Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 26 June 1941


Senator SPICER (VICTORIA) - The Opposition .does not want responsibility.


Senator COLLINGS - It does not want to be made responsible for the sins of the Government. The third item we have thrown into the discard is any suggestion of conscription for military service abroad. Now I come to the fourth item which- is definitely out,- and - which no legislative, proposals will bring in. I refer to' it -now; because ' af ter next Tuesday we shall almost have control of this' chamber/ and if the Government is notvery careful; we shall control it absolutely.


Senator McBride - Is this a series of threats? ' ' .


Senator COLLINGS - I do not care how the Minister takes my remarks, though- 1 hope that he will take them as representing . the advice of a responsible Opposition anxious to see the best thing done for Australia and trying its utmost to advise the Government in the right direction. At present we are considering a Supply Bill. Before long the budget will be before us and I do not want to anticipate what it will contain. I know what was in the last budget and how it affected my account, at the Commonwealth Bank at Brisbane. Not one honorable senator in this chamber has " squealed " about it because every one knew that it offered a solution of some of our difficulties. I come back to my fourth point. I tell the Government and honorable senators opposite that in. no circumstances can it swing on to the workers of this country, if we can prevent it. any foreign, schemes of: compulsory savings. The Government may quote Mr. Keynes and other expounders of. theories for raising, money, and tell us that their, schemes must be implemented in order to save the country, but we will not have a word of it. That, also, is in the discard. Finally, no member of the Opposition, either here orin the House of Representatives, will be induced to take a political trip to London merely because the Government thinksthat it is desirable that a. member of the Opposition should see the old country in the turmoil of war.


Senator Leckie - Has the honorable senator a list of the thingswhich the Opposition will do?


Senator COLLINGS - Senator Leckiemakes a very proper interjection, except, Mr. President, that all interjections are disorderly. The honorable senator wants to know if I will tell him the things that we will do. I have told him about them so often in this chamber that it should not be necessary to repeat them. One of thethingswe shall do, and what we Have done from the moment war was declared, is to continue to honour our promise to give to the Government every pound of the money it says is necessary and every power it needs to enable it to prosecute the war. Another thingwe shall do is to review carefully every piece of legislation which the Government brings down in this chamber. There will be no repetition of the past practice of endeavouring to hustle legislation through' this chamber in a few hours. I do not blame the Leader of the Senate for what has taken place in the past. I feel sure that had his wishes been consulted this chamber would not be treated in such a cavalier fashion.Members of the Government in this chamber have said to me,If you can get your boys in the House of Representatives to stop talking, we shall get the bill, without delay and youwill have plenty of time to consider it.We have nothing to do with what is done in the House of Representatives. The Government should be able so to arrange its business that the members of this chamber get an equal opportunity to examine critically every legislative proposal passed to us for consideration. As far as it. is humanly and numerically possible for the Opposition to do so, we shall try to eliminate the tactics of the dictator from all that is being done in the war effort, in this country. I say that because some of the things with which we are threatened are not new. The Governmenthas not created a precedent in that regard. We have seen them all in operation in the dictatorship countries, and many others much worse than anything, ever attempted here.In the dictatorship countries unionists are gaoled, union funds are confiscated, and the Union leaders are shot. Nobody hasyetsuggested that, anyunionist in this country is to be shot; but it cannot be denied that the Government is gradually adopting the methods of the dictators. I am not personally afraid of any penalty that may be inflicted on any one in this country for doing certain things. I may not agree with the penalty imposed, but I am not afraid of it because I know that the desired resul t cannot be achieved by those means. If the people are told the truth about what the Government, wants,and why it is wanted, they will respond to the appeal. We cannot afford to go too far. along the wrong path; we have to ho careful. It, is very popular these times to talk about a new order. I, too, want to see a. new order. The Prime Minister has- told us more than once that he does not believe there will ever be a return to the old order. What the right honorable gentleman envisages as a possiblenew order, I cannot say.

SenatorHerbertHays. - What does the honorable senator mean by a. new order ?


Senator COLLINGS - I am afraid that my forecast of the " new order " will not be satisfactory to SenatorHerbert Hays. The remarks that I shall now proceed to make cannot be interpreted asbeing subversive ; every honorable senator will agree with them. I hate . war. I hate everything that war brings in its train. ButI know that war is only an effect.. For that reasonI hate the causeswhich make war. I am hopeful thatwhen the "new order" arrives, it will be of the nature, that Senator Abbott described inthischamber last evening! In passing, I desire to compliment tlie honorable senator upon the admirable spirit and enthusiasm with which he has ventilated his ideas upon world peace. Because I know that war is only an effect, 1 analyse the causes that breed war. In the " new order " these causes must be eliminated. For that reason I am optimistic enough to believe that the democracies will win this struggle. I fervently believe the Biblical statement: " Out of evil cometh good ". Ultimately, right will triumph even though we may have to pass through many years of trial and tribulation. But when the democracies emerge successfully from the struggle, the war will give way to a " new order ", the like of which the world has never seen. Nevertheless, we are at war, which was not of Australia's seeking, or of Great Britain's seeking. It was forced upon us by a dictator who has dragged others in his train. The war has effectively divided tlie people of the world into two camps. One camp believes in liberty, freedom of speech and democratic principles; the other is willing and anxious to destroy those things. I quote the following paragraph from a newspaper which expresses my feelings most appropriately : -

Hitler ling a new order - one based on bloodshed, military dictatorship, and the subjugation of small nations. Mussolini has one too, the essentials of his new order being his own personal glorification and the construction of an Italian Empire, existing at Hitler's pleasure. Nearer home, Japan fondly contemplates a new order for Asia, in which the Japanese would dominate nil the Eastern races . . Tt is to be hoped that we are not fighting merely to preserve the present order, but that we will join in the fashion, and evolve yet another brand new order, quite the antithesis of Hitler's. In it, there must be no poverty, no unemployment, no slums, no social injustice and no starvation wages.

Recently a Sunday newspaper which is published in New South Wales contained an article by a well-known writer who was congratulating a newly-born child. Addressing it by name, he said: "Rose, it is wonderfully brave of you to be born into this world ". That is true. I long for the introduction of a " new order " which will require no bravery on the part of people if they wish to fill their dwellings with happy, laughing, loving little children. I wish to see a world made fit not. only for heroes but also, for every one, men and women and above all, little children. Lest my suggestions be regarded as inadequate because they happen to emanate from me, I should like to support them by quoting the opinions of some authorities, at whom honorable senators opposite will not sneer. One of the most hopeful signs at the moment is the fact that the churches of Australia and of other countries, particularly of Great Britain, are declaring that a " new order " must be introduced. The Reverend Dr. Ryan, addressing the congregation at High "Mass in St. Mary'3 Cathedral, stated-

The present social order was a ghastly failure in Australia and in every country in the civilized world.

I invite honorable senators to heed that remark. Whatever we-do in the war effort during the .coming months, let us not be so blinded by the present awful tragedy that we do not forsee an even greater tragedy which must occur when war is over, unless we begin now to plan for a better state of society. The Reverend Dr. Ryan continued -

The failure of the social order was not accidental. It was natural and inevitable. Industrial capitalism was and remains essentially unjust. The class war and general social unrest are the Dead Sea fruit of injustice. Social justice demands just distribution of goods among the people to whom those goods naturally belong. To fail in that distribution, as industrial capitalism has failed, is a crime.

A lady addressing herself to the same subject, said -

While we plan for the destructive tasks of war we should also plan for the creative tasksof peace, and she referred to malnutrition amongst children while food is destroyed, aged people who live on a meagre pension, sick who lack medical attention, and families growing up in overcrowded slums, bag huts and unemployed camps. Our watchwords, therefore, must be co-operation, not competition; public service, not private profit. Yet to achieve our new order, we must realize that after the war "the monopolists who own the machinery of production- and distribution, who control our monetary system, who even shape our thoughts, as they also own the press and tlie radio", will not become converted overnight to tlie principles they now refuse to accept. They will give up their power only if they are forced to do so by the force of public opinion, but, as public opinion oan be swayed, it is the task of the leaders in all working-class organizations to bring unity amongst the masses, to educate them to think and act alike so that when they speak, they speak with one voice.

I have read those quotations only because they epitomize successfully my thoughts upon these subjects. The words recall to my mind: speech after: speech which has been delivered in this chamber by the Opposition.How often havewe said that private profit must give way to public benefit;, that there mustbe no "haves" and "have nots " in. the one community ; and that we should work for the abolition, of slums, unemployment and poverty?Repeatedly, we have directed attention to the destruction of those things which the people need for health, comfort and satisfactory physical development'. To our representations the reply is invariably, given thatsuch conditions mustcontinue. But, they continue for only one reason, namely, that the present social order is based on injustice and class exploitation. The Government must plan for victory not only in war but also in the peace that will follow the conclusion of hostilities.

I shall now referto several items which come within the scope of: practical politics at the moment. On the noticepaper in my name . stands a question which, I presume, will be answered some day. The, question relates to the admission into the Royal Australian Air Force and other services of women who are paid a proportion of the wages which a man would receive for doing similar work. Honorable senators will be interested to learn that the Westminster City Council has agreed tha.t women employed as war-time motor-drivers and street-sweepers shall, during a probationary period of four months, be paid 75 per cent, of the male wage and thereafter the full rate. It is unnecessary to wait for the introduction of the " new order " before adopting a similar practice in Australia. If women are pressed into service - and some of them are doing wonderful work- they should receive the full rate of pay after serving a probationary period. At most jobs to which women turn their hands, they are as efficient as men.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 till 8 p.m.


Senator COLLINGS - Reverting to the subject with which I was dealing before the suspension of the sitting, namely, the employment of women in various brunches of defence work, I have here a picture which appeared in one Australian newspaper thisweek, showing women, employees of the Islington City Council at work in London clearing up bricks of a demolished building.For this work these women receive three-quarters of the male rate of pay. for similar Avork, but if the scheme proves successful: they will receive the full male rate. I emphasize that, in the opinion of the Labour party, womenshould not be employed in any capacity in connexion withour war effort unless they be paid the same rate of wages aswas paid to men previously employed on similarwork. In other words,we stand for equal pay forthe sexes.

The Supply Bill now under consideration calls for little comment.Iam hopeful that Senator Darcey will have an opportunity to enlarge upon the point which I now propose to raise. As Ihave already said, the Oppositionwill agree to the passage of the measure. We know that it is necessary togive the Government Supply for the nexttwo months. However, I shall stress a few facts which have an indirect, but none the less important, bearing on the financing of our war effort. The public debt of Australia at present is £1,402;000,000: That is a stupendous figure, but, of course, it will increase still further.. It represents roughly an average of £237 per capita of our population. There must come a breaking point beyond. Avhich. it will be impossible for us to go. I do not propose to discuss in detail the method by which the Governmen t is financing thewar.I t is using, to some degree, each of three methods,twoofwhich are orthodox and the third unorthodox. In my opinion, it is not using the third, namely, the utilization of national credit for national needs, so much as it should. However, the point I stress is that, so far as I can see, only one section, of the community willcome out of thewar showing a profit. That section can he simply classified under the heading profiteers. I wish to know whether the Government is prepared to consider a drastic reduction of the rate of interest being paid for loans floated forwar purposes. The Government of Great Britain has just floated a loan of £500,000.000 at 2 per cent. When is this

Government going to wake up, and follow' Great Britain's example in that respect 9

Under the bill -we are asked to appropriate £15,141,000. , That amount is one-sixth of the sum which has already been voted by Parliament for the financial year 1940-41. The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, indicated that, except for a small increase of expenditure on defence and war services, no new expenditure is contemplated, and that the Government does not intend to depart from its present policy.

I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Senator Poll) and, of course, the Government, upon the fact that, at last, action is being taken, although somewhat belatedly, to clear away the slum dwellings at Molonglo, and also to improve the dwellings at Causeway. As I have repeatedly raised these matters in this chamber, I am glad to see that a great improvement is now being effected. However, I cannot congratulate the Government upon its continued expenditure in respect of rentals of buildings to bouse various departments and officials of this Parliament in each of the capital cities, including Canberra. The amount expended annually in rentals of such premises would provide the interest on the capital cost of erecting buildings in 'Canberra to overcome the Government's difficulty in providing not only its own accommodation, but, also adequate housing for the people of Canberra.


Senator Foll - All 'Commonwealth officials now employed in the various capital cities would not, of course, be coming to Canberra.


Senator COLLINGS - I am. aware of that fact. In certain departments, such as the Electoral Branch and the Pensions Department, the Commonwealth must maintain substantial staffs in the capital cities. However, the proportion of the money new- being paid for rent of leased premises which could be saved would be sufficient to pay the interest on the capital cost of new buildings in Canberra. In this matter, I object not only to the payment of rent to profiteering landlords but also the Government's breach of faith with lessees who have taken up holdings in Canberra. The Government made a very definite promise to those people when they took up leases in the Aus tralian Capital Territory that it would do all in its power to make Canberra the capital of the Commonwealth in fact as well as in name. But it has failed to keep that promise. Every member of the Opposition in this Parliament keenly regents the removal of the head-quarters of the Pensions Department to Sydney. That is one of the most unsatisfactory decisions yet taken by this Government. Members of this Parliament generally found the existence of the head-quarters of that department in Canberra to be most convenient. Very frequently the Deputy Commissioners in the different States cannot finally decide many matters which we bring under their notice. We found that Ave could conveniently take up such matters with the head-quarters of the department during our stay here. That procedure will 11OW be no longer possible and it will be most unfair to have members of Parliament obliged to refer such matters to the head office in the capital city of any one State. Very strong representations were made by the Opposition in an endeavour to dissuade the Government from transferring the head-quarters of the Pensions Department to Sydney. I suppose, of course, that the Minister has to obey the Government in a matter of that kind, and so we have been told that the transfer was unavoidable. However, Ave still hold the opinion that the old arrangement should be' continued, and I have no doubt that the time will come when we shall be able, as a government, to revert to that arrangement.

I also protest very strongly against the holding of Cabinet meetings in any other city but the National Capital. Canberra was built as the National Capital, and it should bc used for that purpose.


Senator E B Johnston - 'Cabinet has met in Perth ; and we found it- to be a good arrangement.







Suggest corrections