12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister communicated with the Government of New South Wales regarding the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to provide £100,000 for the settlement or other relief of unemployed miners? Is the Commonwealth Government prepared to provide money for the relief of unemployed in other States?
– The Commonwealth Government has not yet communicated with the Government of New South Wales, but proposes to ask the State Government to be represented on the committee which will distribute the Commonwealth grant. The proposal is still indefinite. The grant is not to be confined to New South Wales; its purpose is to relieve unemployment, with special reference to the surplus coal-miners who cannot be absorbed on the northern fields. The resumption of work there will affect coal-mining in other parts of Australia. In the administration of the grant the Government will ask for the co-operation of the Governments of the various States affected, as well as of the organizations of mine-owners and miners.
– Is the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the book Redheap contains serious reflections on the morality of a rural community in Victoria? Will he inform the House whether the book is to be allowed to circulate in Australia?
– This book has had very careful consideration. Although it is a publication against which strong objection can be taken, it is the work of an Australian author, and the department was reluctant to ban an Australian book unless that course was absolutely necessary. The Trade and Customs Department had to decide whether the book was a prohibited import within the meaning of section 52 c of the Customs Act which reads - “52. The following are prohibited imports: -
In the opinion of the three responsible officers of the Trade and Customs Department who read it, and whose duty it is to make recommendations on such matters to the Minister, the book comes definitely under the foregoing section and, therefore, its importation must be prohibited. Legal opinion corroborated this view, and after very carefully reading the book myself, and considering the recommendation of the officers of my department, aswell as the opinion of the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, I came to the same conclusion as they did, namely, that the importation of this work in its present form must be prohibited on the grounds that passages in it are indecent or obscene and that the work, therefore, comes within the prohibition laid down by section 52 c of the act.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the proposed expedition to Central Australia, under the leadership of Mr. Donald Mackay, is an official undertaking supported or controlled by the Commonwealth Government?
Mr.SCULLIN. - The proposed expedition is not an official undertaking ; it has not been suggested, nor is it sponsored, by the Commonwealth. A public-spirited citizen is flying to Central Australia to explore and map an almost unknown portion of this great continent. Mr. Mackay proposes to present the map to the Commonwealth. The only official recognition of the undertaking will be a small entertainment in . Canberra on Friday, and a send-off to Mr. Mackay, who is spending some thousands of pounds of his own money upon an enterprise that may be productive of much benefit to the whole community.
– The Privy Council having decided that Garden Island is not the property of the Commonwealth, does the Commonwealth Government propose to hand it over to the State of New South Wales, or buy or lease it?
– The Commonwealth is still in occupation of Garden Island, but I am not prepared to indicate at the present time what action the Government proposes to take in regard to the place.
– The Government of New South Wales has taken proceedings against the Commonwealth to regain possession of Admiralty House, Sydney. Does the Commonwealth Government propose to defend that action?
– The legal advice received by the Government is that the Commonwealth’s tenure of Admiralty House is on all fours with its occupation of Garden Island. The Privy Council having decided the Garden Island action against the Commonwealth, the Government determined not to waste public money in defending an action which offered no prospect of success. The State Government was advised accordingly, and the High Court has formally given a decision in favour of the State.
– Great hardship is entailed by the inabilityof many migrants settled in Australia to afford the cost of re-visiting their aged relatives in the United Kingdom. As the Commonwealth acts as agent for the payment of Imperial military and civil pensions to persons residing in the Commonwealth, will the Prime Minister indicate to the Government of the United Kingdom that the Commonwealth is willing to act similarly in regard to old-age pensions payable to persons who may decide to join their children in Australia?
– The question raised by the honorable member is really whether the British Government would be prepared to pay old-age pensions to persons who have left Britain and come to Australia. With regard to the suggestion that we should act as agents for Great Britain, there would not be much difficulty about that, as there is already an arrangement between the Governments of the two countries respecting the payment of army pensions. However, I shall submit the matter to the Treasurer, and get a definite answer from him.
– It has been freely stated in Victoria by opponents of the wheat pool that in the event of a compulsory wheat pool being established and the net realization of wheat exceeding the guarantee of 4s. a bushel, the excess amount will not be paid to the wheatgrowers.
– That statement has been denied over and over again.
– What will be the position in the event of the selling price of wheat averaging more than 4s. a bushel?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a bill which is already on the notice-paper.
– It is not permissible for honorable members to ask questions relating to a measure set down on the notice-paper for discussion.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement with respect to a further Antarctic expedition under Sir Douglas Mawson?
– I propose to lay on the table of the House to-day the report of Sir Douglas Mawson, and hope to make to the House, in the course of a day or two, a fairly definite statement with respect to a further expedition.
– Is the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) in a position to say what answer has been received by the department with regard to a complaint made by a business man in Western Australia to the effect that the iron and steel manufacturers of Australia have refused to supply importers outside an association? It is over a month since I brought this matter under the notice of the Acting Minister.
– I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member have a reply, probably to-day, if it is available in the department.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a newspaper report of an interview with
Mr. Hill, the Premier of South Australia, reading as follows: -
Mr. Hill complained bitterly of the effect of the tariff in South Australia, which, he said, as a rural community, suffered from it far more than the eastern States. As the result of representations tothe Federal Ministry, a grant of £300,000 a year for three years to meet the tariff losses had been made to the State, but this was considered quite inadequate.
Has the Prime Minister received any communication from the Government of South Australia with regard to a grant to that State, and if so, will he make a statement to the House?
– I have not received from the Government of South Australia any communication with respect to the special grant to that State.
Importation of Films
– In view of the fact that our adverse trade balance has been largely brought about by our imports from America being in excess of our exports to that country, to the extent of between £22,000,000 and £28,000,000 per annum, and that Australia in 1929 was the largest importer of American films in the world with the exception of the United Kingdom, will the Government, in its desire to improve the trade balance, take steps to deal with this matter?
– It would not be in order for me to discuss that subject in answer to a question, but the question will be a proper one to raise when we are discussing importations and restrictions on importations.
Information Supplied to Insurance Companies
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Will he inform the House what the policy of the Repatriation Commission is with regard to requests from State Government insurance departments and private insurance companies for the supply of information respecting exsoldiers’ disabilities as recorded on their files?
– No information is supplied to private insurance companies. Information will be supplied to State Government insurance organizations only prior to the issue of the insurance policy.
Hotels - Plan of Lay-out - Rural Lessees’ Rents.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The above figures include capital charges such as interest and depreciation.
Dr. MALONEY (through Mr. C. Riley) asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
With regard to the replied to the questions asked by the honorable member for Melbourne on the 30th April last, concerning Mr. J. S. Murdoch ( recently one of the Federal Capital Commissioners), and the departmental “builtup “ plan for Canberra, will the Minister state -
Who was the president of the New South Wales Institute of Architects who commended the “ built-up “ plan of the departmental board?
Is it a fact that 241 leading architects and engineers of Australia signed the condemnatory petition which was presented to the Prime Minister of the day?
Is it a fact that the saidpetition was pertinent to the issue, and so influenced the Government that the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs (the Honorable W. H. Kelly) dismissed the departmental board and discarded its “ built-up “ plan ?
Is it a fact that Mr. J. S. Murdoch was mainly responsible for the design and erection of this temporary Parliament House, which he estimated to cost£250,000, and which has actually cost over £700.000 ?
Mr. BLAKELEY (through Mr. Beasley). - Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Mr. BLAKELEY (through Mr. Beasley). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
What amounts of entertainments tax were received from picture theatres during the last three years, (a) monthly, and (b) annually?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Monthly figures hare not been recorded since the close of 1928-29.
The quarterlyfigures for 1920-30 are: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The statement shows that 2,040 non-British Europeans arrived during that period, and that 2,031 departed, the excess arrivals being nine.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Whilst the present Government has succeeded in obtaining considerable modifications of the migration provisions of the agreement, the obligation to accept a limited number of boy farm learners will continue pending a review of the whole question at the forthcoming Imperial Conference.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr. THEODORE (through Mr. Beasley). The information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the frequent discoveries of illicit stills in the various States of the Commonwealth, will he inform the House -
How many illicit stills have been found in each State during the past five years?
How many prosecutions have been launched in connexion therewith, and how many convictions recorded?
What quantity of spirit has been confiscated as a result?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I fear that it would be impracticable for the Loan Council to afford members of this House opportunities for addressing it.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the rate of customs duty on -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Effecton Whisky Prices
– On the 1st May, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked the following question, upon notice -
In view of the announced intention of the Government to protect the public from pro fiteering and exploitation as a result of the tariff proposals of November last -
Is it a fact that the Licensed Victuallers Association, of Brisbane, is attempting to compel the hotelkeepers to charge10d. per nip (an increase of 2d. per nip over the previous price charged ) for “ Old Court “ Australian whisky?
Is it a fact that Federal Distilleries
Proprietary Limited (proprietors of “Old Court “ whisky ) have not increased their price for this line to the hotel trade?
Is it a fact that the president of this Licensed Victuallers Association (Mr. E. H. Ruddle) is a director of the Queensland Brewery. Company, and a director of a wholesale wine and spirit firm, both of which firms are agents for certain well-known brands of imported whisky?
Is it in the power of the Government to frustrate what appears to be an insidious attempt to nullify the avowed protection policy of the country?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information -
– On the 1st May, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked the honorable the Attorney-General, without notice, whether he would have gazetted the names of the land agents, storekeepers and others who supplied figures for the various towns in Australia in respect of the cost of living? The question should have been addressed to me. I now desire to inform the honorable, member as follows : -
The returns arc collected under the provisions of the Census and Statistics Act from representative traders and agents selected, after careful inquiry, by the State Statisticians. The average prices for each commodity during each month computed from the returns of the several traders and agents are published in the Quarterly Summary of Statistics, and any questions regarding the accuracy of the prices are immediately investigated by the Statistician.
The returns are furnished without any fee being paid, and in accordance with the general principle adopted in connexion with statistical collections, the persons supplying the information are assured that their returns will be treated as strictly confidential. Any departure from this established principle may create difficulties in the future.
As evidence of the seriousness with which the question of confidential returns is viewed by statisticians, it may be mentioned that, at the conferenceof statisticians of Australia and New Zealand held at Perth in 1026, the following resolution was carried unanimously -
Confidential Returns. - That where statistical returns are collected under a promise of secrecy as to the particulars for any individual, there should, under no circumstances whatever, be a variation in the existing practice of closely observing such promise, and that such individual returns should not be made public either by production in court or otherwise.
Awards by Film Appeal Board.
– On the 15th May, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked a question in this House as to whether the Commonwealth Film Censorship Appeal Board had made any recommendation with respect to the films submitted for the awards of merit offered by the Commonwealth Government. A recommendation from the Appeal Board on the subject had only been received by me on that morning, and I was not in a position to furnish the honorable member with the information desired. I have since considered the Appeal Board’s recommendation, and forthe information of honorable members generally, I desire to make the following statement on this matter : -
The awards offered by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the development of the motion picture industry in Australia took the form of the offer of £5,000 for the best film produced in Australia between the 1st January, 1929, and 31st March, 1930, and awards of £2,500 and £1,500, respectively for the second and third best film so produced. The principal conditions governing these awards were -
In connexion with the last-mentioned condition the Appeal Board advises that the scale of points laid down were -
Four films only were submitted for the awards, and the order of merit in which the Appeal Board has placed the four films is -
The Appeal Board considers that only “ Fellers “ reached qualifying standard with a total of 43 per cent. The board, therefore, recommends that it be awarded the third prize of £1,500, subject to proof of satisfactory compliance with the other conditions imposed.
The Government has adopted the recommendation of the Appeal Board, and the third award of £1,500 will be made to the film” Fellers,” subject, of course, to proof of satisfactory compliance with the conditions mentioned above, and inquiries are at present proceeding with a view to ascertaining if the conditions laid down have been complied with.
It is disappointing that the Appeal Board has not considered the film to be of sufficient merit to justify an award of more than the third prize. No one, however, should be more qualified than the Appeal Board - which is habitually examining and criticizing films - to judge of what is a reasonable standard of production, and it can only be hoped that the experience acquired in producing these films may result in a higher standard of production in future.
Awards were also offered for scenarios. Numerous entries were received in this competition, but all the scenarios submitted have not yet been read. It is hoped that an announcement on this subject may be made shortly.
– I advised the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) on the 30th April last that I would shortly be in a positionto place before honorable members the report of the work of the R.SS. Discovery. I now lay on the table of the House a copy of the report.
Order of Business
– On the 15th instant the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) addressed to me, upon notice, a question relating to the priority, in regard to time of hearing, given by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to an application by the railway commissioners of New South Wales to the disadvantage of the New SouthWales branch of the Australian Tramways Employees Association. I then promised that at a later date I would furnish him with a report upon the matter. That report reads -
Melbourne, 19th May, 1930
With reference to the attached minute and the accompanying letter from the secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Tramway Employees Association, I have to advise as follows: -
The court in the past has in reality never attempted the task of standardizing tramway conditions. Realizing the difficulties of the task, from time to time it has sent the parties in each State into conference, and embodied agreements arrived at in awards. The expired award, except as to New South Wales, in reality consists of a collection of local agreements cemented by the court’s decision on a few points on which parties could not agree. These agreements vary fundamentally according to local customs and conditions. After reading the voluminous comments on the draft award, I am now convinced that a’ standard scale of wages and set of industrial conditions for all the tramway systems cannot be arrived at without disturbances in individual States which will increase instead of modifying industrial unrest.
The claimant union, during the hearing, insistently pressed for a general award embodying the most favorable conditions contained in the earlier sectional agreements and was strongly opposed to the adoption of any general scheme which did not retain those most favorable conditions, at least in the sections wherein they had been conceded previously.
Having regard to all the circumstances, His Honour, in the said supplementary judgment, intimated that the award then being made should not be regarded as a final settlement of conditions of tramway employment, but as a basis on which the parties may work in arriving at individual agreements.
An agreement under section 24 of the act has been filed between the claimant union and the Fremantle Municipal Tramways and Electric Lighting Board.
On the application of the union, the Kalgoorlie Electric Tramways Ltd. was struck out of the award to facilitate recourse by the State branch of the union to the State tribunal.
The general position thus outlined is material to the consideration of subsequent events.
There are at present seventeen applications for variation and/or interpretation of the said award pending before the court. Of these, twelve have been lodged by employers and five by the union. 6. (a) On 11th October, 1929, all applications under the said award then pending were listed in court in Sydney to be mentioned. During discussions on that day and on 17th and 24th October, His Honour suggested that, in preference to dealing with specific matters, conferences be held to settle all matters in dispute in Sydney and Melbourne. The parties acquiesced in this suggestion and on 25th, 26th, and 27th November, 1929, conferences between representatives of the Railways Commissioners for New South Wales and the New South Wales branch were held under the presidency of His Honour, Judge Beeby. The conference adjourned sine die, and a resumption in January, 1930, was proposed by His Honour, Judge Beeby, but other business intervened and the conference has not yet re-assembled.
Clause 8 of the award is as follows: -
Hours of Work. - The claim for variation of standard hours of work is referred to the Full Court for consideration. Pending the decision of the Full Court, the hours now worked in different States and as now worked shall continue.
The Railways Commissioners having on 3rd May, 1 930, filed the documents necessary for an application to the Full Court under this express reference, representations were made as to the magnitude and urgency of the question involved and accordingly it was decided that the Full Court should consider the matter promptly. The requisite summons was issuedon 12th April returnable in Melbourne on 5th May; and the application has now been heard and judgment thereon reserved.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
Murray M. Stewart
The following papers were presented : -
British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition - Report by Sir Douglas Mawson on the Work of the Expedition in R.S.S. Discovery, 1929-30.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Crystal Brook, South Australia - For Postal (Broadcasting) purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) - by leave - agreed to.
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Bankruptcy Act 1924-29.
Bill brought up by Mr. Brennan, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 16th May (vide page 1909) on motion by Mr. Parker 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 minimum price of 4s. per bushel for f.a.q. wheat, season 1930-31, delivered at railway sidings, legislation providing for such a guarantee should be introduced separately from any legislation providing for the establishment of a monopoly in the marketing of Australian wheat by means of a compulsory pool.”
.- The measure of support that I shall give to this bill will depend upon the alterations that the Government is prepared to make to it at the committee stage. For many years I have been in favour of an Australian-wide wheat pool. Ten years ago, in this Parliament, I strongly advocated the continuance of the compulsory pool that was instituted during the period of the war as a war measure. I believe that the wheatgrowers of Australia would have been infinitely better off had they been given the necessary legislation to continue to operate that pool under their own management. They had become acquainted with all the devices employed by the middlemen to the advantage of the middlemen and to the disadvantage of the wheat-growers. They understood the business thoroughly; consequently the continuance of the compulsory pool at that time would have been of considerable advantage to them. I also advocated before the Australian Wool-Growers Council the continuance of Bawra as a stabilizing organization.
To-day many wool-growers art.- trying to secure stabilizing machinery. Had they continued to operate the machinery of Bawra I believe that they would be in a better position to-day. In the course of a speech that I delivered iti this House in 1920, I said-
This matter has not been sprung upon the House. In February last, I came across from Western Australia to attend a conference of representatives of wheat-growers of all the States, which endeavoured to outline a future policy for the Australian wheat-growers. The policy which we drew up was afterwards presented to the Prime Minister, who commended us for what we had done; but we desired to have a voluntary compulsory pool. As, apparently, that clear definition is rather vague to some honorable members, let me explain that, by a referendum of the wheatgrowers of Australia, which the Prime Minister promised to assist in obtaining, it was desired to know whether they wished the continuance of the wheat pool in a compulsory Form, or its abandonment altogether.
However, we were not given the necessary legislation to establish a pool free from government control. Later in the same speech I said -
I should like honorable members to realize the position of the wheat-growers of Australia. They have been as patriotic ns have any other section of the community. Ti,ev readily submitted to war conditions without complaint, as to the price obtained for their wheat, feeling that the best was being done for thorn. But let me tell the House what the “ best “ was for Australia compared with the best for other wheat-growing countries. I think that I have mentioned on a former occasion that, for the four years ending September last, in dribs and drabs, and under the most inadequate system of handling wheat, the Australian grower received 3s. 3d. per bushel.
In America, in respect of the same period, the wheat-growers received 8s. 7d. per bushel: in England, 9s. (id. per bushel; Norway, 18s. lod. per bushel; Holland, 13s. 5Jd. per bushel: Italy. 18s. Id. per bushel; France and Spain, I (is. Gd. per bushel, and Portugal, 2(is. 9d. per bushel. The wheat-growers of Australia, despite the extra cost of living received the mere pittance of 3s. 8d. per bushel. Do honorable members marvel at people giving up wheatgrowing and devoting themselves to sheepfarming. or some other branch of primary industry? ….
We want time to enable a referendum of the farmers to be taken, and we propose to ascertain whether it would not be possible for this Parliament so to legislate as to give legal sanction to this method of pooling.
At that time we merely asked for legal sanction to carry on the pool as it had been conducted during the war. I said at the commencement of my remarks that my support of this bill will depend on the willingness of the. Minister in charge of the measure to accept amendments which I shall be prepared to submit when the bill is in Committtee. The guarantee should be wholly federal in character. Tn my opinion no portion of it should be contributed by the State Governments. It is admitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and members of his Ministry, as well as by the State Governments, that wheat-growing is the most important of all industries in Australia, and yet, when. an attempt is made to assist it, a principle that has been established in dealing with other industries is to be departed from. When it was proposed to help the iron, steel and wire netting industries, were the States in which they were being conducted called upon to pay 50 per cent, of the cost of that assistance? No; the whole Commonwealth paid it. and Western Australia has been called upon continuously to contribute its share of that bounty. Is the great sugar industry of Queensland assisted by a bounty, half of which is paid by the Queeusland Government? No; Western Australia provides about £400,000 a year towards the cost of bolstering up that industry. The tariff is Australianwide in its incidence, and every citizen of the Commonwealth is called upon to make contributions to the revenue because of it. About a week ago a member of the present Government presented a bill for the provision of a cotton bounty. That measure does not provide that Queensland shall contribute 50 per cent, of the £800,000 or £900,000 proposed to be paid to the cotton industry by way of bounty. If a gold bounty were to be given, the Commonwealth as a whole would be asked to provide it. Why, then, has the Government departed from that principle in drawing up this bill ? This is a gross violation of a well-recognized principle. When a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the disabilities of Western Australia under federation, it reported that the main disability of that State was due to_thc tariff. The Labour Premier of South Australia (Mr. Hill) is complaining that the tariff is checking the progress of his State, and Mr. Collier, the late Labour
Premier of Western Australia, has charged the Government of the Commonwealth with being the chief cause of the financial and unemployment problems in the western’ State, which has had to bear a considerable proportion .of the cost of establishing industries in the other States. In certain years Western Australia has exported more wheat than all the other States put together. I strenuously oppose this bill if my State is now to be called upon to assist in providing 50 per cent, of the proposed guarantee.
I now intimate to the Minister in charge of the measure’ that I shall move in committee that the period of the guarantee shall be co-incident with the period of compulsion. Four shillings a bushel for one year is hardly a sufficient inducement to the farmers throughout Australia to take a ballot on the question of accepting the proposal embodied in this bill. Four shillings a bushel scarcely represents the cost of growing wheat under present conditions. What generous hearts some people have when they are willing to assist this industry with a guarantee that will not cover the present cost of production, which is double what it was in 1914. Wheat growing is not a profitable industry, nor is it an attractive one to the man on the land. During a period of 67 years the average price realized for wheat in South Australia was 4s. 9Jd. a bushel, and to-day the price is below that figure and the costs are double those in 1914. Notwithstanding the importance of this industry in maintaining the financial credit of Australia, the wheat-grower is in a position such as is occupied by no other primary producer to-day, except possibly, the wool-grower. The wheat farmer is forced to sell his product at world’s parity, and to purchase his requirements in the home market. For every fi received, the producer can now buy only lis. worth of goods as compared with the prices of sixteen years ago. Therefore, on every £1 worth of products exported by him ho loses 9s. It is not surprising that settlers are leaving the land by the thousand, and flocking to the cities, where wages are fixed and paid whether earned or not. Am I not right when I s.ay that the primary producer is the man who establishes the financial credit of the country? The Prime Minister, in his set statement to this House at the beginning of the session, said -
Development of. primary industries for the production of exportable wealth and the extension of Australian manufacturing will help to balance our external trade and enable us to employ our people, and eventually to maintain a larger population. It would be a. policy of despair to declare that costs of production and development are too high to permit of the expansion of our industries. Such a policy would imply that all development and expansion must cease. We must face the position frankly. Suggestions that wage reductions are essential to bring about increased production cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. Employment is the barometer of prosperity, and production would be much increased if those who are now unemployed could be placed in useful work.
The Government has devoted much attention to the necessity for stimulating the export of primary products. Important discussions (have taken place with representatives of the wool industry, and we are watching with interest the policy now being put into effect, which, it is hoped, will stabilize prices. In the belief that wheat-growing, of all primary industries, is the one which will most readily respond to proposals for expansion, the Government last month invited Ministers of Agriculture of the various States and representatives of the wheat-growing industry to a conference at Canberra to discuss plans formulated by the Government for the establishment of a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool. The principle of a compulsory pool was adopted by that conference. … A ballot of all wheatgrowers is to .be taken before the 31st July next to authorize the constitution of these boards.
The Prime Minister said that he believed that the wheat industry, of all primary industries, was the one which would most readily respond to proposals for expansion, and yet simultaneously he placed additional burdens on the primary producers by increasing the tariff, and by placing an embargo upon certain imports that the farmers required. His words and his actions in that respect were grossly inconsistent. He also said that any suggestion for increasing hours or reducing wages should be challenged. He asked for a frank discussion of the problem, but only on condition that hours and wages should not be touched. When he asked the primary producers ±o work longer hours and grow more wheat in order to pull other sections of the workers out of the bog, while not requiring of those other workers any sacrifice at all, lie insulted the’ intelligence of the farmers. I do not. wonder that a gathering of farmers in
Western Australia carried this’- resolution -
As the reduced prices of world wheat have already lowered the standard of living of the primary producers, this conference calls upon the Federal and State Governments to take such steps as will bring about a readjustment ,of standards with other sections of the community who, in the last issue, depend upon the wealth created by primary producers.
Is it unreasonable to ask that there should be a general readjustment, so that the same standards would obtain for all sections of producers? The primary producer, who is already working so hard, is asked to work still harder in order to help the country out of its difficulty, but the other sections of workers are not asked to hew an extra ton of coal, or produce a single extra article. The wheat-farmer is singled out because, by producing more wheat, whether it is to his own benefit or not, he is producing real wealth, the export of which will benefit this country.
I am sorry that- the Government does not take notice of its friends’ advice. When His Grace, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, was up here on a recent important occasion, he made some statements lauding the Government for what it had done, and he concluded his remarks on these lines -
However, nothing that they have done will put Australia right until we produce both primary and secondary products so that they can be sold in the markets of the world at a profit.
There were never truer words spoken. This constant spoon-feeding of industry is getting us nowhere. Already, however, some persons previously blind are showing, signs of seeing the light. The Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hogan, made a statement which is published in this morning’s press, to the effect that it was foolish to say that Australia was overproducing. In this he differed from the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), whom I have frequently heard say that the trouble in Australia is that we are over-producing. In his statement Mr. Hogan said that not only the farmer, manufacturer and employer, but “ also the workers must realize that the safety of the country lay in bringing about increased, production. Mr. Hogan did not mean that there, was to be increased ..wheat production only, . but that everybody should be asked by the Government to put his shoulders to the wheel at a time like this. Mr. Hogan continued that some people, not otherwise eligible for a lunatic asylum, talked of the danger of over-production. That was impossible in a country like this, especially as we had now a bigger home market to supply. I have more than once said in this House that no country could be considered to be working on sound lines unless it produced plentifully and lived cheaply. At present we are working too much at cross purposes.
– What do we lack? Of what have we not produced enough ?
– I think that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) is one who is apt to sprag the wheels of progress somewhat frequently. He attempted to do so last week, and the dressing down that he received from his leader should have been sufficient to keep him quiet for a considerable time. Labour leaders in England hold the same opinion as that expressed by Mr. Hogan, but those in this Parliament are peculiarly short-sighted. We read in this morning’s newspapers that Mr. Chamberlain raised in the House of Commons the subject of unemployment, and Mr. Thomas, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, admitted that unemployment in the United Kingdom was increasing, am added - “Any one who believed that th’ expenditure of public money would solve the problem was living in a fool paradise.” The Commonwealth Govern ment is living in a. fool’s paradise if- ii thinks that it can solve unemployment by paying a few doles here and there. I do not question the sincerity of Ministers, but they, would show greater statesmanship if they spoke frankly as Mr. Thomas did. Australia is one of the richest countries in the world, and it could sell at a profit in the overseas markets if it would reduce the cost of living so that £1 would buy what £2 is buying to-day. How foolish it is to isolate Australia so that it can export nothing at a profit. The proposed guarantee to the wheat farmer is the last of a series of false economic measures. The grower should not .need a guarantee ; the assistance he requires is relief from the burdens that have been loaded upon him. If his costs of production were lowered, he wouldnot require to ask for a guarantee or a bounty. Immediately after the war, while he was able to raise his selling price above the cost of production, he could carry on. But he was powerless to prevent the increases of the tariff and. the granting of shorter hours in the cities, which increased the cost of living in the country. Now with the fall in the prices of wool and wheat he can no longer bear these burdens, and the Government is offering a guarantee in order to keep him on the land. The primary producer must keep going, or Australia will be bankrupt. But While he has to compete in the markets of the world and take whatever price is offered to him, the secondary producer can regulate his market through his majority in this Parliament.
– The honorable member supported non-Labour Governments for nine years without protesting.
– That is incorrect. My support of the last Government was always qualified by opposition to tariff increases, and the reckless expenditure of public money. For instance I objected to the provision of £20,000,000 for housing, because I regarded that proposal as pledging futurity at a time of peak revenue. The customs tariff was always treated as a nonparty matter, and invariably the higher duties were pressed for by members of the Labour party. The Tariff and Arbitration Court awards have increased the cost of living without conferring any real advantage on the worker. From 1911-12 to 1927-28 wages increased from £1 to £1 15s. 6d., but in the same period costs increased from £1 to £1 16s. If the real wage in 1911-12 was worth £1, to-day it is worth £1 0s.11d. Therefore, the struggle to increase the standard of living has yielded a net gain of only11d., and in winning that increase Australia has been isolated economically, and cannot export any commodity at a profit. The value of output has been reduced from £1 in 1911-12 to 18s. 3d. in 1927-28. Manufacturing combines have been bolstered up in order that their employees may enjoy good conditions, and at the same time an increasing burden has been placed on the primary producers.
The sooner the leaders of the workers tell them that they are not making real progress, the better for them, and the country. The extent of unemployment in Australia to-day is pitiable; it almost makes one’s heart bleed, yet this country could provide abundance of employment for a much larger population if our economic conditions were sane. The action of the Government in further increasing the tariff and prohibiting certain imports will cause ships to come empty to Australia, and that will mean higher freights on outward cargo. Again, the primary producer is to be penalized in the interests of the secondary industries, which, although they provide employment about the cities, are preventing the exporting industries from increasing their production. Because the manufacturers adopt a dog-in-the-manger policy, we shall have to pay higher freights on the only products that can be exported - the only means of restoring our financial credit abroad, and to pay interest on the huge national debt.
If the Minister is sincere in regard to this proposal, he will offer some inducement to Western Australia, the only State in which wheat production is increasing; to join the pool. Doubtless he will include Queensland in the three States whose consent will be necessary for the establishment of a compulsory pool. Queensland is not a wheat-exporting State, but doubtless will subscribe to the agreement in order to protect its local market, and prevent the importation of wheat and flour from New South Wales. Queensland stands to lose nothing, because it is able to consume all the wheat it produces, and its growers will get 6d. per bushel more for their wheat, during the currency of the guarantee, than they would otherwise have got. If the Minister accepts the willingness of Queensland to enter the pool as an indication of the attitude of the growers throughout the Commonwealth, he will not be acting fairly.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Queensland should not be counted amongthe three States whose consent would be necessary to bring the pool into operation?
– I do, because Queensland is not a wheat-exporting State. However, the farmers will have thefinal decision as to whether a compulsory pool shall be established. I have been a wheatgrower for 25 years. If the wheatgrowing industry is as important as the Commonwealth Government says that it is, the whole Commonwealth should back it; if it is worthy of a guarantee for one year, in order to give courage to the growers and stability to the industry, it is worthy of a guarantee for three years. If the Government considers that it will be taking an undue risk by guaranteeing for three years what it has admitted to be the most important industry in the Commonwealth, how is the farmer to bear the strain, for if he does not get 4s. a bushel he will lose ? A guarantee for three years would be a greater inducement to increase production, and thereby help Australia to pay its debts. Unless it is prepared to give such a guarantee, the Government is not genuinely attempting to help the man on the land. The pooling system has many advantages, and if the wheat pool is Australia-wide, the advantages will be complete. The less the Government interferes in the affairs of the pool the better it will be for the wheat-growers. I have received many complaints from the middlemen, but I have no time whatever to waste in considering what the middlemen or the dealers in wheat have to say. Before the war there was no wheat pool, and the farmer, like the man with the muckrake in The Pilgrim’s Progress, was content to go on with his work, having no money or time to spend in sending cable messages “to the other side of the world to seek information about the state of the wheat market. [Quorum formed.’] The primary producers, when the agents were buying their wheat, were put to a tremendous and unnecessary expense. The wheat agents, acting in collusion with each other, received daily reports of the world’s wheat market. The details of those reports were hidden from the farmers. When the world’s price was high the agents offered the farmers a price fixed among themselves. Many farmers who were badly in need of extra money sold their wheat at low prices because of the lies of the agents. They said “Your promissory note is falling due. There are . good crops in Canada and. the Argentine, and prices are likely to fall.”
The agents did that with the full knowledge that the price of wheat in the world’s market had increased by 6d. or 9d. a bushel. In that way some of the farmers lost hundreds of pounds within a day or two. It was a costly process to issue instructions to the agents throughout the country to buy up wheat. In addition, there was not always sufficient wheat at a siding to make up a full truck-load of wheat, and therefore further expense was incurred. It would not be costly to establish a compulsory pool, because we have already had experience of compulsory and other pools in Australia. In Western Australia the farmers are placing up to SO per cent, of their wheat in a voluntary pool. When an order for wheat is given, the Wheat Management Committee advises the Commissioner of Railways that so many thousand tons of wheat are required to be lifted from various railway sidings. Trucks are despatched in proper order to the sidings, fully loaded, and then taken to the ship’s side. The wheat has not even to be stacked in sheds. It is loaded on the vessel immediately after it arrives on the wharf. That is a- great saving, not only in the transport of wheat to the seaboard, but also on the farm.
– It is not necessary to have a compulsory pool in order to gain that saving.
– The saving is great when 80 per cent, of the wheat is pooled, but it will be still greater when 100 per cent, of the wheat .is pooled. The compulsory pool will, in addition, mean a saving on the farm. It is unfortunate that when a member of this side speaks in the House he is not understood by honorable members opposite because they have so little knowledge of the wheat industry. When a farmer produces wheat under normal competitive .conditions he needs to have considerable storage capacity in order to protect the grain from the weather, mice, and weevil. The only alternative is to sell his wheat when the market is glutted and the dealers are buying at low prices. As a practical farmer I know that if a farmer holds his wheat he has to place it .on the wagon, cart “it to his shed and later reload it and take it to the railway siding. Under the pooling system there is no risk of loss by fire and other things; the wheat is taken straight to the railway siding. The “Western Australian pooling system has been in existence for years. The pool is financed through London, a certificate is given for every bushel of f.a.q. wheat delivered into the pool, and credit is given to the extent of 3s. 6d. a bushel.
– The honorable member collects a cheque, and that is all that he does in the way of wheat- arming.
– I suppose the honorable member for Adelaide would do all these things for nothing.
– If I were in the honorable member’s shoes I would not brag about being a farmer.
– If the energy of the honorable member were directed to producing some of the real wealth of this country, he would be doing more for Australia than he is doing to-day.
– I spent seventeen years producing for a boss, while the honorable member was an insurance agent. I have manufactured, hawked, and sold my product.
– The honorable member has told us, time and time again, that at one time he was employed at making tins. Under the pooling system there is unquestionably the advantage that immediately the wheat is harvested it is stacked in bulk at railway sidings and trucked, as desired, to the wharfs. That has naturally brought about a decrease in the cost of transport. The advantages of a pool cannot be challenged. If the Government wishes- to give a fillip to the wheat industry it should give the wheatgrowers legal authority to establish compulsory pools, and in addition give a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for the period of the compulsion. In that way stability would be given to the wheat-growing industry of Australia. The wheat-grower does not get the full return for his wheat that he should get. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) pointed out the other day, as did also the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), that notwithstanding the fluctuation in the price of wheat, the price of a loaf of bread has remained unaltered. I have not heard that the bakers are reducing the price of,,the loaf because of the existing low price of wheat.
– They are not.
– The bakers and the Bakers Union, in making the loaf of bread for the people, are piling up costs that have to be met by the primary producer and the consumer. We cannot blame the farmers. They are not getting Australian prices for their commodity; yet they are being forced to pay Australian prices for all that they buy. What a squeak is heard from the centralized newspapers when the farmers venture to ask for Australian prices for their wheat.
This is a serious matter, and I hope that the Government will not pass the bill in its present form. It should be amended so as to give more encouragement to the farmers. I can quite understand the Premier of Western Australia refusing to enter into a bond in connexion with the scheme, particularly in view of the financial position, of thatState. It is hardly fair to offer the farmer a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for one year only when he is to be forced into a pool that is likely to operate for three years. Additional burdens have been placed upon the farmer because of the Government’s policy of bolstering up other industries in Australia. We should, therefore, be magnanimous and be prepared to offer a guarantee for three years. Under the pool one State should have no advantage over another. For instance, Western Australia has some advantage in respect of freights, and other States have advantages in respect of local sales. I hope that no consideration will be given to those advantages. If the pool is to be compulsory there should be no differentiation as between States and as between individuals.
– What amendments to the bill does the honorable member propose?
– The amendments that I shall move in committee are on lines that I have already indicated.
.Though I have been listening to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) for the last hour I am still totally unaware whether he supports ‘or opposes the bill. Most of his speech was similar to . the propaganda that is being circulated by the wheat merchants^ yet, at the same time, he has given some faint praise to the Government- because it proposes to establish a compulsory pool in the interests of the farmers. According to the honorable member no one on this side knows anything about growing wheat, and we, therefore, would be unable to understand his remarks. That has always been the attitude adopted by members of his class towards the representatives of the working people. The honorable member and his colleagues who talk in a similar strain are doing more to-day to injure Australia than are the Communists or any revolutionary section in the Commonwealth. The honorable member himself is the greatest of all revolutionaries. He persists in insulting our producers, and, although he is now from 1,500 to 2,000 miles from his farm, he claims to be a producer of wheat. What wheat does he produce? . How much wheat has he put on a wagon ? How often has he ploughed the soil? What production has he brought about ? All he has done, in common with the class he represents, is to get control of certain land and to force up land values, so that he may sit down and draw fat cheques at Canberra while others produce wheat for him. During the time that he sat behind the Government he made no protest against the taxation that was imposed upon the farmers, nor any effort to have land values and interest rates decreased; yet he now attacks the men who are responsible for having placed him in the position that he occupies to-day, and also for the creation of the wealth that he possesses.
– That statement is false.
– Order! The honorable member for Forrest must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, and say that the honorable member’s statement is inaccurate.
– The fact that the honorable member is in this chamber, and that he has farming interests in Western Australia, is sufficient evidence of the correctness of my statement. He cannot be engaged in ploughing and tilling his soil in Western Australia, and at the same time discharging his duties Sere.
For twelve years I sat behind a government in Queensland that endeavoured to do something for not only the wheatfarmers but also every other farming group in that State. The farmers of Queensland have adopted the pooling system, greatly to their advantage. The Wheat Pool Bill that was introduced into the Queensland Parliament in 1921 met with opposition as great as that which is being shown to this measure. The guarantee of 4s. a bushel for one year has no significance. Next year the Government may be in a position to guarantee a higher price. Therefore, it would not be in the best interests of the farmer to give this guarantee for three years. Once the marketing board has been established, it will be able to make its own arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank for next season. Each year the farmer will know what he is to receive for his produce, just as the worker to-day knows the minimum wage that can be paid. Why should there be so much anxiety to prevent the primary producers from organizing? Queensland members must admit that the marketing system which operates in that State is exceedingly beneficial to the farmers, and that it has been carried on most successfully since the Labour party passed the necessary legislation to enable pools to be established. Marketing boards in Queensland are responsible at the present time for the marketing of over £16,000,000 worth of produce annually. The commodities thus marketed, and their value, are as follow: -
All that the Government proposes by this bill is to give the wheat-growers the opportunity to say whether they will- have a compulsory pool. That is an eminently democratic procedure. If they do not want it, they can vote against it. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) says that the experience of Queensland ought not to be mentioned because that State does not produce for export. It may interest him to learn that the acreage under cultivation there has doubled since the pooling system was instituted, and that the Queensland wheatgrowers have received for their wheat a higher price than has been obtained in any other State; yet the price charged for bread in that State is the lowest in the Commonwealth.
– What is the price of bread in Queensland?
Mr.RIORDAN- Last October it was 5½d. for a 2-lb. loaf. Attempts have been made to mislead the farmers in regard to the beneficial effect of pools. The Labour party has never conscripted the farmer into a pool, but has always allowed him to decide whether he shall have a marketing board. Many pools are operating in Queensland to-day. A ballot can be demanded by 10 per cent. of the primary producers engaged in any primary industry. The Queensland Government guaranteed to advance £600,000 for the establishment of pools, but it has not been called upon to make good the guarantee. The system has been successful from its inception. The arrowroot pool was established without opposition in 1922, and has been continuously in operation for the last eight years.
– What guarantee does the Queensland Government give to the wheat-growers of that State?
Mr.RIORDAN- When the Queensland Government gave the first guarantee of 5s. 6d. a bushel the grain merchants, who for years had been exploiting the farmer, rushed round offering 8s. 6d. a bushel, although up to that time their highest price was 3s. 6d. a bushel, and they had adopted the practice of importing wheat from other States with a view to keeping down the price. The wheat pool was established in Queensland in 1921 by a majority of 97½ per cent. of the growers. It was extended in 1924 by a majority of 90 per cent., and again in 1928 without opposition. A ballot has not been taken since that date. The cheese pool was agreed to by a majority of 91 per cent., and was renewed in 1925 and again in 1927 without opposition.
The broom millet pool was established without opposition in 1926, and has been continued since without a ballot having been taken. The pig pool has been operating without opposition since 1926. The butter pool was established in 1925 by a majority of 75 per cent., and has since been continued without opposition. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) must be aware of what the farmer has done for himself. Between Stanthorpe and Brisbane huge sheds for the storage of wheat have been erected. They are not owned by poor, struggling farmers such as Dalgety and Company, who to-day are writing to honorable members of this House letters of a threatening nature predicting that the Government cannot finance this scheme because it will cost £40,000,000, and yet affirming their ability to do so. Propaganda has been issued to create the impression that the marketing of produce has special features, and that the farmer has not the capacity to undertake the work. That is a reflexion upon the intelligence of the farmer, who is as capable of marketing his produce as are those who are endeavouring to prevent the passage of this legislation. Dalgety and Company, John Darling and Sons, Louis Dreyfus, and Bunge Australian Proprietary Limited, have done nothing except farm the farmer. To-day they are congratulating the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) upon the stand that he has taken towards this measure. What farmers does that honorable member represent ? He farms merely the farmer in the city. How have Dalgety and Company, and these other firms been able to erect the big buildings that they own? They have done it at the expense of the wool-grower and the wheat-producer. And what has been their attitude towards the wool-grower or the wheat-producer when he has struck a bad time? Has he not had to come to the Government for assistance ? Once they get their fangs into the producer these middlemen are able to compel him to sell his produce through them and they charge high commission for doing so. If honorable members opposite really believe that the wheat-grower does not want this legislation, why do they fear his being given an opportunity to pronounce upon it ? If he shows by his vote that he does not want it, the pool will not come into operation. But if he has any sense he will take no notice of these false advisers.
– They are spending a lol of money on literature.
– None of the farmers are contributing to the cost of that literature. This propaganda is not confined to Australia. On bakehouses in Great Britain to-day are to be found notices stating “ We do not use American or Canadian flour.” The reason is that the Americans and Canadians work under a pool. The wheat merchant can see his living going from him, and he is fighting to retain it. We hear a lot regarding revolution and communism. Where can one get a better example of communism than that which is practised by these people? We do not find them rushing on to relief works at £2 10s. or £3 a week. They say that the cost of production must come down. Who has been responsible for the position in which we now find ourselves but those whom the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has supported in thi3 House since 1916? Is he prepared to affirm that the present Government is responsible? Do not the people of Australia know that those whom the honorable member has supported flooded this country with immigrants, and at the same time did all that they could to break dowt our standard of living? I asked a question in the House to-day as to what became of the boy migrants, and whether they obtained work. I also inquired why preference has not been given to our native-born lads. Nowadays one meets a procession of swagmen going along the roads in search of work, while foreigners have a monopoly of land leased to them by friends of the Opposition.
– Labour has been in power for some time. Why does it not prevent that?
– Labour has been in power only for the last eight months, but prior to that the party opposite had control for thirteen years, and conducted its migration policy without regard to what became of the migrants on arrival. Everybody would support a migration policy based on sound lines, but has land been made available for the migrants when they reached Australia? To-day, instead of the State getting the benefits of land settlement, the friends of honorable members opposite are letting out their farms to foreigners, and living elsewhere on the proceeds. Talk about a policy of Nationalism! What better example of its futility could be given than what happened the other day in New South Wales, when pastoral leases were extended for 60 years, despite the fact that thousands of people are hungering for land? For every block made available in Queensland there are from 1,500 to 2,000 applicants.
– During 14 years of Labour administration in that State similar conditions obtained.
– No. During that period more land was made available than when the Nationalist party was in office. New towns sprang up along the Great Northern railway line. The fact that the railways of Queensland are not paying to-day is due to the construction of branch lines into undeveloped areas in the interests of the pastoralists, who support honorable members opposite at election time. On large pastoral holdings employment may be given to a manager and his wife, but most companies prefer a manager who is unmarried, because expense can thus be saved. Under the Labour policy in Queensland, settlement went ahead, new townships sprang up, and the earning capacity of the railways was increased. When Labour found the land tied up at a rental of from 3d. to 6d. a square mile, and cut it up for closer settlement, it got as much as 4d. and 5d. an acre from the grazier, who was willing to pay that rental when a good income was to be derived from that land, but, when drought set in, Labour took the first opportunity to bring about a reduction in the cost of production, not by reducing the wages of the man earning £4 5s. a week, but by lowering the rent of the men who were growing wool. The report of the Land Administration Board in Queensland supports me in that statement.
– Let us hear something about the wheat pool.
– The honorable member surely realizes that it is necessary to have land before one can produce wheat. During the week-end Ti endeavoured to ascertain who was the secretary to the
South Australia Wheat Producers Freedom Association, who) writing on behalf of the farmers, has pointed out that the proposed pool would do damage in South Australia. I thought that if he were a farmer I could get into touch with him, but I find that he is Arthur Leonard Langsford, whose name appears on. the electoral roll for Boothby. He is described as an inspector, and he is evidently an. inspector of legislation affecting wheat-growers. If his assertion is correct that the farmers in that State are opposed to the proposed wheat pool, there is something wrong with the statement of the Minister’ for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney), who said that during the recent South Australian election the representatives of 6,000 farmers waited on the ex-Premier (Mr. Butler) and told him that they would support the bill. But Mr. Butler has been defeated, and he was opposed to the pooling system. It is stated in the, letter written by Mr. Langsford, to which I have referred, that this matter ought to be approached without party strife, yet the writer starts off by referring to the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green), and says that the proposal comes from a Government which desires to put into operation its policy of socialization of industry, so far as the farmer is concerned. My reply to that is that the socialization of industry has not come about in Queensland, where an effort was made some years ago to prevent a Labour Government from raising a loan in London. That State has no Upper House, but when Labour had 49 members in the Legislative Assembly no attempt was mad to do anything for which a mandate had not been obtained from the people. If the socialization of industry is ever effected in Queensland, it will be done in a democratic way. The farmers interested will be invited to vote to determine on what conditions their- industry shall be conducted.
– I thought the honorable member’s party stood for socialism.
– I stand for the Labour party’s platform.
– Which is socialism.
– Tes; it is a democratic policy, which -gives to the farmer the right to say whether he will allow the “ sharks “ to market his produce, or whether he desires to do it for himself by organizing as other industries have done.
– Is there anything to prevent his doing that now, apart from this bill?
– Yes, a good deal. In Western Australia, under the voluntary system, as much as 80 per cent, of the wheat has been put into a pool, and in South Australia 40 per cent, or 50 per cent., and sometimes more, is pooled. But all the time there have been the wheat speculators gambling against the farmers in regard to the selling of their produce. They would be in a better position if they put the whole of their crop into a pool in order to market it and send it overseas themselves, thus eliminating such additional charges as they have to meet to-day.
– But they are intelligent men. Oan they not organize and do that now if they wish to?
– Yes, they are intelligent; but the honorable member evidently does not trust them. Why is he not prepared to allow them to vote on this matter?
– In this matter the Bavin Government has become socialistic.
– Yes. I think that the people of Australia are rapidly awakening to the position in which they have been placed.
– The Bavin Government supports this proposal.
– If it is support similar to that of the honorable member for Forrest, that Government might as well not support it at all. In my opinion that Government will be dealt with by the middlemen before the pool comes into operation.
Reference has been made to the Canadian wheat pool. Who is responsible for the smashing of that ? Has the farmer of Canada contributed the money necessary to carry on the propaganda against that pool? Has the farmer of Australia contributed to the cost of the literature circulated in opposition to it? The type of man who gets his living from the land - not the producer who, like the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), farms from Parliament House - is not contributing sixpence to that propaganda, I received a letter recently from a man in Canada in which the following statement occurred : -
The wheat pool, the only genuine cooperative movement on the North American continent, is staggering under the attack of combined British and American capitalists. If ever the pool is smashed, the worker will pay for his bread all right, and the profit will not go to the farmer.
Once a pool properly controlled by the farmers is in operation, it will be found that they have been robbed of millions of pounds in the past through not combining in the marketing of their goods. Those who are opposed to the pooling system need only look up the agricultural reports of Queensland to see that the system has worked satisfactorily there. The farmers of Queensland handle £16,000,000 worth of their own produce, and they are doing it much more cheaply than it was formerly done by the middlemen.
– The Queensland pool deals only with Australian markets.
– Then let us consider the quantity of produce that Queensland exports tinder the system of marketing by controlled boards. In 1927 we exported eggs to the value of £274,000, sugar to the value of £7,108,000, and butter to the value of £5,024,000. The farmers benefited to the extent of £40,000 in one year, as compared with the prices obtained under the “ Paterson “ scheme.
– Is the butter pool there compulsory?
– Yes. It is operating independently of the Paterson scheme, and the dairy farmers of Queensland have received through the pool £40,000 more than they would have obtained through the Paterson scheme. Prior to 1914 the public were paying ls. lOd. per lb. for butter, but the dairy farmers were receiving only about 8d. per lb. for their butter fat. To-day we are paying only 2s. per lb. for our butter, but the farmer is receiving 15d. or 16d. per lb. for butter fat.
– They are all cooperative butter factories in Queensland.
– They are cooperative under legislation passed by the Labour Government.
– That is sheer nonsense. There have been co-operative butter factories iri Queensland for many years past.
– The honorable member does not -like to admit that a Labour Government ever did anything to help the primary producers, but if the Government which he supported had given more assistance to the men on the land instead
Of filling the country with foreigners and other immigrants, Australia would be better off to-day. The supporters of the last Government must accept the responsibility for Australia’s present financial trouble.
– There are sixteen control boards, dealing with sixteen primary commodities, in Queensland, and all of them are compulsory.
– In 1922, when the wheat pool legislation was passed in Queensland, we had under crop in that State 145,000 acres of wheat; in 1928 we had 218,609 acres under crop, as a result of the Government’s price .guarantee. Eventually the farmers were able to do without that guarantee altogether, and I am doubtful whether they ever really availed themselves of it. It may be said that the Queensland farmers grow only for the market in their own State, but they have been able to stop the middlemen from importing wheat into the State, and shipping the Queensland wheat overseas. The Queensland farmers have received a better price for their wheat than they could have obtained through a voluntary pooling system, or in the open market.
No one can deny the success of the wool pool during the war. Higgins’ Bawra scheme was the means of putting millions of pounds into the pockets of the woolgrowers. I am convinced that if a poll were taken of the wool-growers in my constituency, they would be almost unanimous in favour of a compulsory wool pool as an .alternative to remaining in, the hands of the financial institutions as they are to-day. I hope that the Government does not intend to stop at a wheat pool, but that it will enable pools for the control of other forms of primary produce to be organized. Owing to the formation of al ring among the wool buyers there is no real competition for our wool now at all. I can remember iri the old days when the buyers’ benches at the wool sales were crowded with representative’s from ail the consuming countries in the world, and the buyers almost barked out their bids, in their eagerness to secure the wool. Now one sees at a wool sale a mere handful of buyers, who have already arranged what price is to be paid for the various lots, and they cut up the offerings between them. Legislation should be passed to prevent any wool being sold for export from the country at less than ls. per lb. Under the present system the grower has practically no control over the disposal of his product. A sheepfarmer living in the west of Queensland must travel thousands of miles if he wishes to see his wool sold. He must ship his wool from Townsville; it must be taken by boat from there to Brisbane, and then to the store of Dalgety & Company or Goldsbrough, Mort & Company, and unless he is prepared to travel, all those thousands of miles he cannot see it .sold. Under the pooling system he would, through his representatives on the pool board, have a direct say in the disposal of his product. The Queensland wheatgrowers have managed their pool quite capably, and there is no real reason why farmers who are able to make a success of raising primary products, should not be as capable of attending to their disposal as the hired “ go-getters “ working on a commission. By means of effective organization the farmers would be able to reduce selling charges. There is not a grain of wheat grown in my electorate* which is purely a wool-raising district, but I am none the less anxious to serve the interests of the wheat-growers, together with those of other primary producers.
There has been in existence for many years past a country political party, but what has it done for the man on the land? No legislation has been passed to give him any assistance. No effort has been made by members of the Country party to reduce rates of interest. It is true that rural credits were made available to landholders, but on such . terms and conditions that the farmer was as well off by dealing through the private banking institutions. The Commonwealth Bank should be used to assist the marketing of primary produce, instead of allowing it to get into the hands of speculators such as those who control the marketing of our wool to-day. Who is this Mr. A. L. Langsford, whose name appears on the document issued by the South Australia Wheat Producers Freedom Association? He calls himself an inspector - an inspector of God knows what. But he has the cheek to appeal to the Government on behalf of the wheat producers, and sign himself the general secretary of their freedom association. Then there is Mr. H. J. Cadd, of Agery. Mr. Cadd is a farmer, but he is not one of those farmers who are compelled to live on. their land, and try to make there a home for themselves and their families. I do not class as a farmer a man in receipt of £1,000 a year, who calls on growers to tell them about ploughing and sowing. Then there is Mr. Henry T. Gray, who lives at Rose Park. I was in error when I said that Mr. Cadd lived at Rose Park* He lives at Agery. I have looked up something about Mr. Henry T. Gray, and I find that he is the person who is secretary of the Nationalist Liberal League. We have been told by honorable members opposite not to make this a political issue. But almost in the same breath they tell us that the proposal is dangerous and communistic. The people’s minds were diverted by that sort of talk at the elections of 1925 and 1928, but they had their eyes opened in 1929. I am confident that if the farmers were to look up the records of these gentlemen of the freedom association, they would be convinced that the association does not represent the primary producers at all, but is working in the interests of the wheat-gamblers, who have exploited the primary producers of this country for years.
.- The value of the remarks made by the last speaker can be fairly accurately deduced from the way in which he muddled his notes at the end of his speech, and made a mis-statement regarding the position occupied by Mr. Cadd, of Moonta. Then, when he found that he had muddled the matter, and realized that he should really have been talking about Mr. Gray, of Rose Park, he failed to correct his mis-statement. Mr. Cadd is personally known to me, and is most certainly a farmer, who lives near Moonta, and ‘is so described in the corespondence sent to honorable members of this
House. The honorable member referred to relations of mine, who were partly responsible for the circulation of a previous document dealing with this subject. Honorable members on the other side of the House have referred to that document as one issued by the wheat merchants. No one related to me is a wheat merchant. The persons who signed that document certainly never had any interest in a bushel of wheat other than what they grew themselves. The farmers who signed that circular are all wellknown. They have had personal experience of compulsory pooling in the past; they have good memories, and they would not sign a circular unless they were sure that it was substantially fair. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) took the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) severely to task, because of the alleged inaccuracy of statements he made, based upon that circular. On investigating the matter, I find that a paragraph in it does create the impression that the price of wheat for home consumption for the whole of 1920 was higher than the export price. The explanation is that the paragraph refers only to the price fixed in December, 1920, for the opening of the season 1920-21. Shortly afterwards sales were made overseas at substantially lower prices. For a time the pool board was charging more to the Australian consumer than to the continental buyer, but that anomaly was soon reversed. Moreover, the amended figures quoted by the honorable member for Gippsland revealed the danger to which the primary producer will subject himself if he hands over his wheat to government control. Even though the growers may elect the board, the authority which is guaranteeing the price must have a say in the handling of the wheat, and when the accounts for 1920 were adjusted they showed that wheat had been sold by the pool board to the local mills at an average price’ below that which could have been obtained overseas. This is a reminder to the farmer that prices can be manipulated downwards for the benefit of the local consumer, as well as upwards, and not many years ago one member of the present Government was engaged in doing that in Queensland.
The Labour Government in that State was fixing the prices of meat and other primary products, exploiting the primary producer for the benefit of political supporters in the towns and cities.
With some .justification the Minister took credit to himself for not having knowingly introduced party politics into his introductory speech. Not only did he manage fairly successfully to avoid party politics, but with almost equal success he kept clear of the pool. He had a great deal to say of the machinations of speculators, and created the impression that they were mainly responsible for the present difficulties of the farmers ; but he was careful to tell us very little of how the pool would work. In a masterly way he managed to avoid committing himself to details. Whilst I commend him for his endeavour to keep the issue clear of party. politics, some of those who have since spoken in support of the bill have fallen from his high standard. They indulged in a good deal of cheap abuse, and nearly every opponent of the measure was represented as seeking to help the wheat merchants to take an improper advantage of the producers. I assure the House that I have no’ interest in a single bushel of wheat other than that which I grow, or, as a trustee, am responsible for growing. In that capacity^ and as the representative of a wheat-growing district, I have examined the bill to ascertain if it holds out to the primary producer any prospect of better prices for his wheat, and less marketing risks.
I agree with much that has been said about the difficulties under which the farmer labours. In specially rich districts, where the soil is particularly good, there are choice farms on which wheat can be grown without loss, notwithstanding the present high costs and low prices; but the vast majority of wheat-growers find it difficult to carry on. In fact, half of them have not been earning the basic wage. Like some other primary industries, wheat-growing is a sweated industry, due to the vast increase of wheat production all over the world, and, in Australia more than elsewhere, steadily rising costs. One after another the essential implements of the farmer have been subjected to further protective duties. The manufacturers have been the victims of raids by organized employees, with the result that wages and costs have been rising higher and higher, and only those few manufacturers who could continue producing on a large scale have been able to give the producer some of the benefits of the reduced cost of implementmaking which has been achieved thoughout the world. Transport also has become more expensive, due to industrial disputes, waterside trouble, restrictions, and taxation on various items of equipment. The cost of fertilizers in various parts of Australia has been increased by the duties imposed on imported fertilizers and also on the ingredients necessary to local manufacture. I refer particularly to pyrites, a reduction of the duty on which was recommended by the Tariff Board some months ago. I am at a loss to understand why .the Government has not acted On that recommendation, because pyrites can be bought within the British Empire instead of importing a substitute from America. The importation of this ingredient would employ more labour in the local manufacture’ of fertilizers and would cheapen their production in Western Australia.
The second cause of the difficulties which confront the wheat-growers is the. steady expansion of production throughout the world. In 1910 the production in the four principal wheat exporting countries was, in round figures: - United States of America, 675,000,000 bushels; Canada, 150,000,000 bushels; Argentine, 140,000,000 bushels; and Australia, 95,000,000 bushels. The world’s production was 3,465,000,000 bushels. In the following year the yields were smaller in the United States of America and Australia, but larger in Canada and the Argentine, but the production for the world was lower than in 1910. In 1912 there was a slight increase, and the average for these three pre-war years may be set down at approximately 3,500,000,000 bushels. By 1927 the production in the United States of America had risen to 874,000,000’ bushels or about 18,000,000 bushels above the average for the three previous years and 200,000,000 bushels above the production in 1910; in Canada, to 414,000,000 bushels, nearly three times the production in 1910; in Argentine, to 239,000,000 bushels; and in Australia to 118,000,000 bushels. The Commonwealth Year-Booh, from which those statistics were taken, does not contain more recent figures, but according to Broomhall’s Com Trade Year-Book, the figures for the next year, 1928, show a large increase even on those for 1927. Of course the consumption had increased ; the world’s population had increased, and a great many people were better off and able to eat bread made from better flour. But all the additional wheat was not finding its way into consumption, as is shown by the following figures, which are estimates formed by the Food Research Institute, of Stanford University in the United States of America. The carry-over of wheat in the United States of America, Canada, Argentine, and Australia, afloat for Europe ‘ and in United Kingdom ports at the end of 1925 was estimated at 298,000,000 bushels; in 1926, at 284,000,000 bushels ; in 1927, at 344,000,000 bushels; in 1928, at 422,000,000 bushels, and in 1929, at 598,000,000 bushels. Those figures show that probably a good part of the wheat areas of the world to-day will have to go out of wheat production, and, that unless consumption expands, or serious droughts and other disasters occur in various parts of the world, the supply of wheat is likely to exceed the demand for it. In Australia; we cannot afford to let our lands go out of wheat, because we have no alternative crops. That also applies largely to Canada, but not to the United States of America to the same extent, because much of that country is capable of growing a variety of crops, and wheat is grown there according to the prospects of return. For that reason, and also for the reason’ that this Government seems definitely to have set its face against any attempt to reduce costs, it is necessary to assist the wheat industry, and particularly those farmers who are unable to grow cereals other than wheat on their holdings. The high cost of production in Australia to-day, has made it practically impossible for a great many farmers to carry on under present conditions. I regret very much that the Government is setting out in this particular way to assist the farmery because that, in itself, is definite indication that it is not prepared to. tackle the question of production costs. I agree with the honorable, member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), that the day will come when we shall have to .produce more cheaply, and that is the only relief which will be permanent and stable, and make it possible for the farmer to grow his wheat with a reasonable certainty of profit. If he could grow .it more cheaply . to-day than does the farmer , in the Argentine or the United States of America, there would be ho question as to which farmer would continue to .grow wheat, and have access to the markets in the wheat importing countries.
Since it is necessary to help the farmer^ I am willing to support any reasonable ‘scheme. lj there. fore, support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). I fully concur in his statement that the country cannot afford to assist an industry of the size of the wheatgrowing industry, indefinitely, on the scale on which it is necessary to assist it to-day. The country cannot afford it; and I, as a wheat-grower; would not ask it to. do so, but, if assistance is offered this industry, without unreasonable conditions b’eing attached to it,. I certainly will not be a party to refusing it. Another reason for helping the industry; is that following the Prime Minister’s appeals and promises, in some districts further wheat is being planted this year; practically as a gamble so far as the crop is concerned. The wheat is being drilled in on stubbles in anticipation of the industry being helped to the extent of a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel.
– Is there hot economic pressure behind that action?
– That is happening in some districts. In many districts the guarantee has made little or no difference to the acreage under wheat, but in. places the f armers have sown more wheat than they would otherwise have done. While on the subject of a guaranteed price, and t1 slogan ‘of “grow more wheat”, let me say that I fully agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) who asked, “ Why was the wheat-growing industry singled out?” .1 am glad .to say that; since the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) started the slogan to produce more wheat the coalminers. have decided to hew more coal. That slogan was made in order to assist this country, particularly in respect of the exchange difficulty. Coal is. a commodity the output of which could be expanded with much more .certainty than could that of wheat. The farmer may prepare land carefully and sow his seed, using plenty of fertilizer; but it depends on the season whether he gets a return, and whether the exchange position will derive any benefit. But. the coal is in the . ground, and the words “hew more coal” might very well have been included in the slogan of. the Government.
The ‘establishment of a compulsory pool is apparently the price which this Government is asking the farmers to pay in return for any assistance. I have carefully scrutinized the estimates of returns for .wheat over a period of years, and taking into ‘consideration the risks of production, I have no hesitation in saving that the . price is altogether tod high for the benefit to b’e received. Although ‘the. personnel of the proposed wheat board, with the exception of ‘one government representative in each State, will be elected by the f farinfers themselves ; there is ‘always the danger that govern^ ment pressure, may be put upon it, an’d even if the board we’re ‘quite free from government pressure, there is, with a compulsory pool, the further danger that the management may not be quite up the mark. This pool proposal has been fitch criticized as a step in the direction of socialism - and I agree that it is - along the lines advocated by the honorable member ‘for Adelaide . (Mr. Yates) and to some extent by the Prime Minister at the Brisbane conference held nearly ten years ago. Although honorable members supporting the ‘Government have protested and shown embarrassment when their recorded objective has been referred to, . there can be no question about it that this proposed compulsory pool is compulsory unionism right up to the hilt.. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), when speaking on the bill, drew what I considered was a very unfair comparison between the powers asked for under this legislation and the powers conferred on the Dried Fruits Control Board.
– Does the honorable member really believe that the honorable member for Gippsland is an advocate of socialism?
– He was certainly advocating extreme compulsory unionism. I am absolutely surprised that the honorable member, who is usually so fair in his arguments, made such a comparison. Let me point out that in this bill there is a schedule of agreement that is not present in the legislation relating to dried fruits under which Commonwealth and State boards are appointed, and various conditions laid down in respect of the sale, transport and export of the controlled commodity. Regulations are also made under that legislation to ensure that the proper procedure is carried out.
– That is compulsory unionism.
– Not entirely. It does not compel the grower of dried fruits to market his product through any particular pool. All it compels him to do is to market his product under certain conditions. That position is somewhat analogous to that in respect of industrial arbitration. Under the law as it stands to-day, arbitration courts, ‘ and in some cases, the State Parliaments, lay down the general conditions and rates under which a man must work, if he works at all, in a certain occupation. In few cases do those authorities compel a man who has labour to sell, to sell it through a compulsory union; which is precisely the way in which this legislation appears to be intended to operate. In the dried fruits industry a general regulation applies, and it includes various agencies, some co-operative and some proprietary, which compete keenly in order to handle the growers’ products. Because of that competition a high standard of efficiency is being maintained, and I am glad to say the co-operative concerns are going ahead, and are gaining ground on their competitive merits in the handling of dried fruits.
– I suggest that the honorable member ask Mr. James, of South Australia, whether the Dried Fruits Board works under compulsory conditions.
– There is compulsory regulation but not compulsory handling.
– There is compulsion in regard to sales.
– Only in regard to a certain quota. This proposal goes very much further than anything that has so far been done in regard to dried fruits. Even if those who in the initial stages are in control of the pool are up to the mark there is no competition to keep them so. Over and over again it has been proved that a big monopoly of this kind eventually causes stagnation and increased costs. I am not making a comparison with the war-time pools. I believe that the present prospects show better management in the initial stages; but as time goes on there is every likelihood that abuses will creep in because of the absence of competition to prevent them.
The Minister (Mr. Parker Moloney) was somewhat indefinite in his remarks regarding the manner in which the pool will work. It is possible, however, to obtain a fairly clear indication of expectations in that regard from statements that have been made by some of his supporters and those honorable members on this side of the House who are in favour of the pool. In reply to a question, the Minister said, “We are providing for very great elasticity in the agreements that will be drawn up between the central board and the State boards”. There is a considerable degree of elasticity discernible in the honorable gentleman’s descriptions. Other advocates of the pool, however, have claimed that it will effect various changes that will be to the advantage of the wheat-grower. The first claim relates to what is called “ orderly marketing and stabilization”. Those two phrases exercise a magical power in Australia to-day, but it is very difficult to. obtain an exact definition of them, because different people hold different views with respect to them, although there isfairly general unanimity among their advocates on the point that they have wonderfully beneficial results. The Minister has also said-
When we compare our inactivity with what is being done in other countries in the way of orderly marketing methods the need for action becomes apparent … I am citing the setting up of the Canadian Wheat Pool and the Farm Loan Board of the United States of America to indicate the great change that has taken place all over the world in the matter of government effort.
Let us consider the work of the Farm Relief Board in the United States of America as an example of what has been done to help the wheat-grower. It is remarkable that in the United States of America the wheat-grower is being assisted in a totally different way from that here proposed. The following is an extract from a statement of Mr. Alexander Legge, Chairman of the Farm Loan Board of the United States of America which was telegraphed to Australia and published in the Melbourne Herald of the 15th January last: -
You can call it an educational policy or a threat; but in any case we are going to serve notice on American farmers that no power on earth can save them from their own folly if they over plant wheat. Increased acreage of wheat will defeat any stabilization plan that human ingenuity can devise.
– The Farm Board in the United States of America deals only with finance.
– The Minister cited it as an example of what is being done in the way of stabilization by government action. I have checked with American newspapers in which it was published, the following paragraph that appeared in an Adelaide newspaper of the 3rd March, and, therefore, can assure the House of its accuracy -
If the farmers are going ahead trying to produce an additional surplus on the basis that some way will be found to take care of it on a fair price level for another year they are going to be mistaken. If they co-operate the Stabilization Corporation will be justified in paying the storage charges and carrying this wheat for a time in the hope that a crop shortage somewhere in the world will give an opportunity to unload it. If, on the other hand, the farmers’ attitude is to “ let George do it all,” the natural procedure would seem to be to dispose of this wheat as best we can and. write off the loss. But this would adversely affect the price of the 1930 crop. There isno possible solution unless we get the cooperation of tho wheat-growers themselves. No other industry blindly produces without attention to potential market possibilities.
The other authority that the Minister cited is the Canadian pool. That is not a government pool. Although the governments of three provinces recently came to its assistance with a bank guarantee, it is certainly not a compulsory pool. I have in my hand a copy of the Western Producer, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in which appears a long statement by Mr. A. J. McPhail, president of one of the sections of the Canadian pool. He opposes those who advocate making the Canadian pool a compulsory pool. I make the following quotations from his statement -
I believe that forcing a man’s wheat (an inanimate object) into the organization in place of strengthening it, weakens it . . . The statement can be made as one of simple fact that compulsion and co-operation are quite the opposite of each other in meaning and effect.
Orderly marketing has been advanced by some honorable members as a reason for supporting a compulsory pool. If the claim is that fluctuations in prices are prevented, one would expect a considerable improvement in that direction in countries where a large quantity of wheat is pooled. It is generally realized, however, by those who have had wheat to sell in Australia during the last ten years, that prices have fluctuated more violently’ in all countries during that period than was the case before the war. I have not worked out figures giving an exact comparison; but prices in different parts of the world bear a general relation to each other, and we can gain some indication of the fluctuations that have occurred by a study of some figures that have been compiled by Professor Boyle, Professor of Agriculture and Economics in the Cornell University, one of the leading agricultural universities in the United States of America, in relation to prices at Winnipeg during the five years 1909 to 1913 inclusive and the five years from 1923 to 1928 inclusive. He has tabled the fluctuations in prices in cents per bushel. For the five years that preceded the war the figures are as follows -
For the other five years the figures are -
– But during the latter period the conditions generally in regard to all commodities were different.
-The point I am endeavouring to make is that the pool was able to do very little to even up the prices. It has also been suggested that the pooling of wheat has the effect of bringing about more regular marketing. Professor Boyle in the same article has shown the amount of wheat that went to market in Canada, the strongest pooling country in the world, during the three months immediately following the harvest - September, October and November. Before the war the average was 50 per cent, of the crop. In 1928, according to the pool director’s report, the quantity marketed in the first three months ‘following the harvest represented about 64 per cent, of the crop. That was duc not to any acceleration of marketing by the pool, but to better handling methods, made possible by the use of trucks and tractors. But although a large proportion of the Canadian wheat was pooled, that fact had very little effect upon the rate at which marketing took place. Another argument used by advocates of a compulsory pool is that collective selling enables a better price to be secured for the farmer than the buyer would otherwise pay. On this point the Minister showed very good sense. - He said - 1 do not claim that control in Australia will enable us to control the world’s wheat market or that it will have any- great effect on the price of wheat all over the world. But organization in Australia will greatly assist our wheat-growers to withstand any shock brought about by speculative grain transactions, and above all will enable the Australian control to join hands, if necessary, with similar controls overseas in order to withstand the machinations of speculative interests.
The direction in which he showed good sense was in not claiming that control in Australia will raise the world’s price of wheat.
– It will, if action is taken concertedly with those other agencies that I mentioned.
– The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has said that all that the farmer looks for is a fair average market, and that the average will be higher under the pool because of the elimination of wheat merchants and the consequent avoidance of competition in selling.
– Those are not the only reasons.
– I shall deal later with other points made by the honorable member. In support of that, the Minister rightly said that to some extent there is a combination of buyers; that 60 per cent, of the wheat milled in England is milled by three large firms. Later, in answer to an interjection, he said that the people who blamed the Canadian pool forgot that it handles only 60 per cent, of the wheat produced in that dominion, inferring that its influence on the price could not be very great. If the Canadian pool, handling 60 per cent, of Canada’s wheat, cannot raise the price of wheat, how can three milling firms who do not act in combination and whose aggregate is only 60 per cent, be a greater force? The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) gave the names of these firms. One is Spiller’s, the second, Ranke’s, and the third, the Co-operative Wholesale Society of Great Britain. Co-operative societies, or some of them, in England are helping to finance some of the Australian pools to-day, and in return for that they are quoted by the honorable member for Echuca as taking part in monopolistic enterprises. But there are other persons who talk more wildly than that, and do a good deal of harm. Here is a quotation from a speech made at a pool conference at St. Paul, United States of America, in 1926-
Leaving Argentine aside, these three great English-speaking countries, the United States of America, Canada and Australia, can raise the price of wheat at least 50 per cent, above the level of the price that has been maintained through the old system, without the assistance of any other country in the world.
That is not a responsible statement, but is an example of the wild remarks that sometimes result in pools taking an injudicious course of action that has a serious repercussion in other parts of the world. It is the kind of statement that encourages producers, who can grow crops other than wheat, to believe that the price of wheat is going to be especially favorable, and undoubtedly does much harm in stimulating the further planting of wheat.
To give an example of the way in which the leaders of industries speak sensibly at the start, I now quote what was said by the president of the “ Coffee Defense,” in the course of a public address in Brazil in July, 1929. He was apologizing for the present situation in which the control of coffee had landed the growers. The price of coffee showed a tendency to fall, mainly due to increased production, and at that time Brazil controlled about 70 per cent, of the coffee output of the world with government help. The growers there formed what they called a “ Coffee Defense.” By regulating exports they gradually raised the price of coffee, and fresh planting thereupon occurred in Columbia, Venezuela, Central America, Dutch East Indies and Kenya. To-day. the : price of coffee is at bedrock; there is practically a year’s supply in the warehouses in different parts of the world, and another crop is coming on the market. The president of the “ Coffee Defense,” making some apology for the position, said -
The Coffee Defense never thought of raising prices in an arbitrary way, the main idea being that of securing such prices as would perfectly cover the cost of production.
That shows that reasonable attempts are not always persevered with to the end.
Rubber furnishes another illustration of this tendency to go too far. In 1922, the British Empire produced 271,686 tons out of a total world production of 406,398 tons, or nearly 70 per cent. The Stevenson scheme of control was put into operation in November, 1922, and that raised the price of rubber. New planting occurred in numerous other countries where control could not be exercised, and then the price of rubber fell, until to-day it is probably below the cost of production, and the British Empire produces hardly 50 per cent, of the world’s output.
Collective selling encourages and leads, in some instances, to collective buying. I have before me a quotation from a speech showing the attitude of mind caused in consuming countries by the idea that the people are being fleeced by big combinations of growers, even when the growers are not making much profit out of their industry. These are headlines taken form The People-an English newspaper - of the 9th February last : -
Truth about the Wheat Crisis - Vast Gamble to Hold Prices up at our Expense - How Canadian pool stored its wheat to squeeze money out of our pockets.
That is probably an unfair criticism, but it shows the danger that arises if the consumers are led to believe that they are being unfairly exploited. There appears to be no doubt in this case that the Canadian pool made a miscalculation as to what would be the reaction of consumers in other countries to any effort by means of collective selling to hold up the price of wheat. There seems to be no doubt that the Canadian pool was holding off under the anticipation that the price would rise. In the Melbourne Herald, of the 14th October last, this paragraph appeared : -
Wheat traders throughout the world are keenly interested in the holding policy adopted by the Canadian pool, with the object of getting higher prices. In order to clarify the position, Mr. C. Judd sent a cablegram to the Canadian pool, asking for information regarding its attitude. He has received the following reply: - “ The European demand is still slack, but a decided improvement is expected in a few weeks, due to lower Argentine shipments and diminished supply of European domestic wheat. There is plenty of space in Canada to store all the wheat, hence there is no likelihood of selling pressure developing sufficient to break prices appreciably. The worldproduction will be about 600,000,000 bushels less than last year.”
That was all true, but the Canadian pool calculated without taking into account the reactions of European consumers. On that point let me make a further quotation. I have selected these paragraphs from many, because they bear Mr. Judd’s authority, and cannot, therefore, have been distorted in the cabling. This paragraph is supposed to have been given to the press by Mr. Judd: -
The manager of the Victorian WheatGrowers Corporation (Mr. C. Judd) has received a cablegram from the Canadian pool stating that the managers are quite confident that their decision to hold wheat stocks for higher prices will be justified in the end.
I think that that proves clearly that the Canadian pool was holding off.
– It was holding its stocks against the unfair competition of the Argentine.
– It was holding for a higher price, whether that competition was fair or otherwise, and that was done without considering the reaction that that might have on the consumers. The result was that the stocks banked up; we know what has happened.
Another most important point taken by advocates of a pool is the possibility of using it to raise the price of wheat for Australian consumption in order to build up a fund to average up the general price of wheat to the farmer.
– That would be for the benefit of the farmer.
– I am not quarrelling about any scheme that maygive the farmer a better price, but the present proposal will cost the country more in the long run than financial assistance direct from the Treasury would cost as well as cause the risk of dangerous reactions overseas.
The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) gave figures showing that the cost of wheat had not had much effect upon the index figures relating to the cost of living. Of course, during the period mentioned by him the cost of handling wheat from the farm to the baker, and the cost of bread to the consumer has been going up. To some extent the fall in the price of wheat has been offset recently, but, whether the industry is to be helped by raising the local price or by means of a bounty, the funds required to assist it must be obtained from some source, If they come out of the local prices they have to be taken from the profits of the millers, out of the price paid by the consumers, or out of wages and the various handling expenses. If 6d. a bushel had to be made up, the total would amount to approximately £3,000,000. Nobody can suggest that £3,000,000 of profit is being made on wheat between the time it leaves the farm and when it is eaten as bread. This has either to come out of the pockets of the consumers or out of wages, and if it is tobe taken in that way it must have some effect on the cost of living, which means notonly taking the actual subsidy out of thepockets of theconsumers and the wage earners, out also adding to the difficulties of industry as a whole.
– Does the honorable member really think that an extra 1s. on the price of wheat for home consumption would increase the price of bread ?
– It is usual to call such an increase small and almost negligible, but in the aggregate the increase is very serious. There is also the danger that this proposal may lead to anti-dumping retaliation in other countries. Germany last month passed legislation expressly making available to the Government anti-dumping duties against wheat, notably designed to prevent the dumping of American wheat in that country; but similar retaliation could take place against Australia, and it is of great importance to our growers that their wheat shall have access to all the large consuming countries in the world. Australian wheat has special milling qualities that make it desirable for blending with other wheats, and for that reason there is a special demand for a certain amount of our wheat in nearly every country where bread of good quality is made. We need this small demand from a large number of importing countries. If Australian wheat is excluded from some of those countries it will be very difficult to obtain the same premium for our wheat that is now obtainable from countries to which it still has access.
The advocates of this bill have advanced anotherargument in its favour, seemingly a very attractive one. They say that, with all wheat being handled by one authority, important economies should be effected. This, however, is not supported by such figures as are available. I have here a table showing the amounts of wheat pooled each year, and in many years pools have handled more wheat than has any individual merchant. In some years, the pools have handled more than half the total crop, leaving less thanhalf to be handled by fiveor sixcompeting bodies. Despite the great opportunities the pools have had for making economies by cutting down overhead costs and by making bigger contracts, in every year, except one, the open market has returned a better price to the growers. That, I think, makes itquite clear that the benefits of competition, - benefits which, in the case follow from cutting out the duplication of dried fruits, have been largely retained of services now existing. The table to - are greater than any benefits likely to which I have referred is as follows : -
The bill contains several provisions which I should like to see altered in committee. Some, of them indicate that the influence of the Eastern States, and their experiences in regard to pools, have largely determined the character of the. measure. For instance, clause 12 opens up all sorts of difficulties. There is provision for the guarantee to be paid only on such wheat as is delivered to railway sidings, but in South .Australia a great deal of wheat is delivered straight to jetties on the seafront, and never goes near railway stations at all. I trust that this defect will be remedied when the bill is in committee. It is a minor matter, but it shows how small was the influence of South Australia upon those responsible for the drafting of the bill.
I entirely support the honorable member for Forrest (Mr! Prowse) in his contention that the Federal Government should carry the whole financial responsibility of the pool.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Then I conclude by stating my complete opposition to the compulsory feature of the bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.9 to 8 p.m.
.- This bill is not of particular interest to the electors I have the honour to represent. Wheat-growing has been almost abandoned in my electorate, because other’ industries have taken its place. Yet, at one time wheat was extensively cultivated in and about Canberra; wheat stooks stood* on the site of this Parliament House, and two flour mills were in active business at Queanbeyan. As a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, however, I took a great deal of interest in the wheat problem during the war period, when the situation was much more critical than it is to-day. There was insufficient wheat for the requirements of the people, and during war time its importation was a very hazardous venture. Consequently the Government of which I was a supporter, introduced the Wheat Acquisition Act for the purpose of pooling all the wheat produced in New South Wales, and supplementing it by importations. As often happens in the farming industry, many growers who were not in a good financial position had been obliged to sell a big proportion of their wheat to the agents for 3s. a bushel. The more wealthy farmers, realizing that because of the shortage, the price would increase considerably, held their wheat and demanded from 7s. to 10s. a bushel for it. The Government took the drastic step of acquiring at 5s. per bushel all wheat produced in the State, and cancelling the contracts by which the more necessitous farmers had sold their crops at 3s. per bushel. This legislation provoked a good deal of agitation and opposition, but the Ministry stood to its guns, and “was able to confer a great boon upon the community. At that time I was impressed by the influence exerted on the Government and public bodies by the wheat merchants.
The Commonwealth Government is to be commended for its proposal to establish an Australia-wide compulsory pool. Unemployment has reached serious proportions, and the cultivation of more land and the harvesting of greater crops will do a great deal to absorb the surplus labour. The conversion of pastoral lands to agriculture is always in the interests of employment. The pastoral industry employs only one person to every £2,000 it produces, whereas farming, particularly dairying, employs one man for every £320 of income. It was a Labour Government that first took step’s to make easier the conditions of the wheat-farmers in New South Wales. I had the privilege of travelling extensively- through the wheat areas with Mr. Burrell, the expert who came from America at the invitation of Mr. Neilson, the then Minister for Lands, to formulate a scheme for the erection of silos and the bulk handling of wheat. From him I learned a good deal of the success of bulk handling in America, and particularly how it protected the farmers against exploitation and the fluctuations of the jute market. The silos erected in New South Wales are a great asset to the wheat industry, because they secure the grain against the ravages of mice and other vermin. They are proof of Labour’s regard for the interests of the farmer. After all, who represents the farmers in the Parliaments of Australia? The Labour party. The Opposition does not include one representative of a farming constituency. The only member here who claims to speak on behalf of the farmers is. the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), and he represents more wheat agents than does any other honorable member. These gentlemen have exploited the farmers so successfully that most of them own cosy seaside homes at Manly.
– I represent all the agents; Sussex-street is in my electorate.
– Sussex-street is where they exploit, but the comforts of life they en joy. on the shores of Manly. The
Labour party in the Victorian Parliament represents the farming constituencies; neither in that State nor in New South Wales will the farmers trust the Nationalists. Thus the honorable member for Warringah, whose only connexion with the primary producers is through the parasites who batten on them, fulminates, gesticulates, and postulates in this chamber in an endeavour to express the National party’s championship of the man on the land. He quoted figures compiled by the agents who live in comfortable flats and villas in his constituency, but I assure him that there is no formula by which one can estimate the cost of producing a bushel of wheat. Even the farmer cannot do it. One paddock differs from another. He may get fifteen bags to the acre in one paddock, and in a neighbouring section reap only seven bags. Even the yield from any one paddock is not consistent season after season. Moreover, the quality of the wheat varies. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that the Ministerial supporters know nothing about wheat. I was interested in wheat before the honorable member was born. When I was very young, and inexperienced, I sowed a paddock with wheat, and the man who stripped it for me told me that my returns would not pay the cost of garnering. He was right; if I had been able to get £1 per bushel for the wheat the crop would not have been profitable. Recently, in Wyalong, I saw a very fine home which a resident told me had been built by a farmer. He had reaped 16,000 bags of wheat in one year and received for it £1 a bag ; consequently he was able to build a comfortable home and retire. But his success is no criterion of the lot of the average farmer. A good deal depends upon the fertilization of the ground. I remember Mr. Clements commencing to grow wheat in the Barmedman district. Men who were considered wise in their generation said that wheat could never be profitably grown there, but he proved that the district was particularly adapted to that crop. Many people have abandoned the production of wheat because until recently it was not. so profitable as wool-growing. To-day the price of wool is low, and, encouraged by the guarantee which the Commonwealth is offering, many , men on the land will re-‘ turn to the production of wheat. I would sooner have 200,000,000 or 300,000,000 bushels of wheat stored in our granaries than £30,000,000 worth of gold in the bank vaults ; wheat can be eaten, but to people without food gold is valueless. The silos erected throughout New South Wales have made wheat storage more secure. I recollect visiting Junee after a prolific wheat harvest. Thousands of bags of wheat were stacked at the railway station, but as a result of heavy rains, some of the stacks were in two feet of water, and a big proportion of the wheat was destroyed. On other occasions “Mickey the Mouse” invites his legion friends to a barn dance, and they render half the wheat in the stack unfit for the market. . Because of seasonal variations and unforeseen losses, it is impossible for a farmer to know how much wheat he can produce, or what will be the cost of production per bushel. The silos, however, have done much to prevent losses through the depredations of vermin.
I was pleased to hear two members of the Country party, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), commend this bill. They showed that they are imbued with a patriotic spirit, and they dealt with the subject in a capable and frank manner, even to the extent of enlightening the minds of some members of the Nationalist party, and disposing of the sophistries of the honorable member for Warringah. We have been warned of the danger of producing too much wheat. The honorable member for Warringah estimated that the Commonwealth may have to provide £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 to make good the loss on the guarantee. And yet he contends that the compulsory wheat pool and guarantee will not be advantageous to the farmers. He cannot have it both ways. If £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 is raised for the benefit of the farmers, they will not be in the unfortunate position of the other sections of the community who have to provide that money.
I realize the extent to which science has been responsible for the advancement of the wheat industry, particularly by the discovery of Federation and other brands of wheat. It has, in effect, caused two blades of wheat to grow where one grew before. By the use of fertilizers land which was previously thought to be barren has been brought to profitable production. Recently the Lake George lead-zinc mine was opened up by the National Mining Corporation Limited and Camp Bird Limited under a sub-lease from the Chemical and Metal Bank. There has been discovered at Captain’s Flat rich deposits of fertilizers and sulphur that will shortly be available for farmers. The company has already expended £250,000 on this proposition, which, when properly working, will enable farmers by the use of fertilizers to produce more wheat. Some honorable members opposite have tried to frighten us !by referring to the probable prolific production of wheat in Russia, Germany and other countries, but it must not be forgotten that a great deal of the wheat land in those countries has been highly fertilized by the hundreds of thousands of bodies of men who were killed during the war. Fortunately for us, that, sort of fertilizer is not likely to have a permanent effect. My experience is that the best fertilizer is a dog’s body. By the use of that fertilizer, the wheat industry would become prolific. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) might have been reared on the milk which came from a cow which grazed on the grass that grew on the soil fertilized by the body of the dog that Jack killed, he is always so dogmatic in his arguments yet he knows nothing about fertilizers. A famous doctor estimates the worth pf a ten-stone man in these terms : -
The average man’s body is composed of ingredients which could be bought for 5si! A man who weighs ten stone should have enough water in his frame to fill a gallon barrel, enough fat for seven bars of soap; carbon to make 9,000 lead pencils; phosphorus to make 2,200 match heads; magnesium enough for a dose of .salts; iron to make a medium sized nail; lime sufficient to wash a hencoop, arid sulphur guaranteed to rid one dog of fleas!
The doctor finished his statement by adding that an Einstein or a village idiot would consist of the same component parts. Thus 3s. would be the fertilizing value of the human body. The honorable member for Warringah, if he has studied fertilizers at all, must know that by making two blades of wheat to grow where one grew before a- great benefit has been conferred upon the farming com.munity. Farming in the past has been the means of producing a great deal of the wealth of this country. Poor farmers have at least one advantage; in that they are always assured of having flour in their homes. Wheat-growing is a stable industry, and it is well worthy of the Government’s consideration. At one time a farmer was looked upon as being hostile to labour, and as belonging to a class easier to confuse and delude than any other section of the community, but for quite a number of years many farming areas in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia have been represented by Labour in both State and Federal Parliaments. Therefore, we may take it that the farmer to-day “knows his onions,” that his credulity cannot be imposed upon as was thought in olden days it could be. They are not likely to be deluded by honorable members opposite who are to-day trying to make us believe that this legislation is not in the farmers’ interests.
I was .greatly impressed by the Way in which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) dealt with the bill on non-party lines. They gave valuable information to this House, and they heartily approved of the proposals of the Government. At the same time, we must remember that the bill, if passed, will adversely affect the interests of the wealthy wheat agents, who are to-day using the members of the Nationalist party, who know nothing about farming, in an effort to mislead honorable members on this side and the farming community in general. I think that the farmers have long realized that their guides, philosophers, and friends are among the supporters of the Government. The farmers of Western Australia .do not seem to have progressed with the times. They do not realize that their representatives on the other side of the House are deliberately misleading them and standing in their light. They should not hesitate to join the pool and, in com mon with° the farmers of the other States, reap the benefits that will accrue from it. The poor farmer has had to struggle for existence more than those of any other section of the community. As soon as he sows his wheat he has to borrow a few pounds to tide him over until his grain is harvested and sold. The wealthy farmers are opposed to the pool because, under present conditions, they are able to hold their wheat until the end of the season, when probably high prices are ruling. By establishing a compulsory pool we shall place every farmer on one plane. We must produce more wheat. Much of the land in this country that is to-day growing wool at ls. a lb. could be scientifically and profitably farmed. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has said that the farmer is being exploited because of the high cost of machinery and other requirements of the farm, but I have yet to learn that much of our farming machinery is imported. We can make almost any farming implement, quite as good as the imported article and at a lower price. For a number of years I was agent for the MasseyHarris and other companies who sell farming implements, and I know the way in which the farmer was exploited until we started to make farming implements in Australia. As soon as the Commonwealth Government gave the manufacturers some security in the local market, they reduced their prices by 5 per cent. I am particularly impressed with the. proposals of the Government. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) twitted the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) for what he described as an incoherent speech and about his lack of knowledge of farming. Let me say that the honorable member for Calare knows more” about the rudiments of the wheat business than does any other member of this House and, although he may not have been so vociferous as the honorable member for Warringah usually is, his speech was full of vitamines and not rust and dust as was the speech of the honorable member for Warringah. It might benefit that honorable member to study the speech of the honorable member for Calare, who knows what he is talking about. . He spoke for the farmer and not for those who are able to enjoy mixed bathing on the Manly Beach, simply because they have exploited the farmer, and now have a competency for life. The speech of the honorable member for Calare was deserving of a better designation that that given to it by the honorable member for Warringah. Wheat-farming has not been the chief industry in my electorate, but many of my farmer constituents appear to have accepted the advice of the Prime Minister to “grow more wheat”. Farmers generally, I believe, can be relied upon to adopt the advice of any man who speaks on behalf of the Labour party, and know what value to place upon advice tendered to them by members of the Opposition. I have advised them to grow more wheat, and I believe that they will do so. I should not be surprised if, in the future, land in the Federal Territory, which at one time was farmed, is again utilized for the growing of wheat. It is a pretty sight to see the wind waving the golden grain. If we could place from 10,000 to 15,000 of our unemployed upon experimental farms established on land that is going to waste at the present time, it would not matter if there were over-production, so long as they grew food that the nation consumes. Almost every industry flourishes in my electorate, and I believe that the acreage under wheat will be considerably increased as a result of the Government’s guarantee. If the price realized should amount to 7s. or8s. a bushel, the Government will not be called upon to meet the guarantee; but if it be less than 4s. a bushel, I am sure that the people will be prepared to make up the difference. Therefore, I shall not vote with the Opposition on this bill.
– I shall preface my remarks on this measure with the statement that I propose to disregard entirely the propaganda with which honorable members have been inundated during the last week or ten days.
At the outset, I wish to congratulate the Government upon having decided to pay greater attention to this industry, which, with the exception of wool, is the most important of our primary industries.
I do not believe that any one will controvert the contention that those who are engaged in wheat production in Australia should receive more remuneration for their labour and the risks that they run. I believe in pooling, and by force of circumstances I am a compulsory pooler. Those who to-day suggest voluntary pooling as an alternative to compulsory pooling do so, not because they believe in voluntary pooling, but because they wish to use the system as an implement to smash all pooling, or alternatively to have a system under which the other fellow will make a market for them.
Queensland has had a compulsory pool for several years, and I think that I am right in saying that it is likely to continue. It is a plain statement of fact to say that the wheat-growers of Queensland are becoming increasingly favorable to the pooling system on a (compulsory basis. There must be substantial reasons for their adoption, and for the maintenance of that attitude in the face of the criticism that has been directed at them from various sources. I propose to submit a very strong reason why Queensland is in favour of compulsory pooling, and why I believe that the majority of the wheatgrowers are supporters of these proposals of the Government. Prior to the inauguration of the pooling system in Queensland the price paid by the millers was based on export parity minus the cost of railage to Sydney; but since the pool has been operating they have been charged Sydney prices plus the freight from Sydney to Brisbane. That is a most important point. It represents an advantage to Queensland wheat-growers of1s. 6d. a bushel, less the cost of the pool. That is an outstanding example of what the pooling system has done for Queensland, and furnishes a reason for the insistence of the growers on compulsory pools, and their support of these proposals that we are considering to-night.
The greatest unsolved problem that confronts civilization to-day is how to obtain a fair margin of profit for those who are engaged in primary production. Collective marketing was an almost unknown quantity prior to the war. Then the pooling system came into operation as a measure of national necessity. The results obtained from that altered system of marketing gave the primary producer a taste of what might be accomplished by its application to the conditions that obtain in times of peace. The primary producers discovered possibilities that were subsequently exploited, and that will continue to be exploited. The contention so sedulously advanced by many honorable members, that this or that pool has been a failure, does hot impress me in the slightest degree. In the circumstances it was inevitable that, in the initial stages, those pools should fail in certain directions. But I decline to accept that as proof that pooling is inherently bad and should’ be abandoned. If it teaches any lesson, it is that the difficulties that surround the system should be removed, and that it should be continued until something approaching perfection is reached. In a normal season 75 per cent, of Australia’s wheat crop is exported, and we are dependent to a large extent on- export parity for our returns. That, however, does not imply that so far as home consumption is concerned the growers should receive unremunerative prices. I admit that pools can never control world prices; but they can secure for the grower greater advantages than they could ever hope to obtain by a continuation of the old system. The idea of an Australia-wide wheat pool is not a new one. A compulsory pool operated in the Commonwealth from 1915 to 1920, during which period’ it handled and disposed of record crops. Its success was second only to that achieved by Bawra in its disposal of the clips of wool that were placed under its control. The first Australian wheat pool sold £187,000,000 worth of Australian wheat during the five years of its existence, overseas shipments accounting for £127,000,000; and wheat prices improved from 4s. lOd. a bushel in 1915-16 to 7s. lOd. a bushel in 1920-21.
A number of honorable members have expressed the view that the area under wheat has been reduced throughout Australia, and that the decline has been due to the pooling system. I submit, however, that considerations entirely apart from pooling may have contributed very largely to that condition of affairs. In any case, the fact that the pooling system was responsible for an improvement in prices is a strong argument in its favour. To support my argument I make a quotation from an admirable pamphlet prepared by Mr. F. E. Beasley, Professor of Law in the University of “Western Australia, entitled Open Market Versus Pooling in Australia. In the course of his observations, he says -
It is a very moot point whether the farmer obtains a better return from the pools or from the open market. When the compulsory system was in force (luring the war, wheat prices in Australia fell short of - the values realized in other producing countries; prices for local consumption were fixed below London parity, and as regards the exportable surplus the pooling system was forced upon governments by the acute shortage of freight space. The return to the farmer might well have been still lower had he been left to the mercies of the open market, which, unaided, could not finance the large harvests of the war era, and was, in fact, forced at an early date to confess its inability to extend its commitments, or, in other words, to buy any more wheat than it could ship abroad. It was then a question, not of selling in the best market, but of being able to ship the wheat to any market at all, and the only method which worked the minimum of hardship was government control. Under normal conditions the position is entirely different; very rarely is it necessary to wait for freight space for more than a few weeks at the most at the height of the exporting season, and then the question for the grower to consider- is the most profitable method to him of disposing of his crop.
Figures published in 1927 by the Australian Wheat Merchants Association show the following result for two seasons in New South Wales : -
In New South Wales these figures are widely quoted by opponents of the pool, which has not disputed their accuracy; in Western Australia, on the other hand, the wheat merchants do not deny the correctness of the following comparative table of wheat prices in that State: -
The fact that Westralian Farmers Limited shows smaller returns as wheat merchants than as pool managers is explained partly by the fact that the company is obliged by its agreement with the pool trustees to credit the pool with the natural increase of the wheat acquired by its warehouse scheme, which is outside the pool. This natural increase was 82,518 bushels in 1924-25, and 26,348 bushels in 1925-20.
That goes a good way towards proving my contention. The following is a further quotation from the open-minded authority to which I have just directed honorable members’ attention: -
To prophesy the future of co-operative marketing would, indeed, be rash, since the only pool, in the true sense of the word, now operating is the wheat pool in its various manifestations. The export control boards, which handle other types of primary produce, ure in some ways analogous, but their basic principle is quite different. If co-operative marketing should at any time degenerate into a mere selling “ ring “ it is doomed to disappear, unless Australia can develop into a much more important world supplier than she is now or seems likely to become for many years. If, on the other hand, co-operative marketing is able to eliminate,- or, at any rate, lower some of the intermediate costs between producer and consumer, and at the same time devote part of its energies towards the improvement of standards and the lowering of costs of production in the commodity in which it deals, it will continue to grow and flourish. But it will do so, not because of any intrinsic merit in pooling itself, but because it will thereby have made a valuable and constructive contribution to the problem of reducing thu gulf between producer and consumer costs.
Those mostly concerned at present in marketing methods, the producers themselves, may he taken to agree with the report submitted by the executive committee of a conference of producers and consumers which was held at Bathurst in September, 1926, under the presidency of the then Minister for Lands in the Government of New South Wales. That report states : - “ The various committees indicate generally by their reports that they favour the principle of collective marketing and distribution. In order to make this principle effective, it is recognized that producers must have the opportunity of indicating by a ballot that the handling of their particular products should be controlled by a board, on which producers should have direct majority representation, with reasonable representation to consumers. A general desire has also been expressed for closer co-operation between producers’ and consumers’ organizations for the purpose of improving marketing facilities and the exploiting of markets abroad.”
It is the hope of all that these councils of perfection may bear good fruit for producers and consumers alike. ;’
– Does the author account for the difference between the results brought about in New South Wales and Western Australia?
– No. .
– The explanation is that the proportion of wheat bought in the open market is very small, and the pool has to take the whole of the balance at a lower price.
– The point I wish to pursue is that while it is held to be a moot question whether the farmer obtains a better return under the pooling system than under the open market system, although low prices of the post-war period have ruled under the pooling system that have been in operation, prices might easily have been lower in the absence of those pools. That is a contention that I have never heard controverted by those who have criticized the pooling system. The figures showing a margin in New South Wales in favour of the open market and a margin in favour of pooling in Western Australia may be interpreted in various ways, and I leave their interpretation to honorable members. What I wish to suggest is that the more enlightened supporters of the pooling system do not now attach so much importance to the comparative price differences as to the defects of the open market as a means of disposing of wheat. The present method has been tested over a long series of years, and its defects are known. Under the altered conditions of social life to-day the system of marketing is undergoing changes which we must assist, and, so far as possible, direct, not so much in the interest of the merchants and middlemen as in the interests of the growers themselves.
– Does the honorable member think that the Federal Government should be solely responsible for the guarantee ?
– I regret that I did not hear the honorable member’s speech on this bill. Taking everything into consideration, I think that the Government has submitted a measure that is in all ways as equitable as any reasonable person could expect it to be. These questions . of wheat market.ing. and wheat prices have become so important that parliaments throughout the world will have to direct their attention to suppressing the scandals that have become associated with the sale of wheat in the great markets of the world. There is nothing so degrading to our civilization as the orgies of gambling that take place from time to time in regard to this first commodity in the world’s requirements, and particularly in the United States of America. That is one reason which justifies, if it does not make necessary, the bringing forward of the present proposal to form an Australian-wide wheat pool. I know that my contention will be met by statements to the effect that it does not matter a twopenny dump what Australia does in the way of organized marketing; that whatever she does or leaves undone can have no appreciable effect on the wheat markets of the world. That may be perfectly true, but I contend that it is no reason why Australia should refrain from doing what she conceives to be right in the interests of the wheat producers of the Commonwealth. I know that there are difficulties in the way ; that the problems are not easy to solve, and that adequate safeguards must be provided in any measure both for the growers and consumers. I suggest that the Government, in giving effect to its policy for the equalization of export values, and the control of interstate trade, should not operate that provision to the detriment of Queensland which, while not a great wheat producing State, is in the developmental stages of wheat production. I speak here primarily as a member of the Australian Parliament ; but as a representative of Queensland it is my duty to state Queensland’s point of view. Queensland’s chief hope under the pool is to grist more wheat, and to secure freedom from the disabilities suffered through having flour dumped from over the border. She wishes to eliminate the competition of other States, from which her growers have all along suffered, and are still suffering.
I cannot subscribe to the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, I have given it a great deal of thought, and have consulted some of the best authorities I have been able to reach. I feel certain that if this amendment is carried it will open the’ way to such an unlimited amount of fraud that it will entirely defeat the purposes for which the bill is designed. Apart from the possibilities of fraud - which will surely be exploited by the unscrupulous - the amendment is impracticable, and I cannot support it. I have listened with interest to the criticism directed against the bill, principally, I must confess, from this side of the House. Honorable members seem to have based their criticism almost entirely on the failure of the wheat pool in. New South “Wales. There are reasons why the failure of the New South “Wales pool, or of any other pool, should not be accepted as a conclusive bar to pooling in general, just as there are reasons why the New South “Wales ballot box manipulation should not be accepted as condemnatory of the electoral morality of the State of New South “Wales generally. It is evidence, not of an inherent defect in the pooling system, but merely of a defect in the application of that system to a particular case. There have been successful pools in the past, just as there have been failures. Successful pools are operating in Queensland to-day on a compulsory basis, and in Western Australia on a voluntary basis, and those pools will continue to operate in the future, not because of mistakes in the past, but in spite of them, and with the improved methods that those mistakes have made possible.
It has been said that, if this bill is passed, the pooling of Australian wheat will be so hampered and restricted and overshadowed by government interference that it will be virtually governmentcontrolled. There is no evidence to support that. The Government has indicated clearly that the pool will be farmer-controlled, and not governmentcontrolled. I also take exception to the assertion that the management - of the. pool will be so inefficient that it must of necessity break down. What, it is asked by some honorable members, can an ordinary farmer, or a body of ordinary farmers, do in the way of managing a wheat pool? To that criticism I reply that it will not be a body of incompetent farmers who will manage the pool. The best brains of the community will be sought hy. the pool, and paid for by the pool. Experience of the
Western Australian and Queensland pools is sufficient proof that adequate managerial ability can be obtained to undertake this work. In Victoria, also, the pool has been successfully managed. Unless this Parliament, and parliaments generally, are prepared to lend a listening ear to proposals for helping the farmers, instead of overwhelming such proposals with destructive criticism, they will create a feeling that the primary producers will not be allowed to organize in their own interests, and must submit to a continuation of existing systems, however repugnant they may be. That is a feeling which this Parliament cannot afford to create against itself. The farmers must not become imbued with the idea that Parliament is conspiring to defeat them in their efforts to secure control of their own industry.
Another objection advanced by the opponents of this measure is that the operation of the pool will set up an unreal position in regard to the marketing of our wheat. To that criticism I reply that the whole economic position in Australia to-day is unreal. I might go even further, and say that the whole economic position throughout the world to-day is more or less unreal. Conditions, whether in the arena of marketing, or commerce, or finance, or journalism, or anything else are changing, and we must use our intelligence to make the most of those changing conditions. The wheat industry should not be excluded from the benefits that are available to other industries. Throughout Australia, more or less unreal conditions exist in industry ; the sugar, cotton, wine and dried fruits industries are more or - less artificially maintained. Only a few days ago we were considering a cotton bounty bill ; the wine bounty legislation was passed weeks ago. Legislation for the benefit of the sugar industry has been in operation for many years. I heard very little criticism directed against those proposals by the honorable members who are now opposing the proposed aid to the wheat-farmer. The producer of wheat is in much the same position as was occupied by the wool-grower a few years ago. Is the wheat-farmer alone to be denied the help that this Parliament is capable of giving? I am not prepared to assent to such an unreasonable contention. Australia would be wise to produce as much wool and wheat as it can, for any analysis of the economic position convinces me that there is no better means of correcting the adverse trade balance than by producing as extensively as possible those commodities we can export profitably.
– What about gold?
– If we can produce gold let us do so; nothing would do more to alleviate the industrial and economic situation in Australia than the discovery of a great gold-field. What Australia has most to fear is not over-production, but production on a wrong basis. While we produce wool and wheat uneconomically our natural problems will remain unsolved. It is the duty of parliaments to endeavour to establish conditions that will enable us to produce our staple commodities on a remunerative basis. Henry Ford, in the book relating the story of his life and work, predicted that the next twenty years would witness a greater development in primary production, and the control of it, than occurred in the last twenty years in the manufacturing industries. I believe his prediction will be verified. At no time has there been a greater inclination to move in that direction than there is to-day. In every continent where the primary producer is a first-class factor in national affairs, there is evidence of a new orientation of ideas, a new-born desire to smooth the angles from existing conditions. In short, the producer is seeking to be considered more definitely in the control of his own affairs, and to be protected from the menace of trusts, combines and monopolies formed to prevent his securing the best return for his labour, and to control his markets and place restrictions upon his legitimate profits. The wonder is that this movement for improved marketing conditions has been so long delayed. For good or ill - and I submit that it is for good - the producers are moving out of their old conservatism towards assisting themselves. Those in authority, including elected persons generally, are commencing to realize that behind this movement is that earnestness and definite urge which will carry it to ultimate achievement. For that reason I believe that, in supporting the second reading of this bill, I am assisting to establish conditions that will be for the ultimate good of the primary producers. But, whilst I endorse the principle of the bill on the motion for the second reading, I trust that at the committee stage nothing will be left undone, either by the Government or the Opposition, that will tend to improve the bill.
.- The proposal of the Government to establish a compulsory wheat pool is causing considerable discussion throughout Australia particularly in the wheat-growing States, and during the last few days this House has been flooded with literature issued by the opponents of the bill. This has included a pamphlet issued in Adelaide about which all I have to say is that its statements are not in accordance with facts. I commend the Government for having ‘at lastintroduced legislation for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool to meet the wishes of the vast majority of growers throughout Australia. A compulsory pool has been demanded several times in recent years. In 1924 a deputation from the Victorian wheat-growers waited on the then Premier (Mr. Allan), and asked him to introduce a bill for the establishment of a compulsory State pool. He replied : “ That is not my business ; it is the concern of the Commonwealth Parliament.” When the Federal Government was approached and asked to propose legislation for a Commonwealth pool, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), said: “ That is not my job ; it is the duty of the States.” This evasion and shirking of responsibility continued until the present Government drafted this bill to meet the wishes of the wheat-growers. Every fair-minded man must admit that it has a democratic basis. It provides that the wheat-growers must be first consulted by referendum as to whether a compulsory wheat pool shall be formed. If they vote in the affirmative, a pool will be established; if they vote in the negative, that will be the end of the proposal. But I am optimistic enough to believe that the majority of the growers will vote for the pool. The conditions of seven years ago do not suffice to-day. Every industry has been in process of evolution, and the farmers of to-day realize that they must combine to organize if they are to get the best results from their labours. The
Government proposes to give them an opportunity to establish a sound organization! Each State approving of the scheme will establish a board elected by the wheat-growers, and from these State boards, delegates to the federal board will be elected. We have been warned that the pool may fail through mismanagement. The inference is that those who will be elected to the boards will not have the experience or ability necessary to carry such a big scheme to success. I think otherwise. Amongst the farmers of Australia are some of the brightest intellects in the land. If one needs reassurance on this point, he has only to turn to the great marketing organization in Queensland. That scheme was drawn up by the Premier of the day, now the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), in the face of great hostility, but he was able to convince the producers of the benefits that would accrue to them by such an organization. During the fifteen years for which the scheme has been in operation it has clone an immense amount of good for the producers, and not one contributor to it would willingly return to the old conditions. As the scheme was successful in Queensland there is no reason why it should not be equally successful on a federal basis. I read a few days ago a paragraph in the Melbourne Herald giving the opinion of Mr. Henry Wood, of Winnipeg. It is dated 10th April, and reads -
World-wide co-operation among farmers in wheat production is a certainty in the future. Undoubtedly the time will come when farmers the world over will sell their wheat intelligently and regulate production just as intelligently. There may not be a world pool, necessarily, but Canada, the United States of America, Australia, and the Argentine will some day work in unison selling with the intelligence requisite in profitable business.
That is the opinion of a gentleman who has had years of experience of the wheat pools in Canada and the United States of America. He believes that the time has arrived when the wheat-growers of the world must co-operate to bring about a proper system of wheat marketing. Organization counts for everything in industry to-day, yet the farmers in Australia are the least organized section of the community. There are stupendous possibilities ahead of our wheat-growers if they will only seize the opportunity to organize. I predict that the day will come when they will so organize as to he independent of. Government assistance. They will sell and export the whole cif their production, even to the extent of chaTtering their own vessels. The farmers of this country have never received any Government assistance. “We have asked them to grow more wheat, and they are responding magnificently to our request. Sir Prank Clarke, who has charge of the campaign in Victoria, returned tq headquarters a few days ago, and reported to the Government that because of his efforts among the Victorian farmers fully 1,000,000 acres of additional land had been put under crop this year. That, alone will be of tremendous benefit to the people of this country. We have an adverse . trade balance of £40,000,000, and the Government is doing everything in its power to rectify it. It has appealed to the farmers. We cannot but admire the manner in which they have responded. As we are asking them to help us to rectify our trade balance by growing more wheat, it is only right that we should guarantee them 4s. a bushel at railway sidings plus. 8d. a bushel for handling and freight. Honorable members opposite who represent the wheat merchants and other opponents of the pool, are trying to frighten the farmers by saying that this proposed compulsory pool is a step in the direction of socialism. But let me inform them that the farmers are not so easily stampeded. They realize that the scheme is a good and sound one, and that they are entitled to receive some consideration from the Federal Government, particularly in view of the fact that previously they have received less consideration than has any other industry in Australia. In 1914, when war broke out, the wheat agents were offering 2s. 6d. a bushel for forward delivery. They said to the farmers, “ We cannot offer you any more, because the war is on and we may not be able to get any ships, but because you have been our clients for so long we are prepared to take a risk and give you 2s. 6d. a bushel.” Many of the farmers sold their wheat at that price, but thanks to a Labour Government, a compulsory wheat pool was established and the wheat sold at 2s. 6d. a bushel was taken over and the farmers concerned reaped the benefit of the full market price. I admit that there- were losses in connexion with that compulsory pool, but it must be remembered that at that time the Empire was at war, and there wag little interest in the wheat industry. Silos had not been erected, and consequently the wheat was stacked in hundreds and thousands of bags at railway sidings. In the course of time that wheat was ravaged by plagues of mice and weevils. Many thousands of bushels of wheat were destroyed, and heavy losses were sustained. That will be obviated in the future by the careful handling of the wheat and the establishment of silos in every State. There is not one silo in any State with the exception of New South Wales. Once this wheat pool is established the management should engage not only in the selling and export of wheat, but also in the erection of silos. It should endeavour to secure cheaper freights and a reduction of the price of bags, twine, oil and every other article required by the farmer. I cannot understand why any wheat-grower should oppose this scheme. It seems inconceivable that a man struggling to grow wheat on the land should refuse an offer of 4s. a bushel cash at the railway siding, plus 8d. for handling charges and freight. Yet, there are many hundreds of farmers who will vote against this proposal, and incidentally contrary to their own interests. It will be said that the price of wheat may fall to 3s. 9d. or 3s. 6d. a bushel, but if that happens it will be the concern of the Commonwealth Government and not of the wheat-growers. The farmers then will be fortunate in receiving 4s. a bushel cash at the railway siding. That guarantee stands, and if the pool is successful during the next two years it will become Australia-wide, and as Mr. Henry Wood predicted, when speaking at Winnipeg, it will become part and parcel of an arrangement among Canada, the United States of America, Australia, and the Argentine. The Government’s proposal fits in with the proposal of the British Labour party to launch an Empire market ing scheme for the absorption of the surplus products of Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. If we can enter into an agreement with Great Britain tb take our surplus products such as wheat, fruit, hams, cheeses, and sp on, production in Australia will receive a great impetus, and our vision of an organization operating throughout the Empire will become a reality. I appeal to honorable members opposite to withdraw their opposition to the bill. The conditions that existed a quarter of a century ago will not suit the people to-day. New methods are being evolved with each succeeding year. In another ten years the scheme that we are now launching will be perfect.
It has been said that the Government should go further, and market the wool and other primary products of this country. There is no occasion to do that at this stage. The wool-growers of Australia are well organized, and financially strong; they do not require the assistance of the Government in the handling of their clip, because they have had many years’ experience in the business of raising and handling it from the sheep’s back to the consumer. But in the case of the wheat farmers there are entirely different considerations. Every honorable member knows that during the last three or four years no class of producers has passed through worse times than have the wheat-growers, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. In the northern part of Victoria some growers have not raised a bag of wheat for three years. During the war, and for some years afterwards, land was purchased at very high prices. Our wool realized as much as 3s. 6d. and 4s. a lb., and our wheat from 7s. to 8s. a bushel. Those were false prices, as every one knows; yet because of them, land values increased by 100 per cent, and more. When the slump occurred in the prices of wool and wheat, the men who bought at that high value paid the penalty; and unfortunately it will be impossible for many of them to recover from their financial difficulties. So I say again that, in view of the hardships that these men have undergone and their present financial position, this Government has had laid upon it the obligation to come to their rescue. Having asked the farmers to grow more wheat, we must guarantee a price for every bushel that they produce.
I ask honorable members opposite, to give this matter their serous and honest consideration; to realize that this .is not a wild cat scheme, but one that has been well thought out by experienced men. Compulsory pooling has been tried in Queensland for the last 15 years and has proved successful, although it is capable of improvement. This scheme will be controlled entirely by wheat-growers, not by the Government. Such a scheme must be in the interests of the wheat-growers, and cannot fail to prove successful. When a vote is taken, I hope that there will be an overwhelming majority of honorable members in favour of the bill. [Quorum formed.]
.- I support this bill because it will bring about 100 per cent, co-operation among the wheat farmers of Australia in the marketing of their produce, and more especially because, for the first time in our history, it will make it possible for the wheat-growers to share in the protective policy of this country. Up to the present time the great industries which have a surplus for export have in a majority of cases been obliged to accept world’s parity for their produce. They can avail themselves of the duties that have been imposed to protect their products only by means of an organization which includes the whole of their constituents, and enables them to act as the dairymen are acting to-day. Although there is a duty that amounts to about lid. a bushel, the price of wheat in certain States is that which rules in London less the cost of transport, while in other States it is very little higher. Four years ago I advised the primary producers that, if they wished to place themselves on a level with the wage-earners, who were protected by Arbitration Court awards, and with the manufacturers, who were protected by means of the tariff, they would have to get into the vicious circle, and see that the prices of their products were raised in a similar manner ; that only by such action was there any chance of bringing to an end the indiscriminate protection of every kind of industry in Australia. In that way we might call a halt to the practice, and finally have a scientific re-adjustment of our tariff; protecting and encouraging basic and .essential industries, and thus making it possible for Australia to export not only primary products, but also many secondary products, with the result that what has been described . as the export burden might be borne alike by the primary and the secondary producer. The farmer needs to practise co-operation to the fullest extent, not merely to obtain an Australian price for the wheat consumed within Australia, but to secure the best possible price for that which is sold overseas. There must be created a selling organization which, by means of collective bargaining rather than by the haphazard methods that have been adopted in the past, will obtain for him the full value of his product. When one considers what has taken place in the great wheat-exporting countries, one realizes how necessary it is to have a national selling organization operating on behalf of the wheat-growers of Australia. There are five great wheat-exporting countries. In Canada, which has a surplus of over 300,000,000 bushels annually, more than 50 per cent, of the crop is controlled by the Canadian Wheat Pool. The United States of America, which exports a comparatively small percentage of its total production, although actually a very large quantity, has adopted methods similar to those that are employed in Canada for the organization of its marketing arrangements. In the Federal Farm Board, which has been brought into existence during the last year or two, it has a powerful national’ selling organization. In Russia, which is another great wheat-exporting country, the Soviet Government takes complete possession of the farmers’ wheat for export, and has unified the selling arrangements in connexion therewith. In the Argentine, however, the whole of the wheat-selling arrangements are in the hands of two big firms, one a Belgian and the other a French firm, which control practically the whole of the marketing. There remains the fifth great wheatexporting country, Australia, which has not so far taken steps to organize properly and thoroughly its wheat-selling arrangements.
But organization has been resorted to, not only in the great wheat-selling, but also in the great wheat-buying countries. Let us consider the position in Great Britain. As the honorable member for
Echuca (Mr. Hill) has pointed out, practically 70 per cent, of the wheat that is consumed in Great Britain is milled by three important companies. Joseph Ranke handles 20 per cent., Spillers Limited 20 per cent., and the Cooperative Wholesale Society 22£ per cent. It is evident to any person who cares to examine what has been taking place in Great Britain within recent years that the millers of that country have complete control of the purchase of the wheat which it imports. I have in my hand a copy of the Manitoba Free Press, dated the 8th February, 1930, which, in a leading article, has an interesting comment on the position in Great Britain, and on the question that has been raised by the propaganda against the Canadian wheat pool. This journal, which is one of the most influential on the American continent, says -
The milling combines are now grinding the victims’ corn (that is, wheat). British growers are facing starvation prices; but have the people benefited? The following comparison speaks for itself: -
From 15th July, 1929, to 15th August, 1929, the average price of good red milling wheat at Liverpool was 10s. 3Jd. per cental, whereas from 15th October to 15th November, 1929, it dropped to an average of Ss. Hid., a decline of about 13 per cent. During this decline bread, in London, was marked down only id. per 4-lb. loaf, a reduction of under 3 per cent.
The authority for that statement is Broomhall, a standard work on wheat prices. It went on to say -
To-day (November, 1929), unusually favorable weather, a weak tactical position, aggravated by stringent money markets and stock exchange panics,, brought about this apparent glut and low prices. Thus, there was (and still is) a glut of supplies, and starvation prices for wheat in the British markets; yet the milling trust of Great Britain and all their satellites, agents, claquers and scribblers cry out with anguish in their voices that the heartless, grasping, avaricious farmers of Western Canada, through their selling agents, are grinding the faces of the British poor, by “ holding up “ the price of wheat. They are enraged because to this glut was not added the Canadian crop of high-grade wheat. In that event the “ starvation “ crisis at which they have been purchasing supplies would have dropped to the lowest level in 40 years; and as they would have held their prices of flour to the highest levels made possible by their monopoly, they would have made a record killing. Deprived of this by the prudential policies followed by the handlers Of ‘Canadian grain there is no limit to their wrath and their desire for revenge.
This is the reason for the boycott. This is the explanation of the cowardly device of inducing British bakers to announce by placard that they are not using Canadian wheat.
There can be no question about the position in Great Britain, because one of the principal buyers, Mr. Hurst, has set it out clearly. In France there are two gigantic milling units which arrange to sell a certain amount of wheat abroad, and to bring a similar weight of grain to France in order to enable them to obtain the best mixture. What is true of those countries is true of most of the other great wheat-buying countries. Unless we are to be at a disadvantage compared with other selling countries, we also must organize our selling on a national basis. By treating our wheat as a national asset we shall confer material advantages on every wheat-grower in Australia, and obtain better prices for the wheatwe sell overseas. In that way we shall help to correct the difficult exchange position that has arisen.
I stress these points because I feel that the proper organization of the wheat-growers is so important that if the measure before us is not sufficiently attractive to the growers to induce them to come into this 100 per cent. cooperative organization, the Government should take steps to meet them. The Government has said that it is so desirous of increasing our wheat production that it is willing to take a chance of making a loss as the result of offering a guaranteed price for wheat. In that case it should be prepared to amend its proposals, if necessary, to make them acceptable. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14th May (vide page 1741), on motion by Mr. Blakeley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The only object of this bill is to make it possible to prescribe a fee for the grant of letters of naturalization. That is not only a perfectly proper thing to do, but it should also be done in such a way that at least the expense of making these grants will be provided by the beneficiaries. In my opinion, it would not be unreasonable to charge even a little more than the actual costs incurred in making the grants. As the Minister pointed out, grants of letters of naturalization are sought because they will benefit the recipients. We ought not to hold citizenship in a British community as something cheap and easily obtainable. I, therefore, have no objection to offer to the bill. Indeed, I go further, for I should be prepared to support a larger fee than £3, which the Minister suggested would be fixed by regulation. Other countries charge much larger sums for such grants; in some cases the fee is as much as £10. Generally these grants are sought with the object of bringing individuals within the beneficial provisions of Australian legislation. Within a few weeks the applicants get more back than the amount of the fee which has been suggested. Accordingly, I desire to intimate that I should not object to a regulation prescribing a fee greater than £3 for this privilege. I support the Minister in commending the bill to the favorable consideration of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
.- For some time the women of Australia have been asking that a woman should not lose her nationality by reason of her marriage with an alien. Is it the intention of the Government to introduce legislation in that direction?
.- I move -
That the following new clause be added: - 2a. Section 18 of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: -
Provided that a woman who is a British subject shall not lose or be deemed to lose her nationality by the mere act of marriage with an alien, but it shall be open to her to make a declaration of alienage.
This proposal is in the terms of a resolution passed in this House in 1926, on a motion by the then member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). The proposed new clause, as drafted, and the resolution, as carried by the House, are identical with, a resolution of the British House of Commons in 1925. In the following year the principle was discussed at considerable length in this House, and I need not recapitulate what was said on that occasion, since the debate is recorded in Hansard. Generally speaking,- honorable members will recognize that it is not right that a British woman should, by the mere act of marriage with a foreigner, lose her nationality. A loss of nationality is -a great offence to her sentiment, and, in addition, it carries with it certain very material disadvantages.
– It did much more than that during the late war.
– Yes; many women suffered unjustly because, being married to the nationals of countries with whom we happened to be at war, they were deemed to be of the nationality of their husbands, and for that purely technical reason, they were deprived . of their property. Since the late war there has been a consistent demand by the intellectuals among the women of Australia for an ameloriation of this rule. The resolution of this House in 1926, to which I have referred, was passed without opposition; but, unfortunately, no practical steps appear to have been taken to give effect to it. It was conveyed to the Imperial Conference of 1926, and tho Nationality Committee of that conference decided that the matter should be postponed, pending a report of a committee of experts, which was appointed to deal with various matters concerning the operation of dominion legislation. So far as I can ascertain, - this committee of experts has not considered the matter at all. From a reply given by the last Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, to a question asked in this House on the 22nd August, 1929, it appears that the subject of the nationality of married women has been referred to the Codification of International Law Conference. Mr. Bruce stated at that time that a questionnaire with reference to nationality had been drawn up by the preparatory committee on the codification of international law, and the proposed date for the meeting of the conference was March, 1930. I assume that this is the conference which recently met at the Hague, and which was referred to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Soullin) on the 20th March last, when, in reply to a question placed on the notice-paper by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), he said that the question of the nationality of married women was being considered by a- conference then sitting at the Hague. Australia was not represented directly at that conference, its interests being watched by the British representatives; but the information that was sent forward to the Preparatory Committee of the Imperial Conference, and the statement recently made by this Government do not in either case carry out the resolution of this House. The instruction issued to the Preparatory Committee was that, subject to the general acceptance of similar provisions, the Commonwealth Government was prepared to consider favorably the proposal that a woman marrying a foreigner should not thereby lose her nationality if, under her husband’s national law, she did not, by marriage, acquire her husband’s nationality.
In my opinion, that amendment does not meet the demand of the women of Australia. It would apply to Australian wives of nationals from only those countries that had already made the amendment which we desire, and would not assist those women who are the wives of nationals from a very large number, and, I think, the majority still, of the countries of Europe. The amendment of the law in the direction sought has been made to a. varying extent in Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, and several of the states of South America, but with respect to -the remaining countries that have not made this change in the law, the proposal, as submitted by the late Government, does not give the women of Australia the relief that they require. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), stated on the 20th March-
The Commonwealth Government has since advised the British Government, whose delegates to the conference are also representing the Commonwealth, that they are agreeable to the priciple that a woman shall not on marriage lose her nationality or acquire a new nationality without her consent, provided that such a proposal finds general acceptance at the conference.
That proviso was no part of the resolution of this House, and I do not believe that ‘honorable members will agree to deny this long deferred relief to women indefinitely, pending agreement by all the dominions. When the matter was submitted to the House of Commons in 1925, the objection was taken that the dominions had not agreed to the alteration, although that objection was not allowed to prevail. Canada has already passed legislation in the terms of the amendment which I have submitted, but it has not been given effect pending an agreement which, it is hoped, may be arrived at by the European powers. But from information which has been published it is evident that no agreement has been reached, and I shall be glad if the Minister can advise the committee of the position.
– Why not wait for the report of the committee on the codification of international law?
– That is a reasonable suggestion. If the Minister can tell us what is the position at the Hague Conference, it may be advisable to wait until we have before us an exhaustive report on this subject, because I know there are one or two other matters in connexion with nationality which do not concern Australia to the same extent as they affect European countries. From a statement which I saw in the London newspapers a few days ago, it would appear that the committee entrusted with the codification of international law had not arrived at any decision on the subject. Although the resolution which I have quoted was adopted in this House four years ago, and although the request embodied in it has been repeatedly placed before the Government as urgent, nothing has been done, and apparently action will be deferred until the decision of the Hague conference is made known. Australia is not affected to the same extent by the difficulties which, up to the present, have prevented European powers from reaching an agreement. In Europe the nationals of one country may walk across the border into a neighbouring country in a few minutes. For centuries the nations of Europe have been watching one another with suspicion, and from time to time we read of serious complications following allegations of espionage. In Europe the rule has long been observed that the nationality of the wife follows that of her husband, and apparently most European countries are not prepared to abandon it. Until 1870, under the common law of England, a woman marrying a foreigner did not thereby forfeit British nationality, but in 1870, this rule was reversed by the Nationality Act of that year, and Great Britain came into line with other European countries. In 1914 Australia and, I think South Africa and Newfoundland, adopted the provisions of the British Nationality Act. New Zealand stood out, and the position in that country to-day is as it existed in Great Britain prior to 1870, that is to say, a New Zealand woman marrying a foreigner does not lose her British nationality. In the United States of America the law now follows the lines of my amendment with one or two modifications. For example, an alien married woman cannot claim American nationality until after twelve months’ residence. From 1907 to 1921, the United States of America adopted the general European rule, but under the Cable Act of 1922, the law in the United States of America followed the British law prior to 1870, so that an American woman marrying a foreigner does not now lose her nationality. A number of South American countries, notably Argentine and Chile, have also adopted the same rule.
We, in Australia, should determine which course to adopt. The grounds of opposition to the former British practice are set out in the report of the British Royal Commission in 1921 ; but, in my opinion, they are not adequate. One of the reasons advanced against the adoption of that rule was that it was desirable that British law on this sub ject should be in conformity with the law in other European countries. It was also pointed out that sometimes double nationalities are concerned, and, in some instances, a woman might have no nationality at all. The position in Australia is so very much different from that of. European countries that we should have no difficulty in coming to a decision. We are not concerned with the national jealousies, suspicions, and animosities that exist among the peoples of European countries. If a German or Frenchman comes to Australia and marries, usually he makes his permanent home in this country and becomes, in fact, an Australian citizen. There is little likelihood of his going back to his own country and taking his wife with him. It is highly desirable that every inducement should be given to foreigners to make their homes in Australia and become naturalized. The previous Administration had this object in view when it made the conditions of naturalization easier and free of cost. Under the present law foreigners coming to Australia may, after five years’ residence, become naturalized citizens of the Commonwealth. An Australian women should not, simply because she marries a foreigner, lose her Australian nationality. Take the extreme case of a woman who marries a Chinaman. She loses a certain amount of status, it is true, but she does not lose her nationality, except as a result of the artificial provisions of this law. We are not justified in waiting any longer for the decisions of international conferences. Apparently such conferences are unable to make up their minds. There is another reason why this amendment should be placed in the statute-book. The British Parliament has passed a resolution similar to that which I am now advocating, but one reason for not putting it into effect is that the dominions have not yet reached agreement. We, by passing this legislation, will advance the matter one step forward. I do not think that there is one honorable member in this House who would hesitate to emancipate these women who have married foreigners from the disabilities they now suffer. The matter has been delayed up to the present, because it was desired to obtain uniformity, at least among European nations; but now that difficulty is being experienced in obtaining uniformity, we should take the same steps as Canada has taken, and place our own legislation on the statute-book.
– I am sure that practically all honorable members of this House are in agreement with the honorable member’s desire that Australian women should retain their nationality after marriage with foreigners. It is a matter, however, upon which there has been a great deal of discussion, and which has been the subject of considerable negotiation. A conference was held at the Hague early this year under the auspices of the League of Nations. Australia had not a representaticve at that conference, but we were represented at the conference for the codification of laws in regard to certain subjects, of which the nationality of women was one of the most important. The Commonwealth Government agreed, subject to a general acceptance, to accept the principles adopted in regard to the nationality of women. So far no reply has arrived from the British Government, or, at any rate, none has been brought under my notice, regarding the result of the codification of laws conference at the Hague. The matter is important, and any arrangement will, when accepted, provide for very much more than is provided for in the honorable member’s amendment. A single clause amendment will not do what it will then be necessary to do in the way of amending our present legislation. I am sorry that the Government cannot accept the honorable member’s amendment. The Government will consider the report when it comes from the British . Government, and give it sympathetic consideration. I suggest that the honorable member withdraw his amendment until uniformity is reached within the Empire.
.- My principal object in moving the amendment was to draw the attention of the Government to this matter, so that it would not be overlooked. I accept the assurance of the Minister that sympathetic consideration will be given to it by the Government, but I trust that the consideration will not be postponed until unanimity is arrived at, even throughout the Empire, because, so far as we can judge from what has already taken place, it appears to be nearly impossible to arrive at unanimity. I should like the Minister to give honorable members an assurance that when he receives the full report of the Hague Conference he will afford the House an opportunity of discussing the matter.
– I shall do that.
Proposed new clause - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300521_reps_12_124/>.