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
Thursday, 18 May 1939

Mr MARTENS (Herbert) .- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), but he has not conveyed any real conviction. The statement contains much guesswork, particularly regarding the control of profits. The Minister has not explained how it is proposed to control profits and, for my part, I do not believe that they will be controlled.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was at some pains to belittle one of the State Ministers of Queensland, and suggested that if that gentleman were to apply to the Defence Department he might be appointed as an expert adviser to the Government. Well, the Government certainly needs some one to advise it in order that it may avoid in the future the mistakes it has made in the past. The Queensland Minister was justified in attacking some of the methods of the Department of Defence. Some time ago, several local organizations at Cairns asked that trainees for the Air Force should receive instruction at Cairns. I can understand the request being refused on the ground that it might involve the department in extra expense, but the department replied stating that trainees should attend afternoon and evening classes at Townsville - which is only 211 miles away ! The other day I mentioned that aviation experts advising the department stated that there were ample facilities at Cooktown for advising pilots flying along the coast regarding weather conditions. . As I have previously explained, neither Cooktown nor Townsville, which are in a dry belt, can warn pilots about to take off at Townsville for Cairns, or vice versa, of weather conditions on other parts of the coast. I reiterate that the Queensland Minister was justified in charging this Government with having failed to do its job properly. When I asked what the Government had done to achieve co-operation with the States in the production of munitions, I was told that it was proposed to utilize the Government railway workshops. I now ask the Minister what is being done in regard to the railway workshops at Ipswich.

Mr STREET - They are converting all the artillery vehicles in Queensland, and they will play a large part in the production of aircraft.

Mr MARTENS - I am glad to hear that.

Mr STREET - I have always said that the State governments, regardless of their political colour, have been most willing to co-operate.

Mr MARTENS - The bill states that the new Department of Supply and Development will be empowered to make arrangements for the establishment or development of industries for the purpose of defence. That can mean much or little. It also states that arrangements will be made for ascertaining costs, and for controlling or limiting profits. I should like to hear some concrete suggestions for putting that proposal into effect. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) advocated the establishment of certain essential primary industries in various parts of the Commonwealth. I agree with his suggestion, but does the Government really mean to do that? He mentioned that something had already been done to establish the cotton industry in Queensland. Much more would nave been done if the Government had given the industry proper support. I was told by an ex-Minis'ter for Customs that the quality of cotton produced in Queensland was not what was required. To-day it is admitted that at least 80 per cent, of the cotton produced in Queensland is suitable for the manufacture of all kinds of fabric. The honorable member for Barker also referred to the production of hemp. Years ago, a cane-grower, Mr. T. H. Wells, experimented with the growing of sisal hemp in Queensland. He wanted to demonstrate that the lands in his district could produce something other than cane. He received promises of financial support,, and planted between 300 and 400 acres in sisal hemp, and prepared an area almost as large for another crop. When the hemp was growing splendidly, and there seemed to be great possibilities before the venture, those who had promised him support in obtaining machinery, &c, withdrew their offer. No government assistance was forthcoming, the whole scheme failed, and Mr. Wells failed with it, so that, instead of being a welltodo producer, he was down and out. 'The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) stated that something was being done in the growing of sisal hemp near Rockhampton. Hemp is being produced there in small quantities, and the fibre is stated to be of excellent quality. It would be a good thing for the district, and for Australia, if the industry were encouraged. I should like to know, however, whether the Government really means to encourage industries of that kind, or whether it is merely talking. I can recall the unfortunate experience of a -great many people who, during the regime of the Scullin Government, were induced to invest their money in tobaccogrowing. Then the Government led by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) reduced the protective duties on tobacco, and more than half of those who had entered the industry were ruined. They had to take any employment they could get, or join the ranks of the unemployed. That is not the way to encourage industrial development.

Much has been said in this debate concerning transport and the necessity to produce oil within Australia. A week or two ago, I read a report to the effect that the Government expected in the near future to accept delivery of some hundreds of aeroplanes. Those machines will be useless in a time of emergency unless we have sufficient fuel to operate them. Whenever we suggest that the Government should encourage the production of oil from cereals of various kinds, we are told that such a proposal is uneconomic. I feel sure that oil exists in more than one place on this continent, but certain interests are spending huge sums of money in order to prevent the discovery of these resources. There can be no doubt that oil exists at Roma; no argument will persuade me to believe otherwise. Gas issuing from the Roma bore was burned over a period of some weeks, and I am informed by experts that the presence of gas in such quantity is a sure indication of substantial resources of oil. That venture, however, was deliberately sabotaged by certain interests, which in the same way jeopardized the proposal to produce fuel from molasses. I lay the blame for such activities at the doors of the major oil companies. It was demonstrated at Sarina, North Queensland, that power alcohol produced from molasses was an effective fuel. It stood every test applied to it, but the Plume and Shell oil companies worked into the venture in order to restrict the market for this fuel, and today we find Plumecoll and Shellcoll among the brands of fuel on the market. This Government has no proposal to remedy that position. The Government of Queensland attempted to do something in that direction, but the High Court ruled that it had not the power to do so. This power alcohol could be produced on a very large scale. If that were done we should be serving the best interests of this country. It is useless to possess hundreds of aeroplanes for defence purposes if we do not also ensure that we shall always have at hand a sufficient supply of fuel to operate them. The mechanization of industry has greatly increased the use of oil fuel. Yet, while this Government brings forward these various proposals, allegedly in the interests of the defence of this country, it takes no step to encourage the production of oil in Australia. The Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, Mr. Rogers, has stated that it would be uneconomic to produce spirit from molasses, but I point out that other authorities, equally as competent, contest that opinion. For instance, the chemist at the Mulgrave Mill has made public a report in which he shows that power alcohol can be produced economically. But nothing is being done in this direction, with the result that millions of gallons of molasses are going to waste annually. That should not be so. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has shown that this proposition could be undertaken on an economic basis. Many pf the proposals submitted by the Minister will not prove nearly so economical. .Should war break out, how would we manage to operate our transport services, apart from those using coal fuel? If such an emergency lasted for any considerable period, our oil supplies would become exhausted, and we would be left in a helpless position. What chance would we have of importing oil from overseas? It would have to be borne thousands of miles over waters infested by the enemy. Surely, honorable members can visualize such a situation. A.n enemy would do his utmost to prevent the transport of oil to this country from overseas. If we hope to defend Australia effectively we must first ensure that we have sufficient supplies of oil; but nothing is being done in that direction.

Mr Rankin - What about the oilfields at Roma and East Gippsland?

Mr MARTENS - I have already explained how the venture at Roma was sabotaged by the major oil companies. I repeat my belief that oil is available at Roma, and also in the Springsure Ranges. In fact, Dr. Woolnough has assured me that there is a greater likelihood of finding oil in the Carnarvon Ranges than at Roma. I hope that he is right, although I shall persist in my belief in Roma. 'Cars and trucks have been driven on oil produced at Roma, and the only problem there is to obtain a sufficient quantity to meet our needs.

I believe that 80 per cent, of wars can bc traced directly to the activities of private manufacturers of munitions. They not only make money out of war, but also control, to a large extent, the press of the world. They find it profitable to spend millions of pounds in disseminating propaganda with a view to creating fear and unrest among governments and peoples. Governments, like the people who elect them, are only human, and like the masses, they become really scared by threats of attack, when this fear is continually drummed into them by the press controlled by the munitions manufacturers. It has been stated that Krupp's spent as much as £2,000,000 in France and other European countries to create the psychology that was responsible for the Great War. We are told, of course, that that conflict arose from an assassination at Serajevo In reality, however, it was caused by the propaganda circulated by armament ri.ng3. In his opening remarks, the Minister quoted from the Covenant of the League of Nations. I shall quote Vis count Cecil, who in the prefatory note to The Private Manufacture of Armaments, by Philip Noel-Bacon, said -

This book is the first volume of a comprehensive study of the private manufacture of armaments. It deals primarily with the moral and political aspects of private manufacture and with the "'evil effects" which it is alleged to produce. A second (and concluding) volume will bc published in about six months after the date of publication of the first. The second volume will deal with the economic, industrial, and technical aspects of private manufacture, and will discuss its alleged importance for national defence. Each volume is so written us to constitute a complete book in itself; but the two together will, it is hoped, be a systematic and reasonably complete examination of all the main problems involved in the production of arms.

That opinion was written on the 25th August, 1936, and it is borne out by eminent naval and military authorities. For instance, Lord Grey, of Fallodon, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1905 to 1915, discussing the events which led to the Great War, said -

The moral is obvious; it is that great armaments lead inevitably to war. If there are armaments on one side, there must be armaments on other sides .

The increase of armaments that is intended in each nation to produce consciousness of strength, and a sense of security, does not produce these effects. On the contrary, it produces a consciousness of the strength of other nations and a sense of fear. Fear begets suspicion and distrust and evil imaginings of all sorts . . ." (Here follows an account of the diplomatic negotiations between Lord Grey and the Germans for the prevention of war in 19.14)

But, although all this bc true, it is not in my opinion the real and final account of the origin of the Great War. The enormous growth of armaments in Europe, the sense of insecurity and fear caused by them - it was these that made war inevitable. This, it seems to me, is the truest reading of history, and. the lesson that the present should be learning from the .past in the interests of future peace, the warning to be handed on to those who come after us.

That is the statement of a British parliamentarian who was a Minister of the Crown during the Great War. Field Marshal Sir William Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1915-1S, in a lecture delivered at the Albert Hall on the 11th July, 1931, said - 10,000,000 lives were lost to the world in the last war, and they say that 70,000,000 pounds in money were spent in the preliminary bombardment in the Battle of Ypres ; before any infantry left their trenches the sum of 22,000,000 pounds was spent, and the weight of ammunition fired in the first few weeks of that battle amounted to 480,000 tons.

I do not believe that that represents the best use the world can be expected to make of its brains and its resources. 1 prefer to believe that the majority of people in the world in these days think that war hurts everybody, benefits nobody - except the profiteers - and settles nothing ....

As one who has passed pretty well half a century in the study and practice of war, 1 suggest to you that you should give your support to. disarmament and so do your best to ensure the promotion of peace.

Admiral of the Fleet Lord "Wester "Wemyss, in a memorandum on The Production of Armaments, presented to the Admiralty in 1919, expressed the following view : -

Apart from the moral objections to the present system, which makes warfare a direct occasion of private gain, the system is attended by the inevitable consequence that the multiplication of armaments is stimulated artificially. Every firm engaged in the production of armaments and munitions of any kind naturally wants the largest possible output. Not only therefore has it a direct interest in the inflation of the Navy and Army Estimates and in war scares, but it is equally to its interest to push its foreign business. For the more armaments are increased abroad, the more they must be increased at home This inter-relation between foreign and home trade in armaments is one of the most subtle and dangerous features of the present system of private production. The evil is intensified by the existence of international armament rings, the members of which notoriously play into each others' hands. _ So long as this subterranean conspiracy against peace is allowed to continue, the possibility of any serious concerted reduction of armaments will be remote.

One could make innumerable quotations of a like character. They all prove the one thing, namely, that the private manufacture of armaments is very dangerous indeed. I do not believe that the behaviour of those who engage in their manufacture in Australia will be any better or worse than that of overseas manufacturers, because they will be actuated by the same motive; the opportunity to make greater profits will be an inducement to them to accelerate their operations. Consequently, I say that either this or any other government should exercise every care in the contracts that it lets for the private manufacture of munitions.

The following quotation deals with the manufacture of poison gas, a matter which was dealt with by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) -

An advertisement in a technical journal by Dr. Hugo Stolzenberg, the head of the Hamburg works at which the phosgene gas was stored which caused the disaster in May last, is attracting some attention. In it he oilers " to build finance and manage chemical works, under financial guarantees, with the cooperation of specialists and engineers." The branches in which he specializes aru enumerated, and include the erection of plant for the manufacture of chlorine, bromine, hydrochloride, arsenic and cyanide, and their respective derivatives, such as phosgene, the yellow and blue cross groups, and tear gas. " In December, as then reported, Dr. Stolzenberg was offering for public sale for instructional purposes', small boxes containing samples of the deadliest gases employed in chemical warfare."

(c)   Military and naval aircraft supplied by Fokker or built under licence are being used by 21 governments. Moreover, several governments have secured licences for Fokker military and transport aircraft, details of which are not available for publication. Fokker has sold more licences for the construction of hie various types than any other designer in the world. (Advertisement in All the World's Aircraft, 1933).

Such advertisements arc not confined to time of peace.

No matter what implements of war these people may manufacture, they are prepared to supply them to any country which can purchase them. It has been truthfully said that when their sales in one country reach a certain level they approach another country and convince it of the need to purchase from them on a larger scale. So the game goes on. The quotation continues - " Schneider and Krupp ", says Mr. Walter Newbold, "all through the first Balkan War engaged in an astounding campaign of inspired newspaper advertisements of their respective weapons, their subsidized press agencies and cable services .providing the journals of oriental and other minor powers with lengthy dissertations on the prodigious destruction wrought by their several productions ".

I say quite definitely that the press campaign causes the greatest trouble. It is not merely a matter of manufacturing munitions; more important is the influence which is wielded in the world by the propagation of ideas and the development of a fear complex in the minds of the people. The majority of the people of this country, as the result of this propaganda, really believe that we are in danger of being attacked ; by whom does not matter. Almost every night, from station 2GB in Sydney, an argument along these lines is developed - the fear of a possible attack from somewhere. To-night one European country may be named, and to-morrow night another country. On one night it is said that the tension has eased, and on the next night that the position has again become grave.

Mr Green - Who is this "jitters" dispenser?

Mr MARTENS - A gentleman named Dr. Louat. At the opening of the steel plate works at Port Kembla recently, his predecessor, Mr. Baume, was " on the air " for station 2GB. Either the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), as Postmaster-General in the last Lyons Administration, or somebody else, put him off the air. He was the chief speaker for the management of the Port Kembla undertaking. His one object was to make the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) Prime Minister of Australia. Among the many things that he said that day in an attempt to boost the right honorable gentleman was, "I can assure you that I do not want to allow this opportunity to pass without showing what different treatment was meted out to the press by the right honorable member for North Sydney when he was Prime Minister during the Great War; he did not apply any censorship to the press ". I have no hesitation in telling Mr. Baume that he did not state the truth, because no one could have exercised a more strict censorship than did the right honorable gentleman whom he praised.

Mr Green - Hitler has nothing on him.

Mr MARTENS - Not at any stage of his history. I can produce publications from which whole pages of matter were obliterated, only headlines and advertisements remaining. That is what would happen again, and it does not make for the peace of mind of the people. The Sydney Sun and the rest of the Tory press of this country is no more free from the charge of being supplied with funds by the armament rings, or by interested contractors, than is the press of any other country. I assert quite definitely that a lot of money is being spent in the propagation of ideas in Australia and elsewhere with a view to establishing a fear complex in the minds of the people so that they will readily believe that they may be attacked even before they are out of their beds on the following morning. That is wrong. I do not regard it as a good thing for this Government to give contracts to private firms for the production of munitions. We are told that certain machines will have become obsolete when the work is completed. If this machinery will be of no further use after a very short period, those who install it will see that the Commonwealth bears the whole of the cost and that their profits are not lowered.

Mr Rankin - Is not that right and reasonable ?

Mr MARTENS - No. If this work has to be done, it ought to be done by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States and semi-governmental bodies, which have splendid workshops in different parts of Australia.

Mr Street - In a time of emergency those workshops would be fully engaged.

Mr MARTENS - That may be the case, but I am not sure that it is. I do not believe that the honorable gentleman's statement will bear close examination.

No intimation has so far been given as to what steps are to be taken for the defence of the northern part of Queensland. It cannot be defended from Sydney or anywhere else in the south. Recently I mentioned that two planes coming from Townsville were fortunate in being able to pass over Mackay, but because of headwinds were later forced to land in order to refuel, one at Rockhampton and the other at Bundaberg. Had they been unfortunate enough to strike a heavy head wind they would have had to land at Mackay, where they would probably have been bogged. That important part of the continent is little known to the people of the southern States. Commonwealth Ministers and their expert advisers know practically nothing about it. I do not know where Ministers obtain their information, but when they tell us that students from Cairns can attend evening classes at Townsville, which is 211 miles away, it is evident that they know little about that part of the continent. I agree with what the Minister for Health and Home Affairs in Queensland has said. He is just as capable of giving an intelligent answer to questions relating to that part of the continent as is any other man; he certainly is more competent to deal with them than are Ministers of the Commonwealth Government who have not been there. Mr. Hanlon is a capable man, and a good Australian, who is desirous only of doing the right thing. The way to get his co-operation is not to refer to him as a lawyer's clerk, as the Prime Minister did on Monday night, when he gave expression to a number of tarradiddles. I imagine that even a lawyer's clerk may be able to tell the right honorable gentleman a lot of things about the law. I am convinced that Mr. Hanlon desires only to do the right thing by Australia, and it ill becomes the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to offer cheap insults to a man holding an important portfolio in the Queensland Government, as he did when he suggested that Mr. Hanlon might make application for a job on the staff. That remark by the right honorable gentleman was published on the 15th of this month. Such statements are not to his credit, especially when they relate to a man who is just as good as, and, perhaps, a great deal better than, the Prime Minister himself.

Suggest corrections