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Friday, 27 June 1941

Senator CUNNINGHAM (Western Australia) .- The purpose of this bill is to provide a sum of £15,141,000 for Supply to the 31st August next. For reasons which '"will be obvious to honor- - able senators, I do not intend to oppose the measure ;. but I shall take this opportunity to make a -few- remarks concerning members of the Government, both as legislators and as administrators. The Senate has been called together for.' two sitting periods since the 28th May, and it will probably be summoned again some time before the 31st August to provide . additional- finance for. governmental activities. On the occasions on which we . have met since the 28th May, we -have dealt with only two important bills. Oneof these related to child, endowment, and it said that* the Government made .a good job. of it. It is now found that amendments will- have to be sub- "mitted to the Parliament to enable many anomalies to be removed.

During the present sittings only one measure of major importance, namely, the Ministers of State Bill, has been passed. It seems that when the Government finds that it is necessary to introduce one bill of importance,- members of the Parliament are called together from all parts of Australia at .considerable expense in order to deal with it. This Government has been long- enough in office to enable Ministers to be sufficiently well trained in the art of administration to be able to present to the Parliament a legislative programme, but it has failed to do that. On the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from abroad, I thought that the representative of the Government in the Senate would have submitted a programme of works for the better development of Australian industries, as well as for an additional' effort towards the winning of the war, but that has not been done. Naturally, on his return to Australia, the Prime Minister was very tired. He said that he had travelled- 42,000 miles by air, and that his trip 'had been very interesting, but the most" interesting thing that the people of Australia wanted to know was what he recommended should be done in this country in connexion with the international situation. What is required of Great Britain and its allies with regard to the war effort was not made known to us, and up to the present the people have been denied that information. I am surprised that the Leader of the Senate (.Senator McLeay) has not seen fit to present to this chamber a statement regarding the present international situation. Surely the Government is advised of what is going on .throughout the world. We do not know where we stand with respect to our partnership in the British Commonwealth of Nations and our great effort to combat Hitlerism. Apparently we are not- to be advised- on that matter during the present, sittings. How can we give our best services to the people whom we "represent if we are working in the dark? We have had no advice regarding activities of Austraiian airmen overseas, and no request has been made with regard to what should be done to make up deficiencies in personnel. Nor are we advised as to an increase of air protection required by our troops, the need for which was. demonstrated in Greece and Crete. That debacle reflects no credit on the higher commands in either Great Britain or Australia. The British Government was attacked, in regard to that aspect of operations in that area, not by representatives of Australia in our own Parliaments, but by important and responsible newspapers in Great Britain itself, which drew attention to mistakes that should not have been made. That matter has been passed' over quietly, but somebody must shoulder the blame for what occurred. I am giving away no secrets when I say that the Australian forces did not have sufficient protection in the Middle East. Statements by General Blarney were published in the press in

Australia indicating that what we needed most was,- not additional recruits for the Australian Imperial Force, but more fighters, bombers and tanks. That is the situation to-day. At the time of the withdrawals from Greece and Crete, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) demanded a quickening of the recruiting efforts of the responsible officers of his department, and an appeal was made for more men, but the Minister had nothing to protect them with. Such an' appeal by a man occupying such a responsible position as that of Minister for the Army shocked the people of Australia at that time, because he demonstrated that he had not closely scrutinized the press reports regarding the criticism of the higher commands in Great Britain and in the Middle East. It also showed that the Minister had not paid attention to the remarks of General Blarney. Instead of demanding more and more men, the responsibility lies on the Government to see that war planes are turned out in such large quantities, and with such rapidity, as will give to Australian fighting forces a chance equal to that of those against whom they are pitted in the Middle East and in other battlefields to which they have been sent. That is the work which we expect this Government to do.

Perhaps we have seen this week a flash of high-speed governmental action, because a bill has been passed to. increase the numerical strength of Ministers of State. I welcomed that measure, and was glad that the additional Ministers appointed are well qualified for the duties that they will be called upon to -perform. Whereas men of legal training are worthy of a place in ministries, it is Possible to have too many of them. Therefore I welcome the- appointment of men not associated with the legal profession. In view of the appointment of these additional Ministers the people of Australia will expect a speeding-up of the production of munitions and other materials required for the war effort and also a greater utilization of our national resources. Whether the Government- will accomplish that, is beyond my power to predict at the present time; because, so far, the delays that have occurred, and the inability and incapacity of at least some of those who hold, ministerial posts, have been such that I am given no encouragement to expect any great degree of improvement in the future. I need only refer to the confusion that has been caused in connexion with petrol rationing. There has been complete muddle since its inception. It would appear that, at the moment, not only the Government but also the users of petrol in Australia are most anxious to utilize producer gas units in order to obtain motor power for the purposes of their business. The Government, knowing that rationing was to be effected and that there would certainly be a scarcity of petrol in Australia, did nothing to speed up the production of producer-gas units to replace that of which the people were to be deprived. Until after the Parliament went into recess quite recently, it did nothing towards the standardization of producer-gas production in Australia. "What is the reason ? Why have delays occurred? Why has no action been taken ? Surely it was apparent to the Government and its responsible advisers that such action would have to be taken as would prevent the. dislocation of industry. 'Honorable senators need only travel through the agricultural areas of this country in order to witness the depletion of population caused by the reduction of petrol supplies. Many places that were towns a few months ago are almost completely depopulated at present, and industries which were connected with their establishment have gone out of existence, as the result of petrol rationing.

Mention has been made of a " new order " which is to follow the termination of this war. The present order, or disorder, that has been allowed to grow up in this country has destroyed almost every semblance of industrial activity, not only in our country areas but also in some of our more important rural towns; yet nothing has been - done to correct the position. The Government does not seem to think that any responsibility rests upon it. Its most urgent cry is for men and more men to reinforce our troops overseas. I find no fault with that, provided that other important issues which concern the welfare of this country are not overlooked ; but the Government has been responsible for neglect in many respects, and that will have a terrific repercussion on the lives of the people in the very hear future, even before the war is over.

Unemployment is growing in some States. It may be said that many persons are unemployable, because they have not been fortunate enough "to receive training in trades or professions. Nevertheless, they are here, and many of them were following most useful occupations before the outbreak of the war. To-day, there is no place in industry for them and they cannot obtain work. My reason for mentioning the matter is to bring directly under the notice of responsible Ministers in this chamber the urgent need for the adoption of some means for the training of men, who to-day are unemployable, to do useful service for the Australian nation during the whole period of crisis. The Government is making no worthwhile effort. Some of the technical schools in the different States have undertaken technical training, but only to a limited degree. The Government is not handling the situation at all; it has entirely neglected that phase of administration. Although many Ministers have stated that some action should and would be taken, that has not been done. In my own State, over 100 young people who are capable of being trained have applied to be trained, but apparently proper facilities are not available. Nor. is there scope for training which would enable them to be employed in useful occupations in connexion with the present requirements of the nation. That is the condition not only in Western Australia but also in other States. Maybe the Government will .speed up its operations. It is to be hoped that it realizes that its responsibilities are enormously greater now than they were only a few months ago. As Ministers are to receive assistance, they should avail themselves of every moment of their time to do their utmost, to make a maximum effort. That is not yet being -done. Much could be done, to deal with matters that urgently require attention. For example, surely the Government does not claim that it is doing its utmost in connexion- with the production of aircraft for war purposes. Nor can it claim that it is exploiting available mineral deposits to obtain metals used in munition production.

The opportunity is present. The Government has not been short of money. It has had enormous sums; so much, in fact, that it has not been able to expend the whole of the amount voted. What is the trouble? Has the Government done anything in connexion with the training of administrators?

I want Ministers to reply to these observations. The. people of Australia are deeply concerned, and want to know why certain commodities of which mention has been made in this Parliament have not been produced in larger quantities. We have had almost two years at war. We have read in the press, and have heard it stated by responsible persons, that Australia has accomplished wonderful feats of progress and development since the outbreak of hostilities. Doubtless we have; but we could have done better. We are not yet utilizing the resources that are available to us. We are not training, on special lines, the young men who are ready to be trained, in order that they may undertake special work. It is of no use to say that we have not the necessary tools. Tools are being produced. There are lathes in different parts of Australia which could' be requisitioned if they were required. Various parts of machines could be utilized for the purpose of tool production, but that is not being done. Huge factories in Australia are employed to-day on work, not for the purpose of assisting our war effort but in order to keep luxury trades fully supplied. The services of the machines, machinists and technicians in these factories should be utilized solely for the production of essential war supplies. The skilled technicians engaged in these luxury industries should be engaging in the task of training others in the production of goods necessary to enable the Government successfully to carry on' our share in the war. Senator A. J. McLachlan said that we should pray for Russia's success. I remember the time when some Labour people in Sydney carried the " Hands off Russia " resolution and how we had to stand up to the taunts and gibes of honorable senators opposite concerning it. To-day, however, Ave are asked to pray for the success of Russian arms. I am just as anxious as is Senator A. J. McLachlan to see Russia beat Germany because I want to see the dread spectre of nazi-ism banished from the earth. It is extraordinary that Ave should have been sneered and gibed at by honorable sena tors opposite at the,very timewhen the British Governmentwas attempting to arrange for its representation atMoscow with a view to the creation of better relations between the two countries. I mention this now because it is necessary to remind honorable senators of how they change their ground. We were not only flagellated by honorable senators opposite and asked to carry theonus of responsibility of decisions made by a tribunal with which Ave had nothing to do, but Ave. also had to stand up to libellous statements in the Australian press. However, we knew the situation much better than did the Government of the day.

The Governmentwould bewell advised to spread the expenditure of defence moneys throughout Australia proportionately to the raising of taxes and of revenues.

Senator Foll - The honorable senator knows that it is quite impossible to do that.

Senator CUNNINGHAM - Anything may be impossible until it is attempted. Why should the great reserves of men and materials in Western Australia be forced to lie idle? The reason is obvious. The Government is carrying out its usual formula of protecting its wealthy supporters in the more prosperous States without regard for the consequences to our Avar effort. Whenever Western Australians have endeavoured to establish a factory in theirown State, competing manufacturers in the eastern States have reduced the price of their commodities with the result that the industries in Western Australia have been strangled in their infancy.. We have adopted a new philosophy. It is no use crying in the wilderness. We know that we have to depend on ourselves. We realize that the people of the eastern States are too busy looking after their own affairs to give us a thought exceptwhen they need our raw materials to keep theirown industries going.

The Labour party has made it possible for this Parliament to beworkable. We expect the Government to get on with thejob. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have co-operated with the Government in every possible way. We are prepared to assist it by taking our place on any of the Standing and Parliamentary committees which have recently been appointed to advise Ministers in connexion with the various phases of industrial and rural development, and to assist it in connexion with any other matter on which it desires our advice. In future, we want from this Government deeds not word.'. We do not want the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Senate to say, "We are going, to do so and so". We are fed up with that. If the Government porposes to make appointments for the purpose of speeding up production, provided the selected men are wisely chosen, let it make them and tell us about it afterwards. It is useless for Ministers to tell us what they propose to do six months hence. 1 am glad that the office of assistant minister has been abolished. Although many assistant ministers were very good mon, they were hampered by lack of authority in carrying out the work of their departments. 1 trust that no appointments of this kind will be made in tho future. We have responsible Ministers now, and we expect them to do the work of the nation and to be answerable to Parliament for the work of their departments. 1 appeal to tlie Government to do the job instead of merely talking about it. .1 am prepared to assist the Government in every way to bring into being a total -war effort. "I shall do everything possible to block the depletion of our country towns and the smashing of our country industries. lt is a sad spectacle to see the residents of country towns forced into the metropolitan areas to earn a living. No good can come of it. Every effort must be made to k:ep country people in their own districts by providing them with occupations at a wage which will enable them to live decently.

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