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Thursday, 11 April 1946

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- We have just listened to an extraordinary statement by the honorable member' for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). After all, whatever faults a man may have committed in the past, he has paid for them now as the result of a sentence of the court, or in some other way. We should not forget that Peter Lalor, who figured in the only armed revolt which ever occurred in Australia, was afterwards exonerated, and became one of the legislators of his State. No matter what the history of a man may be, once he is elected by the people as their representative, in this Parliament, it is improper for anyone, under parliamentary privilege, to attack him. It is a cowardly thing to do.

Mr Blain - That, among other things, is what we are elected to do - if we have the " guts " to do it.

Mr SPEAKER -The. honorable member must moderate his language.

Mr BARNARD - The attack was made with the knowledge that- it was being made under parliamentary privilege. As you pointed out, Mr. Speaker, it came very near to being a breach of the Standing Orders, and whatever else it may be, it was certainly in very bad taste. Only a day or two ago, it was reported in the press that an Indian statesman was released from gaol to become a Minister of the Crown. Senator Donald Grant is the elected representative of the people, and has taken the oath of allegiance. What more could anyone ask of him in a democratic country? Apparently, the attack was pre-meditated, because the honorable member for Bendigo read from notes which had been carefully prepared for him. The attack was cowardly and uncalled for.

Mr Rankin - The honorable member for Bass: (Mr. Barnard) has attacked me unfairly..

Mr BARNARD - I have not attacked the honorable member. I have the greatest admiration for him. He served his country well, and as a result of that service suffers a disability which he will parry with him for the rest of his life. I have said nothing against him, and do not propose to do so.

Earlier to-day, I asked a question about the running of the ship which now serves the northern part of Tasmania. Before the war there were two ships on the Tasmanian service, the Nairana and the Taroona, which served the northern and western ports. When war broke out, the -people of Tasmania gladly agreed that the Taroona should be withdrawn for military service. Now the Taroona has returned, and after making a few trips, has gone into dock for overhaul. I urge that the schedule of the Nairana should be altered to provide for the making of three trips a week in order to meet the heavy traffic at this time of the year. In the past, it was customary for a ship to make two trips a week to the north-west coast, while another made three trips a week from Melbourne to Launceston, for several months during the summer. There is a good deal of resentment in Tasmania about the shipping service. I do not even suggest that all our shipping difficulties are over. They will not be over for a. long time, but, when the Taroona returns to the normal run, the position will be considerably improved, because there will be four crossings weekly instead of two. In view of the great loyalty shown by Tasmanians in willingly surrendering the Taroona during the war, I think that my request might easily be granted. It may be said that the air service between the mainland and Tasmania is more frequent now than it was when the Taroona was on the run, but an air service does not cater for heavy cargo or people unable to afford costly air travel. " -

The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the immobilized Dutch ships. I think it has been stated on numerous occasions that those ships were held up in the first place by Dutch nationals walking off them. That is the basis of the trouble. While the honorable gentleman was speaking it occurred to me that he was taking another opportunity to make a slap at the Government rather than to say something about a matter of which he had a reasonable knowledge.

Mr Blain - What is the honorable member's idea about the case?

Mr BARNARD - I do not profess to know anything about the dispute over the Dutch ships, and, therefore, I will not attempt to discuss the subject. Even if T. knew anything about it, I should probably be inclined Hot to talk about it, because it is a matter that can be dealt with only on a government level. The situation is so delicate that speeches in this House do not help. If it could be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, I am sure the Government would be thankful.

In the last few. months trade with the East has been discussed on many occasions in this House and elsewhere. Yesterday, I read a. very interesting article in the Sydney Sim on trade with China. It was sent from Singapore by a British press representative. Apparently, he wrote with a full knowledge of the subject, because he made some excellent suggestions that might well be acted upon by the Government. I do not mean to imply that the 'trade with the East is unknown to, or has been overlooked by the Government. Indeed, government publications have' been issued on the subject; but I do not think we have had an up-to-date statement of the Government's policy. Earlier in this sessional period, I' suggested that the Government might be prepared to make a statement, to the House as to what was being done and proposed to develop this trade. It is quite apparent to honorable members that in eastern countries we have a potential market of millions of people in close proximity to us. Their standard of living is low. It is hardly a living standard at all. In fact, the Indian delegates to the International Labour Conference claimed that while other delegates were talking about raising living standards for mankind, India had no standard on which to build. Could we but raise the standards of the Indians and Chinese by as little as one or two per cent., our trade worries would be over. The article mentioned the commodities in short supply in China - refrigerators and tyres, for instance. We have not sufficient of those for ourselves at the moment, I concede, but the article suggested a token shipment in order that we might get our products on to the market and well advertised, so that we should have something on which to build. I do not know what has been done about the development " of this trade, but I hope that in' the Department of .Commerce and Agriculture, which is concerned with our export trade, a capable officer is specializing on this matter, because it presents tremendous possibilities. I understand that a trade delegation is to go to India to study the Indian market. That is an excellent plan, because it will be a departure from purely governmental action. The captains of industry, who are used to dealing with commercial problems, ought to be able to assess the opportunities of this market. I am particularly interested in the development of trade with India, because people who have first-hand knowledge of the possibilities have discussed it with me, and, although I personally know very little about the potentialities of the Indian market, I accept what they have told me. One man, who was in India for thirty years, but is living in retirement in Australia, told me that India presented a vast market for our woollen goods. Many people, have the idea that India is eternally hot, but that is a mistake, and, there are parts of, the country where people need blankets at night and woollen textiles in the day. I do not claim that we ought to concentrate entirely on the development of markets in those countries, because we do owe something to the Mother Country, and it presents a market for many of our commodities. Nevertheless, it will not bc able to- take all our surplus production. Even if it were so, there are other Britishdominions with which trade with the United Kingdom has to be shared. Indeed, to-day because of the shortage of shipping we are not sending so much to Great Britain as we might in other times. Empire countries closer to the United Kingdom are supplying goods with which our goods might otherwise have competed, and we are supplying to markets closer to us. That arrangement is under the control of the British Minis- . try of Food.

Like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) I am concerned about the detention of offenders against military law. For some time I have, been in communication with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) on that subject.

Men who have served overseas and returned to Australia have found themselves in detention camps for military offences, and, although' some of them have been discharged, they have been compelled to serve their sentences. I believe that there is some justification for disciplinary penalties, but, because of some information that has reached me; I have come to the conclusion that some sentences imposed by courts martial are vicious and quite disproportionate to the offences committed. Consider the case of a man who, on returning from overseas service, is forced to cool his heels in camp. Bored, or perhaps because he has been refused leave to deal with some family matter, he might absent himself without leave. When he returns or is apprehended he is court-martialled. A monetary penalty might be imposed. He goes from bad to worse, and commits other offences, and, finally, he has a vicious penalty imposed on him, notwithstanding that in battle, when his services were needed outside this country, he was a gallant soldier. That is wrong. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Parkes is highly commendable. These sentences should be reviewed. One man, who is in a detention camp, has a. job in civil life to which he can return.

Mr Archie Cameron - A royal com- < mission has already inquired into these matters, and not very much was collected out of the cases examined.

Mr BARNARD - Royal commissions have investigated many subjects, but because a royal commission has investigated detention camps and, in the words of the honorable member, " has not collected very much out of the cases examined "-

Mr Archie Cameron - An inquiry into detention camps is being held now.

Mr BARNARD - I do not know how far the inquiry has gone, but I do know that the detention camp in Tasmania has been closed, and the few inmates transferred to the mainland. That detention camp was top-heavy and wasteful. Between twenty and thirty men were guarding half a dozen prisoners. ' If the men in detention have not committed serious offences, their sentences should be reviewed, and the men should be allowed to return to civil life so that they may become economic and productive units in the community. If they are not good citizens, the civil law will deal with them in the civil courts. The honorable member for Parkes made practical suggestions, and I agree with them. I hope that the Minister will examine them, and review sympathetically the sentences which have been imposed upon the prisoners.

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