18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Visit to Shanghai
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration yet received a reply to a question which I asked last Thursday dealing with a visit paid to Shanghai by a representative of the Government to make a survey of a large number of Jewish refugees who are desirous of migrating to Australia?
– No answer has yet been made available to me. I shall see the Minister for Immigration this afternoon with a view to expediting an answer to the honorable senator’s question.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether the additional telephone channel between Adelaide and Perth for the purpose of relaying programmes for national broadcasting stations in Western Australia when parliamentary proceedings are being broadcast will be available by the end of June, as expected ?
– I assure the honorable senator that when the Postal Department gives an undertaking that certain work will he carried out by a given date the work will be done, pro-
Tided that nothing unforeseen happens.
Ban on Dutch Ships.
Senator JAMES MCLACHLAN.Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping a question relating to trade with Indonesia and the hold-up f ships at Sydney. In his reply the Minister said that agreement had not yet Ween reached between the Indonesian people and the Netherlands Government regarding the transport of cargoes from
Australia to the Netherlands East Indies and that until such agreement was reached the matter was not of much concern to the Commonwealth Government. As my question related to the loading of ships, I now ask whether the Government is concerned, and, if not, whether it will .take an interest in. the trade and commerce of this country?
– The honorable senator has repeated a question which he asked yesterday. I then gave him an answer. If he will read the press he will see that an understanding has been arrived at between the Indonesian and Dutch authorities, but that no final settlement has been made with respect to the loading of cargoes in Australian ports for the Netherlands East Indies. There is no trouble at present on the waterfront, although previously a ban had been placed upon the loading of cargoes for the Netherlands East Indies. I do not want to be constantly explaining the reason for that ban. I am sure that the honorable senator knows the reason. The ban was imposed because Indonesian seamen were asked to man ships loaded with cargoes of munitions and arms to the Netherlands East Indies, which, were to be used against their fellow countrymen. For that reason those seamen refused to man the ships ; and arising out of that dispute a ban was placed on the loading of all cargoes for the Netherlands East Indies. Later, Indian seamen, in sympathy with the Indonesian seamen became involved in the dispute by supporting the action taken by the latter. I am sure that this matter will be cleared up within the next few days. The Government will be happy when normal trade can be resumed between Australia and the Netherlands East Indies.
– On the 23rd May, Senator Cooper asked a question without notice concerning the shipment of jam from Hobart to Brisbane. I now inform him that the vessel Corrimal which is expected to depart from Hobart for Brisbane during the second week in J une, will lift approximately 280 tons of jam and fruit pulp from H. Jones and Company Proprietary Limited, of Hobart.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether anything can be done to expedite the delivery of answers to questions asked by honorable senators. On the 30th April last, I asked a question concerning the immigrants who had arrived on Misr, and the Minister for Munitions made a special effort to obtain an answer to my questions as soon as possible. However, after asking for those replies on two subsequent occasions, I did not receive them until yesterday. I notice that the replies were prepared on the 16th May. Thus, apparently, it took twelve days for those replies to be delivered to me. Such a delay, I suggest, seems to be unjustified.
– I agree with the honorable senator that the delay he has mentioned seems to be unjustified. However, all Ministers endeavour to obtain replies to questions asked in the Senate as early as possible. When I and my colleagues were in Opposition we also complained about the delay experienced in obtaining replies to questions. However, considerable research is involved in obtaining replies to many questions asked in this chamber, and in such cases it is not possible to obtain replies as expeditiously as one would like. I assure the honorable senator that attention will be given to the matter he has raised.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing -what action the Government is taking to assist in overcoming the shortage of wire and wire netting in South Australia. When are supplies likely lo return to normal? What authority controls the distribution of wire and wire netting ?
– The Minister for Works and Housing having been made aware of the honorable senator’s intention to ask those questions, has supplied the following answers: -
The Government is aware of the shortage of wire and wire netting in South Australia. The shortage is Australia-wide, mainly brought about by the objectionable type of employment in the industry and the fact that the industry is one which has not kept pace with modern forms of manufacture.
However, the Government is encouraging firms to install more modern machinery and when these machines are in operation, we are of the opinion that there will be adequate supplies for Australia. This should take place early in the new year.
At the request of the Premiers, the Commonwealth Government distributes these materials on an Australia-wide basis but the State allocation is distributed to the individual by the States themselves. Therefore, any farmer desiring these products should make representations to the State authorities
In regard to Commonwealth allocation of wire netting, the Minister has pointed out that from the inception of quotas in June, 1945,. to the 30th April, 1947, South Australia, which is entitled to a quota of 9 .per cent, based on pre-war distribution, has received 1,253 tone of wire netting against a quota entitlement of 1,185 tons.
Due to the shortage of rods and man-power. Australian production for 1946 totalled 7,001 tons (which includes 424 tons produced in Western Australia, and this production remains in that State), against the 1939 figure of 12,204 tons. Assessing the South Australian 1939 distribution at 9 per cent, of this figure, that State would have received 1,098 tons in 1939 as against a 1940 quota entitlement of 592 tons. South Australia has thus received more than her quota entitlement and can only look for additional quantities when rod and man-power is available to the industry, and the other manufacturers, Lysaght Brother* Australia Proprietary Limited resumes production.
In regard to the wire position, from the inception of quotas in June, 1945, to the 30th April, 1947, South Australia, which is entitled to a quota of 9 per cent, based on pre-war distribution, has received 1,113 tons of wire against a quota entitlement of 1,046 tons.
Due to the shortage of rods and man-power Australian production for 1946 totalled 6,289 tons (which includes 598 tons produced in Western Australia, and this production remains in that State) against the 1939 figure of 15,140 tons. Assessing the South Australian 1939 distribution at 9 per cent, of this figure, that State would have received 1,363 tons in 1939 as against a 1946 quota entitlement of 512 tons. South Australia has thus receiver! more than her quota entitlement and can only look for additional quantities when rod and man-.power is available to the industry and the other manufacturers, Lysaght Brothers Australia Proprietary Limited resumes production.
– I ask the Minister for Munitions, who seems to be well versed on the subject of wire netting and wire, whether there is any truth in the statement reported in to-day’s newspapers as having been made by a member of the New South Wales Parliament, that the wire netting works of Rylands Brothers Australia Proprietary Limited. willhave to close down because the firm’s storerooms are full of manufactured material for which no transport is availabe.
– I have no knowledge of the newspaper report mentioned bythe honorable senator. I assure him that I am an authority on wire netting only by proxy, because of the fact that I represent in this chamber the Minister whohas a knowledge of wire netting. I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister. It is true that there have been great transport difficulties in New South Wales, and there is a possibility, as there is with any statement published in the press, that the report is correct.
– On the 23rd May, Senator Herbert Hays asked a question concerning the withdrawal of Taroona from the Bass Strait service.
I now inform the honorable senator that Taroona is at present undergoing annual overhaul and is also having some repairs made to the hull and propeller owing to the recent mishap in the Tamar River. It is expected that the vessel will be back in service about the end of June or early in July.
– Can the
Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether it is a fact that large quantities of iron and steel manufactured goods such as roofing iron, water and gas piping, &.c, have beenshipped recently from eastern ports to South Australia ?
– The materials mentioned by the honorable senator are shipped to each State as shipping is available and when quantities make such shipments economical. I shall have inquiries made regarding the quantities that have been sent recently to South Australia and shall supply the figures to the honorable senator.
– In view of the shortage of tinplate, which is preventing the canning of pickles and fruits both for export and home consumption, can the Minister for Supply and Shipping hold out to people engaged in that trade any hope that the position will ease in the near future?
– The Government has taken all steps possible to secure additional supplies of tinplate for Australian industries. The tinplate shortage is a world-wide problem. In this respect, Great Britain and the United States of America are experiencing the same difficulties as ourselves. Over twelve months ago, the Government sent a mission to the United States of America in an endeavour to secure tinplate for Australian industries. That mission learned that supplies in the UnitedStates of America were so short that the government of that country had imposed restrictions on the end use of tinplate. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government decided to bring that commodity under control again. Mr. Foote, who controlled tinplate supplies during the war, was reappointed to the same position. He is now in Great Britain and has succeeded in obtaining a quantity of tinplate for Australia. This will relieve the situation to a slight degree, but I cannot hold out any hope for a material improvement of the position in the near future.
– On the 16th May; Senator Cooper asked a question regarding an International Trade Fair to be held at Toronto in May and June, 1948.
I am now able to supply the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The inquiry refers to an international trade fair which will be held in Toronto, Canada, from the 31st May to the 12th June, 1948. The fair is principally designed for trade exhibits only and so far no official invitations have been extended to governments to participate. The Australian Government was informed about the fair by the Acting High Commissioner for Canada some weeks ago and action has already been taken by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to bring it under the notice of business organizations, and firms which may be interested.
The Australian Government is participating in the Canadian National Exhibition to be held in Toronto at the end of August this year.
The Australian exhibit is in charge of the Australian Government Trade Commissioner in Canada.
Issue of Commemorative Stamp
– Is it a fact that some time ago the PostmasterGeneral announced that he proposed to issue a special commemorative stamp in recognition of the 2lst birthday of Her Royal Highness, Princess Elizabeth?Will he advise the Senate when this commemorative issue is to be made? In view of the widespread recognition given to the occasion by our sister Dominion of South Africa, will the PostmasterGeneral ensure that the commemorative stamp shall be issued before Her Royal Highness attains the age of 22 years ?
– It is proposed to issue a special stamp to commemorate the 21st birthday of Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth. The matter was referred to the note printing establishment, but the design submitted to the special committee appointed to select an appropriate stamp was not considered suitable. However, I understand that the special stamp will be issued within the next two months, some time before Her Royal Highness reaches the age of 22 years.
Stock Trucking Facilities
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Re-instatement of ex-Servicemen.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment: -
Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1947.
Quarantine Bill 1947.
Beer Excise Bill 1947.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize Australia’s adherence to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Unesco is the product of the general conviction that scholars, scientists and educationists can, through a strong international body, make a major, positive contribution to international understanding and progress. At the same time, Unesco is the product of certain immediate needs of a world recovering from war. Honorable senators may recall the standing conference of Allied Ministers of Education - of the British Government and the governments in exile - which was convened in November, 1942, and met in London until the end of the European war. That conference planned the reconstruction of educational facilities in occupied Europe, particularly in relation to the accommodation, equipment and staffing of schools, technical colleges and universities, and the re-establishment of libraries and laboratories. From that urgent practical task grew the conviction that a permanent international organization for education was indispensable. Steps were taken during the later war years to plan such an organization. The United States of America and other nations joined the conference for that planning. In 1944, general agreement was secured that an international organization should be established to participate in the reconstruction of educational and cultural facilities in Europe. When, in June, 1945, the San Francisco conference adopted the United Nations Charter, it was agreed that the United Nations should promote, among other objectives, international cultural and educational co-operation. That provided a stimulus for completion of the London conference’s existing work on plans for an international, educational and cultural organization. The next step was a joint invitation by the British and French Governments to all the United Nations to be represented at a further conference in London in November, 1945, to establish an appropriate international body. At that conference the representatives of 44 governments considered the constitution of the proposed organization, which was broadened to enable it to provide for world collaboration in science as well as education and culture. A Preparatory Commission of Unesco was set up at that time which proceeded to prepare a draft programme and drafts for the detailed organization of Unesco. At sessions of the Preparatory Commission, Professor R. C. Mills, Director of the Commonwealth Office of Education, presented the view of the Government that a limited, practicable programme for the organization - one whichattempted to combine immediate tasks with long-range projects - was preferable to a programme which attempted to extend Unesco’s as yet limited resources over too wide a field of enterprises. This approach has, in general,been adopted.
The constitution of Unesco came into force on the 4th November, 1946, following signature and acceptance by twenty of the States represented at the Preparatory Commission. Australia was one of the first members of the organization to deposit an instrument of acceptance on the 11th June, 1946. In the words of the constitution, the organization’s main objective is” to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture, in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for human rights and fundamental freedoms affirmed . . . by the Charter of the United Nations.” To this end Unesco will assist in promoting on an international scale the free flow of ideas. It will attempt to assist members to give fresh impulse to popular education and the spread of culture and also to contribute to the maintenance, increase and diffusion of knowledge. At the same time, the organization is prohibited from interfering in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of member states.
The principal organs of Unesco are a general conference, an executive board, and a secretariat. The general conference meets annually in ordinary session, each member being entitled to representation by five delegates. It is the responsibility of the general conference to determine the programmes and policies of the organization. It is empowered to summon international conferences on education and the humanities, the sciences and the dissemination of knowledge, and to prepare conventions. The venue of the conference changes annually and tentative suggestions have been made that Australia may be the scene of the third, or fourth, conference.
The implementation of the programme of the organization is in the hands of the executive board. The board prepared the agenda and programme of work for acceptance by the conference, and recommends the admission of new members. It consists of eighteen members and meets twice annually in regular session. Members of the board, who are elected by the general conference from among the delegations appointed by member states, exercise their powers on behalf of the conference as a whole, and not as representatives, of their respective governments.
The seat of the organization is Paris. Honorable senators will know that Australian policy favours the location of organizations of this character at the headquarters of the United Nations. In this case, however, tribute was paid to France for that country’s pioneer work in the field of international intellectual co-operation, and to Paris as a traditional seat of learning.
Member states accept a number of obligations. On these the organization is based. As a member, Australia will be expected to fulfil the following obligations : -
In respect of the last obligation, the Government strongly supports the underlying principle of associating such bodies with Unesco activities. Unesco cannot depend solely on the support of governments, but must attract the interest and support of the voluntary organizations upon which it must rely for the widest possible dissemination of information. A number of our more important cultural bodies have already expressed interest in the work of Unesco. Arrangements are now being worked out whereby interested bodies will be invited to be associated with the work of Unesco.
The first general conference of Unesco met in Paris from the 19th November to the 10th December last year. Australia was represented by a delegation led by
Professor Mills, Director of the Commonwealth Office of Education, and including Dr. E. R.Walker, of the Australian Legation, Paris, who has been elected to the executive board of the organization and to its standing committee.
In reviewing the programme of activities submitted by the Preparatory Commission, the general conference determined that, under existing conditions, those projects relating to the dissemination of knowledge through education and mass communication should have the highest priority. It was decided that Unesco should develop a programme in fundamental education for a world-wide attack on illiteracy, since it was pointed out that well over half of the world’s population is illiterate. Unesco will create a staff of experts to recommend methods of combating illiteracy, to develop educational materials, and to determine how best use can be made of films and radio in this project.
It is of immense importance for Australia no less than for the rest of the world that European educational services should be promptly put on their feet and as much of the arrears of the war years made up as is now possible. But it is of even more importance for Australia that the living standards, beginning with the educational standards, of Asia and the politically-awakening islands to our north should be speedily raised. Some of their civilizations are older than our own but large proportions of the Asiatic and island populations remain illiterate.
The general conference approved proposals in other fields. In mass commuaication technical committees will be set up to examine the urgent needs of wardevastated countries in film, radio and press. In the field of libraries and museums steps will be taken to stimulate the development of free circulating and reference libraries and of popular museums for adults and children. In the national and social sciences steps will be taken to study nutrition problems in India, South America and China. Field science co-operation stations will be set up in Asia and Latin America so that scientific knowledge on current problems may be readilv disseminated. Studies and experiments in the teaching of international relations will be made and an examination of the tensions crucial to peace will be commenced.
Many other projects are included, some relating to the increase of knowledge, others to its preservation, and others to its dissemination. Just how much will be done this year, and on which projects greatest emphasis will be placed, will depend on the judgment of the DirectorGeneral, Dr. Julius Huxley, and on his advisers of the executive board.
The outstanding impressions left with the Australian delegation at the recent Unesco conference were two. First, the conference showed throughout its meetings a spirit of genuine international co-operation; and, secondly, the approach of the organization to its work of contributing to peace and security is a positive and practical one. “Peace” means much more than the absence of hostilities. It means a condition in which free men and women can live a secure and satisfactory life. To such a peace I believe Unesco can make a significant contribution, and I believe, too, that it has set about its work in a business-like practical way. Only recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) urged the necessity for backing to the full the work of those international institutions which can do something to remove or even mitigate the political, social and economic causes of war and depressions. I am convinced that Unesco is such an organization.I urge a wide interest in its efforts.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) reada first time.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales-
Minister for Supply and Shipping) [3.44].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give authority to the Treasurer to issue Australian silver coins containing a reduced silver content. At present our silver coinage contains 92£ per cent, fine silver. The balance of 74 per cent, consists of alloy, a mixture of copper, zinc and tin. This bill provides, in lieu of the present provisions of the Coinage Act, for the issue of silver coinage of 50 per cent, fine silver, the balance being alloy. The reason for the alteration is the increase of the price of silver. The Australian price for silver is based on the London price. Before the war, the London price was 2s. li d. sterling a fine ounce, the equivalent Australian price being 2s. 7£d. In September, 1945, a rise of price in the United States of America forced the London price to 3s. 8d. sterling a fine ounce, which was equal to 4s. 7£d. a fine ounce in Australian currency. A further increase of price in the United States of America in August, 1946, sent the London price to 4s. 7£d. sterling or 5s. 9 1/2 d. Australian currency, and we were paying this price for our silver bullion until early in February, when the price fell to 4s. 7d. Australian. Towards the end of February, the Australian price rose again to 4s. 9£d. Since then the price has fluctuated, and the present Australian price is about 4s. 7d. The increase of the price of silver was due to action taken to raise the price of silver in the United States. This action was influenced no doubt by the “ silver bloc “ States, which desired to lift the price eventually to over one dollar an ounce. But the increased price brought repercussions, notably from the United Kingdom and India, which caused a halt, followed by a decrease of the price.
Some action is now necessary to adjust the silver content of our coinage and the Government has decided to adopt 50 per cent, silver as the basis of the new silver coin. This basis is the same as that currently adopted in New Zealand find is the same as that which was adopted in the United Kingdom for many years. Coinage with a silver content of 50 per cent, should give us adequate protection, particularly as the price of silver has steadied somewhat. Moreover, a reduction of the silver content of our coinage will assist us to build up the stock of 11.000,000 oz. which we obtained from the United States for coinage purposes during the war. This quantity must be returned within a period of five years from the date when the President of the United States declares- the war emergency to have ended. We are buying practically the whole of our local production which is available after allowing for demands of industry. This is roughly 6,000,000 oz. per annum and any amount not required for coinage will be used to build up a reserve to meet our obligation to the United States. For a time, of course, the new silver coins will circulate with the old ones, but the latter will gradually be withdrawn and melted down to provide bullion for the new issue. Sample coins of the new minting show that their appearance is little different from that of the existing coinage and technical advice is that they will wear well. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 2972), on motion by Senator Ashley -
Til at the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill provides for the appropriation of £25,000,000 as « grant to the United Kingdom. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said that it was proposed to make this contribution towards war expenditure incurred by Great Britain in and around the Pacific theatre. If that means that Australia accepts an obligation to pay back to Great Britain a proportion of what that country expended in defence of Australia, this amount of £25,000,000, apart from putting the matter on a commercial basis, is totally inadequate. The proper approach surely would be to regard Great Britain and Australia as partners in a total war, each partner subscribing to the cost of victory to the utmost of its ability. During the war, members of the British Commonwealth of Nations worked together as partners, and did everything possible to assist in the areas in which assistance was most needed.
Australian airmen flew with British pilots over France and. Germany. Australian troops fought in the Middle East, and when the invasion of this country appeared imminent they were recalled. Subsequently, with the assistance of our American allies, they drove the Japanese from, island territories in our near north. Later, the United Kingdom sent men and war materials, including aircraft and ships, to this theatre of war. No one will deny that since 1939 the people of the United Kingdom have suffered far more than the people of any other British Empire country. After the retreat from Dunkirk, Britain held out, almost alone, against the might of Germany. It was not until some years later that assistance was forthcoming from other sources.
Britain’s losses of life and property during the war were much, heavier than those of any other Allied country. Bombing inflicted a heavy loss of life and destroyed many thousands of homes, shops’ and factories. As the war progressed, Britain was forced to draw upon overseas credits that had been built up during many years of prosperity. Almost all of its external resources went into the pool to achieve victory. Overseas credits were reduced ,by £1,500,000,000. lt also incurred external liabilities amounting to £3,500,000,000 for war purposes alone. No other Allied nation incurred such heavy liabilities, and certainly no other member of the British partnership of nations suffered so much damage, either financial or material. One has only to read the White Paper entitled Economic Survey for 1947, which was presented to the British Parliament by the Prime Minister in February, in order to understand the desperate situation of the United Kingdom. That document gives a candid and disturbing account of the position of the British people to-day. The concluding passages of the document are as follows: -
In this paper the Government has set out its conclusions on the economic state of the nation and has fixed targets and objectives for 1947. The central problem is coal and power and upon this everything else depends. The second problem is to expand the nation’s labour force, to increase its output per man-year and, above all, to get men and women where they are needed most. These are the essentials for increased national .production. Next is the problem of payment for our imports, and the necessary condition here is a steady recovery of our exports towards the target level of 140 per cent, pf 1938 volume which must be reached by the end of the year. Unless we concentrate upon these really important things we may never restore the foundations of our national life. The objectives in this paper embody the Government’s determination to put first tilings first.
These plans call for a great constructive effort by all the British people. This is a critical moment in our affairs. Success demands effort and, even more, a constructive and flexible approach by both sides of industry to the problem of production. There is now no place for industrial arrangements which restrict production, prices or employment.
Clearly, the key of the whole British plan of re-establishment is increased production. In the White Paper, particular stress is laid on the necessity for increasing production for export. It is estimated that British exports must be increased at least to 140 per cent, of the 1938 export total by the end of 1947. We must realize that Great Britain’s industrial plant and machinery have not yet been overhauled or replaced, so that its industries have not been able to recover from the stress and strain of six years of war. Therefore, the task of the British people is more difficult than most Australians believe. Great Britain must obtain raw materials and machinery from abroad in order to maintain even its present standard of living. The picture that has been painted by the British Government’s experts in the White Paper is very dismal. Therefore it behoves Great Britain’s partners to do everything in their power to help to tide it over this period of tribulation. Having achieved victory in the war, the nation still must fight on in order to obtain the necessaries of life. Our Empire partnership, which was so successful during the war, should be carried on through this disturbing post-war period. The nation which has suffered most economically should be assisted by its more fortunate partners.
We in Australia can count ourselves amongst the fortunate members of the British Commonwealth. We survived the world ‘ conflict with our industries intact. The only destruction caused by enemy action in Australia was at Darwin. Our cities on the eastern and southern seaboards were untouched. Therefore, when hostilities ceased, we were able to commence production of goods and materials required for civilian purposes without waste of time. We were also fortunate financially in having large numbers of American troops stationed in Australia for a considerable time. The Minister informed us in his second-reading speech that these troops were responsible for contributing the huge sum of £100,000,000 to our dollar pool, which is of great importance at present. Also, Australia was able to reduce its external debts by £60,000,000 during the war. When we compare our situation with that of the British people, we must realize how fortunate we are. I propose to discuss the merits of this bill on that basis. We are considerably better off in Australia than are the people of Great Britain. According to a recent statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), our national finances are in an extremely healthy condition. For instance, a statement has been made that it is expected that a surplus of £43,000,000 will be shown in the revenue of the current financial year. Under ‘this bill it is proposed that Australia should make a grant to the United Kingdom of £25,000,000 Australian currency, or £20,000,000 sterling, and I ask honorable senators whether they honestly believe that this grant is commensurate with the difference in living conditions in this country and in Great Britain ? Viewing the matter in that light, Australia is falling short of its moral obligation to assist the United Kingdom in its hour of trial. I do not doubt that if the people of this country knew the facts they would be prepared to help the people of Great Britain, and to help them generously, even if it meant having to tighten our belts to provide that help.
The Treasurer informed us that Australia has a financial balance in London of £170,000,000. That amount has been built up over the years by the favorable prices we have received for our primary products, particularly wool, and we must remember that Great Britain was our only customer right through the war years. Great Britain paid the appraisement prices for our wool, and although it received a valuable commodity there is no gainsaying the fact that Australia received a very good price. We were not even under an obligation to ship our wool to the United Kingdom ; all we had to do was to put it in store in Australia, and we were paid for it. Our primary products are still selling at high prices overseas, and I suggest that this would be an opportune time for the Government to make a general readjustment of finances between Australia and the United Kingdom. In the House of Representatives it was suggested that the sum of £25,000,000 would be better spent in purchasing food in this country and shipping it to Great Britain. I give the Government credit for considering such a proposal, and I believe that it is honest in its approach to the matter. Furthermore, I think that Government supporters genuinely desire to assist people of the United Kingdom, and I have no doubt that they have given careful consideration to this matter.
– We are sending ali the food we can. -Senator COOPER.- -I give the Government credit for its efforts, but one cannot read, without consternation, press reports stating that ships with refrigerated space are leaving Australia and going to New Zealand to fill that space. There must be something wrong when ships with refrigerated space, which are so scarce now, and which are sent to Australia, have to leave with their refrigerated chambers empty. The Government must know beforehand of the arrival of such vessels and it has time to ensure that food cargoes shall be prepared. It is evident from a perusal of statements issued by graziers’ associations and other bodies that there is no shortage of meat on the hoof. The meat is there-
– If the price if there! The graziers object to the present ceiling prices.
– Then that ob]e( ti on must be overcome. In this country we have plentiful supplies of meat and other food. The White Paper issued by the British Government is a candid revelation of the food position in that country, and it is obvious that Great Britain is going through one of the darkest hours in its history.
– With wheat at 17a. a bushel !
– It is the Government’s duty to gather all the surplus food ii oan and send it to Great Britain. How that is to be achieved is a matter for the Government to determine. If the people choose to return to office the parties which I represent the responsibility will be ours, but at present the responsibility rests with the Government, and it cannot escape the fact. We have plentiful supplies of food in this country, and the fact that refrigerated ships which come here go away partially loaded cannot be denied.
– Of what commodity lias Australia got a surplus?
– I suggest tha.t consideration might be given to the appointment of buying agents in this country for the United Kingdom to handle all purchases on behalf of the British Government. They would establish liaison with the Government, and in that way many of the present obstacles could be overcome. I realize that there are difficulties, and I am suggesting a means by which they may be overcome. With a buying agency here in charge of men in close touch with conditions in the United Kingdom, it would be possible to present the case for Great Britain to the Government, and in that way it may be possible to send needed commodities to Great Britain in larger quantities. In the case of meat purchases, buyers from the United Kingdom could compete with local buyers, provided a ceiling price was maintained. I* understand that three Ministers will visit Great Britain during the next few months. They will have a first-hand opportunity to compare economic conditions there with conditions in Australia, and even before their return they will be in a position to recommend to the Government what further assistance Australia can give to improve the general economic situation in Great Britain.
– Every honorable senator agrees with this bill. I endorse many of the statements of Senator Cooper, but with others I am not in agreement. No one will deny that Great Britain made great sacrifices during the war and that, as a result, that country is in a bad way. I was there some time ago and had an opportunity to observe conditions and study the economic situation. Things were so bad that a gift of £25,000,000 will be as a drop in a bucket. During the war approximately 4,000,000 buildings in Great Britain were damaged, 500,000 of them irreparably, and a great proportion of the total wealth of the country wai lost. Practically all of Great Britain’s external assets disappeared; after the war the external debt of Great Britain was about eight times as great as before it commenced. Although I was opposed to the first World War, I was in favour of going to war with Germany in 1939 because I believed that the evil thing known as fascism had to be exterminated. Just as the Government has done ite best in the field of rehabilitation to ensure that individuals who made sacrifices shall be rehabilitated in a way worthy of their efforts, so I believe that it is logical to apply that same principle on the international plane, and do something to rehabilitate those nations which, like Great Britain, made terrific sacrifices in the’ interests of the world. As I have said, Great Britain’s position is exceedingly bad.
At no time has Great Britain produced sufficient food for its own people, but it has had to import it from other countries. Much of the money used to pay for that food was obtained from abroad - from people with external investments in Great Britain. Practically all of Great Britain’s external assets disappeared during the war, and the country found itself in a position which required it to export goods to the value of £337,000,000 a year above the cost of its imports in order to maintain an even keel. In addition, an army of one and a half million men had to be maintained, notwithstanding efforts to reduce the numbers as much as possible. It can be said that Great Britain has to export goods to the value of £400,000,000 a year in excess of the cost of imports if its budget is to be balanced. I do not think that that can be done under existing conditions. Internally, the Labour Government of Great Britain has done a good job. The experiences of recent years have revealed the helplessness and hopelessness of individual initiative. Great Britain encouraged individual effort for over 200 years, but it left the country’s economy in an appalling condition. The chief industry of Great Britain is probably coalmining, but under private control the coal mines were so uneconomically worked that they have had to be nationalised. The Bank of England, if not completely nationalized, was also brought under control. Transport also has been nationalized and now the iron and steel industry is to be treated in the same way. It seems to me to be impossible for Great Britain to be rehabilitated unless something drastic is done. Great Britain obtained a loan of £A.1,300,000,000 from the United States of America, but there was so much wrangling about it, that by the time the money was received its purchasing power had been reduced by 40 per cent. Great Britain now has to import raw materials from America, at high prices, and convert them into fabricated commodities for export. Great Britain’s position is that raw materials have to be imported at high prices and manufactured products exported at low prices - an impossible position. It is still necessary for Great Britain to maintain an army in Central Europe because of the terrible conditions existing there.
This gift of £25,000,000 is tied up with the whole economic situation of the world. The greatest mistake that was made about Germany was that unconditional surrender was insisted on. That meant that Germany was left leaderless, and therefore without any rallying point. Many German cities were bombed out of existence, and the resulting bitterness is so great that no one has yet arisen as a leader, either of Germany as a whole, or of any part of Germany. Another great mistake which bears on the food problem was the severing of Upper Silesia and other large portions of Germany representing onefifth of the total agricultural land of Germany under the Potsdam Agreement. Germany has never been self-supporting agriculturally and. accordingly, it had to export coal to Italy and Spain in exchange for foodstuffs. That situation has a direct bearing on Britain’s present position. Out of Great Britain’s meagre supply of foodstuffs, the United Kingdom Government has sent large quantities to Germany and other continental countries to maintain the very low standard of living there. In my opinion, only one thing can be done; war debts must be wiped out altogether. There is no need to beat about the bush in. connexion with this matter because, in order to square its ledger, Great Britain would have to produce goods to the value of £600,000,000 a year for 40 years.
– It cannot be done.
– I was there not long ago and, as I was born there and know tike people, I agree that it cannot be done. The inhabitants of Britain are a wonderful people. I do not say that in any spirit of braggadocio, but it is absurd to say, as some people do, that Great Britain has managed to survive privation for seven years and can continue to do so. With due deference to Dr. Dalton, who has said that, if necessary, the people of Great Britain were prepared to get down to Russia’s level, I say that I do not want to see the people there get down any lower. It is not right either ethically or morally for the United States of America to -say that there must be an international economy and that the Bretton Woods Agreement must be put into operation. When we get down to bedrock what do We find ? What has . the United States of America done at the Geneva talks in respect of Australian wool; what has it done to assist Britain? The leaders of the people of the United States of America know that Britain is tied to their country and will probably have to obtain another loan. That country is setting the pace. It is not prepared to reduce the tariff on Australian wool. On the contrary, the American House of Representatives has decided to increase the existing tariff of 34 cents per pound on wool by another 17 cents. It is useless for the leaders of that nation to say that there must be an international organization to control world trade and then act in that way.
It would appear that the world has not learned any lesson since 1918. After the war which ended in that year, heavy indemnities were demanded of Germany. Those of us who had some knowledge of economics laughed at the possibility of the reparations ever being paid. The Bight Honorable William Morris Hughes, who has been proclaimed as a great man, was one of the men responsible for the peace terms drawn up with Germany after the conclusion of World War I. But to any one with -a knowledge of economics the terms of the treaty were absurd. For instance, the treaty stipulated that so many million tons of shipping had to he delivered to Britain. That condition was fulfilled, and the ships were handed over. But they were handed over to British shipowners, with the result that workers in the shipbuilding industry on the Clyde ;ind the Tyne were thrown out of work. Obviously, British shipowners did not have to construct ships in either England or Scotland when they had ships which formerly belonged to Germany handed to them. That mistake should not have been made, because the results of the treaty made between France and Germany after the Franco-Prussian war ought to have shown that the policy was wrong. After the war with France, Bismarck, in 1871. demanded a heavy indemnity from France. What happened? The French workers continued to work, whereas in Germany thousands of workers were thrown out of employment, and had to go to France to obtain work. While working in France they manufactured goods to he sent to Germany.
The same mistake was made in 1919, :ind a similar mistake is being made today. The loans granted to various countries by the United States of America will have to be paid, and payment will take i he form of goods. When the Germans wanted to pay their country’s indemnity in goods the American authorities realized that that would put American workers out of employment, and so they raised the tariff barrier against German goods and demanded payment in gold. As a result, the United States of America obtained about two-thirds of the world’s gold. When the gold came to hand, the American authorities did not know what to do with it, and so they caused holes to be dug in the earth and vaults to be constructed in them to contain the gold. Afterwards they devaluated the gold. The granting of loans to nations which are weak financially will not solve the problem so long as their debts exist, because those loans have to be repaid. If they are repaid in commodities, I can visualize hundreds of thousands living in America in luxury and doing nothing while exploiting millions of workers throughout the world. My point is that if the recent war was an all-in war, if the damnable thing known as war - I think that term is parliamentary in the circumstances - if it really were a war to maintain certain institutions that ensured some measure of liberty, as I believe it was, then, just as an individual who took a part in it has a right to be rehabilitated and enjoy something of the “ new order “ that has been promised, so the nations, particularly Britain, which made tremendous sacrifices in that war. must be rehabilitated, not as an act of charity but as a right. That point must be reached and the position faced sooner or later.
Not being a Minister, I can say things for which the Government is not responsible. I have been in the United States of America lately and have seen a motor car assembled in about 70 minutes, such is the terrific pace at which industry is carried on to-day. If that momentum is maintained, with the result that other countries are devastated, there can be only one alternative. That applies in both the economic field and the political field. Great Britain and the British Empire will not be dictated to by totalitarian interests. On the other hand, I do not think we should be satisfied with a policy of laisser-faire, or be dictated to by American Imperialism. The only way we can counteract that is to form a bloc of countries, such as, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Great Britain, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Africa and any other country that is prepared to come into such a bloc. If this dollar diplomacy is to leave Great Britain, which has done so much for the welfare of the world, impoverished to the degree that it will be forced to depend upon charity for its very existence, the sooner Great Britain withdraws from Geneva the better. Great Britain should ask the United States of America - to use an Australian colloquialism - whether the United States of America is “ f air-dinkum “, or whether it is in favour of one world as propounded by Wilkie. What is happening at Geneva to-day will lead to millions of people being thrown out of work in the United States of America itself. Just as I disagree with Stalin when he says that it is possible to have socialism in one country, [ disagree with Americans who say that it is possible to have capitalism in one country. As surely as night follows day, the Americans will be hoist with their, own petard. In proof of that, I mention the fact that hundreds of thousands are unemployed in New York to-day. In the United States of America, 2,200 homes have been erected for ex-service personnel at a cost of £4,000 each, hut nobody can occupy them because the price is too high. On the one* hand, the Americans talk about putting prices up; and on the other, about keeping prices down.
The world has reached the stage when something drastic must be done. Although the sum of £25,000,000 proposed under this measure will afford some temporary benefit to Great Britain, I do not believe that it will be of much consequence in solving its problems, because they are the world’s problems. Should Great Britain go down, the United States of America cannot stay up; and should Great Britain go down, Australia cannot stay up. Many people who are not Britishers admit that the conception of human liberty which we hold sacred to-day had its genesis in Great Britain. We hear quite, a lot about the ancient Greeks and Plato’s republic. En the Grecian republics only a limited number of people had real liberty; the peripatetic philosophers, who walked about all day philosophizing, enjoyed liberty. But modern democracy offers same real liberty to every individual ; and democracy as we know it to-day originated in’ England. There is no doubt about that. The composition of the Senate offers an apt illustration on that point. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and, indeed, all honorable senators, are the sons of working people. We may say stupid things at times ; we should say stupid things if we were the sons of capitalists just the same. I do not refer disparagingly to all capitalists, because some capitalists in Great Britain have been great men. Lord Shaftesbury, for instance, did much to enable the British people to understand the real meaning of liberty. Bui democracy gives to the ordinary man and woman an opportunity to express what is in their hearts and minds. This conception of liberty, and its translation to thstatutebook, which gives to the ordinary man and woman an opportunity they did not previously enjoy, we inherit from Great Britain. It is a British conception. The House of Commonoriginated in Great Britain. True, it may have resulted from the strugglebetween feudal lords and rising industrialists; but, clue to that conception of liberty, we are able to speak as we do today in the National Parliament. Should Great Britain go down, probably all those things will go down with it. Another truly British conception is .trial by jury That system is not perfect, but, with all its faults, I should rather, be tried b,* twelve men than by one man. The principle of trial by jury originated in Great Britain.
We have heard much about the four freedoms, enunciated by the late President Roosevelt, and embodied in theAtlantic Charter; but they were British conceptions. They include the freedom of the press, such as it is, and the freedom of speech on the street corner, which had to be fought for, but, nevertheless, wa? achieved by British people. We inherit trade unionism from Great Britain. Only a few days ago, when we were considering certain legislation, some honorable senators urged that provision should be made to prevent certain trade unionists from doing certain things which would have infringed their liberty as citizens of this country. Trade unionism was born about 1800, when anti-combination laws existed in Great Britain. The fight for recognition of trade unionism lasted for thirty years. Its advocates met in the fields and took the oath of secrecy. Certainly, some of those pioneers were deported from Great Britain, but that spirit which they took to all parts of the world exists to-day in every country. It now exists in India, Egypt and Palestine. where the cry of liberty has been raised.
T-hose peoples are1 only putting forward _he; principles which nave evolved from the British conception of liberty. No one who has read history will dispute that fact. As I said earlier, the sum proposed’ to be voted under this measure is only a gesture. The Prime Minister (Mr.. Chifley), and everybody else knows perfectly well that this will not. ameliorate the. conditions of the- people of. Great Britain to any great degree. It is a gesture of goodwill towards Great Britain.
I repeat that the United Nations must make up their minds whether capitalism is to continue, whether those countries which: have the money are to call the tune. If that is- their desire; and we are “all in”, let us have it;: but I believe that in the United States of America there is a large section of liberty-loving people who are prepared to pour out their money and commodities in order to win the peace just as their country did to assist in winning the war. However, the reactionary American Senate appears to be in control for the time being, and should it get its way we can only counteract such activities by forming an economic *Moe of other countries. And that Hoc should say to the United States of America, “We are putting it on an ethical plane. . We did our share towards saving the world and you assisted us. It was an ‘ all in ‘ fight. We should make it ‘ all in ‘ in the peace. In the world organizations coming into existence you have taken the lead, and you should take the lead in winning the peace in the same way as you assisted in winning, the war “. I support the bill.
– I am in accord with most of the remarks made by Senator Grant. I support the bill, and commend the Government for making this gesture of goodwill towards Great Britain. As Senator Grant said, the sum proposed is merely a drop in the ocean. E should like to see the sum increased, as. a beginning, to £125,000,000. I believe that the time will come when the amount which we shall have to accept as. a war debt in our dealings with Great Britain will be. considerably greater than that- sum. I should like the Minister foi? Supply and. Shipping (Senator Ashley), when; he is replying, to the debate, to inform the Senate whether discussions have already taken place between the British Government and Australian government* and between the British Government and our other allies with respect to the settlement of war debts. The attitude at present adopted by. our other allies toward.Great Britain is rather ungrateful when we realize that in the dark days of Dunkirk, when the whole world was on the- brink of destruction, Great Britain carried on alone and had to accept responsibility for all debts contracted at that period. It is obvious to all of u?. that when the British Government at that, time had its back to the. wall,, it could not ask the United States of America, or an, other country, whether it was prepared to accept this, or that, responsibility for wa : debts. It was then a matter of the allies being “ all in “ to win the war in order to survive. It will create a very bad impression among the peoples of other countries and among the rising generation if the idea gets abroad that Great Britain did not pay its debts ; because that would not be correct. If this matter has not yes been discussed confidentially by the allied governments, the time is overdue when the United Nations, particularly thos* which participated in the war, should meet in conference and after a close examination of the facts by technical men, say to Great Britain, “What is a fair share for all of us to accept with regard to the liability that you took upon your own shoulders in the interests of all of us? “ That is how we should approach this matter. The people of Great Britain have never been looked upon as mendicants. Great Britain was the financial centre of the world, and its people, and governments have always been prepared to help the world. Therefore, to-day, it should not be left to the Government of Great Britain to make the first approach in this matter. It will be a scurvy action on the part of all other governments if they are prepared to sit back and sidestep their share of the economic responsibility to which Great Britain became committed in the dark days of the war in the interests of all its allies. I agree with Senator Grant that the economic existence of Australia depends upon the survival of Great Britain. Apart from all other considerations, Great Britain is really our only customer, because it buys 5 per cent, of our exports.
Looking back over the last 100 years, «e realize how fortunate we have been by remaining within the British Empire. To the small fanatical section who are anti-British we can prove that that cooperation with Great Britain is based on common sense. We must remain within Mie Empire and be loyal to the Mother Country for three reasons: first, because of ties of kinship ; secondly, our existence and safety have depended upon the British fleet; and, thirdly, without the British market this country could not survive economically. Therefore, I welcome and support this measure, lt would be unfortunate should people get into their minds that this is merely a gift to Great Britain. It is a gesture of goodwill in spontaneous recognition of the fact that we share the liability to which Great Britain became committed as much in our defence as in its own defence. On previous occasions I have spoken at length on this matter which is of great importance. It is unnecessary to remind honorable senators that after World War I. the problem of war debts was not settled satisfactorily. I believe that on that occasion there was a tendency on the part of the Allied governments to side-step the issue and let Great Britain “ carry the baby”. When Germany was saddled with indemnities which it could not pay, the debt owing to Great Britain was not paid. Finally, when the matter was raised in the American Congress, the rising generations of the day were led to believe that Great Britain had failed to pay its debt to the United States of America. If, on that occasion, the United States of America and other Allied governments had accepted their fair share of liability they would have given Great Britain a clean slate, because Great Britain contributed more than any other country towards victory in World War I. I should like to know to what degree the United Nations have gone into the settlement of war debts on this occasion. Why leave it to the Mother Country to say, “ We want you to accept this’’? That is our duty. The onus is on us to take the first step, and I trust that Australia, together with other mem- bers of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and even the great United Statesof America, will be asked, before getting down to trade agreements, to do everything possible to foster the international understanding that is so necessary if the present ill-feeling throughout the world is to be broken down. I ask the Minister to convey to his Government ,the suggestion that if other countries are not prepared to take the lead, Australia should do so. This bill can only be regarded as an indication of our acceptance of our share of the liability. We must follow this gesture with others. Then perhaps we shall reach a better understanding, clearing the way for the negotiation of trade agreements, and preventing the rising generation speaking of debts that were never paid, for that is the position in which we shall find ourselves unless we take appropriate step? before we are much older.
– I commend Senator Grant for his very able speech. No one will deny that Great Britain to-day is in the most difficult position in all its history. This situation has been brought about principally by the war, but the difficulties that Britain is encountering in getting out of its troubles, have been created mainly by the attitude of America. Unfortunately America’s all-in effort on behalf of the Allies, ended with the war. We recall the days when the two great leaders, President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met and created the Atlantic Charter embodying the famous four freedoms. But there is no freedom from want or freedom from fear in Great Britain to-day. America has become a dominating factor in international affairs. Even the American people themselves are warning each other that a depression is inevitable in that country should present trends continue. In Great Britain, the picture is quite different. Great Britain depends for its economic existence primarily upon the importing of raw materials, and the exporting of manufactured goods. Being a highly developed industrial country, when war broke out, it was able to move into top gear immediately. As other honorable senators have pointed out, no expense or energy was saved. The British people poured out blood and treasure in the cause of the Allied Nations. To-day, Great Britain still has its industrial potential, but it has to carry a crushing burden of debt, imposed largely by the United States of America. Bearing this burden, the British people are faced with the task of restoring their economy by the old process of importing raw materials, manufacturing them, and exporting the products. Yet, had it not been for the part that Great Britain played, particularly in the early days of the war, probably the economic condition of the United States of America to-day would be far worse than that of Great Britain.
Economic conditions throughout the world to-day can be stabilized only if war debts and claims for indemnities in goods from defeated countries are written off. The nations must be brought together to decide how they can best assist one another. But even if that were done, the United Kingdom’s position would still be precarious, because, as I have said, its economic stability depends upon its manufacturing industries. The position facing the United Kingdom is this: Russia, a country which a quarter of a century ago had no manufacturing industries of any consequence, is’ showing every indication of a desire to become a leading industrial nation. Undoubtedly Russia will seek a world market for manufactured goods in the not distant future. America, of course, has always been an exporting country. It has endeavoured to dominate world markets wherever possible, but the world situation to-day is such that America has to lend money to other countries to create markets for its products. Thus, America is drawing double dividends. Not only is it drawing profits from the export of its manufactures, but also it is receiving interest payments on loans to other countries to create markets for its goods. This is an impossible state of affairs and cannot continue if there is to be any harmony in the world. As I have said, we must be concerned with the welfare of all countries if there is to be an amicable spirit throughout the world, but our -first concern is the plight of Great Britain. As Senator Grant has pointed out, the purchasing power of its American loans has depreciated by 40 per cent. If
America insists upon interest payments from Great Britain, it may drive Great Britain and other countries into an economic bloc. Should this happen, America and Soviet Russia will be the remaining contestants for the domination of world trade, and I believe that both Russia and the United States of America are acting most provocatively towards one another at present. Each is endeavouring to foster its own political and economic ideology. “Whereas Russia favours socialism, America is the last stronghold of the old capitalist system. Had that system been retained during the war, the British Empire would not have lasted two years, because there would not have been sufficient money to carry on, and Hitler might have ruled the world to-day. But the old capitalist system was abandoned when the crisis arose, and the crisis has not yet passed. In the minds of the great, majority of people freedom from fear and freedom from want are as much lacking to-day as they were at the worst period of the war. If there is to be an understanding on world problems, and our present difficulties are to be ironed out, the old capitalist system that has prevailed for hundreds of years will have to go by th«board, at least until rehabilitation can be achieved.
I come now to something closer to home. Undeniably, both the United Kingdom and Australia played a major part in the war. In fact, had it not been for the efforts of these countries in collaboration . with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the war probably would have still been in progress. The British Empire made an all-in war effort, and unless Empire countries to-day can reach agreement and stand solidly by a common policy they can have little influence upon the achievement of a lasting peace. There are various line-ups of countries throughout the world to-day, and the sooner the British Commonwealth of Nations can agree on fundamental principles of rehabilitation, and speak in one voice to the United States of America, to Soviet Russia, or to any other country, the sooner shall we be able to get down to the basic causes of our present troubles. I am not complaining about Australia’s position to-day. la fact, Australia’s economic condition is as good as that of any country; but we have our duty to Great Britain, and we are earnestly discharging that duty to-day. I do not agree with the carping critics outside of the Parliament who have the daily press at their disposal, and can demand the publication of anything that they care to say or to write. Many of these people, although indulging in anti-British statements themselves, have accused the leaders of this country of being anti-British. Despite the strict rationing that has been imposed in this country to enable all available supplies of foodstuffs to be sent to Great Britain and other parts of the world, Senator Cooper said to-day that there were big surpluses of food in Australia that could be sent overseas. While such gross misstatements are made by men in responsible positions in this Parliament who know full well that what they are saying is not true, how can we expect better informed criticism from outside this Parliament?
I do not know whether or not there are sinister influences at work, but certain views are very pronounced in various parts of Australia, particularly in Tasmania. One gentleman who consistently makes anti-British and fascist utterances recently contested an election and had the support of Labour’s political opponents. I have before .me some of the statements that have been made by prominent people, or rather by people who regard themselves as prominent. They have been published in the daily press, but of course no refutation of them will be published by the newspapers. One can only assume therefore that such sentiments are condoned by the press of this country. I shall read some of those statements, and I shall mention the names of persons responsible for them. In doing so, I shall not be betraying any confidences, because the names were attached to the published statements. Some of these disloyal citizens are Mr. Russell Lyons, Dr. J. Bruce Hamilton, and Mrs. A. E. Waterworth, all of Hobart. The last-mentioned person is always squealing about the rights of married women and children. Little is she concerned about the welfare of the children of Great Britain ! Another one is a Dr. Booth, of Launceston. They claim that the Prime
Minister (Mr. Chifley) “ cast a stigma upon Australia “ by deciding to make a gift to Great Britain of £25,000,000 in money instead of sending food. One of them said that the Prime Minster was “anti-Empire” in his attitude towards sending aid to Great Britain. Another described him as “ callous, ignorant and inhuman “. What ridiculous statements! Our Prime Minister has rationed the people of Australia, which probably the only country in the world to maintain its war-time ‘scale of rationing, in order that we may send more food to Great Britain. In addition, he has arranged for a straight-out gift of £25,000,000, saying to the Government of Great Britain, “Do what you like with this money. We -shall also give you al! the food that we can send “. Implicis in his statements to the British Government is the assurance that Australia will continue to send food whether Britain can pay for it or not. He has not put that into words, but we all know that that is the spirit in which the Commonwealth Government approaches the subject of aiding Great Britain. Such statements as I have mentioned are fantastic at a time when the Prime Minister and his supporters are calling for an all-out effort to assist our kinsmen in the United Kingdom. Those comments could only be made by Communists or fascists.
Communists in Australia hide under all kinds of cloaks. They may be in the guise of doctors. I have mentioned two doctors. The mere fact that they are engaged in the medical profession does not guarantee that they are not Communists. Mrs. Waterworth’s statement that the Prime Minister is “ callous, ignorant and inhuman “ could only have been made by a Communist. These are the people whose records should he checked by our security officers in order to ascertain whether they belong to some secret organization and whether, through indirect channels, they are obtaining finance from Soviet Russia or some other foreign country in order to sabotage Australia’s effort to help Great Britain in its hour of need. I conclude by saying that although we fought the war to gain freedom from want and freedom from fear, we have not yet succeeded. The trend of international events and the results of world conferences are bringing us no nearer to those desirable objectives. As certainly as night follows day, the first torpedo has been fired from the submarine “ Bretton Woods “ at the conference now taking place in Geneva. This is exactly what 1 expected to happen. America wants to dominate every other nation, first, last, and all the time. The members of the British Commonwealth of Nations should meet in conference and decide what policy they will adopt in the face of America’s attitude to them. No nation or group of nations contributed more to victory than did the British Empire. It should dictate its terms to the United States of America and to Soviet Russia and stand firm against all opposition.
– I. shall be very brief, because this bill has the hearty approval of all honorable senators. It represents a measure of recognition, if only in part, of the debt that we owe to the Mother Country for the defence of Australia. As the Minister for .Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said in his second-reading speech, the grant proposed to be made to Great Britain is a contribution towards the costs of war incurred by that nation in the Pacific zone. The amount of £25,000,000 represents only a portion of Great Britain’s war expenditure in ‘ Australia. A substantial proportion of British costs in the Pacific area was applied to the purchase of Australian commodities for the maintenance of British forces employed in our defence. I am not aware of the total amount of British war costs in the Pacific area, but I have no doubt that it is large. I assume that the bulk of this amount was incurred in the defence of Malaya, Burma and India. Iri view of this fact, it is readily understandable that, when negotiations were in progress at Washington for the granting of the huge American loan to Great Britain, reference was made to the accumulated debts of Great Britain to the Dominions and other parts of the Empire. I see in this gesture by the Commonwealth Government one result of the Washington negotiations.
I hope that this gift will be only the forerunner to the total cancellation of all war debts between the Mother Country, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. We all recall the protracted negotiations after World War I. between the British Government and Dominion governments regarding the funding of war debts. On that occasion, the situation was the reverse of that which exist? to-day. The debts were owed by the Dominions to Great Britain. After World* War I., a total of about. £78,000,000 of war debts due by Australia to Great Britain was funded, and interest payments were suspended. If my memory serves me correctly, the total war debt still due by Australia to Great Britain in 1932 was finally wiped out. The 1942-43 edition of the Commonwealth Year-Booh, which is the latest copy available to me, deals with Australia’s war debts and the process of their extinction. The figure cited in that edition is £79,724,000. In dealing with (his bill, we should remember what Great Britain has already done on our behalf in cancelling debts arising from World War I. These savings to Australia wen5 due in large part to the keen and able negotiations of Australia’s resident Minister in London, who was then Mr. S. M Bruce. He made a determined and capable effort to have adjustment of war debts between Australia and Great Britain dealt with realistically, with tinconsequent beneficial result to Australia that I have stated. Our thanks are due to him for that effort alone, if for no other reason.
At first sight, the proposed gift of £25,000,000 appears to be substantial, but its magnificence fades into dimness when compared, first with the colossal total of Australia’s war costs, and, secondly, with the huge amount of treasure poured out by the Mother Country in the defence of the Pacific zone, from which Australia and New Zealand were the chief beneficiaries. I do not disparage the effort of the Commonwealth Government in making this gift, but when one analyses it in the light of the negotiations which must take place for the settlement of war debts, the amount of £25,000,000 appears only as a drop in the bucket. I suggest to the Government that the whole problem of funding, or cancelling altogether, all of these war debts should be grappled with immediately. Great Britain has never been in such need as it is in to-day. Its tail is by no means down, but the morale of its people would be given a fillip if the Dominions took concerted action with the object of restoring it to its full pre-war economic prosperity. So long as the dead wood of debt hangs so heavily upon Great Britain, the British Government will have to make tremendous sacrifices. 1 1 cannot proceed to the implementation of any scheme of economic security until it is relieved of the crippling burden of debt. I trust that the Government will all a conference such as has been suggested, because that is not only desirable but necessary. An excellent precedent has been set by the Canadian Government in the generous treatment it has accorded to Great Britain. When I suggested last year that Australia should make an outright gift of £10,000,000 worth of food to the United Kingdom, I cited details of the magnificent assistance which Canada has rendered to the Mother Country since 1942. Without repeating all the detail I quoted at that time, I propose to recall two facts which I mentioned then. In 1942 the Canadian Government made an outright gift of £A.280,000,000 to the United Kingdom, which was expended on the provision of food and services for Great Britain while it was undergoing stress and privation in the early years of the war. When the war ended the Canadian Government cancelled the debt of more than £A.100,000,000 owed to it by Great Britain in respect of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Canada has set Australia a splendid example, and if we follow that example we shall go a long way to assist Great Britain in liquidating its debts to the Dominions. Great Britain’s debts to other countries can never be satisfactorily adjusted until’ it has settled the debts it owes to Empire countries. It stands to reason that countries such aa Egypt and America - to mention only two - to whom Great Britain owes money because of its heroic war effort, would not consider any cancellation of their debts until Great Britain has discharged its obligations to its own dominions. I trust that this gift will initiate a general movement for the discharge of Great Britain’s war debts to its dominions, and that would be a practical way of showing our faith in our own race.
.- I do not wish to join in the dismal cry that Great Britain is down and out and needs assistance. In fact, the president of the British Labour party said, quite recently, that, whilst his country was suffering economic privation at the moment, it was on the road to recovery and would be able to pull its weight in world trade very shortly. I believe that John Bull is still very broad across the waistcoat, and that Great Britain will be able to do as fine a job in the future as it has done in the past. Paragraph 50 of the Economic Survey for 1947, printed by His Majesty’s Stationery Office, and reprinted by the Commonwealth Government, says -
Food consumption has been dominated by the world supply situation. Compared with a year ugo, much more fish and fruit are available to the public; much the same amount of sugar, milk, ment, eggs and tea, but less cheese, bacon and fats. .In broad terms, the diet remains much the same as it was a year ago; increases in some of the supplier which provide more variety have been offset by a decline in certain basic foods.
That states the position quite simply. It means that during the last twelve months the British Government has not made a great deal of headway in replenishing its depleted food supply. But the main cause of that failure is the lack of shipping. The trouble, as I see it, is that Britain has very little shipping to-day, most of the world’s shipping lying idle in American ports. When I was in America recently I sa w thousands of tons of shipping idle in Puget Sound on the west cost of the United States of America, and I believe that in Portland 2,000 ships are tied up, whilst in Seattle another 2,000 ships are idle. The only suggestion I. can make to increase Australia’s assistance to Great Britain is for the Commonwealth Government to convince the United States Government that it should make available for a certain time a number of its idle vessels under an arrangement similar to the war-time lend-lease system.
Senator Allan MacDonald said that the payment of £25,000,000 to Great Britain is a very small gesture, but when one takes into consideration the food which can bo purchased with £25,000,000, one realizes that it is a very considerable gesture. As Senator Aylett pointed out, there is not an over-abundance of food available for export, and having regard to the limited quantity available the proportion of that quantity which Great Britain can buy with £25,000,000 is very substantial. I know that most energetic efforts have been made all over Australia to assist Great Britain. In Tasmania, oven school children have made collections and themselves contributed to the funds. But those efforts overlook the vital fact that the amount of food which (an be exported to Great Britain is limited by the shipping available. We have big-hearted patriots clamouring that the Government is not doing enough for Great Britain, but the same people are driving around in American motor cars. I have always maintained that British products stand out amongst all others for reliability and workmanship, ;ind whenever I can I purchase articles of British manufacture. Patriotism begins at home, and if the Empire is to prosper we must buy within the Empire. People who buy American washing machines, motor cars and luxury goods are talking with their tongues in their cheeks when they advocate increased Australian assistance to Great Britain. As a member of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party, I was more than pleased to read a letter which the British Labour party recently sent to the Australian Labour party - “As from common people to common people,” - thanking Australia for the effort it is making to help Great Britain. As I say, the only additional step that Australia could take would be to secure American shipping for the transportation of more food.
.- 1 differ from the Minister for Supply and. Shipping (Senator Ashley) when he says that we have already sent all the available food to Great Britain. I think that is a misstatement of the position, because if there were no Great Britain there would be no Australia. I do not think we are doing half enough to provide food for the Mother Country. We should remember the tremendous losses which the British people sustained in the blizzards of last year, when they lost millions of sheep and thousands of acres under crop. I think that the provision of £25,000,000 is a mere bagatelle. The British Government should be represented by buyers in our Australian markets. It is of no use for Senator Aylett or Senator Lamp to say that we have not sufficient surplus food in this country to enable more food to be exported to Great Britain. That is sheer nonsense. The representative of the British Government said in Sydney the other day, “ We do not want charity ;. we want to buy food “. If Australian producers were asked to sell 5 per cent, of their stock to Great Britain it would result in the acquisition by Great Britain of 6,000.000 sheep and ‘.500,000 cattle. We could make up that deficiency within two years, and British buyers could compete in our markets against the present operators. What is the position in our markets to-day? Buyers purchase for the home market, and they receive two profits, the wholesalers’ profit and the retailers’ profit, because in many cases they are supplying shops direct. The difference between the price for weight, and grade on the hooks and the price primary producers are expected to accept, is about £60 per truck load. Why should the producers be asked to sacrifice £00 per truck load? Why should not the operators who buy the stock in the market buy it on the hooks? The astounding position confronts us that exporters are receiving two profits, one from the primary producers and one from the overseas consignees. Until a fortnight ago they were receiving Id. per lb for killing sheep and cattle, and in addition they were entitled to all by-products and offal. The other day they reduced their charges by half. If they were able to reduce their charges by 50 per cent., what sort of profit were they making before? They were getting about £6 a beast. The thing is ridiculous, and the Government must do something about it. I have asked the Minister to investigate this matter, and I hope that the Government will provide facilities to enable British purchasers to buy on the Australian markets in competition with local purchasers. It has been said that this would adversely affect prices in this country.
Not at all ! The consumers are safeguarded because their prices are fixed, ft might mean tightening Australian belts, but it would give to the nation which saved the Empire and the world some of the food which Australia can well afford. I hope that something along these lines will be done, and that more food will be made available to the people of Great Britain. It is anomalous that ships should leave Australia with their refrigerated space unfilled. If a small body of men were operating in the stock market to make purchases for Great Britain, vessels would not leave Australia only partly filled; their freezing chambers would be full of meat which now reaches the Australian market. Some of it, perhaps, is put on the black market, by men who should be providing export meat for the Old Country. I am convinced that Australia could do more to provide additional food to those who need it than is being done. The statement that all available food is being sent to Great Britain is ridiculous. We could send 1.0.00,000 sheep and 600,000 cattle to Britain without affecting Australia’s economy, and the losses would be made up almost immediately.
– As the debate on this bill has been mostly directed towards the granting of additional food to Great Britain, I remind the Senate that clause 2 reads -
There shall he payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purpose of a grant to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, the sum of Twenty-five million pounds as a contribution towards war expenditure of that Government incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific.
No one can read into that provision anything which justifies this debate being turned into a discussion relating to Great Britain’s need for more foodstuffs. We have been told that ships have left Australian ports with their refrigerated space unfilled, and the blame for that state of affairs is cast on the Commonwealth Government.
– The Government is responsible.
– There are two sides to every question. In my opinion, the
Government is not any moise responsible for that state of affairs than is Senator Gibson. Various factors have to be taken into account if we would understand why ships sometimes leave Australian ports not fully loaded. It may be that more meat could be exported from this country, but the fact is that stock in sufficient quantities is not brought to the market. The reason for that is that the price of meat is not sufficiently high to induce stock owners to send their animals to the market. Not long ago there was a great, outcry in certain quarters regarding the sale of wheat to a sister dominion at a price considered to be too low, Xt is true that the price at which that wheat was sold was less than world parity but there was a good deal of humbug and hypocrisy associated with the charges then made against the Government. Some people are prepared to send foodstuffs overseas to feed hungry people provided that they get a sufficiently high price for it. If higher prices were paid for meat sent to Britain everything would be all right, and more meat would be forthcoming: but because the price received is not a? high as those engaged in the meat industry think it should be, the Government is blamed for not sending more meat to Britain.
– That .state of affairs reveals the greed of the persons responsible.
– That is so. From time to time we hear a lot of platitudes in this chamber about the four freedoms and the avarice of the people of the United States of America. It would be better if a more friendly attitude towards the people of other nations were adopted. Some people will not supply Great Britain with food unless they get top prices for it.
– Australian meat ie being sold in Great Britain at half the price paid for meat from Argentina.
– Some Australians squealed because Great Britain bought meat from Argentina at a farthing a pound less than the Australian price. 3 disagree entirely with the view that we must get the highest price possible for foodstuffs sent to Great Britain. I suggest that this problem be approached ou the basis of an exchange of commo dities; we could send foodstuffs to Great Britain in return for manufactured goods urgently needed in this country. It has been said that many people in Australia ride in American automobiles and install American refrigerators in their homes and business premises.
– Ministers ride about in American motor cars.
– What is wrong with the suggestion that Britain should supply manufactured goods in exchange for surplus foodstuffs?
– Does not the Prime Minister himself ride in an American motor car?
– The honorable senator is like a parrot. If he cannot take what I am saying, I ask him at least to be quiet. I am placing before the Senate the situation as I see it.
– If the honorable senator can prove that I am unfair he can go ahead. I reiterate that if higher prices were paid for meat, ships would not leave Australian ports only three-fourths loaded, as has been alleged.
Senator Gibson interjecting,
– Order ! If Senator Gibson continues to interject I shall name him. These interruptions must cease.
– I do not mind the honorable senator’s interjections. The proposal in the bill is that the sum of £25,000,000 shall be paid to the Government of the United Kingdom “ as a contribution towards war expenditure of that Government incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific “. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), in his speech said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had discussed with the British Chancellor of the Exchequer the best way in which Australia could assist Great Britain. I shall quote from his speech -
After full consideration the Government decided that the most appropriate method of assistance to the external war debts problem of the United Kingdom would be to make mi outright contribution of f A.25,000,000.
It has been suggested that we should do. better by making a gift of food and other com modifies to the United Kingdom to the value of £25,000,000. There is no real issue here.
We are told that there is surplus food in Australia which could be sent to Great Britain, but can it be said that surplus food to the value of £25,000,000 is available?
– Yes; we have available surplus food to the value of double that amount.
– Where is it?
– I have already told the Senate where it can be obtained.
– Australia is still rationing food to its people.
– Only to a limited degree.
– Not long ago the Australian butter ration was reduced from 8 oz. to 6 oz. a week in order to provide more butter for the people of the United Kingdom. If it be necessary in the interests of Australia and Great Britain, to reduce that ration still further, I should be prepared to consider such a proposal, in view of what the people of Great Britain did and suffered in order to preserve the democratic way of life. As I have said, there is a great deal of humbug associated with the treatment of this, subject.
– I believe that.
– A British. Whit* Paper entitled Economic Survey 1947. which has been reprinted by the Commonwealth Government, points out that millions of tons of shipping were lost by enemy action and that large numbers of houses and buildings in Great Britain were destroyed by bombing. As honorable senators know, migrants cannot be brought to Australia in any considerable numbers because of lack of ships to carry them. That being so, why do honorable senators opposite say that food to the value of £25,000,000 could be sent to the United Kingdom when ships are not available to carry it? It has been suggested that ships can be bought in the United States of America. That may be so, provided that the Commonwealth is willing to pay high charter rates. Let us examine the realities. In a foreword to the
White Paper to which I have referred, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, said -
Tt is the duty of any democratic government to take the people frankly into its confidence, however difficult the position of the country may he. This White Paper explains what has to be done to rebuild our economy on firm foundations. The task is certainly a heavy one, but the Government is confident that it is possible of achievement if it is faced with knowledge and understanding and with the same determination to succeed that marked the country’s effort during the war and has inspired the people during the difficulties of the past month. The Government alone cannot achieve success. Everything will depend upon the willing co-operation and determined efforts of all sections of the population.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m..
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I had quoted from the British White Paper to emphasize that with the same determination to succeed that marked this country’s effort during the war and sustained the British people during the difficulties of recent months, rather than lending ourselves to complaints we should get on very much better in solving not only our internal but also our external problems. It has been said in this debate that the United States of America is taking advantage of the present economic situation in Great Britain to derive some gain for itself. However, in this matter, we must be fair to the United States of America. Although I believe-that that country is dominated by the almighty dollar, the fact remains that it has made money available for the rehabilitation of the United Kingdom. I admit that those negotiations were not completely free of haggling. Unfortunately, however, Great Britain, has been expending that money so rapidly that, apparently, it will need to seek further financial accommodation from the United States of America. That is due to the fact that although the United Kingdom has tremendously stepped up its exports it still has to make up a considerable lee-way in production. On this matter I refer again to the British White Paper which points out that at the end of the war 42 per cent, of British man-power was in the armed forces, or was directly engaged in supplying those forces, and only 2 per cent, was producing exports, whilst less than 8 per cent, was providing and maintaining national capital equipment. However, by the end of 1946, the proportion of British man-power in the armed forces or directly engaged in supplying those forces had decreased from 42 per cent, to less than 10 per cent. Thus, like Australia, the United Kingdom has made a valiant effort in postwar rehabilitation. As I have said. Great Britain has increased its exports tremendously. However, its production effort has been considerably hampered by recent floods and adverse weather conditions, and it is now confronted with the problem of having to step up its total production to 140 per cent, above its 1938 production level. That is a tremendous task for the British people, but I believe that they will overcome their present difficulties. I believe that they will also solve their international problems. In order to do that, they require the wholehearted support and co-operation of the peoples of the British Commonwealth of Nations as a whole. For that reason 1 strongly support the bill.
I repeat that the sum of £25,000,000 proposed under the measure is being made available, not specifically for the purpose of enabling Great Britain to purchase food, but in recognition of itmagnificent war effort. Great Britain will be free to expend this money for any purpose it wishes. Should it decide to use it to purchase food in this country, as has been suggested, it will be quite free to do so. Whether that will be done, we do not know.
Much has been said in this debate in respect of the quantity of meat claimed to be available in Australia for export. If meat is available for export and ships arc being allowed to leave these shores not fully loaded, the Government should give consideration to the acquisition of all meat supplies in Australia at a fixed price, and take steps to export sufficient to meet the needs of the people of Great Britain in their present desperate plight. However, I notice that the British White Paper to which I have referred does not imply that the British people are being starved, although it asserts that their standard of living is not comparable with that enjoyed by the people of this country.
Criticism lias been levelled against the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Whatever difficulties may arise, our first objective must be to bring about better understanding between all nations. Should the day arrive when, for the preservation of The British Commonwealth of Nations, we are obliged to form an economic bloc of the English speaking peoples, we can then take that course. However, I hope that the necessity for such action will never arise. If there is one thing more essential than anything else for the economic welfare of the world to-day, and the maintenance of world peace, it is the preservation by all British peoples of our present common ideals.
– in reply - The introduction of this measure, and the debate which has taken place upon it, emphasize the power of finance in world relations. This debate has amply demonstrated the fact that the influence of finance upon nations is greater than that of shot, shell or atomic bomb. Senator Cooper implied that by making this sum of £25,000,000 Available to Great Britain, Australia would to this degree be relieved of its general obligations to the United Kingdom in respect of war commitments. I emphatically deny that such is the case. The Government proposes to make this sum available to Great Britain as a gift free altogether from any tag; and in making this gift, the Government does not wish it to be understood that we shall thus relieve ourselves of any obligation to the United Kingdom so far as our war commitments are concerned. I agree with Senator Cooper when he says that Australia can count itself among the luckiest nations in the world to-day. We were fortunate that during the recent war we did not suffer actual devastation to anything like the same degree as did other countries. However, the fact remains that Australians fought in all services in every theatre in the recent conflict. That fact should dispel any idea that we participated only in the war in the South Pacific.
Much has been said in this debate regarding the transport of food to Great Britain. That matter, of course, involves the provision of refrigerated shipping space. All arrangements for the shipping of food to Great Britain are under the control of the Overseas Shipping Committee. It has been said that on many occasions ships have been allowed to leave our shores with their refrigerated space not fully utilized. However, in the great majority of those instances the refrigerated space left unloaded was reserved for refrigerated cargoes to be picked up ‘in New Zealand. That fact does not appear to be generally recognized. I admit that refrigerated shipping space has not been fully availed of on some occasions due to industrial trouble on the wharfs,’ and also to the fact that refrigerated cargoes were not available at the time of departure of certain vessels. However, on all occasion of that .kind, the vessels concerned proceeded to New Zealand and there picked up full refrigerated cargoes. Thus, every vessel with refrigerated space to come to these shores has . returned to Great Britain with full refrigerated cargoes which have been taken on board in either Australia or New Zealand.
Dealing with supplies of meat for export, Senator Cooper said that there was an abundance of beef on the hoof in Australia. All of us are aware of that fact, but. we also realize that much of that beef is not made available for export because stock-owners can obtain a higher price on the local market than the ceiling price fixed in respect of exports. The suggestion made by Senator Gibson that we should ascertain whether it is not possible to arrange for representatives of the United Kingdom Government to bid for supplies in the Australian market is worthy of further consideration. I am inclined to favour that idea provided that a ceiling price be fixed on the local market.
– That is acceptable to me.
– If representatives of the British Government operated on the Australian market and no ceiling price were fixed, prices generally would get completely out of control, and the only people who would benefit would bp those who, to-day, are seizing every opportunity to get the highest possible advantage. On a ceiling price basis, the scheme suggested by Senator Gibson would be of some merit.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) asked whether any discussion had taken place between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom in regard to Great Britain’s debts. Such discussions have taken place. They were inaugurated when the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) visited England, and they are continuing at present. The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. S. G. Mcfarlane, is in England now, or on his way there, in connexion with this matter. I have no wish to reiterate what already has been said about conditions in Great Britain, but I point out that although the United Kingdom, at the beginning of the war, had international investments totalling £1,500,000,000, it finished the war with a sterling debt to the amount, of £3,500,000,000. Those figures indicate clearly the effort that Britain made to achieve victory, and I am sure that nobody will suggest that the people of Australia are not willing to do their utmost to assist Great Britain.
Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the funding of debts after the last war. I have had that matter investigated, and [ find that in 1931, when the United Kingdom suspended payment of its war debts to the United States of America, it relieved the Commonwealth of Australia of its obligation to meet interest and sinking fund payments on the Australian war debt to the United Kingdom of £S0,000,000. That amount it still included in our overseas debts, but payment has been postponed indefinitely.
Senator Lamp referred to the great number of idle ships that he saw in America when he was overseas last year. The possibility of obtaining these vessels has bean examined by my department, and it has been found that the cost of converting them to Australian conditions would be substantial and that great difficulty would be experienced in having that work done because shipyards everywhere are engaged in the construction of new tonnage. Technical and expert advice that I have received on this subject is that the expenditure would not be warranted.
– The dollar exchange problem is involved also.
– Yes. I thank honorable senators for the manner in which they have received this measure. It has been given the reception in this chamber that it rightly deserves, and 1 am confident that members of all political parties represented here will join with me in expressing the hope that the dark clouds, now hanging over the United Kingdom will soon pass. We all appreciate Britain’s magnificent war effort. In the early days of the war. the British people stood alone with their backs to the wall in defence of democracy, and to-day the people of every democratic nation owe a debt of gratitude to that proud country, which if making such a magnificent endeavour to rise again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
.- I move- ‘
That the Sixth Report from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, presented to the Senate on the 30th April, 1947. be adopted.
This report covers the activities of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee since the last report was submitted to the Senate on the 17th September, 1942. A motion for the adoption of the last report was moved in the Senate on the 25th February, 1943, but was not proceeded with, and lapsed with the dissolution of the Sixteenth Parliament on the 7th July, 1943. The report that is the subject of the motion now before the Senate shows that all regulations and ordinances tabled in the Senate have been considered by the committee with the exception of a small number of statutory rules under the National Security Act promulgated in 1943. It is mainly because of criticism of this committee that I move for the adoption of its sixth report. It will be recalled that on the 26th March last, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), speaking on the Air
Navigation Bill, pointed out that when he was a member of the committee he took strong exception to the fact that it was not functioning as it should. He indicated that he had resigned from the committee because no fewer than 200 regulations had been passed without examination. I cannot speak of what has happened in the past, but I am prepared to believe that what the Minister said was quite true. However, I do not recollect any qualification of his statement, and his criticism might be construed to apply to the present committee. That criticism, if not refuted at this stage, would be unjust. Since September, 1943, the committee has functioned, in my opinion, earnestly and effectively, although, because of the exigencies of war, it had to approve National Security Regulations which would not have been tolerated in peace-time. The effectiveness of tha committee has been improved considerably by the services of ex-Senator Spicer, who, as most honorable senators are aware, is a lawyer of very high standing. The committee sought” the approval of Mr. President to utilize the services of ex-Senator Spicer as legal adviser to the committee, and since he has acted in that capacity he has dome splendid work of great value, not only to the committee, but also to the Senate.
I draw attention to paragraph 7 of the report, which points out that on two occasions the committee found that statutory rules had already become void through late tabling. Since the report was tabled in the Senate a further five similar cases have come to our notice. In connexion with all these cases, the committee directed that the Solicitor-General be communicated with, and to show that the committee is active in carrying out its duty to this Parliament, I propose to read the following paragraph from a letter dated the 3rd May, written on behalf of the committee to the SolicitorGeneral -
On the 8th August Last the committee informed the Secretary, Commonwealth Treasury, that, as Statutory Rules 1946, No. 101, made under the Life Insurance Act, had not been tabled within the prescribed fifteen sitting days, it had deferred consideration until the regulations had been re-made and again tabled in accordance with’ the Acts Interpretation Act. A similar letter was forwarded on the same date to the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in connexion with Statutory Rules 1946, No. 103, made under the Wool ( Contributory Charge) Act. These two statutory rules were subsequently re-made and passed by the committee.
At the meeting held on the 19th April last, it was found that Statutory Rules 1946, No. 123, regulations under the Distillation Act, for the same reason were void, and the department concerned is being asked to re-make the regulations. It has now been ascertained that the following statutory rules, not yet submitted to the committee for consideration, have become void because of late tabling:-
Statutory Rules 1947, No. 21 - made under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act.
Statutory Rules 1947, No. 24-^-made under the Dried Fruit Export Charges Act.
Statutory Rules 1947, No. IS - made under the Dried Fruit Export Control Act.
Statutory Rules 1947, No. 23- made under the Forestry and Timber Bureau Act.
It will be seen that the committee has directed special attention to regulations that are not tabled in conformity with the Acts Interpretation Act. It disapproves strongly of any departure from the provisions of that act. For this reason, it communicated with the SolicitorGeneral and secured an assurance that the Attorney-General would accept responsibility iii future for the tabling of statutory rules in both Houses of the Parliament in accordance with ihe act* In conclusion, I urge the Government to implement the suggestion contained in paragraph 10 of the committee’s report and bring the Norfolk Island Act into line with other acts relating to territories of the Commonwealth with regard to the tabling of ordinances.
Senator COOPER (Queensland) fS.31] . - I second the motion. The Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances was originally formed in 1933 as the result of strong representations by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch, of Western Australia, for the appointment’ Of some body to examine the regulations promulgated by the Government. In those days, regulations were not nearly so nume-rous as they are to-day, but the numbers increased continually, and the committee submitted reports to Parliament regularly. During the war, so many regulations were issued under the National Security Act for special war purposes that the committee found that it could not possibly deal with all of them. Furthermore, it lacked power to comment on regulations dealing with special war-time measures. However, it has been able to function again since the cessation of hostilities and is now able to keep up to date with all regulations issued. Honorable senators will appreciate that this is no mean achievement in view of the rate at which regulations are issued. Each regulation is examined by the committee. As the chairman has said, some regulations were not tabled in Parliament within the period specified, and therefore became void. Such omissions might lead to legal action in the High Court with the result that important legislation might be held to be invalid. The committee’s action in relation to this matter has been of great value. The committee, of which I have been a member almost since its inception, is not obliged to submit annual reports, but, although it has not reported to the Parliament at frequent intervals, it is functioning continually and is doing an important job very well.
– I direct particular attention to paragraph 9 of this report from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. It is as follows : -
With regard to Statutory Rules 1945, No. 47, made under the National Security Act, the Committee noted that the method which was adopted to give effect to the amendments was somewhat unsatisfactory in that many regulatio’ns were affected and particulars of the amendments could only be found in the Schedules to this Statutory Rule, lt appears to the Committee that it would have been more satisfactory if the particular regulations which were amended were so amended by the issue of separate Statutory Rules.
This is an important matter. The purpose of amendments to regulations affected by statutory rules is not always clear. For instance, a statutory rule may provide for the amendment of a regulation by omitting the word, say “ four “ and inserting the word “six”. Nobody could tell the effect of that amendment merely by reading the statutory rule. It would be necessary probably to dig up the original regulation, which might have been issued two or three years previously. Amendments should be made in such a way that ordinary laymen, like myself, can understand them. The correct procedure would be to issue a statutory rule providing for the cancellation of the regulation concerned and the promulgation of a new regulation embodying the desired amendment. This would make the purpose of the amendment obvious to any interested person. I ask the committee to consider this suggestion and make a recommendation accordingly in the near future. Under the present system, statutory rules are issued by the score and very few people know what they are all about.
– The Senate is dealing with the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. The committee has considered a large number of regulations and ordinances notwithstanding the fact that the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) set up another committee to consider the regulations made under the National Security Act. The committee has referred in its report to section 137 (2) of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, which enables the Governor-General to make regulations to repeal or amend the provisions of the act. It points out that such a power should be used only in emergency cases. The section referred to has been used infrequently, and then only to effect amendments of a comparatively minor nature. Amending regulations made under that section are as follows : - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 181 as amended by Statutory Rules 1946, Nos. 14, 57, .85, 130, 165, 167, 177, and Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 12 and 52. Most of these amendments had little significance and were necessary to meet purely formal requirements, such as the repeal of section 69 of the principal act, which was an unnecessary delegation provision, the definition of prescribed areas for the purposes of section 4 of the act, and a provision for an infant or minor to give a security in connexion with reestablishment loans.
The main amendments made by regulations under the section of the act in question having any noteworthy significance are those contained in Statutory Rules 1946, No. 177 and Statutory Rules 1947, No. 12. Briefly, the changes made by such amendments were: (a) To provide for re-establishment loans, in certain circumstances, to two or more eligible persons in respect of the same enterprise; (b) to prescribe, for purposes of reinstatement in civil employment, the conditions upon which the first period of war service may be deemed to have continued without interruption in cases where a person has completed more than one period of war service. In general, the Department of Post-warReconstruction endorses the views on the repeal of section 137 (2) expressed by the AttorneyGeneral in paragraph8 of the committee’s report. The department has expressed the view that there should be little difficulty in observing the suggestion of the committee that the special regulation power conferred under the Reestablishment and Employment Act be used only in emergency cases, and that wherever practicable, any amendment of the act be made through the medium of legislative action.
The committee has indicated in this report that the amendments effected by Statutory Rule 1945, No. 47, should have been made by separate statutory rules. This statutory rule made certain amendments to a number of regulations made under the National Security Act. These amendments relate principally to powers of entry and inspection and to legal proceedings for contravention of the regulations. It was thought that these amendments were such that they could be embodied in one statutory rule. I point out, however, that this is not a normal practice and was used only in relation to National Security Regulations. With respect to the committee’s observations on the Norfolk Island ordinances, the Norfolk Island Act has been noted for amendment when opportunity offers. No occasion to amend the act has occurred since 1943, and a special amendment would be necessary for the purpose. The act is being examined in order to see whether any other amendments are necessary or desirable. I stress the importance of the work of the committee. Its primary purpose is to scrutinize the regulations made under Commonwealth acts in order to determine whether they are authorized by those acts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 2973), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is more or less a machinery measure to safeguard the interests of public servants who will be appointed to the staff of the Australian National University. It will enable such persons to preserve their rights under the Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation Scheme. The Opposition sees no reason why the bill should not be passed as speedily as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 2736), on. motion by Senator Armstrong -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill provides machinery for better control of aliens after they arrive in this country, and it continues the operation of many National Security Regulations which proved so effective in war-time. I was a member of a committee which assisted the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in classifying aliens during World War II., and the committee found that unfortunately the control and registration of aliens prior to the war had been very slack. Had legislation similar to the present bill been in force prior to the outbreak of war it would have greatly assisted the apprehension of dangerous aliens and would have obviated the issue of “ omnibus “ warrants. The issue of these warrants conferred on security officials the power to arrest any alien, and the exercise of this power under stress of war-time conditions resulted in the internment of a number of perfectly loyal subjects. The passage of this bill should have the effect of making aliens appreciative of the advantages of naturalization, and I think that many of them will take that course. Furthermore, it will provide the Government with early evidence of attempts to establish alien colonies in this country, and such information will be readily available from the records, thus avoiding the expenditure of public time and money in conducting investigations. The Aliens Register is to be kept secret and will not be open for casual inspection. There is no doubt that the provisions of this measure are in the best interests of the community, and I commend the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed, through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 2838), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– This bill proposes, in the first place, to confer far-reaching benefits on a wide range of deserving people and must commend itself to the’ community. In his second-reading speech I think the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) hardly did justice to the bill, and to expound its implications I -propose to cover the same ground, but in more detail. The bill provides for the establishment, “from the profits and other assets of canteens conducted within the Defence Force during the time of war which commenced on the 3rd day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine, and from other sources, trust funds to be administered in the interests of servicemen, ex-servicemen and their dependants, and for other purposes “. I am sure that the Government in drafting this bill has been guided by the experience of World War I. When hostilities ceased after that war, accumulated canteens funds balances amounted to £730,000, with added interest of £32,000, and administrative costs amounted to a mere £13,000. Records reveal that the bulk of the capital sum was paid out within twelve months to nearly 50,000 applicants for relief. However, the basis of that distribution was not the same as that proposed in this measure, and we should not attempt to follow it. Undoubtedly, relief was afforded in many deserving cases, but there was a great deal of waste of money. Our main objective for the future should be to do the greatest possible good for the greatet number.
The sum of money with which we are concerned is £4,680,000. To this sum additions will undoubtedly be made as accounts are closed and receipts come to hand from existing service institutions at home and abroad. The money is derived mainly from profits of the Army and Air Force canteens services. Those canteens, whose function was to provide for the needs of our fighting forces, had a turnover of approximately £90,000,000. Although it might be rightly claimed that the profits represent money received from men and women of our forces and from the troops of Allied nations, the net result reflects considerable credit upon the management. When we bear in mind the widely separated areas in which operations were conducted, the shortage of supplies at various times, the immense transport difficulties, and the special problems presented by the conduct of operations in the Pacific islands, it will be appreciated that a very satisfactory result has been achieved. The achievement of this result, a profit of the modest amount of 5 per cent, of the capital involved, is something for which we can thank the management. But for the adoption of sound business methods a loss might easily have been incurred. This profit will be augmented by cash balances and realization sales of goods and properties of messes, institutions, units and amenities of the three services. The aggregation and assignment of this sum is a wise provision, because many private contributions and subscriptions were made, and it is, of course, impossible, in most cases, to make refunds to the persons who actually donated money.
Of the total sum of £4,6S0,000, which . may, as I have said, be augmented by further receipts, £2,500,000 is to be set aside for educational assistance, including professional and trade training of (a) the children of deceased or incapacitated eligible servicemen who are in needy circumstances; (&) the children of other eligible ex-servicemen who are, in the opinion of the trustees of the fund, particularly deserving of assistance by reason of exceptional circumstances; and (c) in providing, wherever considered desirable, for the maintenance or welfare of any children of eligible servicemen for whom educational assistance, including professional or trade training, is provided. On this aspect I shall have more to say presently.
Then, in order that members of the permanent and interim forces of the Commonwealth shall receive due consideration, encouragement and assistance, provision is made in the bill for a capital payment of £60,000 each to the Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund, the Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund, and the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund, to aid needy eases amongst members or ex-members of those three services who may, or may not, have taken part in the war of 1939-45. This leaves a residue of £2,000,000 to be applied directly for the benefit of (a) eligible ex-servicemen in necessitous circumstances; or (b) the dependants of deceased or totally or partially incapacitated eligible servicemen, or eligible ex-servicemen in necessitous or deserving circumstances; and (c) the dependants of eligible servicemen, other than those I have just mentioned, which dependants are, in the opinion of the trustees, in necessitous circumstances or particularly deserving of assistance; and for the provision of relief or benefit for eligible servicemen and their dependants in such other cases as the trustees think fit. In using the term “ ex-servicemen “ I intend to convey that women shall also be included, for the bill comprehends the members of the nursing and other women’s services who’ were actively engaged in World War II. Special regard may also be paid to the circumstances of widows of those who fell in battle and of those who died as a consequence of their war service.
I revert now to the amount set aside to assist with the education of children.
We should lay great store by this £2,500,000. Let me refer back to what already has been done. I refer, first to the bequest of the late Sir Samuel McCaughey, of New South Wales, amounting to more than £500,000, for the education of the children of deceased or totally and permanently incapacitated sailors or soldiers. With later receipts from the estate, earnings from investments and interest, the aggregate of the fund has reached the sum of £776,000. The fund is still alive. It is impossible to assess the good that has been, and may yet be, derived from the wise application of this money so generously given. Its influence will permeate many channels of life in the community. In a letter which I have received from the secretary of the Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Trust (1914-18) I learn that up to the 31st March last, 18,943 children had benefited at an average assistance rate of £35 for each child. Five have gained Rhodes scholarships, others have made their names in economic and medical research, and in the wider fields of law, engineering, science, commerce and industry. But, as is rightly said, major successes are the least spectacular. They are represented by the thousands of children who have been encouraged to fit themselves for skilled occupations and, were it not for the McCaughey bequest, might have ranked with the unskilled members of the community. Sir Samuel McCaughey and the trustees who have administered his bequest have indeed earned the nation’s gratitude. We may expect much greater benefits from the larger sum of £2,500,000 if administered with, at least, equal wisdom.
In order to benefit from the residue of the fund, namely, £2,000,000, a person must have had service in the war of 1939-45. Subject to the Minister’s correction, I take it that men and women who were, during that period, with any one of the services for six months or more, are eligible. Of these there were, as we have been told, over 1,000,000, including over 66,000 women. Their dispersion was wide, and, unless the regulations otherwise prescribe, would include those who were in the Citizen Forces, garrison battalions and base staffs, and certain members of the Volunteer Defence Corps.
But the terms of the bill are liberal beyond the point of the individual case. Clause 8 (a) gives the trustees power to receive and consider applications for benefits from the fund and determine whether any person, or group or class of person, is entitled to benefit from the fund and the degree of that benefit. This opens up a wide field of action for the trustees. Subject to such regulations as may be issued, there may be envisaged aid to legacy clubs, various exservicemen’s associations, social clubs, institutions, hospitals, homes for the aged or invalid, and any other legitimate movement for promoting the welfare of those who, when they were young and fit, served us to the best of their ability. On the other hand, I do hope that none of the money available will be expended on war memorials, as such, or on things that are a rightful charge on public revenues.
The administration of the considerable moneys in the fund will be in the hand 3 of a trust. The names of all but two of the trustees were given by the Minister. As a body, they include a chairman, representatives of the three service boards, a business expert,, and representatives of five ex-servicemen’s organizations. Very wisely, too, the ex-servicewomen will be represented. The trustees will be a body corporate, and may do all such things a3 trustees are usually empowered to do. Within the terms of the bill they will have complete authority, and be free from ministerial or political control. The accounts will be examined periodically by the Auditor-General and an annual report on the trust’s transactions must be laid before the Parliament. It is not intended - and this is important - that the fund shall be wholly administered from, say, Canberra or Melbourne.
The trustees are, by the bill authorized to appoint regional committees with such powers and functions, and upon such terms and conditions as may, by the regulations, be prescribed. This should ensure at least one authority in each State where local conditions may be studied at first hand and undue delay and waste in dealing with claims obviated. There does arise, at this point, the matter of the allotment of certain capital sums to States. This has to be considered. I have no definite ideas at the moment, but one factor calling for special consideration for Western Australia is its high percentage of ‘ enlistments as compared with other States. However, I have no doubt that the trustees will make the right decision on this issue. Wisdom is called for in the choice of trustees and regional committees. The members of those bodies must be persons of standing and integrity, with large experience of the services, social conditions and rehabilitation problems, and possessing also broad human sympathies. The genuine needs of individuals are as varied as they are numerous.
There is one defect in this bill. It is a defect that perpetuates an evil some of us on this side of the Senate have endeavoured to remove from other legislation. It has arisen from the action of the authorities in regarding a wardisability pension as “ income “ and thus depriving the recipient of the full benefits offered by other social legislation. Or, to put it in another way, this bill offers benefits which the impact of existing acts may neutralize or negative. It needs to be remembered that amongst the eligible ex-servicemen will be many with actual war service who, between 1939 and 1945, served with garrison battalions and other units. These may, on account of some disability or age, be drawing pensions. The young men who were in the front line may also meet misfortune and lose their independence. It is in this regard that I contemplate the prospective power of the trustees, subject to such regulations under this bill as may be issued, to render aid to an ex-serviceman in such manner and/or in such amounts as it thinks fit. The regulations to be issued may prescribe that in determining the amount or form of relief, the trustees shall take into consideration any assistance received or obtainable from other sources, and no benefit shall be provided in substitution for benefits to which an eligible person is entitled under the law of the Commonwealth or of any State. That is too stringent altogether; it may debar from benefits persons who are most deserving, or in need of special care. In the special circumstances associated with the collection of the money with which this bill deals that, would be an iniquitous proceeding. The trustees would he quite right in considering, before making a grant, any other sources of income that the applicant might have. That would be a natural thing to do, but the present situation is novel. This fund is a vanishing one - it will disappear in the time of a generation. We are proposing to give back the money to the source whence it came - to the persons who supplied it - and as their needs may be real and pressing there is every reason that they should be regarded and treated as such irrespective of any static legislation. The applicant may be down on the bedrock of circumstances and at a stage of life when a grant from this fund would be of inestimable value. Here is a clear call upon that comradeship engendered in the services.
The bill presents an opportunity to give special attention to the real and pressing needs of the war widow with a young family - a type of case that makes an insistent call upon our sympathies. But if any such grant is to be regarded by the Director-General of Social Services as “ income ‘’, then its real value will be negatived. I propose, therefore, in order to remove any doubts, to move in committee a suitable amendment to the bill. I shall ask for the insertion of a new clause 14a.
The bill is well drafted. For the benefits that it may confer it has my whole-hearted support.
– I found Senator Collett’s remarks informative and I compliment him on the time and thought that he has given to the consideration of the measure. He inquired whether sub-clause 2 of clause 22 applied only to the dependants of ex-servicemen of the war of 1939-45. That is unquestionably so. “ Eligible serviceman “ is defined in clause 15 to mean “ a person who is or was at any time between the commencement of the time of war and the prescribed date a member of the Forces “. The time of war is defined in clause 4 to mean “ the time of war which commenced on the third day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirtynine
– That is not my point.
– If I have missed the point made by the honorable senator, perhaps I shall have an opportunity later to deal with it.
My information is that there will be no allocation of the amount to any particular State. The money will be dispensed primarily from the trustees through regional bodies to individuals; and should it transpire that more funds are needed in Western Australia per capita of dependants than in another State there will be no difficulty, so far as the regional committee is concerned, in obtaining funds adequate to do justice to -the needs of Western Australia or any other State. Senator Collett also referred to the fact that the Department of Social Services will, under this measure as drafted, and under the Social Services Consolidation Bill, be entitled to take into account as income any moneys paid, pursuant to this legislation. That is so. It is appropriate that the honorable senator, himself being an ex-serviceman and playing a very active and useful part in the interest of dependants of exservicemen, should raise this point. One can understand his sympathy with this class of persons. Personally, I share that sympathy; and the Government itself has a sympathetic outlook in this matter. However, it has given consideration to the very point raised by the honorable senator, and has decided that it could not properly disregard the benefits that would be paid pursuant to this legislation and still regard war pension as income. It believes that it would abdicate the principle hitherto followed by itself, and, in fact, by all governments since 1931, that war pension should be classed as income from that date. Much as one would like to meet Senator Collett’s suggestion, the Government believes that if it were to make this concession in respect of these payments it would be in an indefensible position regarding the inclusion of war pension as income for the purposes of the ordinary social services benefits. Another reason for its attitude on this matter is that it has in contemplation an examination of data regarding ihe setting up of a national superannuation scheme. If it were possible to achieve that result, there would then be in the community a pension, or superannuation, free altogether of the means test. The Government is reluctant to intermeddle with the income bar, and even the property bar, in relation to social service benefits generally while that matter is under investigation. However, I point out that many payments that will be made pursuant to this bill will probably not be substantial. Payments for educational purposes will be substantial; but payments to help necessitous cases will not be great when one looks at the amounts in weekly sums. The permissible income for social service benefits was raised only in August last from 12s. 6d. a week to £1 a week, and at least a beneficiary, if he, or she, has no other income, will, for the purpose of invalid pension and unemployment and sickness benefit, have a permissible income of £1 which will not affect the benefit. Thus, it may well be that many payments under this bill will be within the permissible income, which has so recently been increased. Senator Collett also referred to what is done under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefit Act in relation to classing war pension as an amount deductable from the sickness benefit. That applies, of course, only where the war pension is paid in respect of the same disability for which sickness benefit is available under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefit Act. If the two disabilities are different, the war pension is not an amount that is deductable.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 14 agreed to.
New clause 14a.
– I move-
That, after clause 14, the following new clause, be inserted : - “ 14a. Any payment made or benefit granted from any fund established under this Act to or on behalf of any beneficiary shall not be deemed to bc income for the purposes of Part III., Part IV. or Part VII., of the Social Services Consolidation Act, 1947.”
Part III. of the Social Services Consolidation Bill relates to Age and Invalid Pensions, Part IV. to widows pensions and Part VII. to unemployment and sickness benefits. The fund to be distributed under this measure is virtually the property of the persons to whom it will be disbursed. The object of setting aside th:s money is to provide the greatest possible benefit for individuals who nec<! assistance of the kind provided for. The reply given by the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) was entirely in accordance with departmental practice. He gave the routine ministerial answer as to why he could not accept my amendment. I have lived and worked for over 30 years with the class of persons who may be eligible for assistance from this fund. I know how real, varied and urgent are their needs. On this occasion the Government should recede from its customary attitude of trying to get from the soldier something which should be provided from Consolidated Revenue. When the Social Services Consolidation Bill was being debated, the Minister in charge of the bill implied that any soldier who received a pension of 30s. a week in respect of the loss of a foot or an arm was in a privileged position. The Government should recede from its attitude of compensating itself by making deductions from the pension to which the soldier is entitled. This fund will be a vanishing fund, and those who receive benefit from it will only receive back money which they have actually subscribed to the fund.
– I support the amendment. Benefits payable from this fund are quite distinct from ordinary income, because the funditself has been built up from money which the soldiers provided from their earnings during the war period. Therefore, this fund belongs to the soldiers as a body, and any amount disbursed from it to them in a time of necessity should be regarded as small savings which they put aside during the war. They are really compulsory savings, the money having been paid by service personnel for goods. This fund consists of profits made from the sale of such goods. Income is usually understood to be money which an individual earns. This money cannot be said to come within that category. These payments will be made for the relief of necessitous cases. The Minister for
Social Services (Senator McKenna) should look at the matter from that point of view.
.- I do not see how the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) can logically refuse to accept the amendment. If an individual can make a gift which is not regarded as income, surely an organization can do likewise. In any case, gifts in excess of a certain value are subject to gift duty. The Government, if it be logical, must accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment. It is only fair and just that benefits disbursed from this fund should not be regarded as income. A fund similar to this was established after World War. I. . The whole of this money has been derived from profits from service canteens. The amendment is not unreasonable. I realize, as the Minister has said, that acceptance of the amendment would establish a precedent, and for that reason the Government does not care to accept it. However, I hope that on second thought the Minister, having regard to the peculiar nature of this fund, will accept the amendment.
– After the eloquent appeals to which I have listened, I should be exceedingly happy if I were in a position to be able to accept the amendment. However, in my second-reading speech, I indicated that this matter had been considered by the Government. If the matter had not had the fullest consideration, and if full regard had not been given to all its implications, I should have been happy to recommend to my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs (SenatorCourtice), who is in charge of the bill, that he might even have set the unusual precedent in this chamber of deferring the clause. In the circumstances, sympathetic as one must feel to the cause espoused by honorable senators, the departmental reply happens also to be the governmental reply on this occasion, and again, to put it in other words, the time is not opportune for con sidering further relaxation of the means test in relation to social services.
– Could the Minister not regard thisas apart from social services ?
– I could, and if there would be no other repercussions, the matter could be disposed of quite simply ; but it opens up the whole field of war pensions, involving a vast recurring annual expenditure. I point out that so far as war widows are concerned, the pension is paid without the application of the means test, and it may be supplemented from this source. That, I suggest, will be one of the directions in which this fund will be applied. I cannot accept Senator Gibson’s view that gifts are disregarded by the Government. As heis aware, in relation to gift duty, the Government keeps a very watchful and profitable eye on gifts. Probably the honorable senator was dealing more with gifts that are disregarded for the purposes of social services. If that be so, the position is that only gifts between parent and child are disregarded for the purposes of social services payments. Again I find myself inevitably coming to the almost invariable answer that I cannot accept the suggestion of the honorable senator.
That the new clause (Senator Collett’s amendment) he agreed to.
The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 15 to 36 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Fourteenth Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated 9th May, 1947, on the applications made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for further financial assistance in 1946-47 from the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations -Orders- Nos. 2934-2955, 2957-2965.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Cloncurry, Queensland.
Norfolk Island Act - Census Ordinance - Regulations.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinance - 1947 - No. 4Census.
Senate adjourned at 9.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470529_senate_18_192/>.