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Friday, 6 March 1942

Senator COLLINGS - That decision showed that such procedure was entirely unnecessary.

Earlier to-day Senator Brand asked the following questions, upon notice: -

1.   In the interests of discipline and efficiency of our fighting services, will the Government use its powers under the National Security Act to prohibit the sale of beer in bottles?

2.   Will the Government, also under the same act, compel State governments to strictly enforce their own liquor laws?

3.   Will the Government compel brewers to reduce the alcoholic content of beer to 3j per cent.

A reply was given, but the Prime Minister has since furnished me with the following additional answer: -

Consideration will be given to the questions raited. Two of them affect the responsibilities of the States.

To-day the Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Security the following question: -

Will the Minister inform the Senate, in connexion with the recent betting and racing ban imposed by the Premier of South Australia, whether such ban was imposed after consultation with, and with the approval of. the Commonwealth Government ? "With regard to the order issued on the 6th January, 1942, by the Premier of South Australia restricting racing, the Premier acted under regulation 26 of the National Security (General) Regulations, which does not require a Premier, before making any order thereunder, to consult the Commonwealth or obtain its approval, and accordingly the State Premier did not approach the Commonwealth before making the order. The Commonwealth was, in pursuance of regulation 35a of the National Security (General) Regulations, consulted by the State Premier with regard to the making of an order imposing a ban on betting shops, and the Commonwealth concurred in the making of the order.

Senator A.J. McLachlan's request that a precis of regulations be prepared and published will be passed on to the appropriate authority. Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the subject of train and aeroplane transport to Western Australia and, presumably, to other places, for members of Parliament. That subject bristles with difficulties, but it is being very carefully examined by my department. In passing, I point out that matters such as this which have been raised in this chamber could have been dealt with much more effectively if the responsible Ministers had merely been interviewed by the honorable senators concerned. The subject of hotel trading hours, mentioned by Senator Foll, is receiving the very serious attention of the Government at the present time. I was interested to hear Senator Foil's remarks about the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Apparently he is entirely dissatisfied with the commission's methods of disseminating Australian news. Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the same subject. I suggest that when the parties represented by honorable senators opposite were in power, they were treated exceedingly well, and it ill becomes them to complain, before this Government has been in office for six months, that Ministers are, in their view, obtaining a monopoly to which they are not entitled. The questions regarding the war situation and the other points raised very ably by Senator Brown will be considered. Some investigation should be made into the production of producer-gas units by the firm at Sandgate which he mentioned, and, in collaboration with him, I shall see that inquiries are made. Senator Collett spoke about MaajorGeneral Bennett. We can let that matter rest where it is, but I undertake to draw the attention of the appropriate Minister to the statements that have been made about it in this chamber. Senator Collett also referred to liquor trading hours, and his suggestions will be carefully noted. He further discussed the subject of preference to returned soldiers. I point out that we have been at war for a long time. The previous Government knew all of the facts of this matter and had every opportunity to decide what action should be taken. SenatorCollett evidently realizes that difficulties have to be overcome, and I suggest that he should not be in a hurry to ask this new Government to make a statement on the subject until it has had an opportunity to consider every phase of the matter.

Senator Collett - The previous Government made its decision and announced it months ago. This Government has not done so.

Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator's statements will be properly investigated. That question bristles with difficulties, hut the Government is doing its best regarding it.

Senator E.B. Johnston referred to the position of a family that had been dispossessed because the banks had called up a mortgage. That matter will be looked into after consultation with the honorable senator tosee what measure of relief, if any, recent regulations provide, and, if they do not give any, whether relief can be provided.

Senator AllanMacDonald, who referred to the case of Captain Conway, will be interested to know that this Government has decided to pay to Captain Conway the sum of £100.

The honorable senator agreed with Senator Brown on the subject of giving additional information to the people of Australia regarding the war situation. I remind him that there was no attempt to circulate complete information when the tragedies of Greece and Crete occurred. I do not remember Senator Allan MacDonald being vocal on that occasion.

Senator Allan MacDonald - But the war is closer to our shores now.

Senator COLLINGS - Of course; and because of that it would hove been much wiser if the time spent in discussing matters which, in the final analysis, are of little account, had not been so employed. This would have made it possible to close the proceedings of the Senate and allow Ministers to devote the whole of their attention to their responsible task of devising every possible means of successfully carrying on the war.

Senator Spicer - The Minister was not ready to close the proceedings until after 4 p.m.

Senator COLLINGS - Ministers were prepared to close at any time, if they could have stopped the flow of talk. It is very difficult to curtail the proceedings when honorable senators opposite discuss various matters that are not of real importance, having regard to the magnitude of the issues raised by the war.

Senator Allan MacDonald - We received a note informing us that the Government did not wish the Senate to adjourn until a certain message had been received from the House of Representatives.

Senator COLLINGS - I acted on instructions from the House of Representatives. My intention was to ask the Senate to suspend the sitting until the ringing of the bells. That would have served my purpose, but the procedure of the House of Representatives was suddenly altered, and that was the cause of the alteration in this chamber. I am offering no apology and I do not detract from anything said by me yesterday or to-day about honorable senators occupying valuable hours in discussing matters which, in the final analysis, are comparatively unimportant. I do not include those matters which have been mentioned on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. I have noted every one of them, and I intend to see that they are passed on to the appropriate Ministers for comment, if not action.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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