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Thursday, 14 May 1942


Mr CHIFLEY - Will the honorable member admit that the chiefs of staff, who are conducting the military operations of this country, should have some say in such matters?


Mr ANTHONY - Certainly; " but there should be collaboration between them and the Government.


Mr Chifley - This Government takes some notice of its military advisers; it does not seek advice from bush strategists.


Mr Pollard - From banana-farmers, for instance.


Mr ANTHONY - My banana-farming began when, with no other equipment than a tent, a mattock, a brush-hook, and a few tools, I went into the bush. To have attained to my present position from that beginning is something of which I have reason to be proud.


Mr Morgan - From log cabin to White House.


Mr Chifley - It is a very worthy effort, but it does not qualify the honorable member to advise the Government on matters affecting military strategy.


Mr ANTHONY - I do not pretend to be a military strategist, but after having noted the performances of some of our professional military strategists, I think that I, as a layman, am qualified to express an opinion regarding matters which are self-evident. I am not questioning the advice tendered to the Government by the Army authorities, but the Government is entitled to some -"pinions of its own. The Army is not familiar with the man-power problem vI industry. It cannot be expected to be acquainted with matters pertaining to production, or to know how many men should be retained on the farms, and how much butter, wheat and other foods are needed for the supply of the services and the civil population. It is the duty of the Government, which ought to possess that knowledge, to consult with the Army authorities, and thus to arrive at a decision as to how the available man-power ought to be employed.


Mr Chifley - I agree with the honorable member, and that is being done.


Mr ANTHONY - Referring to the retail trade, the Minister for War Organization of Industry made some observations with which I agree. I believe that the trade could be reorganized in such a way as to release many persons for national service in one way or another. At present, the shops remain open for far too long a period each day, and perhaps for too many days in the week, for the business they are able to do. It has been demonstrated during the last day or two that shops can dispose of the whole of their quota in an hour or two. It ought to be possible to educate the public to do their shopping within certain specified times. If the shops were closed for a full day each week, employees would be able to join the Volunteer Defence Corps or the Voluntary Aid Division, as the case may be, or take up air raid precautions or enemy raid precautions or first-aid work, while also carrying on their ordinary occupations.


Mr Dedman - The honorable member's suggestion is somewhat belated. That has been examined.


Mr ANTHONY - I am not belated with my suggestion, nor do I believe that the position has been examined, and I have some personal experience of this matter also. {Extension of time granted.,


Mr Dedman - I rise to a point of order. Does not the honorable member's statement amount to an assertion that I am telling lies?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I must acknowledge that I did not hear the honorable member's statement.


Mr ANTHONY - I said that I was not satisfied that I am belated in my reference to the matter of closing retail shops for part of the normal trading period, nor was I satisfied that the position had been examined by the Government.


Mr Dedman - The Minister said that he did not believe that it had been examined.


Mr ANTHONY - I said that I did not believe that it had been examined by the Government in the way that I believe to be necessary.


Mr Dedman - I did not hear your ruling on the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - If the Minister acknowledges that the repetition by the honorable member of his statement is correct, then the honorable member was not out of order.


Mr ANTHONY - The Minister said the Government had examined tha possibility of closing retail shops for half a day or a day each week so that employees might take up some war activity. I maintain that, if the suggestion has been examined by the Government, the examination was very cursory. I initiated a movement on the north coast of New South Wales about two months ago for the introduction of such a scheme. I persuaded the business people of an important country town to close all businesses for half a day each week so that male employees might train with the Volunteer Defence Corps, and women with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, or take up National Emergency Service work, &c. About 260 women were released, and about 150 men. However, the scheme broke down because one firm, which is controlled by the Burn3 Philp Company, an organization which might be expected to do a little better than merely what it was required to do by law, refused to join in. It was the only firm which refused, but the others felt that they could not allow this firm to benefit by their sacrifices, and so the scheme fell through. Mr. Loxton, the manager of this firm - Penneys of Brisbane, which is controlled by Burns Philp and Company - said that he had telegraphed the Prime Minister to find out whether the Government was behind this scheme, but he had not been able to obtain a satisfactory reply. The Minister for War Organization of Industry said that my suggestion was belated, and that the Government had already examined the proposal. I say emphatically that if it did examine the proposal it was also responsible for the breakdown of the scheme.

When I drew attention some days ago to the shortage of farm labour, the Minister for War Organization pf Industry said that there was no shortage of foodstuffs, and he asked me to name the commodities of which there was a shortage. I remind honorable members that, besides the obligation to feed the people of Australia, we have also a duty to supply food to the people of Great Britain. If the people of Great Britain should be unable to obtain sufficient food, how could they carry on the war? The Minister should have been aware that Australia had entered into a contract to supply to Great Britain 60,000 tons of butter last year, but fell short of that quantity by many thousands of tons. The labour position on the farms has probably gone too far now to be rectified in the ordinary way. The trouble is due, not only to the calling up of men for military service, but also to the attraction of labour by munitions industries, and by other industries which are able to offer more attractive conditions. I represent a country constituency, and it is my opinion that the primary producers are taking more of the hard knocks of this war than any other section of the community. Mention has been made of restrictions upon the delivery of meat and bread, which are being introduced as part of the plan to rationalize industry. If such restrictions mean that the farmers will have to travel to their nearest townships or country stores to obtain their requirements, I cannot see that there will be any saving of man-power, motor fuel, tyres, oil, and so on. Obviously, it is far better for a storekeeper to serve 20, 30 or 40 farmers, than it is for each of those farmers to travel to the store to obtain his supplies.


Mr Dedman - How far away from the shopping centres do these farmers live?


Mr ANTHONY - Probably 5, 10 or 20 miles.


Mr Dedman - The prohibition upon the delivery of meat is only in respect of customers who reside within .1 mile of a butcher's shop.


Mr ANTHONY - I am glad to have the Minister's assurance on that point. During the past few days I have received quite a number of letters from tradesmen in country areas who have informed me that they have been ordered to cut down deliveries. The difficulty that I have encountered in regard to this matter has been to ascertain whether representations should be made to the Department of "War Organization of Industry, the Department of Transport, the Department of Labour and National Service, or the Department of Supply and Development. I should be obliged if the Minister for War Organization could assure me that his department is the one to which representations in regard to the restriction of deliveries by traders should be made. I suggest also to the Minister that before he takes drastic action to close down various industries which he and his advisers regard as nonessential, he should make sure that all labour at present available shall first be absorbed. While there is unabsorbed labour available for munitions work, it is not necessary to close down other industries, and throw many people out of their jobs. I suggest to the Minister that there is still a great reservoir of female labour which could be employed. Recently I visited a large munitions establishment in the country and the manager informed me that more than half of the work that was being done at that factory was of a light nature, and could be done as well and as efficiently by women. He said also that SOO women had permanent homes in the vicinity of the factory, and that many of them were willing to accept employment, but their services have not been availed of by the Government for various reasons, one of the most important of which was that strong opposition from the trade unions would be encountered. That is a problem which will have to be solved by the Government before it throws out of work thousands of old employees who have spent their lifetime in their jobs and have no knowledge of any other task. The absorption of all labour at present available should be the first objective of the Department of War Organization of Industry. Honorable members on this side of the House realize the grave difficulties which confront the Minister in this regard, and we sym- pathize sincerely with him because of the enormity of his task. I am sure that every one realizes that the job which the Minister has undertaken is a colossal one, but I suggest that he would be in a better position to carry out his work if he were a little more receptive of views expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House, and by people who have had long experience in industry. It is all very well for the Minister to tell us that he has been privately advised in regard to this matter or . that matter by officers whose names he keeps secret. Whoever those advisers may have been in the past, I am afraid that they have not been good ones. The Opposition wishes the Minister well in the discharge of his very responsible task, but we trust that he will listen a little more to experienced advisers and will not approach the problems that confront him with hard-and-fast preconceived theoretical ideas that are not practicable in war-time.







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