill, which provides for an increase of child endowment, because, in my opinion, the original measure which was introduced in 1941 has done much to adjust household expenses in homes where there are a number of children. The only question which I raise now is whether the increase should be on a flat rate basis in respect of each additional child. When the original bill was before the Senate in 1941, I said that a flat rate payment would not achieve its purpose, and experience since then has shown that my prediction was correct. The financial cost of rearing children is heavy, but the burden on parents is not so great where there arc only one or two children in the home. Theshoe begins to pinch when the third, fourth, or fifth child arrives. It is then that parents realize what sacrifices they have to make for their children. I now repeat the suggestion which I made in 1941, that child endowment payments should be on a sliding scale basis. That is to say, that for the third child, the additional amount should be1s. a week more than that paid for the second child, and that that principle should be followed in respect of all further children. If that system were in operation child endowment would, in fact, confer advantages which would be appreciated in homes where there are several children. Something of the kind would do much to increase the population. A family of two children is not more than sufficient to maintain Australia’s population at its present figure. Only after the third child is born is there any prospect of increasing the population. More encouragement should be given to families of three or more children. One way to do that would be to increase the rates of child endowment paid in respect of the third child and subsequent children.
Senator FRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for shall not discuss the merits or demerits of Senator Leckie’s statement that a nonLabour government was the first to introduce into this Parliament legislation to provide for child endowment, as Senator Lamp has given the reasons for its introduction. I remind the Senate that on numerous occasions we have discussed means by which Australia’s population may be increased. A vigorous policy of immigration has been advocated in some quartets, whilst others have urged an increased birth-rate as the best means of adding to the population. One means by which an improvement of the birthrate might bc expected was said to be child endowment payments, but whether the introduction of child endowment will have that result remains to be seen. Another important factor in any increase of Australia’s birth-rate is the economic security for people with families. I am sure that these have not been lost sight of by honorable senators generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I now have available the answers to two questions previously asked by Senator Cooper. The first question, which appears on to-day’s notice-paper, is as follows: -
The answers to the honorable senator’s question are as follows : -
On the 14th June Senator Cooper asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if it -is a fact as reported in a statement attributed to the Chairman of the Rationing Commission in the press at the week-end that the Government intends to ease progressively the ration in respect of clothes? If so, will the Minister consider the early reduction of the coupon rating for essential garments such as overcoats, pyjamas and other ranges of men’s women’s and children’s warm underwear so that wardrobes might be replenished during the present winter? Further, nas the Minister seen the statement made in Melbourne that unless the coupon values for woollens were revised downwards during the next few months, nearly every manufacturer would have to close because piles of made-up garments were unsold because of woollens having the same coupon ratings as worsted goods? If so, would he take action along the lines suggested ?
The chairman of theRationing Commission did make the statement referred to. It is the intention of the commission, as stated, progressively to ease rationing as the supply position warrants. As part of this easing programme, lower rates have already been given to certain garments which are in adequate supply, namely, underclothes, men’s socks and men’s caps, knitting wool and piece-goods. The position regarding all items of clothing is being carefully watched and whenever possible further easings will be made. It is very likely that further concessions will be made on a number of items within the next few weeks. It is extremely diffi cult to distinguish between woollen goods and worsted goods and in these circumstances I doubt whether it is possible to fix special low rates for woollens as apart from worsteds. The supply position of these cloths is being watched, and if it appears that there are more than adequate stocks in. hand then lower ratings will be given to goods made from this material.
On the 14th June Senator Allan MacDonald asked whether I would give early consideration, to be followed by early action, with aview to permitting the sale of all knitting wools to be cou pon-f ree. I now inform the honorable senator that the supply position of knitting wools was considered by the commission at a recent meeting, but it was doubted whether supplies were sufficient to permit this item to be removed from the scale. In these circumstances a lowered rating only was provided. The question of removing items from the scale is difficult to tackle during the currency of a rationing period. The stock census figures which will more clearly disclose the supply position will he available before the end of the current rationing period and it. is hoped that the figures disclosed in this survey will warrant the removal from the rationing scale of a number of items at the commencement of the “ Z “ coupons on or about 15th November, 1945.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450622_senate_17_183/>.