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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) - That statement is absurd, when applied to honorable members who travel to their homes every week-end.

Mr HOLT - My contention, which apparently has not penetrated what one would regard as the accessible skull of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), is that the service has to be given somewhere. Where could it be given more conveniently and with less waste of time than in this building? I agree that my illustration represents an absurd extreme, but it will assist honorable members to appreciate the confusion and dislocation which is taking place in industry to-day.

The department must weigh very carefully whether the apparent saving made either in man-power or in raw materials is not offset by inconvenience and dislocation. When- the Minister gives full effect to his plans, he should look for those sources from which large numbers of people can be drawn, without fiddling around with sections of industry where great dislocation would yield only a small number of men. As a further instance, I read recently of a proposal in New South Wales to limit the amount of laundering that may be undertaken. Washing is the only operation that will be done. One of the best arguments for rationalization is provided by the organization of the domestic services of the community, for the purpose of saving the time of individuals. In these times, it is not simply a case of people sending clothes to the laundry in order to spare themselves in* convenience. They are preoccupied with war work, or some useful public work. Very few idlers are to be found in the community at present. The proposal to reduce the services performed by laundries will release a handful of female labour, but will involve thousands of householders in unnecessary inconvenience and waste of time. If the department proceeds along those lines, it will only irritate and upset the community without securing for the war effort the results that it intended. Announcements of policy ought to be made by the Minister himself, and not by heads of departmental sections, who are frequently inclined to air their own views before they have been even considered by the Minister, let alone approved. One now reads in the press that, if certain plans submitted to the Minister be adopted, certain events will follow. The community needs to be told what is required of it, but that method of telling it creates suspicion and uneasiness. An unco-operative spirit develops in the industrial community because it is not aware precisely of what is required. Far more discretion than apparently is now allowed should be given to those who are to apply policy. Discretion ought to have been applied in the following two cases which have come to my notic'e. Jewellery ig not essential in war-time, but a 50-year-old veteran of the last war, not in generally good health and certainly not equipped to do an active job in other directions or to serve in the fighting forces, had a small jewellery manufacturing business. The only other male in the business was a cripple, useless for any form of war service. Yet, this small business which had been developed by the toil of the proprietor, had to shut down because of the general policy. Another returned soldier manufactured cake ornaments and artificial flowers - again not essential. Starting work at 7 a.m. each day for twenty years the proprietor and his wife developed their enterprise to the stage where it was employing 100 hands and flourishing. He was given ten days in which to close down, and was not allowed to complete even orders which were in hand or to use raw materials useless for any other purpose. The exercise of discretion and humanity in both cases would have eased the position of each, avoided bitterness, and in no way interfered with the war effort.

I join with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in saying that men suddenly given great authority should regard those with whose destinies they have to deal as fellow Australians and human beings, who have rights to be preserved and feelings which can be considered. The Minister should consult and use the services of the organized bodies of employers and employees in industry when he has to put his plans into effect. I know that it is his general practice to consult, in the first place, organized bodies when he has decided on a policy, but it is a question not so much of prior consultation as of making use of these bodies to administer the plans after they have been adopted. It may happen in some cases that sections of industry will play a selfish role and try to keep more men and a larger share of business than perhaps war conditions would justify, but as a rule he would find that his fellow citizens in positions of responsibility and authority would play the game by him and the country. That would save him the task of developing an enormous bureaucracy and would at the same time achieve far better results. Again with the honorable member for Melbourne, I express the fear held generally in the community that the Minister's officers .may be more successful in displacing people from what may be termed non-essential industries than in absorbing displaced people in useful war work. The feeling is rife that there should he ample opportunity for absorption at the same rate as displacement from industry. The work of the department is impeded and weakened, too, by the general suspicion that the Government as a whole is using the opportunity presented to it by the conditions of war and its occupancy of the treasury bench to put into effect parts of its traditional peace-time policy of " socialism in our time ". The Department of War Organization of Industry comes under more suspicion than other departments because of the very nature of its activities.

Mr Harrison - And because of the Minister administering it.

Mr HOLT - Yes, it is unfortunate that some of the Minister's utterances here and elsewhere have lent certain colour to that belief. Unless the industrial community is convinced that the action which is being taken is designed solely and deliberately to give a stronger and more successful war "effort, the Minister will not do away with the current suspicion and achieve the co-operation which is needed from industry if this re-organization process is to be carried through in full measure. I have mentioned the "need for minimum interference by the department in- industrial activities. I doubt whether any Minister of the present Government has had experience as a proprietor, or as a principal executive in handling a going concern. For that reason, there is not sufficient appreciation of the delicate nature of a business or trading concern. The establishment and development of businesses may occupy a life-time or several life-times of work but they are easy to destroy, so I repeat that, rather than fiddle with industries in order to secure handsful of men from certain directions, it would be better to concentrate on a few sections of industry. The rationalization of transport is an illustration of how great saving of man-power can be made without vital interferences with the businesses affected.

We understood that the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of War Organization of Industry would have complete authority over the man-power resources of the country. At any rate, the objective of the previous government was that once it had laid down general lines of policy both departments would be the arbiters as regards man-power between the conflicting claims of the fighting forces, the munitions industry, and private industry generally. Whether that represents the policy of this Government I am unable to say, but it would appear that these departments are far from having authority which, on any proper view, should be theirs if a fair and sensible disposition of our resources is to take place. We have read of man-power officers being overruled by the army authorities. The position must be clarified by the Government. It is essential that there should be some final authority to say where men should go. The Government should back those departments with the full force of its authority in order to ensure that effect will be given to its decisions. The fighting forces have their own problems to meet and intend to meet them as fully as they can; obviously, therefore, if that authority is not given, other sections of the community will bo starved of man-power while an unwieldy and enormous military machine is built. Obviously the Department of War Organization of Industry must tread warily. We have not seen enough of its work to speak in great detail about the results it has achieved. We have seen, unfortunately, some of the consequences of the doctrinaire efforts of zealous amateurs in the rationing proposals which have already been given some preliminary effect. The department has potentialities for great good, but could destroy for many years valuable industrial elements in the community to which we look for the absorption after the war of the men who will be released from the various 'phases of war work.

Mr. MORGAN(Reid) [8.53 1. - I realize that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has a difficult and unenviable task, and I do not wish to make it any more difficult. I ako appreciate the fact that he has undertaken that task with courage and sincerity and that he cannot please every body in the work he is carrying out. If he tries to do so, it will be another case of the man, the boy and the donkey ending in the ditch. In fact, he will find it extremely difficult to keep out of the ditch even now. At the same time, there are a few aspects that have come under my notice on which I wish to comment. I trust that the Minister will accept the advice of other honorable members in regard to the selection of his advisers. Obviously in the vast task that he has to perform he has to rely a good deal on the advice and assistance of others. I trust that he will be particularly careful to satisfy himself, not only in regard to the competence and experience of his advisers, but also as to what interests they are connected with, so that he will not be misled into a repetition of the incident which was brought to the notice of the House by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). He should consult people experienced in industry and in the trade union movement. Zoning has been instituted by the Minister, and in certain respects it might be advantageous. Much depends on the way iu which zoning is introduced and administered. Reference was made in the press recently to many homes being without milk during a change-over to a zoning system in Sydney -

Many suburban families received no milk at all to-day, when the new block system of delivery was introduced in areas embracing 75,000 homes. Thousands of other homes got their milk hours later than formerly, and in some areas milkmen were still trying to complete their rounds as late as 10.30 a.m.

Milk zoning and the rationing of clothing have had a common effect - both have caused much confusion. The Minister for War Organization of Industry must carefully administer the zoning system to see that it does not get into the hands of a few monopolistic concerns. I trust that local government organizations, which have the facilities and staff available, will be considered in conjunction with any zoning scheme that is introduced. If that were done it would tend to give consumers some say in the matter, inasmuch as they would appoint the aldermen or councillors who, in turn, would be the local governing body in charge of rationing services. Abuses, discourtesy and inefficiency sometimes creep into schemes of this description, and if the local governing authorities were in control, the consumers, at the ballot-box, would be able to obtain some measure of redress. Zoning authorities who did not give proper service would be appropriately dealt with. We have been told that maximum and minimum prices would be fixed for different commodities. Unfortunately, the maximum price fixed for bread has become the minimum. The fixation of prices, if properly carried out, would tend, in conjunction with zoning, to a more economical service being given, which should result in the supply of cheaper articles to the consumer.

The major bottleneck in our war industry has been the tendency to concentrate war production in the hands of certain large concerns. Had it not been for that tendency, I venture to say that our war effort would have been much farther ahead than it is at present. Undoubtedly, a considerable amount of good work has been done in our war industries, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Whore are the thousands of aeroplanes, guns and tanks that we should have provided for our fighting services?

Mr Archie Cameron - Articles of that description are not made in backyard factories. Mining is essential to produce such goods. What would the Government have done without the assistance of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited?

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