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Thursday, 24 September 1942


Mr MARTENS (Herbert) .- The honorable member for "Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) advocated that the price of butter should- be increased by 3d. per lb., and when I asked him to explain whether the producer would receive the benefit of the increase, the honorable member grew very hot under the collar, and referred to the wages earned by a second cook on a dredger. If the price of butter be increased by 3d. per lb. I shall not object, provided that the producer gets the benefit of it. Sugar-growers in the constituency that I represent are grateful to the people of Australia for the price that they pay for that commodity, and they are prepared to pay higher prices for other primary products, provided that the producers derive the benefit. The advantage should not be reaped by the middleman. Oranges which, now cost 4d. each could be purchased last year for ltd. each, but I do not think that the grower receives the difference. The prices of apples and vegetables also have risen steeply.

I, too, should like to know what the conditions in New Guinea are - not military secrets, but things that every body ought to know. Like a great many other people, I believed the story that the Japanese could not get over the Owen Stanley Range, but they have got over it, and I have ' read that they are widening the mountain tracks on the way to Port Moresby. The fact that there were no roads, but only tracks, was impressed upon us as being an additional safeguard. If the Japanese are not able to widen the tracks by pick-and-shovel methods, I have no doubt that they will employ bulldozers which will quickly cut a road in the side of a mountain. I am reminded by the Japanese conquest of the Owen Stanley Range of the engineering triumph over the Kirrima Range in Queensland. For years the range was regarded as absolutely impassable, but a surveyor of great initiative and capacity was able to survey the site of the splendid road which now crosses the range, and is so well graded that most of it can be climbed by a car in top gear. The Japanese may be building a similar road from Kokoda over the Owen Stanley Range, and, if they succeed, they will be able to bring forward all kinds of munitions and implements of war, no matter how heavy they may be. We were told that equipment could not be delivered to our men in the forward regions, and the feeding of them was difficult, all on account of the difficulty of communication. Natives could have been employed to carry to that area in a very short space of time all the food that would be required to last the men a long time. In common with many other honorable members, this morning I saw, at a Canberra picture theatre, a film which showed the blacks carrying our wounded out of the Owen Stanley Range to Port Moresby. If they are able to carry our wounded back, they could have carried their food forward. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) described how the natives have been employed for years in carrying equipment to the goldmines in the mountainous country of New Guinea. So they are used to porterage. We could have done what the Japanese are now doing, namely, prepared roads over which equipment could be carried to forward positions. We had plenty of time to do that. I do not entirely blame this Government for our apparent failure to do these things. Honorable gentlemen opposite must share the blame, because they were sufficiently long in office to have done more than they did. The honorable member for New England said that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was the only honorable member who had been to Port Moresby. All I can say is that he was lucky to have the chance to go there.

Not only boys of eighteen, but also most of our troops have gone to New

Guinea insufficiently trained. I am no soldier, but I have sufficient common sense to know that it is of no use to train men in temperate zones for tropical fighting. Instead of training our soldiers in the huge camps in the southern States, we should establish camps in the tropics. There are many places in my own electorate where men could be trained in conditions resembling those in which they will be fighting. Only people who know the tropics and jungle country are able to judge the sort of training required to fit men to fight in New Guinea. The office " johnnies " in the south who send untrained men to New Guinea ought themselves to be made to spend a little time there. They would then be better able to appreciate what is needed. An ideal area in which to train men for jungle fighting is situated between Tully and El Arish, where the growth is so thick that the jungle is dark in daytime, and the rainfall is so heavy that sometimes 48 inches is recorded in a week-end. A train traveller cannot see the sides of the cutting through which the train is passing when the rain is pouring. It is hopelessly stupid to send men from Melbourne and Sydney and other southern centres straight into the battle in New Guinea without their having had adequate training under conditions like those that they experience in New Guinea.


Sir Charles Marr - Not only stupid, but also criminal.


Mr MARTENS - Even criminal. I have complained to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) both in this chamber and by letter about the waste of food in Army camps. Iknow that some one has been appointed to tour these camps and make a report to the Minister on the subject of waste, but it is not necessary for me to inspect the camps to be able to know that waste is occurring. I am satisfied to accept the information given to me by men holding responsible positions in my own electorate, notably the Mayor of Townsville. I know that contracts have to be made, and that it is impossible to vary the supply of food to camps from day to day, and that when week-end leave occurs more food will be available in camps than there are troops to eat it. My complaint is not on that score, but against the fact that, instead of that surplus food being sent to benevolent institutions for distribution to needy people, it is thrown away. I suggest that the transport units which take the waste food from the camps to the dumps as refuse could take it instead to such institutions as the Salvation Army for distribution to the poor. If that were done it would be better for every body concerned. It is no use to talk about building up the morale of the people when the people are aware that such waste is occurring.'

The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) ha3 declared that there will be no food shortage in Australia. I am aware that all efforts are being made to produce food. In my electorate more food has been grown this year than ever before. I received a letter from Ingham telling me that school-boys from Ingham and Avergowrie college, which specializes in agricultural subjects, have gone out to harvest potatoes and tomatoes, and they are doing good work. That is all right for this year, but who is going to sow the crop for next year? The Government is making a mistake in reducing unnecessarily the labour available for primary industries. Unless labour be made available to the sugar industry it will languish.







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