12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.
-Last Wednesday the Prime Minister said that later hewould make a statement on the proposal of the Government to assist, by a money grant, in what is described as the repatriation of excess coal-miners. Is he yet able to make that statement?
– I cannot give the Leader of the Opposition a detailed answer to his question now. It is realized that on the resumption of work in the coal-mines there will be a large number of miners who cannot possibly be absorbed in the industry. The proposal is that in conjunction with the State Government this Government should form a committee, on which the mine-owners and miners would be represented, to see what can be done to repatriate, at least to some extent, the miners whose services will no longer be required in the mines. The Government has offered a contribution of £100,000 to make it possible to do something in this direction without delay. This is a special provision to meet special circumstances.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs yet been able to make arrangements to meet the spinners and knitters of Victoria, as he promised to do, to discuss the position in relation to the use of Australian cotton yarn ?
– I have made arrangements to meet the representatives of the spinners and knitters in Melbourne on Monday afternoon next to discuss this subject.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs seen an article which appeared in the Sydney Sun last Wednesday relative to his attitude in regard to Norman Lindsay’s novel Red Heap? That articles purports to give the Acting Minister’s opinion on the book as on the 18th May. I should like to know the Acting Minister’s’ opinion to-day.
-I have seen the article referred to. It contains a number of inaccuracies, and does not at all represent the true position.
– It. has been statedin sections of the press that unless all the wheat-growing States become parties to the compulsory wheat pool the proposed guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel will not be paid. Is that a fact ? Is it necessary for all the States to join in the pool before the guaranteed price will be available?
– Press statements of the character referred to by the honorable member are misleading. The pool may be formed if only three States are willing to become parties to it, and the guaranteed price of 4s. will be available in those circumstances.
Mr.BERNARD CORSER.- I have received a telegram from the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Moore) emphatically protesting against the amendments to the Cotton Bounty Bill moved by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) particularly that for the setting up of special tribunals to determine the wages and conditions in all branches of the cotton industry. Mr. Moore contends that the introduction of these amendments is a definite breach of the agreement entered into with his Government, in that it involves it in heavy financial obligations. Has the Minister received a similar wire from the Premier of Queensland, and if so, has he sent a reply to it ?
Mr.FORDE.- I have received a telegram from the Premier of Queensland which forces me to the conclusion that that honorable gentleman entirely misunderstands the position. This is probably due to the publication of garbled press reports. It has been customary for years to provide in bounty bills that reasonable wages and conditions shall beobserved inthe industry. There has been no breach of any agreement with the Queensland Government. I have sent a suitable reply to Mr. Moore’s telegram.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Table “ I “ to theRepatriation Commission’s annual report shows the number of pensions in force under headings of - “ Classification of Disabilities “.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Proposed Secession - Control of Customs
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Commission to Naval Paymasters
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
– On 9th May, the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What were the quantities and values of (a) newsprint, (b) fine paper, (c) brown paper, (d) paper pulp, and (e) all other paper, imported into Australia for each of the last five years?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
.- I move-
That on each sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
It is not the intention of the Government entirely to prevent honorable members from introducing private business, but there are certain urgent measures that it desires to pass without delay. Opportunities may be made later for honorable members to introduce private business. The present arrangement for grievance days will still stand.
.- I shall not oppose the motion, but I cannot agree with the view of the Prime Minister that honorable members will still have the right to introduce private business. If this motion is carried, that right will be abrogated.
– Last year a similar motion was agreed to, but permission was granted to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) to move a motion that he had on the business paper.
– I am not objecting to the Government’s proposal, but it must be recognized that for the remainder of the session the business will be entirely in the hands of the Government, and private members will have no rights in the matter.
My main purpose in rising is to ask the Prime Minister whether he is in a position to give the House any indication of the probable future arrangement of business. It has already been announced that the Government proposes to ask the House to meet four days a week, instead of three, beginning with the week after next. As a rule this action is taken only towards the end of the session, but I doubt whether any honorable members believe that we are approaching the end of the session. Can the Prime Minister give us any information as to the probable length of the session? We have heard from some quarters that it is proposed that Parliament shall sit’ continuously until September or thereabouts; but in other quarters it is said that there will be an adjournment about the end of July. I realize that it is difficult for the Prime Minister to make any definite statement as to the future, for the decision is dependent to some extent upon the action that will be taken in regard to certain referendum proposals. But it was understood that certain business before the House, such as the tariff and the tariff surcharges and prohibitions, would be discussed immediately after Easter. As honorable members have many calls upon their time and energy, it would be of great assistance to them in making future arrangements if the Prime Minister could give any information as to the probable course of business. Though he cannot speak with any certainly, any information that he can give will be much, appreciated.
– Before the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra it was agreed at a conference between the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, and the Leader of the Opposition at that time, Mr. Charlton, that if it could be avoided, Parliament would not meet in Canberra during the winter. That was a definite understanding. I should like to know what the Prime Minister has to say, upon the subject.
.- I have no objection to the .Government ordering its business in any way it pleases, except that I think that honorable members should have an occasional opportunity to submit private business to the House. In’. the past there was a definite arrangement that one Thursday should be grievance day and the next ; Thursday private members’ day; but that was altered. ‘We .now deal with grievances and private members’ business on the same Thursday.- Although we are only at the commencement of the session and have had but one opportunity to deal with either private members’ business or grievances, the Government is proposing to deprive us of any other regular: opportunities of dealing with these matters. Seeing that it is proposed to increase the weekly sitting days by’ one, which means a 25 per cent, increase in the time Parliament Will sit, I think the Prime Minister ought to arrange for one Thursday in four or five, if he cannot agree to one in three, being made available to honorable members to discuss private business. There will be few opportunities for raising such matters this session, because the budget and Estimates have been already passed. For the next three or four months honorable members will have no opportunity for initiating discussions except on motions for the adjournment of the House, a procedure likely to take up more time than the allocation of a special day to private members’ business. Last week, in order to allow another motion to come up for discussion, the debate on a motion standing in my name was adjourned. Now, through my courtesy in allowing that to be done, the discussion will not be resumed and members who wish to speak on the motion will be unable to do so. It has been the practice in the past to take away private members’ day towards the end of the session, but on this occasion this is being done practically at the beginning of the session. I ask the Prime Minister how long. this session is likely to last, and whether it is proposed to sit right through the winter?
– There is plenty of work to be done. The unemployed are sleeping out in the open, although it is winter, and surely we ‘can come to Canberra in that season.
– It is to be remembered that members have to travel long distances to get to Canberra, and. a good deal of illness has already been caused among them as a result of having to travel to Canberra during cold weather. Some honorable members are advanced in years, and should not be subjected to the fisk involved in travelling backwards arid forwards to Canberra in the depth of winter. The year is long enough to enable the work of Parliament to be done in the months in which the weather at Canberra is almost perfect, and without any danger to the health of honorable members. Our position is different from that of the members of State Parliaments. Nearly .all the federal members have to travel very long distances. Some of them come thousands of miles to attend this Parliament. These facts should be taken into consideration by the Government in arranging its programme.
.- I commend the Prime Minister for moving that government business take precedence of general business. A great deal of time is taken up with the discussion of private members’ motions that give no practical result. If honorable members have grievances to discuss they can discuss them on the motion for the adjournment! of the House.
Seeing that the session is likely to be a long one, and that many important matters, including the tariff, have yet to be dealt with, I ask the Prime Minister if he will give consideration to the avoidance of night sittings in favour of day sittings? There was an objection to that in Melbourne because of the attractions of the city ; but in view of the severity of the winter in Canberra, the Government -might well consider the advisability of keeping Parliament sitting from 10 o’clock in the morning until 6.15 in the evening and thus avoid the necessity of keeping members and officials at the House until late at night.
.- I am not at all concerned with the cutting out of private members’ day at this stage of the session. Every member elected to this House comes here with great ideas as to what he will do, but he finds after a while that he can do nothing except in support of, or in opposition to; the government of the day. His proposals, when he has an opportunity of getting motions discussed, are dealt with in a purely perfunctory manner. A motion such as that now before the House is usually passed when it is desired to clear the board in readiness for an adjournment or an election. If we have done our duty we need not fear an election ; that is my conception of what the motion generally connotes. But I should be most dissatisfied if that is to be the outcome of the motion we are now considering.
The list of government business includes the Wheat Marketing Bill which, I think, will be passed, and no doubt will be beneficial to the farmers. There is also the Central Reserve Bank Bill, which leaves me as cold as stone. It is Only a measure for readjusting the pieces on the financial chess-board and eventually the .same position of stalemate will be reached. as we have had before. There are also the Development and Migration Bill, the Nationality Bill, the Forestry Bureau Bill, and a string of other bills which are merely something to talk about.
– The honorable member is overlooking the Cotton Bounty Bill.
– I am not. The discussion on that bill furnished an illustration of how tenaciously honorable members opposite will fight anything which cuts across ,the interests of those whom they represent. I intend to be just as tenacious in pressing for the things I believe to be necessary* The present Government assumed office because of the maladministration of the party opposite. In the midst of prolific production the Commonwealth, through bad government, finds itself in want. The present Ministry was put into power to correct, the ills for which its predecessor was responsible ; bur, what is there in the programme I have read which is likely to correct anything? We merely get to a dead end, with the same results as before. That does nm satisfy me. Until we have made an appreciable effort to get results, I shall not be satisfied. The unemployed situation was never worse than it is to-day. Some years ago, when unemployment was bad, this party took drastic and necessary action to correct the position. The former member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked that £50,000 be made available for the relief of the unemployed, and the proposal was acceded to by the then Government. That was not enough. Later another effort was made on; behalf of the manual worker. The best we can can offer him is the use of military equipment as a shelter, under which he will live in conditions similar to those of a blackfellow in his wurley. If that is not the position, let me be told what this programme connotes. We are not impotent; we can do something. If nothing can be done, then we should tell the unemployed that we are powerless to help them. I am not prepared to hold my position under false pretences. I say that something can be done. I believe that after wealth is produced it should be better distributed. We should not hear this eternal wail about unemployment and starvation. Children are being sent to hospitals every day whose only ailment is malnutrition. -In South Australia 17 per cent, of the population is unemployed, and many of them have been out of work for two or three years. If we can do nothing to remedy this position, let us throw up our jobs, arid let somebody else take them on. I am prepared to give up mine if we cannot find a solution of our troubles. A. solution can be found. Before the motion is carried and we prepare to flit to warmer climates, and seek the comforts of our homes, let us at any rate make an attempt to do the job before us. The Government must find some comprehensive means for occupying the mcn who are unemployed. Have they not produced enough ? Compare the statistics of Australia with those of other countries. We have more money in our hanks; have surpluses of wine, of fruit, of wool, of coal; yea, and a surplus of unemployed .into the bargain. What are we going to do? Cannot we do anything? We can do something, and wc must do it.. If we don’t we deserve to he exposed.
.- I must confess that after 50 years’ experience of parliamentary procedure and 41 years in parliament, I am disappointed with what one can achieve as a member of Parliament. On the advice of an officer of this House I put down for the 29th May a notice of a motion for the establishment of the initiative, referendum and recall. Lt took 25 years to convert the Age newspaper to this idea. The Sydney Bulletin, for many years, has advocated it, and The strongest friendly society in Victoria, the Australian Natives Association, has adopted it. The Labor Party in every State of the Commonwealth has placed it on its platform. But governments .come and go, and private members’ business is always relegated to the background. A private member in a State Parliament may bring a measure forward with some hope of having it carried, but it is almost impossible for a private member of this Parliament to get any proposal agreed to. I protest against this attempt to take away the opportunity of discussing private members’ business. Next week I must attend a large meeting of the unemployed at Carlton. Must I tell them that this Government is hardly moving in the direction of affording any relief for unemployment. I had hoped that with the institution of the initiative, referendum and recall the people who elected parliaments would be able to control them, and in that way ensure that something should be done in a crisis like this. Forty-one years ago, under the shadow of the Melbourne gaol, I addressed a meeting of the unemployed, and said that I did not know what hunger meant, but I had felt thirst in its direst form, and that if hunger was as bad as thirst, I would take; let people call it stealing if they would. If I had a wife and children depending on me I would do far more. To-day there are men, women and children in want, yet Australia is doing practically nothing for them. Why do not honorable members opposite join with honorable members who sit on this side in tackling this question, as all parties combine whenever war is declared ? No sooner does the tocsin of war sound in any part of the world and imperil our safety than we combine to raise troops and the funds necessary to arm and equip them. But when it is a case of the people suffering hardship a different attitude is adopted. Every honorable member knows that the banks to-day are restricting credit. I realise fully what- that means. Have we, as was the case in war time, stabilized interest as we should have done? Is it not a fact that the banks can charge almost any rate of interest on advances, and are they not in a position to call up overdrafts at 24 hours’ notice ? In Victoria the municipalities were urged by the Government of that State to provide work for the unemployed, but they have been prevented from doing so by the Commonwealth Bank. That Bank has been called the people’s bank. It is nothing of the kind. The stigma of infamy will attach to any honorable member who calls it the people’s bank to-day. It is a banker’s bank. I shall relate an incident to show that that is so. A man who is known personally to me wished to obtain from the Commonwealth Bank an advance of £750, so that he might discharge an obligation to a private bank. His properties were valued by his bank for banking purposes at £1,580, but the valuation placed on them for land tax purposes was £2,000. He approached the manager of the Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne; having previously sent in a written application.
The manager wished to settle the matter verbally, but upon my suggestion he pressed for a written reply, and received one stating that the Commonwealth Bank was not taking over the liabilities of any’ other bank. He had a lifo interest of some £200 a year, which was untrammelled and untouched in any way, and he. offered that as additional security. The manager again endeavoured to close the matter with a verbal reply, knowing that the spoken word cannot be produced as evidence at any time. He said, “We cannot do it at the present time ‘’, and he w.ent on to say how the bank’s business was carried on. My friend insisted on having the bank’s reply in writing.” The manager demurred ; but eventually it was supplied. The letter contained the following phrase: “If the application is made at some future date it will be considered “. As an old banker, I say that that is hypocrisy. This is a banker’s bank in every sense of the term; and the present Government appears to be as afraid of tackling it as was the Government which preceded it. I am sorry to feel obliged to speak in this way; but I cannot hope to live many years, and I wish to realize the ambition of my life by seeing embedded in the Constitution provision for the initiative, the referendum and the recall. A motion to do that was carried unanimously at one time by the House of Representatives but the Bruce-Page Government did not give effect to it. Such a provision would enable the people to exercise to the fullest extent their sovereign rights, instead of merely being able to elect this parliament once in every three years. This parliament can make itself more powerful than its creator. In this matter the argument applies that I have used with men who follow the profession of religion : If God be God He would never create anything His equal, nor allow any created thing to make itself His equal. We are the elected of the citizens of Australia. Why should Parliament, a created thing, have the power to make itself more powerful than the people who have created it ? At the Melbourne University, which is the most expensive institution of its kind in Australia, it costs £460 to undergo a six years’ course and graduate in medicine. Yet it is necessary to expend £4,192 of the people’s money to turn out a gilt-braided officer at Jervis Bay, after a four years’” course, while State school scholars are prevented from rising to the rank of officer from the ranks. Does this Government propose to wipe out that infamous system ? I become angry when I think of people outside starving, and of the children of the workers being unable to obtain secondary education because of the lack of accommodation, while £4,192 is wasted on every scholar that passes through that college. That would not be permitted, for a moment if the people had control. Honorable members know that E am speaking the truth. A Swiss Government on one occasion sent an agent, to the United States of America, to establish in that country a branch of the International Bureau. Had I been a member of the Swiss Parliament at that time I would have voted for the proposal. The cost would have been no greater than £400, representing the salary of one officer. The bureau was responsible for the use of the 2½d stamp all over the world before the war, the initiation of the parcels post system, and the greatest achievement of any nation - the Red Cross. I wish to impress upon honorable members the fact that in Switzerland, when a man is elected he has not the power to. make himself supreme.
– Order ! The honorable member must realize that his remarks are hardly relevant to the question before the Chair.
– I am giving reasons for the passing of a measure making provision for the initiative, the referendum and the recall.
– Does the honorable member wish the present Government to be recalled ?
– If they were all like the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), I would pray for it. Switzerland would have been liable for only a small part of the expense. As 40 civilized nations would have contributed to it, Switzerland’s share would have been only £10. But as the Swiss people had not been’ consulted, a petition for a referendum was immediately drawn up, the proposal was rejected, and the officer was recalled from America. If the people of Australia had had complete power, do honorable members think they would have countenanced the appointment of expensive commissions? I love this Ministry; and so imbued am I with the idea that the Leader of this Government is honest and straightforward, and that he is doing his best, that, God permitting, I should give half the remainder of my years to extend his life and his usefulness.
.- After the speeches of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), the desire of the Government to curtail the discussion of private members’ business is quite intelligible.
During the last election campaign honorable members who now sit on this side of the House were charged by those who now sit on the Government side with a desire to reduce the wages of the workers of this country. The wages being paid to adult workers to-day is from14½ per cent. to 15 per cent. less than it then was. I do not say that the Government is responsible for the reduction ;but it is remarkable thatit should have occurred, and that the Government should have done nothing to fulfil its promise to provide work for all.
– I rise to order. I claim that there is no motion in the name of a private member on the business paper that deals with either rates of wages or unemployment.
– That is quite true. I ask the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
-I am referring in a general way to the programme of the Government. Other honorable members have discussed unemployment and the opportunities that are open to the Government to relieve it. I recognize the extraordinarily difficult financial position in which the Government finds itself to-day. But I suggest that there are two sources of revenue which might be exploited for the relief of the unfortunate workers. They are ‘the two sources which, on the eve of the last general election, the late Government proposed to tap. If this Government is really anxious to find money for the relief of unemployment, it should impose the amusement tax that was brought forward by the late Government.
– I rise to order. I submit, sir, that the honorable member for Henty is disregarding your ruling.
– The motion is that Government business take precedence of all other business. I submit that the nature of the Government’s programme, promised and actual, is relevant to a discussion of this matter.
– On the point of order that has been raised: The motion before the Chair is quite familiar to all parliamentarians, and the lines that the debate has followed are equally familiar. But I wouldpoint out that if you, Mr. Speaker, uphold the view put by the Leader of the Opposition, it will mean that every item and ramification of government policy is open for discussion on a motion of this kind. I suggest that in accordance with precedents with which you are amply familiar, and on the ground of common-sense, such a view of the scope ofthe motion cannot reasonably beaccepted.
– It is scarcely necessary for me to remind you, Mr. Speaker, of the fact that two previous speakers referred, under this motion, to unemployment, and I wish merely to point out the means by which this unemployment may, to some extent, be relieved.
– I cannot permit, on the motion before the House, a debate such as would be permissible during the discussion of the Address-in-Reply or of a ministerial statement. The whole ambit of political action cannot be discussed on a motion of this kind. All that is now permissible is a debate having direct relation to the questionwhether Government business should or should not take preference of general business on each sitting day. Certain honorable members, I am afraid, have considered the Chair too strict when it has not allowed them to express themselves as fully as they would have wished ; but what has taken place this morning shows clearly that the Chair must confine discussion closely to the question before it. The Chair, in exercising strictness, is protecting the rights of honorable members, and preserving due decorum.
– I support the motion, and am giving my reasons for so doing. I am pointing out the work in which I should like to see the Government engaged in the immediate future. I should like to see the Government, if possible, do something for the unemployed, and I am pointing out directions in which it could with advantage relieve unemployment throughout Australia. The Government would be wise, if it wishes to do something for the unemployed, and to find money for that purpose, to consider, from the American end of the film industry, the amusement tax that was introduced by the late Government.
– I rise to a point of order.
– I have finished my remarks.
– I would point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member is still continuing the discussion onunemployment and the imposition of an amusement tax, and in doing so is not only disregarding but also defying the Chair.
– The Chair is endeavouring to exercise patience, and Iask honorable members to assist it in doing so. I understand that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has now concluded his remarks.
:- I support the motion.Whether we agree or disagree with the policy of the Government, it is our duty to afford it every facility for bringing its business before the House. Since honorable members spend so much time in arriving and departing from this outpost of Australia, it is certainly desirable for this Parliament to sit in Canberra for not less than four days a week. I was pleased to hear the remarks of some of the Government supporters, because I am satisfied that they are now beginning to realize that we in Australia must learn to live by industry and not by politics. I have been here on two private members’ days, and the last was very disappointing to me, because much of the discussion that took place was not in keeping with the best traditions of the House. It would not do much harm to the country if the number of private members’ days were reduced, and, on the whole, I think that it would be better to give the Government an opportunity to put its business before Parliament, and to finish the session as soon as we reasonably can.
– I propose to make a suggestion regarding the days of sitting, which,I presume, will be in order. It has occurred to me that the hours of sitting on Fridays are badly distributed, and I suggest that the Government might consider meeting in the morning from 9.30 until 12 noon, resuming at 1 p.m., and arranging for the train to depart at a slightly earlier hour than it does at present. That arrangement would not inconvenience any honorable member; in fact, it would be a convenience to quite a number of members. I sympathize with the views of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Malpney). Most honorable members could not but be deeply stirred by poignant remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, and I am quite sure that he would not have spoken with such deep feeling ofthe sufferings and miseries of the unemployed had he not had the greatest sympathy with them. I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide, and the honorable member for Melbourne, that not one of the. orders of the day or notices of motion appearing on the notice-paper is designed to make the butter the least fraction thicker on the bread of the worker. Not one of them, if passed would give him more leisure or provide more work for him. On the other hand, the whole policy of the Government, as enunciated on the notice-paper, will have no effect other than to increase the hardships and miseries which the workers of this country are suffering and which will increase as the winter progresses. I have the deepest sympathy for the honorable members who spoke from the Government side. Of course, it would be idle for honorable members on this side of the House to speak in similar terms, because the Government would not give to our words the notice that they deserved. It is, however, more likely to take heed of its own supporters. In view of the sufferings of the people, we, in our pleasant surroundings, should do more than talk, and it is for the Government to give this House, and this country, a lead in the direction of improving the conditions of this country, rather than to continue to “ dress the window “ in the way indicated on the notice-paper. I defy any honorable member on either side to show in what way this Government is improving the conditions of the masses, or attempting to solve the unemployment problem, either on the coal-fields or in any other part of Australia.
– The motion that I moved this morning was simple, and quite a usual one, though it has been brought forward earlier in the session than is customary. I take no exception to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). They addressed themselves to the motion in proper terms, and properly asked to be informed as to the probable duration of the session. It is not possible for me to indicate when the session will close; it will close when the programme that the Government has set down for consideration is completed. My object in moving this motion is to get this business concluded as early as possible. I know, of course, that the members of this Parliament come from all parts of this wide Commonwealth, and are in a position different from that of the members of State Parliaments. Consequently, I should like to meet their convenience as far as possible. But our first consideration must he the conduct of public business. We ask honorable members to sit four days a week because we believe that there is need for us to sit four days a week. If necessary, we shall sit five days, andeven six days a week, and have both day and night sittings if more time is required for our deliberations. But quite a lot of Canberra enthusiasts who at one time advocated winter sittings, and have now had an opportunity of experiencing the winter f rosts in the Federal Territory, areanxious to depart.
The motion is not designed to abolish private members’ days, and an opportunity will, I hope, be given to honorable members to discuss the motions of which they have given notice. In any case, I remind them that private members’ motions seldom get us anywhere. The real business of this Parliament is that put forward by the government of the day. Last year, before the Christmas adjournment, after a similar motion to this now under discussion had been passed, a special arrangement was made under which one honorable member was able to put a motion before the House and to have it carried.
– That was the result of a bargain.
– It was an arrangement which the Government need not have carried out. The carrying of a motion giving precedence to Government business does not take away private members’ opportunities for voicing their opinions. The discussion on grievance day, although it takes place under a motion which comes under the heading of Government business is usually devoted wholly to the expression of private members’ opinions on public matters in general; there is no discussion on Government business then. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not follow the good example set by his own leader and the Leader of the Country party. Hemerely seized the opportunity to make an attack upon the Government, and, as usual, was supported by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill).
– I followed the lead of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates).
– Both honorable members followed the lead of the honorable member for Adelaide, who made an unwarranted attack upon the Government. He misinterpreted and misrepresented the purpose of this motion. He knows full well that the Government is going right through with its programme until it finishes it, and it was merelya gratuitous affront on his part to suggest that in moving this motion the Government intended to finish its business, and, taking the earliest opportunity of flitting from Canberra, to run away from its job.
– I did not.
– Nothing else could be inferred from the honorable member’s remarks. He spoke of flitting to warmer climates in order to evade the work that we were sent here to do. Such remarks were unwarranted and cheap. The honorable member drew attention to the fact that a former leader of the Opposition, Mr. Charlton, had appealed to the BrucePage Government for £50,000 for the relief of the unemployed. The honorable member declaimed that statement in ringing tones, and suggested, by inference, that the present Government is doing nothing. The fact is, that within three weeks of assuming office the Government made available, through the State Governments, £1,000,000 for expenditure on roads, in order to give immediate relief to the unemployed. Not half that sum has yet been expended. The honorable member, for Adelaide says that this Government has’ done nothing, and contrasts its alleged inaction with the action of a previous Government in making £50,000 available to the unemployed. His attack upon the Government could not have been surpassed by even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, or the honorable member for Warringah. The honorable member for Adelaide sneered nt the military equipment which the Commonwealth Government is making available through the States to help the i.i 1 1 employed:
– I did sneer at it. I think it is awful.
– The Commonwealth has not the opportunity for providing work and relief that the States have. The policy of the present Government is not to overlap activities of the State Governments, but to co-operate with them. Where the State Governments desire to furnish work for which the Commonwealth can provide the money this Government is doing that. It has already made available £1,000,000 for road construction. The State Governments have asked for assistance in their relief operations, and whilst I deplore the need in a great country like Australia for the distribution of food and clothing, we have to face the fact that relief of this kind must be given to those who are in distress. Therefore, when the State Premiers asked the Commonwealth to make available certain drill halls and spare military equipment from the Defence stores, we readily assented. The Government is making a free gift through the State Governments of £33,000 worth of blankets, clothing, and boots, for the relief of impoverished people.
– Is the shame of it any the less?
– No shame attaches to this Government.
– It is a shame to the nation.
– The honorable” member used it as an excuse for attacking the Government. I repudiate his statements.
– I repudiate the right honorable gentleman’s interpretation of my utterances.
– Only to-day I informed the House that because of the special circumstances of the distress existing on the northern coal-fields this Government, although faced with a depleted treasury, and the most difficult financial position that has ever arisen in the history of the Commonwealth, is making £100,000 available for distribution by local committees. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) said that he wishes that the Government would do something. I challenge him and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) to show that during the six years that the previous Government was in office it did half as much, directly or indirectly, for the relief of the unemployed as the present Government has done in six months.
– The £1,000,000 made available to the States was already in the roads fund.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, prompted by his leader is quite wrong. The honorable member for Kooyong is better qualified to give legal advice than to give political advice. Whilst the £1,000,000 was in the roads fund it has been transferred to the States as a free grant.
– It belongs to them.
– The States do not pay interest on the money and are under no obligation to repay it.
– The money was taken from the roads fund.
– It is true that the roads fund provided the cash; but the ultimate liability was assumed by this Government. It has guaranteed to the States that the full amount raised for the roads fund will not be depleted by one penny; the £1,000,000 which has been advanced to them is additional.
– The money had been raised for road purposes.
– That is true, and whilst the Government has advanced £1,000,000 of that money, the roads fund is not being depleted, and the States will not receive one penny less because of this action.
– Did not the £1,000,000 form part of the accumulated credits of the roads fund ?
– The Commonwealth Government is adding £1,000,000 to those credits, and to enable that to be done it is extending the term of the Roads Agreement.
– The addition will not be made until the termination of the seven year period of the agreement.
– The right honorable member’s interjection merely emphasizes the sympathy of the Government with the. unemployed. In order to have work put in hand immediately, it. is advancing £1,000,000 some years ahead of the time when it would be due in the ordinary course of events.
– Out of an alleged empty treasury.
– The honorable member knows that the treasury was empty when the present Government took office.
– Apparently there was £1,000,000 in it at any rate.
– No. The last Government left an overdraft of £5,000,000. The £1,000,000 advanced to the States is an addition to it.
– The money was yielded by the petrol tax.
– It is supposed to have been; but our predecessors in office left an overdraft of £5,000,000, which the present Government has increased by £1,000,000 in order to make money available to the States immediately. In doing that it is not taking one penny from the amount which the States are entitled to receive under the agreement. All State Governments understand the position.
I indicated earlier the direct forms of relief given by the Government; I turn now to the indirect. Our predecessors did nothing directly or indirectly to provide work, but for six years allowed the country to be flooded with migrants and imported goods. We are limiting the influx of both very considerably ; but in six months of office we cannot be expected to rectify theevils that have resulted from many years of mal-administration.
– Is this in order ? The right honorable gentleman is making a generalpolitical attack.
– I am replying to the statements of previous speakers; if their remarks were in order, mine are, too.I had no intention of making a speech of this character this morning ; but when the Government of which I am the Leader is the subject of an unwarrantedattack and misrepresentation, I shall defend it. Whether the attack comes from the Opposition or from the Ministerial benches, and whatever the motives behind it, I shall give the facts to the House and to the country.I shallnot allow any one to say that the Government is doing nothing to relieve the unemployed.
Mr:Bernard Corser. - The Government has been attacked by the coal-miners for its inaction.
– I can offer a good defence of the Government on that score also. The Government has steered a straight course, and has displayed in a practical way its sympathy with the unemployed. It is endeavouring, by building up the industries of Australia, to provide our people with work. In the meantime,it is making a practical contribution to the solution of the country’s most serious and pressing problems.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance withthe provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to theParliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, and on which the committee has duly reported to. this House the result of its inquiries: - Construction of Federal Highway withinthe Federal Capital Territory.
The proposed work involves the construction of the Federal Highway from the Canberra city area, near the junction of
MacArthur-avenue and Northbourneavenue, thence in a north-easterly direction a distance of 5 miles 3,439 feet to the Federal Capital Territory boundary. It is part of a scheme for the construction and reconstruction of a road to give direct connexion between Canberra and Goulburn via Geary’s Gap and Collector, funds for which have been provided partly from the special grant of £250,000 by the Commonwealth Government. The estimated costof the proposed work is approximately £50,000. The road is to be of uniform character throughout that is, with a pavement 20 feet wide, formation 28 to30 feet wide, necessary bridges and culverts, 20 feet between kerbs, steepest gradient 1 in20, and all curves super-elevated in accordance with modern practice; It is being carried out, generally in stage construction, thus ensuring consolidation before any paving, and permitting investigations to be made with a viewtousing any local materials available. After the gravel of. the first stage is consolidated, the surf ace will be sprayed with tar or a bituminous material.
– When will the road be completed?
– The formation will be completed fairly soon.
– How much of the money has been already expended ?
– I cannot say. Portion of the road has been built. It was first proposed by the righthonorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), when he was Treasurer, and was recently investigated by the PublicWorks Committee. The motion I am submitting is in accordance with the committee’s recommendation.
– For what distance from Goulburn towards Canberra has the road been completed?
– The New South Wales portion is finished.
– The Public Works Committee, in its report, stated -
Under this arrangement the State undertook to construct 22miles of road from a point 5½ miles from Collector to the boundary of the Federal Territory, at an estimated cost of £200,000- two-thirds of the money to be found; by. the Federal Government, and onethird by the State, over a period of two years. The Commonwealth undertook, also, to continue the road over a distance of approximately 6 miles from the boundary of the Federal Territory to the boundary of the City of Canberra. Under this proposal the total distance from Goulburn to Parliament House, Canberra, via Collector, will be 59½ miles, as against 68 miles via Queanbeyan and Bungendore.
The New South Wales Governmentis bearing the cost of the section of the road from. Goulburn to Collector, and is also meeting one-third of the cost of the section from Collector to the Federal CapitalTerritory boundary ; the remainder of the road isbeing made at the expense of the Commonwealth Government.
– When will the road be available for traffic?
-The work is being pushed on with asspeedily as possible. By the adoption of the constructional method recommended by the committee theroad will be trafficable earlier than would be the case if othermethods were adopted.
– I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this motion. The building of the road was part of the policy of the Bruce-Page Government to connect Canberra by good roads with all the State capitals. The road between Sydney and Goulburn is constructed of the best material, and is of a high class. Good roads are being made from the Federal Aid Roads scheme from Canberra to Yass, Jervis Bay and Eden. The New South Wales Government generously agreed to help the Commonwealth Government to construct a good road between Goulburn andthe Capital City, although from the point of view of settlement and production the road would not be so valuable to the State as its other arterial thoroughfares. Canberra should be made accessible to all the State capitals. I find that all the visitors to Australia from overseas are anxious to visit the Federal Capital even though they may have very little time at their disposal. Despite what has been said this morning as to the advisableness of scrapping this city, I assert that nothing about Australia appeals more to the sentiment of people who come here from overseas than the construction of the capital city in this beautiful spot. The tourist officers of Australia House and the directors of the Tourist Bureau in the various
States all say that a great deal of interest is taken by overseas tourists in Canberra, and whenever possible tourists include this city in their itinerary. Nothing that even approximates to Canberra, the one capital of a continent, has recently been attempted anywhere else in the world, except at Delhi, in India. It is essential that we should have good roads to and from the city, for the railway system was not built to cope with through traffic, although the New South Wales Government has done its bestto improve the service.
Mr.C. Riley. - We want more than good roads. We want a good aerodrome.
– I would support the honorable member if he urged the Government to undertake that work.I amglad that the Government is proceeding with this work, for it will help us to complete a contract made with the New South Wales Government. I trust that the road will be open for traffic as early as possible.
Mr.NAIRN (Perth) [12.19]. - I oppose this motion. During the last election campaign the present Prime Minister veryforcibly criticized what he called “ the extravagant waste.” of the previous Government on Canberra, and by doing so he gained for his party a large number of votes. I am sure that the people would be glad if the Government would carryout its pre-election promises and put an end to the wasteful capital expend iture on this city. Inmy opinion this city is 50 years ahead of the times.
– The honorable member is 50 years behind the times.
– It is unfortunate that we ever attempted to establishthe city here. It is strange that, although honorable members who represent New South Wales constituencies, take every opportunity to talk about themagnificent site and climate of Canberra, they unitedly make a bolt for the Canberra railway station at 4 o’clock every Friday afternoon in order to get away from the city. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) even suggested to-day that the clirnate here was so severe that it made him cold right to the marrow in his bones, and he wanted the Prime Minister to agree that Parliament should not sit here during the winter months.
– That was out of consideration for the honorable members who represent other States.
– It seems to me that the most satisfactory view that the New South Wales members of this Parliament can have of Canberra is the view they get of it from the rear of a departing train. The opposition that was shown yesterday to the expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money on bathsfor this city has been justified by the introduction ofthis motion to-day. No doubt we shall be asked before very long to agree to the expenditure of other large sums of money here. It is suggested that a University should be established in this out of the way place, and, no. doubt, a proposition to provide for that will be submitted to us in due course. According to the motion it is “ expedient “ to construct this road. In my opinion, it is quite inexpedient to do so, for there is already a good road from Canberra to Goulburn. There is no justification whatever for the expenditure of £50,000 in making another six miles of road in the direction of Goulburn. We have heard a good deal of prating about the poverty and wretchedness of the unemployed. I suggest that this £50,000 could be better spent in putting in hand some reproductive undertaking to provide work for the workless.
– This money is to be spent on the last six miles of the road; it is really for the completion of a large scheme.
– I do not care whether it is the last or the first six miles of the road. I am amused by what has been saia about the tourist traffic to Canberra. That is a mere bagatelle. There are only two or three places in the Territory worthy of a visit by tourists. According to the tourist guide books, the Cotter river and one or two other spots should be visited, but there is nothing else to see. The Government would be well ad vised to close right down on capital expenditure in this city.
.- The remarks that I made yesterday in relation to the expenditure of publicmoney at Canberra may be applied with equal force to the proposal now before the House, and some additional arguments may be advanced in. support of this project. In the early stages of the development of this city I strongly criticized the whole project, in Parliament and outside of it. But we are here now, and we should provide the facilities and utilities necessary for a capital city. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is hardly justified in criticizing this Government for the expenditure of this money, for the work was put in hand by the BrucePage Government. It let contracts for earthworks that were necessary to make the road. It was only after the work had been put in hand that it was submitted to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. Honorable members on both sides of the House at that time pressed the Government to push on with the construction of this road in order that the capital city might have worthy approaches from outside. The road from Canberra to Goulburn, via Queanbeyan, is not the kind of highway that should lead to the capital city of the nation. The committee has made its inquiry into this project since the last election, and it is unanimously of the opinion that the work is well warranted. In passing, I should like to say that the Public Works Committee knows no party politics. It makes its investigations entirely without bias. Moreover, it is in a position to form a reliable opinion upon the kind of road that should be constructed. I am glad to say that it will be possible to open this road for traffic within a few months. Seeing that the previous Government en- ‘tered into a contract with the New South Wales Government to construct the road, there seemed to be nothing else for us to do but to ma”ke the best possible road for the purpose at the least possible cost. The committee is satisfied that a gravel road of the kind proposed is advisable. In fact, a gravel road of that kind is necessary for all forms of road construction intended to be finished with a sealed coat. It is not sound practice to construct a new road and immediately finish it off with a permanent bituminous or tarsealed surface. Experts are firmly of the opinion that such roads should be given a gravel surface, subjected to traffic for twelve or eighteen months, and then when they have become thoroughly consolidated, given a permanent surface. In this case it is particularly desirable to follow such a course, because investigations are now being carried out to determine whether Australian tar can be used for surfacing instead of imported bitumen. By the time we are ready to go on with the surfacing of this road, those experiments will be completed and the result kt.own. Honorable members opposite have accused the Government of extravagance in connexion with this undertaking, but the work was authorized and undertaken, not by this Government, but by the last Government. I do not condemn the last. Government for that. If Canberra is to continue to be the seat of government we must have good roads leading to it. It is not true, however, as has been suggested by the honorable -member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that the present Government is responsible for this expenditure. We are responsible only for carrying the work to completion.
.- I wish to add my protest to that of the honorable member for Perth against the continuation of expenditure on what is purely a luxury at a time when the Government is compelled to cut down expenditure on urgent developmental work, and on scientific research. The people are shortly to be asked to give extended powers to this Parliament by a Government which proposes to spend large sums of money on luxuries such as public baths in Canberra, and on an ostentatious luxury highway between Sydney and. Canberra, while men are being thrown out of work in the Northern Territory owing to shortage of Government funds. The Northern Territory, which is strategically the danger point of Australia, is having its development retarded because funds are not available to keep the stock routes in order’ by the provision of adequate water supplies. While this cheeseparing policy is in operation in the Northern Territory, which is the special responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament, we are being asked to vote additional money for luxuries in Canberra, partly for the convenience of a handful of residents here, and partly for the benefit of members of Parliament and occasional tourists. Canberra is quite well provided with roads, and has an excellent train service for so small a population. There is a good main road leading from Sydney to Canberra, and it is only eight miles longer than this new road will be. The only return the public will receive for this expenditure is the little extra money that will be spent in the Canberra hotels, which are already losing on practically every guest they entertain. Not only is this expenditure extravagant from a national point of view, but it will encourage extravagance in individuals. I do not say that it is always wrong for people to go “joyriding” or to take trips to see their own country, but there are plenty of places accessible by present methods of communication without furnishing additional encouragement for the burning of American petrol and the wearing out of American motor cars. Not only is the Northern Territory being stinted through lack of funds, but scientific research which, of all Government activities, holds out the greatest promise of giving a profitable return, is being severely restricted. I am convinced that every member of the Government is reluctant to reduce expenditure on scientific research, but while the money is not available for it, money should not be made available for public baths in Canberra, and for new highways which are purely luxuries. I hope that even at this stage the Government will delay the completion of this work so that more important things, upon which the real security and prosperity of the country depend, can be proceeded with as far as the limited funds available will permit.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat may be excused for what he has said because he was not a member of this House when the subject was last discussed. This road was approved by the predecessors of the present Government. Authority has already been given for the spending of £200,000 on this work, and much of the money has already been spent. That expenditure will be useless unless the work is finished. The previous Government had a penchant for starting big jobs and not finishing them, a fact borne witness to by the idle foundations for the administrative block here in Can.berra. It is necessary that this work, having been begun, should be finished, but personally, I am sorry that it ever was begun. It was, apparently, the policy of the last Government to allow the main arterial roads leading to Canberra to be neglected. I wish that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) would take a ride over the road from Yass to Canberra. That road was worn out during the building of Canberra, and the last Government, although responsible for its destruction, did nothing to recondition, it. I congratulate the Government upon recognizing the necessity for good roads in, and adjacent to, the capital city. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) announce that investigations were being made which might lead to the substitution of Australian tar for imported bitumen. We are already buying too much from America. If I had my way I would declare bitumen “ black “ at once. I should use tar for road treatment if possible, and if that were not suitable, I should use cement which, while more costly, would provide a permanent surface.
Members of the Opposition seem to be suffering from that complaint known as psittacosis; at any rate, they keep on uttering parrot-like cries about the need for economy. One after another gets up and condemns any proposal to spend money; but it is this persistent refusal to spend money that is aggravating the present depression. Governments should spend money in times of depression so as to provide work for the workless. Road work is probably the best form of unemployment relief there is because practically the whole of the money spent is paid in wages. There are many plutocrats in this House, and many more outside it, and I think that the time has arrived when the Government should draw a little more on those in receipt of £10,000 a year and upwards in order to obtain money for the relief of unemployment.
As I have said, I do not approve of this road which reduces the distance between Sydney and Canberra by only eight miles, for which insignificant benefit the country has to pay £200,000. Moreover, because it had embarked upon the construction of this road, the last
Government allowed other main roads leading to Canberra to fall into a disgraceful condition of disrepair. I cannot see any great advantage in reducing the distance between Sydney and Canberra by eight miles. A few miles extra is nothing to motorists provided they have good roads to travel over. Yass and Queanbeyan are well-known now throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and tourists visiting Canberra will naturally desire to visit those towns. Therefore, the better policy would have been to have put in proper order the approaches to Canberra through Yass and Queanbeyan.
.- The proposal to construct this highway should have been referred to the Public “Works Committee before being authorized. The Public Works Department should be more particular in that regard. We all know that the committee is doing very good work, and it will be to the advantage of the Department and the Government that no attempt should be made to evade the provisions of the act. I have not the slightest doubt regarding the need for this road. It would be useless to have a fine capital city here unless proper means of access to it were provided. From time to time suggestions have been made for the construction of railways to Canberra, but I urge the Government to consider in every case whether it would not be better to build a road instead of additional railways. I commend the Minister for proposing this motion. The completion of this work will, I believe, add greatly to the comfort of those who have to travel to Canberra by road.
– I do not know that it is necessary for me to reply to the criticisms that have been offered to this motion. I have justified the proposal only on the ground that a definite contract had been entered into with a State Government, and. that it would be a breach of that contract if the work were not completed. It is desirable, however, that I should place on record certain remarks of the Public Works Committee, so that that point may be made perfectly clear. The committee has reported -
In considering the 68 miles of road from Goulburn, via Bungendore and Queanbeyan, to Canberra, it was recognized that 37 miles between Queanbeyan and Tarago was badly located with sharp curves and steep grades; some of it was partly paved, and other portions were not paved at all. Another section of 21 miles between Goulburn and Collector was already in existence, and was portion of a through road to be carried out with federal aid over a period of ten years. After a conference between the then Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and the New South Wales authorities, it was decided that it would be better to construct the Goulburn-Collector road, rather than improve the old road, and an agreement was reached to proceed with the work as a special measure, rather than allow the usual development to take place over a period of ten years. Under this arrangement the State undertook to construct 22 miles of road from a point 5½ miles from Collector to the boundary of the Federal Territory, at an estimated cost of £200,000 - two-thirds of the money to be found by the Federal Government, and onethird by the State, over a period of two years. The Commonwealth undertook also to continue the road over a distance of approximately6 miles from the boundary of the Federal Territory to the boundary of the City of Canberra.
I take it that the reason for the nonsubmission of the proposal to the Public Works Committee by the previous Government is that it felt that that course was not necessary, because this Parliament had approved of the contract that had been entered into between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales. When the attention of the present Government was drawn to the fact that the law insisted upon the matter being referred to the Public Works Committee, it had no option but to comply with the law in that respect. The committee approved of what this Parliament had previously agreed to; therefore, we cannot do other than keep faith with the Government of New South Wales, and complete the contract.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.51 to 2.15 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee: (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Parker Moloney) - proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to the marketing of wheat and for other purposes.
.- We have no objection to the motion, as the debate may proceed on the bill itself, and the general principles associated with the whole subject of the marketing of wheat will be discussed in connexion with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; and - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1864), on motion by Mr. Parkes Moloney -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Latham had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted, and that the following words be substituted in lieu thereof : - “ this House is of opinion that, while present circumstances justify a guarantee by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States of a mini mum price of 4s. per bushel for f.a.q. wheat, season 1!)30-1031, delivered at railway sidings, legislation providing for such a guarantee should be introduced separately from any legislation providing for the establishment of a monoply in the marketing of Australian wheat by means of a compulsory pool
– When the House adjourned last night I was pointing out that, from compilations and estimates that I had made, wheat, for which the Government is guaranteeing 4s. a bushel, may cost it at least 5s. Hid. before the whole of the wheat in the pool is sold, and, in addition, it will not be able to recover more than 4s. 6d. a bushel. I pointed out that on 160,000,000 bushels this would involve a loss of £8,000,000, which could be recovered only by adding 3s. a bushel to the local price of wheat, and, as a result, the price of the 4-lb. loaf of bread would be increased by 2£d. It has been said during the course of this debate, more particularly by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) that no matter to what height the price of wheat rises, the price of bread will remain unaffected. Those honorable members quoted statistics in support of their contention, but I submit that it is an impossible conclusion. One would think that wheat was no longer used in the manufacture of flour, or flour in turn, an ingredient of the loaf! I dissociate myself entirely from the views of those honorable members. The effect of the pool on the price of bread will be felt, if not immediately, then so soon as the present stocks of flour are exhausted and fresh flour is made from wheat purchased at increased prices. Not only that, but the increase in price will affect the poultry farmer and any other person who has to purchase wheat and wheat products in connexion with his business. It is idle to think that we can get this money from some unknown source, or that it will come as a mist appears in the morning. The money has to come from somewhere. The citizens of this Commonwealth, in order to recoup the pool for the loss that it will incur by the sale of its wheat overseas, will be compelled, either by an increase in the price of bread or in some other way, to find the millions necessary to make up the shortage. The honorable member for Echuca admitted, in the course of his speech - and he apparently is to be an influential member of the State pool in his State - that he would advocate that the price of wheat for local consumption should be 5s. 6d. or 5s. 9d. per bushel.
– He said 5s. a bushel.
– An increase of ls. in the price for local consumption means that the taxpayers will have to find from £2,000,000 to £2,500,000, in order to make up the loss on the pool. This Government has no right to permit any State Board or other organization to impose such a penalty on the people of this country.
The farmers should pause before they hand themselves over body and soul to the Labour party. They should not sell their birthright for a mess of pottage. To obtain a fleeting advantage this year they should not put their necks in a noose for the next two years. This Government is not susceptible to the opinions of the farmers of this country. It takes its marching orders, not from the farmers, but from the industrialists and the trade unions of the cities. So soon as the shoe begins to pinch and the price of bread or flour becomes so high as to affect trade unionists and industrialists, the Government will begin to move, and I prophesy that before the pool has ceased its operations, the Government will appoint price-fixing tribunals to protect their supporters from any increase in the Cost of their necessaries of life.
– The Government cannot constitutionally fix the price of anything.
– That should meet the objection of the honorable member.
– lt does not. The honorable member’s interjection shows how easily the farmers of this country are beguiled. If the honorable member is sheltering himself behind the thought that this Government cannot appoint pi-ice fixing tribunals, let me remind him that there are other bodies, such as State Parliaments, which are able to institute a system of price fixation. I already see signs that the practice, which has been in operation for many years, of making the local consumer pay for the loss on exports, is going to stop. There are signs of a revolution against that system, and that is evident in at least New South Wales; and I believe in all the other States. It will not be long before the Government will be forced to take action to stop the practice of husbanding our products by sending the surplus overseas at the expense of the consumers and citizens of this Commonwealth. The farmers in their own interests should refrain from joining the pool. They should consider their position before it is too late, because if they join the pool they are likely to suffer as did the farmers of Russia. The Soviet Government said to the Russian fanners “ You must deliver all your wheat into our government depots and allow lis to do what we like with it.” Certain arrangements have been made for pooling this year, but in regard to the pools for the next two years there is nothing to prevent the Government from following the example of Soviet Russia. We should be guided by our experience of previous pools. The present proposal provides for the same machinery in respect of the inauguration and control of the pools, as was in operation during previous pools. ‘ Tn 1917-18 the wheat yield was greatly depreciated by the ravages of mice and weevil, and for that the board then in existence, could not escape responsibility. As a result of its neglect to institute preventive measures, this country lost £3,000,000 worth of wheat. The farmers had to bear two-thirds of that loss and the Government made up the balance. Take the experience of Brazil. A few years ago a coffee pool was established in that country and even now holds the world’s requirements of coffee for twelve months. It has been unable to get rid of its holdings because the other nations of the world had obtained their supplies and substitutes elsewhere. New Zealand had a butter pool, but when the loss to the producer reached £2,000,000, pools were- discontinued. Honorable members who advocate this wheat pool have referred to the pools established in Canada and the United States of America, yet the government of the latter country has already refused to assist its producers any further by means of the pooling system. Mr. Coolidge, the ex-President of the United States of America, stated : -
Any form of price-fixing, once started, has alike no justice, and no end. It is an economic folly … no man can foresee what thu effect on our economic life will be of disrupting the long-established and delicately adjusted channels of Commerce. That it 91 , be far-reaching is undeniable, nor is it beyond the range of possibility that it will threaten the very basis of our national prosperity through dislocation, the slowing up of industry, and the disruption of the farmers’ market.
Judging by the way in which Lord Beaverbrook has been quoted in this House by supporters of the Government, apparently the Labour party, is adopting new associations. The bill contains provisions which, I suspect, are deliberately ambiguous. I refer particularly to clause 1.2 of the schedule, and I ask the Minister in his reply to indicate exactly what the equalisation provisions mean..
For instance, will New South Wales and Victoria, which have a large home market, pay to the States having a small local consumption a proportion of the extra price yielded by the local trade? Unless the New South Wales farmer is assured that he will get all the benefits of a large home market, which yields a higher price, he will not he very enthusiastically iri favour of the pool.
Will Western Australia share with the other States the benefits it derives from lower freights because of its geographical position in relation to other States not so favorably situated? The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has indicated that Western Australia expects to retain its present advantages. Does it expect to gain benefits from the pool and not to share with its partners any of its existing advantages?
Will Queensland be able to retain all its own wheat for home consumption and exclude all interstate and foreign flour? Its government is already straining the Constitution in an endeavour to keep off the Queensland market the flour of other States, and unless the pool will permit that policy to continue it will not be of much benefit to the northern State.
In the event of defalcations, mismanagement, and inefficiency such as occurred in connexion with the pools during the war period, will the offending State boards be responsible, or will the Central Board accept the liability and make good the deficiency from the funds of the nonoffending State boards?
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) read, with much sound and fury, long extracts from the report of a royal commission that inquired into the transactions of the South Australian wheat merchants in 1907. After all his fulminations regarding the alleged scandalous handling of the farmers’ wheat by the merchants, he disclosed that the royal commission recommended that no action be taken. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) also attacked the merchants. What does it matter to the farmer whether his wheat is dealt with through the agency of merchants who have the open market before them, worldwide resources and capital abroad that would be of value in Australia at the present time, or through the agency of so-called farmers’ associations in the various States? The latter will not be less anxious to make profits than are the merchants’, therefore, they are not more likely than private agencies to give anything away in regard to charges for handling, &c. The farmers who put their wheat in the pool will not share in the agency profits of these organizations that will handle the wheat for the pool; the profits from which the merchants are to be excluded will go to the shareholders in the societies, many of whom are not wheat-growers, or even graziers. So far as I can see, the farmer may be leaping out of the frying pan into the fire. The attacks which have been made upon the merchants are unwarranted and unjustifiable.
– I believe in the pooling of wheat. The voluntary pools which have operated in Western Australia and Victoria have done excellent work for the producers within the limitations imposed upon voluntary pools, but I am convinced that to be fully effective a pool must have some measure of compulsion behind it. Most of the argument in opposition to the bill has centred on the principle of compulsion. We have just heard a characteristic speech from the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), whose forcefulness makes his speeches interesting, even when we disagree with his views. In regard to this matter he has been gravely misled by the figures which have been supplied to him. Certain gentlemen who are interested in this matter have taken aci vantage of the guileless innocence of the honorable member in regard to the wheat industry. Last night he quoted figures to show the damage which the war-time compulsory pool had done to the consumers of Australia. He stated that in 1920, the last full year of the pool, the Australian price was in the vicinity of 9s. whilst the oversea price was 6s. 8d. The facts are very different. During 1920, the price charged for wheat throughout Australia was 7s. 8d., and the overseas price rose as high as lis. 4d.; the average over-all in New South Wales, taking into account overseas and local prices, was 8s. 4d. From these figures it- is apparent that even in a State which has a large local market, the average price was increased considerably by that proportion of the wheat which was sold overseas. In Western Australia, because of the smaller local consumption the difference was even more marked. The local price was 7s. 8d., but the average realization over-all was 9s. 4d. In Victoria the local price was 7s. 8d., and the average over-all price 8s. Id. In South Australia, the prices were 7s. 8d. and 9s. Id. respectively. It is a strange coincidence that in 1920, which was a dry year, Victoria and South Australia put on the market exactly the same quantity of wheat, namely, 12,000,000 bushels. Yet in one State the average over-all price was ls. per bushel more than in the other. The explanation is that of the 12,000,000 bushels produced in each State, in Victoria 9,000,000 bushels was locally consumed at 7s. 8d., and only 3,000,000 bushels was exported at the higher price, whereas in South Australia the figures were reversed. In that year, at any rate, the Australian consumers did not suffer as a result of pooling; on the contrary, the pool enabled the consumers to get their wheat at less than export parity. We are f requently told that the local market is better than the export market. In that year it was much less advantageous to the growers, and had they been free to export the whole of their wheat, they would have reaped a much higher return. I shall give another illustration of the incorrectness of the figures quoted by the honorable member for Warringah. I do not suggest that he was deliberately inaccurate.
– What is the source of the honorable member’s figures ?
– The official statistics of the compulsory pool.
– I ‘obtained mine from the same source.
– My figures will bear the closest investigation. The honorable member in endeavouring to show that marketing organization was a bad policy, said that butter was sold in Australia for about 2s. a lb. when it was being sold in London at ls. 4d. As a matter of fact, the difference between the wholesale prices in London and Australia is only 2£d., and as the Australian consumer gets his butter fresh from the churn, whilst the people in the United Kingdom buy it when it is two to three months old and frozen hard as wood, the higher price in the local market is justifiable. At any rate, the difference in price is only about one-third as . great as was stated by the honorable member last night.
– Those figures were quoted from London.
– In any case they are absolutely wrong. Returning to the subject of compulsion, which is the bugbear of those who oppose the bill, if we examine the measure carefully, and compare the powers which it is proposed shall be conferred upon a wheat board with the powers that have already been given to the board controlling the export of dried fruits, we find that the powers conferred under this bill are practically identical with those given by the Bruce-Page Government in the case of the dried fruits industry. In 1924, a measure was passed under which the Parliament gave export control powers to the dried fruits industry. But the board found those powers insufficient, and asked for authority to deal also with interstate trade. Consequently, in 1928, a measure, small in compass, but important in its effect, was passed, giving the industry control of interstate trade. There will be no more compulsion under the present bill than has already been applied to growers in the dried fruits industry. A precedent has already been established for what is now proposed by the present Government to be done. We gave that industry all the powers it was possible, under the Constitution, to grant to it, and, in addition, powers were given by the various State Parliaments just as will require to be done in connexion with this bill. If we examine the governing clauses, we find that clauses 16 and 18 are the main provisions on which *ti * powers of the board rest, although clause i 20 summarizes those powers. Clause J J is identical in its wording with section l 14 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act, section 13 of the Dried Fruits Export Control Act, section 13 of the Canned Fruits Export Control Act, and a similar section in the Wine Export Control Act. Clause 16 does neither more nor less for the wheat industry than has already been done for the other industries that I have mentioned. As I have already said, the dried fruits industry had powers conferred on it in 1928 which are precisely similar to those which the . Government proposes to give to the wheatgrowers under clause 18, which deals with interstate trade. In 1928 a little measure was brought down by the lata Government which broke entirely new ground. It was quite unprecedented, and, perhaps, did not receive the attention that it deserved. It gave to prescribed’ authorities power to regulate interstate trading in dried fruits, and it was based on the latest interpretation by the High Court, of section 92 of the Constitution. So what the former Government did, in 1924 and 1928, iti pioneering marketing legislation, has now been embodied in one measure and applied to wheat.
It must be remembered that when the former Government brought down what was then considered very drastic legislation to control the marketing of primary products - I refer particularly to the dried fruits legislation - we had to be first satisfied that the position of the industry was such that the proposals were necessary in the interests of the growers. In the second place we had to be sure that there was a very strong feeling amongst the producers that such powers were desired by them for the protection of the industry. Of course, no government can gauge the strength of such a demand until a ballot has been taken. The former Government brought down five export control measures, and in four cases the ballots proved that we were not mistaken in estimating ‘ the demand for them. .We had successful ballots in favour of the measures relating to dairy produce, canned fruits, dried fruits and wine. A bill was brought down also with respect to the marketing of apples and pears, but the ballot proved that there was not a majority of the growers in favour of the proposal. To every 44 growers in favour of it, 56 were against it, but those figures justified the late Government in bringing down its bill. A year or two ago there was no general demand among wheat-growers for a compulsory pool. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), in -i speech last night, rather criticized the previous Government for not having done anything in this direction during the past six years. During the last year or two the growers in both New South Wales and Victoria have, by ballot, rejected proposals for State compulsory pools, and during the three and a half years in which I had the honour to be Minister for Markets, I was approached only on three occasions with regard to the marketing of wheat. On the first occasion a Victorian deputation, representing a proportion of the. Victorian growers, asked me if the Government would be prepared to consider giving the wheat industry an export, control board similar to that of other industries. They did not ask for a Commonwealth pool, but for an export control board. I replied to those gentlemen that they represented only one section of the wheat-farmers in one State, but that if they could get into touch with similar organizations in Victoria and the other States as well, and could satisfy me that there was a general desire for such a board, I had no doubt that the Government would be prepared to bring down legislation to give effect to their wishes, and submit the proposal to a ballot of the growers. Apparently they were not abb; to obtain support from the other States because I heard no more about the matter.
The next deputation I received with regard to wheat was made up principally of representatives of co-operative companies and growers who were keenly interested in voluntary pooling. These gentlemen had heard that the Government was apparently in favour of granting an export control board .if the growers wanted it, and they informed me that they preferred to adhere to the pooling arrangement that they then had. On the first occasion I was asked if the Government would be prepared to grant an export control board, and on the second occasion I was told by other representatives of the industry that they did not want such a body. The third and last approach that was made to me was shortly before the late Government went out of office. In October last year, I was asked by a number of gentlemen interested in the wheat industry how a compulsory Commonwealth pool could be brought into -effect. I pointed out that, the Commonwealth alone could not give the growers a compulsory pool because the Constitution would not permit of it. I said that all we could do was to appoint export control boards with power to regulate oversea and interstate trade, and that so far as the internal part of the working of a compulsory pool was concerned, it was the function of the States, and they would have to secure legislation in their own Parliaments. £ pointed out that if the growers could induce the States to do their part in providing local legislative machinery, the Commonwealth would be prepared to consider granting to the wheat-growers statutory powers similar to those given to growers in the dried fruit industry, There was a compulsory pool in operation in Queensland at the time, and in New South Wales there was a marketing act; hut the wheat-growers up to that time had refused to take advantage of it, having rejected the proposal by ballot. In Victoria there was no marketing act, and the growers in that State had rejected by ballot a proposal for a pool. But, in October, 1929, when these gentlemen came to me, the prospects of the wheat industry were poor. Prices were falling and growers who had refused to entertain the proposal for a ‘ compulsory pool were beginning to think that in that course alone lay their salvation. A desire for this change certainly appeared to be Setting in at the time when the new Government came into office, and whether that desire is overwhelming or not can only be determined by taking a ballot. The ballot will not be taken by the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth will rest its case on the result of ballots taken in the several States. I think that the demand appears to be sufficiently strong to justify giving to the growers an opportunity to accept or reject the proposal in the bill. So much on the subject of the demand for this legislation.
Now let us see if there is need for a compulsory pool. I believe that with the fall in world prices of wheat it is necessary for the grower to have every penny paid by the consumer which can be returned to him, without one unnecessary intermediary. Whether this result can be achieved through pooling depends entirely on efficient management. If a pool comes into operation, I hope that full advantage will be taken of the services of persons who have proved themselves efficient and good commercial men in conducting existing voluntary pools. I certainly do not believe that the desired result can be obtained without pooling. Undoubtedly, enormous fortunes have been made in the past between the producer and the consumer. This bill de pends upon the passage of State legislation, and that bears out what I have already said, that the Commonwealth alone cannot establish a compulsory pool. In my opinion, this bill involves no greater degree .of compulsion than already obtains in the dried fruits industry. I know that it will be said that in the dried fruits industry there still exists a greater measure of freedom to the individual seller than will be enjoyed by the individual producer of wheat; but that issue does not really come into the discussion on the text of the bill. Although in the dried fruits industry the growers may not choose to make such full use of the powers provided for them as presumably the wheat-farmers may do, one cannot say that the Wheat Pool Bill is essentially different in substance from the legislation dealing with the dried fruits industry; there is merely a difference in the amount of use that is made of similar powers.
It may be asked, however, what is the necessity of compulsion in either the dried fruits industry or the wheat industry? That is a fair question, and the answer, in my opinion, is that without compulsion ensuring that all growers must take their fair proportion of the local and overseas prices it would be impossible to maintain an Australian price for dried fruits in harmony with Australian living standards. The export parity rate would govern the price of dried fruits inside Australia as well as outside, were it not possible to compel all producers to accept their fair share, and only their fair share, of both, markets. I believe that if a ballot were taken today of the dried fruit growers, 95 per cent, of them would be in favour of the continuation of the present marketing legislation. The huge majority of the dried fruit growers would voluntarily submit to compulsion in order to maintain a local price which otherwise could not be maintained. I believe that there are many wheat-growers in Australia who are prepared to do the same thing. Ever since the wheat industry reached the stage of having a surplus over and above what could be consumed in Australia the growers have bad to be content with export parity prices, or something closely approximating them, for local as well as for export sales. It is true that during the war they received less than export parity rate; but, generally speaking, export rates govern the price both for the local market and the overseas market. There may be a variation of Id. a bushel or so, but it is rarely more than that.
What does this phrase “ export parity rate “ mean ? The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) dealt with the point in his speech last night, and, to my mind, he made the position very clear; but perhaps it will not weary honorable members if I briefly cover the ground again. If the price of wheat in London is 5s. a bushel, and if it costs ls. a bushel to get the wheat on the London market,’ the export parity price would be 4s. a bushel. While the London buyer would pay 5s. a bushel for Australian wheat, the Australian buyer would pay only 4s. for the same wheat. The wages of most of those who consume bread in Australia are higher than those of the consumers in Great Britain, yet the consumer here obtains a present equivalent to the cost of sending overseas wheat that is never transported. He pays world prices for the wheat, less the cost of transportation. Conversely, the grower suffers a reduction of ls. a bushel transport costs, not merely on what he sends overseas, but on what he sells here. He has to suffer the cost incidental to the transportation of the wheat 12,000 miles, not merely on what he exports, but on every bushel he sells to the protected Australian consumer. We are frequently told that the Australian market is -the better, but if’ export parity rates are to be maintained indefinitely as a basis for local as well as for overseas sales, there is no advantage to be obtained by selling on the local market. The grower does not enjoy a local market value for even part of his production. If, for instance, freights rise by 3d. a bushel - and this seems a remarkable paradox - the Australian consumer pays 3d. a bushel less for his wheat, because wheat automatically becomes worth 3d. a bushel less f.o.b. for transportation to the markets of the world. If freights fall the wheat becomes more valuable, and the Australian consumer pays more. From the point of view of the Australian consumer it is better that freight rates between Australia, and other countries should remain as high as possible, so long as local prices are on the export parity basis.
This is a highly protected country. The grower pays an Australian price for everything’ he requires for his farm and his home. The consumers in the big cities, who buy the farmers’ wheat in the form of bread, are working for the most part under Arbitration Court or State wages board awards. Wages in this country are made, to a great extent, independent of wage rates ruling in other parts of the world. The wheat-grower naturally asks himself whether, as a citizen of a country where these conditions obtain, and where such a high standard of living exists, he also is not entitled to something like an Australian price for the wheat he sells in Australia - to something approaching an Australian wage for that part of the wheat consumed by Australians. He argues - and his view is reasonable, I think, despite the honorable member for Warringah - that at the very least he should get world prices, without any deduction, for the wheat sold in Australia. That is to say, if the world price for wheat is 5s. a bushel, and it costs ls. a bushel to send it overseas, making the net value in Australia 4s. per bushel, he should be entitled to receive the full world’s price of 5s. per bushel for what he sells to the Australian consumer. He is entitled to at least this, even if he does not get import parity rates such as are enjoyed by the secondary manufacturers in Australia.
The question is frequently asked, how does the price of wheat affect the price of bread? The honorable member for Warringah said that it was only natural to suppose that if the price of wheat went up the price of bread also would be raised, with the result that the purchasing power of wages would fall. As a matter of fact, despite variations in the price of wheat ranging from under 4s. to 6s. 8d. a bushel over the last few years, the price of bread has remained practically constant, which shows that there is such a margin between the price of wheat and the price of bread that the baker, the miller, and others who come between the producer and the consumer, can afford to have that margin reduced to some extent. When wheat is 4s. 6d. a bushel there is approximately 3d. worth of wheat in a 4-lb. loaf of bread which is sold at about ls. If *wheat goes up to 6s. a bushel - and that is comparatively high - there is 4d. worth of wheat in a 4-lb. loaf of bread. In England, although wheat is considerably dearer than in Australia, bread is cheaper than it is here.
I believe that most honorable members are of opinion that in a country in which conditions are artificial the wheat-grower is just as much entitled to receive an Australian rate of remuneration for that part of his product consumed in Australia as is any other member of the community. If that is conceded, then the only way in which two different prices can be maintained - a local price and, an export parity price - is by means of a compulsory pool, which will compel all and sundry to accept a fair share of both markets. Immediately it becomes possible for an individual or group of individuals to obtain more than the fair share of the more valuable market, the whole thing collapses like a house built of cards. That is the great argument in favour of compulsion. I do not like compulsion, as such; it would “ be much pleasanter if we could get along without compulsion of any kind. The fact remains, however, that we are subject to compulsion in many directions, and it is certainly the only way to obtain an Australian price for primary products sold in Australia, where the individual producer has to be dealt with. Although the desire to obtain an Australian price is the main motive behind the action of the wheat-growers in demanding a compulsory pool, they are also actuated by other reasons. One is to prevent cut-throat competition in selling, due to there being many sellers, and only a few buyers. That position must be met by reducing the number of sellers, which can be done only by pooling. Another reason is that a compulsory pool would make it possible to spread sales over the longest possible period, instead of having most of them take place at low prices almost immediately after the harvest. There are times when it may be considered wise in the interests of all to regulate shipments; and a compulsory pool will prevent those who are selfishly inclined from taking advantage of the situation and placing their wheat on the market when it is desirable to withhold it. Another advantage of a compulsory pool is that it makes it possible to have only one charterer of shipping, space instead of half-a-dozen or a dozen competing against each other.
It has been argued that private marketing has proved superior to pool marketing to the extent of 3d. a bushel; and the statement has been made that those figures refer to average prices. I find it very difficult to give credence to such a statement. I believe that individual holders of wheat who have sold at peak prices may have obtained more than the average of the pool prices; that is perfectly easy to understand. But if the average of the free market sales were ascertained and compared with the average of the sales of a well-conducted pool, I believe that it would be found to be lower, or at any rate not higher, than the average of the pool. In any case, it has to be remembered that the fortunate individual who holds his wheat and sells it at the peak of the market has had the price made for him by the pool. That explains’ why many farmers vote for a voluntary pool when they are given the opportunity to do so; not because they propose to put their wheat into the pool, but because they want the pool to come into existence so that they may enjoy the stabilized market thus created, and at the same time have reserved to themselves the right to put the whole of their wheat on the market when peak prices are reached.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has moved an amendment to separate the guarantee from the pooling machinery. I cannot support that amendment, because it seems to me that it would be unworkable and that it would, open up many avenues for corruption. One can readily realize that if a guarantee was to be paid in connexion with a transaction between an individual wheatgrower and an individual wheat-buyer, collusion would be possible of a kind that would enable both to benefit at the expense of the treasury. That really places this proposal out of court. I admit that, in the event of this compulsory pool being rejected by the farmers, it might be practicable for the Government still to give a guarantee in connexion with wheat marketed through voluntary pools which it was prepared to recognize; but it would be quite impracticable to give the guarantee to all and sundry. The guarantee itself I regard as a concomitant of the Government’s insistence that the growers should increase their areas under wheat. It could not very well urge the growers to increase their areas and at the same time leave them to their fate should the greater production result in lower prices. I consider that the guarantee should be for three years instead of one year. I compliment the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) upon the informative speech that he made last night, and agree with his statement that the responsibility for the guarantee should be borne wholly by the Commonwealth. I say that because, in certain States, such as Western Australia, if by any chance the average price realized was considerably below the 4s. a bushel guaranteed, the responsibility upon that State to make up half the loss would result in its being impoverished. Only two nights ago, when the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill was under discussion in this House, the Government adhered to the principle that the Commonwealth should pay the whole of the bounty, despite the fact that an amendment was moved providing that the bounty should be paid partly by the Commonwealth and partly by the State of Queensland. If the Government considers that it is a fair thing that the Federal Treasury should stand behind the cotton bounty, when practically the whole of our cotton is produced in one State; if it believes that the wine bounty should be a federal responsibility - although that case is somewhat different on account of the fact that the bounty is to be found by the producers themselves; if it considers that the steel bounty, which is paid almost wholly to New South Wales, should be a federal responsibility; and that the same principle should apply in regard to the canned fruits bounty, the greatest proportion of which is paid to Victorian canners, why should there be this discrimination in connexion with a guaran- teed price for wheat? There would be very much more chance of inducing a State like Western Australia to come into the pool if the Commonwealth were to accept the whole of the responsibility rather than attempt to place half of it upon the States.
I shall vote for the second reading of the ‘ bill in the expectation that, at a later stage, amendments will be moved that will improve it. I understand that the Government is prepared to accept a considerable number of amendments that have been suggested by those who are engaged in the industry. To my mind the proviso at the end of the schedule requires to be amended. I agree with an interjection that was made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham.) respecting the looseness that is noticeable in the drafting of clause 12 of the agreement. There is room for a great deal of tightening-up in the last few lines, which read -
Provided that prior to the effecting of such equalization any geographical or other advantage enjoyed by ji State before the coming into operation of the scheme may’ be taken into consideration and accounted for to the State Wheat Board concerned accordingly.
I know what those who are engaged in the industry consider those ‘words to mean.; but we must be prepared for what the High Court, if asked for an interpretation, would decide that they mean. They are not sufficiently explicit. For example, the phrase “ geographical advantage “ can readily be understood to refer to the advantage which Western Australia enjoys to-day in regard to freights. But the proviso goes on to say “enjoyed by a State before the coming into operation of the scheme.” Does that mean that only the advantage at present enjoyed by Western Australia in regard to freights shall be enjoyed in the future, even though, after the scheme has come into operation, there may be a bigger difference in favour of that State? If we go a little further along that line of thought we find that the proviso refers to “ any geographical or other advantage enjoyed by a State.” What is meant by “ other advantage “ ? In certain States there are big local consuming populations, while in others they are comparatively small. The proviso could be construed to mean, either that the States which have a large consuming population shall enjoy the total advantages arising out of that population in the selling of a bigger proportion of their wheat at a local price; or that only those advantages which they enjoy before the formation of the pool, and which may amount to1d. or 2d. a bushel, shall be enjoyed proportionately in the future. I suggest to the Minister that it is necessary to amend clause 12 of the agreement in such a way as to make perfectly clear what it is intended to embrace.
I have said that I propose to support the second reading of the bill in the expectation that amendments will be moved to improve it. That course is dictated by the fact that I believe in pooling, and that a compulsory pool is the only method by which a local price may he secured. Whether the farmers of Australia desire this or not can be ascertained only by submitting the measure to them for their acceptance or rejection.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Cunningham) adjourned.
Report by Mr.F. L. McDougall.
.- I lay upon the table of the House a report by Mr. F. L. McDougall on the second session of the Economic Consultative Committee, held in May, 1929. Honorable members know that Mr. McDougall is a member of the Consultative Committee, not as a Government representative, but as an expert appointed by the Council of the League of Nations. His report on the first session of the committee was presented to Parliament. The terms of reference of the Economic Consultative Committee, which was constituted under resolutions of the Assembly and the Council of the League of Nations in 1927, and which held its first session in May, 1928, are - “ To follow the application of the recommendations of the International Economic Conference.” The committee, therefore, confines itself to reviewing the changes of the economic situation during the year; to examining a report of action taken by the organs of the league; and, after investigating suggestions submitted to it or emanating from its deliberations, to the making of certain proposals for the future. Mr. McDougall, in his report, states that, taken as a whole, the year under review, 1928-1929, offered few marked features or changes in regard to world economic activity. He mentions that, atan early stage in the discussions, he strongly reiterated the opinion which he had expressed at the first session of the committee, that the league should devote more attention to the supply of comparable information on commercial end industrial questions, and less to direct attacks on high tariffs.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to place before the House some figures in regard to the Maryborough Knitting Mills, to which a certain amount of harm may have been done by references that were made on the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill. It was said that this is not an efficiently managed company. I have particulars which show that the gentleman who gave the information, Mr. Schemp, was only an employee of the company, and that he was dismissed in 1926, when he started a mill in Ballarat. The company was not in any sense in a had condition at the time of his dismissal. It had an overdraft at the bank of £96,241. The overdraft had been reduced by the 1st January, 1929, to £62,590, and by the 1st January, 1930, to £44,439. The company has, therefore, improved its position to the extent of nearly £52,000. The balance-sheet of the company is discussed in lost night’s Melbourne Herald. One paragraph reads -
The report states that during the working period under review the output of the mill d eclined, owing mainly to the general trade depression and, in the later months, to the introduction of a new customs tariff. As to the latter, the position has been investigated by the Minister for Customs, and the directors understand that it is receiving sympathetic consideration.
I would not like it to go out that inefficient management was in any way responsible for the fact that this company has not been receiving so many orders lately as it did formerly. Despite what has been said regarding the company, it paid last year a dividend of 8 per cent. and carried forward a balance of £1,448. I should like the Acting Minister far Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) to say why the officer of his department, who, apparently, made an adverse reportregarding the condition of this company, did not bring to his noticethese facts, which are contained in a sworn balancesheet.
– I understand that, about nine days ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) asked the New South Wales Government for an explanation as to why the amount that had been allocated to it under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement has not been expended, and that no reply has yet been received. Will the right honorable gentleman state whether there is any possibility of expediting the receipt of that explanation. It is regrettable that, when there is so much unemployment, the State Government not only fails to expend money that is provided, but also neglects to supply information that is asked for by the Prime Minister. I should also like to know whether the Prime Minister has received a reply from the New South Wales Government with regard to the distribution of clothing said to have been made available by the defence authorities for the use of the unemployed in the various States.
.- I believe that the honorable member raised the question of the expenditure upon roads the week before last. My records show that we have sent two letters to the State authorities and have not yet received a. reply. I also sent a telegram to Mr. Bavin two days ago. The distribution of clothing is in the hands of the State Government. I spoke to the Premier on the telephone yesterday, and his Government is now in touch with our State Commandant of the Military Forces in Sydney.
– Who will be the Minister in charge of distribution in the various States ?
– The Minister for Industry (Mr.Farrar) would be in charge of the distribution in New South Wales. Honorable members, by getting into touch with the State authorities, will be able to obtain all the information they require. The distribution will be entirely in the hands of the States, and this Government is taking no responsibility in that direction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300516_reps_12_124/>.