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Thursday, 26 June 1941

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - During, the last twelve months we have listened, to speeches by various' Ministers in this Parliament; broadcasts by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and others as well as statements in newspapers advocating an all-in war effort: I take it that this Supply Bill' has been introduced in order to finance, for- a. time, what the Government would like to have us believe is an all-in war effort. I believe that honorable senators- on both sides of' the chamber really desire' an all-in war effort in this country, but if that is to be obtained', the Government itself must give a lead to the people. It may be that the Government is-doing its- best tobring about that result; if so, I hope to show that its effort to that end can be improved: An all-in war effort would- involve the marshalling of the whole of our resources of man-power- and materials. It would embrace every resource at our. disposal and leave no one out. In order, to bring about that state of- affairs,, sacrifices will have to- be made; and therefore it is essential that action- be- taken to make those sacrifices as-nearly- equalas possible. Senator Brand' gave some reasons- why more recruits arc not coming forward. I shall give other reasons.One reason is that' the sacrifices demanded of the people are not equal. The Royal-' Australian Air Force is- urgently in- need of recruits, and therefore I submit that every encouragement should be given to men to enlist in that branch of our fighting forces. . A- young man who desires to join the Royal Australian Air Force is told that all of- his- expenses incurred in travelling to the nearest examination centre will be paid. It is true that he is provided with a railway pass, and expenses to cover one meal, but should he have to travel any considerable distance in. order to be examined, it may be necessary for him to be absent from home overnight, in which event he must pay for his own accommodation and meet other expenses which are necessarily incurred. His expenses are not paid until he has- been accepted. If rejected, he would ofcourse, have his return railway ticket.

In my opinion, boys who are keen to serve their country are not treated fairly. It has been the policy of' the Government to send books to every young fellow who enlists- in the Royal Australian Air Force, in order to fit him to pass certain examinations- before he is accepted; Many of' these boys are working; in fairly heavy jobs which impose a heavy strain- upon them both physically and mentally. After a hard day's work, the- strain of studying, in order to pass these examinations- may have a- detrimentaleffect upon their health, especially their eyesight. I know of some young fellows- who, because of their keenness, have strained their eyesight studying at night, whilst others have suffered nervous breakdowns.

Senator Herbert Hays - Has that happened after their enlistment?

Senator AYLETT - Yes, after they have passed the preliminary examination. Should they suffer a nervous breakdown, they would be discharged after several months of hard work- and study. It would be far better to accept these boys on their enlistment and give to them a couple of months' additional training on full pay, rather than run the risk of injuringtheir health:.

I come now to the Army. In the Militia Forces we already have conscription of man-power. Although the young men who- are compelled to enter military camps have (constant employment up to the time they go into training; many of them have no jobs when they come out of camp. Ihave in mind the case of a young man who enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force: After he had been passed in Hobart he returned to his employment in his- home town for a week or two, but when his employer discovered that he would probably be losing the services of this man within six months he engaged another man. Every week eases of this kind come under notice. When complaints about the loss of job3 through absence in camp are made to officers in the Defence Forces, one of the first questions asked is. "Have you tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force?" If the men have done that, and have been rejected, their officers may endeavour to have them reinstated in their former employment, but I do not know whether they would try to help lads who had not offered themselves for service overseas. Unfair treatment of this kind does not encourage young men to enlist. I support remarks by honorable senators who have said that the members of some of the recruiting staffs are not quite fitted for that work. We are told that about 1,500 men are lined up in a militia training camp, and an officer invites those who desire to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force to step forward. When recruits were not as numerous as one officer would like, he was heard to say: " Those of you who are not prepared to step out and join the Australian Imperial- Force to defend this country are nothing but curs, and your fathers and other relatives before you were nothing but curs ". That is the kind of statement made by recruiting officers in front of militiamen.

Senator Clothier - There is a remedy for that.

Senator AYLETT - The remedy sought by one lad was to ask what authority the officer had for that statement, but he received fourteen days' detention and lost a couple of stripes. Very few recruits were obtained as the result of that particular line-up.

When adjustments of the basic wage are made, in consequence of increases of the cost of living, the increase should be passed on to members of the fighting forces as well as to employees. in industry. The dependants of a soldier cannot live any more cheaply than the family of a man employed in a munition factory. If the members of the Militia were called upon to fight they would do so, and, if necessary, they would sacrifice their lives on the field of battle. Since we compel mcn to serve in the defence of Australia, and, if necessary, to pay the supreme sacrifice, it would be equally fair to apply compulsion. to the wealthy, and call upon them to provide the money required to enable the soldiers to be paid and equipped with the necessary armaments and munitions. There is no equality of sacrifice if one man has to go into the firing line, and perhaps give his life, whilst another is permitted to enjoy great wealth and luxury, and is not required by law to make any sacrifice. Therefore, the wealthy should lend their money to the Government free of interest for the duration of the war, in order to finance the war effort. If they are not prepared to do that voluntarily, compulsion should be applied. It would be quite as fair to do that as to compel the wage-earners to fight or go into the munition factories. That would be far more equitable than pleading to children to give their pennies for the purchase of war savings certificates. I do not object to compulsion, provided that it is applied to all sections of the community without fear or favour, with the object of obtaining a maximum war effort. The whole of the resources of the nation should be pooled. If the Government sincerely desires an all-in war effort it will have to marshal the national resources of money, materials and manpower.

I shall agree to the elimination of nonessential industries if the Government will start at the top. Finance is needed to enable us to utilize our materials and manpower, and I claim that, in pursuance of the policy of eliminating non-essential activities, the Government should reduce the number of trading banks. In most country towns there are six to eight banks, where one would be sufficient. The number in the capital cities is much greater. I shall wholeheartedly support the Government's proposal to restrict nonessential industries if it will undertake to deal with the banks first. Most of the employees of the private banks could be more profitably employed in other directions. If the whole of the wealth of the private banks were concentrated in one bank, the Government would be in a far better position to assess the amount of credit it could issue. At present, it is absolutely impossible to get an accurate estimate of the total credit resources of the hanks. An all-in -war effort affects practically- every industry in Australia, including the primary industries. Recently, a threatening circularwas distributed amongst the farmers of Tasmania by the Deputy Prices- Commissioner, Mr. Johnson, regarding- the fixation of. the price- of- hay. As honorable senators know, primary producers do not always get good- years-; but this- year, owing to- adverse seasonal conditions; the hay crop- has been very poor. In the circular, the Deputy Prices. Commissioner states- that-he has been advised- that- many farmers in Tasmania are holding big stacks' of hay on their farms waiting for the price to rise. His advisers supplied him with a list of names of farmers who, they said, were withholding their hay from the- market. Two or three of those whose names appear in' the list as holding 20: tons of. hay are, in fact; not holding even- a ton of hay on their farms. That proves that the information supplied to the Deputy Prices Commissioner was inaccurate. What right has the Deputy Prices Commissioner to fix in only one State the price of a rural commodity which is produced in practically every State in the Commonwealth?

Senator Collett - Is the honorable senator referring to the State Prices Commissioner-?

Senator AYLETT - I am referring to the Commonwealth Deputy Prices Commissioner in. Tasmania, Mr. Johnson. If he has no authority to fix the price of a rural commodity- in only one State, why has he issued a threatening circular?

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Mclachlan. - What is the threat?

Senator AYLETT - That if farmers persist in holding their hay, he will fix the price of hay in Tasmania at a maximum.of £5 a- ton and -will not permit this year's crop to be sold at more than £5 a ton. He contends that £5 a- ton is . far above the cost of production and that the fixed price may be considerably less. In stating that hay can be produced this year: for- £3 a ton, the Deputy' Prices Commissioner shows that he does not know the -first thing about his job. As the result, of- adverse weather conditions this year,. many- farmers have cut as little as a half, a ton of hay an acre, and- if the price of hay be fixed even at £5 a ton, they will- not make anything out of it. For a number of' years, hay- has brought a remarkably low price. During the lasttwo years- there has-been a heavy fall of the prices of primary products; Victorian farmers- have been selling hay for as low as £1 a ton. - In view of the fact that the crop in Tasmania- this- year is- exceedingly poor, I am at a loss to- understand why the Deputy Prices Commissioner should threaten the farmers- in this way.

Senator Collett - The honorable senator is obviously referring to' a circular issued by the State Prices Commissioner, who- ad ministers a -State -law.

Senator AYLETT - The circular was issued by Mr.Johnson, the Deputy Prices Commissioner of Tasmania, who is responsible to' the Minister for Trade and Customs- (Mr. Harrison).

Senator Herbert Hays - Mr. Johnson is a Commonwealth officer acting for Professor Copland.-

Senator AYLETT - That is so. and he is- administering regulations that come under the control of this Parliament.

Senator Collett - With certain limitations.

Senator AYLETT - He received his directions from the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland. Although I . have made a. number of representations to that official regarding- the fixation of the price of various commodities, I have never appealedto State. Ministers because Price Commissioners are controlled by a Commonwealth Minister. The explanation may be that, the Prices Commissioner obtains advice from a committee which is approved' by a State government; but that is merely co-ordinating- assistance. ' In the opinion of Professor Copland and the Deputy Commissioner, Mr: Johnson, those bodies function in a. small advisory capacity for the purpose of helping the Prices Commissioner, who is authorized to' accept: or reject their proposals, according to his own judgment.

To obtain an all-in war effort, the Government must not discriminate against any particular section of the community. It. must not permit the Prices Commissioner to use his power in order to fix prices which discriminate against a State. Tasmanian farmers would not object to the fixation of a reasonable maximum price for hay, provided the

Prices Commissioner also fixed a minimum price to cover the cost of production, and allow a fair margin of profit. In my opinion, maximum and minimum prices should be fixed for all commodities. Although the Commissioner fixed a maximum price for potatoes last season, he declared no minimum price, with the result that farmers received no protection when values fell to a level below the cost of production. A similar experience is almost bound to occur with hay. I protest against the fixation of a price of a commodity, unless the Commissioner is not prepared to be fair in all respects; and I strongly object to this circular, which threatens farmers if they do not comply with the order.

Yesterday, the Senate passed legislation to increase the number of Ministers of State. I wholeheartedly supported the measure in the hope that the increased numbers would relieve senior Ministers of some of their heavy duties, enabling them to pay more attention to the activities of the numerous boards and committees under their control. Whenever a new project is undertaken, the Government creates a board to administer it. More administrative responsibility should be given to the elected representatives of the people in this Parliament. Whilst I do not contend that every board and committee could be abolished, many of them could be dispensed with if members of Parliament did their job. They could carry on much of the work that is now performed by boards and committees. The services of private members on the government side of the chamber could be availed of to a much greater extent than is now the practice in' order to assist in administration. They were not elected to. Parliament simply for the purpose of selecting men who wear the old school tie to do the job for them. But it has occurred in many instances in the selection of members for boards and for fighting services. If my suggestion were adopted, private members could examine the activities of various boards, and their inquiries would obviate the necessity to appoint select committees. Many of the private members on the government side, of the chamber possess- the ability to perform such a task. Their investigations would be not only of real service to the country but also save a good deal of wasteful expenditure. If Ministers had been given the advantage of .such assistance from private members, the appointment of a committee to inquire into the operations of the Apple and Pear Board would have been unnecessary, and I should not have been obliged to appeal to the Senate to appoint a committee to examine matters concerning the growing and processing of flax. If a private member were clothed with sufficient authority, he would have no difficulty in ascertaining whether a board was performing its functions properly and he could report to the responsible Minister any flaws in its administration. That such appointments are urgently required can be demonstrated by one illustration. Although hundreds of tons of apples have been destroyed, supplies of this fruit are scarce in Sydney, and apples are selling at 6d. each. If a private member had been empowered to inquire into the distribution and sale of apples and of pears, this anomalous position might never have arisen.

Senator Herbert Hays - Thousands of tons of apples have been destroyed.

Senator AYLETT - That makes the position even worse. We also find that shortages of supplies of apples occur in the different capital cities from time to time. I again appeal to the Government to make greater use of the assistance which private members can give in checking up the activities of these various boards along the lines I have indicated. That is one means by which it can convince the people that it is genuinely desirous of an all-in war effort.

Senator fraser(Western Australia) [10.31]. - I listened attentively to the remarks of Senator Brand. The explanation of the lag in recruiting which that honorable senator failed to provide, was, 1 think, given by Senator Amour; and the latter's remarks should be seriously considered by the Government. When the recruiting campaign was recently intensified in Western Australia, I heard several people speak unfavorably of the officer who is in charge of that campaign throughout the Commonwealth. I cannot understand why the Government retains the services of such a man in that capacity. ,

Senator Cameron - General Lloyd.

Senator Collett - A very gallant soldier.

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