12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. McGrath) took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - A grave situation is at present developing on the waterfront, and I think it is due that I should indicate the attitude of the Government in regard to it. The compulsory conference, over which the Conciliation Commissioner presided, adjourned yesterday without having effected a settlement, and the latest reports which the Government has received indicate that the trouble is likely to extend. Our information as to the origin of the trouble is meagre. “We are largely dependent upon newspaper reports, two of which I propose to quote. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 13th of October, stated -
During the last trip of the Canberra a member of the crew was taken ill and he was put ashore, an assurance being given, it is said, that he would be re-instated when the ship returned to Sydney. It was alleged at yesterday’s meeting of the union that some of the crew were disrated after leaving Cairns, and that one member was given notice. The crew . . . . decided to support the discharged member, alleging thathe had been victimized.
More definite, and, perhaps, clearer is the account published in the Labor Daily of the 14th October -
On its trip north recently one of the trimmers was taken ill and his position had to be filled by another member of the Seamen’s Union. The company intimated, prior to the ship’s sailing for Melbourne, that it desired the former member of the crew, who has been restored to health, to again join the ship, and served notice of dismissal on the other man. The Seamen’s Union objected to the proposal and informed the company that the trimmer who had been given notice, should be reinstated. It is alleged that it is a case of attempted victimization. Several efforts on the part of the company to fill the vacancy failed, and the ship was tied up.
– Is it not possible for the Prime Minister to get authentic information in regard to the facts?
– Who is the man?
– I am giving to the House all the information in my possession. The two accounts I have quoted support the official reports which the Government has received from its officers in Sydney. So far as I am aware, no official statement has been made by either the ship-owners or the officials of the Seamen’s Union. I have, however, an expression of opinion by the officers of a union which is indirectly affected by the dispute. Mr. G. E. Moate, Federal President of the Marine Stewards and Pantrymen’s Union, in a statement published on the 16th October, said -
My association is not going to be embroiled in a dispute, which has been brought about by a so-called rank and file committee, which has taken the matter out of the hands of responsible officials of the union. Several members of this so-called committee are well known communists, and one of the men over whom the trouble arose is a prominent member of the Communist party, who attempted to interfere in the miners and other disputes. This man’s activities have led to the disruption of the industrial movement wherever he has appeared.
The secretary of the same union, Mr. A. H. Moate, said -
The hold-up of the Canberra when every port of Australia was crammed with idle steamers was nothing short of imbecility.
He pointed out that other sections of the crew had been disregarded, and added -
It was the policy of the Stewards Union that, when a member who had been ill returned to his ship, the relief man must make way fur him, and leave the ship. The seamen seem to have a policy to compel the sick man to leave his job. It is a new brand of unionism, and without the first ethics of justice or equity.
If that is a true statement of the position - and I have no information to the contrary - I agree with Mr. A. H. Moate, that the seamen are practising a new brand of unionism, which is without the first principles of justice or equity. One of the first principles of unionism is mateship, and an essential of mateship is that men shall stand by a sick colleague, and see that he regains his job when he recovers. The holding up of the shipping of Australia in order to insist that a relief man shall displace one who had been sick is a violation of the principles of unionism, and the very antithesis of every labour ideal. “ Unionism requires tha! mcn shall consider not alone the members of their own organization, but also the members of other unions, and their fellow workers generally. At a time when 400,000 men and women are unemployed, .living on a more pittance and looking for some improvement in industry in order that they may get back to employment, a thousand more persons are to bc thrown into semistarvation ; and this disaster is being precipitated by one man. Unionists - and 1 speak to them as one who has been a unionist for over a quarter of a century - should take the advice of their elected officers, and not of those who would thrust themselves on them as their leaders. Unions must assert themselves to control their members. If irresponsible individuals are allowed to control unions and their members, and if as a result regular seamen lose their positions, such unions cannot look for support to other unions or to a Labour Government. Union leaders are elected by all the members of the union; but in this instance a scratch meeting has been called which has pushed aside those leaders, and formed a so-called rankandfile strike committee. That strike committee demands the reinstatement of one man, and that a.n apology shall be made to him for his dismissal. The right honorable member ‘for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) asks who this man is. I also asked that question, and the official re port supplied to me is taken from the papers of the ship that has been tied up, the Canberra. Here is the entry in detail -
Joseph Schelley, signed on Canberra on the 20th August. “ Born in Germany, 1889; naturalized British subject. Address - 8 Argyle Place, Sydney. Produced discharge showing that his hist time at sca was 1923, on the SS. Era. Discharged 12th October, 1931.
The address there .given is that of the Communist International Seamen’s Club. If this man has been victimized, he has been victimized for a period of eight lon& years, and his colleagues have been a long while in waking up to his victimization. Upon Schelley’s record I shall not dilate. Here is a man who was chosen because of a resolution to the effect that the individual who had been longest unemployed should fill the existing vacancy. Schelley Avon easily. It is my opinion that this man is not a bona fide seaman, seeing that he was last at sea so long ago as 1923. If this man, who is the chairman of the strike committee, and moved the resolution affirming that he should be reinstated, is to cause the shipping of the country to be held up and its industries paralyzed, with resultant misery to waterside workers and all who are indirectly employed in connexion with shipping, at a time when employment is so dear to all, 1 issue a warning. I ask those concerned to remember what happened to the waterside workers on a previous occasion. The members of that union made only one mistake. It lasted for only a few days, yet their membership suffered for it for many years. But in that struggle the men and their organization had a basis of dispute; they fought for the maintenance of conditions which had been taken from them by the award of tha Arbitration Court. I am not discussing the merits of the question then at issue; 1 merely emphasize the fact that they were fighting to maintain conditions. There have been many disputes, many strikes and lockouts in this country, and even when I could not support the judgment of those who were participating in them, my sympathy has invariably been with the men who were struggling for better conditions. But I see no analogy between any dispute of the past and that which now exists. Whatever mistake the wacerside workers may have made- in the past, this Government felt, and still feels that unionists, as such, were being penalized. Consequently, it issued certain regulations, and it will continue to re-issue those regulations so long as they may be necessary. I hope that they will be allowed to operate, as they have maintained order and efficiency on the waterfront, and have preserved a measure of justice to the unionists who do a certain class of work on the waterfront.
I warn those concerned now that if trouble is precipitated over the action of this man Schelley, the men responsible cannot look to this Government to take similar action to that which has been taken on behalf of the waterside workers. There is no analogy between the two cases. Not only has the action of Schelley and his associates shown a wanton disregard of the national welfare; it has also shown no thought for their fellow workers; and no loyalty to their union or to any other union. No government with any sense of responsibility could countenance or support such destructive tactics, more particularly as these individuals are acting without any semblance of authority.
– Then why does not the Government take action?
– If an organization or an individual is bent on disturbing the peace of the country the police, under the direction of the State Governments, can deal with the trouble, and the support of the Commonwealth Government will be behind the States in their action. 1 urge the men to man the ships without delay. I urge the shipowners to give the fullest opportunity for wiser counsels to prevail. Any points in the dispute that require adjustment should be submitted at once to a conference presided over by the Conciliation Commissioner. I trust that reason and justice may prevail in this unfortunate matter.
.- by leave - The Prime Minister has just spoken on a subject akin to those which on a number of other occasions have been discussed in this House, interference with the maritime transport trade of Australia by a few irresponsible persons whose lead has. unfortunately, been followed by others. In this instance the Prime Minister has traced the substantial responsibility for the stoppage to a single individual, a communist. Apparently, the right honorable gentleman believes that in this case the dispute is communist in origin and intention. All the evidence appears to point in that direction.
As tho Prime Minister has stated, the position is grave. It i3 a particularly serious thing to hold up tho export trade of Australia at this time of the year. Lamb export is going on, and any delay in shipping means irretrievable losses. Unfortunately, for some years past, this season of the year has generally been chosen as the time to bring about a maritime hold-up.
I understand that this action is a deliberate breach of an- agreement by which the union is bound. The Prime Minister has not said anything about that. I must confess to a certain amount of astonishment that the information which the right honorable gentleman placed before the national Parliament on this very important matter is derived from the press - I admit that reports’ from newspapers on both sides have been taken - and from the statement of tho officers of certain unions interested but not directly engaged in the dispute. There has been a conference before the Registrar of the Arbitration Court. I ‘ am not aware of any reason why the Registrar should not have forwarded to the Prime Minister at least an outline of the facts presented to him, without disclosing anything of a confidential nature, so that the Leader of the Government would be in a position to make an authoritativo statement to this House. The statement which the right honorable gentleman has made this afternoon amounts to an effort to persuade tho members of the Seamen’s Union to resume work ; and in that effort he will . probably have the support of every member of this House. I admit that while the Prime Minister was speaking, my mind went back to the times when his predecessor spoke in the same strain on r similar subject. It is right for the Prime Minister to bring influence to bear upon tho members of the Union to resume work; but should they not return, another question willarise. In that case, if the Government realizes its responsibility - and the statement of the Prime Minister indicates that it does - other action will have to be taken, and the Government will have to consider the granting of protection in their employment to men, not members of the union, who are prepared to carry on the work of the country. That is precisely the position which the last Government had to face on a number of occasions.
– The honorable member is inviting trouble.
– I do not say that action of that kind should be taken immediately, nor am I prepared to say in detail what that action might be; but I assure the House that legislation introduced by the late Government, and now on the statute-book, contains provisions which will enable the Government to act effectively should the members of the Seamen’s Union decline to accept the wise advice of the Prime Minister. I sincerely hope that, in their own ultimate interests as well as in the immediate and ultimate interests of the country, the members of the union will have the wisdom and prudence to accept that advice. In that case, there would be no need for anything further to bo done; but if, on the other hand, they choose to disregard that advice, another question will arise.
I do not proposeto refer to the waterside workers’ strike, or the regulations under the Transport Workers Act, although the right honorable gentleman himself raised those subjects. In my opinion, it is undesirable at the present stage to discuss other contingencies. Generally, I approve of the acceptance of responsibility on the part of the Government which the statement of the Prime Minister indicates; and if the Government will see the matter through, consistently with the general principles which the Prime Minister has enunciated this afternoon, I feel that he will have the support of honorable members on this side of the House.
. - by leave - In a matter of such importance as that which has been brought before us by the Prime Minister this afternoon, I feel that he, as Leader of the Government, should get into touch with the officials of the Seamen’s Union.
– I sent a telegram to the secretary of the union, but found that he had gone to Melbourne. I am still endeavouring to get into communication with him.
– I am glad to know that. This is a matter which concern? every State, and many kindred organizations.
– The producers of this country are vitally concerned.
– I am unable either to dispute or to endorse the Prime Minister’s statement that this trouble has arisen because of a demand by the union for the reinstatement of one of its members. My experience is that the stated cause of an industrial dispute - in this case obtained from press reports - or not always the real reason for it; there are generally other causes. For that reason I suggest that the Prime Minister should get into communication with the officials of the organization.
– Are those who are conducting the dispute really the officials of the organization ?
– The Prime Minister was unable to say whether the members of the union are acting on the advice of their officers, or not. He said that a rank and file committee had been set up for the purpose of dealing with the dispute. That is not unusual. The constitution of most industrial organizations provides that the members shall determine the policy of the organization in relation to various questions as they arise.
– Mr. Raeburn says that the dispute has been taken out of the hands of the officials.
– If that is so, it must have been done by the members of the union.
– Can we stand for that kind of thing at the present time?
– If it were possible to consult with the officials of the union, we should better understand the facts of the case, and, therefore, be in a better position to remedy the situation before the dispute extends. Knowing the serious consequences to waterside workers and others of an extension of the dispute, I am not anxious for the trouble to develop, if that can possibly be avoided. I hope that the Prime Minister will do his utmost to bring about a satisfactory settlement ofthe trouble.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
Leave not granted.
– I present a petition from Frederick Watson, of Gungahleen, Federal Capital Territory, stating that the time is opportune for the resubdivision of Australia into smaller selfgoverning federal units, and for the readjustment of the system of government, to secure the sympathetic development of all parts of Australia, to reduce the overhead costs of government by many millions of pounds per annum, and to limit the system of party politics to the Federal Parliament only, and praying that the Parliament of the Commonwealth may pass the legislation necessary to submit to a referendum of the people at the ensuing general elections certain constitutional alterations, and also praying that the petitioner may be heard at the bar of the House in support of his petition.
.-I move -
That the petition be printed.
I do that as I intend to submit a notice of motion within fourteen days in connexion with the prayer of the petitioner.
– I wish to examine the petition before I agree that it shall be printed. I have read its terms, butI desire to have some idea of the cost of printing it. Copies of it have already been circulated among honorable members, and 1 do not think that any useful purpose would be served by printing it. 1 askthe honorable member not to persist with his motion at this stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral propose to take any action with respect to requests made to him, principally by representatives of the commercial community of Sydney, for an amendment of the Bankruptcy Act to deal with priorities of creditors, where a creditor has carried on a debtor under arrangement, and also with certain administrative expenses in connexion with which a difficulty has lately arisen?
– It is proposed to introduce, at an early date, legislation amending the Bankruptcy Act. The question whether the subject mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition requires a special amendment of the act is under consideration, but my present impression is that the amendments will not be dealt with piecemeal. Whatever amendments are considered necessary will be introduced at an early date.
– Will the Prime Minister bring under the consideration of Cabinet the granting of permission temporarily to any State which desires to mint its own silver, in consideration of the profits being divided between the Commonwealth and the State concerned?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Is it the intention of the Minister to call a convention at Canberra to deal with child welfare, and, if so, when will it take place?
– It was the intention of the Government to call a conference towards the end of this year, but it was found that that would inconvenience many people living in distant parts of Australia. The convention was postponed indefinitely, but I think that it will be held probably about March of next year.
– What action does the
Government purpose taking in view of the fact that the shipping combine with which Lord Kylsant is connected, has defaulted to the extent of £156,000 in respect of instalments due on the purchase of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers? Does the Government consider that the promise to pay interest on the sum overdue is sufficient to safe- guard the interests of the Commonwealth? Is it not a fact that the purchasers of the line solemnly undertook not to raise freights to Australian shippers because of securing a monopoly of the export trade from Australia? As this undertaking has been flagrantly violated, and as defaulting purchasers of soldiers’ homes have, in many instances, forfeited their holdings, will the Government take steps to recover the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers? If such action is not taken, how can this differential treatment between the rich and the poor be justified?
– With reference to payments of interest on principal, I refer the honorable member to the recent statement of the Treasurer, in which he set out the whole position. As the latter part of the honorable member’s question relates to general policy, it cannot be answered.
– Several months ago I asked the Prime Minister whether the Government would declare the Communist party an illegal organization, and he replied that he would consult his colleague, the Attorney-General. I now ask him whether the Government has considered my question, and whether, in view of the destructive activities of the communists, and their openly declared purpose to bring about a revolution, it proposes to take action to circumvent their nefarious plans and pernicious propaganda ?
– The AttorneyGeneral will make a statement to the House in the course of a day or two.
– I understand that £3,000,000 was advanced by the Commonwealth Bank to the New South Wales Government Savings Bank before the 4th of May, and £1,200,000 afterwards. What is the character of the securities, and is there any difference between those supplied before the 4th of May and those supplied afterwards?
– I shall have the matter investigated, and furnish full particulars to the honorable member.
Dismissal from Garden Island.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that two returned soldiers, named Clunes and Eldershaw, one of whom has had six and a half years’ service at Garden Island, and the other nine and a half years’ service, have received notice that their services will be dispensed with fromFriday next, while three nonreturned men have been kept on? Will the Minister hold up the discharge until a full report on the matter has been obtained ?
– I am not aware of the particulars mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall have a full inquiry made, and furnish the honorable member with information at a later stage.
– (1) Has the Minister seen a statement in the press to the effect that the leader of an organization styling itself “The New Guard” threatens that this body will intervene forcibly in industrial disputes? (2) Has the Minister seen a statement in the Daily Telegraph, Sydney, of the 19th October, in which he describes the members of the New Guard as being “ trained “? (3) Will the Minister state what action the Government has taken or proposes to take to ascertain what precisely the word “ trained “ means, and whether the New Guard is under secret or open military training and organization? (4) Will the Minister state whether any steps have been taken to ascertain if military arms and equipment are being assembled by the New Guard? (5) Will the Minister state whether the Government realizes that the operations of the New Guard are in the direction of inciting insurrection and violence, and whether the Government does not consider that the time has arrived for action to be taken by it to deal appropriately with the New Guard, and its parade of military organization and intent?
– The question is a very long one, and should properly have been placed upon the notice-paper.I may say in passing, however, that the Government, ‘ through my department, is fully informed of the activities of any organization which might break the peace. We also keep a close check upon military materials and ammunition. With regard to the last part of the honorable member’s question, he should know that measures for the prevention of violence are in the hands of State Governments, and directly under the control of the State Police Department. Action could be taken by the Federal Government only at the request of a State, if the State felt that it could not cope with possible disorder. No such request has been made to us.
– Will the Minis ter for Defence state what progress was made by the late Sir Bertram Mackennal in the preparation of the memorial to Australian and New Zealand soldiers which was to be erected at the Suez Canal?
– Competitive designs were invited during 1022 for the proposed monument to soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Forces who laid down their lives in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria during 1916-18. The design of Mr.C. Webb Gilbert, of Melbourne, was selected. Good progress was made by Mr. Gilbert with the work until his untimely death in 1925. Mr. Paul Montford, of Melbourne, then worked for a short time upon the group, but ultimately arrangements were made with Sir Bertram Mackennal, R.A., to complete the sculptural group as originally designed. Of a total height of 84 feet, the surmounting masses and simple sculptural group typifying Australian and New Zealand horsemen in action takes 14 feet. The pedestal and base in Australian stone have been erected. Four models for the sculptural group are out of the sculptor’s hands, the last having been despatched to the founder by Sir Bertram Mackennal on the morning of his death. The work of the founder is well in hand, and it is anticipated that the group will be available in Egypt at about Easter1932. Towards the cost of the memorial, troops in the field contributed £5,400; the New Zealand Government, £2,000; and the Australian Government the balance, estimated at £7,000.
Trade with China.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Markets a question relating to the export of timber from Australia to China, and by way of explanation I shall read the following extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 20th October:-
Trade with China.
Chinese Firm’s Complaint.
Mr. Gock Young, of the Chinese Exporting Company, Messrs. Wing, On and Company, of Shanghai, Hongkong, and Canton, in Australia, said yesterday thathe deplored the fact that hisfirm was hindered in its endeavour to improve trade relationship with China in the timber trade. “ Recently “, he said, “ a Chinese firm received an order for a shipment of 14,000 sleepers, also other hardwoods, to bo landed in Hongkong.
Shipping arrangements were made in Hongkong with a certain shipping company, whose friendship with China at present is commercially and nationally strained, owing to recent political developments in China. Other arrangements had to be made. They approached the shipping companies of the regular liners now running between Australia and China, with a view to taking over and contracting upon the same conditions as arranged in Hongkong. Shipping companies declined to call at Port Stephens and other coastal ports to receive sleepers direct, in order to avoid high transhipping charges in Sydney. The timber industry- is likely to suffer “.
In view of the desirability of assisting the export trade of timber from Australia, to China, will the Minister have inquiries made with a view to assistingthis company to have these sleepers, as well as any other timber which may be ordered, shipped to Hongkong?
-I noticed the newspaper statement which the honorable member has quoted, and my department has taken what steps it considered necessary to see that our export, trade in hardwood timber is not adversely affected.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the following manifesto issued by the Marine Transport Section, a minority group of the Waterside Workers Federation, and a communist organization: -
TO A1YL WATERSIDE WORKERS OF MELBOURNE.
The decision of the Melbourne seamen not to man the Dimboola, because of the fact that thu shipowners intended using it as a means of smashing the fighting spirit of the New South Willee seamen, who ure on strike against tha victimization of a member of the crew 0 the Canberra, demands immediate action on the part of the waterside workers of Melbourne.
The seamen have declared the Dimboola “ black “, which menus that this ship should not be bandied in any way by any section of the working class, and this decision is a call to the fighting spirit of the waterside workers, si ca.ll to the solidarity of all members of tho working class, a call that must be answered by the waterside workers falling into line »v i tb the seamen.
The seamen have set up a Rank and File Strike Committee-
– I ask iiic honorable member to 1)0 as brief as possible.
– I shall not read the rest of the document, but the concluding words are, “ All out on the waterfront under rank and file control “. If the Prime Minister has seen this document, and press references to the same subject, is ho still satisfied to say that the Government will support the State police, if necessary? Does he not think it necessary to take some action to tighten up the Immigration Act so as to prevent nuisances, such as those responsible for documents of this kind, coming to Australia?
– The Immigration Act has been so tightened by this Government that I have heard nothing but complaints from honorable members opposite regarding its stringency.
Effect of Sales Tax
– Have any representations ‘been received by the Treasurer, or his department, that the issue of food relief to persons in necessitous circumstances has decreased in value owing to the operation of the sales tax-? Is he in a position to inform the House of the extent, if any, to which the sales tax prejudicially affects the sup’ply of food to persons forced, through unemployment and poverty, to accept food relief? If he is at present unable to make a statement on the matter, will he cause inquiries to be made, and inform honorable members later?
– The sales tax does not apply to basic foods of primary production, such as bread, milk, tea, butter, meat, &c. It applies to processed foods such as preserved fruits, meats and so on, but l do not think that that has had any_ material effect. on the price of commodities supplied for unemployment relief.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that eight casks of cut glass stemmed blanks, valued at £202 15s. Sd., and branded C.C.G. Coy., which means the Crown Crystal Glass Company, of Sydney, were passed through the customs in August of the present year? Are not these or similar importations the blanks from which were cut the goods illustrated in the .Home Journal of the’ lst October, and advertised as Grimwade crown crystal, “every piece of which is made from start to finish by Australian craftsmen at the works of the Crown Crystal Company, Sydney”? Is it not a fact that these glasses were merely finished from imported stems, and that, the advertisement of them as an entirely Australian product is misleading?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs cannot be expected to be conversant with the thousands of entries at the Customs Houses of the Commonwealth every day. If the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) will let me have particulars, I shall investigate the matter, and let him have a reply.
Advances to Local GOVERNING Bodies.
– In view of the statement of the Treasurer that the provision of funds for local governing bodies for the construction of public works is outside the functions of the Commonwealth Government, and that such funds are allocated only by the Commonwealth Bank Board, will the Minister for Health oblige honorable members by informing them (1) by what means he secured the sum of £40,000 for the Warrnambool sewerage scheme; (2) as many other towns are equally in need of similar consideration, will he indicate the best method by which private members can approach our financial masters, the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank?
– Several months ago the Warrnambool City Council communicated with me in regard to an advance from the Commonwealth Bank for the carrying out of a sewerage scheme. The Victorian Government had proposed to advance money for the purpose from the Unemployed Belief Fund, but as that offer did not materialize, I brought the Warrnambool and Horsham sewerage schemes under the notice of the Prime Minister several weeks prior to the conference between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Prime Minister and Treasurer. For months I was an intermediary in the negotiations between the Warrnambool and Horsham local authorities and the bank, which, because both proposals were sound, eventually agreed to advance the necessary money.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, following the recommendation by the unemployment secretariat, any action has been taken by the Government to have a further investigation of the economic liquidation of the debts of the farming community ?
– I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know what has been done.
– On a question of privilege, I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the unsatisfactory mail service in this building. Before 6.30 p.m. yesterday I posted in the King’s Hall a letter addressed to my office in Sydney, and it has not yet been delivered. Such delays are frequent. I have complained to the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Sydney, but no redress appears to be forthcoming from that source. I, therefore, ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to investigate the matter.
– I assure the honorable member that full inquiry into his complaint will be made.
– Can the Treasurer say when a compilation of the Sales Tax regulations and rulings will be printed and issued?
– I shall inquire into the matter.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The basis for the final settlement of the balances of international and inter-dominion trade transactions is gold. Nothing that Australia or Great Britain may do can force their creditors to accept settlement on any other basis.
Bus Shelter Sheds
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Mr. Gepp was asked recently to inquire into and make a report upon the possibilities of establishing the soda ash industry in South Australia. Investigations have not been made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but Dr. Rivett, Chief Executive Officer of the Council, was asked to collaborate with Mr. Gepp in the matter.
Position of Overseas Traders
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Preference to Unionists and Returned Soldiers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked me a question without notice in regard to the work of the Shale Oil Development Committee in New South Wales in connexion with the expenditure of the sum of £93,000 which was made available for the repatriation of excess coal-miners. a report dated the 7th October received from the committee indicates that the total expenditure of the committee up to the 24th September, 1931, amounted to £7,92511s. 3d. This amount has been used for subsidizing the employment of mine workers by approved companies on a £1 for £1 basis, and for the carrying out of certain experiments at Newnes. The work at Newnes is at present being carried out solely by the Shale Oil Development Committee for the purpose of proving deposits, and with the object of conducting experiments in methods for the extraction of oil. The whole of the financial operations of the Shale Oil Development Committee pass through the ordinary Commonwealth Treasury channels, and the accounts are subject to audit by the Commonwealth Auditor-General. postmaster-general’s department.
Orders for Overseas Material
In reply to an inquiry addressed to him by me the Postmaster-General wrote, on the 13th October -
Since the present Government took office, the department has placed orders overseas to the value of approximately £49,000 for material which it would have been practicable to manufacture in Australia.
Has the Postmaster-General any explanation to offer in relation to that strange admission regarding expenditure overseas on equipment which could have been manufactured in Australia? Is such expenditure in keeping with: the policy of the Government for the protection of Australian manufacturers?
I then intimated that I would supply the honorable member with further details to prove that, since the present Government assumed office, the proportion of imports to local manufacturers in the purchases of the Postal Department has. decreased considerably. The department has consistently adopted the policy of obtaining its supplies in Australia to the utmost possible extent. ‘ The main reason why orders have gone overseas, during the term of office of the present Government, is because of the exceptionally high cost which would have been entailed in obtaining the items locally. Of the total purchases made of material for post office requirements, the percentage obtained from overseas has shown a substantial fall year by year, the figures being as follow : -
The following papers were pre sented : -
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted to 30th September, 1931.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act.
Ordinances of 1931 -
No.6 - Workmen’s Compensation.
No. 7 - Mortgagors’ Interest Reduction.
No. 8 - Firearms Registration.
No. 9 - Workmen’s Compensation (No. 2).
Crown Lands Ordinance - Regulations.
Firearms Registration Ordinance - Regulations.
Report (No. 8) brought up by Mr.’ Tully, and read by the clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Tully) - by leave - proposed -
That the report be agreed to.
.- I ask the Printing Committee to consider the desirability of printing in convenient form the original motion in this House. amendments thereto, and the final resolution for the adoption of the Statute of Westminster. From all parts of Australia I have received requests for copies of the resolution. It is available only in the Votes and Proceedings, my demand for copies of which has caused a certain amount of inconvenience.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report agreed to.
Motion, (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That hu have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of wheat and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (HumeMinister for Markets [3.33]. - by leave - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is designed to give effect to the decision of the Premiers Conference held in Melbourne early in September, that a sum of £3,000,000 should be provided for the payment of a bounty on the production of wheat. An arrangement has been made with the banks that the money shall be loaned to the Commonwealth Government, and that a bounty not exceeding 6d. a bushel shall be paid on this season’s crop. The Premiers Conference, when considering the proposal that the banks should be appealed to for assistance, suggested that the bounty should be provided on the basis of f.a.q. .wheat exported, with an equivalent bounty for flour, provided that the bounty did not increase the f.o.b. price of wheat beyond 3s. a bushel. To that the banks agreed. Then the matter of the allocation of the amount arose. Each of the States made inquiries whether the money was to be allotted wholly as an export bounty, or whether it was to be on a production basis. A considerable difference of opinion existed as to which method should be adopted, but it was generally considered that unanimity should be arrived at. It is quite conceivable that States like Western Australia and South Australia, which have a small home consumption, would not approve of the allocation of the money wholly ou a production basis. It is also quite understandable that the more populous States would have some objection to making the allocation .entirely on an export basis.
I received requests from all of the States, except Tasmania, to convene a conference of representatives of the Governments, and of the wheat-growers, in an endeavour to arrive at a definite and satisfactory basis. I arranged that conference, at which all sides put their case. Finally, it was agreed that the bounty should be paid on wheat exported, but that provision should also be made whereby the bounty equivalent should be paid on locally consumed wheat. The Queensland representative expressed the opinion that the allocation should be on a production basis, and from the point of view of that State there was something to be said for his contention, although the limitation in price excluded that State. It wa3 agreed that while the payment should be primarily on wheat exported, provision should be made for a bounty to be paid on wheat sold for local consumption. The conference set about evolving a scheme under which that could be done. In effect, the bounty will be paid on total production, although the method employed will be different from that usually adopted in such cases.
– That is so. When the banks agreed to provide the money, the Commonwealth Bank was good enough to suggest a basis by which provision could be made to cover all wheat produced in Australia. This measure is based upon the scheme suggested by the Commonwealth Bank.
– The Commonwealth Bank scheme provided for a price limit of 3s.
– I am speaking of the general principle on which the allocation will be made. Later, I shall come to the point raised by the honorable member. It was satisfactory that the conference was able to arrive at a determination which eliminates any disagreement among the exporting States. The conference then began to consider the altered position resulting from the increased price of wheat. When the Premiers Conference resolved to ask for an advance of £3,000,000, wheat was quoted at about 2s. 2d. per bushel. Representatives who were at the Premiers Conference were also present at the last conference to which I have referred, and they declared that this bill was necessary, despite the increase in the price of wheat.
– Probably the suggestion of the bounty has increased the price of wheat.
– Perhaps it has had something to do with it. It is still considered that this £3,000,000 and the 6d. a bushel bounty are necessary to rehabilitate the wheat industry. The price of 3s. a bushel was originally fixed merely to have a limit. After considering the matter from every angle, the conference considered that while it was undesirable to have any limitation in price, it still desired to provide a scheme that would overcome all objections, and passed a resolution asking the Commonwealth Bank to approach the associated banks to extend the limit from 3s. to 3s. 6d. a bushel. I informed the conference that the Government was agreeable to the proposal. The Prime Minister has since communicated with the banks, which are considering the matter. There were persons at the conference who have been engaged in wheat growing for many years, and among them there was a great difference of opinion, as to whether wheat would maintain its present price. It was believed that exchange and other influences might bring about a fall in price. The consensus of opinion was that this bill is necessary, irrespective of the decision of the banks as to a 3s. or 3s. 6d. limit.
– Even at 3s. 6d. production does not pay.
– That was pointed out by persons who have been in the industry all their lives. It was pointed out that the 3s. 6d. limit was not suggested because it was thought that it would cover the cost of production. In this matter we have also to remember the difficult times through which/ the wheat-growers of Australia have passed during recent years; for last season’s crop they had to accept a price which was far below the cost of production.
In view of all these circumstances, theconference decided to ask the banks to raise the limit to 3s. 6d. a bushel. The bill, however, does not provide for any stipulated payment, the reason being that the banks have not yet come to a decision in the matter. The amount to be paid will be dealt with by regulation.
– The banks will probably not reply until they know the state of the -market.
– The Government expects to receive a reply from the banks this week.
Although the bill is largely of a machinery nature, it contains one or two provisions to which I desire to direct attention. A bounty, equal to the difference between the limit agreed to by the banks and the actual f.o.b. price, will be paid on all wheat exported, with a proviso that the bounty shall, in no case, exceed 6d. a bushel.
– How will the f.o.b. price be established?
– That is a matter which can best be dealt with in committee. Every care will be taken in regard to that matter. Merchants, pools, millers, and others who handle wheat, and desire to operate under the scheme, will be compelled to obtain a licence by the terms of which .they will be required to give to each grower from whom they purchase wheat a certificate setting out the purchase price on a f.o.b. basis. That certificate will entitle the grower to collect - the bounty from the bank. For instance if a merchant buys wheat at 2s. 6d. a bushel, he will give the grower 2s. 6d., together with a coupon, which the grower will be able to exchange at the bank for 6d., thus making his total receipts 3s. a bushel. Whatever the price of wheat, the bounty is to be limited to 6d.
– Does the bill provide for a bounty of 6d. a bushel to be paid on all the wheat which is exported ?
– Yes. The bounty will be determined by the f.o.b. equivalent; but it is not to exceed 6d. a bushel.
– Does the bill apply to all wheat grown this year?
– It applies to the 1931-32 crop.
– Will not the f . o.b. price have to be prescribed from time to time?
– That is a matter for attention in committee. Honorable members will realize the advantage to wheat-growers of the provision that coupons may be cashed at the bank immediately the wheat has been sold.
– Is there not a possibility of collusion between the buyer and the seller of wheat? Will it not be possible for them to agree for wheat to be sold at less than its value, in order to receive a larger bounty?
– That possibility has been considered. It is thought that the bill has been so drafted as to reduce the possibility of fraud to a minimum.
The bill also provides that the licensee must pay into the bank an amount equal to the bounty on all the wheat sold for local consumption. That is necessary to recoup the bank for the bounty paid by it on the wheat sold for local consumption.
– What amount will be paid ?
– An amount equivalent to the bounty. At the conference held last Friday it was at first suggested that a flat rate of 6d. a bushel should be paid in; but, after consideration, it was decided to limit the payment to the amount of the bounty payableon the wheat which is exported. For constitutional reasons a separate bill will be necessary to deal with the amount to be paid into the bank.
– Will the Minister circulate that bill forthwith?
– It will be circulated as soon as it is received from the printer.
– There will be no need for that further bill if that now before us provides for a bounty on all the wheat exported.
– In order to overcome constitutional difficulties the Crown Law authorities consider that a separate bill is necessary. Advices received by the Government indicate that the first deliveries of the new season’s wheat will be made next week.
– Wheat is already being delivered in South Australia.
– I had intended to hold back the bill for a day or two, but knowing that deliveries of wheat were about to be made, and that honorable members generally were desirous of assisting the wheat-growers, I decided to introduce it without delay.
– Will this season’s wheat which has already been delivered come within the scope of the bill?
– That matter will be looked into.
– An amendment of this legislation will be necessary to meet such cases.
– It is estimated that this year 126,000,000 bushels of wheat will be available for export, and that about 31,000,000 bushels will be consumed locally. On the basis of the prices at present ruling for wheat, and assuming that the banks will agree to a limit of 3s. a bushel, wheat-growers are practically assured of 3s. a. bushel. Should the limit be increased to 3s. 6d. a bushel they may receive an additional 6d. a bushel.
Several attempts have been made by the Government to assist the wheatgrowers, but owing to circumstances over which it had no control, they have been unsuccessful. In the hope that this bill will give the wheat-growers of Australia some relief, I commend it to the House, and trust that it will have a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 919), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I do not propose to repeat at length my remarks of June last. On that occasion I said that, in my opinion, the Government was making a mistake in endeavouring to arrange for the voluntary conversion of our internal indebtedness. It should have been compulsory on all without exception. During this debate nearly every honorable member who has spoken, irrespective of party, has expressed his pleasure and surprise that the amount unconverted is so small.
The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), have all stated that they were agreeably surprised that less than £17,000,000 worth of bonds were unconverted. That being so, the Government must have had some alternative in mind, as if it were possible to arrange without “compulsion the larger expected amount it should be easy to arrange without compulsion the smaller sum. A challenge was issued by the Government to all honorable members when they criticized the reduction in salaries and social services, to suggest alternatives. Throe alternatives have been suggested in regard to the conversion scheme. One was proposed originally at the Premiers Conference, but was not proceeded with at tho request of the Leader of the Opposition. That was to impose a tax of 25 per cent, on unconverted bonds. Another alternative was proposed by the Treasurer, when he was speaking in this House on the original bill, and that was his threat that bondholders who dissented would probably be subject to a tax of 22£ per cent. The third alternative was submitted last night by the honorable member for Gippsland. He certainly produced figures to support his argument, but he forgot tho fact that the adoption of his alternative would prevent the Government from assisting the small bondholders.
– I did not forget that. I mentioned it specifically.
– The position of the small bondholder, whose interests are most important, was not given sufficient consideration under that alternative, and consequently I cannot regard it as satisfactory. I understand that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who will speak later on this motion, has another alternative to suggest, because in May last he published over his signature in a number of country newspapers an article headed “ Voluntary Conversion Loan “ ; “ Why We Opposed Compulsion “ ; “ Upholding Australia’s Credit.” At the outset the honorable gentleman said -
It is appropriate that I should explain the reasons that led the members of the Opposition to urge a voluntary appeal, rather than the plan previously favoured by the conference. The earlier proposal was that the people should bo asked to convert voluntarily and.be told at the same time that if they refused to come into the voluntary conversion there would be a tax of 25 per cent, imposed on the interest on their existing holdings.
He went on to say -
It may he urged that this is all very well, but what will happen if the voluntary proposal fails, and, in proportion, as it does fail, what are we going to do. I suggest that it is a mistake always to work out every contingency to its logical conclusion in matters of this kind. Let mc give a homely illustration. A father, when he asks his child to do what is right, makes a very grave mistake if he always associates with the request or direction a threat of what will happen if the child does not do as he is told. Grown-up people aro very much the same in this respect.
We must deal with the position as it stands to-day. If the conversion proposal fails, and, to the extent that it fails, a new position will arise, with which we can deal at the appropriate time.
I am waiting with some interest to hear the alternative of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition now that the appropriate time has arrived. I regret to say that although the conversion scheme has been lauded as a great success because of only 3 per cent, of the bondholders dissenting, it resulted in a much smaller response on the part of tho people than I expected.
– The honorable member was optimistic.
– The reason is that at the time there was current in the community a sense of injustice regarding the way in which the bondholders had been treated. In the first place, statements were published and requests made over the signature of both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to oversea traders who had moneys to invest to communicate with the Treasurer informing him of the amount. That action in itself caused injustice. For some time I have been endeavouring to ascertain the reason for giving special treatment to oversea traders. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) asked in this House why they had been placed in a privileged position, and he was told that it was in accordance with the original legislation and the recommendation of the Premiers Conference. That goes back, not to causes, but to statements. I wish to find the real cause for giving the overseas traders special treatment over our own traders. The fact that the Premiers Conference recommended that action shows that it must have had some reason for it. To-day I asked the Treasurer the following questions: -
Tho Treasurer replied -
The Treasurer says that we cannot interfere with trade. I say that the Australian trader who ,is a bondholder should also be considered.
– The Australian trader is not in a position comparable with that of the oversea trader. He was not compelled to put his money into that class of investment.
– He did it to help the country. Many Australian traders had invested money in loans to mature in 1932, at which time the money would he urgently needed. Trade does not always consist of barter, because at times it depends upon investments of some sort that must give a definite return at a stated period. During the debate on the original legislation the statement was made, and it was not contradicted, that these oversea investors consisted largely of American oil men, machinery men and motor men.
– The oversea investors consisted to a very small degree of American oil men.
– Then we can assume that they largely consisted of American machinery men and motor importers. There was a feeling of resentment among many people, and it came to a head in ‘ a circular which stated that special and preferential treatment was being given to oversea traders. As a result, many bondholders refused to convert their holdings. There is also in the community resentment of the injustice , which f expressed strongly during the debate of June last; that feeling still exists. Many people who lent their money at 3 per cent, and 3£ per cent, to the State Governments - the lowest rate of interest paid on any security in Australia - were forced, under the conversion scheme, to accept an interest rate, in one instance, as low as 2.2 per cent.
– Not on an original holding.
– With this special condition: that no bondholder who had not purchased bonds since about 1914, was to receive an interest rate of less than 3 per cent. That condition would have been fair had it been universally applied. What happened ? I found that the bonds maturing in June, 1931, could be bought at from £78 to £82. No discrimination was made in that case, although the return, even from the converted issue, would be 8.25 per cent, to those who bought bonds of that issue.
– Did the honorable member say that those who bought stock in 1931 received this concession?
– Until just recently, stocks were quoted on the exchange at £79 and £82, at which figure they would return the purchaser as much as 8.25 per cent. It was possible to buy such stocks at those figures even after the period for signifying willingness to convert had closed, because the bonds of those who had not consented, and who had not returned their bonds to the banks, were open for sale. Until the sale of stock was closed three weeks after the date upon which notification of conversion could be sent in, the bonds were selling on the market at prices which returned 7 and 8 per cent. Yet holders of 3 per cent, and 31/2 per cent, bonds have had their interest return reduced under the conversion scheme, in some cases, to as low as 2.2 per cent.
– The honorable member should understand that those who bought the 3 per cent, and 31/2 per cent, bonds probably did so at a price which returned them 7 per cent, or 8 per cent.
– No discrimination should have been made to the disadvantage of the holders of 3 per cent, and 31/2 per cent. State bonds, as compared with those who held Commonwealth war bonds, and other bonds bearing high interest.
– The 1st of August, 1914, was fixed by the Government as the date before which reduction of interest would apply, because no low interestbearing bonds have been issued since then.
– I am aware of that; but both the low interest bonds and the high interest bonds were on the market at the same time. The 3 per cent, and 31/2 per cent, bonds were selling at from £65 to £71, whereas the high interest bonds were selling at only £79 and £82. It was stipulated that the interest on one lot of bonds should not be reduced below 3 per cent., if they had been acquired before August, 1914, but no stipulation of any kind was made in respect of the others.
– The concession was made to the original holders of the bonds, not to those who had dealt in them since 1914.
– Bonds which would return from 7 per cent, to 8 per cent, could be bought on the market until quite recently, and this created a sense of injustice in the minds of the holders of low-priced bonds who had converted them.
– The honorable member is unconsciously misrepresenting the position.
– Very well, I shall leave it at that; but I am sure my facts and figures are right. I know, however, that many people gained the impression” that certain persons who bought Commonwealth stock at £83 were thereby able to make enormous profits.
– Would an oversea trader who bought a million pounds’ worth of stock in the last loan be able to draw it out again in two years’ time at par?
– I am not dealing now with what has been done in regard to the investments of oversea traders. That, however, created a sense of injustice. Men who may have bought Commonwealth stock at £80 or £82 will receive preferential treatment, and be able to get back their capital at par in a very few years, while others who put, perhaps, the whole of their money into government stock will have to lose from £13 to £30 per cent, of their capital if they try to realize on their holdings.
Another injustice is that the banks were not required to stand up to their obligations. The only government which treated the overdrafts of the banks in the same way as the investors in government stock were treated was the Lang Government of New South Wales. In other States the reduction was only 1 per cent. It said that the banks would have to reduce interest rates by 221/2 per cent., like mortgagees, vendors under contract of sale, time-payment people, and others who had lent money at interest. It is to the credit of the Lang Government that it took this stand.
– The South Australian Government was the first to bring in such a measure.
– Was the measure passed there and does it apply to the banks ?
– Then, I am glad to be able to praise the Hill Government of South Australia as well. Those who managed this conversion loan on behalf of the banks seem to have gone out of their way to prevent its being a success. When I applied for conversion forms, they were forwarded to me together with forms upon which dissent might be notified.
A member of the Opposition, when speaking on this bill, said that in business affairs, when a meeting of creditors was held, the large creditors had to pay off the small creditors in order to overcome their opposition. That has not been my experience. Under the old Victorian Insolvency Act, and, if L remember rightly, under the present Bankruptcy Act, a majority of creditors in number and value has the power to hind dissentients. .In 1893, when the hanks had to make arrangements with their creditors, acts of parliament were passed in most of the_ States, under which a majority of depositors in number and amount - three-quarters, I think - was able to bind dissenting depositors. As a matter of fact, the process upon which we are now engaged has previously been carried into effect on several occasions.
– Except that on this occasion it is the debtors, and not the creditors, who are doing the binding.
– That may be so, but the overwhelming majority of the creditors should be able to bind the infinitesimal dissenting creditors and so prevent the whole scheme from failing, and we should remember that, although we have plenty of assets as a nation, we have, at the present time, no ready money. That was the position of the banks in 1893, and it is the position of many private persons and companies at the present time. Fortunately, the law provides that a minority of creditors cannot destroy a going concern, or force a company into liquidation if a sufficiently large majority of shareholders in number and value do not desire it. We are in the position- of a company which has liquidated 97 per cent, of its debts. I am sorry that it should now be necessary to bring about this compulsory conversion. I should much rather it had been done in June last, but I can see no alternative now, and I shall support the proposal.
.- This is a profoundly important measure, and one of an entirely new character so far as this Parliament is concerned. No other Commonwealth Parliament, and no Parliament in Australia, I think, has hitherto been asked to pass a bill whichdecisively and clearly proposes a legislative default in respect of the contracts solemnly entered into by the Government of the country. In November or December of .last year, a conversion loan was on the market, and a competition was held for a slogan. The winning slogan was, “ Commonwealth bonds are as good as gold “, and it can still be seen, stained and disfigured, posted on many buildings and hoardings. A newspaper advertisement dealing with the loan said -
Give yourself a Christmas box and collect 5i to 0 per cent, interest for it. The £28,000,000 Commonwealth loan offers you the opportunity of giving Australia a magnificent Christmas present that is also a present to yourself, your wife and family, your home, your fellows. It is an interest-bearing reserve for the future, a safeguard against business failure or times of personal stress.
Another advertisement read -
It is a gilt-edged investment that is also a patriotic duty.
– The honorable member’s leader made all those statements.
– All parties joined in the appeal to the investing public. The bill proposes to alter contracts made as a result of these and many similar invitations; it can only be regarded with the utmost anxiety and apprehension, and must be examined carefully before this Parliament places on it the seal of its approval.
I propose to examine the measure in relation to both principle and expediency; under the heading of expediency, I include considerations of practical possibility. One of the objects of a legislature is to define, maintain, and enforce the rights of citizens, and in the sphere of civil law one of the most important classes of rights consists of those arising from contract. Recognition of the sanctity of lawful contract is one of the signs and symbols of civilization. When mankind is in a state of complete barbarism there are no contractual rights ; might alone is right. In a further stage of evolution a man’s rights and obligations are determined entirely by his status; they depend on whether he is a slave or a freeman; a noble or a commoner, an ecclesiastic or a layman, and he has little or no opportunity to determine those rights for himself. The rights of an individual as a freeman come into real existence and fruition only when the importance of contracts is realized, and when he is allowed by law to determine his own rights and obligations in a large measure by his own agreement. There are some contracts which the law prohibits, or declines to enforce, on the ground of policy, but the essence of our modern western civilization is the recognition and enforcement of lawful contracts. Thus the right of man to obtain rights for himself, and his power to impose obligations on himself by his own agreement, arc among the fundamental elements in the conception of personal freedom as developed in the modern world. It is the duty of a government to maintain and enforce all rights and obligations which are lawful in character, and any general failure of a government to perform this duty will involve the collapse of civilization as we know it. The relation of the citizen to tho Government raises considerations of a different kind. Primitive forms of government, it is true, are largely limited by the custom of the tribe “or clan; but there is always a large element of more or less arbitrary will; often the arbitrary will of the chief or king is the determining factor. In time a doctrine of sovereignty develops under which the king or the State is represented as having all rights and no duties. This idea survives iu the maxim, “ The King can do no wrong “, and the escape of mankind from despotism and tyranny is largely dependent upon the limitation and ultimate denial of this doctrine. In our community it has almost completely disappeared, although there are still some traces of it in legal procedure. The principle is now established, that a government can bind itself as effectually by contract as a citizen, and a citizen can acquire rights against a State, which the courts will enforce with evenhanded justice. Indeed, it is a fundamental principle of our life that the King’s courts will do justice even, against the King himself. The obligation resting upon the Government to perform its contracts is in a sense higher than the obligation resting on the citizen to perform his contracts, because, first, the Government ha3 a greater power to perform what has been promised, and, secondly, it has power to repudiate, which enhances the duty and obligation to perform to the maximum of possibility.. If a government unnecessarily uses its power in the legislature to enable its citizens to disown their contract’s, it runs the risk of shaking the foundations of social life. If it unnecessarily uses its power to free itself from contracts, it runs the risk of undermining the foundations of government itself. Upon a short view, the evil may not be apparent - there may be even an immediate advantage-^ but upon a long view such an advantage may very well disappear, for the whole future of a country may be jeopardized by such an act.
Let us apply these principles to our own country. I would like to see Australia regarded as an attractive land for the investment of capital from other countries. I do not resent the introduction of money, from abroad to develop enterprises in Australia, and give employment to our people. Australia has been ‘ helped very greatly in the past by development fostered and made possible only by capital from abroad. In considering where money is to be invested, a person with capital will obviously have regard to the degree of certainty that he will obtain a return. That factor is largely affected by the reputation and character of the people and government of the country. Whilst an immediate advantage may be gained by setting aside a. government contract, it may be that, in the long run, such an advantage will prove to have been very dearly bought. These arc considerations which we must bear in mind when we are dealing with a. measure such as that which is now before us.
There is an obvious and important limitation upon the general principles to which I have referred. There may be other limitations in special cases; as, for example, where a government has been guilty of such conduct in relation to a particular contract that there are grounds for a subsequent parliament setting it aside. But I am dealing with only one limitation/which is universally recognized. An individual may become unable to pay his debts: in such circumstances, proceedings in bankruptcy provide for the winding up of his business, and the equitable distribution of his assets among his creditors. A State or government also may become incapable of paying its debts, but we cannot wind up a State, dispose of its assets, and discontinue the business of. government. As there cannot be a general realization of public assets, the full conception of bankruptcy is inapplicable to a State. That being so, the duty of seeing that there is real inability to pay becomes enhanced in the case of a government or State. Before any government takes steps to release itself by legislation from a contract on the ground of inability to pay, such inability should be conclusively demonstrated.
I hope .1 have made it clear enough that. I recognize the practical limitations upon the general principles which should normally guide our conduct. This bill proposes partial repudiation of contract’s with people who responded to appeals by Commonwealth and State Governments to lend to them money in return for a promise to pay interest at a certain rate, and repay the principal on the due date. I have conceded that there are circumstances in which such a proposal is justinfiable because it is inevitable - when any alternative course will mean only worse default. I readily concede that a reduction of the rate of interest on the national debt was necessary. The national income had dropped from approximately £600,000,000 to £450,000,000. The annual interest bill was approximately £70,000,000, and with the drop of the national income that burden of interest became proportionately heavier. The reduction of interest charges on both public and private debt’s was unavoidable. This bill deals with the internal public debt, and so far as financial necessities dictated a reduction of the interest charge the financial objective has been attained. Wo less than £541,000,000 of our internal public debt has been converted under’ the measure which this House passed in July last; the balance outstanding is only £16,500,000. This bill deals with that balance. I consider that the success of the conversion, which left less than 3 per cent, unconverted, is a wonderful tribute to the sanity, intelligence, and patriotism of the people of Australia. When I remember how the proposals which were made from this side of the House for a voluntary conversion were greeted from some quarters - with more than ordinary criticism and comment - that such a course was declared to be impossible, and was met with sneers and jeers from many, I think it wonderful that this thing should have been accomplished. It is a matter for congratulation.
I do not think that any honorable member believes that it has been an easy thing for many to consent to this conversion. AVe have all heard of persons of small means whose circumstances are gravely affected by the reduction of income derived from the accumulation of many years of thrift. In the case of those who are more wealthy, the result of the conversion has sometimes been very serious indeed. There is one case in connexion with which I have the precise figures. I admit that the person who converted is wealthy. By his conversion of a considerable amount of New South Wales tax-free stock which fell due on the 10th August last, this man receives interest at a lower rate aud also becomes subject to income taxation, which reduces his income by 41 per cent.
– He would have lost the advantage of his freedom from tax in any case.
– He could not have found a new tax-free investment.
– That, no doubt, is so; but, still, his income was seriously reduced by the conversion. I have no personal interest in any dissenters. The small amount of stock that I held or over which I had any control was converted, and I would not have it otherwise. The Treasurer recognized in his speech that persons did not in all cases dissent from unworthy, grasping motives. In many instances they were actuated, when dissenting, by dire necessity.
The first and natural reaction in regard to the dissenters is to ask, “ Why should they do better than other people; why should they be left better off than those who recognized the need of the country and converted?” That argument has no relevance on the question of principle. There is all the difference in the world between a man who has a standing contract which he is entitled to preserve, and another who, from whatever motives, however worthy, has agreed to a reduction of the benefits that he was to receive under a contract. If we can do so, we should pay the dissenters. We should do our best to pay them; for one reason, in the interests of those who converted. I submit that point for the consideration of honorable members. There are two things that are important to those who have converted. First, that the value of their present stock shall be maintained so far as may be possible, and shall increase, if that can happen, as time passes. Secondly, it is very important that there should be the best possible prospect of their being paid in full when their bonds mature.
What will be the effect of what might bc termed a compulsory reduction of contract on the value of their stocks in the future? It must inevitably depreciate the value of the stocks held by a very large number of persons who have converted. It may be asked, “How will it affect the chances of their being paid in full on the due date?” In 1938 a sum of between £65,000,000 and £70,000,000 will fall due under the new arrangement of the maturities of our internal public debt. ‘ How can the payment of that sum be handled? The sinking fund will provide for the repayment of only a part of it. The rest can be repaid only by obtaining new money, or by a voluntary conversion, if ordinary methods are adopted. Compulsory conversion now will considerably prejudice the chances of meeting that very great liability in 1938. It will make it most difficult to obtain any new money, or to exercise effective persuasion upon people to renew their holdings by way of voluntary conversion.
The only alternative to these methods of dealing with this money in 1938 are first to impose very heavy taxation to provide the necessary money out of revenue - taxation so heavy that probably the proposal would be rejected as impossible. On the other hand there could be in 1938 another compulsory conversion, amounting to repudiation. In the interests of everybody, and particularly of those who have converted, it is important that we should do our utmost to meet the obligations outstanding on these bonds. Before February, 1933, an amount of some £9,600,000 will be required. If there were general confidence in governments in Australia, that amount could probably be raised without difficulty. But we must take things as they are. I am not speaking now of any particular government when I say that I do not think that the people will lend much money to governments at this time for this or any other purpose.
This measure results from the unfortunate general lack of confidence. 1 bad hoped that it would be possible to do something less subversive of principle than the proposals now before the House. On the facts, so far as I have been able to ascertain them, we have to admit thai in the early years complete payment on the due date now appears to be impracticable. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) referred to an article of mine which appeared in the press in which I stated “ Let us deal with the contingency when it arises “. If the contingency had been that out of £558,000,000 of our internal debt, £500,000,000 had not been converted, the position would be very different from that which at present faces us. I might then, under pressure of stern necessity, have been compelled to give my full support to a measure which I would regard as unjustified under existing circumstances. Even recognizing the smallness of the amount, it would appear that in the early years it would be very difficult, by the use of all the money that could bc made available from the sinking fund, to pay our commitments in full, having regard to the provisions for dealing with necessitous cases, of which I approve. All that we could hope to do is to pay part of our obligations, either on a ballot system or by way of dividends, and postpone the payment of the balance. Ae a reluctant concession to the financial necessities of the situation, and having regard to the general result of the conversion, one would be justified in agreeingto the special taxation of interest. 1 quite admit that under such taxation dissenters would not suffer so much as those who had converted. Whatever policy was adopted, it would be impossible to put the dissenters, in connexion with th« near-dated maturities, iu the same position as those who had converted.
– Would not a special tax be victimizing the dissentients in another way?
– I have admitted that there were objections to the proposal. It is only the necessity of the case that makes me consider it. I do not wish to repeat the figures that were quoted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons) and the, Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), but there will be certain moneys available from the sinking fund, which could be used to pay dissentient bondholders in part.
– That would necessitate the Government using money which is to be made available for necessitous cases.
– The Treasurer has detailed information which is not available to honorable members. The Deputy Leader of the Country party, speaking last night, intimated that from figures supplied to him by the Treasury there would he available from the sinking fund an amount that would almost pay the £9,600,000 that is due in 1933. The Treasurer then stated that he had omitted to provide for certain commitments, including overseas obligations.
– There are others.
– The honorable gentleman has information which is not known to honorable members generally; I can deal only with the facts as I know them. From them it would appear that there will be some money which will be available to pay off, at least in part, our commitments as they fall due. I suggest that new bonds should be issued for the bonds which -have already fallen due, and for the other unconverted bonds, with a right vested in the Commonwealth to pay off at, say, six months’ notice, and with an undertaking given by the Government that every effort would be made to meet the liability at the earliest possible date. In order to make that possible, every care should be taken to avoid incurring unnecessary expenditure in other directions. In New South Wales, I think there is room for savings which would, at least, make it possible for that State to meet a considerable portion of the liabilities in respect of New South Wales bonds. If New South Wales were to exercise economy to the extent that the other States have done, there would not be any necessity for the same amount of reduction.
– New South Wales has reduced the expenditure on it’s Public Service by 20 per cent.
– I do not agree that New South Wales has performed the obligations’ undertaken at the Premiers Conference.
In my opinion, there are still other alternatives which ought to be carefully examined. The House has not had placed before it all the relevant facts. A particular scheme has been submitted for our approval; but there has not been a precise statement of the sinking fund moneys available, and the extent to which they might be used to meet necessitous cases and other commitments.
– It is doubtful whether the Premiers were fully informed regarding these possibilities.
– Until we have fully examined all these possibilities in the light of full and detailed information - which we have not yet had - we cannot say that inability to perform the contract has been demonstrated to the extent to which it is necessary to demonstrate it in order to justify a measure of this character. It may be that’ there are other means of dealing with this matter than those to which I have referred in outline. No one can speak on this matter with the same authority as a Treasurer, since he has behind him tha officers of the Treasury, and all the information which is available to them, but the principle at stake is so important that we ought to take all pains to see that there is justification for a measure of this kind. In the interests of the fair fame and the well-being of this country, both now and in the future, it is incumbent upon us to consider this proposal closely in the light of all the circumstances - some of which have not been adequately examined - before we agree to this measure. Having regard to all the circumstances, and to the fact that other possible alternatives do not appear to have been successfully excluded, it does not appear to me that the Government is justified in asking honorable members to support this bill. [Quorum formed.’]
– TEe importance of the success of the recent loan conversion, to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and other honorable members have referred, cannot be too greatly stressed. In opening the loan campaign, the National Appeal Committee said -
A successful conversion operation will demonstrate to the world that Australians a« a whole have faith in the future of their own country, anil thai they are prepared to make personal sacrifices towards a restoration of financial stability.
The response to the appeal has demonstrated the truth of that statement. Not even the most optimistic among us dared to predict that £541,000,000 of our internal indebtedness of £558,000,000, would be converted. It is particularly gratifying that 231,000 bondholders, representing £510,000,000 of the outstanding debt, voluntarily notified their willingness to convert. The ultimate advantage to Australia of that voluntary conversion will, I am convinced, prove to those who responded to the appeal that their action has materially contributed to the welfare of Australia. I mention this matter at the outset, because those who have spoken have given more attention to those who did not convert than to those who converted. I desire to emphasize the country’s obligation to those who converted their holdings.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The conversion loan having proved so successful, it now remains for the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the States to decide how the securities of the dissentients are to be dealt with. If the response to the appeal had been less overwhelmingly in favour of a voluntary conversion, the objections raised to the proposals in this bill could not have been advanced. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition admitted that, had the amount held by those who dissented been large, he would have been forced to accept the principle underlying this measure.
– In that event, inability to pay would have been proved; that is not so now.
– The amount unconverted is about £16,500,000, or approximately 3 per cent, of our internal debt. Had the amount voluntarily converted been only 80 per cent, instead of 97 per cent, of our indebtedness we should still have regarded the response as wonderful, but that would have left us with £100,000,000 unconverted, and no choice but to introduce a measure like that now before us. The relative insignificance of the unconverted holdings does not provide a sound argument for exempting the holders of those bonds from the reduction of interest involved in the conversion loan, nor should it entitle them to preferential treatment as compared with those who voluntarily converted their holdings. Surely it is within the knowledge of honorable members that the conversion involves hardship to many who converted? As a member of the National Appeal Committee, I was in a position to know that hundreds of communications were received daily from bondholders who made it clear that conversion would involve hardship. There are as many cases of real hardship among those who converted their holdings a* among those who did not convert.
– We admit that.
– It must not be overlooked that there are outstanding cases of selfishness among those who did not convert their holdings. It was suggested that the names of dissentients should be published, but the Government refused to allow that. If the names were published, honorable members would be startled. Some alleged great Australian patriots, holding bonds valued at £50,000, and over, did not convert any of their holdings; nor did they give any reason or excuse for refusing to do so.
– In that case, their names ought to be published.
– Were there any trade unions among them ?
– I do not know of any trade union which possesses £50,000. Whatever course we adopt must be founded on a principle which has regard to the nation’s best interests. It has beersuggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and th Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) that Australia’s best interest? would be served by abandoning the plan of conversion incorporated in this bill. That would involve payment to the dissentients of interest at the old rates, ae well as the repayment of the principal amount of their securities on the duc dates. Assuming, for the moment, thai such a proposal were practicable - and J propose to show that it is not practicable - let us consider whether it would be in the best interests of Australia. In the first place it would mean that those who dissented would be placed in a position much more favorable than that of those who converted. Those whose voluntary conversion involved hardship, but without whose assistance we could not have accomplished so wonderful a result, would, under such a scheme, be in a worse position than those who dissented ! I emphasize that the real advantage to Australia of the conversion is not confined to the reduction of interest. There are two other aspects of the subject which ought to be emphasized. The first is that the conversion relieves the country of tremendous conversion obligations in the near future. The other - and this, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of all - is that the action of those who voluntarily converted their holdings has done more to raise the credit of Australia in the eyes of the world, aud of Australians1 themselves, than anything else could possibly have done.
– This bill spoils all that.
– No. This bill embodies the principle which was accepted at the Premiers Conference, namely, that those who rendered such magnificent service to Australia shall not be placed in a worse position than those who rendered no service. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the argument that those who dissented would, by this bill, be placed in a better position than those who converted, was not relevant to the principle involved. I disagree with him. It is contrary to the spirit of the conversion, plan to place dissentients in a better position than those who, in many cases at great personal sacrifice, came to the assistance of their country. At the Premiers Conference it was never suggested that bondholders who converted should be placed in a worse position than those who dissented. The first decision of that conference - a decision which was broadcast throughout Australia - was that the interest on the bonds of those who did not convert should be subject to a tax of 25 peT cent., levied at the source. The press of Australia described that as a penalty tax - the “ big stick “. That proposal had the endorsement of every member present at the conference.
– It was afterwards abandoned.
– It was abandoned only because the tax-free bonds constituted a problem which could not be overcome. The conference then had to decide whether it would go on with the plan, which provided for a reduction of salaries, pensions, and social services, while allowing bondholders to escape. To ensure that that would not happen, and that legislation would be passed through the several Parliaments of Australia to subject dissentients to a sacrifice at least equal to that suffered by those who converted, the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of this Parliament were invited to participate in the conference. Had those who attended the conference not been convinced that the passing of such legislation was ensured they would not have accepted the agreement.
– Such a thing was not even hinted at.
– Let us examine the facts. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition to-day spoke about contracts. He gave a lecture on the principles of contract. I agree with him on the subject of contracts, but I put it to the honorable member that some contracts are implied and not written. The conference was attended by representatives of seven governments, who were unanimous in their decisions. It is easy for those who have not the responsibility of office to quote figures in a light and airy way and to say that this and that can be done, but the governments who had the job to do said differently. Three of them were Nationalist Governments. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that a complete payment on the due date is impossible. That is true. That is exactly what we say, and that is why we. have introduced this measure. He said that he would have accepted it if the amount of unconverted holdings were larger. He does not accept it now because the amount is small. Let me give to honorable members the story as briefly as I can. When we called the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader, and the Leader of the Opposition in another place into the conference we had reached a position in which we had to feel assured that if we launched a voluntary conversion scheme we would be able to deal with unconverted bonds as adequately and equitably as we intended to deal with converted bonds. On no other basis would we adopt the plan. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has said that that was never hinted at. I ask him to listen to tho report of the proceedings, which is on record, and has been dis.tributed among honorable members. First of all, the leaders of the Opposition met us, and we had a discussion for the best part of the day. “We adjourned. Then a conference took place between (.he Treasurer, the leaders of the Opposition, and myself, and, as a result we submitted to the main conference a resolution, which I moved, and which the Leader of the Opposition did not second because, as he said, he was not an actual delegate, but he spoke after me in support of it.
– Whom is the Prime Minister referring to as the Leader of the Opposition?
– I refer to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons). This is the resolution -
The conference, including the leaders of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament, having most carefully considered the financial position of the Commonwealth and the States, and recognizing the national inability to meet existing government charges, is unanimously of the opinion that to prevent national default in the immediate future and a general failure to meet government payments, all expenditure, Including interest on government securities and other interest, and that upon governmental Salaries and wages, pensions and other services, must bc substantially reduced.
The resolution continued -
The necessary sacrifice is due to national Inability to pay and it must, therefore, be shared by all.
How is it to be shared by all, if Ave do what honorable members opposite advocate, and pay full interest rates to those who refused to convert their bonds, and pay the principal in. full on the date of maturity?
– Were all the States represented at the conference?
– Yes, and their representatives, together with the leaders of the Opposition, unanimously carried this resolution.
– The States are now passing the necessary legislation.
– That is so. They have all signed the agreement. During the discussion at the conference the Premier of New South Wales objected to the resolution on the ground that the conversion loan was not made compulsory. He said -
I hold the opinion strongly that the conversion loan will not succeed unless it is placed on a compulsory basis.
I quote that to show the discussion that took place upon that point. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) replied -
The resolution which was brought forward this morning as a result of a consultation between, the Commonwealth Ministers and the leaders of the Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament, does not water down that principle of all-round sacrifice. It put it in a way that will better ensure the success of the conversion loan.
I also stated that Mr. Lang’s impression of the resolution was that there was to b3 a request made to bondholders, and if they did not convert, that was to be the final word in the matter, and that, therefore, a number of people would evade their share of the sacrifice. That impression, I stated, was wrong. We had taken up the stand that all must share in the sacrifice, and we had not departed at all from that. No one person at the conference challenged that statement. Every delegate - the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate - supported it. I ask honorable members who heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition this afternoon to listen to what he said at the conference. He followed the matter up, and drew attention to some of the features of the resolution. In reply to Mr. Lang, who argued that some were to escape because of the voluntary scheme, the honorable member emphasized phases in the resolution, one of which was that all expenditure, including interest on government securities and other interest, must be substantially reduced. He said -
These are the conditions we ask the citizens to bear in mind in considering the proposal that is made . . . We go on in the third paragraph to say that the necessary sacrifice must be shared by all.
– Was the voluntary provision in the original legislation a sham?
– I am giving the honorable member facts. It was never contemplated that those who did not convert would be placed in a position better than that of those who did convert.
– Then the act lied.
– The honorable member said just now that there never was a hint of that in the conference.
– If I read the act aright there was not.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition continued -
There is the unequivocal statement that everybody must share in the sacrifice.
That statement is on record, was printed and distributed.
– It only shows that while it was nominally a voluntary conversion it was, in fact, compulsory.
– It shows that the people were given an opportunity to convert voluntarily, on the clear understanding that they would not be in a worse position than those who did not convert. I had interviews day after day, and the officials of the Treasury had interviews, with numerous persons. We were asked for advice. My advice to the bondholders was to convert. Some of them said to rn c, “ I may want this money.” I said to them, “You will not be in a worse position if you convert.” We have to keep faith with them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition further said -
We go on to say that a plan has been devised under which bondholders may make their contributions to the general sacrifice by accepting the lower rate of interest wihch the existing position makes unavoidable.
The Leader of the Opposition said -
From tho beginning I have said that every section of the community must bear its fair share of the sacrifice. In the motion now before the conference, which has been agreed to by the representatives of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament and by the representatives of the Commonwealth Government, that declaration is made again.
Yet, last week, the Leader of the Opposition advocated in this House a policy that instead of making every section, of the community share in the sacrifice, would exempt one section entirely. Before we went into the conference, before the resolution was drafted’, and during the general discussion on it, I put this pertinent question to the leaders of the Opposition, “If they were on the public platform advocating this conversion, what answer would they make to this question : What are you going to do with those who do not convert “ ? Sir
George Pearce was the next speaker, and he said in answer to that question -
I would point out that I have committed myself to a conversion loan, tlie new stock carrying 4 per cent, interest. I would then 6.?.y to the people that I believed that they would convert voluntarily, but if they did not do it voluntarily,. Parliament would have to consider what other steps it should take.
I believe that Sir George Pearce will in another place stand to that statement. There was no equivocation about it. These facts show that when the loan was launched it had been made quite clear that a sacrifice of interest was necessary to prevent default in the immediate future and that acceptance of the lower rate of interest was unavoidable. The Leader of the Opposition, speaking on this bill last week, made it- clear that the basis for the conversion loan was the need for a reduction of interest. His opening sentence was -
The urgent need of the debt conversion plan was a financial position so desperate that it was perfectly clear to all who examined it that every section of the community would be called upon to make a sacrifice.
He subsequently said -
When subsequently definite sacrifices were imposed by Parliament upon taxpayers, oldage and invalid pensioners, war pensioners, and the Public Service of the Commonwealth and the States, the fact became increasingly obvious that those who were drawing interest from the Governments of Australia would han to accept less than they had hitherto received.
– I stated that this afternoon in the proposals that I made.
– Not at all.
– My attitude has been consistent throughout.
– The only way in which the honorable member can be consistent is to stand to what he advocated at the conference, and to support this bill.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– It is a matter of stern facts which were considered and deliberated upon by all the Governments of Australia. I am sorry if honorable members have not before them all the facts and figures that are in the possession of the various Governments, but it is not practicable to divulge them.
– Does the Prime Minister say that the dissenters should not be paid in full, not because we cannot pay them, but because it would not be fair to those who have converted their bonds ?
– I repeat that we have a greater obligation to those who converted than to those who did not, and I propose to show that if what is advocated by members of the Opposition were done, we should inflict injustice On. those who converted.
– Do not include all members of the Opposition.
– The facts I have quoted prove that when the conversion loan was launched, the people understood that the conversion of their securities at low interest rates was unavoidable if the nation was to be saved from default. Their sacrifice has saved the country from default, and it has also saved the securities of those who dissented. The overwhelming majority of the bondholders recognized the position, and agreed to convert. They were given to understand that the general sacrifice involved in accepting the lower rate of interest was. unavoidable. Despite these facts, the Leader of the Opposition now suggests that the minority who dissented should be exempt from having their interest reduced, and that every effort should be made, despite the difficulties of the financial position, to’ find money to pay them off when their bonds mature. I am convinced that many who converted would not have done so had they believed that Australia would be able to continue paying them interest on the old basis, and to pay off their bonds on maturity, nor would they have converted if they had believed that those who refused to convert would be paid the old rate of interest. If we allow the dissentients to escape the sacrifice suffered by those who converted, the overwhelming majority of the bondholders might well say that the governments of Australia, together with the leaders of the Opposition of the Federal Parliament, had deceived them. The principle which I suggest must guide us is that those who dissented cannot be placed in a more favorable position than tho e who converted. If that principle be accepted, no better course can be adopted than to place dissenters on a parity with those who converted. That is what this bill provides for.
We now come to the question whether we are able to pay off the dissenting bondholders. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that we should use money from the sinking fund to the amount of £6,000,000 for paying off dissentients. He said that the balance of the dissentients should be paid off, either by raising money in the market, or with money obtained from the Commonwealth Bank. It is remarkable how one thing i3 regarded as inflation, and another thing is not. It would not be inflation to raise money to pay off these people, but it would be inflation if we raised money in the same way for the relief of unemployment 1 The Leader of the Opposition suggested, in effect, that we should concentrate our future loan efforts on government relief to bondholders who have ‘dissented, and not on the relief of unemployment; that we should provide £6,000,000 during two years from the sinking fund, although, as I shall show presently, that sum could not be obtained. The loan market would be adversely affected if we attempted to raise money to pay off loans, and the security of those who had converted would be depreciated.
I come now to the question asked by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) : “Would the Government pay off the bondholders if it could?” If, by doing so, an injury would be done to the securities of those who have converted, the answer is “ No “. There is a fallacy in the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The securities of those who have converted will not be adversely affected by the measure now before us, but the measure will, if carried, have the effect of increasing the financial stability of the country. We have not singled out the holders of £16,500,000 worth of bonds, and said to them that we will not pay them their interest, or repay the principal on due date. We have taken a poll of bond-holders, and the holders of 97 per cent, of the total internal debt, namely, £558,000,000, have agreed to the conversion.
– If the Government believed it to be right to pay the dissentients, could it do so?
-We could do it only by inflicting an injury on those who converted. Why should we think only of the welfare of the dissentients? There is ample evidence that those who have converted are, in many cases, faced with difficulties as great as or even greater than those confronting dissentients. Moreover, it is impracticable, having regard to the obligations of the sinking fund in other directions, for it to provide £6,000,000 in two years for paying off dissenting bondholders. The Commonwealth Debt Sinking Fund Commission wont into this matter very fully, and decided that, having regard to its other commitments, it could provide £2,000,000 id meet cases of hardship this year, and £1,000,000, or probably a little more, next year. The Leader of the Opposition said that there would be £3,000,000 available in each of the next two years, but I remind him that he is not in possession of the figures or the knowledge which is available to the sinking fund commissioners. The Treasurer gave an assurance last night to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that only £2,000,000 would be available from this source. It was originally thought that only £1,250,000 would be available, but this amount was increased after the commissioners had gone into the matter. Honorable members will understand that it is not possible to disclose all the details. It is sufficient to say that the utmost which can be extracted from that source is £2,000,000. The honorable member for Gippsland made out a very reasonable case if his figures had been correct, but I assure him that they were wrong. The honorable member quoted £500,000 as the amount of the contractual obligations of the sinking fund overseas. The fact is that obligations amounting to £600,000 must be discharged, and this, together with exchange, brings the total sum up to nearly £1,000,000.
– The figures I quoted were given to me by an official of the Treasury. I was informed that the amount was something over £400,000.
– £500,000 is due in London, and £100,000 in New York. To that, exchange must be added. Taking the bonds of dissentients which fell due on the 10th August last at approximately £1,500,000, and those falling due in December next at £2,750,000, we get a total of £4,250,000 required up to December next whereas the total amount which is available from the sinking fund up to the 30th June next is £2,000,000. If we are to pay off the amounts immediately maturing we must go on the market right away. To do so would at once weaken the securities of those who have converted. It would be an outright breach of faith with those who have taken out consolidated stock. We owe these bondholders a heavy obligation, and we must do everything in our power to support the market as much as possible.
– How would the market receive an application for a loan to pay off dissenting bondholders?
– I ask honorable members what response we could hope from the market for a loan to pay off bondholders who refused to convert. Even if the figures relating to the sinking fund, as quoted by the honorable member for Gippsland and others, were correct - and they are not - the sinking fund still has obligations to all the bondholders, not to any section of them. The sinking fund must be applied in the interests of all bondholders, not of a few privileged persons who refused to convert. It also has obligations overseas very much greater than what are regarded as its contractual obligations of £1,000,000 or so. Half our total debt is held overseas.
– The Prime Minister will admit that it would be foolish to cancel our overseas debt at the present time with the exchange rate as it is.
– We can invest money profitably overseas because of the low prices at which bonds can be bought.
– Yes. It is possible to invest money more profitably overseas than in Australia. Dissentients’ bonds falling due for redemption up to February, 1933, total about £9,600,000. As I have pointed out, it would be a breach of faith to those who have converted if we applied the sinking fund moneys to the redemption of those bonds, and disregarded all the other bondholders in Australia and abroad.
I desire to quote the opinion of an outside financial authority on the measure now before us. It is the opinion of one who is probably the keenest financial critic in the newspaper world, the editor of the Financial Times, in Loudon, and was published after the bill had been introduced by the Treasurer. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th October, as follows : -
The Financial Times directs attention to & Australian conversion, and says that, Repugnant as the idea of compulsion is, it would manifestly be unfair that the dissenting minority should bo allowed to profit by the country’s misfortunes and the publicspirited action of the overwhelming majority of their fellow bondholders.
An important feature of the bill is the provision for the relief of hardship amongst bondholders. It is designed to overcome the difficulties which caused most of the dissent. It was not so much the reduction of interest, as the deferment of payment of principal, that caused dissent. Many bondholders were evidently relying on the repayment of a portion of their capital at an early date to provide living expenses, or to meet definite commitments. The average holding of those who dissented was small. If we omit holdings exceeding £10,000, the average of the others is about £400. The Treasurer has stated that, in the present financial year, the sinking fund commission is willing to provide up to £2,000,000 for the purposes of this plfl.il. The amount to be provided next year will not bo so large, as the sinking fund commitments for other purposes will then be greater, but the officers of the Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank, who deal with bondholders, think that it will be possible to provide all necessary relief. AVith proper provision for assisting those in need, and having regard to the circumstances in which the conversion was launched, the plan contained in this bill is the best course open to the governments of Australia.
– I admit that the governments of Australia were confronted with extraordinary difficulty in regard to the raising of money for those bondholders who dissented. At the same time, this bill represents folly without parallel in Australian parliaments. “It is a blunder that will react against all our people and every interest in Australia. I do not think “that the money to repay the dissenters could have been found at once; but. having declared by act of Parliament that the conversion was to be voluntary, and having obtained a 97 per cent, consent to conversion, every other possibility should have been exhausted before compulsion was applied to the dissenters. We might have failed to discover another practicable course, and been obliged ultimately to apply compulsion; but the Government’s blunder was the .instantaneous and peremptory decision, almost before the conversion appeal was closed, to apply coercion to those who signified dissent. The introduction of this measure condemns the Government for having been quite insincere in its proposal for voluntary conversion, and makes of the voluntary plan a mere sham. It is to that I object. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has quoted from speeches at the Melbourne conference in June to prove thai resort to compulsion was intended if a voluntary appeal failed. The only conclusive evidence of the intention of this Parliament is contained in the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act, section 12, sub-section 3 of which roads -
Where existing securities so lodged for safe custody or us security ure not in the form of inscribed stock and dissent in respect of those securities is signified in accordance with this net, the securities shall . he forthwith exchanged for Commonwealth inscribed stock in the name of the bank or savings bank concerned, conforming with the conditions of the existing securities in respect of duration, redemption, rate of interest, and in all other respects …
Iii the light of those words, what weight is to be attached to anything said at the conference? The Treasurer introduced legislation which contained an emphatic declaration that those who did not voluntarily convert would stand in their old position in all respects. Because of the reactions it will inevitably have against the interests of this country, the measure now before us is the moat cynical and foolish that the Parliament has ever had before it. It will affect the credit und interest of all Australians. I cannot think of any class which will be benefited by the coercion of the dissenters. The Prime Minister said that not to apply compulsion to dissenters would be unfair to those who had voluntarily converted. But this measure must inflict very great hardship on the 97 per cent, of bondholders who converted. If the bonds of Australia are to be regarded as sound property, our record must be free of any suggestion of default. If this bill is agreed to, this Parliament will be known as one which, for the first time in the history of Australia, repudiated part of its loan obligations. The Commonwealth national debt amounts to £1,100,000,000, and this bill relates to only a paltry £16,500,000. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the folly of the Government’s policy in impairing the credit of Australia for a temporary advantage so slight.
– How does the honorable member account for the fact that the value of the bonds is increasing, notwithstanding this legislation?
– Look a few years ahead, to the time when we are obliged to redeem or convert the bonds with which we are now dealing. Having compulsorily reduced the interest on £16,500,000 worth of stock, the future potential lender will naturally consider the possibility of a repetition of such repudiation should a similar emergency arise. The Government is creating apprehension in the minds of those to whom we may be applying in future for loans. Recognizing the difficulty of finding the money with which to pay off the dissenters, I would have been prepared to defer the repayment for a considerable time, and to impose special taxation on the interest from unconverted bonds. But the Government has blundered in having suddenly, without exploring the possibilities, rushed into an act of repudiation. I do not believe that this young country can be carried on and developed without loan money from abroad. I would not like to see a repetition of borrowing on a big scale, but I do not think the country can pull out of the depression without the assistance of loan rooney. [Quorum formed.] If this legislation is agreed to, Australia will become unattractive to the money lender for many years; its effects will be experienced half a century hence, and it will make impossible the obtaining of any loans for the relief of our present troubles. No previous Australian Government has needed money so desperately as the present Commonwealth Government, the first care of which should have been to make Australia as attractive as possible to the lender, in the interests of everybody, particularly the workers and the. unemployed.
– The Bruce-Page Government made it unattractive.
– The last Government was able to borrow money. When it left office Commonwealth bondswere at par. Where are they now? Qf all the blows which the present Government, under the financial direction of the Treasurer, has delivered against the credit of Australia, this bill is the most severe. I cannot understand the haste of the Government in reaching this most unfortunate and calamitous decision. So complete is the case against this bill that I am forced to believe that the only motive for its introduction was that, having reduced pensions and salaries, the Government desired to be able to show that it had not been more lenient to bondholders.
.- I have listened with interest to the debate on this measure, and am somewhat at a loss to understand why there should be this quarrelling among honorable members on both sides of the House regarding the implementing of a plan that was agreed to by both parties at the Premiers Conference in Melbourne, and to which legislative effect has already been given by the House.
– It is probably a result of the coalition between the Beasley and Nationalist groups in the Senate.
– It is more than likely that the honorable member himself will be in a coalition shortly. It is strange that this situation should develop at this late stage of the negotiations in connexion with the so-called rehabilitation plan. One is inclined to doubt whether there is any sincerity in the debate that has taken place on the bill. The’ Prime Min,ister (Mr. Scullin), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), and his Deputy (Mr. Latham) have been at considerable pains to eulogize those who came forward with great patriotism, as they put it, to convert their bonds. I do not desire to deprive those who have converted of any praise that may be due to them. Still, it was clearly understood that unless bondholders converted voluntarily, they would be compelled to make a sacrifice in some other direction. The quotations from the conference proceedings read by the J ‘rime Minister this afternoon afford sufficient proof that what I say is correct. The right honorable gentleman also quoted the opinions expressed by Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, who said that if sacred contracts affecting wages, arbitration awards, and pensions were violated, and arbitrary cuts were made - as they were made many months ago - the same treatment should be applied to those who were holding government securities.
I remember well the debate that took place in this chamber when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr Hughes) insisted that the Government should unmask its intentions, and not pretend that the conversion would be voluntary. I believe that there was no alternative for those who were involved but to convert. Had the Government faced the facts originally, and made the conversion a compulsory one. a good deal of money could have been saved.
– Over £50,000.
– Just so. That amount could have been spent more productively in assisting the unemployed than in the advertising and other expenses of the conversion.
Involved in this bill is something, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition admitted, that is new in the parliamentary life of Australia. He pointed out that it marks a new attitude towards the sanctity of government contracts. He also suggested that, when bonds to tho amount of more than £65,000,000 mature in 1938, the country will be unable to meet its obligations. I hold the same opinion. The general circumstances of Australia and the world have changed so much that unless a different economic policy is pursued, repudiation will again have to be resorted to, as has already been done in this measure, as these obligations fall due.
On the 6th November last, when the redemption of £28,000,000 that was maturing during the following month was debated in caucus, it was decided by a majority that, in the interests of the nation, it would be desirable to extend the currency of the bonds that were maturing for a further twelve mouths, at the existing rates of interest,, provision being made for the Commonwealth Bank to redeem the holdings of those who were in necessitous circumstances. We remember how the gentleman who is now Leader of the Opposition rushed out of the party room en route to Melbourne, to clear the way for a campaign against what he declared to be repudiation. According to press reports, the Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green) tried to stop him, shouting, “ For God’s sake, Joe, don’t do it “. The recollection of that incident is very interesting in view of present circumstances. The proposal of the Labour caucus was supported by the late Sir John Monash, who, at a function that he attended about that time, expressed the view that if bondholders were actuated by any spirit of patriotism they would be willing to extend the peri >d of their holdings for two years if necessary.
It is also interesting now to recall the attitude of the Prime Minister on that occasion. Secret cables passed between the right honorable gentleman and the Acting Prime Minister^ and the Acting Treasurer. The wireless telephone was kept busy, and the cable service was worked at’ full pressure while the Prime Minister vehemently opposed the proposal. Seated in a room of his London hotel, the right honorable gentleman feverishly snatched the telephone from its stand, and in no uncertain way denounced the contemplated action of the party as “repudiation “, “ dishonesty “, “ something that would be disastrous to the nation “. He declared that it would wreck the credit of Australia, and make it impossible for this Government ever to go on the market for a loan again.
– :Was not something said about smashing the British Empire ?
– I do not know whether that subject was debated. The Prime Minister was in close touch with the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) and others, and he had an opportunity to confer with those ‘ gentlemen on that very important subject.
– During the dinner adjournment I obtained copies of the cablegrams which passed between the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the then Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), when the former was in London. I propose to read them so that they may be incorporated in Hansard. One cablegram reads -
I do not approve, and will not support, resolution of party, which I agree is repudiation, which is dishonest and disastrous. Brennan
Mid Moloney concur. We agree that you are right in recommending to the Loan Council issue of loans, as party’s resolution has demoralized Australian stocks here, and, unless rescinded, will render renewal of bills here, as well us conversions in Australia, impossible.
So far as I know, that resolution has not been rescinded. Following that decision, this further message was received from the Prime Minister -
J appeal to the party to reconsider its resolution, which has demoralized Australian stocks here, rendering renewal of treasurybills impossible.
The Prime Minister’s message continued -
That proposal W;ls disastrous, lt is a reversal of the party’s declared policy to honour national obligations, and no self-respecting government could agree to it. Our Government floated a loan and guaranteed the public a safe investment. Thousands of people withdrew their savings from the savings bank to assist the Labour Government. To default on this loan would weaken the value of their investments, would destroy public confidence, and would delay for years the restoration of economic prosperity.
In another part of the same cable to the then Acting Treasurer the right honorable gentleman said -
To enforce renewal by refusing to pay the debts for a year is repudiation. The law would not permit that in private transactions, arid no one mindful of his personal honour would do it in private life.
When in London, the Prime Minister considered that the decision of the party amounted to repudiation - something so dishonorable that no man mindful of his personal honour would be a participator in it.
– From what book is the honorable member quoting?
– I am quoting from a Copy of the cables which passed between the Prime Minister when in London and the then Acting Treasurer in November of last year. The decision of the Labour party to which I have referred caused a stir in political circles in this country. The Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hogan. speaking at Ballarat, described the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) as “ bilkers “ and “ welshers “ for being parties to a decision to defer,payment The present Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley)’ declared at Goulburn that any policy which tended towards dishonouring national obligations savoured of racecourse “ spielers,” and should not be tolerated.
– I said that the plan then proposed was as old as the hills.
– In the opinion of some who were then associated with cbe Government, the honouring of obligations wa3 seemingly of paramount importance. If in November, 1930, it was rank repudiation to suggest that a payment amounting to £28,000,000 should be deferred for twelve months, how can we describe the proposal to defer payment of £558,000,000, not for twelve months, but for a rninimum period of seven years and a maximum term of 30 years? Surely no greater instance of hypocrisy has ever been witnessed in this country. The Prime Minister said this afternoon that national necessity had actuated the Government in introducing this bill. I hope that the right honorable gentleman does not consider that he alone has a monopoly of ideas concerning national necessity, because what he now say3 was the decided opinion of the majority of the party nearly twelve months ago. If these members of the Labour party who, in November last, advocated a certain course were rightly called repudiationists, I leave it to the House to say bow those who advocate the policy contained in’ this measure should be described.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the slogans which were adopted to encourage the people to invest in the £28,000,000 loan. People with money in the various savings banks of Australia were urged to withdraw it, and to invest it in the loan. Speakers visited factories and workshops to urge the workers to invest a proportion of their earnings in the loan, even though by sn doing they committed themselves to weekly payments from their wages which they could ill afford, extending over a number of years. There certainly was the promise of high rates of interest to encourage them to do that. The loan was floated at rates as high as 6 per cent., which meant that in many cases persons with money invested at 4 per cent, converted their holdings to the new issue to secure the higher, rate. The extra interest bill cost the country over £200,000 per annum. The loan was described as a gilt-edged security, and investors were told that they need have no fear that the promises made to them would not be honoured. That those who spoke in that strain a year ago should now speak in favour of this bill, brands them as repudiationists of the worst type.
A good deal has been said regarding the sanctity of contracts. Whatever may be said in that connexion, a great deal more can be said regarding the sanctity of our obligations to the people of this country. I have always said that a greater obligation rests on governments and parliaments to provide food, clothing and shelter for the people of a country than to pay interest to bondholders. A fundamental principle of the Labour party’s policy is that human beings shall have consideration before the £ s. d. The Labour party owes its very existence to the fact that it has stood for the rights of the people in this direction. Before there was a Labour party, contracts in which financial interests were involved were treated as matters of the greatest importance. These interests could well defend themselves, if necessary, without the assistance of any government. To the Labour party was entrusted the duty of altering that outlook and of defending the rights of the masses of the people. During the present crisis that fundamental obligation has been disregarded by a so-called government, which has definitely stated that tho sanctity of contracts is to benefit only bondholders and those who are capable of defending themselves, and that the rights of the people are of secondary importance.
– That is not in accordance with fact.
– Those who genuinely believe in the principles of the Labour party must place the needs of the people before everything else.
We are told that this bill is a part of a plan which will solve our difficulties, and remove the wrongs from which the country has suffered during the past twelve months. It is claimed that it will provide employment for 100,000 workers. Let us examine the position as it is. I ask honorable members whether, in spite of the boasted success of the conversion loan and these compulsory proposals, unemployment has diminished to any extent. As a matter of fact, circumstances have grown steadily worse. Our position is becoming worse as we proceed with the policy determined by this Government, and accepted at the Premiers Conference.
– Is not the position worse in New South Wales under the Lang Government?
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) hai to-day, on his own initiative, definitely shown that the only government in Australia that has earnestly endeavoured to tackle its financial problems is the Government of New South Wales.
– And it broke the New South Wales Government Savings Bank.
– That is absolutely contrary to the facts. Every honorable member who is true to his convictions will agree with the honorable member for Corangamite that the New South Wales Government has made greater progress in its fight with the financial institutions than has any other government throughout Australia. If the honorable member wishes to enter into a discussion about tho New South Wales Government Savings Bank, ho will get more than he bargains for. We have had sufficient evidence in this House a3 to who is responsible for the position of that bank and the part played by politics in the matter. It Ja remarkable that Sir Robert Gibson only three weeks ago rushed to the aid of two private banks in Queensland when they were threatened with a stampede; but ho did nothing to assist the New South Wales Government Savings Bank. This debate is not centred round that bank, although the Prime Minister (Mr.
Scullin) the other day, while the members of this corner were absent on other work, took the opportunity to play a coward’s part by attacking us regarding the position of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank.
– The honorable member should have been here.
– During the last few months we have been engaged in other places, on work perhaps more useful than we could have done here; because this Parliament has reached a position in which there is no opposition from those who sit on that side of the House. We might just as well have an executive council upon which each party was represented, and allow it to determine the policy of this country without going through the sham of discussing important problems in this House. We believe that the fight is to be fought not in this chamber, but in the country, and that is where we propose to carry it, at the same time using every effort to further our cause.
– Why does not the honorable member pluck up sufficient courage to vote the Government out of office?
– The honorable member will need all his courage before many months pass. There is no doubt that, on this issue, he must stand with the rest of his associates in this chamber as a repudiationist in respect of government contracts. There is another aspect of repudiation which is involved in this debate. Those honorable members who held up their hands in horror, and regarded as “ welchers “ other honorable members who advocated the withholding of interest payments twelve months ago, are to-day adopting the veryattitude that they then condemned. They are adopting the policy of dishonouring a national obligation - a policy of rank repudiation. The other day thefollowing paragraph appeared in the press.: -
The Leaderofthe Federal Opposition, Mr. Lyons, to-day described as serious the Federal Treasurer’s announcement that on unconverted tax-free securities, interest is being paid at reduced rates, while in regard to unconverted taxable securities, no interest has -been paid since August.
Mr. Lyons said that this action meant that in one case the Treasurer had arbitrarily reduced the interest rate, and in the other he had repudiated payment pending Parliamentary sanction for the Government’s proposals.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons), who talked about other honorable members as repudiationists with respect to interest payments, has now become a repudiationist himself, because he is a supporter of the plan which provides for such a course. Honorable members opposite are to-day, of sheer national necessity, being forced to adopt an attitude which they condemned twelve months ago. Had this Government then stood to the Labour cause, and not sacrificed its honour and disregarded its obligations to those to whom the party owes its existence, the serious divisions within the ranks of the party throughout Australia would not have occurred. Those of us who believed in the fundamental principles of Labour were forced to take a stand against the policy of this Government, and our action has undoubtedly been vindicated.
– The honorable member, in common with the rest of his party, must be branded as a repudiationist.
– I am opposed to this measure.
– The honorable member, who has associated himself with the rehabilitation plan all along, is taking an unfair course now in attacking the Government in respect of this legislation. I’ leave the position there. I support the measure without any difficulty whatever, because I am satisfied that this course should have been taken long ago. I am pleased that those who regarded themselves as financial geniuses twelve months ago, have now been forced to take their stand with us on this issue.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hunter) adjourned.
Debate resumed from page 9.7:9..
This measure is entitled “ The Wheat Bounty Bill of 1931”. The Minister must very nearly have run out of titles for the purpose of describing his benevolent endeavours to do something by legislation in relation to wheat. It is unnecessary on this occasion to recite the many unsuccessful attempts which the Minister has made in the last two years to assist the wheat-growers.
– Unsuccessful because of the obstruction of Nationalist members in another place.
– I do not’ propose to repeat what I have said previously regarding the futile attempts of the Ministry to deal with this problem, because I recognize that the Minister has not repeated the same speech that he made ou the last four or five occasions and, therefore, it would be unfair for me to- make the same reply as formerly. This is a proposal for n bounty on the production of wheat, and the bounty is to be paid on bushels produced. The Minister has suggested that it is to be paid ou bushels exported, but the bill does not provide for that. We have not yet seen the Wheat Charges Bill which is to be introduced, so we are discussing the measure, to some extent, in ignorance of the complete scheme. But this bill undoubtedly provides for a bounty on wheat produced, and not on wheat exported. The amount of the bounty is limited, first, because it is to be Gd. a bushel as a maximum, and secondly because the payment is to be limited to the difference between the price, or the f.o.b. equivalent of the price, of the wheat and the prescribed P, 1.., and the proscribed price, I understand, may be either 3s. or 3s. 6d., according to the arrangement made between the Government and the banks. There is tho suggestion also that the amount of the bounty is to be limited to £3,000,000. That is not so. This bill does not limit the payment to £3,000,000. It, provides for a bounty of 6d., subject to the limitation of the difference between the price and the prescribed price, and it also provides that the Treasurer may borrow £3,000,000 for the purpose of the act. But if the production is on the same scale as last season, more than that sum will be required.
Such a measure as this cannot be permanent. It is quite impossible to accept as a permanent part of the policy of the Commonwealth of Australia, a provision for a bounty on wheat to be raised by loan from the banks or otherwise. Obviously, this is a temporary expedient only. It is obviously quite impossible, as a permanent policy, to continue to raise money by loan for the purpose of paying a bounty on wheat.
– Or with respect to anything else.
– 1 quite agree with the honorable member. The reason that I have picked out wheat is because it is only in the case of wheat that it is proposed to add £3,000,000 to the national debt for the purpose of providing a bounty for one year. The observations 1 have made would apply to any other commodity if similar action were proposed in regard to it. There is no hope of arriving at a solution of the farmer’s difficulties by measures such as this. The object of the bill is to provide relief for present distress ; not to make wheat-farming in Australia profitable, but to help the farmers to live during the next season. The object is not to give 6d. a bushel on wheat whatever its price may be, but to assist the farmers in a time of very great distress. Something else will have to be done if our farmers are to carry on profitably, and it is useless to think of doing it permanently along the line* of this measure. After this bill has been passed, the only large scale industries in Australia which will not be in direct receipt of assistance by way of grants, subsidies, or protection from the customs, will be wool-growing, meatraising and the production of base metals. Every one has heard the story of the men who, not being able to see over one another heads, all obtained kerosene boxes and stood on them. It is becoming apparent to everybody in Australia that we must. ha ve a much more radical reform of our economic structure than is afforded by measures such as this. This bill is, I think, necessary because of the really dire distress of the wheat-growers. During the last recess I spent a considerable time in the wheat districts, and obtained some first-hand knowledge of conditions there. It became evident to me that the position of many of the wheat-farmers was desperate, and it is for that reason, and for that reason only, that I am prepared to support the present hill. I have shown that, in my opinion, we cannot overcome our difficulties by granting bounties and subsidies from the public funds. That is why, in the course of debates on the tariff and on industrial matters, I have pleaded for the removal of certain measures which I believe, are hampering, instead of helping, Australian industries.
I have already admitted that assistance is necessary in the case of the wheatfarmers. As to the amount of the assistance to be given, the Minister has stated that the Government has not yet arrived at an agreement with the banks. I am prepared to leave the matter to be discussed between the Government and the banks. The Government, no doubt, is concerned to secure votes, but it is also beginning to be concerned with the actual financial and economic position of the country, and the welfare of the banks is bound up with the well-being of the country. I do not propose to say anything in the course of this debate which might be regarded as bringing pressure to bear on the banks to provide a particular sum of money. I shall leave the matter in the hands of the Government and the banks, hoping that a wise conclusion will be reached. It must be borne in mind that the amount to be provided under this bill will bo obtained by loan.
– Without interest?
– No, at interest. It will all be spent this year, and the people of Australia will have to repay the principal, and pay interest on it until it is repaid.
– In what way?
– Out of taxation. I presume, therefore, that the Government will, if it discharges its proper functions, be anxious to see that no undue burden is placed on the people of Australia as a whole.
I suggest that one or two matters in the bill might receive consideration from the drafting point of view in order to make sure that the bill will work. In clause 3 of the bill there is a definition of “ f ree-on-board price,” but the phrase itself is nowhere used in the bill, so far as I can see. Apparently that definition belongs to an earlier draft of the bill. Clause 5 provides that a bounty shall be payable on the production of wheat, which has been sold or delivered for sale to a licensee. Clause 6 provides that a certificate shall be given upon sale, stating, as prescribed, the “free-on-board “ equivalent of the price per bushel paid, or to be paid, for the wheat. Sub-clause 2 of clause 6 shows how the “ free-on-board “ equivalent of the price is to be determined. All that is clear. One would have thought from the explanation of the Minister that the limit of the amount of the bounty, within the other limit of 6d. a bushel, was to be arrived at by determining the difference between the f.o.b. equivalent, and the prescribed price referred to in clause 7. It is remarkable however, that in clause 7 it is provided that-
The rate of bounty payable in respect of any wheat shall be the amount per bushel by which the price specified in the certificate issued by a licensee in respect of that wheat falls short of the prescribed price, but not exceeding in any case fid. per bushel.
If we refer again to sub-clause 1, of clause 6, we shall see that the certificate must state, as prescribed, the f.o.b. equivalent of the price per bushel paid, or to be paid, for the wheat, while clause 7 speaks of the difference between the price specified in the certificate - not the “ free-on-board “ equivalent - and the prescribed price. I suggest that this matter be looked into to determine whether the clauses should not be redrafted.
It seems to me that, with a measure of this kind, it would require only a moderate amount of collusion to make the Government pay to the farmers a good deal of money which otherwise it would not need to to pay at all. I am a barrister by profession, and a considerable portion of my life has been spent considering and discussing statutes to find out their true meaning. I have sometimes in this House felt a difficulty in pointing out methods of evading the purpose of acts of Parliament while remaining within the law. Even when I have not approved of a measure passed here, 1 have felt that I owed a duty to Parliament not to go out of my way to give hints to the public how they might defeat its provisions. Accordingly, on this occasion, I am not developing to the full the ingenuity which, I think, could be exercised in the defeat of this legislation. There are others, however, who will take the fullest advantage of the opportunities provided for, let us say, extracting the maximum benefit from a benevolent Commonwealth Government.
– How unnatural !
– The honorable member for Bendigo is one of those stark spartans who would never dream of extracting the maximum benefit from any one, not even in respect to sewing machines. At the end of this bill there is a clause which provides that the Governor-General may make regulations for giving effect to the act, and I think that there will have to be some very carefully drawn regulations, providing for substantial penalties, to prevent the Government, which represents the people of the Commonwealth, from being swindled, in effect, under the operations of this measure. It would be very easy to swindle the Government. It is often said, when a man makes a suggestion like this, that he is making an entirely unfounded charge against a body of men of the highest standing and integrity in the community. I am accustomed to bear that, and I am not going to be deterred by such a statewent from pointing out what I know to be true. Unfortunately, there are many citizens whose pride in their own ingenuity in evading the requirements of the law is greater than any qualms of conscience they may feel at disregarding ethical considerations. It may be desirable to provide definitely that the limit of £3,000,000 under this provision shall not be exceeded. I was under the impression that the harvest was always a matter of doubt, but I am told by those who have more knowledge of wheat than I have that there is no likelihood of the £3,000,000 to bf provided under this measure being exceeded. I have in mind, however, wheat that has been saved for seed, and in respect of which much money might reach the pockets of the farmers. It would be wise, therefore, to provide definitely that the limit of the bounty shall be £3,000,000. We have been informed that the general principles of the bill have been agreed to by those interested. The money for the payment of the bounty is available in the only way in which money can be available at thi? period, and the farmers sadly need and must receive assistance. Therefore, I do not oppose the bill; nevertheless I am unable to see how the wheat-farmer will be able to carry on his industry next year if the present Government is still in office.
.-This bill is the remnant of a sustained and sincere effort by the Government to assist the wheat-growers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) stated that he had recently visited the wheat belts, and familiarized himself with the conditions obtaining there. I believe that if he had taken that trip prior to the introduction of the legislation providing for the establishment of an. Australian-wide pool, the measure would have been accepted by the Senate. The honorable gentleman at last appreciates the revolutionary transformation in the general conditions surrounding the growing and marketing of wheat that is needed to confer any permanent benefit on the growers. That has been insisted on by members supporting the Government throughout this Parliament, and because the Government realized the conditions of the farmers it proposed the introduction of a pooling system. No other method is practicable in the existing circumstances of the industry. This bill must be read in conjunction with another measure to be introduced later: in addition, regulations will have to be drafted to safeguard the interests of the general community. It will be very difficult to administer the bill in such a way as to give a sense of security to the people who will have to repay the money that if to be advanced to the farmers. First the f.o.b. price must be defined. In the light of my practical experience, both as a farmer and as a purchaser and distributor of wheat, I do not think that the human mind can conceive a method by which a uniform f.o.b. price for wheat throughout Australia can be fixed or can devise machinery to police the collection and. distribution of wheat in such a way as adequately to secure the interests of all concerned. I am not suggesting that there will be actual dishonesty, but proper business practices will have to be adopted to meet the changing conditions that may develop as a result of this legislation. The Combined intellects of honorable members may at the committee stage devise satisfactory amendments, but it would be advisable to point out now the inconsistencies inevitable in a measure to control the collection and sale of wheat other than through the agency of a pool. Suppose we had to fix the f.o.b. price of wheat in Australia to-day. In Adelaide at 4.30 p.m. it was 2s. 6$d.; at Manila, New South Wales, purchases were made at 2s. 11½d. ; in the country small parcels of bagged wheat were sold at 2s. 8d., and in Melbourne sales were effected at 2s. lOd. How then is it possible to fix for a day or a week a uniform price throughout the Commonwealth? An international buying agency, such as Louis Dreyfus and Company, fixes it3 prices from day to day in accordance with its sales and charters. The firm may lose £50 on a parcel of wheat for a customer in- one country, and make £300 on another charter to a different part of the world; so it fixes its f.o.b. price on the average results1 of its sales over a period.
– The licensee has to show on the certificate the actual price paid. It matters not if the price varies in the different States.
– I am pointing out the inconsistencies that may arise and cause trouble, through the absence of a pooling system. Suppose that the f.o.b. price is definitely indicated on the docket given to- the farmer on delivery of his wheat at the railway siding. The price paid by one buyer may be 2s. 8d., and by another buyer 2s. lOd. The bounty will provide a margin of 6d. for buyers to play with, and business firms will naturally safeguard their own interests. A minimum price will be fixed, and that minimum will become the f.o.b. price. Therefore, the amount of money to be found by the Government within the limit of £3,000,000, to sustain that price, will be the minimum price fixed by the associated buyers. So far as the price paid to the farmer is concerned, competition will be dead. Let us consider the case of a wheat buyer operating on the basis of Liverpool or Chicago quotations from time to time. A transaction completed this morning between the United States of America and France has relieved tho former of 50,000,000 bushels of its surplus wheat. That has caused an advance in options in America up to June next. In the Liverpool wheat exchange there has been a definite advance. in options up to next March. An Australian firm with international ramifications would operate in accordance with those developments. Therefore, some sense of security must be given. Those firms which deal in options in America and England have been in operation for a long time, and their judgment of the trend of the market may be accepted as fairly reliable. In the light of their operations it is reasonable to believe that wheat values have a tendency to rise, apart from possible fluctuations in the exchange. That is confirmed not only by the advance in options in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Canada, but also by the fact that considerable inquiries have been received from different parts of the world, particularly Belfast, by Australian millers for quantities of flour, pollard and bran.
– If that is so, this bounty will never operate.
– I am leading up to that point. It is reasonable for one who studies the movements of wheat to take an optimistic view of future price levels. The Government has announced that the farmers are to be assisted to the amount of £3,000,000, but under the terms of this bill the people of Australia may not be called upon to find any portion of that sum. The farmers have continued their industry, despite great difficulties, and it would be reasonable to provide that the £3,000,000 shall be definitely paid to them to relieve them of some of the obligations they entered into in previous years to maintain their own existence and the solvency of the nation. Can any rational objection be raised to this proposal to relieve the wheat-growers? The project is a reasonable one, aand will assist farmers who have struggled against overwhelming odds to maintain their holdings. Time after time they have been subjected to disappointments and setbacks, because this Government has been unable to carry through the legislation that it brought town t to assist them. The position should be clearly defined, [f it were reasonable that £3,000,000 should be made available to assist the wheatfarmers when wheat was about 2s. 2d. a bushel, surely the fact that price levels have advanced somewhat must give a greater sense of security to the financial institutions concerned. Ninety per cent, of the wheat-farmers are at present working on restricted overdrafts. The money that they will receive under this scheme will merely relieve their position and increase their credit; it will not go into their pockets, but will find its way back to the financial institutions, which are, to-day, practically managing the majority of the farms. Actually, it would be a transfer from bank to bank. At the same time, the money would relieve farmers from the awful tension under which they are labouring, and give them a greater sense of security for the future. As price levels are rising, it appears clear that the amount that will be necessary to build up the f.o.b. price to 3s. will not be great.
– Who fixes the f.o.b. price?
– I endeavoured to make that clear when I began my speech. It is not. definitely stated in the bill. When the measure reaches the committee stage, I shall seek specific information as to how the f.o.b. price will be established. Is it to be upon London or American parity, or upon the value of sales made to China or Japan? How can any person who is receiving wheat establish an f.o.b. price other than that which he places on the docket? In nine cases out of ten, when delivery of wheat is taken at a country railway siding or at a mill, those concerned do not know what the f.o.b. price will be, because, at the time, they are unaware what price the mill will receive for it.
– Does not the buyer put upon the docket the exact price that he pays for the wheat?
– Yes, but it is impossible for him to write on a ticket the amount that he is going to receive for the wheat. Assume that a farmer is growing wheat at Bendigo, which he delivers to a mill 20 miles away. What would be its f.o.b. price? Again, a man who grows wheat in the Wimmera dis trict may have to transport it 300 miles to a mill. What will be his f.o.b. price?
– Do not agents receive wires from their principals every day giving the price?
– In practice, there is regular communication between agents and principals, but I contend that it is not possible for the buyer to fix at the time of purchase the f.o.b. price for the wheat that he buys.
– It is merely the purchasing price, plus freight.
– Assume that the agent buys 1,000 bushels of wheat delivered at a siding. It is then sold to a miller in Sydney, to be shipped to the East. An f.o.b. price is placed on that purchase. Another buyer may have a subagent at the same receiving depot who purchases in order to fill a contract that has been entered into with a London principal. The f.o.b. price for that purchase could be 3d. a bushel leas than that paid for the other wheat, bought on the same day at the same siding. I mention these inconsistencies to assist honorable members to deal with the bill in committee.
– An f.o.b. price could be established for each port in Australia. The price could be ascertained daily.
– Each buyer might know the f.o.b. price for his own requirements, but the price of wheat varies in different localities. I have called attention to a variation of prices in three different places in Australia, which is as much as 31/2d. a bushel. In such circumstances, how could a f.o.b. price be fixed ?
– There would have to be an f.o.b. price for each port.
– That would eventually mean that the minimum price would be the f.o.b. price.
– And the bounty would be used to make up the difference.
– Precisely. This Parliament must use its intellectual capacity to prevent such a thing from happening. If the minimum price became the f.o.b. price, buyers, by making favorable sales to different organizations, could obtain a rate of 7d. or Sd. a bushel, 6d. of which would have to be paid by the people of Australia. We must try to prevent that.
– Does not the (honorable member realize that the price will be stated on the sale docket?
– I do. .
– Then, how can difficulty arise?
– My practical experience in this business teaches me that you can put the purchase price on a ticket, but that will not be the average f.o.b. price obtained for the wheat. If three or more agents are operating at one receiving depot, each one can Legitimately have an f.o.b. price in accordance with his sales, and it may differ in each case. One person may buy for three different principals. He may be buying for a miller and on a particular day can offer 3d. a bushel more for that principal’s requirements than he can for the needs of a shipper, as the latter may have entered into an arrangement to supply an order at a set price to some port on the other side of the world.
Again, take the f.a.q. wheat. It is possible under the existing system for a man who is selling flour to Egypt to pay as much for 59 as for f.a.q. wheat, although it may be 2 lb. under f.a.q., and yet make as much out of the transaction as if it were 61 wheat f.a.q., as he may be supplying requirements in a certain part of the world where flour milled from the lighter wheat would do. Under the proposed system of docketing it will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth to police tho act. Supposing that the f.a.q. is 61, and that there is a considerable quantity of wheat offering at 59, the milling quality of which is equal to that of the 61. Unless a uniform system of docketing is adopted, the 59 may bring a price equal to that given for slightly bleached 61, which any self-respecting farmer should put into his silo.
– Assume that wheat that cost 2s. 2d. a bushel at Coonamble cost 2s. 7d. in Sydney, due to the freight. What figure would go on the ticket to indicate the f.o.b. price?
– The Minister has shown another possible inconsistency. He has asked whether in the case of wheat grown 200 miles from the port of shipment the f.o.b. price will be fixed with due regard to the cost of railway haulage, and, if so, whether another man who grows wheat within 10 miles of the place of delivery is to be treated in the same way. In order to establish a safe f.o.b. price for f.a.q. wheat, merchants usually average their purchases over a given time. We must tie prepared to meet these possibilities if we are to safeguard the interests of the people generally.
– Will, there be any difficulty if the people concerned are honest?
– Just as it has been found impossible to identify wheat, so it has been found impossible to prove charges of conspiracy, although it has been known that thousands of bushels of wheat have been manipulated at the places of delivery because of unhealthy business practices.
The farmers of this country have a right to expect the nation to come to their assistance to the extent of £3.000,000. Unfortunately, price levels are such that it will not be possible to find money to establish an f.o.b. price which will give farmers a sense of security. The £3,000,000 to be expended will be paid to the farmers only if the price of wheat is below 3s. a bushel f.o.b. This should not be, as the farmer should receive the £3,000,000 providing the f.o.b. price doe* not exceed the cost of production. It is only reasonable that we should do something for that section of the community which the present Government has endeavoured in various ways to assist.
– It has failed.
– The Government has failed only because of the political power of those institutions which the honorable member represents in this House. I have spoken in this strain to-night, not because I fear any action on the part of the farmers, but because of the influence of those persons who, in the past, have controlled the collection and distribution of wheat to the detriment of the wheatgrowers and the community generally. Certain organizations are endeavouring to create a feeling of pessimism in relation to wheat values so that they may continue to make huge profits out of the wheat-growers of this country. That is what I wish to prevent.
– I am intensely disappointed that the bill has not been drafted on the lines suggested at the conference held recently in Melbourne, to which the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) invited the Ministers of Agriculture for the States and representatives of certain bodies. I realize that the Government could not raise tho limit of 3s. a bushel f.o.b. to 3s. 6d. without the consent of the banks; but I say that the vital point which was stressed at the conference, and agreed to there by the Minister, was that the bounty should apply to all wheat exported within the limits of either the 3s. or the 3s. 6d. per bushel. So far the Minister has not told us whether the banks have been approached with a view to their raising the limit from 3s. to 3s. 6d. a bushel.
– I said definitely that the banks had been approached to that end.
– In yesterday’s Argus there is a paragraph to the effect that the banks had not been formally asked by the Federal Government to extend the limit to 3s. 6d.
– The letter was only written on Monday, and it would barely have reached Melbourne when the Argun went to press.
– The success of the scheme depends, first, on the bounty being paid on all the wheat that is exported - not on the exportable surplus. The exportable surplus is a known quantity; this year it is expected to be about 110,000,000 bushels.
– The conference agreed to the plan which the banks had accepted. I read it clause by clause.
– If the Minister will refer to the resolution of the conference he will see that it was agreed, first, that the bounty should be paid on all wheat that is exported ; and, secondly, that the banks should be approached with a view to the limit being raised to 3s. 6d. a bushel.. In my opinion the bill contains a lot of useless and unnecessary words. The whole thing is really quite simple. If the bill provided for the payment of a bounty on all wheat exported this year it would be satisfactory; but it does not provide for that. Clause 5 says nothing about export. That clause reads -
A bounty under this act shall, subject to this act, be payable on the production of wheat which has been sold or delivered for sale to a licensee.
– The bill provides for paying a bounty both in respect of the wheat exported and that required for local consumption. For that reason the word “ production “ is used.
– Had the bill provided for a bounty of 6d. a bushel on all wheat exported, up to a certain maximum rate, the Minister would have been relieved of a great deal of trouble, and the price for local consumption would have automatically been raised to the f.o.b. equivalent plus the bounty.
– It was agreed that that would have the effect of raising the price of wheat automatically for local consumption. Instead of leaving it to chance the bill ensures that that will be done. The honorable gentleman object* to making assurance doubly sure.
– Although I am desirous of helping the Minister, I have a duty to perform to the people who sent me here, the bulk of whom are wheat-growers. They prefer the other method which I have mentioned to that contained in the bill; they consider it to be more equitable. If the bounty were payable in respect of all wheat available for export, the price of wheat consumed locally would automatically be raised to equal the export parity, plus the whole, or a portion, of the bounty, which would bring the total price to 3s. or 3s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b., whichever limit is adopted. I do not blame the Minister, but I am disappointed that he is unable to say whether the limit has been raised to 3s. 6d. a bushel. Many of my objections would disappear if I knew that the maximum had been raised to 3s. 6d.
At the conference I supported a bounty on all wheat exported up to a limit of 3s. 6d. a bushel, provided that the banks agreed to the proposal. I supported that method of distributing the bounty only because we were told that the banks would not pay on last year’s crop on a production basis. In my opinion, the present proposal is not so equitable or so effective as a payment, on last year’s production of 212,000,000 bushels. On that basis, a grant of £3,000,000 would have provided a bounty of 3½d. per bushel, and the growers would not have had to wait for the money. Had that been done the Government would, in some degree, have redeemed its promise to pay 3s. a bushel f.o.b. on the 1.930-31 harvest, and the payment would have been more equitably spread. So far as the wheat-growers are concerned, time is of the essence of the contract. The farmers need this money more than at any time in their history; they require it before, not after, the coming harvest. It is doubtful that many of them will be able to take off their crops this year, through lack of supplies of cornsacks, oils, twine, and duplicates. They have no money with which to buy these supplies, and they cannot get credit from either the machinery merchants or the banks. It would have been better had the bounty ‘been payable in respect of their last year’s crop. When it was announced that £3,000,000 was to be made available to assist tho wheat industry, the wheat-growers saw a gleam of hope; but now it would appear that the Government does not, intend that they shall get anything in respect of last year’s crop.
– That is because of the attitude of the banks.
– A limit of 3s. a bushel will make it impossible for the wheatgrowers to get more than 3s. a bushel f.o.b., unless the f.o.b. price exceeds that amount apart from any bounty. If the full 6d. were paid on the exportable surplus, only £2,750,000 would be required; but, judging from present conditions, it is probable that the f.o.b. price will be such that very little^ if any, of the bounty will- be required to bring the f.o.b. price up to 3s. a bushel. Ft would, therefore, appear that the bill will not enable the wheat-growers to get out of their difficulties. [Quorum formed.’] It is impossible to forecast, with any degree of accuracy, what may be the yield of wheat for the present season, but for the- purpose of argument I shall assume that New South Wales will have 40,000,000 bushels; Victoria, 35,000,000 bushels; South Australia, 4.3,000,000 bushels; Western Australia, 38,000,000 bushels; and Queensland 4,000,000 bushels, or a total of 160,000,000 bushels. Taking the wheat required for home consumption as 32,000,000 bushels; seed, 14,000,000 bushels; and feed, 4,000,000 bushels, totalling 50,000,000 bushels, there will be an exportable surplus of 110,000,000 bushels, which, at 6d. a bushel by way of bounty, would require a sum of £2,750,000. Under no circumstances will the whole of the £3,000,000 be required. In fact, unless there is more than the average rainfall between now and harvest time, the total crop is likely to be below 156,000,000 bushels. Rain is needed’ in South Australia, and in parts of Victoria and New South Wales. The following paragraph appeared in yesterday’s Argus : -
The banks state that so far as they are concerned, as purely trading institutions, it does not matter how the Government dispenses the wheat loan, but the)- hold that they have a higher duty to perform in the general welfare.
I should think that they would be serving the public welfare if they endeavoured to keep the farmers of this country on the land, and did not force them to flock into the cities to swell the ranks of the unemployed. The paragraph continues -
To assist the Government to find money tomake up losses suffered by wheat fanners is entirely different from finding money for the Governments to give away as bounties to » section of the community.
What is the position to-day? The Government is finding money to pay heavy bounties to certain industries, but the banks state that to assist it to find money to make up tosses suffered by wheat farmers is entirely different from finding moneys for bounties. We do not ask the banks to find moneys for bounties at all. They should find the £3,000,000, and allow the Government to distribute it on the basis of last year’s production. If that were done we would not ask for a bounty.
– If the banks refused to do that, what alternative would the honorable member suggest?
– The necessary steps should be taken to secure the money.
– If the honorable member has a remedy up his sleeve, I should like to know of it.
– The bill merely ensures to the growers the payment of 3s. a bushel, provided that the f.o.b. price is 2s. 6d. or better. It relieves the Government from its responsibility under the “Wheat Advances Act of 1931, because this legislation repeals that act. I regret that the Government was unable to honour its promise to the wheat-growers, and to carry out the provisions of that legislation. This bill also assures to the growers the price of 3s., f.o.b., provided that the f.o.b. price is not below 2s. 6d. As a matter of fact, this bill will not be worth the paper on which it is written, because the f.o.b. price will be so near to 3s. a bushel that the Government will have no liability at all. No money will have to be provided by it, and the result will be that the farmer will get 3s. f.o.b. After paying f.o.b. charges plus the cost of bags, he will, therefore, receive the miserable sum of 2s. 2d. a bushel on the farm. No farmer can grow wheat profitably at that price. I shall support the bill, even though I do not agree with it in its entirety. It could be very much improved. Clause 3 states that unless the contrary intention appears the “ consumption within Australia “ in relation to wheat means use in the production of flour for consumption within Australia. Not only have we 32,000,000 bushels for local consumption within Australia and 14,000,000 bushels for seed for which no bounty will be required, but there will be st least 4,000,000 bushels sold for local consumption not necessarily for making flour, but for use by people who have poultry, cowa, and pigs. Steps should be taken to license produce merchants, or at least to ensure that all wheat sold for food purposes is subject to some tax which will enable the same price to be obtained for wheat used in that way as for wheat used for making flour for local eonsumption. Sub-clause 2 of clause 6 provides that where the licensee is a pre scribed co-operative organization there: shall be issued to the grower in respect of wheat received by if from the grower a. certificate in duplicate in the prescribed: form specifying the quantity of wheat soreceived, and stating as prescribed thef.o.b. equivalent of the price per bushel estimated by the organization. The estimated price of wheat on a given day may be 2s. 9d. a bushel, and it may later be sold at 2s. 6d. or 3s. 6d. If bounties are to be paid on the estimated price, a loophole will be left not only for the co-. operative organizations, but for any buyer to engage in robbery and jobbery, and I am afraid that under the provisions of the bill there will be much of that done. Clause 6 also provides that the f.o.b. equivalent of the price per bushel estimated by the organization is to be that at which the wheat will be sold. Just imagine a pool which accepts 10,000,000, 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 bushels of wheat trying to estimate the price at which it shall be sold. The thing is utterly impossible. Any organization that makes such an estimate may land itself in grave difficulties, because it is impossible to sell a large quantity of wheat on a given day, and the f.o.b. price may rise or fall after a certificate has been issued. I hope that the bill will have a quick passage, so that the wheat-growers may obtain some relief at the earliest moment.
– The bill does not seem to please some honorable members representing country districts. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has said that it will be absolutely useless. If that is so, the Minister should withdraw it, because this £3,000,000 could be used in relieving unemployment. There are in, this country 460,000 people unemployed. They are not living on farms.
– They are living on the dole, and the farmer is getting nothing.
– I do not know of any farmer who is living on the dole. The farmers of this country are not in the same plight as the men in the cities and industrial areas. The farmer can live on his farm. He has cows, fowls, and other things with which to keep himself from starving. The men in the cities have not that advantage.
– We know that the honorsable member has no sympathy with the
Tman on the land.
– I do not wish to belittle the man on the land, but the honorable member is always whining about the position of the farmers. It is strange that this money can be found for the farmers while no provision is being made to relieve unemployment. This is oneaided legislation. The banks say that they cannot provide money to employ people on public works. No man need starve on the land, if he has any energy. A farmer can. always support himself and his family. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has asked that this money shall be paid on wheat exported, so that the farmers may put in last year’s surplus, and receive a bounty on that, also.
– The bill specifically provides against that.
– I am glad of it. The people of the country as a whole must find the interest on the £3,000,000 which is to be paid to the farmers. When is this borrowing going to cease? This £3,000,000 will not be spent on reproductive work. I desire the Government to raise money to be spent on reproductive public works, which will pay interest. The Government proposes to make a gift of £3,000,000 to the farmers at the expense of the rest of the community. The Minister for Markets must have great influence with the Commonwealth Bank authorities if he can obtain from them money for the farmers, when none is forthcoming for public works. I compliment him on his success.
– The honorable member will admit that public works are not reproductive, while money given to the farmers will be.
– I should not favour spending money at the present time on any works which were not reproductive. The farmers’ representatives stated some time ago that, if the farmers could ge 3s. a bushel for. their wheat, they would be satisfied. The market price is now very nearly 3s. a bushel, and they want a guarantee of 3s. 6d. If the price rose to 3s. 6d., I have no doubt that they would want a guarantee of 4s. I protest against one class of the community receiving favorable treatment* when other deserving sections are denied relief. Until the unemployment problem is solved, we shall not find a way out of our difficulties. Prosperity can be restored only by the production of wealth. The country will not be helped by paying a bounty of 6d. a bushel to the wheat-farmers. That will help only a small section of the com- ‘munity. I shall not oppose the. passing of this bill, but I hope that the Government will insist that money be found for relieving unemployment, as well as for assisting the farmers.
.- I am glad that the Minister has brought down a bill to give a very 3mall measure of help to the wheat-farmers, but I am sorry that the £3,000,000 which is to be provided by the bank is not even a partial fulfilment of the promises made by the Government in respect of last year’s crop. The wheat-farmers to-day are virtually down and out. Without the wheatfarmers and wool-growers the country cannot make any progress at all. No other industry can progress without the help of these principal industries. It is always interesting to me to hear the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) ventilating his opinions on this subject, and complaining of the assistance given to the farmers. Does he not realize that South Sydney has been maintained by the primary producers, and that, unless they are kept on the land, none of his constituents can be kept off the dole? As a matter of fact, the honorable member spoke from a constituency point of view only. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said that this kind of legislation was not a solution of Australia’s problems. I thoroughly agree with him. As I interjected a ‘ little while ago, I regard this £3,000,000 as conscience money owing by the Government to the farmers.
I have here a statement prepared by an accountant in Western Australia showing the costs associated with farming as in 1913, and at the present time. It. is as follows: -
– Is the honorable member comparing 1913 prices with those prevailing at the present time?
– The Minister seems to have entirely missed my point. I am quoting prices paid in 1913, when the farmers were receiving 3s. 9d. a bushel for their wheat, with the prices prevailing at the present time, when they are receiving only 2s. 2d. a bushel. I want these figures to be placed on record, so that those who hitherto have known nothing at all of the difficulties with which the farmers are confronted may learn the effects of the fiscal legislation which represents the policy of this country, and has placed an intolerable burden on the primary producers. This list con- tains implements that were in use during 1913. . Many of the more modern machines are higher priced. The statement continues -
No honorable member need apologize for voting to the farmers £3,000,000 of conscience money, which has been filched from them by those engaged in city industries by means of the increased costs of all the articles of production. The farmer has received no doles. The Prime Minister in his broadcast appeal to the producers to grow more wheat said -
We must grow more wheat and we must export more wheat, but if the wheat-growers of Australia are prepared to heed appeals to increase the area under cultivation they are entitled to some guarantee in the matter of price, and to assurances that their wheat will he marketed in a businesslike way . . . . The Commonwealth Government is offering to the wheat-growers a charter. We .appeal to them to take it with the price guarantee, and the assurance of businesslike marketing that go with it. We also appeal to them earnestly to increase the acreage under production.
The farmers received not one farthing of bounty in respect of last year’s crop.
– Who is responsible for the non-payment of the bounty of 4s. a bushel ?
– This bill repeals even the act by which this Parliament agreed to pay to the farmers 3s. a bushel on last year’s crop and under which not one penny has been paid.
The Leader of the Opposition has indicated some directions in which the bill might be amended in committee’, in order to safeguard the interests of the community. We should not provide opportunities, for dishonesty, but if the Commonwealth Bank can advance £3,000,000 for the assistance of wheat farmers, it should be paid without any tag or condition as to the price of wheat. I assume that the amount to be provided by the Commonwealth Bank will relate only to export wheat. On an estimated export of 120,000,000 bushels, payment of 6d. a bushel will be assured. I welcome the Minister’s proposal to provide machinery whereby wheat grown for local consumption will enjoy the same advantage. If such machinery provides an additional 6d. a bushel in respect of wheat for local consumption, the Government will have done all that can be expected under existing conditions, namely, the limits fixed by the banks. The cost of producing wheat depends almost entirely on the yield per acre. It is not less than 3s. 6d. a bushel, and, by and large, during the last five years has been not less than 4s. When other industries are bolstered by high duties, and are able to earn large profits, it is not unreasonable to ask that the great wheat industry should, at a time of serious depression, receive the bare cost of production. A return of 3s. 6d. a bushel will not leave any margin of profit ; it will barely keep the wheat-farmers on their holdings. The losses ‘ made on last year’s wheat were enormous; the Government’s promises to the growers were not fulfilled, and even if they get 3s. 6d. a bushel for this seasou’s crop they will have little cause to smile.
.- I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that it is unsound policy to borrow money for the purpose of paying a bounty. 1 am opposed as a general rule to the payment of bounties, and if there were no high customs duties or bounties I would not urge that special assistance be given to the farmers; but with a continuance of the present economic policy, they must have assistance or perish. The continuance of the bounty system would be unwise, and I hope that in the near future we shall have a change of government and a different economic policy. In regard to the bill, I assume that the Government is doing all that it can, but one cannot ignore the fact that the act which promised to the farmers a bounty of 3s. a bushel on last season’s crop is being repealed. I remember the Prime Minister’s appeal to the farmers to produce more wheat in order to help to rectify the adverse trade balance. Our farmers loyally responded to the appeal, and they have been left badly in the lurch. Recently I have moved amongst many wheatfarmers, and I assure the House that I found few of them solvent. I am disappointed that the provisions of the bill are not more definite. I would like to know the contents of the companion measure to be introduced later, and particularly at what figure the f.o.b. price will be fixed. It is essential that the price should be known early. In December last, the House sat all night to consider a similar measure, and we all know the difficulties that arose on that occasion through the Government’s delay. In the near future, the first of the season’s wheat will he placed on the market, and it is imperative that the House shall know immediately what the f.o.b. price is to be, so that farmers will know what to expect. I understand that the Commonwealth Bank has agreed to find £3,000,000, but if the bounty is to be on the basis of an f.o.b. price of 3s. a bushel, the farmers in “Western Australia will have little for which to thank the Government. No doubt the Government will be disappointed if the payment is not nearer 2d. or 3d. a bushel than 6d.
– Is it not a good thing that the price of wheat has risen ?
– There has been an increase lately, brought about, probably, by the monetary crisis in Great Britain; but we may lose that advantage shortly. I hope that the Government will bring pressure to bear on the banks to provide that the fixed price of wheat shall be 3s. 6d. and not 3s. a bushel.
– The Minister interviewed the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board on Monday, and I wrote to him on Saturday urging that that should be done. I have received his acknowledgment, stating that he has sent a copy of my letter to the other banks.
– I am pleased to know that, for you owe them something for the repudiation of last year’s promise. Nothing less than 3s. 6d. will be any good, that is, if the price is pegged at all. A little while ago the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) read a long list comparing the costs of the present day with those of 1913. 1 want honorable members to bear in mind that the pioneering work of the East was carried out when prices were low, and labour cheap. The primary producers in the West are doing their pioneering work when prices are exorbitantly high. We have there a wheat-growing area equal in size to Victoria. It has a glorious rainfall, not tremendous, but one which comes during the growing season. It is not right that we should settle people on that area unless we can give them some assurance that they will be able to make a reasonable living. The big fall in the price of wheat has made the great majority of my constituents bankrupt. Their position is absolutely deplorable.
It will be remembered that in the early days of federation Western Australia was not able to grow enough wheat to supply the needs of its own people. Yet West- em Australia exported 24,500,000 out of the 79,000,000 bushels that were exported from Australia in 1929. In the following year it exported 26,800,000 out of a total of 41,000,000 bushels, or more than half the total quantity that left our shores, while last year it exported 42,000,000 bushels.
– Good luck to it. It has had good seasons.
– It is not good luck when the price of wheat does not equal the price of production. I know the policy that the honorable member has consistently enunciated in this chamber, and I shall deal with it later. The production of my State has developed wonderfully, and I want to see another 10,000 farmers settled there. Honorable members heard the honorable member for Forrest call attention to the dreadful increase that has occurred in the price of material that is needed by our farmers. Those men have to compete in the markets of the world against low-wage countries and this Parliament has made their costs the highest in the world. I heard the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) talking about the pessimism that is being inculcated by certain wheat buyers, and I also listened to the remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), who fails to realize that if our primary industries are ruined there will shortly be grass growing in the streets of our cities. Some honorable members seem to be so contemptibly stupid that they cannot realize that they are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. We talk about unemployment. We should realize that it is not a cause, but an effect, which has been aggravated by quack political remedies that have poisoned our industrial system, and paralysed commerce in Australia.
Some honorable members urge that instead of allocating money for the relief of the wheat-growers we should use it to construct public works. What public works could be taken in hand to-day that would give a result equivalent to that which will follow if we help the wheatgrowers, except, perhaps, the initiation of a system of bulk handling of wheat? I urged the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), when he was in charge of this matter last year, to issue bonds payable in six or nine months’ time, to enable the Government to provide a bounty on wheat. Had my advice been followed, unemployment would have been far less acute than it now is. Only by the production of wealth can we improve our conditions.
I regret that the Government has not brought down a bill providing for a bounty on export. That could easily have been done on the basis of the export of the preceding year, according to production. I had a scheme prepared by Mr. Teesdale, a well-known member of the Western Australian pool, and an eminent authority on the subject, which shows how the whole thing could have been managed. It would have been much fairer than this project. The growers of South Australia and Western Australia have to export the greater proportion of their production. Those are the States that are suffering most from the policy of the Federal Government, which for many years has brought about an increase in the costs of production. Unless those costs are reduced, there i3 very little hope for the people of my State. I say emphatically that the farmers, and the great proportion of the people in Western Australia, are very dissatisfied with the policy of this Government, which places imposts upon all their requirements. The position is becoming intolerable. If it is found that the relief provided by this bill is infinitesimal, there will not be much doubt in the minds of those people as to how they will vote regarding a withdrawal from federation. They are tired of the way in which they have been exploited by the policy of the representatives of the cities and are determined to obtain economic freedom, or break the bonds that shackle them to-day.
So far as I can see, we must accept this bill, but I wish that the Minister had kept to his original proposal for the payment of a bounty on export wheat. I hope that influence will be brought to bear upon the Government to ensure that a bounty of not less than 6d. per bushel will be paid, or that the price of wheat, if pegged, will be not less than 3s. 6d. per bushel.
.- I am glad that the Government has introduced this bill. The assistance proposed to be given to the farmers will not be very great, but it will at least help them over a difficult period. Our wheat-growers have never been in such a desperate position as they are in at present. Although4 we had a record crop last year, the price was so low that the wheat was grown at a dead loss. At many country stations the price of wheat varied from ls. 6d. to ls. 8d. per bushel, which was a record low price. The farmers who grew the largest crops last year suffered the heaviest losses. It is unfortunate that many farmers who had not had a good crop for two or three years should have encountered such an extraordinary position this year. In parts of my electorate the wheat-growers had not had a good crop for four years. In other cases the crop was a total failure for two years, while last year it was only half the normal return. Like the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I am opposed to the payment of bounties on principle. If we were living under reasonable conditions I should oppose the payment of this bounty; but, in view of the fact that our high customs duties make everything that the producers need very much more expensive that it should be, it seems that the only way they can be helped is by the payment of bounties on their produce. The ruling high prices are directly due to our heavy customs duties. I still hope that it will be possible to pay the bounty on last year’s production. If this is not done, many farmers will be in such a desperate financial position that they will not be able to buy bags and other requirements to harvest the crop they have in this year. I realize that it is not possible to meet every case ; but the majority of farmers had at least a fair crop last year. The crops in many districts this year will be small, because the country was too wet for the’ farmers to sow their seed. Seeing that our producers were urged by the Government to put as large an area as possible under crop last year, and were promised 4s. per bushel for their wheat - a promise that did not materialize - I think they should be given some special consideration. Although we cannot blame the Government for what has happened, we can justly ask it to provide that the bounty shall be payable on last season’s production. I hope that the price of wheat will not be pegged at less than 3s. 6d. At present wheat is fetching from 2s. lid. to 3s. per bushel, which is admittedly an unprofitable price. If the price for the next crop is fixed at 3s. per bushel, the farmers will reap no benefit from this measure : even if it is only a few pence below 3s. per bushel, they will get very little benefit from it. It is absolutely necessary to provide that the price of wheat shall not be pegged at less than 3s. 6d. per bushel.
I was much surprised to hear the remarks which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) made yesterday about the proposal to pay a bounty on wheat. The honorable gentleman said that the provision of such a bounty would be nothing but a political sop to the wheatgrowers, to which they had no right. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) spoke in a somewhat similar strain to-day.
– Oh, no; he said that while he did not begrudge this assistance to the wheat-growers, he thought other sections of the community also deserved assistance.
– I did not hear the whole of the honorable gentleman’s speech, but I understood him to say that because other people were worse off than the farmers, he was not favorable to the payment of a bounty on wheat. The honorable member for Balaclava made it quite clear that he was opposed to the bounty. I do not think that these honorable gentlemen realize what our wool and wheat industries mean to Australia. The interest debt of the country is paid mainly out of the proceeds of the sales of wool and wheat. Our primary producers export more than 96 per cent, of the total of Australian exports. I do not know how Australia would get on without its primary industries; but some honorable members appear to think that our secondary industries could continue to flourish without them. It is impossible for either the wheat-growers or the wool-growers of Australia to continue to produce wheat and wool at their present prices. It is true that they are continuing their operations, but, for the most part, they are working on overdrafts. The existing state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. The wool-growers are not in so bad a position as are the wheat-growers, notwithstanding that they are receiving at present only 8d. per lb. for wool which costs them at least lid. per lb. to produce. The plight of the wheat-growers is indeed desperate. I remind honorable members that if these two staple industries go out of existence, the whole community will suffer. No argument of mine should be necessary to convince honorable members that a bounty is necessary in order to save the wheat industry from destruction. I intend to support the bill, and I hope that the Minister will be able to arrange to increase the limit to which the bounty will apply to 3s. 6d. a bushel.
.- I protest that at twenty minutes to eleven o’clock I am forced to discuss a bill which was placed in my hands only at four o’clock this afternoon, and which, because of the important matters which the House has since been considering, I have not yet had an opportunity to study. Only ten minutes ago I was handed another bill which has to be read in conjunction with that now before the House. Obviously, I have not had time even to peruse it. I protest that we should be asked to deal with legislation in this manner. The bill before us seeks to undo legislation which was passed through Parliament hastily some time ago. When legislation is dealt with in this hasty manner, errors and loopholes are likely to be found in it.
– The reason for the haste is that this season’s wheat is already being delivered.
– I know that that is so; the first load of wheat of this season’s crop in South Australia was delivered last week. Nevertheless, it is a good rule to make haste slowly. Generally, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) makes a good speech; but not even he was able to do justice to this measure. Indeed, there has not yet been a really good speech made on it. Probably that is because no one understands its provisions; I admit that I do not understand them. It is true that I have had the bill in my possession for several hours, but when it was handed to me another important measure, to which both the Prime Minister and the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition spoke, was before the House, and I felt that it was my duty to hear what they had to say. Consequently, this bill, with its 24 clauses, is in the nature of an unknown quantity. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) doubt whether this legislation will prevent dishonest persons from robbing the Government. I notice that for certain offences there are penalties as high as £500, but iu the short time at my disposal I have not seen any clause which would prevent u man who still has last season’s wheat in his possession from selling it and receiving a bounty of 6d. a bushel for it. Despite what the Minister has said, there is still a fair amount of wheat held on the farms. About three weeks ago I travelled with a man who told me that he still held 1,200 bags of last year’s wheat. Generally, I like to study a bill in a quiet place, when my mind is clear, but that has not been possible in this instance. Consequently, I do not understand the bill. Nevertheless I cannot oppose it, because I know of the need of the farmers, and I see in this measure an attempt to meet that need. I recognize that I have a duty to perform, not only to the wheat-growers in my electorate, but also to others there and the people of Australia as a whole. Lt is proposed to use borrowed money for the purposes of this bill, and it appears that that money is being dealt with lightly, in the manner that we dealt with the war gratuity some years ago. Some day the chickens will come home to roost. Even if this bill is designed to help the wheat-growers in their time of need, there is no excuse for dealing with it hastily. Should it bc found that unscrupulous persons have taken, advantage of loop-holes in this legislation, I shall accept no responsibility for what has happened, because, as I have said, I have not had a fair opportunity to study the measure.
I desire now to refer to one or two matters mentioned by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). The attitude taken up by the honorable member, and it is assumed by many metropolitan members, not only in the
Labour party, but also on this side of the chamber, is that the farmer is on velvet. I might perhaps claim that the farmer is the backbone of the country, but I do not do so. What I wish to say is that it is foolish to set one section of the community against the other when their interests are mutual. According to the honorable member for South Sydney, country members are not satisfied with this bill. The peculiar attitude of the honorable member for Echuca, who described it as “ tripe “, and then proceeded to urge its early passage, may have justified the . criticism of the honorable member for South Sydney, but my attitude towards it is that I should like to see it improved. Although it does not provide for a pool, if there are provisions in it which will afford opportunities for rake-offs, it will have a damning effect on any future efforts to establish a compulsory pool. I hope, therefore, that every care will be taken in the administration of the measure. Another thing that makes me uneasy is the statement of the honorable member for Echuca that the bill is not in accordance with the decisions of the recent conference. [Quorum formed.]
The honorable member for South Sydney said that no man on the land need starve.
– Hear, hear!
– I have previously read to the House reports showing that not seven months ago farmers on the west coast of South Australia were living on wheat, fried iu fat or boiled. Some of them lived on it until they became ill. They did not actually starve, but they came very close to starvation. I can take the honorable member to some parts of South Australia and introduce him to farmers who have lived for several months on pollard and rabbits.
– I can introduce the honorable member to timber workers who have difficulty in getting even pollard and rabbits.
– I regret it, but their desperate position cannot be relieved by penalizing the farmer. According to the Murray Pioneer of the 25th September, 1931, Mr. Wilkinson, a South Australian farmer at Murtho Park, which is near the Victorian border, said -
Wheat from the 1931 crop, all f.a.q., sold through the South Australian wheat pool, realized up to date Is. 2d. a bushel after allowing for transport charges. Cornsacks in 1912 cost 6s. a dozen ; last year they cost 9s.6d. a dozen.
The newspaper comment was as follows : -
Last season Mr. Wilkinson sold 1,000 bags of f.a.q. wheat for £183. The superphosphate used to help to grow this crop cost £96.
If the honorable member knows anything about the amount of labour required to put in a crop which yields J.,000 bags, in the country where Mr. Wilkinson is farming, he will see that the farmer gets very little return for his labour, without taking into consideration the cost of bags or making any allowance for wear and tear, or interest on the capital cost of the land. He will see that the farmer is not having so good a time as he seems to think he is having.
– I said that the farmer had a better chance than the man in the city.
– I hope that no one will set up the city against the country, or the country against the city. But if the farmer has to go off the land because his return for his crops does not equal the cost of production, the position of the city dwellers will be aggravated. The interests of the farmers, and of those who live in metropolitan areas, are mutual, and I, therefore, deplore any attempt to set up the city versus the country or the country versus the city.
– A number of farmers have been driven off their holdings.
– I agree with the honorable member that quite a number, in fact, too large a number, of men have been driven off the land. It is utterly impossible for honorable members to discuss intelligently a bill of this kind introduced in this House at such short notice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin). - by leave - proposed -
That Standing Order No. 70 be suspended for the remainder of this sitting.
.- I understand that this motion has been moved to enable legislation complementary to the Wheat Bounty Bill to be introduced after 11 p.m. This bill is a portion of the scheme of relief to wheatgrowers, and having regard to the necessity if possible for passing this legislation through the Senate, and on the assumption that the bill willbe circulated immediately, I have no objection to raise to the motion.
.- I object to new business being taken at this late hour of the night, but if it is the intention of the Government to introduce a measure complementary to the Wheat Bounty Bill, and no other legislation,I am satisfied.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purpose? of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of wheat and for other purposes.
Resolution reported, and - by leave - adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Parker Moloney) proposed -
A charge at the rate per bushel declared by this resolution be imposed and be levied and paid by every person and organization licensed under the Wheat Bounty Act 1931. on all wheat in respect’ of which the person or organization has issued a certificate under that Act and which the person or organization -
has, on or before the thirty -first day of October One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, sold for consumption within Australia; or
has, on or before that date, used in the production of flour for consumption within Australia, or which, not being wheat to whicheither of the last two preceding paragraphs applies, has not been exported on or before that date.
The rate per bushel of the charge imposed by this resolution in respect of any wheat shall be the amount per bushel of the bounty payable under the Wheat Bounty Act 1931 in respect of that wheat.
For the purposes of this resolution - “ Consumption within Australia “ in relation to wheat, means use in the production of flour for consumption within Australia; “ Wheat “ means wheat produced in Australia during the period commencing on the first day of October One thousand nine hundred and thirty -one, and ending on the thirty-first day of March One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two.
.- The bill founded on this motion, of which I have an advance copy, imposes a charge at the same rate per bushel on wheat for home consumption as the bounty paid on wheat under the Wheat Bounty Act. It contains only four clauses. It provides that a charge shall be levied on wheat, and that all charges payable under the act shall be paid to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia on account of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.No machinery is provided in the bill for the collection of the charge, which is really a tax. Surely there should be some machinery for the levying and collection of the charge.I should like to hear the explanation of the Minister as to the practicability of the proposed scheme before we pass this motion.
– As I pointed out in my second-reading speech this bill requires each licensee to pay to the Commonwealth Bank the amount of bounty paid to the grower by the hank on wheat which, after purchase or receipt by the licensee, was not exported. That is to say that when a. licensee buys wheat from the grower and sells it to the miller for local consumption he has to pay the equivalent of the bounty on it into the Commonwealth Bank. In that way a fund is provided for the payment of the price for local consumption. That was clone to meet the objection raised by honorable members, who contended that if an export bounty only were given, no benefit would be received by the growers of wheat for local consumption. The bank made this suggestion, because it considered that it could easily be carried out, and as a result the bounty of 6d. a bushel will be payable not only on wheat for export, but also on wheat for local consumption.
– That does not necessarily mean that a bounty of 6d. will be paid on every bushel of wheat produced.
– The two bills appear to contain slender machinery for this complicated and expensive system of taxation.
– Ample provision is being made in the main bill to police the payment of the bounty. If honorable members can point to any direction in which the bill falls short of the object to be achieved, we shall be only too pleased to remedy the defect. The scheme has been before the Commonwealth Bank and its advisors, as well as our own department and the Crown Law authorities, and they all consider that the main bill fully safeguards the position.
– Will the amount of bounty, as determined by the f.o.b. price, be proclaimed from day to day?
-This is simply to make the same provision with respect to wheat locallyconsumed, as is made for export wheat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Parker Moloney and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Parker Moloney, and read a first time.
In committee (Considerationresumed) :
Clause 3 (Definitions).
.- This clause consists of definitions, one of which defines “ dockage “ as meaning any reduction in price made in respect of wheat on the ground that the wheat is below fair average quality. Wheat sales during the coming year will be effected between private persons, companies, cooperative organizations and the like, and the amount of dockage will depend upon what such persons, companies or cooperative organizations agree upon. The price will depend entirely upon what is agreed to. It has already been pointed out that, by devious devices, it will be possible for those concerned in the transaction to secure money from the Commonwealth funds to which they are not entitled. I, therefore, have some doubt as to the soundness of the whole system.
– The bounty would be reduced to the extent by which the wheat was below fair average quality.
– All prices will be fixed by the individuals concerned, who, if they fix a low price will get’ a higher bounty, and if they fix a high price will receive a lower bounty. That weakness appears to be inherent in the system, and I do not see how any effective provision can be made to overcome it.
– The only safeguard would be a bounty which remained at the same level regardless of the fluctuations in the price of wheat.
– Or a bounty fixed on a sliding scale with a vanishing point, although such a system would be more complicated. There is also a definition of f free-on-board price “. During my. second-reading speech I said that the term “ free-on-board price “ does not, so far as I can see, appear anywhere in the bill. In a later provision there is the term “ free-on-board equivalent “ which, of course, is distinct from “ free-on-board price “. I do not feel inclined to accept any particular personal responsibility for the bill, or for the machinery which it sets up. I have perused it for the first time to-day, and am in a position only to offer some slight criticism, and to make some brief comments upon it. Therefore, all I propose to do is to make one or two suggestions, and place upon the Government the responsibility of acting upon them, or not acting upon them. I suggest that “ free-on-board price “ should be omitted from the definition clause. I also direct attention to the fact that “ wheat “ is defined as wheat harvested in Australia between certain dates. We shall shortly be dealing with the Wheat Charges Bill, in’ which wheat is defined as wheat produced in Australia during a certain period. Surely the phraseology should be the same’ in both bills.. If it is intended to be wheat harvested between certain dates, the word “ harvested “ should be used in the other bill. Harvested is a definite term that fixes the point of time. Harvested is used in this bill. If we are to vary the definition of wheat in the Wheat Charges Bill to mean wheat produced during a certain period, it may be arguable that there is doubt as to the precise time of the production of wheat. I do not know if such a position can arise on the facts, but I suggest to the Minister that the same definition should be in each bill.
.- I see no objection to the definition of “ dockage,” which is a term commonly used by wheat merchants and others engaged in the marketing and handling of wheat. It would be utterly impossible to conduct a wheat business without making provision for dockage, as wheat not subject to dockage would all be paid for at the same rate. The use of the word “ dockage “ in this instance i3 desirable.
– Who determines the amount of dockage?
– It is generally fixed by the country agent. If the wheat-farmer is not satisfied with the amount of dockage, he can appeal to the wheat merchant, or to the pool, when the amount of dockage will be assessed by two or three qualified persons. With respect to consumption within Australia, I direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that the definition clause provides that “ in this act unless the contrary intention, appears ‘ consumption within Australia in relation to wheat, means use in the production of flour for consumption within Australia.” If we limit consumption within Australia to wheat used in the manufacture of flour, we shall exclude 4,000,000 bushels of wheat used for feed purposes.
– That 4,000,000 bushels, should be covered.
– Yes. The definition should be amended to provide that con- sumption within Australia means wheat . used in the production of flour for con- sumption within Australia and fox feed purposes. I entirely agree with the view expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons), with regard, to the f.o.b. price. It is utterly impossible go fix a satisfactory f.o.b. price from day to day.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the definition of f.o.b. price should be eliminated?
– .1 do not suggest that.
– The phrasing does not appear anywhere in iiic hill.
– The reference is to “ free-on-board equivalent.”
– “We should first dispose of the point which I have raised with respect to the definition of “consumption within Australia.” lt is necessary to include iu the definition wheat used for feed purposes; otherwise 4,000.000 bushels’ of wheat will be shut out from the benefits of the measure.
Mir. PARKER Moloney. - That will be provided for; it comes into the charge? bill. [Quorum formed.]
.- This clause sets out that the benefits of the act shall apply to wheat harvested in Australia between the first day of October, 1931, and the first day of March, 1932. I take it that the dockage will be operative on wheat sold within that period.
– The dockage will be stated on the certificate.
– But the dockage will be fixed om last year’s standard, and, owing to climatic conditions, the quality of the wheat may be altogether different this year from what it was last year. Some responsible body should be instituted to lay down an f.a.q. standard.
– It will be very hard to fix a. uniform dockage.
– Many things which are hard have to be done. It might be necessary to collect samples of wheat from various localities, and average them.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the buyer would allow the dockage to be reduced in order to get more bounty? That would be an instance of the collusion of which honorable members have spoken, but it is not reasonable to suppose that a buyer would do this, because be would have to sell the wheat on the world’s market, and so would derive no benefit-
– Last year the f.a.q. standard was fixed at 59 lb., because the wheat had been seriously affected by the weather. I suggest that a board or institution of some kind should be established to fix the f.a.q. weight.
– Is that not done now?
– It is done by the Chamber of Commerce in each State.
– Provision should be made in this bill to have it done. The bounty will be affected by the f.a.q. weight, and dockage charges will be largely in accordance with weight fixed. If common practice is followed the standard fixed last year will be followed when, owing to the weather, the wheat was of inferior quality.
– One of the greatest difficulties is that the f.a.q. standard is not fixed until half the crop has been bought and sold.
– Sometimes it is nor fixed until the whole of the crop has been harvested and sold. The chambers of commerce are interested in only one end of this business, yet they have power to fix the f.a.q. standard.
– We cannot get over that, because the buyers overseas will not buy until the grain section of the Chamber of Commerce gives a certificate regarding f.a.q.
– The Government is interested in this matter now to the extent of £3,000,000, and it should have some say in fixing the standard.
– Wo put that point before the bank authorities, and they, after consultation, said that this was a matter which could be adjusted between the buyer and the seller. The matter will not be affected by the bounty. The f.a.q. standard has to be fixed in ordinary circumstances, and, as I have stated, the buyer would not benefit by being in collusion with the seller.
.- I am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister to the point I raised earlier. I cannot see, either in this bill or in the charges bill, anything covering wheat sold for feed purposes. I should like the Minister to explain how such wheat is provided for.
– Sub-clause 1 of clause 3 of the Wheat Charges BiD has been so drafted as to apply to all wheat, and the drafters of it are satisfied that it meets the point to which the honorable member has referred.
Clause agreed to. .
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6. (2.) Where the licensee is a prescribed cooperative organization it shall issue to the grower, in respect of wheat received by it from the grower, a certificate in duplicate in theprescribed form specifying the quantity of wheat so received and stating, as prescribed, the free-on-board equivalent of the price per bushel estimated by the organization to be that at which the wheat will be sold, and specifying the bounty payable in respect of the wheat.
.- I direct attention to the wording of sub-clause 2, which reads: “the free-on-board equivalent of the price per bushel estimated by the organization to be that at which the wheat will be sold “. A pool may receive 5,000,000. 10,000,000, or 20,000,000 bushels, and it will be utterly impossible for it to form an estimate of the price at which that wheat will be sold. It would be better, I think, if the phraseology were “could be sold on that date “. Even that might cause some entanglement. It would he impossible to sell all the wheat on any given day, and the f.o.b. price might rise or fall after a certificate had been issued. Assuming that the price on the day the certificate was issued was 2s. 9d. a bushel, the farmer would be entitled to receive a bounty of 3d. a bushel. Some of the wheat received might be sold six months later for 2s. 5d. a bushel. Would the farmer then be entitled to the full amount of the bounty? Or would the pool be reimbursed?
.- I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted : - 2a. Where the free-on-board equivalent of the price per bushel realized upon the sale of any wheat in respect of which a certificate has been issued under the last preceding sub-section by a prescribed cooperative organization varies from the free-on-board equivalent of the estimated price stated in the certificate, the organization shall issue to the grower of the wheat a further certificate in duplicate stating the free-on-board equivalent of the price so realized and specifying the amount of bounty payable in respect of the wheat.
That simply means that when the average price of the wheat sold by the pool, on behalf of the growers, is known, and such average price is less than that shown in the certificate issued when the wheat is received, a further certificate must be issued to enable the grower to receive from the bank the additional bounty due to him.
– That meets the point that I have raised.
– Let us take an example. When the pool or an organization receives wheat, it estimates the f.o.b. equivalent of the price that will be realized.
– Will it not estimate the value on a very conservative basis and trust to the bounty to bridge the difference ?
– Assuming that it estimates that 2s.8d. a bushel will be realized, and that the price subsequently works out at 2s. 6d. a bushel, an extra 2d.” a bushel will have to be allotted.
– If, on the other hand, the price realized amounts to 2s.10d. a bushel, a refund of 2d. a bushel will have to be made.
– That is so.
– Will there be any incentive to the pool to try to increase the price, when it knows that by so doing it will have to refund a portion of the bounty that has been received by it?
– We must assume that the highest possible price will be sought.
.- The f.o.b. price is fixed by the individual purchaser, but that is only a tentative fixation. What authority is to be established to decide the amount of the f.o.b. price on any particular day? It is the place at which the wheat is sold which establishes that price. As I have already stated, it may vary to the extent of 3d. or 4d. a bushel for the same quality wheat sold on the same day to different purchasers.
– Perhaps there will not be so much variation when there is a bounty to square it all up.
– The minimum price received for any parcel of wheat in any part of the world will become the f.o.b. price for all buyers. I cannot see any merit in the Minister’s amendment.
.- The proposed new sub-clause indicates the manner in which the business of Parliament is being conducted. This amendment, consisting of about 100 words, with only one comma and one full stop, was circulated less than twenty minutes ago, and in the interim five important clauses have been disposed of. When honorable members are allowed so little opportunity to understand proposed amendments it is little wonder that the legislation of this Parliament has to be amended year after year.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 -
The rate of bounty payable in respect of any wheat shall be the amount per bushel by which the price specified in the certificate issued by a licensee in respect of that wheat falls short of the prescribed price, but not exceeding in any case sixpence per bushel.
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That the words “ price specified “ he omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ free-on-board equivalent of the price per bushel as stated.”
.- When speaking on the second reading I pointed out that whilst this clause provides for payment of bounty at a rate not exceeding 6d. a bushel, and clause 12 provides for a loan of £3,000,000, there is nothing to limit the liability of the Commonwealth under clause 7 to that sum. The committee has been assured that under this bounty scheme the maxi-, mum bounty is likely to be collected. Nobody can know in respect of how many bushels bounty will be payable. I suggest the addition of a proviso that not more than £3,000,000 shall be expended in pursuance of this clause.
– The banks realize that the sum of £3,000,000 may be slightly exceeded, and they are quite prepared for that.
– I understood that Parliament was being invited to agree to the addition of £3,000,000 to the national debt for the purpose of a pay ment to wheat-growers. Now we learn that the committee is asked to agree to whatever liability may be necessary in order to pay 6d. a bushel to the growers. I am not satisfied with an indefinite proposal of that kind.
– That point was discussed with the banks. The liability will be regulated by the bounty to be paid.
– If1d. more than £3,000,000 is expended a further validating bill will be necessary.
. -I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (2.) Where a further certificate has been issued under sub-section (2a) of the last preceding section in respect of any wheat, the price specified in the further certificate shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to be in substitution for the prior specified in any prior certificate issued in respect of that wheat and the rate of bounty on that wheat shall be increased or reduced accordingly.”
This provides that the price in the second certificate shall be in substitution of the price in the original certificate.
.- This clause is intended to deal with case* of over-payment of bounty to co-operative organizations. It is all very well to say that the amount of bounty shall be increased or decreased, but if it has been paid, how can the Government recover it ? To say that the amount paid shall be reduced does not confer any right to sue for the recovery of the money. I doubt whether there is any right of action at all . This is not the ordinary way of dealing with a measure of this kind.
– The honorable member will see provision for it in proposed new clause 9a.
– It may be. I have not seen that clause yet, butI should like the Minister to inform the committee at what ‘ point of time the bounty is payable - will it be on delivery at sidings, on sale, or on export?
– It is clearly provided that payment shall be made on presentation of the certificate to the bank.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 - (3.) Every licensee shall, on or before a date fixed by the Minister . . .
prepare and sign a return showing -
– I move -
That the words “ and flour on hand on the “ he omitted with a view to insert, in lieu thereof, the words “ in respect of which the licensee has issued a certificate and flour produced from such wheat (not being wheat or flour to which either of the last two subparagraphs applies) which has not been exported on or before the “.
This amendment is inserted to ensure that all wheat not exported shall be accounted for. It covers the point raised by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill).
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 24 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 9a. It shall be a condition of any licence granted under this act to any prescribed cooperative organization and of the payment of any bounty under this act to any wheatgrower in respect of wheat delivered by him to the organization, that, in the event of the “ free-on-board “ equivalent of the estimated price stated in any certificate issued by the organization to the grower in respect of any wheat being exceeded by the price realized upon the sale of the wheat) the organization shall withhold from the grower and pay to the Commonwealth, out of the proceeds of the sale of the wheat, such amount as represents the amount (if any) of bounty overpaid to the grower in respect of that wheat, and any amount required to be paid ‘ to the Commonwealth under this section shall be a debt due by the organization to the Commonwealth and may be sued for and recovered in any court of competent jurisdiction by the Minister or by any person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister.”.
This new clause will compel organizations or a pool to hold back from growers sufficient money to repay any excess bounty paid to the growers.
.- I have only been able to glance through the proposed new clause, which provides that an organization shall withhold from the grower and pay to the Commonwealth out of the proceeds of the sale of wheat such amount as represents the amount of bounty overpaid, also that the amount required to be paid under this provision shall be a debt due by the organization to the Commonwealth. The new clause may be construed as imposing a liability upon the organization to pay only out of the proceeds of the sale of wheat, if any, still in its hands. I fail to see why it should be at liberty to over-pay growers and not be bound to repay the Commonwealth any excess payment. It ought to be an absolute liability on the organization, but it appears to me that this is not clearly set out in the clause. I suggest that the Minister have this provision reconsidered when the measure is in another place.
.- The intention of the clause is to compel the pool to withhold from growers sufficient funds to repay any excess bounty paid. The draftsmen are satisfied that it will have that effect.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
. -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I explained the purpose of this measure when speaking to the general debate.It provides that wheat sold in the local market shall also be subject to the bounty. It is simply to provide that the bounty will cover the whole of the wheat produced in Australia.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) definitely gave me to understand that this bill was to be circulated, but that it would not he taken further this evening.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– Both the Prime Minister and the honorable gentleman gave me that assurance, and it was only because of that that I withdrew my protest against the suspension of the Standing Orders. If the Minister persists in taking this bill further, he and the Prime Minister will be playing a low-down trick.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– If you, sir, insist thatI shall do so, I withdra w the words. The Prime Minister gave me that undertaking, and I should like to hear him on the subject.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– The honorable member is labouring under a misconception.I definitely stated that 1 asked for the suspension oftne Standi ng Orders to enable this bill to be brought down; nothing else. If the honorable member gathered the impression that the bill was to be circulated only, it is an incorrect one. I gave the assurancethat the Government would not bring down to-night any other measure than this, which is really part of the Wheat Bounty Bill.
– That does not cover my question to the right honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member asked no question, andI gave him no answer.
– I did ask a question, as Hansard should show.
– The honorable member has misunderstood the position. All that I did was to give an assurance that no other business would be brought down to-night. To that promise I shall adhere.
.- I think that the honorable member for Angas misunderstood theposition. I understood it to be as stated by the Prime Minister.
The first point that I mentioned in connexion with this bill may appear to he a trifling one. I draw attention to the fact that in the Wheat Bounty Bill “ wheat “ is defined as meaning “wheat, harvested in Australia between the first day of October One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one and the thirty-first day of March One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two.” I have not turned up the meaning of “ between but I should think that it refers to the period between the two dates, and excludes them. Wheat harvested on the 2nd October conies within the terms of the measure, but wheat harvested on the 1st October does not. In the Wheat Charges Bill the definition of wheat is - “ Wheat “ means wheat produced in Australia during the period commencing on the first day of October one thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, and ending on the thirty-first day of March, one thousand nine hundredand thirty -two.
There, plainly, both the first of October and the thirty-first of March are included. Why should there be the word “ harvested “ in one measure, the word “ produced “ in another, “ between “ two date in one bill and “ during a period “ beginning on one date and ending on another date in the second measure?
– I shall take steps to have the terms made identical in another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 - Charge on wheat.
– This clause provides that a charge at a certain rate per bushel shall be levied and paid under this measure. The rate of the charge is to be the amount of the bounty. The amount of the bounty is established by a calculation froma certificate. Clause 4 provides that all charges payable under the measure shall be paid to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia on account of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Wherever it is provided by a statute that something shall be paid, I always look to see who is the person who can bring an action to compel that payment. It is desirable that that should be provided in explicit terms. I am doubtful whether, under this provision, the Commonwealth Bank could sue. If it is intended that the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxes or someone else shall have the right to sue, that ought to be so provided. , It could very easily be done by inserting in the bill a definite clause to that effect. In the absence of sucha provision there is room for argument as to the proper procedure should it become necessary to enforce the condition. Although this bill provides for a payment of what will prove to be large sums of money, it does not contain any penalty or interest clause. If the money is not paid, it simply is not paid. No action follows. Under the measure as it stands the matter would simply struggle along until, perhaps, the money would be paid into the bank at the suit if the Commonwealth Government.I suggest that the omission should be rectified.
– Clause 19 of the Wheat Bounty Bill provides that every charge due and payable under the Wheat Charges Bill shall be doomed to be a debt due to the King on behalf of the Commonwealth, and may be sued for and recovered accordingly.
– I think that that meets the position.
– I understand that the necessary money is to be provided by a tax.Is that to come out of the £3,000,000 provided under the Wheat Bounty Bill ?
– It is to be paid by the purchaser of the wheat used for local consumption.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Parker Moloney) proposed -
That thebill be now read a third time.
.- I shall not attempt to delay the passage of the bill. In spite of what the Prime Minister has stated, I protest that the passage of this measure is contrary to the promise that was given by the right honorable gentleman, The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) definitely repeated the statement after me, that the suspension of Standing Orders was merely to enable the bill to be circulated. I know that honorable members are aware that that is the correct version. Atany time I should watch the Minister for Markets, as I know that he would slip one over a person if he could ; but in the past I have accepted the word of the Prime Minister as binding. It is because 1 thought that he gave his word that the bill would not be proceeded with that I did not protest against the suspension of Standing Orders. I shall not use strong language to support my protest, as I know that ifI did so I should have to withdraw it. I let, the matter go at that.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I do not want to make excuses for anybody, but when the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) was objecting to the introduction of new business, I made, an interjection to the effect that if the bill were circulated, we should have a chance of studying it. That may have led to the honorable member’s misapprehension.
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) showed definitely during the debate that he regarded the two bills as one measure. When the Prime Minister said that no other new business would be taken he, like the honorable member and myself, regarded this bill as part and parcel of the one item of business. I feel sure the honorable member for Angas knew this.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10.30a.m. this day.
Houseadjourned at 12.6 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19311021_reps_12_132/>.