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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) (Minister for Supply and Development) . - I assure the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) that the Government has not agreed, as a matter of policy, to ignore federal members when replying to representations from State members affecting their constituencies. As the honorable member stated, the Postmaster-General's Department, the Pensions Department, and the Repatriation Department follow a long-standing practice of forwarding through a federal member replies to representations raised by State members. Whilst that custom has been rigidly observed, a departure could conceivably happen under the stress of war conditions. Since the outbreak of war, federal affairs have tended to intrude upon domestic matters. The rationing of tobacco provides an instance.

Mr Badman - It never occurred under previous governments.

Mr BEASLEY - The honorable member will agree that the Government has been compelled to impose restrictions, "freezing" orders and rationing of all kinds far in excess of that undertaken by previous governments. However, I shall not attempt to excuse or to condone what has occurred. I shall ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to circulate to all Ministers a memorandum requesting them to reply through federal members to representations by State members.

I am not aware, naturally, of any discrimination in the allocation of advertisements to country newspapers in South Australia. I understand that advertisements relating to National Security Regulations have been published in newspapers in districts to which the regulations have application. I understand that it is the practice to advertise only in districts or in States in which the matter advertised will have effect. Any departure from that practice should not be tolerated, because no government should discriminate in the disbursement of revenue for any advertising or any other purpose.

Mr Badman - I am not speaking with out knowledge.

Mr BEASLEY - I do not think that the honorable gentleman would. Advertising is under the control of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), whose attention has been directed to this matter. He will Bee what adjustments can be made to meet the point raised by the honorable member.

I have listened with interest to the various references in this House to the controversial subject of the immobilization of small craft, raised again to-night by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I should be loath to interfere with the administration of another department, but I do appreciate how easily these small boats deteriorate without constant attention. Frankly, it appears to me that sometimes governmental orders are carried out ruthlessly without any real regard for the consequences. All honorable members will agree that it is impossible for Ministers to police the carrying out of their orders down to the last detail. The objective of those entrusted with the carrying out of the military decision to immobilize small craft should be not to destroy but, on the contrary, to save, unless war conditions dictate otherwise. The people who own these craft would naturally resent seeing them being towed away and burned. Tt may be possible to devise some means whereby these craft would be collected in some place and guarded by the owners or their representatives on an undertaking that they would be destroyed if necessary.

Mr Beck - That system operates satisfactorily in Tasmania. "Why is it that in

Borne States the owners of the craft are compelled to store them on land, whereas in other States they are allowed to keep their boats in the water?

Mr BEASLEY - I do not know what strategical reason there may be for that. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) may have something to say about it. I am sure that he is most anxious that these craft he not destroyed. He has been asked by the Army to carry out the immobilization of these craft. The military authorities say that it is necessary to immobilize them, because of the use the Japanese made of small craft in the Malayan campaign.

Mr Beck - There is no quarrel with that policy. The only objection is to the craft being taken from the water and placed on land where they will be ruined in less than a month.

Mr BEASLEY - That is understood. I shall discuss this matter with my colleagues, because I see the need for some scheme to be evolved whereby certain people in the localities concerned will be called upon to supervise the immobilization of their own craft. There are no better supervisors than the owners themselves.

The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) and the honorable member for "Wilmot (Mr. Guy), supported by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), raised the matter of consultation between Commonwealth Ministers and State Ministers. I am loath to enter into a controversy between Tasmanian Ministers and Federal members. The growing interest of the States in the affairs of the Commonwealth arose at the first Premiers Conference held in Canberra " after the Labour Government took office. Many matters which concerned the States were discussed, and the representatives of the States were given certain information. Other information has been given to them at subsequent conferences. The States took the view that there should be the closest liaison between them and the Commonwealth in matters which affected their areas. For instance, a representative of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia recently came to Canberra for the purpose of discussing with the Commonwealth Government matters of strategy in Western Australia which they claimed were worrying the people in that State. In order to maintain morale it is necessary that the people be told as much as is possible of what is being done. That applies equally to members of the Commonwealth Parliament who, commensurate with security, should have all the information that is available. We find it necessary to use the State machinery in order to carry out many projects which we find necessary. The honorable member for Darwin specifically referred to the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania. It is a fact that the CommonwealthGovernment consulted that Minister; it consulted all the State Ministers for Agriculture. As Minister for Supply and Development I am concerned in the production of sufficient food for military and other requirements. The State Departments of Agriculture have the organization and all the information which is needed to intensify the cultivation of vegetables. I do not deny, therefore, that the State Ministers for Agriculture have been approached by the Commonwealth in connexion with agricultural matters. Again I take Western Australia as an illustration of the way in which the State Ministers can help the Commonwealth Government. We approached the Minister for Agriculture of that State in order to enlist his aid in a project for the transfer of between 20,000 and 30,000 head of cattle from the Kimberleys, of which we hope to get 12,000 head to Perth and the rest to the Queensland border. That transfer has been necessitated by the closing down of the Wyndham meat works. I do not put that forward as an excuse for the denial of information to federal members. I readily appreciate the embarrassment that a federal member would suffer in his electorate in circumstances like those cited by the honorable member for Darwin, who was unable to answer questions by his constituents concerning the Commonwealth's potatogrowing project. It is true that the State Ministers take full advantage of information that reaches them. That is a natural intrusion of the personal element. The Commonwealth Government's bona fides in this matter cannot be questioned. It desires to the greatest possible degree to keep federal members informed. The difficulty is in the method of doing that. I shall discuss the matter with the Prime Minister. It may be that the suggestion I made in answer to the honorable member for Grey will have equal application to this matter. When Parliament is sitting and members have the opportunity to elicit information at question time and on the adjournment it is easy to keep them informed, but when we are in recess difficulties arise. The complaints voiced by honorable members about consultation between Commonwealth and State Ministers on the growing of potatoes might equally be made about my discussions with the State Ministers for Mines about minerals. I have to go direct to them because they have the information in their departments. There is no intention to slight federal members. Whatever practical steps can be taken, will be taken, to ensure proper recognition of federal members.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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