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Thursday, 24 September 1942

Senator MCBRIDE (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We had the number? last night, and we used them.

Senator AMOUR - That is so; but honorable senators opposite have not the courage to reject every piece of legislation introduced by the present Government. Last night's action showed the insincerity of the Opposition when it professes to be willing to assist the Government.

I dissociate myself from the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) in relation to Mr. Thomas, the secretary of the Builders Labourers Union. I know the good work which the trade union movement has done. Australia should be proud of the men associated with such bodies. I do not approve of Messrs. Theodore and Packer being associated with the Allied Works Council. There will be no peace in the works controlled by that body until such time as those men are removed from their present positions. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who controls the council, is doing an excellent job. I have no doubt that, when the story of the council's work is told, greattribute will be due to him. However, I believe greater results would be achieved if the two gentlemen to whom I have referred were removed from the council. No government can expect to obtain even 60 per cent, efficiency under the present system. Men are now taken from behind shop counters, and businesses, and, along with clerks, are put to pick-and-sh'ovel work alongside road-making machines and graders. In such jobs they are obliged to eat dust. How can any one expect 100 per cent, efficiency from such men in these jobs? By putting these men to work which is more suited to their capacity, we could expect at least 75 per cent, efficient performance from them.

Senator Brand,to whom I pay a tribute for the service he has rendered to this country as a military leader, stated, " In the Federal Parliament there are half-a-dozen members who should be in uniform doing real war work". I point out to the honorable senator that all members of this Parliament have been sent here to do a real war job. The people expect them to ensure that sufficient supplies of arms, munitions, food, and all other essential requirements, shall be kept up to the armed forces. That is their real job in this war, and, if they are attending to it properly, no one can reasonably say that they should be in uniform. They cannot be in uniform and attend to their parliamentary and military duties at the same time. If they attend sittings of Parliament in uniform they must be neglecting their military work. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was relieved ofhis military duties by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when he was Prime Minister, in order, apparently, to do important work. The work was so important that, despite the fact that the honorable member for Fawkner is not now a member of the Government, he has not seen fit to return to the Army. Perhaps the Army would give him a job, as it has given jobs to Senator Foll and the honorable members for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who sport uniforms from the rank of general to captain. While those gentlemen are attending sessions of Parliament they must be neglecting their military duties.

Senator Follhas repeatedly referred to the need for preference to returned soldiers. If I understand the term " total war ", which has been so glibly canvassed, it means a war that embraces every body. My observation of this war so far suggests that it is a total war. While not depreciating for one moment the part being played by the gallant men who are bearing the immediate brunt of the battle, I remind the honorable senator that, in total war, sacrifices differ not in degree but in kind. Would the honorable senator suggest that, because the skilled tradesman's part in this warchains him to a lathe, his willingness to make a sacrifice is any less than that of a soldier in the field? Why, therefore, should he be told at this stage that in the post-war reconstruction his contribution to the war effort will be stigmatized as being of a lower order than that made by others? I remind the honorable senator that thousands of munitions workers who have endeavoured to enlist have been prevented, under manpower regulations, from doing so. Would the honorable senator object to including in our list of defenders soldiers, sailors, airmen, men in protected industries, manufacturing munitions, tanks, antiaircraft guns, filling factories, men working for the Allied Works Council and other workers in essential industry? Instead of talking airily about preference for returned soldiers alone, Senator Foll should be thinking more broadly in terms of post-war work for all. He talks about security for returned soldiers, but he knows that they did not receive any preference after the last war. All they received were pious promises. If the honorable senator had taken an active interest in their fortunes and misfortunes, he would know that they were most severely hit by the depression of 1920, and the disastrous depression of 1932. During that time the honorable senator was a Minister in this Parliament. What action did his Government take to show preference to the men who fought in the war of 1914-18? He may remember, also, the stark injustice that was done to the war babies of the last war. Those little children, whose fathers died in the mud of France and Flanders, because of the Stevens Government's manipulation of the Returned Soldiers' Preference Act, were, in their youth and manhood, handed by a National government a legacy of starvation and unemployment. Denied the assistance of a father at the most crucial stage of their life, they were set the almost impossible task of making a living in the country for which their fathers had died. I wonder whether Senator Foll has ever stopped to consider the fate of this legion of lost young Australians, while he has been mouthing his rosy promises to the soldiers of to-day. As after the last war, the dinkum digger wants no preference on this occasion. He wants only the right of himself and his family to live according to the standards that this country has set. The Nationalist government which the honorable senator so slavishly followed neglected to show preference for the first principle of this democracy, the right to a happy livelihood. He stood by and mutely supported a system which brought starvation and. want to the mothers and wives of soldiers to whom his Nationalist government had promised preference. After this war, we do not want preference for any section. This is an all-in fight for our very existence. If we preserve this Commonwealth for posterity, all the people, and not just a section, must have future security. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and members of the mercantile marine are engaged in active combat in the field and are acquitting themselves worthily as Australians and staunch fighters. But there is an army in overalls in our munitions factories which must not be forgotten. There is no link too small in our present chain of national effort which, in the future peace, shall not have a just claim to participation in the expanded nationhood that will come with victory.

Since this war began, we have heard much of new orders, new charters, and similar dope that is expected now to soothe our anxiety about the social future of the world at large. What we as an Australian Parliament must be most concerned ah out is the specific future of this country. We must concede, even at this distance, that our national future is wrapped up with that of our allies, but there is even now a duty we owe ourselves and our children. The social evils that followed the last war must not be perpetuated when peace is declared. We must plan now to obviate the misery, poverty and hunger that struck such a body-blow at our nationhood during the so-called depression of 1932. That catastrophe, which in many respects had more lasting and damning effects on Australia's family life than the war itself, must not happen again.

While Australians must put every atom of physical and financial resource into this conflict, they must not be blind to the needs of our future nationhood. Australia will emerge from this war with a national character that has been tested end proven in the greatest crucible of all (rime if we pay necessary heed to what will oe required of us in the peace that is to come. This Labour Government professes a faith which is embodied in platform and objectives, which have stood the test of time, and which, developed to the utmost, can encompass every social need of this country in the future. In its hour of greatest peril, Australia is "being guided by a Government standing upon an unchallengeable foundation. Its concepts are those which have emerged from years of experience of industrial and social conditions in this country, and of years of sturdy trade unionism, which is the rock upon which this edifice has been built. The socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange, nationalization of banking, credit, sickaccident and life insurance and unemployment - that is the policy that will ensure for the people of Australia all that is necessary to their physical and social needs now and after the war. This Government has no need to cast about in the manner of its predecessors for a formula to meet post-war planning. The Australian Labour party's platform was designed and is being executed with a knowledge of human relationships that time has not altered and that time will mot alter. It is sufficiently flexible to meet the broader post-war problems - and of these we must be prepared to meet many in the years ahead. War does not materially alter the needs of the human race. All that happens is that .problems recur and on that account I confidently submit that -the Australian Labour party's platform and objectives supply all the answers. While the Government pursues the immediate issues of this war with great and praiseworthy vigour, it must also look deeper to the issues of the future of this country. No problem is of more tremendous importance than that of population. Half the military difficulties facing Australia at present arise from the fact that we are trying to get from a population of 7,000,000 the military contribution of a population of 20,000,000. With 20,000,000 people on this continent, Australia would be safe. Practical statesmanship in the past would have given us such a population. We are in dire peril to-day because we neglected the one fundamental thing that would have given us security. It is all very well to talk of ships, planes and guns. We need them all. But we also need the people to handle them. From every possible standpoint either of moral integrity or practical statesmanship the handling of our population problem has been a disgrace to our public life. We have permitted wide open lands to remain unpeopled. Migration, which, laid the basis for the immense power of the United States of America to-day, has been a .pitiable failure in Australia because our leaders preferred to leave our lands and our resources as exploiting .grounds for British capitalists rather than build a real Australia. Our own population has been debauched by birth control and the use of contraceptives to a point where our natural increase has become almost stationary. Scientists tell us that by 1970 the population of Australia, at its present rate of increase, will begin to decline. That means that at present we are fighting to maintain a continent from which the Australian race will disappear. I do not say that any move we make to-day to grapple with this problem of population will help us very much in this war. But statesmanship demands that we make a start; and it is because I believe the Labour party has faith in the future of this nation that I say that this Government should lead the way in starting to grapple with it. All questions of migration must be left until after the war. But the problem of raising the birth-rate in Australia can be tackled now. Every child born into this land is a priceless asset to the greater Australia that we all hope to see arise after this war. The birth-rate is tied up with many questions - some moral, some economic, some social. These problems cannot be solved overnight ; the causes lie deep in the material factors of our civilization, and their remedy must go just as deep. I do not expect the Government to solve them. But I do ask the Government to lead the way in facing up to them. We are demanding austerity in our way of life; let us also ask of Australian womanhood the sacrifice that child-bearing means. Let us see that the mother can bear her children in peace and comfort; letus sec that the child, once born, can get a fair deal out of life. We are spending many millions of pounds on the means of death ; let us spend a few millions on the means of life. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) on the step he recently took in prohibiting the advertising of contraceptives. That was a wise and courageous action. But I want him to go further. I want him to prohibit the manufacture or sale of contraceptives. I know quite well that that involves difficult moral and social problems. I would rather have any number of moral or economic problems arising from the birth of many more children, than no moral or economic problems because the children we so badly need are not being born. I believe that the Minister for Social Services is trying to face this issue; but

I do not think his ministerial charter goes far enough. I believe the Government should set up a Ministry of Population so that all the social, moral and economic factors bound up with the future of the Australian people can be studied as one complete problem. This matter needs a new vision; it needs an inspirational call to. the Australian people. It needs the courage to do new things and to spend money in the direction I have indicated. The Prime Minister has already shown that he can lead the Australian people on new paths of sacrifice ; and I commend this idea to him. That is my contribution to this debate, and I ask speakers who may follow me to reply to some of the suggestions which I have made in regard to post-war reconstruction.

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