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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 903

Mr POLLARD (Ballarat) .-I rise to right a wrong done by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) in his budget speech on Wednesday to a very great citizen and a courageous soldier, the Honorable Gordon Webber. The honorable member said -

Why should these fellows of 25 be suddenly jumped up into positions of authority? Why should they not be on active service? Gordon Webber, ex-member of the Legislative Assembly, was a tanner who, after going out of business, was appointed to the Milk Board, although all he knew about milk was his mother's milk, and I suppose he had forgotten about that long ago. Later, the Minister for War Organization of Industry appointed him to the Rationing Commission.

Notwithstanding the fact that he was married and was a member of theVictorian Parliament, Mr. Webber, during the last war, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and rendered distinguished service overseas. He was a Minister in three Labour governments.

He was subsequently appointed to the Melbourne Milk Board by the Duns tan Government, not by a Labour government. That is perhaps the best tribute that could be paid to him, for, asI remind the honorable member for Bendigo, Mr. Dunstan is a member of the party to which the honorable gentleman himself belongs. Mr. Webber has served the Milk Board with distinction. Recently he offered his services to the Department of Air through the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), and, when nothing was found for him to do, he offered himself to, and was accepted by, the Department of War Organization of Industry. He has been given leave of absence by the Milk Board with the consent of the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria, Mr. Hogan, who is also a member of the party to which the honorable member for Bendigo belongs. I hope that what I have said will serve to rectify the injustice that has been done to Mr. Webber, whose integrity and honesty cannot be questioned.

I should be the last to reflect upon the capacity, loyalty and good intentions of various members of this Parliament who are officers in the defence forces of this country, but the duality of positions appears to me to be altogether undesirable.

Mr Morgan - And unconstitutional.

Mr POLLARD - I do not know, and I am not concerned about that, but we have the spectacle of the honorable member for Bendigo, an eminent and distinguished soldier in the last war, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), equally eminent and equally distinguished, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), a captain, and Senator Foll, also a captain, all in uniform, and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), a lieutenantcolonel, but not in uniform; why, I do not know. Members of Parliament, in my opinion, should not don the King's uniform, unless they obtain leave of absence from their parliamentary duties, and do a full-time military job. Nobody can tell me that the honorable members and senator whom I have named can efficiently serve this Parliament and at the same time render efficient service to the armed forces. A member of the armed forces- is required to be on duty nil the time, unless he is a member of Parliament. The general elections are approaching and, no doubt, we shall find that these honorable gentlemen will be given leave from their military duties to take part in the campaign. The honorable member for Bendigo, except when he is attending Parliament, tours Victoria organizing the Volunteer Defence Corps. He meets constituents of mine and other honorable members in bis wanderings. Some of the boys in my electorate with Tory leanings will meet him and say, " What sort of a bird is Pollard ? " and he will reply, of course, Twopence a pound He is justified in expressing his opinion, but I am pointing out the dangers inherent in the system. I would not blame the honorable member for expressing his opinion, because he believes that my political views are a menace to Australia, with just as much force as I believe that his views are a menace to Australia. I admit that if I occupied the same position as the honorable member for Bendigo or the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), as a part-time member of Parliament and army officer, and if constituents asked me what I thought of General Rankin or Captain Harrison, I might reply, " Oh, he is not a bad sort of officer, but politically he is no good. Do not vote for him ". That would be unfair. No honorable member should be in a position to do that. I know the privates in the Army discuss politics. When I was a private, and also when I was an officer, I missed no opportunity to express my political views. But the state of affairs is much worse when members of this Parliament are in a position such as I have described. We have heard some talk to-night about Army efficiency and discipline, yet these honorable gentlemen are well over the recognized effective military age; they have grown old in the service of their country. I admit that they still have some standing with the troops and still have some administrative capacity. However, they could put their ability to much better use by obtaining leave of absence from Parliament and engaging in full-time service with the Army. Furthermore, it is not fair that officers who return from overseas physically unfit for further active service on account of wounds, should be kept out of administrative positions which they could fill probably better than these honorable gentlemen, because they understand modern military developments and tactics.

Mr Rankin - Does the honorable member believe that we do not know something about these things?

Mr POLLARD - There are plenty of men who fought in the war of 1914-1S, former colonels, captains, lieutenants and rankers, who are quite capable of doing the work of these honorable members and doing it full-time. Honorable members who hold positions in the armed services cannot do a full-time job for the Army and keep up with their parliamentary duties as well. The whole thing is absolute humbug, and we should say to these gentlemen, " The Parliament will grant you full-time leave for service in the Army. You must do one job ot the other ; you cannot do both ".

Mr Rankin - The people who framed the Constitution were not so narrowminded as the honorable member.

Mr POLLARD - But they did not know that they would have to deal with such a narrow-minded person as the honorable member for Bendigo.

I was interested to hear the remarks of other honorable gentlemen regarding the difficulties .of the dairying industry. I have had considerable experience of that industry, and I know that the dairyfanner has a hard life. The financial return for the work involved is not adequate, and something ought to be done to assist the industry. However, the members of this Government, unlike their predecessors, take action when action is needed, and I believe that the Minister for Commerce will do something in this connexion. The true picture of the dairying industry is not so black as it has been painted. I remind honorable gentlemen who have told such harrowing stories about the industry that, in the last six months, prices for dairy cows at the metropolitan market in Victoria have soared to high levels. Prices in provincial markets also have risen. If the industry were in such a perilous state as some honorable members opposite have said, this would not be the case. I do not say that nothing should be done for the industry, in fact, I hope that something will be done for it.

Mr.Rankin. - The milk producers are in a different position from the butter-fat producers.

Mr POLLARD - I do not believe that they are. In the Kyneton market, farmers are buying cows for butter-fat production, not for milk, so that argument can be ruled out. I hope that some protection will be given to employees on dairy farms. For too long they have been the working-class Cinderellas of this country. If the industry is to be adequately protected, I see no reason why some measure of protection should not be extended to these men.

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