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Friday, 27 June 1941

Senator FOLL (Queensland) (Minister for the Interior) . - In view of the fact that a good deal of the criticism indulged in by the honorable senators opposite has been directed to service , departments, the Leader of the Senate (.Senator McLeay) has asked me to assure honorable senators generally that their representations will be brought to the notice of the service Ministers concerned. A good deal of the criticism which has been directed against the Government, in relation to the war effort is entirely unwarranted and unfair. Honorable senators opposite should ask their colleagues on. the Advisory War Council whether it is not a fact that since the outbreak of war a complete change has come over the scene in this country in relation to our defences. Listening to the speeches of some honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator Armstrong, and to a lesser degree, Senator Cameron, one would imagine that during the whole of the period of the war, the Government has done practically nothing in the interests of our defence. But honorable senators know perfectly well that that: is not the case. They know that, new life has been infused into our activities, of which they can see evidence at every turn. Every facility is given to honorable senators to see for themselves exactly what is being accomplished in the organization of our defence. If they would accept those opportunities they would learn of the new organization of industry, involving new classes of machines, and the manufacture of equipment which, a. few years ago, no one even dreamt could be made in this country. If they made such investigations they would not indulge in criticism of the kind that has been voiced this afternoon. One thing that strikes me very forcibly is that, apparently, the only way in whichwe can really hear of the good work thatis being done by the nation is when a distinguished person from overseas visits us and is given an opportunity to see what we are doing. Since I have been Minister for Information it has been my privilege to welcome many distinguished people from the United States of America and to provide them with facilities to' go through our munition and aircraft factories. Invariably, they have expressed wonderment at the progress we have made in the establishment and development of our war industries, and on their return to the United States of America they have written of our work in the most eulogistic terms in the press of their country. Of course, this Government has made mistakes. But if honorable senators opposite, or members of , any t other political party, had been occupying the treasury bench during the last two months, mistakes also would have occurred. Our industrial accomplishments since the outbreak of war, have been marvellous, when we think of the new spheres into which we have launched, and the new kinds of manufacture we have undertaken. I say to Senator Armstrong that no one has done more to revolutionize industry in this country than Mr. Essington Lewis, of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, whom he has so thoughtlessly defamed. When the Government looks for guidance in the organization of its war effort, it must naturally utilize nien with the best brains and experience.. To the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I say that Mr. Brodribb, who is a brilliant man- and has been associated with the production of ammunition for many years, will tell him that the advice and organizing capacity placed at his disposal by Mr. Essington Lewis has been invaluable in the building up of our war industries. That observation applies also to many other men associated with various industries whose services have been co-opted by the Government in its war effort. I know 'from personal experience that many of those gentlemen, who one honorable senator has said are most concerned about safeguarding their own affairs, have completely neglected their own interests in order to give their services to the country in the present crisis. We should now be in a very sorry plight had we not been able to utilize the brains and capacity of many of these leaders of industry. It is only natural that when we want jobs of this kind done, we should look to men of ability, as undoubtedly these men are. When Ave look at the industrial map of Australia to-day, Ave find that a complete change has come Over the scene during the last few years. Honorable senators know that in their respective States, huge Empire air training schools have sprung up, and that seaplane bases, on which men have worked day and night in order to complete the jobs to schedule, have been constructed. They also know the tremendous burden that has been placed upon our naval establishments since the outbreak of Avar. It is not hard to imagine the work involved in the fitting of ships with guns and paravanes, and the conver sion of small craft to mine-sweepers. A tremendous amount of organization has been necessary to accomplish those things. Honorable senators are aware that factories have been established from one end of Australia to the other, and are now engaged in Avar" production. They also know that Ave have been able to produce considerable quantities of munitions for not only ourselves but also other Empire countries and the Motherland itself.

No ground exists for the statement that shipbuilding has been neglected. The Government was urged by the imperial authorities to concentrate on naval shipbuilding in preference to commercial shipbuilding. We were asked to place our yards at the disposal of our Navy, and the British Navy, for the construction of ships of a certain class, which honorable senators know are now being launched at regular intervals. Every shipyard is being fully utilized, and every man skilled in shipbuilding is engaged in that work

Senator Courtice - Would not- wooden ships be of advantage?

Senator FOLL - I am now referring to ships which Ave have been constructing to specifications supplied by the British naval authorities. That work is proceeding at the greatest possible speed. We have been working strictly to a naval programme in preference to a commercial programme, and not only our own Navy, but also the British Navy has been greatly assisted by that work. In times such as these, no Government expects to be free of criticism, but whatever criticism is offered should be fair. Now that committees have been appointed, honorable senators, will have a greater knowledge of the activities of the Government than they have had in the past, and they will have an opportunity to acquaint themselves with what is being clone in Australia. Unfortunately, some of the speeches delivered to-day have not been good advertisements for Australia's Avar effort, or a true reflection of what is being accomplished by this country at present.

Senator McLeay - They will have a ^ bad effect on recruiting.

Senator FOLL - That is quite true. I should like to express my appreciation of the references made by honorable senators to the work of the Department of Information. I am very much in accord with the statements made by Senators A. J. Mclachlan, Brown and others. Frankly, 1 do think that the propaganda side of the department - has been neglected, or at least has not functioned to the best advantage. There has been an effort to make the department a news bureau rather than a means of disseminating propaganda, but it has not the facilities for supplying either overseas or local news in competition with newspapers and broadcasting services. I believe that its organization can be much better utilized solely on the propaganda side, and, as Senator A. J. Mclachlan and others have said, by making known to the people all that nazi -ism stands for and what it would mean to this country or to any other country which came under its control. I .assure the Senate that the Department of Information is not an easy department to administer. Many of the difficulties which the British Department of Information has had to face also apply to the Department of Information here. For instance, there are difficulties in connexion- with the service departments which, in many cases, are not desirous of having information regarding their activities published. Whilst they cannot be blamed for that, because there are many things that should not be published, the public demands more and more information. In trying to supply that need, the Department of Information must not lose sight of the fact that the service departments themselves always endeavour to play safe under the National Security Regulations. I have effected many changes in the organization of the department, and I have cut down considerably some of its activities which I considered to be wasteful or unwarranted. I assure honorable senators that I shall endeavour to utilize the department along the lines suggested by- them. I repeat that I am in agreement with, the suggestion that the department should be used more as an instrument of propaganda than as a news service.

I should like' also to express the Government's appreciation of the good wishes expressed in the .speeches (qf some honor able senators concerning the new Ministers. I trust that with the active cooperation which we hope to obtain from the recently appointed committees, ..and from the new Ministers, our efforts will be even greater in the future than they have been in the past.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first and second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

The schedule.

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