19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister -for Fuel, Shipping and Transport a question, following the welcome news that the Waterside Workers Federation has lifted its ban on overtime. Up to date .the delays in connexion with shipping have caused considerable congestion in Tasmanian ports, and the arrival of ships has been delayed considerably. In view of the elect that any interruption of the shipping programme may have in ‘ con-
I nexion with such delicate commodities as apples and pears, I ask the Minister to do am within his power in conjunction with ‘the overseas shipping representatives, to get the necessary ships to Tasmania ‘On time, so that they may he despatched punctually.
– When I -was in Tasmania recently I witnessed considerable congestion in the ports. This is a serious matter for a State so dependent on shipping as is Tasmania. Conditions there were deplorable. I assure Senator Wright that the overseas shipping representatives who are watching this position will do their very best along the Tines that he has mentioned. To make sure that everything possible is done I will -communicate with those representatives ‘to-day, and I shall advise the Tasmania^ senators later of any proposals contemplated. In my opinion the strike was unpardonable and deplorable.
– I desire to direct a question to you, Mr. President. Small box-like structures have been installed recently under some of the desks in this chamber. Will you be good enough to inform me whether this .apparatus is designed to serve any useful purpose, or whether it has been installed merely for honorable senators to knock their knees ion?
– Although, as I have frequently pointed out, it is not in order for honorable senators to ask the President questions, with my usual graciousness I shall endeavour to reply satisfactorily to the honorable senator. I am sorry that he has knocked his knees on the apparatus that he has mentioned. Following a number of complaints by honorable senators that they could not hear distinctly every word that was spoken in this chamber, the apparatus was installed in order to improve the acoustics. One honorable senator stated that he could not hear the prayers .distinctly. I did not want any one to miss prayers, so I looked into the matter and it was decided, on consultation with the electrical engineers, (that apparatus similar ito that in the House -of Representatives should be installed. I understand that it not only improves conditions in this chamber but also the broadcasting to the public of speeches made by honorable senators.
– In view of the great need and the increasing demand for aluminium, will the Minister representing the Minister for .Supply take steps to approach the Australian Aluminium Production Commission with a request that at this stage the commission ‘begin preliminary arrangements .to double the projected aluminium output of 13,500 tons per annum ?
– I assure the honorable senator that the Minister for Supply has had in mind the importance of increasing aluminium production. I shall ta’ke the first opportunity to bring under his notice the remarks and suggestions made by the honorable senator, and I shall obtain a reply to his question as expeditiously as possible.
– In view of the importance of the coal industry to Australia, will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport make more frequent statements in this chamber in order to keep honorable senators informed of the activities of the Joint Coal Board and of what steps the Government is taking to open new mines and to renovate old mines in New South Wales ?
– I appreciate the importance of that question and I indicate to the honorable senator that the Joint ‘Coal Board proposes .to open ten new open=cut mines this year. Some of the big owners are extending .their plant very considerably. If things go according to plan, it will mean that by the end of this year, since the Joint ‘Coal Board was established, open-cut mines will have increased in number from 8 to 28. The target set is 5,00.0,000 tons of coal from open-cut mines, .and it is expected that .that output will he reached : within two years. At present, machinery to the value of £5,000,00.0 has ‘been -imported, whilst £1,000,000 worth is on order .and has yet to come. One important overseas contractor has signed up and is bringing his own plant. The Coal Board is about to sign up with a British contractor who is in a big way, and negotiations are also proceeding with a contractor from the United States of America. In view of the > importance of this subject, I hope next week to make a statement upon it setting forth in greater detail what has been done to increase production. The results have been encouraging.
– Since tests have proved that big deposits of coal exist in the vicinity of Moorlands, South Australia, which is adjacent to the River Murray, and in view of the urgent and ever-increasing demand for coal, will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport -indicate whether the Government is prepared to assist the Government of South Australia in every possible way in the development, by gasification process or by any other means, of the coal-fields, in order that the coal may be made available for the nation?
– I have noticed reports in connexion with the coal deposits referred to, and I know that the Premier of South Australia is taking an active interest in the matter. Whether or not the Commonwealth can render assistance in the development of the deposits is a matter that I shall discuss with the Premier, and I shall let the honorable senator have a written reply in due course.
Senator ANNABELLE RANKIN.Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether supplies of cortisone and ACTH are available to persons needing those drugs? If not, has any action been taken to ensure their equitable distribution within Australia? Has the Government done anything to relieve users of the drugs from the payment of duty on them ?
– Thanks to the courtesy of the honorable senator, I had an idea that this question would be asked, and I am in a position to give a full answer to it. I am sure that not only honorable senators, but also the public generally, will be interested in the answer. There is not enough cortisone in Australia to meet all demands. America is the only source of supply, and insufficient quantities of cortisone are being received from that country. Dollar funds are being provided for the purchase of all. that is avail able. In order to ensure that the limited supplies of cortisone are used to the best advantage I have conferred with my colleague, the Minister for Health, and as a result steps are being taken, with the cooperation of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, to arrange for the distribution of the drug to patients whose medical practitioners issue a certificate that the drug is needed and, in respect of whom, the college considers the drug should be supplied, having due regard to the limited quantity available, and the condition and need of the patients. Arrangements to ensure the most effective use of cortisone have not yet been completed, but I hope that, within a very short time, the scheme will be operating smoothly. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians requires medical practitioners who receive cortisone to forward clinical reports of the cases, and in this way medical evidence will accumulate as to its efficacy and undesirable side reactions, if any. I may add that, some time ago, I arranged for cortisone to be admitted free of duty, and for refunds to be made in any cases where duty had been previously paid. The other drug mentioned by the honorable senator is ACTH. I am given to understand that this hormone stimulates the adrenal glands to produce substances allied to cortisone. If there are coherent deficiencies of these glands in any patient, such hormone stimulation may not be effective, and it will be necessary to administer cortisone itself. Adequate supplies of ACTH are available from the United Kingdom, and it is admitted free of duty.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been drawn to the extravagant claim made in advertisements by those who are trading in cortisone? Will he have those claims investigated in order to learn what truth is in them, and also what is the real effect of cortisone on sufferers from arthritis?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice, of the Minister for Health, who will furnish a reply as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that employees of the Postal Department are suffering severe inconvenience by not being afforded housing facilities when they are transferred from metropolitan to country areas? Does he appreciate the fact that many married employees with families are unable to accept transfers in such circumstances, and that, as a result, they suffer loss of promotion and salary which would normally be their due? Is the Minister aware that private firms and combines are carrying out extensive programmes for their employees in country areas in order to hold their staffs? Will the Minister cause full investigations to be made into the subject of departmental housing in Western Australia with a view to instituting a house-building programme for employees of the Postal Department thereby removing the grave dissatisfaction that exists in the ranks of postal workers?
– I am not aware of the matters to which the honorable senator has referred. If he will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall ask the Postmaster-General to make a thorough investigation and to furnish an answer to his questions as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral indicate what degree of priority will be given to the work of reconditioning or rebuilding the post office at Black Rock, Victoria? Reports that I have received indicate that conditions at Black Rock are appalling from the point of view of both the public and the staff.
– I cannot inform the honorable senator at the moment of the degree of priority that will be given to the reconditioning of the post office at Black Rock, but I shall be happy to bring his remarks to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral, and I shall obtain a considered reply for him as soon as possible.
– In view of the world need of metals, particularly of tin, will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development 1 request his colleague to consider the possibility of investing the large profits that are derived from the Commonwealth-owned and operated Dorset tin dredging project in Tasmania in the development of water facilities for tin sluicing in the Gladstone, Pioneer and Derby districts of Tasmania, which are rich tin-bearing areas but are not being developed because of the lack of water for sluicing operations?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s request to the Minister for National Development and ask that a reply be furnished as soon as possible.
– Is it a fact that, owing to the extraordinary prosperity that now exists in Australia as the result of the excellent administration of the present Government, many persons who wish to travel to Perth at Easter have been unable to obtain berths on the EastWest railway? If that is so, will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport inform the Senate what steps he has taken to satisfy the transport needs of such persons?
– It is regrettable that all those who are eager to go to Perth this year will have difficulty in obtaining seats on the East- West railway. For the benefit of honorable senators generally, particularly of those from South Australia and Western Australia, I may add that after the Prime Minister had succeeded in obtaining the dollar loan we were able to approve of a plan for the purchase of rolling-stock for the East-West and North-South railways to the value of £4,500,000.
– That will not improve matters, either.
– The honorable senator is beyond redemption. I appreciate the importance of the east-west railway service to Western Australia. Honorable senators will be pleased to know that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Hannaberry, has just completed a very successful mission to the United States of America. The success of his mission may be gauged by the fact that although he left Australia only in September, on Friday of last week there arrived in Sydney a complete shipload of railway rolling-stock for the
East,West railway. The delivery to Australia: of that rolling stock within five months- of the commissioner’s visit overseas must be a record. The shipment includes four extra, carriages, three airconditioned, diesel cars, and a quantity of spare parts. Fortunately, the ship that brought the rolling- stock from the United States of America was able also to carry from Sydney two “ MacArthur “ type locomotives which, with the new rolling stock, will, I hope, be in service before Easter. That would considerably ease the congestion that may occur at that time. I assure honorable senators that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is fully seised of the importance of this work. We hope that the first of the diesel electric locomotives will arrive in Australia about August. Until now, the Budd air-conditioned cars have not been in use outside of America. They are not luxury cars, but, with due. consideration to economy,, they are the best available in the world to-day, and’ I hope that those members of the Parliament who travel by rail will appreciate the comfort that they offer. Reports indicate that, when the new locomotives and rolling stock are in Service, the time of the journey from the eastern States to Perth will be shortened by a day. In addition, the use of diesel electric locomotives will overcome the coal and water problems on the east-west line. I am pleased to be able to inform honorable senators that’ travellers to the beautiful city of Perth at Easter- time may expect to enjoy the comfort of the new rolling’ stock:
– Whilst Western Australians generally will greatly appreciate the improvements’ to the eastwest railway service to which the Minister’ has referred, I should’ like to know whether anything is to be done to provide residents- along that’ line, with better trans. port and, shopping, facilities. The vans on the “ Tea and Sugar “ train have been in. use since 1918. They are antiquated, and the butcher’s shop- lacks an adequate freezing chamber. There is. an urgent need for new vans on this train upon which people living along the Nullabor Plain have to depend’ for- their supplies*, and I should like to know whether that phase of, the east-west railway, service is being given some, attention..
– I inspected the east-west line last Easter, and made- a point of examining the accommodation and facilities- that were- available to residents along the line. I give full credit to the- Labour Minister who was responsible for the administration of that railway for the improvements that were effected at the various hot and isolatedcentres along the line during his. term of office. I refer particularly, to housing-.. I appreciate the point that has been raised by Senator Tangney, and- I assure- her that- anything that the Government can do to speed up the improvements to which she has; referred will’ be done. The northsouth line requires attention. The best locomotive on that line was- built before I was born and was last reconditioned im 1906; Orders for diesel electric locomotives for that line have been placed: in G.reat Britain.
– Will the Minister say whether the diesel locomotives and rolling-stock will operate in addition to those at present in use? Will he also say how long it is estimated that the- newrail cars will take to complete the journey, and. whether they will provide for passengers similar facilities- to those available on the present rolling-stock?
– The four carriages and the three diesel rail cars that I mentioned’ previously will operate in addition to the existing rolling-stock
Senator- Nash-. - Will’ they provide- any additional services- for the people-?’
– Yes. The catering arrangements* on the1 diesel rail cars1 will provide light refreshments, and1 1 understand from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner that those1 refreshments will be equal to those supplied” on civil: aircraft.
– Has the- Minister any idea how long the journey will take in the new rolling-stock?
– I cannot say until the. tests are. made, but the permanent:wayiS. reported to- be in reasonably good condition.. The new rail cars can- travel at- a. speed, of 80 miles, -an hour, and since- they do not have to stop to- take coal and. water the saving, of- time should be very considerable. I shall be; surprised,, therefore,, if. the; new diesel trains do not save at least; one: day on, the time at present taken for the journey.
– Can the Minister say whether the diesel rail cars1 are selfpro.pelled vehicles, or will they be drawn by a diesel locomotive ?’
– -The three cars to which reference waa made are selfpropelled,, but they can be coupled together and driven as one- train.
– In view of the large accumulation of cargo at Melbourne that is awaiting, shipment to Launceston, will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport make available a “ D “’ class ship to move cargo to Launceston and to shift from that port some of the 2,000,000 superficial feet of timber that is awaiting shipment to Melbourne?
– I shall communicate’ with the traffic’ committee, which is. endeavouring to relieve the present, congestion of cargo1 in our ports. I realize that air transport is the only alternative form of transport available for Tasmania, and that, even air transport cannot move all the classes of freight awaiting shipment. However, 1 shall ascertain the position and inform the honorable senator of the result of my inquiries.
– Is the Minister for Fuel, Transport and Shipping awarethat the slow turn-round of ships is duenot always to industrial disputes among, the waterside workers but. often, to faulty loading in European ports, cargoes, con: signed, to the eastern States of Australia, frequently being placed on top o£ cargoes, consigned to- Western Australian and South Australian ports ? As the result of this practice cargoes for the eastern States have to be unloaded and stored, and- subsequently reloaded after the Western. Australian cargo has been discharged. On some occasions the time spent in ports is three times as great as’ would be the case if proper loading were carried out in European, ports. In order to eliminate this waste of time will the Minister take such action as: he can to see that correct, loading of ships according to geographical destination of cargoes is taken cognizance of by ships? officers?
– As my colleague^ the. Minister for Fuel, Shipping- and Transport, has been called away to answer a long-d’istance telephone call, I suggest that the honorable senator place her question on the notice-paper ?
– Will, the Leader of the. Government, arrange to make available to the. Senate information concerning the prospect of war and the suggested time-table for Australian defence- preparations that were furnished to the House of Representatives, by. the Prime Minister yesterday? If not, will the Minister say whether the Senate is to be denied all knowledge of international affairs? I point out that such a denial would be in keeping- with the present Government’s attitude of maintaining silence on all- important matters under the pretext that the furnishing of information in reply to questions asked in the Senate unnecessarily reveals government policy. One recent example of that attitude was the Government’s refusal to make any statement” concerning the projected sale to private shipping interests of the ships owned by the Commonwealth of Australia.
– It is not,, and never has been, the intention of the Government to deny anything to the Opposition. On the contrary, the Government has- been, denied much by the Opposition. The- Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well that within the last two. da*sI approached him and offered to. acquiesce in the suspension of the sitting of this chamber for a short period in order to- give- to- honorable senators who were interested an opportunity to listen to, and benefit from, the very eloquent address- on international affairs which the Prime Minister made last night. The Leader of the Opposition is quite aware of. the. contents of the statement made- by theright honorable gentleman. Furthermore, I point out that it is not customary lor such a statement, to be repeated by a-
Minister in this chamber. It is the Prime Minister’s prerogative, not mine, to give a comparable illustration. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition is aware that in the Mother of Parliaments it is not customary, and indeed was not customary even in the days of the war when Mr. Churchill made his stirring addresses to the House of ‘Commons, for his opposite number in the House of Lords to repeat his words parrot fashion. Personally, I cannot see that any good purpose would be served by my repeating parrot fashion in this chamber the stirring message that was delivered personally by the Prime Minister as head of the Government. I am quite sure that if the Leader of the Opposition is particularly interested in specific features of the address he will have ample opportunity to peruse the report of the speech in the Ilansard “ flats “.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs was prevented yesterday from reading a reply that he had received to a question that I had previously asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I should be glad if he would now read the answer to the Senate.
– I suggested yesterday that the somewhat lengthy reply should be incorporated in Hansard, and I think that leave was refused because of a misunderstanding. I consider that 1 should be wasting the time of the Senate if I were to read the answer now; therefore, I again ask .that leave be given for it to be incorporated in Hansard. [Leave not granted.] This refusal to grant leave is typical of the desire of the Leader of the Opposition to waste the time of the Senate. However, I do not mind reading the answer. Senator Morrow asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions : -
It was assumed that the questions related to the period following the commencement of the recruiting campaign, and the following answers have been compiled on that assumption: -
Nonas. - (1) The differences between the figures shown for the Army and Air under
and (2) (a) and between the figures for the three services under (2) (a) and the total pf (2) (6) and (2) (c) are due to the following factors whore applicable: -
The information shown in regard to recruitment for the Citizen Military Forces comprises the only recruiting figures available to A Tiny Head-quarters in respect to such forces.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether it would not be advisable to instruct the Australian Director-General of Recruiting to encourage local authorities, returned soldiers’ organizations, and/or citizens’ committees to organize “ welcome home “ functions to soldiers returning from the Korean war ? From what I am able to gather, soldiers return to Australia, but are not tendered a public reception, which must be not only a discouragement to them, but also a deterrent to general recruiting. During the last world war,- soldiers were welcomed home and opportunities were provided for their friends and the public generally to honour them at public functions.
– The suggestion is an appropriate one, and I shall bring it to the notice of my colleague, who will see whether it can be given effect.
– Some time ago 1. asked the Attorney-General whether he would review the operation of legal service bureaux and inform me of the intention of the Government in connexion there-, with. I should be glad if the Minister would now supply me with any information that he has on this matter?
– Anticipating that a question on this subject would be asked from one side of the chamber or the other, I have had a statement prepared. It reads as follows: -
Several very misleading and inaccurate statements have been made recently about the reorganization which is being effected at my direction in the Legal Service Bureaux which form part of my Department. I am glad of the opportunity to state the position correctly. It is not true to say that the services provided by the bureaux are to be reduced by 50 per cent. I know that the services of the bureaux which were established by my predecessor in office during the war have been greatly appreciated by servicemen and their dependants. They need have not the slightest fear of losing these services.
When the present Government took office, Ministers brought under review, as the electors had promised, the functions and organization of their departments. The bureaux were established by the Attorney-General in 194-2 for the purpose of furnishing legal advice to members of the Forces, discharged members of the Forces, and their dependants. By section 105 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1045, Parliament expressly directed that the bureaux should continue in existence. Five years having elapsed since the end of hostilities, the main emphasis of the work of the bureaux had shifted. It was obviously never intended that the bureaux should provide for all servicemen and their dependants, at the taxpayers’ expense, the services of a solicitor over the whole range of legal problems of civil life, both in their business and in their private affairs. But I found that, unless the bureaux were simply to drift into something very like this position, a clear line would have to be drawn.
After full consideration, I issued a general directive to the bureaux, which I shall quote. I do not think that any one who knows the problems of the rehabilitation and reestablishment of servicemen will think that I drew the line narrowly. My aim was to maintain all the essential services which the bureaux had been providing in the interests of servicemen and their dependants. My directive was as follows: -
in what may be described as rehabili tation or re-establishment matters generally (including tenancy and moratorium matters, though now arising under State law) the bureaux are authorized (subject to the next succeeding paragraphs) to do for their clients whatever would be customary among solicitors in the centre concerned;
where the matter upon which advice sought involved a claim or grievance against a Commonwealth department or other authority, the bureaux -will take particulars .and place the matter before the authority concerned with a request for .appropriate action.; (.c) ;in,other classes of matters the bureaux are authorized to advise as to their clients’ legal rights, but if the question arises of taking proceedings or other steps in the assertion or enforcement of any such rights, they are to advise their clients to obtain the assistance of private solicitors.;
where a matter in which bureau advice has been sought is to be taken over or taken up by a private solicitor, ‘and the client has no solicitor of his own and does not desire to choose a solicitor for himself, the bureaux will, if .so requested, place him in contact with an ex-service solicitor who is willing to act for him, if possible at some concession in respect of fees. In adopting a procedure for referring clients to solicitors the bureaux will proceed in consultation with the professional organization concerned, and will endeavour to spread fairly and regularly among private solicitors who are ex, servicemen the professional work resulting from bureaux advice; and
in briefing counsel for a client similar principles will be observed. The bureaux will not brief counsel at .the expense of .the Commonwealth .except in cases of substantial financial need, and with the .approval of the secretary of the department.
Action is being taken in accordance with this directive. It has also been found possible to re-organize the staffing of the bureaux, and to effect economies by arranging for some of the inquiry and clerical functions of the bureaux to be taken over by other branches of my department. A small reduction has been made in the legal ‘staff, and the more efficient officers, who have served the bureaux faithfully and well in a temporary capacity, have been given permanent positions.
I ‘make special -mention of .the fair rents section of the bureau in Sydney, about which some misunderstanding exists. Hitherto, the bureau has given to its clients services of two kinds - both legal advice as to their rights and representation before the fair rents boards. I understand that in Sydney this latter function is not usually performed by solicitors. I have had under consideration a suggestion that it is no longer necessary for the bureau to provide representation before the Fair Bents Board in Sydney and that the provision of this service involves some duplication with State instrumentalities. I shall look further into this matter, to make sure that no hardship to servicemen would be involved. But it should be clearly understood that in any event the giving of legal advice on rents will continue.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs in future endeavour to give intelligent replies to questions when requested by the Senate to do so and not attempt to camouflage the answers?
– I assure the Senate that my answers to questions are always courteous and intelligent. If the honorable senator is unable to understand them, I cannot do anything about it.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs noticed a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of to-day’s date to the effect that criticism has been levelled by members of the United States Senate at British trade with Communist China and with Russia, because it is considered that such trade is morally wrong and that Great Britain is trading with the enemy? Has the Minister, on behalf of the Government, any comment to make concerning that report? Will he supply the Senate with particulars concerning wool and other goods sold by Australia to Russia and to Communist-controlled countries during the twelve months ended February, 1951, including month exported, country exported to, quantity, and value in Australian currency ?
– In answer to the first part of the honorable senator’s question I do not think that it is either competent or appropriate for me to comment on the conduct of the Government of Great Britain or that of any other country. If the honorable senator will place the second part of his question on the notice-paper I shall be happy to furnish all the figures that are available to me.
– Is the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport able to give an undertaking that supplies of diesel oil will be freely available to manufacturers for use in their stand-by power plants which, because of power shortages, have become indispensable ‘to industry?
– The New South Wales Minister for Transport has drawn my attention to that position. There “was
– In view of the conflicting statements- that have appeared in the1 press in- recent months, is the Minister’ representing the Minister for Health able to make a statement to the Senate- regarding the Government’s national health proposals? If not, is there any way in which members of the Senate may obtain- accurate information regarding- the ‘Government’s intention ?
– The honorable senator is wrong in suggesting that no statement has been made about the Government’s national health policy. Statements on this subject have been made on various occasions, the latest one being made towards the- end of the last sessional period. There are various phases of the Government’s national health scheme, which is being put into effect in stages. The first, stage was. the free issue of lifesaving, drugs. Then, just, before; last Christmas, legislation was passed: by the Parliament authorizing the- distribution of free milk to school children. For that scheme the co-operation of the States was needed. It has also been arranged to provide free medical treatment and free medicine for aged and. invalid pensioners and service pensioners. Other phases of the national health scheme are being considered, and will- be put into effect as soon as possible. If the honorable senator wishes, I shall ask the Minister for Health to make a further statement on the subject.
Senator- GRANT. - ! desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister, for
External Affairs a question about- the discussions’ that took place recently between Mr. John Foster Dulles,, the Aus, tralian Minister1 for External Affairs, and a New Zealand Minister on the subject of a treaty of peace with Japan. The Minister for External Affairs,, we have been informed, is about to resign his position because of ill health. The Government, in its wisdom, proposes to promote him to a more important job,, where, apparently, his health does not matter. Is it the intention of the Minister for External Affairs to make- an interim report to Parliament on what took place during the discussions with Mr. Dulles, or does he intend to leave Australia without making any report at all?
– I shall direct the attention of the Minister for External Affairs to the honorable senator’s request that an interim report be made by him, and in due course I shall, acquaint the honorable senator with the result of my representations.
– Whilst free medical attention is- . available for aged and invalid pensioners, I understand that up to yesterday, free medicine was not available to them, except for what has been described as- life-saving drugs. Can the Minister say when the free medicine scheme for age and invalid pensioners was put- into- operation ?
– The scheme has been in operation since the- beginning, of this year..
– Pensioners are still unable- to get free medicine.
– I have been informed by the Minister- for Health that pensioners are issued with cards which entitle them to receive free medical treatment: I shall’ disucss the matter with the Minister for Health, and arrange for the issue of a full report setting forth exactly which is the present position.
– It is the practice, when a Minister asks that further questions be placed on the notice-paper, for honorable senators to accede to that request. However, there is no definite rule on the matter, and seeing that the honorable senator’s question is probably the last that will be asked to-day, he may proceed to ask it.
– I preface my question by saying that the attitude of some Ministers in answering questions is tending to destroy the Parliament. I was told in this chamber that a free medicine scheme would be in operation in November, 1950. This is March of 1951, and there is still no free medicine scheme.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator is not asking a question.
– It has been my practice to allow honorable senators to preface questions with certain remarks that would serve to enlighten the public when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast. So long as an honorable senator does not go too far it is permissible to preface questions in that way, and that is what Senator Katz has been doing. He will now ask his question.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to bring before his colleagues this matter of free medicine because it affects approximately 400,000 people. We have been told that a system of free medicine for pensioners is in operation. No such system is in operation, and every one knows it.
– Why not address the question to me, as the responsible Minister ?
– I ask the Minister for Trade and ‘Customs whether he will consult with his colleagues in order to see whether it is possible to make a complete and reliable statement on the subject of free medicine in Australia?
– The honorable senator’s question could well have been directed to either the Minister for Social Services or the Minister represent ing the Minister for Health rather than to me. It is, however, perfectly easy for me to answer it. No incorrect information has at any time been given to honorable senators by representatives of the Government in reply to questions.
Debate resumed from the 7th March (vide page 49), on motion by Senator SPICER -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As it appears to be inevitable that national service training will come into operation in Australia, and as the world is now in a very disturbed state, it is the duty of the members of this Parliament to ensure that the citizen rights of those who are called up for military training shall be protected and that the compulsory military training system shall not be exploited in any way. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to claim that the Australian Labour party has no interest in the defence of Australia and of the democracies. Labour, by its actions, has proved its sincerity in this matter. Such a claim cannot be made by the Liberal party on its past record, if the international situation is as grave as the Government would have us believe it to be - and I do not at this stage question the timeliness of the recent warnings of the Prime Minister - responsibility for the Government’s tardiness in calling up the youth of Australia for military training cannot be laid at the door of the Australian Labour party.
– The Labour party stopped us from doing so.
– That is a stupid statement. Labour had no power to stop the Government from calling up every youth in Australia between fourteen and eighteen years of age and every young man between eighteen and 26 years of age. It is hypocritical for honorable senators opposite to say that we have prevented the Government from calling up the manhood of the nation for military training. Senator Maher is surely aware of the existence of the Defence Act. If he reads Part XII. of that act he will find that it contains provisions which would enable the
Government to call up the youths of Australia for national military service at any time. The Government has charged the Opposition with delaying the commencement of the national service training scheme merely for the purpose of distracting the attention of the people from its mismanagement of the affairs of the country, from its broken pledges and from the fact that our economy has been gravely endangered by its failure to halt rising prices and to restore value to the £1. The Government has also made that charge in an endeavour to cover up the fact that notwithstanding its pledge to remove all controls it now proposes to reimpose controls that have been abandoned and to add to their numbers. It seeks to hide its real intention behind the camouflage that the Labour Opposition is holding up defence preparations in this country. If Government supporters read the provisions of the Defence Act they will find that the Government could have instituted a system of compulsory military training for home defence at any time. If, however, it wishes to compel our young men to serve overseas, the introduction of a measure such as this is necessary. The voluntary system of recruiting foi the armed forces failed miserably solely because the attestation papers of volunteers contained a provision that they must bc prepared to serve anywhere in the world. Having regard to the number of directors and assistant directors of recruiting appointed by the Government, it would be very interesting to ascertain the per capita administrative cost in terms of enlisted volunteers. Those who have volunteered may be used as shock troops in any part of the world. The Government should be honest and inform us not only what it expects of the country in terms of human flesh and blood, but also what it proposes to do in regard to the manufacture and supply of military equipment. “What steps has it taken to ensure the supply of military equipment and to stockpile strategic materials other than to follow the programme laid down by the previous Government? In the past honorable senators on this side of the chamber have been more concerned than are honorable senators opposite that the defences of Australia should be placed on a sound footing so that we may be able to play our proper part in the defence of the democracies. By the democracies I have in mind those countries with which we are allied - Great Britain, the United States of America, the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and friendly western powers. To-day, a great deal of propaganda is disseminated about democracies of two different kinds, one the democracies of Great Britain, the United States and the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the other the so-called democracies that lie behind the “ Iron Curtain “. If any one in this community believes the countries behind the “Iron Curtain” to be democratic, let him leave Australia and settle in thom. I do not qualify that statement in any way. If this country did not please me, and I felt that I should be happier elsewhere, I should immediately leave this country and settle in the country of my choice. I am not decrying this country. Australia suits me, and it suits the Australian Labour party very well. That is why members of that party are insisting that preparations for the defence of Australia’s shores shall be adequate. Before any more gibes are flung at the Opposition by Government supporters, let me reply to one that was made by a senior Minister recently during his visit to Tasmania. He said that any one who did not agree with the Government’s national service proposals, or the decision of the Tasmanian executive of the Australian Labour party showed clearly that those who were opposed to conscription were on the side of those who fostered communism. That is not true. The Minister to whom I refer is the Minister for Air (Mr. White). I remind the Senate that that honorable gentleman was also a senior Cabinet Minister in 1941 when, although Australia had been at war for two years, our defences were hopelessly inadequate, and 200,000 people were unemployed.
– That is not true.
– It is quite true. Does the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) deny that there were 200,000 unemployed in Australia at that time? Statistics show that that was the situation when Labour assumed office. Does the Attorney-General deny that under the “Brisbane line” plan, the defence authorities proposed that, in the event of an invasion of ‘this -country, our forces should :be withdrawn to the area below a line running between Brisbane and Adelaide, because they ‘considered “that the northern portions of the ‘Commonwealth were indefensible? The Attorney-General knows that to be quite true.
– It is a deliberate lie.
– Honorable senators opposite know also, I submit, that when a .government composed of the parties to which they belong was in office in the early part of World War II., it sent ill-equipped Australian forces to defend Malaya against a possible attack by the Japanese. The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. (Spender),, both of whom were senior Cabinet Ministers in the then Government, visited Malaya and assured the Australian people that our troops, were fully equipped for action against any troops to whom they might be opposed. What was the result ? We found .to our cost that our soldiers were ilLequipped for the task that they were .ultimately called upon to perform and ,/1-le consequences were disastrous for Australia. When Labour assumed office in 1’9’41, our .only adequately equipped forces were in ‘the Middle East. That was why the Labour ‘Government stood firm on its demands that the Australian Imperial Force be returned from ,that theatre. The soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force were the only ones who had the necessary training and equipment to go immediately into action in defence of Australia in the territories to our north. Any one who wishes to compare the sincerity .of the Labour party with that of the present Government parties in relation to defence policy, ‘has only to recall the hopeless position in which we found ourselves under an anti-Labour government .after two years of war. Tt was left to a Labour administration .to put Australia on a sound .war footing.
– Does the -honorable senator realize .that’ the Australian Imperial Force saved :the ‘Suez Canal in 1941 and ,thus saved Australia’?
– I -do -not .-doubt the fighting qualities of the Australian Imperial Force, but it ns our duty to ensure that a future Australian Imperial Force shall -not be used in other parts of the world in defence of countries which prefer to keep -their men at home ito manufacture the equipment needed by others in .the fight for .democracy. Surely .some Government supporters at least .are sufficiently interested in our future to ‘ensure that such a situation shall not arise. So far as I am aware, no one has quibbled at playing his part in the defence ‘of “this country.
– The honorable senator himself is quibbling.
– When a representative of a western .State is so unintelligent that he cannot understand plain English we -can only expect ignorant statements from him.
– To whom is the honorable senator referring?
– I am referring to the honorable senator who has been interjecting.
– Senator Mattner does not come from Western Australia.
– I said “ a western State “.
– Senator Mattner understands .defence. He has a better war record than has any one else in this chamber.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - Order! Senator Aylett has -the call. ‘Other honorable senators will have an opportunity to address -the Senate at a later ‘stage.
– Apparently Western Australians in this ‘chamber would disown Senator Mattner. That is not my fault. It is true that Senator Mattner comes -from ‘South Australia, : but apparently the Western Australians would not have him as their colleague. I do not question Senator Mattner’s .qualifies as a soldier; I am merely questioning his intelligence as a member of the Senate when he makes statements as stupid as those that .he has made by interjection to-day. He has accused me of being disinterested in the defence of Australia.
Sena-tor .Mattner. - I repeat it.
– When the honora’b le senator makes that statement-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order? I suggest that Senator Aylett should confine his remarks to the bill.
– I am dealing with the bill. I am one of those who were called up for military service years ago under legislation which is still on the statute-book and which could be used by the present Government if there was an urgent need to build up our defence forces.
– Under what section of the Defence Act could that be done?
– It could be done under Part XII. I cannot give the number of the relevant section offhand, burt under Part XII. the Government could, if it so desired, call up school-boys between the ages of twelve and fourteen years. I do not suggest that that will be done, or that it should be done. Similarly, boys between the ages of fourteen years and eighteen years could be called up. I do not advocate that either. Lads should be allowed to reach some degree of manhood before being required to serve in the fighting forces. However, the Defence Act also empowers the Government to call up men between the ages of 1.8 and 25 years. If the necessity to increase our armed forces is urgent, there is no need for the Government to wait for the passage of this measure.
– Is that not only in time of war?
– No. In time ot war men up to the age of 60 years can be called up. I am speaking of peace-time.
– For what period of training could the men be called up under the Defence Act?
– The act specifies a .minimum but no maximum period. If the Government really wants to train soldiers it could have taken -action months ago under the Defence Act. To-day, we are in a state of undeclared war. While our troops are fighting in Korea, it is useless for any one to claim that we are not at war. Why then does the Government not utilize its powers under the Defence Act? The ‘Government is empowered to do that. If we are not engaged in a war of which formal declaration has been given, we are certainly engaged in an ‘undeclared ‘war.
I -say, theref ore, that there was nothing to -prevent the Government from implementing the relevant ‘provisions of -the Defence Act that authorize it to call *upon any individual for military service. It is so much humbug for the Government to try to cover up its broken pledges to the people by pleading that a hostile Labour majority an the Senate is preventing it from taking proper steps to defend this country. In putting forward that plea members and supporters of the Government are merely trying to mislead the people, just as the Minister for Health (.Sir Earle Page) is doing in connexion with the national health scheme.
The Minister for Air (Mr. White), who is a senior Minister in this Government, has had a great deal to say about defence and in criticism of the Labour party’s attitude towards defence. I remind honorable senators that he ‘was a prominent member of an anti-Labour administration under -which there were 200,000 unemployed, even after the recent war ‘had been in progress for two years. ©f course, he is out of step with his colleagues in many of the statements that he is making now concerning defence. For instance, he has told ;us that the Royal Australian Air Force is receiving more volunteers for service than it can absorb. At the same time nearly every member .of the Government is deploring the fact that sufficient recruits cannot be obtained for the Navy and the Army. It is evident, therefore, that there is something wrong with this Government’s defence proposals, because, whilst one service is .embarrassed by an excessive number of volunteers, the other two services cannot obtain nearly sufficient recruits. Labour has known for some time that all was not well with the Government’s .defence plans, and, despite that knowledge, it offered to co-operate with the Government when the legislation to introduce national military service was introduced in the Senate. When the Opposition proposed to appoint a select committee to inquire into defence matters, including the failure of the recruiting campaign, it offered the Government a majority of representatives on that committee. However, the Government still refused to co-operate with us. In fact, its conduct towards the select committee amounted to a contempt of the Parliament. The Government knows that it cannot obtain sufficient volunteers for the proper defence of this country. Of course, the reason why sufficient young men are not volunteering for part-time service in the defence forces is that they realize that under the present Government’s proposals they may be sent to any part of the world to take part in any obscure dog-fight, depending on the whim of Ministers. I do not blame the young men of this country for objecting to enlist under such circumstances. They realize that if they enlisted they might be sent to fight abroad at a time when this country was defenceless. That happened, of course, in the early part of the recent war; an anti-Labour administration sent our servicemen to fight in Europe at a time when we were threatened with invasion by the Japanese. I recall that at that time my son, who was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, sought my advice about whether he should go overseas or whether he should remain with the forces based in Australia. In reply to his request I said to him, “If you are looking for war service and want to take part in a real fight, you will get all you want in the Pacific zone. However, if you volunteer for service in Europe you may well find when you are overseas that the Japanese hordes are threatening Australia and the womenfolk of this country, including your mother, and you will be quite powerless then to do anything to defend them.” Fortunately, ray son decided to remain with the forces based in Australia.
If the Government asked young men to volunteer for the defence of this country it would not be disappointed by the response. The youth of this country has never failed Australia in a time of emergency, and there is no reason to suppose that it would do so now. The Australian Labour party is a strong believer in the United Nations, and it is anxious to cooperate in every possible way with the Government in defending Australia. However, we want to know what the Government proposes to do towards increasing production of war materiel. What is it doing to counter the scientific weapons that will be employed against us? Is the Government concerned only with getting large numbers of bodies into military camps, or is it taking steps to provide sufficient aircraft, atomic weapons and other scientific defences to protect this country ? The propaganda that emanates from the present Government and from its consistent supporter, the daily press, leads us to believe that the Government is concerned only with getting hold of sufficient bodies. By contrast, the Australian Labour party is concerned about many matters besides sacrificing our flesh and blood. It wants to examine and to improve the whole defence organization, and that is why it suggested the appointment of a select committee to investigate all aspects of defence. The Government has been very stubborn in this matter. Its attitude is one of defiance. It says that it obtained a majority at the last general election and that, therefore, it does not need our cooperation. In the recruiting campaign
– The Labour party would not co-operate in the recruiting campaign.
– What a stupid statement! Senator McKenna pointed out only yesterday that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) himself refused to co-operate in the appointment of the select committee.
– The Labour party refused to co-operate in the recruiting campaign.
– We have not refused to co-operate in a recruiting campaign for the defence of Australia. I would not co-operate with the Government in a campaign to ask people to serve in any part of the world at a time when Australia may be defenceless.
– The attitude of the Opposition is that people should wait until the enemy comes here before they volunteer for service.
– I am more concerned about the threat to Australian democracy that is presented by our 1,200,000,000 Asian neighbours.
– Does not the honorable sen -on,»Be that he is advocating that we should let the enemy come here before we co-operate with the Government ?
– I have never heard a more stupid statement in this chamber. Let me remind the honorable senator that it was a Labour administration that introduced legislation to conscript man-power for military and industrial purposes during the recent war. Labour knew the magnitude of the threat to Australia, and it took appropriate action. Contrast our record with that of the anti-Labour administration that was in office during the early part of the war. Although that administration and its supporters also realized the extent of the threat to Australia, one gentleman, who is a senior Minister of the present Government and was then holding a responsible post in the United States of America, deserted his post and left this country without proper representation in the United States of America. “When Labour took over the government of this country there was no equipment available with which to defend it. The soldiers in camp even had to be trained with broomsticks instead of rifles.
– That is not right. In January, 1942, the troops that Labour sent to New Guinea were poorly equipped.
– The honorable senator is referring to the militia battalions that were sent to New Guinea. Although the previous anti-Labour Government had assured the people that the defence equipment available was adequate, it was found that we had only a couple of old aircraft to send up against the latest Japanese fighter planes. The position was somewhat similar . in Darwin, although the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) had stated that they were equipped adequately, and that they would be provided with aerial protection.
– A Labour government was in office when Darwin was raided.
– That is true, but the troops to whom I have referred were sent to Darwin prior to Labour gaining office. Obviously Labour was not in office when the right honorable member for Cowper went on a diplomatic mission overseas.
– The right honorable gentleman remained overseas after John Curtin became Prime Minister.
– Mr. Curtin found that the defences of this country were in such a deplorable state that he was obliged, on the spur of the moment, to make use of anybody who might serve a term overseas. However, he did not allow the right honorable member to stay abroad very long, because he was afraid that the incompetence that he had evinced in Australia would manifest itself in Great Britain. On the other hand, the services of Lord Bruce, who had done a good job for Australia, were continued in England. Sir Earle Page returned to Australia and to the Opposition, where he belonged. It was a good thing for Australia that the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues of the Liberal and Country parties remained in opposition then for some years.
– Mr. Deputy President, I have contained myself in patience for about a quarter of an hour listening to a recital of history that has nothing to do with the bill. I suggest that the honorable senator should be directed to confine his remarks to the measure before the chamber.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - The honorable senator is in order so long as he connects his remarks with the bill.
– Labour does not want to see happen under this measure what has happened in the past. “We want to be assured that that will not recur. 1 have endeavoured to describe the deplorable state of affairs that existed at the time that the young manhood of this country was sent overseas and we were left defenceless. The Opposition is prepared to allow a quota of troops, on a population basis, to be sent abroad to participate in any “ scrap “ to which we are committed as a member of the United Nations, but it is not agreeable to their being sent to other parts merely as shock troops. Australian troops are engaged in Korea at present, in accordance with the previous Australian Labour Government’s undertaking to the United Nations. Labour has never said that it would repudiate that undertaking, or that it would not stand up foi! the defence of democracy.. However, the first priority must be the defence of Australia.
– Presumably the honorable senator is referring to volunteers, because under this measure no man can be sent outside Australia.
– -For once the honorable senator’s interjection is correct;. If the international position is as grave as- he and other honorable senators opposite have claimed, why has the Government delayed for so long organizing for defence?
– But the Opposition has blocked this bill so far.
– The Government had ample power under the Defence Act, which could have been brought into operation overnight. The people are in doubt about whether the international position is as grave as the Government claims. If the position is as has been described, why has not the Government done something about it before ? Why have not men been called up for military training for the defence of Australia before now? If the position is not so grave as has been claimed, why is the Government resorting to so much propaganda? Personally, I am extremely doubtful whether the international position is as grave as the Prime Minister. (Mr. Menzies) and other opponents of Labour have endeavoured to make the people believe, because the Government is going ahead preparing an elaborate programme for the proposed Royal Visit to Australia next year. His Majesty The King knows where his duty lies, and I am convinced that if the British Empire was in as grave a position as the Prime Minister has stated it to be, His Majesty would not contemplate leaving England to visit Australia. If the position is as grave as the ‘ Government claims then it has let Australia down badly by not doing something before about our defences.
– Why is the honorable senator going, to vote for the bill?
– I believe in democracy, and I am prepared at all times to stand up for democracy. The- people have instructed their political representatives on both, sides of politics to do- something about calling up the manhood1 of this country to train them for defence. I claim that I am a democrat, and I shall, always support democracy. I daresay that Senator Robertson is on my side in that respect.
– Why cannot we all get together and put the bill through ?
– Exactly. I welcome the interjection. We should all get together and learn the facts, and not work blindly. We should then be able to prepare the defences of this country adequately. It is a pity that Senator Maher has not more influence with honorable senators opposite, so that we could all get together in a spirit of co-operation. If Australia is in danger of attack we should, all pull together for the purpose of bringing about a joint effort for the defence of this country. Nobody should be left out. If anybody believes that there is in existence a better democracy than we stand for, he should live here. I am stating notonly my own point of view, but the opinion, of the Australian Labour party.
– Hear, hear!’
– I assure the Government that if it seeks our co-operation we shall co-operate fully, but first we want evidence of co-operation by the Government, ‘and we want to be informed fully on this subject. It is our duty to protect the people by seeking to discover if there are any flaws in this measure. Indeed it is our duty to protect their citizen rights whenever legislation is being considered by the Parliament. Although Labour has asked the Government for- the full facts, in order that we might reassure the people, the Government has not been prepared to co-operate in any way, but instead disseminates propaganda about defence in order to cover up its mismanagement of the economy of this country. Prices have continued to rise until chops are now 3s. 6d. per lb.,, and the inflationary tendency is very great. The Government parties have fallen, down on so many of their election pledges and promises that the people are beginning to doubt whether they should be entrusted with the defence of this, country. I have heard people ask, “ Can we believe what they tell us ? “, and “ Are they sincere when they say the position is serious and grave?” It is time that, the Government, took stock of the situation, and endeavoured to restore the confidence of. the people.
Sitting, suspended from X.J$ to 2.15 p.m.
– The recent triennial conference of the- Australian Labour party agreed to endorse- compulsory training in principle. That; of course, does not necessarily mean that it endorses this bill as it is. It means that the training, should be put into operation fairly, that the economics of it should be taken into consideration and that the world situation should also be considered. However, having said that, the conference stated that it endorsed the bill in principle. I take it that that means that we in this country have sufficient liberty - I shall not use the word “ democracy “, because it means anything, according to what political party you represent - to defend our country even to the extent of compulsorily training our people. There has been a great deal of discussion about the word “ compulsory “. The compulsory military training contemplated by this bill to my mind is not conscription. Conscription means compulsorily putting men and women into- an army after a war breaks out. The men and women who will be affected by this measure may never have to participate in a war, and we all hope that that will be the case. Compulsion exists in every phase of life. When a child is born, registration of the birth is compulsory. When a person gets married, there is compulsory registration, of the fact. When he dies, it is compulsory for the death to be recorded. There are compulsory health and education laws. If athing is compulsory that does not necessarily make it wrong1 or right.
During the last forty years there has been a great change in the world situation, but certain, people have not moved with those changes. It is not always a virtue to be consistent or to say, “ I think to-day the same as I thought 40 years ago ‘” I think that it was Emerson who said that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind. I do not think that any student of political affairs would disagree with the contention that the first world war was- a purely imperialist war. There was. not a different ideology in. Germany from that of Great Britain. It was a war for trade domination,, fought between Great Britain and. Germany. There was then no question of fascism or communism. It was a question of trade difficulties between two imperialist nations. As the most superficial survey of statistics will show, from the Boer War onwards Germany was consistently threatening Great Britain in the- markets of the world, particularly in iron and steel- production, shipbuilding, and in heavy industries generally. Many people at that time adopted- the attitude - and,. I think, rightly– that the peoples of those nations were equally civilized. Many Australians said that it did not matter who won. There was no talk of a dictatorship, because the -German people enjoyed some of the best social conditions in the world. Their cultural level was extraordinarily high. Accordingly, some people believed that it was a purely imperialist war, which did not concern the workers. They were, therefore, opposed to it, lock, stock and barrel. That wa.= a clear-cut issue at that time.
For decades many of the social democratic people of the world have believed in a citizens’ army. I think that this country must be defended. I do not say that this bill is a proper bill, because I can see all kinds of anomalies in it. For instance, those who are to be called up under its provisions will suffer compared with those who will not be called up. Young men who are learning a trade may be cut off in the middle of an apprenticeship and may lose very greatly, whilst others, such as students at the universities, may be allowed to continue their studies and suffer no inconvenience whatever. But we must look at things as they are. When Mussolini came into power, there arose an ideology known as fascism. It scorned the way of life which we call democracy, and Mussolini even boasted that democracy was dead. Then Hitler came along.
Many people, particularly Communists and fellow travellers,, say they are opposed to conscription. That, is not so. What they mean is that they are opposed to conscription- under certain conditions. I remember quite, well when, the last war brake out. that the Communists and the fellow travellers were in favour of the war for a couple of weeks and were actually advocating conscription. When it was discovered by the Comintern, as it was known at that time, tha’t it was an imperialist war, according to them, it was decided that any assistance given to the Allies was anti-working class. Everybody was required to do as little work as possible, otherwise they would be assisting imperialism against democracy, the democracy in fact being Stalinism. Then Hitler attacked Russia. Overnight those same people not only advocated that we should assist in the war effort, but they also advocated, in the Tribune and other Communist newspapers, that there should be conscription, not only for home defence but for the defence of other parts of the world.
I have posed to myself the questions: Do we need trained men? Did the last war show us that men were unnecessarily slaughtered because they were not sufficiently trained? I think that the answer to both those questions is “ Yes “. But when we are speaking about men defending the country we must also consider the economic circumstances at the time. After all, it is not compulsion by law so much as by economic circumstances, that the best time to do these things is perhaps when there is quite a lot of unemployment. Even this capitalist democracy gives us a certain amount of liberty, and the question is how it may be best defended. It seems to me that this country at the present time is in a very bad state indeed. I have spoken again and again concerning the internal situation, and I have said to Ministers that in my opinion the economic situation is so bad that if the country is to be pulled out of the chaos we shall require practically a war economy. I have advocated revaluation of the £1, and some of my colleagues have not agreed with me. I have advocated, in some instances, even the lowering of tariffs in such a way that there would not be any unnecessary interference with manufacturers. I have come to the conclusion that even the immigration policy must he reconsidered. Immigrants have come to this country and the housing position ho? become worse and worse. I am not in favour of building up racial prejudices, even against the Germans or the
Jews, and I am not in favour of the extermination of any race, economically or physically. I believe that that succeeds in doing the very thing that we are trying to prevent. It seems to me that the great influx of immigrants has increased the inflationary tendency that already existed. It also seems essential to stop the production of luxuries. There must be federal control of prices. The tendency would he then for wages to fall into line. It is quite obvious that within a few months there will be another demand for £1 a week increase of the basic wage. The situation to-day is such that it is of no use speaking about military training unless we are prepared to do something about the economic situation.
Recently I had occasion to buy a fowl - a “ boiler “ as it is called. I was charged £1 for it. One stick of celery cost me 2s. 3d., and two lemons 6d. each. I told the shopkeeper that I thought they were very expensive and I asked him, “ What about the control?” He said, “They come from Queensland. We have no control over the interstate commodities “. The members of the Government have told us that the States could make a better job of prices control than could the Australian Government, but this Government is scared to death of the internal and external situations. Nothing has been done. I am definitely of the opinion that our economy is in such a state that unless something is done to halt the drift this democratic parliamentary system cannot continue to exist in Australia for any great length of time. The (people will not stand it any longer.
I do not say that the wharf-labourers or the coal-miners have not a just case in this instance, but it must be remembered that they have an obligation to their fellow workers. They cannot throw thousands of people out of work without a very good reason for doing so. This Government recently said that the only chance of settling the disputes in those industries was to enlist the help of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and Mr. Monk. It said, “ We cannot run this country. Alfred Monk will have to help us out “. Does the Government think that calling up youths and taking them away from industry will solve a problem such as that? Does it think that the country is in a position to fight when it cannot even supply power? Does it think that there is any sense in continuing the existence of the Sydney County Council, a body which was established by the brother of the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) some fifteen years ago ? Members of the Liberal party have been in charge of that body ever since it has been in existence. It started by spending tens of thousands of pounds on the Queen Victoria Markets in Sydney; it has squandered money in advertisements of every description, and on air-conditioning and glamour girls. It was possible to hear every day broadcasts exhorting people to come along and see the new electric stoves and irons. Electricity is one of the most important commodities in Australia to-day, but those who do not live in Sydney may not be fully aware of that. The first essential is power. Of what use is it to establish industries if there is no power to run them ? Of what use is it to bring immigrants to Australia to build houses or to work on the railways if we lack power to keep industry going? In any case, Australia cannot absorb 200,000 immigrants a year. The Government is proposing to introduce compulsory military training at the worst possible time.
– The honorable senator would have said the same thing last year.
– The position has never been as bad as it is now. Prices have increased tremendously since the Menzies Government has been in power.
– They have increased by 100 per cent.
– Yes, as Senator Ashley has pointed out, prices have increased by 100 per cent.
– What has that to do with the bill?
– It has everything to do with the bill. If we are to defend this country effectively, we must have a sound economic basis. Do honorable senators opposite think that they can solve our economic problems by taking boys out of industry and putting them into the Army ? I. have discussed this situation with many Government supporters, but only one of those to whom I talked seemed to have any real understanding of the present situation. Things cannot go on as they are. Let us consider the international situation. Australian soldiers are fighting in Korea. The Prime Minister (M r. Menzies) said that there would be war in three years’ time. I do not know how he knows that.
– He did not say that at all.
– I think that he said that three years would be the maximum period of peace, but I do not know upon what he based his assertion. Now the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), who was supposed to be guiding Australia’s international relations, has become ill. He is to resign because he is not fit to carry on, but he is to be Australia’s representative in the United States of America. We hear a great deal of talk to the effect that we cannot do much in the way of defending ourselves without the help of the United States of America. Therefore, it is surely important that one of the most able Australians should represent us in the United States of America.
– We are to be represented there by one of the most able Australians.
– Does the honorable senator believe that a man who is not physically fit to hold his job in the Cabinet is fit to represent Australia in the United States of America? The Minister for External Affairs has been discussing a Japanese peace treaty with Mr. Dulles. No one has been told what took place during the discussion, although we know that suggestions have been made that Japan should be rearmed. Who are we going to fight? I have no time for Stalinism, as every one knows. For once I find myself in agreement with Senator Reid in believing that Russia has swallowed enough countries already. Probably the next one on the list is Yugoslavia. However, there is no danger of the Russians coming here.
– What is to stop them?
– In the first place, there is no reason for them to come here. Moreover, they would have to travel between 6,000 and 7,000 miles from .the nearest point of their territory, the island of Sakhalin. It has been suggested that war, when it comes, will be in the Near East. Is it suggested that the boys whom we are going to train will go to the Near East to fight, leaving the way open for the Japanese, who are to be rearmed, to come down and attack us ? It has been said, of course, that the Japanese have been democratized.
– Could not our defence preparations have a dual purpose -to protect us from the Russians or the Japanese.?
– I am talking to the butcher, not to the block. For years I have been trying to reply to interjections from Senator Hannaford, and if I continue to do so I fea.r that I shall become as bad as he is.
– That is :a profoundly original remark.
– These barbarians, these cannibals, the Japanese, are to become out allies. We are now going to m a:ke a ‘treaty of peace with them. According to the Prime Minister, -the youth of this .country is to be .trained so as to defend Australia .by taking part in a war in the Near East. In the meantime, the Japanese are to be armed, -and to be given self-determination. Do honorable senators imagine that -we can arm the Japanese up to a point where they will protect themselves, and that they will go no farther ? Do they think that the Japanese are stupid? Without egotism, I can say that I have read as much about the Japanese as most people have. I have been through .Japan, and have talked with the Japanese. I have also talked with the Chinese, who are the only people outside Japan who really know the Japanese. Europeans know nothing of the psychology of the Japanese. Do honorable senators opposite think that the Japanese believe that they lost the war? They ‘believe nothing of the kind. They did obeisance to the will of their Emperor and ceased fighting, but they believe that they won the war. Does any one think that we can use the Japanese in alliance with Chiang Kai,shek against -the Chinese, .and that the Japanese will not demand in .return the right to .settle in
New Guinea? The Japanese are not fools. It has been suggested that the Japanese should be rearmed.
– Who suggested that? No such suggestion has come from any member of the Government.
– According to what I have ‘heard of the embryonic treaty with Japan, its purpose is to get the Japanese rearmed.
– The honorable senator’s trouble is that he reads too many fairy tales.
– Was not the rearmament of Japan discussed at all;? Ministers .are significantly silent. There is only one country that can attack Australia, and that is Japan. We ‘know .that Japan can restore .its industries. We remember what the Japanese did to the Americans tat Pearl Harbour. -On the very night that the -Japanese represents;tives were discussing peace with the (representatives of the United States of America the Japanese fleet struck at Pearl Harbour. Stalin is quite capable’ of making a pact with the Japanese again as- he did with Ma’tsuoka during the last war. The Japanese are well .aware that Australia has :a population of only about 8,000,000 people in :a country of more than 3,0.0.0,000 square miles. The population -of Japan is increasing at the rate -of 1,500,000 a year, and the density of population is such that the Japanese will have to do something about it. And still we are told that it is proposed to rearm the Japanese. If, as the Prime Minister has said, war is likely in the Near East, we are entitled to demand a full statement as to where Australia stands on this question of rearming Japan. The Government lias had nothing to -say on that subject, although it knows that the proposal has been made. The Japanese who committed many atrocities during the last <war are, apparently, good .enough to -be armed against -the Bolsheviks. It is not possible to beat the Bolsheviks tin that way. The best allies .the Russians have are those stupid people who are rushing men .all over the world without (knowing why .they are doing it. In Germany, they -cheated desolation -and <called it peace. -Now they are in Korea, .and very .soon there will .be no Korea ,le£t. More .and more they .are antagonizing the people ;of “the East. We are ‘entitled ‘to a .detailed statement as to what it lis intended to do with our soldiers when they are trained. .Is it suggested that, when the tame -arrives, the Japanese shall ;be rased to assist ‘Chiang Kai-shek against the .Chinese:? We hear much about America, and I .am grateful for what it did to help Australia during the last “war. We know that, had it not been for American help, Australia would not be a white country to-day; but neither should we forget that, hut for the fact that the ‘Chinese had been fighting the Japanese for ten years before America same into the war, the Japanese might never have been defeated.
– Yes, the Chinese led ‘by ‘Chiang Kai-shek, not by Mao Tse-tung
– The Chinese have little for which to thank Chiang Kaishek. I was ‘in China in the company of the Australian, Mr. MacDonald, when Chiang Kai-shek had to be kidnapped in order to keep him in the war. He was forced to give a pledge to go on fighting before he was released. He received a great deal of help from the United States of America. Nevertheless, despite the fact that .the Americans poured in .hundreds of .millions of dollars worth of arms to help -Chiang Kai-shek and despite the fact that the so-called Communists in China had no arms at all, they chased Chiang Kai-shek over the Yangtse River and the Yellow River, and across the whole width of China until he had not one inch of footing on the mainland. Chiang Kai-shek surrounded himself with a gang of nepotists who between them .took £300,000,000 out of the country. If it is proposed to make him our ally, I, for one, will have none of it. If we are to fight for democracy, let us line up -with the democracies, and that rules out Japan. Before we can stir up any patriotic fervour amongst the .members of our forces they must .know whom they are likely to fight. Are we to use our armed forces in order to prop up -the Japanese? If any one thinks that the majority of Australians are in favour of re-arming .the Japanese he has .another guess coming. The Germans under Hitler were bad enough, but the Japanese soldiers were imbued with the idea that -they were the sons of heaven and were unbeatable. They were prepared to fight to the last man because they believed that they were fighting for the preservation of their sight to rule the world. If it is the purpose of the Government to make an ally of Japan, I shall have no part in it. If the ‘Government wants to preserve democratic institutions, to defend the right of free speech and the Tight of free association, -which are so -worth fighting for, it cannot make an ally of Japan and of the Philippines too. The Government of the Philippines is so weak that the rebels are already within five miles of Manila. As we are all aware, there is no real government in the Philippines.
– That is only the opinion of the honorable /senator.
– That statement has been -published in the press.
– -Perhaps in the local press in the district in which the honorable .senator resides.
– It is well ‘known that the ‘Government of the Philippines has appealed to the United States of America to assist it ‘because the rebels are already at the gates of Manila. If we are to fight for democracy ,and the preservation .of the democratic way of life we must ensure .that .our democratic institutions shall be maintained. The Government is -playing into the hands -of Communist Russia which is astute -enough .not to reveal what it is -doing. The leaders of (Communist .Russia do not say that they favour conscription .and that all the young men of Communist countries must undergo military (training. They do .not say that there :is no objective literature in Russia, but -we know that there .is not. They do not say “ You may not attack Stalin “, hut we all know what would happen if any one (did so. Instead of talking about a’ffairs at home they ask what is America doing by backing up Chiang Kai-shek, and -what is Australia proposing in relation ito Japan. If we are successfully ‘to combat ‘the Communists we must act intelligently. This Government has not acted intelligently by submitting this bill without taking other necessary -supplementary .-measures. Wor many generations the Australian Labour party has upheld the principle of compulsory military training. I believe in compulsory service in the Citizen Army because I, like many other persons, believe that certain institutions which we have established in this country are worth defending and that we must be prepared to defend them. We still enjoy a very considerable measure of liberty here and it should be protected. Unless the Government acts promptly to cure our economic ills and prevent the operations of racketeers, many of our liberties will be lost to us. Rackets are rife from one end of Sydney to the other. Apples are being sold from 4d. to 8d. each, and grapes from ls. 3d. to 3s. per lb., the quality being the same but the price varying according to the district in which they are sold. While the people are being bled white the Government is working up patriotic fervour in an endeavour to distract attention from the state of affairs into which the country is drifting. The people of Australia and other democratic countries will fight for the preservation of their way of life if the governments under which they live display a willingness to protect their liberties and their democratic institutions.
Before this bill is given effect the Government should first clean up the economic mess into which this country has drifted. The military training of our youths will increase inflation. This scheme will withdraw many young men from industry for service in the armed forces and result in the employment of countless others in industries engaged in the provision of clothing and military equipment, all of which must have an inflationary effect. I appeal to the Government to set aside party political considerations and to take steps to restore the economy of this country to an even keel. The people have just about had enough of the “ rights “ and the “ lefts “ and all the rest of it. They want prices control; they want money to buy the things they need; they want electricity services to be extended to outer urban and rural areas, and more coal.
– They certainly want more coal.
– Coal is an important defence commodity, but I remind honorable senators opposite that if all the coal-miners in Australia were to work twice as long as they have worked in the past they would not be able to produce sufficient coal to meet the needs of our expanded industries. Industrial expansion has far outstripped possible coal production. A warning that such a state of affairs would exist in this country was issued many years ago. In conjunction with the national service scheme there should be a revision of our whole economic programme. This Government was returned to office on a promise to restore value in the £1 ; but the purchasing value of the £1 has so diminished in the last twelve months that when a person now changes a £1 note he no longer bothers to count the change. If our democracy is to be preserved the Government must take steps to prevent the people from being robbed by racketeers and give to young married couples some prospect of obtaining a house. The prospect of the average worker obtaining a house to-day is much worse than it was when this Government was elected to office. The cost of housing has risen to unprecedented levels. In these circumstances, what chance has the average worker of obtaining a home of his own ? The Government has done nothing to counter inflation other than to take the rather dubious step of imposing a sectional tax on the woolgrowers of Australia.
This bill does not necessarily conflict with the principles for which the Australian Labour party stands; but the necessity for its introduction depends on circumstances and conditions. We believe that there should be the least possible compulsion because we realize that if an Australian is given a fair go he will fight for his country without being compelled to do so.
Motion (by Senator Wordsworth) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - .Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.) Ayes . . . . . . 25
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I submitted the motion, “That the question be now put “, because tho need for the continuance of this debate has completely disappeared. Opposition senators have received their orders to vote for the bill and therefore it is a waste of time for them to continue putting up a smoke screen in connexion with it.
– Sit down!
– If I sat. down, I should probably go to sleep as the honorable senator invariably does in this chamber. No now thoughts could possibly be expressed by Opposition senators on this subject. Most of them indicated some time ago that they support this bill in principle. Yesterday and to-day many of them have clearly indicated their support of it. Senator Grant really supported it; his colleague, Senator Large, openly said that he supported it; and I gather that Senator Aylett also supported it, although I found it very difficult to understand what he was talking about when he addressed the Senate on it this morning. It is well known that many Opposition .senators supported the bill when it was first introduced into the Parliament last year. They have now received explicit orders to support the bill from an outside body which has no responsibility to the people of Australia.
– The honorable senator is not responsible to anybody.
– I am responsible to my own conscience, and I invariably vote according to the dictates of my conscience.
– The honorable senator is accustomed to being dictated to.
– I know how I intend to vote on this measure. If the day ever comes when I can no longer obey the dictates of my conscience I shall cease to be a member of this Senate. Honorable senators opposite have been given their orders. They might just as well vote now and let us get on with the job.
– What job ?
– The job of defending Australia. This measure lias already been fully debated. The Opposition is merely putting out a smokescreen and wasting time. I shall not speak on the bill at length, but I propose to answer certain statements that have been made by Labour speakers during the last two days. Senator Morrow said that there was no threat of war.
– I said that, accordin’1, to the Prime Minister, there was no threat of invasion.
– Because Russia was not ready.
– I did not say that. Senator WORDSWORTH.- I wrote down the honorable senator’s words.
– I rise to order. . I ask for the withdrawal of the statement that I said there would be no war because Russia was not ready. I did not say that.
– The usual practice is for an honorable senator who claims to have been misquoted to make a. personal explanation at the conclusion of the speech in which the alleged misquotation has occurred.
– In my opinion, Senator Morrow used the words that I have repeated to the Senate to-day. He said that there would be no war because Russia was not ready. If those were not his exact words, at least they express what the honorable senator intended to convey. He said that Russia was not ready for a war because of the devastation caused in the Soviet during the last war.. Why does Senator Morrow believe that that devastation has not been repaired?. The Russians have, failed to repatriate millions of prisoners of war whose labour, presumably, has been devoted to the rebuilding of the Soviet. If the Russians have not at least partially recovered from the last conflict, how have they been able to arm the North Koreans and ‘ Chinese Communists? Senator Large said yesterday that the Chinese Communists and the North Koreans were using arms and equipment left behind by the Americans. That is utter nonsense. Not long ago, some honorable senators opposite were complaining about the alleged superiority of the North Korean tanks over those of. the United Nations forces. Were, those tanks, too, left behind by the Americans ? Are we to believe that the people of the democratic countries who are spending millions of pounds on armaments are all wrong, and that Senator Morrow alone- is right? One, is reminded of the old lady who, upon seeing a unit of soldiers march past, complained that they were all out of step except her son John.
– She might have been right.
– Senator Morrow may be right, but I certainly do not think so. He kept asking for proof of the necessity to build up our defence forces. Surely what the United Nations is doing is sufficient proof. The request by the United Nations for permission to send’ observers to- inspect Soviet armament’s was refused. Obviously Russia wanted t’o’ hide what was being done within its borders. Surely the action of the- United Nations in Korea is proof enough for- Senator Morrow. It is proof enough for the Australian people, and apparently for the Australian Labour party; which has now instructed its members not to vote against this bill.
One: Labour senator claimed that the real intention of this legislation was to raise an. army to; break strikes.
– That was Senator Morrow’s argument.
– That is so. Yesterday,, Senator Large traced the history of conscription.. In. the course of h is- interesting speech, he said. that, con scription has been- introduced in European countries originally for industrial reasons. I shall not challenge that, but I do maintain that conscription was introduced in Great Britain at a time of grave danger during World War I. Had conscription not been introduced in those days, Australia would not be the prosperous country that it is to-day. Significantly, there is still conscription in. Great Britain under a socialist government. Does any honorable senator opposite believe that a socialist government would introduce or continue conscription with the object of breaking strikes? The suggestion is ridiculous.
We are told that only the Labour party is protecting the youth of Australia. I cannot understand how any group of individuals can claim to be the sole protector of Australian youth. Obviously, no political party could survive if it did not seek to protect the rights of all citizens. By introducing this measure, we on this side of the chamber are protecting, the young men whom we propose to call up for compulsory military training. They will be trained to fight for their country, for their freedom, and perhaps for their lives. They would be in far greater personal danger- i’f they were called upon to fight in a war without adequate training. By training a- man to fight, much can be done to save- his life should a war eventuate. Any parliament that does not provide for the training of young men to defend the people whom it represents is failing in its duty. By introducing this bill this Government is: fulfilling- its duty One- of the causes of World’ War II. was the failure o£ governments- of the United Kingdom to re-arm. Had Britain been strong, World War II. would never have occurred. I was serving in- the Regular Army just before that war broke out. We were training with broomsticks and using coloured- flags to- represent tanks, automatic rifles and other equipment that we lacked..
- Mr. Menzies and Mr. Fadden are to blame for that.
– I am speaking- of. England.. In any event, I am not concerned with, what was done in the past.. It is what, we are doing now that really counts..
– What government was in power in Great Britain in those days?
– -It was the Baldwin Government. I believe that Mr. Baldwin should have been impeached for ‘letting his country down. If Mr. Menzies had not introduced this legislation, he, too, would have rendered himself liable to impeachment. ‘I repeat that World War II. occurred because the Empire countries were weak and unarmed. For goodness sake do not let us fall into that trap again. The Government is endeavouring to protect the youth of Australia by ensuring that they shall be adequately trained in the event of war. and thus will ‘have a better chance of survival. Just as Kipling asked, “ Who lives if England dies ? “, we may ask ourselves to-day, “Who lives if Australia dies?”
Opposition speakers argue that, by withdrawing men from ‘industry for compulsory military training, the fight against inflation will be hindered. Senator Grant held forth on that point.
– Does the honorable senator deny it? ‘
– No. That is a problem that we must tackle. Our only hope of averting a third world war is to prepare ourselves adequately for such a conflict. That will be much cheaper in the long run and we shall suffer fewer privations. Surely it is far better to rearm now, even at the risk of accentuating inflation, than to resign ourselves to a third world war in which we may lose not only our way of life but also our lives.
Honorable senators opposite have referred to “conscription”, a term which, I submit, cannot truly be applied to this measure. The bill provides for compulsory military training. Conscription, to my mind, means calling men up to fight in time of war ; compulsory military training means training them in time of peace in the hope of averting a war. There is a big difference between the two. Not one soldier can be sent to fight overseas under the terms of this bill. The measure merely provides for the training of our youth to protect themselves and their country in time of war. I voted against conscription ‘during World War 1. 1 have had some ‘experience of compulsory military training. I was a young lad when universal military service was introduced into this country in l’91’l, and I served in the Army .under that -scheme. I was serving in 1914 when the w.-. broke out and I was a member of the first contingent of Australian volunteers to leave this country.
– The honorable senator did not resign?
– No. The first vote that I ever had was on the conscription issue in 1917. 1 voted against” conscription because I felt that any one who did not volunteer to help us was not wanted. Conditions are different to-day. As Senator Grant has said, it is a poor person who will not change his mind. Although compulsory military training was -in force prior to World War I., there was -not then the urgent need to mobilize the Navy, Army and Air Force quickly that there would be .should a war break out to-day. Although the voluntary system of enlistment worked well then, it will not work efficiently or fairly .to-day. If we confine military training to those who volunteer for it we .shall not have a. sufficient reserve of trained men when war comes
– Would the honorable senator vote for conscription?
– I would vote for conscription every time.
– Would the honorable senator also vote for conscription of wealth ?
– Yes. I believe in the slogan, “ One in, all in “, and that is what the people of Australia want to-day. I know that there has been a lot of loose talk to the effect that the Government will send young men who are receiving military .service training overseas, and that that is one of the main reasons for the Labour party’s opposition to the bill. However, if another war occurs, I can assure members of the Opposition that the government of the day, irrespective of its political complexion, will send men overseas. If Labour happens to be in power when war occurs, it ‘will not hesitate to send men overseas. Confronted by the outbreak of war, the government of the day will necessarily be guided by its service chiefs. If the military advisers-
– The service chiefs will not give us advice.
– But the Opposition in this Senate is not the Government, and it is not the duty of the service chiefs to offer advice to any one but the Government. Senator Aylett alleged that recruiting had been a failure, but in the next breath he criticized the Minister for Air (Mr. White) because that honorable gentleman had stated that the Royal Australian Air Force had received too many recruits. There is not the slightest doubt that the recruiting campaign has failed to obtain the required number of recruits. I believe that the reason for the failure of young nien to volunteer for military service is that the people regard the voluntary system as unfair. They demand equality of sacrifice, which means, of course, the introduction of compulsory military training. Too many of those who volunteered to go to the last war and who subsequently saw considerable military service realize that by having done so they have placed themselves at a disadvantage in the postwar world in comparison with those who remained at home. I am sure that the majority of young men who have decided not to enlist for military training have reached that decision because of the advice that they have received from their fathers and elder brothers who volunteered to go to the last two wars. The young men of Australia to-day believe in the policy of “ One in, all in “. After all, the bill proposes that every one shall bear his part of the burden of defence. Although young men engaged in certain trades may not be liable for military service, no general exemptions from service are provided in’ the bill. I end my remarks by asking, “ Is there a crisis, or is there not ? “
– That is what we want to know. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has certainly not convinced the Australian people that there is a crisis.
– The fact remains that in the view of the majority of members of the Labour party itself a crisis undoubtedly exists. In fact, any one who does not believe that we are confronted by a crisis is either wanting in intellect or is a traitor to his country. If we are convinced that Australia is confronted by a crisis, then we must support this bill, which aims at preparing the country to defend itself. I support the bill.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I claim that Senator Wordsworth misrepresented me when he alleged that I stated yesterday that there would be no war because Russia was not ready for war. I did not make any such statement. What I said was that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had told the people that Australia was not in danger of invasion. I went on to say emphatically that I was convinced that Russia did not want war, but desired only peace. I added that if any member or supporter of the Government. could produce evidence of any statement by Mr. Stalin to the effect that Russia was arming for the purpose of aggression, or to invade Australia., I would vote for the bill on the production of that evidence.
– I rise to support the bill. In the first place, I regret the recriminations that have taken place during the debate. It was not courteous of honorable senators opposite to cast so many slurs on the Opposition merely because the interstate conference of the Australian Labour party bad decided that the Labour party in the Parliament should support the principles contained in this bill. One would have thought that members of the Government might have been mindful of the scriptural verse -
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Because Australia offers so many opportunities to its young people and, indeed, to all its citizens, I should have thought that it would not be necessary for the Parliament, to pass such legislation as that which we are now considering. I thought that our young people would have been so ready to rally to the defence of their country that the introduction of this bill would not have been necessary. The fact remains, however, that they have not responded to the recruiting campaign, which has been an admitted failure. Recruits have been attracted at the rate of only 300 a month, and a force of such numbers would be so inadequate for our defence that it has been necessary for the Government to introduce this measure. That leads me to inquire why the voluntary system of recruiting has failed. I have given a great deal of thought to the matter, and I believe that one of the principal causes of the failure of the campaign in Western Australia, which I represent, lies with the choice of personnel to direct the recruiting campaign in that State. The local director of recruiting in Western Australia is Sir Charles Latham, who was formerly a member of the Senate and is now a member of the Legislative Council in that State. That gentleman is so concerned about the welfare of ex-servicemen that he voted against legislation that was introduced in the Western’ Australian Parliament recently to continue the protection given to ex-servicemen in such matters as housing. I think, therefore, that his appointment to lead the recruiting organization in Western Australia was farcical, and that his unsuitability for the position has had something to do with the failure of the recruiting campaign there.
Another reason for the lack of enthusiasm for the campaign lies in the state of doubt and indecision that exists in the minds of most people concerning Australia’s relation to the rest of the world and the part that this country should play in any future hostilities. Where does Australia stand in the international situation, and how can this country play an effective part in solving international problems? Our approach to these matters must have regard to the fact that Australia is an island continent. We are an integral part of the British Commonwealth, and our welfare in inexplicably bound up with the welfare of the other members of that Commonwealth. Our duty is not only to maintain this country as a free and democratic bastion in the south seas, but also to defend the interests of the British Commonwealth in. this part of the world. On looking around us it is obvious that the real threat to our security comes, not so much from Russia, as from the countries that lie to the north of Australia. Unfortunately, we have only a handful of people with which to discharge our obligations to our allies. The inadequacy of our population was impressed upon me particularly during a journey of 3,000 miles that I made in Western Australia recently. Throughout that journey I do not think that I saw more than 300 or 400 people, and settlements were separated by hundreds of miles. With a population of only 8,000,000 we have to defend an entire continent that is bounded by an enormous coastline. How can we best defend this huge expanse of territory? After all, that is our first task.
To the immediate north of Australia there are countless millions of people who have not sufficient land to grow even the food for their survival let alone to provide room for expansion. A great deal is heard about communism these days. Communism, and the Communists, are blamed for all sorts of things. I loath communism as much as does any honorable senator opposite, and I have fought it all my life. However, I must say, in the interests of fairness and truth, that I do not think that communism is the only cause of many of our social ills. I think that we must look further and examine our consciences in order to find the real cause. We must look into our own hearts and ask ourselves what part we are playing, individually, as citizens and, collectively, as a nation. What does such an examination reveal? It reveals that we have become smug and self-satisfied. We have a beautiful country ; there is no real shortage of the necessaries of life, and we have abundant sunshine in which to enjoy our leisure. Do we ever think of the envy that this great land must arouse in the breasts of people in the overcrowded countries of Asia? In those countries communism has gained a secure foothold because it has been able, with its false gospel of hope, to capture the imagination of the enslaved peoples. We know that for ages those unfortunate creatures have been regarded as mere chattels. I have visited some of those countries and I have witnessed the squalor, filth and misery in which the native peoples live. It is easy to understand, therefore, how those unfortunate peoples have embraced communism, which at least promises them ai minimum standard of living: That explains, the. phenomenal spread of communism throughout South and SouthEast. Asio. Our task is- to: improve the living conditions- in; those countries so that we1 can win back the peoples from communism and. prevent its entry into those countries where it has not yet gained’ a foothold. How can we do that? We can. best do it by providing foodstuffs for the starving peoples of Asia - and when I say that I do not mean by offering tosell; them wheat at fi a bushel. Whilst I do not regret the prosperity that our farmers are enjoying at present, and whilst. I know the vicissitudes that they experienced during the depression, I do not think, that, the inflated prices that our commodities are bringing can be altogether good for. our economy: I recall that during, the depression the real, trouble was- not that there, was not. sufficient food,, but that the people simply did. not have the money to: buy it. Although, huge stacks of wheat rotted, om the wharfs, any wharflabourer who* was detected, taking a billycan of wheat home, for hist fowls would, have- been sent to. gaol. We are con: fronted now with a- similar difficulty concerning, the. distribution, of our primary produce: I suggest that in the interestsof the betterment of. Australia’s relations’ with the unfortunate, peoples of SouthEast. Asia we should” make available to them, some of: our surplus.- foodstuffs. After all,, South-East. Asia is the real menace to the security of. this country, more so. because of the extraordinarydevelopments, that have taken place in civil and military aviation-, and it. would be no. more than. an. example of: enlightened self-interest to cultivate their goodwill.,
I hope- that the Government will have regard to- our overall economic position in formulating its defence- plans. Any scheme under which lads of eighteen years of age- are to be called up for military service must have something- to commend it, because it will at least provide a disciplinary training for- those youths. At the same time, we1 must bear in mind that we cannot adequately defend this! country merely by giving our youths military training:. Science* has devised new and terribles weapons of war: Of course, wes must realize that manpower is> still necessary, even, im modern war,. If a. man is to play, his part properly im the: defence of this country he1 must at least be physically fit. That is, why I feel, that even if. some- of the- processes; conducted in these- camps become out- of date tomorrow,, at. least the lads will have received physical training- to enable1 them to become responsible members of: society. My present thoughts do> not spring from a- sudden decision of an. outside body last week. I thought about it- a long; time ago when I was teaching, at. night, school. Lads came back to see me after, they had left school three or four years and the deterioration of character in. that period of relaxed discipline was apparent. It is going to be- quite a good thing for young lads to be subjected to- discipline in the formative period, of their lives.
The prospect of a third world war is frightening to many women - particularly the mothers of this country - in view of the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies) warning last week that war might break out within three years. Last week I visited a friend who has a family of boys. They came in after, school to get some bread and jam. After they had gone out again and the noise had subsided, she said to’me, “ I wonder what I am rearing them for ?! In three1 years time Dick willbe eighteen “. I thought that that- question: was- typical of many questions’ that are going- through mothers’ minds at present. They are wondering whether their sons- will be plunged into a third world! war, That is: a terrific indictment of present-day world conditions. World War I. was; to end war; and now, when, we are- still not out of the shadow of World War II., we are- talking- and preparing for a third world’ war. We do not know exactly whom we are expecting to. fight. The Government says Russia. I am beginning to: wonder- whether that i»> true- or not. Even though Russia is theopponent of the democracies; I do not think that the democracies– would be readyto fight together as one unit. A couple of years ago I visited France and Belgium.. At that time the munitions factories were working- 24 hours1 a day, for seven days: a week; so that they would not be caught napping- again. When I spoke to one old woman- in Belgium^, who happened to- be a grandmother, and asked why she was working on a sunny Saturday afternoon, she replied, “ I hope that this bullet will find its way into the heart of a German pig”. She used somewhat stronger language than I have used, and continued, “ It is all right for you people ; you have not seen war twice in your own home town. There is only myself and my grandson aged ten left out of a family of fifteen As a result of talks that I had with the peasants - not the officials in Brussels - and the people in the industrial areas, it was evident to me that they still harbour a strong hatred of Germany. I do not think that the action of the American authorities a few weeks ago in releasing Krupps and other German industrialists will endear them to the hearts of the Belgian people. I do not think that the people of Belgium and Prance’ would ever fight on the same side as Germany. We must be realistic about this- matter. I do not subscribe to the belief that the might of Soviet aggression would unite the countries of ‘Europe. The hurts and scars are too deep;, they date back to I860 and 18T0-, at the time’ of the first Franco-Russian war. There has been no semblance of friendship between France and. Germany since. It. is a mistaken belief that France and Germany would unite to fight communism. 1 believe that in that very hatred of the German people- by the French and the Belgians- lies our greatest hope- for peace in Europe. Although we- do not know the exact military strength of Russia, I believe that huge armies have been established in that country. Perhaps that cleavage in the democracies will prevent our entering into any actions with the United States of America or any other country that might, precipitate a. third world war. But I am not so- sure about Japan. Before the recent world war I saw the- whalers coming; into Fremantleand; the- little men going a-round with cameras om their backs and smiling. We> did not realize then that, there- were’ teethbehind the smiles. To-day; under the influence of the American and British occupation forces, they are saying- that they are sorry that they were naughty boys But can we forget the horrors- of the Burma railway ? None of the women who lost their husbands at the. hands, of the- Japanese can look upon Japan as a future ally of this country. If Australia has to depend upon Japan, and expects Japan to be an ally, God help Australia. Instead of only the- seventeen and eighteenyear olds, we would need universal conscription and. all of the resources of our 8’,000,000 people to keep this country free.
There has been a great deal of discussion on this measure and I consider that all honorable senators have a right to discuss it, irrespective of whether they are eager to get it over and’ get home again, or not. It will affect every young fellow of seventeen and eighteen years of age in the community. We have been sent here to represent all of the people of the community, not merely sectional, interests. In a few years these young men will become adult citizens. This measure will mean a great deal to them, and will vitally affect their careers. I hope that a universal training scheme will be introduced and that the exemptions under it will be fair and very few,, because, after all, the job of defending this country devolves on every able-bodied person in the country.. Those who are not called up for national, service will still have to do- their jobs in the factories, shops; and. other places. While this bill, deals specifically with the seventeen-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds, it is really a call to all the Australian people to serve at. this time, in order that the fair name of Australia will never go down into the dust before the might of a foreign aggressor. In supporting, the bill, I trust that it will be administered fairly, and that there will, he- very few exemptions. I have sufficient confidence in my fellow Australians to think that very few of. the young men. of this country will try to get out. of doing their- duty at this critical: time:
’. - I congratulate Senator Tangney on the excellent speech that she has just delivered. I consider that her remarks were typical of what is most honorable in the Labour movement. There have been some criticisms of the attitude of the respective political parties towards defence, and I think, that it should be said once and for all that in the development of the defence of this country, and in the conduct of both world wars, all the great political parties that existed in. this country at the time played a patriotic and worthy part. If I criticize anything that has come from the Opposition it will be because certain speeches which are not typical, have made that necessary. If I criticize the fact that Labour’s decision to support this measure was delayed until some other body spoke, it will be because I think that Senator Tangney and other honorable senators have been greatly delayed in doing what they have always wanted to do. I stress that this is a bill not for war but for education, because one of the needs of modern civilization is to educate people for the hazards of life. The history of wars show that in the past men have been sent to battle without any preparation at all. As Kipling said of the Boer War, “You pitched them raw into battle as you picked them raw from the street “. In the first world war Australia and Great Britain were prepared not adequately but sufficiently. It was because of the complete unity of action on the most important questions that that was possible. I deplore that there should be any disunity, even if only on the part of certain honorable senators, and not of the Labour party as a whole.
It has always been accepted that it is the duty of a man in a modern civilized society to know how to defend his country. John Milton, a great contemporary of John Pym, who was mentioned by an honorable senator opposite last night, wrote, “ I call therefore a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war “. I deplore the tendency in education to write off war before it has written itself off. We cannot get rid of war merely by setting up councils and talking about it and passing peace resolutions. As long as there is a threat, no matter from where it comes, we must be ready.
It has been said that because the young men who will be called up first have no vote we have no right to call them up. How absurd ! A child is not given a vote before it is taught arithmetic or the alphabet. These young men are immature in mind-, just mature in body. Discipline is a necessary part of education, and is all the more necessary because discipline is to-day somewhat neglected in the home as well as in some schools. What do we hope to get from it? I certainly hope that it will be a better type of training than was sometimes given in some centres under the old system. We must remember that when compulsory training was first introduced, before the first world war, there was little on which to fall back except the old-fashioned drill sergeant. He was a good fellow in his way ; a man with a voice that could be heard from here down to the Hotel Canberra; a man who knew his drill book by heart and who put the troops through their paces. It was very monotonous and uninteresting. To-day I hope that the training will be scientific, that it will cover both discipline of mind and body, and that young men will be taught to handle all the implements that are necessary in modern war, as far as is practicable. I trust that there will be such a variety of training that they will be able to adapt themselves to it. Some of the old-fashioned methods could be reduced to a minimum. I do not decry soldierly smartness and things of that kind, but we do not want that type of training in which shaving and the buttoning of tunics is more important than anything else. We should endeavour to turn out young men who know how to handle weapons and also to perform certain peaceful duties which may fall to their lot.
The ignoble suggestion has been made that the Government is preparing this measure, merely to deal with strikers, but I do not think that any one will believe that that is true. I suggest that the members of the Government are no more likely to use troops for that purpose than are the members of the party opposite. If there is an air raid it may be necessary to use troops in order to prevent complete disorganization of life in the great cities. That is an important factor, and a large number of young men accordingly will be trained in air-raid precautions and to teach people what to do in case of an attack which disrupts ordinary services.
Some answer is necessary to those honorable senators who have said that there is no danger from a particular power and that wo ourselves are contributing towards war merely by getting ready. I wish to quote some figures given by a world authority, Barbara Ward, who was formerly assistant editor of the Economist, one of the best-informed newspapers of the world, and who is at present in Sydney. She is of the opinion that these figures prove that Russia is seeking to break the peace. From 1945 to 1946 - a little more than a year - thu United States of America disarmed to the extent that the number of men under arms fell from more than 11,900.000 to 1,500,000. The number in Britain fell from 5,100,000 to 716,000, and in Australia we virtually disarmed completely. According to the most modest computation, Russia has at present 175 divisions in Eastern Germany and on the borders of Russia. According to computations that have been made, there are at least 4,000.000 men under arms in Russia. In addition to that, Russia has seized control of Czechoslovakia and of various other border countries. It pushed forward North Korea and undoubtedly helped to arm and equip the Chinese. The tension in Yugoslavia issues from one quarter only - Soviet Russia. In the face of that, it would be criminal folly for us to fold our arms and simply hope that all will be well.
I hope that the responsible senators opposite will disown the type of statement that was uttered last night by an honorable senator now absent from the chamber. If they do not believe that statement, I think that it is their duty to disown it, because the whole tone of that speech and every suggestion in it - everything that was intelligible to me, at any rate - indicated that Russia is a completely innocent nation and that we are part of a conspiracy that is being formed against it. That is the Communist line throughout this country. It is being said everywhere. Slanders, libels and aspersions are cast on our Prime Minister because he gave the necessary warning that we had perhaps only three years in which to prepare.
People say, “ You must not say war is inevitable “. I agree that war is not inevitable ; but neither is peace inevitable. If we do nothing, if we make no preparation whatever, then we do nothing to avert war. We invite it. If the members of the Opposition reject this bill and other necessary defence measures, they will be playing their part in making war certain. If the United States of America, Western Europe and ourselves were to disarm, I think that war would be certain. The Russian armies would simply roll over both Europe and Asia. If we make this necessary preparation we have two chances. First, we have an excellent chance - and the only chance - of preventing war. That is something to hope for. Secondly, if the worst comes to the worst, and war cannot be prevented, at least we shall make victory possible, and, I hope, certain.
– I do not intend to oppose the passage of this legislation, but I wish to say something in connexion with it. I regard this measure as a very important one. I feel sure that in this chamber, and, in fact, in this Parliament, we have no isolationists. No matter what our political differences may be, we are all convinced of the importance of defending this country to the best of our ability. However, I do not consider that the proposed legislation before us will accomplish that objective. I admit that it will have an effect, but when we hear suggestions that there may be only three years before another major war eventuates, I do not think that any members on the Government side of the chamber would say that the proposal now before us could meet a situation of that kind. Further, I do not believe that this proposal confers any kudos on the Government, because it seems to me that this is really an extension of the existing Defence Act. In fact, I consider that in the course of this debate the terms “ conscription “ and “ military training “ have become confused. To my mind, military conscription is for the purpose of sending members of the military forces to any theatre of war. This bill does not propose to do that at all. In fact, it purposely excludes service overseas unless the person affected voluntarily agrees to go overseas in the defence of this country.
I agree with Senator Tangney that there is a need for some system of training our manhood for the defence of the country, no that we
Shall know how to protect ourselves against an enemy >who is well trained. As I understand war, there is only one psychology in it, and that is to go in and kill, or -be killed. Looking at it from the ‘brutal point of view, that is the aspect we must consider. While there is room for argument about our ‘unpreparedness for previous wars in which we were engaged, I recollect that one of my own sons, who, unfortunately, did not come back, went into the last holocaust without any training. He was trained with a broomstick at ‘Northam, Western Australia, for a short period. He was sent to Malaya and became one of the unfortunate thousands who were captured by the Japanese. He went through all that hell associated with the Japanese theatre of war. I instance that .simply to make it clear that there is ;a .need to teach the .young men of this country how to defend themselves should the necessity arise.
I shall never agree to conscription for military service outside Australia because I do not believe in it; nor do I think that the majority of Australian people would agree to compulsory service overseas. I believe that this -Government is fully aware of that aspect and that that is why it is expressly stated that this bill is for compulsory training and service - particularly in respect of the military side of the armed forces - and that no trainee will be sent overseas unless he volunteers to go. In respect of the other two arms of the services the bill provides that recruits or trainees for the Royal Australian Air Force or for the Royal Australian Navy may not be accepted unless there is a willingness to serve anywhere in the world. That brings to mind what might be regarded as some inconsistency in our defence laws. A man who joins the Royal Australian Navy goes wherever his ship goes and takes part in any action in which his ship is involved. It will be remembered that in the last war Australian naval vessels participated in actions in all parts of the world. A man who enlists in the Royal Australian Air Force serves wherever he is required to :serve. But in respect of the military forces there is a different outlook altogether, and it seems to -me that the
Government has related that outlook to the present legislation. This legislation represents an extension of the Defence Act under which ‘all males between sixteen and 60 years of age may be called up for full-time service in the ‘Citizen Forces for home defence - ‘but not for service outside Australia. The Defence Act provides that only volunteers may serve in other than certain defined areas. Australia has participated in two world war3, and we can .justly claim that those who served in those wars on behalf of Australia were as good as those who served in any other .of the forces .engaged. In general, the members of our forces who served overseas did not have a great deal of training before embarkation, but many of them went through a further period of training before going into action. The defence system of Australia is based on voluntary enlistment, and I hope it will continue to be so based. Australian men and women can always be relied upon to defend their country. During the last war, there was a departure from the rigid provision that only volunteers should serve overseas. A Labour Government introduced legislation under which men could be compelled to serve in certain areas in the West Pacific. That raises the question on what constitutes home defence. We must take a common-sense view of such matters, and realize that it is better to meet and defeat an enemy somewhere outside our own country than to wait until he has actually effected a landing. For that reason, I believe the Labour Government did the right thing. Its action was criticized at the time, but many of the critics have since changed their opinions. I have been associated with the ‘Labour movement during the whole of my industrial life, and I have had a good dea’l to do with policy-making. The Australian Labour party has always been -opposed to compulsory military service outside Australia or its nearby territories.
-A to compulsory unionism, too?
– There is no compulsory unionism in Australia. .Some day there may be, , ana I believe it would be a good thing. As a matter of fact, there is a close analogy between compulsory unionism and compulsory military service for home defence. It is only right that every worker should contribute towards the maintenance of those conditions for which the workers as a body have fought. In the same way, it is right that every citizen should assist in the defence of the society, the benefits of which he enjoys. World conditions are very different to-day from what they were even twenty years ago, and they are certainly very different from the conditions that obtained when the Australian Labour party first evolved its policy on conscription. Nations which, a few years ago, were hardly taken into account have now assumed great importance. It was the British who trained the Japanese to fight, and provided them with armaments. We have not forgotten that Australia sent steel to Japan to be shot back at our own people. Why did the British Labour Government grant selfgovernment to Pakistan, India and Ceylon? Because it was known that if selfgovernment were withheld, there was a danger of war against the white races, including the British and Americans. In the East, there are teeming millions of yellow and black people whose national outlook has changed tremendously during the last ten years. Those people are reproducing themselves much more rapidly than are the white races, and are pressing more and more closely on their available living space. Eventually, they must find somewhere else to live. The Indonesians have developed imperialistic tendencies, and are seeking to extend the borders of their country. The study of history shows us that one nation after another, all down through the ages, has sought to expand at the expense of its neighbours. Within recent years, a new national outlook has developed in China. Efforts have been made to exploit that new outlook, with the result that one regime has gone overboard and another, the Communist regime, has taken its place. The Government of the United Kingdom has recognized1 the new Chinese Government, but the Australian Government has refused to do so. I shall not argue the merits or demerits of that decision at the moment, but I remember that when the United
Nations organization was being formed in San Francisco a few years ago the basis of recognition of any government was that it should be in effective control of the territory it claimed to. rule. It has been asked where the Communist troops obtained the arms with which they have fought the United Nations troops in Korea. I do not know, but I conjecture with good reason that such was the rottenness of the Chian Kai-shek regime in China that it lost the respect of the Chinese people, and that the arms which were supplied to the Nationalists by the Americans were sold to the Communists, with the result that, as .soon as the forces of the United Nations crossed the 38th parallel in Korea, they came up against Chinese Communist forces that were armed with modern weapons of war. The people of Asia are no longer willing to accept the domination of the western races. They have found that they are as well able as the white races to build ships and aeroplanes, and to manufacture munitions of war. We have heard a great deal about the threat of communism, and I know that it is a very real one, but the fact remains that communism thrives only on poverty and degradation. The task that awaits the free nations of the world, and Australia particularly, is to cultivate the good friendship of the Asian peoples. They should not wave their flags and threaten in a bellicose way, to do this or that ; rather should they try to improve the standards of living of the Asian peoples and to change their cultural outlook so that they may appreciate the value of civilization as we know it and thus be less likely to fall under the domination of one or more of the autocratic powers that are disturbing the peace of the world. We should not threaten to wage war. We must examine the world situation objectively and to the best of our ability ensure that the nationals of Asian countries shall be given the same opportunity to develop as was given to the more fortunate races of the world throughout the centuries.
I have indicated that this legislation consists of nothing more than a proposal to extend the provisions of the Defence Act, which may be given effect by the Government at any time by the issue of a simple proclamation. Not only Labour governments have been responsible for the suspension of compulsory military .training in recent years. Since compulsory military training was first suspended governments other than Labour governments have been in office in the Commonwealth sphere, but until now no suggestion was made that such training should be reintroduced. By the issue of a simple proclamation the Government can provide for the call-up and training of junior cadets of from twelve to fourteen years of age, of senior cadets of from fourteen to eighteen years of age, and of citizen force cadets between the ages of eighteen and 26.
– Tinder the provisions of the Defence Act those young men may be called up for training for only a few days each year.
– That is true. I have described this measure as constituting an extension of the Defence Act. That act empowers the Government to prescribe sixteen days annual training for members of the Citizen Forces, of which eight days shall be in camp. By proclamation, the Government may at any time prescribe 128 days military training for members of the ‘Citizen Forces over a period of eight years. The provisions of the Defence Act have been allowed to remain dormant for some time, and not only Labour governments, but also governments supported by the parties now in office were responsible for that dormancy. Under that act the prescribed period of training for members of the naval and air forces is 25 days annually over a period of eight years, or a total of 200 days, of which seventeen days in each year shall be in camps of continuous training. Under section 49 of the act members of the Citizen Forces are prohibited from serving outside Australia and its territories unless they have volunteered to do so. This bill provides for the training of citizen naval forces, citizen military forces and citizen air forces over a period of five years, a shorter period than is prescribed in the Defence Act. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), in introducing the bill, informed us that the present intentions are that for the Navy there will be a period of 124 days continuous training in the first year and thirteen days in each of the succeeding second, third, fourth and fifth years; for the Army 98 days continuous training in the first year, and in the second third, and fourth years there will be a fourteen days’ camp and twelve days devoted to evening and weekend parades and bivouacs. For the Air Force a training period of 176 days will be served in one continuous period following call-up. I agree that training in the Navy and Air Force should be continuous and of sufficient duration to enable the trainees to learn the fundamentals of their training.
– “Why is that not also true of the Army ?
– Training in the Army falls into a somewhat different category. I have no objection to a period of training in the Army as I have already indicated. A restriction has been applied to service in the Navy and Air Force. Men registered for training in those services will not be accepted unless they signify in advance that they are prepared to serve beyond the limits of Australia. Possibly there is some justification for such a restriction. During the last two world wars our Navy and Air Force served in al! theatres of war.
The provisions of the bill relating to exemptions and deferments will be difficult to administer and may well lead to many complications, constitute . a distinct departure from the accepted principle of national military training. National service connotes service by all persons within the categories covered by the scheme. If we were to have conscription of human life I should advocate the conscription of wealth. A system of compulsory military training to be truly national must be so designed as to prevent persons coming within its ambit from avoiding their obligations. The bill reasonably provides that persons subject to a prescribed physical or mental disability shall be exempt from service. It also provides that persons whose conscientious beliefs do not allow them to engage in naval, military or air force service shall be exempt. Many persons deliberately advance conscientious scruples as a means to evade military service. Accordingly, the objection of a conscientious objector should be well sustained before he is granted an exemption. I fear that under the provisions relating to exemption from service the sons of wealthy parents may be able to escape their obligation to train while the sons of workers in the community will be compelled to undergo training. Students at a theological college, ministers of religion and members of religious orders who devote the whole of their time to the training of persons to become members of a religious order are also to be exempt from training. The Minister is to be empowered to defer liability to serve and to cancel or vary any deferment granted. The AttorneyGeneral, in introducing the bill, stated that youths who are apprenticed to a trade and those studying in educational establishments will be granted temporary deferment.’ He also said -
Wo intend to adjust, as far as possible, the call-ups of individuals, particularly those engaged in industries having seasonal fluctuations. lt is only reasonable that temporary deferments should be granted to apprentices to enable them to complete their training. Special dispensation must also be granted to those engaged in rural industries. However, if the Government says to the youths in the cities and big towns, “ You must present yourself for training”, but grants exemption to employees in industries having seasonal fluctuations this scheme can no longer be regarded as a national training scheme in the true sense of the term.
Australia emerged successfully from World War II. largely because of the assistance given to it by the United States of America under the terms of the lendlease agreement. Under that agreement vast quantities of modern machinery, vessels and war materiel of various kinds were made available to this country. That equipment enabled us, through the agency of the Allied Works Council, to undertake huge defence works; not only in this country but also in the islands adjacent to Australia. Consideration must be given to the impact of the compulsory military training scheme upon the industrial capacity of this country. Recently, an honorable senator opposite asked a question about the failure of the Government’s recruiting campaign ‘for the armed forces. I believe that that campaign has failed because there is not only full employment in this country, but also many jobs that cannot be filled by the available labour. Honorable senators will recall that when war broke out in 1914, unemployment was at a high level. In 1939, on the eve of World War II., another period of depression was approaching, and thousands of Australians were out of work. Our present economy is entirely different. As I have said, thousands of jobs remain unfilled because of the shortage of labour. The Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics issued in September, 1950, gives a striking illustration of the growth of our manufacturing industries between 1938-39 and 1948-49. I remind the Senate that it is upon the manufacturing industries that we must rely for the production of war materiel. In 1938-39 there were 26,941 factories in Australia. By 1948-49, their number had increased to 40,070. In the same period, the number of employees increased from 565,106 to 890,232. Salaries and wages paid jumped from £106,743,000 to £339,287,000 and the value of goods produced rose from £203,417,000 to £568,415,000. I cite those figures to show the state of our economy. Is it necessary or wise to deplete industry to the degree contemplated in this measure in view of the scarcity of labour?
Statistics reveal also that the male population of Australia is decreasing. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), in his second-reading speech on this bill, claimed that the number of employees to be drawn from industry for compulsory military training would represent only one half of one per cent. Up to September last, excluding wage earners in rural industries, and females in private domestic service and in the defence forces, there were 2,563,900 persons employed on wages and salaries in Australia. Of that number 695,800, or slightly more than 27 per cent., were females. Since July, 1939, the number of males in employment has increased from 1,293,100 to 1,861,000, and the number of females from 437,100 to 695,800. That indicates that woman-power is playing a greater part in industry. Voting at Senate elections since 1940 shows that females outnumber males. The enrolment figures for 1946 were -males 2,314,193 and females 2,425,660. Returns since that time show that the preponderance of females is increasing. That trend is already reflected in the membership of this chamber. The fact that man-power is diminishing proportionately is a factor to which some consideration should be given when contemplating such a measure as this. In the first year, the impact of the compulsory military training scheme will probably be light, but in succeeding years it will be of major importance, and it is with those years in mind that we must consider this scheme in relation to the needs of our economy.
On a population basis, Australia’s 8,000,000 people have little significance in the world; but those 8,000,000 people are called upon to undertake the defence of a vast territory and an extensive coast line. It is quite clear that, with our limited man-power resources, our army can never be sufficiently large to provide adequately for the simultaneous defence of all the vulnerable points on our coastline. During “World War II., although enemy bombs fell only on Darwin and certain other northern ports, in some southern portions of Western Australia such as Bunbury and Busselton, there was considerable anxiety about possible Japanese landings. Therefore, whilst I believe in compulsory military training for home defence and do not oppose this bill, I consider that the real answer to our defence problems lies in increased naval and air strength. We must concentrate on the building of submarines and a.nti-submarine vessels. We are told that Russia has the largest submarine fleet in the world. Whether that is true I do not know, but statements by leading scientists about the devastation that could be caused by the use of atomic weapons make it abundantly clear that submarines carrying such weapons could do enormous damage to our cities. For instance, hostile submarines could surface off Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney or any other coastal city and give us a taste of atomic warfare. Our military forces, no matter how strong, could do nothing to counter such a. blow. The greatly extended cruising range of the modern submarine has completely altered the complexion of submarine warfare. During the last war, three midget submarines were able to make their way into Sydney Harbour. One can readily imagine the devastation that could be caused should long-range submarines carrying atomic weapons be able to approach close to our shores. I consider therefore that we ourselves should have submarines and antisubmarine vessels to counter any threat that may be offered to us by this type of warfare.
– How will the bomb be conveyed from the submarine to the shore ?
– How did the shells from the Japanese submarine reach Newcastle steelworks during the recent war? I am not talking a lot of rot, but, on the contrary, I address these considerations to honorable senators in all seriousness. I am merely trying to point a way out of our difficulties. I am prepared to be guided by the advice of people who have much more knowledge of atomic warfare than has Senator Kendall. Our defence obligation is not so much to train men for military service as it is to provide, as quickly as possible, a large number of submarines and aircraft. The former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, said at Fremantle about 1937 that the only effective way to defend Australia was by developing an adequate air force. At the time members of the Parliament laughed at him, and said that he did not know what he was talking about, just as Senator Kendall, who interjected a few moments ago, suggested, by inference, that I did not know what I was talking about. Unfortunately, time proved Mr. Curtin’s words to be only too true. Aerial defence is the only effective defence for this country. I shall not delay the Senate any longer now, but I hope that the expression of my views will assist the Senate is considering this matter, notwithstanding that that expression of views has provoked some hostility from some honorable senators opposite. I repeat that I shall not vote against the bill.
– Much as I felt inclined to gnash my teeth as I listened for 60 minutes to the drivel which came from Senator Nash, I do not believe that his speech deserves any articulate comment. Having previously listened to Senator Tangney, I feel that notwithstanding Senator Nash’s deplorable utterance, we owe something to the representatives of Western Australia in this chamber. I consider that the matters to which Senator Tangney called our attention, and the manner in which she addressed herself to the subject, called forth the best in Australian manhood and womanhood, and, after all, that is what we require when we debate such an important matter as national military service.
Although I represent the State of Tasmania, I must say that the Opposition representatives of that State in this chamber have a most discreditable record in their attitude towards this legislation. I believe that it is my duty to point to the thoroughly contemptible and discreditable performances of some of the representatives of Tasmania on the Opposition benches. Yesterday, Senator Morrow, who, in the judgment of every member of the Senate, has obvious and definite Communist sympathies, urged the Senate that this bill, which provides for national military service, was not in the interests of Australia. The Senate may forgive me if I recall to its attention that Australia is now preparing itself not to engage in, but to avert, a third world war. We are now preparing ourselves in the hope that the misery that has been inflicted on mankind by the stupid and spineless failure of those who counselled disarmament before 1939 will not be repeated. Notwithstanding our experience of the folly of disarmament, Senator Morrow, in pursuance of his propaganda against Australia, from the seat that some Tasmanian voters gave him, yesterday advocated opposition to the bill. He did so in the same fashion as he opposed defensive preparations in the councils of his political party in 1938. It is to the great credit of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labour party that in May, 1938, he was expelled from that political party for his stand against its decision.
– I rise to order. The statements made by Senator Wright concerning me are untrue, and offensive to me. I ask for their withdrawal.
– As Senator Morrow complains that the statements concerning him are untrue and offensive, I ask Senator Wright to withdraw them.
– The statements are in accordance with fact, and if the facts are offensive to Senator Morrow I shall only withdraw them on the morrow.
– Order ! I am not sure that I caught the honorable senator’s words. I thought that he said something about withdrawing on the morrow. What did you say, Senator Wright?
Senator Wright not having replied to the question,
– Are you going to withdraw the words complained of, Senator Wright?
– I was waiting for you to have an uninterrupted hearing so that I could hear what you were addressing to me, Mr. President.
– Order ! I have asked you to withdraw. The statements are offensive to Senator Morrow, and I ask you to withdraw them.
– I have asked you, Mr. President, to accept my assurance that my statements are in accordance with fact, and I would regard it as a complete surrender of my duty if I withdrew one word of the charge that I now make, as a. representative of the people, that Senator Morrow, who is trying to betray Australia to-day into unpreparedness, was expelled from the Labour party in 1938.
– The honorable senator will resume his seat. There is no need to get excited. Each honorable senator has an opportunity to speak in this debate. Some honorable senators speak with a good deal of respect to the President, whilst others forget, on occasions, that there is a President in the chair. This bill deals with an important matter, and it should be discussed without heat and with a full realization of its importance to Australia. Therefore, I ask honorable senators not to become too excited about the matter, but to speak with a due sense of proportion and with a realization of the importance of the subject matter of the de.bate.
Senator Wright used certain words concerning Senator Morrow, who objected to those words. Senator Morrow said that the allegation contained in the words was not true, and he also said that the words were offensive to him. I therefore ask Senator Wright to withdraw those words.
– The words were true-
– Order ! Senator Wright must accept the assurance of Senator Morrow that they are not true.
– You, Mr. President, have asked me not to get excited. I will address you with the quietness that you used in addressing me-
– Since Senator Wright will not withdraw, I name him, and I ask the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) to take the necessary action.
– I rise to order. I submit that no words were used by Senator Wright which were, on any conceivable construction of Standing Order 418, in conflict with that Standing Order.
– I rise to order-
– Order! The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) is taking a point of order.
– The complaint, as I understand it, is that Senator Wright used offensive words concerning Senator Morrow. I suggest that there is nothing offensive in the suggestion that a man has been expelled from a political party. The word “ expelled “ is in no sense offensive. It is a mere statement - if it is true - of a fact. If it is a fact, any honorable senator has the right, to state it. Senator Morrow may claim, at a later stage, the right to make a personal explanation; but I submit that there is nothing offensive in the word “ expel “. If “ expel “ is not the word complained of, I cannot think of any other word that was used by Senator Wright that falls within the ambit of the relevant standing order. I submit that a ruling to the effect that a statement that someone was expelled from a political party constitutes the use of offensive words would tend to destroy the possibility of proper debate by members of the Parliament in the discharge of their duties to the people.
– Order! I can conceive of nothing more offensive than a statement by a senator in this chamber that another senator was expelled from a political party especially when the honorable senator- who is the object of the allegation, says that the statement is not true. When a senator rises in his place and asks me, in my capacity as President, for the withdrawal of certain words that he states are not true, I must assume that the words complained of are not true. If the honorable senator concerned also says that the words are offensive to him, then I am in duty bound to ask the senator who made the statement to withdraw it. In this instance I have asked Senator Wright to withdraw the offensive words. He refuses to withdraw them, and I now ask the Leader of the Government to take the necessary action. However, if Senator Wright will withdraw and apologize I shall accept his withdrawal and apology.
– I fear that, from a half-heard statement by Senator Morrow, you are under a misapprehension. You may correct that misapprehension if you avail yourself of the opportunity to ask Senator Morrow whether the statement that he was expelled from the Labour party is untrue-
– Order ! Senator Morrow rose in his place and said that he objected to your words, as they were untrue. I accept his assurance that they are untrue. I will not enter into any further discussion with Senator Wright on the matter or cross-examine any honorable senator.
– Senator Morrow is telling a deliberate lie.
– I have asked you, Senator Wright, to withdraw the words complained of. You do not withdraw. I will not have further argument. I ask the Leader of the Government to take the necessary action.
– It is with profound regret that I find myself on this occasion unable to comply with your request, Mr. President. I say that with a full knowledge of the fact that it is my duty, as the Leader of the Government in this chamber, in normal circumstances, to protect the Chair at all times. But, if I feel in my heart that the Chair is erring, I feel that I would be adding error to error if I gave the support of my position to the Chair by giving effect to a course of action that I regard, in the circumstances, as being an abuse and an unnecessary restriction upon the proper conduct of debate in this chamber. Before you carry this matter further, Mr. President, I ask you to give favorable consideration to the point of order that was raised by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). If this matter is carried to its logical conclusion, as the Attorney-General has so respectfully and clearly pointed out, it will mean that debate of any matter can be completely stultified and frustrated, because any member of this chamber may at any time get up and say, “I tabs objection to that remark; it is offensive to me “. On that basis, and with great t respect not only to the position that yon occupy but also to the chamber of which we are both members, and over which you preside with great dignity and fairness, I should like you to give this matter further consideration, because the implications of such a ruling would he completely destructive of all free debate. In the circumstances, I regret that I cannot see my way clear to comply with your request.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has drawn attention to Standing Order 418 and very naively, like any legal practitioner, has put only his side of the case. He read only portion of the standing order. It concludes -
I ask the Attorney-General to be fair when he gives an interpretation. I do not want to be (placed in the position that I will eventually be placed in if the Leader of the Government is not going to uphold the President’s action in conducting the proceedings in this chamber with proper decorum.
– May I make very shortly another point on this matter, which I think-
– I rise to order. I submit that you, Mr. President, have called on the Leader of the Government to move the necessary motion for the suspension of a member of this chamber, and I suggest that other ‘ contributions to the proceedings are completely out of order at this stage.
– It rests with me entirely whether I should hear any honorable senator who wishes to speak on this matter. 1 am loath to take action which would lead to the suspension of any honorable senator. During my seven year? occupancy of the President’s chair I have never suspended a member of this chamber. However, honorable senator: must obey the Chair, and it is within my power to say whether or not words shall be withdrawn after an honorable senator has asked for their withdrawal. On many occasions, had matters gone further than they did, I would not have compelled honorable senators to withdraw certain words, because in my opinion they did not merit suspension. Fortunately on every occasion honorable senators, out of courtesy and in deference to the Chai/ have withdrawn remarks to which object tion has been taken. I make it clear tha’ it rests with the President whether or not any such matter shall be carried to the logical conclusion of the suspension of an honorable senator. I have been h. member of a political party for many years, and if any one accused me of being expelled and I stood in my place in this chamber and said that it was not true, and offensive, the least that I should expect to be done would be for the honorable senator to withdraw the words complained of. I know of nothing worse than to be expelled from a party Senator Morrow stood in his place and told me that the charge was not true and that the words were offensive to him. Therefore I asked Senator Wright to withdraw them. As he did not withdraw them I called upon the Leader of the Government to take the necessary action. Unfortunately, the Leader of the Government has not obeyed the Chair either. Senator Wright still contends that the words are true and Senator Morrow still says that they are not true. I must accept Senator Morrow’s assurance, and I ask Senator Wright to withdraw the words to which objection has been taken.
– May I speak, Mr. President?
– If I should allow the Minister for Social Services to speak we could carry on the discussion for quite a while. I have asked for a withdrawal, which has been refused. I have also asked the Leader of the Government to move the necessary motion for the suspension of Senator “Wright. The Leader of the Government, in his wisdom, thinks that I am not correct in my ruling, and he is defying the Chair. If I wished to be a martinet I could ask the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) to move for the suspension of the Leader of the Government. I now call on the Leader of the Opposition to move the necessary motion for the suspension of Senator Wright.
– Before complying with the direction of the President, I appeal to Senator Wright to pay respect to the ‘Chair. Although he is a newcomer to this chamber he has crossed swords with the Chair on many occasions. However, if he is going to adopt this domineering and mulish attitude I am reluctantly compelled to move -
That Senator Wright be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
– May I reply to that appeal Mr. President?
– Order! I should certainly like to see Senator Wright withdraw the offending words, but if he does not intend to do so, I do not see how I can allow the discussion to go any . further. At this last moment I again ask Senator Wright to withdraw. If he does not do so, the question will be put.
– ‘I have asked for permission to reply to the Leader of the Opposition–
– I have been very lenient in this matter, and now formally put the question -
That Senator Wright be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
The Senate divided. (The PRESIDENT - Senator the Hon. GORDON BROWN., Ayes . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Wright thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– The proceedings that have just been disposed of are an indication of the irresponsible attitude of supporters of the Government -in regard to matters of grave public concern.
– The question of the suspension of Senator Wright has been concluded. The honorable senator should now direct his remarks to the bill.
– I shall have something to say at a later stage concerning the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner).
– What has that to do with the bill?
– You would not know.
– I regard the remark “ you would not know “ as offensive, because it indicates that I am a person of inferior intelligence. I ask for a withdrawal.
– Order ! Senator McCallum states that the words “You would not know “ are offensive to him, and he asks for a withdrawal.
– I willingly withdraw, because I did not know that he had any intelligence.
– Order ! Honorable senators should remember that these proceedings are being broadcast. We should at least conduct the business of the Senate in an intelligent manner and not like a kindergarten.
– On behalf of the Australian Labour party I say that that party believes in the most effective defence of Australia. It is merely a matter of how that objective can best be achieved. The bill under consideration proposes to call up, apparently under the old system of training, boys between the ages of eighteen and 25. Originally it was proposed to call up only lads of eighteen years of age. We know from practical experience that boys of eighteen, particularly, are in the formative years of life when it is very easy to impose upon them something the consequences of which are unknown to them. I have had experience of compulsory military training. I was a compulsory military trainee prior to the first world war. As was mentioned by one of my colleagues during a speech in this chamber yesterday, when the proposition is put to trainees whether or not they should go from that compulsory training scheme into something that involves them in overseas service anywhere in the world not one in a hundred will refuse. I emphasize that fact that this is a subterfuge to get these young lads first of all into this compulsory training scheme and eventually to induce them, to enlist for overseas service.
Another aspect of this question must be taken into consideration. Under this measure no guarantee is given to the young men affected by it that the difference between their civil pay and their military pay will be made up by their employers. They are called up for training, the nature of which we are not told. With the advance of technical knowledge in relation to defence and weapons of warfare of all descriptions it is important that we should be informed as to how these youths will be trained. Are we meekly to acquiesce in a scheme of compulsory military training that is to consist of parade ground drilling, forming fours, saluting and all the methods of training that were known in the dim dark ages? No right-thinking Australian will deny that if there is a danger to this country, not only the youth of Australia but also every man, woman and child will be involved in the defence of the country. We cannot depend on the conditions that obtained in years gone by, when we did not possess much technical knowledge and when the defences of the various countries of the world were not in the same advanced state as they are at the present time.
Regard also must be had to the fact that, because of our small population; the numbers of young men who will be liable to call-up are limited. Because of that we must ensure that all of those who are required to train are trained in the most advanced methods of warfare. Is it advisable that we should call upon these young men to undergo compulsory military training unless we are first advised of the nature of that training? Are we justified in willy-nilly calling them up without devising a means of training them under the most modern methods ? Over-all control of the defence of Australia in relation to man-power must also be taken into consideration. During World War II. had it not been for the Australian Labour party Australian troops would have been diverted from the Middle East to the defence of Malaya, Burma and other countries. We must be certain that if we call up young men their endeavours and their training will be concentrated on the actual defence of this great country.
– Does the honorable senator think they should never leave these shores?
– The honorable senator would not do so, because he has too many sheep and because the price of wool is too high. We know that he would not leave Australia. He is getting the benefit of the high prices.
– I think that that remark is despicable.
– It is. If the honorable senator regards it in that way, I am quite happy about it.
– The honorable senator has not answered my question.
– Order ! As far as I can gather, Senator Sandford is endeavouring to speak calmly, quietly and reasonably on this important question. I ask that, when an honorable senator is doing his best calmly and quietly to present a case as well as he can other honorable senators should not flout the Standing Orders by making constant interjections.
– He would not know where he was.
– I wish to emphasize that the over-all control of the defence of Australia must be taken seriously into consideration in dealing with this measure. On behalf of my party, I say that we are not opposed to a certain amount of compulsory military training, provided that there are certain safeguards. Those safeguards may be divided into categories, the first being the economic category. We must consider our potential capacity to produce the weapons of war that are now used. We cannot live in the past. In the 19.14-1S war man-power, provided that it was equipped with a sufficient number of the ordinary implements of war, was everything. But with the application of science to warfare, and with the advancement of technical knowledge, it is necessary for us to alter our views.
– Push-button warfare did not do much good in Korea.
– The honorable senator is one of the old Napoleonic soldiers - in his mind, at any rate. Physically, he is big enough to be pulling boats up the Yarra, but mentally he is very small.
– The honorable senator himself, both physically anl mentally, is small.
– Order !
– This whole scheme must be tackled on a scientific basis. Whilst the Opposition does not intend to oppose the measure, at the same time it wishes to advise the Government. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber know that the members of the Government are not very receptive mentally, but we nevertheless wish to give what advice we can concerning the advanced conditions of military warfare. I say advisedly that it is not much good compulsorily training thousands of young men .to form fours, slope arms, and so on. Senator George Rankin should know that as well as I do. We must train these young men along technical lines, because all the portents at the present time are that in any future war the methods of warfare will be much more scientific than they were during World War II.
Senator George Rankin, having had a little military experience, knows that there is a great deal of military jealousy. He, as a senior military officer of the first world war, must know that compulsory military training is sometimes used as a plaything for the benefit of military careerists. I say that advisedly, because I was one of those who suffered under military careerists. No provision is made in this bill to ensure that trainees shall have made up to them the difference between their civil and military pay. Apparently, no demands are to be made upon the employers and big vested interests which placed the present Government in office. The bill provides for the granting qf exemptions from service in some circumstances. I had a good deal of experience in this matter during World War II., and I learned that some people attempted to bring influence to bear in order to obtain exemptions on behalf of those who should be liable for military service. The people of Australia are suspicious of this Government. Yesterday, a Minister refused to answer a question by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Ashley), who sought information about the negotiations that arc going on for the sale of trading ships owned by the Commonwealth. Once again, an anti-Labour government is demonstrating that it is prepared to sell out the people. The achievements of a Labour government are being sabotaged by a succeeding anti-Labour government. That has always been our experience in the past, whether the anti-Labour government went under the name of United Australia party, or Nationalist or Liberal or Australian Country party. Yesterday, I asked” a question about the high cost of living, and received the same sort of stupid answer as is always given in such circumstances. The Minister concerned became almost frantic.
– I should like the honorable senator to discuss the bill.
– My remarks have a bearing upon the bill. The Government is trying to subjugate the people of Australia to its will. What sort of military training should be given to the lads who are to be called up? No one on this side of the chamber objects to the giving of physical training that will benefit the health of the people, but we fear that the trainees will be taught merely the same’ old parade ground stuff as was in vogue years ago. If the Government is sincere, there should be no exemptions from training, not even for the benefit of a King’s Counsel. Moreover, the lads should be given technical training to fit them to play their part in the technical wars of the future. Evidently, the Government does not realize the importance of keeping abreast of the latest military developments. If an enemy were to attack Australia within the foreseeable future, we could not hope to have in training sufficient ground forces to repel an invasion.
– It would be a good idea to keep the enemy out of Australia.
– That is the very point I am trying to make. Instead of sending youths to Puckapunyal in Victoria, and to similar camps in other States, the Government should see that they are given proper technical training so that they may meet a possible enemy on equal terms.
Government supporters interjecting.
– Order ! Senator Sandford is doing his best to present a clear argument to the Senate, and it is not right that he should be constantly baited by Government supporters and Ministers.
– I am glad, Mr. President, that you mentioned Ministers. Only to-day we witnessed an attempt by the Government to exercise dictatorial power. That Was in connexion with the report of the select committee that was appointed by the Senate to inquire into the defence of Australia. The function of the committee was to find out the best way to defend Australia with our limited population and resources.
The Government adopted a course that was unprecedented in the history of democratic government.
– I rise to a point of order. Apparently, Senator Sandford has not read the notice-paper. If he had, he would know that it contains a notice of motion dealing with this very subject, and it is most improper that the honorable senator should attempt to discuss the matter now.
– Senator Sandford is not in order in anticipating a debate that is scheduled to take place later. However, there was no occasion for me to check him provided his reference to the subject was brief. Earlier to-day, another honorable senator was speaking in the same strain, and I was about to call him to order when he went on to another subject.
– The Labour party does not object to the taking of reasonable measures for home defence, but we must be very careful of what we do in the name of defence.
Senator Wordsworth has said that Opposition senators will not oppose the passage of this measure because they have received their orders from an outside body which is not responsible to the people. I propose to read some rather interesting comments regarding orders that have been received or given by prominent supporters of the Government in relation to political matters.
– They are bound hand and foot by their masters.
– Senator Wordsworth wanted to know who is arming the North Koreans. That question was adequately answered yesterday by an Opposition senator when he said that arms, ammunition and weapons of war have been supplied to the North Korean forces by not only Russia but also some of the so-called democratic countries.
– Who said that? Was it Senator Morrow ?
– The honorable senator would not know who had said it. He is at home only in the Mallee flats - and he is a bit of a “ flat “ himself. Reference to the special report of the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force is pertinent to the consideration of a bill which proposes to embrace in a compulsory military training scheme the whole of the manhood of Australia in the eighteen to 25-years- age group. However, as I have not been permitted to deal with the report, I shall not pursue the matter further. It is true that Opposition senators do not intend to oppose the passage of the bill but that does not mean that they should be denied the right to insist that the Government shall adopt realistic methods in the training of these young men. “We have a right to express fully our views on the manner in which the Government should essay the task of preparing the defences of this country. Yesterday, when Senator McKenna was reading the report of the Select Committee to which I have referred, the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) asked whether it had been endorsed by the triennial conference of the Australian Labour party. Although the Minister masks his real feelings under a thin veneer of politeness, and invariably assumes an air of cherubic innocence, he should be the last to criticize others for the receipt or issuance of orders. For the edification of the Senate, I propose to quote an extract from a publication entitled “ Things I Hear”, dated the 7th November, 1950, relating to a certain action that had been taken by the Minister. It is apparent from his countenance that he knows what I am about to read. The extract reads as follows : -
The New South Wales Liberals are in revolt-
– I rise to order. I understand that Senator Sandford is about to quote from a publication which is circulated in this building some references to the Minister for Social Services. It is clear, I submit, that what is contained in such a publication has no relation to the bill now before us and accordingly you, Mr. President, should rule that Senator Sandford is out of order in reading the quotation.
– The AttorneyGeneral has raised the point of order that Senator Sandford is about to quote a statement that has no relation to the bill. I am not one of the Piddingtons. J am not a thought reader; I do not know what Senator Sandford intends to read, but if, in fact, it has no relation to the bill he will be out of order in reading the quotation. However, I must first hear the quotation before I can ascertain whether or not it is relevant to the bill. I ask Senator Sandford to state whether it is relevant to the bilL
– It is, I think, indirectly relevant to the bill, Mr. President. Although you would not know that, I am sure that the Minister himself knows it.
– If Senator Sandford is able to connect the quotation with the National Service Bill, he will be in order in reading it ; if he cannot do so, he will not be permitted to read it.
– It is a matter’ of interpretation, Mr. President, and, as you know these things are hard to define. A comment relating to the Minister for Social Services or to any other Minister may be only very indirectly connected with the bill. I propose to read the quotation in order to emphasize the fact that members of the Government which has decided to introduce a measure such as this in a democratic country do not themselves uphold democratic principles. How can we expect the provisions of thi3 measure to be democratically administered by Ministers who themselves are not democratically inclined ?
– I am afraid that Senator Sandford has entered a very wide field of debate. In effect, he has travelled from Dan to Beersheba. I ask him to return to the bill.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. President, I shall postpone the reading of the quotation until a more suitable occasion arises. Its contents are on record and the Minister knows all about it.
– This is the first I have heard of it.
– Order ! Perhaps Senator Sandford will be good enough to show the extract to the Minister during the suspension of the sitting for dinner.
– I shall read it on another occasion. I did not get an opportunity to read it during the debate on the, Budget and Estimates Papers. It is a “ beaut “. It is connected with Bernie Dargan.
– I rise to order. Senator Sandford is acting in defiance of the ruling of the Chair. He should not be permitted to do so.
– Order ! I shall be the judge of Senator Sandford’s conduct. On many occasions honorable senators have spoken in this chamber in such a way that if the Chair had taken action against them all there would soon have been an empty chamber, because every honorable senator would have been suspended. Senator Sandford has his peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. The Chair allows gome degree of latitude to all honorable Senators. I shall give Sena.tor Sandford an opportunity to return to the bill when the sitting is resumed at 8 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania; [8.0].- I move-
That the Special Report of the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force, presented to the Senate on the 7 th March, 1951, be adopted.
The report of the select committee which was appointed by the Senate on the 7th December last, was read to honorable Senators yesterday. The two main purposes for which the committee was appointed are set out in paragraph 4 pf the report. First, the committee was to consider and report upon the Government’s proposals for compulsory national service in the defence forces. Secondly, the committee was authorized to examine all the relevant defence, man-power and economic needs and capacities pf Australia. The report is comprehensive, and I do not propose to traverse its contents at any great length to-night. I shall, however, in Jibe course of my comments, make some brief references to certain matters set put in. it.
There are two main complaints in the report. The first is against the Cabinet of the Australian Government, and the second is against the service .chiefs of
Australia, and certain departmental heads. Cabinet’s attitude to the committee’s proposal to call before it the service chiefs of Australia and certain departmental heads %o give evidence in accordance with the terms of reference pf the commitee, is crystallized in a letter written on the 2nd February, 1951, by the then Acting Prime Minister, Mr. Fadden . to me as chairman pf the select committee. The relevant portions of thai, letter state-
Cabinet has considered fUlly the proposal to call these officers, and has decided’ that it would be against the public interest for the Service’ Chiefs or members of the Public Service to be required to participate in this inquiry.
The ground of the Cabinet decision is clearly stated in the Prime Minister’s letter of the 23rd December last. It is quite impossible to draw the line between what your Committee may call “ factual “ and what is “ policy “, and it should not be for any official Or for the Committee, in the view of the Government on matters which may touch security, to decide whether it is either one or the other.
Since the officials concerned would be compelled to claim privilege .immediately, they have been directed that there is no purpose in their attending, and that they should accordingly not do so.
I have accordingly directed them that they should not attend.
That was a plain intimation by the then Acting Prime Minister that, having considered the matter, Cabinet had decided to direct the service chiefs and certain departmental heads, not to attend the meetings pf a select committee appointed by a formal resolution of this Senate on the 7th December, There are several aspects pf Mr. Fadden’s letter to which I wish to make particular reference- The first is that, although the letter was in reply to a communication addressed to the Acting Prime Minister by me as chairman of the committee on the 12th January, the date pf that reply is the 2nd February. In fact, the letter reached me at 10 a.m. on the 6th February - l&p very minute appointed for the commencement pf the official sittings pf the committee in Melbourne. Admittedly, I had received from the secretary of the committee advice of a telephone call received on the previous evening conveying the contents of the letter, but the fact remains .that the select committee of the Senate was not informed by letter of Cabinet’s decision until 10 a.m. on the 6th February, thi very time appointed by the committee for the Chief of the General Staff, LieutenantGeneral Rowell, to attend to give evidence. My first comment on that matter is that there was plain discourtesy to the committee by the Government * through its acting bead. Secondly, Mr. Fadden based Cabinet’s decision on the ground that it would be against public interest to allow service chiefs and others to participate in the inquiry. He related that, quite frankly, a little later on with security; and the committee, in paragraphs 55 and 56 of its report, make a trenchant comment on that situation. As those paragraphs sum the position up very well I shall quote them. They read as follows: -
I make a particular reference to the words, “ all members of the Parliament “, because if any assumption is to be made regarding any members it should be that they will not act irresponsibly, but will always act in the national interest and with due regard for the security of the country. That is an assumption that has been upheld in the House of Commons in quite recent years. I shall return to that matter in a moment. Merely to indicate that the committee had a sense of responsibility, I point out that the first resolution carried at its initial working meeting was that the press and strangers should be excluded. The committee had a perfect appreciation of the fact that its work might take it into matters involving security.
– It was at the first working meeting of the committee at which evidence was to be taken.
– What I have said is still true.
– No evidence had been tendered up to that date. It is also true, of course, that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) is acting in a disorderly manner by interjecting. The committee, recognizing that security might be involved, also heard a suggestion from me as chairman that I would recommend at an appropriate time, if security matters were raised, that the evidence should not be presented with the report to the Senate. I merely record these matters to show that, as might be expected, the committee had a proper appreciation of its task, and of the niceties and difficulties involved in it. I refer now to what I may term - to avoid using a stronger expression - the foolishness of the Acting Prime Minister’s letter, or at least one portion of it. The right honorable gentleman informed the committee in his letter of the 2nd February that Cabinet’s decision was based on the grounds set out in a prior letter sent to the committee by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The Acting Prime
Minister’s letter plainly forbade service chiefs and certain other people to appear before the committee, whereas the Prime Minister’s letter, written before he left Australia on his recent trip abroad, plainly set .out that service chiefs and certain other people would attend but would claim privilege. I may interpolate at this point that no witness may claim privilege before a select committee of the Parliament. I merely point, therefore, to the foolishness of the Acting Prime Minister in claiming that Cabinet’s decision forbidding the attendance of service chiefs and others, was based on the Prime Minister’s letter. The Prime Minister very properly did not say that the service chiefs and certain other people concerned would be prevented from giving evidence before the committee. However, the vastly more important matter involved in the whole situation is that Cabinet’s decision was an assault on parliamentary privilege and, at that, upon one of the most important parliamentary privileges. Surely one of the most vital rights of either House of the Parliament is that of appointing a committee, or participating in the appointment of a joint committee, to inquire into and hear evidence upon, any matter of public importance. That is one of the highest privileges that this Parliament enjoys, and the decision of the Menzies Cabinet, expressed by the Acting Prime Minister, was the worst, form of assault on that privilege. Further, it was plain contempt by the Government of the Senate itself.
I come now to the origin of the Senate’s powers. Section 49 of the Constitution Act provides, in effect, that until the Parliament otherwise provides, the powers, privileges, and immunities of this chamber shall be those as determined for the House of Commons at the date of federation, that is, on the 1st January, 1901. Those rights, privileges, and immunities are clearly determined. They have become established over a long period of years. I propose to do no more in the course of my remarks than to refer to a few of them that I have noted. I invite the attention of the Senate to paragraph 34 of the report which sets out a resolution passed by the British Parliament as long ago as the year 1700. That resolution has been renewed at the beginning of every session of the British Parliament since that time. It was, in fact, renewed at the commencement of the session now taking place. Its terms are specific, and are particularly to the point in relation to the matter now under consideration by the Senate. The resolution is as follows : -
That if it shall appear that any person hath been tampering with any .Witness, in respect of his evidence to be given to this House, or any Committee thereof, or directly or indirectly hath endeavoured to deter or hinder any person from appearing or giving evidence, the same is declared to be a high crime and misdemeanour; and this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offender.
That is the law that applies to this matter as being one of the privileges and powers of the House of Commons on the 1st January, 1901. Accordingly, I put it very strongly to the Senate that the action of the Cabinet was not only improper, but also plainly illegal, in contempt of the Senate, and in contravention of the Australian Constitution.
I think that it is correct to say that there could scarcely be a more serious breach of privilege or contempt of the Senate than is conveyed in this action of the Government–
– Unless it were in “ rigging “ an election of the Senate !
– I concede, of course, that it would be more serious if, after what has happened on this occasion, the Government engaged in a repetition of the offence. I should, of course, regard a repetition of the offence much more seriously. To pursue that theme with the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner), I can imagine only one more serious breach of contempt of the Senate, and that is if the Cabinet Ministers were to march into this chamber with armed forces to arrest senators or to coerce them in the course of their deliberations-
Government supporters interjecting.
– It is certainly interesting to hear honorable senators laugh as though this were a matter of novelty, but if they had any knowledge of history they would realize that the privileges of this Parliament are those that have been won and enjoyed by the Mother of Parliaments through the early centuries when they were exacted after prolonged struggles with various kings. If honorable senators opposite had read their history they would recall that in the Long Parliament of the 17th century King Charles and his armed forces marched into the House of Commons to arrest Pym, Hampden, Strode, and other members who were contending for the very privileges that the Government is seeking to deny to the Parliament to-day. So, in reply to the Minister for Social Services, who has expressed doubt about whether there could be a more serious breach of the privileges of this chamber, I have given two examples. The first is the historic occasion of King Charles’s attempted usurpation of the powers of the Parliament, and the second is the hypothetical illustration I have given of Ministers entering this chamber to repress honorable senators-
– It is far more serious so to arrange the election of honorable senators as to ensure that a particular political paTty is assured of a majority in this chamber.
– It is quite deplorable that a Government that is insisting from day to day on criminal and quasi-criminal proceedings- for contempt against bodies that have been established under legislation passed by this Parliament should itself act in contempt of the Parliament. I say that that is most deplorable, more particularly since the contempt has-been committed by Ministei-3 in circumstances that are exactly described by the famous resolution of the House of Commons as being committed in circumstances which establish their action as “ a high crime and misdemeauour “. I repeat that this contempt of the Senate has- been committed by a Government that is very busy initiating contempt proceedings to protect bodies that have been established by the Parliament.
Another aspect of the establishment of the special committee to which I shall refer is that the Government has claimed again and again that it is seeking the co-operation of the Opposition-
– It will never. get it.
– I remind the Attorney-General that on the 7th December, when I moved for the appointment of the committee, I intimated to the Government that it was desirable that the Opposition and the Government should co-operate in order to determine the defence needs of Australia. Honorable senators will remember that I urged that if we Could get together on that subject away from the atmosphere of controversy that pervades this chamber we might be able to hammer out an agreement over a very wide area of defence matters, which are so vital to Australia.. I made a plain offer to the Government on that occasion. There was no equivocation or doubt about that offer. I invited the Government to amend the, motion that- 1 had submitted to enable it to appoint a majority of the members of the committee, if it so desired. )« t1 ere any doubt about that? Does any honorable senator opposite controvert the fact, that I made that offer on behalf of the Opposition? Is their any one who will deny–
– Does the honorable senator deny that he was merely playing for time?.
– Yes, and I shall prove to the Attorney-General that the matter was entirely in the hands of the Government. In making- the offer to the Government of the appointment of a majority of the members of the select committee the Opposition was, in effect, giving to the Government complete control of the proposed committee, the right to decide when and where it should meet, what evidence it should take, and when it should submit- its: report. I remind the Government that the terms of reference of the select committee provided that it s’hould report on the second Thursday after the first meeting of the Parliament in the new year. It was for the Government and not for the Opposition to determine when the Parliament should meet. I point out to the Attorney-General that it was competent for the Government to call the Parliament together in the middle of January. It is clear, therefore, that the Government was offered (1) a majority of members of the committee: (2) complete control of the committee; and (3) the right to determine when the committee’s report should be submitted. I submit therefore, that I have completely answered the suggestion made by the Attorney-General that the Labour party was merely playing for time. We offered the Government our co-operation and offered to place the whole conduct of the matter in its hands. However, for reasons- which seemed good to the Government it declined to co-operate with us on this vital matter of defence. Nonetheless, the Government still complains that it has not yet received proper co-operation from the Opposition. “When it was offered co-operation it threw that offer back at us, almost with insults. If ever there was a bona fide offer of co-operation made by a parliamentary opposition to a government of the day that offer was contained in the terms of the offer that I made to the Government on the 7th December last.
I suggest, therefore, that it ill behoves the Government of a democratic country to display so little regard for the proposition that the Cabinet is established, bv the Parliament. The Cabinet is under the control of the Parliament, but the Parliament is not under the control of the Cabinet. I think that it behoves the Government to learn that the privileges of the Parliament, as opposed to the rights of the Executive, are, in effect, the privileges of the citizens of Australia. The report of the select committee makes it clear that it is the privileges of the people, whose representatives we are, for which we are contending.
We acknowledge at once that the Opposition has no jurisdiction over Cabinet Ministers who sit in the House of Representatives. However, we have jurisdiction in this chamber over the five Cabinet Ministers in the Senate.
– How is that jurisdiction derived? It is derived from the fact that honorable senators opposite and their colleagues in another place did not give the people a chance at the last election freely to elect the members of this chamber.
– To the allegations of discourtesy that I have already made, to the insulting reference to the committee in the matter of security, and to the foolishness and the illegality of the Government’s conduct, I say that Ministers in this chamber have added another offence. I suggest that in being privy to this decision to prohibit departmental heads from coming to a select committee appointed by the Senate they were false to their duty as members of this chamber. I say, in short, that they were disloyal to the Senate, of which they are members as well as Ministers. The committee has recommended - and it will no doubt be the subject of further motions - that the circumstances set out in its report should, by resolution of the Senate, be conveyed to the House of Representatives for that chamber to take such action as it deems proper. After all, the matters of which the select committee has complained constitute a grievous contempt of the Senate. I point out to the Senate that each member of the Government is responsible for the decision made by the Government that departmental heads were not to attend the meetings of the select committee. Irrespective of whether or not a particular Minister was present when the decision was reached, and regardless of whether he voted for or against the proposal, he must accept his share of responsibility for the decision, which was conveyed in express terms by the Acting Prime Minister on behalf of all his Cabinet colleagues.
I suggest that the action, if any, that is to be taken by the Senate in relation to the matters that I have mentioned is something that must be determined by the Senate itself. However, the decision whether the Senate will take action, and,, if so, what action, will unquestionably depend on the attitude that members of the Government adopt in this matter.
– Is that a threat?
– I assure honorable senators opposite that I have no knowledge of what action, if any, the Senate may take. However, I repeat that members of the Opposition - and I think that I am safe in speaking for my colleagues - have made no decision concerning the attitude that they should adopt in this matter. We shall be guided entirely by the attitude displayed by members of the Government in the course of this debate, not only in regard to the conduct of members of the Government themselves, but also in regard to the service chiefs, on whose behalf the Government may make certain submissions. This is a matter that I invite members of the Government to take seriously. Any contempt of the Senate is a serious matter. At least, the Opposition regards it as such. Lest it might be thought that’ I am making threats, I do not want at this stage to outline the courses of action open to the Senate in this matter. However, I think that Ministers in this chamber have sufficient knowledge of these matters to work out for themselves just what may happen.
I propose to call three witnesses who will express their opinions of the Government’s action in this matter. The first witness that I shall call is one who is referred to in the report of the select committee. I refer to the Right Honorable Winston Churchill, who, in dealing with the subject of parliamentary powers and privileges, when giving evidence before a select committee of the House of Commons on Witnesses, as recently as 1935, stated-
Any act which affects the working of any Committee of the House, amounts to a breach of privilege, if it is intended or calculated to defeat, hamper or obstruct the purpose which Parliament had in view in appointing the Committee.
If honorable senators opposite are not impressed with that testimony, then let me call the present Prime Minister of England, the Right Honorable Clement Attlee. When speaking in the House of Commons not very long ago in the Sandys case he had something very pertinent to say. His words are powerful, and I invite honorable senators opposite to take them to heart. They are as follows: -
There can bc no greater blow to democracy than the admission of any right of the Executive to hamper, hinder, or restrain members of this House from carrying out their duty to the nation. The freedom of members from pressure by the Executive was fought and won years ago, and it must be defended against attack even if that attack should be cloaked under anxiety for the national safety
. We cannot have the assumption that members of this House are deliberately acting against the interests of the country. . .
In these days when liberty is challenged and derided in other countries we should be specially vigilant to set an example to the world of the preservation of our parliamentary rights.
In case members of the Government are not impressed with the views of the two right honorable gentlemen whom I have quoted. I shall take them to the views of one with whom they are especially familiar. I refer to the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives, Mr. Fadden, who was Acting Prime Minister when these difficulties arose. Discussing the matter of parliamentary privilege in the House of Representatives on the 14th October, 1948, the right honorable gentleman had this to say-
If once the Executive, as represented by Cabinet Ministers, is given power to override the Parliament and the privileges of members, then at that very moment our free democracy ceases to exist, and the institution of Parliament, as we know it, is supplanted by a dictatorship of nineteen Ministers answerable to nu one but themselves.
Is any member of the Government^ prepared to controvert that proposition, which was enunciated by their own deputy leader?
Leaving my witnesses, I merely repeat what the committee has already stated in its report, which is that it is most unfortunate that the Government should have chosen the Commonwealth Jubilee Year to launch an attack upon the Parliament.
– The committees which Mr. ‘Churchill and Mr. Attlee had in mind were committees appointed by the government of the day.
– I invite Senator Maher to draw a distinction between the Parliament and the government of the day. The whole issue is, as Mr. Fadden put it, whether we are to have democracy or dictatorship. If that is the issue in this instance, then I should expect every democrat on the Government side of the chamber to support the Opposition in this matter and to uphold the dignity and authority of the body of which we are all members. So much for the Cabinet and those associated with it. I shall now say a few words about the service chiefs and others who were invited to give evidence before the select committee. Those honorable senators who have read, or who heard the special report of the select committee read, will know that a very courteous letter was addressed to these gentlemen asking them to give evidence, and inquiring whether particular days and hours would suit their convenience. There was nothing mandatory or peremptory about the letters, although there could have been. The Senate will agree that their convenience was considered very appreciably, but the consideration extended by the committee was ill-repaid by several of the departmental heads. Three of them sent written acknowledgments of receipt of the letter inviting them to give evidence. One gentleman, Sir Edmund Herring, the Director-General of Recruiting, replied promptly that he would attend. He did in fact attend, and gave very valuable evidence. Sir Edmund quite obviously had a very nice appreciation of the parliamentary position and he met it impeccably.
– He could not convince the military geniuses.
– The military geniuses directed by the Cabinet did not attend. One of them wrote on the day that he was due to come before the committee, advising that he would not attend because he had been directed by Cabinet not to do so. Two other gentlemen, Mr. W. Funnell, Secretary, Department of Labour and National Service, and Mr. H. P. Breen, Secretary, Department of Supply, replied in courteous terms. Their letters conveyed information to the effect that they had been directed by the Cabinet or their respective Ministers not to attend, and that they would not do so. From the Chief of the Naval Staff, ViceAdmiral Sir John Collins, we had a bare acknowledgment of the receipt of the letter. The same was true of the Chief of the Air Staff, Air-Marshal G. Jones. Neither of those two gentlemen advised the select committee that they would not be in attendance at the times appointed. The Secretary to the Department of External Affairs, who is in charge of matters diplomatic in this country, did not acknowledge receipt of the letter of the select committee, nor did he advise that he would not attend at the time suggested for him. I think it is time that public servants in this country realized that the Parliament is the supreme body, not the Cabinet, and I think many of them have perhaps overlooked the fact that they are servants of the public and not servants of the Ministers, either individually or collectively.
– It is time the Opposition realized that it is not the Government of this country.
– I suggest that some of the persons to whom I have referred have at least failed in their duty in perhaps not knowing, but certainly in not impressing upon the Ministers that what they had directed was illegal and improper, and I suggest that they failed not only in their duty to the public but also in their duty to their own Ministers in not making that point completely clear. I suggest that they are sadly in need of advice at this minute on the course that they should follow. I perhaps may be pardoned for suggesting that they should seek that advice from somebody other than their Ministers. I shall refer, by way of contrast to their behaviour, to what happens in the United States of America, and if anybody is interested and cares to refer to the press of the 2nd March, 1951, he will find that the Defence Secretary, General George Marshall, had given evidence before the House Armed Services Committee, which is a committee of the Houses of Parliament of the United States of America. It is common to read in the press about service chiefs, security men, and other men holding high national positions giving’ evidence regularly before committees appointed by the United States parliamentary tribunals.
– By the Government.
– They are Senate committees that sit irrespective of Government appointments, and they are very critical of governments, as the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) might know. It is quite intolerable that Australian departmental heads should treat a select committee of the Senate or of the House of Representatives with such contempt and discourtesy as was shown by some of them on this particular occasion. The select committee felt so strongly about it that it recorded its feelings in certain paragraphs which I consider that I should again read to the Senate. They are as follows: -
and going on to say -
The three chiefs of Australia’s armed services yesterday boycotted the Senate Select Committee’s inquiry on the introduction of compulsory national service for defence . . . it becomes a matter of urgency that the principle of the supremacy of Parliament in a democracy, and the respect due to it, should be asserted, and that public servants should - equally with members of the Cabinet - clearly recognize, and if necessary be made to recognize, that principle.
That sums up fairly well the outlook of the- select, committee on this matter, and I believe and trust that it is an outlook that will be endorsed by the Senate. In conclusion, I again refer the Senate to the opening statement in the Special Report of the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force, with which statement the committee also concluded its. report. It drew attention to what Pym, the 17th century statesman, said and I invite every member of the Government, particularly the members of the Cabinet, to ponder this sentence -
Parliaments without parliamentary liberties are but a fair and plausible way into bondage.
– I do not propose spending a great deal of time in replying to the. speech of Senator McKenna, because the report proposed for adoption literally reeks with cant, humbug and hypocrisy. However, the suggestion has been made that this Senate has been brought into contempt. How true that is ! But I propose in a few words to sheet that charge and the responsibility for that contempt right home to and to throw it in the teeth of those responsible for it. I suggest that we review the conduct of the Labour majority in this Senate since an angry and disillusioned people rejected overwhelmingly at the polls the discredited Labour party, the remaining skeleton of a once virile and active body. First, we should examine the present constitution of the Senate. Of its 60 members, 42- were elected in 1949. Of that 42, 23 sit on the Government side and nineteen on the Opposition side. But for a very astute political move by the previous Labour Government in 1949, the 1949 election would have been held on the same basis as: that of 1946, and the result would have been 35 Government Senate supporters and only seven Labour Opposition supporters. Had the present Senate been elected on the basis of the 1946 election there would be. 38 Government supporters and only 22 Opposition supporters. The next point to remember is that at no time since the Menzies. Government has been in power has there been any dispute at all between the Houses as contemplated in section 57 of the Constitution Act. Whatever disputes there have been have arisen through the abuse of power enjoyed by the Labour majority in the Senate by virtue of its 1946 Senate hangover. Their colleagues who went to the poll at the time were rejected out of hand in five States, and were returned only in one State. Whatever disputes and whatever obstruction there has been has been brought about by that 19,46 hang. over, whose mandate is three years stale compared with that given to this Government.
With that background let us see who has brought this chamber into contempt. It is on record for all who care to read, that the passage of the social services legislation was delayed for months until the Opposition changed its direction in course of flight and allowed the bill to pass. Again it will be remembered that in spite of the Government’s mandate to legislate in that regard, the Commonwealth Bank Bill [No. 2] is still on the Senate notice-paper. I shall also refer to the shameful protection that was. afforded by the Labour hangover majority to our communistic subversive disrupters. The Labour hangover majority extended a protective mantle over the Communist wreckers for a period of six months, frustrated the Government and denied it the right to deal with them until, in spite of very hot and fiery words to the contrary, again the Opposition ate its words under instructions from eleven gentlemen and Senator Aylett, and the bill was allowed to pass. But more of that anon. Contempt of the Senate, indeed! The shameful record is by no means exhausted. Time and again this Labour hang-over majority has snatched the business of government from the hands of the elected representatives of the people. Time and again it has refused to sit in order to carry out the business of the Government, which honorable senators were sent here to discharge. I shall mention this last example, although the list is by no means complete, more in sorrow than in anger. I refer to that shameful morning when the bells, of the Senate were ringing-
Opposition senators interrupting,
– That is the type of conduct to which I refer. That snigger is evidence in itself. The performance that we witnessed this afternoon is the type of thing that has brought this Senate into contempt. I do not propose to be diverted from my theme. It is well known and is written in letters of shame in the annals of the Australian Labour party’s history that when the bells of this Senate were ringing, summoning honorable senators to attend here in order to proceed with business for the doing of which they were being well paid, we witnessed the spectacle of grown-up senators hiding round corridors and putting their heads round doors like truant school boys.
– Order ! I think that the Minister would be well advised to come back to the report.
– I am dealing with contempt of the Senate. I am repeating something that is quite factual and on record in the journals of the Senate. A quorum was denied the Government and so it was not able to carry on its business. We are speaking about this Senate being brought into contempt. How true that is ! I can see now why those responsible for it tried to hide. They should indeed hide their heads in shame.
– So should the Minister.
– To bring this matter more up-to-date, an honorable senator has just interrupted with a clownish performance when a matter of vital importance, the question of national defence, is being discussed. It is well known that the Labour masters have spoken.
– Order ! I think that the Minister should return to the question before the Chair, which concerns the adoption of the report and matters pertaining to it, and matters raised during the speech of Senator McKenna.
– Yes. I ask your indulgence, Mr. President. It is really very difficult to deal with the question of contempt, although I quite agree that the Senate has been brought into contempt. I am giving many instances, and by no’ means a complete list, in which the Labour Opposition has brought the Senate into contempt. The Government has been attempting to get this bill passed, and we afforded the Opposition an opportunity to do so this afternoon. We know, and honorable senators opposite know, that they have been given instructions to let the bill through, but still they are frustrating the Government and wasting the time of the Senate.
To deal with the report, Senator McKenna delivered a very stirring address. In the course of it he referred to the fight which institutions such as this have had to wage in order to protect the rights of the people against prevailing despotism. The honorable senator referred to men such as Pym and Hampden. To couple such men with members of the Opposition is sacrilege. ‘Could any one imagine a Pym or a Hampden coming into this chamber and using words such as the following which were used in the Senate during the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 : -
He is denied the most fundamental rights. The Government is sponsoring a measure which is a plain denial of British justice and the casting aside of the courts of the land. It is in breach and violation of natural justice and completely opposed to the principles of democracy.
Could any one imagine a Pym or a Hampden, who held such a belief in his heart, not raising his voice or his sword to prevent the passage of such a bill ? Could any one imagine a Pym or a Hampden, at the behest of a man such as Senator Aylett, dropping his opposition if he really believed that the measure contained all those vile elements ? But that is what occurred in this Senate. Please do not mention Pym and Hampden in the same breath as lie members of the Opposition.
The Labour majority of the Senate appointed this select committee, “to consider and report upon the Government’s proposals for compulsory national service in the Defence Force “. The resolution then went on to state that the committee should consist of certain persons. Naturally, the committee would have to consist of somebody, and particularly somebody who would be agreeable to act on it.
This committee was appointed for the specific purpose of considering and reporting upon the Government’s ‘proposals for compulsory national service in the defence force. In other words, I submit, there is no difference between the proposals of the Government and its policy. Naturally, its policy would be enunciated and elaborated in its proposals. Senator McKenna has very kindly given complete answers to the question why certain people should not give evidence. I shall deal, first, with the very courteous, very succinct and very complete letter written by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to Senator McKenna in answer to his request. The second paragraph of the letter contains the most important point, which summarizes the whole attitude of the Prime Minister. His letter stated -
It is, I believe, a sound rule of policy that permanent officers of the armed services or the public service should not be expected to comment on government policy. To the extent, therefore, that their opinions are sought the officials concerned would have no alternative hut to claim privilege. In these circumstances, I think that little purpose would be served by their attendance.
The Prime Minister was therefore not departing from established practice in every well-run democratic country.
I am indebted to Senator McKenna for his inclusion in this report of an authoritative statement by Professor Arthur Berriedale Keith, in his book, The British Cabinet System, 1830-1938. About the centre of the paragraph on page 14 of the report the following appears: -
Moreover, on details of defence preparations
Halting there for a moment, what could be more closely alined to defence preparations than the defence proposals of the Government? The quotation proceeds- the ministry is permitted to preserve complete silence, as is shown by the replies of Sir T. Inskip to all efforts in 1937-38 to extract from him encouragement as to the effectiveness of new British armaments, or types of aeroplanes.
From . that extract we can see that the principle is generally accepted, and has been accepted over the years. However, this brilliant Opposition thinks to itself, “ We know that we cannot obtain the information from the Minister, so we shall get it from one of the chiefs of staff “. That was a grossly improper request to make, and one that should never have been made.
If this committee, or whatever it calls itself, had its roots in sincerity and was really doing a job and not merely marking time until the federal conference of the Australian Labour party had given instructions on the attitude to be adopted towards defence, it could have gone to the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride). It is quite likely that although the Minister would have treated the committee with the utmost courtesy, he would have followed precisely the same course as that adopted by the Minister for Defence in the United Kingdom. In spite of Senator McKenna’s assurance that the proceedings of the committee would be held in secret, the Standing Orders provide that not only may other senators attend such meetings but also that strangers may attend. It is in the discretion of the chairman of the committee whether meetings shall be held in secret or not. In that regard, Senator McKenna is a man subject to discipline. He is in honour bound to obey certain instructions.
– So is the Minister.
– I am not bound, except by my own conscience. I wish this to be perfectly clear. Standing Order 305, which deals with the question of committees such as this, and under which this committee .was appointed, states -
When a Committee is examining Witnesses, Strangers may be admitted, but shall be excluded at the request of any Senator, or at the discretion of the Chairman of the Committee, and shall always be excluded when the Committee is deliberating.
That means deliberating as distinct from the calling of evidence. The standing order proceeds to state that other senators may be present. Supposing .Senator Aylett, in his majesty, demanded that this committee should hold its meetings publicly. I suppose that they would be so held, upon which a serious and dangerous state of affairs would arise. Senator McKenna will say that implicitly that is a shocking imputation, but I must warn honorable senators of a fact that we much prefer to forget which is that there is in this chamber an honorable senator - Senator Morrow - who worships at the same political shrine as Senator McKenna and who takes his orders from the same body as does Senator McKenna. We have heard Senator Morrow utter in this chamber a gross and bitter attack upon the British Empire, upon our own country and upon our gallant ally, the United States of America, and we have heard him deliver a great eulogy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He has pictured the United Kingdom, our own country and the United States of America as warmongers.
He has painted Russia-
– I deny that 1 pictured the British Empire as a warmonger.
– Order! The honorable senator will have an opportunity at a later date to reply to the Minister.
– I do not wish to be unfair to Senator Morrow, but I refer him r.o his own speech, delivered on the 7th and 8th June last year, as reported in Hansard, in which he compared the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States of America, and the Soviet Republics. It is there for all to read. It was a most subversive utterance. The speech that he made last night, in which he dealt with the defence of our own country, may be read by those who care to do so. I say that it would be folly to allow any one who shares the views expressed by Senator Morrow to know anything at all about our defence proposals. Yet the honorable senator apparently enjoys the same rights and privileges and is subject to the same obligations as other members of the Australian Labour party. It would be the height of folly and indiscretion to allow a. man of Senator Morrow’s calibre to know anything about defence preparations. I do not propose to discuss this matter further. Certain legal aspects will bc dealt with by the Attorney-General (“Senator Spicer). I think that I have shown that there is no occasion to take seriously the report of the select com mittee. There is not one line in its report to indicate that it ought to be taken seriously. As I said before, it reeks of cant, humbug and hypocrisy.
Senator SANDFORD (Victoria) [9.1 J. - I was amazed, as must have been all right-thinking persons in this chamber and throughout Australia, to hear the stupid reply of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) to the excellent case made out by Senator McKenna. Not once during his speech did the Minister discuss the report of the select committee, nor did he attempt to answer the charges brought against the Executive by Senator McKenna. It was significant that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) did not reply to the charges. I have always regarded him as a responsible Minister, and I am prepared to believe that he had no hand in the despicable action of the Government in directing service chiefs and certain heads of departments not to give evidence before the select committee of the Senate. Do honorable senators agree that rights and privileges of the Parliament - not necessarily of the Senate only - should be respected ? How often do we hear honorable senators opposite mouth platitudes about the need to safeguard democratic principles? Yet the Executive has shown that it is ready to flout those principles. I give the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) credit for believing that he would not have been a. party to such action had he been in Australia. 1 now ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he was in favour of the direction to service chiefs not to give evidence before the committee. I propose to name a few of the fascist-minded supporters of the Government.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - Order! The honorable senator must not refer to Government supporters as fascist-minded.
– When Senator McKenna was reading the report of the Senate committee in this chamber Senator Maher interjected that it was “much ado about nothing”. That, apparently, was the opinion of several of his colleagues, also. There were other interjections from the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) and from Senator George Rankin, who asked, “ Have you received your orders ? “ I should like to know under whose orders Senator George Rankin is operating. Are they the orders of the Australian Country party, which is allied with the Liberal party in Canberra, or the orders of the Victorian Country party, which is allied with the Australian Labour party in Victoria? The Minister for Social Services asked, “ Has the report been endorsed by your conference ? “. I now propose to state some facts which are, unfortunately, never published in the press, but some people, at any rate, will hear them to-night. I have here a little note in which the Minister for Social Services is affectionately referred to as “ Billy Spooner “, but I refer to him as the Honorable Senator Spooner. In this note-
– I rise to a point of’ order. Senator Sandford proposes to read some matter about the Minister for Social Services, matter which he was refused permission to read this afternoon. The motion before .the Chair contains no reference to the Minister for Social Services’ except insofar as he is a member of the Government.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I ask Senator Sandford to address himself to the motion.
– The AttorneyGeneral should have raised his point of order when the Minister for Trade and Customs was talking, and when he refrained throughout the whole of his speech, to discuss the report of the select committee. He compared the numerical strength of this chamber with that of the House of Representatives, but he never mentioned the report of the select committee.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I suggest that the honorable senator get back to the report himself.
– Why was not the Minister for Trade and Customs cil lied to order when he was speaking?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I am not responsible for what took place when T was not in the chair.
– When .Senator McKenna had finished reading the report of the committee, Senator Maher, who is well known for his fascist tendencies-
– I take exception to the words “ fascist tendencies “, and ask that they be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT . - Exception has been taken to certain words, and I ask Senator Sandford to withdraw them.
– Exception has been taken by whom ?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Never mind by whom.
- Senator Maher did not object.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I ask Senator Sandford to withdraw the words to which objection has been taken.
– I withdraw them. To whom shall I apologize - to Senator Maher or to Senator Kendall ?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator will proceed with his speech.
– The report of the select committee is the most damning indictment that I have ever heard of any democratically constituted government in an English-speaking country. I know of no other instance in which the rights and privileges of Parliament have been so flagrantly defiled and trampled upon. Admittedly, it was done during the absence overseas of the Prime Minister, and I hold the Attorney-General in sufficient regard to believe that he was not a party to the so-called Cabinet decision to which objection is taken in the report. In my opinion, the decision was reached when very few members of the Cabinet were present. I do not believe that Senator Spicer, K.C., was a party to it, and we know that Robert Gordon Menzies. K.C., was not present. I was prepared to believe that the Minister for Trade and Customs was not a party to it, either, until I heard him speak to-night, but afteT hearing his speech I “ scrubbed “ him. He made such a stupid reply to the speech of Senator McKenna that I can no longer regard him as one of the intellects of the Cabinet. This is a very serious matter. Let us cease our frivolity. Let there be an end to stupid interjections, and let us get down to tin tacks.
– It is obvious that the honorable senator’s pride has been hurt.
– If the honorable senator had listened to me during the last few minutes he would know that J am only concerned about the affront to the Parliament; my own pride does not come into this. The powers and privileges of the Parliament which Senator Maher so vociferously upholds should be paramount. Not one Government supporter can with sincerity justify its action in directing service chiefs and departmental heads not to appear before the select committee. Such directions may well lead us to a state of totalitarianism. Next week or next month Government supporters may find themselves sitting in Opposition and may be sorry that their leaders failed to uphold the rights and privileges of a select committee that had been appointed by the Parliament.
– I thought that the party to which the honorable senator belongs had recently re-affirmed its policy of the abolition of the Senate.
– I advise the honorable senator to remain quiet. He should go back to the “ fuzzy wuzzies “ in New Guinea. The rights and privileges of a select committee appointed by the Parliament must be jealously guarded. I appeal to honorable senators opposite not to view this matter from the stand-point of party .politics. Even if they thought that the select committee had been established for political party purposes they had an obligation to uphold its rights and privileges.
The reply made by the Minister for Trade and Customs to the speech of Senator McKenna was, to say the least of it, stupid. It was as silly as was the answer which he gave to a serious question that I asked yesterday. It is regrettable that most of the Ministers associated with this Government treat serious matters brought to their attention by Opposition senators in a cavalier fashion.
– The Opposition established the select committee in defiance of the Government.
– Here is an interjection from Senator Maher, the avowed fascist from Queensland.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– I rise to order. Senator Sandford has again committed an offence of the kind for which you, Mr. Deputy President, reprimanded him only a few minutes ago. I regard his reference to me as a fascist as offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - As Senator Maher has taken exception to the words used by Senator Sandford I ask that they be withdrawn.
– I withdraw them. It is a regrettable fact that, to-day, there is a tendency to drift towards a state of totalitarianism, whether to the left or to the right. For God’s sake let us be sensible; let us cherish and uphold the democratic system of government in this country irrespective of what political party may form the government of the day. Honorable senators opposite must accept responsibility for this misguided action on the part of the Government, even though it was taken by its temporary leader. If the democratic rights of the Parliament be trampled underfoot all semblance of democracy is abandoned. The party to which I have the honour to belong would not in any circumstances attempt to interfere with the rights and privileges of a select committee elected by the Parliament. I appeal to honorable senators opposite not to be misguided by the long arid rambling speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs, in the course of which he did not once refer to the subject-matter of the motion before the Senate. Instead the Minister spoke about the abuse of power by the Labour majority in the Senate. He contended that the passage of bills through this chamber had been delayed by the Opposition, but he did not say one word in answer to the charges that were levelled against the Government and its leaders by Senator McKenna. He referred to the Commonwealth Bank Bill and the “ hangover “ majority, but not once did he attempt to justify the action of the Government in flouting the rights and privileges of the Parliament. I warn the Government that its defiance of constitutional procedure in relation to the proceedings of this select committee may react against it in the future - probably in the very near future. In the course of his stupid reply the Minister referred to the Communists as though they had something to do with the subject-matter of the motion before the Senate. Not even my fascist friend opposite will contend that they have anything to do with it.
Let not honorable senators opposite think for one moment that the condition? that obtain in Australia to-day will remain sacrosanct unless we are prepared to guard and uphold them. Members of a democratic parliament should be above petty political party friction. 1 observe that the Minister for Trade and Customs has re-entered the chamber. 1 am glad that he has done so because 1 have been making some comments abou the speech which he made on the motion for the adoption of the select committee’s report.
– The honorable senator drove me out of the Senate.
– In spite of the fact that the Government, through the then acting Prime Minister, the Eight Honorable “ Irresponsible “ A. W. Fadden, issued direct orders to service chiefs and heads of departments not to attend the select committee, at least one courageous official was prepared to ignore the order if, in fact, it was issued to him, and to attend the committee. I refer to the Director-General of Recruiting, Sir Edmund Herring. He, at least, understood his obligation to uphold the rights and privileges of the Parliament, and he understood all the implication of nonattendance.
– Sir Edmund Herring is not a public servant.
– That is beside the point. If the Minister had even half as much intelligence as has Sir Edmund Herring, he would not have made the silly speech which he made tonight. Already, so soon after his return to the chamber, he is indulging in stupid interjections. We sympathize with the Government of which he is a member because he must be a great liability to it. Many supporters of the Government are gravely perturbed by its direction to service chiefs and departmental heads to boycott the select committee. I believe that the Prime Minister is very gravely perturbed by the action taken by his deputy in his absence. I sympathize with him and with the Attorney-General, both of whom have too much sense to have involved the Government in such a decision. Actions of that sort, whether they be made by governments that lean to the right or to the left, are anathema to the Australian people.
– We are discussing a motion in which this Senate is asked to adopt a report which makes, I suggest,, some of the most outrageous charges that: could be made against Ministers by members of this Parliament. I confess that I was astonished that a man of the calibre of Senator McKenna should not know better than to sign a report of this character. It bears on the face of it ali the signs of irresponsibility. It was obviously put together for the purpose of trumping up a charge against Ministers for which there is no foundation whatever. In recent years the electors of Australia became conscious of the fact that long years of office rather went to the heads of some former Ministers. Now that they are unable to exercise the sort of power that they would exercise as Ministers, they seek for themselves, as members of a select committee of this chamber, powers that the Parliament itself does not possess. I refer first to paragraph 60 of the report in which there is a quotation from a work on the British Cabinet system by Professor Arthur Berriedale Keith. In the course of that quotation it ih made perfectly clear that certain defence matters are not the subject-matter of inquiry, through a Minister or otherwise. Here is a most extraordinary matter. The committee’s report, after quoting Professor Berriedale Keith states -
There is, however, no real analogy between the two. Professor Keith’s comments clearly refer to demands made in the House for information on defence matters, &c. In our Parliament, too, it is not uncommon for Ministers to refuse to answer such questions on the ground that it would not be in the public interest. But such policy has no relation whatsoever to investigations by a Select Committee. . . .
Are we asked to believe that a select committee is paramount over the Parliament itself? That is what the committee’? report claims -
When these nien were invited to give evidence before the committee who knew that it would sit in camera? Was there a word in the letters sent to the witnesses to indicate that the committee would sit in camera? It was not bound to sit in camera. For members of the committee to suggest that a select committee should be in a superior position to the Parliament itself is the height of absurdity.
There is much more evidence of irresponsibility in this report. Individuals who seek to make unctuous charges against others who are endeavouring to do their duty to the public should be careful to ensure that their statements are correct and do not contain misleading implications. In that connexion, I refer to the suggestion made in paragraph 58 of the report that the select committee was in an inferior position to that of the National Security Resources Board. I invite honorable senators to note the words that are used, and the completely misleading inferences that may be drawn from this portion of the report. The paragraph states -
The inference to be drawn from that statement is that the Ministry entrusted to the National Security Resources Board, which apparently must be inferior to a select committee because it includes only one parliamentarian, information that it would not make available to the select committee and that that constituted an insult to the select committee. No mention is made in the report of the fact that members of the National Security Resources Board, like members of the Ministry, are required to take the oath of secrecy.
– So are all honorable senators.
– No. That is the vital difference. As members of the National Security Resource Board have ‘ taken the oath of secrecy, the Ministry is able to make available to them to assist them in advising the Government, material that it cannot make available to individuals who have not taken that oath. The misleading implication contained in that paragraph does no credit to the person who drew the report.
I come now to the gravamen of the committee’s charge. It is said witnesses who were bound to attend the meetings of the committee were induced by the ministry not to do so. I wish to refer first to a matter which is mentioned in the report but which is lightly passed over. It is undeniable that the men who were called to give evidence before the committee were not called in such a way that they were bound to attend. I invite the chairman of the committee to deny that. Not one of the intended witnesses received the kind of notice that would have bound him to attend to give evidence before the Committee. There is no technicality about this objection. It is a reality.
– What should have been done?
– I shall tell the honorable senator what should have been done. If the honorable senator listens he may learn something and have an appreciation of the outrageousness of this report. Let us see what kind of a notice was sent to the witnesses. First I refer the Senate to Standing Order 382 which states -
Witnesses not being Senators shall be ordered to attend the Senate or a Committee of the whole by summons under the hand of the Clerk of the Senate or, before a Select Committee by summons under the hand of the Clerk attending the Committee.
That is perfectly clear. Witnesses must be summoned to attend a select committee under the hand of the clerk attending ° the committee. What form of notice was sent to the prospective witnesses in this instance? I shall read the letter that was sent to Lieutenant-General Rowell -
I am directed by the Chairman of the Select Committee on national service in the defence force, Senator the Honorable N. E. McKenna to ask you to attend before the Committee to give evidence upon the subject referred to them by the Senate.
Then the subject-matter of the inquiry is set out. Ear from being a summons, the letter ends in this way -
Would you kindly let me know, for the information of the Chairman, whether it would be convenient for you to attend at Parliament House, Melbourne, on Tuesday the 6th day of February at 10.00 a.m. to give evidence upon the subject referred to the Select Committee by the Senate.
By no stretch of the imagination can that document be described as a summons.
– What would the Attorney-General have done?
– There is no need for me to draft the document that I would have used because a perfectly satisfactory form of summons was in use in this Parliament until a few years ago. It was an official document headed -
Parliament of the Commonwealth. The Senate, Parliament House, Canberra.
It stated -
I am directed by the Select Committee of the Senate on [subject] to summon you to attend at [place] at [time] to give evidence on the subject that has been referred to the Committee by the Senate.
It will be argued that the letter that was sent in this instance was a more polite document, asking certain men to attend the sittings of the committee. I agree, but the Opposition cannot have it both ways. If it proceeds on the basis that witnesses should not be summoned but should be asked or invited to. attend an inquiry, it has no complaint upon which it can found any legal action if the recipients take the document for what it is worth and decide that they are not bound to attend the inquiry. This is no mere technicality. It is a reality, because members of the Opposition in this chamber are claiming the right to punish people for a criminal contempt, and the punishment that they seek to inflict arises from conduct which must have its foundation, in the first place, in the fact that the witnesses who were summoned were bound to attend the meeting of the select committee. In orde* to emphasize the importance of the character of the document which is directed to a witness, I point out that, in 1914 a bill was introduced to the Par liament for the purpose of ensuring regularity in these matters. That measure contained rules for the conduct of parliamentary committees, the summoning of witnesses and so on. Its provisions were similar to those contained in the Standing Orders. For instance, it provided that “ either House may summon witnesses “. The bill contained a schedule which set out the exact form which a summons should take. It was not a document which said, in effect, “We invite you to come along “. It was a peremptory summons addressed to a particular individual, in which he was specifically directed to appear before a parliamentary committee at a specified place at a certain time. I say without any hesitation whatever that if the select committee had sent a letter to an employee of mine couched in similar terms to those of the letter that the committee sent to the deparmental and service heads I would have advised my employee he could disregard it. Imagine for a moment that I was an employer of a large number of men, or, in other words, a big representative of capitalism carrying on a large business, as honorable senators opposite so often describe me. I know something about the workings of the parliamentary institutions, and when my employee approached me with a letter in similar terms to that sent to Lieutenant-General Rowell, and asked my advice whether he should attend the select ‘ committee at a certain time, I do not think that I would be doing anything wrong if I said to the employee, “ There is no need for you to go. That is not a summons, but merely an invitation for you to attend the committee, and if you do not want to go you need not do so”.
– But that is not what Lieutenant-General Rowell did.
– My conduct must be tested on what I did in circumstances such as I have described. If, in those circumstances, I advised my employee that it was not compulsory for him to attend, has Senator McKenna the temerity to say that I would be committing a crime?
– Read the reply sent by Lieutenant-General Rowell to the select committee.
– The illustration that I have mentioned cannot he brushed aside, and I suggest that it is a complete answer to the whole charge. Of course, the matters that I have mentioned are very lightly skimmed over in the report of the select committee. That committee was so unmindful of the real obligations* that it owed to the Parliament, and its members were so unmindful of their responsibilities to the Parliament, and so keen to trump up a charge against the Ministry, that all considerations to which I have referred were lightly passed over in its report. The Opposition says, in effect, “ Well, it would not have been any different if we had served them with a summons, because apparently the Ministry would have taken a similar point of view “. The foundation for a criminal charge does not arise at all, because, in fact, the witnesses were never .summoned. Although no charge can be made against the witnesses and no punishment can be inflicted upon them, the Opposition suggests that some one who told the witnesses that they need not attend the select committee - whoever that individual was - is guilty of what is described as a heinous offence.
– The individual who made that decision gave reasons for saying “No”.
– If this chamber is going to accept a report that is based upon such a flimsy foundation as is the report of the select committee, then it will bring this institution into disrepute. So much for the facts. I suggest that I have completely answered the charge.
I propose now to examine some other matters connected with this move by the Opposition to attack the Government.
– The . Minister’s explanation amounts only to a quibble.
– This is no mere quibble. This is, as I have said, a criminal charge. One would expect that members of the Ministry were entitled to at least equal consideration to that which is extended by juries to accused persons on trial. In other words, in any criminal proceedings, an accused person is entitled to have the charge against him proved beyond reasonable doubt.
– Yes, in this instance contempt of the Senate has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
- .Senator O’Byrne is sufficiently irresponsible to come to the conclusion that the Government’s action amounts to contempt of the Senate despite the fact that no foundation whatever exists for such a charge. However, let me take the matter a little further. But, before doing so I want to emphasize that I consider that what I have already said is all that need be said as a complete answer to the charge. However, the basis upon which the select committee claims that it can make the particular allegation against Ministers is contained in section 49 of the Constitution, which provides that-
The powers, privileges and immunities ot the Senate and of the House of Representatives are declared to be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom and of its members and Committees at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
Then, without very rauch thought about what they were really doing, the committee proceeded on the assumption that because the House of Commons has seen fit from year to year since 1700 to pass a particular sessional order, the terms of that sessional order applied in this Parliament. I would have thought that that was a mis-reading of section 49 of the Constitution. The powers and the privileges of the House of Commons include, of course, the power or privilege to pass that particular sessional order: and the House of Commons chose to do so. Section 49 of our Constitution means that the Senate has the power or the privilege, if it sees fit, to pass such a sessional order. It has never done so. Consequently, I suggest that the claim that is made that this charge can be founded on the sessional order passed by the House of Commons is also quite unreal.
I shall make only one or two further comments before concluding, one of which is that people who come into the Parliament or into the courts and make all sorts of unctuous charges against others should come in with clean hands. This charge has been made in order to create the impression that the Ministry of the day, if you please, has done something that is contemptuous of the Parliament and has infringed the privileges of members of the Parliament. That charge is made by seven members of a committee, all of whom belong to a political party which is at the present time a living embodiment of contempt of the Parliament. Members of the political party who sit opposite, and who, presumably, will support the charge, have themselves confessed that they vote in this House on certain matters in accordance with the directions of people outside the Parliament. Let them deny it if they dare. That is the position of the Australian Labour party to-day. Even in relation to a matter that we have been discussing quite recently, we know that a decision binding on Labour members of the Parliament was made by a conference, not of members of the Parliament but of outsiders, who are not responsible to the people. Members of that conference met and carried a resolution to the effect that the Australian Labour party was not to oppose a certain measure, which was a matter of some importance and one in respect of which members of the party have their own particular views. It was officially explained, we are told, that although members of the party were free to criticize certain clauses of the bill, they could not vote against the bill.
– From what is thu Minister reading?
– I am reading from a report of the conference that was published iri the Sydney Morning Herald.
– The official report of the conference has not yet been published.
– What I have said has not been denied. It is not disputed that our parliamentary institutions have reached such a position that members of the Australian Labour party actually claim credit for the fact that their votes in the Parliament are dictated to them by people who do not sit in the Parliament, and that they accept that dictation under circumstances in which there is a clear threat of dire consequences if they do not do as they are told. I suggest, in all seriousness, that that constitutes a per petual contempt of the Parliament, and that it ill-becomes people who perpetually connive at such contempt to make charges of the kind that have been made in the report of the select committee.
I shall now read something that I hope members of the Labour party will read, mark and ponder. The matter that I shall read to them should be of particular interest because they are continually talking about the rights and privileges of the Senate, of the Parliament, and of their responsibility to the Parliament and the people. Chapter VIII. of the fourteenth edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice states -
To attempt to influence members in their conduct by threats is also a breach of privilege.
Do not these people who give directions to the Labour party attempt to influence members in their conduct by threats that they will cease to be members of the party, that they will not get their endorsement, and that therefore they will not be members of the Parliament after the next election? May does not even leave it as high as that. Another passage in the same chapter reads -
Conduct not amounting to a direct attempt to influence a member in the discharge of jus duties, but having a tendency to impair his independence in the future performance of his duty, will also be treated as a breach of privilege.
It would be hard to convince me that the conduct that took place at the Labour conference in relation to the measure which has been under discussion in this chamber does not have a tendency to impair the independence in the future performance of their duties of the members of this chamber who sit in Opposition. We know very well that they include confessed opponents of the bill, because they have said so. But they are impaired in the performance of their duty to allow their vote to follow their voice by the fact that they know the threat is made that if they carry out their duty, and exercise their independence as members of the Parliament, they will be cast from the party. It ill becomes people who are perpetually carrying on conduct of this kind to make the charges that have been made in this report, more especially when the foundation does not exist for such charges. The report has been prepared by what I am afraid must be referred to as a select committee, not, I suggest, in bona fide discharge of their duties as members of this chamber, but for no other purpose than’ to acquire some mean party advantage.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) 1 10.3]. - It was distressing indeed to see the attitude of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) when replying to the serious charges that were made by Senator McKenna yesterday. Their replies contained nothing but abuse, irrelevancy, and complicated legal technicalities. They showed a complete disrespect for the traditions of Parliament. The two Ministers have evaded the issue. Their offence, along with the offence of their colleagues, is one of endeavouring to deter or hinder any person from appearing before a select committee to give evidence. Great play was made by the Attorney-General as to whether we had summoned the witnesses. As I interjected at the time, that is indicative of the mind of a person of the calibre of the Minister ; he is a good man to have around the place when the country is heading for a police state. He has his secret police and he is used to dealing with them. The institution of Parliament is an honorable institution. Its traditions were upheld before the two Ministers came into it, and they will be upheld long after they are gone from the Parliament and forgotten. The Attorney-General, who is in charge of the legal affairs of the Commonwealth, stated that these departmental heads and service chiefs were not bound to attend, but were directed by the Cabinet not to attend. That appears to be a deliberate misquotation in order to eonfuse the issue, because he was intent on pressing his weak and irrelevant argument. Paragraph 18 of the Special Report contains a copy of the letter that was sent to Lieu tenant-General Rowell, asking him to attend to give evidence. He was not ordered to attend at a particular time. The letter reads - 11th January, 1951.
I am directed by the Chairman of the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force (Senator the Hon. N. E. McKenna) to ask you to attend before the Committee to give evidence upon the subject referred to them by the Senate.
In order to acquaint you with the full scope of the Committee’s inquiry, I enclose herewith copies of the following: -
Would you kindly let me know, for the information of the Chairman, whether it would be convenient for you to attend at Parliament House, Melbourne, on Tuesday, the sixth day of February, at 10 a.m., to give evidence upon the subject referred to the Select Committee by the Senate.
Clerk of the Committee.
Paragraph 19 reads -
While this letter asks the witness to attend to give evidence, he is not ordered to attend at a particular time; he is asked to indicate whether a certain time would be convenient. The Committee might well have instructed the Clerk peremptorily to summon the witnesses to appear at stated times, but it was felt that it was reasonable - and courteous - that the Committee should study the convenience of the witnesses in this matter.
There is no need for secret police or a squad 21 to deal with the Senate. Perhaps the. Minister’s mind is running along those lines at the moment. The Parliament is being degraded by this contemptuous action of the Executive against representatives of the people. That is a courtesy that was extended to these people. The charge that we are levelling is that, there was a direction to deter or hinder persons from appearing to give evidence, which is contrary to the traditional usage of the House of Commons, and clearly contempt of the Senate. The Minister ignored the previous authorities that were cited in the report, and I should like to remind him of some of them. I notice that the Minister has left the chamber. Perhaps he considered that his contribution to the debate had been so unconvincing and in such poor taste that he should leave. The authority included in the report of the Committee of Privileges, Commons Paper 90 of 1934 reads -
The Sessional Order and what may be described as the general privilege of the House of Commons clearly prohibits anything in the nature of intimidation or force or any suggestion of false evidence on a question of fact or any attempt to prevent any person from appearing before a Committee of the House ot from expressing his honest opinion.
This contempt was committed when these people were directed not to attend. That is a most important factor to hear in mind. The authority contained in May’s Parliamentary Practice, 14th Edition, at page 129, reads -
To tamper with a witness in regard to the evidence to be given before either House or any Committee of either House or to endeavour, directly or indirectly to deter or hinder any person from appearing or giving evidence is a breach of privilege.
The point that I make here is that the report that has been presented is the only report that the select committee could bring back to the Parliament to give an account of its stewardship. History has a habit of forgetting personalities, but it is most interested in the reports and the recorded proceedings of select committees. This committee was set up by the Senate as a duly appointed select committee. There is not a shadow of a doubt about the method of its appointment. It was given certain duties to perform on behalf of the Senate, and it was instructed to report back to the Senate. The AttorneyGeneral, implied that the members of the select committee were irresponsible and that they may betray the confidence reposed in them by service chiefs. I point out that the service chiefs were not obliged or asked to give evidence along lines of government policy. They were invited to attend and it was within their own discretion to refuse to give evidence on matters dealing with government policy. Standing Order 308 reads -
The evidence taken by any Select Committee of the Senate, and documents presented to such Committee which have not been reported to the Senate, shall not be disclosed or published by any member of such Committee, or by any other person.
The committee was most mindful of its responsibilities in this connexion. There was not one whisper of any evidence tendered to the committee that seeped away to the press. I compliment the committee on the manner in which it carried out its functions, and on its conscientious attention to its duties. The members of the committee paid considerable attention to detail and scrupulously complied with the terms of reference. It is all very fine when the Government knows that it is in a “ 3pot “ to counter such a grave charge against it by abuse, but the personal abuse that has been hurled across the chamber’ ill becomes responsible Ministers. The Senate itself, not I, will be the judge in this matter. I am merely informing the Senate of the nature of the Special Report of the Select Committee and the’ manner in which it carried out its duties. It will be the function of the whole Senate to deal as it thinks fit with this particular contempt. I do not think that there is any doubt that there has been a flagrant and grave contempt of the Senate. If we study the precedents in other parliaments and the authorities on this matter, we find that since the seventeenth century there has never been an occasion where contempt of the Parliament has been treated lightly. To allow this matter to go without comment would establish a most dangerous precedent. It would mean, in effect, that any select committee in the future, regardless of its personnel and political colour, would have no authority to carry out the functions imposed on it by the Parliament. Once that precedent is created, once we allow an incident such as this to become an accepted fact, future cabinets will refer continually to this occasion and will say, “ They got away with it then; why cannot we get away with it now ? “ That is a precedent that we must guard against. Till now, the Executive has been successfully prevented from encroaching on the privileges of the Parliament. We should be recreant to the trust that the people have placed in us if we did not carry on the traditions of the past and fight against any attempt to undermine those privileges.
The Attorney-General also mentioned that we had implied that there would be punishment for criminal contempt. There is no reference to punishment in the report. The authorities and the Standing Orders refer to it, but the report does not contain any such reference.
In paragraph 58 of the report reference is made to the National Security Resources Board. That board has been set up, of course, by the Cabinet and will be given the confidence of the Government on matters of very great importance concerning the defence of this country. How far is the Parliament entitled to know what is going on in the country? How much liaison is there between members of Parliament and the people; and between the Cabinet and the people? In this bottleneck which is fast being built up by this present Government, where the Cabinet is selected by one man, the Executive is assuming responsibility to flagrantly flout the Parliament. Into what position are we heading if we allow a situation such as this to become an accepted precedent in the records of this Senate ? We must judge, and I ask honorable senators who will eventually be called upon to judge this matter, what is the issue. It is completely clear. As the authorities have pointed out in referring to matters connected with the House of Commons, it is also clear that an offence has been committed. The technicality of whether a summons has or has not been issued is quite irrelevant. The point is whether the Executive, by means of its directive, has prevented the service chiefs and the departmental heads from appearing before and giving evidence to a select committee. That is the only issue for us to decide in this chamber. I am asking honorable senators to give to that issue very serious consideration, because it is a serious charge and one that we cannot allow to escape our notice.
The Attorney-General referred to Professor Arthur Berridale Keith and pleaded public interest in order to justify the actions of the Cabinet. It was stated to the chairman of the committee that in the public interest it was not desired that certain persons should give evidence before the committee. The collection of evidence is one of the main functions of a select committee. Such a committee has power to make investigations and to keep the results of those, investigations confidential until the report of the committee is made known. It is a most important democratic power and one which should be retained by the Parliament.
I now wish to refer to a situation which is developing in this country in relation to the Public Service. Previous to the last general election the Chifley Government was charged with being a bureaucratic government which employed numerous .people who required other people to fill in forms. The real position is that the heads of the Public Service are a law unto themselves. They .continue in office whichever political party is in power. They are very close advisers to the Ministers. They have their own field of authority carved out for them and enjoy the protection of various associations. Seniority gives them security in their positions. To whom are such people answerable? Ministers come to them quite green - as a matter of fact, very green in the case of the present Cabinet - and act on their advice. There is no authority in the land to whom heads of departments are answerable in any direction whatever, unless it be to a select committee or to a statutory standing committee, such as the Public Works Committee. I consider that it is a matter of the utmost importance that the committee system be continued in a democratic Parliament. For a public works committee, or other statutory committee, or a select committee to be able to investigate the administration of Commonwealth departments, to have witnesses appear before it, to examine records and to come back to the Parliament and to present an honest, faithful report after having gleaned evidence on oath, is one of the advantages of democracy and is something that should be guarded with every means that we have at our disposal.
I have pointed out that a select committee is bound to secrecy and that it must not divulge the nature of any of the evidence that is tendered to it. When it makes its report to the Parliament the information or the evidence contained in the report becomes the property of the Parliament and is available to its members. Although I do not wish to refer in detail to the evidence given to the committee, I consider that if honorable senators opposite had heard some of that evidence their attitude towards defence and their knowledge of defence matters would have been considerably broadened. What chance have members of this Parliament to learn of such matters? In the opinion of this Government anything pertaining to defence should be kept away not only from the people but also from the Parliament itself. _ It is kept in the minds of a secret few- the Executive which at this moment is being accused of contempt of the Parliament. There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that there has been a deliberate attempt to challenge the authority of a select committee which was delegated by the Parliament to carry out certain functions.
The members of the committee have been accused by the Attorney-General of trum ping-up a charge against the Ministry. If the Minister accuses the Standing Orders of trumping-up a charge, ]’ cannot argue against that; but the members of the committee meticulously adhered to the Standing Orders of the Senate. The matter of the admission of strangers was one with which we dealt, and mention of it has been made in the report. The first action of the committee was to exclude the press and strangers. The examination of witnesses was carried out with decorum. The administering of the oath by the secretary of the committee was performed with great dignity. The opinions expressed by the witnesses were well considered, and those witnesses who did appear realized the importance of being invited to appear before the committee.
– How many witnesses appeared?
– I shall not divulge that until the time comes for it to be done. We have carried out our functions and are now giving an account of our stewardship. The Senate gave us a job to do and we have completed, with reservations and as- far as we have gone, the job that we were given to do. Those reservations must be explained in order to remove injustice to ourselves and to the committee. We must explain why we are not able to submit the report that the Parliament required us to submit to it. Every tradition of the Parliament required that we should do the job, and that has always been the procedure in the past. Yet we are met by this thin edge of the wedge, this attempt by the Executive to supersede tb power of the Parliament. Instead of feeling ashamed of their conduct, twomembers of the Government, who claim to be His Majesty’s Ministers of State, arrogantly abuse the Opposition for bringing forward a most important matter from the point of view of precedent and parliamentary usage. The Go vernment could have gained much useful information from the report of the committee. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the Usher of the Black Rod, who acted as secretary of the select committee, for the conscientious and painstaking work that he did. The Senate is fortunate to have the services of an officer of his calibre and ability, and I am sure that my remarks will be endorsed by other members of the committee. Various opinions were expressed to the committee in evidence, which could have formed the basis of a very useful report had that been permitted. Whether the Government will itself move for the appointment of a select committee I do not know. Perhaps it is so self-confident that it believes that it can do without the assistance and advice of the Parliament. The action of the Government in disregarding the serious charges brought against it in the report of the committee supports the claim that the Senate should be abolished. Several honorable senators opposite, including the Minister for Trade and Customs, referred to certain members of the Senate as the “ hang-over “ from the 1946 election. The Minister for Trade and Customs is himself one of those elected at that time. The Government has gone past the stage of a “ hang-over “ and is in the “D.T.’s” stage. The “D.T.’s” from which the Government is suffering might be described as “ dictator tactics “. The method by which the Senate is elected is prescribed in the Constitution, where it is laid down that half the number of senators shall go up for election every three years. In 1946, the people elected certain senators for a period of six years, and nothing has occurred to nullify their election.
The Attorney-General, towards the end of his speech, said that the behaviour of members of the Opposition in this chamber ill became them. I throw that back in his teeth. It is evident from the behaviour of Ministers of the Crown and their back bench supporters that the contempt of Parliament of which they have been guilty was carefully calculated and premeditated. Members of the Government realize that while there is a democratically elected Parliament that can speak for the people there is less likelihood that a few men will be able to control the destinies of the country. So long as I have a voice to raise in this Parliament I shall raise it against dangerous precedents that tend to destroy one of our most cherished heritages, namely, the supremacy of the Parliament over the executive.
Motion (by Senator Henty) put - That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator HENTY (Tasmania) “10.4:1]. -The legal implications of the ridiculous report of the select committee have been fully and brilliantly dealt with by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). The only point on which I propose to comment is the fact that witnesses were not summoned in the orthodox manner. That fact has been attributed by some honorable senators opposite to the desire of the committee to deal courteously with the witnesses. However, having regard to the legal ability of the chairman of the committee, no one can convince me that there was not some other purpose behind the failure of the committee to summon witnesses in the proper legal manner. When I read the report I felt a growing sense of nausea at the hypocrisy of those who were responsible for its presentation. The report, of course, was merely a cloak for the machinations of honorable senators opposite.- The select committee was at best merely a sham. It was appointed for one purpose only, to delay the-
Sena tor Maher. - Political ?
Senator (Sandford. - The reference to the committee as a sham is offensive to me, as a member of that committee, and I ask that the words be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the statement that the committee was a sham, and say that the purpose for which the committee was appointed was a sham.
– I rise to order. The honorable senator has made only a conditional withdrawal. He has cloaked his offence by saying that the purpose for which the committee was elected was a sham, which, I contend, conveys tha same meaning.
– No point of order is involved. Senator Henty has said that the purpose for which the committee was elected was a sham. That ia merely his opinion and he is entitled to express it.
– I propose to examine briefly the reason why this committee wa3 appointed. I believe that it was appointed for the sole purpose of delaying the vote of the Senate on the National Service Bill. What was the purpose of that delay? It was merely a device to gain time until the holding of the triennial conference of the Austraiian Labour party, which, it was hoped, would give fresh riding instructions to Opposition senators. I must admit that their hope was not in vain. For thy second time in this Senate we have witnessed the spectacle of Opposition senators receiving instructions to vote for a bill which they professed to oppose.
I propose now to deal with what 1 regard as a particularly nauseating section of the select committee’s report. I refer to the quotation at the beginning of the report of the words of a great English statesman, John Pym, whose defence of the rights of the people and of the people’s parliament against the sovereign power of the King, and whose, fight for the supremacy of the elected representatives of the people against any sectional interest in the community, are well known to all who have made a study of parliamentary history. The ideals of parliamentary liberties were advanced by the chairman of the committee in the introduction to the report. I direct attention to the fact that the chairman of the committee is the same honorable senator who rose in his place in this chamber on the 17th October last and voiced sentiments which were the absolute antithesis of the ideals of John Pym. On that occasion, speaking for the Opposition, the honorable senator said -
The Labour executive has spoken and we shall obey.
He was referring to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill which had been delayed in the Senate for many months until an outside body had been called to the rescue to give instructions to the Opposition as to what it should do about the measure. The rights that John Pym established 300 years ago, when through the years of the Short Parliament and the Long Parliament he fought against the attempt by King Charles I. to usurp powers, have been thrown overboard by members of the Opposition in this chamber. Is it any wonder that those of us who cherish those 300-year-old traditions felt sick at the hypocrisy that brought those ideals into the mire of expediency and political opportunity?
I propose now to deal with the statement by Senator O’Byrne that as long as he had a voice he would fight against the establishment of any dangerous precedent in this Senate. .Senator O’Byrne and the members of the party to which he belongs established the most dangerous precedent that we have ever seen in this Parliament by accepting, not once, but twice, the dictates of an outside junta, which was not elected by the people and has no responsibility to them, but which compels them to vote, not in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, but as they are ordered under the threat that if they do not obey they will not be endorsed as Labour candidates at the next general election. Let us consider some of the things that occurred prior to the last general election. Some of them have been referred to by Opposition senators on many occasions. One in particular concerned the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner). I propose to relate an occurrence in Tasmania the facts of which have never previously been revealed in this chamber.
– Order! How does the honorable member connect that matter with the motion before the Chair ?
– I do so in this way: In Tasmania the chairman of the select committee (Senator McKenna) was placed on the top of the list of the candidates in the Senate team-
– Order! What has that to do with the matter under discussion ?
– I was developing my charge of intimidation.
– Order! Such a charge will take a good deal of developing.
– If it is your wish, Mr. President, that I should refrain from developing that argument, I bow humbly to your decision. Sheer hypocrisy produced this report and for many a long day it will be remembered by members of this Parliament as a document unworthy to have been brought before the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Arnold) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 141.)
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had almost completed my comments on this- legislation. I had said, amongst other things, that, in implementing a compulsory military training scheme, w.e should be careful not to disturb unduly our economic system. The advance of scientific warfare has completely changed our former conceptions of what constitute adequate defence preparations. I fear that, as in the past, compulsory military training may again be used as the plaything of military careerists. Having regard to our small population, even if we called up all our eligible man-power, we should have little chance of successfully repelling an invading force which attacked us in great strength. In the event of war every man, woman and child in this country will be involved. In previous wars in which we have been involved, particularly in World War I., our isolation gave us great protection. Modern weapons and equipment have so annihilated distance that the protection afforded by our isolation no longer exists. In the training of the manhood of this country in the fundamentals of national defence we must get away from the methods of the horse and buggy days. It would, perhaps, best suit our purposes if we devoted the whole of our man-power and our energies to the development of the technical services such as, for instance, the air force as a first line of defence. It is ludicrous to think that a sparsely populated country like Australia should endeavour to defend itself with a land force against an invading power with vast resources of man-power, . transport and military equipment.
– Order! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn. - Senator .MORROW (Tasmania) [11.0], -I wish to refer to .an incident that occurred in the Senate this afternoon. Senator Wright was suspended, not because he used certain words to which I took exception, but because he defied the Chair. I should like to make my position quite clear. Senator Wright made certain statements that were not true. First, he said that I was obviously and definitely a Communist sympathizer. I did not take exception to that remark. I let it pass over my head because it had no foundation whatever. Subsequently, however, Senator Wright said that I had been expelled from the Labour party because of my propaganda against Australia. I rose immediately. I said that Senator Wright’s remark was untrue, and was offensive to me, and I asked that it be withdrawn. Before I said any more, the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) rose and asked whether a reference to an honorable senator having been expelled from a party could be regarded as offensive. Subsequently discussion centred on that point. I was not asked to state the words to which I took exception. I say now that the remark to which I took exception was that my propaganda against Australia had led to my expulsion from the Australian Labour party. That is absolutely untrue. I have never used propaganda against Australia. I am just as good an Australian as any other member of this -chamber is.
– The honorable senator denied that he had been expelled from the Labour party in 1938.
– That is untrue. I merely stated that the words uttered by Senator Wright were untrue ; that they were offensive to me, and that I wanted them to be withdrawn.
– The Pr made quite a speech on the subject of expulsion.
– I do not care what the President said. I did not speak. I have never denied that I was expelled from the Australian Labour party in 1938, but I was not expelled for the reason stated by Senator Wright. I was expelled because cf differences within the party. They had nothing to do with propaganda against Australia. I am not ashamed of my expulsion.
– The honorable senator should be ashamed of his attitude in this chamber to-day.
– I am not ashamed. I was fighting for a principle. The Attorney-General presumed that I had taken exception to Senator Wright’s claim that I had been expelled from the Labour party. I remained silent. I repeat that my objection was not to the claim that I had been expelled from the Labour party, but to the allegation that my expulsion had resulted from my propaganda against Australia. I shall always take exception to such untruths. Any one who says that I denied having been expelled from the Australian Labour party is telling an untruth.
– We shall have the Hansard proofs to-morrow.
– I do not care about that. I did not deny that I had been expelled. Everybody knows that I wa3 expelled.
– The President did not know. Why did the honorable senator not correct the President’s misconception ?
– Why should I? I made a plain statement of the facts. I took exception to Senator Wright’s claim that I had been expelled because of my propaganda against Australia. The Attorney-General apparently is clairvoyant. He assumed that my objection was to the allegation that I had been expelled from the Australian Labour party.
– I do not propose to comment upon what was said or was not said this afternoon but, in the absence of Senator Wright I should like to read an extract from a report that appeared in the Hobart Mercury on the 16th May, 1938. This will put the matter beyond dispute. The report reads as follows : -
Mr. MORROW EXPELLED. Executive or Labour PARTY Takes Action. Charges of Disloyalty. not fit and proper person to continue as member op the party.
The Executive of Tasmanian section of A.L.P. yesterday expelled from the movement Mr. W. Morrow, Secretary of the Tasmanian
Branch of the A.R.U. The expulsion was the result of a letter by Mr. Morrow to the Mercury (21st March, 1938) in which he denied that the resolution favouring the adoption of universal physical and military training for home defence was carried unanimously at the recent conference of the Labour party at Burnie, and in which he intimated his intention of opposing the proposal when it came before the Interstate Labour Conference for discussion.
Mr. Morrow did not attend the meeting of the Executive in answer to a summons directing him to explain his attitude, and a resolution was adopted in which it was stated that Mr. Morrow had treated the Executive with open contempt and defiance by failing to attend.
Everybody who was in the chamber this afternoon knows that Senator Morrow remained silent while the President stated that the charge against Senator Wright was that he had made an untrue statement. Senator Morrow was not man enough to get up and deny that. He brought the President of this chamber into contempt by deliberately misleading him into expelling a member of this chamber wrongly.
– You are a liar; I did not.
– I did not mislead anybody.
– If Senator Morrow were a man he would rise now and apologize to the Chair and to the Senate.
– During the proceedings this afternoon, I attempted to secure the call, but was unable to do so, and I take the opportunity now to say what I would have said on that occasion. From an interjection that was made behind me during the incident that we are now discussing, it became apparent to me that in the heat and turbulence of the debate, Senator Morrow had admitted that he had been expelled from the Australian Labour party. Apparently you, sir, did not hear the admission, and it was not brought to your notice. I sought an opportunity to correct your misapprehension, because it was clear that you had not the facts in their proper perspective. The second point I wish to make is that you were not called upon this afternoon, I submit with respect, to give a ruling on Standing Orders. When one honorable senator rnakes a statement and another honorable senator denies it, I contend that the President’s task is to give a ruling, not on the conduct or proceedings of this chamber, but on which of the two senators is speaking the truth. To-night’s sequel has, T submit, shown that you decided wrongly this afternoon.
– The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) is entirely wrong. I deplore the fact that a full statement was not made when I had in my mind the charge made by Senator Wright that Senator Morrow had been expelled from the Australian Labour party because of disloyalty or propaganda against, Australia. However, when a dispute of this kind arises, it is not the d duty of the President to decide who . is right and who is wrong. I realize that the Minister for Social Services, being a comparative newcomer to this chamber, has not had much experience in these matters. When an honorable senator makes a charge against a fellow senator, and a withdrawal is sought, it is the duty of the President under the Standing Orders to ask that the offending words be withdrawn. That does not mean that the President has to be the judge of who ie right and who is wrong. It would be utterly stupid for him to make such a decision. How could he know who was right and who was wrong? To-day, in accordance with the Standing Orders I asked Senator Wright to withdraw a statement to which objection had been taken. I was very patient with him because I prided myself on the fact that during the seven and a half years that I had presided over this chamber - nine and a half years including a two-year term as chairman of committees - I had never had to suspend any honorable senator. I considered 1 could conduct the affairs of this chamber without exercising that power of expulsion. Therefore, I was most lenient with Senator Wright, but it is the duty of every honorable senator to respect the Chair. He may think that the Chair is utterly wrong, but discipline must be maintained and when the withdrawal of a statement is sought, that statement mustbp withdrawn. Senator Wright was given every opportunity to withdraw, but he refused to do so. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), too, fell foul of the Chair, but I did not exercise my authority over him. I called on the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley), who, before taking action, called on Senator Wright to withdraw. I would have permitted Senator Wright to withdraw even then, and if he had done so he would not,’ of course, have been suspended. I repeat that although I asked Senator Wright to withdraw ho refused to do so. He defied the Chair. Although he was given every opportunity to withdraw he refused to do so, and, unfortunately, my record as President of this Senate was broken.
– I do not propose to delay the proceedings, but I am quite sure, Mr. President, in view of your remarks this afternoon immediately prior to the suspension of Senator Wright, that you are under an entire misapprehension. I say that in view of the explanation that was subsequently made by Senator Morrow. It is, indeed, most regrettable that Senator Morrow consciously, and in silence, allowed a member of this chamber to be suspended by you under a misapprehension. However, that is by the way. The matter that I rose to mention for your own benefit, as well as for mine, is that you are apparently under a misapprehension of the position that existed between yourself and myself when this incident occurred this afternoon. Tradition and my own feelings of natural courtesy obligate me to you in such matters. Apart from that, sir, I am afraid that there was no jurisdiction under which you could have dealt with me for my unfortunate reluctance to comply with your request.
– Order ! We shall not go into that matter. The Minister disobeyed a direction of the Chair.
– I merely wish to say a few words on behalf of Senator Wright, who, in his absence, has been accused by Senator Morrow of having made untrue statements. The point that Senator Wright made, and which appears1 to be conceded on all sides, is that Senator -Morrow was, in fact, expelled from the Australian Labour party. One naturally asks, therefore, why he was expelled from that political party, and Senator Wright expressed as his opinion the view that Senator Morrow was expelled from that party because he was working against the interests of Australia. It appears now that the reason why Senator Morrow “was expelled from the Australian Labour party was that he published in a newspaper an article that the Labour party considered to be false and misleading propaganda concerning its attitude towards compulsory military training.
– That is not true. I was not disloyal. It is not right for Senator. Gorton to suggest that I was expelled because of certain matter that I wrote in an article which appeared in a newspaper.
– Order ! Senator Gorton will continue his remarks.
– I thought that I had made it clear that what the Labour party considered to be false and misleading propaganda was the matter written by Senator Morrow concerning the party’s attitude towards compulsory military training. Members of the Labour party believed that any Labour supporter who read the false and misleading propaganda in Senator Morrow’s newspaper article would come to the conclusion that a conference which had been attended by certain members of that party was not unanimously in favour of compulsory military training, whereas the party stated that the members of the conference were unanimously in favour of that form of military training. If my statement of the position is correct, Senator Wright was amply justified in saying that Senator Morrow engaged in propaganda that was detrimental to the interests of Australia.
.. - I think that it is absolutely unfair that an attack such as that just launched by Senator ‘Gorton should be made upon Senator Morrow, and I am not prepared to allow it to pass without making some comment upon it. This afternoon Senator Wright made a vitriolic attack on Senator Morrow, and I remind the Senate that he did so in the course of a debate on a bill that had nothing to do with Senator Morrow or with certain remarks that the honorable senator is alleged to have made on another occasion. When Senator Morrow was attacked he rightly rose and took objection to the remarks made by Senator Wright concerning him. At the time a number of senators also rose and took various points of order, and it was impossible for Senator Morrow, who had risen again, to obtain your attention, Mr. President. It is easy to accuse the honorable senator of having remained silent while that was going on, but the fact is that the honorable senator did rise to assert his rights. He informed the Senate that the words used concerning him were untrue. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) rose soon after to take a long point of order, and other honorable senators also rose and addressed the Chair, so that the matter became completely confused. However, that was not the fault of Senator Morrow. When Senator Wright was defying the Chair I distinctly remember that various supporters of the Government were urging him to continue to deny to the Chair the respect that it properly deserves. Although I deplored the fact at the time I remained silent because I did not want to aggravate the situation. However, I repeat now that several honorable senators opposite were prodding Senator Wright to continue to defy you, Mr. President. You gave the honorable senator every opportunity to withdraw, but he refused several times to do so. Whether or not Senator Wright was correct in believing that what he had said about Senator Morrow was true I do not know, but he should have carried out the request that you made to him from the chair. In conclusion, I repeat that I regard the attacks that supporters of the Government are now making upon Senator Morrow as being distinctly unfair.
– I have always endeavoured to respect the courtesies that are normally extended by honorable senators to the Chair. However, I experience some diffidence in accepting the ruling that you gave in this matter.. I hope that I have misunderstood your ruling, but I understand the effect of that ruling to be that if Senator “ A “ states a fact, and Senator “ B “ takes exception to that statement of fact, Senator “ A “ must withdraw the statement.
– Order ! I deplore the fact that the discussion is still continuing. I thought that I had explained fully and completely my attitude in this matter so .that every senator would understand the position. Senator Mattner has adopted the attitude that one senator may .-speak the truth whilst another senator may state .an untruth on a matter that is in dispute. If Senator Mattner occupied the chair he could not fairly say who was speaking the truth and who was not. It would be absurd for the occupant of the chair to attempt to pronounce on the truthfulness or otherwise of statements .made by honorable senators, and any such attempt would reduce the business of the Senate to an absurdity. It is not my function to decide whether any honorable senator has spoken the truth in a controversial matter. Hundreds of rulings have been given by my predecessors on this and similar matters, and they are available for perusal in the records of this chamber. An examination of those records will show that all former presidents have insisted, as I have done, that if a senator asks for the withdrawal of certain statements on the ground that they are offensive to him, the occupant of the chair must insist on the withdrawal of the offensive words. I stated this afternoon that, if a senator did not withdraw a remark to which objection had been taken, it then rested with the President to decide whether the refusal warranted his going further to the point of suspending that honorable senator. That is the position. But who am I to. say whether Senator “Wright or Senator Morrow was speaking the truth ? As the custodian of the rights of honorable senators, I considered that I waa utterly right in politely asking Senator Wright to withdraw the statement to which objection had been taken. Senator Wright refused to withdraw it. Therefore, he had to accept the penalty. That is the situation, and I do not see why this discussion should go any further.
– I see reason why this discussion should continue. As I returned to the. chamber a few minutes ago, I heard an .attack, which was an .attack upon me, by Senator Arnold, who ‘said that other honorable senators this afternoon had prodded Senator “Wright and urged him not to withdraw the statement to which objection had been taken. I knew that Senator Wright had spoken the truth, and it appeared to me that the other honorable senator had spoken a falsehood. That impression was created iii my mind, not by what that honorable senator had said, but by your statement, Mr. President. You understood him to mean that he had never been expelled. 1 knew that he had been expelled, and I say so unhesitatingly now. If a man withdraws a truthf ul statement,. he places himself in the position of a man who has made a false charge, and for that reason I objected -to Senator Wright being asked to withdraw his statement.
– Order! Senator McCallum may know the truth. He may know everything about the incident , However, he must understand that the President of the Senate does not know all the facts. Furthermore, I want to say, in fairness to Senator Morrow, that Senator Wright added to his remark about expulsion certain statements to which exception was taken by .Senator Morrow. Had I been in Senator Morrow’s place ] should have risen and demanded a withdrawal of those statements. Prom what I have heard to-night, I consider that, in fairness to Senator Morrow, the whole incident needs airing, though perhaps not on the floor of the Senate. Certain expressions were used in regard to expulsion which I have gathered from the discussion that has taken place, were not correct. However, that is my opinion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Repatriation Department - H. A. McCrae.
Lauds’ Acquisition Act - Land acquired foi Postal purposes - Newcastle West, New South Wales.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for 1949-50.
Sugar Agreement Act - Nineteen th Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession .Committee, for year ended 3 1st August, 1950.
Senate adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 March 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19510308_senate_19_212/>.