8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday, the Minister for the Navy promised to supply me with information concerning the procedure to be followed by the householder who wishes to buy coal under the regulations just issued by the Coal .Board. Many householders have not Deen able to huy -a pound of coal during the last seven or eight months, and with winter approaching rapidly the position is serious for them. Householders generally wish to know what they must do to obtain coal. Will there bc a set form’ of application for it?
– All that the householder has to do is to order the coal from a merchant in the ordinary way. A form of certificate has been adopted, which :the merchant will ask the customer to sign before the coal is delivered. In signing that certificate, the customer will be making a declaration that he has not received coal .contrary to the regulations. The object of this procedure is to make our supply of coal go round as far as it will. No one is to get more than 10 cwt, I hope that we may dispense with all these restrictions before very long.
– For what period is the 10 .cwt. to suffice?
– For four weeks. I hope that by the end of that time the restrictions may be removed altogether.
Visit of the Prince of Wales.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) to the fact that the Shandon, which has just arrived, would he a very suitable ship for the mercantile marine to use in. taking part in the reception which is to be given to the Prince of Wales. Will the honorable gentleman consider the suggestion?
– I shall inquire into the matter. We should be glad to do anything we can on the occasion of the Prince’s visit to show our appreciation of the mercantile marine.
– I move - t That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
– What is the need for meeting on Tuesday? The business that we have been doing this week has not been urgent. What is the urgent business tha’t the Government wishes us to deal with?
– I am amazed at the honorable member’s question. I am afraid that he shares the popular notion that, unless something sensational and striking to the imagination- is taking place, useful work is no’t being done. The business put through this week was of the utmost consequence to the people of this country.
– Especially the Supplementary Estimates, covering expenditure of some years ago!
– Yes; they had to be passed, and it was time they were passed. I am surprised at the suggestion that measures for replenishing the coffers of the Old-age and War Pensions Funds, and similar measures, are of no account. Tha’t will not be the opinion of the pensioners themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Why has the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill been placed fourth on the list of Government measures? A little while ago the Opposition, was told that it was holding up this* measure.
– A dead-loot has arisen regarding the Bill, and delay is necessary to enable us to take counsel with the Leader of the Senate in the hope of finding a via media by which, the tremendous crisis that overhangs the two Houses may be removed.
– In view of the statement in the press that the voting regarding the Wool Pool was against continuance, and as it is a natural assumption that if all interested could have been polled, instead of the small vote that was taken, there would have been a much larger majority against continuance, will the Government announce as soon as possible what it intends to do in the matter ?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of tha Prime Minister.
– As the prospects for the coming harvest are exceedingly bad, I ask if the Government has taken action to provide that an ample supply of wheat of last season and of the previous season shall1 be retained in Australia, so that our own people may not be short?
– I think that there is enough wheat in Australia, to see us through for the present, and I hope that before the existing stocks have been consumed much more will be available.
DISTRIBUTION OF MONEYS.
– A few days ago I asked whether, in consideration of the severe drought that is prevailing, the Government, if it cannot finalize the accounts of the A and B Wheat Pools, will not at least distribute whatever moneys are in hand in connexion with those pools ?
– I cannot give a definite answer to the question. My honorable colleague has the matter in hand, and is endeavouring to make a distribution at the earliest moment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The continuance of the Wheat Pool for this season under existing conditions.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places.
– I have not had notice of this.
.- I take this action reluctantly, but my patience and that of the members of the Country party and of the growers of wheat throughout the Commonwealth is about exhausted. I have tried by every means in my power to obtain a satisfactory answer from the Prime Minister to questions on this subject, and have been unable to do so. On two occasions I have placed questions on the notice-paper. Yesterday I asked -
When will the House he given an opportunity to discuss the question of the continuation of the Wheat Pool?
To which the reply was -
As soon as the state of public business permits of this being done.
There is no more pressing public business at this moment than a solution of the difficulty regarding the Wheat Pool. I have on more than one occasion approached the Prime Minister regarding it, and when lie was last approached by the mem? bers of the Australian Wheat Board, who had carried a resolution in favour of the continuation of the Pool for this year under existing conditions - and I am speaking now’ only of the continuance of the Pool for this year, not of a compulsory Pool for succeeding years - the right hon- orable gentleman said that, owing to the manner in which the Pool had been criticised, he did not propose to continue it for another year. It seemed to me that he suggested that I was one of those who had criticised the Pool unfairly. I have criticised the administration of the Pool, but not the creation of “the Pool. The conception of the Pool was good, but the administration has been very bad, and, in some instances, scandalous. To my mind, the greatest offender was the Prime Minister, and I shall instance just one act of his- the sale of 1,000,000 tons of wheat made by him without any authority at all, in the early part of July, 1919. I do not wish to be vindictive, but I wish to clear myself and the growers of the country of the charge of having unfairly criticised the administration of the Pool.
– Did not the Board ratify the bill?
– The sale was made without any authority, and under conditions of which the Board knew nothing until some time later. On the 24th June last, a cable message was received from the Prime Minister stating that it might be possible to sell 500,000 tons of wheat, and asking what was the lowest price the Board would be prepared to accept. The ‘ Board was. hurriedly called together, and, after consultation, decided to cable to the Prime Minister that 5s. should be the irreducible minimum at which wheat should be sold. But it was also understood that the message should intimate to the Prime Minister .that, although, that minimum had been fixed, he should gel; a better price, and he was left to do that. The next information we received was that the Prime Minister had sold “ 500,000 tons of wheat at 5s. 6d. per bushel. That was all right; he had authority to do that.
– The Board would not have mentioned such a low price as 5s. per bushel had it known the state of the world’s market at that time.
– Unfortunately, we did not know, and had no means of ascertaining, the state of the world’s market. I will admit, in justice to the Prime Minister, that he had been in Great Britain for at least fifteen months and had not been able to sell a single bushel of wheat, even although during part of that time he had authority to sell at 4s. 9d. But the wheat market was advancing, damage was being caused to our stocks by weevils and mice, storage charges were mounting up, and we were compelled to ask for a better price. The next thing we heard was that the Prime Minister had sold 1,000,000 tons of wheat at 5s. 6d. per bushel, and had given an option over a further 500,000 tons ofwheat at the same price, making 1,500,000 tons in all, of which 1,000,000 tons was sold without the authority of the Australian Wheat Board. That option was exercised by the British Government very shortly afterwards. This was a very satisfactory arrangement to the British Government - it meant, “ heads the British Government wins, and tails the Australian Wheat Board loses.” However things happened, the British Government stood to win in regard to that option, for the simple reason that, if the price of wheat advanced, the Imperial Government would exercise its option, but, if wheat declined, the option would not be exercised. That 500,000 tons of wheat was tied up for the period for which the option was given - given, I may remark, without any payment, a thing which no business man would do. The Prime Minister has frequently stated that he obtained for our wheat 6d. per bushel more than was asked by the Australian Wheat Board. That statement is not correct. Within twelve days after the Prime Minister had sold the additional 1,000,000 tons of wheat without authority, the Argentine market appreciated 2s. per bushel, and within three weeks a further1s., making a total advance of 3s. per bushel. The Prime Minister should have been better advised than to make this sale. A London agency has been established, and it would always be at the disposal of the Prime Minister for the purpose of finding out the latest information regarding the state of the crops and the markets of other countries. That agency should have been consulted, but I understand that the Prime Minister made the sale of 1,500,000 bushels without consulting the agency at all. The House will be interested to hear the sums of money that have been paid to the London agency for work done in connexion with what were supposed to be f.o.b. sales, but which were conceded to be c.i.f. sales. From the inception of the scheme, on the 31st December, 1916, the firms of John Darling and Son, James Bell and Company, Louis Dreyfus and Company, and Dalgety and Company received, in commission, at 3/10ths per cent., a sum of £61,928, and, at3/8 per cent., £129,298, making a total commission paid to 30th November, 1919, of £191,226. These commissions were quite apart from the handling charges and commission for work done at this end. The Prime Minister had no right to commit the growers to a sale of over 1,000,000 tons of wheat, involving an amount of £10,000,000, without consulting the Australian Wheat Board. I come now to the aftermath of the sale. We were left so short of wheat that in November last, when the Egyptian Government offered 94s. per quarter c.i.f. for wheat, and £32 per ton for flour c.i.f., it was deemed inadvisable to part with so much foodstuffs pending a knowledge of what the coming harvest would be. I made a statement at that time that an offer to buy wheat and flour at prices equivalent to10s. per bushel had been received. That statement was questioned, and I therefore wrote to the manager of the Australian Wheat Board to ascertain exactly what the position was. I received the following letter: -
The following is the telegram regarding the Egyptian inquiry for wheat and flour: -
Egyptian Government want offer 90,000 tons wheat and flour - wheat preferred - about equal monthly shipments seven months, indicate wheat, 94s.; flour, £32 c.i.f.
These prices of 94s. per quarter for wheat and £32 for flour, are c.i.f. The wheat would be worth l1s. 9d. per bushel c.i.f., and if Commonwealth Government freights were available at £6 5s. per ton, equal to nearly 8s.6d. f.o.b.
The pre-war freights from Australia to the United Kingdom and the Continent averaged about 9d. per bushel. Yet the Commonwealth Government steamers were apparently asking for £6 5s. per ton, equal to 3s. 4d. per bushel, for freight from here to Egypt. The letter continues -
The flour, at £32 per ton’ c.i.f., would give a return of about 10s. l1/2d. per bushel f.o.b.
We will be able to continue selling the flour to the Egyptian Government, but we will be unable to supply the wheat.
In the first place, we do not have it to spare, and, secondly, if we had the spare wheat, we would require the Commonwealth Government line for flour, and we would have to pay a rate of freight which would reduce wheat values below 8s.6d.
I draw the attention of the House to the statement,”In the first place we do not have wheat to spare.” What was the reason? Simply that the Prime Minister sold 1,000,000 tons of wheat without authority at 5s. 6d. per bushel, and we are left to-day absolutely stranded.
– There was general rejoicing throughout the farming areas when the sale was announced.
– I do not care what the rejoicing Was.
– That was because the farmers did not know the facts.
– I hope the Department will makean official statement about this.
– I shall welcome any official statement that the Department can give.
– The honorable member does not want an official statement. He has not had the courtesy to inform the Government that he intended to move this motion.
– The Government do not deserve any courtesy because of the way in which the Prime Minister has treated the growers. He has been approached in a gentlemanly way. by a representative of the growers, and he has not deigned to give them any reply. He has acted in an absolutely autocratic manner, and I rise to-day toprotest against his action.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear ; it is time somebody protested.
– Loud and unanimous cheers from the Labour party.
– I shall quote to the House a circular distributed by the National Federation during the election, and entitled, “ Facts,” but which contained more lies than any other circular which the Federation issued.
– The honorable member ought to read his own speeches in Victoria.
– The honorable member does not like the truth. These “ Facts “ were distributed by the National Federation, and I can only characterize them as worthy of that body. The pamphlet showed that the London parity for wheat was 2s. 9d. f.o.b. in November, 1918, and basing their calculations on that assumption, they proceeded to show that the splendid sales made by the Prime Minister had resulted in placing an additional £10.000,000 in the pockets of the grower. Unfortunately, I have lost the pamphlet,’ and am speaking from memory. On the 16th December the Australian Wheat Board met, and a statement was placed on the table, dealing with the purchase of 2,200,000 bushels made by the British Government -
This figure of 2,200,000 bushels represents a sum of £522,500, at 4s. 9d. per bushel, or based on the existing overseas value of, say, 8s. per bushel, £880,000.
That is to say, although the Prime Minister tried to hoodwink the farmers into the belief that he had put money into their pockets by selling wheat at 5s. 6d. while it was worth only 2s. 9d., the Australian Wheat Board officials say it was worth 8s.
– Would it not be only fair to bring up this matter when the Prime Minister is here to answer?
– I wish the Prime Minister were here. My friends on the Labour side stress the high cost of living, and I agree with them ; but the producers accept no responsibility in this regard. Our primary products are, and have been, cheap; and during the war period wheat for flour never cost the Australian consumer more than 4s. 9d. I can well remember that when wheat was sold at 5s. at country stations the price of the 4-lb. loaf was 5d.; and yet, during the later war period, with wheat at only 4s. 9d., bread was sold in the country at10d. At present, the various State Governments have enough wheat at 7s.8d. to last to the end of the year; and they have made an excellent deal. Without “giving away “ anything, I say that the price of 7s. 8d. per bushel, although it might seem to be high, would not have been paid if certain gentlemen had had their way.
– Who are they?
– I do not like to say too much about the matter.
– You ought to say.
– Then I will. I do not like to say these things, but the Prime Minister fought against that price. I shall not say anything more in the matter at the present time; but, if the Prime Minister chooses to deny or explain, I shall take an opportunity to tell the whole story. Last week, when I was coming from Bendigo, I saw large trains of the finest wheat that could be produced in the world going away at 5s. 6d. per bushel, while to-day the price of wheat in America, f.o.b., is at least 16s. 6d., and in the Argentine at least 13s. 4jd. These are the prices at which wheat in those ‘countries is being sold; and I should say it could not be landed here, in view of the high freights and the adverse rate of exchange, at anything under 22s. or 23s.
I think the information I have given to the House justifies me and the party to which I belong in criticising the Prime Minister. I have given, only one instance in which that honorable gentleman has done things he should not have done, and has taken into his hands the sole responsibility for disposing of, at least, £10,000,000 worth of wheat without any authority whatever. There is continued silence o:n the part of the Prime Minister in regard to the Wheat Pool for the coming year. I unhesitatingly say that the Pool as conceived was a good thing, but that the administration, particularly from the political side, has been bad.
I desire to make my position clear in regard to the Victorian Pool. For the officials who are working with the Board I have the highest regard; and when the Pools are settled up I believe that the Victorian Pool will compare more than favorably with any other.
– What do you suggest as the future policy in. regard to the Pool?
– We ought to know at the earliest possible moment what the Prime Minister intends ‘to do. He promised a guarantee, and he gave a guarantee, of 5s. per bushel for wheat, grown in Australia and delivered at country stations for the last year and for the coming year. The honorable gentleman takes every credit to himself for having given that guarantee ; but it was given too late for last season - just before the harvest - to induce anybody to grow any more that year. Further, it was too late to induce anybody to fallow last year for this year. Had it been given earlier, as it should have been, the chances are that a very much larger increase would have been seen this year; at any rate, it was given too late to influence the area sown last year, or the quantity likely to be produced this year. It is absolutely impossible to deal with this year’s harvest without a Pool- that is, if we are going to have any harvest, in view of the unprecedentedly bad conditions in the northern parts of Victoria and the wheat belt generally. It is absolutely necessary for the Government lo take such steps as will create confidence amongst the growers, who wish to know what is going to happen in the future. They ought to know how the guarantee of 5s. is to be made operative unless we have a Pool, and how the wheat is to be got away unless shipping is available. We recognise the troubles in regard to. freight, and that the farmers will have to face almost insurmountable difficulties in getting back to the private system from the pooling system. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister guarantees 5s. for this year, and that freights are altogether abnormal, we should have, at the earliest .possible moment, an intimation from him as to what he is going to do. On behalf of the wheat-growers of Australia, I appeal for early and favorable information.
There is absolutely no risk to the Government in connexion with the guarantee, and this the Prime Minister knew full well when he gave it; as a matter of fact, any man in the street would have given the guarantee, so that no credit is attached to the honorable gentleman. When there was some risk, however, the Government refused to face it. It has been shown that the production of wheat in Australia decreased during the war period by 4,500,000 acres, Victoria alone showing a decrease of 1,500,000 acres; and this because of the absence of a guarantee to the growers of the cost of production.
.- Under cover of this motion, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) voices his anxiety that the wheat-growers of Australia shall know exactly what the proposals are for the handling of the future harvest, and he uses the opportunity to make one of his characteristic attacks on the Prime Minister in his absence.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member describes my remarks as “one” of my “characteristic attacks” on the Prime Minister. I ask honorable members to point out when I have ever made an unwarranted attack on the Prime Minister. .
– I must ask the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) to continue his speech without any personal reference to other honorable members.
– I shall put the matter in another way. Throughout his election campaign, the honorable member for Echuca, whenever he addressed a body of farmers, let fall not one generous word with regard to the attitude of the Prime Minister so far as the wheat-growers or other producers in the country are concerned.
– What generous words fell from any members of the Country party about the Prime Minister?
– I claim to be personally quite as much interested in the wheat-growers as is the honorable member for Echuca, and I hope that I can present a case to counteract views that have been laid before the House this morning. The honorable member for Echuca charges the Prime Minister with being personally responsible for a loss of millions of money to the wheat-growers; but we are all wise after the event. The honorable member for Echuca, himself, is party to an agreement under which to-day Australian growers are losing 4s. a bushel.
– Prove it.
– The honorable member is a member of the Board–
– The sale was made without the approval of the Board; it was a fortnight or more before we knew the conditions of sale.
– The honorable member and I are talking of two totally different matters. I am referring to the sale approved by the Board of wheat for home consumption at 7s. 8d., when the world’s parity is at least 12s. 6d.
– Ask the Prime Minister what it would have been sold at if he had had his way.
– Here is a contract for a specific quantity of 500,000 tons, and then for another 500,000 tons, made by the Prime Minister at a time when it was almost impossible to sell wheat. But when the world requires wheat, the honorable member for Echuca takes part in selling it at 7s. 8d. per bushel, although the world’s parity is at least 12s. 6d. at any port.
The honorable member himself isin exactly the same position as that into which he is trying to put the Prime Minister in regard to the previous sale.
– I am not; one contract is for the sale in Australia, and the other for sale to the world.
– I am told that the Prime Minister did no such thing as block the sale referred to.
– I propose to leave the Prime Minister to deal with the statements made by the honorable member for Echuca.
– There is no truth in the statement that the Prime Minister blocked that sale.
– However that may be, it is for the Prime Minister to deal with the matter. But it shows the unwisdom of criticising, in the light of present prices, a contract made many months ago. Honorable members will recall the negotiations and the pressure brought to bear to sell Australian wheat prior to that stage, and they will remember that no market could be secured. Then came the announcement of the sale at 5s. 6d. per bushel. In the light of the information afforded to me as a wheat-grower, I, personally, considered it at the time an excellent sale; it was a tremendous relief to the country. What are the proposals in connexion with the handling and sale of our coming harvest? There was one for the compulsory establishment of a wheat pool among the farmers themselves. Every grower was to be compelled to place his wheat into a pool, and the commodity was to be controlled and sold under a compulsory pooling system.
– We asked that the farmers should be given a chance to voluntarily place their wheat into a pool.
– It was to be “voluntarily” put into a compulsory pool. To-day’s debate should convince the hard-headed farmer that the sooner he gets rid of all pools, so far as his wheat is concerned, the better.
Honorable members continually interjecting,
– Will the honorable member please resume his seat? I ask honorable members to observe the Standing Orders. It is almost impossible for an honorable member to make a speech, at present, without being continually interrupted, even to the extent of several speeches being conducted simultaneously. Ordinary debate is impossible under those conditions, and I ask honorable members, therefore, to observe the rules governing procedure in this Chamber, and to allow honorable members who may be addressing the Chair the opportunity to do so without such constant and persistent interruption.
– I was hopeful this morning that the discussion would have been concentrated upon the best methods for handling our wheat in future. The debate has degenerated, however, into a rancorous attack upon the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member’s speech itself began in that strain.
Other honorable members interjecting ,
-Order! I have made an appeal to honorable members, and I must now utter the warning that if occasion again arises it may be necessary for me to take more drastic steps to enforce order in debate. I shall be compelled to name honorable members if they continue to disregard’ the direction of the Chair.
– Every wheat-grower to-day recognises the value of the pooling system during the war period. It was, first of all, an absolute necessity, the benefits derived from which cannot be exaggerated. There is not a more independent body of men in the world than the Australian farmers. Their very environment, the very necessity for carving out their own career, makes them so. Australian farmers are not the men to be forced into a compulsory pool and subjected to a uniform set of conditions. The custom of the wheat-grower in the old-established districts was to sell a section of his grain, to store a section, and, sometimes privately, to ship a section. It was his endeavour to meet the market at different points, and always, of course, most advantageously to himself. In the older-settled areas, where farmers were in better circumstances than in the newer Mallee areas, for example, the practice which I have indicated was common. They built their own barns for storage.
– The general policy, so far as I have known it, was to sell and pay your debts as quickly as you could.
– The honorable member has spent most of his time as a wheatgrower in the newer provinces. Conditions in the Mallee are not as stable, probably, as in the older districts. The farmer is a type of individual who wants to manage hi3 own affairs. The sooner we can wind up the war organization which controlled our wheat the better. In this chamber to-day a member of the Board himself, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), Kas indicted another member of the Board concerning sales and conditions. The honorable member concerned must surely feel some responsibility in the matter of the price which the Australian farmer is getting to-day and will be getting for the whole of this year. I refer to the fact of sales being made at 7s. Sd. for home consumption when wheat to-day is worth 16s. per bushel, and when, at the seaboard, it is worth 12s. 6d. f.o.b. - which is the world’s parity. The honorable member must accept a share of responsibility for the basis of sale being fixed at 7s. Sd. per bushel. I do not intend to enter into a political controversy concerning whether what was done was right or wrong ; but I emphasize that the honorable member for Echuca has charged the Prime Minister concerning the circumstances of a sale made under war conditions when, at the same time, he himself is a party to a sale of Australian wheat at 7s. Sd. for home consumption when the world’s parity is 12s. 6d. It all clearly shows that it is better to let the farmer manage his own business.
– Tb- honorable member is trying to show that the farmers do not know their own business.
– But they do; and I am not trying to show the contrary. The farmers want to get back to pre-war conditions, and to manage their own affairs. It has been said that the decline in production of wheat is due to failure on the part of the Prime Minister, or of this Government, to make generous provision for wheat-growing. The States are primarily interested in this matter. Policy in regard to stimulation of wheat-growing is a State matter. The Minister for Agriculture in Victoria is taking a lively interest in the project, and is conducting a “gr-w more wheat” campaign. If one enters into conversation with any farmer and asks why he has steadily reduced his area of wheat under cultivation, and has taken on stock-raising, his answer invariably would be, “ I saw millions of tons of wheat being piled up in Australia and subjected to the ravages of mice and weevil ; and I saw no ships coming to transport our wheat to the other side of the world. Nobody could say when we were likely to sell our produce. I had no option, therefore, but to go in for more stock and less wheat. It appeared to be the only safe course.” It was the uncertainty concerning the future which led the farmer into raising more stock at the expense of wheat-growing. It is unfair to say that the Prime Minister, or this Government, is responsible for the diminunition of our wheat-growing areas; for that is not so. It is ungenerous to try to heap the responsibility on the shoulders of one man. I hope, nevertheless, that the Prime Minister will afford this House a very early opportunity to discuss and settle the whole business. The basis on which we are to handle our coming harvest ought to be known now, and the sooner it is made known the better for everybody. The Commonwealth has joined with State Governments in giving a guarantee covering next harvest; but the farmers can well relieve all the Governments concerned from responsibility in connexion with that guarantee. They can sell the whole of their wheat and get the whole of their money at once. I consider that at the pace at which shipbuilding is now proceeding it would be wise to terminate the Wheat Pool, so that farmers may return to the old methods and manage their own business.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Honorable Members. - Minister ! Minister !
.- Mr. Speaker–
Honorable Members. - Minister !
– There will be no Minister to-day.
Mr.Fenton. - This is a discourtesy to the House.
– You will get no Minister.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I have called the House to order more than once this morning. I have now called upon the honorable member for Werriwa to address the Chair, but he has not secured an opportunity to utter one word owing to the chorus of interjections passing from one side to the other of the chamber. I hope this practice will cease, and it is my duty to insure that it does, for it will be impossible to carry on debate with anything like decency if the present disorderly proceedings are allowed to continue .
– The point I wish to emphasize at the outset is that, in my view, the real object of the motion is not so much to discuss whether the Wheat Pool shall continue as that the Government should declare immediately what is going to happen. If the Pool is continued, the farmer will have no option but to put his product into it. It is the unbusiness-like method by which the Pool has been managed, at least for the past two years, which has made the farmer sick and tired of the whole concern. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) gave a reason why farmers are refusing to go in for more wheat, and are preferring to raise stock. He holds that it is because they have looked upon the enormous accumulation of wheat, with no market available, and with no immediate prospect of getting their money. That may hold good of farmers in the honorable member’s neighbourhood, but the explanation given me throughout my electorate, and in other wheat-growing parts where I haveresided in recent years, is that the farmer has become heartily tired and discouraged. His wheat has been commandeered and sold at a price which did not compensate him for his labour and outlay. Wheatgrowing, in fact, has not paid, and farmers have been forced to get out. The Government should now allow the grower to know exactly where he stands, and as quickly as possible. If the Pool is to be continued, there should be some guarantee that it will be managed efficiently, and that the farmer shall have a far larger share of control and management. Nationalist members of this Parliament, representing constituencies in my State, have said that the farmer must share the responsibility. That is ridiculous, seeing that his wheat has been taken from him. “We know that the farmer has lost considerable sums in connexion with sales which ought to have brought more money into his pocket. His wheat was sold at a lower price than could have been obtained, and he suffered grievous loss from the mismanagement of the Pool through the ravages that were permitted to be made “in the wheat stacks by mice, weevil,, and other vermin. “ Mr. Riley. - You cannot blame the Government for that.
– The Royal Commission held in New South “Wales absolutely proved that, as proper attention was not given to the wheat stacks at the outset, the management of the Pool was responsible for these losses.
For a long time now we have heard the parrot-like cry of “ more production.” To my mind, many honorable members on the Government side who are screeching out these words as if they had learnt them by heart, aru doing their level best to prevent more production. If we wish men to engage in the risky business of wheat-growing, we must make it worth their while to produce more; but when we take the fanner’s wheat from him and give him only 4s. 9d. per bushel for it while we sell it for 10s. or 12s. per bushel, it is no wonder he gets .sick of the business. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has pointed out that the farmer could not get the price at which his wheat was sold because of the scarcity of shipping during the war. I do not propose to deal with today’s prices. I shall compare the price the Australian farmer received for his wheat with that which was paid for wheat from Argentine, the United States of America, and Canada, at the same time that his wheat was sold in the same place and under the same conditions. The Australian farmer was told that it was his particular duty to grow more wheat to feed the allied nations, and heeding the cry, proceeded to produce as much wheat as possible; and had the people of the allied nations, and particularly Great Britain, been able to purchase their bread at a cheap price because the wheat from Australia was sold at a low figure, I could not raise (any objection; but the fact remains that the bread made in England from Aus tralian wheat was sold at the same price as was obtained for bread made from Argentine, Canadian, and American wheat. Whereas the Australian farmer was paid 4s. 9d. per bushel, the Argentine fanner was paid 7s. 9d. per bushel at the elevator in the interior. Furthermore, the Argentine farmer, who spent nothing in* the war, neither money nor blood, was paid in cash; whereas the Australian farmer did not get more than 2s. 6d. in the first case, and the balance in driblets of 3d. and 6d. per bushel. The Argentine farmer made no sacrifice. The Canadian farmer was paid 9s. 2d. per bushel. I believe the American farmer received 9s. 6d. per bushel.
There is another way in which the Wheat Pool was mismanaged. The farmers, as well as the rest of the community, contribute taxation towards the cost of the maintenance of expensive commercial agencies throughout the world which are supposed to protect the business and commercial interests of this country, and advise us as to certain happenings in other parts of the world, information as to which might be commercially beneficial to primary producers, among others. But, in this instance, the information furnished by these agencies was used to rob the primary producers for the benefit of other persons in the community, the parasitical middlemen who do no useful service in any country. In this case, the Wheat Board received information as to the failure of the Japanese rice crop, but, instead of disposing of the farmers’ wheat at a price at which they might derive some benefit, they withheld the information until the wheat had got into the hands of one or two private individuals, and then allowed the news to go out so that those persons might make a profit. The manner in which the Wheat Pool was first established made bungling and mismanagement inevitable. It was proved before the Royal Commission that, with the exception of one occasion, on which he kept a register of seed wheat sold to the farmers, Mr. Harris, the gentleman appointed to manage the Pool in New South Wales, knew nothing about wheat. Two gentlemen in my electorate - one a miller with forty-five years’ experience in the milling industry, and the other an accountant with twenty-five years’ experience on the accountancy side of the milling business, and the financial manager of a large mill in the south of New South Wales- submitted applications for positions on the State Wheat Board, one as a wheat expert and the other as an accountant. In answer to their applications they were offered a salary of 12s. 6d. per day. It seems to me that, from the inception, there was a deep-laid plan to have inefficiency in the management of the Pool, so that bungling might occur and certain things could be done. I honestly believe that this was the deep-laid scheme conceived by certain gentlemen who were controlling the matter.
– That is “ RO T.”
– The honorable member may think so, but the evidence proves that it is not, and it is about time the present Government cleared up these matters which are causing so much agitation among the primary producers, and came forward with a definite policy. If it is their policy to abandon the Pool, let them tell the farmers as early as possible. If, on the other hand, they propose to maintain the Wheat Pool, then let them also come forward with their information as early as possible, so that the farmers may know what to expect in the future. If the Government intend to continue the Wheat Pool, I urge them to give an absolute guarantee that its management will be thorough and efficient. Above all, I hope that they will give the farmers a majority in the control of the Pool. In this way only will satisfaction be given to the primary producers.
. -This matter has not been sprung upon the House. In February last, I came across from Western Australia to attend a conference of representatives of wheatgrowers of all the States, which endeavoured to outline a future policy for the Australian wheat-growers. The policy which we drew up was afterwards presented to the Prime Minister, who commended us for what we had done ; but we desired to have a voluntary compulsory Pool. As, apparently, that clear definition is rather vague to some honor able members, let me explain that, by a referendum of the wheat-growers of Australia, which the Prime Minister promised to assist in obtaining, it was desired to know whether they wished the continuance of the Wheat Pool in a compulsory form, or its abandonment altogether. It is known that a guarantee has been named for next year’s wheat; but, as it is also suggested that the Pool should be abandoned this year, the position would be that we would have a gurantee with an abandoned Pool - that is to say, no machinery to control it. If, as a result of the referendum, with! which the Prime Minister is sympathetic, the growers agree to the continuance of the Pool, it is only reasonable that it should continue in order to carry on the principle. The conception of the Pool, in the first instance, and under war conditions, was a most excellent idea. I believe that all the wheat-growers, as well as the other people of Australia, recognised that it was necessary; in fact, that it was the only possible method to adopt. Of course, we have been rather unfortunate in the management of the Pool. As a big grower of wheat, I have had occasion to follow its operations, and the least I can say is that the management of the Pool has been most unfortunate. Nearly all the middlemen who had been in control of wheat in pre-war days were given the agency in London to manage at that end and advise us at this end. Similar control was given here. It was a case of “ setting the geese to watch the oats.” When we approached the Prime Minister asking him to continue the Pool in a compulsory form, he said -
The stone which the builders rejected Is become the head of the corner.
Our objection was not to the principle of the Pool, but to its management. Any good thing may ‘be mismanaged. It took a tremendous lot of agitation from the farmers of Australia to get representation on the Board. Since there has been representation of the farmers on that Board, everything connected with it has been infinitely more satisfactory.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was not responsible for the non-representation of farmers.
– Since the right honorable gentleman mentions that matter,
I must say that it was most difficult to shift the Prime Minister so as to obtain representation. ‘
– Not at all; the Prime Minister was in favour of it from the very beginning.
– I should like honorable members to realize the position of the wheat-growers of Australia. They have been as patriotic as have any other section of the community. They readily submitted to war conditions without complaint, as to the price obtained for their wheat, feeling that the best was being done for them. But let me tell the House what the “ best “ was for Australia compared with the best .for other wheatgrowing countries. I think that I have mentioned on a former occasion that, for the four years ending September last, in dribs and drabs, and under the most inadequate system of handling wheat, the Australian grower received 3s. 8d. per bushel. In America, in respect of the same period, the wheat-growers received 8s. 7d. per bushel; in England, 9s. 6d. per bushel; Norway, 18s. lOd. per bushel; Holland, 13s. 5 1/2d. per bushel; Italy, 183. Id. per bushel; Trance and Spain, 16s. 6d. per bushel; and Portugal, 26s. 9d. per bushel. The wheat-growers of Australia, despite the extra cost of living, received the mere pittance of 3s. 8d. per bushel. Do honorable members marvel at people giving up wheatgrowing and devoting themselves to sheep-farming or some other branch of primary industry?
Without any desire to introduce acrimony or to attach blame to any one, I complain that there has been a want of statesmanship. We were told that we were under a national obligation to produce more and more wheat. The Prime Minister who urged that upon us went to’ England and sold our wheat at a price so low that the Controller of Agriculture announced to the House of Commons, in 1917, that the Australian wheatgrowers, through their patriotism, had sacrificed £8,000,000 in the sale of their wheat. Had a similar sacrifice “been made by other Allied wheat-growing countries we should have been on a par with them. As it is, in. these other countries, which received the full price, a stimulus has been given to agricultural pursuits, which have been made so attractive that they are in a better position than before the war, whereas we have reduced by 4,000,000 acres the area under wheat. In 1916, we had 12,000,000 acres under wheat in Australia, but last year we had only 8,000,000 acres sown. That cannot be said to be to the advantage of the country. We seem to be as unfortunate to-day as in other times. We continue to make bad deals. These deals, however, have not been under the control of the farmers. We recognise that the principle of the Pool is excellent. As the result of the war, many things have been made known to us. We recognise that in the pooling of Australian wheat, the finest in the world - the rest of the, world cannot do without it for mixing purposes - we shall, by so combining, bring more wealth to the Commonwealth. The principle is excellent, but we do not want, on adopting it, to put the goose to watch the oats. We want the producers to amalgamate, and so to control their wheat that they may get the best markets for it. The States have been very clever; they have once more got in ahead of us. They have bought up all the wheat they want for the year, so that the farmers to-day are supplying the people of Australia at less than half price.
I would ask the House to be very kind to the farmers. They are supplying wheat to the people to-day at much less than half the world’s price. We want to take a referendum of the farmers to ascertain how many are willing to pool their wheat, so that we may pay a man with brains, and having no interest other than the service of his country, to represent us in our sales and management of our business. We shall have our London agent, and buying in Australia will be from one office only. If the farmers desire to do that, why should this House object ? Have we no right to seek to emancipate ourselves when others will not concern themselves very much about our emancipation? In the policy- that we submitted to the Prime Minister we proposed that the Government should be represented on the Pool to insure that there should be no over-exporting of wheat. In this policy we desire to protect the food of our people. If the
Government give a guarantee - and we can do without it, I think - they should have representation to see that the money so advanced is protected by the security of the wheat. These matters have not been overlooked by us ; we have not considered them in a selfish light. Our only desire is to place ourselves abreast of the most modern nations. The farmers in my own State, for instance, have decided to put ?250,000 out of their wheat returns into a scheme for bulk handling. Instead of paying 6d. per bushel to put the. wheat into bags we are going to put the money into silos and elevators, so that we may efficiently handle our produce. We feel that this country cannot be great unless we adopt modern methods, and thus secure the fullest advantages in respect of the products we work so hard to raise.
I hope the House without any feeling of acrimony will recognise the necessity for the continuation of the Pool until these matters are adjusted. We do not want to continue the present agents. We may employ some of them, but our desire is that the producer shall get nearer to the consumer. We want to make the passage of our products to the consumer abroad as well as here ascheap as possible, and in that desire we should have the sympathy of Parliament. In order that our position may be clear to the House, I say that we only desire the continuation of the Pool for this year, so that we may have time to carry out the objects which I have already indicated. We want time to enable a referendum of the farmers to be taken, and we propose to ascertain whether it would not be possible for this Parliament so to legislate as to give legal sanction to this method of pooling. The poorest farmers in the past have been the most hardly dealt with, and they will be best protected by means of this voluntary-compulsory Pool. I have grown to be a big wheat-grower by perseverance. But there was a time when I was a small grower, and when the “ p.n.’s “ had to be met at a most inopportune moment. Like many others I would be called upon just when my wheat was off to meet these “ p.n.’s “. If I replied that I could not meet them for a little while I would be told that I had my wheat in, and that I should be able to do. so. My rejoinder was that I wanted to hold for a rise; but the “ p.n.’s “ had to be met.
– (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson). - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– By way of a personal explanation, I desire to say that the reason why the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) did not give to the responsible Minister or the Government Whip the usual notice of his intention to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss this question, was that he discovered that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) had already given notice of his intention to move the adjournment on another matter, and it was not until the House met that he knew that he would be able to carry out his intention to-day.
– I desire to congratulate the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) on the tone and temper of his speech. My only regret is that the mover of the motion (Mr. Hill) did not adopt the same attitude. Honorable members are aware that I have followed up this question as seriously and as steadily as any man either inside or outside this Parliament. I have devoted a good deal of my time and energy to the duty of travelling about the country to correct false impressions, and to rebut the shocking statements that have been made to the farmers from time to time about the conduct of the Wheat Pool. I feel it my duty as one who, like the honorable member for Swan, has interested himself in this matter for the last thirty-five years, to say something in defence of the Australian Wheat Board. More especially is it necessary that I should do so in view of the impressions that have been created by some of the statements to which we have listened this morning. It should never be forgotten that the Australian Wheat Board deals only with the financial, the selling, side of the scheme, and is in no way responsible for the handling of the wheat in the different wheatgrowing States. The Australian Wheat Board from beginning to end, having regard to the unparalleled conditions that have obtained throughout the war, has done excellent work, and has placed the wheat-growers of Australia under an obligation to it for the way in which it has handled their product. Many misleading statements were made, particularly in Victoria, concerning the operations of the Pool.
– That is wrong.
– The honorable member himself is wrong. So misleading were the statements that many of us who were deeply interested asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to instruct the Wheat Board to issue periodical statements for the information of the people, and those who have followed the business carefully will remember that the Board thoroughly investigated the position. The South Australian representative of the Board went back and told the farmers that,under the conditions then obtaining, the Board could not have done more for the wheat-growers of this country. I am not going to traverse very much of the ground that has been covered this morning, but I hope that the Prime Minister will be prepared, on Tuesday next, to make a statement bearing the imprint of the Australian Wheat Board, to cover the whole position, particularly some of the remarks that have been made this morning.
– Do the Government know nothing about it?
– The Government have taken the proper course, and I again enter my protest against the operations of the Wheat Pool being made the plaything of political parties. If there is one thing that has made the Australian farmer sick of the whole business, it is the belief that political influences have been operating in regard to a big national question like this, which ought to be above all politics.
– We all applauded the Prime Minister for his action.
– With reference to the wheat deal that has been referred to, it is unfortunate that members of the Wheat Board are not prophets. Questions were asked in this House day after day if the Prime Minister had succeeded in selling the wheat, and urgent cable messages were forwarded to London stating that the country wanted the money. And in connexion with that transaction, I remind the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) that in his statement this morning he was, perhaps un consciously, not playing the game, for he did not convey to the farmers of Australia a proper impression as to parity value. . It is quite true that, all through the war, our farmers were in an unfortunate position in relation to parity value; but this was, and is, due to our geographical situation entirely; so when honorable members quote prices current in other countries, they should put the other side of the question as well. They should show what our disabilities, due to our geographical position, are.
– Was I not fair when I said that the Prime- Minister was urging us to grow wheat as a national obligation, and then sold it at a price that represented a sacrifice to the Empire of £8,000,000 ?
– It was a sacrifice to the Empire ; but not when judged from a proper commercial aspect, and in view of the circumstances of the time. It must not be forgotten that our wheat was in Australia, and was likely to remain here for years, and, therefore, it was valueless. What would havebeen the position of our farmers but for the action of the Imperial Government in buying and paying for their wheat years before it could be lifted from Australia ?
– The suggestion is that we sacrificed the wheat. We got all we could for it from the Imperial Government. That is thepoint.
– Of course, honorable members know this. If they do not know it, then all I can say is they have taken very little interest in the whole business, because it has been stated over and over again that the Prime Minister could not, for a time, persuade the Imperial Government to buy the wheat. But, finally, he was able to sell at 6d. per bushel above the price fixed by the Australian Wheat Board. This additional 6d. represented many millions of pounds to the Australian farmers, and when the announcement of a sale was made, there was rejoicing in this House and throughout the country.
– We nearly passed a vote of thanks to the Prime Minister for it.
– Every true farmer did that in his heart. Let us play the game, and in any references to this matter, put both sides, so that our farmers will not be misled.
– Why did the Prime Minister mislead the farmers?
– He did nothing of the kind. My honorable friend wants the farmers to handle their own wheat. I, too, want to get away from the pool system, and allow the wheat to be handled by men whose life training fits them for this business. But the Australian Wheat Board was well managed, as there was at the head of it an official who knows his business. If the farmers of this and other States want to handle their own wheat, why do they not follow the example set by the South Australian farmers? For the last twentyfive years now they have been connected with a co-operative union, which handles more than half the wheat grown in that State.
– In our State the farmers handle the lot.
– How long have they been doing that?
-For the last three years, and most effectively, too.
– During the past three years the Western Australian farmers have not had very good crops, and so have not had much wheat to handle. Butif they are doing what the honorable member says, what is he complaining of ? I agree that an announcement should be made, so that the State Governments may get rid of that big army of officials preparatory to wheat operations moving along the ordinary channels again.But, after all, there is no need to make so very much trouble over the business, as there is plenty of time between now and the next harvest. I urge honorable members to leavethe political aspect out of the question altogether, because this is anational question. It is, in fact, the most important subject with which we can deal, because, as honorable members know, agriculture is the base of any nation’s prosperity.
.- It has been suggested that, as I know nothing about wheat, I might say a few words on the present occasion, and as I have not heard any of the arguments used during the debate, therefore I am quite unbiased. But one or two thoughts have occurred to me, and it seems desirable that I should give expression to them. I notice from the daily press that in the United States of America there is an anticipated shortage of wheat of anything from 400,000,000 to 700,000,000 bushels, and in Europe a shortage of about 300,000,000 bushels. Apparently, too, the area under cultivation throughout the world has declined by about 12,000,000 acres, and we have been informed that if the season here does not turn out satisfactorily we shall soon be paying about £1 per bushel for our wheat, and.1s. per 2-lb. loaf of bread. Looked at in this light, the prospects for the farming community generally are, to say the least, brilliant. Evidently our farmers feel that they have some grounds for complaint in connexion with the wheat deal referred to in this debate. They believe that they did not getenough for their produce. If they think that, they should, of course, complain, because, after all, that is the general principle upon which life turns. The Government, on the contrary, declare that they have done their very best, and the other day the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said that the Government had done all that could be expected of them. I am not out to placate the farmers. There are very few in my constituency. It has been said that the Government got the highest price possible in connexion with a particular wheat deal, but there are one or two facts which may come out now that the war is over. Whenever during the war I endeavoured to make any statement as to what I thought was going on, I exposed myself to the risk of six months’ imprisonment. Happily, I avoided that disagreeable experience, because I carefully abstained from saying what was in my mind. Nevertheless, it is a fact that certain operations of the British Government during the war will come to light some day, and then, perhaps, we shall have an opportunity of saying some of the things that might have been said with advantage during the war. It is a fact that the British Government, all through the war did find ships to take our men away. And it is a fact that they were not able to take much of our wheat. We were then a militant nation; we were taking our part in the war. We were sacrificing our blood in the fight for all those principles of Democracy and liberty about which we have talked and thought so much of late years. Great Britain during the war could get wheat out of the Argentine, but the Argentine would not sell unless she could get the gold. England had no. gold to export, and if she had, there was the submarine menace.
– You did not get much when you were in England.
– I enjoyed all the good things of life whilst there. I had the best time of my life, but I am not going to tell anybody about it. While I was here I was a Democrat, but when away I was a patriot. Self-preservation demanded that I should show my patriotism as did other men, and if I had been a better patriot I would probably have received more money. The British Government would not send ships to Australia to take our wheat away, but they sent vessels to the Argentine, although that country would not supply wheat unless it was paid for in gold. Great Britain could not send gold out of the United Kingdom because of the submarine menace. How were they to get Argentine wheat to supply Great Britain? It is easily explained. In the dead of night vessels of war visited Melbourne and Sydney and lifted Australian gold which they carried to Buenos Ayres, where it was used for purchasing wheat grown in the Argentine. That was the method adopted to purchase that wheat. Our wheat was lying rotting, but Australian gold was being used to purchase wheat at two and a half dollars a bushel, while some of our wheat was being sold at 5s. or 5s. 6d. I was absolutely prohibited from making such statements during the war period, and if I had made them, although they are true, I would have been prosecuted. In any case, we are now permitted to express those, truths which we were not permitted to express during the war. As to the farmers, what else can they do but support the Government ? If they do not get something to-day they may get it to-morrow, and so they will continue their support.
.- The remarks of the honorable member f or Bourke (Mr. Anstey) do not throw very much light on the matter under discussion. If the suggestion of the honorable member be true, that vessels of war were used to take Australian gold to pay for Argentine wheat, it was probably the best that could have been done under the circumstances, as a very small amount of gold would be required to pay for a large quantity of wheat. The whole trouble during the war period was one of . transport, and in the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) he proved conclusively, from the figures he quoted, that our geographical position had everything to do with the question. The price in Australia was extremely low; it was higher in the Argentine, still higher in the United States and Canada, higher again in France and England, and the highest price in Norway. The figures given by the honorable member for Swan were correct, and absolutely the most conclusive proof that could be brought forward to show that the whole trouble in Australia was one of transport, and the distance from the main consuming centres. We have heard a good deal this morning concerning the administration of the Wheat Pool in the past, but no suggestions have been made concerning the future. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who moved the adjournment of the House, delivered what I considered a regrettable speech, because he, as President of the Farmers and Producers Association, had the unique opportunity of informing the members of this chamber what ought to be done. So far as I could gather, the, honorable member’s remarks were merely a bitter and unwarranted attack on the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I was absent from Australia in the earlier days of the Wheat Pool, or, at least, when some of the large contracts were entered into, but it is a Very easy matter to be wise after the event, and to say what should have been done. If the honorable member for Echuca had been in Great Britain when these events were transpiring he would have seen that the Prime Minister did his best. I was in England when he effected one sale, and secured for the Australian producers a little more per bushel than any one in England thought it possible to do. The speech made by the honorable member for Echuca, in which he should have told us what the farmers wanted, was simply a bitter review of the past.
– No man ever fought a bigger battle than the Prime Minister on that occasion.
– I quite agree with that. I was on the spot when Mr. Hughes put up a tremendous fight in the interests of the farmers of this country, and it is most ungrateful, to say the least of it, for the head of the Farmers and Producers Association in this State to make what is nothing short of a political attack on the Prime Minister.
– I have not said anything that is not true.
– The honorable member may think it true, but it is grossly unfair. It is possible to make statements which may be true to-day concerning events which happened a few years ago, but in view of what has transpired the events are not seen in their true perspective.
– It would be interesting to hear the Prime Minister in reply.
– He will be able to answer the accusations most effectively. From honorable members on both sides of the chamber there have been complaints in connexion with this question. One is that the farmer receives too little and another is that the price of bread is too high. We cannot have it both ways.
– There has been too much gambling with wheat scrip.
– If there has been gambling in the scrip there has not been any speculation in wheat. It is possible to gamble in scrip but. not in wheat itself. It is all nonsense to advocate an increased price for grain and at the same time agitate for a decrease in the price of bread. I was a member of the Prices Adjustment Board before I left for the other side of the world, and it was proved conclusively before that tribunal - in consequence of information received from the leading millers and bakers - not only in one centre, but in all the large capitals - that it cost just as much to sell bread as it did to handle the wheat through all the various processes until it was converted into bread. In other words, it cost as much to grow wheat, mill it into flour, and make the bread as it did to deliver bread.
– It should not.
-Undoubtedly the system is wrong, but what is the use of making bitter and uncalled-for attacks concerning what has been done in the past instead of endeavouring to improve the handling methods? This bitterness between sections is not likely to assist the primary producer, and instead of indulging in recriminations, we should see how the waste between the producer and the consumer can be eliminated. Any one who cares to peruse the records of the Prices Adjustment Board will receive food for thought, and realize that there is much more to be done than attacking each other in this chamber. The future of the wheat position in Australia is a doubtful one. It has been said that a number of producers are relinquishing wheat-growing and engaging in grazing. There are many reasons for that. There is uncertainty in the minds of farmers concerning the future outlook of wheat on account of the transport trouble, and the fact that wheat has been allowed - as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said - to be destroyed by mice and weevil. During the war period wheat was stored under conditions which are not likely to arise again, and the farmers should be made to clearly understand that the dangers which arose in such an unlookedfor way, and which were responsible for the destruction of such a large quantity of grain, are not likely to occur again. The position has been placed before the producers, but is it any wonder that they became disgusted ? Labour conditions have made it more difficult for a farmer to grow wheat, and it is an easier, simpler, and more pleasing proposition to raise sheep. I have tried both, and, taking year in and yearout, over a period of twentyyears, I have no hesitation in saying that men who have been stock-raising have done better than the man who has been growing wheat. There are some exceptions, but, generally speaking, the grazier is more favorably situated. The supporters of the pooling system now seem to be in favour ofa system of co-operation. There was an attempt by Australian farmers to create a co-operative movement in connexion with the handling of our primary products, but they began in the wrong way, because they expected to be financed by “Yankee” capitalists. The producers of this country would be illadvised if they allowed their primary products to get under the control of those big financial institutions in America. There is nothing that would do more to destroy the prospects of the primary producers of the Commonwealth than to allow their products to he within the grip of huge financial concerns in the United States.
– Can the honorable member prove that?
– I was there when negotiations were in progress. It is easy to make comparisons between the price received’ for American and Australian grain; but it suited the American interests ‘ to see their farmers received the highest price.
– They are getting 17s. to-day.
– Undoubtedly, but owing to their geographical position; and it is likely that they will continue to do so for some time. So long as present conditions continue with the markets of the world dislocated, and the transport problem serious, the Australian parity is likely to be considerably below that of other countries more favorably situated. It is impossible to apply a proper standard just now, unless we ascertain the average price obtaining throughout the world, and allow the difference between that and the cost of transporting the grain to the principal consuming centres. If we peruse the figures, we can easily see what is a reasonable price for Australian wheat. It is easy for honorable members to make extravagant statements concerning the price Australian producers are receiving, and that which others are being paid. If they go into the matter in a calm and business-like way, and give the farmers encouragement by a system of fair play, we will have a better opportunity of increasing our production. There is really no possibility of additional areas being placed under cultivation when there is such a lack of confidence in certain directions, and the farmer and his produce are being made a political question. As the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said, “ the farmer should be the basis of national greatness,” and until we realize that that is so, and allow the present discord to cease, we are really doing more harm than good. We have very little prospect of meeting the enormous liabilities the war has thrown upon us by deprecating the work of others, as has been done in this Chamber to-day.
The speeches of the honorable member for Wakefield and the honorable member for Swan will do a great deal to relieve the doubt and discord which has been created, largely owing to the fact that the people are beginning to lose faith, not only in the country, but in its representatives.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will make arrangements in the capital cities of each State to enable Federal Acts to be available for purchase by any citizen interested?
– I shall see whether arrangements can be made in the direction indicated by the honorable member.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Having regard to the present and increasing disproportion of the numbers of electors in various divisions in New South Wales, will the Government take immediate steps to secure such a redistribution of seats as will insure a more equal division of voters among the electorates ?
It is not proposed to take any action until afterthe census which is to be taken early next year.
I should say, undoubtedly, that after the census has been taken a redistribution of seats should be made.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The living wage for married officers twenty-one years of age and upwards, and unmarried officers twenty-five years and upwards, has recently been fixed by the Arbitration Court at £3 10s. per week, and this rate will operate from 26th April, 1920. The Court has also fixed the living wage for unmarried male adult officers at £152 per annum, to be paid at twenty-one years of age, with progressive higher rates up to twenty-four years of age.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member, but in any case, do not think it calls for any action.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government arrange so that returned soldiers working at the Anzac handweaving industry who reside in Victoria will have an equal chance to make good as their fellow soldiers have in New South Wales in the same industry?
– The hand-weaving industry in New South Wales, is conducted by the Red Cross Society; in Victoria, by a Trust representative of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. In each case, the controlling authorities determine the terms and conditions of employment of the men employed, and conduct the industry as it deems fit.
asked the, Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the House with the following information : -
What quantity of gold was exported from Australia during 1917-101S and 1918- 1919?
To what countries was this gold exported ?
What amount was exported to each country ?
For what specific purpose was gold exported to each country?
Why is this information suppressed in the Commonwealth Statistician’s report?
Under whose authority was the Commonwealth Statistician acting in suppressing this information?
Is it a fact that such information was made available in the countries of the Allies during war-time and since, particularly in Great Britain?
– All information in respect of the export of gold during the -period mentioned is withheld from publication at the request of the British Government. The information was not published in respect of the years 1917- 1918 and 1918-1919.
– On the 28th ultimo the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked if it were likely that the Trade and Customs Excise Report would be laid on the table within the next couple of months. A- reply was given that an endeavour would be made to have the report laid upon the table within that period, and I am now able to inform the honorable member that it is expected that the returns in question will be available about the end of the present month.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is another of those little Bills-
– You have not yet introduced a Bill which you have not called “ a little one.”
– They are little Bills, but they are important, none the less. This is one of those amending measures which go far to relieve the clogged wheels » of the departmental machinery that have been going round rather heavily for some years past. The sooner we can get them moving with a little more swiftness, safety, and efficiency, the better. The Bill amends the Audit Act, which was passed in the early days of Federation, and which has been amended from time to time. It embodies further proposals for emendations arising out of recent experiences, recent reports of Royal Commissions, and the necessities of our present situation.
– Doe3 it cover the recommendations of the Federal Capital Royal Commission of three years ago?
– I do not remember what that particular recommendation was.
– To define more exactly the Auditor-General’s powers.
– Yes, it does do so, and it does it also in obedience to a similar recommendation from the Defence Royal Commission. It more clearly defines the Auditor-General’s powers, gives him greater discretion as to their use, and removes from him the directional sections of the present Audit Act which “ crib, cabin, and confine “ him, and, in my judgment, make his audit much more cumbersome and less efficient. We relieve him of all the sections which fetter him now, and say to him, as one should say to any auditor : “ Conduct your own audit in your own way, so long as you take care that the moneys which you audit have been voted by Parliament, and see that they are being spent in a constitutional manner.” Those are the only two limitations we propose to place upon him, ceasing henceforth from giving him directions as to the manner in which he shall conduct his audit. The provisions of the Bill are undoubtedly in the direction of economy and efficiency. Some of them aim merely at regularizing certain practices which have been adopted for some twelve months past. One of these relates to the payment of wages in the Public Service. The Audit Act requires that every person in the Service shall give an individual receipt for his wages - a pure waste of time. We now make it possible for the paymasters themselves to give a binding certificate, as they do in the Navy. I believe that system has also been adopted in the Post Office, obviating all the clerical work, irritation, and bother previously entailed. Another thing we want to rectify i3 this : There is some doubt at present whether we have any right to keep in the Treasury the gold reserve for the Notes Fund. A section of the Audit Act requires that all public moneys shall be paid into a bank. It would seem that a strict conformation to that requirement would demand that all the gold in the Treasury should be put into the control of some bank or other. That is quite out of the question. By this Bill we therefore regularize and justify the keeping of the gold reserve in the Treasury, where we have, perhaps, the best arrangements of any place in Australia for taking care of it. All the clauses are more or less of a machinery character, and, so far as I can see, none of them is contentious.
.- As the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has stated here on more than one occasion, we have made the AuditorGeneral, to a certain extent, but, after all, only to a certain extent, independent of the Ministry, and the Ministry have refused to give him sufficient assistance to carry out his duties. The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has informed us that the Bill is introduced only to regularize the work which is going on ; but this is the first opportunity we have had of seeing it, and we have had no opportunity to compare it with the principal Act. Clause 4, for instance, alters section 34 of the principal Act entirely. I do not think we should rush an important measure like this through. It has been on the table for only about ten minutes, and in that time I have been trying to compare it with the existing law.
– The Bill was circulated on the 19th March.
– Then I have not seen it before. It may have been circulated with a lot of other public documents that come to us, and I have missed it. Many documents reach us which we have no opportunity to go through as we should like. One of the reasons why we have to amend so much of our legislation is that we have not had an opportunity in this Parliament of considering it properly. The Acting T reasurer told me across the table before he moved the second reading that he did not think I would understand the Bill when I saw it. That may have been jocularly meant; but I candidly admit that I cannot understand it without having an opportunity to compare it with the principal Act. I thought the Government intended to follow the practice of printing the Act and the Bill together in such a way as to show the proposed alterations in black or ‘erased type. Perhaps, as this is only a two-page Bill, and the principal Act is a very large measure, there may have been difficulties in the way of adopting that course ; but the Government should at least furnish us with some such explanation of the extent to which the Bill amends the present law.
– I will do that for you.
– If, as the Minister says, the object of the Bill is to regularize and make operative the procedure which is in operation to-day, we must have been flouting the Audit Act to that extent.
– In one or two cases, and very properly, as in the wages case.
– It may have been done very properly, as the honorable gentleman suggests; but when we do it we should know it. It is quite possible that it was an advantage to the Commonwealth to keep in the Treasury the gold reserve required under the Australian Notes Act. Some of our Acts provide that payments in certain Departments must be made in cash and not by cheque. I think the Customs Department refuses to accept anything but a certified cheque, and rightly so. It would never do to accept the cheques of some people as payment for duty, although I have no doubt the Customs Department would be very keen in chasing up the drawers of the cheques to get the money. I think we provide in the Customs Act that the payment must be by bank cheque. Perhaps we should have regularized the keeping of the gold reserve in the Treasury at the time the Commonwealth Notes Act was passed. I urge the Acting Treasurer to give the House an opportunity of considering how far this Bill amends the Audit Act. If he is not very keen on getting the Bill passed to-day, I ask him to consent to an adjournment of the debate. As the practice which is to be amended has in some cases been followed for a number of years, I cannot see that there is any very great urgency in the Bill. We ought to have an opportunity of carefully studying its effect.
– I welcome the appearance of this
Bill, but unless the Acting Treasurer has some excellent reasons for getting it passed to-day, it would be only fair to the House to take the Committee stage next week.
– I suggest that honorable members make their general observations now so that the second reading may be carried, and then when we reach the first clause in Committee we shall report progress. This is essentially a Committee Bill.
– That will suit me. . I am conversant with the audit system in South Australia, and, in my opinion, it is very effective. In certain essentials the Commonwealth Act in comparison with the State law is lacking, when Mr. Blacket,K.C., was inquiring, as a Royal Commissioner, into the Federal Capital expenditure, he examined the Commonwealth Auditor-General, and I think he passed some strictures on the inefficiency and incompleteness of the audit. The explanation offered by the AuditorGeneral was, that in regard to the matters which the Commissioners had criticised, he had no direction, or was limited in his operationsby the wording of the Act, which, in his opinion, required amendment. In connexion with the Commonwealth departmental accounts, there have been defalcations that ought to have been detected earlier by the Audit Department, but I understand that the Auditor-General claims that he was notblameworthy.
– He also said that he could not get sufficient staff.
– That was another point. But the AuditorGeneral’s main complaint was that there was a defect in the Act which prevented him from doing certain things. We have been waiting for three years to have those defects amended. As to the complaint of the Auditor-General that he could not get sufficient staff to enable him to overtake the arrears in the enormously increasing audit work of the Commonwealth, I am glad to find that in this Bill his powers will be very wide indeed. If this measure is agreed to, he will not be able to shirk any responsibility on the grounds which he urged in connexion with the matters to which I have already referred. But I remind the Acting Treasurer that if we give the Auditor-General wide scope and put proper responsibility upon him, we must not limit the exercise of his authority by denying him adequate assistance.
– This Bill will relieve him of a lot of the work he is statutorily required to perform. It will enable him to take internal check? wherever he finds they are efficient. Hitherto he has been obliged to audit the accounts of a Department, no matter how well the accounts were audited in the Department.
– That is an improvement, and will enable him to cover a greater area. The work of the Federal Audit Department has increased enormously in recent years, and there should be a corresponding increase of efficient staff, because if the Treasurer limits the Auditor-General in that respect, to the extent of that limitation the latter is relieved of responsibility.
– Should not this be the order: Give him his job to do, take from him any unnecessary work, and then furnish him with an adequate staff to perform the work that should be done?
– And he ought to be the judge of the staff he requires.
– Of course. The argument of the Acting Treasurer, as applied to the work of the Auditor-General himself, indicates an improvement, but it is necessary that he should also have an adequate staff.
– I agree.
– The most rigid economist must fail if he does not give adequate assistance to the AuditorGeneral.
– An adequate staff to do work that is unnecessary would be foolish. The first consideration is to prescribe the work to be done, and then give him an adequate staff with which to do it.
– Yes; and then the Auditor-General can be held responsible.
– But only to this House.
– Undoubtedly, and under the Act he is responsible only to this House. God help this or any other country if his responsibility is not made wide in that sense. It is necessary that we should have a man strong enough to exercise the responsibility which is placed upon him.
– Moral strength is what is required.
– I am very glad indeed that the Bill’ has been introduced.
.- I, too, would have preferred that the Acting Treasurer should have postponed the consideration of this Bill until next week.
– I will take the second reading if I can get it to-day, but before it again comes on for considera- tion in Committee, I will undertake to have the sections in the principal Act which we propose to amend placed side by side with the amendments themselves in order to show honorable members their effect.
– The Acting Treasurer does not wish the debate upon the Bill to be adjourned at once?
– I think that the right honorable gentleman might very well agree to the insertion of one or two new clauses in this Bill with the object of improving the status of the AuditorGeneral. In my opinion, that officer’s salary should be raised.
– What does he get now?
– He receives a salary of £1,000.
– We ought to make that sum the limit of any salary.
– The honorable member has another profession besides that of member of Parliament.
– The honorable member knows that I gave it up seven years ago.
– I did not know it, but I know that the honorable member prescribes for quite a lot of people gratis and with entire good will. In this country we ought to have a better idea than we have of the financial value of a man’s work, and we ought to follow the example of the Americans. It is quite true that for the average man £1,000 a year would be a very high salary. But we should remember that the Auditor-General has the care of many millions of pounds of expenditure by this Commonwealth. During the war that expenditure amounted to £120,000,000 per annum. An Auditor-General,” if inefficient, might thus lose the Commonwealth millions of pounds. We ought, therefore, by paying him an adequate salary, to encourage him to take the best interest in his work.
– The honorable member ought not to say that, because it implies that the Auditor-General does not take sufficient interest in his work.
– I do not wish to convey the impression to which the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) has given utterance. As a matter of fact, I know that the Auditor-General exhibits an absorbing interest in his work, and I doubt whether he has much time for anything else. There is nothing in this Bill to improve that officer’s status beyond the technical amendments referred to by the Acting Treasurer, which will have the effect of doing away with a certain amount of unnecessary work. But there is nothing in the measure empowering the Auditor-General to select his own staff, and that, I take it, is the -object which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has in view. The AuditorGeneral is responsible for the audit of the accounts of the Commonwealth, and ought, therefore, to be allowed to select the men whom he shall employ. But that is not his position at the present time. I invite honorable members to read the correspondence which took place upon this matter between the AuditorGeneral and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and which appears in the records of last year. They will then see that the Auditor-General asked for some assistance - for the appointment of a considerable number of clerks-
– He has done that on several occasions.
– The Royal Commission which inquired into the administration of the Navy and Defence Departments pointed out that the work of the AuditorGeneral was two years in arrears, and that it was practically impossible for an auditor to cover the whole of the ground which he had to traverse, and to keep up to date. The Auditor-General applied to the Prime Minister for an increase in his staff, and the Prime Minister, who is very anxious to keep his hand on the pulse of everything, and to do a great deal more than it is possible for any human being to do, referred the matter to Mr. Shepherd, the Secretary of the Department. Mr. Shepherd - against whom. I wish to say nothing derogatory excepting that, as an intelligent man he ought to have known that it was not his duty to direct the Auditor-General - actually told that officer that he ought to get not the number of clerks for which he asked, but some other number. I think Mr. Shepherd said either that that was not the first time he had had a disagreement with the Auditor-General, or that the Auditor-General’ had had a disagreement with him. However, the
Prime Minister read his secretary’s reply, which set out that it would be very difficult to make the alterations required. After getting Mr. Shepherd’s reply, the Prime Minister referred the matter to Mr. Collins. One can readily understand what a wrong action that was to take. To his credit be it said, Mr. Collins at once recognised the invidious position in which he would be placed if he commented upon the work of the Auditor-General - the very officer who has to audit the Treasury accounts. Prom what I have said it will be seen that there is something wanting.
– The honorable member is conveying the impression that the Treasury make these appointments. He must know that the Public Service Commissioner makes them.
– I do not think that the House obtained, from my remarks, any such impression as is suggested by the Acting Treasurer. I have not stated that the Treasury makes the appointments.
– Why ‘ did the Auditor-General’s request go to the Prime Minister’s Department instead of to the Public Service Commissioner?
– May I read to the House the Auditor-General’s remarks concerning this very important matter.
– Does not the Prime Minister’s Department make the appointments - not the Public Service Commissioner ?
– The Auditor-General, in a memorandum to the Prime Minister, dated 9th May, 1918 - and the date shows the delay in the introduction of an amending measure - refers to certain recommendations, and says -
My own views are that effect should he given to those recommendations-
That is the recommendations of the Commissioners, some of which, as the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) states, are embodied in the amending Bill;
In the United Kingdom, the Comptroller and Auditor-General controls the “Exchequer and Audit Department”; in New South Wales the published Public Accounts describe the office as the “Auditor-General’s Department”: and in Tasmania the Department is named “Audit Department.”
The Commissioners refer, however, to a “ separate Department,” and, in my opinion, this is most desirable. The Auditor-General should certainly be the “ Head “ of his own Department, and have his own “chief officer” therein, instead of being subject to the approval of a Ministerial Secretary (no matter how highly placed) to all proposals and recommendations for appointment, promotion, transfers, overtime work, employment of temporary assistance, and other operations in connexion with the Audit staffs.
And it is most desirable that the Audit Department should be a separate one. The Auditor-General further says - and this, to some extent, has reference to the inquiry of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) -
The operations of the Commonwealth Public Service Act have resulted in numerous delays before appointments have been made, or vacancies filled, with the result that the examination of public accounts has been seriously retarded, and the employment of relatively inferior services of temporary officers necessitated, which would otherwise have not been required. Months have elapsed before the appointments were made or vacancies filled.
Just imagine! If the Auditor-General requires special officers to audit the accounts of any Department, or of any activity controlled by the Government, he may have to wait months.
If the Auditor-General were allowed to select his own staff, subject to any necessary restrictions, there can be no question as to the resulting advantage and improvement, as delays would be avoided, and the most suitable officers for audit duties would be selected, the AuditorGeneral being the best judge of his own requirements.
I submit that the Acting Treasurer should have a clause drafted to provide that the Auditor-General shall have a separate Department, and that he may select his own officers. I respectfully ask the Minister to give this matter close consideration, because it is one on which the House ought to be given an opportunity to express an opinion. I agree with the honorable member who said that, in his opinion, the AuditorGeneral ought to be responsible to this Parliament; and, indeed, the AuditorGeneral is so responsible now. When the Auditor-General makes an interim report to the Treasurer, complaining of irregularities or difficulties he may have with any officer of the Public Service, Mr. Speaker ought to get a copy of that report.
-There, I think, you go too far, though there are certain conditions under which Mr. Speaker should have a copy.
– There’ is the AuditorGeneral’s Annual Report, which goes to the Speaker.
– But something more is required. It may be that those who receive the correspondence at the Treasury do not bring under the notice of the Treasurer of the day the complaints that the Auditor-General makes. That, however, is a matter of administration which can easily be remedied.
– Complaints may be made which the Auditor-General afterwards finds are unfounded.
– That is true. What I have in my mind is that the AuditorGeneral complained of irregularities of an employee in. the Defence Department, but, although he had been complaining for months, that officer was retained, and, for all I know, may still be in the Public Service.
– The honorable member makes it clear that the present conditions are not fair to the AuditorGeneral, who .ought to be absolute master of the situation.
– He is not. so at the present time. The Auditor-General urges that his Department should be a separate one, and that he ought not to be responsible to a Ministerial secretary, no matter how highly the latter may be placed.
– The case the honorable member is putting now would suggest that the Auditor-General desires to interfere in other Departments as well as his own.
– With every desire to assist the* Acting Treasurer in his endeavour to frame a proper Audit Bill, may I suggest that he ought not to make that insinuation?
– But the honorable member said that tha Auditor-General had been complaining about an officer in the Defence Department, and added that, so far as he knew, the officer might still be in the Public Service. The AuditorGeneral is right in criticising an officer’s work, but that is the limit of his interference.
– The Auditor-General pointed out irregularities on the part of this officer, but the latter had sufficient social, political, or other influence to retain his place in the service of the Commonwealth. Those irregularities referred to by the Auditor-General were smothered up as they should not have been.
– It was the duty of the Auditor-General to report him.
– The House and the Treasurer ought to have known of these irregularities at an earlier date. Perhaps, if the Auditor-General had a separate Department, we should have known of the case earlier, and then, perhaps, we might have saved - I am not saying in this particular case - hundreds of thousands of pounds lost through the defalcation referred to by the Commissioners who inquired into the Naval and Military administration.
*- ** When the AuditorGeneral made his report concerning that officer his responsibility ceased, and the responsibility of the Minister began.
– The Auditor-General reported to the Treasurer, his Ministerial head–
– I thought from the memorandum you read that the Prime Minister is the Ministerial head.
– For the reason .that the Treasurer did not make the appointment, he applied to the’ Prime Minister, because the Public Service Commissioner is in the Prime Minister’s Department.
– The case ought to have been mentioned in his annual report.
– The AuditorGeneral now has the power to mention such matters in his report.
– May I suggest that die Acting Treasurer is not now in Opposition - a fact he seems unable, in his combativeness, to forget. Ib is not fair to the Auditor-General to suggest that he wishes to interfere in. other Departments because he asks that he be given a better status.
– I do not suggest that.
– I take it then, that the Minister withdraws his remark to that, effect.
– No; I agree that the Auditor-General should be absolutely independent in his office.
Mr.HIGGS.- The Auditor-General, who is responsible for the audit of millions of pounds ‘of public money, should have the staff -which he desires within reason. I hope that consideration will be given to the point, and that before the Bill is passed an amendment will be introduced to make the necessary provision.
.- Of its kind, there is probably no more important measure requiring the attention of this House. The status of the AuditorGeneral should be unquestioned, for he is the most important officer in the service of the country. He is, or. should be, above Ministers. The only people . whom the Auditor-General should know are the members of this Parliament.
– I agree.
– I would like the Government to make provision in order to place it beyond doubt that no Minister shall wield any influence or control over the Auditor-General. He should be the nominator of his own staff.
– I certainly think he ought to be consulted in regard to appointments to his staff.
– I would like to obtain leave to continue my remarks at a later date, when I expect to have more data before me.
– I shall take care that the honorable member is not restricted in any way, if he will now agree to the second reading being carried.
WEST. - Why is the Bill being rushed through?
– No such endeavour is being made.I intend to put before honorable members the original provisions and the amending clauses, so that they may be compared, and honorable members thus will be placed in a better position to consider the whole matter..
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That Mr. Bamford do take the chair in Committee of the whole this day.
Clause 1 agreed to.
House adjourned at 3.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200507_reps_8_92/>.