7th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That leave of absence for the remainder of the session he Riven to the honorable member for New England, the honorable member for Fremantle, the honorable member for Ballarat, and the honorable member for North Sydney, absent from the Commonwealth with the Australian ImperialExpeditionary Forces.
Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to standing order 25, laid upon the tablehis warrant nominating Mr. Atkinson. Mr. Bamford, and Mr. Charlton to act as temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways taken over from Mr. Balsillie two rain -stimulating plants, and, if so, at what cost ?
– The plants have not been taken over, butthey have been ordered. They will cost approximately £400 each, and their annual upkeep will be from £400 to £450 each.
Mr.RODGERS.- Will the Prime Minister confer with the Central Wool Committee with a view to the reconsideration of the basis of values for merino and crossbred wools, so that the benefits of the valuation of the coming wool clip may be spread over a wider range of flocks? I may explain that during a panicky sale of wool at Geelong prior to the taking over of the wool by the Commonwealth, one special type of wool rose to the top price. Under present arrangements it may be kept there for two years running, although in normal times the vagaries of trade and fashion have’ the effect of displacing one wool with another in favour of growers alternately.
– The question is too complex to answer offhand, but I shall ascertain how far it may be possible, consistently with the principles on which the- pool is based, to do what the honorable member asks.
– “When will the Prime Minister take steps to prohibit the importation of luxuries, and how far. does he intend to go in that direction?
– The matter is receiving the careful consideration of the Government, but its ramifications are so extensive that it is not to be determined without duo, consideration of the effects of, prohibition in all quarters. It would be foolish, and even suicidal, to shut out, by a sort of. guillotine procedure, goods which are essential to the industrial life of the nation, and, although it is a minor matter, there is also the question of revenue to be considered in relation to the industrial and national welfare. Above all, we must keep in mind the effect on shipping of the prohibition of a not inconsiderable body of imports. The word’ “ luxuries “ has now a very wide meaning. If we take action which will divert shipping from these shores, we’ shall be in the unfortunate position of having no means for exporting our products. The Government will be guided primarily by the need for encouraging Australian production, and will do all that, can be done to that end. It is considering this matter, from every point of view, and its policy in regard thereto will be announced shortly.
Employment op RETIRED Civil Police.
– On Thursday last, the honorable member for Dalley asked’ a question relating to the employment of retired civil police at the German Concentration Camp at Holsworthy. I am now informed that there are four of these retired officers employed at the camp, and that they will be replaced by returned soldiers who are suitable.
– -Is the Prime Minister . yet in a position to make a statement regarding the inclusion of Australians in the exchange of prisoners proposed between the German and British Governments?
– When the honorable member put the question to me the other day, I fell into the error that apparently misled him, and assumed that the British prisoners under consideration did not include . Australians. That is not so, . The word “ British “ is to be taken to include Australians, Canadians, Africanders, and all other members of the Empire. There is therefore no need for action in the matter.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to give a reply to the telegrams I brought under his notice a few days ago regarding the importation of apples from America?
– Through the telephone on Thursday the honorable member asked me whether the Government were considering the prohibition of the importation of apples. The only answer I can give at this juncture is that the matter is receiving the most serious consideration of the Government. >
– In view of the fact that all cold storage space for meat is already taken, does the Prime Minister consider it advisable to consult the British Government with a view to liberating some of the meat in the cold stores for the benefit of Australian consumers 1
– The liberation of meat at present held in cold storage would not help the community at all. While there is plenty of fresh meat to be had, why should the people of Australia get their supplies out of. the cold stores?
– They are being charged exorbitant prices. .
– That is an entirely different matter. If I liberate the meat that is held in cold stores, will the honorable member say that the gentlemen who own the meat .will sell it any cheaper than the prices they are charging to-day? The Government are confronted with two facts: firstly, that the cold stores are full; and, secondly, that the supply of insulated tonnage is so limited that practically the cold stores must remain in that condition. In that impasse we, shall continue. Of course, it is a simple thing for the Australian people to eat meat out of the cold stores, but they will not do that when they can get fresh meat. If we are to interfere in this matter at all, why should we not fix the price of fresh meat?
– In view of the fact that the Government’s policy in reference to imports is dictated, not, as it was in England, by a desire to restrict import tonnage to the carriage of munitions and food, but rather to encourage thrift amongst the Australian people, does the Prime Minister propose to restrict the subsequent manufacture in Australia of the articles the importation of which he prohibits ?
– That is one of the phases of this problem with which the Government is confronted. The more one looks into this question, the more complex and difficult it becomes. At first sight nothing is more simple than to cut the Gordian knot with a sword, but its ramifications are such that one seems to be cutting into the very ganglia of the economic life of the country, and we must proceed with the utmost caution.
– What are the intentions of the Department of the Navy in reference to the construction of the cruiser Adelaide?
– We intend to proceed with the work at the earliest possible moment. I think we shall make a commencement very shortly.
– Last session I asked the Assistant Minister for Defence whether the Government were prepared to close up the stadiums. Has the honorable gentleman given the question the consideration he promised, and if so, will he tell the House what the Government’s intentions are ?
– The matter is being considered at the present time in connexion with the regulation, of sport generally.
– I have received a telegram from Rockhampton as follows: -
Reported here that post-office, after two more mails, will refuse to accept parcels for soldiers.
Will the Postmaster-General say whether that statement is correct?
– If the honorable member will hand me the telegram I will investigate the matter, and give him an answer later. On the spur of the moment I cannot say whether the statement is true or not.
– Does the Treasurer intend to ask the public at an early date to subscribe to a new war loan, or will he persevere with, the issue of war-savings certificates ?
– In the opinion of the Treasury the two things are distinct.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriations for’ the purposes of the following Bills:-
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - .
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 3. The Commonwealth Government, except as a constituent of the Australian Wheat Board, has not any agents in connexion with the Wheat Pool. The following are the names and addresses of the houses constituting the selling agency of the Australian Wheat Board, both in Australia and the United Kingdom, for the purposes of the realization overseas of Australian wheat: - James Bell and Co., Melbourne (represented in London by A. W. Walker and Co.) ; Dalgety and Co. Ltd., London; John Darling and Son, Adelaide; Louis Dreyfus and Co., Paris. 2 and 4. The amount payable to the selling agency in respect of wheat shipped to 30th June, 1917, is approximately £106,300. The Australian Wheat Board is not concerned as to the allocation between the houses of such remuneration. 1
Absence without Leave : Dependants’ Pensions : Week - end Leave : QUARTERMASTER-SERGEANT Ozanne.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether portion of sub-section (a) of the War Pensions Act 1916, which is as follows: - “Dependant means (a) the wife or widow of a person, ot the widowed mother of an unmarried son, who is or has been a member of the Forces whose death or incapacity results from his employment in connexion with warlike operations “ - includes all soldiers who have died or become incapacitated during the period of their service, either arising from injuries during active service or sickness in camp?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows . -
Yes - provided the soldier’s death or incapacity resulted from his employment in connexion with warlike operations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Having regard to the regulation granting to members of the Australian Imperial Force in camp evening leave on two nights a week, and week-end leave from half-past 1 p.m. on Saturday until Sunday at midnight, whereby members living in the suburbs of Melbourne can visit their homes on each occasion of such leave, will he grant leave to members of the Forces who reside in country districts for three whole days (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday) at least once in every three weeks, to enable them to visit their homes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The grant of week-end leave as suggested, at short intervals, once in every three weeks, is not practicable, as it would seriously interfere with the training of the troops, which must necessarily be the paramount consideration.
Prior to embarkation for active service, every man is granted sufficient final leave to permit of his having two clear days at home.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister allow week-end leave every three weeks to New South Wales troops now training in Seymour and other Victorian Camps?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is not considered practicable to grant week-end leave to members of the Australian Imperial Force concentrated in Victoria from New South Wales, for the reason that a similar privilege would have to be granted to soldiers from other States, and such leave would seriously interfere with the training of the troops. All such men were granted final leave before being sent to Victoria for concentration and final training before embarkation. They obtain the same week-end leave as other soldiers, namely, from Saturday, 1 p.m., to Sunday night, 12 p.m., and in cases where family circumstances are distressing additional leave is granted, each application being considered on its merits. The thorough training of the troops cannot be effected if men are 1 allowed additional leave to that which is now authorized.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice- -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The first Board consisted of Lieut.-Colonel A. Honman, President; Major S. G. L. Catchlove and Major J. K. Richards, members.
The second Board consisted of Lieut.-Colonel A. H. Sturdee, President; Major G. Nicholls, member.
Colonel Syme reported as follows: - “I have examined QuartermasterSergeant Ozanne. His left thigh and leg are larger than the right, as shown by measurements at different levels, approximately the difference is about 1 inch. There is slight oedema and pitting on pressure over the joint of the lower part of the left leg. He gives a history of having had typhoid fever in November, 1914, followed by swelling of the left lower limb. He has had a thrombosis of the left femoral vein, the effects of which are still present, and are likely to remain permanently, and to be made worse by active service. He also has a slight enlargement of the left spermatic veins, but hardly amounts to a definite varicocele. Captain Foster, who originally operated on his nose at No. 5 Australian General Hospital, in April, 1916, for a deviated septum, has re-examined QuartermasterSergeant Ozanne’s nose, and reports that his septum is satisfactory, the nasal passages free, with no adhesions, but he as a mild chronic pharyngitis (report hereunder) - “ In my opinion QuartermasterSergeant Ozanne is permanently medically unfit for active service abroad, _ but is quite fit to earn his living, and his capacity for earning a full living in the general labour market is not at all diminished by any condition arising as the result of his military service in the Australian Imperial Force.”
Captain Foster, A.A.M.C., stated that - “ Quartermaster-Sergeant Ozanne was operated on by me about twelve months ago to relieve nasal obstructions due to an old fracture. The left nostril was, prior to operation, completely obstructed. The result of operation was good, in that nasal obstruction was relieved. “ On examination this morning, I find that nasal passages are clear. “ There is now present a condition of chronic catarrhal pharyngitis, but this would not in itself unfit him for service.”
As there are certain considerations involved on which information has not been asked, but which are linked up with the honorable member’s question, the Minister for Defence proposes to lay a copy of the papers in the matter on the table of the House to-morrow.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether there is any limit to the amount any person, firm, or company may invest in war savings certificates?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Tes. No person, firm, or company is entitled to purchase certificates of a greater nominal value than £1,000.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Break of Gauge
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What was the total amount received by the Administrator of the Northern Territory for travelling expenses for the years 1915-16 and 1916-17?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: - 1915-16, £178 10s.; 1916-17, £682 10s.
MP. HIGGS asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that Rockhampton is the seaport of a district producing more than 60 per cent, of the wool clip, the Government will ask the Wool Board to re-consider the question of the appointment of Rockhampton as a wool-appraising centre?
– The Central Wool Committee will be asked to report as to wool-appraising centres for the 1917-18 clip.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the principle of preference to unionists, subject to first preference to returned soldiers, still pertain in Government Departments where clerical assistants are required?
– Yes, but in practice the application of the Government’s policy of preference of employment to returned soldiers will, as increasing numbers of soldiers return and offer themselves for employment, materially affect’ its operation.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are. -
Presence of Military Band
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he state by whose orders, and for what purpose, a military band played for some time outside the main polling booth in Brisbane on the day of the recent Federal general election ?
– The Military Band which played outside the Town Hall, Brisbane, on 5th May last, was used by the Recruiting Committee for recruiting purposes. This band played outside the enlisting depot, and not the polling booth. .
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as foi* low : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Certain information has been received from the British Government’ in reply to our inquiries relating to this company, to the effect that the British Imperial Oil Company was a British company, and that there were no reasons why it should not be treated as such. .
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed - That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable Bills dealing with (1) Wheat Storage; (2) Unlawful Associations; (3) Bailways Construction and Management; (4) Public Service; (5) Naturalization; and (6) War-time Profits Tax Assessment, to be proceeded with through their several preliminary stages forthwith, up to, and inclusive of the moving of the second reading of each of the said Bills.
– I have ascertained that there is an absolute majority of the members of the House present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. The object of this Bill is to provide for the erection of permanent silos for the storage of wheat. I wish to state shortly the position as it exists, and which seems to the Government to call for the provision of these structures. Honorable members have been already informed that, as a result, on the one hand, of the shortage of shipping, and, on the other hand, of abnormal harvests* we have now in this country somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3,500,000 tons of wheat), most of which is from the 1916-17 crop, but some from the 1915-16 crop. Most of this wheat has been sold to the British Government, but is held at our risk until the 31st December of this year, and thereafter at the risk of the British Government, subject to the exercise on our part,” as bailees, of that ordinary care which bailees are supposed to exercise over the property of others. This wheat is worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of £30,000,000. It is well known that, owing to the depredations of mice and weevil, a considerable amount of wheat has suffered deterioration, and some of it has been destroyed.
I wish to point out very shortly the relation between the present method of storage in sheds, roofed over with galvanized iron, and walled with bagging reinforced, sometimes, with netting, and the bulk handling of wheat, as distinguished from the conservation of the grain. The proposal I have the honour to present to the House has no necessary relation to bulkhandling; it would be equally called for if the question of bulk-handling had never been considered. The problem we have to solve is how best to conserve an asset which is now valued at something like £30,000,000, and which by next February will, probably, owing to the new crop, be worth nearly £50,000,000. We have to consider this tremendous asset in relation to the facilities we have, or can probably secure, for exporting wheat to oversea markets. I explained the other day, in the general statement I made to -the House on the shipping question, what were the prospects of transport overseas. I said that the amount of tonnage available had been gradually decreasing, and that the position had become most serious. The Government are confronted with the fact that they have to deal with 3,500,000 tons of wheat, plus, at a conservative estimate, 2,000,000 or, possibly, 3,000,000 tons by the end of next February, and that, allowing for a fair efflux of wheat during the interval, we shall then have between 5,000,000 and 6;000,000 tons of wheat on our hands. Speaking generally, that is from four to six times as , much wheat as we ever held in this country before at any one time. Clearly, therefore, methods that formerly served are insufficient now.
I wish to turn now to -the question’ of storage, and to consider it on its merits, apart from the circumstances in which we are placed, although these circumstances are, in themselves, such as to distinguish this country from any other in relation to such a proposal. Every country that produces grain in any quantities, as, for example, the United States of America- and Canada, has resorted to the erection of permanent silos. A distinction has to be drawn, and I draw it at once, between Australia and Canada or the United States of America, that, owing to our drier atmosphere, the tendency towards weevil arising out of excess moisture is less here than elsewhere. That, of course, is a matter on which Australia is to be congratulated. This condition applies, however, only to certain parts of Australia, and does not apply to the sea coast. It may be said, on the other hand, that wheat has been kept at Williamstown for a very considerable period, apparently, without weevil being generated, but however that may be in this particular case, this exception is not general. It may even be that there is something other than mere humidity responsible for the generation of this insect pest. One thing is certain : we cannot sib down and contemplate the destruction of £50,000,000 worth of wheat. We must do something ; and, guided by the experience of all other nations, we proceed to the erection of these permanent structures, in which wheat may be kept for an indefinite period. In this relation I desire to direct the attention of honorable members to another phase of this most important question, which has a direct bearing on the industrial life of this country. The British Government were approached a little while ago and asked if they would take a portion of our 3,500,000 tons of wheat in flour, and they agreed to do so. When this information was given to the mill-owners they said they were prepared to work the mills three shifts in order to deal with the extra demand. Unfortunately almost immediately afterwards the supply of shipping fell off, and wo were unable to find the necessary freight. That had a direct bearing on the milling industry, and the shutting down of many flour mills is now- threatened. I am informed that flour will not keep in ordinary storage more than six or eight months. I do not express any definite opinion as to how long it will keep when put into bags and placed in a silo. But it may be taken for granted that iti will keep longer in silos than in ordinary storage.
The proposition to construct silos must be considered in relation to the storing, not only of wheat, but also of flour. If we can make our wheat into flour. we shall give employment by keeping our mills going, maintain a supply of offal, and thus provide tin abundance of cheap food for stock, and at the same time reduce the space needed for export on sh.’<~board by anything from 25 to 33 per cent.
The Government have considered this question of wheat storage carefully, both generally and in relation to bulk handling. Very much may be said in favour of bulk handling, and perhaps almost as much against it, and I am not to be understood as committing myself now to bulk handling. Undeniably, bulk handling has been adopted in all the great wheat-producing countries of the world, although it is not therefore necessarily suited to our present requirements; but our position is such as to call for special treatment. We have to store wheat which we cannot yet send away. This wheat belongs to us, we having received payment for the greater part of it, and although the risk in respect of it will pass to the British’ Government on -the 1st day of January next, we shall have to deliver the-, wheat in good order and condition. We should show ourselves ill fitted to manage the affairs of this great country if we, were to permit £50,000,000 of wheat to deteriorate and were thus to slam the door in the face of the only customer who can buy our next season’s crop. I should not caro to take the responsibility of endeavouring to sell the next wheat crop if our customer were to be treated in that way. No private firm would treat a client in such a way, and we must not do it. That is the purely commercial aspect of the matter. lb is one of great importance. But there is the national aspect, and this is of infinitely greater importance. We must remember that without this wheat the armies of Great Britain and the Allies will be most seriously handicapped.
I ask honorable members to look at the proposal broadly, and not to direct on iti merely the kind of criticism which, under ordinary circumstances, it might invite. I hope to show before, sitting down thats iti is based on sound commercial foundations, and that it is such as would recommend itself to any body of business men. I repeat that what we now propose has no necessary relation ,to a bulk-handling scheme, though the silos will be erected at such places and of such a design that, should bulk handling come to be adopted, they would form part of the scheme. There is no way in which we could provide for the storing of our wheat more effectively and cheaply than that now proposed, even should bulk-handling of wheat never come to be adopted. It is proposed under this Bill to provide for the storage of one-third of our norma] crop, or, roughly, for about 49,000,000 bushels. Those who may object that that is insufficient should remember that there are districts possessing so dry a climate that wheat may be stored there almost indefinitely, if precautions are taken against the devastation of mice. Scientists assert that weevil will not generate in wheat which has a moisture of less than 10 per cent., and our wheat normally does not contain that quantity. Wheat has been stored in some parts of the country for two years without weevil .being generated in it.
Honorable members are asked to direct their attention to these salient points of the scheme. We have to store our wheat. The storage will have to be provided for, even if the bulk-handling scheme never comes to be adopted. The Government is not committed to (the bulk-handling scheme, and I express no opinion about it. But we are compelled to face the problem .of wheat storage in respect of wheat which belongs to us, the legal responsibility for which will pass to Great Britain on the 31st December, and, of course, the new season’s crop, which may run from 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 tons, has also to be considered. Great Britain has bought last season’s wheat, and it alone can buy next season’s crop. The wheat is needed to feed Great Britain and her Allies, and it is the business of Australia to see that it is delivered in good order and condition as and when ships can be sent here to take it away. The silos are. to contain in the aggregate nearly 50,000,000 bushels, and are to be erected at the seaports and in different parte of the country, at points convenient for transport by rail and discharge into ships. They are to be constructed of a uniform design, at a uniform price, and the charge to be debited against the wheat stored is to be fixed at so much per bushel per annum. It is proposed to create a Commission, whose members will be a representative of the Commonwealth Government and a representative of the Government of each State in which silos are erected. The Commission will determine, as honorable members will see by referring to clause 7, the design of silo to be adopted generally, or the particular design to be adopted in any particular place; the number of silos to be erected, the places where they are to be erected, the .cost of each, and the cost per bushel to be charged for storing wheat therein; and it will arrange with the Governments of the respective States for the construction and erection of silos by, or under the supervIsIon of, the proper authorities of those States. The .Commonwealth Government will, through its representative and its right of veto over expenditure, supervise the whole matter. The Commonwealth’s control over the expenditure is plenary. It will lend moneys to the State Governments, which will construct the silos to the . design approved by the Commission, either directly or through the agency of the contractor. The Commonwealth Government is the financier; the State Governments will carry out the work, and will pay us interest on the money borrowed, at a rate to be fixed, which will be that which we pay for the money. It is proposed to debit the wheat with a charge sufficient to create a sinking fund that will extinguish the liability in . ten years, and ithas been calculated that a charge of £d. per bushel per month on the wheat stored will do this, but as the charge will be debited against not only the wheat stored, but all the wheat, and as we propose to store only one-third of the crop, it will be one twenty-fourth of a penny per bushel per month.
The question of wheat storage was referred to a Wheat Storage Commission, on which were represented the States of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales and the Commonwealth. The report of the Commission was issued on the 20th June last. The Ministers of the several States and experts were present. They made certain recommendations, and with the exception of ite recommendation that the capacity of the silos should be 50,000 bushels, the recommendations were adopted in their entirety.
– Were the experts wheat men ?
– The names of the Ministers who sat on the Commission were Senator Russell, Mr. W. T. Graham, Mr. H. McKenzie, and Mr. C. Goode. The experts were Mr. J. H. Butters, an engineer of the Tasmanian Government; Mr. J. Frazer, Chief Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales; Mr. F. W. Box, Engineer-in-Chief in Victoria; and Mr. Graham Stewart, EngineerinChief in South Australia.
It has been estimated that the amount of money necessary for this scheme will be £2,858,333, and the Bill provides for the appropriation of a sum not. exceeding £2,850,000. The measure is to be regarded as a war measure, as it properly is. The money will be advanced to the States, and the Commonwealth will have the right to veto all expenditure. The Commission, upon which the Commonwealth has representation of course, will determine the sites, cost, and design of the silos, and will be able to insure their expeditious construction. The guarantee of repayment is on the same plane as ordinary transactions between the States and the Commonwealth. The States incur a liability, and they are to meet it as agreed upon between the parties.
– What do the Government propose to do for the protection of the wheat which is not stored in silos ?
– I have tried to explain that owing to the happy circumstances of this country a certain . proportion of our wheat can be stacked in dry districts almost indefinitely. A certain proportion cannot be, and we must have enough wheat at the seaboard and on the railways in order to be able to ship it as transport becomes available. As regards the wheat stacked under present conditions, I should like to say that, made wiser by experience, I do not think the mice problem need be regarded as insuperable. The weevil, however, is. a problem of a different character, and is not to be solved so. easily. Still we have the assurance of scientists that the weevil cannot develop where there is less than 10 per cent), of moisture, and that with the arrangements contemplated under this scheme the conditions favorable to the generation of this pest will not exist.
I should just like to make a brief reference to the position of the States. As honorable members know, the control of the wheat pool has been in the hands of the Australian Wheat Board, which is composed of representatives of the four wheat-producing States and the Commonwealth. The Commission to which I have referred was appointed as a result of a .recommendation by the Wheat Board, and with the approval of the Commonwealth Government. Some of the wheat-producing States are not in agreement as to the details of this scheme, and one of them now disagrees as to the principle of permanent storage. No useful purpose can be served by going into the details of those differences at this stage. We have the authority of the wheatproducing States, with the exception of Western Australia, to proceed with the scheme. At any rate the Commonwealth is doing its part in the matter. If the States are unable to agree, somebody must do the work, and the only authority that can do it is the Commonwealth. I should be most reluctant for the Commonwealth to accept this great responsibility, but, after all, there is a responsibility. The work must be done, and men must be saved in spite of themselves. This expenditure of £2,850,000,. spread over the tremendous asset it will cover, which will be £50,000,000 in February next, and over the aggregate value of the wheat crops of the next ten years is really an insignificant amount. At any rae, it is a premium for an insurance against risk; it is a necessary corollary of our Wheat Pool. It is impossible to finance wheat crops which we cannot ship unless we can preserve in good condition the asset on which the money is advanced. It is an essential part, too, of our policy for the vigorous prosecution of the war that we should, on our part, do all things necessary to conserve this invaluable asset, without which Britain and our Allies will be most grievously handicapped.
I commend the measure to the House, and trust that it will be adopted. I shall be glad to supply any further information that may be considered necessary, but I ask honorable members to treat the Bill as an urgent national measure. Certainly not even by the most vivid imagination can it be regarded as a party measure. It is one which possibly may involve Commonwealth action as opposed to State action, but in that matter, I take it, honorable members will not find opportunity for party differences. I do not say for a moment that honorable members may not suggest amendments. If any amendment tending to promote the smoother working of the scheme is put forward we shall welcome it, but I invite honorable members to proceed to the discussion of the Bill in that spirit of recognition of our national needs which the circumstances demand.
.- I think we shall all hail this measure as one of great urgency and as absolutely necessary in order to preserve our wheat. The explanation of it which the Prime Minister has given will meet with general agreement. But it appears to me that, in one respect, the provision which the Government proposes to make is inadequate in this exceptional period. The Prime Minister proposes to provide silos for the storage of one-third” of the normal Australian crop, and yet he has told us that we are likely to have the whole of the last crop purchased by the Imperial Government on our hands at the end of the -year. In other words, we shall have approximately 6,000,000 tons of wheat in Australia, and if the scheme provides silos for only one-third of the normal crop, probably at the end of the year there will be 5,000,000 tons of wheat for which there will be no storage accommodation whatever. The scheme which has been outlined by the Prime Minister is based on estimates which have been framed from time to time by various Commissions that have dealt with the question of the bulk handling of wheat in Australia. All these Commissions have told us that the proper thing to do is to provide for silo storage to the extent of about one-third of the normal year’s wheat crop. With sufficient shipping to take away the grain, we will need, in normal years, storage accommodation at the seaboard to the extent of one-third of the year’s crop. We can cordially support the scheme put forward, not only because of the peculiar circumstances of the war that have forced it upon
Australia, but also because it will be the foundation of a bulk-handling scheme which would, in any case, have had to be introduced in the Commonwealth before very long.
The farmers will be prepared to pay whatever charges are necessary for keeping in good order that wheat which has already been purchased by the Imperial Government, and for making provision for the new crop that is coming in; but I hope that, side by side with this scheme, the. Government will see that the administration of the wheat pool next year will not bring about a repetition of the conditions that we have had this year. The silos that are to be built will be filled mostly by the wheat already purchased by the Imperial Government, and this will mean that next year’s crop will need to be stacked at the railway stations close to where it is grown, or brought to the seaboard and stacked in bags, as it is at present. It is a question whether larger storage facilities should not be provided to enable the great bulk of the proposed new season’s grain .to be poured into stores at a very much cheaper rate than is now, and which, at the same time, will conserve most of the wheat already stacked until it can be taken away. I regard and support the present proposal as only a step towards the handling of the large quantities of wheat that will be required to be stored until shipping can take them away. If the proposal were merely to make ‘provision to deal with the balance of the two pools already waiting to be taken away, the House would hardly be justified in undertaking the expenditure in connexion with it, because of its inadequacy, but the expenditure can be justified when the scheme is considered as being a step towards the bulk handling of wheat in Australia.
– Have you any evidence as to the way in which wheat has been carried overseas in bulk ?
– Considerable investigation has been made in the wheatgrowing States in Australia as to the advisability of bulk handling of wheat. As thePrime Minister has already said, the bulk of the wheat grown in the world is sent long distances, such as from the Argentine, the United States of America, Canada, India, and part of Russia. The great proportion of the wheat from those countries is handled in bulk, and, as faras we can learn, it carries well.
– How long is it on the water from those countries?
– From about half to three-quarters of the time the wheat would be in transit from Australia to Europe. I do not know that there has been any proper test of the bulk shipment of wheat from Australia. We have had evidence that, in the case of one ship’s cargo from New South Wales, there was a little trace of sweating, but there has been no proper experiment such as would justify us in saying that wheat cannot be shipped in bulk to Europe less advantageously than from the other countries that I have named. The Prime Minister has said that arguments can be raised against the bulk handling of wheat almost as weighty as those which can be advanced in favour of it. I have given the question a close study, and I have read the reports of experts and various Commis sions that have taken evidence in full upon the question. In my opinion, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of bulk handling, as compared with the carrying of wheat in bags. In Canada the wheat is very much more humid than the grain grown in Australia, and it has to be carried over the railway lines in large quantities, as has to be done in Australia. The export from Canada is certainly greater than that of Australia, but not so much greater as to show any great disparity in the conditions of the two countries. As I have already said, the bulk-handling scheme has been adopted in the United States of America., Canada, India, and part of Russia, and in no instance has any country which has adopted it reverted to hag handling.
– On the other hand, they are not enthusiastic in regard to bulk handling.
– At any rate, they are continuing its use. I have seen no evidence to show that where it has been adopted their faith in the efficacy of the system has been shaken.
– Why is it that there are very few places in the United Kingdom where provision is made for receiving wheat in bulk ?
– One of the latest reports on this matter is that of Metcalfe and Barnard, as well as other official reports.
– Do not quote Metcalfe and Barmard, who came out there with thousands of pounds to splash about in order to get the bulk-handling system adopted by the Australian States.
– Their report was reviewed by the Victorian Railways Commissioners, who some time previously had reported against the bulk-handling scheme, and they declared that the report generally was one upon which reliance could be placed. According to this report, provision is made for receiving bulk cargoes of wheat at London, Liverpool, Birkenhead, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leith, Manchester, and Cardiff. Similar provision is madeat Marseilles and Bordeaux, in France, and at Belgian and Dutch ports. Sometimes the wheat received in bulk is bagged on arrival, and at other times it is discharged into barges, which are taken to the flour mills, which have their own elevators, and lift the wheat from the barges by pneumatic pumps.
Our maximum Australian crop was that of the 1915-16 season, when about 179,000,000 bushels of wheat were garnered. If we could have got all that wheat away our export would have been greater than that of Canada. I think that it will be easy to adapt the bulkhandling system to Australian conditions. There are certain differences between the conditions of Australia and America. Most of our wheat is taken off by the stripper or harvester, a very small portion being cut by the reaper and binder and ultimately threshed by a threshing machine. If we adopt the bulkhandling system, we will not only have a better crop, but we will also be relieved of considerable labour difficulties. Under the present system there are strikes at the dumps, where the wheat has to be handled in and out of therailway trucks, and at the ships’ sides. The use of elevating machinery controlled by skilled labour earning high rates of pay will relieve us of much’ of this danger from industrial disputes, while at the same time the general cost of handling will be lowered by about four-fifths. The lumping of wheat bags into ships’ holds, which is not the best class of work that men should be engaged in, will also be avoided.
I understand that a petition has been sent down by some wheat-growers of South Australia asking honorable members to oppose the bulk-handling scheme. When honorable members rise to speak upon this matter I hope that they will not be influenced by such things, but that they will use their judgment after the fullest investigation into the merits of bulk handling.
Another important matter is the question of the cost of cornsacks. Australia spent from £1,250,000 to £1,500,000 last year on cornsacks. Under the proposed bulk-handling system the sacks, especially if they be of superior quality, could probably be used for four or five years. This scheme, unlike those adopted in other , countries, will not call for an alteration in the whole system of harvesting the grain and transporting it by waggons to the nearest railway stations. Under it we shall continue the use of bags. The wheat will be bagged and conveyed’ on waggons to the railway stations, where the mouths of the bags can be readily cut open and the wheat poured into the silos erected there. From the silos the wheat will he loaded into trucks and carried in bulk to the sea-board. One of the most potential means for the destruction of bags is the dumping that takes place while they are being filled at the winnowers.
– Will not this system, necessitate new railway rolling-stock?
-Not at all. The trucks employed on the Victorian railways could be adapted to the purpose of this scheme at a cost of a few thousands of pounds.
– That is not so.
– I recognise that the honorable member is an authority on many subjects, but on this I prefer to take the report of the Victorian Railways Commissioners. In Victoria - and the conditions operating here do not differ widely from those prevailing in other parts of the continent - the adoption of this system will lead to a great saving of time, because, in the first place, it will not be necessary to sew up the bags. They will simply be tied at the mouth, taken by means of waggons to the various railway stations, and emptied into the elevators there. The wheat will, in due course,be loaded into the trucks, in bulk, from the elevators, carried to the seaside, and transferred by pneumatic machinery from the trucks into the silos, and thence into the ships. The saving of time effected, as well as the saving in the use of bags, which must result from the adoption of the bulk-handling system, will probably represent upwards of £1,000,000 per annum. The system will tend also to an improved sample, and should make for more expedition in the handling of the wheat. It should likewise make for cheapness, not only in conveying the wheat in bulk on our railways, but for a saving in shipping freights.
– Would the vessels coming here be prepared to take wheat in bulk?
– In other wheatgrowing countries, where wheat is handled in bulk, no difficulty has been experienced in that regard, and surely the vessels coming to Australia would be no less enterprising than they are in respect of the grain carried from other parts of the world. What they are prepared to do elsewhere they will do here. The adoption of this system would lead also to economy in wharfage space, and the great saving of time in connexion with the loading of ships would lead also to a reduction in the wharfage fees that are paid under the present bagging system.
I think that, apart from any question of laying the foundation of the bulkhandling scheme, the Prime Minister’s proposal is one that can well receive the support of the House. If it were part of a general scheme to store the whole of the wheat, and to conserve it until it can be taken away, then I should say that it was quite inadequate for the purpose. The criticism that I have to level at this scheme is that it has been adapted almost wholly from the recommendations made by various Commissions which have sat in Australia, and which have reported on a system of bulk-handling under normal conditions of wheat-growing and wheat transport. These Commissions have stated that in such circumstances provision must be made for a storage capacity equal to about one-third of the season’s crop, and their recommendations have been based upon the assumption that there would be no lack of vessels to take away our supplies. If the wheat could be removed overseas at reasonable intervals, as it would be under normal conditions, then a storage capacity equal to one-third of the season’s crop would be all that was reasonably necessary to enable the system to work smoothly.
Mr.Rodgers. - Did the Prime Minister intimate whether or not it was intended to have a dual system in operation for the time being?
– No. The Prime Minister regards this as an absolutely necessary war-time scheme apart altogether from any consideration as to whether it should form part of a general scheme for the bulk-handling of wheat. He stated that it was to be quite distinct. It is to be equal to about one-third of a normal year’s crop, and is to provide storage for the wheat purchased by the British Government, which we have to hand over in good condition on 1st January next, as well as for the next season’s crop.
I hope that, in connexion with this scheme, the Government will takeinto consideration the necessity of going into the whole question of the administration of the Wheat Pool. If this proposal is to represent the total storage to be provided by the Government in respect of the crop purchased by the Imperial authorities, as well as for the crop to be harvested at the end of this year, then it seems to me that it willbe absolutely necessary to stack the whole of next year’s crop at the railway sidings, just as was done last year. If that is to be the position, we should, at once, so perfect our administration of the Wheat Pool as to enable the wheat to be preserved from the ravages of mice and weather. The question of making provision for next year’s crop, as well as for the balance of the crop of 1915-16, also involves the guarantee which the Government are to give our wheat-growers in respect of next year’s crop and that of the following year. In some quarters there has been an agitation to secure a reduction in the normal price of wheat, so as to enable the consumers to obtain cheaper bread. I hope that every representative of a rural constituency will strenuously oppose any attempt to reduce the price of wheat below its par or normal level. In the early stages of the WheatPool, as a matter of fact, the price of wheat came down several pence below the par price, and that was at a time when the shortage of shipping was not as great as it is to-day. Calculations which have been made by wheatgrowers and organizations of farmers, with experience to guide them, go to show that under present conditions it is impossible to grow wheat, even with a fair crop, for less than 4s. a bushel.
– I do not adopt that calculation.
– I am merely statingthe conclusion which has been arrived at by representative organizations. We are all aware that the farmer to-day has to pay a largely increased price for his machinery, as compared with the rate ruling in previous years,, This is largely due to the substantial increase in the cost of the raw materials. In addition to that, the price of cornsacks has largely increased, railway freights are to be raised, and farming requirements generally are dearer than ever. These costs are enormously higher now than they have been during the last four years. During the last few years wages have likewise increased to the extent of about one-third.
– In the last few weeks.
– In some instances wages have been doubled. The wages of wheat-stackers, for example, have been increased by fully one-third, and in some cases their claims have been quite impossible. If the Government, by adopting the price-fixing policy advocated in certain quarters, are going to bring down the price of wheat below what might be regarded as the normal value, it will tend only to put land out of cultivation. It is a well-known fact that schemes adopted in different parts of the world for the purpose of unduly reducing prices, have, in the ultimate result, served only to increase prices by reducing the area put under cultivation. The experiment has been tried in Germany with ghastly and disastrous results. The people of Great Britain are profiting by the experience of some of the Continental countries. The authorities there declare that, in seeking to encourage an increase in primary production, their first consideration must be to secure for such production a paying price. Unless that be secured, land will go but of cultivation. Price-fixing at a rate below that which might be called the normal value is sure to bring about a reaction in this country, as it has done in every country where the experiment has been tried.
– The farmers say that 4s. per bushel will pay.
– 4s. 9d. a bushel here in Melbourne means 4s. a bushel on the farm. Calculations made by organizations of farmers fix, as a cost price, 4s. per bushel on the farm, in Victoria, and 4s. 3d. per bushel in New South Wales. The farmers of Australia are prepared loyally to do their best to help the Empire. They are anxious to do their utmost to provide foodstuffs for the people of the Empire and the allied forces; but, after all; human nature is human nature, and if the price of wheat be reduced below what is a paying level, they will naturally turn their attention to grazing and to other uses to which their land may be put. In order to illustrate the necessity for the careful handling of this question, I would point out that in Victoria during the last four years the population of our agricultural districts has been reduced to the extent of 7,000 or 8,000. The tendency is to drive people out’ of the rural districts, and to centralize population in Melbourne. We must do nothing to intensify the evils of centralization and to lessen the production that is necessary, not only while the war continues, but after the war is over. We need have no fear, if we can preserve the wheats but that it will be taken rapidly, and we do not know how soon. We are relying on American and British genius to devise some means of dealing with the submarine menace; and at any time we may fmd that the engineers and inventors of these nations in combination are able to successfully cope with the problem and release our shipping. The Prime Minister told us .to-day that the Allies rely very largely on Australian production for the feeding of their populations; and we have it, probably on the authority of Mr. Lloyd George, that the only two nations that can to any large extent supply the wheat necessary are Canada and Australia. Canada, of course, is very much closer to the older countries, and her supplies can be obtained much more readily ; but the amount for export from that country is very limited, even more so now than in normal years.
It will be seen that, we have a double duty and responsibility. We have the responsibility to grow as much as possible, and get all available wheat in the stores for shipment as soon as opportunity offers, and, in the meantime, it is our duty to preserve the wheat from destruction so that we may be able to afford the fullest help to the Motherland and her Allies. To sum up, the Bill before us is. justified, if only on account of bulkhandling, which I regard as part of a great scheme to be further developed in the future, and because, as I say, it is our ‘ duty to store our wheat and keep it free, from the ravages of insect pests, rodents, and other deterioration. And I think that before the session is closed iti will benecessary to make much greater provision in order to preserve the wheat now at the seaside.
I am glad the Government have taken an opportunity to introduce this Bill ab an early date; and I only hope that, at the same time, some very drastic conditions will be imposed on the industrial side, so that the transport may not, as in ( the past, be held up, mostly through the instrumentality of “ walking delegates.”Many of the stackers in the wheatgrowing area of Australia would have gone on working contentedly, and have had the wheat moved ait a very much earlier date, but for the operations of these “ walking delegates,” who, to my own knowledge, have gone to stacks and poisoned the minds of men who were peacefully carrying on /their work, perfectly contented with wages that were considered reasonable on both sides. By the efforts of the “walking delegates” reluctant men have been brought out on strike, thus causing not, only serious loss to themselves in wages, but national loss representing many thousands of pounds. There are some honorable members to whom it appears a very little matter that valuable foodstuffs should be destroyed to this enormous extent so long as the trade organizations are being built up. I therefore hope that the Government, while taking care that the ravages of mice, and so forth, are provided against, will formulate drastic regulations to prevent “walking delegates” interfering with men whose only desire is to peacefully carry on their work. If such steps are taken we shall, by means of this Bill, do a great national service. I give my cordial support to the Bill, not only because it will afford relief to the extent of the storage provided by the silos, bub also because it is , the first instalment of a general scheme of bulk handling, which, I believe, should be, and will be before many years are over, the common method adopted in the wheatgrowing States of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera, in his desire, no doubt, to have his speech reprinted and circulated by means of the various newspapers in his electorate, so as to show the farmers that he is anxious to see the workmen paid as little as possible
– He did not say that.
– That is his desire, and also the desire of the honorable member who interjects. In order to fix on what he terms the “walking delegates” the responsibility for strikes that have taken place, the honorable member for Wimmera allowed himself to make -a violent attack on a body of men who are as honorable as any other section of the community. These men are elected by the various unions as organizers; and, as I happen to know some of them, I can say that, in my opinion, they are more honorable than some of the persons who “criticise them. If the Government think that these men are doing an injury, there is ample power, not only to pass legislation, but to gaol every one of them, if so desired, under the War Precautions Act. It will be seen, therefore, that if there is any blame in the matter it is not attached to these men, but to the Government, though I do not admit that there is any wrong-doing.
– We did not for one moment, imagine that you would. The honorable member, apparently, -is an apologist for these men who go about interfering with others, whose desire is to peacefully carry on their work.
– I have always heard the sweater denounce any man who tries to improve the conditions of the worker; and that remark apparently fits the honorable member. In his desire to employ men at sweating wages, and to keep them at work the greatest possible number of hours, until they are scarcely able to stand up, he objects to any body of men who seek to organize-
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I must ask the House to allow an honorable member the privilege, to which he is entitled, of being heard in silence.- An occasional interjection is sometimes permissible, but frequent interjections cannot be allowed; and it is particularly disorderly to persist in interjecting in the middle of a sentence.
– I rise to a point of order. I call attention to the fact that the honorable member for Yarra has de-, scribed me as a sweater, and I should like to know if that is in accordance with parliamentary procedure. If it is not, I ask that the word be withdrawn.
-The honorable member for Wimmera complains of an imputation contained in a word used by the honorable member for Yarra, and I ask the latter to withdraw the word.
– Certainly I withdraw the word. I am content to allow the honorable member’s speech to speak for itself, showing, as it does, a desire on his part that union organizers who speak for any body of men should be, as he says, dealt with by the Government.
As to the Bill itself, I am very sorry that the report that the Prime Minister made available to me to-day has not been printed and circulated amongst honorable members, because I think the Prime Minister unwittingly has made one or two errors. The right honorable gentleman stated here that the cost of storage will be one-eighth of a penny per bushel per annum, whereas the report distinctly says that the cost will be one-eighth of a penny per bushel per month. The report goes on to say that, with the growth of the normal crop the rate is likely to decrease, but still the Commissioners are satisfied that a charge of one farthing per bushel should be made on the storage provided. It is further said that this charge does not include handling, which is a separate consideration, and that the Commissioners are of opinion that the charge should not exceed one farthing in the first instance, and one-eighth of a penny on subsequent handling that may be found necessary <
I am in favor of the Government getting through their business as quickly as possible ; but, in my opinion, the Prime Minister would have been better advised to have postponed the debate on tha second reading of this Bill, and brought the other measures foreshadowed up to the same stage.
In the monthly summary of Australian statistics for last May, Mr. Knibbs gives figures showing the production of wheat for the eight years 1909-17, omitting the drought year 1914-15. Taking the five years 1909-14, we learn that the average production was 19,000,000 bushels, and that what is required for consumption and for seed in Australia is 37,000,000 or 38,000,000 bushels.
– Is the value given ?
Mr.TUDOR.- No, but we find the value f.o.b. to be about 4s. per bushel. Eliminating the drought year, we find that in 1915-16 we produced 179,000,000 bushels, and that in 1916-17 the production was 151,000,000 bushels, or an average of 165,000,000 bushels. Deducting the 38,000,000 bushels for consumption and seed wheat, this means that we had 127,000,000 bushels, or 3,400,000 tons per annum in those two years. Furthermore, the net tonnage available on the average between 1906 and 1914 was only about 4,500,000 tons, and we were sending away about 1,000,000 tons of coal and about 250,000 tons of wool, so that, even in normal years, there would not have been sufficient tonnage to move the last two harvests. In the two years in which our harvest has been the largest there has been the smallest quantity of tonnage available for the export of wheat. I personally am in favour of the erection of the proposed silos. It is possible, however, that some of the States may stand out of the proposed arrangement, and take advantage of the veto clause.
– No; they are not going to dothat.
– I am glad to hear it.
What would happen after a State had paid the cost of erecting the silos? Suppose ‘that eight silos were erected’ in Victoria, eight in South Australia, eight in New South Wales, and eight in Western Australia, and that Victoria paid the cost of erecting those put up in this State, I presume that she would then have complete control of those silos. The farmers risk nothing in respect of the wheat at present held by the pool, which, until the end of Decembernext, isat the risk of the Commonwealth. While our wheat is of so much importance to us, I do not know that it is of so much importance to the people of other countries as we may be inclined to think it. France, for instance, last year, after two years of fighting, produced more wheat than we produced in Australia.
– There are 40,000,000 persons thereto eatthat wheat.
– I hope that France is not in sore straits for lack of our wheat, and I cannot help wondering how that country is getting on, if our wheat is of so much importance to her as we have been led to suppose, seeing that we have not been able to send it overseas..
– France is getting wheat from Canada and America.
– Yes, though the wheat harvest in those countries has been a comparative failure. A matter that con-“ corns the representatives of wheatproducing constituencies is the probable cost of freight after the war. In 1913it cost about 7d. per bushel, or a little over£1 per ton - there being 37 bushels to the ton - to sendwheat from (Australiato Great Britain. We do not know what is being paid now.
– At the present time the rate of freight is no concern of the farmer.
– It will not be his concern while the pool “ remains in existence, but if, two or three years after the war, the rate is as high as 2s. a bushel, it will matter to him very greatly, because the average price of wheat in London, faking a number of years into consideration was less than 4s. a bushel.
– We shall be able to send our produce away as flour.
– The price of wheat governs the price of flour. I have no objection to the proposed expenditure, but it is possible that much of it may be useless after the war. An amount of 49,000,000 bushels would provide for the consumption of Australia for nearly two years, and as we have droughts periodically, it might be wise to make some such provision, though even in the worst drought years we were not greatly to the bad, the production of wheat in 1901-1902 being 38,000,000 bushels, and in 1914-1915 24,000,000 bushels.
– Ten million bushels are needed for seed.
– From 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 bushels are needed for seed, and 26,000,000 bushels for gristing. It is possible that during the year after the war the freight on wheat may be 3s. a bushel, declining to 2s. 6d. a bushel in the next year, and to 2s. a bushel in the third year. I doubt whether it would pay to. grow wheat for export with a freight like that
– The price of wheat in London is governed by the rate of freight. If freight from Australia to
London were 3s., it would still pay to grow wheat here.
– Yes, if we were the only growers of wheat; but we are not. In 1914 the United States of America produced 891,000,000 bushels of wheat.
– There is a population of 110,000,000 persons there.
– Yes, and 51/2 bushels of wheat are needed for each consumer. In that year the United States of America had about 400,000,000 bushels to export.
– That country would not have so much wheat to export unless there were a carry-over. Six hundred million bushels are required to feed her own people.
– Each year the United States of America is becoming less and less a wheat-exporting country.
– Yes, and in the last two years we have had our biggest harvests, the average being 60 per cent. over our previous record harvest. The position of the Government would have been easier had those harvests only been equal to the average of five years. I know what the difficulty was, being the Minister who had most to do with the matter. When we had the largest harvest, we had the smallest tonnage for exporting it. I know what the Prime Minister proposes in regard to ship building. It would be well to see whether the building of ships cannot be accelerated to provide for the exportation of wheat and fruit. A freight of 2s. per bushel would be equivalent to nearly1/2d. per lb., and it is doubtful whether we could afford to pay so high a freight as that.
– We shall have 6,000,000 tons of wheat, which will not be worth1/2d. per bushel unless we do export it.
– There may be 6,000,000 tons of wheat available, taking the 1917-18 harvest into consideration, but we are making provision for the storage of only 500,000 tons.
– For the stonage of onethird of a normal harvest.
– For the storage, not of one-third of a normal harvest, but onethird of the average of two years of record harvest, which I hope will be the future normal harvest. Ihope that the Bill will be carried, and that the States will fall into line and provide silos. The storage of wheat in this manner will have a good effect in steadying the price to consumers in drought years. That in itself will be a very important benefit, because we know that, inprevious years, although wheat was being shipped away, but for the action of the Government in removing the duty off wheat and other provisions, the people would have been paying excessive prices. I am not sure that it is right that, notwithstanding an abnormal price, the people in Australia should be paying the present high prices, simply because a war is in progress on the other side of the world.
– That applies to meat and sugar also.
– It applies not so much to sugar, because we do not export that commodity.
– We shall have to export sugar, because we are producing 80,000 tons more than we can use.
– That will be the first year in which the export of sugar has been necessary. We have been a wheatexporting country for years, but Australia has always been a sugar-importing country. As regards wheat, meat, butter, and other products, it is doubtful whether the Government should say to the people of Australia, “ We will store these commodities, and allow them to be eaten by mice and weevils, rather than supply them cheaply to you.”
– Of course, that is not so.
– It is so. On the average, the Australian people are paying more for all these commodities than they should beasked to pay.
– How do Australian prices compare with those in the Old Country?
– I am not talking of the Old Country. The people in Australia who produce these commodities are receiving, in some cases, nearly 100 per cent. more than they were getting in pre-war times, and they are charging higher prices to the wives and mothers of men who have gone from Australia to fight their battle.
– That does not apply to wheat.
– Of course it applies to wheat. A few years before the war the farmers got 2s. 6d. per bushel for their wheat, and the average price was from 3s. to 3s. 6d. per bushel for several years. Eliminating the quantity required for seed, and which the farmers themselves hold back, 26.000,000 bushels is required for local consumption. That represents only about one-sixth of the quantity produced last year, and it would be infinitely better that the Australian consumers should get) their wheat and flour at a fair price than that it should be destroyed by mice and weevils.
– Can that be done ?
– It can be done. The Wheat Pool can arrange to sell to the local consumer at the average price for the three years preceding the outbreak of war.
– Who will lose by that arrangement?
– The general public are paying the piper to-day. The regulation of prices in this way would apply to only about one-sixth of the total production. I have looked at this question from the Australian stand-point. I have considered how the farmer will be affected if high freights continue after the war, and I have asked myself the question whether the Wheat Pool would not be justified in reducing the price of wheat to the Australian consumer.
– That would help the farmer a good deal, would it not?
– It would give to the Australian consumer an opportunity to get the wheat at a fair price. I have not the slightest doubt the Government supporters will quote my speech for the purpose of obtaining votes for themselves. They will not quote it in industrial centres in which the people would benefit by the regulation of prices as I suggest.
– It is only fair to add that in one industry affected b- the war prices the workers obtained an extra £4.000,000 by one award.
– No doubt there is a great temptation to deal with the industrial conditions when discussing this Bill. I might quote the words used by the Prime Minister in his case for the referenda. On that occasion he showed that sets of workers, after obtaining awards, were prevented from getting justiceby injunctions and other processes. I could show how newspapers in Melbourne evaded an award directly it was given. One newspaper is constantly telling the workers that they should obey every award of the Court, but immediately an award was given which affected it the proprietors commenced to sack their men.
– To which paper are you referring ?
– The Argus. This has been done during the last three months. Other newspapers have given notice to men who have been permanently employed by them for years.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Wimmera went into the industrial aspect, and I am only mentioning things which I could deal with were I to succumb to the same temptation. I doubt whether the statement of the honorable member for Wannon is correct, that one set of workers has received an addition to its wages to the extent of £4,000,000 as the result of an award. However, I have no desire to pursue this matter any further. I trust that as a result of the passing of this Bill we shall have in operation a scheme that will assist, not only the farmer, but also the Australian consumer by making wheat and flour available to him at a cheaper price than he pays at present.
Debate (by leave) adjourned until a later hour.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an
Act to amend the Unlawful Associations Act
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will recollect that just prior to the introduction of the parent Act in 1916 an organization known as the Industrial Workers of the World had committed a series of organized crimes, including the lighting of fires in the different capital cities, the forging and uttering of bank notes, conspiracy and even murder. The purpose of the original measure was to declare such organizations illegal, and provide the necessary authority to deal with them. Experience has shown that the law then enacted is insufficient to enable us to cope with this great menace to society. There is abundant evidence that the Industrial Workers of the World are still very actively at work in Australia, and it is necessary that steps be taken forthwith to deal with. them. This Bill is a proposal to enable the Government to do so. The literature of this organization is still being widely disseminated, and instils its poison into the minds of thousands. The association is controlled by an inner council, and the members themselves are ignorant of those who rule them. Honorable members will recall the fact that when I introduced the principal Act I outlined the “history of the Industrial Workers of the World both in Australia and in the place of their origin, the United States of America. A large proportion of the members are foreigners. They are the scourings of society; they are a curse to this and to every other country, and I am very glad to think that the majority of them are not Australians. Honorable members will know very well that the United States of America - under industrial, social, and even national provocation, perhaps the most patient of nations - has been compelled to take drastic action. It has sent some 8,000 of these bearers of the torch of reform upon their travels, and they are spreading abroad the good tidings in the sparsely-populated desert sands where their doctrines are calculated to meet with the reception which they so richly deserve.
– Critchley Parker has joined them.
– If the honorable member wishes a discussion on Critchley Parker and his antidote I am willing to join him in placing them on one pedestal, so that we can all have a hit at them. Let the honorable member hurl his bombs at Critchley Parker, and I mine against his antidote. The members of the Industrial Workers of the World are not to be regarded as voicing, in any sense of the word, the aspirations of organized labour. They came into being to betray organized labour. Originally they were “blacklegs” of the worst type, and that fact is branded on their very souls. There is no union in the Commonwealth in which they have not been a curse. “ They do not recognise discipline ; they will not recognise any authority, not even of the union. They will have their own way, and if the union does not bow the knee, everybody in it, including the officials, is covered by the infamy of their accusations.
They have declared open war against society. We must take up that challenge. We propose to do so. The great weapon’ of this organization is sabotage, which, put plainly, is destruction, the organized destruction of the means whereby society lives-. It is war against society. Although sabotage, in its very nature, is_ directed against the inanimate, the operations of this organization do not stop there, but wage war against human beings as well1 as against machinery. I say nothing now against its poisonous and infamousdoctrine of “go slow “ - except this: If organized labour in this country is to come into its heritage, it must root this doctrine out at all hazards. Turning for a moment to this question 1 of sabotage, I quotefrom Chunks of I.W.W.’ism, published in New Zealand -
The term “ sabotage “ is used to describe all those tactics, .save the boycott and the strike proper, which are used by workers to wring concessions from their employers by inflicting losses upon them through the stopping or slowing down of industry, turning out poor product, &c.
Emile Pouget, in his Sabotage, says -
If you are a machinist it will be easy, with two cents’ worth of emery dust, or even with a little sand, to clog your machine, and cause loss of time and costly repairs to the boss. If you are a cabinetmaker, nothing will be easier than to deteriorate a piece of furniture without your boss noticing it at first sight. A tailor does not have to think long how to’ spoil a suit or a piece of cloth. A store clerk or salesman, with a skilful stain on clothes and other articles of wearing will provoke their sale a3 damaged and imperfect. A farm hand could once in a while make a mistake with hig hoe or scythe, or sow bad seeds in the fields, and so on.
And carried into practice these gentlemen spread abroad their “ gospel of good tidings “ by setting haystacks on fire, sinking steamers, destroying property, and threatening to destroy in this country an industry which has been coddled from the beginning by this very Parliament, and which is one of the main expressions of. our great White Australia policy.
This organization is going on now, and flourishing. It boasts openly that its organ has a wide circulation, and that money is coming in freely. It finds its dupes among the unthinking. They, for. the most part, are no more cognisant of the real purpose of this organization than the bulk of the community, and are not to be regarded as real participants in these infamous projects. I acquit them entirely from those charges which I level against the organization as such, hut there is an inner council of men who, designedly, are making war against society. Against them we declare war. As to the dupes, we bid them, now that the truth is made manifest, to withdraw while there is yet time, from the organization and become useful citizens. I quote again from Emile Pouget -
In fine, we can say of sabotage what has been said of all tactics and all weapons - the end justifies the means. It is just in obedience to this irresistible necessity that the carmen of Lyons some years ago poured cement into the tracks of the switches, thus preventing the circulation of the tramways manned by scabs.
Then he goes on to say -
Sabotage is war upon society.
I quote once more from Chunks of I.W.W.’ism-
The Industrial Workers of the World consider parliamentary action on the part of the workers as unnecessary, and, therefore, an absolute waste of time and energy. . . . The class holding economic power can disregard all laws.
If that is not a challenge, what is? -
Hence, whatever law may be written on the statute-book, no matter who guided the pen, Socialists or otherwise, the class holding economic power can laugh it to scorn. Yea, though a vast army of police and military stand ready to enforce the law, the class possessing economic power holds even them hard and fast, and can starve them into subjection. The ballotbox is useless in the fight for freedom. Everything depends on organized might and the determination to assert it.
What is this but anarchy stalking naked and unashamed through the land? Is there any man in this chamber, representing the people, who can defend it for one moment? He may have ideas that some persons have been treated unjustly in a trial, but is any man here ready to say that this doctrine itself is not destructive of the very principles of, not only Liberty and Democracy, upon which we stand as a Parliament and a country, but of Socialism also? There is not one principle around which a free people can entwine itself, and on which it can stand permanently, that is not menaced by this organization. Here is a publication printed bythe Industrial Workers of the World, in Sydney, and entitled, Industrial Efficiency and its Antidote. I ask honorable members to note these words. Industrial efficiency isshe means whereby alone we can save this country, but these gentlemen boast that they provide an antidote for it. Is there any one who will stand up for this antidote? If there is, let us see him. What is the antidote ?
The antidote to industrial efficiency is an immediate agitation for a shorter work day, combined with the intelligent adoption of “ ca’ canny” and other methods of sabotage on the job. Scientific management must be met by scientific sabotage.
What do the people of the country say to that assertion? After the electors of Australia have declared in a constitutional manner that they will be governed in a certain way, and have approved of a national policy, compatible at once with Democracy and our present circumstances, is it to be contended for a moment that a band of irresponsible and desperate men can threaten and dictate to the nation, defeat the ends of justice, flout the will of the majority of the people, and ruin the whole fabric of organized society ? No. I venture to say that if organized labour were polled to-morrow - I say nothing of the country - it would vote for any measure that would wipe out this infamous organization.
I turn now to the Bill. It proposes to clothe the Government with certain powers. Section 3 of the principal Act is as follows : -
The following are hereby declared to be unlawful associations, namely -
It is proposed to amend that! section by clause 2 of the Bill, by adding this subsection -
Gazette, declares to be, in his opinion, an unlawful association within the meaning of the last preceding paragraph.
That is to say, any association which, by its constitution or propaganda, advocates or encourages or incites to or instigates the taking or endangering ofhuman life or the destruction or injury of property becomes ipso facto an unlawful association.
The Bill provides that whoever becomes a member of an unlawful association, or after the expiration of one mon,th from the commencement of this Bill continues to be a member of an unlawful association, shall be guilty of an offence, and be liable to imprisonment for six months.
Section 6 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words “ not being a natural-born British subject born in Australia”; and
In section 6 it is provided that any person not being a natural-born British subject born in Australia, who is convicted of an offence under sections 4 and 5,- shall be liable, in addition to the punishment imposed upon him for the offence, to be deported from the Commonwealth. The Bill is intended to extend this provision to cover the further offences provided for in the measure. It is not proposed to deport Australian bom.
– The Bill will give you power to deport, them.
– Not Australian born. If there is any doubt upon the matter I will make it quite clear when we are in Committee. The only amendment made by the Bill of the Act is that the person accused must satisfy the Attorney-General that he is a natural-born British subject, born in Australia. It is merely putting the onus on him to prove that he has been born in Australia - which he ought to be able .to do easily enough. ‘ I do not think that there can be any reasonable objection taken to that provision.
The Bill makes it an offence against the Act to contribute money or goods to an unlawful association, or to receive or solicit subscriptions or contributions either in money or goods for an unlawful association. One of the means by which this disinterested band of reformers proceed on their way is by instituting raffles for the relief of those patriotic persons who were imprisoned for endeavouring to set Sydney in. flames. They organize a raffle, and, by representations to the State Attorney-General, obtain permission to do so, probably on the ground that the proceeds are to be devoted to the relief of the wives and families of these men. They tell the public, in whose interest, of course, they are sleepless in their efforts, that they propose to give them a perfectly good piano, worth £88 or thereabouts, for ls. And then they conspire with one another to buy a perfectly useless piano, fake it up, and unload it on the poor unfortunate who draws the winning ticket. Of such is the kingdom of the Industrial Workers of the World. Unfortunately for them, this scheme went agley, owing to the fact that the gentleman who drew the winning ticket said he would rather have the money. There are now “ wigs on the green,” I understand, as the money, I assume, has gone the way of all moneys in such circumstances, ‘ and there are very few tunes to be got out of the piano. I would be the last man in the world to deport the perpetrator of an amusing swindle of that kind. Anybody who goes in for raffles must expect to be raffled. I put forward this illustration only to show that these regenerators of mankind are just common cheats, and descend even to the depth of cheating each other.
Under the Bill .power is given to prevent the circulation of any book, periodical, pamphlet, handbill, poster, or newspaper issued by or on behalf or in the interests of any unlawful association, and to seize all funds belonging to any unlawful association. It makes it an offence to print or publish any of its literature, and there is power to search the premises of any person suspected of having such literature. It is laid down, further, that -
After the expiration of one month from the commencement of this section, no member of an unlawful association shall be eligible to be, or continue to be, a member of the Public Service of the Commonwealth, or to hold any office or employment, permanent or temporary, under the Commonwealth or any authority of the Commonwealth. i
We are quite sure that, in this example we are setting, the States will follow us. At all events, it shall not be said that the public authorities of the Commonwealth are harboring the members of such organizations.
Much more could be said on this subject, but I think I have put forward sufficient to justify the acceptance of the Bill by the House. I am not going to apologize for its introduction. This country is at war, and it is absolutely vital to the interests of the country that we should produce as much as possible, that we should provide employment for as many people as possible, that we should become economically as efficient as possible. This association stands in the way of that policy - a policy which the people have approved by the most emphatic, clear, and unmistakable verdict ever delivered in Australia. It is in pursuance of the instructions received on the day when the people declared their will that I introduce this measure. This policy is part of the war policy of the Government. This organization cannot be suffered to exist, and we do not propose to allow it if by any means at our disposal we can prevent it. It is a distinct reflection upon society that there exists to-day an organization whose avowed . object is the destruction of the very basis upon which society exists. In self-preservation we must act. The Government proposes to act, and in this way.
– Under this Bill a member of such an organization cannot enter or remain a member of the Public Service. Do the Government intend to permit such a man to be a member of Parliament?
– Does the honorable member say that there is a member of Parliament who does belong to such an organization?
– During the election campaign it was said from every platform that every member of the Labour party belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World.
– I did not say so.
– The right honorable gentleman did.
– Then the Prime Minister was the only member of his party who did not say so.
– I said nothing of the sort. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to know what I did say, let me tell him that I said over and over again that those who had captured the organizations of Labour, politically and industrially, were largely of the type which recruited the ranks of the Industrial Workers of the World organization. I said that they were those who had not built up the Labour organization, but whose every effort and present purpose was to destroy it.- I say so now. The proof that organized labour outside agrees with me is that in every great Labour constituency throughout the country the votes recorded for those who were standing on the Official Labour ticket came so near zero that within a very little time there would not have been a sufficient number of honorable members opposite even to object to the passing of a formalmotion.
– That is incorrect. My majority was as big as ever it was, and I was the Leader of the Labour party.
– That is quite true. I do not wish to say anything which will ruffle the “honorable . gentleman, but I would remind him that he was elected leader of that party because he least represented it.
– Rubbish !
– Had the men outside been of the same calibre as the honorablemember he would have swept the country. It is because they were not that he has so few behind him.- The honorable member knows that. He knows that he had to contend against impossible conditions imposed upon him by organizations outside, who, in their turn, were dominated or influenced by men of the type that control the Industrial Workers of theWorld.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– If honorable members will not observe order, I shall have to. take some other means of securing it. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to assist me.
– On a point of order, sir, I ask whether you intended your remark as a reflection upon me. I have done my best at all times to maintain order in this House.
– I did not intend any personal reflection upon the honorable member. I merely desired that he should ask members of his party to obey the Chair.
– I always do that.
– I have had as much experience as any man of what “ I.-W.-Wism.” means in unions. For years I sat in the same organisation and on the same platform as a gentleman who is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. He was the president and I was the secretary of the union in question. Consequently I know these things and their import to unionism. While there were probably 5,000 .members in the branch of the industrial organization to which I refer, probably not more than twenty-five belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World. But they rolled up to every meeting, and their influence was wholly disproportionate to their numbers. As every one knows, that is true of nine unions out of ten. If the members of the unions would only take their courage in their hands and bundle these blighters out, it would be a good day for Australia.
As for showing what the Industrial Workers of the World think of the Official Labour movement, perhaps I may read this illuminating paragraph -
I was at the Labour Conference, and I think that tlie Committee elected will give considerable assistance in throwing the light of publicity on the affairs that have occurred.
Then -the writer goes on to say -
All the Sinn Fein prisoners were released the other day in Ireland. It was a great day in Dublin.
– To what conference was the writer referring?
– To the Sydney conference, held on the 24th June - quite. a recent affair. The quotation is from Mr. Tom Barker. This gentleman, it appears, is pleased with the conference, and speaks of the committee as being of the right sort. No doubt, the country will take a note of it. The committee of the Labour Conference, he says, is of the right sort, and will give them great help. He says, too, that the Sinn Feiners had a great day in Dublin recently. No doubt the whole community will take note of both of these matters, and of the actions of the committee which was elected and which is representing the great Labour movement in New South Wales to-day.
I do not propose to go further into any of these domestic affairs. I am satisfied that this measure is necessary. I commend it to the House, and invite honorable members to pass it without delay,-
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for «n Act to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-16.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is one to amend the Public Service Act for the purpose of giving effect to the policy of the Government for preference in the public employment to returned soldiers. It is a simple Bill of four clauses. The second clause provides that any person who has served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-15, and whose age at his last birthday previous to appointment was not more than fifty years, may be appointed to the Clerical Division upon passing the prescribed examination. What the Bill does is to open the door of the Public Service to every returned soldier who chooses to present himself for the Public Service examination and is able to pass it. I do not think there is any man who would take exception to this measure, which is sound in principle, and necessary in practice. Such returned soldiers do not become members of the Public Service ipso facto; the door is merely opened, and if they can pass the examination they may be given employment up to the age of fifty years. Clause 3 deals with temporary employment and that limitation of the period of temporary employment which has already been the subject of much criticism. At present, the Act imposes a limitation of six months, which may be extended to nine months in certain circumstances; and, naturally, if that limitation is continued, the policy of the Government in regard, to the employment of returned soldiers will be rendered futile. If a soldier is to have merely six months’ employment and then be turned adrift, I venture to say it would be regarded as a very unsatisfactory way of carrying out the solemn pledge given to the people at the election. It is, therefore, proposed to amend the law so far as returned soldiers are concerned, so that one appointed under this clause may be cmployed for an indefinite period. Section 70 of the principal Act is amended to deal with another point, and provides that those who have entered into an agreement with the Minister for Defence to serve as munition workers within or without Australia will have the same right of leave of absence extended to them as is extended to members of the Australian Imperial Force. In short, this Bill is to give effect to the policy of the Government in regard to returned soldiers, and does not in any way attempt to deal with the Public Service Act in any other direction. The question of how far we ought to amend the Act in other respects must remain for future consideration.
– Will soldiers who occupy temporary positions get any classification?
– All the Bill does is to wipe out that limitation of the period of employment imposed by the present Act. It does not give a soldier a permanent appointment in the sense that he will become a permanent public servant when he passes the prescribed examination; it merely provides that when a period of six months has elapsed he does not necessarily have to leave. Suppose a job lasts eighteen months, a man will continue to be employed, and not be called upon to retire at the end of six months.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 230).
.- I desire, in the first place, to congratulate the Government on the introduction of this Bill. It is primarily a war measure, but it is one which will have very important results so’ far as the production of wheat is concerned after the war period is passed. I regard it as a step to the establishment of a system which has been conducive to production in Canada, the United States of America, and elsewhere ; and it will, I think, be the means of fostering and encouraging a still greater increase in Australia. For that reason I welcome the introduction of the measure.
As stated by the Prime Minister, we have been visited by a mysterious plague in the shape of mice. Our friend the weevil we always have with us, and the storage of wheat in silos, as against the system of storage in bags, commends itself as a precaution against the ravages of both pests. The fact that, under the silo system, the wheat has to come in open enables every one to know exactly what the quality is. If the wheat is damp - and that is the only condition which produces weevils - or if it is bagged before it is properly ripe, it is always subject to attack, whereas, if it be dry, it is immune, and can be retained with perfect safety for a very lengthy period. I speak as one who has handled very large quantities, and I know that wheat in bags which is thoroughly dry is not subject to the pest. Under the circumstances, I regard the proposed system as a means of enormous saving to the country.
I wish to say a word in reference to what I regard as very improper conduct on the part of a member of this House who wears the King’s uniform. I do not know whether it is a fair thing that members should’ wear the uniform and remain here month after month. When an honorable member occupying that dual position, and, as a matter of fact, drawing two salaries, ventures to intrude into a discussion of this sort, and, in doing so, shows that he has sympathy with those who have been the means of causing enormous loss to the wheat -producers of the country, it is time for the Government to consider the position. When a man wears the King’s uniform, he should be sent abroad as a soldier, and not allowed to speak here in encouragement of those who cause damage to the King’s property, and loss to the producers of this land.
The Prime Minister was good enough to tell us that the proposed scheme provides only for a portion of the wheat which will be produced. That is so; but, in my opinion, the bulk handling of one-third of the wheat will soon create such a sentiment in favour of the system that, if the war continues, it will be a very short time indeed before our operations in this regard are. enlarged so as to embrace the whole pf our wheat. However, that is not proposed at the present time, and the Prime Minister was not quite clear as to what vas to be done in regard to the wheat which cannot be accommodated in the contemplated silos. There is more than one way of helping in the matter. We certainly require much more shipping in order to take away our produce, and I think it would materially help if the Government would take cognizance of the fact that very considerable freightage is coming into our ports that is absolutely useless from the point of view of our export trade. I refer to the large quantities of benzine, which, if it does not come from an enemy country, certainly comes through the agency of the Dutch from the portion of the Pacific islands where there are no fewer than thirty-two German vessels interned. It is sold here under the name of Shell benzine. It is, therefore, something of a menace to us in the Indian Ocean, and trade, for that reason, should be Prevented. If those ships were not allowed to trade with us during the continuance of the war, we should be able to deal more largely with those in alliance with ourselves.
– How much benzine comes from that part of the world ?
– Something like 50,000 tons a year. We should encourage trade with the United States of America, both because that country is now in alliance with Great Britain and because the oil which it sends to us is brought in vessels suitable for the carrying of grain and other produce which we export.
– The oil that comes from America is carried in specially constructed hank vessels.
– No. The oil that is sent here from America comes in cases.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member might have the courtesy to word his contradiction in more parliamentary language. What I say is. correct. We should encourage importation from the United States of America, to bring its shipping into our ports. As the Bill deals with the handling of grain, any suggestion for increasing the shipping tonnage available for export should receive the serious consideration of the Government. Great Britain is prepared to accept oil brought in tank steamers because of her great need of it, but our concern is not so much the getting of oil as the encouragement of trade with an allied country, and the bringing of ships to our ports in which our products can be exported. The Bill provides for the establishment of a Commission in addition to the existing Wheat Board, and therefore for the creation of another staff of officers. These continual increases of officials are greatly increasing the expenditure on the Public Service, and the people are beginning to take note of the fact. I suggest that the proposed Commission should, in addition to the functions provided for by the Bill, exercise also those which have been performed by the Wheat Board, or that the overmanned public services of the country should be called upon to supply officers for a new Department such as that now contemplated.
– Do you think that we can ship wheat in bulk round Cape Horn on a voyage that sometimes occupies six or seven months?
Mr.PALMER. - I should say so, though the subject is not one on which I am prepared to make an authoritative statement. As wheat is carried in bulk from America, why should it not be carried in bulk from Australia?
– A steamer takes only seven days to go from America to Europe, as against more than that number of weeks to go from Australia to Europe.
– But in any case the wheat is not likely to deteriorate.
– There is risk of the wheat swelling on a long voyage.
– I have not known wheat to swell, unless moisture has got into it, and ships constructed to carry wheat in bulk would provide against that. The step which the Government is determined totake commends itself to my judgment from the point of view of present necessity as well as from that of utility after the war.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I have no desire to delay the passage of this Bill, because, as the House and the country know, it is not the purpose of the party I represent to burke legislation, or to hamper the Government in carrying out their avowed policy of winning the war. This, presumably, is a war measure, and from my point of view it should be a utility measure for the benefit of the country for all time. I cannot understand why the Government should provide facilities for the best utilization of the country’s products, and then when a bountiful harvest has given us wealth in abundance,, we should allow the products to be destroyed by the ravages of any vermin or pest. Very properly the Leader of the Opposition has drawn attention to the fact that, though the country produces in abundance, the local consumer is unable to enjoy the bounties of nature because the produce cannot be sent overseas, yet it is allowed to be destroyed. I regard the proposal to erect silos for the storage of our wheat carry-over as an excellent one. There seems to be a diversity of opinion as to the value of the bulk-handling system, and itlooks as if some Governments are likely to lose their heads over the question. If the debate this afternoon is an indication of the state of mind of those individuals who have so recently come together in one party, the happy family created on the 5th May is likely to break up on this matter. From the manner in which the debate was nearly allowed to lapse, one might infer that this was either a stop-gap measure, or one prepared in order to give the representatives of country constituencies an opportunity to make speeches with which to tickle the ears of their electors. I, however, do not regard themeasure in that light. To my mind, the proposal inthe Bill represents a good policy, and if we utilize to the fullest ‘ extent those powers which society should be able to exercise in its own interest we shall not stop at the siloing of wheat, but will take steps to ensure that the brigands of commerce are not allowed to juggle with our products as they are doing, even to the extent of dumping the surplus at sea in order to make a market. The rigging of markets has ever been one of the chief characteristics of the commercial community.
When the Government introduced this Bill as a war measure necessary in the interests of the country, and when honorable members opposite knew that the party on this side of the House would not meet such a proposal with factious opposition, the introduction of industrial matters by the honorable member for Wimmera comes with very bad grace. King Charles’ head has to be dragged into this debate even in a House that has subordinated everything to a war policy. The statement made by the honorable member for Wimmera in reference to the walking delegate was not correct. I say God speed the walking delegate. He has done more for the working man than any other man in the community. By putting a little spirit into the Australian workman he made our soldiers what they are, and has made them realize that while they are soldiers they are still citizens of Australia. The walking delegate has brought about industrial conditions in Australia which members on the Government side are only too proud to refer to when they are speaking on the recruiting platform. The honorable member for Balaclava referred to Australia as one of the greatest democracies in the world. Who made it so? That boast is possible only because of the work of the walking delegate. There are walking delegates on the Government side - men who first entered public life through being walking delegates for the much abused Australian Workers Union. I suppose these references arose out of the discontent of honorable members opposite in regard to the amount paid to the men who lumped their wheat. It was left to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, when a Minister of a former Government, to make his name immortal by reducing the loads which the lumpers were supposed to carry. The employers did not mind filling a wool bale with wheat and ordering men to lump it. Again I say, God speed the walking delegate, because such hardships will never be allowed while he is on the spot. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is one of the men indicted by these charges against the walking delegates, because he was president of the Port Adelaide Working Men’s Association, which comprises the men who do all the wheat lumping at that port.
– What about it?
– Is not the honorable member man enough to stand up in defence of walking delegates when they are impugned by men on his side of the House ? I remind the honorable member that Jock Mason, at one time his good friend, Was the walking delegate or vigilance officer of the Port Adelaide Working Men’s Association, and the work he did in that capacity is a lasting monument to his credit. Good luck to the farmer ! May he get all he can for his honest, hard toil ; but, as I remarked once before in this House, never does the working man get out of the farmer or the capitalistic community one penny more than he has honestly earned. He never gets anything for nothing from any section of the community. But I can point out men in King William-street, Adelaide - men who farm the farmers - who get a great deal out of the community for nothing. Not only do they bleed the f armer in normal times but in days of stress, when he has monetary obligations to meet, they suck the very life blood out of him. Therefore I welcome the proposal to introduce silos as. a means of protecting tine farmer, nob from tike walking delegate, and not from the men who earn 16s. per day, bub from men who make millions OUt of the farmers’ labour. The rise of the late John Darling as a wheat speculator is well within my recollection, and I am not an old man; it does not date back twenty years, or at most it is only thirty years ago since it commenced. When that gentleman died eighteen months or two years ago he was worth £1,750,000. Tell me of a wharf labourer whose conditions have been improved by the “ walking delegate,” who has died worth £150, saved out of his earnings in lumping wheat ! I wish now to quote from a speech by the honorable member for Grey, who is now a farmer himself. I mean that he is a farmer when somebody else does the tilling of the soil and harvests and bags the crop. All the time he is drawing two salaries, -one for being a member of Parliament and another for controlling somebody else’s industry upon the land. When he made his opening speech at Port Pirie he had the bloom of the Treasurership fresh upon him, and he talked authoritatively about (the storage of wheat and the establishment of the Wheat Pool. I have no objection to honorable members on the other side doing the best that they can for those whom they represent, but they must nob growl when I do the best that I can for tlie organization that I represent. I have often remarked tha* when the working man in Adelaide gets a holiday he generally takes his wife and the three or four children, who are hanging to her skirts, for a trip to the residential centre of Hindmarsh, namely, the Semaphore. The honorable member for Hindmarsh knows the beach there quite well. He knows ‘that ‘one can Watch cockles and sprats there.
– The honorable member himself seems to be having a very good holiday.
– I am doing quite as much for my country as is the honorable member.
– The honorable member is a long time making a start. He has had about seven months of it now.
– I will hit the honorable member quite as hard as I did the representative of the Ned Kelly country. I wish now tlo instance what has been done for the farmers, and with this object in view I intend to quote the utterance of the honorable member for Grey at Port Pirie. He said -
Since the Wheat Pool had come into existence the farmers had received £41,121,000, or 120 per cent., more than they ever received in any corresponding period.
That does nob look as if the ‘ ‘ walking delegate “ has killed the industry. I do not object to the farmers receiving 120 per cent, more than they have ever before received in any corresponding period. It is their right - it is their due. But I put the statement which I have quoted against that of the, honorable member for Wimmera, who affirms that whilst siloing our wheat we must keep our eye upon the “ walking delegate.”
– Nearly all the men called out on strike were good unionists.
– I was an executive officer of the renowned United Labourers Union in South Australia, and I know of what I am speaking. I know that when we desired to avert a strike on the part) of the men who were employed in Rundlestreet rolling hot asphalt in a temperature of T10 deg. in the .shade, we had no con- ° trol over them whatever. They had determined that the conditions of their employment did not suit them. They are quite capable of deciding what is their due, and have a knowledge of economic conditions quite equal to that of any union official or officer. To-day men are not such fools as to come out on strike at the bidding of one or two individuals. In his speech at Port Pirie the honorable member for Grey went on to show how the farmers had been further favoured. When I see these favours being distributed ito a section of the community, I naturally resent reference to the section which I represent1 in the offensive terms employed by the honorable member for Wimmera. The honorable member for Grey stated that -
For a considerable time there had been an endeavour to induce the Government to abolish the duty on cornsacks; but as the question of Tariff revision could not be opened up for international reasons, the Government had decided to pay the duty on the cornsacks, and thus relieve the farmers of the unfair penalty.
They had received 120 per cent, more for their crop than .they had ever received in any corresponding period, and they were also to be relieved of the duty on cornsacks. It cannot be said, therefore,- that the interests of the farmer are not being safeguarded.
– He is paying more for his sacks to-day than he ever did before.
– Then ib needs the “walking delegate” to go into Sussexstreet, and see what is the matter with the corn exchange. I say that ib is all a question of the man who farms the farmer. One does nob ‘find the cornsacks exchange and the manures ring in the Trades Hall. These organizations do not hold their meetings there. Their offices are not there. To find those offices one has to go amongst the sections which neither toil nor spin, but which always collect. 1
In my opinion it is’ a wise step on the part of the Commonwealth to undertake the siloing of wheat. I hope that the Government will be powerful enough to break down any acrimonious dissension that may arise as to .the best method of shipping our wheat. I quite recognise that the matter of dealing with our crops in the present abnormal conditions is a big one. When freights fail, private enterprise is unable to control the business which has made its members rich. Rut for the Commonwealth stepping in and pooling the wheat, chaos would have resulted. They howled at this Socialistic venture, yet now every industry of any proportions is coming cap in hand to the Commonwealth Government to ask them to establish pools. Very soon the apples of the honorable member for Bass at Beauty Point will have to come under a pool, or his apples will rot, though he would rather let them rot than feed his own kind, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested, in regard to wheat, was the attitude of some people. It is the attitude of commercial brigands with no bowels of compassion, as Mr. Kingston once put it, men in whom the milk of human kindness has dried up. I am in accord with the suggestion that silos should be erected, and I compliment the Government, notwithstanding the flotsam and jetsam of which the Ministry is composed, on the action they have taken.
Here I desire to digress for ia few moments, and I hope that I will be permitted to reply to a matter which was brought up in this debate by the honorable member for Echuca. As far as he goes-
– That is not very far.
– No, it is not. I know that his brain capacity is in keeping with his insignificant stature.
– I wish to refer to the remarks of the honorable member in reference to my having been in khaki, for a long time, and to my receiving double pay as a parliamentarian and as a soldier. Of all the soldiers who have gone from this House, I draw the least pay as a soldier. No word has been said against honorable members of this Parliament who have gone away, not as soldiers, but as transport officers. I am prepared to sacrifice the pay I receive as a soldier so long as the rule applies all round. Then in regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca and the honorable member for Henty to the effect that I have been in khaki for seven months, I may say that the statement is’ correct, but I point out that two months of that period, have been devoted to recruiting efforts. An honorable member has referred to the case- of the honorable member for Robertson, but I do not wish to say anything about him. Honorable members opposite will wake up to the fact presently that they have on their own side a bigger malingerer.
– Then you admit that you are a malingerer.
– That was the inference from the words of the honorable member, though he may not have known it.
– I did not say you were a. malingerer.
– That was the inference from the honorable member’s words. I wrote a letter to the Minister for Defence in reference to the matter, but the censorship was so strict that I could not get it published. I do not propose to quote the letter now. I shall merely refer to one or two sentences in it. I enlisted without any reservation, and no soldier has had less leave than I have had for personal convenience. Subsequently I applied to be transferred to the artillery, to which I am now attached, and there is nothing to prevent the Defence Department shipping me as soon as they like. That letter was written to the Minister on the 25th April, and if there is any complaint about my being in Maribyrnong when I could, perhaps, be doing better duty elsewhere, I invite the Government to indict the Minister for Defence upon the way in which he is managing his Department. I know that we are dealing with a matter concerning wheat storage, but what I am speaking to now is somethingthat has come from the rats that eat the wheat; otherwise I would not have mentioned it. I am not ashamed of the position that I occupy. In this House, prior to the referendum, I said, in reply to the honorable member for Grampians, that I was a Socialist, and did not believe in relying on some one else to do work for me. I said that, if there was to be a fight on my behalf, I’ would do my share of fighting myself, and I enlisted next morning. I now invite some of the single honorable members opposite to do the same.
– Order ! I have permitted the honorable member to digress for a moment or two, but I am afraid he is going far beyond what the House would desire me to allow him to do. I permitted him to make what I regarded as a personal explanation.
– I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for the permission that I was given, and for being allowed to go as far as I have gone. I think that I have fairly well trounced the little man on the other side - I should say the honorable member for Echuca. Later on there will be an opportunity to deal with him in connexion with some other matters. Debate in this Chamber has come to a very low ebb when an honorable member, in order to back up the Government, has to descend to personalities in a debate on a matter of national concern.No honorable member of the Opposition would descend to such low tactics. I feel positive that this Bill is a stop-gap. When honorable members go to their constituencies and talk of the benefits of siloing or bulk handling, I hope they will refrain from talking of any matter that has no relation to the crisis threatening the nation at the present moment. Otherwise they , will show themselves pocket patriots rather than Nationalists.
– I wish to say a few words about the Bill. I do not wish to obstruct its passage by dealing with matters other than those vital to it. I must take exception to the uniformity and rigidity of those of its provisions which the Prime Minister regards as vital) but, at the same time, I assure the Leader of the
Government that I am intensely anxious to see that proper provision is made for the safety of the wheat in Australia, more particularly the balance of the 3,500,000 tons purchased by the Imperial Government. The farmers of South Australia hold quite a different view as to what ought to be done from an effective and utility point of view. They have been pressing their view of ‘the question very earnestly for a long time past. They have no objection to the general provision of silos for New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia. The Prime Minister has certainly emphasized the point - and I agree with him - that this Bill is in no way a bulk-handling measure, but, at the same ‘ time, certain States, having practically, if not absolutely, determined upon the bulk handling of wheat, the provision of these silos will, so far as those States are concerned,make this Bill a bulk-handling measure, and properly so. It is certainly a bulk-handling measure so far as Victoria and New South Wales are concerned - if it is not, it ought to be - and if silos are to be provided they should be of such a character as to fit in absolutely and effectively with the ultimate bulk-handling schemes of the States concerned.
– Of what use will silos be in the other States if bulk handling is not adopted?
– They will not be of any use at all. It is sheer madness to insist on the provision of silos in a State which is not going to adopt bulk handling.
– Why? It will save the wheat, anyway, in the meantime.
– But we propose to save the wheat as effectively and much more economically. The farmers of South Australia do not look on this matter as a temporary provision, or as any other than a necessary permanent protection for the wheat that ought to have been provided thirty or forty years ago. For the last sixteen years I have advocated very earnestly the provision of what it is now proposed to do, and it has been my desire for many years that the matter should be taken in hand by the South Australian Railways Commissioner, by providing sheds at all the receiving stations, and charging sufficient for storage to cover the cost of the construction of the sheds and other neces-sary expenses.
– Joseph established silos many years ago.
– I am talking earnestly about a matter of great importance, not only to Australia, but to the Imperial authorities, whose people are near to the point of starvation. We have the wheat here for their supply, and want to take care of it. If the attitude of the South Australian farmers is maintained, there is no provision for them to come in under this Bill.
– Move an amendment in Committee.
– I want to do so if it becomes necessary, but I am sure the Prime Minister and the Government will be prepared to hear the South Australian position. If the South Australian farmers make out a good case, it is inconceivable to me that the Government or Parliament would stand in their way.
– Is South Australia unanimous on your point of view?
– The Prime Minister’s statement that the three wheat-growing States - New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia - were in unanimous agreement at the Conference is perfectly correct, but the previous Government in South Australia were determined, by hook or by crook, that the State should have the bulk-handling system instituted. They went so far as to make a deal with. Metcalfe and Company, and paid a very big sum for the plans. They submitted the matter to Parliament, and Parliament turned down the scheme. Possibly no question of public interest has been more exhaustively and critically discussed by the farmers in that State during the last eighteen months than the question of .bulk handling. It is claimed by one of the farmers’ organizations that 90 per cent, of the farmers of that State are absolutely against bulk handling for South Australia.
– Is that because of the multiplicity of ports in South Australia?
– My personal opinion is that quite 90 per cent, of the fanners of South Australia are against bulk handling. The honorable member for Wimmera quoted Metcalfe’s. Metcalfe and Company, or their agents, represent about the cleverest men that ever came from either Canada or Yankeeland, and their position was put by them as applicable to South Australia equally with Victoria and New South Wales.
– I also quoted from the exhaustive report of the Royal Commission in Victoria.
– I have seen that report, and agree that if bulk handling is good anywhere it is appropriate for Victoria and New South Wales, because they concentrate all their wheat shipping at about two ports. We do not object. In fact, the South Australian farmers hope that Victoria and New South Wales will take it on, and we will stand by and see how they get along. Why should all three States take on the experiment? Why not let one State try it? It is not my business or South Australia’s business. South Australia objects because it has a port about every 32 miles all round its coast-line, and if the principle of bulk handling were adopted in that State, it could only apply effectively to Port Adelaide, Port Pirie, and Wallaroo.
– You could put your silos at the other ports also.
– It would not pay. A gentleman in South Australia took this matter up with great skill and industry. He obtained facts and figures from every part of the world, and was “supported by the grain merchants right up to the hilt. He knocked the Metcalfe people kicking, and they could not come at it again. The experience of bulk handling everywhere goes to prove that a State which is shipping wheat all round its coast cannot have it. It costs too much. I want to dispose of another fallacy. “All the great wheat countries have not bulk handling. Most of them have, but when you come to deal with the United Kingdom in the matter of selling your wheat, you find that they have not provision there at all the great centres to handle wheat in bulk. Indeed, they have provision at relatively few centres.
– Is the machinery for bulk loading very expensive?
– It is a very big thing. Roughly, you could not get the scheme going in Victoria, for instance, at anything under .£2,000,000.
– Have you any idea of the cost of the machinery for bulk loading?
– No. When the wheat goes to London to be distributed in the provinces, a big proportion of the buyers in the provinces cannot take it in bulk, but must have it in bags, and a shipment of wheat in bags will bring a little more than a shipment in bulk. If South Australia does not intend to adopt bulk-handling, but is prepared to submit to the Prime Minister a scheme that will be equally effective, and less expensive - a scheme, in short, that will do for her a great deal more than would result from her entering into an arrangement with the other States for the construction of silos - I trust that -the Government will give some consideration to her representations. The right honorable gentleman has admitted that the provision for silos under this Bill will meet the requirements of less than a third of a normal harvest.
– How would South Australia improve upon this scheme?
– I believe that the farmers of South Australia desire the construction of mouse-proof skeleton sheds which would enable us to protect and handle, not merely one-third, but the whole of a normal season’s wheat for a cost not more than that which would be incurred under this scheme.
– But would those sheds protect the wheat as long as the proposed silos would do?
– -I believe they would. I asked the Prime Minister what expert advice he had on the Committee which recommended this scheme, and he very readily supplied the information. I find that the experts on the Committee were railway engineers from the various States, and, possibly, their scheme would fit in with the plans they have been considering for bulk-handling ; but the expert advice I should like the Prime Minister to have, from the South Australian point of view, is that of the expert grain merchant.
– There were no wheat experts on the Commission.
– Not one.
– What is a wheat expert?
– I should describe as a wheat expert a reputable successful grain merchant who has devoted his life to that one business.
– r_L thought that the honorable member desired on the Committee experts as to the quantity of wheat that could be stored under this system.
– That expert advice is already available on the Committee, and I do not object to it. It is, however, of still greater importance that wheat experts should be on the Committee.
– The honorable member would like to see on it the man “ who farms the farmer.”
– No; a man who knows the business, and has devoted his life’s energy to it, is the expert we want on the Committee. It is such men that make a lot of our industries possible. This brings me to the point raised by the Treasurer. It is recognised that, generally speaking, outside stacking is the very best means of protecting wheat from weevil. The more air you get into a stack - the more the stack is exposed in this respect - the less likely are you to have weevil.
– Even where wheat is stacked close to the sea-board ?
– Yes; anywhere.
– Is it not a question of moisture?
– It is largely a question of temperature. Wheat stacked outside will be preserved better than wheat stacked in a barn.
– Under this scheme we are to have sealed silos.
– I cannot speak as to hermetically-sealed silos, and that is why I urge that wheat experts should be on the Committee. The protection of their grain represents the profits they have made.
– But we have not stored such large quantities of grain in South Australia as to enable these men to become experts.
– We have stored all the wheat we have grown, and until quite recently we, were first among the grain-growing States.
– But until the war broke out we shipped our wheat away very quickly. O
– Yes, very often within six months of the harvest.
I would remind the honorable member for Hindmarsh’, however, that the period of storage depends entirely on markets and seasons. Sometimes we store our grain for eighteen months, and at the end of that time deliver it in excellent condition. If in South Australia we can construct mice-proof’ skeleton sheds, which will protect the whole of our crop, at a cost not exceeding that which would be incurred if the State were forced to come under these conditions, and to build silos sufficient only for the protection of one-third of the normal harvest, then I think it would be unfair to compel South Australia to adopt this proposal.
– Under the scheme mentioned by the honorable member, railage would be saved, and the sheds would be nearer the port.
– No, because at some time or other the milage would have to be incurred. These sheds would be at every railway receiving station, but we should have them for all time. If the honorable member is aware of the conditions prevailing in South Australia he must know that we could not have these sheds at the port, and the Railways Commissioners could not remove them at once to the port.
– If there are to be only three silos in the State, that will have, to be done.
– Undoubtedly; but we could not and should not be asked to do that. The three silos would provide for only a limited portion of South Australia’s wheat. That being so, why should she be forced to ,adopt this scheme? By adopting the alternative scheme we should have in South Australia the permanent structures that we require, quite irrespective of present conditions. South’ Australia will have to pay, and ought to pay, the cost, and is anxious to come under ia scheme of the kind. I therefore ask the Government to introduce in Committee an amendment which will meet the case for South Australia as I have put it. We are dealing with .this question not a moment too soon, and should make the protection of our wheat as complete , as possible. There is exposed in Australia to-day a lot of wheat which ought to have been reconditioned and properly protected long ago. I am referring more .particularly now to wheat in my own State, but I believe my remarks will (apply to some of the other
States. It is heart-rending to see in South Australia wheat stacks - some of them comprising not less than 100,000 bags - in such a condition that one can hardly distinguish them from a heap of refuse. One can scarcely see the bags. From the top to the bottom of these stacks one can see more grain than bags, and for some weeks, notwithstanding their condition, there has been only a handful of men at work on them.
– Are there such stacks of wheat at country stations in South Australia ?
– Yes, and within the last ten days I have been informed of attempts being made to recondition some of them with a single winnower and by the employment of four or five men. If these men worked twelve hours per day .they could not recondition some stacks in the next seven months.
– But I thought your producers knew so much more than other f £11*211 G ITS
– Our farmers have nothing to say in the matter. This is a question for the Central Wheat Pool; but I point out that the stacks are not suffering one fifth as much from the depredations of mice as from exposure to weather, and if labour had been commandeered - as ought to have been the case - and 16s. per day paid, and if the Railways Commissioners had been obliged to run the trains night and day to get this wheat away, the loss would not have been nearly so serious. This wheat belongs to the respective farmers, it is true, but it is of as much value to the nation as the farmers themselves. I do not understand the departure from the principle laid down in this House when the Wheat Pool was established, and when responsibility was attached to the agents or collectors. It seems to me that this responsibility only existed in the imagination.
– But we have had a mice plague that could not have been foreseen.
– I admit that, but then we had a statement in the public press that there would be a limitation of this responsibility under these abnormal conditions. If there was to be responsibility why did not the Wheat Pool insist on the agents being given an absolutely free hand to do the best they could for the protection of the stacks? If this responsibility had been thrown upon them, unhampered by any conditions from the central authority, most of the wheat stacks would have been preserved very much, more effectively. I should like the representative of the Central Board to remind the authorities in my own State that valuable produce - upon which Great Britain and some of our Allies are depending - should be more effectively protected than has been the case during the last few months.
.- The Bill before us, perhaps with some amendments, will probably receive practically the unanimous support of tlie House. From the remarks of the honorable member who preceded me, I understand the producers in his own State do not wish to participate in a scheme for silo construction for the storage of wheat. I trust that this storage scheme, introduced in these abnormal times, will be adhered to as long as Australia is a grain-growing country. I have no doubt that many honorable members opposite believe, not only in the storage of grain in war time, but that this is an excellent opportunity to adopt the system as a protection against seasons of drought. We all hope that Australia will never be in the straits she found herself in as the result of the 1914 harvest failure, when at least half the grain required for gristing purposes had to be imported. With a proper system of storage there is no reason why Australia should not be thoroughly protected against any contingency of that kind in the future, for it is well known that if we send abroad for grain, very often we get an inferior article at an enhanced price, and have to consume bread of inferior quality.
– That is what we got in 1915.
– We all remember that, and I do not wish that experience to be repeated. This storage principle might also be applied to other foodstuffs. I do not know whether,, as a result of a shortage in freight during the next two or three years, we shall be able to export as much beef and mutton as Australia has formerly, but it is not likely, and as a result we shall be able to build up our herds and flocks again.
I come now to another serious aspect of this question. Australia, I believe, is going to play a very important part in the feeding of Great Britain and her Allies in the near future. It is well known that wheat production shows a considerable fall ing off in the United States, Canada, and the Argentine, and with Russian wheat still locked up, Australia with her two last great harvests, will be an important factor in provisioning Great Britain and her Allies on the Western and other Fronts. The figures for production in the United States for 1915 give a total of 126,000,000 quarters,, while the ‘estimated yield for 1916 was only 75,000,000, so that instead of having close on 1,000,000,000 bushels, of which 400,000,000 bushels could be exported to other lands, the Republic may have to import to supply her own requirements. Canada, -instead of having 250,000,000 bushels for export this year will have only 80,000,000 bushels, and the Argentine, we know, is short of wheat. I should like to show how France, above all other countries, took time by the forelock in the way of providing grain and other foodstuffs for her own people. Some of us have used eulogistic terms in describing the action which our Prime Minister took in the way of the purchase of ships, but the Commissioner of foodstuffs in France, and other authorities there, were quite early in the field in this regard, with a view .to obtaining sufficient grain for the needs of their country. At the beginning of the war the French Commissioner had an absolutely free hand in this direction, and .took immediate action? I believe, without even consulting the other members of the Cabinet. France, of course, is a large producer of wheat, but in the first year of the war, in order to meet her own requirements, she had to import- 1,400,000 tons, and in the second year 1,600,000 tons, while it is estimated that this year it will be necessary for her to acquire some 2,500,000 tons. I presume that the British Government will operate with or through the Commonwealth Government!, with a, view to seeing that Australia supplies our Ally with a large proportion of the grain she requires. I mention these facts to show how keenly France realized the necessity for action of this kind. The honorable member for Wimmera complained bitterly about the fixing of prices.
– I complained of the fixing of prices below paying value.
– The honorable member got along very nicely until he came down with sledge-hammer blows on the “ walking delegate.”
– I did not give the “ walking delegate “ half enough.
Mr.FENTON.- The honorable member may hammer away, but the longer and the harder he hammers the more “ walking delegates “ we shall have. I must say I am surprised at the honorable member denouncing “ walking delegates “ when he knows the great benefits that have accrued through their operations in this and other countries.
In the May number of the Nineteenth Century and Afterwards the following appeared in the course of an article -
In Paris, when the war began the price of bread was 45 centimes the kilo. The price of a quartern-loaf was, therefore, 8d. It is 8d. still, and unless there be a dire disaster it will never be higher so long as fighting goes on.
It will be seen that, owing to the wise provision made for the supply of grain, the price of the loaf is the same in France to-day as it was when the war began ; and, as contrasting the position there with the position in Great Britain, I draw the attention of honorable members to another extract from the same article -
In London, where before the war the price of such a loaf was 51/2d., it is now1s., and may before next Christmas be1s.6d.
That is a startling price for the people of Great Britain to have to pay, and the contrast is accentuated by the fact that France has within her borders sufficient wheat to last her until March of next year, though, of course, she will then have to get fresh supplies. After referring to the fixing of prices the writer of the article goes on to say -
This solution does not, it mustbe confessed, find favour in the eyes of every one, even in France. All the doctrinaires are against it; all the folk who cannot understand that things must be done in war time that ought not, to be done in peace. Then the farmers are against it, of course. In their eyes the fixing of the price of wheat, flour, and bread is an abomination. , It would be strange indeed were it otherwise, for some of them might have become miniature millionaires before this bad not the Service barred the way. Besides, to expect a farmer to rejoice at being forced to sell his wheat at 57s. 6d. per quarter and a bonus ( and until March he had no bonus) when he might have sold it for 70s., 80s., or 90s. had he had a free hand, is really to expect too much of human nature. Still, as a class, the French farmers have adapted themselves to their trying circumstances in the most praiseworthy fashion, thus proving their sturdy common sense as well as their staunch patriotism, and they are certainly striving with all their might and main now to bring more and more land under wheat cultivation.
Here we have the fixing of prices in respect of wheat flour and bread, and, with the exception of a few selfish farmers and millers, we shall have the 40,000,000 people of France, and particularly the rank and file of the community, blessing the day when their Government and their Food Commissioner used their knowledge to take early advantage of the market, and arrange, not only for the purchase of grain, but for ships in which to carry it. Taking the number of loaves to a ton of flour, it is safe to say that in two and a half years of the war consumers in Great Britain had paid over £200,000,000 more for their bread than have the people of France, and that is a great tax on the parents of large families. These facts show that the fixing of prices, combined with organization, is a blessingto the nation, and I hope that, in connexion with our own storage scheme, attention will be paid to the consumer. Farmers, as a section of the community, have a right to a legitimate return for their labour, and when that return has been fixed there should be no greediness. It is strange that we in Australia, who have enjoyed two of the most bountiful harvests we have ever seen, should be paying more for our bread now than we have ever paid before, even more than in 1902, when there was one of the most serious droughts in our history.
– Without any increase in the price of flour the Government have agreed to an increase in the price of bread.
– I believe that, in September 1914, when it was known that there would bean immense shortage in our wheat yield, flour was cheaper than it is to-day, it being then . £10 10s., and now £1015s.
– How do we compare with France in regard to price?
– In Australia we produce nearly three times as much as we can. consume ourselves, whereas in France they produce only about two-thirds of their own requirements, and have to import the balance. We, have an abundance of wheat, and yet we are paying 7d. per loaf; indeed, our surplus wheat is rotting. With our abundant harvests there is no reason why Australian consumers should not receive their bread at a lower price than at present.
– What is a fair price to the farmers for wheat?
– At a meeting of farmers in New South Wales the other day, I understand it was decided that, in order to make wheat-growing profitable, the price should be 4s. per bushel at the station, and that seems to me to be reasonable.
– They are not getting that priceto-day.
– If they are not getting 4s. at the station, consumers are charged too much at 7d. per 4-lb. loaf. Whilst the Commonwealth authorities get credit for the fixing of prices of wheat, wool, meat, metals, and other things, it is really the people who were dealing in these various commodities prior to the war period who control the prices of them today.
– Then the honorable member is against price fixing ?
– No; but I am against the method adopted for fixing prices. I do not see how the consumers can expect to secure the full benefit which should follow from the fixing of prices when those who fix them are the persons who have been dabbling and gambling in grain, wool, and metals in the years gone by.
– The honorable member was unhappy in his selection of wheat as an illustration of his argument, because the farmer does not get 4s. per bushel.
– If he does not, there is a screw loose somewhere, and the matter should be inquired into.
– Is the honorable member prepared to have the deficiency made good to the farmer out of the Treasury ?
– I am prepared to let the consumer have bread at less than 7d. per 4-lb. loaf. I commenced these remarks by admitting that I desire a fair deal all round to both producer and consumer.
– The worker does not eat wool.
– No, but he wears a good deal of it onhis back if he can get it. I am told that woollen goods cost twice as much now in Australia as they used to do, and I do not know why that should be so. It is strange that, in connexion with wool and wheat, of which we produce a surplus, our people should have to pay higher prices than do people in other parts of the world, where a surplus of these commodities is not produced. I hope thatthe Government will adopt some wiser methods than have so far been adopted for the fixing of prices, and will take control of more of our foodstuffs than wheat. We boast of the purchase of ships and of our control of the wheat crop, but what we have done is not in it with what has been so splendidly done in France. There we have a splendid example which, if followed, would enable us to do a fair thing by both producer and consumer.
I have no objection to the Bill, but it has been news to me to learn that there is a difference of opinion as to the proper method of storing wheat. The Government that has just retired from office in South Australia was in favour of the bulk handling of wheat, and yet we are told to-night that the farmers of that State are against that method of dealing with it. The Victorian Minister of Agriculture attended the recent conference that dealt with the question, and was accompanied by one of his experts, Mr. Box., of the Victorian Railway Department. He is a live officer of the Railway Department, and was closely associated with a Royal Commission that took evidence in regard to the bulk handling of wheat. He paid a visit to Canada and the United States of America, as did also the Victorian Minister of Railways, Mr. McKenzie. They saw the bulk handling of wheat in those countries. Mr. McKenzie, I believe, is a practical farmer, and, with such men attending the conference, it seems to me that a proper method of storing and handling grain should have been arrived at. Whilst I am favorable to the Bill, I shall be prepared to assist the honorable member for Wakefield to so amend it as to enable the farmers of South Australia to adopt the method they prefer. I should like to say that I hope that some of the methods we are now adopting will be continued long after the war is over.
– I cannot understand the logic of the last speaker. He contends that, because a quantity of wheat is stacked in this country, it should be possible for the consumer to obtain a cheaper loaf. The honorable member should know that wheat cannot be grown at under 4s. a bushel. I undertake to say that, by the time the Wheat Pool is cleaned up, it will be found that the farmers have not received even as much as 4s. per bushel for their wheat. The fact that so many millions of bushels of wheat are stacked in the Commonwealth is no reason why the price should be reduced below what is fixed by the operations of the world’s markets. It is the shortage in the world’s supply that controls the fixing of prices. In referring to the mice plague, the honorable member for Yarra suggested that, instead of allowing wheat to be consumed by the mice, Australian millers should be permitted to purchase it at from 3s. to 3s. 6d. per bushel. I can confirm what was said about the conference of the Farmers and Settlers Association held in Sydney. There must have been about 500 present at the conference, representing some 300 or 400 branches in the State. At the conference, 120 branches in districts in which wheat is grown sent in an estimate of what, under present labour conditions, it costs to produce a bushel of wheat. The average cost given was 4s. 2d. a bushel. Yet the honorable member for Yarra suggests that the farmers should sacrifice their wheat for the benefit of the community at large.
– No, he did not say that.
– The honorable gentleman did say so, and I called his attention to it. I do not know why the farmers, any more than any other persons in thecommunity, should be called upon to en- gage in philanthropic work. . Why should they be sweated ? There is no eight hours’ business about the farmer, who rises early and works until late at night. I suppose that his hours average from twelve to fourteen per day, and yet the representatives of nien who work only six or eight hours a day wish to sweat the hardworking farmer. Such a suggestion from the Leader of the Labour party is preposterous. The farmers are not now receiving 4s. per bushel for their wheat. The price fixed was 4s. 9d. f.o.b., but after the farmer has brought his wheat to the railway station it has to be taken to the seaboard, and handling charges have to be met.
I congratulate the Government on the introduction of the Bill so early in the session, though I should have liked to see the matter dealt with even earlier. It is proposed to appoint a Commission consisting of a representative of the Commonwealth and a representative of each of the wheat-growing States. Now, one of the reasons why the administration of the Wheat Pool has been a failure is that ib has been too much in the hands of politicians. The State Boards have been controlled by politicians, and the Central Board is composed of the Ministers of Agriculture of the various States, with the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth as Chairman. These politicians are good enough in their way, but they know nothing about wheat growing, as is evident from their administration. In this matter I confirm what has been said by the honorable member for Wakefield. I have just been through my electorate, and I say that the, manner in which the wheat has been destroyed by mice is disgraceful. Much of the grain looks more like oatmeal than wheat. The scheme before us is to cost £750,000, and the cost is to be debited to the Wheat Pool. A leading member of the New South Wales Wheat Board, with whom I was in conversation on the subject, argued that this was fair, because, he said, the wheat belongs to the farmer, who has been given a certificate for it; that it is as much his as the money which a man places in a bank at fixed deposit is the money of the depositor. The real position is, however, that the Government have advanced money to the farmers on the security of their wheat, and as trustees for the farmers, should keep that wheat in proper condition. I hope that I shall never be forced to pawn my watch, but were I to pledge it with one of the gentlemen who hang three balls over their doors, as a sign of business, I should expect to find, when I redeemed the pledge, the watch intact, not minus some of its jewels. The wheat was delivered to the Government in good condition, and the Government, as trustee for the farmers, should have taken care for its adequate protection. Certainly some liberal advance should be made now to assist the farmers. It is suggested that the proposed Commission should consist of the Prime Minister and a political representative of each wheatgrowing State. I suggest that, in addition to the political members of the Commission, there should be an equal number of farmers’ representatives. That would ensure the careful storage of the wheat.
– The Prime Minister did not say that he would be Chairman of the Commission and that its other members would be politicians. Perhaps the honorable member heard something in Caucus yesterday.
– I did not attend Caucus yesterday, but I take it that the proposed Commission will be constituted similarly to the Central Wheat Board.
I am pleased that the Government intends to erect silos for the storage of wheat, which, if necessary,” can be used at some future date for handling it in bulk. This storage is to provide for about 49,000,000 bushels of wheat, or for about one-third of a year’s crop. The sheds at the country railway stations in New South Wales would store about onethird more of the wheat produced in the State; the remaining third will have to be shipped away as quickly as possible. We hope that the present block to the export will not long continue. I cannot understand why the bulk handling of wheat should be objected to. A conference of New South Wales wheat growers unanimously favoured the bulk handling of wheat, and most wheatgrowing countries handle their wheat in bulk. About 60 per cent, of the Argentine wheat is handled in bulk, and 90 per cent, of the wheat received- in London comes in bulk. I do not know where the honorable member for Wakefield obtained the information that they are not prepared to receive wheat in bulk in Great Britain. All the wheat received in Liverpool goes there in bulk, and recently when a shipment came in bags, these had to be cut to pieces to enable the cargo to be unloaded by means of elevators. The farmers are victimized under the bagging system. On looking through the figures furnished by Mr. Knibbs, I find that for the last two years we imported £4,000,000 worth of jute goods, including, I suppose, £800,000 worth of wheat bags each year - that is, £1,600,000 worth for the two years. I recollect that not many years ago, when I was farming in New South Wales, we used to get 4-bushel wheat bags of extra quality for about 4s. 6d. per dozen, whereas to-day the farmer gets a 3-bushel bag - that is a Chapman bag - at 10s. 6d. per dozen, and bags of a very inferior quality indeed. It is high time, I think, that some action was taken in this respect. For that reason, I advocate the principle of bulk handling. Under the present system the Government allow about 2£d. per bushel to the farmer or. the agent for the handling of the wheat from the railway truck right up to the steamer. In the United States of America, under the bulk-handling system, the cost is £d. per bushel. By adopting the bulk-handling system we will save something like 500 per cent, in the cost of handling. I have here a note showing that American steamers containing 10,000 tons of grain in bulk are loaded and discharged in ten hours. In other words, it takes one hour to load and unload 1,000 tons of wheat, or one-third of the time which would be required if the grain were bagged.
I wish now to point out the advantages of the bulk-handling system as regards the capacity of the ships. One ton of American bagged wheat, which is equal to 2,000 lbs., displaces 53 cubic feet in the hold of a ship, whereas 1 ton of bulk wheat displaces 46f cubic feet, showing a difference of 6^ cubic feet in favour of shipping the grain in bulk. In other words, there is a saving of 12 per cent, in space. I think that at this particular time, when shipping is so scarce, this point should weigh very heavily with the Ministry. I learn, on the authority of Sir Thomas Price, that at the London Docks the cost of unloading wheat in bulk is about onefourth of that which it costs to unload bagged wheat. The honorable member for Wakefield stated that hardly any of the English ports have adopted the bulkhandling system. I remind him, as I did early in my address, that 90 per cent, of the wheat received in bulk in London, and also the whole of the wheat received at Leith, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Hull, and numerous other minor ports in the Old Country, is unloaded by means of the elevators. I hope that the people in the various States will adopt the bulk-handling system. I am very pleased to be able to mention that a Bill for that purpose is now before the Parliament of New South Wales. I be- _lieve that that system will be adopted by that State, and I expect that before very long the farmers of South Australia will perceive the advantages accruing from the system, and realize the necessity for taking steps to effect a saving of about £1,500,000 a year for the Commonwealth farmers.
.- I am very pleased that the Government have introduced this Bill. The question of the storage of wheat under the silo, or elevator, system has been the battledore and shuttlecock of politics for many years, and now, under the necessity caused by the war, the promises which were made to the farmers year after year are being brought to fruition.
The Bill contains some imperfections, which I hope will be remedied in Committee. The honorable member for Calare has just mentioned an imperfection which was in my mind, and in connexion with which I had framed an amendment. I hope that in Committee such an amendment will- be moved from the other side, or, if it is not moved there, that support will be given to it when it is moved from this side, and that is in regard to the Board which is to control the erection and administration of the silos or elevators.
– One or other, or both. It is provided in clause 3 that there shall be a Commission containing one representative of the Commonwealth and one representative of each State, to be appointed by its Governor in Council. I submit that there should be’ added to the clause this proviso -
Provided that the representative of each State shall be a practical farmer approved by the recognised farmers’ organization of such State.
As the honorable member for Calare has pointed out, it has been shown by the farmers’ organizations through the branches, and at their general conference, that much of the present difficulty under which they suffer in connexion with the waste of wheat from weather and from plague has been due to the fact that those who administer the scheme have absolutely no knowledge of the question. It is not so much a matter of the Ministers, because, after all, the Federal Minister and the State Ministers who sit on the Board only meet occasionally. The matter is really controlled by departmental officers. It is on the advice of these men that the Ministers act generally, and the difficulty arises from the fact that a great many of the departmental officers have no practical knowledge of the requirements of the farmers.
– But the Minister has to take the responsibility.
– It is mere buncombe to talk about the Minister having to take the responsibility. He does not take the responsibility, because it is now pointed out that, as the farmers have to lose £750,000 through this waste, the Minister refuses to take the responsibility and to reimburse the farmers’ wheat pool the losses. If the Minister does take the responsibility, as he should do, the onus is on the Government to subsidize the pool to cover the losses after the wheat has been delivered by the farmers to the pool in good order and condition.
– The honorable member must admit that when the Minister takes the advice of his officer he is responsible.
– As a rule, the Minister takes too much advice from the” officer, and we generally get administration by the officer. As has been pointed out time after time, the Minister is often merely a rubber stamp or dummy. The officer tells the Minister what to do, and the Minister does it. Iti is more a question of shelving,, than accepting, responsibility. The Minister says, “ As long tas I act on the advice of my responsible officers, the responsibility is on the Department and off my shoulders,” and when called upon to defend himself he says, “ I took the advice of my responsible officers.” This is not <a system for fixing responsibility, but rather one for the evasion of responsibility. I agree with the honorable member that the reasonable demand of the farmers to be represented on this Commission by practical f,arm ers approved by themselves should be incorporated in this Bill.
This Commission will not be required to provide money, but will expend money provided by the Commonwealth, and will decide in which localities silos shall be erected. We were told by the Prime Minister that in some parts of the country silos are not required. Representatives of the farmers’ organizations are better able to select the sites for the silos than any one else in the country. If the farmer has to suffer all these losses he will take care that the silos are placed in the proper positions.
– You are arguing on the basis of one season when the farmer did suffer losses.
– Let the honorable member take his line of argument, and some of us will take another line which we think will be of more advantage to the farmers. I was secretary to a Farmers and Settlers Association.
– A political organization.
– That was long before I had anything to do with’ any political organization, and when the Farmers Association was not under the control of large land-holders and squatters as at present. Although I represent a constituency which is largely industrial, the farmers have (always had my sympathy. I desire them to get assistance instead of all this mouthing by those who claim to “be the special representatives of the farmers, <and always baulk when some proposal is put forward to help them.
Clause 8 of the Bill provides-
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the clauses.
– I am not dealing with the clauses in detail, but am referring to them incidentally in order to point out improvements that should be made in the Bill. Clause 8 provides for the expenditure of £2,850,000. I submit that we should condition the expenditure of that money by providing that the farmer shall not suffer loss as he does at present. Suppose the Commission erects the wrong kind of silos, or that some of the silos are not efficient, so that the farmer still suffers loss through: damage to wheat which he had delivered in good order and condition to the Government agent. In such circumstances the responsibility should be on the authority which accepts his wheat to re-imburse him for any loss sustained, in that way.
– The honorable member is now anticipating a notice of motion which he has placed on the businesspaper.
– I submit that I am doing nothing of the kind. Themotion on the business-paper deals with the present wheat pool, and I am now discussing something that should be done under the proposed new Commission.
– T know it will be difficult for the honorable member to observe the distinction between the two, but I ask him not to traverse the ground of the motion of which he has given notice.
– I have no intention of doing so. If we tare to clothe this Commission with power to spend nearly £3,000,000 of Commonwealth money we should safeguard the farmer by enacting that the Commonwealth shall be responsible for any damage sustained by the wheat after it has passed into the hands of the governing authority.
– The governing authority will be the Wheat; Commission.
– We do not know that. I ‘therefore suggest the addition of this proviso to clause 8 -
Provided- that the authority responsible for the storage of wheat or flour in such silos shall guarantee owners against damage sustained after the receipt of such wheat or flour in good order and condition.
I have outlined two proposals which will be of practical benefit to the farmer, and I invite the representatives of the farming districts to join with me in seeing that some such provision as I have indicated is made.
The honorable member for Calare expressed the hope that the Government would do something. Who constitute the Government? He is part of the Government, and he and others sitting with him are responsible for the Government’s existence. He has not to plead with the Government as to what they will do: it is for him to stand up and say what the supporters of the Government desire? and if they choose to assert their strength they can insist on the provision I have mentioned being placed in the Bill. We on this side of the House can ask and the Government can refuse, . but members on the Government side have power to do as they please.
In the course of this debate something has been said about the price of wheat. I think there should be a fixed minimum price for wheat for Australian consumption. The price of bread is not necessarily based on what is paid to the farmer for his wheat. Agents’ charges, millers’ profits, and bakers’ prices are responsible for the prevailing high price of bread. The matter of the price of wheat has given me much thought for a long time, and I certainly think that if we are to continue to impose on the farmer certain labour conditions; if we are to insist upon the manufacture in Australia of harvest! machinery under conditions which will increase its price over that of machinery made in any other part of the world; if we are to compel the farmer to pay more wages and more for everything he uses in the production of hie wheat, the least we can do is to see that he gets a fixed price for his product, so asto enable him to meet those charges which we compel him to bear.
– What do you suggest as the fixed price at the present time?
– The honorable member is very smart in putting what he regards as a catch question. The same question has already been put to farming organizations throughout the country, and no two committees have given similar answers. So far as I can gather - and I follow the reports of farming organizations as closely as I can - about 4s. is regarded as a fair minimum price at the present time.
– According to the two previous speakers the farmers regard 4s. as the cost of production.
– The cost of production as laid down by the farmers’ committees really represents the selling price of the wheat delivered at the railway station. I wish to deal with the farmer in the way that I think every other section of the community should be dealt with. I admit that it is impossible for us to fix the price of Australian wheat that is sold overseas, but we can determine the price of the wheat that is consumed locally. Our White Australian policy and our Labour legislation have established a new standard of living in the Commonwealth, and we cannot exempt the wheat farmer from their operation. We provide for a minimum price of sugar to enable the sugar grower to adopt the Australian standard of living. We must do the same for the wheat farmer.
– We cannot guarantee him a good crop.
– But the things that we can do, we ought to do.
– I suppose that the honorable member would agree to the proposition that the smaller the farmer’s crop the bigger should be the price?
– That is a matter which cannot be decided off-hand. In my judgment some fair average yield ought to be taken as a basis. The price should not be fixed either upon an exceptionally good or upon an exceptionally bad yield.
– Is it the honorable member’s idea that we should differentiate between the price which is paid for wheat overseas and that which is paid in Australia?
– It is not possible for us to fix the price of wheat sold overseas, but we can fix a fair price for that which is consumed in Australia - a price based upon the conditions which the farmer has to observe.
– The honorable member is out of line with the organizations with which he is associated.
– I am not. I hold in my hand a report of the last Labour conference in New South Wales, which dealt with farmers’ questions. The opening paragraph of that report reads -
The Labour movement is based upon the recognition of the truth that practically all wealth comes primarily from the land. This accounts for Labour’s desire to promote closer settlement, and the rigid distinction it draws between the genuine land user and the land trafficker. Labour objective: “The securing to the producers the full results of their labour,” succinctly states our attitude towards the’ important question of a just distribution of wealth. The men working at the lathe or in the mines share with the men on the plough the distinction of being essentials in the production of wealth. We believe that the interests of the farmer are identical with the interests of his brother in the mine or in the workshop. Each is necessary to the well-being of the other, in the division of labour, and as consumers of the other’s product. Both are deprived of the fair share of the fruits of their labour by the waste of the competitive system; both are victims of organized exploitation; and both can only look for redress to the one method - co-operation.
Being without a daily press, we have been greatly handicapped in establishing in the minds of the farming community a recognition of this identity of interests.
The report goes on to deal with quite a number of reforms which would directly affect the farmer. It continues -
Our rural programme is -
Wheat stacks. - Government purchase and distribution of all new cornsacks required by farmers.
The final paragraph says -
This constructive policy will materially benefit the country producer by facilitating land settlement, cheapening production and eliminating the evil of the over-handling of produce, thus securing for the farmer the full result of iiib industry.
– He has to pay the Australian rates of wages for the whole of his crop, and the honorable member would recompense him in respect to only a third of it.
– As I have already remarked, there are some things for which we cannot provide. If anybody can show me how we can make adequate provision for them I will be most willing to join with him in doing whatever may be necessary.
– After all these pious expressions the honorable member is charging the farmer £1 per day for bagging his wheat.
– No honorable member of this House has ever voiced his objection to sweating in stronger terms than did the Minister for the Navy when he was a trade union secretary. Yet he never loses a chance of gibing at those whose cause he previously championed. He knows perfectly well that the men who have been granted £1 per day for bagging wheat took their case to the Arbitration Court, and were awarded that rate.
– That did not make it right.
– If it did not make it right the fact remains that the award was given upon evidence submitted by all the interests concerned. The Court took into account the fact that these men had to travel hundreds of miles from their homes, and that their employment was of an intermittent character. Taking all these circumstances into consideration, the rate of £1 per day was decided uponI do not know whether the rate is a reasonable one or not. But surely the Judge who heard the case-
– Was it Mr. Justice Higgins ?
An Honorable Member. - It was Mr. Justice Heydon.
– I was almost ;going to say that Mr. Justice Heydon is a partisan Judge. At any rate, he is not one who has shown any remarkable leaning towards trade unions or the workers.
– If the honorable member had said that he was a partisan Judge, hewould merely have stated what honorable, members opposite say about Mr. Justice’ Higgins.
– It is all very well for an honorable member opposite to interject something about Mr. Justice Higgins. But if that gentleman was not discharging the duties of his office satisfactorily
– Order ! The honorable member is digressing.
– I wish, sir, that you would pull up honorable members opposite when they digress. Mr. Justice Higgins, may be removed from his omeo if he pollutes the fount of justice. The fact that this Government take.no action shows the hollowness of criticisms of Judge Higgins by Government supporters.
Reference has been made to the price of wheat overseas. Undoubtedly a good deal has been done for the farmer since the outbreak of the present war; but at the same time everything has not been done for him.
– Will the honorable member answer me one question?
– Does the honorable member think that the farmer can afford to pay £1 per day for bagging his wheat ? Answer “Yes” or “No.”
– The Minister for the Navy has asked me a question to which I am not in a position to answer “ Yes “ or “No.” I know that there was a dispute as to the rate of payment to be made for this work, and that a properly constituted authority decided that itshould be £1 per day, and I believe that the men were absolutely entitled to every penny of it, otherwise Judge Heydon would not have awarded the amount named.
– On the same scale, how much should be paid to the boys in the trenches ? i
– On the scale of profits and member’s salary received by the honorable member, how much should our soldiers receive who are defendingproperty in Australia ? I admit that our troops are not! paid nearly enough, and I hope that the honorable member will support a proposal to seethatthey get more liberal treatment. He will have the opportunity later on. The so-called £1 per day does not work out at £1 per day, because it is really rush work. The men have a few days at one place and then they are off somewhere else. There is no comparison between this class of work and permanent employment. It is because of the intermittent nature of it, and because it is hard work while it lasts, that some special arrangement has been made.
The Prime Minister does not seem to have done as much as he might have done in connexion with the sale and disposal of Australian wheat. A recent visitor to Australia was Mr. Calkins, the manager of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St.. Paul railway system, which has one of its terminals at Seattle, a port on the western coast of the United States of America, the home’ of a very large and growing shipping industry.
– Does the honorable member propose to tell us why he went to America?
– I can say that I went there at my own expense. I suppose that the honorable member has had his trip all over the world before to-day. Apparently any one associated with the Labour party is not permitted to have a holiday,, even at his own expense.
– This great railway company, to which I have referred, was very anxious to establish a line of steamships between Seattle and Port Jackson, and its representative came to Australia and endeavoured to ascertain what encouragement the Commonwealth Government would give to the proposed line of steam -ships.
– Was that since the war broke out?
– Yes. I met this gentleman in Melbourne. He told me that he was negotiating with the Prime Minister and endeavouring to get him to” come to some special arrangement for the purpose of enabling this line of steamships to be inaugurated. In order to compete with other railway companies in America this railway company found that they could nob get the carrying of goods over their railway to Seattle for shipment to Australia unless they had a direct line of steamers from Seattle to Australia, such as there is from San Francisco. I understood from this gentleman that he was unable to impress the Prime Minister to get any satisfaction from him in regard to his proposition. Unfortunately he was in Chicago when I was in Seattle, but later on he wrote to me, and asked me to return to Seattle, because he was anxious to explain on the spot something which could not be explained so easily by correspondence. I have received a letter from him since then, and he states the project has not been furthered. My point inthisis, that at the time the ruling rate for wheat in America was l1s. a bushel, and there was ample loading for export to Australia. What the railway company worried about was to secure back loading to Seattle, and its representative was proposing to take backwheat to America. Arrangements could have been made for the exchange of wheat between the west and east coasts of America by which, Great) Britain could have secured wheat from the eastern States of America with only five or six days’ sailing across the Atlantic, and we could have supplied the western coast from Australia. That is an opportunity which, to my own knowledge, was missed. Had it been seized the farmers could have got rid of a considerable quantity of the wheat which is now going to waste in this country through plagues and neglect, and they could have secured a very handsome price for it. There is now a proposal, which probably originated from the gentleman that I have mentioned, to export Australian wheat to the west coast of America, and American wheat from the east coast to Great Britain, which could thus secure supplies that otherwise it might be impossible to obtain.
– Did the honorable member, when he was in America, go into the question of the bulk handling of wheat?
– No,not particularly; but the elevator system is in evidence generally throughout the United States of America, and universally in Canada, and there is no advocacy of a return to the bagsystem. There are tremendous elevators in Canada.
This comparatively small beginning will provide for the storage of about 49,000,000 bushels, which is about eighteen months’ supply for the people of Australia.
– It is to provide for the third of the normal harvest.
– The Prime Minister mentioned 49,000,000 bushels. The average consumption per annum is about 25,000,000 bushels, and 12,000,000 bushels are required for seed purposes, which brings the home consumption to about 37,000,000 bushels per annum.
– Seed, wheat will not go into silos.
– It may not, but we should always have twelve or eighteen months’ supply of wheat in Australia, which is so subject to periodical droughts and crop failures. It is just as necessary to store foodstuffs in this way asit is to go in for water conservation. I hope that the scheme will be extended. It is almost sure to be added to once it is commenced. I hope that at the policy of storage will not only be a matter of urgency in connexion with the war, but will also be adopted to provide against those lean years which follow so regularly years of plenty.
– Then we have your blessing in regard to the matter?
– The honorable member has my support in connexion with this Bill. The honorable member and myself worked together in the party for a considerable time, and I suppose we are both as reasonable as we were then. Thisis not a party measure in any shape or form, as has been evidenced by the discussion in the House to-night.
– You have been making bitter party attacks on me already.
– It is hard to think, of the honorable member without thinking also of the party issue. It is very difficulty for him to get away from it. The honorable member himself introduced the matter of pay to wheat stackers, in order to attack the wage-earner.
– I made no attack. I would like to see them get 30s. a day as long as it was notat the expense of the farmer.
– The honorable member might like to see them get 30s., but he would oppose every means by which they might get it. I hope the improvements that have been suggested will be made in the Bill as it goes through Committee, and that it will be an instalment of a very useful reform.
.- I think the Government does well to approach the question of the storage of grain, even though the Bill be merely an instalment of what I believe to be an ill-thought-out scheme of storage or a scheme in connexion with which the House has not been sufficiently informed. There is not a more important question for the Australian Legislature to deal with than that of storage, because we have in the Commonwealth at least one and two-thirds normal harvests, of wheat banked up and stored with no immediate prospect of transport, in all, 165,000,000 bushels. In the language of the Commissioners, it would take 900 ships each of 5,000 tons capacity to get it away. We also have the prospect within a few months of another normal harvest. Upon the general question of storage, the Government cannot do too much, but it has the right to take the House into its confidence as to what is really designed by this Bill. It is entitled “A Bill for an Act relating to Wheat Storage,” but it does not go far before it indicates in what way it proposes to deal with storage, for it uses the term “ silo,” and thereby cuts out the system of storage that has been in operation in the past.
It will not be amiss to review the methods by which wheat has been handled and stored in the past. The system in operation hitherto has been that in some country districts the farmers, either themselves or through their organizations, have built farmers’ stores. Some States have also built storages in the country, but- there is little internal storage in the States under the control of the Government, and the main storage of wheat in Australia is of the crudest and most inexpensive kind possible. That is the system of providing dunnage and iron on top, and in a normal year that wheat gets through with infinitesimal loss, and even gains weight. The question of wheat storage has been exaggerated by reason of the visitation of the mice plague, and experienced farmers will look back twenty-five years for a parallel season. In fact, in the history of wheat-growing in Australia there has never been a parallel season so far as destruction by mice is concerned. I mention this at this stage because a lot of people run away with the idea that the provision of storage will prevent the recurrence of what has just been happening.
I have gone most carefully through the report of the Commissioners whohave been intrusted with the task of advising the Government on the question. No practical man will say that this is a report upon which he can cast an intelligent vote for the adoption of the bulk-handling system. This Bill, and the debate which has ensued on it, has clearly shown that what is now before the House is an instalment of the bulk-handling system. It cannot be said to be anything else. If the Government are going to deal with the bulk-handling system, let them come right out with the proposal and give us all the fundamental principles upon which that system is based. Let them go into primal costs, storage costs, handling costs, and transport costs, and let the producers and the country generally know which of the two systems is the more acceptable. I have some sympathy with the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield, who feels his farmers are not yet prepared to accept the bulk-handling system, because the principle has never been thoroughly threshed out in Australia. The Commission says it has arrived at its conclusion from the evidence taken, but nowhere in the report is there evidence that the Commissioners have sat down to the fundamental problems of the bulk-handling system, which, if it be adopted in Australia, must be adopted in toto. If this Bill passes, Australia is in for a dual system of handling wheat.
– We cannot have both.
– We must, then, have them. Here is provisionto deal with the storage of only onethird of a normal harvest, although we have 165,000,000 bushels of wheat in Australia,, or one and two-thirds normal harvests, with another harvest four months off. All the statements made by the Prime Minister, and allthe reasons given by the Commissioners in their report, would be good and sufficient if advocated in respect of the major portion of the wheat to be dealt with. If only onethird of a normal harvest is to-be protected from the weevil at a time when there is no shipping in sight, by the time the shipping comes here the weevil will lave consumed the bulk of the wheat. I take it that the only possible reason for the introduction of the silo system of storage would be to protect, at any rate, that portion of the wheat which has been sold to the British Government. I should be prepared to debate in every one of its aspects the bulk-handling system as well as the present system, and this House should be given the opportunity of going into every one of the phases of the question.
This Bill will authorize the expenditure of £2,800,000 in the provision of silos. I agree that the location of silos must be left to the Commissioners. It is the farmer’s business to produce wheat, and in the ordinary way to deliver it. He cannot be a business man, and he is certainly not in the transport business.
– He ought to be a business man.
– My honorable friend opposite, who is usually a great exponent of State enterprise, apparently believes the State to be incompetent at the present time to deal with the question of transport. The storage of wheat along the railway system is a link in a complete system of transport. In this Bill, which is a Bill for the provision of silos, there is no provision for the conversion of any portion of the rolling-stock to deal with the bulk handling of wheat.
– There is nothing to show that it cannot be rebagged out of the silos.
– If you are going to have a rebagging system-
– This is storage, not bulk handling.
– If we are going to have the storage of wheat in the bag, we shall not get rid of the weevil.
– Stored in the silos.
– In a cylinder, and the cylinder is usually operated by the elevator. If we are ‘to have what the honorable member says, then we shall not secure economy in the handling of grain in bulk. We are asked to impose on Australia, by an instalment, the bulkhandling system, which has been illthought out and ill-digested. There is not in the House a man sufficiently expert in the two methods to be able to cast an intelligent vote on this Bill. I have investigated the question, but I could not tell honorable members to-day, without further investigation - and that investigation would have to go beyond Australia - which is the better system. We must have regard to the question of the arrival of Australian wheat at Home, and to the handling of it abroad. There are men who have looked carefully into the question, but who are not prepared to say that, unless Australia controls some bulk-handling space at the other end, the system should be adopted here.
I am familiar with the operations in connexion with wheat production from the time the seed is sown until the producer receives his cheque, but I have never yet been able to satisfy myself completely that it would be possible, without tremendous cost to Australia, to convert the present system of handling wheat in packages of 200 lbs. into the bulk-handling system. If, at the present time, we are merely to go to the extent of providing storage for onethird of the normal harvest, the rest of Australia’s wheat will be exposed to all the dangers anticipated in the report to which I have referred. It seems to me that, in this proposal, we have the introduction of the thin end of the wedge to bring about the adoption of the bulkhandling system before the House has been taken thoroughly into the confidence of the farmers and the country, and before it has been provided with particulars as to the fundamental difference between bulk handling and dealing with wheat in packages. The honorable member for Cook said he would have on the Commission some practical farmers. If we can secure the services of a practical farmer with a commercial mind, who has followed wheat from the point of production to the port of shipment, and who has seen it on its way Home, well and good.
– We have such a man in the honorable member.
– No, I have not seen the wheat Home.
– But the honorable member is familiar with the operations.
– Quite so; but, before adopting such a system, we must have the evidence of experts who are fully satisfied that it is the best. We should have such evidence before we enter upon a scheme which, it is estimated, will ultimately cost £15,000,000. This is not the time when Australia should embark on the bulk-handling system, unless we are perfectly satisfied that there should be some such special provision. As to the attitude of South Australia, as detailed by the honorable member for Wakefield, I consider it to be most illogical, although I have some sympathy with the farmers over there who are not ready to adopt bulk handling. The honorable member said, in effect, that we should try the system first of all in Victoria and New South Wales, and that, if it were successful, South Australia would adopt it. It is, so to speak, a case of trying it first of all on “ the other dog.” That is the South Australian attitude. When the wheat of Australia is pooled, however, and when every grower in each State obtains exactly the same terms, I fail to see how it is possible for one State to stand out and to refuse to bear its share of the expenditure which may bring to it increased rewards.
Under this system there must not only be a conversion of the methods of handling the wheat itself, but a conversion of rolling-stock, and of the ships that trade with Australia. Unless the owners of those vessels get a port option, we shall have to pay more for our freights. The whole question of bulk handling bristles with difficulties. Expert knowledge is required in respect of transport, as well as in the other directions I have indicated. We have in Australia men who are conversant with transport, with overseas shipping, and with the methods of disposing of the wheat on the other side. This report anticipates that the bulk-handling system is coming in. It justifies the present proposal on the basis that it is an instalment of what is to be the ultimate adoption of the bulk-handling system. If that is the intention of the Government, they should have told us straight out that they are prepared to go on with the bulkhandling system. Had they done so, we should have known where we were. While I hold these views, I am not going to oppose this or any measure designed topreserve any of the produce of the farmer which he has toiled hard to deliver. No honorable member dare at this stage interfere in any way with the provision of storage for the produce of our farmers. But I do say that it is not right to introduce the thin end of the wedge in this way, and by the instalment system to commitAustralia to the ultimate adoption of the bulk-handling system.
There is yet another aspect of the provision of storage to which I would refer. The system of storage in silos has been tried in Canada, and the following cablegram was sent on behalf of the Commissioners to the Prime Minister of the
Dominion, asking to be advised as to the result of their experience there -
Greatly obliged if you oan inform me as to the length of time wheat stored in silos or elevators will keep’ without deterioration.
Sir Robert Borden replied in the following terms -
In answer to your telegram of 27th May, good dry grain will keep indefinitely in both wood and concrete elevators. Damp grain, arriving during the winter, will’ keep until summer.
That is practically six months -
Arriving in springs or summer, will keep 15 or 20 days, and must be re-elevated.
For the most part, Australian grain is raised in dry areas, but grain is also raised here in the more temperate climates, under what might be termed coastal influences. It is very likely that that grain would in itself be sufficient to fill the silo provision to be made under this Bill.
I am not one to put blame for the damage in connexion with the loss of wheat either on the Wheat Commission or the agents. Had provision been made earlier, there would have been less damage, but we could not be expected to foresee a mice plague, and if provision had been made in advance, we would have incurred a considerable amount of expenditure, which in normal seasons would have been unnecessary. The farmer, as a rule, is quite capable of looking after his own affairs, but not 5 per cent, of the farmers of Australia kept their own seed wheat and horsefeed free from the depredations of mice. Hundreds, if not ‘thousands, of tons of prime hay is rotting throughout Australia, having been rendered almost useless by the mice plague. It is wrong, therefore, to visit upon men who are the trustees of the farmers’ wheat responsibility for the damage that has been done. On the whole the controllers of the wheat pool have given remarkably good service to Australia.
– You have a mighty poor opinion of the business ability of the farmers generally.
– On the contrary I have a very good opinion of the farmers’ business ability, and so would the honorable member if he had been a secretary of a genuine farmers’ association for long.
– I was secretary when it was a genuine organization, and not an organization such as it is now.
– The honorable member for Yarra, in his remarks concerning the reduction in the price of wheat, in order to provide a ‘cheaper loaf, is somewhat at variance with the honorable member for Cook.
– He did not say iti should be reduced.
– We are entitled to draw our own conclusions from his remarks, which are in remarkable contrast to those by the honorable member for Cook, who is particularly solicitous just now about the welfare of ‘the farmers. The honorable; member for Yarra said that the consumers of this country were paying too much for their wheat, and in reply to that statement I point out that up to date the return to the farmer from the No. 1 wheat pool has been about 3s. lid., and that the market value of his scrip in that pool is about 2 1/2d. All of that, crop, with the exception of about 35,000,000 bushels, has been disposed of.
– What do you think the price of wheat would be had there been no war?
– I would be obliged if the honorable member would allow me to conclude my argument in my own way. Now, as I have said, the price of the old scrip is 2 1/2d., making the total for that wheat crop 4s. 1 1/2d. in Australia, whereas wheat is worth 10s. 6d. in the Old Country, so that the consumer of Australia gets his loaf on the basis of wheat at 4s. 9d., and there is no middleman to be satisfied.
– We were told that the Government had made an agreement with the British Government^ yet some one got £75,000 in commission from the “pool.”
– Yes, and in one case £90,000 was paid twice.
– If we had been dependent upon the laymen of this country, either to control and export the crop, the farmers would have been in a less favorable position than they are to-day. The men who had always controlled the wheat harvest, and had their organizations in proper working order, generously placed their services at the disposal of the Government on terms mutually arranged between the Government, and themselves.
– They were patriotic at a price.
– They gave the Government the benefit of all their life’s experience.
– Yes, at a price.
Mir. RODGERS.- The same remarks might be appliedto the storage of the wool. Experts in this business gave the Government the benefit of their experience, with the result that the scheme now in operation for the appraisement and handling of our wool, is said to be one of the most perfect systems in the world.
Coming back to the question of the wheat pool, I think it is quite right that the farmers should have representation on the question of control. There is no doubt about that. They have raised it, they have deliveredit into the hands of the Commission, and, in my judgment, they should have their representation on the Board. But, after all, this proposal relates to storage and transport, and the honorable member for Cook is wrong in thinking that the farmer is an expert in this business. This is a question which concerns experts of the Railway Department, and those who deal in overseas shipment.
– Did not the Government) during the election campaign, promiseto give the farmers representation ?
– But the election is over.
– As a matter of fact the farmers have representation on the Advisory Board, which sits in consultation with the Wheat Commission. However, I am prepared to go further than that, and to give them representation on the Commission. ]’ regret that the House has been deprived of the opportunity of considering, in all its aspects, the two questions of bagging and storage of wheat, and I am sorry that Australia is to be committed, by a process of instalments, to the adoption of a system which has never been thoroughly investigated.
– Are you against bulk handling ?
– No, but that is no reason why I should deprive men who do not agree with me from securing fair consideration for the proposal, which will mean the expenditure of £15,000,000 as against the present position. The latter system has been well tried; and if bulk handling is adopted, the present storage must be put to some other use. I urge on the Government not to limit the question of storage to wheat, but to remember that, as shipping is scarce, there are many other products of a more perishable nature worth consideration. Recently, in the rural development of Australia, I should say that more families have gone in for dairying and fruit-growing than for any other branch; and these people, in a few months, will be faced with an over production. Australia will be unable to consume all their produce, and we shall be faced with a very difficult problem ; indeed, I fancy that the Government will have to face a tougher proposition than they now imagine. Not more than a year or two ago there seemed an excellent prospect of settling deserving returned soldiers on the land under a policy of generous assistance by means of which they might become prosperous settlers; but, with an almost total absence of shipping, the outlook is not nearly so attractive as before.
– I suppose the honorable member agrees with what I saidas to freights after the war.
– That, of course, is a difficulty. If we are to have bulk handling, we shall require a much greater expenditure than that proposed, and I certainly think that provision should be made for more -perishable products. There might, I think, be a conference with those at present in control of the food storage, for such storage, both private and State, is being extended with a view to accommodating beef, mutton, and dairy produce. In this, I think, the Commonwealth should co-operate, and, if necessary, afford ample assistance in order to cope with those products we cannot ourselves consume.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lynch) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act-Land acquired under, at-Woollahra, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Public Service Act - Promotion of A. H. Hearn, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Journ alists’ Award: Actionof Newspaper Proprietaries - Federal Elections: The Brisbane Seat: Military Band Outside Polling Booth: Soldiers’ Votes - General Birdwood and Conscription - Australian Citizens in New Zealand - Soldiers’ Dependants and Allotments of Pay: Case op Private Summers.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That this House do now adjourn.
.- During the debate on the Wheat Storage Bill, I referred to the question of industrial conditions, and said that one of the newspapers in Melbourne had flouted the award given by the Court. I was asked to which newspaper I referred, and I said that it was the Argus; but I am now informed that I was somewhat unfair to that publication, seeing that it was not the only one that had so acted. I do not desire to be unfair to any newspaper, however unfair it may be to me, and I should like to quote the following extract from the Australasian Journalist, of the 15th June this year -
Offices Reducing Staffs
Brief intimation was given in the May Journalist of the steps certain newspaper proprietaries were taking to evade the provisions of the award. The facts were then stated, and readers were invited to form their own conclusions as to whether these proprietaries were acting honorably in accordance with their undertaking given to the Court, that they would accept and obey the decision of the Court, both in the letter and the spirit.
Not content with dismissing employees, some proprietaries are stooping so low as to refuse the payment of money already earned. They are compelling the employees to seek the verdict of the Courts. They knew well that for an employee to proceed in Court against an employer is to cut off his chance of continuing his employment. In this matter they take a cowardly and unspeakably paltry advantage of their position.
In Sydney sixteen or seventeen members of the A.J.A.have been dismissed. Most of them are district correspondents.
The Adelaide proprietors waited to see how the cat was going to jump. They started timidly, andup to date there are five or six casualties. The majority of them are in the Advertiser office, an establishment which has not been notedfor generous treatment to its employees in the past.
In Perth, the DailyNews has re-engaged the men it dismissed, and trouble seems to have ceased. But the West Australian, an office which has been in the habit of working its men long hours, and then compromising with them on their claims for overtime, has now joined the ranks of the establishments that are repudiating their promise to the Court. It has dismissed two members from its small staff.
So far as the Victoria district is concerned, the dismissals from the three daily newspaper staffs, on account of the award, have been three -one in each office. In the case of the Herald, compensation to the amount of £180 was paid. Several of the members of the staff of this proprietary have been “ warned “ as to the future. The three proprietaries have dismissed their district correspondents, but have invited most of them to send “ copy “ forward as contributors - an ingenious way of defeating the clause in the award which provides that district correspondents shall be guaranteed £4 a week. Hitherto the Age and the Herald have required their district correspondents to look after everything happening in, the suburbs given into their charge. The Argus, on the other hand, made arrangements with suburban newspaper proprietors, chiefly to cover certain work, such as Police Courts and council meetings, for which fixed payment was made. Now all the proprietors have adopted the method of recognising “ copy “ from the suburbs as coming from contributors. Of course, the same service as was given before is required, and the practice now adopted is a device to escape guaranteeing the payment of a living wage. Though the district correspondents, who, by force of circumstances are attending to their districts as before, are not getting the guarantee of £4 a week, they are receiving an increase of1/2d. on what is published from them, which is exceedingly limited. Whilst re-organization of the staff has been going on, there has been disorganization and dissatisfaction.
The authority I had was the statement I read in the Australasian Journalist. I have the issue for May with me here. I said this afternoon that one newspaper had done this kind of thing, and now so far from withdrawing the statement as applied to that newspaper, I have only to say that the same thing was done by practically every other newspaper in Australia. Ihad the Argus particularly in mind, because on Saturday night when I spoke at a smoke night gathering in Melbourne I found that the Argus had denounced the members of theAustralian Workers Union and other unions for not obeying the awards of the Arbitration Court, and at the same time it was doing the verything it denounced. I specially mentioned the Argus, but I should have included other newspapers as well in my statement.
– I understand that they treat their employees probably better than do the proprietors of any other newspaper, but my complaint is that, whilst they tell unionists that they should obey the awards of the Court, they do not obey the award that was given in the Journalists’ case. I ask the Argus and every other newspaper in” Australia to try this kind of thing on with the members of. the Typographical Society. They know what they would get if they did. I know that not a word of my present statement will appear in these journals, though the proprietors may look up Hansard to see what WaS said, in order that some one may be able to write fancy notes on the subject for a Saturday’s issue. They have denounced men for not obeying the awards of the Court, and when they have themselves an opportunity to deal with’ men who are not very well organized, they dismiss them in some cases and reduce them in status in others. I could find the names of men who have been district correspondents for some of these newspapers for years, and who. without a moment’s notice, have been dismissed and told that they may send in anything they, like as contributors, and that if used they will get 2d. a line for it.
– I wish briefly to refer to a question I put to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to-day, and his reply thereto. The question I asked was - .
Will the Minister state by whose orders, and for what purpose, a military band played for some time outside the main polling booth in Brisbane during the recent Federal election. To this question the Minister gave me the following reply -
The military band that played outside the Town Hall, in Brisbane, on 5th May last was used by the Recruiting Committee for recruiting purposes. This band played outside the enlistment depot, and not outside a polling booth. I want to say that the Minister gave me a misleading and incorrect reply to my question. That is putting the matter in 03 mild a way as possible. I was tempted to use a word that is unparliamentary. The answer given me was a false answer.
– Does the honorable member say that the Minister knew it to be false.
– No, because he could not have known the facts. He gave a misleading answer that was supplied to him by some one else. I am told that the military band played outside the Town Hall on the day of the election. I did not ask where the band played at any particular time of the day, but put a question which showed that a band played outside the polling booth. In spite of the Minister’s reply to my question, I assert that a military band played outside the main polling booth in Brisbane on the day of the election, and we know for what purpose. Any sane man will assume that it was but one of the dirty little tricks that the National party played in order to influence the result of the elections. The Minister says that the band played outside . the enlistment depot and not the polling booth. I point out that the enlistment depot is in the same place that the polling booth was on that day. The answer given to me is misleading on the face of it, because if the band did not play outside the polling booth it could not have played outside the enlistment depot, which was the same place.
– Does not a band play at the same place every day?
– It was neW known to play there either before that day or since. The Minister says that the Recruiting Committee ordered the band to play there, and if that be so I should like to know who inspired the committee to send the band there on that day. If it is necessary for a band to play outside the enlistment depot, why was not the idea suggested by the interjection of the honorable member for Denison carried out, and that place made a regular recruiting depot ? The ,only impression left on the minds of the people of Brisbane was that this was one of those sly, clever tricks to catch votes by stirring up the patriotic feelings of the Win-the-war party, and to make people believe that plenty of noise and plenty of talk, such as we get from the Ministerial party, was going to win the war.
I am quite certain ‘ that no other candidate for election throughout Australia had a similar experience to mine. I do not know why I was selected for this honour, unless it be that I was told before I left Melbourne that if it was possible to defeat me for Brisbane I would be defeated. I was also informed that the Liberals were prepared to surrender three seats in Queensland if they could defeat, me for Brisbane
– The honorable member fancies himself.
– I do not; that is the Liberal’s estimate of me.
– The honorable member won the seat by a good deal, I suppose.
– The wonder is that I am here, and if it had not been for a mistake by one of the officials in putting down thirty votes for the other fellow I would not be here. I make the statement here and now, which I made publicly in Brisbane, that the recount of the votes inthe Brisbane election was ordered for a special purpose, and that was to find out how many soldiers’ votes would be necessary in order to defeat me.
– A wicked lie.
– Order !
– It is not a wicked lie. I said in Brisbane, and I say now, that the soldiers’ votes for Brisbane were altogether disproportionate to the enlistments for that electorate, and soldiers’ votes were thrown into the Brisbane electorate to defeat me which had no right to be* included in the votes for that electorate.
– The honorable member is altogether wrong.
– I go further, and say that the- soldiers’ votes were manipulated in their distribution. Votes were thrown into electorates that were not legitimate votes for those electorates. I made that statement publicly in Brisbane.
– Did the honorable member shock anybody when he said it?
– There was plenty of noise about it. If the honorable member will take the trouble to read the newspaper reports showing the soldiers’ votes recorded for the various electorates he will notice startling discrepancies. It would appear that in the matter of enlistments some electorates did remarkably well and others remarkably bad.
– What the honorable member suggests is that the Chief Electoral Officer did not behave himself. He is the person responsible.
– Whoever was responsible^ - I do not know who it was - it may have been the Prime Minister-
– It was Critchley Parker, if it was not the Prime Minister.
– The manner in which the soldiers’ votes were allotted to the various electoral divisions was obviously wrong, and their manipulation is apparent when a careful scrutiny is made of the distribution.
– Did not the honorable member get an increase through the soldiers’ votes?
– A recount disclosed a mistake of thirty votes. I have already referred to that. Had not that recount been made, I should have been defeated by a majority of fifteen votes. That was the impression in Brisbane. Had it been known that this mistake had been made - some of us knew it, but said nothing of it - oversea votes would have been found to defeat me.
– Sergeant McGrath says that the votes were fairly distributed.
– I have a letter from Sergeant McGrath in which he says that the soldiers would give a good vote for Labour, and I have letters from other soldiers stating that there would be a good majority for the Labour party.
– The honorable member need not have gone to England to hear that statement.
– Some day, perhaps, some one will get into the Electoral Office’ and square up things there.
There is a suspicion that neither the last election nor the conscription referendum was honest; that the soldiers were misled in both cases. To-day I received a letter from a soldier telling of what is going on at the Front. He says that the Australians had an opportunity some time ago to get three months’ rest, but when news was received of the soldiers’ votes on conscription, General Birdwood told them that they could hang on.
– Surely the honorable member will not defame an administration because of the statements of a private letter-writer.
– General Birdwood is the soldiers’ idol.
– This is the writer’s statement -
Last year Birdwood bad the chance to withdraw the Australians for three months, but because they turned down conscription, he said they could hang on. This is what returned chaps say; and don’t you believe he is as popular with the men as the papers try to make out. What I read in Australian papers, and what the boys tell me over here - well, to say the least of it, there is a difference of opinion.
– That is only a statement of what the writer says he was told.
– It is a statement of what he has heard. Of course, he does not know everything; no one is in that position. General Birdwood, being a British Imperial officer, had no right to interfere in Australian affairs, as he did by issuing an address to the men in regard to conscription. That action was an impertinence which should not have been overlooked. It is only because he was carrying out the instructions of the Prime Minister that he has not had a hard rap over the knuckles for what he did. Any other man would have been treated differently ; and he had better take the hint to mind his own business. We can manage our own affairs.
– The honorable member’s voice is the first to be raised in Australia against General Birdwood.
– Not at all. I have heard complaints about him many a time. Let the honorable member hear what returned soldiers say of him.
– I would accept their verdict.
– I am not worrying about General Birdwood.
– No doubt he will survive the honorable member’s attack.
– I do not suppose that he will hear of it. My concern is that British Imperial officers shall attend to their own business and not interfere in our political affairs.
But I rose to speak of the playing of a military band outside a polling booth, and have been drawn off the track. Our Electoral Act very properly tries to prevent corrupting influences from entering into the conduct of elections, and I ask honorable members if they think that it was right for a military band to play outside a polling booth on election day ? Even though the Recruiting Committee had the best intentions, and thought that it would gain recruits by having the band playing, does any one here regard it as fair or proper that a military band should be used for political purposes? There is no denying the fact that either the Recruiting Committee or the military officers used the band for political purposes.
– Is recruiting a political purpose ?
– I am chairman of the Brisbane Recruiting Committee, and . know that its members were not supporters of Finlayson on election day. They have as much right to their political opinions as I have to mine, and I am not complaining because they did not support me. But when they used their recruiting facilities to try to influence votes, they were going beyond what was legitimate and proper. I call attention to the matter, not because I feel in any degree annoyed, but as an indication that of late there has been creeping into our electoral administration influences that bid fair to destroy the fairness that has hitherto characterized itAll over the world the Australian secret ballot, and our method of conducting elections, has been looked upon as constituting the high-water mark standard. But what happened during the last election and the conscription referendum caused a good deal of uneasiness and suspicion to creep into the minds of many persons in Australia, and created a considerable amount of comment abroad. Lose or win who may, let each party have fair play on election day ! Let there be a fair field and no favour, so thatthe people may say who shall rule them. If every man and every party is given an equal chance, there can be no recrimination, because we are all British enough to be able to take a beating, or to accept the responsibility of victory. If we complain about the present position of our party, it is because we think that we did not get a fair deal, and have every reason for believing that the most reprehensible tactics were adopted by the Prime Minister to secure our defeat. Had he given us the protection that his office required of him, there would have been no complaints. I hope that as the result of my speech to-night there will be no repetition of conduct such as that of which I complain.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories to the position of the number of slaughtermen who went to New Zealand to follow their occupation, leaving their families in Australia, and are now desirous of returning to this country, their stay in the Dominion being merely temporary. The matter has been brought under my notice by the union, of which they are members. These men, I understand, had no intention of taking up a permanent domicile in New Zealand. They went to that country merely to follow their occupation for a short time, hut’ we now find that the New Zealand Government are preventing them from returning to their homes in Australia. This is a serious matter,, affecting the rights, and, I might say, the privileges of Australian citizens. I hope that, in that manner which is so characteristic of him, the Minister will see that justice is done, and that the rights and privileges of Australian citizens are preserved to them.
.- I received to-day a letter from, a soldier at the Front, who went from my electorate, which I desire to bring under the notice o! the House. It is dated 22nd May, 1917, and reads as follows: -
You will forgive me for writing to you, but I see this is the only way of getting my grievance remedied. I am on active service in Prance, leaving Australia eighteen months ago with the 7th of 20th Batt. Reinforcements. Before leaving I made an allotment to my aged mother and invalided father, which amounted to about £3 fortnightly. Included in this £3 is £1 for being the sole support of the both of them. Everything appeared in good order, and the money was paid by the Military authorities for the first twelve months; but in January of this year my money was reduced to £1 2s. fortnightly for no reason whatever. My allotment of £1 for being sole support, and another £1 to make up for the back money my people had received, was stopped. Now, this means that they will have to carry on with lis. weekly for both of them, which is nigh impossible at the present high cost of living in Sydney. They are entitled to the money, and it’ hurts me very much to hear of them being deprived of the little comforts in the last days of their lives, and I think it is a’ lack of judgment on the Military authorities’ part. My father is 77 years of age, and for the past six years he has been bedridden with paralysis. My mother is ten years his junior, and they are both natives of Australia. So, sir, I do hope you will grant me a favour, and see to this grievance of mine. My people’s address is 18 Almastreet, Darlington, and mine is 5th Pioneer Batt., A.I.F. Hoping once again this meets with your approval, I am
Your obedient servant, 3266 Pr. E. Summers.
– The people of this country ought to know the way in which the Government are administering these matters.
– If you want the case attended to I should think that the best thing would be to submit it to the Minister.
– The honorable gentleman will please understand that I have been dealing with, cases of - this kind sufficiently long to know how to put a ‘ case before the Department without his assistance. I will see that not only does this case go before the Parliament and the people of this country, but that it goes before the Minister, and that he gives me an answer. This is not a solitary case. It is typical of a number of cases. I have brought cases of this kind under the notice of the Department on a number of occasions.
– It is an ex parte statement which you are giving to the country.
– It is a soldier’s statement. It shows how our soldiers at the Front are being worried by the administration of this Government. It shows, also, “how the conscription Government administer the voluntary system. It gives one of the reasons why the Government cannot get recruits under the voluntary system in satisfactory numbers. Because, with this soldier writing back to Australia like this, and other soldiers writing back to relatives and friends, pointing out the treatment meted to them by the Administration, the news is percolating through the entire population, and there are- grave doubts about the attitude of the Government towards the men.
– That will make them stop the letters now.
– It is a wonder to me that this letter got through. I was quite surprised to receive it to-day. Apparently it escaped the censor, as some other letters did. It came to me at the House to-day by post.
I noticed that the Minister for the Navy, the other day, had something to say in reference to conscription being reintroduced shortly.
– I am not aware of it.
– The right honorable member was reported, in I think the Daily Telegraph, within the last few days as having said” something about the conditions under which conscription would be re-introduced. I noticed that his statement varied a good deal from the statements made by the Prime Minister.
I understand that he occupies a position in this Ministry much the same as that which Sir George Reid occupied in an Administration. He shares with the honorable member for Bendigo in the leadership of the Government. The fact that his statement of policy very often differs materially from that of the Prime Minister, indicates that he has some authority of leadership in the Government. I will hunt up his statement. I forget exactly what the words of it were. I noticed that there was a big variation from the statement of the Prime Minister as to the conditions which would have to be brought about before conscription was re-introduced.
If we did have conscription, there would be no chance of remedying these grievances against the Administration. We only get some show of fair dealing in regard to these soldier cases to-day because the Government are absolutely dependent upon this administration in order to get recruits. If they had recruits guaranteed under the voluntary system we would not get much consideration for cases of this kind.
– Do you not think that it is time that you ^topped these sinister insinuations? You have hardly said a word to-day which has not had some sinister import. Why do you not take a “pull” at yourself?
– When the right honorable gentleman was on this side one never heard anything but a grumble from him. In fact, now that he is well provided with loaves and fishes one would expect a more cheerful disposition from him, but he cannot help getting something to grumble about, even when he is sitting on that side. I supported the Government’s proposal in a Bill before the House to-day, and it was the honorable member who really (introduced the lack of harmony into the proceedings.
– You did support it, and immediately you proceeded to try to make political capital out of it.
– The right honorable gentleman’s mouth is always very full of platitudes about political capital. No one else in the political arena can say anything or attempt to do anything but it is called an attempt to make political capital. He alone is the one sincere man in politics. Nothing he ever does is done with any ulterior motive; everything is straightforward. He went over to Sydney the other day, and explained the position of the Government when it had no business before the House, and then said that the Government were refused permission to go on with business.
– That is quite true.
– The right honorable gentleman knows the reason why I objected.
– The only thing I should have said was that the honorable member did his best to stop them.
– And succeeded, too, the right honorable gentleman might have added.
– Yes; and you gloated over the fact that you stopped business.
– If it was possible for the right honorable gentleman to put a correct interpretation before the public, he might know that the Prime Minister was asking for concessions at the hands of the Opposition. He was asked whether he would be prepared to meet requests on this side for concessions in kind, and he said positively that he was not prepared to do so. It is all contained in the Hansard report of the proceedings. The Minister for the Navy knows perfectly well that it was because of the deliberately unfair treatment of this side by the Government that the objection was taken.
– It was not that side at all; it was only the honorable member. He is not that side of the House.
– He is one of this side, and, as a member of the House, he is entitled to the same rights as any other honorable member.
– He is not entitled to control the House.
– There is a system growing up in the House. The right honorable gentleman thinks, when he’ is in power, that the minority have no right to any consideration.
– You are not even a minority; you are one - one only.
– Yes. But the honorable member could not make that fair statement. He had to put an absolute misrepresentation before the public of New South Wales in the statement he made to the Daily Telegraph at the week end.
– We adjourned the debate early,and you are keeping us late just the same.
– If the Government adjourned the debate early, that is all the more reason why we can do a little more business.
– Do you call this business?
– Attention to the soldiers in France is the business of the country, and I hope the Minister will see that this case and others of the kind are given that just consideration to which they are entitled.
– I think the cases the hononable member for Dalley referred to are those of men who obtained permission to go to New Zealand for service in connexion with the meat season. If the cases can be brought before me I will be able to have them inquired into. All that has come under my notice is that some men who had remained in New Zealand longer than six months were not permitted to return to Australia. I have asked for some particulars of the cases. If the men were in New Zealand eighteen months the New Zealand Government may have considered that they had changed their residence, and that therefore they came under the compulsory law. On this matter, if cases are mentioned, I hope to get information from the New Zealand Government.
In regard to the complaint of the honorable member for Brisbane, there could not possibly have been any allotment of votes outside the provisions of the Act. The gist of the honorable member’s remarks was that there had been some corrupt apportionment of the soldiers’ votes. We must assume that the Administration couldnot be guilty of such a thing as that.
– It is a pity we cannot have an inquiry into the matter.
– I only wish to mention that the Act prescribes that the divisions to which votes were to be allotted were to be those suggested by the addresses on the military roll. Of course, it may have followed that in some cases men were allotted to divisions in which they were not originally resident and electors. I do not wish to discuss now the reason for the wording of the Act in that way, but that was the only provision that was workable for the reasons stated when the Bill was introduced. Does the honorable member for Brisbane suggest that any electoral -officer, or the Administration, through any agent, wilfully and in defiance of the Act allotted votes to a division in which the return of a supporter of the Government was doubtful?
– The figures show that there was a suspicion of that being done.
– Does the honorable member think that it is worthy of his position as a member of the House to make an allegation like that on a mere surmise and without any proof? I tell the honorable member that I never heard a suggestion which would afford the slightest shadow of justification for his assertion. The Leader of the Opposition appointed Mr. McGrath as a special agent of his party to look after the scrutiny in England, and, by my direction, his scrutineers were paid. The Government also appointed a gentleman who attended to the scrutiny in their behalf, and both gentlemen were there to see that the votes were allotted in a proper manner. Following the publication of a statement by Mr. Mahon which cast a suspicion on the genuineness of the allotment, Mr. McGrath cabled, in effect, that everything was perfectly fair, and remonstrated against the same aspersions as the honorable member for Brisbane has put before the House to-night. Does the honorable member think that’ he is acting fairly in casting this suspicion on the Administration ? I do not think any other honorable member will support his remarks.
– I will refer to the matter again.
– I hope the next reference will be on facts. I do not suppose the honorable member would put forward a statement which he did not believe to be correct, but I ask him not, on the import of a single letter, to place an unjustifiable suspicion on the honesty of the Administration. There was no interference with the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer by any Minister during the recent campaign, and I tell the honorable member that I do not believe for a moment that his leader would justify the remarks which he has made to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170718_reps_7_82/>.