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Friday, 6 March 1942

Senator BROWN - I am not so foolish as to say that. There is a happy medium in all things, and I believe that wrong methods are being used both in Australia and in Great Britain with the result that there is complacency where complacency should not exist. The farther south one travels in Australia, the more one notices indifference in the attitude of the public towards the war. I know that residents of Queensland and other northern parts of Australia, who are virtually in the front-line, take a more serious view of the war than people in the south.

There are some things that I should like to speak about with regard to Queensland, because there is no doubt that the people of that State are apprehensive. They are as full of fighting spirit as are the people in other parts of the Commonwealth, and they desire to fight. They are right in the front-line, and areanxious to be armed so that they can take their part in keeping the Japanese out of this country, or, if that cannot be avoided, in beating them back when they arrive. I should like to see the Senate spending most of its time in dealing with the immediate perils that confront US instead of discussing matters of comparatively minor importance. We should set to work to find out how we can best utilize the powers and courage of the people in order to defeat the enemy. If the courage and power of our people were efficiently organized, it could be used against the enemy, but are we fully utilizing the powers of the people for the purpose of safeguarding Australia? It does not matter to me what brand of government is in power at the moment. Under our democratic system of parliamentary government we have reached a standard that is not efficient in dealing with a totalitarian enemy. I do not blame individual Ministers. They are bound by the present system, and are affected by their environment; but there is always a tendency on the part of Ministers to excuse the mistakes of the governments of which they are members.. lt is a very serious matter when men in power think more of excusing their departments than of prosecuting the war.

Before we meet again, God know3 what may happen. I am anxious that something should be done in those parts of Australia that are immediately affected by the present war situation. We should consider how we can best utilize all of the forces that are at our command for the purpose of defeating the enemy. I do not understand military strategy, but I know "hat has happened in other countries, i feel certain that if we went about our tusk in the proper way we could coordinate the fighting power of tlie people in order to prevent the Japanese from advancing further southwards. We know that a defensive policy is wholly wrong and that the audacity shown by the Japanese has proved, and will continue 10 be, the winning policy. People in both political camps are blameworthy for the fact that the preparations that should have been made in Australia have not been made. Now the position is so serious that, every moment when the Senate is sitting, it should be discussing means of successfully fighting the Japanese.

I do not wish to speak disparagingly of any honorable senator, but, viewing i lie matter in a general way, I consider that our methods of finance have had a had effect on the organization of industry find have not secured the best results from defence point of view. I shall refer, by way of illustration, to what has happened to a certain firm at Sandgate, near Brisbane. I realize, of course, that the war effort has been retarded in the other capital cities also, because of the outmoded financial methods adopted by both Tory and Labour Governments. The firm to which I am referring was manufacturing producer-gas units, and was capable of turning out one high-quality unit every quarter of an hour. Last June, it made .an application for a certificate of approval of its unit, and it was not until October that a movement was- set on foot to supply the .necessary certificate. Because this firm had put every penny it had into the laying down of a plant, which is admittedly one of the best of the kind in "Queensland for the mass production of producer-gas unite, and because it was short of money, it. was prevented- from making over 1,000 units available for motor cars and trucks. Despite the fact that the firm had a contract for 1,000 producer-gas units at £35 each, and had tlie necessary artisans, moulders and fitters to carry out the work, production was held up because the firm could not get the necessary financial accommodation. I have approached the Government and have asked- that something be done to assist the firm. Under the parliamentary system of government, public officers who are men of probity, and are anxious to do their best for the community, are victims of the vicious system under which they operate. Everywhere 1 have moved with the object of assisting this firm, I appear to have been confronted by a stone wall, as though there is some antagonism to the war effort in this particular direction. Men have come to me in my office in Brisbane with similar complaints. One of them said he believed that some fifth column was at work, because weeks went by without his being able to move goods from the control of the customs authorities. " Everywhere I move "j he said, " a hand seems to be held up to frustrate me". Would the Japanese prevent a manufacturer of producer-gas units from carrying out a contract merely because of lack of finance1? The greatest crime of this firm was that it was unfinancial.

Senator McBride - If it was a good firm, why was it " broke " ?

Senator BROWN - The contract was given by the Government for 1,000 units at £35 each, and the tenderer was asked whether he required bank accommodation. Naturally, he thought that he would receive accommodation to enable him to carry on, but he did not get it. He mortgaged his home in order to raise sufficient money, and, with 'the help of a clever Russian, he erected the necessary plant, at a cost of £4,000. That is why the contractor " went broke ". Is it right that a small firm which is not a member of the Manufacturers Association, but which desires to do its best in the interests of the community, should be prevented from contributing to the war effort because of lack of finance? Undoubtedly, we are " on the spot " in Australia, and anything that would help to safeguard this country should be considered seriously by every member of the Senate. Honorable senators opposite have laughed at Senator Darcey and the Labour party as a whole because new methods of finance have been advocated, but I ask whether it is right that an industry, no matter how small, should be closed down because it does not happen to have the necessary finance. Such treatment of a firm is damnable. The cry has gone up that we should save petrol, but when a firm desires to provide necessary producer-gas units, it is prevented from doing so because of the rotten financial system in operation in Australia.

Senator Herbert Hays - Has the Capital Issues Advisory Board given approval for the raising of the necessary capital ?

Senator BROWN - There appears to have been underground engineering. First of all, the proprietor of the firm is not a member of the Manufacturers Association.

Senator McBride - Is he competent?

Senator BROWN - Tes. Every unionist in the trade is behind him. Having failed in my approach to the Commonwealth Government, I shall now go to the Government of Queensland. I ask whether similar happenings have occurred in other parts of Australia. Steps should be taken to see that the war effort is not being retarded because of lack of finance. Referring to the plant at Sandgate, Mr. Watson, of the Main Roads Commission, declared that it was shameful that such a plant should be standing idle. If a dictator were in power, he would say that wherever there were men and machines, they should be set to work, and the question of the necessary capital could be discussed afterwards. Possibly I have shown some heat in bringing this matter forward, but I do so in order to show how, under our obsolete system of finance, a man is prevented from doing useful work because of lack of funds.

I.   wish now to refer to the relations of various parts of the Empire with India. The British Empire is in this war right up to the hilt; what is done in Australia affects Great Britain, and vice versa. We all know something of the relationship between Britain and India, and between Britain and Burma. I remind the Senate that the late Premier of Burma, TJ. Saw, was anxious that

Burma should be given a certain measure of self-government. If newspaper reports are correct, as I believe they are in this instance, there is considerable unrest in Burma. So serious is the situation there that many Burmese are said to be assisting the enemy. Should that be so, we in Australia are affected, because we are vitally interested in the success of Allied troops in that country. Burma is being invaded by the Japanese and, according to reports, many of the native Burmese are allowing themselves to be used by the Japanese against the Allied troops. It may be that we cannot now help what has happened in Burma ; hut there is still India to consider. Mr. Amery has expressed himself as being favorable towards giving to India a measure of home rule, but we know that the conservative element in Great Britain is bitterly opposed to any such reform. J shall not mention names, but I point out that when the British India Bill was before the House of Commons it was bitterly opposed by certain people in high places. There are strong forces at work against giving to India any measure of self-government. I shall not at this stage discuss the reasons for and against giving to India a measure of self-government, but I want something to be done in this matter.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Did the honorable senator hear the announcement over the radio to-day on this subject?

Senator BROWN - I believe that Britain takes notice of Australian views. I believe also that Australians generally favour some measure of self-government being given to India. If we can do anything to rouse in the Indians sufficient enthusiasm to lead them to stand by our cause, even to the degree of risking their lives, the situation will be saved. Last December I was pleased to read in an editorial in the London Herald - an influential newspaper with a circulation of a bout 2,500,000 copies daily - a statement somewhat as follows: -

There is no doubt about it that the Indian* generally, from one end of the country to the other, are opposed to the Axis. They have no time for Germany or Japan, but they are very lukewarm indeed towards Great Britain. The reason for that is that they have not received that measure of self-government to which they think they are entitled.

I am not au fait with matters connected with international diplomacy, but I do ask whether representations have been made to the British Government, or whether they can now be made, in such a way as will give a fillip to those reformers who are anxious to see India become a self-governing dominion. ~No one knows better than I do that difficulties stand in the way. I know the disputations which have taken place between Hindu and Moslem, and the difficulties confronting statesmen in England in attempting to do the best for India. But I believe that if the dominions were to make representations to the British Government on behalf of India, the conservatism in Britain, which is a danger and may even mean the losing of the war by the Allies, could be overcome. That is my reason for bringing this matter forward. I hope that I have not said anything detrimental to our cause, but I repeat that should India become enthusiastic for the Allied cause, Japan and Germany would have no ground to hope for final victory.

I could refer to a number of minor matters, but. having brought before the Senate the important subjects with which T have already dealt, these other matters seem somewhat paltry, and therefore I shall not deal with them now, but shall bring them before Ministers in other ways. I hope that what I have said this afternoon will assist the Allied cause and that victory will soon crown our efforts.

Senator COLLETT(Western Australia; 13.20.] - I listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Brown, whose opening statements must commend themselves to every one who is concerned about the proper conduct of this war.

I wish now to bring before the chamber a number of matters, the first of which relates to a question which I asked this morning, but to which a reply is not yet available. I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army -

Is it the intention of the Minister, having regard to tlie interests of the Army, to convene a court of inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining the circumstances under which Major-General H. G. Bennett, of the Australian Imperial Force, recently departed from the Island of Singapore?

I had the privilege of knowing MajorGeneral Bennett in the last war, and I have met him since then. He is a man with a remarkable record of good service. He proceeded to Malaya in command of the Australian forces and is now back in Australia in circumstances which have left him open to criticism.

Senator Allan MacDonald - A lot of criticism.

Senator Ashley - One of the honorable senator's colleagues does not endorse that statement.

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