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Tuesday, 16 December 1941

Mr MARTENS (Herbert) . - I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) concerning our White Australia policy. I remind him that those responsible for that policy do not sit beside him, but on this side of the House. I recall how bitterly we were fought on that issue by interests represented by honorable members opposite. I realize fully what our White Australia policy means. I also recall recent history in respect of another matter touched upon by the honorable member. It was pleasing to hear him speak of the possibilities of aircraft in war. In 1937 the Labour party met in conference for one and a -ha If days, and reviewed its defence policy. Subsequently, our leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), explained the policy we then adopted, but honorable gentlemen opposite who then comprised the Government pooh-poohed our policy. To-night the honorable member for Deakin declares that that policy is vital to the successful prosecution of the war. I also recall that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) stated that whilst he agreed with our leader that the aeroplane would play a great part in future wars, its use would be confined to reconnaissance. The then Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, also ridiculed Labour's policy. We were then told that the Government did not doubt our. sincerity, but its experts did not agree with us. Defence experts have led many governments to destruction. They will lead many more to disaster if too much notice is taken of them. This war has shown more than anything else that aircraft is indispensable in war operations. Events of the last year have fully proved the soundness of Labour's defence policy. If the then Government had adopted, in the co-operative spirit about which its former members talk so much, the suggestion made by the leader of the Labour party, we should have been in the happy position to-day of having about 3,000 of the world's best aircraft.

Recently the Sydney press has featured the fact that ships are tied up on the Australian waterfront as the result of the shipowners being unable to procure crews. The newspapers say that the sailors are disgruntled and will not man the ships, but that is not so. The ships would be sailing the seas if the shipowners were as anxious as the sailors are to get on with the job of fighting the war. The shipowners claim that it is impossible owing to the structural alterations necessary to comply with some of the requests made by the sailors, but I deny that statement, because I have been told by ships carpenters and shipwrights that the structural alterations necessary could be completed within seven or eight days. The conditions under which men are required to go to sea on some vessels are an absolute disgrace and should not bc tolerated in any circumstances. Yet the toiler is the man who is blamed when hold-ups occur.

Some honorable members opposite have claimed that the people of Australia do not realize that we are at war. In the last few days the realization that we are at war has struck some people so forcibly that they are evacuating the cities in order to save their hides, and they are not members of the working class. They are the people who employ the workers. They are the people who are deliberately slowing operations in their factories in order to increase their profits under the cost-plus system.

I was told during the week-end that a clothing factory entirely engaged on the manufacture of uniforms for our fighting forces closed down on Friday until the 15th January next. The workers in that factory do not want holidays. My informant as to the closing down of the factory was one of the workers. That is a matter which demands urgent inquiry by the Government. Such action must hamper the production of necessary equipment. I have many friends in khaki and I know that their training is not as effective a3 it should be owing to the lack of equipment.

The honorable member for Deakin said that the time had arrived for democracy to adopt the methods of the dictators. England, France and the United States of America were the main culprits in the establishment of the Nazi regime in Germany. It was the late chairman of the Bank of England who financed the establishment of Nazi-ism. Yet to-day Ave are fighting against the Nazis. Not so long ago, when the waterside workers took a stand on conscientious grounds against the export of scrap iron and other materials to Japan the use of the Transport Workers Act and imprisonment if necessary were threatened against the waterside workers. Now the very material which those waterside workers were forced to load on to Japanese ships may be used against us in the form of shells. Having been associated with toilers all my life, I know their consciences. They were condemned in the last war by the very people who condemn them to-day. Whence comes the soldier? He does not come from the homes of the wealthy who are now fleeing to safety from Sydney and Melbourne; he comes from the homes of the working classes. If he did not come from those homes, we would not have any soldiers at all. Before honorable members opposite accuse any one of falling down on his job, they should make those individuals who are drawing big profits and getting richer because of this war, play their part. Let us give to Australians the justice which we are giving to foreigners, and then we shall obtain better results and a better feeling in the community. The sailors who refused to go to sea in certain ships were justified in doing so. I am sure that those who have condemned the sailors for their action would not have gone to sea in those vessels in any circumstances. Living conditions on them are abominable. In fact, they are worse than they were on the coastal steamers 30 or 40 years ago. The fact that many of these men have obtained jobs in munitions factories shows that they are anxious to do something in our war effort. We also have the spectacle of experienced soldiers who are now beyond the age of active service but who are quite capable of training young men, being turned down by aged military officers because they say that these men are too old. I have on occasions given names of men who have been rejected in that way. The cooperation of the nation generally can be obtained without a national government, merely by treating the people fairly.

Mr. ABBOTT.(New England) [10.13}. - I should like to speak briefly on what is probably the most momentous occasion in the history of this nation. Never before has Australia been faced with such great trials and difficulties. On several occasions during the 150 years' occupation of this continent by white people, our shores have been threatened or believed to have been threatened, by attacks from other powers. In the days when Sir William Denison was Governor of New South Wales, fortifications were built to repel an expected attack from Russia. Later, during the last war, an attack by Germany was feared, and to-day all our fears have culminated in a possible attack by Japan. However, I feel sure - [ think that every honorable member opposite will agree with me - that great though our difficulties are, the courage and determination of the people of Australia is such that we shall be able to stand together and fight as one people to preserve this continent for the white race; we shall fight to be free and shall not live under the yoke of a yellow conqueror. We could well subscribe to the sentiment expressed by the great, French revolutionary, Danton, when the armies of European nations were invading France: "To dare and dare again, and always dare". This country must adopt a brave policy in the difficulties which confront, it to-day. The time is ripe for all of us to cease delving into the past, and to be ready to assist this Government or any other Government which is willing to wage this war with determination until victory is achieved. We should all help in whatever way we can. I listened with some amazement to the speech by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and if one had not known the honorable member well, one might have believed him to be a traitor to his country because of some of the statements which he made. The honorable member suggested that we should confine our defence activities to this country; that we should keep all our forces here and should fight only when this country is invaded. Throughout this war that has been the most fatal doctrine which could possibly be preached. We have seen nation after nation endeavour to maintain neutrality; .to keep itself apart from the fire which is consuming the world. The result has always been the same. In turn, each nation has fallen into that fire and been consumed. Had we fought at the time of the fall of Czechoslovakia we should not now be faced with war in the Pacific. I believe that the policy of Australia should be to keep the enemy as far from our shores as possible. The defence of Australia must be carried on outside Australia. Once the enemy secures a footing on our shores and is able to establish air bases, he will bomb our cities, factories, munitions works, and spread death and disaster amongst the people.- Our strategy should be to keep the enemy outside Australia. That is not a very difficult problem from the geographical point of view. In the north the bastion of Singapore, which is dangerously threatened to-day, is a key defence for Australia; it is the key to the defence of the democracies in the southern Pacific. I believe that it is as important to Australia to defend Singapore as it is to defend Sydney or Melbourne. Coming down the arc of the circle from Singapore we reach the Philippines, the Netherlands East Indies, New Guinea, the Solomons, New Caledonia and New Zealand. I am of the opinion that it is essential that those islands should be not only patrolled from the air but also manned by substantial forces to repel invaders. For that reason I agree with honorable members who urge that the Defence Act be amended to enable our troops to be sent to those places. I cannot draw a geographical distinction between sending Australian troops to a mandated territory which may bc much further away than to New Caledonia. There is no distinction. It seems to me that in sending troops to Singapore from Darwin we are sending them a shorter distance than from, say, Perth to Sydney.

The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) mentioned the export to Japan of certain Australian commodities during the past twelve months. I remind the honorable member for Dalley of an afternoon when he stood beside me at the Ipswich railway workshops in Queensland, and saw machine tools from Japan, including some very good lathes, being unpacked there. Those tools are now being used to manufacture shells and other munitions for the use of Australian forces.. The traffic with Japan was not one-sided. We obtained from that country a lot of material which has aided our war effort. I have in mind particularly a large consignment of magnesite which was of vital importance to our munitions programme.

I now direct criticism, not at the present Government or the previous Government, but at the system which operates in Australia to-day and which is largely the result of the inability of our peace-time organization to cut itself free from the shackles of red tape when it was obliged to expand enormously and rapidly under war conditions. When I was travelling to Canberra yesterday from the north of New South Wales, I witnessed one example of the red-tape methods employed in the Army. An army billeting party travelled on the train between Tamworth and Dubbo. There were 25 members of the party, and the officer in charge was occupied for 45 minutes filling in forms in order to obtain railway tickets at the Tamworth station. When the party went to a refreshment-room during the journey, the officer was obliged to fill in 25 separate vouchers before the soldiers could obtain breakfast. This sort of thing went on throughout the trip. Many of the vouchers had to be completed in triplicate; doubtless a triplicate body of clerks will have to inspect them. That is a typical example of the Army's methods. It is the duty of the Government to short-circuit all of this red-tape and eliminate the mass of detail which is cluttering up departmental offices and causing worry and delay. I refer also to the inflexible attitude of the Army towards the modification of the designs of equipment. The case of the Owen gun has been mentioned many times in this House. As a member of the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, I learned of numerous other instances in which modifications of designs were repeatedly rejected by the Ordnance Branch of the Army and were adopted only after a great deal of trouble and delay. One such case was that of the 2-pounder anti-tank gun. The committee was informed in Adelaide that more than 300 modifications were in the design of this weapon. Another example of delay came to my attention yesterday. It relates to a portable wireless set. I have been told that the set is unsuitable for the work required of it, and that it is affected by " black spots " where it will not operate. Generally speaking, it is an unsatisfactory instrument. I have also been informed that, when the blue prints for this set "were supplied to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, before their manufacture was undertaken, the firm informed the Department of the Army that the sets, as designed, would not be satisfactory. But the company was told that the standard design as laid down in the blue prints would have to be carried out. Many of these sets have been made and issued to the troops, but now the department has adopted modifications along the lines suggested by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. There should be more flexibility in the official attitude towards these matters. We have heard much to-day about aerial cooperation with troops. I believe that all honorable members agree that such cooperation is essential. As the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has said, the role of the aeroplane to-day is similar to that of the field artillery in the war of 1914-18. What is being done to instruct the Militia Forces in aerial cooperation? Some time ago, I asked a question in this House regarding the appointment of a single CommanderinChief in Australia who would have authority over the Royal Australian Air Force and would be able to inform the Air Chief Marshal when aeroplanes were required for air co-operation exercises. The Minister for the Army said that the position was being studied, and that it was hoped that there would be greater co-operation in the future. No improvement has become evident. I was informed by an infantry Brigadier in Sydney recently that it takes about six weeks for Militia commanding officers to arrange for aerial co-operation. Even after all of the official channels have been traversed, and the co-operation has been arranged, the results are unsatisfactory. When a Brigadier conducting manoeuvres sends a call to the nearest aerodrome, about 50 or 60 minutes elapse before aeroplanes arrive to co-operate with the troops. The secret of 'Germany's success in this war is the complete co-ordination of the various units of its forces. If we in Australia are unable to secure such coordination because our system has not developed beyond tie peace-time stage of red tape, delays, and the multiplication of forms, then God help this country when we have to fight battles on our own soil. I hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde ),_who seems to have plenty of energy, will cause an explosion among the officials who are responsible and drive out of their heads the idea that everything must be done according to the old system-

It has been demonstrated by the Germans that it is most necessary that troops should be properly trained before they are allowed to go into action. Letters received from, our troops in the Near East continually stress the importance of this training. I am informed that in some of the Australian Imperial Force camps, and also in the militia camps, the members of specialist units are receiving only six days' actual training each month in their special duties. This is due to a shortage of men in the units, and the fact that they are placed on guard duty within and without the camps. Many guards are supplied to oil companies in order to protect the oil tanks located in various parts of the Commonwealth. It might be advisable to have personnel of the Volunteer Defence Corps trained for these duties, in order that specialists might receive full training in their own work. Many of the officers who are instructing at Australian Imperial Force training camps are using text-books which are out of date. Even the text books founded on what happened at Dunkirk are now out of date. Officers might well be sent overseas for refresher courses at the front. During the last war, officers were sent to France for a special course of training in the front-line. I notice that the Government intends to bring officers and noncommissioned officers back from Libya and to use them for instructional purposes in Australia. Our present instructors are good men, and they merely require to be sent overseas for refresher courses.

The attack on Hawaii has given us reason to revise the estimates placed before us concerning the weight, scale and depth of possible attack upon Australia by sea-borne aircraft. I am not giving away official secrets, because what I am about, to say has already been published in the press. It has been estimated that such aircraft could carry a weight of bombs of not more than 70 tons in 24 hours to any one point, that the attack would not take place more than once a fortnight, that the bombs would be only of medium size, and that the range of the aircraft would be limited to 550 miles. That is to say, if the planes had a run of 200 miles from the aircraftcarrier to the coast they could operate inland for a distance of about 75 miles. But we have been told that four-engined bombers were used by the Japanese in the attack on Hawaii, and that the weight of the bombs was so great that a single bomb killed many hundreds of people. It appears that the Japanese are using much larger planes from aircraft-carriers than we anticipated, and that the planes carry heavier loads of bombs.

In regard to air raid precautions, anybody who has stood before the indicator dials in one of the large power generating houses during a blackout will have not-iced that when the siren sounded the indicator dials flicked over. As the switches were pulled down and the lights came on, the indicator showed the load, proving that the blackout had been made possible merely by switching off the lights and not by darkening the windows. It was a bogus blackout, and no provision had been made to obscure the light. I agree with the Commonwealth technical adviser that there will be no satisfactory blackout until proper blackout conditions are observed for at least a week. At present it is essential for the Commonwealth authorities .to overrule the State authorities in this matter, and call for blackout conditions immediately. Such conditions have been imposed in New Zealand for months. The statement has been made that munitions factories cannot obscure their lights immediately, but I maintain that the light coming from those factories Will make it necessary for them progressively to obscure their lights at a much faster rate than they are doing to-day. The Commonwealth should issue instructions in the States that every householder who has a. backyard of, say, a greater depth than one-third of the height of his house, should be compelled to dig a trench 4 ft. 6 in. to 5 feet deep and 1 ft. 6 in. wide. Major-General Mackay, on his return from Libya, and other military men have informed me that slit trenches give the best possible protection, against falling bombs. The great advantage of this method of taking precautions against air raids is that most householders would have air raid shelters on their own properties. It would be then unnecessary for people to rush into the streets in order to find deep air raid shelters and thus 'Cause congestion. The Government should also lay it down that the National Emergency Services of a State or municipality should be allowed to dig trenches in householders' gardens or on their tennis courts and that these trenches should be made freely available for the civil population within such areas. In some localities such as Maribyrnong, near Melbourne, and the Hawkesbury sandstone area, at Sydney, it is practically impossible to dig trenches. I suggest that in such localities breastworks of brick should be constructed.. These would need to be about 14£ inches in thickness, and about 4ft. 6in. in height.

Mr Calwell - There are sandpits around Maribyrnong that could be used.

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