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Thursday, 24 September 1942


Mr JAMES (Hunter) (3:00 AM) .- I understood the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) to say that the farmers in the Seymour district had sustained a good deal of loss as a result of the occupation of land in that area by units of the American forces. We must realize that our American friends are assisting us to defend this country. We owe a lot to them, and. we are also indebted to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) for having invited them to come here. When the 'Government sought assistance from the President of the United States of America, it was improperly accused of a desire that Australia should " cut the painter " and go independently of Great Britain. If the Prime Minister does nothing else as leader of the party to which I belong, it may be said that at least he has saved Australia from invasion.

I have previously asked the Government to send back to the coal industry coal-miners who have been put to work in other industries. The Prime Minister is " passing the buck " to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), but he is responsible for the action of his Government and should be quite candid in the matter, instead of sending me from one Minister to another in order to obtain satisfaction. 1. hope that the Prime Minister will reply to my complaint. Coal-miners in New South Wales are retired compulsorily at the age of 60 years, but some of them object to compulsory retirement because they are still able to continue work. During the depression years 1929 to 1939 many miners transferred to other industries, in which they are employed to-day, and they are not pulling their weight in the war. Their sons are fighting overseas, and the fathers consider that they could serve their country better than at present by returning to the coal-mining industry. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister may say that difficulty is experienced in providing transport for the coal that is now being produced, I fear that the stage will be reached when the supply of coal will be insufficient, unless those men are called back to the industry. Many men are able to do the labouring work in which those miners are now engaged, but it is not easy to obtain nien suitable for employment in the coalmining industry. They must have had two years' experience at the coal face before they are permitted to produce coal. If experienced men are not employed in the industry there will be a greater number of casualties in it than there are at present.

The Labour movement in my electorate has taken up the subject of the necessity for healthy conditions in military camps, and I have approached the Minister for the Army on many occasions on behalf of the local governing authorities. Every ratepayer in and around the shire of Lake Macquarie is required to have his premises connected with the sewerage system, but the military authorities, who are a law to themselves, decline to provide sewerage facilities at military camps, and have adopted what is known as pit sanitation. This system is not conducive to the health of the troops, particularly in lowlying areas. Why should the Army authorities be permitted to take over an area such as Spears Point Park as a military camp without having it connected with the sewerage system? The danger of dengue fever has been brought to the notice of the public, and I contend that the health of the people is of paramount importance.

An austerity campaign has been launched, but in military camps, of which there are about seven in my electorate, a great deal of waste of good food occurs. This also happens at the aerodromes at Rathmines and Williamtown. Although many of the troops obtain weekend leave, the same quantity of food is cooked at the week-ends as during the week. About four persons have contracts for the collection of waste food, and the waste that 1 have personally witnessed is tragic. I saw one contractor take away 37 roasts of beef from which there had not been even one cut. The orders given for meat for these camps should be regulated in accordance with requirements. Contractors should not be permitted to enrich themselves by feeding pigs with waste food, and at the same time supplying the camps with pork.

Young men are being sent overseas to fight in the defence of this country and of the mandated territory. Many of them are only about eighteen years of age and have had very little training, but not one Minister has yet visited the battle area to see how our lads are faring. During the last war, when a Labour Government was in office, it sent a special delegation to visit the troops in Prance. I am not asking to be sent on such a mission, but I am willing to go. I believe that it is the duty of the Minister for the Army, and of other service Ministers also, to see for themselves the conditions under which our boys are fighting. The military men who are engaged in the campaign cannot come into this House to tell us what is going on. Therefore, Ministers should acquaint themselves of the position, so that they can pass on the knowledge to honorable members. For my part, I would not be prepared to send citizens of Australia to serve against the enemy anywhere unless I had the courage to go there myself. What a wonderful encouragement it would be to the boys if some of us here were to visit them. If the Ministers are not prepared to go, let us send a parliamentary delegation. We could talk to the boys, and give them some encouragement. I say to the Prime Minister that some of us must go up there. If no one in the Cabinet is prepared to go, then send old Rowley.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Remainder of Estimates - by leave - taken as a whole.







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