9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker(rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Publics Service Act. - Appointment of H. F. Taylor, Department of the Treasury.
High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom - Report for the year 1023.
Explorations in Papua.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether operations on behalf of the Government in connexion with the exploration for oil in Papua have absolutely ceased, or is the Government continuing to explore for oil in that Territory?
– The Government is still carrying on explorations for oil in Papua. If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall supply him with the latest information on the subject.
– I ask the Prime
Minister whether the Government has yet agreed to the proposal of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), to take steps for the creation of new States in Australia ?
– The matter to which the honorable member refers raises a question of policy which can hardly be dealt with in answering a question.
Mr. BAYLEY, as Chairman, brought up a report from the Public Accounts Committee on Canberra Housing. Ordered to be printed.
– Follow ing on the questions I have asked Mr. Speaker and the Prime Minister concerning the transmission to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral of the resolution of this House that the next meeting of the Parliament should be at Canberra, I again ask the Prime Minister whether the resolution has been so transmitted.
– I shall give the honorable member an answer during the course of the day.
Mr.FENTON. - Is the Treasurer yet in a position to announce to the House full particulars with regard to the floating of the War Gratuity Conversion Loan?
– I regret that the final figures are not yet to hand.
Formal Motion op Adjournment.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “the care and treatment of mentally afflicted returned soldiers.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places.
.- I wish to make it quite clear that in submitting my motion I am not influenced in any way by party considerations. The subject with which I propose to deal is entirely above them. I have brought the matter before the notice of the House in this form because for some years past, since- the, Mont Park institution has been used for housing a number of unfortunate men who> as a result of ‘ war service, have lost their reason , I have been taking more than a passing interest in their welfare, and have on a number of occasions brought up matters concerning them in this House. I should at the outset say that I appreciate the action of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in making it possible for me to peruse a<- copy of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States authorising the- change proposed in connexion’ with- the care of these unfortunate men. I regret that honorable members generally have not had an- opportunity pf perusing the agreement, because if they had tha.y weald at once recognise that there was justification for the question which I asked! in this House last week. Sometimes the newspa pers publish statements which are not correct, but they recorded- what turned out to be a fact when they stated- that it was the intention of the Government uo transfer patients at Mont Park from the direct control of the Federal authorities to the control of a State Department.
– The State Lunacy Department.
– Yes. This matter is by no means new. Some three years- ago-, without the relatives- of the men. having any knowledge that the Government proposed to do anything of the kind, a movement was made to transfer a number of them to civil lunatic asylums-. We have no quarrel whatever with the desire of the Government or the Commission for the segregation of these men. We recognise that in the interests of the men themselves that is absolutely necessary. We appreciate the fact that it is proposed, under the agreement, to transfer some fifty of these men to the Bundoora Park establishment, where they may be given curative treatment. That will, be- in the best interests of the men concerned. In view of the fact that it has been recognised as necessary that these men should be segregated, I want to know how it is that the authorities have only just awakened’ to the fact. There have been for some three years or more over 100 men placed in one or two wards in what was No. 16” Australian General Hospital,
Mont Park, which has now been taken over by the State as an asylum. Then has been only one recreation reserve for the whole of these men. I took a former Minister foi- Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers.)i out to. Mont Park to see foc’ himself the actual position. Mi”. Rodgers inspected not only the military institution, as it is termed, but was also driven acrossto another building in the same grounds, and under the- control of the State. He was thus able to compare the conditionsin the two institutions,, and upon- his return he issued the instruction that the men were not to be placed under the careof the State; the proposal then being tosend ten of them to the Kew and ten tothe Sunbury Lunatic Asylum. I -want tei emphasize that these unfortunate men. are in their present state because of services rendered to thi.s country in- its hour of need, and that the Commonwealth responsibility m regard to them should not be transferred to any State authority. I sia-11 be told, perhaps, that &ere is no desire on the part of the Government to relieve themselves of this definite responsibility ; hut I am satisfied that if honorable members hari an opportunity to peruse this agreement, they would realize that though it is not the intention of the Government to- transfer responsibility, nevertheless responsibility is being transferred;
– The fact is that they did it in Western Australia.
– But the men remain under the Repatriation Commission.
– Most honorable members will agree that benefits must accrue to these men front being classified. But why was action not taken sooner to segregate the men in the manner now proposed? The former Minister (Mr. Rodgers), in my hearing three years ago, gave definite instructions that certain recreation reserves, contiguous to the yard now, and then, in use were to be prepared for the segregation of the men. Those yards have been available practically ever- since until now, when it is proposed to do something in the manner indicated.
– Have the yards been used for other purposes!
– No; unless within the last few months. I was out there only yesterday, and met Dr. Jones, the InspectorGeneral of Insane, and also Dr. Cade, than whom the soldiers have- no better friend. We believe that the best interests of the men will be served by their remaining under the direct medical control of Dr. Cade. But other influences are at work, and for the information of honorable members I purpose reading a certain paragraph from this wonderful document, termed an agreement, which, I understand,has not yet been signed, although it is in operation. The agreement sets out on page 1 : -
And whereas ithas been agreed between the Commission and the Slate that for the considerations hereinafter appearing the Commission shall assign to the State all the right, title, and interest of the Commission in and to the Repatriation Mental Hospital, Mont Park, and in and to the equipment of each of the said hospitals at the date of the execution of this agreement. And whereas the State has agreed to make certain structural and other alterations to the Repatriation Mental Hospitol,. Mont Park, at the expense of the Commission.
This agreement, I may add, is to remain in force for five years for certain. If, during that time, the Federal authorities become dissatisfied with the conditions, apparently there will be no alternative bub to allow the men. to be kept in this institution for. the full term of the agreement. At the expiration of the term either party to the agreement may determine it by giving twelve months’ notice in writing.
– In the meantime what happens.?
– That is the point. The men will be absolutely at the mercy of a Department which may not enjoy the confidence of this House. After all we have to keep in mind the fact that the care of these men is a Federal, not a State, responsibility. Paragraph 2 of the agreement reads -
That in consideration of the State agreeing to pay to the Commission the sum of Fifteen thousand seven hundred pounds within one calendar month after the date of the execution of this agreement, and in consideration of the State agreeing to pay to the Commission a price to be fixed in. the manner provided by sub-clause 2 of this clause for the equipment in each of the said hospitals -
This refers to Bundoora Park and Mont Park- the Commission hereby assigns to the State all the right, title, and interest of the Commission in and to the Repatriation Mental Hospital, Mont Park, and in and to the equipment in each of the said hospitals, to hold the same unto the State absolutely.
– They are selling out.
– Absolutely. Certain wards are being erected in pursuance, I presume, of this agreement. The work is practically half finished, and I want to know if the cost is being met by the Commission, and if it is included in the £15,700 to be paid by the State to the Commission. I want to know, also, what was the original cost of those buildings to the Commonwealth. We have a right to information on all these points. I feel pretty strongly upon this matter, and think that the information should have been given to this House before anything definite had been done in the way outlined in the agreement. I want to know why these changes are necessary, and why the Commission accepts responsibility, in certain directions, as far as the payment of moneys is concerned, when it is going to allow the State practically to control these men.
– Does the agreement say anything about what the patients will have to pay ?
– Yes. I shall come to that point presently.I shall not read the whole of the agreement, as that would occupy too much of the time availableto me on this motion, but so far as possible I want to bring its salient features under the notice of honorable members. The agreement sets out further in clause 5 -
I assume that that means that these institutions are to be maintained for the exclusive use of soldier mental patients.
– It does not mention soldiers specifically.
– No ; but the Act to which reference is made specifically relates to returned soldiers. There is also a clause which sets out that the State - not the Commonwealth or the Commission - shall not be bound to receive into a hospital amy criminal or very refractory patients. What is to happen to those patients, who, as a result of war service, have become refractory? As ex-soldiers they are our care, and we cannot neglect them. The question of expense should not enter into consideration. There are people, of course, who say that these problems must be handled on a business basis, but there is in human nature a good deal of sentiment, and it goes a long way. It was not the paltry pay of 6s. or 7s. per day that induced our men to go abroad to fight; they were prompted by sentiment, and we cannot lightly brush it aside now that, as a result of wai’ service, some of them are in a helpless condition. The State authorities assumed control yesterday, and already a change has been made in the dietary scale of the patients.
– The change may be for the good of the patients.
– That may be so. Dr. Jones pointed out to me yesterday that the diet must be varied to suit the requirements of different patients, and it may be necessary to curtail the meat diet of some men. Those who are able to move about freely can assimilate a full diet that would be detrimental to men who are partially incapacitated or confined to their rooms. I recognise the need for these variations, but having regard to some of the changes which have been made within twelve hours of the transfer of control, we are justified in wondering where the alterations will end.
– Is the dietary scale insufficient ?
– I am not prepared to say that; but on every hoarding throughout Victoria we read the advice of Mr. Clapp, the Railway Commissioner, to “ eat more fruit.” I cannot imagine that, fruit is any detriment to mental patients.
– On the contrary, it is very beneficial.
– Yet already the fruit diet provided by the Repatriation Coinmission has been cut out, and these patients are now dependent for fruit upon the generosity of the Red Cross Society. The tea allowance also has been reduced. Previously 3 lbs. of tea per day was required to supply these men with tea three times a day. . Now the quantity has been reduced to 28 oz., a,nd the men get tea only twice a day. An honorable member interjects that that is quite enough, but it is not enough for me. The diet of these men should not be restricted unless the doctor recommends a curtailment in the interests of health, and I doubt that the class of tea supplied in State institutions will be detrimental to patients, even if it is taken three times per day. The agreement goes on to provide^ -
For the services .to be performed for patients under this agreement the Commission will (subject to clause 17 of this agreement) pay to the State in respect of each patient a sum of 6s. 6d. for each day the patient is in a hospital.
– What becomes of the soldier’s pension?
– I believe that it accumulates, and may be drawn by the soldier when he leaves the institution.
– Is it not paid to dependants ?
– Probably provision can be made for the pension to be paid to his dependants. The agreement further states that in addition to the payment I have already mentioned - the Commission shall also pay to the State an inclusive sum of £5 5s. per week for the medical treatment of patients.
I do not think we can take exception to that payment. Clause 13 sets out -
The State will forthwith upon the commencement of this agreement cause to be appointed by the Governor in Council under section 74 of the Lunacy Act 1915 two official visitors, one to be nominated by the Commission and the other by the Inspector-General of the Insane.
When these men were under the control of the Repatriation Department two official visitors were appointed, one of them being Dr. Springthorpe, a very eminent medical man in Melbourne.
– A very good man, too.
– The Returned Soldiers League nominated another gentleman, but his appointment;was not acceptable to the Commission. They looked on him a 3 an agitator, although he is a returned soldier, and enjoys the confidence of many in this city. Under the proposed agreement there will be two official visitors, one nominated by the Commission and the other by the InspectorGeneral of the Insane. They will report to the Inspector-General of the Insane.
– He practically reports to himself.
– One of the official visitors will be his own nominee. Should any difference arise, the final adjudicator will be the Inspector-General. Until now the Commission have had their own representative, but some time ago, when certain warders were charged with interfering with, or injuring, one of the mental patients, the Inspector-General of the Insane sat in judgment over the men, although they were his own officers, and adjudged them not guilty. By this agreement we are handing to the InspectorGeneral of the Insane power and authority which should be retained by the Federal Government. Under the agreement special treatment must be provided for patients when such is considered necessary by the doctors. That additional expense will be borne by the Commission, and not by the State, yet the State has the right to say whether or not the special treatment shall be given. The agreement should not have been entered into until this House had been consulted in the matter.
– What are the Government doing ?
– The Government are. here to be guided, to a certain extent, by the elected members of this Parliament. We have no quarrel with the Commission as to the segregation of these men, except on the ground that the matter should have been attended to long before this, but we do object, and rightly so, to their control being handed oyer to a State Department which is not responsible to this Parliament or to the Government of the day. Particularly. is that so when wo realize that under the proposed agreement these men are to be loft in the institution for five years, unless this House meanwhile makes other arrangements for their reception. I trust the House will discuss this matter calmly and dispassionately, and that the Government will hesitate before they sign this agreement; otherwise they will be unable to maintain the control they should exercise over these men.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) has raised this question in the way ho has, because it gives me the opportunity of relieving the minds of the friends and relatives of those unfortunate mentally afflicted soldiers who are at present under treatment in the various mental hospitals throughout Australia, as to the conditions now prevailing. This motion gives me the opportunity to refer to the injury clone to these unfortunates by the uninformed agitation which has been continuous during the last four or five years. These men have not been segre gated earlier because on every occasion on which an attempt at segregation was made the agitation in Melbourne was sufficient to block it. What is their position to-day as compared with three days ago? The transfer which was made yesterday has for its object the classification into five divisions of the mentally afflicted men in the Melbourne institutions; previously two classifications only were possible. Sow, those who have a good chance of getting better will be separated from the impulsive, the noisy, and the dirty, and their recovery will thus be hastened. Every alienist in. the world, every one who has made a special study of this particular class of disease, believes that the Commission is acting in the best interests of these men, and any delay in bringing the new system of control into force would mean additional suffering for those we desire to assist. The treatment of mental cases is satisfactory only in big institutions. Why is it that throughout Australia the average capacity of such institutions is from 1,000 to 1,500 patients?
– It is principally to save expense.
– It is not a question of expense. It has been found that an institution of that size gives the most satisfactory results, because in it the patients can be best classified and given the most specialized treatment. Specially qualified medical officers are available for a hospital of that size, but would not be available for small institutions. In addition, such institutions are able to secure and retain a highly qualified nursing staff. Unless the Government make an arrangement such as the one before us, this Parliament must face the question whether the Commonwealth shall take control of the mental cases throughout Australia or the States shall continue to deal with them. It is impossible in existing circumstances for the Commonwealth to establish a large institution, because the total number of cases of mentally-afflicted soldiers being treated in all the States is only 345. If we were to bring all these men together to a central institution, it would inflict considerable hardship upon the men themselves, their relatives, and their friends, particularly in cases where they were removed from distant States.
That is not the only difficulty. Supposing we did desire to establish such an institution, it would be impossible to secure a thoroughly qualified staff for it.
-Why .not !
– The Government desires, and I believe Parliament desires, to do the best possible for these men. That desire actuated the Government in making this agreement. I have tried to do the right thing for these men ever since I have had control of repatriation work. I -have laboured unceasingly to secure this change, which was first suggested during the war, and has since been sought continually, not merely by departmental experts, but by non-departmental experts as well. The most expert opinion on this matter in Australia is favorable to the change. Sir John McPherson, Professor of Psychiatry at the Sydney University, and Inspector-General of Lunacy in Scotland for many years, favours this arrangement. He is a. man whose reputation is world-wide, and Australia is fortunate to have him here to give advice. Dr. Ramsay Mailer, the Collins-street specialist, as well as the medical advisory committee, consisting of Dr. Stawell, Dr. Syme, Dr. Ramsay Webb, and Sir Henry Maudsley, also agree that for the satisfactory treatment of these mental cases it is advisable to have them, in ,a ‘large institution, which will provide the opportunity for proper classification and segregation.
– Why could not that be done under Federal control?
– Because we have only ‘345 cases.
– A.nd it would cost too much.
– That has nothing to do with it. As a matter -of fact, the cost will be greater under the new arrangement than under the old one. The agreement provides that the Commission shall control these men in the fullest possible way, and shall be responsible for their welfare and well-being. Provision is made also for specialized treatment in particular cases.
– Why could not the Federal authority take control?
– The first reason why the Federal authorities cannot properly deal with these mentally afflicted soldiers is that there are only 345 of them in all. New South Wales has something like 135, Victoria has about 125, and the remainder are scattered throughout the other States. Even if we brought them all together we could not give them the specialized treatment which they need. Another reason why the Commonwealth Government cannot undertake this responsibility is that even if it did establish an institution it would be a small one, with a comparatively limited -variation in mental diseases, and as such would not attract the men who make a special study of mental disorders.
– If the Government paid the men enough it would get them.
– The honorable member always thinks in terms of money, but this matter is not governed by money. It is -governed by knowledge, skill, and professional instinct.
– The reason why we do not get the most qualified men in the State Lunacy ‘Department is because we do not pay enough..
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), and, I think, other honorable members realize that the medical practitioners who devote their time and talents to the treatment of mental disorders do not do so because of the money they may make out of it. Generally speaking, they could earn more in other branches of their profession. I can speak with authority on this matter, because I have known men to give up “big practices to take up this work. A large percentage of those who specialize in mental diseases give their “time and talents to the work because of love for it, and because they realize the need for it. The limited number of patients available and the ‘difficulty of obtaining the most expert medical advice are not the only barriers to the Commonwealth establishing its own institution to deal with these cases. It would be almost impossible to secure a properly qualified attendant staff for a Commonwealth mental institution, because, on account of the limited experience to be gained in such an institution, the -most desirable and qualified men would not accept positions in it.
– Then it is a question of cost, after all?
– Ifc is a question of . interest, but not money interest. Professional interest in the work is what induces the best men to take up this branch of study. Only men who are thoroughly interested will devote their skill, activity, and energy to the work.
– Is it proposed to make this agreement applicable to every State 1
– Yes. We have had no trouble whatever, except in Victoria. Since I have taken control of the Repatriation Department I have visited every Sta’te, and I have found that they are all, with the exception of Victoria, working satisfactorily under similar arrangements. The mentally afflicted soldiers at Callan Park are being treated in a way that is absolutely satisfactory to the patients, their relatives, and their friends, and no trouble whatever has arisen there. I represent a New South Wales constituency, and am frequently in Sydney, but I have never heard a single complaint. We have a special building for these men at Callan Park, and we shall require one at Mont Park. The amount to be paid to the States is what they regard as necessary to cover the cost of proper treatment. The agreement provides that the soldier patients shall receive even better food than that served to the ordinary civilian patients, and the Commission will pay for it.
– That is not just.
– It may not be just from the point of view of the patients who are being looked after by the State, but the fact is that the soldiers are being treated in a far better way than is any other mentally afflicted patient in Australia. In Adelaide and Perth provision has been made for the erection of separate buildings, to insure the more complete segregation of the soldier mental patients. When I was in Western Australia, an agreement was come to between the Commonwealth and State Governments regarding the site on which the building there shall be erected. I regret that I have not been able to visit the Goodna Asylum, in Queensland. I started out one day to visit it, but, unfortunately, a bush fire had destroyed, two bridges over which it was necessary to pass, and I was unable to arrive at the institution. That is the only institution in Australia that I have not been able to visit. I know that in every other institution the treatment of the mentally afflicted soldiers is as good as modern science and institutional practice can possibly make it. There is no justification for the scare statements that are continually being made to the effect that the soldiers are being given a very bad spin in this matter.
– Order ! The Treasurer’s time has expired.
.- I am very sorry that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) did not cover much wider ground in the motion submitted by him. It is a well-known fact that, among all parties in this House, a great deal of dissatisfaction is felt with regard to the administration of the Repatriation Department. In spite of the denials of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), I cannot divorce from my mind the belief that the desire to practise economy played a very considerable part in inducing the Government to transfer to a State institution its responsibilities respecting mentally afflicted soldiers. With all due respect to the Treasurer, who is an eminent medical man, I submit that the present condition .of many soldiers, who became mentally afflicted, following on war service, is thi result of shell shock; they are not congenital cases, such as are found in the various mental hospitals throughout Australia. Their condition being the result of nervous strain, they are entitled to receive every possible sympathy and consideration that the Commonwealth can give them. They are an obligation of the Commonwealth, which should not under any pretext attempt to transfer its responsibilities elsewhere.
– They should not b.e brought into contact with other cases that are not of a like nature.
– I agree with that contention. I spent nine months in a military hospital on my return from war service, and I saw many pitiable cases of men who were suffering from shell shock. Their condition varies, and their mental affliction is very slight indeed in normal circumstances. I believe that the fact of their being placed with congenital cases is calculated to make their mental condition worse than it is at present. The limitation of their dietary . also is calculated to create dissatisfaction, and is quite unwarranted. Contentment and congenial surroundings, in many cases, will do a great deal towards insuring complete recovery.
– It is not proposed to place them with congenital cases.
– They will be brought indirectly- into contact with such cases. If a man is only slightly afflicted his condition will be made much worse by the knowledge that he has been placed in what wc colloquially term a lunatic asylum. I also draw attention to the startling fact that the Commonwealth is paying £2 5s. 6d. per week for the treatment of these mcn. That payment- should warrant a very liberal dietary. The general administration of the Repatriation Department has caused serious dissatisfaction throughout the Commonwealth as well as amongst honorable members of this House. I have heard the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), and other honorable members, breathe vengeance against the Repatriation Department because of its ill-treatment of the returned soldiers. It Ls a national obligation to undertake the separate treatment .of returned soldiers in Commonwealth hospitals. Those men are entitled to special treatment. I see. in the action that is being taken in this matter the first step towards a general transfer of all soldier patients to hospitals under civil control. This action of the Government indicates how short its memory is. Yesterday we heard a good deal regarding sacrifice, Empire responsibilities, and various other prettily sounding phrases. “When it comes to a practical demonstration of loyalty in the carrying out of our obligations to the returned soldiers, the Government evidently prefers to exercise economy, and seek relief from its responsibilities in the matter. Bearing upon this question - I mention it incidentally because I consider that the whole subject of repatriation is indirectly affected by the motion before the House - is the fact that the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission is also Chairman of the War Service Homes Commission. I maintain that he cannot give adequate attention to both Departments. I hope that the Treasurer, also, will relieve himself of the Repatriation portfolio, which at present is held by him, in order thai matters which require to be submitted to the Minister from time to time may be expeditiously dealt with. In many cases unsympathetic treatment has been accorded to men whose present condition of health is alleged by the Department to be not due to war service. When such cases are submitted to the Minister, he merely refers them to the Repatriation Commission, which affirms its previous decision. There are, no doubt, many instances of injustice, even of apparently cold-blooded cruelty, in the Commission’s handling of these cases. Much more satisfaction would .result if the duties of the Minister for Repatriation were not combined with those of another Department.
– When the Government accepted these men for war service they promised to shoulder full responsibility for their welfare.
– No attempt has been made to give effect to the Treasurer’s pre-election promise to overhaul the Repatriation Department. I submit that so glaring are the injustices which are from time to time brought under the notice of the Minister, and mentioned in the columns of the press of Australia, that the position warrants the appointment of a Royal Commission or a Select Committee of this House to consider the whole administration of the Department.
– I am afraid the honorable member is now going outside the terms of the motion.
– -With due respect, sir, I considered that under the terms of the motion the general administration of the Department might be referred to. Last year the Treasurer evidently recognised that there was genuine dissatisfaction in connexion with repatriation, because he agreed to the appointment of a Committee to consider matters such as that which is now before the House. But that Committee has never functioned. It has no statutory authority. It consists of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. E. Green). I asked the honorable member for Richmond a few weeks ago if the Committee had met, and he said “No; we have no statutory authority, and nothing can be done.” The Treasurer should recognise that grave injustices have occurred, and should agree to an inquiry being conducted into the administration of this Department.
.- I have risen to say a few words on the motion in order that I may refer to a special case which came under my notice in Western Australia,and because I should not like people generally to believe that the position at present is in any sense satisfactory. I wish to give some details of a particular case, so that fathers and relatives generally of afflicted returned soldiers may realize that whilst it may be useful and necessary for the Government to make arrangements with State authorities to secure better medical treatment for these men, it is beyond everything else essential that the Commonwealth shall not surrender its responsibility to them in the slightest degree. The Federal authority must retain full control of these matters. Satisfactory arrangements may be made with State Governments, but throughout the piece the Commonwealth Government alone must accept full responsibility for the proper care of mentally afflicted returned soldiers. In one clause of the agreement which has been entered into provision is made for official visitors. One is to be nominated by the Repatriation Department and another by the State Department, but the Returned Soldiers Association are apparently not to be permitted to appoint visitors to the institutions, and we shall be unable in the future to learn how the soldiers are being treated. This may destroy all possibility of enabling criticism of departmental methods. It is a disgrace to Australia that such a case as was brought under my notice in Western Australia should have been allowed to arise. It was the case of a young man who was well brought up. and who joined the Air Force. He crashed when employed against the enemy, and although when he returned to Australia he was able to follow his former avocation for some time, he later became a wreck. He was on the broad of his back in a comatose state for three or four months, and then began to recover. While regaining his bodily health he became mentally afflicted and was committed to the Stromnes Hospital. He became somewhat violent and was then sent to the lunatic asylum at Clare mont. I visited the asylum one afternoon and found this young man interned in No. 5 ward of the asylum. He is only a boy, and any one who saw him would feel that given a chance in proper environment he would very probably recover his mental faculties. He was put into the worst ward of the asylum, amongst criminals, Asiatics, Japanese, Chinese, and half-castes. As a result of my visit I sent the following wire at once to the Treasurer : -
Desire draw your earnest attention to treatment mentally” afflicted soldiers this State. Yesterday visited Claremont Lunatic Asylum. Saw mentally afflicted officer-airman, herded with most awful specimen ofhumanity including Asiatics, under wretched conditions. Airman’s case is not hopeless, but environment and awful association must make his case hopeless. Believe public would be astounded if revelations were made public. Would recommend that patient be transferred some institution in East, where best medical attention and good environment might easily produce sound mentality.
When the Treasurer went over to Perth he looked into this case at once. The Department in dealing with the matter rated me, because of my communication to the Treasurer, and treated my letter as if it was impertinent. The statement was made that my remarks were unjustified. But from what I saw the responsible authority might very well inscribe over the door of the ward in which this boy was incarcerated the words which Dante tells us are written over the entrance to Hell, “ Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” I asked whether I could go into the ward in which this young man was kept, and I was informed I could not do so, because it would be dangerous. The boy was brought to me, and he was very quiet at the time. He becomes violent only occasionally. No matter under what circumstances a returned soldier who fought for us may have lost his mental faculties,he should not be herded with criminals or incarcerated under the awful conditions in which I found this boy.
– What happened to him?
– As soon as the Treasurer visited Perth he got to work and conditions were altered ; but the necessity for this shows how callously the Commissioner treated the matter. I wish it to be understood that in any negotiations which may be entered into with State authorities inthese matters these unfortunate men are not to be farmed out to a State department.
– We have complete control.
– I have referred to the clause of the agreement dealing with visitors, and I have no confidence in the Repatriation Commission. I have never had any confidence in the Commissioner. When the Estimates are under consideration we can discuss that matter fully, and demand reforms.
– Where is the boy now to whom the honorable member referred ?
– I can only say that, while I understood that what the Treasurer had done was satisfactory, I received a letter from the boys father’ only yesterday, and I find that he is very far from being satisfied.
– I was in Perth at the same time as the Treasurer, and I can tell honorable members what happened to that boy.
– I wish to impress upon the House that the Commonwealth Government must keep control in these cases, and faith must be kept with returned soldiers’ associations, because they represent the returned soldiers. These associations should have the right to nominate a visitor who could report upon the conditions in which the patients are placed. We must not evade for a single moment the responsibility of this House to see that those who have suffered so much for our sake are properly cared for.
.- It may interest honorable members to be in a, position to compare the generous offer made by the Commonwealth Government with the cost per head paid by the Victorian Government for inmates of asylums for the insane. For the year ending 1921 the. figures, which are the latest I can obtain, show that the total weekly cost per patient in hospitals for the insane was fi ‘7s. 5Jd., deducting contributions from relatives of the patients. I feel that it would not be. the desire of honorable members to differentiate between the treatment of mentally-afflicted returned soldiers, and private individuals who have become insane,. It appears to me to be an awful thing that in one institution there will be some, kept at a weekly cost of £1 7s. 5¼d., au4 others at £2 5s. 6”d. I believe that if the parsimonious ex-Treasurer Qf Victoria (Sir William McPherson) could have had hie way the cost per head would have been reduced. I will say for the medical officers in charge of the institutions that they do all that, nien can do. Some of them, as the Treasurer has already stated, accept their positions from love of the work. These are very few, and the ma jority take up such positions in order to secure an appointment until they can obtain a practice. Some of these h.ave stayed for a very long time in the Lunacy Department. I may inform honorable- members that at one time the unfortunates in these asylums were cleansed by being compelled to go under cold shower baths. In some instances it required two or three attendants to force a .patient under the shower. As the result of a recommendation of a visiting committee, of which I believe Dr. Springthorpe was a member, the use of warm shower baths was introduced, and to show how even those bereft of reason appreciated the difference, it was found that whereas they could be induced to take a cold shower bath only with the greatest difficulty, when the warm shower bath was introduced the difficulty was to induce them to give it up. The parsimony used in the care of the insane in the past in every State of Australia was a disgrace to our civilization. I understand that the Commonwealth Government is offering £2 5s. 6d. per week per head, with a small deuceur, to the medical man, of £5 5s. a week, which, I suppose, is in addition to his salary.
– This is for attention given to 130 patients.. If I had intended to blame the Government in this matter I should have done so openly. I do not blame them, but I do blame the Repatriation Commission, the members of which are parties to the agreement which has been made. The Chairman of the Commission (Colonel Semmens), I understand, is an individual who occupies two billets* and receives two salaries.
– No; only one salary for two billets..
– Then that is .unfair, because one of .the billets should be filled by some other ‘person. Opportunities for advancement m the Service are a spur to endeavour. Mr. Teece represented the soldiers, but they understood barn only too well, and he was not nominated for a second period.
– He was nominated by a Returned Soldiers Association on the second occasion.
– It was not the Returned Soldiers Association that sent him there in the first instance, but he secured the position somehow or’ another after Mr. Barrett left. I have some hopes for Mr. Twoiney, who is a young member, but I have no confidence in the others. on may have been a parson in the past, but I have no faith in him, I am afraid there is very little Christianity in him. I should like to know if the salaries being paid to Mr. Swan and Mr. Teece are to be reduced because they have been relieved of the responsibility of caring for 130 men. If there had been a reduction of, say, £5 per man per annum, these tuen would not have shelved their responsibility in this way.
– They are still responsible for the men.
– Can the Minister say how many times a week they visit each man?
– They are supposed to see the men every week.
– The Minister asks what change in the food in three days has occurred. The information was given to him by the honorable member for Corio, whom I thank on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of the Returned Soldiers Associations, Federal and State, for having brought this matter before the House. He has said that fruit, as an article of diet, has been taken from the men. Do they all dine together ?
– The fifty at Bundoora Park are separated entirely from the other patients.
– But they are under the same control. The consensus of opinion is that in a large establishment there is not the necessary differentiation in. the classes of cases treated.
– They are being cared for in a separate building and have their meals in their own quarters.
– The Minister’s assurance meets some of my objections to the Government’s proposals. If the men are absolutely separated from other patients, and if they have a chef of their own, their position may not be so unsatisfactory. I trust, however, that the Government will revert to the former arrangement.
– But the honorable member for Corio admits that the present arrangement is the best in the interests of the patients themselves.
– We are not objecting to the arrangements’ on the medical side at all.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has told ug that if there are no complaints from the other States it is not because there is no room for complaint. Recently a number of returned soldier friends of mine told me that they wished they had the same system at Callan Park as we have in Victoria. I am sure that every honorable member wants- these men to have absolutely the best chance of recovery. Every alienist of note is agreed that those who have become mentally deranged as the result of the terrible war stand altogether on a different plane from those who become afflicted in ordinary life. The “ great majority of those men were free of many of the diseases that unfortunately lead to lunacy, and therefore, they should have the very best attention it is possible to give them . The authorities in Great Britain are viewing these cases in a somewhat different light; and as a result of improved treatment there-, it is hoped that a greater percentage of cases will eventually recover. In a matter like this pertaining to the welfare of afflicted soldiers any proposed change should be brought before the House and thoroughly discussed, in order that there may be no misunderstanding, and no blame improperly imputed either to the Minister or to the Commission.. I believe that if every returned soldier had a chance of voting for membership of the Commission the present members would be blanked out.
– I rise to speak with a certain amount of diffidence, though I am confident that the time-honoured consideration usually given to an honorable member when he- first addresses the House will be extended to me. The important question raised by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) is very dear to all honorable members, and particularly to myself and the Hon. the Treasurer (Dr.: Earle Page), as also to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), for, in a debate of this nature, we are discussing the treatment of our own comrades. I ha,ve some warrant for joining in this debate, because I have some knowledge of the reasons why the present treatment of our afflicted soldiers was adopted. I want to carry honorable members’ minds back to 1914, and to the practice adopted, first in Egypt, for the treatment of this unfortunate class of cases. In my official capacity, I consulted first the heads of the departments in Egypt, and found that the opinion of alienists generally was that the cases should not be segregated in any particular asylum. They believed that the chance of recovery for these men would be very much enhanced if they were allowed to associate with other men, not men suffering from a different, but from the same type of mental trouble as themselves. I was not satisfied, however, with these opinions, because I had received instructions to take a certain course of action with regard to these cases. I, therefore, consulted personal friends of my own, fellow students who had taken up this special work, and were well-known alienists, and they confirmed the opinions 1” had already received. I considered, therefore, that I was warranted in acting independently of the advice I had received from this Government. I then appointed an alienist from my own State, a well-known man who had devoted years of his life to the study of this problem and had retired from the public service with an honoured name,, to supervise and direct the treatment of this kind of case. He, supported by another alienist in South Australia, strongly urged me not to separate these men from the ordinary inmates of an asylum, pointing out that it would be essential, if we were going to draft them into one hospital, to gather a staff together. He also assured me that the most important thing in the treatment of this class of case was the special qualifications, not of the medical officer, but of the nursing staff, which, he added, should be properly trained and specially fitted for this field of nursing. All honorable members1 would object most strenuously to receiving nursing attention from unqualified nurses in an ordinary hospital, yet, apparently, they are content that a body of unqualified and untrained nurses should be appointed to attend these mental cases. The system I introduced in 1914 was continued, I think, with success up to 1918. Then we found a different system growing up in this country. When I came back in 1919 I was asked by the Government to inspect the mental and civil hospitals in all the States; and after spending four or five weeks in the discharge of that duty, I strongly urged the Government to discontinue the segregation of the Australian Imperial Force mental case9, giving as my authority the opinions I had received from alienists m England and. in Egypt. However, I was unable to persuade the Government to make that change; and from that day to this, a period of six years, I have been attempting to get done what the Government now contemplate doing. Those who know me will accept my assurance that what is proposed to be done is in the best interests of our comrades who are unfortunately afflicted with mental disorders as a result of the war. Personally, I am extremely glad that this discussion has taken place. I hope it will have the effect of silencing once and for all criticism due to a misunderstanding, and lead to a cessation of questions regarding the treatment of mental cases, It must be most painful for relatives of these former Australian Imperial Force men to read, week after week, that discussions are taking place about their allegedly brutal treatment, or that questions are being asked whether, if the Government are feeding and clothing these patients properly. Let us to-day agree to cease these discussions, because, while they might benefit- us in our constituencies, it is most unpleasant for the relatives of these unfortunate sufferers to be so repeatedly reminded of their trouble. It is impossible for us to think of the condition of these men without a feeling of sadness. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), with his medical knowledge, has clearly placed before us the difference between mental cases the result of war and the mental patients in our civil institutions. The opinion of well-known alienists is that out of every hundred cases of late Australian Imperial Force men now under control on account of mental disability, 50 per cent, are absolutely hopeless so far as concerns the possibility of recovery. These men, I may add, have no cognisance of their environment. Of the remainder, 40 per cent, may he regarded as hopeless and incurable, but with some knowledge of their environment. There remain 10 per cent., and these, I submit, ai-e extremely important. Alienists tell me that if these cases are given the very best of treatment there will be a chance of the patients recovering and returning to their homes. How nice it would be to be able to say . that of all. For the best treatment of this 10 per cent, of cases I ask honorable members to accept the opinion of men who have devoted their lives to the study of these problems. I know that many of my friends outside this House believe that .they are quite qualified to express sound opinions, not only upon mental disorders, but upon the treatment of cancer and other appalling afflictions. They almost persuade themselves that they are in a better position to know what is best for a patient’ than medical men who have devoted their lives to the study of special diseases. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) will’ agree with me that the knowledge of ordinary medical practitioners, gained from the few mental cases that come, to them during their career, is not to bo. put against the experience and knowledge of men who have devoted their lives to the study of mental treatment. It has been clearly pointed out that these specialists are not interested in retaining the patients under their control ; they are interested solely in effecting cures. I have looked into the agreement that the Government contemplate making with the State of Victoria, and if it did not retain to the people’s representatives in this Parliament complete responsibility and control of every case, I would not support it for a moment, nor would any other reasonable man. Every Government since the commencement of the war has undertaken the sacred responsibility of caring for the soldiers, and it is our duty to see rhat this obligation is fulfilled. “We may yet have to point out to the Government that wc are not satisfied in regard to certain powers that have been delegated to the State, but I personally am satisfied with the transfer of the treatment of mental cases. Honorable members seem to have overlooked the fact that through out Australia the treatment ‘ of mental cases has been left to State institutions, without the assistance of which it would have been impossible to provide ordinary skilled treatment to the mental cases that have arisen since the soldiers first entered the training camps. The unfortunate and pernicious system which has been adopted in Victoria of separating the soldier mental cases, and trying to retain to the Repatriation Department control over their treatment, arose in the early stages of the big camps. A great number of men broke down mentally in the strange environment of a military camp, and, as there was no room for them in the civil institutions, the Commonwealth was compelled to establish separate hospitals. I accept the assurance of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) that he raised this matter bona fide in the in*terests of his former comrades, but I think that he. would have acted mora wisely had be brought about a general discussion upon’ the whole question of repatriation. Apparently, a number of honorable members are dissatisfied with the conduct of the Repatriation Department. If that is so, it is their duty,however unpleasant it may be, to protest against the objectionable features of the administration. I am inclined to think, however, that a good deal of the antagonism to the Repatriation Department is caused by returned sailors’ and soldiers’ associations, which do not represent the views of the majority of the soldiers. Their complaints are certainly not indorsed by the big country association to which I have the honour to belong. When we place cases before the Repatriation Department we have no trouble in getting them dealt with in a sympathetic and reasonable way. But honorable members are aware of the difficulty of dealing with men who have been at the war. The mental state of any of us who went through those dreadful years of active service is not exactly normal. Whilst I may not observe abnormality in myself, I notice it in others who were at the war; they are not quite as they were before undergoing that experience. !No member of this House wishes to shirk his responsibility to the soldiers, and I am certain that my colleague (Dr. Earle Page), who did so much brilliant operative work during the, war, would be the last to suggest that the Government should neglect its duty in this regard. I ask the Souse to accept my assurance that the mental patients are getting the best possible treatment, except that I would like the eight special cases to be distributed throughout Australia and placed in whichever environment tho alienists consider would benefit them most.
.- It is a reflection upon the Government, that this discussion should have been brought about by way of a .formal motion for the adjournment of the House. I agree with the mover that it was the duty of the Government, before entering into such an agreement, to consult this Parliament, or, if the agreement had to be made while Parliament was not sitting, to acquaint us without delay with all the reasons for making it. I am glad that no party spirit has been shown in this discussion, because this is a matter beyond party political considerations. I had occasion to visit Mont Park Hospital with the members of the Richmond branch of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Association, and that day was the saddest in my life. Prior to the visit I had an interview with the then Minister for Repatriation (the late Senator E. D. Millen), and I pay this tribute to the deceased gentleman, that I believe he was anxious to do whatever was best for the inmates of the institution. He asked me to report to him any criticism I cared to make, and he would do anything in his power to rectify whatever was wrong. I made only two suggestions to him. One was that there should be segregation, which the Government is now bringing about, and secondly, that the patients should be allowed to take walks abroad. Until that time some of those men had not, since entering the institution, been allowed beyond the confines of. a small yard. In every other mental hospital that I have visited, patients who are not dangerous are allowed to go for short walks, and subsequent to my representations to Senator Millen that practice was adopted at Mont Park. I agree with the Government that the segregation of these cases is long overdue, but whilst I will not dogmatize in opposition to the opinion of medical men, I do not think that it is necessary to hand these unfortunates over to the control of the State. I admit that with such a small number of patients segregation and classification into five divisions is not possible, without considerably increasing the cost, but I agree with the mover and others who have said that cost should not . enter into consideration when dealing with mental cases that have arisen out of the war. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) stated that expert treatment of these cases cannot be had unless they are dealt with in conjunction with a large number of other cases. Possibly the treatment cannot be obtained as cheaply, but I have yet to learn that it is not possible to obtain’ it other than by including these men in large State institutions. All hospitals have visiting specialists, and I believe that the environment of a military mental hospital is particularly suit-able to these soldier cases. The doctor who was in charge at Mont Park was a very estimable and earnest man, and enjoyed the confidence of everybody who visited the hospital. With the exception of the nonsegregation of mental cases and the failure to give the patients walking exercise the institution was very well conducted. I am prepared to accept many of the assurances of the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) regarding the treatment of these cases, but that is not the only consideration. A number of these men - sad, pitiable creatures - are beyond the stage of knowing what treatment they are getting. But I do protest on behalf of their relatives and friends against their transfer to the State Lunacy Department. Unfortunate as it is, and inexplicable, too, the fact remains that there is not a family with a relative in a mental hospital but is ashamed of the fact. There is no logical reason why the disease of the brain should be any more a stigma than is the disease of any other part of the body, but we know that it is so regarded. If one knows that a member of a family is in a hospital, with some physical ailment, he makes inquiries regarding the patient, but if the sufferer is in a mental hospital the subject is avoided, in order not to hurt the feelings and susceptibilities of the relatives.
– These soldier patients are not congenital cases.
– I am speaking of ordinary mental cases, but soldier cases are on a different footing. No person feels ashamed of the fact that a son or brother is in a mental hospital as a result of war service*. People have said to me,
We do not feel ashamed that our brother is in the Mont Park Mental Hospital, but we should be ashamed if he were placed in an. institution controlled by the State Lunacy Department, because he would then be regarded as an ordinary lunatic.” I am satisfied that while separate treatment by the Commonwealth might cost a little more, it could be as good as can be obtained by handing the patients over to the State institution; indeed, it should be better, because the smallness of the number treated, which the Treasurer emphasized, is an advantage rather than a handicap. One entering a hospital which has a large number of patients cannot receive as good treatment and attention as in a small private hospital where the inmates are few. I say not one word against the doctors and nurses in the large public hospitals. Having regard to the number they handle they do wonderful work, but the fewerpatients in a private hospital receive special and individual attention.
– The honorable member’s opinion is quite contrary to that expressed by Dr. Mayo last week, and to the opinion of experts all over the world.
– I pay a great deal of respect to the expert opinion of medical men, but the layman can take a commonsense view, and be guided by his own experience. Unfortunately, I have spent. a good portion of my life in private and public hospitals, and I know the difference in the respective treatments. Relatives visiting sons or brothers who have become mentally deranged, because of war experiences, will be entering institutions in which are gathered a thousand or fifteen hundred lunatics from all parts of the State, and they will, inevitably, have a feeling of shame.
– Besides, the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) said that 50 per cent, of these men will be conscious of their environment.
– I believe that the percentage will be larger. Visiting Mont Park some time ago an old friend recognised me at once and said, ‘ For the sake of old associations, try to get. me out of this place.” Many of these men know their surroundings, and they will feel more keenly the fact that they are inmates of a State lunacy hospital. The Government is not doing the right thing in effecting this transfer of control. Our responsibility to them is greater than to men physically afflicted, as they are not in a position to fight and speak for themselves. If we accept this agreement we ask their parents and friends to suffer humiliation - not that they have anything of which to be ashamed, but because of the feeling that we know exists throughout the country with respect to lunatic asylums. This change was not made years ago, because at that time public opinion against it was too strong. While I wish the war spirit to die, I admit that we are notso generous to-day to the returned soldier who suffered for his country as we were during the war. The Federal Government is responsible for the condition of these men, and should not shirk its responsibility.
.- I listened with great interest to the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), because he has special knowledge and means of knowledge regarding this matter. I appreciate fully the fact that a discussion of this nature is very painful to those patients who are capable of appreciating it, and to their friends and relatives, but it would be infinitely more deplorable if, by reason of that fact, we shirked our duty as a Parliament and failed to ventilate this serious question. I therefore applaud the action of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) in moving the adjournment of the House in order to discuss it. I do so the more readily because a subject of such a nature should not be approached with any vestige of party feeling whatever’. These men were the representatives of the Commonwealth in arms in the Great War, and their control is a Commonwealth responsibility. The question of psychology arises in connexion with this subject. There is a. feeling on. the part of the friends and relatives of these afflicted men that we, the representatives of the people in the Commonwealth Parliament, are, by this proposed transfer, shirking a duty which belongs to the national Parliament, and are passing it on to a subordinate body. Even if that were not entirely true, or not true at all, the effect upon the minds of the people concerned is worthy of consideration, particularly as we are dealing with mental cases. A very grave duty devolves upon a public department charged with the administration of the law relating to lunatics. Too much skill cannot be employed, nor too great care exercised, in dealing with mental cases, whether soldiers or civilians, and anything I may say in. support of the claims of these special cases under our care must not be taken as being derogatory to the claims of other patients. Prom my association with the employees in our mental hospitals I am glad to be able to say that’ the State Department in Victoria is well administered by the InspectorGeneral of the Insane, and has skilful medical men on its staff. That, however, is not the point at issue. As time goes on these soldier cases should be a constantly diminishing number. They arose from conditions due to the wai-, and we sincerely hope that the present cases will not be supplemented in. our time.
– They will be.
– I do not know what the honorable member wishes to convey by his interjection. I presume that he means that the effect of the late dreadful war on the mentality .of the people has not yet been fully felt, and that there are men at large to-day who, unhappily, may yet become mental patients in our institutions.
– To some extent - let us hope to a comparatively small extent - there may be additions to the number of these patients; but it is fair to say that, generally, their numbers will diminish as the years go by. That being so, surely we can afford to give to these men the kind of treatment which we promised them. When they left our shores they were heroes. If they were - and it is not for me to deny itthey are heroes still. Their claim upon the Commonwealth is as strong to-day as it was in the beginning and during the course of the war. We must not forget the promise made in the enthusiasm of the old recruiting days: that we would look after them and regard them as a class apart, with respect to their place of residence and the: treatment they would receive. We promised them; that they would be recognised and treated as essentially soldier cases. If this transfer takes place, the time is rapidly approaching when the general public will lose sight altogether of the special character of these cases. A friend of mine recently visited the Mont Park Asylum, and the message he brought back was exactly in the same terms as those used by the hon orable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) this afternoon. It was the most painful experience that visitor had ever had. The view of those best able to judge is that these cases should be segregated. The honorable member for Calare ( Sir Neville Howse) has stated that under the proposed agreement they will remain sp. The honorable ‘member is entitled to the utmost respect when he deals with professional matters; but as one who has had some practical experience of these things, I tell him that any control the Commonwealth will have under the agreement will be more theoretical than real. So far as Victoria, is concerned, the whole administration will pass to the State, and will be in the hands of the InspectorGeneral for the Insane^ and these unfortunate men will be known as lunatic patients, and nothing else. Strong representations have been made to me by the Fairfield and Alphington branches of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and the thoughtful memorandum on the subject prepared by Mr. Ratcliffe I have endeavoured to place before the House. Although I have not always been in complete accord with the aims of these organizations, if they are not qualified to speak for the soldiers, I do not know who is. I would not take the responsibility of saying that associations of this kind do not represent the views of the soldiers generally. In any case, if such views are not held by the soldiers, it is their own fault, as they should be able to express themselves through their organizations in the same way as any other body of men. I do not desire to introduce into this discussion the case of any particular individual, but to-day. I had a visit from one of the employees at Mont Park. This man, who served with distinction in the late war, informed rae that after about two years’ service at Mont Park he recently presented himself for duty in the ordinary way, but was told that his job was finished. He did not receive even ten minutes’ notice. I shall not give the” particulars of the case to the House, but shall place, them before the Minister, who, I know, will give them attention : I mention it because neither the Minister nor any other member of this House desires that any Government employee should be treated with less consideration than the law insists shall be given to the meanest worker in any avocation in the land. I am confident that this special case will be set right, and, for the rest, I trust that this proposed transfer will not take place.
Debate interrupted wider standing order119.
Amounts Due, Collected, and Remitted
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What portion of the £1,330,000 tax on Crown leases has been collected since the House adjourned on 25th August, 1923?
– The amount that has been collected since that date is £507. The difficulties of assessing this tax are proving as great as was’ anticipated in my speech last year, and, though the Commissioner’s officers have been concentrating on the work of collecting additional information for the purpose of checking the accuracy of former valuations, that work is still incomplete except in comparatively few cases, and in these the result of pending appeals to the High Court and possible litigation may require further revision of the basis of valuation.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
The Australian Estates Limited;
The Scottish Australian Investment Company Limited;
The Northern Pastoral Company Limited;
The Australian Land and Mortgage Company Limited;
The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Company;
The Peel River Land Company;
Sir Sydney Kidman;
Mr. Edmund Jowett;
Mr. A.T. Creswick;
Thomas Norton and Company?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Capacity of Aeroplanes
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
A reconnaissance machine (a landplane) costs £2,750; flying boat, twin-engine marine reconnaissance, £1.2,000. 3. (a) Under normal weather conditions a reconnaissance machine (landplane) has a maximum air endurance of six hours, and can patrol up to 200 miles and return to its base without refuelling. Normally, a landplane docs not proceed further than 20 miles seaward.
Purchase Of LOCOMOTIVES and rollingSTOCK.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
If Thompson and Company do not deliver before 1st January, 1925, will it necessitate the purchase of other rolling-stock so that a service to Oodnadatta may be continued?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1.What is the cost of the latest type of submarine?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer; upon notice -:
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Operation of Shipping in New Guinea.
Mr.R. GREEN asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
How many schooners are owned or operated by the Expropriation Board in New Guinea ?
How many of such schooners are at present actively and continuously engaged in inter-island service?
How many Government schooners have been wrecked whilst being operated by the Expropriation Board?
Have all the vessels,steam-ships, or schooners, that have been lost or rendered unfit for service from any reason whatever, been replaced ; if not, why?
Is it the intention of the Department to put the s.s. Meklong into a proper state of repair immediately so that this vessel may again be used on inter- island service?
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions arc as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.What salaries are being paid to the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth OilRe- fineries Limited?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follow : -
Larkin Aircraft Supplycompany Limited and Australian Mail Services Limited
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow-
Position of Members of the Federal Parliament.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The incometax returns of the Federal members of Parliament are to be treated as follow : -
Where the member has no income from sources outside of the State he represents, he should lodge his return with the State Commissioner of Taxation of that State. The State Commissioner in his capacity as Deputy Federal Commissioner of Taxation will assess the Federal income tax on the income in addition to assessing the State income tax. Where the member has income derived from sources in Australia, but outside of the State which he represents,he must, in addition to the return to he lodged by him with the State Commissioner of his own State for his parliamentary and other income earned in the State he represents, also lodge a return with the Central Office of the Federal Taxation Department, allowing the whole of his income from all sources in Australia, includinghis parliamentary income. It is not economically practicable for the Federal Central Office to secure from a State office particulars of income of Federal members who have lodged returns with the State Commissioners, and in any case these returns would not show the whole of the member’s income where the member has income from Australian sources outside his own State. If any member desires to lodge a return at the Federal Central Office for Federal purposes, he is at liberty to do so.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will take early action to have section 36 of the Superannuation Act of 1922 amended in pursuance of his promise in this House while discussing the Estimateslast year, in order to bring in those officers who had been taken over from a State Service, but who had not been ten years in the Commonwealth Public Service at the date of their retirement or death?
– It is the intention of the Government to submit aBill to Parliament during the present session for the purpose of amending the Superannuation Act of 1922. When the amending Bill is being prepared, consideration will be given to the claims of the officers referred to.
Overlapping or Awards
. asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government are giving careful consideration to the whole question of industrial machinery in Australia with a view to obviating some of the difficulties which are at present being experienced.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Transfer of Patients to State Institution
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Importation of Marble - Manufacture of Playing Cards
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1.What were the quantities and values of marble imported into Australia for each of the yearsfrom 1912 to 1923, both inclusive, and what was the country of origin in each case?
– The information is being prepared.
Admission of Maltese
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House all the papers dealing with the inquiry into the charges made against Messrs. Cousins and Hewson forbreaches of the Electoral Act during the Federal elections of 1922? .
– If the honorable member can make it convenient to call at the office of the Home and Territories Department, the Minister will be pleased to afford him facilities for perusing the papers there.
Goods for the Relief of Distress.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Yes. 2. (a) It was consigned by the Commonwealth Government as portion of the foodstuffs provided for the relief of distress in Japan. Captain Broadbent, of the Defence Department, accompanied the relief ship Australmount, and supervised the distribution, in conjunction with the British ConsulGeneral, at Kobe.
It is understood that the Consul-General for Japan saw ColonelPeck, who was the coordinating officerfor the supply of relief for Japan, and stated that a relish called “Soy” was in general use in Japan, and suggested that some tomato sauce, which is the nearest substitute to this commodity in Australia., might be included in the goods shipped to Japan.
Proposed Visit of Delegation to Australia
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 3, and 4. The question of such a visit was unofficially mentioned to mo, and I expressed my sympathy with it, but no finality was reached. I anticipate that a further communication in connexion with the matter will be received by the Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Convention adopted by the International Labour Conference held at Geneva in 1921, prohibiting the use of white lead except under certain conditions provided for in the terms of the Convention has been adopted by the Australian Government?
– No; but this matter is being- considered, and action will be taken at an early date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the importance of the sixth session of the International Labour Conference of the League of Nations, to be held on the 16th June, 1324, which will deal with matters of great importance to Australian industrials, namely, the abolition of night work in bakeries, and the development of facilities for the utilization of workers’ leisure, does the Government propose to have Australian representation thereat?
– The matter is at present under consideration.
Endowment by Commonwealth Government.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Government has no direct relations with any hospital in connexion with the treatment of venereal diseases. The subsidy to the Queensland Government in respect of the control of venereal diseases has not been discontinued or reduced. The Commonwealth Government is not concerned in the distribution of the subsidy by the State Government.
asked the Prime Minister:, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, 3. The present position is that an investigation is being’ carried out by a firm of accountants, and its report has been promised at an early date. The whole of the information asked for will then be available. A complete statement and balance-sheet, with an expression of the Government’sintentions, will also bo fur- nished.
War Gratuity Advances
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will furnish the House with particulars of. the Australian Notes Account for 1021-22, 1922-23, and to date, similar to those submitted by the Treasurer in statements P, Q, R, and S in the Treasurer’s report of receipts and expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1921?
– The statements desired for 1921-22 will be found on page 166 of the Budget-papers 1922-23, and those for the year 1922-23 will be found on page 176 of the Budget-papers 1923-24. Similar statements for the current year will be published with the Budget-papers 1924-25.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How much had the banks advanced on cashwar gratuities to 30th June, 1920; to 30th September, 1920; to 14th December, 1920; to 4th January, 1921; to 21st March, 1921; to 30th June, 1921?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The figures at the balancing dates nearest to those indicated are as follow: - To 30th June, 1920, £675,878 3s.1d.; to 30th September, 1920, £4,027,37011s. 2d.; to 30th November, 1920, £5.392,536 17s. 6d.; to 31st December, 1920, £5,856,617 19s. 10d.; to 31st March, 1921, £6,754,983 15s.1d.; to 30th June, 1921, £6,000,000.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether an embargo will be imposed upon the export of stud sheep and rams to South Africa and elsewhere?
– The Government has no intention of taking action of this character at the present time.
Suitability for use by Navy.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon. notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
If so, willhe consider the advisability of amending the Wireless Telegraph Regulations under the Navigation Act to provide for -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Examination of Employees for Permanent Appointment
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When does he propose to give temporary employees in the Taxation Department an opportunity to sit for examination, as promised in this House on 24th August. 1923?
– A technical difficulty has arisen, and it is proposed to ask Parliament for an amendment of the Income Tax Collection Act in order that the examination may be held. No hardship apparently will result from the delay, because, in the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland, no returned soldiers temporarily employed have been discharged in consequence of the amalgamation of the Federal and State Taxation Offices. In the State of Tasmania it was necessary to dispense with two temporarily employed returned soldiers. One of these is now temporarily employed in the Hobart tramway, and the services of the other are being used as opportunities occur for temporary employment, and he is stated to be eligible for appointment to the State Public Service.
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This matter was discussed at some length last year, but, unfortunately, the adjournment came before the measure could be passed. Action had to be taken before the House re-assembled, and honorable members are now asked to pass this Bill to validate the bounty paid and to be paid in connexion with the fruits canned during the current season. It was not possible to delay payment of the bounty until the House met, because the canning season commenced last December and is now more than half over. It will end about the beginning of May next. When the Government took office the fruit industry was being helped by so-called Pools, which were set up by the late Government for the years 1920-21, 1921- 22, and 1922-23. These, in reality, were not Pools, because the Government took all the risk by buying the fruit, processing it, and selling it, bearing the whole of the loss, which was considerable. The Pools were formed because the canning factories contended that they were not in a position financially to purchase and dispose of the soft fruits available. The reaction following upon the war made it impossible for the- canners to obtain the necessaryfinance to treat the crop. The Pools, at the final winding-up. will probably show a loss of about£618,000- £88,000 in 1921. £370.000 in 1922. and £160.000 in 1923, an average loss over the three years of £206,000 per annum. These losses were mainly due, firstly, to the high cost of processing fruit, and secondly, to the slump which occurred in the British market during the 1921-22 season and the very poor demand for canned fruits in Australia until the middle of last year. Under the Pools the loss was greater than the actual amount paid to the grower. The 1922 fruits were sold in London for less than the actual cost of processing them. A price of 7s. 6d. per dozen was paid to the processor, and the bulk of the fruit was sold in London at 7s. per dozen. When the Government took office there was a total quantity of 1,950,000 dozen 30-oz. tins of fruit on hand unsold. It was necessary to sell the lot, so that the factories could have a clear market for the new season’s fruit. The trade, and every one concerned, stated that it was impossible to clear the stocks before the 1923-1924 season commenced in December, 1923. The Government, therefore, reduced the price and set out on a publicity and advertising campaign. The result has been that all stocks have been sold with the exception of 64,000 dozen of specially packed fruit which is now in London, to be sold during theprogress of the British Empire Exhibition. The Australian consumption of canned fruits has been increased from one to three tins per person per annum. This is a great advantage to the industry. The handling of this fruit was really a State matter, but the Commonwealth realized that, unless it dealt with the question last year, the orchardists and the canning industry would have a very bad time. It was found that, under the so-called Pools, the position was getting worse from day to day from the stand-point of both the taxpayer and the fruit-grower. The Government, therefore, faced the position boldly, and decided to give a bounty to the canner on production, with an additional bounty on all high quality fruits exported. The canners strongly opposed the bounty system: some even said that they would close their factories rather than work under it.
– Was it the rate of bounty to which they objected ?
– They objected to the proposal all round. They wanted us to give them another Pool. Under the old system the canners were receiving a pretty good price for canning the fruit, whilst running no risks. Naturally, they did not want to deal with the matter in a way which would involve risk with practically no prospect of obtaininga greater profit. When canning, finishes, in about two months’ time, excluding, pineapples, about 20,000 tons of fruit will have been dealt with. That is an increase of 3,000 tons on the quantity dealt with last year. There will be about 3,500 tons of pineapples this year which were not handled last year. The total cost to the taxpayer will be about £130,000, compared with an average loss of £206,000per annum during the last three years. Under the bounty system the Government take no part in the trading side of the business. That is in accordance with our policy. We merely pay the bounty to the canner, but protect the grower by compelling the canner to pay him a fair price for his fruit, namely, £10 per ton for apricots and pears, £9 per ton for clingstone peaches, £7 per ton for freestone peaches, and £6 per ton for pineapples. Bail freight is paid by the canner; the grower delivers his fruit to the factory or to the nearest railhead. The rates of bounty paid to the canner on production are -
Apricots, 9d. per dozen 30-oz. tins.
Peaches (freestone),10d. per dozen 30-oz. tins.
Pears, 9d. per’ dozen 30-oz. tins.
Peaches (clingstone),1s. per dozen 30-oz. tins.
Pineapples,6d. per dozen 30-oz. tins.
Then there is the additional bounty on exported fruit at the following rates per dozen 30-oz. tins: -
Peaches (freestone), nil.
Peaches (clingstone),1s. 9d.
Provision is made whereby, if the weights differ from 30 ozs., payment is to Be on apro rata basis. The growers, canners, and traders admit that the canned-fruit industry is to-day, under the bounty system, on a more stable footing than ever before, and its future is practically assured. The bounty is to be paid to the canner provided he pays to the growers not less than the prices I have mentioned, and that the fruit, when canned, is of good and merchantable quality. Customs inspectors are stationed in each factory with instructions to reject all unsuitable fresh fruit and all canned fruit that is of inferior quality. It is to the canner’s interest to co-operate with the Customs officials. Export is not allowed unless the_ fruits are graded and packed in accordance with - the commerce regulations. Last season, the Customs Department organized an inspection staff to supervise the canning of fruits for export, with the result that the pack sent to London during 1923 was pronounced by the trade to be equal, if not superior, to the best Califfornian fruit. Each factory has been allotted a special quantity of fruit. This was done so that each fruit-grower, particularly the struggling orchard 1st, should find an outlet for his fruit. Under all the circumstances, the bounty system has worked in a very satisfactory manner. Over 16,000 tons of fruit have already been dealt with, and a considerable portion of the pack has been sold by the canners. The House is asked to pass tills Bill to ratify the action taken by the Government in assisting the fruit industry at a critical period. The Government have already emphatically informed both growers and canners that it will render no further financial assistance to the canned-fruit industry.’
– Do the Government mean that?
– The Government mean everything they announce. They have informed the growers and ‘canners that they must organize the industry on business lines and take full advantage of the market which the Government have developed during the past year.
– I notice that bounty is payable on- production under the first schedule, and also on export under the second schedule.
– Yes. The higher bounty is paid on fruit exported. A bounty is paid on fruit produced and used here, and a higher bounty on fruit that is exported.
– If the amount estimated to be required is exhausted by the payment of the first bounty, what will the Government do ?
– The bounties provided for under this Bill will have to be paid if its provisions are complied with.
– Then the estimated cost of £130,000 may be exceeded?
– That is the maximum, amount which it is estimated will be required to give effect to this measure. The Government will be obliged under the Bill to pay bounty on the quantity of fruit produced and the quantity exported.
– Then the bounty is unlimited ?
– We have reliable information as to the quantity of fruit produced in different districts, and the Government will control the amount of fruit exported. They will see that the export is not confined to only one canner, and that only fruit of the best quality, that will pass their test, is exported.
– Then the amount of the bounty will not be unlimited ?
– It may be limited by the action of the Government. Bounty will be paid on fruit produced, and a certain quantity of ‘that Fruit will be exported. On that we shall pay the export bounty. The Government realize that this is a matter which might more appropriately be dealt with by the State Parliaments, but orchardists and others interested in fruit-growing in the Commonwealth have got into a very bad position. Previous Governments came to their assistance by making provision for Pools, but that has not worked satisfactorily. What happened was that the Government purchased the orchardists’ fruit and employed the canners to can it, and then sent across the seas what they did not sell here. We had in this way to take up a loss which ran into considerably over. £500,000 in three years.
– And the canners made excessive profits.
– They were very well paid for their work. We paid more for canning the fruit in many cases than we received for it, without reckoning the cost of the fruit at all. The Government came to the conclusion that that was a very undesirable practice to continue. We came to the conclusion, also, that hundreds of returned soldiers in all of the States who have established orchards that are now just coming into bearing should be given some consideration. This bounty scheme has been proposed as providing the best way out of the difficulty. Honorable members are aware of the way in which it was- received. Some of the largest canners flatly told us ‘ that they would have nothing whatever to do with it. They refused to take any further part i u discussion with the Treasurer and myself, and went so far as to say that they would close their factories. We thought this the best proposal to adopt, wad what has happened since has justified our judgment. Some people condemn the Government for having sold fruit at a low price abroad, but their action had the effect of extending the market for our fruit. The main objection which the canners offered to the scheme was that in handling this season’s fruit they would be faced with a surplus of canned fruit in the market and would have to reduce their prices. That objection has been removed because the market was cleared of canned fruit very promptly, and the publicity provided by the action of the Government has had the effect of creating a larger market in the Old Country for our -fruit. It can be very readily digposed of , ‘and. -so the prospects of the canners have been improved. The figures which were taken out, in considering the matter; show that if we consumed a3 much fruit per head in this country as is consumed in the United States of America and England, we would not require to export any, as it could all be consumed here, and after all the bestmarket is the home market. Owing to the management of those responsible for the selling of last season’s fruit twice as much fruit was consumed in the Commonwealth last season as in previous seasons, t think that we have done the best thing that could be done in the circumstances. The Government have every reason to believe that a wider market and an enhanced price will enable the orchardists and canners of Australia to carry on their industries without assistance. That is why it is proposed that the bounty shall be payable only for one year. The fruit season is over to a great extent now, and the introduction of this measure seems somewhat like asking Parliament to validate what has already been done. We were forced into that position, because if we had waited for Parliament to meet before taking action, the orchardists, the canners, and those employed in canning factories would have been at their wits’ end to know what to do.
.- This Bill provides for the payment of bounties on the production and export of fruit. No doubt can exist as to the necessity for encouraging our orchardists, but I doubt very much whether this measure will prove to be of any permanent value. The Minister has definitely stated that those concerned must understand that the payment of the bounty will cease at the expiration of this year. If that is so, it seems to me that those engaged in the production and export of fruit will at the expiration of this year find themselves in a more difficult position than they occupy al the present time. I say this for a reason which was advanced by the Minister himself. He reminded us that there are hundreds of returned soldiers who have established orchards in the different States, to say nothing of the other settlers who are producing fruit in this country. The production of fruit has increased very rapidly in Australia in the last two years. It will increase more rapidly during the next year or two. In support of that statement I quote the admission of the Minister that the orchards established by the returned soldier settlers are just coming into bearing. That is quite correct, and their production of fruit will be very much larger next year and the following year than it has been this season. In view of the probable considerable increase in the production of fruit, I ask where are we to find a market. for it? The Minister has said that ait-hough we lost money by selling fruit cheaply in the Old Country, we created a larger demand for our fruit. It will be admitted by every one that if you sell an article at half its value you will increase the demand for it, but we cannot continue along those lines. When the payment of the bounty ceases at the end of this year, and higher prices must be charged for our fruit, those engaged in the industry will not be able .to retain the increased market to which the Minister has referred. The Government is bringing out immigrants and placing them on the land, and we must find a market for their products. Some honorable members may be under the impression that the growers of fresh fruit will receivesome benefit as a result of the adoption of the resolutions of the Imperial Economic Conference, but I point out that they will not come under the resolutions to which the last Imperial Government agreed, and to which I hope effect will be given by the Imperial Parliament. It was pointed out on the 9th October last by Sir Lloyd Graeme, that the then British
Government was prepared to give a preference on dried fruits. We cannot anticipate that the production of fresh fruit will be benefited by the adoption of the resolutions of the Conference, since they refer only to dried fruits. We are putting thousands of men on the land in the different States as orchardists withoutbeing able to insure to them a market for their produce. One of the first things that should be done by not only the Federal Government, but the State Governments also, is to provide as much work as possible for the secondary industries. By the employment of thousands of persons in the secondary industries an improved market will be provided for those engaged in growing fruit and other products of the land. We must look largely to our own consumption, and at the same time do the best we can to open up markets for our fruit abroad, not only in Great Britain, but in other countries too. I am fully aware that the canners have raised strong objections to the Government proposal. Personally, I think that they are on a very good wicket, and that they will derive more benefit from the operation of this measure than will be derived by the growers of fruit. I do not know whether in the circumstances it is wise for us to legislate on these lines. It would probably be more advisable, in the interests of the country, and especially of the growers of fruit, to develop some improved system for the marketing of our fruit. Honorable members will find from the schedules to the Bill that for certain classes of fruit the grower is to receive something like Id. per lb., and yet to purchase the same fruit in Melbourne we have to pay from 7d. to 8d. per lb. There is something radically wrong, which should be grappled with! There* would appear to be certain persons between the man who grows fruit and the man who consumes it who are deriving the greatest- benefit from the industry. I was in Western Australia recently, and while there visited the Old Men’s Home. While I was at the home twenty-four cases of beautiful grapes, probably better than could be produced in any of the other States, were sent there from the market because they were unsaleable. Those who grew that fruit had to bear all the costs of production, pay freight to market, and then got no return.
– They were out of pocket.
– They were. The whole business was a distinct loss to them. Tins measure is only a temporary expedient for the purpose of giving immediate (relief. It does not touch the kernel of the trouble. That can only be done by legislative action, either in this or in the State Parliaments. We cannot go on for ever paying away public money as this Bill contemplates, because it is not a permanent cure of the trouble, and therefore it is not really beneficial to any one. If some means could be devised tq market our fruit so that the producer would get double what he receives under existing arrangements, and the consumer would get fruit for 25 per cent, less, our difficulties would be solved, because greater consumption in the home market would absorb the present surplus production. The Bill does not go to the root of the trouble at all. ‘< v -
– It is designed to escape a present difficulty. ‘”
– That is how it -appears to me. It is a measure to escape a temporary difficulty. There is nothing permanent about it. The Minister admits that the scheme will expire in November, and that then the growers will be thrown upon their own resources again. Does any honorable member believe that they will then be in a better position to overcome their difficulty ? . On the contrary, they will be in a much worse position, because of expansion in production. The situation is clearly set out in the following table showing our exportation of fresh fruits: -
The fact that in the year 1921-22 our exports of fresh fruit increased by nearly 50,000,000 lbs. indicates an enormous advance in production, which I venture to say will be very much greater during the next few years. This must be so, because in every State greater areas are being placed under orchards. What are the prospects? We may as well face the position squarely. We know that at present there is no prospect at all of disposing of this increased output. We have been told by the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Chapman), and also by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), that Australians do not consume nearly so- much fruit as the American people. I do not know upon what basis the statistics referred to by the Ministers are based. If they refer to tinned fruit, probably they are correct, but nobody can say whether our people eat more or less fresh fruit than the people of the United States. But assuming, for the sake of argument, that we do not eat enough fresh fruit, is it not clear that this is because its price is so high that our poorer people cannot avail themselves of it?
– We ought to be able to get it for half the present prices.
– The honorable member is quite right. If the price to the consumer could be reduced by 50 per cent, there would be a remarkable increase in local consumption. If, for instance, the people of Melbourne could get good grapes for 3d. per lb. instead of 6d. there would be a very much heavier demand, and the fruit would go into every home. As matters stand, the mothers of many families have to economize and deny fruit to their children. This is a matter which Parliament should rectify.
In regard to the Bill itself, the Minister made the position quite clear. We find that the canner will be paid an amount set out in the first schedule for the canning of fruit for consumption in Australia. If, subsequently, this fruit is exported, he will get the amount set out in. schedule 2.
– Why should he?
– It occurs to me that under the Bill the canner is getting too much, and that we should do something to assist the men who are producing the fruit. In the case of apricots, the canner will receive a bonus of 9d. per dozen tins, each containing 30 ozs. net. I presume they would be called 2-lb. tins. This represents about three-eighths of a penny per lb., and he pays the grower, according to schedule 3, £10 per ton for the fruit. This works out at about one penny per lb. for the man who grows it. If, subsequently, this fruit is exported, the canner, under schedule 2, will get another ls 8d. per dozen tins. . This amount, added to the 9d. per dozen tins, paid under the first schedule, will increase the bounty to be paid to the canner, to about l£d. per lb., against Id. per lb. paid by the canner to the grower. The canners, I know, wanted further concessions, but it was surprising to me that they held out against the present scheme so long as they did.
– They wanted a bit more.
– They wanted the old arrangement, which was better still.
– I agree with the honorable member. But even this scheme is extravagant and, relatively to the amount to be paid to the grower, the canner receives too much. If additional encouragement had to be given to any one, it ought to have been to the grower. Evidently, the canner is going to get the major benefits under this Bill. The Minister has told us that the scheme will involve the payment of bounties to the amount of about £140,000. This is a very large sum,, especially when we take into consideration the fact that the major portion of the bounty will go to the canner instead of to the grower. I am surprised that the problem - the disposal of our surplus fruit products - has not been handled in some other way to insure larger benefits accruing to the grower. If, for instance, by means of some efficient organization, our output of fresh fruit could be sent to various centres throughout the country, local consumption would substantially increase, because the people would be able to get cheaper fruit, and the growers, I have no doubt, would receive much more than they do under the present arrangements. This would be more satisfactory than the payment of public money under this bounty scheme.
– A reduction in railway freights would be better still.
– Probably the honorable member is right. When I was in Western Australia recently, I was advised that as the result of an arrangement with the railway authorities, fruit was sent to a number of centres and sold readily to the people at a price that insured a satisfactory return to the grower.
– That system is in operation in New South Wales, but only in a small way.
– I am satisfied that greater benefits would accrue to the grower, and, at the same time, the consumer would get cheaper fruit. Why cannot we work along those lines 1
– Because the grower will not co-operate.
– Yes, he will.
– All that the grower wants is some efficient organization to insure the success of this scheme, which, I am sure, would double our present consumption.
– Attempts have been made to do that in Victoria, but, strange to- say, without success.
– I understand it was a great success in Western Australia, so if it failed in this State, it must have been because of inefficient organization. Such a scheme as that should not fail. I believe that the Government could devise means for the disposal of considerably more fruit than is sold in Australia today, and that the grower would receive better prices. Unless something of this kind is done, I can see no hope for the future of those who have gone into the fruitgrowing industry. Many of these people have put all they possessed into the business. In some of the States, and particularly in New South Wales, thousands of our returned soldiers are now in the fruit-growing industry. All the money they can get over a number of years is put into their properties, and they have to wait for a return until the orchards are in full bearing. If when that stage is reached there is no market for their products, they must fail. I know of ono man who a few years ago engaged in fruit-growing ou an irrigation area with a capital of £1,000. Unfortunately, his crops were not successful, and he was stranded. The same tiling will happen to many other orchardists if there is no market for their products. It should be part of our policy of land settlement to provide a market for the primary producer. I am not opposed to this Bill ; I wish to help both the producer and the consumer. But I have grave doubts that this expedient will relieve the position to any extent. September is not many months distant; there is no prospect of finding in the meantime markets abroad, and local consumption will not be equal to the production. I hope that before it is too late the Government will either confer with the State Governments or adopt some other means of handling- this very difficult problem. These temporary expedients do not provide a solution; we must get down to bed-rock. The Commonwealth Government has already lost upwards of £500,000 on the Fruit Pools, and is now about to pay under this measure- £130,000 or £140,000 by way of bonuses, without the prospect of any permanent improvement in the position of the fruit industry. The time has arrived whenthe problem must be grappled in a proper way, and I hope that before this Parliament- closes some tangible scheme will be evolved whereby we can marketour goods abroad, and increase the local’ consumption, so that the producer will receive a better price and the consumer will get a necessary commodity at lesscost.
.- I am in hearty agreement with the peroration of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I am not in favour of the granting of bonuses under all sorts of conditions, but we are confronted with n problem resulting from good intentions which has caused the Commonwealth Government an immense loss. I understand that, inclusive of the proposed bonus, about £750,000 of Commonwealth money has been lost during the last few years in trying to bolster up the fruit industry. Towards the end of last session there was a good deal of controversy on this point. The growers did not know what to do-: the Commonwealth was. faced with a big carry-over of canned fruits, and some of us thought that by wise administration these carry-over stocks would be cleared and a bigmarket opened in England. That, I understand, has been done, thanksto the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and the Minister for Trade and Customs. Now we are asked to confirm what has been done. I do not say that the canners will not be getting a very good deal, particularly if the British Parliament should give us a further preference by lifting entirely the duty oncanned fruits, hut I do not consider that the whole of the £’750,000 will have been lost if ultimately we capture the large canned fruit market that is open to us in England.
– Can we hold it if we get iti
– I think so. particularly if we- get some assistance. The English market for canned fruits* amounts to 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 cases per annum; and even if the proposed bounty be paid on the whole of the fruit available in Australia this season, I do not think the actual canning results will represent more than 1,000,000 cases. Although fruit-growing is perhaps in a more parlous condition than any other primary industry in the Commonwealth, and, although there has been much talk of an apparent over-production of soft and berry fruits, if, as a- result of this bounty to help export a large market is opened up overseas, the outlook will bc by no means discouraging. The export will absorb most of the money that the Commonwealth will pay, because the bounty on local sales will average about lOd. per dozen tins, whilst that on export will average about ls. Sd. per dozen. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the apparently large difference between the return to the grower and the price paid by the consumer. The difference is clearly accounted for by the cost of distribution and the waste that inevitably occurs with such a perishable product between the grower and the consumer. But for what it is worth I hazard the opinion that the distribution of fruit will not be all that it should be until that article of diet is delivered to the housewife’s door every day in the same way as is meat, bread, and butter. If that were done, the distribution cost would be very much cheaper and the consumption greater. With increased consumption of fresh fruit and the capturing of the bulk of the English market for canned, fruits, the troubles of the fruit-growers would be solved, and for a few years, at all events, we should not hear so much about overproduction. It is clear that, if the canners have bought this year 20,000 tons of fruit for which they -have paid £9 per ton, and they will get by way of bounty for canning, production, and export nearly £140,000, they are on “ a good wicket.” But I take a broad view of the industry. Something had to be done to prevent it nearly going out of existence and the products of the grower being wasted, and in my opinion this alternative suggestion, which we are now asked to confirm, and which places the whole responsibility of finance and distribution upon private enterprise, is the best foundation upon which we could work. The previous Emit Pools have given ‘ us an example of what the socialization of industry can do. The estimated loss on those pools is about £600,000, and I believe the Government have acted wisely in cutting the loss and clearing the market. I record my satisfaction that the problem has been temporarily solved in this WaY. The future- may be allowed to take care of itself, particularly if. we can recognise the basic fact that fruit is as necessary an article of diet as is butter, meat, bread, and vegetables, and should be delivered at the house door every day. I have pleasure in supporting the Bill. The canners have made a good deal, and, if the British Parliament should afford us that minor preference for which we hope in respect of dried and canned fruits, if the Com.monwealth Government are fair and equitable in regard to sugar drawbacks, and if we get a further advantage in connexion with British sugar duties, all will be well with the fruit trade, and we shall have an export of an additional £1,000,000 worth of primary and secondary products that will help to pay our debts abroad.
– I shall not oppose the Bill, because of the assistance it proposes to give to the fruit-growers. but it proposes very little of what I should like to see done. My objection to it has been well voiced by the Leader of . the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), namely, that this scheme gives greater advantage to the canners than to the more deserving people who grow the fruit. The canner will receive £d. per lb. more than will the grower. Under present circumstances there may be some justification for helping both parties, but I cannot approve of the disparity between the assistance to be granted to the canner and that to be given to the man who has all the toil and risk of producing the fruit. I am not co enamoured of the scheme as is the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten), who, I suppose, has his own reasons for being enthusiastic regarding the benefits that the private city canner will get. I prefer to take the point of view of the primary producer, and of those tens of thousands of people who may never know the taste of fruit. A great deal has been said about the marketing of our products overseas, but if more attention were given to the wasting distribution in this country, and to building up the local market, there would not be so great a necessity for the overseas markets. By cutting OUt those standing between the producer and the consumer the latter would get a cheaper article and the former a better price. That would be better than a bounty, because it would also benefit the great mass of consumers in this country, without whom the producers and the canners could not live. There are thousands of people in Melbourne and Sydney who do not know the taste of fruit.
– The tragedy is that these are the people who will have to pay the bounty.
– That is so. While there is something to be said for this Bill, it does not remove the eVil or provide a remedy. It is a .temporary palliative only, as it expires next November. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the problem will become more acute as time goes on, because each year there is a big increase in the fruit production of Australia. In to-night’s Herald a reliable authority gives figures for certain classes of fruit, which show the increase in our production. In 1922 we produced 13,000 tons of fruit, but in 1923 there was an increase of 6,000 tons, or 19,000 tons in all. It is anticipated that next year there will bo a corresponding increase, and present indications support that view. The Government should do something to provide better transport facilities for the carriage of our surplus products to the overseas markets. Mr. Lloyd George spoke on the recommendations of the Imperial Conference in the House of Commons shortly before the recent British elections. His speech shows what he thought of the great Conference, the Prime Minister’s account of which occupied twenty-five pages of foolscap, and concerning which the right honorable gentleman thought we should use our eloquence morning, noon, and night. We, however, listened in rapt silence. Mr. Lloyd George laid his finger on the key to the situation when he referred to the necessity for better marketing arrangements. I cannot do better than quote what he said on that occasion -
I expected from the Prime Minister (Mr. Baldwin) something about his policy for the Dominions. We have had a great’ Imperial Conference. Proposals were put forward there. There is a real desire to unite and strengthen the .Empire, to promote trade relations between the Empire and ourselves, and ourselves and the Empire. What is the right honorable gentleman’s proposal ? Has he nothing better than the proposals put forward by the President of the Board of Trade - canned lobster, crayfish, crabs, binding the Empire with dead crabs ?
Honorable Members. - Not meat !
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE. Not at all; that is the whole point. Why should there be this distinction? Preserved crayfish, a preferential Tariff; preserved lamb from New Zealand, no; preserved mutton from Australia, no; preserved lobster, yes. What is the difference? Is it the tin? “lt is a tinker’s policy. That is the policy. What the Dominions want at the present “time is to bring their produce to this country under conditions which would enable them’ to compete favorably with every other country in the world.
He goes on to point out the necessity for improved transport facilities and cheaper freights, not only for lobsters and tinned fruits, but for our meat, our wheat, and our wool. If this Government did something of that character, instead of proposing a palliative like this, they would be providing a bounty, not only for the fruitgrowers, but for every producer in Australia, whose profits are at present largely mopped up in high freights, and they would also give to the consumer a cheaper article. Mr. Lloyd George stated, in conclusion -
I say now that that is a better policy than the wretched policy put forward by the Government - preference on tinned stuffs and the Government going to the electorate with tin cans on their tails.
– Does the honorable member indorse those views?
– I said they were not my views, but the opinion of a man who is not of this party.
– He is the man whom the other side followed for many years.
- Mr. Lloyd George contends that there should be not only preference for certain commodities, but also cheaper transport charges for our products sent overseas. That is the real crux of the situation, which should occupy the attention of the Governments of Australia. I believe that if the Commonwealth Government took up this question with the British Government, a settlement would very soon be reached. If freights by the Commonwealth Line of Steamers are as low as they can be made - and I have my doubts about that - the Government could meet the interests of the producers better by subsidizing the Line and reducing freights than by- doing what they propose in this Bill. I believe, also, that if proper co-operation existed between the Governments of the Commonwealth and of Great Britain, the British Government would also provide a subsidy. I propose to quote the remarks of Mr. McClintock, a returned soldier of Nathalia, to show how pernicious is the present system. I shall give his experience in marketing his fruit. He said that he picked 380 cases of peaches and apricots from a 60- acre orchard, and sent them to Melbourne. His gross return was £48 os. 9d. He was notified that forty of the last seventy cases he sent down were unsaleable, though he vouches for the fact that they were first quality fruit. His return for the other thirty cases of that parcel was £3 2s. 6d. After paying the agent’s expenses he had a net return of lis. Id. for the seventy cases. That is a grower’s own statement. Though he had to do the toil, bear the worry and take the risk of growing the fruit, and, doubtless, had spent many sleepless and anxious nights during the season, he received only lis. Id. for seventy cases of fruit. I think nobody in this country will seriously contest the statement that the middleman benefits most largely from the work of the producer, and that he is to blame because the consumer does not get a cheaper article. If the Government got down to “ tin-tacks “ and co-operated with the various State Governments to remedy this state of affairs, it would do good for both the .producer and the consumer. The Queensland Government has taken effective action to meet the situation. It not only places its returned soldiers on the land as the other States do, but it assists them afterwards. It does not leave them to the tender mercies of the middleman. It has established State canneries, which take the fruit direct from the grower at a reasonable price, and process it. Since the Queensland Government has been doing this the producer in that State has received a fair return for his labour, and the consumer has been able to purchase fruit at a moderate price. This is the first time in the history of Queensland that both producers and consumers have had such a fair deal. An additional and important consideration is that the consumers have been certain of getting 16 oz. to the lb.
– The growers in Queensland are also helping themselves.
– I believe the co-operative principle has, to a considerable extent, been adopted.
– It is co-operation organized and encouraged by the Government.
– Exactly. The Government is working directly in the interests of the producers. . That is a great contrast to the condition of affairs in other States, where men have been dumped down on areas from which they cannot possibly make a living.
– They have been dumped down on some pretty rotten country at Beerburrum, in Queensland.
– I do not know the district to which the honorable member refers, but I know that in all the other States the Governments seem to search out the worst class of country and dump the soldiers on to it. In certain parts of New South Wales the land upon which some of the soldiers are settled will cost at least £80 an acre to clear. They have not a chance of paying their way, and are abandoning their blocks. The Queensland Government, on the other hand, is settling the men and assisting them to market their fruit and other products. That is the only reasonable way to work. It is what the Commonwealth Government and the other State Governments should be doing. It would be better than a thousand bonuses. I shall support this Bill, but it is only a temporary measure - a palliative, a stop-gap. This Government and the various State Governments should be attempting to apply a permanent remedy to the trouble. A plan should be evolved to assist both the producer and the consumer, and to prevent the middleman from enriching himself as he has been doing. We should have before us proposals to” provide for the cheaper marketing of our products and to insure lower freights.
– I support the Bill. I commend the Government for its action in connexion with last season’s pack. I doubt whether any member of this House has sufficient courage to oppose this measure. Those who have been intimately associated with the fruitgrowers and with men on the land generally in the last six months know that as early as last August the fruit-growers were at their wit’s end ‘to know what to do. The Government rightly said that there would be no more Pools. Neither the grower nor the canner, I believe, was the– chief beneficiary- from the money that was expended in the- fruit Pools. An analysis of the figures will show that the workers profited more largely than any one else.
– That is not so. Let the honorable member give us some figures.
– I shall give figures to prove my statement.
– Does the honorable member suggest lower wag.es ?
– I am making- this speech.
– The honorable member said that the workers got too much.
– I said no such thing. I said that the workers’- got more out of the Pool than any one else. At the Rochester, Kyabram, and Shepparton canning factories’ girls earned as much as £7 l’0s. per week this season. I have been bald that some of them earned as much as- £10- per week. I cannot substantiate’ that, but- 1 can prove that many of’ them were paid £7 10s. per week. Last August the fruit-growers found themselves unable to make any arrangements with the canners for the disposal of the next season’s- pack. Subsequently numerous deputations’ waited on the Minister, and attempts- were made to find a way out of the difficulty. Many honorable’ members on this side of the House attended those- deputations. The packers sard it would be- impossible for them to pack the fruit this year unless a Pool were established. They intimated that in the absence of a Pool they would not open their factories. Pressure waB then brought to bear upon the Government by those interested in the fruit industry.
– The Country .party put the “ acid “ on.
– They did all they could to help the growers. I do not know what honorable members on the other side of the» House did to- meet the very difficult and serious situation in which some of the growers, whom they claim to represent, found themselves. Ruin practically stared them in the face, and they were helpless. Eventually a scheme was evolved to meet the difficulty, though we had great trouble to get the packers to agree to it. I do not think that they have made abnormal profits this- year. They may have done very well during the pooling period, but I think that they have not benefited unduly from this season’s pack. The Federal Treasurer (Dr. Earle
Page) indicated to them that he desired to establish the industry on a firm foundation, and that he wanted them to take the whole responsibility for marketing the fruit. That will be the effect of this scheme. I believe that the canners and growers are in a stronger position than formerly, because thisscheme has been accepted. The Government adopted the right attitudewhen it agreed to cut its- loss. A consequence of that has been that both the local and oversea fruit markets are now quite clear of old stock. The Government had to do something, because millions of money were involved. The people in my electorate were vitally concerned, for they produce 50 per cent, of the soft fruits grown in Australia. In addition to the soldier settlers, new settlers, and the men who are wall established in the industry, hundreds of employees had to be considered. I do not agree with the suggestion of the Minister for Trade and Customs that this is a State matter. I respectfully submit that it is a Federal responsibility, because thisParliament permitted an embargo to be placed upon the importation of sugar. That affected the fruit-grower probably more from the point of view of jammaking, than from that of canning. The two branches of the industry cannot be separated, however. It was proper that the Government should consider the interests of the large number of workmen employed in the fruit-growing areas. One of my constituents employs no fewer than twelve married men all the year round. In the busy seasons thousands of nien areemployed fruit-picking, tilling, cultivating, and spraying in the Murray and Goulburn Valleys. These men would have lost their means pf livelihood had the Government not taken some effective action. The canners were undoubtedly hampered by the sugar embargo. One of them, who attended a deputation, said that if the Government would remove- the embargo the growers would pay the duty on the sugar, and would not ask for a. subsidy or - a bounty. That indicates clearly what he thought of the situation. The growers’ interests also were undoubtedly prejudiced by the embargo. The Government deserve commendation for the action they have taken in connexion with this bounty. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has said, it is a palliative only.
If that honorable member knows of any permanent remedy, he should have stated it.
– I did.
– As a permanent remedy, I suggest the removal of the restrictions which are strangling the fruit-growing industry, as well as many other primary industries.
– Is not sugar growing a primary industry?
– I would remove the sugar embargo and do away with Arbitration Courts and high Tariffs which operate to the disadvantage of those industries which are unable to pass on the increased cost of production-
Several honorable members interjecting
– Honorable members on the Opposition side must realize that one cannot conduct orderly parliamentary debate in this fashion. I ask them to obey the call of the Chair and observe the rules of parliamentary decorum.
– One of my constituents, at a deputation, said that the fruitgrowers were called upon to father three babies - the sugar embargo, Arbitration Court awards, and the high Tariff. He added, “We are not the father of those babies. You have placed them on us, and we refuse to father them. The Government have to father those children.” The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) said that, in all probability, the present would be the last year in which the bounty scheme would operate. In justice to the fruit-growers, it must operate as long as the sugar embargo operates. I think it will be admitted that this scheme will result in considerably lower prices being obtained for locally-consumed canned goods, because local consumption will be increased by from 200 to 300 per cent; and we will have a home market for the greatest portion of the fruit grown.
– We have got that already.
-The bounty will be paid mostly at the lower rates. Whatever fruit is left over when local requirements have been met may be sent to the markets of the world, and that will draw the higher rates of bounty. I am hopeful that those higher rates will not require to be paid to any great extent. I heartily support the measure, and trust that it will pass without amendment.
.- I am sorry to observe that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) does not consider thatsugar-growers are primary producers. Or, at least, endeavours to set one class of primary producers against another. He contends that sugar growers are doing too well. Honorable members on. this side of the House* do not hold that view. I was present at a deputation representative of fruitgrowers that waited upon the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) towards the end of last year, because I believed that the fruit-growers of Australia had the right to expect to receive a fair return for their labour. I was sorry to find that a representative of the fruit-growers on that deputation, instead of stating the real cause of the low prices for fruit, made a vicious attack upon the sugar industry of Australia. Not being acquainted with the facts, he accepted as correct the propaganda that is being carried on in the southern newspapers against the Queensland sugar industry.
– I know a good deal more about the sugar industry than the honorable member does about the fruit industry.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the sugar industry. I do not claim to have a greater knowledge of the fruit industry than any other honorable member, but all sections of the people have a right to live, and any man who is “ one-eyed “ in regard to Australian industries is not a fit and proper representative of the people in this House. I believe in assisting the fruit-growers of Australia, but I do not stand for allowing the rapacious cannery owners and profiteering agents to mulct the fruit-growers to the extent that they do to-day. I support this measure to help the fruit industry, but I contend that the canners are receiving the greater part of the assistance while the benefit that accrues to the fruit-growers is comparatively negligible. The honorable member for Echuca said that because of the present price of sugar the fruit industry in Australia is being ruined. What are the facts? Foreign sugar, plus duty, is to-day approximately £12 10s. per ton dearer than Australian grown sugar. Even providing we had no Protection, Java raw sugar was £29 per ton f.o.b. Java in March. Duty brings that up to £38 6s. 8d., as against the Queensland price of £27 per ton. I suggest that the honorable member investigate the facts. There has been a steady increase in the price of sugar at world’s parity during the last few months.
– That is quite correct; but the whole of the sugar for this pack could have been purchased nine months ago at a price several pounds per ton less than that which had to be paid.
– What was the position nine months ago? About that time the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) visited Queensland, where he made a statement on the sugar question, and offered the growers a maximum price of £27 pelton when world’s parity was £28 10s. As world’s parity is based on Java whites, let us take the cost of imported sugar at the prices quoted on 5th June, 1923. We find that the f.o.b. quote for Java brown sugar was £28 10s. per ton; refining, shipping, freight, selling fee, and duty amounted to £23 10s. per ton; making the retail price £52 per ton, or approximately 5½d. per lb. Cuban raws at the same date were, f.o.b., £29 15s.. per ton; refining, shipping, freight, C.S.R. manufacturing cost, processing, and selling fee amounted to £25 15s. ; making the retail price £55 10s. per ton, or approximately 6d. per lb., at a time when the Australian price was £46 13s. 4d., or 5d. per lb. The consumers in Australia would have had to pay 6d., instead of 5d., at that time had they purchased their sugar abroad. The Australian sugar grower was prepared to sell his commodity for 4-Jd. per lb., in accordance with the existing agreement. All he asked was that an embargo be imposed upon the introduction of blackgrown sugar. Honorable members either stand for a White Australia policy or they do not. I hope that honorable members of the Country party will declare themselves on that point. No doubt it was because of their misguided statements on this mattei that the Country party candidate for
Capricornia at the last election lost his deposit. Honorable members must bear in. mind that the Australian jam manufacturer to-day procures sugar for the manufacture of jam for export at world’s parity when it suits him so to get it; he is not asked to pay a price greater than is paid by the jam manufacturer oversea. A rebate was always granted to the jam manufacturer, even during the long period el Commonwealth control of the sugar industry, giving him sugar at a price equal to world’s parity. He obtained a further British rebate of £4 5s. 7d. per ton, which resulted in his procuring sugar for the manufacture of jam for export at £21 10s. per ton, whilst the British jam manufacturer was paying £48 10s. per ton.
– Can my honorable friend inform me whether the canner gets a. rebate of £9 a ton on convention rates irrespective of the price of foreign sugar?
– The jam manufacturer in Australia to-day gets sugar for the manufacture of jam at world’s parity, but at the present time world’s parity, including duty, is £12- 10s. per ton greater than the Australian price.
– Does my honorable f riend say that if world’s parity is higher than the Australian convention rate on sugar, the manufacturer does not get any rebate for export? I think he gets £9 a ton.
– No; he gets 13s. per ton rebate.
-Order! These interjections are quite irregular.
Silling suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.
– At the adjournment I was endeavouring to refute certain statements made by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), which were not only misleading, but also anti-Australian. For instance, the honorable member has said that the position of the fruit industry would be all right if the sugar embargo, the Arbitration Court, and the Tariff were wiped out. As a matter of fact, if such a condition of affairs was brought about it would mean ruin to Australia. However, it was just as well for the honorable member to let us know where he stood upon this vital point, seeing that he is associated with a small party, whose support keeps the Composite Government in office, and prevents the people from saying what they think of the attitude taken up by honorable members of the Country party in this House on big national questions affecting the maintenance of our White Australia policy. If the honorable member had only made a study of the position he would have found that the sugar and fruit industries are closely allied, and that the sugar industry has done a great deal to bring about the successful development of fruit-growing. During eight years exporters of canned fruits have saved over £1,000,000 by having Australian sugar supplied instead of having to import at world’s parity. If it had not been for the sugar industry, the jam manufacturers of Australia during the war would have been paying the world’s parity for their sugar. They would have been paying as much as £118 a ton. Today they are being supplied with Australiangrown sugar at a price which, including duty, is £12 10s. a ton less than the price of sugar grown by black labour. The Minister for Trade and Customs will bear me out in that statement.
– That is correct.
– Probably unintentionally, the honorable member for Echuca misled the House when he spoke about sugar. He knows nothing about the subject. He and the members of his party arc absolute Free Traders, who would wipe out the Tariff, and there is anxiety amongst those in Queensland who support a Protective Tariff, particularly for the sugar industry, because the Composite Government is kept in power by these honorable members, prominent among whom is the honorable member for Echuca. Earlier in the evening the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) asked whether the jam manufacturers were still getting a rebate of £9 a ton on sugar used for the manufacture of jams for export. As Java sugar is £29 per ton f.o.b. and freight, refining charges, &c, bring it to £35, while the Australian price is £35 13s., a rebate of 13s. per ton is given to jam manufacturers. The latest agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government provides that jam manufacturers are to be supplied with sugar at the world’s parity. That is to say, if sugar can be bought outside Australia at £6 a ton cheaper than it can be bought in Australia, the jam manufacturer is to get his sugar at a reduction of £6. At the present time the manufacturers who wished to purchase Java sugar would be obliged to pay for it £12 10s. a ton more than they are now paying for Queensland sugar. At present there is a. rebate of 13s. a ton on the sugar contents of jams manufactured for export, and £2 a ton on the sugar contents of confectionery manufactured for export, which concession is in addition to the fact that for the manufacture of jams for export the jam manufacturer has a right to be supplied with sugar at the world’s parity.
– What has the honorable member for Echuca to say to that?
– He has nothing to say to it. He has let the cat out of the bag, just as Sir Henry Barwell did when he said that he believed in a Black Australia. I want the farmers of Queensland, who are growing sugar, and the farmers of Echuca, whom the honorable member is urging to back up the composite Ministry, to know what sentiments are uttered by the farmers’ alleged representatives in this House - members of the Country party - who are keeping the Government in office. The honorable member for Echuca said, “ Give us the price of sugar six or nine months ago.” I have quoted the price in Java and Cuba about the time the Prime Minister went north to fix up the agreement with the Queensland Government.
– I notice that this Bill applies to canned apricots, peaches, pears, and pineapples, and that there is no reference to sugar. I have allowed the honorable member every reasonable latitude, but I must ask him now to confine his attention to the Bill.
– Sugar is used largely in the canning of fruit, and as the sugar industry had been attacked by the honorable member for Echuca, I was anxious to reply to some of the statements he made, and to tell him that, during the period it was under Government control, that industry had saved the people of Australia £17,000,000. Over a period of ten years the average Australian price has been 41/2d. per lb. I ask the honorable member for Echuca to get down to facts. The wholesale price of a dozen 30-oz. tins of peaches is8s., and the retail price is 12s. The sugar contents of each dozen 2-lb. tins amounts to 9d. in value. The sugar contents of a tin cost3/4d., so that when the honorable member for Echuca declares that the price of sugar is ruining the canning industry in Australia, he only shows that he. knows absolutely nothing about the subject. I take strong exception to the action of thecanners increasing the price of canned fruits as soon as they were given this subsidy. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) will admit that, immediately the subsidy was granted, the wholesale price of the most popular line, clingstone peaches, was raised from1s. to1s. 6d.a dozen tins, and the retail price rose from 101/2d. to1s. a tin. That is absolute profiteering. It means that the bounty on local sales goes absolutely to the canner. What is the Minister doing to prevent that?
– We are not price fixers.
– I understood that the purpose of giving a bounty was to enable the canners to sell to the public at the same retail price as last year - at least so we were told - but the fact remains that as soon as the bounty was secured, up went the price to the consumer. The canners are making phenomenal profits out of this bounty. Who got the £618,000 which represented the loss on the Fruit Pool? I know that the fruit-growers received approximately £120,000, and I presume that the canners got the balance. The Leader of the Opposition declares that the canners get1/8d. more than the Government gives to the growers for the fruit.
– That is not correct. At the same time that they increased the price of canned peaches the canners reduced the price of canned apricots.
– For every tin of apricots sold, fifty tins of peaches are sold, because peaches are the more popular fruit.
– I am afraid the honorable member cannot substantiate that statement.
– We know the methods adopted by these canners of fruit who support the present Federal Government. The Government are aware that by giving this subsidy they will he helping their friends, the wealthy canners, more than the fruit-growers. The growers of fruit in Australia are not sufficiently protected. The Government has no solution to offer. I believe they are having a difficult time. We are told that Henry Jones and Company and other canners are also having a bad time. Let us see what truth there is in that statement. We have only to refer to the Australasian Investment Digest and we shall find that Henry Jones and Company, in the years 1919 to 1923, made the following profits: -
Year ended 15th November, 1919, £100,866.
Year ended 15th November, 1920, £123,365.
Year . ended 31st October, 1921, £92,109.
Year ended 31st October, 1922, £103,948.
Year ended 31st October, 1923, £135,395.
In addition to making these profits, the company put into reserve no less than £111,000 during the same period. We were told that the canners were having a bad time, and they threatened they would have to close their factories. That was only so much bluff. They knew that the Government that is financed by the wealthy corporations, which to-day are bleeding the farmers of Australia, could not say “ no “ to them. The Government is controlled by wealthy rings outside, and there is a ring to-day amongst the canners of fruit in Australia. In Queensland something is being done which is likely to be very beneficial to the fruitgrowers of that State. I believe that the only solution of their difficulty lies in some improvement in the marketing of their fruit. Something must be done to control the operation of the numerous agents who are handling the marketing of fruit, and making 400 and 500 per cent, profit, whilst the grower of the fruit is receiving less than a living wage for his labour. The Queensland Government has passed a Fruit Marketing Organization Act, which aims at putting an end to the exploitation of the fruitgrowers. It aims at the elimination of the rapacious middleman, who stands entrenched behind the Federal Government to-day. The object of the Fruit Marketing Organization Act is to provide for the better organization of the marketing of Queensland fruit. The measure makes provision for an organization on cooperative lines, having certain functions, powers, and authority. It is to consist of - (a) local associations, (b) sectional group committees, and (e) the committee of direction. The scope of the measure may be extended to include the marketing of vegetables and all kinds of farm produce, and it will give the farmers themselves the power to control the industry in which they are engaged. The bodies to be constituted under the Queensland measure will act in conjunction with farmers’ rural associations, and if the Federal Government co-operated with the State Governments to secure the establishment throughout Australia of a non-party rural organization they would do more for the farmers of this country than they can do by assisting organizations to put men like the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) into the House, and trying to divide the farmers politically. In Queensland the rural organizations scheme is meeting with the greatest success amongst the farmers. Six hundred local producers’ associations have been formed. Each of these associations has the right to send a delegate to a district council, which in turn has the right to send a delegate to a central council sitting in Brisbane with the power to speak authoritatively to the State Government on behalf of the organizations of farmers throughout Queensland, and to make suggestions as to the legislation which should be passed to secure better marketing facilities for farmers’ produce. Under the Fruit Marketing Organization Act the Committee of Direction is deemed to be a corporation with power to hold land and property and appoint agents and officers. The Committee from a date to be fixed by the Governor in Council will take over the control of the marketing of all Queensland fruit from the time it leaves the orchard until it reaches the consumer. The Act is to continue in operation for three years, and for a further period of three years unless on the requisition of 500 registered fruitgrowers a ballot on the question of continuance is taken and it is decided in the negative. It is one of the duties of the Committee of Direction to convene annual conferences of delegates of local associations to which conference the Committee of Direction must report. Any disputes arising between the farmers and the Committee of Direction are to be settled by the Council of Agriculture.
– What kas all this to do with the Bill before us.
– I am suggesting that the Commonwealth Government should do something to assist the farmers of Australia to get out ,of the clutches of the so-called Country party by co-operating with the States to establish a rural organization on non-party lines with a view to better marketing by co-operative control.
– I remind the honorable member of the limits of the Bill before the House, and ask him to -keep within them.
– It is of vital importance to the fruit-growers that fruit should be handled to the best advantage. The members of the Ministerial party are not concerned to help the grower to get a better price for his fruit. It was my privilege in the Queensland Parliament to advocate the establishment of a State Cannery. It was established for the purpose of buying up thousands of cases of pineapples which otherwise would have rotted on the fields of the soldier settlements in Queensland, where they were grown. From its inception in 1923 the State Cannery absorbed 160,000 cases of pineapples, of which 150,000 eases were obtained from the soldier settlements. As the State Cannery could, give higher prices than were being paid by private canneries in Queensland, the result of its operations was an increase in prices all round to the growers of pineapples. That is something that State enterprise was able to do in Queensland. In addition to the payments made for the fruit, the Queensland Government made grants by way of subsidy to returned soldier growers amounting .to £7,111 in two years: I mention these f acts to suggest ways in which the Commonwealth Government by co-operation with State Governments may be able to organize the marketing of fruit instead of establishing pools, from which the canners of Australia have derived £500,000 as against £120,000 paid to the fruit-growers. The profits made by Henry Jones and Company, which I have quoted, clearly indicate that the canners under existing conditions have made* phenomenal profits out of the Australian fruit industry. These big canners and jam manufacturers are making phenomenal profits, while thousands of small growers throughout Australia are practically starving, some of them not making 30s. a; week.
– Under this arrangement the jam manufacturers and canners are getting their fruit -for nothing.
– That is correct. On apricots the production and export bonus paid to canners is 1.2d., and to growers Id., giving more to the canners than to the fruit-growers. Immediately the bonus was given the canners commenced profiteering by increasing the price of peaches from 10½dto ls. per tin. The Government, “in permitting the canner to profiteer, is clearly standing behind, not the grower who has been for many years building up the Australian fruit industry, but rather the canner, who tells the grower that he is producing too much fruit, and unless he is prepared to accept the price offered, the fruit may rot in the field. The same thing happened to the sugar industry in Queensland before Labour took a hand to give the growers some say as to what they should get. Some permanent solution of the difficulty must be evolved in order to place the fruit industry on a sound footing. The Government’s proposal is a mere palliative, and, as one honorable member said, a way of getting over a difficulty by staving it off for another twelve months. * By co-operating with other State Governments, the Commonwealth Government can assist in the building up of rural organizations and marketing schemes throughout Australia, to be run on non-party lines, thus preventing the growers from being exploited by such men as the honorable members for “Wimmera, Gippsland, and Echuca. The Labour party stands for the establishment on non-party lines of an organization and marketing scheme which will assist the fanners much more than will the measure now before the House. I am a representative of a great many primary producers, and I sincerely hope the British Government will grant preferential duties on Australian dried fruits.
– Why did not the honorable member support the resolution of the Imperial Conference?
– The Government took the resolutions as a whole, and , as the
Labour party were opposed to one of them we were compelled to turn the others down. Had the resolutions been taken separately, we most certainly would have voted in favour of preference for Australian products. The small fruit-growers of Australia can always rely on fairer and more generous treatment from the Australian Labour party than from honorable members opposite, who are supported by men who seek to abolish arbitration, the Tariff, and the embargo on sugar, and to allow black-grown sugar to be imported into this country.
– I rise at this stage to rebut some of the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). I strongly deprecate his statement that the fruit canners represent a huge combine, and I give it an unqualified denial. The Leeton Cannery, operated and controlled by the New South Wales Government, handles each year some 7,000 or 8,000 tons of fruit. You, Mr. Speaker, know that what I say is correct. When you were Premier of Victoria, you were responsible, probably more than any other single man, for the co-operative movement in this State, and you, as well as I, know that Shepparton and Kyabram, two factors in the canning of fruit in Victoria, are essentially co-operative stores, depending a great deal on capital advanced to them by the State.
– We want more of those co-operative stores. .
– The honorable member did not mention these organizations. I have just returned from Queensland, and at Stanthorpe I found the co-operative factories in a very bad way. They, at least, will be very grateful for the assistance that this Government proposes to give to the fruit industry, as it substitutes a ray of hope for the despair with which they were faced. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) represents little of the feeling of the whole of Australia towards this industry. When speaking of the industry which he represents to a large extent, he said that he desired to see sugar ls. a lb. in this country.
– I did not say anything of the kind. The Country party’s candidate for Capricornia lost his deposit.
– That may be so. What the sugar-growers of Australia want is a- fair deal for themselves and for the other industries that are dependent upon them. They are satisfied that the price that they are to-day getting in Australia is a fair reward for their labour, and they want both to build up their own industry and the dependent industries as well. The action of the Sugar Pool proves that. It is just as well to put that fact on record now. Certain references have been made to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), but I wish to say that no one has worked harder than he did during the last ten or twelve months to put on a sound footing the fruit industry, which is represented by thousands of returned soldiers, and tens of thousands of small farmers. In addition, during the last seven or eightyears, he has exercised, to their full extent, the whole of his energies and ability to stabilize the wheat industry, and I cannot understand the accusations and criticisms levelled at him, and the suggestion that he is not a true Australian. I take this opportunity of thanking the honorable member for Echuca for the assistance he gave the Government in this connexion, and for the pertinacity and capacity with which he has urged the growers’ claims during the lash six or eight months. I say frankly that the fruit-growers are fortunate in having as a representative a man who so ably and persistently urges their claims. We have heard a great deal about the Bill being a palliative and not a permanent solution of the trouble, assuring the future prosperity of the industry. Let us visualize the position of the industry when the Government took steps to assist it, some thirteen or fourteen months. ago. Up to that time there were three Fruit Pools, the third drawing almost to a close. There were, stored in London and Australia, almost the whole of two fruit packs. They completely overshadowed the market, and the outlook for the next fruit pack was almost impossible to contemplate. The Government decided first of all to ascertain exactly what had been the root cause of the failure of previous Fruit Pools, and, having discovered that, to endeavour to put the fruit industry on a sound footing. The Government has grappled with the problem, and has met with a great measure of success, since it has enabled the ever-expanding production of fruit to be gradually absorbed.-. The position pre.viously was that in the first year of the
Fruit Pool there was a total loss of about £30,000. In the second year, as we found when the whole of the pool had been straightened out, there was a loss of £370,000. A great deal of that was due to interest charges on the continually accumulating stocks which could not be disposed of by the methods then in force. Thus when the last pack was on our hands we faced a most” difficult position. Since a loss was inevitable, the Government determined to make it as tolerable as possible by adopting a scheme to popularize the Australian fruit on the Australian market.
– What about black labour ?
– By the adoption of a scheme for the expansion of the home market and the consumption in Australia of great quantities of locallygrown fruit, we endeavoured to insure that the industry could be profitably carried on by white labour. Honorable members opposite, by their tacit acquiescence in previous methods, are content, apparently, that a large proportion of our fruit shall be eaten outside by black labour. We on this side of the House have all along been endeavouring to insure that, as far as possible, it shall be eaten by our own people. Our efforts in this direction have been rewarded with a substantial measure of success. Last year we had on the market 2,000,000 dozen tins of fruit, either here or in England. Faced, as we were then, with another fruit pack on the top of an already glutted market, we realized that, unless we could shift the product, we should have to accept the lowest prices on record and be confronted with losses appalling to contemplate. The Government decided, therefore, to tak© steps immediately to increase the consumption of Australian fruit bv the best possible means, namely, to sell the best quality fruit at the lowest possible price in Australia. Fruit which previously had cost the consumer 15d. per tin was made available to the people of Australia at 10½d. per tin. We decided that, as a loss was inevitable, our best course was to confer some benefit on the taxpayer by making this fruit available to consumers - who are also the taxpayers - in Australia at 4£d. per tin below the price hitherto ruling. As a result, we were able to sell 1,200,000 dozen tins of fruit in Australia in eight months, whereas in the whole of the previous twelve months the Australian market had absorbed only 400;,000 dozen tins. But we were not satisfied with that. “We recognised that the time had come for action in the direction of making the Australian consumption of canned fruit approximate that in America, where, before our campaign, it was almost seven times greater. We have halved that difference, for our consumption now is- three times greater than it was a year ago. If, however. Australians ate as much canned fruit per head of population as the people of the United States, our exportable surplus, on the present basis of production, would be only 100,000 dozen tins, which would not be enough to fill the requirements of the New Zealand market. We should have no exportable surplus for the overseas market at all.
– How much will the consumer have to pay now for the 10½d. tins 1
– That is a very pertinent interjection. He will still pay, approximately, the same prices. As the outcome of the Government’s efforts’, the Australian consumption has been enormously increased. The Government have decided to continue this policy for another year to enable the fruit to be sold at the reduced price. It is proposed in this measure to give, on all fruit canned for consumption . in Australia, such a bounty as to permit of that price being retained. But there have been certain alterations in the prices. As the crop of apricots was greater than the crop of peaches, the price for apricots per dozen tins has been reduced, and the price for peaches correspondingly increased, but the total amount to, be received by the canners will be practically the same as that which the Government received last year, for the fruit that it sold. The Government proposal for the absorption of the surplus Australian fruit pack was a reasonable and constructive scheme. It enabled Australian canned fruit to be eaten in places like Winton, Rockhampton, Longreach, and Bourke, where previously it was rarely seen; and, moreover, it enabled fruit to be placed on Australian tables in much greater quantities, than ever before. At the same time, an extensive advertising campaign was launched to impress upon the people of Australia the fact that they could get this canned fruit from their storekeepers; at a very reasonable price. The Government recognised, further, that the problem before the industry was the disposal of this yearly surplus. We felt that if we could increase the consumption per head in Australia up to the level of the American, we would have a very small exportable surplus. Unfortunately the facilities for transport, as well as defects in our distribution system, must provea barrier to the complete achievement of that object. We then considered the possibilities of the British market, and decided that, in addition to the bonus to be paid on canned fruits for Australian consumption, we would give an additional export bonus to place our cannerson a footing of equality with exporters of Californian fruit, which was being dumped on the English market. Because of what we have done, Australia now has a permanent place on” the British fruit market. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), when in Great Britain, and Senator Wilson, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) pointed out last night, . concluded very favorable arrangements with large distributing agencies in England to handle our fruit, insuring that it should be distributed throughout the United Kingdom as an Australian product. In this way the industry is being judiciously advertised in the Mother Country. As a result of our action, the present fruit pack came on a market that was practically clear of Australian fruit, and it is being disposed of to very great advantage indeed. It has been said to-night that the Government proposal enables the canners to get more for their work than is paid to the growers. That is not so. The fruit is being sold at 9s. 3d. per dozen tins.
– If tha payment of this bounty is necessary in order to secure, the British market, will it not be necessary to continue the bounty to preserve that market?
– I shall deal with that point before I resume my seat. I want now to deal with the relative amounts which the growers and the canners will receive under this measure. At present apricots are being sold in Australia at 9s. 3d. per dozen, or did. per tin, and the retail price i8 10½d. Under this Bill, the growers will receive the following prices for their fruit: - Apricots, £10 per ton ; clingstone peaches, £9 ; freestone peaches, £7 ; pears, £10 ; pineapples, £6 per ton. After the canner has deducted his bounty he still has to pay £6 per ton for apricots. That disposes completely
– It does not.
– I have worked out this calculation very carefully. The Leader of the Opposition will have his opportunity of speaking later. I am giving the House figures which have been prepared for me by the Customs Department.
– The Treasurer is dealing with one schedule of the Bill only, and not with the export business.
– I am dealing with home consumption.
– Put the two together, and see where they lead you.
– If the Leader of the Opposition would listen to what I am saying, he would discover that my statement is correct. He or some other member of his party can state his case afterwards. I want to state my views now. I am explaining the position regarding apricots. The Leader of the Opposition takes the case of a bounty on exports and attempts to mislead the House by stating that that is the whole story. I am stating the correct position in plain, matteroffact terms. I distinctly said that I was. referring to fruit sold in Australia. The Australian market is the only one. in which we can get any reliable data. We know how much each tin sells for in Australia, but we do not know how much it realizes abroad. To-day it is one price, and to-morrow it is another. Any figures the honorable member may cite regarding export are fallacious, unless they postulate a definite rate of sale all the time.
– The figures are in the schedules to the Bill.
– The figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition were only estimates. I am stating the price at which tins of fruit are sold in Australia. The bounty that is being paid al the present time amounts roughly to £4 per ton on fruit. Only 10 per cent, of the fruit produced in America is sent to Great Britain, the. other 90 per cent, being consumed in America. When such a large proportion of the American output is consumed in the local, highly protected market, it is obvious that the other 10 per cent, can be sold abroad at dumped prices, while still securing a fair average price for the total product. It may be necessary in the future to do something to assist our export market, though I doubt whether it will be, because we are putting up at the present time a better article than that produced by any other country. The Australian article, for flavour, colour, and packing, is without equal in the British market. We have been able this year, by the export bounty, to establish ourselves thoroughly in the British market. This has been done, not by means of Government agencies, but through ordinary commercial channels, the canners being responsible for the sale and distribution of the pack. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) when he was in England put up a very gallant fight for increased preference for this industry. Already in the British market we have some preference over Californian fruit, by reason of the fact that in our Australian fruit industry we use Australiangrown sugar. We are allowed a preference of one-sixth of the British duty on sugar. Thus we receive a rebate of £4 5s. per ton on the sugar-content of our fruit. That works out at about Id. per tin, which is a fairly substantial concession, and goes, a long way towards paying the difference in freight between Great Britain and the United States of America and Great Britain and Australia. In addition to that, the Prime Minister was able, at the Economic Conference, by the cogent arguments he advanced, to secure further resolutions giving us an additional preference of 5s. per cwt. on Dominion-canned fruit, which corresponds approximately to another Id. per tin. It has been a matter of very great surprise to me during the last fortnight, when honorable members opposite had an opportunity of saying that they stood solidly behind the claim made for this concession on the production of Australian fruit, that not one of them supported the Prime Minister in his proposal. Every one who looks at the position fairly must recognise that the Government have brought forward a constructive proposal which has placed the fruit industry in a better position than it has occupied during the last four years. About £10,000,000 worth of canned fruits is imported into Great “Britain from foreign countries every : year, and if we can get a preference over that we shall be able to extend the Australian industry very rapidly, and still be sure of a market. At the same time we have been working to secure the cooperation of the State Governments in our efforts to distribute the fruit in Australia. The people of Australia are eating per head only one-half the quantity of canned fruit that the Americans eat. We hope that by continuous propaganda, and especially by giving new heart to the fruit industry, to increase that rate of consumption. I was in Shepparton recently with the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and he told me that those engaged in the fruit industry, who were in despair three years ago, because they did not know from year to year whether they would get a pool, were’ now full of hope. There is a different outlook by reason of the fact that the huge mountain of previous packs has been dissipated. I urge the House to adopt this proposal for the payment of a bounty to which the Government agreed, because the House was not in session, and a decision was urgent.
.- With the Government proposal to pay a bounty on certain products of orchardists and to incidentally help the fruit-growing industry we are all in accord, so far as that help relates to the primary producer and co-operative canneries. But we object to the payment of the people’s money to certain boodling concerns which have subsidized the National and Country parties.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has suggested that the Country party has been subsidized by Borne boodling concern. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member for Darling implies that a subsidy has been paid’ to any member of the House his remark is disorderly, and must be withdrawn.
– What I said was that the Nationalist and Country parties are subsidized by boodling concerns.
– That is a deliberate lie.
– Order ! If the honorable member does not imply that any honorable member has received a subsidy his remark is in order.
– I do not imply that.
– I rise to a point of order. The Treasurer characterized the statement of the honorable member for Darling as a deliberate lie. I ask that that disorderly remark be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the remark. The honorable member for Darling was guilty of a misstatement of fact.
– Foi- the last four years this Government has known that the present condition of the fruit industry has been approaching.
– This Government?
– This Government is no different from the last Government, except that it has a leaven of Conservatives, Free Traders, black-labour advocates, and Tariff abolitionists. The ineptitude and incompetence of the Government are responsible ‘ for the position which has been created. On both sides of the Murray River during the last four years many thousands of pounds’ worth of fruit has rotted on the ground, and the Country party, notwithstanding that it professes to be so anxious to protect and develop the industry, has idly stood by and watched it go to ruin. While fruit is rotting on the ground thousands of people in Australia are fruit hungry. The only people who have been doing well out of fruit are the private middlemen, who subsidize and support the existing Government. The co-operative companies have not made money, because the balance-sheets of most of them show that they are losing money, and they are subsidized by the shareholders; but the balance-sheets of the middlemen, even though they have been watered and faked, show very fair profits. Those are the interests which are responsible for that portion of this measure which relates to canneries. The Government has conceived the happy idea of accepting some of the’ Socialism which honorable members opposite profess to despise so much. They will use it for their own gains, but not for the indiscriminate benefit of the community. There may be Socialism for one section of primary producers, but it is denied to another section. Sir Henry Jones and others of that ilk have been doing exceptionally well, and one wonders in connexion with this Bill whetherthe voice is the voice of Chapman, and the hand is the hand of Jones. Is this another small boodling “scheme which incidentally aims to render some help to one section of the primary producers? The Government - I mean the Country party, which is the Government - will protect apricots, peaches, and other primary products, hut it will not protect sugar. It is prepared to spend the people’s money in the interests of certain farmers on. irrigation blocks in Victoria, New South Wales, and other States; but when a tropical industry, in which millions of pounds are invested, and thousands of white Australians are employed, is at stake, those honorable members who claim to be good Australians are ready to close clown the whole of the Australian cane-fields. Yet they talk about patriotism! If it were in the power of the Country party to end the sugar agreement, they would do so, .but they have not the courage to force the Government to an issue on that matter.
– That is absolutely incorrect. The Government put the sugar industry on its feet.
– The unofficial Leader of the. Country party (Mr. Hill), who carries a great deal of weight in the councils of that body, made this afternoon a solemn declaration which on all previous occasions he and his colleagues have been careful to avoid. Of course, we have always known that the Country party believes in Free Trade, except in respect of onions and potatoes. “ Give us,” they say, “such protection that not one spud or onion shall be imported into Australia, but let the niggers of India and other sweated black labour countries send their sugar here free of duty in order that’ our plums, apricots, and peaches may be made into jams and canned fruits.” What patriotic sentiments these people express. The Labour party has always advocated pools and the payment- of bounties to assist the development and maintenance of not- only primary, but secondary industries, and we have at all times been consistent in that respect. When a languishing industry requires assistance the Labour party is always willing to help.
We do not discriminate as to what particular primary industries shall receive assistance, but advocate the protection and development of such industries in order to provide, bv means of the New Protection, a self-supporting Australia. We are prepared to assist in imposing duties upon those commodities produced abroad which are also made in Australia, so that those used by us will be manufactured in Australia under our own conditions, and not by sweated labour. Honorable members opposite wish to protect the growers of apricots and peaches, but will not protect the growers of sugar cane. They are willing to help those who . produce lexias, but would import locomotives. The Country party wanted the fourteen locomotives for the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway to be obtained from Great Britain, because there was a difference of only a few thousand pounds in the or ice. It was only in consequence of .the action taken by the Leader of the Opposition when in Western Australia and South Australia that an Australian tender was accepted, probably because the members of the Country party know something about the political effect such an importation would have upon the people of Australia. The Leader of the Country party sneers, and says, in effect, that the wages of the workers in the fruit industry of Australia are too high, and that the only solution of the problem, with which we are confronted is a reduction in wages. We have also another low-wage advocate - a man who during his term of service in the Victorian Railways was prepared to knock off work to agitate for higher rates of pay and better conditions for himself and his fellow workmen. I refer to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) who was then held in high esteem by hia colleagues, and it was thought that he would some day grace the legislative balla of Australia as a member of the Labour party. He was the finest agitator for higher wages and better conditions ever employed in the Victorian Railways service, but now he favours low wages and sweated conditions. That is the aim and idea of one member of the Country party, who believes that a reduction in wages and less favorable conditions will help the industry -out of its difficulty. That party contends that a lot of our trouble could easily be overcome and a number of our primary industries would flourish if wages were reduced by 50 per cent. It would, however, be only a temporary advantage to a certain section of employers. If we decide to assist an industry it should not be at the expense of those engaged in that industry. The second solution offered by the “ unofficial “ Leader of the Country party is that the Arbitration Court should be abolished. I could quite understand such sentiments being uttered 100 years ago, but it is unthinkable that in 1924 a member of Parliament, speaking in the House of Representatives, or in any other place in Australia, should advocate such a retrograde step.
– The honorable member is surprised at any one having the courage to advocate it.
– I am surprised at the stupidity of it. Arbitration is regarded as a necessity of modern civilization, and the person who does not recognise the benefits of our arbitration system must think that we are living in a pre-historic age.
Mr. SPEAKER (.Et. Hon. W. A. Watt) . - The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has covered a very wide political field, and must now discuss the Bill.
– The third solution offered is that we shall revert to Free Trade. I should like to know what would become of the primary producers if such a policy were adopted. Onions, potatoes, apricot3, and peaches should be protected, w.e are told, but everything else we produce should not! We should at least be consistent. The Country party, which at present controls the destinies of Australia - it has that power, and can exercise it-
– It will, too.
– We can have too much of such good government and good management. A few more victories such as .honorable members opposite have experienced will lead to their undoing. Free Trade and the abolition of our secondary industries–
– Order! I cannot allow the honorable member for Darling to embark upon a discussion of fiscal questions. I am anxious to hear him refer to apricots, pears, peaches, and pineapples, which are covered by the Bill.
– I have traversed most of the questions which have been mentioned from time to time, and when you interrupted me, Mr. Speaker, I was about to state that Free Trade, the abolition of the Arbitration Court, or the importation- of sugar grown by black labour, will not solve the problems of the fruit-growers on the irrigation settlements at Curlawa, Bunguayah, Pomona, Goodnight, and other places on that side of the River Murray. The position of the primary producers in that locality is particularly unsatisfactory, and those who have visited them realize that everything possible should be done to render assistance. Everything possible should be done to help them, but I shall do nothing to assist the great “ boodling “ concerns of Australia. The Government should re-draft that portion of the Bill dealing with the price to the canners, and should insert a clause to adequately protect, not only the primary producers, but the people of Australia as a whole. We do not want a recurrence of what I saw last year in Melbourne, where 50 tons of best quality lexias, graded and packed in good boxes, were bought from the Australian Dried Fruits Association at ½d. per lb. Although the people outside wanted that fruit, they could not obtain it unless they paid the price fixed by the Australian Dried Fruits Association. Things of that nature require investigation by the Government when they are proposing such a bounty as that before us. I shall vote for the Bill, but would again ask the Minister in charge to withdraw it until after the Easter adjournment. No harm could arise from such a postponement. In addition to re-drafting “the portion dealing with canneries, some guarantee should be obtained from the private canners that the people and primary producers of Australia will not be exploited.
.- I support this Bill. The Governments of the past have been generous to the fruit industry, as already there has been a loss of nearly £500,000 in connexion with the different pools. The remarks of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) would lead one to believe that the fruit industry exists only in Victoria, but I would point out that it is also to be found in Queensland, where its value is estimated at about £2,000,000 annually. The increase in acres during the last ten years has been 60 per cent., and in production about 300 per cent. In Queensland we also have the sugar industry, which last season produced about £7,000,000 worth of raw sugar, its value, when refined, being about £10,000,000. The industry is conducted by 5,000 farmers, 90 per cent, of whom, are Australians or of British descent. That proves that it is a white man’s industry, and I regret the misleading statements made in Victoria from time to time concerning it. In the Brisbane Courier of 10th January last there appeared the following telegram from Sydney : -
The general manager of the Stanmore ‘Canning and Preserving Company Limited (Mr. Tate), in a. statement to-day, said that the fruit-growers of Australia werebeing taxed to the amount of £500,000 a year “to benefit Queensland.” “ The burden,” he said, “ is too great for them to carry. Freedom to import sugar, paying the Customs duty, would restore the industry.”
This is a misleading, selfish statement. It is a common mistake to think that the value of the sugar in canned fruits has any effect whatever on their sale. . A return I obtained recently from the Customs Department shows that the value of the sugar-content in canned fruit is less than 1d. per lb. No one would suggest that a difference of1d. per lb. would have any appreciable effect on the sale of canned fruits or jam. I agree largely with the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) concerning the fruit and sugar industries, but he was not altogether fair in his reference to the assistance rendered by the Queensland State cannery. That cannery is not altogether the financial success he would have this House believe. While it is a fact that it has taken a large proportion of the pineapples grown on the Queensland plantations, it is true also that there has been a serious annual loss on its operations. That loss, which has been met by the taxpayers, has really meant a subsidy to the fruit-growers. The statement of the honorable member would have carried more weight if he had referred to that fact.
– The purpose of the cannery is to assist the growers, and not to make profits.
– It has the effect of assisting the grower; but if the honorable member had mentioned that there was a serious annual loss on its operations,, the House would have better appreciated his statement. The honorable member was also correct in the main in his reference to the assistance rendered to the fruit industry in Queensland by the Queensland Fruit Marketing Act. Of course, there is a difference of opinion as to its efficiency, but the new system of organization, is- worthy of a trial. For many years before statutory authority was given to the Committee of Direction, an organization known as the Southern Queensland Fruit-growers’ Association did very valuable work for the growers. Thousands of tons of fruit were sent to the southern markets weekly, and the growers soon saw the benefits of organization. The other States might copy the Queensland legislation, as it is undoubtedly of great advantage to the fruitgrowers. The Queensland Act provides for a committee representing the five main sections of the fruit industry - the banana, pineapple, citrus, deciduous, and berry fruits’ sections. Each section deals with its own particular problems, and is represented by two of its members on a Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing. The Government have assisted by giving statutory authority to this committee, but it is not under Government control. The members are elected by the growers, and represent various shades of political thought. In Queensland, many of the growers think that if they supply the Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide markets they are supplying Australia, but within 100 miles of the place where the fruit is grown it is frequently impossible to obtain supplies. There is room in each of the States for a more thorough organization of the industry. That would, to a great extent, prevent the glut which now exists from time to time, and make unnecessary the Government assistance repeatedly asked for, and the consumer would be able to buy fruit in places where now there is a great scarcity. Mr. PROWSE (Forrest) [9.20].- I support the Bill, but I am sorry that such a measure is necessary. I heard the remarks of the fruit-grower from the Shepparton district to which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) referred, and I thoroughly agreed with his argument when he said to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in a room adjoining this Chamber,” The Governments in the past have placed three babies on our door step, and we are not the father of them. You are the father, and what are you going to do about them?” The Ministry have arrived at the best solution of the difficulty in which they find themselves. The arrangement embodied in the Bill is infinitely preferable to that contained in measures brought down in the past two or three years. The Bill has features that promise to place the fruit industry od a more stable basis than heretofore, but the three babies have yet to be dealt with. The fruit-grower, to. whom I have referred, went on to say, “ You put the Tariff on our door step and you also placed the Federal Arbitration Court and the Sugar Agreement there.”
– The latter saved Australia £1,000,000.
– Let me tell the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that when I was visiting the Atherton Tableland recently, I noticed some excellent dairying land. I inquired of a local land and estate agent what progress was being made with the dairying industry in that district, and he replied, “It- is all right, but any man who goes in for dairying ought to have his head read.” When I asked him the reason for his statement, he said, “ Because fortunes are to be made out of sugar-growing “ I remarked “ You should not have suggested that, for I am beginning to think that the people engaged in dairying, and those who grow fruit in the. southern States find it- hard to get a living are making it possible for people in the north to acquire fortunes out of sugar-growing.” This man boasted of the large profit he was making out of the sale of land suitable for the production of sugar. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) noticed similar conditions when he recently visited Queensland. When one finds that a large number of aliens are making fortunes in Australia at the expense of thousands of primary producers, there must be something radically wrong. A producer was once able to buy a shovel for 3s. or 4s., but to-day he has to pay 12s. or 14s. for it, and he has no way of passing on the increased cost to the consumers of his products. I, too, have had the opportunity of travelling through the Shepparton district, and I have never inspected finer orchards than are to be seen there. I noticed hundreds of tons of splendid peaches rotting on the ground. When I asked the owner of some trees that were partially infected with the Rutherglen bug why he did not pick the sound peaches, he declared that it would not pay him to do so, and that the fruit would have to fall and rot. While deputations were waiting upon the Government asking that some solution of the financial difficulties of the fruitgrower be found, Mr. Justice Powers in the Federal Arbitration Court awarded an extra 7s. to. 9s. per week to the employees in the orchards. It is very fine to protect one section of the community, but the interests of other sections should also be considered. If it were not for the three babies that have been placed on the door step of this and many other industries that . are natural to Australia, it would be unnecessary for producers to go cap-in-hand to the Government for assistance. The growers would be able to succeed if they could depend on their strong right arm, but under present conditions they are forced by legislation into a position of helplessness. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has made a clumsy attempt to suggest a solution. He referred to the middleman, who certainly constitutes an evil which to a large extent could be eliminated. The only suggestion the honorable member has offered is that freights should be lowered. How can he expect free trade England to provide -us with cheap shipping facilities ? Does he suppose that the highly protected Australian shipping lines will reduce their freights ? This is hopeless, seeing that the Legislature has granted the employees in the shipping industry working conditions superior to those enjoyed by the seamen of any other country. This, forsooth, is the accepted policy of Australia, and the proposal of the honorable member leads us nowhere. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has referred to the “ boodling capitalist,” but I contend that the greatest supporters of “ boodlers “ are to be found on the other side of the House. The votes of the Opposition in favour of high protectionist Tariffs have helped to create millionaires. Are we to believe that the policy adopted by the 45,000,000 electors of Great Britain to insure the best possible living conditions for the people of the Old Country is entirely wrong? We know that” in Australia to-day it costs 36s. to purchase what £1 would buy in 1914. The Arbitration Court considers nothing except the cost of living and so, naturally, has unlimited scope for increasing wages. Ipso facto, that increases the cost of living, and so reduces the purchasing power of the sovereign. The policy that has been adopted in this country for some decades has made Australia top heavy, and we have practically reached our limit in the employment of labour. In talking the other day with a relative of mine, who has been engaged in the boot trade for thirty years, I asked how the industry was progressing. He replied, “ Very slowly. We get no outside orders now. We used to sell goods to New Zealand, but now our trade is limited to Australia.” It may not be that the workers’ wages are too high, but either wages must be decreased, or output must be increased. We must have value for the money expended. When I first entered this House, about four years ago, I frequently heard the word “ profiteering.” ‘ I have hardly heard it used in the last few years.- The profiteering bubble has burst. Profiteering is fostered more by honorable members of the Opposition, and capitalists and combines are supported more by them- than by any other party in this House. I am not speaking offensively. The time has come when Australia must look straightforwardly at her position. We must make a better attempt to compete in the world’s markets. The fruit-growers of Australia have had a heavy burden placed upon their shoulders, because of the policy this Parliament has adopted. Bonuses and doles are a disadvantage to our people, but that is not the fault of the fruit industry, but of the policy which has laid unbearable burdens upon it. Scarcely one industry in Australia is standing on its own feet. We talk about the Queensland sugar industry. I suppose that the Italians who live at Innisfail, Queensland, are legitimate immigrants. They came here and lived almost on the smell of an oil-rag, and the people of Austra lia have bought Cadillac motor cars for them. I honour those settlers for the way they worked. If they have rendered good service to the country they deserve their success, and we could do with more like them. But do not let us burden ourselves as we have clone in order that they may get rich quick. The protection given seems to be unnecessarily high.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) in order in referring to the Italian settlers in Queensland as men who lived on the smell of an oil-rag?
– From the parliamentary point of view, the remark is quite an acceptable argument, but I ask the honorable member for Forrest to pay exclusive attention to the provisions of the Bill before the House.
– I will endeavour to observe your command, sir. The sooner this country is made more self-reliant the better it will be. Our fruit-growing and other industries should be placed on a basis which will enable them successfully to compete in the markets of the world, freed from the burdens now strangling them, and malting unnecessary such pampering as they are receiving. I totally disagree with the policy Australia has adopted. So long as that policy is permitted to continue it will place heavy burdens upon the producers’ shoulders, and we must give them some relief. The wheat-growers of Australia have always fed the people of this country more cheaply than the people of other countries have been fed, yet that industry has always brought money into the country. It has, with wool, created our wonderful credit in the markets of the world. If, however, the cost of producing wheat is increased by 4d. a bushel, or the market falls by that amount, it will force many of the producers out of business. With things as they are, I have no qualms of conscience about voting for this Bill. It is consequential upon the bad administration of previous days. Burdens have been placed upon the shoulders of the fruit-growers, and we must give them some relief.
– I have a personal explanation to make. When the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) was addressing the House, he said that, as an employee of the Railway Department, I was one of the principal agitators for higher wages. I am sorry that the honorable member is not here to hear my remarks. I was never a member of any Labour organisation, and I was never an agitator as stated by the honorable member. When my salary was reduced by 28 per cent.., after the land boom, I did what many other self-respecting men did. I resigned from the Department, . and obtained an honorable discharge. After having heard the remarks of some members of the Opposition to-night, I am glad and proud to say that I have never been associated with any Labour organization.
.- The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) might have explained why he joined the party that was responsible for reducing his wages when he was a railway employee, for he now belongs to that party. It was not a Labour Government which took that action in the land boom.
– ‘Order! That matter is not now before the Chair
– I am rather astonished that the Minister did not explain why Australian fruit was sent to an American company in London which represented the great Californian fruit industry. I am also astonished that he did not enlighten us as to whether the gentleman who made a large sum of money was an American. Another firm I believe had wide experience in the selling of meat, but I do not know what their qualifications are for the selling of fruits. Lyons and Company, who supply something like 12,000,000 meals every week in London, were prevented from assisting in the selling of Australian fruits. The Comonwealth Government declined to accept a price that was cabled to Australia, but, later, a much smaller amount was accepted, and seemingly a larger quantity of fruit was’ sold. The Bill has one feature which commends itself greatly to me: it is one of the few Bills that provide for a list price for the benefit of the producer - the . grower of the fruit. The canners must pay certain rates per ton for the fruit purchased. The Government would have been deserving of much greater commendation if they had provided for a list price in the selling of the fruit to the Australian people. I do not think any of them will deny that fruit sold in the shops, and even on the streets, is very dear compared with the price which the grower receives. I am sure the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) will agree that the wheat-grower does not get a fair proportion of the price paid by the consumer for a loaf of bread. I should like to see the Government provide for a list price, not only for the benefit/ of the grower, but also for the benefit of the fathers and mothers of families. I hope I shall have the sympathy, not only of the Minister, but of every medical man, and of the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), in moving the following new clause in Committee:; -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any Act, it shall be mandatory that all fruit canners who claim the bounty shall impress on top of the can the month and year of the canning.
I have two reasons for making that proposal. One is that I want to have sent from Australia a product that the people overseas will welcome, because it will bear the certificate that what it contains is fresh. I also desire that no tin of fruit which has been on the shelf of a shopkeeper so long that it has become stale may be pushed on to a customer, but that the customer will find embossed on the top of the tin the date on which the food was placed in that tin. This proposal .may seem to promise trouble. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) may see serious dangers in it. I think that the honorable member for Calare and the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) will agree that the course I propose would greatly diminish the evils to which medical men are giving keen attention, such as disorders of the digestive tract, brought about by irritation caused through zinc getting into solution in these foods.
– There are difficulties in the way of the proposal suggested by the honorable member, as this year’s canning pack is almost completed.
– I recognise that difficulty, and admit that it is a very serious one. Does the honorable member agree that if my proposal is not accepted, the Common wealth Government should represent to the Government of Great Britain the advisability of giving the English customer the opportunity to ascertain whether the- tinned food which he purchases is fresh by the impressing of the date of tinning?
– I agree with the honorable member, but I cannot see the practicability of it this season.
– The honorable member will agree that it would be desirable for the consumer to be able to ascertain the date of the packing of all tinned foods entering the United Kingdom. I realize that the Government can put forward serious arguments against my proposal, but I maintain that the law should make provision in that direction. Last week I received a communication from Professor Luff, a man well-known in London, who has also attained the rank of a military colonel. He has been appointed, with others, by the British Government, to make an inquiry into foods. I purpose sending him this amendment, as a suggestion that the Government of Great Britain might very well adopt. It may b© said that, in its desire to have cheap food for its people, the Government of Great Britain would not care to compel such action by the various countries which send their food into England. Something of the sort however, is necessary in Australia, in view of the action taken by certain scoundrels, Australians though they were, in sending to South Africa wheat which was unfit for human consumption, rendering it necessary for the Commonwealth Government to pay a large sum of money by way of compensation. I contend that the names of those scoundrels should be given to this House, so that the people of Australia might know who they are. No one in this House would defend the export of wheat unfit for human consumption, yet we allowed the scoundrels who did this to escape, as a lot of others escaped who took advantage of the awful times which prevailed during, and immediately after, the war. When we want’ to get a big overseas market, we cannot follow a better example than that which was set by that splendid little kingdom, Denmark. When Prussia deprived Denmark of Schleswig-Holstein, one Danish colonel was courageous enough to say to his fellowcitizens, “ If we have had two provinces taken from us, it is time we made another with the spade.” History shows how nobly the people of Denmark, by means of co-operation rarely equalled and never surpassed, have carried out that task, until to-day their produce secures the highest prices on the London market. No inferior foods are permitted to be exported. The Danes would not be guilty of a crime such as Australians committed in that South African incident to which I have just referred. Despite all the difficulties that may bc raised, I shall submit my amendment to honorable members for the honour of Australia, so that the foodstuffs we export shall be of the very best, and so that the health of the consumers may be protected. If the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to control the sale of foodstuffs within the Commonwealth and see that they are of the very best quality, it is time it sought the power to do so. No honorable member would have the audacity to support the prices the consumers of Australia are called upon to pay. The local market is the best the Australian producer can have, but we are not paying that regard to the interests of the consumers that we should. Twenty-five years ago, when 1here was a proposal on foot to provide cold storage in Melbourne, doubt was raised as to the capability of the producers to fill the stores, whereupon I urged the Government of the day to buy beef and mutton when it was cheap, and fill the stores with meat, so that they would always be in a position when meat was dear to sell it to the citizens of Victoria at whatever price was being paid for Australian meat in London. It is time we applied the same policy to fruit. We know that canned fruits are sold in London at a price which is below that which is charged in Australia. However, I am pleased to note the fact that the present Government decline to follow the advice, tinged with Conservatism, of the Country party. If they were foolish enough to adopt that advice, we should have the biggest unemployment that Australia has ever known. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) is a true-blue Protectionist. I advise Ministers to take to heart the lesson that Western Australia provided a fortnight ago, and that which SoUth Australia will provide next Saturday.
– Do not prophesy.
– Possibly the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) would not like me to prophesy what might happen if the Government dared to go to the country. In my opinion, it would not come back in its present strength. If the Labour votes in Wimmera had been given to Mr. Sampson, it is doubtful whether the Minister would be in this House to-day. I advise him to pay some attention to the words of Abraham Lincoln -
You can fool some of the people all the time ; you can fool all of the people some of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.
I commend the Government for the good that is in the Bill, but I regret what is not in it. I want the Minister, before the measure goes through, to say whether the representative who did sell part of the Australian canned fruit for the sake, of the commission was an American or an Australian.
.- The payment of a bounty on fruit is of transcendent importance to a very large section of the producers of Australia. I know a great deal about the fruit-growers of the Riverina, where, within the last two or three years, a large number of men have commenced growing fruit on irrigation areas. Many of them are returned soldiers’. They are a very fine type of man, but if it had not been for the bounty on canned fruit a number of them would have been down and out. - Many of them are in debt to the extent of £3,000 or £4,000. They have been obliged to borrow in order to bring their holdings into bearing. The money they have raised has been spent in clearing and planting, and generally in putting the land under cultivation. They could not possibly have kept going without the bounty. I do not claim that it is necessary to keep paying this subsidy, and I hope that it will not be found necessary to do so, but I do not think that the Government should say at this stage that under no circumstances will they continue it. The honorable members for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and Capricornia (Mr. Forde) have twitted the Country party with being against all forms of Protection, and with being anxious to abolish all the protective duties. I know something of the views of honorable members of the Country party, and I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the party is in favour of assisting secondary industries, as well as primary industries, in every reasonable way. For instance, we all recognise that the sugar industry must be kept going. In the first place, it is intimately bound up with the White’ Australia policy, in which we all believe. In the next place, the producer’s of sugar are cultivating land which cannot be profitably occupied in any other way. Lastly, the fact that sugar is grown in Australia provides it at a cheaper price than would nave to be paid if there were no local production, and if we were dependent on the outside world for our supplies. I have always been a Protectionist, and I believe that most honorable members of the Country party are Protectionists, “though naturally we differ in regard to details. But, while I want to see the secondary industries and the primary industries protected in every reasonable way, I want particularly to see that the producers are protected, as they certainly are not by the system of Protection now in vogue. I regard this bounty as a small measure of protection to them, and I repeat that but for its assistance a number of OUt fruit-growers would now be down and out. Why then should we say definitely at this stage that the bounty is not to bc continued beyond a certain date? I hope that the price of fruit will improve, that our fruitgrowers will have a profitable market, and that the bounty will be found to be unnecessary. But rather than let the industry be ruined the Government should continue the bounty. After all, it represents but a tax of £140,000 upon the people of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable members that £7,000,000 has already been spent on the Yanco irrigation area, which has been taken up chiefly by fruitgrowers. Before the improvement of the area is completed the expenditure upon it will amount to something like £10,000,000. A similar scheme of land improvement is to be commenced on the Murray, and will probably be found to be just as expensive. Unless something can be done to provide a profitable market for our fruit, the immense sums expended upon the improvement of land in this way will be lost, these areas will be abandoned, and the country allowed to return to its original state, I am sure that no member of this House desires that that should occur. Honorable members opposite have said a good deal about the necessity for the better marketing of fruit. There is at present too great a wastage between the producer and the consumer. This is more evident in the case of fresh fruit than of tinned fruit. I believe I am within the mark when I say that on an average the consumer of fresh fruit has to pay four or five times what the producer receives for it, owing to the lack of proper marketing facilities. I do not approve of the scheme suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, and supported by honorable members on his side, because ir, would involve the creation of another Government Department to run the business of marketing fruit. Several Government industrial enterprises have been tried, not only in the Federal sphere, but also under the authority of State Governments, with the result that there has always been a heavy loss incurred by the Government concerned. Governments have never succeeded in successfully running industries, and the taxpayer has on every occasion been called on to foot the bill. I do not support the starting of another Government enterprise to handle, the marketing of fruit. In my opinion, the State Governments might do much to bring about improvement in the marketing, not only of fruit, but of meat, butter, and milk, all of which products are much . dearer to the consumer than they should be, whilst the producers do not get a fair return from them. With a proper system of distribution the consumer should obtain fruit at half what he pays for it now, whilst the producer should receive double what he receives for it. One honorable member opposite said that the Country party has done nothing to help the fruit-growers to tide them over their difficulty in being unable to find a satisfactory market for their fruit. The Country ‘ party has assisted the Government to do everything that has been done in this direction so far. The Fruit Pool was a great help to the growers, though the Government lost a considerable amount of money in connexion with it. The Country party helped that scheme, and they are now assisting the Govern- ment in connexion with the bounty provided for under this BiU. I know of nothing to assist the industry which has been suggested from the other side, but members of the Country party have assisted the Government to do all that has been done, and the charge made against them in this connexion is, therefore, a very unfair one. I am glad to learn that honorable members opposite are in favour of the preference proposals made by the Prime Minister when in the Old “Country. Until to-night we were all in doubt as to whether they were in favour of them. Notwithstanding the fact that those proposals have been temporarily turned down, I think Mr. Ramsay Macdonalds Government must soon realize the great importance, not only to the Old Country, but to British overseas Dominions, of giving effect to them; I. trust that they will be carried before long, and if they are they will be of great help to the fruit-growers of Australia, who at present so much need assistance.
.- I intend to support the Bill, but I cannot help on this occasion, as I have done when similar measures have been introduced, contrasting the attitude of the Government and honorable members who sit behind them in supporting measures of the kind under which the functions of government and the national finances are utilized to assist a particular industry, with the stand they take when an industrial organization asks that the national finances should be used in that way. The organization is told that trade must go through its natural, channels, that nothing can be done in the matter, and that the request is based on false economics. I shall continue when such measures arc brought forward to emphasize the inconsistency of the attitude adopted by honorable members on the other side.’ It is about time that the Government tackled these problems in an earnest and comprehensive way. This measure is only one of the stop-gap pieces of legislation introduced to assist an industry iu a time of crisis. Until something concrete is proposed, and the foundation is laid upon which permanent progress may be made in meeting these industrial difficulties, we shall have these stop-gap measures, which get us nowhere.
– This- got us out of the mess of the ‘Fruit Pool.
– There will he some other mess next year from which we will have to be extricated by more legislation. The mess goes on. Underlying the very fine speech of the honorable member the other day is this’ continual mess. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) stated that the largest proportion of the proceeds of primary industries went into the pockets of the workers, and when challenged to give some instances to support his statement he was silent. It was afterwards ascertained that his argument was purely an assumption, and a foolish assumption at that. When asked for a solution of the trouble he returned to the “ stone age “ of economics - black labour, Free Trade, and low wages. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) made a passionate speech in defence of the honorable member for Echuca, but I remember distinctly, when dealing with another industry for which a bounty Was asked and supported by the Labour party, the Treasurer said that the consumption of its product was gradually decreasing on account of low wages ruling. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr.. Hill) claims to desire the development of the natural resources of this country, and yet . he says that they can be developed only by. the payment of low wages. If wages are to be reduced, the purchasing power of the general consumer will be less, for, after all, the great bulk of the consumers are wage-earners, industrial and otherwise, and if their wages are reduced automatically their consumption is reduced. That solution is unworkable, as it will lead to over-production, with no” means of disposing of surplus products. I take particular exception to the fact that the. canners are actually receiving from the Pool one-eighth of a penny per lb. more than is the fruit producer. It seems to me that the members of the late lamented Country party have become part and parcel of the Composite Government, and are allowing, almost as a subterfuge, the introduction of this Bill ostensibly to assist the man on the land and the fruit-grower, but in reality to give one-eighth of a penny to the middleman, who is continually bleeding the fruit producer. I should welcome any sound proposition that would eliminate this parasite, but it is practically impossible’, as. the funds of the Government in power are subscribed by the middlemen and those controlling secondary industries. Hence we have two diametrically opposed interests functioning as one Government. The Treasurer said, by interjection,, that although the price of peaches had increased, that of apricots had decreased. They would lose on the merrygoround and pick up on the razzle-dazzle. Honorable members must remember that there is one octopus - the middleman - living not only on this industry, but on all other primary industries, and bleeding both the primary producer and the consumer. A proposal that is to give £d. or -d. more to the middleman is not one that, in the final analysis, will give a great deal of assistance to the producer of fruit. It is the Labour party’s policy to bend its energies and efforts towards the creation of an organization to assist the fruit industry, even if the cost is more than £300,000. First of all, we should assist the primary producer by the formation of a co-operative concern; and secondly, we must not only find markets for fruit, but also assist in the provision of cold storage. The growers of such fruits as apples and oranges at the beginning of the season place their fruit in cold storage at a cost of about £d. each article, but when they endeavour to repurchase in the winter time they have to pay 3d. or 4d. to the person in control of’ cold storage. The Government should arrange for cool stores to be established in the different fruit areas, and allow the fruit-growers to operate them at a nominal rental, thus permitting them to take advantage of the high prices prevailing in the winter time when fruit is not so plentiful.
– I am sure that the honorable member realizes that the fruit under review cannot be placed in cold storage in the way he suggests.
– I am aware of that. At present a lot of these fruits rot on the ground, owing to the markets being glutted at the time of ripening, and to the lack of system. The growers simply produce the fruit and take pot luck. They are at the mercy of the middleman, who controls shipping and cold storage. We must discover a permanent solution which will tend to develop our natural resources. Surely we are not so bankrupt- that we have to admit that no solution- can be found. I realize that the present Government are unable to press very far in this matter, because to do so it would interfere with the interests that support them. I am not opposed to spending money, providing it will enable the Government to assist primary industries, and also industrial organizations when they are in a bad way. As a National Parliament, it is our bounden duty to relieve industrial distress. I am simply astounded at the measure which has been introduced in this House by the present Government. We are told that the Government that governs least is the best ; that it is impossible to divert trade from its natural channels. When the Government is asked to assist some industrial organization, the members of which are on or below the bread line, nothing is done, but when it is a question of placating political friends, the whole functions of this Government are readily made available. We cannot have lop-sided economics of this nature. If Government facilities are to be available for the assistance of one class in the community they should be available to all classes. Otherwise the Government should be honest, and declare for the policy of laissez faire in anything pertaining to the welfare of political opponents.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Manning) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
That the Message be taken into consideration forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to make further provision for the Government of the Territory for the Seat of Government.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Stewart and Sir Littleton Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.–
Bill presented by Mr. Stewart, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 April 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240402_reps_9_106/>.