8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Eon. Six Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-*-During the very informative address tq members of both Houses made last night by the Queensland cotton expert, it was stated that there is a danger of pests, from which Australia is now free, being imported from other countries with cotton seed. As we are on the eve of developing the culture of cotton, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will take immediate steps to prevent the introduction of cotton seed that is not free from pests and diseases ?
– Action has been already taken by my Department to that end, and no cotton seed can be imported except with the permission cf the Government, and then it must be planted within the quarantined area.
– Have arrangements been made for the fumigation of raw cotton, on its importation into this country, to prevent the spread of diseases t
– I am not aware, but I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know.
– Yesterday the Leader of the Government in another place gave the information that it was intended to move a certain motion there in reference to a statement similar to that made in this House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Will not the Leader of the Government here pay us the courtesy of saying what action is intended to be taken in this Chamber?
– I propose very shortly to bring a concrete proposition before the House for its consideration.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs if, when what is known as the Bawra s:heme has been adopted, the wool-growers of Central Queensland may continue to export their wool from Rockhampton, or must they, as during the war, send it to Brisbane for export?
– If Parliament agrees to the proposals of the Government, there will be nothing to prevent the exportation of wool from any port in the Commonwealth, so long as the conditions prescribed are complied with.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Government have decided to give effect to their wool proposal by means of a Bill, or by a series of resolutions as indicated by the
Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) in another place, so that the House may be enabled to vote on the question ?
– The matter at the moment has not been quite definitely decided. We shall deal with the proposals by means of a Bill, or a series of. resolutions which, in themselves,- will be very like a short Bill. I hope, during the day, to bc able to submit them to the ‘ House.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister .any information about the terms of settlement of claims against the Commonwealth by shipbuilding contractors in America?
– None at present.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received reports to the effect that public telephones are a means cf spreading disease, and can he inform me whether they .are examined periodically to prevent them communicating disease to the users of them ?
– I do not know of any report of the kind. I shall make an inquiry into the matter.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to lay on the table all papers connected with the Departmental investigation of the exportation of fruit, jams, and flour considered injurious to the commercial reputation of this country, together with a report as to the action that the Department intends to take in the matter ?
– I do not know that there is any comprehensive report on the subject. If the honorable member will indicate the papers which he would like laid on the table of the House or the Library, I shall raise no objection to their production. There are regulations in course of preparation for the controlling of exportation and the fixing of standards, and these will be promulgated in due course.
– Is it a fact that books written by more than one writer are prohibited from being sent by book post, and, if so, why?
– I am not aware of the prohibition, but I shall make inquiries concerning it.
– Following upon an interview which I have had with the Assistant Minister for Repatriation, I ask him if he is in a position to make a statement to the House about the destination of those unfortunate soldiers who have been declared insane?
– The honorable member refers to the military mental cases at Mont Park. An arrangement was made between the Commonwealth and State Governments to have these mental cases segregated at Mont Park, and treated, not as ordinary inmates of a lunatic asylum, but as men afflicted by war 6er- . vice. Some 700 cases have been dealt with, and I am very pleased to be able to say that ina great majority of the cases the treatment has been satisfactory, and not more than about 107 men will remain permanently in the institution. We have practically completed an arrangement under which these will always remain segregated as men who lost their reason through war service.
– Is it a fact that an income tax of 10 per cent. is. collected from the promoters of Tattersalls sweeps-, and that large sums of money are therefore transmitted by them to Melbourne per medium of the Post Office?, If so, will the Acting Prime Minister remove the anomaly which at present exists, seeing that the Postmaster-General, while delivering this money from the sweep promoters to the Treasury, refuses to carry letters addressed to them?
-The question should be put to the Postmaster-General. No doubt the honorable member will find many anomalies of a similar kind should he look far enough. We cannot pretend to rectifv them all, and in the meantime we need all the revenue that we can get.
– This is the second evasion of the question.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Taxation Department collects 10 per cent, on all Tattersalls sweep prizes ?
– I cannot remember the exact provisions of the Act, but I think the honorable member correctly states the position. I suggest that he put his question on the notice paper, so that I may give him a correct reply.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether he will obtain a report of the cost of the horse-breeding establishment at Maribyrnong and the revenue derived from it up to date?
– I shall be glad to obtain for the honorable member the information which he seeks.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make available for the perusal of honorable members copies of the’ British Army Act?
– I am afraid I cannot do so. I understand that there are some copies available in the Library, but that there is not in Australia a sufficient number to enable every honorable member to be supplied with a copy. I do not know very much about the Act, but I am told it is a library in itself, and that’ to reprint it would, therefore, involve great cost.
– It is easier then to adopt the provisions of the Act than to read them?
– I do not know about that.
– Every line of it will be read if it comes here.
– Then it must not comehere.
Relief of Distress
Mr. BURCHELL (for Mr. Austin
Chapman) asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will give the people of Australia the opportunity of recording a vote by referendum upon- the question of limitation of profits upon the foods, wheat, meat,. and sugar?
– There would appear to be no necessity for this. There are many agencies at work in the States on this problem.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made in connexion with this matter, and a further reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that there is an embargo on the exportation of metals; and, if so, what metals are affected, and to what extent?
– The proclamation under the Customs Act prohibiting the exportation of metals without the consent of the Minister for Trade and Customs is still in force, but consent is granted in every case where the contract relating to the sale of the metals has been registered with the Australian Metal Exchange.
Debate resumed from 4th May (vide page 8064), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the following paper be printed: - Wool -Resolutions of a meeting of wool-growers held at Parkes, New South Wales, on the 23rd April, 1921, with reference to the wool-growing industry.
.- This question has been discussed at such length that the debate has lost some of its interest, and it is somewhat to be regretted that it was opened before the Government were ready to submit to the House the substantive resolutions by which they intend to give effect to the scheme. The whole subject, however, is of so much importance, and involves to such an extent the prosperity of Australia, that I do not think it can be said that there has been any waste of time in dealing with it as we have done during the last few days. When we recall the fact that 80,000 people in Australia are engaged in the production of wool, and that thousands of others are employed in the handling of it, we must recognise that anything that would detrimentally affect our wool trade would re-act upon the whole community. 1 am pleased that the question has not been discussed in a party spirit. We are all anxious to do what is best in the interests of the country, and we have to consider what is the most desirable method to adopt. Having f ollowed the discussion very closely, I am inclined to think that the Government should take a bold stand and deal promptly and effectively with the whole question. Bawra proposes that the number ofbales of new wool sent out of this country shall be limited in proportion to the number of bales of carry-over wool sold in the Old Country. The mountain of wool that has accumulated is the stumbling block, but the Government proposal is not to reduce it immediately, but to control the quantity leaving Australia. That is to say, that for one bale of new clip wool sold in Great Britain, two bales of Bawra will be sold, and we will gradually accumulate here a mountain of wool-
– Simultaneously three bales of the new wool will be sold in Australia.
– You expect that three bales of new wool will be sold here?
– I submit that that is not the way to get rid of the mountain of wool.
– Altogether there will be two bales of Bawra wool for four bales of new wool.
– We are told that Australia is going to suffer because we have overproduced wool. We might as well say that there is going to be a famine because we have overproduced wheat. It is an absurd argument in a country like this that overproduction can cause disaster.
– The wheat-grower has had 5s. per bushel paid to him as a guarantee.
– I understand that, and I also understand that the greater part of the Bawra wool has all been paid for here, so that there is no great difference.
– Yes, there is, with the current crop and the carry-over.
– All the black clouds painted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and other speakers disappear on examination. The wool-growers of the country have been paid for their wool at a price 50 per cent, over the prewar rate.
– Not for the current crop.
– But we are now talking of the Bawra wool, and we see” that the pastoralists are not so badly affected as we were led to believe. They have been paid for their old wool, and they have a new crop which they wish to be paid for. In the case of the Bawra wool in London the wool-growers here will receive half the receipt of the sales, so that no matter what happens the squatters and the wool-growers will gradually be recouped any losses caused by the drop in price. Of course, I know that the Government have power to prevent the free export of commodities if their exportation would tend to injure the country; but I cannot see how free exportation can injure us. Of course, it may reduce the price of wool on the London market, but, according to the cables this morning, there has been a recovery, and an increase of from 7^ per cent, to 10 per cent, in the price in the last day or two. In my opinion, the best method of getting rid of the Bawra wool would be to take it out of the market, if an arrangement to do so can be made with the British Government. My idea is that the Prime Minister should negotiate with the British Government with a view of saving the market by removing this wool from sale for two years. The Bawra wool in London is of a very inferior quality, the “ eyes “ having been “ picked out” of it; consequently, it can be bought in Great Britain for £5 per bale, and it would only require £4,000,000’ to acquire the interest of the British Government, and give us complete control. If we hold it for two months or even six months, the cloud will still remain i over us, and may seriously affect the whole of the wool industry. If, . on the other hand, it was known that the Australian people had control of the wool, and had made arrangements for paying for it by debentures, as suggested by the -honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), all would be well until the market’ developed. I know this is a “ large order,” but there are times when one must take large risks. In this case, however, I think there is really no risk at all, because we have the value there, and, in my opinion, the whole of the wool-growers would agree to the suggestion that has been made. A sum of £4,000,,000 is a- mere bagatelle when in Uie balance against the prosperity of the country. I believe the British Government would take debentures, and that would give us a free market, and provide employment throughout the whole of Australia. It has been suggested in some quarters that we should try to get rid of the wool by selling it to Germany and other late enemy countries. The war is now over, and we are victorious, and I do not see that we should stand back and refuse to trade with our late enemies. According to the Treasurer (Sir Joseph
Cook), when he was in Europe, he saw Germans without any woollen garments; as a matter of fact, there is a famine of° wool in Germany.; and we have an abundance. I do not think we should be so narrow-minded as to refuse to sell this commodity to the German people; in any case, the time is coming when we shall quickly have to trade with them.
– We sold them our wheat.
– Then why not our wool?
– We are selling Germany our wool at the present time.
– I believe the whole of the German people would be glad if they could trade; and why not, if they are prepared to turn our wool into manufactured articles, and to pay for the wool in a few months’ ‘ time ?
– The United States is sending large quantities of cotton to Germany for manufacture.
– The United States is taking a sensible course. The Prime Minister ought to be instructed or requested to enter into negotiations which, would have the effect of enabling us to dispose of our wool, on terms, to Germany and Austria. It is said that if we do this our late enemies will send their manufactured commoditie’s into our local market.
– That is the. trouble.
– It is, but I feel confident that it will be some years before Germany will be able to ‘ supply the demands of her own people. We could let them have the wool on long-dated debentures, at current rates of interest, though I would be prepared to make the stipulation that they should supply no manufactured articles to any of the Allied countries. However, we must get rid of the wool, for so long as we have these large stocks in Great Britain and Australia there is a danger of the market being manipulated. It is suggested that the scheme proposed by the Government be carried out under the Customs regulations, and the Treasurer read one section, empowering the Government to prohibit any export trade which would prove to the injury of the Comonwealth. I have yet to learn, however, that the export of wool can injure the Commonwealth. Only by a wide stretch of the imagination can we believe that the Commonwealth will be benefited by the prevention of export. I believe that such a course would be injurious to the country. I am afraid that the growers who do not wish to enter into this scheme and are opposed to the stoppage of export will be sacrificed by the financial institutions. If I were .a grazier and did not desire to join Bawra., but wished to get rid of my wool in my own way, I would have no guarantee that I would be allowed to export my wool, and the banks would not lend me money on it because they would say that it was worth nothing if it could not be realized. In that way many mon might be ruined simply because they do not believe in joining this scheme. Export is to be permitted only by a permit from the Customs Department, but who is to decide whether a permit is to be issued? Will the decision rest with Bawra or the Minister, for Trade and Customs, or the .Government? ‘ Those are details which the House is entitled to know. I am afraid that if any restriction is placed on the export of wool by growers who do not join the Bawra scheme there will be a disastrous financial crisis. Of course, if men were guaranteed the right to export their wool independent of Buwra the whole scheme would collapse, but the men who are not in the scheme must be protected, and they have a right to look to Parliament for the safeguarding of their interests. We are told that a large number ,of growers do not favour this scheme. There may be only a few who will hold aloof from it, but they are entitled to protection, and I hope tha*, the Minister will explain what that protection is to be. If an independent grower is offered more than the price fixed by Bawra, must he get a permit from the Customs Department or Bawra before he can sell overseas? Surely if a man is able to sell special quality wool at a price higher than the fixed average he should be allowed to sell where he likes. But there is no protection for him.
– I think there is.
– I should like to have that point elucidated. It is said that Bawra will look after the interests of the whole of the producers. What of secondary industries - fellmongering; scouring, and wool top manufacturing?
– The honorable member remembers what I .said about those industries.
– The honorable member is on the. Central Wool Committee, and I believe he means what he says, but I have had some experience of the Cen’.ral Wool . Committee, and I remember when it tied up the fellmongering and wool top industries in my electorate for six or seven months on account of a dispute. I am afraid that under this Bawra scheme 1 those secondary industries will run a similar risk. They should be protected.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– The honorable member said last week that fellmongered- wool should be freely exported.
– Why fellmongered wool more than any other?
– Because more labour has been employed upon it, and it is therefore more valuable, and also because we should try to keep our secondary industries going. In any case the fellmongered wool is a very : small proportion of the total production.
– Is not labour employed in shearing the wool-.?
– Yes, but by the time it has reached the stage of wool tops a great deal more labour has been put ir. to it, and both the machinery and the labour employed are expensive. It would be disastrous to have those works idle.
– I quite- agree with the honorable member.
– The secondary industries enhance the value of the wool.
– That is another reason why that wool should not be tied up until liberated at the will of any committee.
– Tops are made of shorn wool as’ well as of fellmongered wool.
– I admit that. Hundreds of men are out of employment in my electorate through the absence of any stability in the wool industry. I understand that the Government scheme is to restrict export of wool for a period of six months. Why should the period be limited in that way ? Why cannot the Government make some arrangement that will stabilize conditions some years ahead? Any restriction on the wool trade will be detrimental to the people. I had intended to say a good deal more, .but I shall defer my further remarks until the -Government have submitted a concrete proposal. I am glad this debate hae taken place, because it has shown the importance of the wool industry, the existing danger to the community, and the necessity for doing something that will stabilize wool production and manufacture and keep our people employed. Any scheme that will effect that will have the indorsement of the people and this House. I feel confident that if the matter were left in the hands of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), with instructions to get rid of the Bawra wool in Britain, he could do it easily; money would not be required, because debentures could be issued, and the British Government would be only too pleased to accept them in order to be quit of the wool difficulty. I shall await the disclosure of the Government’s proposals, which I shall examine carefully to see that they guarantee protection to the secondary industries in my electorate and elsewhere.
.- Now, before the Government submit concrete proposals, is the time for honorable members to express their opinions, and therefore I take this opportunity of. stating my views upon this very important matter. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) before departing for Europe made a Parthian shot - one might almost call it a jeremiad: - which has certainly created a great deal of unrest throughout Australia, and something must be done in this debate to allay it. We cannot overlook the fact that the financial position of Australia is such as to cause a certain amount of misgiving. The Prime Minister told us that the commitments of the Commonwealth Government for the pre- 6ent financial year amount to £98,000,000. I wonder how many people realize that that represents more than le. per ‘day for every man, woman, and child in the community, “ merely for the expenditure of this Parliament, and apart from the expenditure of the State Parliaments and other commitments. This financial welter has been made infinitely worse by the statements of the Prime Minister, but other people who are equally well informed, and possibly better informed, take a much more hopeful view. Here is an extract from a statement made by people who are well qualified to express an opinion on the financial condition of Australia -
There are signs that money is more plentiful, as a result, no doubt, of the Federal dis- bursement of nearly £16,000,000 to last seaBon’s, wheat-growers; but the depressed state of the market for wool, meat, hides, and metals has caused some uneasiness in the minds of those who have money to invest. The fear of English labour disturbances,, too, has been an important factor in restricting the flow of money to the Stock Exchange; but the likelihood of a general strike in Great Britain is now happily over, and the commercial situation appears at the moment to be more cheer-“ ful than for months past. Of course, it is too early as yet to predict .an improvement, but there are certainly grounds for hoping that matters are on the mend. The most notable’ sign of a cheering character is the reappearance - for the first time since the Armistice - of buyers of wool for Central Europe. Before the war, Germany and Austria were very large importers of our wool, which they would export again in the form of manufactured articles of all descriptions, and the quantity they could buy depended, not so much on what was required for their own use as the extent of their ability to re-export manufactured goods to other countries. But since the war Central Europe has been in “a state of virtual bankruptcy; having little or nothing to export, they have not even been able to buy from other countries the material they sorely need for their own consumption.
– They were not prevented from buying in Australia.
– But the Prime Minister placed an embargo on our export tq Germany. It was childish,, once we demanded reparation, to say that we proposed to restrict trade with Germany. In the early stages of and right through the war I was opposed to indemnities and trade with Germany. But if we have the one we. must have the other. It would be disastrous for - this outlying country, which lives by producing Taw products, to demand reparation and indemnities, as it has ‘ done, and then say that it alone amongst the comity of nations will not trade with its late enemies.
– I am pleased to see that the honorable member has been converted.
– I am stating what I have always stated. Without demanding indemnities we need not have traded with. Germany, but, having once demanded reparation, we must trade with that country. As soon as the Allies stated that they intended to extract indemnities, we, in common with the rest of the world, ought to have commenced trading with the powers from whom those indemnities were sought.
– Half-a-dozen Prime Ministers could not make a financial crisis in Australia.
– One Prime Minister has almost done so.
– No, he has not; although his statement” was one of the most damaging ever heard in this country.
– He has done his best to do so. His statement on leaving, made exactly at the wrong time, has undoubtedly had an ill-effect on the finances of Australia. He said, “ I have spent the money; the Government have committed the country to an enormous expenditure, greater than ever known before, but now that trouble is coming I aim getting out from under. You people must face it.” The other day, the Honorary Minister (Mr. Rodgers) took up a somewhat similar attitude. We were saying that returned soldiers had not received reasonable treatment, and he said, “ I am not to blame; I have spent all the money.” One would think that the spending of money -was all that was required.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– That is the Minister’s statement as it appears in Hansard, in the report of my speech.
– I am sure it is not.
– The position of the Minister and the Government is exactly that of a man who was employed by the overseer’ on a station to make some gates. He had a good deal of material to work on, and the overseer, when he returned in the evening, had a look at the material, and then said to the man, “ You can knock off; you will be paid off in the morning.” The man replied, “ What is the matter ? I have been working here all day on that material; I have used it all up.” “ Yes,” said the overseer, “ you have used it all up, you have spoilt it.” The Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) has spoilt the material he had to work on. He has spent the money, but has little to show for it. We have a very poor return for the money spent on repatriation, compared with what we should have.
Yesterday the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook), who was endeavouring to convince the House that the proper course to adopt was to carry out the proposal to prohibit the export of wool except at a certain price, must have been speaking very much against his convictions. Fundamental economic laws cannot be operated in the way suggested without courting disaster. Knowing the right honorable gentleman as I do, I was very much impressed with the manner in which he was battling against the stream. We may be in difficulties, but surely we are not going to jettison all those basic principles for which we have fought., which have made the Empire and Australia what they are to-day, and which make for the stability of any country? Therefore, if he will allow me to say so, I pitied the right honorable gentleman when I heard him making statements which I knew were against those principles he has always so worthily upheld.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), following the Acting Prime Minister, told us that the number of sheep in Australia had’ not fallen off to the extent to which some claimed they had, and he quoted figures which, up to a certain point, were correct, but stopped at the wrong year. The last period he quoted was 1918,, and he told us that there were 87,000,000 sheep in Australia in that year. As a matter of fact, the number dropped to 75,000,000 in the following year, and, so far as I can gather, at the present time it is between 70,000,000 and 80,000,000. It is very difficult to get at the exact figures for the present year. Most people are under the impression that the clip per sheep has increased to a great extent, but they are mistaken. Statistics show that the yield to-day is a little less per head than it was four years ago. The reason is plain to any man with practical experience. We have had a succession of bad years., and in bad years the heavy carrying sheep always die most freely, because the more wool a sheep carries the less able it is to withstand the effects of drought. For that reason, the yield per head has decreased, and as the numbers have also diminished to a large extent, the wool production of Australia is now by no means what it was five years ago. Yesterday we were told that the graziers of Australia have had such a good time that they can put up with some of the losses they are likely to sustain through the Bawra scheme. A leading newspaper of Melbourne has repeated the statement this morning. It is true that, as a whole, the graziers have had a reasonably good time in the matter of prices; but in many cases this has been counterbalanced by losses in sheep and stock generally. I could multiply by scores the instances quoted last night by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) as to the number of individuals who have had very severe checks.. In some cases, men have suffered extreme losses. One small owner of sheep who started about three years- ago with 6,,000 sheep spent £4,000 in purchasing fodder for them, and thus managed to save 2,000 head. To-day those sheep are worth, at the outside, not more than £2,000, or half the amount the owner spent .in keeping them alive. It cost him £400 to shear those sheep, and now he cannot sell their wool. This Parliament talks of preventing him from selling it unless he will accept the price which it proposes to fix. I admit that it is unusual for the shearing of 2,000 sheep to cost as much as £400, but cases of extreme hardship make it altogether unknown. This man, and others, must realize on their wool to carry on. In many instances men have lost all their sheep. I know a man in the electorate of Gwydir who bred a flock for thirty-three years and lost every head of them; an excellent flock, as good as man could look for. He has no wool to sell except that from some inferior * sheep which he has since bought. He must get money to carry on. Will this Parliament prevent him, and others like him, from doing so? Speaking generally, the pastoralists have had good times owing to the high prices of wool; but there are many cases of hardship, and we should see that men are not ruined.
– Does the honorable member think that these wool producers would get more for their wool if the Government proposals were not passed than they would get under the proposed restrictions ?
– In. my opinion, the best plan to adopt is to allow the disposal of the Bawra wool in Europe, if possible to those nations which were our enemies and which are now destitute of wool. Every one who has studied the situation knows that the people of Central Europe are in rags, and need wool; that if they get it they will work day and night to bring it into use. Once they, have made it into clothing, this will wear out, and more wool will be required by them. Thus this mountain of wool of which we hear so much will speedily disappear.
– Do nob the Bawra directors know these things?
– I believe them to be a capable lot of men with a wide knowledge; but having evolved this scheme, they are more concerned for the Bawra wool than for the free wool.
– My remark applies, not to the Central Wool Committee, but to the Bawra Wool Committee. This scheme is their baby; they are interested in seeing it carried through. We have to take up the cudgels on behalf of those in Australia who desire a free market to enable them to carry on. If the Bawra wool were sold to Central Europe, on terms, if necessary, we could have a free market for our own wool here. Last night the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) suggested that the mark should be stabilized, not at 240, its current rate, but at 60, and that our wool should be sold on that basis. That suggestion was a blot on an otherwise excellent speech. If we stabilize the mark at 60 for the realization of our products, while it remains at 240 for every other purpose, we shall be selling our wool at one-fourth of its value. In other respects, the honorable member’s scheme seemed to meet the situation better than any other that has been advanced here. The Bawra wool has been paid for so far as Australia is concerned, and anything that we may get out of it will be profit. But Great Britain still has to get her price for it. If she disposes of it to Central Europe’ on terms, that will, of course, create difficulties for her. Naturally she wants a profit out of it, and she would be inclined to say that it should not be used to compete with her own manufacturers. That is quite reasonable. The position is a difficult one; but something might be done to bring about the manufacture of this wool in Central European countries, and its use there. It is only by selling wool at a cheap rate to get it into use and to get” it worn out that we shall be able to dispose of the increasing production throughout the world. During the past few years there has been a decrease in production, but from now onwards production will probably increase. The people of the United States of America are doing all they can to get their cotton goods into use. They are sending raw cotton to European countries, and are disposing of it to the starving people’s there on long terms, so that they may absorb it. Are we going to allow that cotton to oust out wool? During the war millions learned to use wool who had never used it before, and we should see that they continue to use it. We do not wish them to fall back to the use of cotton. The world has become accustomed to a better standard of clothing, and it will be to our profit in Australia to maintain that standard. If the Bawra wool is kept off the market to force an extortionate price* American cotton will take the place of our wool. Different sums have been mentioned during the debate as the cost of producing wool. The honorable member for Darling, who represents one of the big pastoral constituencies, interjected that wool could be produced for 3d. per lb.
– I think he said 4d.
– Even that estimate’ is’ a ridiculous one. No man can say exactly what it costs to produce wool, because: nowhere in Australia da men live wholly on the proceeds of wool. Some men sell wool and fat stock; others sell wool and breed sheep; others, again, TUl] horses and cattle as- well as sheep. But before- the war our wool was sold on an average of a little over £10 per bale, or at about 8d. per lb., and we know that in those days wool just about paid its cost, with very little over. But it must be remembered that land was not so dear then, that wages were not so high,, and, more important still; that the taxation was not se heavy. To-day it would be impossible to produce wool for as little as it cost ten years ago; and it is evident that we could not produce it for an average price of 8d. per lb. In my opinion, it would be wise for Bawra to fix its minimum for the held-over wool at at least no more than Sd. “We have been told1 that the- best wool has been sold, and it is reasonable to think that. Therefore, what remains is, on the whole, inferior. Some of it has been in. the bales long enough to deteriorate. As those who have had to do with greasy wool know, such wool takesno harm for the first couple of years ; but if it is kept baled up longer than that itdeteriorates. There is little doubt that the Bawra wool is not in as good condition now as when it was shorn.
– Does it include ali qualities ?
– Yes; all classes of wool grown in Australia. But probably more of the good wool than of the inferior wool has been sold, so that 8d. is a high value for what remains.
– That is the average, price.
– It is to be the flat rate. But all the wool in Bawra is not of fair average quality.
– Then 8d. will not be asked for it. It will be sold for less.
– If there is to be a flat rate, it will include all the wool in. Bawra.
– The flat rate under the appraisement scheme was 15£d. -per lb.,, but some of the wool was sold for aslittle, as 2£d. per lb., and some at nearly 40d. per lb. The same thing will occurin regard to the Bawra wool. The price, of the wool that was left, over will, when, put up for sale, be just half what itwould have been under the old arrangement.
– If all the good, wool were left in Bawra, the price- would, be reduced, by one-half, but- as a .bigger proportion of - good wool than of inferior wool has been sold, if the flat rate is 8d., the reduction will not be one-half. SUp. pose that, originally, Bawra wool was. half good, and half inferior,, it may be assumed that 25 per cent, of the 50 per cent, of good wool has been sold., making what remains one-third good. wool. and. two-thirds inferior wool. If you fix a. flat rate of 8d. for the whole lot,, you do not reduce the price by one-half.
– That is not proposed.
– The general impression is that 8d. will be charged for the1 wool now in Bawra. The people outside believe that a flat rate is to be charged for all that wool.
– That is not intended.
– If what is intended is a. reduction of price by nearly one-half.,, it is quite probable that we shall be able to sell the Bawra wool, because it will really be offered at 6d. or 7d., or even 5d., at which price it should compete’ successfully with wool from other countries. But if we’ fix prices above a low margin, we may lose trade, to the advantage of South Africa and other woolgrowing countries. Much idle talk has -been indulged in about our importance as a wool-growing country. Australia produces only from 20 per: cent, to 25 per cent, of the wool of the world. All the talk we have heard in regard to our cornering the market is simply foolishness. It is within my own personal knowledge that the stoppage of the wool sales here .during the last -three months ‘has .driven buyers -to other countries. .If we continue to carry on in this way, and fix the price of wool here above the rate ruling in the markets of the world, we shall drive away still more of our trade. It is absolutely essential that we shall arrange -sales of wool to the Central European Powers in order to relieve us of the tremendous “burden which Bawra now holds. It is also essential that we shall allow our people to sell their wool here, as they produce it, at a reasonable :rate. In so far as sales go we have had good times. Our wool has not been sold at the price -which should have been obtained for it; but, on the whole, we have had satisfactory salesNow that the market has fallen we have to take ‘the bad with the good, but if we stand up against eternal principles «our wool market will suffer, not for one or two years, but. for eight or ten years. Unless the Bawra wool is absorbed there will ‘be no chance of buyers coming here to take away our wool as they have in the past. ‘We have “established quite a good trade here in Australia, and in that way, our Protectionist friends will be pleased to know, have been spending our money in our own country. Buyers have been coming here instead of making .purchases overseas. But if under this new scheme we prohibit the sale of wool here below a certain price, buyers will leave for other countries. Some have already left, and more are thinking of leaving. If we impose restrictions .on our wool sales here we shall spoil Australia’s .reputation as a wool-selling centre.
– That is not the Government’s proposal.
– We do not know yet what the Government’s proposal is. ‘I am, therefore, getting in early because I hope that .they will not adopt the scheme which has been put forward, and under which the Bawra people are to be free to deal with this wool as they please - free to sell it where they like, to control it as they please, to hold it off the market* as long as it is thought desirable j or to -hold it as a menace against the wool that may be produced for the next ten years, and- meanwhile an embargo is to be .put on the export of our wool. That is not a fair proposition. Unless we dispose of Bawra wool to those who want it to-day, and who will quickly wear it out in its manufactured state, and so make a market
– We have sold in both Germany and Austria.
– Quite recently we have sold a little to those countries, but >the sales so made represent but a very small proportion of what were our ordinary sales to them, and are as nothing compared with the accumulation .of wool which exists overseas. It is idle to drag in little issues of that kind with the object of trying to side track the main issue. We .have to face the issue for the ,good of the com.munity, for the stability of Australia, as well as in the interests of .the one industry which above all others has built up this Commonwealth. Honorable members may talk of what is going on here, but the one thing that has kept Australia solvent is her wool. Yet we have honorable members dealing with this question to-day as if it were a matter of no great ;moment to talk of restricting a trade which has made Australia stand in -the eyes of the world as a country worth -coming to in -order to buy one of -the main raw products of the world.
– What is the honorable member’s proposal?
– I thought I had’ made it clear. My proposal is that the wool now held by Bawra should be sold to the Central European countries on the best terms that can b.e made, but always taking into account the fact that Great Britain must not be allowed to lose her trade because of the manufactures of Central Europe. Surely some scheme can be devised which would keep for use in those countries the goods made from the wool that we supply. There is a keen demand for such ‘goods there. There is a great shortage - =a gap which it will take some time to fill up, and the filling up of which should absorb by far the greater portion of Bawra wool. While thus disposing of that wool we could at the same time dispose of our own free wool on the open market. Many suggestions have been put forward. One of them is that we should destroy Bawra wool, but such a proposal is repugnant to all humanitarian instincts.
– Who made that proposal?
– It has been made, not in the Blouse, but in Australia.
– But by whom?
– The suggestion has appeared in print more than once.
– I have heard it said that it might pay to destroy the Bawra wool, but no such proposal has actually been made.
– I have more than once seen the suggestion in print that it should be destroyed. To do that would be to return .to the dark ages. Another scheme is that the wool should be held over. That, too, would be extremely dangerous. If we hold it over, the result will be that manufacturers will refrain from buying our free wool.’ What business man would come in and buy our free wool when he knew that there were tremendous reserves of Bawra which might fee brought into the market at any time? Such a proposal is opposed to all business principles. A man would not think of manufacturing goods from our free wool when he knew that at practically any moment the Bawra reserves might be placed on the market and that his competitors would be able to come in and buy at rates which would enable them to greatly undersell him? I repeat that the Bawra wool should be absorbed by Central Europe, and that we should leave our people here a free market to dispose of the fresh wool. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) will bear me out when I say that the new wool will naturally bring a little more than the Bawra wool.
– It is better wool.
– Yes; it will be in greater demand, since it has more life in it, is more responsive to treatment, and consequently, will make better cloth.
In my opinion, there is no occasion for the wailings of the Cassandras of the community^. I deprecate the extreme pessimism in which some have indulged. We can weather the storm if we will only set our faces to it and deal with the difficulties as men should deal with them. We * should not shirk the position. We should rather say that we have had good times, and that we are prepared to realize on our surplus wool as best we can, not only for our own good, but for the good of suffering millions who are in need of the commodity. I do not think any one ever goes wrong in following broad principles. To do so is correct from the point of view of humanity, from the point of view of our own trade and that of the Empire, as well as from the point of view of the wool-growers themselves. The only sound course for us to follow is to dispose1 of the Bawra wool on the best terms to those who really need it, leaving our own people free to sell their wool in the be3t market they can get.
– It is well that we should clearly understand that the scheme under discussion has been propounded, not by. the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) or his Government, but by Bawra; and that no good purpose can be served by seeking, as some honorable members have done, to depreciate the Prime Minister’s efforts. Some honorable members, and particularly the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), have gone out of their way to do so. I cannot help remarking the change that has como over him.
– May I tell the honorable member one thing?
– I shall tell the honorable member two or three things. When he came back from the war, he lauded the Prime Minister to the skies, and slobbered over him in the most sickly fashion. I am at a loss to account for his departure from the attitude which he took up towards the Prime Minister at the close of the war. It is necessary that we should leave on one side personal matters, so far as the Prime Minister is concerned, and deal with the subject under discussion as one that has emanated from Bawra. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), in his opening sentences, paid ‘the very highest compliment to the members of the Central Wool Committee, and to those who are responsible for the Bawra proposal to-day. I was particularly pleased to hear him express the hope that, above all things, this House would not attempt to deal with the business side of the scheme. If I thought that the Government, or the Parliament, was going to meddle with the general management of this great wool scheme, I would not be a party to it. If there is one point in regard to which there is overwhelming unanimity, in Australia, it is in respect of the magnificent services rendered by the Central Wool Committee throughout the war period. Wherever growers meet; OBe hears nothing but expressions of the utmost gratitude - and it is an appropriate gratitude - for the excellent services which these gentlemen rendered throughout the war without fee or reward. Surely we ought to trust these men whose work in handling the product of the wool-growing industry to the tune of untold millions has been almost faultless, and who, at a time of financial stringency, helped to keep this country going.
I propose, now, to speak very plainly concerning the misrepresentations of this great question by the press. There is no such misrepresentation in my own State; but in this State there has been much advocacy of the secondary industries, and a total forgetfulness of the men who own the wool now under consideration. We were told only the other day, in a section of “the press, that this scheme was in the interests of the wealthy and influential squatter, and that he was the favoured section of the community. Prom a political point of view, the wealthy and influential squatter does not account for a great many votes, and it is something new to learn that he is popular with politicians or Parliaments. The statement that this scheme is solely in his interest is untrue. A considerable majority of those who hold the wool existing in Australia to-day are small men. This is merely an experiment, but it is put forward by the best experts in wool, commerce, and finance, and I am therefore going to follow their recommendations. If one section of the community more than another will be benefited by it, it is the struggling, small wool-grower. Further, it will be of inestimable value to the workers of Australia, as I shall endeavour to show in a few moments. Another objection delicately touched on by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) is that this scheme cuts into the first principles of economics - that it is declared to be a mischievous departure, especially by men who are not business men. These are not the exact words of those who raise the objection, but that is their line of reasoning; and to use that line of reasoning is to stretch the application of such an argument, when we remember the unique conditions obtaining to-day. We are told that this industry ought to be left to the people to whom it belongs, and who know most about it; that they have passed through similar experiences before in the matter of low prices and adverse conditions, and have pulled through. It is true that there have been similar experiences in the past, when, with stocks not so heavy as at the present, and prices as low as 4d., they did not pull through all right. God knows there was then much misery and destitution, many ruined homesteads in every direction. All in the industry were affected, from the big man_ right down to the small man, and we do not desire a repetition of such experiences. All that can be done should be done by this Parliament in the way of affording constitutional power to tide over the present difficulties, without, however, interfering in the management of the business. Experiences such as I have indicated in the past are not known in a State like Victoria. If we desire to realize what then occurred, we must turn our eyes to the large wayback stations in the dry areas. In those days, pastoral areas and stations were thrown up and deserted; and where then there might be seen half-a-dozen stations . there are today only one or two. The Governments of the States in which these conditions prevailed know well what were the results. In order that the deserted areas might be occupied, the State Legislatures have passed Act after Act in the direction of liberalizing the land laws, taking the view that it does not matter what may be realized in the way of rents, so long as there is occupation and settlement. Those with a knowledge of this wool business feel their blood boil when they find newspapers misrepresenting it as if it were of importance only to wealthy squatters.
As to the objection about cutting into the first principles of political economy, we must remember that Australia, and every country in the world, has been doing that right through the war. The. present conditions are an aftermath of the war, and we cannot evade the fact. On previous occasions, we have had stocks greater than the world required, but not to the present extent as the result of. the war and war conditions. Under the circumstances, surely the Government* is justified in extending assistance which is absolutely essential, assistance which can be given without involving the country in any liability except from a constitutional stand-point, at the same time leaving the whole management of the business in the hands of men who know infinitely more about it than we here or the general community do. In spite- of what the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) has said about squatters - possibly squatters around Toorak - there is a unanimity that is remarkable amongst the wool-growers in desiring Parliament to assent to the request that has come from Sir John Higgins and his colleagues. The position is such that it is necessary to extend assistance such as has been suggested by the Prime Minister, and also by the Acting Prime Minister. If we were to take the view that the law of supply and demand should operate undisturbed we might have a long lane of misery and destitution ahead of us. Then God help the people of the country and the Government ! God help the people on the land 1
– And also the people off the land.
– Quite so. If a proposal like that before us is rejected, who knows what will happen to Australia within a month. It is said bytwo or three honorable members that the Prime Minister made a panic speech. The Prime Minister did not do so; he did not reveal anything new to the man who gets bis bread and cheese on the land, and who knows the conditions. Possibly if Sir John Higgins and his associates had- had their way twelve months ago we should not be in our present extremity; but we are in it, and the question is how we are to get out. I have had forty years’ experience of country and way-back life, and I do not know that I ever found such a rapid transit from a fair amount of prosperity to a really blind end, as I see in the changed conditions of the men who have been interested in this wool movement during the last two or three months. Ask the banks or other’ financial institutions, and they tell us that they cannot handle this wool industry; that they cannot help it, because there is no value in it - no basis of value.
– The cattlemen are in just as bad a position.
– Of course they are.
– We cannot apply a similar scheme to meat.
– Unfortunately we cannot, but the conditions are such that this ‘scheme can be applied to the wool, with a. fair prospect of relieving the situation.
– There is no justification for withholding the support asked for1 at this juncture,.
– It would be criminal to withhold it, having regard to the interests of the community. The financial institutions say that they » cannot advance money on this industry because there is no basis of value, and, indeed, there is not. We all know how prices have gone down, but if we provide, as proposed, a minimum basis of value, the financial institutions will have something to go- on, and will be able to operate with safety.
– Does this scheme provide a minimum?
– Ib does, absolutely.
– Guarantees a, price?
– No wool can be sold under the 8d. flat rate, and. the 8d. of to-day is the equivalent of ls. 34d. throughout the war.
– It is one thing to fix a minimum and another thing to sell the wool.
– Remember that from the 8d. flat rate the price may run to ls. 6d. or ls. 8d., or down to a very low figure. In my opinion the market can never satisfactorily be set going until the European countries are settled, and in> the meantime this scheme is proposed and recommended by the highest authorities, as- honorable members admit. It would be criminal on our part as a National Parliament not to take the opportunity presented to us. As I say, we are not involving ourselves in any financial liability, but are simply rendering indispensable aid, .and possibly saving the country from disaster. As things are the “ bottom “ may drop out of the market altogether if there is not some control over reserves, and some discrimination in feeding the market. There may be a temptation and a desire on the part of some men to realize in the absence of this scheme; and, if so, it would be the poor man who would.be sacrificed. No doubt the rich man might lose, but the poor man would “ go under.” The scheme proposed will, at all events, relieve the situation, and if it is not adopted, what might happen in the meantime? Stock values would fall and land values follow, as, indeed, they are following. Let any one try to sell a station and see how he gets on; and these conditions would be felt throughout the community. The Government have a repatriation scheme involving a liability of millions of pounds, and if something is not done to secure the future of Australia, these Government enterprises may have their margin of safety wiped out in one stroke. It is well, therefore, from the Government point of view, and from the point of view of the man on the land, to adopt this scheme a3 a measure of safety. I do not regard it as cutting into the first principles of economics. I deplore as much as any man Government meddling with the details of business. Indeed, I hate it; but there is a big difference between such interference and the Commonwealth Ministry ..seeking to aid the operations of men in the matter of exports by finding .markets for them. I believe that the principle of the scheme is approved by thousands in this country who, in the past, would’ have scouted the very idea, it is said that it is a compulsory scheme; but, on the other hand, we are told that from 95 to 98 per cent, of the wool-growers favour it. Where, then, is the compulsion? There is absolutely untrammelled freedom within Australia, and in regard ito the business outside Australia there is simply the one limitation1, that the wool must not be sold below an average flat rate of 8d.
– Which is half the appraised value.
– That is so. I apologize for taking up so much of honorable members’ time, but I feel keenly upon this subject; I know what interests are at stake, and I add my colleagues representing South Australia have been urged to press this matter to an immediate decision. Time is the essence of the contract, and every day that elapses makes the solution of this problem more difficult. Every hour means a serious loss that none of us can possibly estimate. So I ask honorable members to give this scheme their earnest consideration. I hope there will be but one voice and. one feeling on this question, because from the industrial point of view, this is a mighty big thing. I do not believe in making extravagant statements, but I know that if some relief is not forthcoming, the lambs in many districts will not be .shorn this year.
– It will not pay to shear them.
– The growers cannot get the money lor continuing the shearing; and for the *ame reason tens of thousands of sheep will probably have to carry two years’ fleece. The flocks cannot be sold. -I shall possibly have a chance of debating other points when the Government’s motion is before .us, but in the meantime I hope that honorable members will earnestly and unanimously, in the interest of every, section of the community, give support to this proposal of Bawra .that is being submitted by the Government.
.- So much has been said in regard’ ito this matter, that the shorter the remaining speeches the better. The name of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has been freely drawn into .the discussion, and there has been a difference of opinion as to whether or not his remarks were calculated to do injury to this country. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has denied that the statement of the Prime Minister contained anything of an alarmist Character. I thought the reverse. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming).
– The honorable member for Robertson is a recent convert to the opponents of the Government. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said that at one time the honorable member for Robertson used to slobber over the Prime Minister, and now he is kicking him. When the honorable member made that remark I ‘could not help thinking of the time when he used to kick the Prime Minister, whereas now he slobbers over him.
– And I would kick him now if he were to do what he did then.
– The Prime Minister sometimes denies that he has changed his convictions, but I leave the interjection of the honorable member for Wakefield to answer him.
– Order ! I think honorable members had better discuss wool.
– At any rate, honours are equal between the honorable member for Wakefield and the honorable member for Robertson. I think that the statement made by the Prime Minister may be truly described as alarmist. What other interpretation could be put on his reference to a mountain of wool that threatens to topple over and crush us ?
– Is it not true?
– It is no good to advertise our difficulty to the world. We have to find a way out of the difficulty, and I think the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) will agree that the best thing to do is to hide our trouble as much as possible while we seek for a solution. The honorable member for Robertson suggested that the solution should be the sale of the wool to the Central Powers. To a certain extent, I agree with him.
– Every one does.
– But why was this not done twelve months ago, when practically every other country in the world was trading with the Central Powers ? The Prime Minister made himself conspicuous by declaring that, if we wanted to trade with Germany, the country would have to find another leader. The honorable member for Robertson followed the Prime Minister in that attitude, but to-day he says that the best thing to do would he to trade with Ger.many and Austria. For the last twelve months we have been living in a fool’s paradise. If twelve months ago the negotiations which have been suggested by the honorable member for Robertson to-day had been opened up with the Central Powers, we would not now be confronted with this immense accumulation of wool.
– One of the main difficulties all the time has been the question of payment by the Central Powers.
– How do honorable members who now propose to trade with the Central Powers expect to get payment? I complain that no endeavour was made to find a means of trading with them, as the rest of the world has been doing. Britain has been trading with the Central Powers ever since the armistice, and Australia alone, at the instigation of the Prime Minister, backed by the honorable member for Robertson, took up the stupid attitude of refusing such trade.
– Did not the Imperial Government control Australian wool before Bawra?
– Not wholly.
– Did not they pur- chase it?
– The Imperial Government and the Central Wool Committee controlled the wool.
– And the Central Wool Committee was influenced by the advice of the Commonwealth Government not to trade with- the Central Powers.
– The Imperial Government and the Central Wool Committee have made every possible effort during the last twelve months to do what the honorable member now suggests.
– A statement was made by the Prime Minister,, who presumed to speak on behalf of the Australian people, that we did* not want to trade with the Central Powers.
– In that respect, the Prime Minister had nothing whatever’ to do with the Central Wool Committee.
– That advice was given by the Prime Minister, and the owners of the wool would naturally have an idea of giving effect to the Government’s views.
– The Central Wool Committee was not influenced in the slightest degree by that statement.
– We heard the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) state last night that we would have been getting a flat rate of 15£d. for our wool up till 1925 but for the advice given by the Prime Minister.
– That was to be during the period of the war.
– The honorable member for Balaclava said definitely that negotiations were entered into for the sale of our wool to the Imperial Government at a flat rate of 15$d. until 1925.
– During the period of the war. °
– All these interjections of the honorable member do not refute the statement made by the honorable member for Balaclava, who was in closer touch with the wool question than was the honorable member for Fremantle.
– I ask the honorable member to repeat correctly what the honorable member for Balaclava said.
– The honorable member for Balaclava admitted that probably the Imperial Government, would not have continued the contract for such a long period.
– I am reminded that the Prime Minister did more than advise the Government not to proceed with those negotiations; he practically ordered that they be discontinued. That was the statement made by the honorable member for Balaclava, who, according to his own statement, went to London “to pick up the loose ends of the wool tangle,” The wool control was in a hopeless tangle, and has been so from the beginning of the war. I recall this fact, because the Prime Minister, before departing a few days ago, sought to shift the burden from hia own shoulders to those of honorable members; he ran away from his own task and duty, but said that if his advice had been carried out in the first place, there would not be any such tangle as exists to-day. I say that but for the action of the Prime Minister the present tangle would not exist, and my statement is supported by that of the honorable member for Balaclava.
– That is pure speculation. There were only negotiations, and what would have been the outcome we do not know.
– I do not think that the proposal brought forward by the Government will help us out of the difficulty. Any proposal is worthy of consideration, but I agree with the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and. the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that the scheme that has been put before us will not provide a solution of the problem.
– The Prime Minister said the same.
– We should have a greater guarantee of a solution if we were to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), who interjected when the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was speaking, that the. best plan would be to’ hold Bawra wool off the market for two or three years. The honorable member for Grampians replied that he believed that that would be the best solution. Later on, the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) came into the House and repeated the same proposal.
– From what I read in the press I thought that the honorable member for Gwydir proposed that the Government should buy out the whole of the carry-over wool for £20,000,000. I suggested financing Bawra to enable it to buy out the British interest, and, if necessary, that the Commonwealth should do so.
– That was the suggestion of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), and it seems to me that the honorable member for Kooyong should have apologized to that honorable member for having stolen his thunder. However, wherever the proposal emanated, it is the only remedy likely to be really effective in the direction of what we desire. I have a great many small growers in the constituency I represent who have had a particularly bad time for the past two or three years; but, of course, we all realize that anything which affects- the interests of all who are engaged in the wool industry reflects upon the whole community. ..Our desire is to prevent the bottom falling out of the wool market through throwing an over-supply into consumption, for the benefit of unscrupulous ‘ speculators, and the proposal put forward is that we should so regulate our sales so as to prevent that happening. But the Government scheme will not be effective in doing this. The only remedy likely to prove successful is that put forward by the honorable member for Gwydir - to buy out the British interest in this carry-over wool, and keep the wool off the market for a period of, say, two years. The proposal of the honorable member was criticised by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), but his only criticism was that people would hold off in the belief that in six months’ time Bawra might decide to put the wool on the market. That difficulty could be obviated by fixing the period at two years, which would prevent the flooding of the market feared by the honorable member for Robertson. At any rate, the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir is well worthy of further consideration.
There is no need for us to take a gloomy view of the outlook. There is every prospect that as the result of .the present difficulty efforts will be made by enterprising people in Australia, assisted by the Government, to launch out in the direction of establishing woollen mills in every State. In this way we may be able to get away from the foolhardy policy of sending our raw material overseas, and again importing it in the form of manufactured goods. I understand that at present we consume not more than 2 per cent, of our own wool. That is a position from which we should escape at the earliest possible moment. If the predicament in which we are placed .to-day assists us to go in more largely for the manufacturing of our raw material by- the establishment of woollen mills, the tangle of the present moment will not be without its bright side.
One great benefit from stabilizing the wool market will be that we shall know exactly the price manufacturers are paying for the wool which is used in the manufacture of the clothes we wear. The excuse offered by those who made exorbitant profits during the war period was -that higher prices had to be .paid for raw material. We know that the additional cost of the wool in a suit of clothes was not more than 5s. However, they will ‘no longer be able to make that excuse. We shall know exactly what they are paying for the amount .of wool -that goes into our wearing material, and we shall be able to prevent the exploitation which has been proceeding for a considerable time past. The Government have been aware of this exploitation - the Acting Prime Minister told us yesterday that the value of the wool in a suit of clothes does not exceed 7s. or 8s. - yet they did not raise a little finger on behalf of the people to prevent it. The stabilization of the industry will enable the people to know exactly the price they pay for the amount of wool that goes into their wearing material.
– We have always known it. Wool has always been bought at auction.
– But it is remarkable that the statements of manufacturers here and elsewhere- that the increase in the price of clothing has been due ,to the increase in the price of wool have always been accepted.
I quite realize that the Government cannot keep the 1,700,000 bales of carryover wool off the market, because the British Government are interested in it; but the difficulty could be overcome by adopting the remedy suggested by the honorable member for Gwydir. The small producers of wool are interested in keeping the Bawra wool off the market, in order to prevent that glut .for which the speculators of the world are so anxiously waiting. Undoubtedly the world is teeming with speculators on .the watch for the bottom to fall out of the wool market, so that they can purchase our wool, and later on sell it again at fancy prices. »”This would land us in difficulties again. We must prevent it, not only in the ‘interests of the small .growers, but also in the interests of the large .’growers and the whole community. The market must he stabilized ; but I do not think it can be effectively done by adopting the proposals of the Government.
.-It is regrettable, that honorable members waste so much time an recriminations when dealing with such an important question. The (present outlook is certainly gloomy, but honorable members should cast their minds back to the period following the outbreak of war, when- there was great depression, and when the prices of wool and other commodities were tumbling in all directions. The lack of shipping was one of the chief causes of that depression, but the British Government came along, and purchased our raw materials at very satisfactory prices, and paid in cash - as a matter of fact, even ‘before our goods were delivered. To a certain extent, we have been spoon-fed by the British Government for a number of years. A situation has now arisen similar to that which arose after the Napoleonic wars. Great disturbances always follow great wars, and history always repeats itself. It is true that it took many years for the world to recover stability after the Napoleonic wars, but conditions are different to-day. Through interchange of commerce, through shipping, and in a thousand other ways, the spaces of the world have, more or less, contracted, and so it is to be hoped the gloomy period we are now facing ‘ will soon pass away. Although the sky is grey to-day, the sun will shine again, and if we put our best efforts and best thoughts into all our undertakings, I have no- doubt it will not be very long before the sun- will- shine again. I am rather sanguine about the future. I have always- been, an optimist. I am. now what one might call a conservative optimist.
There are three or four proposals in the minds of honorable- members for1 dealing with- the present situation. There is the Bawra proposal; a proposal for storing the carry-over wool for two years, or a fixed period, in order to- give place to the current clips ; a proposal to purchase -the British interest in that wool, and so control the position; and, finally, the proposal to have, an open market, permitting wool-growers to sell ‘anywhere at any price they can get to the speculators who, as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney)- has said, are waiting like hawks to pounce on their prey. The Bawra scheme is the only one that appeals to me. I would prefer selling two bales, instead of three bales, of my current clip to one of Bawra, because it would pay me better to do so.
– Bawra is all profit.
– Yes, and so, if I sell two “bales of my wool at a loss, I have Bawra to draw on, and may thus, perhaps, convert the loss into a profit.’ That is an aspect of the case which honorable members might consider. We all know that those engaged in pastoral pursuits suffer at times greater mental distress than any other section of the community.
– Not so much as the workers.
– The workers bring it on themselves; it comes on the pastoralists by the visitation of God. The pastoralists are suffering more to-day than they have suffered, perhaps, at any other time in their history. Yesterday the right honorable” member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) said that Australia is not riding on the back of a sheep only. I say if she is riding on anything else, 6he is riding for a fall. I do not know on what sort of animal he thinks we should ride; but’ if we do not ride on the backs of sheep the country will become a desert, and then we shall ride on the backs of camels.
– Or on goats.
– That occurred to me, but I thought the mention of goats might be offensive to honorable members. Those engaged in wool-growing are under greater difficulties now than they have been at any other period. There have been droughts and other visitations in the past, but the financial institutions were then able to come to our assistance, and they saw us through.. To-day they are unable or unwilling to do so, and many who have hitherto relied on their assistance, under circumstances similar to the present, have now to use their own capital to continue in existence. Many men whose business is wool-growing are compelled to send to market sheep which they expected to shear this year and next. Now they must sell in order to live.
– That is because the. banks are pushing them.
– If a man is being pushed,, it. does not matter to him who is doing, the pushing. I do not know that the financial institutions are unable to give assistance so much as unwilling to do so. Et is clear to most of us that the country is approaching, very grave and responsible times. The Customs, revenue must diminish,, because imports are declining in both value and quantity; and the receipts from income taxation will be reduced because- to-day comparatively few persons are earning large incomes. The financial institutions feel compelled, I think, to warn the public of the dangers ahead, and this is what is chiefly governing their proceedings. They are compelling the people to exercise economy.
Governments cannot compel the people to economize except by force and imposing burdens of taxation. The people, however, can, and will, compel Governments to economize at the first opportunity they have of exercising their opinion. The war has involved this’ and future Governments in very grave responsibilities, which I see no means of escaping. We must find the means necessary to provide for those who fought in defence of our country, and they are statutory obligations. Therefore, prudence is compelling those interested in financial matters to take a stand which was unnecessary in the past, and it behoves us to join with them in seeing this country through. If we are not to depend upon the sheep, on what can we depend? Can we depend on our mineral wealth ? I would remind honorable members of the fact that Broken Hill and Cobar have practically gone, that Mount Morgan is on the verge of going, and that Mount Lyell may follow suit.
– No. They are sensible men at Mount Lyell, and will come to terms. Mount Lyell will carry on, I am sure.
– I hope so. The time is not far distant when it .will be necessary to exercise moderation and deep thought in many of our industrial undertakings. When those directly engaged in metal mining are thrown out of work, they, in turn, take away the employment of a great many more. Many of the miners have been invited to accept a reduction of wages of from 20 to 25 per cent. I admit that it is difficult to alter the conditions under which these men work. They are living under awards, and it is very hard for the men employed at, say, Mr Morgan, to be called on to accept a reduction in wages of from 20 to 25 per cent., while those engaged in coal mining, coke burning, and other employments in the same undertaking suffer no reduction. But the time will come when it may be necessary to suspend awards.
– Suppose we concentrate on the cost of living first of all.
– The cost of living went up first, and so I think that it should come down first.
– We have been trying in vain for the past six years to catch up to it.
– I hope that honorable members will support the Government proposal. I think that Bawra can deal successfully with our surplus wool. When the European situation is clearer the wool may be disposed of to European countries . on long credits. The people of these countries, at present, are almost without raiment. I arn not pessimistic about the future. I hope that within six months the clouds will have passed away, and that Australia will again be rejoicing iu. prosperity.
.- I am glad that this very important question has been debated in a non-party spirit. An industry of so much importance to Australia as wool-growing should be placed above party conflict. Abnormal conditions were created by the war, making it necessary for the Government to assist certain industries, and the cessation of the war has .plunged us into other abnormal conditions, so that we are faced with unprecedentedly low prices for wool at a time when our growers are not in a flourishing condition. During the debate individual cases have been mentioned that are really pathetic. If our wool cannot be marketed season by season, what will become of the pastoral industry, which, directly and indirectly, employs more Australians than any other, and in the aggregate creates far more wealth? On this Parliament is cast the duty of providing, if necessary, special remedies for abnormal difficulties. I do not wish the Government to take control of matters which can be better dealt with by private individuals, but it seems to me that the proposal of the association known as Bawra is the best that Has been presented to us. Some propose that the surplus wool should be bought and taken, off the market, but I think that if so great a quantity of wool were held back indefinitely, speculators would wait for a collapse of the market, and then take advantage of the lowness of prices. That would knock. the Australian growers out completely, for the time being.
– Could we not put intogaol the gang that wants to do that ?
– I do not insinuate that any one wants to injure us; but I am afraid that that may happen if the surplus wool be held back for a long, period. With so much wool in reserve, a collapse of the market might come at any time. Several propositions have been made in addition to that supported’ by the Government, which is that the exportation of wool from Australia be prohibited for six months, except under the condition that it shall not be sold below a fixed price.
– How does that square with your principle of freedom of contract ?
– I do not like this interference with private action, but the position is so serious that something must be done, and, as practical men; we must meet the occasion as best we may. I have read the various schemes put forward, together with endless letters and leading articles on the subject, and it seems to me that, looking at the case all round, the Bawra proposition is that most likely to succeed. The owners of the Bawra wool know their business. They are familiar with the commercial side of it, as well as with the actual growing of the wool, and it seems reasonable, therefore, that their judgment. should be accepted. They tell us that this is the best way in which to dispose of the enormous accumulation, and that something must be done a.t once. As the honorable member who has just resumed his seat said, it is a well-known historical fact that after the Napoleonic wars there were many sudden collapses in industry. Industries which during those wars had grown up in certain countries became poverty stricken, so to speak, two or. three years after the close of the struggle which was responsible for their existence.
– One need go no further back than the Franco-Prussian war for instances of the kind.
– That is so. The people most interested in the Bawra wool urge us to adopt this scheme, and it is obvious also that special action must be taken to keep the wool industry of Australia going. Unfortunately, too many of our growers at the present time are in a sad financial position, and badly need to obtain the returns from their free wool. It is all very well to say that’ the proceeds of the sale of the Bawra wool will represent wholly profits, but I am afraid that by the time that the wool is disposed of those of the growers most in need of money to-day will not have very much coming to them from that source. They will need a good deal more than they actually receive from Bawra.
The growers are very anxious that this scheme should be carried out, and, therefore, I think it should be given a trial. Should it fail, it will be open to us to say that we followed the advice of those best able to determine what course should be pursued. Honorable members, in speaking of mistakes made in years gone by, very often forget to criticise the actions of which they complain in the light of the conditions actually obtaining when those actions were taken. I have heard some honorable members charge the Government with having practically robbed the wool-growers because of their failure to get better prices during the war. I was a member of this House during the war period, and, knowing what the wool position was at that time, I do not hesitate to say that the Government did what was best in the- circumstances. Some of the largest wool-growers that I have been able to consult share that view. They are perfectly satisfied with what was done by the Government. We should not have been able to ship our wool if the British Government had not come to our assistance, and, even had we been able to shift it to the United States of America, a great deal of it probably would have found its way to Germany. The chances are that German agents in America would have secured a good deal of our wool. All fair-minded men must recognise that the Government did what was best in the circumstances in respect of both our wool and our wheat, and 1 am prepared now to give them the necessary support to enable them to meet the Bawra proposition.
Before concluding my speech I desire to refer to the question qf economy, to which reference was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in opening this debate. Like many other honorable members, I was returned to this House at the last general election pledged to the policy of economy. Economy was a plank in the platform of the Ministerial party, as well as in that of the Country party,’ and the Government, accepting the position they took up on that occasion, must make a serious effort to economize. I listened attentively to the Prime Minister’s statement, and the conclusion I formed was that he was convinced that wherever possible savings should be effected. It seemed to me that he considered we had reached a stage at which it was necessary, to exercise rigid economy in every Department. If the Government do that, I do not think they will encounter any difficulty when the Budget statement is submitted. If, however, they make no serious attempt to economize, with the result that they do not get the support upon which they have hitherto been able to rely, they will have only themselves to blame. The fault will rest not with the honorable member who carries out his election pledges, but with the Government for departing from those made by them. I .am not going to say that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) will not attempt economies. I believe he is thoroughly in earnest in his desire to effect economy, and that when the Budget is presented we shall find that the Government have done as much as couldreasonably be expected in the direction of reducing our national expenditure. Aus- tralia to-day occupies .a peculiar position. The situation in regard; to our wool ois alone sufficient to show us that we cannot hope, in the. future, to obtain anything like the revenue we are now deriving! through the Customs and the Income. Tax Departments.
– We have not yet touched the last shilling,
– And I do not desire that Australia shall be reduced to the last shilling.. This is not a time for reckless spending. It is, rather, a time for “doing without” and. for. the practice of real economy. While I hold that view, I do not say that where the prospects are favorable the Government should not assist people to develop the country. The Government should be particularly ready to assist our returned soldiers to develop our big primary industry, or to assist in mining development, which may open up a big asset’, rather than spend money on relief works which are usually unproductive. Relief works in cases of ser,ious unemployment are, no doubt, necessary,, but there are better means of employing labour. Such works are frequently provided’ in our large cities,, whereas a far better return, from the money so expended might be obtained in country districts. While I urge that we should practise economy, I do not suggest parsimony. The Government announced’ at the last general election that they would avoid unnecessary expenditure, and I intend, so far as I can, to keep themup to that policy
.. - I have listened with a good deal of attention to the views expressed during this debate from all sides of the House,’ and, as the representative of one of the largest wool-growing districts in Australia, I am naturally interested in the disposal of our wool. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in opening the debate, rather overstated the seriousness of the position. We certainly ought not to be too optimistic,, but it is well known that the Prime Minister is a scaremonger and an alarmist. He stampedes the country and then poses as having saved the people from something which actually never existed. It is well, therefore, that we should not be carried away by his final utterances in this House- prior to his departure for England. It seems to- me that, on that occasion he followed, his usual course of overstating the seriousness of the position.
I am not in. favour of the. proposals which the Government have submitted, and- 1 believe- that they are based upon an insufficient knowledge, of the facts. Much, relating to this subject has appeared in the press from the pens of interested’ parties ; and- even the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) stated yesterday that a good deal of the advice which- had been offered to the Government had not been of a disinterested, character. It was only to be expected that buyers would endeavour to depress the market and to stampede the Government. Now .that the matter has been taken up by the Government, it becomes a national responsibility, and consequently those who. are interested in securing wool at the lowest ..possible rate will do all they can. to lead -the Government to believe that We shall .be in a hopeless position unless the whole of the Bawra wool is unloaded on a market which is at present glutted,, within a very short’ period. In order to strengthen that argument, I’ should like- to draw attention to a press account of wool sales held’ in Great Britain on the- 3rd’1 May: While’ we on this* side of the House stand second to none in our respect and admiration for the British Government, and the British people generally, we know that there are private interests in ‘Great Britain not above exploiting the people of Australia to the greatest extent in their power. The press report of these wool sales informs us that a general increase of 10 per cent, had taken place, but it is significant to notice -
Greasy merinos realized 10 per cent, above April closing rates, scoureds from 5 to 10 per cent., and medium to fine crossbreds 7£ to 10 per cent. - almost all taken by the Continent.
In another part of the newspaper it is stated that English buyers did not operate to ,any extent.; and, I believe that these people would like to see the wool market collapse. It is to our interests, just as it is in the interests of other industries which deal with perishable goods, to have cold stores and other means to prevent gluts - to withhold goods from the market, and thus evade the effects of an over supply for the time being. That is why, When the honorable member for Grampians (Mr.. Jowett) was speaking a few days ago, I suggested that, as we have a partner in the Bawra wool - a partner who is insisting on the wool being unloaded on the market - we should, as happens in any other partnership business, when one’s partner does not agree, sell out to ,him, or .buy him out, and get control. If the British Government insist on placing this wool on the market, whether we like it or not, we should take the necessary . steps to come to .some arrangement with the British Government in order to acquire their interest in the wool, and thus place the control of the fine merino wool of the world entirely in Australian hands. We could then, if we liked, withhold it from sale until a favourable opportunity presented itself for placing it on the market. I .am told by some that this is an impracticable scheme, because it cannot Be financed. That is to belittle Australia; I do not think we are so barren of statesmanship that we cannot finance a transaction of this character. The result of not being able to come to an agreement with the British Government is that, if they insist on unloading the wool, the market will be depressed to an. undue extent, and there will be great financial loss to the people of Australia-. That loss will not only be felt by the grazing industry, but will extend to other industries;, which, under our modern scheme of civilization, fit in like cogs in a machine. As an illustration let us look to the banks, which, let me say, are not disinterested parties in this matter. Their overdrafts and mortgages are largely on the lands of Australia, and they are the financiers of .the small growers. Anybody of experience knows that in a period of depression such as this - a depression which, in my opinion, is only temporary - it is possible for banks to order their customers to reduce their overdrafts. If a .customer - has been dealing with a bank practically .all his life, and he is asked to .reduce his overdraft in a period of depression, he has to :sell his stock or wool for less than it is worth. It is not possible for such a man to go to any other bank for financial assistance. Even if this proposal of the Government is carried out, there will still be need for immediate steps to finance the small growers and tide them over the depression, so that they may not be forced by the banks to dispose of their properties. It is the duty of the .Government to take such steps, because .the resources of the nation should be at the command of any industry that is vital to the interests of the whole community. This is necessary in order to save industry, prevent disaster to the people, and to protect our financial stability .and preserve o.ur credit, not only within our own borders, but throughout the whole world.
Why is it that I ,say the Government have ‘Come to their decision with insufficient ‘knowledge? The Government have no knowledge of the position in regard to Continental markets to-day. My belief is that we have reached the lowest rung in the ladder of prices, and in that belief I am supported by the newspaper reports to-day, supplemented by the reports of the various agencies. Cables are published from the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company Limited,. Dalgety ,and Company, Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company, The ‘New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency, John Sanderson and Company, and Younghusband Limited, and all these companies state that the competition .was keen, that values had increased 10 .per cent., that newbuyers appeared in the market, and that the Continent was well, represented. Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company said that the principal buyers represented the Continent, and the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company report that the competition was animated with some American buyers. That latter fact is significant in view of the heavy import duty on wool in America. If America finds it necessary to buy in Britain, there must be strong reasons in view of the enormous import duty that has to be faced. Then we have no direct representative of this Government actually in touch with the whole operations of Bawra. When this Parliament, or the machinery of the country, is put into, operation in order that we may arrange to carry some of the responsibility, the first principle to be observed is that, before anything is done, the Government should have a direct representative on the spot to make himself conversant with the whole of the transactions of the association into which we are asked to throw our weight. In addition, I dare say, there is not one member of the Ministry, there is certainly not one member of the House, who can give us any detailed statement of the efforts that have been made to dispose of this Bawra wool. There is no one to tell us what arrangements have been entered into, what correspondence has taken place between the principals of Bawra on the other side of the world and on this. We do not know what has been done, or is likely to be done, by the British Government towards arranging with the Continental Powers for the carrying out of the scheme of reparation, which will have a very great effect on the ultimate result of the sales in Great Britain. If the conditions hy the Central Powers in the matter of reparations are fixed, I do not think it will be long before we shall have industry within those countries placed on a solid footing. It is ridiculous to carry out a trade boycott against those people who were previously large buyers of our primary products. To do so is simply “ cutting off our nose to spite our face.” Take, for example, the position in Australia. Prior to the war we used thousands of tons of German wire in Australia, and to-day there are thousands of miles of fencing waiting to be done. This work would provide employment for hundreds of .men, but we cannot get the wire, except at prohibitive prices. Every man on the land wishes to improve h£s land to the greatest extent, but he cannot be forced to do so if the ‘material . necessary can be obtained only at exorbitant prices. We do not make wire in Australia in sufficient quantities for our needs, and thus there has been a limitation of trade detrimental to us as well as to those other peoples. To carry on a vendetta with the helpless peoples of those countries who had practically no say in their government, but are forced to carry out the will of their rulers - to persecute those peoples is contrary to the principles of Christianity.
– What of war itself?
– So long as humanity remains as it is I am afraid there will be war. It is remarkable that while the controllers of the Allied Governments who were at war with the Central Powers have carried out a persecution of the helpless peoples of those Powers, who, owing to conscription, were forced to fight, have allowed the great offender, the Kaiser, to live in luxury in Holland. This makes us in Australia wonder whether, after all, these peoples were so sincere in their protestations of hatred for the Kaiser as we were led to believe.
The proposal of the Government is to fix a limit below which wool cannot be sold. When the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was speaking, a statement was made .that if we fixed a minimum price of 8d., other sellers would sell at just a shade below that minimum, and thereby get the market. The honorable member on that occasion said that we could not control the whole of the brokers and growers of the’ world and prevent them selling below our minimum. We certainly cannot do that; we cannot control the people of South Africa, the Argentine, or any other country, and prevent them selling their wool at a shade below our price. There are 842 different grades of wool, and the prices of these wools run from, say, 3d. up to 2s. 6d. per lb. Let us take the case of a man in South America, whose wool is of a similar quality to ours. Our appraised price is ls. 2d., and if such a man places his wool on the market at 1s. l3/4d. he cuts us right out. So long as we continue to auction our wool with a fixed minimum, so long will people be able to undercut us and get our market. There is no escape from that.
Mr.Rodgers. - Obviously, that is not the whole truth, because the grades and standards are different in every country.
– Yes; but wools of similar qualities produced in different countries can be put to identical uses, and if Australian wool is appraised at 151/2d., and wool from other countries that can be used for similar purposes as our wool of a certain grade at, say, 151/4d., it is obvious that the latter will be bought in preference to ours. In industries which handle perishable goods, cold storage is resorted to in order to regulate the market. “We should adopt the same policy, and either acquire Britain’s interest in the wool, or arrange for it to be withheld from sale in order that the market may not be flooded.
– What will the British Government and public say to that?
– Britain desires to sell the wool. Let us say to the Imperial Government, “Rather than that you should sell the wool piece-meal, unloading a few thousand bales at a time and thereby depressing the market, we will buy outthe whole of your interest at the appraised value.” The honorable member for Grampians. (Mr. Jowett) intimated that the British interest would probably be purchasable at about 5d. per lb. I believe that the carry-over wool is mostly of inferior quality. If that be so, and the average weight of a bale is 450 lbs., the amount of money required to purchase the British interest will not be more thanfrom £8,000,000 to £10,000,000. We know that the injudicious unloading of £10,000,000 worth of wool on the market in competition with our new clip will lead to a collapse in values. I do not think the Commonwealth is so bankrupt that it cannot finance the deal I am suggesting. If any honorable member were in partnership with a man who insisted upon selling at the wrong time, he would either sell out, or buy out his partner.We cannot sell out; we should, therefore, buy out the other fellow, who desires to sell, in order that we may be able to stabilize the market and give our primary producers a fair chance.
Mr.Rodgers. - That would accentuate our trouble.
– Are not trusts and combines formed in order to acquire products and withhold them from the market? A lot of twaddle has been talked by honorable members opposite about flying in the face of the law of supply and demand. That law does not operate to-day. The Steel Trust and the Wheat Trust in America can and do create artificial demands and shortages.
Mr.Rodgers. - The honorable member is suggesting another combine.
– Whereas the operations of private trusts and combines are in the interests of individuals, my proposal is in the interests of the whole community and is designed to protect a big section engaged in one of our great primary industries. Let me warn Great Britain that, whilst she may acquire our clip at less than the cost of production, she cannot force men, who are able to get out of the industry, to continue producing wool. It would be a great loss to Great Britain if the wool industry of Australia collapsed. The British people would suffer as much as, if not more than, we should, and, having regard to the fact that Britain is to-day in the throes of industrial warfare, it behoves her to look well to herself if she is to weather the storm. I am not in accord with those honorable members who have said that Britain spoon-fed us during the war. If she did spoon-feed us, how is it that she owns a half-share in a couple of million bales of Australian wool? Though the wool-growers received a good price for their product during the war period in comparison with the pre-war price, the conditions in Australia to-day are changed. As a result of Australia’s participation in the war we have to face an enormous national debt, and the extra price received from the wool will be insufficient to pay the extra taxation placed on the wool-grower in order to meet the interest on our war bill. Although the price we received for our wool during recent years was an advance on the pre-war price, yet it was much lower than the price received by every other country from which Great Britain bought wool.
– She paid a big price to us when the condition of the market was unknown.
– She bought each year from us at the same time as she bought from other countries. The people of Australia do not mind making any sacrifice for their kinsmen on the other side of the world, but we do not desire people to say that we ought to thank God that we did make the sacrifice. The obligation is not all on one side. The Britishpeople certainly derived great advantages from the fact that Australia is partof the British Empire.
The position of the wool industry today only proves that there was enormous bungling on the part of the Commonwealth Government in disposing of our primary products. I have always said, ever since we received information of the prices paid to other countries, that our primary products were sold at much too low a price’. Honorable members opposite talk about insisting upon the world’s parity for our wheat, but they did not insist on it when the Prime Minister was selling our primary products to Great Britain.
– The proceeds of the wool sale to Great Britain practically carried us through the first few years of war when our wheat was unsaleable.
– That does not alter my argument in regard to the return we received in comparison with that we should have received.
– Is the honorable member aware that honorable members on his side of the House have complained during this debate that the Imperial Government and the Australian woolgrowers received too much for their wool and were profiteers?
– That was not said; the statement is deliberately untrue.
– I think the honorable member for Grampians is . misinformed, and is therefore unintentionally misrepresenting honorable members on this side of the House. Probably, if he refers toHansard, he will find he has made a mistake. . The policy of the Labour party is that for those products which are used within our own country the consumer shall pay on the basis of the cost of production, but for the things that are sold outside the Commonwealth the world’s parity should be received. We should get the best price we can from overseas buyers. If it costs 12s. in a given season to produce a bushel of wheat the local consumer should pay 12s. for it, though London parity may be only 10s. The wheatgrower should not be asked to grew wheat at 12s. per bushel and sell it at 6s. On the other hand, if it costs only 4s. to produce the wheat, but because other countries have been lax in their production, the price in London is 12s., the Australian consumer should be charged not 12s., but the cost of production, plus reasonable profit. If for the wheat sold overseas the grower can get £1 per bushel, so much the better. Unless we base prices on the cost of production we cannot hope to eliminate profiteering. The cost of production of wool has been set down as within a fraction of l1d. per lb., and yet we are told that the grower should be prepared under this scheme to receive an average flat rate of 8d. per lb. What will be the position of the smaller men who cannot get financial assistance? The financial institutions will stand by the big men, but they will not be bothered with the small settler. In New South Wales the small men are being ordered by the banks to reduce their overdrafts. They cannot get financial assistance in other quarters, and the banks, which have allowed their own stock to die, are re-stocking their runs with the sheep and cattle which they obtain as a result of forcing the small men to realize. Sheep which cost the small man 30s. per head are being compulsorily sold for 10s. We of the Labour party have always urged that finance should be a national question, because under present conditions interested parties in periods like these are always trying to drive the small men off the land. The position hae become so serious that Parliament should legislate to prevent, if possible, the banks hunting any man out of his home because of the temporary depression through which we are passing. These, small men are not drunkards or gamblers who have wasted their means; they have been forced into their unfinancial position by the drought through which they have passed,and the temporary depression of the wool market. The electorate I represent has suffered probably more than any other district in Australia from drought during the last four years, and many of the small men are in an awful position. One man with seventy hales of crossbred, wool, which he sent to Sydney, tried to raise £140 on it, but could not get an* advance. At the same time the bank is ordering him to reduce his overdraft. What is the use of sending Percy Hunter to England, at a salary of £2,000 per annum, to send out immigrants, when the best settlers we have - the small, holders - are being forced off the land by the financial institutions ? The position is ridiculous, and remedial action should be taken immediately. The scheme put forward by the Government will not render financial assistance to these men in time to save them. Already in my electorate there have been a number of forced sales. And what of the storekeepers who have given these men credit to the amount of £300 or £400 1 A property may ‘be worth £5,000, and the mortgage upon it is £2,500. The bank will put it up for sale,, and if £2,500 is offered it will be sold. Any man who has been on the land knows, that the. storekeeper often, carries a man when the banks will not; but he is an unsecured creditor, and loses everything. In cases such as I have mentioned,, if .the present tendency continues, the areas which are to-day the holdings of small men, will soon be again enclosed by the squatter’s ring fence, and’ the settlers will be walking from one end of the country to the other in search of employment. Many of the best men in Australia are those who have risen to the position of owning their own land. Many a wage earner attains his. ideal when he can secure land of his own, build a home on it and become his own employer. It would be a parlous- condition of affairs for Australia if these men were to be forced off their holdings through the action of interested financial institutions and others, those people who have told the Prime Minister that they do not intend to join in the scheme which has been put forward by the Government. This Parliament represents the whole of the people of Australia, and the necessity has arisen for it to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act in order that that institution may be able to stand behind small land holders, thus preventing these interested banks from forcing them out of their homes.- The private bank with which, they have dealt hitherto will not advancemoney to them very much longer, and. their position is only that of hundreds of other men. They cannot go to another bank for assistance. If they should attempt to do so the manager of that other bank would say, “ You have dealt with so-and-so for so long; why would he not continue to finance you?”
– It is a very sound principle to stick to your own bank.
– But the shoe pinches when your own bank will not stick to you, which it will only do when you can pay it twenty shillings in the pound. As business men, we cannot expect the banks to take much risk ;> but they should not exploit and ruin settlers because of a temporary depression. The position of many country storekeepers is exceedingly bad. They stand behind many settlers without asking for any security, beyond their customers’ good names, and what will be their position if they are forced, by their wholesale houses to meet their liabilities, and they find that, their customers have been sold up through the machinations of the financial institutions ?
Last night the- honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), took- the Prime Minister to task for having interfered and broken off the1 negotiations that were being carried into effect for a further contract for the sale of our wool to the British Government until 1925. The honorable member said that he was ordered! by the Prime Minister, by cable from Great Britain, to discontinue the negotiations;.
– That is correct. That is what I- said.
– But the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) seemed to have a different idea as to what the honorable member meant. He endeavoured to point out to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that the Prime Minister had nothing whatever to do with the sale of wool, and the- honorable member for Hume asked how it was, if the Prime Minister had nothing to do with the. sale of wool’, he could break off the negotiations’ which were being conducted by the honorable member for Balaclava, as Acting Prime Minister. The great fault displayed by the Leader of the Govern^, ment in connexion with the sales of Australian products has been, that he regards himself as an Englishman first and as an Australian secondly. If any advantage can be given to the speculators of Great Britain, as against the people of Australia, he will always give it to them.
– I do not think that the honorable member is correct. Bad judgment has been shown on many occasions by the Prime Minister, but I do not think that he has displayed any preference for Englishmen over Australians.
– It is remarkable that on almost every occasion he has displayed his bad judgment against the interests of Australia, and in favour of speculators in Great Britain. I am not speaking about the Government or the people of Great Britain; Australians are always prepared to stand behind them or make sacrifices for them, but on too many occasions sacrifices have been made by us in respect to our primary products, not for the people of Great Britain, but for the advantage of a small speculating section in Great Britain. . We object to this. We object to the primary producers of Australia being made the sport and plaything of a few speculators in England who control the financial institutions there and seem to regard us merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water. It is our duty as a Parliament, when we are asked to participate in a matter like this, to keep a watchful eye open. If our partners in this Bawra wool insist on selling it, thereby depressing the market, it is our duty to buy out their interest so that we may control the supply of the commodity and prevent a collapse of the market, which would mean great loss to the people of Australia. Yesterday the Acting Prime Minister told us that he believed the Bawra scheme would break down. He said definitely that he did not think it would prove a success. Surely it is a ridiculous position for the Leader of the Government to occupy, when he says that he believes the proposal he puts forward will probably fail. The Prime Minister was quite as definite before he went away, because he said that although the remedy was no cure for the disease, it might act as a temporary palliative. What is the use of persisting in applying a remedy that will not cure the disease? If any man has a partner in a scheme and cannot get on with him he will either endeavour to buy him out or get out himself. But Australia cannot get out of the wool-growing industry. We are a wool-growing ation. We cannot sacrifice our flocks and herds. The wool will grow and must be shorn, and we must find a market for it. As a matter of fact, at the present time we ought to have men travelling through the Continent of Europe endeavouring to find markets, because there will be no great recovery from the depressed state of the wool market until the looms of Central Europe get going again.
– Hear, hear I
– We ought to inspire a confidence in the impoverished peoples of the Central Powers that will induce them to utilize the wool we have grown, and which should be put into use in order to clothe them, and provide them with the employment which will enable them to purchase the raw materials they require. The honorable member for Balaclava gave us last night a very interesting outline of the methods by which a scheme for doing this might be financed, and I am pleased to note the general feeling in the Chamber that trade ought to be resumed with the Central Powers. It proves that the stand taken up by the Labour party is correct. Of course, during the war sane reasoning was dispensed with and the refusal to trade with the enemy countries was a good jingoistic cry which served to stir up the passions of the people, but it is a matter for regret that leading public men must either eat their own words or persist in an attitude which is likely to bring disaster to a big section of the people of Australia, who naturally look to the head of the Government to be watchful of their interests in international matters.
Even if it should cost £50,000,000 instead of £10,000,000 to do so, it would be worth while spending the money in acquiring the British Government’s interest in the carryoverwool. It would save a great industry. It would enable us to control 50 per cent, of the available merino wool of the world” and we could then take steps to send representatives to the continent of Europe to negotiate with the Governments of the Central Powers with a view to getting them to set theirlooms going once more, thus bringing into operation again the machinery of production which: waa utilized before the war for the purpose of turning into cloth the greater portion of the Australian wool sold overseas. There are several sound business men in this Parliament who could very well represent Australia upon this mission. We ought to establish direct trade relations with these countries, and for that purpose the best brains available in Australia should be employed. We want financiers and commercial” travellers in Europe to sell our primary products. At the same time, our Government ought to stand behind the small men who are being crushed by our banks and other interested parties, and forced to sell their stock. Sheep which these small men could only keep alive during the drought period at great “expense they are now being forced to sell to these very institutions.
– The honorable member ought to mention names in support of his” statement.
– Surely the honorable member is not’ ignorant of the position. Does he wish me to give the names of the banks?
– I want the names of the men who are using their position as directors of banks to force other men to put into the market stock which they are buying up for themselves.
– If the honorable member takes any map of Australia showing land holdings, he will see that the Bank of So-and-so owns this block, and the Bank of. Such-and-such that block. These are the banks which are advancing money to land-holders. The inspector of one bank operating in New South Wales has been in the Gwydir district during the last few weeks forcing men to reduce their overdrafts. Holders have been forced to send their stock into the market, ‘and their sheep have been sold for less than it cost to keep them alive during the drought, the purchasers in many cases being the very banks which called for the reduction of overdrafts.
– The honorable member means that the stock are simply being drafted into other holdings.
– That is the position. Many sheep-owners paid as much as 30s. per head to keep their flocks alive. In any provincial newspaper honorable members will find advertisements of forced sales where mortgagees have foreclosed. They will see : “ The Bank of So-and-so has foreclosed “ and. in such a case, if the stock are followed to their destination, many of the sheep will be found on land owned by this particular bank. That is why the Labour party advocate the nationalization of banking. Power ought to be given to thi Commonwealth Bank to stand behind these small men, just as the New South Wales Government stood behind- the farmers last year to the extent of £i,000,000. The Premier of New South Wales declared that he would not allow any man to be hunted off the land. Many persons were waiting for mortgagees to foreclose. Their credit having gone, they had no money to enable them to carry on ; but the assistance given by the State Government enabled them to tide over the time of trouble. As a result, a magnificent crop was harvested. It saved the people of the State from a financial debacle. This is a matter whch should engage the attention of the Commonwealth Ministry at the earliest possible opportunity. If necessary, arrangements should be made by the Commonwealth Bank to take up the securities of these men who are threatened with foreclosure by the private banks. Every fair-minded man will admit this is necessary in the interests of the whole community. As I am not satisfied with the proposals of the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook), and as he has said that he thinks they will end in failure, I move -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ and in the opinion of this House it is advisable that the Government immediately enter into negotiations with the Imperial authorities for the purpose of having all B.A.W.R.A. wool withheld from sale for a period of at least two years.”
The acceptance of the amendment will permit of negotiations for getting the wool into consumption in Central Europe, which every honorable member opposite admits to be necessary. The weaving mills and looms of the Continent must be set going to provide for the absorption of the wool. I suggest the fixing of a period of restriction of at least two years to prevent the destruction of confidence in buyers. There will be sufficient wool, apart from the Bawra wool, to meet the
Ministerial [REPRESENTATIVES.] Statement. demands of the world during that period, and at the end of it, when the looms are all going, there will he an opportune occasion for disposing of the Bawra wool by whatever method the Commonwealth Government may see fit. My proposal will stabilize the market sufficiently long for the position to be cleared up.
.- I have much pleasure in seconding the amendment, and have one or two words to say in support of it. Every honorable member recognises that our wool industry is now in a parlous condition, and it is, therefore, our duty to do our best to stabilize it, and thus prevent a financial disaster, which would affect, not the woolgrowers alone, but every other section of the community as well. I have listened to the speeches of this debate, and have followed the discussion of the matter in the press, and have conversed with woolgrowers about it. Australia has now to face the most serious position which has confronted her since the bank smashes in the early nineties; and unless something is done to stabilize the wool industry, the pastoralists will be absolutely ruined and the whole community will be injured. Some members have said that, the woolgrowers had a very good time while the war was on; but the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), while admitting that, pointed out that their profits have since been taken from them, and that, on the whole, they have not had a good time. ‘Of late years, those who have done well out of sheep and stock have been, not the growers and breeders, but the speculators. While the war lasted, the prices of wool were fairly remunerative; but during the past two years Australia has suffered the greatest drought that has yet afflicted her, and most of the stock-owners have lost heavily. Although the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir were .questioned by interjections from members opposite, the fact remains that the banks are to-day using their influence and power to force men to .sell their stock at reduced prices, and that for two reasons: the first being that the banks may be able to re-stock their own runs cheaply, and -the next that they may be able to acquire cheaply the land of those who are ruined.
– I do not believe that.
– I am not responsible for the honorable member’s beliefs. Every man in this Chamber knows that what I say is true. The banks are the largest holders of land in Australia. While the drought was on, the price of fodder rose enormously, and they realized that it was better to let their stock die than to buy fodder to keep it alive. They knew that the longer the drought lasted the more those who endeavoured to keep their stock alive would become involved in their meshes. As soon as the drought broke, and prospects brightened for those who, at great sacrifice, had kept their stock alive, the banks refused further credit, and asked for the reduction of overdrafts, with the result that sheep and cattle have been forced on to the market, and have been sold at ridiculous prices. At Homebush, the week before last, the highest price paid for prime, cross-bred wethers was 21si a head, although it had cost at least £2 per head to keep them alive during the drought. The highest price paid for ewes at the same time was 20s. a head. At the Goulburn sales last week, the highest price paid for sheep of any description was 14s. a head. That price was paid for merino ewes. It must be remembered that the stocks of Australia have been enormously depleted, and that there are now only 25,000,000 sheep in New .South Wales; but the present slump in the wool market, although it may last for a year or two, is only temporary, and those who are selling their sheep at these low rates have been forced to do so . to ‘ meet their financial obligations. .The number of sheep in New South Wales is as low as it has been for forty years. It is fair to assume that, of the 25,000,000 sheep there now, not more than 12,000,000 are .breeding ewes, and that these will not produce more than 6,000,000 lambs a year. The Homebush consumption of sheep is about 50,000 a week, or about 2,500,000 a year. Adding to this the ‘Consumption in other parts of New South Wales, and the losses from the blowfly pest and natural causes, it will be seen that the increase in the flocks must be slow.
– The honorable member is not allowing for any export trade.
– That is so. But before many years are over the demand for wool will be .as great as, if not greater than, it waa before the war. “ Although conditions are bad to-day, and may remain bad for some years, they will eventually become normal,, and if by adopting the scheme of the honorable member for Gwydir the pastoral industry is tided over a bad time, the growers will eventually get on their feet again, and we shall evade the financial panic and ruin which must otherwise result. I have one or two reasons for opposing the scheme of the Government. One i6 that 8d. per lb. is not a sufficiently high price for wool, lt is less than the cost of production, and no one can carry on a business without a. reasonable profit. I am chiefly opposed to the scheme because it would stem the tide of disaster for six months only. As a wool-grower, and the representative of a wool-growing constituency, I am aware that the position is even more acute than it has been admitted to be; but if the buyers of wool here and elsewhere know that this restriction is to be for six months only, they will stay their hand, and at the end of that time our growers will beworse off than they are now. The periodof restriction proposed by the Government is. inadequate, and its adoption, instead of helping to stabilize the industry, will have the opposite effect-. If we get into touch- with the Imperial Government,, there should be no occasion for us to buy back the wool. We have been told, in season and out, that the protecting hand of Britain is ever extended to Australia. We have had it dinned into our ears that we owe everything that we possess to Great Britain. Now we have an opportunity of allowing the statesmen of Great Britain to prove that they have the- interest of Australia- at heart. The wool industry is our principal industry, and should it collapse, a very bad time is in store for Australia, and for many; persons outside this country. But the British. Government can, without loss to their taxpayers, keep the Bawra wool off the market for a period of two or three years. Without this country or Great Britain incurring any expense, this veritable mountain of wool, as it has been termed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), can be kept off the market for a couple of years, * and this will stabilize the industry. The profit which the British Government has made out of the sale of wool is more than represented by the Bawra wool, and I have no doubt that the Imperial authorities would be prepared to do the right thing if properly approached. It has been said that the suggestion has been made that the Bawra wool should be burnt. The honorable member for Robertson said that the suggestion had. been published in the press.
– The man who would do such a thing should be hanged.
– I do not advocate - the burning . or destruction of the wool; I think that it should, and could, be put to use. - Those who adversely criticise the woolgrower who, in certain circumstances, finds it necessary to destroy sheepskins or hides should be fully conversant with the facts before they suggest the punishment of such a man. Two bales of sheepskins, belonging to a grazier in my electorate, were sold in Sydney the week before last. They weighed 630 lbs., and after expenses had been paid the net return to the grower was lid.
– He had prac’tically given them away.
– Yes. Having regard to the present state of the market, he was lucky, as an honorable member suggests, to get even lid. for the two bales. When hides and sheepskins are unsaleable, very great precautions have to be taken in storing them to save them from the ravages of weevils and other vermin. If a producer finds that his hides or sheepskins are being practically devoured, by vermin, and are of no potential value to him, the only course open to him is to destroy them. If hides and sheepskins are being destroyed by growers, is is- only where it is impossible, because* of the ravages of vermin, to preserve them until they will be a marketable asset. I am satisfied that there is not one grower who thinks that either wool or hides should, be destroyed. No man is prepared to destroy anything that can be turned to commercial advantage. I refer to this matter in passing only because I am convinced that all1 the talk we have heard as to the burning of wool and other primary- products by growers emanates either from wholly irresponsible persons, or from those who deliberately make mis- . statements with the object of creating an entirely wrong impression.
– Such stories are a pure invention.
– It is a pure invention to say that the suggestion is being, made generally that wool and sheepskins,, because of the present low market rates, should be destroyed.
In conclusion I would emphasize the point that this is the most serious situation with which Australia has been confronted since the banking crisis of 1893, and that it is the duty of every honorable member to deal with the question from an Australian, and not from a party, standpoint. I have endeavoured to deal with it from a national point of view. . I have no desire to make party political capital “out of it. I want, if possible, to assist the Australian wool-grower, knowing that by helping the most important industry in the Commonwealth I shall thus assist every section of the community. I recognise that not only the wool-growers but every section of the community will suffer unless measures be taken to stabilize the wool-growing industry, and to avert the ruin which seems to be inevitable if something in that direction be not done.
.- There can be no doubt that this question has been discussed, and rightly discussed, from a national and not from a party point of view. It is the desire of those-
– May I interrupt the honorable member. 1 desire to bring down immediately a series of resolutions connected with this question, so as to avoid two debates upon it.
– Order! If the honorable member, ber for Henty resumes his seat he will forfeit his right to speak.
– But I am going to submit a series of resolutions which will give rise to another debate on the same matter almost immediately, and the honorable, member will be able to address himself to those questions.
– There is already a motion and an amendment before the Chair.”
– And we can, if necessary, dispose of them now by a vote.
– Very well.
– The wool sales commence on Monday, and I am proposing to proceed with this matter by a series of resolutions. I therefore ask the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) to consent to the withdrawal of his amendment for the time being. If he does so, there will be no restriction of his right, later on, to raise the very question which his amendment involves. The series of resolutions that I propose to submit will open up the whole subject, and whatever he may want to do now p.an just as readily be done then. I am merely suggesting the postponement of his proposal until we come to deal with the series of resolutions which I intend to submit immediately. In that way we shall avoid a double debate on the same subject.
– I will not withdraw my amendment.
– Then perhaps the House will agree that a vote be taken forthwith on the amendment and the motion. When that is done, we shall be able to get on with the resolutions.
.- I desire, by way of personal explanation, to say that I shall vote against the amendment if the carrying of it would mean tying up the whole of the Bawra wool for two years. Would that be the effect?
– Then, considering that so many of the people of the world are crying out for wool for clothing purposes, I shall certainly vote against the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Cunningham’s amendment) - put. The Housedivided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.25 to 8 p.m.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta-
Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister) [8.0]. - (By leave.) -I beg to move -
That this House approves of the issue of a proclamation under the Customs Act 1901-1920 prohibiting for a period not exceeding six months the exportation of wool from the Commonwealth unless -
in the case of wool purchased within the Commonwealth, a price, not lower than the price agreed upon as the official reserve in respect of wool of that type, is paid by the purchaser either at auction or by private treaty; and
in the case of wool consigned for sale overseas, security is given to the satisfaction of the Minister for Trade and Customs that the wool will not be sold, either publicly or privately, at a price lower than the equivalent of the price agreed upon as the official reserve, in respect of wool of that type, . plus the freight and other charges on the wool from the port of shipment in Australia to the place of sale overseas:
Provided that the price agreed upon asthe official reserve in respect of wool of each type shall be such a price as will produce an average price of eightpence per pound for an average Australian wool clip, and that such official reserve shall be determined by the BritishAustralian Wool Realization Association Limited in accordance with the principles upon which the prices of wool were determined by the Central Wool Committee during the period of sales to the British Government.
That this resolution be forwarded to the Senate for its concurrence.
This is the fourth day on which we have debated this matter, and I should like to, ifpossible - in fact, we must - finish it in our House to-night. On Monday the sales begin, and the Senate requires to also consider the matter when we have concluded it. A word, first of all, as to why we are proceeding by resolution instead of by Bill. This motion is, to all intents and purposes, a Bill, except as regards statutory rigidity. In this case, we proceed by proclamation. A Bill binds us for a certain defined period during which no alteration can be made in, no matter how urgent the circumstances, unless a repealing or amending Bill be introduced. The outlook is not altogether clear - indeed, it is anything but clear - and we are treading our way through a maze of difficulties and perplexities in an endeavour to stabilize the market, and at the same time get wool into consumption, for there is a dual object running all through these proposals. In these circumstances, we think that the more facile the instrument by which this object is accomplished the better for all concerned. As to creating a precedent we need not, I think, unduly stress the point, for the reason that we have the same control over these proposals in their shaping and adjustment as over any Bill. The discretion of the House, its judgment and its actions, are not limited in any sense of the word. Therefore, to all intents and purposes, this is a Bill without having the rigidity of a Bill; we gain as much by this way as we gain by means of a Bill. Moreover, if we proceed by Bill, we must incorporate in the Bill the provisions from the Customs Act, in order to make it effective and at the same time constitutional. We have no control over exports except through the powers of the Customs Department under section 112 of the Act. We cannot by any Statute create a new power; we are limited to the power we possess under the Constitution. That is, therefore, our sole power to deal with the fixation of a reserve of this kind. I think it is quite clear at this time of day that we have not the power to fix either a reserve price or any other price, except as incidental to the export powers.
And now as to the purposes of the motion. The wool industry is a very varied one, as I am beginning to find out since I had something to do with it. It represents many interests and activities, and some of these are conflicting; all of them are certainly varied, and important. We have to gather up these interests and reconcile them in the best way we can in one proposal, and that is not an easy matter. For instance, wool is bought and sold in many places, and under many varying conditions. Buyers are sent out specially on behalf of particular firms, and wool is purchased outright here for consignment direct to warehouses’ at Home. Other wool is shipped a-way for consignment, to be dealt with in London by organizations of wool-brokers, by that known as Bawra, and other bodies at the other end of the world. As this motion relates to wool at the other end as well as to wool in Australia, we must make provision in the resolution to meet the .circumstances. There are other buyers who buy for consignment to foreign countries - Japan, America, and other places - where there are not organizations such as obtain in London. Therefore, we must fix our reserve and our guarantees at this end ; and paragraph o is introduced with that object. It sets out that, in the case of wool purchased within the Commonwealth for exportation, the price as agreed upon shall be charged, and guarantees shall be offered that it will be paid. There is a little uncertainty as to a certain class of purchasers of wool to whom, perhaps, I should allude now. I am referring to the buyer who purchases small lots direct ‘from the grower and’ pays ready cash. Such a buyer goes round from farm to farm picking up these little lots, and paying for them as he gets them. It would seem on one reading of this motion that a buyer of this kind’ would have to get two certificates, one that he had paid the Bawra price to the farmer, and another when he came to ship overseas. If we make the man who goes round collecting these little lots for ready cash pay the full market price to the farmers, he is cut out altogether; and’ I wish to make it quite clear’ that we d’onot desire in any way that he should be cut out. It appears to me that he may purchase those lots- of wool at a price as agreed between himself and the seller, and that he may then, under paragraph *h; ship, the wool away on consignment, giving guarantees and securities that when the wool comes to be sold overseasBawra conditions will be ‘observed. If that point is not so clear as some wish it to be ‘expressed in the motion, it can be altered,, for there is no desire, as I say; to interfere with this small buyer. To me, the arrangement seems right enough.
– At the Customs House, in the case of such a buyer, all that the Customs House officer has to say to him is, “Have you purchased this wool for the warehouses at Home? Have you purchased it on your own account to export it, or are you sending it” away on consignment?” The Customs House officer has nothing to do with what has been paid for the wool in Australia; all he is concerned with is that it may not be exported unless Bawra conditions are observed.
– Is there no restriction on the price within the Commonwealth?
– Not within the Commonwealth ; we are dealing, only with wool for export.
– I am afraid that is not the object, according to the wording of the motion.
– That is the governing principle of the proposal. “We are concerned with the export of wool; what Bawra does is Bawra’s concern. We are not hereto run Bawra; all we do is to prescribe a new reserve,’ to try to stabilize the market, and bring our wool industry into a healthy condition.
– What does the “ official reserve “ mean in paragraph a of the motion ?
– That will be made quite plain later’ on. In the second paragraph is quite clear that,, in respect’ of wool consigned to England there must be guarantees that it will not go into consumption at a lower price than the stipulated reserve, and according to the proviso, “ the- price- agreed upon as. the official reserve in respect of wool of each type shall be such a price as will produce an average price of 8d. per lb. for an average Australian wool clip.”
We are told that there are 858 types of. wool. The classification is fairly .extensive, and I understand that there is what is known as “a wool Bible “ in which all grades of wool have been reduced to a mathematically ascertained standard. The prices realized for. these 858 types must work out at an average of 8d. per lb. Some wools will be worth 3s. or 4s. per lb., and other wools only 2d., or Id. The average Australian clip, is to be ascertained by taking the average of the three years of control by the Central Wool Committee, namely, 19-16-17”, 19i7-18, and 1918-19. The figures for those three years will enable us to arrive at a. fair average Australian clip; and to fix ‘ the types . under which the average price will be settled: The machinery for doing this is already in existence. The best wool experts in the world hav,e been gathered together in Bawra regardless of any other consideration than to press into the service of the wool industry the best brains in the industry. The whole scheme hits been so organized that there seems to. be little room for improvement. Therefore, we adopt that machinery for the ascertainment of all the minute details and particulars by which the average price will be fixed. Brought into - this scheme is- not only Bawra, but tie Central Wool Committee, who will have a say as to what the reserve shall be, and what the price shall be of each of the 858 types of wool. The final determination will appear to reside in the Central Wool Committee. That is the scheme in brief, and it aims at one thing in ‘ particular, viz., the stabilization of the -market, whilst at the same time moving off the wool as fast as we can safely and properly’ do so. We are fixing an official reserve of 8d. per lb. because’ that is well below, the profit line. This House has no right to determine the profits of wool sellers or wool buyers. We are concerned only with the preservation of a national industry, and as the hulk of - Bawra wool has already netted a good -price, and as a .good deal of the remainder may be said to represent extra profit, it is dear ‘.that, in coming to the help of -the industry, we should make our stipulations -such as not to interfere with the making or losing of profits by the individual sellers and growers. That I think is a safe line for us to take. The object is to reconstitute the markets of Europe, and I do not -see how we shall be able to do that by keeping our wool off those markets. The locking up of all this wool for a number of- years will not help us to get rid of it; it is the mounting up of the wool that is dislocating the market, and making the commodity so troublesome to handle. Clearly, therefore, con- sumption, and not restriction, should be -the ultimate aim. This scheme aims at getting a fair, price for the wool, and at the same time moving it off with. as much rapidity as may be found safe, in accord.ance with the agreement .with the Imperial . authorities.
– Will export be allowed to any country?
– Yes; and I sincerely hope that we may make such arrangements with Germany as will enable her to be amongst our customers. I read in to-night’s paper that the German Government has resigned. I hope that is a prelude to a more reasonable attitude on the part of Germany, for the soones we can make arrangements with her, and give her her head, so that she may get back to her old-time purchases of our wool, the better it will be for the Commonwealth, and for every other country in Europe.
– Blame Germany for the Government’s folly.
– To what folly does the honorable member allude f
– I mean the restrictions on trade which have operated for years past.
– The Prime Minister said that he would resign if Australia traded with Germany.
– The Prime Minister said nothing of the kind.. He stands to-day for the reconstitution of Europe at the earliest moment it can be done with safety to the Allies and justice to Germany. The first thing we have to do with Germany is to- bring her to her senses, and let her understand that she has to stand up to the requirements of justice for the crimes she has . committed against humanity. The moment that is done and the principle of reparations settled, there will he no longer any object in refusing to trade with Germany; rather should wo encourage all the central powers of Europe to take our wool and other products. -Mr. Considine. - Do the Government intend to kill the Kaiser with bales of wool ?
– I would like the honorable member to understand that I am thinking just now chiefly of the interests of Australia and the Empire.
– (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) - I think ‘the Treasurer might be -allowed to make his speech without’ interruption.
– Once the reparations are fixed up we shall have to address ourselves to the task -of restoring Europe to the old purchasing conditions in ‘ respect of our .raw materials. The trouble is that whilst the Germans require wool and can take an endless quantity of it at present, they cannot buy it. The only thing to do,, therefore, is to get settled conditions as a preliminary to the reorganization of exchanges and of the commercial relations between our erstwhile enemies and our Allies.
And here I think the relationship of the Imperial Government to this wool scheme . becomes important. If our object be to unload our wool in the European countries where it is so much needed, we shall have in the Imperial Government an agency of the greatest possible value. Therefore, the Imperial Government, as a partner in this scheme, can be of more use to us than if she were outside the scheme. However, all that has been made quite clear during the debate. I hope this motion will realize the intention of the Government by stabilizing the wool industry, and at the same time moving off the stocks of wool with reasonable facility. I said last night that Europe has no wool, that the Central Powers want wool and cannot purchase it, that the world has no stocks of wool, that it is buying from hand to mouth, and will continue to do so unless stable conditions are in prospect. A man who sees a chance of buying wool at a bargain price in a few months time, will certainly make no attempt to get stocks into his warehouse. ‘ . He will rather higgle the market from day to day until he finds that he can make no profit by so doing. Therefore, our object is to stabilize the market so as to induce men. to stock up, in: the knowledge that they will not lose money thereby. In that way we shall keep the article we have to sell at a reasonable level until normal conditions come, -when those eternal and natural conditions of competition may again assert themselves -unfettered and unhampered by the irritating causes to which this war has made- us privy i and when we may release all these controls and* let our products find markets whereever they can, to the great advantage of all concerned.
.- This question has been already threshed out fully, but I find it incumbent upon me to at least lodge my objection to the Government proposal. . I do not regard this as a party question. Every man is free to use his own judgment, because the matter is one affecting the future welfare of the people of Australia Two things stand out prominently. The first is that this Parliament i asked for the first time to give, through the Customs Act, protection to a combination dealing with the wool industry of this country without having any right to interfere for the next six months. It is made quite clear that during that period Parliament will have no right to challenge the position of Bawra. That is a serious step for Parliament to adopt and honorable members should give careful consideration to it. We should not, in our desire to do something beneficial to Australia, be hurried into a policy, of the consequences of which we are not sure. Very few of the speakers in this debate have expressed full confidence in the proposal. The Prime Minister wanted a period of two months in which to carry on negotiations with the Imperial authorities, but he said that he was not sanguine that the desired effect would be achieved. The Treasurer adopts the same attitude, and so do many others who have spoken. There being this doubt, it behoves us to be very careful lest, instead of assisting the woolgrowers and benefiting the community, wo bring trouble upon Australia. I have pointed out that use of the Customs Act in the manner proposed has neve; been made before. Since I have been in Parliament, I have heard members opposite, and even some on this side, say that we have not the constitutional power to deal with combines. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), when he entered Parliament, claimed that they could be dealt with by an operation of the Customs Act, but that was said to be impossible. Now, if what the Government proposes is legal, it is obvious that it is possible. The Government is setting up a precedent, and they cannot blame those who may f ollow them if they use it to do something to which they are opposed.
– It will be all right if you have the support of Parliament.
– But very often we forget that what is proposed is not . of party interest only, and a Government gets the support of the party behind it. I shall put on record my opposition to this proposal, so that if it does not succeed I shall be clear of .blame. Honorable members opposite have changed their views in regard to our constitutional powers. Section 112 of the Customs Act says - 112. (1) The Governor-General may, by proclamation, prohibit the exportation of any goods -
being arms, explosives, military stores, or naval stores, or being goods which, in his opinion, are capable of being used as or in the manufacture of arms, explosives, military stores, or naval stores, or for any purpose of war; or
Under that provision the GovernorGeneral has prohibited the exportation of the following goods: -
Wheat or other grain, ores, sugar, or other bagged products, which in regard to shipment or stowing must necessarily be carried on the backs of the persons employed in handling the same, if the weights of the bags containing such bagged products are, when filled, in excess of two hundred pounds.
That action was taken in the interests of the people of Australia, because it was considered harmful to allow men to carry bags weighing 250, 300, and even 350 lbs. The provision is being used also to prohibit the exportation of meat unless certified to by an inspector under the Customs Act as fit for export. That, again, is for the benefit of the people of Australia, because meat unfit for human consumption should not be allowed to go abroad. - The things that have been prohibited are those that should be prohibited under the Customs Act.
– That was the design of the Act.
– But the honorable member will agree with me that it is doubtful that what is now proposed to be done can be done under the Act.
– I should think so.
– I speak as a layman, and am subject to correction by the legal members of the House; but it seems to me that the proposed prohibition may be harmful to the Commonwealth, and therefore contrary to the intention of the Act. Is there any certainty that it will not? The Treasurer told us that the populations of the devastated countries of Europe have not to-day the money with which to clothe themselves. If they have not, we shall not be able to sell our wool to them until they are earning enough to purchase it. Suppose that by reason of the fact that there is a falling market, Bawra wool cannot be sold against the competition of wool from the Argentine, or from South Africa, or some other country - a thing for which we should all be sorry - what will become of this scheme? ‘
– If we lose the trade, we lose it; but may I suggest that the assumption implies that the Bawra people are fools.
– Should what I suggest happen, the prohibition will be against the spirit of the Act, because it will have resulted in something harmful to Australia. Should those who are not connected with the Bawra scheme supply the market with wool at a lower rate than the reserve price, what will become of the Bawra wool ? We prevent sales at a lower price than 8d. ; but there may be growers who can supply the market at 7 1/2 d
– The honorable member assumes that we shall rest supine while our market is taken from us.
– If this proposal is adopted, we shall be helpless for a period of six months. That is the intention. The Prime Minister wished for a period of two months, but the Government, after representations have been made to them, have decided to propose a period of six months. I wish now to come to another matter. The Treasurer said that there will have to be two certificates in certain cases.
– No. I did not think that that criticism would apply.
– If there is a doubt, and it does apply, the position should be made clear before action is taken. I have pointed out that we must be careful lest we injure the small man. If buyers of wool from the small farmers cannot sell it again for less than 8d., they will not give as much as that, and the small men, who may have no wool in the Bawra scheme, and must realize on their clips, will find it very hard to live.
– If there were no Bawra wool, and the price of wool went down to 3d. per lb., buyers would give the small farmers only 2d. per lb., whereas with this fixed reserve of 8d., they will give 6d. or 7d.
– The Treasurer admits that there is a doubt whether a man could not buy wool for less than the reserve price. We should make sure that the small farmer cannot be fleeced, and if, there is a doubt about the phraseology of the motion, it should be remedied.
– The small farmer is not fleeced when he gets cash on the nail. It pays him better, and he would prefer, to have his money straight out than to wait six or twelve months for a £d. or Id. per lb. more.
– I think it is the general experience that when a man is hard up buyers offer him low prices so that they may make as big a profit as possible. There is nothing in the proposed resolutions to prevent that.
– The small farmer is not compelled to sell. He will not sell unless it suits him.
– Those I have in mind are compelled to sell because they depend on what their clip realizes for *he maintenance of their homes. They have to take what the speculator offers.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done for -<the small man ?
– We should take time to consider that, and do everything possible to protect him. If he is prepared to take cash, there should be only a very small margin allowed.
– The farmer will have the choice of two buyers. He can sell to the private speculator or at public auction. There is no restriction upon the sale of wool in Australia.
– The honorable member wishes to compel buyers to give the small farmers the prices which he thinks they should receive.
– What right has a buyer to go to a small farmer, when he is hard up; and say to him, “ I will give you 4d. or 5d. per lb. for your wool”? The small man may have a mortgage to meet, and bills to pay, and must get money. The buyer can hoard up the wool that he gets in this way, or arrange for its sale under the scheme which the Government are supporting. There is nothing to prevent the hoarding up of wool in Australia, for sale when the mar;ket may suit. The small man is not pro- tec ted under this scheme.
– The scheme does not pretend to protect him.
– If we leave the small man who is struggling for a livelihood, and has perhaps no wool in Bawra, at’ the mercy of buyers who will take advantage of his position, paying for his wool perhaps only , half what it is worth, we shall not be doing our duty.
– What do you suggest should be done?
– Provision should be made against the fleecing of the small man. I would go further and say that, since the Government is fathering this scheme, under which Bawra will have absolute control, it should provide that Where small growers are so impoverished that they must have money the Bawra people should make advances to them.
– I am told that there are from 60,000 to 70,000 of the very smallest wool-growers now in Bawra.
– Yet there may be from 5,000 to 10,000 small growers outside that association.
– Every wool-grower is in Bawra.
– It has already been admitted that 5 per cent, of the wool-growers are not in the Bawra association. I have put before the House the objections which I have to this proposal, and I shall register my protest against it. I believe that it is neither in the best interests of the small grower nor in the best interests of the Commonwealth that the Government should step in in this way and give absolute control to an outside company. During the war I complained on many occasions of procedure of this kind in connexion with the appointment of Boards to deal with certain commodities.- I thought that with the close of the war we should return to normal conditions. But here we are tonight legislating on the same old lines, because of what is said to be an emergency. There are grave doubts as to whether the scheme will be effective, but under it the Government are giving to certain outside individuals quite beyond the control of Parliament the fullest power to regulate the wool-growing industry of Australia. I shall protest in the proper way against such a proposition._
.- It is an interesting feature of almost all debates in this Chamber that objection is invariably taken to any proposal by the Government or a private member on tha ground that it will create a precedent which ‘ may, in the future, do infinite harm.
– Or do infinite good;
– There are many precedents -which may lead to infinite good, but objection is not usually taken to them on that ground. My comparatively short experience as a member of this House leads me not to attach much importance to such an argument, because in practically every case where such an objection is raised, inquiry shows that the precedent has already been created and accepted by the people. Even if that were not so in this case, I do not think that any party in this House would hesitate for a moment to take steps in the highest interests of Australia merely because by doing so they would be creating a precedent.
– Civilization makes precedents.
– That is one of the wisest and most noble sentiments to which utterance has been given in this Chamber. During the last few days we have heard a great deal, and we shall probably hear more this evening, concerning the wickedness of creating a precedent by using the Customs Act for the purpose set out in this motion. During the last few years, however, the Act has been used on a good many occasions for similar purposes. It may be said that we were at war at all times that such actions were taken under the War Precautions Act. That, how- 1 ever, was not so. Although the war is oyer and the War Precautions Act has either been repealed for the most part or has lapsed, I find that there are embargoes or partial embargoes in operation. There are many metals, for instance, the export for-which, at the present moment, is prohibited.
– That embargo has been withdrawn.
– The export of gold is still prohibited, or allowed only under certain conditions. My honorable friend might have at his command in Melbourne 500 sovereigns, and might wish to remit money for some high and noble purpose to London, Petrograd, Vladivostock, or some other place; but the Treasurer (Sir J oseph Cook) and. the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) would not allow him to export that gold.
– They might if he went with it.
– Whatever delightful anticipations the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) may have in that re- gard, I venture to repeat that the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) would not be allowed either to send those 500 sovereigns out of Australia, or to take them away with him.
We have, therefore, in full operation a precedent of some years’ standing for the course now proposed. I simply suggest to those of my honorable friends, who will, no doubt, give us the benefit of their views upon the question of precedent, that they should bear in mind that precedents of this kind were created long ago. Restrictions on the export of certain commodities have not been removed, but are in full force at this moment.
– Tell us something about Bawra wool.
– I intend to do so; but I observe that almost every honorable member who belongs to that noble profession which my honorable friend so greatly adorns, is making notes. Believing, therefore, that this question of precedent will be raised by them, as being practically the only argument likely to carry any weight outside against the passing of this motion, I have deemed it my duty to refer to it. Since precedent for this action has long been created, we have only to ask ourselves whether the circumstances of the wool-growing industry, and everything dependent upon it, are such as to justify the use of the Customs Act in this way. I do not wish to go over ground that has already been traversed, except to say that, even the arguments of those honorable members who strongly oppose this proposal have furnished the most complete proof of the necessity for carrying this motion to-night. I have heard the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) inveighing at considerable length this evening against the banks because, being short of money and requiring funds, they have been calling up some overdrafts. I do not wish, to -dwell on that point, or to aggravate the position in the slightest degree, except to say that the honorable member only emphasizes . the fact that the situation is exceedingly serious. Suggestions which might prove very useful two or three years hence have been made by the opponents of this proposal, but not one of them: is calculated to prevent the present and continuous drop in. the value of wool. The only suggestion of any value is .that made by Bawra, and embodied in the motion before us. It may be quite true that the Bawra proposal may only arrest the fall in -wool, and,- perhaps, stiffen up the market by giving some improvement in prices. But, in my opinion, and in the opinion of practically the whole of the wool-growers of Australia, it will probably save Australia from appalling disaster. It is the only way in which we can avert that disaster. There are some who regard it as an unwarranted interference on the part of the Government to endeavour to hold back an unrealizable product in order that the market may not be flooded. But I would remind the House that exception has been taken to a similar course in probably every case in which organized or concerted action has been taken to prevent a great and disastrous fall in prices and industrial distress. You, Mr. Speaker, no doubt, will remember the great Baring bank crisis which occurred in 1893, when one of the greatest banking institutions in the world found itself suddenly confronted with great difficulties. That banking house possessed colossal securities - a great surplus of assets over liabilities - but, owing to some sudden contraction of credit, it was unable to meet its obligations. There were people in those days who said, “Let the laws of political economy take their course., We must not interfere. If the house of Baring has indorsed a greater volume of bills than it .can meet when called upon to do so, it must take the consequences, and no effort should be made to prevent its fall.”
– The Barings were rivals of the Rothschilds.
– They were rivals of some of the greatest banking houses in the world- There was some hostility to the house of Baring, and a widelyexpressed opinion that it should be allowed to go to its ruin because it had been unfortunate enough to indorse bills to a larger extent than it was then able to meet. But we shall be called upon by some of my honorable friends to-night to look at the great Mother of Nations, at London, the centre of finance of the world, and to follow the so-called sound traditions of British - bankers and merchants. ‘ Did those British bankers and merchants fol low such advice in the case of Barings’ Bank? Did they allow the laws of supply and demand to operate in that case, and crush that great financial institution? No; practically the whole of the leading bankers and merchants in London gave a guarantee that the whole of Barings’ creditors should ultimately be paid 20s. in the £1 ; thus that great banking house was saved, and London spared financial disaster.
– Why, Barings went smash !
– But’ ultimately the whole of their creditors were paid in full, and a financial crisis was averted. The position with which we in Australia are faced to-day is a desperate one, and desperate diseases require desperate remedies. But I do not think it a more desperate remedy to regulate the export of wool than to prevent the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) exporting large quantities of gold.
– There is a difference between gold and wool.
– Of course, there is a difference between all commodities that are not the same. The position in Australia to-day is just as critical as it was in London, during the Baring Brothers’ disaster. I have the greatest respect for the opinions of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who now objects to control of the kind proposed being taken outside Parliament. That may be the honorable member’s opinion, but I do not find it an opinion held throughout the country.” Those connected with the producing interests, large and small, have an idea that those matters should be taken out of the control of politicians; they prefer a body like Bawra to a Government Department ‘or Parliament. I merely present that point of view to indicate that this objection is not a convincing one against the proposal of the Government. I do not wish to traverse ground already covered, but there is one aspect of the case to which I think attention should be called. Those honorable members who have moved in this House in support of the industry have been accused of acting only in the interest of large growers, squatters, and banking and other corporations. There is, I shall not say in this House, but in some circles outside, a strong misconception as to who are the people who grow the wool for us - whether the large squatter or the small farmer. . The statistics for some of the other States I have not been able to obtain, but I- have the Victorian YearBook, which shows that in that State-
– The biggest sheepfarming State in Australia I
– That is so, in proportion to area. According to the TearBook, there were nearly 16,000,000 sheep in Victoria in 1919, and it is interesting to see who owned these sheep. - 1 find that in Victoria there were 28,338 owners of sheep, and that of these there were 20,430 . farmers who owned less than 500 sheep. That is a significant fact; and in pleading as I have been pleading for something reasonable and fair to be done to stabilize the wool industry, and prevent . disaster, I have been speaking for every wool-grower in the Commonwealth.
– How about protecting the small man under this scheme?
– Every effort has been made to protect the small man.
– Does the honorable member think for a moment that if this motion was contested in a Court it would stand?
– Undoubtedly. The very highest constitutional authority in Australia, or one whom I consider to be such, is of opinion that this proposal will stand.
– If it were an Act of Parliament it would, but not as a resolution.
– There is no power under which this motion can be tested one way or the other.
– I do not think it will be tested in a Court, but if it is I think it will stand. There are only about 60,000 or 70.000 wool-growers in the whole of Australia, and we see that in Victoria 20,000 of them own less than 500 sheep. I suppose we may take it that the proportion in the other States is about the same. /
– But do not the owners of large flocks of sheep grow more wool than all the small growers put together ?
– No matter what the exact proportion “may be in some other States, the fact remains that if the value of wool be allowed to fall to disastrous limits the first to be ruined will be the small wool-growers with 500 sheep.
– No; they rely on other things.
– They may rely on other things, but I can assure the honorable member that in his own State, as well as in others, these farmers rely very largely for the money with which to pay their way, on the sales of their wool and sheep. I venture to say that a large proportion of these men are being brought to the verge of ruin by the falling prices. However, I do not take by any means a despairing view of the situation, because, as I am glad to see, there has been an improvement in the market, due, I have no doubt, to the announcement made last week by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) as to the intentions of the Government. It is gratifying to notice that the wool sales in London on Tuesday last showed an improvement of 10 per cent., and the fact is easily explained. People have been hanging back for months in order to get wool cheaper in a falling market; but a change came over them when the Prime Minister’s announcement was made last week, and the debate followed here on Friday last. The reports of that announcement Sand the debate have, I understand, been cabled to the Old Country and America, and the prospective buyers who had been holding back, when they realized that Australia was going to make some effort to stop the perpetual decline, knew it was no good waiting any longer. This, I think, accounts for the rise of 10 per cent, on Tuesday last, and it indicates to what extent it is possible by such action to arrest falling prices.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who occupies an exceedingly responsible position- in connexion with the wool-growing industry, asks what provision is made to protect the small grower, and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is anxious on the same point. I draw attention to the fact that the motion in paragraphs a and 6 distinguishes between two classes of wool. Paragraph a refers to wool purchased within the Commonwealth, arid the resolution, > as a whole, deals with wool that is exported for sale overseas.
– What of paragraph b?
– That seems to refer exclusively to wool consigned for . sale overseas.
– Where is the wool to be purchased ?
– It may be purchased anywhere in Australia.
Mr. -Rodgers. - Both paragraph a and paragraph b refer to wool for export.
– Paragraph a relates only to wool -purchased within the Commonwealth.
– Suppose I purchase wool from the farmers, .and do .not export it immediately, but store it up until the restrictions are removed ?
– It is unlikely that wool would b& purchased under such conditions wilh a .prospect of a restriction on export until it could be proved that the purchaser had paid the reserve price.
– That is very likely to happen.
– The honorable member is mentioning only an extreme possibility. Paragraph a clearly prohibits the export of wool purchased within the Commonwealth by private treaty from a small farmer unless the purchaser has paid the reserve price.- If that were not clear I would not support the motion.
– Suppose I go to a number of small farmers who are in poor circumstances, and buy their wool at 4d. per lb. I would not export it immediately, but would store it away until the restrictions were removed. p
– That could be done in any case.
– Exactly.. The argument of the honorable member for Hunter might be very properly applied to some other resolution; but we are dealing with a motion which relates only to the control of the export of wool. It is perfectly clear that a man who buys wool from, the farmer below the price fixed by Bawra will not be allowed to export that wool. But this does not apply to wool purchased for local manufacture. There will be no intention to export such wool, and the purchaser, being a manufacturer, will be perfectly free to buy at any price. I would not stand idly by and see the small growers fleeced by allowing others ‘to purchase their wool below the Bawra reserve, and then export it.
– I understand that it will be allowable to sell fellmongered wool overseas.
– That is not provided for in this motion; but I agree with the honorable member that provision should’ be made for fellmongered wool to . be exempt from these restrictions. I sup port the motion with the reservation that, if at .any time it is found that it acts prejudicially upon the fellmongery industry I shall ask for its repeal or amendment.
– ;By whom will the price be agreed upon ?
– The price is already agreed upon, being practically half .the price which the grower obtained under the appraisement.
– The restrictions apply only for six months. If I were able to buy £500,000 worth of wool at 2d. per lb. and hold it for six months with the intention of then exporting it I could do so.
– Yes, if the honorable member could find men who were foolish enough to 6ell him the wool at that price. Subject to the reservation I have mentioned I support the motion.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) protested against this motion as being an improper procedure. I share that protest, and agree that the Government have not approached this matter in the right way; but I point out to the honorable member that the motion is nothing more than a bare expression of opinion by the House. It has no legal weight or validity whatever.
– Except that it enables the Government to impose the restrictions indicated in it.
– In doing so the Government would be simply yielding to the expressed opinion of the House. In regard to a point raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), no question as to the validity of the resolution as such can come before the High Court, because that body’ has no jurisdiction to deal with any action by this House. Another point taken by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) was that, by adopting this motion, Parliament would be committing itself to this policy for a period of six months. On the face of it that is so ; but it will be quite competent for the House at any time, after seven days’ notice, by an absolute majority, to repeal the resolution. Consequently, we shall not be irrevocably committed to this resolution, for what it is worth, for a period of six months.
– Will not the resolution have the force of law? If anybody fails to comply with the regulation will the
Commonwealth have right of action against him)
– The resolution can have no force of law whatever unless and until embodied in a proclamation aa intended under the Customs Act.
– Then what is the benefit of it?
– The only benefit is that it will guide the Government as to their course of action. The House will express its opinion, upon which the Government may or may not act, according as they think proper.
– The resolution will give the Government the sanction to use the Customs Act for the restriction of export.
– It will give .the Government that sanction undoubtedly, but the resolution itself will have no legal validity.
– Will the terms of the resolution be contained in the proclamation?
– If the Government choose to give effect to this resolution, the question of law involved will centre in the terms of the proclamation by the Governor-General in Council.
– In substance the proclamation will be in the terms of this resolution.
– There is no doubt but that the proclamation will, -in substance, follow this resolution. It will then be open for any person concerned to challenge the validity of the proclamation in the Courts.’. The Government propose to use, or rather abuse, the Customs Act for the purpose of giving effect to the resolution. The Customs Act allows the Governor-General in Council to, by proclamation, prohibit the export of any goods, the exportation of which would, in his opinion, he harmful to the Commonwealth. Therefore the Governor-General has to come to the determination that tho export of wool would be harmful to the best interests, of the Commonwealth. This, on the face of it, is absurd, the truth being that the prohibition of the export would be harmful. It was never intended that the Customs Act should be used in the way proposed. But the qualification that is attempted to be made is that the Government are not deliberately prohibiting export in ‘the terms of the Act ; they are merely attach ing conditions to the export. In my judgment, they have no power to attach special conditions, such as they propose to attach under the* terms of this resolution.
– They are doing that with gold at the present time.
– They are doing nothing of the kind. They simply .prohibit the export of gold. But it is the conditions that qualify the validity of their proposed action.
– The Act gives express power to impose conditions.
– The Act does give power to attach conditions in certain circumstances, but there is no provision for conditions or qualificationssuch as are contemplated in connexion with the export of wool. The cases in which the Governor-General in Council is permitted to impose conditions or qualifications in regard to the exportation of goods are expressly stated in section 112 of the Oils’toms Act. But the Government are now proposing to attach qualifications the legality of which, to use the mildest language, is open to the gravest doubt-
– The wording of “ subsection 2 of section 112 is very clear.
– Section 112 enacts that the Governor-General may, by proclamation,- prohibit the exportation of any goods -
The power contained in sub-section (1) nf this section shall extend to authorize the prohibition of the exportation of goods generally, or to any specified place, and’ cither absolutely or so as to allow of the exportation of the goods subject to any condition or restrictions
– That is general.
– Do my honorable friends suggest that we have power to impose a restriction or prohibition, which amounts to the fixation of prices? The fixing of this reserve ‘ price for wool amounts to that. It is a scheme fixing the price .at which wool may be sold. Wool is not to be sold under 8d. per lb. Speaking generally, the fixation of prices within Australia is the exercise of a power which is exercisable only by the
States, and for that reason I say that the validity of the proposed proclamation is, to say the least, exceedingly doubtful
– The States can- : not fix the prices at which goods may be sold abroad. ‘
– Of course they cannot.
– Then we are not interfering with them in that matter, and are free to do as we please.
– But it has never been contended that the Commonwealth has the power to fix prices abroad’. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) drew attention to the wording of paragraph a of the Government proposals, and I confess that there is difficulty in understanding what is meant. The paragraph reads -
That this House approves of the issue of a proclamation under the Customs < Act 1901- 1920 prohibiting, for a period not exceeding six months, the exportation of wool fromthe Commonwealth, unless, (a) in the. case of wool purchased within the Commonwealth, a price not lower than the price agreed upon as the official reserve in respect of wool of that type is paid by the purchaser, either at auction or by private treaty.
Apparently, what is meant is that, if a buyer went round in the manner spoken of by the honorable member for Hunter, and purchased wool from small fanners at 4d. per lb., that wool could not be exported. But the provision could be easily evaded by there-sale of the wool, fictitiously or otherwise, for 8d. or 9d. to another person.
– Or the buyer could store the wool for sale at a future date.
– Exactly. The honorable member urged that terras should be imported into the proposal which would prevent men from purchasing at low prices. May I suggest to him that we have no power to do that. The matter is wholly within the domain of the States. Recurring to the point that I was making, that what is proposed is an abuse of the powers of the Customs Act, I wish to draw attention to the fact that there has been a ruling of the High Court in regard to an attempt of this kind. The Excise Act of 1906 purported to impose an Excise duty, but it was provided that that duty should not be payable in those cases in which manufac- turers complied withcertain industrial conditions. A question arose as to whether this was a valid exercise of the legislative powers of the Parliament in this regard, and the High Court held that, although the Act was nominally an Excise Act, it was really an Act imposing conditions as to labour, and an exercise by the Commonwealth Parliament of a power which belonged only to the States. The Court held that, in endeavouring to attach such conditions, this Parliament went beyond its legislative capacity. In passing the section of the Customs Act which it is intended to apply in this case, the object of Parliament was to protect the interests of Australia by the prohibiting of the exportation of certain goods harmful to. Australian interests except subject to conditions. The exportation of meat, for instance, is prohibited unless it has been certified by an inspector appointed under the Commerce Act to be of good quality and fit for export, and leather may not be exported if it contains barium compounds. What is now proposed is an abuse of this power of prohibiting exportation. We are straining the Act in an attempt to do something under it which was never intended, and which its language does not justify. I have already spoken at length on the merits of this question, and in view of the vote just taken, I do not propose to attempt any further to oppose the procedure intended to be followed by the Government. At the same time, I protest against this mode of carrying it out. The proper course would be to pass an Act of Parliament, although I see that some legal objection might attach to doing so in respect to our power of fixing prices. However, if the Government feel that the passing of this resolution will legitimately reach the objective, namely, that of stabilizing the wool market, no one will be more gratified than I will be; but it is a grave and dangerous precedent, the result of which we cannot at the moment foresee. I am sorry this course has been followed, but will raise no further objection. I feel it my duty to indicate the manner in which the Government propose to abuse rather than use the Customs Act.
.- The deduction of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in reference to the Baring disaster is very different, from mine. Hyndman’s Commercial Crises of the 19th Century says -
A guarantee fund was formed in which the Bank of England took the lead, and every bank or firm of any note in the city joined to insure the meeting of the acceptances of Baring Brothers and Company to the extent of £21,000,000. Gold to the amount of £3,000,000 was borrowed by the Bank of England through the Rothschilds from the Bank of France, and more was obtained from Russia; the Barings’ ordinary business was turned into a limited company, and several other important firms went into a sort of limited liquidation. It was all thought to be a great stroke of genius at the time, and Mr. Lidderdale practically received the thanks of the Government, and was presented with the Freedom of the City of London.
But the aspect did not appear so pleasant one or two years later. The following quotation from the same book shows how callous the very rich are, . so long as they can preserve their own rights: -
Not a single bond-holder or shareholder was represented on this great committee, of which Lord Rothschild was the chairman, and the whole affair was arranged to the ruin of the investors, so as to suit the pockets of those who sat with him round the table.
That is the end of the Baring episode of which the honorable member for Grampians spoke. It shows how those who have most power can use it to benefit themselves.
My own opinion on this matter is that civilization can only advance by breaking old precedents- and making new. Therefore, I welcome this proposal. It will not be the only one of the sort in the great march to the ultimate end of the nationalization of this industry. We are told that our wool has been sold for 31/4d. per lb. and less, and that it could be had for the carting it away. Senator Guthrie, as reported in the Age to-day, has said -
It took 7 lbs. of greasy wool to make a suit of clothes. The grower got 5s. 3d. out of that quantity of wool, and it was scandalous that the prices of suits ranged from £8 8s. to £16 16s. Manufacturers had been “making a big thing out of it,” and the wholesale houses had made fortunes, and were “ squealing “ because they could not still get the high prices they had obtained.
When an honorable member on this side of the House moved to lock up the whole of the Bawra wool for two years, my mind flashed immediately to the human beings in Europe in need of cloth made from wool. People the whole world over are holding up their hands for wool, and second only to the infamy of preventing food from reaching the hungry would be any step taken to prevent them from clothing their bodies. . Therefore,, I voted against the honorable member’s proposal. We have been told to produce, produce, produce. We have produced wool. We have been told also to beware of the Greeks bringing gifts. I am not speaking for the few thousand wool-growers, but for the millions in Australia who want cheap clothing, and who by robbery and extortion are prevented from getting it at a fair price. I do not blame the Government for fixing the price of this wool at 8d. per lb. I support them in doing so. They are establishing a precedent that will be followed, possibly not by the party in power today, or by any other party which may replace it; but when the people outside secure control of this Parliament, there will be no more of that infamous fraud, bribery and corruption that has been in evidence for years. In order to show what has been done, let me point out that Buckley andNunn, of Melbourne, are advertising a. Canadian production of very fine quality, made from Australian wool sent to Canada and woven there. It is described as follows : -
Monarch Floss. - A 2-ply yarn made from fine Australian wool put up in one-ounce balls.
Monarch Dove. - A 4-ply yarn suitable for stockings, scarfs, &c, made from fine Australian wool put up in one-ounce balls.
That wool issold at Buckley and Nunn’s at 3s. 6d. an oz. or 56s. per lb. That is an infamy. Such wool could be manufactured here, and I hope that when the Tariff is tinder consideration the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will give the matter his attention. If this scheme is adopted, I hope we shall not have in connexion with it a repetition of the wheat scandals. It has been said from this side of the House that 5,000,000 bushels of wheat, which was under the control of the pool, disappeared, and that most of it was stolen. That statement has never been contradicted.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), when speaking last night, said that there were some 200,000,000 people in the enemy countries of Central Europe. I knew he was wrong when he made the statement, and I have since taken the trouble to look up the Year Book, with the result that I find that in thev new Austrian area, taking the population as at the pre-wan standard, and not allowing for losses in population during the war, there are only 7,000,000 people; that in Czecho-Slovakia there are 13,900,000, in Germany, 63,000,000, and in Hungary 20;000,000. Some time ago through the courtesy of the Minister for Trade and Customs, I was able to transmit lis. to an old friend of my student days residing in Germany, and I received from him a letter stating that for that lis. he had obtained 137 marks. The pre-war standard was 20 marks to the sovereign, so that .he got 12 times as many marks as he would have obtained for lis. before the war. How are we to settle up with an exchange of that kind ? Before the war in Berlin a piano could be purchased for £20. The honorable member for Balaclava will probably remember that the late Mr. Sachse, then Minister of Education in Victoria, endeavoured many years ago to arrange for the purchase of a large number of German pianos at a cost of £15’ each for use in our State schools. To-day, with the mark at 250 to the sovereign, even assuming that the cost of pianos in Germany had increased by 300 per cent., we should be able to obtain three pianos for the money paid there for one before the war. If German pianos were landed here at such rates Wertheim’s and Beale’s piano factories would have to close down and no pianos would be made here. I think that we shall have to fix the purchasing price ‘a the currency of the country, and then bring it back to the pre-war standard before goods so purchased are admitted to Australia. Does the honorable member for Balaclava follow me?
– I do, but I do not know whether the Minister for Trade and Customs would say that he had the power to do what the honorable member suggests.
– My honorable friend spoke almost in terms of admiration of the time when, in the name of economy, the Victorian Government “cut to the bone.” Surely he must remember the misery of those days. More men and women, whose only crime was the Christlike one of being poor, were jailed at that time than at. any other period in Victoria’s history. Old women were asked to live on a pension of 2s. 6d. a week, and to my own knowledge two lives in one family were lost through the infamy of that “cut to the bone” policy. Victoria at that time was really as rich as ever it had been. There had simply been a manipulation of the finances. Finance at the present time is being, and during the war was, manipulated in a way previously unheard of. Never during any previous war did the gold reserves mount up as they did during the late war in all the banks of all countries, including the ‘banks of those countries which lost the war. Every reader of finance knows, however, that all the money that has ever been coined would not pay for one month’s transactions on the New York Stock Exchange alone. The process of manipulation may be simply illustrated. If a man in this chamber had £1,000,000 in four different pockets, and, leaving the House for a minute, put the whole of that money into one pocket, he would return here a millionaire in one pocket and a pauper in the other three. Australia, blessed with good seasons, will be rich in its crops, and if we devote attention to mining operations and manufactures she will be rich also in respect of both those industries. But the financial strings are pulled from the great financial centres. I have already referred to the great banking firm of Baring Brothers - the only firm to stand up against the Rothschilds. In the crisis of 1893 it was decided to eliminate that firm. Nominally they were to be assisted to the extent of £21,000,000, and, in addition, through the Rothschilds they obtained £3,000,000 from the Bank of France. Later on Lord Rothschild took the chair at a certain meeting, caring little or nothing for the bondholders or shareholders so long as his friends around the table were safe.
I make no accusation against the woolgrowers of Australia, but I cannot get away from the arguments advanced in a leading article published in this morning’s issue of the Age, in which it is stated that -
The Government of the country is exceeding its duty by invading the area of private trading and financial interests at the wish of a relatively small and wealthy .section of the community. That way lies grave, abuses. Most people are familiar with the obstinate objections raised by this Government to fixing the price of meat against the wishes of the big graziers when that course was advocated for the benefit of the great mass of the people.
When will the people, the creators of this Parliament, exercise control- over the created thing?
A’ minimum export price is now to be fixed for wool to suit mainly the wealthy section that was then strongest in its objections to price fixing. Sir Joseph Cook may argue, of course, that, as only about 2 per cent, of our wool is manufactured locally, and only 5 lbs. of wool is required to make a suit of clothes, the local consumer in the present instance has only a trifling concern. But these matters are not to be settled according to questions of degree. Neither a Government nor anybody else is entitled to stand on principle when the interests of the majority are concerned, and to abrogate principles for the sake of a wealthy minority.
That is an answer to the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). If Victoria be the most closely-populated part of the Commonwealth, it must have a. larger number of small growers of sheep than has any other State. The Age circulates amongst the wool-growers throughout Victoria, and if such a statement as that which I .have read were objectionable to them they would promptly contradict it.
As I understand that there are others who wish to speak to this question, I shall not delay the House further except to say that I view this proposal with some trepidation. I welcome it, however, because I believe it is “ blazing the track “ towards nationalization. I strongly urge on the Government that, if, as in the case of the Wheat Pool, it is found this new authority is not carrying out the original intention, the scheme should be resubmitted to Parliament immediately for amendment. It is, of course, the right of every Parliament to alter or amend its own laws; and this motion will be a law, however it may be named. If we are going to give our enemies wool on better terms than we get it ourselves, as is done in the case of wheat, then our enemies will have beaten us. The people outside are being robbed at the present moment, and I only wish that the Government could take up the meat question. The Commonwealth could have bought 700,000 head of cattle in the Northern Territory, at an average price of 25s. per head. The people, as I said, are suffering greatly, and there is a limit to their suffering. We have observed how the English Government have not dared to force the people back to pre-war conditions, and neither can our people go back. If the Government were willing to spend £300,000,000 on war, and the killing of human beings, surely they ought to be prepared’ to spend tens of millions on the welfare of the* people. Arguments used in support of this motion are arguments against profiteering, as between buyers and sellers; and surely it is worth while to get the support of the public) in these movements, and show that it is the people who govern for the benefit of the people. To be successful, government must be based on the good- will of the community, and no Government can gain that good-will when there is such glaring injustice as is rife in our midst.
.- The occasions are rare on which I occupy the attention of the House, and I shall be very brief. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), in the course of his fine speech last night, made ‘one statement to which I take exception. He said that representatives of metropolitan constituencies do not understand the requirements or need’s of the man on the land.
– Generally speaking.
– Perhaps that is what the honorable member for Maranoa meant. So far as I am personally concerned, although I represent a metropolitan constituency, I have always felt that one obstacle to my carrying out that representation efficiently is the fact that I and my family, for three generations, have spent our life on the land, and all our interests are in the wool industry. This House, by a large majority, has approved of the principle of assisting that industry in the way requested. The motion now before the House, about which there seems to be some diversity of opinion, means, so far as I can read it, that clause a applies to wool sold to the buyer in this country and exported, and that paragraph b applies to wool which a buyer ships to England to be sold there.
– That is right.
– I am sure I shall not be accused of being a Jeremiah if I say that the wool industry is sick, has displayed serious symptoms of a malady which will be very difficult to dure. Those most interested in the industry have failed to effect a -cure, and they have now come to the Government with a ‘call for assistance. That is one point which the people of the country should understand - that those interested in the industry have made an appeal for assistance. The Government ha.ve given the scheme before us, and all alternative schemes, the fullest consideration, and have decided to accept the one put forward by Bawra, which represents the almost unanimous opinion of the industry. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) said last night that the wool industry has faced more serious situations than the present one, and referred to previous great droughts. On those occasions, however, the industry did not labour under the great burden of taxation which it does now. and it will be more difficult to recover from our present troubles than from those of the past. Some reference has been made to the cost of the production of wool, and I agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) that it is difficult to ascertain the exact figures. In the case of Queensland, I cannot ascertain whether figures have been arrived at; but in 1913-14, prior to the war, the average price received’ was 9Jd. per lb., and no one can deny that the cost of production since that day has increased almost 100 per cent.
– And so has freight.
– That is so. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) last night referred to communications received by Queensland members from Mr. Wittingham and Mr. Mcllwraith Taylor. I think the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), remarked by way of interjection that these communications were received from city pastoralists, but I am quite sure that no man in Queensland, and, indeed, I would be surprised if any man in Australia, has a greater knowledge of the conditions of the pastoral industry than Mr. Wittingham. He has spent practically the whole of his life in. the industry and for some considerable time has been president of the United Graziers’ Association of Queensland. I 6hall support the resolution, and trust that the Government will take every care to see that the regulations to be drawn up will protect all sections of the industry.
.- When this subject was introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) reference was made to the fact that it vitally affected, amongst others, the great mass of the working people of the Commonwealth ; but as the debate has proceeded, honorable members have .directed attention not so much to the interests of the wageearner as to the welfare of the wool producers and wool buyers. We had the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) telling the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that, as president of the great organization of workers particularly interested. in the wool industry, he held a very responsible position; but, as I interjected, that responsibility apparently did not involve consultation. We find that the workers most concerned in the industry have not been invited to offer any suggestion to meet the existing difficulties.
– You can do that.
– I am not a worker in that industry, neither do I represent them, except in a limited sense as the representative in this House for my par- ticular district. But the honorable member for Darling is the head of a vast organization that is vitally interested, and despite all the appeals that have been made by honorable members opposite for support of the resolutions, the interests of the working class, that is to say of those most concerned in the industry, have not received consideration. From my point of view, honorable members who represent the pastoral and kindred industries in this House are doing just what they were 6ent here to do - looking after .their own interests. This is an example of that evolutionary process which is slowly but surely transforming this deliberative assembly into an industrial machine. The industrialization of society is being reflected in the debates in this chamber. Those who are interested in the maintenance of the existing order of things . ar>> utilizing the machinery at their disposal to buttress their position. From my viewpoint it is immaterial what they do. I do not stand for the existing order. Honorable members who represent the particular interest concerned in the subject, now under discussion’ can settle amongst themselves whether this proposal will operate to their advantage or disadvantage. What interests me is the fact that these gentlemen, who are so anxious to safeguard their own interests in a particular commodity, whether it be wool, wheat, . lead, copper, or zinc, overlook the interests of the working-class population whose commodity, labour power, is subject to the same disadvantages as hitherto. We do not find these honorable gentlemen coming forward with any scheme to stabilize the labour market by holding- off the surplus labour, known as the unemployed. On the contrary, while, in this case, there is an attempt in this House to keep up the price of wool, there is, outside, a well-arranged plan of campaign to reduce the value of the other commodity - the labour power of the worker - by utilizing the surplus labour to beat down the price of labour in this country. What amuses me is that the crocodile sympathy that has been expressed during this debate for the interests of labour has now been forgotten, and labour may look after itself as best it may. My view. is that Australia’s position in regard to .the sale of her primary products overseas is absolutely dependent upon the rehabilitation of Europe. We have no other market, and until Europe is reconstructed our primary products cannot be sold overseas. The result is that Australia, which was comparatively immune from the effects of the war while it lasted, is now experiencing the aftermath of the huge destruction that occurred, and is suffering from the stupidity exhibited by Allied statesmen in drawing up the economic clauses of the Peace Treaty. What has been the result of their compelling Germany to hand over large quantities of coal to Prance? Immediately huge armies of coal miners were thrown out of employment, and ‘ we have the ridiculous spectacle of Prance selling German coal to Britain, and displacing large bodies of coal miners in both England and France. The same thing will happen in connexion with other commodities if the indemnities - as they are now called in plain language, instead of the hypocritical “reparations” - are paid. Nobody believes that the indemnities will be paid in cash. They will be paid, if at all, in commodities ; and how, at the same time, prosperity can be retained in the Allied countries that absorb them is a puzzle which I leave to Allied statesmen to solve. As evidence of how Allied statesmen are proceeding to stabilize Europe, I quote the following passage from the New York Nation, the chief Liberal organ in the United States of
America, in regard to the Allies’ dealings with one European country: -
The crudity with -which the Georgian Republic and the Georgian people were held up and looted is scarcely believable. There were three Allied “ missions “ in Tiflis when we arrived in the late summer of 1019, going full swing - British, French, and Italion. They were there in a blaze of warlike uniforms - bankers, promoters, engineers, who had never seen a gun or heard a shot fired, and whose general’s stars were shiny new - to impress the natives with their importance and authority. Their business was concession hunting - mining rights, water rights, railway concessions, municipal contracts, land flotations, anything not nailed down. For its independence, Georgia must mortgage itself, body, boots, and breeches, for generations to come, by much the same method of protected foreign capital investment as Venizelos had pledged in Greece as the price of his continued Premiership. . . . . Similar procedure was followed by the Allied missions over the manganese mines at Mingtelia, the tobacco-fields of Sukhum, the silk orchards of Kutais, and everything else of value or prospective value in the Georgian Republic. It was a scramble with each mission undercutting the others, intriguing, cajoling, offering bribes, of influence with the Peace Conference to obtain commercial prizes, or threatening the partition of Georgia among the other Transcaucasian States to prevent a concession going to rival interests. The British specialized in loans. A brigadier-general represented a well-known financial house in London, with the aim of tying Georgia up by some such permanent mortgage as the Anglo-Persian Agreement of August, 1919. The French specialized in mines; while the Italians, with an eye to immediate turnover, sold rifles, ammunition, and shoes, captured from the Austrians, to Georgians, Azerbaijanians, and Ar.menians, without favoritism, to equip armies in each country to fight the other.
Add in this process of exploitation, the Transcaucasian ruble (based, after all, on quite as sound a foundation as pound, franc, or lira) was hammered down by the concerted action of three great Powers, until its market value was little more than that of Confederate money. Then, with their paper pounds, francs, and lire, they bought labour at a dollar a month, -and despoiled a poverty-stricken and desperate people of their last valuables - jewellery, rugs, furs, silver - which the Georgians were forced to sell for bread.
The writer goes on to say that the same process was applied to every little nation from Poland and Greece to Aberbaijan and Siam. If that is the Allied statesmen’s way of stabilizing Europe, it is no wonder that the .bottom has fallen out of the market for Australian products. What happened in Austria and Hungary ? We know there was practically an auction sale of the nation’s effects. The same thing is happening in other portions of Central Europe to-day. Last night honorable members were bewailing the fact that the Central Powers, which were in pre-war times our greatest customers, are to-day buying nothing from us; and the honorable member for Cowper (‘Dr. Earle Page), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and others said that war hatreds and accusations must now be forgotten. Why? Not because they were wrong or false, but because we cannot sell our primary products to our late enemies. The process of wholesale and retail robbery of unprotected nationalities by the chief brigand powers who are controlling the
World at the present time is responsible for our economic crisis. The system which made it impossible for us to stay out of the war has landed us in the present condition of affairs and is also causing a cleavage between the Allies, and making it mathematically certain that we shall have to engage in another war to decide which of the five Allies shall have full control of the remaining plunder. I can quite understand honorable members opposite who think their interests are wrapped up m maintaining the existing order, but I cannot understand the attitude of representatives of a class who have no interest in continuing the present system, whose interests are concerned in taking such steps as will prevent this kind of trouble from perpetually recurring. The trouble is one which cannot be prevented while the present profit-making system goes on. We know that periodically these crises must recur, because of the overstocking of the world’s markets. There is no protection sought for those whose labour power i3 rendered of no avail. The European war has thrown a blinding light on all the circumstances, and those with eyes to see can perceive that the whole system is toppling. Europe cannot carry on with two antagonistic economic systems.
– Surely the honorable member is not going to suggest, as a cure, Russia’s economic system?
– The only school in which the interests in Australia will learn is the school of hard experience in. which the other nations have had to get their knowledge. The European situation1 controls the position in Australia. The failure of the European markets will mean the shutting down of industry after industry here, and if our. workers will not learn through their intelligence they will be forced io learn through their stomachs. Then, perhaps, it will be seen that it would have been wiser to take time by the forelock. There has never been a revolution which has not been a stomach revolution. It is not the people in Australia who now advocate social reconstruction on definite lines who will be the revolutionists. Does any one believe that the Australian people will remain content with pious platitudes when large armies of unemployed, are constantly growing? The incapacity of the so-called captains of industry has been plainly displayed. These people, who arrogate to themselves the right to maintain the existing order, have revealed their intellectual bankruptcy, acid the people will be forced to make such changes as will insure their right of existence and put an end to their slow pauperization. Honorable members have received copies of a circular from certain Australian manuf acturing interests. Therein it is pointed out that in Sydney alone there are more than 70,000 people in receipt of benevolent relief. As the circular puts it, about 10 per cent, of the city’s population is receiving assistance from benevolent organizations because the people have not the means to keep themselves going. And all this is occurring before the crisis has actually struck this country.
– What of the position in Broken Hill? .
– The Barrier is m the same condition as the wool people, only that the latter are actually better off.
– Broken Hill is brokenhearted.
– Perhaps; but those people have big hearts, that are hard to break. I agree that their experience has been heart-breaking so far as concerns their dealings with the mine-owners. But does the Assistant Minister suggest that the inability of the mining companies to get rid of their products overseas is due to the miners?
– No; I say that the state of the latter is due to false prophets..
– They no longer pay attention to the subsidized agents of the mining companies. They are beginning to think for themselves, and, to such an extent as to realize that the mining companies, with other exploiters of labour, are utilizing the present crisis in Europe as a means of enforcing the reduction of the wage standard of the Broken. Hill miners, and of the workers at Cloncurry, and at Mount Lyell, and in connexion with almost every other industry in the Commonwealth. I presume that the Assistant Minister will not suggest that the present campaign for the reduction of wages in Australia and for the extension of hours-
– Order ! Will the honorable member please connect his remarks with the matter, before the. House?
– Honorable members who were so anxious to consult the interests of the working class have wandered much further during this debate; so far, indeed, that they have forgotten all about the interests of the working class, and have proceeded to discuss- those of the wool-buyer and Wool-grower, while at the same time they have endeavoured to enlist the support of the representatives of the working class in this Chamber for the Government’s wool scheme. Wool is not the only product that is held up at the present time. The base metals produced in my constituency are in the same position, if not in a. worse one. I have endeavoured to show that those who are clamouring to secure governmental action to keep up the price of their commodity are absolutely oblivious of a commodity which is subject to the . same economic laws, that is, the commodity which the great mass of the community have to sell, their labour power. Honorable gentlemen, then, who are so anxious for the sale of wool and other commodities are’ hot interested in keeping up the price of labour- power; their interest lies in reducing’ the price of labour. But they’ desire Govern-ment interference and control for their own benefit. As they control the majority of votes,- the proposal will pass ; but I direct the attention of the workers to the fact that those on the Treasury bench are utilizing the machinery at their disposal for the safeguarding of their interests,, and I’ hope that the workers; when they have the opportunity, will act in a similar fashion, and utilize the machinery at their disposal for the’ benefit of their interests, to the exclusion of those of the exploiters.
.- As I read the proposed resolutions they provide for two sets of circumstances and leave out a third. In respect of wool consigned for sale overseas, an undertaking is to be given that it shall not be sold, either publicly or privately, “ at a price lower than the equivalent of the price agreed upon as the official reserve in respect of -wool of that type, plus the freight and other charges on the wool from the port of shipment in Australia to the place of sale overseas.” In the second place, manufacturers who buy their- wool here, and send it Home, will not be allowed to export it until they have made the declaration that they have bought it at Bawra prices. But I do not think that provision is made for the operations of those who buy here and ship for sale overseas. If they are provided for, it is in paragraph a.
– Why should they not be subject to the same- restrictions as apply to other individuals who export wool?
– That is what I desire. They should be required to make the declaration provided for in paragraph b; but, as I understand the resolution, these come under paragraph a, and are compelled to purchase at Bawra prices whether they buy in small lots or in large, and whether on the stations or elsewhere.
– Do you not wish to protect the men on the selections as well as the big men?
– Yes. I wish to provide, in the case of those who go round buying small lots, that they shall be called on to make the declaration that the wool will not be sold overseas except at Bawra prices.
– What is to prevent the man who goes round buying bags of wool from small selectors from selling it on the Australian market?
– Nothing at all; hut the Australian market takes only 5 per cent, of our output.
– Such a buyer will have the option of selling in the Australian market or overseas.
– The buyer cannot export the wool without making the declaration that he has bought it at Bawra prices.
– Yes, he can, if he consigns it for sale overseas.
– The resolution requires “ in the case of wool purchased in the Commonwealth a price not lower than the price agreed upon as the official reserve “ to be paid.
– But a buyer has the option of consigning for sale overseas ou giving the necessary guarantee.
– If a man buys for sale within the Commonwealth, he cannot be interfered with, but he cannot buy for export for less than 8d. per lb., because he cannot export unless he has made a declaration to that effect.
– He has to make a declaration only that he will not sell under Bawra rates.
– Read the preamble.
– The House is asked to approve of the issue of a proclamation under the Customs Act prohibiting the exportation of wool from the Commonwealth unless, in the case of wool purchased within the Commonwealth, the purchaser makes the declaration that he has purchased at Bawra rates.
– Then comes paragraph b.
– That deals with wool consigned for sale overseas. But wool purchased here before it is consigned must come under paragraph a.
– Two declarations are not required.
– I intend to deal with the point that the honorable member has raised,, so that any doubt may be cleared up.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance that he will rectify the omission. At this late hour, I shall not discuss the general question; but the matter to which I have called attention is important, and “should be provided for. I would like the motion to express what we desire. Personally, I do not think it is likely to do very much good. I am supporting it because the advice we have received from Bawra is the best available, and probably we would do more barm if we refrained from acting than we are doing in supporting the Bawra scheme. I think the responsibility must rest with Bawra.
– The honorable member cannot get rid of his responsibilities in that way.
– There is greater responsibility in doing nothing, and so letting the market collapse than in accepting this proposal, which follows the very best advice available to us. There are points in connexion with the proposal which do not commend themselves to me, and I do not think that this will be the means of settling the matter. The Government Will probably find themselves involved in litigation on the legal and constitutional aspects. It will, however, give us six months’ additional experience, and during that time there is the possibility of arrangements being made with the Central Powers, which is, I believe, our only hope. The alternative proposal of holding the wool up for a couple of years is impracticable, because buyers would know that a huge stock was accumulating, and that at any time it might be placed on the market, and this would only accentuate the trouble. Bawra has already made arrangements with Poland and Austria for the sale of wool on long terms, with a Government guarantee from those countries; and a similar arrangement will have to be made in other directions if we are to stabilize the industry. During the six months that will elapse, buyers will know that they can only purchase wool at Bawra prices, and during that period Bawra will have an opportunity of making some such arrangement as I have mentioned, and of disposing of the tremendous surplus which, while it exists, will always be a danger. I support the proposal rather reluctantly, and solely because it has been put forward by Bawra.
– I cannot say that [I am entirely in accord with the motion before the House. We all know that we are suffering from the effects of war, and that the real aftermath will be upon us before long. I fully realize the difficulties’ confronting the Government .and the pastoral industry in disposing of our wool at a reasonable price, and I am of opinion that the present expedient will not do what the Government claim. In the first place, if it is necessary - and I think it is - to take some steps to deal with this problem, the time-limit imposed is quite inadequate’, because, if this motion is carried and is in force for six months, foreign buyers will not purchase our wool during that period, because they will expect to buy at a lower price when that time has expired, and the position will then be more acute. Growers say that they require assistance, and if it happens that they are unable to sell their wool at the end of this period, the financial position would be more pressing than it is to-day. I recognise that Sd. per lb. is not a price which will return adequate remuneration to the producers of wool. It is all very well for the supporters of the Government and others to say that 8d. per lb. is better than a lower price, or nothing at all. If Sd. per lb. is not sufficient to show a profit and allow the grower to carry on, I cannot see how selling wool at this price will stabilize the industry. The proposal embodied in the amendment that Bawra wool should be held off the market was defeated; but efforts should be made to sell our wool on the Continent on long terms, if necessary, because that is essential if we are to do business in that direction. It is no use attempting to follow the advice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his supporters not to trade with enemy countries, because in the interests of Australia, the markets of the world must be available for the sale of our products. We must not lose sight of the necessity of rendering almost immediate financial assistance to the growers, and that the Government, with the .assistance of the Commonwealth Bank, should take over the whole of the Australian wool, and make an advance to the producers, be- cause, unless something in that direction is done, a large number of wool-growers will be forced to’ sell their holdings to the banks, or other financial institutions. That would have ,a disastrous effect upon Australia, and the wool industry generally. I am afraid that the motion before the House, if carried and given effect to, will not have the beneficial effect which the Government anticipate.
.- I have listened with a good deal of interest to the speeches made on this important question last week, and again to-day. It w.as my privilege during the week-end to attend a gathering of persons very closely identified with the wool industry, and I heard them express their opinions as to what should be done to overcome the difficulties confronting us to-day. Among those present were, bank managers and gentlemen who for )’ears have been closely associated with the woollen industry. It is remarkable that on a question of such magnitude there should be so little difference of opinion as to the best possible means of solving the difficulty. The solution suggested was that the Government would be wise to accept the advice given to them, and upon which they are acting, namely, to place the control of the matter entirely in the hands of Bawra. ,
As usual, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), has been adversely criticised by some of our friends opposite. But no matter what he does, the right honorable gentleman meets with adverse comment from our friends, and therefore we are perhaps at liberty to take very little notice of what they have said concerning him in this respect. However, he has been blamed for not bringing this question before the people at an earlier stage, and, furthermore, for having stressed, as he did; the present financial position of Australia. But he only did his duty in bringing home to the minds of the people the actual position of affairs, and in doing so may have considered it necessary to use strong terms.
I have risen, nob so much with the idea that I could add anything fresh to the discussion of this very great problem, but rather for the purpose of emphasizing the fact that the wool-growers a-re not the only people who are likely to suffer if our wool is not sold. Many- industries are absolutely dependent on a. satisfactory solution of the difficulty. In the Corio electorate, hundreds of men are employed in normal seasons in industries, which are allied to pastoral pursuits, and. they in turn afford employment in various forms to many other people whose position to-day is becoming extremely acute. The ‘Government, in coming to a decision upon this question, must realize that they are face to face with the problem of unemployment. They must confront this issue, and, if necessary, introduce legislation which may put our people once more on the high road to prosperity.
I offer no apology to honorable members for making a few passing references to this question even at this late hour, because I am not one who rises at every touch and turn to get rid of a lot of hot air. The position to-day is very critical. A gentleman who is in a position to know what he is speaking about has told me that selling agents in Victoria who have been receiving skins from growers have been forced to send back to those growers not cash in payment for the skins, but accounts for the expenses incurred in bringing them to the market ‘ and in disposing of them. As I had a similar experience in Queensland thirty years ago in connexion with another line of produce, I have considerable sympathy for producers who are placed in that position.
The Government have been well advised to place this matter entirely in the hands of those who have proved their capacity to handle it by reason of the fact that they have been extremely successful in their own business- pursuits.. I am sure that they will keep a close eye, not only upon the interests of the growers, whose cause has been so- ably championed in this Chamber, but .also upon the needs of people in other industries dependent upon the pastoral industry. Some honorable members have made reference to the disposal of a portion of our clip to the Central Powers of Europe. There are many’ people in my own electorate, as no doubt there are all over the Commonwealth- rand I was- just as narrow in my views a few ‘months ago as they are to-day- who have strong objection to trading with Germany at any price. But the conditions which obtain to-day are very different from those which prevailed during” the war, and When we remember- that France, which- suffered so much from Germany, has for a considerable time past been trading with that country, I think we ought to look upon this question with a wider outlook. The only danger I perceive in the disposal of our Wool to Germany is the possibility that there may be a tendency to accept German goods in exchange for it. We must be extremely careful to see that we do hot encourage the dumping of goods in Australia.. We owe a duty to our people here in this regard Many of the industries which have been built up in Australia during- the war through the protection afforded to us by reason. of the high shipping freights then prevailing, and the lack of production overseas, would -be ruined or endangered if we allowed 1 the dumping of great quantities of stuff already manufactured in Germany, and only awaiting the opportunity to be disposed of. I trust that the success of the Bawra scheme will be all we hope it will be, and that the darkness which seems to have overshadowed the pastoral industry and the community generally will pass away speedily, so that the Commonwealth may emerge once more into the sunlight of prosperous days. .
– I have read with a good deal of interest the proposals embodied in the motion submitted by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook). I have no desire to enter upon a discussion of the legal side of the question; but I may say that we are pleased to observe that the Government hame at last been converted to the legal principles laid down by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who has long contended that the Government have power to prevent profiteering by taking action in this direction under the Customs Act. In another place yesterday afternoon,. I heard followers of the Government express’ opinions very adverse to this method o-f giving effect to the Bawra scheme. It was foreshadowed that costly litigation might result from giving effect to the proposal by means of a proclamation issued under the Customs Act. We have not the last word in the interpretation of the Constitution. The opinion of the High Court of Australia may be invoked,, and two or three months hence we may have an ‘injunction issued to. restrain the Commonwealth Government from going on with the- scheme. In- that event, endless complications would arise, and great losses would be sustained, not only by the Government, but by those who had acted in the belief that this exercise of authority was within the law. I would urge the Acting Prime Minister to consider the desirableness of placing on the Bawra executive a representative of the Government, to protect the interests of the taxpayers of Australia who have been induced through Parliament in this way to grant assistance. It is an old axiom that there should be no taxation without representation, and no body should have the assistance of Parliament unless the Parliament is represented upon its executive. We should have on the Board a Government representative - a disinterested authority from whom we may obtain all the information we require. Those who are at present controlling Bawra might have reasons for not supplying us with accurate information as to the transactions that take place, and since the Government have ‘intervened in this way, it would be wise to have a Government representative on the executive.
I desire now to point out> that the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was under a misapprehension in the view that he took concerning the amendment which I brought forward this afternoon, and which he voted against, believing that if it were carried it Would have the effect of withholding wool from the ragged and ill-clothed people of Central Europe. I thought I had made it very clear that the idea behind my proposal was not by any means to withhold our wool from those peoples. I pointed out that, quite apart from that held by Bawra, there would be sufficient Australian wool to supply the needs of the Central European countries. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) also said that there Would’ probably be more than sufficient to supply the legitimate needs of Central Europe, without using any of our carry-over wool, and that the looms there would be kept working at full pressure for the next two years by means of our present clip and the clip in view. The honorable . member for Melbourne, however, drew a picture of the situation which suggested that we were rather hardhearted in voting for such’ an’ amendment. I think the utterances of the honorable members of the Labour party as to the need for the restoration of trade with Germany and’ our other one-time enemies - regarding the need for breaking down the senseless hostility exhibited by the Prime Minister and his followers here - should be sufficient to convince every one that those of us who voted for the amendment had no such object in view. ‘We voted for the amendment to withhold’ supplies of Bawra wool, only because of our desire to Save Australian’ producers. Figures could be produced if necessary to show that there is sufficient wool without drawing on the carry-over, to supply the needs >f Central Europe.
The Commonwealth should have taken up a strong stand in regard to this matter. The Government should not have allowed it to go forth that we were so lacking in statesmanship that we could not deal with our own affairs. I ‘believe that the transmission of a report by cable that a section of this Parliament was in favour of buying out Britain’s interest in the Bawra wool, and thereby preventing a glut in the market, has been responsible for the keen competition at the recent sales. We all know that if a man in business gets downhearted, .and believes that he cannot recover himself, every one else is only too pleasel to “ put the boot into him,” whereas a bold front often carries a man through. And so with the Common.wealth. I believe that the Commonwealth could finance any scheme to save the woolproducers of Australia. Any one who says otherwise is a traitor to Australia’s interests, and is not taking a right stand in the interests of our primary producers.
At this late hour I do not intend to delay the House further, except to say that the scheme brought in by the Government, in my opinion, is utterly impracticable. It will involve such an enormous amount of detailed work in following up the various transactions in connexion with the sales of wool that it must inevitably break down of its own weight. In paragraph b of the motion it is provided that wool may be exported if security is given to the satisfaction of the Minister that -
The -wool will not be sold either publicly or privately at a price lower than the equivalent of the price agreed upon as the official reserve.
It will, be quite possible for people to give the necessary guarantee, and then to fix up bogus sales on the other side of the world which will enable them to sell at whatever price they pleased. In New South Wales the Minister for Lands will not agree to a transfer where exorbitant prices have been paid for improvement leases or a preferential right to holders cf ‘land. But although it would be very hard to prove, I believe there are men fixing up bogus sales, because much of the land so held is worth an enormous price. They are prepared to make declarations that the price they are paying is nob exorbitant, although the price actually paid by them is excessive. In the same way, so long as private sales of wool can be carried out under paragraph b, bogus transactions will be possible ; people will be prepared to swear anything in order to obtain this wool, and arrange sales to suit themselves. The details involved are such that it will be impossible for any organization which the Government can set up to follow the wool through all its ramifications from the time it leaves the producer till it reaches the manufacturer.
– Bawra can look after it.
– Then it will have to look after it better than it has done. So far as we know we have no authoritative information from Bawra; and before the whole of the wool is sold, it will probably be found necessary for a Royal Commission to inquire into its operations. I hope the Government will insist on having a representative of Parliament on the executive of Bawra, in order that we may be kept informed by somebody who has not the same interests as Sir John Higgins and Sir Arthur Goldfinch, and who should have the interests of the great mass of the people of Australia at heart. I shall oppose the motion for the reasons I have outlined. I shall not be surprised if the Government, in a short time, have to come to this House seeking for some amendment of this proposal; nor shall I be surprised if the High Court is moved, and the whole scheme blocked.
– I think the proposals in this motion are much more satisfactory as a basis on which the Customs authorities can work than the mere passing of a motion to print a paper. I agree with the view that has been expressed that the proposals before us in the form of a motion are much more valuable than they would be in the form of a Bill, because, the motion permits, if necessary, of Government action to abrogate the conditions. The Government are to be congratulated on the view they have taken, and on the fact that they are willing to accept expert opinion. The wool industry is like a patient in a very serious condition, and it is much more advisable in such circumstances to accept the views of an eminent physician rather than those of some passing quack. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) expressed the opinion that, instead of allowing experts to operate on the patient, we should wait and let the patient die or get better. I regret very much that it has been necessary to bring this matter before the House; and it would not have been necessary except’ for the fact that unanimity could not be obtained amongst those actually interested outside. To secure that unanimity from only a small percentage of the growers - a forced . unanimity, it is true - is the only reason why we are called upon to deal with the question. It is said that what we are doing is laying down a precedent, and a bad one. But in the previous precedents quoted, in which the Customs Acthas been strained, or, as some say, not strained but properly used, it was always practically ordinary Ministerial action that was taken. On this occasion, the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament is being sought before action is taken. I venture to think that if in the future, when action of this kind is desired by the Government, and as free a discussion takes place as now, the public will have no ground to complain that the matter is not thoroughly ventilated.
There are one or two points in regard to which I would like to place my opinion on record. The actual words ‘of paragraph a will net, in my opinion, have -the effect that it has been sought to show they will have on the small buyer. I take it we are dealing entirely with a matter of export; and if it is necessary to make the meaning more clear by inserting other words, I am quite agreeable to that course. To me, however, that course seems to be unnecessary. I take it that machinery will be provided to permit of shipping from any port in the Commonwealth where ships can call.
– ‘That is so.
Dp. EARLE PAGE.- We do not desire a repetition of what occurred during the early regime of the Central Wool Committee, whenRockhampton and other Queensland ports were denied the right of shipping, to their serious detriment.
– We have an assurance that all the northern ports will he able to ship.
– I want it on record in Hansard that everything will he all right in that respect. With regard to the question of inspection, to which I referred last night, 1 venture to think that the Bawra directors will have no hesitation in allowing it, if it is thought to be necessary.
– I wish to thank honorable members for the patient and cordial help they have given in dealing with this very troublesome question. I shall say no more now except to ask the leave of the House to incorporate a slight amendment which will make quite clear the intention of the motion regarding the small buyers of wool. The words I ask leave to incorporate in paragraph a will come after the word “Commonwealth,” and are “and not consigned for sale overseas.” That makes it clear that all’ sales which take place here most be paid for here before exportation. That leaves paragraph b to be operated by the buyer if he cares to do so when he buys small lots from the. farmers. He will then not have to subscribe to paragrapha, since he comes under the category of those who consign their wool for sale overseas. I am anxious not to exclude that small man, and the words I propose will make it quite clear that he is not excluded. I move -
That in paragraph a, afterthe word “ Commonwealth “ the words “ and not consigned for sale overseas “be inserted.
– I should: like to say a few words on the amendment.
– I am afraid the honorable member cannot do that. .
– -But an amendment has been moved.
– The position is peculiar. This is a verbal amendment proposed by the mover of the original motion. With the consent of the House the words can be inserted, but without consent they cannot
– I do not wish to object to the amendment, but merely to say, a few words on the matter.
– If permission is given to the honorable member to say » few words, I hope it will notbe taken as a precedent.
Mr. CHARLTON (Hunter) [11.30).- The amendment which has been inserted only emphasizes what I said this afternoon in regard to the small wool-grower being at the mercy of the buyer, who can now buy his wool at any price the grower is prepared to sell for. I do not want to object to the extent of calling for a division, but I want to make it clear that, personally, I cannot he a party to this proposal.
Question amended accordingly.
Question - That the motion, as amended, be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper waa presented: -
Treaty of Peace /Germany) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 86.
House adjourned at 11.37 p-m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 May 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210505_reps_8_95/>.