18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I regret to inform the Senate that Senator Leckie has found it necessary, for personal reasons, to resign his position as Deputy Leader of the Opposition. At this stage I shall not do more than express briefly, on behalf of the Opposition, our appreciation of the services that he has rendered to his country for a number of years. I am sure, too, that honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber share our regret that Senator Leckie has found it necessary to relinquish this office.
I have much pleasure in intimating that the Opposition has unanimously elected Senator Cooper to fill the position vacated by Senator Leckie. I trust that the period between now and the 1st July next will provide Senator Cooper- with the opportunity to sharpen his sword for the combat in which he will have to engage from that date. We wish him every success.
– by leave - On behalf of the Government, I express regret that Senator Leckie has found it necessary to relinquish the office of Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The honorable senator has been a keen and tenacious debater and, whilst we on this side have not always agreed with him, I know that I speak on behalf of every supporter of the Government when I say that we have always respected him, particularly for bis sincerity.
I extend good wishes to Senator Cooper, on behalf of the Government, and express the confident belief that he will maintain the high traditions of the office to which ho has been elected.
– On the 5th March, I asked the Postmaster-General a question relating to the urgent need for the installation of new telephones in Adelaide. Has he yet obtained an answer to that question?
– The question asked by tho honorable senator was as follows : -
In view of the grave dissatisfaction in South Australia because of the fact that the department’s programme for the installation of new telephones is not proceeding as satisfactorily as might be expected, will the PostmasterGeneral give urgent consideration to this matter with a view to expediting installations !
I promised to investigate the possibility of expediting installations. There are now approximately 7,000 outstanding applications for telephone subscribers’ services in South Australia, of which all but 60 relate to the metropolitan area. These applications are held up because of the shortage of exchange buildings and equipment, underground cable and/or telephone instruments. The Postal Department is doing everything possible to overtake the arrears which accumulated during the war. In the next three years, it is proposed to expend about £25,000,000 for the purpose of rehabilitating postal and telecommunication services throughout the Commonwealth, and a fair proportion of this amount will be expended in South Australia.
The first stage of the programme will comprise mainly those works which are necessary to permit immediate and urgently needed improvements to be effected in the postal, telephone and telegraph facilities. A commencement has already been made with the programme, but progress will depend mainly on the availability of skilled man-power and materials. The Government is fully behind the proposal to meet the grave position which has arisen, and has appointed a Cabinet sub-committee to control the post-war programme. It is the firm intention to restore depleted reserves of plant and equipment, expand and develop services and enable residents in city and country areas alike to enjoy the most up-to-date facilities on reasonable terms.
So far as South Australia is concerned, several projects which are necessary to enable outstanding applications for telephone facilities to be completed have already been undertaken or will be commenced in the near future. These include the following works in Adelaide : - “Wakefield Exchange. - Automatic equipment to provide for 800 subscribers’ lines is now being installed in the General Post Office building and the work should be completed in June, 1947.
North Adelaide Exchange. - A new building is nearing completion and the automatic equipment, which has been on order for a considerable time, is expected to be delivered within the next six months. The initial provision will cater for 1,200 subscribers’ lines and the apparatus will be installed immediately it becomes available.
Edwardstown Exchange. - Automatic, equipment for 1,800 subscribers’ lines is now being installed and the work should be completed within the next three or four months.
Waymouth Exchange. - As a new building is not likely to be available for some time, it is proposed to install 3.000 lines of automatic equipment in Duncan’s Buildings, Franklin-street.
Delivery of the equipment has been delayed, but it is expected to arrive early in 1948. The work of installing the apparatus will be undertaken as soon as it comes to hand.
Glenunga Exchange. - A temporary building will be erected and automatic equipment for 300 subscribers’ lines will be placed in it. It is hoped to complete the project within the next six months.
Stirling West and Blackwood Exchanges. - It .is proposed to establish automatic exchanges early in 1948. The necessary switching equipment is on order, and deliveries will be expedited as much as possible.
Unfortunately, due to conditions arising from the war, serious delay has occurred in securing adequate stocks of underground cable, and there is a great amount of leeway, to be made up before normal conditions return. Every effort is being made to obtain supplies of cable, both in Australia and overseas, and the cable which becomes available will be allocated to secure the most advantageous results.
In country districts in South Australia, there are relatively few outstanding applications for telephone facilities and the majority of these are held up awaiting magneto telephones. The manufacture of telephone instruments in Australia has been adversely affected by the shortage of materials from which certain component parts are manufactured, including enamelled insulated wire, cotton coverings for cords and sheet metal. Vigorous endeavours have been made by the Postmaster-General’s Department to meet the situation, and it is hoped that in the near future the local production of telephones will be increased to a marked degree.
The importance of overtaking arrears of telephone applications is fully appreciated by the Government and the department, and a special organization has been set up to assist in this objective. Honorable senators may rest assured that the department will spare no effort to rehabilitate and improve its services, and that every means whereby greater expedition can be secured will be adopted.
– Was the Minister for Trade and Customs correctly reported in the Brisbane Telegraph as having said that tea stocks in Australia are sufficient to last only about two months? Did the Tea Controller recently visit Ceylon to investigate the availability of supplies, and the prices at which various grades of tea could be supplied to Australia? Has the Minister yet received the Tea Controller’s report, and can he state whether further price increases and more drastic rationing of tea are likely?
– I did make a statement that supplies of tea in Australia were sufficient for only two or three months. The Tea Controller has been to Ceylon and has now returned to Australia, but the Government has not yet received his report on his activities in Ceylon.
United Kingdom Contract Prices - Shortage in Tasmania.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture supply to the Senate details of the prices for beef, mutton, and lamb stipulated in the contract with the Government of the United Kingdom? Will he state why secrecy has been preserved in regard to these prices? Does he realize that the meat producers are completely in the dark in regard to the prices provided in the contract? Is the full amount of the contract prices paid to the producers?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who, I am sure, will furnish a reply.
– In view of the shortage of meat supplies in Tasmania due to graziers refusing to sell at tho ceiling prices fixed by the Prices Commissioner and to butchers’ shops being closed, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether there is any surplus of fresh meat in Victoria that can be transported to Tasmania. Can the Minister make arrangements for frozen meat from northern States to be supplied and trans ported to Tasmania ? Is there any frozen meat in Melbourne that could be transported to Tasmania to relieve the present position in that State?’
– The subjectmatter of the honorable senator’s questions is constantly receiving the earnest consideration of the Government.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate what directions, if any, have been given to the DirectorGeneral of Post-war Reconstruction, Dr. Coombs, who is to lead the Australian delegation at the International Conference on Trade and Employment to be held shortly at Geneva? Will Dr. Coombs act on his own judgment on matters that may affect the economy of this country, or will such matters be referred to the Government before finality is reached ? If they are referred to the Government, will the Parliament be given an opportunity to discuss them ?
- Dr. Coombs, as we know, is one of a number of delegates who are proceeding to the conference to discuss the trade relations of Australia with other countries. Any proposed tariff alteration, or any proposal affecting the policy of this country must be referred to this Parliament before any definite action is taken.
– Are we to understand that it will be competent for this Parliament to vary decisions made at the conference and that any variation desired by the Parliament would not have to be referred back to the members of the conference before it could be made?
– Any agreement reached at the conference will not be binding until ratified by this Parliament.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the supply of newsprint to a newspaper known as The Rock has been cancelled? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate of the reason for such action?
– The allocation of newsprint to the newspaper mentioned lias not been cancelled. I understand that that journal is still being published.
– In view of the possibility of a shortage of fruit cases in this country, will the Minister for Trade and Customs confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, because it may become necessary to import shooks for the manufacture of the cases? Tariff difficulties might arise, and I suggest that, if the Minister conferred with his colleague, he might be able to overcome them.
– I appreciate the importance of the matter, and I shall be pleased to confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture regarding it.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received from Senator Foll an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The failure of the Commonwealth Government to enforce the orders of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, particularly that which has precipitated the current waterside workers’ strike, and the urgent need for the Government to take a strong stand in the treatment nf those Communist elements playing a prominent part in this revolt against law and order, which culminated yesterday in a Domain riot when elected representatives of the people and other citizens were subjected to physical violence.
.- I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 9 a.m.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I am reluctant to take any step which might appear to be an attempt to stifle the discussion of any matter that comes before the Senate, but
I understand that certain people have been charged, and appeared before a magistrate in Sydney this morning and were remanded. I suggest, therefore, that the latter portion of the matter which the honorable senator wishes to be discussed be amended by leaving out all the words after the word “strike” as these relate to a subject which is sul) judice and so should not be discussed here.
– I am willing to withdraw the latter portion of the subjectmatter.
Matter - by leave - amended accordingly.
– I hope that it is not necessary to engender any heat in the discussion of this motion. I have no desire unduly to embarrass the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), because, of the many problems with which he has had to deal as Minister, probably none has been more difficult than those associated with the troubles which have occurred at the port of Sydney. The situation there has reached the stage that it ceases to be a problem affecting only the port of Sydney and the people of New South Wales, because what is happening in Australia’s greatest port is influencing the lives of people in every State. According to the latest figures published in the newspapers, about 80 ships are now held up in the port of Sydney. Many of them have been tied up there for some considerable time. Before the strike commenced, shortage of labour and an increased volume of shipping led to delays. Now, when shipping is more urgently needed than ever before to carry cargoes between Australia and overseas countries and also between Australian ports, the port of Sydney is locked up, and, apparently, will continue to be locked up for some time unless strong and prompt action be taken by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales. The position at the port of Sydney has been growing steadily worse for some time. This morning’s newspapers reported the following statement by the Director of Shipping, Mr. Hetherington: -
The Australian Shipping Board has chartered five more British freighters for the Australian coastal trade, bringing the total under charter for that purpose to nineteen vessels.
The Director of Shipping, Mr. R. A. Hetherington, said yesterday the cargo ships were due in Sydney some time next month. Two were of 8,000 tons and the others were 0,000, 7,000 and ] 2,000 tons.
The freighters would probably be used on the coast for a year, Mr. Hetherington said. Th» biggest vessel would carry coal and iron ore and the others general cargo and housing materials. “ This situation has been forced on us by the tactics of Sydney wharf-labourers,” he lidded. “If we got the continuity of wharf labour which wc get in all other States, except Queensland, all these ships would not he required “ Wharf-labourers here seem to be bent or. restricting stevedoring operations and fmstrating the benefit from the better turnaround of ships in other ports.”
Mr. Hetherington said the Australian Ship ping Board was using nearly twice the number nf ships employed in the interstate trade in 1036. but they carried only about the same tonnage as before the war.
From that statement it would appear that ships are carrying only about half the amount of cargo that they carried during the war. On many occasions the Minister has told us of the difficulties confronting the Government because of a shortage of shipping, and one would have thought that, at a time when everything pointed to the wisdom of speeding up the process of loading and unloading ships, there would be an improvement; but we find, on the contrary, that the position has steadily grown worse, and that to-day ships take longer to turn round than they did previously. Among the goods carried in the vessels now tied up at Sydney are large quantities of potatoes. Before the strike commenced, a vessel carrying cargo between Hobart and Sydney should have taken fourteen days to make the round trip, but recently a similar journey occupied one vessel for a month and three days. That was before this final stoppage on the waterfront took place.
What is the position to-day in Sydney, and, ‘indeed,, in .all districts served by the Port of Sydney? At a time when our people are crying out for potatoes, which are being produced in abundance in Tasmania, potatoes are being allowed to rot in ships in Sydney Harbour. For weeks past, unfortunate housewives have been obliged to go to their grocers in the hope that as a favour they might be able to obtain a pound of potatoes. Many families have not been able to obtain potatoes for some time past; and this happens at a time when potatoes were never in more plentiful supply. But this is not the first occasion this state of affairs has arisen. Months ago, wharf labourers refused to unload potatoes off ships in Sydney harbour, or delayed the unloading for so long that the potatoes went bad. Then, when the wharf labourers commenced unloading they claimed stench money because of the smell coming from the rotten potatoes. The wharf labourers themselves were to blame for the position that had arisen, because they refused to unload the potatoes on the arrival of cargoes in Sydney. A serious position has also arisen with respect to the unloading of raw sugar from ships in Sydney Harbour. During the week-end it was reported in the press that, because of the refusal of wharf labourers to unload raw sugar a serious shortage was threatened, and people rushed to buy all of the sugar for which they held coupons.
But these facts are only half the story. What is behind the continual trouble existing on the waterfront? I give credit to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) for the patience he has shown in dealing with the wharf labourers. Many people believe that he has been far too patient, and I warn him that the patience and endurance of the people are exhausted. Their dissatisfaction was brought to a head in the unfortunate incident which occurred in the Sydney Domain yesterday, to which I shall refer later. At present, when our primary products are so urgently required by the people of Great Britain, who are not only suffering the aftermath of war but also enduring grave privation as the result of the worst blizzards in the history of their country, and every cargo of foodstuff means so much to them, it is essential, if we are to rehabilitate our ex-service personnel, that our industries and factories should be working to full capacity. It is very difficult to judge what is behind the continual hold-up on our wharfs; but I do not think that there is any doubt that the trouble is due entirely to Communist activities among members of the Waterside Workers Federation and others who say they support
Russian Communism. What treatment would be accorded to people who held up food ships in Russian ports in the way in which so-called Communists are holding up food ships in this country? Would they be treated with anything like the patience shown towards them in Australia ?
I now refer to the incident which occurred yesterday in the Sydney Domain. I do not believe that in normal circumstances it is the job of individuals to set themselves up as a body to call for volunteers to do work which strikers refuse to do ; ‘but someone has to take the lead and voice the feelings of the people in this matter. Certain persons secured a permit from the appropriate Minister in New South Wales to hold a meeting of protest, and as the result of that meeting volunteers offered their services to the Government to perform work which the wharf labourers refuse to do. However, they had hardly commenced their meeting when Communists appeared and assaulted the principals at the meeting. I refer to that incident solely because it is an indication of the way in which public feeling is running at present. As I have already said, the Minister has shown too much patience in dealing with the waterside workers. The Government set up the Stevedoring Industry Commission for the purpose of dealing on the spot with troubles which might arise. That industry has been given machinery for the settlement of disputes which has been denied to other industries which are deserving of equally favorable treatment. Every facility has been provided for the settlement and avoidance of disputes, but what has been the result? Stoppages became more frequent than ever before, and have now culminated in a complete hold-up. We have heard statements made from time to time that these disputes could be avoided if the Government would only increase the basic wage. However, when the Arbitration Court, in an interim award, increased the basic wage by 7s. a week what effect did that decision have on the industry? Then, union officials urged that disputes would be avoided provided the Government exempted persons in the lower ranges of income from income tax and reduced the tax on incomes in the middle ranges.
– The honorable senator himself advocated that course.
– And I believed that I was justified ; but what happened? Only a few weeks ago it was announced that substantial redactions of tax on lower incomes would be made as from the 1st July next, but, so far, that announcement has not improved conditions on the waterfront in the Port of Sydney. I have not the slightest doubt that this industrial unrest is caused solely by Communists in the Waterside Workers Federation who have gained complete control of the industry. If the Commonwealth and State Governments are sincere in saying that they will have nothing to do with Communists, a unique opportunity is presented to them to-day to prove their sincerity in this matter. It is useless for unions and branches of the Australian Labour party to pass resolutions on the eve of elections denouncing the Communists, and declaring that the Labour party holds itself entirely aloof from Communist activities when, at the same time, the Labour party does nothing to deal with those Communists who are undermining the waterfront industry which is a key industry.
– What remedy does the honorable senator suggest?
– First, the Government should call for volunteers to unload the ships from amongst the members of the Waterside Workers Federation itself. Nobody wants to see a legitimate union broken up as a result of the employment of voluntary labour. Members of the federation, whose rightful task is the loading and unloading of ships, should be given the opportunity to do the job.
– How many would volunteer ?
– Has the Government yet tried to get anybody? What does the Government propose to do? Does it intend only to wring its hands hopelessly and helplessly and say, “ We cannot get anyone “ ? Citizens of this country are demanding foodstuffs, yet large quantities of various commodities are rotting in the holds of ships. Is this the attitude of a truly democratic government? As I have said, the Government’s first action should be to call for volunteers from among members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and to guarantee them protection if they will agree to work. If that appeal fails, members of the general public should be asked to offer their services for this work, and I have no doubt that the response would be adequate. When sufficient voluntary labour is secured by either method, first preference) should be given to the unloading of ships containing foodstuffs. I do not agree with Senator Amour that there would be a lack of volunteers from amongst members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I believe that there are just as many men in the federation who are being browbeaten and bludgeoned by Communist leaders as there are outside of it. The time must come when the Waterside Workers Federation, like certain Queensland industrial organizations, will be forced to purge its ranks of Communist agitators and officials. I make no apology for bringing this important matter before the Senate. The citizens of this country have reached the limit of their endurance so far as waterfront holdups are concerned. They are demanding that the food be sent to their homes and not allowed to rot in the holds of ships. The only instrumentality that can deal adequately with a problem of this kind is the Commonwealth Government, aided by the State Governments, who have the machinery necessary to ensure that the vessels shall be unloaded by some means or other.
– For years past condemnation of coal-miners and wharflabourers has been a popular pastime with honorable senators opposite, and it was not hard to guess upon what section of the workers of this country the burdon of the Opposition’s attack to-day would fall. Coal-mining and stevedoring are turbulent industries, and the main reason for that turbulence is the treatment that workers in those industries have had to endure at the hands of their employers for a long period of years. Senator Foll has urged the Government to call for volunteers to work the ships from among members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I know that his- statement that an adequate number of volunteers could be obtained in this way lacks sincerity. What is the true position? An industrial authority has been set up to deal specifically with this industry. I refer to the Stevedoring Industry Commission which was constituted during the war. Does Senator Foll seriously suggest that the Government should dictate to the commission the action that it should take in regard to this dispute? For years honorable senators opposite have cried loudly against interference with decisions of courts and other properly constituted industrial tribunals; yet to-day they are urging the Government to interfere with the tribunal that is charged with the responsibility of dealing with disputes in the stevedoring industry.
– Does the Minister not agree that some action should be taken in a case like this?
– Action has been taken. Conferences have been held. On Friday last, I consulted with the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. I have also met members of the State executive of the Waterside Workers Federation, and of the commission in an endeavour to restore peace in this industry. Certain difficulties have been encountered because I believe it to be my duty not to interfere in any action that may be taken by the commission to solve this problem.
Senator Foll claimed that the waterside industry was run by Communists. I deny that emphatically. There is not one Communist on the New South Wales State executive of the Waterside Workers Federation, and that is the body which is staging this strike. I point out, however, that so democratic is the constitution of the Waterside Workers Federation, that even a member of the Australian Country party or of the Liberal party could be elected to one of the governing bodies. Whilst I hold no brief for the Communist party, I should like to explain the position. Possibly Senator Foll has spoken in ignorance. It is true that some members of the federal body of the federation and of other State executives have admitted their affiliation with the Communist party, but my position is this: Whoever may be elected to office by the rank and file of the Waterside Workers
Federation will receive the same consideration from me irrespective of his politics.
Senator Foll referred to an alleged delay that had occurred to a vessel carrying potatoes from Tasmania to Sydney. The honorable senator’s statement was a general one, and my experience has been that delays are often caused by weather conditions. But, of course, for everything that happens on the waterfront the waterside workers are blamed. 1 regret, and the Government regrets, that foodstuffs are not being unloaded from ships now in port, and that these commodities are deteriorating. Even honorable senators opposite must agree that the action taken in Sydney yesterday has not improved the position. As I was flying to Canberra yesterday, I read in the morning newspapers about Mr. Darby’s plan for a meeting in the Domain to call for volunteers to unload food ships in Sydney Harbour and I said to the person sitting beside me, “ There will be riot there this afternoon if that takes place “. That public meeting provoked people into creating a disturbance. Had Mr. Darby been sincere in his efforts to solve the problem, he would have engaged a public hall where he would have been protected. Instead of doing so, he went out into the open, where he invited people to demonstrate against his action in calling for volunteers. I have referred to this matter only because it was mentioned by Senator Foll.
Negotiations to settle the strike on the Sydney waterfront are still proceeding. Certain conditions have been laid down by the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which has ordered the working of overtime. That is a difficult order to enforce. T do not know of any law in Australia by which a man can be compelled to work overtime if he does not want to do so. We must realize that the waterside workers, as well as workers in other industries, have become tired as a result of their wartime labours. We should show tolerance towards them and appreciation of the services that they rendered during the war. By doing so, it may be possible for us within a few days to reach some agreement under which the Sydney waterfront will be fully manned again. Concessions were made by the waterside workers’ representatives at the discussions last Friday. Until that time, the Waterside Workers Federation had resisted all proposals to admit new members. The membership of the organization in Sydney has already been increased from the pre-war figure of about 4,000 men to over 6,000 men. The federation is anxious to safeguard continuity of employment for its members. Nevertheless, on Friday, the representatives of the federation agreed to a suggestion that 500 new members be admitted. The discussions closed on that note on Friday afternoon. The Stevedoring Industry Commission discussed this proposal yesterday, but it did not see fit to accept the offer. Therefore, talks are now taking place between executive officers of the Sydney branch of the federation and the members of the commission and I hope that, as a result of these discussions, the trouble will be settled within a few days.
– Did not the commission agree to admit 500 new men to the industry in Sydney?
– No. It rejected that proposal and stood by its order that overtime must be worked.
– I understand that the commission wanted both the admittance of new members and the working of overtime.
– The suggestion for the admittance of 500 new members to the federation was made on Friday afternoon at the conference which I attended. The representatives of the federation then guaranteed that 300 new members would be admitted within a fortnight and the remainder within a month. I consider that they were earnestly endeavouring to solve the problem and were sincere in their suggestion.
The newspapers have repeatedly reported that there is a. lag in the handling of cargo at Sydney of about 140,000 or 150,000 tons. That is a considerable exaggeration. Ordinarily, there is always a lag of approximately 40,000 tons of cargo on the wharfs, year in year out. Therefore, the present exceptional lag amounts to only about 100,000 tons. During the week-end, an examination of the position was made by representatives of the federation, the commission, and the Directorate of Shipping. I understood from early reports of that examination that agreement had virtually been reached on the admittance of 500 new members so as to reduce the lag. It was considered that the lag could be considerably reduced by the end of June, when waterside workers would commence their annual holidays. Negotiations are proceeding from day to day and I, as the representative of the Government in this matter, will do everything possible to effect a settlement. I have not neglected any opportunity to seek a solution of the problem. In fact, negotiations are likely to continue to-day, and I may have to leave the chamber during this debate in order to take part in them. I ask honorable senators to reject the motion because it has been brought up entirely for the purposes of political propaganda. I have no objection to such tactics. Probably, if the Labour party were in opposition it would raise some other matter in order to provoke a discussion.
– Propaganda cannot help me now.
-Probably if the honorable senator had been less active as a propagandist he might have retained his seat in the Senate. I ask the Senate to reject the motion.
– I shall deal with some of the extraordinary statements made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley). One of his most remarkable comments related to the disturbance in the Sydney Domain yesterday. He said that the people who conducted the meeting, for which they had authority, should not have gone out in the open in the Domain. Surely to goodness, if free speech is to prevail in Australia there can be no better place to exercise that ancient right than in the open air ! The Minister said that the organizers of the meeting should have engaged a hall where they would have had protection. Apparently, if people hold meetings out of doors they cannot have protection. Time after time, we have seen instances of the fact that a hall affords no protection to people who organize public meet ings. In fact, I have vivid recollections of incidents that occurred recently at meetings in a number of public halls. I have been belted in a hall, and I have been belted in the open air in the sunny State of New South Wales, and I know that a hall offers no protection. Perhaps there is less protection for a man who conducts a meeting at night from a lorry, where his opponents may attack him from the flanks and even from the rear. I was lamentably attacked in such a way in New South Wales a few years ago. Probably that was my own fault, as a Tasmanian, for butting into the politics of another State. At any rate I learned my lesson by bitter experience. The Minister also said that there were no Communists involved in the waterside dispute in Sydney. I have frequently read in the newspapers statements made by Mr. Healy to the effect that he is a Communist and glories in the fact. Therefore, the Minister’s statement in this connexion is also incorrect. This unwarranted strike, which has been in progress for many days, is aimed at the Government and the community generally. It is not directed against the owners. The only remedy that the Government can offer is appeasement of these pampered people who have been nursed for years, and particularly during the war years. They have had a blank cheque with regard to their industrial conditions, and they have been grossly overpaid for what they have done. When one reads the press reports that are published from time to time concerning their doings, one realizes the harm being clone by the great delay in the turnround of shipping in our ports. One is reminded of the biblical injunction - “ For whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap “.
This storm has been brewing for a long time. If we give a horse too much rich feed and not enough work, even the most tractable and well-disposed animal will very soon become unmanageable. That Ls what has happened on the waterfront throughout the Commonwealth. The Government and its supporters are reaping what they have sown. The waterside workers, made bold by the inertness and the lack of “guts” displayed by this Government, have now levelled a pistol at the real sufferers - the community. Should there be any doubt as to who are the real sufferers, we need only ask the housewives of Australia. These men are paralysing industry in this country, but the only remedy that the Minister for Supply and Shipping has suggested is further and further appeasement. That is merely running away from the problems that face us to-day. Are the people to have food, perishable or otherwise? No, because we must have more and more appeasement of these waterside workers. And what has happened now? Mob savagery has decreed that free speech is out. That is the only interpretation that can be placed on the disgraceful happenings yesterday. The ordinary law-abiding citizen is being deprived of all rights, and food supplies are being cut off. It is a shameful spectacle.
– What would the honorable senator do ?
– I would tell honorable senators all about that, if I had the time. We tackled this problem away back in 1925. We tackled it again in 192S, and what we did worked. Only recently, in the House of Representatives, legislation sponsored by the Opposition was circumvented. The trouble with the “dog collar” act was that it worked and gave results. It is shameful that the largest port in the Commonwealth should be idle for so long, because of an absolutely unwarranted strike.
Our minds turn to our kinsfolk in Britain, 13,000 miles away. Many of us know how severely they are suffering. Because of the supineness of this Government, foodstuffs for those hard-pressed people, who bore almost the whole of the burden for eighteen long months in the early stage of the war, are being held up in Australia. Those people are being unjustly deprived of that much-needed food. The State Ministers in New South Wales are absolutely supine in this crisis. They disregarded the request made to them for police protection and treated it as of no consequence. This Government has made no effort whatever to support the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, the very body which it has set up, Is it not the duty of all governments to protect law-abiding people? Those who assembled for a meeting in the Sydney Domain yesterday were not breaking the law. We boast of the “ four freedoms “ and particularly of freedom of speech. That is what those people assembled for yesterday - freedom , of speech - but they were denied it by a mob of ruffians. That is what we are coming to; that is what appeasement does. The more we turn our face away from trouble, seek to evade it or run away from it, the greater it becomes. Eventually we must face it, and then it will have become so much worse. The policy of further appeasement which the Minister preached to us this afternoon is tragic and calamitous. Because of the continuous preaching of this doctrine, certain sections of the community, pressure groups, have defied the law and “ got away with it “. That is the reason why we are faced with this position to-day. As I said when I began, “ For whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reapeth “. This Government is reaping the reward of its own cowardliness, folly and ineptitude.
– I do not contend for a moment that the waterside workers in Sydney are doing the right thing, because they are obviously doing the wrong thing. I do not know what is actuating them. The problem has arisen because they have been requested to work overtime. They say they will work overtime, but on a voluntary basis. However, we all know that that solution would not apply on the waterfront, because the work there is so organized that a complete gang must attend, and, unless every member of the gang worked overtime, the system would break down. An extraordinary position has arisen in the Port of Sydney. A back-lag of work has accumulated and it was suggested that extra men should be admitted to the industry for a temporary period of, say, six to eight months to overtake the accumulation. However, the Sydney waterside workers said, “ No ; we will not work overtime”. The Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation is not a Communist body.
– Were many Communists arrested yesterday?
– I shall deal with that later. Actually the officials of the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation are not Communists; on the contrary they are regarded in industrial circles as anti-Communist. When the stop-work meeting was called, this extraordinary position developed: The Communists outside the hall distributed pamphlets urging a strike, whilst inside the hall the Communist leaders advocated the strike.
It was decided that the work at the port should stop because of the overtime dispute. I am not defending the action taken, but apparently those in charge of the trade union thought that they had a just case. By way of illustration, I shall relate an incident which happened recently. A night or two ago the car in which I was travelling in a Sydney suburb developed a serious mechanical fault. With difficulty, I managed to reach a garage shortly before 6 p.m. The garage proprietor made a hasty inspection and announced that the car was suffering from ignition trouble. I asked him if he could put matters right, but he said that he was sorry that he could not do so then, as it was nearly 6 o’clock, and he was going home to his tea. When I remonstrated and said that the trouble was serious he said, “ Keep on trying. It might get you home. Anyhow I cannot stay any longer. Goodnight ! “ That incident is similar to what is happening on the waterfront: the only difference is that by refusing to work the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are holding up all the shipping in Australia’s chief port, whereas the garage proprietor held up only one nian. But both happenings are typical of many individuals to-day. They are looking for trouble and, of course, they find it.
When Senator Foll was asked what he would do to solve the trouble on the waterfront he said that he would call for volunteers from among the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. No one knows better than does the honorable senator that there would be no volunteers. Tt is easy to offer destructive criticism. The man whose opinion I value is the one who puts forward a proposal to solve the problem. Senator Sampson is not one of them, because when he was asked for a solution of the problem he said that in the short time at his disposal he could not tell the Senate what he would do.
Let us consider for a moment the demonstration at the Sydney Domain, for which members of the Waterside Workers Federation have been blamed. I do not think that the blame should be laid at their door. It is significant that all the men who were involved in the scuffle are not members of the Waterside Workers Federation. The demonstration was provoked by Mr. Darby, a misguided gentleman from Manly, who started something which he knew would cause trouble. Rank-and-file members of the Waterside Workers Federation were not involved in the riot. Communists seized the opportunity to make another demonstration. Such tactics are not new ; nor was the recent riot the last scuffle which will take place on public platforms in this country. Senator Sampson recalled a number of occasions, both inside and outside halls, when he had been physically assaulted. I wonder that he did not blame the waterside workers for those assaults, but, apparently, they occurred years ago, when he left his flank exposed. Unfortunately, many Australians have been molested by people who have not been willing to hear their views. It may be that some of us in this chamber are allowed to speak only because of the Standing Orders.
Senator Sampson also remarked that the Government was running away from this problem and was not supporting the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The present strike on the waterfront could have been settled almost as soon as it began had the Government not stood four-square behind the commission. At a recent conference a proposal was made for 500 extra members of the Waterside Workers Federation, but the Stevedoring Industry Commission said “ No “, and the Government supported the commission. They said that as the men had been asked to work overtime, it was only fair that they should be allowed to do so. I wonder whether Senator Sampson would compel men on the waterside to work by denying them food, or by some such means driving them back into the holds of the ships.
I remind bini that we have passed that stage in industry. I hope that it will not be long before this trouble ends and that all sections of the community will work together for the good of the nation. No one is pleased about the situation on the Sydney waterfront. I do not say that the Waterside Workers Federation has done the right thing. Indeed, I think that it has acted wrongly; it has embarrassed the Government, and made it difficult for citizens to carry on their trade and commerce; but we look to the Opposition in vain for a solution of the problem.
– The Government’s answer to the charge contained in the motion falls short of what one would expect from an administration which has undertaken to ensure that the laws of this country shall be observed. I certainly expected the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to say what the Government proposed to do in order to settle the trouble on the Sydney waterfront. If the Government capitulates to the Waterside Workers Federation, or indeed, to any other powerful organization in the country, it is tantamount to asking that organization to assume the functions of government. Is it merely a coincidence that so many disputes have arisen on the waterfront at Sydney, where the volume of shipping is such that members of the Waterside Workers Federation must have practically permanent work throughout the year? It is true that about 1,500 registered members of the federation never present themselves for work, and I should be interested to know what action the Government intends to take in regard to them. For instance, will they be paid attendance money and participate in other benefits to be given to waterside workers generally? Are they to be given a fortnight’s holiday on full pay, the same as men who actually load and unload ships? Does the Government propose to allow these non-workers to continue to be registered as members of the federation? If the Government intends to bow the knee to this organization why did it not do so several weeks ago, and not hold up the trade of this country? I do not profess to know a great deal of the working conditions of men who load and unload ships, but, in my opinion, their work is not easy, and moreover, it sometimes involves a considerable degree of risk. I know, too, that in many ports their work is seasonal. But with the increasing number of vessels using the Port of Sydney, I should think that waterside workers there were in practically full-time employment. At outports, where work is largely seasonal, men have worked loyally; they have loaded and unloaded ships when called upon to do so. That has not been the experience of those concerned with the movement of ships in the Port of Sydney. Unless we can rely on the Government to enforce the observance of the laws of the country, to whom can we turn? Thousands of tons of potatoes are rotting in the holds of vessels now tied up at Sydney whilst thousands of people in Australia need potatoes. That being so, the Government has a duty to the community. Those potatoes are the property of the Commonwealth Government because of its guarantee to buy practically the entire Australian crop of potatoes. On a conservative estimate, there are about 2,000,000 sacks of potatoes in Tasmania awaiting shipment. At the rate at which they are being shipped from Tasmania it would appear that half of that quantity of potatoes will never reach the market.
It is idle for the Government merely to reply to our criticism by asking, “What would yon do about it?” The people have placed upon the Government the responsibility of ensuring observance of the law. Our industrial legislation is far in advance of that of any other country. Our Arbitration Court functioned satisfactorily for many years, and the Government has set up tribunals to deal in a special way with problems arising in certain industries. No section of industry has benefited to a greater degree under that policy than the waterside workers, the seamen and the coal-miners, yet in those three key industries the greatest degree of unrest occurs. Workers in many other industries depend upon the successful operation of those three key industries for their livelihood; and it is a wonder to me that, under existing conditions, they are prepared without protest to continue to do their duty to the country. It is useless for the Government to answer criticism of its weak handling of the waterside workers’ dispute in Sydney by attempting to place its responsibility upon the shoulders of the Opposition. Why is it that the more powerful unions are permitted to do what they like, whilst smaller unions are subject to rigid discipline should they fail to observe the very letter of awards made by the court and industrial tribunals in respect of their industries? Is there to be one law for the powerful unions and another law for the small unions? Are the more powerful unions to be allowed to dictate to the people through the Government what they shall, or shall not, do and, at the same time, be permitted to enjoy all the privileges which the Parliament has given foi1 their protection and in order to ensure continuity of employment in their industries? Are these powerful unions to be permitted to hold this country to ransom ? The solution of this problem is the responsibility not of the Opposition but of the Government. We have never made apologies for the attitude we have adopted towards this problem. We have assured the Government on numerous occasions that we shall wholeheartedly support any action it decides to take in order to solve it. But the Opposition, itself, has not power to act in this matter. Let the Government take, a firm stand against these law-breakers, and the Opposition will back it up to the hilt; and the people will do likewise. The silence of honorable senators opposite with respect to the Government’s responsibility in this matter is most remarkable.
I have never heard one honorable senator opposite say anything to indicate that he believes that the Government should take a firm stand in dealing with these law-breakers. If it be necessary to amend the law, or to introduce special legislation, in order to establish peace in industry, the Opposition will support the Government in that direction. Honorable senators opposite are merely evading their responsibility when they say, “ We can do nothing. We have appointed tribunals to deal with these disputes “. The Government cannot escape its responsibility in that way. To whom can the people turn to see that the law is ob served? The Government asks the Opposition what it would do; but the people look to the Government to enforce the law. The writing is on the wall. The people placed the Government in office because I presume they had full confidence in it; but the defeat of the Labour party at recent elections in South Australia and Western Australia clearly indicates that the people are now realizing their mistake. As sure as night follows day, they will throw this Government out of office if it fails to measure up to its responsibility in dealing with industrial unrest.
– I listened attentatively to Senator Foll in his endeavour to tell the people of Australia how he would solve the problem of industrial unrest on the waterfront in Sydney. He suggested two solutions. First, he said that if the waterside workers dared to take action along the lines they are following in Sydney to-day, any government of which he was a member would call upon the unions responsible for the dispute to provide the necessary volunteers to unload the ships. What a brain-wave !
– What does the Government propose to do?
– No doubt, as Senator Herbert Hays is able to solve this dispute on the waterfront, he is able also to settle the strike of master butchers in Tasmania; but in that State the people are still unable to obtain meat because the master butchers are holding up supplies. Secondly, Senator Foll said that if he were not able to obtain sufficient volunteers from the ranks of the waterside workers to unload the ships, he would call for volunteers from the public. The honorable senator was a member of governments which were in office for many years during a period when strike followed strike on the waterfront because of irksome conditions of employment; but those governments did not do anything to improve those conditions. On the contrary, the conditions were allowed to become worse. To-day, however, special conditions have arisen. During the war, when the waterside workers were making a notable contribution to our war effort, they were promised that after the war their conditions would be vastly improved and that permanent employment would be provided on the waterfront. Now that we are again at peace, J do not blame the waterside workers, or any other section of workers, for endeavouring to ensure that the promises made to them during the Avar shall be honoured. It is obvious that any action to call for volunteers from the public to work the ships now held up in Sydney Harbour, as suggested by Senator Foll, would serve immediately to extend the dispute throughout Australia. Do honorable senators opposite refuse to give some credit to the Waterside Workers Federation for the action it has taken to prevent the extension of this dispute? Are their memories so weak that they have forgotten that a very strong move was made by some sections of waterside workers to extend the dispute to all Australian ports, but this was defeated because of the good sense of the waterside workers as a whole? Honorable senators opposite say that the Government is not making any attempt to settle the present dispute in Sydney. However, they must know, as the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) has stated, that representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Stevedoring Industry Commission are now in conference endeavouring to reach a settlement.
Senator Foll is not sincere in his approach to this matter, but has taken this opportunity solely to indulge in party political propaganda. He has tried to lead the people to believe that the Government refuses to take action to ensure continuity of food supplies to our people. I do not believe that the people will be so foolish as to swallow his propaganda. At present, the dispute is in the hands of the parties concerned, and I have no doubt that they will reach an amicable settlement. I base that belief on the magnificent record of the waterside workers during the war when not one serious hold-up occurred in any port in Australia. Like the railway men and those engaged in other transport industries, the waterside workers made an outstanding contribution to our war effort. But, to-day, because a dispute has arisen with respect to the payment of overtime, honorable senators are endeavouring to capitalize the incident for party political reasons; and because certain people, who resented such action, were incited to riot, honorable senators opposite endeavour to lay the responsibility for that incident also at the door of the Government. The legislation necessary to solve this problem has been evolved by the Government. There is a Stevedoring Industry Commission already in existence, and, in addition, the Government has prepared other measures that will come before this chamber shortly, providing further machinery to bring about peace on the waterfront. For the first time in history full employment will be a practical possibility. The state of affairs referred to by Senator Herbert Hays will be remedied, and we shall not have registered as waterside workers thousands of men who have no intention of working on the waterfront. The Stevedoring Industry Commission Bill provides for a greater degree of control of persons employed in the waterfront industry. Conditions on the waterfront will bc co vastly improved by that legislation that I believe we can look forward honestly to peace in this vital industry. The provision of full time employment will go a long way towards solving present-day problems.
Senator Foll offered as his solution of the present dispute the suggestion that the Government should call for voluntary labour from amongst members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I should like to see the honorable senator holding the portfolio of Minister for Supply and Shipping when his suggested remedy was applied. The industrial movement throughout the Commonwealth would become so hostile that the present dispute would extend to all ports, and perhaps to other industries. Does the honorable senator imagine that if the ships were loaded or unloaded by voluntary labour the seamen would be prepared to take them to sea? The ships could not be moved. The Government is endeavouring to localize the dispute, and, quite rightly, is leaving the final solution to the Stevedoring Industry Commission.
– Senator Foll is to be commended for having raised this important matter in the National Parliament. Having listened to the speeches of honorable senators opposite in defence of the waterside workers, one can come to no other conclusion than that the Government’s wellknown policy of appeasement is to be continued. That policy has been the main cause of most of this country’s industrial troubles since Labour assumed office in the Commonwealth Parliament late in 1941. With Labour Governments in power in the National Parliament and in five of the six State Parliaments, we have had strike after strike during the last five and a half years. Judges of the Arbitration Court have stated that it has been a waste of time for them to make decisions because the Commonwealth Government had not the courage to enforce them.
– I do not think that is a fair statement.
– It was made by the late Judge O’Mara, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and by Mr. Justice Davidson who inquired into thi; coal-mining industry. To-day in this chamber, we have seen the sorry spectacle of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) once again making excuses for strikers and suggesting that, because of something the shipowners did years ago, the waterside workers have their backs up. That is typical of the weak attitude that has been adopted for so long towards the few extremists who control certain industries in this country, and who have been able to bludgeon this Government into acquiesence in any request that they have made, irrespective of the cost to the taxpayers or the economic interests of this country. What is the position in regard to this particular dispute? Certain legislation passed by an anti-Labour government many years and referred to as the “ dog-collar act, “ did more than any other measure to bring about peace on the waterfront.
– It victimized exservicemen.
– It did not. It put the extremists, Communists and agitators in their places. This Government, no doubt anxious to do its best to deal with the waterfront problem, which is one of the most serious confronting this country to-day because of the shortage of shipping, set up what is known as the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The chairman of the commission, Mr. Morrison, made a certain decision recently, but the Sydney waterside workers refused to abide by it, and the Government has not had the courage to stand up to its obligation to ensure that it shall be enforced. The Minister for Supply and Shipping, a good unionist, is afraid to do anything that would offend any member of his own party. But the time has arrived when, if the Government is not prepared to outlaw strikes, it will be destroyed. The Labour party constantly avows its support of the arbitration system. The Opposition too supports that system wholeheartedly; but any government that is not prepared to enforce the law, and to implement decisions of industrial tribunals is not fit to govern, and therefore not fit to exist.
– The electors of Australia have spoken on that question.
– Yes, last September; but they have spoken since then in South Australia and Western Australia. However, apart from these personal asides, is there not something more important to this country than political profit? Was there ever a time when this country had a better opportunity to render service to other parts of the world ? We should be taking advantage of the extraordinary position that has arisen. Record prices prevail for primary products and other countries are crying out for foodstuffs that we produce yet, during the eighteen months since the war ended, we have permitted a state verging on civil war to exist in this country. We are missing the great opportunities. When the Opposition urges the Government to take action, it finds that the sickly sentiment that seems to have guided honorable senators opposite throughout their occupancy of the treasury bench still prevails.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping asked if the Opposition thought that the Government should tell the Stevedoring Industry Commission what action it should take to settle this dispute. No. The commission made its decision. Last week the waterside workers put their case again, but the commission said that it was not prepared to alter its decision. Unfortunately, this Government is not prepared to back up that tribunal.
– What should we do?
– That has been the parrot-cry of honorable senators opposite for more than five and a half years. The Government already has sufficient power to fine, imprison or deport the few “ Commos “ and other extremists who are at the root of all the trouble. Ninety per cent, of the workers are anxious to do their job, but so long as the Government is prepared to appease these few irresponsible leaders, this country will suffer as it is suffering to-day. In the port of Sydney 75 or 80 ships are idle. Throughout the Commonwealth there is an urgent demand for homes. In Adelaide yesterday, no trams were running between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and the entire State is threatened with gas-rationing during all the winter. Potatoes from Tasmania are rotting on the wharfs in Sydney. Various industries are closing down because they cannot obtain raw materials such as sugar. More important still, the people of Great Britain are starving whilst British ships are tied up at Sydney wharfs. This state of affairs is deplorable. The Government should not sympathize with these law-breakers. It should have the courage to say, “We are the Government, and we shall govern. We shall enforce the law “.
The experience of honorable senators this afternoon has been extraordinary. They have heard the Minister for Supply and Shipping apologizing for the misdeeds of the waterside workers. They have beard, too, the Minister for Munitions (Senator Armstrong) criticizing the waterside workers. Why does the Minister for Supply and Shipping not heed the advice of his colleague, go to Sydney and tell the waterside workers what he thinks of them - tell them where they are leading this country? Why does he not tell them the effect that their actions are having on our kith and kin in Great Britain? If he were prepared to do these things he would be cheered by all sections of the community, but should the present state of affairs be permitted to continue, the people of this country will despise him.
Senator Finlay praised the waterside workers and said that they were doing everything possible to localize the dispute. He said that there must be some merit in the strike, but added that the good sense of the waterside workers in South Australia and in other States had prevented them from being drawn into the turmoil. Why? The same principle is involved. The question is whether the waterside workers are prepared to work overtime to ensure that ships shall be turnedround in the quickest possible time. I say in all sincerity to honorable senators opposite that they cannot laugh off these happenings much longer. In this Parliament, and in the State Parliament, Labour leaders are rendering a great disservice to this country by their policy of appeasement in these days of almost unlimited opportunity. The most urgent need in this country to-day is for increased production. We have never had such an opportunity before. Government supporters behave like dumb, driven cattle. They are afraid to go into the Domain and tell the people the truth. Surely the Minister for Supply and Shipping, as an intelligent and successful commercial man, cannot see any justification for these strikes against the decisions of government-appointed tribunals, or condone the “ go-slowism “ that is retarding production. Certain sections of the community are prejudiced against the employers and against the Opposition parties. Therefore, these troubles can be stopped only by political leaders of the Labour movement telling the truth to them and fostering a better spirit between employee and employer. Unless the leaders of the Labour party do so, we shall miss this golden opportunity to make Australia prosperous. We can have higher standards of living aud pay our national debts if the Government will take advantage of the opportunities that will be open to it during the next five years. Nobody can say truthfully that the Government has done all that it should have done during the first two years of peace. The position has become so desperate that citizens are calling for volunteers to work on the waterfront. The Government must not allow the position to deteriorate. Otherwise, there will be civil war and bloodshed in the ports where essential goods are held np and the Government will be responsible for the calamity. The appeal for volunteers in New South Wales was not made by a common riff-raff; it was made by elected representatives of the people. They considered that they had a duty to the people to “ go on the stump “ and tell the truth about the strike on the waterfront. Ministers are forever preaching about free speech and the “ Four Freedoms “, but, in this instance, they say that responsible elected representatives of the people have no right to submit their views to the community, as they did in the Sydney Domain yesterday. The Government appointed the Stevedoring Industry Commission, but it failed to support the Commission’s decisions. Very soon the Senate will be called upon to consider a bill to perpetuate that commission. This bill has been designed to satisfy the unreasonable demands of the waterside workers, not to effect peace through justice on the waterfront. This is a deplorable state of a ffairs.
– Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
.- After listening to the Leader of the Opposition .(Senator McLeay), I am sure that there will not be any shortage of gas in South Australia during the coming winter. I am pleased that the honorable senator will be in that State, having lost his seat in this chamber. I view the situation on the waterfront more seriously than do honorable senators opposite. Up to the present, they have only thrown more fuel on a fire that is already burning fiercely so that it will spread further afield. Having analysed their speeches carefully, I notice that they are not so stupid as to say that they do not understand any section of the industrial workers. They, and their political friends, were in power in Australia for 25 years. During that time their governments established a long record of appeasement of all sections of industrial workers in all parts of Australia. Never at any time did they have the courage to take the sort of stand that they urge this Government to take now. They were not “ game “ to do so, because they knew well that by taking such action they would be adding fuel to fires that were already burning dangerously. One solution of the problem on the waterfront suggested by honorable senators opposite is to call for volunteer workers. I ask the Leader of the Opposition why the anti-Labour government of the day did not call for volunteers when every coal-miner in the mainland States was on strike during the war and when the nation had no coal reserves ? Did the then Prime Minister call for volunteers, did he prosecute anybody, or did he deport anybody? Of course not! He knew that, had he done so, every industrial worker in Australia would have gone on strike immediately. Honorable gentlemen opposite urge this Government to take action that would extend the present waterfront dispute in Sydney to every industrial field in the Commonwealth.
The Government and its supporters view the trouble on the waterfront much more seriously than do honorable senators opposite. Members of the Government, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), devoted most of their time last week to trying to settle the dispute. They gave up their week-end leisure and worked wholeheartedly on the problem with the object of getting the waterside workers to return peacefully to work. While Ministers work unceasingly, honorable senators opposite try to thwart them by inflaming the minds of men who may be stirred into opposing the Government’s efforts. Senator Finlay said that some of the waterside workers were to be commended for prohibiting the extension of the dispute in Sydney to all ports in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition misinterpreted that statement. I hope that he did not do so deliberately. The waterside workers do not want to cause a complete stoppage of waterfront activities because they are too loyal to the citizens of Australia to take such action unless it should become absolutely necessary. Some waterside workers may be unreasonable; but the fact is that the men in Sydney are acting as an organization. They have stopped work according to a decision of .a majority of their numbers in that port. Therefore, we must deal with their organization as a whole, not with the handful who may wish to extend the dispute. The Government cannot be expected to select a few individuals in the organization, as suggested by honorable senators opposite, and deport them or throw them into gaol. Nobody knows better than do honorable senators opposite that, if the Government took the action which they suggest, all activity on the waterfront throughout Australia would cease immediately. I am beginning to wonder whether honorable senators opposite are not in league with some of those disloyal people who want the dispute to be extended. They must know that the course which they advocate would cause complete industrial disruption. Senator Foll proposed the use of free labour on the waterfront. Free labour was used in the coal mines at one time with dire results. Senator Foll may not know the history of those events. If he were to examine Australia’s coal-mines to-day he would still find written on the walls here and there such comments as “ Scabby so-and-so “, mentioning the name of some man who went into the mines as a free labourer. Men who worked under those conditions have never since been able to join industrial organizations in any part of Australia. They were branded as “ scabs “ from one end of the country to the other. If Senator Foil’s plan were adopted, the Government might pick up some innocent, inoffensive fellow, ignorant of the facts, who sincerely wanted to help the nation, and, as soon as he started work, he would be a marked man, and would never be admitted to an industrial organization thereafter. We know all about the potatoes and the sugar lying in the holds of ships in Sydney. Every endeavour is being made to settle the dispute so that those badly needed cargoes may be shifted.
– Does the honorable senator agree with what Mr. Attlee did in Great Britain, when he called out the troops to replace strikers?
– I remind the honorable senator that industrial workers went on strike in Great Britain during the blitz, when London faced the worst crisis of its history. Mr. Churchill, who was then Prime Minister, was powerless to discipline the strikers because he knew that, if he took action against them, they would not produce coal at all. After the end of the war, more industrial unrest developed in Great Britain and the United States of America, in proportion to population, than has ever occurred in Australia. Nevertheless, Senator Foll advocates calling out the military forces to defeat the workers in this dispute. He knows that the armed forces would not unload ships in peace-time. He merely wants to extend the dispute by creating dissension amongst the armed forces and all sections of the community. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of civil war. I can understand why honorable gentlemen opposite wish to stir up strife in this way. They are prepared to take any action that will further their endeavours to regain power in this Parliament. Their efforts have failed up to date, so now they hope to gain their objective by inflaming the minds of a few irresponsible Communists to cause civil war. In other words, they do not care what hardships they inflict upon the people or what chaos they cause within the nation so long as they gain their objective. I can find no other reason for their stupid conduct. Had any honorable senator opposite suggested one reasonable solution of the trouble on the waterfront, the time occupied in debating the motion now before the Senate would have been well spent. However, not one honorable senator opposite has made a helpful suggestion to the Government, and therefore the time has been entirely wasted. It would be much better for honorable senators opposite to support the Government in its effort to confine the dispute within the narrowest limits and bring about a peaceful settlement.
Senator COOPER (Queensland) [5.17J. - I thank the leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Ashley) for his congratulatory remarks on my appointment as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I shall endeavour at all times to carry out my duties to the best of my ability.
I am very glad that Senator Foll has submitted this motion. Honorable senators who support the Government have said that when the opposition parties were in office, they did not take certain steps to alleviate the position on the waterfront. It would be preferable for them to devote their time to discovering some method of curing the present trouble, instead of harping on something that was not done 25 years ago. Senator Aylett remarked that we on this side of the chamber were endeavouring to inflame the feelings of the law-breakers responsible for yesterday’s disturbance, and he accused us of inciting civil war. When one reflects on the demonstration yesterday one must realize that civil war is approaching. Instead of supporters of the Government suggesting that we are inflaming the feelings of the men responsible for the disturbance, the Government should do its utmost to prevent industrial disputes reaching such a stage. The Government must accept responsibility for the continued trouble on the waterfront. Six months’ ago it was elected with a large majority in both Houses on the promise that it would steer the country safely through the postwar period, but what has happened in the last six months? There has been one strike after another in the key industries. What action has the Government taken to prevent these disturbances ? Have they diminished? No; on the contrary, they have become more frequent and more serious. The Government was elected to govern without fear or favour in the interests of the whole community and not for the benefit of any one section. Yet we have the spectacle of one small section being allowed to break the law with impunity. There are approximately 2,000,000 workers in this country, and employed on the waterfront in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle, the storm centres, there are approximately only 9,000 workers.
– There are over 6,000 in Sydney alone.
– I stand corrected, and I shall concede that there may be 12,000 in those three ports. The position is that 12,000 workers are holding to ransom, and stultifying the efforts of nearly 2,000,000 of their fellow workers. The responsibility rests on the Government to ensure that this handful of lawbreakers shall not be allowed to dislocate our industrial life.
Trouble on the waterfront is not new. There was trouble during the recent world war and it has become worsened in the two years since the war ended. .At that time this country, with the possible exception of the United States of America, was in a better economic position than any other which had engaged in hostilities. We had the prospect of making a quick recovery and taking advantage of the world hunger for goods. Our factories, shipbuilding yards and production centres had been equipped during the war with the most modern plant, and they had not been damaged at all. It is vitally necessary for a young country like Australia to develop its internal economy by its exports. It should have been possible to build up a huge trade with tha East Indies. The teeming millions there required clothing, food, medical suppliesand other merchandise. They ordered from this country approximately £6,000,000> worth of goods. Those goods were loaded on vessels for shipment to them, but the Waterside Workers Federation decided that the goods should not leave this country. There is no doubt that the Waterside Workers Federation determined the foreign policy of this country with regard to the export of those goods. Eventually some of the ships did sail, but only by clandestine methods. The trade which we should have opened up with the teeming millions of people in the north has been lost for many years, because of the action of the waterside workers.
To-day the position is worse than ever. Thousands of tons of building material and other goods are urgently needed for rehabilitation throughout the Commonwealth, but those goods are tied up on the wharfs in Sydney. In my own State of Queensland urgently needed building materials are unobtainable. Not only are building operations delayed indefinitely, but trades associated with the building industry are disorganized. Food awaiting shipment to the people of Britain, who so desperately need it, cannot be moved from Sydney. It is more than ever necessary to speed up the loading and unloading of vessels, if we are to help the people of Britain and to develop our own country; hut this Government allows the disorganization of industry to continue. It is the Government’s duty to ensure that a small section of the community shall not hold up the industry of the nation.
– Senator Foll propounded this motion for the adjournment of the Senate so that there might be an opportunity to discuss what he calls the failure of the Government to uphold a recent order of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Although until to-day, I had never been concerned with the operations of that industry, I make haste to say that, although I have listened with interest to the debate, I have not heard one Opposition speaker attempt to show in what way the Government has failed to uphold that recent order of the commission.
Let us get the parties to this dispute into their proper perspective so that we shall have a clear picture before us. The Stevedoring Industry Commission was set up as the result of a war-time measure owing to difficulties -which had occurred in this irregular waterfront industry - an industry where the work was mostly casual and yet one which was vital to the implementation if the nation’s total war effort. The objectives were defined in clause 56 of the Shipping Co-ordination Regulations, which reads -
The objects of this part are, in view of the necessity, in the interests of the defence of Australia, of effecting speedy loading and unloading of ships, to secure that waterside lii hour is used to the best advantage, to provide sufficient labour for waterside work and to provide generally for the regulation, control and performance of waterside work and stevedoring operations, whether performed by persons registered under these regulations or not, mid this part shall be administered and construed accordingly.
Under regulation 62 power is given to the commission to make such orders, give such directions, and do such other things as it thinks fit for carrying out the objectives of the regulations. The commission is one of the parties to the present dispute. It is a body set up for war-time purposes only. A perusal of regulation 68 shows that it is a body armed with the most complete power to discipline this turbulent industry. Under that regulation which provides -
– (1.) Where the commission has reason to believe that a waterside worker - (a) has been guilty of misconduct in a matter relating to or affecting his fitness for registration as a waterside worker or has acted in u manner whereby the proper loading or unloading of ships in any port has been interfered with;
Where the registration of a waterside worker has been cancelled or suspended under this regulation, he shall not, without the consent of the commission, accept employment as a waterside worker for work on any wharf, pier, jetty, hulk, barge or ship at any port during the continuance of the cancellation or suspension.
– Have any revocations been made?
– I have no idea. The commission consists of representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, and of overseas and interstate shipowners, and it has an independent chairman in the person of a conciliation commissioner of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The commission is armed with the most complete powers. Indeed, it has the most extraordinary power of discipline over waterside workers. That body is one party to the present dispute.
The other party to the dispute is not the Waterside Workers Federation; it is merely the Sydney branch of that organization. The federal body has declined to accede to the request of the Sydney branch to call out waterside workers at other ports and in other States in sympathy with the Sydney branch. I snail repeat what the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said, so that there shall be no misunderstanding as to what he did, in fact, say. Senator Sampson, I believe, misunderstood my colleague to say that there were no Communists in the federal body known as the Waterside Workers Federation. What the Minister for Supply and Shipping did say was that there were no Communists on the executive of the Sydney branch, which is a party to this dispute.
Now let us consider the subject-matter of the dispute. It concerns an order affecting waterside workers made by the Stevedoring Industry Commission about a week and a half ago. It requires that men who work on the first shift of the day shall work a limited amount of overtime in the evening in cases in which there are not sufficient workers offering to start a full second shift. I am not concerned with the merits of the dispute between the commission and the Sydney branch of the federation; it revolves around the point that I have mentioned. I do not know whether the fault lies with the commission in not having conferred with members of the Sydney branch, or whether the members of the branch have been too hasty. It occurs to me that it would have been better if. resenting the order, the members of the Sydney branch had nevertheless attended at work and had pressed their representations to the commission. That would have been the normal and proper course under the law. Whatever the merits of the dispute may be, I say at once that all the inconveniences and disruption that it has caused, both in Australia and abroad, as well as all the distress caused to the people of Sydney and of Australia generally, is wholly unwarranted and unjustified. No member on the government side of the chamber justifies that inconvenience and disruption for one moment. 1 say without hesitation that, whatever the merits of the dispute may be, the course that I have mentioned should have been taken, and public interest should have conditioned the conduct of members of the Sydney branch of the federation.
As certain suggestions have been made, no doubt in good faith, by the Opposition, I point out that the present Stevedoring Industry Commission is an ephemeral body which was set up to meet a war-time need, and is now about to be supplanted by an entirely new body created by statute. Its life is limited, and the period for which it may exercise its powers is limited, also. Yet it is seriously suggested by the Opposition that either the Government or the Stevedoring Industry Commission should call for volunteers. That is not a matter for the Government, but one for the body that has been set up for the express purpose of dealing with waterside operations. The commission has not only the power to deal with those operations but also the duty to ensure that those operations shall be carried out efficiently and without interruption. Were the Government to call for volunteers it would be usurping the functions of the very body set up to control this industry. Such action would be entirely subversive of the commission’s authority, and would be a bad start for the new authority that is about to be set up under another measure which will soon come before the Senate.
Let us examine the position which would, be likely to arise if volunteers were called for. Can any one imagine an unskilled worker operating a winch on a wharf and controlling goods which hang over the heads of men working on the wharf or the ship being loaded or unloaded? With an unskilled man in charge there would be more accidents and deaths in a day among the men handling cargo than would he worth while even from a purely economic point of view. The compensation that would be payable in respect of accidents or deaths would soon reach a colossal sum.
– There were not many deaths among the troops who worked on the wharfs during the war.
– Those men. worked under a most rigid system of discipline and were properly supervised - a’ position entirely different from that which would obtain if volunteers were” called for in the Domain and other places.-
Let me put another aspect. Honorablesenators will agree that this body, which’ was set up to control the stevedoring industry, will at least have some knowledge of the industry. Its members realize that if volunteers were put to work on the wharfs at Sydney, the first thing that would happen would be that the ships on which they were working would be declared “ black “. But that would not be all. Not only would vessels in Sydney be declared “ black “, but in every port in Australia waterside workers would cease work in sympathy with the men in Sydney, until eventually there would be a complete stoppage of all operations on the wharfs and no work would be done on any ship from one end of Australia to the other. The trouble would probably extend to other forms of transport, including the railways.
This dispute has been in existence about a week and a half, during which period negotiations have been going on between the parties, namely, the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Those discussions are still in progress, lt was hoped last week that a formula had been found to solve the difficulty. Does any member of the Opposition suggest that any responsible Government should undermine the authority of a statutory body while that body is doing its work? There has been no request from the commission that waterside workers should be fined, or subjected to the penalties imposed by the National Security Regulations. Does the Opposition suggest that in the early stages of the dispute the Attorney-General -(Dr. Evatt), without reference to the commission, should forthwith have instituted proceedings, either summarily or by : indictment. against offending waterside workers involving them in a fine of £500 or imprisonment for twelve months, or both? Is it suggested that that action be taken against 6,000 men in New South Wales? Such a thing is unthinkable. I repeat that there has been no request from the commission for any such action, or even for intervention by the Government. Realizing that the need for intervention might arise, the Government is keeping in close touch with the parties to the dispute in the hope that out of its experience - and it has a vast experience of industrial disputes - it may be able to aid them in arriving at a solution. It would be completely wrong for the Government at this stage to usurp the functions of the commission and intervene in the dispute. The commission, which is one of the parties to the dispute and is in control of waterside operations, has in its own hands the most powerful disciplinary weapon that can be imagined, but no Opposition speaker ventured to suggest that it should be used. Nor do T suggest it at this moment. Whether or not that weapon should be used is a matter entirely for the commission, but that body has not yet seen fit to use it. So far it has not done more than suspend the men concerned. Lt could take away their living from them, and I think that honorable senators will agree that that is the most drastic penalty that could be imposed on any man. So far, the commission has not moved in that direction. And so I ask: where is the order of the commission that the Government has failed to uphold ; where is there any request from the commission for the Government to do anything?
The Government is not only keeping in close touch with all aspects of the dispute, but it is also fully aware of the difficulties associated with this industry. Much thought and care has been given to the preparation of legislation which may come before the Senate in a few hours. That legislation has been designed to regularize and decasualize one of the most difficult industries in Australia. As the result of its experience with a similar body during the war, the Government has evolved a system which it believes will place this industry on a firm basis.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Aylett). - The Minister’s time has expired.
– iv reply - I make no apology for having brought this matter before the Senate, because, whilst a variety of views has been expressed, some good should result from the discussion. I was rather amazed to hear the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) say, in effect, that no matter what disaster might overtake an industry, the Government should not intervene because the Government has set up a commission for the purpose of dealing with the problems arising in that industry.
– The Government of which the honorable senator was a member was always opposed to interfering with the courts.
– That is so; but the Stevedoring Industry Commission is not a court. It has not the jurisdiction of a court. The Minister for Health will agree with me on that point. But does be say that no circumstances can arise in which the government of the day, regardless of party politics, would be bound to intervene in an industrial dispute? Does he mean that in this dispute, which has gone on for some time now in the Port of Sydney, and has reduced the people of that city and of the districts served by the Port of Sydney, practically to the verge of starvation - at least they cannot obtain some of the most essential foodstuffs - the Government, because it has set up a commission to deal with problems of this kind, should not intervene at any stage? Is there no stage at which the Government should intervene? Or, does he mean that the Government must for ever adopt the attitude that it will shelter behind a body of that kind? No trouble was made by private citizens during the early stages of the present strike, because they recognized that negotiations were proceeding between the Waterside Workers Federation and the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber acknowledge, just as readily as do honorable senators opposite, that the federation prevented this dispute from extending beyond the Port of Sydney; hut the dispute has gone on for so long that people travelling up and down the harbour and to and from their work know that essential foodstuffs are being left to rot on the vessels which they see in the harbour, and that no effort is being made to unload them. Can we wonder that, in such circumstances, the temper of the ordinary citizen becomes frayed, or that an incident of the kind which occurred in the Sydney Domain yesterday should ^develop? Referring to that incident, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said that two members of the State Parliament, elected representatives of the people, had called a meeting in the Domain. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said that their action was wrong, that the meeting should have been held in a hall. That prompts me to ask whether permits to hold meetings in the Domain, which is regarded as a safety valve so far as freedom of speech is concerned, are to be issued to only one party to a dispute, and that other parties must be debarred from expressing their views? The Minister took me to task when I suggested that the Government should call for. volunteers to unload the ships. I contend that persons engaged in the industry should go hack to work, and that the Government should first call on them to do their work, but, should they refuse to do so, they should not bc permitted to tell other people that they must not work. I do not believe that we have reached the stage in this country when we can compel any man te work against his will; but I submit that if a man says that he will not work, Le has no right to say that he will not permit anybody else to work. For how long is the dispute to continue before the Government will intervene? Will it ever intervene, or must the people tolerate their sufferings for all time? I referred to action taken by the Prime Minister of Great Britain with respect to the recent dockers’ strike in London.
– That strike had lasted a month before that action was taken.
– That strike had reached the same serious stage so far as urgency to maintain supplies of foodstuffs to London was concerned, as has now been reached with respect to the supply of foodstuffs to Sydney. Yet the British Prime Minister, in taking that action, did not set out on a union-breaking experiment. No honorable senator on this side of the chamber suggests that this Government should do such a thing; but we want te keep Australian shipping moving, and ensure that foodstuffs brought in ships to this country shall reach the householder and the tables of the people. Honorable senators opposite have made a number of threats about what would happen were action taken to call for volunteers to unload these vessels. I certainly do not want to precipitate any trouble of the kind they envisage. I should prefer to see the watersiders return to work and unload the ships which it is their duty to do.
Honorable senators opposite repeatedly asked me, “ What would you do?” I should like to remind them that during my term as Minister for the Interior I was confronted with two serious strikes on the waterfront at Darwin when the wharf-labourers refused to unload coal that was urgently required by the Navy. On the first occasion, the wharf labourers put a pistol at the head of the Government and said that they would not unload the coal. As the Minister concerned with the dispute, I gave them 24 hours to start unloading the coal and told them bluntly that if they refused to do to naval personnel would unload it. I admit that that was in the early days of the war. The men remained adamant, and the coal was unloaded by naval personnel. Some time later a similar dispute arose at Darwin, which, of course, was a storm centre of waterfront troubles. The wharf labourers repeated their threat and the secretary of the Darwin branch of the Waterside Workers federation flew to Melbourne to interview we I told him that the Government would not stand for any nonsense on the part of the men, and that if they would not: unload the coal naval personnel would again be called in to unload it. Subsequently, the men themselves unloaded the coal. That attitude on the part of the government of the day was not followed by a hold-up in every port. The seamen did not walk off every ship. I submit that nothing of the sort suggested by honorable senators opposite would follow as the result of any action this Government might take to have essential foodstuffs unloaded off the vessels involved in the present Sydney dispute. Neither would the carters refuse to cart cargo unloaded by volunteers. How do honorable senators opposite know that all the dire consequences which they predict would follow. Dothey not know that unionists in other industries are just as much disgusted with this hold-up as anyone else in the community? This morning I went from my home in Sydney to Central Station on the 6.45 a.m. bus, and on the journey I overheard conversation among workers on that bus. They were not. going to any office to sit in a bank manager’s chair, or the managerial office of some big company. They were ordinary workers and unionists, and from their conversation it was clear to me that they and their families were suffering as the result of the refusal of the waterside workers to unload foodstuffs off the ships in Sydney. Were I permitted under the Standing Orders to do so,I would repeat some of their remarks; but any honorable senator with a vivid imagination can guess what they had to say about the waterside workers responsible for the present, hold-up. Honorable senators opposite should not run away with the idea that the men and women of this country are in sympathy with the. waterside workers in this dispute. It is no pleasure to the housewife to have to go from shop to shop begging for an odd potato for their children’s meal. Honorable senators opposite should not imagine that the wealthy man is most severely hit as the result of hold-ups of this kind. The worker and his family are being hurt most, because the wealthy man can buy what he wants at the Hotel Australia and elsewhere. The worker and his family who are suffering most are infuriated by this holdup. Honorable senators opposite can adopt, the attitude that they will wash their hands of this business, and that the dispute is not their responsibility; but I say now that unless the Government settles this dispute much more serious trouble will arise in this country than has occurred up to the present.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8p.m.
Darwin Land Valuations
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
Sale to New Zealand
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
Manufacture in Australia.
asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the Senate what progress has been made in the manufacture nf an Australian motor car?
– The carmanufacturing project is proceeding according to plan. Recently a large group of engineers arrived from overseas and together with Australian engineers are fully engaged on the work. The design has been finalized and sample cars manufactured to this design are now being tested under Australian conditions. Production tooling has commenced and will be greatly accelerated in the near future. Essential equipment, plant and machine tools are already being delivered and it is anticipated that deliveries of these items will greatly increase during the next few months. Erection of new buildings and extensions to present buildings are also proceeding.
Site for Departmental Offices in Perth - Means Test - Dutch exServicemen.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Will the Minister ascertain from the Australian Shipping Board why the SS. Taroona did not proceed to Launceston on the morning of the 27th February, when it was in the River Tamar at 5 a.m.?
– Owing to a late departure from Melbourne, and due to adverse conditions while crossing the strait, Taroona arrived at Low Head too late to catch the tide which would have enabled it to proceed to Launceston. In consequence, it was necessary to berth the vessel at Beauty Point.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. The fund suggested by the honorable senator does not exist. The overall cost of providing this labour was far greater than that indicated by the basic pay rates of the service personnel involved. The men concerned received special rates of pay, exemption from income tax, and extra payment for dependants. They were provided with special rations and accommodation, quarters, clothing, medical attention and other amenities at the expense of the Commonwealth. Taking into consideration the aggregate expenditure incurred in providing soldier labour, it is considered most unlikely that the Commonwealth received any financial benefit from the amount received from shipping companies under the arrangement.
Syrian and North African Campaigns
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) Australian forces, other Empire forces and Free French forces fought against the French in Syria in June-July, 1941. (6) The French opposed the British landing at Dakar in July, 1940. and the Allied landings in North-West Africa, which commenced in November, 1942.
Enlistments for Interim Army
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works and Housing has furnished the following reply: -
Unfortunately there is a reluctance on the part of contractors to tender for the erection of war service homes. This is due to the shortages of essential building materials generally and the disinclination of contractors to submit firm prices in view of the uncertainty of supplies and labour. The matter is receiving my close attention and I am hopeful of being able to arrange at an early date for a reasonable allocation of materials to be used in the construction of war service homes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited: 425,001 ordinary shares of £1 each.
Qantas Empire Airways Limited: 261,500 ordinary shares of £1 each.
British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited: Under a tri-partite agreement to be concluded between the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Australia’s shareholding in this company will be 500 shares of £1,000 each. Of this total five shares have at present been subscribed for by the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited: The Commonwealth is in process of acquiring163,200 ordinary shares of £1 each in this company.
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited: The Commonwealth held 500,001 £1 shares in the company before the acquisition of the telecommunication assets of the company. The same proportionate shareholding will be maintained in the new company, the share capital of which has yet to be finally determined. 2, 3 and 4. The question of manufacture of plywood from New Guinea timber resources is under examination by the Department of External Territories, but no decisions have yet been made.
Position of War Pensioners
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for
Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
What steps are being taken to modernize the uniform of Australian naval ratings and to issue a more suitable cap?
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer : -
A committee was appointed in August, 1946, to review the uniforms of Australian naval ratings and certain recommendations were made. However, it was ascertained that a similar committee had been appointed by the Admiralty in respect ofRoyal Navy uniforms and, as the uniforms of both theRoyal Navy andRoyal AustralianNavy correspond in essentials, it was decided to defer consideration of these recommendations pending receipt of Admiralty’s final decision. As soon as this information is available from Admiralty, theRoyal Australian Navy review will be completed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to provide for the prevention or settlement by conciliation or arbitration of industrial disputes in connexion with stevedoring operations, to regulate industrial matters in connexion with stevedoring operations in the course of trade and commerce with other countries or among the States, to regulate and control the performance of stevedoring operations, to provide for the establishment of a Stevedoring Industry Commission, and for other purposes. There is at present a Stevedoring Industry Commission which derives its authority from National Security Regulations and which has power to exercise many of the functions of the commission proposed to be established under this bill. The present commission’s powers are limited by its objects, as defined in regulation 56 of the National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations. The objects set down in the regulations are to secure that waterside labour shall be used to the best advantage, to provide sufficient labour for waterside work, and to provide generally for the regulation, control and performance of stevedoring work; but these things are to be done “ in view of the necessity, in the interests of the defence of Australia, of effecting speedy loading and unloading of ships”. The present commission, therefore, will lose its powers upon the expiration of National Security Regulations. As they are based on the defence power and are for the purpose of World War II., they are waning powers since the cessation of hostilities and are not to be relied upon as a basis for the later government of the industry, or where the effect of decisions would be felt in the future and could not, therefore, be related to the war.
The terms and conditions of employment of waterside workers are, to a very considerable degree, those laid down in awards of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Stevedoring Industry Commission has amended these conditions in a number of ways, introduced schemes for rotary employment, initiated canteens and other amenities, and in other important matters modified or added to the awards and orders previously operative in this industry. It would be altogether impracticable for the orders which the commission has made merely to lapse upon the expiration of National Security Regulations, and some steps in this regard are therefore essential. During the war period, the Government appointed Judge Foster, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, to inquire into and report to the Government regarding the conduct of the stevedoring industry. The judge conducted an extensive inquiry, and on the 22nd February. 1946, submitted a report in which numerous and important recommendations were made regarding the future conduct of the industry. It is incumbent on the Government to take action to recognize the actual position which has been created by the issue of orders of the present commission, whose charter must soon expire. The Government has before it the report of Judge Foster and has approved, in principle, its recommendations. The present bill is modelled almost entirely on that report. The bill provides for repeal of that section of the National Security Regulations under which the existing commission was created, and for the establishment of a new commission, entitled the Stevedoring Industry Commission, to consist of a chairman and five other members. The chairman, it is provided, shall be a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or a conciliation commissioner appointed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1946. Of the five other members, one is to represent overseas shipowners, one Australian shipowners, two are to represent the Waterside Workers Federation, and the remaining member is to be an officer of the Commonwealth, who will not be entitled to vote at the proceedings of the commission. It is provided in clause 9, sub-clause 4, that questions arising at the commission shall be decided by a majority of votes. As the representation of employers and employees is equal, it follows that the decision of the chairman will be the decision of the commission where the parties are equally divided. This is a great responsibility, and the office of chairman will demand from its occupant such judicial qualities and industrial experience as are not normally expected from laymen, even of great experience. The Government considers that it is meeting this position by providing for the appointment of a judge or a conciliation commissioner appointed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1946.
The commission’s task will be arduous and lengthy. The industry extends over the whole of Australia, and conditions and customs are diverse. Patient and skilful endeavour will be called for and it is thought that the chairman, at least, should devote his whole time to this office. This obligation may diminish after the commission has been in operation for some years. The Government is legislating for what it conceives to be the present state of affairs by providing an initial term of office of five years for the chairman, who will not be called upon to perform any duties in the Arbitration Court, except of his own volition. This statement is subject to one qualification. With regard to interpretation, questions of law, and appeals arising under clause 22 of the bill, the chairman of the commission may exercise the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Appeals from judgment or orders of the commission will not lie to the High Court, but to the Arbitration Court only, and the chairman, if a judge, may act as judge of the Arbitration Court. The functions and powers of the commission are expressed in clauses 12 and 14 of the bill. Broadly, the functions are to provide machinery for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, to regulate industrial matters connected with stevedoring operations, and to regulate and control stevedoring operations as defined in the bill. The commission is given powers necessary to carry out these functions. These are extensive functions and need wide powers, but the task recommended for the commission by Judge Foster, and assigned to the commission by the Government in this bill, goes beyond the regulation of industrial conditions between employers and employees, the task of the former Arbitration Court. The Government recognizes the place of common rules in industry and the need for relating the skill and arduousness exhibited or demanded in different occupations. The Government’s recognition of these factors is evidenced by the fact that the bill provides that the chairman shall be a judge or a conciliation commissioner of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, persons fitted by training and experience to determine the problems of industry in the same manner that they are determined in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
The power to deal with standard hours and the fixation of the basic wage, however, is retained for the Arbitration Court itself by clause 18 of the bill. The Government appreciates also that the commission must have powers beyond those of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in order to achieve the objectives suggested in the Foster report. Successive Arbitration Court judges, in dealing with this widespread, casual industry, have dwelt upon the social problems associated with it. Judge Foster in his report says the commission has a tremendous task ahead of it “ to lift the status of this industry to the plane where we may expect results satisfactory alike to the workers, the employers and the community”. In dealing with the question of discipline, the judge noted that the profit motive was believed to be sufficient in peacetime to achieve efficiency and economy, but that the motive was largely diminished during the war. On page 28 of Judge Foster’s report, it is stated -
Peace may restore it, but in the meantime if employers will not, or cannot, conduct this industry with maximum efficiency, then, in the interests of the industry and of the community, the Stevedoring Industry Commission must bc given some powers to this end.
On page S of his report, Judge Foster uses the following language : -
Still another factor differentiates this industry, namely, that port facilities, harbours, rail transport, and (in the main) wharfs, &c, Are at present provided and owned by the States, and this fact has added difficulties to the tasks of industrial tribunals, and in some respects placed the problems of the stevedoring industry beyond their reach and that of employers and employees in the industry.
Tt is clear that powers in excess of the powers to regulate industrial conditions are necessary and these powers are being conferred on the commission. Constitutionally, the commission will work under the industrial authority of the Commonwealth, in relation to interstate trade, and with regard to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. It is provided that waterside employees shall be registered and that, save in respect of persons registered by the present commission, future registrations shall be confined to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. This provision is in harmony with Judge Foster’s recommendation that there should be only one union recognized in the industry. Penalties are provided for employers and employees, and for other persons infringing the awards and orders of the commission. The machinery will include the setting up of waterside employment committees at various ports, constituted on the same principle as the commission, with equal representation of employers and employees, under an impartial chairman. The commission may delegate powers to waterside employment committees or committee officers. The committees will run the employment bureaux, at which requisitions for labour will be received from employers and from which allocations of labour will be made. In effect, the waterside employment committees will be local branches of the commission at ports.
The expenditure on the commission is te be raised from employers. Taxation measures will be necessary to accomplish this and will be introduced in due course. Borrowing powers, subject to Treasury guarantees, are conferred upon the commission, the accounts of which will bc subject to examination by the AuditorGeneral for the Commonwealth.
The foregoing is a brief summary of the purposes and machinery of the bill. It remains to be added that the Government is not abandoning the principle of arbitration but is setting up a tribunal linked through its chairman with the Arbitration Court. It will have powers wider than have been accorded to the court because such wider powers are necessary for proper regulation and control of the industry. Admittedly, the present measure is something of an experiment, which is being made because, first, the prior method of regulating industrial conditions through the arbitration court solely, did not solve the entire problem, and, secondly, because after a detailed examination a judge of the Arbitration Court himself recommended a tribunal such as is being set up. The experiment, to succeed, will require co-operation from employer and employees and will necessitate painstaking and earnest effort. The whole community is vitally concerned in the success of the plan proposed for this industry as it affects the life of the nation at so many points. The Government believes that in embodying the plan in legislative form, it is making its contribution towards the settlement of difficulties which have extended for many years in the industry and over many countries. The Government has advisedly refrained from making its measure too detailed, leaving it for the commission, upon detailed fact finding and examination of actual conditions, to implement the general purpose of the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 5th March (vide page 328), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That .the following papers be printed: - * . . (vide* page 32S).
– A few weeks ago the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) presented to the Parliament a long and interesting document, accompanied by many appendices, dealing with international affairs and the United Nations. A study of those papers does not encourage optimism regarding the future of this new world organization. When the representatives of 51 nations met at San Francisco two years ago next month, the people of the world had high hopes that their deliberations would usher in an era of peace. Those representatives undertook a great task, and there were many disappointments and much weariness; but they were inspired by the hope that they would bring in a reign of law in a free world for free men. That was the objective of the conference and the hope that arose from it. The only alternative to success at San Francisco was war.
It is interesting to read what the Minister for External Affairs has to say regarding the United Nations. He says, “ All the organizations of the United Nations have now been established”. In these papers he has dealt with them in some detail, and has referred to various conferences and committees that have been set up. From a careful study of the documents, it appears to me that among all the members of the United Nations there is only one nation which threatens
Che peace of the world. I refer to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Russian aggression, even before the termination of hostilities and the San Francisco Conference, and since then, has followed precisely the same pattern, and is essentially the same, as that adopted by Germany. Let us reflect on what has happened during recent years. Russia now has control of Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia, Eastern Poland, Bessarabia, Eastern Prussia, a portion of Czechoslovakia, Finland, Sakhalin and the Kurille Islands, although it claims to have no territorial ambitions. Russia is now threatening Turkey and Greece.
When we say that our great objective is a reign of law in a free world of free men, we should pause to ponder what may lie ahead of us. As I studied these documents during the week-end, I could not help thinking that the Minister for External Affairs is most optimistic - perhaps rightly so, because optimism is a good thing - but When we reflect on the acrimonious discussions which have taken place between the great power*, and are even now taking place, I am forced to the conclusion that there must be a show-down with Russia. Is that country a sincere collaborator with the other members of the United Nations? I sincerely hope that it is; but discounting scare headlines in the press, and basing my opinions on this most temperate document, I must express grave doubts on the subject. The Western democracies are more or less retreating everywhere. According to Soviet opinion, they are retreating from their imperialism. Russian power politics is directed continuously against Britain and the United States of America. Some of us observe with some trepidation Britain’s withdrawal from India, Burma and Egypt, the effect of which is to cause turmoil in Asia and to give encouragement to Russian aspirations. The withdrawal of American forces from China may leave the way clear for the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics in that portion of Asia. Unless this retreat ends there will be no chance of checking Russian demands in Germany or elsewhere ; and in that event the United Nations will become a corpse more quickly than did the League of Nations. World happenings such as J have mentioned fill me with grave misgivings. The United Nations was conceived as a means of preventing war by the use of its own international force, but I suggest that the great powers are slower in nothing than in setting up that force. There is little mention of it in these documents; the organization known as the Military Staff Committee has so far not done any work. We claim that the world is now at peace, but a major war has been in progress in China for several years and another has already commenced between different races in India in anticipation of the evacuation from that country of the British white garrisons. In Palestine also there is grave unrest. I repeat that, there are few signs of peace in the world to-day.
It would appear that the pax Britannica is no more, and that the problem of the future will be whether some other instrument shall take its place. I have grave doubts about the setting up of an international force; the subject bristles with difficulties. Such matters as nationality and language present problems which are difficult to deal with. One can imagine the problems associated with getting members of one nation to take up arms against their fellow nationals. The conception of a world league to prevent wars loses sight of the fact that man is essentially a pugnacious and quarrelsome animal. In my opinion, only two possibilities for peace exist; there must be either a pax Sovietica or a pax Americano, Which is the more likely depends on armaments, because armaments are the ultimate arbiter in an age of power, such as this. My reading of this most interesting document brings me back to that conclusion. I cannot see how peace is possible through an international organization. No man outside Russia really knows what is in the minds of the Russian leaders, but I quote from a book entitled Leninism, by Joseph Stalin, on page 56 of volume 1 of which he says -
We are living not merely in a state but in a system of states, and it is inconceivable that the Soviet Republics should continue to exist interminably side by side with imperialistic states. Ultimately one or the other must conquer. Pending this development, a number of terrible clashes between the Soviet Republics and the bourgeois states must inevitably occur.
I admit that that book was written before the war of 1939-45, and I hope that that is not the considered opinion of the great dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to-day. I quote it only to show what was in his mind some years ago.
The most noticeable omission from these documents is any reference to any Australian force. Under clause 43 of the United Nations Charter, Australia has undertaken certain obligations in respect of naval, land and air forces. A lot of cant and nonsense has been talked about armed forces. It has been suggested that the atomic bomb brought the war with Japan to an end, but that is arguable, because the war had almost ended before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs. The whole internal economy of Japan had been disrupted before those bombs were dropped. Incendiary bombs had caused terrific damage. It is maintained by many that the invention of the atomic bomb has rendered all other weapons obsolete, and that in future navies will be useless and land armies of no value. That, however, is merely theory. A book entitled the History of Armaments written by Major-
General Fuller, shows that, during the ages, whenever man has invented a new weapon a counter to it has always been found. I suggest that that may happen in connexion with the atomic bomb.
However, under the Charter we have certain obligations. Dealing with our future land forces, I suggest that, notwithstanding the existence of the United Nations, or of any security pacts, it is up to Australians themselves to do their part in the defence of their own country, and also their part in finding their quota whatever it may be and should such ever be laid down by the United Nations. What tasks will the Australian army of the future have to carry out? First, there is the problem of the ground defence of Australia, including defence against hostile aircraft; because so far as we yet know atomic bombs will have to be delivered by aircraft. I am not talking about rocket, or guided, projectiles or jetpropelled weapons; but that is one of the first things to which we must attend. Whether the atomic bomb will make ground defences useless, or unnecessary, is a matter for the prophets; but it certainly will not come for many years. We can assume that the Australian army will have to play a major part in our national defence. That is obvious. What is required is a permanent nuclear organization with a large number of trained men in reserve ready to take their assigned places in the army as soon as the need arises. In addition to our home defence, there will, if we honour our obligations under the Charter, inevitably be a number of external liabilities such as garrisons for bases; and, of course, as we are doing at present, the provision of occupation forces in enemy countries. Also, we have to hold at the disposal of the United Nations our contribution of armed forces. We must provide strategic reserves at points in the Imperial communication system, because, although it appears that we are getting out of Egypt and India, we must still look after that system. We recall that the impotence of the League of Nations was due to its lack of means of enforcing its decisions. We know how it failed to check Japan in Manchuria in 1931, and Mussolini in Abyssinia in 1935. Therefore, we must still have an Australian army in the future. Of course, opinions will differ about the number of men needed, whether full-time troops or reserves to fulfil each of the tasks I have mentioned ; but there can be no doubt that the fulltime requirement by itself will add up to a far greater number than we have ever raised by voluntary enlistment in time of peace.
Therefore, we reach the inescapable conclusion that compulsory national service will be necessary until the world has settled down again to peaceful ways, if ever it does. Moreover, compulsory national service is the simplest way of providing reserves and trained men for expanding the army to meet emergencies. On the other hand, a great many of the tasks allotted to our army will lie abroad. National service of itself will not be sufficient. We need something more than the Swiss system, and this means that our army must contain a high class and substantially full-time professional element. There are probably limits to the number of officers and men who could be obtained on a full-time professional basis. I have grave doubts on that point. The variable factors in the military structure we set up will, therefore, be the number of men engaged on compulsory service with the Australian army, and the number who, having done their service, will retain reserve obligations. Both of these depend on the precise scheme of national service which the Parliament may set up. Now I come to the crux of the problem, because from my reading and experience during the last twenty years I have no great faith in what the Parliament may elect to do. But I suggest that we shall win public support for one year’s fulltime service, say, at the age of eighteen years, with a subsequent obligation to rejoin the forces for a fortnight, or even a month, annually, for a refresher training up to, say, the age of 25 years or 26 years. Given a sufficient supply of professional soldiers, compulsory trainees and reservists, our land forces might be organized somewhat on the following lines: - I suggest that the garrison troops at bases like New Guinea and elsewhere, and the “United Nations contingent, must consist of professional soldiers. It will be expensive, but that professional element will be the core of any efficient army. In addition, we should require a number of divisions immediately ready for war and constantly at full war establishment with the exception, possibly, of some of the ancillary units. These would be distributed between the strategic reserves abroad, our occupation forces in enemy countries and our forces in Australia. The core of defence against invasion would be provided by the “ready for war “ divisions in Australia. To supplement them in time of actual war a large number of cadre divisions would be required. I do not believe for one moment that with all the talk we hear about the next war being a scientific war this country will never be in danger again of invasion.
We must have air-borne troops, and such troops cannot be trained in a day. Therefore, if we are to do our job, the task will be costly, and it will involve continuous vigilance and training. Each section would cater for a definite area, and its. units would have a definite territorial connexion. That is most important. It was of the greatest importance to the Australian Imperial Force in World War I., and, sad to relate, in World War II. that principle was departed from. It is very important that such territorial connexion be maintained by building up units of men who come from the same districts and towns, and are mates in ordinary civil life, thus enabling them to be cobbers again in uniform. There would have to be a nucleus of professional soldiers, and into the cadres would be fitted the reservists of the particular area when they came up for their annual reserve training. For the reservists, compulsory or voluntary, the annual training would have to be supplemented by something along the lines of the old week-night and week-end practices. It is a matter for serious consideration whether there cught not to be a nucleus home guard on the lines of the Volunteer Defence Corps for men over, say, 45 years of age. That scheme could be worked effectively.
Then we must consider women personnel. In view of the outstanding service rendered by women personnel in the last war, I suggest that women should be included in any ‘ defence organization to-day on a voluntary basis, or otherwise. An absolute essential is a good supply of officers. That is essential to any system, and the State must be prepared to pay for good officers. Treatment of officers in the past, for as long as I can remember, has been mean and shabby. It is useless to dwell on the past; but the treatment of our professional soldiers, warrant officers and other ranks in the permanent forces has never been generous, but somewhat cheeseparing and mean. If we are to obtain good officers in our army, or in any branch of the services, we must be prepared to pay for them. I do not think that the Army will be able to find the number of officers it requires, and provide them with a continuously advancing career between the ages of 20 and 60 years. Therefore, many of them will have to go out in the late forties and early fifties on retired pay, which should be generous, but cannot be made sufficiently generous to support them should they lack income from other occupations. If the Army is to attract good officers, it must provide them with a career which is varied and interesting in itself, and which, moreover, will - and this is most important - fit them to find a ready outlet in civil life. How is this particular circle to be squared? It is not easy.
Clearly, the Royal Military College must not only instil military lore and doctrine to the required standard, but also give a wide measure of general education. Clearly, also, the technical and scientific colleges must be fully up to date and at least comparable with the best universities. Because we talk about scientific warfare, we must train along those lines; and, therefore, we need to provide the very best training we can afford. During the last war the American army gave us an example in this respect when we discovered that 50 per cent, of its personnel were engineers. Because of that fact they were able to do wonderful jobs with machinery and mechanized equipment. Knowledge of administration, too, must be spread more widely both by precept and practice. There are many other important problems with regard to our post-war army that cry out for solution. Is it right, for instance, that there should be a separate Ministry for Munitions? Should not the Army resume control of the production of such implements of war as tanks, guns, grenades, rockets and so on. In any case, the Army must develop a scientific staff of its own of the highest order of attainment. Then there is the difficult problem of keeping the equipment of the Army in step with the advances of science whilst avoiding the necessity to replace individual items too frequently and at too great a cost. All these problems will have to be solved if we are to have a worthwhile army that will be ready and willing to fight when it is required to do so. Such an army must be trained in peacetime. However those problems are dealt with, there should be at least a determination to produce in time of peace a high class instrument of war.
It may be argued that that is unnecessary because there will not be any more wars. I do not believe that for a moment, nor have I ever believed it. I may be told that I am a militarist or a fire-eater, but when I study history I am convinced that war in some form or other will again visit the world. It is true that in six years of war we produced a fairly efficient army, even after twenty years of sheer neglect ; but the process was long, painful and expensive. It is dangerous to go on tempting Providence. I have before me a few words that were written by General Eisenhower who, after his outstanding service in the North African campaign, became CommanderinChief of the Allied forces on the Western Front in Europe. It is something that every soldier knows to be true. He said -
The perishable machines of security are more than rifles, tanks, bombers, cannon and bulldozers; machines and weapons of war can be and are being superseded by more terrifyingly efficient machines and weapons.
The most perishable of all the machines of security are the guts and brains of mcn, and as yet there are no known substitutes for them.
If we do not have the necessary brains and guts we are indeed obsolete.
It is all very well to cry for help from our allies when our shores are threatened, hut our own defences must be efficient. We should have the brains and guts to learn the lesson of the six long years of war when we had to pay dearly for our unpreparedness, and to ensure that our sons and grandsons shall not have to endure what we have endured.
– Did not our sons show in “World “War II. that they have guts ?
– Of course they did ; but we were unprepared. Men were landed in Malaya untrained. Many of them did not know even how to load the magazine of a rifle. Are these happenings to be repeated, or are we to ensure that our men shall be skilled and trained masters of their weapons, thus giving them every chance to survive? It is to emphasize this point that I have quoted the words of General Eisenhower. They are true to-day and will be true a hundred years hence.
– I have listened to Senator Sampson with great attention and with some amazement. According to the honorable senator, the human race is quite incapable of achieving anything but suicide. He argued in a rather one-sided fashion that Russia was the only menace in the world to-day. I shall deal with that assertion later. After forecasting that Russia would fight us, Senator Sampson told us how we should prepare for that fight ; but he did not tell us how the Russians would get here. He proceeded to divide the country into parts and to round up the girl guides and the boy scouts to tell us how the country should be defended. “We are living in perhaps the most tragic, but certainly the most opportune age that the world has ever known. The future of the human race depends on whether it is capable of achieving greater heights of civilization, or only destruction. “We have all the machinery necessary to pour out wealth like water; but we do not yet know how to control that machinery. “Wars have come and gone. We have heard of new orders ; but the people of the world to-day do not quite know where they are drifting. I have had an opportunity to see many parts of the world lately, and my impression of it is, as I have said, that the future of the human race depends upon whether it can use the instruments of science that have been given to it for its own benefit, or whether they are to be used only for destruction. I cannot accept the arguments that have been advanced hy Senator Sampson. On some points I disagree with him entirely. He said for instance that the only nation, preparing for war to-day was Russia, and that the Russians had taken a piece of this country and of that country. Apparently the honorable senator is quiteoblivious to the fact that other nations have been engaging in exactly the same activity. Much of what he said is true, but it is also true that the United States of America now has bases in Iceland and Greenland, and is building bombers that can fly 10,000 miles. America also has Japan “ sewn up “. It has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into China to back Chiang Kai-shek and is now seeking entry to Greece and Turkey.
Instead of attributing all the evil in the world io Russia, we should take the beam out of our own eye. If anybody believes that war can solve problems, he obviously has not studied history, because the lesson of history is that war cannot solve any problem. Inevitably wars have made conditions worse, and have strengthened the very things that they were intended to eliminate. It may well be that fascism has emerged from World War II., which was fought to exterminate it, much stronger than it was before. Senator Sampson seems to think that we should revert to the status quo ante. He seems to imagine that the terrible Indonesians have no right to throw off the Dutch yoke, and that the waterside workers are to be condemned because they have refused to side with the Dutch against the Indonesians. He fails to realize, apparently, that the lesson of the last war, so far as Asia is concerned, is that economic and direct white domination of the Asiatics have gone for ever.
Shortly before the outbreak of war in the Pacific, Sir John Latham returned to this country from Japan and said that there would not be a war with Japan. He had been listening to another reactionary, Sir Robert Cragie. He was Sir Robert Cragie’s mouthpiece. There was one good man in China at that time, and that was Sir Archibald Clark-Kerr. He foretold what would take place. In those days, we heard much from honorable senators opposite about the alleged inefficiency of the Labour party, but it is just as well to remember that Sir John Latham was formerly a leader of the United Australia party. Of course, his appointment as Chief Justice of the High Court was in no sense political. He was given the job because he had the brains, and while he was serving on the High Court Bench, he received his appointment to Japan. As I have said, he returned to this country and said that there would be no war with Japan. At that time, war was already raging in China, and I, myself, saw British women being stripped in Tientsin. British ships were tied up at places like Swatow; yet Sir John Latham said there would be no war with Japan. Why? Did he not see what I saw ? Of course he did, but he said there would be no war with Japan because certain vested interests were so linked with Japanese interests that they were prepared to assist Japan through their mouthpiece, Sir Robert Cragie, and others. However, the Japanese have been defeated, or so we are led to believe; but the slogan “Asia for the Asiatics” remains. It is possible that by cooperation the white races may be able to retain their footing in some Eastern countries ; but we cannot assume that, just because the economic domination by the white man has -ended, the exploitation of man by other men also is finished, [n China, for instance, as I have said in this chamber, and in the Legislative Council in New South Wales, on many occasions, Chiang Kai-shek and his supporters represent the Shanghai-Hong Kong Bank and other British interests. Chiang Kai-shek is just as ruthless an oppressor of the Chinese as any white man ever was. The white races may retain some interests in Indonesia and Malaya, but the fact remains that there has been a reorientation of relationships and we, as Australians, have to find out just where we fit into the picture as a nation of 7,000,000 in the midst of 2,000,000,000 Asiatics. That is our problem.
Australia, through its Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), has been advertised throughout the world as never before. Honorable senators opposite have criticized that right honorable gentleman and the Labour party’s foreign policy, but, so far as I know - and I have been a keen student of foreign affairs for many years - Australia never had a foreign policy until Dr. Evatt became Minister for External Affairs. When the late Mr. John Curtin secured assistance from America in 1942, what did honorable senators opposite say? They said it was an affront to Great Britain; but the Labour party recognized the reorientation of which I have spoken. It knew that something had to be done. Mr. Curtin’s appeal fell upon the sympathetic ears of President Roosevelt, and American troops came to this country in large numbers. In those vital years, the Minister for External Affairs made two or three trips to America and Great Britain by air. I have done some flying, and I know that sometimes it is bad enough in peacetime, but the Minister flew across the Pacific and the Atlantic under war conditions and sometimes in the middle of winter. For that alone he is deserving of the gratitude of this country. Australia to-day takes a prominent part in international affairs. It stands for the United Nations. For what else could it stand? Senator Sampson’s philosophy is the nearest approach that I have heard in this chamber to that expressed by George Bernard Shaw, when he said, “ The only hope for the world is another Flood and no Ark “. That is a very good interpretation of the honorable senator’s philosophy. We do not hold that hopeless belief. We know that the Communist ideology is different from the capitalist ideology, but we also know that within the capitalist system there is a socialist ideology whose adherents say, “ We do not want the dictatorship of Russia, where an individual cannot express himself, nor do Ave want a capitalist dictatorship under which individuals, under the pretext of political democracy, own the means of production, and control an economic system in which the law of the jungle prevails “. The capitalist dictatorship has no plan whatever to-day, particularly in the United States of America. Its philosophy is expressed in the phrase, “ Go for your life - boom and burst ‘’. The speeches of President Truman to-day are identical with those of President Hoover 25 years ago; they are interchangeable. Not a comma, or a semi-colon, need be altered. The policy of the United States of America now is to lift all controls and allow the law of supply and demand to find its own level. That is just what President Hoover advocated when he said, “ Two chickens in every pot and a car in every garage “. Five years later there were’ 13,000,000 people unemployed in the United States of America alone.
Australia has played a very important part in world affairs. I attended the recent Peace Conference at Paris, and I was proud of the mental attitude displayed by the Minister for External Affairs. In my view, the conference was largely a waste of time, because “ the Big Four “ had the decisions of the conference “ all sewn up “. Events showed that the veto power of the United Nations conferences, with all its faults - it is used much too frequently - should not be abolished altogether. At the peace conference it was suggested that small nations like Australia, which had sacrificed men and women in the war, should have some voice in the making of decisions so that any motion agreed to by a two-thirds majority should be adopted, and approved by “ the Big Four “. However, Molotov, Vishinski, and the rest of them, “ stood pat “ and said, in effect, “ We do not care what you say. The Foreign Ministers have agreed, and their decision is to be the decision of the conference “. The conference was very enlightening. Not many controversial issues arose, but some extraordinary things happened. For instance, an indemnity of £300,000,000 was inflicted on all five of the former Axis satellite nations. Anybody who attended the conference could see that the representatives of democratic countries avoided this issue. I heard at least twenty representatives of various democratic countries say, in effect, .” There was a gentleman named Adolph Hitler, and prior to his advent this was a very fine world indeed. This satanic gentleman threw the world into turmoil, with the result that there were atomic bombs, “doodle-bugs”, and other frightful weapons of destruction. The state of the world to-day is entirely due to the machinations of Adolph Hitler “. We must face the issues between war and peace and discuss them on an economic basis. People must be made to realize that the struggle for imperialist domination caused both World War I. and World War II. We must negotiate a peace in which the determining factor will be not imperialism but the comfort of the people. The creation of peace on any other basis would be a waste of time. What was the condition of the world before Hitler rose to power? Forty million white people were out of work, 6,000,000 of them in Germany. Hitler did not grow on a tree; he was a product of certain conditions. Unless those conditions are altered, there will be another Hitler. If the victorious nations split Germany as they talk of doing, making it once more an agricultural nation, the German people will again prepare for revenge as they did before. Our job should be to eliminate these causes of war. That is what the United Nations is trying to do. As far as I can see, there is no hope for the world outside of the United Nations organization.
Senator Sampson said that there must be a “ show-down “. Suppose that we should have a “ show-down “. Apparently it would be between the United States of America and Russia, and according to Senator Sampson, Great Britain and the Empire would be on the side of the United States of America. Assume that war were declared, and that the Americans dropped atomic bombs all over Russia. Internal conditions in Russia to-day are very bad, but Russia has a mighty Red Army composed of fanatics and, whether Stalinism is good, bad, or indifferent, those fanatics believe that it is the only sound creed in the world. Before American forces could get near Europe, the Red Army would over-run it to the North Sea. No expert on military affairs will dispute that statement. What would happen next? Doubtless the American and British forces would effect a landing in Europe. Suppose that eventually they brought Russia to the condition in which Germany is to-day. What would happen then? The answer to that question would prove my contention that war cannot solve any problem. Every war has made conditions worse than they were previously. The condition of the world to-day is such that, unless there is wise economic planning, we shall revert to barbarism.
Honorable senators opposite talk about lifting this control and that control, but I have visited many countries within the last twelve months and I have seen what happens when controls are lifted prematurely. The people in Australia have been far more comfortable than people of other nations, in spite of the fact that the basic wage has been pegged and that many of the lower paid workers have had a hard struggle to exist. People who have been abroad in recent months, and who previously believed that there were too many restrictions in Australia, have changed their views since they have seen what happens without prices control in other countries. When I was in New York, the United States Congress removed certain price controls, and the price of meat, for instance, rose to such levels that a steak cost 15s. in terms of Australian currency. A fruit salad cost 9s. A tailor-made suit of clothes cost at least £50. The Labour Government of Australia has done a very good job in relation to both internal affairs and external affairs. Everybody to-day is more or less afraid to face the facts, particularly in relation to our Mother Country. We all know that Great Britain is in dire straits, but we have been so trained to blind ourselves to unpleasant things that we will not admit the fact. A man whose father is dying cannot gain anything by saying that his father is in good health. Great Britain is in a very bad economic condition now. One honorable senator opposite said recently, quite erroneously, that Dr. Coombs had said that, in his opinion, Empire tariff preferences would have to go. Dr. Coombs did not say anything of the sort. He said that, if Great Britain were to regain the position that it occupied in the pre-war world, its exports would have to increase in bulk by 75 per cent, of its pre-war total, and that, obviously, this could not happen unless Empire preferences were reconsidered. That is another policy that Australia must reconsider. Great Britain realizes that there must be changes in the post-war world. The Labour Government of the United Kingdom, which has been greatly criticized, is in much the same position as is the Labour Government in Australia. It is suffering from the fact that the Conservative party in the past did nothing to remedy the fundamental ills of society.
The parlous state of the coalmining industry is causing great trouble in Great Britain to-day. Before the war, the coal-mines were worked by private enterprise, and the gentlemen who controlled private enterprise did not care anything whatever about posterity. They mined coal whereever it was profitable to do so. There was no co-ordination between them. Seams were worked uneconomically, and to-day Britain’s coal seams are so low that, without nationalization and a consolidation of capital, it would be almost impossible to work them at all. As soon as the war ended, 500,000 miners walked out of the mines. The war had taught them that the man who does the work is the only man worth considering. The payment of royalties on coal to private individuals and the Church of England had to be stopped. For example, the Duke of Hamilton, in Scotland, received more in royalties on a ton of coal than a miner received in his weekly wage. The conservatives had maintained that state of affairs for 200 years, but it had to be terminated and there had to be a re-organization of the industry. Nevertheless, even after this re-organization, there is still difficulty in getting the miners to work, just as there is difficulty in Australia. War has educated many working people in Australia and Great Britain, though perhaps honorable senators opposite have benefited very little from its lessons. In coal-mining towns to-day in Australia, Newcastle in England, or Lanarkshire in Scotland, old miners do not tell their sons to go into the mines any more ; they warn them to keep out of the mines. A new value must be put on mining. Thefathers realize that the men who do the basic work are the most important people in society. The Labour party has to tackle this situation by continually improving conditions, as the Commonwealth Government is doing in the stevedoring, industry and in the coal-mining industry.
Great Britain has lost almost all of its foreign investments. It realized on foreign investments when the war broke out, and thousands of people all over England, who previously drew up to £10 a week each, lost their incomes. Their purchasing power was destroyed. About onethird of Britain’s imports before the war came from foreign investments. When war broke out the nation had to bear the costs of war, and, in doing so, it used its capital. To-day, whether as an act of necessity or an act of goodwill, it is quitting India and Egypt, making peace with the Burmans, and is having a great deal of trouble in Palestine, lt is having so much trouble abroad that it has 1,500,000 soldiers scattered over various part of the world. The nation cannot bear the expense. If one talks to wan, tired, and worn out English people about another war, as Senator Sampson has talked tonight, they say, “If there is to be another war, you can fight it yourself. We have fought two wars and won both of them, and now we are worse off than ever “. They realize that something must be done to solve the problems of the world, and therefore the Labour Government in the United Kingdom has introduced one of the finest socialist policies that the world has known. It has socialized the Bank of England. There were some protests against this action by extreme Leftists who said that the Government paid far too much compensation. It has also nationalized transport, electricity, and gas services, and many other utilities of that nature.
To-day the British position is extremely weak, because in the centre of Europe is a cancer. That cancer must be cured unless the people of Germany are to be destroyed, and the people of the world along with them. To deal with this matter on a purely logical basis is very difficult. If I were to say that England is going down, people would say that I was a disloyalist and an enemy. Yet I am not anti-British. I know some of the evils that British imperialism has inflicted upon the world ; but I also know that no nation has fought for liberty so consistently since the days of John Ball, the priest of Kent, and Watt Tyler, 400 or 500 years ago, as has the British nation. And I know that if it were not for the people of Great Britain I should not, in all probability, be speaking here to-night.
The trade unionists of this country can thank the people of Great Britain for trade unionism. We know that for 200 years the anti-trade union laws existed to suppress the workers of Britain. Those men had to meet in the fields at night and take an oath of secrecy; but, after 200 years, they beat the conservatives of England. As the price of achieving that victory, some of them were deported to Botany Bay; but they succeeded in forming the trade unions. At various times the British people cut off the heads of their kings. They established trial by jury. Many reforms were secured by the British people; but if we have an economy based on the methods of Watt and Stephenson; if we continue to concentrate on the production of coal in an cil age, but have not enough coal, then there is room for criticism of the British system. It is as certain as the operation of the law of gravitation that Great Britain is no longer the dominant economic factor in the world, and we have to realize that.
In Germany to-day we find the Russians. I was in the Russian zone during my tour abroad, and I say frankly that the Russians did unspeakable things in Berlin. They took out everything on which they could lay their hands. At the same time, I like to be fair, and I shall present Russia’s case. The Russians said : “ Under the Potsdam agreement we were promised that, as far as possible, all machinery would be sent from the Western zone. It has not been sent, and we are not going to stand on ceremony with the Germans - we are going to take it “. And they did. I asked them about the old dilapidated tram-cars and inquired whether they were the best that they could produce. The reply was, “ No, we have wonderful cars in Russia “. Germany does not exist to-day. As the German people say, it is “kaput”; it is all over; it is finished. The Russians know what they are doing. I watched them and studied their methods ; I saw them at the Paris Conference. It is not true to soy that they are supermen, but they are specialists. If we of the democratic ideology are going to build a new world we shall have to. be specialists, too. In saying this, I am not speaking from a party point of view, or even from an Australian point of view; I am speaking from a parliamentary point of view, and am saying something which should be said in any parliament in the world. A man cannot be “ Minister for Education “ to-day and “ Minister for Insanity “ to-morrow. He cannot specialize in both those spheres. The Russians are specialists, and they know what they are doing in Germany. They know that whilst “ democracy “ is only a word, communism is an economic proposition They say that they are going to cut up this land and seize the means of production. They are not interested in whether people have freedom of speech, or whether they can read a particular book. Their contention is that the most essential thing is to fill the bellies of the people. That is the first law, and that is the law they are applying to Germany. Unless Britain and America, the so-called democratic nations, realize this, it is certain that Germany will come under Russian domination.
If we are to understand the position, let us assume ‘for a moment that we are Germans. America entered the war, and some us were not in favour of its entry. Hundreds of thousands of Germans were opposed to Hitler. It is all very well for us to ask, “ Then why did they put up with him?” That question could only be posed by a man or woman who has never lived under a tyrant. It is very easy, here in. sunny Australia, to ask, “ Why did the Germans put up with it?” They put up with it because the machine was too strong, because they could not depend upon the loyalty even of their own children, and because of the powerful propaganda disseminated by Hitler. There were hundreds of thousands of older Germans who were not prepared to put up with it, and who, T believe, would have welcomed the entry of the British and the Americans.
What do we find to-day in the suburbs of Berlin? Many of the buildings have not been destroyed, and some are being rehabilitated. We read in the newspapers that “Mrs. So-and-So the wife of Major So-and-So, will have a house with ten servants “. What will she do with ten servants? Why, she will use them in relays in order to find work for them all. She has herself photographed with a sumptuous roast of beef and sends it home to England, saying, “ We are determined not to let the misery of the German women and children worry us. “ The German women and children are so weak and their legs 30 emaciated that they can scarcely walk from one side of the road to the other. That is the plight of the German people to-day. They are invited to study the American and the British way of life. The Americans bring in cigarettes and exchange them at the equivalent of one cigarette for one dollar. I have seen these things myself and witnessed the reactions of the German people.
So much for the democratic way of life that is being preached to them. The Russians say, “ Germany is to be rehabilitated in terms of food, clothing and houses. “ The Germans applaud. They do not want to know about democratic ideologies. It is of m use to tell them that when they are reeducated to the democratic ideal they will have a government of their own. The average German does not want to know about that; he wants to * know what is being done to provide the necessaries of life for himself and to rehabilitate his country. Consider the American approach. An American sergeant comes along and is given four servants - a chauffeur, gardener, cook, and maid. He flies over to Switzerland and comes back with his arms covered with wristlet watches from wrist to elbow. He is going to exchange these watches with the German people. The midnight hour is approaching for democracy and we shall have to do something. The Germans go into their homes and take out their precious family heirlooms to barter with American soldiers. And the Americans say to them, “ Study the American way of life “. One reads in the press that of 1,000 white American soldiers, 305 were infected with social disease - repeat cases - and amongst theAmerican negroes there were 1,086 cases.
What would you reply, Mr. President, if you were a German, when the Americans said to you, “ Study our way of life “ ? If the German people look directly to America for advice, they aretold, “ What we want is individual initiative “. Yet there is no country in theworld where individual initiative counts- for less. One has no chance of becoming President of the United States of America by applying individual initiative. If honorable senators want verification of that they have only to inquire how President Truman attained his office. I refer them to the facts connected with the operations of the “ Prendergast machine “ in Kansas City. America is the home of super-machine politics, and yet the American people say to the German people, “ Employ individual initiative “. The Ford motor works turn out a motor car in 70 minutes. Is that “ individual initiative “ ? In the United States of America there is no such thing as a small independent shopkeeper. That is an extraordinary thing, but the gospel is preached by rich and poor alike : “ We want individual effort “. Apply that slogan to Germany. Do honorable senators think that individual initiative can re-build Berlin? Do they think it would enable the Germans to defeat the Bed Army? There is one thing the Russian people understand, and that is mass production. They know how to achieve il. They know how to use the machine. The leaders know what they are doing and the people have confidence in them. Our people, by contrast, have no confidence in their leaders.
I did not want to say what I have said to-night. I did not say it because I was glad to do so. It would have been much more pleasant if I could have tickled the ears of honorable senators by saying that this is the greatest country in the world and that there is nothing for our sons and daughters to fear. But honorable senators know that that would be a lie. No man in this country who reflects at al] can say that this is going to be a good world for his son or grandson to live in. Until parliamentary democracy is translated into economic democracy there is no hope for the human race. Until we have solved the problem of distribution as we have solved the problem of production, the world will go from bad to worse.
I have digressed a great deal from where I began; but I want to say now that Australia is exceedingly fortunate in having the services of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) as
Minister for External Affairs. We are going to conclude a treaty with Japan shortly. Australia is striving to have a real voice in regard to that treaty. If we face the facts, we must admit that at present Australia has no say. We know that only one man has any say, and that is General MacArthur. Honorable senators may interpose, “ It is better to have General MacArthur than Stalin”. But that is not the point; the point is that we have fought one war to defeat Japanese imperialism, and now we are about to see American imperialism substituted for it. That is the sort of paradox that has persisted down the ages. Mankind has always been anxious to take the mote out of the other fellow’s eye, without extracting the beam from his own. Two hundred years have lapsed since Watt and Stephenson, and in that time men have been able to turn out wealth like water.
It has been the fault of our educational system that we have been unable to recognize the true nature of such things as war. That is an extraordinary thing ; but if I said now, “ The same laws govern society as govern individuals “, most people would not know what I meant. If I were to say to-night that I shall again be ten years of age, people would say that I was a lunatic; yet some of the intellectuals of the world think that they can fight two wars and then go back to where they were before the first of those wars began. It cannot be done. Whether it be a single human being or a society of human beings, when the power of disintegration becomes greater than the power of cohesion life ceases to exist. At the present time the power of disintegration is greater than the power of cohesion in respect of capitalism. If we are to ‘maintain the status quo in respect of capitalism, which means that we are to put a higher value on a machine than on a human being; if ethically and morally our standards are to be the same as before the two world wars, there can be no hope for the human race. My view is that there is hope for the human race. Our struggle for existence should have educated us and given us a true sense of values. Unless we are prepared to broaden the basis of society and raise the status of work; unless the man who has never done anything useful ceases talking about things of which he knows nothing and starts to do something useful; unless we are prepared to give to people a real education, not one based on lies, there is no hope for the world. How many of us in this chamber know much of the struggle of mankind for existence unless we have burned the midnight oil to find out? Unless we change our history boola, which merely glorify this or that individual, and do not tell us why things have happened and why the human race has progressed from one system to another, from feudalism to chattel slavery, and to the system known as capitalism. Unless we learn how to distribute better the world’s wealth, there is no hope for the human race. In my opinion the human race is beginning to realize these truths. Nature has provided more than ample for man’s needs, and it. is man’s duty to see that no one is in want. I refuse to follow Senator Sampson and say that war is inevitable, but if we are to prevent war we must educate the people to realize that there must be one government for the whole world. So long as men and women think as nations, as Sydneyites or Melbournites, as anti-Britishers, anti-Germans, antiCatholics, or anti-Chinese, and so on, the human race will not fulfil its mission. The United Nations is the best thing that has evolved from the struggles of mankind. I admit that it is full of defects, hut it is at least an attempt to bring the whole human family under one roof. If there be an aggressor nation, the existence of this organization will enable the other nations to build up a physical force to overwhelm it. Hitherto, wars have been, in the main, struggles between the people and vested interests, struggles for markets, struggles to gain control of oil, and so on. “We must get to the root of things, or the world will soon get into a most chaotic position. The United Nations will not solve all the world’s problems in a day, but it does provide a platform from which great truths can be proclaimed.
I have the highest admiration for the Minister for External Affairs, and I believe that Australia is fortunate that he occupies his present position. Intellectually, ho can hold his own with M.
Molotov, M. Vishinsky, or any other international figure. For thinking on his feet, and for grasping the essentials of a proposition and putting them forward, no statesman in the world is his superior. Instead of criticizing the right honorable gentleman, honorable senators opposite should be big enough Australians to admit that we are fortunate that he occupies the position he does.
.- The Senate is indebted to Senator Grant for the interesting survey of world affairs that he has given to us, following his recent visit to Europe. That visit provided him with opportunities to see many things which have to be seen if they are to be understood. It was my privilege a few months earlier to see some of the conditions existing in Continental Europe. What I saw there is beyond my power to describe.
The Parliament has far too few opportunities to discuss international affairs. In the past, there has been an inclination on the part of members of Parliament to regard international affairs as matters to be discussed when there is no other legislation to be dealt with, and when something is needed to fill in a spare hour or two. We are beginning to realize that the conditions existing in other countries are just as important to Australia as to any other nation. I regret that this Parliament has not set up a special committee to deal with international affairs, as has the United States of America. In the American Congress there are men who give practically the whole of their time to a close study of international affairs, and take a leading part in debates on such subjects. These men are recognized as experts in the relations between the United States of America and other countries, and their views on such subjects are sought as much as are the views of Ministers. Now that international affairs have become recognized as an important aspect of Australian life, the Parliament, would do well to consider the establishment of an international affairs committee.
I join with Senator Grant in paying a tribute to the work of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who has done a great deal to make Australia’s views better known in other countries. I do not pretend that his views have not, at times, clashed with those of the Opposition in this Parliament, but he would be a mean person indeed who did not give to the right honorable gentleman credit for his untiring work in the international sphere. He has, undoubtedly, made Australia and Australia’s views known to the world to a greater degree than has any man who has preceded him in this Parliament. He has had unique opportunities to do so. During his term of office international affairs have loomed large on the horizon, and the right honorable gentleman has met the leading representatives of many other nations. I give to him credit for having used well the opportunities that have come his way.
If the British Commonwealth of -Various is to survive the perils now facing its members, there must be the closest co-operation between them ; they must assist one another to the utmost. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that a gift of £25,000,000 was to be made by Australia to Great Britain. The spirit underlying that gift, even more than the gift itself, is valued, because it has given new heart re many of our kith and kin in the Motherland who are still suffering untold privations. It is almost impossible to realize the conditions which exist in Great Britain to-day. When I was there, about twelve months ago, I visited some of the areas which had been bombed during the war, and although the damage was not so great as in places I saw on the Continent of Europe, I realized something of the difficulties facing the people of Britain every day. Since I was there they have had a most severe winter, and now they are suffering the effects of floods.
The result is that Britain’s economic position to-day is much less favorable than it, was some months ago when the indications were that its export trade was being recaptured. I received a letter recently from my brother in London, in which he said that it was almost impossible to buy a fountain pen nib, or to get a watch repaired, because of the nation’s concentration on its export trade. That is necessary because Britain had to sacrifice all its overseas investments before the
United States of America entered thewar and relieved the economic position; of the Old Country. Although Australia, has only a small population, we can do a great deal more than we have done tohelp the Motherland. In the fiscal sphere there is opportunity to help British exporters. When our tariff schedules were being considered, in the days when Australia’s productive capacity was not sogreat as it is now, there was more justification for placing heavy duties on. articles imported from Great Britain, because the cost of production there was lower than it was in this country. But that time has passed. I believe that an analysis would reveal that the position has been reversed. In the circumstances,, the maintenance of high tariffs, in addition to being unfair to Great Britain, merely means the imposition of an unnecessary tax upon the people of bothcountries. I suggest an immediate review of the tariff in respect of imports from Great Britain. We should increase considerably the quantity of foodstuffswe are now sending to Great Britain. This afternoon I referred to the effect of the present unfortunate dispute on thewaterfront in the port of Sydney involving the holding up of many food ships. With a really determined effort we could increase the quantity of foodstuffs we are now sending to Great Britain.
Apart from drought conditions during the last few years, one of the reasons for the serious decrease of our production of primary products is the acute shortage of manpower. Unless one visits country areas,, one cannot obtain any idea of the seriousness of the present shortage of man-power in rural industry, and the gravity of thesituation is emphasized now that our service personnel have been demobilized. Our secondary production also could bestepped up considerably. This country has never had a greater opportunity to dispose of its goods overseas than is presented to it at present. On a previous occasion, I related that during my visit to the United States of America towards the end of last year I was deluged with requests to supply various articles of” Australian manufacture which would find a ready sale in the United States of “ America. However, on my return I found that our level of production had fallen to a degree that was hardly conceivable. I cannot comprehend why, in view of our high production level during the war when so many of our men and women were engaged in the fighting forces, it should now be so low. When I was discussing this subject a few days ago with a senior member of a firm of textile manufacturers in Victoria, he informed me that he was unable to obtain more than one-third of the staff, particularly females, which he required to handle the raw material on hand at the factory. It is difficult to discover what has become of many of the people who were previously engaged in secondary industries. Perhaps, many of them have married and have no intention of returning to factory work, or have accumulated funds which they intend to expend before again seeking a job. It is most unfortunate from the point of view of both Australia and Great Britain that we are not taking advantage of the opportunity now presented to us to increase our production. I hope that one of the first things the Government will consider in order to assist Great Britain will be the easing of the customs barrier now existing between the two countries. To-day, the customs schedule is purely a taxation machine.
I shall not traverse the ground covered by Senator Grant except to say that Australia must study very closely developments in the Near East. As the honor- able senator rightly said, the cry of “Asia for the Asiatics “ is now raised more vociferously in those countries than when Japan proclaimed its Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere. We know that there has been a tremendous awakening of the coloured peoples in the countries to the north of Australia. One has only to glance at the map to realize how hopelessly we are outnumbered by those peoples of different race and colour.
They are emerging from what one might term many centuries of slumber. It appears that British influence will soon disappear altogether from India; and judging by what is happening at present it will be a sorry day for India. Already, religious and racial differences have resulted in slaughter, and have given rise to conditions which were not possible while British influence in India was at its height, lt will be a sad period for (he people of that great country before they will be able finally to settle down under self-government. However, I fear that the withdrawal of British influence from India will not mean that no other foreign power will endeavour to take Britain’s place in that country. Knowing bow rich India is, and recognizing the opportunities it offers for trade, we shall find that Britain’s place will be occupied very quickly by either Russia or the United States of America, or both. Undoubtedly, there will be a great tussle between those two countries to step into the position previously occupied by Great Britain in India. Senator Grant compared the system of government in the United States of America with that of Russia. When I visited the United States of America I was amazed to note the tone of a large section of the press with respect to Russia. Reading leading articles in some American newspapers, one would imagine that the two countries were already at war. The visitor who does not. understand how outspoken the American press usually is would imagine that it would not be long before the two countries were at war. That attitude presented a sad picture to me, because, like all other honorable senators, I hope that the United Nations will succeed in maintaining peace in the world, and that the four great nations finally responsible for victory in the last war will be able to work in amity.
Reverting to our relations with the coloured peoples to the north of Australia, I should like to say a. few words about Indonesia because it has figured very prominently in Australian affairs during the last few months. It was most unfortunate, indeed, that misunderstandings were caused between ourselves and the representatives of the military forces of the Netherlands East Indies government following the incidents which occurred when Dutch ships were about to sail from this country. Communists were responsible for those incidents. I recall that when I was first elected to the Senate many years ago, Australia always regarded Java as a country which, as the purchasing power of its people increased, would be very closely and profitably associated with us in trade; but from what I can gather, the recent unfortunate misunderstandings following the incidents to which I have referred have reacted to the detriment of our relations with the Netherlands East Indies. Undoubtedly, a great change is taking place in Indonesia. The Indonesians now have their own schools and universities, and are no longer disposed to be regarded simply as coolies in the rice fields. They have educated leaders, and ultimately they will seek expansion just as other countries do. The same observation applies to the Chinese. Japan has faded from the picture as a military force. We shall require to watch Japan very closely despite its decision to renounce war for all time; but other coloured peoples to the north of Australia will not be disposed, to regard themselves as being in any way inferior to white peoples. They will regard themselves, and rightly, too, as our equals; because, who is to say that any people, because of their colour, are superior to those of another colour? Hundreds of millions of coloured peoples in countries to the north of Australia are turning not only to self government, but also to self-sufficiency in production. China also promises to emerge as a powerful nation. Australia cannot afford to remain, as we at present appear to be disposed to remain, a mere handful of 7,000,000 surrounded by hundreds of millions in the countries I have mentioned. Consequently, I commend the Minister for Migration (Mr. Calwell) for his efforts to obtain more ships to bring migrants to this country. However, migrants are only trickling here to-day, although a better opportunity has never been presented to this country than is available to-day to obtain migrants from Great Britain and other European countries. A few days ago I read press reports of the arrival of a Dutch ship in Sydney in which it was stated that the migrants were crowded together and were obliged to sleep in hammocks. It was stated that the conditions on board were far from the best. However, from what I know of those unfortunate people, and the worry they have endured in recent years, they probably regarded the vessel as a paradise, particularly when they stepped with joy on to this free land which offers them so many blessings.
They have come into a land of sunshine to live among a good natured people.
Migration is a fad with me. We have great scope in this direction. At the same time, a great responsibility rests upon the Commonwealth and State Governments to provide every possible facility for migrants, and to expend money freely, if necessary, in developing a great migration scheme. Further, when migrants come to this country we must not treat them as outsiders who are not wanted here. Among the American troops which were stationed in Australia during the war we met officers and men bearing names which indicated that their ancestors had lived in almost every country in the world. What struck me most when I saw Americans in their own homes was that no matter from what country the fathers or grandfathers had come, the sons and grandsons had become true citizens of America, and had forgotten all the old feuds, habits, and conditions of their own countries. That is what we want in Australia. We must have many more millions of people if this land is to he safe. What chance have we, a nation of 7,000,000, against the hordes of Asiatics in countries only a few flying hours from Australia, demanding an outlet? There is a great nationalist movement in India to-day. Already we have been asked by India’s representative in this country to grant greater concessions in the way of trading and other facilities. We cannot hope to maintain this country for the white race unless we are prepared to share the blessings that the Almighty has given us with the hundreds of thousands of more unfortunate people in Europe. I trust that the negotiations that the Commonwealth Government is conducting wilh the British authorities in regard to the provision of shipping for migrants to this country will be successful, and that we shall be able to look forward to an increasing flow of newcomers from overseas. I realize that a substantial increase of our population will necessitate development of our natural resources; but we must have the people here before we can carry out much of this development. We have an opportunity to-day to lay the foundations in this country of a mighty nation. We must not let that opportunity pass. We must extend the hand of fellowship much more readily to migrants than we have done in the past. We should not refer to them by names that I shall not repeat in this chamber, nor should we treat them as outcasts. They are fellow creatures of the world who are in need of a home, and we are the trustees for a country which can offer them a home. I hope too that the United Nations, in winch Australia has played such a great part, will succeed in maintaining world peace, because if that organization fails what i3 the alternative? Now that Australia has, very wisely I believe, become a party to the International Monetary Agreement, I believe that we can look forward to more stability in our economic conditions.
I shall not be a member of this chamber much longer, but I should like to recommend strongly the establishment in this Parliament of a foreign affairs committee. The creation of such a body would offer to members of Parliament an opportunity to become thoroughly acquainted with what is going on in the world. At present we depend almost entirely upon the statements that are made from time to time by the Minister for External Affairs, and upon certain periodical publications dealing with international affairs. Members of the committee that I have suggested should be given some status, and should be authorized to conduct inquiries in the manner of the Foreign Affairs Committee nf the United States Senate. This could be of immense benefit, not only to the Parliament, but also to the country.
Senator NASH (Western Australia) 1 10.35]. - I congratulate Senator Grant on the fine speech that he made to-night. The honorable senator gave a wealth of information, both in regard to the international situation generally, and also from the economic point of view. It is regrettable that we do not hear more speeches of a similar character in this chamber.
T should like to pay a tribute also to the work that has been accomplished on behalf of this nation by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). The right honorable gentleman has done a magnificent job, and I was more than pleased to hear Senator Grant say that in international affairs our Minister could hold his own with any of the eminent statesmen or plenipotentiaries of other countries. I have some personal knowledge of the Minister’s work at the San Francisco Conference. Largely as the result of his efforts and his ability, 26 propositions placed before the conference by the Australian delegation were- agreed to. It is no exaggeration to say that as the result of his association with the foreign policy of this country, the Minister for External Affairs has placed Australia more boldly on the map of the world than ever before. Whilst I realize that previous Ministers for External Affairs may not have had opportunities similar to those presented to the present holder of that office because of World War II., it cannot be denied that in the twenty years between the two wars, Australian statesmen could have done much more on behalf of this country overseas. It is nor. unfair to say that prior to the advent of the present Minister for External Affairs into this Parliament, the foreign policy of this country was nothing more than a copy of that enunciated from No. 10 Downing-street, London. The imperialistic policy of Gre:,t Britain was good enough for Australia. In other words our Minister for External Affairs has been instrumental in infusing an international outlook into the Australian way of life. I mean that the people of Australia are now looking at international affairs in an entirely different way. When I went to school, I was taught the history of England. I learned all about Bruce and the spider, but not one word was told me about the development of the Australian Constitution, or the growth of political representation in this country. As for international affairs, all I knew was that there was a British Empire, and that Australia was part of it. Now, the newspapers place before us every day matters of international interest. In every direction, the voice of Australia is being heard, cither through the mouth of the Minister for External Affairs, or that of some other representative of this country. Australian opinion has become a potent force in world affairs, despite the fact that we have a population of less than 8,000,000.
I agree with Senator Foll that our population must be increased as quickly as is commensurate with the economic welfare of the country. It would, of course, be suicidal to invite mass migration from other countries if we could not find employment for the people who came here. Migration must be planned so that the people can be absorbed into our economy. There must be no large-scale unemployment. We must extend the hand of friendship to people overseas, particularly to those of British stock. However, the position now is that Great Britain does not want to lose its ppeople. Because of the ravages of war, B ritain has lost so much population that, strange as it may seem, that country is mow seeking population from outside in order to maintain its economy. We have heard much of the alleged statement of Dr. Coombs about Empire preference, and its effect upon Australia. I do not propose to go into that, but I remember that Dr. Coombs stated recently that Great Britain would have to increase its production by 75 per cent. over pre-war standards in order to escape from its economic difficulties. That is a tremendous increase, one that would require an almost super-human effort. In the circumstances, we must do everything possible to assist the people of Great Britain. Primarily, it was the British people who saved democracy for the world, and for a long time they did it off their own bat. Australia came to the assistance of Britain at the earliest opportunity, but assistance was not so spontaneously forthcoming from other sources. Eventually, however, it did come, and, allied with the effort of Great Britain, was successful in stemming the forces of Hitlerism which were seeking predominance throughout the world.
To-day, Great Britain is facing the most complicated economic problems arising out of the war. Had it not been for the efforts of Great Britain in the early days of the war we should not be here now. Had it not been for the help of the United States of America, Australia would not now be part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It has been suggested that Australia is trying to break away from the Empire. Nothing could be further from the wish of the average Australian. When I was in the United
States of America, some time ago, I told a prominent American radio commentator, who asked me to join with him in a broadcast, that there was no truth in the suggestion that the British Empire would disintegrate. I told him that, far from that being the case, the ties which link the various parts of the Empire would become stronger than ever. Now, we must do everything we can to assist Britain to recover from the damage inflicted by war, and, more recently, by the inclemency of the weather. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date. Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Flinders Island: Land Settlement ok ex-Servicemen .
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I have been requested by the returned soldiers of Flinders Island to bring to the notice of the Government the lax method employed in connexion with the settlement of returned servicemen on that island. On King Island in Bass Strait, which is similar to Flinders Island, a successful scheme is in operation, but no attempt has been made to settle servicemen on Flinders Island, a fact which is causing them grave concern. I have been to Flinders Island, and I know all the returned servicemen affected. I know the people who own the estates, also. They are worthy citizens, but the land on Flinders Island is so good, and is so much sought after, that it has got into a few hands. The local branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the progress association called a meeting. It was well attended, and it decided to send letters to all residents of Flinders Island who owned too much land asking if they would be willing to return some of their property to the Government for soldier settlement purposes. None of the letters was answered. The decision of the meeting was endorsed by the Municipal Council, the Tasmanian Producers Organization, the Fathers Association, and the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Obviously, it had the support of a largo majority of residents on the island, but nothing has been done yet to implement the recommendation. I do not blame the Government for this inactivity. I know where the trouble lies, as do other honorable senators. I have with me a sheaf of letters from residents of Flinders Island, which I shall make available to the appropriate Minister. This is an extract from one letter -
I would like to know if you are a repre sentative of the taxpayers, are you satisfied with the unfair treatmentmeted out to our boys,and also areyou satisfied with the progressive development of Flinders Island?
Flinders Island is the only place in Australia that is losing population. Because the land on the island has come into the possession of a few people, many residents are leaving. The Happy Valley Estate, a magnificent property of 3,500 acres, is owned by people who live somewhere on the mainland. Surely the Soldier Settlement Board could make some use of that property in the interests of some of the 50 or 60 ex-servicemen on the island. The land is good and the climate is satisfactory. The Bootjack Estate, of 1,700 acres belongs, I understand, to the State Government or the municipal council. Several other places on the island are owned by people who live in Victoria and New South Wales. I see no reason way some of these areas should not be subdivided for the settlement of exservicemen. The residents of the island ask that a start be made on the Happy Valley Estate, whose absentee owner makes little use of it, and the Bootjack Estate. In spite of the decision of the public meeting which I mentioned, which was supported by most of the residents of the island, no action has been taken, as far as I know, to settle ex-servicemen on the island. I ask the Minister to do what he can to develop this valuable land and make it available to men who fought for us during the war.
– in reply -I assure Senator Lamp that I shall have his representations brought to the notice of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who administers the settlement of ex-servicemen on behalf of the Commonwealth. I shall ask him to deal directly with the honorable senator in this matter.
Question resolved in ; he affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 22.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
No. 11 - Trained Nurses’ Guild.
No. 12 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union.
Australian Broadcasting Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 17.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules1947, Nos. 15, 10.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment -
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 27.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - D. M. Waters.
Supply and Shipping - G.N. Chamberlain. J. Daly, J. C. Dooley, E. McCarthy.
Treasury - J. I. Walliker.
Works and Housing -E. Tweddell.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 29.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947. No. 25.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property)
Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (28).
National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 59,60.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth garage and storage accommodation purposes - Adelaide, South Australia.
Commonwealth office accommodation purposes - Sydney, Now South Wales.
Defence purposes -
Postal purposes -
Mater Hill (Brisbane), . Queensland
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947. No. 30.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinance - 1946 - No. 9 - Motor Vehicles.
Regulations - 1946 - No. 5 - (Motor Vehicles Ordinance).
Re-establishment and Employment Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1946, No. 181. 1947, No. 80.
Senate adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470319_senate_18_190/>.