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Thursday, 28 August 1941

Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) . - I should like to make a few observations regarding the activities of the Government. Much political propaganda has been indulged in with regard to the calling up of the women's army. It is hard to understand why, when the Government continues to talk of its great war activity, there is any necessity for the formation of a women's army, since there is a large number of unemployed men throughout Australia. If it be necessary to call up women so that they may do the work of men, something should be done simultaneously to solve the problem of unemployment. Does the Government intend to put women to work in order to enable employers of labour to get jobs done more cheaply than at present? Although men are told that they can obtain jobs in the country if they are prepared to leave their homes, there are no public works of a major character to which they can go. It has often been said that the great Australian Labour party has done much to destroy home life, but I contend that the widespread employment of women in various avenues where men were formerly employed would inevitably have a detrimental effect upon the home life of the community. I am afraid that we shall see an army of women employed on trams, trains and buses, and that their services will also be widely utilized on farms. Their services are already being requisitioned in the wool industry, and they are to be employed in harvesting operations in the agricultural areas. I fear that the Government intends to distribute women workers throughout the country districts. In many instances, the wives of unemployed men are asked to proceed to outlying parts of Australia, but I claim that married women should not be induced to leave their homes in the cities in order to work in the country. If the plight of the farmers is desperate, and there is urgent necessity for farm labour, I suggest that members of the Militia could be sent to various districts at harvest time in order to assist the farmers to take off their crops. In Great Britain, this expedient has been resorted to, and in a short period the necessary harvest work has been accomplished. I do not suggest that this work should be done in Australia by members of the Militia Forces at the Army rate of pay. They should receive the basic wage while engaged in taking off the farmers' crops. The women do not know what they are being called up for, and the men fear that women will continue to hold men's jobs when the war is over. I am afraid that many men will have an experience similar to that of those who returned after the last war and were unable to find employment.

The people of Sydney have to pay 4d. each for good apples although throughout the fruit-growing districts, apples are left rotting on the ground. The price of potatoes has been fixed at £16 a ton, but at Guyra, in New South Wales, the potato-growers have found it unprofitable to dig their crops. I happen to know a lady who paid men to dig potatoes, and although she had a good crop, the incidental expenses, such as the price of bags and the cost of carting and digging, were so great that she lost £150 on the transaction. In that district, hundreds of acres of potatoes have been left in the ground, although the price has been fixed at £16 a ton.

Senator McBride - That is the maximum price.

Senator AMOUR - I have read in the newspapers that it is the fixed price and only a temporary one.

Under the National .Security Regulations, the Government has established an intelligence force, as a sort of police force. The head of the organization was formerly private secretary to Sir Alfred Davidson, chairman of directors of the Bank of New South Wales. Among others associated with the force are Colonel Longfield Lloyd, Captain Cohen and members of the staff of the Bank of New South Wales. Each State has a police force and a criminal investigation branch, whilst there is also a Commonwealth police force, and a Commonwealth Investigation Branch, in addition to Navy and Army intelligence services. Therefore, I see no necessity whatever for the formation of the latest force. When the public is aware of its establishment, I feel sure that many protests will be heard. This body is intended to stand over the Commonwealth and State police forces. If the police forces and the intelligence staffs already established have not sufficient ability to do the work required of them, they should be replaced, but we should not set up a Gestapo in Australia.

When the Air Board decided to conduct a recruiting campaign and issued posters relating to the calling up df men required for the Air Force, it enlisted the services of men for a variety of tasks. Among others, it called up storemen, who were prepared to serve either in Australia or overseas, but many of these men now find themselves dumped in various depots in Australia. Much to their regret, a number of them are at the Waterloo Stores Depot, and they have had to do the work of wharf labourers. Paints have been dumped at the stores and the men have had to shift them to the wharfs. Althoughthese men enlisted for service in the Air Force, they now find themselves to be worse off than "Menzies' penguins ".

Senator Collett - Why are they called penguins?

Senator AMOUR - Because they never fly. On Monday of this week a new order was promulgated. These boys are required to do guard duty, and it may happen that on three days a week they serve in that capacity from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and then continue working until 9.30 p.m. Those conditions are far inferior to those prescribed by the waterside workers' award. I do not know whether, in an attempt to get even cheaper labour, similar conditions will apply to women. I do not believe that honorable senators opposite stand for that sort of thing. It is a. matter which should be investigated, and the person responsible for it should be put out of the service.

In carrying out its war effort Australia has found it necessary to place certain officers in control of the Army. We had as General Officer Commanding Eastern Command, Lieutenant-General Miles, but recently Major-General Wynter was brought back from the Middle East because of ill health. I regret the cause of his return, because I understand that he is an excellent officer. Major-General Wynter has been appointed General Officer Commanding Training Operations, Eastern Command. If he is well enough to be employed, his place isat the front.

Senator McBride - Men who are returned on account of ill health generally get well again after some time in Australia.

Senator AMOUR - The position at the moment is that there are two men holding the position of General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command.

Senator Collett - No.

Senator AMOUR - Is not Major General Wynter, General Officer Commanding Training Operations, Eastern Command ?

Senator Collett - Yes.

Senator AMOUR - Then what does the other General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command, do? A man who occupies the position of General Officer Commanding Eastern Command should have the ability to carry out the duties of that office.

Senator Collett - He must have a staff.

Senator AMOUR - The authorities have brought back to Australia Lieutenant-General Mackay who is to be General Officer Commanding Australia. That means that we shall have in New South Wales a General Officer Commanding Eastern Command ; a General Officer Commanding Training Operations, Eastern Command; and a General Officer Commanding, Australia.

SenatorFoll. - Lieutenant-General Mackay will not confine his operations to New South Wales.

Senator AMOUR - The biggest part of his work will be in New South Wales. There are more men in military uniforms moving from place to place in Australia than are to be found in Great Britain. There are sufficient officers in Australia to control the whole of the British Expeditionary Force.

Senator McBride - Nonsense !

Senator AMOUR - The Minister knows that the authorities find difficulty in finding places for so many military officers. He may be interested to know that many of these men are not friendly towards the Government. I have heard people say that a man looks better in uniform than in civilian clothes, but there is no necessity to put every man who gallivants around Australia in uniform in order that he may look well dressed. I have no objection to the appointment of army generals, or other officers capable of training men as soldiers, provided that they are either medically unfit for active service or are over the age for service overseas. Apart from men within those categories, there should be no other men in uniform in Australia. If some of these men were deprived of their uniforms there would he a different story to tell. I cannot see any reason why some men who have been able to secure jobs as clerks in, say, the District Finance Office, should be in uniform. Of course I realize that, being in uniform, they are entitled to be addressed as " Major " or "Colonel" instead of "Mister". But probably the worst thing that has happened is that Major-General " Bertie " Lloyd has been allowed to continue his activities.

Senator Foll - He is a very brilliant soldier.

Senator AMOUR -. - He is also a very brilliant Fascist, as is also Major de Groot.

Senator Foll - Does the honorable senator refer to the man who opened the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

Senator AMOUR - I refer to the fanatic who was placed in a mental asylum, but is now in charge of a battalion of men at Parramatta.

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