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Wednesday, 17 December 1941

Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) (Prime Minister) . - in reply - All of the observations made by honorable members who have just spoken will be seriously considered. In respect of the matter raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) I am confident that Queensland can produce more coal than that State consumes. However, the problem is one of distribution and transport. To whatever degree we may increase the production of coal in New South Wales, such coal would be available in that State only unless we can also increase shipping facilities for its distribution to Melbourne and Adelaide. Therefore the problem involves a review of factors other than simply the production of coal in Queensland for distribution in New South Wales and the production of coal in New South Wales for distribution in other States. It is a problem of shipping and transport generally. I have already reviewed this matter, and find it diffcult to see how we can resolve our shipping difficulties more effectively than is being done at present. The supply of Queensland coal for use on the Kyogle railway line would simply mean increasing stocks in New South Wales.

Tie matter raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) with respect to group insurance policies carrying a loading in the event of a holder of a policy dying outside of Australia and New Zealand, thus involving members pf the Australian Imperial Force, will be carefully considered. I am satisfied something should be done about it.

Several honorable members referred to what they described as a. lack of necessity to gazette, in the way in which it was gazetted, the regulation relating to trading after 6 p.m. That regulation was drawn in its present form in order to enable the Minister to exempt certain zones; but we hold that the proper authority to make a recommendation regarding the exemption of zones is the premier of the State concerned. Basically, this country, for some time at any rate, must learn to do with less night illumination. That is clear.

Mr Spender - Hear, hear !

Mr CURTIN - It is all very well to talk about such action being necessary in coastal areas only. In many instances, certain existing facilities make it extraordinarily difficult to decide what is a coastal town. I do not divulge information of use to the enemy when I point out that certain important centres in Australia are 200 or 300 miles inland. If those centres are to have anything in the way of night shopping light, with street illumination and probably some industrial activity going on as well, their location will be shown by a distant glow. Should there exist between the coast and those particular places certain lighting that could be avoided, we shall be failing to take the maximum degree of precaution.

Mr Anthony - The towns to which 1 referred are lit up at night irrespective of shopping nights. No blackout has been ordered. I am concerned about the closing of shops.

Mr CURTIN - The Government has made a pronouncement regarding what should be done, and it has gazetted regulations which involve a variety of factors. First, we wish to reduce the temptation to the public to congregate in the streets at night. We also desire to reduce the consumption of coal. In addition, we wish to reduce the expenditure by the public on these commodities. One might ask, "why do that?" The answer is that factories must work to produce these commodities; and we cannot be certain at present whether those factories should not concentrate on building up reserves, rather than that there should be a total consumption of such foods. Even in this great food-producing country there is hardly a commodity which does not require some container to permit of its distribution from centres of production to centres of consumption. Consequently, a great variety of factors must be taken into account in dealing with the consumptive facilities of a population which is distributed so widely as is the case in Australia. Late shopping does not apply to food shops, but all of the articles retailed by grocers and drapers require packing cases for their transmission from the centres of production. We must go carefully, for instance, in regard to nails. That is an extraordinary thing to have to say. However, the butter people are calling out for more nails for the construction of butter boxes and, at the same time, our war industries require for their purposes the basic material that is used in the manufacture of nails. This is only one instance of the need for a survey of basic materials which from now on must be conserved for the manufacture of war equipment. The Government has made its declaration, and is resolved to stick to it. That applies also to holidays. The Commonwealth Government can only lay down general policy. I realize that precisely the same conditions do not exist in every part of this country. What the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) says, for instance, is quite true. There are only six shops in certain country towns; and the honorable member says it would be reasonable to allow those six shops to carry on as usual. At the same time there may be only, say, eight or twelve shops in other towns. The question is then asked why we cannot allow eight shops to carry on when Ave allow six to carry on as usual in one town, and why Ave cannot allow twelve to carry on when we allow eight to carry on. We must draw. the line somewhere. We are either going to do this thing properly or not; and the Government is determined that, because the war is our first consideration, inconveniences which must arise from the inevitable anomalies involved in overnight revision of our social structure, must, so long as they are imperative, remain. Consequently, the Government intends to stand by what it has already done. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) said that we must not interfere with the usual and customary freedom of the people. With great respect I say to him that we cannot maintain the usual and customary freedom of the people unless we first make certain that this country shall be governed in the future by the people who now govern it. On that basis the maximum of precaution and organization that this Government can devise will be undertaken, and the Government will stand by its decisions. In any case, it is safer to take too much rather than insufficient caution.

The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) mentioned certain matters in relation to the Department of the Army, the Department of Munitions and the Department of the Interior. They cited specific cases, and I shall be glad to look into them.

The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) referred to the position of the primary producers, and mentioned articles that are in short supply. I can only repeat what I have said before, namely, that the Government is wholly conscious of the importance of the primary industries. We know that they are suffering because of our inability to get our products to the consuming countries. Where possible, certain adjustments are being made. As for the moratorium, honorable members will realize that that is a matter of major dimensions, but the views which they have expressed will be considered very carefully.

We have had to stop the practice of mixing kerosene with petrol, a practice which developed because of the restrictions imposed upon the use of petrol. Every gallon of kerosene imported necessarily took the place of a gallon of petrol, because both are brought to this country in the same sort of containers. We have had to stop the use of kerosene as a blend with petrol in order to con- -?

Mr Ryan - Can it not be made available for the harvesting of essential crops ?

Mr Beasley - We are doing that.

Mr CURTIN - The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) gave a general reply this afternoon regarding the effect on industry of the calling up of men for military service, and I refer those honorable members, who spoke on the subject to-night to the Minister's remarks.

I thank all honorable members, and particularly the Leader of the Opposition, for the assistance given to the Government in the work of Parliament yesterday and to-day. I do not feel in the mood to repeat the felicitations expressed prematurely a fortnight ago, but I do hope and pray that Christmas will be as good as we can make it; certainly, that it will not be so bad as our enemies seek to make it. 1 trust that, whatever the future, we shall face it with unstinted industry, undaunted valour, and unconquerable will.

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