7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30p.m., andread prayers.
– Is the Assistant
Minister for Defence aware that since the statement made by him in theHouse, to the effect that overcoats which returned soldiers had bean obliged to hand in to the Department would be restored to them, many applications for their return have been made to the Department in Sydney, but that the soldiers have been informed by the Military authorities there that they have received no instructions on the subject from Head-Quarters ? Will the Minister look into the matter?
– I will.
Sentences on Seamen - Control of the Australiannavy - Captain Glossop.
– Has the Acting Minister for the Navy received any communication from the British Admiralty in regard to the sentences passed by a court martial on members of the crew of H.M.A.S. Australia? Will he also inform the House when the Australian Navy will again pass over to the control of the Commonwealth Government?
– A cablegram has been received from the British Admiralty to the effect that on receipt of the papers relating to the sentences the authorities there will deal with them, and give due consideration to the representations made by the Australian Government.
– Have the papers been sent Home?
– Yes, they were sent Home some time ago. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I may say that the Australian Fleet will revert to the control of the Commonwealth Government as from to-morrow
– Is it true, as reported, that Captain Glossop has resigned, or intends to resign, because he is dissatisfied with the decision of the Government to have the sentences imposed by him and his court martial analyzed by the British Admiralty, with a view to their remission ?
– To the best of my knowledge, it is not true that Captain Glossop has given notice of his intention to resign. I understand, however, that, on the ground of ill-health, he has applied for three months’ leave of absence. There is no record in the Department of any intention on his part to resign.
Closure and “Guillotine” Standing Orders.
– I wish to ask the Minister in charge of the House whether the Government, when they desire to shorten the debate on any measure, will in future avail themselves of the closure standing order, “ That the question be now put,” instead of bringing into ‘operation ‘ the “ guillotine “ standing order, which has the effect of depriving the House of an opportunity to divide on certain questions.
-The honorable member is aware of the object of the “ guillotine “ standing order. The arbitrary system of closing a debate by moving, without notice, “That the question be now put,” does not give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the business immediately under consideration. Under the “guillotine” standing order, however, honorable members are made aware of the time actually available for the discussion of the measure to which it is applied, and are thus enabled to direct their attention to those features of it which they deem to be most important.
– We do not have that opportunity.
-Honorable members opposite know exactly how they used that opportunity yesterday in connexion with the debate in Committee on the Commercial Activities Bill.
– I hadno opportunity to discuss that measure yesterday.
– Then the honorable member should ask members of his own party why that opportunity was denied him. The “ guillotine “ standing order, when brought forward for adoption, was fully discussed in the House, andI see no justification for departing from its use. When better understood, the standing order is one that I believe other Parliaments will recognise the wisdom of adopting.
– May I remind the House that a motion was carried yesterday in reference to a particular measure to which allusion has been made, declaring it to be an urgent measure, and fixing a time limit for its discussion. The closure motion cannot be applied to it in the circumstances.
Resignation of Captain Grant
– Has the Acting Minister for the Navy any statement to make as to the circumstances leading up to the resignation of Captain Grant from the position of Commandant of the Royal Australian Naval College?
– I have already made a statement on this subject.
– I think that statement was made, not in the House, but to the press.
– I have no hesitation in stating the facts. The papers, speaking from memory, show that on Armistice night the students at the Royal Naval College were told that they might go out and make as much noise as they pleased, but that they must return within halfanhour. When this leave expired all but eight , of the students had returned, and a few minutes later only two had failed to return. These two were found standing near the canteen, each drinking a glass of beer, but the papers, distinctly show that they were not intoxicated. It was open to the Captain in charge of the College to apply to these two youths any one of three methods of punishment. He chose to adopt the most extreme form - that of dismissal from the College - but this could not come into operation without the consent of the Minister. He dismissed the two students, who were in their fourth year, and subsequently representations were made to me by one of the boys, who came all the way from Queensland to do so. Before that, however, when it was first reported to me that there were three methods of punishment that might have been adopted, I had suggested by letter that a severe reprimand would be sufficient, but the head of the College would not budge from his position. It was just about that time that one of the boys - he ought really to be described as a young man - came down from Queensland.I may say that neither of the youths in question was a Victorian, nor the son of a member of Parliament, as the news paper had declared them to be. After seeing the boy who came . from Queensland, I instructed him to go back to College, and at the same time informed the College authorities that both were to be permitted to undergo their fourth-year examination. I may inform honorable members that at the time the examination was in progress; and I also arranged that they should be examined on the same papers as had been used for the other students. As a result of this, the Captain in charge of the College resigned. The boys were examined, with the result that one passed and was transferred to a ship on the high seas; while the other failed. In any case, both of these lads would have left the College immediately after the examination - in the case of success, to join a ship, or in the case of failure, to abandon a naval career. It will be seen that the argument that the dismissal of the boys was necessary because they might contaminate the other students did not apply. I have, I think, stated the whole case.
– Did any other fourthyear students fail at this examination?
– I could not say, offhand.
Deferred Payment Delayed
– Is the Acting Minister for the Navy aware that a number of men from the Australian warships, who are on leave and visiting their homes in Western Australia, havebeen waiting in Perth for several weeks, in fact for over a month, for the deferred pay to which they are entitled? Will the Minister see that this money is paid immediately ?
– I was not aware that these men had not been paid. I shall make inquiries, with a view to expediting their payment.
Speech by Senator Pearce.
– It is reported that recently in London Senator Pearce. after a visit to France, stated that the destruction in that country pointed to the lesson that the only way to defend Australia is to defend it on enemy soil. As that involves a departure from the tradi tional policy of Australia, which is one of defence and not of offence, does the Government propose to reconsider the whole question and declare a new policy ?
– I did notice the paragraph in the press; but I do not seethat an alteration in the policy of the Government is involved in the slightest degree If we continue our present policy, and by an attack on some island or other placed a short distance from Australia, we could at any time save this land from invasion and devastation, we should be failing in our national obligation if we did not appeal to our men to defend the country at that point of danger.
– In view of the fact that the mail service in Northern Queensland is very irregular,will the PostmasterGeneral consider the question of extending the lettergram system?
– Under the law, no differentiation can be made as between the States, and I am bound to obey that law.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories been drawn to a paragraph in the Argus this morning to the effect that Mr. Atlee Hunt is to administer the Northern Territory from Melbourne until the term of Professor Gilruth has expired ? If, asI suspected all along, Mr. Atlee Hunt is to ably administer the Northern Territory from Melbourne, why has the Minister appointed another Administrator ?
-I have not seen the paragraph referred to. The term of Professor Gilruth as Administrator expires in about six months from the 1st June. He is now taking a vacation; and in the meantime there are a great number of orders and other formal documents which have to be signed by some one. We have appointed a director of the Advisory Council who may, from experience, be found sufficient to cope with the business in the Territory without the usual Administrator, and in the meantime I have declared by Ordinance that the Secretary to the Department shall be appointed Deputy Administrator. His functions, however, are not to be in practice those of an administrator, but simply have reference to such matters as the signing of formal documents. I cannot do all that work myself, though the control of the Territory rests with me.
Mr.Page. - Whoever gave the Argus the information did not explain that.
– Of course, phraseology is sometimes unintentionally misleading.
– I notice in the Orders of the Day that the name of the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) still appears as a member of the Public Accounts Committee. I understood the honorable gentleman resigned some time ago, and I should like to know whether the appearance of his name in the List is in order.
– I received and reported to the House the resignation of the honorable member referred to, and sent it to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt). The name of the honorable gentleman still appears on the Orders of the Day because he has not been discharged from the service of the Committee, and the name cannot be removed until this is done. It is a matter that rests with the House, which appointed the honorable gentleman.
– Is the Acting Leader of the House in a position to inform us on what date the Government expect to receive Admiral Jellicoe’s report ?
– I am not yet in a position to give that information. I understand that Admiral Jellicoe will be in Sydney in about a fortnight.
– Will he report before he goes back to England?
– The Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) informs me that he expects a progress report before Admiral Jellicoe leaves New Zealand, which will be in the middle of August.
– Has the attention of the Acting Attorney-General been drawn to the fact that exorbitant interest, amounting to 330 per cent. in some cases, is being charged by money-lenders? Before the War Precautions Act is finally disposed of, will the Minister consider the making of a regulation limiting the amount of interest that may be charged by these harpies?
– This matter has been the subject of legislation in several of the States. It is purely a State concern, and it would be inappropriate to attempt in a general way to regulate interest charges under a Moratorium Bill that refers only to mortgages current during the war period.
– I observe from the contractual arrangements made between the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank, that the management of the housing scheme will be in the hands, and to a great extent at the discretion, of that institution. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank has practically no organization outside the larger centres of population, can any arrangement be made whereby the existing organizations of the State Savings Banks throughout the country can undertake this work in conjunction with the Commonwealth Bank? If not, do the Government propose to arrange with the Commonwealth Bank for the establishment of offices in every big provincial town in order to insure that the requirements of country districts may be dealt with expeditiously?
– In reply to a question of which notice was given by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), I intend to give to the House this afternoon some information upon this subject. If the honorable member for Wannon will place a further question upon the notice-paper, I will furnish him with a fuller reply to-morrow.
– Is it a fact that Colonel Walker, who has been placed in charge of the housing scheme, finds himself at a dead-end because of the attitude of the Timber and. Brick Combines ? What are the Government proposals for enabling returned soldiers to get cheap homes?
– Inquiries are being made at the present time, and some arrangement is being evolved to meet the circumstances.
– As there is a great deal of discontent over the delay in getting the war service homes scheme into operation, will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation make a statement as to the possibility of progress being made in the near future?
– I shall consult with the Minister, and see if it is possible to make such statement.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Bank acts as agent for the Commis - sioner, and, inter alia, and subject to the provisions of the arrangement, is empowered to -
Relief of Distress
– Having regard to the serious situation in the north of Queensland, I am justified in again asking the Leader of the House if, during the last twenty-four hours, there have been any fresh developments in connexion with the seamen’s strike?
– There have been no fresh developments. The Government are still awaiting the report of meetings which have been held by the Seamen’s Union in each of the States. No definite information has yet reached the Government.
– Is the Acting Leader of the House in a position yet to make a statement relative tothe allocation of money for the relief of distress caused by the strike?
– The Commonwealth Government did make available the sum of £1,000 as a preliminary step in connexion with the relief of distress in Melbourne and suburbs. Subsequently the question of relief generally was considered, and a scheme drawn up whereby the Victorian State Government and the Commonwealth Government arranged for the relief of distress where necessary, the cost of same to be borne equally by the two Governments. Under1 the existing scheme relief depots have been established, wherever necessary, in Victoria, and the arrangements are working satisfactorily under the supervision of Commonwealth and State Governments’ representatives. The Governments of the other States were informed of the arrangements made in Victoria, and they were asked whether they would be prepared to enter into similar arrangements in their States. The reply received from New South Wales was that the proposed arrangement was accepted, and that the State Government would be prepared to provide half the sum necessary up to a maximum of £5,000 as its share. Replies received from other States were as follows : -
Queensland. - Government already has elaborate machinery for distribution of relief, and prefers that any relief given should be through medium of existing machinery, which has been found sufficient for all State purposes.
South Australia. - Position not acute. Any relief required has been afforded by State authorities. In circumstances, not disposed to vote any sum of money for purpose suggested by Commonwealth, but willing to co-operate in distributing any money authorized by CommonwealthGovernment.
Western Australia. - Suggest that existing machinery be used. State is agreeable to pay half.
Tasmania. - Reply was received on 9th July that no unusual distress existed at that date.
– Has any money been made available for Western Australia yet?
– I do not know if money has actually been made available for Western Australia, but if necessary it can be supplied at once.
– Seeing that so far Newcastle has not received more than £250 out of the £1,000 made available, would it not be better for the Commonwealth to retain a little control over the destination of the money, instead of simply advancing it to the States for distribution ?
– The New South Wales Government has accepted the proposal of the Commonwealth Government, but I shall have inquiries made into the aspect of the matter raised by the honorable member. The desire, of course, is to have equitable distribution.
– Although it is frequently stated that the Wheat Pool account has been overdrawn to the extent of £17,000,000 or £18,000,000, no statement is ever published regarding amounts that are to the credit of the Pool. Sir Joseph Carruthers, of New South Wales, has pointed out that the publication of such information has an effect on the value of wheat scrip, which is often sold below its real value on account of the credits of the Pool not being known. I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether, when information is given to the press as to the amounts overdrawn, he cannot also state what credits are due to the Wheat Pool?
– I quite appreciate the significance of the honorable member’s question. In reply to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), a definite promise was given yesterday that certain inquiries would be made in relation to a similar matter.
Grant to Local Authorities
– In connexion with the grant of £500,000 to shire and municipal councils in order to provide employment for returned soldiers, a difficulty has arisen owing to the fact that the period allowed for the expenditure of the various sums of money has almost expired. Some time elapsed before the local authorities could get a definite assurance from the Government as to the amount of money that would be available, and a further delay took place in getting the teams of men together. Now, when the work that was put in hand is half finished, the grant from the Commonwealth is to cease because the prescribed time limit has been reached. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation if arrangements cannot be made for an extension of the time ?
– I shall make inquiries from the Minister for Repatriation, and endeavour to give the honorable member the information later in the day.
-Will the Minister for Home and Territories take into consideration the advisability of acquainting honorable members at an early date with details of any proposed amendment of the electoral law in the direction of altering the basis of representation in the Senate?
– I shall be glad to communicate the information to honorable members at the earliest possible moment; but I cannot make any statement yet, because the Bill has not been finalized.
-It is reported in the press that woollen and other goods no longer required by the Defence Department are being distributed to the various charitable institutions in Melbourne. In view of the fact that no such distribution has taken place in some of the other States, notably Western Australia, will the Assistant Minister for Defence see that a similar allocation takes place in all the States on a proportionate basis?
– I shall submit the suggestion to the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell).
– Have the Government considered the question of releasing at an earlier date than the actual declaration of peace, which may be some time ahead yet, such internees as were to have been liberated on that occasion ?
– Certain inquiries which are being made are not yet quite completed, but an announcement will probably be made at a very early date as to the policythe Government will pursue in regard to the matter of internees.
– Has further consideration been given to the question of issuing a special decoration to soldiers who were present at the landing on Gallipoli?
– I have not heard of it, but I shall ask the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell), and let the honorable member know if anything has been done in the matter.
– Will the Minister leading the House be good enough to lay on the table the names of the Wheat Board who sit in London, and of which,I understand, Mr. Fisher is chairman?
– I shall make inquiries, and furnish the honorable member with the names.
– Has the Acting Leader of the House noticed the report of a speech by the newly-appointed representative of Australia in the United States, in which that gentleman is reported to have said that “ hands off trade and commerce “ would be one of the best policies that Cabinets or Legislatures could pursue? Does that mean that the policy of this Government is to allow trade and commerce to carry on its own free course, whether it is legitimate or illegitimate trade?
– I noticed the brief report to which the honorable member refers, but, as the honorable member knows, it is not advisable to express an opinion on a condensed report of any person’s utterance. The Governmentis certainly not in sympathy with anything in the nature of what the honorable member terms “illegitimate” trade and commerce, and intends to enforce the existing Federal legislation which is directed against Trusts and Combines who may seek to indulge in. such trade.
Whether it is a fact that many primary producers, including wool-growers, graziers, and wheat farmers, owing to the ravages of the drought, have paid a larger amount in income tax for the period of the war than they have received in income?
If so, will he consider the necessity of amending the Act so that the incidence of the income tax may be more equitable, and that the average operations for three or five years, with power to set off all losses, be the basis for the assessment of the tax?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the following information -
How much of the wheat in the Victorian “pool” of 1916-17 has been sold, and what amount of cash has been received on account of the same?
What quantity remains on hand, and what proportion belongs to the Imperial Government?
What is the credit balance?
Has this credit balance, or any part of it, been used to finance the 1917-18 or 1918-19 “pools”?
Is so, is interest being charged against these “pools”?
As the Wheat Board is stated to be acting as trustee for the wheat-owners, why has the money received for this “pool” not been distributed?
Is it the intention of the Government to make good the losses Sustained by the various “pools” caused by whatis alleged to be the negligence of the servants or agents of the Wheat Boards?
With reference to the balances of wheat on hand shown in the last statement issued by the Wheat Board, will the Board certify that these balances actually exist, or are they assumed balances?
Will the Government authorize a survey to be made in South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales in order to substantiate the statement that the balances’ of wheat on hand wereas follows: - South Australia, 1915-10 “pool,” 3,821,000 bushels; South Australia, 1916-17 “pool,’-‘ 16,345,000 bushels; Victoria, 1916-17 “ pool,” 15,506,000 bushels; New South Wales, 1916-17 “pool,” 8,361,000 bushels?
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Employees Drawing Additional Emoluments
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in the interests of economy, he will give the following information to the House -
The number of people in the employ of the Commonwealth, either part time or whole time, who are drawing more than one salary, or a pension and a salary, showing names, nature of employment, and amount of salary and pension, if any, drawn in each instance, together with the total in each instance ?
What is the calling or occupation of each such person in the community, if any?
– The obtaining of the information asked for would entail considerable time and labour, and in the interests of economy it is considered that the expense should not be incurred unless it can be shown that the information would be of such value as to justify the cost of its preparation.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in the’ distribution of the profit on the sale of cornsacks by the Government, the Minister will see that growers of oats, peas, and potatoes shall share on the same basis as wheat farmers?
Mr. GROOM (for Mr. Greene).- As there are no means by which the growers of oats, peas, and potatoes who actually used new cornsacks purchased from the Government can be traced, it is not considered to be practicable to include this class of producer in the proposed distribution of the profits.
Cak teem’ Profits - Demobilization : Palestine and Mesopotamian Troops.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice-
– Steps are being taken to form a Trust Fund of these moneys, and it is proposed that the funds shall be distributed for the benefit of war widows and orphans in need,” and in pressing cases todisabled soldiers.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions .are as follow: - 1. (a) As a result of the action taken by the Government and the representations made by Senator Pearce in England, cabled advice now notifies that the last A.I.F. regiment in Egypt will embark on 2nd August, leaving only a few administrative details there to wind up affairs of the A.I.F. There are no Australian troops now in Palestine. (Z>) The situation with regard to the A.I.F. troops in Mesopotamia is that out of 345 there when the Armistice was declared, 292 have been returned to Australia and demobilized, whilst two officers and fifty-one other ranks have been retained in Mesopotamia by the Indian authorities ‘for wireless ‘ communication duties. Cables have been, despatched to India and England urging that this personnel be returned to Australia as soon as possible, but a reply has been received requesting the Government to allow them to remain there until September, as their services are urgently required in connexion with the wireless service. The Department is again representing the necessity of their immediate return.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation,. upon notice -
Whether he will make a full statement in respect to the .Anzac tweed industry so far as it relates to returned soldiers?
– It is anticipated that a decision will be arrived at and an announcement made next week.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the. table of the House the photographs in the hands of the Defence Department of persons mutilatedby bayonet wounds and otherwise at Holdsworthy Camp?
– Nothing is known of any such photographs being in the possession of the Department.-
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Government decided that it was unable at present to invite any one firm to start a factory in the Commonwealth, as a number of firms were considering the matter on their own account, and as local companies were being formed to undertake aerial transport; but that, while being unable to give any specific invitation, it would be only too glad to oiler any facilities in its power to companies who determined to manufacture aeroplanes in the Commonwealth. .
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Min ister for the Navy, upon notice -
Upon what dates were the contracts for wooden ships, to be built in America, entered into by the Commonwealth?
– The Patterson MacDonald contract is dated 22nd June, 1917, and the Sloan Shipyard Corporation contract is dated 5th June, 1917.
Temporary Employees’ Leave
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will arrange that the men who were temporary employees in the Commonwealth Public Service prior to enlistment for active service, and who have returned from the war and been reinstated in their positions, will be granted leave to the extent to which they would have been entitled had they remained in Australia?
– Instructions to this effectwere issued by the Acting Public Service Commissioner in January, 1917, with the condition that the employee engaged in no other occupation before resuming employment under the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the Library the designs and plans prepared by Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Griffin respectively in connexion with the alterations recently made in the General Post Office, Elizabeth-street, Melbourne?
Export and Local Prices;
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
As the latest sale of wheat of 1,000,000 tons has fixed the price of wheat at 5s.6d. per bushel, and as the proportion of wheat sold for local consumption is now sold at 5s., will the Government arrange that the wheat-growers of Australia shall be protected to the extent of 6d. on local sales, the difference between the export and fixed local price of wheat?
– The Government cannot see its way to comply with the suggestion of the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– Outside architects are not now being employed by the Works and Railways Department. I have the highest opinion of the competence of the architectural section of the Department, and do not consider any action necessary.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) made the following statement: -
An advertisement published in the daily press of 26th July called for applications for appointment to the Instructional Staff of the Permanent Defence Forces, and included a condition that applicants should be 5 ft. 7 in. in height, measure at least 35 inches round the chest. In view of the fact that a large number of men who measured only 5 ft. 3 in. in height went to the Front, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence see that alterations are made in that advertisement so that some of the returned soldiers, who held temporary positions on the Instructional Staff, may have opportunity of appointment to a permanent position?
I promised to bring the matter under the notice of the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell), and am now able to furnish the following information: -
This matter has received very careful consideration, and it was decided that the high physical standard necessary for an instructor of the Permanent Forces should be maintained. A continuance of the voluntary system of enlistment for war service necessitated a lowering of the physical standard generally, which was otherwise undesirable.
Retention of Rank
– Yesterday the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) asked the following question: -
Is it a fact that men who were formerly members of the Permanent Forces, and enlisted and have fought during a considerable period of the war, have had to surrender the commissions they earned in the Australian Imperial Force, while men who did not volunteer, but received commissions at home during the period of the war, are allowed to retain them, and thus have a distinct advantage over the fighting men?
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
Owing to the large number of officers of the Permanent Forces absent on active service, it became necessary during the war to grant tern- porary commissions to a number of Senior Warrant Officer Instructors, nearly all of whom were above the age limit for active service. As the permanent officers, whose places they were filling, are now quickly returning, action is being taken to terminate the temporary honorary commissions thus granted. Every warrant and non-commissioned officer of the Instructional Staff who went on active service and gained a commission has been allowed to temporarily retain an honorary commission until sufficient combatant officers are available to resume duty on termination of their appointment in the Australian Imperial Force.
Shortage in Western Australia.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked the following question: -
On behalf of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heitmann), I desire to bring before the Minister in charge of the House, in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs, the following telegram from the secretary of a conference of local bodies held at Kalgoorlie: - “ Sugar supplies very short. Will you kindly urge proper authorities insure better supply this State than usually obtains? Has been precarious for months.”
Will the Government make an effort to insure an adequate supply of sugar for these districts?
I promised that inquiries would be made, and am now able to furnish the following information : -
The steamer Roggeveen is expected to sail from Java on 2nd August, and arrangements have been made for her to call at Fremantle and land 1,000 tons of unrefined sugar. No refined sugar- is available.
Report (No. 3) presented by Mr.
Mr. Mc Williams, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
The following paper was presented: -
War Precautions Act - Regulations amended -StatutoryRules 1919, No. 178.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself intoCommittee of Supply - proposed.
– I claim the indulgence of honorable members for a few minutes to refer to a matter of extreme urgency, and that is the position of Tasmanian residents who are stranded here and unable to get a passage to their homes. They are, in consequence, suffering very great inconvenience indeed. It will be necessary for some of them, at an early date, to be given monetary assistance. Honorable . members on both sides, and honorable members of the Senate also, have, with me, been doing their utmost to secure passages to Tasmania for these people. We have been working with this object in view for some time. There seemed to be some probability that a means of transferring these people to Tasmania would now be provided; but only this morning I learned that the Rotomahana, which was to sail to-morrow for Tasmania, is to be delayed until Saturday. The delay may be further prolonged, and these unfortunate people be still left in the position in which they are at the present time. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), who, with me, has been in close touch with the manager of the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau, informs me that the Rotomahana has now been delayed until Monday.
– I do not know why. I feel sure that the Government must realize what their detention here means to these people. . Some of them came here on business. One lady came to see her son, who was very ill in Melbourne, and she informed me that she had £20 with her when she left home, and, through being stranded here for a considerable time, she now has not a shilling. A man who secured employment in Tasmania came over to Melbourne to take his wife and family of eight children back with him. He has been unable to return to Tasmania, and, in the meantime, has spent £60. I received a wire this morning from Hobart in the following terms : -
Appreciate your efforts obtain assistance from Government for stranded Tasmanians. My mother and father stranded since May.
In view of the high cost of living, it is clear that, no matter what the financial position of these people may be, they cannot go on living hereindefinitely when they are earning nothing, and when their businesses in Tasmania are being neglected, and there are probably no returns from them.. These strandedpeople have my heartfelt sympathy, because no one has suffered more than I have from the terrible isolation of Tasmania. I would not again pass through such an experience as I havehad for worlds. It was. something dreadful for me to be stranded here, and unable to get to my home in Tasmania when I should have been there. I have, therefore, the greatest sympathy with others placed in a’ similar position, who have been held up here for months. Preference in securing passages to Tasmania has rightly been given to returning soldiers, and the civilians who are stranded here have not one word of complaint to make on that account. Still, something should be done to afford assistance to these people. I impress upon Ministers the importance of this question, and I suggest that they should immediately get into communication with the Government of Tasmania, and see whether, in conjunction with them, something cannot be done to enable these people to reach their homes. I should like the assurance of the Minister in charge of the House that the Government havealready been in touch with those in authority in Tasmania, or have made arrangements themselves to relieve the distress of these people. Yesterday I mentioned the name of the manager of the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau here, through whom I suggest assistance might be rendered. The Tasmanian Government have already availed themselves of the services of this excellent officer. His services have been invaluable, not only to members of this Parliament, but to the many people who frequently call upon him. He is kind and courteous andwilling to help every person, whether rich or poor, in any way that he can. I feel sure that were he intrusted with the distribution of aid to the stranded Tasmanians, the business could not be placed in more efficient hands, or the relief more cheaplyor effectively administered. I shall not take up more of the time of honorable members, but will close by repeat ing my confidence that the Minister in charge of the House will do all that he can in this matter.
– I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Order! The motion is one which cannot be debated under our Standing Orders.
– Under which particular standing order?
– I can deal with that later. It is my duty to put the question.
Question - That the debate be now adjourned - put. TheHouse divided.
– Mr. Speaker, is it permissible for an honorable member to leave the chamber while the bells are ringing?
– Any honorable member is at liberty to enter or leave the chamber until the order is given that the doors be locked, except in the case of a quorum being called for.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the Committee have leave to sit again to-morrow.
Question put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 30th July, vide page 11122) :
First Schedule (TheWar Precautions (Dairy Produce Pool) Regulations). 3. (1) For the purpose of providing as large a quantity of dairy produce as possible for the Imperial Government, and an adequate supply of dairy produce throughout the Commonwealth, during the period of the war, there shall be a Commonwealth Dairy Produce Pool Committee (in these regulations referred to as “ the Committee “), consisting of the Minister, who shall be the Chairman of the Committee, a Deputy Chairman to be appointed bythe Minister, three nominees of the Commonwealth Government, two representatives for each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland in respect of the butter factories in those States, one representative for each of the States of South Australia and Tasmania, in respect of the butter factories in those States, one representative for each of the States of New South . Wales, Victoria, and Queensland in respect of the cheese factories in those States, and the Commonwealth Dairy Expert.
.-I move -
That in regulation 3, line 12, after the word “ Government “, the words “ three persons nominated by the Leader of the Opposition as representing the consumers of the Commonwealth “ be inserted.
Honorable members will observe, from the constitution of the Dairy Produce Pool, that there is not one single representative of the consumers upon it. This is the first time we have had an opportunity in this House of discussing any of the War Precautions regulations, and we should now endeavour to equalize, if possible, the representation upon the various Committees that were appointed under the authority of that Act. The Government intend to appoint three representatives of butter factory agents or producers, and I am now asking that the consumers shall also have representation. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has given notice of a subsequent amendment, to secure representation of the workers upon this Committee, and, in his absence, I understand some other honorable member will move the amendment. I also point out that two or three sentences are quite out of place in the regulation. For instance, there is the sentence “during the period of the war.” The war is now over, and there should be no need now to copy the wording of regulations framed during war time, as the regulations contained in the schedule now under discussion will remain in operation until 31st August of next year.Four-fifths of the butter produced in Australia is consumed by the local market, and the other onefifth is exported, and in view of the fact that the interests of those who consume one-fifth of the butter are to be safeguarded, the consumers surely are entitled to representation on the Committee.
– Do you, as Leader of the Opposition, represent the people who consume four-fifths of the production?
– I am using language that was employed in the Electoral Bill passed by this Parliament to give our soldiers overseas the right to vote. In that measure, it was provided that the Prime Minister should indicate to our soldiers overseas which candidates represented the Nationalist party, and that the Leader of the Opposition should mark the ballot-papers with the names of those who were seeking election in the interests of the Opposition. We endeavoured to designate our candidates as “Labour” members, but honorable members opposite would not agree to that. I believe that honorable members on this side of the House do more truly represent the consumers than honorable members on the Ministerial side. In connexion with this matter, I desire to read a copy of a leaflet issued during the last election by the party of which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) is a supporter. It was as follows: -
Thanks to the National Government, food is cheaper in Australia than in any country in the world.
If you want the cost of living kept down, you must elect
A National Senate and
A National House of Representatives
Remember what the National Government has done for householders : -
Bread. - It reduced the cost of bread to 61/2d. and 7d. a 4-lb. loaf. In England a 4-lb. loaf costs1s. at least.
Butter. - The National Government arranged cheap and regular supplies of butter by forming and financing a Pool.
Sugar. - By skilful management, the National Government gives Australian consumers sugar at 31/2d. a lb. In Europe it costs 7d.
Wheat. - Wheat is cheaper in Australia than in any of the belligerent countries.
Leather. - The National Government prevented a threatened increase of 25 per cent. in the price of boots and other leather products.
These magnificent results have been achieved by encouraging greater production, regulating supplies, providing cheap conveyance of products, and eliminating waste, and preventing exploitation.
Vote for the Nationalists, and keep your house bills down.
Authorized by the National Campaign Council, 395 Collins-street, Melbourne.
There are more mis-statements in that leaflet than in any election bill ever issued by any party in connexion with any election. TheGovernment have not kept down the price of living; they have not kept down the price of sugar. The price of sugar was brought down by the Government which preceded the present Administration. The price was fixed by the Government of which I was a member.
– This precious document states that “ they have kept the price of leather down.” The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) knows that the price of leather to-day is 50 per cent. higher than in 1917. When I get my boots soled and heeled, I must pay 6s. 6d. to-day, whereas that job cost me only 4s. 6d. then. The boots which I buy for my children cost me over 50 per cent. more than in 1917. These honorable members tell us to vote for their party,, and that thus the people will keep their bills down.
– You promised that there would be no unemployment, and that every housewife would have a few pounds to spare.
– That promise was fulfilled more nearly than this has been. There was not then the industrial turmoil caused by enormous prices such, as! are being charged to-day. Every day we hear of new Combines being formed to squeeze the people. Only a few days ago a group of business men met in this city. I will quote what the Argus said about the gathering.
– That is a reliable paper.
– Although it is against us, it does occasionally tell the truth. I have heard of people telling the truth by accident, and it is quite possible that the Argus tells the truth by accident. In an article which it published a little while ago, on the subject of proportional voting, it stated that the “beer-swilling” voter who happened to be out of gaol should not be entitled to the same consideration as other people in the community. That is the sort of stuff we get from the Argus I stated the other day - and I reiterate it here - that a decent man should not repeat the name of that newspaper without carrying a mouthwash about with him so as to disinfect his mouth after mentioning the title of the journal, which continually purveys lies concerning the party of which I am a. member. This newspaper, in the article to which I 0 have just alluded, states -
Preparations for making “ price-cutting “ in many grocery lines a thing of the past are being pushed ahead. The committee appointed at a meeting at which thirty firms manufacturing articles handled by grocers were represented, has decided to adopt in its main principles the methods used by the Proprietary Articles Trade Association. The regulations of the P.A.T.A. have been referred to a subcommittee. This will consider them in detail, and report to the committee. The manufacturers will then form an association to control the retailing of the articles made by the members of the association. The fixing of the minimum price of each line will be in the hands of the individual manufacturers, but if a retailer sells below the fixed minimum, all the members of the association will refuse to give the offender any further supplies. _
The support of the Grocers Association for the fixing of retail prices is assured. At a meeting of the council of the association the following motion was agreed to : - “ That this council urges the owners or agents of proprietary lines generally handled in the grocery trade to take effective steps to protect their own goodwill and the interests of their customers - the grocers - by effective protection of retail prices at rates which will allow grocers adequate compensation for handring, and are fair to the public.”
It waa also decided that as soon as definite action was taken to protect the prices of any lines, a special appeal would be made to the members of the Grocers Association to push those lines energetically.
The users of those articles have no representation at all on the Pool ‘which we are now considering. To-day there are persons represented by honorable members opposite who are engaged in putting up the price of everything used by the consumer. For two years and three months the Government -have been in occupation of the Treasury bench-, and have done absolutely nothing except to place in a stronger position than ever those who are living on the people, and profiteering at their pleasure. When the Butter Pool was formed, the Age remarked, in an article of 3rd March last, that it was a one-sided arrangement.
– What paper are you quoting from now ?
– I am quoting from the Age. That paper, like the Argus, does its best to keep me out. It has never written a good word of me in the whole of my career, and I think that if it started to do so now I should feel that I was slipping.
– It is your best friend !
– It has never said a good word for me at election time, at any rate. The Age article states -
Out of the maze of assertions and contradictions which have been uttered in connexion with the present difficulty of .householders to obtain supplies of good butter, even at greatly enhanced prices, there emerges the outstanding fact that on, the Pool which was created to control this particular commodity during the period of the war, the general public and the disinterested consumers have no representation. The Pool embraces vested interests and politicians, ‘but includes no quite impartial business men, whose sole aim and mission would be to- secure to the general public a fair deal amid contending interests. The Dairy Produce Pool Committee, as now constituted, comprises the Minister for Customs, who is nominally chairman, a deputy chairman appointed by the Minister, three nominees of the Commonwealth Government, two representatives for each of the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, in respect of the butter factories in those States; one representative of the butter factories in each of the States of South Australia and Tasmania; one representative for each of the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland in respect of the cheese factories of those States; and. the Commonwealth Dairy Expert. The personnel of the Committee in accordance wi th this constitution is as follows ‘ -
Chairman, the Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) .
The Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) represents one of the largest butter producing districts in the whole of Australia, and it is” to his interest to keep the price of butter up. The. Age next quotes “ Mr. H. Sinclair, M.P.,” as vice-chairman. It is in the interests of Mr. Sinclair, also, to keep the price of butter up, and not to give consumers fair play. The butter representatives for Victoria include, first of all, Mr. P. J. Holdenson, of Holdenson and Neilson. Mr. Holdenson represents a proprietary company engaged in the manufacture of butter. And the next Victorian representative is Mr. H. W. Osborne, of the .Western District Cooperative Produce and Insurance Company Limited. That gentleman speaks with greater authority in fixing the price of ‘ butter in Victoria than any other individual. In fact, there are two people who fix the price of butter in Australia.These are Messrs. Meares, of New South Wales, and Osborne, of Victoria. When they talk, up goes the price of butter. The representatives of New South Wales are Mr. C. B. Basche, care of Messrs. Basche and Lowney, 368 Sussex-street, Sydney, and Mr. C. J. McRae, of Coraki, who, I understand, is now manager of the North Coast Company.
– No; he is chairman of the Primary Producers’ Association.
– I thank the honorable member for his correction.
– I call attention to the want of a quorum. Quorum formed-.’]
– The representatives of Queensland are Mr. W. T. Harris, of Forrest Gate, Toowoomba; Mr. T. F. Plunkett, of the Logan and Albert Cooperative Dairy Company Limited, Beaudesert; whilst Mr. J. W. Sandford, of Messrs. A. Sandford and Company, Grenfellstreet, Adelaide, represents - South Australia; and Mr. O. G. Norton, of Burnie, is the representative of Tasmania. In respect of cheese the mem., berg of the Committee are - New South Wales, Mr. J. Mackey, Messrs, J. Mackey and Company, 269-271 Sussex-street,
Sydney; Victoria, Mr. J. Rankin, .Colac; and Queensland, Mr. A. C. Galbraith, Rural Industries Limited, Roma-street,. Brisbane. In appointing Government nominees the Ministry had’ an opportunity to secure the representation of the consumers, and, as the Age points out, they might have appointed independent merchants, who would he likely to give the consumers a fair deal. Instead of doing so, however, they made the following appointments: - Mr. C. E. D. Meares, care of the Coastal Farmers Co-operative Society Limited, 274 Sussex-street, Sydney; Mr. A. W. Wilson, Gippsland and Northern Co-operative Society and Insurance Company Limited, Flinders-lane, Melbourne; Mr. W. Purcell, of Greenmount, Queensland; and Mr. M. A. O’Callaghan, the Commonwealth Dairy Expert, who has no vote on the Committee. It will thus be seen that there is not one representative of the consumers on the Committee.
There is much unrest in the community, we are told, and the people are complaining bitterly of the cost of living. Butter to-day is from 2d. to 3d. per lb. dearer than it was three years ago, notwithstanding that we have this year a better season. The members of the Butter Committee are “ skying “ the price of butter. They send it oversea with the object, if possible, of creating here an artificial shortage, so that prices may be further increased. I hope that Ministerial supporters will join with us in Baying that the consumers should be represented on the Committee. If, on the other hand, they insist that the eighteen members of it shall consist solely, as they do, of representatives of the one side, then they need not (be surprised if, when another .Government comes into power, the consumers alone are represented upon it. A day of reckoning may come. We do not even ask that there shall be as many representatives of the consumers as there are of the producers. All we say is that the consumers ought to be represented, so that they may know what is done in connexion with the Pool, and avoid the never-ending increase in the cost of living.
– The Government nominees represent the consumers.
– Will the honorable member say that Mr. Meares or Mr. Wilson represent the consumers ? I know both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Meares, and believe that they would destroy me politically ‘A they could. They would do so merely because I sought to deal fairly with the industry in the interests df the consumers as well as the producers. They say, however, that the consumers should not be represented, that all that the consumers have to do is to “ pay the piper.” Mr. Rodgers. - The trouble was that the honorable member when in office prohibited’ the export of butter without first providing for any internal organization.
– Did I?
– The trouble is that the honorable member and his party want the dairymen to work for nothing.
– Nothing of the kind. But I object to the value of stock and land being considered more important than human life. Throughout the dairying districts’ land values are appreciating, while the value of dairy herds in Australia to-day is greater per head than ever before. The late Sir Thomas Bent, when Premier of Victoria, once said, “I take off my hat to the cow.” I suppose we ought to take off our hats to the COWS but kill, the children who desire some of the foods prepared from the milk produced by them.
– Is that why the honorable member, .when Minister, imposed a duty of 2d. per lb. on infants’ food?
– I did not. The man who says that he never makes a mistake is an ass. I have, no doubt, made mis- takes, since I am only human ; but, as Minister for Trade and Customs, I tried to consider the interests of the whole of the people, and not to have regard, as the Butter Pool does, to the claims of only one section. Wages have not gone mp in. proportion to the increase in the value of land and dairy herds.
– In the dairying industry nearly every family does all its own work.
– I know that there are some awful scandals in connexion with the butter industry.
– If the price of butter were lowered, there would be ten times as many scandals.
– According to a report published in the morning papers last Saturday, the Chief Justice of Victoria, in giving judgment in a case relating to a butter agent, made remarks showing that his business was as smellful as some of the operations disclosed in the. report of the Butter Commission which sat some years ago, and disclosed the swindling that was taking place. The case dealt with by the ‘Chief Justice had nothing to . do with either the producers -or the consumers. It related to agents, and agents are largely represented on ‘the Butter Committee.
According to evidence given by Mr. Williams, secretary of the Grocers Association, before the Assistant Prices Commissioner, the Gippsland and Northern Co-operative Company, on a capital of £66,969, made a profit of £12,786, equal to 19 per cent.
– That was not all profit.
- Mr. Williams gave his evidence on oath, and he is not a supporter of our party.
– The figures include part of the purchase money retained and handed back.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. This was the smallest profit made by any- of the butter companies in the year referred to. I believe that these companies to-day are making huge profits at the expense of the consumers - i -
– The shareholders in the company mentioned by the honorable member are dairymen.
– At all events, I think that the consumers should be represented on the Butter Pool. Why should the manager of a butter company be selected as a ‘Government nominee? ‘ Will any one say that such a man is on the Board for the purpose of representing the consumers? Like the other seventeen mem? hers of it, he is there to lift up the price of butter all the time.
– ‘Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has worked himself into a fine frenzy this afternoon in his anxiety for the consumers, but has entirely misconceived the objects of the Dairy Products Committee. He has said that the Committee consists only of producers, who control exports, in order, if possible, to create an artificial shortage locally, and so enable them to inflate the price of butter to the consumers, who comprise four-fifths of the community. As a matter of fact, this Committee has nothing whatever to do with the fixation of prices. That duty is carried out by the. Prices Commissioner, under a War Precautions regulation. Under that regulation, butter had to be proclaimed as a necessary commodity, and the whole of the inquiries relating to it are conducted quite independently of this Committee, whose duty it is to comply with the regulations that have been issued.
– And merely to handle the commodity.
– Yes. The reason for the creation of the Committee may be briefly stated.Soon after the outbreak of war our Inter-State shipping was seriously interfered with, and the butter market in the several States was, to some extent, disorganized. The position in regard to oversea shipping was also very serious, and it became necessary to organize the butter industry for the benefit of consumers as well as producers. The Committee was, therefore, constituted, and its duties were clearly defined. They were to provide, as far as possible, butter, cheese, and other dairy produce for consumption in the Commonwealth, and to export the surplus. Who were the persons most competent for this business? Those who were engaged in the industry and knew all the ramifications of the trade. It is said that there ought to be a “ business man “ on the Committee. What good, for instance, would a softgoods merchant be in such a position?
– There were business men on the Committee.
– There were, and it was their duty to organize the business throughout Australia. It was a sensible organization of the industry in the interests of both producers and consumers. As to price fixing, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) knows that it is the duty of the Committee to see that the proclaimed price is observed.
– Their management kept prices down very often.
– That is quite possible. The idea, first of all, was that during the war the industries should not be disorganized. The Leader of the Opposition talks about preferring the lifeof a cow to the life of a child, but the fact of the matter is that the life of the child in some cases depends on the life of the cow.
– According to you, a cow is more valuable than a child.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong and unjust; it is because we place a high value on child life that we encourage the dairying industry. The supply of milk to the towns is one of the great problems in the salvation of infant life. The honorable member who has studied the question must know that thousands of children are sacrificed owing to improper supervision and deficient provision of the milk supply.
– Those people have nothing to do with that - another gang deals with it.
– The honorable member is very unjust. Because he happens to be opposed to certain people he uses opprobrious epithets, and talks of those who supply our milk as “gangs.” Does he so refer to dairymen at meetings he addresses in the suburbs ? He ought to be just to other citizens who are doing quite as honorable work as he is himself. The honorable member ‘has entirely misconceived the whole functions of the Committee, though I should have thought that, after his experience as Minister of Customs, he would understand the position. If some person outside were to use such arguments he would be referred to as doing it for mere political purposes, with a view to deluding the public; but, of course, I cannot say that of the honorable member, who would not be guilty of such a thing.
– The honorable member has done so, but I can take my own part.
– I am not blaming the honorable member, but referring to his argument, which I am justified in criticising, as having no more than a political significance. In view of the fact that this Committee has nothing to do with price fixing-
– Yes, it has.
– The price fixing is done by the Prices Commissioner.
– The Committee has the power to make recommendations.
– The members of the Committee make no recommendations; but, like any other persons, they may appear as witnesses before the Commissioner, who arrives at an independent judgment: The amendment, if carried, would not achieve the object in view, and is founded on a misinterpretation of the functions of the Committee ; and, therefore, I ask honorable members to reject’ it.
.- It may be quite correct that the amendment is ineffective, inasmuch as the Butter Pools have no control over the fixing of prices; but I desire to refer to two matters which suggest that, after all, the amendment does vitally touch the question at issue. This Committee has full and unrestricted authority as to how much butter, cheese, and other dairy produce shall be retained in Australia, and how much shall be exported; and they may create an artificial scarcity at any time.
– J3ut they have not done so.
– It is the danger of these artificial scarcities, and the fact that they have been created, that have brought about very considerable profiteering, and given rise to the increased prices so prevalent of late. I invite the Minister (Mr. Groom) to look at the matter from that point of view. I protest against the suggestion from the other side that we on this side are trying, to bring down the price below a fair and reasonable price to the producer. I have heard no suggestion of the kind, nor do I believe it would be made by any honorable member. While we on this side agree that the workers in any industry should receive the full product of their labour, we do not limit that to’ manual employment or any particular industry. The man who is producing on the land is as much entitled - perhaps, in the first case, more entitled - to the full produce of his work as any other in the community. But to suggest for a moment that the carrying of this amendment would affect the price of butter is an argument that is demolished by the Minister himself, who has said that there is nothing the Committee can do that does affect the price. The suggestion, therefore, “goes by the board”; and it came with particular ill-grace from the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), in view of the fact .that a few days prior to his election the Government increased the price of butter by 2d. per lb. Of course, that gave the butter producers in his constituency excellent cause to support the Government candiddate; and this was one of the clearest case3 of political bribery I have seen in Australia.
– It is remarkable that the Government were running another man against the successful candidate.
– It was a case of having “ two strings to their bow “ - of capturing the farmers’ vote for the Government candidate. I submit that the amendment is perfectly relevant because of the fact that this Committee have unrestricted authority to export or keep in Australia what they choose. They are authorized under- the regulations to provide supplies for Australia, but those supplies may, according to their opinion, be great or small; they can say how much shall be available for Australia, and, on that quantity, the price will be regulated.
– Is it not significant that there is not one representative of the butter-producing industry in the chamber at the present time?
– They must be holding a Caucus meeting upstairs.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
– I invite honorable members to look at that portion of the Bill in which are specified the duties of the Committee. Those duties, are so wide in regard to the control of supplies that the question of price must inevitably enter into their work. They may not have the actual fixing of the price, but the quantity available on the local market is what, to a large extent, determines the price; and they can export as much as they choose, maintaining in Australia such a supply as generally will suit their particular purposes. If we are to believe honorable members opposite, the law of supply and demand will come, into play, and the price will be determined by the quantity available. I do not believe that the law of supply and demand will operate at all.
– What will operate?
– The convenience of the producers in the industry. The Committee have also power to procure supplies of dairy produce, and put them in cold storage; and this is a useful thing for the purpose of steadying the market. One of the most irritating experiences in the ordinary affairs of life is the jumping of the market, and the law of supply and demand, if allowed to operate, has the effect of depressing or raising prices. But the introduction of cold storage has revolutionized the whole system. The consequence is that the Committee, with the power to purchase and put in cold storage, have unrestricted opportunities to manipulate the business in their own interests. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has said, their interests axe all selfish. Their own pockets ‘ are the only considerations that will influence them. Having powers of purchase, storage, and export, they will manage the business, not -in the interests of the public, but to their own advantage. That they should fix an unpayable price 13 not contended or expected. I would be the last to ask any producer to accept an unprofitable price for his goods. But the fact I am stressing is that the persons who will control the home supplies, cold storage, and export, have only one point of view, and that is not the public point of view. The protection of the public interests should be our first consideration. Regulation 20 in, the first schedule provides that the Committee may fix the rates of commission which agents may charge, in connexion with the sale of butter and cheese. The Committee is composed largely, and may. at any time be composed, exclusively, of men who are speculators in the butter and cheese business.
– On the Committee are men representing the producers and cooperative companies.
– All the persons on the Pool are dependent upon commission as well as profits, and they may fix their commission at any figure they choose. In fact, the commission may be increased to such an extent as -to seriously increase the price of the commodity.
Although the Committee will have no authority under this Bill to proclaim the actual price of a commodity to the public, yet by the operation of many varied authorities they can so control supplies and fix the rates that the public will be left without any protection. Is the Minister (Mr. Groom) aware of the recognition of this principle by other countries? In the Mother Country, by specific act of the Government, not only have they placed representatives of consumers upon the Food Commissions, but they have also placed women upon those bodies. No properlyconstituted Committee, charged with the management of food supplies, can be efficient unless it includes at least one woman. Not only does the farmer’s wife often know more about his business than does the farmer himself, but it is certain that in order to arrive at the point of view of public interest in connexion with these matters, it is essential to get the woman’s point of view. The average housekeeper knows more about the price of domestic commodities than does a man, and could’ give useful information to the Committee from her knowledge of the actual facts of life. We might well follow the example of the Mother Country by appointing to this Committee somebody who would have regard to the interests of the public as distinct from the interests of the producer. The two interests are not necessarily in opposition, but we should have a means of conserving the interests of the whole of the people instead of only one section of the people. The amendment is worthy of serious consideration, and particular attention should be paid by the Government to the right of housekeepers to representation on the Committee.
– I, too, make a plea for the consumer. Were I one of those who represent the producers on the Butter Pool, I should gladly welcome a representative of the consumers. After all, the representatives of the producers should not be antagonistic to their best customers - the consumers. Under the Wheat Pool wheat required for gristing in Australia is sold at a price lower than is obtained for wheat sold to other parts of the world. Whilst we have provided that butter shall not be sold in Australia at more than the prescribed price, the Butter Pool Committee will be able to control quantities, and in that way practically control prices. There is a great temptation to export butter in the fact that the price in Great Britain is from 200s. to 250s. per cwt., whereas butter is being sold in Australia at 170s. per cwt. About twelve years ago, if a dairyman obtained on the English market 120s. per cwt. for his butter he regarded himself as a very favoured individual. To-day he receives in some instances more than twice that amount. A Committee that represents merely the producers, even though its members be of honest intent, may be inclined to allow too much butter to be sent abroad, because of thehigher price obtainable in other countries. In order that the Committee may be kept in check and prevented from sending too much butter out of Australia, the consumers ought to be given representation. I have heard producers protest strongly against the various Pools because they fix the prices in the local market and limit the export. They claim that if the commodities had not been controlled by means of Pools, greater quantities would have been exported, and the producers would have received a bigger return. But that policy would have left the local market short, and prices would have soared to such a height that it would have been impossible for butter to be used in the average home. I remember that when the American Fleet was visiting Victoria, the price of butter rose to 2s. 6d. per lb. The consumers took a stand against the inflation of prices. They went on strike for one week. The result was that the cold stores were being filled and the agents were in a dilemma. I am not blaming the farmer or the butter factories. The fact is, that the agents thought they had a chance of exacting an exorbitant price from the community, and increasing their commission proportionately.
– You know that that has not been done in connexion with the Butter Pool.
– I am giving an instance of what has been done in the past. I believe that if the consumer were to refrain from buying meat and other commodities in regard to which he is being exploited, he might be able to bring about the same happy result as was achieved in connexion with butter prices on the occasion to which I have referred. But the Government, who profess to have regard for the interests of both consumers and producers, should not allow such a situation to arise. Why should there be any objection to allowing the consumers representation on these Committees as has been done in Great Britain? I believe that every regulation included in this Bill for the guidance of the Butter Pool Committee was drawn up by the Committee itself. Regulation 13 of the first schedule reads -
It shall be the duty of the Committee -
to provide, as far as possible, butter and cheese for consumption in the Commonwealth;
b ) to make such arrangements as it deems necessary with regard to sales of butter and cheese to the Imperial Government and other sales for export.
There are other provisions enabling them to store butter and allow it to go into consumption as they think fit. The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) said, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Tudor), that the Butter Committee did not have any power in regard to the price of the commodity, but regulation 11 contains the following : -
Provided that the Committee may exempt from the provisions of these regulations -
such small manufacturers as it thinks fit; and
sales of butter and cheese direct to suppliers.
That gives the Committee power to grant certain exemptions. I have no complaint to make as to that. Suppliers of milk to cheese factories and cream to butter factories should not be denied the right of obtaining cheese or butter at wholesale prices from the co-operative concerns in which they are shareholders. It has been said that there are no butter speculators on the Committee. I would like to know the names of the Committee. It is right that the Government should have a representative on it.
– The Government have three representatives - Messrs. Meares, Wilson, and Galbraith. The Commonwealth Dairy Expert has a voice, but no vote, on the Committee.
Mr.FENTON. - The Acting AttorneyGeneral cannot convince, the people that it is right to exclude representatives of the consumers, whose interests are so much concerned. Where would the producers bo but for the consumers? Butter ought to be sold to the people at a price within the reach of the poorest in the community. No honorable member would deny to the primary producers a fair deal. I believe that they only desire a fair deal. I remember how disgusted they were on the occasion of the visit of the American Fleet, when the price was raised by the butter agents. The producers simply ask for a fair average price throughout the seasons of the year, which will enable them to put their industry on a better footing, while giving them a fair return. The bulling and bearing of the market price of foodstuffs is one of the most criminal actions of the day, and the general public will be amazed to learn that the reasonable request put forward to-day that the consumers should have representation on the Butter Committee has been refused by the Government.
– The regulations in the schedule were not framed by the Butter Committee, as the honorable member has averred. They were framed by Mr. Whitton, the officer in charge of the Department.
Mr.FENTON. - He must have been exceptionally conversant with the operations of the dairy industry to frame them without any help from those concerned in it. It is quite evident that Messsrs. Osborne, Meares, and others have had some say in the framing of these regulations. It is quite right that an officer of the Government should consult those most vitally interested in framing regulations dealing with their industry. At the same time, the butter producers do notform the whole of the community. The consumers form the greater portion of the community, and they are the best customers for the producers. I am sure that if the latter were allowed to express an opinion they would vote solidly to allow the consumers to be represented on the Butter Committee. These are times of suspicion, and prices are soaring. We ought to do something to allay that suspicion, and no better method can be adopted than by appointing representatives of the consumers to the Committee controlling the butter industry. If Ministers do not accept the reasonable request put forward to-day, they will stand condemned in the eyes of the general public.
.- The Government could very well concede the request that three representatives of the consumers should be appointed to the Butter Committee. Surely the general public are concerned? At any time the Committee might deplete the home market in order to meet a demand for butter in European markets. .
– It is the duty of the Butter Committee to make provision against that sort of thing. So far, they have done their work excellently in that respect.
– If the members of the Committee can see their way to making greater profits for the producers it is their business to do so.
– They do not do that.
– The price of butter is 10d% per lb. more than it was four years ago, when there was a Labour Government on the Treasury bench.
– Is the honorable member referring to the drought of 1914, when there was practically no butter produced in Australia?
– I have heard that old tale before. Any excuse is put forward for raising the price of butter. I know a co-operative society in the northern part of” New South Wales which is very prosperous.
– Those same people lost half their cows last year.
– They did not lose their capital. They are paying enormous dividends. The whole of the dairying districts of northern New South Wales are very prosperous. I have no objec- tion to the producers of butter making decent profits, but there is a medium in all things. The discontent in Australia to-day is due to the high cost of living. If we have representatives of the consumers on the Butter Committee the outside public will have some guarantee that their interests are being considered. Unless Parliament gives some concession to consumers honorable members are not entitled to the confidence of the people. I understand that there is only one representative of the Government on the Butter Committee.
– The Commonwealth Government is represented by three men, but they are all managers of butter factories.
– The manager of a factory is likely to do the best he can for his shareholders. If I were the manager of a butter factory I would see that my shareholders had preference over the consumers, but as a representative of the people I claim that they are entitled to protection. Later oh, I shall be able to show, I hope, that the consumers and manufacturers should have representation on the Central Wool Committee. In the meantime, I protest against the Government’s refusal to accede to the modest request put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). With representation of the consumers, the Butter Committee would give greater satisfaction to the general community. It would have a tendency to keep down the price of butter. Nothing is being done to keep down the price of that commodity today. Every opportunity is taken to raise the price. It is all done, no doubt, in the interests of the industry; but those interests should not be everything in this country. It is in vain to expect the Government to give the consumers any protection, because it was - returned in the interests of the producers, -the manufacturers, the shippers, and the agents. It is doing its work very well from their point of view, but it will do nothing to assist the consumers, who form the great bulk of the community. I shall have pleasure in voting for the amendment.
.- I desire to place on record the names of the members of the Dairy Produce Pool Committee. They are -
Chairman, Hon. W. Massy -Greene; deputy chairman, Mr. H. Sinclair, M.P. ; members, Government nominees - C. E. D. Meares, New South ‘.Wales-
I think Mr. Meares is secretary of the Coastal Farmers’ Co-operative Company -
I think Mr. McRae is one of the directors of the Coastal Farmers’ Co-operative Company -
Mr. Holdenson is a private business man, who effects considerable sales both locally and in Great Britain. Mr. Osborne is secretary of the Western District Cooperative Company -
Mr. Sandford is one of the large business men of Adelaide, and is interested, not only in butter, but in all other produce.
– And he know3 a thing or two.
-I think he knows bow to protect his interests. I say nothing against him personally. Mr. Norton, of Tasmania, is, I think, one of the representatives of the butter industry of the north-west coast -
Cheese section - J. Mackey, New South Wales; J. Rankin, Victoria; A. C. Galbraith, Queensland.
The Commonwealth Dairy Expert, Mr. M. A. O’Callaghan, is also on the Pool, but he has no vote. I cannot see the wisdom of that arrangement. There may be opportunities for even one man to record his protest.
– He is a man of the very highest intelligence.
Mr.FENTON. - He occupied the position of chief dairy expert of New South Wales for anumber of years, and is well known to the dairying industry, especially on its practical side. The practical side of the industry is not directly represented on the Pool.It may be indirectly represented by the directors of some of the co-operative dairying companies, but the working butter factory managers have no representative. It may be said that the Pool deals only with the commercial side of the industry; but some of the working managers of country factories are among the smartest commercial men connected with the butter industry. Most of these Committees are far too lop-sided, representing simply one aspect of the concern. No harm could possibly result if we put three representatives of the consumers on this Committee.
-Howdo you suggest that a representative of the consumers could affect the work done by the Committee?
– The Pool controls the destination of the produce.
– It has nothing to do with the fixing of prices.
– No ; but the price of butter on the English market has recently been as high as 250s. per cwt., although it has not gone higher than about 177s. locally. The English price is very high, seeing that a few years ago 120s. a cwt. on the English market was regarded as a golden price for butter. The dairymen participate in the enhanced price obtained in England, and there might be a tendency on the part of the Committee, which represents only the producers, to export more butter and make the commodity scarce on’ the local market. A representative of the consumers on the Committee could act as a policeman to watch their interests if any such attempt was made.
– The Committee would have to provide a supply for the local market before it exported any.
– The regulations place the Committee under no compulsion to do so. They give the Pool considerable latitude.
– The first obligation of the Pool is to provide for the local market.
– That is not compulsory.
– The Customs Department keeps a very close control over that matter.
– Those are only excuses put forward by the Minister in order to avoid giving the public proper representation on the Committee.
– I am not making excuses ; I am giving facts.
– I draw attention to the language of regulation 13.
– The Customs Department, which is absolutely disinterested, represents the public.
-If the majority of the Pool decided to export, say, 15,000 tons out of a stock of 20,000 tons in hand, who would stop them?
– The Government, by means of the Customs Department.
– The control of the trade part of the butter industry has been handed over to the Pool, as is shown by the following provision in regulation 13 of this schedule -
It shallbe the duty of the Committee …
) to make such arrangements as it deems necessary with regard to sales of butter and cheese to the Imperial Government and other sales for export.
– That does not give the Pool control of export.
– Even ‘granting the contention of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), is it not desirable that the public should be represented on a Pool which deals with a commodity in which as consumers they are so much interested ? The Government representative may make suggestions which are the embodiment of wisdom, but if the matter comes to a test he cannot vote, although he is one of the men to whom the public would naturally look for protection. He knows the quality of butter and what its price should be; he is there as a representative of the Government, and supposedly as a representative of the consumers, and it is absurd that he should have no vote. Honorable members on the Government side who profess to represent the producers, and, I hope, the consumers as well, should be the first to agree to our proposal. I give place to none as a friend of the producers. They are entitled to a fair deal and a fair return for their work. Many of us, including the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) know the trials and troubles of those who have to work on farms.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Butter Pool gives the producer too much?
– I am not saying so. The honorable member has answered his own question. There is seething discontent throughout the community, which is made more bitter simply because the consumers are given no say on the Boards and Pools which deal with their food supplies. Our request is absolutely just, and is, not put forward from a party standpoint. Why cannot the Government accede to it? I have shown that the producer is well represented on the Pool. I have given the names of its members, and I have said nothing against . their qualifications, but it is an absolutely lop-sided body. Even if our proposal is agreed to it will still be lop-sided, because out of eighteen men, sixteen of whom have votes, we are asking only for three representatives of the consumers.
– It will be lop-sided still.
– Yes, but not to the same extent. The representatives of the consumers may have an opportunity to show, by quoting a division list, how they made a protest against the action of the majority.
– Can you show me any particular act of the Committee that has been detrimental to the interests of the consumers ?
– Even if I could not that would be no argument against putting three representatives of the consumers on the Committee.
– It would be an illuminating fact.
– It might be, but it is no argument against the representation of the consumers on the Pool. Not one of these bodies can be considered complete unless the consumers are represented on it. This Butter Committee will control the destination of the butter produced and the amount to be kept in cold storage for Australian consumers. They will decide, how many tons shall be shipped abroad to the order of the British Government or other persons, and how much butter shall be sent to China, Java, Japan, and other countries. I, therefore, contend that there should be representatives of the consumers upon the Committee.
.- My contribution to this debate will be very brief. I have risen chiefly to show that the action taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) meets with the approbation of more than one member of the party on this side. These Boards and Committees watch the interests of the primary producers of the country, and they have done it so well that the consumer has been bled to such an extent as to be shocked at the way in which the Government have dealt with him. Not long ago butter was selling at ls. 10 1/2d per lb. in Sydney, and yet, within a month, two steamers left that port each .with a cargo of 700 tons of butter. . In view of the high price of butter in the city, the people of Sydney could not understand how that could be, and no one could make them understand it. Ministers tell us that these Boards have nothing to do with fixing prices, but they are past masters in seeing that there is an insufficient supply of the various products under their control for local consumption, and when there is a scarcity of any product in the market its price must go up. All through the Government have shown too great a desire for the protection of vested interests whilst allowing the general community to suffer. When people connected with particular industries are placed on Boards controlling the products of those industries, it is only natural to assume that they will look after their own interests. Since the 17th May, 1917, the Government have, zealously guarded the interests of those whom they represent. They have missed no opportunity to serve them. This could not be in the interests of the general community. I have always believed that the primary producers should not be expected to endure the life which many of them have to live, and to cope with their misfortunes without reasonable emolument. It should not be forgotten, however,, that people engaged in businesses in the cities also have misfortunes to face. The Government, by their anxiety to consider the interests of those who assisted them at the last elections, have supplied the Opposition with good campaign material which will be available when we next go before the country. They have been so persistent in the course they have followed that it is useless to expect them to adopt a different course now, as they probably will not consider it expedient at the eleventh hour to take up a different position. I indorse the action of ray Leader on this occasion; it will show that, however the Government may disregard the interests of the masses, honorable members on this side have not lost their sense of duty to the people as a whole. I venture to predict that when the next elections take place the Government will regret that they did not give consideration to the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I think we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’] It seems to me that to-day we have another evidence that this Parliament is in its dotage, and is not carrying on the business of the country as the majority of the people outside desire. It is well known, and at meetings and elsewhere, vehement expression is given to the belief, that the Government must accept the whole of the blame for appointing in charge of the Butter Pool eighteen men whose natural sympathies are on behalf of the interests they represent and against the interests of the consumer.
The policy of Protection that is called for to-day is very different from that which was advocated in the past. The time was when the New Protection was sneered at by honorable members, many of whom have disappeared, and some of whom are behind the Government to-day. The New Protection policy was that the producer should be adequately protected by the assurance of fair prices; that the seller, the intermediary between the producer and the purchaser, should have a chance of making fair profits, and that the great mass of the people should also be protected by a price list. The adoption of that policy would prevent the profiteering that is rampant to-day. No honorable member on the other side can deny that the cost of living is unduly high.
In dealing with the question of butter, it should be remembered that the great market of. the dairymen and small farmers is to be found here in Australia. Fourfifths of the butter produced in this country is locally consumed. I remember that on one- occasion a man of rugged speech and splendid eloquence, when ad- « vocating the protection of the interests of the community, was asked where the producers would find their markets. In reply, he placed his hand upon his stomach, and said, “ Here is one market, and I have seven little ones at home who will find seven other markets for the produce of the country.” The Government have nominated eighteen men to control this Pool, and not one of them is a representative of the consumers. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has suggested that three representatives of the consumers should be appointed to the Board. They would, if appointed, have only one-seventh of the voting power, and surely the representatives of the producers a«nd sellers could have no objection to that. I have in my possession a book upon the Trusts of Australia. Some honorable members on the other side have sneeringly asked, “Where are- the profiteers?” They have only to go outside, and they will get their answer from the humblest girl who earns her living in a factory, if they ask her what she pays for her blouses or her stockings.
– What is the quality’!
– The quality is rotten at the present time. Let honorable members opposite ask those heroines of human life, the mothers of families, who to-day have to make 30s. go as far- as £1 went some time ago, where the profiteers are, and they will very quickly tell’ them. Some one has blamed the great wool-growers for the extortionate prices charged for tweeds and woollens a.t the present time. But the great wool kings, one of whom is present, will agree with another of them, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner)-, when he said that the man in the pastoral industry who could not succeed with a flat rate of. 15 1/2d. per lb. for wool ought to get out of the industry. We know that when wool is sent to Europe, people have to pay for the dirt that is in it. The wool kings affirm’ that they are not responsible for the high prices of woollen goods. They receive a flat rate of ls.. 3£d. per lb. for their wool, which is, I think, a very fair price. But, obviously, such a rate does not explain the excessive cost of every article of woollen material that is in daily use. Manifestly a very considerable leakage must occur between the woolgrower and the consumer. Why do not the Government fix prices for woollen goods which will be fair to the consumer 1
By way of illustration, let me point to the position of those unfortunate returned soldiers who were .inveigled’ into weaving what is familiarly known as Anzac tweed. If any of those men received a pension on account of his war services, the amount of thant pension was deducted from hi3 earnings at the tweed factory. Such a statement seems almost incredible,- but everybody knows, that it is a fact. Thus, if a man were in receipt of a pension of 15s. per week,, he was allowed to earn only an additional 27s. per ‘week. Some time! ago the State War Council deemed it advisable te, withdraw from this tweed factory the gentleman who was in charge «of it. Thereupon the Repatriation Department took ever the factory, and sue,ceeded in making a pretty muddle -of the whole business. All that these returned soldiers asked for the splendid handwoven tweed which they produced was 2s. per yard as it left the factory. But the Repatriation Department stepped in and- said, “ No. We will pay you that amount only after the cloth has been shrunk. n Now a yard of cloth off the loom will shrink, perhaps, to the extent of a quarter or a third1. The Department, therefore, was snipping from these returned soldiers - assuming that the cloth sustained a shrinkage of 25 per cent. - no less than 6d. per yard. That is an instance of the contemptible meanness of which the Department is capable. It also permitted the Government Woollen Factory to supply yarn which was viler than shoddy.
– I must ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the amendment.
– We are also assured that the meat kings are in no way responsible for the high prices of meat, and that those prices’ are due to charges incurred between the time when the meat leaves- the hands of the producer and the period when it reaches the consumer.
I have- here a very illuminating work upon The. Trust Movement in Australia, by Mr. H. L. Wilkinson, a scientific man, who is M.C.E. of the Melbourne University,. A.M.,. Institute of Civil Engineers, London, and who gained the Harbison and Higinbotham scholarship at the Melbourne University. He puts the case in such an admirable way that I would strongly recommend every honorable member to make a study of his book.
– I bought a copy of that book. I gave- 7s. 6d. for it.
– I am sure that the honorable member: never spent 7s. 6d. more wisely;
– I recommend every honorable member to buy, not to ‘(borrow, a copy of it.
– Mr. Wilkinson, upon page 99 of his book, says -
The following paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Argus, a journal generally opposed to any interference with private industry. The figures quoted clearly show the abnormal increase in the price of bread in Melbourne during the past six years. It will be seen that the price of flour has actually decreased 5 per cent., whilst bread has increased 50 per cent. Wages have certainly increased, perhaps, 20 per cent., but that probably represents less than an increase of 10 per cent. in the cost of production of bread. What an advance of1/2d. per 4-lb. loaf of bread actually means to the master bakers is shown in the following figures : - “ It is estimated that an ordinary bakery uses about 5 tons of flour each week, a good many using 10 tons, and some of the largest manufacturers as much as 20 tons. From a sack of 150 lbs. about forty-nine large loaves of bread are made, and from a 200-lb. sack about sixty-five loaves. This is a moderate figure which can be taken as an average, though frequently sixty-six loaves are obtained. . . .
It is a number of years since bread was retailed at 7d. per 4-lb. loaf in the northern inner suburbs, and at that time flour was from £12 to £13 per ton. A comparison of the Victorian Mill Owners Association’s quotation for flour, and the ruling price of bread, at the end of July for sevenyearspast isgiven below : -
– Who made the money?
– I can assure the honorable member that just asI wish to see the wheat-farmers of Australia obtain 4s. per bushel at the station for their wheat, so I desire to give the dairy farmers of this country an adequate return for their labours.
It seems to me that on this occasion the Government are adopting a dog-in-the-manger policy. It has been suggested to them that out of a list of twenty-one names submitted for their consideration they should select only three representatives of the consumers. Yet they decline to accede to that suggestion. They themselves do not command a seven to one majority in this House, and surely they might exhibit some little generosity in this matter. If the Government agreed to enlarge the Committee by the appointment of representatives for the consumers, from eighteen to twenty-one, the consumers would then have only one in seven. ‘ In Victoria more than half the total population is grouped in Melbourne and suburbs. It cannot be said that they produce the dairy products of this country, but they are the consumers, and therefore should receive consideration. If we include the population in the larger provincial towns, fully three-fourths of the population are, strictly speaking, consumers, but under these regulations they will be absolutely disfranchised from representation on the Dairy Produce Pool Committee. I cannot understand this absence of the spirit of fair play on the part of honorable members opposite, because I am quite satisfied that in private business arrangements they would be willing to grant fair representation to all interests. And in this matter we are not asking for fair representation at all. We are only asking for some representation.
– I draw attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– What I have said regarding butter applies equally to cheese production.Four-fifths of the total product of Victoria is consumed in Melbourne and suburbs and the larger towns, which, as I have already said, represent three-fourths of the population of the State, and as consumers these people are certainly entitled to representation. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) would be willing to submit the names of nominees if the Government would be so magnanimous as to grant the consumers, though three-fourths of the population, only one-seventh of the representation.
– But in this case it is the producers’ own commodity. That is the whole point of the argument.
– I am appealing for the representation of the consumers. Not one honorable member on the other side has yet attempted to defend the Government proposal, which will disfranchise 75 per cent. of the people of Victoria, who are the consumers of these products.
.- I desire now to deal with the profits made by butter factories in Victoria, as indicated by evidence given by Mr. Williams before the Prices Commissioner not long ago. It was then stated that the prices formerly fixed by the wholesale merchants covered the cost of delivery to retail shopkeepers, but that the practice had been discontinued, so that the retailers have to make good the difference, and Mr. Williams was complaining about this matter before the Prices Commissioner. He pointed out that the butter factories were making enormous profits ranging from 19 per cent, in the , case of the Gippsland and Northern Company to 32 per cent, in the case of the Western District Company, and 91 per cent, in the case of the Victorian Butter Factories Limited. These figures, I remind honorable members, were presented by a man who is certainly not a supporter of the Labour party.
– Are they co-operative concerns ?
– I believe they are, but co-operative concerns have no more right than an individual trader to rob the consumer. No person or concern has a right to make such enormous profits at the expense of the people.
– But in order to get at the real profits allowance should be made for the capital cost of cattle, land, and equipment.
– The honorable member may be satisfied that the producers are making a profit on stock and plant as well. Last week there was a prosecution in Adelaide in connexion with the mixing of butter and margarine. The Argus report of the Court proceedings stated -
Adelaide, Tuesday. - In the Adelaide Police Court to-day the Murphy and McCartney Proprietary Ltd., of Adelaide, were proceeded against on the charge of having on or about November 6 sold an article in imitation of butter, which at the time of the sale was con:tained in a package whereon was not placed the legitimate brand or mark indicating the nature of such compound.
Francis J. Van Cant said in evidence that he had been in the employ of the defendants as manager of their margarine department. He had made a class of margarine known as butter substitute. When he first made one of these samples, Mr. J, Gr. Murphy saw it, tasted it, and remarked, “ How would that margarine show when mixed with butter?” Witness replied : “ It would stand 15 per cent, without chemical detection.” Later witness was called into the presence of Messrs. Murphy (2), Anderson, and McCartney. That evening Mr. Anderson and witness mixed 12 boxes - six of butter and six of margarine. One day Mr. J. 6. Murphy said to him : “ Two lots of the mixture have been held by the Customs. You had better take the blame for them if anything come out of it. I will give you £500 and a trip to Belgium if you do’ so.” Witness : ‘.’ No you don’t. I have only made the margarine, but I did not sell it.’’
Under cross-examination by counsel for the defence, the witness said he was now engaged in the margarine business under the name of Belgian Margarine Company.
Counsel. - Did you get anything extra for doing work which you believed to be dishonest)
Witness. - I was paid £5 per week overtime.
Counsel said Van Cant’s evidence had taken him by surprise, and he was granted an adjournment to consider the .position.
Another case of fraud which came before the Victorian Chief Justice was re: ported in the *Age of Saturday last. The Chief Justice (Sir William Irvine) denounced the whole transaction in unmeasured terms. The producers, of course, were not the guilty parties, but the -consumers have been the sufferers. We have representatives of a dozen different butter districts in this Parliament. At one time I knew these gentlemen intimately, for while I was Minister for Customs they wore the carpet to my office door almost bare, coming so often with their requests. We had ‘the ViceChairman of the Butter Pool here to-day, but he will not speak. No honorable member opposite has yet advanced an argument against my amendment. All we have is the word of the Minister (Mr. Groom) that the Government will not agree to it, although’, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has pointed out, the consumers of Australia take four-fifths of the total butter production. Surely they are entitled to representation on the Committee. Evidently honorable members opposite think they are not, so that apparently ends the matter. No doubt they will vote with the Government. They must not forget, however, that the day after to-morrow will surely come. Although they may be in a majority to-day, and, as was the experience this afternoon, may gag honorable members on this side on grievance day, and will not say one word themselves on behalf of the consumers in connexion with this Dairy Produce Pool, the numbers will not always be with them. Had a Butter Pool been formed when I was presiding at the Customs, and had 1 appointed eighteen representatives of the consumers, to the total exclusion of the producers and selling agents, there would have been an outcry from honorable members opposite. Yet they refuse to grant consumers any representation at all. Wo know, of course, why honorable member? are dumb. If those behind the Government say anything at all, they do not go further than this : “ The time is not ripe, but it might be well to consider giving employees a greater share in the management of the business.” As for that latter project, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) introduced a proposal last night, based upon a system of profitsharing, and every honorable member except one on the Ministerial side voted against the proposal. We hold that there should be sufficient butter retained in Australia to keep the price normal; but no honorable member oppposite will say anything. The Minister, no doubt, sends round word by his Whip - “ Shut up ! Leave this to the Minister. My back is broad enough to carry it all. I will bring my legal skill to bear, and will tell them that the consumer is not entitled to representation.” We are merely asking that three among the 21 representatives appointed shall directly represent the consumers. Had we asked for equal numbers, my request would not have been unreasonable.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That after the word “ Government,” line 12, the following words be inserted: - “two representatives of the employees for each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, and one representative of the employees for each of the States of Tasmania and South Australia. Such representatives of employees to be nominated by the organization covering such industry.”
In the regulation of industry, it will be generally admitted that the employee has a right to some consideration. The employer on every occasion sees that his interests are well looked after ; but rarely is the employee taken into consideration, except from the view-point of his capacity as a wage-earner and a casual worker. We desire to give the worker some interest in an industry, and an opportunity is now provided. If my amendment is agreed to, it will practically bring about co-operation between employer and employee. With a representative of the Government to sit upon a Board with parties from both sides, there should beequitable supervision, and it would make for better feeling throughout Australia. The creation of such a Board in an industrywould solve much of the discontent now prevailing. There would be no need for arbitration. Theemployees would nominate their representative, and any grievance they might have could be settled off-hand in conference with the representative of the employer and of the Government. As the Boards are only to he in existence for a limited period, an opportunity would be provided to thoroughly test the proposition; and, if it proved an unworkable experiment, it need not be further developed.
– The honor- able member must realize the hopelessness of his proposal. The honorable member is contending that there should be somerecognition of the interests of the employees in an industry, as well as those of the employers.
– That is so.
– That proposition might fairly be discussed, but it has no association with this schedule. The Committee has nothing whatever to do with the fixing of the hours and conditions of labour.
– We say that it ought to have.
– It could not have. The Committee was created merely to organize the butter industry, and after making adequate . provision for the butter requirements of the Commonwealth to dispose of the surplus. The prices of the surplus are fixed under a contract made with the Imperial Government, while the local prices are fixed by the Prices Commissioner. The Com- mitteehas nothing to do with the management of the industry, or the employment of the men engaged in it, so that on no ground can the amendment be supported.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Second Schedule (The War Precautions (Wool) Regulations) - 3. (1) The Central Committee shall consist of a chairman and eight members, viz. - 4. (1) Each State Committee shall consist of eight members, as follows : - ……
.- I move -
That the word “ eight,” line 2, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ eleven “..
I propose this amendment in order to pro- vide for the appointment of three representatives of the employees in the , wool industry on the Central Wool Committee. My idea is that the spirit of the times shall find expression in this schedule by the making of the amendment, which would allow the workers engaged in this great industry some representation on the Committee.
.- The wording of the schedule is, to say the leapt, peculiar. In it we find provision made for the appointment of “two woolgrowers” and “three wool-sellers” to the Central Wool Committee. I would point out that a wool-grower is a wool-seller. Provision is also made for the appointment of “ one wool-buyer “ to the. Committee. I understood that the whole clip had been sold to , the British Government,
Surely the Minister could draft the schedule in a more reasonable form. The Government are indulging in mere bluff when they assert that the different interests involved have representation on this Committee.
– The proposal embodied in this amendment is to give effect to one of the recommendations of the “Whitley Commission.
– Yes j in other words, that the workers, as well as the employers, in the industry shall be represented on the Board. This schedule also affords us an opportunity to do something for the secondary industries of Australia. Who represents the manufacturers on the Wool Board?
– Mr. B. Laycock.
– His interests are in the Old Country.
– He has a large manufactory .in South Melbourne.
– I understand that he has a large manufactory in the Old Country. I should like the constitution of the Central Wool Committee to be so altered as to give encouragement to secondary industries interested in wool. We certainly shall not encourage them by having practically no representation of their interests” on the Committee. Then, again, there is no fellmonger on the Committee.
– There is.
– One of the members of the Committee was a fellmonger, but he retired from that industry, and is now a wool-grower. Do the Government propose to appoint a fellmonger? The Minister (Mr. Groom) makes no answer.
– The honorable member might speak of the moderation of the growers, who have only two representatives on the Committee.
– At the present time they are growing very “fat” on the sale of their wool. I would ask the Minister to provide for the appointment of a fellmonger. Mr. F. W. Hughes, who is a fellmonger, was a member of the Board, but has re-, tired from it, and at the present time the secondary industries are not represented.
.- I hope that the Government will recede from the attitude of ultraconservatism they have adopted right through in regard to this Bill, and will be reasonable enough to allow representation on the Wool Committee to others than those they directly represent. This Bill is intended to safeguard, the interests of the producer and manufacturer; and I do not object to that, because it is a very wise provision to make during the stress of war. That, however, does not excuse the Government from refusing to give to another section of the community that representation to which they are entitled. The amendment will, to a certain degree, incorporate the principles laid down in the Whitley report, of which a number of honorable members approve as propounding a scheme whereby industrial unrest may be somewhat modified.
– This does not in the remotest degree touch the principles of the Whitley report.
– As I conceive the position, these Pools are a kind of roundtable conference to devise the best methods of disposing of products in the interests of producers. But production in the Commonwealth, is no one-man effort. Most of the pastoralists and graziers live in the city, while their stations are looked after by managers, rouseabouts, and other station hands; and this Government interference is on behalf of those who conduct these activities. If the Government accept the amendment, and allow representatives to be nominated by the employees, they will be giving a practical demonstration of their belief in the Whitley report. Rather than discuss the question which occupied us last night, -wa should take the present opportunity to see that the wool-top operative is represented on the Wool Pool’ as one of the producers, so that his rights may be ascertained and recognised in regard to any profits that may accrue. If the Government force the amendment to a division, they will show that they are not prepared to give this section of the community a right to which they are entitled, and the blame will rest with them.
Question - That the word “ eight “ stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the following words be added to regulation 10 : - “ 3. The Central Wool Committee shall make arrangements to enable bond fide country wool buyers to purchase wool to an amount equal to the average of wool purchased by them during the three years prior to the war.”
There are a great number of very estimable people who have been deprived of their living by the operations of the Wool Committee.
– We wish to do away with the middleman, and you are perpetuating the evil.
Mr.HIGGS.- The party on this side of the House has not a rigid system of conducting its business like that of honorable members opposite. If an honorable member on this side feels impelled to take an independent stand there is nothing in our. rules to prevent him, so that honorable members opposite who may hesitate to join our party through fear of anything of the kind may dismiss that fear from their minds. The argument I have used seems to me to be unanswerable. Many people have spent anything from £300 to £1,000 on plant, with which they have been able to make a living hitherto, but of this they are now deprived by the Committee’s regulation prohibiting them from buying more than £10 worth of wool at a time. As there are several other points on which we should like an expression of opinion I simply submit the amendment.,
. -As one of the first members to voice the grievances of country wool-buyers in connexion with the administration of the Central Wool Committee, I think the amendment has much to recommend it. We quite recognise that that Committee is doing good work, and that it has introduced a scientific system of classification sadly lacking in the marketing of our clips before the purchases by the British Government. But there are “ spots on the sun,” and there are very serious spots on the administration of the Committee. Their policy in regard to country wool merchants shows that they subscribe only to the principle of centralization. We vainly strove to save country wool businesses that had been built up, some of them by strenuous effort for over fifty years, but we found that the laws of the Committee, like those of the Medes and Persians, were unalterable. We had many deputations, but our efforts were unavailing. We have endeavoured to get from the Committee a proof of the necessity for closing up country wool businesses, or restricting legitimate buying by people who. were a great aid to the struggling small settler during long years. We showed in vain that by the wool of the small growers being brought together in a central warehouse by country merchants, and there being classified and marketed in the bulk, the working of the scheme wouldbe benefited.But it seemed thatonly the interests of the great wool-brokers of the cities were thought worthy of conserving. The poor grower is compelled to markethis wool in, small quantities. A, charge is then made against the wool for its. classifica tion before it is put on the floor forappraisement, and it is subject, to commission at the higher rates. That would, have been avoided if the wool had been sold to country, buyers, because they would have, put into larger quantities, and commission , would have been paid at. the lower rates. The real advantage of the old system was that the small grower was able to sell his wool direct to the country merchants and get ready money when he needed it. Under the present arrangement hemust send in only small quantities of wool, as the country buyers cannot acquire lots of a greater value than £10. There is no legitimate reason why that anomaly should continue, or why the small shops should be closed up, or why the small buyer who went about the country with a horse and waggonette, and served in a useful capacity the struggling “ cockie “ should be knocked on the head, in order to further the. policy of constantly greasing the fat pig. I trust that the amendment, which will express some measure of justice to small buyers and growers, will be carried.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa has made out a very good case for the middleman. During the last five weeks I have heard the middleman flogged by honorable members on both sides of the House. He deserved all he. got.
– He still survives.
-I thought we were trying to kill him, but the amendment will give him a new lease of life. The man with a small quantity of wool to sell never received anything like the price that he has been getting since the Wool Pool has been in existence.
– At the expense of the consumer, the general public.
– TheImperial Government is the consumer. The “ cockie “ would sell his wool to the small travelling buyers for any price that was offered simply because he needed, the ready money,
If lie. sent his wool to Sydney, it was sold in. “star.” lots by the brokers, and realized very little. But under the Wool Pool the “cockie “ gets the same price for his wool as the big squatter gets for his. Directly the wool is appraised the “cockie” is entitled to1s. 31/2d, per lb.. Never before did he get such a price.
– Nor did the. squatter-.
– I should be recreant, to mypledges as a Labour representative if I voted to allow the middleman to step in and rob the small “ cockie.” I shall not vote for the. amendment. It is all very well for members who represent metropolitan constituencies to laugh and chaff about the poor fellows who are struggling on the land, and who go to bed hungry and wake up hungry. They may talk about a profit of 500 per cent. being made out of “ cockeying “ ! How is it that none of the citymen rush this highly paying business? Why do they not engage in “ cockeying “ as a side line? Such an amendment coming from this side of the. chamber is very ill-advised, for by it we are championing the middleman. . It will be my desire, as long as I am a member of this Parliament, to abolish the middleman in the wool and every other industry, and I hope the Committee will not accept the amendment.
– When listening to the mover of the amendment (Mr. Higgs), I thought that the poor unfortunate settlers were unable to get theirwool to market, and I was inclined to be sympathetic with the amendment. But theCommittee must feel indebted to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), who. is a practical man, and speaks his mind regardless of the side of the House on which he sits..
– He is different from the honorable member.
– When the great test came to the honorable member for Yarra, what did he do? He” crayfished” out. of the party, and waited to see how the situation would develop. I did not do that.
– That is absolutely untrue. The honorable member is a liar !
Several honorable members interjecting.
– The Committee is becoming disorderly, and the statement made by the Leader of theOppositionis highly improper. I askhonorable members to allow each speaker to state his case without interruption.
– The honorable member forMaranoa has pointed out that under theold system of wool-buying a third person stepped in between the producer and the consumer. He travelled from place to place buying wool in lots up to £10 in value, and the small farmer, notknowing the true value of his wool, soldfor whatever pride was offered. Who are thechampions of the middleman to- night? They are themembers of the Opposition, who are always complaining most bitterlyabout this middleman. Honorable members opposite may smile, but they are inthemire to-night, because a practical memberon their own side has pointedoutthat it is not wise to do for party purposes something : that cannot be Justified. Will ally honorable member go before his constituents and defend his action in supporting an amendment which aims at placingan intermediary between the producer and the ‘consumer? Weknow that one ofthe greatest causes of the increased cost of living is that com- modities pass through too many hands, and every man who handles an article Must get his profit. The honorable member for Capricornia is seeking ‘to create a middleman in the wool business by the amendment which he has moved for party purposes-. I cannot understand such an action on the part of a keen, shrewd man who; when Treasurer, was so conservative and so careful of expenditure that honorable members could get nothing out of him.One would think that that Labour Treasurer and the honorable member for Capricornia were two distinct persons-. The honorable member felt his responsibility whenhe was Treasurer, and if he were in the Ministry to-night he would support the Bill in its present form, because he would not care to add to’ the expense of distributing one of our primary products; In to-day’s press appeared excellent articles showing howgoods change hands on the voyage to Australia, and increase inprice with each change. The honorable member for Capricornia spoke of the great freedom enjoyed by members of the Opposition. I have not forgotten that when I was a member of the Labour party I was ‘told that ‘the rule was to votewith the majority, and a member was warned that if he did not do, that a telegram would be sent to the Labour Leagueinhis constituency “which would straighten him up. Where is the freedom in that system?
– Order! The honorable member is not addressing himself to theamendment.
– Honorable members , opposite are deceiving the peopleand playing to thegallery when they talkof the great freedom which they enjoy. The short speech of the honorable member for Maranoahas enlightened me and enabled me to give aclear vote on this amendment. It will enable me to justify that vote to my constituents. I shall be able to tell them from the public platform whoare the friends of the consumers and who, on theother hand, are the friends of the middleman. Those who place difficulties in the way of a product reaching the consumer must beheld responsible for thehigh cost of living.
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [8.14].- Asone who has carriedonmore or less successfully the shearing business in anotherdepartment, I. cannot allow the amendment to be disposed of without offering a little fatherly criticism. When I listened to the patriarchal landowner from Maranoa, I was profoundly impressed by the arguments he advanced.
– Iobject to beingcalled a patriarch.
– As the words the the honorable member for Batman have been objected to, I ask that they be withdrawn.
– As the Honorable member insists, I withdraw unreservedly. I meant no offence by my words. Indeed, I thought they were rather complimentary. As I was saying, I was very much, impressed by the arguments of the young and vigorous representative of Maranoa, who has had such ripe experience of pastoral matters, but when I heard the vivacious and practical cockle from Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) I was entirely overborne’ by the logic of his practical mind in analyzing the real import of the amendment. The honorable member was the real upholder of the true Labour principle in what he said, and for once in his life my exuberant friend from Maranoa was throwing in his influence with the reactionaries. It is -quite clear that what is intended to be accomplished by the amendment is that small growers of wool throughout the country may be enabled to deal directly and in a convenient manner with small buyers of wool, who can go to their very doors for small consignments and enable a swift and practical deal to be made. The present position gives an undue power and influence-
– And monopoly-
– And monopoly- to those very large concerns whose ramifications the Labour party is desirous of curtailing. Being a practical farmer of many years’ standing, and having for years taken an interest in the propaganda .for . the conservation of farmers’ rights and interests, I am quite prepared to lend my. whole-, hearted support to the amendment. It is in harmony with the policy of the Labour party to protect the small farmer against the depredations of those large combinations of capital which’ from time immemorial have sought to oppress him. I am unconvinced by the argument of my friend from Maranoa, and although a loyal supporter of his in every division in which I have voted in this chamber, except one, I feel that I must, altogether forgetful of party ties, cross the floor and vote in fraternal sympathy with the honorable member for Werriwa.
-20]. - Trie arguments which seem to have converted my honorable and learned friend (Mr. Brennan) to support the amendment are such as, if he gave them a little further consideration, would make him more antagonistic to it than he is now favorable to it. He has spoken as if the amendment were intended to deprive rich and wealthy combines of a small portion of the power which they possess, or to take away from them some emoluments they may derive from the handling of the clips of small wool-growers. Many honorable members are evidently under the impression that when small country wool merchants buy wool from small growers, they, in some way, prevent it from being passed through the great wool warehouses owned by big firms. If that were the case I could well understand the attitude taken up by several honorable members who are supporting the amendment. Therefore, it is necessary that I should explain the position. Under ordinary conditions the great bulk of the wool grown in Australia is consigned direct to the wool-selling brokers who handle it, and in whose warehouses it is appraised. If, instead of this wool being sent direct to the big brokers, a considerable portion of it is bought by country wool merchants, it simply means supporting an absolutely different set of middlemen, because every bale of wool bought by these country wool merchants has still to be appraised in the wool-selling brokers’ warehouses in exactly the same manner as if the wool werecognised direct to the wool-selling brokers by the growers.
– A ‘man who sends in three or four bales is charged 2^ per cent, commission, whereas if a dozen small lots are put into one, making a big consignment, the charge is only 1^ per cent.
– That is the case; but there seems to be a misconception upon that point. Under the present system of appraisement, the consignment of the man with 10.0 sheep is appraised to the fullest extent, according to its intrinsic value, just as if the lot represented the wool off 10,000 sheep. Before this system came into operation, there was great need for small country wool merchants, because in the big warehouses small lots of wool were described as star lots, and were sold under totally different conditions from those attaching to the sale of larger lots. It has been a matter for reproach for many years past that, owing to the great power - I think too great power - exercised by the wool buyers in the wool markets of Australia, particularly in Sydney and Brisbane, small lots of wool had to be sold at different times, and in a different auction-room from the big lots. In .Sydney and Brisbane, the buyers would not even allow the small lots to be shown in the same part of the warehouses as the big lots. That state of affairs continued until the Central Wool Committee took charge. In those days, the small wool-grower seldom got the full intrinsic value of his wool; but, from the moment the operations of the Central Wool Committee commenced, exactly the same method of appraisement was applied to the smallest wool-grower in Australia a3 applied to the largest grower, and “ the small man got the full value of his wool-, just as if he had consigned the wool off 10,000 or 100,000 sheep.
– Who prevented the small grower from getting the full value, unless it was those big combinations which would be affected by the amendment?
– The wool buyers did. The wool buyers of Sydney used to go to Brisbane and dominate the trade there also. In fact, they told the wool brokers that they would not buy in their auction, rooms unless all the small lots of wool were relegated to a different auction room and a different part of the warehouse. Under that system the small grower seldom got the full value of his wool, and it was quite natural that there should come into existence a large number of country wool merchants, who bought up small lots of wool, sorted them, and put them into bigger lots for consignment to the metropolitan wool brokers. As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) has said, the small wool-grower does suffer a disadvantage at the present moment, owing to the continuance of one of . the customs of the trade which might, perhaps, have been altered. Many trade customs have remained untouched, (because the scheme has always been regarded as a temporary one. The grower of wool who forwards a lot valued at less than £200 pays a higher rate of commission than is paid by the man whoconsigns a larger quan tity. I would be very glad if that charge could be altered.
– Is not the small grower charged 1/2d. per lb. for classification?
– He pays it in some States, but it pays him handsomely to do so.
– Some charge may be made when wool has to be resorted, in order to make it fit for appraisement. Although the small woolgrower may now be at some disadvantage in having to pay a slightly higher rate of commission, what would he be obliged to pay to the country wool merchant to enable that gentleman to get his profit? It must be remembered that this merchant has to send the wool he purchases to be appraised, and has’ also to pay commission, and is thus’ compelled to get his profit in between the grower and the Central Wool Committee. The small grower would probably pay to the country wool merchant very much move than he would pay in the commission referred to by the honorable member for Werriwa. When a grower sends to Melbourne or Sydney, he has his wool appraised at a fixed flat rate; but if he sells to a country merchant, he never knows whether he is getting the full value for his .wool. The country merchant knows much moTe about the value of wool than does ‘the small wool-grower.
.- Apparently the middleman is an obnoxious character if he is a small man, but is a very excellent fellow if he is a big man. Also it would appear that the small “cockie” is an infernal fool; that, after all these years, he is quite ignorant of the fact that he has been using a public convenience to get rid of his small lots of wool at a loss to himself. Small wool buyers visit every country district. After every shearing there are a number of stragglers with a few bales of wool.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of . the schedules, preamble, and title has expired. I must, therefore, put the amendment.
Question - That the amendment (Mr-. Higgs’)be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in thenegative.
Schedules agreed to.
Preamble andtitle agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment”;report adopted:
Standing. Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed-
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Mr.FINLAYSON. (Brisbane) [8.40] I takethe opportunity to enter another protest against the operation of this measure, with particular reference to the control over sugar. The Government made an arrangement regarding the control of the sugar supplies of the Commonwealth during the war, but the agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company might well be reconsidered now to the advantage of the people of Australia. I circulated an amendment to provide that, whatever rebates were allowed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to its agents should also be allowed to all others dealing in sugar, but unfortunately the amendment was not reached during the Committee stage. The unfortunate result of the existing’ arrangement is that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company practically dominates the whole position in a much more severe way than ever it did before, although during the wholehistory of the industry it has effectually dominated the situation. Under the agreement, the company receives £1 13s10d. per ton for shipping charges on raw sugar, harbour dues, exchange, insurance, sacks, landing, and’ wharfage. It also gets £1 15s. 2d. per ton for, refining’ charges’, and 7s. per ton for selling charges. It receives, in addition,. £1 per ton, and there is nothing to show what that charge is for. It can only be meant to cover some equivalent for the fact that the company surrendered its refining profits during the progress of the war, and operated only under the direction of the Government. Even at this juncture the operations of the company might well be the subject of very close inquiry, because the whole of Australia is under its domination. The Australian peoplemust buy sugarpractically at the price the company stipulates; or do without it if the company so. chooses. It is true that the people are getting sugar at Sid. per lb., owing to the control by the Commonwealth over the industry. That control ends very soon, and there is no evidence of an- intention on .the part of the Government to. substitute any other system of control. Although the company was- able to supply, and did supply until recently, Al quality sugar at 3id. per lb., according to the agreement, honorable members now see everywhere, on the tables in their own home3, in the dining room of Parliament House, and in the restaurants in the city, brown sugar that ought to be sold for at least id. to Id. less per lb. retail, and yet the full price is being charged for it. The price which was originally meant to be imposed as the maximum has now become the minimum for ordinary household purposes. This is evidently and obviously an .underhand method, adopted with the connivance and knowledge of the Government, of supplying the public under the agreement made by the Commonwealth with an inferior article at the highest price allowed.
– That is evidently the idea which the present Government have of running a socialistic scheme, and it is because I consider that idea wrong that I arn raising the question now. This is not a new question. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in 1911, drew very pointed attention to the position, of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in a statement, in which he said -
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has a practical monopoly of the sugar industry in this country. It is tlie distributor of refined sugar; all consumers of sugar, rich and poor great and small, must buy their sugar from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company or go without. Efforts to get sugar elsewhere are put down with an iron hand, as the Australian Jam Factory found to its cost this year, when, for attempting to deal elsewhere, they were met with a demand that all their foreign-grown sugar should be drawn from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, otherwise they would, be fined £2,000 by an increase in price o,n the remainder of their requirements of Australian-grown sugar.
That, was not a single instance; either.
– That was “ direct action.”
– It was “direct action “ of the worst kind. I have here areport of an interview with Mr. Mcpherson Robertson, the well known confectioner of this city, which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of 30th June, 1910: Speaking to a representative of the newspaper on’ the subject of the price charged to manufacturers for sugar, he pointedout how unfairly the company treated its own customers. He -said -
They treat us in the most autocratic way. Up till last year they demanded cash within fourteen days. No pay within fourteen days, no more sugar. Then suddenly they reduced the term to seven days. I can pay for sugar in any way that is demanded, but I do not Like to be treated too dictatorially. The price went up at the end of last year. The company ascertained then that I had a few tons of sugar in stock, and they actually charged me the increased price on my own sugar that I had paid for. We are helpless. They are masters of the situation. They send me a contract, and I return it, simply saying, “ I have no alternative but to accept your contract in detail.”
It was suggested that that wa3 a complete surrender, and Mr. McPherson Robertson went on to say - .
It is most complete. We have always before had yearly contracts. This time they curtly intimate that the contracts are current only till next October, with the intention, I suppose, of further raising prices.
A Royal Commission was appointed in 3:912 to inquire into the sugar industry, and I quote the following from a minority report signed by Senator Crawford. He says -
Most of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s sugar is sold to wholesale firms, to which discounts- are allowed, according’ to the quantity purchased and the time within which payment is made. The wholesale distributors, in turn, allow their customers similar, but smaller,, discounts owing to the lesser quantities purchased. All deliveries are made direct from the refineries, and only in such quantities as are necessary to meet purchasers’ current requirements.
Senator Crawford, expressing an opinion as to the reason for doing busi- ness in this way, says -
In this way speculation is checked, and allpossibility of a “corner” in sugar prevented: The company is enabled to maintain supplies for alii its customers, keep its refineries and’ employees working throughout the year, and give its Australian suppliers of raw sugar the full benefit of any increase in market values which may arise.
That may be so, but it also has this effect, that when any of the manufacturers or merchants of this country try to buy imported sugar at a cheaper rate, paying the duty imposed by the Commonwealth, which is the only limitation upon the introduction of foreign-grown sugar, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company steps in, and says, “If you buy any foreign sugar, we will refuse to supply you with any Australian-grown sugar.” The Company lays down the law to the distributors of this country, and says that, in no circumstances, shall they buy sugar from any one but the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– That is what all Trusts do.
– Of course; that is one of the methods of the Trust. The position is that the whole of the sugar Industry is practically within the ambit of this one company. There are plenty of sugar-growers, though, unfortunately, many of them are under the control of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. There arc quite a number of crushing mills that are not directly under the control of the company. But there are only two refining, companies in Australia - the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Millaquin Sugar Refining Company. The latter is a very small affair, comparatively, but these two have” the only plants available in Australia for the refining of sugar. I do not know that that would be a serious disadvantage if some encouragement were given by the Government to millers to turn out an improved milled sugar. It is not necessary that we should have refined sugar. Except that it is the fashion to prefer a white sugar, Ave might, possibly with, better results, use a lightbrown or grey sugar. But here we are, through the operations of the Colonial Sugar. Refining Company, with its capital available, the use it makes of the Customs Tariff, and the strangle-hold it. has upon the merchants and distributors of this country, compelled to accept its dictation without any apparent means of redress. The amendment I hoped to be able to submit on this question would have worked out in this way : that not only should those people whom the Colonial Sugar Refining Company select be allowed to distribute sugar, and, therefore, be allowed to obtain a rebate, but -ait the will of the Government any merchant dealing in sugar might be at liberty to claim the rebate and secure a supply of sugar for distribution. The agreement which the Government are operating with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company not only continues, but strengthens the hold of the company upon distributors of sugar.
– To what rebate does the honorable member refer?
– The discount rebate given by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to large distributors. I am not now ref erring to retailers, who have a case of their own, and’ a very good case. I donot think that the retailers are being fairly treated under the agreement. They are compelled to sell sugar at a certain price. Probably, that is the explanation of the fact that householders are now getting an inferior sugar and having lo pay for it the high price which has been fixed.
– Does the honorable member refer to the brown sugar ?
– The reason that is supplied is that there is no white sugar available, because of the strike.
– That is not the whole reason.
– I know that it is.
– Here we are in Australia, at present faced with a shortage of sugar. There is not enough Australian sugar available this season to meet our own requirements to the extent of anything from 80,000 to 100,000 tons, and the Government have arranged for tlie importation of sugar to make good the shortage.
– A certain quantity was brought over from the previous season.
– That is so; but,’ unfortunately, there is still a serious shortage. There are many explanations, but they have nothing to do with my argument. The point is, that the Government are importing anything from 80,000 to 100,000 tons to make up the shortage of locally-grown sugar, and the whole of that imported sugar will be distributed through the agency of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and only the chosen representatives of that company will be given the opportunity to distribute it.
– How does the honorable member suggest that it should be distributed ?
– Why should not the Government permit supplies of that imported sugar to be available to any merchant in Australia dealing in this commodity, and on the same terms as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company allows to the merchants distributing for it?
– The honorable member suggests that the Government should themselves become distributors?
– Certainly; or, as an alternative which might be more easily given effect, they should insist -that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company shall not discriminate in the distribution of the imported sugar. The difficulty is that the company exercises such a discrimination that it holds a threat of a very serious kind - that of interference with business and the service of the community - over these men, who would otherwise be inclined, particularly in existing circumstances, to exercise some independent action, and make some effort to supply the requirements of the country in sugar.
– Does the honorable member not know that all this is done on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, and under their instructions?
– Yes ; that is what I am complaining of.
– It is not for the benefit of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Who gets the discount that is not given to the small merchant?
– Everything goes to the Government. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is paid a fixed sum for its services.
– I have already pointed out that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company gets so much a ton for refining, 7s. per ton for distributing charges, and £1 per ton for services not specified.
– Oh, yes ; they are clearly specified.
– I cannot find that they are. What is the £1 per ton paid for?
– Are we to understand that the Commonwealth Government discriminate between large and small merchants, and charge the small merchants more than they charge the large merchants ?
– No, the Commonwealth Government makes no discrimination, but the Colonial Sugar Refining Company does.
– On behalf of the Government.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company act under the authority and control of the Government, and my complaint, therefore, is against the Government, and not against the company. The past records of the company go to show that it has exercised a very severe discrimination. The Government have simply said to the managers of the company, “ You take charge of the distribution of sugar,” and the company has continued its previous methods. It is able to do that, because it has had unlimited control without any Government supervision. I say that the Government are now responsible because they have authorized the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to distribute sugar under the agreement. I contend that the Government should intervene on behalf of the people, and see that every merchant dealing in this commodity shall be given an equal opportunity with those favoured by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Is the discount not based on the quantity purchased?
– Why should it be? Why should not the small merchant get the same terms as the big one?
– The honorable member for Hunter informs me that the Minister for Trade and Customs has stated that he has agreed to something in the direction I recommend.
– I brought up here the question of co-operative stores, and their right to the rebate which other merchants were getting, and the Minister for Trade ami Customs agreed to rectify that matter.
– Some get 6. per cent.
– The amount varies. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company says how much sugar a merchant .shall get, and how much discount he shall be allowed. A merchant may desire to do a bigger business or to obtain supplies from outside, and the Co’lon’.al Sugar Refining Company say., “ We shall say who shall huy, what amount they s’hall get, and how. much they shall pay for it.” That may be possible all right under a system which would ilo.t ‘be subject to Government control, but here we have a specific agreement with a company to take advantage of their machinery and the ramifications of their operations, and the Government are responsible for seeing that the sugar supplied shall be properly distributed in the interests of the community. All that is asked is that they shall not allow the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to discriminate against .any man who is willing to handle this commodity, and distribute it to the public. There should be no artificial restrictions placed upon the distribution of this very necessary commodity, which is particularly necessary at at .the present time, .because -there is .a shortage of Australiangrown sugar. If there were a sufficient supply -of Australian-grown sugar available the matter would not he so urgent.
– Will the honorable member say what «re the restrictions to which he ‘Objects?
– I object to the restriction.* imposed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in regard to the supplies they will make available to any particular merchants, the rate of discount (they will’ .allow, .and “their right to say that Australian merchants shall not ‘be allowed ito handle imported sugar. Every ante knoWs that even in ordinary times Abe- Colonial Sugar Refining Company managed the distribution of Australiangrown sugar, and they ‘also managed 4ie distribution of imported sugar; that they would not allow their customers to import -sugar, and if any customer at- empted to purchase sugar outside of the
Colonial Sugar Refining Company the company would immediately say, “ We shall do no more business with you.”
– That is not so.
– It is so.
– I can tell the honorable member from practical experience that it is not so..
– In support of my statement I will refer the honorable member to the report of the Royal Commission which investigated the sugar industry. Iu addition, I can quote the testimony of merchants over and over again. But for the information of -the honorable member I will take the trouble to once more read what Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, said upon -this matter. He said -
Efforts to get sugar elsewhere are put down with an iron hand, as the Australian Jam Factory found to its cost this year, when, for attempting to dea-l elsewhere, they were met with a demand that all their foreign-grown sugar should be drawn from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, otherwise they would be fined £2,000 by an increase of price on the remainder of their requirements of Australiangi:ow,n sugar.
– What is the date of thai statement?
– ‘The statement was made in 1911, and the position has not been altered since.
– Yes, a different agreement has been made since.
– I have’ also quoted convincing testimony of ‘One -off the largest manufacturers ,of .confectionery in. Australia im. the person .of Mr. MacRobertson, bearing on this very point. Of course, I am quite sme Chat Mr. MacRo’bertson’s confectionery increased in price automatically with “the increased cost of sugar, because’ all these charges are passed on to the consumer.
– Is there discrimination between large and small confectioners?
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company discriminates between its -.customers,- .and w.e have no constitutional .authority to interfere.
– Will the honorable mem- ber .ado-ait that the company at that time made an agreement, under which, if there was a fall in the market, it made a rebate, whilst if there was a rise in the market the price was increased?
Mr.FINLAYSON.- Whatever rise or fall took place in the market there was always an ascending scale in the profits of the company, and assured dividends for its shareholders.
– But the company carried out its agreement.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- I am not attacking the company. I hope to submit at a later stage evidence of the tremendous progress which it has made during its comparatively briefcareer. It started operations in 1855 with a capital of £150,000, and to-day its capital has grown to £3,250,000.
-Foster. - That is not all Australian capital.
– Of course, it is not. I will quote from the report of the Royal Commission on the sugar industry, page 44. There I find the following : -
The financial position of the company., as disclosed in the evidence, thus appears to be as follows : -
This means that £2,375,000 has yielded investors generous dividends distributed half-‘ yearly, and reserves (inner and distributed) of £3,025,000. We think it is fair to conclude from these figures, supplied by a company whose expansions of business have been built on a basis of milling and refining profits, that the milling and refining industries in Australia are conducted as a matter of fact under conditions which admit of high profits.
I am not complaining very much of the company as such. I have, on previous occasions, pointed out what an octopus grip it has on the country, and the effect of the operations of such a monopoly on the consumers. But to-night my complaint is against the Government, which is con trolling the company under an agreement. To-day the company is, to all intents and purposes, a Government Department, and I say that the Government are not giving a fair, deal either to the wholesale merchants, the retailers, orthe consumers. It is unfortunate that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr Greene), who controls this particular Department, is not in his place tonight, but the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) knows the position as well as does anybody, and he is perfectly aware that the public are not being protected in the way that they ought “to be. It is no reply to my argument to say -that we aregetting cheaper sugar in Australia than is any other country in the world. That circumstance, gratifying as it is, is entirely due to our fortuitous position. It is absolutely due tothe fact that we are a sugar-producing country, and are protected by distance and the cost of carriage. It is surely right for the Government to put all distributors upon the same level, and to give to the public the very best that is within their power.
.- Evidently the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) is labouring under a misapprehension. The last agreement made with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is dated 31st January of the present year. Amongst other things it provides -
The company shall be paid by the Government in respect of all raw sugar shipped by it to the refineries, a shipping charge of 32s. 11d. per ton of sugar, and such charge shall include freight, marine insurance dues, exchange, sacks, landing charges, and wharfage. . . The company will at such times as may be necessary to maintain the supplies of the Australian market, refine for the Government the raw sugar taken delivery of by the company under this agreement, and shall be paid by the Government a refining charge of 27s. 6d. per ton of raw sugar melted, such charge being intended to cover all refining expenses incurred.
For the purposes of this agreement, “ refining expenses “ shall include all work done from unstoring to delivery to the trade, but shall not include -
freight, insurance, wharfage, and cartage charges on and in respect of refined products shipped to Western Australia, or between the refineries; or
the actual cost of tinning aud packing syrup and treacle, or
the actual cost of packages in which refined sugar is contained.
The actual cost of such packages shall be as ascertained from the books of the company, and shall be a separate allowance chargeable by the company to the Government.
The Government have handed over the control of sugar, on the basis of these fixed payments, to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The latter has entered into a business transaction with the Government in which every portion of the management has been decided upon, including the means of distribution. The company is compelled to supply the necessary quantity of sugar for the requirements of the public of Australia. DoubtJess many honorable members know that on 26th June, 1918, it was anticipated that the Government had a surplus representing six months’ supply of sugar. When it entered into this last contract, it had six months’ surplus supply on hand, and it had to deal with that surplus, and also -with the sugar which would be grown “within the following two years. But when the year closed, it was found that the surplus was not as large as was anticipated. The surplus did not represent a supply of six months, because the jam factories throughout Australia had had so many large orders to execute that, consequently the demand which they made upon the company for sugar had been far greater than was ever expected. Still the company had a considerable surplus on hand, and that surplus would not have been reduced much had the seasons come up to anticipations. But last season - owing to frost, the drought, and the cyclone - the harvest was smaller than was expected, and that reduced the quantity on hand very considerably, with the result that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company advised the Government that it would be necessary to purchase some sugar overseas. It has purchased sufficient sugar, it is thought, to enable it to tide over until next season’s crop, is available. When the Government entered into the agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, under which the latter had to maintain ‘supplies sufficient to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth, it was obviously not just that anybody else should be permitted to step in and disorganize its arrangements. Hence it took over the full control of sugar in the Commonwealth. Having purchased from the Queensland Government, it also bought in Java all the sugar that it thought was required to make up the deficiency. If the Commonwealth had not had the company to act as its agents, we might have been very short of sugar to-day. It would have cost £51 a ton to bring sugar into Australia.
– There would have been thousands’ of tons brought in at £20 a ton.
– That may have been so, but I do not think many people would have been inclined to risk money in a venture of that kind when they thought that the Government had a six months’ supply available. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in the agreement with the Government, made an arrangement under which wholesale dealers who acted .as distributors, got a rebate of 6 per cent., and retailers, buying from the wholesale merchants, are allowed 3 per cent, for prompt cash. Out of the 3 per cent, remaining, the wholesalemerchant has to provide for cartage, storage, insurance, and interest upon capital invested. The Government, through the- Colonial Sugar Refining Company, could not afford to take the risk of the retail business, in which they would have to give credit up to four months; and yet the retailers could not be shut out. It was necessary that somebody should be in a position to distribute the commodity * to enable the small traders to obtain credit to carry on their businesses. The agreement arrived at with the Government was undoubtedly the best proposition presenting itself.
– But some people get 6 per cent., and others only 3 per cent.
– The rebate allowed. of 3 per cent, to the grocer comes out of the 6 per cent, allowed to the wholesale buyer.
– But if a grocer is prepared to pay cash why should he not be able to get 6 per cent, rebate if somebody else does?
– Because of the financial difficulties due to the accumulation of risk, and additional expenditure incurred by delivery, interest, and insurance. The arrangement, in my judgment, is a fair one, and I cannot understand how honorable members can find fault with it. It is a good business transaction.
– For the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company does not make a penny out of it.
– Then what do .the company get the £5 per ton for?
– They do not get £5 per ton, but £3 per ton for refining, management, storage, insurance, and other expenses.
– But they get £1 15s. 2d. for that.
– The honorable member is wrong. The agreement distinctly provides, in clause 4, for the company to get 32s. lid. a ton for all raw sugar shipped to refineries, the charge to include freight, marine insurance, harbor dues, exchange, wharfage, landing charges, sacks, and so on; and in clause 5 it is provided that the company be paid 27s. 6d. per ton to cover refining charges and kindred expenses incurred.
– If I started a jam factory in the Grampians, could I buy sugar on the same terms as the merchants in Melbourne?
– You would be able to get it for less.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’)
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) desires to know if, in the event of his starting a jam factory in the Grampians, he would be able to buy sugar on the same terms as are allowed to the wholesale dealers. I say he would be allowed better terms, namely, £3 7s. 6d. per ton.
– Then, suppose I had a grocer’s shop there, and was prepared to buy for cash. Could I get the sugar on the same terms as the big merchant in Melbourne?
– No ; because you would not be buying the same quantities; but you would get the 3 per cent, rebate from the wholesale -merchant.
– Who would determine whether I was a big or a small man ?
– The .Colonial Sugar Refining Company. They have to safeguard themselves against outside risks, and must get cash for the sugar, so as to be relieved of interest charges on capital, insurance, and storage. I hope I have made the position quite clear, and that there will- not now be any impression that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have been profiteering, or that the Government have been trying to do something which is unfair. The question of co-operative companies buying largely, and getting the same terms as the wholesale merchants has also been raised; and I remind honorable members that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has intimated that an arrangement has been made under which cooperative dealers may buy on exactly the same terms as the wholesale merchants.
.- I regret that the Government did not see fit, at an earlier stage in the Bill, to make some alterations which, I think, would have been advantageous. If price-fixing is a good thing - and, as regards sugar, the Government have now laid it down that regulations may be passed fixing the prescribed price at which sugar may be sold, at any time before the prescribed date - and if the Government can fix the price of one commodity, now that the war has ceased, then, I maintain, they can fix prices for more than one commodity, and for a longer period than is provided, for in this measure. Of course, we know that the legal gentlemen have said it is within the competence of this Parliament to deal with the matters mentioned in this Bill. We do not know, however, whether or not they were asked if it would be within the competence of Parliament to pass legislation dealing with these matters for a greater length of time, or in respect of other commodities. I regret that the Government did not see fit to put this position before their legal adrisers, particularly in view of the fact that prices are continually going up ; and II say that if this Parliament does not grapple with the problem, it will be handled by the’ States. It is absurd, of course, to say- that such a matter can be dealt with more- satisfactorily by six. State Legislatures than by the Commonwealth Parliament Practically the whole of the sugar- is produced in one State of the Commonwealth
– New- South Wales is producing sugar, too.
– The production in New .South Wales does not represent more than 8 per cent, or 9 per cent, of the total, and most of the land formerly employed in sugar-cane growing on the northern rivers of that State is now under dairying. It is up to the Government, at an early date, to say what they intend to do in regard to price-fixing. If this Parliament has- not the power to deal with it under this BilL. as we have been told they have not - and you, Mr. Speaker have ruled that the honorable member for Capricornia (Ma1. Higgs) could not- give notice of his amendment to add’ to the scope of the ‘ Bill - the Government should either ask for the necessary authority, or admit that they intend to allow the people of Australia to be in the hands of’ the profiteers, so that Rings, Trusts, and Combines may charge what prices they like. Fresh Combines are being brought into existence every day, and are charging, specific rates upon ali good’s handled.. The party who refuses to sell- at a- fixed price finds- his supply cut off, just as the supply of flour was recently cut off from the Civil Service Bakery in Melbourne.
– Will the honorable member state where any such arrangements are in existence?
– In every State. I have a fountain pen in my hand. The people who sell fountain pens - in no matter what town or city in the Commonwealth - are compelled to charge a fixed figure. They must enter into a bond that- they will do ‘ SO: With respect to many lines of foodstuffs, the same condition rules. I have’ this day quoted from, a. report contained in the Argils of Tuesday, wherein the manufacturers of certain- lines of gro ceries had entered into certain arrangements, and were moving for the support of the Grocers Association with a view toarriving’ at fixed, schedules of prices. TheGovernment’ are not raising, a. little finger to protect the people.
– Nothing like that is- happening in Queensland. “Mr. TUDOR. - You .ha>ve a:La,bour Government there..
– Has the Labour Government in Queensland passed, any measureto deal with the subject?’
– There is keen competition with regard to practically everythingin that State, and that circumstance controls prices.
– Many of the articlessold in Queensland’ can only be disposed of at fixed prices. If the honorable member is a merchant who handles the goodsof the Dried Fruits Association, which has its head-quarters at Mildura-, he will be bound to sell its fruits at prices fixed for him.
– That is- a Victorian commodity.
– And the honorablemember would have to sell in Queensland at the price fixed by the Victorian Association.
– That association was in existence when the honorable member was Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Yes ; and the methodsof the association were held by the then Attorney-General to be absolutely legal.. Under our Constitution, we have no powerto deal with such matters as the fixing of prices by Combines. At a luncheon given by the Australian Natives Association, at the Melbourne Exhibition, early this year,. Senator Millen intimated that it was the intention of the Government to ask forpower to amend the Constitution. Wehave heard no further word in that relation. This Bill deals with only a few of the commodities which vastly interest the general community. Meat is not in any way referred to. The honorable member for Grampians- (Mr. Jowett) last week mentioned, by way of interjection, that producers were not getting a high price formeat to-day The cost of meat is extraordinarily high to the consumer; but the-
Government have not done anything. As Minister for Trade and Customs in 1915 or 1916, it was my duty and privilege to forward to the Interstate Commission authority to investigate the meat industry, among other matters; but not a. single inquiry has since then been instituted: The people have a right tobe represented on the various Pools and Committees, but honorable members oppositewill not concede so much. They prefer totalk about the famous Whitley report. They profess a desire to bring about greater harmony between employer and employee. It is all so much camouflage, political hypocrisy, throwing dust in the eyes of the people. When honorable members on this side present a practical suggestion along those very lines, we are told, “ The time is not ripe.” Our proposal is turned down with a thud. Had our opponents been present at the Creation, they would Have said, “ O, Lord, preserve chaos; the time is not ripe for creation and order!” I’ am confident that the people will perceive the Government’s lack of sincerity when they profess a desire to give consumers as well as producers a fair deal.
– Is it not a. fact that a large number of factories have offered their employees’ opportunities to participateon co-operative lines, and’ that the unionshave told the workers they must not agree to do so ?
– I know of no such instance.
– I can tell the honorable member of two instances in Queensland - one having to do with Walker’s Limited and the other with Hockley and Company.
– Adopting the attitude of the honorable member himself, I could now say thathis argument has reference only to Queensland. I regret that the Government have not seen fit to adopt the various amendments proposed for the betterment of this measure.
.- The Leader of the Opposition’ (Mr: Tudor) saysthe Government have notgiven consumers representation on; the various Pools. Was not Mr. Tudor a member of the Labour Government in 1915; andwas it not his Government which established the Wheat Pool ? What representation was then given either to the producer or the consumer ? It is all very well for the honorable member to talk as he has done while occupying the Leadership of the Opposition ; but we have to judge him’ and his colleaguesby their performances’ when in power. They had full authority once, but there was no whisper of adopting such principles as they vehemently advocate to-day .
– And that same Government bought our sugar, too.
– And did not that Government make an agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ?’
– They did; but now those same honorable members, by their utterances to-day,, mock the public. The Leader of the Opposition has been chiding the Government because they refuse to extend: the Pools for ten years. Yetwhen a proposal was introduced by the present Government that the War Precautions Act should be extended for three months after the conclusion of the war, what did honorable members opposite say ? I shall quote from Hansard of the 12th December, 1918, where Mr. Tudor said–
– Order! Is the honorable member proposing to read a speech referring to this same debate ?
– No, sir ; I am about to refer to one made last session.
– Was the speech from which the honorable member desires to quote made during the course of the present debate ?
– Then if it is a. speech of this session, but not of this debate, the honorable member will not be in order in making the quotation.
– I was about to quote from speech made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) last session.
– Last year, but not last session.
– The honorablemember said, in effect, that hewas not in favour: of extending the War Precautions powers for five- minutes. Now he wants to extend certain Pools for ten’ years;.
– Is that the same honorable gentleman who has just spoken,?
.- I object to the third reading of this Bill, because of the way in which the Government have forced it up to its present stage. You, sir, who have been a member of this Parliament from the inception of the Commonwealth, and remember the way in which our debates were conducted in the old days, must, I am sure, sigh for the time, which appears to have gone forever, when honorable members were permitted by the Government in power to give free expression to their views. What a change has come over the scene. We find that the Government of to-day are so afraid to allow the Opposition to express a view contrary to their own that they guillotine a Bill in this unceremonious fashion. I object to the third reading of the Bill, because it does not contain an amendment providing that the port of Rockhampton shall be a centre for the appraisement and sale of wool. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who is a member of the Central Wool Committee, will recollect that we endeavoured last year to have Rockhampton made a wool appraising centre. We failed, but I believe that if the Government had not applied the guillotine to this measure, we might have induced a majority of the Committee to support an amendment,making Rockhampton and the port of Newcastle wool appraising centres.
Honorable members will agree that we ought to avoid anything in the nature of centralization. If Australia is to advance and expand as it ought to do, and if her industries are to develop as we hope they will, we must try to create new centres of activity. Rockhampton is the central port of Queensland. It is the chief city in the Central District of that State. Queensland might very well be divided into three States. If that were done, then Central Queensland, covering an area of about 200,000 square miles, would make a very fine State, possessing geographical and climatic features different from those of other parts of Queensland. I dare say that 60 per cent. of the wool grown in Queensland comes from the Central District, and is sent down to Rockhampton. We are entitled to have wool appraised at that centre. I object, therefore, to the third reading of the Bill passing in this way, since we have not had an opportunity to discuss this very important question.
– All pooling systems practically compel centralization. That is why we wish to get rid of the Pools as soon as possible.
– I am aware that the honorable member has taken a stand in favour of reasonable employment being given to the smaller men. Some men hope to see the millennium, and I at one time believed that it would be reached in my time. Although I know that society will evolve in such a way that a great deal of unnecessary work now done will be avoided, and the people so engaged found employment in the general scheme of a millennium, we are as yet, perhaps, a long way from that happy time. I am not too anxious to see the whole of the business of Australia concentrated within the control of a few Pools. I do not think it would be a good thing for the country, nor do I think it is in the interests of Australia that the wool industry should be managed and controlled by a few people. It may suit the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and other big pastoralists to have certain large firms operating these Pools, and it may appear necessary to some people that we should crush out the small country wool buyer in order, as they say, to do away with middlemen. But we must not forget that wool-growers - those who breed sheep and raise flocks and herds - are not the only producers in the industry. Henry George, a political economist whose opinions were at one time very much favoured by many members of the present House, has urged that the distributer is also to a certain extent a producer. The man who distributes goods over the counter may be held to be a producer.
– We cannot do without him.
– We cannot. I also object to the third reading of the Bill, because the Central Wool Committee have cut out the small country buyers of wool. The small wool -growers would not be disadvantaged in the slightest degree if small country wool buyers were allowed to operate; they would still be able to send their wool direct to the big operators if they preferred to do so. Small country buyers would be of service to the small wool-grower, or “ cookie farmer “ as he is known. The “ cookie farmers “ could please themselves whether they sold their wool to them or sent it direct to the great operators who are managing the industry. T object to this motion, because I think there should have been afforded us an opportunity to consider an amendment, of which notice was given, providing that - After the State Committee has ascertained that all local fell mongers have been supplied, any surplus skins may be sold, but shall be sold only to or through or with the consent of the Commonwealth Government.
A number of other ‘ amendments might’ have been made if the Government had not applied the guillotine.
The institution of Parliament is being brought into disrepute, not, as the honororable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) would declare, because of .the tactics of men whom he describes as “ cutthroat red-raggers “ in the community, but-
– The tactics of the Opposition have brought it into disrepute.
– What are our tactics? We employ parliamentary language, and our arguments should appeal to all parties.
– Order! I am afraid this is a marked digression from the question before the Chair.
– I had hoped, sir, that you would permit me to give certain reasons why the motion for the third reading of this Bill should not be carried.
– The honorable member is entitled to do that, but not to debate a matter relating to the guillotine motion which has already been decided by the House.
– The time allowed for the discussion of this measure has been unduly limited, and Parliament, if it allows this system to continue, will fall into disrepute. We have no right to give way to the editor of the Age and the editor of the Argus, who claim that there is too much talking in this Parliament. I apprehend that it is that kind of criticism of our parliamentary institutions which has induced the Government to afford such brief time for the discussion of this measure. These editors-
– Order ! The honorable member is discussing a matter quite outside the question before the Chair.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I shall not pursue the subject further, but I appeal to the Ministers, in their own interests, if they desire to maintain the reputation of responsible government, to allow those on this side who venture to believe that they can make improvements in a measure an opportunity to advance their views and test the feeling of the House.
.- I should not have risen but for some remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr; Higgs), who is trying to give the people of this country the idea that we have diecussed this Bill so hurriedly, and curtailed the rights of the Opposition so much, that his constituents at Rockhampton have been deprived of the advantage of his opportunity to move an amendment with a> view to- make that ‘ place an appraisement centre. I hope his Rockhampton constituents will remember that the honorable member spent nearly two days over some impossible amendments about the AuditorGeneral, and occupied so much time in that way that now he has lost his opportunity to move an amendment for their benefit. We have been occupied for eight days in discussing this Bill.
– It is an important Bill.
– I admit that it is an important Bill, and for that reason eight days have been allowed for its discussion. The measure purports only to continue in operation activities that have been carried on during the war, activities to which nearly every Government has been committed; and all we are doing now is to put things in order. In the circumstances, I think that eight days was a generous allowance for the discussion. If anything, we have erred on the aide of generosity, and it ill becomes the honorable ,member to convey absolutely erroneous “impressions to the public mind.
– You have deprived us cf “ grievance day “ over this Rill.
– That might be said to be evidence of a desire to assist the honorable member for- Capricornia in advocating the claims of Rock.hampton as .an appraisement centre. -On one day four amendments of exactly the same character were moved, one immediately after the other, and there was a precisely similar debate on each. It ds only fair that when the constituents of -the “honorable member read of his keenness in this matter they should have an opportunity to see my remarks in reply.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) is also trying to send out some -wrong impressions. That honorable member knows Very -well that by no possible alteration ‘of the Bill -could we permanently provide f or price-fixing. We ‘have only to -get back to normal conditions, for the general right of price-fixing “to revert to the States, and it is wrong to convey the id’£a that the Government have voted out any lawful and proper amendment. ‘ The honorable member for Yarra also tried to make out that we ‘on this side have tried to Mock a proposal for legitimate profitsharing, and suggested that, while supporting the Whitley report, we were voting against it. The honorable member knows that that is ‘absolutely incorrect. There is not one committee Under the regulations of the Bill that is engaged in any industry as an employer, and to which the report could apply. No. committee manages a single factory or employs a single -main. The Wool Committee does not employ any one in scouring or in ‘any other industrial capacity, nor does the Wheat Committee. All these are purely boards of management; and it is absurd, in the circumstances, to engraft the Whitley report on the measure. I merely desire to point out the political methods of my honorable friends opposite in their desire to- put the party on this side in a false position. I appeal to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) to deal fairly with us ; we do not mind shouldering our proper -responsibilities, but we do object to false impressions being created regarding us.
Mr. WATKINS (Newcastle) f9.58’].The Minister (Mr. Groom) in his attack on the honorable member for Capricornia’ -
– Not a’n attack- a reply -Mr. ‘WATKINS’.- It was a little different from a reply. However, the Minister has carefully avoided ‘replying in reference to one important phase of the measure. During the whole of the ‘war period efforts were made to have Rockhampton and other places made appraisement centres.
– I am not denying that.
– But objections were raised, and, in the case of Newcastle, we were told that ‘it would be necessary to show that the wool-growers of the northern parts of New South Wales were favorable to the idea. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. WaU) at Wat time received a deputation of wool-growers, representative of the greater part of the . north, north-western and western ‘districts of New South Wales, who asked that Newcastle’ should be selected, and the honorable gentleman described it as the most influential deputation it had ever been his pleasure to receive. At tha’t date, under the operations of the Wool Committee, the wool-growers of the north and north-west of New South Wales were compelled ‘to send their wool past the port of Newcastle to Sydney-.
– Involving 100 miles of extra haulage.
– At a cost of something like 2s. 6d. per bale. Thousands of pounds were spent in building stores round the .port of Sydney for this Wéo while suitable buildings were standing empty at Newcastle. We are prevented from having a discussion on this amendment; but if our friends opposite are seriously inclined to consider the producers of wool, it is not too late now to provide appraisement centres as required. There is not now the -excuse there might have been during the war period for bringing the wool to as few centres as possible, in. order to use the shipping to the fullest advantage. So long as. the skipping corn,panies which carry wool; or anything else a-re, allowed to use the Government railways, to- get- goods taken- to one common centre, they will not av-a.il themselves of other ports. This centralization policyhas been the curse of the country from the beginning of- Australian constitutional government. In New South “Wales the railways all ‘converge on one port, and the same remark may be made of Victoria. It is time that this, or some other Government, did what is possible to prevent this centralization. I’ ask the Minister to consult the Central Wool Committee, with a view to having wool appraised at- the natural port of the district in which it is grown.
Lt:Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [1Q..5]: - >We must recognise that, under, present circumstances, a Bill such as that, before the Committee is. necessary. It is impossible to pass from a state of war to a state of peace by a mere wave of the hand. I do not believe- in price-fixing, ordinarily, but our primary industries are of such magnitude and ramifications that it is. necessary, at the present time, to have some sort ‘of governmental control and organization, in order to prevent their future being jeopardized. Although there have been certain shortcomings in connexion with the management of the Wool Pool, yet, when viewed broadly, it must be recognised that its creation was one of the finest things ever done for Australia, Had we not had this control of the wool industry, and the contract with, the British Government, Australia would have been in a difficult position, and ‘ would have had ‘ a much greater problem to solve in regard to the payment of our war bill. It is necessary- that we should know what is;, to happen to the wool-producing industry in the twelve months following the ratification of peace. According: to a report published to-day from the Central Wool Committee -
Tha quantity of appraised wool now -in the Common wealth awaiting, shipment overseas -is- 12X.2GG failes of- the season 1917-18, and 1,211,427 bales of the season 1018-19, or a total- of 1,338,093 bales representing a value of. approximately £ 28,772,027-. Should the car,ny-over: on 30,th June,- 1920; of appraised wooli for- shipment be considerable - and ‘ there? is a probability of this being the -case - it will constitute a serious menace to the resumption of auction sales during the first season following the ‘termination of the control period.
Honorable members can realize what thedifficulty will.be in regard to finding :a market and shipping our wool overseas- immediately the agreement with the British Government ceases.
– Is that a reason why the honorable member should penalize his constituents to the extent of 2s. 6d. per bale by concentrating all the appraisement work in -Sydney?
– -If I had my way, there would be several appraisement, towns in my electorate. The report ofthe -Central Wool Committee continues -
And the Committee warns wool-growers of., the -position that -is likely to arise in market-, ing the Australian clip for the season 1920-21 in the event of a large carry-over of Imperial Government wools
Therefore, the continuance of the Wool’ Pool is absolutely necessary. (But thereare some things in regard to the control by the Central Committee to which I: take strong exception. There is in the policy of the Committee too much centralization. We talk every day about decentralization; but the power given to the Central Wool Committee is adding to the. evil of centralization. That body has /been able to knock out every small wool buyer in the country. In many, littletowns throughout Australia, and particularly in my electorate, there were wool scourers and tanners, and persons who were engaged in buying in small parcelsand classifying - and dealing with wool.I « could enumerate half-a-dozen towns in my electorate in which a considerableamount of ready money was earned and spent in connexion with wool transactions. Buyers with vans travelled thedistrict, and bought the single bales from, the “ cockies,” and picked up odd linesof beeswax, horsehair, hides and sheep?skins. That wool was . brought into* a town, where there was a small. scouring plant,’ which provided employsment .for– a certain number of men:There -was also ai tannery: But a regulation issued by the Central Wool Committee limited- the operations of these*- small buyers of wool to lots not exceeding £10 in value.
– And we have not been told why it is necessary to do that.
– I can say why it is unnecessary to do it. Under the present system, if I have fl’5 worth of wool for sale in the country, I must ship it to Sydney or Melbourne. If that wool had been classed in the country, scoured, bulked with other wool, and made into a decent sample, it would have been carried on the railway at truck rates when it was sent to Sydney. Instead, the Central Wool Committee is paying ordinary bag rates for unscoured wool, 75 per cent, of which, in some cases, is filth. The effect of that policy is to take money out of tlie pocket of the small “ cockie “ farmer. We are continually advising the Government to put men on the land. A great many people have an idea that farming and grazing is the only industry in which a man does not require knowledge and experience. What is the greatest cause of centralization to-day? When country boys and girls leave school, the only place in which they can find employment is the ordinary general store. It is necessary for boys or girls with any ambition to go to the city to get further ahead. If, on the other hand, industries are established in country towns in which technical training is required they will remain in the country, and not flock to the cities.. Fully 75 per cent, of the money received in country stores goes back to the city. In a little town of ‘5,000 ‘ people, with which I am acquainted, there are thirty or forty men employed in a boot factory. That industry is doing more for decentralization than all the rest of the establishments in the town, because it serves to keep the young people from the city and finds them local employment. Every time the Central Wool Committee shuts down a country industry it is adding to that great curse of this country - centralization. We must give encouragement to our boys and girls to remain, in country districts, but we can only do this by providing work for them there. The action of the Central Wool Committee has the opposite tendency. The work of woolscouring and tanning is being centralized in the cities where the wool is appraised, adding to the employment there, and depriving country towns of industries which could very properly be carried on in them.
I have not the time nor the opportunity to refer to butter and other matters, but it seems to me that this Bill is necessary, and that, although it is not perfect, it is in the circumstances as perfect a measure as can be got. It is remarkable that, although honorable members of the Opposition have raised objections to it, they did not appoint any one to represent the interests of the growers on the Wheat Pool which their Government established. Honorable members opposite know as well as I do that it is a matter of absolute impossibility to deal with profiteering and the high cost of living until this Parliament receives from the people of Australia by means of an amendment of the Constitution extended powers to enable it to deal with trade in the different States, and all the complex questions arising out of the commerce of a continent.
– With some surprise I listened to the passionate and violent attack made by the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Groom) on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). The honorable gentleman said that my leader knew that the fixing of prices could not be perpetuated by the Commonwealth Government. But I maintain that if our authority to fix prices can be extended until August or September of next year, it can be extended for another ten years. There are not two honorable members who believe that this Parliament has the constitutional authority to pass this Bill and extend our power to fix prices until August or September of next year. According to the Acting Leader of the House, the Bill is to be confined to a few commodities over which control, was exercised during the war; but I contend that if the Constitution permits us to deal with those things we can constitutionally extend our control over other articles. In regard to both these matters the honor- able member was not only unfair to the Leader of the Opposition, but bad no ground for the points he sought to establish.
I was waiting to hear a statement from Ministers as to whether it was intended to seek further powers from the people at the next election with a view to dealing in a comprehensive way with the exploitation of the community. Every day the newspapers tell us that profiteering, which is the cause of all industrial unrest, is being carried on in an extensive way in all countries of the world, and that every Legislature is being entreated to take steps to prevent it, yet our Ministers give us no hint that they intend to apply to the people for power to deal with it in a proper manner.
Mr.Considine. - They are keeping that proposal up their sleeves.
– I do not know whether that is so, but there is every evidence that an election will be held at an early date - probably this year.
– As soon as “Billy “ brings his programme back.
– Yes, as soon as the. Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) returns there will be wars and rumours of war. He has informed us that he is coming back to flight his enemies - on both sides, I presume. As with the Kilkenny cats, there will only be tails left at the end. I know him, and if he is defeated in getting his desires, come what may, he will be uppermost. He has control of the House, and he is the only man in Australia who can appeal to the Governor-General.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the Bill.
– He will not be able to ask the people for further powers to deal with profiteering and the fixation of prices at the next election unless a Bill to amend the Constitution is brought in very shortly.
– I am afraid that that matter has nothing to do with the third reading of this Bill.
– Of course, I must bow to your ruling. During the whole of the debate the question of the exploita tion of the people has been discussed, but the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Groom) said that under the Bill the policy of fixing prices could not be perpetuated. My answer to that is that there is evidence all over the world of the necessity for giving this Parliament power to extend the controls exercised under the Bill. The only way to do this is to make preparations for appealing to thepeople. Profiteering is going on all over Australia. Contracts were made by the Government during the war time in the interests of the people and to prevent profiteering. If that was good for the country while the war was on, it will be good for it for all future years; but the
Government are not sincere. They are looking only after the interests of a few in placing this Bill before the House. If they desired to do what was essential, with their knowledge of the industrial and commercial troubles caused all over the world by profiteering, they would take action to secure for this Parliament the power to deal with the whole subject constitutionally and comprehensively. As it is, they have never given us even a hint that they intend to apply to the people for that power.
.- I regret that I had no opportunity to move in Committee an amendment of which I gave notice, but I ask the Acting . Leader of the House (Mr. Groom) now to consider the purpose of that amendment, which was to insure that all fellmongers in the Commonwealth shall be fully employed before skins are allowed to be exported to other parts of the world. That is a fair request, because every honorable member wants to see local industries kept at full speed. Will the honorable gentleman give instructions to the Wool Committee that the local fellmongers must be fully employed before any skins are exported? The fellmongers in my district, and other districts, are not getting skins, because dry skins are being exported. That should not be the case in a country like this. I believe the Ministerial party, as a whole, will indorse my remarks. All the work that can possibly be done in this country should be done before we allow our raw materials to be sent abroad. Surely the intention was not to. bring into existence a Wool Board that would destroy our secondary industries. I do not believe the Board intended to do so.
– Did not the Imperial Government ask that a certain proportion of ‘-skins be exported ? .
– I believe there was some such request from the British Government, which desired to assist the French people to build up their skin industries. Thousands of bales of dry skins have’ beer exported to Europe in consequence. I do -not know who conducted the negotiations, but I ask the honorable member -for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) . to do; all that he can to keep the Australian fellmongering industry going. I am sure that if the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) were back in Australia he would <make sure that the local industry was “‘fully provided with skins. I urge the Acting Leader of the House to use his influence to see that our own people are kept -fully employed, and that the fell.mongering industry is restored to its nor<mal pre-war state.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read, a third time.
-. - J. move -
I That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act. 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing . Committee on Public Works for -their report thereon, -namely :- Erection of Commonwealth Note Printing Offices on the . site’ recently . acquired in’.’Victoria-parade, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
It is proposed to erect new premises in connexion with the -execution of ‘ note, stamp, and other high class,. printing and engraving, for .the Commonwealth Treasury on -a site ‘acquired in Victoriaparade, Fitzroy.
The -Note. a-nd* Stamp Printing Branch isi at present : housed’ in .-buildings adjoining .the King’s - Warehouse, Flinders-street Extension; which .were..never intended for such a purpose, but were utilized because they -were the only vacant Commonwealth property available at the time, and the note printing was then a small establishment.
This branch enormously increased during the years of the war, and the present buildings are totally inadequate for its proper accommodation. Owing to their light construction and the proximity of the Customs stores, the buildings present a serious fire risk. If a fire occurred, causing a suspension of operations, the result would be disastrous from a financial point of view. The buildings are also situated in a most inconvenient locality, and their inaccessibility is a serious disadvantage, both for the staff employed and the activities involved. The climatic conditions, . due to the low nature of the site and its position in relation to the river and docks, are reported to be very unfavorable to the printing processes, and the fumes from the Metropolitan Gas Works in the vicinity have an adverse effect on the quality of the work and on the appliances.
The plans and estimate of £44,200, which are now submitted, provide for the erection of a modern fire-resisting building, containing basement, ground, and three floors, including- all accessories necessary for the purpose of the work to be carried on.
There are existing buildings on the site which will be used for storage and for other services connected with the Treasury Department; the proposed new structure would occupy portion only of . the land, being designed to form part of a scheme providing for extension over -the whole site should future necessities so demand. 1 present. all the necessary papers and statements, with the estimates set out in detail, and the plans and specifications pf the proposed building.
– -I have- no. -objection to> the reference of -this -matter.- to- the Works Committee,’ but I strongly object to the form in which »the Government propose to make it. The -Minister states ., that land has been..ac- quired for the erection -of the .building.
The Committee, therefore, when it comes to inquire, will be confined to reporting on that particular site. This will handicap it in its investigations. I protest, because this is a building which could well be erected in the Federal Territory. The Government; have bought valuable land in Melbourne for the purpose, when they had plenty of land available in the Federal Territory. There is also a power plant there sufficient to run any factory, and a plant capable of lighting the whole place. The question of getting labour there will not be difficult. Very few hands ave employed in the printing of notes. I protest against the Government continuing to build factories in this or any other city in the Commonwealth whilst we have a Territory of our own in which, they might be built. The motion submitted affords the House an opportunity to say that it does not approve, of the policy of erecting buildings of a Federal character in the city of Melbourne. We are paying over £42,000 a year at the present time in rent for buildings occupied by the Commonwealth Government in this city, and yet the Minister, without giving honorable members an opportunity to say whether in future factories required by the Commonwealth Government shall be built in the Federal Territory or not, submits a motion referring to the Public Works Committee the proposed construction’ of a factory on land, which has already been purchased in Melbourne. The Government spend, money in purchasing valuable sites in Melbourne, and for what?
– And, perhaps, we may be moving to the Federal Capita) next year.
– If . we do not build Federal factories there, when are we going to the Federal Capital ? We do not require to buy land in the Federal Territory. It is lying there useless now, and we have a power plant that could supply the necessary power for the printing of the Commonwealth Notes. If the pre.posal were that the Public Works Committee should investigate the erection of this building on a site in the Federal Territory, I should have no objection to it. As submitted, the motion is not fair, either to the House or to the Public
Works Committee, and it is an infringement of the compact entered into with the State of New South Wales when Federation was accomplished. There has not been one sincere effort on the part of the Government to carry out that compact. This motion is, in my opinion, another deliberate step taken to prevent the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. If we erect a building here for the printing of the Notes, we cannot subsequently remove that building to Canberra. If this Parliament is to be worth its salt, it should have a Territory and Capital of its own, but every effort is made by the Government to prevent the development of the Federal Capital.
.- I think the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) ‘ would be well advised if he amended the motion he has submitted. I quite agree with the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), that we should not continue this system of centralization in Melbourne. There can be no doubt that it is growing. In this respect tlie Commonwealth Parliament is becoming like the State- Parliaments. We know that in the States a system of centralization is adopted which brings everything into the metropolitan districts. I personally take no exception to Melbourne, but since we have been temporarily established here, we have gradually, at great expense, been building and ranting public offices in ‘different parts of this city, whilst we know that the time must come when we shall have to comply with the ‘ obligations of the Constitution, and establish the Federal Capital. What are we to do in future if all our factories are established in Melbourne? When we go to the Federal’ Capital, how are we to populate it? We cannot shift these buildings from Melbourne, and ‘e)ery office established here will remain here for many years. Parliament should now decide whether anything is to be done in , connexion with the development of the Federal Capital. site.
– Is not this rather prejudging the report of the Public Works Committee ?
– The Public Works Committee will have no say in the matter,, according to the terms of the motion.
– May I suggest that this discussion might be postponed until the report of the Public Works Committee has been received?
– I remind the honorable member that every reference to the Public Works Committee must be made by this House in accordance with the terms of the Public Works Committee Act. If, therefore, by a specific motion, we carry a certain reference to the Public Works Committee, the Committee will be bound to confine its inquiry within the terms of that reference.
– This House will not be bound to accept its report.
– I quite admit that, but the Public Works Committee is not permitted to go outside the terms of the reference agreed to by this House submitting a work for ite consideration.
– The Committee can advise whether the work should be approved or rejected.
– Of course it can; but the Minister must know that the reference to the Committee must come from this House.
– That is so; but the Public Works Committee can report whether the proposed work should or should not be carried out.
– I admit that.
– The Committee may complain that the proposal is not in the public interests.
– Probably the Committee may do so. But if we agree to a specific reference to the Committee it will not be justified in going outside that reference, as in this case, to look for other sites upon which the proposed building might be erected. I direct the attention of honorable members to the terms of the motion. It reads -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public I Works Committee Act 1913-14, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, namely Erection of Commonwealth Note Printing Offices on the site recently acquired in Victoriaparade, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
The site has already been purchased, and evidently without referring the matter of its selection to the Public Works Committee. After the purchase of the site-, the Government submit this motion, and I contend that if it is carried the Public Works Committee can inquire only into the suitability of this particular site for the building. The Committee can report, whether, in ite opinion, the proposed building should be erected or not. But that will not bring us any nearer to theFederal Capital. I say that it should be left an open question whether these factories should not be established at theFederal Capital. If that is not done,, what is to become of the Federal Capital? Personally I do not anticipate that I shall ever get there. I shall certainly have a long innings as a member of this Parliament if I do. It is the duty of this Parliament to make provision for ite establishment at the Federal Capital. Thereis, in my opinion, no justification for submitting this reference to the PublicWorks Committee in the way proposed by the Minister. It should be left an open question with the Committee, whoshould have the right to go to Canberra, or anywhere else, to make investigations as to the best site for the proposed building. That the Committee should havethe fullest scope for inquiry is in the interests of the Commonwealth. I do not know of any reason why the Commonwealth notes could not be printed at Canberra. They could be printed thereas well ae here.
– I think that stamps areto be printed also.
– There is no reason why the stamps also should not be printed at Canberra. Many other factories that have been established elsewhere might have been established at the Federal1 Capital. If we ever do go to Canberra, and make it the Seat of Government, how can we get people to come there if every Commonwealth factory is established elsewhere. If it .is the intention to remove these factories subsequently to Canberra, I can only say that that is not a wise policy to pursue. I am one of those who believe that, if we establish these factories and offices here now,, they will remain here for all time. Inorder to test the feeling of the House;. and to give the inquiry by the Public Works Committee a wider scope, I move -
That all the words after the word “offices,” line 7, be left out.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gregory) adjourned.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I ask honorable members to come tomorrow prepared to proceed immediately with the Moratorium Bill. I invite them to assist .the Government in carrying it through in all its stages early next week. It is an important Bill, affecting very serious interests, and I am therefore anxious to get it placed upon the statutebook as quickly as possible.
.- On Thursday last the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) placed before this House a shipbuilding programme, covering the Government shipbuilding operations up to date, and embodying as a first instalment, an expenditure of - £10,000,000. That statement has arrested public attention in all the States more than has any other recent Ministerial pronouncement. It suggests the creation of another huge Department of State, whether it be approved or not by Australia as a whole, and the magnitude of the undertaking warrants the House being afforded an opportunity of exhaustively discussing it. This is not the time for a private member to initiate any such debate. I merely rose to ask the Minister if he could fix a date when this House will be afforded an opportunity of carefully examining the whole of the shipbuilding proposals of the Government. No Bill has yet been presented giving the Ministry authority for the construction of these vessels. All that has been done has been by way of adminis trative act. Now that we have reached the post-war period, I think we are entitled to ask for a disclosure of the entire policy of the Government in this connexion. At any rate, I am not prepared to take a bite of £10,000,000 off a nationalization proposal without first being afforded the fullest opportunity for discussing it. The purchase and construction of the vessel to which we previously agreed was recognised as a war-time necessity. But we are now entitled to the clearest declaration of policy before any further step is taken. Whilst Parliament is sitting I cannot sanction the construction of £2,000,000 worth of ships as an Executive act without first securing legislative authority for it. I enter my emphatic protest against the adoption of any such course.
– One would think that the announcement of the shipbuilding programme of the Government came before the House last week for the first time. As a matter of fact, with the exception of five vessels, the constructional programme, involving an outlay of £10,000,000, to which the honorable member referred, was placed before the House last session.
– We. were then at war.
– The honorable member knows that the contracts had been let then. Yet there was no dissent expressed by the honorable member. He believes in private enterprise in regard to shipbuilding.
– I have not even declared myself.
– At this hour of the night it may perhaps be interesting if I read an extract from an article’ by Sir Leo Chiozza Money on “ The Nationalization of Shipping.” The article is published in the English Review, and in it the writer shows just what the effect of private enterprise has been since the period when the control of shipping was relaxed. He says -
The Coalition Government has decided to restore private control to the shipping trade in its entirety. The effects are at once visible. ….. Thus, after the armistice the coat freight for provisions across the- Atlantic was 42s. 6d. per ton. This may be compared’ with the rate arranged hy the Shipping Ring in view of the relaxation of control.. It is no less than !)3s. 4dr. Now, the 42s. 6d. covered all costs, including: the blue-book rate of hire, which covered ship-owners’ profit. Therefore, the Shipping Ring is making an additional profit of 50s. IOU per ton.
That is the immediate effect of the relaxa? tion of the control of shipping in the Old Country.. I am astounded that a man representing a country constituency should protest against the Government going in for a shipbuilding scheme. If there be one thing against which the producers should be protected it is the Shipping Combine, which has been constantly growing, until to-day it controls about 9,000,000. tons. If in the future there is to be any protection to our primary producers, we must be in a position to have some say in the freight charges. The five new ships are being purchased absolutely in the interests of the primary producers. ‘ “When we entered into the earlier contracts for the 5,500-ton tramp steamers, the complaint made was that they did not have refrigerated space. That has been provided for in these later ships, so from the producers’ stand-point the contract is a most advantageous one. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr.. Rodgers) will have an opportunity of discussing this matter more fully: but, as a business man, I ask him if, when endeavouring to make a deal, he would expose his hand by laying his cards on the table for the information of the man with whom he was endeavouring to make an arrangement ? I may tell the House that we had arranged originally for the securing of three slips, and before we had time, even in Cabinet, to consider it fully - we were hesitating for the reason that we thought we ought to consult Parliament - we found that the slips had .been taken by others. A great deal of pressure has been brought to bear upon me to’ give away information about the Government proposals. Articles have appeared in the leading newspapers signed by a “ ship-owner,” and other correspondents, contributed by the agents of tlie Combine1,, who. have been: endeavouring to find out- what we- intend’ to do1,
– But is not the agent of the Combine at. the present time really, the controller of shipping?
– To whom is the honorable member referring ?
- Sir Owen Cox.
– I do not know that he is.
– He is your man; he is controlling all your overseas shipP<ng
– He is doing nothing, of the kind.
– Is there any control of overseas shipping now?
– No. However, at this time of the night it is too late to deal a-t length with the question raised by the honorable member for Wannon.
– I have not opened up the question at all. I merely asked when we shall get an opportunity of discussing the Government programme.
– I cannot say that, but, no doubt, the subject will crop up many times before we finish the session.
– Can the Minister tell us when the Bill will be brought in ?
– It is on the noticepaper now.
– But when shall, we have an opportunity of discussing it?
– When we get rid of some of the more urgent business on the notice-paper. That is all I can say.
– Will any of these five ships have passenger accommodation ?
– I do not think they
Wall, although the original three for which we were negotiating had accommodation for 100 passengers. The five ships now under contract will be purely trading vessels, with 350,000 feet of refrigerated space.
– All I can say is that if the Shipping Combine is as powerful as the Minister believes it to be, whether the Government approached shipbuilders privately or in any other- way, would make no difference.
Question resolved in the affirmative-.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 July 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190731_reps_7_88/>.