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Tuesday, 22 November 1938

Mr MARTENS (Herbert) .- At the outset of my remarks, I wish to say how very much I appreciated that part of this debate dealing with, an enlargement of the powers of the Federal Parliament. I am one who can say quite truthfully that I have never at any time opposed the extension of the powers of the Federal Parliament, though in this view I have differed somewhat from others of my political faith. Consequently, I trust that, as the result of the suggestion made by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and endorsed by the Attorney-General. (Mr. Menzies), honorable members will, in the near future, be given an opportunity to debate this very vital question, and that if necessary a conference with the State governments will be convened in order to endeavour to arrive at an understanding to present a united front to the people on this important matter. I believe that the people are anxious to increase the powers of the Federal Parliament. The difficulty in the past has been, if my memory serves me aright, that no universal attempt has been made to alter the Constitution in that respect. On the contrary, this matter has been made a question of party politics, and the issues which the people have been asked to decide have been confused. That is not in the best interests of the country as a whole.

The honorable member for. Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) made the oft-repeated statement that the present Government has done wonderful work and has a splendid record. That story, however, is half falsehood. When the present Government assumed office, the unfortunate condition of affairs which existed during the regime of the Scullin Government had disappeared. This Government has merely carried on the good 'work already put in hand by the Scullin Government. As a matter of fact, the former right honorable member for Flinders, Air. Bruce, now High Commissioner for Australia in London, informed the British commercial world, that had it not been for the drastic action taken by the Government led by my respected leader, the right honorable member for Yarra, this country would have been on the verge of insolvency.

During the debate on the Works Estimates, I brought under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Perkins) the question of the erection of a new post office at Proserpine. I have since received a letter from the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron), dated the 21st November, in which he states that it is the intention of the department to revert back to its original idea of erecting a wooden building at Proserpine. The new post office is to be provided in what is regarded as a first-class section of the town, in which the erection of wooden buildings by private enterprise is prohibited. It has been pointed out by the Postal Department that the extra cost of erecting a brick or reinforced concrete building would be double the amount of the original tender for a wooden building. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will see his way clear to ensure that the Commonwealth does not defy the local governing authority by erecting a wooden building in an area in which the erection of such buildings by private individuals is not permitted.

Another matter to which I wish to direct attention is the making available of land owned by the Postal Department to the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of erecting bank premises at Ayr. In connexion with this matter, I received the usual stereotyped reply sent out by' the department that, because nf some future possibility of the land at Ayr being required for postal purposes, it is not proposed to make it available to the Commonwealth Bank. If ever the day arrives when the land is required for postal purposes, Martin-p'ace will not be big enough to hold the Sydney General Post Office. I have placed a question on the notice-paper asking the PostmasterGeneral to ascertain the total area of land held by his department at Ayr. It appears that there is sufficient land on which to erect another post office and residence equal in size to that which has been provided in recent years. The Com monwealth Bank conducts a branch of Commonwealth activities, and any interchange of land owned by a Commonwealth instrumentality is to be encouraged rather than prevented. Tho officers of the Postal Department seem to fear that if the Commonwealth Bank leased the land for a long period, and it was subsequently found that it was required for postal purposes, the lease could not be terminated. In my opinion, the termination of the lease in these circumstances would be a matter for the Government itself to decide. I ask the Postmaster-General to make full inquiries.

Mr Archie Cameron - I undertake to do so.

Mr MARTENS - The present Commonwealth Bank premises at Ayr are situated in a wooden building, which is leased. The lease has recently been, renewed for a period of two years, and it is hoped that before it expires an understanding will be arrived at with the Postal Department to utilize its vacant land for the purpose of erecting more suitable banking premises.

Quite a number of questions have recently been asked in regard to migration, particularly alien migration, to this country. This is a very sore point with the residents of northern Queensland. The Government, in all good faith I have no doubt, has accepted the nomination of alien migrants and has permitted their entry into Australia on the understanding that when they arrive here they will be looked after by their nominees arid will not interfere with the employment .of Australian citizens. That, however, cuts no ice with me. Alien migrants come here and quite naturally seek employment wherever they can find it. I do not blame them for that; that is a natural desire to which none of us could take any exception. In this connexion, I quote the following letter addressed by Mr. J. Murphy, organizer of the Australian Workers Union at Gordonvale, and addressed to Mr. C. Fallon, branch secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Brisbane -

A.   Petkovich, of Fishery Creek (with four others in company trading as Petkovich and Company), nominated Y. Petkovich who is employed on a farm at Redlynch in the

Hambledon area. F. Bacich nominated Y. Bacich. K. Zenetich nominated K. B. Bacich. F. Bacich and K. Zenetich are members of the firm of Petkovich and Company. This jinn has assigned land in both Babinda and Mulgrave Mill areas, and supply about 500 tons to Mulgrave and about 700 tons to Babinda Mill. Last year the firm employed a gang of seven cutters for about four weeks. This year, members of the linn are cutting the cane and recent arrivals mentioned arc doing the field work and assisting at harvesting. None of the members of the firm arc naturalized.

These people arc making arrangements for the purchase of farms immediately they are naturalized. For many of these properties they are paying much higher prices than would be paid by Britishers. The letter continues -

Recently B. Wake (Inspector Commonwealth Investigation Branch), together with Detective M. O'Shea, who speaks Italian, who acted as interpreter, visited this district and interviewed the persons mentioned in the depositions, also V. Ruggeri and A. Conti, and since his visit it is very difficult to get any particulars of recent arrivals. It is apparent that these people have been advised not to talk, and without an interpreter with some authority one is up against a brick wall, so to. speak.

I am in receipt of advice from Inspector Wake that no more southern European aliens nominated by people from north Queensland will bc permitted to land in Australia as the outcome of his inquiry into the position in the north. However, quite a number of these arrivals arrive at Fremantle, Melbourne, and other Australian ports. In view of the existing regulations (or lack of them), it is quite easy for these arrivals to move about the Commonwealth, apparently once arrived in the country no record is kept of their movements and no attempt is made by the responsible authorities to see that the nominators, who gave certain undertakings, are observing their obligations. It consequently follows that the signing of Form 40 by the nominators of these people is just so much eye-wash to delude the Australian people.

Any further definite cases of a similar nature that come to my knowledge, I will advise you.

The seriousness of the position is seen in the fact that, although some of these men were admitted to this country after making representations to the department that they would work in the cotton industry, immediately they landed in Australia they went along to the Babinda and Hambledon areas where sugar is grown, and while they do not actually engage in cane-cutting, they do the field work. The people who allegedly own the farms do the cane-cutting. The following letter was written by Mr. Bukowski, from

Ayr, to Mr. Fallon on the 12th August,


Hughes has three Bulgarians (three Chickendoffs ) cutting his cane. . . . Hughes gives the contract to Chickendoff, senr. to harvest the whole of his cane.

Chickendoff puts his two sons, who have just been* imported into the country, to cut, not signed on and unfinancial. O'Connor was doing the carting, cutting a bit, and helping to load, on wages of 22s. Cd. a day. Chickendoff, senr. would work his own farm and do a bit of cutting on Hughes's farm.

This man alleged that he intended to put these boys on land in the Mareeba district growing tobacco. They did not go there, but in defiance of the undertaking given to the department the boys were put on cane-cutting, thereby displacing other men in employment. The letter continues -

I have insisted on the preference clause and three financial members employed, and put Chickendoff out of cut.

Chickendoff, senr. gave an undertaking to the Federal Government that these sons, who are 21 and 23 years of age, would be kept in employment by himself, and this is what he is doing.

That was acknowledged on the 23rd August this year, and the Minister for the Interior replied in the following terms : -

I refer to your letter of the 23rd August, forwarding one received by you from Mr. C. G. Fallon, branch secretary, Queensland branch executive, Australian Workers' Union, Bos 83b, G.P.O., Brisbane, drawing attention to conditions which it is stated exist in the cane-fields as a result of the admission of aliens to this country.

All aliens are required to obtain landing permits from this department before being admitted into Australia for permanent residence. Dependent relatives, such as wives and minor children of persons already settled in Australia, arc admitted subject te satisfactory guarantees for maintenance being furnished.

In the case of aliens outside the category of dependent relatives, care is exercised to see that approval is given only in cases whore the intending migrants are not likely to take up employment to the detriment of Australian workers. If the migrant has no guarantor in Australia, he is usually required to be in possession of £200 .landing money. In the case of guaranteed migrants, the amount is £50. The. guarantee provides that, for a period of five years after the nominee's arrival in Australia, the guarantor will see that he is not allowed to become a charge upon public funds.

The department is largely guided by police reports in regard to the question whether a guarantor is in a position to furnish employment for his nominee without displacing a local worker.

It may be mentioned that, as a result of an investigation by departmental officers in regard to the employment of aliens in the sugar-caM industry towards the end oi last year, tho issue of landing permits in favour of aliens who propose, or were considered likely, to take up such employment has virtually been suspended during the past twelve months.

It is observed that Mr. Fallon furnishes particulars regarding the Chickendoff family (Bulgarians). The father in this case has been resident in Australia for twenty years. Authority waa given in March, 1937, for his wife and one son to enter Australia, and as a result of special representations, permission was subsequently granted for another son. It was reported that the sons would be employed principally' in developing the father's property for tobacco-growing and that he would also commence dairying. Further inquiries will be made in connexion with this case.

I say definitely that the alien migrants do not own the money which the law requires them to put up. It is sent to them, and they pay it back to their guarantors after they enter. Admittedly, the persons who guarantee them are well off, but they insist upon getting the money back, sometimes with interest.

The State Government has encountered another difficulty in connexion with aliens. During the last twelve months, and particularly during the last eight or nine months, there "have been hundreds of prosecutions in north Queensland in connexion with claims for sustenance by men who have been working full time. In such cases, not only the employee, Abut the employer also, is involved, because he must connive at the offence in that he gives the employee time off to go and collect sustenance. When extra inspectors were put on, hundreds of prosecutions were launched, and thousands of pounds have been collected in fines.

The Minister tells us. that alien migrants are not admitted if they propose to go to the sugar fields, but my point is that, once they are admitted to Australia, no one can stop them from going where they please. It has been suggested that -when aliens are compelled to register a check can be kept on their movements, hut even then I do not think it will be possible to prevent them from going to whatever part of the country they think they can best earn a living in. There remains only the power of deportation, but legal men have informed me that, in their opinion, there is no power to deport unless a criminal offence has been committed.

Recently, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) stated in this chamber that difficulty was being experienced by the dairy factories in obtaining supplies of suitable timber for the manufacture of butter boxes. That statement will not stand investigation. There is plenty of timber in Australia with which to make all the butter boxes that will be needed for a long time. In order to ascertain the true position, I wrote to the Minister for . Lands in Queensland, and was informed that supplies of pine foi the making of butter boxes were adequate, and I have not heard any authoritative condemnation of this timber for the purpose. In this connexion, the following statement of the Minister for Lands, as reported in the press, is informative -

The Minister for Lands (Mr. P. Pease) inspected to-day a number of butter boxes, which had been made from hoop pine timber cut from logs harvested from an 84 year old Forestry Department plantation in the Mary Valley. These logs had been felled and brought down to Hancock and Gore's sawmill at Ipswich Road, where they were sawn and tho timber kiln dried, jointed by the Lindeman process and made into butter boxes satisfying the most rigorous export specifications.

The quality of the timber in the box, said the Minister, was very attractive and had received high praise from all those butter factory interests who had seen it.

Tho Minister said that tho production of these boxes was an answer to those interests who, seeking to introduce hemlock as a butter box timber in Australia, had claimed that hoop pine supplies available in Queensland were too limited to satisfy Australia's requirements for more than a short period.

The fact that boxes of this quality could be produced from plantation timber at such an early age was particularly reassuring, said the Minister, and he had been assured by the Director of Forests that whilst the particular plantation in question had shown somewhat rapid growth, it could be confidently expected that trees of these dimensions could be produced in quantity from 12-year-old plantations.

That is a very effective answer to the suggestion that there is a shortage of suitable timber in Australia for the making of butter boxes. I do not believe that there is a shortage of timber for this purpose or for any other. If the right encouragement is given there will be no difficulty in obtaining supplies. I challenge the statement of the honorable member for Richmond that he knew that the dairy factories were unable to obtain supplies of pine, and that the dairymen were experiencing difficulty because of this. Statements of that kind are too common. They are on a par with the assertion that the jam manufacturers complain that the price of sugar is too high, yet; when investigations are made, we find that the manufacturers themselves have no complaint to make in this regard.

For some time I have been trying to induce the .Government to allocate money for the construction or improvement of aerodromes in north Queensland. Always, however, I have received the reply that the aerodromes are hot needed for defence purposes. I suggest to the Minister that, if trouble occurs, and we are attacked by a foreign power, the attack is most likely to be made on the north coast of Queensland. There are openings in the Barrier Reef known to other powers, but not known to the Commonwealth authorities. Recently, I brought before the House an instance of a Japanese sampan being sighted off the Great Barrier Reef by Mr. Charles Hales. The Minister said that, if the matter were reported, action would be taken, but, of course, Mr. Hales had not reported it to the Commonwealth authorities in Canberra. However, he had reported it to the customs authorities in Cairns, but when the customs launch approached, the sampan made off at such a pace that it was impossible to intercept it. These sampans do not visit the Barrier for trochus shell, or to get supplies of wood and water. They are investigating and mapping the northeastern coast of Australia, and they have been doing it for years. Recently, the Minister informed me that the Government was prepared to grant £2,000 towards the cost of constructing an aerodrome at Townsville. The City Council is prepared to go on with the work, hut the total cost will be £10,000. We know that if an aerodrome were constructed at Townsville, and was eventually required for defence purposes, the department would take it over in the national interests, and no one would really object. At the present time, however, there is not one aerodrome in north Queensland where the large service aeroplanes can land during eight months of the year. One of the directors of Australian National Airways informed me recently that, in no circumstances, would they take the big aeroplanes north of Mackay, except to Cooktown. The Commonwealth has spent thousands of pounds constructing an aerodrome on a mud flat at Cairns, but the general opinion amongst experts is that the site is quite unsuitable. Probably, if an accident should happen in north Queensland similar to the unfortunate occurrence in Victoria recently, the Government would be forced to realize the need for constructing aerodromes in the north. Pilots who operate in that district state that, because of the high mountains, and the frequently wet and misty weather, it is one of the most dangerous flying areas in Australia. Services are being maintained, but the need for proper landing grounds is becoming urgent. So far, the Commonwealth Government has not contributed towards the cost of any of the aerodromes except that at Cooktown. The Minister should further investigate the matter with a view to making money available for this purpose. We have been assured that the best means of defence against possible attack is by air. The Government is acquiring large numbers of defence aeroplanes, but where are they to land, and how are they to be housed? Sir Edward Ellington, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, in his report, said -

The Civil Aviation routes now being established and equipped, the organization necessary for their efficient- working, together with the proposed and existing Royal Australian Air Force stations, will ensure that the Air Force can reach all parts of the Australian continent rapidly. Thus the strategic needs of Australia will be met.

I do not know how on earth he could come to that conclusion. I do not pit myself against him as an expert, but he, apparently, was advised by departmental officers who have no conception of the requirements of the north of Queensland. They seem to be tarred with the same brush as the officials of the Postal Department. Between Brisbane and Cooktown, is a distance of more than 1,100 miles and. there is not one suitable lauding ground between the two cities. In paragraph six of his report, Sir Edward Ellington says -

In the course of my inspections I have seen all stations on ceremonial parades, where the appearance of the officers and men, their turn out and drill, were excellent. The cadets and men now entering the Royal Australian Air Force appear 'to me to be of the right class and the maintenance of aircraft is efficient. The accommodation, especially the new buildings, is very good, even lavish in the caste of the officers mess at Richmond, New South Wales, but I consider the hospital accommodation inadequate at present at all stations, and definitely bad at Point Cook. The arrangements made foi the messing of both officers and airmen are good and the food is of a high quality.

Apart from the hospital difficulty, the position seems to be very satisfactory. I hope that the hospital accommodation will be provided.

Mr Street - A new hospital is being built at Point Cook.

Mr MARTENS - 1 am glad to hear that.

Dealing with flying accidents, Sir Edward Ellington reports: -

I have examined the reports of flying accidents in the Royal Australian Air Force during the last three years and compared them with the records of the Royal Air Force over approximately the same period. The rate for the Royal Australian Air Force is definitely worse than in the United Kingdom, but in a small air force such as the Royal Australian Air Force fluctuations must be expected, and the rate before 1935 was considerably better than at present. Of twelve accidents in the Royal Australian Air Force three appear to be due to disobedience of orders or bud flying discipline, and possibly a fourth is duc to the same cause. This is a high proportion, and points to a need of a strict enforcement of the regulations.

We do not know why the other eight accidents occurred. The report goes on -

I have visited the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Factory at Fishermen's Bend and I have seen the Wirraway. I understand that it is intended to use it in replacement of the Demon as a lighter bomber. I consider that the Wirraway should be regarded as a temporary expedient, since its maximum speed is not sufficient for a modern fighter.

I mention this because the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Thorby) has told honorable member's that the Department has ordered the construction of more than 50 Wirraways.

Mr Street - -Their construction is being proceeded with now.

Mr MARTENS - Sir EdwardEllington condemns them. The report continues -

In my opinion it can only be regarded as an advanced training aircraft, and it would not be economical for orders to be given in excess of the number required for interim use in service squadrons or as advanced training aircraft. It is difficult to give advice at the moment regarding the type which should be put in hand at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Factory at Fishermen's Bend when the present orders are completed. If a new type is put into production without waiting for prototypes or experimental aircraft to be tested, there will be the risk of waste and delay in re-equipping the service, should the type selected fail. I think it unwise, therefore, for a type to be put into production at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Factory which has not been tried out, and I can- only suggest that a decision is delayed until suitable aircraft has been tested in the United Kingdom.

The Minister says that it is necessary for these planes to be constructed, but this man who was brought at great expense to this country to advise the Government is of the opinion that they are not of a suitable type.

Mr Brennan - I do not accept him as the last word.

Mr MARTENS - Neither do I, but he was brought here to advise the Government and I should say that his advice should be taken, whereas the Minister for Civil Aviation has told us, and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has confirmed it, that more than 50 Wirraways are to be constructed.

In conclusion, I again press the need for the Postal Department not to flout the building regulations of the municipal authorities at Proserpine, which specify that buildings should be of brick or reinforced concrete, by constructing a new post office at that centre in wood. I have had a fair deal from the? department in respect of new post offices in my electorate, and I hope that its record will not be spoiled by its insistence on the construction of a wooden building. Any increase of cost as the result of erecting the new post office in brick or reinforced concrete would be amp y repaid by the increased length of life which such a building would have in comparison with a wooden building. [Quorum formed.]

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