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Friday, 27 June 1941

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not think that it would have very much opportunity - to do so if it so desired. Nevertheless, I am glad of the Minister's assurance.

With reference to the matter referred to by Senator Fraser this morning, if the honorable senator's statements are true" - and I have no doubt that they are - there appears to be some laxity in naval recruiting. I understand that it has been customary in the past to make inquiries regarding the life history and health of candidates for the navy in order to save expense should they subsequently prove unsuitable. When young men are rejected they are perhaps merely told so in polite language without any reason being given. I do not suggest for a moment that that was so in the case cited. If that policy is not still being pursued it seems to me that the authorities are adopting a very casual way of declining a young gentleman's application.

I should like to know if there is a sufficient provision of parachutes for our young men who take their lives in their hands day by day, flying in the air and performing all sorts of extraordinary evolutions which terrify one of more sober years when looking from the ground. Among the young men of the Royal Air Force and of the Royal Australian Air Force, there are many whose lives have been saved by the use of parachutes. Wc often hear of their planes being wrecked but that the pilots are safe. Too often in this country we hear of the loss, not only of the plane, but also of its personnel. In the interests of our flying men, who are perhaps the most courageous of our youths - and their number is great - we should dp everything in our power to give them as good a chance as we can.

Senator Foll - I assure the honorable senator that air crews are not allowed to fly without parachutes.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Oan the Minister assure me that every pilot to-day is supplied with a parachute?

Senator Foll - I assure the honorable senator that no Royal Australian Air' Force pilots fly without parachutes.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am glad to hear that. Rumours to the contrary are current and it is well that they should be scotched at once. I raise this matter because it was suggested to me within, the precincts of this building as late as last night that that was not the case.. I am glad to hear that the position is as the Minister has indicated.

Some suggestion has been made for the curtailment of production in this country. As I see it, two features' of this subject emerge from the higher' reaches of Government policy. The first is that there is to be a licensing of wheat production in this country, and the second is that there is te be a curtailment of supplies or increase of the price of superphosphate which contributes to the production of foodstuffs. I say to the Government in all sincerity that this country which is tolerably safe from" invasion, tolerably immune from destruc-tion owes a duty to civilization to provide the wherewithal to save the lives of those in Europe to-day who are inevitably threatened with, famine. Let us look at the position in Europe at the moment. Charging down on what may be regarded as the granary of Europe, the Ukraine, with its new methods of cultivation, and with its thousands upon. thousands of acres of collective farms engaged in the production of wheat and other grain, with the harvest almost ripening, is the vast German war machine. It used to trouble me when I thought that this country might be invaded, of what would happen in the heat of a summer day if the invader were to drop incendiary bombs in our midst. What is to happen to the Ukraine? However successful the Russians may be, it is inevitable that in the Ukraine thousands upon thousands of acres of the food of hungry Europe will be destroyed. If, unhappily, our Russian allies are not able to withstand the onslaught of the Germans, I venture to think that their psychology is such - and they have proved it to be so in the past - that they will destroy what they cannot take away with them, and Europe will be in famine.

Senator Allan MACDONALD - And the history of the retreat from Moscow will be repeated.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes ; the Russians will do again what they did in Napoleonic clays sooner than see their country at the mercy, of the foe. We should pray for Russia's success. In the interests of humanity, of famine-stricken Europe, and of our own people, I ask the Government to proceed carefully and to stay its hand before it commits itself to a policy of reducing the production of foodstuffs. To my mind such a policy is wrong in the sight of God-, -and if we adopt it we shall display less foresight than the Pharaohs of old. In a time like .this, with suffering millions in China, with Japan short of food, even if it be to our detriment we should produce a superabundance of foodstuffs in the interests of humanity generally. Whatever difficulties there may be in regard to finance or production, whatever difficulties the farmers may be facing "to-day, we must see it through. Heaven help us if we fail. How shall we appear in the eyes of mankind if we proceed with a foolish policy of curtailing the production of foodstuffs ?

The next matter to which I propose to refer will, ' I am sure, interest the Minister for Information (Senator Foll)-. I have been surprised and troubled at the apparent lack of; knowledge of the average man in the street as "to what Nazi-ism stands for, what it would mean to him if we had such a form of control in this country,, in the British Isles, or the dominions of Canada or South Africa. Those who are closer to it across the seas understand a good deal more about it. Here we have plenty of enthusiasm against Hitlerism and Nazi-ism, but our enthusiasm is not displayed by the man in the street. A little while ago I suggested to the Australian Broadcasting Commission that excerpts from a book, written by a very eminent man should be broadcast to the people of this country, so that they may have some appreciation of what Nazi domination means. Although the suggestion was well received it declined to broadcast any excerpts from the book, because its author had been sent out here to enjoy a period of rest in one of our internment camps. That decision was, to my mind, foolish. Here is a man who has escaped from the tyranny of Nazi-isan. He writes of it in all its crudeness and barbarity; he exposed individual instances of it which' would make an ordinary human being' shiver. He has endured the terrors of the concentration camps; He has been bruised, beaten and battered, until little of life remains in him. Because he belonged to that nation with which we are at war, he was sent out to this, country to be interned. Why not .use a book which provides some of the best propaganda against our enemies that has ever been written? Another book to which I refer is entitled A MotherFightsHitler. I commend it to every honorable senator. The author is the mother of a member of the profession to which I' have ''the' honour to belong, and because her. son. had' effectively crossexamined, the tyrant' Hitler, 'he was bounded ' and ' barbarously treated. He leaned a little to the" left, it- is true. He may' have communist tendencies for all I know ; but 'he never joined' the Communist party. ' He- was- successful in the courts as an advocate. ' The German tyrants pursued him until, broken in health, he escaped by suicide. HU treatment was barbarous. His mother wrote th is his-tory of the greatest cruelties perpetrated by a nation of sadists and by its demented leader, I cannot understand how we can sit here and call for recruits, and preach the glory of our own system and the fight in which we are engaged, when our people do not really know what it would mean if we were conquered by this European monster. We have available to us an abundance of literature, not stuff written simply to sell, but the outpourings of people's hearts and minds, written solely with the object of letting the world know what is really happening in Germany. I again urge the Minister to put over the air propaganda- along these lines, and it should be presented in such a way that will enable the people to understand what domination by the countries we are now fighting would really mean. Such propaganda would unite our people to a greater degree .than anything else, because this literature tells vividly of the cruelties of barbarism and sadism against which the British nature revolts. I was so much concerned about this matter that I took it up personally with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I hope, therefore, that something will be done along the lines I have suggested. The authenticity of this literature can be readily verified.

I do not suggest that we should put anything over the air merely to catch the people; we must tell' them the truth as vouched for by the highest authorities.

Senator FRASER - Considerable damage has been done by some authorities who have returned here and applauded what Germany is doing.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is not hard to understand bow "those people might have been genuinely deceived. Germany has painted a picture of great things for the world .when, at the same time, .it ' had- murder in its heart.. In view of the deception that Germany has practised -against every country that has had- dealings with it, I am not surprised that certain people have 'come back thinking that all is : well in that country. To-day, peace overtures- are being made; but whereas we would have listened to such overtures' a few years ago in the hope that something could be done in the interests of peace, we know now what the German system really stands for. It is useless to indulge in recriminations. We must face the' position. I have no doubt that the men to whom the honorable senator refers were deceived, and honestly deceived, about Germany. Indeed, some of our own statesmen in Europe' were similarly deceived. "We realize now the corruption that has been rampant throughout Europe for the last ten years. Let us state the facts to the people, and tell them the bare truth. .We need to do nothing else. Some of those facts are revolting, but they will agitate the minds of our people, and stir them to fight, as they are going to fight, for a fair deal for all peoples. I venture to think that we in Australia can play no small part in assisting in the dethronement of those responsible for this foulness in Europe.

I wish to refer briefly to what I consider to be a slight slowing down of our war effort. Senator Fraser touched upon one' aspect of that matter this . morning, when he dealt with restrictions of the use of petrol. I shall not repeat what I have said so often on- this matter. Our defence services, particularly the navy and the air force, are dependent upon petrol. I wish to assist the Government in every way possible in this matter, seeing that we cannot keep our waters inviolate from attack, and prevent the sinking of tankers. I want to assist it in every way I can, in order to keep the wheels of industry going, because if the wheels of transport are slowed down our war effort must slacken, lt is not going to be easy for the Government to do what I believe it sincerely intends to do in order to build up sufficient supplies of petrol to enable the Air Force and Navy to meet all eventualities. No doubt, as Senator' Fraser has indicated, many little economies could be effected. However, we- can hardly criticize Ministers because two or three trucks arrive at Spencerstreet station, or at any other station, to pick up packages which .could be handled by one truck-. That is the fault not of any Minister, but of some official who should look after the co-ordination of transport and see that economy is exercised in such instances. Admittedly, it is a little disconcerting when we see big motor vehicles moving down our streets and roads with nothing aboard. One often wonders what it is all about.

Senator Foll - The total consumption of petrol by the Army at present is about 2 per cent, of Australia's total consumption; but the Minister for the Army has given instructions that every gallon possible must be saved.

Senator A.J. MciACHLAN. Instructions may be given, but the trouble is to see that they are carried out. I was surprised several days ago when a motor vehicle owned by the .Electricity Commission in Victoria, which by the way is doing an excellent job, called out to my home which is situated 13 miles out of Melbourne. The ' use of such a vehicle seemed unnecessary. The road boards are also guilty of waste of petrol. We see huge motor trolleys hauling timber from forests in Victoria for distances of from 30 to CO miles. The Government must insist upon the greatest possible use of alternative fuels in order to conserve supplies of petrol for our defence services. I know of one industry which has installed producer-gas units on all of its heavy trucks. Surely trucks used in the haulage of timber lend themselves to the use of producer-gas, particularly when they work in forests in which some of the best charcoal in Australia is readily obtainable.' Such people should be compelled to install producer-gas units on their trucks and lorries. I also suggest that the Government should again examine the possibility of replacing internal combustion engines on. lorries and trucks with engines driven by steam. Quite recently the Dunlop-Perdriau Company announced in the Melbourne press that it had received from England blue prints of the mechanism necessary to convert internal combustion engines of motor vehicles to steam-driven engines. Possibly, because of the intensity « of its war effort, the Government itself cannot establish workshops for that purpose, but at least it should encourage private industry to concentrate on that matter even if such action should involve considerable expenditure. I repeat that if our transport is slowed down our war effort will slacken. There are also great possibilities in the use of the electric car. Most honorable senators know that in order to conserve petrol 'in Germany, the butcher, baker, milkman and medical practitioner in. Berlin and other big cities in that country, use that means of transport for their daily rounds. Germany cannot afford to waste petrol, and it has, therefore, encouraged a greater use of the electric car. Similar means of transport have been adopted to. some degree in . London, particularly in delivery services. Such 'an innovation should not present very great difficulty in a State like Tasmania, for instance, which has available the cheapest electric power in the world. I believe that electric batteries for the propulsion of the ordinary motor vehicle will give, a mileage up to 80 at one charging, and that they can be re-charged overnight on an ordinary power plug. Several days ago I was told by an engineer that the cost of electricity for running a car for 200 miles is le. I do not profess to be an expert in these matters. My main concern is that if we permit any slowing down ' of transport Ave shall do incalculable harm to our war effort and economic life generally. Several other means of propulsion for ordinary vehicles are also available. I have no doubt that they have been brought to the notice of the Government. J have been surprised at Germany's success in the use of various means to overcome its increasing shortage of petrol. Perhaps, that country is now nearing the end of its petrol resources.

Senator Leckie - Is there any private, motoring in Germany?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No. But Germany produces a certain quantity of petrol from coal by the hydrogenation process. I understand that the Royal Air Force has recently blown up one of the biggest of those works in Germany. We know, of course, the havoc which a direct hit on such works would cause. The theory of hydrogenation is the- reversal of the process of nature, by supplying pressure backwards, as it were. Consequently, any weakness in stresses is bound to cause trouble. We are getting a trickle of petrol- from Newnes, for which we are very grateful ; but supplies from that source are not sufficient. When I was in the Ministry, the Government gave a number of concessions to large and small companies operating in the Pacific islands near to Australia, and from time to time reports have indicated that good results are being obtained by means of geophysical examinations and boring. The Government should be firm and say to these people now " What is your position?" I have no doubt that in the face of the present oil shortage, the major oil companies are doing their utmost to locate new supplies, and I notice also that something is being done at the alleged deposits in Gippsland, but I think it is important that steps should be taken to ascertain what progress the licensees have made in their search for oil in the far more likely regions to the north-east of Australia.

I conclude by assuring the Government that- the views which I have expressed have been advanced in a spirit of helpfulness. I feel, as the Leader of the Opposition- does, that it is our duty to be helpful in such a time as this. I may be wrong in some of the views that I have expressed, and I may have a mistaken impression of the policy being pursued in the higher reaches of production, but there are indications abroad that an effort is being made to restrict production. I conclude on that note. It would be fatal to this country and to civilization if we. failed to assist humanity in ,its time of need.

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