12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers. death of the HONORABLE patrick Mcmahon glynn.
Mr. SCULLIN (Yarra- -Prime Minister) [3.2]. - by leave - It has been my sad duty on several occasions recently to announce the deaths of former members of this Parliament; another who was a prominent figure in this House, and a member of the first Commonwealth Parliament, has passed away. The Hon. Patrick McMahon Glynn died in Adelaide yesterday. His long and distinguished parliamentary career commenced in 1S87. He was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly for a total period of seven years prior to federation, and was a delegate from that State to the Australasian Federal Convention of 1897 and 1898. At the first general election for the Commonwealth Parliament in 1901 he was elected to this House as one of the five representatives of South Australia, and in subsequent Parliaments represented Angas continuously from 1903 to 1919. He held office in Commonwealth Ministries as Attorney-General, Minister for External Affairs, and Minister for Home and Territories, and was amongst those members of this Parliament who visited England at the invitation of the Empire Parliamentary Association in 1916. Long after he ceased to be a member of this House he retained interest in that association, and maintained close contact with his former colleagues. Every honorable member who had the privilege of knowing him intimately was proud to claim him as a friend. He will be remembered as a great scholar, and a cultured and eloquent speaker on occasions of importance. His literary taste was reflected, not only in his speeches, but also in many written works. He brought to bear on public affairs a wellinformed mind and a sound legal training which were of great service to the legislature and to the governments of which he was a member. To members of all parties he was always ready to give valuable advice and assistance. He did not spare himself in his efforts to render service to the Australian people. All who knew him will revere the memory of one who made his mark in Australian public life, and won the esteem and affection of many friends. I move -
That the sympathy of this House be extended to the members of the family of the late Hon. Patrick McMahon Glynn. K.C., who. from the date of his election to the first Commonwealth Parliament until . 1919, wasa member of the House ofRepresentatives, and rendered outstanding service to Australia as a member of the legislature and as a Minister of the Crown.
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong) [3.5].- On behalf of the members of the Opposition I second the motion. Mr. Glynn had a long and honorable career in the public life of South Australia and the Commonwealth. He served his country in many capacities. In addition to his political activities he took an active interest in literature and the arts, and was well qualified, and always ready, to promote the culture of the community. A friendly and kindly gentleman, he . was affectionately regarded by members of all parties in politics. I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) in extending the sympathy of this House to the bereaved family.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to the members of the family of the late Hon. P. McM. Glynn the foregoing resolution together with a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.
– In view of the fact that a large number of telephone subscribers in country districts cannot afford to pay the present charges, and are contemplating the disconnexion of their telephones, will the Postmaster-General consider the advisability of making a substantial reduction of the rates?
– This proposal has been frequently made, and as frequently examined by the department. The charges for telephone services in Australia are lower than in most other countries. The statement has been made that if the rates were reduced the number of subscribers would be increased, and the service would then be more profitable, but the departmental investigation discloses that if the charges were lowered the service would be even less remunerative than at present. In those circumstances I regret that I cannot entertain the honorable member’s suggestion.
Reduction of Basic Wage
– According to the newspapers of to-day the basic wage is to be further reduced by 10 per cent., in accordance with the decline in the cost of living, but the reduction will not apply to Commonwealth public servants. Can the Prime Minister confirm that statement?
– I stated in the newspapers this morning that the Government has decided that the reduction in the basic wage, due to the fall in the cost of living, including the reduction recently announced, will not apply to Commonwealth public servants until the 10 per cent, reduction of their salaries ordered by the Arbitration Court, has been overtaken. The reduction of salaries by the court lowered the cost of production, and incidentally the cost of living, and we should not be continually reducing wages accordingly. The Government believes that wage-earners generally should recover something of what they have lost. The Government controls only the Commonwealth public servants, but it does not propose to apply to them any reduction of wages due to the decline in the cost, of living until that decline exceeds the 10 per cent, by which wages were reduced under the federal award.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation received many complaints of the Repatriation Commission’s drastic administration of the added power given by the financial Emergency Act to cancel or reduce the pensions of dependants of deceased members of the Australian Imperial Force ? “Will the Minister call for a report from the commission, particularly as to how it decides whether a dependant is in receipt of adequate support without a pension?
– I discussed this matter with the commission in Melbourne last week-end. The commission is endeavouring to find means by which it can deal more liberally with dependants without prejudicing the whole financial emergency plan. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron) will realize that when we start tinkering with one portion of the plan we are likely to create trouble in another portion. However, the matter is now under consideration.
– Prior to asking the Prime Minister a question with reference to the assistance granted to the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, I desire to quote a statement alleged to have been made by the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Is it a fact that during the recent withdrawals of cash from the Commonwealth Bank by depositors, Sir Robert Gibson, chairman of the board, said -
Not only was lie prepared to issue currency to its banker customers when called upon, and under assistance which is justified in the interests of national welfare, but he was also prepared to use the note issue to save the Commonwealth Bank, and, further, there was no good reason founded on account of soundness why the New South Wales Government Savings Bank was compelled to close its doors.
If this statement is correct, seeing that the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales has the whole of its cash balances deposited in the Commonwealth Bank, and, further, that benefit would accrue to the State generally by the rehabilitation of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, does not its rehabilitation come within the category of national welfare? In view of these facts, and also of the recent conversion by the Government Savings Bank of approximately £30,000,000 worth of government securities, is not the Commonwealth Bank responsible for more than 50 per cent, of the depositors’ balances in the New South Wales Government Savings Bank ? Are these securities not proportionately equal in value to those held by the Note Issue Board as security for the £52,000,000 worth of notes already issued, and within the legal limit of section 60k of the Commonwealth Bank Act ? Will the Government request the Commonwealth Bank Board to loan to the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales £10,000,000 against the securities held by the Commonwealth Bank?
– The question is a somewhat comprehensive one to be asked without notice. The honorable member desires to know, in the first place, whether certain statements reported to have been made by Sir Robert Gibson are correct. I am not in a position to answer that question. One of the statements quoted was that there was no reason why the State Savings Bank should have closed on the ground of its unsoundness. I believe that a very full examination into’ the position of that bank has proved that statement to be correct. There is no reason, on the ground of unsoundness, why that institution should have closed its doors. Unfortunately, the fact that the bank was sound was not taken into consideration when depositors lost confidence in the bank. The bank’s depositors lost confidence in the bank when the head of the New South Wales Government, which guaranteed the bank’s solvency, declared that the Government would not meet its obligations. ‘ When his government actually failed to pay on the due date the interest due to the bank, depositors, having lost confidence, became panicky, and made a run on the bank ; not because the bank’s position was unsound, but because of the loss of faith in the guarantee of the Government. It is this want of confidence that makes it so difficult to re-establish the bank as a State institution, and seems to explain why the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and others are asking the Commonwealth Government to loan the bank £10,000,000.
– How does the right honorable gentleman account for the run on the Western Australian Government Savings Bank?
– There is no evidence of a similar run on that bank. There have been, undoubtedly, steady withdrawals from every savings bank in Australia. Because of the depression, depositors needed their money; but there is no evidence of such a run elsewhere as took place on the New South Wales Government Savings Bank. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has asked whether the Commonwealth Government will urge the Commonwealth Bank to loan to the New South Wales Savings Bank £10,000,000. That is merely an echo of a request that has been advocated at public meetings, and elsewhere. I ask in return what does the savings bank want £10,000,000 for? Is it expected that so soonas the doors of the bank are opened to the depositors in the old business division, there will be such a run on its funds that £10,000,000 will be required to meet their demands. That is not proof of a belief of confidence in the bank. I suggest that this question is propaganda against the New South Wales Government Savings Bank of the worst kind. I desire to see that bank re-established, and I want its old depositors to get back their money; but my desire is that the bank should continue as a savings bank, and not as a bank in liquidation. The request for £10,000,000 to pay off depositors is publication of the belief that the bank would have such a run made on it by its old depositors that this £10,000,000 would be required immediately.
Mr.James. - The people are putting money into the new department.
– The re-establishment of the bank must be accompanied by a restoration of confidence. If it is opened as a Commonwealth bank, under a fair amalgamation agreement, there will be an immediate restoration of confidence. I believe that nothing like £10,000,000- not even a quarter of the sum - would be required in cash if there should be such an amalgamation, and I have no doubt that in less than three months the old depositors could be operating on their accounts, and could be paid in full.
Claim for Compensation
– I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the claim of the Associated Radio Companies of Australia for compensation against the Commonwealth which was the subject of an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee some time ago. By way of explanation I may say that the committee found that these companies were entitled to compensation, and the determination of the actual expense incurred and the loss suffered was referred by it to the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral, who appointed an experienced inspector from his office to make the necessary investigation of the claim, and to examine the, books and papers of the several companies. The inspector did this, and reported on oath to the Public Accounts Committee that the expense and loss so incurred and suffered by the companies was £26,112 19s. 5d. I ask the Minister -whether his department has given further consideration to this claim, and to the report of the inspector of the Auditor-General? If so, when is a statement likely to be made as to the action to be taken by the Government in regard to the matter?
– This claim was put forward before the present Government assumed office. Ministers have been very busy, but the Cabinet is prepared to give the matter consideration. If the claim is accepted, it will involve the expenditure of a fair sum of money.
– Will the Prime Minister instruct the officers who are inquiring into the price of petrol to give consideration also to the cost of power kerosene?
– I shall give consideration to the request.
Perth Broadcasting Station - Locationof Tasmanian Station
– I with to ask the Postmaster-General a question with reference to the following statement by him on the 2nd October, 1931, and recorded in Hansard, at page 457 :-
It may be of interest to record that the best offers which could bc obtained for the rapid construction of broadcasting stations of similar capacity, (to the proposed new station for Perth) varied from six to twelve months.
Will the Postmaster-General state when and from whom such offers were received ? Will he explain in detail what is actually being done to justify his statement that “ the department is pressing forward with all phases of the work, and no time will be lost in making the station available for service”? When does the honorable gentleman anticipate that tenders will be called for the transmitting equipment?
– Tenders were received from four tenderers, including Australian and British firms. The tenders closed on 12th March, 1929. The departmental staff has been engaged, on all the preparatory work in connexion with the site, buildings, power supply, and transmitting apparatus for the proposed new station. Tenders have already been invited for the towers to support the aerial, and further tenders are on the point of being invited for other portions of tho equipment. Tenders for such apparatus as it is necessary to purchase for the transmitting equipment will, it is anticipated, be invited within the next few weeks.
– With further reference to the reply of the PostmasterGeneral on 22nd October, that the Postal Department did not obtain the services of a scientist to make a recommendation as to the best way of serving the State of Tasmania with wireless broadcasting, will the Postmaster-General explain the following statement in the Hobart Mercury of 10th September last: -
The contention (for the removal of the Hobart station 7 XL to the Midlands) has been endorsed by Professor Laby, who, after conducting tests in various parts of the State, reported that what appeared to him to be the most satisfactory locality would be in the vicinity of Constitution Hill, near Kempton. No doubt this report, together with many others on the subject, will be found pigeon-holed in some departmental office, while the listening community of Tasmania still struggles on, hoping that some day those responsible will be aroused from their lethargic state and at least create the impression that they are really in earnest. . . .
– The statement referred to appears in a letter to the editor of the Hobart Mercury, signed “N. A. Skinner,” and published on the 10th September, 1931. As already stated, thedepartment did not arrange for any investigation or report by Professor Laby.
– Is the Minister for Defence yet in a position to make an announcement regarding the recent Lewis gun fatality in Melbourne?
– Instructions were issued some time ago by my department that steps should be taken to prevent any machine gun or Lewis gun from being removed from* the practice ground in a condition in which it could be used. The regrettable occurrence referred to by the honorable member will be the subject of a coronial inquiry, and at this stage it would be injudicious for me to make any statement as to the responsibility for the accident. When the inquiry has been completed, I shall furnish the honorable member with a full report on the whole incident.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question, and by way of explanation, I shall read the following telegram from Mr. Sear, Victorian secretary of the Australian Railway Union : -
Australian Railway Union strongly protests against starvation basic wage now fixed by federal awards. Suggest matter be raised in House at once.
In view of the extraordinary drop in the cost of living figures over the last three quarters, has the Prime Minister given consideration to the holding of a searching inquiry into the cost of living, to be conducted by representatives of employers and employees, with an independent chairman?
– The Government is giving serious consideration to such an investigation, but no definite decision regarding it has yet been reached.
– In view of the serious allegations which have been made in regard to certain dairy officials in Queensland,’ will the Minister for Markets state whether it is proposed to take any legislative action, or to frame such regulations as will safeguard the position in the future?
-From what I have been able to learn, the matter is entirely within the jurisdiction of the State authorities. The federal authorities have no jurisdiction in regard to dairy produce until it reaches the point of export. I shall be glad, however, to discuss the subject further with the honorable member, if he so desires.
– Will the Minister for Markets give an assurance that in the event of the proposed reciprocal trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand being concluded, no reduction will be made in the present necessary protective duties against New Zealand butter, cheese, and bacon?
– In the event of such an agreement being entered into with New Zealand, or with any other country, the primary producers of Australia will be fully protected against unfair competition.
Assistance for Agriculturists
– Has the Minister for Home Affairs yet acceded to my request’ to send to the Northern Territory an expert in tobacco culture, to advise those who propose to enter this industry, and has he yet made provision for sending to them supplies of the seeds they require ?
– I have approached the Tobacco Board with a view to having an expert made available for the Northern Territory to advise intending growers in that area, and I hope to receive a favorable reply. I have also arranged that £250 for the purchase of seed shall be made available for the use of Northern Territory growers.
Will the Postmaster-General investigate, with a view to having amended, the ab surd regulation of his department which provides that unless a letter has the stamp placed with mathematical precision on the top right hand corner of the envelope, it will be returned to the sender through the Dead Letter Office?
– I shall look into the matter, and I have no doubt that it will be found that the regulation is a fair and reasonable’ one.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether there is any truth in the published and oft-repeated statement that the Commonwealth owes the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales £30,000,000?
– There is no truth in that statement, although it has been frequently made. In a statement issued by the Commissioners of the Savings Bank, they do not say that the Commonwealth owes the bank this sum, but they say that the bank holds £30,000,000 of Commonwealth securities. That statement, without explanation, is misleading to the public, because it suggests that the Commonwealth Government is under obligation to the bank to pay it this sum. The Commonwealth Government is under no such obligation.; its only obligation is in respect of a sum of £3,800,000 representing Commonwealth bonds purchased by the Commissioners of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales as an investment. These bonds have not yet matured, and the Commonwealth Government is under no obligation to cash them until they do. It is true that under the conversion plan all State debts are now Commonwealth securities, but’ the obligation to pay both principal and interest with respect to securities representing State debts still rests upon the State governments concerned; the responsibility of the Commonwealth begins only when a State defaults.
– In view of the growing public concern, especially, in Victoria, by reason of the exposure of the sweating conditions rampant in that
State, has this Government been asked to intervene in the clothing trades case at present before the Arbitration Court? If so, will the Government safeguard the interests of the public by complying with the request? Will the Government also collaborate with the State Labour Department with a view to improving the present methods of policing awards?
– Answering first the last portion of the question, I assure the honorable member that the Government will collaborate with the State Government, so far as may be necessary, to make the policing of awards effective. The Government is watching with interest, legislation that has already been submitted by the Victorian Government to prevent sweating.
It is not usual, nor would it be considered proper, for the Commonwealth Government, to intervene in every dispute inter party. The Attorney-General has a specific right to intervene in cases before the court when either the basic wage or the standard of hours is under considera-tion, and to address himself to those matters. In other cases the AttorneyGeneral may, like any other person, ask leave to intervene. There is no doubt in my opinion that, in the special circumstances that apply to the case now before the court, such leave would be granted. It is one of the duties of the commissioner or the judge in arbitration, when considering the matter of preference to unionists, to take into account the welfare of society. Having regard to the fact that, as a matter of policy, this Government regards preference to unionists as being directed against the abuse of sweating, among other things, it has decided that the AttorneyGeneral shall ask leave to intervene, and put the Government’s point of view before the court in this case.
– Will the Minister for Markets intimate whether steps have been taken to effect a trade treaty with New Zealand, and, if so, what stage the negotiations have reached?
– I have been in consultation with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) with regard to this matter, which has received our careful consideration. We have not yet reached a stage at which it would be desirable to make a statement on the subject. I hope to be able to do so later.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House-
– I had some indication that the honorable member sought this information, and have ascertained that -
– Will the Minister state whether instructions have been given to the Deputy Commissioners for Pensions to the effect that invalid pensions shall not be granted to claimants unless such claimants can prove that they are both physically and mentally unfit? Is the honorable gentleman aware that a large number of claims has been rejected, in defiance of medical opinion’ that the claimants are physically unfit, on the ground that, as the applicants are mentally fit, they are able to earn their own living? Will the Treasurer make investigations, and, if he considers it necessary to do so, appoint some competent person or tribunal to inquire into the methods of administration now being pursued’ in this department ?
– No instructions have been issued by the Minister in charge of the department that the granting of an invalid pension shall be dependent upon the claimant’s physical and mental incapacity as well. The act provides that an invalid pension shall not be granted unless the Commissioner is satisfied that the claimant is “ totally and permanently incapacitated “. The matter does not rest entirely upon the contents of a medical certificate. If a person is only partially incapacitated the responsibility for his maintenance lies with the State, not with the Commonwealth. I shall have inquiries made into the other points raised by the honorable member.
Canberra- Yass Road
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement which has appeared in the columns of ‘The World, to the effect that the Commonwealth Government is providing funds which will enable 50,000 workers to be employed before Christmas? If the information is correct, will the right honorable gentleman and his Cabinet, in the interests of the unemployed of Queanbeyan, Canberra, and Yass, strain every nerve to see that a portion of the sum is allocated for the repair of the road between Canberra and Yass ?
– I shall refer this specific case to the Minister for Works.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to announce whether any. decision has been arrived at concerning the future control of broadcasting in Australia? Is it proposed to extend the term of the present arrangement, or to appoint a new national board to control broadcasting?
– The Government has decided that the future control of wireless broadcasting in Australia shall be in the hands of a Commonwealth board, which will be appointed shortly, on lines similar to that of the board which exists in Great Britain.
– When is it proposed to make available the second instalment of exchange due to British war pensioners resident in Australia?
– I shall have inquiries made with a view to supplying the information to the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minister any confirmation of the mid-day telegraphic news that a serious extension of the shipping strike has taken place involving all Australian shipping, including oversea ships at present in port? If the report is correct, will the right honorable gentleman say what action the Government will take in the event of ship-owners finding it necessary to engage free labour?
– I have not received any information, on the lines indicated by the honorable member.
– Is the Government still considering the exemption of explosives used in mining from the provisions of the sales tax, or has a decision been reached in the matter?
– No decision has yet been arrived at. The matter is in the hands of the Commissioner of Taxes, whom I have asked to . consider whether a partial exemption from sales tax should be extended to explosives used in mining, or, as an alternative, whether it will be practicable to adopt some rebate system.
-Were any special instructions issued to Station 2KY as to the manner in which the British election results were to be broadcast? If so, what was the nature of those instructions; were they given by the PostmasterGeneral, or by an official after consultation with him; and were similar instructions issued to other broadcasting stations ?
– I . shall bring the matter before the Postmaster-General, with a view to a reply being forwarded to the honorable gentleman.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Can the Postmaster General say whether the essentially political speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and Senator Barnes, which were broadcast by Station 2UW on Sunday night, were first submitted to his department for approval?
– I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– Will the Minister state whether the plans which are being prepared for the rebuilding of the Perth Broadcasting Station 6WF, will give overseas manufacturers an advantage over Australian tenderers?
– They will not. As in the past, the department will give the most favorable consideration to Australian tenderers.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House what amount, if any, was paid to the soldiers’ committee which dealt with the subject of war pensions; how the money was distributed, and whether any sum has been refunded to the Government?
– The sum of £200 was provided to cover the time lost by two members of the committee, and the travelling expenses of the committee generally. There was no refund, because tho total cost was £200. I desire to add that the committee of soldiers did a big job at a very low cost.
– Is there any foundation for the press report that the Government proposes to appoint Mr. George Crowley, of Sydney, to-the Commonwealth Bank Board? Is that gentleman identical with the person who had a full column advertisement in The World of Monday last, headed “ George Crowley greets The World as big new force,” and stating that he had been a Labour supporter all his life, although recently there had been a drift which he was unable to understand?
– The appointment of a director to tho Commonwealth Bank Board has not yet even received consideration by the Government.
– Will the recently announced reduction of 10 per cent, and other cuts in the expenditure of various departments apply to the employees of the Commonwealth railways?
– There will be no application of the 10 per cent, cut unless and until the reduction in the cost of living absorbs the 10 per cent, cut made in accordance with the Premiers’ plan.
– What steps, if any, has the Government taken to ascertain whether a movement, known as the New Guard, has already armed its members, or is assembling arms for that purpose? Does the Government intend to take steps to smash this militaristic body, which aims to set up an armed dictatorship in this country?
– The Government has kept itself well informed regarding tho movements of all organizations-
– Including communist organizations?
– Yes, all organizations. Certain persons in the community, holding opposite views, believe in force, so long as it is the other side which is suppressed. The Government’s policy is that no organization shall be permitted to use force in this country.
– Is the Prime Minister able to confirm tho latest report of the election results in Britain - that 551 supporters of the National Government and 57 supporters of the Labour party have been returned? Can he say whether the figures published in the press relating to the recent by-election in South Australia are correct; and will he state whether, in the circumstances, the Government proposes to proceed to an early election?
– The Standing Orders do not require a Minister, when replying to a question, to vouch for the accuracy of the press report on which it is founded. On the contrary, they provide that the questioner shall vouch for its accuracy.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has asked a question regarding the sale of cut glass represented as being made in Australia. Tho information is being obtained.
– On the 21st October, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked me a question without notice in regard to certain amounts advanced to the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the £3,000,000 was advanced in respect of fixed deposits which the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales had lodged at the Commonwealth and other banks. The advances were made in anticipation of the maturity of the fixed deposits. Presumably the fixed deposit receipts were transferred to the Commonwealth Bank as security, but definite information on that point is not available. The amount of approximately £1,250,000 advanced after the 4th May was provided by the Commonwealth Bank for the relief of depositor’s in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales who were in necessitous circumstances. Commonwealth Government securities held by the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales were used as security for the advances made by the Commonwealth Bank.
– On the 16th October, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) asked me a question without notice regarding the proposal for the international control of the whaling industry. In accordance with the promises made in my reply of the 20th October, a copy of the Report of the Second Commission to the Twelfth Assembly of the League of Nations on the regulation of whaling, which contains the Convention, is being placed on the table of the Library.
– On the 23rd October, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Cusack) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
(a) The Dawes Plan did not deal with the matter of the total indemnity, but was limited to considering means whereby Germany could meet her obligations.
– I have issued a writ in connexion with the by-election for the Wimmera electoral division. The dates fixed are those which were announced to the House on Tuesday, the 20th October. .
– In the first division taken on Tuesday, the 20th October, the tellers inadvertently made an error. The name of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) should have been included in the list of those members who voted with the “ Noes “ instead of that of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). The error will be rectified in the official record.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Now Guinea. Act - Ordinance of 1931 - No. 31- Sheriff.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 131.
Railways Act - Report of Commonwealth Railways Operations, for year ended 30th June, 1931 (in substitution for the Report tabled on the 14th instant).
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinance of 1931 - No. 19 - Bills of Sale.
Buildings and Services Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Fish Protection Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Public Baths Ordinance - Regulations amended.
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 pur poses of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of wheat, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended, and 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.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I wish briefly to place before honorable members the circumstances which necessitate the submission of this measure to the House to-day. It will be remembered that at the Premiers Conference which was held in Melbourne at the beginning of last month, it was decided to recommend that the sum of £3,000,000 be made available to provide a bounty at a rate of 6d. a bushel on wheat of the 1931-32 season which is exported. It was suggested at that time that this sum should be made available on the understanding that the f.o.b. price did not exceed 3s. a bushel. The Premiers Conference apparently, took the view that the price of wheat, which was then about 2s. 2d. a bushel, was not likely to reach 3s. It, therefore, suggested that limitation. The Commonwealth Bank and the other banks agreed to the proposal. It was pointed out by me that difficulty would beencountered in giving effect to it, but the Commonwealth Bank laid down a scheme under which it was thought that effect could be given to “the suggestion of the Premiers Conference. At that time the States held divergent views a3 to whether the bounty should be on an export or productionbasis. I, therefore, called a conference, which was held in Melbourne on last Friday week. It was attended by the State Ministers for Agriculture and other Ministers, and representatives of most of the organizations connected with the wheat business. After a lengthy discussion, we arrived at an agreement to adopt the scheme laid down by the Commonwealth Bank, and the agreement was afterwards embodied in the two measures which were passed by this House last week, and subsequently submitted to the Senate. A discussion took place there, but was postponed to enable the Government to consult further with the banks regarding certain aspects of the measures, which were framed to reconcile the views of the different States. It was considered by the Government all along that some difficulty would be experienced in giving legislative effect, to the proposal. As the scheme emanated from the banks we made every effort to pass that legislation, on the understanding that later on any necessary amendment would be made. The conference of State Ministers and others could not, of course, be aware of the legislative difficulties, and indeed, the constitutional difficulties associated with giving effect to it. The conference did one other thing. It requested that the Government, should interview the banks and suggest that the price limit of 3s. a bushel be raised to 3s. 6d. a bushel. Thisthe Government did, and on behalf of the Government I also placed the Senate’s request before the hank. The views of the Senate were received while the banks were considering the request of the Government that the limit should be raised from 3s. to 3s. 6d. On Monday and Tuesday, I discussed with the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board the wheat position generally. He, in turn, consulted with representatives of the associated banks. During these discussions, several of the difficulties likely to attend the operation of the measure now before the Senate were discussed. At one stage, agreement between the Government, the wheat interests, the Commonwealth Bank, and the associated banks seemed impossible. Honorable members will agree that it was desirable that an understanding should be reached that would not cause bickering or discontent on the part” of any section. I approached the matter with the desire to be fair to all sections, and to ensure an immediate payment to the farmer. Merchants and millers complained that they would be disadvantaged in respect of wheat stored or delivered for sale. [Quorum formed.’] In regard to the special levy on sales proposed in respect of wheat for local consumption, millers pointed out that they experienced difficulty even, at the present time in doing business with bakers, and in securing payment of outstanding accounts; they feared that the bill then before the Senate would add to their troubles. These complaints were not unfounded. All aspects of the matter were considered, and on Tuesday afternoon unanimity was reached. On behalf of the Commonwealth Government, I agreed to the sum of £3,000,000 being applied to the payment of a bounty of 4£d. a bushel on all marketed wheat of the 1931-32 season. The matter was referred to Cabinet, and this bill is the result. If the estimate that” 160,000,000 bushels will be available for sale is realized, a bounty at the rate of 4£d. a bushel will absorb the £3,000,000.
– Suppose that estimate is not realized?
– The banks agreed that 160,000,000 bushels was a fair estimate. The principal desire of the farmer is to know that he will receive some bounty, and receive it quickly. He wants to know where he stands. There does not seem to be much doubt that a bounty of 4Jd. will absorb the full amount of money available.
– Is the arrangement with the banks on this occasion in writing?
– The honorable member need not have any doubt of that. As a matter of fact, the scheme contained in this bill is almost identical with the wheat’ bounty bill of March last. The Government then proposed to pay a bounty of 4-Jd. a bushel on a production basis, subject to the passage of certain other legislation.
-The fiduciary notes issue.
– Will an Australian price be fixed above world’s parity ?
– No ; the bill provides merely for a straight-out bounty of 4½d. a bushel.
– And £3,000,000 will be added to the national debt!
– The honorable member may dea-l with that later. The farmers have had a very bad time during the last eighteen months, and I am confident that the majority, of members will agree that they deserve every penny that they will get.
– Many other people deserve assistance.
– I agree; but we must take one hurdle at a time. Regulations will be promulgated to require the growers ,a’nd receivers of wheat’ to state on prescribed forms the quantity of wheat sold or delivered for sale.
– Is it not necessary to license buyers?
-That is not considered necessary. The information which will be sought should be adequate, and when it is received, cheques will be sent to the growers direct from the department. To this method ‘ of payment, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank has agreed. The sudden rise in the wheat market, which must be welcome news to all honorable members, will, in conjunction with the bounty of 4$d. a bushel, ensure to the growers an increased return which nobody will begrudge to them.
– Will not direct payment by the department involve delays in distant States?
– We think this will be the most expeditious method.
– Will all payments be made from Melbourne?
– Not necessarily; each State can be treated separately.
– There is no. branch of the Markets Department in Western Australia.
– The department is represented in all the States. There was a provision in a previous bill that the bounty should not be available to creditors. That provision has been omitted from this bill because the Crown Law advisers are doubtful as to the power of the Parliament to enact such a provision. At the present time tho farmers are protected in respect of their debts under the moratorium acts of the States, and this is a matter in which the farmers may look to the States for protection, as this Parliament does not appear to have the necessary power.
– Is it proposed to pay the bounty to the Queensland wheat-growers, who are already guaranteed 4s. per bushel?
-r-This is a bounty on the total wheat production of Australia, and we cannot differentiate between States. Queensland, therefore, will have the benefit of the bounty. Certain States have passed special legislation regarding wheat prices. New South Wales, fo’r instance, has a Wheat Acquisition Act, under which it can raise the local price of wheat used for home consumption. Queensland has passed a measure for the protection of the growers in that State, and, I think, it should meet with our approval. I commend this bill to the House, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage. The wheat-growers deserve all the assistance that we can give them, in view of their trying experiences in the past few years.
.- No honorable member has difficulty in dis- cussing a proposal for assisting the wheat industry, for this is about the sixth measure that we have had before us dealing with this subject. The Government has a long list of failures to its credit, and the Minister has announced another failure this afternoon. There is an old Latin motto, ad astra far ardua, which means, “ through hardships to gain the stars “. The Minister, after this long series of failures, has brought down this measure which, apparently, has the support of the Government’s followers in this chamber and of the majority in the Senate. That being so, little is to be gained by a prolonged discussion of the bill. The previous wheat bill, which is still on the notice-paper in another place, has been torn to shreds and tatters, and x Parliament House is littered with the basketfuls of fragments that remain. It proved to be a measure that was unworkable, and it was not understood by its authors. They marvelled at the results of their endeavours when they saw what the bill meant. When it was submitted to the House, it was pointed out that it left abundant opportunities for collusion, and a further examination in another place showed that the measure was quite impracticable. The comments and criticisms which the Minister himself has made this afternoon have, demonstrated conclusively how impossible the other measure was. Now we have a much simpler proposal for the payment of a bounty of 4Jd. per bushel on production, without any arrangements, by means of the imposition of wheat charges, to increase the local price of wheat to be consumed locally, whether in the form of flour or otherwise, and that, I think, is a distinct improvement. This measure provides for not only a bounty on production, but a bounty irrespective of the price obtained for the wheat. Many of the difficulties of the last measure arose from the attempt to prescribe a limit to the price, and to provide, in effect, a sort of sliding scale bounty. It is “now proposed to pay 44d. per bushel, whatever may be the price of wheat.
As I have already said, this measure apparently has the support .of both chambers. The Minister has spoken of the need of the farmers. Nobody will deny that need, but it appears to me to be a very doubtful policy to provide for a bounty irrespective of the price obtained by the producers. This has not been done in the case of any other bounty, and, if wheat rose considerably in price - I understand it is now about 3s. per bushel - it might become difficult to justify the payment of 4V£d. per bushel in addition to the increased price. The Minister has said that we ought to give fair play all round. I agree to that, and I recognize that assistance is necessary foi1 the farmers, on the basis of the present price of wheat. It must be remembered, however, that the original demand was for a guarantee of 3s. per bushel, and for a grant of enough money to bring the price up to 3s. I can quite understand the desire of the farmers, and of all who have an interest in them, to obtain more, if possible, but I feel bound to call attention to the doubtful character of the policy of this bill, which is to grant a bounty irrespective of the price obtained, and at a time when, fortunately, the wheat market is rising. The payment of this bounty will add to the national debt. As I said in regard to the previous bill, it is proposed to add £3,000,000 to the national debt for the purpose of providing a bounty in one year. Nobody knows what the price of wheat will bc next year; if anybody did, he could make a fortune for himself and his friends. The price may be high or low. If low, it will be impossible, I fear, to repeat a proposal of this character. This is not a permanent contribution to the solution of the problem of the farmers. In order to cope with the real position, we have to deal with the costs of production. It is impossible to accept, as a permanent policy, any proposal, or series of proposals, which provides for the temporary assistance, in relation to the market price, of the growers of one commodity by adding to the national debt. Any government will be forced to attend to the problem of the costs of production, whether it likes it or not, because, unless it is solved, there must be an economic debacle.
In .ill the circumstances, this bill, I suppose, must be put through, although it is open to the criticisms that I have mentioned. Few of us are able to obtain all we want in. this world, and we have to take what is available. That is my attitude to this bill, for I recognize that it is necessary to assist the farmers. A long-vision, large-scale policy is required; but, having regard to the present difficulties, this proposal of the Government should be adopted. I see no justification, however, for paying a bounty of 4£d. per bushel to the Queensland farmers, who are already guaranteed 4s. per bushel. The additional 4£d. would come from the whole of Australia. Mr. Gibbons. - A great deal of the 4s. is provided by the people of Queensland.
– The Queensland farmers would receive a minimum of 4s. 4£d. per bushel; but what would the farmers of the rest of Australia get?
– It may be possible for the others to receive 5s. per bushel, whereas the Queenslanders would be limited to the 4s., plus the bounty.
– Queensland, or any other State, is not bound to such an arrangement. It is within the control of the Federal Parliament.
– How can we exclude Queensland from the provisions of thu bill?
– I am coming to that point. I recognize that there would certainly be grave doubt as to the validity of the measure, if it excluded Queensland ; but we ought to indicate that the Government of Queensland might well reduce its guaranteed price to 3s. 7½d. per bushel. That would still leave the farmers of Queensland in a better position than other wheat-growers.
– Could not Queeusland do that without dictation from this Parli ament ?
– Yes; and I am not suggesting dictation. The Government of that State would probably jump at the opportunity of saving money by reducing its guaranteed price, and then one of the objections to this bill would disappear. It is rather a serious objection to the measure that under the joint operation of Federal and State legislation, the Queensland farmer would be guaranteed 4s. 4£d. per bushel, whereas the farmers throughout the rest of Australia would have no such guarantee. I, therefore, urge the Government to communicate directly with the Premier of
Queensland, and suggest that the necessary alteration be made in the legislation of that State.
The bill provides for the making of regulations for carrying out the proposals set forth in the measure, and there are, therefore, a good many blanks in it. Ordinarily I should object to the bill in its present skeleton form, but -I recognize the necessity of getting the scheme into working operation at once, as wheat is already being delivered. In clause 3 wheat is denned as “ wheat produced in Australia during the period commencing on tho 1st day of October, 1931 “. I do not understand the meaning of “production of wheat” as a precise term. “ Harvested “ is. a clear term which has a definite meaning. There may be argument as to when wheat is produced, but there can be no argument as to when it is harvested. There should be no room for argument. I suggest, therefore, that the word “ harvested “ should be substituted for the word “ produced “. The same clause states that the provisions of the act shall apply to wheat -produced during tho period commencing on the 1st day of October, whereas in clause 4, it is stated that the bounty shall bc payable on wheat which has, since the 1st of October, been sold or delivered for sale. Presumably, therefore, any wheat sold or delivered on the 1st day of October would not come within the provisions of the act, and no bounty would be payable in respect of it. The matter might as well be set right by altering clause 3 so as to make the date coincide with that set forth in clause 4.
An effort has been made in sub-clause 2 of clause 4 to overcome the difficulty regarding wheat held for storage. It is now provided that the bounty shall be payable on such wheat, and I believe that such a provision was inadvertently omitted from the last bill. Sub-clause 2 states that, for the purposes of the act wheat shall be deemed to have been delivered for sale if it is delivered by a grower to a. flour-miller, wheat-merchant, or co-operative organization for storage until such time as the grower decides to sell- it. I understand that a great deal of wheat is delivered for storage not “ until such time as the grower decides to sell the wheat “, .but on terms which require the person .receiving it for storage to sell a proportion of the wheat after a fixed date if the grower himself has not sold it in the meantime, and to sell the balance at current prices after the lapse of a further period. Therefore, such wheat is not delivered for storage “ until such time as the grower decides to sell,” but until h.c decides to sell or, if he makes no such decision, for sale in any event. To cover such cases, I suggest that the phrase “ pending the sale of tho wheat “ should be substituted for “ until such time as the grower decides to sell the wheat “.
In clause 9 a very general power is taken for investigation and inquiry into the business of any one dealing with wheat. In committee I propose to move an amendment to limit the power of the Minister, or of the department, to obtain information to cases in which it is necessary, in tho opinion of the Minister or authorized person, to obtain such information for the purpose of securing compliance with the act, or for dealing with any suspected contravention of the act. Such an amendment would allay the apprehensions which have been expressed in some quarters. Even then a good deal would be left to the discretion of the Minister or other authorized person, but I cannot see how that can be avoided, and wo shall have to rely upon the department, in the last resort, for a reasonable administration of the regulations which will be made for the purpose of carrying out the act.
.- Several attempts have been made by this Government to assist the wheat-growers, and the failure of those attempts has been made the subject of a good deal of misrepresentation. I have always given the Government credit for being sincere in its efforts to help the growers. On this occasion I thought that the wheat-growers throughout Australia were to receive, a definite benefit, and that there would be little, if any, controversy about it. I join with those who are asking the Government to expedite the passage of this legislation. Honorable members may not be aware of it, but in some parts of Australia wheat carting is already general.
As a matter of fact, in parts of my electorate wheat is already being delivered every day.
– That will not affect the right of the growers to r:ceive the bounty.
– No, but the Minister will admit that, particularly at the present time, it is desirable that the growers should know just what return they will receive for their wheat. T desire to obtain from the Minister a further explanation of why the bounty has been altered from one on export to one on production. This matter particularly interests the representatives of ‘Western Australia and South Australia. In regard to all these schemes, the banks appear to be dictating the policy of the Government. One of the other bills actually passed both Houses of Parliament, but the act was never put into operation because of certain objections raised by the banks. At first the banks said that they would furnish the money for a bounty of 6d. a bushel on export, provided the price of wheat did not exceed 3s. a bushel.
– That was the proposal agreed to by the Premiers Conference.
– It was agreed to by the Premiers Conference, and was afterwards accepted by the banks. If the banks could make advances on wheat which sold at less than 3s. a bushel, it would surely be a sounder proposition for them to advance money on wheat which was bringing more than that price. It has now been agreed to remove the price limitation, and the banks have agreed to accept the new arrangement; but they have insisted that, instead of there being a bounty of 6d. a bushel on the export of wheat, it shall be one of 4½d. a bushel on the production of wheat. The question of whether the bounty should be on production or export was first raised at an informal conference held in this building between the Minister for Markets and members representing wheat areas. Immediately reports of that conference were published _ in the press, calculations were made to show how the new scheme, if put into operation, would affect the growers. In the South Australian Advertiser of the 28th September - a few days after the informal conference - the following statement was published : -
The payment of 4½d. a bushel on wheat production, instead pf 6d. a bushel on export, will, it is calculated by the Government Statistician, deprive Western Australia of £300,000.
In the same paper there is a sub-leader which discusses the effect on South Australia of the proposed alteration.
– The bounty is to be paid on wheat produced in any part of Australia.
– Yes, but the new scheme will adversely affect South Australia and Western Australia;
– It will give the Queensland growers something; they would not have got anything under the other proposal.
– It would have been possible to give Queensland something without altering the basis of payment. At any rate, the farmers in Queensland who are getting 4s. a bushel for their wheat are fairly well catered for. I do not object to the Queensland growers receiving 4s. a bushel, but I remind the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) that the people of Australia are making a very handsome contribution to Queensland through the operation of the sugar embargo, and they have not complained too much about it. I believe that a bounty of 6d. a bushel could be paid in such a way that South Australia and Western Australia would not be placed at a disadvantage.
– The growers in those States will not be under any disadvantage.
– Growers in South Australia and Western Australia will not be at a disadvantage now that the price limitation has been removed.
– The price limitation should not have been included in the previous bill, and its removal was the only amendment which was necessary. I ask the Minister to give some explanation of the alteration. The sub-leader to which I have referred reads -
In Victoria and New South Wales, with their greater populations, the wheat exported bears a smaller proportion to that consumed than it does here, and their concern is, not with wheat exported, but with wheat produced. In South Australia, nature has endowed us this year with a record estimated yield of 50,000,000 bushels.
I am sorry that that estimate will not be realized, by millions of bushels. I should say that 45,000,000 bushels- will be the maximum for the season. The article goes on - and as only 3,000,000are needed for local consumption, 47,000,000 will be available for export. Excepting, therefore, the : J,000,000 bushels, the whole of the wheat harvested in this State would have been entitled to the Od. bounty. That is to say, this bounty would have represented to South Australian farmers a distribution of £1,175,000, whereas, with the bounty paid to all growers, irrespective of the destination of the wheat, the £3,000,000 will not allow of the payment of more than 41/2d. a bushel, which, as regards the growers in this State, will represent a total payment of £937,000, or £237,500 less than would have been due if faith had been kept with the Premiers Conference.
That indicates thatWestern Australia will lose some£300,000, and South Australia approximately £237, 000, by this alteration.
– What will the other States lose?
– They will benefit, The honorable member is a practical farmer, and represents the State of Victoria, and I am not surprised that he should sponsor the proposal for a bounty of 41/2d. a bushel on a production basis, as that arrangement suits Victoria, with its large population. Two-sevenths of the wheat produced in Australia is consumed locally, the remaining five-sevenths being exported. Because of its small population, nearly all of the South Australian production is exported.
– Is the honorable member serious when he says that South Australia requires only 3,000,000 bushels for seed and flour purposes.
– That is the opinion expressed in the article that I have quoted. I believe that the alteration embodied in this bill, will be to the disadvantage of South Australia and Western Australia.
– The previous bill would have been of no good to either State.
– Unfortunately, I was not here last week, when that measure was debated. I shall be glad to hear some explanation from the Minister that might cause mc to alter my present views on the subject. ‘
– This bill must be compared with the suggestion that emanated from the Premiers Conference, which was not merely that there should be a bounty on export, but also that there should he a price limitation of 3s. a bushel.
– I am not complaining that the Minister has not conferred an advantage on the wheat-farmers of Australia by withdrawing the 3s. limitation. I merely request that he should ascertain whether it would be possible to pay a bounty of 6d., as was originally provided, and still retain the other advantages that are proposed by the bill. I do not desire to delay the passage of the measure. Time after time the wheat-farmers have been promised assistance; but it has not materialized. I want this bounty to come into operation promptly. At the same time, I regard it merely as a palliative. I believe that, in the near future, this Parliament will have to consider the stabilization of our wheat industry and the effect of bounties.
There are some anomalies in the bill. For instance, the farmer who has produced a good crop will receive more than his les3 fortunate colleagues. That is a difficulty that cannot be overcome. It would not be possible to differentiate, and say that the bounty should not apply to persons who produced a crop that gave more than 21 to 24 bushels to the acre. The scheme must be uniform. Although the season has, to some extent, been a bounteous one, those honorable members who represent wheat-growing constituencies know very well that, for many years, wheat-farmers have gone through periods of drought and semi-drought. If a liberal amount of bounty is paid to a few, it will tend to outweigh the disadvantages under which they previously laboured. I urge the Minister to give some consideration to the points that I have raised, and, if passible, give me a satisfactory explanation with regard to them.
– Ican give no explanation other than I have already advanced.
.- I am confident that had the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) been here last week he would not have made the statements that he has just uttered. He would then have understood much better the previous proposal of the Government, and how it affected the various States. This bill does not penalize one State more than another. . Under it South Australia does not suffer any disadvantage as compared with Victoria. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) suggested that a bounty,” irrespective of the price of wheat, was wrong, and that it should not be paid if the price reached 4s. or 5s. per bushel. Quite probably if those figures were reached the growers would not have the effrontery to ask for a bounty. I certainly think that they are improbable of attainment for some considerable time.
There are three methods by which the bounty could have been paid. Had I the power to fix it I should decree that the bounty should be paid on last year’s production. “ *
– So should I, but the honorable member has been told many times that that cannot be done.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance. Had that been possible it would have given us, on a 200,000,000- bushel harvest, an approximate bounty of 3d. per bushel, taking into account the wheat used for local consumption, seed purposes, and export. Such a bounty would have been distributed very much more equitably than the present one can be. Those who know anything about wheat-growing conditions in Victoria and New South Wales must be aware that thousands of growers in each of those States will be unable to market even a bag of wheat this year. Last season they responded to the appeal of the Prime Minister and the Premiers, and turned out a bumper crop, on which they lost money. This year they will again lose money. [ should be much more satisfied if they could be provided for by this bill.
I am sure that, when he is in full possession of the facts, the honorable member for Grey will absolve me of State parochialism. I have already made it clear that I favoured a bounty of 6d. per bushel on all wheat exported. That scheme would have had an effect similar to the one introduced by the Minister, without its entanglements. It would automatically have lifted the price of wheat by 6d. per bushel. On the estimated exportable surplus a bounty of 6d. would not cost the Government more than £2,750,000. I know that the decision of the banks has hampered the Minister in hi3 desire to help the farmers. At the same time I contend that the whole scheme is wrong. Even with the 4£d. bounty, growers will receive H<L par bushel below what they would have got had the bounty been 6d. on the wheat exported. That scheme would have raised the price ; this one does not. As I want to see the bill go through expeditiously, I shall conclude my remarks now, but when the measure reaches the committee stage I shall have a few words to say. In the meantime, the Minister might give consideration to the fact that it is necessary, in the interests of the scheme, to see that those who handle wheat shall be licensed. Other-“ wise, it is quite likely that bounty might be claimed several times on the same wheat. I congratulate the honorable gentleman on having brought a very difficult matter to a conclusion. I sympathize with him in the difficulties that he had to surmount, particularly with regard ‘ to the restrictions that were applied by the banks. The present bill is simplicity itself, arid, with the necessary safeguards, should do all that has been suggested by the Minister. [Quorum formed.~[
– I agree with the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) that the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), who, unfortunately, was too ill to attend here last week, did not fully understand the difference between the last two bills which have been introduced to assist the wheatgrowers of this country. Although I do not approve entirely of the present measure, it is infinitely better than that which we had before us last week. With the price of wheat rising, it is possible that, under the earlier bill, no assistance at all would have been granted to wheatgrowers by way of a bounty. The bill now before us is simplicity itself, and its administration should not occasion any difficulty. I should like to see a short adjournment before it is dealt with in the committee stage, so that ‘ honorable members might have an opportunity to examine it thoroughly. I agree with the honorable member for Grey that if we desire to build up an export trade in wheat, it would be better to provide for a bounty on the wheat that is exported.
Generally, I do not believe in bounties; in my opinion Australia would be better off if many of the existing bounties and restrictions on industry were removed, for then the cost of production would become lower, and it would be possible to carry on a profitable export trade. I have previously pointed out that in Western Australia there is an area, equal in size to Victoria, which is capable of supporting 10,000 farmers if we had a satisfactory wheat export trade. That area enjoys a moderate rainfall ; but the rain fails in the growing season.
– Is the land costly to clear?
– Not particularly costly. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) quoted from a list, which was prepared at my special request by Mr. Woods, an accountant of Perth, to show how the cost of production in 1913 compares with the cost to-day.
– An entirely wrong comparison.
– The prices now being realized for our export products are below those of 1913, whereas nearly everything which the farmer has to buy costs 100 per cent, more than it did in 1913. Australia is a good country, but, unfortunately, it is being destroyed by foolish men. Being a debtor nation, Australia must export in order to pay her way. We hear a good deal about the advantages which Australia will gain from the better prices now prevailing for wheat and wool ; but we hear little of the difficulties which the wheat-growers have to face. A bounty is sometimes justified in order to assist the establishment of an industry; but if . such a bounty has to be continued year after year, there must be something wrong. I make no excuses for voting for this bounty, because I remember the many impositions which have been placed on the wheat-growers of Australia during the last decade. I remember also the fall in the prices of our primary products last year, and the numerous promises made to the producers which have not yet been fulfilled. I am not unmindful of the response of the farmers - particularly those of Western Australia - to the appeal to grow more wheat. They lost hundreds of thousands of pounds through responding to that call. This bounty will help them. Under this bill they will know exactly where they stand, whereas their position under the measure which we had before us last week was most’ indefinite.
When members speak of the increased prices for wheat and wool during recent weeks, they should not lose sight of the heavy exchange rate. The more we produce, the lower will the exchange rate become. Every additional bag of wheat, or bale of wool, which is exported helps the Government to meet its overseas indebtedness, and the more we produce for export the lower will be the exchange rate, so beneficial to us at present. The action of the British Government in departing from the gold standard has also assisted, because it has increased slightly the value of our primary products overseas. The community generally should not complain because assistance is to be given to the wheat-growers. Had that assistance been given last year, their position would have been less critical than it now is, and there would not have been the huge falling off in the areasown with wheat this year. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I desire to informhonorable members that a distinguished visitor, Sir Newton Moore, a member of the House of Commons, is within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall provide him with a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Sir Newton Moore thereupon entered and was seated accordingly.
.- I have here some figures comparing our position in 1911 with that of last year. In 1911, our national debt was £273,000,000 ; last year, it was £1,100,000,000. Our taxation receipts in 1911 amounted to £18,000,000 ; last year, they totalled £91,000,000. The interest on our public debt in 1911 amounted to £9,600,000; last year it totalled £55,000,000. Our production in 3911 was valued at £189,000,000; last year its value was £391,000,000, and it will be less this year. Those figures show how essential it is that our export trade shall be built up and everything possible done to increase production. For many years, manufacturers have been mollycoddled, and granted all sorts of concessions. They have not been called upon to meet competition from manufacturers overseas, whereas the primary producers have been given no consideration. It is deplorable that, in a country greatly in need of population, areas which have been devoted to wheat-growing should now be used as pasturage for sheep. There are still available - particularly inWestern Australia - large areas of land suitable for wheat-growers, on which many thousands of persons could be settled if only wheatgrowing were aprofitable undertaking. I want to assist to build up this country, and, therefore, I grieve when I see the farmers exploited. The people of Western Australia want to be released from bondage, so that they can make better use of their State. I should have preferred a hill along the lines of a scheme prepared by Mr. Teesdale, an expert in Western Australia, which provided for a bounty on all wheat exported. The export trade is vital to Australia, and with a bounty on export the local price would have been increased giving the producer a more reasonable price for his product. Nevertheless, I am prepared to accept this bill, because I know that the Minister has done the best he could in the circumstances. I believe that the bill will grant some relief to those in need, and, therefore, I shall support the second reading.
– I have no intention of delaying the passage of this bill. As the representative of a large . number of wheatgrowers, I wish to congratulate the Minister’ and his colleagues on their persistent efforts to assist the wheat-growers of this country. During the discussions of the numerous measures which have been introduced to assist the farming community, I have made it clear that I have no desire to make political capital out of the farmers. So long as they are assisted, I do not care which government introduces the legislation which helps them. I have always been willing to support the present Government in its attempts to treat the wheat-growers of this country fairly. The only objection I see to the’ present bill is that the bounty is not. nearly big enough. I am sorry that thebounty is not to be 6d. a bushel on production, and I am indebted to my colleague, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr.Hill) for figures which indicate that the bounty could easily be 5d. a bushel. These figures show that this year the probable production of wheat in Australia will be 160,000,000 bushels, which is somewhat less than the recent estimate of 175,000,000 bushels. From that must be ‘ deducted 14,000,’000 bushels for seed, on which no bounty will be paid. That leaves a total production of 146,000,000 bushels on which a bounty of 41/2d. will be paid. That absorbs £2,750,000 of the £3,000,000. The balance of £250,000 could easily be used in bringing the total bounty to 5d. a bushel. I regret that this point was not put by the Minister to the banks.
– The amount available is £3,000,000, and we must keep reasonably within it.
– It is still possible for much wheat to be destroyed between now and the completion of the harvest. I, therefore, think that the Minister has played too much for safety. Surely some machinery could have been devised to provide against any heavy loss in production between the commencement and the completion of the harvest. At any rate, I consider that the Minister has done his best, I hope that in committee and, perhaps, in another place, any suggestions that are likely to improve the bill will be adopted. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has stated that it is bad policy to pay this bounty without any limit on the market price of wheat. I am pleased, indeed, that the Minister has been able to gain that point from the banks. I have been among the wheat-growers recently, and have discussed this proposal with them from all angles. The general impression was that a bounty with a limited price of 3s., and possibly 3s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b., would be practically worthless. I have to admit that that proposal at that time did not seem a very good proposition, but the present proposition is totally different. I assure the Minister that it will be hailed with delight by the wheat-growers throughout Australia. It is true, as. the honorable member for Echuca has pointed out, that some unfortunate farmers will have a small production, while the more fortunate ones will have a big production, and, therefore, the bounty will benefit mainly those who have a big production. We cannot provide against that. We cannot provide in a scheme like this for every human possibility, and it is very necessary to make the machinery of distribution as simple as possible. I understand that the banks have refused to pay a bounty on last year’s production.
– The Prime Minister put that proposal to the banks several weeks ago, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
– That is definite, and, it is, therefore, of no use to discuss that matter now. It is not the fault of the Minister that a bounty is not being paid on last year’s production. It has been argued that this bounty should be based on export, and not on production, and the case of Queensland has been mentioned as the main reason why this proposal for a bounty on wheat is inherently wrong. It is not altogether fair to Queensland to use its position as a reason why the bounty should be on wheat which is exported. The price of 4s. a bushel in that State was said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to put it practically outside the scope of a measure for relief. But we have to remember that that price is paid in Queensland by levying direct taxation upon the people. It is a contribution by the people to the farmers of that State. It is a credit to Queensland that its people have made that sacrifice. That State is part and parcel of the Commonwealth, and will have to bear its share of liability in respect of the loan for this bounty, and the interest payable upon it. It would not be fair to Queensland to prevent it from sharing in .the. bounty. I, therefore, cannot see how the case of that State can be used as a reason why the proposal for a bounty on production is inherently unsound. I do not think that it is. Of course, States like South Australia and Western Australia would receive more benefit from a bounty on export, particularly if it were Cd. a bushel. Those States are anxious to get as much assistance as possible, but if a bounty on export were agreed to, other States would lose more in proportion than South Australia and Western Australia will lose under this proposal.
– What will be the position of Tasmania, which produces no wheat?
– It is not our fault if Tasmania produces little or no wheat. It does produce some wheat, which is used mainly for the manufacture of biscuits; but that State has to depend on the rest of the Commonwealth for wheat for local consumption. It is also dependent on the Commonwealth for contributions to enable it to balance its budget. It has been enjoying that benefit for some time. . When honorable members representing the smaller States talk about the disadvantages that those States are under in comparison with the larger States, they should realize that Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia, the so-called weaker States, have been in receipt of charitable relief.
– Tasmania has never received charitable relief from the Commonwealth.
– It has received relief from Commonwealth funds, which is a form of charity. Those three States have for some years past received relief.
– That is due to their federal disabilities.
– I admit that the stronger members of the federation should assist the weaker members.
– The assistance given to the smaller States is not charity.
– It i3 a direct contribution from the taxpayers of the larger States to the people of the smaller States, to help them to overcome their financial difficulties. That assistance was given to them without any consideration whatever, merely as a gratuity. Therefore it is not fair that the smaller States should be continually .complaining about the way in which they are being disadvantaged under this proposal, which is nation-wide in its scope. The Government has done good work in bringing this scheme to its present stage. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that we cannot establish as a principle a bounty on wheat every year.
– There should be some guarantee.
– The only way to overcome the difficulties of the wheatgrowers of Australia is to establish a Commonwealth pool. “When we have done that, the method of arriving at a solution of our economic problems will be much simplified.. The establishment of a Commonwealth pool would do away with the necessity for a bounty, and the growers would then be able to devise machinery which, with the financial backing of the nation, would enable them to solve many of the marketing problems with which we are now faced. A permanent bounty on the production of wheat is absolutely outside the scope of practical politics. I trust that the bounty will be paid to the growers as expeditiously as possible, because many of them need it badly. If that is done the Minister will find that his efforts will bc very much appreciated by the wheat-growers. I hope that he will see that no red tape or unduly inquisitorial methods will be used before the bounty is given to the farmers. It is their due. The Government, in paying this bounty, is really redeeming the promise that it made last year to the wheat-growers and did not fulfil. It is because of the failure of this Parliament to honour that promise that we are taking considerable risk at present not only with the finances of the Commonwealth, but also with the present marketing situation. The price of wheat is improving. I should like to see it reach 5s. or 6s. a bushel, and if it did, I should still be prepared to give the bounty to the farmers, not because they really require it, hut hecause its withdrawal will create the bad impression that thi3 National Parliament is prepared to break its word.Whatever it costs us, we must rehabilitate ourselves in the eyes of the primary producers, and this measure will help largely in that direction. The Minister should adopt the sug gestion of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) that buyers should be licensed. I was curious to know the reason for the suggestion, and the honorable member has explained to me that it is quite possible for collusion to take place between some buyers and growers. Probably it would not be a serious factor in the scheme, but there are black sheep in respect of all propositions that represent easy money. A farmer can always be traced, because he will not leave his farm, but a buyer representing certain wheat interests may operate in a district for the first time, and never be heard of again. It would be possible for such a buyer, who is hot too scrupulous in his methods, to issue a certificate which misrepresented the quantity qf wheat purchased by him from certain growers. The Government would probably pay the bounty on the false certificate. I do not say that that would happen, but it could happen. In such a case it would be difficult to locate the buyer, particularly if a considerable sum of money were at stake. To prevent the Government from being imposed upon, I suggest that the Minister should re-insert the licensing provision in the hill, and if he is not prepared to do that, at least to demand from the buyer and the grower a declaration made before some responsible person as to the transaction which has taken place between them. By that means the Government would he assured that its money was going to the right quarter.
– I assure the honorable member that a careful check will be made of all sales of wheat, even to the extent of collaborating with the State Agricultural Departments, so as to prevent collusion.
– Does not the Minister think it necessary to license buyers ?
– If the Minister is satisfied, I am. He is the responsible authority and will he called to account by the Government if anything goes wrong with the scheme. I feel sure that the Minister will handle the job very well. He has shown his capability in connexion with previous measures relating to the wheat industry, and it must be a great satisfaction to him, as it is to all the representatives of wheat-growing areas, that at long last his efforts are to be crowned with success, and will confer . 11 Don the farmers a great boon.
.- Some “honorable members have said that Tasmania is npt a wheat-growing State, and that its farmers should not get the benefit of this bounty. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) was so unjust as to say that Tasmania lived on charity.
– I did not say that.
– Such an accusation is unwarranted. Proportionately, the people of Tasmania contribute more to the bounties paid by tho Commonwealth than the people of any other State, because they do not participate in this largesse. If the bounty were paid on export wheat, only Tasmanian growers would be excluded; yet they produce over 1,000.000 bushels annually, and some of them are in just as great need of assistance as are any growers on the mainland. They will be grateful for a bounty of 4Jd. a bushel. The Tasmanian flour has superior qualities for biscuit-making, and practically all the first-class biscuits made on the mainland are manufactured from it. I Congratulate the Minister on having brought forward this bill. I regret that he is unable to offer a larger bounty; but it is, at any rate, a free gift. Most advances to necessitous farmers have to be repaid in a few years, and, while giving temporary relief, place upon the recipient a heavier burden of debt. If the bounty is paid direct to the growers, it will be of great assistance to them. I hope that the bill will be sent on to the Senate with the unanimous approval of this House.
– I do not like this bill. The assistance of the wheat-growers is becoming less and less an economic question, and more and more a political one, and, as a result, the matter is not being viewed in proper perspective. In the first place, I am not in favour of loading the taxpayers with an additional burden of £3,000,000 in order to pay a bounty to one section of the community; The money must be obtained from some source, and must ultimately be repaid. Australia is already overburdened with debt, and now we are placing an additional burden. of £3,000,000 upon our people. This Parliament has agreed to many bounties in the past; but, in all previous instances, the industries to be benefited were young and struggling, the people engaged in them were few, and the production was comparatively small. Now we are asked to pay a bounty to one of our biggest primary industries.
– And one of the most important.
– I do not deny the importance of the wheat-growing industry, and no one is more anxious than I to see it prosper. But I differ from the honorable member as to the means by which it can be assisted. It is in difficulties now only because it cannot produce at a cost which will enable wheat to be sold on the overseas market at a profit. The only possible solution of that problem is a reduction in costs; but the payment of this bounty will not help in that direction one iota.
– If we allow the industry to go out of existence that will not help.
– I do not want the industry to go out of existence; but I can see no justification for a bounty that is to be paid indiscriminately, and regardless of the financial standing of the recipients. The men who are in most urgent need of assistance are those whose crops have failed - for instance, farmers in the Wimmera who, year after year, have reaped scarcely sufficient wheat to provide seed for the following season. Those are the men who are in danger of being driven out of the industry.
– There are many others.
– I admit that, but there are also many wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth who have done remarkably well in previous years, who own valuable assets and have substantial bank credits; they can afford to “ live on their fat “ for some years. Yet under this bill, they will be on the same footing as men who are struggling for their existence. That is why I do not like the bill. All my sympathy is for the necessitous wheat-growers.
– Ninety per cent, of the farmers are in need of assistance.
– The. proportion of needy growers is nothing like 90 per cent.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) referred to the position in Queensland where the wheat-farmers have been guaranteed 4s. a bushel, which is more than is likely to be received by the growers in any other State. The honorable gentleman urged that either the State guarantee should be reduced, or the growers so protected should be excluded from the benefit of this bounty. I remind him that the 4s. is guaranteed by the people of Queensland, and places no burden on the people of other States. The Queensland guarantee of 4s. is solely a State matter, and has no bearing on this bill.
How can assistance be given to necessitous farmers? I have perused the bill in the hope of being able to suggest an amendment which would ensure a bounty to those actually in need without requiring the already impoverished taxpayers to dip still deeper into their pockets to find money for growers who are comparatively affluent. All growers want a bounty, and will accept it with both hands ; that is only natural.
– How would the honorable member differentiate between those who are in need and those who are not?
– There is no difficulty iii connexion with old-age and invalid pensions; we have prescribed certain conditions whereby some people are entitled to a pension and others are excluded.
– Before the circumstances of all the growers could be examined, we would be in our coffins.
-When the Minister introduced the first of his series of wheat bills, the price of wheat was not nearly as high as it is to-day. In fact, if the growers had known that the price would be approximately 3s. a bushel, they would not have asked for assistance. But eating creates appetite. “When the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) appealed to the farmers to grow more wheat, I said that he was making a mistake, that the world already had a super-abundance of wheat, and that the slogan to the farmers should have been “Produce wheat more cheaply “. But because of their response to the Prime Minister’s appeal, the farmers felt that something was due to them. The Government acknowledged an obligation to them, and said that it would come to their assistance. I recognize the promise that was made, and I am willing to support the Government in carrying it out. But I am unable to see why wheat-growers who are not in need of assistance should take from an impecunious community money it cannot afford to pay.
– I congratulate the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) on his persistency- in the introduction of bills for the assistance of the wheat-growers; he has certainly proved himself a firm friend of the farmers.. The object of this legislation was, in the first instance, to assist those growers who were in necessitous circumstances. The price of wheat was then very low, and I was happy to support the granting of relief to those who were in need. But circumstances have changed. This bill is designed to assist, not merely those who are in difficulties, but also those who are well able to live on their own resources. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) appealed on behalf of the Western Australian growers. For several years, they have enjoyed bounteous crops and good prices; so profitable has their industry been that they have been steadily increasing the acreage under crop.
– Thousands of them have walked off their blocks.
– I know that; but I object to men with big banking accounts, who need no assistance, being permitted to participate in the’ bounty. Nobody should complain of assisting farmers who are down and out, whom we should endeavour to keep in constant employment in producing national wealth. Manufacturers, shop-keepers, mechanics, and others may claim to be in needy circumstances, and may ask the Government for similar assistance. The interest burden is- bringing this country almost to the verge of bankruptcy, and now we are to burden the people with another £3,000,000 loan for a non-reproductive undertaking. I regret that the bill does not discriminate between the wheatgrowers who need the bounty and those who do not. Certain honorable members are directly interested in wheat-farming, and I submit that any member who would benefit from the payment of the proposed bounty should neither take part in this debate nor vote on the bill.
– The remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), and the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) have caused me to join in this debate. I have supported all the bills previously brought forward by the Minister providing for the granting of assistance ‘ to the wheat-farmers, and he is to be complimented on his persistence and patience, despite constitutional difficulties, iri submitting measure after measure, until he has now presented a bill which is acceptable to the whole of the States, to the business community, and to the banking interests. I admit that it differs from a previous measure, and that tho Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) did not honour the promise given to guarantee the payment of 4s. per bushel. When that bill was brought forward, half the responsibility in the matter was thrown upon the various States, and naturally some of the States most affected could not possibly avail themselves of the proposal. Various other measures have been brought down. by the Minister with the object of assisting the primary producers, and, particularly, the wheatgrowers. The honorable member for South Sydney suggests that this bill would benefit farmers who had big banking accounts, but if there are wheat-growers with large financial resources, their money has not been made out of wheat. The honorable member for Oxley does not like the payment of £3,000,000 from loan for this bounty any more than does the honorable member for South Sydney; but honorable members opposite are not fully conversant with the trials and adversities of the primary producers. They do not know that the purpose of thi3 bill is to stimulate an industry that is practically dying to-day because of lack of assistance. The struggling farmers have not the financial resources with which to plant the areas that should be placed under wheat in the interests of Australian production. The honorable member for Oxley was justified in what he had to say, from his own point of view ; but I cla’im t)-«t the desperate position of the wheat grower to-day is due to the fact that the price of ls. Gd. or 2s., which he has been offered for hia wheat, would be insufficient, under any conditions, to meet the costs of production. Those costs will never be- low enough to make that a profitable price.
I took no objection to the previous measure, but this is a fairer bill, because under it all growers in Australia will receive the same rate of bounty for the wheat they produce. Although Queensland does not produce 3o much wheat for export as, for instance, Western Australian growers, this is a Commonwealt] bill for the benefit of all Australian wheat-growers. If the people of Queensland are prepared to tax themselves in order to provide extra benefits for their farmers, they should not be debarred from the advantages of a measure- passed by this Parliament in the interests of the wheat-growers generally. It is quite competent for the government of any State to grant such other assistance as it may desire to give to the growers in that State, but it is only fair to pay to all farmers throughout the Commonwealth the bounty of 4£d. per bushel on the wheat they - produce. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) referred to the assistance Queensland receives from the Commonwealth in regard to its sugar production, yet no sugar bounty has ever been paid. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that Queensland contributes to the dole that is given annually to South Australia. The honorable member for South Sydney should regret the remarks that he has made, in ignorance of the hardships suffered by the primary producers during the last few years. In South Australia, for instance, four years of drought, desolation, and disappointment have been experienced, many farmers not having gathered sufficient wheat for seed purposes. In many cases they have been reduced to a state of the greatest privation, and, in some instances, to starvation. The granting of 4½d. per bushel to the farmers should not be objected to by any honorable member from a city constituency, whether he be a supporter of the manufacturer or the importer.
The Australian wheat-growers as a body should support any arrangement by which an extension of the powers of this Parliament may be granted to permit of the formation of an all-Australian organization of the primary producers for the purpose of securing full control of the marketing of their commodity, whether wheat, maize, butter, or any other product. Such an organization could effect the necessary financial arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank or any similar institution, in order that it might control and guide the destinies of the primary producing industries. Until such an alteration is brought about, the producers will always be faced with difficulties such as this bill seeks to overcome. I have had a motion on the noticepaper ever since I have been a member of this chamber, affirming the desirability of action being taken to enable the primary producers, through their own organization, to take steps to secure an equitable return for their commodities.
– This bill should have been passed without debate, but, after hearing some of the speeches that have been delivered, I feel constrained to participate in the discussion. “With the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), I realize that when the £3,000,000 has been paid to the farmers, the money will be put into circulation, employment will be stimulated, and there will be less to pay out in the form of doles. Therefore, it cannot be correctly said that this payment to the farmers will result in any loss whatever. If the people could borrow money from the Commonwealth Bank - that is, from themselves - to discharge public debts, there would be so much interest accruing that we should be able to liquidate the national debt, and there would be a sufficient surplus to meet the needs of all. We know that the National Government has been returned with an overwhelming majority in Great Britain, and this may lead to the people of that country buying more foodstuffs from us. If we can make it possible for the farmers to grow more wheat, they will export more, and in this way we shall be able to pay off our debts abroad. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) seems to entertain some peculiar ideas regarding the financial position. If the farmers receive 4s. a bushel for their wheat, bo much the better. The country will benefit because there will be more money in circulation. With the present high rate of exchange, it is to our interest to export as much as possible. If the farmers receive a satisfactory return for this year’s crop, they will be able to put in a larger crop next year, and we shall have a still greater surplus for export. I congratulate the Minister upon having tried in this measure to meet the farmers’ requirements. My only regret is that the Commonwealth Bank did not do something for the farmers before this, and that the bluebeards in another place prevented the passage of the bill which was to guarantee the farmers 4s. a bushel. Had that measure gone through, there would be less unemployment now, and we should not be paying away so much in doles. I support the bill.
– This bill is one of a series designed to render some assistance to the wheat-farmers. The other bills contained contentious provisions, and were, in consequence, unacceptable to some of the interests concerned. Now a bill has been introduced which i3 apparently _ acceptable to every one who wishes to help the farmers. The reason, of course, is that it is proposed to help the farmers by increasing the national debt by £3,000,000. Everyone is satisfied, because it is intended to let posterity foot the bill. We are, to use an expressive phrase, passing the buck.
-The Government will have to find the money five years hence.
– God help the country if this Government has to find any ready money! It has been suggested by all those who have spoken in favour of the bill that it represents a fine piece of statesmanship.. Although no section of the community is called upon to find this money immediately, yet the people as a whole will have to pay it eventually, and in the meantime the interest on the money will be added to the already crushing burden of interest payments. I cannot understand, therefore, why the House should so readily agree to the proposal, knowing that it means adding still further to a burden which is even now proving difficult enough for us to carry. When measures come before this House which are likely to serve the political interests of honorable members, many of them are only too ready to give them their support, even though they are inherently unsound from an economic point of view.
I wish to state clearly that I am not opposed to assisting the farmers. I realize that no other class has suffered more from tariff impositions, and from the restrictive and repressive legislation sponsored by this Government. There is probably no other class in- the community which is more entitled to assistance, because, in the last analysis, it is upon their efforts that the financial stability of the country depends. The more they are able to produce, the more new money is brought into the country, and the better it is for every one. Only by the efforts of those engaged in the wool, wheat, metal and other primary industries can the finances of the country be rehabilitated. I am not unsympathetic to the’ farmers receiving assistance, and I am prepared to do anything in reason to help them. It is very easy to join in the popular cry that something must be done for the farmers, but it is not so easy to determine upon the right way of doing it.
– The honorable member yelled with the rest in denouncing the effects of the tariff on the primary producers.
– I did, and in that I was consistent, because I believe that the tariff is at the root of many of the ills from which the farmers are suffering. I endeavoured to have the duties reduced on those things which the farmers use, believing that thereby we could reduce- costs of production. That is the only sound method of assisting the farmers.
– Only in that way can the farmers ‘be enabled to export profitably.
– That is so.
– Does the honorable member think that the cost of production regulates the price which the farmer receives for his wheat?
– I think that the cost of production has a very important bearing upon the farmer’s profits. I have made it clear that I am in favour of assisting the farmers, and I now propose to examine this scheme to see whether it is economically sound. The bill which immediately preceded this provided that a bounty on wheat should be paid at such a rate as to bring the price up to 3s. per bushel. If the price of wheat was 2s. 6d., a bounty of 6d. per bushel was to be paid; but if the price was 2s. 10d., the bounty would be only 2d. per bushel. The present proposal is to make a straight-out gift to the farmers of iii. per bushel, irrespective of the price of wheat. The price may go to 4s. or 5s. per bushel, but the farmer will still receive 4½d. per bushel more by way of bounty. I have heard it suggested that it is only fair to do this because the farmers suffered losses during previous years. We are not now, however, dealing with the losses previously incurred.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the farmers can make a living out of growing wheat, and selling it at 3s. per bushel f.o.b. ?
– I do not suggest that ; I am merely comparing the Government’s previous proposals with the measure now before us. I presume the honorable member will admit that if the price of wheat rose to 5s. per bushel the farmers would be able to produce at a profit; yet, under this proposal, even though wheat rose to that price, the bounty of 4r£d. per bushel would still be paid.
Every other scheme which has been put before this House has contained some provision for getting back the money which was to be paid out in bounties, and that is only right. In the present scheme, however, all such provisions have been omitted, because it is feared that, if put into operation, they might tend to increase the price of bread to the teeming millions in the cities. Therefore, the Government has rejected the proposal to impose a sales tax on flour, and intends to add to the national debt the £3,000,000 which is to be paid away as a bounty. I wonder what attitude the Country party would take up if the Government brought in a proposal next week to add £3,000,000 to the national debt in order to relieve unemployment, the money to be disposed of in the same way as is the £3,000,000 for the assistance of the wheat-farmers.
– It would be impossible to hand out money to the unemployed on the same basis as this. £3,000,000 will be advanced to the wheatfarmers.
– I am sure I could devise means of doing it. Under the Government’s proposal it is a matter of “ to him who hath shall be given “. The man who produces the most wheat will get the most byway of bounty, while the man who produces least, because he is hard up or because the season is bad, will receive least. The farmer who had a bad season last year may not have had the money to buy seed wheat, to purchase machinery, and to pay labour. Therefore, he may have little or no wheat to sell this year, and will receive little, if any, assistance through this scheme. On the other hand, the man who was favoured by a good season last year, or happened to be in. a suitable part of the country, so that he produced a good crop, will get the biggest cut out of the £3,000,000. Surely the man who follows the plough day in and day out, but who, through no fault of his own, gets no crop, is more entitled to assistance than the man who in some cases merely lends bis money at interest.
– The big growers last year lost more than the small ones.
– That I deny. During the course of the debate I asked, by interjection, whether the Queensland farmers were to share in the scheme. That was not a hostile interjection. If, in Queensland, they choose., by State legislation, to increase the amount the farmers receive for their wheat, that is their business, and I am well content.While I am willing at all times to assist the farmers, who are deserving of all the helpwe can give them, and while I believe that the primary industries are of the utmost importance to the country, I cannot refrain from saying that the method of assistance proposed in this bill is inherently and economically unsound.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I am. one of those who deplore the raising of the issue, city versus country in terests. All honorable members should be sufficiently advanced in thought to realize that those interests are interdependent. If one represents a city constituency, it does not follow that he has not the interests of the primary producers at heart.
I do not intend to delay the passage of this bill. If it comes to a vote, I shall record mine in favour of the measure. I understand that amendments are forecast which are likely to improve it. For a long time, the Commonwealth Parliament has been endeavouring satisfactorily to provide assistance to the wheatgrowers, a most deserving class. I believe that it is beyond human ability to devise a scheme that is free from inequalities. This bill is not perfect. There is no doubt that after it. has been passed, it will be disclosed to the Minister, per medium of correspondence and personal interviews, that some who are not in need will reap advantage, while others who are in distress will not have their burdens lightened. On that score there is bound to be some dissatisfaction.We should be superhuman, however, if we could conceive a scheme that was free from inequalities.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), is always railing at the alleged advantages that are enjoyed by a certain class who are, he says, protected to the utmost against adversity. “While I do not profess to he an expert, I have had some experience of land pursuits, and, had I the time and inclination to-night, I could disclose that there are others besides wheat-growers who are at present in distressful circumstances. If thrips extends its ravages, many fruit-growers in Victoria will be in a bad way. I am pleased that wheat has risen in price. I have before me the Melbourne Argus of yesterday, which states in its market reports -
The upward trend of prices for wheat in London continued. Sales of newcrop Western Australian wheathave been made at 27s. 9d. a. quarter (3s.55/8d. bushel) for December shipment, while private cable messages report a sale for January shipment at 28s. a quarter (3s. 6d. a bushel). Liverpool futures are dearer, but the North American markets have reacted, particularly . Winnepeg. A firm position obtains, in Melbourne, but little wheal is offered to test the market. The quotation is 3s.1d. to arrive and about 3s. ex suburban siding stores. 1 am not a prophet, but it will surprise me if wheat has not advanced to 4s. a bushel within a month, and this belief is strengthened on account of the likelihood of a shortage in the wheat yield for the current season. I should like to inform the honorable member for Swan that the section at whom he chiefly rails will be among those who will contribute to this bounty. We have in the manufacturers of Australia a splendid set of individuals, who have enabled farming to be carried on more cheaply, so far as the purchase of agricultural implements is concerned, than is possible in any other country. Our inventors have brought our agricultural implements up to a remarkably high standard, to the advantage of our primary producers. That was conclusively proved by a report of the Tariff Board some years ago. I ask the honorable member for Swan and those who think with him to have greater consideration for the persons who have helped the men on the land to carry on their industry. As a city representative of many years standing, I challenge anybody, whether he belongs to the Country, or any other party, to prove that I have done anything in relation to tariff matters, or otherwise, that has been detrimental to the man on the land. On the other hand, I claim that city representatives have done much to help the farming community.
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) says that this bounty will be paid to every wheat-grower; in other words, it it a wheat dole, purely and simply. It is a rule of thumb measure. The honorable member says that it is the best wo can evolve, but I contend that the money could be distributed on a more scientific basis. It is my desire to help anybody who is down and out, but I contend that there are many wheat-farmers who are satisfactorily situated, and who would not accept this dole if the position were properly explained to then]. In the case of the maternity allowance, before a woman can obtain it she has to answer a series of very personal questions, and prove that she is entitled to it. A similar state of affairs applies to a claimant for the old-age pension. Yet when it comes to the distribution of this wheat bounty, no questions are asked. Rich and poor alike are to receive it. There is no basis of equity in the matter. What insuperable difficulty stands in the way of ascertaining the condition of a man on the land? Already he has to give comprehensive information in his income tax return, which discloses his financi.il position pretty exhaustively.
– There is no difficulty about that. They are all broke.
– I know that they are not ail broke. I know that the honorable member could buy more honorable members in this chamber than could buy him out. Yet he will vote for this measure and accept the 4£d. per bushel on the wheat that he produces ! I know that there are good agricultural holdings in my State, whose occupants have never looked back. The Government has no right to distribute this money indiscriminately. The degrading part of it is that this measure does not embody the wishes of the Government, which is dependent upon the dictates of another place, and upon the banks. After all its tribulations when endeavouring to evolve a satisfactory scheme to assist our farmers, this is the result. It is a disgrace that the Government should bend the knee to the forces that now dictate its policy.
I ask that, as an equitable offset . to this measure, the Government should provide something for our 400,000 unemployed, many of whom have been out of work for two or three years. They have no hope for the future, no prospects of a good season. They have lost all. To those 400,000 unfortunates the Government is making available £250,000! At the same time the Prime Minister intends to ask the manufacturers to stimulate their businesses and provide employment. Already their warehouses are chock-full of commodities for which there are no buyers. We are indeed in a deplorable position. I do not blame the Government for it. It is attributable to another place and to the banks. Heaven alone knows how they will face the position when the general community, knows the facts. The tragic thing is that the Government is going to borrow this money and pay interest upon it. Posterity is to be burdened to help, in many cases, those who do not need help ! Many of them will receive the dole and participate in the distribution of interest on. the money to be borrowed. 1 have risen to make my position clear. I am not like some honorable members who first decried the hill, and then expressed their intention of voting for it. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) and the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) must accept their share of the responsibility. It is the party to which they . belong that is dictating the terms upon which this Government is able to retain office.
We are told that South Australia has turned the corner. The adoption of the Premiers plan by that State is supposed to have achieved wonderful results. But what do we find ? Official figures show that the income of South Australia for the month of September was approximately £500,000, and the expenditure about £990,000. Of that expenditure, £444,465 represented interest on the public debt. If the interest were deducted from the amount of expenditure, the budget of that State would be balanced, and there would be a substantial surplus-. Whatever the season, good, bad, or indifferent, the interest on borrowed money must be paid, some of it to opulent farmers who are to receive assistance under this bill.
– They offered to lend their money,- and the Government accepted it.
– That is so. This bill provides for the same thing to be continued. Some time ago the Government introduced a bill to provide for a fiduciary note issue, of which £6,000,000 was to be earmarked for the assistance of wheat-growers. Why does it not proceed along those lines now? Why does it go to the private money lenders for the money, and involve the country in further trouble? The reason is that it has not the courage to put up a fight.
– Is the honorable member the only one possessing courage? The Government is not foolish enough to do what he would do.
– The Government has been foolish long enough. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has “ tangoed”, stood on one leg, on his head; in fact, no one knows where he stands in regard to the politics of this country. The Government should have put up a fight eighteen months ago, but it was afraid to do so, and now Parliament is forced to, accept this measure. I shall support it because it will help needy farmers, notwithstanding that, in helping them, the interestmonger will gain.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this act unless the contrary intention appears - “Wheat” means wheat produced in Australia during the period commencing on the 1st day of October, 1931, and ending on the 31st day of March, 1932.
Amendment (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to-
That the word “ produced “ be omitted with a view to insert inlieu thereof the word “ harvested “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) Bounty under this act shall be payable on the production of wheat which has, since the first day of October, 1931, and prior to the commencement of this act, been sold or delivered for sale . . . (2.) For thepurposes of this act wheat shall be deemed to have been delivered for sale if it is delivered by a grower to a flourmiller, wheat merchant or co-operative organization for storage until such time asthe grower decides to sell the wheat.
Amendments (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That the word “ since “, sub-clause 1. be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “on and after”;
That all the words after the word “ storage “, sub-clause (2), bo omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “pending sale “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to-
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 - (l.) Bounty shall be payable in the prescribed manner to the grower of the wheat. (2.) In the case of wheat produced by share-farmers, the bounty payable in respect of the wheat shall be apportioned hetween the share-farmers in such manner as is prescribed.
.- Sub-clause 2 appears to be inconsistent with sub-clause 1. The drafting of the second sub-clause is, I think, a little difficult, but probably the clause, as drafted, will work quite well. In the case of share-farmers, it is usual for only one partner to produce the wheat, the other supplying the laud and some of the implements, and, perhaps, the seed and manure also - according to the arrangement made between them. The description of two such persons as “ share-farmers “ might conceivably be open to objection, but as the meaning is plain, it is probably unnecessary to alter the wording.
I suggest, however, that it would be better if the two sub-clauses were made one, and that at the end of sub-clause 1, as it now stands, the words “ provided that “ be inserted. The second sub-clause would then appear plainly as a proviso to the first sub-clause. I, therefore, move -
That the figure “ ( 1 ) “ be omitted; and that the figure “ (2) “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Provided that “.
– I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– A question of principle is involved in this clause. I do not pretend to have a detailed acquaintance with all the methods of share-farming, but, generally, there is an agreement for the sharing of the wheat or the proceeds thereof. Why should not the bounty be shared in the same proportion that the wheat or the proceeds of the wheat are shared? If wheat were to bring an extra 41/2d. a bushel in the market, the additional price would, in ordinary circumstances, be shared according to the terms of the share-farming agreement. Surely it is proper to regard the extra. 41/2d. payable by way of a bounty as an accretion to the price of the wheat, and to allow the bounty to be shared between the persons who have jointly, in a commercial sense, produced the wheat? Unless there is some sound reason for departing from that principle, I suggest that the clause be altered to provide that, in the case of wheat produced by share-farmers, the bounty payable in respect of the wheat shall be apportioned between them in the same way that they, under their agreement, are entitled to share in the wheat, or the proceeds thereof. It appears” to me that, where two persons have made their own agreement as to the manner in which the proceeds of the crop shall be shared, there is no justification for the Government stopping in and, in effect, altering that agreement. Apparently, the only effect of this clause is to give the Government the power to alter an agreement between parties. Should there be another reason, or if I have failed to realize some exceptional circumstances, I should be glad if the Ministerwould point it out. In the absence of a good reason, it appears to be only fair to regard the bounty as an addition to the price of the wheat, to he distributed in terms of the agreement between the parties.
.- The intention of this clause is not made clear. I take it that the “grower of the wheat”, mentioned in sub-clause1, is the person who actually tilled the soil. As to sub-clause 2, a share-farmer is a man who enters into an agreement to grow wheat for a share of what it will bring. I take it that the term “share-farmers” covers both the landlord and theactual tiller of the soil; but it should be mora clearly defined. It should be madeclear that the bounty is to be shared in accordance with the agreement entered into between the contracting parties. That is to say, if the parties to the sharefarming agreement are to share equally the proceeds of the crop, they should also have an equal share in the bounty; if one of the contracting partiesisto receive, say, three-fourths of the proceeds of the crop, he should also receive threefourths of the bounty.
It may be that the crop, or a portion of it, is under lieu to some person who is the real owner of the wheat, without whose consent it could not be sold. Should the owner of the wheat, in that ease, decide to withhold it from sale, the person who actually grew itmight not obtain any benefit from the bounty. In the previous bills there was a provision which clearly stated that the bounty would be free from any encroachment by lien, but such a provision has been omitted from this bill because of some constitutional incapacity which isfeared. But if the position is not made clear, large quantities of wheat may be held up because of the person who actually grew it not having the right to sell it.
Any objection under a lien would prevent the sale of the wheat until such time as a decision was reached as to who should receive the bounty. Unless a provision similar to that in the previous bills is inserted in this measure, the proper marketing of much of the wheat held under lion will’ be seriously interfered with’. Many farmers who were badly in need of finance received loans from the Rural Industries Board of New South Wales, ot from institutions operating similarly in the other States. In many instances, because of certain administrative factors operating in connexion with different State financial institutions, the proceeds from the sale of wheat has been held up for months. Under the bill as it stands, an objection from the Rural Industries Board may hold up the sale of wheat under lien until such time as a decision is reached as to who shall receive the bounty. That would entail considerable hardship. I direct the attention of the Minister particularly to the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that the bill should in some way define the position of the landlord and the share-farmer, and the proportion of the bounty that each is to receive.
.- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) has stated that this clause does not clearly set out, in respect of sharefarming, who is actually to receive the bounty. I suggest that the intention behind the previous bill was that the man who grows the wheat, largely the small farmer who is up against it, should receive the full benefit of the bounty. If that is so then the words “in the prescribed manner “, which appear in the clause, are utterly inadequate. This bounty is being granted to assist the small farmer who is in difficulties, and, as the honorable member for Calare has said, there is no provision in the bill to prevent any sum due to the small farmer, by way of bounty, from being seized by his creditors. The purpose of the bounty is to give the farmers some ready cash, and, therefore, the clause should be more embracing and definite. It should provide that moneys paid by way of bounty shall be free of any liabilities; otherwise the cheque that the farmer receives will be taken by the bank with which it is deposited in part payment of debts owed by him.
– I have frequently expressed my opposition to government by regulation, and, in this instance, there is no reason why there should be a regulation in respect of the apportionment of the bounty as between the landlord and the share-farmer. Surely there is no objection to setting out in the bill the apportionment as between the two parties concerned. The Government knows what it is doing, or it does not. It is hardly conceivable that it should have introduced this legislation without giving consideration to this matter. If it is intended that the bounty shall be apportioned according to the arrangement existing between the landlord and the share-farmer, that should be stated, in the bill.
– Does not the honorable member think that the bounty will be apportioned according to existing arrangements?
– If that is to be done, why not state it definitely in the bill?
– It may be a matter of verbal arrangement, or of a lien on the wheat.
– So as to make the position perfectly clear. I move -
That the words “ in such manner as is prescribed “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the words “ in proportion to the interests of the share-farmers in the wheat or the proceeds thereof “.
If the Minister can show that the amendment is objectionable, I shall not press it.
– Honorable members must realize from the discussion that has already taken place on this clause, that it would be unwise to alter it. Of course, if there were a distinct agreement between two sharefarmers that one should get two-thirds and the other one-third of the wheat, or one 50 per cent, and the other 50 per cent., there would be no harm in inserting the amendment. But all share-farmers are not so precise as that. Some of the agreements that are entered into between them may be verbal. If there is no hardandfast rule the scheme may be abused, whereas if the decision is left to the department it will apportion the bounty fairly after hearing the facts. No difficulty will be experienced with respect to agreements that are clear and definite. Both parties to the agreement will be protected if the clause is passed as it stands.
– Surely there must be some agreement with sharefarmers.’
– If there is, there will be no danger of an unfair apportionment of the bounty, because the department will see that the agreement is observed.
.-I cannot see how any apportionment of the bounty can be prescribed in the bill. If there is an agreement, as there always is, although it i3 sometimes verbal, in 99 cases out of 100 it is honoured. The landlord is as much the grower of the wheat as the share-farmer. The landlord provides the land, and, frequently, half or the whole of the fertilizer and seed. He frequently provides the horses and machinery. He is as much concerned with the growing of the wheat as the man who actually does the work. In some instances he helps in the actual work. There is generally an arrangement between the landlord and the farmer as to who is to cart the wheat. This is what happens. The man says to the landlord, “There are 1,000 bags of wheat, 500 for you and 500 for me “. The man takes his wheat to the railway siding and sells it. The landlord does the same. The two parties to the agreement deliver their own wheat, and each receives a bounty on the quantity that he delivers. I have had a fairly long experience of share-farming, and I know that the agreements differ. Sometimes the share-farmer in one locality obtains more than the share-farmer in another locality, because the value of the land or its productive capacity varies considerably. The cost of working the land varies, and so does the apportionment of the wheat as between the landlord and the share-farmer. But it is a known quantity, and when the wheat has been finally delivered, neither the Minister nor his officers would be able to make an apportionment more equitable than that made between the parties concerned. ^
– A share-farming agreement may. provide for the apportionment of the proceeds of the crop Between the owner of the land and the share-farmer. The landlord may contend that the agreement does not cover the bounty. Provision should be made that, notwithstanding any agreement in existence at the passing of this bill, the share-farmer shall receive half the bounty payable on the wheat produced by him.
– If he is nos entitled under the agreement to a half share of the wheat, how can he be entitled to half of the bounty ?
– Sometimes the sharefarmer gets two-thirds of the proceeds of the wheat. In such cases the payment of only half the bounty would be unfair.
– The share-farmer should participate in the bounty in proportion to his share in the wheat.
.- There is something in the contention of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). Share-farming agreements vary in different localities, and according to circumstances. The majority of such agreements are covered by written contracts. By some agreements the landlord has the right to sell tho whole of the wheat) and to apportion the proceeds between the parties. The bounty will become an original item of revenue, to be apportioned in accordance with the original arrangement, but any dispute on that point could be easily adjusted by the Minister, or other adjudicating power. Other agreements based on local circumstances may, however, involve more complicated problems. Those that provide for the apportionment of the wheat before the sale .will present no difficulties, because the share-farmer will receive his bounty in accordance with his share of the grain. To simplify administration and minimize the risk of litigation, the bill should include an absolute direction that the apportionment of bounty payments shall be in accordance with the terms of the original agreement relating to the proceeds of the wheat. Such a provision could be easily administered.
– The amendment is superfluous. We cannot provide that a share-farmer shall receive 50 per cent, of the bounty payable on the wheat which ho produces. He will be entitled only to the amount of bounty payable on the quantity of wheat to which he is entitled under the agreement,
– That is provided for in the amendment.
– As effect can be given to that under the bill as drafted, the amendment is unnecessary. Usually a share-farmer works on a fifty-fifty basis ; sometimes he receives only one-third of the proceeds of the farm. But if he is breaking up new land on a pastoral property lie may be entitled to two-thirds for the first two or three years of the agreement. The bill safeguards both the share-farmer and the owner of the land. The department will see that justice is done to both.
– I strongly support the amendment, which protects the interests of the share-farmers, whereas the bill leaves everything to chance. In nine cases out of ten, sharefarming is conducted on the basis of legal agreements, and in connexion with this proposal to pay a bounty on wheat we should be careful that the interests of all parties to an agreement are properly safeguarded. Under the bill the bounty could bc paid to the owner of the wheat or the person who delivered it at the siding. Despite what the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has said, it sometimes happens that the owner of the land arranges for the delivery of the whole of the wheat, the share-farmer acting merely as his employee. The owner might claim through his agent the whole of the bounty due on the wheat delivered by him. Usually a code of honour governs the relations of the parties to these agreements, but an unscrupulous owner might pocket the whole of the bounty, on the ground that he was not legally bound to pay any of it to the share-farmer. If an owner were embarrassed by heavy liabilities, and was in a position to claim a substantial amount of bounty, the temptation to do so would be very great. In such circumstances what machinery does the bill provide to compel him to hand over the proportion due to the sharefarmer? The wheat industry depends largely on share-farming, which is extending throughout Australia, and whilst, generally the ordinary rights of the parties are legally safeguarded by agreements, there is nothing to protect the share-farmer in regard to a new element like the bounty which involves money not. contemplated when the agreement was drawn up.
– I believe that the bill as drafted will enable the department to do all that the amendment seeks, but if members think that the amendment is necessary to make assurance doubly sure, I am willing to accept it.
– The amendment will at least impose a legal obligation on the owner to pay to the share-farmer the amount of bounty due to him according to his agreed share of the wheat crop.
– The department would take precautions to see that, that was done.
– Unless provision bc made in the bill, the department will not have the legal power to take action.
– The bill gives power to make regulations, and by regulation all necessary safeguards can be provided.
– To make assurance doubly sure, I urge that the amendment be agreed to.
.- I again ask the Minister to make clear what precaution is to be taken to ensure that payment of the bounty will be made direct to the growers.
– Payment will be made by means of a cheque marked “Not negotiable”, and payable to order, which will be sent direct to the grower.
– I see no necessity for the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Offences against act).
– Has the Minister considered the licensing .of wheat-buyers ?
– In my opinion, there is no occasion for that.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 - (1.) The Minister, or any person thereto authorized in writing by him, may by notice in writing call upon any person to furnish to him, within such time as is specified in the notice, such books and documents and such information in relation to wheat as the Minister or that authorized person thinks necessary.
Amendments (by Mr. Parker Moloney) agreed to -
That the words “ in relation to wheat “, sub-clause ( 1 ) , be omitted, and that at the end of the sub-clause, the following words be added: “in relation to compliance with this act, or the regulations made thereunder, or any suspected contravention thereof “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Section nineteen of the principal act is amended by omitting sub-sections (1.), (2.), and (3.) and inserting in their stead the following sub-sections : - “(1.) The Governor-General may, from time to time, by notice published in the Gazette, fix the maximum amount, rate, percentage or extent of taxation to which the remuneration of any senator or member of the House of Representatives (including any senator or member who holds a parliamentary office), of any Minister of State and of any officer or employee, may be subject under any one or more of the laws of any State imposing taxes upon incomes whether for a specified purpose or not.
Senate’s amendments -
Proposed new sub-section (1) - leave out “ from time to time, by notice published in the Gazette, fix “, and insert “ by regulation, prescribe”; and leave out “under any one or more of the laws of any State imposing taxes upon incomes whether for a specified purpose or not “, and insert -
– The Senate has made a number of amendments, but most of them deal with the same subject; substituting for a notice published in the Gazette a regulation to he prescribed. The first amendment is the principal one, and the remainder are consequential. I see no objection to the first amendment, and I therefore move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
– The object of the second amendment is to define the class of taxes to which the proposed limitation will apply. In Tasmania., the special tax for unemployment relief is imposed by the Income Tax Act, which also imposes the ordinary income tax. Therefore, it would be . impossible to describe that law as a law imposing a tax to meet expenditure incurred by the State for a special purpose, since it is. a law imposing’ a tax for an ordinary purpose, and also for a special purpose. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Consequential amendments to clause 3 also agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee: (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message).
.- I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue, bo made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £250,000 for the purpose of expenditure on works to provide relief to persons out of employment.
The purpose of this appropriation was stated by the Prime Minister on the adjournment of the House on Friday last. The intention is to utilize the money to he voted by this bill for the purpose of offer- ing some slight measure of relief to persons who are suffering distress through unemployment, and especially to apply it to the relief of those who have been unemployed for a lengthy period. It is recognized that £250,000 will not by any means solve the problem of unemployment, but it will furnish, at any rate, some relief to the worst cases of distress, during the period prior to Christmas. It is not possible to include in the bill which will be founded on this motion, a schedule of the works to which the money will be applied, because the departments are now working on that matter; but the money will be used exclusively for the employment of persons now unemployed. No portion of the money will be used for the employment of men now in the service of the Commonwealth. So far as possible, the money is to be spent in wages, and expenditure on material is to be cut down to a minimum. Of course, the latter expenditure cannot be eliminated entirely, because materials such as cement, timber, paint, &c, are required to enable work to be done; but, so far as practicable, the- money will be apportioned for such works as will give the maximum amount of employment. The employment is to be strictly rationed, so as to divide the work among as many men as possible. The minimum period of employment will be two weeks, and the maximum four weeks, so that this will be strictly a relief provision. Tho works are to be put in hand at the earliest possible moment, and preference is to be given to works which can be undertaken before Christmas, and completed within a short period.
The money will be chiefly allocated between the Postal and Works Departments. It is proposed to allot £50,000 for the Postmaster-General’s Department, for work that can be put in hand in the various States, and managed by that department, and about £180,000 will be spent by the Work3 Department on works undertaken for the benefit of that and other departments. In connexion with this undertaking, a general appeal is made to employers everywhere to join in the widespread attempt to create additional employment, with a view to alleviating the distress, especially during the Christmas season. It is conceivable that, by an effort of this kind, if sincerely entered upon by all who have the capacity to employ men usefully and profitably, there may be initiated a nation-wide movement which will result in our turning the corner towards prosperity. We do not wish to be unduly optimistic, or to begin something which may have an undesirable reaction, but I think this is well worth a trial. It is in the nature of an experiment. No harm can come of it, and it may do much good. There are indications that the employers will enter into the spirit of the plan, and cooperate with the Government. The plan will at least furnish a good deal of temporary relief, and may lead to a large measure of permanent relief.
While employers, manufacturers, and others are being solicited to put on as many men as they can, and to keep them on as long as possible, the public will be asked to co-operate by not refraining from useful spending. It is noticeable that in some quarters people are tending to restrict their expenditure unduly. There are some whose incomes have not been impaired, whose power to spend their money usefully has not been in any way interfered with, but who, because of their fear of the future, are refraining from spending in the ordinary way. By so refraining they’ have, I believe, aggravated the depression. It is becoming’ recognized by economists pretty well all over the world that i n these times the public should be encouraged to spend usefully, not wastefully. I read the statement in an American newspaper recently that an important savings bank in the State of New York was appealing to its customers to spend their money. Indeed, this appeal has led to the waggish criticism that the savings bank is not an institution of thrift, but an institution of spend-thrift.
– £50,000,000, which might be usefully spent, is locked up in New South Wales.
– I agree that it might be usefully spent if the depositors could obtain access to their money.
– They would be able to get their money if the Commonwealth Government had assisted the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales in the same way as it assisted the private banks.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth Government could have assisted the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales?
– By accepting the challenge of the Commonwealth Bank authorities,, and taking .the measures necessary to secure control of that institution.
– The Commonwealth Government does not control the note issue.
– No, because it was too cowardly to take the steps necessary to obtain that control.
– The closing of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was a most deplorable thing, and nobody should try to make capital out of it. Whoever was responsible for tho closing of that bank, the honorable member will surely admit that the blame does not lie at the door of the Commonwealth Government.
– Nor was the Government of New South Wales responsible for it.
– Very well; let the honorable member content himself with saying that, and refrain from making charges against the Commonwealth Government. By this proposal we are making an effort to bring some measure of relief to those now out of work. It is not a spectacular scheme, but it will provide a modicum of relief for those who are greatly in need of it. It will provide a few weeks’ employment for a few thousands who are unemployed.
– None of this money is to be advanced to local bodies?
– No; it will be spent’ by Commonwealth departments.
– It will be supplementary to the advances made by the banks.
– Yes, and to whatever effort private employers can be induced to make.
.- This is a proposal for the raising and expenditure of £250,000 for the purpose of relieving unemployment. The whole of the money is to be spent by the Commonwealth Government through its departments, principally the Postal and Works Departments. The first question that arises when any proposal of this kind is made, is, naturally, how is the money to be obtained? That question requires answering before we consider how it is to be spent. We all know that the money cannot be obtained from revenue, and it is not to be obtained by loan in the ordinary way. It is to be obtained, as a matter of fact, from the deficit; in other words, by obtaining banking accommoda-tion, and the deficit will be increased by the amount we so obtain.
– It is not anticipated that the deficit which was forecast at. the Premiers Conference will be increased..
– The Treasurer assures me that the deficit will remain within the limit laid down at the Premiers Conference. The desirability or otherwise of this proposal depends upon how the money is to be expended. I approach the consideration of this matter with a full recognition of the fact that this is an emergency provision; that unemployment in the community is so general and so severe - though I am glad to see that there are beginning to appear some slight signs of improvement - that we are justified in taking emergency stops in an endeavour to alleviate the situation to some extent. We are being asked, apparently, to give carle blanche to the Government in regard to the expenditure of this money, because, in the bill which it is proposed to found on the motion now before the committee, there will be no schedule of works.
– Because there has been no time to get it ready.
– There may be a reason for it. While the expenditure of £250,000 may be regarded as a relatively small contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem, when one considers the great number who are out of work, it i3 a very large sum to place at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government without some indication having been given as to how it is to be spent. I have no doubt that there is much work that can be usefully done. According to a statement of the Prime Minister, which was published in the press, much Commonwealth property is in risk of falling into disrepair because ordinary maintenance work, such as painting, &c, has not been done, but one cannot spend £250,000 on work of that kind. If we painted every building the
Commonwealth owned in Australia it would not cost £250,000.
Mr.Theodore. - The appropriation in an ordinary year for that class of maintenance work exceeds £250,000.
– Possibly, but provision has been already made in the Estimates for maintenance work, although the amount has, I admit, been reduced. It is now proposed to add £250,000 to what has been already provided for this work, and we are asked to do it, having in our possession only the most sketchy information as to how the moneyis to be spent. A broad outline of the manner of expenditure has been given. In the first place, it is to be applied in providing work for those persons unemployed. I presume that means those who will be unemployed when the money is to he spent, and not merely those who are unemployed now. No doubt every effort will be made to obtain value for money spent; otherwise its expenditure would be a waste. The work will be rationed, and nobody will obtain more than four weeks’ work, or less than two weeks. As the Treasurer has said, that is only a small contribution, but it is apparently all that can be managed by the Government at the present time. The men are to be employed on relief work, and the question arises whether the money which is to be spent will be devoted to paying the men at wage rates as laid down in arbitration court awards.
Mr,Gregory. - Will employment under this plan be available to all, whether they are unionists or not?
– I presume it will be open to all, and that men will not be allowed to starve because they are not unionists.
Mr,Theodore. - It will be open to all.
– I suppose everybody believes in the principle of a basic wage.
– What is left of it.
– I accept the honorable member as a supporter of the principle I have stated. As the Treasurer has said, this money is to be expended in providing relief work, and, in my opinion, it ought to be made to go as far as possible.
Mr.Theodore. - Surely we are doing that, when we are employing the men for only short periods.
– No question here arises of unfair competition between one employer and another. Of course, if one private employer were allowed to employ men at a lower rate of wage than another private employer in competition with him, if differential minimum rates were fixed for private employers, it would he manifestly unfair. In this instance, however, considerations applying to competitive industries do not enter, and our chief desire shouldbe to make the money go as far as possible. There are many citizens who, because of their misfortune, would be very glad to obtain work at wages considerably below the ordinary minimum wage. I suggest that it would be better to spread the work in that way, than to confine it to a smaller number of men merely to have the satisfaction of paying the normal rate of wage for this relief work.
– What rate does the honorable gentleman suggest should be paid?
– I should not dream of making a suggestion as to the rale of wages that should be paid on a particular job; I prefer to leave that to the authority administering the expenditure. I have no qualifications to say what should be the proper wage for a painter or carpenter for certain work, but if we adhere to standards that were quite right in normal times we shall, under present conditions, deprive a large number of our citizens of a- chance of earning money.
Mr.Coleman. - Surely we should set an example by maintaining standards?
– I agree, generally speaking, but we have to recognize the position of the country. Honorable members must realize that if we were to provide by law that everybody in the country should be employed at the wages and standards that the court might have fixed in normal times, industry would break down. We have to recognize the unfortunate limitations which exist. Therefore, I ask for a statement on behalf of the Government as to its intentions in this regard. In doing so, I seek no party advantage. I can gain nothing by putting forward these suggestions. It is far easier to urge at all times that the full wage should be paid. However, so many of our citizens are now unable to obtain any work at all that I am anxious to make this money go as far as it fairly can be made to go.
The Treasurer mentioned the appeal that was made to employers to give as much employment as possible. I agree with the appeal. In so far as I have had the power to do so, I have done everything in the past year or two to increase the giving of employment. I have recently met quite a number of employers, men whom I know well, and* who are in charge of large enterprises, and I have appealed to them personally to give more employment. In common with most honorable members, I have also received many letters asking me to find employment for the writers. I know a great number of employers in our largo cities, and I have found that many of them are straining their resources to the utmost to provide employment. Others have said “We have gone on manufacturing stock, and now have our shelves full of commodities that we cannot sell. It is impossible for us to continue manufacturing goods if we cannot dispose of them.” Accordingly, I am afraid that not a very great result will accrue from the appeal to employers, though I quite agree that some may respond. I admit that I should like to see the removal of some restrictions that are preventing householders in our cities from giving employment of a casual nature.
– What sort of restrictions?
– The wage rates that are prescribed for gardeners and the like.
– Where ?
– In Melbourne, for instance. The rate used to be about 16s., but is now about 14s. I am aware that that is not the result of any federal legislation or award, and merely mention it in passing. There are many men who could do odd jobs and be quite useful, to whom the householder could not afford to pay the full award rate. If those restrictions were lifted, householder.0 would be enabled to extend the area of casual employment. Those rules and regulations, introduced in the interests of the employees themselves, are in some cases defeating their own object, and pre venting men from getting jobs for which they would receive reasonable remuneration.
I support the proposal. I should like to see a fuller specification of the manner in which the money is to be spent, but I recognize that a good deal of the work that will be done will be small jobs in various places, and that it would be a difficult thing to set these out separately. If, however, it is intended to undertake any large scale enterprise with this money, we ought to remember that up to the present it has been the rule that any work costing over £25,000 should receive special consideration by a committee of this House.
Mr.Theodore.- Thecost of any individual job under this scheme will certainly not exceed £2,000 or £3,000.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has outlined the details of this proposal fairly fully, and about these the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has raised one or two points, It is true that the project that the Government is submitting to the committee provides for an amount that is relatively small when compared with the large number of persons unemployed.
– I was not criticizing it on that ground.
– I am aware of that. The amount would be very much larger if it were within the power of the Government to extend it. In addition to providing a large number of men with a few weeks work before Christmas, the object of this proposal is to set an example. If we make an appeal to the employers to give a few extra men work, we should strengthen our precept by our example, and show that we are prepared to help industry and trade by ourselves providing employment.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, many manufacturers are well stocked up because the purchasing of the community has not been very great. But the warehouses and retail stores are not’ all heavily stocked. In most cases, they have been buying the minimum amount, expecting always a fall in prices. Once they realize that this downward tendency has ceased, and I believe that we have reached the bottom, they will begin to buy.
Coupled with the appeal to employers to engage more men, will go out an appeal to buy legitimately and reasonably, and above all, to buy Au3tralian-made goods. That will, in turn, create a demand for the products of Australian factories. The Government will welcome the support of honorable members from all sides, and from every section of the community in that appeal, so that it may he made Australiawide. “When in Sydney the other day, I spoke to manufacturers’ delegates from the different States of Australia, and received a most encouraging reception to the appeal that they should do all that they can to provide additional employment. If the retailers receive encouragement from those who buy Australian, goods, they will, in turn, place more orders with the manufacturers. I believe that it is quite possible to make that demand grow like a snowball, and once it begins it will inevitably increase.
– A demand will be created if the manufacturers and merchants reduce the prices of Australianmade goods.
– That may be, hut the cost of living figures are constantly being reduced, and if they truly reflect the position, the prices of commodities are also coming down.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked for a statement on behalf of the Government as to what rates of wages will be paid for this relief work. The honorable gentleman argued that the Government would employ more men if the minimum rate paid was below the basic wage.
– Of course, it might very well be above the basic wage; for instance, in the case of skilled labour.
– Already the basic wage for unskilled workmen has been reduced, in some cases, too much. In South Australia, it is as low as £2 12s. 6d. per week. I do not think that this Government would agree to employ anybody below or at that rate. I believe that there is a fallacy in the argument of the honorable gentleman. If his suggestion were accepted, more men would not be employed. Having in mind what each man will earn, the Government intends to spread the amount of money available by limiting the number of weeks that he will be employed. The work will be rationed.
– The Government does not suggest that it will be possible with this money to give work to everybody who is unemployed?
– It does not.
– Then, if it adopted my suggestion, it could employ more men with the amount available.
– It could not do so without asking them to do more work for the same amount of money.
– Has the Government worked out how many men will be employed by the expenditure of this money?
– Yes, between 12,000 and 14,000. The Government will divide that number of men into the money available. If it reduced the rate of wages, it would not reduce the amount payable to each man, but would merely employ him for a longer period, and take more out of him in the way of labour. I suggest that that would be a mean attack upon the most defenceless section of the community. It would take advantage of their distress in order to break down the already lowered standard of living.
– How will the money be distributed ?
– It will be distributed among the States on a population basis, with the qualification that the Government will keep in mind the desirability of selecting the class of work that will be most useful to the community, and will ensure that none of the money is wasted.
.- Every one regrets that a motion of this kind is necessary; but, unfortunately, there is need for it, especially in view of the approach of the Christmas season. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) used a fallacious argument when he said that just as many men would be employed if high wages are paid as would be the case if the remuneration were lowered. I want the money to be distributed among as many men as possible. Unfortunately, in the expenditure of public moneys, it frequently happens that a few derive all the benefits, while others are left out in the cold.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that the rates of pay should be lowered? ,
– I was referring only to relief work.
– I remind the honorable member that only to-day he supported a bill to keep up the price of wheat.
– The £250,000 proposed to be expended on the relief of unemployment should bo expended so as to assist as many as possible. The question at issue is, not what wages ought to be paid in this country generally, but how many can be assisted. Wo hear a good deal of the need for carrying out public works in Australia; but it would be difficult to suggest any big public undertaking which would give a reasonable return for the money expended. With the exception of a scheme for the bulk handling of wheat, I cannot imagine any new public work which would pay even interest on the money expended.
– How would the honorable member find employment for those who are out of work?
– As far as possible, 1 would keep the Government out of this kind of thing. Take our railway services as an example. During recent years we have” borrowed money freely for railway purposes. The result is that, since 1914, railway freights have increased over 60 per cent., while the losses on tho railways during that period have amounted to over £50,000,000. That money has to be made up by taxation. The further the Government keeps away from industrial undertakings the better.
The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) said that he thought’ he could see a silver lining to the cloud of depression. The money proposed to be expended will certainly give some relief; but I suggest that the greatest relief we could give to our people would be to reduce the burden of taxation which falls on them, and to leave them their money, to be expended by themselves in the development of wealth. Only in that way can we reduce unemployment. When politicians come in with their wild schemes, a few benefit; but the nation has to pay the price, unless it is prepared to borrow money, and not repay it.
We shall never return to the old prosperity until we have less government interference with things which should be left to the people. We should encourage the citizens of this country to depend more upon themselves, and less upon governments and parliaments. The trend of public feeling in this matter wai shown clearly in Adelaide the other day, and has been demonstrated sensationally in Great Britain this week. The people are beginning to realize the need of depending more upon themselves and less upon-
– The banks.
– The banks are merely protecting the savings which the people have entrusted to them. If we are to have progress and development, we must change our habits ‘ of the last fifteen’ or twenty years, and encourage the people to rely more upon themselves, and to produce more real wealth. I support the motion.
.- I support the motion, because it will give some relief to a deserving section of the community - the unemployed. I do not criticize the Government for proposing to distribute only £250,000, because I realize that it is not master of the situation; it has to obtain the approval of Sir Robert Gibson before it can act. I do not agree with the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) that the granting of this money will mean that Australia has turned the corner. We shall, I think, go on turning corners. The honorable gentleman said that the action of the Government would tend to inspire confidence, increase employment, and encourage the public to spend money more freely. The best way to encourage the people to spend money more freely is to give them the money to spend. The Treasurer knows that as society is at present constituted., there can be no permanent solution of the unemployment problem. The granting of a few weeks’ work to men will certainly provide a measure of relief, but, after all, it is only a palliative - it will not solve the problem confronting this country. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that if the rate of wages paid under this scheme were reduced, theamount proposed to be expended would provide employment for a greater number of men. There are approximately 500,000 unemployed persons in Australia to-day. If the £250,000 proposed to be spent were distributed among them all, they would receive about 10s. each, which, for two weeks employment, would represent 5s. a week. If that is an indication of what the Opposition means by increasing the purr chasing power of the people, I am convinced that this measure would be impracticable in its hands. I am glad that the Government is not prepared to accept the suggestion that the rate of pay for these men should be reduced.
I am concerned as to the manner in which the men will be selected for employment. For some time only returned soldiers have been selected when men have been required for work undertaken by the Works Department. Some consideration should be given also to those in the ranks of the unemployed who are not returned soldiers. Indeed, I suggest that the Government should go straight-out for preference to unionists in all relief work.
– The only qualification necessary will be evidence’ of unemployment.
– Will the men required be engaged through the labour exchanges in the various States?
Mr.Theodore. - I cannot answer that question; the details have not. yet been settled.
– At the Customs House, Sydney, the Works Department has a record of the men who are registered. If it is intended that only returned soldiers shall be employed under the proposed scheme, that record would be sufficient for the purpose.
– As I have already said, the only qualification necessary will be evidence that a. man has been unemployed. Probably the longer he has been unemployed the better chance he will have of being selected.
– I take it that unless the Government is prepared to accept the word of the men themselves, the department will have to confer with the State authorities in order to find out how long a man has been unemployed, in which case the State labour exchanges will have to be consulted.
I hope that the Treasurer will give no consideration to the employment of nonunionists on these relief works. I do not mean the men who have been members of unions and are to-day unfinancial because of unemployment; I refer to those who have never been trade unionists. Will they be treated in the same way as mem-, bers of trade unions? If that is the Government’s intention, I am opposed to it. I support the motion.
.- There has been some misunderstanding regarding the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). He did not suggest a lowering of our wages standard. Notwithstanding what the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has said, I still think that it would be desirable to lower the wage rate slightly if, by so doing, more of the unfortunate army of unemployed would receive a few weeks’ work before Christmas. I hope that in the distribution of the money, not only will all the States benefit, but that the claims of country districts will not be overlooked.
– Hear, hear! Their claims will be considered.
– The country districts of New South Wales have not participated in the unemployment relief work undertaken by that State. The unemployment relief tax in New South Wales has been levied with the stated objective of providing work for the unemployed;but not one penny of the amount raised has been spent in country districts. I am glad that the Treasurer intends that country districts shall not be overlooked in the distribution which the Government proposes to make. I remind the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that the previous Government, when it gave an opportunity to the unemployed throughout the country districts to earn something for themselves and their families, did not adhere to the standard of wage that existed in normal employment. Our workers, whether unionists or not, are Australians, and as such have the right, and should have the opportunity, to earn something for themselves and their families. I am glad to know that the distribution of this relief work will be on an equitable basis, and that, the workers of New South Wales, particularly those in the country districts, will not be deprived of employment to the extent that they have been under the rule of Mr. Lang, who has done nothing in the interests of those whom he is supposed to represent.
– I should not have risen to speak had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who stressed the necessity for maintaining the wage standard. I agree generally with the maintenance of the wage standard ; but I consider that this is a special grant, to be distributed under special conditions. This proposal for the relief of unemployment should be discussed in a non-party spirit. From the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), it appears that this grant of £250,000 will give no relief at all to the destitute unemployed of Australia. The honorable member for East Sydney has stated that there are at least 500,000 people out of work. The Prime Minister has said that from 14,000 to 15,000 people will benefit from this grant. If that is the sum total of the Government’s constructive capacity to relieve unemployment, it must expect some criticism, not only from this side, but also from the other side of the House, because this is an instance of the mountain labouring to bring forth a mouse. Out of 500,000 unemployed people, from 14,000 to 15,000 are to receive special favour !
– - Sir Robert Gibson will not advance the Government more than £250,000.
– The honorable member has suggested that Sir Robert Gibson is the final arbiter in financial matters, and he may know more about that’ than I do. At any rate, from 14,000 to 15,000 people will benefit from this grant. They will receive about £4 a week each for four weeks. Why should we select that number of people out of 500,000 to share in this munificent bounty ?
– It must be remembered that the men who are to receive relief have probably had no other work this year.
– That may be so; but I do not think that the Government is capable of selecting 14,000 of the most deserving people in Australia. i
– We cannot do that, but we can give work to deserving cases.
– If this work is given to only 14,000 persons, there will be a tremendous amount of disappointment and heart-burning among the unemployed generally. There is a wide gap between £4 a week and the dole of about 8s. 5d. in New South Wales. The Government should seriously reconsider this proposal before it commits what may be a stupendous political blunder. Where it makes one friend it may make ten enemies.
– Even if the payment were reduced to £3 a week, there would be only an additional 1,000 relieved.
– This is an attempt, not to grapple with the unemployment problem, but to afford a small measure of relief to as many unemployed as possible at Christmas time. Instead of giving employment for a month, why not give employment for, say, a fortnight, and double the number who are to benefit from the scheme. Even £2 a week would be a handsome Christmas contribution to many poor families. I assure honorable members .that last Christmas, when the Government gave £500,000 to local governing bodies for the provision of employment throughout the cities and country towns, the problem of distribution became very acute. There were men in country towns who were perfectly satisfied with two or three days’ work. The basic wage, I think, was observed, and nearly everybody who was unemployed received some benefit. It would be better to pay a considerable number of men £2 a week for four or five days than to pay a much smaller number of men £4 a week for a month.
– I do not think that the period of employment will work out at a month. It may range from two to four weeks.
-Is it the intention of the Government to employ one batch of 14,000 men for a fortnight, and a second batch of 14,000 men for the next fortnight?
– That may be done if the class of work undertaken permits of it.
– I suggest that a payment of £2 a week would be very acceptable at Christmas time. Why not increase the enrolment to 60,000 people, and give them £2 for half a week’s work?
– I am prepared to discuss that suggestion with Cabinet.
– It would be difficult for the Government to organize any valuable work for this limited sum of money. Last year the grant was used mainly in filling in holes in the streets and scraping weeds from the gutters. In this instance it will be difficult to find any other kind of employment. I suggest that the Government makes this gift to approved local authorities, to be distributed to 60,000 people, thus making it a real Christmas gesture.
– The discussion of this proposal has been somewhat laboured, and several honorable members opposite have applauded it with faint praise. We should accept the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) that they do not suggest that this grant is a cure for unemployment, or that it in any way reduces the unemployment problem. The Government is trying to make a gesture which, it hopes, other employers will follow. ‘Those who have studied the unemployment problem during the last few years must agree that the low wage standard now operating is the cause rather than the effect of the depression. The longer this low wage standard continues, the greater will the depression become. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that we should try to give employment to more men under this scheme, hut the only way to do that is to persuade the Government to double the grant.
– The only other money available is being given to the wheatfarmers.
– That money could have been used under this scheme to give relief to persons who are absolutely destitute. I hope that the Government will not accept the suggestion to reduce -the rate of wages to be paid under this relief scheme, because I am certain that the reduction of wages which has already taken place is one of the causes of the existing depression.
– I suggested, not that we should reduce wages, but that we should reduce the period of work.
– The longer the honorable member spoke, the more tremendous the problem seemed. Actually it is only a fleabite. Never before in the history of the Federal Parliament have wages been so low as they are to-day. This relief work will be given to men who have been out of work for long periods, married men or single men with responsibilities.
– That is not fair. Every man who is out of work has a right to employment under this scheme.
– We have to make the best of this proposition. At least 99 per cent, of the people in this country will agree that the work should be given to those who have the greatest responsibilities. The minimum wage in South Australia is now under £3 a week. Throughout Australia it is from 28 to 30 per cent, lower than itwas three years ago. In those circumstances only men with responsibilities, who have been out of work for long periods, can hope to obtain relief under this scheme, and surely no one would suggest that they should be paid less than the ruling minimum wage. I recognize that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not put forward his suggestion for -any selfish or partisan reason. He believes that what he proposed is right, but I disagree with his economies when he suggests that married men should be given work for three or four weeks at less than the present basic wage. I hope that the Government will not do that; but if honorable members opposite desire the relief to be available to a greater number of people, I suggest that they should ask the Government to double the amount now proposed to be provided. Unfortunately, a private member may not move to increase an appropriation.
– I do not agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). He can generally be relied upon to support the Government; to-night he has departed from his accustomed attitude. ‘ If I understand this proposal aright, the expenditure of £250,000 by the Government is only part of the scheme to provide employment. The Government hope3 by this expenditure to encourage employers throughout the Commonwealth to follow suit. If that desire is realized, the number of men to be employed will not be limited by the amount, that this committee is voting, but will be increased to the extent of the response by private employers. I wish the Government every success with this proposal. Like other honorable members, I arn anxious that the unemployed should have work, especially in order that they may have some income towards Christmas. All of us are besieged by men seeking work; therefore, ali must welcome any proposal to relieve the distress and privation that are so general at the present time. I am not quite clear as to how’ this grant is to be distributed. It will be difficult for the Department of “Works adequately to control the expenditure, and I believe that if the utilization of the money should be left to municipal and other bodies, a more businesslike distribution would take place, and better value for the expenditure would be obtained.
– Municipalities would spend the money on their own employees
– No. I recollect a relief scheme in New South Wales under a former government which said to the local authorities - “ Submit a programme of works, and if it is approved the Government will provide £1 for every 10s. which you expend.” This scheme was responsible for much useful work being undertaken, and the employment of many mcn. If the Government would adopt a similar scheme now, this £250,000 would be supplemented from the funds of local authorities. I do not suggest that anything less than the basic wage should bc paid to relief workers. I did not hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) speak, but I understand that his proposal was in accordance with the recommendation by the secretariat created by the Premiers Conference to report on unemployment -
The committee strongly urges upon the conference the necessity for reducing the costs of all works undertaken, and of spreading the employment to be given by them over as many as possible. All works that can possibly be brought under relief work’s conditions should bo treated as relief works.
There can be no doubt that the relief should be spread over as many persons as possible, subject to the payment of the basic wage. If the Government proposes to pay £4 a week for three weeks or a month, no objection can be offered.
– What about £4 a week for a fortnight?
– I would sooner see men get a chance to earn a reasonable amount. It is of the utmost importance that employers should second the efforts of the Government; but, with taxation so high, and’ with the fanciful imposts invented by the Premier of New South Wales, it is very difficult for employers in that State to respond to the legitimate and honest appeal which the Commonwealth Government is making. Contributions for child endowment, and workers’ compensation, and the other conditions imposed upon employers in New South Wales are so much in excess of what is required of employers in other States, that the amount of money left for the provision of additional employment is very limited indeed. The only means of liberating more money is by further reducing government expenditure. If necessary, members should again cut their own salaries, and, without attacking the. salaries of public servants, go through the departments with a small-tooth comb, in order to eliminate unnecessary expenditure. Such a gesture would be applauded by the public, and cause private employers to respond more readily to the Government’s appeal. I hope that this grant will bc expended in a business-like way, provide employment for a large number of men, and induce private employers also to do their part.
.- I am pleased that the Government has brought forward this proposal, but disappointed that the amount is not larger. When the rehabilitation plan was under discussion, we were led to believe that up to £5,000,000 would be available for the provision of unemployment. Several ministerial members urged the Government to give a definite undertaking that that amount would be expended. However, it has not been provided, and that is especially regrettable in view of the fact that £3,000,000 has been voted to-night to help one section of the community only.
I declare emphatically that the Labour party never promised on the hustings that it would provide employment for every person in Australia; nor is it the duty of a government to employ all its citizens. Of the 400,000 persons now unemployed, not more than 6,000 were formerly in the government service. The provision of employment is as much the responsibility of private enterprise as of governments. If with this money the Government can employ 14,000 persons for three weeks it will have provided 40,000 working days at some rate of pay, which I suggest can only be the award rate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition urged that if wages on relief work were reduced, more men could be employed. During the last eighteen months wages in Australia have been reduced 30 per cent., yet unemployment has increased by 30 per cent. Therefore, a further reduction of wages will not increase the number of men to be employed. In Bendigo an amount was collected by leading citizens for the relief of about 600 men who were out of work. The local Labour leaders when consulted said that they would not agree to any reduction of wages, but men were provided with work on four days a week at the basic wage. If sufficient money had been available they would have been employed for six days, but by rationing them to four days a reduction of the basic wage was avoided. I am sure that all honorable members sincerely desire that work should be found for our people. The Australian does not want a dole; he wants a job, and the union says that the job must be at award rates. To-day award rates are down 30 per cent., and the general standard of wages isas low as it was at any time in the last 30 years. Therefore, no suggestion for a further reduction of wages should be considered by the Government. The employment of at least three-fourths of those who to-day are workless is the obligation of private enterprise. This Armageddon of unemployment has been caused by the wholesale sacking of men from industry. During the last few years preceding the advent of the present Labour Government, 160,000. migrants were introduced into Australia, and that is one of the reasons why approximately 400,000 of our people are unemployed to-day. The
Government should ask this House for an appropriation of £250,000 monthly for the next half year. Such expenditure would do something substantial to relieve those in distress, and induce private industry to follow the Government’s example. The contention that if the rate for casual work were reduced more men would be employed was used in this chamber two years ago. Despite the fact that wages have been reduced, unemployment has increased. The repetition of this contention is merely part of the successful onslaught on wages throughout Australia during the last eighteen months. The employers arc still not satisfied that wages have been sufficiently reduced. When the wage rate is put back to the 1929 level, we may expect a return to prosperity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
ThatMr.. Theodore and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That thebillbe now read a second time.
. -I do not propose to raise any objection to the bill, but I wish to place on record my opinion that, as a general rule, a bill in this form ought not to be accepted by the House. I regard this bill as an exception. It provides that “ there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purpose of expenditure on prescribed works to provide relief to persons out of employment, the sum of £250,000”. That means that the works are to be determined by the Government, and the House has no opportunity of discussing the expenditure of the money. Regulations may be made by the Governor-General under the bill, but the practice adopted by this Government of refusing to pay any attention to the disallowance of a regulation by one chamber, if the Government does not agree with the disallowance, makes the provision as to regulations entirely useless and nugatory. Accordingly, by this bill, the House is asked to give authority to the Government to spend this money as it thinks proper, and £250,000 is a large sum. If the money were not intended for what I am satisfied, on the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), will be a series of relatively small expenditures on relief works, I would object to the bill on account of its form, in order to preserve the general rights of honorable members in relation to the methods to be followed in theexpenditure of public moneys.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has stated that the money will be allocated among the States, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has remarked that it would be allocated, as far as possible, on a population basis. Will the allocation be dealt with by means of regulations?
– The allocation will be made, as nearly as practicable, on a population basis, and it is proposed to distribute the sum of £230,000 as follows : -
An. allocation is also to be provided for the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 2 ; p.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- It has been said that the Attorney-General, at some stage, will make a statement on organizations, which have recently been formed, which are operating in Australia, and are thought by some to constitute, in a degree, a threat to the ordinary processes of law and order. I, therefore, call attention to the following extract from a roneod pamphlet, which has been circulated in Broken Hill: -
No capitalist intervention must be allowed against the Socialist republic of Russia Turn imperialist war into civil war for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the working class, in the interest of the working class.
I find it difficult to believe that there is any real feeling in Australia about “ Hands Off the Chinese Soviets “, whatever our views may be regarding the position in Manchuria. Nor do I imagine that anybody in Australia believes that this country proposes to intervene against the Soviets of Russia ; but this is remarkable propaganda with the appropriate ideological terminology. This pamphlet is being circulated in many quarters, and it cannot he published for nothing. This circulation is done with an object, and I hope that the Attorney-General is informed as to the many manifestations of this rather remarkable propaganda. I am sure it doss not represent any considerable body of opinion in Australia, yet it is poured sporadically throughout this country, and often at points of trouble. It affords a good example of propaganda which has nothing to do with any question that is exercising the minds of the people of Australia generally, but is directed towards incitement to violence. I hope that when the Attorney-General makes a statement on the matter, he will deal with these rather remarkable manifestations.
.- I have not seen the particular leaflet to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has referred, but I presume that it advises the workers of this country that, under no circumstances, should they allow themselves to be precipitated into participation in another war.
– And it advocates civil war.
– The best propaganda that can be made throughout Australia in opposition to war is the fact that the relatives of the men who paid the supreme sacrifice in the last war are now called upon to make a further sacrifice. The men who have returned to this country, broken in health and spirit, also have been called upon to bear a portion of the sacrifice, and the many things that were promised to them have been absolutely withdrawn in the interests of the verymen for whom they fought. The propaganda about which the Deputy- Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is so much concerned, and which he admits is appearing in various centres throughout the Commonwealth, is conclusive proof that the people themselves have seen the fallacy of participating in wars that are not thei rs. If, as the honorable member says, there is no fear of Australia participating in a war against the Soviet Republics of China, wherein lies the danger of a leaflet that urges tho people not to participate in such a war?
– The point I make is that the pamphlet urges civil war in Australia. The other points can be dealt wilh when they arise.
– I have not seen the leaflet, but I know that those who participated in the last war found that practically all the promises made to thom were repudiated by the people,who made them. War widows have suffered a reduction of pensions. Did I n.ot bring under the notice of the House a case of an invalid pensioner who, because of a reduction of her pension, throw herself over the cliffs at Watson’s Bay? With such clear cases before their eyes, the people do not need to be urged not to participate in any future war. In no circumstances would I, if . I could avoid it, do so, becauseI realize that, the last war was. not one that concerned the workers of Australia.It was a war to control world markets. Today various imperialistic powers are engnged in a conflict, the purpose of which is to secure the control of the Chinese market. That is why I recently in this House asked the Prime Minister to make the statement that in no circumstances would Australian lives be lost in fighting for Chinese markets. 1 can assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the workers are tired of the political machine, because, nlthough they return to this Parliament representatives of all shades of political opinion, their position grows steadily worse. If the honorable member is desirous of offsetting this propaganda, my suggestion to him is to show to the workers that something practical can be done to improve their position. If that is done, he need not fear the propaganda to which he has made reference.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Houseadjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 October 1931, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19311029_reps_12_132/>.