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Thursday, 20 June 1946

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - Whenever I listen to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) I am irresistibly reminded of the characteristic academic approachwhich is generally made to matters of great moment by the long-haired crystal-gazers that the Government employs to plan its post-warworld. Unfortunately, the whole of the plans which are made by the bureaucrats behind this Government have exactly the same ring as the observations made by the professor from Fremantle. The honorable member has treated us to a dissertation on elementary economics. He said that the fact that large numbers of men had been released from the services and had entered various industries meant, ipso facto, greater production. Let us reduce the honorable gentleman's argument to the lowest common denominator. What volume of goods is available to the community today? It is lower, in some lines, than the quantity that was available during the greatest stress of the was effort? Every housewife knows, as the honorable gentleman himselfwould realize if he got down to the realities of practical politics instead of soaring into the empyrean, that thewhole community is suffering from an acute shortage of certain requirements under the inadequate coupon system which is still in operation. The honorable gentleman need only take note of the industrial dislocation throughout the country, due to the failure of the Government to obtain enough coal, to realize the state in which people are living. He need only call to mind the devastating strike that lasted for a month in New South Wales over the Christmas period, to appreciate how production has suffered. In the metal trade in particular, the position is desperate. Austral Bronze Company Proprietary Limited, for instance, will only take orders for nine months' delivery of sheet-copper, and Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited states that it has reached the stagewhere it must closedown. Yet the professor from Fremantle says there must be greater production because more men are working in industry. The practical test is to be found not in theoretical and academic discussion such as that indulged in by the honorable member for Fremantle, but by the examination of figures in relation to industrial disputes. In 1943 there were 689 industrial disputes in New South Wales, where a Labour government is in power. In 1944 therewere801 industrial disputes, and in 1945 a record of 1,158 disputes was reached. Thiswas at a time when Labour was in power in both the Commonwealth and New South Wales. In 1945, 324,491 workers were involved and 1,878,753working days were lost. What has the professor from Fremantle to say about this? Where does his theorizing get him in the face of the practical political situation revealed by these figures? They tell the industrial storymuch more faithfully than it can be told by academic lectures. The facts are that, because of restrictions due to the failure of the Go- vernment to make coal available for industry, thewhole country is in a state of serious industrial turmoil, and this will continue untilcoal, which is the life-blood of industry, can be made available in adequate quantities. Major industries in practically all the big. cities of Australia are working on a . basis of only one or two days' supply of coal for the production ofpower for industry and for transport. Even in the capital cities close to the coal-fields industries have totally inadequate coal supplies. It would not make any difference if the man-power availablewere doubled or trebled unless coal be available for 1686 Supply Bill . [REPRESENTATIVES.] (No. 1) 1946 47. production. These are hard facts and in the light of them I do not propose to discuss the academic and theoretical views which have been put forward to-night on international affairsand social services by the honorable gentleman fromFremantle, though I have no doubt that some of my colleagues will deal with those subjects. The honorable member cannot refute the figures that I have cited. All his theorizing will not make available an additional pound of energy. Energy for industry can be made available only by coal. Coal production must be increased to a level that will ensure continuity of operations, and that only can bring prosperity. It must be recognized by this Government that industrial stability depends, in the long run, on coal production.

Honorable members will recollect that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) quoted certain remarks by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, with regard to the importance of production. The Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, also, to the discomfiture of honorable gentlemen opposite, has made it clear that production must be increased. The stormy petrel of American politics, Mr. John L. Lewis, has also made some remarks on this subject to the anthracite coal-miners of America. I quote the following from a publication issued by the National City Bank of New York: -

Last September (1945) John L. Lewis, who has now taken his United Mine Workers of America back into the A.F. of L., addressed a letter to every anthracite mine, in which he said -

Every effort must be made to bring about increased production per man per day for variousgood reasons, that affect the welfare of each and every member of the United Mine Workers of America in the anthracite region, including their wives and families.

Increased production per day is largely the answer to the problem of continuity of employment and the maintenance of wage and condition standards. . . . Increased daily production and continuity of employment will prevent, in our judgment the recurrence of the difficulties that we met with following World WarI which resulted inthe depression.

Each individual member of the organization' knows in his heart if he can increase his daily production of coal. Let each man then examine his own conscience in the light of these facts and act accordingly.

I commend those observations to all honorable members opposite and to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in particular. The name of Mr. John L. Lewis is anathema to many people in the United States of America. This man, who has led American Labour against capitalism for more than a decade, has been game enough to realize that theorizing such as that indulged in tonight by the professor from Fremantle is of little use in ensuring the well-being of the workers and the welfare of the country. Production is the only answer to our problems, and unless production bo increased we shall sink into another depression. The sooner honorable gentlemen opposite realize that not only housing projects, but also all other projects of any magnitude which are designed to promote progress in Australia, are dependent upon increased production the better it will be for everybody. The self-styled leaders of Labour who sit on the benches opposite must be brave enough to go out and tell the miners and other workers who are disrupting industry that they must produce in order to save their own hides. Unless that fact canbe driven home, we shall face an industrial cataclysm, and honorable gentlemen opposite must bear responsibility if that occurs.

I wish now to refer to remarksmade to-day by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). I asked him a question relative to the great charter of civil liberties which he tells us the Government is offering to exservice men and women. Honorable gentlemen opposite have assured these people that on their return to civil life they would be able to take up vocational training and to rehabilitate themselves. To-day I gave the Minister particulars of a lad who was in the printing tradeas an apprentice and who was called up at the age of eighteen years. His indentures were broken, and he served five years in the forces. On his discharge, he tried to go back to his former employment, but his employer told him that he would have to contact the printing trades industrial organization first. He did so, and was informed that the books of the union were closed to anyone over 21 years of age. It was not the young man's fault

Supply Bill[20 June, 1946.] (No. 1) 1946-47. 1687 that he reached the age of 21 years while he was away fighting for his country. He then approached the master printers' association and he was told that the Printing Industry Employees' Union had withdrawn from the rehabilitation training scheme. It was on that subject that I asked the Minister a question. His reply was most evasive. He concluded by saying something about the situation being dependent upon the absorptive capacity of the union. I have received some information to-day, since I asked the Minister that question, which will show the returned soldiers of Australia just where they stand in regard to this allegedly great vocational training scheme which is contained in the list that the Minister has called a charter of civil liberties.' I ask honorable gentlemen opposite who wear the badge on their coats that I am honoured to wear what they intend to do about this situation. I understand that instructions have been issued to the rehabilitation section of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction to the effect that the section must not deal with applications from ex-servicemen to enter certain trades, which include engineering, boilerm aking, blacksmithing and some sheet-metal industries. I should have the full details of this direction very shortly.

Mr Dedman - That is due to action by the dilutee committees.

Mr HARRISON - That will be small comfort to ex-servicemen. The Minister has had a great deal to say about the Government's vocational training scheme, but apparently it will be ineffective because some of the unions will not accept it. This is true, it seems, in the printing trade, the electrical trade and some other trades, and the Government will not be able to do anything about it, as the unions have closed their books. I ask the Government wha t it intends to do, and I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to honour his undertaking 'to the exservicemen that they will be given a chance to rehabilitate themselves. The Minister may read statements in the House about what Mr. Millhouse has said with regard to the land settlement of ex-servicemen, but the returned soldiers' organizations are well aware that discharged men are being denied the right to rehabilitate themselves in industry, because the unions have closed theirbooks. The membership of some of these unions consists largely of men who were engaged in making munitions during the war and were not in the fighting forces.

I pass now to say something to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini). Last February, when I made certain exposures with regard to the Salvage Commission, the Minister refuted some of my allegations ; but subsequently, under pressure, said that a committee of' inquiry would be appointed. I wish to know whether that authority has yet submitted a report.

Mr Lazzarini - I shall answer the honorable gentleman in my own time.

Mr HARRISON - I wish to say something about the report when it is possible to do so. After I had mademy allegations in this House, I learned that the principal witness in connexion with the matter had! been allowed to go to Palestine. The Minister for Immigration said subsequently in the press that he knew nothing about any such person being allowed to go out of the country He now tellsme that he did not know that this man had: left the country. Commonwealth salvage is of vital importance. A committee of inquiry is functioning.

Mr Lazzarini - It is not.

Mr HARRISON - Then I take it that the investigator has completed his report. Is that so?

Mr Lazzarini - Yes; and he has " wiped " the honorable member completely.

Mr HARRISON - I have never been approached by him, or asked to give evidence. I have not been asked whether I had other witnesses who could give evidence. I know that he visited one of those who had supplied information to me. I do not know whether he took evidence on oath. I had a number of witnesses whom I wished to call, yet I was not consulted. That is the slap-dash way in which the inquiry was conducted. I have two letters which make observations in connexion with the matter. The first, dated the 17th April, is from one of the Commonwealth advisers on salvage, Millar Ezzy and Company. It reads -

I received your communication of 1st April., and have some additional facts which may assist you in your endeavours to have an 1688 Supply Bill [ REPRESENT A T I VES.] (No. 1) 1946-47. inquiry held into theactivities of the Commonwealth Salvage Commission. These facts are as follows: -

A few months ago I interviewed Mr. Walker, secretary of the Commonwealth Salvage Commission in Melbourne, and complained about the unfairness of the commission in selling huge quantities of material to refugees, without giving the legitimate traders an opportunity of quoting for the said materials.

I understand that Mr. Walker has been dismissed. If he has, what was the reason for his dismissal?

Mr Lazzarini - I shall inform the honorable gentleman later.

Mr HARRISON - The letter continues -

Mr. Walkerreplied, " I called in Baron "-

Baron, it appears, is the name of the principal of the firm concerned. When I last raised this matter, I asked the Prime Minister whether the firm was that of Lasse. I have since learned that it was Baron. I apologize to the firm of Lasse for having inadvertently introduced itsname. The Prime Minister could easily have corrected me. The letter continues -

Mr. Walkerreplied : " I called in Baron in an advisory capacity to the commission, with a request that he proceed to Sydney and Brisbane and inspect all materials available ". I then asked Walker why this man was called in and pointed out that Mr. K. McLeod Bolton, of Sydney, had been gazetted honorary adviser to the commission and also that an advisory panel, of which I, myself was a member, was in existence. Walker refrained from answering this question, but did admit that, after Baron had inspected the material, he, Baron, submitted the following proposition : -

Baron to form a company to be known a. Associated Salvage Distributors, and that thib company purchase all Army textile salvage materials available throughout the Commonwealth.

Walker further stated that the commission accepted this proposition and signed a contract accordingly. Needless to say, sir, I was astounded at this admission.

Upon my return to Sydney a few days later. I immediately arranged for a meeting of the local waste traders and explained the position to the members present. It was decided that threemembers of the trade interview Mr. Lazzarini in reference to these transactions and, despite the fact that Lazzarini agreed to meet these gentlemen, they were informed, upon arrival at his rooms, that he would only interview one member. Mr. Bolton was the gentleman who saw Lazzarini and, as a reward for his efforts in attempting to straighten out matters, was called a liar-..

I understand that there was a " pleasant " exchange between the Minister and Mr. Bolton.

Mr Lazzarini - Mr. Boltonand I did not have any angry words. He will substantiate that statement.-

Mr HARRISON - Was Bolton called as a witness at the inquiry?

Mr Lazzarini - That has nothing to do with me.

Mr HARRISON - Bolton saw me in Sydney, and told me that he would like to be called as a witness if the evidence was to be given on oath. He also said that one interview which he had with the Minister was rather refreshing.I shall refrain from inflicting the details of it upon the House. The letter goes on to say -

The writer is a partner in a. Melbournefirm registered under the name of Preston Waste Proprietary Limited. This firm, owing to the control by the Commonwealth Salvage Commission, was compelled to close down during the period of control, due only to the fact that . it was unable to obtain supplies.

Despite repeated requests by a director of the firm, to the Commonwealth Salvage Commission, no supplies were made available, yet Walker had the audacity to admit having; signed a contract with a firm which was not even registered.

Those are the business methods of the administration of which the Minister has control. A contract was signed with a refugee firm.

Mr Lazzarini - That is not true.

Mr HARRISON - The AuditorGeneral has already criticized the Minis1 ter for having had dealings with a firm that was not registered at the time,

Mr Lazzarini - The Auditor-General has never mentioned the name of the Minister. The honorable gentleman knows that he is not telling the truth.

Mr HARRISON - I am referring to the department, for which the Minister must accept responsibility.

Mr Lazzarini - I do.

Mr HARRISON - This portion of the letter is most interesting -

In my letter to yon dated 28th March,I omitted to state that the material referred to had been sorted by Millar, Ezzy and Company and the commission had paid us £10 per ton to do the sorting. This, of course, makes the sale referred to in that letter more ridiculous than ever.

Although an offer of £120 had been received, the sale was made to a refugee firm for £17 a ton, and the commission paid that firm £.10 a ton to do the sorting: therefore, the net .return to the commission was £7 a ton. instead .of the £120 a ton which had been offered. The letter concludes -

In conclusion, may I, suggest that, when the inquiry is held, evidence bo taken on oath. Thanking you for the interest yon are taking in this matter.

Although the committee of inquiry was appointed as the result of charges made in this House by both the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and myself, . neither of us was called before the committee or was asked to sub- n i t. the names of witnesses. We have no knowledge of whether or not evidence was taken on oath. After a "star chamber" inquiry had been held, a report was made mid is now in the possession of the Minister. Those whose letters I arn readinghave been courageous enough to append their signatures to them and to ask to be called as witnesses. Mr. McLeod Bolton, i lie Commonwealth adviser on salvage, wanted to give evidence. The Minister did not see fit to give to honorable members an opportunity to name witnesses, but proceeded with the inquiry in an underhand, sinister way, not calling even those who had made the charges. If ever a case called for a royal commission, this one does. Obviously the Minister, who had received telegrams from- Sydney firms offering 8s. Id. or more a garment, ignored those offers, and the department that he administers sold the goods for £17 a ton, which was equivalent to a few pence each. He may have had very good reasons for ensuring that the inquiry should not lie an open one. The next letter is from Sydney Waste Industries Limited, and is dated the 29th April. It reads-

I have read with interest the reports in connexion with the letter written to you by Mr. 35. J. Millar in respect to the sale of textile waste by the Commonwealth Salvage Commission to a Melbourne syndicate, and I agree with the information given to you by Mr. Millar.

My company, as one of the largest textile waste merchants in Australia, had a considerable amount of dealings with the commission and I consider that the treatment doled out to this company and other waste firms by the l I l l I 1111 SS 1011 was most unreasonable.

My reason for making this statement is that in July, 1945, my company purchased from the commission a quantity of old hosiery at £102 I Us. 4d. per ton and again in September, 1945, purchased a quantity of wiper material at £102 13s. 4d. per ton. ' At about this period the commission sold by contract at least 1,500 tons of rags to the Melbourne syndicate at a flat rate of £17 per ton. It is not possible to reconcile the action of the officers of the commission in these sales.

I invite the House to note what follows, because I understand it to be the basis of some part of the conversation that took place between Mr. McLeod Bolton, the Minister, and Mr. Fitzpatrick - at one time the Minister's campaign director, but now the head df the Commonwealth Salvage Commission in Sydney. Incidentally, the commission is doing very well at the moment, and shows a profit of £300,000. Its transactions should have been equally profitable from the beginning of operations. The turning point was reached when revelations were made in this House. The letter continues -

Whilst I was in Brisbane in October last, I found that the syndicate was using the com- mission's store, Army personnel and vehicles to handle the waste. To communicate with the syndicate (now known as Associated Salvage Distributors) it was first necessary to telephone the State Controller of Salvage. Brisbane, whose office would then connect you.

That is an unregistered firm, to which the department sold material at £17 a ton, although it had an offer for it of £J20 a ton. The only way in which it could be contacted was through the office of the Minister. That is a most extraordinary state of affairs. There should have been a royal commission instead of the " star chamber " inquiry conducted by the Minister. The letter goes on to say -

We are led to believe that when the contract was made the syndicate was neither registered as a company nor licensed as a distributor by the Salvage Commission. It would also- be interesting to know if it is true that the principal of the syndicate has left this country and is now in Palestine.

Inquiries that I subsequently made disclosed that this man had gone to Palestine, having been given a visa by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell.) As he was principal witness in this matter, that is rather significant. We were told that he had gone to Pale-tine on matters associated with his business. ' I want to know whether he had arranged for these wearable materials - Air Force jackets and American greatcoats, which he had purchased for £17 a ton - to be shipped to Palestine. If they were 1690 Supply Bill [REPRESENTATIVES.] (No. 1) 1946-47. shipped, what effect did that have on his taxable income? How did he manage to leave this country? Has he shipped the material away? If he has, why did he do so? Many questions might be asked, and this House should know the answers to them. The letter continues -

Personally I thank you for the action you have taken in this matter and I consider that a full enquiry into the dealings of the Commonwealth Salvage Commission is required to satisfy the members of the trade in particular and the public in general.

Yours faithfully,

R.   T. Evans, Managing Director.

These men are members of the advisory committee. Certainly, Millar and Evans are Bolton is the commission's adviser. This firm was appointed without the advisers being consulted. The advisers might have made suggestions had they been invited to do so. I take it that their suggestions would have resulted in obtaining the full value of the articles. The writers of these letters were prepared to sacrifice their business careers, if necessary, by taking the stand that they took in connexion with this matter. They asked to be permitted to give evidence at the inquiry, provided it, was taken on oath. One of them made a statement to me that he believed that 78,000 "smackers" had been cleaned up before the matter was tracked down. These men are waiting to be called to give evidence. I was not called, and neither, I think, was the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.Fadden). Yet the inquiry has been closed, and the report of the committee has been submitted to the Government. Presently, we are to be treated by the. Minister to a dissertation on its findings. I do not even know whether the evidence taken by the committee was given on oath. I received a. report from one man that Mr. Conde was going out to his works. I told him to ask Mr. Conde whether he was making his visit in the course of the inquiry, and if so to ask him whether he was taking evidence on oath : also, to ask him, if Mr. Conde proposed to swear him, whether other witnesses also had been sworn. Even yet I do not know whether the witnesses who gave evidence were sworn, and neither do the public know.We are in a position to present documentary evidence, but we have not been called. I have been told that Mr. Walker, against whom certain charges were made, has been dismissed, and that certain other officers of the department have been dismissed. I know that one man who is closely associated with him in politics has been appointed to a very high position in the Minister's department. The man had been dismissed, buthe was reinstated by the Minister. I am saying nothing against that. I know that since these men were appointed the department has shown a profit. The staff of the department, with the exception of one man, sought legal advice as to their position in view of the racketeering which was going on, and subsequently wrote to the Minister advising him of the position. I know that somem en were dismissed because they were poking their noses too closely into the affairs of the commission, but they have since been reinstated. They have done a. good job, and some of them have been appointed to executive positions. However, if they are honest, they are doing no more than their duty. I submit that an open inquiry should be held, and all the facts brought to light. If the Minister publishes the report of the committee of inquiry without getting all the facts relating to the matter, and without taking evidence on oath from persons in the trade who are willing to testify, other steps will have to be taken in this House.

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