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Thursday, 11 April 1946

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- I am astonished that' the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), who asserts that he is one of the " moderates " in this Parliament, should espouse the cause of the Builders Labourers Industrial Union, and the waterside workers' and the ironworkers' organizations, which, as we all know, are Communist-controlled. He does so, no doubt, because of the powerful financial resources of these organizations. It is astonishing to me that they are able to monopolize the time of the B class stations. Almost at any period during the most favorable broadcasting times 'it is possible to dial in any State a B class station which is putting Communist propaganda over the air. These Communist organizations are able to " buy up " the air. They have more funds for this purpose than the Liberal party, the Labour party and the Australian Country party combined. I do not know where they get the money to pay for their foul propaganda, which is in the interests, not of Australia, but of Moscow.

Mr FRASER - I shall continue to urge that all sections be provided with opportunities to broadcast, however much the honorable member may protest against it.

Mr ANTHONY - I have no doubt that the honorable member, during the election campaign, will tell the people how he has spoken in favour of freedom in broadcasting.

Mr FRASER - I will say over the air to-night what I have just said.

Mr ANTHONY - I have no' doubt that the honorable gentleman will have a bit both ways.

I wish to voice several grievances - there are plenty from which I may choose. As the Minister for Works and

Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) is present I shall refer to a matter affecting the War Service Homes Commission, which, I understand, is now under his administration. I bring to the notice of honorable members a letter which I have received from Mr. 0. R. Williams, of Botany, who -was a prisoner of W,El r in the hands of the Japanese. Mr. Williams and his wife are living in a 9 ft. by 9 ft. room in a small cottage occupied by two other families. Although this man, according to his letter, has secured his builder, who owns the land that the cottage is to be built on, and also has all the materials necessary for the job, he has been "stalled" by the War Service Homes Commission f or two months. He' has been told that everything he had submitted is quite all right but that he needs a surveyor's certificate that the builder really owns the land. I ask the Minister to investigate this case. I do not wish to convey the impression that I am unduly critical of the honorable gentleman's administration, for I know that it is extremely difficult to deal with these matters at present, hut I ask him to ascertain whether obstructive tactics are being employed.

Mr Lazzarini - Why did not the honorable member submit the case to me ?

Mr ANTHONY - According to the letter, that was done two months ago.

Mr Lazzarini - It has not .come before me. The honorable gentleman is engaging in political propaganda.

Mr ANTHONY - That is not so. I understand from the letter that this matter was referred to the War Service Homes Commission two months ago, and that it has been held up because a surveyor's certificate has not been submitted. I hope that the Minister will take steps to expedite the granting of whatever permits may be necessary in this case. I am not alleging that the Minister would condone this kind of thing; but unless such grievances are brought before him in this manner they will continue not only in respect of Mr. C. R. Williams, of Rochester-street, Botany, but also many others who possibly are in a similar situation. There I leave the matter, in the hope that the

Minister will investigate it, with a view to determining whether redress can be afforded, so that men who are now living with their families in rooms no larger than 9 ft. by 9 ft. can get busy when a builder, materials and land are available, and all " that is lacking is a " tuppeny ha'penny " survey.

The Lismore branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia complains in a letter to me that under the terms of the grant of £10 for tools to ex-servicemen who can show that they are qualified to receive it, the Repatriation Department is supplying second-hand tools on which a value of about £6 10s. is placed by competent ex-servicemen in the building trade, and others in the Lismore district.

Mr Haylen - New tools are not available.

Mr ANTHONY - Then the department ought not to supply tools worth only £6 10s. and claim that a grant of £10 is being made. Many ex-servicemen in the Lismore district, and presumably elsewhere, consider that they are being given a raw deal, when a grant that is of the value of £10 is reduced to a little more than one-half of that amount. I shall submit to the Government the . details that have been supplied to me. A good deal of indignation is- felt by those who are supposed to be beneficiaries of the generosity of the Government in this respect.

During the war, the Volunteer Defence Corps performed a very useful service to the community. The men composing the corps gave up their weekends to it, and during the worst crisis of the war were prepared' to drill and make themselves available to the armed forces of the Commonwealth, wherever they might be required. They have been given a deal which may be described as "shabby". Mr. L. G. Cameron, honorary secretary of the Services Association, of 57 Crownstreet, South Lismore, in a letter to me claims that members of the Volunteer Defence Corps were not automatically given their discharges as are other members of the armed forces, but by advertisement inserted in the Sydney Morning Herald, were. invited to apply if they wish to be discharged. Those who did not make application did not receive a certificate of discharge. The advertisement read -

V.D.C. Discharge Certificates - Ex-members of the V.D.C. desirous of obtaining certificates of discharge should apply, stating army number and regimental particulars, to the Officer-in-Charge, N.S.W. Echelon and Records, Broadway, Sydney ...

Mr Pollard - A matter of national importance !

Mr ANTHONY - It is not of very ranch importance to the honorable member. These are merely men who were prepared to devote their time, money and effort to the task of defending Australia when it was in danger. The danger having passed, the honorable member, with a sneer in his voice and on his face, says, "A matter of national importance!" The Government has used these men; now they can do what they like, for the Labour party has very little interest in them. By implication, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) says that they are not worth even a certificate of discharge. If they want it they should get it through the ordinary .routine, as does every other member of the armed forces, but they have to apply for it. To avoid any misconception I shall read the letter that I have received from the honorary secretary of the Services Association.

Reverting to our correspondence re your representations requesting the Government to strike a discharge modal to be conferred on ex-service personnel who were prevented, through no fault of their own, from serving in His Majesty's forces overseas, we believe the House is now in session and this would bc the opportune time to ventilate this matter. It is also the desire of our sub-branch, through yourself, to support the protest of the Australian Services Association against the method of discharging V.D.C. personnel. An advertisement which I am enclosing a copy of appeared in the " Public Notices " column of the Sydney Morning Herald, putting the onus on these mcn to make written application for their discharges. As the D.B..O. have a complete copy of the names and numbers of the volunteers, we feel that the least that could be done would be to forward discharge certificates to the local drill hall, and a final parade could then bc called and certificates handed out.

The Government must decide whether to. treat the Volunteer Defence Corps with ordinary decency, or to "wipe them off" as not worthy of further consideration.

I notice that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has returned from Melbourne, where he made a gratuitious reference to the High Court and suggested delicate means for altering the Constitution. I now invite his attention to a matter about which I have questioned him. I refer to the appointment of Mr. Alex Wilson as Administrator of Norfolk Island. There are many distinguished servicemen who served Australia well in Libya, Crete, Greece, Syria, Borneo, New Guinea, Papua, Bougainville, and scores of other places. Many of them have distinguished records, not only as soldiers, but also as administrators. They did a job for Australia in a first-class manner, and established such reputations that they ought to be qualified for appointments to posts such as administrators of island territories. Yet when the Government first had an .opportunity to make a major appointment as an administrator, one of the best " plum.3 " that it could give was awarded to Mr. Alex Wilson, the ex-member for Wimmera, an ex-stooge of the Government. So it was a reward, not to a soldier, but to a politician who had rendered a political service to the Ministry. I have asked a number of questions in connexion with this appointment. One read: "Was the position advertised?" to which the answer was "No". Of course, it was a perfectly confidential appointment. Nobody was to know. that Sir Charles Rosenthal was to be shifted. It was done " under the lap ". Mr. Alex Wilson sneaked in the back door of the Minister for Transport and said " Eddie,' what about that job on Norfolk Island ? "

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must not refer to the Minister for Transport as " Eddie ".

Mr ANTHONY - I am referring to him as the Minister for Transport, and am merely relating what I suspect the ex-member for Wimmera did.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member's suspicions do not interest the Chair.

Mi-. ANTHONY.- I accept the ruling of the Chair on that point. The position was not advertised. It was a sneaking, back-door appointment. No exserviceman was given an opportunity to make an application. I asked further : " Was any . returned soldier offered the position ? " and I received what might he described as a straight-forward answer, of which the Minister for Transport is extremely proud. It was this -

The qualifications of all those who were considered suitable and available for the position were considered.

That will not be regarded as an answer by any ex-serviceman. My next question was -

If not, was it considered that no returned soldier was available and suitable for such appointment?

The Minister replied -

Mr. Wilsonwas considered to hold the best qualifications for the position of those referred to in reply to question No. 5.

Mr. Wilsonpossessed the qualification of having been a supporter of the Government at a critical time, but no otter possible qualification. I have done the Minister a slight injustice, and always when I find myself in that position I hasten to make a correction. In the third question I asked -

What was the previous administrative experience of Mr. Wilson?

The Minister replied -

Mr. Wilsonhad long practical experience of agriculture, whilst his administrative ability has been demonstrated over a period of some years when he was assisting the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the difficult tasks of organizing Australia's food front.

Those are Mr. Wilson's qualifications' as an administrator. He was not a member of the Government at the time, and did not hold any official appointment. He was in the same category as some of the other " administrators " assisting Ministers. I presume that almost every honorable member on the Government side can now qualify as an .administrator. I doubt very much whether any business firm which wanted a manager would accept such qualifications, or whether any member opposite who had some job to do and wanted a man with administrative experience and ability to do it would be satisfied with the qualifications put forward on behalf of Mr. Alex Wilson. This appointment was a scandal and a shame. It reeks of everything that is undesirable in such appointments. It was a shameless method of paying for political support. In no other way can it be described. It is a payoff, not so much at the expense of the Commonwealth as a whole - although that is a point, also - as at the expense of every decent ex-serviceman who might have a claim. Plenty of men who served through six years of war with great merit are now thrown on the scrap heap. The other day, the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) announced the retirement of certain high-ranking officers of the Air Force. Such men >as Bostock, Williams and Lucas have been given notice of their retirement. Any one of those men would be qualified to fill this job, but they were not given the opportunity to apply. If the returned soldiers expect preference in employment from this Government they have only to look at the appointment of Alex Wilson to know where they stand.

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