12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Now that an eighteen-passenger airplane service has been established between Sydney and Melbourne with the ultimate intention of making Canberra a place of call en route, will the Minister for Defence see that there is provided in Canberra a landing place suitable for such a large plane?
– I trust that the honorable memberwill ask a question on notice in regard to the matter, so that full inquiry and consideration may be given to it before a reply is made,
– In view of the Government’s announcement that £100,000 will be made available for the relief of surplus miners in the coal industry, and seeing that there are, in Queensland, very many surplus coal-miners, I should like to know from the Prime Minister if any steps have, been taken to ascertain the number of unemployed coal-miners in Queensland, and, in view of the absence of legislation in the matter, how it is proposed that they may avail themselves of the offer of the Government?
– Until the resumption of work, nothing definite could be done, but the Government’s offer is not confined to any one State or any part of a State.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is true, as reported in the press, that 80 per cent. of the miners in the northern coal-fields in New South Wales have resumed work; and, if it is true, will he give the House an opportunity to discuss the need for allocating £100,000 for the repatriation of surplus coal-miners?
– The only information I have as to the resumption of work on the coal-mines is what I have read in the press.I have no official figures. Honorable members will have many opportunities to discuss and deal with the question of giving assistance to those miners who are unable to find employment, but I cannot say precisely when.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that prior to the lockout in the northerncoal-fields approximately 4,000 coal-miners had been cavilled out; if so, does he regard it as necessary to have any review of the grant of £100,000 as suggested by the honorable member for Balaclava ?
– The whole of the facts will be taken into consideration.
– In yesterday evening’s Sun appeared the following in a cablegram from London, where Mr. Bruce addressed a meeting: -
The former CommonwealthPrime Minister (Mr. Bruce) expressed the opinion that the Empire’s leaders of thought, also the ultimate leaders of industry and commerce, should: be trained in the Motherland.
I want toask the Prime Minister how long he proposes to remain for training in the Motherland after he has attended the forthcoming Imperial Conference?
– I have not read the cablegram referred to by the honorable member.
– It is possibly inaccurate.
– It may or may not be a correct report of Mr. Bruce’s words, but I do not subscribe to the suggestion that our commercial men and financial geniuses must be trained outside Australia. I hope to gather information wherever I can, but I shall not prolong my stay in England any longer than is absolutely necessary to represent the Commonwealth at the conference and elsewhere.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs yet received a report from the Tariff Board in respect to the claim of the timber industry for increased protection ? If so, will he realize that his consideration of the report is urgent ?
– I realize the importance of the matter referred to by the honorable member. The Tariff Board has indicated that it expects to complete before the end of the present week, its report on the claim of the timber industry for increased protection.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask you the following questions: -
– The information will be obtained for the honorable member.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs seen a statement in the Sydney Morning Herald, dated 23rd May, 1930, by Austin B. Fay, announcing that hiscompany, Artaus Limited, would refuse to accept the third prize which has been awarded its film “ Fellers “ in the Federal Government’s competition as a protest against being awarded the third prize, and has he received any notification from the company that it will not accept the prize of £1,500 ?
– My attention has been invited to the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred, butI have received no indication from the company mentioned that it intends to refuse the prize of £1,500. The films were judged in accordance with the conditions of competition gazetted by the late Government on the 9th June, 1929, in which it was set out that the Films Censorship Appeal Board would be the adjudicators. In due course the board communicated its decision to the Government ; and the Government in granting a third prize was only acting in accordance with the recommendation of the Appeal Board, in whose hands the adjudication lay.
– As the by-law admission of wool tops in favour of the Yarra Falls Company will involve a very large sum, will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs be good enough to make available the papers dealing with the case?
– As the honorable member has been a Minister for Trade and Customs, I have no objection to his seeing the papers.
-Will the right honorable the Prime Minister inf orm the House whether the flow of assisted migration to Australia has entirely ceased, or whether nominations are still being received and each case is being judged upon its merits?
– The whole circumstances relating to assisted migration have already been placed before honorable members on two or three occasions. The flow of assisted migration to Australia has not completely ceased. Several communications were exchanged with the British Government, which met this Government in a very fair and reasonable spirit in the matter, and it was finally agreed that there should be a continuation of assisted passages to migrants for the purpose of re-uniting families; also that, on requisitions being received from the States, permission would be granted for assisted passages to be given to domestic servants and boys.
The only alteration made in the arrangement is that the requisitions must go through the Commonwealth, and not direct from the State authorities.
Rationing of Work
– Will the Minister for Defence state what arrangements have been made with regard to the rationing of work among members of the Permanent Military Forces?
– The Military Board recommended to the Government a scheme, which would avoid the retrenchment of excess military personnel by rationing work through a system granting, every three months, two weeks compulsory leave without pay to all members of the Permanent Forces. The Government has approved of the recommendation made to it, with the proviso that no member of the forces shall be reduced to an income below the basic wage for the Public Service.
– In view of the large amounts that are being paid into revenue through’ the operation of the duties imposed under the recent tariff, will the right honorable the Prime Minister give Parliament an opportunity tosay whether those duties shall remain on the statute-book or otherwise?
– I understood the honorable member to intimate that a large increase of revenue had accrued from the operation of the new duties. When the Treasurer’s statement is presented the honorable member will learn that the Government has not received a large increase of revenue from customs as a result of the new tariff.In its great sacrifice to balance the ledger, it will suffer a considerable loss of revenue through the customs.
– Has the attention of the right honorable the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that, when welcoming 95 English and Australasian touristsat Australia House, the High Commissioner,
Sir Granville Ryrie, stated that although England was full of pessimism as a result of the new Australian tariff, nobody could help our good name more than Britishers who had lived in Australia for some time and returned to Great Britain to spread good propaganda on behalf of this country. Further, will the right honorable gentleman cause a communication to be sent to the High Commissioner to the effect that such sentiments meet with the approbation of the Australian people?
Question not answered.
” B “ Class Licences.
– Early last year the Postal Department called for applications for “ B “ class licences in Queensland, and a number of tenders were received as a result. Much concern is being conveyed to me by those interested because no decision has been arrived at by the department. Will the Postmaster-General intimate whether any decision has yet been arrived at, and who are to get the licences?
– No decision has yet been come to in the matter. My department is at present very carefully investigating the claims of the different applicants in order that it may grant licences to those most capable of carrying on the service when licences are granted.
Renewal of Services
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to inform the House what has been done regarding the renewal of aerial services conducted by Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited and West Australian Airways Limited?
– The Government has decided to offer Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited and West Australian Air-, ways Limited an extension of their existing contracts for a period of three years, beginning on the 10th instant, subject tothe acceptance by the companies of the rates and conditions which have been specified. In the main, the conditions of contract are identical with those embodied in the latest contracts for air-mail services, and the rates offered provide for a substantial reduction in those now being paid. For some time the subject has been closely considered by a departmental committee with a view to determining rates and conditions which would be equitable both to the Government and the contracting companies and the offer of the Government is largely based on the committee’s recommendation.
– Will the honorable the Treasurer intimate whether the report which appears in the Geelong Advertiser of the 27th of May last, that according to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), Mr. Theodore had promised 6s. 6d. a bushel to the farmers for their wheat, is correct ?
– If such a statement appeared in the Geelong Advertiser it is quite inaccurate, and if it was made by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable gentleman was speakingwithout any knowledge of the facts. No such statement was made by me.
Alleged Promises by Mr. Theodore.
– Is it a fact, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, that the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), when speaking at Muswellbrook during the last federal election campaign–
Several honorable members interjecting
– Order! I ask honorable members to maintain silence while an honorable member is asking a question.
– Is it a fact that on that occasion Mr. Theodore informed a public meeting that if the Labour party were returned to office as a resultof the election the coal-mines, which were then closed, would be open within a fortnight, and that the Federal Government would have power to bring that about?
– I have already replied earlier in the session to inquiries bearing upon this point; but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has not replied to an inquiry directed to him as to whether at one time he published an article headed “ Spend £50,000,000 bravely.”
Honorable members interrupting-
– The Chair has already requested that due decorum shall be observed in the House. If honorable members persist in disturbances of the nature which has just occurred the Chair will be required to take certain action.
– When the interruption occurred, I was pointing out that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had not replied to a question previously asked of him.
– I rise toa point of order. The Treasurer directed a question to me in reply to a question I asked him. That, I submit, is not permissible. Moreover, he was attempting tomake a statement upon a subject which had no bearing upon the question I asked him.
– That is no point of order. The Treasurer will continue his reply to the question.
– I again ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition whether he published an article, written by himself, under the title “Spend £50,000,000 bravely.”
– In view of the fact that some of the coal-mines on the northern fields of New South Wales are still closed, does the Treasurer propose to take any action to cause them to be reopened, and if so, what action?
Question not answered.
Result of Last Election
– Is the Treasurer aware of the fact that although the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said during the last election campaign that he would retain his seat with a majority of 10,000, his majority was less than 2,000?
Question not answered.
– Business of the day.
– I desire to ask-
– Order. I have called on business of the day.
– I rise to a point of order. I accept your ruling without question, Mr. Speaker, but wish to explain that there was a definite misunderstanding. The question that I addressed to the Treasurer was not answered, and honorable members on this side of the chamber were waiting for the honorable gentleman to reply before rising to ask other questions. In that way they missed the call.
– I wish to associate myself with the point of order taken by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett). I had risen four or five times with the object of asking a question, and was waiting for the Treasurer to reply to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, when you. Mr. Speaker, called on business of the day.
– I was in exactly the same position.
– I intimated on a previous occasion that directly a lull occurred in the asking of questions without notice, I would call upon the business of the day, after which no further question without notice could be asked. On this occasion, I waited what I considered to be a sufficient time for the Treasurer to reply to the question asked him, or for other honorable members to rise to ask questions; but as no honorable member rose in his place, I ordered business of the day to be called on. I intend to adhere to that order.
Advances by Rural Credits Department.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In this connexion it mustbe borne in mind that, prior to the establishment of the Rural Credits Department, the General Banking Department materially assisted in the financing of primary productsand made heavy advances for that purpose.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.’
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Commission of Inquiry
asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
Has the Government, as it agreed to do under section 412 of the Treaty of Versailles, appointed three persons of industrial experience to the Commission of Inquiry; if so, who were the Australians so appointed last year?
– Article 412 of the Treaty of Versailles provided that the nominations referred to therein should be made within six months of the date on which that treaty came into force, which was 10th January, 1920. I am advised that the Commonwealth Government of the day did not make any nominations.
Cost to Australia - Permanent Staff -Payments to Sir Harrison Moore
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The particulars desired by the honorable member are in course of preparation, and a reply will be furnished at an early date.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information in my possession shows that no more blankets are available in Queensland ; but I will make inquiry to see if any further issues can be made.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With regard to his reply to a question on the 22nd ultimo, regarding petrol for the Defence Department, in which he disclosed the fact that the Department of Defence produced power alcohol in its own factory for use in motor vehicles of the Postmaster-General’s and Defence Departments, will he state what was the cost price per gallon of the alcohol produced?
– The cost was approximately 3s. per gallon.
” KIRCHERS “ FOLDING MACHINE.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will place on the table of the library the file of correspondence in reference to the application of Messrs. A. Simpson and Sons Limited, of Adelaide, for the importation of a “ Kirchers “ folding machine ?
– I shall be pleased to accede to the request of the honorable member by allowing him to peruse the file in question.
Representations to French and Italian Governments
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers t,o the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he make a statement indicating what progress is being made with the investigations into the proposal to improve the mail service to the north-east coast of Tasmania, in accordance with his undertaking on the 19th March last to have inquiry made into the matter?
– The investigations to which the honorable member refers cover two matters, namely -
Inquiries in respect of the first-mentioned matter disclose that neither the volume of mail matter to be carried nor the interests served would justify the department in incurring the substantial additional expenditure involved. The investigations regarding the use of the passenger motor car service for mails to places in the north-east district are not complete, but the matter is being pursued and the honorable member will be advised in regard thereto as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Were the applications for the following loans approved during April and May, 1930 : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The issue of the following loans was concurred in by me as Chairman of the Australian Loan Council: -
The Commonwealth Treasury is not in possession of information as to the cost of commission, telegrams and other charges on these loans.
Transfers and Dismissals
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the profit made on the Australian note issue for ten years prior to the issue being taken over by the Commonwealth Bank?
– The Commonwealth note issue was established in the year 1910-1911, and was transferred to the. Commonwealth Bank on the 14th December, 1920. The net profits earned during this period were: -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 22nd May, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked whether the Government would publish each year a list showing not only the concessions granted under tariff items 174, 404, and 415a, but also the names of the persons ‘ to whom they were, made and the reasons for granting them. I now wish to inform him that under. section 18 of the Tariff Board Act, the board is required to furnish to Parliament annually a report setting out the recommendations made by the board during the, preceding twelve months. Until the act was amended in March, 1929, it was mandatory on the part of the Minister to refer applications, for admission of goods :under by-law items of the tariff to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, and the subjects were therefore embodied in the annual report or annexures .thereto. As the inquiries were in fact made by officers of ,the’ Department of Trade and Customs, and as the percentage of the departmental recommendations , which were disagreed with by the board was so small, it was considered the act should be amended so that reference to the board of requests for admission of goods under by-law items of the tariff should be at the discretion, of the Minister. All the annual reports of the Tariff Board have been examined, and it is’ found that it has not been the practice to mention names of applicants. Moreover, it is not the practice of the Department of Trade and Customs to disclose the business of any particular firm or company. A bylaw is not legal until published in the Commonwealth Gazette, and as all bylaws are so published, all the necessary information is. therefore available to honorable members. All by-laws under tariff items are published in. the printed tariff decision lists which are issued weekly by the department.
There are certain principles which are followed in connexion with applications for admission of goods under by-laws items of the tariff. In the first place, the goods must be fdr use in the manufacture of other goods or .for use in the development of Australian primary or secondary industries. In the next place, it must be satisfactorily established that the goods for performing the same functions are not being commercially produced in’ Australia. These are the cardinal principles which guide the Minister in granting by-law concessions, and they are the principles which have been followed by every Commonwealth Government since the inception of federation.
The following paper was presented : -
Public Service Act- ‘Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. ‘57.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 3rd June (vide page 2432).
Clause 20 (Powers of the board).
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) proposed -
That clause 20 be omitted with, a view to inserting in Heu. thereof the . following clause: - . > . » “20. The board may -
do all, such things as are required or permitted to be done by the board under any agreement authorized by section four or section four a of this act;
where the law of a State (which is a party to an agreement . in the form in the schedule or to an agreement authorized by section four a of this act) provides for the constitution of any authority to control the marketing of wheat iri that State - enter into agreements with any authority so constituted and do allsuch things as are required or permitted to be , done by the board) under any such agreement; and
advise the Minister on any question relating to the wheat industry which is referred to it by the Minister.”
.- Clause 20, as it originally appeared, specified under nine headings the powers of the board. By reference to the clause and the agreement in the schedule, it was possible to ascertain the powers and the functions of the board. The amendment now moved by theMinister is framed in most general terms. It provides -
The board may -
do all such things as are required or permitted to be done by the board under any agreement authorized by section four or section four a of this act;
where the law of a State which is a party to an agreement in the form in the schedule or to an agreement authorized by section four a of this act, provides for the constitution of any authority to control the marketing ofwheat in that State - enter into agreements with any authority so constituted and do all such things as are required or permitted to be done by the board under any such agreement; and
advise the Minister of any question relating to the wheat industry which is referred to it by the Minister.
That is entirely different from the original clause.Under the original clause the board was entitled to do what it was authorized’ to do under the agreement, unless, indeed, there is a distinction between the words “ required or permitted “ on the one hand, and the word “ authorized “ on the other hand. The original clause, which was evidently well thought out, sets out clearly the powers of the board. It is indeed vague to provide that the board may do “ all such things as are required or permitted to be done by the board” under theagreement. If theboard is to be empowered to do such things as are authorized by the agreement we know where we are, but the words “ required or permitted “ I suggest require some explanation.I presume that the original clause, which is definite in its terms and which everyone can understand, was carefullydrafted, but itis now proposed to substitute anotherclause in the vaguest possible language authorizing theboard todo whatever maybe required or permitted tobe done under the agreement.
Is it intended to exclude some of the powers originally proposed to be conferred upon the board; or is it desired under this clause to extend the powers ? Some reason should be given for the abandonment of theoriginal clause.
.- The proposed new clause is in conformity with the schedule.
– It was before this amendment was introduced.
– All the powers provided for in the original clause are embodiedin the schedule and it is not considered necessary to repeat them in this clause. The Leader of the Opposition asked whether it is intended under the amended clause to confer greater powers on the board or to limit such powers. The clause merely authorizes the board to do those things which are set out in the schedule and whichinclude such matters as the control of export and interstate trade in wheat, and to make agreements with State boards. It is considered unnecessary to set out the powers of the board in both the clause and inthe schedule.
.- Paragraph h of the original clause authorized the board to appoint an executive committee consisting of the chairman of the board and two members to be elected annually by the. board, and to confer on that committee such of’ the powers of the board as the’ board thinks fit. That is a specific power which I submit is not covered by’ the new clause. The new clause does not authorize the board to appoint an executive committee. I can understand the omission if it is thought that it is undesirable to appoint an executive committee and that the board should be empowered to do all that is necessary. The proposed new clause will not give the board the authority to appoint such a committee.
– This clause covers only such powers as are set out in the schedule.
– In some respects it is a limitation of the powers of the board.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 21 and 22 agreed to.
Clause 23- (1.) The board may, by notice in writing, call upon any person to furnish to the board within such time as is specified in the notice such information in relation to wheat as the board thinks necessary. (2.) Any person who, without reasonable excuse (proof whereof shall lie upon him) fails, after receipt of a notice, under the last preceding sub-section, to comply with the requirements of the notice, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds.
.- I have circulated an amendment which I intended to move to this clause, but which I now wish to withdraw in favour of an amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). Both amendments are framed with the object of safeguarding the farmers who may not come into the pool from being unduly harassed by the board, which will be an interested competitor. It is apparent from what was stated last night that the bill has been framed in such a way as to enable the farmers in States which are in the pool to be pampered and those who are not in such States to be bullied. Power is to be given to permit the export of wheat under certain conditions from those States which are not represented on the Australian Wheat Board, and that power may be exercised in such a way that the farmers in those States will be coerced and generally harassed. The power proposed to be given to the board under this clause would be sufficient to enable the board to harass those in control of wheat-selling agencies in States which are not a party to the pool. The board will be able to demand information on various confidential matters with respect to sales and organization, and to use that information to influence the clients of such agencies, and generally to enable it to compete under more favorable conditions than would otherwise be the case. I intended to submit an amendment restricting the powers of the board in this respect, but as it has been pointed out that there can be no objection and there may be an advantage in some one having the power to collect information in regard to the stocks of wheat, I do not propose to move my amendment, but I intend to support that to be moved by the honorable member for Forrest.
.- I move -
That after the word “ information “, subclause1, the words” in his possession “ be inserted.
This clause gives the board power to require any person to furnish such information in relation to wheat as the board thinks necessary. If he does not furnish it, sub-clause 2 imposes on him the onus of giving a reasonable excuse for not doing so. Surely the board would not contemplate asking for any information under penalty which was not in thepossession of the person in question ? Parliament should not impose vague and general obligations of this character upon citizens. In this chamber, and for the purpose of this bill, I am a reasonable authority upon certain general principles applying to the industry of wheat-growing; yet although I might have little or no knowledge at a particular time of wheat conditions, if the board asked me to supply information in relation to wheat - I am putting an extreme case - I could be prosecuted if I refused and would have the onus thrown upon me of proving that I had a reasonable excuse for failingto supply the information.
– It might not be a reasonable excuse if the person asked for the information could obtain it, even though it was not actually in his possession.
– I view this matter as one of general legislative policy, and I suggest that the only obligation which ought to be imposed on any citizen is that of supplying information that is in his possession.
– Is not that implied?
– No. In this case the defendant is adjudged guilty unless he discharges the onus of showing that he has a reasonable excuse for failing to supply the information. In this matter I am taking the point, of view of the citizen rather than that of the department. As one who has held ministerial office, I know that it is convenient in administration to confer extensive powers on departments and departmental officials. The tendency to do so is growing. Gradually citizens are being deprived of their ordinary rights. There can be no reason at all for enacting sub-clause 1 in the general terms in which it appears at present. All that can reasonably be asked for is information actually in the possession of the person asked to furnish it.
– Can we reasonably ask for more than that?
– I think not. We ought not to enact a general provision which is unreasonable in its terms, and leave it to some supposedly reasonable departmental administration to answer any objection. The proposal contained in the clause is objectionable in principle., I may be told that the board would not make unreasonable requests; that it would not, for example, ask me - a lawyer - for information as to the stocks of wheat in my possession. That is not an answer. Legislation ought to be reasonable in itself. We ought not to enact unreasonable provisions under the projection of the plea, that, although unreasonable in its terms, it will be administered reasonably:
– Is it unreasonable to ask a man to give information, or, alternatively, to give a reasonable excuse for not doing so?
– Certainly. It changes the onus, and makes a man prove that he is innocent. A general principle in law is that a man is considered innocent until he is. proved guilty. But here a man is adjudged guilty unless he can show a reasonable excuse for not supplying information, however unreasonable the request for it may be.
– That is a common statutory form which the honorable gentleman knows has been adopted in scores of cases under his own administration.
– In this case there can be no reason for asking a man for information which is not in his possession.
– Would the honorable gentleman make the department prove that the person from whom information is sought is in possession of it?
– Yes. Although I do not profess to be enthusiastic for this compulsory and inquisitorial type of legislation, I am actuated rather by a desire to preserve to citizens one of the few rights that will be left to them if legis lation of this nature is extended, as will bethe case if the present Government remains in office.
– Large numbers of the people have very few rights left to them after twelve years of Nationalist administration.
– Like many other honorable members opposite, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) has not yet recovered from the surprise of actually winning an election. Unfortunately, even on the front ministerial bench there are some honorable gentlemen who seem to regard the Labour party’s success at the last election as a divine intervention on their behalf. I submit that in this particular legislation there is no reason for making a general provision of this character.
– I cannot accept the amendment. If it were agreed to, it would be competent for the person asked to furnish information to give any excuse at all for not supplying it. He might say, for instance, that the books and documents containing the information were in the possession of some one else, and that he did not have access to them. The onus would then beon the department to show not only that the books and documents existed, but also that they contained the information sought. Under the clause as it stands, the person from whom information is sought must show that he has not the information required.
.- I move -
That after the words “ relation to “, subclause 1, the words “ stocks of “ be inserted.
The sub-clause will then read - (1.) The board may, by notice in writing, call upon any person to furnish to the board . . such information in relation to stocks of wheat as the board thinks necessary.
My purpose is to limit the information which may be sought by the Australian Wheat Board in relation to the quantities of wheat held in States that remain outside the pool. The Government has no right to appoint a board with inquisitorial powers to ascertain what wheat-growers in States outside the scheme are receiving for their produce. or what dealings are being made. I submit the amendment with confidence, and I hope that the Minister will accept it.
– If the honorable member’s amendment is accepted, the clause will limit unduly the scope of the inquiry by the board. It may be necessary for the board to be in possession of certain knowledge about shipments of wheat or the movements of wheat.
– Surely the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) recognizes that it may be desirable for the board to be furnished with certain information concerning the movements of wheat.
– There is no reason why it should make inquiries about the price realized for wheat outside the pool.
– Does not the Minister see that if Western Australia stands out of the scheme, the selling organizations in that State will not care to disclose information about their clients and wheat movements generally? It would not be fair to ask them to do so.
-But Western Australia is not the only State concerned. It might be necessary for the board to have information about the movements of wheat from States outside the pool, and it should have the necessary power to obtain it.
.- The Minister has indicated that it may be necessary for the board to obtain information as to movements of wheat in States outside the pool and the prices obtained for it. Apparently, under this scheme, the Australian Wheat Board is to be in the position of a dictator for the whole of the wheat-growers of Australia. Although it is probable that only three States will enter the pool, everybody in Australia who grows wheat must bow down to and worship this new monster in the shape of the Australian Wheat Board. If the clause is passed in its present form, the board will have power to make inquisitorial investigations into prices realized and movements of wheat in not only those States which enter into agreements, but also in States outside the pool. The bill was introduced on the understanding that its provisions would apply only to those States which entered into an agreement to form a pool, but apparently a scheme is being evolved which will be applied to wheat-growers in all the States.
– Surely it should apply to States that join in the pool. ‘
– The board will have all the information, necessary concerning wheat grown in those States . that form thepool, because it will handle the crop; but the farmers in those States which resist this bribe of 4s., should not be asked to disclose prices and movements of wheat. The bill was introduced with protestations that it would apply only to States which accepted the scheme, and we were given to understand that there would be a ballot of wheat-growers in all States before they were asked to come into the pool. But when we sought to insert a provision for the ballot, the Minister rejected it, and said that he would not require a ballot in any State before it joined the pool.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is not fair. I said that I was in favour of a ballot, and that if Iwere not assured that the States concerned, would be taking a ballot, I would agree to the insertion of the necessary provision to that end.
– I do not propose to re-debate that question now. What I said was strictly accurate. The Minister, when he had the opportunity, was not prepared to include” in the bill provision for taking a ballot of wheat-growers as to whether or not their State should join in a scheme which we now find is intended to socialize the business of wheat production.
– Ballots will betaken.
– Now we find that the board is to be endowed with inquisitorial powers in relation to wheat-farmers in States which reject the scheme. Let the compulsory pool, if it has any merit in it, stand on its feet and compete with the free States of Australia. There is no reason whatever why, in respect of States which do not join in the scheme, the board should have authority to inquire as to prices, charters, or movements of wheat. As for those States that enter into agreements, let them have the pool with its Grand Inquisitor and little inquisitors as well. I am entirely opposed to the whole of the clause.
.- I strongly support the amendment. If it is not accepted, I should like to see provision inserted, making the clause apply only to those States which join the pool. Does the Minister fear that the Australian Wheat Board will he so lacking in knowledge of its business, that it will be necessary to seek information in States which may not join the pool and take advantage of any knowledge thus obtained ? It is possible that South Australia, as well as Western Australia, will remain outside the scheme.
– We are hopeful that South Australia will come in. [Quorum formed.]
– I cannot understand why the Minister refuses to accept this amendment. This provision should apply only to those States which are parties to the agreement. If Western Australia decides to stand out and allow her voluntary pool and her wheat merchants to continue in operation, it is not right that persons in that State should be compelled by the Commonwealth Wheat Pool Board to give information regarding wheat cargoes, freights and destinations. The board has no right to command their business knowledge and experience for its own benefit. The idea is preposterous. I hope that the committee will divide on this amendment. The bill should also be amended so that information might be demanded only from persons in those States which have agreed to come into the pool. I hope later to obtain a concession whereby Western Australia can come into the pool, but if she elects to remain outside it should not be possible for the Commonwealth Wheat Board, by exercising the power proposed to be conferred in this clause, to place competitors in an untenable position.
– It is really blackmail.
– It is worse than that.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). It used to be said that an Englishman’s home is his castle, but that will be an idle boast so far as Australia is concerned if the Government persists in putting this clause through in its present form. I see no reason for the provision at all. Why should persons be compelled to give to the board information that may be used to make it impossible to sell their wheat ? I hope that the Government will listen to the request of honorable members on this side, and accept the amendment. Surely it is sufficient that the board should be able to demand information relating to stocks held. I shall even go so far as to say that it might require to know the standard of the wheat.
– And particulars regarding freights.
– There is no occasion for that.
– Would matters relating to cargoes be a fair subject of inquiry?
– It is not necessary to go to those in charge of voluntary pools for that information. It can be obtained from the shipping companies. I am afraid that there is some ulterior motive behind this proposal, and I am bitterly opposed to it. It savours too much of star chamber methods. If a State decides not to enter the pool, those engaged in the wheat industry in that State should be left with absolute freedom of action.
.- I wish to join with those who have expressed their intention to support the amendment of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). If the Minister accepts this amendment it will materially help him to get his pool proposals agreed to by the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth. If the clause proes through in its present form a great injustice will be done to the producers of any State which does not become a party to the pooling agreement. Those who operate a voluntary pool in. a State should have the right to conduct their business in their own- way without interference from a compulsory Commonwealth pool. What becomes of our vaunted liberty of the subject if those in charge of voluntary pools are compelled to furnish trade information at the demand of the compulsory Commonwealth pool? The wheat farmers of each State should have the right to say whether or not they will join the Commonwealth pool, and if they elect not to join they should be free to carry on their business in any way they please. Trade conditions are sufficiently bad now, but if this measure is persisted with in its present form things will, I am certain, bc made much worse. This is a form of coercion for which there is no excuse, and it should not be attempted. This legislation is not designed to preserve the best interests of Australia or its wheat producers, and I urge the Minister to reconsider his attitude towards the amendment. By accepting it he would be acting in the best interests of the wheatgrowers, not only of those States which do not want to come into the pool, but also of Australia as a whole. He would also be assisting the successful passage of his bill.
– I cannot understand the Government’s opposition to this very reasonable amendment. I can only believe that it is the deliberate intention of Ministers to blackmail into the pool those States which are reluctant to come into it. To my mind, it is exceedingly improper legislation. I remind the Government that it is running a great deal of risk of having trouble in the administration of this measure if it becomes law. It ill becomes a responsible government to pass a law which practically invites defiance of it from a great State of the Commonwealth union. In all probability, we shall have “Western Australia standing out.
– I think that the honorable member is making a great mistake in that regard.
– When I have concluded my remarks the honorable member will have many opportunities to speak. ^ But I know he will not do so. It seems to be weeks since any honorable member on the Government side of the chamber has ventured to speak on this hill. It is quite evident that the sandbag has been at work in caucus, for a great silence has fallen on honorable members opposite so far as this hill is concerned. I trust that those who are not disposed to make contributory speeches during this debate will at least permit others to make them, and will not indulge in gibing and snarling after they have been sandbagged in caucus.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to confine himself to the clause.
– The clause provides for the, coercion of any State which elects to stand out of the pool. It provides foran inquisition of the most hideous kind into the business affairs of any one engaged in growing, buying, or shipping wheat in such a State. As I have already said, it is inviting defiance and. repudiation of the law. Could anything be more high-handed than that three States coming into a pool, probably on a minority vote of the wheat-growers, should be able to dictate to a State which says, “As a sovereign State of the Commonwealth we prefer to stand aside and do our own business in connexion with wheat “ ! Surely that is a reasonable attitude. The farmers of that State acquire their land, clear it, grow their wheat, and wish to market it. Yet the farmers in three other States, possibly a minority, can say to the farmers in the State I have in mind, “ We shall take your business entirely out of your hands. You may want to ship your wheat on a certain vessel, hut you shall not do so; it is required for the wheat of the favoured pool. Your wheat must wait.”
– That is absurd !
– It is not an exaggerated statement. In fact, it is just what is likely to happen under the selfish administration of the pool if there are only three States administering it. The managers of the pool will not be doing their job if they do not work along those lines. They will be out to do the best they can for the pool and for the three States in the pool. Are they likely to go out of their way to provide facilities for the export of wheat from a State that is not in the pool or even to permit facilities for the shipment of the wheat of that State if it is coming into competition with pool wheat? This clause is the most outrageous and arrogant provision ever introduced into this Parliament. It is a most discriminating proposal.
– It is an abominable proposal.
– As the honorable member says, it is an abominable proposal. It has been left to the present
Government to bring in discriminating punitive legislation of this kind. It is endeavouring to get its measure through, first, by bribery in the shape of the payment of 4s. a bushel to the farmer, and, secondly, by a coercive proposition of this kind.
.- Nothing shows the weakness of the Opposition’s case more effectively than does the exaggerated way in which it raises all kinds of bogies as to what the Wheat Board may do. Nearly all the opposition to the measure has been based on sheer supposition as to something that may happen. Nine-tenths of the objections to the measure are founded on the suggestion that the whole of the wheatgrowing States will not come into the pool. I certainly agree that they may not all come into the pool; but it is quite wrong to assert definitely and confidently that they will not do so. What honorable member is entitled to predict what the judgment of the farmers may be as to a bill that has not yet been passed ?
– If the honorable member will make the law conditional on the farmers coming into the pool, we can accept it.
– Order! I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that lie was given a very fair opportunity to explain his views to the committee.
– I apologize.
– Even if the board, which I hope will be created under this bill, is representative of only three States, it will not attempt to use its powers in the way the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested. It will be representative of the primary producers - the sanest element in the community - and will not be comprised of commercial brigands who will set up some inquisitorial policy under which tyranny may be exercised over farmers in States not inside the pool. The amendment seeks to weaken the powers of control of the board. I admit quite frankly that the powers asked for in the whole of this bill are very wide and drastic: but they are largely in the nature of an experiment. The whole principle of compulsory pooling is to be put on trial for three years, and is to be backed up by the rigid provisions of an act of Parliament. I want to make the trial absolute, and for that reason
I am opposed to any weakening of the powers given to the board by this clause. In regard to the references to the inquisitorial powers of the board and the iniquitous and humiliating position in which citizens may be placed by having to divulge confidential- information, I may point out that there is nothing in the clause which is not to be found in the Census and Statistics Act. That is a sufficient answer to the arguments so vociferously advanced., by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
. -I admire the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). He speaks on this subject in a detached and impartial way, as if he had no particular interest in it. After the tumult of passion has subsided he places before the committee a sweetly reasonable view, uninfluenced entirely by any sectional considerations ! The committee, therefore, has the benefit of the view of an entirely neutral outsider that the provisions to which honorable members of the Opposition take exception are really no different from provisions included in the Census and Statistics Act. May I suggest to the honorable member that there is some slight difference? The Census and Statistics Act applies to all Australians in all States, for all purposes which are thought proper. If it were applied in this case the wheat board would not get the information it is desired that it should get; because, of course, that act requires that only bulk results shall be made available, and all the information furnished to the statistical authorities is confidential. The essence of the present proposal is that there shall be ah Australian wheat board, and the board shall have the power to make full inquiries as to all matters relating to wheat, including the price at which it is sold or proposed to be sold in any States that elect to do their own business without the proffered Commonwealth assistance.
– But not necessarily to make the information public.
– No; but to use it competitively against the States which have preserved their freedom. I have no objection, if the bill is passed, to a compulsory pool competing on fair and even terms with -the States that elect to remain outside the pool. Let the compulsory pool see how it gets on in competition and in comparison with the States that have elected by the determination of their own Parliaments or of the wheat-growers within their boundaries to remain outside the compulsory pool. Under this clause, however, the dice are to be loaded in favour of the pool. One selling agency in Australia is to have the advantage of being able- to secure information from other sellers in the same market, and the latter are not to have the opportunity or power to obtain similar information from the board controlling the pool. What reason can there be for empowering the compulsory pool to meddle in any way with the affairs of the States outside the pool unless it is desired to give the pool an advantage against the wheat-growers in the States which have elected to remain outside the pool? The competition will be on an entirely unfair basis. When I refer to “ competition “ I mean competition for profitable sales, successful charters, and all the other commercial incidentals associated with the sale of wheat. The bill should have nothing to do with acquiring information which may be used against the interests of wheat-growers in those States which elect to remain outside the pool. Let the competition he fair, even and open. This proposal inevitably suggests to the mind that those who are sponsoring the suggestion for a compulsory pool fear that that pool will not be able to compete successfully on even terms with free wheat. If those who support the pool really believe in the advantages which have been held up to us here of co-operation, co-ordination, stabilization, rationalization, and all the other long words which are appropriate to a discussion on the subject, they should not he afraid of the compulsory pool going into open competition with free wheat. The opposition to the amendment indicates that those supporting the hill are uncertain of their own ground, and do not believe that their creation can compete with others on a fair basis,
– Is it not necessary to safeguard the pool?
– I have already attacked the pool. I believe that it is a thoroughly stupid and ill-conceived idea ohe that will bring disaster- to the Australian wheat industry.
-. - A concerted attack on the pool by the merchants and growers who are not members of it would destroy the project commercially.
– There can be no legitimate objection to such competitive action.
– Not against a combination using concerted action against the pool?
– The essence of a pool itself is combination. There can be a pool only if three States come into it. Surely its resources ought to be sufficient to handle any market conditions that may possibly arise. If the pool is not able to handle such a situation, having behind it the wheat resources of three States, it is not worth its salt. I am arguing for free competition.
– The Canadian wheat pool had to fight such devious attacks.
– I do not regard competition as a devious attack. I consider that a compulsory pool is a monopoly of a highly objectionable character. Those States which are prepared to accept that monopoly may do so if the bill passes. They are entitled to do so, and they know what they are. doing. But let us leave the other States out of the picture, and give them an opportunity to compete against the compulsory pool. There is no great obliquity or iniquity in attacking a compulsory pool. It is merely a commercial matter. The compulsory pool will he selling in the world’s market and there it will enter into competition with the free wheat. Why allow one section to obtain complete information as to the business movements of the other? If the principle of a compulsory pool is sound, surely those who support it ought to welcome the opportunity to prove that, on fair and even terms, it is able to beat the free wheat. The object of this clause is to prevent that being done and, in effect, to allow the compulsory pool to control the States which- refuse to enter it. It appears to me that the amendment of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) ought to be accepted in order to confine the power to obtain information to stocks of wheat. I consider, also, that the clause ought to be confined in its operation to those States which agree to enter the pool.
I hope that if the clause is passed as it now reads, it will not hereafter be discovered that there is something invalid about it. Let me state a hypothetical case. It will enable the Minister to descend, let us say, on the State of South Australia. Supposing that that State has rejected the pool proposals. Here is a Commonwealth law which says that information must be given to the Wheat Marketing Board by A.B., an individual in South Australia, upon request by that board. The Commonwealth is not selling South Australian wheat, and A.B. may resist the requisition. I have not carefully considered the matter, but the Wheat Board may have some difficulty in enforcing its request against A.B. However, it is not upon such grounds that I am opposing the clause as it stands. I am opposing it specifically because it is inconsistent with the very basis upon which this measure was introduced, namely, that it was to apply only in the States which accepted it through their Parliaments and by a ballot of wheat-growers. This clause will make the bill apply to any State. To that general consideration I add the further one that it appears to me that those who advocate a compulsory pool ought to welcome the opportunity for that pool to compete on fair and equal terms with the free wheat of Australia.
.- I hope that the Minister will reconsider his decision. I remember that, not many years ago, when a leading Melbourne pressman was extolling the virtues of - the honorable member for Hume - now the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) - he said that the honorable gentleman outdid a mosquito in his capacity to irritate. “Like father, like son “ ; like Minister, like bill ! I believe that this bill will outdo a mosquito in its capacity to irritate. This clause will irritate any State that does not come into the pool. When I moved my amendment the Minister said that I was thinking of Western Australia. Of course I was. The very existence of this irritating clause in this irritating bill will enable the States which become members of the pool to apply coercion to Western Australia in a very irritating fashion. Should, this bill become law, it will be known as “The Great Coercion Act”. If the Minister has any intention to benefit the wheat-farmers and their industry, he should exercise every care before agreeing to such legislation, particularly when it is certain that unanimity cannot exist in the matter amongst our wheat-growers. The setting up of inquisitorial boards to help certain States to coerce other States cannot ‘ do other than disintegrate our federation and bring about complications that are totally undesirable and unnecessary. Already arrangements exist for all reasonable information connected with the wheat industry to be published, and the board could obtain such information without employing these inquisitorial methods.
– This clause is not directed against the Western Australian State voluntary pool;
– I am endeavouring to guard against injury being done to Western Australia if a compulsory pool is formed. The intention of the Government is to coerce States into the pool. If a State refuses to join the compulsory pool, the Federal Government will say, “ We will limit your sales. The offerings of those who are members of the. pool will be treated first, and yours will take a back place’’’’. That attitude can do nothing but harm. I urge the Minister to limit the application of the clause to inquiries connected with stocks of wheat as provided for in my amendment.
.- Undoubtedly the handling of our wheat industry by private agencies has led to the chaotic position in which our primary producers find themselves.
– It is nearly as bad as the coal industry.
– The same thing applies there. I could cite case after case to prove that, both in Victoria and New South Wales, wheat, wool, and other produce have- been transported much further than was necessary to reach the market. I have letters from graziers’ associations and others complaining of such mismanagement. Our New South Wales . wheat-growers lose- £60,000 a year through that sort of bungling, which also adversely affects railway freights.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Transport Bill or the Wheat Marketing Bill?
– Obviously my remarks are associated with the bill now before the committee. The inauguration of the proposed pool is absolutely essential in the interests of the wheat-growers. By introducing efficient methods of transportation it will effect a saving of thousands of pounds annually. If honorable members cannot realize that it is the best thing possible for our wheatgrowers, they should leave this chamber. There can be no two opinions amongst intelligent people as to the benefits that will accrue to the growers as a result of wheat marketing being placed under the direction of a responsible board.
– In what way does the honorable member connect his remarks with clause 23 of the bill?
– Clause 23 is a very comprehensive one, and my remarks are relevant to it. It appears to me that the whole purpose of honorable members opposite is to delay the progress of the bill. The sooner the committee passes the measure and its principles are set into operation the better it will be for the primary producers of Australia.
. If the Minister had been prepared last night to accept the amendment I moved with the object of ensuring that the Western Australian farmers would be consulted on this subject, I should have voted for the clause as it stood, because the inquisitorial powers- as they have been termed - of this clause are not greater than those given to the various export control boards that are operating. But whereas these powers have been bestowed upon other boards in the past, only after the producers of the particular commodity have been consulted and have agreed to the control of their products, it is proposed to bestow powers upon this board without consulting the farmers of some of the States. I do not believe that these powers are likely to be exercised in the way pictured by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who considered that the board would act with moderation and restraint. But as the Minister is not prepared to take a poll of the wheatgrowers in those States which do not take one for themselves, it is only fair to limit the information which the board may require to be furnished to it. Consequently, I intend to vote, for the amendment.
– In view of the fact that the Government is- guaranteeing 4s. a bushel for wheat delivered at railway sidings, precautions should be taken to avoid any losses. The object of the Minister in seeking to provide that the fullest possible information shall be supplied to the Wheat Marketing Board is to prevent any glut of Australian wheat in the market overseas. This provision is in the best interests of the. farmers themselves. Assuming that Western Australia remains outside of the scheme, it would not be wise for the Australian Board to ship five or six cargoes of wheat at the same time that the authorities in Western Australia were shipping similar quantities from that State. If the power sought by the Minister in this clause is granted, that kind of thing could be avoided. The Wheat Marketing Board will consist of men of common sense, who are interested in the industry, and who may be relied upon not to act foolishly. We should trust the board to do the best that it can in the interests of the wheatfarmers and of the Government. I therefore hope that the amendment will be rejected.
– The Minister must have been impressed by the arguments that have been advanced in support of the amendment, and, upon reflection, should realize that it is hardly reasonable to include in the bill a provision which will enable the Wheat Marketing Board to compel its competitors to supply it with the most confidential details of their business. The board should he able to secure from legitimate channels such information as is really necessary to it. It should not be compulsory for merchants operating in competition with the pool to furnish information which they have the right to regard as private. I urge the Minister to reconsider his decision not to accept this amendment, for the most cogent reasons have been advanced this afternoon why it should be agreed to. On the other hand, no reasons have been advanced for refusing to agree to it. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has said that the opposition to this measure is all based upon suppositions. But is not the measure itself based on suppositions? We can only work on estimates; and no one can tell whether these will be realized or not. It is all a matter of personal opinion based on general information. The honorable member also said that the powers proposed to be conferred upon the board were “ wide and drastic.”
– He also said that the whole thing was an experiment.-
– That is so, though he added that the board was not likely to use its powers unjustly or unfairly. But is it fair that the citizens of the Commonwealth should be left to the mercy of a board in a matter of such great importance? It is surely the duty of this Parliament to protect, in every reasonable way, the interests of the community. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said that the board could be trusted to look after its own interests, and also the interests of the Government. In -these venal days everybody is entitled, to some extent at least, to look after bis own interest; and as the Wheat Marketing Board will be representative of the farmers, it may be trusted to look after them. The Minister will be represented on the board, so the interests of the Government will he watched. But what about the general community? Is it not fair that their interests should be safeguarded? I feel sure that the honorable member for South Sydney will admit that that is so. One of the greatest champions of the Wheat Pool, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who acted as chairman at the gatherings, held in Canberra, of representatives of organizations specially selected by the Minister, has admitted that the powers of the board are wide and drastic.
– The honorable member for Wimmera was chairman for only a half-day of the two days of the conference, while I was absent presiding over a conference of Ministers of Agriculture.
– Then we may assume that all that was done at the conference was done with the approval of the Minister. But that is immaterial at the moment. My point is that as this board will have the widest possible powers in connexion with the export of wheat from Australia, it is only fair that the interests of the whole community should be safeguarded, and particularly the interests of wheat-growers in States which may not become parties to the pool, such for instance, as those of Western Australia. I understand that Western Australia has managed the marketing of its wheat successfully of recent years, and that it may desire to continue the methods which have proved to be satisfactory. Surely in these circumstances the Western Australian farmers should be free to sell their wheat when and how they please, and should not be compelled to disclose to the Wheat Marketing Board the most confidential information in relation to their business. While it may be right to authorize the board to request the fullest possible information in respect of wheat in those States which are parties to the pool, it is not right to compel States which are not parties to it to furnish precisely similar information. I, therefore, appeal to the Minister not to refuse to amend the clause owing to his having a majority of the committee behind him. This amendment is put forward in all seriousness by earnest men who have been interested in the wheat industry and wheatgrowers all their lives. If the Minister would realize that sensible suggestions are being made, and treat them accordingly, he would make more rapid progress with the bill than heretofore.
.- I am grateful for the solicitude that honorable members opposite, who come from other States, have shown for the welfare of Western Australia. For the first time in many years they have exhibited a desire that justice should he done to that
State; although, during the last five years, when they have had opportunities to prove the sincerity of their protestations, they have failed to do so. If the bill dealt solely with the States in which the growers vote for a compulsory pool, I could see a good deal in the argument of honorable members opposite; but this measure does more than establish a system of compulsory pooling in the States where the majority of the growers vote in favour of it. Other clauses to which we have already agreed give to the board power to regulate the export of wheat from Australia, and there can be no export of wheat from any State if the board feels that that would be disadvantageous to the growers.
– Under what clause is that power conferred?
– It is provided that once the board so determines, and the Minister agrees, and a proclamation has been issued, nobody may export wheat except under licence. The story of the fight in the interests of the wheat-growers of Australia, as of every other country, is a long one. In countries where the keenest competition prevails with respect to marketing of wheat, the growers do not receive so good a price for their product as they would under ordinary circumstances. Between the growers and the consumers, whether under compulsory pooling or marketing through agents, the organization of the middlemen has insinuated itself, and this Australian-wide compulsory pool is offered to this country to save the growers from many costs which, in the absence of pooling in the past, have been levied upon them, resulting m substantial reductions from their net returns.
– That is very questionable.
– It is not. In Western Australia, for years, over 70 per cent, of the marketable wheat crop has been handled by poolers, and the growers have not been content to export their wheat through agents.
– These remarks would have been interesting on the second reading of the bill, but what about the clause under discussion ?
– I am coming to that. Had it not been for the adverse circumstances due to the absence of pools in the other States, the Western Australian pool would have been able to do infinitely better work for the wheat-growers in that State than it has already done. Under this clause it is proposed that, as the board is to be the instrument responsible for the export of wheat from Australia, it’ shall have access to such information as it requires, so that it may be able to carry out its duties efficiently. That is all that is proposed, but honorable members opposite seem to read into the clause an attempt to abstract the minutest details of the personal affairs of the growers. It is almost certain that no grower will be asked for any data in connexion with the operation of this clause. Those who will be called upon for returns are those who engage in the buying and selling of wheat as a commercial undertaking.
– The Western Australian pool also will be called on.
– Decidedly. Does the honorable member imagine that it would object ?
– I think that it would.
– If the honorable member reads the balance-sheets and reports which the trustees of the pool in Western Australia circulate to the wheat-growers and to the public generally, he will find practically all the information that the board would require.
– Then why the necessity for this clause?
– In order that the Western Australian pool may be placed on an equality with firms such as John Darling and Sons and Dreyfus and Company, who do not issue information of that character. The marketing of wheat has ceased to be a private business in this country; it has become of supreme national importance. The production and marketing of our wheat goes to the very root of the economic conditions of Australia, and the Government, by this bill, has undertaken certain definite responsibilities in guaranteeing a minimum price to the growers. In order to discharge the very responsible duty of guaranteeing, as it were, a minimum wage to an important section of the primary producers, it has been decided by the Government to organize the necessary machinery to carry out what it believes to be the right national policy. Naturally, the Government feels that the board must be possessed of all the information required by it in order to discharge that duty. What objection, therefore, can be raised to the clause? I think it was John A. Hobson who said that in modern business there is no such thing as a self -regarding act. This means that everything that an employer, a wheat board or a wheat agency may do, has an important bearing on the general welfare of the nation. I do not consider this clause to be inquisitorial in nature. Having regard to the difficult circumstances in which Australia now finds itself, I see nothing sacrosanct in the information which a particular firm may possess in relation to such a matter as the export of wheat.
– Let the Wheat Board give information to all its competitors in the same way.
– That is a government concern; it must not be troubled in that way!
– What I consider to be detrimental to the effective operation of the board, and, indeed, to the wheat industry as a whole, is the fact that certain vested interests have organized themselves, and, regarding their operations as a close preserve, have founded an instrumentality which has enabled them to exploit not only the growers but also the community as a whole. Over a long series of years the growers have not been treated as fairly as they might have been by those who have controlled the marketing of their product. This bill represents a definite attempt to organize the marketing of Australian wheat. There is no desire to disclose any secret methods of those private organizations whose vested interests are at stake, and are now threatened by the advent of the cooperative pool in Western Australia and by its successors. These agencies have threatened to make war against the pool in Western Australia just as seriously as they will against the Commonwealth pool.
– In ordinary competition.
– It is not ordinary competition. It is competition backed up by associated interests of various kinds, because there is a concert between the private agents who buy wheat and the companies in whose ships it is carried. Honorable members opposite who represent wheat-growers will note that the Leader of the Opposition is anxious about the rights of the States who may refuse to come into the pool.
– The rights of the growers; I said nothing about the States.
– In the States in which the pool is agreed to there will be, perhaps, a substantial minority of the growers voting against the proposal ; but they are to be coerced into the pool because they are in a minority. In the majority of the States there will be a minority which does not believe in pooling ; but honorable members opposite have no objection to the pool being forced upon that minority. If the clause is not accepted, it will be conceivable that those who regard the pool as a distinct menace to vested interests will take all possible steps to bring about its failure. In order to guard against that and to protect the interests of the Commonwealth and States who accept the pool, and who become responsible for part of the guarantee, involving immense sums of public money, surely it is of the first importance that the instrumentality that we create to administer the scheme shall have access to all the information that is necessary to enable it to carry out its duties properly. I cannot see any objection to this clause. Since the general principles of the bill have been accepted, and the power to regulate the export of wheat from every State agreed to by the committee, this clause appears to me to be the inevitable and logical consequence.
.- The Minister, when objecting to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), said that it would be necessary to acquire information other than in regard to stocks. I therefore propose to move, in another form, the amendment which has been circulated in my name, as an alternative to that moved by the honorable member for Forrest. I propose to add after the word “necessary” at the end of subclause 1 the following words : -
Provided that this section shall only apply to persons residing in or growing, handling, or trading in wheat produced in any State which is party to an agreement in the form in the schedule.
That amendment, if carried, would have the effect of giving the board power to acquire any information within those States which accept the pool, but would reserve to persons interested in the industry in the States which do not accept the pool, full liberty of action, and full control of their own affairs. I do not propose to speak at length on the proposed amendment, because the point with which it deals was amply dealt with by other honorable members when the general question regarding the rights of individuals in the States which do not accept the pool, were under discussion. But there is one point which I should like to mention. The Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney), the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), all suggested that one of the classes of information that the board would require in order to carry out its functions efficiently was information with regard to the chartering of ships. Such a suggestion shows that those honorable members did not look carefully into the circumstances of the wheat trading end of the industry before the bill was drafted and introduced into this House. It is a fact that as soon as a charter is completed anywhere in the world the details are posted in the Baltic Exchange in London and cabled to Australia. That information is, therefore, made available to the wheat merchants and the various pools in Australia. In fact, it becomes public property. To say that it is necessary to have this absolutely abominable power of inquisition in order to ascertain information concerning the chartering of ships, is to indicate a total ignorance of the facts.
-What information would any person want to hide ?
– Information on various matters. The Western Australian pool has been the most conspicuous and successful pool in regard to the selling end of its business, and it is that end of the wheat business that requires the highest skill in order to obtain the greatest success. As the honorable member for Fremantle has pointed out, it is the only pool that has been able to show results comparable with the results which the merchants have been able to obtain on behalf of the wheat-growers. That is probably due largely to the fact that the pool, by acquiring a specially valuable fund of information, and by establishing contact with those interested in the industry, has been able to dispose of the wheat entrusted to it to better advantage than have many of its competitors not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world. Itis absolutely unfair to require any persons who are trading in the open market to disclose information in regard to their sales and the markets that they have established in other parts of the world. It is wrong to give to one of their competitors the power to require them to make that information public, and, as a result, to damage their operations in the market. As the Minister seems determined to give this power to the board, I give notice that I shall move the amendment that I have indicated as an alternative to the amendment which I have circulated among honorable members, and that moved by the honorable member for Forrest.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Prowse’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman. - Mr. Yates.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Hawker) proposed -
That after the word “ necessary “ at the end of sub-clause 1 the following words be inserted : -
Provided that this section shall only apply to persons residing in or growing, or handling, or trading in wheat produced in any State which is party to an agreement in the form in the schedule.
– I trust that the Minister will consent to this amendment, so that the power to obtain this information will apply to wheatgrowing only within the States which are parties to the pool. It may happen that Western Australia or South Australia may remain outside the pool, and it would be grossly unfair if the board had power under this legislation to obtain any class of information from those in control of voluntary pools in those States.
– When dealing with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) I took the opportunity to cover the whole ground in regard to both amendments. I may, however, repeat that whether the board is dealing with wheat under or outside its control, it may, on rare occasions, be necessary to obtain certain information which is not published in any form. For this reason I cannot accept the amend ment which would restrict the powers of the board.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister (Mr. Parker Moloney) to the fact that in this clause the word “ person “ is used and not the word “ corporation “ as in other portions of the bill. I am aware, of course, that the Acts Interpretation Act provides that the word “person” covers “ corporation “ In section 15b of the Australian Industries Preservation Act it is provided, inter alia, that “the ComptrollerGeneral may, by writing under his hand, require any person whom he believes capable of giving information-“ to do certain things. It was decided under that section in the case of the Melbourne Steamship Coy. v. Moorhead, as published in the Argus Law Reports, volume 18, page 538, that the word “ person “ did not include corporations, although the interpretation clause of the Australian Industries Preservation Act provides that “ person “ includes “corporation and firm, and a commercial trust.” Notwithstanding that definition, and the definition in the Acts Interpretation Act, the majority of the High Court, consisting of Chief Justice Griffith, Mr. Justice Barton, Mr. Justice Isaacs, the last named dissenting, decided that without some further reference “ person “ did not include “ corporations “. On that occasion Chief Justice Griffith said -
If it had been intended that section 156 should apply to corporations, one might have expected that it would have contained a provision that the answer should be made under the corporate seal, or by some member or officer appointed by the corporation for the purpose of making answer according to the practice of this court as well as the High Court of Justice in England and the Australian Supreme Courts with regard to discovery and that the answer so given should be admissible against the corporation.
I do not intend to move an amendment, but the Minister should, I submit, obtain legal advice on the point when the bill reaches another place as some of the wheat buyers are firms or corporations.
Clause agreed to.
Amendment ( by Mr* Parker Moloney ) proposed -
That all the words after the words “ Commonwealth Bank “ he omitted.
.- This clause provides that all moneys received by the board shall be paid into the Commonwealth Bank or into any other prescribed bank. The clause itself does not provide that such moneys may be paid into any other bank, but permits the Governor-General so to prescribe in order to overcome any difficulty which may arise at places where there is no branch of the Commonwealth Bank. I suggest that a mistake will be made if these words are deleted, and that no benefit will be gained. Under normal conditions, the Commonwealth Bank is to transact all the business of the Wheat Board; but incidentally, I do not know how it is to handle the responsibilities which are to be placed upon it under the agreement unless it acts in co-operation with other banks. There appears to be no reason for depriving the Governor-General of the power to prescribe any bank. The Commonwealth Bank, as distinct from trading banks, has not a tremendous number of branches. There are country centres where there is no branch cf the Commonwealth Bank, and where it may be convenient and necessary to do business with other banks. The Government is, perhaps, under the impression that if these words are allowed to remain in the clause, it will be said that the Government is giving undue consideration to other banks, but such is not the case. If these words are deleted the transactions of the pool may be considerably hampered, particularly as the moneys received by the board and to be dealt with’ under this clause include moneys received by ^ every agent of the board. Honorable members will appreciate the importance of this provision from a practical viewpoint, as the board is a corporation and can act only through agents. Under the clause as it is proposed to he amended every agent must pay the board’s money into a separate account in the Commonwealth Bank, and it will be impossible to pay such moneys into any other bank. I submit that this amendment, if adopted, will hamper the operations of the board and will lead to money being retained in the hands of agents when it ought to be in the custody of the bank.
.- I am afraid the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has overlooked the fact that anything that enables business to be done with banks other than the Commonwealth Bank is exceedingly distasteful to honorable members opposite. There does not appear to be any reason why the words proposed to be omitted should not be retained in the clause. They cannot do any harm and may be particularly useful in certain circumstances. I do not know whether all the funds of the pool will be paid in city areas, but it appears only reasonable to assume that many payments will be made in the country where there may not be a branch of the Commonwealth Bank. It is quite possible that it may be necessary for the GovernorGeneral to prescribe other banks in order that the business of the Wheat Board may be efficiently carried out. Many are under the impression that exporters can receive favorable consideration only from the Commonwealth Bank, but that was not their experience in Western Australia where the Commonwealth Bank in some cases refused assistance. When it was available interest, of course, had to be paid. On the other hand when they had a large sum at credit which it was desired to place at interest on short-dated loans, the bank said that their proposal was anything but a friendly act. There is no occasion for honorable members opposite to prate about the wonderful service rendered by the Commonwealth Bank, and I trust that in this connexion other banks may have an opportunity to handle some of the business of the board.
– I have been informed, that the Commonwealth Bank has branches or agencies in all parts of Australia where wheat is delivered and throughout the world where its assistance would be likely to be required in connexion with the wheat transactions of the board. For these reasons, it is considered necessary to confine the clause to the Commonwealth Bank, which will be able to do all the work required.
– Is it proposed to strike out sub-clause 2?
– Yes. That is considered unnecessary as the manner in which moneys are to he received by the board is set out in the schedule.
– The clause refers to moneys received “by the board.” I suggest that it should be made to read “ by or for the board.”
– I do not think that the conditions under which moneys will be received by the board should necessitate any alteration in the clause, and sufficient opportunity will be provided for the board to deposit with the Commonwealth Bank, which has agencies throughout Australia.
.- It has been suggested by some honorable members that the words “ or any prescribed bank “ are being deleted in order to tie the board rigidly to the Commonwealth Bank and thus enable that institution to benefit by the favorable exchange rates. By interjection the Minister informed the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), that the board and not the bank would benefit by the exchange. Will the Minister repeat that such is the case?
– That point was raised yesterday by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) when I stated that any such advantage derived in the matter of exchange will go to the pool.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 25 -
The Governor-General may make regula tions, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which by this act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act, and in particular for prescribing penalties not exceeding fifty pounds for any breach of the regulations.
.- I move-
That the word “fifty” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “one hundred “.
The immensity of the transactions justify the maximum penalty being increased beyond the £50 usually provided for a breach of regulations. The necessity to impose the full penalty will, it is hoped, be rare.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “2a. This act shall be read and construed subject to the Constitution, and so as not to exceed the legislative power of the Commonwealth, to the intent that where any enactment thereof would, but for this section, have been construed as being in excess of that power, it shall nevertheless be a valid enactment to the extent to which it is not in excess of that power.”
This clause sets out that the bill and the schedule do not purport to take any power in excess of that conferred by the Constitution. Its purpose is to ensure that, should any of the provisions of the bill be found to be contrary to the terms of the Constitution the validity of other sections will not be affected or their enforcement prevented. A clause of this nature is considered desirable.
.- A similar clause has been inserted in other bills where it was obvious that there was a risk that portions of them might be found to be unconstitutional. I believe that a clause of this nature first appeared in the Navigation Act. It was known that the Commonwealth had power under section 98 of the Constitution to deal with interstate trade and commerce; but it was feared that the provision in the Navigation Act for the Commonwealth to deal with intra-state trade and commerce might be held to be invalid. A clause similar to that now proposed was, therefore, inserted in the bill as an indication that, even if the intra-state provisions were held to be invalid, the intention of Parliament was that the other provisions should, nevertheless, be valid. One could understand this clause being introduced into a bill the validity of certain clauses in which might be questioned; but I challenge the Minister to say why such a clauseis needed in this bill. If the Minister could point to any one clause and say that it might be held to be invalid, I could understand the reason for the insertion of this clause. I could understand the Minister asking the committee to agree to it if honorable members knew that they were providing that even if a particular clause were held to be invalid,- that invalidity would not taint the rest of the measure. In that case we should know that we were asked to legislate for the principle embodied in the bill, notwithstanding that a particular part of it might be held to be invalid. The Minister has not indicated in what direction he suspects that this bill may be held to be invalid. On the contrary, any doubt expressed by honorable members on this side of the chamber regarding the validity of this measure has been repelled and repudiated by him. The Minister has insisted that everything in connexion with the bill is all right - that no doubt exists regarding any of its provisions. I understand that he has been supported in that attitude by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan), who, while suggesting that certain provisions might he invalid, stated that the bill itself is quite valid.
– When did I say that?
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that when speaking to clause 2.
– Then I must be in error, and I withdraw my remark. The committee should know why it is proposed to insert this clause. It is not a common clause in our legislation. It is necessary only where a doubt exists as to some specific provision. Where is the doubt in relation to this bill? Where is the supposed invalidity? What is the part of the scheme which might conceivably be held to be invalid? What sort of a scheme are we asked to support if a part of it might be held to be invalid? In short, does any honorable member in this chamber know what the effect of this clause will be?
.- Most people entertain a certain amount of admiration for a burglar who is prepared to take a risk; but they hold the sneak thief in contempt. Remembering the interjection by the Minister when the Leader of the Opposition was speaking regarding the desire to bribe all the people, one cannot but come to the conclusion
– When I used the word “ bribe “ I was merely using the language of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Had it not been for the dangling of the carrot - the guarantee of 4s. a bushel for their wheat - how many farmers who have so far supported this legislation would’ have agreed to it?
– 62 per cent of the wheat-growers in New South Wales at the last ballot favoured a pool, although there was no guarantee.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman give the figures for Victoria ?
– The percentage there in favour of a pool was 48 per cent., without a guarantee.
– The Minister is dangling the guarantee of 4s. a bushel before the farmers as an inducement to get them to accept a compulsory pool. The cost of production is so great to-day that wheat-growers are prepared to sacrifice their liberty for three years, and probably for all time, for the sake of 1 getting 4s. a bushel now. The only reason for the insertion of this new clause is that the Minister is confident that under the Constitution this money cannot legally be paid. The Government has absolute power with respect to the export of wheat, but it wants to protect itself in the event of the provisions of this bill in respect of intra-state trade in wheat being held to be invalid. The only reason for the Government’s desire to insert this clause in the bill is that it fears that it has not the power to give to three or four States a guarantee in connexion with the wheat they export, and to refuse it to those States that will not join the pool. That is the nigger in the wood pile.
– There are ample safeguards.
– Where are they? If they exist, why is this clause necessary? I ask what clause in the bill might be held to be unconstitutional? T have urged all along that under section 99 of the Constitution it would be unconstitutional for the Federal Government to guarantee to the growers of wheat in certain States a specified price for the wheat they export, and to refuse it to the growers of wheat in the other States. If
South Australia and Western Australia refuse to join the pool, the people’s money, will, under this bill, be given by the Commonwealth to the growers of wheat in the other States but refused to the growers of wheat in the two States mentioned. There is no justification for our legislating in that direction. It is a mean attempt on the part of the Government to evade its responsibility. I hope that the wheat-growers will realize that the Government’s guarantee of 4s. a bushel for their wheat is subject to doubt as to its constitutionality.
– This clause does not validate anything. It merely says that if a portion of the bill is held to be unconstitutional the whole bill is not unconstitutional. A similar provision was made by the late Government in respect to several bills.
– There is no question at all regarding the power of the Commonwealth Government to control the export of wheat. The only doubtful” point is in regard to the payment of the guarantee.
– This new provision would not have the effect of validating anything in regard to the guarantee. This will do nothing more than ensure that if any particular part of the bill is found to be unconstitutional, it will not necessarily involve the invalidity of the whole measure.
– There must be some special reason for seeking to include this provision. It seems to me that there is a danger that after the pool has begun to function, some one may obtain from the High Court a declaration that this legislation is unconstitutional, and the farmers, who have been trusting in the pool, will be let down. Either this clause should be left out altogether, or the Minister should explain the Government’s reason for seeking to have it inserted.
.- I think that it is recognized by everybody that a deliberative assembly such as this is not a suitable forum on which to debate an issue of constitutional law. It is impossible in such an assembly to arrive at dogmatically exact opinions on questions of constitutional law, or the validity of sections and parts of sections. Honorable members are probably aware that the High
Court has no power to give an advisory opinion, and in these circumstances, it is the duty of this committee to take all reasonable precaution, and to adopt all legitimate safeguards to protect, as far as it can, the validity of legislation. It is not the function of the committee to submit every clause of this measure to an acute critical analysis in an endeavour to arrive at an absolutely final and certain opinion on questions of constitutional law. Honorable members discharge their responsibilities if they call attention to any feature which they have reason to suppose might be unconstitutional. The clause which it is proposed to insert in the bill does not validate, nor could it validate, anything that is invalid. The provision is in accord with a well-known principle of legal draftsmanship, and is, as the lawyers say, inserted for more abundant precaution. The insertion of this clause can do no harm ; it will merely bo a safeguard.-
– A safeguard against what?
– It will preserve the validity of sections which might otherwise be held to be invalid. For instance, the court might hold that a section is open to two interpretations, one which would make it unconstitutional, another which would make it constitutional. This clause would force the court to place the construction on the section which would ensure its validity. I am informed that the last Government itself proposed to make this clause a section of a new Act Interpretations Act. In fact, a bill was introduced, the purpose of which was to provide that a clause similar to this should be regarded as part of all legislation enacted by this Parliament. And that is a proper rule to follow in drafting legislation. During the discussion of this measure, some honorable members raised doubts as to whether parts of it were in conformity with section. 99 of the Constitution, which makes invalid any law in relation to trade or commerce, which confers preference on one State or some States to the exclusion of other States. It has been contended that some clauses of this bill may be held to confer a preference to some States and deny it to others.
– But that is the whole bill, not any one part of it.
– The new clause, if incorporated in the bill, will enable the High Court to decide that the whole act, or any of its sections, are not to be read as conferring a preference on any particular State; but” that the intention of the legislature was that the measure should operate uniformly right throughout the Commonwealth; the bill, on the face of it, applies to all the States, and this section would help the court to hold that it did not purport to confer a benefit on any State to the exclusion of others.
.- As n rule I stand by my own profession. I deplore the lack of appreciation with which we so often meet from other honorable members on both sides of the House, and from the public outside; but if the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) makes many addresses like the one to which I have just listened, I shall believe that lawyers rather “ darkeneth counsel “ than illuminate the subject. Does any one really understand what the honorable member said? If he conveyed anything, it was that there might be something wrong in the bill. Honorable members on this side are asking what that something is. This new clause deals only with a partial invalidity. It has nothing to do with a complete invalidity of the whole bill. It is a declaration that any invalid provision is to be regarded as severable from the act, the rest of which will be valid. The new clause states - . . where any enactment thereof would, but for this section, have been construed as being in excess of that power, it shall nevertheless be a valid enactment to the extent to which it is not in excess of that power.
The clause is directed to the doctrine of severability and inseverability. That is its object, and if the whole act is declared invalid this clause cannot save it. If, however, a particular section is declared invalid this clause will save the rest of the act.
– A section might be capable of two constructions. If one construction were accepted the section would be invalid; if the other were accepted it would not be invalid.
– I think that the clause would assist in that case, also. This clause is also directed to the purpose of preventing the invalidity of a particular section spreading through the whole aci. Honorable members on this side, however, wish to know what part of the bill it is thought may be declared invalid. One answer is that the whole scheme may be declared invalid. It is all very well for the honor-, able member for Parkes to say that it is not the function of the committee to subject this clause to a minute examination from a constitutional point of view. With that I agree to a considerable extent; members of this committee cannot be concerned with legal minutiae. But if there is a doubt as to the validity of the whole bill honorable members ought to be informed of it. If it is thought that some of the provisions are not constitutional - I suggest clause 23 is a possible instance - let us know. The committee is entitled to know what particular provisions may be suspected as being invalid. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) has not helped us very much. We do not know whether the scheme itself may not be declared invalid by the High Court or some other court.
– What would happen if payments made to wheat-growers in three of the States were declared to be invalid?
– I am not prepared to answer, offhand, every conundrum that may be put to me in connexion with this bill. The honorable member for Parkes has quite fairly referred to the fact that the previous Administration introduced this in an Acts Interpretation Bill, and proposed to treat it as a general provision. For reasons not stated, this Government did not this year proceed with that measure, which will be a matter for consideration by this Parliament when it is before honorable members. This Government has introduced a number of measures, and this is the first to contain the particular provision now under discussion. Honorable members on this side have asked where is the suspected invalidity. It is a legitimate request which up to now has not been answered.
– I listened with interest and pleasure to the legal discussion on this particular clause in the wheat bill - which is designed to, in some way, validate certain provisions that may he declared to be unconstitutional - because it demonstrated most conclusively the necessity for an alteration of the Constitution to authorize this Parliament to pass legislation in the nature of agricultural organization. On two occasions I have submitted proposals for an alteration of the Constitution to give this Parliament power to pass effective legislation giving to producers control of the marketing of their primary products in Australia and overseas. The legal discussion supports the contention that I have always held, that an alteration along the lines indicated is essential. There appears to be doubt as to the constitutional authority of this Parliament to pass certain clauses, and this clause provides that if any of its provisions exceed the legislative power of the Commonwealth the people concerned will not be deprived of the whole of the benefits which it is intended shall be conferred upon them by this bill. This legislation will impress upon the producers generally the necessity for early consideration of constitutional amendments to give this Parliament power to legislate for the creation of a Commonwealth organization to control the marketing of their products. The future prosperity of our primary producers is bound up in a proposal I have previously submitted and which would give to producers the sectional control of each rural industry on an Australian basis. The differences between the views of legal members of this chamber concerning the authority of this Parliament to deal with legislation of this nature is a further argument in support of my contention that certain constitutional alterations are urgently required.
.- The honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has complained I did not illumine the darkness. I am entitled to object to that stricture as that darkness is his own creation. I suggest, however, that I shot one shaft of light through the darkness. Not only was the question of severability related to this clause. I pointed out that the clause would probably help to rescue from invalidity, or a declaration of invalidity, some provisions of the bill which, upon minute analysis before the High Court, might appear capable of two constructions - one construction resulting in their being declared outside the Constitution, and another, that they were within the constitutional powers of this Parliament. This clause will help the court to determine in favour of the validity of the bill or some of its provisions. That is the point which I made. I pointed out that already one or two clauses have been discussed with reference to section 99 of the Constitution. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has referred to clause 23. When analysed this might be shown to be capable of two constructions, one placing it outside, and the other within, the trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth. The court would look at- this clause to ascertain the declaration of the legislative intention of this Parliament, which clearly is to confine the operation of the scheme and every section of the bill within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth.
.- I support the new clause. It will remove some of the objections which were raised yesterday to an amendment which I submitted to clause 16. If it is accepted and if afterwards it is held not to be constitutional, that invalidity, under this proposed new clause, will not affect the bill as a whole.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
. - I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - “ 4a. In addition to the authority conferred by the last preceding section, the execution by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of an agreement in the form in the schedule subject to such alterations as are necessary to exclude from its application wheat of the 1930-1931 season, or of any subsequent season, with any State not a party to an agreement in the form specified by that section, is hereby authorized.”
This new provision is considered desirable to enable States which this year may not join the pool to come under the scheme next year and enter into agreements with the Commonwealth in the same way as if they had joined the pool during the first year of its operation.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - “ 4b. The Commonwealth may enter into, with any State not a party to an agreement in the form in the schedule or authorizedby . the last preceding section, an agreement in the form in the schedule subject to such alterations and modifications as are necessary to ensure that no payment is made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth to wheat-growers in that State in respect of the delivery of wheat by those wheat-growers but providing for the payment by the Commonwealth to those growers of an amount which bears the same proportion to any amount paid, in respect of the same season’s wheat, by the Commonwealth to the Commonwealth Bank under clause 10 of the agreement in the form in the schedule, as the quantity of wheat grown in that season by those growers bears to the quantity of wheat in respect of which payment is so made by the Commonwealth to the Commonwealth Bank:
Provided that the Commonwealth shall not enter into an agreement under this section with any State unless a majority of the wheat-growers of that State have by ballot approved of the agreement.”
I wishto give the Government an opportunity to assist the wheat-growers of Western Australia in the event of the Government of that State refusing to accept any financial responsibility in respect of the pool. If this new clause is agreed to, the Government will be authorized to give to the wheat-growers of that State the same consideration as is given to growers in States which enter into agreements with the Commonwealth. Personally I am opposed to the scheme, but if the wheat-farmers in Western Australia desire to join the pool, I shall do nothing to prevent them. I am informed semi-officially that the Government of Western Australia will not accept any responsibility for the huge losses which may occur in connexion with it. Assuming that a loss of 6d. a bushel was sustained on the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel, the proportion for which the State of Western Australia would be liable would be £487,500, and to make good the encroachment on the Consolidated Revenue fund of the State it would necessitate a 30 per cent. increase in the State’s taxation. I am, therefore, under the impression that the State Government will not submit this agreement to the wheat-growers of the State, nor advise the
Commonwealth Government that it is prepared to enter into it. The point I want to make is that, notwithstanding what the State Government may do, the wheat-growers of Western Australia, through a ballot approved by the Commonwealth Minister administering the Wheat Marketing Act, may indicate their desire to enter into a compulsory wheat pool. If this should happen, I want to know whether they would get, not the 3s. 9d. at the siding, but the proportion which it is ultimately decided has to be paid ou production in the other States.
– How can the Western Australian farmers come into the pool without State legislation?
– Through their voluntary pool which is already in existence. As the Commonwealth Minister will have absolute power over the export of wheat, he can provide that payment need not be made to farmers whose wheat is not handled by his agents. I presume he would appoint the voluntary pool as his agent.
– The liability of the Commonwealth would be just the same as if Western Australia came unreservedly into the pool.
– Yes, no greater and no less.
– Does the honorable member intend that the guaranteed price shall be paid to the wheatgrowers of a State which is not in the pool?
– Yes; to those of Tasmania if necessary.
– The honorable member wants the wheat-growers of his State to get the guarantee without the State having the same obligations as are on other States.
– In other words, the honorable member wants to get what he describes as a bribe for Western Australia without the State coming into the pool.
– It was the Minister and not I who talked of a bribe. The Minister knows very well that the Western Australian Government cannot come into the pool unless it also joins in a guarantee to the wheat-growers of 4s. a bushel. It says that it cannot afford to give that guarantee, which, on the assumption of a loss of 6d. a bushel, a fair estimate on the present market price, may involve it in a loss of £487,500. My proposition is that if, as the result of a ballot arranged for, under the approval of the Commonwealth Minister administering the Wheat Marketing Act, it is found that a majority of the wheat-growers of a State are desirous of coming fully into the pool, that is to say, giving the Wheat Board full control of the export of their wheat and all the other conditions .observed except the liability of the State to give a guarantee, the wheat-growers of that State shall be paid the proportion of payment ultimately decided upon as applicable to other growers in the pool.
– They cannot come into the pool unless the State Government brings in legislation. But there is something in what the honorable member says if he means that the State Government will be willing to bring in legislation on the lines of this agreement, except that it will not commit itself to the 3d. a bushel and the Western Australian growers will not get a guarantee of more than 3s. 9d.
– In other words, I say that the farmers of Western Australia may be prepared to come into the pool with the proviso that the State Government need not bear its share of the liability on any loss incurred in making a payment of 4s. a bushel.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Western Australia would be prepared to come into the pool and abide by all the regulations relating to export and so forth - everything except the payment of its half of any loss?
– That is all that my clause proposes. I want the farmers of Western Australia to have the opportunity of saying so.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
– When the committee adjourned I was dealing with a proposed amendment of the bill, which endeavours to make it permissible for the wheat-farmers of a State, the Government of which is not agreeable to accept any responsibility under the bill, to enjoy the advantages of the pool proposed by the Commonwealth. I indicated that if the Government of Western Aus tralia became a party to the agreement and a loss of 6d. a bushel occurred that State would have to find approximately £487,000 to meet its obligations under the agreement. The Minister could not obtain any satisfactory promise from the Collier Government that it would accept any responsibility under the scheme and the present Western Australian Government refuses to take any responsibility.
– The last Government did not refuse to become a party to the scheme.
– It did not give any promise, and was quite silent on the subject during the recent election. However, that does not make any difference now. It is necessary to accept the position as we find it. If my amendment is carried, it will provide that the wheat-growers of Western Australia may put their wheat into the compulsory pool and comply with all the conditions of the agreement, but will not receive the guaranteed price of 4s. at railway sidings. I suggest that the amount advanced for wheat delivered at the railway siding should be 3s. 9d., but those associated with the wheat industry think that it is advisable that Western Australia should ask for 3s. 6d. a bushel. The scheme might involve the Commonwealth in a small loss, which under no circumstances would exceed 3d. a bushel. The whole matter would be subject to a ballot being held in Western Australia and to a majority of the wheat-growers in that State agreeing to enter the pool. If the ballot resulted in the affirmative, the Federal Minister would have power to enter into an agreement with those growers, but the State Government would not have to meet any losses involved under the pool. I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to accept my amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). It may be difficult for honorable members to understand its legal phraseology,. but, broadly, where a State Government does not feel inclined to accept the responsibility of bearing half of the loss that may occur under the pool scheme the growers, by ballot, may still participate in the pool and share in its advantages, if any. I submit that the proposal is a reasonable one. If the proposed new clause were not incorporated in the bill, the growers in any State the Government of which refused to enter the pool would be debarred from its advantages. The amendment affords an opportunity for them to be consulted in the matter and to participate in a ballot, as was promised by the Prime Minister. The proposal does not involve the Commonwealth in any greater expenditure, and I think that it should be readily accepted by the Minister.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be paid to such farmers at railway sidings for their wheat?
– I suggest that the first payment should be 3s. 6d. a bushel.
– Would it not encourage the State Governments not to agree to the pool ?
– The feeling in some of the States is that a breach of principle is involved in the proposal of the Government. Those States consider that, as a Commonwealth industry of great importance is involved, the matter of providing assistance should Be confined to the Commonwealth, as has been done with every other assisted industry.
– Order! As this proposed new clause would involve an additional appropriation of moneys, I cannot accept it. Under the Constitution it should be preceded by a message from the Governor-General recommending a further appropriation for the purposes of this bill.
– On a point of order, I submit that if this amendment be made the appropriation required will be less than under the bill as it stands. If Western Australia came into the pool, the guarantee would then be 4s. a bushel on the wheat produced in that State. This amendment does not provide that the Commonwealth should pay more money in the event of a State not entering the agreement, but that it should shoulder the burden that it proposes to shoulder when States enter into the agreement. I ask you, sir, to reconsider your ruling.
– Shall I be in order in supporting the honorable member’s point of order?
– I shall give my reasons for my ruling, and it will then be open to any honorable member who objects to it to move that it be dissented from. It is the duty of the Chairman, if he thinks that an amendment is out of order, at once to announce that fact. The bill provides merely for an appropriation of money for the purposes of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. This amendment, however, would, I take it, increase the amount to be appropriated by including States that do not accept the agreement for which the bill provides.
– On the point of order, sir, I point out that clause 5, the appropriation clause, provides for the appropriation of such amount as is necessary for the purposes of the agreement. That is a contingent amount, an uncertain amount, dependent altogether on the number of States that enter into the agreement.
– It is a conditional amount.
– Exactly. It is an amount which is uncertain until future events happen. Let us suppose that £6,000,000 is required- £1,000,000 for each State. That is already contingently appropriated under clause 5 of the bill. The actual amount will depend upon the circumstances that prevail; but I submit that the amendment does not increase the amount already contingently appropriated.
– I urge the Temporary Chairman to re-consider his decision. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has pointed out, an appropriation from Commonwealth revenue has already been approved and my amendment will not increase the maximum amount of the appropriation. The assumption in regard to that appropriation is that all the States will become a party to the scheme. I am suggesting that there should be an alternative form of agreement, and I am satisfied that it is in order.
– To enable us to appreciate the point at issue I ask the Temporary Chairman to read the message from the Governor-General recommending the appropriation.
In accordance with the requirements of section 50 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Governor-General recommends to the House of Representatives that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purpose of a bill for an act relating to the marketing of wheat, and for other purposes.
– I submit that there is nothing in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) which would in any way increase the Commonwealth liability or be contrary to the provisions of clause 5. Any payment made by the Commonwealth under the terms suggested by the honorable member for Swan would be a payment made to a State which entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth. It is true that the amendment, if agreed to, would make necessary a variation in the form of the agreement to be entered into, but that variation would not, I submit, affect the liability of the Commonwealth, which would remain the same whether the amendment was agreed to or whether the States all signed the agreement in its original form.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANI withdraw my ruling for the time being, with the object of allowing the matter to be further considered.
– I hope that the amendment will be agreed to, for it would lead to a greater degree of unanimity among the wheat-growers. I am quite satisfied that if any of the wheat-growing States refused to become a party to an agreement of some kind with the Commonwealth it would cause serious friction. To my mind the amendment does not go nearly far enough, but it will give the farmers of Western Australia an opportunity to say whether they want this scheme or not. Unless some such provision is inserted in the bill they will be denied the opportunity of voting upon the subject. The Prime Minister assured us in the House some time ago that a ballot of all the wheat-growers would be held to determine whether there should or should not.be a compulsory pool, and I submit that the farmers should not be prevented, by the action of any State Parliament, from voting upon the subject. It has been intimated quite definitely that one State will not sign the agreement if by so doing it renders itself liable to 50 per cent, of any loss that might be incurred. Seeing that this Government professes to be anxious to help the wheatgrowers it should at least give them an opportunity to express their opinion on the advisableness or otherwise of forming a compulsory pool. If they are denied this opportunity friction will undoubtedly occur, which should, if possible, be * avoided. The amendment really means that the Commonwealth will shoulder the responsibility which it would have shouldered if all the State Governments had accepted their responsibility.
– It is annoying, to say the least of it, to find that one or two honorable members from Western Australia who have condemned this bill, lock, stock, and barrel, are now proposing amendment after amendment to it. First they said that they would have nothing to do with it, and now they are saying that if certain amendments are made they will advise the farmers of Western Australia to vote in favour of the pool. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. . Gregory) called the guarantee of 4s. a bushel at railway sidings a bribe, and hurled at the proposal every epithet that he could think of; but now he is prepared to accept the so-called bribe if he can get the Government to do something for Western Australia which will not be done for the other States. I do not think that the honorable member has treated the committee or myself fairly in proposing an amendment of this nature at the eleventh hour without giving any notice of it. I think he might have consulted me about it beforehand, and given me an opportunity to consider it. As it is, I cannot say, at the moment, what would be the real effect of the amendment. I doubt whether any honorable member of the committee knows what it means. The Government is anxious that every State in the Commonwealth shall become a party to the agreement, and is willing to do everything it can to meet the difficulties of the different States, although it cannot differentiate to any great extent between them. We have gone a long way to meet Western Australia, but there is a limit.
– Do not talk nonsense!
– This afternoon the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) objected bitterly to the whole scheme of the bill, and particularly to the provisions for the export of wheat and the interstate movement of it. These objections, according to his present attitude, have since vanished into thin air. So far as I can understand the amendment, it is really designed to relieveWestern Australia of the liability to bear half of any loss that might be incurred in connexion with the pool. The honorable member says that his State is not prepared to accept this responsibility.
– He says that it is unable to do so.
– And so the amendment seeks to charge the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue with the whole of the loss that might be incurred in connexion with the Western Australian business. To that extent it would add to the amount appropriated under the terms of the Governor-General’s message.
– That is not so.
– Take the case of the Western Australian grower who brings his wheat to a railway siding. Under the proposed new clause that farmer would not be in the same position as a grower in an eastern State who would receive 4s. a bushel as a first advance. In Western Australia, owing to the State Government being unable, or unwilling, to shoulder responsibility for half the loss, nobody can say what payment could be made to the grower on delivery of his wheat at the siding. If we could tell what price the wheat would realize, we could say that the advance should be such as would ensure that the Commonwealth would lose only the amount required to bring the payment up to the 4s. But we are not able to fix a definite amount.
– We suggest that it be 3s. 6d. a bushel.
– How does the honorable member know that that would be the exact amount ?
– The payment of 3s. 6d. a bushel would prevent the Commonwealth from being involved in any further loss than it would have to shoulder if
Western Australia were a party to the same agreement as the other States, unless the price realized was less than 3s. 6d.
– But the whole point is that the price realized would not be definitely known at the time of delivery of the wheat. Let me repeat that I should like to see every facility offered to Western Australia to enable it to come into the pool; but I am pointing out the difficulties as I see them, and they are not made easier to overcome by the fact that this proposal has been presented in a haphazard way.
– The latter part of it shows that the object is to keep Western Australia out in order to destroy the pool.
– I am trying to be; generous by giving the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) full credit for a serious desire to find a means of bringing their State into the scheme. Another diificulty is that the Governments in other States may object to the proposal of the honorable member for Swan. South Australia may point out that its financial difficulties are as great as those of Western Australia.
– It certainly will.
– The South Australian Government may say that if this Parliament is willing to make the same arrangement for it as for Western Australia, it prefers that to the original scheme. New South Wales may adopt a similar attitude. The honorable member for Forrest must see the difficulty that the new proposal creates.
– The Minister’s argument shows that the Commonwealth alone should hear the financial responsibility.
– Four of the States have been in consultation with me, and they have raised no objection to the bill as it stands. In South Australia, the Government has only recently assumed power, and the finances of that State are in anything but a satisfactory condition. I venture to say that that State is not in as favorable a financial position as Western Australia. Yet the representatives from South Australia, when they met me in conference, said that, despite their financial disabilities, they realized that it was as much the responsibility of that State as of the Commonwealth to encourage an increased production of wheat, and they were prepared to come into this scheme. If the position of Western Australia is to be taken into special consideration, we are sure to have similar requests from other States. To accept the proposed new clause would be to differentiate between the States, and, according to advice I have received, such action may be unconstitutional. Apart from all other objections to the proposal, that is a most serious one. I have a sincere desire to help Western Australia to enter the scheme. At all the conferences a great, deal of attention was paid to the position of that State. I am still anxious to do everything in my power .to meet the wishes of every State; but, apart front all other considerations, this proposal would moan differentiating between States.
– T strongly support the proposed new clause. I believe that it would provide a solution of the difficulty that has arisen in bringing certain States into the compulsory pool.
– Suppose the Crown Law authorities say that this proposal is unconstitutional?
– They may have come to their decision without having a thorough grasp of some of the points that are clear to those who more fully understand what is proposed. Not being a Western Australian member, I claim to take a thoroughly impartial view of this matter. That State is in a difficult position as compared with the other States. It was mentioned in the course of this debate that, in the event of a loss of 6d. a bushel being sustained, the various States would have to impose additional taxation per head of the population as follows: - Queensland, 9d. ; New South Wales, 4s.; Victoria, 5s.; South Australia, 12s. ; and Western Australia, 23s. 6d. That shows that Western Australia finds it more difficult than the other States to enter this scheme. During the dinner adjournment I took an opportunity of reading the proposed new clause, and believe that, though it is couched in legal . phraseology, I can clearly see what is intended to be conveyed by it.
– The honorable member is explaining it very differently from the honorable member for Forrest.
– The clause provides a means whereby a State may be freed from the financial responsibility which prevents it from taking a ballot to-day. If, under the proposed conditions, the Western Australian Government decided to take a ballot of growers, and the growers agreed by a majority vote to come into the compulsory pool, they should be permitted to do so, the Commonwealth Government assuming the same half-share of financial responsibility that it would have to assume if Western Australia signed the present agreement. The proposal, under the amendment, is to enable Western Australia or any other State to sign the agreement in a varied form so as to free the Commonwealth from the obligation of guaranteeing 4s. a bushel at the railway station, and the State from the liability of meeting it3 share of any loss that might accrue, the Commonwealth later on to make good half of the deficit below 4s. per bushel if a loss actually occurred, just as it would do under the present agreement. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the Commonwealth might make a first advance of 3s. 6d. per bushel to a State which accepted the optional form of agreement. That is only a suggestion and is not an insuperable obstacle in connexion with the acceptance of this amendment, because the Minister might determine that a lesser amount - an amount that would be regarded as perfectly safe - should be advanced under this arrangement.
– What would be the position if the South Australian Government wanted the same conditions?
– I shall come to that point in a moment. If the Commonwealth were to accept the proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) for a payment of 3s. 6d. a bushel, it would mean that, so long as the average price throughout Australia for wheat exported and for local consumption was not below 3s., the Commonwealth, having made a first payment of 3s. 6d., would not have involved itself in an over-payment, because, assuming that the average realization for wheat sold locally and overseas were as low as 3s. a bushel, then, under the agreement submitted by the Government, the Commonwealth would have to find 6d. a bushel, representing half of the gap between 3s. and 4s. Let us imagine the dire possibility of wheat not even bringing 3s. a bushel.
– The honorable member is speaking of something indefinite.
– Let us suppose that the Minister agreed to make an advance of only 3s. 3d. which would be very low. That would cover the Commonwealth against the possibility of incurring more than its half of the loss, even in the event of wheat not realizing more than 2s. 6d. per bushel, and it is almost unthinkable that the average realization for wheat in the Commonwealth for local consumption and export would be as low as 2s. 6d. a bushel.
– In that case the wheatgrowers of the eastern States would be getting 4s. a bushel off the tail of the waggon, while the farmers of Western Australia would be getting only 3s. 6d. per bushel.
– That may be so.
– That would endanger the whole scheme in four other States.
– I submit that this proposal if agreed to would not endanger the scheme in the other States. In the first place it would not increase the Commonwealth liability by one halfpenny. It seems to me to be only fair that the Commonwealth should bring forward, for the consideration of the States, this agreement and an optional agreement - agreement A and agreement B - the States to have the choice of either. In that case there would be no discrimination between States.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the whole of the States should have that option?
– Yes. That is probably the only way in which constitutional difficulties could be avoided and all the States brought into the scheme. If Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia preferred agreement A, which requires a payment of 4s. a bushel at the railway siding, the
Commonwealth would have to meet half of any loss which might be incurred, and those States the other half. If Western Australia preferred agreement B, drawn up in the form of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan, the first payment would he less and the Commonwealth would incur only the same liability as under agreement A, except that the State itself would not be required to pay £1 for £1 in making up any loss.
– Does not the honorable member think that all the States should pay £1 for £1 in making up any loss?
– I am not saying that the States should not do that. I am assuming that Western Australia is the only State that has good reason to fear the financial responsibility that might be incurred under the original agreement. I do not think that it should be made impossible for a State which is unable to meet this financial liability to enjoy the other benefits of the scheme. It would be a splendid thing if the whole of the States could be persuaded to join the pool, because it would then have a much greater chance of success. I appreciate the difficulties with which the Minister is faced, but I do not think that any of them are insurmountable. There would be no constitutional difficulty involved in providing an optional agreement in the form suggested by the honorable member for Swan. I do not believe that any of the States, with the exception of Western Australia, would adopt the second form of agreement, because the States that are financially capable of meeting the liability involved under the first agreement would accept it in order to assist the growers as much as possible. A State Government, by showing that it is unwilling to incur its share of the financial responsibility, would make itself unpopular among its people, and that consideration alone would deter the States generally from signing the optional agreement. In any case, if the States were given an opportunity of adopting such an agreement, and if, as a result of that, Western Australia was encouraged to take a ballot which it would not otherwise have taken, resulting in a big majority in favour of the pool, that, in itself, might be sufficient to induce a somewhat timid State Government to shoulder its share of responsibility in respect of the guarantee. There are many reasons for the acceptance of this amendment, and . while I quite appreciate the difficulties with which the Minister is faced, I do not think that any of them are insurmountable.
– The position is that Western Australia is prepared to accept the guarantee of 4s. a bushel from the Commonwealth, but is not prepared to accept the responsibility for any loss on the pool. Why should the other States be called upon to make up any loss that is made on the sale of Western Australian wheat? If there is a loss, it should be shared equally between the Commonwealth and the States. New South Wales is in financial difficulties and yet it is prepared to shoulder its share of responsibility. If we discriminate between States, this agreement will not be worth the paper that it is written on. The Constitution provides that there shall be no discrimination between one State and another.
– There would be no discrimination, because New South Wales would not require Western Australia to join the pool any more under this agreement than under the original agreement.
– Who will make good the deficiency?
– The farmer will definitely do that.
– This amendment, if inserted in the bill, may lead to litigation and the subsequent upsetting of the whole scheme. I advise the Minister to stick to the bill and to take the consequences.
.- With the Minister, I much regret that this amendment has been moved; in fact, I am rather surprised at it. This afternoon we listened to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) making an impassioned attack upon the Commonwealth Government, and sneeringly referring to its attempt to assist the wheatgrowers of Australia as a bribe, a bunch of carrots, and various other things. Now that honorable member is asking the Government to give this bribe, this bunch of carrots, to the wheat-growers of Western Australia. That is the kind of thing that really makes one wonder what is behind the amendment.
The ostensible purpose of the amendment is to enable the wheat-growers of Western Australia, who, because of the reported decision of the Government of that State, will be debarred from participating in the Commonwealth guarantee, to be placed on an equal footing with the wheat-growers of the eastern States in respect of the guarantee. Let me say, first of all, that we cannot make an offer of that kind to Western Australia without making it to the other States. Some of .the States have already agreed to accept conjointly with the Commonwealth, a 50 per cent, share of any loss on the pool.
– They will still do that.
– What warrant has the honorable member for saying that? These other States were told by the Commonwealth Government definitely that they could enter the scheme on the condition that they shared the responsibility for the guarantee, and they have definitely accepted that condition. If this amendment is inserted in the bill, those States will turn round and say to the Commonwealth : “ What right have you to give to one State that is standing out of the pool a condition that you will riot give to us?”
– There will be no guarantee in respect of any State that has not accepted the first agreement.
– That makes the position worse, because in that case there will be a clear differentiation made between two States. The States that are prepared to join with the Commonwealth will be held to the letter of their agreement, while another State which has refused to join the scheme will be given preferential treatment. If this amendment is accepted, it will throw the whole of the bill into the melting pot. I am somewhat surprised to hear representatives of the wheat-growers supporting a proposal of this nature, the effect of which would be to seriously interfere with the scheme and to jeopardize the prospects of wheat-growers, whose costs are always against them, and who have to dispose of their product at world’s parity. Honorable members must not lose sight of the fact that the Federal Farm Board in the United States of America, a great Canadian organization, and a Russian Government scheme, are actively engaged in conducting undertakings to protect the interests of the wheat-growers. Although the Australian wheat-growers are faced with falling prices, high-production costs, and the most intense competition in the markets of the world, which will be even greater within the next year or two, certain honorable members intend to support an amendment, the effect of which will be to reduce the amount which the growers will receive from the Government.
– That is not so.
– If the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) will not stand up to that charge he must plead guilty to another. If he does not contend that the effect of this amendment will be to reduce the amount of the guarantee to the growers, he must admit that he is supporting a proposal to make the growers in those States which ‘come into the pool abide by the agreement, and refusing to make the Western Australian growers do the same. The measure, is one of the most complicated that has ever been considered in this chamber, and it is not fair to the Government or to the wheat-growers of Australia to submit a proposal of this nature without warning, and in the closing stages of the debate.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) should debate this proposal from the view-point of the whole of the wheat-growers of Australia. If owing to the action of a State Parliament the wheat-growers in a State are not permitted to come into the pool, they will be taxed to the extent of several millions of pounds to make up the guaranteed price to be paid to the wheatgrowers associated with the pool in other States. When the Commonwealth Government made its first gesture in this regard the ex-Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Collier, who has since been supported by the leader of the present Administration in that State, said that a departure was being made from wellestablished principles in a way which had never been previously attempted. The feeling of the Western Australian people was clearly ascertained some time ago by a royal commission in that State, which inquired into its dis abilities. New South Wales derives a tremendous advantage in the form of bounties paid on the production of iron and steel, wire and wire netting, and other such commodities, produced in that State, and which can be obtained in Western Australia only at prohibitive prices. In the Southern Cross district many settlers living in galvanized-iron shacks are compelled under our present legislation to_ contribute approximately £5 10s. a week to every man engaged in the industries manufacturing the galvanized iron I have just mentioned. Is it any wonder that the Western Australian primary producers are sore? But when an attempt is made to render some assistance to the wheat-growing industry the State is required to be responsible for one-half of any loss that may accrue. Has Queensland been asked to guarantee one-half of any loss that may be incurred in connexion with the development of its sugar and cotton industries? Has Victoria to contribute towards the protection of the hot-house industries in that State? If the Western Australian farmers were able to buy their galvanized iron, wire and wire-netting and other requirements in the open market, they could save £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 annually. This amendment has been submitted to assist one of the greatest industries in Australia and the Minister should realize that its main purpose is to give the wheatgrowers an opportunity to express their opinion upon the proposal. If the Government levies taxation on the people without giving them a vote the consequences will be serious.
– I am opposing this measure, first because of its compulsory provisions, and, secondly, because the Commonwealth is to bear only one-half of the loss. My sole object in submitting this amendment is to give the Western Australian farmers an opportunity to decide whether they will or will not be associated with an Australian wheat pool. The Minister knows that the State Government of Western Australia cannot find the huge sum necessary to make good half the loss on the guarantee and I have submitted an amendment to provide for the holding of a ballot. If a ballot were taken the responsibility would then be upon the wheat-growers; but my advice to them would be not to support a compulsory pool. When the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill, under which the Commonwealth is to provide the whole of the money, was under consideration, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) did not suggest that those engaged in the production of cotton should share the responsibility, as is proposed in this instance. A return tabled some time ago showed that, during a seven-year period, New South Wales received £1,969,000 in bounties and Western Australia only £53,000. The industries which benefited by such bounties did not share the responsibility with the Commonwealth; but, in this case, where the farmers are putting up with conditions which are as bad as they are in the district represented by the honorable member for Wimmera, they may, if only 3s. 6d. a bushel is realized, be compelled to pay a 30 per cent. increase in their taxation.
– Why raise the question of Western Australia’s disabilities under this clause?
– Because the Commonwealth should bear the whole of the responsibility. The wheat-growers should be treated on the same basis as other producers, and I am endeavouring to provide for taking a ballot to determine whether the Western Australian growers wish to be associated with the pool.. If my amendment is accepted wheat-growers will have an opportunity to say whether they wish to come into the pool, and as it is a reasonable proposal I trust it will receive the support of the majority of the committee.
Proposed new clause negatived.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted - “6a. - (1.) In theevent of the Commonwealth making any payment to the Commonwealth Bank pursuant to clause 10 of the schedule the Commonwealth shall pay to the wheat-growers of those States which may not have entered into an agreement in the form of the schedule or any agreement authorized by section four or section four a of this act an amount per bushel of wheat produced in such States and delivered for sale, equal to the average amount per bushel paid by the Commonwealth to the Commonwealth Bank pursuant to clause 10 of the schedule. (2.) Payments under this section shall be made out of moneys provided by the Parliament for the purpose.”.
The object of the proposed new clause is to provide that the guaranteed price will be available to all wheat-growers in Australia irrespective of whether their wheat has or has not been acquired by the pool. The proposed new clause is relevant to clause 10 of the schedule which relates to the guarantee, and it is free from the objections raised in connexion with the proposed new clause which the committee has just rejected. It does not apply only to Western Australia, and is not open to any objection on constitutional grounds because of any possible differentiation between States. The object of my proposal is to treat all the wheat-farmers of Australia on the same basis.
– Irrespective of who buys their wheat.
– Yes. The real object of a wheat pool is not to compel the wheat-growers to dispose of their wheat in any particular way, but as has been authoritatively announced on several occasions, to encourage the production and export of wheat. If that is the real object of a wheat pool, there should be no objection to making the guaranteed price available to all wheat-growers. If, on the other hand, it is conceded that the principal objective is the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool, different considerations will necessarily apply. A compulsory pool is not the be-all and end-all of this scheme. It is simply a means to an end - the greater production and export of wheat. The Government itself recognizes that it is not essential to the success of the scheme that all the States shall be in the one pool, for the bill provides that the scheme will be proceeded with if not less than three of the States become parties to it. One. of the States which it is expected will join the pool is Queensland, which is not a wheat-exporting State; so that, actually, the Government is prepared to go on with the pool if only two of the wheat-exporting States are in favour of it. Apparently, the Government is not willing to allow those States which do not wish to join the pool to go on in their own way. It proposes to control their wheat also. The Minister said that control must be exercised in order to benefit the pool wheat. If we are to control the wheat of a State which does not come into the scheme, that State should be given some consideration.
– When the honorable member speaks of control, does he include wheat sold within a State as well as that exported?
– The scheme does not propose to control wheat within a State. By control, I mean the control of export and interstate trade. This Parliament should not concern itself as to the way in which a wheat-grower disposes of his wheat. If a wheat-grower thinks that he oan get a better price for his wheat in the open market let him go there. Similarly, let those who wish to join the pool do so. If this is to be a measure for the benefit of wheat-farmers, there is no good ground for discriminating between the man who sells his wheat to the pool and the man who disposes of it in some other way. Nor should we concern ourselves whether or not the State Governments approve of the scheme. It should be a matter for the wheat-farmers themselves to decide. They certainly desire a guarantee, and they should not be deprived of it merely because they will not join a compulsory pool.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there should be several State pools?
– I am not concerned whether there are State pools or not. That is a matter for the farmers in each State. Every farmer in Australia should have the same claim on the Government. For that reason I have moved my amendment.
– This amendment is on all fours with that with which we have just dealt. It raises again the whole question whether we shall give to the States in the pool something that it is not proposed to give to the other States. Amendment after amendment of this kind could be moved but they would get us nowhere. All that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said in support of his amendment has been said over and over again during this debate. Under this proposal, we should give to the farmers in the States which have not agreed to the pool the amount per bushel that is represented by the loss the Commonwealth would have to make up.
– We shall have to do it.
– If there was a loss of 6d. a bushel, the Commonwealth would have to make good 3d. of that loss to the States in the pool. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that the States not in the pool should also receive 3d. a bushel. That is the substance of every argument that has been used during this debate. The amendment is not acceptable, as I should think the honorable member was aware when he moved it. There would be no organization in States outside the pool. The Commonwealth cannot accept any liability in respect of uncontrolled wheat.
.- The Minister has attempted to summarize the effects of this amendment, if agreed to. _ The amendment is along the lines indicated earlier by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), but it does not secure to the farmers throughout Australia a full 4s. a bushel for their wheat. It would secure to them only a subsidy equal to that which would be required from the Commonwealth to make up the 4s. In their second-reading speeches, the Minister and several honorable members supporting the Government, as well as one or two on this side of the chamber, were emphatic that it was impracticable to offer a guarantee without a compulsory pool. This is not an equivalent guarantee, but a subsidy at least equal to the subsidy the Commonwealth would make under the guarantee of 4s. a bushel. The principle underlying it is the same. The bill provides for the making of regulations. It should be possible to frame regulations by which all the farmers throughout Australia would be amply safeguarded. Honorable members opposite, as well as the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan), have advanced the argument - an argument supported by some technical and legal arguments difficult for the layman to conceive as equitable - that section 51 (iii) of the Constitution, which provides that the Commonwealth shall have power to provide bounties on the production or export of goods, and that such bounties shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth, does not apply to the guarantee of 4s. a bushel for wheat. Eminent legal counsel have expressed the opinion that that section of the Constitution does apply to the 4s. guarantee, and that the present bill, if it becomes law, may be upset on that ground. If the amendment were agreed to, there would be no discrimination between the assistance which the Commonwealth Government would give to the wheatfarmers throughout Australia, with the exception of the Federal Capital Territory. If I thought that there was any hope of the committee accepting it, I should move a further amendment to include the Federal Capital Territory. I support the amendment and hope that the committee will divide on it.
Proposed new clause negatived.
.- I move -
That the following new clause he inserted - “ 19a. Nothing in the last two preceding sections shall apply to the delivery for the carriage, or carriage of wheat, between States which are not parties to an agreement in the form in the schedule.”
This is another amendment dealing with the despotic restrictions which it will be within the power of the Wheat Board to impose upon those States which are not parties to this agreement. The. Minister rejected an earlier amendment to allow the free export of wheat from States which are not parties to the agreement. He did so on two grounds: first, because it was unconstitutional to discriminate between States; and secondly, because he considered that control by the board might be necessary to secure the fancy marketing of the wheat. I offer no opinion on the constitutionality of that amendment, but I disagree entirely regarding the necessity for the Commonwealth having control in order to secure a particular method of marketing wheat. That matter has, however, been dealt with. A further amendment moved by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) would have had the effect of remov ing all the restrictions on interstate trade in wheat. That might interfere with the machinations of those who want to work local prices for the benefit of certain States. That amendment was also defeated. This amendment is the weakest of the three. It does not cover the same ground. It only applies to the carriage of wheat between States that are not parties to the agreement. There is a great deal of cross trading in wheat between Tasmania and South Australia. There is no reason why those transactions should be scrutinized by the board. If the constitutionality of the amendment is raised, the disallowance of this clause will not affect the bill as a whole, because an earlier clause safeguards the main provisions of the bill in the event of the High Court deciding that certain portions are unconstitutional. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment which will be an assurance to certain citizens that their ordinary business transactions will not be interfered with in any way.
– Everything that the honorable member for Wakefield has said in support of the amendment was said by him in opposition to clauses 18 and 19, and the reasons which I then gave in support of those provisions stand. Clauses 18 and 19 regulate the interstate trade in wheat. It is desirable that the board should have cognizance of movements of uncontrolled as well as controlled wheat, and be in a position to obtain information. I cannot accept the amendment.
.- I am afraid the Minister has misread the proposed new clause. Certainly he has given no explanation why it should be rejected. It relates purely to the trading in wheat between States that are not parties to the agreement. That trade cannot in any way affect the operations of the pool. I admit that if wheat from a State which is not in the pool were exported to a State that was a party to the agreement, the operations of the pool might be to some extent prejudiced; but, as I have stated, my amendment has relation only to the trading in wheat between States that are not parties to the agreement.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - ” 24a. The members of the board shall not be personally liable for any act or default of the board done or omitted to be done in good faith in the course of the operations of the board.”
This is the usual provision inserted, I understand, in all marketing acts to exempt members of the board from personal liability in respect of anything done by the board in its corporate capacity.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Schedule (on motion by Mr. Parker Moloney) disagreed to.
.- I move-
That the new schedule be the schedule of the bill.
The first clauses are merely a recital of the purposes of the act and the objects of the agreement. It will probably be necessary for the State Parliaments to pass legislation authorizing their Governments to become parties to the scheme. This will be a matter entirely for the States to determine. Under clause 2 of the bill the agreement must be signed by at least three of the States, otherwise the scheme will lapse, including the proposal to pay 4s. a bushel to farmers for f.a.q. wheat delivered at railway sidings.
.- I move -
That the figures and word “ 1931-1932 and 1932- 1933 “, clause 1 of the proposed new schedule, be omitted.
The scheme itself is an experiment for one year, and if my amendment is accepted the contracting parties to the agreement will be in a position to say whether or not they intend to continue in the pool. The period of the agreement will then be concurrent with the period of the guarantee. One of the strongest objections urged against the proposal was that although the Commonwealth Government was guaranteeing 4s. a bushel to wheat-farmers for one year only, States entering into an agreement with the Commonwealth would be bound for three years. If this objection were removed, there would be many converts to the Government’s proposal. I should like to make it clear that I am not anxious to prevent the farmers of Western Australia from joining the pool, but I take the view that they should havean opportunity to decide by ballot whether in their opinion the scheme is of any value to them. If it is to be the success which its supporters apparently believe it will be, the whole of the farmers should be in it; otherwise it will not be an allAustralian pool, and the scheme is likely to prove a fiasco.
– Why does not the honorable member advise the farmers in his State to join the pool?
– I believe they should have an opportunity to decide for themselves. My amendment will clear the way. If after a year’s experience of the pool the farmers of any particular State knew that they could get out of it, it is more likely that they would give it a trial. The State Governments also would be encouraged to look with more favour upon the proposal. I am sure that the Government of Western Australia would be more inclined to come into the scheme if the agreement did not seek to bind the States for three years. The question of a guarantee has to be reconsidered. This pooling scheme is purely an experiment. It may prove successful, and if it does the States which are parties to the agreement will have no difficulty in renewing their connexion with it. On the other hand, if the pool is a failure, the States concerned should have the opportunity of getting out of it as early as possible, which ought to be at the end of the first year. I impress upon the Minister that, if he makes the compulsory provision apply for one year only, he stands a much better chance ofhaving his proposals agreed to by the farmers.
– The honorable member must see that, as the pool is essentially for a threeyear period, the whole scheme must break down if his amendment restricting it to one year is agreed to. It would be necessary, if the bill is amended as the honorable member desires, to hold a fresh ballot at the end of the first year. His amendment is a negation of the whole purpose of the bill, and I cannot accept it.
.- I can understand the Minister saying that he wants a three-years pool, and that he is unable, therefore, to accept the amendment; but he is surely going too far when he says that the amendment by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is a negation of the purpose of the bill. The honorable member proposes that there shall be three annual pools, with an annual ballot of growers, and it is further proposed that no new State shall come into the pool until there has been a ballot of the growers of that State. That is consistent with what the Minister has declared again and again to be his own view of the matter.
.- Evidently the Minister does not understand the purpose of my amendment. He seems to be under the impression that, if the amendment be carried, it will be necessary to hold a ballot at the end of the first year. That is not correct. Clause 1 of the new schedule states that -
This agreement shall apply to wheat-farmers during the seasons 1930-31, 1931-32, and 1932-33, and during such subsequent seasons as may be mutually agreed between the parties hereto.
It is not necessary for the continuation of the agreement that a further ballot be held, nor is it proposed that this should he done. The fact that the original agreement is made for one year instead of for three makes no difference at all. All that is necessary is that the Commonwealth Government, together with the States that are parties to the agreement, shall, if it is so desired, renew the agreement at the end of the first year.
.- During the second-reading debate on this bill I said that it was unjust that the farmers should be asked to agree to a proposal binding them for three years when the Government was giving a price guarantee for only one year. I presume that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) desires that the farmers should, after the first year, have the option of continuing the arrangement or of ending it. I recognize the difficulties in the way of giving a definite price guarantee for the whole period; but surely some loop-hole of escape should be left for the farmers before the completion of the three-year period.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to clause 1. - (1) of the proposed new schedule: - “Provided that this agreement shall not operate in respect of any season after the season 1932-33, unless its continued operation is approved by a ballot of wheat-growers taken in each participating State.”
This amendment is not open to the objections which the Minister has raised in regard to the amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). My amendment, if carried, would merely have the effect of ensuring that the pool could not continue to function beyond the three-year period unless a further ballot of growers were taken. The Minister and his supporters have told us over and over again that they believe in leaving the control of the industry in the hands of the growers, who should be consulted by ballot. The Minister also informed the House that he did not propose to insist upon aballot being taken in Queensland. Presumably, he knew by some occult means that the growers there were in favour of the pool. That statement of the Minister shows the need for some safeguard, and the safeguard provided by my amendment is the minimum that could be required.
– If the growers agree to the formation of a pool, as outlined in this bill, they agree definitely to enter a pool which will continue for three years.
– There is nothing in the amendment to prevent that. The amendment seeks merely to prevent the continuation of the pool for longer than three years without the consent of the growers.
– The bill provides for a three-years pool and at the end of that time the farmers will have an opportunity afforded them by the State Governments to say whether it should continue or not. It is not necessary to insert the proviso which the honorable member suggests.
.- Although the agreement is distinctly for a period of three years, it is provided that the contracting parties, the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the States that come into the pool, can continue it beyond that period without asking the permission of the farmers. It is most important, therefore, that at the end of the period, the farmers should be given an opportunity to decide whether they desire the pool to continue. At the end of three years the Governments in power may be anxious to extend the wheat pool business, notwithstanding the evils attaching to it.
– It is within the province of the State authorities to provide for the holding of a ballot. That has been laid down in the bill. Messages from four State Governments, indicating that they propose to take . ballots, have already been read by me to honorable members.
– There was no message to that effect from Queensland.
– I explained that the Queensland delegates at the recent conference said that the Commonwealth proposals covered practically the same ground as the Queensland legislation, and that they did not think that it would be necessary to take a ballot at this stage.
– In Queensland the growers can claim a ballot at the end of three years.
– That is so. The Government of Victoria assures me that it is making immediate provision for taking a ballot, and the Government of South Australia informed me by wire yesterday that it proposes to arrange for a ballot at an early date. Just as we have not thought it wise to intrude upon the province of the States in regard to the holding of a ballot at the outset, so we think that at the end of the period the matter should be left in the hands of the States.
– I take it that the Minister believes that at the end of three years a ballot will be taken if the farmers desire it?
– Certainly. I stand very definitely for that principle, and if I had not been absolutely convinced that provision was to be made by the State authorities for the taking of ballots, the necessary machinery would have been provided in this bill. I have no desire to trespass unnecessarily upon the province of the States.
Amendment negatived. [Quorum formed.’)
.- I move -
That the following be added to clause I of the proposed new schedule: - “ (3) For the purposes of this agreement, wheat carried over from any season previous to the season 1930-31 shall be deemed to be wheat of the season 1930-31.”
If something is not done on these lines, free wheat in Australia will be an absolute and definite loss.
.- I do not propose to move an amendment, but I should like to call the attention of the Minister to the provisions of clauses 5 and 6. They are rather unusual in form. Sub-clause 1 of clause 5 of the proposed schedule provides -
The Australian Wheat Board shall be composed of one member appointed by the Governor-General in Council and one member appointed by the Governor in Council of each of the States. A member appointed by the Governor in Council of a State shall have previously been chosen for such appointment by the State Wheat Board of that State.
This sub-clause and the two following sub-clauses are a repetition in different language of clause ‘7 of the bill. I am not saying that they would necessarily produce a different effect, but it is unnecessary to have them in both places. If they are in both places they ought to be in identical terms, otherwise some one may raise a point on the subject. Sub-clause 4 of clause 5 provides -
If the office of the member who is appointed by the Governor-General in Council shall at any time become vacant the Governor-General in Council may appoint some other person to the vacant office.
That does not appear in the bill at all. Surely if it is necessary to include the provision it should be inserted in the bill. The bill provides that this member shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General in Council. The Acts Interpretation Act provides that where there is power to appoint there is power to appoint from time to time. The inclusion of this sub-clause is unnecessary, and it indicates a different point of view from that taken in the bill. Sub-clause 5 purports to confer a power on the Governor in Council of a State to fill a vacancy on the Australian Wheat Board when the office of the representative of the State becomes vacant. I think that I am right in saying that that is not in the bill at all. If it is necessary to confer this power it ought to be conferred by legislation rather than by a term in the agreement. Sub-clause 7 reads -
The Governor in Council of a State may appoint a person who shall have previously been chosen for such appointment by the State Wheat Board of that State to be the deputy of the member appointed by the Governor in Council of that State and such person shall in the event of the absence of such member at any time from any cause have all the powers and perform all the duties of that member during his absence.
The bill, on the other hand, provides that this person shall be representative of an authority constituted by or under the law of that State for the control of the marketing of the wheat produced in that State. The authority, probably, is the State Wheat Board. Why not use the same phrase in each case? Then I come to clause 6, which purports to confer powers and functions on the Australian Wheat Board, and to give it a monopoly of the marketing and selling . of certain wheat. This clause cannot confer such a power. It operates as an agreement between the parties to it. It binds in their executive functions the Commonwealth and the States. But it is not legislation. It is an agreement. There is a distinct difference between legislation and an agreement. Legislation operates against all the subjects of His Majesty the King in Australia. An agreement binds the parties to it. If the Commonwealth and the State Governments agree, for example, that I should pay them £100, that is of no . importance or significance to me. It confers no right upon either the Commonwealth or the States to obtain £100 from me, and imposes no obligation or liability upon me as an individual.
– Not even if backed up by Commonwealth legislation ?
– The distinction is between an agreement and a statute. A statute-imposed law creates obligations which bind all the people, but an agreement only creates rights and duties as between parties, unless some very special steps are taken. Of course there are variations, in accordance with the character of the agreement. The financial agreement dealt with borrowing by the Commonwealth and the States. If you have the Commonwealth and the States bound in the matter that i3 the end of it. But where you seek to impose obligations on citizens it must be done by legislation and not by agreements between governments. I am mentioning these points in order that the general form of the agreement may be considered from the point of view of drafting. I am not moving an amendment as I do not want to endeavour to re-draft the agreement. I do not suggest that any of the points that I am raising are tremendously serious. I think that the scheme will work in spite of these deficiencies in the manner of setting it out. But I suggest that it is desirable to give attention to these points. Sometimes people who enter upon a scheme as perfectly good friends, with no misunderstanding, find themselves running into serious misunderstanding when large sums of money are involved. I am thinking of the questions that will arise under the equalization clause. Some honorable members appear to -think that this is a fairly simple matter. I can foresee very considerable debates arising between representatives of the various States with respect to the matter. The constitution of the Wheat Board, insofar as the board determines the questions that will _be raised, may become a matter of acute controversy. It is therefore important to see that there are no unnecessary obscurities and dangers in the preparation of the scheme. I have a vivid recollection of the tremendous amount of litigation that took place over the Bawra wool scheme. It was a very difficult thing to deal with from the lawyers’ point of view, as, to a considerable extent, it broke new ground. It was originally one of our very big pools. As a result of the drafting of two or three of the regulations, litigation arose which was of much more benefit to myself and a few other members of my profession than to the community generally. I do not wish to see a risk of that sort of thing “arising in connexion with this very big wheat scheme. I think that the points that I have mentioned will be obvious to honorable members who have heard me and, without moving any amendment, I suggest that there should not be a repetition in the agreement of what is already in the bill. If there is a repetition it should be in identically the same terms. Attention should be given to these matters in order to avoid trouble in the future.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (HumeMinister for Markets and Transport) 1 10.19]. - The honorable gentleman seems to think that there is some inconsistency between the agreement and the bill.
– There are variances which may cause difficulty.
– The Government drafted measures necessary to operate the scheme. These involve certain action by the State bodies. The agreement, on the other hand, binds all the States to take such action as may be necessary on their part to constitute the various bodies. I found it rather difficult to follow the argument of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), but I do not think that there is any serious inconsistency in the language of the act and that of the schedule.
– It may work out all right; I mentioned it in the interests of caution.
– by leave - I move -
That after clause 7 of the proposed new schedule the following be inserted : - “ (2.) that it will take such action as may bc necessary to ensure that except for such purposes and upon such terms and conditions as the State Wheat Board of that State may determine no wheat in that State carried over from any season prior to the season 1H30-3I shall after the commencement of that season be available for use or consumption within that State.”.
The necessity for this amendment was shown by the discussion that occurred last evening in regard to the carry-over wheat from last season. It was suggested by some honorable members that this wheat should be taken into the pool at the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel. There were difficulties in making such a pro vision, for wheat sold by a grower at 3s. 9d. a bushel might be put into the pool by the buyer and 4s. a bushel claimed for it. I felt that I could not accept that suggestion, but I consider that the needs of the case would be met by giving the States the power to control such wheat as they think fit.
– But under this provision they will have to export it.
– They ‘ will be able to prevent it from being brought into local competition with the new season’s wheat. It seems to me that the course suggested in my amendment is the safest and best to adopt.
Amendment agreed to. 8. (1.) The State Wheat Board of eachState shall . . .
.- I move -
That the proposed new schedule be amended by inserting at the end of paragraph (1) of clause 8 thu following paragraph: - “ (1a.) The State Wheat Board may appoint persons firms or corporations as agents for receiving and handling wheat in the State at railway stations or other usual places of delivery but shall not appoint any one person firm or corporation to act at more than six railway stations or other such places of delivery unless and until tenders shall have been called for the rendering of such services.”
The object of the amendment is to ensure that before any substantial contracts are made for the receiving and handling of wheat at rail sidings, the State Wheat Boards shall call for tenders for the work. The amendment does not apply to wheat handled overseas, for it would not be wise to call for tenders for that. It is recognized, of course, that the boards will have their own staffs to do the office work and that provision will be made to deal with wheat at the ports of shipment. The present practice is, I understand, for agents to be appointed at particular railway stations. In connexion with the voluntary pools a contract may be made with the same persons or companies to handle the wheat at two, three, or four railway stations, but never more than four. In Victoria, this handling is done for the voluntary pool by two cooperative organizations who share the work. I do not profess to be acquainted with, the details of the arrangements made in other States. I suppose that the
Westralian Farmers handle the wheat themselves; I do not know. The object of my amendment is to ensure that, before a general contract is let for the receiving and handling of the wheat, tenders shall be called for the work. There is a suspicion abroad that the proposal for a compulsory pool is made largely in the interests, not of the growers, butof certain co-operative and trading organizations which are now employed by the voluntary pools. I find that this suspicion has certainly arisen in Victoria. I suppose that everybody who desires that the wheat of the farmers shall be handled as cheaply and efficiently as possible will be prepared to accept my amendment. There is an idea that everything is more or less already arranged to give all the commission on the handling of wheat to one or both of these particular organizations. I do not say that that is so. I do not see how anybody can say that, because the constitution of the boards has not yet been determined.
– Does the honorable member think that there is any cause for that suspicion?
– It is natural that there should be such a feeling. The honorable member knows quite well that these companies will be most anxious to get the handling of the wheat. If they thought that they would not get it, they would probably not favour the proposal for the pool. The amendment is designed to enable the farmers to get the best services possible. It means only that tenders must be called; it in no way binds the State boards as to the tenders they accept.
– Does the honorable member think that this work would otherwise be made a close preserve for one or two organizations?
– There is a risk of that, and my amendment would eliminate it. There would at least be a possibility of competition for the work which ought to be done by those who can do it best. There should be no idea that any particular handling agencies are to be employed by the State boards. The amendment would not hamper the boards in carrying on their work. It would not affect the handling of any wheat outside Australia, nor would it affect the staffs of the boards themselves.
– But it would be a distinct political direction, or an interference by Parliament with the boards’ methods.
– I shall answer that point. My amendment would not affect anything at the shipping end in Australia. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) thinks that the amendment would be an improper interference with the discretion of the State boards. I suggest that that is not the case, because those boards, without any restriction imposed by this Parliament, would make up their own minds as to the tenders which they should accept.
– But they would be compelled to call for tenders.
– Of course. What reason can be advanced against calling for tenders for work that involves many thousands of pounds by way of remuneration? Anybody can work out what the handling of millions of bushels of wheat at 1½d. per bushel would be worth. I hope that the charge will not be so much as that.
– If the amendment were accepted it would be a direction that a number of agents should be employed, but there may be a cheaper method than that.
– There is no such directionin my proposal.
– If they could get 6s. 6d. a bushel, the farmers might be able to pay1½d. a bushel for handling.
– More than that has sometimes been paid. The difference between1½d. and1¼. a bushel is considerable when calculated on millions of bushels. All I am asking the committee to do is to provide that tenders shall be called before any arrangement is made for the handling of wheat which involves more than six stations or receiving places. I am simply asking that the State boards shall be put in the position of doing the best possible for the farmers in their respective States. There is no direction to them to employ one, or two, or any larger number of agencies; nor is there any direction that they must accept the lowest tender. That would be an absurd direction. I have often been concerned with matters in which absurdly low tenders have been submitted by persons incompetent to carry out the work required to be done. Under my amendment the decision upon the tenders depends entirely on the board, whose discretion is not limited in any way. This would be a valuable check, because it would ensure some competition. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. It is designed entirely in the interests of the farmers themselves. It could not harm the farmers, or impede the working of the scheme in any particular.
– I know that there has been a good deal of propaganda circulated to the effect that the existing wheat organizations are going to make fortunes out of this scheme, that it will be a close preserve to them; no one else being allowed to operate. That is certainly not desired by the organizations I have mentioned.
– The amendment will get rid of that propaganda.
– I have no objection to the amendment, and am prepared to accept it, but I think that it would be better inserted after and not before this sub-clause.
– That is merely a matter of arrangement.
.- With the intention of the amendment that tenders should be called and that the board should run the organization on an efficient basis, I fully concur, but I do say that it is really a direction to the board and will place a restriction upon it ; in fact it is political interference with the board. It is rather strange that this amendment should be moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) who since the introduction of the bill has deplored the political interference that it involves in connexion with the handling and management of the farmers’ own business.
– The whole agreement dictates to the State Wheat Boards as to their powers and functions.
– I should like to ask the honorable gentleman whether this amendment will preclude a State Wheat Board from receiving wheat from its own agents?
– It can act by its own employees entirely.
– I gathered that, but I wanted the position to be made perfectly clear. The Leader of the Opposition referred to certain organizations which, it was rumoured, would use the pool as a means of improving their own position.
– I would not blame them for that at all.
– I wish to say a word or two in defence of the two co-operative companies to which the honorable member has indirectly referred - the Victorian Producers Co-operative Company and the Gippsland and Northern Cooperative Company. In the handling of wheat under ‘the war-time compulsory pool scheme these firms had to compete with the private firms, such as Bell’s, Darling’s and other merchants. There was a clear case in which the cooperative companies and the private firms, who talk so much of their efficiency, were in competition, and the result was that so successful were the co-operative companies that the wheat merchants used their influence in getting a bill introduced into the Victorian Parliament to limit the quantity of wheat that these cooperative companies could receive. In short, the co-operative companies in Victoria beat the private merchants at their own game of. handling and receiving wheat.
– The honorable member will agree that I did not in any way attack the co-operative companies.
– That is so, but the honorable member left the impression that these co-operative companies are sitting on the fence waiting for this bill to be passed before they rush in and benefit themselves. These co-operative companies will certainly be prepared to tender for the receiving and handling of wheat in Victoria, and, if given the job, will do it as efficiently as any of the private companies. I have no particular objection to the amendment, but it cannot be denied that the Wheat Merchants Association will be glad to have it inserted in the bill.
– Why not?
– No doubt if we could trace the source of this amendment it would be found to have originated from the Wheat Merchants Association.
– The Minister has accepted the amendment, so let us get on with the hill.
– The members of the Nationalist party, with one or two exceptions, have stamped themselves in this Parliament as the champions of the big business interests of this country as opposed to the interests of the primary producers. These honorable members, who talk so loudly and hold up their hands in holy horror at the thought of political interference in respect to the farmers’ own business, have not the slightest hesitation in serving the big business interests by placing this check upon the operations of the board. I shall not oppose this attempt on the part of the Opposition to place a political check upon the board whose personnel will be elected by the farmers; but I regret that the Minister has accepted it.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) upon his effort to prevent political interference with a board that must be elected by the primary producers. It has always been contended that political interference should not operate with respect to pools or marketing organizations as such interference has a detrimental effect upon their operations. I regret that the Minister (Mr. Parker Moloney) has accepted this amendment under which the board in certain circumstances will be directed to call for tenders. A board elected in the manner proposed should have full power to handle the wheat in any manner it considers necessary, and as cheaply as possible. Honorable members representing Western Australia are opposed to the bill, and some have said that the bill is a bribe to the farmers. It has also been said that although a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel is promised for the first year that 5s. a bushel will be offered during the year in which an election is to be held. This Government may not always be in office.
– It will not.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) welcomes the amendment because it will be of some assistance to those whom he is compelled to serve. Direct political interference in marketing organizations has been detrimental to the system.
– Is the honorable member referring to Queensland?
– No, despite the opposition of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) to the policy of the Labour Government in Queensland, the marketing organizations in that State have been such a success that the present Nationalist Administration will not dare to interfere with them. The Queensland wheat-growers are anxious to be associated with the pool as they know from experience that the pooling system is to their advantage. When wheat was being sold at 8s. a bushel bread was sold at 6d. a loaf, and to-day when wheat is approximately 3s. 6d. a bushel the retail price of bread remains unchanged. It would be interesting to know who is getting the “ rake-off “ when wheat is obtainable at the lower price. It is not the consumers but the wheat merchants, who are supported by the honorable member for Oxley. When the pooling legislation came into operation in Queensland, the wheat-growers reo’eived an increased price for their product and the consumers obtained bread at a lower rate. I regret that the Minister is accepting this amendment which gives Parliament the power to interfere with the board.
– It does not do that.
– In the event of a change of government it will enable action to be taken in the interests of the wheat merchants who have always benefited at the expense of the wheat-growers.
Amendment agreed to.
(3.) The certificate to be issued . . . shall entitle the person making the delivery . . to receive in respect of the wheat -
. . .
.- In view of the improbability of an all- Australian wheat pool being established, I should like the Minister to consider an amendment of clause 8 (3) a of the schedule. I move -
That in paragraph 3 (a) of clause 8 of the proposed new schedule, after “1930-1931” the figures and word “1931-1932, and 1932-1933” be inserted.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I cannot accept the amendment; for it would increase the amount for which the Commonwealth would be liable and would, therefore, necessitate another appropriation message. A private member cannot move to increase expenditure.
– I respectfully submit that no definite appropriation has yet been made. For the present financial year there would certainly be no additional appropriation. It would merely be an agreement on the part of the Government to make an additional appropriation in another year. I submit that the amendment is in order.
– I assure the honorable member that his proposed amendment would increase the commitments of the Commonwealth. As no private member may move to increase expenditure, I could not accept an amendment along the lines indicated.
A further amount which shall bear the same proportion to the excess as the quantity of wheat of that season so delivered by the sai person shall bear to the total quantity of wheat of that season delivered to a State Wheat Board and grown in the State in which the wheat so delivered by the said person was grown, but so that, other than in the State of Queensland, provision shall be made for the deduction of the rail freight to seaboard (a3 customary) . . .
– by leave - I move -
That the words “ other than in the State of Queensland, provision shall “, clause 8, paragraph (3) (5), be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ provision may “
That revised wording omits Queensland. If Queensland is left in, the paragraph differentiates between States.
Amendment agreed to.
Loan Flotation! - Communications to the Press - Defence Department Retrenchment.
Motion (by Mr. Parker Moloney) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I was unable to-day to ask a question to which I referred last night, and, therefore, I now ask whether the Treasurer can supply the House with any information regarding a loan which is reported in the press as about to be launched. In a matter so important as the raising of loans, particularly at this time, this House is entitled to the first information. A statement has appeared in the press that a loan of between £7,000,000 and £10,000,000 is about to be floated at less than 6 per cent., and that the money will be utilized to complete the arrangements of the Loan Council. I submit that in a matter of such importance this House should be taken into the confidence of the Government before the press is informed of what has taken place.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). Only too frequently we read in the columns of our newspapers of decisions of the Government which, in my opinion, should first of all be announced in this House. I know that it is not always practicable to make the first announcement of Government decisions in this chamber; but I urge the Government so to announce its decisions on matters of public importance on the floor of this chamber that honorable members will at least get the news simultaneously with the press. During recent years the practice has grown up of announcing to the press, and scattering far and wide, decisions which honorable members are entitled to have first hand.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), which apply particularly to the Defence Department. Over and over again decisions affecting the Defence Department have been made by the Government without any reference to them having been made in this House. When the survey ship Moresby was laid up this House was not informed ; indeed, in several instances information was not given to honorable members until it was elicited by means of questions. Sometimes weeks elapse before questions of this kind are “ answered. To-day, after much previous questioning by me regarding the rationing of labour in the Defence Department, the Minister replied, in about a hundred words to a question obviously inspired, by a member of his own party regarding the same subject. That is another instance of information being supplied to the House after reference has been made to it in the press for some weeks. The Minister was also asked by the Lender of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to-day, what had been done regarding rationing among the clerical staffs in the Defence Department. Yet he could give no information. The Government should be more open in its decisions. Before important information is made public, it should be mentioned in this House.
– Before the debate proceeds further I desire to state that no decision has yet been arrived at with regard to the matter referred to by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). Apparently the honorable member, having read some conjecture in a newspaper as to the intention of the Government, has regarded it as an authoritative statement supplied by a Minister, and has jumped to the conclusion that the Government has arrived at a decision which ought first to have been communicated to the House.
– I merely asked for information.
– The honorable member has undoubtedly jumped to conclusions, because the point raised by him was in the nature of a complaint. No decision on the matter mentioned by him has yet been arrived at. But even when a decision is’ arrived at honorable mem- bers surely must realize that it cannot be communicated to the House before the arrangements have been completed and the prospectus is ready to be issued. What purpose would be served by bringing before the House for discussion the terms of projected loans?
– The Treasurer is not asked to do that. He is asked merely to inform the House.
– The House is informed when the terms of a loan are announced. What difference is there between the present and the former practice?
– The Treasurer is always declaring that the press is unreliable, and yet he allows it to make announcements of pending loan transactions.
– If a decision is arrived at by the chairman of the Loan Council after consultation’ with the members of that body with regard to a loan proposal, what advantage would be gained by making to the House a formal announcement, of which there could be no discussion.
– The House would be informed, as it is entitled to be informed, in regard to all important matters.
– The honorable member may raise fine points of discrimination and satisfy himself that there may be some advantage to be gained by giving information as to the terms of projected loans, the amounts proposed to be raised, and so on, instead of following the practice observed for many years of making a public announcement first communicating with the parties immediately concerned - the State Governments.
– Apparently the Treasurer takes the view that there is no occasion to tell the House anything; that all announcements should be made in the press.
– All those matters which the House has a right to discuss should be communicated to it, and an opportunity afforded for discussion. But the matter raised by the honorable member is one for the Loan Council, and there are other parties concerned. Honorable members have opportunities, upon. the presentation of the Estimates, upon the motion for supply, and upon the introduction of appropriation bills to discuss the terms of loan issues, or the policy of the Loan Council. I submit that the issue of loans in Australia is a matter for which the Loan Council must take full responsibility, and the respective governments must support the council. With regard to a projected loan upon which there has been some speculation in the newspapers lately, all I care to say is that there has been some consideration as to the possibility of an issue some time in the future. No decision has been arrived at, and no decision is likely until the Loan Council has considered the matter next week.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) to a statement which has been published in a Sydney newspaper concerning the importation duty free, of certain can-making machinery for the Shepparton cannery in Victoria. Obviously the statement is false. I shall be glad, therefore, if the Minister will make available the file dealing with this matter. I think the Treasurer’s attitude concerning announcements of loan issues is quite the correct one, but when I was Treasurer I considered it was a courtesy due to honorable members, if the House was then in session, to let them know the position as soon as possible. I agree with the Treasurer that, while negotiations are pending it is inadvisable to make arty announcement as to the terms or conditions upon which a projected loan will be floated.
– T agree that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has good reason to complain. The Government has apparently issued valuable information and the honorable members of this House have not been informed. It would seem that the honorable member has a secret source of information, for I notice that in yesterday’s issue of the Melbourne Argus, he is reported as having stated, in a speech delivered in one of the suburbs of Melbourne, that he knew the Government intended to keep a black list of certain public servants who refused to join a union. I think I also have good reason to complain because the Government has not informed me of that matter! It is obvious that the honorable member for Balaclava must have a private and important channel of communication which is not open to other honorable members. I suggest, therefore, that an announcement should be made by the Government, and a motion submitted to have the black list printed. Why should such exclusive information be submitted first to a coterie of Nationalist ladies? I think, however, that the honorable member for Balaclava has been grievously misinformed, or else he has been drawing upon his fertile imagination.
– Complaints have been made by some honorable members opposite that in regard to certain matters the Government is not taking the House into its confidence. Two specific instances have been mentioned. One, concerning the Loan Council, has been answered by the Treasurer. No decision has been arrived at, so obviously the House could not have been informed. The other instance was cited by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) who referred to the rationing of work in the Defence Department. That decision was made at a meeting of the Cabinet this morning, and it was announced to the House this afternoon. Could any decision have been communicated to honorable members with greater expedition?
– There have been references in the press previously to that matter.
– The Government is not concerned with unauthorized press statements. If the press cares to speculate about that matter, as it has speculated concerning the proposed loan, the Government cannot be held responsible. The fact is as I have stated. The decision was made by Cabinet this morning and announced to the House this afternoon. With regard to the complaint of the honorable member for Balaclava about the black list of public servants, all I can say is that he must have been drawing upon his imagination.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300604_reps_12_124/>.