9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister if, as reported in the press, it is intended by the Government to substitute the Commonwealth Coat of Arms for the British Coat of Arms on the Commonwealth Gazette and other government publications. If so, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to secure a suitable design before replacing the British Coat of Arms with the inartistic heraldic monstrosity at present in use?
– The Government has issued the instruction that on the Gazette and other publications the Australian Coat of Arms shall be used. With regard to the secondquestion, I shall look into the matter, and see whether the honorable member’s condemnation of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms is warranted.
– Has the Prime Minister any information as to when the report of the Western Australia Disabilities Commission is likely to be presented ?
– I cannot give any date, but I anticipate that it will be presented in the near future.
Mr. GREGORY, as chairman, brought up the reports, together with plans and minutes of evidence, of thePublic Works Committee on the proposed northern main sewer and sewage treatment works at Canberra.
Ordered to be printed.
Effect of Navigation Act
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories a question of importance bearing on the development of the Northern Territory. I preface the question with the following paragraph of a letter I have received: -
Last week the Bovril Company and others shipped 120 stud bulls from Brisbane to Darwin, and arranged that two competent cattlemen should go with them. At the last minute these two men were prevented from travelling by the vessel, the authorities insisting that if they carried the two cattlemen the shipmust be provided withextra wireless apparatus, two extra lifeboats, extra cabins, and so forth. We understand that the Navigation Act imposes these conditions. Naturally, the cattlemen were perforce left behind, and these valuable bulls were left to the care of seamen quite unfamiliar with their handling.
I ask the Minister, in view of the importance of the importation of stud stock into the Northern Territory, whether he will see that anomalies such as this are overcome in the interests of its development?
– I shall place the matterbefore the Minister for Home and Territories, and secure an answer to the honorable member’s question.
Non-return of Books.
– I wish to ask a question which, I think, should be addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. It has reference to the statement by the AuditorGeneral with regard to books missing from the Parliamentary Library. The wide notice taken of the matter throughout Australia has cast a reflection upon honorable members. Will you, sir, take steps to see that the regulations are tightened up, so that honorable members who are responsible for books which are missing from the Library will be held responsible for their return.
– In reply to the honorable member’s inquiry I may say that I have read that portion of the supplementary report of the AuditorGeneral to which lie refers, and propose to have it, in due course, fully considered by the Library Committee, which is representative of both Houses. I am also aware of the publicity given to the matter, and of the amount of misunderstanding which has arisen in consequence of the rather vague phrases of the AuditorGeneral. I. may tell the honorable member, and honorable members generally, that it is over twelve months since the Library Committee gave close attention to this problem, and altered the whole of the Library regulations. The result has been a little less convenience to members of the Parliament, but a slightly better administration of that portion of tho Library services. One disadvantage of the press publicity given to this matter is that the public has been led to believe that the criticism of the Auditor-General has reference to the Library services generally, whereas it deals’ only with the microscopical section of ephemeral fiction, which is an auxiliary service established for the convenience of honorable members, and is relatively - I use the word advisedly - of little importance. The matter will be considered by the Library Committee.
– I ask the Prime Minister why Canberra has been placed under the Home and Territories Department, and not under the Works and Railways Department, seeing that there is so much construction work going on there, and that officers of the Works and Railways Department, are -working there under the Federal. Capital Commission.
– I suggest that the matter is not sufficiently urgent to justify a question without notice. The whole matter was considered at the time the Canberra Commission was appointed, and it was decided to put the administration of the Territory under the Minister for
Home and Territories. The construction work at Canberra is being carried out by the Commission, which is utilizing as far as possible the services of officers of the Works and Railways Department.
– In connexion with the movement to stabilize . the wool industry in the matter of price, I understand that it is proposed to wait on the Government with a view to securing its assistance. I ask whether before the Government gives any assistance in this matter the House will be given an opportunity of dealing with the question.
– No representations have been made to me, and I do not know what form they would take if any were made. If it is a matter which should be considered by the House, it will certainly be brought before it.
Doradilla Commissions Report
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The limited demand for these reports does not justify the expenditure entailed in printing them, but typed copies ‘have been, and will be, supplied to those who desire them.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the fact that there are now over 100 residents at Emungalan (including women and children), who are SOO miles from a doctor, will lie cause- a doctor to be stationed there to attend to the medical needs of the people of that town and tho surrounding districts!
– It is not considered that the stationing of a full-time medical officer at Emungalan is warranted at present. Should necessity arise for the urgent attendance of a doctor- at that place, one of the two medical officers now at Darwin will be detailed for duty there, and the fast motor train now operating on the railway between Darwin and Emungalan would be available at short notice for any such case. At Pine Creek, 40 miles distant by train, there is a fully equipped hospital available for cases that might need attention from Emungalan. It may be further mentioned that the Commonwealth Railways Department has an officer stationed at Emungalan capable of rendering first-aid to persons requiring such assistance.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– All matters connected with the establishment of these laboratories will be held in abeyance until the report of the Royal Commission on Health is available.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
When is it anticipated that the bridge over the Katherine River, Northern Territory, will be sufficiently advanced to allow of material being taken over itfor the construction of the railway?
– It is anticipated that the bridge will be completed about December next.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether Sir Vincent Raven and Sir Sam Fay, who (as Royal Commissioners) recently reported on the New South Wales railways, were allowed to leave Australia without paying federal income tax ? If so, why ?
– The Income Tax Assessment Act forbids the communication of information of the nature desired by the honorable member, but section 14 (1) (1) of the act would operate to exempt any remuneration received by the above-named persons from the State Go vernment for expert advice or as members of a royal commission, and section 54 (4) (e) would enable them to be relieved from passport restrictions as far as income tax is concerned.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Can he inform the House when he anticipates a start will be made with the construction of the oil tanks at Darwin, Northern Territory?
– Arrangements lave been entered into for the supply of material, and on arrival on the site a commencement will be made with the erection of the tanks.
asked the Minister for Defence, 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 -
Can he inform the House when Sir George Buchanan’s report on Northern Territory harbours will be made available to honorable members of this House?
– Sir George Buchanan has intimated that his general report on Northern Territory harbours and his report on Darwin Harbour improvements, with plans, specifications, &c, will be prepared in his London office upon his return to England early in October next.
They will be made available for the information of honorable members as soon as practicable after their receipt and consideration by the Government.
asked the- Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government, with a view to encouraging the growing of cotton in Australia, institute a system of bounties for its production, instead of the present system of guaranteeing a price for cotton on the lines recently submitted to the Prime Minister?
– This matter is receiving consideration in connexion with the future policy to be adopted in regard to the cotton-growing industry which is now engaging the attention of the Government.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon ^notice -
Why has the operation of the Commonwealth Bank Appeal Board. been postponed r
– The regulations were approved on the 7th May, 1925, and provide that nominations for the position of member of the Appeal Board to represent the officers of the bank shall be returnable not later than the 1st of March in each year. In order that the board may function during this year, an amendment of the regulations is being drafted to allow nominations to be received not later than the 1st August for 1925 only. It is anticipated that this will be approved by the Governor-General in Council within the next few days.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether lie has any information to give the House as to the proposal to manufacture power alcohol from molasses, in conjunction with low-grade sugars and the juice of surplus sugar cane to be crushed and converted into sugar for that purpose?
– I realize the interest of the honorable member in this important matter, and I hope in the course of a day or two to give full information with regard to the initiatory power alcohol scheme, of which notice has already been given. The information I shall then give to the House will include the position of molasses in conjunction with the scheme, and also the wide ramifications of manufacture that may arise from the proposals of the Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Mr. Percy Hunter, as Director of Migration, has necessarily been very closely connected with the negotiations in England in regard to the new migration agreement, and it was considered desirable that he should come to Australia in connexion with the arrangements for carrying out the terms of the agreement, and to discuss matters of detail with the Minister controlling migration.
– On the 11th June, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked the following question : -
Whether the Minister for Trade and Customs will furnish a return showing what bounties or bonuses have been given since January, 1022, for what purpose, and to whom ?
I lay the information on the table.
– On the 19th June, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) asked the following question : -
What were the total importations of bananas into each state of the Commonwealth during the years 1922, 1923, and 1924 respectively, and what was the country of origin of the consignments in each case?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member .with the following information, the figures being recorded in respect of financial years: -
– On the 19th June, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information, the figures being recorded in respect of financial years : -
Supervision of Magistrates
– On the 19th June, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following replies : -
The following papers were presented: -
Public Works Committee Act - Tenth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Ordered to be printed.
Bounties- Return of Bounties and Bonuses paid since January, 1922, under various acts.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Yeoval, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Canberra - Communications from the Chairman. Federal Capital Commission, to the Minister for Home and Territories, regarding the effect of the floods upon the progress of works.
Papuan Oilfields - Reports of the Commonwealth representative, for the period January to April, 1925.
Quarantine Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, No. 89.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 19th June, vide page 298) :
Schedule, upon which Mr. McNeill had moved, by way. of amendment -
That Divisions 1 to 8 - The Parliament, £11,486, be reduced by £1.
.- The purpose of the amendment is to direct the Government to take immediate steps to establish a compulsory wheat pool. There is in the platform of the party to which the honorable member for Wannon belongs a plank for the socialization of all means of production, distribution, and exchange. I have not heard honorable members opposite mention that plank for a considerable time, but possibly it is being kept in the background on account of the imminence of the general election. In the absence of any intimation that that plank has been removed from the platform, I am forced to consider whether this proposal for a compulsory wheat pool throughout the Commonwealth is not the thin endof the socialistic wedge, the insertion of which isbeing camouflaged. But even if that be not so, the mover of the amendment sincerely desires a compulsory wheat pool in the interests of the wheat producers - the honorable member always impresses me as a particularly sincere man - I, as an opponent of socialism, must be careful not to assist the Labour party to put its pernicious policy into operation. The arguments employed by the mover of the amendment were not convincing. He quoted few figures in support of his contention that a compulsory pool would be in the interests of the wheat producers but even if he had buttressed his arguments with statistics covering the last decade, they would not necessarily have proved the necessity for a compulsory pool, because figures in regard to wheat fluctuations prove’ very little.
– Are there any wheatgrowers in the honorable member’s district?
– They all are in favour, of a compulsory pool.
– I shall show that they are not. The honorable member for Wannon says that thewheatgrowers throughout Australia desire a compulsory pool, and he mentioned the attitude of some wheat-growers in Victoria. Those growers, however, do not voice the views of all the wheat-growers in the Commonwealth. At the present time a plebiscite of the wheat-growers of
South Australia is being taken to ascertain whether they are in favour of a voluntary pool backed by the State Government, and replies are obtained from them only with the greatest difficulty. They are asked whether they are prepared to place in the pool a certain percentage of their wheat - I think 50 per cent. - and the replies are coming in very slowly. Only when they are pressed to say whether or .lot they want any pool do they reply. It will be seen, therefore, that there is no burning desire on the part of the South Australian wheatgrowers for the establishment of a compulsory pool. I understand that the wheat-growers of Western Australia also are opposed to compulsion. Had the honorable member for Wannon proposed a voluntary pool, instead of a compulsory one, I would have given him all the assistance in my power, because I believe that it is in the interests of both the growers and consumers to organize for.” the elimination of unnecessary middlemen, who, unfortunately, reap perhaps a greater harvest than- the actual producers. The honorable member said that large quantities of wheat were being wasted because silos had not been provided. In that argument he was on right lines. It is distressing, when travelling through the wheat-growing areas, to observe the waste that is taking place. If the honorable member would advocate that the Commonwealth Government should assist the wheat-growers directly, or through the State Governments, to provide silos, he would have, my hearty support. I believe that I speak for a large number of wheatgrowers when I say that they would object to being compelled to put their produce into a pool over which they would have no control. A compulsory pool would not be in the interests of the growers or of the country, for it would remove speculation, which is an incentive to enterprise, and is one- of the main inducements to men to undergo the hardships necessary to subdue 1he great wheat belts of this country. We -shall not increase the- productivity of Australia by removing speculation, and compelling men to work against their principles. In the interests of the wheat-growers the honorable member might also have urged that assistance should be given to the states to provide a larger number of. agricultural .chemists - a. class of men, for whom Australia is crying out. to-day. . They are needed to advise the farmer about the qualities and the shortcomings of his soil. Through the enterprise of Dr. Richardson, of South Australia, Dr. Cameron, of Victoria, and others who are working on similar lines in the service of the states, much valuable work has been done, but thiswork is capable of great extension. If the wheat-grower, by the application of scientific knowledge, can increase the efficiency and productivity of his farm, more benefit will accrue to Australia than if he is compelled to put his produce into a pool. The Commonwealth Government, whenever it is asked to do so, should assist in providing machinery for any voluntary effort on behalf of any class of producer. We have dried fruits and dairy produce export control boards, and if the wheat-growers are desirous of pooling their wheat, and ap- proach the Government with anything like unanimity, the Government should do what it can to provide the necessary machinery. I am opposed to compulsion except at the unanimous request of the producers concerned. If they made a unanimous, request I should not deny them, compulsion, although, personally, I am opposed to it. For these reasons I shall vote against the amendment.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill):. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) appears to have found in it a definition of “socialization.” It proposes a reduction of the vote by £1 as -a direction to the Government- to take immediate steps to establish a compulsory pool, and to enter into negotiations with the respective states in order to- give effect to it. If the honorable member is correct in stating- that a compulsory pool is a form of socialization, I hope the press of this country will throw asideits definitions, and accept this one, with, which I am satisfied. The socialization- of the means of production, distribution, and exchange is not, and never has been-, a plank in the Labour party’s platform, but it is the objective of the party. What is an objective? It is the goal that we aim at, the end that we hope to reach. Surely the party is not to- be condemned for having a lofty objective. A high ideal hurts no one. Some one has said, “Aim at the stars, even if you hit only the chimney tops.” I am not running away from the objective of socialization, but I like to get to the true meaning of it. The words “sociable” and “socialization “ are closely allied, and socialization means the general effort to obtain “ the greatest good for the greatest number.” If the compulsory pooling of wheat is tending in that direction, I am in favour of it.
The honorable member complained that a previous speaker did not produce figures.
I have figures which prove that over a period of years, from 1900 until the first pool was established, the wheatgrowers lost money by not having a pool. In January and February of most of those years, when the bulk of the growers were rushing their wheat upon the market, prices were lower than in the following months. My figures will prove that had there been compulsory pools, the returns to the growers would have been greater than ‘ they were under the system of control by private merchants. . The honorable member mentioned that in South Australia difficulty had been experienced in obtaining replies from the wheat-growers in regard to the continuance of the voluntary pool. That is because the growers are being asked to sign a three-years’ (contract, which will bind them to put at least 50 per cent, of their wheat into the voluntary pool. A large number of growers in South Australia, possibly on account of their financial position, are not prepared to tie themselves up for so long.
– They will be tied up indefinitely if a compulsory pool is formed.
– The honorable member, no doubt, has in mind our experience with compulsory pools during the war, a time of great stress and extreme difficulty. Because some of the war-time compulsory pools have not yet been wound up, he infers that difficulties and delays would occur in the business of compulsory pools in peace time. He ought to remember the extraordinary circumstances which brought the war-time compulsory pools into existence. He ought also to remember that we have now had eight or nine years’ experience of compulsory and voluntary pools, and that the pooling system is well understood in these days. Surely he will agree that we must have learnt something from our experience? I admit frankly that I prefer a voluntary to a compulsory pool; but I find that there is a big possibility that the voluntary pool in South Australia will not be continued. I have made it quite clear to the wheat-growers in my district that, if I thought that the voluntary pool would be terminated, I should use my vote in this House, and my influence everywhere else, to bring a compulsory pool into operation. I told them that if they were not able to take care of themselves I should certainly do what I could to take care of them. It seems to me that it is becoming a question of leaving the wheat-growers to the mercy of the wheat merchants or compelling them to join a compulsory pool. For the reason that I prefer the compulsory pool, I am supporting the amendment. The figures which I propose now to present to honorable members will show that the early seller of wheat nearly always has to be satisfied with a lower price for his product than the grower who can hold it and sell it when he pleases. I had an impression for a long while that that was so, and I have confirmed it by a search of the newspapers from 1900 to 1915 to ascertain the exact position.
– The early seller had the better deal this year.
– I shall not overlook this year’s results. Before I conclude my address I shall survey the whole period from 1900 until to-day. I have taken my figures from a conservative newspaper, the South Australian Register. The quotations give the price of wheat in trucks at Port Adelaide on the first day of each month named. When the first day of the month has fallen on a Sunday, I have taken the second day. I have omitted half-pence, and where two quotations were given I took the higher one. I shall let the figures speak for themselves. I shall not give quotations for every month in the year, but shall confine myself to those for January, March, and June. I have taken January and March for the reason that it is in those months that the great majority of the wheatgrowers sell their crops. I have taken June for the reason that it is fairly safe to say that wheat sold between January and March would not be realized until about June. My table will also give the top price in each year, and the average return for the year to the growers.
– In arriving at his average price, has the honorable member taken into consideration the quantities sold?
– I have taken the average of the actual prices for the first of each month quoted in the press as those being offered by the wheat merchants for wheat in trucks at Port Adelaide.
– It is impossible to calculate the average price unless the quantities sold each month are known.
– My purpose in submitting these figures is to show that had there been a compulsory pool for the period covered by my figures the wheatgrowers would have benefited considerably. In most years the prices were lower in January and March than in June and the later months of the year.
– Has the honorable member taken the London prices into consideration?
– I have not. My table is as follows: -
The year 1910 was remarkable in that the full effect of the fall in the market was experienced in June, when the price was many pence below that ruling in the previous month. Although the price was 3s. 9d. in May, and it rose again to 3s. 9d. in August, the June price, which 1 have quoted, was only 3s. Id. In that year the early seller gained most, and it is rather fortunate for those who may be opposed to my argument that I have chosen June as the month with which to make comparison. Had a compulsory pool been in existence in 1915, the early seller would have been in pocket to the extent of ls. 6d. a bushel, so that it is not surprising that the agitation for a pool became strong at that time. Of course, there were other considerations, such as a shortage in freight, but in that year, on account of prices alone, a good case was made out for the inauguration of a compulsory pool. The average price in South Australia for the period 1900 to 1915, inclusive, worked out at 3s. 9id. a bushel on trucks at Port Adelaide under the System of selling the wheat privately to merchants. I also noticed during my search that in eleven out of the sixteen years the early seller was the loser thereby. In only four years did the grower gain by selling early, and in one year he neither gained nor lost.
– The honorable member has not taken into consideration the wheat bought from farmers privately by speculators, of which transactions no record would appear in the press.
– That is true.
– Those prices would be lower.
– I assume that such wheat was purchased at prices similar to those I have quoted, although, no doubt, many purchases were made at a lower price. This y,ear I heard that some wheat was sold at 4s. 8d. a bushel, but no such quotation was published in the press. If I had analyzed all. the figures, I probably could have shown that the grower who sold in December or earlier to deliver in January was worse off than the farmer who disposed of his wheat in January. Remembering that when the price rose to 6s. 10d., as it did in South Australia thi9 year, some farmers declined to sell until it reached 7s., the warning is necessary that we have to be guided by the average price obtained over a given period. For the period from 1900 to 1915 the average price works out at 3s. 9Jd.
– That would not cover the cost of production.
– It certainly would not at the present time, considering that the purchasing power of the £1 is only about equal to that of 14s. ou the basis of prewar prices. We may say that the price of commodities has increased by about onethird. It seems to me, therefore, that if the farming community in South Australia received an average .price of 3s. 9$d. during the period to which I have referred, an equivalent price for this year and for some period ahead would be in the neighbourhood of 5s. a bushel on. trucks at Port Adelaide. Experience teaches us that after a war the tendency is for prices to return slowly to the vicinity of the pre-war levels. Looking over the returns of the voluntary pool that has existed in South Australia for the last three years, I find that the average price received by the farmers in my state has been 4s. 9d. a bushel on trucks at Port Adelaide, which is slightly lower than the 5s. which I have estimated, as the likely average price for a period of years upon which farmers must base their plans.
I now intend to quote the compulsory and voluntary poo] returns against those obtained from private merchants, for, if the advantage were with the private merchants, honorable members opposite, who are opposed to a compulsory pool, would be very ready to refer to them. The Victorian Wheat-growers Corporation gives the following as the compulsory pool returns in. South Australia: -
The average net return to the farmers in South Australia during the period that the compulsory pool was operating was- 5s. 3£d. In arriving, at that figure I made an allowance of 6d. for freight in the year in which freight- and charges had to be considered, the experience of the voluntary pool having been that freight and charges- worked out at roughly 7£d. a bushel. On the basis of the price on. trucks at Port Adelaide the compulsory pool figure is 5s. lOd. a bushel, compared with 3s. 9d. a bushel paid by private merchants in the previous period. The following prices were paid during the period that the voluntary pool was operating : - 1921- 2, 5s. 0)d. on trucks, Port Adelaide. 1922- 3, 4s. 83d. on trucks, Port Adelaide. 1923- 4, 4s. 5Jd. on trucks, Port Adelaide. Average, 4s. 9d.
That was subsequent to the war, and I admit that to a certain extent the disarrangement due to the war still existed. It win be seen that the comparison between. the period under the voluntary pool and that under private merchants was as 4s. 9d. is to 3s. 9d. The proper test, however, is a comparison of the returns from the merchants during the same, period. The figures that I shall now quote have been prepared by the management of the voluntary pool. I saw two of the officers of the pool, and said to them, “If I quote these figures on the platform or anywhere else, is there any danger that anybody will be able to bore holes’ through them ? Have you carefully checked them ? “ They said, “ We have given them the most careful consideration, and you can confidently quote them.” They are as follow: - 192L-2, 4s. 9id. on trucks, Port. Adelaide. 1922- 3, 4s. 6Jd. on trucks, Port Adelaide. 1923- 4, 4s. 3d. on trucks, Port Adelaide.
Those figures are the averages of the prices paid by the merchants, as disclosed by quotations published in the press. During those three years- the merchants handled, roughly two-thirds of the total quantity of wheat harvested. The loss sustained by the non-poolers in South Australia works out at £265,000, after making, allowance for the deduction of Id. a bushel for interest in the case of those who pooled their wheat. The prices this year have been as follow : -
The top price was realized, in February, and it was 6s. lOd. a bushel. I believe that ‘the price to-day is approximately 5s. 6d. or 5s. 7d. So far as this year has gone the prices show that the early seller gained to the extent of 3d. a bushel, comparing January with June.
I desire now to- advance a few reasons for- supporting the establishment of a compulsory pool, quite- apart from that furnished by the figures that I have quoted. Any one who goes- carefully through those figures can arrive at but one conclusion, and that is that had there been a pool it would have benefited the wheatgrowers. One of my reasons for supporting a pool is that it saves the farmer from the results of alarmist reports that from time to time are published in the press with the object of either inducing him to hold his wheat and carry the loss if a fall in price is imminent, or making him sell if there is a probability of a rise in price. Some honorable members may say, “Do you believe that the press would print matter that would not be in the interests of the farming community? “ I say that the press will print anything that it- is paid to print. In my experience, there has been only one occasion when it has refused matter for which payment was offered. When the anticonscriptionists desired to publish answers to certain statements the press refused to take either their articles or their money. I am perfectly satisfied that many reports are published with the object of “ putting the wind up the farmers,” and inducing them to release their wheat when prices are at their lowest. I have here a quotation from the Adelaide Register, of the 31st May, 1910> which illustrates the insidious manner in which the press reports suggest that prices are likely to drop, and that the farmer would be well advised if he sold his crop at the earliest moment. On the 1st May, 1910, the price of wheat was 3s. 9d. a bushel. On the 31st May of that year it had dropped to 3s. Id. a bushel. What I shall now quote is a report published by Darling and Company, one of the big wheat-buying companies in Australia. It reads: -
Owing to the collapse in the wheat markets of America and Europe, great uncertainty prevails, and the decline in prices has been most serious. Values of Australian cargoes of wheat at port of call do not now exceed 31s. 6d. per 480 lb. ci.f., and parcels for prompt shipment by steamer to London and Liverpool are nominally garth 31s. per 480 lb. ci.f. This means a very serious reduction on rates current, .and it looks as though there is no immediate prospect of improvement, and a question about which there is some uncertainty is how much lower prices are going.
That report conveys the impression that the farmers would he acting wisely if they sold immediately. What happened ? By the 1st July the price had risen to 3s. 5d. a bushel, and by the 1st August it was re stored to the old price of 3s. 9d. a bushel. The report was published in the hope that it would influence the actions of those who had stored wheat. Had any farmer taken notice of the suggestion that there was great uncertainty as to how much lower prices would fall he might have disposed of what he held.
– Did the prices drop further ?
– They did not. So far as I can judge, the existence of a pool prevents the farmer from being “ bull dozed “ by reports that are published with the object of misleading him regarding the state of the market. I have another reason for supporting a pool. Under the existing system of selling to merchants, who reaps the benefit of the great gain in weight that takes place between the time that the wheat is placed in the siding and the time that it is sold? Some will probably say that the gain in weight is infinitesimal, but I point out that during the three years that the voluntary pool has operated in South Australia, handling only one-third of the wheat, it has saved to the wheat-growers the not insignificant sum of £17,800. Honorable members will sea that the private merchants who in the same period handled two-thirds of the South Australian wheat must have benefited to the extent of £35,600 from the same cause. That is a strong reason for the establishment of a compulsory pool.
– The honorable member’s time has expired, but as no other honorable member wishes to intervene, he may continue for a second period.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) pointed out that when wheat is sold to the private merchants there is a tendency towards centralization, with the result that the outports are neglected. Before there was any wheat pool in South Australia, the price quoted for wheat at the outports was generally -Jd. or Id. per bushel less than at Port Adelaide, but since the pools operated in that state the price quoted in the press has been the same at Port Adelaide and the chief outports, showing that the pooling system tends towards decentralization. A further reason for the establishment of a compulsory pool in the Commonwealth is that a somewhat similar system is in operation in Canada and the United States of America.
– Did the honorable member say “ compulsory “ ?
– I said a somewhat similar system. I did not use the word “ compulsory.” The idea underlying their system is much the same as that outlined by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) namely, that the growers should obtain the full return for their production. The establishment in Australia of a compulsory pool would enable its managers to co-operate with those controlling the wheat of the two countries I have mentioned, not for the purpose of bringing about a monopoly, but in an endeavour to reduce the margin between the top and bottom prices for wheat. I read with interest the recommendation of Sir John Higgins regarding wool, and was particularly struck with his definition of “stabilization.” He said that his idea of stabilization was not to fix prices, but to prevent undue fluctuations in price. The establishment of a compulsory pool would also tend to eliminate the speculators and those who in the past have robbed the farmers. Another argument in favour of a compulsory pool is that under a system of pooling it is possible for the return of commission on freight to be made to the grower. In this con:nexion I desire to refer again to the voluntary pool in South Australia. During the three years in which it has operated the sum of £44,383 has been returned to the growers. That is no small sum when we consider that the pool dealt with one-third only of the state’s wheat. I understand that the refund was made possible by a system which eliminated the delay which sometimes exists in connexion with the loading of the wheat boats. The South Australian Farmers’ Union has had to bear its share of criticism, but in its conduct of the business of the voluntary pool it has done good service to the farmers of South Australia. A further reason for my support of a compulsory pool is that without a pooling system South Australia will again revert to the “ honorable understandings “ of the past. History repeats itself; human nature is unaltered; and without a system of pooling the greedy merchants who in 1908 and 1912 robbed the farmers, will rob them again. The Ministry is a combination of members of the Nationalist and Country parties. Allegedly, there are five Country party members, but actually there are but three, in the persons of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), .the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill). The Honorary Minister (Mr. Atkinson) was previously a Nationalist, whilst Senator Wilson does not belong to the Country party; he is really a Nationalist. The Prime Minister took these men into the Ministry to make it appear that the Country party was well represented, but he knew that at heart two “of them were Nationalists. This coalition Ministry this year refused the finance necessary to establish in South Australia even a voluntary pool, except under impossible conditions. The Prime Minister said that we have no power to establish a compulsory pool. I say that he has neither the inclination nor the desire to do so. The Government was prepared to leave the farmers of South Australia at the mercy of the merchants, but the advent of a Labour Government made possible a voluntary pool in that state. The Country party professes to stand, above all things, for co-operative marketing, and for the primary producer reaping a fair return from his labour; but its leader, Dr. Earle Page, has sold the Country party and “ turned down “ the South Australian farmers in regard to wheat pooling. Are honorable members aware that on the very day that it was announced that a voluntary pool was to be established in South Australia the price of wheat increased by 3d. per bushel? That increase in price was not due to any corresponding rise in the oversea markets, but was the direct outcome of the decision to establish the pool.
– In what year did that happen?
– The voluntary pool commenced in 1921-22.
– They did not want a compulsory pool.
– That is the honorable member’s view. The Prime Minister made a similar statement. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) stated that the farmers do not desire a compulsory pool. I suggest that the Government comply with the terms of the amendment, and negotiate with the states in order to ascertain whether the farmers do or do not require a’ compulsory pool. No such action has been taken. It is re- markable that the Prime Minister in this House, eighteen months or two years ago, said that a wheat pool would be the last pool to be guaranteed by his Government.
– Why does not the honorable member tell us something concerning the disgraceful waste which occurred under a compulsory pool?
– I admit there was waste. There was also a mice plague, and also circumstances which prevented the shipment of wheat to other countries. The conditions were exceptional. The farmers have paid for the waste incurred, and for the experience gained, but this Government will not now help them to go on.
– Men opposed to the principle were also placed in charge.
– Yes; as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill)’ ren marks, some of the men placed in control of the pooling system were strong advocates of private enterprise, and did all in their power to prevent the pooling system being a success. Under a compulsory pooling system, the growers would obtain advantages in chartering freights and in the general handling of wheat. The honorable member for Wannon also suggested that the assistance of the Commonwealth Bank should be obtained.
– Is a compulsory pool more advantageous than a voluntary pool?
– I have already informed the honorable member of what has occurred in South Australia under a voluntary pool. Apparently it . is my duty, and not that of the honorable member, to protect the interests of the farmers in that state. I notice in to-day’s newspapers that Sir John Higgins has suggested what is really a compulsory wool pool, although he has termed it a voluntary pool. He suggests that licences should be issued ‘to control the export of wool. I am not opposing such a system; and, if the question of the establishment of such a pool were before the House, I think I should support it. Not withstanding that the right honorable the Prime Minister said that under the Constitution the Government has no power to create a compulsory pool, it has established a Dried Fruits Exports Control Board and a Dairy Produce Exports Control Board with power to control exports. The Government has not, I know, given these boards power to compulsorily acquire the products of these industries for export, but it has given them power to issue licences to control exports. If the Government has not the power, as the Prime Minister states, to compulsorily acquire these products, he has shown that his Government is prepared to issue licences in order to control exports. Why should not similar action be taken in regard to wheat? No action whatever has been taken. ‘ The Government is prepared to leave the wheat-growers entirely at the mercy of the merchants. I can reply to the Prime Minister’s question as to the power of the Government by asking him another question: Has the Government the desire to establish a pool? The right honorable gentleman’s own words in Hansard supply the answer. The Government is controlling the price of sugar, and in order to do so negotiated with the states. Has the Government gone to the State Governments in regard to wheat? It has not. In dealing with the sugar problem, the Government gave consideration to the opinions of certain honorable members opposite; but, although there are representatives of wheat-growers on both sides of the House, the Government does not think that they deserve as much consideration as other primary producers. I am not saying one word against the sugar agreement, because I am a strong supporter of our White Australia policy. There is a way in which to assist the wheat-growers if the Government only had the inclination. I am not surprised to find that negotiations with the State Governments have not been opened up; because this is a big business government, consisting of business men ! It is the government which disposed of the Geelong Woollen Mills, which attempted to wipe off over £1,000,000 in land tax, which introduced 1½d. ppostage, involving a loss of £1,100,000, as a concession to big city interests, which reduced the income tax rates by 10 per cent., and which allowed men such as Sir Sidney Kidman to go for six years without submitting a land tax return.
– Order !
- Mr. Chairman, I am prepared to leave it at that. It cannot, however, be denied that this is a government which, in looking after the interests of big business men, is prepared to allow those of the wheat-growers to go hang. I quote a statement of the Prime Minister’s, taken from the Age newspaper, which, I presume, is correct. The right honorable gentleman said, “ The wheat industry should be organized on a nation-wide basis.” That is what we ask for. A vote of this House would show whether honorable members opposite are prepared to follow the advice of their leader, so that the wheat industry could be organized on a nation-wide basis. The right honorable gentleman then went on to say that the extraordinary powers exercised during the war had gone. He also stated that the Government was endeavouring to assist the dried fruit industry and the dairying industry. If it is possible in a time of war to override the Constitution it is worth while straining a point to see if assistance cannot be given in times ofpeace.
– No one complained more than did the honorable member when those powers were used.
– When they were “ misused.”
– Our complaint was not against the use of the powers, but as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) suggests, against their misuse. They were exercised in a time of emergency. There has never been a bigger emergency in trade than existed in the dried-fruit industry last year, and even this year, yet Ministers would not take a risk, and compulsorily acquire, dried fruits for export purposes. Had they done so, and had their action been challenged, three justices of the High Court wouldno doubt have been called upon to give a pronouncement upon the matter, and two might have been on one side and one on the other in declaring that the Government was right or wrong.
The position summed up is as follows: - Mr. Allan, the Victorian Premier, says, “ Go to the Commonwealth, we have not the power to control trade between the states.” The Commonwealth Government says, “ We have not the power to do it.”
And so the matter is pushed back on the states again. The present Government will noteven negotiate with the states in order to arrive at some understanding which would make a pool possible. According to the Age, the Prime Minister said on Friday last -
The Commonwealth Government was not prepared to take over control of industries, and interfere with those whose legitimate function it was to control them.
I should like to have had the Hansard report of the right honorable gentleman’s speech, because I think his words were, “ We are prepared to allow those who have slowly and laboriously built up a, system of marketing to retain control . of it.” However, the Hansard record not being available, I accept the Prime Minister’s statement, as reported in the Age, that Ministers are prepared to allow trade to follow its legitimate course. That is to say, they are willing to stand by and see the farmers robbed by having to pay 18s. 9d. a dozen for bags. They are prepared to continue a system that deprived the farmers of 5d. a bushel on their wheat through the rigging of the exchange position. Ministers will allow business to follow its ordinary course, and they will not interfere, but I claim that the time has come when the people of the country must settle the question once and for all, and brand the Government, as it rightly deserves to be branded, as a “ big man’s “ Government, which will permit the small man to go hang.
Mr. HILL (Echuca - Minister for
Works and Railways) [4.35].- The case put by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) will apply equally to the voluntary and compulsory systems of pooling wheat for marketing purposes. The honorable member told the House that from 1910 to 1915 the price of wheat was low, because the farmers rushed their produce on to the market early in the year, but that difficulty can just as easily beovercome by a voluntary pool as by a compulsory pool.
– I thought the Minister was pledged to a compulsory pool ?
– I shall tell the honorable member all about that before I finish. I want, first of all, to show what happened in 1921-2, because it bears out what the honorable member for Angas has said, and shows what an influence the voluntary pooling system had in Victoria on the price of wheat as compared with the price which was obtainable in South Australia under open market conditions. On a certain day wheat was offering at 3s. 9d. a bushel at a railway station in South Australia, whereas at a railway station in Victoria the same distance from the sea-board the price obtainable was 4s. Id. a bushel. On that particular day there was open marketing in South Australia whereas in Victoria a voluntary pooling system compelled the open market buyer to pay a legitimate price. A few days later, when a voluntary pool was set up in South Australia the price at the same railway station rose from 3s. 9d. to the parity of 4s. 7d. which was obtainable in Victoria. Therefore, I -quite agree with what the honorable member for Angas has sa-id on- that point.
The honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McNeill) wants the Commonwealth Government to- establish a compulsory pool. As a matter of fact, the wheatgrowers have, for a considerable time past, been asking, not for a compulsory pool, that is to say a pool operating throughout the whole of the Commonwealth in which all would share alike, but for a Commonwealth guarantee for a compulsory pool in. each state. During the war period, when there was a compulsory pool operating in all the states, wheat sold in any state for local consumption was sold on account of that particular state, and wheat sold overseas was sold on account of all the states. It did not matter if a cargo from South Australia realized 3s. 5d. a bushel and one from Victoria 6s. a bushel, at the final settlement the total amount realized from all sales was averaged. Therefore, assuming that the average net realization for the whole of Australia’s exportable surplus of wheat was 5s. a- bushel, and that the average net realization on wheat sold for home consumption in any one state was also 5s. a bushel, the price paid to the grower in that state was 5s. But actually that was not the case, because the price realized for home consumption varied considerably in the different states. The farmers have been asking, not for a compulsory pool as proposed by the honorable member for Wannon, but for a Commonwealth guarantee for a compulsory pool in each state, each state actually marketing its own produce through a single selling agency, and employing one chartering agency only. It will be time enough to grant a compulsory pool extending over the Commonwealth when the wheatgrowers’ organizations in all the Statesask for it. If they wanted one they would most decidedly have asked for it, but they have not done so. As a matter of fact, South Australia and Western Australia have decided in favour of voluntary pools. Western Australia has “decided to continue indefinitely under the present system of a voluntary pool. I suppose that no other voluntary pool in the Commonwealth has been more successful than has that which has been in operation in the western state. Last year out of a total harvest of about 21,000,000 bushels, no less than 18,000,000 bushels passed through the voluntary pool or through the warehousing scheme, each organization receiving about half that quantity. The offer of the Premier of Victoria to have a five-years’ voluntary pool has been accepted by the executive of the Victorian Farmers Union.
– The Victorian Farmers Union has re-affirmed its belief in the system of a compulsory pool.
– Because it deemed it impossible to secure a compulsory pool in all the states,. Western Australia and South Australia having already decided on voluntary pools, the executive of the Victorian Farmers Union decided to accept the- offer made by Mr. Allan for a five-years’ voluntary pool, with a guarantee of 75 per cent.
The honorable member for Wannon also suggested that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers should be employed to transport the wheat overseas. In connexion with the operations of the Victorian Wheat-growers Co-operation I have had, for a considerable number of years, experience in the chartering of vessels for- the handling of wheat. Although we held out every inducement to the Australian Commonwealth Line to quote, we could not get more than five boats over a period of four seasons. The Commonwealth steamers were not in a position to quote at competitive rates and generally the official explanation given was that all Australian-owned steamers were required to comply with the conditions of the Commonwealth Navigation
Act, and pay rates of wages in excess of those which were being paid by other lines. Does the honorable member for Wannon suggest that a subsidy should be paid to the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers to enable them to compete on even terms with the vessels of overseas lines?
The honorable member also suggested that the Commonwealth should co-operate with the states and introduce a system of bulk handling. I do not know if the honorable member has had any experience of bulk handling. I do not claim to be an expert in the matter, but I know something about it. One thing is certain, and that is that the states have not asked the Commonwealth to co-operate with them in this respect. The farmers, as a body, have not decided in favour of bulk handling in any state. It is a fact that the wheat-growers of New South Wales had the system forced on them as a wartime measure, to protect the wheat from the ravages of mice and the effects of the weather, but when the report of a commission appointed by the Victorian Government is made available, I have no doubt it will show that if the initial cost of the silos, together with the maintenance, interest, and other charges, are placed upon the farmer, the silo system, as established in New South Wales, will be infinitely more costly than is the method of handling wheat in bags. In Victoria, we are quite prepared to watch developments in our sister state, and profit by its experience. A little time ago Western Australia undertook to adopt the bulk-handling system. The then Prime Minister helped them considerably by providing funds to the extent of £500,000 or £1,000,000, but eventually they became so afraid of the whole business that the matter was dropped, and it has not been taken up since. Like the Victorian Government, they are awaiting information concerning the New South Wales bulk-handling system. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is able at times so to stretch his imagination that one or two statements he has made would entitle him to rank as a first class fictionist. He said that the New South Wales Government had given, the farmers of that state a compulsory pool, and mentioned the advantages ac- cruing to them as a result of the action of a Labour Government in that state.
– Under a Labour Government in New South Wales they had a compulsory pool. What is there wrong about that statement?
– I want to point out that, as a matter of fact, there never has been a state compulsory pool in New South Wales. I do not say that the honorable member, knowing it to be incorrect, made the statement to which I referred, but he was wrong in making the statement, and I take the opportunity of correcting him. I want to further enlighten the honorable member and the committee by saying that the pool to which he evidently referred was established in 1921. There was then a Commonwealth compulsory pool guaranteeing 5s. per bushel net to the growers, and the then Government of New South Wales, in its- desire to catch the farmers’ votes, offered an additional 2s. 6d. per bushel, making a total of 7s. 6d. per bushel net to the grower.
– Does the honorable gentleman say there never was a compulsory pool in New South Wales ?
– There never was a state compulsory pool there.
– There was a compulsory pool operating in the state in connexion with which the State Government had to pass special legislation.
– Was there not an understanding with the Government of New South Wales with reference to that compulsory pool?
– There has never been a state compulsory pool in New South Wales.
– No; but there was a compulsory pool which bound the Government of New South Wales.
– The honorable gentleman is helping-
– I am helping the truth.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) made the statement that there was a state compulsory pool in New South Wales.
– I know nothing at all about that.
– I do.
– The honorable gentleman was criticizing my Government, and when he does that I think I may say a few words myself.
– I have a lively recollection that the honorable member for Hume tackled the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) in this House on this particular subject. If the right honorable gentleman’s memory is as good as mine, he will probably recall some of the incidents that occurred on that occasion.
– They all attacked me. That makes no difference. What is one among so many?
– I have said that in 1921 there was a Commonwealth compulsory pool guaranteeing the growers 5s. per bushel net, and the then Labour Government of New South Wales, to which the honorable member for Hume referred, offered an additional guarantee of 2s. 6d. per bushel, making a total of 7s. 6d. per bushel net to the grower. This it was unable to pay as early as promised, and eventually the Australian Wheat Board made the additional advance of 2s. 6d. per bushel under the guarantee of the State Government. The honorable member for Hume may be interested to know that the action of that State Government resulted in a loss of £750,000 to the taxpayers of New South Wales.
– What effect did it have on the quantity of wheat put into the pool?
– That fact indicates that the New South Wales Government did not display any great ability in the operation and management of the pool. The honorable member for Hume also referred to a paragraph which he said was taken from the Farmers’’ Advocate. Let me quote from a leading article in the same paper of Thursday last, the 19th June, in which this statement is made -
There seems, however, no doubt that the Premier took the common-sense course in putting the voluntary pool on a sound foundation, instead of staking everything on a compulsory measure, which, if it ever got through the Upper House, would have been filled with legal loopholes.
– Then the article went on to say what the Premier should do, and suggested that he should come to the Federal Government. The honorable member has conveniently omitted to quote that. It appears in the paragraph following that which he has read.
– The following paragraph says no such thing. What is at the back of this amendment? Is there an honest desire on the part of honorable members opposite to help the man on the land? I am always willing to give credit where credit is due, but in my opinion the amendment has been moved for one purpose, and one only; and that is, to harass the Government, and as far as possible to embarrass honorable members “sitting behind the Government.
– It has been very successful, judging by the honorable gentleman’s speech.
– I am satisfied that it is not going to embarrass me. I heard at least one honorable member on the Opposition side contend that the farmer is not entitled to export parity for his wheat. A “ reasonable price “ has been suggested. Who is going to say what is a reasonable price? Assuming that a reasonable price could be agreed upon and fixed for local consumption, by what method is the grower to secure the same price for his exportable surplus, which represents approximately 75 per cent, of the total crop ? I hold the opinion that the grower is legitimately entitled, not only to export parity, but might go so far as to demand import parity for that portion of his wheat which is sold for local consumption. While holding this opinion, I would not suggest that this should be put into practice. What at least might be done through the organization of the industry is to put a price upon wheat which would be equivalent to London or European values. I would place the home consumer in the position of having to pay only the same price as the poorly-paid workers of Great Britain and the Continent. Surely there could be no objection to that ! If wheat were worth 5s. per bushel net in London, 5s. per bushel should be the price in Australia for local consumption. The wheat-grower would then be getting a middle price between export parity and import parity. Under present conditions, if wheat is 5s. net in London, and it costs ls. 3d. per bushel to send it there, the price for local consumption would be 3s. 9d. per bushel. Yet if a farmer purchases anything in Australia made by Australian workmen tinder the White Australia policy he has to pay the price ruling in London and other parts of the world plus freight and duty, notwithstanding that the farmers have to sell their wheat abroad, in competition with wheat grown by cheap labour and coloured labour the world over. They do not even get a higher price for what is sold locally. I have heard honorable members on the other side say that they are not willing that the man qn the land should get even export value, let alone London values or import values.
– The honorable gentleman never heard us say that.
– I have heard honorable members opposite say so. With regard to the main and most important factors in the marketing of wheat, namely, selling, chartering, and handling, and the equitable distribution of the cost, there is no possible doubt that the principle of compulsory wheat pooling is the ideal method. That view, of course, cannot be gainsaid at times of national crisis such as faced Australia, and indeed the whole world, at the advent of the great war, but conditions and national circumstances are ever altering, and this naturally affects an important principle such as is involved in a general policy of compulsory wheat pooling. No one who has followed with any degree of insight or first-hand knowledge the march of our national affairs since the war and the many changes in the conditions of marketing primary products can reasonably argue that as strong a need for a compulsory wheat pool exists in Australia to-day as in the early war period. Then it was a national necessity; to-day it resolves itself into a question of expediency. During the war and post-war periods the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments conducted an Australian compulsory wheat pool, and maintained one selling and one chartering agency for the marketing of all wheat beyond that required for consumption in Australia. Not even those who are most bitterly opposed to the principle of wheat pooling can gainsay that the overseas marketing of the exportable surplus of wheatby the Australian authority was other than a very great success from both thenational and the wheat-growers’ point of view, Any complaints which may have been made concerned only inefficiency in organization and handling in certain of the states. Whether those complaints were justified or not I am not prepared to say, nor does it really affect thequestion now before the House or the principle involved in compulsory pooling.
– Is this the honorable member’s own speech that he is reading ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Honorable members may not read their speeches.
– I am not doing any more than was done by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) last week. This is entirely my own speech. Whatever faults there may have been in conducting this huge undertaking during the war period have been remedied, and the organization has been brought to perfection by the voluntary wheat pools which have now for some years been operating ineach of the wheat-growing states.
– If the honorable member proposes to read his speech throughout, as he is now doing, he will certainly not be in order.
– I am reading from notes I have prepared.
– The honorable member may quote from notes, but it is not in order for an honorable member to read his speech.
– Whilst I am personally in favour of a compulsory wheat pool for the whole of Australia, for reasons which I have already stated., I am also aware that without the whole-hearted co-operation of the states such a pool would be futile. Assuming that the Commonwealth Government had the power - and I understand it has not - to establish any Australian compulsory pool, have we the right to force compulsion on a state whose government has declared against it? There are several state governments that have declared against it, and amongst themare Labour governments. In New South Wales a new government has been formed, and its policy upon this point has not yet been made known.In this state at present a voluntary pool is operatingin competition with merchants. In Queensland, where comparatively little wheat is grown, and there is seldom a surplus over, actual local requirements, there is agovernment wheat pool. In South Australia and Western Australia the Labour Governments which hold office have been repeatedly requested to form compulsory pools for those states, but each government ‘has consistently declined to do so. In both cases the Government has backed, and is backing, the voluntary wheat pools operating in those states, and, to all appearances, favours the voluntary as opposed to the compulsory principle. The position in Victoria is similar to thatexisting in South Australia and Western Australia to-day. The growers, through their executive, have decided on a voluntary pool.
– The executive has affirmed the principle of a compulsory pool.
– The Victorian Government proposes to submit a measure under which the voluntary wheat pool will, for five years be guaranteed advances up to 7-5 per cent, of the value of the wheat. This very satisfactory alternative will enable, the organization controlling the voluntary wheat pool, to carry on under far better conditions than are possible under the existing unsatisfactory tenure from year to year. I have had consider-, able experience of the actual operations of wheat pooling - both compulsory and voluntary - and can lay claim to speak on this subject with a measure of authority possessed by very few. I was a member of the Wheat Board which conducted - a compulsory pool for six years, and a member, also, of the Victorian Wheat Corporation for four years. I unhesitatingly say that the uncertainty of tenure, which has beset the boards controlling the voluntary pools in each of the states, has been to the decided detriment of the pooling operations. There are many distinct advantages, of which the Victorian farmers are fully cognizant, to be- gained under the offer of a five years’ voluntary pool, with a state guarantee-. This will enable the Wheat Corporation, which has been in existence for between three and four years, to effect early charters, and to make forward sales. This organization is working under theFriendly Societies Act. It has a large number of shareholders, and the maximum number of shares which can be held by any one person is 200. A large percentage of the wheat-growers in Victoria. have taken up shares in the corporation, and to-day its paid-up capital, including reserves, is approximately £100,000. Voluntary pools of the past were crippled owing, to the fact that each year the organizations in the various states were compelled to approach their respective State Governments for help to finance the season’s crop. By the time the arrangements were completed and in running, order, large quantities of wheat had been sold’ on the open market, and charters already effected by private buyers. It is absolutely necessary that any organization handling large quantities of wheat should be in a position to effect early’ charters. One of the great disadvantages that the corporation has been subject to is the uncertainty of. tenure of voluntary pools and of those in charge of them, resulting in the farmers connected with the corporation receiving no information regarding the financing and marketing of the wheat crop. This has delayed us” in effecting charters and in getting to work. Any successful pooling system - whether compulsory or voluntary - must have only one chartering and one selling agency. The representatives of the various voluntary pools in the four wheat-growing states recently held a conference, at which it was decided to limit the chartering agents for the four states and also to collaborate with each other as often as required, with a view to the elimination of competition in selling. I am informed that Western Australia is prepared to continue the voluntary pool, either with or without Government assistance.
– There would still be the competition of private buyers.
– That is so because a number of our growers are selfish, and, though they remain outside the pools, they take advantage of the prices- created as a result of a voluntary system. Their action has caused the demand which exists to-day for a compulsory pool. Three states are now in a position to continue voluntary pools for some years to come. It is highly probable that New South Wales will also fall into line. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has explained that it is not possible for the Commonwealth to grant a compulsory pool,, that, the Premier of Victoria has promised a five- years’ voluntary pool - which offer has been accepted by the executive of the Victorian Farmers’ Union - that South Australia has agreed to a three years’ voluntary pool, and that Western Australia has decided to continue the voluntary pool indefinitely, I fail to see the necessity for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon, and I shall most decidedly vote against it. The Government’s policy lis to ensure a continuous voluntary pool, advances for which will be automatic and provided for by the changes now being made in the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, designed for co-operation, not only in wheat, but in all other industries.
– The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), when making his speech, roamed over a wide range of territory. I “ claim to be at least half as intelligent as is the average man, and yet I cannot say whether he favoured a compulsory or a voluntary pool. He pointed out the advantages of the voluntary pool, but later said that he refused to support it. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) simply asks the Government to take steps to bring about a compulsory pool, and to consult with the State Governments to give proper effect to the wishes of the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth. Before he became a Minister, the honorable member for Echuca was a consistent advocate of the farmers when they approached the Government on matters of’ vital importance to them. Now that he is in the Ministry, instead of leading the farmers to the Government, he is endeavouring to keep them away. He says, “ Go away and do not bother us; we do not want to be bothered with you. We are busy building cruisers overseas, and have no time to talk about wheat pools.” The Minister, when reading to the committee the article that appeared in the Countryman, omitted to quote these words : “ Mr. Allan has now a clear duty to perform; and that is to place the matter before the Prime Minister as early as possible.”
– What is the date of that article ?
– There is no date on the extract that I have with me. Does the Minister accuse the Country man of twisting, like himself, saying one thing one day and another thing the next day?
– I have failed to find those words in the article.
– If necessary, I shall produce the article for the Minister’s perusal. What is the position respecting the pool? The Minister himself has unwittingly given an excellent reason for the formation of a compulsory pool. He said that the disadvantage of a voluntary pool was that selfish farmers would not put their wheat into it. I know that in New South Wales certain growers who engaged to put their wheat inco the voluntary pool, sold to speculators at Id. or 1½d. a bushel above the price obtainable from the pool. The speculators deliberately purchased wheat at high prices to try to break up the voluntary pool They have largely succeeded, and the voluntary pooling system is consequently ineffective. The whole of the facts should be placed before the farmers. In this Parliament are men who are vitally interested not only in the export of wheat, but also in rural organizations. They are running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. No one knows which interests are uppermost in their minds. When the last vote of the farmers was taken in Victoria, 12,600 voted for, and 1,800 against, a compulsory pool. In New South Wales a Labour Government successfully controlled the operation of a compulsory pool.
– :The pool was certainly noc a success, because the ‘ Government had to meet a deficit of £750,000.
– It has been suggested by some of the Government supporters that the guarantee of 7s. 6d. was given to the farmers as a bribe for election purposes. Nothing is further from the truth. The guarantee was not given until six weeks after the elections.
– I, myself, heard the promise given on the hustings.
– Was there not another election pending?
– The next election was distant two years and nine months. On that argument, any benefitconferred upon the community could be construed as a bribe.
– I did not say that the guarantee was promised as a bribe for election purposes.
– The honorable member said that to secure the farmers’ vote the Labour Government of New South Wal33 offered them an additional guarantee of 2s. 6d.
– The Minister’s statement is one of those misrepresentations that must bs refuted by us to ensure to the Labour movement the m:asur. of fair play due to it. What was the position in regard to the guarantee? The honorable the Minister says that there was a loss of £750,000. Assuming that there was, what did the transaction represent if not a subsidy to the farmers of New South Wales at a time when they wanted encouragement? Figures taken from the summary furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in 1919-20, when there was an anti-Labour Government in office, the wheat yield in New South Wales was 4,388,022 bushels. The state suffered from such a severe drought in that season that hundreds of farmers, including many of my own friends, informed me they could not buy a 25-lb. bag of flour. Some men in the Narrabri district told me they did not know what they were - going to do ; those who were on the shares system feared that they would be forced from their holdings, their plants sacrificed, and they and their families turned adrift. When Labour came into office the Government decided to encourage the farmers by guaranteeing 7s. 6d. a bushel, and as wheat in the following season’s pool realized 7s. Id., all that the Labour Government did at the expense of the rest of the community was to subsidize the farmers to the extent of 5d. a bushel. This policy, as I have stated, encouraged the farmers of New South Wales to cultivate a greater acreage, with the result that the yield in 1920-21 was 55,625,000 bushels, valued at £19,700,000, compared with slightly over 4,000,000 bushels in the previous season. Will the so-called representatives of the farmers supporting the Government in this House declare that the guarantee was not worth £750,000 to New South Wales?
– Does the honorable member suggest that the guarantee was solely responsible for the increase in production ?
– I say that when Labour came into office the farmers of New South Wales were faced with extraordinary difficulties and did not know which way to turn. The guarantee encouraged them to put in a greater acreage, and generous financial assistance was rendered through the Eur al Industries Board. Honorable gentlemen opposite, at the following election, in city constituencies used the Labour guarantee for political purposes, and endeavoured to show that it represented an undue burden upon the. city dwellers, but the figures I have quoted, showing an immense accretion of wealth from wheat production, and giving greater employment to the community, are an effective answer to any such suggestion. The Minister would lead us to believe that pools are not a success. On this point again, figures relating to pool operations, which are available to all honorable members, are illuminating, and should be convincing. They are as follow: -
Standing by themselves the figures for 1915-16 seem to be satisfactory, but the wheat pool of 1916-17 disclosed a different state of affairs. Honorable members will perhaps recall that there was a considerable amount of trafficking in wheat in that year, and that the scandals in connexion with the Georgeson operations occurred during the life of that pool, with the result that the surplus from the 1915-16 pool was more than absorbed by the shortage of the 1916-17 pool.
– Can the honorable member give us the rainfall during the periods mentioned?
– My figures deal only with the management of the various pools. There was no suggestion of any scandal or hold-up in administration in connexion with the pool controlled by the Labour Government in 1920-21. Everything worked smoothly and satisfactorily. On this point let me quote, for the edification of honorable members- opposite^ a statement by a wellknown high panjandrum of their own political persuasion. Sir Joseph Carruthers, speaking to the members of the New South Wales Chamber of Agriculture, said - _
Tho last season lias been a real good one for the wheat-grower, but the two previous seasons were responsible for a grave setback to the industry. The bad handling of the pools and the poor return therefrom to the growers caused many to abandon cultivation for a time. Luckily,, the prospects to-day are quite changed, and a harvest of over 50,000,000 bushels has been garnered, with a guarantee of 7s. 6d. per bushel. This practical result will do more to restore agriculture in New South Wales than any number of legislative acts, which ignore the fact that good seasons and good prices are the best remedies for agricultural depression, and without them other remedies may fail.
In this there is no suggestion of condemnation of the Labour Government from the representative of anti-Labour in the New South Wales Legislative Council. On the contrary, he commends Labour, and, in effect, condemns his own party for their unsatisfactory handling of the previous wheat pools. Let rae now emphasize the advantages that will accrue to the farmers by the institution of a compulsory pool. In the first place it will mean only one selling authority, instead of six, for the whole of Australia. With independent state pools in operation there will be the risk of six sellers competing for the trade of those who want to buy our wheat.
– That defect has now been remedied by the farmers agreeing to sell co-operatively.
– Nevertheless, without compulsion, every wheat-grower not in a pool will also be a seller, and, in addition, speculators will compete for wheat charters. Honorable members opposite represent the speculators. They want the present state of affairs to continue. Do honorable members realize what the Australian wheat-growers stand to gain from the operation of a compulsory pool which will eliminate underselling by wheat-growers who might be outside a voluntary pool? Let me state the position. It is estimated that this year wheat production in Australia will total 164,041,709 bushels, and that the- export.able surplus will be 124,000,000 bushels.
If, in the absence of a compulsory pool and through the operation of speculators; we lose only Id. a bushel on the exportable surplus, the total loss to the farmers will be £516,666. If, on the other hand, we gain another Id. a bushel on the exportable surplus, we shall be to the good to the extent of over £1,000,000, that representing the difference in the two positions. I estimate that under a- compulsory pool the wheat-growers of Australia will benefit to the extent of at least 3d. a bushel on sales alone. Other authorities who have studied the situation think that the saving will be more than- 3d., but for the purposes of my argument I estimate the saving at 3d. a bushel. If we can achieve that result it will mean approximately an additional £1,500,000 to the wheatgrowers of Australia, plus economies effected in handling charges at the port of shipment and further advantages to be derived from having only one chartering authority as well as a considerable saving to the community through the public control of the railways.
– There is already an arrangement in the different states to have one chartering and one selling authority.
– Yes; but under the voluntary system it is not possible to eliminate the operation of speculators.
– Competition will keep them up to the scratch.
– What about the “ honorable understandings “ of which we hear occasionally? Speculators will know the exact quantity of wheat delivered into a voluntary pool.
– There will be no understanding between the pool and the outside buyers.
– It is not at. all probable that the whole of the wheat in the greatest wheat-growing state of the Commonwealth will be delivered into a voluntary pool. A considerable amount will be handled by private speculators.
– Does the honorable member suggest that New South Wales is the greatest wheat-growing state in the Commonwealth ?
– It ranks amongst the greatest. Last year New South Wales produced 59,000,000 bushels, Victoria 47,000,000 bushels, South Australia 32,000;000 bushels, Western Australia 21,000,000 bushels, Queensland 2,000,000 bushels, and Tasmania 267,000 bushels. In the previous year the figures were New SouthWales 33,000,000 bushels, and Victoria 37,000,000 bushels - a difference of 4,000,000 bushels. Certainly in an average year New South Wales plays oneof the most important parts in Australian wheat exportation. Our desire is to secure the greatest possible return for the grower. As an illustration of what the press says of the speculator, I quote the Evening Sun of 30th December last -
While wheat prices overseas are soaring to 8s. 4d. a bushel and even more, Victorian wheat-growers, especially the small man, is not getting a fair deal. Sales of wheat are being made at6s.8d. a bushel and more. It is actually worth6s. 9¾d. a bushel f.o.b. Melbourne on London parity. The speculators who are operating on an extensive scale have for days been quoting the market at 6s. 5d. to6s.5½d., while all the time prices have been steadily rising. Assuming that half of Victoria’s 43,000,000 harvest had been sold, a difference of 4d. per bushel still means about £360,000 for which speculators are making a bold bid. Speculators’ profit-making schemes, however, are not confined to Victoria. News of unquestionable authority was received privately in a cablefrom London to-day, to the effect that one large Australian shipper, succeeded in “ bearing “ the market there yesterday by forcing sales of Australian wheat which he had originally bought at a comparatively low figure in order to pocket largo profits on the transactions. As a result the market there for Australian wheat dropped 6d. per quarter and closed at about 3d. per quarter below Argentine wheat quotations. Argentine wheat is usually quoted at about 2s. per quarter below Australian wheat.
Without a compulsory pool the farmer is at the mercy of those speculators.
– Yes, butthe Postmaster-General is well aware that the speculator has an advantage over a voluntary pool in that he is able to offer a cash payment to the farmers. A voluntary pool is unable to finance a cash payment, but the Commonwealth Government has the necessary financial power. Is it pre pared to utilize the resources that are at its disposal?
– The Western Australianpool is able to finance its operations without the assistance of the Government, and why cannot the pools in the other states do the same?
– But how much wheat does Western Australia grow for export?
– It produced 21,000,000 bushels last year, and it will soon produces 50,000,000 bushels.
– I am veryglad to hear that. Possibly the position in New South Wales is not analogous tothat in Western Australia, as the Labour Government had trouble with the banks and other financial institutions.
– Less than half the Western Australian wheat was put into the voluntary pool.
– Eighteen million bushels was put in last year under the two systems.
– In the year when the Labour Government in New South Wales guaranteed the producers 7s. 6d. a bushel, a conference was held with the representatives ofthe private banks, and concerning it the Minister for Agriculture said -
We had a conference of all the associated financial institutions. My colleague, Mr. Lang, and I attended it, and we and the others who were present went away from that conference in the belief that the financial institutions were going to finance the pool. However, after considerable delay, the banks announced that they could not see their way clear to finance a compulsory pool for a further year.
The State Government had, therefore, to look for financial support abroad, but the Commonwealth Government is independent of the private financial institutions. It can utilize the resources of the Commonwealth Bank, and the people have a right to demand that their own institution shall be employed for the more profitable marketing of their produce. If the present Government will agree to do that, its action will have the approval of a majority of the people. The growers, who in some states are supporting voluntary pools, do so because they realize the hopelessness of applying to the present Commonwealth Government for that financial assistance which they have a right to expect. Co-operation through the instrumentality of the Federal Government is the only means by which our produce can be efficiently handled and marketed. Another aspect of this question is the advantage which the compulsory pool confers upon the generalcommunity. The railways are owned by all the people, and all alike benefit by the more economical operation of the system. The following letter from the Chief Traffic Manager in New South Wales makes a useful comparison of the operation of the railways under a pool with what happens when half a dozen different chartering agencies are to be catered for: -
I beg to state that prior to the 1920-21 harvest the wheat was handled by six agents. In addition supplies for the local ‘flour mills were purchased by the respective millers’. In consequence of there being so many consignees, and the irregularity in regard to the arrival of boats, considerable difficulty was experienced in coping with the business. The arrangements generally provided for the maximum amount of shunting, and an abnormal number of trucks being field out of traffic under load. The Department had no opportunity to regulate the traffic, and it frequently occurred that the agents, having ships at berth were short of wheat, while other agents had an excess supply. It is true that, in order to meet such contingencies, agents introduced what was termed “ loan account,” and adjusted trucks transferred under such circumstances.
That was very unsatisfactory, too, because a dispute raged amongst the agents.
In the case of the flour mills it frequently happened that the trucks arriving were in excess of the capacity of the mills, and, in consequence, a large number of trucks were delayed under load.
That is a very serious disability. At that period, when a heavy harvest had to be lifted, trucks were out of commission, and even the charge for demurrage does not compensate for deprivation of the use of the rolling-stock.
The arrangements also provided for the tallying of wheat, and this proved most troublesome. In connexion with the 1920-21 harvest, the wheat pool operated, and all wheat was consigned by the agents to the wheat pool. Counting of wheat was discontinued, and special arrangements made for all trucks to be weighed at Enfield. As the trucks were all for one consignee, practically no shunting was involved. There was sufficient wheat always available to meet the ships arriving, and the congestion at the flour mills was prevented, as the requirements of the mills were mct hy diverting shipment of wheat from Enfield to Clyde, and supplying only sufficient trucks to meet the daily requirements at the mill. Again, the wheat pool allowed the Department to regulate the loading of the wheat, and this permitted the Department to work the traffic most economically, and to make the maximum use of engine power and wagons, further, at Darling Harbour the activities as regards wheat have never gone so well as they have this year, due to the fact that only one consignee was involved. The satisfactory handling of the wheat during the present season from a railway point of view has, to a large extent, been due to the material assistance obtained from’ the fact that the whole harvest was handled by the Wheat Board, so that the Railway Department has only, as already stated, to deal with one consignee. I have no hesitation in stating that, from my experience, the most satisfactory arrangement, from a railway point of view, in regard to the handling of the next wheat harvest would be a continuance of the wheat pool.
– What year was that?
– That was 1921, when the harvest aggregated 55,000,000 bushels.
– No mention is made iu that letter of all the wheat that was lost.
– I have already said that, on account of the increase in weight, there was delivered out of the poOl 72,500 bushels more than was put into it.
– I referred to the wheat lost on the railways.
– None was lost during that year.
– Some people were put into jail on account of what occurred.
– That was not due to mishandling on the part of those who controlled the pool. The letter of the Chief Traffic Manager shows that great advantage accrues to the community under management by a pool, because more economical use can be made of the rolling-stock. And a pool confers other great benefits. In 1920-1, the agent3 demanded from the board in New South Wales fd. per bushel for handling and shipment. The board refused to pay that charge, and the agents then reduced it to id. per bushel. That price, too, was considered excessive by the board, which thereupon decided to handle and ship the wheat through its own instrumentalities. The quantity handled at Darling Harbour was 36,675,979 bushels. Had the agents’ quotation of id. per bushel been accepted the board would have had to pay £76,395 16s. 8d., whereas the actual cost of handling the wheat, without the interposition of agents, was only £59,340, showing a direct saving of £17,065. In addition, the whole crop was graded for the first time in the history of New South Wales.
– The honorable member’s time has expired. If he desires to continue his remarks, he may take his second half-hour now.
– I shall do that, sir. When wheat goes into a pool it can be graded, and, notwithstanding the statement of speculators that no allowance can be made to the producer of wheat which is above the f .a.q. standard, the members of the board in New South Wales were of the opinion that such an allowance could be made just as easily as a. deduction is made for wheat under the standard. As a wheat-grower I see no obstacles to prevent the payment of a bonus to a farmer who keeps his field clean and produces wheat above the f.a.q. standard. At Darling Harbour the wheat was graded-; that is to say, wheat weighing, say, only 59 lb. to the bushel was mixed with wheat weighing, say, 64 lb., thus bringing the whole up to a good milling .quality.
– Could not any obstacle be overcome by having a greater range of classification?
– That might bc possible, but there is only one standard at the present time, and the farmer who produces wheat above f.a.q. receives no special consideration. The board in New South Wales also did its own stevedoring, and earned no less than £59,567 in what is designated “ dispatch money.” They made a saving in stevedoring of £74,823 14s. 10d., or a total saving over the agents’ offer of £91,000. That shows what can be done in a co-operative effort of this character, with the state, where it should be, at the head. It also illustrates how the farmer is robbed every year if he is not protected by a pool. Some honorable members decry the workers of Australia, particularly those who are employed on the wharfs and in connexion with shipping. In reply to them, I shall quote figures relating to ships that were loaded expeditiously, and for which dispatch money was earned for the farmers. If the stevedoring had been done by private firms, which generally refuse to pay overtime, the dispatch money would not have been earned. The payment of overtime returns two or three times as much in dispatch money. The object of a stevedoring firm is- to earn money by stevedoring, whereas a pool does both chartering and dispatching. The object of the pool is to dispatch a ship quickly. Some honorable members object to a representative of the workers being on the board of management of government undertakings. I remind them that there was a representative of the men on the New South Wales Wheat Board, and that there was not a hitch in the’ loading of the wheat from the time when the first bushel came into Darling Island until the last bushel went out. The. workers’ representative was on a position of equality with the other members ofthe board, and when they wanted to put into operation any scheme which he knew, from his experience, would irritate the men in the industry, he was able to point out the possible consequences of such action, and thus prevent them from endeavouring to put the scheme into operation before any damage was done.
– Could the honorable member transfer him to the Seamen’s Union ?
– Members of the Opposition tried to get a representative of the primary producers and workers appointed on the Board of Control of the Government Shipping Line, and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) who is now reaping where he sowed, voted against them. I wish to place on record the following figures to refute the statements of those honorable members who are continually slandering the workers of Australia -
These instances could be, multiplied, as over £59,000 was earned in dispatch money alone. The Australian workman, when under sympathetic control, instead of under the domination of those who try to stir up trouble, is highly satisfactory. A representative of the workers should take part in the management of the pool, so that a complete understanding might exist between the growers and the workers. It is the desire of members of the Opposition to bring that about, and is -part of their policy. We on this side of the chamber say that there is a great bond of sympathy between the industrial worker in the cities and the industrial worker who grows wheat in the fields, and that it is to the interests of both that the instrument of government should be employed to wipe out the speculative interests that trade on the producer on the one hand and the consumer on the other. I have been endeavouring to show that those who oppose this proposal are out of step with public opinion in Australia. We warned, the members of the Government which was in power in the State of New South Wales a few months ago that they were doing things that would be resented by the people. That Government, like the present Commonwealth Government, had a majority in Parliament, and went on with its schemes, but the day of judgment came, and it was turned out of office. But in the meantime the primary producer, for whom we are fighting to-day, was prevented from reaping the reward that was his due. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) has expressed a doubt about the value of bulk handling. Honorable members will remember that heavy claims were mad) against the Commonwealth on account of bad flour shipped to South Africa. Under a proper system- of management we should not have to pay anything under that head. A standard grade would be laid down, and nothing would be shipped out of Australia that was not of good quality. Private speculators sent out the bad wheat, and the Government paid over large sums in order to save the good name of Australia, though I do not support that action. People ‘ in other parts of the world should be warned that if they buy from private individuals, and do not get a fair deal, their only remedy is to appeal to the courts of this country. The people of Australia are prepared to accept compulsory pools. Farmers who” are subscribing to voluntary pools are doing so because the Prime Minister has stated that he will not assist them with a compulsory pool. The only- way to get an effective single selling, chartering, and controlling authority is by establishing a compulsory pool for the whole of Australia; A voluntary pool will be unsatisfactory, because the private speculator is not removed, and is always prepared to use his money, influence, and. interests to hamper and hamstring the pool. Even when the farmers of New South Wales had promised to put wheat in the pool, the private speculators, by offering cash down, induced some of them to sell to them. Thus the pool, after establishing its organization, was prevented from getting the wheat to which it was entitled. The Minister asked for the date of a quotation I made. The quotation was taken from the Countryman, of Friday, the 5th June -
Mr. Allan has, however, a duty to perform (there is no reason why he should not exercise it immediately) and that is to refer the request of the wheat-growers of Victoria for a compulsory pool to the Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, for action to be taken by the Commonwealth Government.
The honorable gentleman insinuated that I was not correct in my statement. I hand him the newspaper from which the quotation was taken, and hope that he will believe the evidence of his own eyes. I am sorry that he should question my veracity in such a matter. The small farmers of New South Wales can look forward this year to receiving some protection from the Labour Government in the matter of wheat sacks. If the farmers in the future are liable to be exploited by the bag merchants of this country, as they were last year, of upwards of £1,000,000, any machinery to relieve them will be acceptable to them. Although the last Minister for Agriculture in the State of New South Wales was asked to make sacks available at reasonable prices, and to carry out the policy of Mr. Dunn, his predecessor in office, he refused to do so. That is one reason why ‘ the Fuller Government went out of existence. The farmers felt that they had been thrown to the wolves by those to whom they looked for protection, .and I tell the Commonwealth Government that unless it accepts the amendment the farmers will feel that it, too, has thrown them to the wolves. The farmers, as they have done in the states, will look to the Labour party to get them out of the unfortunate position in which they are now, where they are not able to protect themselves.
.- The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), with the object of showing the advantages of a compulsory pool, asserted that wonderful savings had taken place in the loading of wheat in Sydney. He forgot to tell us that under the system in use there it is only necessary when loading a vessel to turn on a tap, anc. the wheat flows in. I oppose the amenment. Many of the reasons advanced by the honorable member for Gwydir in support of it are, to my mind, reasons for opposing it. I favour voluntary pools, because co-operation among the .producers of this country is most necessary. I should be prepared to give the producers reasonable assistance to form voluntary pools, but I have a very strong objection to compulsion. The producers can do a great deal by voluntary co-operation to improve their position. Honorable members opposite have not told us how they would like the proposed compulsory pool to be managed. Are the men who till the ground and produce the wealth of the country to hand their produce over to government control? The honorable member for Gwydir would like a member of the “Wharf Labourers Union to be on the board of control. Honorable members opposite .should have told us whether they desire Government control, or whether they would permit the farmers to nominate the members of the board. They ought also to have said whether they wish to have representatives of the consumers as well as representatives of the producers on the board. Apparently the honorable ‘ member for Gwydir would be quite satisfied so long as the Wharf Labourers Union was represented. I wish to look at this subject from the political stand-point, but I should like honorable members to understand that my arguments are not directed against any particular political party. I submit that no matter what party might be in power we should have incompetence, inexperience, and probably some worse things to contend Avith if we agreed to the forma tion of a compulsory wheat pool. We might even have corruption. It could creep in whatever political party might be in power for the time being. The people of Australia ought to be told that their industries will be in grave danger from political interference if they agree to the establishment of compulsory pools of one kind and another. Those who are developing this country and producing its wealth know best how to conduct their own business. It is unfortunately a fact that government control always injures our industries. Positions are found on controlling boards and elsewhere for the friends of politicians. The honorable member for Gwydir said that a Labour Government in New South Wales had promised a guarantee of 7e. 6s. per bushel for wheat. Why was that done ? No one in his sound senses would suggest that it was ‘ done for any other reason than to obtain the votes of the people.
– No votes were in question.
– It was done for political purposes, and it might have been done by any .government.
– No other government would have had the courage to do it.
– The Labour Government made the promise to pay, but left it for the following government to pay.
– The money was provided by the Labour Government when it was in power. The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I may not know what I am talking about when I am quoting the honorable member for Gwydir, but surely he must realize that such guarantees are promised only for political purposes. One government might guarantee 5s. a bushel, another 6s., and another even 7s., with the object of outbidding its predecessor. We should do our best to keep our national industries above political influence. I object on principle to legislation of the kind now proposed. I am a Liberal by instinct, and I believe that, as far as possible, we_ ought to leave our people free from governmental control. Restrictions should be imposed only when they are essential m the national interest. My main objection to the Government that I am now supporting is that it is philandering with sections of the people-. It is providing bounties and assistance for various industries, and imposing undue taxation and restrictions, when it should be telling the people that they ought to handle their own produce in their own way. It should not be saying : “ You must hand over your production to us and we will advance you an amount as a deposit against it, and perhaps pay you more later on.” That policy tends towards the destruction of everything in the nature of competition. The honorable member for Gwydir said : “ The bad handling by previous pools caused many to stop cultivation.”
– Those were the words of Sir Joseph Carruthers.
– Bad handling may occur, no matter what Government is in charge. Incompetence and extravagance always mark the interference of governments with industrial concerns. Honorable members opposite would have us infer from their speeches on this subject that everything in connexion with the previous compulsory pools went smoothly, but I have read a good deal about a man named1 Georgeson. The memory of some honorable members who are now advocating the adoption of a compulsory wheat pool is nearly as bad as that of Georgeson.
– That statement should be withdrawn. It is insulting to compare honorable members of this chamber with Georgeson.
– My comparison related only to the loss of memory. I was making no charge of corruption. When honorable members opposite talk about the amount of money that is made in wheat dealing they ought to remember that a Minister of the Crown in New South Wales, controlling the pool, stated that he had made an enormous amount of money on the race-course.
– But nothing like as much as is made by concerns like Dalgety’s, and Louis Dreyfus and Company.
– But by different methods. During the period of compulsory control of wheat we saw millions of bushels of wheat wasted in South Australia through the incompetence of those in control of the handling. The Minister in charge of the wheat scheme in that state knew nothing whatever about handling wheat, and the result was that millions of bushels were totally destroyed.
– The Government is nowbeing sued for the amount of the loss that was incurred.
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) knew all about that, but he carefully refrained from referring to it. I contend that what has happened in the past is likely to happen in the future. It is far better for us to remove our great producing industries from political influence and control. I hold strongly that we are not justified in compelling producers to do anything with their produce that they do not wish to do, unless compulsion is necessary in the interests of the country. The man who tills the ground, and does all the work of production, should be permitted to handle his product as he pleases, unless the granting of such liberty to him endangers the welfare of the nation. In a time of war there may be substantial reasons for the compulsory pooling of wheat or other products, but in normal times the producers should be permitted to handle their products as they think fit.
– Even if so doing interferes with the welfare of their fellow - producers ?
– I do not think that the exercise of this liberty would have that effect. Of course, many arguments may be adduced for and against a compulsory wheat pool, but personally I object strongly to unnecessary legislative interference with the liberty of our people. We all know of the difficulties that occured in chartering ships during the period of compulsory wheat handling. They were caused because the wrong people were appointed as chartering agents. I am not complaining about what happened in those days of hurry and rush, but I say unhesitatingly that the same kind of thing is likely to happen again under government control. No one knows better than the honorable member for Wimmera that, although Ministers appoint to different positions men in whom they have the utmost confidence, they are frequently disappointed with the results. In view of all the circumstances, we are not justified in compelling the producers to hand over the fruits of their labour to some other body and risk what may happen. I have been informed that the voluntary pooling system is not work- ing too well this year, though in Western Australia it is a great success. Many people are not selling their wheat to the pool. Producers naturally desire to get’ the most they can for their wheat, and when agents of private firms offer 6s. 3d. a bushel for wheat it is only natural for farmers to sell to them.
– That such things are happening is one of the arguments I have frequently used in favour of compulsory pooling.
– Well, it is one of my arguments against it. It cannot be said that the wheat pools that have been formed in Australia have operated with unqualified success. I have endeavoured to find out the export prices obtained in Australia as compared with those ruling in the Argentine, where wheat is sold by the quintal, which consists of 220 lb., or 3§ bushels. I had some difficulty in arriving at a comparison of prices, because the figures published in The Economist were given in francs. My figures cover the period from 1913 to 1919, and I have assumed that the franc was normal up to that time. Assuming that the franc was at par, the comparison is as follows : -
In 1920 the Australian price was 9s., but I have not been able to ascertain the price in the Argentine for that year.
– It was about 14s.
– The figures I have quoted show that during the whole of tho period in which wheat pools were in existence in Australia, the prices obtained in the Argentine were, on the average, much higher than those ruling in the Commonwealth.
– But the whole question lunged upon shipping. The Argentine could obtain freight when Australia could not.
– Let me explain why.
– The Argentine is nearer to the markets of Europe.
– Over 200,000 tons of.’ our coastal shipping was placed at the service of Great Britain during the war years.
– Vessels from the Argentine could carry three loads of foodstuffs to people who were almost starving,, while only one could be shipped from Australia.
– That does not alterthe fact that the prices obtained for ourwheat were considerably less than thosesecured by growers in the Argentine.
– Did the honorablemember quote the London prices?
– No, the export parity. I obtained the Australian figures : from the Commonwealth Statistician’s: returns, and those concerning the Argentine from The Economist.
– There is a vast difference between the freight charges from South America and those from Australia.
– I clearly explained: that I had compared the export parity in Australia with the export parity in the Argentine.
– The honorable member has quoted the prices in Australia at. which wheat was bought by the StateGovernments.
– No ; export prices. - Another reason why I oppose compulsory pools is because Governmentshave acted unwisely in connexion with them in the past, and I donot wish to place the producers of this country at the mercy of any Government. Once we agree to the principle of compulsory wheat pools, may we not anticipate^ that our opponents, who believe in compulsion, will, if they can secure the reins of government, attempt to introduce similarlegislation applying to all the products of the farm. I remember an embargo being placed on the export of butter in the interests of the consumei’3. I also recall the time, during the late war, when the wharf labourers in New South Wales went on strike and refused to load the ships that were needed to supply food to our troops at the front. The Government thereupon reduced the price of wheat by 3d. a bushel in order to provide a cheaper loaf. It is,. because I fear the introduction of legislation along those lines that I object to the control of the farmers’ wheat being handed over to any Government. I disagree to some extent with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) who complained bitterly that the Government had not taken action to secure a reduction in the price of cornsacks. He said that, although this Government claimed to be a custodian of the interestsof the producers, it allowed bags to be sold at 18s. 6d. a dozen, and connived at the robbery of the farmers, which was made possible by the exchange difficulty. But the honorable member forgot to tell us what the Commonwealth Bank was doing when the high exchange rates ruled. Surely that institution should have been able to take such action as was necessary to prevent that unhappy condition of affairs? If, following upon the introduction of a compulsory wheat pool, Australia is to be burdened with a government that will seek to purchase all the producers’ requirements for them, the outlook for the country will be sad indeed. My opinion is that the farmers should be allowed to manage their own affairs. It is only by the careful development of the industries of Australia along prudent lines that we oan hope to make any material progress.
– All the progress that could be made would not compensate for the loss due to robbery by combines.
– If there are combines in operation here, it is the duty of the Government and the Opposition to introduce legislation that will put them in their places, and I am prepared to give all the assistance I possibly can to that end. I hope that, instead of bringing forward a proposal for a compulsory pool, the Government will view with sympathy any effort in the direction of cooperation on the part of the primary producers themselves. In my own state the growers are satisfied with the voluntary pool.
– This Government refused to help finance the voluntary pool in South Australia last year.
– We offered to finance the whole of the pools last year.
– In Western Australia the administration of the pools has been fairly satisfactory, and I believe a similar remark is applicable to the control by pools in Victoria; but in South Australia and New South Wales the administration has been bad. If, in consequence of government interference and the high cost of production, wheat growing is not rendered unprofitable, in another generation Western Australia will be the largest wheat-growing state in the Commonwealth. If governments devoted their attention to devising means of reducing the cost of production, and refrained from interference with the handling of wheat, they would probably do a great deal of good. This Government might very well appoint a commission to inquire into the reasons for the high cost of wheat production. In the event of a heavy yield of wheat in Canada, and with Russia returning to wheat growing, as I believe she is, there might be a surplus in the world’s markets, and the value of wheat would drop. As long as the price remains at 6s. a bushel, nobody can complain, but if it drops to anything like 3s. or 4s. a bushel, that will cause one of the greatest disasters that has ever overtaken Australia. Instead of talking of government control, it would be better to ascertain the possibilities in regard to wheat growing in Australia, and give special facilities to the producers to induce them to cultivate increased areas, thereby providing additional employment and building up the wealth of the community. This would be far preferable to allowing a few incompetent politicians to take control of millions of pounds worth of the people’s property; but if a compulsory’ pool is determined upon, the whole control should be with the producers, and import parity paid for wheat here.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I should not have intruded into this debate had not reference been made - necessarily, I suppose - to the pooling system inaugurated by governments over which I had the honour to preside. Statements have been made so liberally adulterated with inaccuracies as to call for some correction. It has occurred to me that I might serve some useful purpose by endeavouring to ascertain just what is in the minds of the Government and honorable members of the Country party. I had not the pleasure of bearing the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) in moving his amendment, but I have heard much criticism of it, and from press reports have gathered a great deal of his argument. If I knew - and it is this uncertainty which adds a certain amount of piquancy to the proceedings - what was in the mind of the Government, I might be able to give it some little assistance. I am utterly unable, however, to say whether it is or is not in favour of a voluntary pool; while, as to its attitude towards the proposal for a compulsory pool, all that I have been able to learn from it is that there are many and serious difficulties confronting any government that seeks to create such a pool. For that reason, principally, the Government is unable to see its way to co-operate with the states in this matter. The difficulties to which I have just referred are constitutional in their character. Curiously enough, those are precisely the difficulties that, I understand, presented themselves to the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Allan. He found that the powers of the state were wholly insufficient to enable him to accede to this most reasonable and, I might say, pleasing request. For we must assume that Mr. Allan, as a representative of the Farmers Union, is anxious to show what a pleasure it would be to him to fall in with its suggestions. I understand that those suggestions were put in a form that left little room for doubt as to what they were meant to convey. As I have been, all my life, until quite recently, associated with organizations that from time to time set out their ideas upon men and things, and present them to those in authority, I am perfectly well aware of the frame of mind in which Mr. Allan regards this resolution of the Farmers Union. He said - in effect - that he was quite willing to go to Ariadne in her distress, but that, unhappily, he was so bound and fettered that, struggle how he might, it was quite impossible for him to assist her, and that she must, therefore, look for another protector. This, like a sensible female, she forthwith did. She came here, but her reception was distinctly chilly, not altogether dissimilar to that which she met with at the hands of Mr. Allan. She is told that every one of these honorable gentlemen on my right is anxious to help her - some in one way, some in another. In precisely what way the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would help her I was not able to gather from his speech, although I shifted my tent in order that I might understand exactly how he wished to do it. They are all most anxious to go to her and to do her bidding, but, alas, are prevented by many and great difficulties. All are bursting with zeal to help her, but not a hand is lifted ! During this debate there has been little, if any, direct opposition to a pool. I heard this afternoon the attack made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) upon the socialistic ideals of honorable members opposite; but even he is in favour of a voluntary pool. It is very curious to me, as one whose lot it has been to father all sorts of pools, and to create them ab initio, to hear honorable members refer to th f,ii championship of voluntary pools and their opposition to compulsory pools. I have never been able to understand thedifference between them.. The difference between the voluntary and compulsory pools was merely one of arrangement ; inducements and penalties were present in both. I ask myself, and incidently those who are gathered around mc, what precisely are the difficulties that this Government or Mr. Allan’s Government finds standing in the way of cooperating one with the other for the purpose of establishing a nation-wide cooperative voluntary or compulsory pool. The difficulties are said to be constitutional in their nature. The word Constitution is something like that blessed word Mesopotamia^ - it cometh forth like itcense, and spreadeth itself like milk and honey over the land, covering a multitude of futilities. I was under the impression that the states had every power necessary for complete self-government, save those handed over to the Commonwealth under the Constitution Act and duly set out therein. I cannot for a moment believe that there is wanting either in the states or the Commonwealth power to do anything and everything necessary for the welfare of the whole people. If there :s, then it ought to be rectified without delay, and, although I do not profess to speak as an expert in regard to the Constitution of the State of Victoria, I believe nothing could be simpler than the procedure necessary for an amendment. I assume that it
can be amended by the passing of an act <by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and I have not the slightest -doubt that the British Parliament would amend the Victorian Constitution in any way that the Parlia- ment of Victoria pleased, and especially in this way. Mr. Allan’s declaration of his inability to carry out the wishes of his friends, the Farmers Union, therefore -sounds to me somewhat hollow. It will not convince the farmers nor any save chose who want to be convinced. Our own position is, perhaps, a little different from that of the states. To amend our Constitution is difficult; but no amendment s necessary to enable the Commonwealth to co-operate with the states in this matter. I speak to-night as a humble meeker for information, and as one who deares only to dip his cup in the fountain of truth and wisdom. I shall, no doubt, be told just what it is we lack to enable us to co-operate with the governments of the states to establish either a voluntary or a compulsory pool. I had better say at once where I stand on this matter. There is a certain amount of hesitancy on the part of some of my honorable friends, and it is necessary for some one to define his attitude. As a result of some years of experience, I believe that the scheme best calculated to serve the interests of the farmers, and most in consonance with the spirit of the people -of Australia, is what is known as a voluntary pool. I started out, of course, with very different ideas; but I was chastised with whips and scorpions, more particularly by honorable gentlemen of the Country party who sit on the sacred benches on my right, who denounced me vehemently, declaring that the idea of compulsion was odious to them. Their arguments so impressed me that, like another Saul of Tarsus, I listened to them, and without going so far as to be converted, I yet heeded what they said. So *T went to the country and said that I should continue the pooling system, but on a voluntary basis. No sooner had I done this - and this shows the danger of J oo sudden conversion - than my honorable friends, who had evidently been reading some of my previous speeches, became concerted in their turn. Unhappily, they had turned in one way whilst I, at their behest, had turned in another, and upon my return I found, to my amazement and » little to my horror, that they were all in favour of a compulsory pool. I admit that they said it was a voluntary pool that they wanted, but it was that kind of voluntary pool under which everybody was compelled to do what .these gentlemen wanted. In which case they would be perfectly satisfied ! I am in favour of that kind of pool which was in force in the last year of my administration. It worked very well. It placed the direct financial responsibility in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank. It gave to the farmers control and placed . upon their shoulders responsibility, which, in my opinion, is a very healthy and necessary thing for them, since, whatever they may be as farmers, as critics nothing like them has been seen in the world from the time of Adam. That is where I stand. I am not opposed to a compulsory pool in the sense that some of my friends are opposed to it. Nor am I one of those who believe that there is some abounding virtue in a name. I believe that the great principle underlying good government is to do that which best serves the interests of the people. Whether it be done by this “ ism “ or that “ ism “ is immaterial. Compulsion is neither good nor bad, but as men make.it so. Honorable members all know that compulsion is sometimes necessary, and that frequently those who cry out most loudly against compulsion are its strongest advocates where it serves their own interests. Nevertheless, for the reasons that I have set out, I prefer a voluntary pool. I ask the Government, and particularly the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), why whatever action is necessary to co-operate with the wheat-growing states to provide for an effective pool is not taken? Although the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) asks for a compulsory pool, I have no doubt that his constituents would be satisfied if they obtained an effective pool, by whatever name it was known. The farmers of Victoria are demanding a compulsory pool, and I say to both the Government of Victoria and the Government of the Commonwealth that there is nothing in the constitution of either the State or the Commonwealth which prevents them from establishing a compulsory or a voluntary pool. The right honorable the Prime Minister said that those war-time powers, which I exercised with so much discretion during the war period, are no longer possessed by us. A brooding melancholy sat upon him as he spoke. I say again that all the powers necessary for the establishment of a compulsory pool of the kind that those who waited upon Mr. Allan want, or an effective voluntary pool, are vested in this Government. It is very convenient to adopt the attitude of having a burning desire to do something which impish fate prevents. A person is then in an unassailable position. His protagonists applaud him, and, when taunted with inaction, he can say that but for something which prevented him he would have done it. It is very convenient to be able to refer to defects in the Constitution. I have stated here, in season and out of season, that the Constitution needed amendment, but I have always used the Constitution to the very limit of its authority. I have never said that a thing could not be done unless I had tried to do it, and those who sat in authority over us, as guardians of the Constitution, had declared that it was ultra vires. We are asked to co-operate with the State Governments in establishing a pool. There is nothing to prevent us from doing this. During its term of office, the Government, by its actions, has shown conclusively that all the powers necessary ave vested in it. The sugar agreement would be written in water but for the exercise of those very powers of whose existence they now seem to be unaware. From the many speeches of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), I naturally concluded that when, by a freakish turn of the wheel, lie and his friends mounted to that pedestal on which I had stood so long, there would be an end to this infamous method of robbing the poor. But what do we find? These gentlemen dealt with the stabilization of the sugar industry by continuing my policy, but under another name. In the early months of the life of this Government, I declared that it did not mean what it said when it announced that the sugar agreement would only be continued for another year. The system for which that agreement provides is in existence to-day because of its own inherent merits, and because it is adapted to the circumstances of Queensland, although it imposes on the rest of the people certain disabilities. For instance, they cannot buy blackgrown sugar. If the Government can doso much for sugar, why can it not do a little for wheat? If it is good toexercise the powers of the Commonwealth to help the sugar cane farmer, why is it bad to use them to help the wheat farmer? The people of this .country will not be asked to pay any more for their bread because of the establishment of a pool. When the price of wheat was fixed, the present Minister for Works (Mr. Hill) defended the action taken, and so did I. I stood by the Minister through thick and thin, although I. admit that at times it was difficult to do so because of the assistance I received from him and his friends. If the Constitution gives us power to impose an economic blockade to help sugar - to penalize the biscuit, condensed milk, jam, and other industries by one stroke, and then to put things right with another, all out of the pockets of the people - why cannot this little thing be done for wheat 1 The pooling system has silenced its critics. It has come-to stay. The system has won its way by its inherent virtue. We all. know the farmer to be incurably conservative, but, having once got hold of a good! thing, he never lets go, and he wants the? pool because he knows it to be good. Why not help him to get it?. Myfriends will find that this ethereal talk about the Constitution will not beaccepted by the farmers. I say to the farmers of. Australia that there is nothing in any constitution to prevent a pool - voluntary or compulsory - being; put into operation. I do not admit that a pool would impose any hardship’ on any one, but I do say that it is an interference with the rights of the individual. While for many years I have.’ been a believer in the right of the state-1 to do what is necessary, for the welfare ofT the whole people, I admit that the. less we interfere with the individual the better. For that reason I stand under the banner of those who ‘ believe in a voluntary pool. What is necessary to start such ‘a - pool I First, there is the financial guarantee. We have the Commonwealth Bank, and all that is necessary to win the reluctant ones is to say that we are prepared to do that which we did in 1921. when the Commonwealth Bank carried on the business. That was a sound commercial proposition. The farmers collectively went to the bank in the same way that an individual does his business with a banking institution. The money was advanced, and the Commonwealth wrote its name on the back of the cheque as a guarantor.
I shall not follow out this line of reasoning at any great length. I rose only to say that we are entitled to know where the Government stands in this matter. Is it against the pooling system, voluntary or compulsory? If not. will it take steps to put the voluntary system into operation ? In ancient Greece it was the practice for the generals of the army to take command in rotation, and it was found that the enemy always attacked when the biggest fool was in command. We have to-day a Ministry composed of two parties, which are engaged in a sort of political tug-of-war. One party pulls one way, and the other in the opposite direction. I was returned to Parliament to support the party pulling in a certain direction. If another party pulls in a different direction, I am under no obligation to support it. The kind of pool that I fathered is that in which I still believe, and there is nothing to prevent the Government from establishing a similar pool to-morrow.
I have observed that the Treasurer has frequently dipped his cup into this pool of constitutionalism. We were accustomed before he took office to hear him speak of the “greatest thing in the world.” As honorable members have probably forgotten what that is, I shall have to recall it to their memories. The “ greatest thing in the world “ to the honorable gentleman at the time of which I speak was the new state movement. It is much the same in connexion with many past events. Most of us are a little uncertain when Henry I. ascended the throne of England, whereas we are familiar with the date of the coming of William the Conqueror. When honorable members recall those stirring speeches of the present Treasurer, and his prophecies concerning the day when the new states movement would come into its own, when they realize that he has been in office and power for over two years, that he has the power to throw out the Government tomorrow, and that he has done nothing to bring the new state movement from the clouds, they will naturally ask why he has done nothing for so long. He could have called a convention at any time, but’ he has not done so. Why ? His reason is the same as that given by Mr. Allan for refusing the request of the wheat-growers of Victoria, namely, that some King’s Counsel told him that the proposed convention would be unconstitutional, and, therefore, have.no binding effect. Yet we are where we are by virtue of an exactly similar convention. What the referenda taken on the greatest question ever presented to any people: - whether they should fight in a certain way or not - what constitutional sanction was there ? There was none. Yet in this democratic country it had the effect of law. The people had spoken; that was an end to it. If this convention had been called, and had decided this, that, or the other, it would have had as much weight as the original convention which resulted in federation. Why did he not arrange a convention? He said that some one toldhim the Constitution did not give him the necessary power! But there was nothing to prevent a convention being called. There is nothing to prevent the Government cooperating with the states in establishing a wheat pool. We are not dealing with a new proposal. The Victorian Farmers Union demand a compulsory wheat pool, and the circumstances permit of such a pool being formed. But if they believe in a voluntary pool - as I do - why do they not say that they are ready to co-operate to form one? Why? The Government complains that it is no longer clothed with those war-time powers which sat upon our regal brow with suchamazing effect. We are barred, we are told; we cannot do anything. What of the new state movement? It has gone. It is not dead, but sleeping - not lost, but gone before. Why? Because, it is said, there is no constitutional warrant for summoning the proposed convention. Such a statement in some secluded quarter of this great continent might find acceptation, but not here. Most of us are not at all concerned with the new state movement ; but I speak on this matter with some authority. It is not given to all men to have greatness thrust upon them ; but greatness was thrust on me one morning, when I received an earnest request to allow myself to be nominated as the president of the new state movement. I asked myself, “Does this silly old world still go round in its usual ordered way, or has some mighty cataclysm thrown it from its course?” I did not know why they had chosen me ; but they had. What became of that proposal I do not know. There was an offer and an acceptance, and, although some of my friends can regard this question with unwrung withers, since they are not at all concerned with the new state movement, I speak as the president. I am not chiding the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) for not having done anything during all this time in regard to his great project; I am content to point to these facts, which stand out clearly and are undeniable. The country wants a wheat pool; why not establish one?
The sugar policy of this country is an outstanding example of the futility of endeavouring to stand up against the cataract of circumstances. These honorable gentlemen of the Government are tossed about as corks on flood waters. They are now declaring themselves firm champions of the sugar policy, and in a little while, no doubt, will speak with assurance and pride of the magnitude of the fruits of their labours. We shall hear them say, “ We did this thing.” There is compulsion associated with the sugar policy. It rests upon compulsion. These powers, which the Prime Minister said have been taken from us, have their grips in the very bowels of that policy. It could not last five minutes but that the Commonwealth with all its power and might stands behind and buttresses it. And yet the Government say we have not the necessary powers to establish a voluntary wheat pool. Whether the Government believe in a voluntary or a compulsory pool, or in no pool at all, they should make a plain statement on the subject. They should say, “ This is our creed, we believe in this, or we do not,” and by that statement stand or fall. Unless they do so, it appears to me a confession of futility, an indication that the ship is drifting and not being steered by a firm hand when the Government say to the wheat-growers, ‘ ‘ We would do what is asked, but we have not the power.” It has the power, but it is for the Government to say if it will exercise it. I exercised my powers under the Constitution, and my honorable friends opposite, and every man and woman in this country know that I was never charged with npt going far enough. I exercised whatever powers I had, and if I were now in office I would within 24 hours do everything necessary on the part of the Commonwealth to establish a voluntary pool in which all the wheat-growing states could co-operate.
.- I am glad of the opportunity to express my views on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill), the . effect .of which is to reduce the vote by £1 sis. an instruction to the Government to introduce a compulsory wheat pool. I do not intend to support the amendment. I should have been glad of the opportunity to assist the farmers, and would have been able to do so if the amendment had been framed to ensure that a pool if established would be free from political control, and that import parity would be paid for wheat used for local consumption. -That would have shown a genuine desire to assist the wheat: growers. When one considers what” was proposed to be done by a Labour Government under a State Wheat Marketing Act in New South Wales and in another state, one hesitates to place the whole of the farmers’ industry at the mercy of the Trades Hall officials. Under the New South Wales Wheat Marketing Bill of 1921, the Minister of the day had the power of veto in connexion with this great industry. The Government in a suggested compulsory pooling arrangement proposed to fix the. maximum price, but did not make any provision for a minimum price for wheat. In these circumstances farmers will not be easily led away by the suggestions of Labour members representing country constituencies, who claim to be “ as good as a Country party man,” in an endeavour to hold’ their seats. Farmers have seen the attempts made by the Trades Hall, through Mr. Holloway, in conjunction with Mrs. Glencross, to reduce the price of wheat sold for local consumption, and I can assure Labour members representing- country constituencies that they will find themselves outnumbered by their confreres in the city if they endeavour to give the farmer a fair deal. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) endeavoured to prove that what I regard as the Labour party’s bid for political power in New South Wales, when it offered the farmer an extra 2s. 6d. per bushel, -was made after the state elections.
– Quite so.
– I was assisting in the Murray electorate in New South Wales at the time, and on more than six occasions I heard Labour candidates say that if a State Labour Government was returned it would give a guarantee of 2s. 6d. per bushel in addition to that guaranteed by the Federal Government, thus making the amount 7s. 6d. per bushel. When the Labour Government came in it carried out that promise, at the public expense. Its promise in this regard is very similar to another which it made recently, and which is also to be carried out at the expense of the public. In the Sydney newspapers yesterday, it is announced that the Government proposes to hurry on the bill to give effect to its promise - and perhaps rightly so - to provide widows with an allowance of 20s. weekly. That, like the promise of an additional guarantee of 2s. 6d. per bushel, was made to get them into power. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), who has just resumed his seat, has also made many promises. He seems to think that there is no constitutional difficulty in the way of either the Federal Government or a State Government introducing a compulsory or voluntary wheat pool. I was a member of many deputations representative of the whole of the wheat-growers of Australia, which waited on the exPrime Minister when he had full power under the War Precautions Act. We had a compulsory wheat pool and he said to us, “Organize! organize! organize! and you will get anything you want.” We took tho right honorable gentleman’s advice, and framed what came to be known as the McGibbon scheme for a complete compulsory wheat pool to be carried on as it was under the War Precautions Act, except that it was to be under the control of the farmers with a representative of the Government to watch the position in regard to local requirements. We organized. We carried out his suggestion. We gave him a complete scheme; but his was the greatest of all “Yes-no” policies. Honorable members can turn up speeches made by him during that period which represent every shade of political opinion. If it is such a simple thing for this Government to establish a pool, why did not the ex-Prime Minister form either a compulsory or a voluntary wheat pool, and give binding effect to the proposal put before him by us? He did not make any attempt to do so. The responsibility of wrecking what would have been an excellent proposal for the expansion of the wheat-growing industry in Australia is his more than that of any other person. He refused to allow the machinery to be under the control of the growers. The fact that the right honorable gentleman did not have legislation enacted to establish either a voluntary or a compulsory pool permitted the middleman to step in and wreck the voluntary scheme which was subsequently introduced. The wrecking proved more effective in some states than in others. In Western Australia so complete was the organization of the farmers and so loyal were the wheat-growers to .their voluntary pool that it was successfully financed, and last year out of a total yield of 21,000,000 bushels of wheat the farmers’ organization handled 18,000,000 bushels. The Western Australian wheatgrowers were forced into their present position by the refusal of the Hughes Government to give them what they prayed for, and as honorable members opposite did not then give the farmers that support which would have enabled a united scheme to come into operation, I refuse How to be cajoled into voting for a motion introduced by them for party political purposes. It is all very well for the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) to refer to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), now the honorable member for Swan, but I can assure honorable members that that honorable member has never expressed himself as being in favour of a compulsory pool. He has not done so, either in this House or among the people in hia own state who were out-and-out in favour of a compulsory pool. He has always stood his ground in that respect, and has been perfectly consistent in his attitude. The gentleman who has been grossly inconsistent in these matters is the right honorable member for North Sydney. He has wobbled from Dan to Beersheba.
It was difficult to follow the right honor able gentleman when he talked of compulsion. We all know that he believes in compulsion as applied to the sugar industry, and in compulsory arbitration, compulsory taxation, and a compulsory tariff. The farmer is compelled to buy goods made in Australia at a price which is greater than that at which he could buy those made elsewhere, and one would think with a certain amount of logic that he could reasonably ask the people from whomhe is compelled to buy his machinery to purchase his produce at the world’s market price. But that is a horse of another colour. He is compelled to buy “dear machinery, and under arbitration awards to pay certain wages, but when he sends his produce into the White Australian market he is asked to supply it at the London parity. The position is altogether unreasonable. If a compulsory pool were formed, it would be only fair to place it under the control of the farmers themselves.
– That is meant.
Mr.PROWSE.- The honorable mem ber’s motion does not say so. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) referred to running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Surely his remark applies to himself and his friends opposite. If we examine the legislation introduced by Labour Governments we find that it is all in the interests of the great city constituencies - an endeavour to provide the city voters with cheap food at the expense of the man on the land. Yet honorable members opposite want the farmers’ votes. This is seen in every state. It applies in Western Australia, as the following paragraph shows: -
A deputation from the Butter and Bacon Factories Association of Western Australia asked the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Troy) to-day to include the state butter factories in the Paterson butter proposal. The deputation read a letter from Melbourne indicating that those interested in the proposal were within measurable distance of obtaining a 95 per cent. agreement. Mr. Troy said that in Hobart Mr. Paterson had proposed that there should be a levy of1d. a pound on butter produced, in order to pay a bonus of 3d. a pound onbutter exported. The Western Australian consumption was 10,000,000 lb. a year, while its production was a mere bagatelle. It would be much better if the£125,000 that would ‘be levied on
Western Australia were distributed among the Western Australian producers.
Mr. Troy is a member of the Labour Government, with his eye on the consumer, and the city that carries the greatest number of votes. He admits that the production of butter in Western Australia is a mere bagatelle. The farmers had evolved a scheme under which they were agreeable to levy1d. per lb. on butter in order to pay an export bounty, and thus assist to develop the dairying industry and allow the men who have been placed on the land in Western Australia to make a living, even if it were only a bare living. Yet, because there was a possibility of an outcry from the centralized portion of the state, the Labour Minister for Agriculture declared thathe would not give any assistance to the scheme.
– I have read his reply to the request. I have seen enough as a wheat-grower, and as a representative of men on the land, not to be misled by legislation setting up a pool, compulsory or otherwise, where the control is to be exercised by the Government. For example, the New South Wales legislation declared that only unionists could be employed in the handling of the wheat. The honorable member for Gwydir has referred to the saving of time and bags in the loading of wheat by the adoption of the bulk-handling system in Sydney. I do not wish to touch on that point, beyond reminding honorable members that the wheat was loaded by the mere turning on of a tap; it was like filling a tank with water. To get a proper comparison we should compare the Sydney system with similar systems in Canada. I do not know whether the Sydney method is faster than the Canadian method. The Commonwealth Parliament agreed to lend £500,000 as a first instalment to the Western Australian farmers if they would put up £300,000 among themselves to establish the bulk-handling system in their state. There were two obstacles to the success of that scheme. One was that the then Premier (Sir James Mitchell) would not permit the clients of the Industries Assistance Board to contribute to the scheme. The other was that the Labour Opposition in the State Parliament wanted the money to be advanced by the State Government, so that the scheme would be under the control of the Government. The farmer wants to control these things himself. He is quite capable of doing so. The reason for the successful handling of wheat in Western Australia is that Westralian Farmers Limited has been given control, and all middlemen have been practically wiped out. As a consequence, the wheat has been handled much more cheaply than it would otherwise have been, and all the advantages to which the honorable member for Gwydir has referred have come about. There are great advantages to be gained by co-operation, and by having full trucks of wheat on the rail, enabling the farmers to telephone to the Commissioner of Railways and tell him to remove 20,000 tons all ready at a certain station. That wheat goes right down to the ship’s side, and is loaded right away. A wonderful saving can be effected in that way. In conclusion, I can assure the right honorable member for North Sydney and honorable members opposite that, if sympathy had been displayed when the time was ripe for it, and if honorable members of the Labour party had thrown in their lot with the farmers at the proper time, all the advantages which they have mentioned would have been gained. The sympathy they now display is too belated to bear the stamp of sincerity.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) has raised a very big question in his amendment, affecting not only the primary producers, but also all sections of the community. It raises the very important question of the organized marketing of primary products generally. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has rightly pointed out that we cannot apply a principle to the marketing of one product and deny it in the marketing of another; but it is rather extraordinary, as the exPrime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) has quite correctly pointed out, that a government which baulks at the organized marketing of wheat with any compulsory flavouring about it has already adopted compulsion in respect of the sugar industry. During the life of this
Parliament we have already had introduced and passed by the Government legislation for the marketing of primary products into which the element of compulsion very largely enters. The Dried Fruits Export Control Act makes it mandatory on every grower of dried fruit to export a certain quota of his produce as fixed by a board. Compulsory provisions also apply to the dairying industry. The producer of butter cannot market his product under any conditions he chooses. He is compelled to adopt what some regard as an odious form of compulsory marketing conditions. I think I am an average sample - of the primary producer, and while I do not relish compulsion, I agree very largely with the principle enunciated by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). If both methods were equally effective, I should plump for the voluntary system against compulsion every time. Unfortunately, after giving the voluntary system a thorough trial, we have found that it is not an effective means for the marketing, of primary products. That is the conclusion to which I have reluctantly arrived.
– The farmers lost a great deal through it in the West.
– I do not know the conditions in Western Australia, but in Victoria we have a voluntary wheat pool. It is well managed, and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) is one of its directors. Three years ago that pool received approximately 80 per cent, of the wheat grown in Victoria. In the year before the last harvest it received about 60 per cent. I am not certain as to the percentage it has received this year, but I have heard it rumoured - and, certainly; deliveries from farmers in my electorate would seem to confirm the rumour - that the pool is not likely to receive much more than 40 per cent., if as much, of the wheat grown in Victoria this season. Mr. Hill. - The honorable member will admit that the high opening prices had a great deal to do with that.
– The interjection is pertinent and fair. The high opening prices certainly did have some effect in that direction. But the facts are as I have stated, that for the three years the percentages of the wheat grown in Victoria put into the pool have been 80 per cent., 60 per cent., and 40 per cent. What will the percentage be next year ? These figures seem to indicate that the voluntary system has been tried and found wanting. It is not a question of the opinion of honorable members. Let us take the views of the farmers as expressed through their organization. They have been referred to by the Minister for Works and Railways this afternoon. At the annual conference of the Farmers Union held in March last, the question of the marketing of wheat was on the agenda-paper. It was discussed, and a motion was carried affirming the principle of compulsory pools and requesting the State Government of Victoria, with a Country party Premier at its head, to take a ballot of the growers forthwith, and if that ballot were favorable, to bring in a bill to establish a compulsory pool. That conference was attended by nearly 400 delegates from” every district in Victoria, and the motion affirming the principle of compulsory pooling was carried unanimously. That motion was presented to the Victorian Government requesting it to take a ballot forthwith. The Government sheltered behind the question of constitutional difficulties. It sought legal advice, and obtained it. The legal advice was that even if the Government did have constitutional power to take this action it would not be effective, because there would be leakages over the border. The suggestion was, apparently, that farmers would cross the Murray River at night with their wheat in a canoe to market it in New South Wales. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the Minister for Works and Railways, by the remarks he made, would convey to those not acquainted with the council, of which he and I are members, the impression that it had changed its attitude and did not now favour the compulsory principle, but had adopted the voluntary principle. In order that honr orable members may be quite clear on this matter, I propose to read the actual resolution that was carried. So far from changing its attitude the council has re-affirmed its belief in compulsory marketing. It went further and stated that it was a matter which should be transferred from the state to the federal sphere. This is the resolution to which it agreed: -
That the Central Council, whilst expressing its firm belief in the principle of compulsory pooling, after hearing the explanation and statement of the Premier approves of the action taken by him.
The Central Council further approves of the voluntary pool that the Premier proposes, and will strongly support him in giving effect to such voluntary pool for a period of five years, with a guarantee of 75 per cent. of the market value of wheat at the time of delivery.
The Central Council is strongly of opinion that to be fully effective a compulsory pool should be Australia-wide.
The Minister for Works and Railways and I were both present when that motion, if not carried unanimously, was certainly carried without dissent.
– That means compulsory in all the states.
– I omitted to say that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) was also present when that resolution was arrived at. I also want to bring him into the business. In order to make perfectly clear what the organized farmers think of pooling I propose to read a further resolution which was carried at a meeting of the Australian Federal Farmers Organization.
– That is wide enough.
– That is the federal body of the organized farmers. I want to be perfectlyclear and perfectly fair, and I should say that this resolution has yet to be submitted to the state organizations for their endorsement. This is the resolution passed by the federal body -
Compulsory Wheat Pool.- That this conference urges the various state organizations’ to impress upon their respective Governments the necessity of passing legislation to create a Federal Compulsory Wheat Pool to be financed by the Federal Government to the extent of a reasonable amount of advance and that the pool be under the control of the growers’ representatives.
That a Federal Wheat Board be appointed consisting of representatives of the various State Governments and the Federal Government, and having complete control of wheat exporting and chartering and selling overseas.
That the wheat produced within each state be controlled by a state wheat board consisting of representatives of the State Government and of the growers.
That the price for local consumption be stabilized upon a basis ascertained by the cost of production under Australian conditions plus a reasonable profit for the grower.
– Who moved that resolution?
– I moved the resolution, and I might say that it was carried unanimously. I come to the executive of the state organization to which I belong, and fight valiantly for a compulsory pool. The Country party Premier of Victoria stoutly contends that he has no power in the matter, and his eloquence and the tremendous emphasis with which he makes this point so persuaded the executive, or the majority of it, that they agreed that he has no power, and that it is purely a federal responsibility which the Federal Government must undertake.. The Premier of Victoria succeeded in the stand he took in the regrettable absence of constitutional powers to carry the conference resolution into effect. When I come into this chamber I find that the Prime Minister has also made a speech. He made an eloquent appeal and gave the impression that he is full of regret at his helplessness because he has not the necessary constitutional power. I understand the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to say that that statement is not correct, but it is certainly as I understood the Prime Minister. What I am concerned about is the kind of pool which the organized producers whom I represent want. We did not get a very clear explanation of the kind of pool that honorable members opposite want. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they have been very vague.
– Is not that a matter for the State Governments to arrange in agreement with the Commonwealth Government ?
– If the pool honorable members opposite suggest involves that we shall hand over to the states, most of which are controlled by theLabour ‘ party-
– What is wrong with that?
– I am not saying that there is anything wrong with it. I am merely endeavouring to state the position. If it is suggested that the pool shall be controlled by a majority of the Labour party, and we are to give to the governments power to create a pool, and lay down its conditions, without ascertaining the desires of the growers-1-
– No government would do that.
– We have no assurance on that point. Let me say that I want a pool, and I take it that the growers want a pool. They consider it quite reasonable that the Federal and State Governments should be represented on the body controlling it, but they claim the right, as producers of the wheat, and the persons most interested financially in the success of the pool, to the major part of its control.
– They are given that in New ‘South Wales. Out of a membership of five on the board, three are farmers.
– There is a weakness in the case put up by honorable members opposite. Some of them put up a very good case, and I refer particularly to that put up by the honorable member for Angas. It was a careful and apparently painstaking inquiry that he personally made into wheat prices, and I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to his industry. Other honorable members have not made their position clear. I say frankly that the farmers are suspicious of the kind of pool ‘ that honorable members opposite really desire, and would, if possible, put into effect.
– What kind of a pool does the honorable member desire?
– I favour a pool controlled by the growers, the price of wheat to be so stabilized as to give to the farmer a return commensurate with the high cost of production under Australian conditions. We cannot expect to obtain such prices overseas. For wheat exported we have to . accept prices ruling .in the markets of the world. The main point in favour of a compulsory pool is decreased marketing costs, consequent upon the handling and disposing of Australian wheat under scientific marketing conditions. Honorable members have .mentioned the co-ordination that is proposed among the various pools. As one honorable member rightly pointed out, even with complete co-ordination between the voluntary pools throughout the Commonwealth, there would still remain the competition of private buyers in the various states. The policy adopted in past years has been to rush the whole of the Australian wheat crop upon the markets of the world. The practice of the speculator is to sell wheat for forward delivery, and then to send agents to the country to purchase wheat to fulfil the contracts. This principle, in my opinion, is wrong.
In 1905 and 1907 I travelled overseas in British sailing ships, carrying wheat from the port of Melbourne. In the harbours of Queenstown and Falmouth were anchored from 20 to 30 ships, mostly sailing vessels, loaded with Australian wheat. These vessels arrived in a continuous stream, and the whole of their cargoes were forced upon the wheat market of the world, irrespective of its capacity to absorb them. The same thing is going on to-day. It was recently reported in the press that in two days 3,000,000 bushels of last season’s Australian wheat were sold on the Baltic Exchange. The marketing of our primary produce in that way is not advantageous1 to the producer, and reacts detrimentally on every section of the community. For that reason an Australia-wide pool, with one selling agency overseas, scientific feeding of markets, and one chartering agency, is the only system that I consider will ever give the Australian primary producer full market value for his wheat. The Prime Minister referred to those gentlemen who had spent their lives in studying the science of marketing. I myself know gentlemen - I am not going to mention names - who have spent their lives marketing wheat. I should not be averse to appointing on a board four or five of those very able business men, some of them brilliant, paying them a handsome salary, and saying to them, “Your job is to place scientifically 100,000,000 bushels of Australian wheat on the world’s markets, and to dispose of it to the best advantage of the primary producers.” In that way we should make the best use of those gentlemen. “We have recently experienced a remarkable fall in wool values. Does that not indicate clearly that the haphazard system of marketing our primary products, whether it be wheat, wool, or butter, is not the best policy, and that we must institute some form . of organized marketing? In the case of dried fruits, the Commonwealth Government passed last session, a bill which, although it went a certain distance in the desired direction, did not go far enough. But even as far as it did go, from present appearances it seems that the result of that legislation will be very beneficial to. the dried-fruit producers. The Butter Export Control Act provides for one brand of butter, strict supervision over exports, and the limitation of the freedom of the individual. It restricts the right of the individual to send overseas any kind of butter or any class of primary product that he thinks he can market at a profit, irrespective of the effect the sale of such commodity would have upon his fellow-producers. I propose to vote for the amendment. If it is carried, I shall, at the first opportunity, move a motion embodying definitely vital principles that should be adhered to in carrying into effect any federal compulsory pool.
.- We must all realize that if the amendment is carried, the effect, either for good or evil, will be far-reaching in respect of one of the most important primary industries in Australia.. I have listened with interest to honorable members who have dealt with this subject on theoretical grounds and from the point of view of the onlooker. Some of us have very short memories. I suppose that I can claim to be the largest wheatgrower representing the State of New South Wales in this Parliament. I have very painful recollections of the treatment meted out within the last ten or eleven years to wheat-growers of New South Wales owing to the existence of compulsory pools. The Prime Minister pointed out what might happen, and what I remember very well did happen under a compulsory pool. One point he made was that in number the wheat-growers are comparatively small and the wheat consumers are comparatively large, and that when the interests of the majority conflict with those of the minority the latter frequently do not receive justice, and consequently go to the wall. That has happened actually. I speak particularly of the pool that existed in New South Wales. In 1913-14 we had a touch of governmental control in the form of price-fixing. The total wheat yield was a little under 13,000,000 bushels, which at that time was more than enough for our own consumption. In that year there was a light crop in Victoria, one of the lightest on record, the total yield being under 4,000,000 bushels. The price of wheat consequently rose in this state. In New Sou.th Wales, after previous bad years we looked to the southern markets for an increased price for our wheat. The Government of the day, however, stepped in and commandeered the whole of the wheat at 4s. 6d. a bushel, although it was worth 6s. 6d. across the border. That was the position taken up by the Labour Government then in power. Afterwards, when the case was fought before a tribunal, the growers received an increase of 3d. a bushel. Next year we were, unfortunately, plunged into the war. New South Wales had the biggest wheat yield in its history, but the growers were faced with the position that there was no possible chance of marketing the wheat under the conditions then existing. The Government stepped in with a compulsory pool, and made advances against the price of wheat. That system continued for a number of years, and the prices obtained were extremely unsatisfactory. The pool was under Government contrail. Unfortunately the Government of the day did not realize what a vast undertaking it was, and instead of engaging the services of men of the calibre mentioned by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), it appointed a subordinate officer from the Department of Agriculture as the supreme head over the whole of the transactions of the Wheat Board in New South Wales. The result was disastrous. The wheat accumulated for two or three years, and owing to the lack of shipping, the mice plague, wet seasons, and the damage sustained to the wheat through weevils and other pests, the farmers ‘had a very rough spin. Before the term of the compulsory pool had expired, the warended and wheat prices abroad increased. There was a considerable demand for wheat. We were still being paid from 4s. 9d. to 5s. a bushel for wheat which was worth considerably more abroad. A few years ago the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) was present at the annual conference of. the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, find I, a delegate there, asked him would he undertake to see that the farmers received export parity value for their wheat. He answered the query in bis own inimitable way. He said that it was a broad question, in which great issues were involved. He evaded the query, and sat down without answering it. If export parity for our wheat had been granted, it would to some extent have compensated us for our losses. I put in the 1916-17 pool the largest crop that I ever harvested. I hold scrip for 25,000 bushels of wheat put in that pool and anybody may have it for 25 pence. I was paid 3s. 3£d. a bushel. The price should have been less, because the Government of the day in financing the pool had been misled respecting the amount realized, and had overpaid the pool something like 5£d. a bushel. A claim was afterwards made, and a tribunal was appointed to adjust the amount that had Deen lost to the farmers through the mismanagement of the pool. That tribunal decided that the farmers were entitled to be paid over £400,000 on account of that loss, but as the government of the day had already overpaid to the amount of £700,000, it naturally declined to accept any further obligation. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), speaking with that air of authority which he usually assumes, said that the farmers of Riverina were in favour of a compulsory pool. Upon this matter, as upon many others, the honorable member’s speech was an absolute compendium of inaccurate information. I am a wheat farmer in ‘ the Riverina, and I am not in favour of a compulsory pool. The majority of the growers, I think, are of the same opinion. I realize what wonderful results have been achieved by the wheatgrowing industry in the development of semi-arid regions, and how remarkably the wheat belt has been extended. I may claim to have done my share in extending it in New South Wales. In 1906 Mr. Coghlan, the then State Statistician, published a map with a line denoting the limit of safe wheat-growing. I purchased land beyond that line, and staked all my money and experience upon the growing of wheat there. A few years afterwards, when we were battling hard with the government of the day for the construction of a railway’ into that country, the Government Statistician stated . in the press that the whole of it was outside the limit of safe wheat-growing. Being much less experienced than I am now, I entered the lists against him, but I found to my cost that the Government Statistician, even when he is wrong, can get the better of an argument. I retired from the contest, but I continued to agitate for a railway. I also continued to grow wheat, and to-day my farm is part of what is recognized to.be one of the most valuable wheat-growing districts of New South Wales. Any man who says that he can to-day mark what will be the limit of safe wheat-growing ten or fifteen years hence is either very wise, or knows a great deal less than he thinks he does. There have been times when wheat-growing was nonpaying, but only to one class - the farmer. To everybody else, and to the community as a whole, wheat-growing has always been a . thoroughly satisfactory industry. I recollect that in one year, soon after I started my farm, I had 300 acres under wheat. I had bought the freehold blocks of what had been a very large estate, and on my property was the woolshed. The farmers on the surrounding subdivisions had no other place in which to shear their sheep, so I shore for them on contract 31,000 sheep that year, and I paid less carriage on the wool from those sheep to rail than I paid on the wheat from 300 acres in a year when the harvest was not particularly good. So, too with labour conditions; the greater burden is on the wheat-grower. A. man can farm 30 per cent., and possibly 50 per cent., of his country in the northern Riverina without any substantial reduction of its sheepcarrying capacity. If he carried sheep on the whole of his area, except for the additional expense of shearing, and possibly two or three days’ extra work once or twice during the year,. he would not employ more labour to look after the stock than he does when he farms a third or half of his holding, and- he saves the whole of the cost of the labour required for the growing of wheat. The machinery factories, too, are further evidence of the wonderful benefit conferred on Australia by the wheat-growing industry, and we should hesitate to tamper with it in the way proposed in the amendment. For my own part, after years of experience of compulsory pools, I declare that if compulsory pools became the law, I would immediately abandon wheat-growing. Many others would do the same. There are other ways of utilizing our land, which, if the price of wheat fell, would probably be as remunerative to the land-holder as is the growing of wheat, but not nearly as remunerative to the country. That is the point I wish honorable members to bear in mind. We should do nothing- which would endanger one of the greatest indus tries in Australia. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said in support of his claim for a compulsory pool that each year the voluntary pool in Victoria is handling less wheat. The Minister for Works (Mr. Hill) asked, by interjection, whether that was not due to the high price of wheat at the opening of the season, and the honorable member for Wimmera admitted that it was. But I regard that diminution in the quantity of wheat pooled as further evidence that farmers- are beginning to lose faith in the pooling system. Let the voluntary pools be continued; that can be done without passing any special legislation. The honorable member for Wimmera read a resolution by the Federal Convention of Farmers in favour of a compulsory pool, and asking the Government to advance 75 per cent, of the price of wheat to the grower. How any sane body of men could pass such a resolution is beyond my comprehension. In some circumstances an advance of 75 per cent, would be absolutely safe ; in other circumstances, it would be absolutely unsafe. In 1920, the price of wheat was 12s. per bushel, and a 75 per cent, advance on that extreme figure would have represented 9s. per bushel. When the New South Wales Government guaranteed 7s. 6d. per bushel, the crop realized over £800,000 less than was required to pay the guarantee. If the price of wheat is low, a guarantee of even 80 per cent, might be perfectly safe, but when the price is high, a 75 per cent, advance might be quite unsound. This proposal must be very carefully investigated. Another advantage which some honorable members have said would be derived from a compulsory pool would be the cooperative buying of sacks, and in support of that contention the high price of bags during the last season has been emphasized. Some honorable members may not be aware of the circumstances which caused that high price. Until this year the only considerable demand for sacks has been from Australia. Last year, the importers who bought early in previous years, and had a rather unfortunate experience, kept off the market for a while, and then, in the middle of the buying season, the Chilian Government came upon the market and bought 20,000 bales of wheat sacks. That purchase, in “conjunction with the rather lean jute crop in
India, put the holders of jute in a very advantageous position. Australia had enjoyed beneficial rains in the early spring, and that fact had been made known to the Indian jute-holders almost as soon as it was known to the people in the capital cities of Australia. The jute merchants knew, also, that the Australian importers had not sufficient stocks in hand, and that there was a shortage of jute in India; and, consequently, every order for an extra 1,000 bales of sacks increased the price by 6d. Only a limited number of bags was indented to be imported in October-November, and it became obvious that if the farmers desired to have bags in hand at the beginning of the harvest, as they usually do, prices would soar to an abnormal figure. Considerably bigger orders had been placed for delivery early in December, and it was confidently expected that the price would then recede. But shipping trouble developed, and the bags could not be unloaded. During the recent election campaign in New South Wales, Labour candidates and their supporters blamed the Government of the day for not having commandeered bags and placed them on the market at a. reasonable price. But in December they did nothing to induce the unions to make the bags available to the farmers. That delay in unloading caused the price to rise by leaps and bounds. If those bags had been unloaded when they arrived, as they would have been under normal conditions, the prices would have receded from the beginning of December. Speculation in jute is known to be exceedingly risky.
– Except for the combination that owns the jute.
– In Queensland there is a compulsory wheat pool, controlled by a board formed under Government auspices. That board was requested by the wheat-growers to purchase sacks for the coming season, but it declined to do so, because it considered that gambling in wheat bags was too risky. New South Wales has advanced a long way towards the solution of this difficulty by the adoption of bulk handling, which I think must be adopted throughout the wheat-growing states if their operations are to be con ducted upon a reliable basis.
– The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) does not believe in it.
– I am not responsible for that. I am voicing only my own opinions. I ask honorable members to imagine what would happen if there was a complete cessation of shipments of bags from India. If that happened in the early months of spring, what would be the effect upon Australia? I shall give another instance of the danger of speculating in jute. During the past four weeks, owing to over-importation by speculators outside the ordinary channels, it has been possible to buy wool packs in Sydney for 7d. less than would have to be paid for them if purchased from the manufacturers and delivery taken in India. No more constitutional power than we already have is needed” to form a voluntary pool. Any wheat-growing state that asks for a reasonable advance against the value of its wheat crop will have no difficulty in obtaining it. Such advances have been made regularly in the past, and can be made in the future. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) said he did not know what the attitude of the Prime Minister was, but I was under no misapprehension on that point. To me the right honorable gentleman could not have made a more emphatic statement that the Government did not intend to form a compulsory pool. When Parliament was dealing last year with the export control of dried fruits, the right honorable the Prime Minister said that the Government could not see its way to grant a compulsory pool. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) interjected, “‘Cannot’ or ‘will not’?” and the Prime Minister replied, “Will not.” His speech the other day was just as emphatic. Whatever it conveyed to other honorable members, it conveyed to me the same emphatic declaration as when he said “will not.”
.- The amendment by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) is a request to the Federal Government to enter into negotiations with the State Governments for organizing a compulsory wheat pool. The debate has done one good thing in making clear to the electors, especially to those in constituencies where wheat is grown, the attitude of their representatives. I doubt whether, in any debate in this Chamber, there has been such a diversity of views expressed by honorable members representing the same interests. Those honorable members on this side who represent wheat-growing areas have declared emphatically for a compulsory pool, and in doing so have stated that a majority of the wheatgrowers favour such a pool. On the other side of the House only one honorable member who represents a wheatgrowing constituency has declared that the wheat-growers in Victoria are in favour of a compulsory pool. That was the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). As against that we have the declaration by many country members that the farmers are opposed to a compulsory pool. Later, of course, the decision will rest with the farmers, who will say which of the two views is right. The debate has shown conclusively that on this matter country representatives speak with two voices when they should be unanimous.
– They- were unanimous at one time.
– Yes, but unfortunately for the honorable member it is becoming generally known that, owing to the differences of opinion between the two sections of the Composite Government, honorable members of his party have sunk their principles to obtain place and power, and the solidarity that formerly existed has disappeared. Nothing will meet the needs of the wheat-growers but a compulsory pool. A voluntary pool cannot be effective. There is a voluntary pool in existence, but it is most ineffective, because no large body of producers can be satisfactorily controlled except by a compulsory pool. When a pool is voluntary the farmers commence io compete against one another in order to secure markets, and they place wheat in the hands of a buyer outside the pool in return for a special inducement. Some of them make huge profits thereby, but the pool suffers. The only pool that can exist is a compulsory pool. I am pleased to learn from the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) that the Commonwealth Government has power to create a compulsory pool. T point out, however, to him that the amendment asks the Government not to create a compulsory pool, but merely to negotiate with the State Governments for that purpose.
– I said that we had all the power necessary to co-operate with the states for creating a compulsory pool.
– That is what the amendment asks for. One honorable member said that the object of the Opposition was to get this business into the hands of the Labour Governments of the states. If the Commonwealth Govern-ment enters into negotiations the business will be in the hands not of any one Government, but of all the State Governments, the wheat-growers, and the Commonwealth Government. A board was appointed to manage the New South Wales wheat pool of 1920-1. Were the members of it all Labour men ?
– Three out of five of them were.
– I shall let the honorable gentleman know who they were. The chairman of the board was Mr. W. F. Dunn, Minister of Agriculture. No one will deny that the Minister of Agriculture should be the chairman of the board.
– He was a Labour Minister.
– In reply to that I might say that the Treasurer, who is a composite Minister, and represents two parties, should not be chairman of boards that he creates. He has created a large number of boards, and has placed people of his own calibre on them. Mr. Dunn has proved himself worthy of the Ministerial position he holds. The deputy chairman of the board was Mr. T. G. Murray, a farmer.
– He was the nominee of the Labour party in the Upper House.
– And a farmer. Other members of the board were Mr. D. A. Gagie, of Wyalong, and Mr. W. McRitchie, of Tamworth, also farmers. The board consisted of the Minister, three farmers, and a representative of the Australian Workers Union, Mr. T. S. Bartle. If the board was as biased as alleged, and functioned only in the interests of the
Labour movement, bow is it that its members were always unanimous, in their decisions? There was never a difference of opinion on the board regarding the administration of the pool, and it has already been shown that in handling wheat they saved £91,000 that would have gone to the agents if the work had been done by tender. That £91,000 went into the pockets of the farmers of New .South Wales, and it was saved by the board. Does ‘ the fact that there are Labour Governments in- five of the states justify any honorable member in saying that there should not be a compulsory wheat pool? Does it justify the argument that the Labour Governments should not be approached to ascertain whether they are prepared to work with the Commonwealth in creating a pool? It cannot be said that honorable members .of the Opposition are asking for this pool because Labour Governments happen to be in power in five states. We have asked for it for years before the recent elections that returned Labour Governments. We advocated a compulsory pool even when it would have been administered by National Governments, and we did so because we believed it would be in the interests of the producers. That was our only reason then, and is our only reason now, for advocating it. If honorable members want to save the wheat-growers in the future, they should vote for a compulsory, and not a voluntary, pool. Honorable members if they remain here long enough will see the voluntary pools fail, and then, perhaps, they will realize the mistake they are making in not taking the opportunity now offered to them of voting for a compulsory pool.
– What would be the basis of representation on a compulsory pool?
– That is a matter for the Commonwealth and State Governments to decide. All the amendment asks is that negotiations be entered into with the State Governments for the purpose of creating a compulsory pool. If an agreement be reached, it will then be for the parties concerned to discuss the best basis of representation.
– In assuming this power ought not the honorable member to let the people know the basis of representation ?
– Does the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) say that at this juncture, before we approach the State Governments, we should lay down the constitution of the board and decide on what lines the pool should operate? That would be putting the cart before the horse, and would probably make the effort a failure. We cannot dictate to the State Governments, but can only approach them in a reasonable way, saying, “In the opinion of the Federal Parliament a compulsory wheat pool should be established in the interests of the farmers. Are you prepared to do your part in it ? “ If the State Governments agree, they must then discuss how to give effect to their views. I am pleased to notice that at least two honorable members on the other side support the amendment. If a voluntary pool is created it can only end in failure, and perhaps disaster.
– When one reflects on the magnitude of the wheat industry, which is second only to that of wool-growing, and probably provides more employment directly and indirectly than does any other in Australia - when one realizes also that it is a big exporting industry, which brings back to this country such great wealth for its development - one appreciates the importance of this debate. Honorable members should scrutinize with great care all arguments advanced as to the effect of putting the amendment into practice. Any one who recalls the history of the wheat industry during the last five years must recognize that the immediate effect of carrying this amendment to try to create a compulsory wheat pool would be disastrous. It would throw the industry into a chaotic and uncertain position as regards marketing, just as it has been frequently thrown back at this time of the year, when men have planted their crops and are hoping to get a good return for their labours. In March of last year the Government made a proposition to the states for the effective handling of the last year’s wheat crop. It hoped that a decision would be reached on the matter well before the wheat was harvested. But its proposals were still being discussed, and negotiations were still proceeding with the states in September, six months later. That has been practically the history of the last five years. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) appropriately moved his motion when the proposed vote for “ The Parliament “ was under consideration, thereby indicating that he recognizes that this is essentially a constitutional matter. Notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, the constitutional difficulties that surround the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool make the whole position uncertain. The matter has been discussed for many years in the various State Parliaments as well as in the Commonwealth Parliament, and it is now generally agreed that neither the Commonwealth Government nor any State Government can act by itself.
– But they can act together.
– I shall deal presently with the statements made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). I wish to refer first to various comments that have been made in the discussions in the State Parliaments. In a debate in the New South Wales Parliament in 1921 it was stated that there were constitutional difficulties in the way of the State Government acting by itself. Sir Joseph Carruthers then madethis relevant observation -
I go this far with the Hon. Minister, that I agree that there can be no compulsory pool unless through the Government-unless legislation is passed by the Commonwealth Government and every State Government, or unless every State Parliament refers the matter to the Commonwealth Parliament under section 51, sub-section 37, of the Constitution.
That is exactly the position.. The right honorable member for North Sydney observed that Mr. Allan, the Victorian Premier, declared that he had no power under theConstitution of the State to deal with this matter. He added that the Commonwealth Government would say it also had no constitutional power to deal with the matter by itself. That is the actual position. The fact is that the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments, acting together, alone could do what is necessary to establish a pool . There must be co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State Governments. No single Government has power to act by itself. The right honorable member also said that if the Premier of Victoria had no power to control the sale of wheat in hia state, all that was necessary was to get a British act to give him the power. What British act does the right honorable member think is necessary to give the Premier of Victoria the right to deal with the sale of wheat in Victoria ?
– I did not say that. I said that the various Governments had the powers between them.
– The right honorable member said nothing of the sort; but it is a fact that all the Governments concerned would need to act together to form an effective compulsory pool. Thas has been stated by Sir Joseph Carruthers, the Hon. W. P. Dunn, and the Hon. J. Kavanagh in the New South Wales Parliament. What has been done to obtain the necessary measure of co-operation? Last year this Government went to a great deal of trouble to secure the co-operation of the various State Governments in a matter which concerned the wheat producers, but not to so far-reaching an extent as this. It asked them to co-operate to form effective voluntary pools which would have some permanent results. The letter we sent stated our policy. in definite language, and I am surprised that honorable members on the other side of the House do not seem to be aware that it was sent.Itreadasfollows: -
Fully appreciating the present circumstances of the industry and its importance to Australia, my Government is therefore prepared to co-operate with the states in the following proposals: -
Voluntary pools tobe constituted in the four wheat-producing states.
Such pools to operate for a period of three years.
One selling organization to be establishedfor the disposal of wheat sold overseas.
One chartering agency to be constituted, and all shipping and freight arrangements for wheat exported to be controlled by such authority.
A guarantee over the period of three years to the Commonwealth Bank for all wheat in such pools up to 80 per cent. of the export market price at the opening of each season.
A levy to be made on each bushel of wheat handled by the pool on a sliding scale, according to the price realized, at a rate sufficient to build up a fund over the three years’ period to enable the industry to finance its own operations when the Government guarantee ceases to operate.
The State Governments to share equally with the Commonwealth in the guarantee.
A conference consisting of representatives of the four states and the Commonwealth to he immediately appointed for the purpose of considering the above proposals, and to determine the form of agreement to be entered into between the Governments concerned and the pools, and to consider the appointment of a Central Council to control the operation of the agreement during the period of three years.
My Government believes that, if the above proposals were adopted, it would be possible for the industry in the period of three years contemplated to place its finances in a position where governmental assistance would be rendered unnecessary. They will also ensure the proper organization and control of the marketing of the export surplus during the period mentioned, and result in the creation of a permanent organization, which, free of Government control, could operate independently for the benefit of the industry.
I shall be glad to have your reply as early as possible.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) S. M. Bruce,
Following the receipt of the letter discussions and negotiations occurred and correspondence between the Commonwealth and State Governments passed to and fro until September. Some of the states wanted a voluntary pool and some wanted a compulsory pool, and all sorts of conditions were requested. The matter remained in suspense for so long that the states were forced to take action singly and in different ways. We suggested a constructive policy with the object of enabling the wheat-growers to free themselves for all time from the necessity for coming, cap in hand, to the Government every year to ask for a guarantee. Our method was originally suggested by the wheat-growers themselves. If it had been adopted, sufficient capital would have accumulated in the various voluntary pools during the three years to render unnecessary any Government advance to continue the pools.
But this Government has gone a great deal farther since then. It has transformed the Commonwealth Bank into a central bank which can stand behind the industries of the country and be of some definite value to them. In the last eighteen months the bank has stood behind our industries in every way. It rendered possible the financing of the wool clip and the wheat crop last season. In addition, it led the way in bringing down the rate of exchange from £3 10s. to 5s. That meant about 2fd. a bushel for all the wheat that remained in the Victorian pool. More than that, the Government has indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech that it intends to bring down, at the first opportunity - as soon as the Opposition will give it a chance to do so, by ceasing to move motions of censure - a proposal to create a rural credits department in the Commonwealth Bank to enable any co-operatively organized industry to obtainany advance that it might need, not by the cap-in-hand method, but automatically, as of right, on a commercial basis. We have already made arrangements through our own bank for voluntary pools to be established on the lines successfully adopted last year in Western Australia. In Western Australia, by reason of the methods adopted last year, the organization in charge of the voluntary pool was able to control 87 per cent. of the total quantity of wheat grown in that state, or roughly 18,000,000 out of just over 20,000,000 bushels. A similar policy for other states is favoured by this Government, and a definite statement to that effect has been made repeatedly. Yet the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) asks ior a definite statement on the subject from the Government ! He says he did not hear the speech by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill), nor did he listen to that made by the Prime Minister. Apparently he prefers to take notice of mere hearsay remarks in the lobbies. If he does not wish to listen to the debates that take place in this chamber he should certainly read them, so that he might be armed with knowledge of the facts. The amendment before the Chair would jeopardize the satisfactory handling of the wheat crop for the current year, because the establishment of a compulsory pool would involve concurrent action by all the State Parliaments concerned. The possibility of securing that may be gauged by a reference to the history of compulsory pools. What is the history of compulsory pools in Victoria? For five or six years this matter has been in the cockpit with every political disturbance. At least two elections have been fought upon the issue, and I do not know how many governments have been formed in consequence of it. Attempts have been made to establish compulsory pools, and when the necessary measure has been sanctioned by the lower House it has been rejected by the Legislative Council. One-third of the members of the latter chamber have recently come back from the hustings, and the number opposed to the principle of a compulsory pool is only one less than before, so that there is no chance of a measure to give effect to such a scheme being passed by the Parliament of Victoria. It is said by every legal authority that, unless there is agreement between the states and the Commonwealth, we cannot have a compulsory pool that will be effective throughout Australia. Similarly in New South Wales a bill for a state compulsory pool has not been passed by their Parliament since 1920-21. In 1921, the Labour Government in New South Wales attempted to pass a measure providing for the establishment of a compulsory pool. On account of the conditions contained in their Wheat Marketing Act it was strongly opposed by the farmers of that state, and all the members who fought against it were triumphantly returned at the next election. The party opposed to their compulsory pool was thus given a working majority during the next Parliament. The measure was carried through the lower House on the casting vote of the Deputy Speaker, but it was rejected by the Legislative Council. The right honorable member for North Sydney has had the unfortunate experience of having proposals on which he agreed with the State Governments rejected by the State Parliaments. Honorable members from South Australia aro well aware that, as the two local chambers are now constituted, there is no chance of a compulsory pool being agreed to by the Parliament of that state. If the Government accepted the amendment, it would inevitably result in delay and uncertainty in finalizing arrangements for the marketing of this year’s crop. The annual agitation for compulsory pools has been responsible for retarding the development of permanent methods of marketing in the wheatgrowing industry. Do the farmers of Australia desire a compulsory pool controlled by governments? They have been frequently asked the question. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) read a resolution affirming that the farmers of Victoria wanted a compulsory pool, controlled by their own elected representatives. That does not mean a compulsory pool controlled by outsiders. They have always voted in the same way. In 1921 a ballot of the farmers of New South Wales was taken on the following questions: - “ (1) Are you in favour of a compulsory wheat pool, controlled by representatives elected by ballot of the wheat-growers? (2) Are you in favour of a continuation of the pool controlled ‘ by a board consisting of two government nominees and three farmers’ representatives, elected by ballot of the wheat-growers ? (3) Are you in favour of a compulsory pool under the present conditions of control ? (4) Are you in favour of an open market?” When the votes were counted it was found that 6,345 farmers favoured a compulsory pool, controlled by representatives elected by ballot of the wheat-growers. The second proposal received 2,443 votes, the third 2,895, and only 1,782 farmers voted for an open market. In other words, three times as many farmers favoured a compulsory pool, controlled by their own representatives, as voted for a pool with government control or government representation. That was a definite expression of opinion by the farmers. During the last few days I have spoken to representatives of organizations of farmers in New South Wales and Victoria, and have also had a telegram from the farmers’ organization in Western Australia, and all say that if there is to be government control with any compulsory pool they want a voluntary pool. The legal opinion is that the necessary powers to give effect to a compulsory pool cannot be vested in any outside organization, but must lie in the Crown itself. The farmers say, “Under those circumstances we stand for a voluntary pool.” Within the last twelve months they have shown where they stand. Last year, when the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the states fell through, the Government of the State of Western Australia said that it was prepared to give a compulsory pool to the farmers of that state. When the farmers examined the conditions they found that it was sought to interpose certain conditions that were intolerable. They said, “We will have nothing whatever to do with any government pool in which the conditions are so onerous,” and they formed a voluntary pool. They” -were able to secure financial backing without the intervention of the Government. I am satisfied that the measure which this Government will bring down within the next mouth or two will make such provision that every wheat pool in Australia and every other industry that is organized on a similar co-operative basis will be able to secure all the financial backing needed without being exposed to the whim of any ministry or to political expediency.
– This Government cannot legislate for all time.
– “We shall place upon the statute-book this year legislation on this matter that no future Government will dare to alter, because it will be so universally esteemed. The farmers are justly suspicious of government control, more especially of control by a Labour government of wheat pools, because they have had an unfortunate experience of compulsory pools controlled by Labour administrations. Honorable members are aware of the conditions that existed at the outbreak of the war. At that time there was a drought in New South Wales and in many other parts of the Commonwealth. The price of wheat began to rise. The Government of the State of New South Wales said, “We will be short of wheat,” and it commandeered the whole of the wheat in that state at 5s. a bushel, despite the fact that the market price was from 6s. 6d. to 7s. a bushel. They actually seized wheat which customarily was sent across to Victoria. The only means that the farmers had of sending their wheat out of the country was the Victorian transportation system. The New South Wales Government seized the wheat as it was being carted across the bridges by the farmers, and forced them to take it back to their farms, where it was commandeered for 5s. a bushel, although 6s. 6d. was the price at which the farmers had contracted to supply it to the Victorian millers.
– That was a shocking thing; but the Liberal Government in Victoria did exactly the same thing.
– I am very glad that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has made that interjection, because it gives greater point to my argument as to the danger of government control, no matter what party is in power. I stand for the control of an industry by the people who grow the product, and I shall do all I can to ensure that that principle is followed. On the contrary, I shall oppose, so far as I am able to do so, any attempt to place control in the hands of those who have nothing to do with the industry, and I urge similar action on the part of those who have at heart the interests pf the producers, whether they be primary or secondary producers. There was a compulsory Commonwealth pool in 1920-1. The Government of the State of New South Wales operated the pool in that state under agreement with the Commonwealth Government. The whole of the New South Wales business was handled by a board of five members. The Minister for Agriculture - a Labour Minister - was the chairman. There was on the board a representative of the Australian Workers Union and the wharf labourers. Goodness alone knows what right they had to representation! Another member of the board was said to represent what unionists would call “scab” wheat farmers in . New South Wales - the men who would not join either the Primary Producers Union or the Farmers and Settlers Association. A Labour Government, which claimed to uphold unionism, said that those farmers had to be represented, not by a man whom they elected, but by a Labour member of the Legislative Council - Mr. Murray.
– A very good man.
– He might be the best man in the world, but tho fact remains he was a Labour nominee. Having made sure that a majority of members of the board favoured its ideas, the Government permitted -the election of a representative of the organized farmers from the ranks of the Farmers and Settlers Association and the Primary Producers Union. There was an outcry from the farmers, who said, “If there are to be three representatives of the wheat-growers on the board, let the farmers elect those three men.” The Government said, “We cannot allow that; we must have the nomination.”
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) claimed to-night that this board was responsible for a tremendous saving. Let us look at the way in which it proceeded to make its savings. The award for wharf lumpers for handling 100 bags of wheat was 7s. The board gave them 8s. 6d. Tenders were called from stevedoring companies for the shifting of the wheat, and it was found that the work could be done for the following prices: -
What did the board do? It undertook the work itself. It experienced no trouble in getting it done, because the cost of carrying it. out in that way amounted to 4s. 5id. a ton. No one gave them any trouble under those conditions. In speaking in the Legislative Council of New South Wales on the 10th November, 1921, Mr. Trethowan made with regard to the whole position the following statement, which I wish to put on record in Mansard in reply to the statement made by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) with regard to savings : -
We also find that the actual expenses paid, as per the board’s statement, are £187,956. That works out at 4s. 5Jd. per ton of wheat handled a.t Darling Island. The tenders were called for the handling of the wheat at Darling Inland, and the following tenders and prices were received: -
Honorable members can therefore see what tenders were submitted for the handling of the wheat after the Wheat Board had found that it was an expensive matter to handle it themselves. It had become so expensive that they decided to call for tenders for the work. Those were the tenders submitted, and the tender of the Mark Lane Stevedoring Company at 13.8d. per ton was accepted. It cost us 11.45d. per ton as against 4s. 5Jd. paid by the Wheat Board. As against that £187.000, according to the Minister’s statement, there has been received back from stevedoring £77,472. Honorable members should consider that the co-operative companies made an offer to handle the wheat at £65,188, equalling a price of ls. 6Jd. per ton. We had to put- in a higher price than formerly, because the rates of wages had been increased, and we have to pay award rates. It cost the board 4s. 5Jd. The cost of the board at ls. 6Jd. per. ton to the 30th September would have been £65,188. The difference between that and what it has actually cost is £122.768. According to the Minister’s statement, there has been received from stevedoring £77,472. That leaves a difference of £35.296, which they have paid over and above what we offered to do the work for.
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) tried to persuade the Committee that the manner in which the board conducted the work resulted in savings to the farmers of New South Wales. The board did not worry very much, because the cost all came out of the farmers’ pockets. During that same year there was another illustration of what takes place when there is fixation of prices, which must inevitably follow the compulsory acquisition of wheat.
– Why is the honorable gentleman “ stone-walling “ ?
– I am putting these things on record because I have no doubt they will be very useful at another time.
– Then the honorable gentleman is electioneering?
– No; I am putting on record facts which should be known through the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, wherever wheat is grown, or wherever any primary industry is carried on. I have said that fixation of prices is inevitable where there is compulsory acquisition of any article. Public sentiment insists upon that in the interests of consumers. During the year to which I have referred, the board in New South Wales, consisting of the Government and the wheat-growing representatives, fixed the price of wheat for the year at 9s. per bushel, when the outside price was 14s. per bushel. There was no outcry from the farmers, because they were satisfied that there would be something like stability of price. But what happened during the year? The price of wheat gradually declined from 14s. per bushel to Id. or 2d. less than 9s. a bushel. Every one remembers the outcry that was then made. Smith’s Weekly came out week after week with tirades against the Wheat Board, the Government of the day, and the wheat-growers, because at that time the wheat-farmers were receiving something like 2d. more for wheat than it was sold for overseas. This happened despite the fact that at that time -wheat in Australis, was not selling at the import parity, the price which the people of Australia would have had to pay if they had to ‘bring their wheat from overseas, and pay freight on it without duty. There was this tremendous outcry because for a month or two towards the close of the year the price of wheat in Australia to the local miller was higher than the price outside. That is what happened under a compulsory pool. In 1921 the New South Wales Labour Government said, “ We think we will keep this thing going. We shall have another pool next year. The Commonwealth Government will not come into it. but we shall carry legislation to enable us to have a compulsory pool in New South Wales.” The Government brought down its measure^ and forced it through the Legislative Assembly. It was carried by the casting vote of the Chairman of Committees or Deputy Speaker. It was fought right through by the representatives of country interests in the New South Wales Parliament at that time. Within a year or eighteen months at the outside a general election took place in New South Wales, and the men who had opposed that measure tooth and nail received general support, and a verdict from the country endorsing their action. Why did the general public stand behind them? It was because of the provisions in the Compulsory Acquisition Bill for the creation of a board of control of the whole of the wheat to be compulsorily acquired. That board was not to be an elective board as in the case of voluntary pools, nor an elective board such as the Australian farmers’ federal organization stands for, as mentioned this evening by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) . The board was to be a nominee board. The Minister in charge of the bill said that he was going to put on the board the same three men as had been on the previous board. There was to be the Minister, the representative of the Australian Workers Union, and a representative of the Labour party in the Upper House, and two farmers.
– Where did the consumer come in?
– That is what the Progressives in New South Wales asked the Government. They did not object to a representative of the consumers on the board, but they did object to a representative of the men who handle the wheat. They regarded them as servants of the Wheat Board, and they asked, as the honorable member for East Sydney asks, “Where is the consumers’ representative?” The bill, fortunately, never became law, because it was thrown out by the Upper House in New South Wales. Under the bill, the Government took absolute control of the wheat. It took complete charge of representation in London, and the method of handling and delivering wheat in New South Wales. The Minister openly stated that the whole of the business of selling the wheat was to be handled by Dalgety and Company. The co-operative companies,, representing 60 per cent, of the wheatfarmers of New South Wales, were set aside and rigidly excluded from any participation in the business of selling the wheat. The Minister said that there was provision made for a maximum price for wheat. He was told that if he fixed a maximum price he should fix a minimum price as well. He steadfastly refused to do this. There was no provision made that the Government should take any responsibility for any mistake made by the servants of the Wheat Board. The Government compulsorily acquired the wheat and accepted no responsibility for any loss to the growers as the result of their wheat being placed in the pool. It was urged time and time again that there should be some responsibility taken by the Government, but the Labour Government in power in New South Wales at that time contemptuously rejected all suggestions of that nature. I have given the facts, which honorable members can read for themselves in the New South Wales Hansard. To mention a compulsory wheat pool, controlled by the Government, to the wheat-growers of New South Wales is like waving a red flag before a bull. Last year the Government of Western Australia expressed its anxiety for the interests of the farmers, but it was endeavouring to look after so many other interests that the Farmers Association of that state said they would not have the pool, as the price to be paid for it was too great. They were not willing to submit to the conditions which would have been imposed on them. Today, throughout the whole of Australia, the producers want to have the final decision regarding the disposal of their produce. The policy of this Government throughout has been to so organize the producers that they will be able to control their industry as they themselves think fit, and I am satisfied that if they combine they will be able to secure for themselves that effective protection which most of our secondary industries now enjoy. If I can do anything to assist them to that end, I am prepared to do it. The producers also recognize that they cannot have government control without having hampering restrictions placed upon them. Even with voluntary pools, certain guarantees, in the nature of restrictions, are required. Another reason for the unpopularity of some of the pools is that under the system of pooling it is obligatory to retain in Australia sufficient stocks to meet local requirements. It is because of the government guarantee that this condition is imposed. Three or four months ago New South Wales could have disposed of approximately 3,000,000 bushels of wheat at a price higher than that at present rulings but it could not be done under the system of pooling then in operation, because it had to be held for local consumption. That is the price that the farmer has to pay for government assistance. It is the intention of the Government this year to try to place the producer in a position where he will be independent of government assistance. Not only would that assist the producers, but the community generally would benefit, as a continual purchasing power would be placed in the hands of the farmer, which would enable him to pay for his requirements as he needed them, and so lead to more regular employment in manufacturing and distributing industries. I urge the committee to reject the amendment by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill), as to agree to it would be to perpetuate the condition of uncertainty and chaos which has existed during the last four years. The Government is prepared to bring about a condition of affairs by which the grower will no longer be dependent upon political expediency, or the whim of a government, but will have regular, automatic, and permanent machinery provided to bring him out of all his troubles. It has done this for butter and fruit; it is prepared to do it for wheat. For the reasons, first, that it is impossible to bring about a system of compulsory pooling without very grave constitutional difficulties; second, that the conditions inseparable from any compulsory pool must interfere, with the profitable and satisfactory handling of his crop by the producer; and, third, that even if it were possible to establish a pool this year by bringing the whole of the states into line, there would be no guarantee of permanency, I urge the rejection of the amendment. In due time the Government will bring down its proposals for a proper and permanent solution of the whole of the difficulties now confronting the wheat industry, and so enable this, the second industry of the Commonwealth, to take its rightful place, and to work out its own destiny in a proper way, without fear of the future.
.- The amendment by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) practically amounts to a request to the Government to enter into negotiations with the states for the purpose of considering the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. What objection has the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to such a proposal? Although I listened to him for nearly an hour, I heard no reason advanced against it. I do not pose as an expert in this matter, but, from the facts which have been placed before me, I can see no reason for the rejection of the amendment. I understand that a large majority of the farmers of Victoria, and, indeed, of the Commonwealth, are in favour of a compulsory wheat pool. That being so, what valid objection can the Government have to it? Has the Government any objection to entering into negotiations with the states regarding the establishment of a pool? The Treasurer told us nothing. He said many things, but he gave no reason for the refusal of the Government to accede to the request of the farmers. As a member of the Country party, the Treasurer probably agrees with the party’s official organ that the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool is desirable, but as a partner in the composite Ministry, he refuses to endorse the request of his own party. If he had said that he, personally, objected to the pool, one could have understood his action, but he said nothing of the kind.
He made affirmations about various subjects, but upon the matter under discussion - whether there should or should not be a compulsory pool - he said not a single word. He stated that there was no power to establish a pool. It is strange that members of the Country party in their constituencies, and as members of farmers’ organizations, stand for a compulsory wheat pool; but no sooner are they elected to this House, and linked with the Nationalist party, which stands for the interests of big business, than they oppose all that they supported on the hustings. They excuse themselves on two grounds. The first is that the state has no power. That is the position adopted by Mr. Allan, the Premier of Victoria, who personally believes in a compulsory pool. The second reason was given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who said that the Commonwealth has no power. Is there anything more absurd than to suggest that a great country such as Australia, working under a Constitution such as we have, has not the authority to act in this manner? Personally, I do not give my endorsement to the legal opinion given. Personally, I believe that any Government is sufficiently powerful to accomplish its end in one way or another. If the farmers in the Commonwealth desire a compulsory wheat pool any government should be prepared to supply them with the requisite ways and means within the Constitution to give them what they desire. Amongst other things the Treasurer said we have, per medium of the Commonwealth Bank, rendered great assistance to the farming population of this country. The first thing the Government did, on the 1st January, was to compel the Commonwealth Bank to raise the rate of interest to 7 per cent., thus making a levy of 1 per cent, on all the producing elements of this country. He said that by this arrangement they enabled the export of the products of this country to be financed. They did. When the House was in recess they advanced millions by way of Commonwealth Bank notes to the private banking institutions at the rate of 4. per cent. - and upon these the private banks built their credit. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Bank found, the means. This Government, which is supposed to represent the country’s interests, made the Commonwealth Bank an instru- mentality of the private corporations of Australia, and gave them these notes, nominally at 4 per cent. If the Commonwealth Bank could give to the private banking institutions the ways and means to finance the export of the produce of this country, the Commonwealth Bank itself should have been able to finance those exports. The money advanced to the private banks at 4 per cent, should have been advanced by the Commonwealth Bank to the exporters at the same rate. As it was, the bank gave away this business and the profits attaching to it. The Government gave to private financial institutions the assistance which should have been directly afforded to the producers through the Commonwealth Bank. The action of the Government was a buttress to the arsenal, and enabled private institutions in this country to make money out of the primary producers by means of credit created by the Commonwealth Bank itself. That was the attitude adopted by the Government, and that is the way these people, linked up as they are with the monetary inrterests of this country, the banking corporations and export agencies, aid the’ producers. The Treasurer has the impudence to say upon public platforms throughout the Commonwealth that he represents the primary producers. But he as a member of the Government represents the monetary interests which stand behind him and his colleagues. It has been said that they take the money of the financial interests, that they obtain their aid through the newspapers, and iri return utilize their powers as a government to buttress the great private exporting agencies in this country. The question before the committee is one relating to the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool, and whether this Parliament shall support a co-operative system for those actually producing wheat. It is desired to create a large co-operative society so that producers can follow their product from the farm right through to the point of consumption, and so feel assured that, they will derive all the benefit to which they are entitled from the point of production to the stage at which it is consumed. We desire to k>now whether the producers themselves are to secure the savings so made, or are the profits to go to
Dalgety and Company Limited or other private firms, all of which make enormous profits at the expense of the producer. We wish .to know whether one of these vast exporting agencies is to do this work or whether it is to be done by the primary producers themselves. On the platforms the Treasurer and his supporters have said that, vested with political power, and having the instrument of government in their hands, they will act in the interests of the primary producers, but behind the screen of government their acts of administration and their legislation show that they are operating in the interests of the opulent in this country. That is their attitude in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank. They have made it an instrument for the exploitation of the people of this country”. I venture to say that if the Commonwealth Bank had been used as it should have been, the money would not have been advanced to private banking institutions, but the Commonwealth Bank would have been used to directly assist the producers. Instead of that, the Government have been helping those who have assisted them. Money obtained, as I have said, at 4 per cent., is advanced by the private banks to the producers of this country at 7 per cent, or 8 per cent. When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before us, how these gentlemen opposite protested against the issuing of notes in this way to private corporations ! Did not the Treasurer most emphatically state that money could not be advanced in this way to the private banks - that to do so would be a menace and danger to the community? Did not the honorable member tell us that the banks would immediately build a superstructure of credit - that with an advance of £10,000,000 in Commonwealth notes they would establish a credit of £25,000,000? That, he said, would inflate the currency, and so enormously increase prices and create disaster throughout the country. In the first place, he said it could not be done, but, driven by the pressure of the powers behind him, and with Parliament in recess, he ultimately did that which he said in this House could not, in the public interest, be done. On the floor of this House he told us, as a member of the Government and as a public man, that it could not be done, but when Parliament went into recess he began to do those things which he said could not be done. In discussing the question before the committee-
– It is about time the honorable member did that.
– The Treasurer introduced the financial aspect of the subject, and I am entitled to reply. The Treasurer brought the matter forward in order to side-track this issue, and it would have been better had he been silent, because neither on the floor of the House nor on any public platform could he justify the action taken by the Government during the recess. I should like to know whether the Treasurer really favours a compulsory pool. Is he in favour of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon? He is silent.
– I gave the honorable member a definite statement
– I ask the Treasurer if he is in favour of entering into negotiations with the states. He says that neither we nor the states can do anything.
– The states will not do anything.
– And he says this Government cannot do anything, but in future intends to do something which it cannot now do. The Treasurer says, in effect, that the Commonwealth has no power, but it intends to exercise power. It has done nothing, but it proposes to do something in the future. These honorable gentlemen representing the primary interests have done nothing, but in their dying hours, as a government, intend to do something if they do not die in the attempt. It has repeatedly been stated by honorable members opposite that neither the Commonwealth nor the states have power to create a compulsory pool, but again I say that if this Parliament makes up its mind and desires to do something, there is no constitutional difficulty in the way. There is no constitution which limits the prerogative of a great national Parliament. What it cannot do in one way it may do in another. If it has no power to legislate for a compulsory pool, it has unlimited power to deal with the imports and exports of this country. It can declare what goods shall be admitted into the country, and upon what conditions they shall he admitted, and it has unlimited constitutional power to declare what goods may go out of the country, and under what conditions and through what channels they shall go. Those powers have never been questioned. But Ministers will not give a direct answer on this question, either to us, to whom they have no responsibility, or to the farmers, to whom they have a responsibility, and to whom they must reply sooner or later. They have endeavoured to hedge round the issue with all sorts of irrelevancies. They have referred to certain Labour men who were connected with pools, and to what happened in New South Wales and in Victoria. Those are not the issues before the Committee. If I were a Minister and the Opposition submitted a proposal of this character for negotiation with the State Governments, I would say, “ Certainly, gentlemen. In order to save argument, I promise now that the Government will enter into the negotiations with the states in accordance with the demands of the farmers. I do not know whether anything can be done with regard to a compulsory pool or a voluntary pool, but to oblige you the Government will negotiate.” What real objection can be offered to such a course? If the Government desired to do anything at all, it could have stated at the outset of this discussion that it was prepared to negotiate, and there would have been no further debate and no waste of time. We have had two days of talk because the Government has not “nous” enough to undertake to negotiate. Why does it not do so? Ministers reply, “What is the use? The states will do nothing.” That is not the explanation. If Ministers really believed that the states would do nothing, they would accept with avidity the proposal to negotiate. But they are afraid that if they submit a proposal to the states it will be accepted, arid they will be put in the unfortunate position of having to retreat, explaining, as they do so, “Gentlemen of the states, we made these proposals to you, but for subterranean reasons we cannot carry them out. We cannot explain why, but the reasons are connected with funds for the forthcoming election campaign.” Excuse me if I appear to be suggesting sinister motives, but I notice that even the Prime Minister is learning these tactics. He spoke of certain members on this side of the House, probably including me, who are venomous or vicious. I admire those methods, and I urge the right honorable gentleman to take a few lessons in them, and be a little stronger, a little more vicious, a little more* venomous. Let him try what he can do. The Prime Minister will not object, I am sure, if I say that the whole time spent on this amendment has not been wasted, lt has demonstrated that the Government has no intention to do anything, because it must placate the particular interests that honorable members opposite serve. That statement is not personal; it merely focuses actual facts that confront the country. Ministers are not only a body of politicians who happen to be occupying the political stage for a time, they represent definite economic interests. Honorable members on this side of the House represent the great organizations of Labour that support them. They stand for better clothes, better homes, and better conditions for the workman. They represent the workers with all their virtues, errors, and follies. On the other hand, honorable members opposite represent the great monetary interests. There are no other interests that they can serve. They must necessarily draw their support from the Tory elements in the community, but behind them and dominating them, is a group of men, few in number, but great in wealth. Whilst we on this side of the House represent numbers with little money, honorable members opposite represent much money and relatively few people. They are the parliamentary servants of capital - the great exporting con- .cerns, the shipping companies, the banking corporations, and the large importing houses of Flinders-lane. No matter what the professions of Ministers may be, every thing the Government does is a concession to the powerful monetary interests. They throw a few crumbs to the masses, and seme bonuses to the farming community, just as an opulent highwayman collects money with one hand and with the other hand distributes largesse amongst the populace in order to gain their sympathy. In like manner did the Government dispose of the woollen mills in order to please the importers in Flinders-lane ; in like manner, it emasculated the Common- wealth Bank in the interests of the private banking corporations’. In like manner, for the protection of vested interests, it now refuses to assist in the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. That, Mr. Chairman, is my contribution to the debate. It is not much, but it is the best I can offer at this hour.
.- Having taken a keen interest in wheat pools ever since their inception, I cannot give a silent vote on the amendment. 1 appreciated the references- by the Treasurer to the political agitation and electioneering that have been associated with this question, and the endeavour to make this Parliament the mere tool of party politics. The best, simplest, and most effective wheat pool was the voluntary one in 1921, when the Government’s guarantee was administered by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. One pleasing feature of that pool was that whereas prior to its establishment motions for the adjournment of the House were moved time after time, and honorable members were constantly trying to make political capital out of the unfortunate farmer, after the business was handed over to the Commonwealth Bank the matter was not further raised in Parliament. I have always been emphatically opposed to compulsion in connexion with wheat pools, because it is not in the interest of the wheat-growers or the people generally, but I am in favour of a voluntary pool, guaranteed by the Government upon the lines that were so successful in 1921. Some honorable members think that a compulsory pool would stabilize the price of wheat and ensure, a better return to the grower. As a matter of fact, the whole wheat production of Australia is not sufficient to influence prices in the world’s markets. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) quoted statistics to support his contention that a compulsory pool would improve the lot of the grower. It would do nothing of the sort, but it might ensure to him a fair average price throughout the season. The honorable member spoke as if high prices were always obtainable at the beginning of a season. I remember that early in the nineties wheat was sold at the beginning of the season for ls. 9d. a bushel, but I held my wheat for six months and received for it 4s. 6d. a bushel. The wheat-growers should be given an opportunity to obtain a fair average price for their product, and this can best be accomplished under a voluntary pool, with a government guarantee. In the early days, when wheat prices were low, several experienced farmers in South Australia decided when the harvest was gathered to fix upon three, dates during the year on which to sell their wheat. They did this for a considerable number of years, and averaged prices higher than those obtained by any one else in the state. The struggling farmer cannot afford to hold ‘ his wheat. A guarantee under a voluntary pool would give this class of farmer” an opportunity to obtain a fair average price for his wheat, aud for that reason I favour a voluntary pool. I do not believe in compulsory pools, controlled by the Government. We had an awful example of the mismanagement of compulsory pools established during the war period. The Treasurer said a lot , about compulsory pools in New South Wales, but he did not tell the Committee that they lost a train load of wheat one night, which was never recovered. in the 1916-17 wheat pool in South Australia wheat was sold to the Imperial Government at 5s. a bushel. Owing . to the mice plague and the neglect of the wheat stacks, the farmers obtained 3s. 3d. instead of 5s. a bushel. The Government was proceeded against by a committee representing the farmers, who obtained a_ verdict in the Supreme Court of South Australia. The Government appealed to the High Courtof Australia, which reversed the decision. An appeal was then made to the Privy Council, which upset the High Court’s decision, and ordered the case to be retried by the Supreme Court of South Australia. In South Australia 99 out of 100 farmers are against government control or a compulsory pool.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill). The time has arrived when we should prevent gambling in wheat, the staple food of the people. At one time our wheat was exported from New South Wales in such large quantities that there was no seed wheat available for the following season, and supplies had to be obtained from overseas by the Government.
There surely should be some government supervision of the export of wheat. The aim of the Farmers Union is to obtain fair values for the product of the primary producer. No member of the Labour party would deny that to the farmer. Honorable members supporting the Government, in attacking the Opposition, have quoted the disabilities of compulsory pools in the matter of control in * New South Wales. The honorable member for Wannon, in moving the amendment, has simply asked the Government to state its position respecting a compulsory pool. If the Government will not give an answer, honorable members on the other side should support those who are moving for a definite policy in the distribution of wheat. The proposal is that we should release the farmers from those private interests that have had a strangle hold of them for many years. Any one connected with primary production knows that the farmers have been bled by the privately-owned “octopus” that has handled their wheat. No better suggestion has been made for overcoming the evil than ‘a compulsory wheat pool. There are persons in this community who have made fortunes out of marketing wheat and other produce, and we on this side consider that we are on solid ground in endeavouring to prevent further inroads being made into the farmer’s profits.. The public as well as the farmers will benefit by the creation of a compulsory wheat pool, as it will prevent Australia being left without supplies for her own needs. I am not a wheat-grower; I represent a large district populated by consumers, who ought to be able to purchase wheat at a price that is reasonable to them and profitable to the producer. The evil of gambling in wheat should be stopped. Not many years ago, when wheat was short in this country, a firm in Sydney sent men to Sydney Heads to warn off vessels that were loaded with wheat, and in that way prices were inflated. Any one who has knowledge of the manipulation of primary produce by private interests must agree that the present method of distribution should be superseded by a better one.
– I apologize for obtruding my views upon honorable’ members at this late hour, but as a representative of one of the largest wheat-growing districts in New South Wales, I desire to explain very briefly why I intend to vote against the amendment. Personally, I favour the principle of a compulsory pool for the Commonwealth. I am influenced in that opinion by the obvious failure of the voluntary wheat pools in practically all the states, with the exception of Western Australia, about which I know nothing, more than I have heard during this debate. It is evident that in all the states voluntary wheat, pools have been a dismal failure. In spite of splendid organization, and sympathetic Government backing, the pool that has existed -in New South Wales for the last three years is now on its last legs, and I have been reliably informed by those who control it that it is very doubtful whether it will continue much longer. When it ceases to exist the wheat-growers will be again at the mercy of private buyers. Those honorable members who have lived very long in wheat-growing districts can recall the time when the growers were under the thumb of private buyers. The high prices offered by buyers to-day are designed to kill the voluntary pools. That is recognized by the wheat-growers. The great majority of wheat-growers in New South Wales are, I think, in favour of a Commonwealth compulsory pool, and the reason why I am speaking is that I have received several requests from farmers’ organizations in my electorate to support a compulsory pool. I did mot need those requests because my opinion badlong been that the voluntary system of pooling had always been, and always would be, a failure,, because it is impossible to bring in a minority of farmers who will always stand out . in the hope of getting higher prices, regardless of the welfare of’ the majority I do not know how the proposed compulsory pool will be established,, and this debate has not enlightened me on that point. I have- been very anxious to find out how the Commonwealth should set. about creating the proposed organization. I feel sure that it can be done, but it. will require some time to do it. That brings, me to the reason why I shall vote against the amendment. I thoroughly sympathize with it, and if it, had been moved in different circumstances I should have voted for it. If it is carried it will represent a direction not from the wheatgrowers, who are the people vitally concerned, but from the Labour party in this House, to the Government to immediately take steps to create a Commonwealth wheat pool. I believe that the majority of the wheat-growers of New South Wales - I am not speaking for those in the other states - are, in the light of their experience since the war, favorable to a compulsory wheat pool, and would welcome action by the Commonwealth Parliament. But they have not taken steps to bring their wishes before Parliament. Beyond a few resolutions conveyed to me by organizations of farmers and settlers in my electorate, I have no assurance that the view I hold is shared by the majority of farmers. I am not pretending to speak on their behalf, for the two or three resolutions I have received do not entitle me to say that I speak for thousands of wheat-growers, but from what I know of their feelings, I think I am safe in saying that they are behind the opinions I am voicing. The first action should be a definite indication from the men vitally concerned that they want the Commonwealth Parliament to do what the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) suggests should be done. It is not fair for Parliament to tell the Government that it should take steps to find out what the growers want it to do. When the fruit-growers wanted a pool they took every means in their power to bring their wishes under the notice of the Government. Deputations waited upon Ministers and upon representatives in this Parliament almost daily. When tha sugar-growers wanted a pool they also took every opportunity to make their wishes known. The wool-growers are now in trouble. They want a pool. But they are not leaving it to some more or less irresponsible members of this Parliament to insist that the Government shall take action. They are acting for themselves. Until the wheat-growers bring under the notice of- the ‘ Government, through their recognized organizations, their desire for a compulsory wheat pool, I shall not vote in support of the proposal. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) submitted no evidence that he spoke on behalf of the farmers, or at the request of the recognized organizations of the farmers. He spoke for himself. Until he produces his authority to speak for the farmers’ organizations I shall not stand behind him. I do not blame him for making political capital out of this matter. He and other honorable members of his party are entitled to do so if they care to, and if they think the farmers will accept them more readily for so doing. My reason for voting against the amendment is that I deny the right of the honorable member who moved it to speak with sufficient authority to direct the Government to do as he wishes.
.- I had no intention of speaking to the amendment until the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) delivered his most remarkable speech. It is the most remarkable address that has been delivered in’ this Parliament for many sessions. He waited until late in the evening to speak, so evidently he does not desire his remarks to be reported in the press. It will probably be the duty of honorable members on this side of the chamber to let his constituents ‘know exactly what he said and how he voted. He stated definitely that the New South Wales voluntary pool had proved a failure, and was liable to collapse. He also observed that he had not the slightest doubt that a huge majority of the farmers in New South Wales were in favour of a compulsory pool. He had nothing to say about the constitutional aspect of the matter, so he is evidently quite satisfied that the Prime Minister was wrong when he said that the Government had no power to organize compulsory pools, Simply because the amendment was moved by a member of the Opposition ha is willing to play into the hands of Dalgety and Company Limited, Goldsborough, Mort, and Company Limited, and other big wheat-buying concerns. He ought to be thoroughly ashamed of hi-j weak and lame excuse for not supporting it. Although he said that the honorable member for Wannon does not represent the farmers, he will hardly deny that there is no honorable member in this chamber who knows the wishes of tfes Victorian farmers better’ than does the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). Let me remind, him, by the way, that the Victorian farmers did not ask Mr. Allan, the Victorian Premier, to organize a compulsory wheat pool. They simply asked that a vote of the farmers should be taken on the matter. The honorable member knows very well that if a vote were taken the decision would be twelve to one in favour of a compulsory pool.
– The honorable member for Wimmera does not claim to represent the farmers.
– He does represent the farmers, and he knows very well that when he fell foul of the wheat-buyers in this country he had to resign from the Ministry. I am surprised that the representatives of the wheat-growing constituencies, not only in this Parliament but also in various state Parliaments, have been so untrue to their platform promises. The example was set in Victoria. I remember when the members of the Farmers party coalesced with the members of the Labour party in this state and caused a double dissolution of the State Parliament. In the election campaign thatfollowed, the members of the Labour party went right through the industrial centres of the state and advocated the formation of a compulsory wheat pool, notwithstanding that the proposal was anything but popular with the masses, who thought that it would mean dearer bread. We risked losing seats, because we were not willing to leave the farmers to the exploitation of the big financial institutions of the country. The election resulted in the return of a majority of members who were in favour of a compulsory pool, but when the Labour party took action to organize it the farmers’ representatives proved faithless to their constituents. At the last state elections they again promised to work for a compulsory pool, but when they formed a coalition with the Nationalists and became, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) so aptly put it, part and parcel of the Nationalist party, that was the end of the compulsory wheat pool. I can well remember the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) declaring in this House that if he had a machine gun he would shoot the profiteers who were fleecing the producers of the country. Yet he has joined this Ministry. It is remarkable that three members of the. Ministry, who pre viously were strong advocates of the compulsory wheat pool, are now able to find reasons why it should not be formed. Their change of attitude means, as the honorable member for Eaglehawk, in the Victorian Parliament, declared, “ the break-up of the Farmers party.”
– Oh no.
– I do not think the honorable member for Wimmera, notwithstanding his radical tendencies, will be able to rally his forces again. The farmers have been betrayed. Even the farmer Premier in this state, who, two months ago was at a farmers’ conference which voted in favour of a compulsory pool, and who a month before that supported the Labour party in its effort to obtain a compulsory pool, has now joined forces in the State Parliament with the Nationalists, and can find reasons why a compulsory pool should not be formed. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who claim to represent the farmers in this Parliament, are also willing now to hand over their constituents to the tender mercies of the financial institutions of this country. But that is their funeral. I shall vote for the amendment, although I do not expect that it will be carried. I have very little doubt, however, that before many months are over a party will be in power in this Parliament which will take the necessary action to provide for the compulsory marketing of wheat.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. McNeill’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question resolved in the negative.
– I desire to avail myself of this opportunity to refer to certain features of the administration of the Northern Territory. I shall show that that administration is not in accordance with the ordinances dealing with the selection of officers, in that partiality has been exercised. One of the most capable men, and one of the best officers that the Territory has had, is Captain Bishop, Chief Veterinary Officer and Stock Inspector, and in view of the fact that he is the head of a department-
– I am at a loss to know how the honorable member intends to connect his remarks with the item “ The Parliament.” His observations are more applicable to the part relating to the Home and Territories Department, which will be under consideration at a later stage.
– I take it that the first item in the schedule to a Supply Bill allows an honorable member considerable latitude, and this is my only opportunity to bring under notice the matters that I wish to discuss. Later on I shall be confined to specific subjects, and shall be de barred from speaking on some of the items on which I now wish to touch.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member will be able to deal more properly with matters relating to the Northern Territory when the Committee is considering Part V. “The Home and Territories Department.” The question is “That Part I., ‘ The Parliament, £11,486 ‘ be agreed to.”
– I rise to a point of.” order. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) desires to exercise his right, as a member of thiscommittee, to express certain views underthe first item. It has been the recog nized practice of all parliaments that on the first item in Committee of Supply an honorable member may debate broadly the administration of the government, if by your ruling you deprive the honorablemember for the Northern Territory of that right,you will violate a vital principle governing the procedure of Parliament. This is a right that honorable members have possessed for hundreds of years. It has come down to this Parliament from the Mother of Parliaments - the House of Commons of Great Britain. I hope that you, sir, will reflect upon the serious consequences of your decision, and realize that on this item a general discussion may take place. We have alreadyhad upon an amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) a discussion relating to the - establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. That subject has no reference to Part I., “ The Parliament,” but the discussion was made possible because of the wellestablished practice that honorable members may, under the first item, discuss the whole gamut of government.
-I think that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is under a misapprehension, inasmuch as he has in mind the general discussion that usually takes place upon the first item of the Estimates. We are now in committee on a bill, and are discussing a specific item, onwhich the honorable member for Wannon previously moved as an amendment, “That the amount be reduced by £1,” for a certain definite purpose. After that amendment had been defeated, and when the main question was put to the committee, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) began to speak. on matters relating purely to the Northern Territory, And having no connexion whatever with Part I., “ The Parliament.” I pointed out to him that his remarks would more properly be made on Part V., ‘’ Department of Home and Territories.” I wish the honorable member for Dalley to realize that at no time have I curtailed the rights of -the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– I contend that as it was competent for an honorable member of the committee to move on this item an amendment relating to wheat, it is competent for me to discuss other phases of the Government’s activities. The Northern Territory is as much an acitvity of the Government as a wheat pool would be. I maintain that my remarks would be quite, in order at the present stage.
– I have pointed out to the honorable member that his privileges will not be curtailed in the slightest degree. Under Part V., “Department of Home and Territories,” he can deal with any phase of Northern Territory administration, but under Part I., “The Parliament,” he would not be in order in so doing.
– I now wish to avail myself of the opportunity to have a general discussion on the administration of the Northern Territory.
– Under this item any matter that is extraneous to the Parliament can be discussed only by an honorable member moving an amendment, as was done by the honorable member for Wannon.
– May I point out that in dealing with the Northern Territory, one cannot confine oneself to a particular department. In the Northern Territory there is administration by the Postal Department, the Department of Works and Railways, and the Department of Defence, in addition to the Department of Home and Territories.
– I allowed the honorable member a certain amount of latitude, because I hoped that he would connect his remarks with the Parliament. As the representative in this Parliament of the Northern Territory, I thought that he intended to speak along those lines, but as he dealt with matters in general, I suggested to him that he should await the time when the committee was dealing with Part V. “ Department of Home and Territories.”
– As, in the last analysis, this Parliament is .responsible for all administration, I contend that the time is now most opportune for >me to discuss the matters that I wish to raise. I therefore ask you to allow me to proceed with my r cm 3,1*1^3
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have pointed out to the honorable member that he must confine himself to the discussion of something that closely affects the Parliament. I assure him that under Part V. “ Department of Home and Territories “ he will be free to speak as he desires.
– I feel sure that it is the desire of every honorable member that we should observe a proper and orderly procedure. There is, of course, the established rule that on the first item of the Estimates a general discussion may take place. The reason for that is that in the Estimates there is no other appropriate place for a general discussion. The committee is now discussing a Supply Bill, and has reached a stage subsequent to that at which a general discussion may take place. I am sure that the honorable’ member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) will readily agree that, on the motion for the second reading of this measure, no limitation was imposed upon the right of any honorable member to fully discuss it. Similarly, now, there is no limitation of the right to discuss any particular department when that department is before the committee. The only way in which an extraneous matter can be’ introduced is to move that the amount of the item be reduced. That course would not suit the honorable member for the Northern Territory, because, if he adopted it, he would be limited to a discussion of the reasons for the specific reduction. I suggest that the recognized practice of Parliament will be observed, and that the honorable member will have full latitude to bring up any matter affecting the Northern Territory, if he refrains from proceeding with his remarks at this stage.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory fears that if he is not now allowed to speak a precedent may be established, and a recognized custom departed from.
– Oh, no !
– Parliament is always jealous of its rights, and does not care to have them interfered with. The Prime Minister has admitted that a general discussion may take place on the first item of a money bill.
– No. I said that a general discussion may take place on the first item of the Estimates. In the case- of this bill,, the proper place for £he general discussion was on the motion that the bill be read a second time.
Thursday, 25 June 1925
– The right honorable gentleman may twist the matter in any way that he chooses, but he cannot convince me that the practice is not to allow a general discussion at the stage which this bill has reached. I think that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, would display correct taste if you reviewed your ruling, and allowed the old custom to be observed. No honorable member who fails to> stand up for his rights is worthy of a place in Parliament. To attempt to remove from any honorable member ‘the rights which he undoubtedly possesses is a serious thing, and I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to allow the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) to continue.
– The Chair cannot accede to the request of ‘the honorable member. It has one duty to perform, namely, to- conduct the business of the committee in the proper way.
– If the object of the Chair is to facilitate business, the present occupant is not going the right way about it. I have rights in this chamber which I do not intend to waive, and I have other means of getting what I desire. If I am forced to do so, I shall move for the reduction of the amount, so that I may proceed with my speech.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have already informed the honorable member that under Part V., “ Home and Territories Department,” he can speak as he wishes with regard to the Northern Territory. I point out that the Chair is not curtailing the honorable member’s privileges in any way, but is simply asking him, together with other honorable members, to conform to the practice of Parliament.
– In view of your ruling, I presume that I may now continue my remarks.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Not in connexion with item 1.
– Should I be in order if I moved that the question be now put!’
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No.
– Then, I move-
That Divisions 1 to 8 - “ The Parliament, £11,486- be reduced by 10s.”
I do this with the object of drawing the attention of the committee to the rotten administration of the Northern Territory.
– Order ! The Chair cannot accept a motion couched in such terms.
– In that case, I shall substitute the word “ maladministration “ for the words, “rotten administration.”-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable member please present his motion in writing?
– Mr.. Bayley -
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN;.There is no motion before the Chair. .
– On a point of order. This ruling is astounding. Are you, Mr Bayley, really serious in your ruling that the honorable member who received the call from you must submit the motion in writing before he can proceed with his speech ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for the Northern Territory has signified his intention of moving that this vote be reduced by 10s., and the Chair is waiting to see what the motion really is. At present, there is nothing before the committee.
– May I point out that there can be nothing at all beyond the main question before the committee until you have stated another question to the committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable member be seated?
– I wish to take excep-tion to your ruling, and intend to exercise my privileges as a member. It has been the invariable practice that the honorable member who receives the call from the Chair may intimate his intension of moving an amendment upon certain lines, but he does not move his amendment until he has concluded his speech,when he submits it in writing. The Chairman then states the question. Until that has been done there is nothing before the Committee beyond the main question. There can be no amendment before the Committee until it is stated from the Chair. I contend that you are wrong in asking that the motion be submitted in writing at this stage.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for the Northern Territory has already stated his motion, and I have requested that it be handed in in writing.
The amendment having been submitted in writing, and the question stated,
– With a view to demonstrating the maladministration in connexion with the Northern Territory, I desire to quote section 13 (1) of the Public Service Ordinance of the Northern Territory, which reads -
No person shall be admitted to the Public Service of the Northern Territory unless he is a natural born or a naturalized British subject, and has submitted satisfactory evidence as to the date of his birth, sound bodily health and freedom from physical defects, and possesses good character.
I desire particularly to emphasize the necessity for a person appointed to the Public Service possessing a good character, as that section of the ordinance has not been adhered to in the case of the appointment to one of the most responsible offices in the Northern Territory. I refer to the position of Government Secretary, the occupant of which is the permanent head of all the departments in the Territory. I want to know why the Minister did not comply with the terms of the ordinance in connexion with the appointment of the officer referred to. I point out that this officer was relieved of his command in the 37th Battalion after the Battle of Messines as the result of an inquiry into his conduct, and the manner in which he behaved under fire. He was practically cashiered out of the Army. Subsequently, because of some big “pull” which he possessed, he received employment in the delousing depot, and, later, with the Comforts Fund Department, where he was again court martialled for selling to French civilians goods belonging to the comforts fund. Were all these facts taken into consideration when the filling of the vacant office was under consideration? There is ample evidence available in Melbourne as to the character of this man, and it is astounding that he should have received the appointment.
I have also before me a list of disqualifications and suspensions decided upon by the Western Australian Turf Club. The list sets out the names of all individuals who have been warned off the various race-courses in Western Australia. Among the names is that of A. C. Braham, and the particulars concerning him are as follows : -
By whom disqualified. - The Western Australian Turf Club.
Date of disqualification. - 17th August, 1921.
Form of disqualification. - Warned off.
Offence. - Defaulting bettor.
I desire the Minister to ascertain if this person is identical with a man recently appointed Crown Law Officer for the Northern Territory. As it is provided in the ordinance that proof of character must be supplied in connexion with such an appointment, it should be an easy matter for the Minister to ascertain if the person appointed is the one to whom I have referred. Such officers would naturally bring the administration in Darwin into contempt.
– I presume the honorable member can submit proof of his statement.
– I can give absolute proof of what I am saying by producing witnesses in Melbourne and supplying all the necessary details. I have mentioned these cases in order to show the justification for the complaints I have made, and how essential it is that persons not only of ability, but also of good character, shall be selected to administer the affairs of the Territory. If the greatest care is not exercised one cannot wonder if the conditions there become chaotic. Any one opposing the views of the Administration is immediately pounced upon and victimized.
I desire also to direct the attention of the Minister to the treatment meted out to Captain Bishop, at present the veterinary officer for the Northern Territory, and who, in view of the fact that the
Territory is essentially a cattle country, is one of its most important officers. Captain Bishop is spoken of as an exceptionally capableofficer by the pastoralists in theNorthern Territory, but unfortunately more than half of his time is spent in performing clerical work which could be undertaken by a third or fourth-grade clerk. In these circumstances he is unable to perform necessary work in the outback country. He is also in the unenviable position of having his requirements in the matter of increments reduced by one-half in order, it is assumed, to compel him to resign his position. It is understood that this action has been taken by the authorities merely because he will not become a party to the maladministration of the Territory. He has been in the service of the Commonwealth for ten and a half years, four and a half of which were spent on active service. His remuneration is £675 per annum, but had he been paid the increment to which he is entitled he would be receiving £750, which amount is paid to other officers of a similar grade sent to the Territory by the Department of Works and Railways to supervise road construction. This action is supported by men whose names appear on the racing calendar and who are not permitted to enter any race-course in Western Australia. If the A. C. Braham referred to in tho report is the same person, I do not think the legal fraternity in the Northern Territory would, if acquainted with the facts, have allowed him to occupy tho position to which he has been appointed. The charges I have made warrant the appointment of a select committee to conduct a thorough investigation into the appointment, and I am quite prepared to substantiate all I have said if such a course is adopted.
Mr.McGRATH (Ballarat) [12.19 a.m.]. - As honorable members are aware, the police strike in Victoria was caused by the appointment of spies and pimps, and I am sorry to learn that persons have been appointed by the PostmasterGeneral to perform similar work. The postal service in Ballarat is seething with discontent because letter carriers who spend what is considered too long a time indelivering correspondence are charged with incurring unnecessary delay, but as five or six weeks sometimes elapse before the charge is laid, it is then impossible for the official to explain why the delay occurred. At present the letter carriers are collecting names for the electoral rolls, and there may be a variety of reasons to justify delay. I suggest that the Postmaster-General make the fullest inquiries because some of the letter carriers have already been reported and inquiries held.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the highly important decision of the High Court yesterday in the case of the Union Steamship Company versus the Commonwealth. The Court upheld the contention of counsel for the company that the provisions of the Colonial Laws Validity Act apply to the Commonwealth, and that the provisions of the Navigation Act concerning the engagement and discharge of seamen are invalid, being repugnant to those of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Acts. We do not know how far-reaching that decision maybe; it may render invalid much of ourlegislation. We were under the impression that this Parliament had power under the Constitution to legislate in regard to. navigation, but an Imperial act of 1865’ has been resurrected, under which any law which is repugnant to an Imperial statute may be declared invalid. This’ Parliament is placed in a peculiar position, and our rights as a self-governing people may be seriously limited. I ask the Prime Minister to let the House have at the earliest opportunity a considered opinion upon the effect of this judgment.
– I am at one with the
Leader of theOpposition as to the necessity oif examining very closely the position created by the judgment to whichhe has referred. I do not think that he was influenced by the bearing of that decision upon a section of our Navigation Act so much as by its bearing upon our Commonwealth legislation generally. The right of the Commonwealth to pass the Navigation Act was exhaustively considered in advance by a royal commission, and honorable members generally were under the impression that the difficulties which had been feared had been removed. The decision come to by the High Court yesterday merits the closest examination of the Commonwealth authorities - a consideration that it will receive as soon as possible, in order that we may know exactly where we stand. If there is English legislation which improperly limits our rights of self-government, it will be the duty of this Parliament to take steps for the removal of that limitation, and I am confident that the British Parliament will readily passany measure that may be needed to restore rights which we have always thought we possessed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.27 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 June 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250624_reps_9_110/>.