8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and road prayers.
Debate resumed from 21st October (vide page 5900), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That the Governmentbe censured for their failure to make provision for the payment of 5s. per bushel cash at railway sidings for this season’s wheat.
Mr.RODGERS (Wannon- Assistant Minister for Repatriation) [11.2].- When the House adjourned last night,I was reminding honorable members of the financial magnitude of the Commonwealth and State guarantees respecting the comingwheat harvest. I pointed out that in New South “Wales the guarantees aggregated8s. 2d. per bushel. It must not be forgotten that in addition to the amount guaranteed for the coming harvest, there is to be paid before the termination of the present year dividends on past Pools, totalling approximately £1,830,000.The Prime Minister’s statement yesterday showed conclusively that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to use its financial resources and those of the banks to the greatest extent possible. In addition, it isplacing at the service of the wheat-growers the Commonwealth line of steamers, which was a most potent factor in the completion of the sale of wheat already made, and this sale, I venture to predict,will be found to be the most advantageous that will be made during the present harvest. There is abundant evidence that the Government is determined to honour the guarantee that has been given. Although not in the first instance a party to the creation of this year’s Pool, the Prime Minister, in fulfilment of a promise that he gave, is doing everything that is reasonably possible to make the Pool a success. I would, however, draw the attention of the House and of the farming community to the fact that in the immediate future the strain upon the financial resources of the Commonwealth will be very great. A very large sum of money will be needed to finance part of the wool clip which will not be readily saleable, and other money will be needed to finance the stock transactions of the men on the land, which are of great magnitude, and to carry on the other enterprises of the country. If we were to devotethe whole of our financial resources to one branch of industry alone, we should be straining them too much in one direction. The wheat-growers have abundant evidence that this Government will not only give effect to its own promises, but will also render all possible assistance to make the Wheat Pool a success.
I think that on reflection the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) will regard his interpretation of the guarantee as an absurd one. Yesterday the most accredited wheat farmer in Victoria, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) who is the representative here of a farming constituency, and is the wheat growers’ representative on the Australian Wheat Board, gate his interpretation of the Prime Minister’s promise.
– The utterances of the honorable member in this Chamber and elsewhere prove clearly that he cannot be charged, to use his own words, with holding a brief for the Prime Minister. On the other hand, we have the interpretation of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart).
– I gave what is the interpretation placed upon the promise by nine out of ten of the farmers in my constituency.
– I have not heardthat a vote has been taken to ascertain the views of those farmers so accurately. The pressure for the payment of the maximum dividend is chiefly from New South Wales, which is easily to be understood, because last year there was a complete failure of crops in that State over 1,250,000 acres.
– They are getting an extra 2s. 6d.
– Yes ; but what can be paid will depend on the financial position. I foresee difficulties in the way of the New South “Wales Government paying immediately that 2s. 6d., which, on the estimated 40,000,000 bushel crop, would mean an advance of £5,000,000.
– The New South “Wales Government lias not repudiated ita promise.
– I do not suggest that; but in the end it will be seen that the Commonwealth Government must materially assist in the payment of that 2s. 6d. The first charge on the wheat in the Pool will be a banker’s charge in respect of the first payment of 5s., and the New South Wales Government will have to finance on its equity in the wheat. It is easy to ask for the immediate payment of obligations; but, as I pointed out last night, on a 130,000,000-bushel crop, after deducting 15,000,000 bushels for seed and fowl food, and other uses, the amount required would be £32,000,000. In addition, there would be 8d. per bushel for freight and handling and administrative charges, which would aggregate £4,333,900. Then a further advance of 2s. 6d. per bushel on the New South Wales 40,000.000-bushel crop, would bring the whole outlay to about £41,000,000. That is a staggering amount, in view of the fact that we need money to keep all our industries going. Were shipping available to carry away the wheat, there would soon be money to pay for it ; but honorable members know that although there has been a very satisfactory sale, we should like to see the harvest sold at a much more rapid rate. The farmers owe to the Prime Minister the success of the transaction that has already been completed, because it was due to the pertinacity with which he pressed the sale, and to the effort he made to -obtain the shipping necessary to carry away the wheat. It is difficult, however, to say how, within the next few months, £41,000,000 can be found for wheat advances, if, at the same time, sufficient money is to be available for the financing of our other industries, to which I have just alluded. Attention has been drawn to the fact that restrictions have been placed on overseas trading such as have not been experienced before, which make the task of our financial institutions tremendously difficult. Under these circum stances the farmers would be unwise to press for the stretching of finance in their favour to a dangerous extent.
– Directly the £41,000,000 is paid to the farmers, it will flow through the ordinary channels of trade.
– I wish I could think that after the money had been paid to the wheat farmers, it would be immediately available for the financing of wool and other transactions. I do not think that it would.
– The money will not stay in the pockets of the wheat-growers.
– That is so. But any one acquainted with finance knows that we cannot to-day undertake commitments involving £41,000,000, and then enter into other engagements on the assumption that that money will be available within the -course of a few weeks. Therefore, I ask the representatives of the farmers not to press too strongly for the immediate payment of the full amount guaranteed. The Prime Minister showed yesterday that he is determined to make available to the farmers as large a sum as possible. A Conference of those who will have to shoulder great financial burdens in connexion with this matter will be held on Wednesday next, and to commit the Commonwealth and the other parties to that Conference to definite figures in advance would, in my judgment, be a most unbusiness-like procedure. In view of all the circumstances, I ask the producers of this country to rely upon the undertaking of the Government, which will be honorably fulfilled.
– The motion which has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), affirming that the Government should be censured for their failure to make provision for the payment of the wheat guarantee, seems to me somewhat premature. A considerable time must elapse before next season’s grain can be harvested, and I have not hitherto observed any great anxiety on the part of honorable members opposite, to expedite the fulfilment of the Commonwealth’s undertaking.
– Then the honorable member has not read the notice-paper.
-The honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) has repeatedly asked questions of the Prime
Minister, urging that early consideration should be given to this matter, but very little sympathy with him has been exhibited by members of the Opposition. Consequently, I am driven to conclude, as the Prime Minister has done, that this motion was merely a political dodge with a view to influencing the electors.
– Is the honorable member going to help the Government out of their difficulty again?
– I intend to submit an amendment.
– I thought so.
– I do not think that the honorable member will like it.
– I knew that the Government would use the honorable member.
– I shall take very good care that the honorable member does not use me.
– Order!Will the honorable member for Hume cease interjecting?
– The honorable member will be very dissatisfied when I read my amendment, and I am sure that he will find it exceedingly difficult to vote against it.
– The honorable member always gets the Government out of a difficulty. He will not hear the division bells when they ring.
– When the Budget was under consideration in this Chamber, honorable members opposite did not complain of the arrangement which had been made regarding this matter. They were all fairly content, and but for the motion which has been submitted by their Leader, they would have been quite satisfied with the explanation which was given by the Prime Minister yesterday.
– There would have been no explanation had L not moved this motion.
– There would have been no explanation? Why the Conference was arranged long before ever I heard of the honorable member’s motion.
– However, the motion having been brought forward, honorable members are now afforded an opportunity of impressing upon the Government the need which exists for assisting the farmers financially in connexion with the approaching wheat crop. When one considers the seasons which have recently been experienced in New South Wales, one is bound to admit that the farmers there have been subjected to a very severe gruelling.
– And in Victoria, too.
– The position is not so bad in Victoria, but in New South Wales the farmers have experienced a most disastrous time. The Government having given a guarantee in connexion with the forthcoming harvest, and having thus induced an enormous area to be put under crop, every effort should be made to provide cash assistance for those who will garner this year’s grain. Recognising the difficult position that is occupied by many of our farmers, I am satisfied that not only the Prime Minister, but the Governments of all the wheat producing States, will do everything that is possible to enable a substantial cash deposit to be paid when the wheat is delivered at our railway sidings. Before resuming my seat I intend to move an amendment to make the motion read -
That the Government, having guaranteed the producer5s. per bushel at sidings for this season’s wheat, should arrange for payment of same on delivery by cash and certificates, such certificates to be repayable in such instalments and at such periods as are recommended by the Central Wheat Board, and that in the opinion of this House nothing should be done to prevent the producer receiving the export parity for all wheat, including wheat for home consumption.
– That is a squib.
– In connexion with the first portion of my amendment-
– I am sorry that it is like the Farmers party - a dud.
– Is this amendment the result of an all-night sitting ? I am afraid that the honorable member will be absent again when the division bells ring.
– The honorable member for Dampier looks quite weary.
-I quite recognise that honorable members opposite occupy an embarrassing position. But after the strain which has been put upon our financial institutions byour huge war loans-
– The amendment provides the Government with a threechain road upon which to get away.
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to restrain their impetuosity.
– In the circumstances it is very difficult to do so.
– It seems rather strange that almost every Friday- morning we have exhibitions of this kind. I do not know whether it is the result of the strain of the week’s sittings. But honorable members must see that it is extremely difficult for the honorable member for Dampier to get in a single sentence without other honorable members interjecting; often in chorus. I must ask honorable members to desist from that practice.
– The large sums which have been taken from our financial institutions in connexion with our war loans, and the possibility which exists of further large sums being required from them, will make it very difficult for the Commonwealth to finance the wheat guarantee, particularly when we ta.ke into consideration the bumper harvest for the coming year. If our farmers were going to reap a very moderate or a poor harvest, it would not be difficult for the Commonwealth to make similar financial provision to that which it made last year. But the different conditions which obtain this year will render that impossible. 1. am sure that the Prime Minister will do all that he can to make available in cash, by way of deposit, the largest sum possible when this’ wheat is delivered. I desire that the wheat certificate issued shall be somewhat different from the ordinary wheat certificate; in fact, a Commonwealth security or bond which the producer can take to his bank, and upon which he can obtain an advance up to the 5s. guarantee, should that course be found necessary. This is the only point in connexion with the amendment upon which we are at variance with the Government themselves. If the Prime Minister can accept my amendment, I hope that he will be able to assure us that the certificate which will be issued will be a negotiable asset. The Commonwealth having guaranteed the payment of 5s. per bushel, that amount should be payable at such times and in such amounts as the Central Wheat Board may recommend. Upon that Board, the Common wealth, the States, and the producers will be represented. Its members will know how the wheat is being sold, and how the cash is coming in, and they will be able to make their recommendations to the Government .accordingly. Personally, I am hopeful that within the short period of three months from the opening of the harvest the total advance of 5s. per bushel will have been paid to the farmers. We know that past Wheat Pools have not” been administered so satisfactorily as the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) would have us believe. Indeed, the operation of the first couple of Pools was anything but satisfactory. The amounts which were paid to our farmers by those Pools were very small Considering the great increase in the cost of production. The figures which were given to me some time ago by the Prime Minister, in answer to- a question, show that during 1915-16 the New South Wales farmers received only 4s. lOd. per bushel for their wheat, and this amount was supplied to them in six different advances, extending over a very long period. As a matter of fact, that Pool has not yet been cleaned up. In the year 1916-17 the farmers of New South Wales received only 3s. 3d. per bushel for their wheat, whilst the average sum paid to them over the four periods covered by the Pools amounted only to 4s. 2d. per bushel.
– Would they have been better off without the Pool?
– That is very problematical. I am doubtful whether the first Pools could have been managed very much worse than they were. However, I do not wish to discuss that phase of the question now. But, in view of the increased cost of labour, of seed wheat, and, indeed; of everything that the farmer requires, it must be admitted that 3s. 3d. per bushel was an absolutely absurd price to pay to the farmers. The Department of Agriculture in the United States of America, in a report which it recently -issued, says that the cost of wheat production there has averaged 8s. lid. per bushel. In New South Wales over the four periods to which I have referred, the average selling price of wheat was 4s. 2d. per bushel, in Victoria it was 4s. 9d. per bushel, in South Australia 4s. 6d. per bushel, and in Western Australia about 43. 6d. per bushel. We know perfectly well that wheat has not been a paying proposition for the farmer during recent years. The Prime Minister himself knows how difficult this proposition has been for the farmers of New South Wales, and I hope, therefore, that some special consideration will be extended to them1. As far as the export parity is concerned, the arguments which have been advanced by honorable members opposite, and which have been stressed in resolutions passed by the Trades Hall party, clearly show that that party desires that the price of wheat shall be fixed. Its members wish to average the cost of production, and to fix a reasonable selling price for wheat in this country. I am not going to refer to the disaster which would certainly attend any such procedure, but I should like, to ask honorable members how it would be possible to get at the fair average cost of production. One man secures a 10-bushel crop, while another man gets a 30-bushel crop at exactly the same cost. How would the Labour party pay the man who had harvested only a 10-bushel crop ?
– They would need to fix. different prices for different parts of the country.
– Exactly, the proposition is absurd.
– We have to put the honorable member and his party in such a rotten position that they have to compromise with the Government-
– We have .put honorable member3 opposite in such a wretched position that they do not know where they are.
– We have forced the Government to recognise their obligations to the farmers.
– The honorable member and those representing country constituencies, as the result of my amendment, will have to come out into the open.
– We have compelled you to come out into the open.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order!1 I again ask honorable members to cease these interjections.
– I do not think I have said one word that should be regarded as offensive to honorable members opposite. They seem to take my proposal somewhat bad-humouredly. Under the amendment which I intend to submit honorable members representing country constituencies will have to come out into the open and say distinctly whether they are prepared to tell the farmers of Australia that they want to fix the price of their produce. I have already pointed out how preposterous it is for the Labour party to say, “We are going to average the cost of production and to pay for your wheat on that average cost, plos a reasonable profit.” The proposition is so absurd that I cannot understand why any person with a knowledge of farming pursuits should consider it at all practicable. If we are to go further than that and to say that we shall pay the farmer so much per day in respect of h-is labour, plus interest on the capital he puts into his industry, ‘he will have ito incentive to try to secure a good harvest. He will not take the same trouble as does a farmer who knows that his prospect of securing a good crop depends largely upon his industry and exertion.
– That is a grave reflection on the farmers in the honorable member’s constituency.
– I am not going to class my constituents with those of the honorable member, who are quite prepared to down tools for twelve months and live on the .charity of other people. If that sort of thing is wanted all round in Australia, it will be quickly secured by passing such resolutions as are recommended by their association.
I want to be very clear and to obtain by means of my amendment an emphatic expression of opinion on the part of this House with regard to the payment of export parity for our wheat.
Several honorable members interjecting ,
– I rise to order. It is very rarely that I complain of interjections. I do not object to them while I am speaking, but I find it quite impossible, because of the many interjections that are taking place, to follow the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory)I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to these disorderly interjections.
– The Prime Minister has found it necessary to specially call my attention to the disorderly interjections which, despite my appeals to honorable members to observe the rules of the House, are constantly going on. I desire now to intimate that I shall name the next honorable member who does not obey the call of the Chair to order. I give this fair warning, since I do not propose to be continually exerting my voice in the effort to prevail over the disorder which, for some unknown reason, seems to arise every now and again. I ask that the honorable member for Dampier be heard in silence.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker. It has been exceedingly difficult for me to carry on, and I repeat that 1 have not said a word that should arouse the ire of any honorable member. I can account for these interjections only by the fact that this is Friday morning.
I was about to point out when interrupted that the export parity should be determined by the Central Wheat Board, which has to carry on negotiations with different countries. It is its duty to make investigations in regard to all these matters, and must, therefore, have at hand full details to enable it to make sales in different parts of the world. That being so, it should be left to the Central Wheat Board to determine what the export parity shall be. I wish the House to be very insistent in regard to this matter. In the early stages of the war the London parity for wheat was 5s. 2d. per bushel, and it was clearly and definitely understood by the people of Australia, when the Wheat Pool was established, that London parity should be paid for all wheat sold for consumption in Australia.
– I would refer the honorable member to the preamble to an Act passed by the Victorian Parliament when the Pool was originated. It sets out that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth - and we had at that time in power a Labour Government of which the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was a member - and the Ministers of Agriculture of the four wheat-producing States of Australia had agreed that the price paid for wheat in Australia should be London parity. The Victorian Parliament was the only State Legislature to pass a measure legalizing the Pool.
– The Board was’ established on the principle of London parity.
– Yes. and that is absolutely confirmed in the Victorian Act to which I refer.
– The farmer did not get London parity for his wheat during the war period.
– No. In consequence of certain industrial troubles which took place in Victoria, while the then Prime Minister was in the Old Country, the Acting Prime Minister, Senator Pearce, on behalf of the Government, of which the present Leader of the Opposition waa a member, reduced the price of wheat for local consumption from 5s. 2d. per bushel, which was London parity, to 4s. 9d. per bushel. That was a clear departure from the pledge which had been made, and a robbery from the farmer of 5d. per bushel. We must have no more of that sort of thing. The Prime Minister was quite emphatic in stating that export parity should be paid for wheat. I wish, however, to be perfectly fair. If wheat becomes so dear that difficulty arises here I have no objection to the Government entering into purchasing wheat for local consumption, and selling it below London price. If a cheap loaf is to be given to the people, who should pay for it ? Should one section of the community alone pay for the concession? It is not fair that the farmer alone should be called upon to provide for the giving of a cheap loaf for the people. I, therefore, say that the price here should be export parity, but that the Government of the Commonwealth or of any State should be free to purchase wheat for local consumption, and sell it at a lower price. What does this huge population of Melbourne, comprising agents, doctors, and many other professional men, earning large incomes, pay for its bread ? Why should they be provided, at the expense of the farmers, with a cheaper loaf than the rest of the world? Why should the farmer be com- pelled to sell his produce below the world’s value?
– Then, why do not the farmers control the whole marketing ‘ of their wheat without the intervention of a Pool ? Why not let them do the whole of the work themselves ? Why are the Government taking up the work for them?
– We are quite prepared to do this work ourselves; but when the war started it was realized that there were difficulties in the way of marketing our products, and that it was absolutely essential that we should increase our production. Some honorable members may not be aware of it, but we are approaching a very dangerous condition, financially and otherwise, in this country. Our only hope is to increase primary production - to encourage people to go into the back country, and build up our primary industries. Unless that is done we shall have to face very bad times. In the absence of a prosperous community settled on the land, we cannot have prosperity in our cities. If there is no wealth in the country to pay’ for what our secondary industries produce, what must be the result? I repeat that the whole future of the Commonwealth depends entirely upon increased production. The Prime Minister realizes this.
– Hear, hear! Of course, he does I
– The honorable member is aware that I am no great political friend of the Prime Minister, and that there are many political questions on which I am bitterly opposed to him. The Prime Minister knows that perfectly well, and he knows, also, that this amendment has not been brought forward with his’ concurrence. In the circumstances, I feel quite satisfied that the Government will be acting in the interests of the producers and of the whole Commonwealth hy accepting my amendment. I move -
That all the words after the word “Government “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ having guaranteed the producer 5s. per bushel at sidings for this season’s wheat should arrange for payment oi same on delivery by cash and certificates, such certificates to be repayable in such instalments and at such periods as recommended by the Central Wheat Board; and, in the opinion of this House, nothing should be done that will prevent the producer from receiving export parity for all wheat, including wheat for home consumption.”
.- The motion of the Leader ot the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) deals with a very definite subject-matter. It calls upon the Government to fulfil the pledge which was given by the Prime Minister at Bendigo in his policy speech - to guarantee a sum of 5s. a bushel at railway sidings for the 1920-21 wheat crop. The ambit of the discussion upon a motion of that sort should be very narrow. It really should be confined to the meaning of that pledge, and the question of whether it has been carried out. What does the pledge mean ? What is the meaning of the plain words that were used by the Prime Minister ? What is the meaning of the words “ a guarantee of 5s. a bushel at railway sidings for the 1920-21 crop “ 1
– What is your idea of a guarantee?
– My idea of a guarantee is that it means what it says. It is a guarantee of 5s. a bushel at railway sidings.
– At some time.
– That is, on delivery , at railway sidings. It can mean nothing else. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has .taken it upon himself to give an explanation of the meaning of “ guarantee.” He says a guarantee does not mean a payment, but that it is an undertaking by some one else to make good a payment. Supposing I go that far with him. Accepting his meaning of a guarantee, then, it is a guarantee to do what? It is a guarantee to make good a payment of 5s. a bushel at railway sidings if some one else does not pay it. If the farmer can get 5s. a bushel in cash on delivery at railway sidings from some one else, there is no necessity for the Government to pay the 5s., but if the farmer cannot get 5s. in cash per bushel at railway sidings, then the Government’s guarantee comes in, and the Government have to pay the 5s. in cash. That is the plain meaning of the pledge, accepting the definition given by the honorable member for Flinders. If you give a guarantee, it is a guarantee to do something definite, and, in this particular case, the Prime Minister set out a definite thing that he guaranteed to do. Does any honorable member sitting opposite believe that, if some private company guaranteed to a particular farmer that he would get 5s. per bushel at the railway siding, the company would not be bound to pay the cash on delivery at the railway siding if some one else did not pay it?
– Those words, “ at railway sidings,” meant that there would be no deduction for freight.
– The words are plain English words. Honorable members op- 1posite are in this position, that they can either accept the plain English meaning of those words, or go into these technical explanations and excuses in order to justify than in not carrying out tha pledge which they solemnly gave to the farmers. If the Government found that they were unable to carry out their guarantee, the fair and proper course for them to take would be to come down here and say so. They could say, “ The financial position has so developed that we are not able to carry out the pledge or guarantee which we gave to the farmers.”
– If we did that, would you withdraw this motion ?
– I should be inclined to reply that then we should want a Government in power which could so manage the financial situation as to be able to carry out the pledge. I think so, because the party which is led by my honorable friend, the honorable member for Yarra, gave the same pledge to the farmers of this country when we were seeking support at the recent election. A guarantee was given that 5s. per bushel would be paid at railway sidings. We know what it meant. I know what I meant when I was referring to it, and I know what the honorable member for Yarra meant. We meant a payment of 5s. in cash at railway sidings, and, therefore, in moving this motion we are not only seeking to condemn the Government for their failure to carry out the pledge which they gave, but we are also endeavouring to give effect to the policy and programme which we put before the country when we sought to be returned to power.
– This question of wheat payment should not be a party question.
– It is not a party question.
– Very, well. Will the honorable member indicate to us some source from which the whole of this money can be found 1
– The doctor prescribes when he is sent for. If our honorable friends opposite are not able to carry out their pledge, then they should hand over the reins to the party who went to the country with the same pledge, and who say that they can carry it out. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) gave a very simple explanation of how the matter could be met. He showed how credits could be given on th» Commonwealth Bank in different parts of Australia in order to enable the payments to be made.
– Does the honorable member indorse the suggestion of the honorable member for Werriwa?
– Yes, I think it is a very wise proposal. I have no hesitation in saying that it, commends itself to me, and I am glad to have the opportunity of indorsing it. What answer do the Government make to the charge levelled against them by the Leader of the Opposition ? It is a definite charge, dealing with a definite subject-matter, and there has been a definite intimation that the Government do not intend to carry out their pledge. The answer of the Government comes first from the Prime Minister, and then from1 his colleague, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers), and then from some honorable members sitting behind them. First of all, they seek to avoid the issue. A red herring is drawn across the trail. Misrepresentation is indulged in by the Prime Minister with regard to what supporters of this party have said in the dim and distant past. He makes no reference to the programme that was placed before the elec- tors of Australia by this party at the last Federal election ; but he makes statements, which I have no hesitation in calling misrepresentations, not only with regard to the doings and sayings of certain persons who supported this party, but also with regard to the doings of the Labour Government of Queensland. He read out a string of things which, I think, came from some Nationalist pamphlet - at any rate, they sounded uncommonly like it - things which had no foundation in fact, and which, in any event, had no> relevancy to the subjectmatter of the discussion in this House. That is the Prime Minister’s first line of attack. He then says that this motion is premature, and he is supported in that by some of his followers. They say to us, “You have come too soon.” Too soon, although representatives of the farmers have been meeting, not only in New South Wales, but in other parts of Australia, complaining that the Government are not going to carry out their .pledge, and calling upon them to carry it out ! The Government say that next week, if we wait until then,’ they are going to have a conference, and then they may carry out their pledge. That is their second line of defence. The next thing they say 16 that although a payment was made in cash for the last crop it was made because the crop was only a little v one. That is the attitude of the Government. It is an attitude which I would expect from them. It is clear evidence that the Prime Minister is still going on with what the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) called his manoeuvring and blundering. It is the same kind of tactics as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) referred to here on Wednesday, as “backing and filling.” The Prime Minister also obtained support from a quarter where I would expect him to obtain it. The honorable member for Flinders - Flinders- lane - comes to the rescue. Flinderslane is the place where the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) said that the profiteers could be shot with a short-range gun from an upstairs window of Parliament House. I am not making any personal reference to the honorable member for Flinders in quoting that saying, but it is remarkable that support for the Government in this matter comes from Flinders-lane. Flinders-lane interprets the guarantee, and declares that it is going to vote with the Government. Of course, it is. That is what I would expect. In fact, we all expected it. The middleman Government is naturally supported by Flinders-lane in going back on a solemn pledge made to the people of Australia to pay this amount to the farmers at railway sidings. It is an actual going back upon the policy that the Government put before the country, and that was approved by the country. What is the attitude of our honorable friends in the Country party ? They were sent here - or no doubt the people who sent them here thought they were returning them for that purpose - in order specially to represent the interests of country districts, and to be the special representatives of the farmers. What are they going to do? So far, with one exception - a notable exception, and I give the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) credit for the stand he has taken - they are all making excuses for the Government. Instead of helping to’ keep the Government up to the collar in the matter of carrying out their pledge, they have spent their time in finding excuses for the Government. They explain that the guarantee does not mean what it says. They say they did not understand it to mean that. I wonder what the farmers will think of that attitude. Should they not be the honorable members who, above all others, if they are true to their name and to the principles which they profess, should be demanding from the Government that they carry out that pledge? But they are not doing it.
– What is wrong with our amendment ?
– I admit, of course, that there are some who have not yet spoken. I will show the honorable member in a few minutes what is wrong with the amendment. There is something materially wrong with it, and I am astonished that the Country party should have been so misguided as to bring forward the proposal that has been tabled by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). It is an amendment which actually proposes to excuse the Government from carrying out their pledge. Instead of asking the Government to carry it out, and instead of waiting for the conference next week, which the Government have told us might result in their paying 5s. in cash, the Country party want to say beforehand “ pay 3d. in cash and 4s. 9d. in bonds; pay what you like in cash, and the rest in bonds.” They are actually opening tha.door for the Government to walk OUt, Could there be a more lamentable exhibition of a party failing in the duty’ which those who elected them sent them’ here to perform? If this amendment is: carried, the Government are excused by this House from the carrying out of their pledge. They are invited not to pay cash. They are invited to give certificates. I do not know how much cash may be included in the amendment, but at all events, if carried, it would be an affirmation by the House that the Government were excused from their pledge, and that the so-called Country party had interpreted that pledge as meaning not cash, but “ some cash and some certificates.” What else does it mean?
– We have a very good idea.
– The honorable member would have been well advised to refrain from moving that amendment.
– Don’t you think the Leader of the Opposition, who was interested in the 1915-16 Pool, should have considered this matter a little earlier?
– I am quite satisfied that the Leader of the Opposition did his duty in whatever capacity he held. It has been perfectly plain to every honorable member who has been following what has taken place in this House, that the
Corner party - the Country party - held a meeting while this debate was in progress, and evidently fearing that their true attitude would be exposed in the country, they withdrew to find a way out. The “mountain” has brought forth a “ mouse “ by the effort of the honorable member for Dampier. We have observed him passing to and fro amongst the Government representatives, discussing the matter and endeavouring to find a way out for the Government, and let the farmer down. All this tacking on about the world’s parity is so much camouflage; the real purpose of the amendment is to defeat the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. What does that honorable gentleman ask? He asks that the Government shall honour its pledge to pay 5s. per bushel to the farmers on delivery at the railway siding, and he asks nothing more.
– Yes, he asks for a change of Government.
– All the Leader of the Opposition asks is that the Government pledge shall be carried out. The Corner party could support this motion if they so desired, and there is no need whatever for this camouflage about the world’s parity. I am satisfied that the farmers of this country are intelligent enough to understand the real purpose of- the amendment. The public are no fools, and they will readily see that the real purpose is to defeat the attempt that is being made by the Labour party, on behalf of the farmers of Australia, to have this pledge honoured.
– An attempt to defeat the proposition to inflate the note issue by £30,000,000 or £40,000,000.
– There is no proposition to inflate the note issue.
– Yes, there is.
– I am referring to the proposal of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who did not suggest there should be any inflation of the note issue.
– Of course, he did.
– This lamentable amendment is only what one might have expected. Of all the explanations about this guarantee, the least logical have come from our friends in the Comer party. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is able to work the matter out so as to make it appear that the guarantee means 3s. per bushel at the railway siding - that it might mean 3s. I can understand the special pleading of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) about a guarantee. I used to understand that a guarantee was signed as a matter of form, and paid as a matter of course; but the honorable member for Flinders has a technical explanation. The Government supporters also have a certain explanation, but the honorable member for Echuca tells us that 5s. at the railway siding may mean 3s. at the railway siding. I do not know how he arrives at that conclusion.
– I did not say any such thing.
– I shall be sorry to misrepresent the honorable member, but I do recollect him saying that the guarantee might mean “3s. per bushel at the railway siding.
– -What I said was that the guarantee, in regard to country stations, was not a promise to pay 5s. as a first payment.
– That it might mean 3s. as a first payment ?
– That it might mean the farmers would have to take 3s. as a first payment.
– That is an explanation that I fail to apprehend. I understand “5s.” to mean 5s., and “railway siding “ to mean railway siding.
– It did not mean that under the scheme of the Leader of the Opposition, and it does not mean that now.
– In this House we have the Government party, the Country party, and the Labour party. What is the attitude of the Labour party ? In submitting this motion we are standing for the policy which we put before the country; and it is well that that should be understood. This is no attempt to make political capital, but an attempt to carry out the programme we placed before the electors at the end of 1919. What do we say in our programme ? I refer to this in order to answer the suggestion that the motion is a mere move to gain political capital. The Leader of the Opposition in his manifesto, said -
We shall stimulate production, and with that object in view we shall guarantee to the producer a return which will secure to him a price for his products that will cover the cost of production, and allow a reasonable margin of profit. Amongst other things we shall, in addition to carrying out existing undertakings,, guarantee to the wheat-growers 5s. per bushel at railway sidings for the 1920-21 harvest, and shall consult with their representatives regarding future crops, with a view to protecting the interests of producer and consumer alike on sound economic lines.
That is the same policy that the Leader of the Opposition stands tor to-day, and it is contained in the motion he has submitted.
– He does not say “ cash.”
– I understand that when we refer to paying any sum of money we refer to cash. If I say that I will give any person £5 I do not mean that I will give him a bond, but that I will give him £5 in cash, and it is just the same in regard to 5s.
– You did not do it.
– This party is not in power to do it.
– But that party was in power.
– We said that if we were placed in power we would carry out the pledge.
– It is not a party question.
– The position is a very dear one. The Government gave that pledge, and the Government have indicated that they do not intend to carry it out; and our friends of the Country party are opening a door to let the Go’vernment out. Whatever explanations may be made, that fact will remain. When the Conference meets next week, can there be any talk of a cash payment if an amendment of this sort is carried ? The people will say, “ Here are the members of the Country party, whom the farmers sent to this House, expressing themselves as satisfied with bonds.” That is the position, and, as I say, it is a very plain one.
– What can the Conference do but find the money, and there is only one set of persons can do that.
– Of course, the Government should have the power, but instead of taking up the attitude that they are masters of the situation, the Prime Minister talks about all the resources of the country “ backed by the banks” - backed by the banks ! Is not the country to be the superior of the banks ? I can understand the banks being backed by the country, but when we have a Government in power that makes the banks the Government, and talks of the country being backed by the banks, it is readily seen why the Government are unable to finance.
But, after , all, the farmers of this country are now only experiencing what other large sections of the community have experienced .on previous occasions. The Government have, broken pledges, time and again; and can we complain if they break further pledges ?
– With all their faults, the country would sooner have the Government than honorable members opposite.
– With all their faults, the Government are preferred by the country because of misrepresentation, and because of an electoral law which was “framed up” to suit the Government purpose. What I am pointing out is that the Government, although they have broken pledges in the past, are still in power, and their success in breaking previous pledges encourages them to break more. The Government have come to regard pledges as a sort of joke; indeed, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) is laughing, for he knows that the Government make pledges fully intending to break them.
– What are you going to do about it 1
– Unfortunately, we can do nothing about it, except place before the House and the country the real position, in the hope that when the opportunity offers the people will see the error of their ways, and return a Government that will carry out its pledges.
Whatever happens next week, the fact will remain that had it not been for the action of the Labour party the Government would have been allowed to break this pledge without anything being said; and we on this side must be credited for bringing the Government “up to the collar.” If, when the Conference is held next week, the Government are able to pay a certain amount in cash, the farmers of the country may thank the Labour party for this motion, which compelled the Government to take that step. This is another evidence that the Labour party is the only .party which, stands for the interests of the producer and the consumer alike. Those two interests are identical, and they are represented in the programme which we put before the country. When the division bells ring we shall have an opportunity to see where honorable members are. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), need not have any fear -he will have to come into the open, and show the wheatgrowers of this country what he stands for. The wheat-growers will see by this division that the men they have to look to for support are the miners of Newcastle, the waterside workers along our coasts, and the men in the shearing sheds, whose interests are identical with their own. We shall have accomplished something if we compel the Government to give, at all events, a substantial amount in cash - if we show the farmers who are their true friends.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has, deliberately or unknowingly, represented by interjection more than once that in my remarks I advocated the issue of notes to finance the wheat. I advocated nothing of the sort. I pointed out that Sir Joseph Carruthers, in the Legislative Councilof New South Wales, advocated that policy, but that I did not. I advocate a policy altogether different, namely, the extension of the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, and the creation of credit instruments,, by means of cash credits in the bank, to finance the scheme. I object to the Treasurer misrepresentingme.
– It is the same thing, only a little worse.
– It is nothing of the sort. If the Treasurer desires to discuss the matter, I desire him, when he refers to my arguments, to quote them as I gave them, and not misrepresent me.
– I accept the honorable member’s explanation.
– A great deal of this discussion hinges upon what was meant by the guarantee given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). When my friends opposite were in office they gave a guarantee, but they did not pay the full amount immediately in cash.
– Who was in office then ? It was the present Prime Minister.
– What guarantee is the honorable member referring to ?
– The guarantee given in regard to the 1915-16 harvest.
– Show it to me.
– On several occasions this morning I have been obliged to call the attention of the House to the disorder prevailing, and I wish to warn honorable members who may not have been in the Chamber when I have spoken previously, that I shall name any honorable member who, uponbeing called to order, refuses to obey the call, and immediately afterwards interjects. It is the duty of the Chair to afford every honorable member a proper opportunity of making his speech in reasonable silence. Therefore, while I may overlook an occasional interjection which may possibly be helpful, I cannot permit a chorus of interjections, which is very objectionable.
– When the 1915-16 guarantee wasgiven it was not paid in cash in the first payment.
– What were the terms of the guarantee?
Mr. SPEAKER.Anhonorablemember must not interject immediately after I have drawn attention to the disorderliness of interjections.
– But it was a helpful interjection.
– Older! The honorable member is not in order in interrupting a speech in that way.
– I repeat that the whole question hinges upon what the Prime Minister meant by the guarantee he promised. My opinion is that he did not give the matter much consideration at the time. He was then engaged in a campaign in the wheat-growing areas represented by some of my friends who are sitting behind me, and, unquestionably, it was a bit of a political bid which did not come off. However, in the condition of the finances to-day, I regard it as impossible for the Government to provide a cash payment of 5s. per bushel for wheat. They could not raise the terrific amount of money which would be involved in making such a payment.
– Then why do they not say so?
– I cannot help what they say. I want the 5s. to be paid in cash if the money can be raised, but as the Government cannot get the money, nothing is to be gained by chasing rainbows. The Prime Minister has announced that during the coming week a conference will be held, after which he will tell us how much cash the Government will be prepared to pay, and what arrangements they are ready to make.
Mr.tudor. - How can the conference find the cash?
– The Prime Minister will probably consult the conference, and seek its advice as to how the cash can be found. But, if afterthe conference the Prime Minister does not announce that the farmers will be paid a very considerable portion of the 5s. in cash, and given a satisfactory bond for the balance which can be used as cash, he will have to face this House, and honorable members can take up whatever position they choose in regard to the matter. A pitiful tale hascome to me in scoresof letters written by men of repute, and resolutions have been adopted by communities right throughout the northern portion of Victoria, and in thewheat- growing areas of New South Wales, pointing out that in very many cases the wheat-growers will not be in a position to finance the garnering of their harvest. Tasmania is not a wheat-growing State, and there are no wheat producers in my electorate, but owing to delays to shipping occasioned by the strikes and the war, the fruit-growers there have had to watch their fruit rotting in the orchards, and have been obliged to suffer mostserious privations in order to pay the interest on their mortgages, and carry on until the nextseason. Wheat-growers in a considerable portion of New South Wales have been in precisely the same position, and although the farmers in the northern portion of the Mallee district of Victoria may not have been handicapped to the same extent, many of them have been hard put to it to know how to carry on. However, I am not concerned as to what the Prime Minister meant by his guarantee. The finances of Australia have got into such a deplorable position that it is not possible for the Government to raise £35,000,000 or £40,000,000 during the next two or three months when, if a cash payment were to be made for the wheat, the great bulk of the money would have to be found. Nevertheless the Government should strain every nerve to make the proportion paid in cash as large as possible, and give a satisfactory bond or certificate for the balance, which will enable the farmer to finance himself until his wheat is sold.
Mr.Rodgers. - There is a substantial difference between fruit in store and wheat in store, in respect of which a certificate has been issued, because the wheat in store has a good commercial value.
– There is not the slightest risk in guaranteeing 5s. per bushel for wheat.
– When there is not the slightest intention of paying it.
– Micawber used to give his I.O.U., and there was never any harm done.
– Wheat bonds and wheat scrip are negotiable securities all over the world; but if there is to be any attempt to renew the wheat-scrip gambling and robbery of the last few years it will have no support from me. All the stock-brokers and financiers of the Commonwealth, and even, I am sorry to say, many farmers who were in a position to do so, bought scrip and battened on the misery of the growers who were not in the same fortunate position. There must be no more scrip manipulation.
– Very few farmers would do that.
– Unfortunately, the farmer who was in a position to finance his operations bought scrip from the man whose circumstances compelled him to sell it; but the great bulk of the scrip dealing took place on the stock exchanges in the cities.
– The farmers who bought scrip purchased it on the stock exchanges as others did.
– But if the amendment is carried, what will prevent it happening again ?
– I hope the House will prevent it. I prefer bonds to certificates. When the form of the certificate is defined here, I hope the Government will see that it is a direct bond bearing the guarantee of the Government, and not a certificate on the farmer’s wheat lying at the railway siding. Honorable members of the Countryparty are endeavouring to do their best for the farmer in a practical way. There is not an honorable member in the House who would not like5s. to be paidin cash; but in the state of the finances of the Commonwealth it is practically impossible to raise £35,000,000 or £40,000,000 in two months. I hope the cash advance will be more than 2s. 6d. per bushel. Any proposal to pay less than fifty-fifty will have no support from me. My honorable friends opposite put forward the suggestion that there may be a cash payment of 3d. or 6d. per bushel, and a certificate of 4s. 6d. per bushel; but they are quite misinterpreting the object which members of the Farmers’ party have in view. Nothing less than fifty-fifty will satisfy me, and I hope that the cash payment will be more than half.
– Does not the amendment whittle down the pledge given by the Prime Minister?
– I am not a bit concerned about the pledge given by the Prime Minister. I am concerned about the fact that we have thousands of men in Australia in financial difficulties, and I want to arrive at a practical way of getting them out of their difficulties.
– Is not the country worth the £35,000,000 or £40,000,000 involved ?
– It hurts any member of the National Parliament to admit it; but. nevertheless, it is a fact that we have allowed our finances to get into such a condition that I do not believe it would be a practicable proposition for the Government to attempt to raise £40,000,000 within two months for the payment of this 5s. per bushel.
– The guarantee given by the NewSouth Wales Government is only 2s. 6d. per bushel.
– I am not concerned with that guarantee. The New South Wales Government must stand up to their obligations in this respect, just as we are obliged to do so.
– Why does the honorable member claim that the Labour Government in New South Wales should stand up to their pledge while he is trying to let the Commonwealth Government down?
– I am not trying to let the Commonwealth Government down. The New South Wales Government will probably be obliged to make an arrangement on the lines we are endeavouring to put forward. However, there are plenty of avenues open to us for fighting our political battles, and I think I have shown that I am quite prepared to take my part in them ; but for Heaven’s sake do not let us make the misery and hardship of these men, who are right up against trouble, the football of our politics.
– We are not doing that.
– I acquit the Opposition of the charge of having moved the motion for political purposes.
– Oh !
– I am giving my opinion. I regard it as being no more a political move than is the amendment we have submitted. As I credit honorable members opposite with good intentions and a desire to help the farmer, I ask them to credit us with the same honesty of purpose. I reiterate that I am not restricting the cash payment to 2s. 6d. I hope it will be a good deal more, as much as the Government can possibly arrange to pay; but it is within the range of practical politics to pay 2s. 6d. cash immediately upon delivery, and to give a bond or certificate for the balance, which will be as good as cash, to enable the farmer to get out of his difficulties. For that reason I am supporting the amendment, and I am Keeping an open mind to deal with the proposals of the Prime Minister when he submits them next week.
– Is the honorable member not opening the door to enable the Prime Minister to escape from the pledge he made ?
– I do not think the Government are very much enamoured of the amendment, but I and the party to which I belong are honestly trying to do our best in a practical way for the wheat-growers who find themselves in financial difficulties. I stand wholly for the world’s parity. The proposal made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) on a previous occasion is unchallengeably fair and reasonable. The British Government during the war paid £50,000,000 per annum in order that the people might get their loaf at a reasonable price. If the world’s parity for wheat goes too high, it will be the bounden duty of the Government to take action. If they wish to allow the poorer people to have bread at a reasonable rate, they should take such action as will place the tax on the whole community, and not upon one particular class.
– What would the honorable member do if the world’s parity fell below the cost of production ?
– If that happens an entirely different aspect will be opened up, and the farmers will either have to go out of production, or make some arrangement
– Under the honorable member’s policy the farmer would have to go out of wheat production. Under our policy he would not.
– I merely reply to the honorable member that the argument advanced by the members of my party is unchallengeable. Would any honorable (member on either side say that it is fair that the wheat-grower should be required to sell his product below its market value in order that the masses of the community might get a cheaper loaf ? That would not be just, and I would be prepared to face any audience, even in the strongest Labour constituency, to put that view before them. I have sufficient appreciation of the people’s sense of justice to believe that they would not expect one class of the community to be sweated and bled in order that the people living in the cities might get a cheaper article.
– Let the honorable member resignhis seat; I will resign mine, and we shall contest the electorate for Calare, which is a great wheatgrowing constituency.
– I am very much safer in Franklin. If the honorable member is prepared to go into a wheatproducing district, or into anypublic meeting, and tell the electors that he proposes to make one class only pay for a cheap loaf-
– No one proposes that.
– I ask the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) if he thinks it practicable for everysmall wheat-grower all over Australia to keep books of his costs of production throughout the year.
– No one suggests that.
– Nobody knows better than legal members of the House, who have had to make up the income tax returns of small farmers, that such a requirement would cause infinitely more trouble than even the making up of the income tax returns. To ask the farmer to keep a day-to-day account of his costs of production would be to ask him to do a practical impossibility.
– Is the honorable member in favour of raising the price of sugar to the world’s parity ?
– The Government have done in respect of sugar precisely what they should do in regard to wheat. They have, quite fairly, made the whole of the people pay for the increased value of sugar.
– But the grower does not get the world’s parity.
– We have no more right to sweat the sugar-grower than we have to sweat the wheat-grower or the fruit-grower. I shall always protest to the utmost of my ability against one class of the community being taxed in order to provide cheaper products for people in other districts. A lot of the talk about world’s parity is absurd. Some honorable members, when they find that the world’s parity is against them, raise the Tariff in order to raise the cost of the imported article to that of the local product. Men who do that in respect of every article of machinery that the wheat-grower uses yet say that he alone should bear the cost of a benevolent policy for the consumers of his products. The day has passed when the farmer may be required to wet-nurse the rest of the community. I rose in order to state distinctly where the Country party stands. Our amendment is put forward, not in order to defeat the Opposition, or to wet-nurse the Government, but because we believe it to be the only practical solution of an exceedingly difficult position.
– The honorable member stated that he had received a number of letters from New South Wales. Did not the writers interpret the Government’s guarantee to mean a payment of 5s. at the railway siding ?
– I think every one of them did.
– The honorable member wants cheap sugar and dear wheat.
– I do not. We have put forward what we regard as the only practical solution that will help the farmer out of his difficulty, but we hold ourselves quite free to act as our judgment dictates, when the Prime Minister announces a concrete policy as a result of the conference that is to take place next week.
.- The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) presented a bouquet to honorable members on this side, but it was a bouquet with a brick in it. He said/- that he did not think the motion had been moved by the Labour party for any political purpose, any more ‘than the Country party had moved its amendment for a political purpose. That was a bouquet containing a very sharp brick. If the Country party is so mindful of the interests of the farmer, it is a remarkable fact that only this morning, following a party caucus last, night, have they come forward with any proposal. Why did not this scheme originate with them before ? As all sorts of reasons have been given as to why the motion of censure has been moved, I shall state clearly, as some of my colleagues have done already, some of the real reasons which influenced us. The first was that members of the Labour party believe that an individual should keep his word, and more particularly that the Government should do so. This promise in regard to the wheat guarantee was made at election time, and was made in ordinary language which would convey the ordinary meaning to the man upon the land. We believed, that when the promise was made, it was intended to bear the interpretation th? + the farmers .have placed upon it. I am sure that if I had been able to hear the election speeches of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), for instance, I would not have heard him quoting figures to show that the primary producer had done twice as well during and since the war as in the five years previous to the war. He is more likely to have said that the Government were guaranteeing to the farmer 5s. per bushel at the railway siding. It is all very well, when many circumstances are makins? the honouring of the promise rather difficult, to quote strings of figures and advance specious arguments in order to find a way out for the Government. This motion was moved in the interests of the moral integrity of Parliament. We be,lieve that it is dangerous to allow any
Government to make all sorts of promises at election time, and then not keep them. A similar breach of promise occurred in regard to the war gratuity. It was a bait held out to returned soldiers for the purpose of getting their votes, and this was a bait to another section of the community for the same purpose. But honorable members on this side are not going to allow the Government to make all sorts of promises, seemingly with no intention of giving effect to them, without voicing our protest.
– Chapman. - I call attention to the state of the House, Mr. Speaker. [Quorum formed.]
– I thank the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for attempting to get a bigger audience for me. It is very pleasing, indeed, to think that some of the older members are following in my footsteps, and that, apparently, they believe there should be .a sufficient number of members present to listen- to debate. It is satisfactory to know that I have made at least one convert to this view.
I was advancing my first reason why honorable members on this side decided to submit this motion of censure. I say we could not allow the Government to make promises upon which they are returned to power, and then quietly sit down and do nothing; although excuses have been advanced why the Government have not carried out their pledges. So much for the first reason. Now for the second. Honorable members on this side, in common with other honorable members, realize that the farmers and wheat-growers, and particularly the wheat-growers in the newer areas, deserve all the encouragement that we can possibly give them. During the last election campaign I was an eye-witness of the difficulties which farmers in these newer areas have to encounter, so I know what I am talking about. I was campaigning on my bicycle, and, in order to avoid the heat of the day, I rose one morning at Eudunda before 4 o’clock.
– I desire to call: attention to 4-,1,- state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I must again thank the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for endeavouring to insure an attendance of honorable members. Evidently, he thinks- my remarks are worth listening to, or else he is trying to count out the House, and thus side-track this motion of censure.
– I should be obliged if the honorable member would address himself to the question before the Chair.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, I shall do so. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro called attention to the state of the House just now I was advancing as our second reason for submitting this censure motion, the necessity there was to give every encouragement to our wheatgrowers, especially those in the newer areas, and I was giving as an illustration an incident of which I was an eye-witness during the last election campaign in my division. I had got as far as saying that when I rose before 4 o’clock one morning, I saw at a dam outsideEudunda, some local farmers with their water cart teams drawn up alongside the dam. There I saw these farmers climbing up and down the mud banks, nearly 20 feet in height, with kerosene buckets in their hands, and then standing on a kerosene case, tipping the water into the tanks. No doubt, other honorable members have witnessed similar scenes. I am familiar with all the hardships of our farmers, for during my work in connexion with the Methodist Church, covering a period of eight years, I moved about a good deal amongst the wheatgrowers of the mallee districts of South Australia, and so I know quite well what they have to put up with. We all admit that the farmers in these areas to which I allude deserve every encouragement, and this is the reason why honorable members on this side of the House have stepped into the breach in order to expose the intention of the Government. I wish some of those farmers were present when the Prime Minister was acting the clown a little while ago, and I wish they could have heard the laughter. Two scenes were before my eyes then : one, the scene in this House, and the other, the scene in which these farmers move in their daily life.
– The honorable member is doing a nice bit of acting now, at all events.
– The Minister is entitled to his opinion. A man who has been a member of one party, and then crawls over to another, knows-
– Order! The honorable member must discuss the motion before the Chair.
– I should like to doso, Mr. Speaker, if only honorable members will leave me alone.
– I remind the honorable member that if he takes no notice of interjections they do not appear in Hansard.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. I have given as my second reason for this censure motion the fact that the farmers in the newer areas deserve the greatest possible encouragement in order that our primary industries may be satisfactorily developed. We should not have the spectacle of promises being made and then dishonoured, all at the expense of these men who, we all admit, are the backbone of the country. Our third reason for moving the vote of censure is that alarge number of our farmers, on the strength of the guarantee, obtained monetary advances, in the hope of a quick realization, and now it looks as if they will have to wait until eighteen months after the harvest before anything like a settlement is made. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) knows the position quite well; but when he said that as a representative of the South Australian farmers he was satisfied with the Prime Minister’s promise of the best price which the financial resources of the country rendered possible, he forgot, evidently, that this was not the election pledge given by the Prime Minister. If the honorable member for Wakefield is satisfied, and is content to let the Prime Minister make one statement before an election, and then make another statement in this House afterwards, all that I can say is that I am not satisfied. I feel sure, also, that some of the farmers in the honorable member’s own district, particularly that part of it which touches mine on the Murray flats, where the farmers have had hard times, will not be satisfied either. The honorable member was able to say that, so far as he was concerned, he had only to sell one portion of his wheat scrip. His financial position enables him to carry on, but many other farmers in his own district cannot afford to do that. I could, if I wished, speak of the sound position of the farmers in the better parts of my own division. No doubt, they are not worrying much over this guarantee, because they are wealthyBut there are others, and it is on their behalf that we speak now. They interpreted the promise made by the Prime Minister in the ordinary way,, just as would the man in the street; and they certainly understood that it meant cash.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Now I come to the promise itself. I have listened to all the speeches made during the debate, and I think we are all agreed that the promise was to this effect: - “ A guarantee of 5s. per bushel at railway sidings.’’ Nobody will quibble about that. The election promise was a guarantee of 5s. at railway sidings. Now, what is the reasonable interpretation of the word “guarantee”? It is all very well for the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) to say that it means payment in default of another; but I should like to remind him that the average Australian citizen has not been blessed with an academic education, nor has he had opportunities of wide commercial experience such as he has had, and, therefore, would not attach any technical meaning to the Prime Minister’s promise. The reasonable course is to interpret the word “guarantee” as it is ordinarily understood throughout the country.
– I again call attention to the state of the Hou6e. [Quorum formed.]
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was endeavouring to deal with the word “guarantee.” I was inviting honorable members to examine it, and to regard it in the light in which the Australian farmer generally has looked upon it. The distinctly technical and exclusively dictionary meaning placed upon the word by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) is altogether different from the meaning which has been attached to it by the man on the land. The latter is a busy man, and he has no time to consult dictionaries. He interprets a term in its accepted sense. The Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), who is now supporting an amendment which practically cuts the ground from under the motion of censure, admits that he has received numbers of letters from farmers who all expressed the view that the employment of the word “guarantee “ by the Prime Minister predicated to- their minds payment in cash at the rate of 5s. per bushel upon delivery at railway sidings. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) indicated by interjection yesterday, that if it meant 5s. cash, it would not be a “ guarantee,” but a “ payment.” From the view-point of this moment, one can understand that interpretation; but we have to regard the promise in the light of the period when it was made. It was uttered on the eve of harvest, as well as of a Federal election, and every farmer considered it to imply a straight-out guarantee, without possibility of a varying interpretation, for the payment of 5s. cash.
-Where are we to get the money from?
– I admit there is a difficulty there. I do not admit, however, that the Government had any right to make such a promise for electioneering purposes, nor that the difficulty of finding the money can now excuse them from fulfilling it.
Now, I desire to turn attention to the expression “ railway sidings.” How is that phrase understood in the country? There is, in the mind of the farmer, a wide distinction between a railway siding and a railway station. The former is understood as a point on a railway system where there is not an established station or departmental staff. Honorable members opposite may say that a railway siding can ‘bc situated at a railway depot. Of course! There are sidings at all the bigger railway stations. But I am regarding this expression in the Prime Minister’s promise from the viewpoint of the man in the country. Farmers understood that a cash payment of 5s. per bushel would be made for their wheat upon delivery at a railway siding, and not that the money would be withheld till their wheat had arrived, from some siding, at a railway depot, or on board ship.
With respect to the proposal of the Labour party, in this matter of payment for wheat, it has been pointed out by honorable members opposite that we did not offer cask as against the guarantee of the Government. It may be taken for granted that had the Labour party at the time interpreted the Government guarantee a& other than an undertaking to pay cash, they would have been astute enough to insert the specific word “ cash “ in their proposal. Without doubt the Labour party thought, as did the farmer, that the promise of the Prime Minister covered an actual cash guarantee. I am certain that if honorable members opposite, who represent rural constituencies, had told their farmer supporters during the election campaign that the promise of their Leader was not to be interpreted as a cash guarantee, they would not have polled so heavily. As an ordinary man, I ask myself why was the promise made? We have been told that it was made with a view to encouraging greater production. I will concede that that was one of the objectives. But, besides encouraging wheat production, it was made for the purpose of encouraging vote production.
– That comment applies as aptly to the guarantees of the States.
– The promises made by the .States were not uttered -during election campaigns, or so close to an election, as the promise of the Prime Minister. The pledge of the latter was given for two purposes, which I repeat: first, in order to encourage wheat production ; and, second, to increase favorable vote production. Why has not the promise been kept? The Government say that they are keeping it. They say that they will honour it in the spirit in which it was intended that it should be kept, lt appears to me that it is not going to be kept, for the reason that the difficulties are too great. What are those difficulties? As a matter of fact, some are not difficulties at all, but are advantages. One reason why the promise is not going to be kept is that its utterance encouraged too great a production of wheat. The farmers cropped vast areas and Australia is about to reap a far larger harvest than was anticipated. The promise will not be kept because Providence has treated us too kindly; practically all over the wheat-growing areas of Australia there will be a bountiful harvest. Still another reason is that the world’s wheat situation has undergone a considerable change since the promise was made. The world is rapidly approaching a position in which production will have again balanced consumption. In the course of recent reading, I learned that wheat-growing is being actively carried on in the huge territories, of ‘ Manchuria. Flour is now being sent into Europe from that source, and forms a considerable factor in the market, for the reason that, owing to cheap labour conditions, it can b& sold at a lower rate than the product of other parts of the world. Not only has the wheat market changed considerably since the Prime Minister made his promise, but it will have altered still more markedly by the time we have sold the last of out exportable wheat.
I propose now to quote several significant expressions by members of the Country party, including the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). I admire the honorable member for one thing at least, and that is that he is always with his party. We know where he is. .He is always at hand to vote according to his party principles. The honorable member stated that the Prime Minister and the Wheat Board were much exercised because up to the present only one sale had been effected. I regret that there has not been more than one sale to date, and I certainly do not gloat over the fact. It has accentuated the difficulties of the Government in keeping their promise, but it has not absolved them. The honorable member for Echuca also said, in effect, that if the money were available to make a cash payment, he would vote for the motion of censure. It would appear that he is caught in a cleft stick. He realizes that the Government made a definite promise, and he feels that they ought to keen it; but he perceives that the financial position is such that it will be exceedingly difficult for the Government to fulfil the Prime Minister’s pledge. The remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) were similarly concentrated upon the difficulties of the Government in the matter of finance. Admitting those difficulties, however, honorable members on this side would be failing in their duty if they permitted the Government to reap the fruits of the Prime Minister’s promise, while at the same time they were unable to honour it.
In conclusion, I believe that much good has been done by discussing this motion, and if we have not done anything else, we have caused the members of the
Country party to take some active interest in the farmers’ welfare. After listening to the debate for two days, the members on the Corner benches, with the exception of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) had to leave the Chamber and hold a party meeting to decide what they would do. The discussion on the motion has also been the means of extracting a promise from the Government that a statement will be made at an early date in regard to this matter. I notice that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) pooh-poohed the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) when he said that as a result of the motion, the Government had been brought up to the point where they were going to make the position clear. I am going to watch the operation that will soon take place, with great interest. The members of the Labour party are accused by many of not having any interest in the farmers’ welfare, but it must be admitted that we are more than doing our share, even in comparison with the members of the Country party, in keeping the Government up to their obligations. The members on the Corner benches claim to be the farmers’ friends, but one of their members has now moved an amendment which will be the means of opening the door to enable the Government to avoid the difficulties confronting them. During the six or seven months I have been a member of this Parliament, I have never, until to-day, heard the Prime Minister appeal for a quiet and attentive hearing for any honorable member, but this morning he made that request on behalf of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). I realize that that honorable member is the ambassador for the Government in the Country party, and he has introducedthis amendment to enable the Government to clear itself. I shall watch with interest the result of the representatives of the so-called Farmers’ party opening the gate for the Government to ignore its obligations. Any observant man in this community must realize that during the period of stress and drought the primary producers of the Commonwealth, and particularly those in New South Wales, have experienced untold hardships, and their friends in the Corner are now opening the way for the Government and the middlemen to get away in the smoke. If that is so, we might well say, “ Save us from our friends.”
– The amendment of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr.Gregory) has perturbed the ranks of Tuscany, and members opposite are in great doubt as to what they should do. During the luncheon adjournment, instead of paying regard to those priceless laws of health that the ages and our own experience have taught us to disobey at our peril, and allowing their digestions to have an opportunity of carrying out their mysterious processes, they have been engaged in ruminating over this amendment. The way of the transgressor is hard. The motion has been moved, and lo and behold there has come this amendment, intruding its rude presence on their special preserves. It is very unfair. They had hoped to gain from this some kudos, but now the difficulty confronting them is which way they are going to vote.
– Which way are you going to vote?
– Ah ! Which way are you going to vote? I did not have the opportunity of hearing the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), before the luncheon adjournment, but since we have resumed he has appealed to the Deity, with whom, so far as I can gather, he is on intimate terms. He is solicitous concerning the future welfare of the farmers, and pictures their difficulties in struggling against a thousand obstacles, . such as drought, flood, and other adverse conditions. He did not mention the Labour party, but no doubt that was an oversight. The honorable member devoted some time to discussing the difference between the meaning of “ guarantee “ as it appears in the dictionary, and as he understands it. We are not concerned with that any more than we are with the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. We know there are motions of censure, and that there are other motions. The honorable member who submitted this motion knew that it would not be carried, and took the opportunity of saying what he would do. He is a very fearless knight sans peur et sans reproche! If the honorable member and his supporters had thought there was one chance in a million of the motion being carried, they would have talked until doomsday rather than allow it to go to a vote. There is hardly one of them, who does not realize that in their own respective electorates it is a “ toss up “ whether they will ever be selected again. They see it going on every day; they saw it at the last election, and they are taking no risks.
Let me refer to the amendment. Honorable members opposite say what they would do if they were in office. They might just as well criticise the holy angels, and tell them how they would play on the harp if they were in their place. But the angels might say, “ You are not here; and what do you know about playing on harps?” Where are they now? Yesterday representatives of their party went to the country. How many candidates did they put up ?
– I rise to order. I submit that this is out of order. Yesterday we had to listen to a great deal of irrelevant inanities, and they are being repeated to-day.
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– I refer to the last sentence of the right honorable gentleman, and, generally, to his irrelevant utterances.
– I did not hear the Prime Minister’s last sentence; but I may say that I have been able to hear scarcely a single word of the Prime Minister’s speech since he commenced, because of the continuous audible conversation and interjections going on all round.
– You have not missed anything, Mr. Speaker.
– An honorable member is entitled to be heard in silence, and continual interjections and audible conversation necessarily lead to disorder, which makes decorous debate absolutely impossible. . I ask honorable members to cease interjecting, and if they think it necessary to converse while another member is addressing the House, not to do so in such audible tones.
– I was endeavouring to say-
– But you must not say it.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) not to interrupt again.
– Why cannot the honorable member listen to what I have to say in silence?
– I ask the Prime Minister to address the Chair on the question before the House.
– The honorable member for Batman will make a very fine figure in hell when he is on the gridiron.
– Order ! If the Prime Minister will address the Chair instead of honorable members a great deal of trouble will be avoided.
– I rise to order. I desire you, sir, to request the right honorable gentleman to withdraw the unkindly suggestion that I would occupy a becoming and suitable place in the lower regions. I require those words to be withdrawn, as they are an unjust reflection on me and my constituents.’
– I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the words to which the honorable member for Batman objects.
– I withdraw the “gridiron “ or “hell,” whichever he thinks exigent, or I will withdraw both, although I do not see why the honorable member should take exception to a destiny which may be common to us all.
– Order! I ask the Prime Minister to keep to the question.
– I am going to keep-
– Order If the honorable member ‘ for Batman persists in interjecting I shall have to name him. I shall, however, give him an opportunity to apologize to the House for disobeying my directions.
– Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you wish me to apologize?
– Yes, I ask the honorable member to do so.
– I only spoke of-
– The honorable member interjected immediately after I called for order.
– If I did so, Mr. Speaker, I apologize.
– I ask the honorable member to cease interjecting.
Mr. Considine interjecting-
– Order! L name the honorable member for Barrier (Mr.
Considine) for disregarding the direction of the Chair, and I call upon the Prime Minister (Mt. Hughes) to take the necessary action.
– We have had enough of this- De Valera, Lenin, and Trotsky business, and can get on well without it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Before you insist on the Prime Minister taking the necessary action-
– Order ! order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– Before you ask the Prime Minister to take the necessary action I request you to deal with the Prime Minister in a similar manner and name him, because before you do that I shall not sit down. I have never seen a more beastly exhibition in this House.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports persists in his conduct I must request him to leave the Chamber.
Mr. Mathews continuing to address the Chair, and several other honorable merah erg interjecting,
– Order ! I have in vain requested the honorable member to resume his seat. I call upon the SerjeantatArms to remove the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) for disregarding my direction to resume his seat.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to name the Prime Minister.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) was escorted from the Chamber by the Serjeant-at-Arms.
– The question before the House is that the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) be suspended from the sittings of the House.
The House divided.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) declining to act as tellers-
The honorable member then withdrew.
Honorable members interjecting.
The amendment, I think, takes cognisance of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, because it says that the Government should arrange for the payment of the 5s. by cash and certificates, such certificates te be repayable in such instalments and at such periods as are recommended by the Central Wheat Board. To that I take no exception. The Central Wheat Board is a thoroughly representative body. On it are representatives of the four wheatproducing States of the Commonwealth. All sides and sections are represented, including the consumers. I want the consumers to realize that the Wheat Board does represent them. The farmers, of course, as is very proper, have representation. The Board is, therefore, a very representative body, and it is a proper body to intrust this matter to. But neither that nor any other representative body can go beyond th» financial resources of the Commonwealth. Inside of and subject to that, however, the Commonwealth and the States ought to strain every effort to pay every penny in cash that they can directly the wheat is at the railway sidings. The farmers of New South Wales, I think, suffered more during the recent drought than any other farmers did, and if we axe to make any distinction so far as cash is concerned, we should make it in favour of those who suffered most heavily. The amendment says that the Wheat Board shall decide that matter, and on that Board, as I have pointed out, all the wheatproducing States are represented. To that part of the amendment, therefore, I take no exception whatever. I ought to say that I see no prospect of being able to raise £40,000,000 before the end of January, but I shall be able to speak with more authority after the conferences that are to be held next week. I repeat that every effort ought to be made, and the financial resources of this country ought to be strained, in order to pay the last penny that is possible.
The second part of the amendment says that world’s parity ought to be paid for wheat used for local consumption. If the wheat crop fetches, on an average, 10s. a bushel, and amounts to 140,000,000 bushels, that will mean £70,000,000- a colossal sum. It will certainly be the first time in the history of Australia that wheat has fetched more than wool, despite the high price of wool. But we do not know, of course, what wheat will be worth in one month, six months, or nine months’ time, although we hope it will remain at that level. The amendment says that London parity or world’s parity ought to be paid for local wheat, and asks that the Government shall do nothing to prevent it. I hope honorable members will follow me while I put the position quite clearly. The Government were returned upon a policy clear and unambiguous upon that point. I said, not once, but many times, that we would do nothing to prevent the ‘farmer getting world’s parity for his wheat, whether it was sold here or elsewhere. To that we stand.
The amendment, however, has been moved, and I am called upon to express an opinion upon it. I am asked whether I agree that we should make every effort to pay to the utmost of our ability the 5s. per bushel in cash and certificates. My answer is that the Government is prepared to do so. I am asked, further, whether I am in favour of the Commonwealth doing nothing to prevent, the producer obtaining export parity for all wheat, whether sold within or beyond the Commonwealth. I am also in favour of that, so that I can vote for the amendment. I am, nevertheless, sorry it has been moved, since I am perfectly certain that it will handicap our negotiations and render them somewhat difficult. The amendment having been launched, it is not for me to suggest that it should be withdrawn. I regret that it has been moved, but if a division is called for T shall vote for it.
I want only to point out, in conclusion, what an. important bearing the local price of wheat has on the question of the guarantee. It will take, let us say, 30,000,000 bushels of wheat to feed Australia, and at 10s. per bushel, if that is to be the price, that represents £15,000,000: Then there is the seed wheat, as well as the margin that we must keep over and above the bare quantity required for home consumption. If we put that down at 5,000.000 bushels, we thus have £20,000,000 worth, of wheat to be sold inside Australia, assuming that we pay 30s. per bushel for it. That is a very material consideration, and the sooner we can settle what is to be the local price of wheat the sooner we shall ‘be in a position to say how much money we can give to the farmers for their wheat in January next.
I have nothing more to add. I am sorry the amendment has been moved, not because of what it contains, but because it anticipates the conferences which must necessarily be held, and some of these gentlemen may resent the attempt to direct them and to anticipate what they can do. If the amendment is pressed to a division, the Government will support it.
.- I am delighted that this amendment has been moved, and am pleased to have the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that if it is pressed to a division he will support it. I conclude from that statement that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) may possibly withdraw it. I quite agree with the demand for world’s parity. I always did. Ii is a sound principle. When I see a nigger working on a boat for the world’s parity, I want that parity for myself. T therefore, can see no reason why we on this side of the House should vote against the amendment. The honorable member for Dampier wins my admiration when, as an ardent supporter of the ‘ farming interests, he submits such a proposition. The Prime Minister, of course, objects to it because it does not emanate from the Government. As I do not come from a wheat-growing district, I know nothing about the subject, and do not profess to know anything about it. Some honorable members on both sides of the Chamber, I understand, are familiar with it ; but, as a rule, those who know the least about any matter have the most to say in regard to it. That will doubtless account for the direction from which the amendment has come. It comes from the honorable member for Dampier just as appropriately as it would come from me a.j the representative of Brunswick brickyards..
It is suggested that this motion of censure has been submitted by the Labour party because they are trying to catch the farmers’ vote. Of course, our party could not have been actuated by national considerations in moving it! It must have been put forward for some bass ulterior motive ; otherwise such a party as ours would not have moved it. The amendment comes from the Country party - the genuine representatives of the farming interests.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad the honorable member applauds me. The Country party could have no greater testimonial to their genuineness than my affirmation of it. I desire only to point out that, although they were so unanimous and solid the other evening, we have now a fresh division of interests on their part. Apparently the members of the Country party, who are going to fall back in this attack on the Government, are the very honorable members who led the onslaught against them in connexion with the Estimates last week.
– It is their turn to fall away.
– Yes. The other evening when the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) led his gallant little army forward in an attack on the Government, some members of his party were so deaf that they could not hear the division bells ring. Apparently to-day some other members of the party are to be afflicted with deafness, and will not hear the bells. To-day it is the honorable member for Dampier who leads the attack really on behalf of the Government.
– It does not matter if they all vote, as long as they do not vote together.
– Quite so. Their one object at this juncture is to save the Government. I am just as anxious to save them as is the honorable member for Dampier. If the Prime Minister can advance to me some sound reasons about the motion, just as he did to the honorable member for Dampier, he will find me quite as open to conviction, and just as ready to extend to him the same consideration.
What are these cohorts that have been moving backwards and forwards, and in and out of the chamber? To what are we to attribute the sudden absence from the chamber of certain honorable members during the last few hours? What was the reason for the invitation to members of this party and that party to go out for a few minutes ? Why were one or two honorable members of the Corner party keeping guard in the House during the absence of others? Why do they come along now ? Why these demonstrations by the Prime Minister? All these things are but mere party moves on the political stage. For the real things that matter no one cares a “ continental.” The one consideration is that our positions shall be .preserved. I do not care how honorable members vote or what they do. If I think the safety of the Government is endangered I, too,, will be stone deaf when the division bells ring. All I ask is that I be given fair warning. I beg honorable members opposite not to take me unaware, since, if they do, I may be here to record my vote when, the division is taken.
The amendment provides that world’s parity shall be paid for all wheat, including that sold for consumption in Australia. It comes from the representative of a Western Australian constituency. The farmers of that State are to-day receiving, for the most part, good prices for their products. They have received from the State of Western Australia £1,000,000 of public money, and they have been granted far more concessions in every direction than has any other section of the community. They have been a favoured and privileged class so far as the people of Western Australia are concerned. But where is the soundness of the principle of the world’s parity? Take the case of a man who has no money behind him and who goes out into the country, tills the soil, and produces nothing. Does he want the world’s parity? Why, he could not exist for a single week without help from the community. Does the farmer want the world’s parity when wheat is only 2s. 6d. per bushel? He does not want it then.
– He has to take it.
– He should not take it if he does not want it. Does he want the world’s parity at that hour ?
– He has to take it.
– Then let him take it all the time. But he wants to take it when the world’s pric.es are high and not when the world’s prices are low.
– The world’s parity always did apply to the farmers’ products when prices were low.
– It did not apply at the beginning of the war.
– No. When the world’s prices are low the farmer always receives large concessions from the States. They want the world’s parity only at this particular hour when the world’s prices are high. Nobody will be more determined to fly from the principle of the world’s parity next year if the world’s prices are low than will the farmers themselves.
– The honorable member’s party did not bring forward a proposal to give the farmer a fair price for his produce when the price overseas was not fair.
– I have no objection to the amendment, but why interpolate it at this particular moment for the mere purpose of wiping out the original motion? The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is inviting us to vote for his amendment in order that members of the Country party may escape from their obligation to vote for the original motion. But they ought not to forget that at some other time their own argument in favour of the farmer receiving the world’s parity for his products will be used against them.
.- Between 8 and 8.30 o’clock last evening I was informed by the Government Whip that the Ministry intended to continue the debate upon my motion until a division was taken upon it. Less than two hours later, the Honorary Minister (Mr. Rodgers) commenced to make a long speech. When he had been speaking twenty minutes, I thought that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was urging him to cut it short, in order that we might get to a division. But instead of doing that, I learn that he was suggesting to the honorable gentleman that he should ask leave to continue his speech. Why? The reason is given in the Age of to-day. Long before the honorable member for Dampier moved his amendment, that journal knew exactly what was going to happen. It says -
It is probable that the Country party will move an amendment to-day to the censure motion before the House. A meeting of the party was held last night, and certain plans were discussed for the framing of an amendment that would prove acceptable to the Government and at the same time enable the members of the Farmers party to save their face and escape the trap set for them by the Labour Opposition’. It was the Government’s knowledge of this proposal, and the fact that an understanding had been practically arrived at on the matter between the Country party and the Government, that the debate on the no-confidence motion was adjourned so abruptly at a comparatively early hour last night. Before this understanding was reached, it was the intention to carry the motion to a division without a further adjournment, even though it might have been necessary for the House to sit all night. The Country party is to meet at 10.30 a.m. to-day to finally decide upon its plan of action. It was stated last night that members of the Farmers party favoured the Government issuing to wheat-growers bonds for the amount represented by the difference between the first advance payment on wheat delivered at country sidings and the 5s. a bushel guaranteed by the Government. These bonds, it is suggested, could be made use of as securities, hut would nOt be redeemable until the wheat sold was paid for by the purchasers.
Every word of that is accurate. There is not an honorable member in this chamber who will not admit that it was intended to take a division upon my motion last night. But the debate Upon it was abruptly adjourned. By the way, my forecast of the result of the Victorian elections yesterday was not very far wrong. I predicted that the Nationalists would lose some seats and that the Labour party would gain’ some.
– Assuming that every word which the honorable member has read be true, what is wrong about it? .
– I will deal with that matter presently.
Everybody knows that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Dampier would never have been moved if I had not submitted my motion of no-confidence in the Government. In other words, the amendment is a mere afterthought. The honorable member for Dampier will admit that.
– If no traps were set, political tactics would not be necessary.
– My motion was not a trap. In moving it yesterday, I said that I was anxious to get to a vote, and I deliberately limited my remarks to less than half-an-hour, in order that we might have a short, sharp debate upon it. The long speeches have come from honorable members on the other side of the chamber. Honorable members who vote against my motion are not in favour of paying 5s. per bushel cash to the farmers for their wheat. I am now speaking to the amendment, because I do not intend to exercise my right of reply upon the original motion.
Yesterday the Prime Minister made a deliberate misstatement regarding the Inter-State executive of the Labour party which has been meeting in Melbourne.
– That is pretty strong language. The honorable member says that the Prime Minister made a deliberate misstatement.
– Order!1 The honorable member for Yarra must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it. When I called the Prime Minister’s attention to his statement, he admitted that he was wrong. The statement to which I refer reads -
The question, they were told, was to be decided by inquiry. Inquiry by whom? The farmers? Members opposite asked the farmers to refer the price pf wheat to a jury composed only of consumers.
There has never been any suggestion of that character made by any honorable member upon this side of the chamber or by any responsible member of the Labour organization. .Any inquiry ought to be representative of all sides - not like the Butter Board, with its eighteen producers and no consumers; or the Bureau, of Commerce and Industry, with all the members from one side. Such a method has never been adopted by the Labour party.
– The honorable member is absolutely incorrect, so far as the Butter Board is concerned.
– There are no consumers’ representatives on it.
– There are.
– Why, I placed all the names on record before the honorable member came to this House.
– If the honorable member is as incorrect in all his statements as he is in this-
– I placed on record the name of every person on the Butter Board, and there is not a consumer amongst them. When the Prime Minister stated that we desired the inquiry to be made by consumers only, he was stating what is absolutely incorrect; not a member of the organization to which I belong has ever made such a suggestion.
– He means that everybody is a consumer.
– At that rate, any man from a boot factory could be accepted as a representative on a Board to inquire into the price of boots, on the ground that he wears boots ; or a hatter, in the case of a hatter, because he wears hats. Every inquiry set afoot by the Labour party is made by representatives of all the parties interested. I trust that in the vote on my motion the farmer will be given a fair deal.
– I move -
That the question be now put.
– That is unnecessary, the Leader of the Opposition having replied.
– I am placed in rather a. peculiar position, and I should like the matter made clear.
– I was not replying on the motion, but speaking to the amendment.
– It has always been held thai any speech made after an amendment has been moved must be taken as applying to both amendment and motion.
– I did not think that I was closing the debate, or I certainly should not have spoken. If I had been closing the debate, there was no need for the Treasurer to move the “gag.” He, evidently, did not think I was closing the debate.
– I intended to oppose the amendment, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and myself rose at the same time. The Leader of the Opposition was called upon, and if his speech closesthe debate, I am prevented from opposing the amendment.
– I regret the position in which the honorable member finds himself, but it is the practice, when the Leader of a party and an honorable member rise at the same time, to call on the former.
– May I raise a point of order ?
– There is no point of order.
– Then, may I make a personal explanation ? Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) followed me after I had moved the motion, and he to-day spoke to the amendment. If it be held that my speaking to the amendment closes the debate, such a ruling has never been given before. I feel confident that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) himself did not think that I was closing the debate, or he would not have desired to move “ That the question be now put.” I am sure that no one can say that I have ever been guilty of sharp practice in this House; and I remind honorable members that in the course of my remarks just now I said I was speaking to the amendment, and did not intend to speak in reply on the original motion.
– The honorable member’s closing remarks applied to the original motion.
– I said that, in order to save time, I had no intention to reply on the motion; and I trust that any honorable member who desires to speak will be given an opportunity to do so.
– I am afraid it is too late now. The invariable practice has been, after an amendment has been moved, to regard all those who speak as speaking to both motion and amendment. This is the established rule. The point was decided by my predecessors in the chair.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– I submit that the honorable member cannot speak now.I move -
That the question be now put.
– I submit that the right honorable gentleman should have moved “ That the honorable member for Calare be no longer heard.”
– The Treasurer is quite in order in moving “ That the question be now put.”
– Even while the honorable member for Calare was on his feet, and without moving” That the honorable member be no longer heard “ ?
– Yes. The standing order is very definite and mandatory. The question is, “ That the question be now put.”
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The House divided.
Majority … . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the motion, as amended, be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That the Government, having guaranteed the producer 5s. per bushel at sidings for this season’s wheat, should arrange for payment of same on delivery by cash and certificates, such certificates to be repayable in such instalments and at such periods as recommended by the Central Wheat Board; and in the opinion of this House nothing should be done that will prevent the producer from receiving export parity for all wheat, including wheat for home consumption.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That intervening Orders of the Day, Government Business, be postponed until after the consideration of Notices of Motion Nos. 1 and 2.
.- Is this motion debatable matter, Mr. Speaker ?
– I cannot say; but the motion can be debated.
– Very well; I wish to oppose the motion. This is not the time, after a very strenuous day, to introduce new measures.
– I am not going to discuss them.
– But look at all the business you are trying to put off.
– It seems to me that this would be a convenient time to adjourn.
– I consulted the Leader of the Opposition.
– I understand it is the Prime Minister’s desire to postpone Orders of the Day in order to deal with Notices of Motion Nos. 1 and 2. Let me see what they are. No. 1 is that the Prime Minister have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Treaty of Peace Act 1919 ; and No. 2, that he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to give effect to the Treaties of Peace with Austria and Bulgaria.
– All I want to do is to put the Bills on the table, and then you can do what you like.
– It would be premature for me to discuss the Treaty of Peace, although I would like to express a few thoughts upon that subject, about which 1 feel somewhat strongly; and I certainly would like to protest against the long delay in promulgating peace with Austria and Bulgaria. But if it would be irrelevant to the present motion to .do so, I can only say that, while this is neither the time nor the hour for the introduction of new and very grave measures of international importance
– The honorable member was against the war, and now he is against the peace !
– Why not agree, and let me put the Bills on the table?
– If I am to understand that the Prime Minister gives a pledge not to go any further, I am inclined not to press my opinion at this stage; although I realize his past attitude generally towards pledges, and it must not be taken that I allow the Bills to be placed on the table without prejudice to my rights when the matter comes before us at a later stage.
.- I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) speak in this manner. Nothing disheartens me more than to hear the ardent pacifist of yesterday at this particular hour objecting to the pacific intentions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who was not always the pacifist ha is at this moment. I am a supporter and a member of the same party as the honorable member for Batman, and I have endeavoured to instil into him some of those eloquent notions with which I have identified myself. Now. sir, there is on the stocks a measure dealing with the Treaty of Peace made during the year 1919. Apparently, the honorable member for Batman does not know anything about the terms of that Treaty, or that there was a Treaty of Peace in 1919. . Is he aware that in that year peace was settled for the Prime Minister at the very moment when he was trying to spread discord in this community?
– Tell us about the oilpainting outside.
– That is the finest work of art we possess. It is an emblem of peace. It puts me in mind of Rembrandt’s “Night Watchman.” I understand it is very important that these measures should be introduced; that they should be laid on the table at once. Does not the Prime Minister think he has “ laid “ enough to-day ? Does he think it is absolutely imperative he should lay these Bills on the table at this particular hour ?
– Don’t you want to make peace with Bulgaria?
– Yes ; I do.
– Then let me make peace with Bulgaria, and let us go home.
– But you do not want to make peace with any one else. Very well. If there are any honorable members in this chamber who can advance any more cogent arguments than I have advanced, I shall resume my seat.
.- I oppose the motion, and I may say that, after having been “ gagged “ so successfully by the Government on two occasions on one evening, I do not intend to be so treated again if I can help it. There’ are a great many items of business on the notice-paper which may fairly be said to be of considerable public importance. ‘But there is’ nothing more important than the introduction of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, which, when it has been introduced, will give the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) an opportunity - at the proper stage - to move his contingent amendment. Had that Bill been introduced earlier, and had the honorable member’s amendment been agreed to, we could not have had the discussion which has occupied the past two days concerning the financing of the Government’s wheat guarantee; and we would not have had the spectacle of honorable members in the Corner, who claim to represent the farmers, moving an amendment to the motion of censure, which gave the Government a way out, and which was intended at the same time to provide a way out for the Country party.
– The honorable member is quite out of order. He is discussing the motion of censure which is already disposed of by a vote of the House.
– I consider thatI am in order in endeavouring to prove how necessary-
Mr. Laird Smith interjecting,
– Why cannot you keep quiet? I never “ratted” like you did.
– Order !
– I have got your history, and can give it here.
– Does the Minister threaten me? I am not afraid of anything he can say.
– Order ! If the honorable member is not prepared to discuss the motion, I must direct him to resume his seat.
– I will discuss it if I am given the chance; but at the same time I want to say that the allegations of the Minister for the Navy will not go down with me. He cannot threaten me. He says he has got my history. I, at any rate, have never “ ratted.” I have always been true to Labour and its principles.
– Order ! As the honorable member persists in discussing irrelevant matters, he will please resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom for Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Treaty of Peace Act 1910.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom for Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to carry into effect the Treaties of Peace with Austria and Bulgaria.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Case of Kean v. Kekby.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked me if I would lay upon the table of the House copy of the terms of the judgment delivered in the case of Kean v. Kerby, arising out of the Ballarat election. I lay that judgment on the table, together with a memorandum of the Chief Electoral Officer, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring under your notice, sir, the ill-lighting of this chamber. It is such as to be very trying to one’s eyes. I do not know how these splendid officers of the House, both the clerics and the members of the Hansard staff, contrive to carry on their work at the table. I have been compelled to use a stronger pair of glasses than usual, and I certainly think something ought to be done to improve the lighting.
– I will call the attention of the engineer to the matter. I myself have noticed very serious defects in the lighting of various parts of this building, and have already drawn attention to those conditions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201022_reps_8_94/>.