12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister propose to take any part in the controversy between the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Hogan) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), or does he regard it as a private fight?
– As * rule, Cabinet Ministers have enough troubles of their own -without interfering in the quarrels of others.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister propose to take any part in the serious controversy between the right honorable member far Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the ex-Premier for New South Wales (Mr. Bavin)?
– X have no intention to look for additional trouble.
– The Canberra Times of to-day published the following cablegram from London: -
Tho Australian Press Association learns that Hamburg fruit-traders have decided not to purchase forward any Australian apples, pending the fate of bills being introduced in the Reichstag in December to regulate the imports.
Has the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport any knowledge of the contents of such bills, and can he say whether they arc in the nature of retaliation for Australia’s tariff policy? Will the honorable gentleman do everything within his power to ensure that the Australian apple trade is not prejudiced?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter, and furnish a reply to the honorable member.
– Has the Acting Minister for’ Markets and Transport noticed the newspaper statement that tobacco manufacturers have announced a rise of 38. in the price of tobacco, excluding cigarettes, because of the recent increase in excise duty? In the event of any alteration of the excise for the benefit of consumers, will the Minister ensure that the manufacturers reduce their prices accordingly?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred, but if the excise duty is reduced I shall take’ action to secure a ‘Corresponding reduction ‘of manufacturers’ prices. Assistance to the tobacco industry generally is under the consideration of the Government, and I hope to announce its decision ‘at an early date.
– Having regard to the serious position created in Sydney by the meat strike, will the Assistant Minister for Industry exercise such powers as he possesses to mediate between the parties with a view to expediting a settlement in the interests of the public?
– The dispute is confined to the State of New South Wales, and at present it is not within the rights of the Commonwealth to intervene. The Industrial Commission has given a decision which the workers are prepared to accept. The employers, however, have rejected it. No doubt I shall be discussing the matter at the next week-end with State Ministers and the representatives of the workers, and I shall do what I can to expedite a settlement.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Industry whether any portion of the £100,000 promised by the Government many months ago for the repatriation of surplus coal-miners has been paid to any miners’ organizations or institutions ?
– No amount has been paid. The purpose of the Government’s offer was to repatriate surplus coal-miners by transferring them to some other industry. Up to- the present time that has been found “ impossible under the conditions laid down when the offer was made, although several avenues have been explored. The Treasurer’s budget statement referred to the amount of £100,000 as a saving. All. that is meant is that the money is unexpended. It is still available for the -original purpose, and the Government is now discussing the possibility of assisting the development of shale deposits in New South Wales and Tasmania. If a workable scheme can he evolved, the Government will, I believe, be willing to apply the amount in .’that direction.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister intend to proceed with .the proposal of the Bruce-Page -‘Government to expend from £500,000 to £1,000,000 on an international exhibition to be held in Sydney in 1932?
– The honorable member is aware that the bill introduced by the last Government for that purpose was withdrawn.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister indicate to the House the nature and locality of the land settlement schemes which the Government is reported to be considering for the purpose of relieving unemployment ?
– The honorable member would be wise not to believe all that he reads in. the press, but even if the statement to which he has referred were correct, it relates to a matter of government policy, announcements of which are not usually made in answer to questions.
– Particularly in the interests of members from distant States who have had no opportunity to return to their’ homes or constituencies since the session opened, will the Acting Prime Minister indicate to the House to-day the approximate date of the termination of the present sittings? What further legislation does the Government propose to introduce?
– I have informed the Leader of the Opposition privately and in this chamber that as soon as I am in a position to state the full Government programme for the remainder of the session I shall advise him, when no doubt he will convey the information to his supporters.
– Is the Government seriously paying attention to the report on Australia House by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) ?
– As I have stated previously, voluminous reports upon the organization of Australia House have been received, and are being- considered by Ministers, in Australia- and those in London. As soon as the Government has reached, a decision, it will be made known, to.’ honorable’ members and. the reports will, be made available.
Mr. S. M. BRUCE.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister noticed the declared intention of Mr. S.. M. Bruce to offer himself as a candidate at the next federal election?
– If so, what action does he propose’ to take ?
– Mr. Speaker, I ask for your protection from the cat-calls of the Opposition.
– The honorable member will receive every protection.
– In the event of Mr. Bruce being re-elected to this House, will the Acting Prime Minister be prepared to recognize him as Leader of the Opposition?
Question not answered.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has made statements in London against repudiation, will the Acting Prime Minister suggest to the head of the Government that he should deliver a similar, message to the people of Australia in order to assist the conversion loan ?
– From time to time definite statements in regard to the conversion loan have been made by the Prime Minister and other Ministers. They are on record for the information of honorable members and the public.
– Has the Acting Treasurer read in the press the proposals of Mr. Hogan, the Premier of Victoria, for imposing still further income taxation and taxation for unemployed relief in that State? Did the Acting Treasurer, when preparing his taxation measures, take into account the probability of many of the States increasing their taxation?
– I have had my attention drawn to Mr. Hogan’s proposals, though I have not examined them. The Commonwealth endeavoured, when preparing its financial proposals, to avoid encroaching upon the sources that the States would have to draw from for their own. revenue.
– The Commonwealth proposals are a definite encroachment’ upon State taxation preserves;
– They are, to a certain extent. But the Leader of the Opposition will have observed that when the Loan Council last met, State representatives carried a resolution asking that the Commonwealth should intrude no further into the field of taxation available to the States. No objection was made on that occasion by State representatives to the action that had already been taken, or was proposed by the Commonwealth Government. In the circumstances, the Commonwealth was justified in taking the steps that it did. So far as practicable, the Commonwealth works in with the States. A complete feeling of amity was shown between the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government representatives in all the resolutions carried at. the last meeting of the Loan Council.
Child Endowment Legislation - Unemployment Insurance
– Will the Acting Prime Minister see that a cablegram is despatched to London, to ensure that the repudiation of the Bruce-Page Government, in failing to keep its promises with regard to the introduction of child endowment legislation, may not affect Australian credit there?
– I am afraid that I cannot countenance action of that description.
– Does this Government intend to introduce proposals for unemployment insurance in accordance with the policy speech of the Prime Minister, or does it propose to give effect to the decision of the Prime Minister in his budget speech that it is undesirable to introduce any such legislation?
– Unemployment insurance is a matter of Government policy. When the Government has decided to introduce such legislation, Parliament will be made aware of the fact.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The serious position of the Australian wheat-growing industry as a result of the collapse of the world’s wheat prices.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
Mr.STEWART (Wimmera) [11.19]. - I move this motion because of the very serious position of the wheat industry. Based on world’s parity, the price of wheat in Australia is less than 2s. a bushel net to the grower, taking into account average rail freights in the wheat districts of the different States. That represents, on a very conservative estimate, a loss to the Australian wheatgrowers of 2s. a bushel on 200,000,000 bushels of wheat based on a production cost of 4s. a bushel, of which 3d. represents the cost of the container. The farmer is left with a net price of 1s. 9d. to 2s. a bushel at country stations, and a final return of1s. 6d. to1s. 9d. for 60 lb. of wheat, according to the distance that he is from the seaboard. A loss of 2s. a bushel on 200,000,000 bushels of wheat means a loss of £20,000,000 to the wheat-growers of Australia on the year’s crop. That is of vital concern, not only to the growers, but to the nation, as it involves, not merely the financial ruin of very many wheat farmers, but heavy losses and financial ruin to many country storekeepers, traders, and city warehouses. The position vitally affects also the secondary industries, government revenue, stock exchange securities, and unemployment. In passing, I quote the following extract from yesterday morning’s Melbourne Sun : -
There was a general weakening in prices on the Stock Exchange yesterday. Even Commonwealth securities, which have been firm for some days, turned lower. A heavy fall in metals and wheat in the world’s markets supplied the main reason for the drop.
That is a fact that must be obvious to all honorable members.
In February last the Commonwealth Government convened a conference of those connected with the wheat industry, and proposed certain action to stabilize that industry. As a result the Wheat
Marketing Bill was introduced, which guaranteed our farmers 4s. a bushel net for this year’s crop. That measure was rejected in another place. Subsequently, action was taken in Victoria and New South Wales to establish State compulsory pools, governed by State legislation. Ballots of growers were taken, but, unfortunately, while a majority in both States wore in favour of a pool, the required numerical majority was not obtained. Last week another conference of those interested was convened, consisting not only of the representatives of cooperative companies and wheat-growers, but of traders, flour-millers, and consumers. It met in Canberra, and was presided over by the Acting Minister for Markets (Mr. Forde). Certain resolutions were agreed to by the gathering, relating principally to the unpegging of exchange, and the creation of a certain price for wheat marketed locally, based on production costs, with a sales tax on flour.
In opening that conference the Acting Minister made what was, to me, a surprising statement. Repeated yesterday by the Acting Prime Minister, it intimated that the Commonwealth and State Governments approached the Commonwealth Bank with a request for a guarantee of 2s. a bushel to our wheatgrowers for this year’s crop, and that, although the proposal was backed by the Commonwealth Government, the bank would not accept the responsibility.
– It is not for me to be an apologist for the Government. I merely mention, in passing, that if the Commonwealth Government had found it difficult to finance a guarantee of 4s. a bushel under a compulsory pooling scheme, the Opposition and its Leader would have found it even more difficult to finance a guarantee of 4s. a bushel without a pool.
– We made the mistake of thinking that the Minister for Markets was speaking accurately when he said that his scheme could be financed.
– The honorable gentleman hurries to clear himself. He went as far as the Government did. The difference is that the honorable gentleman would have found it more difficult to give effect to an indiscriminate guarantee, without organized marketing, than would the Government under a scheme of organized marketing.
Yesterday the Acting Prime Minister referred to a proposal to approach Canada and the United States of America in the matter of wheat marketing. There is a possibility of something being done in that direction. The present prices of wheat are ruinous, not only to Australian growers, but also to those of Canada and the United States of America - indeed to all wheat-growers throughout the world. One factor in this present temporary wheat crisis - and I emphasize the word “ temporary “ - is that wheat prices are below production costs, not only in Australia, but in every other wheatproducing country in the world. I am not pessimistic about the future of the wheat industry, but I am very much concerned about the difficulty in which we now find ourselves. It may be asked what action can the Government take? I advance the following suggestions: First, that it should provide finance to the extent of 2s. a -bushel, to prevent the farmers being forced to liquidate their stocks at the present ruinous prices. I believe that at heart the market is sound. The world’s carry-over for wheat on the 1st July, 1930, amounted to 550,000,000 bushels, while the estimated carry-over on the 1st July, 1931, is 488,000,000 bushels, or 62,000,000 bushels less than that of this year. I read in this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times the following cablegram from Buenos Ayres -
The report of the Argentine Minister for Agriculture estimates 2,000,000 tons of wheat will be lost in the next harvest because the rust area affected is about 14,800,000 acres.
If that report is authentic, and it appears to be, that calamity will still fur,ther reduce the world’s possible supply of wheat. My second proposal is the stabilization of wheat prices within Australia by means of a sales tax on flour, or such other means as the Government may determine. That, in my opinion, is a necessary action. If the present position is allowed to drift, the consumers of Australia, a protectionist community which has adopted, or pretended to adopt, as a matter of policy, a principle of equity, will actually be benefiting by the adversity of the Australian wheatgrowers. The lower the price falls in the markets of the world, the more cheaply the consumers of Australia will obtain their wheat and flour. That is quite wrong. It has always been the same. If our freight rates go up 6s. a ton, the price of wheat in Australia automatically cheapens by 2d. a bushel. In short, under present conditions, the more the wheat-grower is exploited in the markets of the world, the greater the advantage to local consumers. That should not be permitted to continue in a time of crisis such as this.
Another suggestion that I make is that the unpegging of exchange would benefit the exporting wheat industry. There has been a difference of opinion as to what is the natural rate of exchange under existing conditions. At present it is artificially pegged at 9 per cent. Various estimates have been made of the natural level at the moment; the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) suggested 30 per cent.; the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Penton), 20 per cent. I take it that the estimate of the Acting Prime Minister was based on information received from authoritative sources. If the .natural rate of exchange is 20 per cent., and it is artificially pegged down to 9 per cent., that means a loss of 11 per cent, on the 200,000,000 bushels of wheat estimated to be reaped this season. Honorable members will see the gross injustice that is being done to the wheat-growers of this country, and the necessity for the Government doing something immediately to raise the price of wheat by at least 2d. or 3d. a bushel. If that were done, imports would automatically be discouraged. It is time that there would be a debit side, because of the necessity for importing cornsacks and other requisites for the farmers; but the net result would be an advantage with at least £1,500,000 to the farmers of Australia in respect of the present season’s crop.
– That gain would be more than offset by the interest repayments.
– Does the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) suggest that the wheat-growers as a class should be directly penalized to the extent of £15,000,000 this year in order to protect the interests and other remittance rates on behalf of the general public? Surely the farmers of Australia should not be called upon to bear the whole burden !
– Has the honorable member considered the effect of this proposal on the importations of jute and phosphate rock?
– Had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) listened carefully he would have heard me say that there was a debit side to the proposition, because of the necessity to import cornsacks and other farming requisites. That debit would, however, be small. It is a reasonable assumption that a difference of 11 per cent, in the rate of exchange represents a net loss of £1,500,000 to the wheat-growers of Australia on a crop of 200,000,000 bushels.
The Government should take action to lift all the direct -burdens which at present bear on the wheat-growing industry - I refer particularly to the primage duties on cornsacks, phosphate rock, oil, kerosene and other commodities used by the wheatfarming community. The embargo on the importation of agricultural machinery, as well as the sales tax on such machinery, should be removed. There are many ways in which the load on the wheat-growers of Australia could be lightened.
The embargo on the importation of agricultural machinery is a gross injustice to our primary producers. One reason given for the imposition of the embargo was that the local manufacturers of agricultural machinery had agreed to reduce their prices by 5 per cent. It is for the Minister to say whether I have been rightly informed, but I understand that while Australian machinery manufacturers have kept the letter of that pledge, they have violate’d its spirit by altering their terms of sale to make them more rigid than before the imposition of the embargo. The prices of coal and other commodities, the costs of production, the basic wage have all been reduced; but the reductions have not been passed on to the primary producers. Although these suggestions are mere palliatives, they indicate ways in which substantial assistance could be given to the wheat-growing industry. The real remedy is to take off all the burdens now bearing on the industry, so that the farmers of this country may purchase their tools of trade at world parity. I feel that I speak on behalf of the wheatgrowers of Australia when I say that, if these burdens are removed, they will compete in the world’s market without compulsory pools or protection against other sections of the community; that given a release from the burdens which now oppress them, they will not fear the competition of Russia, the Argentine Republic or any other country. No other section of the community is prepared to put a similar proposition before the Government.
– Those engaged in the wool and base metals industries would be prepared to do the same.
– That may be so; but the tariff imposts have not been so keenly felt in the woollen industry as in the wheat industry, because of the lower ratio of labour and machinery costs. For instance, the cost of jute containers bears more heavily on the wheat industry than on the wool industry. Nor do machinery, superphosphates and other requirements represent as big an item to the wool-growers as they do the wheat-growers. Many illustrations could be given to show that the wheatgrowing industry is more heavily hit by our fiscal policy than is the woolgrowing industry.
The Government has a moral obligation to come to the rescue of the wheatgrowers in the present crisis. The Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, appealed to the farmers to increase the acreage under crop this year in an attempt to restore the adverse trade balance. Messages were broadcast by wireless ; speeches were delivered from public platforms; the press and the post office were utilized to appeal to the patriotism of the farmer. The slogan was, “ Grow more wheat “. The farmers of Australia responded so nobly to that call that the acreage under crop this year constitute^ a record. Were the price of wheat 4s. or 5s. a bushel, industry would be humming like a hive; secondary industries would be flourishing; and the farmers acclaimed as the saviours of their country. What are they to be called now? Are we to leave them to go down and out? In meeting its moral obligation to come to their rescue, the country would run no risk, for I firmly believe that the present crisis is of a temporary nature.
– What if the Commonwealth Bank refuses to find the money?
– It seems extraordinary that the administration can take swift and decisive action in the form of the tabling of a tariff schedule or embargo to place a burden on the wheatgrowing industry, but that when some relief from the burden which oppresses that industry is sought, the administration asks what will happen if the Commonwealth Bank will not permit the Government to do something which it feels ought to be done?
– Would the honorable member support a proposal to compel the Commonwealth Bank to come to the assistance of the industry?
– I am prepared to do anything which will give justice to the wheat-growers of this country; but I shall not condemn the Directors of the Commonwealth Bank until I have heard their opinion on the matter. It may be that there is another side to this question than that of ‘ the wheat-growers which I have endeavoured to present this morning. Nevertheless, it seems wrong that the Commonwealth Bank should have been prepared to guarantee 4s. a bushel six months ago, and not be prepared to guarantee 2s. a bushel to-day. I shall say no more at this stage, because I know that other honorable members desire to speak; but I trust that some definite and practical assistance will be given to this deserving industry.
– I appeal to Parliament to approach this matter seriously, because it is one of extreme national importance. Australia’s solvency depends upon immediate action being taken to assist the wheat-growing industry. The co-operation of all sections is necessary if we are to meet the position which has developed rapidly of late. I have recently come into contact with numbers of wheat-growers, and I know that the position is so desperate that, unless something is done immediately, many of them will be forced to relinquish their holdings, thus endangering our whole economic structure. In
Baying that, I am not exaggerating. Of the 17,000 wheat-growers in New South Wales last year, 8,500 were compelled to go to the Rural Industries Board for assistance to enable them to plant this season’s crop. With the approval of all sections of the community, the Government appealed to the farmers of Australia to make an effort to increase the area under cultivation this year.
– They were promised 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat.
– It is unfortunate that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is unable to approach this big question in a big way. The 8,500 farmers, who obtained assistance from the Rural Industries Board, incurred a liability to that institution of approximately £2,000,000. In addition, there are 300 storekeepers throughout New South Wales to whom the farmers of that State are indebted to the extent of approximately £6,000,000, while a similar sum is a fair estimate of the amount owing by farmers to unattached storekeepers. It will, therefore, be seen that the farmers of New South Wales owe about £14,000,000 to the Rural Industries Board and the storekeepers who have assisted them. Moreover, many of them have received overdrafts from the Rural Bank and private banking institutions. The advances to farmers by the private banking institutions are slightly in excess of their deposits, which in itself is dangerous. Having recently visited the north-western and central wheat belts of New South Wales, as well as the higher country in the southern tablelands, I estimate that those districts will yield about 60,000,000 bushels of wheat this season. At 2s. a bushel that represents about £6,000,000, which is not sufficient to meet their liabilities. Eighty per cent, of the men on the land were unable to meet their last half-yearly interest liabilities. Already, some of the institutions which have lent money to the farmers, have advised them that loans are being called up. I hope that Parliament is alive to the seriousness of the position which confronts the farmers of this country. Ever since federation, the Australian governments have adopted a protectionist tariff policy which, to the primary producers, has been nothing more nor less than a tyrannical system of taxation. Our present tariff policy savours of fiscal insanity. In order to avert complete financial disaster, and bring about an economic recovery, steps must be taken to keep on the land those at present in occupation of it. It is difficult to get from the established financial institutions a definite pronouncement as to their attitude to the men on the land, but if in practice they refuse to extend credit to wheat-growers, it is imperative that something be done to meet the situation. At a time like this, when the solvency of the country is at stake, no financial authority should be greater than the Commonwealth Parliament. I appeal to all honorable members of this House to approach the matter with a genuine desire to help. Even though extraordinary action may be necessary, such action must be taken to assist the farmers at this time. If the country storekeepers close their doors because they are unable to give any more credit - and the receiver is in some stores already- it will be impossible for the farmers to garner their crops. The New South Wales Government is already contemplating action which will have the effect of preventing farmers from being evicted from their properties, and the Commonwealth Government should cooperate with it and with the other States to the extent of making what amendments are necessary in the Bankruptcy Act to enable an effective moratorium to bc declared.
– What is the New South Wales Government doing about it?
– The Premier of New South Wales has announced that a moratorium will be declared to protect the occupants of farms as well as the occupants of houses. I believe that our difficulties can be overcome by co-operation, and the exercise of mutual forbearance. There should be established an advisory body, representative of commercial, farming and governmental interests, whose duty it would be to inform the Government regarding the position and needs of those on the land. It is estimated that at least £18,000,000 is needed to meet the immediate needs of the farmers, and that credit must be found. The storekeepers are owed approximately £12,000,000 by country customers, and theRural Industries Board is owed another £2,000,000. Moreover, the farmers will have to provide themselves with those things necessary to grow next season’s crop. At the present time not 10 per cent. of the land available in New South Wales has been fallowed for the next crop, and no tilling has been done to conserve moisture.
– Those factors have made a reduction of acreage next season an absolute certainty.
– That is true, and the yield per acre will also be reduced. An intimation should be given by this National Parliament that provision will be made to enable the farmers,who increased their wheat acreage on the advice of the Government, to harvest their crops, and receive some return for their wheat when it is delivered at the country railway stations.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). I wish to draw attention to what might almost be called the callous fooling of the farmers. They have been buoyed up by rash promises made, not so much by this Government, as by those who now form the Government of New South Wales. Last night I quoted a statement which had been issued under the authority of Mr. Lang, in which it was implied that if Labour were returned, 7s. 6d. a bushel would be assured to the f armers.
– That was only1s. more than the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) promised them.
– Well, it was more rash to the extent of at least1s. Anyway, the honorable member for Calare does not occupy so responsible a position as the Premier of New South Wales. Perhaps there is still a hope that Mr. Lang will redeem his promise, if only in part.
– Mr. Lang made no promise that 7s. 6d. a bushel would be paid for wheat. Let the honorable member read his statement.
– Well, if it cannot be regarded as a promise, it was nothing more than a low, mean trick, of the kind which has been played on the farmers over and over again. I give credit to some honorable members opposite for a genuine desire to help the farmers. There can be no doubt of the sincerity of the Minister for Markets, but on the part of some other honorable members there has been a callous indifference to the interest of the farmers. That attitude is not confined to honorable members opposite. I was surprised that some honorable members on this side of the House did not rise to support the motion of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). It shows that the representatives of street-bred constituents and spoon-fed industries do not realize the very serious position - the almost tragic position - of those engaged in the wheatgrowing industry. If the wheat industry is allowed to crash it will bring down with it many city industries as well, and will affect the whole economic life of Australia. It ill-becomes representatives of labour, or other interests in the cities, to disregard the very urgent need for doing something to help the farmer at the present time. The honorable member for Wimmera set forth very clearly the manner in which costs have been piled on to the exporting industries, while practically nothing has been done to offset those costs. This Government, while it has been doping the farmers with conferences, and dragging their representatives thousands of miles to engage in fruitless debates, has been piling on additional taxation which falls with peculiar weight upon those on the land.
– What power has this Government in regard to wheat marketing?
– Nearly every honorable member opposite agreed to the imposition of a primage duty on cornsacks and phosphate. The general high level of production costs affects all Australian industries, and that can be corrected only over a fairly long period. I do not suggest that a general reduction can be effected in a day, or even in a few months, as an emergency provision, but special charges have been laid on the farmer of which he can be relieved immediately. I have in mind particularly the sales tax on farm machinery, the 4 per cent, primage dues on commodities essential to primary producers for the carrying on of their business, as well as the increased tax on petrol and kerosene. All these charges press heavily upon- the man on the land.
– Does the honorable member contend that this Government is responsible for all those charges ?
– No ; but this Government has increased them, and up to the present, it has taken no action to recompense the farmers. The largest measure of dope in the way of unfulfilled promises was the Government’s undertaking to guarantee wheat-growers 4s. a bushel at railway sidings. I have to admit that I supported the guarantee provided it was without the compulsory pool but, with other honorable members on this side of the House, I was mislead as to the Government’s ability to give effect to its promise. We were led to believe that funds would be made available for the payment of the guarantee, and on this understanding we supported the guarantee. We now find that the Ministry cannot provide for the payment of even 2s. a bushel in order to relieve our farmers in their dire distress. At the conference of representatives of the wheat-growing States, held in Canberra recently, it was suggested that if a guarantee was impossible the Government should give favorable consideration to the payment of a bounty on wheat. The conference also submitted a scheme for the payment of a bounty, but when this was placed before the House it was soon apparent that a large majority of the members behind the Government are not really deeply concerned about the condition of our wheat farmer. They are prepared to shed a few tears over his unfortunate economic plight, but they are not disposed to make any sacrifices to compensate him in any way for the burdens that have been placed upon him through the tariff and by other legislative proposals of the Government. We have been told that the proposed scheme for a bounty on wheat cannot be accepted because it would mean an increase in the cost of bread. Those who take this view ignore entirely the effect on farmers’ costs of hundreds of items in the tariff. One objection to a bounty on wheat is that it would bring our exported flour within the ambit of anti-dumping laws in other countries. A few months ago, when the sales tax bills were under consideration, an honorable member on this side submitted an amendment, the effect of which would have been to allow the vendor or registered trader to add the sales tax at the bottom of his invoice; but the Government was not prepared to risk the constitutionality of its sales tax measures, so the amendment was rejected, notwithstanding that high legal opinion held that it would be intra vires. There is, therefore, no reason why the Government should not now take the risk. It would not be necessary to amend the whole of the sales tax bills. The situation would be met by the passing of one amending measure, the effect of which would be to exclude flour from the anti-dumping legislation of other countries.
– Can the honorable member suggest how we might get over the difficulty?
– A special sales tax bill could be introduced, enacting that the seller of flour could charge the sales tax as a separate item on his invoice. It would then appear, not as part of the sale price, but as a tax. If this were done there would be little danger of invalidity.
– Special bounty legislation would be necessary.
– No, because the sales tax would be shown as a bounty not on the export of flour, but on the production of wheat. I offer this suggestion to the notice of the Minister in all good faith. But I am not very hopeful that the Government will do anything. When any proposal is submitted which might have the effect of increasing slightly the cost of commodities used largely by city people, the Government and its . supporters are horrified; but when proposals which might have the effect of increasing costs to rural dwellers are introduced, we are told that these proposals are the “ settled “ policy of the country.
– The honorable member would not mind taxing bread.
– I would sooner see bread taxed than see the interests of the country imperilled. But, naturally, I should prefer to support proposals to reduce costs. This I regard as the right , method of approach for the solution of our difficulties. In any case, I contend that there is a moral obligation on this Government to do something for the relief of the wheat-growing industry - to give those engaged in it a chance to hold their breath while they are under the water. The position of these people is desperate in the extreme. If they are to survive they must receive assistance. If they do not get it, a considerable number of them, at all events, will be forced off the land.
– I join in the request that has been made to the Ministry to give special consideration to the wheat-growers of Australia in their present difficulties. Honorable members on this side have made representations to the Government on several occasions, and I take this opportunity to make’ a public appeal, following a number of private interviews which I have had with the Acting Prime Minister. Mr. Maycock, one of the representatives of the South Australian wheat-growers, said, upon his return to that State from the recent conference in Canberra, that he felt that the Federal Government was sympathetic towards the primary producers, but that it was hampered by lack of money. He added that he thought that members of the Government did not fully appreciate the real gravity of the position. On this point I can assure Mr. Maycock and the people generally that, from my conversations with the Acting Prime Minister, I am convinced that the Government realizes to the full the seriousness of the position of our wheat-farmers.
– He may appreciate the position, but he has no sympathy with them.
– The interjection is unworthy of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The Acting Prime Minister has been a land-worker, and is himself a land-owner. He is conversant with the difficulties of our primary producers, and is not likely to be unsympathetic.
– He has more sympathy for the secondary industries.
– In my interviews with the Acting Prime Minister I brought under his notice the representations that were made to me by deputations which waited upon me at Loxton, Wanbi, and Parana, three wheat centres in my electorate. I may state that, prior to a meeting of the House, I made it my business to meet the farmers in my district so as to be well informed about their present position. They made a number of requests to me which I, in turn, brought before the Acting Prime Minister. Naturally, they complained of the incidence of the tariff, and pointed out that the recent increases pressed heavily upon them. One request which they submitted to me was that the Commonwealth should make a grant to the Government of South Australia to enable it to tranport their wheat free of charge to the seaboard. I put that request before the Acting Prime Minister, who expressed entire sympathy with it, and said that it and other matters would be dealt with at a conference to be held in Canberra. All those subjects, as we know, were thoroughly, discussed recently by the representatives of the wheat-growing States, and the proposals emanating from the conference were brought before the Government.
In the debate this morning it was urged that there was a moral obligation on the Government to provide some relief for our wheat-growers. I admit the truth of this contention because, earlier in the year, an earnest appeal was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to our farmers to grow more wheat. They responded to the appeal, and subsequently the Government brought in legislation to provide for the orderly marketing of their produce. I think that all honorable members will agree that the Government did attempt to honour its obligation in this respect. But I do not imply that, the Wheat Marketing Bill having been rejected in another place, there is not now a moral obligation on the Government to do something, if it is humanly possible, to assist our primary producers. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) suggested that the Government “doped” the farmers when it invited them to send representatives long distances to attend the recent conference in Canberra. The honorable member must know, surely, that the conference in question was the outcome of requests from wheat-growers’ associations in the various States. If the Government had not made arrangements for the conference,
I am sure that those members, who now criticize the Ministry in connexion with the matter, would have complained that it was indifferent to the position of our wheat farmers, and we should have heard allegations about the restraining influence of metropolitan voters on the Government. I can, however, assure honorable members that the Government is exploring every avenue which gives any promise of relief for our primary producers.
– Does not the honorable . member think that something should be done to bring down farmers’ costs?
– The introduction of the Wheat Marketing Bill providing for the establishment of a compulsory pool and a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel was an attempt, by the Government, to compensate wheat-growers for increased charges laid upon them through the tariff. If that proposal had been adopted there would have been an increase in the price of bread. I supported the measure because I considered it to be an earnest endeavour to help our primary producers. I also went to some expense to obtain a reprint of part of the report of the South Australian Royal Commission which, some years ago, inquired into the wheat position- in that State as affected by the “honorable understanding,” as it is termed, between the wheat merchants. I feel that I have been compensated somewhat, because I have received appreciative letters, from not only the members of ray own party, but also electors belonging to opposing parties thanking me for having brought under their notice, in a convenient form, information relating to the position in South Australia.
I again appeal to the Government to give most earnest consideration to the condition of our wheat-farmers. I can assure honorable members that, following upon three years of drought, the position of wheat-growers in South Australia is extremely critical. Many have informed me that as soon as the crops are taken off they will be obliged to leave their farms unless some assistance is forthcoming. I also remind honorable members that the settlers in the newer farming districts in South Australia have been recruited, in the last few years, from the ranks of the weekly wage-earners. They took up land in the mallee, and for some years have been battling very bravely against tremendous odds. I hope that the Government will be able to do something to save them; but if anything can be done it should be done speedily.
.- I cannot understand why the Government consented to convene a conference of the representatives of wheat-growers at Canberra at such great expense and loss of time to those concerned, when it was fully aware that it had made up its mind not to grant the requests to be submitted.
– The representatives of the wheat-growers suggested that a conference should be held, and it was the duty of the Government to give them the opportunity to express their views.
– What was the use of such a conference when all of the proposals submitted were flatly rejected? There is not the slightest justification for the Government entering into an arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank to peg the exchange, as the primary producers of Australia, who are compelled to export the bulk of their produce, have a right to demand full value for what they produce.
– The Government has not entered into any such arrangement.
– I understand that, the Government has entered into an arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank to provide £3,000,000 a month in London to peg the exchange. Further, the Government is not justified in refusing to impose the sales tax on flour. In reply to a suggestion to that effect by representatives of the wheat-growers at the recent wheat conference, the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde) said that such a tax would increase the price of bread by Id. per lb. But, on the same basis of computation, if the Wheat Marketing Bill, which was introduced into this chamber sometime ago, had been passed, the price of bread would have been increased by 7d. The Government now contends that it is so concerned with the interests of the poor that it cannot adopt any proposal which would result in increasing the price of bread by even 2d. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) endeavoured to show that in introducing the Wheat’ Marketing Bill the Govern ment Avas endeavouring to assist the farmer, and that it has done everything morally possible to improve their position. To my mind there is something very immoral in the whole business. Some time ago, the Government was prepared to guarantee the farmers 4s. a bushel at country railway sidings, on the understanding that the control of their wheat was to be handed over to a board for a period of three years, although the guarantee was to be for only one year. A clause in that measure provided that if it were ultimately held by the High Court that the guarantee was ultra vires the remaining provisions were’ to remain operative. Because the farmers declined to have anything to do with the pool, as disclosed by a ballot, the Government will not assist them in any shape or form.
– The primary producers were prevented from receiving any assistance because of the “ log rolling “ that has occurred in this building, and the honorable member knows it.
– It was immoral for the Government to suggest that it would guarantee the farmers 4s. a bushel for one year, and, because the measure which it introduced was rejected, to refuse to give them any assistance now. Under the Government’s proposal submitted some months ago, it would have been possible to commandeer the producers’ wheat, as is now being done in Russia, and ship it to Great Britain in order to meet the overseas commitments of the Government. This Government has introduced measures providing for the payment of a bounty on cotton, linseed and flax, and even sewing machine heads, and has experienced no difficulty in finding the money. Only the other day the Government submitted a measure to ratify the agreement entered into with John Lysaght Australia Limited, prohibiting the importation of galvanized iron, thus giving that firm an absolute monopoly of the galvanizing ‘industry in Australia, and imposing an additional burden upon the primary producers. The additional primage duties which, according to the information given in answer to a question by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), will probably amount to £200,000, will increase the cost to the farmers of fertilizers, phosphates rock, and jute goods. Will the Government agree to hand over to the States the additional primage duties collected on these commodities, which are essential to primary production, to be applied in assisting the farmers to carry on for another year? The primary producers of this country want, not charity, but only sufficient financial assistance to enable them to remain on their holdings. It is impossible for the farmers to bear any additional burdens, and they should be permitted to purchase their requirements in the markets of the world.
We can produce wheat equal in quality to that grown in any other country; but the cost of production is so heavy that the industry is now unprofitable. I represent a very large number of new settlers, and I know that for every £1,000 they spend in developing and cropping their land they pay at least £400 more than it would have been necessary to pay a few years ago. The primary producers, who are the real backbone of this country, should be able to purchase their requirements in the open market, and it behoves the Government to make determined efforts to assist them. This motion would not have been submitted had the Government considered the representations from the wheat-growers more sympathetically, or made some practical suggestion. Every proposal submitted to the Government at the conference was flatly rejected, and there was no indication that it was the intention of the Government to give the wheat-growers the slightest assistance.
.- As the progress of the Commonwealth is dependent mainly upon the prosperity of the primary producers, there is a distinct moral obligation upon the Government to come to the assistance of the wheat-growers. The appeal made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to the wheat-growers of Australia to grow more wheat to enable the Commonwealth, by increasing exports, to reduce its adverse trade balance, was nobly responded to by the wheat-growers in this country. I agreee with the view expressed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) that the Government endeavoured to meet its moral obligation by introducing a Wheat Marketing Bill, which, if passed by both branches of the legislature, would have guaranteed to the farmer 4s. a bushel at railway sidings. But honorable members opposite can thank their friends in another place for the rejection of that measure. Yet notwithstanding its defeat, an obligation still rests upon the Government to do something for the wheat-farmers. On an estimated yield of 200,000,000 bushels for this year the Commonwealth Bank was prepared to finance a guarantee of 4s. a bushel, which would represent £40,000,000. If that amount could have been provided by the Commonwealth Bank I am at a loss to understand why that institution cannot render financial assistance at the present juncture.
– The Commonwealth Bank did not give any such undertaking.
– I understand that it did. I heard the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) make that announcement at the table.
– No; he quibbled and shuffled the whole time.
– The honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) should refer to the speech of the Minister to see what he actually did say. Agricultural machinery should not be subject to the Sales Tax Assessment Act, and if an exemption were granted in the case of agricultural machinery there would immediately be an agitation for a similar concession in regard to mining machinery, which should also be exempt from such a tax. I am not prepared to support those honorable members opposite who advocate a freetrade policy. Our primary and secondary industries should be encouraged and developed side by side. To revert to freetrade would be beneficial to the primary producers, but detrimental to the secondary industries.
– Secondary industries are not making much progress under the present fiscal system.
– Perhaps not ; but they will in time. As the wheat-farmers readily responded to the appeal of the Prime Minister to grow more wheat, I repeat that there is a moral obligation upon the Government to see that they are guaranteed at least the actual cost of production.
– I do not wish to nurse any grievance or to indulge in recrimination. I recognize that there is need for tariff reform, the reduction of production costs, and also for a complete investigation into the wheat-growing industry from the economic viewpoint; but an investigation into those important subjects would take a considerable time. The overpowering demand in the circumstances that confront us is for immediate action. Immediate relief could be afforded in the first place by introducing moratorium proposals, ‘and working in conjunction with the States, which will probably introduce similar legislation, and, secondly, by the imposition of a sales tax somewhat on the lines proposed at a recent conference by Professor Perkins, the Director of Agriculture in South Australia. In support of that contention, I quote the following from the current issue of the Sydney Bulletin: -
The best, and indeed the only practicable and definite suggestion for alleviating the sorry case of the men who were induced, by promises that cannot be honoured, to grow more wheat is that made by the recent conference at Canberra, representative of wheat interests and attended by the various Ministers of Agriculture - -to clap a sales tax of £7 4s. a ton on flour. It is reckoned that this would * increase the price of bread by Id. per 2-lb. loaf, but it would give the wheat-growers an extra 7Jd. per bushel on their crop, which might mean all the difference between bankruptcy and solvency. Alternatives put forward were bounties and guarantees which would throw an undue strain on the already rocky finances of the Federal Govern ment, and a characteristic New South Wales Labour plan for borrowing a few millions and distributing them among the New South Wales wheatgrowers.
The stabilization of wheat prices in a country such as Australia, which exports in a year such as this more than three-fourths of its production, is admittedly a difficult problem. Maori I and, which has not a great deal of land suited for profitable wheat production - -the best wheat land can be used to better commercial advantage there-ensures a fairly adequate domestic supply by cutting out one-half of the gambles on seasons and prices by fixing the latter. For some years now, by means of a sliding tariff, the domestic price of wheat has been fixed at about 6s. 6d. a bushel. This was bitterly opposed at the outset, but it has proved a very advantageous arrangement for the farmers and - as time has shown - -for the rest of the community. Australia cannot operate a stabilization scheme by a tariff, but it can at least partially stabilize prices by a sales tax, and the Maoriland precedent shows that there is not much risk of the general community suffering any undue hardship if that is done.
That represents my case for the adoption of Professor Perkins’ sales tax scheme, ft has been turned down by the Government because its adoption would involve an extra Id. on the price of the 2-lb. loaf of bread ; in other words, because it would mean a tax on the consumer.
– And because, in the opinion of the department, it would be well nigh impossible to administer.
– It is simply a question whether, by imposing this tax, we should get the wherewithal to spread the loss over the whole of the wage-earning community, or whether that loss should be allowed to rest definitely on a hardbitten and small section of the producing community. Faced with these two alternatives, the Government has thrown the farmer into the discard. I make no apology for saying that had I the administrative power, I should be prepared to make those in the community, who are in receipt of an assured income, come to the assistance of the wheat producers, thus, -spreading the burden over the whole of the people, and not allowing it to fall solely on one section.
.- Honorable members of the Labour party are aware of their responsibilities in regard to the perilous position threatening the wheat-growers of Australia at the present time. It is unfair for honorable members opposite to say that the Labour Government has taken no steps to render assistance to that very worthy section of the community, or guarantee their survival in a year of unprecedented low prices for their products. Assistance to farmers is but part of the general scheme that Australia must adopt at the present time, and any sound suggestion put forward by honorable members opposite will receive from the Government the consideration that it warrants. Every honorable member of the Labour party, whether he represents an urban or a country constituency, is wholeheartedly in favour of doing something to help the man on the land in Australia, and in doing so is only endeavouring to carry into effect what is part of the Labour platform. Any useful suggestions that have been put forward to-day will receive the consideration of the Government, and will have the support of the Labour party. One suggestion I make to give the producers some immediate relief is that the Government, for this season and perhaps the next, should bear the freight rates on wheat. We are all agreed that some assistance should be given, and the Government has made every effort to afford that assistance; but there is some confusion as to how the matter can be financed. Honorable members opposite, however, can res.t assured that any sound proposition to afford relief to the wheat-growers willreceive the early and sympathetic consideration of the Government.
.- In briefly supporting the motion moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), I want to point out that an increase in the price of locally consumed flour would not increase the price of local bread. In New Zealand, . where the wheat-grower has a guaranteed price of 6s. 2d. a bushel for his wheat, flour is £16 a ton and the loaf of bread lid. In Australia, flour is £8 10s. a ton, and the loaf of bread ls. If, as suggested by Professor Perkins, £7 4s. a ton were added to the price of Australian flour, it would not be as dear as it is in New Zealand where bread is cheaper than it is in Australia. It would, therefore, be quite possible to adopt Professor Perkins’ suggestion. There must be something wrong in the methods for processing the wheat. Fifteen loaves of bread can be made from a bushel of wheat. What the farmer receives for his wheat will purchase no more than two loaves. The processors, therefore, get thirteen loaves out of the bushel of wheat and the farmer only two. Then, as to wool; there is sufficient wool in one bale to make 40 suits, and a bale is worth £10. Yet the grower is expected to pay £10 for one suit of clothes: That is all he gets for his bale of wool. The processor gets the other 39 suit lengths. I merely rose to point out that the price of bread need not be increased even if the price of flour were doubled.
– I have listened with great interest to the debate that has taken place on the motion for adjournment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). The honorable member, who is a wheat-grower, and knows his subject well, has put the case for the wheat-growers in a reasonable way. I can assure him, and others who have spoken on this subject, that the Government is entirely in sympathy with the wheat-farmers of Australia, and, indeed, has given ample evidence of that. Unfortunately, there has been a sudden and calamitous collapse of wheat prices throughout the world; they are lower fo-day than they have been for 36 years. Very low values were recorded in 1894, in which year Russia, as it has again been this year, was a big factor in pushing die prices down. “
– In the meantime costs of production have increased.
– Of course. Any one who takes an interest in the wheat industry, or makes a study of it, must realize its importance to Australia; and it is humbug for any one to say that honorable members of the Labour party do not realize it, or that they have no sympathy with the industry. Its position to-day is deplored by all. In 1920-21, because of high world prices, wheat was worth £62,000,000 to Australia, whereas last year, when the price had dropped to 4s. a bushel f.o.b., it was worth only £22,000,000, and this year, with a record harvest of 215,000,000 bushels, compared with 140,000,000 bushels last year, its value will be down to £20,000,000. Such i serious drop must have a very important bearing on the prosperity of the country, because the wheat-grower who is not making profits is unable to employ labour. The repercussion of the fall in the value of our exportable products has a far-reaching effect upon employment. Anything that can be done by this or any other Government to assist the farmers in their present trying ordeal must benefit, not only the wheat-growers, but also a very large section of workers who are dependent on the capital coming in from other countries as the result of the sale of our produce overseas. I remind those honorable members opposite who are trying to make party political capital out of this question that for many years the wheat-growers of Australia have been endeavouring to get an orderly marketing scheme for the disposal of their produce. In short, they have been trying to throw off their backs, as far as possible, the agents, speculators, and other middlemen who have, in the word’s of the growers themselves, been battening upon them. Wheat-growers appealed to government after government in vain. From 1922 to 1929 we had in power in the Commonwealth a composite govern- » ment, the Bruce-Page Administration, half of whose members were country party members; yet it failed to do for the wheat-growers as much as the present Government has attempted to do, and would have succeeded in doing had it not been for the adverse votes cast against its Wheat Marketing Bill by Nationalist and Country party senators. That bill, if it were on the statute-book to-day, would have enabled us to help the farmers in their present plight. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) spoke of the farmers in Queensland. There is a compulsory wheat pool operating in Queensland. It was set up by the Labour Government when it was in power. Queensland is producing only sufficient wheat for local consumption ; but the State Wheat Board, controlled by the farmers themselves, has been able to fix prices for local consumption at 4s. a bushel. That is the result of having an orderly marketing scheme under legislation enacted by a Labour Government.
Immediately the present Government came into office in the Commonwealth, a conference was held between the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney), State Ministers of Agriculture and representatives of the wheat marketing organizations of Australia. The result was the introduction of the Wheat Marketing Bill, so well known to honorable members. That bill did not make provision for a direct government sales tax upon flour, or for provisions of a like character difficult to administer, with consequential bounty, legislation. It provided for the creation of State wheat boards to act in consultation with an Australian wheat pool board and to fix an Australian price for wheat. That price would have given the farmer that to which he is entitled, which the Labour party has always said should be given to him - something approximating the cost of production. This would have been done, not by means of a sales tax, but in accordance with Labour’s policy of having an orderly marketing scheme for Australia, with a compulsory pool managed: by State boards controlled by tlie farmers themselves, acting in conjunction with an Australian board. Some honorable members opposite shed crocodile tears to-day over the position of the wheat farmers; but if the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) had induced Senator E. B. Johnston to vote for the measure in another place, great benefit would have been conferred upon the growers. Senator Johnson .was unrepentant. On the 25th July, 1930, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said -
Hie Wheat Marketing Bill was a socialistic measure, based on the policy of the Labour party for State control of the means of production and distribution. I am glad that it was rejected.
If the bill had been carried, a definite guarantee of the payment of 4s. a bushel at country stations would have been given to the farmers. An undertaking to advance that sum had been given by the Commonwealth Bank, and the promise would have had to be honoured. Ways and means would have been found to make that payment. If a war broke out to-morrow, a method would be devised to finance it. The efforts by certain honorable members opposite to lay the blame for the present position of the farmers at the door of the Government are most unfair. The farmers will not believe the balderdash in which those honorable members indulge. The Labour party is charged with having placed imposts upon the wheat-growers; but the tariff embargo imposed on farming implements has resulted in a reduction of 5 per cent, in their price to the farmers. When the Bruce-Page Government was in office, and the Leader of the Country party was the Deputy Leader of that Government, tariff imposts were placed on fencing-wire, barbed-wire, and wire-netting, and on wire, iron and steel for use in the manufacture of barbedwire and wire-netting. The total customs taxation was increased from £27,000,000 in 1921-22 to £43,000,000 in 1926-27, or from £5 0s. 3$d. to £7 2s. 6£d. per head of the population.
I have been told that the Government had no right to convene the second wheat conference. In view of all the difficulties, including the fact that Ministers were very hard-worked, it was with some reluctance that I agreed to convene the conference. I realized the difficulty of doing anything at this late hour. Representatives of at least two State Governments and a number of members of this House attended it. The honorable member for Clare (Mr. Gibbons), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones), the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) and a number of others were most insistent that ‘ the Commonwealth Government should convene a special conference of Ministers of Agriculture, and representatives of marketing organizations to discuss this allimportant problem. Therefore, the conference was called, and the following decision was reached by the Ministers of Agriculture : -
That this Conference of Ministers of Agriculture, in view of the decision of the Commonwealth Bank, cannot agree to the proposals for a bounty, or- for a guaranteed price, owing to the impossibility of finding the necessary finance, but submits that, if possible, there should be formulated an equitable and workable uniform scheme of securing an Australian price for wheat above export parity, with reservations as to the protection of the consumers.
Upon that resolution there was a discussion by representatives of all the wheatmarketing interests, who put forward certain proposals. “One was for a sales tax of say, £7 4s. a ton on flour, which would increase the price ruling in Sydney today - £8 10s. per ton - to approximately £15 14s. per ton. That matter was sympathetically considered by the Government and by the department; but it was pointed out that, apart from the merits of a direct Government tax on flour, there were administrative difficulties, because the proceeds of the tax would have to be distributed among over 50,000 wheat-growers in Australia. It was pointed out that if we had had an orderly marketing scheme as provided for under the Wheat Marketing Bill, which the Senate rejected, it would have been possible, with considerably less difficulty, to make a distribution of the proceeds of such a tax. Haphazard marketing arrangements obtain throughout Australia, with numerous agents buying here and there; and therefore it was absolutely impossible to give effect to the scheme. I was assured by one official that to carry out the tax scheme, would have involved employing a big staff to check “the claims, and bounty legislation.
We are informed that a price of 3s. a bushel should have been guaranteed. If it lay within the power of this Government to pay an Australian price for wheat this year, there might be some ground for that criticism; but the very machinery that would have facilitated such an arrangement was rejected by the party opposite in another place. An Australian price was promised as a corollary to the passing of an orderly marketing scheme for the Commonwealth, as provided under the Wheat Marketing Bill. Owing to the action of the Senate, the promise made by the Commonwealth Bank no longer holds good. I have been in touch with the Chairman of Directors and the Governor of the Bank, and was informed that the Board of Directors, after fully considering the subject, is not prepared to pay, as a first advance beyond 80 per cent, of the present market value of wheat, and that the 4s. previously offered is now a matter of the past. We are informed by some honorable members opposite, that, in this matter, the Government should brush aside the Commonwealth Bank.
– Name ohe member who has said that.
– That was the inference to be drawn from some of the speeches heard to-day. It is dishonest to say that the Government has power to ignore the Commonwealth Bank. Under legislation introduced by the Leader of the Country party, the bank is given absolute power in regard to credit, the note issue and all such matters.
The Government realizes the seriousness of the position, and since the harvest has now begun, anything practicable can be done only after consultation with the States and the Commonwealth Bank. Up to the present time, efforts to induce the bank to advance more than 80 per cent, of the market value of wheat have been fruitless. As the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) said yesterday, the Government had cabled to the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) in London suggesting that, he send the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) immediately to Canada and the United States of America to confer with their respective governments, to see whether some scheme could be adopted for the marketing of the surplus wheat of the three countries to their common advantage.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am amazed and disappointed that the Minister has taken up the whole of the period allotted to him by wasting the time of the House with a purely party political speech.
– The honorable member must withdraw his remark about wasting the time of the House.
– I withdraw the expression; but I am sorry that the Minister has not indicated that the Government has a policy of some kind for the assistance of the wheat-farmers. He has never appeared to worse advantage than during the speech that he has just concluded. If he had avoided the political aspect of the subject, he could easily have found time to tell the farmers of Australia what they are most desirous of hearing. I wish to emphasize that the whole of the interests of this country are bound up in the present position of the wheat-farmers. In many parts of Australia the farmers are struggling for existence, and getting less than the amount of the old-age pension. It is essential that something be done for them without delay. In order to impress upon honorable members the seriousness of the conditions in the wheat areas, let me quote the following statement, which was published in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 18th instant -
The following resolution, according to information supplied yesterday by the secretary of the Wheat Producers Freedom Association (Mr. A. L. Langsford), was carried unanimously by a largely attended meeting of the Booleroo Centre branch of the association : -
That we, the members of the Wheat Producers Freedom Association, pledge ourselves to support the action of any member who refuses to pay either State or Federal land taxes until he has made expenses and15s. per week for himself and family, and that in such years as he fails to obtain such a return his land taxes be automatically cancelled.
The editor of the journal quoted added this footnote -
The farmers who adopted this resolution doubtless felt keenly the hardship suffered by some of their neighbours and by wheatgrowers in other parts. On the face of it, it seemed just to them that a farmer who worked hard throughout the year should not be required to pay taxes on his land, unless that land returned him 15s. a week for his family. The public will warmly sympathize with that view, and it is unthinkable that any taxation department would harry such a man for his tax.
A body of farmers in South Australia are prepared to take less for themselves than is paid to old-age pensioners. If the present Government is not willing to relieve them in their distress, it will be lacking in its duty to a large and important section of the community. I believe that the South Australian proposal for a sales tax of £7 4s. per ton on flour could have been put into effect. The loaf could besupplied to the people without extra imposts if there were a proper adjustment of costs throughout Australia.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave - I lay on the table the report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended the 30th June, 1930, and rnove-
That the report be printed.
– Does the Minister intend to lay upon the table the reports of the Entitlement and Assessment tribunals, which, under the act, must be made to the Minister for presentation to Parliament ?
– I am not sure that it is obligatory to table those reports. They have always been available to honorable members ; and any member who so wishes can have a copy furnished to him. If, however, it is necessary to table them, they will be presented.
Motion agreed to.
Debate resumed from the 20th November (vide page 553), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the paper be printed.
Upon which Mr. Latham had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “the Government should introduce proposals more closely in accord with the agreement made by the Prime Minister with the Premiers of the States on the 21st August last at Melbourne.”
.- Last night I dealt with one or two matters that come within the purview of this debate. I have no desire to continue my remarks at undue length, because there are a couple of honorable members still to speak, and I understand that a vote is to be taken this afternoon. While the matters that we are discussing are of profound importance, I doubt very much whether the prolonging of a debate of this character will do much good.
There are two subjects, however, that I wish to discuss. One of them-the banking policy of Australia - has been given a good deal of prominence in this debate. I do not profess to be an authority in regard to that policy; but I suggest that some reform is warranted The necessity for a central reserve bank is, I think, apparent to any one who has studied the subject. After all, the private banking institutions are money-making concerns - I say that inoffensively - and their tendency has always been to keep things booming in times of plenty, and to accentuate the harsh conditions that result from periods of depression. When money is plentiful and deposits are large, the policy of the banks is to get their money out at profitable rates of interest. Three or four years ago, in the rural areas as well as in the cities, they actually encouraged the raising of overdrafts. I know that in the wheat areas of Victoria there would not have been nearly so much speculation, with a consequent booming of land values, had the banks adopted the conservative policy that they are adopting to-day. They based their advances largely upon what the land happened to be worth, and its productivity at the time. When seasons are good, when the returns from wheat lauds are high, and when prices are booming, the banks grant overdrafts and give mortgages on the basis of the boom values. But when adverse seasons are experienced, when the productivity of the land is lowered, and when prices fall, there is an insistent, and, very often, a prompt demand for the reduction of overdrafts - at the very time when those who have overdrafts find it impossible to reduce them. That is largely the position to-day. In short, the policy of the private banks has been one of undue optimism in good times, and undue pessimism in bad times. That ought to be apparent to all. Such a policy should be altered.
I come now to the second matter that I desire to raise. I doubt very much whether, under our present party system, this Parliament is capable of grappling and dealing adequately with the problems that confront us to-day. Then, too, the disposition of parties at the moment is most unfortunate. The one great virtue of the party system is that, under it, effect may be given to the policy of the particular party that happens to be in the majority. At the present time, however, we have one party with an overwhelming majority in this House, and the opposing party with an overwhelming majority in the other chamber, the consequence being that we are experiencing all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of the system. I have always contended that the existing parliamentary system is susceptible of considerable reform. Even at “Westminster there is an insistent demand for some reform. I quote the following cable from London this week to illustrate the trend of* influential public opinion in Great Britain : -
The National Council of Industry and Commerce urges the Government and the Opposition to discharge party politics in favour of sound economics. “At present the country’s prosperity is the politicians’ plaything,” it states, “ The council observes apprehensively the Government’s immediate programme and regards with dismay the economic failure of the Economic Conference which was inevitable because the Government subordinated economics to politics. The solution of unemployment evades discovery and the former will soon become unmanageable. Britain should not wait a general election, but should force their views on the sitting members demanding some sound non-party action.
As with the banking policy, so with the political policy: There is never a tendency in times of plenty and prosperity to exercise in national affairs that prudence which we all. exercise or should exercise in our private affairs. Instead of restricting governmental expenditure when labour is absorbed in private enterprise, and increasing it when employment is scarce, the reverse policy is adopted. Under the present system, with the different parties bidding for votes, there is a continual clamour when revenues are high for the construction of big public works. They are constructed at a time when labour is most expensive, because of the competition of private enterprise for what is available. Then, when adversity is encountered, we witness the spectacle of panic stricken dismissals of men from public works, because there is no money to continue those works, and thousands of men are thrown upon an already disorganized labour market. That is what is happening to-day. For that reason one despairs of any effective results being achieved under the existing system. I am satisfied that, sooner or later - sooner than some of us think - there will be a reform of our parliamentary system; and it will be forced upon us by the exigencies of the situation. At the moment, however, with the present disposition of parties, decisive action of a national character is almost impossible. The only alternatives are, the reform that I have suggested, or a general election. I believe that it .would be a crime to plunge this country into the turmoil of a general election in the present circumstances, and that every effort should be made to avoid it. “When all is said and done, we are all Australians. We may represent different sections of the people, but they are all Australian, people. So far as possible, we should act in concert, with a view to ascertaining what is the solution of the problems with which we are confronted, and then go ahead in a non-party spirit in an endeavour to do something for our . country.
That is my contribution to the debate. Much more could be said upon many matters ; but we shall have an opportunity to discuss the taxation and other proposals of the Government at a later stage.
.- The present session of Parliament is the result of an unprecedented series of events, connected chiefly with the visit to this country of an Imperial gentleman named Sir Otto Niemeyer. The party with which I am associated has always claimed that it had no knowledge whatever of the cause of Sir Otto Niemeyer’s presence in Australia. Because of the press propaganda that was directed against this party and some of its members, including myself, I found it necessary to make a very clear statement on the matter. That statement indicated that at the time we, as party members, had no option but to conclude that the visit of Sir Otto had three possible explanations : He came of his own accord ; he came at the voluntary request of the Federal Government; or he came as a result of circumstances that were such that the Federal Government had no option but to invite him. We were in recess, and the episode seemed to me to be so unsatisfactory to us, that I felt it necessary to make my personal position clear to the electorate I represent. I said that if Sir Otto had been voluntarily invited by the Government to come to Australia, or had come as the result of an invitation given in circumstances which made it an extremely delicate matter not to invite him, he should not have had authority to do other than report confidentially to the Federal Cabinet his views on the results of any investigations he might make in Australia. Instead of doing that, he displayed an ill-mannered readiness to make public statements.
– I dissociate myself from the statement that Sir Otto Niemeyer was ill-mannered.
– Those statements were made in a semi-official, pontifical tone, which may have been entirely unwarranted, and. which, in any case, did much to mislead and unnecessarily agitate the public mind. It would almost appear that the intention was to create a panic. As to his being ill-mannered, I submit that that is largely a point of view. This gentleman, even on his own representations, was a guest of the Federal Labour Government. From the moment he arrived on these shores, he made it his business to create a psychology that would be as damaging as possible to the Federal Labour Government, to the prospects of the State Labour party of New South Wales in the impending elections, and to Australian credit at home and abroad. Sir Otto may be a banker, but he is certainlynot an economist.
– He is a gentleman.
– He may be a gentleman of finance, but I regard him as a bushranger. His advice was, in effect, to betray the people of Australia. It was on his advice that he expected the budget of this Government to be framed. I am glad to think that, defective as the present budget unfortunately is, a good deal of that advice was rejected in its preparation by the party to which I have the honour to belong. The weakness of the financial policy of this Government has been due, in large measure, to the circumstance that it has relied too much on conventional bankers and administrative officers who are not economists. I consider the visit to Australia of Sir Otto, at the present juncture, singularly unfortunate, and an insult to the intelligence and spirit of Australian citizens.
– Why did the honorable member allow his Government to invite Sir Otto Niemeyer here?
– I had no knowledge of it.
– An announcement to that effect was made in the House.
- Sir Otto is notorious in England as a financial reactionary of the worst type, and a representative of international financial interests. If it proves true that the Federal Government has accepted the views of this visitor, it has been guilty of an error of judgment. Had the members of the Federal Government desired to function as experts in international finance, they would have been entitled to follow the advice of Sir Otto Niemeyer. The Government had a still more emphatic right to reject his advice when the function for which it was elected to office was to serve the needs of Australian workers and citizens in their present hour of travail, provoked by the very interests represented by Sir Otto Niemeyer.
Australia is suffering from a worldwide deflation of prices, and this is felt in our own country more keenly perhaps than in most other countries, since . the price level of our primary products has fallen lower than the general price level. The suggested process of lowering the cost of production and the Australian standard of living, which Sir Otto seems so anxious to bring about, to meet our depleted revenue, is resulting in disaster to this country. As a mortgagor country, a burden is placed upon Australia so intolerable that no Government that is not hopelessly incompetent or treacherous to the people of Australia would countenance Sir Otto for one moment; Australia borrowed money at times when the price level was much higher. To-day, it is called upon to pay interest on principal, some 50 per cent, in excess of what it actually borrowed. Is this fair to Australia? Has Sir Otto Niemeyer uttered one word of this to the public of Australia? He is anxious that the present deflated prices should continue, and is urging a speedy settlement of our overseas debts and the lowering of our standard of living, for the reason that as an agent of financial interests, he is desirous that powerful overseas financiers should reap a rich harvest, at the expense of the men, women and children of Australia, by taking advantage of the present deflated prices. I wrote that the Government would have been well advised had it told Sir Otto Niemeyer to return without delay to Europe, and to patch up the ruin there for which his type has been responsible.
Instead of talking too incessantly about not intending to repudiate the claims of money lenders, the Government should demonstrate that it realizes that its first and supreme duty demands that it should not repudiate the mem women and children of Australia, thousands of whom are to-day suffering the degradations and horrors of unnecessary poverty under conditions which are a disgrace to Australia and a lie to our claim to possession of the power of representative self -government.
– Does the honorable member say that this ‘Government has been treacherous to Australia?
– Any Government is treacherous to Australia when the facts establish the case.
– What does that mean ?
– I cannot supply the necessary intelligence to enable the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) to interpret my remarks.
Our attitude has been attacked by our opponents chiefly on the ground that it displayed discourtesy to one described as a distinguished Imperial visitor. Has it occurred to any of the Opposition to ascertain after all what is the standing and record of Sir Otto Niemeyer in Great Britain ? It occurred to some of us that it might be profitable to make inquiries in that direction, and so that honorable members may have the testimony of others, I offer them the record of this gentleman,’ as taken from a publication by LieutenantColonel A. H. Lane, and entitled The Alien Menace. Chapter XI., headed “Who shall direct “-pages 98 to 100, contains these words -
Do the British people realize that when Mr. Baldwin went on his fateful mission to theUnited States, in 1923 (to come to an agreement with that country over the war debt),, among the financial advisers accompanying him, and provided for him by our Government, there were men of alien descent, including Sir Otto Ernst Niemeyer? This gentleman was an important functionary at the Treasury from- 1906 to 1927. He was Controller of Finance from 1922 to 1927, and, during that period, in 1924, he was also a member of the German Reparations Committee. On leaving the Treasury he became a Director of the Bank of England, and, in 1928, Chairman of the Financial Committee of the League of Nations. Many of my readers will remember that a London periodical in August, 1921, published what purported to be a correspondence between. Dr. Ellis Powell (then editor of the Financial News) and Mr. Bonar Law, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer - correspondencereferring to Mr. Otto Niemeyer.
This was before Sir Otto was knighted -
From a copy of the periodical in my possession, I see that Dr. Powell, on December 18th,. 1918, asked the Secretary of the Treasury whether certain Germans of the name of Niemeyer, who ill-treated our prisoners of war in Germany, had “a near relativeoccupying a high position in the Treasury?’ In answer to that question, Mr. R. M. Gower, writing five days later from Treasury Chambers, Whitehall, said, “ Mr._ Bonar Law wishes me to inform you that the’ case of Mr. Niemeyer was recently considered by the committee appointed by the Government to examine the cases of persons not thechildren of British-born subjects who areemployed iai government departments, and that the committee had decided that it was in thenational interest that Mr. Niemeyer should hold the post which he occupies in theTreasury.”
Honorable members interjecting -
Had that gentleman been in Australia during the war, honorable members opposite would have interned him. The statement continues -
Thereupon, Dr. Powell wrote direct to Mr. Bonar Law two letters, in the second of which he pointed out that no answer had been given him to his question whether Mr. Niemeyer, of the Treasury, was any relative “ ofthe Germans referred to.” At this point the correspondence seems to have ended. 1 now put to Sir Otto Niemeyer the same question.
The writer proceeds to say, as I would say-
I make no reflections upon the integrity and personal character of Sir Otto Niemeyer; I publish the above facts because I feel strongly that it should be known to the British people to what extent our government services are directed by officers of alien extraction.
While it is not intended to stress anything opposed to Labour doctrine, through demarcation along mere national lines, the fact remains that the circumstances alluded to in that extract are of a nature which entitles us to resent the shameful position in which Australia has been placed by the arrival of this Imperial visitor as an alien agent for treacherous forces employed to smash the Australian standard of living and the security of Australian workers and citizens.
– Surely the. honorable member is not saying that seriously. He himself is of a higher standard than that.
– Saying what?
– What the honorable member has just read.
– I have read the statement of an authority on British finance, which contains the record of Sir Otto Niemeyer.
– Does the honorable member support and justify it?
– Support what?
– This attack upon Sir Otto Niemeyer.
– There is no attack. I have merely recited facts.
– Are they relevant to any subject that is before the House?
– This session has been brought about through what I describe as an unprecedented event in Australia - the arrival of a man of this type in this country, who, during his stay here, had the ill manners to attack everything associated with our standard of living, and our ideals and aspirations. His theory is that we are living too high and too happily, and that the only way to save Australia is to degrade ourselves by accepting a standard of living fit only for gypsies in the lowest parts of Europe and for coolies in the worst parts of Asia.
– The position demands a bit of straight talking.
– Dirty talking!
– It is not dirty but straight talking. It is always dirty talking or wrong talking according to honorable members opposite when we are the talkers.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his references with the motion before the Chair.
– I submit that as the motion deals with the balancing of our budget my remarks are in order.
– The honorable member will be in order if he connects his references with the subject before the Chair.
– My intention is to prove-
– This is muck !
– Order !
– Since Sir Otto Niemeyer was the principal factor in this financial demonstration, the object of which is to save Australia by having thousands of our workers sacked and having us called to attend this session in order that a little bookkeeping might be done in Canberra, it is necessary that we should know something about the principal factor in these events. As the actual subject with which we are dealing relates to pounds, shillings and pence, or, to use a common expression in these days, our economic situation, it might helpus if we consult other English authorities. I shall now quote from an article by Mr. H. N. Brailsford, one of the most eminent economists and publicists of the British Empire.
– And a strong political partisan.
- Mr. Brailsford wrote this article on the 29th August of this year under the title “ The Bankers’ Bludgeon; Sabotaging Social Services.” It reads -
The experience through which Australia has passed during the past ten days ranks among the most illuminating things in our life-time. Ten days ago this Continent looked like a self-governing Dominion. It had its own army and fleet, even its own colonial dependencies; it was rejecting its own high personages whom we sent it as ornamental governors: from the height of its own proud standard of life it was disposed to look down upon our Old World ways. At this point a director of the Bank of England descended on its shores.
To-day you may behold a Continent on its knees. It has bowed to his dictation. It will re-arrange its finances. It will cut down its imports. It will lay the axe to all its expenditure on social services, including education. It will reduce the salaries of its civil servants, in the upper grades at least, by 10 per cent. It will cut wages all round. It is prepared (as the “ Observer’s “ Melbourne correspondent states) for an increase in unemployment from the present 18 to a possible 30 per cent.
Kissing the Rod.
Of course there will be strikes. But on the whole, one gathers, this proud Continent is kissing the rod that chastised it. “ On all hands,” wo read, “ the help of Sir Otto Niemeyer is warmly appreciated.”
The last few words, I point out, are in inverted commas and doubtless have been quoted from some Australian authority. Mr. Brailsford’s article continues -
The invisible bonds which hold this great Empire together have been strengthened.
One doubts whether Australia has the faintest comprehension of what has happened to her. Her gratitude might be less general if she had. Perhaps we, too, shall fail to disentangle the riddle, but it is worth trying. Some, at least, of the facts stand out legibly.
Why, to begin with, is Australia on the verge of bankruptcy, a fate from which the Bank has saved her - at a price? She balances her account with the world by exporting wheat, wool, and sundry other foods and raw materials. With the proceeds of her harvests she pays for her imports, and with a part of them she meets the interest on her past borrowings. Each year, on the security of her harvests, she borrows a little more, using this new capital to build railways, irrigation works and the like. It is this relationship which gave Sir Otto Niemeyer his powers to dictate. “ The City” (London) is this Continent’s money lender. It is also a great absentee landlord, holding immense shares in land and development companies.
This is to say,” the London financiers are absentee landlords. The article proceeds as follows: -
What happened last year every one knows - that dreaded power of darkness, “ the worldcause,” went to work. Wholesale prices fell violently and generally, especially the prices of raw materials and agricultural produce. Taking the “ Economist’s “ index, there was a drop during the year 1929 of ten points. The fall then quickened its pace, and during the first five months of this year came a drop of another eleven points, equivalent to a fall of 9.G per cent. Australia had good harvests and an excellent wool clip, but their value had mysteriously shrunk. During this whole period, from the early months of 1928 to the end of May, 1930, the price of Australian wool fell by no less than 38 per cent.
In the Bankers’ Hands.
These are the percentages. It is possible to give, from the “ Observer’s “ data, a rough picture of the effects of this drop in prices. In the good years, Australian exports were worth about £140,000,000. Last year they sank to £98,000,000. This year their value is estimated at £90,000,000, or slightly more, if the price of wheat should rally. The harvests are rather better than usual: more land is under wheat. The ships will be laden to capacity. But London values their cargoes at £90,000,000 instead of £140,000,000. And so Australia is in the banker’s hands.
– May I venture a question for the enlightenment of honorable members? What are these quotations intended to prove?
– They are intended to prove that so long as we remain blind to the factors which are operating, and blind to the true character of visitors like Sir Otto Niemeyer, it does not matter what may be the value of the production of Australia, we shall get for it no more than the -London financiers decide, through the agency of such persons as Sir Otto Niemeyer, that they will give us. The article continues as follows : -
He proceeds to apply the principles of sound finance. Let us, With due humility, sit at his feet. These principles are very simple. Concede that the money-lender’s claim is the first charge on the bounty of nature and the labour of man, and all the rest follows inevitably. Fixed debt charges, whatever happens, must be met in full. If the value of harvests shrinks, it is the farmer and the worker who must bear the loss, and not the banker, the investor, the rentier, the owner of mortgages and public debt securities.
If that theory is conceded by our opponents, then we are repudiationists ; but that is the only sense in which we can be so described. We are not repudiationists in the sense that we are unwilling to meet our just obligations. We should not be expected to pay double, let alone three or four times what we actually owe.
The position of Australia is very much the same as the position of the honest
Antonio in The Merchant of Venice. It will be remembered that Antonio pledged his credit and resources, and became deeply indebted largely in the interest of his friend Bassanio when in need. Great Britain would figure in this story as Bassanio.
– He must be one of your constituents.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) whose principal function in this House seems, to be that of an incessant interjector, reminds me of the character of Gratiano, who, according to Bassanio -
Antonio had called upon the money lender Shylock for certain accommodation, but the time came when, chiefly because Antonio’s affairs were adverse, the money lender insisted upon a settlement of the debt. He wanted his pound of flesh. The story relates that Portia decided that in the final analysis, Shylock was entitled to his pound of flesh, but nothing more. The Shylocks of to-day are asking for very much more than the pound that is actually due to them, and it is incredible folly that a Labour Government should think that it can meet thesituation by merely balancing its budget as it is trying to do at present.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the repayment of our debts is as impossible as the payment of the pound of flesh to Shylock?
– I do not suggest anything of the kind. The honorable member must recollect that, as things turned out, the ventures of Antonio were not so desperate as had been believed. His ships came home and his ventures turned out well. Who will deny that Australia’s ships, her argosies, will come home, and that her ventures will turn out well? She will be able to meet her just obligations, and she should be asked to meet nothing more than these.
In the meantime, nothing is so likely to add to the seriousness of our situation as the adoption of such idle measures as the dismissal of men by our various public departments and by private employers.
The pursuit of a policy of that kind must add to the gravity of our situation by reducing the purchasing power of our people. Sir Otto Niemeyer, and those with whom he associated during his stay in this country, were everlastingly speaking of the necessity for greater energy and greater productivity by the workers of this country. I do not know whether Sir Otto Niemeyer knew the facts in relation to the productivity of Australia. If he did, he was curiously silent about them.
– Our productivity is less per head now than it was in 1911.
– In 1911, we had a population of a little more than 4,500,000 people, but in 1928 it had increased by 39 per cent. to 6,350,000. In that same period, the number of our people engaged in primary production decreased by 10 per cent. But in spite of this fact our primary production increased by an average of 10 per cent. In some instances the increase was as high as 26 per cent., while the area under cultivation had increased by 9,000,000 acres. We are all familiar with the slogans of our opponents: “Work harder, work longer hours, produce more, grow more wheat “. Is it not supreme folly to ignore the fact that so long as the financiers of the world rule our destinies it matters not how long, or how hard, humanity works, or how greatly it suffers? In military and naval matters, affecting the national security and interests, we do nothand ourselves over to the domination of private individuals, but in financial matters, which are of far greater importance under the present economic system, control is left entirely to private individuals and corporations whose habits we cannot regulate and whose ramifications we cannot possibly have full knowledge of. Between 1911 and 1929 the value of Australia’s annual production increased by £110,000,000 ; fixed deposits in the banks of issue by £127,000,000, and savings banks deposits by £89,000,000. I am informed that last season our primary producers, numbering less than 500,000, produced sufficient wheat to feed 30.000,000 persons, and sufficient? wool to clothe 100,000,000. Yet hundreds of . thousands of our people have gone hungry and in rags, and during last winter thousands of them were glad to accept second-hand clothing from the charitably disposed. To these facts we cannot remain blind. It is incredible that certain members of the community should fall into raptures over a knight from overseas, and engage in all manner of regrettable forms of flattery of this individual, and yet remain blind to the cruel significance of his visit and the effects which would have followed the acceptance of his dictation by the Commonwealth Government. It is interesting to reflect that in New South Wales everything which that gentleman had advocated, if not directed, and which to some extent had been followed by the Bavin Government - reduction of wages, interference with awards, reduction of the standards of living - was decisively negatived by an overwhelming majority of the people of that State.
– Thanks largely to members of the Commonwealth Ministry.
– Thanks largely to their intelligence and spirit.
– They have not got any spirit.
– I do not often occupy the time of the House and I think that I might be spared the interruptions of a political Orsic, who libels the people of New South Wales by saying that they have no spirit.
The financial aud economic position of Australia is bound up with the facts I have placed before the House, and with the attitude of the judiciary. Regarding the latter we need to very frank. I do not know to what extent I shall be permitted to refer to the political utterances, I might almost call them speeches, of Chief Judge Dethridge from the Bench. During the hearing of the case of the Graziers Association and others versus the Australian Workers Union of New South Wales, as reported at page 122 of the typescript copy of evidence, he said -
But now I am faced with a most enjoyable task. I can assure you I am having a lovely time just now. I am enjoying life. If I may get down to frivolities, this is a real treat to me. Together with the Prime Minister and with State Premiers, I am faced with a disgusting joh of adjusting conditions, wage conditions, in accordance with economic realities. We are enjoying ourselves, the whole lot of us - Mr. Scullin, Mr. Bavin, Mr. Hill, Mr. Hogan and Mr. McCormack - the Prime Minister and every State Premier.
– Mr. McCormack was not Premier of Queensland at that time.
– I am glad to have that reminder from the honorable member. I am quoting the exact words of Chief Judge Dethridge, who continued -
I do not care what their political creeds may be-
I should think not - but I say that we are deserving of the most heartfelt sympathy in the ugly work we have to do.
Those words were uttered in the course of arbitration proceedings, before a word of evidence was taken, in regard to matters involving the lives and security of thousands of workers, and indicated clearly that he had in advance made up his mind to reduce wages and worker’s conditions. Can any reasonable man say honestly that such utterances are worthy of a man occupying a high judicial position ?
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the matters to which the honorable member is referring can have no possible relevance to the subject before the Chair.
– Wages and working conditions have been freely discussed during this debate, and the honorable member for Martin is entitled to deal with those subjects so long as he does not criticize or reflect upon the judiciary.
– I . have read the words of an eminent member of the judiciary, intending to indicate their relationship to financiers and their agents. I submit that we are entitled to consider those words. They are on record. Surely we are privileged to resent them if they are more worthy of a moron than of a chief judge of the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member is not in order in making observations that constitute a criticism of the judiciary.
– Are we not entitled to ask ourselves whether it is impossible to expect a fair deal for the people of Australia? A noted American writer, speaking on similar matters as they’ affected his own country, said : -
Under the American Constitution democracy and liberty have taken strange paths of development. There is always the presence of the judiciary as a means to infamous action.
– Order! I cannot permit the honorable member to continue along those lines. He will realize that he is seeking, by an indirect method, to cast a reflection upon the Australian judiciary. That cannot be countenanced. I ask him to assist the Chair to conduct the debate on the highest plane.
– I am always anxious to maintain the dignity of your responsible position, and the prestige of this House, sir. But I painfully realize that, since the House assembled, the Opposition has lashed the Government, and no fight has been shown by members of the Government.
– The Government has not been lashed as severely as it deserves to be.
– The honorable member and his colleagues have nothing with which to flay the Government. They have not had a Labour Government yet. If they had, they would know the difference to their cost. I am endeavouring, not to commit a breach of the privileges of the House, but to claim the right of plain speaking on a subject which I would prefer to have had ventilated by more senior members of the party.
– The Chair offers no objection to plain speaking, provided it is kept within the confines of the Standing Orders.
– Am I not in order in quoting the words of this celebrated American writer?
– Not if the quotation is a reflection upon the Australian judiciary.
– Can I not refer to the judiciary of any other country, sir?
– The honorable member has referred to the Australian judiciary, and any quotation that he makes in support of his contention is a reflection upon the judiciary, whichI must regard as disorderly.
– I am proposing to read a statement which gives an account of the activities of the judiciary of the United States of America.
– The honorable member will have to connect his reference to the subject-matter before the Chair, otherwise it will be distinctly out of order.
– The statement proceeds : -
There is always an attorney to launch a prosecution, for attorneys are invariably men who aspire to higher offices, and no more profitable way to do this is to be found than by assaulting and destroying a man of unconventional views regarding social welfare. Many an American Congressman comes to Washington from a District Attorney’s office. You may be sure that he is seldom promoted because he has been a guardian of the liberties of the citizen. Many a judge reaches the bench by the same route - and thereafter in a benign manner helps along his successors. The whole criminal law in America thus acquires a flavour of fraud. It is constantly embellished and re-enforced by fanatics posing as superior ornaments of the judiciary who have discovered how easy it is to hurl missiles at their enemies and opponents from behind the ranks of policemen. It is administered by law officers whose private prosperity runs in direct ratio to their reckless ferocity.
– Order ! I have now given the honorable member a very wide latitude. I desire to know how he connects that reference with the motion before the House.
– We should realize, unless we are bereft of our senses, that parallel lines of attack are now being made against the Australian standard of living.
– Order ! I cannot permit the honorable member to reflect upon the Chair.
– If I have offended, I withdraw any reflection upon the Chair.
– I ask the honorable member to realize that I cannot allow him to make any reference that is directly or indirectly a reflection upon the Chair, or an intimation that I fail to appreciate the significance underlying his words. I ask him to exercise every care in his choice of expression.
– It was not my intention to reflect upon you, sir, in the slightest degree. I was endeavouring to establish the relevancy of my remarks which you had challenged.
– I ask the honorable member kindly to connect his remarks with the motion before the Chair.
– That is precisely what I desire. It is necessary for us to realize, when considering the existing economic situation and the balancing of the budget, that several parallel lines of attack are being made on the standard of Australian living, and it behoves us to pay attention to the activities of the Federal Arbitration Court and High Court in this respect. I have read this quotation in order that we in Australia may profit by the experience of the United States of America. The statement continues -
And the business is applauded by morons/ whose chief delight lies in seeing honorable
Nien and women prosecuted, intimidated, humiliated, and punished. For such foul and pestiferous proceedings the loftiest of moral excuses arc always offered. The judiciary becomes a secret or open ally of dominant money-making factions, whose one conception of constitutional democracy and liberty is the enforcement of coercion in the application of their law.
– May I ask the honorable member to connect that with the subject before the Chair?
– The restriction of the basic wage inquiry to the question of national income is an example of what L have just quoted. It is fraud, intended to impoverish the people.
– Order ! The honorable member will surely recognize that such a reference is a direct reflection upon the judiciary of this Commonwealth, in which I cannot permit him to indulge. Unless he ceases to pursue those lines of argument, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– There was no talk of national income when the workers were struggling to obtain a basic wage. They were then examined about the clothes they wore, the food they ate, and the shelter over their heads.
– Is the honorable member delivering a speech or a reading?
– It is regrettable that when dealing with a matter of such seriousness I am not entitled to offer any criticism of those in certain quarters. For instance, the High Court has become a -kind of Nationalist association.
Opposition members objecting -
– The honorable member surely will see that it is extremely difficult for the Chair to exercise that continued patience which the nature of his remarks would demand. I have no desire to restrict the honorable member’s freedom to express his views or those of his constituents; but I cannot permit him to transgress the Standing Orders and the rules that have been laid down for our guidance. His reference to the High Court is tantamount to a statement that it is a partisan body. Such a statement is distinctly out of order.
– I bow to your rul-1 ing, Mr. Speaker, and am sorry if I have offended against the Standing Orders. The present situation calls for the best that we can offer, and I have been doing my best. I submit that we are incompetent if we fail to recognize the truth to which I have invited attention.
The position is extremely grave. Within a few weeks we shall, no doubt, exchange the usual courtesies associated with the Christmas season. But they will be nothing but a mockery, because this Parliament has done virtually nothing for the people of this country who are most in need of assistance. In the circumstances, I feel that I am entitled to say something along the lines that I have followed as a prelude to stating that I wholeheartedly identify myself with those members of the Labour party, who, in the interests of the country and with no intention to repudiate its just liabilities, have urged, as the last speaker did, the necessity for a complete change in the financial system under which we live, and have, in consequence, been libelled as wild and dangerous men. I endorse every word spoken by the honorable members for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), and Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) ; I associate myself with the aims and aspirations of the honorable members for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). Surely some measure of credit should be made available to assist our people in this time of need ! One has only to walk along the streets of our cities and look into the glittering eyes of the unfortunate famished men, women and children one meets to realize the incompetency of this legislature.
-It is distinctly out of order to reflect upon the legislature. The honorable gentleman will see that to reflect upon this legislature is to reflect upon himself as well as on other honorable gentlemen.
– It was not my intention to speak to-day. This legislature has been proving itself incompetent, and silence on my part would have been a greater reflection on myself than now can be.
In conclusion, I express the hope that the necessity to deal with the pressing evil of unemployment in providing work or sustenance for our impoverished people will be made the most urgent question of the day, and that there will be an outpouring of money - whether treasury notes or otherwise - at least equal to that which we witnessed when the object was to further the cause of war with its devastating effects. This country will be prosperous and happy according to the determination of its people to make it so. I feel that in the past we have depended too much on. intellect. The speeches of honorable members opposite have been destitute of heart ; they have evidently been actuated only by considerations of mind. Intellect can be a most devastating thing. Mere intellect will never rule the world; the directive forces which control the world lie deeper than the intellect. “We have in us the physical being with instincts about which even yet we know next to nothing. There is a moral nature which has its roots in the sub-conscious and the unconscious mind. The directive forces which control the world and the whole character of mankind are derived as much from these elements and factors as from the mind alone; and from these emerges the will of humanity - the control and organized direction of which we have yet to discover and exercise. Crude though the efforts of honorable members on this side may be held by some to be, they at least show that we depend on factors other than mere intellect. .”What is wanted in this country is a greater determination - will power - to remove those who are impostors and enemies of the people - no matter how highly placed they may be, and whether in the judicial, financial or political sphere - and thereby promote and ensure the peace and prosperity of Australia and its citizens.
.- I had not intended to speak to-day; but after the speech of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) I can no longer remain silent. As the usual adjournment hour is almost at hand, I shall keep the House only a few minutes;
I shall speak simply, but very plainly. First, I think that it is well that a word or two should be said about the visit of Sir Otto Niemeyer, of which we have heard so much recently. It does not matter to the people of Australia how Sir Otto Niemeyer came to Australia. He may or may not have been invited by the Commonwealth Government; but the fact is that, Sir Otto Niemeyer being here, was invited to confer with the Commonwealth Government. However much we may differ from the Prime Minister on political matters, we all respect him as a straight man with a wellbalanced mind, and we respected him the more for calling into consultation a man of the eminent financial reputation of Sir Otto Niemeyer, who is thought very highly of by the financial experts, not only of England, but of the world. The Prime Minister, and those associated with him. invited Sir Otto Niemeyer to confer with them regarding the financial position of Australia.
– And thanked him for it.
– Yes, and thanked him for it as well. Sir Otto Niemeyer made certain statements and expressed certain opinions with regard to our financial position. None of those statements was controverted by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), or by any other honorable member opposite. Not only were those opinions expressed, but they were accepted and endorsed by the present Federal Government, and it was on the basis of those opinions that the Federal Government framed its policy. As a result of the conference, the Prime Minister announced that it was the intention of the Government, to balance the budget.
– That was decided on long before the conference.
– I am very pleased to hear it, and it only shows that, having conferred with Sir Otto Niemeyer, the Government was confirmed in the determination which it had arrived at before the conference. I do not want to rob the Government of a single bit of credit to which it is entitled for its determination to balance the budget. The honorable member for Martin referred derogatively to Sir Otto Niemeyer, saying that he was a banker., not an economist. I have always understood that banking was a department of economics.
– The same as bookmaking.
– I expect that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) knows a good deal more about bookmaking than about economics, judging from the speech he inflicted on us the other night.
The situation confronting Australia today can be stated very simply: We are facing a financial situation of the extremist gravity, and I am quite sure that there is not an honorable member on this side of the House who is not willing to assist in every possible way to meet that situation.
– Their speeches have not indicated that.
– I think they have. There has been more unanimity on this side of the House than on the other side. The honorable member for Martin charged this Government with not being a Labour government. He accused it of having been treacherous to the cause of the people, which it was supposed to represent. He said that Australia had not yet had a Labour government in power. “ Wait till we get a Labour government,” he said, “ and we shall see what we shall see.” Thank God we have not yet had a Labour government, if we might expect from it a policy such as that foreshadowed by the honorable member for Martin. I sympathize from the bottom of my heart with the leaders of the Labour party in this House, with the Acting Prime Minister and the Acting Treasurer. They are saddled with a tremendous responsibility; they are faced with problems of the utmost complexity and difficulty, and they are standing up to their work like men.
We have heard a great deal about the principles of high finance. It seems to me that the principles of high finance are very much akin to those of low finance. The same financial principles ought to actuate and govern the Commonwealth in its activities as actuate and govern the individual in the community. What has brought us to our present unfortunate state? I do not think that the people of Australia are interested in the slightest degree in the question as to who is responsible for the present situation. The fact is that we are where we are - faced with tremendous problems, and the only question worth considering is how best to meet the situation. There are three principles by which we must be guided if we are to get out of the mess we are in. First, we must learn to live within our means ; secondly, we must be meticulously careful to meet every obligation; and, thirdly, we must learn to cut our coat according to our cloth. It is because we have violated every one of these fundamental principles that we are in such difficulties to-day. I am going to vote for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and I shall tell the House why.
– Because the honorable member is a good party hack.
– I do not think that my worst enemy could accuse me of being a party hack. I believe that the Government should bring in proposals more in accordance with the resolutions adopted at the Melbourne conference - that is, that our obligations must be met.. The one thing, which determined me to vote for the amendment is the action of the Government in exempting from sacrifice those public servants in receipt of salaries under £725 a year, and at the same time protesting its desire to balance the budget. We pride ourselves upon the fact that we are a democratic community ; that political power in Australia is equally distributed; that every man and woman, upon attaining the age of 21 years, has conferred upon him or her the right of citizenship. But we should recognize that the- right of citizenship implies also its obligations. It follows, therefore, that every adult individual in the Commonwealth should bear his or her share of its taxation burdens. The Commonwealth is faced with a vast financial obligation, the equitable distribution of which should receive our most earnest thought. Every person should bear a share according to his or her ability. This involves no exception, and yet I have not heard a word from the Government or its supporters to indicate the principle upon which the figure of £725 for the exemption of public servants from special taxation was agreed upon.
Mr.Watkins. - The honorable member is dealing with only one phase of the Government’s proposals.
– The honorable member is right, but this phase involves a fundamental principle. I should like to know precisely upon -what principle an exemption of £725 was determined. I feel convinced that if the case for Public Service taxation were fairly stated, every employee of the Commonwealth would willingly undertake to bear his or her share. None would say “I desire to be exempt.”
– I invite the honorable member to put that proposition to his constituents at the next election.
– It seems to me that the interjection by the honorable member forBendigo (Mr. Keane) suggests the reason that actuated the Government in fixing the exemption for the Public Service special taxation at £725 a year. It indicates the belief in the minds of the Government and its supporters, that if they went before their constituents with the proposal that public servants drawing salaries less than £725 a year should be saddled with their share of the Commonwealth’s financial obligations, they would alienate that vote.
– At the last election we stood for no wage reduction.
– I would sooner go out of public life than-
– The honorable member will do that all right.
– We all have to pass out of public life sooner or later; but if a man is retired from public life because he stands for right principles, he, at least, preserves his self-respect. I stand absolutely for the principle that every individual in the Commonwealth should bear his or her share of the burdens that are pressing upon us so heavily to-day. I understand that the Government desires the division to be taken now, so I shall not further detain the House.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Latham’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “ as an instruction to the Government to revise immediately the tariff on a scientific basis, so that the cost of living will be reduced, the cost of production lessened, and employment increased.”
Question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules Nos. 118, 123, 129.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 121.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 136.
Sales Tax on Products of MunicipalAuthorities - Primage Duty on Fertilizers andcornsacks.
Motion (By Mr. Fenton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.G ABB (Angas) [3.56].- I wish to take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), who is now present, the operations of the sales tax on products of municipal quarries used by municipalities. In this connexion I wish to read a communication I have received from Mr. A. C. Weller, the Town Clerk of the Murray Bridge Corporation, who states : -
I have been directed to inform you that at a meeting of the Murray Bridge Corporation, held last evening, the following resolution was unanimously carried. “ That this council protests against the imposition of sales tax on the products of the corporation quarry, which are used solely for corporation purposes, and requests the federal member for the district to make representations on our behalf to the responsible authorities.”
We have been informed by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxes, Adelaide, that we must pay sales tax on all marl quarried at our own rubble pit, or stone raised at our quarry if processed in any way for use on our roads or footpaths, and this we deem to be a most unfair charge upon a local governing body, and confidently appeal to you to support our protest to the best of your ability.
Knowing that the Acting Treasurer was exceptionally busy at the present juncture, I interviewed the Commissioner of Taxation on this matter in the hope that something might be done. I ascertained, however, that a matter of policy was involved, and so I am bringing the subject forward this afternoon. I was informed by the Commissioner that the sales tax provides that manufacturers shall pay the sales tax on commodities which they manufacture, and which they consume or use themselves. He also said “If you were residing in a municipality and required some screenings on your garden path, you would purchase them from the quarry, and would have to pay the tax.” I replied, “ Yes.” He further said, “ If there were not a footpath in front of your residence, and you wished one constructed at your own expense you would purchase screenings from the quarry for the purpose.” I again replied in the affirmative. The Commissioner then said, “ Supposing two or, in fact, all of the residents in. the street wished to do the same thing.” He went on to argue that in effect the ratepayers were purchasing the screenings - he did not use those words, but that is my interpretation of his remarks - from the municipal quarries through the rates they paid.
– Of course it is. I do not know whether this is a matter that could be rectified by the Minister, or whether an amendment of the act would be necessary; but when I supported the imposition of the sales tax earlier this year, I did not think that these absurdities would occur.
I also ask the Government to take steps to relieve State Governments of the obligation to pay sales tax on purchases which 4hey make for their own use. If I remember correctly, it was originally intended to exempt all State Governments from the payment- of this taxation, but it was pointed out that certain State departments were competing with private enterprise, and that it would be unfair to grant them such exemption. But it seems to me that as the taxpayers of the States are also the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, the taxing of State Governments is also absurd. I understand that the provincial governments in Canada enjoy a substantial measure of exemption from sales taxation. If an amendment of the Sales Tax Assessment Act would bc necessary to give effect to my request, the introduction of such a measure would open up a debate upon the whole subject, and probably lead to many requests for additional exemptions; but as I understand the House will remain in session for some time, the consideration of this subject might lead to the achievement of much good. At any rate, I trust that the Government will give earnest consideration to these matters, and put an end to many of the absurdities at present occurring.
.- According to the figures supplied yesterday to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), primage duty at the increased rate of 4 per cent, on fertilizers and corn sacks would amount to £185,000 on last year’s importations. It is expected that the return this year will be considerably higher than that. I ask the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) to consider whether:it would not be possible to use this revenue for the purpose of assisting wheat-growers during the coming year ?
.- I- associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). On various occasions, I have asked the Acting Treasurer to take steps to exempt governmental instrumentalities from sales taxation. This class of taxation will cost the South Australian Government
£600,000 this year. The Acting Treasurer has twice told me that my request is being considered. In view of the financial difficulties of South Australia, it is highly desirable that it should be relieved of the obligation to pay this taxation. Many municipal corporations, district councils, and other subgovernmental bodies are also feeling the burden of this taxation. It seems to me that the collection of this money by the Government is like taking it out of one pocket and putting it in another. I trust that the Government will relieve governmental instrumentalities - and I use the term in its broadest sense - of this obligation.
.- I also support the remarks that honorable members have made in connexion with the sales taxation on government contracts. A section in the act provides that contracts entered into prior to a certain date in July shall not be affected by the tax. Although practically all government contracts at present current were signed in January or February last, the Taxation Departments in the various States are demanding this taxation on the ground that specific quantities of goods are not mentioned in the contracts. I understood that the taxation was to be imposed upon price, and not upon quantities. A contractor cannot raise his prices, and I do not think it is fair in all the circumstances that the taxation should be imposed. I understand that the Governments of New South Wales and South Australia have obtained legal advice to the effect that they are not liable to pay the taxation. I am addressing certain correspondence to the Taxation Department on this subject, which I hope will receive favorable consideration.
Another anomaly in connexion with the sales tax is that wholesale manufacturing tailors are charged sales taxation on their output at the wholesale price, but retail tailors, and particularly those who deal in made-to-order suits, are charged on the retail price. It is an anomaly that importers should pay the tax on theprice of their material, plus 20 per cent., while the retail tailors should have to pay on their retail prices. The retail tailors of Victoria have asked mc to bring this matter under the notice of the Government. I. shall, forward.- the. complete correspondence- to- the Acting. Treasurer. In: these- times- anything- that tends tocause uncertainty has . a. depressing effect upon, business.
Mr.LYONS (Wilmot-Acting; Treasurer). [4.8]. - I. donot- think- that honorable members desire me to deal in, detail, with the representations which have just been made in- regard) to- the’ sales tax:. All the matters- that have been- mentioned,.,except that- which: related, to- the primage duty, have been, considered by the Government.. When Parliament- reassembled, it was hoped’, that the sittings would have ended before now, and it- wasnot intended to deal, with anything except budget matters; but as’ we may be here for. a longer period’ than was at first thought likely, it’ may be possible to’ review the whole position in regard to the sales tax, and’, if necessary, introduce amendments’ to the act: If the present sittings are to be continued’ for some considerable time, as seems to be the desire’ of some: honorable members, at’ any rate, -we- shall take these matters’ into consideration, and, when a decision has been reached, it will be submitted to the House. Within the last hour I have been’ in communication by telephone with the Premier’ of South Australia, Mr. Hill) on the very subject raised by honorable members on both sides; and I have givenhim an assurance that’ the’ Government will confer with him and other State Premiers with a view to arriving at finality in the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 November 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19301121_reps_12_127/>.