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Wednesday, 12 November 1941

Senator FOLL (Queensland) . - I congratulate honorable senators opposite on their occupation of the treasury bench. I join with Senator McLeay in offering to render any assistance in my power, so long as the efforts of the Government are directed towards ensuring that this country shall maintain a full-time war effort in both men and money. I regret that the change of government occurred when it did, because the country lost the services of a number of men who had gained a great deal of administrative experience in a hard school. In many instances these men were just beginning to gather the fruits of their labour. I resent very much the statement made by Senator Darcey that the Labour Government found everything in a mess when it assumed office. I take great pride in saying, as did Senator McBride and others, that when the history of Australia's war effort is written, the people will appreciate what was done for Australia by the Lyons Government from the time of the Munich

Pact until the death of Mr. Lyons, by the Menzies Government, and by the Fadden Government. Members of those Governments worked exceedingly hard in the interest of this country, and laid the foundations of a defence policy which has provided a wonderful bulwark for the defence of this country should we be attacked. Therefore I resent Senator Darcey's remark.

Senator Darcey - I criticized the previous Government only because of its financial policy. I said nothing about its work. I adhered to financial matters, and I claim that I have shown that in that respect the previous governments were incompetent.

Senator FOLL - The governments to which I have referred can take great pride in their financial programmes and also, as has been pointed out by Senator Spicer, in the fact that costs have been controlled and interest rates have actually decreased. That is a very great tribute to the work of those governments. Commodity prices in this country have risen to a lesser degree than in any other country because of the fact that at the outbreak of war, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) realized the necessity for adopting a system of price control. That system was introduced as one of the first acts of the Menzies Government. The suggestion made by Senator Darcey and supported, by interjection, by some honorable senators opposite, that the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, was prepared to do anything to keep his job, is unworthy of him. I have been in frequent contact with Professor Copland since he was placed in charge of the price-fixing machinery of this country, and I think that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who is in charge of the department in which Professor Copland holds a position, will agree that he has done an extraordinarily good job in most difficult circumstances. It ill becomes honorable senators to make remarks of that kind about a public servant who is unable to defend himself.

Senator Darcey - I said it to his face.

Senator FOLL - Professor Copland has given remarkably good service to this country. Although he was in no need of a job, he came forward and accepted one of the most thankless and difficult tasks that could he given to anyone. He has done his work very well indeed.

As long as this Government carries on the defence "programme which has been outlined, and if possible intensifies it, it will receive our support and constructive criticism. I trust that the Government will be given better support than was given to the Administration of which I was a member, not so much in this chamber, but in the House of Representatives, especially during the last six months of its existence. I say quite frankly that despite the repeated statements that the Menzies and Fadden Governments were receiving wholehearted support, during the past six months every form of irritation was indulged in by the Opposition in order to secure a change of administration.

Senator Ashley - The Government was " torpedoed " by its own supporters.

Senator FOLL - The honorable senator says that we were " torpedoed ". I would point out to him. that when the previous Government did fall it was as tie result of the assassin's knife, and not by means of a majority vote recorded against it at the polls. The Government fell because of the greed for office of certain individuals and not because of its shortcomings. I regard it as a privilege to have been a member of the Government of this country during these critical years of war, and I believe that the three Prime Ministers whom I have mentioned, can be very proud of the work done by their respective Governments. I remember only too well the state of Australia's defence at the time of the Munich pact. Under the voluntary system our home defence forces were very small indeed, and very few militia units were at anything like full strength. Our soldiers numbered 35,000.

Senator Spicer - On paper.

Senator FOLL - That is so. It would have been impossible to muster that number when the men went into camp for a few days in each year. I assure honorable senators that the work of building up those forces was extremely difficult. Credit is due not only to the various governments concerned in that work, but also to the leading men of the various arms of the defence services. They had a colossal task to perform. In the earlier days they were hampered and handicapped by lack of finance, and they also had to counter a lack of enthusiasm among the people. That lack of enthusiasm was reflected in the attitude of various governments with the result that the services were starved. Then came the colossal task of building up the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and expanding munitions production. A great deal of credit is also due to those capable men who came to the assistance of the Government; many of them in an honorary capacity. Criticism has been levelled against some of these gentlemen because they had been successful in private enterprise and it was suggested that that they came into munitions work in order to gain personal advantages. As the result of my personal contact with those men I formed an entirely different opinion of them. Many of them have thrown aside their private interests in order to give their valuable assistance to the Government, The3e are the men who were condemned by honorable senators opposite when they were in opposition. The present Government will find the services of those men very valuable, and I believe that it will be well advised to continue to avail itself of their assistance.

The budget contains some of the prosposals embodied in the Fadden budget, but certain features that were of real merit have been dropped by the present Government, which, in my opinion, has not stood up to its responsibilities with regard to the financing of the war. In my opinion this emasculated Fadden budget is a cowardly and dishonest budget, because it does not tell the people what their actual financial responsibilities are. It is a dishonest budget, because, if the policy that the Prime Minister and other members of the Government are preaching throughout the country -

Senator Keane - I rise to a point of order. I take exception to the use of the words "dishonest budget" and ask that they be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT - I asb that the words to which exception has been taken be withdrawn.

Senator FOLL - I am not speaking in a personal sense, but entirely in a political sense. I know of no more suitable phrase in which to express my opinion of the budget, but out of respect to the wishes of honorable senators opposite, I withdraw the words. The budget will not provide the necessary finance that the Government requires, if it intends to carry out the programme undertaken by it, assuming that the appeal being made by the Prime Minister for the diversion of expenditure on nonessential goods to war expenditure is heeded.

Senator Allan MacDonald - The Prime Minister did not say what nonessentials are.

Senator FOLL - No. If the people are to cut out all luxury expenditure, how can the Government secure the additional revenue that it hopes to get by increased taxes, including increased sales tax, which to a large degree is imposed on luxury lines. There is only one way in which the result that the Prime Minister desires can be achieved and that is by compulsory savings and by the compulsory rationing of certain commodities. But will the people cease to purchase luxuries merely because the Prime Minister has appealed to them to do so voluntarily? I contend that the diversion of a certain percentage of the income of individuals to the war effort should not be left entirely to their whim or grace. I believe that a majority of the people will heed the Prime Minister's appeal, but we have reached the stage where everybody in the community must play his or her part, be it large or small, in relation to the financing of the war effort. A proposal of outstanding merit in the Fadden budget was that providing for compulsory savings. If everybody plays his part in the transference of expenditure on non-essentials to war expenditure, the burden on each member of the community will be lightened.

Money is more plentiful in Australia now than it has been for generations, and family incomes are larger than they have ever been before. Therefore there should be a saving of the national income, not only for the purpose of financing the war, but also in order to make provision for post-war reconstruction. Although there is every indication that the war will continue for a long time, when it is over thousands of employees now engaged in munitions factories will be forced to find other employment, and at the same time we shall be faced with the problem of providing work for the members of our fighting services who will be returning from overseas. Will that not be a time when the benefit of compulsory savings and deferred pay would prove invaluable? We give to members of the fighting services 6s. a day and 2s. deferred pay, and one of the main reasons for the deferred pay is to provide a nest-egg which will be found useful to the men on their return from the war. Therefore I see no reason why civilians also should not be called upon to accept deferred pay. Under the Fadden budget it was proposed to pay the bank interest rate on civilian deferred pay, but the returned soldier gets no interest on his deferred pay. If there was one proposal of outstanding merit in the Fadden budget it was that relating to deferred pay for civilians, and I believe that we shall yet adopt that principle.

Senator Fraser - That is wishful thinking on the honorable senator's part.

Senator FOLL - I desire everybody to play hi3 part fairly in the war effort, and I believe that the time will come when everybody in the community will be asked by the Government of the day to subscribe some money for the financing of our war effort. It is idle for the Prime Minister to speak to the public in generalities by referring to the necessity for reduced expenditure on non-essentials ; he should be specific. The people are looking for a lead as to what they should be called upon to do with regard to the rationing of commodities. The only practical way in which the Government can carry out its policy of transferring funds from expenditure on non-essentials to war expenditure is by compulsory saving and compulsory rationing. I believe that we shall eventually reach that stage.

Senator Fraser - The Government with which the honorable senator was recently associated did not do that.

Senator FOLL - The Assistant Minister is merely taking up a parrot cry. We did not do it because we had not sufficient members in the House of Representatives to do many of the things that the present Government can do if it wants to. The present Government has been guaranteed support from all sides of the House, whereas its predecessors had no such support.

Senator Clothier - Previous governments were given a good measure of support by the Labour party.

Senator FOLL - If the present Government is to retain office, it will have to do these things sooner or later. In any attempt to do the right thing in connexion with Australia's war effort it can rely on support which was denied to the previous Government. Another problem which the Government will have to face is that of providing reinforcements for the Australian Imperial Force overseas and for the other branches of the fighting services. Fortunately, the response to the appeal for men for the Empire Air Training Scheme has been excellent. Everyone in Australia is proud of the part that thi3 country is playing in the air defences of tha Empire, but I believe that we are reaching the position where we shall find that there is a serious shortage of man-power to supply necessary reinforcements to the men overseas and for the production of munitions at- home. I was glad to see that one of the first things the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) said he would do was to make a thorough investigation in regard to man-power. I believe that there are thousands of men now in exempt industries who could well be released for military service.

Senator Ashley - Why did not the (government of which the honorable senator was a member do that?

Senator FOLL - The position is getting more difficult day by day as the. Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) should know since he has been a member of the Cabinet for several weeks.

Senator Ashley - The honorable senator himself was a member of the Cabinet for about six years.

Senator Cameron - What does the honorable senator suggest?

Senator FOLL - The Government should comb many of the exempt industries.

Senator Aylett - What are they?

Senator FOLL - If the honorable senator will read the list he will see that there is wide scope for the release of men. In spite of the Government's natural objection to utilising the services of women, I believe that it will be necessary to use them in order to release men for defence purposes. In my opinion, no stone should be left unturned in order to ensure that adequate reinforcements are sent to our forces in the Middle East.

Senator Large - Can the honorable senator visualize a limit, being reached in this connexion?

Senator FOLL - Of course I can ; but I do not think that that position has been reached yet. It has been reached in some country areas, but in our cities the limit has not nearly been reached. An examination of the list of exempted occupations will reveal that there is ample scope for the release of a large number of men to join the Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. I regard the supply of reinforcements to our forces overseas as the most vital job Australia has to do. Honorable senators know my views in relation to military service. I am not opposed to the principle of conscription for military service overseas which has been adopted by New Zealand. Although we are proud of what Australia has done under the voluntary system, I am of the opinion that there are many merits in the compulsory system which are absent from the voluntary system.

Senator Cameron - Is the honorable senator in favour of conscripting capital ?

Senator FOLL - I am in favour of an all-in war effort. When a country is fighting for its existence, the Government should be able to say to any individual "We want your service, or what you have got in the interests of your country ". I say that without hesitation.

Senator Cameron - Let us start with the conscription of capital.

Senator FOLL - When we have done what I have advocated we may be able to say that we have indeed put forward a whole-hearted war effort.

Senator Darceysaid that he feared that his many dissertations on the subject of finance had failed to impress honorable senators now sitting hi opposition, but a. study of the budget reveals that he has also failed to impress members of his own party. When I contemplated, the reading of the Treasurer's budget speech, I had in mind Senator Darcey's repeated statement that, under a Labour Government, orthodox methods of finance would be set aside. I remembered, too, that on many occasions Senator Brown had indulged in flights of oratory in which he advocated the introduction of a new financial system. He, too, said that under a Labour Government, the existing financial system would be changed. Nevertheless, the first budget introduced by a Labour Government was largely along orthodox lines. Obviously, members of the Cabinet, When placed in a position of responsibility, saw things differently from the way that they saw them when sitting in opposition. Unfortunately, the proposals of the Fadden budget were not, carried into effect, particularly those which required every person in the community to accept his share of the financial responsibility for the prosecution of the war.

The Government makes a great feature of the fact that it expects to effect a considerable saving compared with the Fadden Government's proposals. It claims to have found a way by which it will be possible to 3ave £80,000 in connexion with the Department of Information. That is the only economy it can make in a £325.000,000 budget.' I am interested to know in what direction the saving will be effected, and accordingly, T have placed a number of questions on the notice-paper. Having spent seven or eight months in control of the Department of Information, I do not know of any way in which that department can still give the same service to the country and yet enable a saving of £80,000 to be made. I am aware that the Department of Information has been one of the most abused of departments; it has been the " Aunt Sally " of persons both inside and outside Parliament. I say, however, that it contains many men who have done an extraordinarily good job, Many who criticize the department do not realize how much work it does foi other departments. The present Minister for Information (,Senator Ashley) will find, as I did, that if there is a "sticky" job to be done, the Department of Information will be asked to do it. I shall be glad to know whether the estimated saving of £80,000 will be made by a reduction of the estimates of the department itself, or whether that amount represents the saving that will be made in respect of work done for other departments. The Department of Information has done a tremendous volume of work for the service departments, such as all recruiting propaganda,, war loan publicity, commercial advertising, and so on.

Senator Ashley - The Commerce Department paid for its advertising.

Senator FOLL - I wish to know whether the contemplated saving of £80,000 will be a direct saving in the Department of Information. I wish to know also what services will be affected. I have noticed that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has suggested that the Department of Information should be abolished. I admit frankly that the department could be abolished, but I point out that if that were done, much of the work now performed by it would still have to be done by other departments. Soon after I took charge of the Department of Information, I discussed with my colleagues in the Cabinet and on the Advisory War Council, whether the department should continue. After consideration, both the Advisory War Council and the Cabinet decided that the department should continue to function. I think that the new Minister in charge of that department will find that much of the criticism levelled against it has been unfair. Moreover, much of the work done by it has not been given recognition, because it has been done indirectly. Other people have received the credit. Whatever may be done in an effort to save money, I urge the Minister no', to reduce the vote in relation to our activities in the United States of America, as was suggested in the press a few days ago. When the Australian News Bureau was first (established an New York, Australia was very little known to our cousins across the Pacific, ft has justified its existence in every way and has given Australia extraordinarily good publicity.

Senator Ashley - The present Government has made a vastly greater contribution towards bringing about closer relations with the United States of America than the previous Government. It was responsible for the reduction of the cable rates.

Senator FOLL - The reduction of cable rates was brought about prior to tha advent of the present Government. Furthermore, the subsidy paid by the Commonwealth Government to the American Cable .Service was formulated long before the honorable senator ever dreamt that he would become Minister for Information.

A complaint has been brought to my notice in relation to the management of the small arms factory at Lithgow. Unfortunately, we have had at Lithgow a continuation of minor industrial disputes and hold-ups which have been very irritating to the Department of Munitions and very costly to the Australian war effort. I had a call some time ago from a returned soldier who was by trade a 'fitter and turner. At the time,' he was not following his own trade, but he was anxious to secure work in one of the factories doing government war work. I submitted his name to the Minister for Munitions, and he was called up to report at Lithgow, where he was given a position as what is known as a section hand. He told me that all he did was to walk about doing absolutely nothing for several days. Me asked the foreman in charge to give him some practical work. He said that, in addition to section hands, there were also the recognized foremen overlooking the work for the ordinary operatives. These foremen are called charge hands. They walk about and give advice to machinists. He was asked whether he would like to be put on a bench. When bo asked' what he had to do, he was told to fill in the time as best he could. Seeing some pipe brackets lying about, he decided to go on making some more. He had to walk several hundred yards to get the piping, then take it somewhere else to be sawn, shift it. somewhere else to be threaded, and then take it to the driller* and welders and await their pleasure. He worked an eleven-hour shift and received over £11 a week. Prior to taking on that work, his wages were about £6 a week. Although it was a Godsend to him to get an additional £5 a week, he was so disgusted that, in spite of the fact that he could have done with the extra money, he resumed his old job at about £6 a week. This man, who is a good unionist, said that the union leaders have complete control of the factory and that the foremen are helpless. The operatives on the machines have no check whatsoever on the number of articles they turn out in a day. He says that one man simply walks around ali day making sure the fire extinguishers are on the wall.

Senator Courtice - Those conditions prevailed during the period of office of governments of which the honorable senator was a member.

Senator FOLL - If the only contribution the honorable senator can make is to say that these conditions prevailed under other governments, then the outlook of honorable senators supporting the Government is hopeless. Whether the honorable senator likes it or not, I shall continue to bring matters such as this to the notice of the Government in the hope that something will be done to rectify them. I trust that the Parliament will be kept in session and that there will be no rush into recess in order to stifle discussion of important matters such as this. I am naturally gravely concerned to have a report of this kind from a conscientious returned soldier unionist who is not prepared to take money for which he cannot give an adequate return. I ask the Government to investigate the matter. If this state of affairs exists at Lithgow, or at any other munitions factory, it is a clear demonstration that we are not making our full war effort.

I propose now to deal briefly with another matter which I had intended to discuss on the adjournment of the Senate, to-night, but which I think might more probably be discussed during this debate.

I refer to an attack made by a member of the House of Representatives, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) on the Director of Gun Ammunition, Mr. Smith, in the course of which serious charges were made of what virtually amounted to corruption. I do not know any of the circumstances surrounding the case mentioned by the honorable member for Watson. If he is correctly reported in the press, he said that the Director of Gun Ammunition so abused his position as to use the time, material and services of men doing Government work to build a horse float for his own private use, and that the cost of the construction of the float was charged to the Government as munitions work.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - These charges are being inquired into tomorrow by the Joint Committee on War Expenditure.

Senator FOLL - The fact that these charges are to be inquired into by a joint committee does not necessarily mean that I should not discuss them further. I point out that if charges of that kind made against a man occupying a high executive position in the Department of Munitions cannot be substantiated, they should be withdrawn and an apology tendered. If the charges are proved, drastic action should be taken Immediately. If they are not proved, the same publicity that was given to them should be given to their rebuttal. If the charges cannot be substantiated, 1 suggest that the Prime Minister should rebuke those colleagues of his who are prone to defame prominent men who are doing their best to serve Australia in a very difficult time. I do not propose to discuss in detail at this stage the measures consequent on the budget as an opportunity will be afforded to do so on a later occasion. I merely say now that I trust that the Government will reconsider ite proposal to combine, the. incomes of husbands- and wives for the purpose of arriving at the rate of tax to be applied to both incomes. Such taxation is aimed specifically at those who are trying to be thrifty and ensure that their families do not become a charge upon the nation after their parents' decease. I remind the Government, that there, are many wives who have inherited property in their own right. There are others, who, by their own efforts, have entered one of the professions, but who, because they happen to marry, are to be called upon to pay a higher rata of tax on their earnings than their unmarried competitors. Such taxation is a relic of the dark ages. It is taking us back to the days when a wife was a mere chattel of her husband. It is not worthy of a modern Government. I trust that the Government will review this proposal because I feel sure that when it was first made its serious, implications were not fully appreciated.

We naturally regret that, after all the undertakings given by the Prime Minister, by the Leader of the Senate and other Ministers, that they would put forward a full war effort, they have not stood up to their responsibilities by telling the people just what is and will be expected of them before the war is over. Rather have they sought the easy way and as the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives said : " They have one eye on the electorate rather than both eyes on the winning of the war ".

Senator Ashley - -The honorable senator has made serious charges against the management of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. I suggest, that he lays the letter from which he has quoted on the table of the Senate or that it be incorporated in Hansard.

Senator FOLL - I shall hand it to Hansard. The particulars contained in it are embodied in the speech which I have just delivered.

Debate (on motion by Senator James McLachlan) adjourned.

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