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Tuesday, 2 June 1942


Mr PROWSE - That is not the case in Western Australia. I remind the Minister that Chinese, who are our allies, are working for only 6s. a day, whilst enemy aliens are making £2 a day on similar work.


Mr Rosevear - The Government supported by the honorable member for Forrest released 100 of those men to work on the wood line.


Mr FORDE - I presume that the enemy aliens referred to by the honorable member are above the age at which they would be eligible for call-up in a labour unit. Evidently they have been working in that locality for some years, and receive the rates of wages that prevail there to-day. I have no knowledge of the Chinese to whom he has referred. Probably they were stranded seamen who had been employed on ships on the Australian coast, and. were drafted into Labour units, being paid the wages received by Australian soldiers.


Mr PROWSE - That is the point.


Mr FORDE - I am assured that the persons for whom the Chinese are working have to pay the full award rate. Although only 6s. a day is paid to the Chinese, the balance goes into a trust fund, the allocation of which will he decided later. For a time, there was a great clamour by some primary producers for the utilization of prisonerofwar labour on farms; but when it was pointed out to them that, in pursuance of an international agreement entered into at The Hague, award rates would have to be paid, in respect of every prisoner of war so employed, their enthusiasm was considerably dimmed, because they realized that they would be assuming certain responsibilities and that some risks would have to be incurred.


Mr Archie Cameron - They realized that they would not get their money's worth in the work that was done.


Mr FORDE - That, probably, was a factor. Although the farmer would have to pay the award rates prevailing in the district for that class of labour, the prisoner of war would receive only the amount set out in the international agreement, which is approximately 9d. a day for unskilled labour and Is. 3d. a day for skilled labour, the balance being paid into a trust account to defray the cost of the maintenance of such prisoners of war, which in respect of those who have come from overseas is the responsibility of the British Government.


Mr Prowse - There is a great body of people who are troubled in regard to this matter. The Minister is far from the scene. Will he send a responsible person to make inquiries and submit a report ?


Mr FORDE - Absolutely nothing was done to call upon refugee and enemy aliens to do service until this Government came into office. It has taken definite steps, with the result that many thousands of these persons have been called up and are to-day serving in labour units. Surely the honorable gentleman does not suggest that all these people should be interned, whether we have anything against them or not?


Mr Prowse - I say that the position should be examined.


Mr FORDE - The position has already been examined. If the honorable gentleman will supply me with the name of the locality, I shall see that further inquiries are made, in order to ascertain whether anybody in that district is escaping from the obligation to do his duty.

The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) presented a good case on behalf of soldiers returning from the front. His representations merit sympathetic consideration. I shall see that they are brought before the appropriate Minister. As Minister for the Army, I shall do my utmost to see that his request is granted.

The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) referred to the rationing of tea and other commodities as applied to soldiers on leave, or engaged in harvesting duties. He raised this matter on a previous occasion. All of us are sympathetic towards the requirements of the soldiers. In view of the sacrifices that they are making, more generous consideration should be given to them than to any other section of the community. The honorable member's request will be carefully considered.

The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) dealt with war production. Delays in production are of very great importance in view of our urgent necessity to step up production. We cannot afford to have one man, or one machine, idle. I was impressed by his statement that in one factory alone 20 machines are idle.


Mr Morgan - The director of machine tools should know of such cases.


Mr FORDE - I know that our fighting forces require an increased output of guns and munitions; and I have no doubt that the Minister for Munitions will see that these machine tools are utilized.

The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) presented a strong case on behalf of the apple and pear industry. His representations will be considered by the appropriate Minister. With regard to the immobilization of small craft, and the hardship caused thereby, I shall see that the report of the special committee appointed to investigate this matter is made without delay.

These craft were commandeered on the advice of our military experts, who are of opinion that grave danger exists, that an enemy landing may be attempted on our shores between Grafton and Port Kembla, and that the enemy would attempt to utilize such craft to infiltrate southwards. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) also raised this matter. "Whilst we sympathize with owners of small craft who have suffered as the result of this action, we must remember that the security of Australia is of paramount importance. However, anybody who suffers in consequence of any action taken for defence purposes has a just right to compensation from the Commonwealth Government.


Mr Abbott - .What about farmers' rowing boats in the flooded areas?


Mr FORDE - I understand that the honorable member refers to craft used some distance inland, which it could not possibly be contended, could be utilized by the enemy should he attempt a landing. That aspect has not previously been brought to my notice. I shall give it careful consideration. The honorable member for New England also referred to the provision of hut accommodation for shearers. I suggest that he discuss that matter with the Premier of New South Wales, because I do not think that concerns the Commonwealth in any way.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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