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Wednesday, 26 June 1946

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) .- The introduction of a Supply Bill gives to honorable members the opportunity to examine Government expenditure, to suggest activities not 'provided for by the Government, and to indicate where, in their opinion, economies could be effected. I take this opportunity to direct attention to the unsatisfactory state of affairs that exists in regard to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. Some little time ago the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) stated that very few men were left unemployed for any period after their discharge. In support of his contention he compared the number of men who applied for unemployment relief with the number known to be entering industries. That procedure was also followed by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) when he discussed this subject last week. That is not by any means a reliable- approach. If there is one thing we need more than any other in Australia to-day it is an increase of production. The argument advanced by the honorable' member for Fremantle in support of his contention that men were being rehabilitated satisfactorily will not bear examination. I have had brought to my notice many instances of men who have been out of work on their discharge, but it must be remembered also that many demobilized men have accumulated leave which would carry them along for a considerable period. In fact, although I have been a member of this House for some time, I still have not exhausted my leave. Many men throughout the country have not applied for unemployment relief, the reason being, of course, that they are still receiving navy, army or air force pay. Very shortly these men will be on the labour market. Some men of independent spirit have also made up their minds that they will seek a job for themselves and not take advantage of provisions that would be. applicable to them. Considerable ' numbers of the men who have been re-employed' have accepted jobs in government departments administering restrictive regulations of one kind or another which are . retarding industrial development in Australia. Other men who are still in the Army will shortly be seeking civil employment. Last week a young man told me that he had been given notice by a government department that he would have to seek other employment before the end of August. He was informed that it would be a case of " first to come, last to go ". That does not indicate that preference to service men and women will be satisfactorily applied. When cases of this kind are brought to the notice of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, he invariably says, " Give me specific instances ". I bring to the notice of the honorable gentleman now the case of a young man of Swan Hill who, on his demobilization, desired to become a plumber, a calling for which he seems to have a natural aptitude. A master plumber in Swan Hill is prepared to employ him on the basis of a government subsidy of £2 10s. a week. I submitted this case to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and received the following reply: -

Reference to your representation on behalf of the Swan Hill Sub-branch of the Returned Soldiers' League regarding the above exserviceman I have to. advise you that we have retained his application for training.

This, application will be considered and acceptance will be subject to .the following conditions: -

1.   Absorptive capacity in the trade as a whole.

2.   Vacancy in a school.

3.   Must attend our school for .at least six months, otherwise no consideration can be given. After this training he will he placed in subsidized employment.

4.   Trainees with previous experience will be given preference.

It appears, therefore, that this young man will have to run the gauntlet of .the trade unions, wait for a vacancy in a school, attend the school for at least six months, and then take his turn with other trainees who have had previous experience and to whom preference will be given. Although a master plumber is prepared to train him, the Government is obliging the man to wait for probably six or eight months to get into a School, for I understand that the schools arc full. Then, after training, he has to wait in a roster, although at this moment an employer is ready to give work to him. The local repatriation committee of Swan Hill, the Dads Association, and the local branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's

Imperial League of Australia have recommended that the offer to employ this man be accepted, but the Government, through the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, has declined to agree. How can the re-establishment of service men and women be successful if many instances of this kind occur, and I understand that they do? Why should this man be kept waiting when he could go to work at once? What is to happen to him while ha is waiting?

I bring to the notice of the- Minister also the case of a young man at Kerang who was employed in a garage before the war and whose former employer is ready to re-engage him. He was in the Royal Australian Air Force for three years during the war, and he now wishes to work as a mechanic. He could get work at a leading garage in Kerang., It would only be necessary, for the Government to subsidize his employer during his period of training, but, although the would-be employer is a man of outstanding character, he will not be permitted to engage this young fellow. I know of cases of the same kind at Warracknabeal and elsewhere. The rejection of applications for the employment of these young men means that they are practically left at a loose end waiting for rehabilitation.

I wish now to discuss certain Government decisions in regard to the wheat subsidy. A letter, which I wrote to the Honorable John Cain, Premier of Victoria, in this connexion, on the 7th June, 1946, is self-explanatory -

As there are five State representatives within the electorate of Wimmera I thought it hest to communicate with you rather than write to each member re the above.

Many farmers have brought to my notice what they regard as an anomaly in the distribution of drought relief to wheat-growers.

At a meeting at Manangatang a resolution was carried strongly protesting against the measure preventing farmers who had not sown wheat for two consecutive seasons from receiving drought relief; this they say debars returned servicemen who have only put in one crop since their discharge, and other farmers' sons who last season put in their first crop.

I would be pleased to have your comments on the possibility of this difficulty being overcome and assure you that those who have sown for first time in many cases just having enough capital to start in the industry will be greatly aided if allowed to partake in the drought relief distribution.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - The reply that I received from Mr. Cam, was in these terms -

Adverting to your letter of the 7th instant, 1 desire to .inform you that when the matter of making further drought relief grants was raised by me at the last Premiers conference it was referred to Commonwealth and State officers to determine the basis of assistance. It was made clear at the officers conference that if the Commonwealth Government decided to meet half the cost of the scheme it would only be on condition that the proposed relief payments would be restricted to those farmers who had suffered losses from the drought of 1944 and who wore again seriously affected by the drought conditions prevailing in certain districts. This condition was accepted, and the necessary legislation to authorize the payment so far as Victoria was concerned 'was drafted on this basis and passed by Parliament accordingly.

You will therefore appreciate the difficulty of meeting the claim of any grower who had noi sown crop in 1944. (Sgd.) John Cain.

Many ex-servicemen with some money, who had just been discharged from the Awny and sowed wheat on their own account, cannot secure any relief although (he devastating drought robbed them of their crops in the 1945-46 harvest. It is unjust that the Commonwealth Government -should impose the condition that only' those farmers who had suffered losses from the drought of 1944 should receive relief payments. The matter should be further investigated, and drought relief should be paid to those men who had losses in the 1945-46 season. These men, perhaps, had from their deferred pay and other sources only enough money to go into the industry, and if they are not reimbursed their losses they will not be able to continue in it. It is most important that as many as possible of the men who have a knowledge of this great food-producing industry should be encouraged to continue in it. I have referred to what I regard as wasteful expenditure by the Government. Drought relief would be only' an investment, because it would enable these men to continue to produce crops.

I pass ,on to a serious matter, to which I referred in my maiden speech in this Parliament, namely, the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to those members of the Australian Imperial Force who were prisoners of war in the band-.j of the Japanese. Only the honor able member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and I in this Parliament have personal knowledge of this matter. It' is fallacious to assume that the Australian prisoners taken at Singapore were robbed of all their personal possessions. If one had a watch worth £40 one could take it on the march from Singapore to Selerang -camp. On one or two occasions watches were taken from prisoners, but when Japanese officers discovered what had been dome they ordered the return of the property to the soldier from whom it had been taken. The men had watches and other valuables in the camp. As time went on and they began to starve, they sold these personal possessions to Chinese, or to any one else who would purchase them, in order that they might huy a few coco-nuts,, and perhaps a little palm oil and blatchemin order to obtain the vitamins which they needed to keep them alive. Many men who to-day are alive in this country owe their survival to the fact that they had a few valuables which they were able to sell. When a man. enlisted in the Australian [imperial Force he agreed to accept a certain amount as pay, to be clothed and fed, and to obey orders. The prisoners at Singapore who fell into the hands of the Japanese were in quite a different category from those taken in Germany and other parts of Europe. The men at Singapore were ordered to surrender as an Army, and they obeyed. They believe that they are now justly entitled to the subsistence allowance pf 3s. a day, to repay them in some degree for the valuables which they were obliged to sell in order that they might live. The proposition is a reasonable one, and the Government should give earnest consideration to it. The District. Finance Officer in Melbourne has stated that officers of the Australian Imperial Force were credited with their field allowance, which I believe amounted to 3s. a day, during the whole period of their imprisonment. This Government has always claimed that it fights for the " under dog" who has no. one else to fight for him. The privates and other ranks in the Australian Imperial Force who were prisoners are justified in claiming a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day. Prisoners of war in Germany and other places periodically received Red Cross parcels, and perhaps were given once a month foods containing necessary vitamins. The first International Red Cross consignment to Selerang was a very small one; it arrived about eight months after the Australians had been made prisoners. Some of the supplies were in bulk, and across some of the boxes was written "Britain delivers the goods". The cigarette packets had impressed on them the "Y" sign for victory as well as the " dot-dot-dot-dash " signifying " V " in the morse code. At the Japanese were anxious to have some excuse for not giving the prisoners more food, they said that if any later consignments entering the camp had propaganda on the boxes they would not deliver them. Subsequently, they told the prisoners that further supplies of cigarettes had arrived, but they were not to be delivered because they were covered with propaganda. Therefore, the Australians cannot be blamed for having been short of food. The health of many of those men is impaired because they were not properly fed. If they were now given a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day they would be able tq improve their physical fitness and do a better job in civil life.

Mr Haylen - How many thousands are involved?

Mr. -TURNBULL.- Probably from 12,000 to .15,000 men. But if there were 100,000, that would be all the more reason for the payment of the subsistence allowance. So I urge the Government to make the payment. Any government which will not protect its protectors and defend its defenders, is a blot on the face of the earth. Some one had tq hold the Japanese back so that Australia might have a breathing space, and steps might be taken to prevent them from entering this country. An American song says, " Somebody had to be content with any old thing ". That was the experience of Australian prisoners of war in Japanese hands for three and a half years. Now, a Labour government, which should stand by the ranks, has the opportunity to do what is only just. After all, these men are entitled to this subsistence allowance, because they were not fed and clothed during their incarceration, and no doubt the Government budgeted for these amenities. Any man who went on leave in Melbourne was paid 3s. a day with which to buy food. As the Army, did not feed those who were in a prisoner-of-war camp, why should they also not receive it? The Minister should give the matter favorable consideration. Public opinion is behind this proposal, and every right-thinking Australian would applaud the payment.

Mr Falstein - Were they paid for the work that they did as prisoners of war, in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention?

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - Certainly not. If I offered to the honorable member for 3s. food for which I paid £127, he would not buy it, because he would not eat any of it; yet probably it kept me alive. Prisoners of war were paid only a mere pittance, from memory, I believe about $9 a month, and at one stage the price of coco-nuts was $25 each.

Much has been said in this Parliament in regard to the standardization of railway gauges. In common with many other members, I believe that before this work is undertaken the housing shortage should he overcome, and there should be an investigation of our- great waterways in order to ensure a larger production, because most of the land in this country, if given water, will grow anything. I am not opposed to the standardization of the railway gauges; but I consider that first things should come first. I drawattention to the. proposal for the construction of a link-line from Hay to Ouyen and thence to Adelaide which would establish the shortest possible rail route from Sydney to Adelaide. The route that it would traverse is much shorter than any other route between those two capital cities. A booklet published by the Ouyen Decentralization Committee states that the distance from Sydney to Adelaide is 1,073 miles via Melbourne, 1,035 miles via Broken Hill, and 872 miles via Hay and Ouyen. Construction would be easy if the last-mentioned route were chosen. Only a short length of line would need to be laid to link Hay with Ouyen. Such a line would be 150 miles shorter than a line via Broken Hill, and 200 miles shorter than the line via Melbourne. Furthermore, it would not pass over mountainous country, and thus much heavier loads could be carried on it. This is not merely a local ambition . of the citizens of Ouyen. A straight line drawn from Adelaide to Sydney would pass *20 miles to the north of Ouyen. A straight line drawn from Tailem Bend to Sydney would pass through the town of Ouyen. It happens that Ouyen is in the path of the shortest line from Sydney to Adelaide. The booklet of the Ouyen Decentralization Committee is most comprehensive, and by leave of the House I shall incorporate in" Hansard these passages from it-

Successful railway operation depends upon the economic conveyance of freight. To achieve this the routes should be plotted to avoid sharp curves and severe grades, and the tracks should be laid with heavy rails to enable the conveyance of high tonnage at fast speed. A line, which to an outstanding degree would conform to such specifications and prove a boon both to Australia and to the States it would traverse, is the proposed link from Patchewollock, in Victoria, via Ouyen, to Hay, New South Wales, covering a total distance of approximately 188 miles, of which some 160 miles would represent the span between Ouyen and Hay. More than half of such journey would bo across open plains. The balance is through. undulating country requiring neither costly cuttings nor imposing any expensive earthworks.

This route would branch from the main Sydney-Melbourne line at Junee Junction, continue along the existing connexion thence to Hay; link up with Ouyen by a new line to be constructed crossing the Mumimbidgee at Hay and, continuing on the south side of that river, fairly directly to Balranald until the Balranald-Echuca railway is crossed. It is suggested that the Murray should be spanned between its junction with the Mumimbidgee and the Wakool, and that the shortest route to Ouyen, via Kooloonong, Koimbo, and Kulwin, be adopted. From Ouyen the existing line through to Adelaide would be followed.

From Junee Junction to Tailem Bend, a distance of 499 miles, the grades generally are slight, and the nature of the terrain places little difficulty in the way of improving the few banks whose inclines require easing and which are to be found in those portions of this section already in operation. . Between Junee Junction and Tailem Bend the highest station is Rockview, 1,136 feet, and from there,' going westerly, the elevation drops to 576 feet at Narrandera in a distance of 50 miles. In » further 107 miles to Hay, the height sinks to 307 feet, and to 165 feet at Ouyen. Thence, in a distance of 84 miles to Pinnaroo, the line ascends to 350 feet at Walpeup, encountering several grades of 1 in 60. The first is through a hard hill on leaving Ouyen and easily can be cut down. The longest, at Walpeup, may be eliminated entirely by a

Ifr.7Vn.&«W. southerly deviation. The banks out of Torrita and Boinka respectively may, without difficulty, be lowered. This entire section may be converted to fast traffic at relatively little cost. In a further 86 miles from Pinnaroo the line drops by easy stages to an altitude of 68 feet at Tailem Bend.

Because there is an almost continuous fall from Junee Junction south-westerly, the matter of grades should be considered rather for eastbound traffic. Between Tailem Bend and Pinnaroo the most sustained ascent is 198 feet from Peake to Jabuk in seven miles; an easy climb and made the more so because of the length of the incline. Between Pinnaroo and. Ouyen the maximum grade is 1 in 60. Such banks are few and easily may be much improved. Between Ouyen and Hay the ascent would be 142 feet in 160 miles. More than half the distance is through open and almost level plain country, and the slight rises which exist are concentrated almost entirely in the 40 miles east from Ouyen. A maximum gradient of 1 in 1.00 should not be difficult to survey. From Hay to Narrandera, through open country, there is a further lift of 269 feet in 107 miles. That is a negligible obstacle to haulage. In the 61 miles from Narrandera to Junee Junction, the most sustained station-to-station pull is an overall climb of 480 fei,t in the 18* miles from Brushwood to Rockview (with several banks which lend, themselves to regrading) which is the most pronounced change in elevation throughout the entire 499 miles from Tailem Bend. This means that linking Hay with Ouyen will provide a new freight route between Adelaide and Sydney, 57 per cent, of which in one continuous section will traverse plain oi slightly undulating country with not one mountain range intervening. Obvious are the economies in fuel consumption.

The existing rail route from Sydney to Adelaide, via Melbourne, entails a journey of 1,073 miles. The section of it between Tailem Bend and Junee Junction passe? through very difficult railway country from Ballarat to Melbourne (73f miles), in which portion the through goods load for an A2 engine is 385 tons, and in which at Wallace the altitude is 1,940, and the rise from Bacchus Marsh to Ingliston is 1,170 feet in 13} miles! Such grades discourage goods haulage and, in practice, cause freight to be diverted to the longer route via Geelong. From Melbourne towards Sydney there is a climb of 1,145 feet to Heathcote Junction, only 33 miles out. Dropping to 534 feet at Albury, the rails reach 2,395 feet at Cullerin 157 miles from Sydney. This also would be the highest station on the route from Sydney to Adelaide via Hay and Ouyen, but the grades on the latter way are incomparably better.

Because of the difficult country encountered on the journey from Sydney to Adelaide, via Melbourne, goods traffic is being diverted via Broken Hill, which route is shown in green on the map. Although this line of 1,034^ miles effects a saving of merely 38 miles over the Adelaide-Melbourne-Sydney route (shown on the map in heavy black), it involves two breaks of gauge. That disability will vanish with standardization, hut although there is now but one break on the journey through Melbourne, many business men prefer said disability of the Broken Hill route on account of the " bottle-neck " delays in Melbourne. How much more may they be expected to prefer the northern (green) route to the southern (black) when there is no break of journey 1

The Hay-Ouyen connexion offers to both Sydney and Adelaide business men the immediate advantage of only one change of gauge plus a substantial curtailment of mileage. In addition, there need be no "bottleneck " anywhere between Junee Junction and Tailem Bend. At the former place considerable yard improvements have been effected recently with provision for modern methods for the rapid servicing of engines. Such aids to clipping of schedules will increase the value of the Hay-Ouyen-Adelaide line as a fast interstate freight route. It so happens that good marshalling yards already exist at Tailem Bend, and that in the flat open country there, ample space is available to cater for a very large expansion of rail freighting.

The Darling-Murrumbidgee-Murray basin offers to a Government anxious to repatriate nien on the land the logical choice of country suitable for intensive irrigation settlement. When that area is in full production it will have an enormous quantity of goods for export. The Murray parallels the line between Murray Bridge and Tailem Bend, and comes close to the station at the latter place. Thoughtfully Nature has provided that river substantially below the level of the track, yet invitingly easy for the discharge of merchandise from railway to steamer. When the tonnage from those irrigation areas exceeds the capacity of the line from Tailem Bend to Adelaide, a Murray port should despatch the surplus to overseas customers.

The Sydney-Broken Hill-Adelaide route compares unfavorably with the Hay-Ouyen line in the matter of handicaps to cheap haulage. 147 miles forward to Sydney the line attains I,fi70 feet at Gumbowie ; drops to 204 feet at Menindee; climbs only to 1,035 feet at Parkes 349 miles further on; but ascends to 999 feet higher in only 24 miles; drops to 633 feet lower in the next 14 miles; rises 1,577 feet higher to reach 2,978 elevation at Canobolas in only 30 miles; falls 823 feet lower in 54 miles to Bathurst, only to rise 1,348 feet in (il miles to attain the height of 3,503 feet at Newnes Junction, the loftiest platform between Adelaide and Sydney, and 1,108 feet higher than Cullerin, the peak station on the Adelaide-Melbourne-Sydney run.

It is not intended to disparage the Blue Mountains line which is, in fact, a very necessary and desirable link with Broken Hill, and also a, magnificent replacement of the cumbersome and costly zig-zag railway operating in the early year's of this century, but which, nevertheless, is not the best rail link between Sydney and Adelaide. Apart from the saving in .time, fuel, and distance by the Hay-Ouyen route, the journey through the Blue Mountains involves a haul of 3,406 feet (increase in elevation) in 39$ miles during which 3,142 feet difference in level has to be surmounted in only 31 miles 11 chains between Emu Plains and Leura! On the run from Sydney to Junee Junction, during the climb to Cullerin the most continuous ascent is from North Menangle to Bowral, a difference in elevation of 1,957 feet in 45 miles, and an average gradient of approximately 44 feet per mile. Contrast this with the average gradient of 101 feet per mile between Emu Plains and Leura.

If honorable members read this book they will agree that the route therein proposed is much' better than any other for a line directly connecting Sydney with Adelaide. On such a line tropical fruits could be carried from Queensland to Adelaide, without going through Melbourne with the consequent risk, of deterioration. Finally, I believe that such evidences of prosperity as are to be seen in the capital cities' at the present time are due chiefly to the spending of their deferred pay by servicemen, and. to the expenditure of money by government instrumentalities. Such prosperity is not soundly based. Primary production is the true basis of national prosperity, and only when that fact is generally realized and acted upon will the economy of the country be placed on a proper footing,

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