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Thursday, 21 August 1941

Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) . - 'Owing to the fact that the voting was fairly evenly balanced at the elections last year, the stocks of the Menzies Government have fallen. The failure of the Government to do many things which the people expected of it has resulted in strong criticism of it by the people. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his Ministers in this chamber have prated about what the Government intended to do in the direction of providing for the defence of this country, but two years have elapsed since the war began, and practically nothing has been done. We have heard a good deal about the production of munitions, aeroplanes, ships and tanks, but what production has taken place? We are told that the position in the Pacific to-day is very serious. We are also informed as to what Wirraways, Beaufort bombers and other aeroplanes that have been constructed in Australia are capable of doing. Although aerodromes have been established, and munition factories and other works of a military nature have been built, has anything been done in the direction of providing the anti-aircraft guns necessary for the protection of the ' people ? I read in a newspaper that, in the city of Plymouth, the morning after a heavy bombing raid had occurred, there was a parade of air raid precautions workers in a street in which all the houses had been destroyed. Following the procession was the King of England, who offered words of sympathy to a lady who was standing on her doorstep, and told her that the air raid precautions workers would assist her and that the increased production of aeroplanes would prevent similar raids by German airmen. The lady replied to His Majesty : " Provide us with anti-aircraft guns and that will prevent the Germans from coming here". According to the press report, the King said : " Yes ", and soon afterwards anti-aircraft guns were placed in position. This action was taken because the King realized the needs of his people, and I urge that similar action be taken in this country to protect the people of Australia.

The international situation was serious when the announcement was made that the desire of the United Australia party, the Country party and the press of Australia was that the Prime Minister should be sent to Great Britain. The position is still very serious, but not so serious as Senator Sampson would have us believe. The honorable senator, during his speech, apparently imagined that he was addressing a recruiting meeting. If he was preaching in this chamber for the purpose of securing the support of the members of his own party, and inducing them to do something for the defence of Australia, he can have no conflict with the Australian Labour party. As he said that capital ships were required, I remind him that the Royal Australian Navy that played an admirable part in the last war was established by the Australian Labour party. Did the honorable senator protest against the sinking of the old warship, Australia? Having lost caste with the members of his own party and with the people of this country, the Prime Minister has apparently decided that he might he able to rehabilitate himself by going to London. I point out, however, that when he was last in London, and sat in the British War Cabinet in the very heart of the Empire, he made no protest against the Australians being sent to Greece after having fought a desert battle from Egypt to Benghazi. Those gallant men, after strenuous desert fighting, were brought back to Alexandria and transhipped to Greece without proper equipment. There, our Australian boys cried: "My God for aeroplanes". As one who took part in the last war, and constantly used a hand-grenade, which was a major weapon on that occasion, I can understand die plight of the Australians in being short of proper equipment. With the changes in the technique of war, the demand is now for aeroplanes, tanks, tommy-guns, bren-guns and brengun carriers.

Senator Sampson,who is a recruiting officer, urges our young men to go to the present war, but he must know that his words will fall on deaf ears, because our troops have been ill-equipped. Many Australians who escaped with their lives from the campaign in Greece were able to save themselves only because they were powerful swimmers. Some of them reached ships, and sometimes those vessels were torpedoed or bombed. Others reached the Island of Crete, but even there our troops were still without proper equipment. "My God for a tommygun", they cried. This was not the cry of a political party, or even of military officers, but it came from the boys on the field. They said that there was only one tommy-gun to five soldiers. Even at that time, the Prime Minister was still in London. When the Germans chased our troops out of Crete, they were again forced to swim in an attempt to escape with their lives. They were forced to evacuate the island as fast as they could. They had no dive-bombers, bren-guns or tommy-guns. Some who were fortunate enough to be picked up by passing vessel* reached Alexandria. Our fighting forces are men of worth. They are prepared, if necessary, to give their lives, but they are not concerned about that. They are concerned only about what is happening at home. I remember that in the last war, we were not very much concerned with what was going to happen to us. We were in the front line, but that did not matter. We were concerned only with what was happening at home. On the home front to-day we have the Prime Minister, and what has he done for our soldiers ? Some time ago we "were told that we could not prevent even one modern fighting division from entering this country, but nothing has been done since. Eighteen months ago we were told that our munition industry had to be built up, but what has been done? A man came to me nearly two years ago and said that he could build tanks. He proved that he could do the job, but still no tanks are being built in this country. There is much talk to-day of the cost-plus system, but the only effect of that system is to make the rich richer. In some organizations operating under the cost-plus system men sleep for ten hours a day and are paid for twenty. The greater the cost, the greater the profit. The workers do not want that system. Many years ago, when there was not a war on, the cost-plus system was used in the building of the New South Wales State Savings Bank, and the men employed were disgusted with what went on. Unless the Prime Minister can show us that his Government is prepared to do something for Australia, he should not be permitted to go to London as the Australian Prime Minister. Senator A. J. McLachlan said that he had no desire to see the Australian people trammelled, but I wonder if the presence in London of the Prime Minister would prevent the Australian people from being trammelled; I wonder if the Australian people would be in a better position if any member of the Government went to London. The great Australian Labour party has determined that the place for the Australian Prime Minister is in Australia, attending to the grave international situation which is supposed to exist. I say that whether the Prime Minister be Mr. Menzies or Mr. Curtin, if the position in the Pacific is so serious as is alleged, his place is in Australia, and not gallivanting around London being dined and wined by the powers that be.

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