12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker ((Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Honorable members must have learned with regret of the passing away of a former member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook). For several months he had been suffering from a most distressing disease, but throughout his illness he remained the cheerful and jocular character ‘ we knew i« this chamber. I am sure I echo the sentiments of all honorable members when I say that by the death of Robert Cook every member of the House has lost a good friend. No matter how heated the debates, or how widely political opinions differed, his friendly relations with other honorable members remained unshaken. Mr. Cook was born at Chiltern, Victoria, on the 18th April, 1869, and was first elected to the House of Representatives as member for Indi at the general election in 1919. He was reelected at the general elections in 1922 and 1925, and for some years he was a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. He was also a prominent figure in the public life of Victoria. He was a councillor of Chiltern and Oxley for twenty years, and, as a leader of co-operative enterprise in north-eastern Victoria, rendered valuable service to the farming community. Other positions occupied by him were: Chairman of directors of the Worth-Eastern Co-operative Society, Wangaratta; chairman of the Butter and Cheese Factories Association of Victoria; member of the Victorian Dairy Council; member of the executive council of the Chamber of Agriculture, Melbourne; and a member of the executive of the Country Municipal Association. He discharged the duties appertaining to those positions with credit and considerable ability, for he had a very special knowledge of the requirements of the man on the land. Aa a member of this Parliament he was very popular, and was always sincere and genial. I am sure that every honorable member will join with me in deploring his death. I move - by leave -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr. Robert Cook, a former member of the House of Representatives, and places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its sympathy to the members of his family in their bereavement.
.- I second the motion with very great sorrow, which I am sure is shared by many other honorable members. The Prime Minister has rightly said that Robert Cook was a friend to all other members of this chamber. When I. first entered Parliament I had the pleasure of sitting alongside him for more than two years; I found him a kindly and good companion, and always brimming over with genial humour. He was a consistent advocate of his political principles, and was always loyal to his political associates. He faithfully performed his duty to his constituents and his country, and we all mourn his loss.
.- On behalf of the Country party I desire to join in the expressions of regret that have fallen from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Robert Cook was a member of this House for nine years. During the whole of that time he was beloved of his party, and the friend of every member of the House. A plain, blunt, matter of fact, commonsense man, he was always genial, and able to see a humorous side to even the most serious circumstances. I believe that he would still have been a member of this House, but for an unfortunate error hy which he failed to nominate at the general election before last. For many months he had been seriously ill, but he faced death gamely. Only within the last week I had a communication from him stating that while life lasted he still had hope. I join with the leaders of the other parties in this chamber in appreciating his worth and work, and in condoling with his bereaved family. His work for the producers of Australia will he a monumentmore durable than any edifice of stone.
.- I wish to associate myself with the motion and the appreciative references to the late Mr. Cook which have .been made by the previous speakers. I candidly admit that my presence in this chamber is due to an unfortunate slip made by him on nomination day. When through his failure to nominate, I found myself elected unopposed, I telegraphed immediately to him my sympathy, and he sent a kindly reply, wishing me well in my political career. Our relations ever since have been most cord1!’1.!. I have travelled extensively through th, electorate for which he laboured for many years, and I can personally testify to the high esteem and universal respect in which he was held throughout the vast constituency of Indi. I paid a similar tribute to him from many platforms during the last election.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to the members of the family of the late Mr. Robert Cook the foregoing resolution and a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.
Spinners and Knitters
– Is it a fact that a conference of cotton spinners and knitters, relative to knitting yarns, was convened by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs recently? If so, what was the result of such conference?
– A conference convened by me was held in Melbourne on Monday last, and the result was entirely satisfactory. The conference was a representative one, and the matter of the supply of knitting yarns was thoroughly threshed out. The knitters agreed to use all the Australian-made cotton yarns the spinners can supply, and the spinners agreed in respect of mixture yarns and dyed and random dyed yarns, fast to bleaching and scouring, not to raise objection to their importation at concessional rates under by-law in any instance where it could be satisfactorily shown that similar yarns could not be supplied by the local mills. It is believed that as a result of the conference, there will be no further difficulty in connexion with this matter. The knitters, furthermore, expressed their appreciation of the sympathetic consideration I had always given to their requests, and said that they were satisfied with the result of the conference.
– The following paragraph appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald: -
An Australian Trade Commissioner to the East and also one to Great Britain will shortly be appointed by the Federal Cabinet. Approval ‘ has already been given for these appointments. All that remains is to complete details as to duties and so on, and to select the men for the positions. In making the selections it is believed that the Cabinet will confine its attention to officers at present in the Commonwealth Public Service.
I ask the Minister whether the selection is to be confined to the Commonwealth Public Service, and what special work is to be undertaken in London in view of the marketing organization that has already been established in Great Britain ?
– The Government contemplates appointing trade commissioners in the East, and in Great Britain ; but the matter is not yet finalized.
– In connexion with the retrenchment of staff sergeants and others in the Defence Department who are near the age of retirement and have certain superannuation privileges, is it proposed to get rid of those men to obviate payments to which they would be entitled if they remained in the service a few months longer?
– As the final arrangements for the retrenchment of defence officers are not yet complete, I am unable to say what course will be adopted.
Report on Timber Industry.
– In view of the widespread unemployment among the timberworkers throughout the Commonwealth, is the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to inform the House when the Tariff Board’s report on the timber industry will be available to honorable members?
– The Tariff Board has been considering this subject for about two weeks, and I expect its report to reach my office sometime next week. “When it has been received, the Government will give it early consideration.
Payment by Cheque.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer an injustice that is being done to old-age pensioners. An arrangement was recently made by the Pensions Department for enabling old and feeble pensioners to be paid by cheque, so that it might not be necessary for them to journey long distances to post offices to collect their pensions. But when these cheques are cashed, the pensioners are exploited to the extent of 6d., which is charged for exchange. Will the Treasurer arrange for the extension to these old-age pensioners of the concession that is at present given to honorable members of this Parliament in connexion with the cheques with which they are paid?
– I think the honorable member misunderstands the position. The cheques posted to old-age pensioners are necessarily made non-negotiable, and could be credited to the account of the pensioner, if he had one, without any exchange being charged. But many of the pensioners find it a convenience to get private persons to cash their cheques, and, no doubt, in some cases, these persons charge exchange. The Treasury cannot prevent that, though it seems to me a little unreasonable that exchange should be so charged. Members of Parliament are in no different position from any others in whose favour Commonwealth cheques are drawn, no exchange being charged on such cheques when paid into the drawee’s account. When such cheques are not paid into the drawee’s bank account, but are cashed by some person other than a bank, exchange is probably charged.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the total personnel employed in the Department of Defence, and how many are employed under the following headings: - (a) The Defence Act, (b) The Public Service Act,
Navy, (d) Army, (e) Air Services, and (/) Munitions Supply Board?
– The information is as follows : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has his attention been drawn to press statements that in Switzerland power alcohol has displaced petrol in the whole of the Defence Department of Switzerland; if not, will he have inquiries made as to the practicability of manufacturing power alcohol in Australia for our defence and other departments?
– From 1924 to 1926 the Department of Defence produced power alcohol in its own factory for use in motor vehicles of the PostmasterGeneral and Defence Departments, but the result proved that while there were no technical difficulties in the production of the alcohol it could not be manufactured and distributed at a price which could compete with petrol. The resumption of the manufacture of alcohol by the Defence Department is not contemplated. It is understood that works for the production of power alcohol have been established as a commercial undertaking in Queensland.
Mr.KEANE asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value of the importation of materials used in the manufacture of hat linings during the past two years?
What was the value of the importations of made-up hat linings for the same period?
– The materials and linings mentioned are not recorded separately in the import statistics ; it is therefore regretted that it is not possible to supply the information sought.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:-
No rebatehas been allowed.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whatwas the total value of (a) imports, and (b) exports for each State of the Commonwealth for each of the last three financial years ?
– The reply is as follows : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What reply has been received to the charge that the manufacturers of iron and steel in Australia refuse to supply on even terms traders who are not members of the metal or other organizations associated with this industry ?
– Australian manufacturers of iron and steel lay down certain conditions as to the size of orders which they will receive, and the prices at which the goods shall be sold. Also as to the seller stocking certain sizes of steel, and as to the manner of payment. The issues raised in the consideration of this matter are important and complicated, and the investigations have not yet reached a stage at which any definite statement can be made as to future action, if any.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the total tonnage and value of flour exported from each State of the Commonwealth for each of the last three financial years ?
– The reply is as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the Commonwealth grant of £1,000,000 to the various States to relieve unemployment, will he state -
the amount allotted to each State;
the amount each State has claimed or spent to date; and
the total amount out of the £1,000,000 which has been paid to the States?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
( ft ) The amounts paid to the States by way of advances and in recoupment of expenditure incurred are as follow: -
Statements setting out expenditure for which reimbursements have not been claimed are awaited from the State authorities.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the report that the New South Wales Government proposes to conscript wages and salaries for the avowed purpose of relieving unemployment, the Treasurer will ascertain the number of millionaires in Australia whose estates could be ear-marked for the same avowed purpose?
– Information in regard to the incomes of persons resident in Australia is furnished annually to the Commissioner of Taxation and is classified by him.
– There is a question standing in my name on the notice-paper, but I do not propose to ask it, as it appears in a form different from that in which I sent it to the Clerk, and would not provide me with the information that I desire.
– Very well.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, when remitting the £100,000 to the . northern miners, the Government will record its admiration for the manner in which the returned soldiers in the northern coalfields stood the test of citizenship, and respected the laws of the country, whilst fighting for the right to live and participate in a small share of the potential wealth that” their valour helped to preserve and protect from the hand of foreign aggression?
– In allotting funds for the relief of miners who, upon the settlement of the dispute in the coal industry, remain unabsorbed, it is not proposed to recall any of the incidents relating to the dispute.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
United Kingdom preferential tariff.
The rates fall into the following classes: -
Alternative, i.e. ad valorem or specific.
Composite, i.e. ad valorem and specific. Again, some classes of goods are free or dutiable, according to origin. In respect of specific rates it is impossible to assess an average ad valorem equivalent, because values may vary to an indefinite extent. In view of these varied conditions it is regretted that it is quite impracticable to prepare a reliable analysis on the lines indicated by the honorable member.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research advises -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government has yet come to a decision on the stabilization proposals submitted by the Australian Dried Fruits Association ?
– The Government has had under consideration a report made by Mr. Gunn on the stabilization proposals submitted by the association, and I hope shortly to be able to indicate the Government’s views in regard to the matter.
Preference to Returned Soldiers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the policy announced by him on the 7th instant, of preference to returned soldiers in employment and dismissals in the Public Service, includes the reinstatement of returned soldiers retrenched instead of other employees during the period when the Government was not observing that policy.
– There has been no period when the Government was not observing the policy referred to.
– Yesterday, in reply to a question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), I stated that I would shortly make a statement with respectto further work by the Discovery expedition. The Government have decided that the work in the Australian sector of the Antarctic, which is of considerable national interest and importance to the Commonwealth from economic, scientific, and other points of view, will be continued during the coming Antarctic summer season, lasting from November of this year to March of next year. The Discovery has been made available by the British Government without charge until July 14th, 1931. The special equipment which was provided for the vessel for the first year’s work will be available for the second year’s work. Sir Douglas Mawson will lead the expedition on this second year’s programme of work.
It will be recalled that Mr. Macpherson Robertson donated £10,000 towards the costs of the first year’s operations of the expedition. Mr. MacRobertson has informed the expedition committee that he is prepared to contribute materially to the costs of carrying out a second season’s work. His offer is to contribute towards the net costs of a second year’s operations up to a sum of £6,000. The Government have accepted his offer, and they have conveyed to him their appreciation of his public-spirited act.
– On the 15th May, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) asked the following questions: -
The following replies to questions 1, 2, and 4 have now been furnished by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank : -
With regard to the other questions, my replies are -
The following papers were presented : -
Holley, J., Senior Lineman, PostmasterGeneral’s Department - Papers relating to action of Amalgamated Postal Workers Union in fining him for failing to supply official information to the Union.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Health - Armstrong, L. G. ; Brushfield, K.; Christie, R.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for thepurposes of a bill for an act to amend the Bankruptcy Act 1924-1929.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be. now read a second time.
This is a short measure to provide for the establishment of a Federal Court of Bankruptcy. By the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act, which was passed in 1924, and proclaimed to come into operation in August, 1928, jurisdiction in bankruptcy was conferred upon certain State courts, and it provided, in addition, for the exercise of bankruptcy jurisdiction by such federal courts as Parliament might create. No such federal courts were created at the time, as it was anticipated that the State courts would be able to discharge efficiently the duties that would have to be performed. The Commonwealth Government and the public is indebted to the State courts for the publicspirited manner in which they have discharged these important additional duties. But the present arrangement is not quite satisfactory to either the State or the Federal authorities. Unfortunately, the work of the bankruptcy courts has been increasing so rapidly for the past year or two that it is now abundantly clear that the Commonwealth must provide for its own bankruptcy courts. A few months after the act was proclaimed the New South Wales Government advised us that & serious congestion of business was occurring in the Supreme Court of that State, because the judge who was dealing with bankruptcy matters had almost the whole of his time taken up in the discharge of that part of his functions. It was suggested that the Commonwealth should appoint its own bankruptcy judge, or, alternatively, agree to pay for the services of an additional Supreme Court judge. The New South Wales Government has repeatedly urged that the Commonwealth should take action to put an end to. the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs.
Another reason for the bill is the decision in a case reported in the Argus Law Reports for 1930, at page 41, and doubtless in the Commonwealth Law Report - Le Mesurier, appellant, versus the West Australian Trustee Company, . respondent, the Commonwealth intervening. Under the State law the Western Australian Regis trar exercised certain functions and jurisdiction, and it was anticipated that under the Commonwealth act he would continue to exercise similar jurisdiction. The High Court, however, held that a judge had not the right to delegate functions to the Registrar. To a certain extent that was met by a bill which I introduced in this chamber at the end of last year; but probably constitutional limitations have still to be considered. In Edgely’s case, following upon the decision of the High Court in Alexander’s case, the Supreme Court of New South Wales held that, under the Constitution, judicial powers could not be given to the Registrars. Since much of the bankruptcy work is more or less of a judicial character, an increasingly large part of it is cast upon the judges, not only in New South Wales, but also in Victoria, and the position is, therefore, becoming difficult and unsatisfactory.
I take this opportunity of publicly commending Judge Moule, of Victoria, for the unsparing manner in which he has devoted himself to insolvency jurisdiction in that State, in addition to the other work that falls upon him as a County Court judge and chairman of General Sessions. Owing to the other judicial duties which he is called upon to undertake, he has been unable, during the current year, to deal with bankruptcy matters, except during every other month. A report that I have from the Inspector-General of Bankruptcy satisfies me beyond doubt that this is totally inadequate provision for bankruptcy hearings. It is not humanly possible for His Honour to keep the bankruptcy work even approximately up - to date when he is able to- devote only intermittent sittings to it.
It is proposed that the salary of any judge appointed to the Bankruptcy Court under this bill shall be the same as he received in any federal court in which he previously exercised federal jurisdiction, and that upon retirement he shall receive a pension equal to that to which he would have been entitled if his service as bankruptcy judge had been a continuation of his service as judge of the Federal Court. It is intended to appoint immediately one judge, whose headquarters will be in Sydney, and, in the meantime, as occasion requires, will visit Melbourne.
– Will he visit the other capital cities?
– He may do so. Experience has shown that congestion occurs principally in Sydney and Melbourne ; and that is the reason for making special provision at the present time in regard to those two capital cities. It is hoped that the bankruptcy work in New South Wales and Victoria will be so apportioned that the work of the State courts will be interfered with as little as possible.
– Is it intended to make the Federal Judge in Bankruptcy a justice of the High Court of Australia?
– No. The present intention is to appoint only one judge, It has already been a matter of public comment that Judge Lukin, of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, has consented to accept appointment as the first judge of the Federal Bankruptcy Court. The question naturally arises how will that affect the volume of work in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I have had the benefit of a consultation with the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. He has informed me that the work of that court will permit of the withdrawal from it of one of its judges to perform the important functions of the Federal Judge in Bankruptcy. Honorable members know well that it is the object of this Governmentto avoid to the fullest extent the making of fresh appointments to highly salaried offices at a time when it is straining every nerve to effect economy. But I may say at once that, while it is proposed for the moment to make only one appointment, the reports that I have received satisfy me that at the present rate of progress in bankruptcy business, and having regard to the fact that, to a considerable extent, this is a revenue-producing department, it may well become necessary at no very remote date to make another appointment in respect of Melbourne. The considerations that have impelled the Government to make this appointment for Sydney are parallel with those that apply in the case of Melbourne.
– Is power taken by this bill to do that?
– The power is taken to make appointments not exceeding two in number for the present. . There is. urgent need for the constitution of this court, and the appointment of at least one judge to take up this work, which is falling into such arrears that it is causing embarrassment, not only to the legal profession, hut also to the public at large. I hope that, for the reasons that I have given, the bill will have a speedy passage.
.- So that the law institutes and the chambers of commerce of the States may have an opportunity to consider the bill, I move -
That the debate be adjourned.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21st May (vide page 1993), on motion of 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 1930-1931, 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.”
.- It has been contended that because a certain quantity of wheat is unsold, and the wheat market is in a state of disorder, we in Australia should not proceed with action along the lines provided for in the bill. I suggest, however, that if the wheat markets are disorganized there is greater need f or us to act than would otherwise . be the case. If we sell our wheat in a chaotic fashion we shall receive for it very much less than can be obtained by organized marketing. I feel keenly the necessity for some action to be taken in Australia, especially in view of the instruction that has been issued by the Federal Farm Board of the United States of America to the wheat farmers of that country, to reduce their production of wheat as much as possible, so that there will be very little surplus available for sale overseas, aud that, if necessary, they can sacrifice it at a very low price. I, therefore, urge the Government, in the event of the different farmers’ organizations declining to form an all-Australian pool, to consider seriously whether it cannot comply with any requests that they may make. I understand that the wheat farmers of some of the States consider that there are certain disabilities that will press hardly on them. The Government desires to stimulate the production of wheat and thereby improve our export position. If it is found that a compulsory pool is not acceptable to all the farmers of Australia, and that the proposal is turned down by two or more States, I urge the Government to take steps to have established a voluntary pool to control a large proportion of the wheat that is produced in Australia. Under the Constitution a compulsory pool cannot be formed unless the State legislatures assent to the proposal. A State Government may not be willing to give that assent even though a majority of the farmers within its jurisdiction may be anxious to come into the pool. In those circumstances I suggestto the Minister that he take the only action which it is competent for the Commonwealth to take by creating a wheat export control board.
– Even if three of the States do not assent to the proposal to have a compulsory pool?
– I am referring to the State Governments. It has been stated by the Government of Western Australia that it will take no parliamentary action, to create a marketing body for the pooling of the wheat grown in that State, nor will it ascertain the views of its wheat-growers. I suggest the creation of a wheat export control board similar to the board which operates in connexion with dairy production. The Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament would have the support of constitutional authority in taking such action.
– Already the representatives of four of the State Governments have agreed to these proposals.
– I am glad to hear that. Another difficulty that may arise is in connexion with the guarantee. Certain of the States feel strongly that if there should be a loss they will be unduly penalized. For example, the Government of Western Australia has pointed out that if the price received should be only 3s. 9d. a bushel the loss in respect of Western Australia would be £414,000, equal to £1 3s. 6d. a head of the people of that State; whereas in the case of Queensland the loss would be equal to only 9d. a head; in the case of New South Wales, 4s. a head; and in the case of Victoria 5s. 4d. a head. This Government has urged the wheat-growers of Australia to grow more wheat for the purpose of rectifying the national financial position. Therefore, it should do as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) did when he was Prime Minister. At that time the Commonwealth assumed full responsibility for whatever losses might arise from the operations of the wheat pool. The States should not be asked to bear this liability, because, for one thing, the position of the States is so dissimilar. Some of the States, such as New South Wales and Victoria, have big home markets which absorb a large proportion of their wheat production. Other States, such as Western Australia, have only a small home market, and have to rely upon the overseas market to absorb the greater part of their wheat crop. As the Commonwealth Government is primarily interested in the production of wheat for the overseas market with a view to rectifying’ Australia’s financial position, the Australian Parliament should accept full responsibility for the finances of the pool which it will set up for this purpose. In any case, I do not think that the Commonwealth Parliament will be running much risk. The Minister said that one of the Government’s reasons for introducing the pool proposal was to secure a price approximating the cost of production for the wheat sold in Australia. With a system of complete co-operation in the marketing of wheat, both at home and overseas, the financial success of the pool should he ensured.
I am sure that one great objection to this pool in the minds of many farmers is that, although the guarantee is only for one year, the pool is for three years. The Government would be well advised to extend the guarantee for three years. If it is not prepared to offer a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for the three years, it should at least guarantee for the remaining two years a price to be determined by the Wheat Pool Board. If these suggestions are accepted, the proposal is likely to find greater favour with the farmers who will eventually vote on it. As a matter of fact, even 4s. a bushel is considerably below the actual cost of production. Three or four years ago a conference was called at Bathurst, by the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, of producers and consumers, and at that conference the whole question of the cost of production of wheat was investigated. It was decided that a farmer working’ an ordinary wheat farm would need to get 5s. 6d. a bushel for his wheat to return him £300 income a year, without making any special allowance for the free labour of his wife and family, and the 60 hours a week which he would work. Seeing that the Government’s guarantee is so much below the figure suggested at the Bathurst conference, and so much less than was promised by Labour candidates during the last election, it is not too much to ask the Government to consider sympathetically a proposal to extend the period of the guarantee to three years. In 1922 the Bruce-Page Government, at the request of the farmers’ organizations, went into this matter, and offered a threeyears’ guarantee, on the understanding that a few pence per bushel should be deducted each year from the payments by the pool in order to build up a fund which would eventually make the pool independent of any form of Government assistance or guarantee. The Government must give some assurance of a guarantee over more than one season if it is to have any success in its appeal to farmers to grow more wheat. Land cannot be prepared for wheat-growing in a single season. It is necessary that the land be ploughed and allowed to lie fallow; so that it takes at least two, and perhaps three, years to materially increase the acreage under wheat. In order to make wheat-growing profitable it is necessary to do everything possible to eliminate the risks arising from variable climatic conditions. A system of marketing must be evolved to stabilize prices. Most crops are harvested during a few weeks, and sold over the whole year. The farmer must be able to secure the highest prices ruling for hiscommodity in the markets of the world, and he must be able to obtain the best freight rates available. Everything must be done to cut the cost of production down to the lowest point. The last Government tried to help the primary producers by making money available through theRural Credits Bank at h per cent.
The advantages of a compulsory pool are worth stressing, because a great deal ‘ has been said about its possible disadvantages. The first great advantage of a pool completely controlled by the producers will be their ability to get an Australian price as a set-off against the legislative burdens they must carry. The farmer always finds himself at a dead-end in regard to the costs of production, because he cannot pass them on. As the manufacturer’s prices are protected by the tariff and the worker’s wages by an Arbitration Court, it is essential that means be provided whereby the farmer can protect his prices against attacks from other quarters. Therefore, the greatest value of this measure is that it will make possible 100 per cent, co-operation in the wheatgrowing industry. Moreover, the fact that the whole of the wheat will be pooled, and that the farmers will be organized on a co-operative basis will enable a reduction of chartering rates, the cessation of competition between States, the reduction of administrative charges, and the complete elimination of the risk of glutting the overseas markets by the haphazard offering of big cargoes. At the present time the mere knowledge that a couple of large cargoes are approaching Liverpool is sufficient to influence the market, but when it is known that the wheat is held and controlled by a pool which has devised a means of orderly marketing the whole of its products, that danger to the prices of the grain sold overseas will be reduced. Practically all these advantages, with the exception of the ability to secure an Australian price for the wheat locally consumed, can be secured by the creation of a Wheat Export Control Board, if the effort to bring about a compulsory pool is defeated by the State.
– If the Wheat Board is left to fix the amount of the guarantee for the second and third years will not that in practice mean that the farmers themselves will determine what the guarantee shall be?
– That would take place, but I cannot understand the extraordinary fear of what the farmers might do in regard to their own product. It has never been proved that the farmers charge more rapaciously- than other sections of the community; on the contrary they have always had the worst of the <leal. In any case they can only increase the local price to import parity; if they exceed that the importation of wheat and flour will prove an effective check.
– But the board will be able to fix higher prices for local consumption.
– Why should exception be taken to that by a representative of a city constituency, having regard to the fact that throughout the history of protective duties the practice has been to make the Australian people pay more for goods manufactured locally than people overseas have to pay?
– Does that make the practice right?
– I do not say that it does, but I am supporting the bill, because the inclusion of wheat in the vicious circle, in. which butter already appears, will tend to break down the policy of indiscriminate protection, and expedite a readjustment of the tariff for the protection of basic and essential industries only.
I cannot understand the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition -
That this House is of the opinion that, while present circumstances justify a guarantee by the Govern ments of the Commonwealth and the States of a minimum price of 4s. per bushel for f.a.q. wheat, season 1930-1931, 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.
It is quite impracticable for the Government to offer a guarantee in the absence of some organization to deal with marketing. I could understand a guarantee being given to a voluntary or cooperative organization, but organization of some kind for the control of marketing is essential. If the marketing were left to individuals the door would be open for corrupt practices. A farmer could sell his wheat to the merchant for 2s. 6d. and then claim from the Commonwealth another ls. 6d. It is impossible to dissociate the guarantee from some form of organization or control. For that reason I cannot support the amendment.
Why do honorable members oppose what is, after all, merely a machinery measure to enable the will of the farmers to be ascertained? If the growers declare that they do not desire a compulsory pool to be established, this legislation will become a dead letter. Even if one were not satisfied as to the wisdom of a compulsory pool, the proposal that the farmers shall be given an opportunity to express their opinion is democratically sound.
– Is there any provision in the bill for ascertaining the opinion of the farmers?
– The opinion cf the farmers is to be ascertained by the State Governments.
– Therefore, the State Governments can decide this matter without reference to the farmers.
– The State Governments concerned have agreed to take ballots of the wheat-growers.
– I understand that the operation of this bill is conditional upon the passage of similar legislation by the Parliaments of the wheatgrowing States. I have read in the pres3 statements by State Ministers of Agriculture that it is the intention of their Governments to take action in accordance with the resolutions of the Canberra Wheat Conference. During this debate the statement has been frequently repeated that the farmers cannot dispose of their own commodity as satisfactorily as the merchants are able to do. Others have saidthat they will oppose the bill because it does not provide for control of the scheme by the farmers. As a matter of fact, it does provide for control by the farmers, because the majority of the members of each State Board, and, in the last analysis, of the Federal Board, also will be representatives of the producers. The pool management will represent hard cash to the farmers, and if they cannot see actual advantages in this form of control they will reject it. They know their own business and what will be most to their advantage, and we may safely leave the decision of this matter to them. Some honorable members have deluded themselves into the belief that the only persons who muddle their business affairs are the farmers, and that if they control the pool it will have no chance to succeed. Private individuals in all walks of life crash, and even governments have been known to make a mess of their finances. But the success of any pool undertaking depends on its management. The pools formed during the war period were at a disadvantage through the inexperience of those directing them, but in the last fifteen years men have become thoroughly trained in the orderly marketing of primary products, and to-day the farmers are exceptionally fortunate in having at their disposal a large number of well trained men who have a comprehensive understanding of marketing conditions, and have had a great deal of practical experience.
We have been told that the Canadian wheat pool caused considerable trouble in the dominion, and interfered to a marked extent with the price of Australian wheat. No practical man will deny that but for the existence of tha Canadian pool the price of Australian wheat would not have been maintained as high as it was in the markets of the world. The pool estimates that it will only have a normal carry-over of 30,000,000 bushels for this year. If no pool had been in existence that surplus would not have been sold; it would have been in the possession of the merchants or farmers. To prove how the propaganda of the wheat merchants misrepresents the Canadian pool, I propose to quote from a speech made by Mr. Brownlee, Premier of Alberta, in moving the first reading of a bill to authorize the guaranteeing by the provincial government of certain advances made to the Canadian 00-opera. tive Wheat Producers Limited. Mr. Brownlee said -
As the wheat pool has been subjected to the most severe propaganda of an adverse nature since its inception, a word or two might not be out of place to assure the public that a very great part of this propaganda is misleading. For example, the pool lias been accused of gambling in wheat. The statements submitted showed that the pool has conducted its business this year in accord with its established methods as approved by its membership from year to year, and the public need have no alarm whatever that its position has been endangered by any improper methods. It has been consistently urged that the pool is engaged in a huge gamble in holding back wheat from the market, and that the present situation is a struggle between importing countries and the Canadian wheat pool. These facts should be kept in mind: (1) that year by year, since its establishment, the export sales of the pool have been well in keeping with its proportion of handling of Canadian wheat; (2) that its carry-over at the end of any year has been within its fair proportion of Canada’s total carry-over; (3) that for the crop year 1929-30 its handling is slightly over 50 per cent, of the total crop, so that the other 50 per cent, is held by other interests, and yet the export sales for this year show that no larger percentage of non-pool wheat has been exported than pool wheat, so that if there is any huge gamble, all holders of Canadian wheat, non-pool as well as pool, have been equally responsible, and yet the propaganda is directed only at the wheat pool.
That is a complete answer to the propaganda that has been circulated throughout the whole world, but especially throughout Australia, during the last few months. The Premier went on to say -
The simple fact is that there was a large oversurplus of world wheat in the 1928-29 crop, and that much of this was dumped on the market at sacrifice prices, particularly from the Argentine, and that the wheat pool, as a matter of policy, refused to compete in these ‘slaughter prices. Had it done so the situation to-day in Canada would have been considerably worse.
That was the considered opinion of the Premier of the State of Alberta whose Government, on behalf of that State, was bearing the financial responsibility for the pool. Let me give another complete answer to all this propaganda. Immediately adjoining the Dominion of Canada is the United States of America. That country has seen the progress of the Canadian pool during the last seven years, and yet within the last two years it has established a Federal Farm Board which, in turn, has established a national selling organization on lines exactly similar to those of the Canadian pool. That should certainly be an absolute answer to the mis-statements made in this House, thousands of miles from where the actual transactions are taking place, as to the opinions held right on the spot. The Canadian pool started with 30,000,000 bushels of wheat, and last year over 300,000,000 bushels were placed under its control. It began with a membership of 30,000 farmers and to-day there are over 140,000 farmers contributing to it. Every year there are hundreds of new farmers joining the Canadian wheat pool. There is not the slightest foundation for the propaganda which has been circulated to the effect that the pools both in Canada and the United States of America have egregiously failed.
– How much does the Canadian pool advance?
– It advances 3s. a bushel.
– The Canadian pool advances up to 85 per cent. of the market value at the time. The remaining 15 per cent. represents the margin in respect of the guarantee. It has already advanced 4s. per bushel for last season’s wheat.
Mr.Watkins. - The Canadian wheat is graded and ours is not.
– We have in each State wheat of fair average quality. Our Australian wheat is selling well, but if there is one thing more than another that will assist us to grade our wheat, it is the establishment of the organization proposed under the bill. This legislation provides for a marketing arrangement solely, and I should like to make certain that it is to continue as such. There are clauses in the bill which rather suggest that the wheat board may take other functions upon itself, and I should like the Minister, when we are in committee, to so word the clause as to place beyond doubt the fact that we are establishing a marketing organization and nothing else. There are provisions in the bill which suggest that the board might deal with products other than wheat and flour. I take it that there is no intention ‘in the mind of the Government that the board should deal with biscuits, bread or other manufactures of wheat. I trust that that also will be made clear when the bill is in committee. In addition there is room for improvement in the manner in which the bill has been drafted, particularly in respect of the relationship between the various States and between the farmers of those States. Each State has certain advantages in the marketing of wheat. Western Australia, because of being close to the great wheat markets of the world, has an advantage of from 2s. to 3s. per ton in freight. South Australiahas the advantage of a short railway haulage, and Victoria and New South Wales have the advantage of a large home consumption. There are other incidental advantages. I should like to see a dragnet clause inserted in the bill in place of the final provision in. the schedule, so as to leave the settlement of all these matters to the discretion of the Wheat Board, which will be representative of the various States. The present provision might easily lead to litigation and friction, and, possibly because of a wrong interpretation of its wording, might lead to the rejection of the Government’s proposals in certain States.
– Is the honorable member referring to the last clause of the schedule?
– Yes. It should be altered to enable the board to settle at its discretion any question such as, for instance, equalization.
– If there is one thing more than another that should he the function of the board, it is equalization.
– That is so. The board should be trusted to exercise discretion.
– The honorable member is referring to the federal board?
– Yes. All sorts of incidental advantages may crop up among the States. New South Wales has an advantage, because of vessels lifting cargoes at the port of Sydney and leaving immediately for other parts of the world without calling at any other Australian port.
– The honorable member may rest assured that the clause to which he refers will be altered in the direction that he has indicated.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance on that point. “We do not want to have friction between States. The Australian wheat producer wants the board to function so as to bring about harmony in the industry, to establish one definite selling agency, and, generally, to improve the conditions of the farmers so that they may sow their crops confident that a profitable market will be found for their product.
I should like some information concerning the carry-over of wheat for the present year. There is, in the several States, several million bushels of wheat, on much of which advances have been made. If that wheat is not disposed of by the time the pool begins to operate, at the beginning of the new season, I should like to know what is to be done with it. I suggest that it should be taken over by the Wheat Board, but that it should not be subject to the guarantee. I shall vote for the second reading of the bill, but during tile committee stage I hope that the Minister will accept my suggestion that the guarantee shall be given for three years, and that the Commonwealth shall bear any loss on the pool. If the Government agrees to that, I have not the slightest doubt that the ballot will be carried in all the States of Australia, and that we shall eventually have an Australian wheat pool which will ensure to the farmers for their products the highest prices that can be obtained in the overseas markets of the world. “ Mr. FROST (Franklin) [3.55].- I should not have spoken on this bill had not the Tasmanian Government rejected the proposals underlying it. I regret that action ; but no other action could be expected from a Tory Government. During the Easter recess, a great number of the Taimanian growers told me that they were exceedingly sorry that the State Government had rejected a compulsory pool, because they would have liked to participate in it. They were loud in their praise of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Moloney) for bringing this bill before this House, because they considered that the offer of a guarantee of 4s. a bushel would inspire every farmer with confidence, seeing that he could expect a reasonable return for his labour. The primary producer certainly needs some assistance. At the present time he belongs to the only class in the community that is not certain of receiving a reward for labour expended in industry. For years, we have been growing wheat in Tasmania, and we havesome of the finest wheat-growing country in Australia. At one time, part of the district which I represent was a fairly large wheat-producing centre, and on oneoccasion it averaged 50 bushels to theacre. At the show at Kingston on Easter Monday, I introduced the Premier of Tasmania, and while opening the show he stated. “ We will turn down any pools, because we do not get a fair deal from them.” That was a very short-sighted policy for him to adopt. Recently, I returned to Tasmania because the hopgrowers were asking the State Govern-, ment to assist in forming a federal compulsory pool so as to save the industry. They already have a voluntary pool. Honorable members opposite have said that they would support a voluntary pool,, but let mc inform them that 1 have been connected with voluntary pools for both fruit and hops, and I have never yet known one to be a success. The last voluntary pool was established because there was an over-production of hops for a couple of years. When some of the growers, who had put hops into the pool, found that the pool was not able to dispose of the whole of the crop, they operated outside of the pool altogether, and sold their hops to the brewers at from Id. to 2d. per lb. lower than the ruling rate. Under a voluntary wheat pool, the same thing would happen, and those outside it would spoil the market for those inside it. In January of this year, a voluntary pool was formed, because a largequantity of black currants was going towaste. We organized a pool so as to sell our black currants to Victoria. We did very well with the first shipment, but when the second shipment arrived, thegrowers outside the pool heard that fair prices were being offered, and they immediately sent their berries to outside agents. Some of the growers inthe pool had even withheld half of their crop in order to dispose of it to outsideagents. The same position would arise ‘ if we established a voluntary pool as advocated by honorable members opposite.
– We. are told that the Canadian voluntary wheat pool is a great success.
– That has not been the experience in Australia, but if a voluntary pool has been a success, a compulsory pool should be doubly successful, because it provides one scheme for the whole of the industry, and one channel for the marketing of the crop. I have heard some honorable members opposite say that there are no practical farmers on the Labour side of the House; but I have been a farmer for the last 20 years. During that period I have been connected with a number of co-operative organizations which have had a great deal to do with the marketing of produce. My experience has been that the producer is fleeced to a greater extent than any other section of the community, and he has no opportunity of protecting himself. In Tasmania we had a great deal of difficulty to make f.o.b. sales of our fruit; and at one period we could ‘not get more than 4s. 6d. a bushel for apples on the wharf. Twelve years ago we started a fruit-growers’ co-operative organization in a small way. The organization has now grown to be one of the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It ships between 400,000 and 500,000 bushels of fruit a year. To be eligible to join our board of management a man must be a practical fruit-grower who is earning his living at it. Our organization has erected cool stores at Port Huon, with a capacity of 110,000 bushels, at a cost of more than £20,000, and we have built packing sheds in very many centres. That indicates what can be done in even a short period like twelve years. If the wheat-growers would co-operate in that way the industry would soon be in a better position than it is in to-day.
A good deal has been said during this debate about the bulk handling of wheat. In my opinion it is not economical to handle primary produce in small lots. The larger the handling organization the lower the costs should be. If we could save Id. a bushel on the price of wheat it would mean a tremendous thing. A penny saved is a penny gained. If we could sell for a penny a bushel less on the world’s market it, would greatly strengthen our position. I am glad to know that the practical farmers of the House, including the honorable member, for Darling Downs (M!r. Morgan), are favorable to the formation of a compulsory wheat pool. These men have had a large experience, and know how difficult it is to manage a voluntary pool successfully.
Some honorable members who have addressed themselves to this bill have said that there is a world surplus of wheat, and that therefore Australia should not extend her area under crop. To my mind we should be acting foolishly if we ran any risk of losing the markets that Ave have already gained, and if we limit our production in the way suggested we shall certainly lose our markets. Why should we step back to give other people an advantage? Years ago we were told that we ought to delay the shipment of our fruit to England for at least a month so that the American crop could be marketed. But we stood our ground, and by using co-operative methods we were able, after two or three years, to convert a small loss on the early shipments into a profit. It was the American growers who had to step back. If we had withheld our supplies for a month we might have had to withhold them for two months, and in the end we might have lost the market entirely. If we fail to hold our place in the wheat market, even though the conditions are difficult, we may be pushed right out of it.
It has been suggested by some honor- . able members that the wheat industry should take steps to provide a bounty for export wheat in the same way that the wine industry has provided a bounty for export wine; but I do not think that that is a practical proposition. We ought to sell our wheat on the local market at the lowest possible profitable price, for that would lead to an increase in consumption. But, in any case, the Australian public should have the benefit of the lowest price possible. Personally, I do not expect wheat to fall below the guaranteed price. If it does, it will be a poor look-out for Australia. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has suggested that the guarantee should be provided for three years, and I think that the Government would be quite safe in extending the guarantee period for that time. If it did so, it would, enable us to establish our position in the world’s market, and it would also give the wheatgrowers confidence. I trust that honorable members generally will use their influence with the wheat-growers to get them to vote for a compulsory pool. The Government does not stand to lose anything by adopting the policy outlined in this bill, for ultimately it must result in the production of the better article at a price which will give the producers a fair return for their labour.
.- This measure has been debated at considerable length, and many figures have been quoted for and against it. A good deal of the discussion has centred round the wisdom or otherwise of providing for a compulsory pool. I propose to analyze the provisions of the bill with the object of ascertaining the effect that they are likely to have upon the expansion of wheat production in Australia. Every honorable member who has spoken has emphasized the importance of wheat-growing to Australia, particularly at present. The main questions that we should consider are whether the policy of the bill will encourage wheatgrowing and whether a compulsory pool is likely to increase or decrease the area under crop. We should not do anything that is likely to be in any way detrimental to the wheat-growers. It will be admitted by everybody that, during the last decade, the wheat-growers of Australia have not had a prosperous time, particularly the men who have gone out into the new areas. These certainly have not. had the return for their labour that they had the right to expect. It is true that the area under crop increased from 9,540,000 acres in 1923-24 to 14,812,000 acres in 1928-29 ; but the progress was not so great as it might have been had better conditions prevailed during that period.
It has been said during the debate that the world is producing too much wheat at present. I disagree with that statement, for statistics prove that if no wheat were grown in one season the world would be on the verge of starvation before the following season’s crop was available. But I think it has been established that wheat costs too much to produce. If wheat could be sold at a lower price millions more people, would buy it who cannot now afford to do so. The Australian wheat-producers have had to labour under the most difficult conditions imaginable within the last few years. They have been faced by extraordinarily high tariffs on many of the commodities that they require. This has added to the cost of production, and so has tended to limit the area under crop. The sons of many farmers have been unable to afford to buy implements and other necessary plant to enable them to set up as wheatgrowers. It is recognized that in new areas farming implements last for only a short time, and then have to be replaced.
The awards of the Arbitration Courts and the extraordinary loan policy that Australia has followed since the war have also had a bad effect upon wheat production. It may sound strange to say that our loan policy has been detrimental to this industry, but as most of the loan money has been spent in our city areas, the sons of farmers, and rural workers generally, have been attracted from our country districts to the cities, and so have not been available to develop the agricultural industries upon which the nation must absolutely depend. Owing to the high wages and other attractive conditions obtaining in the cities, it was only natural that men left the country; but until they gravitate back to the rural areas, Australia can never become as great a producing country as it should be. No doubt the Government is quite sincere in its proposal to establish a compulsory wheat pool. This is the pet child of the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney), who, in season and out of season, has kept it prominently before the House.
– The spoilt child!
– It may easily prove to be a very spoilt child. The bill is most vague, and the Minister was careful, in introducing it, to remain discreetly silent regarding its probable effects. In my opinion it will not produce confidence in the minds of the wheatgrowers. They do not know to what extent they may be committing themselves by accepting this proposal. Ostensibly there is to be a guarantee for one year, compulsion for three years, and then compulsion for an indefinite period if the contracting governments agree to adopt that course. I shall be surprised if the farmers of Australia accept such conditions.
We are told that the pool will be controlled by the wheat-growers themselves, and that State and Commonwealth boards will operate, but we have also been informed that the Commonwealth Bank will be responsible for the money advanced. So far as I understand matters of this kind, those responsible for the money invariably have the greatest voice in regard to the control. Although it has been said that the boards will be composed almost entirely of farmer’s representatives, I am of the opinion that the controlling authorities will be those who guarantee the payments. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has said that there will be no difficulty in financing the scheme, because as soon as a certain proportion of the wheat is placed in the control of the pool it will be shipped away. It will mean that this organization will rush the wheat upon the market with the one object of getting rid of it to avoid financial embarrassment.
– I do not think for a moment that that will happen.
– It may very possibly occur. Moreover, I do not see how a pool can imbue the wheatproducers with confidence, because in the past they have been in the habit of picking and choosing as to when and to whom they will dispose of their crops. These producers are just as independent as any others, and they desire to use their own judgment in the selling of their wheat. It has been said that the wheat-farmers are in such a position that they must sell when they are told to do so. I thoroughly disagree with that view. . While many of the wheat-producers in Australia, being only beginners in the industry, are in the unfortunate position of having to depend on borrowed money to keep them going, others have been farming for the whole of their lives, and desire to be as independent as other citizens. They are quite as capable .as any organization that could be set up of deciding when to sell their own wheat.
– When they sell, they do it, not at their own price, but at the price fixed by the merchant.
– Everybody should be free to use his own judgment when disposing of the product of his own labour. Therefore, I believe that, if this organization is set up, it will not produce in the minds of the wheat-growers the confidence that is anticipated in some quarters; in fact I think. that it will have the contrary effect. If the farmers are tied down to a price guarantee for one year, and then bound for a further period of two years without a guarantee, after which they have to sell as the contracting governments choose to decide, it will certainly notinduce an increased production of wheat, unless the present conditions of production in Australia and throughout the world improve.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with the open market, which leaves the growers to the mercy of the speculators ?
– I do not understand the honorable member’s attitude.
– We were at the mercy of those men for long years before the pools were put into operation.
– I fail to see why my friend the honorable member for Echuca (Mr- Hill), who is so conservative in regard to a number of other measures, adopts on the subject of a compulsory wheat pool, what I regard as an extraordinarily distorted view. If we introduce this system we shall take from the farmer the freedom that he now enjoys, in being able to dispose of his wheat according to his own judgment. As a wheatproducer I wish to continue to exercise my own judgment in every respect as to when and to whom I dispose of my crop. I am not prepared to impose upon other growers a form of compulsion to which I personally object. I do not for a moment believe that the majority of farmers throughout Australia think that they should be compelled to accept all the harassing restrictions- that a compulsory pool would involve. I suppose that it will be necessary, if this bill is passed, for every farmer to furnish a return showing the exact number of bags of wheat he has produced, and’ he will not be able to sell a few bags to his neighbour without recording the fact. The farmer may not be permitted even to let his wife have a few bags of wheat for her fowls, without placing it on record.
– How the farmer would be hen-pecked then!
– Under the Government’s proposal, the producers would be completely hen-pecked. I admit that voluntary pools, if properly conducted, are admirable for their purpose. I can see no reason why a voluntary pool should not be managed as efficiently as an ordinary trading concern.
– The voluntary pool in Western Australia is wonderfully well conducted.
– I believe that it has given the utmost satisfaction to the wheat-growers of that State, and that they have indicated their intention not to join a compulsory pool. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) made the o’ther night a speech that was a model of careful preparation; but it appeared to me that he sought to give the impression that a voluntary pool with which he was connected could not hold its own with the wheat merchants. If the organization of a voluntary pool is as efficient as that of the private merchant, it should be able to compete on equal terms with that merchant, because they trade in the same market. There is not the slightest doubt that the farmer will rally to, and stand by, any pool that will obtain for him higher prices than he can secure elsewhere. I am a supporter of co-operation among the farmers for the ‘conduct of their own business. If, as has been stated frequently, the private merchants in Victoria have been able to beat the pool over a given period-
– That is the story that they tell. I may say that the voluntary pools of Victoria have returned a higher price per annum than any other pool in Australia.
– I am very pleased to hear that; then there should have been no occasion for the honorable member to support a compulsory pool. The farmer is not a longhaired individual with grass seeds hanging to him, such as the comic papers depicted him years ago. He knows what he is about, and will not sell his wheat to private merchants if a pool organized by those win are engaged in the industry will give him a better return than he is likely to receive, from those merchants. I do not wish the impression to be gained that I am opposed to voluntary pooling. I believe that the farmers can co-operate to their own advantage in many directions, and that they should do so. What I am opposed to is the compulsory element. I sincerely hope that the bill will not be carried, because I do not think that it will be in the interests of either the wheat-growers or the taxpayers of Australia, or that it will lead to the production of a greater quantity of wheat. Some honorable members opposite have abused private enterprise, and have sought to give the impression that those who have been buying wheat in Australia for many years are thieves and rogues. I am not in the least concerned about the welfare of the merchants; they are perfectly well able to look after themselves. The fact that they have been trading in Australia for a considerable time and, in the language of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), have made millions out of the farmers, proves that there is no occasion for any honorable member to champion their cause. I merely wish to say that in the past they have served a most useful purpose. My desire is to conserve the interests of the producer, and I do not believe that this is’ the best way to do it. The creation of a compulsory pool will undoubtedly create the greatest monopoly that we have had in our history. As it is to operate for three years, private enterprise will be entirely eliminated. We cannot say definitely that the pool will not continue to operate for six or even ten years, and that it may not place Australia in a position that is not dreamed of at the present time.
– The honorable member must be afraid that it is going to be a success.
– I fear that it will have a most detrimental effect upon Australia. I object to the creation of a government monopoly.
– It will not be a government monopoly.
– Allegedly it is to be controlled by farmers’ organizations; but actually it will be controlled by the Commonwealth Government, through the Commonwealth Bank.
– If the honorable member had read the bill he would not have made that statement.
– I have read the bill. The Commonwealth Bank is to find the money, and the Government is to give the guarantee.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting the position.
– The honorable member’s leader has suggested that the Commonwealth Government should find the money.
– I am not concerned, for the moment, with what authority is to find the money; but the authority that does so will be able to say what kind of a monopoly it shall be.
– There will be one government representative on the board.
– The Government will control the finance, and that is everything.
– This is going to create a government monopoly in Australia.
– That is entirely untrue.
– After the Government has created this monopoly, we do not know how much further it will go. One plank on the platform of the Labour party is “ the socialization of all means of production “ ; and the Ministry g pledged to give effect to that policy.
– It is an objective of the party.
– I am pleased to hear the honorable member for Corio admit that. In the past the Minister brought forward this proposal in season and out of season, whenever he saw an opportunity of embarrassing the last Government. There is on the platform of the party to which the Minister belongs a proposal favouring the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The Government, if it has the, courage of its convictions, should now be prepared to put that objective into operation. If it does not still believe in that plank of its platform, it should have the plank removed; but while it is there, I think I am justified in believing that the Government’s compulsory pool proposals may be merely one step in the direction of the socialization of industry. I am opposed to the establishment of a compulsory pool, because I believe that it may be a step in the direction of the socialization of industry. I do not say that the Minister is himself in favour of such a drastic plank of his party’s platform, but his hand may be forced by outside influences. Other honorable members on the Government side, who will not openly support such advanced ideas in this House, are prepared to voice them quite freely when surrounded by their friends on the Yarra Bank. The Government appealed to the wheat-growers to produce more, because it knew that they were likely to respond as they have always done in the past.’ The Government should, I . think, in view of the special appeal made to the industry by the Prime Minister, give a guarantee of at least 4s. a bushel for this year ; but it should npt tack the guarantee on to a proposal for a compulsory pool. It should give a straightout bounty that’ would bring the price up ‘ to 4s. a bushel, and let it go at that. It seems to me that there is a likelihood that the wheat-farmers’ interests may be sacrificed through inefficient management of the pool. It is easy to set up a marketing organization, but it is not always easy to get competent men to manage it - men capable of pitting their wits against shrewd business executives on the other side of the world. I am afraid that, this enterprise will fail as have nearly all the other government trading ventures undertaken in Australia. There is no provision in the bill for allowing the farmers to vote on the merits of a pooling proposal; but I am convinced that if they are given a voice on that matter we can rely upon their sturdy commonsense to reject it altogether.
.- I have listened with close attention to the debate on this bill, and with particular interest to the speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron). He went to great lengths to show that many of those who ure supporting this bill have gone “ red “ - that they are Bolshevists. I did not realize before how many Bolshevists there were on the honorable membier’s own side of the House. Does the honorable member seriously assert tha: the honorable member for Echuca (M’r. Hill), the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan), the honorable member for New England (M.r. Thompson), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), are Bolshevists - that they have gone “red”? I am afraid that the honorable member’s arguments will not cut much ice with the people of Australia. 1 congratulate the Government on the way it has tackled this problem. This is a courageous measure, and one which will have the effect of improving the economic position of Australia. This Government bas shown that it is not afraid to deal with the problems confronting the country. In an endeavour to restore Australia’s financial stability it went to considerable lengths in its manipulation of the tariff, but I believe its actions in that respect will be abundantly justified. If the Bruce-Page ‘ Government during its sis years in office had shown anything like the same courage and ability this Government would not have needed to take these extreme measures to put things right.
– The honorable member regards, this as an extreme measure?
– I look upon it as a good measure, calculated to promote the best interests of the country, and I have no doubt that even the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will ultimately be converted to the principle of .compulsory pooling. It is pleasing to note that the great majority of the people of Australia endorse the Government’s policy, especially its efforts to adjust the finances of the country. In this . bill the Government has turned its attention directly to the man on the land. The bill deals only with wheat, but it indicates the policy of the Government iri regard to the marketing of primary products. . The Government’s policy is, on the one hand, to encourage primary production, and On the other, to encourage secondary industries. That is the only statesmanlike way of .promoting the development of this continent.
– Doe3 the Government admit that?
– I believe it does. The Government has appealed to honorable members to treat the bill as a non-party measure, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has lost no opportunity to make political capital out of it. I remember’ his saying some months ago that in this time of crisis all parties should get together in order to devise the best means of helping the country out of its difficulties. But in respect of no proposal submitted by the Government has the Opposition offered a helping hand. The tariff schedules were attacked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and neither he nor his leader offered a constructive suggestion. Following the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that all parties should cooperate, surely it is the duty of honorable members opposite to help the Government to straighten out the affairs of the Commonwealth; but in this regard they have failed miserably. The country needs men of big ideas who are prepared to do something practical. The members of the present Government are tackling our financial, economic, and industrial problems in a national way, and if they remain long enough on the treasury bench to clean up the mess left by the BrucePage Government Australia may hope for better times.
Wheat and wool are of paramount importance to the financial stability of the Commonwealth. This bill has been introduced to encourage and stimulate primary production, and’ its chief object i3 to regulate the export and interstate trade in wheat and flour. This is to be achieved through an Australian wheat board, to be controlled by the growers. A compulsory wheat pool is to be set up. The Government will guarantee to the farmers 4s. per bushel for f.a.q. wheat delivered at country railway stations, plus Sd. for railway freight and other expenses. The bill will establish the necessary machinery to give effect to this proposal. The Australian wheat board will consist of one representative of each State board, and a representative of the Commonwealth.
To that constitutionno objection can be taken. Each wheat-growing State will be required to pass legislation for the establishment of State boards, with power to acquire on behalf of the growers all wheat produced within that State, hold it as security against advances, and sell it to the best advantage. These State boards will consist of persons elected by the producers and probably one representative of the State Government. The important fact is that the boards will be dominated by the elected representatives of the growers. It is fit and proper that the farmers should control the marketing of theirown product. [ Quorum formed]. When speaking on the Constitution amendment bills, I drew attention to the inability of this National Parliament to initiate an Australian wheat marketing pool without first securing the aid of the States.. This anomaly should be rectified at the earliest possible moment. The Commonwealth Parliament, should have power to deal with all big national matters, particularly such a one as wheat marketing, without being hampered and restricted by State rights. The Federal Constitution is quite out of date; it confers upon the National Parliament only limited powers. In all the States are Legislative Assemblies or Houses of Assembly elected on an adult franchise, and in five of the six States are Legislative Councils, Queensland having wisely decided some years ago to discontinue the obsolete bicameral system. In Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania, members are elected to the Legislative Council on a property qualification, and cannot be said to represent the views of the majority of the people. New South Wales has a nominee second chamber, and if the Government of the day has not sufficient supporters in the Legislative Council to give effect to any part of its policy it adopts the simple expedient of flooding the chamber with new nominees. This system is antiquated and undemocratic, and detrimental to the best interests of the Australian people. If it continues, the time will come when the members of the Legislative Council will be as numerous as the citizens of New South Wales. This statement may seem exaggerated, but it shows the absurdity of an unlimited nominee chamber. Moreover, members of the Legislative Council are appointed for life, and as they have free passes over the railways of Australia it is little wonder that the systems do not pay.
– The honorable member is travelling a long way from the wheat pool.
– I am pointing out that these second -chambers, which have long outlived their usefulness, will finally determine whether a compulsory pool shall be established. If a. pool is brought into being, the growers will decide by ballot who shall be their representatives on the State boards.
– But there is no provision for a ballot to determine whether a pool shall be established. In Queensland, where there is no second chamber, Parliament can impose this scheme on the State without reference to the growers.
– The compulsory pooling system is the most democratic system in operation to-day. The bill provides that each State board shall elect from its members a representative to the Federal Board, and, as the Government’s representative on the board in each State will be in a minority, we may naturally suppose that the Federal Board will be controlled principally by the growers’ representatives. I confess that I am not conversant with the pooling system of Queensland, but I have had some experience of pooling in other States.
– Not very much.
– The honorable member’s speech was based on material supplied to him by wheat agents. His statement that wheat lost weight during transit is clear evidence that he knows little about the wheat industry. I advise him to study this subject more closely before again attempting to discuss it in the House. The Federal Board will be controlled principally by the growers’ representatives. We are living in an age of organization, and the various sections of the community must organize for their own preservation. It is proposed, under this legislation, to assist the farmer to organize, to enable him to sell his product to the best advantage. He is to be given every safeguard. It was a sign of the times when the representatives of the farmers gathered in conference in Canberra and decided to support the Govern- merit’s proposal to establish a compulsory wheat pool. The principle of compulsory pooling was adopted by that conference.
– It was a hand-picked conference.
– There is no need for the honorable member to cast slurs on the representatives of the farmers of this country. That conference was a body representative of the wheat industry.
– It was specially selected.
– Will the honorable member contend that the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales is not a representative body? I daresay that he would have liked the wheat agents to be present at that conference. Fortunately, we have had a little experience of their methods. Honorable members have been supplied with an enormous amount of propaganda, prepared by the wheat merchants.
– I have not seen any of it.
– The honorable member quoted pages of it. Most of the speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) was an extract from a pamphlet issued by the wheat merchants. The Government is not concerned with the wheat agents of this country. It desires to assist the producer, the man on the land-. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), during his able speech, quoted from a report of a select committee in South Australia to show that, some year’s ago, there existed in that State an honorable understanding between the wheat merchants, which enabled them to fleece the farmers at will. I congratulate the Government upon having had’ the courage to bring down this bill.
– The honorable member has said that the farmers are clamouring for this bill. I should, therefore, like to know why it should need courage to introduce it.
– The Government has shown courage in guaranteeing 4s. a bushel to the farmers. This Australianwide wheat marketing scheme is to be controlled by a board in each State, to be elected by the wheat-growers, and by a federal board on which each State board will be represented. It will be necessary to take a ballot of all the wheat-growers to authorize the constitution of the board, and the Commonwealth has invited the State Governments to join in a guarantee to the growers of 4s. a bushel. It is specifically mentioned in the bill that the guarantee is for the first year. Much has been said about that, and it has been argued that the guarantee should be given during the period of compulsion; but we should first ascertain the position in respect of the first year before any further guarantee is given. I have no doubt that the Government will do the right thing by the wheat-growers, and the great majority of the people of this country. Eventually the pool will be a real blessing to Australia. I congratulate the Government on its effort to stimulate the export of our primary products. Honorable members opposite do not seem to realize the advantage of placing an additional acreage under wheat. I recently attended the opening of the Darling Wing of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute at Glen Osmond, South Australia, and heard an interesting address by Professor Richardson. He referred not only to wheat, but to other products of Australia. He said that if the wheat yield could be increased by one bushel per acre, the Commonwealth would benefit to the extent of £3,000,000 per annum; that an increased production of 1 lb. of wool per sheep would mean approximately £5,000,000 additional revenue to the Commonwealth; and that, if the production from dairy cows could be increased by 10 lb. per cow, it would mean an increase of £2,000,000 per annum. It would be an excellent thing for Australia if, by adopting scientific methods, we could greatly increase the production of this country. Of course, I realize that markets must be found for our surplus products, and I believe that they will be found. The Government, by appointing trade commissioners in various countries of the world, is taking a step in the direction of finding markets for our products.
– It is findings jobs for its friends.
– Whatever this Government does will be in the interests of Australia. It will exercise every care in selecting the men to fill these positions. When the Minister was introducing the bill, I made a pertinent interjection to the effect that the relation of wheat prices to the price of bread was worth examining.
The Minister in reply said that the formation of a Federal Wheat Board would afford an opportunity of examining that aspect of the matter. The consumer has a right to be protected.
It is well known that the price of flour, bran and pollard is fixed by the flour millers’ associations. A Prices Regulation Commission sat in South Australia some years ago which made some interesting revelations in regard to the relative price of wheat, flour and bread. The commission was composed of specially selected gentlemen well qualified to do the work entrusted to them. The commission’s reports, which are available in the Library, show that on the 19th October, 1915, when flour was available at £16 per ton, some bakers reduced the price of bread to 4£d. per 2-lb loaf, but others kept it at 5d. per 2-lb loaf. The commission consequently declared bread to be a “ necessity of life within the meaning of the Prices Regulation Act 1914,” and fixed the maximum price of bread in all parts of South Australia, on the 6th November, 1915, at 4£d. per 2-lb loaf. On the 23rd November, 1915, it issued Report No. 102, which declared the following prices : -
Price paid by millers for new season’s wheat, 4s. Od. to 5s. per bushel at Port Adelaide.
Price of (lour for local consumption, £12 per ton net cash at mill door.
Price of bread, 4d. per 2-lb loaf.
Report No. 106 of the commission, dated the 9th December, 1915, fixed the following prices: -
Flour, fl8 10s. per ton.
Bread, 5d. per 2-lb. loaf.
It will be seen, therefore, that the commission did good work in protecting the consumers. With the passage of time the commission went out of existence, and since then prices have gradually increased, as the following table will show : -
– The price of wheat did not affect the price of bread very much in those instances.
– That is so. It has been argued that if this bill is passed the price of bread will be adversely affected from the point of view of the consumer, but experience has shown that the price of wheat has not had a very great effect upon the price of bread.
The following tables also give some interesting information that is relevant to this debate: -
I am informed that approximately 52,000,000 bushels of wheat are gristed by the Australian millers annually, of which 32,000,000 bushels are required to provide flour for home consumption. The Government should give very careful consideration to the possibilities of extending the flour-milling industry in Australia.
Ihope that the day is not far distant when the great bulk of our wheat will be gristed here, and the surplus flour exported. I know that there are difficulties in the way of achieving this desirable end, but we must face them, and, if possible, overcome them in the interests of our flour-milling industry. We also have a big potential market for flour in the East. At present South Africa has an embargo upon the importation of Australian flour, but I trust that before very long this will be lifted. We should also be able, in the course of time, to export a great deal more flour to Great Britain.
– What about the British flour-milling industry?
– My experience of Great Britain isthat she can take good care of herself. At the moment, I am concerned about the encouragement of the Australian milling industry. It would mean a great deal to Australia if she could manufacture the bulk of her wheat into flour, just as it would mean a great deal to her if she could manufacture the bulk of her wool into finished articles.
A good deal has been said during the debate about the bulk handling of wheat. Possibly the time is not quite ripe for the introduction of that system throughout Australia, but there is a great deal to be said in its favour. It cannot be denied that we are spending a huge amount annually in buying cornsacks. Recently I asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) -
What was the quantity and value of bags and sacks imported into Australia during each of the past three years?
The following figures that he gave me in reply are astounding: - 1926-27- 7,420,160 dozen, value £4,316,592 (includes bags n.e.i., value £7,345, quantity not recorded). 1927-28 -6,362,599 dozen, value £3,640,348 (includes bags n.e.i., value £6,610). 1928-29- 7,365,698 dozen, value £4,098,972 (includes bags n.e.i., value £7,129). [Quorum formed.] Those figures indicatea tremendous wastage in connexion with wheat sacks.
– That is one of the matters that the board could effectively and advantageously deal with.
– I am glad to hear the Minister’s remark.
It is pleasing to know that the farmers of Australia are helping the Government in its campaign for increased wheat production. In South Australia, which I have the honour to assist in representing in this House, the wheat production during the three years from 1926-27 to 1928-29, was considerable, as the following figures show : -
South Australia, at any rate, will do its part to increase the acreage under wheat. When a Labour Government recently came into office in that State there were welcome rains, and they came at a crucial period. South Australia produced over 24,000,000 bushels of wheat in 1927-28, and nearly 27,000,000 bushels in 1928-29. In the coming year we hope that our harvest will amount to 50,000,000 bushels. I gathered from the Melbourne Herald, of the 10th May, that the area under wheat in Victoria this year is 4,200,000 acres. It is not impossible that there will be an increase of £30,000,000 in Australia’s cheque for wheat exported, if theseason is a reasonably good one throughout the Commonwealth. There is every hope that Victoria, at least, will experience an excellent season this year. The Labour party has already assisted secondary industries, and it is now endeavouring to help the man on the land. I hope that this bill will be given a speedy passage.
.- In common with other honorable members, I have received a considerable number of circulars from wheat-buyers, who are interested in the subject-matter of this bill. I have read those circulars because I think that it is the duty of every member to make himself acquainted with the wheat problem. I have endeavoured to ascertain the views of those who favour compulsory pools. The communications to which I have referred were sent to all members openly, and there is no reason why any section interested in a bill under consideration in this House should not place its views before us. Situated aswe are at Canberra, one of our disadvantages is tbat we find it difficult to learn the views of those capable of expressing valuable opinions, and, therefore, I am grateful for any information sent to me which may improve my knowledge on matters coming before the House. I hope that we shall not hear so much talk as heretofore about wheat-buyers and “ poolites,” because such criticism will prejudice fair consideration of the present proposal.
Wheat pooling began at the time of the late war. The Government commandeered the shipping, and, of course, a pool had to be formed. It did very useful work, notwithstanding the fact that it sustained losses, the prices realized being about 2s. a bushel, in some cases, less than were obtained by other countries. Letme remind honorable members that the power which can put up the price of wheat in one year may, in a subsequent year, fix a low price for home consumption for the whole of Australia, so that what may favour the growers in one year may be to their disadvantage on a later occasion. When the compulsory pooling system was discarded many of the farmers gave up pooling, and for some years returned to the system of open markets. There is no doubt that that action was highly beneficial to the industry. Competition is most desirable in trade and in industry, and it has proved of the highest value to the wheat-farmers. The competition of the open markets influenced the wheat pools, and the experience of the pools enabled the public to see how the two systems operated. The result was that a fair and reasonable price was maintained.
But the farmers have gradually drifted away from the pool idea, with the result that, although they began by handling 100 per cent. of the wheat under the compulsory system, they are now pooling only about 40 per cent. of the Australian crop. In fact, the only effective pool to-day is that operating in Western Australia. In Victoria, one ballot, and, in New South Wales, two ballots have been taken on the question of compulsory pooling, and in each instance the farmers have rejected the system. This shows that they object to being compelled to pool their wheat. They desire a guaranteed price, but they wantit free from a condition that is offensive and humiliating to them. The plea that I make to the House is that, if honorable members have anythingof value to give tothe farmers, it should be given to them without this restriction which, almost alone, causes the opposition that has been raised in this House, and will be heard in the country, to compulsory pooling. Why force this system on the producers when the only objective of the proposed pool, the fixing of prices, can be attained just as well by means of a voluntary pool ? The amount of assistance that is proposed to give is not so great that it should have this condition attached to it. Nominally, the guarantee is 4s. a bushel; but on the basis of the present exchange between Australia and Great Britain, it actually is 3s. 9d. a bushel, because the Australian £1 note is worth only 18s. 9d. in Great Britain.
– But the wheatfarmers are in Australia, not in Great Britain.
– The Government will pay in Australian notes. It will sell the wheat in London, and receive for it good British money worth 20s. in the £1, thereby deriving an advantage of1s. 3d. in the £1, which, roughly, is the equivalent of 3d. a bushel. But the Commonwealth Treasury will make an additional profit out ofthe wheat-farmers. The pool is to be financed with Australian notes, which will cost the country nothing except that involved in their printing. Interest, however, will be charged on the sum advanced under the guarantee.
– That is an advantage of which we have not heard before.
– I am gratified that I have been able to contribute a new idea to the debate. In the matter of handling wheat, at the present time there is very keen competition between the open market buyers on the one hand and on the other the co-operative concerns, which have not quite been able to hold their own. Their advocates in this House have complained that the competition is not fair, because all the wheat farmers will not come into voluntary pools. That may be a very good ground of complaint on the part of the poolers; but it does not necessarily apply to the farmers generally, because they probably benefit as a result of the competition between the two parties. One of the worst features of this proposal is that it will deprive the industry of the advantage of the healthy competition which now exists. The handling of wheat is a very important element in the business of the middleman. From the time that the wheat is. delivered at the railway station the pool must have agents to receive, stack, protect and ultimately place it on board ship. Those services generally come within the category of handling, and the handling charge is about1d. a bushel.
– It is. more than that.
– Even on the basis of1d. a bushel this will be a very profitable business for the agents who are entrusted with the handling of the wheat. It is hoped that we shall export 120,000,000 bushels of wheat. At1d. a bushel the agents who handle it will receive £500,000. But in addition to that they will have the handling of about 30,000,000 bushels of wheat for Australian consumption. I consider that tenders should be called for the right to handle the wheat on behalf of the pool; that would be the cheapest and most effective method. I fear, however, that there will be no public competition; that in this matter there is a gentleman’s understanding between the poolites on the one hand and the representatives of the Government on the other ; that in return for their support the poolites will be given the exclusive right to handle the wheat of this country.
A compulsory pool has been supported by several honorable members on this side for whose opinion I have the greatest respect, including the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). When I say that they are influenced by their previous association with pools I do not suggest that they have the slightest personal interest in the matter. The honorable member for Echuca is the chairman of the principal co-operative concern in Victoria.
– That should indicate that he knows something about the subject.
– I pay him the compliment of saying that he knows a good deal about it. He has been almost the father of this concern, and he is the chief man in it. While respecting his knowledge, the House must consider his views in the light of the advantage that his members will receive if this understanding is carried out. I have not the slightest doubt that if the pool is agreed to the co-operative concerns will have the handling of the wheat.
– They have no guarantee of that.
– The Minister will not deny that that is so; he will not undertake to call public tenders.
– The matter will be entirely in the hands of the board ; and as the board will be representative of the growers it will be in the hands of the growers themselves.
– The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) would not be doing his duty as the chairman ofthat cooperative organization if he did not endeavour to get this profitable business for it. J draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that as the profits of these co-operative concerns are distributed amongst their members, who are not all wheat-growers, the ordinary man on the land will not benefit bytheir handling of the wheat. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), whose opinion always carries considerable weight in this House, has stated that he also is a pooler. The greatest achievement of his life has been the establishment of the butter pool, and he is absolutely committedto the system. Can one expect, therefore, that he is likely to advance any other opinion if he is to remain consistent? I was not surprised whenthe honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) supported a compulsory pool. Of course, we know that there is a pool in Queensland at the present time, and that it is able to extract from the public about 6d. a bushel more than the wheat-growers would receive if the wheat-buyers could purchase in an open market. If this proposal is carried there will be an increase in the price for local consumption. That increase has been estimated variously at from1s. to 2s. 3d. a bushel. The wheat-growers of Queensland should have no voice in this matter, because they have no surplus wheat to export. But the honorable member for Darling Downs realizes that the formation of this pool will probably enable them to obtain an additional price ranging from 6d. to ls. Del. a bushel, and his advocacy of it can therefore be readily understood. Although pooling has been a good thing for Australia, conducted as it has been in conjunction with open competition, generally speaking, pools have returned to the wheat-growers less than has been paid by private buyers. It has been pointed out that the pool in Western Australia, ‘which has been the only successful pool in Australia, paid better prices during a period of two years. But it must also be considered that when the wheat-grower sells in the open market he receives his cash immediately; whereas when he sells to the pool he is obliged to wait for six or eight months, or even longer. That is a very important consideration to the farmer. In Victoria, in one year out of six, the pool paid rather better prices than the private buyers. On the whole, however, pools in Australia have not obtained as good results for the grower as have been obtained in the open market.
The Canadian pool is the best example on which to base an opinion, because it handles something like 55 per cent, of the Canadian harvest, and that is a greater quantity than the total production in Australia. When that pool was instituted the claims made for it were similar to those that are being advanced in Australia today in support of a compulsory pool. It was said that it would stabilize the delivery of wheat. Experience showed that that did not happen, but that the rush of wheat to the market during the first three months of the season was 14 p”er cent, greater over a period under pool conditions than it had been over a similar period previously. In Australia, the inconvenience of early marketing will be severely felt. The farmers will always rush their wheat in so as to obtain the 4s. a bushel. In Canada, it was also said that the pool would stabilize prices; but it did not do so. The average fluctuation over a period of 5 years was 5 per cent, prior to the pool, and 15 per cent, under the pool. Further, it was said that the pool would put an end to speculation, which is supposed to be the bane of the wheat-grower. What was the result? Speculation has not ceased, and the pool is the greatest speculator of all.
– Speakers supporting the bill have commended the Canadian pool on the ground that it came to the rescue of Australian wheat prices when they threatened to fall. It was stated that had it not been for the Canadian pool Australian wheat might have been sold for as little as 2s. 6d. a bushel. If the Canadian pool was instrumental in saving Australian prices, it was- so at the expense of the Canadian wheat-growers, and. that in itself is the strongest condemnation of that pool possible. The pool authorities held over the Canadian wheat crop; they gambled and lost, the inevitable result being that the people in Western Canada could get no money; that the financial arrangements of the whole of that part of the country were. deranged; that the exchange rate in Canada went down by 2 per cent., and that the position of the pool was so desperate that in order to save it from being dissolved, three provincial governments entered into a joint guarantee in support of it.
– They only guaranteed a margin of 15 per cent.
– Whatever the guarantee, it was found necessary to take action to save the pool from dissolution.
– They realized the value of the pool.
– They realized that it was better to come to its rescue than to have it collapse completely. It is estimated that the pool has lost the farmers £10,000,000 as a result of its operations. It carried over from the 1928 crop 48,000,000 bushels, and in March last it had been holding wheat for fourteen months at a cost of Id. a bushel per month. The Canadian pool has been an unfortunate failure.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) asked me whether I considered that there was any real competition among the buyers of wheat on the European side. From what I have heard and read, I am convinced that the competition, if ‘ it exists at all, is very limited. That is one of the risks that we must run if we establish an Australian pool. It has been said that the buyers are so well organized that they were able to hammer the Canadian pool. If they could do that, how much better would they be able to hammer an Australian pool, seeing that the world’s carry-over from last year amounts to 598,000,000 bushels?
– It is estimated that by next year the Canadian carry-over will not be more than 30,000,000 bushels.
– That is one of the honorable member’s optimistic estimates. I have given the figures as they are, and the carry-over at the present time is 598,000,000 bushels. . I believe that there is a very strong combination of buyers, and if that combination chooses to operate against the Australian pool, it can, by declining to buy Australian wheat, bring the Australian Government to its knees. That is the greatest danger the Australian wheat-growers have to face.
Mention has been made of the Brazilian coffee pool. It adopted holdover tactics, with the result that the buyers of coffee refused to buy the Brazilian output, and the pool has been left with substantially a whole year’s crop on its hands. The position of the Brazilian coffee pool is summarized in the March issue of the Gazette issued by the National City Bank of New York as follows : -
There is practically a moratorium throughout the interior, but this does not apply in the city of Sao Paulo. Obviously this works hardship upon firms in the leading cities doing business in the interior, and numerous cases are reported of resulting embarrassment. It is said, however, that this policy in itself makes little difference in the situation, “ inasmuch as most interior firms would not be able to pay their bills anyway, as they are not being paid by their customers, who are largely plantation workers and others who are dependent on the plantations. It is true that most of the plantations have only paid part of what they owe their workers, if any, and that there is very little money circulating in the interior “. Up to the middle of January nine failures among coffee houses had occurred. ….. The feeling in Brazil seems to have reached the stage where a calamity to the next crop would bring a sense of relief.
To come nearer home, I remind honorable members of the New Zealand butter pool, which lost £3,000,000 during the course of its operations, partly as a result of retaliatory measures adopted by the Canadian Government. Similar methods were adopted against ourselves by South Africa and Egypt, which have excluded our flour. There has also been retaliation by France and Germany, and threatened retaliation by Italy. I saw recently a significant communication issued by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Sydney. It complained of the treatment meted out to Italy by Australia, although Italy is a very good customer of this country. Its complaint was that, although Australia has been selling large quantities of goods to Italy, she has imposed heavy duties against Italian products. The communication significantly stated that Mussolini was a nian of action, and that if the Italian Government did take steps they would be swift and retaliatory. We cannot afford to ignore official opinion in countries upon which we depend for the purchase of our products. New Zealand has already barred our bounty-fed wine, because she says we are dumping our surplus production in that country. There is little doubt that other countries will also como to realize that we are dumping our surplus production within their borders, and will impose higher duties against us, with disastrous results to Australia. I do not mention these things for the purpose of condemning pools, because I believe pools to be essential to the proper marketing of our produce; but, when we make them exclusive and compulsory, when we hand over to them, for instance, the entirewheat crop of the country, Ave are courting retaliation by other countries, and inviting the buyers of our produce tocombine in a common refusal to purchase our exports.
The bill itself has several defects. There is no provision in it for the taking of a ballot of the farmers on the proposal to establish a compulsory pool. In my opinion, there should be something like a standard majority fixed throughout the Commonwealth for ballots of primary producers on proposals of this kind. In South Australia the Government is dealing with legislation providing for a bare majority in such ballots. In Victoria, a majority of 55 per cent, is insisted upon. In Queensland there is a wheatmarketing act which fixes the majority at 66 per cent. In New South Wales, under a State act, the majority is fixed at 66 per cent. There should be a common rule in regard to this matter, and the majority should be fixed somewhere in the vicinity of 60 per cent., so that, if we are to enforce a compulsory pool on unwilling wheat-growers, it should he done only on the vote of a large majority of the growers concerned. No compulsion should be resorted to except on the express mandate of a large majority. That is n well established principle which has has been recognized in connexion with the liquor trade. The need for a large majority in any ballot on this proposal is seen to be all the greater when we examine the extent to which the wheatgrowers may be bound under this proposed legislation. There is a provision to the effect that three States may agree to the establishment of the pool, and [hat must be read in conjunction with clause 16, which enables a majority vote in any three States to enforce compulsory pooling on all the wheat-growers throughout Australia. Clause 16 is as follows: -
Fur Iiic purpose .of enabling the board effectively to control the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian wheat, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, prohibit the export from the Commonwealth of any wheat except in accordance with a licence issued by the Minister (or by any person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister) subject to such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed after recommendation by the board to the Minister.
A fine of £.1.00 may be imposed on any one who exports wheat in contravention of this provision, and the wheat may be confiscated. Thus three States, which need not necessarily be the three most important wheat-producing States of the Commonwealth, can enforce throughout Australia, for a period of three years, the compulsory pooling of wheat. This brings the period up to the end of 1933, and the arrangement may be continued throughout” subsequent seasons if mutually decided upon by the parties to the original agreement, namely, the Commonwealth and the governments of the States in which the pool was operating.
A very unfair position will be created by the influence Queensland will be able to exert. The growers of all States may vote in regard to the creation of a compulsory pool. “We are told that the Tasmanian growers will not vote, but that those of Queensland will be invited to do so. Queensland grows only sufficient wheat for local consumption, and has no interest in the export trade. It will be improper to allow a non-exporting State to dictate the policy of other States which have a large export trade. Tasmania produces, very little wheat, and apparently some of its representatives iii this chamber are prepared to vote for the establishment of a pool which may increase the price of wheat to their constituents by from ls. to 2s. 3d. a bushel.
– How does the honorable member work that out?
– At present Tasmania is getting its wheat at open market prices. The intention of the pool to fix an Australian price is not disguised, and in order to. make good a loss of 6d. per bushel on all wheat, it will be necessary to increase the price to the local consumer by 2s. 3d. per bushel. In addition, the people of Tasmania will have to take their share of the liability in respect of the Commonwealth’s half of the guarantee.
In regard to the financing of the scheme, clause 5 provides -
Upon the execution of any agreement authorized by the last preceding section, there shall bc payable out of the Consolidated Revenue, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, such amount us is necessary for the purpose of this agreement.
This is a definite appropriation of in amount estimated at £30,000,000 annually for at least three years, and for such longer periods as the parties to the agreement may determine. Throughout the currency of the agreement this liability will be borne by the Commonwealth, but no item to cover it will appear on the Estimates, and, therefore, it will be beyond parliamentary criticism and control.
The inequalities which make this proposal unacceptable to Western Australia have been fully stated by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Because that State is a large exporter of wheat and has a limited home market, if a loss of 6d. a bushel should be incurred by the pool, the State’s liability will be £1 3s. 6d. per head, whereas the liability of New South. Wales will be not more than one-fifth of that amount. The honorable, member also pointed out that under the equalization provisions in the bill,. Western Australia will not get any appreciable advantage from the increased price for local consumption because of the smallness of its home market.
– But it will benefit by the bigger local consumption in other States.
– The bill does. not provide so, and I should like to see that set out in the agreement.-
– It is provided for now, but the amendment I shall propose will make it clearer. Western Australia will also enjoy a freight advantage.
– That is worth not more than Jd. per bushel, but in respect of its present home price New South Wales will have an advantage of between 3d. and 6d. a bushel, and Queensland of 6d. Those advantages are to be retained by them.
I appeal to the Government to consider whether the wheat-farmer is not worthy of more generous treatment than is proposed in the bill. Why should not the Commonwealth give a free and complete guarantee? For the assistance given to the sugar, steel, cotton, dried fruits and other industries this Parliament has accepted full responsibility. Why should the wheat-farmer be asked to be content with half the assistance that is given to other industries? The greater part of the revenue which enables the majority of the Australian people to live in comparative ease is gained by the production of wheat and wool. But for the national income from those staple products our boasted high standard of living would be absolutely impossible. For many years the trend of social and industrial legislation has been adverse to the interests of the wheat-farmer. . High protective duties, bounties to various industries, and arbitration awards have added to his difficulties. If there is one section of the community that is deserving of generous treatment by this Parliament it is that which is engaged in the production of wheat. I ask the Government to offer an unconditional guarantee by the Commonwealth, and in that respect my views are adequately represented by the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- Like . 98 per cent, of the members of the Opposition, I am not a wheat-grower; but I have listened with interest to the excellent debate on this most important proposal. If I want to learn about meat I consult a butcher; if I want a shave I go to a barber, and if I desire to be informed about the wheat industry I refer to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and others who have specialized in it. We have listened to a great many statements setting forth the pros and cons of a compulsory wheat pool; but no honorable member has dealt with the matter as it appeals to the ordinary elector. I submit that his view would be this: In nearly every avenue of employment some protection has been given by the Parliament or courts of the land. The trade unionist is protected by the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in defence of which many of us were elected to this chamber in October last. The interests of the solicitor are controlled well and truly by the Law Institute. Those of the doctor are safeguarded by the British Medical Association, an organization which, to my knowledge, has been guilty of some appalling things in the medical history of Australia, but yet offers to the Labour movement an example of solidarity, and proof of the value of one big union for the protection of the interests of its members and the fixation of their terms of employment. The Bruce-Page Government assisted various industries by means of bounties. To the wine industry it made available £1,000,000, and to the iron and steel industry £900,000. It also induced Parliament to agree to bounties for the production of sulphur and shale oil. I do not object to those forms of assistance. Primary production is the main source of our wealth, and must be fostered ; but the secondary industries also should have some protection. The present Government introduced a schedule of high tariff duties designed to assure a living to the secondary producers, and make Australia more self-contained. Apparently all sections but the wheat-growers have received some form of assistance from this Parliament. I do not claim to have intimate knowledge of the transactions of the wheat merchants; but I am certain that firms like Louis Dreyfus and Company, and John Darling and Company, whose cause is so ably espoused by honorable members opposite, are not in the wheat business for the good of their health. They do not grow wheat; but, rightly or wrongly, they have been accused of contributing to the election funds of the anti-Labour parties.
An Honorable Member. - That is one way of distributing their wealth.
– If this bill is passed their wealth may be reduced. This is the first Federal Government that has ever attempted to tackle the problem of our adverse trade balance. It is out to do a big job in a big way in a big country. To-day the farmers, who represent a large section of the community, have no protection, and there is no certainty about what they will earn in the future. This Government, in setting to work to get Australia out of its financial muddle, has decided that the first step towards that end is to increase production. It has raised the slogan, “ Grow more wheat.” The members of the Opposition say, “Dig more coal,” However, a greater acreage of wheat- is being sown, so evidently the farmers believe that the Labour Government is their friend. They have taken its advice and are growing more wheat. In Victoria 1,250,000 additional acres will bc cultivated this year, and as a result of the magnificent rains that have fallen throughout the wheat areas of Australia, wc are anticipating a wonderful harvest. The members of the Government realized that they were not experts in the wheat industry. I am not sure that the Minister for Markets himself has grown wheat.
– I have.
– I am glad to hear that. The Government took the only sensible and practical course. It called a conference of representatives of the primary producers’ organizations throughout Australia. It approached the right quarter to get the right information, and armed with that information it evolved, with the concurrence of the State Governments, a scheme under which the right was given to the primary producers to decide, by ballot, whether a compulsory pool should be established. I am amazed that the members of the Opposition have seen fit to criticize the Government for introducing compulsion into this scheme, because the Nationalist party has always urged conscription in respect of certain things; but I submit that so long as we give the grower the right to say “yes” or “ no “ to this proposal, we are not forcing compulsion upon him. This pool is not in the real sense compulsory. If the proposal of the Government is carried it will permit, as has been emphasized by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and also the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), of the organized handling of one of our greatest commodities. At a recent meeting in my electorate some of my rural friends said to me, “You are asking us to grow more wheat, but why not get the miners to dig more coal?” I replied that that was an interesting question, and that if the coal-owners had managed that industry efficiently and economically we would not have had the spectacle to-day of 6,000 miners out of work with probably no prospect of employment in the mines. So that the cry “ Dig more coal “ is about fifteen years late, and is perhaps the most insincere argument that has been raised by honorable members opposite in their efforts to defeat this measure. Why should we not give the growers an opportunity by ballot to decide whether a compulsory wheat pool should be established ? It will’ be difficult for the Opposition to answer that question. A lot of water has to flow under the bridges before this wheat pool begins to operate, and all that the bill proposes is to give the growers an opportunity of establishing a compulsory pool in order to assist the industry generally. I shall leave it to other speakers, who perhaps are more expert in expressing their opinions, to urge the benefits that are likely to accrue under a compulsory pool. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) again trotted out that good old stalking horse “ Reduce the cost of production “. I remind that honorable member that the rural worker, in common with 98 per cent, of the workers of Australia, is governed by either State or Federal awards. These awards are made not by trade unions or the so-called union bosses, but by men whose motives I have never impugned despite the fact that I have had a long experience of arbitration courts in every State. Those men are sworn to do justice, but, it cannot be suggested that their awards have been too liberal, particularly when we find that thu rural worker is paid from £3 to £3 8s. a week and the skilled manual worker £4 8s. a week, which is the average basic wage of Australia.
– All the rural awards have ceased 10 operate.
– That is so, and it is the job of this Parliament to establish some other tribunal to which the rural workers may appeal. The fact that the rural awards have ceased to operate bears out the warning issued to the community generally by the Labour party when the late Government wanted to transfer arbitration from the Federal to the State sphere, that once the Federal awards ceased, State awards would soon follow suit. 1! challenge any honorable member to state accurately the cost of wheat production. 1 know the rates of pay, and I ought, to know them because I have talked nothing else for ten years. When an honorable member at this stage talks about reducing the cost of production, his meaning is obvious. He is suggesting that wage reduction is the natural corollary to the establishment of a compulsory pool. That is an absurd contention. The basic wage to-day, bearing in mind the intermittency of the employment of the average unskilled worker of Australia, would be overstated at £2 12s. a week. It would be beyond all reason to ask any rural or city worker to keep himself and his family on a wage of from £3 to £4 a week. I ask honorable members to calculate what they spend in their little walks around Canberra and their visits to certain places where they can get hot toast and tea and sometimes other things.
– What other things?
– The honorable member does not believe in the other things so I shall not remind him of them. We can therefore dispose of the argument that present day wages are excessive. The mere statement “Reduce the cost of production “ clearly refers only to wages and not to a reduction in interest rates, land values, or actual profits. As has already been pointed out by other speakers, thu majority of the members of the Federal and State wheat boards will be representatives of the producers, so that the pool, when established, will be under the control of the rank and file of the industry. I therefore heartily support the bill. The financing of the pool is an important matter, and in that connexion I suggest that the Government acted in a businesslike manner. It consulted the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Those men are paid fairly high salaries, not because the Government wishes to give money away, but because they are experts. They were consulted, and they informed the Government that they could arrange the necessary finance for the pool. I therefore suggest that the growers need have no worry about financing the pool. The best money is governmental money, because we are always sure about it. Much has been said about the circulation of certain, leaflets among honorable members, and to that, like the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), I have no objection. After all, the wheat merchants are issuing that literature not just to get rid of their money, but to create a certain psychology in this House, just as we on other occasions have endeavoured to create a psychology on certain matters. When the subject of arbitration was before this House, my organization instructed me to go to Canberra and to see what I could do to influence the Government. I was paid to do that. It was part of my duty. The wheat merchants can see that some of their business is likely to be taken from them, and they have put their men on the job, irrespective of money,- in an effort to defeat this legislation. I suggest that these leaflets are not harmful, since they have been issued with the one definite object of assisting honorable members in this House who are strenuously opposing the establishment of a compulsory pool.
No one is able to say definitely what the cost of this pool will be. Certain estimates have been made of the probable price of the new season’s wheat, but that is all that we have to go on. We have been told that all the big wheat-growing countries have a large exportable surplus of wheat; but Russia, which, it was said, would sweep away our trade within a year or two of the end of the war, did not export any wheat in 1928-29. It appears to me that we may reasonably expect to realize at least 4s. a bushel for our wheat. If there should be a loss on the pool, the nation will have to bear it. Bounties to the extent of more than £1,000,000 have been provided for the wine industry during the last three or four years, and there should be no great objection to the provision of money to assist the wheat industry.
Notwithstanding that some honorable members opposite have said that the Government, has introduced this bill with the sole object of giving effect to the socialistic policy of the Labour party, I am of the opinion that this is a sound scheme to assist one of our most important industries. But even .if the main merit of the bill were that it put into effect, to some extent, the policy of the Labour party, there could be no reasonable objection to it, for Labour was put into office to give effect to its policy. That policy aims at assisting every class in the community. The Government has already taken effective steps to assist certain secondary industries, and it is now endeavouring, in this and other ways, to assist some of our primary industries. During the time that the present Opposition was in occupation of the treasury bench, boards were set up to control the marketing of dried fruits, canned fruits, butter, wine and other commodities.
– And the pools were ail compulsory.
– That is so. It was not said that the Nationalist party was seeing “ red “ when it legislated for the establishment of these pools. I presume that prior to the inauguration of the pools, the commodities which I have mentioned were marketed by private selling agencies, and that their operations were not being conducted in the best interests of the industries concerned. That is the case with the wheat industry. There is no reason why the compulsory wheat pool should not prove as beneficial to the wheat industry as these other compulsory pools have proved to their particular industries.
The pooling method of marketing is not new. Queensland was governed for many years, without a break, by Labour Governments. In sixteen years no fewer than sixteen pools were established for the marketing of as many different commodities. In 1927 these pools handled £16,000,000 worth of produce, and the value and volume of the goods they handle are constantly increasing. A Nationalist Government has been in office in Queensland for nearly twelve months, but it has not seen fit to discontinue even one of the pools established by the Labour party.
– It is adding to them.
– That is so. The Queensland Government is doing its best to spend the £3,000,000 surplus left to it by its Labour predecessors in office. It is also reducing wages and increasing hours of work wherever possible. But it is not repealing the legislation that it found on the statute-book. Among the commodities that have been pooled in Queensland are sugar cane, butter, fruit, cheese, . wheat, maize, arrowroot, canary seed and peanuts. If the pooling method has proved successful in Queensland, there is no reason why it should not prove at least equally successful in the other States. The Labour Governments of Queensland performed wonders industrially, politically and commercially, and the present Nationalist Premier of that State shows no disposition to interfere with the good work done by the Labour party.
Our experience has shown beyond question a great necessity to establish pools for. the protection of the primary producers. If I were a wheat-grower, I should use every effort to organize the farmers as effectively as the trade unionists of Australia have been organized, in order that they might obtain a slightly greater return for their arduous labours, long hours, and, at times, heartbreaking experiences. During my election campaign I asked at 80 or 90 meetings whether a single farmer in the audience could point to one thing that the composite Government had done in a decade to assist the primary producers. I did not get a single, answer to the question.
It is unnecessary for me to reiterate facts that have already been stated with almost monotonous regularity by previous speakers. I hope the time will come when our Standing Orders ‘ will prevent repetition in second-reading debates. I shall content myself with pointing out that all the available evidence shows clearly the wisdom of establishing pools to regulate the marketing of our primary produce. This bill has been favorably received by the practical farmers among honorable members opposite. I trust that they will join us in urging the farmers of Australia to vote in favour of compulsory pooling. If the measure is supported as heartily as it deserves to be, we shall undoubtedly be able to improve the lot of the wheat-grower. Some honorable members opposite may be feeling a little sore, because the Government which they supported failed to take the step that this Government is taking, but I hope that that will not prevent them from assisting us to give this bill a speedy passage through the House. It can hardly be denied that the farmers will have a greater sense of security if they know that, irrespective of the world’s market, they will get 4s. a bushel for all the wheat that they deliver at the railway sidings. If I were a farmer and had a guarantee of that description, it would enable me to carry on my operations with a contented mind. This deserving section of the community merits the assistance which the Government is endeavouring to give it. If this bill is passed it will remain for the farmers to say whether compulsory pools shall or shall not be set up. In view of the fact that the farmers will elect the majority of the representatives on the various wheat boards, I can see’ no reason why they should not strongly support this policy. Even if the compulsory pools cost the country £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 the expenditure would be justified, particularly when it is compared with the expenditure of £11,000,000 in the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. Very few people have complained about this shocking waste of public money.
– Oh yes they have.
– If this expenditure was warranted, the expenditure of £4,000,000 on the wheat industry is a hundred times more justifiable.
– No one says that the expenditure on Canberra is warranted.
– But it is no use crying about it now.
– I hope that the hill will be agreed to unanimously, so that the primary producers of Australia will know that for the first time in our history the National Government has instituted an equitable system of wheat marketing.
– As a supporter of the bill, I feel that the remarks which I am about to offer are almost unnecessary, but, as the representative of one of the largest and most important wheat-growing districts in Australia, I regard it as my duty to express my opinions on the measure, and, if possible, to answer certain criticism that has been directed against it by honorable members on this side of the House. I also hope that in some small degree I may be able .to assist in amending the bill in the direction desired by the growers. In the first place, I congratulate the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) on the courage that he has displayed in attempting to deal seriously with the great problem of wheatmarketing. I admire, not so much the courage of the Government as that of the Minister, because the Government is undoubtedly staking its reputation on the Minister’s handling of this vitally important matter. He has assumed a heavy responsibility, which would tax the powers of any member of this chamber. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, the Minister has consistently advocated the establishment of a federal wheat pool, and, now that he has the opportunity, he has lost no time in translating his faith into action. I wish him every success in his venture,, and, together with other members of the Country party, I shall do my best to assist him in making this scheme the greatest cooperative achievement in the history of Australia. I think that it can be made the turning point in the economic history of the primary producers of this country.
We have heard a great deal about the value of co-operation, and the necessity for economic methods in the handling of our primary products. Such statements are almost trite; but the primary producers, and particularly the wheatgrowers, are totally unorganized. I am not ignoring the voluntary pools that have operated in Australia, but the industry as a whole is unorganized, and at the mercy of private speculators. Astute and rapacious as some of them in this country are, they are small potatoes in comparison with wheat-dealers on the other side of the world. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), I think, suggested that, we should persuade Great Britain to. allow us to mill our wheat and send it to the Old Country as flour. . I do not know whether the honorable member is aware that one of the most gigantic trusts in the world is associated with the British flour-milling industry; Great Britain could not be expected to allow Australia to export flour to her when she can so easily manufacture it herself; but we have to protect the industry against that combine, and we have to consider how best it can be done. I do not think anybody is foolish enough to suggest that we can exercise much influence over that combine, which is our biggest buyer, unless we organize on a great national scale.
The criticism levelled against this measure has not been of a very serious nature, nor has the amount of criticism been great, and I think that the Government should feel highly flattered by the degree of support that the bill has received on the Opposition side. In my opinion, much of the criticism has been of a captious character. I do not say that it is not bona fide, and I am sure that the Minister welcomes it; but some of the remarks, particularly interjections from this side of the House, indicate a captious spirit rather than a desire to improve the bill, or to expose its’ weaknesses. It would be utterly impossible to launch a ‘huge co-operative undertaking of this nature without running our heads against obstacles. If the Minister is not already appalled at the prospect of the difficulties that confront him, he will certainly be disillusioned soon, for he has undertaken the biggest job that any Minister in Australia has ever tackled. If he succeeds in organizing the wheat industry of Australia in such a way as to protect the interests of the growers against the buyers in other parts of the world, he will prove himself to be almost a magician; at any rate, he will deserve a monument, not in cold stone, but in gold. .Apart from party politics, tens of thousands of present-day growers, and those who will come after them, will think kindly of him; but he will need all the help he can get from both sides, of the House. .
Already the forces that have always, opposed any attempt on the part of-un*. protected industries to eliminate the middlemen are at work. The isolatedfarmer has no money behind him for. organization purposes; but the great buying, selling, and chartering ‘corpora1 tions have money to burn. We- see evidence of that in the literature that they have showered on honorable members of this chamber. I sympathize withthe mental attitude of .the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), , who seems to be much impressed by- the consideration shown by these gentlemen in: letting us have this literature. The honorable member appeared to regard it almost as an act of benevolence on their . part. A good deal of the information which he gave as a result of this propaganda was totally incorrect, because it was supplied from the view-point of the interests which he held up as being the best source of knowledge for honorable, members of this House. In my opinion, the men best qualified to speak on this subject are not the outside financial interests, which do not wish to see the wheat industry organized, but the representatives of the wheat-growers. A man who represented the growers would nothave the audacity to say anything about a measure such as this unless he knew the wishes of the growers, and I unhesitatingly say that, although there are thousands of men in my electorate who have voted against State pools, and who still have the curious notion that an open market is preferable to organized marketing, the great majority of them would be sorry if this ‘ bill were defeated. I read in the press that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) had said that the wheat-growers would be selling their freedom for 4s. a bushel if they accepted the Government’s proposal. As a matter of fact, many of them would have been. only too glad to sell their wheat for 4s. a bushel last year, because they had to accept less than that price owing to financial necessity. If they could obtain 4s. a bushel for the coming season, as a first payment, I can assure the Leader of the. Opposition that very few of them would consider that they were selling themselves into slavery by accepting it.
I have no doubt that the difficulties that confront the Government in organizing the proposed wheat pool will be overcome; but I am afraid that the Government has rather loaded the dice against itself. It will not be easy to establish this organization. The forces of selfish commercial opposition are at work, and they will make a much bigger effort to defeat this pool than they have to prevent the establishment of State pools. I hope that this bill is not to be regarded as a mere gesture, so that if it is rejected the Government will be able to say to the producers, “We put it up, but you listened to the men with the money-bags. We now wash our hands of the matter. It is your funeral.” We should sympathize with the wheat-growers, because the men whose interest it is to poison their minds in regard to compulsory pooling have a wonderful organization, which enables them to reach the ear of the farmer, while the promoters of the scheme can speak only from a distance, as honorable members are now doing in this chamber. The first thing that the Go- vernment should consider is that it will have to fight, if it is determined to put its proposal into effect. It should not underrate the importance of the printed propaganda that has been circulated. It should make a big effort to co-operate with the States in informing every wheatgrower of its intentions by giving him a clear statement setting out the objects of the bill. I feel sure that the growers would appreciate an attempt to let them have genuine inside information. This would be quite refreshing to them, because, as a rule, they now hear only the case for one side. I suggest that, if the Government did that, the present scheme could be carried into full effect. My experience of the ballots held among the farmers in the States is that the wheatbuying agencies not only flood the farmers with “ hifalutin “ and most misleading literature, but also send canvassers from farm to farm, who sit down at the farmers’ dinner-tables and nurse the babies. They talk about the wheat pool to the farmers’ wives and daughters.
– Are the advocates of the pool doing nothing?
– I am afraid that they have done very little in regard to the State pools. Except, perhaps, i for statements issued by the Ministers for Agriculture and a few newspapers, and the activities of one or two honorable members representing wheat-growing districts, no efforts are made to counteract this propaganda. There are only about 70,000 or 80,000 wheat-growers, and the money would be well spent. I am surethat the Minister will receive assistance from country newspapers in having the matter placed before the growers. If the Government does not stand up and fight the opponents of the pool, it will be beaten and discredited. I do not wish to see that happen in this matter.
Some of the critics of the proposed pool profess to be shocked at the idea of using compulsion. It is rather late in the day for responsible public men to talk about the danger of compulsion, because in this age we are surrounded by compulsion, and nobody objects to it so long as benefits are derived from it. If this form of compulsion proves beneficial it will be just as acceptable as any other form. The difference between this proposal and the compulsion of the wartime pools is that the wheat-growers then were compelled to pool their wheat without being consulted in the matter. In the early days of the war a meeting of wheat-growers was held in my electorate, and I have a very vivid recollection of it. Those men thought that revolution was stalking through the land, and that their wheat was to be taken from them without remuneration. If some one had suggested rushing to arms I believe that his advice would have been accepted. Eventually, however, as the war progressed, the worst critics of that drastic form of compulsion became staunch supporters of the pool. They realized that if that action had not been taken, practically every wheatgrower in Australia would have been ruined.
New South Wales has been held up as a State that cannot manage wheat pools. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who is certainly consistent in opposing this bill, as he opposes everything, has said that in New South Wales there was not only mismanagement, but also dishonesty. There was not a great deal qf dishonesty, but it was sufficient* to destroy the efficiency of the pool. Two or three persons broached the wheat stacks for their own benefit, but they were quickly discovered, and every effort was made to repair the losses so that the farmers’ pockets should not suffer. But an experience of that nature does not affect in any way the principle of pooling. There are no known human means of insuring protection against dishonesty. If this proposed pool is controlled by knaves, the farmers will be robbed again. In reply to the charge of mismanagement I say that the war-time compulsory pools were very difficult to handle, because they were established under wartime conditions. It is amazing that those who were in charge of them obtained such good results.
– They had to handle the biggest crops that had ever been harvested, and in the most difficult period that had ever been experienced.
– It is astonishing that, under those conditions, the pools functioned at all satisfactorily. It is unquestionable that but for those pools the wheat industry would have been smashed. Onthis occasion there is not to be any hard and fast compulsion. The Government is saying to the farmers, “If you vote ‘Yes’, you will have it, if you vote ‘ No ‘, youwill not.”
– Where does the bill make that provision ?
– It has been made clear by the Minister that the pool will not be established unless a vote of the wheat-growers is first taken.
– It may or it may not be taken.
– I do not think that the Minister would dream of making such a statement in this House if he did not intend to give effect to it. But whether that provision is in the bill or not, the Minister cannot establish this pool unless a ballot of thewheat-growers is taken.
– Why did he not put that machinery into the bill?
– All the State Governments’ who are parties to this proposal have clearly and definitely stated that they are going to take a ballot of the wheat-growers; and they are now arranging for that to be done. I have made that statement a dozen times; but if I were to make it a dozen times more, the honorable member for Warringah would still ask questions concerning it.
– I have no doubt that the State Governments will fulfil their part of the bargain. I am sorry that the honorable member for Warringah does not represent a few wheatgrowers.
– I can speak more independently because I do not.
– I am sure that if he did, he would ascertain their views regarding this proposal. He has not studied it from the view-point nor does he know the psychology of the wheat-growers. If he had he would not have made in this House some of the statements that he has made. He has charged the Minister with having hand-picked the representatives whom he invited to attend the conference. I cannot see anything wrong with that; I should act similarly myself, because it is the right thing to do. When one wishes to carry out a big job, that requires the assistanceof the most expert and practical minds obtainable, one does not advertise for 2,000 unemployed to come along, and make a selection from them. The practice is to look for the best men in the game; and that is what the Minister has done. It is a tribute to his intelligence and his “ nous “ that he is not acting upon his own ideas in this matter, but has gone into the heart of the wheat industryseeking the assistance of the men who are running the show.
– There was not a primary producers’ organization that was not represented at that conference.
– The Minister should also make every endeavour to insert in the bill the amendments that are desired by. the wheat-growing organizations. I admit, of course, that they cannot be given all that they want; but wherever it is possible to meet them, the honorable gentleman will be on safe ground if he does so, because they are well acquainted with the subject.
The scheme appears to be loaded against the Government. I cannot see that there is any sense in throwing bricks at the Government for practically placing itself in a position to be shot at from every - quarter, in connexion with the establishment of the pool, the arrange.ments with the -States, the personnel of the. controlling, board, and the finding of the money,, which is the most important of. all. It will have to make advances when. .the farmers need them, and finally liquidate in such a way that the financial stability of Australia will not receive too great a shock, any losses that may be incurred. If the Government can navigate all those rocky channels it will not only, be exceedingly lucky but also deserving of a good deal of credit.
It appears to me that there are three main points in connexion with this proposal. First, will the wheat pool be of any advantage to the growers; secondly, will it raise the price of bread to local consumers; and, thirdly, is it likely to result in a big financial loss to Australia. The debate so far has centered in those three points. The question whether it will be of any advantage to the growers can be determined by a consideration of experiences elsewhere. We cannot look for those in Australia, because no undertaking of this character has - ever previously been initiated here. The State compulsory wheat pools have been minor affairs; and the voluntary pools in certain States, in addition to being comparatively small, have been run under entirely different conditions. Therefore we must look overseas for examples, and fortunately we can find them. Honorable members have heard a speech from the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who is recognized as a leading authority in regard to wheat pooling in Australia. I do not think that any man in this chamber, whatever his views may be, will challenge the information that’ the honorable member for Echuca placed before us, or say that it is not thoroughly reliable and of a practical nature. He has supplied us with information with respect to the Canadian contract pool. Even that pool is not a compulsory one. This, proposal of the Government is unique, because no similar organization has yet been established in the world. Consequently, we are experimenting and leading the way for the rest of the world. On that account also, let us hope that the outcome will be a gigantic success, and that the results will be beneficial, not only to Australia, but also to other primary producing countries.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) devoted a good deal of time to a criticism of this proposal. I do not wish to be unjust to the honorable member, but I could not judge whether he is foi’ or against the bill. At one stage his arguments appeared to be in favour of it; but then he commenced to tear those arguments to pieces. He made several statements that I consider ought to be investigated. He used quite a new argument when he said - and I assume that he was criticizing the bill - that he bad found that the ‘ Government was going to make a monetary gain out of the pool; that on account of the exchange position, the 4s. a bushel paid for wheat in Australia would be equal to only 3s. 9d., because our £1 has a value of only 18s. 9d., and that when the wheat was paid for in Great Britain, where the £1 has a value of 20s., the Government would be the gainer to the extent of 3d. a bushel. With a. terrific export, totalling perhaps 150,000,000 bushels, it can readily be imagined that a profit of 3d. a bushel would amount in the aggregate to a considerable sum. If the honorable member for Perth is satisfied that that is a sound argument, I cannot understand why he does not whole-heartedly support the bill, nor why the Government has failed to display more excitement. If the honorable member is correct, we have an opportunity, not only to establish a pool, but also to solve our financial difficulties in other directions. He may be right; but’ I doubt it. Actually the Government will hot get any of the receipts from the sales of wheat. The pool will derive whatever advantage may be gained from the exchange position. The gains will not go into the pockets of the Government at all. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has informed me that at the present time the exchange rate is £6 2s. 6d. per £100 on telegraphic transfers in favour, of Australia, so that every £100 due to us in London is worth-£106 2s. 6d. here. That is equivalent to 3 1/4 d. a bushel on wheat. Therefore, exchange position, if it continues to be favorable to us in this, way when the pool is in operation, will constitute a tremendous source of profit to the pool. While that position continues the Government has nothing to fear regarding the success of thepool. The farmers have no need to lose any sleep over the matter in any case. Even if the exchange position goes against us, the Government must bear any loss incurred. The farmers can pocket the 4s: guarantee, and not worry about the loss. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) tried to alarm us by predicting a loss of £8,000,000 on the operations of the pool, which, I understand, is equivalent to1s. a bushel on a crop of 160,000,000 bushels. The honorable member has since amended his estimate by saying that the loss might be £5,000,000 or £6,000,000.
– I said it would be at least £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, but I stick to my original estimate of £8,000,000.
– Evidently the honorable member is not so afraid this week as he was last week, and once the pool is in operation he may find that his fears will vanish altogether. Of course it is obvious that nobody can say what the possible losses will be. Even the honorable member for Warringah, expert that he is, cannot predict what losses may be incurred by the pool. All predictions regarding the future of the wheat market are apt to be falsified. Twelve months ago, when Australian wheat was down to 3s. 6d. a bushel, something seemed to happen almost over-night to create a world shortage of wheat.. At any rate, a cablegram was published to the effect that a sudden shortage had developed. Of course the real explanation was that some market rigging was in progress, with the result that prices went up from 4s. 0½d. a bushel to 5s. 2d. The credit for this was given to the Canadian Wheat Pool. I have been assured by persons with experience of the wheat market, both here and overseas - persons who are sympathetic with the farmers - that conditions at the present time, are quite as favorable as they were last year, and if a pool had been in operation lastyear we would have come out of it pretty well. It seemsreasonable to suppose that if the Canadian pool, which controls only 60 per cent. of the Canadian crop, can affect the world’s market to the extent stated. the Australian pool, which may control 100 per cent. of the Australian crop; should have a considerable affect on the market also. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), attempted to deride the Canadian pool. I understood him to say that it was really bankrupt, or at any rate, that it was. showing a deficit on operations. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has again come to the rescue, and given me a cablegram which the Victorian Wheat-Growers Association has received from the Canadian Wheat Pool authorities. It is in contradiction of a message from Canada published in the newspapers here, giving the opinion of one man, Mr. Sandford Evans, on the Canadian pool, and stating that the pool is a failure, and that Australia should not touch anything of the kind. The cablegram from the Canadian pool authorities is as follows : -
Evans is the only member of three provincial legislatures to oppose the pool bill. N o word of truth in his contention that pool is beaten. It is sound financial condition. The morale and membership are the best in the history of the organization. Many new members every day.Only relying upon provincial governments for moral support. Guarantees solely precautionary measure to avoid any possibility forced liquidation in case our collateral with banks, which is still valued in excess of 15 per cent. over and above amount of bank loans, should temporarily fall below 15per cent. surplus security required by banks.
That cablegram gives the lie direct to Mr. Sandford Evans, whose statement was used by the wheat-buying interests of Australia to discredit the compulsory pool proposal.
– That cablegram is couched in very general terms.
– It shows that the financial position of the pool is quite sound.
– But the provincial governments are backing it.
– They are only guaranteeing the 15 per cent. margin. It is evident from that message that the pool is in no danger of becoming bankrupt. It is just as well to clear up these charges against the solvency of the Canadian pool, and, with that end in view, I shall read a further extract given to me by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). The statement is published by the Manitoba wheat pool, and bears the date, February, 1930. It is as follows: -
The wheat pool has fortunately been in a position to avoid liquidating its wheat upon an unfavorable market. In order to do this, and at the same time pay pool members for this year’s crop, on the basis of 1 dollar for No. 1 northern, we have naturally had to borrow heavily from the banks. The banks have always loaned on the security of our wheat in stores. The basis of these loans requires that the value of our wheat security shall always be 15 per cent, greater than the amount of money advanced by the banks. We have always maintained this margin of safety and are doing so to-day.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) also said that the carry-over of wheat in the hands of the Canadian pool was over 300,000,000 bushels. This is a tremendous carry-over, and his argument was, I think, that the world’s carryover of wheat, including this enormous Canadian carry-over, was so great that the intrusion of an Australian pool upon the wheat markets of the world could have no effect other than to injure the interest of wheat-growers all over the world. The official figures completely disprove the honorable member’s contention. In the year 1929-30, the total wheat production of the world, including China and Russia, was 3,390 million bushels. The world’s carry-over for last year was 595,000,000 bushels. The total world supply of wheat, including the carry-over was 3,985 million bushels for 1929-30. The total disappearance of wheat for 1928-29 was 3,750 million bushels. Assuming that the rate of disappearance is the same for this year as for 1928-29, we have an actual carry-over for the whole world of 235,000,000 bushels, which is the lowest for seven years. Therefore, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) was a long way out when he said that the carry-over in the hands of of the Canadian pool alone was over 300,000,000 bushels. It appears to me that the honorable member for Perth is depending too much on the source of information which he lauded so highly at the beginning of his speech. If world parify to Australian growers can be improved, the wheat pool will be vindicated. It is absolutely impossible for 70,000 disunited farmers, only a small proportion of whom are embraced by State organizations, to control world parity. The only pooling organization that has an influential effect on world parity is the Canadian pool, and even it controls only 60 per cent, of the wheat of the dominion. The Australian farmers are always at the mercy of world parity; they consider themselves unfortunate when world parity is low and amazingly fortunate when it is high, as it was last year, when the price of wheat rose from 4s. to 5s. 2d. They could not understand this good fortune, but the explanation is very simple. The world’s wheat market, which is manipulated through the Baltic exchange, is controlled by very few buyers. There is a mistaken notion that there is much open competition. My information is that the competition is well regulated. A few buyers on the Baltic exchange play ducks and drakes with Australian wheat. These men know to within an hour or two when Australian cargoes will reach the United Kingdom, and if they have plenty of wheat they either do not buy, or offer a price that is hardly worth accepting. Australian wheat shippers do not want to incur the expense of storing in England; they prefer to sell while the cargoes are still on the water. That plays right into the hands of the buyers.
– Some of the wheat is sold before it is harvested.
– Yes, but that did not happen this year. The only policy by which the grower can be protected is the regulating of shipments. That is not possible at the present time, with a number of charterers in the field, but when the pool is the only chartering agency, it will dictate when wheat shall be placed on the London market, and in what quantities. The grain will not be rushed to London in hundreds of ships over a few weeks, to compete with wheat from Canada, the Argentine, and the United ‘ States of America, thus ruining the market. Shipments will be regulated from this end, and when there is a glut on the overseas market the wheat will be withheld. Even voluntary pools have been doing that to some extent with great advantage to the farmers, and, but for their operations, the position of the wheat-growers this year would have been deplorable. In some parts of New South. Wales and Western Australia 80 per cent, of last season’s wheat has not yet left the sidings. In one district 90,000 bags were produced, and in the first three months of the year only 8,000 bags had been sold. The balance is being held by the buyers, but the whole of it has been paid for, because the Commonwealth Bank advanced 3s. 6d. per bushel on delivery at the sidings. That price did npt pay the growers, but they were glad to get something on account, and if their wheat realizes a bigger price later and a further dividend is distributed they will be satisfied. The amount of wheat still at the sidings shows the disorganized state of the industry, and the obvious need for a national effort to place it on a sound footing. An Australian-wide pool offers the only hope of coping successfully with the export trade. I do not say that the growers will make fortunes out of a beautifully regulated world parity, but they will be able to prevent the cut-throat competition that results through pouring wheat recklessly into London, thereby playing into the hands of the manipulators and riggers on the Baltic exchange; they will be able to eliminate competition in chartering, and the overhead expenses incidental to having many buying organizations. At least half a dozen wheat-dealing firms employ office staffs in each city, and an inspector at each siding.
– We have heard of only three firms.
– Those which have been mentioned so freely in this debate are the three principal dealers in wheat, but there is a horde of . small buyers. Some men without sixpence to their name speculate in wheat. I know of one man who spent thousands of pounds in buying all the wheat produced in one district and a few months later he was bankrupt. That is one of the risks to which the farmers are liable under present conditions. If they can gain the advantages I have enumerated, through a scheme of orderly marketing, they will have a chance of getting a better world parity.
– The buyers will be compelled to compete.
– At present they are masters of the situation; under the pooling scheme the farmers may control the disposal of their own product. Those who are in charge of the Canadian wheat pool desire an Australian pool to be created, because they regard it as the nucleus of a world-wide organization. This will be the first national compulsory wheat pool. In proof of the interest that the Canadian organization has in the proposed Australian organization, I quote this statement from Handbook, No. 2, issued by the Saskatchewan Co-operative Wheat Producers Limited -
Conservatively stated, the prospects are reasonably good. It is almost certain that the next great step forward in co-operation will be made in Australia, where there are already four voluntary wheat pools in existence, one of which, that in Western Australia, already deals with 83 per cent, of the total wheat acreage in that State. Messrs. G. W. Robertson, secretary of the Saskatchewan pool, C. H. Burnell, president of the Manitoba pool, and H. W. Wood, president of the Alberta pool, visited Australia last fall at the invitation of the Australian pools and report that prospects are bright for the co-operation between Canada and Australia. There is to be a second international . conference on co-operative wheat marketing at which representatives from Canada, the United States of America, Australia, Russia, Sweden and the Argentine are expected to be present.
Until the Australian wheat pool is formed there will be no hope of world-wide cooperation, but with the Australian growers organized, they will be able, in conjunction with the growers of Canada and the United States of America, to control the wheat markets of the world. Of course, the law of supply and demand will always operate. If we grow more wheat than the world can buy, prices will fall, but there is little prospect of producing too much wheat for the peoples of the earth to eat, and if Canada, the United States of America and Australia co-operate - Argentine may come in later - they will be able to dominate the wheat markets, and a new era for the producers will dawn. Some honorable members have asked whether this control of the world’s markets will raise the price of bread to the local consumer. I admire the concern of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) on that score. As a representative of the consumers he has a right to sound this note of warning. But we all represent consumers; every producer is a consumer. We hear the alarmist prediction that if the farmers get control of this organization they will immediately commence bushranging and exploit the unfortunate women and children and trade unionists.
– At any rate the farmers will lose nothing.
– For years the people for whom the honorable member is concerned have been the victims of bushranging tactics. The consumers in the cities have been paying for bread 5d. and 6d. a loaf; the manipulators in control of the flour mills and bakeries had no concern for them. If they could get ls. a loaf they would take it, regardless of how many people went hungry. We have to decide what is fair to the farmers. If they can get a small world parity why should they be obliged to accept a small home parity? Does it follow that because people on the other side of the world can afford only 3s. 6d. or 4s. a bushel for wheat the Australian people who are receiving high wages and many privileges that are denied to the citizens of other countries, should pay no more? There is no logical connexion between world parity and home parity.
– The honorable member is developing a very dangerous argument.
– If it is necessary to put the farmers on their feet we should give them a regulated home parity.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– A price that will pay them. If no farmers were growing wheat the community would be glad to pay them any price to induce them to do so. It is only because so many are producing wheat that the community is finicky about the price it will pay.
– What price would the honorable member pay?
– I would leave that to the farmers, but I suggest that ls. per bushel above world parity would not be too much.
– On a home consumption of 50,000,000 bushels that would represent £2,500,000. Whence is that amount to come?
– The local consumption is about 33,000,000 bushels. If there were a loss of £2,500,000 it would have to come out of the pockets of the consumers, because they can afford to pay it better than the farmer can afford to go without it. Why should not those who charge 6d. a loaf for bread reduce the price to enable the farmer to get a little of his own back? No matter what the price .of wheat, the .price of bread remains unaltered. Unfortunately, the price of bread is fixed by market riggers. I believe that the consumers would willingly pay ls. 6d. a bushel out of their own pockets in order to save the wheat industry.
– What about the fellow who is out of work ?
– He does not go without bread. He gets money from the Government, and the Government in turn gets it from the pockets of the taxpayers.
– That -is a very nice arrangement.
– And the honorable member is familiar with it.
– The honorable member, to be logical, would be in favour of a hat pool.
– No. We can do without hats, but we cannot do without bread. Bread is the staff of life, and the men who produce the ingredients of bread are the backbone of this country. I should like to take the honorable member for Warringah among the farmers and let him, from the platform, tell them that the price of wheat for local consumption should not be more than 4s. a bushel.
– I should not have the least objection to doing that.
– If he will do so I guarantee that he will not return to this chamber for at least three months. In any case, he would need a battalion of soldiers to protect him from the farmers. I do not think that the question of the price for home consumption is really worrying the community. What would worry the community would be the ‘ fact that the bottom had fallen out of the wheat-growing industry. I should be willing to support the Government in fixing the price for home consumption, provided that the farmer did not suffer as a result. In doing that we should have the support, not only of the farmers, but also of the majority of the people of Australia. What we should, worry about is the rigging of the bread market against the consumer. Neither the Commonwealth nor the States has made any attempt to tackle that question
– South Australia did.
– It was a very poor attempt, and I challenge the honorable member to quote one recorded instance of a reduction of the price of bread in South Australia as a result of the operations of a price-fixing tribunal in that State. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is the only member who has, so far, made any estimate of the loss that is likely to be sustained in consequence of the guarantee of 4s. a bushel, and his estimate varies from £5,000,000 to £8,000,000.
– After the pool has been in operation for one year the honorable member will find that my estimate is about right.
– We all hope that the honorable member’s estimate will not prove to be right.
– I hope so, too.
– If the loss is £8,000,000 it cannot be helped. We may not play with a double-headed penny. It is now proposed to organize permanently the wheat-producing industry of Australia. If the pool is a success for the first year, there will be no question about continuing it for all time. If the luck is against us, and we have to face a loss of £8,000,000, some one will have to find the money, and I am quite sure that the majority of the people of Australia, rather than permit the wheatgrowing industry of this country to become bankrupt, would raise the necessary £5,000,000 or £8,000,000.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with considerable interest to the discussion on this bill, and, in common with many honorable members who have spoken from both sides of the House, I heartily congratulate the Government, and particularly the Minister for Markets, on the introduction of this legislation. I agree with other honorable members that the Minister displayed courage in bringing down this measure.
The strongest argument in its support is the squeal that has come from the wheat merchants. I wish’ to congratulate several members of the Country party who have spoken in support of the bill. For many years that party has been tacked on to the Nationalist party, which has invariably supported the interests of the middlemen. I have always maintained that the interests, of the middlemen and the interests of 4the farmer are not identical, and that the party that stands behind the former cannot stand behind the latter. It must be a source of pleasure to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) to see at last the members of the Country party supporting a bill of this kind. The Country party is showing progress on proper lines, and perhaps it is taking the first -step towards becoming a country progressive party. I congratulate the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) on his action in supporting the bill, and also the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) for the commendable way in which he has looked after the interests of the farmers of Manly. I compliment the other members of the Opposition who have done so well with the brief given to them by the wheat merchants.
This bill has been introduced in fulfilment of a promise made by the Labour party at the last election. Queensland has been held up to the farmers of Victoria as the State in which the farmers are best organized, and in which the highest prices for wheat are obtained, principally as a result of pools established by a Labour Government. Those pools were a huge success, and when the Labour Government went out of office a year or two ago, the incoming Nationalist Minister for Agriculture gave special praise to the retiring Labour Government for the work that it had done in the interests of the farmers of Queensland. The farmers’ own journal, the Queensland Producer, in an editorial, expressed itself in similar terms. The Minister for Markets, in common with other members on this side, promised, at the last election, that if the Labour party were returned to power it would endeavour to establish an Australian-wide wheat marketing scheme, and I take it that in proposing this compulsory pool for the orderly marketing of wheat the Minister is endeavouring to give effect to his promise. “Wheat pools have, for some time, been functioning in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria with more or less success. During this debate much mention has been made of the Canadian wheat pool, and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), in a very informative speech, gave us food for reflection. During the war there was established in Canada, as in Australia, a wheat pool. It was discontinued in 1919, and immediately afterwards there was a slump in wheat prices. As a result, a strong sentiment was created in Canada in favour of the re-establishment of the wheat pool as a permanent organization. Efforts were made in .that direction, but without success. A campaign was then begun in Canada for the establishment of voluntary pools, and as a result pools were established in the three prairie provinces, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In 1923 the first pool was established in Alberta. It had a membership of 26,000, with 2,536,000 acres under contract. In the following year the two other prairie provinces established voluntary pools. The Saskatchewan pool had a membership of 47,000, with 7,000,000 acres under, contract. The Manitoba pool had a membership of 8,000, with 720,000 acres under contract. In conjunction with those three pools there was set up as a selling agency what is known as the Canadian wheat pool. The following figures indicate its rapid growth: - In 1924-25 the Canadian pool had a membership of 91,000; in 1925-26, of 122,000; in 1926-27, 139,000; in 1927-2S, 13.8,000; in 1928-29, 141,000. In view of the ever-increasing membership of that pool, how can any honorable member suggest that its operations have not been successful? Those increasing figures show that the Canadian wheat pool has been a decided success. The quantity of wheat handled by the Canadian pool trebled in five years from 81,670,000 bushels in 1924-25 to 244,248,000 bushels in 1928-29. There is further evidence of the pronounced success of the pool. When these facts become known our farmers will readily agree to the establishment of this pool.
Although the Canadian pool is voluntary it handles 51 per cent, of the wheat produced in the dominion. The organization includes a pool in each of the three prairie provinces. These pools have their own boards of directors. Then there is the central selling agency, known as the Canadian Wheat Pool, the board of directors of which includes three members of each of the boards of the prairie pools.
I wish to refer to certain comments that have been made on the bill by honorable members opposite during the debate. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) had been consistent in his attitude on this bill, in that he consistently opposed everything. The honorable member for Swan said : -
The Government wishes to say to the wheatfarmers when they have garnered their wheat and wish to sell it: “Hand it over to us. We will give you an advance upon it and sell it in whatever way we think fit, and at sou… future date we will pay you what we have received after we have deducted the costs that have been incurred.”
The Government is not saying that to the farmers, but it is saying to them “ help us to help you.” If the farmers agree to the formation of a compulsory wheat pool, they will help the Government to help them. The honorable member for Swan quoted the following figures in support of his ill-founded argument that the compulsory pooling of wheat has caused a decline in the area under crop in Australia : -
Surely every honorable member realizes that the decline in the area under cultivation during the war years occurred because so. many farmers and rural workers were then abroad with the troops. The same thing occurred in Canada, and in other wheat-producing countries which were engaged in the war. But, on the honorable member’s own figures the area under wheat increased from 9,650,000 acres in 1915 to 14,800,000 acres in 1928. The area under wheat crop in Canada in- creased from 15,370,000 acres in 1916, to 24,119,000 acres in 1928, and the yield increased from 262,781,000 bushels in 1916 to 533,572,000 bushels in 1928. The increase was very much greater in Canada, where the marketing was done largely through a pool, than in Australia where it was in the hands of private organizations. That is further proof of the success of the Canadian system, and an additional reason why the Australian farmers should follow the example of the Canadian farmers, and pool their wheat.
A good deal of objection has been taken to the proposal that the pool shall be compulsory. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that there should be no compulsion unless an overwhelming number of farmers favored it. I cannot see why honorable members opposite object to compulsion in this sphere, for they submit to it in other spheres without objection. As a matter of fact, they are compulsorily in opposition to-day. The electors of Australia indicated in a very definite way that they had lost confidence in the composite Government, and they showed their confidence in the Labour party by returning it to power with a very large majority. The Country party, like the electors, is, I am glad to say, coming to see the light. There is no substance in the argument against compulsion in regard to the proposed wheat pool.
Some honorable members opposite have insinuated, if they have not definitely asserted, that the farmers are not sufficiently intelligent to conduct their own business. That is an insult to the intelligence of the farmers. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) said, “ The farmer should be left to work out his own salvation without interference by the Government “. The honorable member also said -
The marketing of wheat is a highly specialized business carried on by wealthy and expert organizations. If these organizations are disbanded the farmers will be left to the mercy of inefficiently managed pools.
He added, “ I hold no brief for the wheat merchants “.
– Nor do I.
– The honorable member went on to say that -
The marketing of wheat requires the services of trained men capable of arriving at quick decisions, and necessitating world-wide resources in money. The grain merchants have these world-wide means and trained helpers, and the fanner of Australia is more likely to get a better deal from them than from mismanaged pools.
Yet the honorable member insists that he holds no brief for the wheat merchants.
– I still say that I do not.
– “The lady doth protest too much, methinks “. [Quorum formed], I remind the honorable member for Warringah of what the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) told us about an office boy who became a millionaire in a very little while through his operations in the grain business. I repeat the question which the honorable member for Echuca asked - “ Are the wheatmerchants concerned about the welfare of the farmer?”, and I repeat also the honorable member’s reply to his own question, which was, “ I am convinced that they are more interested about their own welfare. They can see that their hold on an exceedingly lucrative business is fast slipping away “. It is for that reason that these grain merchants are doing their utmost to defeat this bill. The propaganda against the measure, which is going on through the length and breadth of Australia, has behind it the wheat merchants of Australia. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) also said that the farmers were entitled to a living wage and a fair standard of comfort. I quite agree with him in that statement, and if the present proposal is agreed to it will be a means of assisting the farmers to obtain those conditions. The honorable member went on to say that on the success of the farmers depends the future of this country. I have always held that view. Our wealth must come from the land, and if the primary producers are not prosperous our secondary industries cannot prosper. This bill represents an effort by the Government to bring prosperity to the man on the land. Next to wool, wheat is Australia’s most important primary product. The buyers of wheat and grain are combining throughout the world, and, if the wheatgrowers of Australia are to combat that movement, it is imperative that they should similarly combine. Already action in this direction has been taken in
Canada. If the present bill is passed, and if the Government’s proposal is accepted by the growers, Australia will be able to forge another link in the world-wide chain of organization which should be established by the sellers of wheat.
I have referred to the objections raised to the proposed compulsory pool. In view of the success that ha3 been attained by voluntary pools in Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia, much better results should attend the establishment of a compulsory pool, which would mean a reduction in overhead charges through having one selling body and one charterer. This would enable savings to be made in commission and insurance, anc! in many other ways the cost of handling wheat would be reduced. Instead of the profits made in handling the wheat going to the grain merchants, the money saved in overhead expenses could be passed on to the growers in the form of an increased price for their wheat. Much has been said about the probable cost to the Government of financing the proposed pool. Nobody can say definitely what the cost would be. We have just experienced bountiful rains, and, with the increased acreage that has been planted, and the prospect of a bountiful harvest, it is quite possible that Australia will have a record yield of wheat in the coming season.
I do not altogether agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) as to the prospects of wheatgrowing in Russia. There has been a rapid increase in the wheat production of that country of late years. In 1925, the area under cultivation was 59,771,190 acres; in 1926, it was 70,881,750 acres, and in 1927, it was 75,950,190 acres.. I believe that last year the wheat crops in Russia were poor; hut this year the Soviet Government has loaned 140,000,000 bushels of seed wheat to districts where small yields were experienced last year. I read an article in the press recently in which it was stated that, under favorable conditions, Russia would, perhaps, have 5,000,000 tons of grain to place upon the world’s markets next autumn. A Rhodes scholar, who has been visiting Russia during the last twelve months, has expressed the opinion that the gigantic, experiment in wheat-growing in Russia will be successful. We have heard varying opinions from honorable members opposite as to the wisdom of passing this bill. One of them said that during the last two years of the late war, when a compulsory wheat pool was in operation in Australia, there was an outcry for de-control. It has also been contended that the farmers have been clamouring for a pool. If the farmers have been clamouring for that, the Government is trying to give them what they are asking for. It has been contended that the proposal for a compulsory pool is not a democratic measure, because it practically forces men into a pool against their wishes; but I point out that the Government is merely asking the farmers to say whether they want this pool or not. If the majority reply in the affirmative, a pool will be established; but, if they say that they do not, that will be the end of the matter. Nothing is to be forced upon the farmers. I think that it was the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) who said that 90 per cent, of the farmers of Australia would favour the establishment of a compulsory pool. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) remarked that the wheat merchants were capable of making quick decisions. Perhaps the farmers have been slow in coming to a decision in this matter; but I believe that, when they do make up their minds, after all the facts have been placed before them, they will decide that the time is ripe for them to free themselves from bondage, and escape from the clutches of the merchants who have been exploiting them for many years, but are now facing the prospect of a very lucrative business fast slipping from their hands. The farmers are sufficiently intelligent to manage their own affairs. If the bill is accepted, they will be given the control of their own marketing arrangements.
I have spoken of the arguments that may be advanced in favour of a compulsory pool. There would be one selling body only, and that would dispense with overhead charges, and assist the growers to get an increased price for their product. The objections raised to the bill are few, and are not of much weight. The financing of the proposed scheme would, uo doubt, be a costly matter; but we have more gold under the ground in Australia than has ever been mined in this country, and we have often heard of a proposal to pay a bounty on gold production.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Crouch). - The honorable member will not be in order in discussing a bounty on gold.
– I was about to suggest a means by which the proposed wheat pool might be financed. Victoria alone has. produced gold to the value of over £300,000,000, yet the industry in that State has received government assistance to the extent of less than half a million pounds. We have lying hidden gold which, if won, would easily meet the guarantee in connexion with this compulsory wheat pool.
I congratulate the members of the Country party upon at last breaking away from those who for many years have supported the middlemen. It is now more than a Country party in name, because it is forwarding the real interests of the primary producers..
I have a vivid recollection of the strenuous opposition that was offered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the conditions of another primary industry, the tobacco industry, with a view to assist”ance being given to it. The honorable gentleman on that occasion said, “I hold o brief for the tobacco monopoly”; just as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) has said on this measure that he holds no brief for the wheat merchants. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to prevent it, that select committee was appointed.
T am pleased that members of the Country party and some other honorable members who sit opposite are supporting this bill. I should like a division to be taken, so that the farmers might see who are their real friends. The object of the measure is to eliminate the middleman. It is absolutely necessary for the wheatgrowers to have their wheat marketed through a pool, because only by that means can they combat the operations fT»] of the ‘ world-wide combine of wheal - buyers that exercises a powerful influence in the markets of the world.
Reference has been made to the action of the Canadian Wheat Pool in holding over 200,000,000 bushels of wheat. When farmers are not organized they are compelled to take whatever prices are offered. Individually they cannot hold out, because they are not strong enough financially. A pool that can hold over 200,000,000 bushels of wheat until the conditions artsatisfactory for marketing it, must hi beneficial to the growers. The fact thai the Canadian pool has been able to do so is an argument in favour of the establishment of a compulsory pool in Australis. I trust that when the matter is placed before the wheat-growers of Australia they will recognize that their interests are bound .up with the establishment of a compulsory pool and that they will vote unanimously for it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Soullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. Will the Prime Minister state whether he has any further information to give to honorable members relating to the distribution of defence clothing and equipment that have been made available to the State Governments by this Government. I have been endeavouring to ascertain through what channels those who desire to secure this clothing and equipment must apply, but so far I have no: been able to obtain definite information from the State authorities. Members generally must desire to have this information, so that they may pass it on to those who are communicating with them in the matter.
Mr. JAMES (Hunter^ [10.58]. - I should like the Prime Minister to give consideration to a recommendation thai the local governing bodies, throughout the ‘ State of New South Wales at any rate, be allotted quotas of this equipment for distribution. The reason I ask’ this is that I am satisfied that the industrial centres will not receive a fair deal from the present administration in New South Wales. When the sum. of £1,000,000 was granted to the States for the relief of unemployment the Prime Minister particularly requested that the coal areas in the northern districts of New South Wales be considered when the money was being allotted; yet the amount which they received was small compared with the distribution in the metropolitan area.
, - The announcement which I made in this House some time ago in regard to this clothing and equipment was that the Government had written to the Premiers of the States, offering them a certain amount of surplus and partlyworn clothing, blankets, boots, &o., for distribution by their Governments. This Government is not taking any part in that distribution. If local governing bodies or individuals wish to participate in the distribution I advise them to get in touch immediately with their State’Government or State member. This Government hae not the machinery to distribute the equipment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300522_reps_12_124/>.