Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 29 April 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- I feel it my duty to bring to the notice of the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) the fact that some serious allegations regarding the administration of the Commonwealth Police at Canberra are causing grave disquiet, and it is stated that the police force as a whole, a fine body of men, is becoming demoralized as a result. These allegations, details of which are widely known throughout the Australian Capital Territory, include charges of improper conduct of a most serious character. I am not disposed at this stage to place on record all the details which have come to my notice, hut if the Minister desires to inquire into the matter I suggest to him that as a starting point he should call for a full report on the sale by the police of unclaimed goods on the 9th August last, and 'that he should inquire whether any other goods were then submitted for auction by the police, and, if so; on whose account and under what circumstances. If, on investigation of this one matter, the Minister feels justified in making further inquiries into police administration, I suggest that he, pursuant to his power under the police ordinance, should order the appointment of a board of inquiry. If such a board is appointed a number of persons will come forward with evidence, indicating a most undesirable state of affairs. If the Minister accedes to this request for an inquiry I submit that, in order that there can be no suggestion of hiding the facts, he should obtain the service of a senior officer from the police force of one of the States to conduct an investigation. I suggest this course because when a former Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) once called for a report by the present chief officer of police on allegations against a sergeant, the report supplied was so misleading that the Attorney-General had ultimately to appoint a special inquiry, presided over by the late Sir John- Quick, in order to get to the truth of the matter.

I also direct the attention of the Minister at present in charge of the House to a gross misuse of powers by the Censorship Department. On the 4th August, 1941, a talk for broadcasting purposes by an organizer of the Australian Workers Union in Victoria over station 3KZ, Victoria, was submitted to the Victorian Censor No. 8. It consisted of a leading article which had been published in the Queensland Worker. The censor passed it with the deletion of one portion only - a reference to the fact that Senator Leckie, who was a Minister in the Government of the day, was the father-in-law of the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In the view of the censor, it was considered detrimental to the war effort of Australia to broadcast the fact that Senator Leckie was the father-in-law of the right honorable member for Kooyong. I have before me the original copy of the talk bearing the deletion marked and initialled by the censor. The same Victorian CensorNo. 8, in a most capricious way, has since prohibited a talk that was proposed to be broadcast over 3KZ on Sunday next dealing with the proposed rationing of clothes. It is common knowledge that rationing of clothes is to be introduced, and that it will be followed by the rationing of many other articles in common use. On the 7th April, 1942, the Queensland Worker published a three-column article setting out many absurdities in the clothing rationing scheme, and referred to a proposal to allow five bathing suits a year for each woman. Surely, that must have been a mistake. On the 28th March, the Age published an article under the heading, " Cost of Women's Clothing ", and if the public did not know previously, it certainly knew after that date that a clothing scheme was soon to be brought into operation. But because a speaker desired to broadcast a talk over a Labour broadcasting station, in a session sponsored by the Australian Labour party, the party's viewpoint on the rationing of clothing, the censor, in his wisdom, decided on the prohibition of the talk in its entirety. He did not condemn any particular section of the talk on the ground that it was objectionable, but simply decided that the talk should not be delivered. I have a copy of the proposed talk before me, and it bears the censorship stamp with the words, " Publication Prohibited. VPC 8-24.4.42". I desire an assurance from the Minister that the censorship powers possessed by the department will not continue to be so abused. Recently, I made representations to the Acting AttorneyGeneral on behalf of the editor of the Radio Times, Melbourne, because he claimed he was being persecuted by the Victorian censor. I have since ascertained that a subordinate officer in the Censorship Department directed the attention of the Chief Censor to the fact that, in contravention of the regulations, certain information had been conveyed to me, and suggested that the persons concerned should be brought to account for conveying to a member of Parliament the fact that he had been told not to do certain things. I deny the right of any censor to persecute persons who bring to the notice of a member of Parliament any misuse of censorship powers. I shall be glad to have the assurance of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), not only that these matters will be investigated and explained in due course, but also that protection will be afforded to the persons who have directed my attention to them. I have not stated how these documents came into my possession, and that may offer some protection to the persons who originally submitted the articles concerned to the censorship authorities in Victoria.

I now direct attention to the fact that American soldiers are better dressed than Australian troops. They have fine-fitting, well-made uniforms of first-class material. They all have a good appearance, and they take a pride in their uniforms. The Australian soldier, however, is usually supplied with a uniform that fits only where it touches and does not permit his personality to express itself as he would like.

Mr Rosevear - It fits well, except for the tunic and the trousers.

Mr CALWELL - And in some cases the boots and hats are not exactly wellfitting. If the Americans can fit their troops with good, comfortable uniforms, surely the Australian authorities can do the same for our troops! When I look at some of the uniforms worn by Australian soldiers I have not the slightest doubt that they were cut out with a knife and fork. I do not know who makes them, but I know that there is differential treatment as between our army men and our air force men. Thirty-six fittings are provided in Royal Australian Air Force uniforms, but only 22 in Australian Imperial Force and militia force uniforms. There is no reason why air force men should be betterclad than our soldiers, who also should have the choice of 36 fittings. I am assured that if a certain size does not fit a man in the Australian Imperial Force or militia forces he is merely given the nearest size. That uniform may fit him around the neck, but it may be too long in the sleeves, with the result that he has to take it to a female relative to have it altered. I understand that the Americans, in addition to having regular fittings, also have normal, small and large sizes within each fitting so that the quartermaster is able to ensure that every man is satisfied and well-clad. I do not believe that the American Government is paying more for its uniforms than the Australian Government is paying for our soldiers' uniforms, nor am I certain that our air force uniforms are more costly than those issued to the army. At any rate, there is no reason for discrimination 'between forces. I hope that the Minister for the Army will ensure that the men under his control are as well fitted out as the Americans and our own air force men. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), who is also taking an intelligent interest in my dissertation, knows that naval men have much less reason for complaint about their uniforms and equipment than have our soldiers.

Suggest corrections