11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. M. CAMERON, as Chairman, presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed establishment of telephone communication between Perth and the Eastern States.
Ordered to be printed.
– The Prime Minister informed the House last week that during the Western Australian Centenary Celebrations the cruiser Canberra will visit the State, to represent the Australian Navy. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is possible to arrange for at least one of the new submarines to accompany the Canberra ? The people of Western Australia would be extremely interested if they were given an opportunity to see one of the new submarines and so keep in touch with the latest developments in the navy.
– The original request was that the whole of the fleet unit should visit Western Australia during the Centenary Celebrations. That was found to be impossible; the best arrangement the Government could make was for the sending of one cruiser. I shall again discuss the matter with the Minister for Defence, but I can hold out little hope that the representation of the Navy will be increased.
– Has the Prime Minister received any official information of the termination of the Reparations Conference? If so, will he make a statement to the House on the subject?
– An official cable which has just been received advises us that an agreement was reached at the Hague Conference in the early hours of yesterday morning between Great Britain and the other powers interested in the German reparation payments. By that agreement the distribution of the German annuities under the Youngplan is readjusted in a manner favorable to the British Empire. The average annual share of the British Empire for the next 87 years is increased to approximately £22,400,000, of which approximately £4,700,000 will be paid from the “unconditional” annuity payable by Germany.
– Under the heading “This Eulogy” the Daily Telegraph Pictorial of to-day publishes anarticle which refers to the Attorney-General and says inter alia -
This “boosting” of a member of the Bruce Cabinet is from official quarters at Canberra. It is paid for out of the public funds. It is part of the expenditureof which Dr. Page’s taxation victims complain.
Will the Prime Minister confirm or deny that statement? If it is true, will he inform the House from what funds this expenditure is made!
– I have not seen the article which the honorable member has quoted, but I assure him that no public funds of the. Commonwealth are used for the purpose of political propaganda by the parties supporting the Government.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table for perusal of honorable members his memorandum to Cabinet recently referred to in this House, in which he outlined his ideas on arbitration?
asked the Minister in charge of Repatriation, upon notice -
– The questions raised by the honorable member will receive consideration and replies will he furnished as early as possible.
Mason’s Contract - Commissioners’ Emoluments
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
What have been the total payments to each of the members of the Federal Capital Commission from the establishment of the Commission to 30th June, 1929?
– The amounts are as follow : -
These figures include salaries, fees and travelling expenses only.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
Will he give consideration to the necessity for amending the War Service Homes Act in order that applicants may have their applications dealt with where such applications exceed £950?
– This is now being done, and I hope to be in a position to inform the honorable member fully in respect of this matter within the next day or two.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a replywill be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
What has been the estimated increase in population in (a) the town of Ayr, and (b) the Ayr district during the last ten years?
– The information is being obtained, and will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– I am making inquiries into the matter, and shall advise the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Pig Farm - Government -Workmen’s Cottages
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
When will the Government announce its intentions regarding the future government of the Federal Capital Territory?
– It is not possible at present to indicate a definite date. The matter is still under consideration.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he furnish the following information : -
The number of workmen’s cottages that have been built in the Federal Capital Territory for married men, giving particulars as to size of cottage, number of rooms and dimensions of same, also rent charged; also stating whether rates are paid by occupier and, if so, what rates and the amount of same?
The number of cubicles built for single workmen in the Federal Capital Territory, giving size, number of rooms, weekly rent; also stating whether rates are paid by the occupier, and, if so, what rates and the amount of same?
– Inquiry will be made into the cost of obtaining this information, and I shall then consider the questions of the honorable member.
Effect of Imported Printed Matter
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Saving in Expenditure.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
If the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is repealed, will any saving be effected in administration, and, if so, can he give an approximate idea of the amount?
– The estimated saving for the current year is approximately £10,500. It is not possible at present to make any statement as to the ultimate saving.
Operation of Crimes Act
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the protracted “ lockout “ of working miners from the northern coal-fields of New South Wales is prejudicing or threatening trade and commerce with other countries and among the States, will he consider the expediency of putting into immediate operation the section of the Crimes Act relating to industrial disturbances, lockouts and strikes ?
– The lockouts and strikes referred to in the Crimes Act are lockouts and strikes in relation to employment in or in connexion with the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States or in relation to employment in connexion with the provision of any public service by the Commonwealth. (See section 30 j (2), Crimes Act 1914-1926.) These provisions, therefore, do not apply to strikes or lockouts in the coal industry.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Can he inform the House what is the difference in the cost of administration of government at Canberra as compared with the cost of administration when the Government was administered from Melbourne?
– I am having information prepared, and hope to be in a position to reply to the honorable member’s question shortly.
Duties and Salary of Director
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) asked me whether I could now furnish him with information as to the cost to the Commonwealth of the British Economic Mission, and I told him that I thought the information had been supplied to him. I regret to find that the question has not been answered, and I now desire to inform the honorable member that the cost of the mission to the Commonwealth, to date, is £9,722, and is shown on page 34 of the budget papers, 1929-30, presented to this House by the right honorable the Treasurer on the 22nd August. There are a few outstanding accounts, but it is not anticipated that, when these have been met, the total expenditure will exceed £10,000.
.- I move-
That, in the opinion of this House, steps should be taken to induce the States to agree to an amendment of the Constitution which would permit of an Australian organization with complete sectional control of internal and external marketing of each rural product by the producers of such commodity.
I think that all honorable members will agree that those interested in primary production hope that something will be done to bring about the co-operation of the conflicting rural organizations that are established in the various States of the Commonwealth, and that the producers may receive not only a fitting reward for their toil, but also a stability of markets that is denied them under the conditions operating to-day. The limitation of Commonwealth and State powers set out in the Constitution precludes any co-operation of the rural organizations in the several States. The object of the motion is, therefore, to improve the conditions of the primary producer by removing the constitutional barriers that exist to-day, so that a complete organization of rural production in Australia may be brought about, and the marketing of rural commodities placed in the hands of the producers themselves.
I trust that this House will give its support to the motion, which, before it could be given effect, would necessarily have to be approved by the Commonwealth and State Governments and the people of Australia. It is hoped that by amending the Constitution, the organized regulation and control of the marketing of each product at home and abroad will be made possible. To-day a Federal organization may, at the request of the producers, be established under Federal export control boards. That may be done under the Constitution so far as our exports are concerned. Unfortunately, however, the Constitution does not confer upon this Parliament the power to establish an all-Australian organization, whose duty it would be to ensure to the primary producer a fair return for his product within Australia. Such an organization would prove advantageous, not only to the primary producer, but also to the whole of the consumers in the Commonwealth. I should fail to do justice to the motion if I did not emphasize the very great advantage that this organization would be to Australia in the direction of placing our primary producers on a sound footing, and enabling them to estimate with some degree of accuracy the return they were likely to receive from their labours.
The national and economic advantages that would accrue are apparent to any person who will give the matter consideration. When the primary producers are prosperous there is resultant prosperity throughout Australia. If the existing conditions are allowed to continue very many sections of our primary producers must inevitably go to the wall. A perusal of the returns relating to agricultural production in recent years reveals an appreciable decline on account of the absence of an equitable marketing scheme, and the fact that the proportion of profit of the producers has been altogether inadequate. Experience has proved that the setting up of an organization to control the marketing of primary production has re-acted beneficially to the whole of the people. It is not my wish that the Commonwealth should take from the States any power that they at present possess. This power is not now held by either the States or the Commonwealth. If the Constitution were to be amended in the direction suggested, those who are engaged in the production of any commodity could be asked to state whether they desired that the marketing of that commodity should be controlled by a Federal board. Where such control has been exercised it has proved beneficial, and its advantages have been manifested; and no form of control is more advantageous than that which is exercised directly by the producers. I do not suggest for a moment that outsiders should be appointed to these boards. Those who are engaged in producing a particular commodity are best able to handle and control it. The benefits that would accrue to the people of the Commonwealth must be apparent to those who have considered the position. . Undoubtedly, the elimination of the present cut-throat competition between the States must be beneficial.
– I presume it is the intention of the honorable member that boards should be created only at the instigation of a majority of those who are engaged in the production of any commodity ?
– That is so. In the year 1927-28 the value of our production, in round figures, was, from agriculture £84,000,000, from the pastoral industry £125,000,000, and from dairying, poultry, &c., £50,000,000, a total of £259,000,000. A truer appreciation of the value of that production is gained when we consider that the value of the production of our manufacturing industries is £158,000,000. We concern ourselves a great deal about our secondary industries; and rightly so. Money is spent in an endeavour to foster them, and legislation is passed to ensure that manufacturers and employees shall receive an adequate return. Therefore, it is surely fair for me to press for an amendment of the Constitution which will give the primary producers power to form organizations for the marketing of their products to the best advantage. If such power were granted it would not be to the detriment of other sections of the community. Commodity boards could be formed with representation on an Australian bureau of agriculture when necessary. It would enable them to utilize to the greatest advantage the services of the Bureau of Science and Industry, to collect necessary information regarding the condition of the industry and the markets, and so to regulate the industry as to have it operating at its greatest efficiency. It would enable the organizations of primary producers to give invaluable advice to State and Commonwealth governments as to the best way of placing immigrants and others on the land so that they would not be set to producing commodities for which there was no market.
A great trouble in the past has been that governments have placed settlers on farms to produce goods that could not be sold. There is no intention to withhold produce from the markets, but it is economically unsound to place settlers on the land to produce a commodity for which, when the local demand is supplied, there is no profitable market for the exportable surplus. I have reached my present opinion on this subject as the result of years of experience in the agricultural, dairying and grazing industries. I know the hardships with which rural dwellers have to contend, the difficulties they have to overcome, and the disappointments which so often follow upon their labours. In 1925 I moved, in the Parliament of Queensland, a motion having the same object as that which we are now discussing, and in 1927 I was instrumental in securing the adoption of this objective in the programme of a very important organization throughout Australia - the Federal Country party. I am convinced that, . as a result of their experience with the Paterson scheme of butter control, the primary producers of Australia would eagerly welcome this proposal.
– If a referendum were held the wider powers asked for might be refused.
– They might, but if this House adopts the proposal it will go a long way towards ensuring it a favorable reception by the electors.
– It is a very socialistic proposal.
– I do not care what it is if it will do good. I do not think it is socialistic, however, because it is proposed to place in the hands of the primary producers control of their own products. That is not socialistic.
– Co-operation is a phase of socialism.
– But this is a commonsense form of co-operation, and as such would be of great value to the community. Under the Paterson scheme the producers, by a voluntary arrangement, secured control of the marketing of their product, but such voluntary agreements are not possible in many of the rural industries. Organized marketing and control would be of value in practically all our rural industries. Whether it be wool, wheat, beef, maize, cotton, or any other product, those engaged iii its production would be likely to secure better results if they and their industry were organized on a proper basis. The wheat-growers are already fully alive to this fact, and other producers are coming to realize it. Australia has achieved federation, and it is now time that it was made possible for the primary producers, upon whom we rely so much for the development of our country, to organize themselves for the expansion and control of their industries. At present that is denied them.
– The honorable member means that the Government denies this right to the producers.
– No,’ the Government does not deny it. It is denied by the Constitution.
– The Solicitor-General of Queensland has stated that there is ample power under the Constitution for such organizations to be formed.
– Let those who believe that such powers exist come forward and prove it, I maintain that there is no such power, and I have as my authority the legal opinion at the disposal of the governments of Australia. You could not compel the minority to obey the board decided upon by the majority under the present Constitution.
– Would a compulsory wheat pool meet the honorable member’s idea of the best way of marketing wheat?
– That would be the wheat-growers’ business. I do not propose to go into details; I am merely stating the general principle. I do not, for a moment, suggest that producers should be compelled to market their products in any particular way. That would wreck the whole scheme.
– I take it that the honorable member would be willing to leave it to the producers to decide how their products should be marketed?
– That is so. Since I have said so much regarding the possibilities of this scheme, it should be conceded that it is well worthy of adoption. It would make possible a sound adjustment of the problems of production, and also the application of science to industry in a way that is not practicable at present. If each commodity were organized under a commodity marketing board, with control vested entirely in those who depend upon these commodities for their livelihood, we should have the safest control. Such boards would be the guardians of the produce entrusted to them, and would have full internal and external marketing powers over it. They would be in a position to estimate yields, organize the distribution of the produce, and make the necessary arrangements for storage. They could assist in the standardization of samples most favorable to local conditions; and could aid in reducing the cost of production, by assistance and advice as to machinery and harvesting. I firmly believe that the existence of these boards would make it practicable for us to make profitable agreements with other countries of the world. They would certainly enable us to do a great deal more in this regard within the Empire.
Before we can reach a very high level of success in inter-empire marketing, we must make agreements with the producers of the sister Dominions with the object of protecting ourselves as well as of assisting them. Only by this intensely developed system of marketing shall we be able to secure the best return for our commodities. The “ organization of our industries on economic lines is essential to substantial prosperity, and it would eliminate the risk of the disappointments which so often occur to-day. Honorable members who have taken an interest in this subject realize the potentialities of the scheme, and I trust that it will be practicable for us at no distant date to secure an amendment of the Constitution to give effect to it. If this Parliament gives an affirmative vote on the motion, it will exert a powerful influence towards the securing of the consent of the State Parliaments and the people of Australia to the granting of the necessary powers to the Commonwealth. No one can estimate the value to our primary industries of the complete organization I have in mind for the internal distribution of our goods as well as the distribution of the exportable surplus in the markets of the world.
– I have pleasure in seconding the motion. I do not propose to deal with the points which have been so ably debated by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser). I do not share the honorable member’s optimism about the willingness of the State Parliaments to surrender to the Commonwealth the power necessary to give effect to this scheme. Although there can be no question as to the soundness of the case which he has made out for clothing this Parliament with full and complete power over trade and commerce, I feel that the proposition is not within the realm of practical politics to-day. The great majority of people in Australia are quite convinced, in my opinion, that our Constitution is at least 28 years behind the times. In these circumstances there is every reason why this Parliament, before it expires by effluxion of time, should be given an opportunity to deal with the subject of a revision of the Constitution.
– The honorable member is optimistic if he thinks that we shall be afforded that opportunity.
– It is high time that we considered this extremely important subject. If the life of this Parliament expires before we have done so, I shall no longer be an optimist. I have been a member of this House for six or seven’ years. During that time we have talked continually about the necessity for constitutional amendment; but we have never come to close grips with the subject. I hope that we shall do so before very long. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) gave a number of reasons why the Government should concern itself with the urgent necessity for doing something along the lines he has suggested, whether the State Parliaments are or are not willing to surrender the necessary powers. It may be that the State authorities are in a more chastened mood now than some months ‘ ago, when they were invited to surrender certain other and more extensive powers; but I fear that it is not so, and that, if we ask for this grant of power, we shall be met with a point-blank refusal, as we were when we made the previous request. In the event of such a request being declined, the people of Australia should be asked to agree to an amendment of the Constitution along the lines suggested. It is utterly impossible for this Parliament to embark on the great project outlined by the honorable member, unless it is clothed with greater powers.
I do not think any honorable member will contest the soundness of the case made out by the mover of the motion. The problem that faces us is how to give effect to his proposals, with the object of making this primary productive millenium a reality. I strongly favour the taking of another referendum of the people. I take no notice of the referendums that have been held in the past, and feel that we ought to make still another strong appeal to the electors to clothe this Parliament with fuller power. The State Parliaments are becoming mere fluctuating political circumstances, and public opinion on this important question cannot be represented adequately in that sphere of politics. Unfortunately, however, the Commonwealth Parliament, instead of fulfilling its promise of developing into a great national institution, is gradually degenerating into a mere echo of State rights. If the opinion of the people were tested regarding State rights, it would be found that a number of honorable members who pose as champions of those rights are political back numbers.
– That comes well from a representative of a big State.
– We cannot handicap the Commonwealth all the time because of the smaller States. In my opinion, the larger States are dragging them along at a much faster rate than they would be able to go if left to themselves. There is much in the argument of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser). The great problem of primary production is not due so much to the high cost of operations on the land as to disorganization among the producers. The same difficulty as confronts secondary production faces primary production, and it is caused by inefficiency in organization. In the last 25 years, the primary producer has made tremendous strides forward. I read a statement in a newspaper recently that the methods of our producers bear no comparison with those of producers in Great Britain, which are at least 200 years behind the times. If an Australian shearer saw how sheep were shorn in the Old Country, he would die laughing. It must be admitted that the dairying industry is the only primary industry in Australia that is properly organized, and this is due to the Paterson scheme, by which its author will be remembered for all time. That scheme has placed the butter industry on its feet.
– What about dried fruits ?
– I think that the organization of that industry is very weak.
– It is the best-organized primary industry in Australia.
– In the last few years we have had ample evidence in this House of the lack of organization. Not long ago, we were besieged by deputations from South Australia, asking for the continuance of the wine bounty. During the last twelve months we had a similar deputation from the tobacco-growers, and the rice-growers complained that they were burdened with many tons of rice that they could not get rid of, although it was the best in the world. In Melbourne, deputations from producers of dried fruits drew our attention to certain problems that were apparently due to lack of organization. Then we have the lucerne-growers whom the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is trying to organize in New
South Wales to-day. Consider, too, the position of the potato-growers. I represent one of the largest potato-growing districts in Australia, ana a number of these producers complained recently that, when the price of their commodity rose to £20 a ton, there was immediately a great agitation in the large cities to prevent the growers from obtaining anything like that price. There was a threat of a boycott. They pointed out that in ordinary seasons they received about £4 a ton, a price which hardly gave them a reasonable margin over the cost of production, and when, owing to a shortage in the crop, there was a chance of their getting a good price, an effective effort was made in the cities to bring the price down. I was told that the growers were at the mercy of the speculators, who interviewed growers on their farms. The growers demanded £20 a ton, and they were offered a cash price of £16 a ton. I was informed that, if the growers had only been in a position to hold their supplies, they would have received £25 a ton before the end of the season.
Efforts are frequently made in New South Wales, and, I believe, also in Victoria, to establish compulsory wheat pools. A ballot was narrowly defeated in my State owing entirely to the lack of organization on the part of the growers, and the presence of organization on the part of the wheat speculating interests, who, it is said, spent £25,000 in propaganda to defeat the proposal. Another ballot will be held in New South Wales on the 1st September, and the same interests are again actively endeavouring to prevent the establishment of a compulsory pool. Even if the majority of the New South Wales growers voted on the 1st September for such a pool, it would not be of much assistance to them, because it would be confined to one State. The men who are the “ live wires “ in the industry think that unless the pool is Australian wide, it will not be of great benefit to the growers, and, of course, there is the eternal problem due to this Parliament’s lack of power to take effective action. It could do this if it could induce the State Parliaments to pass enabling legislation; but that is a roundabout and troublesome method, and I doubt whether it would undertake the task of bringing about an agreement between the four wheatgrowing States. The industry is efficient in many respects; but it is not politically efficient, because this Parliament has to go to the States in a roundabout, muddling fashion, and induce them to do what the Commonwealth legislature should have authority to do in a night. If it had the power to establish an Australianwide compulsory wheat pool,I believe that the vast majority of the wheat-growers would throw up their hats with delight. They have no particular objection to Australian pools; but they have not complete faith in State pools.
– Voluntary pools, with competition, have proved most successful.
– That is so, and they were lucky to obtain the money required to finance their operations. We had a voluntary pool in New South Wales, and, at one time, 50 per cent. of the growers were induced to join it; but today the growers are, as before, at the mercy of the speculators. A good deal was heard about the value of competition amongst the speculators, and the outcome of that competition was that the growers received the lowest prices they had obtained since the late war. The establishment by this Parliament of an Australianwide compulsory pool would meet with the approval of at least 90 per cent. of the wheat growers in New South Wales. The danger of the defeat of the poll to be held next month lies in the fact that the growers have no faith in the State pool. I believe that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) has made out a good case for the wheat industry; but there is no chance of its success if this Parliament has to go to the State legislatures cap in hand, get them into a sufficiently good humour to agree to the proposal, and then base an Australianwide organization on practically a voluntary system. I think that the Parliament should have full power to establish any organization it thinks fit to deal with internal trade or commerce. It would then be able to provide such terms and conditions for the various primary industries, according to their circumstances, that the producers would have greater confidence in legislation of that nature than they have to-day. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
I hope that it will be carried, if merely as a gesture showing our opinion on this all-important problem of primary production.
– I address myself to this motion with a good deal of pleasure, because the party to which I belong has a fine country policy, and anything calculated to help the primary producers throughout Australia to obtain improved marketing conditions always meets with the approval of honorable members on this side. I am also glad to discuss the matter because I am the representative of a large primary producing electorate. The speech we have heard from the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) is a serious reflection upon the present composite Ministry, and upon anti-Labour Governments in the federal sphere, because, since 1916, such governments have been in power in the Commonwealth, and have done absolutely nothing to bring about an improved system of marketing for primary producers.
– I moved in that direction in the Queensland Parliament, and the Labour Party opposed a motion couched in terms similar to the present proposal.
– I shall remind the honorable member later what he and others in the Queensland Parliament said when the greatest scheme ever launched by a party for the organization of primary production on co-operative and non-party lines, was propounded by the Queensland Labour Party, under the leadership of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore).
– And given effect.
– Yes ; and for party political reasons the Nationalist Party in that State did all it could to defeat the proposal. It tried to damn the scheme with faint praise, and some of its members strongly condemned it.
– I thought this was to be a peaceful debate.
– I hope that it will be; but I object to the electors having their “ legs pulled “. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) moved in Melbourne for a reduction of duties on farming implements, because certain pressure was brought to bear upon him by freetraders outside; but since then he has secured a seat in the Ministry, and we have heard nothing from him on the matter although the duties are now higher.
– He ran away from the division.
– Yes. This motion is so much political humbug. I am not referring to any individual. Since 1923 the affairs of the Commonwealth have been controlled by a ministry half the members of which belong to the so-called Country party. They came into this Parliament claiming that their hearts were bleeding for the primary producers who were being fleeced by representatives of big business and speculators. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) who was president of the Victorian Farmers Union, declared on one occasion that he would not be found dead in a forty-acre paddock with the Nationalists. He and his colleagues roundly condemned the Nationalist party, the members of which, they said, represented speculators and profiteers. But as soon as these self-styled representatives of the farmers had an opportunity to take a seat on the Treasury bench they accepted portfolios in the Nationalist ministry and nothing more was heard from them regarding big business and the speculators. The only one who had the courage to fight for his principles was the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and what happened to him?
– He has a room to himself.
– In effect, he was told that he was not wanted in the Ministry or in the Country party. I well recollect the fine speech he made when he declared that as soon as he found that the principles of the Country party and the interests of the farmers he represented were being thrown overboard, and that the interests of big business were dominating the Cabinet, he resigned his portfolio. The people who are speculating in the farmers’ wheat and butter, and who were criticized this afternoon by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), are the big business representatives who were condemned by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and whose influence with the Government made it necessary for the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) to resign from the Ministry.
The party to which I have the honour to belong has a clearly defined country policy, and if it had been in power as long as have honorable members opposite, that policy would have been put into operation. A portion of the Labour party’s country policy is -
The promotion and extension of the agricultural and rural industries by the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture to cooperate with similar State bodies, with a view to organizing all those engaged in primary production into a unified body, so that they may be able to more effectively place their views before governments, and to generally co-operate and assist in giving effect to the following policy: -
1 ) The encouragement of a co-operation among primary producers, in order to bring consumers and producers into direct communication.
The provision of more up-to-date methods of marketing our products, both locally and overseas.
The provision of a system of research work for the betterment of rural production.
The Labour policy embraces everything that has been suggested by the mover and seconder of the motion. They told the House that that proposal was part of the policy of their party ; why has that policy been abandoned? Is it not a serious reflexion on the Ministry that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) is unable to persuade the majority of the members supporting the Government to agree to the motion he has submitted to-day? The Government is supported by a majority of members of this chamber; half of the Ministers are members of the alleged Country party, and surely the honorable member did not fail to put his case before the Treasurer, who is leader of that party, and the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Paterson). Did he fail to convince them, and the Minister for Defence (Sir William Glasgow) ? We must assume that the honorable member, having failed in the party room to convert his own colleagues, is now endeavouring in this House to make the farmers believe that the Country party champions the scheme he has submitted. The fact is that it is mere windowdressing; there is no business in it.
The honorable member is trying to throw dust in the eyes of the farmers. The motion will be talked out, or some ministerial supporter will secure the adjournment of the debate, and nothing more will be heard of it. Any motion like this carried on Private Members’ Day is not binding on the Government and gets the farmer nowhere. In a matter of this kind the Government should take the initiative, and not put up private members to talk about something that it should have carried out long ago. Evidently this scheme was considered by the Country and Nationalist parties at their caucus meetings, and was turned down with a sickening thud.
– That is not true.
– Well if it lias not been considered why not bring it before the Government party and have action taken. The Melbourne Age was right in saying that the National Union, which supplies the fighting funds for the Nationalist party, is the head and front of money power, and receives fabulous sums from the wealthy combines and speculators, to be employed in putting into power “ accommodating politicians who are bound to their service.”
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are irrelevant. He must confine himself to the motion before the House.
– I am pointing out that the Government is not free to put into operation a scheme of the kind suggested in the motion, because it is bound to an organization which is financed by the people who are exploiting the farmers. I propose to show, also, that the Leader of the Country party is. opposed to farmers’ associations and marketing boards. According to the Queensland Producer of the 17th July, 1929, the Treasurer said -
The policy pursued by the former Queensland Government had been to make the farmer the toad under the Labour Government’s harrow, and his produce the plaything of government officials.
I believe that when the Treasurer entered this Parliament he was animated by high ideals; but, during the six years he has been Treasurer in a composite ministry, he has thrown over the principles that were so sacred to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) that he resigned his portfolio and £2,000 a year rather than abandon them.
– Did the farmers of Queensland allow the Treasurer’s statement to go unchallenged?
– Not at all. The Hon: H. F. Walker, Minister for Agriculture in the Queensland Ministry, who has been associated for a long time with the farmers’ organizations in that State, said -
I am now going to say something which, i think, should be said, and I am going to be quite brief about it. The legislation placed on the statute-book by the Labour Government in Queensland, through Mr. Forgan Smith, has conferred an enormous boon on the farmers of this State.
That tribute to the achievements of Labour rule in Queensland shows that Mr. Walker has a sense of fairness. The Queensland Producer recently condemned those political partisans who go to that State to malign and misrepresent the Producers’ Association and the marketing boards. It said -
The Federal Government has always shown a considerable amount of hostility to the Queensland Producers Association and its marketing boards, apparently because they were brought into being by a political party holding different views to their own. Dr. Earle Page has been particularly bitter in his attacks, and inaccurate and undignified in the statements which he has madu from time to time.
I shall read to the House some of the statements made by the Treasurer.
– Order’! The subject under discussion is not the Queensland system of marketing boards, but a proposal to amend the Constitution to permit of the formation of an Australian-wide organization. The honorable member must connect his remarks with that proposal.
– The scheme mentioned in the motion is merely an extension of the Queensland system of marketing boards, and I am endeavouring to point out the obstacles in the way of making this system Australian-wide while the treasury bench is occupied by a ministry that is dominated by big business. The Treasurer, speaking at Maitland on the 30th July in connexion with the proposal to establish a compulsory wheat pool in New South Wales, said -
I have always been opposed to compulsory pooling. I do not know much about the Primary Products Act; but, if it is a full brother to the Queensland act, I advise growers to have nothing to do with it.
Mr. James McRoberts, VicePresident of the Council of Agriculture in Queensland, who is probably well known to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), because at one time he intended to contest the pre-selection ballot which was won by the honorable member, said -
Dr. Earle Page goes out of his way to allege political bias on the part of the Queensland Council of Agriculture, and brackets the producers’ organization of Queensland with the late Labour government. In the setting forth of the facts as I have explained them above, I have shown that the Council of Agriculture has endeavoured to co-operate with the BrucePage Government in the matter of legislation affecting the dairymen and in the making of the full use by Queensland of the provisions of the Rural Credits Act. The Council of Agriculture, although admittedly established by a Queensland Labour government, has been definitely non-political since its inception. I have been associated with it since its inception as a member of the rank and file, later as a member of a district council, and subsequently as vice-president of the organization, and I know many of my colleagues who are prominent in the Queensland Country Progressive National party will bear me out when I give on emphatic assurance that no course of action has ever been formulated, and no decision has ever been arrived at from motives of political exigency. . . About once a year Dr. Earle Page, when in Queensland, seems to go out of his way in an attempt to discredit the Queensland farmers’ organizations.
– Order! The honorable member is merely repeating to the House a controversy that has taken place in regard to certain Queensland organizations. That controversy is not relevant to the motion, but the honorable member will be justified in illustrating the form and result of State organizations for marketing purposes, and arguing therefrom the desirability of establishing a Federal system.
– Surely he is entitled to illustrate the lack of sympathy on the part of the present Federal Ministry.
– The honorable member is not doing that. He is repeating a controversy regarding the results achieved by certain organizations in Queensland. Some latitude is allowed in debating motions of this kind, but the honorable member must connect his remarks with the definite matter before the House.
– With due respect to you, sir, I think I am within my rights in pointing out the impracticability of bringing this scheme into operation while the present Ministry remains in office.
– The honorable member is quite in order in showing the impracticability of a federal scheme, and may illustrate his arguments by mentioning the results of State marketing organizations, but he is not in order in repeating a controversy between two persons regarding a matter that is not relevant to the motion.
– I shall endeavour, sir, to confine my remarks to the subjectmatter of the motion. If a primary producers’ organization scheme such as is in operation in Queensland were’ established for the whole of Australia, it would be of wonderful benefit to hundreds of thousands of primary producers. The Queensland scheme, which was launched in 1922 by the present honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), who was then the Leader of the Queensland Labour Government, has 775 branches and a membership of 25,000. The scheme has been a wonderful success, and in no State in Australia - in fact, in no part of the world - is there such an effective primary producers’ organization as there is in Queensland. In support of that contention I quote the opinion of the officer in charge of agricultural matters for the League of Nations, who, in writing to the Director of Marketing in Queensland, said -
We know of no country which has organized its agriculture in such a representative way.
After carefully studying the voluminous information in relation to the marketing of primary products forwarded to him from various countries, this officer was able to speak thus highly in support of the Queensland system.
– How many marketing boards have been established?
– In order to give honorable members some idea of the scope of this organization in Queensland, I quote the following facts and, figures showing the quantity and value of the commodities controlled by these boards. They are -
If the motion submitted by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) were carried, his object would be to influence the Government to extend this marketing system to the whole of Australia. I believe that if the honorable member could put aside party political considerations, he would give, the whole of the credit for the work performed by these boards in Queensland under the primary producers’ organization scheme to the Queensland Labour party; but that he will not do.
– Mr. H. F. Walker did.
– Yes, when on the 17th July, 1929, he made the following significant comment: -
Mr. McRobert had chosen his remarks well. In his opinion, the Agricultural Department was the most important. The advancement to-day was most’ astounding, and the chairman could not have spoken truer words than he had done, and Mr. Smith’s department had carried out all that was required of it. He then made use of the words mentioned above. He had had a good deal of benefit from the legislation of Mr. Smith and the Labour Government, having three farms working. He congratulated Mr. Smith on the work he had performed, and trusted that he would live long enough to carry out his duties as leader of the Labour party, and to further the interests and welfare of agriculture in Queensland.
Mr. Walker is Minister for Agriculture in the Moore Government, and is a fairminded man.
– Contrast Mr. Walker’s attitude with that of the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page).
– Yes; the right honorable the Treasurer roundly condemned the pooling system, and said that the primary producers’ schemes and marketing boards in Queensland were placing the farmers in that State under the Labour Government’s harrow, and making them the playthings of government officials. The Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, in dealing with the primary producers’ organization scheme, on the 14th August, 1929, said -
I understand and appreciate the work done by the Queensland Producers Association and the Council of Agriculture as part of it.
If that scheme has been successfully tried in Queensland, and in the opinion of Mr. McRobert, a Nationalist, and the Hon. H. F. Walker, the Minister for Agriculture, has been such a wonderful boon in Queensland, surely its extension throughout Australia is worthy of a trial. I deplore the fact that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) had to submit this motion to Parliament, as it is one which should have met with the strong support of every member of his party and then by the Cabinet. We can only assume that the members of the Country party and of the Nationalist organization have considered it in caucus and have decided that it is one which a composite government cannot introduce.
– It is on our platform.
– That makes things worse. Why should this scheme be thrown overboard instead of being put into operation? Nationalist governments have been in power for sixteen years and have declined to legislate in the interests of the primary producers. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) resigned from the Ministry because he realized that while the Country party was so closely associated with the Nationalists many planks of its platform would be ruthlessly thrown overboard. The scheme embodied in the motion will never be put into operation throughout Australia until the Labour party is occupying the Treasury bench, as it was that party that was responsible for placing it upon the statute-book of Queensland. Mr. Walker said that he had received a great deal of benefit from the scheme introduced by Mr. Forgan Smith during the Labour regime, and was fair enough to give the Labour party credit for what it had done for the men on the land. Men, such as Mr. McRobert, have spent a lifetime on this work, and in referring to the operations of the Queensland Marketing Board and the primary producers organization scheme, that gentleman stated -
After explaining the reason of their meeting that afternoon, he said the occasion was a momentous one, as they had with them the late Minister for Agriculture (Mr. W. Forgan Smith) who was now leader of the Labour party, and the present Minister for Agriculture (Mr. H. F. Walker). The reason of the meeting was to pay a tribute to the invaluable work performedby Mr. Smith, and he thought in doing so, they should show it in some tangible way. He pointed out that Mr. Smith had clone much for the farmers in Queensland. The organization to which they belonged in Queensland had achieved wonderful results, and it could not have achieved those results without the support of the Government. The Labour Government had given them certain control over most of their own affairs, and they had grasped the position with both hands, With the result they were rewarded with success, and it must be gratifying for Mr. Smith and his party to know that their efforts had borne good fruit. They were there that afternoon to recognize Mr. Smith’s efforts, for he had endeavoured to give them all they desired, on every occasion they had come in contact with him.
Mr. Forgan Smith was a Minister in the Cabinet led by the present honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) who was responsible for formulating and launching this scheme, which has been brought to fruition. If the Queens- land system were extended to the whole of Australia, by the formation of a comprehensive primary producers organization and the appointment of marketing boards for Australia, the whole of the organized farmers throughout the Commonwealth would be able to derive the benefits which the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland said that he and many others had obtained from the Queensland pooling system and primary producers organization.
For the information of honorable members who may not be fully conversant with the circumstances in which the Queensland scheme was brought about, I may explain that in 1922 the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), who was then the Premier of that State, delivered a very fine speech at Laidley, when he was acclaimed by the people of Queensland, including many Nationalists, as a statesman. It was left to him to formulate a non-political organization, and to use his best endeavours to save the farmers from being the playthings of party politics on the eve of elections. As Mr. McRobert and the Honorable H. F. Walker said, these schemes are not in any way associated with party politics. The scheme has been organized on the commodity board system, and the general policy has been to set up boards for each section of primary production. There are now twelve commodity boards, from the members of which a council of agriculture is elected. This council comprises the brains of organized primary production in Queensland, and speaks on behalf of 25,000 primary producers in that State. In these circumstances, is it any wonder that a representative of the State of Queensland becomes enthusiastic in recommending and advocating a more comprehensive policy and one which should embrace the whole of the primary producers in the Commonwealth? I have already enumerated some of the products controlled by these boards, which have been of great benefit to the producers, and have caused annoyance to the middleman and speculators.
– And to the Treasurer.
– Yes. He said the scheme was a great mistake, and has given up the idea of introducing a primary producers’ pooling scheme for Australia because, he said, the farmers in Queensland were being crushed under the heel of Labour officials. But these boards have been the means of making an enormous improvement in the methods of marketing in Queensland. The Council of Agriculture, however, experienced great difficulty for a time in securing financial accommodation in connexion with its marketing scheme, owing to the conservative policy of the banking institutions, including even the Commonwealth Bank. For a time the banks objected to financing the pools unless they received a guarantee from the Queensland Government. The State Government readily granted a guarantee, but the pooling boards should have received the necessary financial assistance without any such guarantee. The proposed scheme, if adopted, would have a very important bearing on primary production throughout Australia, andI believe it will be adopted, when the Labour party is returned to power. The general policy pursued by the marketing boards may, generally speaking, be summarized as an endeavour to secure: -
The main object of the scheme is to bring the producer and consumer closer together and to eliminate the middleman or agent who, with the assistance of one or two clerks, is able to gamble with primary products and obtain the profits which should be the property of the producers. There are some who believe that the dairy farmers throughout Australia are making big profits, but in the district which I represent the gross return of dairy farmers in one year was only £2 10s. a week, and in another £4 10s. a week. These men have been “wood and water joeys” far too long. Men like Mr. Walker and Mr. McRobert recognize that the Labour party in Queensland has done wonderful work for the primary producers, and they now want the Queensland scheme extended to the whole of Australia. The estimated saving to the producers, because of the improved marketing conditions in Queensland, amounted to approximately £1,000,000. It is no wonder that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) wishes to have the scheme extended to the whole of Australia. Why has not the Government initiated the necessary legislation to give effect to this proposal? Why has it not formulated the necessary amendments of the Constitution if amendments are necessary? All this talk on the part of the Government about the necessary amendments to the Constitution is so much eye-wash. If it were sincere it would have endeavoured to get unlimited powers over trade and commerce when the last referendum, asking for an amendment of the Constitution, was submitted to the people.
– It did.
– The granting of wider powers over trade and commerce as advocated by the Labour party was not included in the 1926 referendum, and that was one of the objections that the Labour party had to it. We contended that the powers asked for were not wide enough to place beyond all doubt the power of the Commonwealth to legislate for a comprehensive pooling scheme throughout Australia to be established. To-day there is a division of opinion as to whether the Commonwealth Parliament has power to legislate for the establishment of such a scheme. Legal opinion was sought on that subject by the dairyfarmers of Australia before they approached the Prime Minister by deputation, and asked for a stabilized scheme for the marketing of dairy produce in Australia. A special committee, appointed by the Queensland Council of Agriculture to investigate the conditions of the dairying industry, met on the 20th November, 1923. It communicated with the dairying organizations throughout the States, and a conference was held in Melbourne on the 9th April, 1924. Immediately afterwards, a deputation waited on the Prime Minister, and asked that the Commonwealth Government legislate to bring about controlled marketing of dairy produce in respect of both export and interstate trade. The Prime Minister at first promised to consider the matter; but afterwards submitted certain questions to the deputation. The representatives of the farmers then submitted to the Prime Minister the following resolution and also details of a scheme: -
That the Federal Government be asked to take urgent steps to introduce a bill to create a board for the purpose of controlling the interstate and overseas marketing of dairy produce; that such bill provide for the election of a board to control interstate and oversea trade in dairy produce.
The Prime Minister, in reply, said -
The Prime Minister also said that he thought that the scheme would be unconstitutional. In reply, the dairyfarmers submitted to him the following opinion that they had previously obtained from the then Queensland SolicitorGeneral, now Mr. Justice Webb: -
At the present time, and entirely apart from any delegated authority, the Commonwealth Parliament has power, under section 51 ( 1 ) of the Federal Constitution, over interstate and overseas trade in dairy produce.
– That does not cover intra-state trade.
– The Minister may have his own opinion. The Prime Minister’s objection to an Australian-wide scheme was that he could not interfere with interstate trade. Had we Commonwealth legislation fixing the price in Australia of butter, wheat, or any other commodity to ensure a fair return to the primary producer, and providing for the control of interstate trade, the different State pools could have worked in co-operation. Mr. Webb continued -
The McArthur case has definitely decided that section 02 of the Federal Constitution does not bind the Federal Parliament. The following are quotations from the High Court’s judgments in the McArthur case, 28 C.L.R., at pages 557 and 558. Then came a cluster of provisions designed to place the control of foreign and interstate trade and commerce of Australia ultimately in the hands of the Commonwealth as representing the whole nation, and to remove that trade and commerce from the hands of the States, whose jealousies and local policies had occasioned so much jealousy and inconvenience, and whose inability, from the nature of the subject, to deal severely with interstate transactions in their entirety was a truism. Its (section 92) meaning is that, from the moment the Commonwealth assumed legislative control on a national basis of all the customs, all State interference with interstate trade and commerce should for ever cease, andfor that purpose Australia should be one country.
Since then there has been a change of opinion on the part of the High Court bench in respect of the powers under the Commonwealth Constitution, and I believe that if certain questions were resubmitted to that court, it would alter some of its previous decisions, and would now make interpretations favoring greater powers for the Commonwealth. In 1924 the Federal Government had the opportunity to introduce legislation providing for a stabilized scheme for the marketing of dairy produce throughout Australia. Had it done so, its action, if tested in the High Court, might have been found unconstitutional, but the Government could have ranged itself on the side of the dairy farmers of Australia, and put upon the speculator, the middle man, and the market rigger, the onus of testing before the High Court the validity of its action. In that event, the Crown Law Department and the resources of the Commonwealth would have been on the side of the dairy farmers and the primary producers of Australia. Instead, the Government took no cognizance of the legal opinion I quoted to the effect that the Commonwealth had power to legislate in regard to interstate trade and an Australian price, and took the side of the speculators and big business men. Of course, we shall be told that the Treasurer has a policy under which the man on the land will be assisted, but that is only one link in. a chain of platitudes. He, at one time, said -
The encouragement of all industries is essential to national development by the formulation of comprehensive plans to secure the ready mobilization of our resources, the elimination of waste in primary and secondary production, the proper valuation of skill in workmanship, and the encouragement of industrial standardization.
Those platitudes are thrown out to the farmers when they ask for an Australianwide marketing scheme to control the distribution and sale of their products, and to eliminate the middle man, the friends of this Government, who have battened on the primary producers far too long. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) had something to say regarding the attitude adopted by his party in Queensland when the primary producers’ co-operative scheme was established there. He was more astute than some of his friends, but he also endeavoured to arouse suspicion in the minds of the farmers. He tried to kill the scheme with faint praise. Among other things he said -
I personally support the bill. It is not a purely co-operative measure. Throughout the bill, and in the Premier’s statement, the word “ co-operation “ is used very extensively, but this is far from being a co-operative measure. The Department of Agriculture is to be replaced to a certain extent by an advisory board. It makes possible also the application of the Labour platform. Hidden within its clauses are some very dangerous principles - hidden very deeply too. We must try and extract their fangs. This bill, honorable members opposite claim, is in accord with the Labour platform, the objective of which is obtaining for all workers the full reward of their industry.
– The honorable member will agree that the legislation was amended.
– It was amended after consultation with the farmers, and certainly as a result of representations made by the Council of Agriculture after the act had been in operation for some time. That shows that the Labour government in Queensland at that time was sympathetic and prepared to listen to the representations of the primary producers.
– The amendments did not affect the principle of the bill.
– That is so.
– The amendments did affect the principle of the bill.
– The Leader of the Country party in the Queensland Parliament at that time said that the scheme was unnecessary. This lawyer-farmer tried to kill the scheme in its infancy. For party political reasons prominent members of the Country Nationalist party in Queensland tried to kill the scheme. Mr. Theodore, when Premier of Queensland in 1922, said “ agriculture as an industry must be made a remunerative industry to those engaged in it.” Great men think alike, because the late W. E. Gladstone said that successful agriculture demanded the exercise of a broader intelligence than that needed in any other calling. A late President of the United States of America, James A. Garfield, speaking on agriculture, said -
At the head of science and arts, at the head of civilization and progress, stands, not militarism (the science that kills), not commerce (the art that accumulates wealth), but agriculture, the mother of all industry, the maintenance of human life.
That is the opinion of every member of the Labour party to-day. The only party that guards the interests of the primary producer is the Labour party. That was shown in Queensland. For 50 years a Tory government held office there. Did it introduce pools or marketing schemes? No; because had it done so, it would have struck a blow at the profits of its speculative friends. In Queensland the Denham Government, when asked to introduce legislation to provide for cane prices boards to give the growers representation on a price-fixing board, refused the request on the ground that it was not a plank of the Liberal party’s platform. As the honorable member . for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has reminded me, it was feared that the proposed legislation would splinter every plank of the Tory party’s platform. Mr. Denham and Mr. W. H. Barnes, it will be noted, were both middlemen.
– The farmers of Victoria are now asking for a similar scheme.
– There is a general desire among primary producers for a scheme to embrace the farmers of the whole of the Commonwealth. If the honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) and other members of the Country party are sincere in this matter, why have they not taken action before now to give effect to the scheme? If they thought the Commonwealth had not the constitutional power why did they not arrange to submit this question to a referendum of the people? Virtually, they have been in office for six years in the Commonwealth, and yet they have done nothing.
– We asked for power at the last referendum.
– Only limited power was sought. The Labour party urged that the people should be asked for unlimited power in regard to trade and commerce, but the Government was not prepared to go so far as that. Evidently Ministers wished to have, some excuse when the dairy farmers and other primary producers came along to ask for an extension of the marketing scheme. The Brisbane Daily Mail, the chief Nationalist newspaper in Queensland, realized that the scheme, which the Labour party wished to see extended to the whole of Australia, was a fine one. I make this statement now, because the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) evidently failed to convince members of his own party of the value of the scheme, and I wish to adduce evidence that many prominent Nationalist newspapers and Nationalist supporters acclaimed it as a great boon to the primary producers of the Commonwealth. The Daily Mail on the 27th March, 1922, commenting on the scheme promulgated by Mr. Theodore, made the following statement in a leading article: -
The conference of dairying interests convened by the Premier was one of the most notable gatherings in the history of the State. Great credit is due to the Premier for this bold piece of statesmanship.
When the matter came before the Queensland Parliament it was opposed, as we might readily understand, by those who were hand-in-glove with the middlemen, or perhaps were middlemen themselves. Among these I include Mr. G. P. Barnes and W. H. Barnes, of Barnes and Company. Speaking in the Queensland Parliament on the 14th July, 1929, in the debate on the bill to give effect to the scheme, Mr. G. P. Barnes said -
I shall urge every man on the land to pass it out … Tt is a kind of toned-down sovietism.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) sat alongside Mr. Barnes and had nothing to say against that statement. In the course of a debate last week, it was stated that as the coal-miners in conference a few months ago did not immediately object to the Government’s proposal to withdraw the prosecution against Mr. John Brown, their silence could have been interpreted as assent to it. Surely the same reasoning may be applied in this instance, and with particular reference to the honorable member for Wide Bay. It is significant that he was absolutely silent when a member of his own party declared that the scheme iu question was a bit of toned-down sovietism. On the 19th July, 1922, Mr. W. M. Barnes, the Treasurer in the present tory Queensland Cabinet, said -
I would be making a mistake if 1 did not get up and say that this bill is sugar-coated, and is not going to help the people of Queensland, but rather is going to damage them.
The Country party has since put Mr. Barnes in the Moore Cabinet. He is the head of one of the big firms of produce merchants in Queensland, and, with many others, including Denham and Company, Foley Brothers, Darling and Son, who are carrying on extensive agency businesses and exploiting the man on the land, will not allow this Government to pass legislation to authorize the establishment of compulsory pools for Australia. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) should first convert the members of his own party. Every member of the Labour party is already converted. When this scheme was proposed in Queensland it was urged by those who opposed it that the Government officials on the Council of Agriculture would dominate the farmers’ interests. The Council of Agriculture, I remind the House, included men like the Commissioner of Railways, the general manager of the sugar mills, the Director of Agriculture, the Chief Dairying Inspector and the Minister for Agriculture. No man should be in a better position to render assistance to the farmers than the Director of Agriculture.
– Mr. Walker is president of the council now.
– As the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has reminded me, Mr. Walker is the present chairman of the Council of Agriculture, which is representative of all the commodity boards in Queensland. The other gentlemen whose names I have mentioned are not Labour party politicians. They are public officials, not allied to any party, but by virtue of their office are in a position to render invaluable service to the organized primary producers in Queensland. But because they were appointed by a Labour Government the farmers were told at the time by the honorable member, for Wide Bay, and other members of his party, that they should view this scheme with great suspicion, because the Government had five out of fifteen representatives on the council! They even insinuated that the council would be dominated by the Labour Government, and that the farmers would be dragged at the heels of the Trades and Labour Council, or some such body. All this nonsense was talked with regard to the scheme by honorable members who sat on the same side as the honorable member for Wide Bay, when he was a member of the Queensland Parliament. I mention these facts to show that if this Government had been sincere it would have initiated legislation to give effect to the scheme, and if it had ‘not the power, although Mr. Webb, the Queensland Solicitor-General, has said that there is ample power for the establishment of compulsory pools throughout Australia, it could have sought the necessary additional power by referendum long ago. Certainly, Nationalist governments in the various States could have done something. One half of the members of the Bavin Government in New South Wales belong to the Country party. They, at all events, should be deeply interested in legislation that will insure a living wage to the man on the land. In Victoria a Nationalist government is kept in office by the votes of the Country party. Mr. Plunkett and Mr. Jamieson, both members of the Country party in the Queensland Parliament, met me on their way south, some time ago, and told me they were on a mission to endeavour to induce the New South. Wales and Victorian Governments to introduce legislation to establish a butter pool in each of those States on lines similar to the pool established by the Queensland Labour Government. However, they failed to impress the tory cabinets in those States, for the simple reason that the governments mentioned are more solicitous for the welfare of the big agencies and speculators than the interests of the primary producers.
Without taking account of the PatersonDelroy scheme, the Queensland Butter Board has benefited the Queensland dairymen to the extent of £97,000, as compared with New South Wales, and £150,000, as compared with Victoria. Why, then, should there be any hesitation about extending such pooling schemes to the whole of the Commonwealth? If this Government were sincere in its protestations on behalf of the man on theland, it would come down with the necessary legislation, or if it has not the power it would seek an amendment of the Constitution. The Nationalist propagandists in Queensland endeavored to give credit to this Government for the Paterson butter scheme. This Government had nothing whatever to do with it. The proposal originated with Mr. Delroy, in Queensland. He circularized federal members, all butter factories, and Mr. Carroll, the Chief Dairy Inspector for the Commonwealth, looked into the proposal.
Mr. Paterson then took up the scheme and put it before the butter factory companies, which ultimately agreed to it voluntarily. The Government, as we all know, refused to pass any legislation to sanction the scheme. Notwithstanding this, we are told that this Government was responsible for the scheme.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Paterson) adjourned.
Bourke via Camooweal to Northern Territory.
Motion by Mr. Forde -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Federal Government should take early action to convene a conference representative of the Governments of New South Wales, Queensland, and the Commonwealth, to consider the question of building a railway from the head of the Northern Territory line, across the Barkly Tableland to Camooweal, thence connecting up the three East-West railway systems in Queensland, with Bourke, in New South Wales.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks on another day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the position of the tobacco-growing industry of Australia, with special regard to the following aspects: -
This motion has been on the notice-paper since the beginning of last session. Unfortunately, owing to the rush of business just prior to the adjournment, it could not be debated, and had to be carried over. The tobacco-growers of Australia are in an unfortunate position, and it is to he regretted that it is so difficult to have matters affecting their interests discussed in this House. It appears now that only once in three Weeks, and then only if Government business permits, will private members have an opportunity to bring forward matters which may be of farreaching importance to primary producers.
As honorable members are aware, I have been directing attention to the position of the tobacco-growing industry ever since I came into the House in 1923. Probably those honorable members who were only recently elected to this Parliament are not familiar with the history of this movement. Therefore, it may be as well for me to explain that I have the honour to be the president of the Australian Tobacco Growers Association, the only organized body of tobacco growers in Australia. At the present time there are between 500 and 600 tobacco growers in this country, but we have not succeeded in inducing the whole of them to become members of our organization. A representative number, however, in all the States, but particularly in Victoria and New South Wales, are members. Considerably more than half the tobacco grown in Australia is produced in Victoria and the northern part of New South Wales.
In 1923 I brought under the notice of this House the position of the tobacco growers, and the then Minister for Trade and Customs, the late Sir Austin Chapman, promised to have the matter inquired into by the Tariff Board, which at that time was constituted on lines different from those on which it is constituted to-day. Evidence was’ not taken upon oath, and the procedure before the board was much less strict. The board held an inquiry in Brisbane. Notice of its intention was not given to the tobacco growers; but the representatives of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, which is the only buyer of tobacco leaf in Australia, were able, subsequently, to secure in Melbourne a sitting that was practically held in camera. I protested, and the Minister for Trade and Customs ordered that another inquiry should be held in Sydney for the presentation of the case for the growers. I appeared before the board on behalf of the growers, and the representatives of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company were also present. The board drew up an agreement that was really suggested by the company. Its main feature was, that for a period of three years the company should purchase from the growers at least 1,500 tons a year; but a proviso was inserted that the leaf should be flue-cured. Under that process the leaf has to be picked in a green state and placed in barns heated by ovens. The time occupied in curing the contents of a barn is six days. Under the old method of drying adopted by Chinese labour, the leaf was taken from the fields in a green state and hung on poles in open barns for a period of six months. Therefore there is no comparisonbetween the modern method and the old sun-dried method, which is now practically out of date. Previously a very large number of Chinese were engaged in the industry in Australia. How they came into it is a mystery. Wherever tobacco was grown, hundreds of Chinese were prepared to work farms on shares, and under various forms of tenure. A Chinaman does not take kindly to mechanical devices, and when the British-Australasian Tobacco Company insisted that the modern process of curing the leaf should be adopted, the majority of them “ threw in the towel “. The growing of tobacco leaf is quite simple by comparison with the rather complicated modern process of curing. There are still a number of Chinese who grow tobacco, but practically none of them make any attempt to cure it ; that is left entirely to white labour. Before the flue-curing process was instituted the quantity of sundried tobacco produced annually in northern New South Wales was from 1,200 to 1,500 tons, but subsequently the quantity produced from the same district decreased to about 200 tons, the reason being the very great expense involved in installing the necessary plant. A few years ago, evidence was given before the Tariff Board which showed that a tobacco-grower, who is generally a small farmer, would need a capital of at least £1,000 to install the necessary barns, irrigation plant, and other accessories, to enable him to cure properly the tobacco leaf. The Chinese lacked the necessary capital, and the majority of them went out of the industry. A considerable reduction in the tobacco areas followed their departure. Where previously farmers were prepared to make available from 40 acres to 50 acres to a group of Chinese, and take the chance of getting any return, when labour became scarce and white men had to be employed at higher rates of pay, the average area dropped from between 25 and 40 acres to between. 10 and 15 acres. To-day no sun-dried leaf is being bought by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company. When I tell honorable members that that company controls the market in Australia they will realize that a. very valuable monopoly has been placed in the hands of a large number of individuals, many of whom are descended from the founders of some of the old tobacco companies. Those companies were purely Australian concerns. They ‘turned out various brands of tobacco, some of which are still remembered, for which there was a good demand, containing 100 per cent, of Australian leaf. In 1904 a merging process began, and gradually the Dixons, the Camerons, the Wills, and others, amalgamated. To-day they constitute one big manufacturing and buying company in Australia. It can safely be said that they manufacture 95 per cent, of the tobacco consumed in this country, and that they buy the whole of the leaf that is grown.
I do not wish it to be understood that it is my desire that the proposed select committee should investigate the private affairs cif the British - Australasian
Tobacco Company. In the past, committees appointed by this Parliament have attempted, without success, ‘to ascertain the profits of this and other combines. That is not a relevant issue to-day. The fact remains, however, that this big monopoly has the field to itself, and figures that have been published show that, on the average, its profits total £1,000,000 a year. That is a very valuable monopoly. Therefore, this Parliament is within its rights in investigating its affairs from time to time with a view to ascertaining what return it is making for the concession it receives. Any concern that has a monopoly worth £1,000,000 a year is on a very good wicket. This monopoly, it is alleged, is related in some way to various American combines, and even to the wealthy British tobacco monopoly. On that point, however, we have no definite evidence, and I do riot consider it to be relevant to the issue we now have before us. I am mainly concerned with the fact that Australia is importing annually £3,000,000 worth of tobacco leaf, 90 per cent, of which comes from the United States of America. The area of Australia is equal to that of the United States of America. This country has an immense variety of soils and climates, and, from a producing point of view, is supposed to have many superior qualifications. The . United States of America have been growing tobacco for over 300 years, while we have been growing it for not more than 40 years. It is only within the last twenty years that any appreciable number of Australian producers have engaged in the industry Avith any degree of enthusiasm. When they had at their command a plentiful’ supply of Chinese labour, which they could engage without much risk to themselves, the tendency was to cultivate large areas; but when the company said it would not purchase the crude and mostly dark leaf grown by the Chinese, and ‘insisted upon the growers adopting the scientific flue-curing process, the Chinese were driven out, and to-day the white labour engaged in the industry amounts to 90 per cent. The view of experts is that, in order to get the best results, a grower should have not more than ten acres. Should fortune favour him, and he escapes the depredations of pests and adopts -the right methods, his profits ought to amount to 100 per cent.; because, on the basis of the prices at present being paid by the company, the return should be £100 an acre. Taking all qualities into account, those prices average about 2s. per lb. The majority of growers are satisfied with that average price, but say that, as the company is becoming more and more exacting in its requirements, they are entitled to higher prices as their scientific methods improve. The old Chinese-grown tobacco realized from 9d. to1s. 3d. and1s. 6d. per lb. The flue-cured product, the quality of some of which is excellent, brings up to 3s. per lb. The lighter qualities, of course, attract the higher prices. The British Australasian Tobacco Company held out to the growers the bait that, if they would go in for flue-curing and produce a good light quality loaf, it would buy all they could grow. In 1923, when I appeared before the Tariff Board, the directors of the company gave me a written undertaking that, although they werelimiting their offer to 1,500 tons a year, they were prepared to purchase all the flue-cured leaf of decent quality Australia could grow. Unfortunately, however, owing to the sudden change from Chinese labour to white labour, the growers were not able to take advantage of that offer, and in the last five or six years have provided not more than half the quantity the company was prepared to take. Many small growers are afraid that there is no future before the industry. They consider that this company, which imports from the United States of America 90 per cent. of its manufactured requirements, is not genuinely anxious to encourage local production. They point to the fact that, when they discarded the sun-dried process and adopted the expensive flue-curing method, the company commenced to increase its demands in regard to quality. It insisted upon the growers improving their leaf at a much more rapid rate than was practicable.
Although Australia has been cultivating tobacco under American conditions for only about five or six years, it is producing in Victoria and the north of New South Wales a type that is quite as good in colour, and apparently as good in quality, as any imported American leaf, and it must be remembered that our tobacco is grown, not by experts, but by youths who have spent only two or three years in acquiring their knowledge of its culture. I have found that primary producers who have lost heart cultivating unprofitable crops are immensely enthusiastic about tobacco growing, which appeals to their intelligence, and promises an adequate reward. Some of them have told me that if they can be assured that they will always receive an average of 2s. per lb. for their leaf they will be content to remain in the industry and are willing to supply the British Australasian Tobacco Company with all the Australian leaf that it needs. I am confident that the company will have no cause for complaint, either as to lack of quality or shortage of supply, if it proves, over a period of years, that it is sincere in its expressed desire to encourage Australiangrown tobacco.
The statement has been propagated that our growers are so new to the business that they cannot produce a leaf acceptable to Australian consumers. The answer to that statement is that there is on the Australian market a tobacco, sold under the name of “ Waratah,” which is 100 per cent. Australian, and much appreciated by smokers in this country. Honorable members who wish to sample it can obtain supplies in the refreshment rooms.
– Is it made from Australian leaf?
– Yes, and not the best leaf at that. Another Australian tobacco, made from second quality leaf; is marketed in Melbourne under the name of “ Sunday Best.” Cigarettes manufactured from the best quality Australian leaf are produced in this country, and in my opinion they compare with any competing lines, but unfortunately they are not available on the market.
– What about cigars?
– The demand in Australia for cigars is not very great. The principal demand is for cigarettes, and the British Australasian Company has made that demand an excuse for imposing more stringent restrictions upon the growers. Originally the company declared that if the Chinese were dissociated from the industry in Australia, and tobacco was flue-cured, it would buy all the leaf that our growers could produce. Now it claims that, as the demand for cigarettes is so great, it can buy only the very lightest leaf, and it places a restriction upon dark or black tobacco. As a matter of fact, we do not produce any “black” tobacco in Australia. The term is a misnomer. The darkest tobacco produced in this country is admirably suited” for pipe smoking, while our lightest grades make splendid cigarettes. Our growers are informed that the quality of their tobacco is so poor that the company can risk mixing only about 10 per cent, of it with imported leaf. On the figures produced, I venture the opinion that the company is not using more than about 5 per cent, of Australian leaf. The claim of the company is that the palate of Australian smokers is so inclined to the American aroma that when too much Australian leaf is mixed with the imported article they immediately detect and refuse it. My reference to our “ Waratah “ tobacco serves as a refutation to that statement.
We have to consider who is to be the judge whether Australians can or cannot grow good tobacco. I claim that, after :i period of only five or six years under the new methods, Australian growers have attained a standard almost equal to that of the American growers, who have behind them an experience of 300 years. Our younger generation, the most intelligent section of the primary producing community, is being discouraged in its attempts to grow tobacco in this country, because parents believe that the industry lias no future in Australia. We are importing tobacco to the value of £3,000,000 per annum, principally from the United States of America, and we are producing no more than 10 per cent, of the tobacco consumed in Australia. That leaves the enormous margin of 90 per cent, available to the competition of Australian growers. Much is said about the necessity for greater production, and for improving our home market. Here is an excellent opportunity to put those slogans into practice. I claim that if Parliament will give our growers some encouragement and intelligent direction, they will secure a great proportion of that £3,000,000 worth of trade, which at present goes overseas. The market is an expanding one, as the demand is continually increasing, not only for cigarette, but for pipe tobaccos. There can, therefore, be no fear as to the future of the market. It is merely a matter of giving the Australian producer, who has been so consistently shut out, an opportunity to compete on favorable terms.
The reports of the Imperial Economic Committee on tobacco indicate that the United States of America arid the British Empire produce half the tobacco that is at present consumed. The British Empire produces 22.1 per cent, of the world’s output, while Australia produces only 1.5 of the output of the British Empire - a negligible amount. Countries like Rhodesia, in Nyasaland and the Union of South Africa are exporting tobacco, while Australia is unable even to provide for its home consumption.
I contend that we are making but a poor effort to translate our lip service into action. I do not think that honorable members require to be satisfied that the market exists. The problem is why are not more of our primary producers going into the tobacco industry. Although I have explained that the British Australasian company is not sincere in its protestations of friendship to our growers, I do not wish to make- that an issue in this House. I have had a great deal to do with the company, and my experience has been that where growers produce good leaf, it will buy it at a very satisfactory price. As against that, I contend that it is utterly unreasonable that the company should demand from Australia a standard which it has taken the United States of America 300 years to attain. After encouraging growers to go to the expense of establishing plants to the value of £1,000 in order to farm ten acres, the company now proposes to accept only -10 -per cent, of “dark leaf” from any grower. I have seen a good deal of the tobacco industry in this country, and my experience has been that although our growers are making an honest and conscientious endeavour to produce a good leaf and to meet the requirements of the company, it is utterly impossible for them to comply with its latest demands. I have conferred with a number of growers, who have told me that they average about 25 per cent. “ dark “ leaf. The significant thing is that, with all their experience, growers in the United States of America also average about 25 per cent. “ dark “ leaf. Yet this company, the virtual arbiter of tobacco production in Australia, is limiting our growers to 10 per cent. “ dark “ leaf. Surely if that company is anxious to encourage the industry in this country, it should be a little more sympathetic with our growers. It will be impossible for the industry to survive in Australia if these irksome restrictions are insisted on. Our growers are being discouraged, and led to believe that there is no future for the Australian tobacco industry. Those who appeared before the Tariff Board as witnesses were not trained business men, and were somewhat at a disadvantage when stating their cases. Consequently, members of the board became irritated, and concluded that they were inefficient. I assure honorable members that our producers know all about the industry. They were merely inarticulate. Notwithstanding this shortcoming in this respect, the Tariff Board, evidently impressed with the position, recommended that the excise duty should be lowered by 6d. per lb. That was nearly three years ago, and the recommendation has never been given effect. I admit that the Government recently announced an increase of 8d. per lb. in the import duty as an additional protection to the local growers. I have before me a statement which appeared in to-day’s press to the effect that the British Australasian Tobacco Company, as a result of that additional protection, feels that it is now more able to encourage the Australian industry, and intends to pay. an additional fid. per lb. for leaf. Thereby hangs a tale. After the proceedings of the Tariff Board three years ago, the late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) made an arrangement with the British Australasian Tobacco Company by which instead of the Government reducing the excise duty, which would mean a loss to the country of £220,000, it should pay a voluntary bonus of 3d. to 6d. per lb. to all growers. The 6d. was to be on lighter varieties of leaf. The growers are not satisfied with the present position, as they claim that the company has reduced the normal average price by 3d. to 6d., and that they are not receiving their proper share, notwithstanding the bonus. They believe that it is a delusion and a snare. This company comes with a flourish of trumpets, -and says that it has already given a bounty of 6d.- which it has not done - and that it proposes to give another 6d. If its latest burst of generosity is to be of the same kind as the other it will not be of much help to the industry. I do not say that the offer is not bona fide”; but as the company has the fate of the industry in its hands, we should know definitely what it proposes to do. Ithas been given by Parliament a very valuable monopoly, and no other company is able to compete against it. It has the field to itself, and is making a profit of £1,000,000 a year.
We are entitled to ask why, in a country which offers a market worth £3,000,000 a year, there is not more tobacco grown locally. It is our duty to get in touch with the growers, and find out what are their problems, and why they will not trust the company. This select committee is not being appointed with the idea of making a hostile gesture towards the British Australasian Tobacco Company. I have been working on this matter for seven years. As president of the Australian Tobacco Growers Association, I have a responsibility upon me to place before the House the grievances under which the growers labour. Their main difficulty is fear, and a lack of confidence in the future of the industry. They have the suspicion that they are being played with by this powerful combine. In that they may, or may not, be right, but it is our duty to hold an impartial inquiry, and to have a report presented to Parliament. Was it ever the intention of this Parliament to give any commercial organization the right to limit the production of any commodity? Yet this company, with all its good intentions, is limiting production. It is doing so in the most notorious and barefaced way. It has published the fact that it is prepared to buy only so much tobacco each. year. It now says that it is prepared to buy only 10 per cent, of dark leaf, even though in America the companies are prepared to buy 25 per cent. This would be no hardship if the growers were able to sell their product elsewhere, but this powerful combine has crushed the competition of the smaller buyers. By imposing these restrictions it is limiting the production of what is a necessary commodity. Even though honorable members may not feel much interested in this matter, they should see that it is inquired into with a view to finding out how the company squares its protestations of interest for the welfare of the industry with its action in thus checking development.
– Did not the Tariff Board inquire into the tobacco industry ?
– It did; twice. The first inquiry was in 1923, when the board drew up an agreement signed by the growers and the company, under which the company undertook to buy 1,500 tons of flue-cured leaf each year. There was another inquiry two or three years ago, and the board recommended a reduction of excise of 6d. per lb., while the company promised to pay an average bounty of 3d. to 6d. per lb. The company now says that it will give a further bounty of 6d. per lb. for the lighter leaf. The growers say that they have not been getting any bounty at all so far, and this is one of the matters which should be inquired into. This Parliament, through the Government, has taken the industry under its wing, but. apparently forgotten about it. I do not say that the neglect is intentional, but the industry seems to be looked upon as a mere side issue. A few years ago, largely as a result of the second Tariff Board inquiry, the representatives of the company went before the Tariff Board and made public an offer to spend £50,000 in experimental work, provided the Commonwealth and State Governments would find a like amount. The outcome of that offer was that the Commonwealth Government made an arrangement by which it accepted £20,000 from the company, and advanced £20,000 itself for experimental work to be conducted over a period of three years.
– The total amount involved was £90,000.
– That was over a period of six years, but £40,000 was to be spent during the first three years. It was arranged that if at the end of that time, results justified it, the experiments were to be continued for a further three years at a cost of £45,000. That arrangement seemed to indicate that the industry had not only been taken up by the company, but had secured the interest of the Government as well. The agreement was haled with enthusiasm by the growers, who felt that at last their problems were to receive attention. Two years have elapsed, during which several experts under the control of Mr. Slagg, who was brought from America at a salary of £1,250 or £1,500 a year, have been conducting experiments, and are supposed to have been receiving the assistance of the experts attached to the State Departments of Agriculture. The growers now want to know just what has been done, and where the experiments are leading. They have a right to know whether the cost that has been incurred is justified, or whether the money might not have been better spent in affording direct encouragement to the growers. After all, the growers are the real experimenters; it is they who have to pioneer the industry. The results of the experts’ work have been kept very much in the dark. If one applies to the Development and Migration Commission one receives vague replies from Mr. Gepp, and is told to call on him_if one happens to visit Melbourne.
– The honorable member cannot expect anything definite after only two years’ investigation.
– That is a strange remark to come from the Minister. In two years we should at least have gained some idea of the direction in which the inquiries are tending. It is my definite belief that those experts have very little idea of what they are seeking or what will be the outcome of their investigations.
– The fact that the company subscribed a large sum ‘of money for investigation work surely indicates that it is desirous of helping the industry.
– It is because its action in that respect does not tally with its expressed policy in other respects that the need for this impartial inquiry has arisen. In another twelve months we shall have to decide whether these experiments are to be continued for a further three years, and whether another £50,000 is to be devoted to the work. The growers want to know whether the experiments are being conducted in such a manner as to extract really valuable information about the industry.
Except in regard to the collation of a certain amount of information the growers have been practically ignored by the experts. All one knows of the experts’ activities is gleaned from an occasional paragraph in the newspapers. “We saw the other day that they were in Queensland, where it was said they had discovered the ideal tobacco-growing country. Near Cairns they had found a place where tobacco was being produced of a quality superior even to that of the American leaf. I ascertained upon inquiry, however, that the Cairns enterprise was confined to
Hn area of about 2 acres. Again we were told without any warning that the experts, in the course of their inquiries, had discovered that there was a fatal flaw in all Australian-grown tobacco - namely, that it was tainted with eucalyptus, making it unpalatable to smokers. “We challenged the experts on this statement, and they said that they had all the data up their sleeves, but they refused to put it before us. The opinion formed among the growers as a result of this and other pronouncements is that the experts have some strange desire to administer a knockout blow to the tobacco-growing industry in Australia. It is peculiar that as soon as the statement about the eucalyptus taint was published, the British Australasian Tobacco Company took up the cry, and stated that, owing to this doubt having been raised, they would have to limit production. I saw a letter to the effect that the company was not prepared to purchase the produce of more than 70 acres of tobacco in the Texas district, the reason given being that it wished the matter of the eucalyptus taint to be cleared up before it committed itself further. The growers deny the existence of any taint, and say they are being humbugged about it. They cannot obtain any reliable information, being told one thing one day and another thing the next, and they have formed the impression that there is a move on foot to stop the growing of tobacco in this country.
– How can the tobacco be tainted with eucalyptus when it is grown amongst the scrub?
– One of the main points of this inquiry should be to determine the best method of protecting the Australian tobacco industry. First, we should find out whether the growers are now producing leaf good enough to make up into tobacco, whether it warrants being placed on the market, and whether Australians should be encouraged to smoke it. If it is good enough, then we must determine what steps should be taken to secure practically the whole of our £3,000,000 market for ourselves. If it is found that the leaf is not good enough, we should find out what are the factors operating against the successful production of tobacco here. “We should also seek to learn why the present experiments are being carried out in a. more or less secret fashion, and in what way they are helping to solve the problems of production. Parliament should know these things if we are to enter into an arrangement to spend a further £50,000 in investigating the industry. The matter should not be loft to the discretion of a few experts. “We have never yet had any direct information as to the destination of the money that we vote for the encouragement of this industry. We should like to know whether bona fide efforts are being made by the experts and so-called experts to set the industry on its feet. The proposed select committee would not consist of experts, but we may assume that the members of it would be reasonable and intelligent men capable of sifting the evidence submitted to it. The committee would not need to go into the technical details of the industry. Its object, would be rather to take political and public considerations into account. The committee would hear what the experts, the representatives of the company, and the representatives of the growers had to say, and it should then be able to give this House a valuable opinion of the prospects of the industry.
The incidence of the tariff is a subject that would need careful consideration. The extra duty of 8d., that has just been imposed, may be very helpful, but it must be remembered that the growers have been asking for a reduction in the excise duty, as well as an increase in the import duty.
– I suppose the honorable member is aware that the dutyis now more than 100 per cent, ad valorem ?
– I know that the duty is substantial; but the question is, whether it is sufficient to cause this great monopoly to buy as much Australian leaf as possible. I believe that Mr. Slagg, our tobacco expert, is honestly trying to solve the problems which confront the industry, but he has been seriously handicapped in his work by the failure of the State experts to work in harmony with him. The proposed committee could inquire whether the Commonwealth is getting a fair return for the expenditure that it is incurring in the endeavour to encourage this industry. If we really intend to encourage this industry, we should make adequate provision for the permanent supervision of it. The present arrangement is only temporary. Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have engaged certain experts, with the object of fostering tobacco-growing, but the contribution that they have made in this way has not been very valuable, possibly for the reason that the experts have confined themselves to local areas and have not looked at the industry from the Australian point of view. The Commonwealth has only established the nucleus of a- tobacco control department, but the United States of America, Canada and South Africa have gone farther, and have set up permanent departments to protect and encourage the industry. I suggest that if the proposed select committee discovered that important results had been achieved during the three-year period of encouragement, it might make a recommendation that the Government should appoint Mr. Slagg, or some other expert, permanently as the Commonwealth supervisor of the industry, and allow such machinery to be set up as might be considered necessary to continue the experiments. The growers would then feel that the Government was serious in its endeavours to establish tobacco-growing as an important national industry. The experiments now being conducted will undoubtedly enable our growers, in time, to produce varieties of tobacco entirely acceptable to the palate of Australian smokers.
The main business of the committee, however, would be to inquire into the relations between the tobacco monopoly and the growers. Everything that we can do to encourage the growing of first-class tobacco here should be done. The sooner we can make it unnecessary to spend £3,000,000 a year on imported tobacco, the better it will be for Australia. The men and boys who are spending days and nights in their flue-curing barns are the real pioneers and founders of this industry in Australia, and they deserve more consideration than the so-called experts. We have only 500 or 600 tobacco-growers here at present ; but, if we made a thorough and conscientious investigation into the industry, I feel sure that, within two or three years, we could increase the number to 5,000 or 6,000, who would probably be capable of growing ample tobacco for our needs.
We should not underrate the possibility of local production. Our aim should be to make Australia self-contained in this as in other respects. If another war should occur - though we all hope that it will not - we might find our tobacco supplies cut off. This would not be a hardship for those who do not smoke; but it would be a serious calamity to the many thousands of smokers in Australia, and we should take every possible step to avoid such a happening. When the war broke out in 1914, the tobacco-buyers went to our growers and stopped them from sweeping out even the waste leaf on the floor. They said, “ Do not waste even that; for we may need it.” If we could not get tobacco, our people might be reduced to the extremity of smoking bark or paper. . If the industry is given reasonable encouragement such a calamity as that could be prevented. I trust that the motion will be agreed to.
– I second the motion, and commend the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) for his persistent endeavours in this House and elsewhere to secure a comprehensive inquiry into the tobacco industry. I believe that the industry has great possibilities in Australia. I propose to make some quotations from the Ninth Report of the Imperial Economic Committee, which deals with tobacco, with the object of showing the beneficial effect that tariff protection has had on this industry in different parts of the British Empire. My first quotation is as follows: -
A preference on Empire tobacco was accorded in September, 1919, by the grant of a rebate of one-sixth of the full rate of import duty. At that time this represented an advantage of1s. 4-5/12d. per lb. In July, 1925, the rebate was increased by 50 per cent. to onequarter of the full rate, or to 2s.0&5/8d. a lb., and by the Finance Act of the following year the preference was stabilized at this figure for ten years from the 1st July, 1926. This preference represents more than the value of the leaf itself in recent years.
– Is not the honorable member the secretary of the local tobaccogrowers’ association?
– I am the assistant secretary of it. I was present at the conference of Australian tobacco-growers held recently, to which the honorable member for New England has referred. The honorable member was elected president, and I was asked to accept the position of ‘ secretary. I said that I was behind the growers, and would do everything I possibly could to assist them.
– We are all behind them.
– I did not desire to occupy a dual position; but I was prevailed upon to accept the position of assistant secretary. Dealing with the good effect of a preferential tariff, the report from which I have already quoted states -
In Canada, where the local market for leaf has expanded slowly, and the import of the leaf from America has increased, the growth in production is the result of the grant of preference. In some of the newer countries, on the other hand, notably Rhodesia and Nyasaland, it is obvious that the effect of preference on production has. been direct and phenomenal. The following table shows the increase in production, subsequent to the introduction of preference in these countries of the Empire in which there has been special development: -
In Cyprus production has multiplied 23 times in the last six years from 137,000 lb. in 1921 to 3,584,000 lb. (estimated) in 1927.
Such a phenomenal increase in the little island of Cyprus is astonishing.
Mention was made, by the mover of the motion, of the tobacco monopoly in Australia, the British-Australasian Tobacco Company being practically the only buyer of our locally-grown leaf. There has been a tobacco monopoly in France for a very long while. It was instituted by an imperial decree on the 20th December, 1810. Its existence was confirmed by the Finance Act of 24th April, 1816, and renewed successively until the 26th December, 1892, when it was extended sine die. This monopoly, under the ministry of finance, exercises supervision over the area planted, the number of plants put in the ground, and also the seed used ; but it does not control the price of tobacco. That is fixed by a committee consisting of four representatives of the State Manufacturers Department, and four representatives of the growers, who have as their chairman the president of the State Audit Office. But Australian growers, unlike those of France, have no say whatever in the fixing of prices. That is left entirely to the company, which determines its price and then says to the growers : “ Take the price we offer or leave it.” It is unfair to place the grower in that position. In 1925, a committee inquired into the operation of the French monopoly, and, although defects were admitted, the committe did not see fit to recommend its abolition. That monopoly continues to-day. The profits derived from it amount to £20,000,000 a year, and that sum is paid into the national sinking fund. The profits derived from the monopoly in Australia do not assist such a fund. Honorable members know where they go, and that they are very substantial. The mover of the motion said that they amount to about £1,000,000 a year.
Having recently travelled through my electorate, and having come into contact with many of the growers, I say unhesitatingly that they are greatly dissatisfied with the prices they receive for their leaf.
Not long ago a representative of a Western Australian firm visited Victoria and purchased leaf produced there. One grower, who had fifteen bales, had been offered by a Victorian firm ls. per lb. for five bales, and 7d. per lb. for six bales, while for the other four bales no offer was made. The buyer from Western Australia took the fifteen bales at ls. per lb. Evidently it paid him to give that increased price, and incur the additional expense of sending the leaf to the western State. As I said at the outset, I believe that the Australian industry has a big future if given a fair chance; but at the present time it is not receiving proper consideration. The quantity of Australiangrown leaf used, in factories in Australia, as compared with the quantity of imported leaf manufactured here, is indicated by the following table: -
It is thus seen that for the year i927-28, by comparison with the two previous years, there was a decrease in the quantity of Australian leaf and an increase in the quantity of imported leaf manufactured. The Australian growers contend that there is no reason why they should not supply all the . tobacco consumed in Australia, and even have some available for export. The figures for 1928-29 are not yet available. The revenue received for the last four years was as follows : -
The revenue derived from the industry is gradually increasing, and, with the additonal 8d. per lb. proposed to be added to the import duty, a larger increase may be expected next year. That will certainly benefit the growers to an extent; but I doubt whether the Government’s action was prompted by consideration for the growers; there was, perhaps, another reason for it.
In 1926 the Tariff Board investigated the condition of the industry, and, after an exhaustive inquiry in the various States,.it made this final recommendation -
That the excise duty payable on all lemoncoloured and bright mahogany and dark; mahogany tobacco leaf supplied by a grower to. a manufacturer for use in the manufacture of’ tobacco be reduced by 6d. per lb. It is estimated on the present figures that this reduction in excise would amount to about £20,0.00; per annum.
The board recommends that the Minister obtain a guarantee from the tobacco companies that, if the reduction in excise suggested is made, the companies will undertake to pass the 6d. per lb. on to the suppliers of the three grades of tobacco mentioned, and that such payments will be made in addition to the present payments, including bonuses given by the companies.
That recommendation has never been given effect. If it had, the industry would probably be in a better position than that in which it now finds itself. No reason was given for the failure to give effect to the recommendation, except that the British Australasian Tobacco Company offered to assist the Government in the experimental work that was and is being carried out. Last session I asked a question with respect to that matter, and the reply given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) waa that, under the terms of the agreement, the company was to find £20,000 in the first three years and the Commonwealth and State governments between them £10,000, a total of £30,000. If, at the end of three years, it was desired to continue the experimental work, the company was to provide a further £30,000, and the Commonwealth and State governments a similar sum, or a total of £90,000. When my question was answered, the total amount that had been contributed by the British Australasian Tobacco Company to the investigation up to that time was £8,000, the Commonwealth and State governments having provided £4,000, making the total expenditure £12,000. It is questionable whether it is desirable that that company should be contributing to the cost of this work, and whether its cost should not be wholly borne by the Commonwealth Government. The following figures show the percentage of imported leaf, as compared with Australian leaf, used locally in the manufacture of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes : -
It will thus be seen that the bulk of the Australian-grown tobacco is .used for the manufacture of pipe tobacco. I understand that the claim of the Australian monopoly is that there is something wrong with the Australian-grown leaf. Comment has been made upon its aroma. It seems to me that the company is not genuine in its efforts to assist the industry to flourish. I have a few figures showing that, in- Western Australia, the manufacture of Australian leaf is increasing, while in Victoria its use is on the decrease. I understand that the quantity used by the firm engaged in the manufacture of tobacco in Western Australia is annually increasing. That contradicts the statement that there is no market for the Australian leaf or for tobacco containing a considerable percentage of it. The following table, showing the percentages of imported and Australian tobacco leaf used in our factories during the years 1927-28 and 1928-29, is instructive^ -
Honorable members will notice that in New South Wales there has been a decrease in the proportion of Australian leaf used by the manufacturers, but in Western Australia there has been a marked and gratifying increase. The use of the local product should be encouraged. A Western Australian buyer who came to the eastern States to purchase supplies of Australian leaf paid to the growers prices considerably higher than they could have obtained from the British Australasian Tobacco Company. Quite recently, in the Upper Murray district, I met a farmer who has abandoned tobacco cultivation for dairying, but he has still some tobacco leaf on hand, and I made arrangements for samples of it to be sent to Western Australia for valuation.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) pointed out that the British Australasian Tobacco Company offers a bonus to the growers, but is well able to do that because it pays to them a lower price than it should pay for their leaf. Some growers told me that an expert of the Department of Agriculture put a valuation on their bales of tobacco, but when’ the combine’s buyer arrived he offered a much lower price, and they had to accept that or have their tobacco left on their hands. They are at the mercy of the tobacco trust. Australia’s greatest trouble is that it is in the grip of combines, trusts and monopolies. We need a Government that will stand up to them. The present Government will not do so, and the reason is obvious; it will not “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” The select committee, if appointed, might ascertain the weight of Australian grown tobacco, the price paid to the grower for it, the uses to which it was put, and the price realized after manufacture. If that information is obtained it will enable us to judge whether it is the growers, the consumers, or the combine who are reaping the benefit of the protective duty which was imposed presumably to help the growers. Before the Arbitration Court makes an award, it must consider the probable economic effect of that award upon the community. When prices are being fixed, why should not the economic effect upon the community be taken into account ? If that were done”, the growers would probably receive n bigger price for their leaf, the consumers would get their tobacco more cheaply, and the profits of the combine would be reduced.
– “What profit is the combine making?
– Approximately £1,000,000 per annum-. The consumers pay whatever prices are asked for tobacco, cigars and cigarettes, and have no idea whether such prices are fair or unfair, but the growers know the value of their leaf, and are gravely dissatisfied with the prices they are forced to accept from the one buying firm.
Honorable members may wonder why the production of tobacco leaf in Australia is decreasing. I am informed by an expert that the chief reason is that “large quantities of tobacco intended for the manufacture ‘of cigars and cigarettes, must be kept on hand for a long time to mature. That necessitates a considerable outlay on plant, and the manufacturers are not prepared to find the necessary money. But if they were assured that the leaf would be grown in sufficient quantities there would be an inducement to install larger plants and to store up large quantities of leaf. A full inquiry into the tobacco-growing industry is overdue. I hope that the select committee will be appointed and that as a result of its investigations this industry, which I am sure has great possibilities, will be put upon-a more prosperous footing.
.- The. personnel of the proposed committee does not include any representative of South Australia; yet the subject of the proposed inquiry is of importance to that State. About Mount Barker and the hills near Adelaide are large areas suitable for the cultivation of the tobacco plant, and the statistics quoted by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) showing that nearly 2 per cent of locally grown leaf is used in the manufacture of cigars in that State, indicates that the product must be of superior quality. We are on the lookout for opportunities for agricultural development, and tobacco cultivation, under favorable conditions, offers a good return from a small area for a small outlay of capital. Therefore, this motion should be regarded seriously by the Government, and not allowed to pass unheeded as a pious platitude designed to deceive our constituents into the belief that something is being done for them when in reality nothing is being done. At present millions of pounds are sent out of Australia for the purchase. of tobacco leaf, most, if not all, of which should be produced locally. From that point of view the motion should commend itself to the Government. If the Government will not consent to the appointment of a committee because it fears the cost of such an investigation as is .proposed, it should give to the House an assurance that it will take action along the lines outlined in the motion. 1 I am convinced that the combine is preventing the tobacco-growing industry from extending; but its possibilities are so great that the Government should lose no time in investigating them. At least the Development and Migration Commission should be asked to inquire into every phase of the tobacco industry. Such an inquiry would not satisfy this House so fully as would an investigation by a select committee, the members of which would be able to give us first-hand information regarding the potentialities of the industry, and urge the Parliament and the Government to take. action. I do not think that the scope for the development of tobacco cultivation is fully realized. The previous representative of Indi (Mr. R. Cook) frequently brought ‘under the notice of the House the desirability of encouraging the industry, and I am convinced that we cannot afford to neglect it any longer. Australia is passing through a lean period ; we need further development and more population from overseas, but land settlement is possible only to persons wealthy enough to take up large areas. The high prices of land and the heavy interest rates have much more effect upon the cost of production than have the wages paid to the workers. Land is valued so highly that only a person with a large amount of capital can undertake the more common forms of production. But the cultivation of tobacco is in a different category; if proper encouragement is given to it, a man with ten acres can gain a competency, or at any rate ‘ become fairly comfortable. I trust that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) will include in the personnel of the proposed select committee, a member of this House representing a rural constituency in South Australia, as I believe that the cultivation of tobacco can be profitably undertaken in certain districts in that State.
.- This subject is of particular interest to me, because fairly large quantities of tobacco were once produced in the district which I represent. A great deal of information about the cultivation of tobacco in Queensland has been procured by an inspector of the Department of Agriculture in that State, who has reported that in consequence bf the low prices paid for tobacco leaf, the industry has been practically abandoned. Very little tobacco leaf is now being produced in that State except, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said, on experimental plots. Mr. R. S. Nevill, tobacco expert in the Queensland Department of Agriculture, has stated that the cigar leaf grown on the Don river near Bowen, and in the Proserpine district, was at least equal to the best imported leaf. Yet the production of tobacco leaf has been practically discontinued, largely, as I have said, because of the unsatisfactory prices paid by the purchasers. When small quantities were offered for sale the prices realized were fairly satisfactory, but when larger supplies were forthcoming, the buyers offered considerably lower rates. Mr. Pollock, the northern inrstructor in agriculture in. Queensland, states -
The growth of cigar leaf on a commercial scale in the north dates back to the early eighties, when some crops were grown near St. Helens, in the Mackay district, and in the . Bloomfield River district, as well as probably on odd occasions in other districts. The first crops alluded to in the Mackay district were most successful from the farmers’ point of view, the leaf realizing Is. per lb., a most payable return at the time, whilst the quality was favorably commented upon by the manufacturers.
He goes on to say -
After the appointment of Mr. R. S. Nevill as tobacco expert, towards the close of 1897, the attention of settlers was drawn to cigar leaf as a crop, many in the Bowen, Proserpine and Townsville districts erecting curing sheds and engaging in the industry with more or less satisfactory returns, until the year 1920., when, owing to an increase in duty being forecasted, manufacturers seized the opportunity to import a large supply of leaf before the increase became operative.
That is the method adopted by the importers to-day, who, on receiving some indication of a’ probable increase in customs duties, import larger quantities, which has an adverse effect upon Australian growers. ‘ Mr. Pollock further states -
While the small portion of the 1925 crop marketed about August realized satisfactory prices, with no adverse comment on quality, the balance and major portion . marketed in the first three months of 1926 realized much lower prices, while. very adverse comment was made on the quality of the leaf. Growers contend that there was no variation in quality between the lots first marketed and lots finally marketed, as they were portions of the one crop harvested and cured at the one time, the only difference being that the last lot marketed hung in the curing shed for a longer time, which it could do without deterioration.
When the first consignments were received the buyers admitted that the quality was satisfactory, but when other parcels, from the same crop, were subsequently offered, lower rates were quoted, because the buyers said that the leaf was not of the same quality. In dealing with the comparison in prices Mr. Pollock gives the following figures: -
Instances of disparities in prices experienced by most growers in their first and second lots marketed are shown in the following prices, which I have verified from their account sales : -
The growers complained that in disposing of their product they were forced to sell through one agency. The Department of Agriculture in Queensland endeavoured to sell their crops to advantage, but could not get buyers, and was. informed that the growers would have to. sell through one firm whose name I shall give. Mr. Pollock’s report on this phase of the industry states: -
They are forced to sell through a single agency, namely, Robert Nelson and Company, 17 Queen-street, Melbourne. This is true, since efforts to sell through the State Produce Agency, Brisbane, and the Coastal Farmers’ Co-operative Society. Sydney, were resultless, the grower in each instance being informed of failure to receive an offer and advised to communicate with Robert Nelson and Company, aforesaid.
The chief objection was that the growers were unable to obtain any reliable information as to the method of selling. The report continues -
That competition amongst buyers, such as at public auction, does not occur, sales being apparently made by private treaty, and that the name of the purchaser is not disclosed. Several account sales that came under my observation showed the name of the purchasing firm, while many others did not.
That is one reason why hundreds of men who were engaged in the cultivation of tobacco are now employed in the growing of sugar cane. They contend that they would have had better opportunities of disposing of their product if they could have sold it by auction, instead of by private treaty. For the information of honorable members, I submit the following figures, given by Mr. Pollock, showing the variation of prices over a period of years : -
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8p.m.
- Mr. Pollock’s report on the tobacco-growing industry of North Queensland continues -
The buyers complain that the cure of the leaf is faulty, quality is deficient, and grading bad, and that frequently on opening up the. cases much of the leaf has to be destroyed owing to excessive fermentation during transit, caused by packing the leaf whentoo moist. . . . That the colour of the leaf is not what they require, being unevenor blotchy, too yellow or too dark. That the large leaves, in the absence of “sweating” (careful fermentative process) by the grower, require very careful handling to prevent breakage, thus adding considerably to the cost of manufacture. That there is too little of the leaf that can be used for wrappers or binders. There is no doubt that the contentions of the buyers are true, and that very much improvement is needed in the growers’ treatment of the crop. . . . It is a coincidence, however, that complaints are only made when a heavy supply is put on the market.
It is remarkable that when the growers get a good crop they are told that their leaf is faulty. The report continues -
The possessor of the monopoly of the agency, through which the northern growers are forced to market their leaf, does not appear to consider it necessary to draw growers’ attention to the quality of the leaf they market, or to help them in any way to better their lot. Had the growers been supplied with a frank criticism of the leaf they sent down and received prices that varied according to quality, they would feel less irritated by the position. When they note on the letter paper of the agent, that he handles tinned fish, jam, dried fruits, insect powder and “ Dandy “ mops, they naturally felt suspicious of his conversance with quality in cigar leaf, and his ability to obtain prices’ in accordance therewith.
I suggest that the growers are right in their contention that if a man knows nothing about the tobacco business, he would hardly be a suitable person to handle a tobacco agency. Mr. Pollock continues -
I append tables showing the production of cigar leaf over ten years in North Queensland, and the imports of manufactured tobacco and manufacture of tobacco (both imported for the purpose and that locally grown) into plug’ tobacco, cigars and cigarettes over a like number of years. Viewing these statistics relating to cigars, it will bc noticed the Commonwealth annual consumption is over 500,000 lbs., of which less than 100,000 lbs. is imported in a manufactured state. There is thus a market capable of absorbing at least 500,000 lbs. of stamped cigar leaf annually, which would doubtless increase if cigars could be sold at a cheaper rate than that at present prevailing.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) mentioned this afternoon the fact that complaint had been made about eucalyptus taint in tobacco, Mr. Pollock is an authority on tobaccogrowing, and I suggest that he would be a suitable person to ask to furnish information on that subject. The report continues -
Scope. North Queensland is capable of producing the whole of the cigar leaf required by the Commonwealth for many years to come, if not for all time, since suitable soils and climatic conditions can be secured in all coastal districts from Mackay to Cape York, especially those in which soils of granitic origin occur. Mr. Nevill’s reports will note many suitable localities observed in his travels, to which I can add many that he had not the opportunity to visit.
Quality. The burning quality is the first essential and is dependent on the soil in which the plant is grown. Manufacturers admit that much of the present leaf they handle is very satisfactory in this respect.
All those little stories that we hear about the impossibility of doing this, that, and the other, because of certain peculiarities, in the country, disappear when investigated to any extent, and I think that some of the alleged difficulties in respect of tobacco-growing here would be overcome if an investigation were made into the conditions of the industry. I have a keen recollection of reading a report about the impossibility of manufacturing a suitable whisky in Australia, because of certain ingredients that were not available in Australia, and were obtainable only in Scotland. Since then, with the assistance of an increased tariff on imported whisky, this spirit has been successfully manufactured in Australia. I feel certain that the history of the manufacture of Australian whisky will be repeated in connexion with the tobacco-growing industry.
Mr. Pollock also deals with the cost of preparing an acre of land, not only for the planting of a crop of tobacco, but also for what he terms a “ sucker crop “ the equivalent of “ ratoons “ in the sugar industry. The report reads - _ Wages are considered at fi per day of eight hours, as one person experienced and skilled would do easily a third more work than an unskilled person, especially in planting out, topping, suckering, harvesting, and stripping.
Thu costs set out are intended to include all operations with a sucker crop as well as the original plant crop. The cost of production at the foregoing -rate - 10.5d. per lb. Add freights, forwarding and other charges and commission estimate 3.5d. Estimate of total cost of production - ls. 2d. per lb. When interest and depreciation of plant and curing shed with the rental value of the land are added, the cost of production would rise to at least ls. 6d. per lb.
Growers state if guaranteed an average price of 2s. per lb. over a period of years they would be able to grow the crop with profit while the manufacturers state, if quality and grades were improved, they would pay more than would average the 2s. sought.
I do not intend to quote further from Mr. Pollock’s report, which he prepared for the Queensland Government under instructions from the Queensland Department of Agriculture. It is a lengthy, seemingly well thought-out, and sound report. I suggest to the House that it would be a good idea to appoint a committee to investigate tobacco-growing with a view to ascertaining whether the industry is worth assisting. If we could firmly establish the tobacco industry in Australia, it would be a valuable asset to us, and, in view of that possibility, I feel that the House would be justified in carrying the motion moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson).
– I support the proposal to investigate the tobacco-growing industry, believing that iu Australia there are great opportunities for growing profitable crops. I rose really to take exception to the appointment of a select committee. We are experiencing a period of financial stringency, and have been told that the Government is seeking every opportunity to reduce expenditure. I suggest, therefore, that, instead of appointing a select committee, whose investigations would probably cost several thousands of pounds, we should refer this subject to the Public Accounts Committee. It is a very capable body, and has funds at its disposal. I hope that the Minister will not rashly consent to the appointment of a select committee when the investigation could be performed just as capably by a parliamentary standing committee.
– I hope that the motion will be carried, so that something may be done to place this important industry on a sound footing. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has at last awakened to the fact that we have too many commissions and committees functioning in Australia. Most of these are looking for work, and should have been disbanded long ago; but an inquiry into tobacco-growing is well worth undertaking. It could easily become an important industry; but to-day it is languishing because there is something radically wrong with it. We know that its existence is largely threatened by a huge monopoly; still, it seems to be nobody’s business to get right down to tintacks and to reveal the causes that are tending to destroy tobacco-growing in Australia. For that reason, I think that the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the industry is justified. A large part of Australia is essentially suitable for tobacco-growing. The electorate of Indi has some very fine tobacco country, and also in my own electorate there are areas that could be successfully devoted to the growing of tobacco, if the necessary assistance were given to the growers. The Tumut district contains some fine tobacco-growing areas, and several settlers there who have engaged in the industry are meeting with slight success, despite many difficulties. If given adequate assistance, the tobacco industry, at least in that district, would soon be flourishing. The Government, last year, refused to appoint a select committee to inquire into the industry, and gave no reason for its refusal. The British-Australasian Tobacco Company is making a profit of £1,000,000 annually, and it is undoubtedly in a position to pay a fair and reasonable price for tobacco leaf. Its profits are made at the expense of the small growers. There are a few big growers in Australia, and they are well established, consequently the company treats them fairly; but the small growers, who are struggling to make a living, are dealt with harshly in order to swell the dividends of the company. For that reason the big growers have no word of complaint about this monopoly, and will not join the smaller growers in their efforts to ‘better their marketing conditions. I am particularly concerned about the interests of those small growers, and the Government should be equally concerned. This year the company has issued to the growers what might be termed a ukase, which indicates that they are to be very unfairly treated. Under the old agreement it undertook to purchase 250,000 lb. of lemon leaf, 650,000 lb. of bright mahogany, 300,000 lb. of No. 1 dark, and 300,000 lb. of No. 2 dark. The price of the lemon leaf was 2s. 6d. a lb., plus a bonus, which in reality was merely a nominal and not a real bonus, because the price paid was correspondingly reduced. For 1929 they undertook to purchase 350,000 lb. of lemon leaf, 750,000 lb. of bright mahogany, 200,000 lb. of No. 1 dark, and 200,000 lb. of. No. 2 dark. They have now informed the growers that during the coming year they propose to purchase 350,000 lb. of lemon leaf, 1,000,000 lb. of bright mahogany, 150,000 lb. of No. 1 dark, and no No. 2 dark leaf. The growers found that the cultivation of the dark leaf paid better than the other varieties, and went to the expense of installing the necessary plant, yet they are now given a moment’s notice that that is to count for nothing, and that they must make any other arrangements they can. The company should not be permitted to lay down, such a policy, particularly when the growers are unprepared to carry on over the transition period. I mention this as an illustration of the ungenerous manner in which this powerful company deals with the growers, and particularly the smaller section, especially as only 5 per cent, of the tobacco consumed in Australia is produced within our own borders.
I hope that the motion will be passed. I give it my support, trusting that it will be the means of finding a way out of the difficulties with which the struggling tobacco-growers are confronted.
, - I support the motion. The expenditure of the few hundred pounds that may be involved in. the investigation is certainly warranted. When we realize that the value of the tobacco imported is no less than £3,000,000 a year, we must admit that this industry has not progressed. Surely the proposed investiga-tion would reveal the reasons for that lack of progress, and lead to sound proposals being put forward for promoting the production of this commodity in Australia ! Other countries, including Africa, are now engaging in the export trade, while only 1 per cent, of the Empire’s production is produced in Australia, which, with its varied climate and excellent soils, should be a fertile source of supply. For years the Texas district in Queensland has been growing tobacco successfully. Last year I found that on the Gunya estate there were 25 acres of the finest quality irrigated land used for tobacco-growing. The purchasers of the leaf desired that it should be flue-cured, the object being to give it a colour that would place it in the grade which commands a reasonable price. That operation was carried out with expense to both the growers and the company, but in the marketing of the product disappointment was experienced. The Wide Bay district, the northern areas of Queensland, and other parts of Australia offer excellent opportunities for the production of this commodity. A very large sum of money is annually sent overseas, particularly to the United States of America, for tobacco. I am anxious, therefore, that action should be taken to promote the growth of a larger quantity in Australia. The proposal contained in the motion mav help towards improving the conditions in the industry, and I trust that honorable members will support it.
.- This Go,vernment has demonstrated on many occasions its concern for the tobaccogrowing industry. I, therefore, followed with keen interest the speeches of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones), and other honorable members who have supported the motion, which proposes that a select committee shall be appointed to investigate the conditions in that industry. I must confess, however, that the remarks of the mover of the motion failed to convince me of the necessity for a select committee. I am definitely of the opinion that the time chosen for making this proposal is in no sense opportune, and also that the expense entailed would not be justified. I entirely agree that the possibilities of tobacco growing in this country are enormous, and that so far the results have been disappointing. Great as are the possibilities in regard to soil, climate, and all other conditions which we believe are necessary for the production of a good leaf, the performance so far has been a. slender one.
– That is not a fact.
– I speak relatively. Australia produces only about 5 per cent, of the quantity consumed in this country. That is a disappointing result, and the problem of how to improve it admittedly demands the sympathetic consideration of the Government. I am in no sense hostile to the object which those honorable members who have spoken in favour of the motion have in view, but I do not believe that the problem is likely to be solved by the setting up of a parliamentary select committee.
Judging from the debate, so far as it has proceeded, one would think that this industry is, in a sense, the Cinderella of rural industries in Australia - that it is the only industry for which this Parliament, or this Government, has done nothing. I propose to show that a very substantial measure of support and encouragement, extending over very many years,- has been given to it by this Par.liament. Had it depended on a protective tariff, and not -come accidentally under the beneficent influence of a revenue tariff, it would never have become established. I doubt whether there is one protectionist in this House who will say that we should give to an industry like the tobacco industry, which is producing only 5 percent. of our total consumption, a protection substantially greater than 100 per cent. ad valorem. That is what this industry is enjoying at the present time. There is not one secondary industry which comes within the range of a protective tariff that has a measure of protection equal to that which is enjoyed by this industry, on account of the fact that it is sheltered by ft revenue tariff. Until recently the industry enjoyed a protective duty of roughly of 2s. to 3s. per lb. Under the new schedule of revenue duties that protection will be increased by a further 8d. per lb. The Australian tobacco industry enjoys the protection of upwards of 100 per cent. ad valorem!
As to the specific concern which the Government has demonstrated towards the industry, I remind honorable members that there have been two Tariff Board inquiries into the subject, the last, that of 1926, having been definitely due to the action of this Government. The recommendation of that board was for a bounty or decreased excise, or both. It recommended a reduction of 6d. per lb. on Australian-grown lemon, bright mahogany and dark mahogany leaf. It is true that the Government did not adopt that recommendation but, as a result of that inquiry, it did, by its negotiations with the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, bring about a considerable improvement in the position of the local industry. As the outcome of representations by my predecessor in office, the late Mr.Pratten, the company decided to increase its bonus on the varieties of leaf to which I have referred, from 3d. to 6d. per lb. A number of honorable members during this debate have asserted that the bonus alleged to be paid by the company is more or less make-believe. They contend that, while ostensibly increasing its price for leaf and paying the bonus agreed upon, the company has really paid a bonus of 3d. per lb., and reduced its old purchase priceby a similar amount. I hold no brief for this great tobacco trust, but honorable members have not convinced me, nor do I think that they have convinced the House generally, by the mere making of this statement without any evidence in support of it. It should be very easy to establish such a charge by making a comparison of the prices paid over a number of years. In the absence of such proof, I am disposed to challenge the statements made by honorable members.
As the immediate result of the increase in revenue duty, brought about by the new schedule, the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, according to to-day’s press, has announced its intention to increase the price on lemon and bright mahogany coloured tobacco by 6d. per lb. from the moment when the tabled duties become law. There again, I claim, the Government has shown its very practical and definite sympathy with the tobaccogrowing industry of Australia.
Mr.R. Green. - The honorable gentleman cannot justly call an increase of revenue duties, sympathy.
– I consider an increase of 9d. a lb., definitely brought about by the action of this Government on a product worth from 2s. to 3s., a very practical demonstration of sympathy. If the Government could make such a demonstration of relative financial support to every other industry in this country, it would indeed be popular at this moment.
This measure of cash assistance by negotiation, and definitely through the operation of the tariff, is only the beginning of what the Government is endeavouring to do for the industry. One of the results of the Tariff Board inquiries was a definite offer from the British-Australasian Tobacco Company to expend, in co-operation with the Commonwealth and State Governments, a sum of £50,000 upon investigation, research, and experiment generally, in an endeavour to improve and develop the tobacco-growing within Australia. After certain negotiations, the offer was accepted almost on a £1 for £1 basis. Thirty thousand pounds is now being expended through the agency - and I consider it a very impressive agency - of the Development and Migration Commission, the Council of Scientific and
Industrial Research, and the heads of all the Agricultural Departments of the various States, working through a highly expert executive. The expenditure of that amount is to be spread over a period of three years; £20,000 being found by the company, and the balance by the Commonwealth and States. If at the end of three years the investigation is promising, a further £60,000 will be expended along somewhat similar lines, the company contributing one-half of that amount. I regret that the investigation was somewhat belittled this afternoon by the honorable” member for New England (Mr. Thompson). I am rather surprised that a gentleman of his attainments should express a view so hostile - I shall not say benighted - to the endeavours- of activities along what the Government believes to be scientific and progressive lines. I cannot believe that the honorable member, who represents a country constituency, has failed to observe how much this country owes to scientific research in every branch of agriculture, particularly in the production of wheat. I can scarcely imagine that he intended that his remarks should be taken seriously when he decried the activities of the particular research organizations which have been set in motion. I doubt whether, in all the history of land pursuits in Australia, there has been undertaken an investigation so widespread, thorough, and so surely calculated to place an industry in a substantially better position. The honorable member for New England expressed dismay that there had been no noticeable increase in the output of tobacco, or in the quality of the leaf grown, as the result of this research movement. I counsel a little patience in the matter. It has been in operation for only two years. Personally, I do not ‘think that we could reasonably expect any appreciable benefit from such an investigation in that period. The very fact that the programme has been outlined for a period of six years indicates that we are not likely to obtain any substantial benefits within a very few months.
Because the Government has just made available an extra 6d. per lb. for Australian leaf of high-grade quality, and some £90,000 is to be expended on research of an eminently practical nature, I am not favorable to, nor do I think that, the Government regards with very much favour, any proposition to set up at this juncture a parliamentary committee to conduct an inquiry running parallel with the investigation or overlapping the good work already undertaken by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States and the company. In view of what has already been undertaken, the proposed additional expenditure on this committee cannot be justified. I reiterate that I hold no brief for this big tobacco combine. I do not love big combines any more than other honorable members do. But as the case -advanced -has been built up to some extent on the assumption that the growers in Australia are being ruthlessly exploited by this great tobacco company, I should like very briefly to mention some of the opinions of the Tariff Board as to the attitude of the company to the growers. I shall express no opinion of my own on the subject. The Tariff Board heard a great deal of evidence, and went exhaustively into both sides of the matter, and I ask honorable members to bear with me while I readsome of its findings. This is one -
In the opinion of the board the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited has not shown any antagonism towards the use of the local leaf. On the contrary, the record of the company clearly indicates a desire to obtain suitable local leaf. It will be seen from the foregoing statement that the company has purchased to the utmost of its capacity for use with blending with other leaf, such leaf as has been grown in Australia.
And then appears this very impressive statement -
As a matter of fact, in order to assist growers, it has purchased in excess of its actual requirements until at the present time it has accumulated a stock of local leaf which, together with the estimated purchase of the 1926 crop, will aggregate over 5,000,000 lb. weight, running into £365,000 in value and at the present rate of consumption sufficient to last nearly four years.
There may be some mysterious and sinister reason for the accumulation of that stock, some reason adverse to the interests of the Australian, growers, but if so it is remarkably well concealed. If honorable members take the trouble to read this report of the Tariff Board, they will find quite a number of expressions of opinion, both as to the friendliness of the company towards the Australian tobacco- growers, and as to the disposition of the company at all times to buy Australiangrown leaf. I am not an expert on these things; but, as a smoker, I venture one explanation for the extraordinary difficulty that has been experienced in finding a sale within Australia for Australiangrown leaf. I do riot think that mankind is so conservative in any other of his tastes and habits as he is about his smoking tobacco. As was established during the war, if a man becomes accustomed to smoking even what is rubbish, rubbish he will continue to smoke in preference to higher-grade tobaccos. I do not think that it is prejudice against the Australian leaf; but smokers become used to the imported tobacco, and they adhere to its use. We must remember that, although the British-Australasian Tobacco Company has what virtually amounts to a monopoly of the Australian trade, there are many lesser companies importing tobacco, and I believe it is this importation of the overseas article, to the use of which we have become accustomed, that prevents the British-Australasian Tobacco Company from swinging over to the manufacture from the Australian leaf. I hope that this prejudice, if it is a prejudice, will be overcome, or that the public taste will change; but I do not think that the interests of the growers are likely to be particularly served by the motion now before the House. In view of the investigation at present proceeding, and the undesirability of incurring what I look upon as unnecessary expenditure, I appeal to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) to withdraw this motion.
Let us consider the four points of reference to this proposed select committee. Honorable members who study them must be convinced that this committee is entirely unnecessary, and can lead us nowhere. The committee is to inquire into and report upon the position of the tobacco-growing industry in Australia, with special regard to “ the request of the growers submitted to the Prime Minister at Canberra in May, 1928, for a bounty on Australian-grown leaf.” We have just increased the bounty, or whatever it may be called; but, as a result of the recent tariff change, the growers will receive the benefit of an additional 6d. per lb. The second point to be considered is, “ the alternative request of the growers submitted on the same occasion, for an increase in the duty on imported leaf, and a decrease in the excise duty on locally-grown leaf.” That request has been definitely met by this increase of 6d., together with the inquiry which is taking place. No. 3 reads - “ As to whether the arrangement entered into between the Commonwealth Government, certain States, and the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company to carry out experiments in the growing of tobacco-leaf in Australia, is in the best interests of the growers.” If the inquiry is not in the best interests of the growers, I do not know in whose interests it is being held. It is an entirely disinterested inquiry conducted by experts. The tobacco company has nothing whatever to do with it except to find more than half the cost. It is not being carried out by the Commonwealth Government alone, but by the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the State agricultural departments. The fourth point is - “As to whether, in the . best interests of the growers, the arrangement should be altered so as to ensure that the federal direction of experimental work should be made a permanent phase of the tobacco-growing industry in Australia.” This Government does not stand for making any investigation into a State field of activity, regarding a permanent phase of work in connexion with any industry. This is an intervention on cooperative and helpful lines, but we would not consider for a moment any proposal that we should endeavour to permanently trespass on a State domain. If we can help the States in their encouragement of the tobacco industry, by giving a’ measure of tariff support, we are prepared to do so, but after that our policy is to allow them to carry on their own business. In view of what the Government has done, and what it is still doing, I think that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) would be very well advised if he consented to the withdrawal of his motion.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Does the honorable member propose to speak at any length?
– About a quarter of an hour.
Motion (by Mr. Thompson) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
War Pensions - Rebate of Duty - Invalid and Old-age Pensions - Wireless Licenses - Life Insurance Bill - War Service Homes - Royal Commission on Coal Industry - Tasman Island Lighthouse.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
– I desire to submit for the consideration of honorable members, a question arising under an act passed by this Parliament early in the year, known as “ The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act No. 14, 1929.” It will be remembered that under that act we created a War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal, and also a War Pensions Assessment Appeals Tribunal. Questions have arisen, as naturally they will under a new act, and one of them I submit for solution to honorable members this evening. The War Pensions Entitlement Board deals with the rights of ex-soldiers to a pension. The tribunal is designed to settle the question of whether or not a disability in respect of which a soldier claims a pension arose out of his war service, or whether the condition was at least aggravated by his war service. Under sub-section 45x of section 6, an appeal tribunal or an assessment appeal tribunal “may specify, in any decision made by it under this part, the date from which the decision shall operate, and the decision shall operate accordingly.” The assessment tribunal is, of course, a different body. It deals with the rate and the amount of the pension. A case has been brought under my notice which I had occasion to ventilate in the Federal Parliament when we sat in Melbourne, and, with me, it is an old friend. I moved the adjournment of the House, as far back as June, 1924, to discuss what I conceived to be this matter of urgent public importance, namely, false information which was supplied to me in con nexion with the case of an ex-soldier, Corporal William Holland. I argued on that occasion that this man’s disability clearly arose out of his experiences in the late war. The principal experience to which reference was made was the fact that he had been on board the troopship Ballarat, which was torpedoed, that he had been immersed in the water and had suffered hardship, and that, later on, he had contracted an illness which developed into tuberculosis. Holland is still living, and is a patient in a hospital usually described as the hospital for incurables at Heidelberg, near Melbourne. The particulars of his case, which I gave to the House at that time, were official. They were as follow: -
Now living at 57 Gotch-street, Northcote South. Enlisted 8th January, 1917, at Melbourne, embarked onss. Ballarat, which was torpedoed and disabled, and, whilst being transferred to a destroyer with other troops, he slipped off the ladder and was drenched. He spent five or six hours on the deck of the destroyer, and a night in a shed at Plymouth, all of which resulted in a bad cold, which developed, and, after four weeks’ training, he was sent back to Australia and discharged medically unfit. 22nd December, 1917.
I was able to show clearly in the House of Representatives at that time, that, while the Repatriation Commission was endeavouring to make it clear that his incapacity had nothing whatever to do with his war service, and there was no evidence on record to show that his trouble did arise from his war experiences, there was a great deal of evidence on record - medical evidence of a significant character - which tended to show that his incapacity did arise from his war service. In the course of the case that I established, I was able to prove also, with some regret, but I hope conclusively, that false information of a very glaring character had been supplied, not only to myself, but also to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and to the late Mr. Frank Tudor, the then member for Yarra, and to others, particularly regarding the medical evidence. Mainly through the untiring work of Mr. Fred Ratcliff; who was secretary of the Fairfield branch of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia; acting in co-operation with Mr. Clayton, of the Fathers Association, we were able to present a very strong case in support of Holland’s claim for the pension; but it was not strong enough to overcome the departmental prejudice that had developed against Holland. This had arisen by reason of the fact that the department, having in the first place given false and misleading information, felt itself bound to _ follow it up and strengthen its position by further false and misleading information. One of the members of the commission, in writing to Holland at the time, used the words “ this decision must be regarded as final “. But it was not final. Although Holland succeeded in obtaining an invalid pension, he was unsuccessful in securing what, in my opinion, he was entitled to, namely, a war pension, which would, after his death, nave entitled his dependants to a pension. Years have passed, and, if I may claim with modesty for the party to which I have the honour to belong, mainly owing to the agitation of its members these appeal tribunals ‘ have been established, and they are now in 6pera.tion. In due time, the case of Holland, which I ventilated in 1924, was brought before the entitlement board, which decided, after the lapse of all those years, that Holland’s incapacity did arise out of his war service, and was aggravated by it. So, to that extent, we have secured a complete triumph. I think it is only just to acknowledge in this connexion the assistance which was given to us in respect of Holland’s case by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), who was also interested in it.
One of the duties of the appeal tribunal, as we have seen, is to determine from what date a decision must operate, and, when this case was decided, that tribunal held in reserve the question of from what date it should proceed to pay the pension, admitting, of course, the claim to it as from that date; Mr. Ratcliff, on behalf of the soldier, has now received word that the pension is to date from the time at which Mr. Holland became a patient in hospital, some months back.
– Only recently?
– Comparatively recently.
– When did his incapacity originate?
– Probably eight years ago, at least.
– In 1918.
– Probably it was as far back as that. The board has more or less arbitrarily fixed a date on which it states that, under the act, the pension is to begin; but I submit to the House that it will be the duty of honorable members, either by amendment of the act, or by some kind of explicit direction, to -point out what is the logical result of the finding of the tribunal in such circumstances.
– The Repatriation Commission’s practice, where disability due to war service has been admitted, has been to grant the pension retrospectively in certain cases.
– Yes ; and rightly so, because the function of the commission and of this board is to determine how the incapacity arose, and whether at the time of the claimant’s application he was entitled to a pension. And this board has so decided. It has not determined that the right to the pension arose at the time of the appeal. It has no concern with the date on which he was sent into the hospital for incurables. Its clear duty was to decide whether or not his application was well founded on the ground of entitlement at the time he made it, and it has decided that his application was sound and that he was suffering from a measure of incapacity arising out of, and aggravated by, his war service. Having so decided, surely it is a matter of elementary right that he should be treated °as though his pension had been originally granted when applied for; or, in other words, that this Commonwealth is indebted to him to the extent to which it has wrongfully withheld his pension since that time. I am well aware that in some cases the department has paid arrears of pensions in considerable sums ; but, so far as I can see, it is somewhat arbitrary in regard to the selection of the time at which the pension will commence under this act. I do not recollect whether I particularly addressed myself to that point at the time I spoke on the bill; but I can find no logical basis whatever for denying the fact that a man who now successfully appeals against an adverse decision of the commission in those circumstances should receive his pension, Invalid and war pensions may be paid concurrently ; but if there are any adjustments, and I can think of none, they may be made.
I think that I submitted a very strong case, and I felt that I was justified iii using- very strong language in connexion with this case at the time. I took the responsibility of remarking that the member of the Commission, whom I held primarily responsible for what was done in connexion with the suppression of important medical testimony, was no longer fit to hold a position in the Public Service, and I venture to say that, if the Labour party had come into power, he would not have long occupied such a position. He has retired from that office, and now occupies another position in which patients pass under his care. I do not wish to add to the scathing denunciation that I caused to be recorded against him; but I cannot help expressing profound anxiety for persons who, in a position of dependency, look to him for just and fair treatment in regard to their oases in the present position which he holds.
Mr. Ratcliff has called my attention to new evidence which, unfortunately, was not available on the date of the appeal. Mr. F. 0’Collins, a well-known solicitor, of Melbourne, who knew Holland personally, has written to Mr. Ratcliff in these terms - Dear Mr. Ratcliff,
Mr. William Holland, concerning whom von were inquiring, was known to me at Rea Hark Camp. He was then fit and strong though of mature years. He embarked on the, s.s. Ballarat with the seventh reinforcements of the 38th Battalion.
I was then a sergeant in the same reinforcements. Mr. Holland was under my personal observation during the whole of the sea journey. I do not remember him reporting “ sick “ at any time. I was ‘the sergeant of the life boat to which Mr. Holland was assigned, on the Ballarat being torpedoed. I was in charge of this boat. With others, Mr. Holland assisted in getting the boat ready for launching. A number of the men (I do not particularly remember if Mr. Holland was one of them ) had discarded much of their clothing, including their boots, as they had anticipated the possibility of the ship sinking before the launching of the boats. However, the life boat was launched, and the men had to climb over the side and descend by a Jacob’s ladder into the boat. Though the sea was comparatively calm there was a swell on. I watched the men filling into the boat from the deck. Some missed their footing as they were stepping from the ladder ‘into the boat. Mr. Holland was one of these. He was immersed in the water up to about the waist, and was assisted into the boat. Some hours elapsed before the men reached Devonport, and many complained of the extreme cold owing to the scantiness of their attire.
Soon after reaching Salisbury I went to France, and have since then seen Mr. Holland only on one occasion. I regret to hear of his illness, but can definitely state that- during the months I knew Mr. Holland, both at Royal Park, and on board ship, he was quite fit.
In every possible way doubt was thrown upon Holland’s story. Uncertainty was created as to whether he had ever been immersed, and the suggestion. was made that his claim was not bona fide. In whatever way it was possible to throw discredit upon him by manipulation of the records, that was cheerfully done by the commission, and every line of departmental and medical reports and other evidence in his favour which was on record in the department was suppressed by the commission, chiefly by .the commissioner to whom I have referred. I quote for the information of honorable members one passage from the speech I made in this House on the 24th June, 1924 -
In a. word, everything connected with this man’s military history, from the time he enlisted to the present day, has been carefully paraded if, in the remotest degree, it is calculated to throw discredit on the man; but nothing in his career, however sgignificant, or from however exalted an authority it might come, which tends in any way to establish his reputation or the sound basis of his claim, is, in any circumstances, to be admitted or disclosed.
When the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) replied to me with the limited information at his disposal, he said amongst other things -
I am indebted to the honorable member for Batman for drawing my attention to this case. I confess that a perusal of the files to enable me to prepare a reply to the honorable member disclosed stupidity in the handling of the matter that is beyond my ability to comprehend. It has been held on the one hand, that this man was not entitled to a war pension, because his invalidity has not been caused by war service; while on the other hand he was refused an invalidity pension because his invalidity had occurred outside Australia.
I propose to quote now from a letter written to me by Mr. Ratcliff. Too much praise cannot be given to him and to Mr. Clayton, president of the Fathers Association, for the indomitable perseverance with which they pursued this matter and eventually secured access to the files in spite of departmental opposition, and exploded the secret methods by which valuable information had been withheld. Mr. Ratcliff, writing to me from 78 Ford-street, Ivanhoe, says -
Dear Mr. Brennan,
I regret having to again bring before you the case of W. Holland. You will remember at our last interview in your office I informed you that the Entitlement Tribunal had decided that Holland’s condition was due to war service and his appeal was therefore allowed.
You will also remember that his pension was dated from the day the tribunal gave its decision, 4th July, 1929. I was informed (by phone) that the question of arrears was being considered.
A decision on this point has now been given and incredible as it may seem to be, the Repatriation Commission has decided that Holland was not entitled to a pension whilst lie resided in your constituency, but immediately he came to reside in the less turbulent environment of Flinders he was so entitled and his pension is to date from the 17th March, 1927, at which date he was admitted to the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg.
I had thought that you and I had reached that stage that nothing the Repatriation could do would in any way surprise us, but this latest decision is absolutely the limit.
It simply means that all the years Holland suffered prior to the 17th March, 1927, and that all the years his wife so heroically struggled and in so doing ruined both health and financial resources, are to count for nought.
When you moved the adjournment of the House in June, 1924, you were unable to understand the subtlety of the Repatriation mind in dealing with Holland’s case, but their latest effort eclipses the “blundering stupidity “ referred to by Dr. Page in his reply to your indictment.
The department appears to have arrived at the astonishing conclusion that all the years Holland was in his own home dependent upon his wife for the bare necessities of life he was not entitled to a pension but immediately he is admitted to the Austin Hospital and is no longer dependent upon his wife he is entitled to a pension. The Repatriation denies the man the opportunity of repaying his wife (financially) what she spent on him in his time of need although the tribunal has decided that at that time he should have been a charge upon the Repatriation Department.
I feel sure you will again approach the Minister for Repatriation and place before him this simple issue - Holland applied for a war pension; his application was rejected. He appealed to the Entitlement Tribunal; his appeal was upheld. He did not appeal against the non-payment of a pension whilst an inmate of the Austin Hospital ; his appeal was against the decision given when he applied for a pen sion. His appeal is upheld; therefore, he was (and is) entitled to a pension from when he applied and not from a later date when he secured admission to a civil hospital.
I am sorry that I did not notify the Minister for Repatriation of my intention to bring this matter before the House, but I am glad that he has been in the chamber while I have been speaking. He will recognize that whilst the case may not be important in a personal sense, it is highly important in respect of the principle which it raises, namely, the date from which the pension is to be paid in those cases in which the appeal is successful. It will be most unfortunate if those who suffered earliest are to suffer most, and that by reason of the fact that they have laboured under an injustice for a longer period, and therefore suffered more hardship, they are to be treated with less liberality than those whose incapacity is of later date, and who, presumably, will be paid in full from the date of their appeal. I see nothing in the wording or the spirit of the act which justifies departure from the principle that the appellant is unquestionably entitled to be paid from the time when, according to the finding of the tribunal, he first became eligible for a pension.
.- During the last Parliament, I had occasion to draw attention to an injustice suffered by the Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited. This company, desiring to supply its customers in Adelaide with pure milk, and also ice-cream during the summer months, decided to bring its plant up to date. The shareholders in the company include the Messrs. Beauchamp, who for many years have been identified with the milk supply of Adelaide. Many years ago, one of these gentleman went to reside in the United States of America, and, re-visiting his native land, impressed upon the other members of the company the obsoleteness of the plant. On his advice they inquired as to the most up-to-date machinery available in Australia and finally were advised by Messrs. Richard “Wildridge and Company, of Sydney, that, whilst they could supply machinery that was an improvement on that then in use by the company, so many improvements had been effected in refrigerating plant that the company would do well to obtain from America an uptodate unit to which additions could be made from time to time. When the Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited accepted the advice which had been tendered to it, it instructed Mr. Beauchamp, who was residing in America, to obtain the necessary machinery. It is generally recognized that the United States of America is noted for its refrigerating plants, and that the American people are very partial to ice-cream, and particularly iced water. The machinery required by this concern had to be imported; but, unfortunately, the company which is not an importing company in the ordinary sense of the word, did not apply beforehand to the Customs Department for a rebate of duty. When the* machinery arrived it was surprised to find that it was to have niched from it over £4,000 by way of duty. That seems unfair, particularly as it is a cooperative concern in which dairymen, who work longer hours and for more days a week than those engaged in other industries, are shareholders.
– Could not the plant have been manufactured in Australia?
– I have already said that suitable machinery could not be obtained or manufactured in the Commonwealth. I have taken up this matter with the Customs Department on several occasions, and with several Ministers, and a certain amount of the duty has been refunded; but the Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited state that when they submitted a claim the Customs Department were supplied by the company with the blue prints of the plant and had inquiries made throughout Australia to see if it could have been made in this country. Copies of the prints were shown to Messrs. Werner, of Melbourne, who stated that they could have manufactured the machinery, and merely because this firm had made that bald assertion the Customs Department refused the full rebate of duty. I was not satisfied, and in pursuing the matter further on behalf of the company I was finally informed that not only were Messrs. Werner, of Melbourne, in a position to make the machinery, but they had manufactured similar plant ‘which was actually in use in Melbourne. I inspected the plant mentioned, and, in my opinion, it bore the same comparison to the imported plant as a 1905 Ford would to a modern Rolls-Royce motor car. It was a deplorable-looking equipment, a “ thing of shreds and patches.”
– Does the honorable member for Angas consider that he is a judge of machinery?
– I consider that I am a much better judge of refrigerating machinery than the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– The honorable member is speaking of something he does not understand.
– I have inspected the plant of the Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited, and I advise the honorable member for Hindmarsh to compare it with the ice-making plant I have mentioned. I have also perused reports on this plant by competent refrigerating engineers, and there is no doubt that this co-operative concern has been very unjustly treated by the Customs Department. When I took up the matter with the then Assistant Minister for Customs (Senator Crawford), he said that I was surely not suggesting that there was ice-making machinery in Adelaide superior to anything else in Australia. I informed him that there was. He replied that surely I could not claim that there was anything more modern in Adelaide than in Sydney, where he said the Peters people must have refrigerating plant far superior to anything in South Australia. I pointed out that Adelaide was in many ways ahead of some of the other capital cities. A representative of Messrs. Peters, of Sydney, has since visited Adelaide, in order to inspect these latest improvements in refrigerating machinery. There is one feature of the ice-making plant of the Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited which differs materially from many other ice-making plants, and that is that the ice produced by it is clear, and not frosted. Clear ice is frozen while the water is in a state of agitation. The water in the centre, which is the last to freeze, is extracted, and pure distilled water then enters the cavity and the freezing process is continued. According to medical authorities, this class of ice is superior to. any other, and in the United States of America, I understand, the sale of frosted ice is not permitted, because it is impure. Later the Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited decided that itwould be necessary to duplicate their plant. Tenders were called, and Messers. Werner, of Melbourne, who, in the first place, said that they could have manufactured the machinery in Australia, found it necessary to send a representative to Adelaide to inspect the plant at work before they could submit a price. That, I think, destroys their argument that they could have manufactured the original equipment had they been supplied with copies of the blue prints. The action of the department in imposing such a heavy duty on plant which could not be manufactured in Australia suggests that the Government is carrying its protective policy to the extreme. These people should have been placed on the best possible terms, as at considerable risk and great expense they brought into Australia the most modern plant for this class of work to be found in the Commonwealth. If production is to be increased, manufacturers should be encouraged to produce at the lowest possible rates, and in this instance that would not only be of benefit to the dairymen, many of whom are living below the bread and butter line, but to the whole community. The company would not have obtained the machinery outside Australia unless it was necessary to do so. Everything else the company has required in the way of plant, in bringing their factory up to date, has, as far as practicable, been obtained in South Australia, or if not available there, from other States. It has spent considerably more in improving its equipment than is involved in this instance, and, in recognition of its enterprise, should be placed on the best possible terms. Many portions of the plant are covered by patent rights. There are points in the case which I am submitting which must appeal even to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), lacking though he is in a knowledge of refrigeration. He should inspect the plant at the works of the company in Carrington-street, Adelaide. As I have said, a representative of Peters, of Sydney,which has a population of over 1,000,000 persons, has visited Adelaide, which has a population of about 300,000, to inspect the most modern refrigerating plant in Australia. On behalf of the dairymen, numbering over 500, who are associated with this co-operative concern, I appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gulle tt) to see if the amount of over £2,000 still outstanding cannot be refunded, because the plant which has been introduced into the Commonwealth will be of great importance and value to the dairying industry of Australia.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons), and with all the respect that is due to an honorable member placing a case before this chamber, but I totally disagree with the view expressed by him. Whilst the honorable member may wish to benefit the concern he has mentioned, he has shown how dangerous it is to possess only a little knowledge of the subject he is discussing. I am an engineer, and possess an all-round knowledge of the highest branches of the engineering trade.
– A certificated engineer would laugh at the remarks of the honorable member.
– Not so much as he would laugh at the ridiculous statements of the honorable member.
– I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to address the Chair.
– And I ask you, sir, to protect me from the bully representing Angas.
– Surely the honorable member for Angas is aware that, in Australia, we are manufacturing the most intricate machinery, as well as the most modern and powerful locomotives. Is not the honorable member aware that the Sydney harbour bridge, which is now being constructed, is one of the world’s greatest engineering feats? Notwithstanding this, the honorable member informs us that Australian manufacturers are unable to undertake the manufacture of ,a refrigerating plant. His suggestion is- ridiculous, and proves the absurdity of. other statements he has -made. - I admire the enterprise of the .Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited, and I have every desire to assist it in improving its plant; but I maintain that all the machinery it requires can be manufactured in Australia. This company is absolutely dependent upon Australian patronage for the sale of its goods and its consequent profits, and if it is seized with any sense of patriotism in respect of Australian production, should have been prepared to place its order for equipment and plant with an Australian firm even though there was some disparity of price in favour of the imported article. I recognize that there may be certain difficulties in respect of patent rights, but we should not penalize the manufacturers of plant in Australia. Our engineers and workmen generally are equal to any in the world. There is no reason why we should not be able to make, in Australia, all the refrigerating machinery required in the community, and it ill becomes the honorable member for Angas- (Mr. Parsons) to seek special favours for a firm which has gone outside Australia to obtain its requirements. It ill becomes him at this stage of Australia’s development, to try to suggest to the outside world, that our engineers are incapable of meeting the modest requirements of this country in the shape of refrigerating plant. I shall make it my business, while I have at least the acquaintanceship of the honorable member and his company on the train journey between Adelaide and Canberra, to make known to him the worth and skill of Australian artisans and engineers, and I shall, in addition, take every opportunity to prevent the honorable member from speaking unjustly of the Australian engineering industry.
I wish now to refer to the invalid and old-age pensions. Some years ago I requested the Government to enter into negotiations with the British Government with a view to instituting a system of reciprocal pensions so that elderly persons, who come here from England to reside with their sons and daughters who are ^already ‘settled . in Australia, will not be deprived of the pensions that they would have been entitled to had they remained in their native country. It was a reasonable request, and the Commonwealth Government approached the Imperial Government on the subject. The Imperial Government gave consideration to the proposal and eventually recommended a reciprocal pension scheme within the British Empire. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has since intimated to this House that the great disparity between the amounts of pension paid in Great Britain and Australia makes it impossible for the Government to give consideration or approval to the suggestion. Surely the Treasurer was not really serious when he made that excuse. If the British pension was 10s. a week, what obstacle could there be in the way of paying that amount to persons who, because of coming to Australia, had lost their pension rights in Great Britain ? It would help this country considerably if there were a reciprocal pension scheme within the British Empire. I brought one case under the notice of the Pensions Department, and I was informed that the invalidity of the person concerned had not - really arisen in Australia. This person was just over 70 years of age and had deprived herself of the British pension by coming to Australia to join her children who were making their contribution towards the progress and prosperity of this young nation. We should institute a reciprocal arrangement in respect of pensions as part of the great Empire plan. We regard Australia as being in the van in respect of social ‘ legislation and especially in the care of the aged and the infirm. We shall be taking a retrograde step if we do not agree to the proposal of the Imperial Government to institute a reciprocal system of pensions. As the hour is growing late and other honorable members wish to speak, I shall reserve any further remarks on the anomalies in our present pension system until a later opportunity presents itself.
. I wish to bring before the Government a request which, I believe, has been put forward on previous occasions. It is in relation to giving to blind persons who are depending upon pensions theright to free licences for listeriing-in purposes. The Government, in reply to the last request that I made, said thatwhile it was in sympathy with the proposal, it felt that there were many difficulties in the way of giving it effect, and therefore could not agree to the request. It is hot necessary to make a close study of this subject to ascertain to what extent the blind pensioners are able to pay licence fees. It would be impossible to pay a fee of 24s. a year out of a pension of £1 a week. To do that would, indeed, be a greater miracle than was the feeding of 5,000 people on five loaves and two fishes. In America, blind pensioners are not only granted free licences, but are also provided with headphones for listening-in. I am not asking the Government to assist the blind pensioner in Australia to that extent. All I ask is that he be exempt from the listening-in fee. Honorable members will agree that the loss of sight is about the worst affliction suffered by mankind, and that we should at least lighten the burden of the blind by permitting them to enjoy to some degree the comforts of others who have the use of their eyes. On the last occasion that I made my request to the PostmasterGeneral, he replied -
Unfortunately, it has been found that the administrative embarrassments which are sure to resultin the event of indiscriminate grants of free licences, together with the fact that the licence fees, except a very small deduction, belong to the broadcasting companies, would constitute difficulties which would render it impracticable to make any exemptions from the payment of licence fees by all listeners.
The indiscriminate issue of licences does not enter into this question. After all, the department would be able to investigate thoroughly applications for free licences. I believe that inspectors have already been appointed to supervize the issue of permits and the payment of licence fees. There would, therefore, be no opportunity for the indiscriminate issue of licences in the case of blind pensioners. With regard to the point that the issue of free licences would mean a loss to the Government, let me say that such a position would not arise. There is no question of money involved. The broadcasting companies would submit their programmes in the ordinary way, and any alteration in the number of people listening in would not affect the situation at all. In view of those considerations, I fail to understand why the Government cannot see its way to grant this humane request. I trust that, as a result of my representations to-night, the Government will reverse its decision and take early steps to grant blind pensioners free licences for listening-in purposes.
I wish now to relate an incident which reveals the inconsistency of the Government. This afternoon, a member of another place (Senator Dunn), informed me that that chamber had been dealing with a measure entitled The Life Insurance Bill, and that during the course of the debate he was able to disclose that certain Government supporters were interested in insurance companies that will be affected by this particular legislation. That disclosure caused a certain amount of uneasiness, and the further consideration of the measure was adjourned until to-day. In the intervening period the members of another place received a wire couched in the following terms-
Life Insurance Bill now before Senate due for third reading contains dangerous provisions. Bequest you urgently endeavour to have third reading deferred pending further report from advisory committee appointed by Government. In framing the bill very few of committee’s recommendations have been adopted and bill provides for creation of large new departments at huge cost to companies and public.
It appears that this afternoon the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Sir George Pearce) expressed the view that it was inadvisable to proceed further, at that stage, with the measure, and claimed that in the interests of the public it should be deferred in order that the parties who were interested in it might offer criticism, and advise the Government of the course that should be followed. Yet only yesterday, in reply to a question that was asked by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) in connection with the proposed 5 per cent. tax on amusements, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stated that the tactics which were being employed by persons who are interested in that matterMr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bayley). - Order! The honorable member will not;be in order in referring to any legislation that is before this chamber. .
– It is riot my intention to do so.
– I understood the honorable member to refer to an item in the budget speech.
– I merely wish to remind honorable members of the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday, that the tactics employed by interested parties in this matter approximated to an American form of political pressure. The right honorable gentleman also expressed the hope that honorable members would regard that as an undignified procedure, and treat it according to its deserts. In another place a different attitude is adopted. There it is not proposed to regard criticisms of the Life Insurance Bill as an American form of political pressure. It is obvious that the interested parties are friends of the Government, and an opportunity is to be afforded them to offer such criticism as will lead to the measure being brought into harmony with their desires. This is a further illustration of discrimination by the Government in favour of the class they represent, and of their bias against the workers who will be seriously affected by the proposed tax on amusements.
.- A number of returned soldiers who occupy war service homes in my electorate are not being given a fair deal by this Government. As a result of the unfortunate industrial trouble on the northern coalfields they are not in a position to continue to pay the instalments due under the agreements into which they have entered, and consequently have been served with ejectment notices, despite the fact that while the mines were working many of them made their payments in advance. One man has only recently buried his wife. He was given a fortnight’s notice, but I was able to induce the Minister to extend it to one month. Another unfortunate man in Maitland has three children of tender years, and has been given until the 9th of next month to conform with the wishes of the department. He rode to Sydney, a distance of approximately 130 miles, on a push bike, to interview the Deputy Commissioner. He had 4s. in his pocket to take him there and back.
He was told that he would have to pay £40 down and £6 a month. I made an appeal on his behalf, and the reply which I received was that he would have to vacate his house unless he complied with the conditions laid down. I cannot do better than read a letter that I have received from him. It is as follows: - 63 Lee-street, West Maitland. 7th August, 1929.
Mr. James, M.H.R., .
As I saw in our local paper (the Maitland Mercury) a day or so following the War Service Homes Commission proceeding against me for rent owing, and were given an order to eject me from the premises occupied by me in the above address, in 42 days from 29th July, 1929, and I to pay costs £1 7s. 6d., which I cannot find. I was an employee of the South Maitland Railways Limited as fireman up till last October when they retrenched, 1 being one of the firemen to receive my notice of dismissal. Since which time I have received no money only 24s. 8d. per fortnight child endowment and 10s. 4d. per week government relief. I have a wife and three young children to support, and work is impossible to obtain. If they carry their warrant into effect I don’t know where I shall live, as the endowment won’t pay rent, and I am an Englishman with no relatives in the country. I landed here in 1014 and enlisted in August of the following year in the A.I.F. I had a bit of a job to go to up the country, but cannot even borrow my fare. The wife is sick worried over the proceedings taken, so here I am, as three young children cannot support themselves, even if I were away the relief would be stopped and the whole family starved until such times as [ received some money. I rode down on my bike with 4s. in my pocket to see the Commissioners three weeks ago. I told them 1 would have some work to go to, and they wanted £40 in four weeks and £6 per month afterwards. If’ this coal strike was not on 1 would not be in such a fix, as work would be plentiful locally, but, of course, this is the time for the Commissioners to hit, and it is hard hit to me, too.
Trusting this matter may receive your beat attention to relieve us for a while longer,
I remain, yours faithfully, (Sgd.) Archie Francis.
I forwarded a copy of that letter, together with an appeal from myself to the Deputy Commissioner, Sydney, and this is the reply that I received - 13th August, 1929.
I am in receipt of your letter of the 9th instant, relative to the case of Mr. A. Francis, of 63 Lee-street, West Maitland, against whom the Commission has been reluctantly obliged to institute ejectment proceedings.
Iu this case, the property was purchased by Mr. Francis in November, 1927, and the account is now in arrears in the sum of £84 Ils. 6d., and the amount of outstanding liability is considerably in excess of the amount of assistance granted Mr. Francis nearly two years ago. The account has been in arrears since its inception, and the last payment of which the Commission has record was £5 12s. 10d., on the 30th October, 1928. The present-day valuation of the land and dwelling house is considerably less than the amount of the applicant’s liability to the Commission.
Following upon the institution of ejectment proceedings, Mr. Francis called at this office, when his position was thoroughly discussed. Mr. Francis realizes the serious position of his account, and he appreciates that the Commission has been very lenient in its dealings with him since he entered into a contract for the purchase of the property. At the time of the interview, Mr. Francis intimated that he had obtained a fencing contract at Muswellbrook, and it was arranged that before the end of August he would endeavour to obtain an advance on his contract and pay the sum of £40 off the accumulated arrears, and make future payments at the rate of £0 per month until his account had been brought up to date. Mr. Francis was informed that if this arrangement was adhered to, the warrant of possession which has been obtained would be permitted to lapse. 1 am not clear from the contents of your letter as to whether the fencing contract, of which Mr. Francis spoke, has been arranged, but in view of the representations made by you, I have closely reviewed the circumstances of this case and regret that unless Mr. Francis can submit some acceptable proposal resulting in an improvement in the position of his account, then the action which has been instituted cannot be withdrawn. The warrant of possession expires early in September, and in the meanwhile I shall be glad to consider any further representations which you may desire to make on behalf of Mr. Francis.
This man, Francis, has shown that he could not obtain money to enable him to go to the work that was offering to him in the country districts. Had he been able to do so, he would have made an attempt to reduce his liabilities to the commission. He is still unemployed, and it is extremely unlikely he will be able to obtain work while the coal trouble continues.
I cite another case concerning a man from Cessnock, who has been asked to pay £2 a month off his arrears to the commission. The only income which he at present receives is £3 a month in cash, plus food orders to the value of about £4 16s. monthly: He has five or six children. In the circumstances, it is impossible for that man to pay anything to the Commission. Compliance with its demand would leave him only his food orders and £1 a month with which to maintain his family. ‘ There are numerous cases such as this, but I do not propose to weary the House at this hour- by a recital of them.
I have still another case, that of a man named Moir, of Cessnock, who is to be evicted next week. I appealed on his behalf, and he was granted only a fortnight’s grace. I was asked to suggest to Moir that if he made a payment to the commission of 5s. a fortnight that would be acceptable. But these miners are receiving no income at all. The Miners’ Federation is not paying them any money. Through the loyalty of the trade unionists of Australia, the Federation is able to issue food tickets on various cooperative and other stores, ranging from Ss. a week for a single man, to 15s. per week for a married man, plus 3s. a week for each child. The attitude of the War Service Homes Commission conveys the impression to members of the Miners Federation, and also to me, that it is assisting the coal-owners in their war of tyranny against the miners. Pressure is being brought to bear on these unfortunate people to force them out of their homes. They went abroad and fought in the interests of their country, and this is their reward. The people whom the Government are backing up, consciously or unconsciously, are perpetrating one of the most damnable acts known in the history of Australia, by attempting to starve these men, women and children into submission. The Government is assisting the coal-owners to force the miners to accept a reduced standard of living, by frightening their wives and children with the threat that they will be deprived of their war service homes. We are shocked when we read of men and women being ruthlessly put to death by Chinese or Hindu rulers, but their action is humane compared with that of the coalowners, who are slowly starving women and children in an endeavour to force their menfolk to accept a lower standard of living. They ave doing this notwith-standing the fact that those men were working under an award of the Arbitration Court as constituted by this Parliament, and that that award is still in force. The Government stands idly by and witnesses such things being perpetrated in a civilized community. Further than that, it callously withdraws a legal prosecution against one of the coalowners, who was and still is breaking the law, and does so under the plea that it is in the interest of those same women and children, and for the purpose of bringing about a resumption of work. It is practically five months since that prosecution was withdrawn, and still the same trouble persists, the same lockout is in force, and the law is still being broken. The main reason for the withdrawal was to avoid the owner’s profits being divulged in open court. The coalowners refused to attend the conference presided over by Sir Wallace Bruce, unless the prosecution against Brown was withdrawn, and the Prime Minister gave way because he was one -of his class. But what a different story would have been written had the workers broken the law.
I wish to draw the attention of the Government to the fact that returned soldiers in receipt of war pensions granted for war disabilities are on that accountrefused relief during this industrial crisis by the New South Wales Government on the ground that there is fi a fortnight or more coming into the home. I appealed to the Minister for Repatriation to take this matter up, but he informed me that he was unable to do anything, because it was the concern of the State Government only. Nevertheless, I think that the Commonwealth Government should inform the Government of New South Wales that in its opinion the returned soldiers are being unfairly treated.
The Prime Minister has stated in this House and elsewhere that the time has arrived when the owners of the industry should take the workers more into their confidence regarding costs and profits, in an endeavour to bring about a spirit of sweet reasonableness among their employees. The present inquiry into the coal industry is being conducted in camera) so that no information is made public regarding costs of production and profits obtained. In view of the fact that the miners’ representatives have intimated that they will not bind themselves to accept the finding of the commission unless production costs are disclosed in the presence of their representatives, I ask the Prime Minister to amend the terms of reference of the commission to permit of open discussion of the mineowners’ profits and costs of production. I feel the present position very keenly. I have always worked in the coal mines; I have suffered with the men in every industrial disturbance that has taken place ; I have seen a phase of life as lived by the miners which the average man in the street, never sees; I have witnessed with my own eyes many tragedies enacted in the mines; and I know just how hard are the conditions under which the miners have to carry on. Notwithstanding those hardships, however, there exists no more loyal class in Australia than the miners. That was amply demonstrated during the Great War. When the call came for the defence of Australia, it was only necessary to pat these men on the, back, and tell they they were good fellows, and they flocked to the colours. Yet, despite their loyalty, they have been most callously treated both by this Government and the State Government of New South Wales, who seem to be standing firmly behind the coal-owners in their attempt to reduce the workers’ standard of living. During the war the miners answered the call to protect, as they thought, the interests of their country. But now they can see they fought in the interests of the capitalists, who were then, and are now, exploiting the country. These people would again exploit the country if their vested interests in China, where they are exploiting coolie labour, were threatened. They would have the audacity to call upon the workers to fight for them again. I doubt, however, whether the present generation of miners would answer so readily, because they will never forget the treatment being meted out to ex-soldiers who are occupying war service homes, from which they ‘are to be cruelly ejected, because owing to the lockout they cannot obtain employment, and so have fallen into arrears. . -
. -I desire to bring under the notice of the Government the isolated position of light- house keepers and their families at the Tasman Island lighthouse, which is situated about 40 miles from Hobart. It is hardly necessary for me to remind honorable members of an unfortunate accident that occurred there on 11th March, 1927, through the collapse of a crane. One man was hurled 100 feet over the cliffs into the sea and his body was never recovered, and another met with a very serious accident from which heis still suffering. On that occasion, fourteen hours elapsed before word came through to Hobart concerning the accident, and, had it not been for the fact that a vessel trading along the coast saw the flag signals from the keeper’s quarters, it might have been fourteen days before anybody, even only 40 miles away, knew of it. I have received the following letter concerning the position of this lighthouse : -
Tasman Island lighthouse isan attended light, with three keepers and family, situated at the entrance to the river Derwent, about 40 miles from Hobart. It is about 1 mile from Cape Pillar, and the closest land is about half a mile away - that is, the mainland. Yet there is only a mail service once a month, if the weather isfine. About fourteen weeks have elapsed before a mail has been delivered to Tasman, although the islandis only about 5 or 6 miles from Brown Mount, or the entrance to Port Arthur, and it overlooks two farm-houses. The lights in the farm-house windows at the Brown Mount and at Adventure Bar are seen quite clearly every night, yet there is no arrangement for an urgent signal in case of accident or sickness, and no rockets hare been sent to Tasman for distress signals. If a vessel were in distress there would be no way to communicate with Hobart or Port Arthur. In the case of the crane accident, it was lucky that a passing steamer, which was spoken by means of flags, sent a wireless message to Hobart for assistance about fourteen hours after the accident. If the steamer had not passed it mighthave been ten or twelve days before assistance was sent.
Tasman Island should be a signal station at the entrance to the port, as shipping is seen on the east coast four hours away, and Tasman is about four hours’ steam from Hobart. They could signal steamers eight hours before they reach Hobart. Could not a telephone be connected to Port Arthur, or to the nearest land that is only half a mile away? The cost would be very little. Here is one affair that shows that a telephone would have paid for itself. The Lady Loch light house steamer left Hobart for Maatsuyker and Tasman on 28th February, 1929, with a party of eight men to clear away the crane that fell, and erect an aerial. They left Hobart to catch the Lady Loch atPort Arthur on 1st March, 1929, and arrived at Port Arthur the same day, yet they never landed at Tasman until about the 5th or 6th of March. That would cost about £300, the Lady Loch and party waiting at Port Arthur.
If Tasman Island had been connected by telephone, and the weather conditions had been good for landing, the lighthouse keeper could have let the office in Hobart know, and the party could have left Hobart in the Lady Loch at about midnight and arrived at Tasman at daylight next morning. It is only four hours’ run from Hobart. There is an assistant lightkceper,W. Norman, on Tasman, and he has spoken to an amateur at Hobart witha wireless set costing about £20.
I have no doubt that the keepers of many other lighthouses find themselves in similar difficulties, owing to their isolated position. In the case to which Ihave referred, the only means of communication with the mainland is by means of carrier pigeons; but, when the accident occurred, not one of the birds sent up reached its home, because of the depredations of the hawks which attack them from time to time. The cost of laying a cable between the Tasman light and the mainland, which is only abouthalf a mile distant, should not be great. Failing that, there should be no great obstacle in the way of supplying the lighthouse keepers with wireless receiving and transmitting sets. At Maatsuyker, or any other place along the coast where similar disadvantages are suffered, this provision’ might reasonably be made. I trust that the Government will give the matter serious attention.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has raised the subject of arrears of war pensions in oases where appeals are upheld. I remind him that on the 22nd August the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) also brought the matter under my notice, and that it is. now being considered by theCrown law authorities.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 August 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290829_reps_11_121/>.