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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) (6:30 AM) . - In spite of the hour, I am not prepared to let this motion pass with out saying something about the outstanding lack of events in this sessional period. It is true that the uniform tax legislation tas gone through this House. I understand from the press that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has sent a letter to the Central Executive of the Queensland branch of the Australian Labour party, of which he showed a copy to certain newspapers, but not of course to those newspapers which did not speak kindly about the uniform tax. The outstanding paragraph of that letter is -

It is misleading to speak of "the rape of your State " when the facts show that Queensland is to be more generously treated under the scheme than any other State.

That is a remarkable approach of the head of the Government to a measure which has not yet passed the Senate or received the Royal Assent. The object of the Government in any legislation should be justice. I have always had my doubts about the uniform tax legislation and they have not been resolved. Another thing that concerns me is that for a long time we have had on the notice-paper motions that certain papers be printed. Among those papers are reports that have been supplied by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. I, with other honorable members, have been most anxious to debate rural industries. I should have liked the opportunity to call the attention of the Government to certain measures necessary for the safeguarding of primary production in this country, but that opportunity was not presented; although on one night I was ready to go on, another honorable gentleman was not, and so the Government decided to adjourn the debate. Any amount of time has been found for debates on pensions of all sorts and in regard to them there was no effective opposition at all. One or two of us stated our case and left it at that, but for hours and hours, we have heard nothing but a repetition of honorable members saying why they support some bill or other. Whenever a pensions bill is introduced the benches occupied by Labour supporters are full and Labour members are very vocal. There are much more important things that could be discussed in this chamber. One is the position of the coal-mining industry. I have tried two or three times to induce the Prime Minister to undertake that there shall be a debate on the coalmining position. It is a very unfortunate position, to use mild language. We have witnessed conference after conference and heard the most frightful threats by the Prime Minister. He has referred to the men who hold up coal production as traitors, but has done nothing about them. The coal situation is one which requires very careful, prompt and efficient handling. Last Friday, a conference was held, according to the reports of which some sort of heaven on the coalfields was arranged. But I cannot see anything in the reports from which we might look for salvation in the. way of peace in the coal-mining industry. There must be coal production, and, if certain miners in this country do not understand the necessities of the country, it is high time that the Government taught them what those necessities are, particularly when we have from the Prime Minister repeated threats towards those gentlemen but no action.

Mr Blackburn - Those threats have done a lot of harm.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Perhaps they have. It is the first time a Prime Minister has used language like that on the coal question during this war.

Mr Frost - What did the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member do?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I know what was not done by that Government, There are certain aspects of that which I am not prepared to discuss even to oblige the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), and there are a few things that I would not do to oblige him. But the fact is that the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did go to the coal-fields to meet the miners on the spot. Not one senior Minister of this Government has gone there to discuss the position. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) went there, but he also went to Darwin, and not long after he left the Japs arrived.

Mr Blackburn - The honorable member does not blame him for that.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - No.' I think the bombing of Darwin was the only thing ever done in the Northern Territory without the consent of the North Australian Workers Union. The Japs had a " hide " to do it without calling a meeting of that union.

Mr Pollard - What is wrong with the union?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON -! should like to know what is right with it. I should like the honorable member for Ballarat to go to Darwin and take a census in order to find out how many of its members remain there now.

Mr Pollard - They were ordered out by the military authorities.

Mr Ward - They came down south and joined the intelligence service.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I have not noticed any of them. Most of them have been closely in touch with the Minister for Labour and National Service and he would have a much better idea of their movements and location than would anybody in the military forces. This I think is the sixth week of sitting in this sessional period, and, in the few weeks we have' sat, the war has been referred to casually once or twice. There has been no debate on it. I should think in the circumstances that one thing more necessary than anything else was some clear-cut debate by the Parliament on the war and its conduct. There are many things about the general set-up with which I am not satisfied. I shall not go into them all now, because I do not desire to weary honorable members so early in the morning after a long night, but, on the subject of expenditure, there is no doubt that in many places of the Commonwealth to-day absolutely wasteful expenditure is taking place. Amongst those growths, which, like a convolvulus plant, is surrounding and grasping everything, is the publicity service which has insinuated itself into almost every section of government departments. Almost everywhere one moves in the armed forces one bumps against pressmen or press liaison officers.

Mr Lazzarini - The honorable member complains that he does not get enough information.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I can get all the information I need. The Government cannot conduct operations by diverting men to this sort of work. The Department of Information, which was referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), has been a costly failure so far as this Government is concerned. It has been one of the worst things done by the Government in this war, and the quicker it is abolished the better. It has done nothing whatever to justify its existence. The other day the honorable member for Melbourne raised the matter of the publication of the Army magazine Salt. I see every issue of that publication, and what in the name of common sense it is for I do not know. Twenty-seven people are engaged on the production of a perfectly and utterly useless thing. In fact, the whole Army educational service has nothing to recommend it. The previous Minister for the Army, the honorable member, for Warringah (Mr. Spender), had fanciful ideas but no real knowledge about how to run a war. His attitude and influence on the Army were bad, and, until the effect is removed, we shall not have in the forces the standard of discipline that we must have if we are to win through. You cannot have Ministers for the Army touring the Middle East and talking of softening influences and discipline being a thing of the past, and at the same time have a cohesive force. You do not want the Army to be cluttered up with unnecessary, educational officers making a nuisance of themselves. The men should be engaged in learning to lick the other fellow instead of the tosh many are learning. A small tooth-comb should be put through the Army so that people performing useless services can be drawn out and put into useful employment. The other day it was announced that £34,000 was to be sent overseas as the Commonwealth's contribution to the League of Nations. That is a wicked waste of public money. There is no such thing as the League of Nations. Had there never been one we might not now have been engaged in this war. I think that the league has been the breeding ground of hatred, distrust and war for the last twenty years, and, considering the state of affairs to-day, I say that the taxpayer in this country should not be asked to contribute £34,000 of good money to Geneva as a memorial to what will go down in history as one of the most worthless things ever conceived by man. I have referred to the futility of the League of Nations many times in this chamber. It was pure folly to set it up and greater folly to attempt to persevere with it after the sanctions trouble, in 1935. The moment sanctions went overboard the League of Nations ceased to have justification and should have ceased to play a part in the affairs of the world. If other countries are prepared to sink their good money in it, there is no justification for Australia doing so. Considering the sacrifices that the Government has asked all classes of the people to make, it should ensure that wasteful expenditure like this shall cease.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolution reported.

Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.

Resolution of Ways and Means founded on Resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.

Ordered -

That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lazzarini do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

Rill brought up by Mr. Chifley, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.

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