9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., andread prayers.
Condition of Steamers at Rabaul.
– I ask the Minister re- p resenting the Minister for Home and
Territories whether his attention has been drawn to a telegram from Perth published this morning referring to statements by ‘ Mr. Gordon Clifton with regard to the condition of steamers at Rabaul? ‘ If so, will the Minister cause immediate ‘inquiries to be made as to the truth of the statement?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I shall have inquiries made into the matter, and furnish the honorable member with an answer.
Inquiry bySirNeville Howse, V.C.
– I understand that Sir Neville Howse is to proceed to the Old Country, and I wish to know if the Prime Minister will be good enough to request him to make inquiries into the Belgemann treatment for consumption, and also with respect to treatment by experts of other diseases affecting human beings ?
– As I have already stated, Sir Neville Howse is visiting Europe as one of Australia’s delegates to the Conference of the Assembly of the League of Nations in September. After the Conference is over Sir Neville Howse will go to England to inquire, on behalf of the Government, into the whole of the machinery for the examination of the physical condition of migrants coming to Australia. I shall be very pleased if the honorable member will submit any suggestions as to other matters into which Sir Neville Howse might be asked to inquire.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN presented the annual report of the Tariff Board to June, 1923.
– I have not done so.
-I have received from the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) an intimation of his desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz.: -Theunsatisfactory position in which the sugar industry is placed owing to the proposed arrangement under which the price of raw sugar will be reduced to £27 per ton, and the placing of an embargo of only two years upon the importation of foreign sugar.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I rise to a point of order. I do not wish to block the discussion, but formal motions of adjournment may be submitted only for the purpose of discussing urgent questions. The sugar question was dealt with yesterday, and if the honorable member could allow the opportunity then presented to discuss it to pass, whilst the Government are closing the mouths of other honorable members on all sorts of important questions, this can scarcely be regarded as a question of urgent public importance.
– The honorable members who have risen in accordance with the standing order to support the notice of the honorable member for Herbert confirm the urgency of the question he proposes to discuss. The support of the intimation by the requisite number of members is in itself a ruling as to its urgency.
– I am sorry that it should be considered that I am taking up the time of private members, but I am myself a private member, and have had no previous opportunity to discuss this important question. On my motion other honorable members will have the same right as myself to discuss it. I havereceived a number of telegrams from North Queensland with regard to the proposals of the Government in connexion with the sugar industry, but the following letter I have received from the Secretary of the United Cane-growers Association, covers practically all that is- contained inthose telegrams. He writes -
I desire- to draw your attention to the agreement proposed by Mr. Bruce, Prime Ministerof Australia. We are asked to accept an embargo for two years, and at. the end of that, time, to accept a Tariff duty that will be sufficient to protect the industry when the price, of. foreign sugar is normal, and, as stated by Mr. Bruce, not sufficient to protect us whenthe price of foreign sugar is- abnormallylow. Inferentially, Mr. Bruce has said, “ We expect you to supply Australia with sugar cheaper than it can be . imported when the world’s market prices are high, and to compete against cheap black-grown sugar when it is abnormally low, with a duty only sufficient to protect you when the price of foreign, sugar isnormal.”
Yours faithfully,- W. H. DOHERTY.
During the recent Federal election I experienced a-. great deal of opposition in North Queensland owing to the action taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in submitting a certain amendment in this House some time ago. It was contended by those who were opposed to me . that the Leader of the Opposition had moved for an extension’ of the sugar agreement, and on that ground they claimed the support of Labour voters ins my electorate. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was ruled out- of order by the then Chairman of Committees (Mr. Chanter). I now invite honorable members to consider what the amendment reallymeant. I believe that it was drawn up by the Leader of the Opposition in collaboration with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who is the only legal gentleman on the Opposition- side, and those honorable members, knew perfectly well what the result would be. They, must have realized that they were riding, for a fall. The honorable member for Hunter moved that the word “that” be omitted, with a view to the insertion of the following words -
An agreement should be . made in regard to sugar control, and that the same should provide fair and reasonable conditions for the producers and workers in the industry, and at the same time protect the consumers from exploitation by the Colonial Sugar Henning Company. .
Nothing could be more indefinite than the words of that amendment. There was no time fixed, and there was no price mentioned. The stability of the industry could not be promoted by carrying such an amendment. It was ruled out of order because at that moment we were discussing ways and means. The amendment raised a matter of Government policy” which was. quite distinct from the question before; the: Committee;, and therefore the Chairman was quite right:, in my opinion, in- ruling it. out of order. During the last election- campaign the Labour candidates claimed that because of their attitude, on the sugar question they were entitled to support, but I maintain that the tactics of our opponents in attaching so much importance to an amendment which really amounted to nothing were unfair. I do not propose to dwell upon this phase of the subject because the time available to me: is short. I wish to refer to a speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in Brisbane oh 5th June last… It is fully reported in the Queensland Agricultural Journal, -which states -
Discussing Federal policy generally at a public meeting in Brisbane on Tuesday, 5th June, the Prime Minister (Hon.. S. M. Bruce, M.C.), referred, inter alia, to. the sugar industry and Federal policy in connexion therewith. From the Prime Minister’s announcement the following points are taken: - “ It is impossible to deny or overlook the legitimate claim of an industry that pays £6,000,000 a year in wages to some 25,000 employees, and produces a crop worth up to £9,000,000. per annum. It ranks- among the very largest primary producing interests of Australia in any or all of the States.
Economically, the sugar industry is of even greater importance to the nation than a superficial examination of trade statistics would indicate. For it should always Ite remembered that, if sugar were not produced in Aus tralia, from £5.000,000 to £6,000,000 would have to be remitted each year to foreign countries, which buy in return scarcely any of our goods. During the Government control period just expiring, over £47,000,000 was thus kept and spent in Australia in respect of the locally-grown- -tonnage.
The national oi political significance of the industry is even more arresting to the mind. In tills regard the - sugar industry stands in a unique position in Australia- - for it is the sole industry of any magnitude at all that has ‘been successfully carried on in those far north coastal lands, that are of such strategic importance to the White Australia policy.
Looking at the map, observers will notice that the Northern. Territory is practically in the same latitude as Cairns, Innisfail” Mossman, Herbert River; and other very large, closely-settled sugar districts. Yet the Territory’s white population is lower than it was thirty years ago, and the problem of developing it seems as difficult of solution as ever. On the other hand, the sugar districts mentioned have , witnessed constant substantial increases in farms, settlement, commerce,, and population. The Government is pleased’ to note that the record percentage, increase in population during- the- last census period occurred in the Herbert Hirer- district-a- purely sugar locality - and that large towns like Townsville, Cairns, and Mackay, and other smaller places, are- wholly or- principally dependent upon sugar for their existence.
It is imperative that the far north should be developed and settled with, the white race-, so that prosperous, happy, healthy, thoroughly acclimatized citizens of’ British stock should be resident there in tens of thousands to justify to the world our moral right to this magnificent country,, and to act as the first line of defence and the bulwark of our most cherished policy of White Australia.
The 1912 and 1920 Royal Commissions on sugar both freely recognised the obvious fact that the continuance of the sugar industry Is bound up. with the very existence of Australia as a nation.
There will not be. another sugar agreement.”
I wish, to impress upon honorable, members that- I have been reading the precise words of the- Prime Minister’s speech, and it discloses two attitudes. Whilst in t,he first place, he said that the industry must be continued and sustained because of the White Australia policy, in the very next sentence he stated that there would not- be another sugar agreement. The Prime Minister continued -
The Government’s proposals are designed simply to meet existing conditions in a manner which., it is hoped, will appeal to the instincts of business and fair play, common to sugar interests, southern manufacturers, and other sugar consumers. In formulating its plans, the Commonwealth Government lias been faced with two important circumstances; which unavoidably dominated the situation!.
First. that there will be in Australia at. the -end of the agreement on 30th June, 57,500 tons of Government sugar.
It is estimated that 37,000 tons of sugar would be distributed before the agreement expired. Another 17,000 tons are held in reserve, so that in reality, nearly the whole quantity would be absorbed before the necessity arose for taking the 57,500 tons into consideration at all. The Prime Minister went on to say -
Second, that sugar, alone of our primaryproducing industries, has no outside market whereby this surplus could be sold without loss (by virtue of the fact that all competing sugar is . produced by black labour,’ which is paid wages far below the standard prevailing in Australia).
The Government surplus cannot be sold until 30th September, 1923, and will meanwhile displace a similar quantity of the uncontrolled new season’s sugar which the Queensland Fool, if established, will require to finance. The future position as to stocks is thus: -
Against the surplus of 57,000 and 37,500 tons respectively might be set the 17,500 tons normal carry-over stocks usually held in refineries.
The report of the speech of thePrime Minister is very lengthy, and I shall not trouble honorable members with further extracts from it. Here is an industry which the Prime Minister himself admits to be of the utmost importance to Australia - an industry intimately associated with ourWhite Australia policy, and one on which it may be said our national existence depends. Notwithstanding these facts, the Government decline to extend to it a measure of protection which is really below what can be regarded as fair. I have no hesitation in describing the people of the southern States, and particularly the people of Victoria, as selfish and ungrateful. It was in Victoria that the Housewives Association and kindred bodies were first formed, and the action taken by them I can only describe as if not contemptible, something nearly akin. The . agitation against the price of sugar was started prior to the general election, the object being to reduce it to something like 3d. or 3½d. per lb., and that agitation was supported by the Victorian press and by Victorian members on both sides of the House. I have quoted from the Prime Minister’s speech in order to impress on honorable members the seriousness of the position. Cotton growing has been tried in Queensland, but that commodity can be produced anywhere in Australia; we have tried dairying, maize growing and the production of every product suitable to a tropical climate, but sugar growing is the only enterprise that has met with wide success.
As a piece of ancient history, I may say that I first became acquainted with the northern sugar area in 1880 or 1881, when the price of cane was under 10s. per ton. It has been maintained, I am . sorry to say, even by people in my own electorate, that sugar has been the “ plaything “ of politics. That may possibly be true, but every time sugar has been “ played with “ it has been to the advantage of the industry. To-day cane is £2 or over per ton, an increase of 300 per cent, or 400 per cent., and that is the result of this political “playing”. In those early days every sugar grower, no matter how small his area, had the ambition to own a mill of his own, with the result that the sugar areas, especially around Mackay, became dotted with small establishments. These mills, however, were not capable of treating the came as it should be treated; usually there was only one pair of rollers, with the result that a large percentage of the juice was left behind. In consequence of this the price of cane was low. Cane contained as much sugar then as it does now, but owing to the inefficient appliances all the juice could notbe extracted. Subsequently the Central Mills system came into operation, and at the present time cane passes’ through two. and sometimes . three pairs of rollers, which crush it almost dry. The changed circumstances account for the present higher price. The Government came to the assistance of the industry by advancing money on the security of the land held for building purposes. Still later the Government erected State mills, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company also acquired a, large area in the vicinity of Mackay, though the mills then erected by the latter are now being dismantled. The Prime Minister has emphasized the value of this industry to Australia, and 1 ask the honorable gentleman and his Government to extend to it the most generous treatment.
My honorable youthful and debonnaire friend, the member for Capricornia “ (Mr. Forde) has informed honorable members that I made a promise, in reference to the sugar industry, and has cited , Mr. Biggs in support of his allegation. What I did say, and what I repeat now, was that I would move in the House for an extension of the Agreement for five years at £28 per ton. The Opposition,. however, launched a censure motion when Parliament met, and this, of course, completely shut out not only that motion but others. The honorable member for Capricornia also suggested that I had promised to join the Labour party if the Government would not consent to extend the agreement. I made no such promise; What I said then, and what I have’ no hesitation in saying now, was that I would vote with any party that proposed an extension on the terms mentioned. There is no chance of my rejoining the Labour party. They expelled me once, and they will never have the opportunity to do it again. I wish to quote from a letter published by the Sydney Bulletin in May last. I think I know the identity of ‘the writer, but I am not in a position to disclose his name. The letter puts the case for the sugar-growers so forcibly that I hope honorable members will pardon me for reading it. It says -
Melbourne keeps on passing resolutions which “view with alarm the high price of sugar.” Melbourne ought to read the Louisiana Planter’s record of the employment of child labour in the cane-fields of America. There 2,500 children, from seven to sixteen years old, are engaged in the industry. Threefourths of this army of white slaves work on the fields. The average hours are nine, climbing to thirteen in some cases. Yet the wholesale price of sugar in New York is 3Jd. per lb. Australia’s retail price is 4id. - only Jd. dearer than the wholesale price in America. Melbourne, under the pretence’ of lessening the cost of sugar drowned in its tea, reaches out for the impossible - cheap white labour in the cane-fields, or its alternative, the coloured man. Melbourne’s “ national soul “ is buried in a 2-lb. tin of its jam, and the half a pound of Queensland sugar at 2)d. per lb. that helps to fill the tin, hurts like a hard corn. For an industry that has, so far, proved to be the only means of promoting the closer settlement of our tropical regions, the import duty on foreign-grown sugar is ridiculously low, viz., fO 6s. 8d. a ton. America has a duty of £9 19s. 8d., and the United Kingdom asks for £25 13s. 4d. The average return from a North Queensland sugar farm is about 700 tons of cane. At £2 2s. a ton, a farmer’s turnover is £1,470. Wages absorb over £970, general upkeep; &c, £150, leaving £300 odd for clothing, food, taxes, bad ‘ seasons, motor cars, and cigars. For the sake of a White Australia, and as a bulwark agains.t coloured aggression, Melbourne should keep on paying 4jd. for its 1 lb. of sweetening.
In Barbados, the labourers on the sugar plantations, including those known as mechanics, are .paid an average wage of ls. 3d. per day, out of which they are required to shoulder the responsibility of an average family of from live to seven souls (according to a paper i» United Empire).
Large numbers of full-blooded Africans from the West Indies migrate ito the United States of America, where they improve their conditions considerably.
That is how the sugar industry is controlled and carried on in Cuba and other West Indian Islands.
The Australian Sugar Journal seta out the import duty imposed upon sugar by the different countries of the world. la the United Kingdom the duty is £25 13s. 4d. I would remind honorable members that that is not the price of sugar, but merely the duty on it. The duty imposed by Australia is £9 6s. 8d. ; by Canada, £11 3s.; by Norway,^ £17 2s. lid.; by Switzerland, £10 4s. 10d.; by the Netherlands, £22 17s. 2d.; by Germany, £20 6s. 5d.; by Portugal, £29 9s. 3d.; by Italy, £13 6s. 8d.; by the Argentine, £12 9s.; by Dominica, £14; by Mexico, £11; and by France, £28 14s. lOd.
– Can the honorable gentleman state the retail price of sugar in m those countries?
– The honorable member will hear it later on. The duties imposed in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany are designed to protect the local beet sugar industry. In Australia we have to protect the Queensland cano sugar industry, and all we do is to impose a paltry duty of £9 6s. 8d. Lel, honorable members mark the difference. The German duty is more than twice as much as ..the Australian duty. The French duty of £28 14s. lOd. is also a protective duty imposed in the interests of the French beet sugar industry. The Australian duty appears farcical when contrasted with the duties in other countries. No protection is required for the sugar industry in the United Kingdom, and the duty of £25 13s. 4d. is entirely a revenue duty. I ask the Treasurer to note that. The Sugar Journal states the duties imposed by forty different countries, and in twenty-five, of them, mostly small countries like the Bermudas and lie West Indian Islands, the duty is very small, and correspondingly ineffective.
– The honorable member promised the sugar-growers that he would endeavour to secure for them a renewal of the agreement.
– About twelve months ago, I was -in Queensland with the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes). ‘(Extension of time granted.) I travelled with him through my electorate, and heard him speak at Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, and one or two other places. In each of his speeches, he said, “I will give you an extension of the agreement for, ‘five years at the same price as you receive now, namely, £30 6s. 8d., provided I get a majority in Parliament after the elections.” It was’ practically a pre-election tour by both the ex-Prime Minister and myself, and had Mr. Hughes been returned with a majority, he would have ‘been bound by the promise he made. Any promise he made had to be subject to his obtaining a parliamentary majority. When the Tariff was under consideration the Hughes Government pro-posed a duty of £11 6s. 8d. per ton. The Leader of the Opposition submitted an amendment in favour of an agreement, and when that was ruled out of order one naturally expected that his followers would have been content to take the next, best thing, which, was the duty -of £11 6s. 8d. Instead, they voted solidly against it, and supported the existing duty of £9 6s. 8d. When, .in face of that attitude of the Opposition, the electors of Capricornia .returned the present honorable member (Mr. Forde), they proved that they are perfectly satisfied with the existing conditions. If they are not satisfied, why is Mr. Forde a member of this House instead of Mr. Higgs, who voted for the higher duty:?
– The electors sent me here to fight for them, because the honorable -member failed t’o do so. Why did not the honorable member insist on the renewal of the agreement when the last Government had a majority of only one over the other two parties in the House,
– The honorable member is in a tight corner. I am perfectly logical in contending that the honorable member would not be representing Capricornia if the electors were not satisfied with the duty for which the. Labour party voted. My own attitude is that I ask for an agreement for four years instead of the two years offered by the Government, and am prepared to accept the proffered price of £27 per ton. The cane which is being harvested at the present time was planted under the conditions set up -by the agreement which has expired, and, consequently, the growers . had to pay the then ruling wages and other costs involved in that agreement, which provided for a price of £30 6s. 8d. per ton for five years. ‘The cane-growers made their arrangements - in the belief “that a National Government would -have ‘granted an extension of the ‘agreement. Most of next year’s crop also will be produced under the conditions of the old agreement. Planting cane is not like planting a few cabbages -, the ground has to be prepared for two years ahead. I invite the attention of the House to the following extract from the Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer of 28th April, 1923, the most important -sugar publication in the world. It is headed, “ Tariff Commissions Report to President shows Tariff not cause of increased price in sugar,” and contains this paragraph -
The recent Tariff Act added 16 cents per pound to the duty. This, the report shows, cannot ‘be denned as a factor in the recent increase. The carefully -prepared pricehistory compiled by the Commission shows that ordinary lower Tariff rates would not be reflected in the price to the consumer.
I ask the Treasurer to note that statement, the effect of which is that no matter how low the Tariff may he, -the price of sugar to the consumer is not reduced. The extract continues -
The report shows that the’ recent rise in sugar prices .began after the Louisiana cane sugar and the .domestic beet sugar had been sold and most of it delivered.
The International Sugar J Journal of May of this year has this to say about the price of- sugar in England -
In introducing his first Budget to the House -of Commons -last month, Mr. Stanley , Baldwin, the Chancellor -of the Exchequer, when he came to refer to the sugar duty, said that he had thought it important to invest,i gate, carefully how far in the present condition of the world’s market ‘the consumer could be expected to retain the advantages of any lowering of any sugar duties. But it was evident that the sugar market to-day was a sellers’’ market,, owing to the anticipated shortage of the world’s supply; hence, although it is practically certain that a reduction of duty would be at once accompanied by a proportionate reduction in price, he thought it highly improbable that the consumer would be tha gainer for more than a. very short time. The reduction in price would lead to an increased demand, which would tend further to increase the world’s price, and the result, would be that the money sacrificed by the exchequer would go straight, into the hands of Mie, producers and dealers in sugar. It might bo argued that, even if prices did rise, they would still be lower b;y the extent of the reduction of the duty. In his opinion, this could not follow; as the increased ‘ demand following an immediate reduction in. price would be bound to lead under present conditions to a greater increase in price than would1 otherwise take place. In these circumstances, he. had with great reluctance refrained, from proposing, any reduction in the sugar duties.
Paraphrasing the word’s of (Shakespeare, I ask whether ‘tis nobler in the mind of this composite Ministry to forward an industry of so generous a nature, or to stand ignobly by and mark its eventual decay? The Prime Minister has pointed out that if the north of Australia is denuded of population - and that may happen in Queensland as a result of the proposals of the Government - the White Australia policy will be in jeopardy. Various methods of populating, the north of Queensland, other than , by sugar cultivation, have failed, and if the present population is driven out, how will it he replaced? Only last night a Labour member of the House of Commons was entertained in this Building, and he said that the time was not far distant when the Labour party would’ be in power in Britain. There, is a great deal of talk of the brotherhood of man, hut where does it exist? If the British Parliament were dominated by the. Labour party, .and a Labour Government were in office there, what would they do? Here we have a country almost without population,, and if the Japanese or any other people, said, “We will populate, that country,” do honorable members; opposite believe that the “ brotherhood of man “ people, would stand in their way? They would not for a moment.. They are not prepared to do anything for the defence, of this, country, and they would allow any people who were so inclined and able to do so, to take possession of Australia whether we considered that in our interests or otherwise. Would a Government composed of pacifists lift a hand or spend a shilling in the defence of this Commonwealth? I think not.
– I wish to say a few words on the question at once to make the position of the Government clear, and to explain the action the Government have taken recently in proposing the continuation of the embargo on the import of foreign sugar for two years. The policy of the last Government as announced in the policy speech of the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the policy of the present Government are based upon the view that the sugar industry can best be protected against th& competition of black-grown sugar by the Customs Tariff. But the present Government have gone a step further than the last Government, and it is particularly with regard to this that I wish to address the House to-day. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), in moving the adjournment, quoted at some length from a speech I made in Brisbane. That will make it unnecessary for me to go over the matters dealt with in that speech. I certainly believe in all the proposals there set out. It is. unquestionable that the preservation of the sugar industry in the northern parts of Australia is vital in the interests of our cherished White Australia policy. The disappearance of that industry would make the future very dark, and confront , us with very grave difficulty in our efforts to keep the population of Australia white. I, do not wish now to deal with that phase of the question, or with the matter from the point of view of defence, but I wish to say something concerning the sugar agreements we have had: in force in Australia during the last few years.
There has been a tremendous amount of misunderstanding particularly with regard to the effect of those agreements upon the consumers of sugar. There is a generally accepted idea, that they were designed solely for the .benefit of the man who grows sugar, and that “they have placed him in a position to make an enormous fortune at the expense of the unfortunate sugar consumers of Australia. That view is totally and absolutely wrong. These agreements, which have been in existence now since 1916, have’ been of immense benefit to the consumers of sugar in Australia, and it is only fair that the people generally should realize that fact. I wish briefly to go over the circumstances of the agreements, and I shall try to show that they have been of great benefit to Australia generally. We aTe trying to do something which will help the industry, because it is imperative* that Australia should do whatever may be necessary to preserve it against the competition of black-grown sugar. It will be very difficult to insure adequate protection for the industry if there is an atmosphere of misunderstanding surrounding the whole position in connexion with sugar, and particularly the position in the period during which the agreement, which expired on 30th June last, was in operation.
The first agreement was entered into in 1916, and was for a period of two years. For the first year of that period1 the retail price of sugar in Australia was 3d. per lb. During the next year the price was 3½d. per lb. At that time there was no complaint by the consumer about the sugar agreement, and no suggestion that it was against his interests. The obvious reason why there was no complaint is ‘ that at that time sugar was cheaper in Australia than in any other part of the world. The agreement was renewed in 1917, and carried on > until 1920. Over the whole period of the renewed1 agreement up to March, 1920, sugar was retailed in Australia at 3Jd. per lb. There was then no suggestion that the agreement was only in the interest of the grower, because, it was. so obvious that it was very much more in the interests of the consumer. During the whole of that period we had cheaper sugar in Australia than could be obtained in any other part of the world. Honorable members will remember what the position in other countries was. In Great Britain, France, and other countries, sugar was not only high in price - running up to ls. id. per lb. in France, and ls. 2d. per lb. in Great
Britain - but had: also to be rationed because there waa not an adequate supply for the people of those countries. Right through that period sugar was sold in Australia at 3$d. per lb., and the supply was equal to the demand. This fact is emphasized by the extraordinary increase that took place in our exports of manufactured goods containing sugar. In 1913 we exported 1,000,858 lbs. of jams and jellies, and in 1918-19 we exported no less than 79,000,000 lbs. of these commodities. It will be said that the increased’ export was brought about, by war contracts and the conditions that prevailed at the time. That is perfectly true, but we in Australia secured those contracts and that enormous increase in our exports of articles containing sugar because Australia was the only country in the world that could supply the sugar. That was undoubtedly of very great benefit, to the Commonwealth. Up to 1920 there was no objection raised to the sugar agreement, because it was seen to be of inestimable benefit to the consumer and the whole of the people in this community.
I come now to the period when the third agreement had to be entered into, and when the circumstances were very different from those prevailing when the previous agreements were made. Australia had suffered two adverse sugar seasons, and it had become necessary to import a great deal of foreign sugar. That sugar was ‘bought at prices running up to £99 per ton. The average price paid for imported sugar over the year 1920 was £59 per ton. That sugar was included in the ‘ sugar -pool, and a question arose as to the action that should be taken in regard to a further sugar agreement. After considerable negotiation, the then Government, led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes)’, entered into a third agreement for a period covering 1920-1923. When that agreement was finalized it provided for the purchase of sugar at £30 6a. 8d. per ton. It was submitted to this House for discussion. During the discussion it was evident that the agreement had the approval of the Labour party led by the late Mr. Tudor, the Country party, and the Nationalist party who were responsible for its introduction. The third agreement was approved by the unanimous consent of the parties in this House. The reason why all were agreed o that the right course was being taken was that we were faced with the disposal of a great quantity of sugar purchased at high prices. If that sugar had been the only sugar’ we had to sell to the people at the time, it would have been necessary to sell it at from 8d. to lOd. per pound to cover the cost at which it was purchased. Mr. Tudor, in the remarks he made upon the agreement, pointed out* that if it were entered into it would be possible during the whole period of three years to keep the retail price of sugar in Australia at 6d. per lb., and though that would mean a loss on the sugar imported, if we held on until after the current crop of Queensland sugar came in, and was purchased at £30 6s. 8d. per ton, we should at a retail price of 6d. per lb. recover losses on the imported sugar; that the people of Australia would have the benefit of a regular retail price of 6d. per lb., and it would be unnecessary to put the price up as in other countries. That deliberate policy was indorsed by this House, and during the early days of the agreement there was no trouble. It was only when the price of sugar abroad dropped’, and we kept the price in Australia up to 6d. per lb. - which was from 2d. to 4d. per lb. less than the people would have had to pay to cover the actual cost of the sugar they were consuming, that trouble arose.
Looking back over, the history of what has happened, it is questionable whether from the political point of view it would not have been better to ‘let the price of sugar in Australia go up to 8d. or lOd. per lb. ‘to cover the cost of the importedsugar, and let it fall again when our crop was harvested. But even members of the Labour party will agree that that policy would not have been in the best interests of the people of Australia as a whole.
We have heard a great deal about the price which has been charged on the s agar contents of exported goods, but every single pound of sugar used in the manufacture of exported goods has carried a rebate when the outside price has been lower than the Australian price, to bring it down to the world’s parity. Those who have exported from Australia goods containing sugar have at no time been unfavorably situated because of the sugar agreement. I have said this be cause I think this question requires t» be more clearly understood than it is b, a very great number of people. During the three years that the last sugar agreement was in operation it conferred a very great benefit upon the people of this country.
Certainly up to 1921-22 there was nobody who had received very great benefit. It was only last year, when there was a slump, and the price of Australian sugar had to be kept at 6d:., so as to recoup the losses on the importations necessary to produce . ‘the earlier benefits, ,that the idea took form that the agreement had been made in the interests only of the sugar-growers of Queensland, and that these had made fortunes at the expense of the consumers. Any such suggestion im quite untrue.
As to the present position, the1 Government announced quite clearly as soon as it took office that it adhered to the same policy as the’ previous Government, and did not propose to renew the agreement, but would let the industry be protected by the Customs Tariff. That was the position until about a month ago, when the Government announced that it was prepared to make a slight variation of its policy, by allowing the existing embargo on the importation of sugar to continue for a period of two years. Our reason for that action was that we felt under a certain obligation to the industry, because on the 30th June last, when the agreement expired, the Government had a carry-over of 57,000 tons. We felt that if this sugar was sold, as we were in a position to have it sold, prior to any of the Queensland sugar, we should place the industry at a disadvantage just at the moment when sugar went out of control, and the industry had- to stand’ on its own feet. When I was in Brisbane recently, I therefore put certain proposals before the controlling forces in the industry. I said that the Government was prepared to continue the embargo for a period of two years.
– They are asking for four years.
– I shall come to that. We offered to continue the embargo for two years, provided that a Pool was formed, and the reason for that was that there would be no way of controlling the position unless a- Pool, or something of that nature, came into being. I wish to make it perfectly clear that, with the expiration of the agreement on the 30th June last, Commonwealth control completely disappeared. But, as we were going to give the industry an embargo fox .-another two years, we had to lay down the terms under which it would operate, seeing that the industry was to be protected from competition outside Australia. The .first .condition was that the price of raw sugar at the refinery was to be .£27 per -ton, (Extension of time granted.) The second condition was that the Pool was to enter into negotiations with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Millaquin Sugar Company for an agreement to refine and distribute the sugar, but the’ agreement between the Pool -and the refining companies was to be subject to the approval of the Commonwealth Government, so that we should know exactly what was to be paid for the refining of the sugar. - The third condition w.as that the Pool should provide sugar for goods manufactured for export at a price equal to the current world’s parity. The export trade has been met in the past by allowing a rebate of the duty on sugar imported foa: manufacturing, when it went out of the country again in manufactured goods. But on this occasion, as there was a .surplus of sugar in Australia, it was thought that it would be better to aid in getting rid of that surplus by allowing .the sugar required for export to be. taken out of the Pool at a price equal to the world’s parity. The fourth condition was that a competent authority, upon which the Commonwealth should be represented, should .be appointed to determine the price at which sugar would be supplied for the export trade. The next condition was that the price of raw sugar for the 1924-25 season was -to be determined after investigation by the tribunal, and to be based on the cost of efficient production in reasonably good districts under normal conditions, such price not to exceed £27 per ton. That price was fixed in order to protect the consumers. The Government’s duty was to see that both sides obtained a fair deal, and once we had agreed to continue the embargo for a further two years we had to see that the consumers were protected. It was also provided that the tribunal. in ascertaining the cost of production, was to have regard to excessive wages, if any, paid in the sugar industry as compared with other primary industries, owing, say, to the Pool’s fixed price for raw sugar. Honorable members will see that it was .necessary to do that, seeing that workmen in other industries have, at. times, to submit to a reduction in wages. The next condition was that the Pool was to give the public the full advantage of any reduction, including costs of refining and distribution, effected from time to time. There was also a provision that sugar not produced in Australia might be brought in, notwithstanding the embargo, but that applied only to a small quantity of a very particular character, and there is no great significance attached to it. The Government’s intention, in adding to the protection given by the Tariff, was to help the sugar industry with regard to the disposal of surplus sugar at present in Australia. I have informed honorable members that the quantity of sugar we held on the 30th June was 57,500 tons. For the present year the estimated production is 260,000 tons, and the estimated consumption is 280,000 tons. The surplus should be reduced by 20,000 tons during the coming year. But that would .still leave a carry-over of 37,500 tons at the commencement of the 1924-25’ season. We have accordingly decided to continue the embargo for two years, so as to enable the whole of the Govern-‘ ment surplus to be disposed of, and to free the industry, when it has to go on its own feet, from the disadvantage of being faced by an unusual surplus.
– From what date does the embargo commence?
– The embargo has never been removed. One reason why the Government felt it imperative to do something of this nature was because of what occurred when the British Government suddenly allowed sugar to go out of control, and the great stocks on its cwn hands were flung on the markets of Great Britain. We all know what the result of that action was. While the position in Australia is not nearly so acute, the Government is not desirous of doing anything that may precipitate something in the nature of a crisis in the industry. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) favours a five, years’ embargo, and failing that he would like an embargo for four years. I sympathize with him; but what he hopes for is not the declared policy ‘of this or the late . Government. Both Governments have clearly stated that it was not their policy.
The present proposal was designed to help the industry, but after the announcement was made there was a considerable expression of opinion in Queensland that it would be of no use at all to the growers. They said that the Government had not given them enough. But there was an equally definite opinion in the south that we had given them too much. This might almost suggest that the Government had hit the happy medium. “When there was so much dissatisfaction expressed -with the Government’s proposals we said that we were not prepared to go on with them unless assured that the industry as a whole desired us to put them into effect. We pointed out that our policy was to allow a protective duty, in order to help Queensland. Meetings were, held all over that State, and they indicated that the people preferred to have the embargo for another two years. It is evidently the opinion of the Queensland growers that an extension of the embargo is preferable to the original policy of a Protective Tariff. _ I indicated when speaking in Queensland that if in June, 1925, a higher duty became of vital importance to the industry, the Government would be prepared to protect it against unfair competition. I stated that this duty would be of an amount that would enable the industry to carry on at & reasonable profit when the price o£ blackgrown sugar was normal. That seems to me to be a proper basis to go upon. If the price of black-grown sugar returns to the figures ruling before the war, then without question, unless we can produce sugar more cheaply than at present, we shall have to consider very seriously the duty now imposed. On the other hand, there are considerable indications that the price of black-grown sugar will never go back to the pre-war rate, because the natives are insisting on better conditions. We have to take into account the conditions outside Australia, and we must give the industry fair treatment. T am not talking of abnormal fluctuations, but if the normal price goes to a figure at which the industry is not protected by the duty, then irrespective of what may be said by sections of the people, it will certainly be the duty of the Nationalist Government to impose a duty which will insure that black-labour sugar shall not come into the country.
Under the last agreement, though not under the previous one, arrangements were made whereby sugar was sold in all the capital cities at the same price. The Government are now trying to arrange that the same arrangement shall con1 tinue. We are trying to insure that, as! under the last agreement, in each capital city sugar shall be purchasable at exactly the same price.
.- Th® speech we have just heard from the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) consisted largely ,off a commendation of Commonwealth control of the sugar industry. He has told us of all its virtues. If the honorable gentleman is sincere, why did he not see that the existing agreement was renewed ? He had an opportunity at the meeting of the present Parliament to bring about ‘a renewal, if he had the real interests of the industry at heart. Was he overpowered by that influence referred to by the ex-Prime, Minister ? He ‘quoted the fact that the mass of the growers had decided tol accept the Commonwealth proposal ‘as .am indication that they were satisfied with them. I say emphatically that the sugar r growers are not satisfied with the present proposals; on the contrary, they regard them as absolutely inadequate; but, under duress, and ‘after protest, they have accepted them as the lesser of two evils. The growers were advised by the Premier of Queensland, by the officials of the Sugar Associations, and by myself in a statement I gave ito one of the Brisbane newspapers, that, although, .the proposals were moat inadequate, unfair, and unreasonable, it would be better to accept them than to pass the control of the industry over to the Colonial Sugar Banning Company monopoly. There is the hope that with a change of Government we may be able to liberalize the conditions of the proposals put before the growers. The Prime Minister has told us that if the present cost of production does not decrease, it may be necessary, to reconsider the import’ duty. Is that a threat that the duty is to be wiped out, and we are to have black-grown sugar introduced into Australia?
– The Prime Minister said quite the opposite.
– The Prime Minister’s statement was very indefinite; but, at any rate, he said that the duty would have to be reconsidered. This question of duty is used to side track the issue. What the growers desired was a renewal of the sugar agreement. They were led to believe by. honorable members opposite, many of them representing Queensland constituencies, that there would be a renewal. This afternoon we have had the spectacle of a man who has failed in his duty to the industry submitting a motion for the adjournment of the House. I will not say one word against him personally, but I reserve the right to criticise him and his party on their political’ actions. The motion for the adjournment means nothing - it has “ no business in it,” and it will not further the interests of the industry one iota. “ It represents merely an electioneering stunt on the part of ‘a man who knows he has betrayed the trust reposed in him by the growers of the Herbert electorate. The die has already been cast. He has failed in his duty, and he now sings his political “ swan song “ in the form of a speech designed to throw dust in the eyes of the growers. It is practically six months since the general election ; and the honorable member for Herbert failed to take any action to redeem his election promises. During the campaign he made certain promises. This afternoon, however, he makes a speech after the Government proposals have been definitely settled. Why did he not take the first opportunity at the opening of the present Parliament to force this Government to do their duty?
– Because then he would not have been made Chairman of Committees.
– Was that the price he was paid to sacrifice the growers ?
– lt is not in order to impute motives to any honorable member of the Chamber. The honorable member must withdraw the imputation he has made.
– I do not wish to make any imputation, but it is very striking that the honorable member for Herbert has not lived up to the definite promises he made to the growers.
-Order! The honorable member must withdraw the imputation.
– As it is unparliamentary, I withdraw the imputation. We have had a sham fight this afternoon - a pretence that the honorable member for Herbert stands for the interests of the sugar-growers. When I put the case for the growers in this Chamber four months ago, I got no assistance whatever from the honorable member. The honorable member quoted largely from speeches delivered by the Prime Minister, but he did not quote from speeches he himself had made in the election campaign in favour of a renewal of the agreement - he did not quote definite promises he made to the vice-president of the United Cane-growers’, Association, Mr. W. B. Biggs.
– You have told us all this before.
– It is worth while repeating it, so that it may appear in Hansard. The matter is of too much importance to allow men like honorable members opposite to betray a great industry that .is worth £9,000,000 to the northern State, and then come along when everything is definitely settled to pretend they are the friends of the growers. If those honorable members do not rise and make their voices heard, I am not to be deceived; I stand by the people who sent me here to fight in their interests. Mr. W. B. Biggs, whom I have previously mentioned, asked the honorable member for Herbert, during the election campaign, whether he -was in favour of the sugar agreement, and the honorable member replied that he was agreeable to a renewal for a further term of five years. Then Mr. Biggs asked the honorable member whether, in the event of his party, as a party, refusing to vote for the renewal, he would cross the floor and vote against them, and to this the honorable member replied that he would, and, further, that, if returned, he would pledge himself to make it his business, at the first opportunity, to bring the extension of the agreement before the House, as that would give him an opportunity to put the acid test on the Country party and the Labour party, and prove their sincerity to the growers. Has the honorable member for Herbert made any such attempt? No; and he now finds himself in the lucrative position of Chairman of Committees. Not a word of pro-‘ test was offered by him when these inadequate proposals were made by the Prime Minister, and he now seeks to throw dust in our eyes by pretending that he is most wrathful because the . growers have been disgracefully treated. He now moves a motion for the adjournment of the House, which will be talked out, and will not help the industry in any way. Not only the honorable member for Herbert, but other honorable members opposite as well, have led the growers to believe that there would be a renewal of the agreement. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), as reported in the Brisbane Daily Mail of the 29th November, 1922, said-
Further sugar proposals will be submitted, and I feel confident that the existing sugar agreement will be renewed.
Every Nationalist candidate in Queensland said’ practically the same thing. Senator Crawford, speaking at Gordon Vale, on 6th November, said -
The opposition to the sugar agreement came from the very people one would have thought would have supported the recommendation - the Federal Country party. The Hughes Government had proved a great friend to them, and if returned would not withhold that assistance which had been given in the past. Those who considered their own interests in the north would see that they sent to the Federal Parliament as many supporters of the Nationalist Government as they had sent in the past, to enable the Prime Minister to place on the statute-book the legislation which it is necessary we should have.
Was that not leading the growers to believe that the agreement would be renewed? Then this is what was said by Senator Glasgow -
You should see for your own interests that not only Senator Crawford, but all supporters of the Nationalist Government, should be returned, so that the sugar industry would get not only the support it deserved, but help to prosper. »
Such statements were definitely made by Nationalist candidates.. I personally thought that there would be a renewal of the agreement before the election. It only required two or three honorable members opposite to take a definite ‘stand on behalf of the industry, when the Government would have been forced to take action. This, however, these honorable gentlemen failed to do. The Opposition, being in a minority, did not have the power. In the present Government. there are two Ministers representing Queensland electorates, and I ask whether they have done their duty to the industry. They declared in this House, and also on the hustings, that they were anxious for the welfare of the industry; but they entirely failed to do their duty.
The honorable member for Herbert this afternoon tried to “ side-track “ the issue by quoting an amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to the effect that an agreement be made in regard to sugar control, and that some provision should be made for fair and reasonable conditions for workers, and for the protection of consumers from exploitation by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. When that amendment was introduced it was, on the suggestion of the then Leader of the House, Mr. Massey Greene, ex-Member for Richmond, postponed until the following day ; but on the following day it was ruled out of order by a Nationalist Chairman of Committees. All this talk about an import duty is balderdash. It is not the duty that is worrying us to-day. I shall insist, when necessary, that an effective duty be imposed. The world’s parity for sugar is approximately £30 a ton, and it would cost about £39 a ton to land sugar in Australia; yet the Government propose to give the growers £27 a ton: This is an absolutely inadequate price.The Government will only impose an embargo against black-grown sugar for two years. I want it for five years. The sugar industry of Queensland saved the consumers of Australia £17,000,000 during the war, and enabled them to obtain sugar more cheaply than it could be bought in any other part of the world . The jam manufacturers were able to get sugar for export at a price in the vicinity of £26 12s. 6d., although the English manufacturers were at the same time paying £48 10s. Further, the Australian manufactures got a rebate of £4 5s. 7d. per ton on the sugar contents of the fruit shipped to England’, so that they practically got their sugar at £22 per ton, as against the English price of £48 10s. To show what the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) thought of the Tariff business, I should like to quote what he said, as reported in the Brisbane Courier of 14th November, 1922-
Concerning the vote on the Tariff, the Government’s motion was brought forward when it would not be given effect to. The Government’s motion was only an electioneering dodge. , . The Labour party got up and . moved a 1 notice that in lieu of the Tariff the agreement should be- renewed, and the Government used all the forms of the House to prevent that going to a vote. That showed that it was. a. pure electioneering dodge.
Senator Crawford, according to the Brisbane Courier, said this at Mackay -
Amidst interruption,, Senator, Crawford said that the increased duty meant 8s. a ton more for cane next year, and if the extra £2 was granted it would mean an additional 5s. The Nationalist Government stood pledged to adequately protect the sugar industry.
The result has, proved that- it does not mean that at all. Instead of an increase the growers’ get a reduction.What was required was a renewal of the agreement. Writing to the Brisbane Daily Mail, on the 29th June, Mr. W. B. Biggs, vicepresident of the United Cane-growers’ Association, Proserpine, said -
Mr. Mackay, M.H.R. is reported as stating that “ if the duty on sugar was increased, the embargo could ‘be scrapped,” and, further, that “ sugar-growers, asked for this increase or a continuance- of the embargo for five years.” I wish to state emphatically that,, so - far as my association is concerned, they stood steadfastly for the continuance of the sugar agreement. . . . It is a. mistake to say that we consider a Tariff duty affords us the same protection as either the continuance of the agreement or thePool and five years embargo.
– The honorablemember’s time has expired.
.- I am sorry that I did not hear the opening remarks of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), but I have heard sufficient to enable me to offer a word or two to the House on a matter of which most honorable members who were in the last Parliament have already heard more: than enough The story will be within the scope of your reading, Mr., Speaker;, of one’ Saul of Tarsus,, who> when on a journey, was overcome’ by a visitation, of the Spirit, smitten prone, and rose up a changed main, preaching a gospel that he had formerly denied. I have listened with very great attention to the speeches’ of those who, but a little while ago, found no good in the sugar agreement. I have waited to hear from those sitting near me on this side of the House some signs of disapproval of . the new gospel that falls from the lips of the Ministers, but I have not done so. Others may have been more fortunate than I. It gives great hope for the future of mankind to note the speed and completeness of so remarkable a conversion. It seems but yesterday that I listened to a torrent of invective from honorable members on this side of the House. They said there was nothing good in the agreement ; that from it emanated nothing but rottenness; that it imposed intolerable hardships upon the people of this country ; that by it the faces of the poor were being ground in the dust. All these things, and many more, we heard. There were investigations and a trial by jury, or what passes, for want of abetter word, as trial by jury - there was an appeal to . the people. I found myself surrounded by cohorts of men who did not believe in the agreement, and smote it hip and thigh. I am speaking, of course, of the ‘ agreement which expired the other day. I have been a believer all my life in such things,, but I am only one, and although Horatius did great deeds at the bridge, he had two to support him. I could not find two - at any rate, I could not find, enough. I now discover that the honorable members who denounced the agreement were under a misapprehension, and that there was nothing, but good in it. The right honorable the Prime Minister has removed from many honorable members a misapprehension which pressed, on them like a black cloud, in which they have moved for many months, seeking light and finding none. The cloud has now passed away, and the prospect is clear, beautiful, and delightful. They now see that they were grievously mistaken in denouncing the sugar agreement as a thing of evil. They are now assured that it saved the sugar industry, and the Commonwealth, and gave to the people the cheapest sugar in the world. There have been such assurances from both sides: of the House, and unanimity where there was formerly violent; contention, and it seems: that . no one remains, who denies that the sugar agreement was an excellent thing.
The Government have imposed an embargo at the request of the sugar-growers of Queensland who have indeed been somewhat insistent about the matter. The Government, in the circumstances, thought - for reasons that are fairly obvious - that it would be desirable to impose an embargo. It is asserted that the sugar-growers are quite satisfied with what has been done, but this I take leave bo doubt. I have known them for a. good while, and I have -never known them to be satisfied. Perhaps, in this age of miracles, even their satisfaction is not to be despaired of. But, as things are at present,, it is nonsense for an honorable gentleman to say that the growers are satisfied. They are not satisfied. Having to choose between two evils, they selected the lesser. I want to say - and I say it to the Queensland sugar-growers, who, I hope, will find in my utterance some consolation - that the circumstances which made it desirable for the Government to impose an embargo for two years will continue to operate, so that when the period for which the present embargo is imposed has expired, the embargo will’ be extended. This extension will be the soundest wisdom. It is impossible to run an industry like the sugar industry from, ‘hand to mouth, from year to year. Stability is essential. The growers must know where they are before they plant. It is perfectly absurd - I say it with all respect - to have an embargo for only two years. At the end of next year the people engaged in the industry will want to know what to do; they will want to know whether they are to plant again, and, if so,, ‘what return they will receive. The world’s price for sugar may then be down to £14 f.o.h. Java. Sugar cannot be produced in Australia for £14, plus freight and interest charges; and therefore, in those circumstances, and in the absence of a renewal of the embargo, sugar-growers will’ lose heart and plant less cane. The recognition of facts is the best evidence of wisdom. The sugar industry of Australia is a great and powerful fact, and long may it exert its power for this benefit of this country. The political situation being what it is, there can be no reasonable doubt that the embargo will* be extended beyond the present term.
Having said so much, I think I. ought to say a word about the honorable- member for Capricornia, who has1 been very severe towards some other Queensland . representatives. He must not forget that in an absolutely fair, clear appeal to the people in December last, when two policies and two parties were before them, they deliberately chose the policy supported by the honorable member for Herbert and other honorable gentlemen who sit on this side of the House. They did this for excellent reasons. They knew that it was my intention, if I could find a majority in favour of my policy, to impose such conditions as would maintain the stability of the industry. Stability is the most important consideration ; prices are merely incidental. The price which is sufficient to-day may be insufficient to-morrow, and vice versa”. As to duties, the honorable member cannot forget that when I, last year, standing at the table as Prime Minister, asked the ‘House to agree to certain duties which were considered by the Government to be necessary, I failed to find support: The honorable member’s colleagues all voted against the higher duty.’ The honorable gentleman has said1 something about electioneering. I would’ remind him that every sugar agreement, except the first, was made by me after, and not before, an election. I am gratified that the agreement should now be regarded as a good and necessary thing. I shall support the arrangement made by the Government, but I am not in favour of the limitation of the embargo to ‘ two years. I say nothing about price; that is a matter to ‘be threshed out between the growers and the Government. The Government is , the custodian and guardian of the people’s rights. It represents’ the whole people, and has to deal with the sugar industry as a business proposition. Perhaps I was not firm enough in my attitude when I agreed to fix £30 6”s. 8d. as the price of sugar under the agreement’, but I think I was right. I shall support the Government with my vote and voice, but I believe the agreement should be extended. I shall say nothing more about that at present, but in the fullness of time, when it becomes necessary to extend it, I shall vote for ah extension. One word more. The Prime Minister sought to draw a. vital distinc-tion between the .policies of “control” and “ embargo.” There is no real distinction. . The placing of such an obstacle in the way of private enterprise is equivalent to State control. For all practical purposes the embargo creates conditions similar to those under the agreement. Clearly it is an interference by the State with private enterprise.
.- The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) said that the sugar industry cannot live from hand to mouth. That is true. I am in agreement with the Government to a certain extent. I believe that the industry should be protected ,by a Tariff, rather than by an agreement. I indorse the Government’s view that the sugar industry is essential to the welfare of Australia; but I do not approve of an embargo for only two years. It is not sufficient protection. The industry should be protected by means of an adequate Customs duty. It should be insured stability by granting such protection as will at all times safeguard the industry. The fluctuations of price are so great and so rapid in the sugar-producing countries of the world that it would be impossible for a fixed Tariff to safeguard the interests of those engaged in the industry in Australia.
– Is the honorable gentleman in favour of placing all industries on the same basis?
– It is the misfortune of the Queensland sugar industry that the question of protecting it comes before the House at a time when the general Tariff is not being considered. When the Tariff was under discussion, no industry sought the meed of protection that it deserved without securing it, but when the sugar industry appealed, it appealed in vain. I admit that the duty of £9 6s. 8d. is adequate at the present time. That is because the world’s parity is high. When the world’s parity is low, however, that duty will be inadequate. The consideration of the sugar industry should be approached through a series of questions. We should ask ourselves whether the industry is essential to Australia. If the reply is in the affirmative, we should ask, “ At what price can sugar be produced in this country?” I assume that the price agreed upon by the Govern- i ment, namely, £27, represents the cost of producing sugar to-day, but I would like honorable members to understand that although £27 has been guaranteed, that is not the effective price to the industry.
The Pool will have to stand certain charges. Rebates will have to be made to manufacturing concerns. It is difficult to estimate the amount of those rebates, but it is generally considered that they will be about 4s. a ton. In addition, the Queensland Government, and those connected with the Pool, will have to finance its operations. If the operations carried out under the agreement with the Commonwealth Government are a criterion, we can estimate the interest and other charges incidental to the working of a Pool at approximately 13s. or 14s. per ton. Allowing a small margin, the effective price for raw sugar will work out at about £26 per ton. It is impossible for sugar to be produced in Australia at less than £26 per ton, if adequate wages are to be paid to those engaged in the industry and interest and other charges are to be met. In 1918, I travelled through .the sugar districts of North Queensland. The first agreement had then been in operation about twelve months, but the condition of the mills, tramways, and fields was such as did not permit of economical working.The industry had been starved in the past, and had not been given that measure of Protection to which it was entitled, but after the passing of the agreement, assuring the industry adequate Protection for a few years ahead, the mill-owners and growers immediately placed orders for thousands of pounds worth of new machinery and repairs to existing plant. Those who argue that the workers in -the sugar fields are overpaid, have never been on the canefields. There is no more exacting work than that performed by the cane-cutters, and it must be remembered that their employment is seasonal, lasting for only a few months in each year. On a basis of £26 peT ton for raw sugar, the refined article could be retailed at 4$d. per lb., and that, I. submit, is a reasonable price to ask the people to pay. Having regard to the increased price charged for almost every commodity of daily use as compared with the prices ruling five and six years ago, an advance in the retail price of sugar from 3d. to 4jd. is not unreasonable. The people of Australia should be prepared to pay that price in order to insure the continuance of the- sugar industry and the preservation of all that it means to Queensland, in particular, and the Commonwealth in general. The Government would do well to so re-arrange the Protective duty that, no matter what i the price might be overseas or the conditions of freights and insurance, imported sugar could not be retailed in Australia at less than 4£d. per lb. The duty would require to be a movable one. A fixed duty of £9, or even £14, per ton would be futile, because, whilst it might be adequate in one year, it might be totally insufficient in other years to protect the industry. If the Tariff were amended in the manner I suggest, the people of Australia would be assured of sugar at a reasonable price, and those engaged in the industry would have a guarantee of settled conditions. The sugar issue is a big one; it means much to Queensland, and to Australia as a whole, and I regret that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), introduced into his speech personalities, which will tend to belittle this debate in the minds of the people.
– Will the honorable member move that the time allowed for this debate be extended for an hour?
– In view of the fact that the subject of this discussion is of vital concern, not only to members of the House, but also to the people of Australia generally, and because I know that other members from Queensland desire to address themselves to the , question, I move - -
That the, time . allowed’ by the Standing Orders for the discussion of the motion be extended by one hour.
– The extension of the time allowed for the debate is a matter within the discretion of the House. Standing order 119 provides -
If all motions shall not. have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and unless the House otherwise order, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation.
It is within the power of the House to order that the Orders of the Day shall not now be called on, and thus prevent an interruption of the debate.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders - Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) day, the occupation, of the time of the House in discussing the sugar question does not concern the Government as much as it would on a day when Government .business had precedence. If it is the wish of the House that this debate snail be continued, and honorable members who have notices of motion on the business-paper for to-day offer no opposition, the Government have no objection to the time allowed by the Standing Orders for tha debate on the adjournment motion being extended as the honorable member for Oxley has proposed.
.- I am not agreeable that private members should lose the opportunity of submitting to the House motions of which they have given notice. There are matters on the business-paper equally as important as the sugar question. If the House will be afforded another opportunity of dealing with my motion in regard to the meeting of the Tenth Parliament at Canberra, I shall offer no opposition to the extension of this debate on the motion for adjournment.
– The honorable member’s motion can be made an Order of the Day for next Thursday. t
– If the Government will afford opportunity for that I shall withdraw any objection to the proposal for an extension of time.
– We have no .objection to the motion being dealt with on that day.
– The House, not having decided within two hours after its meeting, to extend the time for the debate on the motion for adjournment, I have no option but to instruct the Clerk to call on the Orders of the Day.
Debate accordingly interrupted /under standing order 119.
– Cannot questions upon notice be answered to-day?
– Standing order 119 provides that the Orders of the Day - not the business of the day - shall be called on if motions have not been disposed of within two hours after the meeting of the House. Questions upon notice cannot be ‘answered to-day, except by leave of the House.
That the resumption of the debate on the following motion by- Mr. Mahony : -
That His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be respectfully requested to summon the first meeting of the Tenth Parliament at the Federal Capital, Canberra - be mad6 an Order of the Day for Thursday new.
Mr. CHARLTON (Hunter) £4.33].- I move -
That a Select Committee be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the statements made by the late Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and the ex-Prime Minister (the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes) reflecting oh the character of ex-Gunner Yates, with power to recommend compensation if deemed necessary.
The character of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was seriously besmirched by certain statements that were made in this House and elsewhere under privilege. Had those statements been made outside Parliament there is no doubt that the honorable member would have sought redress in the law Courts; but, as they were made under cover of privilege, he is denied that opportunity of re-establishing his reputation. Honorable members will ‘admit that a man’s character is his most cherished possession, and no one is justified in casting aspersions upon any member, under cover of privilege, that are incapable of being sustained’ outside the Chamber. At the time when the statements complained of were made the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was not a member of this Chamber. _ He consequently had no opportunity of refuting charges made in his absence. It is well known to honorable members that he was a member of this House when the war broke out, and although it was not necessary for him to offer his services, because he had more than reached the age limit for enlistment, he considered it his duty to enlist and do his part in the war. After he returned he was defeated in an election for this House, and certain statements were made here which reflected on his character, and also his action as a member of the Australian Imperial Force. I find that on the 19th March, 1920, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, speak ing from his place in this House, made the following statement, which can be found at page 626 of Hansard for that year :-
There were in the last Parliament a couple of gentlemen who sat behind the honorable gentleman (Mr. Tudor) who wore the uniform of soldiers; but though I am not a soldier, I say deliberately I was a good deal nearer the Front very many times than ever they were.
That was a very strong statement to make, reflecting, as it did, upon two members of this House who had served at the Front. Unless there was evidence to justify it, it should not have been made, and especially under privilege, when the honorable members reflected upon’ had no opportunity of taking action to vindicate their character from the aspersions oast upon them.
– The honorable member will find an answer to his question in what I have still to say. At page 627 of Hansard for the same date, it will be found that Mr. Hughes further said-
A man can scarcely be said to be a man of war whose services during the war consisted chiefly in passing from one arm of the Forces to another. I think that can be said of one honorable member then on the opposite side of the House, who I think had experience of every arm of the Service.
That this statement was made with reference to Gunner Yates was not denied by Mr. Hughes. It would be hard to conceive a more damaging statement about a soldier and a man who was then an exmember of this House and unable to defend himself in this chamber. Honorable members will agree that there is nothing against which we should be more on our guard than the making of charges without justification, whether the persons charged are members of this House or outside of it. This charge against Mr. Yates was very hurtful, not only to himself, but to his family. It was a reflection on the husband and father, and they naturally resent it very much. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), in order to clear up all doubt as 1 to the persons to whom the then Prime Minister referred, asked some questions on the matter in this chamber, which will supply an answer to the interjection by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr.
Maxwell). The honorable member askedthe following questions: -
I wish honorable members to keep these questions in mind. The answers supplied to them were -
The answer to Question No. 6 by the Acting Minister for Defence at the- time (General Ryrie) is the one to which great exception is taken: It was -
Here was a deliberate reply on the floor of this House,- the only inference from which was that Gunner Yates shirked his duty and was afraid to enter the firing line.
– Has the accuracy of the answer to that question been challenged ?
– Yes, and the whole matter inquired into.
– An inquiry was held into the matter by a Committee appointed for the purpose, consistingof Lt. -Colonel H. E. Cohen, C.M.G., D. S.O. (Chairman); Sir Robert Best, K.C.M.G., M.H.R. ; and the Hon. T. J. Ryan, K.C., M.H.R. The Committee sat at the Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, on Monday, 20th September, 1920. They took evidence on the questions I have just read, and this was their unanimous report and finding -
In accordance with the intimation made by the Assistant Minister for Defence in the House of Representatives on’ the 5th May, 1920, the members of the Committee then nominated mutually agreed on Lieut.-Colonel Harold Cohen, C.M.G., D.S.O., as chairman. The committee met on 20th August last, and agreed upon the following questions as being the basis for the inquiry of the Committee’: -
Are the statements or anyi of them : made in the reply given in the House of Representatives to the questions asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh as to the services of Mr. G. E. Yates in the Australian Imperial Force misleading or incorrect; and, if so, in what respect?
Are the statements of Mr. G. E. Yates as to his . services in the Australian Imperial Force as set out in his letters to the Hon. F. Tudor, and read in the House of Representatives on 22nd April, 1920, correct?
On the instruction of the chairman, the Secretary for Defence and Mr. G. E. Yates were communicated with and invited to submit the names ofany . persons whom they desired to appear before the committee as witnesses.
On the 20th September instant the committee sat in public at the Victoria Barracks and took the evidence of Brigadier-General C. H. Foot, C.B., C.M.G.; Major J. M. Lean, Major G. Retchford, Lieut.-Colonel H. O. Caddy, C.M.G.,. D.S.O. ; Messrs. Ernest Herrick and Selby Caprom, late of the Australian Imperial Force; Mr. T. Trumble, Secretary for Defence, and Mr. G. E. Yates. Mr. G. E. Yates was invited to question witnesses.
Having considered the evidence and exhibits your Committee answers the questions above set out as follows : -
The statements made in the reply given in the House of Representatives to the sixth question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh as to the services of Mr. G. E. Yates in the Australian Imperial Force were misleading or incorrect, inasmuch as Mr. G. E. Yates did participate in the offensive which commenced on the 8th day of August, 1918. in the engagements at Villers-Bretonneux on 15th June, 1918, Morlancourt on 29th July, 1918, and Hamel on the 4th July, 1918.
That finding was signed by Harold Cohen, the Chairman, and the other members of the Board.
– It waa the officer who was in charge of Gunner Yates who supplied the evidence.
– It was upon the evidence of military officers that the finding I have quoted was arrived at. I have outlined the position. This man has suffered great ^injustice. No matter what we do, we cannot really redress the wrong done to his personal character. Nothing can make amends for the great sufferings endured by his wife and family because of these statements. I can imagine nothing so injurious to a man than that it should be said of him that, after enlisting and going abroad, he was afraid to face the enemy. That is the charge, and there is no escape from it.
– It has been withdrawn.
– That is so, but the honorable member for Adelaide is not satisfied with the withdrawal. If he had been in a position to take action outside, he certainly would have done so to defend his character. He wants a Committee of this House to inquire into the whole matter. The charges were made in this House under cover of privilege, and only members of this House can deal with them. He asks for the appointment of a Committee the members of which may recommend compensation if they so desire. That will be for them to decide after hear- ing the evidence. The statement that the honorable member received compensation has been circulated in the newspapers, but I wish to deny that. He received no compensation other than about £16 or £17-
– The amount was . £17 out-of-pocket expenses. That, was’ not J compensation, and was not intended as such.
– So that it is clear that the statement which has appeared in the press, that the honorable member received compensation, is without foundation. The honorable member did what he believed to be his duty during the war. I speak subject to correction, but I believe he was forty-six years of age, or over the age limit for enlistment, when, he enlisted, but he gave his services, and went abroad to fight for his country.
– Who made these unfounded charges against him ? ,
-The ex-Prime Minister (the Right Hon. W. M. Hughes).
– He >ought to pay for them.
– He was backed up in the charges he made by the then Acting Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). There are two people implicated in that matter. The position is not very satisfactory to the honorable member for Adelaide, nor would it be to any other honorable- member if he were in the same position. The fact remains that a stigma attaches to the honorable member because the reflection upon him emanated from this House. No matter what Minister may he in power, they should not allow their political, animus to carry them, so far as to make statements reflecting upon an honorable member’s character. I hope that the House will show its resentment of what was done by appointing a Committee of Inquiry, consisting of, say, two members from the Opposition and three from the other side.
– Does the honorable member not think that the motion goes too far when it asks that statements which have been disproved should again be in- . quired into? We should not re-open the matter. Is it not merely a question of compensation to the honorable member?
– I should say that the Committee would probably accept the evidence that has already been adduced, but that would be entirely for the Committee to decide. What the honorable member for Adelaide himself wants is that the whole matter should be inquired into, and that he should be awarded whatever compensation may be deemed proper. No matter what compensation might be paid, it would not in any way ease the cruel blow that has been inflicted upon himself and his family.
– Who should pay the compensation T
– That matter, also, should be left to the Committee.
– Is the honorable member, for Adelaide not satisfied with the vindication of the Committee that pre- viously investigated the matter?
– He asks for compensation. In my twenty years’ political experience I have never previously placed a motion on the list of private (members’ business relating) to an honorable member personally, and I only do so in this case because I feel that a great injustice has been done.
Mr.Whitsitt. -Has the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) publicly apologized to the honorable member for Adelaide?
– Not to my knowledge. Let the Committee go into the whole question, and give its decision, so that the matter can be cleared up once and for all.
– I hope that the motion will be agreed to. Statements made concerning the war service of the honorable member for Adelaide had a good deal of influence during the election at which he was defeated. Being one of the vigorous members on the Labour side, he hits hard, and, of course, he receives hard knocks in return. These we do not object to, providing they are fair. Only this week he is engaged in a libel case in South Australia,, where the press have made lying statements about him. A sum of money has been tendered in satisfaction of the claim, but the honorable member has asked for more. He may be said to have had a ‘ ‘ rough spin at the war. He was deprived of the full amount of leave that some of his comrades were allowed, and he was hurried back to Australia. . Instead, of receiving more kindly treatment because he was a member of Parliament - as some honorable members did - the honorable member for Adelaide fared worse than the majority of the rank and file.
– This subject has been sprung upon me, and I have not had much time to look into it. It seems that no Committee that could be appointed could do more than has been done by the Committee that has already investigated the case. Beyond doubt, all charges made against the honorable member for Adelaide have been shown to have no foundation in fact. That has been admitted, for some time. I notice that on the 14th April, 1920, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked several questions regarding the military service of the honorable member for Adelaide, and one of his questions was : -
Is it a fact that the 50th Battery was engaged in the raid on Villers-Bretonneux on 15th June, 1918; Morlancourt, 29th July, 1918; the talcing of Hamel, 4th July, 1918; and the big offensive of 8th August, 1918, during which time Gunner Yates formed one of the gun crew ?
The Assistant Minister replied -
Yes, as far as the Battery was concerned, but it cannot be ascertained whether Gunner Yates formed one of a gun crew in the engagements at Villers-Bretonneux, Morlancourt, or the taking of Hamel. Before commencing the big offensive, on 8th August, 1918, the 13th Field Artillery Brigade formed a dump of surplus stores and baggage at Blangy-Trenville, near Amiens, and it is understood Gunner Yates was one of a small guard which remained there until 25th October, 1918, or later, and, therefore, did not participate in the big offensive.
Vigorous, protests against the alleged unfair treatment meted out to Gunner Yates were made in the House at various times, and1 a Committee of Inquiry, of which Lieutenant-Colonel H. E. Cohen, C.M.G., D.S.O., was chairman, was appointed to inquire whether the reply given, by the Assistant Minister was misleading or incorrect. The Committee eventually furnished the following report: -
The statement made in the reply given in the House ofRepresentatives to the sixth question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh as to the services of Mr. G.E. Yates in the Australian Imperial Force was misleading or incorrect, inasmuch as Mr. G. E. Yates did participate in the offensive which commenced on the 8th day of August, and in the engagement at Villers-Bretonneux on 15th June, 1918; Morlancourt on 29th July, 1918, and Hamel on 4th July, 1918.
The report was laid upon the table by the Assistant Minister on 29th September, 1920, with a full explanation of the circumstances, and an expression of regret that the answers given should have been , responsible for placing Mr. Yates under a cloud. During the discussion which ensued, the late Mr. Tudor said -
This case arose originally when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was moving the second reading of the first of the two war gratuity Bills. He stated first, that we have not a single returned soldier on this side of the House, and he added that he had been nearer to the Front than two of those returned soldiers who had been on this side. I interjected, and was promptly called to order by yourself, sir, but I was able to get in one name, at any rate. Mr. Yates learned of the incident, and considered it a reflection upon himself personally, taking the view that he was one of those to whom the Prime Minister referred.
On 14th October, the late Mr. Tudor asked what action the Government intended to take to compensate ex-Gunner Yates, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) approved of the recommendation of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that any reasonable expenses incurred by ex-Gunner Yates in, connexion with the inquiry be paid by the Commonwealth Government, but that no sum of money be paid by way of compensation. Out-of -pocket expenses to the amount of £17,. the amount asked for, were paid to ex-Gunner Yates. The Assistant Minister stated in the House, on 24th November, that he did not consider the Government under any obligation to pay anything more. On 28th February, 1923, Mr. Yates asked^-
Will the Minister for Defence lay on the table, or make available to me, the evidence taken at the inquiry into the misleading information given to this House in regard to my war services ?
My reply was that the report of the Committee, together with the minutes of evidence, were laid on the table of the House on 29th September, 1920. I do not think any statement could have been more clear or more unreserved than that made by the Assistant Minister, who obtained the leave of the House to lay the papers, on the table and make a statement. He said -
I lay upon the table the report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the military service of Mr. G. E. Yates, formerly a member of this House. Honorable members are aware of the circumstances leading up to the appointment of the Committee. On 14th April, I furnished answers to six ‘questions relating to Mr. Yates, asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). Those questions and answers will be found on page 1117 of Hansard..
Then the Assistant Minister quoted the question and answer which have already been quoted by myself. He also read the report thereon iby the Committee. He continued -
The Committee also reported that the statement of Mr. Yates as tohis services with the Australian Imperial Force, as set out in’ his letters to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and read inthe House of Representatives on 22nd April, 1920, are correct. I wish to express profound regret that answers given by me in this House should have been responsible for putting Mr. Yates under a cloud and casting aspersions upon his service as a soldier. Whilst not wishing to qualify that expression of regret in any way, I shall explain to the House how I came to give the incorrect answers.
When the questions were put before my Department they were referred, as a matter of course, to the Officer Commanding Base Records, Major Lean, who supplied the. following information : - 1.No. 38614 Gunner G. E. Yates served with 9th Reinforcements, 5tb Pioneer Battalion,, from 16th December, 1916, to 16th January, 1917 (no record of leave during this period).
The 9th Reinforcements, 5th Pioneer Battalion, embarked for overseas on. the 10th February, 1917. 3: Gunner Yates embarked for overseas with the 32nd Artillery Reinforcements on 26th November, 1917.
No record of service with another unit abroad.
Yes. Taken on strength and posted to 50th Battery in France on 23rd May, 1918.
Served with 50th Battery from. 23rd May, 1918, to 14th October, 1918 (engagements not known) .
As to whether he formed part, of a gun’s crew . can only . be definitely stated by his. Commanding Officer; perhaps Lieutenant-Colonel H. 0. Caddy, C.M.G.,. D.S.O., who commanded his’ Brigade, can supply some, information on this subject. Nothing is shown onhis records as to “recruiting, leave.” .
Brigadier-General Foote thereupon communicated with Colonel Caddy, at “Trevamo,” Avoca-avenue, St. Kilda, as follows-. -
Dear Colonel Caddy,
The following is one of a series of questions, by Mr. Makin, M.P., to. be answered in Parliament by the Minister for Defence on Wednesday next, the 14th instant, in regard to Mr. G. E. Yates, late M.P. for Adelaide, and. ex-gunner, 13th F.A. Brigade, ‘A.I.F.: -
Is it a fact that the 50th Battery was engaged in the raid on VillersBretonneux on 15th June, 1918, Morlancourt, 29th July, 1918, the; taking’ of Hamel, 4th July,, 19.18, and the. big offensive of . 9th August, 1918, during which time Gunner Yates formed one of a gun crew.
I shall, be glad, if you could furnish me with any information’ on the subject. _ The favour of a reply by return of post is requested.
This is the reply sent by Colonel Caddy to Brigadier-General Foote, on the 11th’ April: -
Dear General Foote,
Re your inquiry of the’ 10th instant,. No. 38614 Gunner Yates waa taken, on the strength of the;’ 13th Brigade, A.F.A., A.I.F. and (posted to the 50th Battery on 23rd May, 1918, and was evacuated sick on 15th October, 1918.
That battery fired portion of the barrage which was required in support of a raid near Viilers-Bretonneux on the. 15th June, 1918,, and was in action near Fouilly
I at the time. Similarly, the Battery participated in a. minor operation near Morlancourt on 29th July, 1918, and also in the Hamel operation of 4th July, 1918. I cannot say whether Gunner Yates formed part of one of the. 50th. Battery gun detachments or not. I have no records showing that. Possibly hia B.C. may remember.
– This is all “old” news.
– I am merely reminding honorable membersof what took place in the House - of the absolute- withdrawal and apology made by the honorable member for. Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) when representing the ‘ Minister for Defence. I cannot- see what good purpose can be served by the appointment of a Select Committee.
– What harm can an inquiry do?
– But what good can one do?
– Will the Government place a sum on the Estimates for compensation?
– My attention has not been called directly to the question of compensation j I thought the object was to clear the character of Gunner Yates, and I am now pointing out that that object was achieved some time ago.
– The ex-Prime Minister has not taken up the same attitude, and I remind the Minister for Defence that he has not referred to that right honorable gentleman.
– I do not know any thing about the attitude . of the ex-Prime Minister, but whether the right honorable gentleman does or does not withdraw, the statements he made were absolutely without foundation in fact. That was disclosed to the House in 1920, when the honorable member for Warringah withdrew his statement and apologized for it. I repeat that I do not see what good can be gained by the appointment of a Select Committee.
– It would clear matters up.
– Matters have been cleared up as far as they can be.
– There is the question of compensation. >
– If the honorable member is relying on compensation I do not see how the Government can give it.’
– A sum might be put on the Estimates.
– That could be done, of course; but it would be most undesirable to establish a precedent of the sort. I suggest that the- Leader of the Opposition consent to the adjournment of the debate.
– What is the good, if you say that ‘the Government, cannot grant compensation?
– I have not looked carefully into that phase of the question, but, while of opinion that compensation. should not be given, I shall place the matter before the Cabinet?
– Why not compensate the honorable member for Adelaide for any damage he has suffered ?
– Because the damage was not done by the Government, or any officer of the Government.
.- I may be somewhat at a disadvantage in speaking on this motion, seeing that I do not possess the same knowledge of the question as do other honorable members. All I know of the case is what I have heard this afternoon; but, even so, I submit that the fact does not disqualify me from forming an opinion. I am astounded that a member of the presentGovernment can take up the attitude of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden). An honorable member of this House stands here to-day on his defence. He was violently attacked by the exPrime Minister (Mr. Hughes), when that gentleman occupied the position of Prime Minister. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has been attacked also by the ex-Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and his honour has been seriously impugned. If a guttersnipe makes a foul charge he does not do much’ harm, but if a man occupying the highest position to which one can attain in Australia, makes a charge against a man’s character and honour, and that charge is confirmed by . the Minister for Defence for the time being, it can readily be understood how that man may suffer. In New South Wales I have heard, time after time, that Gunner Yates has suffered very much on account of the charges, which were made against him in this House, and which were given full publicity throughout Australia by means of Hansard. This afternoon^ for the first time, I hear that some committee was appointed outside this House to inquire “ into the -matter, and that the ‘charges were ascertained to be entirely unfounded. It must be remembered that these charges were made in this House, and it is only right that in this House they should be investigated; the same publicity should be given to the vindication of Gunner Yates’ character as was given to the charges.
– The same publicity hae been given.
– I am afraid not; in the Labour world of New South Wales, at least, where GunnerYates’ character has greatly suffered, the_same publicity has not been given to the refutation of the charges. Personally, I never heard of the report of this committee of inquiry until this afternoon, and I am glad that there is such a document in existence. I am astounded to find it recognised and conceded that the ex-Prime Minister and Senator Pearce have made statements that are entirely untrue and unfounded, but I am more astounded to find the view expressed on behalf of the Government that no good can come from the appointment of a Select Committee. The honour of Gunner Yates is involved, and it is the duty of the Government to guard the honour of our returned soldiers. Gunner Yates is not only a returned soldier, but also a member of this House, and if we cannot look to the members of the Government to guard our honour to whom can we look? If honorable members put themselves in the place of Gunner Yates - if they realize that his honour has been attacked without his having any means of defence - they will see that some good must come of an inquiry of the kind suggested. It will be the business of the Select Committee to find whether or not . Gunner Yates has suffered sufficiently in body or mind to justify compensation. All ‘we ask the Government to dois to appoint a Select Committee, in order that justice may be done; and a self-respecting Government can do no less than grant the request.
.- As has been pointed out, it is exceedingly difficult to make complete redress in a case of slander and defamation of character. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) has shown that the refutation did not receive the same publicity or notoriety as the original utterances. The motion is for a Select Committee to inquire into the statements made by the ex-Prime Minister and others. I ventured to say, by way of interjection, andI now repeat, that, in my opinion, there should not be any further inquiry into the merits of the charges. Those charges have been effectively disposed of by a highly competent committee, which was, if not for mally appointed by the House, at least agreed’ to by honorable members, seeingthat the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. T. J. Ryan, was selected by his colleagues of the Labour party to act upon it, and that the selected members approved of an eminently . suitable chairman in the person of Colonel Cohen. The Board completely exonerated Mr. Yates from the charges levelled against him. Nothing could have been more complete or more satisfactory, in that respect, than the findings of the Board. Therefore, I do not wish to see the question re-opened. It is conceivable - although it is a remote possibility^that on less reliable evidence a less satisfactory finding might eventuate. On this occasion the result was, as we expected it to be, highly satisfactory to the honorable member concerned, and, as we all believe, entirely consistent with the facts. .
There is the further question of redress for the injured person to be considered. Redress or compensation should be made to the honorable member, and the question arises, Who should make it? I can see some objections to the Government placing a vote upon the Estimates for that purpose, one being that the taxpayers as a whole should not be saddled with the responsibility of paying for the wild and foolish utterances of members of this House, or of individuals outside it. I can see, on the other hand, very good reasons why certain persons should pay compensation to the honorable member. I can see very sound reasons, for instance, why members of the former Government who ‘ individually, or through their agents, misrepresented the position, should pay compensation to the gentleman whom they, by their negligence or malice, as the case may be, injured. It has been rightly said in this House, to-day, that before statements are made reflecting upon the honour of a member of the House very great care shpuld be taken to ascertain the facts. When questions are placed upon the notice-paper, as they were in this case by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and the Minister to whom they are addressed knows that they relate to a delicate and important matter involving the honour of a member of this House, he, and the responsible officers of his Department, should make sure that no haphazard answer is tendered, but’ that a very careful reply, based upon irrefutable evidence, is given. It has transpired that such irrefutable evidence was available, and it has, in fact, been made public. Therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that some person should be made responsible for what has occurred. Responsibility, morally, if ‘ not legally, for privilege protects honorable members from legal responsibility; but undoubtedly the former Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), and, officers in the Defence Department, are to blame. False information was supplied to the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who made the reckless statements reflecting upon the honour of an honorable member. Although moral responsibility attaches, we cannot punish those responsible, because they are protected by privilege. As we cannot reach them, the question arises, will this House, as a corporate body, say that it has no responsibility because certain honorable members who are protected by privilege have not the decency and manliness to come forward and make compensation? This House has such responsibility. If the Minister and the ex-Prime Minister are so blind to their duty as to refuse to do the right thing, and if we cannot reach those officers in the Defence Department who supplied the false information, then Parliament should not shirk its obligation. The Minister, instead of saying “ I do not see that we should pay compensation,” should say, “ In some way or other it must be done, and Parliament is the only body, in the last resort, that can do it.” Although, as a taxpayer, I do not enjoy the prospect of being called upon to pay for the wild, virulent, and venomous statements of members sitting on the Government side of the House. I would rather carry my part of the burden than that the honorable member for Adelaide should have to bear the stigma of misrepresentation without redress.
.- I have listened to* the speeches of honorable members with a feeling of sadness. It appears to me that the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made a statement which damaged the character of a man who had fought for him. He has shamed his name and stained his fame, and has insulted his best friend in ex-Gunner
Yates. Until he has apologized to the honorable member for Adelaide I suggest that, when he rises to address the House, honorable members should walk out and refuse to listen to him. In his exalted position he abused a man who had fought for him; and he did it, moreover, for party political purposes. He had no grounds for doing it, and he* should publicly apologize, or be compelled to leave this House. No decent man should listen to him.
.- I was astounded at the attitude of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden). The character of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has been seriously injured. Charges were made against him by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the ex-Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), and were supported by answers supplied to the Assistant Minister by officers of his Department. The statements were, used effectively, not only to damage the character of the honorable member for Adelaide, but also to deprive him of his seat in the House. After an inquiry had been forced upon the Government by members of the Opposition, it was found that the statements made ‘against the honorable member for Adelaide were false. Now the Minister for Defence says that no good purpose will be served by pursuing the matter further. I remember that when the former Assistant Minister” for Defence answered questions on the subject, he refused to take any personal responsibility.
– He took a very manly stand.
– He refused to accept responsibility, and said that the officers of his Department had “ sold him a pup.” When a Minister answers a question on the floor of the House, he must take the responsibility for what he says. What happened to the man who “ sold the pup”? I do not want anything to happen to him. The ex-Prime Minister has not even apologized to the honorable member for Adelaide. The Minister for Defence this afternoon said that the Government, because it was not responsible, could not pay compensation. Is not the Government responsible for the actions of its officials? Is it not responsible for answers given by Ministers in reply to qestions? Is not the Government responsible four the whole business? I am astounded at the attitude of the Minister for Defence, and am inclined to agree with, the suggestion- made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The Government, having realized that an injustice was done to the honorable member, and haying admitted that his character was injured, should now be prepared to give him compensation. When a Government refuses to take such action it would seem that there is more behind the statements than a mistake. I regret that the Government have adopted such an attitude, and I hope that justice at least will be done to the honorable member.
.- The motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton.)- deals with a case in which a highly placed member of Parliament has cast reflections- upon the honour of a soldier. As a soldier, I would welcome the fullest investigation. The men who went over to the other side of the world are very jealous of their honour as soldiers. I shall support the Leader of the Opposition in his request that a committee be appointed to inquire into the matter. If the statements that have been made reflect upon the honour of an ex-member of the Australian Im- 1perial Force, they should be withdrawn, and, if possible, some recompense should he made for the injuries caused, for no man can suffer in his honour and not feel it.
.- I was gratified to hear the .utterances of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. B,. Green). As a returned soldier, I also desire to support the motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I am surprised, indeed, at the smug self-satisfaction of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden). He evidently takes the view that, because the statements which have been made do not reflect upon a supporter of the Government, they do not matter, although throughout this session the Government has shown the keenest sensitiveness to criticism and has resented any reflection upon its own honour. But it is not prepared to give the Opposition an opportunity of protecting the character of its members against calumny “and insults. The: Minister for Defence,, in shifting the burden of responsibility, blames the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for the injurydone to the honorable member for. Adelaide. ‘Surely that ‘ is no reason why an inquiry should be denied. I ask members on the Government side bo realize that the honour of the Australian. Imperial Force is involved in this matter,, and to treat it as- a. non-party issue. I hope that a vote will be taken forthwith.
.- I entirely sympathize with any honorable member upon whose character aspersions have been unwarrantably cast, but I regret very much that this- discussion should be proceeding in the absence of the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie), who was Assistant Minister for Defence when the previous inquiry was held, and has- admitted publicly that the charges made against the honorable member for Adelaide were not justified’. The statement of the honorable- member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the previous inquiry completely exonerated the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), proves that there- is no- necessity for further inquiry.
– The question- of compensation has not been determined:
– All’ public men are liable to be slandered, and often- in a most cowardly way so that they have no opportunity of redress. I have been somewhat amused to note the indignation of honorable members opposite against those who- aspersed- the character of one of their number. In the limited time I have been- a member of this- House, I have heard honorable members opposite constantly making innuendoes and throwing mud at their political opponents. It, is reasonable- to. ask members of the Opposition to be a little consistent. Only a fortnight ago one of their number, in making a- motion of censure, uttered statements which were rightly characterized, by the Prime. Minister as a poison gas attack. Every second sentence contained ‘ some .innuendo against members on this side of the House. Yet to-day the members of the Opposition lash, themselves into a fury over allegations in respect of which the person charged has been, completely exculpated by a tribunal that is admitted to have been thoroughly competent. The honorable member for Adelaide was rather fortunate to get his character so thoroughly vindicated. In- nuendoes have been thrown at me from time to time, which I have had no chance of refuting. No one regrets more than I do that such things are part and parcel of public life, but we must recognise that they are so. I intend to vote against the motion because,, whilst I recognise that injustice was done to the honorable member for Adelaide, I consider that ample inquiry has been made already, with a result that should be completely satisfactory to the honorable member. I cannot believe that honorable members who made the charges against Gunner Yates had any doubt at the time that they were well founded. The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) also is a soldier. He is the soul of honour, and he would be the last man to make false statements, under cover of privilege against any other honorable member unless he had been misled.
– A gentleman, would never have accepted the- report which the honorable member for Warringah accepted from -his officers.
– I have such a high opinion of the honorable member for Warringah as to. be sure that when he made the charges against Gunner Yates he believed them to be true. Of course it is very regrettable that such charges were made, but they were subsequently disproved by an inquiry before a competent tribunal, and as the honorable member for Adelaide has been exonerated, nothing will be gained by having a further inquiry.
.- -The honorable member for Macquarie has missed the point of this motion. In condoning the attitude adopted by the Minister for Defence, and seeking to excuse the accusations made in this House against Gunner Yates by the then Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), he has sought to draw a parallel between them and certain statements made in this House last week by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), which were based upon facts. The two statements are in no way similar. The allegations made by the honorable member for Yarra related only to current politics, but the allegations which are the subject of the motion before the House related to the private character of a member of this House, who was also an Australian soldier. He was charged with cowardice, than which no more serious accusation could be made against a soldier. I read carefully the Hansard report of. the debates on the Gunner Yates case, and it seemed to me that the honorable member for Adelaide was traduced not only as a man. occupying a high position in public life, but also as a soldier and a citizen. The political, charges made, last week against the Government, and the. personal charges made against the honorable member for Adelaide, are so entirely different that honorable members opposite should not allow the former to affect their judgment upon the larter. What was said by the honorable member for Yarra was political, and in no way affected the character of an Australian soldier; but. if the Government desired an inquiry into the accusations made against them, we on this side would offer no objection. We ask the House to assist in vindicating the character of a soldier. The fact that he’ was also a- member of this House while he was abroad is beside the question. The real issue is that, whilst an Australian soldier was. serving, at the Front, certain statements were made that branded him as a coward. That is .the impression that must have been given to all persons who read or heard the allegations made against the honorable, member for Adelaide. Therefore,, an inquiry into the matter should be held, and if the Committee should decide that the honorable member for Adelaide has been slandered, it might or might not recommend that he be compensated from the only source from which compensation can now come. The charges made- by the former Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) were made under cover of privilege. If the right honorable gentleman would make them on the public platform, the honorable member for Adelaide would be able to approach the law Courts for redress.
– He would have a “ cut “ at his accuser.
– He would certainly have a “ cut” at the. £25,000- which was given to his accuser, and if that means of redress were open he would have no need to appeal to this Parliament. But, that channel of justice being closed, the honorable member has to seek redress here, and it is only right ‘that the matter should be considered in a non-party spirit.- I earnestly assure the House that if a similar request for an inquiry were made on behalf of any honorable member opposite, I, and, I believe, every honorable member on this side, would support it. I hope the Minister for Defence will withdraw his opposition to the motion. The appointment of a Committee would be no reflection upon the Minister, or upon the present Government. The motion is merely a proposal to do justice, already overdue, to a man who. is a member of this House, and who served at the Front as an Australian soldier.
– If the Leader of the Opposition will agree to the adjournment of this motion until Thursday next, the whole matter will be looked into, including the question of compensation, and submitted to Cabinet for consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Groom) adjourned.
– I move -
That in the opinion of this House, with a view to removing the uncertainty which exists at the present time as to the authority for the publication of the Parliamentary Hansard, section 3 of the Parliamentary Papers Act should be amended to include Mansard among the documents authorized by Parliament to be printed and published.
While I occupied the position of Speaker, the present indefinite position of the Hansard publication was brought under my notice by the Chief Parliamentary Reporter, but, unfortunately, the business of the House was so strenuous that I had not the opportunity of submitting the matter to the Prime Minister of the day, although I had intended to do so, with the request that an obvious anomaly should be rectified. The matter is one that might very well receive the attention of the Government at an early date, in order to remove any doubt that may exist as to the authority for the publication of Hansard. A report made to me when Speaker by the Chief Parliamentary Reporter will convince honorable members that some doubt exists as to the legal status of that publication. If honorable members will look at the last page of the Hansard wrapper, they will find that it is issued as being “ Printed and published for the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia by Albert J. Mullett, Government Printer for theState of Victoria”.” It is not printed for the Parliament, but for the Government of Australia. So far as I have been able to ascertain, Parliament has never really authorized the publication of Hansard. It authorizes the payment of the salaries of the Hansard staff, and that may be held to be parliamentary authorization for the pub- . lication of Hansard, but the matter is open . to great ‘doubt. That the Chief Parliamentary Reporter regards the position in a serious light will be seen from the following quotation, which I make from a memorandum he submitted in the form of a minute to be addressed to the Prime Minister by the Honorable the President and myself: -
The Parliamentary Reporting ‘ Staff was appointed by the Commonwealth Executive prior to the assembling of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. When the Presiding Officers were elected the staff passed automatically under their joint control, as arranged by the Prime Minister. On the passing of the Public Service Act (vide section 14), . “the officers of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff” were constituted a separate Department of Parliament, and were, with other officers of both Houses, formally placed under the control of the President and Mr. Speaker for the purposes of appointments and promotion, and the making of necessary regulations. Although there has been no formal devolution of authority from the Executive to the presiding officers, we have from time to time laid down rules governing the contents of the publication, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter being in the terms of his appointment responsible to Parliament for the accuracy of the reports, and the Government Printer for the State of Victoria undertaking for the Government the printing and publication. Parliament,, in annually voting the salaries of the officers engaged in the preparation of the reports, and the expenditure incidental to printing them, ‘has been taken to give continuous authority for their publication.- The reports have thusbecome to all intents and purposes a parliamentary paper.
Although, however, the staff has been officially constituted, no action has -been taken to establish on a legal basis the official character of the reports, and it appears to the Presiding Officers that this might be done by an amendment of section . 3 of the Parliamentary Papers Act. The section referred to is in these terms: -
When either House of the Parliament has ordered a document to be printed, that House shall be deemed, unless the contrary intention appears in the order, to. have authorized the Government Printer to publish the document.
And it is suggested that the following words be added : -
And the like authority shall be deemed to have been given in the case of the report of debates in Parliament prepared and printed by direction of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Apart from the anomaly presented by the control by the Presiding Officers of Parliament of a publication which is not, in a strictly legal sense, official, it appears to us most desirable in the interests of Parliament itself that the protection afforded by the Parliamentary Papers Act should be extended to Hansard. This would be secured by such an amendment as we now suggest. We propose to invite the Prime Minister to consider, at an early date, the advisableness of taking the course mentioned, or any other which may appear to him preferable, and equally effective, to attain for the record the desired official status.
That is the case as presented by the Leader - of the Hansard staff. Hansard has not even been registered as a newspaper. What the legal status of Hansard is, I do not pretend to say. There is no doubt in my mind that the position is one of uncertainty, which can be easily rectified by making the simple amendment of the Parliamentary Papers Act which I suggest.
– The question which the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) has raised came before this Parliament in 1908, when the Parliamentary Papers Bill, for the introduction of which I was responsible, was under consideration. It became necessary for us at that stage to give statutory protection to the papers and documents issued under the authority of the Parliament. But Hansard is in a different category. It is a report of the proceedings of the House, and so long as it is a fair and accurate report of the proceedings of Parliament, whether published by the Government in a special publication, or in a newspaper, whatit contains is equally protected. That is a defence which can be raised in all Courts. If a member of this Parliament published one of his own speeches, he would have protection, but if he published it with malicious intention, the fact that the speech was delivered in this House would not protect him. In dealing with the question in 1908, I said -
The’ English law on the subject is set out in an Act passed in 1840, because of a conflict between Parliament and the Courts, arising out of the case of Stockdale v. Hansard.
Odgers on Libel says -
Every fair’ and accurate report of any proceeding in either House of Parliament, or in any Committee thereof, is privileged, even though it contain matter defamatory of an individual.
It must be a fair and accurate report of the proceeding in Parliament. Odgers goes on to say -
The analogy between such reports and those of legal proceedings is complete. Whatever would deprive a report of a trial of immunity, will equally deprive a report of parliamentary proceedings of all privilege. … A speech made by a member of Parliament in the House is, of course, absolutely privileged. If he subsequently causes his speech to be printed, and circulates it privately amongst his constituents bona fide for their information on any matter of general or local interest, a qualified privilege would attach to such report. . . . But if a member of Parliament publishes his speech to all the world, with the malicious intention of injuring the plaintiff, he will be liable both civilly and criminally.
It will appear from the authorities I have quoted that it is scarcely necessary -to alter the Parliamentary Papers Act in the way suggested by the honorable member for Lang. I have not looked into the matter recently; and if the honorable member will consent to the adjournment of the debate, on his motion, I promise to have the question carefully considered again in the light of experience, and see whether there are any fresh reasons indicating the necessity for the amendment of the law which he suggests. If there is the slightest doubt about the privileges of Parliament, it should be set at rest. Our privileges should be clearly defined. If any uncertainty on the subject is present in the minds of the law authorities, I promise the honorable member that the Government will introduce a measure to insure that Parliament shall have the privileges which it should have in the conduct of its proceedings, and in the publication of those proceedings also.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Maloney) adjourned.
Mr. Coleman, by leave, withdrew his notice of motion for the disallowance of Statutory Rule No. 69 of 1923 (Amendment of Australian Soldiers Repatriation Staff Regulations 1920-22).
.- I move -
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the necessity for the Commonwealth Government making provision for an adequate direct shipping service between Melbourne and Hobart.
In the time at my disposal, I wish to put before the House a few facts which will enable them to judge of the reasonableness of my request for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into this matter. We are to have a Board appointed by the Government to control the Commonwealth Government Line of .Steamers, and I am hoping that that Board will see its way to establish a direct service between Melbourne and Hobart by one of its vessels. It is not necessary to appoint a Committee that would be able to roam from Dan to Beersheba; it would only be necessary for the Committee to visit Hobart, because the northern part of Tasmania is to some extent catered for by a service owned and controlled by private companies. A day or two in Hobartwould enable the Committee to take all the evidence necessary in Tasmania, and, probably, -another day would suffice for the hearing of evidence in Melbourne. There is urgent need for a direct service by an up-to-date vessel fitted for both passenger and cargo traffic. Shipping communication is almost the life-blood of Tasmania. The southern half of the State (in which is the capital city of Hobart, with a population of over 50,000), has no direct service except a vessel that goes to Sydney and back about every ten days. For many years there was a weekly service to and from Melbourne by the Moeraki and sister boats, trading from Melbourne to New Zealand, which called at Hobart on every trip each way. Since these vessels ceased to call at Hobart we have had- no direct passenger service at all. An efficient and direct Melbourne-Hobart service would benefit, not only southern Tasmania, but also Victoria, and in a lesser degree “all the mainland. I have taken the following figures from the Government statistics of Tasmania regarding the trade between Tasmanian ports and Melbourne during 1922. There arrived from ‘Melbourne 34,986 passengers, and 38,4.10 passengers departed from all Tasmania!* ports. Both the Government Statistician and the Director of the Government Tourist Bureau consider that 80 per cent, of the total is a fair estimate of ‘he number of people who travelled to and from Hobart. Thus out of the total of 73,396 passengers travelling between Melbourne and Tasmanian ports, 58,717 went to Hobart.
Of course, in the absence of a -direct shipping service nearly the whole of these landed at northern ports and then had to pay railway fares through to Hobart. Those leaving Hobart had to travel by rail to some northern port, such as Launceston, Devonport, or Burnie; thus the journey was made much more expensive. Undoubtedly, a large proportion of - the 58,717 would, have preferred to board a comfortable ship either at Melbourne or Hobart, thereby saving expense and the inconvenience of transferring luggage from boats to trains, and the frequent annoying ‘and serious delays occasioned by fogs in the River Tamar. Hobart has a harbor equal to any in the world, not excepting the Sydney Harbor, and the biggest ships afloat can go straight to the wharfs in the heart of the city. During 1922, 6,975 passengers arrived at Hobart by direct shipping service from Sydney, and 6,054 travelled from Hobart to Sydney, showing that a large proportion preferred the direct sea trip to the train journey between Melbourne and Sydney.
I have not the figures showing the total tonnage between Melbourne and all Tasmanian ports, but the cargo, carried from Melbourne to Hobart direct by the two regular traders, Larannah and Kowhai, was 38,215 tons inwards to Hobart and 22,251 tons outwards, a total pf 60,466 tons. In addition to these vessels there are several ketches trading regularly, and the small steamers, Musgrave and Kiltobranks, visit Tasmania more or less regularly. It is safe to average the freight from Melbourne to Hobart at 1,000 tons weekly, and from Hobart to Melbourne at 600 tons, or a total both ways of 83,200 tons a year. With the development of the Electrolytic Zinc Company’s fertilizer plant, the National Portland Cement Company’s plant at Maria Island, and Cadbury’s big works, these figures must be greatly increased in the near future. And yet Hobart - to-day is worse off as regards direct shipping facilities than it was thirty years ago! Conservatively estimated, the revenue for a weekly service each way would be £11,000 per month, and running expenses could not be more than £9,000, leaving a profit of £2,000 monthly, or £24,000 a year.
Tasmania is at present entirely in the hands of the Steam-ship Owners’ Federation, which decrees which company shall and which shall not operate in certain areas. “ Zones of interest “ are laid down, and unauthorized encroachment is subject to certain pains and penalties. Under this arrangement, Tasmania depends on the mercy of the Tasmanian Steam -ship Proprietary Company, which is really the Huddart Parker and Union Steam-ship Company, and it is alleged by those who should know that these companies get their orders from Lord Inchcape. Competition between steam-ship owners is a thing of the past. . The Tasmanian Steam-ship Proprietary Company can say to the travelling public, “ You shall travel by this or that route,” and there is no alternative.
A boat with a service speed of 12½ knots could do the return trip comfortably within a week without working overtime at all. It could leave Hobart on Saturday at, say, 6 p.m., and arrive at Melbourne on Monday at 6 a.m., or vice versa. Departure for the return journey could be “made on Tuesday at 6 p.m., arriving on Thursday at 6 a.m. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that, with very short notice, the Tasmanian Government Shipping Department secured 147 passengers at Hobart for a “ Bay “ liner, though the only accommodation was third class. Tasmania is entitled to any necessary assistance by the Government in providing reasonable facilities for communication, just as other portions of the Commonwealth are now being assisted. For instance, the Government have entered into an agreement with Burns, Philp and Company to pay that firm a subsidy of £3,000 per year to provide a monthly service to and from Darwin for passengers and 500 tons of cargo under a schedule of charges approved by Government. Subsidies are also paid for mail services to the Pacific Islands as follow : -
Norfolk Island, and certain main ports in the New Hebrides. Subsidy, £12,000 per annum.
The subsidies for these services total £55,000 per annum, of which £1,800 per annum is recovered from the British Solomon Island Protectorate, on account of the services to the Solomons, leaving the net cost to the Commonwealth at £53,200 per annum. Tasmania has to bear her share of the cost of the shipping services to Darwin and the Pacific Islands, and I think I am speaking for representatives of that State in both Houses of this Parliament when I say that they regard those services as all to the advantage of Australia as a whole. We realize, however, that the Commonwealth is a Federation, and we wish the Government to realize equally that Tasmania is a party to that Federation. It must also be remembered that Tasmania has to pay her share of the heavy annual loss incurred on the Port AugustaKalgoorlie railway. I have not the figures for the financial year just closed, but for the eight years ending 1922 the working expenses of this railway were £415,000 more than the receipts, thus showing an average yearly loss of £51,880. It must be borne in mind that this loss is on the running expenses only - revenue on one side and running expenses on the other - without any reference to the heavy interest and depreciation charges.
– I do not think that the loss is so great now.
– It may not be so heavy this year. The Tasmanian people do not object to pay a share of the expenditure on services which afford reasonable means of communication with outlying districts and’ distant islands, but they claim that they are entitled to the enjoyment of similar facilities. Thus, if any loss were incurred in the running of a weekly service each way between Melbourne and Hobart, I submit . that it would be a fair charge on the Federal funds. I am satisfied, however, from figures I have received from the Government Statist of Tasmania, and from my knowledge of the trade between Hobart and ‘ the mainland, that such a service would pay its way. The appointment of a Select Committee will not in any way bind the Government, but will simply afford a means of ascertaining the correctness or otherwise of the facts and figures
I have placed before honorable members. The cost of such a Committee would be practically nothing as compared with the cost of other similar inquiries.
– Do you suggest a subsidy ?
– No; I am credibly informed that one of the “ Bay “ vessels of the Commonwealth Line should be used for a service of the kind. If a Select Committee be appointed, the Shipping Board will be armed with facts, which, I am sure, would lead it to adopt the suggestion I now make. A Select Committee could collect ali the available information on the subject, leaving the Government to act according to its judgment. If my facts and figures are correct, as I believe them to be, no> one can deny the justice of the claim of the people of southern Tasmania, including Hobart with its 50,000 inhabitants, for a weekly service each way. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.88 to 8 p.m.
Message received from the Senate, reporting the appointment of Senators P. J. Lynch, M. Reid, and J. Barnes as members of the Public Works Committee.
Message received from the Senate, reporting the appointment of Senators B. Benny, H. E. Elliott, and E. Needham as members of the Public Accounts Committee.
The following paper was presented : -
Debate resumed from 4th July, 1923 (ville page 674), on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman) -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When I asked for the adjournment of the debate last night, I was saying that I favoured a bonus being given to cattleraisers in Australia. With a large surplus of cattle iri Australia, it is an anomaly, indeed, that in Victoria and the south-west of Western Australia beef is almost unprocurable for the children of the workers. That fact should give us grave concern. I assume that it is the duty of- the men on the other as well as this side of the House to protest against dear food supplies. It is because of the high cost of living that the industrial unrest in Australia exists. Since I left Western Australia a few days ago, a deputation has waited on the Premier of that State. Members of the deputation pointed out that there was an acute shortage of beef in the metropolitan areas of Perth and Fremantle, and that people were being compelled to pay inordinately high prices for it. On the other hand, squatters in the Kimberley district are in an almost impecunious condition - if one can apply that adjective to squatters - because of the low prices they are receiving for their cattle. If the eastern portion of Australia were one State, like the western portion, there would not be an embargo upon cattle from Queensland, and the tick pest would be dealt with as it is in Western Australia. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has pointed out that only the tick which carry the bacillus of red-water fever are dangerous to cattle. Strange cattle entering a tickinfested area immediately contact tick fever, but after a lapse of time those that recover become immune The beef from those animals is as good in quality as the beef of other cattle. Cattle in Western Australia are dipped frequently, so that when they are shipped no tick is observable. Although no portion of the eastern or western Kimberley district is free from tick, the meat, when hanging in the Government- Freezing Works at Wyndham, is of the finest possible quality. This is proved by the fact that when placed on the London market recently it brought a higher price than frozen meat from any other part of the world. I sense something operating behind the scenes in connexion with this bogey of tick-infested cattle. The action of the Victorian authorities is in the nature of a restraint of trade, which all Federalists, should oppose. We have had a similar experience in another direction in Western Australia. It has been found that the country surrounding the Eastern gold-fields at Kalgoorlie is well suited for raising cattle, although a large number cannot be stocked on the land. In certain seasons of the year the cattle are in very good condition, but at other times they are in poor condition. About two years ago, at the time of the year when cattle in that district were in poor condition, and when it was impossible to get meat from Perth, because of a scarcity there and the high cost of railage, wholesale people on the goldfields brought cattlefrom South Australia. As a result, the people, instead of paying high prices for poor meat, were able to obtain succulent beef at moderate rates. Several car-loads of cattle were brought to Kalgoorlie from the vicinity of Port Augusta. Grass was in good condition around Port Augusta, and the beef was consequently of a high quality. Then something happened. For some unknown reason, which one can only guess at, the Western Australian Government imposed an embargo upon South Australian cattle. It was alleged that South Australian cattle had, at some time or other, suffered from pleuropneumonia. As a matter of fact, in the area from which the cattle were drawn, and for hundreds of miles around, there had not been a case of pleuro-pneumonia among cattle for many years. This action has caused a serious loss to the Commonwealth railways, which should carry large quantities of cattle consigned between the States. If there were no restraint of trade between the States the Commonwealth railways could do a big business in carrying cattle. The Commissioner of Railways, Mr. Bell, went some time ago, with commendable acumen, to the merchants in Kalgoorlie and asked them to support the Commonwealth railways by ordering goods by rail from South Australia and the eastern States. He suggested that he would make the freights low enough for them to do this. They took his advice, and immediately restrictions, amounting to a restraint of trade, were imposed. The railway authorities found that no more orders were coming through for many classes of goods. A few general lines were being carried, but large consignments had ceased. Inquiries were made, and the railway authorities were told by the Kalgoorlie merchants that “ the importers of Fremantle have told us that if we give orders for goods to be brought over the railways from South Australia they will refuse to supply us in every other direc- tion.” In. this way, for reasons known to high finance and big business, the Commonwealth railways are being interfered with in their legitimate function of carrying goods between the States. I do not pretend to speak as an expert, but 1 believe that those intimately connected, with the cattle business are likely to experience a bad time in the near future. We ought to seek fresh markets. We have seen how Australian energy, with the right men sent abroad to represent us, can open up new markets. Our achievements to date in this direction may appear small, but some success has nevertheless been registered. Australia has created a market for meat in Java, and Western Australia and the eastern States control it. We have also a market at Manila, which is supplied both from Darwin and Wyndham. I was recently told by the captain of the steamer Kangaroo, who had made an investigation into the meat industry in India, that there were several thousands of Anglo-Indians in that country who would consume Australian meat if it were to be got. Whilst our Trade Commissioner in China is an excellent man, from what I know of commerce I should say that to expect a Commissioner to be a specialist in every trade is to expect too much. Any trade requires a lifetime’s study for one to be successful in it. I defy any man, however great his capacity, to go to China, which is a vast country with 500,000,000 people, and cater efficiently for its wants in a thousand and one different directions. In my opinion, the Meat Council ought to consider the advisability of sending a meat specialist abroad.
– The Meat Council has already sent two-, special representatives to the Orient. They have been there two months, and may not return to Australia for another six months.
– That assurance illustrates how great minds think alike. I regret that, owing to the fact that for the last nine or ten weeks I have been among the people of “ the purpling East,” I was unaware of the action that the Meat Council had taken. The Council would know the class of man to send, and
I am pleased that experts are examining the markets of the Orient in behalf of the Australian meat industry. There should be further opportunities for Australian enterprise on the eastern coast of Africa, and on the western side of South America, north of Chili. I am confident that Australia can knock the Yankees out of the markets of Hong Kong and Shanghai. America is essentially a country of Combines, and if this Parliament will only provide cheap freights - Commonwealth steamers’ will do that - to insure that our producers shall land their goods at the furthermost ends of the world at a price cheaper than our competitors, Australian industries must come out on top.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) stated that, although Argentine is successful in placing chilled meat on the London market, Australia cannot do so because our meat has to be sent through the Suez Canal, and is thus subject to detrimental variations in temperature. That obstacle can be overcome by sending the meat round the Cape of Good Hope. The journey may be longer than that via the Suez Canal, but I remind the House that Australian shippers have no difficulties to overcome which do not confront our rivals. If we have to send our meat through the tropics so have they. If the Government are courageous enough to assist the producers along Democraticlines to get fairly cheap freights, the future of the meat industry will be bright. All of our commercial troubles are largely due to the unsettled state of affairs in Central Europe. We must rid ourselves of the war spleen; we must realize that no country can be crushed and another country thrive; we must realize that if Germany, Austria, and France fail, we fail; that the ramifications of trade are international, and that peace in Europe is essential. to the prosperity of our industries. ‘ Once the international situation becomes settled, Australia, like Great Britain, need have no fear in regard to the future, of its industries.
.- In regard to this Bill, only three questions call for consideration : (1) is it necessary?; (2) is it right?; and (3), will it do any good? Everybody who is conversant with the cattle industry of Australia knows that it is absolutely necessary that some assistance should be given to it at the present time. The conditions existing in Queensland, which is the prin, cipal meat-producing State, are a direct result of the war. During the war the prices of cattle and meat rose to such an extent that people went into the cattle industry who had never engaged in it previously. Men who previously had handled sheep, or had grown crops, went into the cattle business, many of them as dealers, and when the slump came they were hard hit. Objection to this Bill has been taken by some honorable members on the ground that it will help the “ beef barons.” Although there are many large cattle-owners in Queensland, I know of none, no matter how large his herds may be, who can be rightly called a “ baron ‘ at the present time.
– They are barren - of cash.
– That is so. Mr. G. E. Bunning, who was a large cattle-owner in Western Queensland years ago, said that, after all his years of experience, he had come to the conclusion that cattleraising did not pay, except when such high prices were offering as obtained during the war. Certainly it is not profitable at any time for a man to engage in breeding on small areas. Dairymen, who have been able to sell their steers to neighbours or other persons raising meat for the market, may have made an odd penny of profit; but it does not pay the small man to try to make a livelihood by raising cattle for the market. Neither does it pay even the large man under present conditions. I know of several large men who a few years ago might have been considered rich, but who to-day are in financial difficulties. For instance, one man who had b’een operating largely during the war period, buying stations and selling the stock off them, was worth at one period £187,000, but he had an overdraft of about £70,000. By sales, &c, his overdraft was reduced to £50,000, but, when he reckoned up his cattle and all other assets, he found that their market value did not amount to more than £40,000. So that even if the bank had taken possession of the property and stock, it could not have realized anything like the amount of the overdraft. There is another fact to be considered. The large man, by selling ‘off his stock, even at a loss, is able to get the wherewithal to live. The smaller man cannot afford to sell his stock, and, as he has no other source of income, he has practically to starve. His position is more serious than that of the larger man. In last week’s Queensland newspapers I read of a conference of small cattle men held at Roma, at which the chairman said that the position of the cattle industry was so serious that many of the smaller men were on the bread line. That is a sufficient answer to the statement that this bonus is intended to help the large cattle-owners. The smaller men are absolutely unable to ship their stock. Queensland has just experienced a rather serious drought, and men engaged in dairying, running a few head of cattle as a side line, find themselves in difficulties. In previous years, if they were unable to produce cream, they were able to dispose of a certain number of stock, and thus get an occasional cheque. This year, when the dairying failed them, they had no chance of getting rid of their surplus beasts, and many of these men had to seek work wherever they could get it. I know of one such man near my own home who was forced to search for work. During his absence only his wife and children were left on the property, and, as they were unable to take the usual precautions during the drought, every beast on the holding died.
Is the proposed bonus right? I do not think many people like the principle of bonuses, but when the cattle industry is up against a dead end, as it is to-day, something must be done. This Parliament is asked to go to the aid, not of individuals, but of an industry whose very existence is at stake, and it is our duty to take whatever steps are possible to give relief.
Will this proposal do any good ? The bonus, together with a reduction in freight and the allowance for canning, amounts to only ½d. per lb., or 4s. 2d. per 100 lbs. That bonus does not mean anything to a man with only a few head of cattle. When all is said and done, the bonus will rarely go to the small man, but it will help him indirectly, inasmuch as every beast killed improves the market for those that remain Strange to say, there are men who are still engaged in buying cattle, certainly at a price which represents a loss to the raisers, but it is better for men to sell at a loss for cash than to have the stock increasing and the loss accumulating every day. When stock are being taken off the market, there will be an improved demand for those that remain. Persons will desire to increase their herds or will want beasts for butchering. Thus the bonus, by encouraging the slaughter of cattle, will give increased value to the remaining stock, and so help the industry generally.
Another matter that has been raised during the debate on this Bill is the refusal to admit Queensland cattle into Victoria. A few days ago I read in a morning newspaper certain statements which would lead the uninformed reader to believe that Queensland is the home. of the tick, and that every beast in that State is infested. I have lived all my life in Queensland, more than half of the time in the western areas, and I have never seen a tick-infested beast. That is not to say that there are no ticks in Queensland, but it is a fact that large areas of that State are absolutely free of tick. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has said that tick boundaries should be abolished. I live in clean country, and I do not wish to see the tick boundaries removed. Even within the border of Queensland stock cannot be travelled from an infested area into a clean area, and it is a wise policy to confine the pest to as small an area as possible, clean that area, and keep it clean, then pass on to the cleansing of another area, until the tick has been entirely eradicated. Therefore, I do not blame the Victorian Government for opposing the admission of tick-infested cattle into their State. Any Queensland cattle sent to Melbourne by boat, even though they come from a clean area, must travel to the ports, and in so doing they pass through infested country, and are subject to the same regulations as are stock from an infested area. But it is possible to truck cattle for very long distances. At the present time cattle are being trucked from Charleville to Sydney, a distance of about 900 miles, but the cost of trucking from Charleville to Melbourne would be almost prohibitive. I should like to tell Victorians and those who read the articles which have appeared in the Melbourne press, that they can go to the Flemington Yards any day they please and they will find Queensland brands on many of the cattle there. Quensland cattle are coming into Victoria. They follow the water-courses down the back-country through New
South Wales into this State. The journey may take months, but the cattle are growing older on the way, and arrive here in pretty fair condition. There is another way in which stock might be brought into this State, and that is as chilled meat. I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) say that every man, woman, and child in this city eats chilled meat. Any one who knows anything of the meat trade in our large cities must know that chilled meat is consumed by the people. There is some sort of prejudice against it, but in summer it is impossible to keep warm meat. I would be glad if the Minister in charge of the Bill would, in consultation with the Victorian and Queensland Governments, arrive at some arrangement by which meat works would be compelled to accept cattle on owners’ account. They are at present dealing only with the stock they buy themselves. There is no reason why, if meat works were obliged to take stock on owners’ account, cattle should not be sent from the back districts of Queensland - in the south to meat works in Brisbane, and in the central districts to meat works at Rockhampton - where the meat could be chilled and sent on to Melbourne in that state. Cattle in some of the western Queensland districts are in good condition, and if their meat were treated in the way I suggest it would be as good as any the Victorian people are getting now. In view of the condition of the cattle industry the action taken by the Government is absolutely necessary. It will give cattle-raisers fresh heart when they know that the Government are willing to do something to tide them over their difficulties, and to enable them to get rid of their surplus stock.
.- As I follow the argument in support of this Bill it is very simple. It appears to be that the meat industry, which has been profitable in the past, “is at present unprofitable, and, therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament should vote money to assist it - but for one year only, because it has been stated that the subsidy will not be renewed after the expiry of that period. At present the meat industry of Australia is unable to obtain a market abroad in competition with the meat products of other countries, more particularly of the Argentine. It is suggested, as a matter of course almost, that on that account this Parliament should, assist the Australian meat industry. In considering a measure of this kind it is important to examine the causes of the existing situation. We have heard something of these causes from honorable members who, apparently, speak with authority on this subject. We lear.n, for example, from the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that in Queensland the breeding of cattle has been unprogressive. Some breeders too often breed from scrub bulls, and so, many of the cattle in Australia are not up to the beef standard of cattle exported from the Argentine. If that is one cause of the existing situation, it will not be affected by this Bill. We have been told, further, that the methods ‘ of railway trucking are unprogressive and defective, and such as to injure the beasts. That is another cause that will npt be affected by the Bill, though it might be remedied by intelligent action on the part of the Governments of the States concerned. We have further been informed that loading and killing arrangements in the Argentine, in particular, are more up to date than similar arrangements in Australia. We learned some time ago from Mr. Jowett, after a visit he had paid to the Old Country, that Australian meat on sale at Smithfield’ has; unfortunately, been to a considerable extent of low grade. We read the other day in the press of Melbourne that in the East some at least of the Australian meat is regarded as third grade. None of these matters will be affected by this Bill, which merely proposes a pecuniary subsidy for one year, leaving all the causes of the condition of the industry untouched. At the same time, we all know that the price of meat in Australia is very high indeed, and we are informed that the consumption of meat in Australia is about one-half what it was before the war.
What are the features of the Bill directed’ to the assistance of the meat industry? One is that it embodies an agreement arrived at outside the House in negotiation with private interests. The Bill is submitted to the House without any. justification of the figures it contains. Why a subsidy of ¼d per lb. rather than a subsidy of -Jd. or Id. per lb.? So far as the meat interests are concerned, they are doubtless wisely guided by the rule, “ Al) donations thankfully accepted.” Whether the sub- sidy of id. per lb. offers any hope for the future, or is intended to meet only temporary conditions existing this year, we are not informed. If the intention is merely to meet temporary conditions, what are they, and” how will the Bill meet them?
There is one other feature of this legislation which is rather remarkable. We have been informed by the Minister in charge of the measure that a condition of the arrangement is that shipping freights are to be reduced by $d. per lb., and killing charges are to be reduced by a similar amount. Those conditions do not appear in the Bill. I suppose that they do appear somewhere, and that there will be some means of enforcing them, but they are not a part of the legislation proposed by the Government, and it is very doubtful whether this Parliament could enact such conditions as a part of any of its legislation. This Parliament is being asked to pass a Bill, upon the faith of some unnamed persons, carrying out an agreement which is not placed before the House in any form. I suggest that it is a dangerous thing to make agreements with outside persons without bringing those agreements in any manner before the House, and to pass this legislation, trusting that certain persons will observe the agreements entered into, whatever they may be.
The assistance proposed is for one year only. Is it possible to believe that that condition will be observed ? If the industry is as it has been depicted by a number of speakers, can the proposed subsidy be justly terminated at the end of the year, if the principle upon which it is granted is sound ? I take leave to doubt, if the Bill passes - and apparently it will, because I am the first speaker to oppose it - that it will not be necessary to renew the subsidy. What is the meaning of the assertion that the Bill is intended to operate only for one year ? I suggest that the statement that it will operate only for one year cannot be given effect. I am not prepared to vote for the measure upon what I regard as the false assumption that the assistance proposed will be given only for a period of one year.
The Bill seeks authority in one of its clauses for payments made in the past. That is to say the Government have anticipated the authority of this House, and have, in fact, already made payments :to a section of the community interested in the meat industry. At this stage, they ask the House for its concurrence in that procedure. Such a procedure, I suggest to honorable mem,bers. is not in principle to be distinguished from the illegal imposition of a Customs duty.
– Would the honorable member not impose a Customs duty until he had told every one what it was to be?
– Such a duty should be imposed only by this House, and not as a result of executive action by the Government. In the same manner, bounties paid to industries should be paid after, and not before, this House has given authority for their payment.
Finally, I suggest that the Bill is based upon a simple and easy principle, but a very bad one. It would seem that the Government have said, “ Here is an industry that has been having a bad time; therefore let us help it.” That is a nice, comfortable, easy thing to do, but what would be the effect of the general adoption of the principle? If we give a bounty for the export of meat, because those engaged in the cattle industry have been having a bad time, ‘ why should we not do the same thing for the wool-grower should wool fall from its present high estate ? Why should we not do the same for the growers of mutton and the growers of wheat? Why should not the principle apply also to mining for base metals? In recent years base metal mines have been closed because, after the Avar, the price of base metals slumped. This is an easy Bill to pass, but it is an ill-considered piece of legislation, and I intend to oppose it.
.- We have had quite a number of speeches in favour of the Bill, but until the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) addressed the House we had heard nothing in opposition to it. .Some features of the meat problem have not been touched upon at all up to the present, and I propose to refer to some of the reasons why I intend to vote against the Bill. When the Meat Bounty Bill was introduced last session it was distinctly understood that it was to operate for one year only, and was in no way to be regarded as estblishing a precedent. It was pointed out that it was merely a temporary palliative to help the industry in a time of difficulty, and to afford those interested in the business an opportunity to organize themselves in a way that would enable them in future to surmount their troubles themselves. How that was to be done was set out by the then member for the -Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who made a-n exhaustive review of the position. This gentleman was, I believe, among those who recently waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and asked for the bounty. His position in that respect is very different from the attitude he took up last year. He delivered an interesting address last session, in which he described the conditions .in the industry in Great Britain. He pointed out ‘how our meat fell short of the requirements of the English market, and he suggested remedies. He said that the Australian meat industry was entirely unorganized, whereas the Argentine meat sellers had their business so highly organized and controlled that they had over 3,000 shops in Great Britain in order to stimulate a demand for their meat, whilst the public of England scarcely knew that there was any Australian meat on the market. Mr. Jowett went on to say -
The lesson we have learned is ‘ the necessity for propaganda work. We are at an enormous disadvantage because we have never had such work done for our frozen meat trade, and we cannot cover the distance we have fallen behind unless we raise a large fund with which to conduct this propaganda work in Great Britain as well as on the Continent. The money, I think, should be raised purely from the cattle and sheepowners of Australia, and by means of compulsion, but above all the control of the funds so raised should not be hampered or interfered with in any way by any Government, State or Commonwealth.
Those are remarkable words, coming as they do from one who is recognised a3 possessing an intimate knowledge of the meat industry.
– He was not then referring to the money for the bounty.
– I am aware of that. He was laying stress on the fact that the lack of a market for our meat was due to a want of enterprise and propaganda work on the part of the owners of the moat.
Another very important matter that has not been referred to is the effect of shipping freights. I wish to show how they affect Western Australia, particularly in relation to- the Wyndham meat works. I listened in amazement to the glowing story told by my friend, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) in referring last night- to those works. He painted a rosy picture of a contented settlement due to the establishment of the works at Wyndham.
– He has just come back from there.
– I know that, but I am also aware of a number of facts concerning the works which he did not mention. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie pointed out that the works had been of great benefit in keeping the wheels of industry going, and he assumed that great credit for that was due to the party to which he belongs. He did not, however, make it clear that the workers engaged at the Wyndham works do not live in the district. They go backwards and forwards every season, and the cause of a White Australia is not assisted very much by a crowd of migratory meat-workers moving about in that way. Nor did the honorable member point out that the works have been established at such colossal cost that it is almost impossible to make them pay. He did not say that the wrong methods of construction which had been adopted have handicapped the works all along, and that it is very difficult to conduct them at a profit at all. They have been operated by the Government for three seasons. In 1919 they treated 9,281 head of cattle; in 1920, 18,496; and in 1922, 22,646. It will be noticed that in 1921 no cattle were treated. This was because it was cheaper to keep the works closed than to operate them. The interest cost has been very heavy. It has amounted to something like £245,000.
– The interest would go on in 1921.
– But if the works had been operated the loss would have been increased. This year the conditions have improved somewhat, and arrangements have been made for the treatment of 24,500 head, but until a bigger market is available, the works cannot be operated upon a profitable basis. The Government of Western Australia have been losing money on the works all along. In 1922 ohe loss on the works amounted to £88,000, and it is estimated that the losses this year will be £85,000 - equivalent to £3 18s. and £3 9s. 6d. respectively on all cattle treated. The losses constitute a bounty given by the Government of Western Australia for promoting the cattle industry in the Kimberley district.
– It means the employment of a great number of men.
– Certainly ; but as Wyndham is out of the regular track of the steamers loading at Australian ports for London, the works are handicapped by a surcharge of per lb. on frozen meat as compared with the rates from other Australian ports. I do not know whether the House is aware of the extraordinary changes that have taken place in freight charges. Between 1892 and 1897 the freight to England was $d. per lb., or £7 per ton. With the advent of more modern steamers, freight dropped, and finally reached what was considered a highly remunerative figure, namely 9-16ths of a penny, or £5 5s. per ton. The current rate from Queensland ports to London is Id. per lb., or £9 3s. 9d. per ton; and from Wyndham to London l£d., or £10 10s. per ton. One reason for this increase in freight charges is that for years there has been a growing tendency for the meat-works to be controlled or owned by firms interested in overseas shipping. Seven out of twelve meat-works in Queensland today are controlled, either by the agents for or owners of shipping lines. Three meat-works in Queensland are controlled or owned by Birt and Company, one by Houlder Brothers and Company, two by G. S. Yuill, one by Lord Inchcape, two by Swift and Company, of Chicago, one by the pastoralists, one by John Cook and Company, and one by Borthwick and Company.
– It is better for them to own the works than that the Government should have them.
– That is entirely another matter. Government ownership is not the only necessary alternative. Shipping companies are probably little concerned whether they make their profits from the beef or from the other freight. As they also carry the beef of rival companies, their interests are best served by the maintenance of high freights. That is the whole point. In New Zealand a
Meat Producers’ Board has been formed, and in Argentine legislation is proposed with the object of exercising a measure of control over the meat export works, and the activity of trusts in the meat export trade, and for the construction of State meat export works. The handling of beef for the London market is practically controlled by the shipping interests; it is those interests that prevent meat getting to the London market at prices at which we can compete with meat from other countries. If this control were broken, and in addition an organization were effected amongst the meat-owners themselves, as suggested by Mr. Jowett, there is every reason to believe that the trade could be successfully carried “on without any Government bounty.
There has been some talk about a reduction of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. In my opinion, the best way to break the control of freights is by the proper use of the Commonwealth Line. On this point I wish to make my position quite clear. I do not believe in Government control of industries. The only time that Government intrusion into business enterprise is justified is when that appears to be the one means of breaking what otherwise may become a great monopoly or Trust. Such a monopoly or Trust does, I believe, exist in connexion with shipping, and I am strongly in favour of the continuance of the Commonwealth Line with the object of breaking the freight Ring. The Commonwealth Line ought to be reduced, but it is very important to consider how far that reduction should be carried. There is talk at times of running only the ‘ ‘ Bay “ vessels, but some of the other boats have been very useful, and at least all those containing refrigerating space should be retained. The Wyndham Meat Works would derive great benefit, indeed, by the use of these Commonwealth steamers, which are particularly suitable for that trade, because they have a capacity corresponding to the works. They have derricks for continuous loading, which is a very important detail on our coasts, where the labour . costs are high, and the phenomenal rise and fall of the tides makes such loading imperative. Another important feature of the Commonwealth service is that the steamers endeavour to keep to their schedule of arrivals, at Wyndham, whereas other vessels cannot be relied on, and therefore the trade cannot be handled without greatly increased refrigerating accommodation. I wish to stress this point, because I believe it shows the way in which the Government should assist the meat trade rather than by granting a bonus or bounty. The Government should set their Fleet to seek out business in such a way as will bring very real and live competition to bear on the freight Ring. I am not satisfied that the Commonwealth Line has been worked in such a way in the past - that it has sought out for all trade available. I must confess I find it difficult to understand some of the methods of the management. I do not care to refer in the House to Government, officials or managers of an institution of the sort, but I cannot understand the business methods adopted. For over a month I have been seeking an interview with the manager on important matters, and I cannot even get the satisfaction of a reply. That is not the way in which such a business should be conducted. If this is to be a real and effective Line, and attain its alleged object of breaking the Ring, it must “get out and get busy.” I wish to know, as the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) wishes to know, how long we are to go on granting bounties. To me such a system appears utterly wrong; it ‘only keeps up prices instead of introducing conditions that will reduce them. I speak, not as a representative of any industry or other interest, but as the representative of the great masses of the taxpayers who want cheaper food, and do not know why they cannot get it in a country like this, overflowing with productiveness. We hear all sorts of excuses and reasons for the present state of things, but in the meantime the people generally are quite hopeless and helpless. The people, however, are objecting, and there is a strong feeling that it is time the Government abandoned their present methods of bounties and bonuses, and left trade to work out its own competitive cure.
– Leave out. the Tariff, too’
– Yes, most decidedly. Honorable members know my opinion on fiscal matters, but this is not the time to discuss them.
– Why chide you on your lonely position ?
– I do not think I am alone; at any rate, I would not be alone if every member in the House acted according to what he believes in his heart to be right.
– They want shaking up !
– They do. I was astounded this evening to hear the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) speaking of the necessity for removing all lines of demarcation between State and State, and making the whole of the Commonwealth a Free Trade area for meat. I cannot understand how a Protectionist can be so illogical. If it is logical to protect one particular industry in one particular part, why is it not logical to protect one State against another ?
The Wyndham Meat Works are placed at a disadvantage of Jd. with regard to their meat in consequence of the extra freight they are charged. That in itself is a very serious handicap, because otherwise the meat would command a high price in the market, partly owing to the happy circumstance that it is not knocked about in railway trucks on the way to the works. I believe that, generally speaking, the meat turned out from the Wyndham Meat Works is in beautiful condition, and compares more than favorably with that from the Queensland works. In saying this, I do not wish to disparage the Queensland Meat Works, but merely to point out the natural disadvantages under which they suffer. The high freights in the case of the Wyndham Meat Works are not justified, and, if the Commonwealth Line can place Wyndham on the same basis as other ports of Australia, a great difference will be made to the trade. That would be preferable to a system of granting bounties. It is said that the bounty goes into the pockets of the producers, and so it does directly, but indirectly the effect is to prevent a reduction of freights, and thus the money goes to the shipping interests.
– They have come down id.
– The price to-day is Id., or £9 3s. 9d. per ton, as against the prewar price of 9-16ths of a penny, or £5 5s. a ton. An £d. sounds very little, but it means a great deal in the aggregate. I do not profess any personal knowledge of this business, but I should like to quote the following words from one who knows it inside and out: -
In my opinion the current refrigerated cargo rates are still excessive in comparison with general cargo rates. I consider that they are maintained rather because refrigerated steamer space is under effective “ Conference” control, than because of actual enhanced working costs of steamers compared with prewar times. I believe that a close analysis of steamer accounts would prove that refrigerated rates are relatively higher than general cargo.
As a matter of fact, the wheat rates to-day are, I believe, almost if not quite equal to pre-war rates, and if this can be accomplished with wheat, why not with meat? The reason is the one I have given, namely, that the meat ring owns the majority of the meat works.
The way in which the tick pest has been paltered with by those interested is almost a scandal. Since 1916 strenuous efforts have been made to bring about cooperation between the State Governments, the Commonwealth Government, and the meat owners with a view to effective measures for the control and eradication of this pest. A notable example that we might follow is presented by the United States. Speaking from memory, I believe there were over 750,000 square miles of tick-infested country there in 1906, but in 1911, by effective means of control, over 52 per cent, of the area had been entirely cleaned up. Similar methods should be employed in Australia, but, so far from the pest being controlled or diminished here, from all I can gather, the area of infested country is increasing. In 1918 it was estimated that tick had already cost the meat industry of Australia over £7,000,000, and, if I remember rightly, the annual cost is over £100,000. If this cause of loss were removed, would it not have a wonderful effect on the meat industry?
– Who, do you SUggeSt, should step in - the Government ?
– It has been proposed that there should be co-operation between the State Governments, the Commonwealth Government, and the meat owners. As a matter of fact, that is the system followed in America, and even with the huge area in America, it has only entailed an expenditure by the combined States of £100,000 per annum, and by the Federal Government of £50,000 per annum. If £50,000 per annum were spent in Australia in the eradication of the tick pest, it would be far more to the point than a bounty. For reasons into which I need not enter in detail, attempts to bring about co-operation have so far largely failed. I would like to read an extract from the report, published in 1918, of a Special Committee which dealt with the cattle tick pest. After discussing all the arrangements they were trying to make, members “ of the Committee wound up with this significant paragraph -
It is to be regretted that the Queensland delegates felt compelled to withdraw from the Conference prior to the drafting of the report, dissenting as they did from the principle of Commonwealth intervention or co-operation in any form other than financial assistance.
– In fairness to Queensland, the honorable member should read the remainder of the report.
– I can read it all if the House desires, but it is available to honorable members. I do not want to do any injustice to the Queensland representatives. The paper is obtainable from the Clerk of the Papers. It is true that cooperation, in spite of all efforts to establish it, has not yet been brought about.
– The portion of the report which the honorable member has not read will not be printed in Hansard, and the part he has quoted will, by itself, mislead any one who reads it.
– I cannot see that any one will be misled, or that there will be any misrepresentation of the position, by that paragraph going into Hansard. Letit go in by all means. It deserves to be printed. It is an official statement, and there is no reason for me to withdraw it. The negotiations have practically failed, and Mr. Jowett says that sales’ organization and co-operative organization among meat-growers are bad. Suggestions for improving the quality of meat and diminishing the losses from pests have failed owing to want of cooperation and disregard of their own interests by cattle-raisers. Parliament is still asked, by the meat-growers to grant a subsidy to enable them to make their industry pay. It appears to me that there has been so much Government subsidizing, and so much propping up of industries, that at last every one engaged in it has come to the conclusion that it is simpler, and requires much less effort, to ask the Government for a subsidy than to tackle the difficulties of the industry and to cope with them.
– Did the ex-member for the Grampians (Mr. Jowett) oppose the granting of a meat bounty ?
– I was not in- the House when the last Meat Bounty Bill was passed, but I have read the whole of the debate which took place on the subject last session, and it is from that debate that I have quoted the remarks of Mr. Jowett. I maintain that the position is misunderstood, and that proper steps are not being taken to put the industry on a proper footing. I do not want it to be inferred that I do not recognise the difficulties which face the industry, but I say that many of those difficulties could have been overcome if the warning given by the Government last year that the bounty would be only a temporary measure ha’d been heeded.
– In what way does the honorable member suggest the industry should look after itself?
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has been asleep while I have been speaking for the last half-hour, but I have been laying down as clearly a’s my poor ability would permit how those in the industry can help themselves. I think my remarks were clear to every other member of the House.
There is another small aspect of the matter which is not unworthy of consideration. A few days ago there appeared in the press a report of a deputation to a Minister of the British Cabinet. The deputation represented the meatgrowers of England, who complained that they were placed upon an unfair footing because the Australian Government had granted a bonus to Australian meat producers.
– That is serious.
– It is serious, both for them and for us. If these bounties create trade differences and disputes they will lay up much trouble for us in the future. In this morning’s newspapers there appeared a report in which the Chairman of the Shipping Association placed all the blame for the high cost of meat in England upon the middlemen. He said that meat was carried to England so cheaply that the high cost to the consumer could not be the fault of the shippers. The figure given in the report as representing the cost of shipping meat was, I think, inaccurate. It was stated that meat was being carried at . 17d. per lb. That statement is ridiculous, and it is evident that the message was mutilated in transmission. When a representative of shipping interests contends that the meat is carried at such a ridiculously low rate that none of the responsibility for the increase in price can be laid upon the shippers, he is speaking absurdly.
I felt that it was necessary for me to put some of these facts before the House, and for the reasons which I have stated I consider that the Government should assist the meat industry, not by a bonus or a’ bounty, but by making full use of the Commonwealth ships to break the Shipping Ring, and by insisting upon proper measures of co-operation and control being undertaken by the growers. I do not object to such Government assistance ‘ as the provision of technical advisers to control the tick pest. There must be Executive authority to bring about uniform control. By these methods, and these alone, should the Government assist the industry. I shall vote against the Bill.
.- I am in accord with the Bill because I believe it will do a large amount of good. 1 shall endeavour to prove why I hold that view. Not many years ago the Labour party was very weak, but to-day, thanks to organization, it is strong. It was only recently that the rural producer, after he had learned a valuable lesson, attempted to organize his forces. With the backing of the Government in the creation of Wheat Pools, from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 was placed in the pockets of the wheat-growers of Victoria last year. It is hoped that in the near future, as a result of the growth of co-operative organizations in the different States, wheatgrowers will be able to control the whole Australian output. Primary producers desire to organize their industries to the fullest possible extent. We have realized the benefit of organization, and are determined to do all we can to profit by our knowledge. We need the assistance of the Government in finding new markets, and in providing shipping. I am pleased to notice that in the Governor-General’s Speech it is announced that shipping will be subsidized. I am associated with a co-operative company - not one of the objectionable Combines referred to by members of the Opposition - which has financed an agent to go to the East, on behalf of the producers, with a view to opening up new markets. This would not have been done had not the Government promised to come to our assistance in providing shipping. We intend to put the butter industry on a sound basis. This industry is receiving Government assistance in the form of a loan of £3,000, and the State Government have also come to its aid. We hope to improve the quality of butter to an extent that will add £2,000,000 to the money which goes into the pockets of the dairy farmers of Australia. The “ Bawra “ scheme taught such a lesson to the wool-producers that they are organizing to control the wool clip. There is a Meat Council in the meat industry, and we have representatives who are making inquiries in Great Britain. We hope, in the near future, to take this industry in hand and organize it thoroughly. By getting those who are thoroughly familiar with the great primary industries to place them on a proper footing, we shall be doing great service, not only to the producer, but to the people of Australia. Government assistance is required in fixing standards, for the export trade has been ruined in the past for want of closer supervision. The Government should very carefully check all meat exported. It is lamentable to find that Australian meat has not been quoted on the London market since last May. Much has been said about the high cost of meat to the consumer. I can assure the House that the primary producer is not to blame. Until the break in the weather, at the end of May, prime meat was selling on the hoof at 2$d. per lb. The consumer had to pay double that amount, but the producer did not receive it. There are a number of causes of the high cost of meat to the consumer. There are Arbitration Court awards, Wages Board determinations, the import duties upon implements used by the butcher, high rents, and the high cost of buildings. When all the increased costs of the last few years are taken into account, it is obvious why meat, and all other commodities have increased, in price to the consumer . If the great industrial organizations wish to get at the root of this evil, there is a better policy open to them than that of leaning on the Government. I am heart and soul a co-operator, and in the furtherance of co-operation the workers can do yeoman service. If organizations were formed in the capital cities, and a few men were appointed to various distributing centres, prime frozen car- cass mutton could be obtained from the Western and Murray Co-operative Bacon and Meat Packing Company Limited at from 5fd. per lb. Such meat is much better than is being bought on the hoof in the markets to-day, and after careful defrigeration is equally as wholesome as any meat that can be bought in the retail shops. From the same source carcass lamb can be bought at S-Jd. per lb., although the price on the hoof at Newmarket yesterday was over ls. per lb. Hindquarters of beef can be had for 5d. per lb., and forequarters for 4d. What is to prevent the Housewives Association, or an industrial organization, establishing distributing centres, and purchasing from the company I have mentioned at wholesale rates? Distribution of lamb or mutton in quarters would not be a very great tax. This meat is killed while in prime condition, and, according to an expert, the carcass can be thoroughly thawed out in about forty-eight hours by being hung in a passage or other position where there is a free draught of air. Joints from these carcasses should then be held by the housewives for a further eight or ten hours before cooking. If treated in this manner, and cooked in the ordinary way,- the meat will retain all the natural flavours and taste just as well as freshly killed meat.
I desire to see the meat industry placed on a. sound footing. The producers do not seek bounties, but the little assistance that the Government propose to render is very necessary at this juncture. The Meat Council has representatives travelling throughout the world to investigate foreign markets, and I feel sure that, in the course of the next few years, it will have placed the meat industry on a sound footing. The keenest supervision over all exported meat is necessary. To show how much the bounty of £d. per lb. will mean to the producers, I submit to the House the following up-to-date and authoritative figures: - Prime frozen Queensland beef can be -bought on the wharf, Melbourne, to-day, at 4d. per lb. The charges from Queensland to Melbourne represent 3d. per lb. The price in store in Queensland is 3§d. The freight and charges on Commonwealth boats carrying meat from Australia to London amount to 1 1/8d. per lb., making the price, landed in London, 4Ad. per lb. Prime Australian beef was quoted in London, in April last, at 4id. per lb. These figures show a margin in favour of the local market of id. per lb. The bounty of id. per lb. will allow the producers of Queensland to send their meat to London at a profit of id. per lb. Thus export becomes possible. For that reason, I give the Bill my heartiest support. It is the intention of the producers to organize the rural industries on a solid footing, and that having been done, it will be the duty of the Government to give them reasonable assistance in the transportation and marketing of their produce.
– The proposed bounty has been dealt with from almost every point of view, and I rise only to explain the reason why I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill. The Government propose to make a free gift to certain people in the community. That is not in the interests of the whole of the primary producers. Knowing something of the cattle industry in South Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales, I am prepared to admit the contention of some honorable members that the small cattleowners are on “the ‘bread-line. But in offering a bounty to meat exporters the Government are aiding one class of primary producers at the expense of others. There are very many producers other than cattlemen who, too, are almost on the bread-line, and I do not consider it fair that they should be asked to contribute towards the payment of a bounty to others whose circumstances are probably no worse than their own. I am not opposed to the Government rendering assistance to primary producers when there is as much justification as there is in connexion with the beef industry, but I am opposed to the methods by which the Government propose to give that aid. In years .gone by when the wheat farmers were in distress owing to drought, State Governments properly came to their assistance, ‘but not by making a free gift. The financial help they received became a first charge upon the land, and had to be repaid to the State. If Che Commonwealth Government proposed to lend money to the beef exporters, I would support that policy. The wives and families of wheat farmers in drought-stricken areas .have been without food and clothing, but every penny of assistance they received from the Government had to be repaid. If the Commonwealth were to advance money to the meat exporters - the loans may be current as long as it is thought necessary - the recipients of such assistance would not be robbed of their independence. They would undertake to repay the financial aid t’hey had received in the form of a loan, and other producers would not have occasion to charge the cattle breeders and meat exporters with having been spoon-fed at the expense of the rest of the community. In the south-eastern portion of my electorate, owing to climatic and soil conditions, the farmers are. restricted Ito ‘the growing of barley. During the last few years there has been an over-production of that grain, and notwithstanding that drought conditions prevailed last year, there are thousands of bags of barley in the Millicent district for which ‘the farmers cannot get more than 2s. 6d. per bushel. Yet we hear of a demand that maize should be admitted free of duty from South Africa to feed drought-stricken stock. The barley farmers are in as bad a plight as are the Queensland cattlemen. Some men who bought land at prices up to £30 per acre for growing barley are unable to meet their interest bill. They cannot ask the Government for a bounty; they themselves must face the mortgage as best they can, -and if I were to lead a deputation asking for a bounty on barley exported the Minister for Trade and Customs would probably ask me if I had been over-indulging in liquor. I did not wish to give a silent vote against the Bill. I have explained my position. I believe in co-operation as strongly as does the honorable member who spoke last. I believe that an ounce of cooperation is worth a hundredweight of politics. But if co-operation is not carried out on proper lines, it is of very little use. I cannot see my way clear to support a proposal to take money out of the pockets of one section of the taxpayers in order to make a gift to another section. In the form in which the Bill appears, I am compelled to vote against it. I thought I would be in the wilderness alone, but I have found that there are one or two other honorable members who hold views similar to those I have expressed. If the Government could see their way to give the assistance proposed in this Bill to the cattle industry in the form of a loan, I should be only too pleased to support them.
.- This has been a very interesting debate, and I have been led to think that the object of the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) in endeavouring to increase the facilities for the distribution of Hansard was to circulate this debate amongst the people in the country. It should certainly make them bestir themselves in such a way that it would be unnecessary for them to come here next year for a further subsidy. I intend to vote for the subsidy this year because the picture of ‘the distress and misery of farmers growing cattle in the country has appealed to me so strongly as to affect my pity, and urges me to assist in relieving such horrible conditions. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) was looking for some reason to justify him in voting against the Bill introduced by the Government; but the pictures which have been painted of the distress and misery of those engaged in the cattle industry have supplied me with a justification for supporting the measure. Listening to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and other honorable members has led me to the conclusion that there is a lack of organization of the cattle industry, and those engaged in it have exhibited a marvellous incapacity for the conduct of their business. I received an invitation at one time from Sir Samuel McCaughey to visit one of his stations in New South Wales. Honorable members are aware that he lived all his life on the land, loved it, made a special study of how to exist upon it, and died a millionaire. He” said to me, “ There will always be periods of drought in Australia, sometimes more severe than at other times. Do you know how I make my millions?” I said that as he had invited me to visit the station, I proposed to get all the information I could from him. I felt that some day I would be a member of the Federal Parliament, and, with the information derived from Sir Samuel McCaughey, I might teach country mem bers how to run the country districts. He told me that he spent a certain sum every year in making provision for water on every block of land he bought. He said he had some flats on the estate which I visited upon which he grew lucerne. He got six or seven crops of lucerne off those flats, and he made pens in which he stored the fodder for a dry season. He said, “ In that way my cattle and sheep are always in good condition and marketable. You cannot dispose of sheep or cattle if they are in an emaciated condition.” He further said, “ There is something in the Scriptures about the wise virgins and those who went without their lamps. I always keep my lamp alight, and that has brought me to my present position.”
– Order ! Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the Bill?
– I am afraid, sir, that you could not have heard all that has *been said in this debate, because it has been pointed out that the cattle industry is in its present deplorable condition owing to drought and other causes. I am trying to show the reasons for the existing condition of the industry. The man who helps himself, and does not depend wholly on Providence, does well. Those who are engaged in the raising of cattle and sheep have not paid sufficient attention to making provision for bad seasons. They put sheep and cattle on the land and expect good results to followwithout any assistance from themselves. I visited a very large sheep station atone time in the lambing season, and as I sat with the proprietor on the verandah of his home, every time he saw a new lamb drop he said, “ God be praised ! There goes another 5s. into my pocket.” References have been made during the debate to the value of cooperation, but to talk about it is not sufficient. Mr. Jowett, after his visit -to London, spoke of the necessity of sending Australian meat to Smithfield Markets and to other markets in Great Britain, but that cannot be done except by cooperation. When the people in the country districts get two or three- good seasons they sit by and do nothing. If they applied to the industry in which they are engaged some of the energy which a city business man puts into providing for improved machinery to increase production, they would not be asking for such a subsidy as is proposed in the Bill. I feel that I might profitably devote my time when the House is in recess in visiting country districts and trying to rouse the people there out of their habits of sloth and indifference.
– Order ! The honorable member must speak to the Bill.
– At the present time the price of meat in the cities is much too high. In the last fortnight mutton could not be purchased in Sydney. When I went home last week I was invited by some people to go along two of the main streets of the city, and I found that the windows of every butcher’s shop were covered with the word “ Pork.” The reason was that the retail butchers could not purchase mutton from the wholesale houses except at a price which would make it necessary for them to charge twice as much for it as they had charged the week before. I make these statements to show the lack of proper organization* in the cattle industry. With regard to the position in Melbourne, according to those in the trade, there are five or _ six people who have very great influence with the State Government, and have been successful in interposing obstacles to the admission of Queensland cattle into this State. If cattle are dipped in Queensland there is no reason why they should not be free from ticks when brought to Melbourne. I have been assured on what should be good authority that plenty of meat could be brought from Queensland to Victoria at present, instead of it being obtained from New Zealand at greater COSt. It is high time that the industry was properly managed. The whole trouble is clue to lack of organization, and I am afraid that the payment of a bounty will not provide a permanent remedy. I shall vote for the Bill on this occasion, but if a similar measure is brought clown next year I shall be unable to support it.
.- I should not have risen but for the speech of the honorable member for Kooyong. (Mr. Latham). Let me put before the House what I conceive to be the economic .principle underlying the granting of a bonus to a primary industry. An honorable member who is a Free Trader has a right to consistently oppose the granting of a subsidy. The honor able member for Perth (Mr. Mann) delivered a particularly consistent speech, and with many of. his statements in regard to the necessity for cheapening freights, I am in complete accord. But my friend, the honorable member for Kooyong,. is a Protectionist, and I think he shares the opinion held by many members of this House on the fiscal issue, namely, that our secondary industries should be subsidized through the Tariff. If that is reasonable, it cannot ‘be regarded as unreasonable to subsidize a primary industry, when it is in difficulty, through the more direct method of a bonus. Perhaps the analytical mind of the honorable member for Kooyong would suggest to him that there is no analogy between] a direct subsidy and a subsidy by means of the Tariff, but the distinction is more apparent than real, because in both cases the general taxpayers have to provide the money. In purchasing the product of a secondary industry the consumer pays the duty if it is an imported article, and if he purChases an Australian-made article, which he ought to do as far as possible, he pays the equivalent of the duty. In most cases the consumer does this year after year, and has come to regard it as a reasonable thing to do. But when a bonus of id. per lb. is proposed as a direct subsidy to a primary industry in difficulties, it is regarded as highly improper, and a violation of some economic law. The secondary industry is privileged in that, in competing with importations from overseas, it is able to obtain, not only world’s prices, but world’s prices plus freights and Tariffs. The export-meat industry, on the other hand, receives world’s prices, less freight and less a huge discount owing to the fact that frozen meat obtains a much lower price than the fresh article. If it be a virtue on the part, of the Government to collect tribute from the consumer indirectly in order to protect a secondary industry, there is not very much wrong in handing back a little of that money to assist another industry which is absolutely on the rocks.
Question resolved- in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee’ without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) agreed to -
That thu Sill be recommittedfor the reconsiderationof clauses 4 and 12.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 4 -
The ‘bounties under this Act shall be payable in respect of -
the export from the Commonwealth, on or before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and . twenty-three, of standard beef . slaughtered on or after the first day of March, one thousand nine hundred and twenty-three, which is placed in cool store -on or before the thirty-first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three ;
the export on or before the thirtyfirst day of March, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, from the Common wealth to . a prescribed port, of standard beef, slaughtered on or after the first day of March, One thousand nine hundred and twentythree, which is placed in cool store on or before the thirty-first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three;
.- I move-
That the words “first day of March”in paragraphs (a) and (b) be left out with a view’ to insert in lieu thereof the words “nineteenth day of February.”
The object of the amendments is to pat back the date of slaughter by one week for the (purpose of covering certain exportation.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders . suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 18.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230705_reps_9_103/>.