8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 . p.m., and read prayers.
Bill reserved for the signification of His
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Ordinance of 1920 - No. 9 - Supreme Court.
Public Service Act - List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service as on 30th June, 1920.
Mr. CORSER presented the second report of the Printing Committee, which was read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
-Re the Federal Capital, in the event of Mr. Griffin declining to act except in his present capacity of Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction, or to agree to a proposition that he should merely advise departmental officers and other gentlemen who may be appointed on a Committee, when required to do so, without any executive standing or authority - under the Minister - of his own, will the Minister say how failure in interpretation or mutilation of design, or substitution shall be prevented, and how the adequacy and beauty of Australia’s Capital can be safeguarded by men who cannot be conver sant with Mr. Griffin’s thought and purpose?
– When the contingency to which the honorable member refers arises, it will be time to address myself to that problem.
– As we are approaching the season in which the beautiful sentiment of peace on earth and good will towards men is the spirit which should actuate us, will the Prune Minister make a supreme effort to avert the industrial disaster that threatens Australia in connexion with an award under his Industrial Peace Act? The matter is very serious, and the outlook for a merry Christmas is for manypeople very black indeed.
– No one realizes better than I do what may follow if a modus vivendi is not found. I have endeavoured to secure it by making representations to both parties, but have failed. I do not know what more I can do. Yesterday afternoon the honorablemember for Batman (Mr. Brennan) made an interjection which I did not catch at the time, but the reading of which furnished me with a few moments’ entertainment this morning. He said that what has occurred is the result of abolishing the Arbitration Court. I do not know whether we are to assume that the remark was an effort of humour on his part.
– By no means.
– Well, it is not true that the Arbitration Court has been abolished. The Court is in existence, and much more efficiently equipped for its work now than ever it was before. Further, the honorable member and other members know that the miners have declined point-blank to go to that Court, and have held to that position for the last four years, whether rightly or wrongly it is not for me to say. It was because of their refusal to go to the Arbitration Court that the Industrial Peace Bill was introduced. I have only to add that under the Industrial Peace Act there is less opportunity for the employment of lawyers, of whom my honorable friend is one, than under the arbitration legislation.Perhaps he has an interjection to make in regard to that.
– Interjections are disorderly.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement in last night’s Melbourne Herald that the Government have been for some time in. possession of the report of the Basic Wage Commission, and that the minimum wage recommended is £5 5s. per week? Will the right honorable gentleman say whether that report is accurate or inaccurate?
– Confining myself to the correct and proper expression permissible in this Assembly, I say that the report is inaccurate; I might say more.
Royal Australian Navy Officers
– Will the Minister for the Navy obtain and furnish to the House particulars of the results obtained by Royal Australian Navy junior officers and midshipmen in a recent examination held by the Admiralty in the United Kingdom for junior naval officers and midshipmen and their relative positions ?
– I shall be glad to look into the matter, and, if possible, shall furnish the information asked for.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
– The answers bo the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
War Service Medal
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What steps, if any, and with what result, have been taken with reference to the request of the Mercantile Marine War Service Association of Australasia in the matter of the distribution of the King’s Medal to the mercantile marine ?
– The framing of regulations governing the issue of the British War Medal and Mercantile Marine Medal to officers and men who served at sea in merchant ships for a stated period during the war is now receiving attention, and full particulars will shortly be made public.
Statements to the Press.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Permanent naval and military officers are prohibited from making any statement to or for the press or by speaking or in writing to comment upon any matters of public policy, naval, military, or civil.
This applies to all ranks of the per manent forces.
Could every officer in your branch be made acquainted with the Prime Minister’s order, please?
If so, what is the object of same?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commission advises as follows: -
Dealings in Scrip - Sale of Flour to Egypt.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the speculation in wheat scrip in New South Wales and Victoria,’ and the widespread loss that must result from the overbooming of scrip in alleged insolvent or almost insolvent, “ Pools,” will he furnish answers to the following questions: -
Are not the A, B, and C Pools of New South Wales insolvent?
If not, what amounts, if any, can A, B, and C scrip pay?
– The Australian Wheat Board is concerned in the realization only of the exportable surplus if the States. These proceeds are apportioned amongst the States in relation to their exportable quantities. All local sales are made by the States, which keep a complete account of the various Pools, and alone are able to estimate what the ultimate total realization of each Pool will be. As each State Office determines upon the amount which may be paid to the growers, it makes application to the Australian Wheat Board to arrange for the provision of funds.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Egyptian Government will have its own representation in Australia, and will pass the flour before shipment.
asked the Minister for
Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
” Save the Children “ Fund.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government, in view of the appalling and widespread distress in Central Europe, proposes to immediately make available £500,000 for the “Save the Children” fund?
– In response to a request received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, an appeal for funds in support of the fund for the alleviation of distress in Central Europe, was promulgated by the GovernorGeneral through the public press of Australia in June last. It is understood that this task of raising money in Australia for the starving children of Europe has already been undertaken by the “ Save the Children Fund,’’ the Australian Headquarters of which are 450 Lonsdalestreet, Melbourne. Under the circumstances no action on the part of the Government seems necessary.
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Importations and Local Manufacture
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Price of Wheat for Home Consumption
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I would be lacking in my duty as a public man if, with the knowledge in my possession, I did not direct attention to the great urgency and public importance of requesting a reconsideration of the price at which it is proposed to sell wheat in Australia for home consumption. This price, which is stated to be 9s. per bushel, is the very essence of injustice–
– To whom?
– To the people, and the height of unwisdom and folly to those in whose special interests it is supposed to be fixed. I am glad to observe that the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Storey) in the State House last Tuesday stated that 9s. was not necessarily to be the figure, but that it was a maximum beyond which the price should not go.
-It is the maximum and the minimum.
– Mr. Storey’s statement will allay a great deal of uneasiness.
A proper basis for the price of wheat. I have in my possession a memorial submitted to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), from which I propose to read the following: -
Melbourne, 6th March, 1918.
To the Prime Minister of Australia.
Memorial from the Australian Farmers Federal Organization, in which is incorporated the Farmers and Settlers Associations of Australia.
From time to time our ears have been tickled by economic principles laid down by you, and none more so than the one enunciated when you were dealing with the recent coal strike, in November last, and which we now call to your memory: - “ I hope that, in the interest of the country, as well as of the industry, a settlement when it is arrived at will be a settlement that must leave the industry in a position to carry on its business which, with that reasonable margin of profit which every industry is entitled to, while giving to the men of all classes those reasonable conditions which they are entitled to, will at the same time protect the general interests of the country.”
These principles we thoroughly indorse, and urge their application to the wheat industry, and on their realization the wheat farmers of Australia will fervently repeat the words: “ Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer.”
Formula submitted by the Labour Conference of New South Wales. In New South Wales I submitted the following to the Country Section of the 1918 Labour Conference, which was accepted and afterwards adopted by the Conference and became the policy of the party in that State.
– A country section?
– The Country Section met and adopted this policy, which was afterwards adopted, at its recommendation, by the general Conference: -
Australian Labour party, State of New South Wales.
Policy for the handling, financing, and marketing of Australian grain as adopted by the Annual Conference, New South Wales, June, 1918.
I will read those portions which affect the price for local consumption -
The price of wheat for home consumption in Australia shall be ascertained by an investigation in each State, and thereafter upon an average of the result of those investigations based upon the following: - (a)The average cost of working a living area sized farm in each State over a period of five years prior to the first fixation of price, and that such cost be kept up-to-date from year to year thereafter.
Provided, however, that in any case where a contract of sale for export wheat has not been effected, the payment to the farmer shall be upon delivery as beforementioned, an amount equal to the price fixed for home consumption, with a further payment equal to the balance of the sale effected, for export, less cost of administration, as soon as the contract of sale has been made.
A further provision was made -
That the price of wheat for home consumption be fixed at 5s. per bushel pending the results of the investigation referred to in paragraph 10.
This scheme was submitted by me also to the executive of the Federal Labour party organization and has been adopted.
Having searched the records of policy speeches and manifestoes of both the Nationalists and the so-called Country party, I could find no reference or warrant for either world parity or a high price for wheat for home consumption.
The first announcement upon this matter is by the Prime Minister, a report of whose remarks was contained in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 16th September. 1919. The right honorable gentleman stated that the farmers were to get the world parity price for all export wheat; but it was laid down especially that this did not cover wheat consumed inside Australia.
I have looked through the statements issued by the Country Party, and there is no reference in its manifestoes either to world parity for local consumption or to a high price for wheat for local consumption. The attack made by the farmers’ representatives on the price of wheat was directed to the securing of world parity for all export wheat, and there has been no statement made by that party in its electioneering manifestoes with reference to a high price for wheat for local consumption.
The Federal Labour party, in issuing its manifesto to the people, made the following pronouncement : -
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 1020-21 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.
In New South Wales a definite policy was announced by the present Premier (Mr. Storey), at Mudgee, in August, 1919. I regard the delivery of that policy speech as of very great importance. It was made in the presence of the Minister of Agriculture, in his own electorate, at the opening of his own campaign. The occasion was also the opening of the campaign of the Labour party in New South Wales. The speech was reported in the Mudgee Guardian of the 28th August, 1919, as follows: -
Meeting at the Town Hall.
The Labour Policy Outlined.
Bolshevism and the Extremists Repudiated.
Labour Position Now as Always.
Its Attitude Towards the Farmers’ Interests.
There was a very large gathering in the Town Hall on Monday night, when Mr. Storey set himself out to outline and explain the policy and proposals of the State Labour party, which is also His Majesty’s Opposition in the State Parliament. The hall was filled in every part, and amongst those present were several ladies.
The chair was occupied by the Mayor (Alderman C. Knight), and with Mr. Storey on the platform were Captain W. F. Dunn, M.L.A. (Mudgee), and Mr. J. Birt, M.L.A. (Paddington), and several members of the Mudgee Labour League.
I shall now quote the part of the report which refers especially to wheat production : -
We propose to establish a rural bank, with power to issue bonds against rural mortgages. Facilities will be provided to enable debtors to the Lands Department to transfer their liabilities to this bank. We shall also provide technical and financial assistance to establish State Rural Bank co-operative credit societies for the purpose of making short-period loans.
We propose to especially encourage wheat production by guaranteeing a minimum price, to be paid in full upon delivery. For home consumption the price will be based upon the cost of production, plus a reasonable margin, the amount to be determined after full inquiry. This will be the cash price paid upon delivery. All export realizations will be divided in addition. Until these inquiries are completed, the amount of 5s. per bushel will be paid upon delivery of the wheat.
Upon all Boards or Commissions administering the sale or storage of wheat, adequate representation will be provided to producer and consumer, encouraging those most directly concerned to share responsibility for determining price, arranging storage, and marketing the product.
We originated the idea of building silos. If we had had them four years ago, there would not have been the awful waste of wheat that there has been.
That statement of policy which has been expanded and issued in pamphlet form was published broadcast throughout New South Wales in August, 1919, and at the succeeding Federal election the Labour party captured the representation of practically the whole of the wheat belt in that State. On this very policy the State Labour party also captured the representation of nearly the whole of the electorates in the wheat belt of New South Wales. This is the policy on which those men were elected, or, at all events, it did not prevent sufficient support from reaching them to insure their election.
Here is an announcement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and published in the Daily Telegraph of 16th September, 1919 -
The producer is entitled to the world’s parity on all exportable surplus products. This refers to the price outside Australia, not inside.
One of the members of a deputation that waited on the Prime Minister on the matter after that announcement was the present Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), who stated that “the producers were entitled to the world’s price for its exportable surplus.”
I have been for many years an advocate of farmers’ interests in the councils of my party, as well as in the Federal Parliament; but I cannot conceive of an undue and unwarrantable price being fixed for Australia’s daily bread. I should be wanting in my duty if I did not protest against a price being fixed which I think is entirely outside and beyond the reasonable pledges which the Labour movement has made to the farmers and the consumers of the farmers’ products.
Evidence of cost of production. I propose to submit evidence from widespread authentic and official sources providing a sound and proper basis for the price of wheat for home consumption. It will be noted that most of these costs were made up during the drought years, and certainly by those who would make allowance for all contingencies: -
That, in order to maintain stability in the wheat-growing industry, and to check a possible tendency to convert wheat-growing lands into purely pastoral areas, we consider that a guaranteed price should be provided over a period at least covering such time as war conditions prevail. For this purpose, we think that the present guarantee of 4s. per bushel, f.o.b., should continue for such period..
The statistics showing the yields for the past ten years, inclusive of 1916, indicate a State average of 11.44 bushels per acre, at an average price at rail of about 3s. 4d.
If a further 2d. per bushel is deducted from the average price received for the middleman’s profit, it might appear - seeing that wheat production has been extended -that wheat, on the yearly average, has been produced at a rate of 3s. 2d. per bushel, or 36s. 6d. per acre, in the. case of a farmer applying his efforts to his own holding; and that, in the case of a sharefarmer working on the halves, that he has done the actual work of cultivating and harvesting from the whole area, and the cost of marketing his own share, at about 18s. 3d. per acre.
Honorable members will see that the community, whilst taking a responsibility in connexion with the guaranteeing of a minimum price, must not be discouraged by any rapacious attempt on the part of us farmers to obtain more than we are legitimately entitled to. I think that in so acting we would only be destroying our hope of the development of the big principles which are exemplified in the pooling scheme, and. from which, notwithstanding its many defects in administration, we as a class have benefited immeasurably. It must be apparent to anybody that if we were to insist upon 4s. per bushel being guaranteed to the grower, and the price were to go back even to the averageprice obtained by us in normal times, the community would be called upon - with a £40,000,000 crop such as we had in 1915-16 - to face a deficit of anything from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000. I am sure that the common sense of the farmers will not allow their cause to be placed in such an untenable position. Whilst it is the most difficult thing in the world to get even a number of practical farmers to agree as to what the actual cost of wheat production is, yet we know to what extent the wheat industry flourished before the war and what prices were obtained. Whilst I quite agree with many of my class that it is easy to show that under existing conditions - with all the requisites to farming work so dear and with the cost piling up in every direction - we require a tremendous price per bushel to grow wheat, still the average farmer will be content to make his calculation on average conditions and not to put forward demands based upon abnormal conditionswhich would prove the industry to be utterly unprofitable. The average price which farmers in New South Wales received for their wheat for the ten years immediately preceding the war was 3s. 81/2d. f.o.b. That, it was calculated, was equal, on the average, to about 3s. 4d. per bushel on rail; and, as the average crop was under 12 bushels to the acre, a great number of farmers managed, at all events, to live when they obtained an even lower price. Having regard to the fact that out of that return of 3s. 4d. per bushel on rail the cost of road cartage - which, on the average, would amount to from 2d. to 3d. per bushel - as well as the cost of bags, twine, and farm implements, which represented no inconsiderable sum, had to be provided, it must be apparent that wheat-growers were actually producing wheat on the farm for about 2s. 9d. per bushel. In many instances the net return was even less. I do not say it was a payable price. It was not. Then, again, a large proportion of that wheat was produced by share farmers, so that the actual work of tillage - the putting in and taking off of the crop - without the attendant expenses of marketing - was done on the average by such men for less than1s. 6d. per bushel. While it was not a payable price, we, nevertheless, made much progress in wheat-farming during those years. Failures were many, and if the present abnormal prices for all farming requisites continue, I dare say failures will be numberless.
– Who made that statement?
- Mr. Lynch, exmember for Werriwa.
– In view of that statement, I can well understand why he is not in this Parliament to-day.
– He has been replaced by a Labour man, who won his seat on the Labour policy which I have quoted.
Operations Necessary in Producing Wheat.
These may vary according to class of soil, season, and, in some cases, the exigencies of other necessary work at a time most favorable to any particular operation.
Under average conditions, however, they would include -
All these items of cost are irrespective of the yield, but to deliver at railway the cost of bags and the cartage have to be added. Bags at the present cost about 10s. per dozen landed at the farm, or 31/3d. per bushel, while cartage is usually assessed at1d. per bag per mile, or 2d. per bushel for 6 miles. Receiving charges at rail and freight to seaboard at present amount to 7d. per bushel, but this, of course, is a war-time charge.
Cost of Production per Bushel.
This can only be ascertained on the actual yields of any particular farm. As already stated, misleading deductions are drawn when State averages, are quoted, inasmuch as the low yields in some districts are due to unsuitability of soil or climate, or injudicious methods of farming. The average for the State for the past ten years has been about 111/2 bushels, and it is safe to say that the Average yield from typical wheat land on unfallowed land has been nearer 13 bushels. Departmental experience has shown that the return from fallowed land, well cultivated, sown with graded and pickled seed, and supplied with superphosphate, has been at least half as much again as the State average, and this would bring the average estimated yield from land so treated to at least 17 or 18 bushels per acre.
On the basis of £2 2s. 8d. to cover cost of production and rent, with an assumed 17-bushel yield, the cost per bushel is a fraction over 2s. 6d. Add to this 31/3d. for bags, 2d. for cartage, and 7d. for receiving charges and freight, the cost is 3s. 61/2d.per bushel.
That is specially significant in view of the fact that the same formula was adopted nearly two years afterwards by the farmers themselves.
The Harden branch of the F. and S. Association recently considered and drew up a scale of fair costs of wheat cultivationin that district. Here it is -
To this must be added cartage to railway station and cost of bags.
It will be seen that two years afterwards, approximately the same formula of costs, within a penny, was put forward by the Agricultural Department. Harden is an important centre in the Great Southern wheat belt of New South Wales.
Stock or Wheat? government attitude.
Committee to Investigate
In response to the Government’s invitation to a conference to consider “ a scheme for the expansion of the live stock industry in place of wheat-growing,” about 200 representatives, those directly and indirectly associated with various phases of the industries concerned, attended yesterday afternoon at Parliament House. Among the organizations represented were the Graziers Association, Farmers and Settlers Association, Primary Producers Union, Sheep-breeders Association, Stock-owners Association, Wheat-shippers Association, Dairy Farmers Association, Pastures Protection Boards Council of Advice, the Department of Agriculture, the Commonwealth Advisory Council of Science and Industry, the State Wheat Board, and the Primary Industries Development League. - Daily Telegraph, 23rd January, 1918.
At that Conference Mr. W. G. Ashford, Minister of Lands for New South Wales, presided, and made the following statement, which evoked no dissent: -
We were told that the guarantee must be increased to 4s. 6d, or 5s. if the smaller men were to live.
In the Daily Telegraph of 30th January, 1918, it is reported that the Committee which was to report to the Government on the question had carried a motion that the wheat-grower be granted 5s. f.o.b. on delivery.
The growers and primary producers’ organizations asked for a guarantee of 5s. for three years from the 1st January, 1918.
It has cost these men at least 3s. 6d. per bushel on an average to produce their crops and deliver them on the railway, so that for their three years of toil and labour the bulk of them have not had one penny for themselves, unless they choose to sacrifice their wheat scrip for a few pence per bushel - forced to do so to meet their accounts to storekeepers and others.
He is there referring to the fact that they have not received a square deal from the Wheat Pool-
Admitting that a small percentage of wheatgrowers have been lucky men, owing to getting exceptional yields of 20 to 30 bushels to the acre in proximity to railhead, thereby reducing carriage charges by road, yet the bulk - 90 per cent. - have had to face the poorest financial returns ever known in the history of wheat-growing in this State.
The inevitable will result, and the bulk of the wheat-farmers in 1919 will close down on that branch of agriculture unless the Governments of Australia take a bold and definite stand and give a guarantee that at least 5s. a bushel will be paid in cash or its equivalent for every bushel of wheat delivered at port in
This price, after deducting about 41/4d. for railway freight and an average of about 4d. per bushel for road cartage to rail per bushel, means to the farmer about 4s. 3d. to 4s. 4d. net per bushel for his wheat at his barn in bags. This would give a profit to the farmer of about1s. per bushel on a 15 bushels to the acre crop, or 15s. per acre, after an outlay in costs of production of 45s. to 50s. per acre.
The farmers have to put up with the increased cost of living and production, but to date have not received an average of 3s. 6d. per bushel for the past three seasons’ wheat crops, which have cost them at least 4s. per bushel to produce.
That comes from the great North Western District - probably the centre of the north-western part of our wheat belt.
At Warracknabeal, on the Mallee fringe, the average results for the eight years 1912- 1919 show that the net profit per acre, after paying for the cost of the manure, when1/2 cwt. of superphosphate was used, was 21s.1d.; when 1 cwt., it was 25s. per acre; and where 14 cwt. was used, it was 26s.11d. - wheat being valued at only 4s. per bushel.
At Longerenong College, on the black lands, a seven years’ average shows that 1 cwt. of superphosphate, costing 5s., gave an increase over the no-manure plot of6.78 bushels per acre, which, at 4s. per acre, is worth 27s. 101//2d., a net profit of 22s. 101/2d. When 2 cwt, was used, an increase of 8.5 bushels resulted in a net profit of 24s. to the acre.
Throughout the whole of that special number the references are all based on a cost of production of 4s. per bushel.
Commenting upon Mr. Watt’s references to the question of guarantees for future wheat crops, the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Oman) said last night that the guarantee of 4s. per bushel, f.o.b., for the 1918-19 crop was made at Bendigo by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and the States had loyally accepted their share of the responsibility for this guarantee. The Australian Wheat Board, at its last meeting, had passed a resolution in favour of 4s. 4d. per bushel, f.o.b., being guaranteed for the 1918-19 and 1919-20 crops.
The New South Wales Primary Producers Conference, held under the auspices of the Royal Agricultural Society, carried a resolution asking for the following payments to be made : - 5s. 9d. for the 1920 crop. 4s. 6d. for the 1920-21 crop. 4s. 9d. for the 1922-23 crop.
These payments were to be made at country railway stations.
Two matters affecting the next wheat harvest, namely, the question of the continuation of the pooling system and of the guarantee t) be given growers, were considered by the Federal Cabinet to-day. In a synopsis of the position, furnished later, the Acting Prime Minister stated that the Federal Farmers Organization had urged the continuance of the Pool under conditions practically identical with those already arranged. . . . The Government, however, were prepared, provided the States were’ willing to co-operate, to offer a guarantee for the coining year of 4s. 4d. a bushel, less freight from the port of delivery to the port of export. . . . The Government had every reason to believe the States would accept the proposals, and so assure the wheat-growers, if not a. highly remunerative, still a profitable return “from their labours.
We are faced in Australia at the present time with a bumper harvest; it may be our record harvest. These are the estimates :- New South Wales, 40,000,000 bushels; Victoria, 40,000,000 bushels; Queensland, 5,000,000 bushel; South Australia, 35,000,000 bushels; Western Australia, 10,000,000 ‘bushels; Tasmania, 500,000 bushels. Those are the estimates of. the Railway Departments, which are now busily engaged in trying to arrange for the transport of the wheat. I asked the ‘Commonwealth Statistician to-day if he could give me any information as to the wheat now being taken off, and I was told that the Department’s information was that there are approximately 9,000,000 acres under crop for wheat, and that the average yield would be about 14$ bushels to the acre, making the total crop for Australia 130,000,000 bushels.
Australian Annual Wheat Requirement. Australia requires 25,000,000 bushels of wheat for home consumption, and 10,000,000 bushels for seed purposes. It will be seen, therefore, that the production estimated for this current harvest is over four times the amount required for home consumption and for seed purposes.
Australia’s Bread Consumption. Approximately, 670,000,000 2-lb. loaves are consumed yearly by the people of Australia. At Id. per loaf, these cost £2,791,651. The price of bread in New South Wales is> now 6d. per 2-lb. loaf, and this is based on the cost of imported wheat; all our good wheat having been sold out, and the State having been depleted of necessary supplies for home consumption. The imported wheat is costing Ss. lOd. Ou the present figures, the bakers may maintain the price of 6d. for the 2-lb. loaf with slight wage increases, but not with any increase in the price of wheat. If wheat is increased in price, bread must go up in that State. An increase of 6d. per bushel in the price of wheat is equal to an increase of id. per loaf on the 2-lb. loaf. It is absolutely unjustifiable that in a State like New South Wales, with its enormous wheat production, the public should be compelled to pay for their bread on prices fixed for imported wheat.
The European outlook. The European outlook for wheat production is on a par with the outlook for Australia for the coming crop. There are bumper harvests in the United States of America, Canada, the Argentine, India, and in every one of the great wheat-producing countries of the world, except a portion of Russia. This is to be, apparently, one of the greatest wheat harvests that the world has known. What will happen if an attempt is made to maintain the price of wheat in Australia at 9s. per bushel? The world’s parity for wheat will be about 6s. per bushel, so that the people of Australia will be supplying foreigners at that price, but will themselves be asked to pay 50 per cent, more for bread made from the wheat that they have grown. I will support that statement by a reference to pome remarks by Sir Joseph Carruthers, who is working a farm, and takes a keen and intelligent interest in wheat growing. He says -
As to price : I maintain that the world’s parity of prices is being rapidly established; and one can fairly estimate it as being between 3s. and 4s. per bushel under that of old world countries, even after allowing for freight and all charges.
The following are the prices given by the International ‘ Institute of Agriculture, as fixed by law in the countries named in 1918, viz., France, 13s. 6d. per bushel; Holland, 13s.; Italy, 13s.; Algiers, 103.; Tunis, 10s.; Canada, 9s. 4d.; Hungary, 9s. 4d.; United States, 9s. 2d.; Great Britain, 8s. (subsidized by about £30,000,000 a year from state) ; Austria, 8s. ; Germany, 9s. 7d. The ? rices in many countries, are entirely mlsleading because they are so fixed as against local growers only; and imports at higher prices are made under Government control, and the loss is met out of the public funds. The import price is certainly over 10s. in all these countries.
With an import price of 10s., and a cost of marketing from Australia of 4s. if wheat goes back to the normal as Sir Joseph Carruthers says it will, we shall have a world parity price of approximately 6s. per bushel.
The new price will create permanent inflation. What is one of the first effects of imposing these exorbitant prices? It is that the values of farm lands are enormously increased, and then, when the price of wheat is again being calculated, these enormously inflated land values are taken, and the cost of production is computed on them. We had that occur in regard to sugar production. The report of the Commissioners shows that every time the price of sugar has gone up, sugar land values have been enormously increased, until to-day, on these inflated values, we cannot produce sugar at reasonable prices. The same thing is occurring in the dairying industry, by the increase of the price of butter, cheese, and cream. Directly an enormous price is fixed for wheat, persons offer higher prices for wheat land, the value of which thus tends to become excessive. The following year we are asked to compute the cost of production on these inflated values. It is the same again with all implements and machinery. The sum total is that the only persons who benefit are the land-owners of Australia, while the great consuming public has to pay through the nose for the necessaries of life.
I have been a great many years in public life, and have given considerable attention to the subject of wheat growing. My desire is that the farmer shall obtain a fair deal, and, on the floor of this chamber and at Labour conferences, I have advocated benefits for farmers very much in advance of what this House has done for them.
– I wish to arrive at a fair thing. But what is a fair thing ? I have watched what is occurring and, whenever I read any statement affecting the cost of producing wheat, I clip it out, and put it away in a folder, so that it may be in reserve to inform my mind on the subject generally.
Furthermore, I have myself worked at every farming operation. The information I have submitted from widespread reliable sources indicates that 4s. per bushel is not an under -statement of the average cost of production of wheat.
– The only way in which thehonorable member can inform his mind about the cost of producing wheat is by growing some.
– That is nonsense. On that line of argument no Judge could decide any matter on evidence: he would not be competent to form an opinion regarding any statement until he had done the thing himself. These costs can be ascertained by inquiry, and I have given the evidence of the farmers’ organizations themselves. Surely these organizations, and the primary producers’ organizations, would not ask for the price of wheat to be fixed at a sum lower than the cost of production.
– Last year there was no wheat at all in some of the States.
– This year there is a bumper harvest which will make up for that. The costs that I have given, as calculated by farmers’ organizations, were computed by them in a drought year. Surely these men who are growing wheat themselves would not issue to the public statements as to the cost of producing wheat which give only part of the cost.
In New South Wales, with the new harvest, the price of bread should come down at least 2d. per loaf, making it 4d., and that in the other States, with the exception, perhaps, of Queensland, it should come down at least1d. per loaf.
I consider that this Parliament is engaging in a profiteering arrangement which will extract and exploit from the people of this country at least £2,000,000 during the coming year in the price of their daily bread.
It is very easy to express opinions, and it is very easy to inflate figures. I would very much like’ to see some of our friends opposite put forward a statement of the cost of producing wheat in opposition to the figures that I have given, taken from statements by farmers’ organizations, so that the two might be compared, and it might be seen whether the demand of 9s. per bushel for wheat is a fair and reasonable thing towards the consumers of this country.
I imagine that the difficulties of the Government have had something to do with the fixing of the price of. wheat at 9s. per bushel. The Corner party have been a little bit restless, and. it was necessary to attach them to the Government. It appears to me as though this were an experience of the kind that used to occur in politics in days gone by, when we heard of support in return for concessions. “Squeeze a little here, and give us some of it, and then you will get our support.” I feel that this price of 9 s. per bushel does not stand on a sound or reasonable basis, and it is my duty as a public man to oppose with every faculty I possess that which I regard as an injustice to the people of Australia.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) has occupied a considerable time this afternoon in dealing with a matter which has been ventilated in this place at length on several occasions, and particularly upon a specific motion immediately after a Conference of State Premiers and farmers’ representatives had considered and decided upon the price of wheat for local consumption. I am afraid that the honorable member has dealt with the question in a way which even his colleagues will admit is hardly calculated to insure support,, and certainly will not appeal to any of those people who live in wheat-growing districts of New SouthWales, and voted for any of their candidates at the last election. I suppose the honorable member’s speech is intended to be a substitute for his non-attendance here over a period of weeks during which this Parliament has been engaged upon business ofvital importance to the people of this country, and he seeks to make amends for his many absences. It seems a wretchedly poor substitute. However, let me deal with the matter very shortly. The decision which he terms odious and unjust is one for which the State Governments must accept the prime responsibility. They own the wheat, and they are responsible for fixing the home price of wheat. All that this Parliament did, and all it was asked to do, was to express an opinion upon what had already been decided.It is certainly true that representatives of the Commonwealth attended the Premiers’ Conference, but they did not fix the price. In fact, neither did the Conference do so. The price was determined by the Australian Wheat Board. This afternoon the honorable member has really directed his criticism against the Government of the State of New South Wales. He has told us that the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Storey), when speaking in the Mudgee town hall, said that the price of wheat for local consumption was to be fixed upon the cost of production. Mr. Dunn and Mr.. Storey represented the New South Wales Government at the Premiers’ Conference, and I think it was Mr. Dunn - the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) can correct me if I am wrong - who moved that the recommendation of the Wheat Board, that the price of wheat for local consumption should be fixed at 9s., be adopted.
– He was certainly heartily in agreement with it.
– But it is stated that he moved it. .
Mr.Hill. - I believe he did.
– As a fact, he did. If the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) wishes to censurethe Labour Government of New South Wales, let him go to that State and do so. At any rate, the Commonwealth Government has nothing to do with the matter. Apparently the honorable member wishes to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He wants to persuade the toilers in the cities that he is the champion of the cheap loaf, and make the farmers believe that he is the champion of the man on the land. It cannot be done - at any rate, not in the way he is trying to do it. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government is perfectly clear, and although it has been stated many times, I shall state it once more. It believes that it is essential to the very existence of this country that the general drift of the population to the cities should be retarded at all hazards and all costs. I say again, what I have said before, that even if this were an excessive price for wheat I would still agree to pay it if I thought that by so doing I could settle more men on the land. But instead of its being an excessive price, it is one which will enable the Australian to buy the cheapest bread in the world. The honorable member contends that no promise was made that the farmers of Australia should have the world’s parity for wheat sold for local consumption.His statement is not true. As leader of this party I made that promise, and when the people had an opportunity of expressing their opinion they voted for the return of this party, and did not vote for the return of the party to which the honorable member is attached.
– Was the promise made in the Bendigo speech?
– It was made in a speech at Bendigo. In reply to catechetical questions put to me by the Farmers Association of South Australia, and subsequently repeated again and again, I said that this Government would do nothing to prevent the farmer getting the full world’s parity for wheat, whether it was sold in. or out of Australia. I cannot for the life of me see why the farmer should be singled out and told that he must have less than his share of the high prices ruling. Have we not in the last few days been overwhelmed by an avalanche of requests for the payment of the basic wage and a readjustment of wages to the higher prices which are ruling to-day 1 Is the farmer to be left out in this matter 1 What does the cost of production mean? What is the cost of production if I put in 200 acres of wheat and get no crop ? If I work for a daily wage, I am paid whether my employer sells the products of my labour or fails to do so. But the farmer is in a different position. He takes the risk, not only of a fall in prices, but also of having nothing whatever to sell. However, all this is only repeating what has been said many times in this Chamber during the honorable member’s absence. This question has been ventilated and discussed in this Chamber carefully and at length. Every honorable member knows all about it except the honorable member who has spokenthis afternoon, because he was not here on the day when we decided it. Why was he away ? The people want cheap bread, he says; it is a thing they must have, or perish. Then, why was he not here when the matter was dealt with ? There is a psychological moment: “A tide in the affairs of man which, taken at the flood, leads on to “ - cheap bread.
But the honorable member was away. I understand he intended to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon to discussthe matter. ‘ Why did he not do so? Was it because he could not get five other honorable members to rise and support him?
– It certainly appears to me that honorable members opposite have enough to carry, one way or another, without this, and they are not anxious to range themselves alongside the honorable member to-day. The honorable member has quoted something he did in 1918 at a conference, and he says that the country section of the Labour party approved of what he did. That conference, no doubt, if it thinks fit, can censure Mr. Storey and his colleagues for fixing the price at 9s., but how does it affect us? What has it to do with us ? Nothing. I think Mr. Dunn took the wiser course. He repesents a country district, and he promised the farmers in New South Wales 7s. 6d. per bushel, no matter what the world’s price might be, or no matter what the cost of production might be. The honorable member has quoted Mr. Lynch, the ex-member for Werriwa, as saying that wheat can be put in and taken out at less than £1 per acre; but I am sure that the gentleman referred to would not apply his remark to all grades of land, and to all seasons, good or bad. What is the cost of production if a man’s return is only 6. bushels per acre ? In any case, why did the New South Wales Government guarantee 7s. 6d. per bushel and then fix the price at 9s. ? The honorable member says to the farmer, “ I will give you 5s. while we discuss the matter.” Let him go to the members of any trade union and say, “I will give you 5s. to-day, and you can go on working while we argue whether you shall ultimately get 15s.” When he gets a union to agree to do that, then let him try this policy on the farmer. The fact of the matter is that the Government of New South Wales are now buying wheat at 8s.10d. per bushel. Why are they paying that price if the cost of production is only 5s. or 3s. 8d. ? Are they giving more than a fair price? No. Are people anywhere else getting wheat at a less price? No. The Australian Wheat Board has already sold hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat for overseas consumption at 10s. per bushel for delivery months and months ahead. The fact of the matter is that the people of this country are getting their wheat at a very reasonable price. I do not think the constituents of the honorable member would be prepared to change places with the farmers and go out into the back country, cutting themselves off from all the allurements of the city, taking all the risks the farmer has to take, doing all the work he has to do, and denying themselves the opportunity of a rising market which all other men partake of. If there was anything at all in what the honorable member has said which has not already been discussed and ventilated here, he could be pardoned for taking up the time of the House, but he has spoken of that which we all know. He has taken up much time to discuss a matter which has been already settled. The responsibility for settling the price of wheat in New South. Wales rests upon the Government of that State. I, therefore, advise the honorable member to direct his criticisms to the Government of New South Wales; they will answer him. On behalf of the Commonwealth Government I have said that we do not oppose the price of 9s. per bushel because we were returned upon a definite policy that we would do nothing to prevent the farmer of Australia from getting the world’s parity for his wheat, whether it were sold overseas or inside this country. If I had the business to do over again today I would adopt the same course and would again vote for 9s. per bushel; for that, I think, is a very fair price, and is much less than the price we are getting at present for wheat overseas. There is not the slightest doubt that we could sell, at more than 10s. per bushel, the whole of the wheat which we have reserved for local consumption. When I spoke in this Chamber last upon the same subject, there seemed to be some doubt on that point. Since then, however, the Australian Wheat Board has been making such excellent sales that I am justified in saying that, if it were not that we were bound to reserve this wheat for the people of Australia, we could sell it overseas at a very much higher price than that at which we are selling it to the people of the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, the people in the cities have no grounds for complaint. The farmer is not a profiteer. If he is a pro fiteer, there is plenty of land in this country; let every man who wants to profiteer go out and be a profiteer. There is no seven hours a day business about the farmer. He works so long as there is light. His one object is to get as much work into one day as possible. He takes all the risks there are. He is never certain of any return, and he is thoroughly entitled to the world’s prices for the things he produces; and, so long as the Government have the honour to occupy their position in this country, we will see that the farmer gets them.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question put accordingly, and resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply (Considera tion resumed from 17 th November, vide page 6628) :
Divisions 125 to 135, £6,352,936
Upon which Mr. Ryan had moved, by way of amendment -
That the vote be reduced by £1.
Question - That the vote be reduced by £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
War Services, Repatriation Commission, War Service Homes Commission
Proposed vote, £11,017,652.
.- So far as a good deal of the vocational training is concerned, I believe it has been satisfactory. But I have had to bring under the notice of the authorities certain unsatisfactory features. Men who have been trained, for example, in architectural drawing, have complained that only one of their number has been satisfactorily placed. The others, who have been back home for more than a year, and who have been training during the whole time, cannot be said to be 40 per cent. efficient at the present moment. If, after twelve months’ work, it is discovered that certain avenues of training have failed to lead to the placing of the trainees, it would be far better to have the men start all over again at something else rather than that they should be kept fooling about. One student told me the other day that he thinks he and his comrades will be at the Vocational Training School for about two years before they can hope to become 40 per cent. efficient. Since more than 60 per cent. of the trainees are married men, and many of them have families, how can one expect them to live on £2 a week for two years, even at which stage they can only hope to be about 40 per cent. efficient? At the Working Men’sCollege, where I had seen trainees at metal working and the like, I was informed, subsequently, that that particular class had had to be disbanded since it was found to be useless. I know that it is impossible for a Minister to do everything in relation to his Department, but if the honorable gentleman would make a personal inspection of some of these training classesI think he would come to the conclusion, in some cases at least, that the work is not satisfactory. I do not think the fault lies with the instructors or with the committees, as in some cases they have not got the necessary appliances.
– There are some branches of vocational training, such as watchmaking, which in my considered judgment can be most satisfactorily carried out by arrangement with outside private firms.
– In regard to the very trade mentioned by the honorable gentleman - that of watchmaking and clock repairing - I expressed my view in a letter which I addressed to Senator Millen before he left for the Geneva Conference. Allowing for rental of buildings and the payment of instructors, I think it would be found not only more satisfactory, but more economical, to make arrangements with private employers to train our returned soldiers in certain trades, rather than to have special classes for them. Representatives of the employers and of the employees constitute the committees supervising vocational training in such circumstances, and in connexion with many classes the system is working exceedingly well. I am very anxious that the men undergoing vocational training shall have a “ fair spin.” Letters have appeared in the press in regard to the position of those learning architectural drawing, and I hope that they will receive fair treatment. I have inspected the boot trade school at Abbotsford, through which several hundred men have passed, and it is phenomenally successful. The supervising committee consists of representatives of the employers, the men, and the union; and the Boot Operatives Union, I understand, donated £100 towards the cost of fitting up the school.’ Many of the trainees are now receiving the full pay of operatives. I ask particularly that the architectural drawing and watchmaking classes shall receive consideration, and that an arrangement be made under which it will not be necessary for the trainees to spend two years in these classes before they are adjudged to be 40 per cent. efficient. I have an intimate knowledge of industrial matters, and do not hesitate to say that the average youth of sixteen or seventeen years of age is more than 40 percent. efficient before he has been employed in an industry for twelve months. Most apprentices, after they have been at a trade for twelve months, receive 50 per cent, of the wages paid to journeymen. That being so, I see no reason why vocational trainees, many of whom are not incapacitated, should have to attend classes for two years before securing 40 per cent, of efficiency. I hope the Minister will visit these classes and make alterations such as I have suggested, since I am at a loss to know how married men, who are receiving vocational training, can exist on £2 2s. per week.
.- There are two or three matters of vital importance which I desire to bring before the Minister (Mr. Rodgers). Up to the present time returned soldiers in many parts of Queensland have received very little assistance, more particularly in regard to the acquisition of homes for themselves. In a city like Maryborough, which has a population of about 16,000 souls, the committee formed to assist returned men does not receive from the Repatriation Department even a’ penny towards the payment of the salary of a secretary or the cost of writing paper and postage.
– I may, perhaps, save time by informing the honorable member that a complete organization exists under which any locality which organizes a Repatriation Committee receives £10 for every 1,000 of the population towards the salary of its secretary, and special assistance in regard to stationery and postage.
– I can only say that I have before mie a letter from .Maryborough, stating that when the local Repatriation Committee was asked to undertake certain work they refused to do it, on the ground that not one penny would be allowed them by the Department for the payment of a .secretary or to defray the cost of postage and writing-paper. I hope the Minister will look into this matter.
I have now to refer to a very serious case which I have already brought before the House. It is that of a returned soldier named E. G. Evans, who, after serving for four years and three months on Gallipoli and in France, returned to Maryborough and proposed to purchase a house which was offered to him for £700. He applied to the War Service Homes Commission for that amount. A War Service Homes valuer, to whom he paid a fee of £1 ls., made a valuation of the property, and on the 28th August
Evans received a letter saying that the report was satisfactory, and that the Commission was prepared to advance £665, provided that he would find the* balance of £35. On receipt of this letter he paid the £35 by way of a deposit to the agent for the owner of this house, but on the 18th September was astonished to receive a letter from the Department saying that the promised advance could not be made. I then brought the matter before the House, with the result that a, little later he was advised that the advance could be made. Subsequently he received from the Commission a further communication in which it was stated that the £665 could be advanced only subject to the condition that he agreed to repay it by instalments at the rate of £6 2s. 6d. per month. That he cannot do. He says that he is in permanent employment, and receives £4 per week, but that out of that wage he cannot afford to ,pay SO1 large a monthly instalment. He offered in the first place to pay off the advance’ at the rate of £1 per week, and he has since increased that offer to £1 5s. per week. In addition; he has informed the Department that he will paint the house thoroughly inside and out. I fail to understand why such a proposition is turned down. I know the property. It is in one of the principal suburbs of the city, is very close to the city itself, and is well built. This young man, who is of good parentage, has paid the deposit of £35, and the agent and owner of the house are pressing for fulfilment of the contract, failing which the deposit must be forfeited. I bring this matter forward now in order that there may be no further delay, since unless the’ money is advanced- within the next few days the deposit will be forfeited. In the first place, Evans received from the Deputy Commissioner for Queensland the following letter, dated 28th August last : -
Referring to your application under the War Service Homes Act, I have to inform you that the property you are desirous of acquiring has been inspected and valued at £665, which amount this Commission is prepared to advance, provided you are in a position and agree to pay the sum of £35, being amount of difference between our valuation and £700, the purchase price of the property. I wrote to the War Service Homes Commissioner, and only yesterday received the following reply: -
With further reference to yours of the 27th ultimo, covering communication from Mr. E.
That was not mentioned at the time when Mr. Evans’ offer was accepted -
With reference to the £35 which your correspondent states he has paid as a deposit on a property, I would point out that applicants have been repeatedly warned through the press and other channels of the necessity for the insertion of a clause in contracts of sale providing for the refund of the deposit paid on a property if the application is not approved by the Commission, and I regret, therefore, that if Mr. Evans forfeits his deposit it will not be possible for the Commission to consider any claim which he may make in connexion therewith.
Where is the necessity for a stipulation of that kind in face of the fact that the advance has been approved? Mr. Evans, out of his salary of £4 a week, offered to pay £1 a week, and to repaint the house inside and out; and he is now prepared to pay 25s. a week. To build a new house of this description at the present time would cost from £850 to £900. I may mention that there is gas in every room, and water laid on. I know of nothing in the regulations to call for this condition as to the thirteen-years period, though, of course, I can see the basis on which the Department is proceeding. I repeat, however, that nothing was said about the curtailment of the period for repayment at the time the offer was accepted. It will be unjust if this man has to lose £35 through the fault of some official in the Department. This man, who served for four years and three months, is of excellent character, and I feel sure that, like his father, he will fulfil any engagement into which he enters. I hope to be able in the next day or two to send him word that the money he requires will be made available. After all, this is an exceptional case, requiring, perhaps, exceptional treatment.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum
– I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister the following letter, which has been sent to me from Mr. John Darley, of Nanango, Queensland : -
Nanango, 15th November, 1920
The Repatriation Committee, of Nanango, have exhausted all their funds in assisting our local soldiers; only soldiers really in want have been assisted, in cash, and in some cases with assistance paid by the committee. Now, as above stated, our funds have run out, what we require, and require urgently, is a grant from the Federal Government of some hundreds. This money, you can depend, will be wisely used, and only really deserving cases will be considered. We think, ifyou, as our Federal member, brought pressure to bear on the Government, you could get the money for us. I may say that Mr. J. T. Wiley and myself have been appointed to represent the Minister for Repatriation, and I can safely say we have not agreed to any money being paid only to deserving soldiers.
Queensland is a State of enormous distances; it contains some 421,000,000 acres, with Commonwealth electorates, such as mine, returning seven members to the State Parliament. It will be readily seen that it is very difficult for the Federal Department to attend to such a vast area without seeking the assistance of local men who are on the spot. There is a large population in the Wide Bay district, including a number of returned soldiers, and their interests, of course, have to be represented. I hope that the case I have mentioned will receive prompt attention, along with that of Mr. Evans.
.- There are one or two matters connected with repatriation which I think require rectification. Returned soldiers who desire to be trained for clerical positions in South Australia are placed in recognised colleges in Adelaide. Lately, however, an instruction has been issued that returned men who desire to take a course in accountancy must not do so in those training colleges. I may say that these colleges are thoroughly competent, and have for years been recognised as such by the mercantile community of Adelaide. Murden’s College is an ‘old-established institution, and numbers amongst its pupils, perhaps, more returned men than any other; yet the proprietor is now told that other arrangements have been made for their training in accountancy.
– Is that the ruling of the Deputy Commissioner?
– It is; and it seems to me a most perculiar one, of which, the Minister should take some notice. Surely it is not necessary for the Government to establish a special school of accountancy when there are four or five colleges there ready and. able to carry out the work? I have mentioned only one college by name, but the competence to instruct applies to all of them. It seems absurd to establish another college, unless, of course, there is a desire to provide a position for some one.
I take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Minister to the unsatisfactory position in relation to land settlement in South Australia. I do not know anything in this regard as concerns the other States. This House certainly has no control over State Ministers in regard to the methods they adopt under their land settlement schemes, but the Commonwealth provides the money necessary for the settlement, and, therefore, we have a right to see that the State Governments carry out the obligations they have undertaken.
– I am in a position to say that the Commonwealth has carried out to the very letter every undertaking in the way of financing the States.
– I do not say that is not so; what I say is that the States have failed to carry out their share of the undertaking. Men can he very satisfactorily settled on the irrigation blocks, but’ a number of them desire to go in for wheat growing or mixed farming. At the training farm there are many who have gone through their course, and have been certified as absolutely competent by the farm authorities, and the Agricultural Department, but who to-day are doing ordinary field work because they cannot get any land on which to settle. Some of these men have been on the farm for ten to twelve months. That is not a fair thing to the returned soldiers. If the legislation of a State will not provide sufficient land for the satisfactory settlement of returned soldiers, the State Parliament should alter that legislation, and do what may be necessary to provide for the carrying out of its obligations.
– Most of the States have provided themselves with the necessary machinery for land ‘settlement.
– Yes ; but they have been somewhat timid in putting their legislation into operation. They seem wishful not ito offend any one who may be holding land suitable for soldier settlement. Not only are we under an obligation to settle our returned soldiers on the land in accordance with our promise, but the settlement of them will be the finest thing that could happen for Australia. The Minister cannot dictate to the State authorities, but the Commonwealth has control of the purse. I hope that the honorable gentleman will ascertain what number of men is waiting to be settled on the land, what the State Governments are able to provide in the way of land, and how they propose to deal with the applicants for land, so that we may have an end put to the continual complaints, and justifiable discontent, of returned soldiers who wish to settle in the country.
A member for South Australia could hardly conclude a speech on repatriation without referring to “King Charles’ head, ‘ ‘ that is, to the duplication of Commonwealth and State activity in the matter of housing returned soldiers. I, with the other representatives of the State, have tried to prevent this duplication; but if things are to drift as they are doing until some proper system i3 arrived at, I say that it would be better, in the interest of returned soldiers, for the Commonwealth to establish an office in South Australia. At the present time the returned soldiers are suffering much inconvenience and loss. Let me give a case that has been placed before me by the president of the Returned Soldiers Association. On the 25th May, a returned soldier applied to purchase a house, which, within two or three days, was inspected by a departmental officer, and the purchase recommended for approval on the carrying out of some slight repairs. The agent for the house was notified of the approval of its purchase, but, because a departmental officer happened to be away on his holidays, months went on, and nothing further was done. The agent therefore called on the returned soldier to carry out his contract for purchasing the house, or pay 25s. per week rent for it, because he could not be expected to keep the house idle. The returned soldier then had to pay the rent asked for, although he had spent money on repairs at the wish of the Department. By the end of September his application for purchase had not been finalized. Does treatment of that kind make our returned soldiers feel that we are doing a fair thing by them ? The State is doing nothing, and the Commonwealth is following its example, so that the returned soldiers have to wait. In another case, a widow who paid a deposit for the purchase of a piece of land out of money she received on the death of her husband, has waited twelve months for a house to be built, and in the meantime she is being put to the expense of rent and loss of interest. There will be no satisfaction in South Australia regarding the housing problem until the Minister has visited the State, and dealt with it on the spot. Correspondence between the Commonwealth and State Governments will not lead to anything satisfactory.
– That is a sensible proposal, and as soon as the House rises, I undertake to give effect to it.
– I am glad to hear that. I read yesterday that the State Minister in charge of housing has been expecting a telegram from the Minister here, asking him to come to Melbourne.
– My Commissioner has been occupied for weeks in connexion with an inquiry by a Committee of this House.
– The Returned Soldiers Association feels very strongly about this matter, and will be very pleased to hear that the Minister intends to visit South Australia.
– I give a definite undertaking to do so as soon as the House rises.
– One other matter’: The Department issues a journal once a month. I have never been struck with the utility of this publication, and paper is now so dear, and so1 difficult to get, that, in the interests of economy, if for no other reason, it might well be suspended indefinitely. The journal is not read by any but those to whom it is sent, and very few others know of its existence. The last issue contains photographs of officials, with complimentary references to the magnificent work they are doing. I do not doubt that they are doing splendid work, but surely they can do that work without the country being put to the expense of printing these compliments.
– The journal was originally designed to inform the soldiers of the benefits available to them, and to interest the Local Committee, and publish their reports of work. A good deal of the cost has been defrayed by advertisements. But as repatriation activities lessen, the need for it will diminish.
– Despite the advertisements, there must be a considerable deficiency. I hope that the Minister will suspend the publication altogether.
When he goes to Adelaide he will, I hope, come to some definite understanding with the State authorities regarding the settlement of men on the land who desire to take up mixed farming. Many men are waiting, week after week, and month after month, for an opportunity to settle, and I hope that he will put an end to these delays.
– I am sorry to have to attack this Department on the subject of pensions, because the Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) took the same view as I did regarding the transfer of the War Pensions Branch from the Treasury, and voted with me. He pointed out then that what was proposed was making two Departments grow where one grew before, and that the work was being well done under the existing arrangements. On that occasion honorable members were almost equally divided; but the Government won its point with the support of the two arch Conservatives of the Country party, the honorable member, for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and that Radical farmer, who owns more land in Australia than all the other pastoralists and farmers, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). The payment of war pensions, therefore, has been handed over to a special branch of the Repatriation Department, and those who were opposed to the transfer can now say in regard to what has happened, “ We told you so.” The Minister who proposed the transfer said that it would mean a reduction in the cost of the Treasury Department ; but let the Committee listen to these figures: Last year the vote for the administration of pensions by the Treasury was £57,064, but the expenditure was £73,238. This year the vote is £72,102, a saving of only £1,136 on last year’s actual expenditure. Now let us turn from the Treasury and ascertain what burden has been imposed upon the taxpayers by transferring the control of war pensions from the Treasury to the Repatriation ‘Commission. The honorable members for Grampians (‘Mr. Jowett) and Swan (Mr. Prowse), the two members of the Country party who opposed the proposal of honorable members of the Labour party to retain the control of these pensions in the Treasury, will realize that they have succeeded in increasing the burden on the taxpayers by over £33,000. We find that, although last year £20/500 was provided under the Repatriation Department for the salaries of officers engaged in the administration of war pensions, the actual expenditure on this account as only £13,500; but this year the provision in this regard is £34,495. Making allowance for the. saving of £1,136 effected in the Treasury Estimates, the net increased burden on the taxpayers brought about by the removal of the war pensions administration from the Treasury is over £33,000. Honorable members who supported the transfer will see that the chickens have now come home to roost. It is monstrous that we should have this duplication of work. I am sorry for the Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), hecause ho was one of those who pointed out what was likely to happen, and opposed the transfer. Where aTe the members of that great Country party at this moment, when the opportunity presents itself of bringing about some of that economy to effect which it came into existence ? There is not one of them in the chamber. Yet a little while ago never a day passed but their Leader, their Deputy Leader,- their Secretary, their Whip, or some other official of the party was on his feet preaching the necessity for economy.. Here now is their opportunity to reverse the vote given five or six months ago, and save the country a heavy expenditure. I have no desire to make any capital out of the fact that members of the Labour party opposed the transfer, but, as a matter of fact, the honorable members for Swan and Grampians are the only two members of the Country party who gave their support to the Government on that occasion. I wish to point out the inconsistency of these gentlemen, who told the people that they would’ see that the Estimates, particularly those of the Defence
Department, would be closely scrutinized. We have already had two exhibitions of the scrutiny they have exercised in regard to the Defence vote; and now here, when they have an opportunity of saving the people an expenditure of over £33,000, they do nothing. I have no desire to move for a reduction in these Estimates as an instruction that the administration of war pensions should be placed once more in the hands of the Treasury officials, who carried out the work in a manner which caused no dissatisfaction whatever, because it was done sympathetically; but I hope that Parliament will soon see the error of its ways, and, taking the matter into its own hands, effect a retransfer of this work. I do not know why the Government’s proposal was agreed to, except, perhaps, that it was for the purpose of providing permanent jobs for those gentlemen who were to be appointed Repatriation Commissioners. One of the arguments put up on that occasion by the Acting Minister, who was then a private member, was that it would be the means of creating permanent employment for the Commissioners just at a time when we were all hoping that the Repatriation Department would soon fade away.
Some of the young vocational trainees who were deprived of a holiday on Melbourne Show Day took French leave and visited the Show. Those under the State control were given the holiday on full pay, but those under the Commonwealth were not, and the gentleman in charge of vocational training, no doubt a good military man, treated the absentees as they would have been treated on active service. He did not make the punishment fit the crime, but inflicted a fine of £1 each. These vocational trainees are only paid 7s. a day, which is little enough; those who were not living with their people were thus obliged to put something “ up the spout “ in order to find the money to pay their board that week. I believe that discipline should be enforced, but I also ‘think that justice should be tempered with mercy, especially in civil life. If the fine had been to the extent of a day’s pay it would have been ample punishment.
– I have no desire to interfere with the enforcement of discipline, but I am strongly of opinion that the amount of the fine should he reduced. I will take the matter into consideration.
– It is a pretty harsh law that would prohibit these trainees from visiting the Show.
– I do not know. The absence of these youths may have prevented a lot of men from working on that day. I think they would have been satisfied if the fine had been a day’s pay, because they realized that they had taken the law into their own hands, and ought to be punished to that extent. However, they were threatened with all sorts of penalties. Some of them were told that they would be taken away from their vocational classes. These men are no longer on active service, and ought to be treated in accordance with home life conditions. They have had enough of the hardships and horrors of war; and, perhaps, some of those who have punished them do not themselves know what it is to have suffered active service conditions.
– Even though this Parliament deliberately clothed the Repatriation and War Service Homes Commissions with practically independent powers, an effort should be made to see that they adequately perform their duties. Honorable members have, possibly, been inundated with particulars of cases arising out of the reluctance of the War Service Homes” Commission to authorize the purchase of existing houses. There is a distinct departmental prejudice against that kind of thing, and the reason is obvious. If the Commission can put a soldier off for a year or two by dissuading him from buying a house already built, and can then place him in a home built by the Commission, it can be sure of carrying on for very many months and even years longer than necessary. In order to force a soldier to wait for a new home rather than facilitate him in getting into an existing house which has been offered him, the Department raises every obstacle. I know of a case where the Commission refused to authorize the purchase of a certain house just because there were three sheets of fibro-cement in the front of the building, which had been placed there for purely decorative purposes. At the same time the State bank authorities are by no means unwilling to advance money upon houses constructed entirely of fibro-cement.
Right from the beginning the Commission has tried by continual delays to force returned men to wait for Commissionbuilt houses rather than go into homes already constructed. I know of one returned man who selected a home which had been offered him at a very attractive price. The Department occupied four months in investigating the proposition, by which time the vendor became tired and withdrew his offer. This same proposition was subsequently put before a friendly society, in behalf of a person who had not gone to the war; and, in seven days, the sale was effected. I have notes concerning the case of a soldier who for fourteen months has been trying to secure a decision from the Department respecting the purchase of a home. On the 31st December, 1919, the vendor negotiated for the sale of this property, and his agent reported that the returned soldier concerned had been informed by the War Service Homes Commission that the matter of purchase would be . fixed up in the middle of the month of January following. On the 12th April last the Department wrote that “ the matter was being put through as quickly as possible, and that it was hoped to have the papers sent on to Melbourne within a fortnight.” On the 6th May the Department wrote again that delay had been caused by an old title; however, the difficulty had been overcome, “ and the matter was being pushed through as speedily as possible.” The hope was also expressed that the purchase would be finalized very shortly. On the 10th September notification was sent to the patiently waiting returned soldier that necessary particulars were being sent to head-quarters in Melbourne for gazettal, whereupon the Crown was to be instructed to effect a prompt settlement. On the 31st October the plans were sent to the vendor for ni3 approval. But, at this stage,, he refused to sign. He _ indicated that he wanted to get out of his contract. Lastly, on the 8th of this month, when I personally telephoned to the Department, the officials appeared to have a hazy idea that the business was not confirmed, and that the soldier had grown tired and wanted to get out of the whole thing. What would happen to the men responsible for such proceedings in any building society? They would not be able to bold their jobs for one minute. Unfortunately, this case which I have cited is not unique. There are hundreds of instances in which similar treatment has been meted out to those men to whom we promised a fair deal. The Commission is not doing a fair thing for the soldiers. Let honorable members endeavour to imagine the amount that this method of carrying on public business has cost the country. Month after month there are reports, and inspections, and documents, and letters going back and forth, and files are being piled up. If we remember that there are (many thousands of applications, we must realize that there is a serious waste of public time and funds which ought to be stopped immediately. The people of Australia are prepared to bear the cost of providing their returned men with homes, but they are not willing to continue to pay the salaries of a host of incompetent officials. What is more the conditions are going from bad to worse.
I desire now to refer to a statement of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) regarding the failure of the Commonwealth to attempt to check State expenditure of Commonwealth money in respect of land settlement for soldiers. When the proposal was originally made in this House to hand the whole subject over to the States, I opposed it. I could not agree to the principle that the Commonwealth should raise the money, and the States spend it without Federal supervision.
– Some of the States are doing it quite well.
– While others are doing it quite badly. There is no need for me to dwell upon the scandals concerning soldiers’ homes in New South Wales ; but I am bound to remark that the shameful business has been very costly to the Commonwealth.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– Had the complaints of the soldiers during the early stages of their settlement on the land in New South Wales been attended to, these scandals could not have developed to such an extent. I do not blame the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), or the Acting Minister (Mr. Rodgers). This Parliament deliberately accepted the principle that the States should undertake control of land settlement. It is the system itself which I condemn.
– I again call attention to the lack of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The view which I hold is that the Commonwealth should appoint officials whose duty it would be to keep in close touch with what is going on in each of the States, in order to see that the soldiers get a fair deal, and that Commonwealth money is being spent in the most economical way. Such supervision could be provided without any delay. It is necessary, even now, for the settlement of soldiers on the land is not yet at an end, and will not have ended for some years. I trust that before the next Estimates are brought down some attention will have been given to this matter, because it is Commonwealth money which is being wasted. When a soldier has been settled on unsuitable land, and he cannot make a “ do “ of it, and has to be started again, the people of the Commonwealth are required to bear the cost.
The transfer of the adminstration of War pensions from the Treasury to the Repatriation Department was done by Act of Parliament. The transfer is contrary to my view, and the expenses that are piling up in connexion with these independent Commissions are quite a mistake.
– But the honorable member voted to transfer the adminstration of War pensions to the Repatriation Department.
– I did not.
– Hansard shows that the honorable member did.
– In the final division I did, because I desired to keep the Government in office. Hansard will bear out what I say. In my view the transfer was wrong, but it would have been infinitely worse to bring the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) and his crowd into power. I am a little too long in Parliament to be caught by that sort of argument.
– But the Government did not treat the amendment as a vital one. That is shown by the fact that the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) voted for it.
– At any rate I am not in favour of the transfer.
– So that the honorable member voted for something of which he says now he does not approve.
– The honorable member cannot use that sort of “pap” against me. Thatwas quite an old trick used against the Labour movement when the honorable member sat behind the gentleman he now condemns - a trick designed to make it appear that members voted contrary to their principles. But it is much too old now to have any weight either inside or outside of Parliament.
The work of the Repatriation Department itself to-day is open to very little criticism, but the work of some of the Commissions that have been set up, and have been made independent of Parliament, should have the very closest attention of Ministers who have to find the money for them. Too close a check cannot be kept on the tendency of these independent Commissions to expand, and before the next Estimates are submitted I hope that very careful scrutiny of the operations of all these independent bodies will be made, with a view to ascertaining whether Commonwealth money is being economically spent by them, and whether it is not possible to effect considerable savings by curtailing their operations, and particularly by insisting that they shall do their work within a reasonable time, and shall be efficiently conducted.
.- The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) has just said that he is opposed to the creation of two Pensions Departments, but when the Bill by which the administration of War Pensions was transferred to the Repatriation Department was before the House it was his vote, and his vote alone, that determined that the transfer should be made. He says that he voted on the occasion merely to keep the Government in power. I would remind him that the Government would not have left office had such a vote gone against them. Any man who has been in politics for five ‘minutes will recognise that no Government would be expected to resign because of an adverse vote of that kind. The division took place on an amendment to insert the words, “ This part of the Act shall be adminis tered by the existing Pensions Department.” Had that been treated as a motion of want of confidence would the present Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) have voted for it ? He is as good a supporter of the Government as is the honorable member for Illawarra, but he voted for the amendment. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) also voted against the creation of two pension departments. It will thus be seen that the honorable member for Illawarra voted for the creation of a second Pensions Department, which, as shown this afternoon, is costing us at least an additional £20,000 per annum. Those who have had anything to do with applications for war pensions will readily admit that the service is in no wise better than it was when under the control of the Pensions Branch of the Treasury. The Victorian branch of the War Pensions Department with which I am most familiar was just as well administered by the Treasury as it is to-day.
When these Estimates were first brought before us this afternoon I had not at hand several letters relating to vocational training which I desired to , put before the Committee. I propose now to place them on record. On the 8th September last I wrote to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) the following letter: -
Dear Senator. - Ex-Private J. Newsome, No. 632, 2nd Battalion, 78 Victoria-street, Carlton, called upon me this afternoon. He is in the frenchpolishing class at Wirth’s Park, and he, with a number of others, has been advised by the instructor that, on account of their disabilities, they will never be marked 40 per cent. efficient. This means that the men will never get out in the trade.’ I understand that a number of the men are getting £2 2s. per week pension, but no sustenance, and they are anxious to get into the trade and get more money. These men in the frenchpolishing class have been advised to take on something else, such as bootmaking. That means they have lost from six to fifteen months. I believe the men in other classes have been similarly advised. Will you kindly look into the matter and advise me. You will, of course, appreciate the anxiety of the men to get going properly, especially as a large number of them are married.
If a man has an injury which makes it unlikely that he will become efficient in a particular trade the responsible officers ought to be able to say at once that be should not enter the class relating to it. I ask that care shall be taken not to allow men to spend somemonths in acquiring a knowledge of a trade in which they can never hope to become efficient. I received no reply to the letter I have just read, and have heard nothing more in regard to the matter.
On the 13th September I addressed a letter to the Repatriation Commission in regard to the training of soldiers in architectural drawing and building construction, and on the 13th October I received the following letter, which was signed by “J.A.B.” on behalf of the Chairman of the Commission, Colonel Semmens, who at the time was out of Melbourne : -
Dear Sir, - With further reference to your letter of the 30th September, relative to the training of soldiers in architectural drawing and building construction, I have to advise you that inquiry into the statements made by your correspondent has brought forward the following information: - Fifty-four men have been commenced in this form of training - seventeen of whom went through the course. Of the total seventeen completed, nine have been placed in the trade, five have been placed in other trades, two have been referred to employment, and one is still unplaced. Of the remainder who did not complete the course, six have been placed in trades, whilst others have ceased from various causes, as follows - taken up land, withdrawn on own account, training terminated, ineligibility, terminated by default. The Commission recently reviewed various aspects of vocational training activities, and it was found that men receiving tuition in this and a few other callings were wasting time and public money, as we had entered a lane to which there was no outlet. Instructions were then issued that all such cases were to be reviewed and training cease. Incapacitated men unfit for pre-war occupations, &c, vide Regulation 92(1), were to be reselected for training suitable to their adaptability and incapacity, whilst those certified as medically fit were to be allowed to register for employment and to receive sustenance pending employment being made available. The instructions referred to terminated with the following: - “If the trainee can obtain a position on the industrial basis in the trade or calling in which he has received training, the Department will place him therein, and will also undertake to endeavour to obtain such positions, but will give preference, where possible, to incapacitated trainees.” It was considered unsound, economically and morally, to continue a form of training that under the prevailing conditions was of no avail to the trainee or the Department. The remark “that the only position available was a cornet player in a band “ may have been made, but such a position would not have been offered to an applicant other than one who was registered for employment and possessed the necessary qualifications.
In reply, I addressed to the Chairman of the Commission the following letter, embodying further statements by my correspondent: - 19th October, 1920.
Dear Sir. - I received your letter of 13th instant, 6.20/24639, relative to the training of soldiers in the architectural drawing and building construction class. Many thanks. I would specially invite your attention to the first paragraph of your communication, in which it is stated that “ two have been referred to employment and one is still unplaced.” In this connexion I would like to refer you to the following trainees: -
These men have during the past seventeen days been before your medical officers, and have been marked as unfit to return to their pre-war occupation. They have not been offered any opportunity for any further training, and have registered for light employment. They were also told that if any positions were available in the calling for which they were trained they would be given an opportunity to fill them-
Thank you for nothing.If an opportunity offers, these men will quickly avail themselves of it. but when the statement is made in an official communication that of the number of men who have commenced training in architectural drawing and building construction only one is still unplaced, although, as a matter of fact, seven men had been registered only a day or two before, it would seem that some one is trying to fool either the men or the Minister. The letter continued -
I would now like to refer you to the case of J. B. Neale, who enlisted at the age of sixteen years and seven months, and was in camp for nearly a year. He had not worked prior to this. After being discharged he did a little work, and re-enlisted on his eighteenth birthday! On his return from abroad he was granted vocational training. He was then ordered to report to your Medical
Officer to see if he was fit to return to his prewar occupation. He was subsequently told to register for employment at his pre-war occupation. He is registered as a salesman, although his only pre-war experience was a messenger boy for about three months. These men consider that, as you state there is only one man still unplaced, that after he is provided with employment they should be given a chance. If you will have this matter again gone into I shall be obliged. I hope that you will be able to meet the wishes of the men concerned.I understand there are two more besides those mentioned in this letter.
I have not yet received any reply to that communication, although it was sent exactly a month ago. Men should not he put in a class where they are likely to come to a dead-end, and the Department by this time should have sufficient experience to enable them to avoid anything of the kind. On the 7th September I wrote to Senator Millen the following letter in regard to the watch and clock making class : - 7th September, 1920.
Dear Senator. - It has been brought under my notice that the watch and clock making class in connexion with repatriation is not very satisfactory. I understand that some of the men made application to get into this class over two years ago. It is now five months since an instructor was appointed. They were then at the Working Men’s College, but are now at Jolimont. From what I have been told, practically nothing has been done since the class started. I believe at present they have no lathes, and only within the last fortnight cabled for them. In a conversation with Mr.
I do not wish - indeed I refuse - to make party capital out of the training of these men. My only desire is that they shall get a fair deal. The Minister has said this afternoon that in respect of some of the small and highly technical trades, such as watchmaking, he agrees with me that we should arrange for vocational training to be carried out by private employers who have up-to-date plants.
– The difficulty so far as the watch and clock making class is concerned is to obtain the very delicate tools used in the trade. ,
– I admit that. They have the necessary tools and implements at the Working Men’s College, but the whole Committee objected that the room set apart there for the watch and clock making class was too dark - that the light was so bad that the trainees would injure their eyes in working there. The men were then transferred to Jolimont, but they are unable to secure the small lathes necessary for the making of screws and duplicate parts used in connexion with the trade. However, I have sufficient faith in some of the boys to believe that they will make good in spite of all the difficulties in the way. I make no reflection on the Minister, but suggest that he ought, if possible, to visit some of the classes.
– I have visited some, but it is difficult while the House is sitting.
– That is so, and the work of the Department is extremely onerous. Of all the work, vocational training is, perhaps, the most important. If the men lose months or years of their lives now in this training, they will find it extremely difficult to make up the time, and I trust that the Minister will see that the whole business is placed on a sound footing.
.- When the War Service Homes Bill was before us the Minister, in reply to an interjection, said that the occupier of one of the homes who was transferred from one State to another, or from the city to the country, would have to surrender his home to the Department, receiving in return all the contributions he had paid, plus the value of improvements. 1 have in my mind the case of a man in South Australia who was transferred to New South Wales, only to be informed by the Department there that he is not eligible for a home in that State. When in Sydney on Tuesday last I interviewed the Secretary to the Department, who told me that this man is eligible.
– He went to fight for Australia, and not for any particular State.
– Of course; and the Minister should, I think, inform the House what view he intends to take in such a case as . I have cited. I know that the Department has a big job in hand, and I have no personal complaint to make against it; but every time I visit Sydney the work in the Department always appears to me to be very much congested. There is only one attendant at the counter, and, when I was last there, I found two men who had been waiting for three hours to be attended to. That is not right; certainly no private firm would mete out that sort of treatment to applicants for houses. Why should an extra attendant not be provided? Then, again, there is great delay in connexion with the war widows’ homes. Much as we wish to see the soldiers themselves expeditiously provided for, we ought to take care that there is no delay in the case of the widows. Some of these ladies in my electorate have been waiting, not for weeks, but for as long as nine to ten months for the homes to which they are entitled. I hope the Minister will look into the matter and let us know the reason for the delay.
.- I understand that the living allowance has been deleted from the Act.
– Not deleted from the Act, but included in increased pensions.
– That arrangement has not met all cases. A Mrs. Moon lost two sons at the war, and her husband has become invalided since. She applied to have the pension for her six children increased ; or for some addition to her own, and she received the following reply from the Department of Repatriation -
I have to inform you that your application to this Department for a continuation of your living allowance has, after careful consideration, been declined in view of the fact that your war and invalid pensions now equal 55s. per week. It is suggested that you may apply to the Neglected Children’s Department for an allowance on behalf of your younger children.
I take it that it is not the wish of this country that the sisters and brothers of the lads who have fallen abroad, should be compelled to apply to the Neglected Children’s Department, or any other charitable institution, for sustenance. Had those lads lived they would have been earning sufficient to-day to make any such ‘applications unnecessary. I know of no letter more cruel than the one I have just read. To think that such a letter should come from a Federal Department to a mother who has given her best to the country ! I shall hand it to the Minister in the hope that he will look into the matter with a view to the adoption of some better methods.
There is another phase of the question to which I should like to allude. A boy of seventeen or eighteen enlisted and went to the war. After his return, he took up vocational training at £2 2s. per week. He has a widowed mother, but he is refused sustenance for his mother simply because he was not working for wages prior to his enlistment. I was so surprised to get a reply to that effect from the Department that I thought a mistake had been made, so I sent it on to the Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), who, however, informs me that the reply is in accordance with some regulation. How in the name of God can a boy keep himself and his widowed mother on £2 2s. per week, in view of the present high rents and the high cost of living generally ? I guarantee that when the call for recruits was made this boy was not asked whether or not he was working for wages, but only whether he was physically fit. If the regulation be as I am informed, it ought to be altered without any delay, and this lad given an opportunity to continue his vocational studies so as to equip himself to fight the world’s battles. If he had not gone to the war he would have had a trade to-day, and able to earn much more than £2 2s. per week; but he is penalized, along with his mother, because he volunteered, and spent several years fighting his country’s battles. The only reason for this refusal is that he enlisted when too young. Had he hung back until he was twenty-one, the war would have been over, and we should have been short of many thousands of men had others taken that course.
As a Victorian, I have not much reason to complain in relation to the housing scheme, and I believe that the ‘ Deputy Commissioner in this State is doing his best. My complaint is that after these homes have been purchased, and even after the soldiers are in occupation, it is almost impossible to induce the Department to send cheques to the vendors. I have had cases where no cheque has been paid three months after the approval of the sale has been given.. In most of the cases the vendors are poor people who cannot afford to wait for the money, and cheques ought to be sent promptly. I have come across two or three hard cases.
– Have you inquired what is the reason for the delay?
– The business gets into some branches of the Department - the delay has something to do with the lawyers.
– I am not justifying delay, but we have to remember that titles have to be examined, documents signed, arrangements made for settlement, and so forth.
– I am very much afraid that the delay is due to the fact that the business is under military rule. It is the same old style that we find in the Army - if there is a job that two men can do, a gang of twenty is sent to do it. One of the greatest blunders we ever made was when we took the payment of pensions from the Commissioner who had control of the invalid and old-age pensions. It has proved a costly blunder, and the work is done neither soeffectively nor sympathetically as before.
I cannot believe it is due to any instruction from the Assistant Minister, but it is remarkable how pensions to widowed mothers are being reduced.
– No pension has been reduced on my instructions.
– I can cite some cases. In one case a widowed mother who was receiving £1 per week has had that pension reduced to 8s. I always thought that when a pension had been granted to a widow, it was practically fixed for life, seeing that it was paid on account of her dependency on her late son. However, these pensions are being reduced; and when an appeal is made, the reply, in effect, is, “ Oh, the lad was young, and that is about all he was worth to his mother when he enlisted.” No redress can be obtained. I admit that I have not applied to the Assistant Minister personally, and I really do not know who has the control of this business.
– The Repatriation Commissioners.
– I have sent in two or three appeals, and always with the same result.
– If the honorable member will give me one or two specific cases I shall undertake to go into them with him.
– I shall do so. It is only the same old complaint that must ever arise when any business is touched by the military. As to war gratuities, there are soldiers who applied on the very first day, and have not received them yet. I meet numbers of returned men every week, and write letters for them in order to expedite this business, but without success. There are so many departments and branches at the Victoria Barracks which have’ to do with the bonds and military matters generally, that one scarcely knows where to address one’s communications.
– The Treasury and the Defence Department deal with war gratuity bonds.
– The military deal with the issuing of the bonds at Victoria Barracks, and there is considerable delay.
– The bonds are directly under the Treasury.
– There is a War Gratuity Board, which, I understand, examines every case and decides when cash shall be paid, but it takes months to arrive at a decision. I wish the Minister to expedite both the issue of the bonds and the payment of cash.
In connexion with the vocational training, I object to the bringing of students to Melbourne from country districts unnecessarily. In a case brought under my notice, a lad who could have lived with his parents at Ball ar at on £2 2s. a week, was required to come to Melbourne, althrough the director of the Ballarat School of Mines said that there was a vacancy for him there. Major Ryan, however, was adamant. Later, when I appealed to the Minister, the honorable gentleman saw the injustice of what was being done, and remedied it. I understand that a number of lads have received orders to come to Melbourne for vocational training.
– There is a case in my own town.
– This shows the stupidity of the military officers. Is it done to keep some of their friends in a job ?
– No. In some cases this is necessary because of the requirements of industrial Committees, which lay down certain conditions.
– In the case to which I have referred, it was said that the trade union would not allow the lad to get his training in Ballarat, but that was not so. The action of the Department was merely red tape and centralization of the worst kind. The lad was told that unless he came to Melbourne his case would be finalized, and it was finalized ; but, fortunately, the Minister directed that he should be dealt with fairly.
I understand that action has been taken in regard to the stoppage of pay due to vocational students. It would be well for the Minister to bring before him the officer who imposed this fine, and ascertain why he imposed it. He ought not to adopt here the methods that were followed abroad. These men are not on parade now. It is to the interest of the students to qualify as quickly as possible, because as students they receive only £2 2s. a week, but when fully trained, they will get £4 4s. a week. I hope that the Minister will see that the fines are refunded.
I wish to bring before the Minister a case which is hardly one of repatriation, and yet is connected with the Repatriation administration. A soldier returned to Melbourne early in the war, badly wounded. I believe that he appeared before a Medical Board in Sydney, who told him to go home, and to report again when called upon to do so. For two years that man remained at Brunswick, the Department having forgotten all about him; but just prior to the termination of the war. he was ordered to report himself, and, passing the medical examination, he was sent abroad again. He is now claiming the military pay for the two years that he was at Brunswick. He obeyed orders as a good soldier, in going home, and reported himself for medical examination when called upon to do so. It is for the Department to pay for any blunder that may have been made. Now - I do not know why - he cannot get his gratuity. I hope that the Minister will see that the case is dealt with expeditiously.
In regard to the settlement of our soldiers on the land, I will draw attention to a statement of the Hon. Mr. Mackinnon, on whom a deputation, consisting of Senator Guthrie, and Messrs. Gibson, M.P., Gibson, M.L.A., H. A. and E. Currie. The deputation expressed the view that a minimum of 5,000 or 6,000 acres was necessary for a merino stud, and they wanted £30,000 worth of land exempted. Replying, Mr. Mackinnon is reported to have said -
About 4,000 Victorian soldiers were now waiting for land; and, as only about 1,000 of them could be settled on Crown lands in the North-Western District and East Gippsland, land would have to be purchased for 3,000 men. It was hoped that some arrangement could be made with the New South Wales
Government whereby portions of theRiverina area would be made available to Victorian returned soldiers.
– A lot of New South Wales returned soldiers cannot get land in their own State.
- Mr. Mackinnon’s statement was a remarkable one, in view of the fact that, when he made it, he was a member of the Victorian Ministry, which has agreed with the Prime Minister to spend thousands of pounds a year in bringing immigrants to this State, who are to be supplied with land. The 4,000 soldiers referred to are men who have qualifying certificates, and have demonstrated their capacity to make successful settlers.
– Mr. Mackinnon indicates that there is cheaper land obtainable in New South Wales.
– No ; he does not say that. I do not think, from my knowledge of the country, that many returned men could be settled in Eastern Gippsland. The report continues -
The owners of those large wool-growing estates that were suitable for mixed farming should help the Government by offering portion of their areas. Everything would be done to preserve the foremost flock masters, but there was not the slightest chance of Parliament amending the law to provide for an exemption up to £30,000 unimproved value.
If there are 4,000 soldiers in Victoria waiting for land to settle on, the fact does not speak well for the land administration of the Victorian Government.
– Its programme is the most advanced in respect to soldier settlements of any of the States.
– Its programme may be,but that programme has not been carried out. The compulsory purchase provisions are not being put into operation, or only to a slight extent.
– They are a good weapon.
– I should like to see that weapon used.
– Why do not they throw open the Crown land in the north-west Mallee? It is splendid land.
– They are not throwing open that land. It must not be forgotten that these 4,000 young men are deteriorating while they are waiting for blocks to settle on. Want of occupation and the continuous disappointment resulting from failure of applications is making them worse instead of better. I ask the Minister to inquire of the Victorian Government what is being done for the settlement of soldiers. We are finding the money for it.
– We are now committed to the extent of £50,000,000.
-There is any quantity of land in Victoria. I cannot understand the honorable member for Corangamite taking part in a deputation, the object of which was to get an exemption of £30,000 worth of land. Had not our lads gone abroad, the land-owners of Victoria might now have no land at all. While the merino wool industry is a great one, it will not be destroyed by the breaking up of the large estates. The New Zealand experience is that the wool of the Dominion has improved, both in quality and in quantity, under closer settlement. I urge the Government to see that something is done in this matter.
.- Although my experiences have been similar to those which have been related here this afternoon, I have seldom found, after personal representation, that any proposition that I had to make to departmental officers was turned down. There are grievances which I could ventilate were I desirous of doing so; but since I have been a member of Parliament I have preferred to take my troubles to head-quarters, and get them dealt with directly, instead of bringing them before the House, and almost invariably they have been settled satisfactorily. There is, however, a matter that I think it necessary to speak upon now. The Government, in certain cases, makes itself responsible for 60 per cent. of the wages of vocational trainees who are in private employment; but employers have brought it under my notice that it is sometimes a long while, occasionally as much as three months, before payment is made, and that, now that the money market is tight, business men have some difficulty in financing their affairs, and, therefore, do not feel called upon to stand out of their money so long. I should like the Minister to look into this matter, and see if it cannot be settled as early as possible.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has referred to land settlement. For a long time I have held the view that we have not been following the right lines in this regard. It is undoubted that several States possess large areas of Crown lands which could be developed by returned soldiers, and I think it would have paid the FederalGovernment handsomely to have made money available to the State; Governments for the purpose of opening up those areas by the provision of good roads and railways, thus removing the one great objectionable feature of the present system of settling our soldiers on the land. There are many instances in which persons who have made a competency by farming and are now desirous of getting off the land are offering their holdings at a high figure for the settlement of soldiers. In my own electorate one man was generous enough to submit his property to the Department at £16 5s. per acre, whereas that same holding was on the market for three years prior to the war at £8 per acre. He had induced a couple of returned soldiers to believe that his farm was the only property that appealed to them, and they were quite willing to undertake the responsibility of buying it at the figure at which he was offering it; but, very wisely, the proposal was turned down. We are not carrying out the expressed intention of the Government to develop Australia and primary production if we allow competent men, who have proved themselves to be good farmers, to leave the land and replace them by men with very limited knowledge of agriculture, and in many cases quite unacquainted with the conditions prevailing in the districts where they have bought out previous holders at a high figure. Of course, this question of settling soldiers on the land is not one for this Parliament, but I have all along held the belief that we would have done better if we had secured from the State Governments large areas of undeveloped land and settled the soldiers on them ourselves. Although it might have meant the establishment of still another CommonwealthDepartment, it would have enabled many of the soldiers to avoid vexatious delays that are brought about by dual control.
Reference has been made to a deputation which waited on the Hon. Donald Mackinnon. From time to time in the newspapers we read of visitors from other countries making an inspection of the various flocks and herds of Australia, and buying the very best of our stud sheep at prices which our own people are not willing to pay. By tins means Australia is losing some of her best stud stock, and as the present tendency is to cut up the large holdings where these sheep are bred, and start men on them on small areas, we cannot expect the high standard of excellence which has been attained by Australian sheep breeders to be maintained, because the smaller settlers will have neither the means nor the facilities to keep up that high standard. I do not want it to be thought that I am an advocate of a policy which would retard that closer settlement which is so essential for Australia, but at the same time I want it to be understood that I think a great mistake has been made in placing men on small areas in certain districts while some of the best of our land is allowed to remain practically idle. Recently I paid a trip to Queensland, and made it my business to visit the Beerburrum soldier settlement. I had travelled through that country several years ago in search of land. The spot on which the soldiers. are now settled was then considered valueless by men on the outlook for agricultural propositions; and the fact that although it was only 40 miles from Brisbane, and had a railway line traversing it, it remained undeveloped for twenty-five years, ought to have been sufficient to satisfy the ordinary man that it could not be altogether suitable for soldier settlement. When I visited Beerburrum I was received very courteously by the overseer, who happened to have been a member of my own unit overseas. He placed at my disposal ‘ a buggy and pair, so that I could drive about among the farms and meet different people, but I noticed that I was always taken to the show farms, and was told that others who have been on a similar tour of inspection have been treated in the same way. But I made it my business to go out on my own one afternoon and get in touch with the farmers without any official accompanying me. I very quickly ascertained that things were very different from what I had been led to believe as the result of my conversations with the men I had met earlier.
– What did the honorable member find wrong with the settlement?
– The first complaint made to me, and it was repeated by almost every settler, was that the tenure on which the soldiers held the land did not suit them. The tenure is perpetual leasehold, with a reappraisement of rent every ten years. In other words, the holder of the block taxes himself for any improvements he effects. I am satisfied that we must view this problem in a new light. I advocate the settling of returned soldiers in groups, and providing them with facilities of which the old pioneer was deprived. I know a little about pioneering in Queensland. For thirty years I lived on a property which was 40 miles from a railway. We could get our produce to the railway in fine weather, but, owing to the state of the roads, it was absolutely impossible to do so in wet weather. The difficulties with which the early settlers had to contend can be overcome by th-s judicious expenditure of considerable sums of money upon the construction of railwayS and roads. There is a great future before this Commonwealth in regard to the settlement of men on the soil provided the price of the land is not too high. I cannot see the wisdom of buying up farms at an exorbitant figure and putting men with little or no experience on them, hoping that they will make good.
.- The conditions of land settlement in New ‘ South Wales should have the attention of the Minister. Any one who looks at the figures recently produced by the State Government in regard to the cost of settling soldiers must admit that the efforts in this direction, so far as New South Wales is concerned, have proved a ghastly failure. I have not heard of or seen any Crown land made available for the purpose by the State Government that is fit to settle soldiers on. Recently I had occasion to look at some soldiers’ blocks in the coastal area. It was classed as cattle country. It is a hungry, hilly, almost mountainous country, heavily timbered with coastal hardwoods. The mills have taken out all the straight trees, leaving to the soldier the task of clearing off the rubbish. But while it is classed as cattle country, I venture to say that if any returned soldier lives long enough to clear one of these blocks it will not grow one bullock to the block, let alone one to the acre. I saw a most pathetic sight during that visit. I was taken on to one block where there was a woman with her infant and her father, whose age must have been between seventy and eighty. Her husband, a returned soldier, had been a carpenter, but he had essayed the task of taking on one of these blocks. While at work, clearing, he was killed by a falling tree. The widow, with her child and father, was living on in a little bark humpy, acting upon the advice of the Repatriation people,’ who had told her to “ hang on. “ in the hope that some other returned soldier settler might come along and take over the block, thus permitting her to secure some compensation. The adaptability of settlers and the suitability of their blocks are matters which should receive the profoundest scrutiny and investigation; and, since the Commonwealth is advancing the money, the Government should have some supervision of its expenditure in order to be assured that returned soldiers are getting the greatest possible benefit from the outlay. I know of another case of a block on an irrigation settlement. What hope had the returned soldier settler of making a success of “this area when water could only be got on to 2 acres of the whole block? From personal knowledge I can say that those who do know something about the land among our returned soldier applicants are the very men who have to wait the longest to get a suitable block. After months of endeavour some of them appear to be further off than ever from being successfully settled.
– ‘The States are supposed to pick out the best land, and the most suitable soldiers’ for settlement thereon, and to see, generally., that the best possible use is made of the money allocated.
– From the inception of our Repatriation legislation this Parliament was aware of the danger of choosing unsuitable land and selecting the wrong men; so that we cannot be .said to have gone into the matter without thought or warning. From the point of view of genuine settlement and of the wise outlay of Commonwealth money, which has been advanced to the States, the whole business has been a ghastly failure. The Government should see to it that they are directly represented in regard to the various land settlement activities of the States.
.- I am seeking information concerning Italian reservists who were taken out of this country, and whose wives and other dependants have been subsidized by the Commonwealth Government, and have been also in receipt of a very small sum from the Italian Government. I have received complaints from some constituents of mine at Broken Hill, to the effect that their sources of supply have been cut off by the Commonwealth Government, while, at the same time, the small amounts which they receive from Italy are being paid irregularly and at long intervals. I communicated with the Italian Consul. . His reply was very brief, and to the effect that the payments were made in accordance with instructions received from the Italian Government. That may be explicit from his point of view, but it is poor consolation to the women and children who are dependent upon this scanty assistance. The Commonwealth Government were responsible for “ shanghai- ing “ the husbands of these needy folk out of the country, at the instance of the then Italian Consul ; and if they are not legally responsible they are at least morally responsible for the dependants. Nothing has been heard from some of the deported reservists since they were taken away to the war. Their families do not know whether they are dead or whether they deserted or were taken prisoners, and, meanwhile, the women and children are practically living on the charity of their neighbours in Broken Hill.
Another matter which I wish to ventilate has to do with Australians who deserted from the Australian Imperial Force. The position of their dependants is a very unhappy one.
– There is provision for granting temporary assistance to the dependants of deserters.
– I communicated with the Defence Department a feW months ago, in the interests of certain’ dependants, and some degree of temporary relief was granted. One lady -has since informed me, however, that she is now receiving no help at all. She has two or three children to keep.
– I think the honorable member would find - and my experience confirms it - that, upon application to the Minister, temporary assistance can be secured without difficulty.
– The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) simply notified me that he could not extend any assistance. I will put the particulars before the Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), and I am quite sure that, if he has the power, hewill see that something is done. When I originally pointed out the circumstances to the Defence Department, its officials replied that the soldier in question was an illegal absentee, that his records were still in London,and that they had cabled for their despatch to Australia to be expedited; but that, in the circumtances, they could not extend any financial aid.
– Reasonable time is given for dependants to trace an absent soldier who has disentitled himself to all benefits. The Government cannot accept the permanent obligation of providing for dependants in such circumstances.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– When we adjourned for dinner I was referring to the case of a lady whose husband is, in the phraseology of the Defence Department, “ an illegal absentee.” I have now the letter which I received from the Secretary of the Defence Department in reply to my representations on the subject. It reads -
Dear Sir, - In continuation of my letter of 4th November, regarding your representations on behalf of Mrs.- , I desire to inform you that the position of the matter of this soldier’s military pay account is as stated by Mrs. -in her letter which you forwarded on to me, viz., that the London Records concerning her husband, who is an illegal absentee, have not yet been received, in consequence of which adjustment of his military pay account is delayed. I have sent a cablegram to London office instructing that all documents concerning members of the A.I.F. marked “ Illegal Absentee” are to be promptly despatched, and immediately on receipt of those papers relating to Mrs. – husband steps will be taken to effect settlement of the account. I greatly regret the circumstances in which this soldier’s wife is placed as the result of the illegal absence of her husband, but no action towards rendering any financial assistance can, in the circumstances, be undertaken by this Department.
If there is any means by which this lady and her children can be speedily helped it should be pointed out by the Department. The circumstances detailed in her letter show that she is absolutely dependent upon charity. It is through no fault of her own that she is in that position, and if there is any governmental method by which she can be helped it should be availed of without delay.
– I suggest that the honorable member furnish me with a statement of the circumstances, with a reference to the soldier’s number, when I will try to help this lady and her children under a special provision that we have for deserters’ wives. It is only a temporary form of assistance, designed to enable women in such circumstances to carry on pending the location of their husbands.
– Is there not some way of enabling this lady to get the gratuity to which her husband would have been entitled ?
– No; her husband’s disqualifications debar her until he puts himself right. He deprived himself of all benefits when he deserted the Army.
– When the War Gratuity Bill was before us I understood that the payment of the gratuity was not to be considered as a right. Surely, because this man is alleged to have done wrong, the Government is not going to refuse to do what is right? Whatever may be the legal aspect of the case, the Government are certainly bound morally to do what they can for this woman and her children. They took away the husband and availed themselves of his services. I do not know what are the circumstances associated with this man’s disappearance. It may be that he is suffering from shell shock.
– That is why it is very necessary that the honorable member should supply us with all the facts of the case at his disposal.
– The honorable gentleman seemed to be confident that this woman could not obtain the gratuity. I am not at all certain that, under the provisions of the Act, she is disentitled to it. I believe the Department, if it so desires, can grant it to her. This is a case where the gratuity accruing to the man, whatever it was, at the time of his disappearance, might very well be paid to his dependants.
– If she has not done so already, the wife should first of all make application for the gratuity and lodge a caveat against the gratuity being dealt with by. any one else. We will then deal with the matter.
– It seems tome that that would involve her in some legal expense.
– Not at all. A special form is provided, free of cost, by the Department.
– Very well. The only other request I have to make is that the Minister will supply me with whatever information he has in regard to the position of dependants of the Italian reservists who were sent away.
– I desire to support the complaint that has been made to-day by members of my party concerning the increased expenditure and the lessened efficiency which has resulted from the setting up of a new Department to administer the War Pensions Act. Prior to the transfer of the administration of war pensions from the Treasury to the Department of Repatriation we were able to have all matters relating to them dealt with in a satisfactory manner. But since the creation of this new Department I find it impossible to obtain satisfaction. It is almost impossible to get a reply to a letter addressed to the Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales. Unless one continually writes to the Department reminding if that a certain case is still awaiting consideration, one can get no satisfaction, and in many instances not even a reply is forthcoming. This transfer is not only involving us in an additional expenditure of £30,000 a year, but unfortunately the administration is less efficient than it was. I have had cases before the Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales since June last, and have not yet been able to have themsatisfactorily dealt with. I do not even know yet whether the claims are to be recognised or refused. The only reply that one receives, as a rule, to a communication sent to the Department is that it “will receive consideration.” It seems to me that these cases requirea great deal of considerationat the hands of the Department, and I hope that the Minister “will see to it that the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales attends to his work.
Proposed vote agreed to.
That the following resolution be reported to the House : - “ That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charges for the year 1920-21, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £27,86.1,596.”
Resolution reported; Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook.and Mr. Wise do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and read a first and second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
.- During the Budget debate I referred to the price of sugar, and was told by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that the argument advanced by me was based upon three fallacies. He promised that he would reply to my statements, and I certainly thought that I would have had before now some answer to them. I pointed out at the time that the local production of sugar was something like 100,000 tons below the requirements for local consumption and that the Government imported 70,000 tons up to 28th February, 1920, which, according to replies given by the Minister to questions put by me, was landed in Australia - I presume at the various ports where refining is carried on - at a cost of less than £28 per ton. The price at which the sugar was purchased, including freight, insurance, and exchange, probably did not amount to more than £24 per ton, and, allowing for refining and distribution charges, would not amount to £28 per ton. Assuming the price to be £28, that means 3d. per lb. According to the Budget speech, the whole of the 124,000 tons that was imported during 1919-20 was landed here at a cost of £43 per ton. The cost of sugar is a very vexed question in the community to-day, and there are also complaints of the shortage of supplies. Notwithstanding the paragraphs which have appeared in the newspapers stating that there is ample sugar available, I am informed that it is impossible to obtain refined’ sugar in many of the “Melbourne suburbs. As to my own household, the grocer, from whom under ordinary circumstances, we get 12 lbs. of refined sugar per week, was able to supply us with only 3 lbs. or 4. lbs. On the last occasion, however, we obtained 6 lbs., but it was raw sugar. No wonder the Colonial Sugar Refining Company can show such colossal profits as were announced at their last annual meeting in Sydney. It appears that their profit was £180,000- larger than ever before. The reason is that the company is getting the same price for raw sugar as for refined sugar; at any rate, the public is paying the same price for both, and I am certainly not wrong in saying that the company have made a record profit.
– In Fiji, largely.
– The honorable member knows very well that the £3,000,000 that the company invested in Fiji consisted of undivided profits ; that was proved before the Royal Commission in 1911 or 1912. The recent inquiry by the Inter-State Commission did not touch that phase of the question, for the reason that the representatives of the company refused pointblank to answer any questions. No company in Australia should be above the Government, whether it be the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Melbourne Gas Company, the British Australian Tobacco Company, or any of the other wealthy combines to whom we pay toll every day. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made their enormous profits out of Fiji, it was out of watered stock; and the people of Australia have to pay. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) informs me that, later on, a little Bill dealing with sugar is to be introduced, and I only hope that some arrangements will be made for an adequate supply in Austialia, particularly to ordinary householders. I am not speaking now for the Housewives Federation or any other organization, but for the great mass of consumers who are unable to procure sugar for jam making. That is a serious matter, not only for the housewife, but also for the small fruit-producer in the Dandenong Ranges, for instance, where raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries and other jam fruits are grown, and, according to announcements that have been made, may now be obtained at a certain price. Unless there is an adequate supply of sugar, these fruits will go to waste. The complaint is made that while jam manufacturers, confectionery manufacturers, brewers and others may obtain unlimited supplies, the quantities allowed the domestic jam-maker are very restricted .
There is another phase of the question, which has been mentioned previously. About March last, when the price was increased, we were informed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that certain firms in Melbourne, including Hoadley’s, and another firm in Brunswick, had been proved to have hoarded sugar. What has been done in those cases? Were those guilty of hoarding compelled to sell the sugar at 31/2d. - as they could very well have done - and at a profit ? Can the Minister for Trade and Customs hold out any hope to the ordinary domestic jam-maker of being able to get sufficient sugar at a fair price?
.- I do not propose to say much on the present occasion, seeing that an opportunity will be given to discuss the question on a little measure to be introduced later by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook). Imay then reply at some length to the statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). I should like, however, to say a word or two in relation to the supplies of sugar. Later on I shall state the reason why the supplies have been short during the last few months. I now desire to say that arrangements have been made for the purchase of large quantities of Java white sugar. There are two steamers on their way to Australia now and they will arrive in a few days with, between them, about 9,000 tons of white sugar. This, with the refineries working at their full capacity, will, I believe, enable us to meet the demands of the fruit season. There are other shipments to follow, and I have no doubt that the position will be so materially relieved within the next few days that we shall have no more complaints in regard to shortage.
– That means that the housewife will be able to obtain her ordinary supplies?
– In a few days we shall be able, we hope, to fill all orders we get for sugar. We do not propose to start ourselves distributing the sugar to individual householders, but we shall make such quantities available to the trade as to enable everybody, we think, to obtain’ all the sugar required.
Mr.Fenton. - If housewives are unable to obtain sugar for jam making, monopolists will buy the fruit at dirtcheap prices.
– All I can say is that we shall do what has been always done in the past - we shall make sugar available to the trade ; and, whether the orders come from grocers or from jam manufacturers, they will be fulfilled. That is what we have been endeavouring to do for some considerable time past.
– But suppose manufacturers try to corner sugar and prevent the small consumers getting in?
– I do not think there is the smallest chance of that ; people will not desire to invest large amounts in stocks of sugar when they know that it will be available as required.
– People will not hoard sugar at 6d. a lb.
– They will not hoard under the conditions I have indicated. There is just one other point I desire to make clear. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the profits made ‘by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company out of the sale of brown sugar. The company does not. get any profit whatever from the sale of sugar. The arrangement made by the Government with the company is that the latter shall be paid a fixed rate on every ton of sugar which they refine and sell, the Government paying the company, in addition, the actual cost of refining, for the use of the plant. The company make the same return whether they sell white or brown sugar, and, whatever the price may be, it is a fixed charge.
.- Has the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) noticed that large quantities of butter are being shipped from this country, and that, with the Butter Pool in existence, and notwithstanding bountiful crops, with plenty of feed for cattle, we are paying famine prices? A great deal of discontent is caused throughout the country because the price of butter is now 2s.10d. or 2s.11d. per lb. for home consumption. Poor people cannot afford such prices; and I suggest that the Minister should, as has been done before, regulate the export of butter until such time as it is sold locally at a reasonable price.
– The dairy farmer is not making anything at the present price.
-Nonsense! We have heard the honorable member say the same sort of thing about the price of sugar. Did the honorable member ever know butter to be at such a price with such splendid crops as we are now having ? We are here to legislate not only for the dairy farmer, but for the consumers as well; and the Minister is not doing his duty when he allows butter to be sold atthe present high prices. Under present circumstances, the dairy farmer would be well paid if butter were1s. 6d. a lb., and he knows it. So many thousand boxes of butter are leaving this country, and I believe it is sold in England at 2s. 4d. per lb.; yet we are called upon to pay 2s. 10d. There is a leakage somewhere, and the matter should be attended to. No wonder there are complaints that the workers cannot live on their wages. The price of bread and the price of sugar has been doubled - the latter through the influence of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) in this House. With the advent of the Country party the price of butter went up to double its value; and, really, I do not know what the country is coming to.
– I have only to say that all the matters referred to will receive the careful and sympathetic consideration of the Government.
– I desire to say, in regard to butter, first of all, that the Australian public are paying the parity of the London price; they are paying the price, and only the price, which we are receiving for the London contract. The Government have given a most definite undertaking, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) announced in the House to-day - that they will take no action which would prevent the producersreceiving the export parity for their product.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
That the amendments be considered in Committeeforthwith.
Clause 7 - 60d.( 1 ) The Note Issue Department shall be managed by a Board of Directors. . . . (3) Of the three persons first appointed as Directors in pursuance of this section, one person shall be appointed for a term of five years, one for a term of four years, and one fora term of three years.
Senate’s Amendments. - After the word “ ap- pointed,” second occurring in sub-clause 3, insert the words “ and shall hold office during good behaviour”; after the word “years,” in sub-clause 4, insert the words “ subject to good behaviour”; after the word “absence” first occurring in sub-clause 6, insert the words “from the Commonwealth or absence from duty on leave.”
. -I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
These amendments do not mean very much. They have to do with the conditions under which the Directors appointed to assist the Governor of the Bank in the management of the Note Issue Department shall hold office, and are an additional guarantee of good service.
.- Of the first three persons appointed as Directors, one is to have a term of five years, one a termof fouryears, and one a term of three years, and thereafter for each appointment the term is to be five years. If, however, a Director becomes ill, his place may have to be filled temporarily, and the last of these amendments makes provision also for a temporary appointment in the event of the absence of a Director from the Commonwealth or from duty on leave.
.- As public servants may be removed from office at any time, I cannot see the need for the first two amendments,making the appointments of the Directors subject to good behaviour.
– Why should we have a dispute with the Senate about them?
Mr.RILEY. - Why should the Senate put into the Bill words that mean nothing?
.- I was opposed to the appointment of two additional Directors merely to draw fees. The Senate, however, could not have made itself more ridiculous than it has done by two of its amendments. It was thought that that body would be a home for worn-out politicians who were men of ability. The amendments are the work of worn-out politicians, but certainly not of men of ability. The Government, however, has accepted them, and its servile followers–
– The persons who sit behind the Government will, of course, support it, and, therefore, the intellect that sits on this side of the chamber cannot assert itself. 1 am certain that not one member of the Committee regards the amendments as of any value. As has been pointed out, a Government can always remove a public servant who is not of good behaviour. But this Government, since it has been in power, has made so many appointments that, apparently, it is difficult for it to find persons to accept positions unless under some such conditions as these. The legislation of this Parliament should be couched in language bearing the hallmark of ability; and that cannot now be said of this Bill. I am sure that those responsible for the drafting of the measure are sorry that the amendments have been made, because at some future time they may be thought responsible for them. As I have said, it was a mistake to make provision for three Directors; but I did not move an amendment when the clause was under discussion, because I felt that I could not accomplish what I wished to do.
I am sorry that in financial matters members, as a whole, find little to interest them.I do not know whether that is due to want of knowledge of finance, or to some other reason, nor do I know why the Government have accepted this amendment. I suppose they find it necessary to keep the compact body in the Senate good-tempered. I guarantee there is no other Statute in the British community which includes the words we are now asked to insert; but even if they are to be found in other legislation, the fact is no justification for our repeating the mistake. However, the gentlemen in another place are nearly all new to public life.
– The honorable member must not discuss the Senate.
– This proposal is a reflection on future Executives, practically imputing that they would permit persons of bad behaviour to have control of our note issue. I hope that never again shall we have such an exhibition of stupidity. The legislation we pass ought to be a monument of perfection, capable of being understood by every one, and quite free of superfluities.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message received from the Senate that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in the Bill.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook, for Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to repeal the War Precautions Act 1014-18, and to provide for certain matters arising out of such repeal, and for other purposes.
Debate resumed from 4th November (vide page 6195), on motion by Mr. Poynton -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I was under the impression that the Government proposed to withdraw this Bill. I have the same complaint to make in regard to it that I have made in reference to other Bills we have had before us recently. For instance, clause 3 informs us that section 3 of the principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph c and inserting in its stead a new paragraph c ; but unless honorable members secure a copy of the consolidated Immigration Act, they can have no idea of what was the original paragraph c. I do not know why the Government have departed from the practice of having a memorandum printed showing in black type the words proposed to be added to the Act; and in erased type the words proposed to be struck out. It could easily have been done with this small Statute, which, as consolidated, covers not more than eleven pages.
The Bill proposes to omit the definition of ‘ ‘ the Minister, ‘ ‘ which according to the original Act, means “ the Minister for External Affairs.”
– We are inserting “ Minister for Home and Territories “ in lieu of those words.
– But, apparently, by omitting the words “ the Minister,” the Act can be administered by a departmental head. I object to cutting out Ministerial responsiblity, and I cannot see any good purpose to be served by this amendment.
– What is the object of it ?
– I do not know. When we reach the clause, the Minister may tell us. In any case, it is an important principle whichhas been introduced for the first time in this Bill. Before the war no country was more strict in respect to its immigration laws than the United States. That strictness, however, was not consistent. A person had very little difficulty in getting into America, so long as he did not seek to enter as a steerage passenger. For twenty years prior to the war an annual average of 1,000,000 immigrants entered the United States. All sorts of tests were made, but so long as one. entered as a first or second class steamer passenger the more stringent examinations could generally be avoided. Canada instituted restrictions in imitation of the United States, but Australia is now about to institute stillm ore drastic restrictions.
– Because Canada’s . experience justifies that course.
– One of our new restrictions is as follows: -
Person suffering from dementia, insane person, person who has been insane within five years previously, or person who has had two or more attacks of insanity.
With many of these unfortunate people the attacks are intermittent. During normal periods sufferers are often very shrewd, or cunning. Is it intended to ask every person who seeks to enter Australia if he or she has been insane within the past five years ?
– Yes. Investigations of the same kind were conducted while the honorable member was a Minister.
– But if a person says he is not insane and has not been insane within five years, how can his word be disproved ? Can a medical examination reveal anything if the individual at the time is normal? Insanity is a most awful infliction, and, of course, we do not want immigrants of that type. It would appear, however, that they will be kept out if they tell the truth about themselves, but may not be prevented from entering if they avoid stating the facts; and very few of these unfortunates would be likely to admit their insanity. We should see that only very healthy persons are admitted into Australia.I have been assured by a medical authority that if Australia were to institute stringent regulations governing tubercular disease, and were to prevent infected newcomers from landing on our shores, we could rid ourselves of the scourge within thirty years.
– Many people came here to regain good health. The Australian climate has been their salvation.
– Yes, they have come to this land as weaklings, and have lived on to a robust old age. I do not suggest for one moment that we should have notice-boards at the entrances to our ports intimating that “Rubbish should be shot off here.” We should take all reasonable precautions, at the same time being careful not to keep out bona fide immigrants upon the whim of some Minister or official. I want to know whether all passengers, irrespective of the class in which they journey out here, are to be treated alike. Will saloon passengers be required to undergo the same investigations and tests as steerage passengers?
– Every passenger must pass a medical inspection, whether he travels by saloon or otherwise.
– Would Tom Walsh be asked the same questions as Lowell Thomas ?
– Tom Walsh is a Britisher.
– Britishers have been kept out of Australia.
– What about the case of the six hatters ?
– I know all about that. The hatters were fooled on the other side.
– And on this side, too.
– No ; they were admitted to Australia. They were subject to a political dodge. Iknow a good deal about the whole thing, for I had been working at the trade within two years of that period. I know all about the myth that grew from the alleged prohibition against their landing in this country. I know of the political capital which was made of the incident by the opponents of the Barton Government, who were administering our immigration laws at the time.
– The incident was entirely a matter of administration.
– I admit that; but my objection at this moment is to one class of immigrant being treated differently from another.
– Hear, hear !
– My objection is that the authorities would make their task one of discrimination rather than of administration.
– Yes; I have said before that departmental officials will generally administer in the way their Minister desires. A keen Minister makes keen officers, and a slack Minister makes slack officers. If the Minister responsible wants to keep out of Australia a certain type of individual, or even a specific person, his officers will take all sorts of care to institute such tests as will prevent the admission of the newcomer. I have seen saloon passengers get past immigration officials in the United States with mighty little difficulty.
– How much has it cost them?
– I do not know, and I do not want to make any allegations in that regard. My main objection to this measure has to do with the proposed new paragraph, which reads: - (gd) any person who advocates’ the over throw by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth or of any State or of any other civilized country or of all forms of law, or who is opposed to organized government, or who advocates the assassination of public officials or who advocates or teaches the unlawful destruction of property, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization which entertains and teaches any of the doctrines and practices specified in this paragraph;
– Ifc is well named a ” 9& “ paragraph.
– It is. This proposed power will be employed for political purposes.
– But, surely, the honorable member would not advocate the entry into Australia of persons holding those views?
– The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) - if one is to judge by a statement attributed to him a good many years ago - might have been kept out of Australia under the terms of this paragraph. If the Treasurer advocated the establishment of a Republic in Australia, he could be kept out.
– I did not advocate a Republic. Let me say that quite plainly.
– I certainly understood that the right honorable gentleman had done so at one time. At any rate, the power here set out could be employed ; and I say emphatically that had it been part of our laws in the past it would have been used to keep out persons who are good Australians to-day.
– The honorable member would not say they were good Australian citizens if they could be placed under this category?
– People have a right to their own political opinions. The powers here sought to be embraced within our immigration laws could be very easily stretched by keen officials who knew what their Ministers wanted. Actions could be taken of a similar nature to that which was witnessed in this House a week ago to-day. If the ex-member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) were about to enter Australia at this moment, the provisions of paragraph gd could be employed, so as to keep him out; and the Government would so employ them.
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to discuss so much in detail the clauses of the Bill.
– After all, sir, the clauses to which I am referring are the principal features of the Bill. The.? specify the persons to whom it is intended to apply, and who are to be kept out of the country. This is neither more nor less than panic legislation. I am aware that similar legislation has been introduced in other countries. It used to be out proud boast that Britain was the asylum for the political refugees of other countries.
– She paid for it when the war broke out.
– Make no mistake about that. There were men of French and Italian extraction, as well as political refugees of practically every country, in Britain at that time.
– Garibaldi was in London in my boyhood days.
– And Mazzini and many others sought refuge in England. It was the boast of Britishers that men who had committed no offence in their own country, except that they held advanced political views, found a refuge in the Old Country. Britain did not pay dearly for that spirit of toleration. What she did pay dearly for was the opening, of her doors to the cheap labour of other countries. The cheap labour of other countries was availed of to such an extent in the manning of British ships that on many a British vessel not one member of the crew could speak the English language. Britain went abroad to get cheap labour.
– Nothing of the kind.
– That was proved at the International Navigation Conference held in Great Britain in 1907.
– The truth is that the people at Home in those days preferred to stay on shore, because things on shore were better.
– The truth is that Britishers could not be induced to work in the stokeholds of the Atlantic and other liners for £3 a month, which was all that ship-owners were prepared to pay for such labour. I know something of seafaring life, and of the conditions which used to prevail in Liverpool and on British steamers. That was what Britain had to pay dearly for.
– Would the honorable member allow the advocacy of the destruction by force or violence of our established form of government?
– I have not said that I would. I have said that certain clauses in this Bill could be so twisted by the Government as to keep out of the country any honorable member on this side of the House who had taken a trip abroad.
– What is more, I honestly believe that it would be so used by some persons.
– Order ! I must again remind the House that on a motion for the second reading of a Bill the general principles of the measure may be discussed, and the clauses in it may be incidentally referred to; but to discuss them in detail, as is being done at present, is wholly out of keeping with our own practice, and that of other legislative assemblies. Every clause can be minutely discussed in Committee.
– I am not sure that we shall have that opportunity. I believe that the whole Bill will be used by the Government to keep out its political opponents.
– And therefore the honorable member says we should not have ah Immigration Restriction Bill.
– I do not say that. I would use such a Bill to debar employers from bringing in cheap labour under contract. It would have been a good thing for Great Britain if in the past it had had a similar measure. A lot of trouble resulting from the encouragement given to people to go there from other countries in order that cheap labour might be secured would thus have been avoided.
This is a piece of political camouflage, and is to be used to keep out certain persons whose political opinions do not coincide with those of the Government. In one part of the measure, specific reference is made to certain persons who were our enemies during the war. The war is now over.
– “Evil be to him who evil thinks.” The honorable member says this Bill is introduced for a specific purpose.
– I do; and I think that some Ministers would use it for that specific purpose. This may be followed by a Bill providing for deportation, and applying even to Britishers and others whom the Government do not wish to remain here. In 1917 - about the time of the Ready incident - the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), speaking in this House in regard to peace terms, said that, once
Germany had purged herself of the persons who were at the head of her affairs at that particular time, he would be willing that she should again come into the councils of the nations. I indorse that view; but under this Bill we shut Germans out of Australia. I do not suppose that any Commonwealth electorate is freer of German influence than that which I represent. When the Government, about April, 1916, had a “roundup,’’ and compelled all persons to state their place of origin, they were only able to find in my electorate twenty-three persons who were believed to be of enemy origin, and every one of them proved that they were not Germans. One man was able to trace back his British ancestry for more than 200 years. That i3 more than many of us could do. The Government are ill-advised in introducing the Bill at this time. It is true that we are following the lead of other countries, but we know very well that Britain today is allowing Germany to trade with her. Day after day we read in the newspapers that certain British industries are being ruined by imports from Germany.
– By the dumping of German goods in’ Great Britain.
– That is so. I do not approve of anything of the kind.
– Under this Bill, .Germans are excluded from the Commonwealth for a period of five years.
– And there is nothing to prevent the Government proposing, when that period has expired, to extend it to the extent of another fifty years. Meantime, we are allowing Germany, through the medium of other countries, to do trade with Australia.
– There is nothing in this Bill as to trade.
– I am aware of that. I am simply pointing out the political hypocrisy of some persons who, like the ostrich, bury their heads in the sand, and refuse to see that this sort of thing is going on. Under the principal Act, commercial travellers and students are exempt. Does that mean that German commercial travellers and students will be free to come here while other Germans are prohibited for a period of five years? Japanese, German, and other commercial travellers and students can come into Australia, although their fellow countrymen who are not so employed are unable to do so. I am hopeful that we shall return to normal times, and will have no more of the panic legislation that we have had during the war period. This is but a part of the aftermath of the war, and I believe that many of those who are now supporting this form of legislation will be heartily ashamed of it before many years have elapsed.
Debate (on motion by Sir Joseph Cook) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Sugar Purchase Act 1915-20.
I really do not know whether this Bill requires a message, but, perhaps, it is well to be on the safe side. The object of the Bill is to remove the limitation of £1,000,000 which we may borrow as an overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank for sugar purchases, and to enable us to increase the amount.
– There will still be a limitation ?
– It is not proposed to have a limit, for which I see no necessity, in view of the fact that prices are all the time fluctuating. This year, in order to see us through until the next Queensland crop is harvested and dealt with, we shall have to purchase altogether about 130,000 tons of sugar, which represents our shortage.
– You told us in your Budget speech that this sugar would cost £4.3 per ton, and you must have realized on some now.
– Not much. I do not expect I shall have to find all this money out of overdraft. What is realized will help by so much, but at least we shall require a great deal more than £1,000,000.
– You have repaid the advances?
– Yes; the money all goes into a special Sugar Trust Fund, and not into the ConsolidatedRevenue.
The object of the Bill is, as I say, to remove the limit to which we may borrow in order to buy sugar abroad. When we are finding the pinch in London and elsewhere, it becomes necessary that our financial operations should be as free as possible, so as to enable us to take advantage of the constantly shifting market. A fortnight ago sugar rose . £9 per ton, and now it is down again ; and we cannot take advantage of operations unless we have freer financial arrangements for the purpose of borrowing moneys temporarily by which to establish credits. In the present disturbed condition of the world, people abroad must have credits absolutely established before they will sell. That is taking place even between civilized Governments.
– Not if it is for ammunition or guns !
– It is the same with everything; in any case, I am talking about sugar just now. Everybody is crying out for sugar, and we must go on buying, and we must find the money before we make the purchases. The only way to find the money is to borrow tern- . porarily from our own Commonwealth Bank, repaying it from the proceeds from sugar from time to time.
– It is simply an advance ?
– It means no increased charge on the people, and that is why I doubted whether a message was necessary.
.- I intend to take advantage of the present opportunity to enter my protest against Savings Bank depositors being paid less interest by the Commonwealth Bank than is paid by this country to the foreign money-lender.
– That has nothing to do with this Bill.
– The right honorable gentleman spoke about the stringency of the Home money market, and I resent very strongly the fact that Australian men and women who deposit money in the Commonwealth Savings Bank are paid less interest than is paid by the State Savings Bank to its depositors. If we are willing to pay the foreign money-lender 6 per cent., representing, possibly, 7 per cent. when the cost of underwriting is added, why should we not pay the same to people whoadvance money in Australia?
– Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the motion?
– I shall connect my remarks with the statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), whohas spoken of this overdraft of £1,000,000.
– There is no mention in the motion of £1,000,000, or any other sum, for an overdraft.
– With all respect, I point out that if you read clause 2 of the Bill–
– I have no official knowledge of what is in the Bill to be introduced; all I am concerned with now is the motion before the Chair.
– I have no objection to wait until the Bill is before us; but the Minister is moving for permission to introduce it.
– When this motion is passed, the Bill will be immediately introduced, and the honorable member will then know what it contains. Personally, I do not officially know the contents of the Bill.
– I understand that, technically, you are keeping me within the rules of debate observed by this House, though those rules have never been actually adopted by the Parliament.
– I am, however, bound by those rules.
– I bow to your decision, sir; but I protest against the absurd rules that are observed in this Parliament. I can only regret that the creators of this Parliament have not more power to do away with the foolish rules observed here.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- It seems to me that this is the time to protest against the Commonwealth Savings Bankpaying less interest to its depositors than is paid to the depositors in the State Savings Bank.
– Let them put their money in the State Savings Bank.
– The depositors in the Savings Banks are generally people of small means, with little or no financial experience, or they would, naturally, go. to the bank which pays the largest interest. It is contemptible that a certain portion of our citizens should be robbed in this way; but it all arises from our having a dictator at the head of the Commonwealth Bank instead of a Board of Directors. With all humility, I suggest to the Treasurer that he could get large sums of money by offering to the people of Australia the same terms he offers to the money-lender across the sea. The great mass of the people of Australia have never refused to help this country in an hour of need; and I do not see why they should not be paid the same rate of interest that we are willing to pay to our creditors abroad.
– Do you suggest that we should pay the private banks more than we pay the Commonwealth Bank? That is involved in what you say.
-The right honorable gentleman misunderstands me. What I mean is that the Government should pay the Savings Bank depositors - the common people of Australia - a rate of interest equal to that paid to the foreign money-lender. If the local depositors were paid a little more interest than at present, the whole of it would be spent in Australia; whereas the interest paid to the foreign money-lender leaves Australia. The public deposit their money in the Commonwealth Savings Bank principally on account of its acknowledged safety; and I believe that if a special appeal were made to them for funds to enable the Government to purchase sugar, their assistance would be gladly given.
– There is no reason why the Commonwealth Savings Bank should not pay as high a rate of interest as that paid by the State Savings Banks.
– I consider that the Commonwealth Bank is robbing the depositors.
– The worst feature is that in many country places the only Savings Bank is that conducted by the Commonwealth Bank at the local post offices.
– And the absolute dictator at the head of the Bank refuses to pay the Australian depositor any higher rate of interest than at present. The position of the Commonwealth Bank clerks is not dealt with in the Bill; but it does seem to me infamous that the award of the Arbitration Court does not apply to them. In my opinion, it is time for those clerks to organize; and I should be willing to assist them to go on strike to obtain their rights.
. -This is a Bill which I think we may pass quite readily. It is a step in the right direction. No greater calamity could happen to the fruit-grower than a lack of sugar supplies.
– No one will benefit more from this Bill than the fruitgrowers.
– They have to pay the price for the sugar; but to be without any during the fruit season would mean absolute ruin. The Government are to be congratulated on this extension of their operations. We have the assurance of the Minister that the whole of this money is simply an advance to buy sugar, and that the money will be returned into the purchasing fund as it is realized; that is, it will not go into the Consolidated Revenue, and add to our indebtedness. I have often said, and I repeat, that it is time we put this sugar question on a very much better basis. I am one of those who think that as we have given enormous assistance to the sugar industry, the least we can ask is that it shall provide for the requirements of Australia. I am aware, of course, that droughts and difficult seasons recur from time to time, and that, as a result we are frequently faced with a great shortage, but I think that the big incubus standing between the consumer and the canegrower is the real reason why the sugar industry does not progress, and that we shall never be able to put it on a satisfactory basis until we have such a system of co-operation among the canegrowers, assisted by the Government as far as possible, as will enable the grower to get the full result of his labour.
– You will have the Sugar Journal on to you for this.
– I am speaking on behalf of the cane-grower of Queensland, and the fruit-growers and consumers of Australia. The time is ripe for some definite action. I speak as the representative of a district which consumes more sugar as the raw material for its industries than any other electorate in Australia. The fruit-growers of the Commonwealth are quite prepared to give the sugar cane-growers a generous deal, but they ask for the removal, as far as possible, of that influence which comes in between them.
– It would be bad for Queensland.
– We are always taught by some people to kiss our chains. I am taking a stand on this question, because I realize that the cane-grower of Queensland will never be in a position to get the fullresults of his labour until, by some system of Government assisted co-operation, the consumers and jam manufacturers on the one hand and the cane-grower on the other hand are brought’ into closer touch. I welcome the Bill, and hope it will have a speedy passage.
.- Earlier in the evening when we were debating another matter the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) promised to reply to certain statements which I had made concerning the sugar industry. The Treasurer’s Budget speech, page 11, contains the following: -
Since the Commonwealth Government assumed control of the sugar industry, sales of sugar have amounted to nearly £40,000,000. From February, 1919, to July, 1920, 123,988 tons of foreign sugar have been purchased at the average cost of £43 9s. 5d. per ton, delivered to Australian refineries. The present Australian sugar crop is expected to yield about 170,000) tons.
Now, according to the answers given to me by the Minister for Customs, from the end of June last year to the end of February this year, importations of sugar from Java totalled 66,000 tons, and fromFiji 4,100 tons. The Java sugar cost £22 per ton f.o.b. for 60,000 tons, and £23 per ton f.o.b. for 6,000 tons, while theFiji sugar cost £25 per ton f.o.b. Freight from Java was 35s. per ton, and fromFiji 27s. 6d. per ton. Insurance from Java was 9s. 9d. to 10s.11d. per cent., and from Fiji 8s. per cent. Exchange on the Java sugar cost 15s. per cent. to 17s. 6d. per cent., but on Fiji it was nil. This brings the total cost of the Java sugar to £23 17s. 6d. per ton, or 21/2d. per lb., and theFiji sugar to £26 19s. 6d., or 27/8d. per lb.
– That was not for refined sugar.
– No, it was raw sugar. The sugar from Queensland cost only £22 6s.8d. per ton, or21/4d. per lb. This was up to the end of February of this year. If the 186,000 tons of Queensland sugar cost the Government only 21/4d. per lb., and the Java andFiji sugar21/2d. and 27/8d. per lb. respectively, it is not right that the Australian public to-day should be paying 6d. per lb. That is all I have to say. They are the Minister’s own figures, not mine.
– I have not had an opportunity, since I spoke earlier in the evening, of getting the exact data to enable me to reply in the way I would like to the statement of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor). I can only say that his calculations are based on assumptions that are entirely inaccurate. The honorable gentleman is quoting figures for raw sugar.
– I said that.
– Then he is taking the average over a period which includes part of the time when we were selling sugar at 31/2d. per lb., and part of the time we were selling at 6d. per lb. Every pound that we got at the lower rate was sold to the public for 31/2d. But when we had to buy at the higher price we raised the retail price to 6d. The retail price was not raised until we had sold to the public all the sugar that we had bought cheaply. The profit that we make on the sugar that we are buying from the Australian grower is about £7 per ton. The market rose rapidly from the date on which we bought the cheap sugar, butwe were able to buy a certain quantity at a price that enabled us to continue to sell at 6d. per lb. retail.We could not, however, have continued buying to sell at that price.
– But the Treasurer has told us that the 123,000 tons of imported sugar cost on the average only a little over £43 per ton.
– In quoting those figures the honorable member is dealing with a period covering two, seasons. The fact that the average cost over the whole period, which includes that during which our cheap sugar was being sold to the public at 31/2d. per lb., was £43 per head, shows that the balance of the sugar was bought at a much higher figure. Had we not been able to make an arrangement with the Australian grower, our public, instead of paying 6d. per lb. for sugar, would have had to pay for it what the world has been paying until recently, namely, from1s. to1s. 2d. per lb. It is only because of the arrangement we made with the Australian grower, and because we bought a considerable quantity of sugar before the market rose to the point which it recently reached, that we could continue selling at 6d. per lb.
As to the shortage of sugar, we had to choose between two alternatives. We had either to continue buying on a very high market, and thus secure for our public as much as it might require, or to wait until the market should drop. Had we continued to buy, we should have had to pay from £90 to £120 per ton for sugar, and as we believed that sooner or later the market would break, we thought that the right thing to do was to buy only just sufficient sugar to keep us going as it were; just enough to enable us to meet the reasonable demands of the public, putting up with any slight shortage that might occur rather than buy on the top of the market, and give the public a full supply at1s. per lb.
– I would not advise you to try that.
– We should have had to charge1s. per lb. had we continued to buy as the market for sugar was then. We had to choose between a shortage here for a time and buying on the top of the market. We thought it better to keep the public on a comparatively short ration of sugar until the market broke, and, as the result, we have’ probably saved the country over £2,000,000. I think that the little inconvenience that had to be suffered was worth that saving.
– Ask the mothers if it were a little inconvenience.
– The public has suffered a considerable amount of inconvenience, hut it was better to put up with it than to pay ls. per lb. for sugar; and, under the circumstances, the community has reason to be thankful that it has come out so well. We kept off the market as long as we could, and thus the public has been able to get sugar very cheaply compared with what people in other parts of the world have had to pay.
.- There is always an interesting debate on the subject of sugar. For my part, I do not know why Australia does not produce enough sugar to satisfy its own needs. This Parliament has always shown itself willing to assist the sugargrowers, knowing that the people require cheap sugar. During the past few months I have seen more of Queensland than at any other period of my life, and I know that, about Gympie and Maryborough, and in many other districts, there is plenty of land suitable for growing sugar. Yet, notwithstanding this fact, and an increase of £2 per ton in the price given for cane, the community is short of sugar after a bounteous season, and we have had to make up the deficiency by importing from Java and Fiji. I do not know why Queenslanders, especially since there is such a scarcity of beet sugar in Europe - and I am told that it will take two or three years before a decent crop of beet can be grown - has not produced enough sugar to supply, not only the wants of Australia, but also to send abroad, and thus to help us out of our financial difficulties. The Treasurer, I understand, desires authority to obtain an overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank to cover the expense of importing sugar that is to come to Australia very shortly.
– I want money to pay for the sugar that we are importing.
Without it, the public must go short of sugar. The condition of the sugargrowing industry is not relevant to the discussion of this Bill.
– Those who are watching the interests and welfare of the people ought to be in a position to elicit all the information they possibly can, so that they may be able to explain why the Government have been compelled to increase the price of sugar so enormously. One reason for the increase in the price of sugar is the fact that sugar-cane land in Queensland, which some years ago v/as valued at £10 per acre, is now said to be worth nearly £40 per acre. The industrialists of Australia are compelled to contribute to the profits derived by the owners of this land. I do not agree with those who contend that the Queensland growers propose to limit the area under sugar cane, holding, that the smaller the area under crop is the higher will be the price they secure for their cane. 1” think better of the people of that State which some people are so fond of abusing, and I think that they could easily be induced to put more land under cultivation. If, as the result of this debate, ‘ we can instil into the minds of the people of Queensland and the north coast of New South Wales how absolutely necessary it is for them to increase the growth of sugar in order that we may not need to depend on importations of sugar grown by coloured labour in Fiji or grown in Java, it will be of considerable advantage to Australia. In some respects sugar is like coal. While the latter commodity is the keynote of all classes of manufacture, sugar is an absolute necessity in the preservation or manufacture of articles of food. In any case, the sugar cane growers should have nothing but admiration for the fine spirit which this Parliament has displayed in passing measures designed to assist their efforts, and it is not asking too much to expect them to open up additional areas for sugar-cane growing. One of the first tasks of this Parliament was the imposition of duties upon imported sugar for the purpose of encouraging its growth here, and I hope that the growers will utilize the golden opportunity now afforded to them to create an export trade which would help to remove some of the difficulties of exchange which are hampering our dealings with other parts of the world. I hope that this will be the last occasion on which it will be necessary for the Government to give security for an overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of importing sugar from Fiji or Java.
.- I would be lacking in my duty if I did not cleaT up some of the statements made here to-night, otherwise I would not have risen to speak. The Minister (Mr. Greene), in his control of the sugar business, has shown that he is possessed of good business knowledge. He has administered it in a highly satisfactory manner. In fact, I do not know that any one could have done it better. However, statements are made in this House occasionally, and also find their way into Hansard, which the people who read them believe to be accurate if they are not corrected in Hansard. I do not contend that members say these things knowing that they are wrong, but some statements, made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) were quite wrong.” For instance, he attributed the high cost of sugar in Queensland to the operations of the manufacturers as middlemen, whereas, as a matter of fact, when the present arrangement was. made by the Federal Government to purchase the Queensland sugar from the Queensland Government, the grower, the manufacturer, and the worker were all brought together, and each set out the return to which he thought he was entitled. . The honorable, member would also have the public believe that the large factories are making all the profits; but that statement is also quite wrong. There are cooperative companies in operation in Queensland. Many of the sugar factories are simply central establishments owned by the surrounding growers, who have borrowed money from the State Government for the purpose of conducting them, pledging their plantations as security for the advances.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– What the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) wishes to infer is that in Tasmania their industries are conducted on co-operative lines and that in Queensland they are not. I beg to differ, because in Queensland the sugar industry is conducted on co-operative lines more than is the fruitgrowing and jam -making industries of Tasmania: In these circumstances, I do not think the sugar-growers in Queensland should be accused of not knowing their own business by those who cannot teach them. The shortage of sugar this season arose in consequence of drought conditions; and when we get back to normal seasons, I believe that, with the encouragement the Federal Government have given us, we shall be able to produce as much as we require in Australia. We have plenty of land, but we want to be assured of a continuing profitable return, while competing with black labour productions from overseas. Had the Government given a higher price, I believe there would not have been any shortage. Authority is given in the Bill to borrow £1,000,000, and if the Government act wisely they will always hold six months’ surplus supply of sugar on hand, because it is impossible to say what is going to happen in a country subject to cyclone, frosts, droughts^ and floods, which materially interfere with returns from the plantations. The business in Queensland is carried on by the sugar-growers and manufacturers on the best possible lines. Sugar is being refined as cheaply in Australia as in any part of the world, and that was shown in the report of the Royal Commission, which made a thorough investigation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That leave -be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend section 24 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1919, by increasing the limit of pension and income, together in the case of blind pensioners.
House adjourned at 10.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201118_reps_8_94/>.