13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chairat 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to-day to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The necessity for immediate action in connexion with the Navigation Act, in view of its baneful effect upon Australian trade and commerce in general, and upon Tasmania in particular”.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I launch this motion with the complete agreement and support of all Tasmanian private members in the Commonwealth Parliament, and with the goodwill and accord of a large number of others. Private senators will not have an opportunity to express their views on the subject, but, I am authorized by them to express what is the unanimous view of the Tasmanian representatives. It is regrettable that this motion should be necessary. We have not hurried it before the House. For a considerable time we have been in consultation with the Government, and wo hoped that there would be no need to take the action that is now forced upon us. As far buck as August last a deputation waited upon the then Minister for Commerce (Mr. Hawker), who, in reply to our representations, said that the Government would, at no distant date, take some remedial action in regard to the incidence of the Navigation Act upon the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth, and particularly that of Tasmania. The honorable gentleman saw the economic effects of this act, and, relying on the general policy of the Government to reduce the costs of production, with which the cost of transportation is intimately related, we had reason to think that the Government would come to a decision in regard to this all important matter at least before the Christmas adjournment. All Tasmanian representatives fully appreciate the magnitude of the problems with which the Government is confronted; we have extended our support to Ministers and have not sought to hurry them unduly along the path of a very necessary reform. With the resignation of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) from the Ministry our hopes definitely weakened. That statement is no reflection upon the present Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart). He is without first-hand knowledge of the influence of the Navigation Act on the economic problems of Tasmania; therefore, he is to be excused if he feels disinclined to take up the brief of his predecessor and fight the case as vigorously as the honorable member for Wakefield would have done.
Since the ministerial changes we have done our business principally with the Prime Minister, who is, of course thoroughly au fait with the circumstances of Tasmania. Last week a deputation of members from that State interviewed the right honorable gentleman, and were given to understand that the Government’s decision would be announced at an early date. We anticipated that that announcement would be made this week. The right honorable gentleman’s reply is now to hand and is as follows: -
This matter will be considered by the Government as soon as an opportunity is presented. I would point out, however, in view of the importance of the question, and of the necessity for a thorough investigation, and also bearing in mind that there ure a number of other urgent matters before Cabinet, there is no prospect of the matter being dealt with within a week.
To honorable members who are familiar with parliamentary practice, the meaning of that reply is obvious. When the deputation waited upon the Prime Minister, he asked us to state our case in writing for submission to Cabinet. We did so, and the above letter is the result. It is apparent that, in respect of the Navigation Act, the present Government is in line with its predecessors. This statute seems to be sacrosanct. One would imagine that, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, it should not, and cannot, be altered. Honorable members will recognize that, apart from the coastal provisions, amendments are long overdue to bring the Navigation Act into harmony with international conventions, and Tasmanian and Western Australian members anticipate with pleasure the opportunity that would be thus presented to make further amendments which are of immediate and serious importance to their respective States. Naturally we ask why we should have been required to put our case in writing for the consideration of Cabinet. The Prime Minister himself could adequately have stated it; he knows all the circumstances of Tasmania; he was Premier of that State when these matters were represented to the Commonwealth as among the handicaps suffered by Tasmania under federal law. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), a distinguished pleader, could also have placed the case thoroughly and completely before
Cabinet, with the assistance of his Tasmanian colleagues. The Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Guy) is convinced that the Navigation Act has played havoc with the trade of Tasmania. He emphasized that view during his speech on the Tasmanian Grant Bill. He, and the two senior Ministers, could have stated completely the case for Tasmania. It is not the job of private members to draft minutes for Cabinet. The Prime Minister’s letter has stressed the necessity for a thorough investigation.
– Another one!
– That interjection is very apt. In 1924 a royal commission inquired into the operation of the Navigation Act. In 1926 Sir Nicholas Lockyer was sent to Tasmania to report on the disabilities of the State, including #the incidence of the Navigation Act. The Royal Commission on the Constitution in 1929 embraced shipping within the scope of its inquiries. In 1929, too, the British Economic Mission submitted a report which covered the Navigation Act in relation to Tasmania. In the same year the Tariff Board reported on this matter specifically, and in 1931 the Commonwealth Public Accounts Committee also dealt with the matter. The reports of all these investigators declare unanimously that Tasmania is suffering peculiar and serious disabilities under the Navigation Act. The general question could be opened up if there were time, but there is not, and that is why I confine my remarks to Tasmania. The interstate shipping of Tasmania runs from 800,000 to 1,000,000 tons per annum, and the number of passengers carried is between 60,000 .and 80,000. Incidentally, the Government, in. one way or the other, is subsidizing the carrying companies to the extent of £750 a week.
Since this agitation has been raised again by the private members representing Tasmania in the Commonwealth Parliament, certain action has been taken. We have interviewed the managers of the shipping companies, and have put it to them that they are giving us unfavorable treatment as compared with shippers in; the mainland States. As a result of these’ representations we have received certain, concessions in rates, with a promise of further concessions. In addition, the Government has arranged with the Huddart Parker Company for an. all-the-year service to Hobart by the steamers Ulimaroa and, later, the Zealandia, in return for a subsidy of £6,000 a year. That is a continuation of the Scullin Government subsidy of £10,000 a year, which amount was fixed when costs are higher than they are to-day. I describe this subsidy as a political poultice, applied to the part to draw the heat. As a poultice it is not effective; it is regarded by Tasmanians as falling far short of the requirements of the State. Already, because of the threat that we shall have to resume our war debt payments to Great Britain, the Prime Min,ister has indicated that this subsidy, among other things, may have to come up for review.
As a result of the action of these private members, fares have been* reduced. Pares between Sydney and Hobart have been reduced by a sum stated to be 15s., although, when we examine the nature of the accommodation provided, and remember that a premium of 7s. 6d. is charged for deck cabins, and shelter deck cabins, the reduction does not work out at as much as has been stated. In regard to freights, an announcement has been made that reductions are coming. They have not come yet, and I do not know the reason for the delay. As from the 1st January, freights from Tasmania to the mainland are to be reduced by 9 per cent. When one bears in mind the drop in costs, wages, and the price of coal, and remembers that these separately and collectively represent a reduction in costs of approximately 30 per cent., he does not feel elated at the prospect of a reduction in freights of 9 per cent., although we have been informed that we are very naughty boys for not being grateful for the crumbs which fall from the table of the shipping conference.
The tourist trade is one of Tasmania’s most important industries. It represents an invisible import of £440,000 a year, ami we desire to encourage it. We have every facility for encouraging it, and there is no reason why we should not be allowed to do so; but the incidence of the Navigation Act has been, and is, against us. On a recent run between Sydney and
Hobart the ship carried .150 passengers and 500 sheep. Do honorable members regard such conditions as likely to encourage the tourist traffic? Would they like to make a holiday trip in company with 500 sheep, and, in particular, would the trip be attractive to their wives? Tasmania seems to be treated as a subject province, and the shipping interests would appear to be a chartered company which has the field to itself to exploit. The result is that freights and fares from Tasmania are very much in excess of those from ports along the mainland seaboard. As we, in Tasmania, are principally primary producers, it is especially unjust that potato-growers on our northwest coast should be handicapped by higher freights than our competitors in Victoria have to pay. If the Government proposes to cut clown costs, why not do so? Why should the freight on Tasmanian cement for carriage to some mainland markets be more than its cost of manufacture? These are pertinent questions when business is being keenly fought for. The freight on potatoes from Melbourne to Brisbane is 25s. a ton, whereas on potatoes from Tasmania toBrisbane the freight is 38s. a ton. There is a promised reduction of 4s. a ton in Tasmanian freights, which will reduce the discrepancy from 13s. to 9s. How can Tasmania compete with the mainland on this basis? The passenger tariff on. first class steamers at the present time is about £1 a day ; yet for a seventeen hours’’ trip across the straits from Melbourne toLaunceston the ‘ fare is £2 8s. For a 44 hours’ trip from Sydney to Hobart thefare is £5, and £1 more if a man and wifewishes to get a cabin to themselves. It was £5 15s.
The Navigation Act, which took seventeen years to bring into being, was thechild of a political idealist. Its purpose^ was to build up an Australian mercantilemarine, but since it has been in force themercantile marine of Australia has decreased by one-half. The accommodation provided for passengers and” goods is less than it was before, and all the States are paying in higher charges for any privilegethe Navigation Act may give. Tasmania, of whose trade from 60 to TO* per cent, is water-horne, is paying double’ what the other States are. It has been urged by the shipping companies, as the principal argument in justification of the Navigation Act, that if we protect Australian industries generally, we must protect shipping as well. That is logical. But recently we have decided radically to modify our system of protection. If article 10 of the Ottawa agreement, which provides that British goods shall be allowed to compete on fair rel ms on the Australian market with Aus.tralia.nmade goods, is to be put into operation, the same principle should be extended to shipping. We need cheaper shipping, and freer shipping. We should give Tasmania a chance to develop those industries which are natural to it. This applies, not only to the tourist industry, but to agriculture also. Tasmania depends largely on mainland markets, and it is necessary that her products should be able to reach their market as cheaply as possible. Other industries could be established successfully in Tasmania if proper communications were kept open with the mainland. Owing, however, to the uncertainty of the shipping services, and to the high cost of carriage, Tasmania has been unable to develop its natural resources. Our industries have been strangled because the shipping companies have not given to Tasmania that consideration which she deserves. Heavy transportation costs are one important factor, and the uncertainty of the services is another. Under shelter of the Navigation Act, the shipping companies have given Tasmania any sort of service they pleased. This state of affairs makes every Tasmanian or, indeed, any one who has the interest of Tasmania at .heart, and who understands Tasmania’s problem, feel indignant. We demand a remedy. I have been deluged during, the last few days with telegrams from all parts of Tasmania, and from all sorts of interests, asking that something be done. The eyes of Tasmania are on this Parliament to-day, and Tasmania expects the Prime Minister himself, her own representative, to say whether Tasmania can obtain relief; and if so, when it will be given.
I have been asked for my remedy, and it is this-
– Black labour?
– It is not black labour. The coast of Australia should be made as free for British shipping as for British manufactures. We find, at the present time, that the tourist ships running to .Tasmania are engaged in carrying sheep. The shipping companies have never exercised any imagination with regard to the tourist possibilities of our island. They send to Cairns during the season fine modern motor liners, fitted in every way to make the trip attractive to passengers. Yet they send to Tasmania all sorts of antiquated craft, possessing no attraction at all for prospective passengers, because they are so venerable and carry animals. The result is obvious. The position’ has become acutely accentuated since the ocean cruises from Sydney to Fiji, the New Hebrides and other places were advertised. The palatial vessels of the P. and 0., the Orient, and the Royal Dutch company are making Christmas trips to these places, because the Navigation Act does not affect them. When the booking lists were opened in Sydney, they were filled within 24 hours, and practically all the money available for steamer tourist traffic ir Australia has been absorbed. That must prejudicially affect the tourist traffic to Tasmania. Year after year, we approach the Commonwealth Government for some consideration because of our disabilities, and all we obtain is a grant. The real remedy is to reduce costs in order to give Tasmania a chance to recover. This Government stands for a united Australia, but there can be no united Australia with Tasmania left out.
.- I support the motion of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin). It took many years for this Parliament to pass the Navigation Act, and those who strongly supported it contended that it would enable an Australian mercantile marine to be established. That legislation has been in operation for eleven, or twelve years, and our mercantile marine, instead of increasing, has actually declined. We know that the shipping companies at home and abroad opposed the introduction of that, measure. However, notwithstanding their opposition, it was passed, but many of its provisions have not yet been put into operation. The British shipping interests set their sails to the change of wind, by buying into the Australian shipping companies, and to-day, the great British combine controls all Australian shipping. Wot long ago, I, like other honorable members, was summoned to attend this Parliament, and I found it impossible to attend in time because of floods along the transcontinental railway line. I therefore sought permission to travel by an oversea vessel from Fremantle to Port Adelaide. I had no difficulty in obtaining a permit from the navigation officials to do that. I visited the offices of the P. and 0. Company, because one of its vessels, with hundreds of vacant berths, was then in the port of Fremantle. I explained my reason for wishing to travel by that vessel, but was refused permission to do so. At that time, an Aberdeen liner, the agent for which was Dalgety and Company, was also in port, but there was doubt whether it would reach Adelaide in time. However, just as the boat was leaving, the agent decided to allow me on board. It is strange that in a young country like Australia, with a coast line of 12,000 miles, we find the shipping restricted to that extent. This Parliament, by passing the Navigation Act, has placed a hair shirt upon the people of this country. Every effort has been made to develop our secondary industries, which are situated mainly in the capital cities. But the freight on the raw material required for manufacture is so costly as to make the price of the finished article almost prohibitive. It was the high shipping freight that ruined an excellent industry in Western Australia. The Royal Commission on the Navigation Act took evidence from Mr. W. J. Stillman, merchant, of Cairns, in respect of the Calyx Porcelain Company of Western Australia, which was turning out a. satisfactory article. The evidence reads -
What company did you order from in Western Australia”; - The Calyx Porcelain Company. We had certain samples submitted to us about twelve months ago, and we were so pleased with thom that we gave an open order for a crate of plates, cups and saucers and a sample of all the company’s manufactures. We considered that the price was reasonable compared with British goods, and we thought that we could give the people of our own country an opportunity to buy an article equal to the British, probably at reduced prices. On gettingthe shipping receipt, however, we found that, it was a matter of impossibility.
What was the price -of that shipping? - It was 36 cubic feet charged for at the rate of 90s. per 40 cubic feet. That amounted to- £4 ls., and the stacking charge of ls. Cd. made a total of £4 2s. 6d. The freight from London to Cairns is 70s. for 40 cubic feet.
Do you now import from overseas ? - Yes.
What is the duty from overseas? - Twentyfive per cent.
Do your shipments from London come direct?” - Yes, as a rule.
Would the machinery of the Calyx Companybe as up to date as that of companies in theOld Country? - I cannot say, but I understand! they have the latest machinery, and havebrought potters out from Staffordshire.
Is the article equal in quality to the imported! goods? - At present it looks quite equal toEnglish stuff of the same class. We have not. noticed any crazing.
Our Australian industries are hampered not only by the. cost of freight, but also by the cost of distribution. The late Mr. S. McKay, when before the same commission, was asked whether be used much timber in connexion with his implement factory, and he replied that he used a great deal. In answer to a further question, he said that he did not use much Australian timber, but that there was timber in Queensland suitable for his work. He said that he did not use it because the freight made its use impossible, and that he obtained his timber from Noumea and Borneo.
The operation of the Navigation Act has been responsible for much unemployment in Australia. The employment of a few Australian seamen has involved Australia in all sorts of trouble, and there should be some way out of the difficulty. Is it worth while crippling a young country like this by placing such, advanced legislation on the statute-book? If we were really building an Australian, mercantile marine to serve this country in the future, there might be somethingin it ; but Ave know that the overseas shipping companies have obtained control of the Australian companies, and now get what advantage there is to be obtained* from this legislation. Formerly, when the Australian ships were competing on the Australian coast, Albany had two ships calling at her port each week, but? now she has only one, and some- times two, a month, although the population of the district has increased by 25 per cent. The representatives of the shipping combine now sit round a table and arrange that one ship shall call at a certain port one week and another ship the following week. The companies are told that they must charge uniform freights and fares, so that there shall be no competition. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) has said that every royal commission or committee of inquiry that has investigated Tasmania’s affairs has declared that the Navigation Act is a hindrance to that State. Exactly the same statement may be made in regard to Western Australia.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In asserting that there is pressing need for some’ alteration of the Navigation Act, in order to give relief to those parts of the Commonwealth which have suffered adversely from its operation, I must admit that this measure is in conformity with certain other measures which have been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament for the purpose of improving the standards of living in this country. Undoubtedly, the act has had a beneficial effect in that regard. But, as a Tasmanian, I make no apology for asserting that acts of parliament which are beneficial to one part of a great continent like Australia may seriously affect other parts of it. Every honorable member who has studied the position “must realize that Tasmania has beenseriously affected by the protection which the Navigation Act has given to the shipping companies and the better conditions it has provided for those who work the ships. Honorable members opposite are very prone to criticize other honorable members who dare to voice a protest against the operation of certain acts of parliament which seriously affect their constituents; but surely it will be admitted that we are entitled to make such a protest o. behalf of our people, and to request the Government to grant them some relief. The Navigation Act was passed for the protection of shipping, and it has undoubtedly protected it. It has also to a considerable extent improved the conditions of the seamen who handle the ships. But in practically every case in which we have attempted to improve the conditions of the workers of Australia in a particular industry, we have succeeded at the expense of the workers in other industries. This cannot be avoided. The protection which has been given to ship-owners and seamen by the passing of the Navigation Act has been made possible at the expense of the producers and working people of Tasmania, who, it is generally admitted, labour under some disadvantages compared with the people of the other States of the Commonwealth. I shall not say that the seamen are in any sense responsible for the position which exists at the moment or for the high freights and fares which the shipping companies are maintaining at the peak point, although the cost of running the ships must have fallen by 25 or 30 per cent. Not only have the shipowners been granted direct relief to the extent of 10 per cent, by the reduction of wages ordered by the Arbitration Court, but information furnished to me by the people concerned indicates that other salaries and wages have been reduced by at least 12 per cent, so that wages and salaries have been reduced altogether to the extent of more than 20 per cent. Running costs, apart from wages and salaries, have also obviously been reduced substantially, because the price of coal and stores and everything used in the management of the ships, is lower than it was. Notwithstanding these reductions, freights to Tasmania were maintained until less than twelve months ago at the high figure of the peak period. It was only in consequence of the agitation of Tasmanian producers and merchants, backed up by parliamentary representatives and other people holding public positions, that the shipping companies, which at present have a monopoly, agreed to consider the granting of some relief. When the request for relief was first made to the shipping companies, they said that they would consider a reduction of freights for the following season. On the 1st January freight on the greater part of the cargo carried between the north-west coast of Tasmania and Sydney, which was 21s. a ton, was reduced by ls. a ton; but the freight between Melbourne and Sydney is earned for 5s. a ton less, because the Patrick line is competing with the combine. The primary producers of the north-west coast of Tasmania have to compete with the primary producers of Victoria on the Sydney and Brisbane markets, and, in the case of potatoes, for example, which are being sold for less than the cost of production, it will be realized that a handicap of 5s. a ton in freight is very great. As the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) has pointed out, the freightBetween Melbourne and Brisbane is 12s. a ton less than the freight between the northern parts of Tasmania and Brisbane. The difference can only be accounted for by reason of the fact that there is competition between Melbourne and Brisbane between rail and water transport. There is now under consideration a proposal to reduce freights by 10 per cent.; but, in view of the reduced running costs, such a reduction would be quite insufficient. As Tasmanians, we are justified in asking that, as protection is given to the ship-owners by the Navigation Act, these ship-owners, having a monopoly of the business, should fix their freights reasonably as between Tasmanian ports and mainland ports.
Thehonorable member for Denison pointed out that Tasmania has great natural facilities for the establishment of manufactures; but, because of the high freight costs, to and from the island, investors are discouraged from putting their money into secondary industries there. Again, the cost of fertilizers to Tasmanian primary producers is governed by the prices obtaining on the mainland, the price in Tasmania being increased to the extent of the additional freight involved in bringing the commodity across Bass Strait. Thus Tasmanian primary producers also suffer by reason of the dearness of the freight rates. The honorable member for Denison was asked, “ What do you suggest “ ?
– The honorable member did not suggest anything.
– The honorablemember did make a suggestion. It should be plain that no question of party polities is involved in this issue. Every Federal Government of the past has been asked to afford relief from the oppression of the operation of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act, and even the Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament, who is a Labour man, holding advanced Labour doctrines, admits that the coastal provisions of that act adversely affect the progress of the island State. We who are Tasmanian representatives feel that we should make every endeavour for the development of our industries, and that it is therefore our duty to point out tothis Parliament how detrimental are the effects of the navigation legislation for which if. is responsible. Shipping companies have recently announced a 10 per cent. reduction in freights and fares to Tasmania ; but that reduction is insufficient. It should be at least 20 per cent.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I listened with interest to the case presented to the House by the honorable members for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) and Darwin (Mr. Bell) ; but I waited in vain to hear a concrete proposal propounded.
– The period of ten minutes allowed to a speaker on a motion of this kind does not give much time for the presentation of a case like this.
– Some remedy could easily have been presented in a sentence or two. The honorable member for Denison, who is usually both concise and precise, urged that the coast of Australia should be as clear for British shipping as this country is for British manufacturers. What does that mean ? There is nothing in the Navigation Act that prevents British shipping companies from competing on the coasts of the Commonwealth with Australian shipping companies on equal terms. British vessels can participate in our coastal trade on terms identical with those which apply to Australian shipping, and that without changing the dotting of an “ i “ or the crossing of a “ t “ in the Navigation Act.
The honorable member said that the Ottawa agreement stipulates that British manufacturers shall be allowed to trade in this country on a competitive basis with Australian manufacturers. That also can be done by British shipping companies, if they care to register in Australia, and to comply with our conditions. If they do that, they can trade round the Australian coast from port to port, and across to Tasmania, participating fully in our coastal trade. But that there is a desire on the part of those who support this motion to have the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act suspended is clear. One of the conditions in those provisions is that shipping companies trading between Australian ports must observe Australian arbitration awards applying to shipping. No British shipping company has done so.
I am not without sympathy with Tasmania, because of the isolated position in which she finds itself, but it seems to me that the whole case presented by the honorable member for Denison, and particularly by the honorable member for Darwin, was an indictment, not of the Navigation Act, but of the Australian shipping companies. The honorable member for Darwin drew attention to the disparity between the freights to Queensland from Victoria and from Tasmania. But, as the Navigation Act applies in each case, it is obviously not the Navigation Act that is at fault. The disparity is due to the fact that the shipping companies have to meet competition on the coast of the mainland, but not in the Tasmanian trade, and have, therefore, exploited the position. The honorable member for Denison pointed out that, occasionally, passengers crossing to Tasmania have to travel in the company of sheep. I have done it myself when going to the electorate represented by the honorable member for Darwin. Such conditions are antiquated and somewhat unpleasant, but they are not brought about by the operation of the Navigation Act. It is the shipping company that does the Tasmanian trade that is to blame for them. The argument has been advanced that, as wages are down, freights should have been reduced. That is a valid contention. But I ask, by how much have the overseas shipping companies reduced their freights? My information is not up to date, but I know that shortly after I became Prime Minister I was approached by representatives of shipping companies and shippers, who desired that amending legislation should be introduced, an announcement having been made that overseas shipping companies intended to increase freights. From memory, the increase was to be 10 per cent. Naturally, there was alarm among the producers of Australia, who were suffering from a fall in the prices of their commodities. The proposal practically meant ruin to them. Those concerned got together to make an agreement to regulate and ration shipping. The argument was advanced that, because of the competition, boats were running partially empty, which caused the shipping companies to charge higher freights than would otherwise be necessary. There was nothing in the agreement that was submitted to the Government that protected Australian shippers from increased freights, and I refused to agree to propose any amendment to our legislation to permit the agreement to bc altered unless such a clause was inserted. Eventually that was done. I do not know exactly what is the position to-day, but I know that up to that date, while there was no suggestion on the part of overseas companies to decrease freights, there was a proposal to increase them. So that the indictment made against Australian companies could be just as well advanced against overseas companies.
We know that on occasions the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act have been suspended to assist Tasmania, and that the overseas companies have not taken advantage of the suspension, by causing their vessels to visit Tasmania. There is another aspect of the matter to be considered. If these clauses are suspended, and overseas vessels are allowed to trade in open competition with our own, to make matters fair we should have to abolish all our conditions of arbitration which insist on the employment of white crews, and should have to allow Australian companies to engage cheap, coloured labour. Does any honorable member advocate that?
– Then does the honorable member advocate that Australian companies shall be compelled to obey the arbitration awards and conform to the requirements of the Navigation Act in regard to accommodation, &c, and yet compete with companies that are free of these conditions? Even if this unfair competition were allowed, the overseas companies would send their ships to Tasmania only during the peak periods, and the dull winter trade would be left to the Australian companies. The oversea steamers would skim off the cream of the tourist traffic and the fruit cargoes, and leave the balance for Australian ships.
– What would the right honorable gentleman do to help Tasmania ?
– The only permanent solution of Tasmania’s difficulties will be the establishment of a national shipping service between the mainland and Tasmania. The Commonwealth is under the same obligation to connect that State with the mainland as it was to connect Western Australia with the eastern States. Unfortunately the present financial position does not permit that remedy to bc applied.
– The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) does not usually resort to specious arguments, but he made use of the merest technicality when he stated that it is possible for British steamers to trade on the Australian coast. Technically, that is true; practically, it is not. If British steamers engage in the Australian coastal trade they have to conform to artificial conditions such as cannot be maintained in any other part of the world. British shipping has to trade under world conditions. Therefore, it cannot participate in the Australian coastal traffic under the conditions imposed by the Navigation Act. The Leader of the Opposition has asked for concrete proposals. I suggest that all British ships which conform to the Maritime Board regulations and employ white labour should be permitted to trade on the Australian coast. The inability of British shipping to compete in the coastal trade under present conditions is not wholly attributable to the differences in wages. It is true that in 1928, the peak year, the Australian wage for able seamen was £16 10s. a month as against the British wage of £9; but since then wages have been substantially reduced and the figures for the present year are - Australia, £12 10s. 6d. ; United Kingdom, £8 2s. The conditions which, more than anything else, exclude British shipping and make Australian freights and fares high, are those relating to manning and overtime, which are imposed under the Navigation Act. Entirely as a result of these conditions an Australian ship of 5,000 to 6,000 tons must have a complement of 43 officers and men. A similar British ship can be navigated overseas with a complement of 28 men. Six British sailors working overseas do the same amount of work as is done on an Australian ship by eleven men. Australian seamen have not had the same training as the British, and the quantity of work they do indicates that they are not as efficient. They are being maintained in their present sheltered positions at the expense of the public. It is very easy to impose extravagant conditions for which the public have to pay, out this is merely another of the many schemes which have been tried unsuccessfully to implant in Australia conditions and standards which experience has proved cannot be maintained in other parts of the world. The Australian coastal passenger service is very satisfactory, but it is not up to mail steamer standard. We are paying luxury rates for a fair average quality service. Australia has a long coast line, and settlement is mostly near the seaboard. Therefore, we must have an efficient shipping service. Before the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act were introduced, Australian ships could compete successfully with those from overseas. British, German and French steamers were maintaining regular mail services, and the flags of all nations were to be seen in our ports. Yet the local companies were nourishing and paying dividends. But, with the introduction of the Navigation Act, we had again the experience which usually follows the undue sheltering of an industry, so that owners . and employees, in combination, may exploit the general public. The local shipping companies have been able to increase their freights without restraint, and we now pay exorbitantly for an inferior service. Even in 1928 the Tariff Commission reported that the Australian mercantile marine had actually decreased.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– I have already indicated that the coastal provisions should be relaxed to permit British ships employing white labour, and conforming to ‘the Maritime Board regulations, to ply on our coast; in addition, those sections of the Navigation Act which govern overtime and manning should be reviewed. It would not be reasonable to throw the coastal trade open to all sorts of shipping, but British shipping, employing British white sailors, should be good enough for us. The Ottawa spirit of reciprocity is in the air, and the step I suggest would be to the mutual advantage of Australia and Great Britain.
– Haul down the Australian flag!
– Australian vessels were able to hold their own against allcomers a few years ago, and I see no reason why our sailors should be inferior to others. I deprecate the miserable suggestion that Australians cannot compete against other white people. If our shipping services were developed under normal conditions, vessels which now are afraid to put their bows beyond the Australian coast would be carrying our products abroad, and so adding to the wealth of the Commonwealth. I contrast the exclusion of British shipping from the Australian coastal trade with our lenient attitude towards the Matson line. We penalize our best friends, but permit the Americans, without restraint, to share in trade which properly belongs to Australian and New Zealand companies. The Matson line is gradually pushing Australian and New Zealand ships off the Tasman sea, and no steps are . taken against it; but, as soon as a suggestion is made that fair competitive conditions should be allowed to British shipping, objection is raised for the sake of Australian wage standards. Even the workers have not gained from the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act; on the contrary, many men have lost their billets because of the restrictions thus imposed. Not only have these provisions detrimentally affected Western Australia and Tasmania, but they have also closed many ports in South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales. Prob ably the Navigation Act has done more than anything else to injure the coal industry. The annual strikes at Christmas time, which would probably be repeated this year if the men were not afraid of losing their billets, and the general interference with shipping, forced Australian owners to convert to oil fuel. The result has been a tremendous loss to the coal-mining industry of New South Wales. I believe that that loss has been greater than any advantage conferred by the Navigation Act.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Not until we had heard the fourth speaker on this motion did we learn the real object of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin). What he and the supporters of the motion wish to accomplish is now clear to all of us. It is a strange fact that on every matter affecting wages and working conditions the House hear3 a repetition of certain statements from the same group of honorable members. I cannot help reflecting that some of these honorable gentlemen, to whom Australia lias been particularly good, never lose an opportunity to arrest the development of this country and its industries, -and to prevent others from attaining even a small measure of the prosperity which they themselves enjoy. There are some honorable members who are always decrying their country, its activities, and its workers. Nowhere else in the world is a similar lack of patriotism in evidence. I have travelled through Europe, the United States of America, and Canada, and I never heard the people I met there say anything but good of their own country, its people, and industries. For reasons which I cannot understand, a contrary attitude is consistently maintained by some honorable members of this Parliament, and the outside interests they represent. It is the lowering of wages and conditions that is always worrying them. They want the open economic ring. The workers, in their opinion, should be treated as mere slaves in the field of industry, and every facility should be afforded to shippers and others to exploit labour to the fullest extent. To-day while men are concerned with the preservation of wages and conditions, it is the preservation of the actual jobs themselves that is of paramount importance. It is with regret that I have to admit this, but it is a fact. Some honorable members opposite, apparently, are not concerned whether the seamen, and others employed in the shipping trade, are thrown out of employment, and forced to seek sustenance relief. There is nothing else that these men could turn their hands to. We might search the whole Commonwealth without finding other jobs for them. That, however, does not seem to disturb our friends opposite so long as they can accomplish their purpose. E am not unmindful of Tasmania’s disabilities. I appreciate the fact that she has certain disadvantages to contend with, but they are natural disadvantages; they are not of our making, nor of the making of the Government. Tasmania’s isolation from the rest of Australia is a natural disability, but as an offset to that she can. obtain cheap hydro-electric power, which should compensate, to some extent, even for a little higher freight on her produce. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) this afternoon put his case very reasonably. I listened to his speech with great interest, and I appreciated his argument. I do not think that he really desires to injure the working conditions of Australian seamen, or to deprive them of their employment. If I understood him correctly, I ‘believe that it was in his mind that something might be done by approaching the shipping companies ; that there was room for investigation, and, possibly, direct action. This may well be so, especially if it be true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said, that the companies operating on the Tasmanian service do not compete against one another as they do elsewhere.
As I have said, so far. as the Australian seamen are concerned, they must hold their present jobs or go on the dole. In other countries strenuous efforts are being made to build up national shipping services. The United States of America provides an example of what is being done. There the government is prepared to go almost to any length, even to the extent of trying to run British ships off
Ifr. Beasley. the coast of Australia. Honorable members have frequently asked what the Government proposes to do to check the competition of the Matson Line, an American subsidized shipping company which is competing with the Union Shipping Company and others, in the inter-colonial trade. The only reply received was that the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) was negotiating in regard to the matter. It looks as if no decision will be reached before Parliament goes into recess.
– If at all.
– Yes, if at all. The Government of the United Statesof America, under the terms of the Jones-White Act, not only subsidizes shipping companies, but has made loans at low rates of interest to shipbuilders, to enable them to build vessels to compete with the ships of other nations. Foreign countries are jealous to preserve the interests of their shipping companies, and we should be equally jealous of the interests of our own mercantile marine. I gathered the impression from the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that he would like to see lascars running round in loin cloths on the decks of ships trading between Perth and Melbourne, and Melbourne and Tasmania. When we are making comparisons between conditions of labour, we should compare like with like. There can be no comparison between lascars and Australian seamen. I should be sorry to think that the honorable member for Perth really wished our Australian seamen to be subject to competition of that kind. Years ago, when Australian seamen were fighting for decent conditions, and asked that baths and washing facilities be provided on ships, the companies fought the claim tooth and nail, saying that it was uneconomic to set aside space in the ships for this purpose. According to some shipowners and others who support them here, cleanliness, apparently, is an uneconomic condition.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the request of previous speakers that the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act be repealed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that, :if these provisions of the Navigation Act were suspended or cancelled, British ships would take the ‘best of the trade, and leave only the rag end for the Australian companies. In years gone by, overseas ships used to pick up tourists at Brisbane and Sydney, and carry them to Hobart. After a stay iu Tasmania, the tourists went on from Hobart to Melbourne and Sydney, thus completing the round trip. That service was of great advantage to Tasmania. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that in other countries he found the people always ready to boost their own industries. Well, we Tasmanians can do a little boosting also. If I had the time now, I could do some good work in that direction, and if, in future, I devote some of my energies to boosting Tasmania in this chamber, I hope that honorable members opposite will not blame me for putting Tasmania too rauch to the front. In spite of what the Leader of the Opposition said about black labour, I maintain that we in Tasmania have no desire that Australian, workers should have to compete against black labour. Such a suggestion is utter nonsense. This was demonstrated during the recent controversy on the price of Queensland sugar. At that time, I received telegrams from, business people in Hobart saying that they wanted to get sugar at as low a price as possible,, but that they did not expect Australians to compete with black labour. I can assure honorable members that that is the spirit of Tasmania.
The Navigation Act has proved to be an irritant and a burden to the people of Tasmania ever since it was put into operation. It was found necessary for the peace and good government of Papua and the Mandated Territory, to suspend the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act insofar as they applied to those areas. When that was done, the people there heaved a sigh of relief. They felt that a burden had been lifted off their shoulders, and that they would in future have an opportunity of developing and prospering to the advantage of themselves, and of Australia as a whole. The people o£ Tasmania, would have the same feeling if they were granted similar relief.
Tasmania is a small community, and we have to make the best use of our resources. With a small population, we have to maintain expensive government, departments, which makes the cost of government unduly high.- Moreover, Tasmania has had to develop its resources under particularly difficult conditions. Railways have had to be built through mountainous country, and roads and harbours have had to be constructed to serve isolated centres of population. So far as harbours are concerned, Tasmania yis decentralized, and while that is of advantage in some respects, it has taken money to develop the harbours. When people visit Tasmania, and see for themselves its many attractions, they ask us why ayc do not advertise them more, so that the public generally may know what we have to offer. They used to ask why we did not develop the tourist resources of the island by building roads through the most attractive areas. That has now been done to a large extent, but we feel that, owing to the operation of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act, we are not reaping our proper reward. If this Parliament could see its way to suspend those provisions so far as Tasmania is concerned, the people of that State would remain for ever grateful to it.
The service that suffers most under present conditions is that between Sydney and Hobart. At Sydney and Hobart, we have two of the most; beautiful harbours in the southern hemisphere, and it should be possible to maintain a paying service between them without a government subsidy. Port Jackson is probably the most beautiful harbour of its kind in the world, but for magnificence and grandeur, it Cannot hold a caudle to the Derwent at Hobart. There we have a harbour which can accommodate the fleets of the world - a sheet of water which is a yachtsman’s paradise. Some time ago, the secretary of the Royal Alfred Yacht Club in Sydney visited Tasmania to make a reconnaissance for the benefit of his members. He described the harbour at Hobart as a magnificent spectacle, which should be viewed by yachtsmen from all parts of Australia. But I do not cars how good n yachtsman a man may be, he has to be a good sailor to travel undisturbed on some of the out-of-date tubs which serve the Tasmanian trade. It is not right or fair to Tasmania that they should have to rely on such a service. Let me give the experience of a senior public servant who was recently transferred from Sydney to Hobart, and is so enraptured with its climate and the pleasantness of its surroundings that he hopes to stay there for the remainder of his term of service. Last October he had to go to the mainland on government business, and took his wife and daughter with him. On making inquiries about the trip, he found that he would have to travel by rail to Launceston, from there to Melbourne by the Nairana, and from Melbourne to Sydney by rail, . at a total cost for his party of £30. Fortunately for him, however, the Minister in charge of the department issued permits to travel by an Eastern and Australian steamer which was picking up electrolytic zinc at the works of the company whose industrial affairs were supervised by the honorable member for Denison. There have been no strikes among the employees of that company. He, like other members on this side of the chamber, has the interests of the workers at heart just a3 much as any other honorable member opposite has. For his voyage by the Eastern and Australian steamer, which was a floating palace, the public servant whom I have referred to paid only £1S. The Australian shipping companies are letting the tourist trade of Tasmania slip through their fingers.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The .honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) has performed ‘ a great public service in providing us with an opportunity to discuss this contentious subject of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. His most striking statement was that the mercantile marine has now declined to one-half of its former numbers. The honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) blamed honorable members opposite who are supporting the case of Tasmania for not being prepared to encourage and to build up Australian enterprise, and I, therefore, draw his attention to that statement, which was repeated by other honorable members, showing the effect of the Navigation Act upon Australian shipping. I wish to say a word or two about the extraordinary contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that overseas shipping has the same opportunity to compete with Australian shipping as overseas manufacturers have to compete with Australian manufacturers.
– I did not say that. I said that the overseas shipping companies could trade on the Australian coast under the same conditions as Australian shipping companies.
– The Leader of the Opposition went a little further, and pointed out that the competitive opportunities of overseas and Australian shipping could be compared with those of the overseas and the Australian manufacturer.
– I quoted what was said by the honorable member for Denison. I do not admit what the honorable member is now saying, because we have excluded many British manufacturers from our markets.
– If the Leader of the Opposition said what I believe he did, his unusually clear mind must have been somewhat clouded, because there is a marked difference between the two positions. What is our attitude to overseas shipping? We say that it must adopt our standards, must man its ships in the same way as the ships on the Australian register are manned, must pay the same wages, provide the same accommodation, and must register in Australia. We do not say to the British manu’facturer that he must pay Australian wages, work Australian hours, and conform in every way with the conditions that govern an Australian factory. What we say to the British manufacturer is that, because his standards are below ours, he must, in order that competition may be fair, submit to a handicap in the shape of an import duty. That is very different indeed from the way in which we treat overseas ship-owners. We do not apply to overseas ship-owners the same principle that we apply to overseas manufacturers. I join with the honorable member for Denison in his plea that if the Government is to be con- sistent in saying that it believes in competitive rather than prohibitive duties, it should apply to shipping the selfsame principle that it applies to overseas manufacturers. The Labour party believes, in its fiscal view, in prohibition, and it at least is consistent in seeking to prohibit overseas shipping from taking fart in the Australian shipping trade, n view of the fact that the Government has registered its belief, in respect of the Ottawa treaty, that competitive duties are reasonable, and that prohibitive duties are wrong, if it is to be consistent, it should endeavour to apply the same principle to overseas shipping trading on this coast in competition with Australian shipping. The question is how to do that. I admit that it is not an easy thing to do. Many inquiries have been made and reports submitted. The most recent report was that provided by the Tariff Board in December, 1929, less than three years ago. The best suggestion put forward in that report, to overcome this opportunity was that of Mr. East, the secretary to the Marino Board. He did not proffer that suggestion in any official capacity - and he made that plain - but at the request of the Tariff Board which, knowing his special knowledge of shipping affairs, asked him to make suggestions. Mr. East suggested that there should be a combination of tax and bounty in order to enable fair competition to take place. He favoured a certain tax upon passengers and cargo on overseas ships, the amount collected in that way, apart from a small reduction for cost of administration, being paid to the Australian shipping companies in the form of a bounty. That suggestion is well worthy of our consideration. The difference in freight between the mainland ports compared with those between the mainland and Tasmanian ports suggests that the monopoly which Australian shipping has at the present time is being taken full advantage of where there is no rail competition. I sympathize with the Tasmanians in respect of their difficulties. I am sure that honorable members on this side of the House who are in favour of stimulating Australian industry, recognize that the tremendous handicap which
Australia is suffering because of the operation of the Navigation Act, reflects itself in the industries of Tasmania, many of which have languished, and this has brought about much unemployment. Take the Tasmanian tim-ber industry. Do honorable members realize that it costs more to export timber from Tasmania to Adelaide than to bring Baltic timber from Europe to that city ? Do honorable members realize that it costs more to ship timber from Tasmania to the mainland than to ship it from Vancouver to the mainland? Surely there is something radically wrong with our shipping conditions? It is very necessary that there should be competition in shipping, and I urge the Government to make that possible by amending the act in such a way as to give effect to the suggestion of Mr. East, or some similar proposal which will bring about fair competition between the Australian Mercantile Marine and overseas shipping.
.- There is diversity of opinion among honorable members as to what should be done with the Navigation Act. Some honorable members wish to scrap the act, and others to amend its coastal provisions so as to permit British ships which employ cheap labour to operate on the Australian coast in competition with the Australian Mercantile Marine which has to conform with Australian awards and conditions of employment. If the coastal provisions were repealed, there would he increased unemployment among our seamen.
– I am not suggesting that.
– A reduction of the trade of the coastal steamers would have that result. The Navigation Act came into operation in 1921. After sixteen years of exhaustive discussion and inquiry, we adopted the policy of the open door to shipping of whatever nationality that conformed to the conditions which the Australian companies were required to observe. Surely that is only reasonable. How could Australian shipping companies compete with overseas companies unless similar conditions applied ? If the Navigation Act were repealed, and overseas vessels with a very different scale of manning, accommodation and wage rates engaged in the coastal trade, the Australian owners would still be required to comply with awards of the Arbitration Court. An incursion of overseas vessels not observing these conditions would throw out of work thousands of Australians ashore and afloat, and cause a heavy loss of revenue to Federal and State Governments, harbour boards, and other authorities. Overseas liners which in instances are backed by huge subsidies would take away the interstate passenger trade, while tramp tonnage would pick the eyes out of the coastal trade, leaving the unprofitable portion for the Australian companies. At present, large sums are expended in Australia by the local companies for stores, fuel and repairs, and if they were forced out of business, most of this expenditure would be transferred abroad. In protecting our own coastal shipping industry, we have merely adopted a measure taken by most other countries of any maritime importance. The United States goes further, and actually excludes foreign vessels from coastwise commerce - “ coastwise “ applying not only to the coast of the United States, but also to all trade between the United States and distant dependencies such as Hawaii and PortoRico.
In Great Britain an exactly similar measure of protection for British shipping has been advocatedby a committee of the Chamber of Shipping, the report of which, published in June last, contained the following passage : -
All that wo have said as to the need for securing and enforcing absolute equality of treatment on ships under all flags, applies with special force to the United Kingdom coasting trade. It is, as we have pointed out, a home industry, and ships under other flags should only be allowed to engage in it as long as they comply strictly, not only with all safety requirements, hut also with all the rules and regulations relating to the ship and to those on board, whether imposed by the Merchant Shipping Acts, Public Health Acts. Factory Acts, or otherwise, that are applicable to British shipping.
That recommendation expresses in a nutshell what Australia requires under the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act as a charter of protection for those engaged in our interstate sea-carrying industry. We must have a guarantee of equality of treatment among ship-owners prepared to engage in our interstate seaborne trade. The shipping companies which ply their trade on our coast should be obliged to observe our laws, and to comply with our standards of wages and conditions.
I am afraid that the alleged baneful effects of the Navigation Act upon Tasmania have been greatly exaggerated. A great number of reports on this subject have been made at the request of various governments over a long period of years. Some of these have agreed with the view of the honorable member for Denison in regard to the Navigation Act, but some have disagreed with it. The report of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Act, presented to Parliament on the 20th August, 1924, containedboth a majority and a minority report. The majority report, in referring to Tasmania, stated -
It wasallegedthat Tasmaniahad “been placed at a serious disadvantage “, its development retarded, its industries injured, and its tourist traffic diminishedby the Navigation Act.
There was no evidence against the act from Burnic, Devonport,or Launceston. The allegations of disastrous results were confined to Hobart.
It was asserted that theexport trade of Tasmania has been seriously injured by reason of the Navigation Act. The cargo shipped out of Tasmania is as follows (see Appendix 1) : -
In regard to Tasmania’s fruit exports the report states -
It was asserted that the overseas fruit export of Tasmania has been seriously injured by reason of the Navigation Act. The Tasmanian fruit exports overseas arc as follows: -
Dealing with passenger traffic, the subject in which the honorable member for
Denison is particularly interested, the report points out that prior to the war, in the years 1913 and 1914, 78,543 passengers travelled from, the mainland to Tasmania, whereas in 1922-23, after the passage of the Navigation Act, 83,272 passengers were carried.
In years gone by, Tasmania experienced a period of great mining development. I$s rugged mountains and metalliferous reefs attracted many miners and others to the State, and much wealth was won there through mining operations. But when, the mines petered out, Tasmania had very little else to offer her people. You, Mr. Speaker, know thai whan, the mining, industry languished at Gympie, the wonderfully fertile areas around the town were able to sustain a thriving population. Similarly, when the mines of Ballarat and Bendigo began, to decline the people were able to engage in agricultural operations in the surrounding areas. Tasmania has not made so much progress as some of the other States, but this cannot be attributed to the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act; it must be accounted for by the natural conditions of the State.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable gentleman who introduced the discussion on this subject w;as kind enough - unnecessarily kind - at the beginning of his speech to exculpate the Minister at present in. charge of navigation, because he had not had an intimate association with Tasmania. It is true that I have not lived in Tasmania for any lengthy period; but I have visited that delightful retreat, and if I know anything about the qualifications for speaking on any subject in this House, the fact that I have been to Tasmania qualifies me to speak about iU But I must confess that, if I were uninformed on the subject at the beginning of the speech of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), I was just as uninformed at the close of it. The fact is that all the information which the honorable member used in his speech was already in the file on’ the table before me, and the attention of the Government could have been directed to it just as effectively by other means as by the moving of this motion. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) pointed out, the honorable member for Denison crystallized the whole of his speech into one sentence when he said that what he required was that the coast of Australia should be as free to British shipping as the. Australian markets _ are free to British manufacturers. Notwithstanding all that the honorable gentleman said in his speech, and all that other honorable members have said in support of his view, that is exactly the state of affairs to-day. The honorable member and other protagonists of Tasmania have slightingly said that as the Government was already in possession of all the information necessary for the taking of effective action, there was no need for delay. It has been pointed out that numerous reports have been made on the position of Tasmania, but, unfortunately for the honorable member for Denison, these reports have not by any means been all in favour of his view. The latest report of all, which was presented by the Tariff Board in. 1929, 13 unfavorable to it. If the Government were to aci upon the board’s recommendation, the result would not be acceptable to the honorable member. In dealing with the proposal to suspend the coastal, provisions of the Navigation Act, in relation to Tasmania, the Tariff Board said -
In regard to the main question referred, the Tariff Board is strongly of -opinion th.it the substitution of any other form Of protection for that provided by the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act is neither practicable nor desirable.
Is the Government to accept as conclusive the declaration of that independent tribunal?
Seeing that the Government has undertaken, as admitted by the mover of the motion, to give earnest consideration to his. proposals, it would be quite unfitting for me, as a member of the Cabinet, to enter into a disputation on the subject at this stage. I cannot, however, forbear expressing regret that the business of the House has been suspended to discuss a subject while it is, in so far as the Cabinet is concerned, sui judice. I admit the right of honorable members to use the forms of the House to ventilate grievances, and this is one of the ways of doing so, and if the Government had given a final decision on this matter, and that decision was not acceptable to the honorable member for Denison, he would have been justified in moving his motion; but, in the existing circumstances, I think he was not justified in doing what he has done. Seeing that the Government has given an assurance that the matter will receive consideration at an early date, this action by the honorable member is more likely to injure than help his case, for it is calculated to embarrass the Government.
We are not indifferent to the disabilities of Tasmania. The Tariff Board, in its report, has made it clear that Tasmania is suffering from certain disabilities, principally on account of the lack of suitable transport to and from the mainland. But has the Government done nothing in this regard? The honorable member for Denison himself observed that, quite recently, a subsidy of £6,000 had been provided for the continuance of the passenger service between Hobart and Sydney; but this has been referred to in a slighting and disdainful fashion. It has been said that it is a most inadequate and futile provision. Such a statement is most singular in view of the fact that, when a similar provision was made by the previous Government, two years ago, Tasmanians were loud in their acclamations of approval. In support of this statement. I shall make one or two quotations. The Hobart Mercury, in a leading article which appeared on the 3rd April, 1930, observed -
The Federal Government is to be congratulated on having found itself able to approve of a grant of £10,000 as subsidy to the owners of the Zealandia, for a fortnightly service between Hobart and Sydney during the winter.
What was a very good provision in 1930 is said to be a very poor one to-day. The Premier of Tasmania (Mr. McPhee), in a statement made in 1930 on this very subject, said -
The decision of the Federal Government is very gratifying, and the regular continuance of the Zealandia in the Hobart-Sydney service will be of great value, not only ito tlie people of Southern Tasmania, but also to the State as a whole.
Interruptions in the service in previous years had the result of dislocating trade with Sydney and Queensland in many direc- tions, none of them very large in itself, but in the aggregate they acted as a serious check to industry.
We have prevented this check to Tasmanian industry. Perhaps even more significant were the remarks of Mr. Horace Walch, chairman of the special committee appointed by the Hobart Chamber of Commerce. In referring to the provision of the subsidy for the continuance of the Sydney-Hobart service a couple of years ago, he said -
The news was most gratifying, not only because of the material benefits which would result, but because the Commonwealth Government had, on having a complete understanding of the facts, speedily performed an act of justice. Hobart would benefit in the way ot the retention of business which would otherwise have been lost, and in the prevention of an increase in unemployment, &c.
Seeing that the arrangement for the continuance of this service was regarded in 1930 as most beneficial to Tasmania, I cannot understand why honorable members who represent Tasmanian constituencies should speak so slightingly of it to-day.
But that is not the only way in which this Government has shown its interest in Tasmania. I was staggered by one statement made by the honorable member for Denison. The honorable member stated that certain reductions of freights and fares are likely to be brought about as a result of action taken by private members representing Tasmania. However innocent I may be upon the general subject, I can speak with some authority in that regard, because I personally conducted the negotiations which led to those decreases. As a result of the representations of this Government, there will be an all-round decrease of approximately 10 per cent, on all freights between Tasmania and the mainland as from the 1st January next. If credit is due for that, a considerable amount of it belongs to the Government, which, in a practical fashion, has demonstrated its desire to mitigate the disabilities from which Tasmania is suffering. I repeat ‘the statement that the action of the honorable member for Denison will embarrass rather than help the Government. The Government is riot unmindful of Tasmania’s disabilities, but it has been prevented from concluding its considers- tion of the subject because of the exceptional pressure of Cabinet business.
.- Tasmania is, no doubt, in an unfortunate position. Yet the other States are similarly situated. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) moved the adjournment of the House in an endeavour to prove that the suspension of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act would relieve the tension in Tasmania. If that were really so, I could see no reason why those provisions should not be suspended. But what does the honorable member suggest should be done when the coastal provisions have been lifted? Will greater facilities for transport or cheaper freights be thereby obtained ? He has not advanced one scrap of evidence to prove that that would happen. Does any honorable member really think that any benefit would accrue to Tasmania if those provisions of the Navigation Act were suspended?
– Well, the honorable member and his colleagues have not advanced any evidence in substantiation of their claim. Personally, I believe that Tasmania would not benefit from the lifting of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act, and I shall support my argument with facts.
There has been a mercantile marine operating along the Australian coast for over 100 years,but the Navigation Act is of quite recent origin. Long before it was passed, when our coast was open to the shipping of the world, manned by the cheapest labour, overseas vessels at no time competed for our coastal trade.
– Then, what is the need for the Navigation Act?
– That is a pertinent question. The Navigation Act was not intended to afford protection to ships which carry cargo. It was specially framed to provide protection in connexion with the interstate passenger traffic, which is much more profitable. Our so-called Australian mercantile marine is closely associated with the great British steamship combines.For instance, the organizations with which Lord Inchcape was connected, have capital invested in the Australian shipping companies. But it has always been strongly contended that if Australian ships are to do the work of transporting cargo from port to port in Australia, they should be so protected as to have a virtual monopoly of the Australian coastal passenger traffic.
It has been definitely stated by men like Sir Owen Cox and Mr. Larkin, in giving evidence before various inquiries, that there never was a time when overseas vessels seriously competed for the carrying of our interstate cargo. So that in respect of it, no satisfactory argument has been advanced by those sponsoring the motion. It is claimed that a suspension of the coastal provisions would reduce freights. There is no evidence to prove that any reduction of freights would follow if cheap labour were employed on the vessels carrying our cargo. As a matter of fact, in a comprehensive statement which was authenticated by detailed statistical information, Mr. Larkin proved that labour is a very minor cost in the activities of a great shipping company. The big charges are represented in machinery, the cost of the ships themselves, fuel, and various charges. Mr. Larkin stated that if the wages paid to the employees of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers were reduced from £16 to £8 a month it would not result in a reduction of even1s. a ton in freight costs. There is abundant evidence of a similar nature.
The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) pointed out that freights were lower along the coast of the mainland than from a Tasmanian to a mainland port. That is true. The reasons are economic. The vessels which ply between capital and capital on the Australian coast carry more cargo over a relatively smaller distance.
– The distance is greater.
– The fundamental factor is that the amount of space occupied by cargo is greater and the empty space less than is the case on the Tasmanian run. One of the problems connected with Australian interstate shipping is why, with the immense reduction in the cost of shipbuilding, in wages and in the price of coal, there has been no reduction in overseas freights. The. reason is that, with a diminishing trade, ships have less cargo to convey to Australian ports, so that vessels which had 10 per cent, of vacant space several years ago, now have over 30 per cent, of vacant space. The smaller ratio of cargo has to be paid for. Why is it that on the north-west coast of Western Australia, where black labour is employed, the cost of transportation is higher than it is on the eastern coast. Of course, the existence of a monopoly comes into the picture, but paucity of cargo is the main factor. Again, the constant demand for railway facilities has extended communications between port and port, and has taken trade from shipping companies, so. that ships have less cargo to carry.
It has been necessary to consider substituting smaller vessels with less accommodation.
If I thought there was any merit in the argument advanced by the honorable member for Denison and his colleagues, the motion would, no doubt, have my support. I can quite understand that it was put forward in all earnestness, by men who are imbued with a desire to alleviate the distress suffered by their State. But I am convinced that the suspension of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act will not give a tittle of relief to Tasmania, or in any way bring about a reduction of freights. In the circumstances, the arguments advanced have been so much piffle.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) proposed -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker -Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
– I lay on the table of the House the report of the Wool Inquiry Committee, dated the 26th October, 1932. Later, if the state of business permits, I propose to afford the House an opportunity to discuss the report.
Bill brought up by Mr. Francis, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Stewart be discharged from attendance on the Printing Committee, and that in his place Mr. Jennings be appointed a member of the committee.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons), agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-1931.
Debate resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 2721), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That thebill be now read a second time.
.- This measurehas rightly been described by the Leader of the Opposition as an omnibus bill. It deals with several subjects, and is particularly one for consideration in committee, but some of its features call for comment at this stage. The Government proposes a partial remission of land tax. I think that the Commonwealth should withdraw entirely from this field of taxation. The federal tax on unimproved lands was originally introduced by the Fisher Government for the one purpose of breaking up large estates. Even the Labour party did not intend to tax land properly and efficiently used, but having tasted for several years the fruits of this impost on capital, governments have been loath to forgo them. When Sir Newton Moore was Premier of Western Australia, he induced the State Parliament to enact a land and income tax law which was very fair, and during the Bruce-Page regime I sought to secure the adoption of an amendment to introduce the same principle into the federal law. By the Western Australian statute, the owner was required to pay income tax on income derived from the land, or taxation upon the land itself, whichever would yield the greater amount. The present double tax on land and income from land is in reality a tax on capital, and is distinctly unfair. I am glad that the Government has increased the amount of the exemption from the super tax on income from property. Doubtless the financial position precludes the Government from going further. But this tax has certainly retarded rural development and maintained high rates of interest on mortgages. The proposed remission of land taxation will help to reduce the cost of living.
No exception could be taken to the reductions proposed in invalid and old-age pensions by the Government a few months ago, except in relation to certain inquisitorial aspects of the administra tion. Actually with the reduced cost of living the pensioners would have been better off with 15s. a week than they were when they were receiving £1 a week. The additions to the pension since 1910 were based on the increased cost of living and wages, and surely it is fair that when the cost of living and wages have fallen, and the ability of the country to maintain expensive social services has diminished, pensions should be reduced proportionately. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) appreciated the justice of that when he had ministerial responsibility. The following table sets out clearly the history of the invalid and old-age pension and its value in comparison with wages at various dates: -
Honorable members will see that even when the pension was reduced by the Scullin Government to 17s. 6d., itwas higher in proportion to the basic wage than it had ever been, and that, owing to the subsequent reduction of the basic wage to 63s. l1d., the present payment of 17s. 6d. is relatively higher than at any other period in the history of this social service. So long as the existing anomalies are rectified, no great harm would have been done to the pensioners by the reduction to 15s.
I turn now to the proposed relief to the wheat-growers. Notwithstanding the greatest effort of the growers by communications from representative bodies and by deputations, the Government has failed to realize the serious position of the wheatgrowing industry. Indeed, it has failed to recognize the industry as an industry, and is proposing to render assistance on a personal basis. The Government’s policy is very similar to that of a State government when providing a dole for its indigent citizens. I ask the House to look at the industry as an industry, and to recognize the obligation of a National Parliament to assist it effectively. By their customs tariff policy Commonwealth Governments have sought to assist only the secondary industries. The present Government states that it can make available not more than £2,000,000 for the assistance, not of the wheatgrowing industry, but of individual growers wl-,;’ can prove that they are in financial difficulties. That is a small and pettifogging attitude to adopt.
I have collected figures from the Commonwealth Statistician relating to the value of the wheat exported from this country during the last ten years. For the period from 1922 to 1932, the export of wheat brought to Australia £173,991,146, while the export of flour for the same period brought £55,851,563, or a total for wheat -and flour of £229,842,709. The average annual return, therefore, from the export of wheat and flour was something over £22,000,000, and this sum helped to pay wages and salaries in Australia, and to bolster up uneconomic industries. The Scullin Government recognized the importance of the wheat industry and the value of the credits which the export of wheat established overseas. It exhorted the wheat-farmers to grow more wheat, so that the return for exports might be increased even beyond £22,000,000 a year. The wheat-farmers responded grandly to the appeal. Last year the value of the wheat exported was £19,208,000, notwithstanding the fact that the price of wheat was only half the average price for the ten years I have referred to. The value of flour exported last year was £3,833,237.
The right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), speaking as Prime Minister, once said that Australia would have to attain efficiency in all its industries. There would have to be efficiency, he said, in our factories, and if that were achieved, our secondary industries would not require the same amount of protection. There would have to be efficiency in the dairying industry, brought about by the testing of herds, &c. He paid a tribute to the work of Australian flock-masters, through whose efforts the wool yield had been increased beyond anything previously anticipated, so that the return per sheep had been more than doubled. This Government has departed from the principle of encouraging efficiency. lt has overlooked the fact that the wheat industry is of great importance to Australia. Most of the £3,000,000 which is available is to be devoted to helping those farmers who have proved themselves to be inefficient.
– Does the honorable member agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it would be good business to stimulate an industry that is being carried on at a loss?
– The honorable member must realize from the figures that I have quoted that, although the production of wheat under present conditions is of no advantage to the farmers themselves, it is of immense advantage to the nation. I do not know how Australia could have carried on were it not for the £39,000,000 received for wheat exported last year. Does the Government feel that the position will be improved by helping the inefficient? “Why does not the Government treat the wheat industry as it treats the iron and steel industry, for instance? It does not say to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company that, as it has not exhausted all its capital, it is not eligible to receive a bounty or protection on its product; nor does it say to the sugar refining companies that, so long as they still have some reserves left, they are not entitled to the benefit of protection. Nevertheless, it says to the wheat-farmers that it will assist only those who have been a failure.
– What is there in the bill which states that the money will be paid only to the inefficient?
– It has been laid down that the money will be paid only to those who are financially embarrassed. The other day I received a communication from the Katanning Chamber of Commerce containing the following resolution passed by that body: -
That, under present conditions in Australia, every wheat-grower is producing at a loss, and may fairly be described as necessitous in that he is either living on his capital or going further into debt. The proposed restriction of assistance to necessitous farmers is, therefore, unnecessary, and will inevitably result in expense, confusion and hopeless delay.
Some of those now growing wheat must, of necessity, drop out of the industry; but others, who own their land and machinery, feel that they ought to carry on. Only the wool industry is of greater value than the wheat industry, and, for the last ten years, our wool exports were valued at £508,046,S88, which, added to the return for our wheat and flour exports, made a total of £747,889,597. Those are the two main industries upon which this country lives. High wages and a high standard of living cannot be maintained in other industries if these two great primary industries are not prosperous. It has been suggested that some of us in this House are taking a stand on this issue because we are ourselves wheatfarmers. I ask honorable members to put that puny consideration out of their minds. I am a wheat-grower, but I have a smaller area under wheat now than ever before. I have gone in for other things; but I am considering this matter from a national point of view. Australia is the only country I know - I am a native of it - and I am sincerely anxious to promote its best interests. If the wheat industry is allowed to languish during this critical time, it will take a lot of resuscitation.
The Government has probably not realized that the wheat and wool industries have contributed more than any others to the reduction in the cost of living. The other day the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) quoted gome figures in this respect which can well bear repetition. Dealing with the prices of various commodities, the honorable member for Swan-
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I am trying to point out that the cost of living in Australia is high because of Commonwealth legislation designed to protect uneconomic industries. I believe, above all things, that we should bring down costs rather than give doles and pay bounties. I would not now be advocating that the Government should assist the wheat industry if that industry were not carrying burdens imposed by the Commonwealth Government. The price-list quoted by the honorable member for Swan is as follows : -
The wheat-farmers have been exporting their product, and building up credits overseas for the benefit of Australia, while, at the same time, selling their product to the Australian people for consumption at world parity prices. Is that a fair deal to the wheat industry? The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) quoted from Hansard to show the attitude that was taken by certain members of the Ministry when they were in opposition. One honorable senator in another place, when discussing a measure to assist the wheat-growing industry, moved an amendment which, if carried, would have placed a tax on flour for local consumption so as to balance the burdens placed upon the primary producers in other directions. That honorable senator is now a member of the Cabinet, and yet there is no suggestion of a sales tax being placed on flour. A tax of £1 a ton on flour, which would not affect the price of bread one iota, would be of considerable benefit to the industry. No country except Australia is neglecting its wheat industry. The price of wheat per bushel is in France 7s. 6d., in Italy 9s. 6d., in Germany Ss. 6d., and in New Zealand 6s. Yet the price of bread in those countries is lower than it is in Australia. As the price ruling in Australia for wheat is 2s. 6d. a bushel, there must be something radically wrong at the distribution end, because it is evident that the people of Australia, including our old-age and invalid pensioners, should be getting a cheaper loaf’ of bread. A farmer has to obtain land, clear, fence, and cultivate it. He has to fertilize and sow it, and then pray to God for rain and for the absence of rust and take-all, which have now made their presence felt in South Australia. The farmer has to buy costly machinery with which to garner his crop, and then pay 3d. a bushel to bag it. He has to cart his wheat to the railway, and pay freight to the seaboard. In return he receives 2s. 9d. a bushel. The farmer, for all his work and expenditure, receives for each bushel of wheat sold the value of two loaves of bread, while those who handle that wheat at no risk to themselves, receive the value of thirteen loaves of bread. The Government would not be stretching its conscience if it placed a tax of £1. a ton on flour in order to implement this grant, and assist this industry, which is benefiting the whole of the people of Australia. A subsidy of 4d. or 4d. a bushel would encourage the farmer to continue to work for the benefit of Australia. In committee, I intend to assist other honorable members in endeavouring to amend the bill. There is in the Ministry not one agriculturalist, and I therefore hope that the Government will accept the advice of some members of this national Parliament who have a thorough knowledge of the wheat industry.
.- It is evident that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has taken his interpretation of the bill from newspaper reports that were published over the week end - before the bill had been circulated - based on unsubstantial anticipations of what would be done. There is nothing in this bill to say that the allocation of the money to be used in assisting the wheat-grower shall be on the basis of necessity, financial embarrassment, hard luck, or any of those genuine disabilities which are so difficult to distinguish in many instances from the inefficiency of the farmer or the unsuitability of his land. This bill leaves the allocation to the discretion of the States, but lays down one condition - that the distribution of funds to individual growers shall not be on a basis of bushels of wheat produced by the grower. There is no question about that qualification, being in the bill. Possibly, paragraph a of clause 27, which provides for assistance being given to growers by reducing the cost of production of wheat, may be so interpreted as to exclude the possibility of assistance being given in respect of the cost of marketing wheat, which it was not the intention of the Government to exclude, and I have not the slightest doubt that that will be corrected by theacceptance of the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). I propose todiscuss the bill on the basis of that amendment being included at the committeestage in the bill.
There are two points to consider in regard to this vote for assistance to wheat-growers. The first is the amount of money to be raised, and the method of raising it, and the second is the method of allocation. I support the proposal of the Government not to allocate funds on a bushel basis. I endorse everything which the honorable member for Forrest has said about the justification for assistance to the wheat-grower on a national scale, but when that assistance is being given, as a temporary measure, to give it on a basis of bushels of wheat produced by each individual wheatgrower is not the most equitable method. If a permanent bounty were given, based on. a period of years, inequalities from season to season would average out, and the amount of assistance given to each particular farmer would vary roughly in ratio to the efficiency of the land and of the farmer. But taking any particular year, the difference between the crop in one district and that in another is purely accidental. Last year there were large areas from which farmers received no return at all, because the season was too wet to permit of seeding. The year before, other large areas suffered at the finish of the season, and the crops were practically a total failure. This year large areas have been affected by red rust and takeall, and the yield will be insignificant. I ask the honorable member for Forrest not to dismiss these grave inequalities by describing the distribution on a bushel basis as a national distribution; because these regulations are not small or casual, but are large, and press heavily upon some of the most deserving growers.
– Two States are assisting their wheat-growers by means of a flour tax.
– The money which has been raised through a flour tax is being given to the farmers, not as a subsidy, but as an advance, which has to be repaid. We are dealing with. a direct subsidy. I confess that the press reports which I read over the week-end to the effect that the whole basis of distribution was to be similar to that of the dole, filled me with dismay.. I have been re-assured since seeing the bill and ascertaining that every alternative excepting the bushel basis is left open to the States. I consider that method more equitable than a distribution in a uniform hard and fast manner over the whole of the growers.
– How does the honorable member interpret the phrase “ the needs of the individual wheat-grower “ ?
– I consider that the money should be allocated as nearly as it can be, without tremendous administrative complications, according to the average expense which the different farmers incur, because, although the yield in any one area may be most uncertain, the expense is regular and relentless, and continues from year to year. I take it that the bill as drafted, with the inclusion of the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Gippsland, will make possible, for instance, the distribution of the money on the basis explained to me by a member of the Country party. I do not wish to copyright his suggestion by mentioning it before he speaks, nor do I want to commit the honorable member to his statement to me in private conversation. I, therefore, refrain from mentioning his name. That method, which may suit the needs of individual States, is a distribution according to the acreage to be seeded for the coming year, with a further distribution after seeding, when the actual area can be checked, a special rate to apply as between fallow land and land not fallowed. Fallowing, except for manure - fertilizer in most districts - and bags, is the heaviest expense, and with a scheme such as that, the distribution would be, roughly, according to the expense of the individual farmer. It would not be in exact ratio, but much nearer to it than if it were on the basis of the yield which each farmer obtained in this particular year. Another remission which could be effected, and which appeals very much to me, is in respect of railway freight and wharfage charges, which, to some extent, approximate the amount of wheat which the individual farmer sells. It would also average more equitab’ly, because the man who is farthest back has the greatest disability in. respect of freight charges and expenses of that sort, and he would receive a greater benefit than the man who had a short freight charge. If the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Gippsland is accepted, there will be nothing in the bill to prevent any suggestion from being made to distribute the. money in that way. Relief in respect of freights does appeal to me, because it would help to reduce expenses, but it would’ have to be applied differently in the various States. In Victoria and New South Wales practically all the wheat is despatched by rail, and the freight is, therefore, a considerable item. In South Australia, probably one-quarter of the wheat yield is not despatched by rail at all. It is carted straight to the shipping ports of Wallaroo, Port Pirie, Cape Thevenard, Port Lincoln, Streaky Bay or a number of others that I could mention. Other wheat is carted direct to little jetties along the coast and from there it is lightered to the main shipping ports. It is just as important that farmers in these districts should obtain relief from these particular kinds of transport charges as that farmers in places like Hillston and the Northern Mallee should obtain relief from heavy rail charges. For these reasons, I think, that it would be better to leave the allocation of the money to the discretion of the different States. I take it that the provision in paragraph b is intended to leave it open to the States to allocate a portion of the money made available to them to special hardship cases.
I intend to support the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Gippsland. I do not anticipate that there will be great difficulty in getting the Government to accept such a proposal, because it is in harmony with the spirit of the bill.
As to the amoun t of money that is being made available for the assistance of the farmers, while I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that 4$d. a bushel would not be too large a bounty, I am also of the opinion that the provision of £2,000,000 out of revenue for this purpose is worth very much more than the provision of £3,000,000 by loanor by an increase of the sales tax. Any increase of taxation would sooner or later be passed on to the primary producer. I am delighted that the Government has been able to finance this proposal out of revenue, for it will mean that every penny made available to the farmers will be worth a penny to them. In a time of great emergency, such as we experienced the year before last, when no money was available from revenue, the Government of the day had to obtain funds from wherever it could, but I prefer expenditure of this kind to come from revenue and not from loan. Even though the amount being made available by this means is not so great as might have been obtained by some other means, such, for instance, as from a sales tax on flour, I regard the assistance as of greater value.When the sales tax was proposed last year, wheat was at an even lower figure than the present calamitous price, and the Government would have been justified in adopting even such means to assist the farmers. Certainly I prefer the means which the Government is adopting to the securing of funds by setting up a compulsory pool to fix an Australian price. Under the conditions of to-day £2,000,000 from revenue will be worth more to the farmers than an appreciably larger sum from loan, because there will be no interest to find year after year, nor will there be a reflex action, as would be the case if the sales tax on flour were increased, or some other form of taxation imposed to find the money.
But the very best way to assist the farmers is to pursue a policy which will reduce costs, not only to primary producers, but to every section of the community. The reduction of the cost of production would give permanent relief. For this reason I particularly welcome the provision of the bill that a portion of the money which the Government is finding for the assistance of the farmers may be applied to the reduction of the costs of production, and, I hope, of marketing. If costs are reduced there will be a beneficial result from the expenditure of this money, not only to the farmers, but also to the unemployed.
I come now to the other sections of the bill. The first provision with which I shall deal relates to the land tax. I acknowledge with appreciation the offer of the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and his colleagues to support a widening of the provisions of the hardships clause. That would be of great assistance to certain people with whom I come into direct contact. It would give substantial relief to land-owners who have not been able to maintain their properties as they should be maintained, or to give the employment that they could give if taxation were not so heavy. I know of cases in which, owing to the ravages of drought and the collapse of prices, the land tax payable has been almost equal to the whole wages bill on the property. Land tax is, of course, the first charge upon property. It is, therefore, the first charge upon the cost of production, and any relief that is given in this regard will be of inestimable benefit to those who produce from the land on a large scale. It will be of tremendous advantage, for instance, to our great merino stud masters. Hitherto, our most successful studs have been conducted on freehold properties, but the collapse of wool prices and the appalling conditions in this industry, have led to a real danger of the practical dispersal of many studs owing to sheer insolvency. The heaviest pressure on the stud masters has been caused by the necessity to pay land tax before other expenditure is met. The relief which will be granted to thesepeople will not allow them much personal enjoyment, but it will enable them to keep intact their great stud flocks, which are really the basis of the Australian wool-growing industry.
A special attack has been made on the proposal to remit land taxation to the large land holders in our cities and big country towns; but I make no apology for supporting these proposals of the bill. It must be remembered that the tax is crippling these land owners ‘ as well as those who hold land for primary production and they have suffered from the effects of depression and drought. The land tax, in its very nature, strikes at the ability of property- owners to provide employment. There is a world of difference between the class of taxation which takes from a rich man, or any other man, what might be called his surplus spending element, and the class which takes from a man his ability to carry on his operations. The land tax, which takes priority of all other costs, must be put in the latter class. The fairest tax of all is a graduated income tax, which takes from a man a very solid proportion of what might be called his surplus above bare needs. A similar sort of tax, but of an indirect kind, is that which we impose upon luxury goods such as alcohol, silks, furs, and similar articles. Recently, in Australia, we have gone far beyond the taxation of the surplus spending element. “When the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, he travelled a greater distance along that road than any of his predecessors. The legislation of that description which he introduced was in many respects inequitable, but he really had to make drastic imposts. As soon as it is possible to give some relief from this taxation, it should be given to those whose ability to carry on their operations and give employment has been so sadly impaired. That is why some relief should first be allowed in respect of land taxation. Anything which strangles a man’s ability to carry on is dangerous to the community. If these remissions of taxation will enable a man to increase his income, that income will be heavily taxed before he gets it, but the tax will be made in the proper place. A graduated tax on income is not open to the objection that it can be passed on.
I come now to the proposed remissions of sales taxation. The Leader of the Opposition said that he would have preferred a reduction in the rate of taxation to an extension of the list of exemptions. I disagree with that view. By exempting certain articles from taxation, such, for instance, as machinery, we make it easier for primary producers to maintain their operations. If the means of production are heavily taxed, the ability of people to maintain their operations and to employ labour is impaired. I think it is better to remove sales taxation entirely from certain necessaries of production than to reduce the general rate. Personally, I am anxiously awaiting the time when it will be possible to place all building materials on the exempt list. Probably, the people engaged in the building trade have suffered from unemployment more than any others. The capacity of builders to re-employ labour would be increased by the exemption from taxation of the materials required for building purposes.
The proposal to reduce the rate of super tax on income from property is commendable. It may seem that my support of this provision of the bill is somewhat inconsistent with what I have already said. If this tax were applied all round, that might be so; but that is not the case. When the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, he allowed an exemption from this class of taxation to one important class of investment. I am not saying that he could help himself at the time. It was vital to the welfare of the Commonwealth that the loan for the conversion of the national debt should be successful. One of the things which contributed to that end was the promise then given that as an offset to the lower rate of interest offered to bondholders, their income from the interest on their investments in the new loan would be free from this special taxation. The effect of the exemption on that particular type of. investment was to keep up the interest on loans to producers and business people and loans on mortgage. For that reason it was important to place all those forms of taxation on the same basis. To-day interest is, probably, the largest single item in the cost of production to all business people. So that this small relief to the least welloff section of the people affected is a step in the right direction.
Bitter criticism has been directed at this bill because it begins by remitting taxation rather than re-establishing the rates of social services that previously existed. But the taxation of thb type that is being remitted is mort to blame than anything else within . our control for the huge number of unemployed in Australia, although, of course, the main general cause is overseas prices, which we cannot alter. The utmost that we can do is to make Australian conditions such that our industries will be able to keep going. The best contribution that can be made in that direction is to remit expenses and reduce taxation.
It is a real pleasure to find that it has been possible to restore some of the benefits to invalid and old-age pensioners. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) denounced the Government for not having adopted his suggestion to rectify these anomalies when the reductions were first proposed. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) made a similar denunciation. It is not so long ago that the honorable member for Hindmarsh applied very much the same language to a bill introduced by the present. Leader of I. lie Opposition, when Prime Minister, to reduce social services. Nobody likes these reductions. They are a most painful necessity. But our first consideration is for the class that is worst oil. The aged and infirm have a high claim upon the sympathy and means of all of us, but there is another section whose position is more desperate, those who are out of work. The worst situated are, probably, boys leaving school who are thrust into habits of indolence from which they will never be able to free themselves.
I welcome these proposals, because they make a step in the right direction. I regret that it is not possible to give aid to the wheat-growers in a way which would lower costs. That can be effected only over a number of seasons, and I hope that, by degrees, it will be accomplished. In the meantime, I support this grain, for relief. I absolutely reject the dole system of dealing with unemployment that has been advocated by certain members of the Opposition, and honorable members of the New South Wales Labour party in their requests for governmental expenditure. The way to put our people back to work is to make it possible for industry to carry on. When that is accomplished we shall have sufficient of our people in permanent employment to produce the wealth that will make it possible to restore, and more than restore the scale of the social services that have been curtailed. I support the bill.
– My purpose, at the outset, is to approach this measure from an angle slightly different from that, followed by previous speakers. I find it difficult to enter into the discussion with the same degree of enthusiasm -which would animate me if the circumstances relating to our international debt were different. In the opening remarks of his secondreading speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated that this relief was mainly dependent upon circumstances over which the Government, at the moment, has no control. I think that the honorable gentleman intimated that there could be no guarantee that the relief would continue beyond June of next year if the Hoover debt moratorium were discontinued. If this relief is mainly dependent upon that contingency, we must take stock of the situation, and consider whether there is any real likelihood of the term of that moratorium being extended. To do so it is necessary to examine political happenings in the United States of America. The recent presidential campaign in that country resulted in a big swing over of public opinion, a change brought about mainly, in my opinion, because people were dissatisfied with the Hoover Administration. That dissatisfaction may be attributed to two main causes, first the failure of the Hoover Government to arrest or alleviate the misery and suffering that have resulted from the depression ; secondly, its action in extending concessions to foreign countries, by suspending the payment of their debts to the United States of America without affording similar relief to the people of that country. It is only natural that farmers and those associated with industry and commerce in the United States of America, who, literally, have got their backs to the wall, should hold the opinion that if the Government of the United States of America can extend such concessions to foreign countries the people of that country should enjoy similar relief.
Who would have thought a few years ago that there would be such a large army of unemployed as there is in the United States of America to-day, the land of mass production, and the most highly industrialized country in the world? It is claimed by our opponents that our own unemployment is due to the high wages promulgated by arbitration awards. It was declared that the 10 per cent, cut in real wages agreed to by the Federal Arbitration Court in 1930, would correct the position. I remember the leader of the Government of the day saying to the court and the employers “ If you are content that that will be the means of rectifying the position, the responsibility is upon you to carry out the proposal.” Results have proved that unemployment has steadily grown .worse. So that the arguments advanced by our opponents must be dismissed as unsound.
Latest reports concerning the United States of America indicate to me that the Roosevelt Administration has no intention of continuing the moratorium on international debts. That being the case, our financial policy will have to be recast. In reply to a question by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) intimated that the payment of the subsidy to the Huddart, Parker Steamship Company was dependent upon the continuance of that moratorium. It is obvious to any dispassionate observer that the moratorium will not be extended.
In trying to imagine the frame of mind of the people of the United States of America, we cannot ignore recent happenings at Ottawa. It is but natural that foreign powers should be much concerned about the Ottawa Conference, the purpose of which was to evolve a means of developing Empire trade, obviously to the detriment of foreign powers. As the United States of America has in the past benefited considerably from Australian trade, the results of the Ottawa Conference must work to the disadvantage of that country. No doubt its government will hold the view that we cannot have it both ways, that -we cannot on the one hand set up an Empire zollverein, and on the other ask the country which we exclude from our trading operations for concessions in respect of our international war debt. I feel that the Prime Minister must have the fullest information on the subject even at this stage. In all diplomatic transactions official decisions are generally foreshadowed before they are actually promulgated. I feel confident that this Government is already aware that our financial position will be adversely affected by the future determinations of the United States of America with regard to the Hoover moratorium. Therefore, although under this bill it is proposed to grant certain relief, if what I predict does happen, the Government will, from the sanctuary of recess, claim that it did its best to meet the desires of honorable members, particularly of ‘the Country party, but, because of circumstances over which it has no control, it is unable to carry out its promises. The pressure of Country party interests and the predominant conservative element in the ministerial party have forced the Government to put forward these proposals for the remission of hind tax. Doubtless, Ministers hope to appease, temporarily, those upon whom they aru dependent, and to tide over the present difficulties.
In regard to the Hoover moratorium it. is fitting to remind the House that by June of next year, if no further concessions are made, the Commonwealth will have to remit to Great Britain 62.450,000, including exchange. The obligation for a full financial year would be approximately £5,000,000.’ This liability must seriously affect the budgetary position, and prejudice the proposals contained in this bill. We cannot overlook the fact that the Government is proposing relief which it is really not entitled to give. It is remitting taxation with a surplus that does not belong to it, because if it honours its “ contractual obligations” - a phrase that has- been much exploited by our political opponents during the last couple of years - this surplus will have to be sent overseas. The Go- ‘vernment may use all sorts of formulas and phrases to cloak the actual position, but the fact is that it is giving relief to its supporters with money that actually belongs to the overseas money lenders. A statement published in the Hearst press and republished in the Sydney Sun on the 16th of this month, is interesting - France’s and Britain’s problem is how to keep their money, and at the same time preserve their pride. They can hardly do both. Repudiation is repudiation, no matter what diplomatic formula you adopt.
To salve their conscience, or save their pride, or - and this is nearer the truth - for political expediency, honorable members opposite may invent convenient phrases and formulas, but when all is said and done, a government which fails to meet its contractual obligations is guilty of repudiation. From that fact there is no escape. If the United States of America declares that it must have the money due to it from Great Britain, and the latter in turn is obliged to ask Australia to meet its interest bill on war debts, the Commonwealth Government will not be able to afford the relief it has promised to give to certain sections in this bill. Therefore, it is being generous wilh other people’s money. Each month that passes forces the opponents of the policy we have advocated to eat their own words. The position in the United Kingdom to-day is serious. We cannot overlook the significance of recent happenings, including the legislation to impose a means test in order to restrict the assistance given to those who are unemployed. The purpose of that legislation is similar to that of recent New . South Wales legislation, namely, to take away from the needy the necessaries and comforts which are the due of every honest citizen. This policy is necessitated by the fact that the financial resources of the United Kingdom are insufficient to supply the requirements of the British people, and the Government is forced to adopt measures to restrict and curtail its social services. I understand that because of the internal financial pressure, the British Government decided to reduce its expenditure by £100,000,000; that was when an extension of the Hoover moratorium was still expected. I can appreciate what will be the plight of the British people if the moratorium is not extended, and government expenditure, much of which is due to unemployment, has to be further reduced. What is happening proves the great power of finance. It knows no country, flag, colour, or creed. Throughout the ages it has followed the same relentless policy, it will destroy anything that stands in its way. Thus we find that the United Kingdom, despite its traditions, its success in war, industry and commerce, has to go, cap in hand, to a foreign power for financial concessions to tide the country over a tragic period in its history. Such, a situation does not reflect creditably on our civilization, and it must be embarrassing to those who have dealt lightly with the problems to which I have referred, and had hoped to see Great Britain and its dominions free politically, economically, and financially, to evolve a social system in which justice and equity would prevail. Yet to-day we see the spectacle of British Ministers going, cap in hand, to ask for concessions.
– Only because the Old Country has helped others.
– -This is the actual fact, and it cannot be denied.
– The honorable member need not be so happy about it.
– I am far from being happy in the knowledge that British statesmen have to go to a foreign power to get concessions in order to feed their people. The pressure that is being felt by the United Kingdom will be felt by us, because we shall be required to resume our payment of interest on the war debt. Therefore, I am concerned, not only for the people of the United Kingdom, but also for our own. If the position becomes worse, further restrictions on the lines of the means test will be applied in order that the pittance now given to the needy may be further curtailed, thus increasing the existing hardship. I am convinced, however, that this policy of retrenchment and deprivation cannot continue indefinitely, either in Australia or overseas. Sooner or later the breaking point will be reached, and the statesmen of Great Britain will have to decide whether to bow the knee to a foreign power and high finance, or to honour their obligations to their own people. If I rightly judge the position, Great Britain will be forced to honour its obligations to its own people, rather than continue in financial bondage to foreign money lenders, because, after all, the war debts and the compound interest thereon can never be paid. That development is not far distant, and, when it eventuates Australia may then well follow the Prime Minister’s advice at the opening of his election campaign in Sydney to “ tune in to England.” It will probably be fitting for us follow the lead of the United Kingdom because of the control which high finance has been able to exercise to bring great nations to their knees.
The war debts problem overshadows the whole bill. Its provisions are governed entirely by possible contingencies overseas. We cannot regard these proposals a3 definite or permanent, and, therefore, we cannot enter into the consideration of them with any degree of confidence. The first portion of the bill deals with the remission of one-third of the laud tax. Naturally, Labour is strongly opposed to this, because, as has been already disclosed in this debate, the proposed concessions will not help the struggling farmers. The greatest benefits will be enjoyed by city interests, including banks and insurance and investment companies. It is easy to foresee into what pockets the taxes which the Government is remitting will go. I can readily conjecture who will be the principal beneficiaries in Sydney; all of them strong supporters of the present Commonwealth Ministry. I may be told that a government is entitled to assist its own supporters. The present Government claims to represent all sections of the community; but its legislation, including this bill, proves that that is not so. The Government has been described as the most tory and reactionary that has ever occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament, and it is running true to label. Individual members opposite, doubtless, have their own opinions about some of the clauses of this measure; if they were free to express what they really think, they would admit that they do not approve of many of the proposals that are being foisted on them in this bill. But they are subject to a control that is exercised, not in the House or even in the party room, but by the controllers of the party machine outside. Out of a mistaken sense of loyalty to their party, honorable members are endeavouring to present a bold face upon the matter, knowing all the time that the power of their political machine, and its influence upon government policy, are evidenced in this bill. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has pointed out that two-thirds of the land tax is paid by town lands and one-third by country lands, and that on an average wheat farm of 600 acres no land tax is payable. Therefore, members of the Country party cannot successfully argue that any relief will be given to the struggling farmers by this remission of taxation. The men on 600 acres and less may really be called the working farmers, whose interests in many respects are identical with ours. The concessions will benefit chiefly wealthy pastoral companies, such as Goldsbrough, Mort and Company, and Winchcombe, Carson, who hold large tracts of country, and are strong supporters of the party opposite.
Honorable members opposite have often spoken about the need for equality of sacrifice, but when they support legislation of this kind I cannot find language strong enough to condemn their attitude. The banks and insurance companies, for instance, have made no real sacrifice. It is the personal sacrifice which counts most, not a reduction, even though a large one, in an already large income. Take our own. cases, for example. The loss of £200 a year in our case cannot be compared with the sacrifice of pensioners and basic wage earners who have had their pensions or wages cut. This talk of equality of sacrifice is only for political’ purposes. Honorable members opposite have tried by this sort of propaganda to mislead the thousands of electors who make and unmake governments. The interests which this tax remission bill proposes to benefit are well able to bear their present burdens. Honorable members opposite have said that tax remission will help to relieve unemployment. We have heard so much about that in the past that I am convinced that this talk of relieving unemployment is dragged in only for the purpose of deceiving people into believing that something is being done for them by the Government.
– The honorable member must not reflect upon other honorable members.
– I was referring only to their political utterances.
The bill provides for remedying some of the anomalies in the present pensions legislation; but, had a little more attention been paid to the last hill during the committee stage, those anomalies would never have existed. I was opposed to that measure, lock, stock and barrel, but, realizing that we had not the numbers to defeat it, the logical course for us was to try to soften the blow. We hoped that, during the’ committee stages of the bill, we would be permitted to move amendments designed to remove the worst features of the bill. Since that measure lias been in operation, many hardships have been imposed on pensioners, and they have suffered much mental anguish, -anxiety and distress.
– No opportunity was provided for discussing the bill during the committee stage.
– That is so. The Government did not want to hear any suggestions from this side of the House. The guillotine was applied, and honorable members opposite supported the Government’s action in that regard, though many of them must have realized that the bill contained undesira’ble features, and needed to be amended. I do not intend that the impression shall go forth to the public that the suffering pensioners are to receive any considerable measure of relief as a result of the legislation now before us. The amendments deal mainly with property qualifications.
The bill provides for one amendment of which we approve, namely, that dealing with the children of pensioners who have provided homes for their parents. It is proposed to allow them to remain in occupation of such property after the death of the pensioner. There is this objection to the provision, however. It i3 left to the discretion of the Deputy Commissioner to determine whether or not the children in such cases are to be allowed to remain in possession of the property. We hear a good deal of talk about sympathetic administration of the law by the Deputy Commissioners of Pensions. My experience, gained by handling pensioners’ business, is that there is no such thing as sympathetic administration of pensions legislation, and the Deputy Commissioners themselves admit it. They are forced to administer the law as it stands, irrespective of what sympathy they may feel for pensioners. It is not desirable to leave this discretionary power in the hands of officials. We have protested against such provisions right from the beginning, and will continue to do so. The objectionable features of the act still remain, and will not be affected by this amending legislation. The inquisi torial forms which have to be filled iri, and the inspections which may be made, are not affected by anything in the bill. The charge upon, the children to support, their parents remains unaltered. The Government must not be allowed to create the impression that it has suffered a change of heart, because all this measure does is to correct anomalies in the existing legislation which need never have existed had Parliament been allowed to consider it properly.
The bill provides that the Government may take over non-income-producing property held by pensioners, but it is stipulated that such property must be free from encumbrances. My experience leads me to believe that at least 90 per cent, of pensioners’ property is already subject to encumbrance of one kind or another. rn many instances, people bought land, years ago, thinking that, at some time in the future, they would build a home for themselves on it. Then, with the bad time and reduced wages, they were not able tb carry out their intention, and now, in most instances, at least two years’ water and shire rates are owing on the laud. If this clause remains unaltered, very little property can be transferred to the Commonwealth. Pensioners ought to realize that justice will not be done to them until the financialemergency legislation is repealed altogether.
The other main feature of the bill has to do with the giving of assistance to wheat-growers. I listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) on this subject, realizing that lie is a man with considerable experience in these matters. I find it very difficult to understand what is meant by giving assistance to the farmers for the purpose of reducing costs of production. It is a nebulous proposition, and should have been explained more fully by the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech. Perhaps we shall be given the explanation in committee. It cannot be too forcibly emphasized that one of the greatest items in the cost of production is the exorbitant burden of interest which farmers are called upon to pay on the money they owe.
– Under this measure the States may determine to give relief to the wheat-growers in a form whichwill reduce the costs of production, and the reduction of interest rates may be an important factor in that respect. Therefore, the banks are likely to benefit considerably at the hands” of this friendly Government.
Throughout the bill there is no mention of any direct relief to the unemployed. While we, on this side, shall do nothing to prevent assistance being given to the farmers, because they are undoubtedly in need of it, at the same time we want it to be clearly understood that the poorer sections of the .community are suffering hardships just as great as those suffered by the farmers. That fact should be well known to, and accepted by, the members of the Country party, on whose account this measure has been introduced. Christmas is near at hand, and the only relief that the unemployed are likely to receive is :i Christmas dinner at the relief depot. The remission of taxation now proposed to be made to the wealthy interests of this community will amount to approximately £700;000. That is an excellent Christmas box for them. But, contrast their happy lot with the sad and pitiful lot of the unemployed. The people will pass judgment upon this Government in their own time, and we are hoping that, when that judgment is passed, the government of this country will be placed in the hands of a party which will right these wrongs with a vengeance. No real personal sacrifice is being made by the wealthy interests at this time of stress. The poorer sections of the community have made great sacrifices, and to. register our protest against the Government’s attitude, I move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out with a view to insert in Heu thereof the words, “ there shall be no remission of land taxation until the . Government is prepared to introduce legislation to restore to invalid and old-age pensioners the benefits taken from them by the Financial Emergency Act.”
It is strange that the proposed remission of land taxation approximates the amount taken from the invalid and old-age pensioners under the last amendment of the Financial Emergency Act. The Government, originally proposed to take £1,100,000 from the pensioners; but, because of the agitation that followed, even within its own ranks, it finally modified, so it alleged, its proposals, although actually, greater hardships were imposed upon the pensioners. However, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) declared that the saving under the amended legislation would be in the vicinity of £750,000. The remission of land taxunder this bill will amount to £700,000. Therefore, the poorer sections of the com.munity, particularly those who pioneered the development of this country and made it possible, to a large extent, for those who to-day pay land tax to become wealthy members of the community, have to bear additional sacrifices so that those wealthy interests may benefit. The amendment which I have moved, if accepted, will not remove the measure from the noticepaper. It is a direction to the Government to reconsider its proposals in the light of our criticism and the serious position of the old-age and invalid pensioners. As the measure does not make any reference to the reductions in Public Service salaries and maternity allowances, it would be hardly competent for me to bring them under the scope of my amendment, which therefore deals only with invalid and old-age pensions, which are specifically referred to in the bill. We are, therefore, attacking the Government in respect of its action in penalizing invalid and old-age pensioners, mindful all the time of their circumstances, and’ hoping to have an early opportunity to ease their sufferings, and to bring at least some relief and contentment into the homes of the poorer classes of the community.
.- This Bill has been called by various names; but in my opinion, it might well be described as “ Joseph’s coat “ or “ The patch-work quilt “ bill, because the subjects with which it deals are as diverse as the colours of those particular articles. This is the third financial emergency measure which has been introduced into this House, and I am wondering why honorable members are discussing it so quietly. It may, of course, be that the Leader of the Opposition feels that he cannot complain, because he introduced the original measure in the last Parliament.
I have received from justices of the peace and a mayor in my district requests for copies of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to enable them to assist pensioners. I have had to send them copies of five . measures, which are so voluminous as to provide almost sufficient paper to warm up a bath heater. When they receive those five copies of legislation they are likely to be put to considerable trouble in trying to gather their meaning. I hope that in the interests of the pensioners themselves these measures will be consolidated. The Government has introduced these financial emergency measures in a manner which is unbusinesslike, and likely to bring the Parliament itself into contempt.
– There is only one bill because this is emergency legislation.
– There is every probability that some parts of this emergency and, allegedly, temporary legislation, will remain on the statute-book as long as this Parliament House will stand; it has been denominated a “ provisional “ structure. What is the purpose of bringing so many subjects under one bill ? Perhaps the intention is to obviate the need for four or five second-reading debates. The Leader of the Opposition has called this an omnibus bill, but I am inclined to think that if the Government is not very careful, it will find it to be a missthebus bill. I am not likely to meet with the approval of the Ministry, when I say that this is not the appropriate time to make reductions of taxation. It is evident that some of the taxation which is being remitted will have to be re- imposed. By the bill itself the reduction of land tax by one-third, the reduction of the exemption in respect of the property super tax to £250, and the exemptions under the sales tax are all limited to this financial year, showing that there is some fear in the minds of the originators of the bill of the effect of these alterations. Take the speeches of the Prime Minister himself. In his budget speech he dealt carefully with the fact that we had been given relief under the Hoover moratorium, making a subsequent statement a few weeks ago; and even in making his speech on this bill, he adopted an apologetic attitude. What is the motive behind this bill. Naturally, we look for a political motive behind any particular move of the Government. Governments generally remit taxation on the eve of an election, but there is no election near at hand, so this Government cannot be accused of having been actuated by that consideration on this occasion, and it is entitled to credit on that account. What then is the reason that actuated it? I do not wish to look at the subject from the point of view of party politics. It seems to me that the Government has made this move principally in an endeavour to placate the wealthier interests of the community, which have brought pressure to bear on it. I admit that I may ‘be wrong in this conclusion, and I do not want to be unfair. But I cannot find any other reason to explain its action except, perhaps, the one advanced by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), that the remission of this taxation is designed to relieve unemployment.
It has been said by honorable members of the Opposition that the Government has deliberately reduced old-age and invalid pensions, and the pay of civil servants, and has limited the scope of the maternity allowance, with the object of benefiting the wealthy people of Australia. I hope that that is not so. I can hardly believe that some of the honorable members on this side of the chamber who owe their position in this House to the votes of old-age and invalid pensioners, civil servants, and people with” salaries and wages which would bring them within the figure that governs eligibility for the maternity allowance, would be so base to those constituents as to afflict them in this way simply to benefit the wealthier interests of Australia. It seems to me, therefore, that this move has been made because the wealthy people of Australia have demanded their pound of flesh, particularly in the shape of a reduction of land taxation. Probably the Government is granting this relief in the hope that it may be possible to continue it, but, in view of the big possibility of our having to reimpose the taxation before very long, it is, in my opinion, proceeding along unsound lines. It is unpopular to oppose the reduction of taxation, but I cannot forget that Australia is now experiencing one of the most bountiful seasons in her history. I have just travelled the 1,000 miles which separates Canberra from Adelaide, and I have seen on every hand the evidences of a most prolific harvest. In view of this fact, and also having in mind the financial position of the country, I say this is not the time to reduce taxation.
– “What is the harvest worth ?
– I may have something to say on that subject later. A certain amount of confidence has been restored in Australia, and we should do nothing to diminish it. But if the Government should find it necessary, a little later, to re-impose the taxation which it is now lifting, that renewed confidence will undoubtedly be sadly shaken. A government which backs and fills will undo much of the good that has been done.
– Is the honorable member a prophet?
– My name may be Moses, but I do not profess to be a prophet.
– Order! The honorable member who is addressing the Chair must be heard in silence. All interjections are disorderly and are likely to cause further disorder. I have called the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) to order on several occasions. I hope that he will not make it necessary for me to do so again.
– We have hanging over us the shadow of the war debt funding arrangement, under which we may be called upon to pay £5,900,000 per annum, including exchange, to the British Government. If the Hoover moratorium is ended, we shall have to find £2,400,000 by the end- of June. In the face of this fact, we should not do anything to dry up the sources of our revenue. If a business man had to face the possibility of meeting a heavy obligation, he would not limit his income in any direction. In addition to our war debt obligation, we have a floating debt which may amount to £100,000,000 by the end of this year. Seeing that we are not fully meeting our overseas commitments, and have this floating debt to cope with, we should not be reducing our capacity to meet our obligations. I contend that whatever surplus ‘ revenue we have should be used to redeem treasurybills.
One of the tests of greatness in individuals and in nations is the capacity for self-sacrifice. I believe that the failure of certain people in this community to make the sacrifices that are asked of them in the interests of the country is an indication that they have a yellow streak in them. That is not a popular statement to make, but I make it definitely and deliberately in this National Parliament. When a crisis is facing a country, requests for remission of taxation should not be made by people who are able to do without such remissions, and the making of such requests is an indication of the presence of a yellow streak. Wo have forced certain people in this country who are supposed to be defenceless to make very definite sacrifices; but we may find that they are not so defenceless as we think them to be. Having dealt severely with the unfortunate people in our community by reducing their pensions, we should not now deal generously with wealthy land-owners by remitting land taxation to them. I know that this statement may getme into trouble. Some people who voted for me at the last election are big land-holders, who, I think, would not vote for a member of the Labour party; but whatever may be the future consequences of my action, I shall vote against this proposal for the remission of land taxation, because it will, inmy opinion, relieve principally wealthy city landlords. I am glad that provision is being made for a widening of the scope of what is known as the hardship section of the Land Tax Assessment Act. In our present circumstances that is all that we should do. If large land-holders engaged in primary production are suffering so severely through the heavy fall in the price of their products that they are not. able to meet their commitments, we should grant them relief. But it seems to me that the principal relief from the reduction by one-third of the rate of land tax will be enjoyed by city landlords. I listened attentively to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). I do not wish to flatter anybody, but even when this Parliament met in Melbourne I found the right honorable gentleman a reliable authority on taxation measures. Knowing that he has a reputation in this regard, I am sure he would be most careful in the preparation of his speech on this subject. For this reason I have been waiting for some honorable gentleman on this side of the chamber to disprove the right honorable gentleman’s assertion that twothirds of the amount of land tax remitted would be saved by large city land-owners. I shall not advance any statistics on this point; but, so far as I can gather, it will be the large city land-owners, and not the country land-owners, who will most benefit by the remission of land taxation. We must not lose sight of the fact that no one pays federal land taxation unless he owns a property the unimproved value of which is more than £5,000. The Leader of the Opposition stated in his speech that a man who had a property, the unimproved value of which was £10,000, and had spent £4,000 on improvements to it, would be taxed on only £1,000, and the amount of his tax would be only £4. There .are not many wheat-farmers, or dairy-farmers, or orchardists, or marketgardeners, in our country districts who have properties of sufficient value for them to be affected by the remission of this taxation.
I join issue with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who, in the course of their speeches on this measure, said that it would be wise for the Commonwealth to evacuate the field of laud taxation in favour of the States. They said that as the States had provided the roads and railways which had given the land its value, the States alone should’ be entitled to tax the land. I shall pass by the postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and wireless facilities which have been provided by the Commonwealth Government to come to one vitally important factor in this situation. Australia has a war debt of £226,000,000. One df the reasons why the war was fought was to protect property. The main reason, of course, was to protect life.
– Property first !
– I entirely disagree with the honorable member. The war was fought principally to protect life. But the defence of property was also a. consideration. Are our large land-holders to be relieved of the obligation to meet a proportion of the cost of the war by land taxation ? I believe that a definite obligation rests on our large land-holders who can afford to pay land tax to pay it, in order to help us to meet our war indebtedness. That is one reason why I am strongly opposed to the land tax provisions of this bill.
Another factor in the situation is that many of the men who fought to defend this property, and many of their dependants, have either directly or indirectly had their pensions reduced. Those whose properties they defended should be prepared to bear their portion of the burden until some part of our war debt obligation has been removed.
The honorable member for Forrest said that the Land Tax Act, which was introduced by the Fisher Government, has been successful in breaking up large estates. It can still usefully be employed in that direction. The effect of the act was not felt during the inflation and the constant increase of prices which” followed the war, and land-owners continued enlarging their areas because it seemed profitable so to do. The act can still be .used to break up those big holdings.
I disagree with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) when he says that it is the secondary industries to which we must look to absorb our unemployed. The best way to help them is to place them on the land. This reduction in the rate of land tax will not help much in that direction. Why are many of the big farmers and squatters in their present difficulties ? Some honorable members will say, because of their enterprise, their initiative and ambition. Too many are in their present position because of their greed. Many who were in safe financial positions when the boom began, over-reached themselves, with the result that their castles are now tumbling about their ears. If it is true that they have made the gamble and lost, it ill becomes them to cry when asked to stand up to their obligations as taxpayers.
– These rates were imposed when things were prosperous.
– I have not examined the variation in rates over a number of years, but even if what the honorable member says is right, I still contend that these people should bear their part of the burden.
– The old rates were 10 per cent, lower than when the act was amended in 1914-15.
– I am glad to have that information. I cannot condemn the sales tax exemptions, for the very reason that I have asked the Government to exempt certain commodities used by primary producers. Only last week, I asked that the Government should exempt olive oil, hessian, caustic soda, and drain pipes, knowing that the dried fruits producers would benefit thereby, for those persons are likely to be in difficulty as a result of falling prices.
Some weeks ago I made a request, which I now repeat, that the department should be satisfied with two returns a year from taxpayers who pay sales tax amounting to less than £1 a month ; that those who pay £2a month should furnish only four returnsa year, while those Who pay more shouldfurnish a monthly return as at present. That would not involve any loss of revenue to the Government, as thetaxpayerscould still deposit their bond or savings bank book. It would, however, effect aconsiderable saving in administrative costs, which are not inconsiderable,for the last estimates reveal that 104 new employees have been put on since theintroduction of a sales tax.
I am pleased that the Government now intendsto allow the Commissioner for Pensions or his deputy to use his discretion in regard to obtaininga mortgage on property obviously purchased for a pensioner by his children or other near relatives. Only last week the case was brought to my notice of a man who died intestate inSouth Australia. Under the law of that State one-third of the estate went to theman’s wife and twothirds to his sonand daughter. The estate consisted of a home. The children arranged that the mother should take-over the home during her lifetime, provided that she bequeathed it in equal shares to the two children when she died. She said to me, “ I feel that I can ill afford to give up the pension, but I likewise feel that I cannot eat up my children’s share in this house. I hardly know what to do.” Undertheact as it previously stood, the Commissioner could not have exempted that property from the claim made by his department. That can now be done. I know that the Commissioner and his deputy previously had the will to exempt a property in such circumstances. Now they have the authority to do so.
I am also pleased with the alteration providing that a person may transfer his property to the Commonwealth, and sobecome entitled to a pension. I was surprised at the opposition of the honorable member for, Hunter (Mr. James) to the proposal, and canonly assume that hemisunderstood the intention of the clause. I think it is a splendid arrangement. It wassaid that the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell)first mentioned such a scheme in the House. I am not concerned about its authorship, but I also made a similar suggestionwhen we were dealing with the matter of the closing of the doors of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. I put forward the plea thatthe Government should take over propertywhich was of no use to pensioners because it was notrevenueproducing, and give them a pension. I had a case brought before my notice this week of a woman who wasbequeathed seven blocks of land, valued by the department at £100. Under the act she is entitled to own property to the value of £50. Areductionof £1 is made for every £10 worth ofproperty she owns in excess of £60, which meant a reductionof £5 a year -off thewoman’s pension, orapproximately 2s. per week. Because of that imaginary income of 2s., she loses & second2s. 6d., ora total of 4s. 6d. a week, to which must be added the 2s. 6d. taken from pensioners generally.
– There are thousands of similar cases.
Mr.GABB. - I suppose there are. Under the amended act, it will be possible for the woman to make over four of those blocks to the department, which will leave her with property to the value of less than £50, and enable her to draw the 4s. 6d. of which she was previously deprived. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) object to’ the new provisions. He said that the Commonwealth will have all such properties on its hands. But if the Commonwealth declares that properties are worth so much to applicants, it must be prepared to accept them at a similar valuation.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) said that he would rather have £2,000,000 taken out of revenue for a wheat bounty than have £3,000,000 taken out of loan money to assist the growers. I think we all agree with him. But I ask is there any honorable member so optimistic as to think that it is a certainty that this £2,000,000 will come out of revenue? If rumour be true, the banks have refused to advance a wheat bounty from loan. I think that this position will develop: There will be a deficit at the end of the year, and the banks, through the medium of treasury-* bills, will have to finance that deficit. So that, although they will not advance a wheat bounty out of a loan, they will, indirectly, be forced to do what amounts to the same thing. We had better repress our jubilation until events prove whether I am right or wrong. Having objected to a reduction, of taxation, I am in a somewhat invidious position in saying that assistance should be granted to wheat-growers. Some honorable members may argue, “ If you are not prepared to reduce taxation on other sections of the community, you should be prepared to ask the wheat-growers to make the full sacrifice, and put up with things.” I am sure that, from a national point of view, that cannot be done. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, I am not a wheat-grower, and therefore do not speak with the diffidence which some honorable members who are wheat-growers must naturally feel. I also have the advantage of representing practically a nonwheatgrowing area. Only three of my subdivisions are wheat-growing areas. I represent dried and fresh fruit-growers, wool-growers, dairymen, wine producers, honey producers, market gardeners, and about 20,000 metropolitan electors. Yet I confess that, in my opinion, with the exception of the unemployed, the wheat-grower is in the worst position of all. We must do something to help the wheat-growers, and I shall support any proposal which will put cash into the hands of the most needy amongst them. Those in the Mallee portion of my electorate are in dire need; they want money to carry on their industry, and some of them are actually lacking necessaries of life, despite the fact that they are supposed to receive assistance from the State bank. This Parliament is shelving its responsibility when’ it practically declares that .the Commonwealth is not able to control the distribution of the proposed grant. The payment of the previous bounty of 4£d. a bushel, involving a .total expenditure of £3,500,000, was carried through without a hitch. I may be told that the States know more about the wheat-growers than we do, but I question whether they could distribute the money more effectively and economically than the last bounty was distributed. Of course the last bounty was on a production basis. The Government seems to be determined not to adopt that basis on this occasion, because of possible inequities, some farmers receiving it who were not in need, and the most necessitous receiving little or nothing. One clause of the bill provides for assistance to reduce the cost of production, and I am informed that an amendment will be proposed in committee to include the reduction of the cost of transport and marketing. I shall support such a proposal, particularly if to reduce the cost of marketing a direct payment is to be made to the wheat-growers. They should receive the equivalent of the freight to the seaboard. Those furthest inland, who have to pay the heaviest freights both ways, are most in need of such assistance, and’ I hope, therefore, that the payment will not be at a flat rate, regardless of the distance over which the wheat has to be carried. I have received to-day from the South Australian Co-operative Wheat Pools Limited, an organization which, like its ally, the South Australian Co-operative Farmers Union, has proved itself a friend to the farmer, the following letter, of which I hope the Government will take notice : -
The directors of the South Australian Cooperative Wheat Pools Limited and the South Australian Farmers Co-operative Union Limited, yesterday met a number of representative wheat-growers and considered the matter of the proposed distribution of the money to be allocated for the relief of farmers by the Federal Government,’ and I have been requested to convey to you the following summary of the opinions expressed at this meeting: -
1 ) That federal members be requested to urge that no restrictions be imposed by the Federal Government in regard to the payment of a bounty on wheat for the season 1932-33.
That the most equitable manner for distribution of such bounty appears to be a payment of, say, 2d. a bushel on all wheat produced, with a limit of £60 to any individual grower, unless a definite need of further assistance could be established.
It is estimated that on the above basis approximately £400,000 would be absorbed by the bounty, leaving approximately £120,000 to bo applied in assisting financially embarrassed farmers, particularly those whose crops may prove to have totally or partially failed. .
The balance of the money remaining, if any, could be distributed later on a production basis.
That advice is from bodies that understand the wheatindustry, and desire to deal fairly with the growers. It appears to me that a bounty of 2d. a bushel on production is practicable. I may be told that again we shall be helping those who are least in need ; but the £60 limit will meet that objection to some extent. If that system were applied to the whole of Australia, a bounty of 2d. a bushel on an estimated harvest of 200,000,000 bushels would cost £1,666,666, and there would be left £333,334 to meet the special needs of those farmers who were in the greatest difficulty. There should be no insuperable obstacles to the distribution of such a grant. “Where there is a will there is a way. The intelligence of State Parliaments is not greater than the intelligence of this Parliament. If this House were not so much under the influence of the Christmas holiday spirit, which is all too evident, we should still have time to do our job, instead of shelv ing the responsibility of deciding the manner in which the Commonwealth assistance to the wheat-growers shall be distributed.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [8.53].- I hope that the Opposition will always be able to find some good in Government measures. To some of the provisions of this bill the members of the Labour party have no objection, although we should like to see them liberalized. Others are distinctly objectionable. For instance, we are opposed to the remission of taxation so soon after the Government has savagely reduced invalid and old-age pensions and Public Service salaries. The time is not opportune for such remissions of taxation to the wealthy sections of the community. I am glad that the bill proposes to remove some of the hardships imposed by recent amendments of the pensions law. When the members of the Opposition drew attention to those hardships, and urged that they should be removed, we were told that we were merely engaging in party political propaganda. We are gratified to find that, although the Government has not gone so far as we then urged, it is proposing a small measure of relief to the aged and infirm. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has moved an amendment to provide that no taxation shall be remitted until the amounts taken from the old-age pensioners have been restored. I shall support that proposal.
The federal land tax is not an emergency measure; it has been in operation for many years, and cannot be said to have weighed so heavily on the struggling primary producers as some honorable gentlemen have alleged. There is a £5,000 exemption, and, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, two-thirds of the tax is paid by city interests, such as the big chain stores, newspaper proprietaries, banking institutions, and insurance companies. The small struggling farmer does not pay the tax at all. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the taxation payable on land of an unimproved value of £5,000, £10,000 and £20,000 respectively, and the fourteenth annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation for 1927-28 - a normal year - shows that the total land tax paid on town lands was £1,929,000, and on country lands only £913,000. Two-thirds of the relief proposed to be given by the Government will be enjoyed by town landlords, and big commercial companies, and only one-third by the country land-owner. The Government first estimated a deficit of £2,781,000. This was arrived at in the budget speech by estimating a falling off in income tax collections of £3,482,000 including £806,000 reductions of customs and excise duties. Subsequent events showed the absurdity of the Treasurer’s calculations. The Government, after taking £1,100,000 from invalid and old-age pensioners, and reducing public servants’ salaries, showed an estimated surplus for 1932-33 of £12,000. Only four months of the financial year have elapsed and already the surplus is £2,707,000, but instead of giving back to the invalid and old-age pensioners and the lower-paid public servants the amounts of which they have been deprived, the Government is proposing to remit federal land tax and income tax, and to make other concessions’ to the wealthy sections. The Prime Minister stated that the proposed reduction of the land tax by one-third will mean a loss to the Treasury of between £600,000 and £700,000. Of that relief town land-owners will enjoy approximately £460,000,. and country landowners only £240,000, and the latter, I again remind the House, are not struggling farmers.. The present Government has shown that it has adopted the- policy of pushing the poorer sections further. down, and of helping the richer sections of the community.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) now praises the Government for. remitting taxation, but when, he was Treasurer in 1921-22, the amount received from income tax was £16,790,000 as against approximately £10,000,000 this year. Speaking on the 13th October, 1930, the right honorable gentleman said that he made no complaint of the incidence of taxation. He did not complain of it being high, but, in his opinion, then- was the time the people should tax themselves with the object of reducing the public debt. In his 1924-25 budget speech, the right honorable member, as Treasurer, said-
These are continuing obligations and though the war is over there arc still heavy commitments for war pensions, interest and sinking fund on War debts.
According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 16th October, the right honorable member for Cowper stated -
For three years Australia has been trying to achieve prosperity by piling on taxation. Surely it is time we tried lightening the load.
I do not think that any one really believes that Australia ha3 been trying to achieve prosperity by piling on taxation, but increased taxation has been found to be unavoidable. Some honorable members opposite have said that we must meet our obligations to the last shilling, yet they are apparently opposed to increasing taxation. How are we to discharge our obligations if we do not impose emergency taxation ? The Scullin Government was forced to do so,, but the federal land tax cannot be described as an emergency tax, and. there is no justification for a reduction until after the pension cuts have been restored.
This bill also provides a measure of assistance for the wheat-farmers. I am interested in this matter, because I gave the matter’ a lot of consideration when I was Acting Minister for Markets. I was surprised to hear the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr’.- Paterson.) speak in such mild criticism of the Government’s proposals for the relief- of the wheat-growers. He said-
While we have been unable to work up a great deal of enthusiasm over the Government’s proposal for the assistance of the Wheatgrowers, we have gained some measure of satisfaction from the fact that the Govern’ ment has modified its- original proposal.
I thought that the honorable member would have come out with’ a- strong condemnation of the inadequacy of the Government’s proposal for assisting the growers. I was pleased to observe that at’ least some members of the Country party in this House stood up for the principles which they advocated on’ the public platform outside, and have been adopted by organizations’ of farmers and settlers and by the wheat-growers’ associations. They asked for something more than sympathy ; they want practical assistance, and a cash benefit for the wheat-growers.
The Government’s proposed scheme for assisting the wheat-growers is, in my opinion, totally inadequate. The Government might at least have given as much as the Scullin Government provided last year. It cannot be denied that Australia is in a somewhat better financial position this year than she was in last year, due largely to the policy initiated by the Scullin Administration. Last year a bounty of 41/2d. a bushel was paid, although wheat was fetching 9d. a bushel more than it is this year. If it was necessary last year to pay a cash bounty in order to help the thousands of struggling wheat-growers, how much more necessary is it this year, if we are to prevent millions of acres of wheat land from going out of cultivation ?Where are the champions of the wheat-growers who last year filled the ranks of the Nationalist party when it was the Opposition? Where are the members of the Country party who so stoutly defended the interests of the wheat-growers, and endeavoured to embarrass the Scullin Government?
– We are here.
– The honorable member is one of the new-comers, and I am glad to see that he is prepared to demand something more than the Government proposes to give. Other honorable members of the Country party, together with their Nationalist colleagues, were very vehement, when in opposition, in their condemnation of what was described as the lethargic attitude of the Scullin Government to the needs of the wheatgrowers. I am disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to pay to the growers an export bounty, or a bounty on sales. The Prime Minister said that there was no justification for a bounty on wheat. The Government has vacillated a great deal in connexion with this matter, and, indeed, on several other matters since it has been in office. It has made half a dozen decisions, having been driven from one to the other by public clamour. A large gathering of wheatgrowers was held at Wagga on Saturday last, at which Mr. E. E. Field, president of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, stated -
Throughout the length and breadth of the wheat-growing areas in Australia there was a strong opposition to the bonus to superphosphate. It was thought that a bounty on export wheat would be of immense benefit because it would mean the raising also of the home market to the extent of the export bonus. Unfortunately for the primary producers of the Commonwealth, the Minister for Commerce was not familiar with the problems of the man on the land. There was no proposition put before the deputation by either Mr. Lyons or the Minister for Commerce which would be of any benefit to the wheat-growers of Australia.
Other speakers also said that the Government had failed miserably to meet its obligations to the wheat-growers. The Prime Minister showed his lack of knowledge of the wheat industry when he declared that a bounty on wheat would mean that many prosperous wheatfarmers would receive the benefit of the bounty, as well as those in financial difficulties. The money, he said, would be made available only to farmers in necessitous circumstances. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) told us this afternoon that the Prime Minister’s statement should not be interpreted to mean that the moneywould be paid only to those farmers in actual financial difficulties. He said that the needs of the farmers might relate to costs of production. I have taken the trouble to look up the word “ need “ in the dictionary, and here is the definition supplied -
Need. - A state that requires supply or relief; pressing occasion for something; urgent want; lack; necessity; want of the means of subsistence; poverty; indigence; destitution.
Clause 28 of the bill is as follows: -
The Minister of State for Commerce may, out of the amount appropriated under this part, provide assistance and benefits to wheatgrowers in any territory by -
The Prime Minister has told us that the money will be made available through the States to assist necessitous cases, and we have the dictionary definition of the word “ need “ to the effect that it means even poverty and indigence. Apparently it is the Government’s intention to ask the growers a couple of hundred questions or so in order to find out the extent of their necessity, in the same manner as it proposes to question pensioners.
– -On what occasion did the Prime Minister use the word “ necessitous “ ?
– He used it when speaking to a deputation of wheatgrowers which waited upon him.
– That is not correct, because I led that deputation, and I know what was said.
– I read a newspaper statement to the effect that the Prime Minister had said that the money was to be made available for the relief of necessitous cases. Mr. Field, president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, told the Wagga farmers so. In any case, that was obviously what he meant. He said that the money would not be made available to any farmers not in real need, and that it would be unfair to give it to prosperous farmers. Where are the prosperous wheat-growers when wheat is being sold at ls. a bushel below the cost of production ? A few years ago, when wheat, over a period of 5 years, had averaged 5s. ltd. a bushel, many wheat-growers were prosperous, but now most of them are practically bankrupt. I know what I am talking about, because I am familiar with conditions in the Riverina. What is wanted is some practical assistance to the industry as a whole, not to individuals. I realize that a multiplication of bounties is objectionable, but many necessary things are objectionable. Strychnine is objectionable, but it is sometimes necessary to administer it in cases of sickness. The wheat industry provides employment for a great many people, and I believe that it is the duty of the whole nation to come to the assistance of the industry at this time.
The growers of Queensland were strongly opposed to the Government’s original scheme for subsidizing the purchase of superphosphate. We have been told that Queensland does not deserve any assistance, because the consumers of wheat in that State pay the growers 3s. 6£d. a bushel. I remind honorable members, however, that the people of Australia are not paying that price. It is the people of Queensland who are doing so, and any assistance given by the Commonwealth Government should be extended to all the States, Queensland included; otherwise a breach of the Constitution is committed. Queensland would not have benefited under the proposal to subsidize the purchase of fertilizers, because in that State fertilizers are not used to any extent in the wheat-growing area. Fortunately, the Government has seen the error of its ways, and the big bonus which was to go to the manufacturers of fertilizers will be curtailed. Queensland will now receive something, though it will be only a niggardly £40,000 out of the £2,000,000 which is to be distributed to assist wheatgrowers.
When the Scullin Government was in office, everything possible was done over a period of 26 months to help the wheatgrowers. The Leader of the Opposition, at that time the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), speaking in October, 1931, to the Wheat Bounty Bill introduced by the Minister for Markets (Mr. Moloney), said -
This measure is entitled “ The Wheat Bounty Bill 1031 “. The Minister must have very nearly run out of titles for the purpose of describing bis benevolent endeavours to do something by legislation in relation to wheat-
It showed that at least the then Leader of the Opposition recognized that, as so many attempts had been made to help the wheat-growers of Australia, the Minister in control must have run out of suitable titles for a new bill. The Minister for Markets at the time introduced into this chamber the Wheat Marketing Bill, which provided a bounty of 4£d. a bushel on all sales of wheat.
In 1930 the Scullin Government introduced the Wheat Advances Bill, and on the 18th March, 1931, the Fiduciary Note Issue Bill, which provided for a measure of assistance to the wheatgrowers in the form of loans to necessitous growers amounting to £2,500,000, and a bounty of 6d. a bushel on the quantity of wheat sold or delivered for sale to the extent of 75 per cent, of the quantity sold or delivered for sale. That worked out at a flat rate of 4-)d. a bushel on the quantity sold or delivered for sale. That legislation was unfortunately defeated in another place, and the Scullin Government was, therefore, unable to make money available to assist the wheatgrowers. At the end of 1931, the then Minister for Markets introduced further legislation, providing for a bounty of 4$d. a bushel. The bill passed both Houses of Parliament, and an amount of £3,400,000 was paid to the wheat-growers.
– By this Government.
– That amount of money would have been paid by the Scullin Government had it remained in office. The honorable member cannot take from that Administration the credit due to it.
– Why does not the honorable member state that the Scullin Government insisted upon the State Governments accepting the responsibility for half of any loss incurred under the guarantee scheme?
– The honorable member is referring to the original legislation introduced in 1930 by the Seullin Government which provided for an Australian-wide scheme for the marketing of Australian wheat. Wheat pools were to be established in the various States, but some of the States dropped out of the scheme. The idea was to establish State boards which would fix the price of wheat for home consumption and also an Australian wheat pool for the control of the export of wheat from Australia. If that legislation were in operation to-day, the wheat industry of Australia could be placed upon a sound footing by the fixation of a price which would give a reasonable return to the wheat-growers. Unfortunately, certain members of the Country party were not so enthusiastic about the bill when it came before another place. Senator Johnston, a prominent member of that party, voted against the measure, and excused his action by saying that the State Government of Western Australia would, if the measure were passed, be called upon to meet half the cost of any loss that might be incurred in that State. He also opposed the bill on the ground, as expressed in his statement to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 25th July, 1930, that the Wheat Marketing Bill was a socialistic measure, based on the policy of the Labour party for State control of the means of production. He added that he was glad that the measure had been defeated. A number of other members of the Country party, although opposed to the measure, had not the courage to make their attitude- known to the wheatgrowers of Australia as Senator Johnston did.
– That is largely guesswork.
– The honorable member for New England was an exception. On the 16th December, 1930, at page 1549 of Hansard, he is reported to have said -
We know that the Commonwealth Government has been almost flogged to death by critics for not having done anything to help the wheat-farmers. Honorable members on this side of the House, including members of my own party, have been demanding almost daily for weeks past that the Government should do something before the House rose. The Government has at last come down with a proposal which is closer to what the farmers want than anything mooted since the Wheat Marketing Bill. I did not expect that the Government would make this last-minute effort. I realize that if the Government had stood to its guns, as it had a Tight to do, in view of the treatment which its Wheat Marketing Bill received in the Senate, the farmers were going to be in a very bad way in the new year, and honorable members on this side of the House would not have been able to make out a very strong case against the Government. . . . Parliament has not the money, and it must look to the bank to provide it. What is a paltry £4,000,000 in comparison with the resources of Australia?
The honorable member for New England was prepared to give the then Labour Government credit for attempting to assist the wheat-growers of this country.
– I still hold that opinion.
– The late member for Wimmera (Mr. Percy Stewart) was an outstanding advocate for the wheatgrowers of this country, and when speaking on the Wheat Advances Bill in 1930, in reply to the Nationalist leader’s suggestion that the money should be made available to necessitous farmers, he said -
Yet, if the yard stick of the Leader of the Opposition were employed, the man who grew the least wheat would get the most bounty. In exceptional cases that might result in subsidizing inefficiency and discouraging the grower who works hardest and adopts the most up-to-date methods.
I have received a letter from a prominent wheat-grower who, four or five years ago, was one of the prosperous wheat-growers who, at that time, the Government did not wish “to assist. To-day his resources are low, and he writes as follows : -
If the whole of the agricultural workers received no wages at all, and the wheat was carried free of. charge, and the hags provided by the storekeepers gratis, the growers could not possibly show a surplus on the present ridiculously low prices which they are asked to accept.
That is an adequate reply to those honorable members who say that costs must bc reduced in the wheat industry by dispensing with the fixation of wages and the restriction of the hours of employment. In some of the country areas the storekeepers have on their books bad debts amounting to from ?100,000 to ?150,000.
Let me point to some of the inconsistencies of members of the present Government regarding the methods to be adopted in assisting the wheat-growers of Australia. Senator Pearce, when in opposition, and speaking on the 22nd October, 1931, said -
Why did not the Government provide for a bounty not exceeding Od. a bushel on all wheat sold, and definitely fix the total amount of bounty payable at ?3,000,000?
That honorable senator was strong in his condemnation of the Scullin Government. On the other hand, Mr. Walters, of the Country party of Victoria, referring to the Scullin Government, said -
The Labour party were triers, and saw eye to eye with the producers and those working on the land, considering that every man and woman was worthy of their hire and entitled to fair wages and better conditions.
Senator Pearce is today Leader of the Government in the Senate. When in opposition on the 30th October, 1931, he said -
I regret that under the revised proposal a bounty is not paid on an export basis, but I am not prepared to delay the passage merely because I cannot get all that I think desirable.
One would think from that statement that the Nationalist, party, when it assumed office, would be prepared to pay a bounty on all wheat, exported. What has caused that right honorable senator and his colleagues, now that their party is in power, to change their minds? Why do they not pay a bounty on all wheat exported ? The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), when in opposition, strongly advocated a sales tax on flour. A number of other honorable members took a similar attitude, but only with the object of embarrassing the government of the day. They said that the position of the wheat-growers was so serious that immediate relief should be given to them. On the 22nd October, 1931, Senator Greene, who is now a member of the Government, said -
It would have been infinitely preferable if the Government had been in a position to pay a direct bounty to the farmers on the export of wheat, and I also agree entirely that the wheat-farmers to-day are entitled to any bounty which this party is in a position to offer, and that it is impossible for the great primary industries of wheat and wool to carry on as they are indefinitely at a loss. If we altered the bill, and remodelled it on the basis of a simple bounty, we should be doing something effective.
Those honorable senators should practice what they then preached. If at that time there was need to give immediate relief to the wheat-growers, that need is infinitely more pressing to-day, because the wheat-growers are receiving 9d. a bushel less than they received when those speeches were made. The Government is not facing the financial crisis which confronted the Scullin Government. On the Prime Minister’s own admission, for the first four months of this financial year there is a surplus of ?2,707,000. Senator Pearce, speaking in the Senate ou the 22nd October, 1931, in reference to the sales tax, said -
The Senate declared clearly and unmistakably that if the Government would agree to introduce, a bill imposing a sales tax on flour, the Senate would pass it. This would have provided real money for our wheatgrowers.
The Government did not take advantage of that offer because Ministers were afraid that it might mean an increase in the price of bread.
What is now wrong with all the schemes which these honorable gentleman advocated while they were in opposition? They seem to have been thrown overboard. In my opinion, they were advocated mainly to embarrass the Scullin Government, and not to assist the wheat-growers. Some of the members of the Country party favoured certain of these proposals, but it seems to me that even they wished to embarrass the Scullin Government more than they wished to assist the wheatgrowers. The members of the Country party should be more outspoken in their criticism of the present Government for its failure adequately to assist the wheatgrowers of Australia. They have been too complacent, and have taken their setbacks too philosophically. It is a pity there are not more men in the Country party like the late Mr. Percy Stewart, who always fearlessly advocated the cause of the wheat-growers.
This bill contains some good, and some bad provisions. “We hope that at the committee stage the Government will accept amendments to liberalize some of the good provisions, and that it will agree to the deletion of some of the objectionable features at present in the measure.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has referred to the small sum of money that is being allocated under this measure, for the assistance of the wheat-growers of Queensland; but the basis of the allocation is exactly the same as that provided in the bill introduced by the Government of which he was a member. Although the amounts provided were £64,411 under the previous measure, and £40,744 under this bill, the basis of calculation was the same.
– I said that £40,000 was a niggardly sum.
– If it is niggardly it is calculated on the basis adopted by the Scullin Government.
The farmers of Queensland have offered no objection on geographical grounds to this bill. The wheat bounty . measure introduced by the Scullin Government provided for a bounty on the basis of production, irrespective of where the farmers lived; the bill now before us provides for a grant to the States on exactly the same basis. On that score Queensland has no fault to find with the measure. Queensland is not a large wheat-producing State; but her area under wheat is increasing year by year. I represent the largest wheatgrowing area in the State. In 1922, we had 145,000 acresunder wheat cultivation, but to-day the area under wheat is 298,000 acres. Our annual yield has increased in the same period from 1,800,000 to 3,800,000 bushels. This in crease in yield is also due to the adoption of improved methods. Our farmers are able to cultivate better now than in former days. There is great promise of expansion in this industry in the big State of Queensland. At present, Queensland has no export wheat trade. Of course, our farmers would be glad if an amount larger than that appropriated couldbe made available for distribution; but the Government has seen fit to appropriate as much money as possible from revenue for this purpose, in preference to borrowing money for it. I am glad that this assistance can be granted out of revenue. As Queensland is not a wheat exporting State, its position is different from that of the wheat-growing States in the south. Our industry has been organized on a distinctive basis. A wheat pool has been established in an endeavour to assure a fair price to our wheat-growers. Unfortunately, the power of the State to set up certain control organizations is being challenged in the court. The Queensland Wheat Board made an agreement with a former State Government under which the Sugar Acquisition Act was brought into operation to help the wheat industry ; but owing to the failure of certain negotiations between the present Government and the board, no agreement has been arrived at, and it would appear that the board will be left as a seller on the open market. If it is not legally possible for a State to organize its rural industries with the object of ensuring a fair return to her primary producers, there will, in my opinion, be urgent need for a vital alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution to provide for an extension of the trade and commerce powers of this Parliament.
In view of the fact that our position is different from that of the other wheatproducing States, the question arises, what is the best means of assisting our wheat-growers. The Wheat Board and the wheat-growers are of the opinion that a bounty should be paid on production. Wheat-growing is in the hands of small land-holders in Queensland. Except in a very few instances, farms of the size of many in the southern States are not to be found in Queensland.
In that circumstance, it is felt that in Queensland the money allocated for the assistance of wheat-growers should be distributed on a production basis. It is suggested that the money could best be distributed through the Wheat Board. Subject to anything which may be said later in this debate, I regard the provisions of clause 27 as being unsuitable to Queensland conditions. It would be a mistake to make rigid conditions for the disbursement of this money. There should be a degree of elasticity to meet the circumstances of different States. Clause 27 of the bill provides that -
Any money paid to a State under this part shall be applied by the State for the benefit and assistance of wheat-growers by -
reducing the cost of production of wheat, and
providing for the needs of individual wheat-growers, but not upon the basis of the quantity of wheat produced by individual wheat-growers.
Paragraph a is, in my opinion, far too restrictive. What is meant by “ reducing the cost of the production of wheat”? The use of that phrase raises several serious problems. Production is carried on in different States under different conditions. At what point will production costs begin ? If a man has cleared scrub land, and put it under crop for the first time this year, will he be able to count the cost of clearing as part of the cost of production ? Will “ the cost of production “ be interpreted to mean only the purchase of seed, preparation of land, planting, sowing and harvesting? Again, after the wheat has been produced, it must be marketed, and in the marketing of it, transportation is necessary. Will these be factors for consideration? These questions make it obvious that some alteration will be necessary in this provision. The honorable member for Gippsland has intimated that he intends to move for an amendment of the clause to ensure that it will cover marketing, and so include transportation costs. In all the circumstances, I ask the Government seriously to consider the advisableness of leaving out, all the words after “wheatgrowers “ first occurring. This would enable a State to use its discretion in the distribution of the money. If the Queensland Government thinks it wise to use the machinery of the Wheat Board, it could then do so.
– But the Wheat Board may be disbanded following upon an adverse decision by the High Court.
– But its machinery might still be available for the distribution of the money.
I should also like to know what is meant by the words “ the needs of individual wheat-growers.” Evidently something more than production costs are to be taken into consideration in certain cases. The words may be open to the interpretation that it is the individual’s needs of carrying on the farm as a wheat-grower. The word “ needs “ may not even be restricted to the production of wheat. If it is intended that the money is to be for the benefit and assistance of wheatgrowers, to provide for the needs of individual cases, no limitation should be imposed. But the words “ but not upon the basis of the quantity of wheat produced by individual wheat-growers” restrict the preceding words, as though the Government did not want to take the idea of production into consideration. Yet, regarding the question as a whole, in some of the States that might be the fairest and best basis. I have been looking through statistics dealing with the areas under wheat in my constituency. It is surprising how relatively small are the blocks owned by individual holders. I think that, taking all of the farmers into consideration, the basis of production seems fair, and would obviate the inquisitorial examination which some honorable members seem to think necessary. I hope that the Government will bear these considerations in mind, and leave the clause as elastic as possible. There is not the slightest doubt as to the desire of the Government to make the measure as useful and beneficial as it can. I hope that it will arrange that the wishes ofthe Queensland wheat-growers are carried out. The only safe way is to make the intention of paragraph a plain, and the addition of the words “ transportation and marketing” would achieve that purpose. The wheat-growers of Queensland are looking and waiting with some anxiety for this assistance. The original proposal of the Government was to provide a bounty on superphosphates, which, of course, would have been useless to Queensland wheat-growers, who use practically none. Those growers did not suggest that the scheme should be altered, and others deprived of the benefit, but that as they did not use superphosphates Queensland’s proportion of assistance might be ratably increased. However, the original proposal has been withdrawn, and need not now be considered.
– Under the present arrangement, Queensland obtains an advantage.
– The second proposal to provide superphosphates applies only to primary producers, other than wheat-growers, and it will be of considerable assistance to those engaged in certain industries in Queensland.
I am pleased that there is to be a reduction in land taxation, but I would submit a reason different from some of those already given. “When the Constitution was framed, a wide power of taxation was given to the Commonwealth. That was absolutely necessary. A- nation was being created, and it was desirable that its parliament should have the widest possible national power, so that any emergency could be met. It was realized that the greatest portion of our revenue would be from indirect sources. Some of the statesmen concerned in the drafting of the Constitution made it perfectly clear that, though the power was there to impose direct taxation, it was desirable, so far as possible, to leave that source of revenue to the States. Sir Edmund Barton, who has now passed away, but whose ability to give a judicial interpretation on the Constitution is unquestioned, had this to say when speaking at Maitland on the 17th January, 1901-
Now as to taxation by the Commonwealth I may tell you that I feel quite as fully as any Treasurer could, that such a power is not to be harshly or rashly exercised. In this case any rash exercise of the power might be disastrous to every State. We have taken” over great obligations from the States, but we have taken over the customs with them, and you must recollect that if after the Commonwealth imposes its tariff the States require more revenue, they can only obtain it by direct taxation within the States. The exercise of the powers by the Commonwealth imposes on us an enormous responsibility, but in carrying out that responsibility they would interfere as little as possible with the States of the Commonwealth, as it was absolutely necessary to leave the field of direct taxation to the States. The States should bc studied in every way, and the early difficulties of so great a change made as little trying as possible.
His concluding words were -
There must be no direct taxation by the Commonwealth unless under the pressure of some great national emergency, and not even then if it can be avoided.
Mr. Reid, replying to those remarks during the campaign, made the following announcement, which savours of a political contest : -
Mr. Barton says he is against direct taxation in the Commonwealth, except in the case of emergency. As I pronounced this policy two or three weeks before, I am very glad Mr. Barton in this respect adopted my views.
That should be the governing idea of the Commonwealth to-day in its relation to the States. When land taxation was introduced, there was no national emergency to justify its imposition. Its purpose was to split up land in the States, and so bring about closer settlement. Many of us at chat time took a different view, and said that land policy and land legislation should be left with the States. When the war occurred, it was necessary to exercise any power of taxation that existed to meet the emergency. After the war, when we are removed from a state of emergency, and as finances improve, the idea should be for the Commonwealth to get back gradually to indirect taxation and leave direct taxation to the States. I support this amending bill, because I believe it to be a beginning towards the better allocation between the. Commonwealth and the States, of their respective powers of taxation.
I am pleased to note the amendments that are being made in regard to the pension law. It has to be borne in mind that the bill really amends a proposal which the Government itself brought down. I think that it will be desirable to repeal those provisions as quickly as possible, creating a charge for the pension over a pensioner’s home. From letters that .1 have received from old people whose homes have been built in some cases by help from their children, I know that pensioners are smarting under a great sense of injustice. So strong was the feeling in one instance, that a pensioner wrote saying that he would hand in his pension book rattier than suffer the injustice that would otherwise be inflicted on him. The amount of revenue that can be obtained from the operation of the clause is small, and cannot compensate for the feeling of resentment thus engendered. However, those are really matters to be discussed in committee. I intend to give my support generally to the bill.
.- As has been said by other honorable members, this measure embodies provisions amending a number of acts. It would have been preferable had we not departed from the old practice of having separate measures dealing with each subject. However, seeing that this is called a financial relief bill, it probably is quite right that the provisions for relief should be lumped together, especially as they are only of a temporary nature.
For some reason or other, whenever land or land tax is mentioned there arises the subject of the “ big man “. If you are in favour of land taxation, you are a “lover of democracy “, a supporter of the small man. If you are opposed to land tax, you are a “fat” man, and undemocratic. That is an entirely wrong way of looking at the matter. There are people who follow certain lines of economic thought, who say that all governmental income should come from the land. I instance the followers of Henry George. Such a scheme might be possible if we could get back to the old days of simple living. But our lives, both private and/business, are now so complex that it is idle to talk of the single land tax so beloved of the Henry George school, or to imagine that we could obtain omen tire national income from such a source.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) stated the real objection to a land tax. It is not a matter of favoring the small or big man, but a matter of correct national policy. As land is capital, there is no more reason why it should be taxed than the Governshould tax any other form of capital, such as a man’s clothes or his house. A person might have a little piece of land worth scarcely anything, and build a. palatial edifice upon it. That is his capital. It is not to be taxed. But if he happens to possess a large area of land he is taxed, simply because his capital happens to be in the form of land. It is right that land tax should’ be imposed on land not used but lying idle for speculative purposes. The Queensland Land Tax makes special provision to tax any land not used for productive purposes. I think that is right. But I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Soullin) that land-owners have no right to their “ unearned increment “ and therefore, should be taxed. When the unearned income is proved by means of a sale, it is taxed always by the State and, in some instances, by the Commonwealth. If a man has held a property for a period, the difference between what he paid for it and what he received for it is subject to income taxation. But the taxation of land is not taxation of unearned increment; at any rate, there can be no unearned increment on land bought five years ago and sold at the present time, because values have decreased. Yet the land tax, State and Federal, is still imposed. The agitation for a Commonwealth land tax is peculiar to the southern States; it is little in evidence in Queensland. The explanation is that the conditions in various States differ widely. In Victoria the State land tax was negligible; therefore, advocates of land taxation, instead of urging an increase of the State tax, advocated that the Federal Parliament should invade this sphere. In doing so, it penalized landowners throughout the Commonwealth, and the tax has now become a pence tax. The antagonism to the “big man” was directed, not only against the freeholder, but in the Maranoa and Kennedy districts, even against those who held leases from the Government. Some people are opposed to any holder of land, whether freehold or leasehold. That attitude of mind, I repeat, is peculiar to the southern States, and I cannot understand it. My view is that if land is unused, and held merely for a rise in the market, it should be taxed; but so long as land is being adequately used, particularly for primary production, upon which this country is dependent, it should be free of Commonwealth and State land taxation. If in a national or State emergency more revenue were needed, the responsibility for taxing land as such should be left entirely to the States. They were the original landlords, their laws control the lands, and, therefore, land taxation, if necessary or desirable at all, is a State responsibility. The sooner the Commonwealth steps out of this field the better. Some may say that the Commonwealth cannot afford to lose the revenue which is now obtained from this source. That may be true; but wecannot afford to destroy private capital. Certain people are the victims of a capital tax. If they own a particular class of property - land - we take from them by taxation a portion of their capital, but we do not touch other people’s capital in the form of bonds or buildings.
– We have touched bonds.
– We tax the interest received from bonds; but if a man holds £100 worth of property in the form of bonds, we do not take from him in taxation £5 of his capital annually, so that in twenty years he has lost the whole of it. That, however, is what happens in connexion with land taxation. The Government would have been on safer ground if it had not claimed that the proposed remissions are based on the Wool Committee’s report. In Queensland, at any rate, this proposal will not afford relief to the wool industry as a whole, as it affects only freeholds. Only one-third of the land tax is derived from primary-producing lands; the other twothirds is received from the city lands. That proves the futility of the tax as ‘a means of bursting up large estates; it cannot burst up a highly-capitalized city block with a frontage of 20 feet. In New South Wales and Victoria there are large tracts of freehold country, but in Queensland the great proportion of the wool country is leasehold, and, therefore, not now taxable by Commonwealth or State. These leaseholders are not benefited. On the Darling Downs and in other rich districts are areas which are taxable to a small extent, but in Queensland very few large freehold estates are left. Undoubtedly, the wool-grower needs all the help he can possibly get, and there are plenty of ways in which he could be assisted. For instance, if the Queensland Government were to abandon the land tax, the wool-grower would be substantially helped, because that tax, with a limitation of only £300, is a heavy burden on freehold pastoral areas. The federal land taxation does not press so heavily except in the cities.
– The State land tax does not apply to leaseholds.
– No, but it applies to freeholds on the Darling Downs and as far north as Roma, beyond which there is little freehold. The Wool Committee’s report has indicated several ways in which the wool-growers could be helped. I draw the attention of the House to the distinction that is made in our income taxation laws between freehold and leasehold lands. If a person sells a freehold block and can prove that he had not bought it merely for speculative purposes, he is not taxed on the profit, but the profit on any sale of leasehold is taxed. Some people believe in the freehold principle and others in the leasehold principle. The man who does not believe in freehold taxes the profits of a sale of freehold in certain circumstances; but the profits from the sale of a leasehold are taxed unconditionally. The Income Tax Act should be amended to bring leasehold properties into line with freehold, so that when a leasehold is sold the profit need not necessarily be taxed. An original selector of Crown leases in a remoter part of the Maranoa district might like to divide the property amongst his children or sell it, but he dare not do so because he will be taxed entirely on its present value.By a process of depreciation over a number of years, the improvements now stand in the books at nil, and if the land were sold for £20,000, no deductions would be allowed, and taxation would be payable on the full amount. Yet, if the land were freehold and had been held for more than seven years, the owner would not have to pay any tax on the profit from a sale. This anomaly should be rectified.
I welcome the proposed extension of the hardships provision in connexion with land tax assessments. This is absolutely necessary, because, hitherto, many men were unable to prove that they were suffering real hardship. A man might have sustained losses for two or three years, but still have credit, and be able to draw cheques. It would he difficult for him to prove that he suffered hardship. Now his credit is exhausted and he is in real difficulties, but, under the present law, he might not be able to prove his claim to relief. The proposed amendment will help such met] considerably.
In regard to the assistance of the wheat industry, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has stated the position of Queensland accurately and thoroughly. His electorate and mine include the only wheat-producing areas in Queensland. The wheat industry in that State does not compare with that in other States. Queensland has exported wheat only once.. In most years it produces scarcely sufficient for local requirements, and by internal organization the growers are able to get for their wheat from 6d. to 8d. a bushel above the price of southern wheat. The Queensland growers are not always sure of getting a crop. In fact, the proportion of failures is probably higher than in the Mallee. Queensland, being a semi-tropical State, cannot depend on getting the winter rains necessary for the growing of wheat. At the same time, Queensland does produce wheat up to about three-quarters of its requirements. When it was proposed to pay a bounty on the production of wheat, the growers in Queensland naturally wanted to get their share. They have suffered, as the southern growers have done from dry weather and crop failures. In some parts of the State the growers are lucky to get one good crop in five. During the other years the crops may be good enough for hay, sometimes they are simply fed off with sheep, and at other times they are an entire failure. Seeing that this is Commonwealth money which is to be distributed, the growers of Queensland, who find their share of it, feel that they are entitled to some of the benefit. They recognize, of course, that those in the great wheat growing areas in the south are entitled to assistance, because they produce the bulk of Australia’s wheat crop. Queensland, because of the peculiar conditions that prevail, can never receive as much benefit from Commonwealth schemes to assist the wheat-growers as other States receive. Indeed, there is always a danger that she will receive more harm than good from Commonwealth legislation in that direction. For instance, if a sales tax were imposed on wheat or flour, Queensland would suffer, because it would interfere with her internal marketing arrangements. However, there is nothing in this bill to harm the Queensland wheat-grower, nor the growers of any of the States.
I support the proposal of the honorable member for Darling Downs and others that the money should be made available to States unconditionally. It is impossible to lay down conditions which will apply equitably to all parts of the Commonwealth. In some States it may be better to pay the money on fallowing, while South Australia, for instance, which uses a great deal of fertilizer, favours the idea of a subsidy on the purchase of superphosphate. In Queensland, where hardly any superphosphate is used, such a subsidy would not be worth one twenty-fifth of a penny per bushel to the growers. If this money is intended really to help the wheat-growers, the less restriction imposed on its distribution the better. We can trust the States, which possess the necessary machinery, and a full knowledge of local conditions, to distribute the money in the best interests of the growers. It is better for Queensland to stick to its own local marketing methods, which, in the past, have provided the growers there with considerably more income than they could have obtained if they had relied on Commonwealth assistance. I hope that the conditions governing this grant will be widened so as to give the fullest possible benefit to Queensland growers.
.There have been all kinds of speculation as to the motive of the Government in bringing down this legislation. Surely honorable members can appreciate the bill for what it is worth. It undoubtedly provides a measure of relief that will be welcome to many sections of the community. The United Australia Party is not a sectional party; it does not profess to represent only the working class, or any other class. It does not profess to be concerned only with the interests of those in the country. It represents all the people of Australia. That was proved at t)he last election, when sectional parties were hopelessly defeated.
Wo have to ask ourselves whether it is wise to dispose of this money as the Government proposes to do. I certainly think that it is hazardous at a time like this promptly to spend any profits that have become apparent after four months trading. A business which spent its net profits simply because times had shown a slight sign of improvement would be pursuing a risky policy. I ventured to express that opinion during the budget debate, when the surplus from last year was carried over, and put into revenue for this year. That course was, in my opinion, unwise, when there was a possibility that we would be called upon to recommence the payment of war debts. I agree that, during a serious depression of this kind, anything we can do to make money circulate among all sections of the community will undoubtedly assist towards recovery. The Government has had the courage to pursue a risky policy in this regard, and, no doubt, good will result, even though we are, in a measure, shutting our eyes to the future.
The federal land tax has been spoken of at great length. The Leader of the Opposition said that the proposed tax remission would not give any relief to the wheat-growers. Surely the wheat-growers will be sufficiently relieved by the distribution of the £2,000,000, provided for in this measure. I do not think that it was. ever maintained that the remission of land tax would benefit the wheat-growers. Few of them have properties the taxable value of which is £5,000 or more, which is the minimum under the Land Tax Act. Undoubtedly, however, the remission of land tax will help the pastoral industry. The wool industry has not received a great deal of assistance during these trying times, and if the remission of taxation will in any way reduce overhead costs, and assist an industry upon which Australia is largely relying at the present time, and which is selling its products overseas at world parity prices, the action of the Government is to be commended. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Angas (Mr.
Gabb), stated that the wealthy city landlords would receive considerable benefits from the remission of land tax. It is a popular thing at the present time to say to a mass of people that wealthy city interests - the money-bags, in other words - are being helped by Commonwealth legislation. We, in this House, are used to hearing the tale of the poverty of the wheat-growers. We hear it every day from the party in the corner, from the Labour party, and from the illegitimate Labour party.
– Order !
– Well, from the unofficial or official Labour party, whichever it is. We hear daily of the woes of the widows and starving children, until we almost know the speeches of the honorable members ‘by heart; but do we hear anything of the woes of the business man in the city, who receives no bounty as does the wheat-grower, but who pays his taxes, and tries to make both ends meet. How many of the wheat-growers’ representatives in this House accepted the bounty on wheat last year, and do they think they were entitled to accept it from an impoverished Government? They should have been ashamed to hold out their hands. Now some of them are advocating that the bounty should be paid on the same basis this year, so that they may again participate. Then- are supposed to be 63,000 wheat-growers in Australia, and it is admitted “.hat many of those men are undoubtedly having a bad time No one denies that they are suffering hardships, or that they are doing valuable pioneering work in opening up the back country. But are their hardships any greater, or their difficulties more embarrassing, than those of the city man, be he a wage-earner, or one who has established a business, and who, as a result of the present depression, has lost his job, or seen his business melt away until he has no option but to take the dole? The man on the land can at least produce food for himself, and has a certain measure of comfort, but the man in the city who loses his job or his business must exist as best he can on the dole. Many of those who, a year or two ago, were in affluent circumstances have been forced out of business as a result of the depression. We hear daily from the 63,000 wheat-growers, and because they are well organized, it lias come to be regarded almost as a right that, when the price of wheat falls, the Commonwealth Government should make up the difference.
– Unfortunately, they are not well organized.
– They are sufficiently well organized to induce the “ honorable member for Angas to read in this House a number of’ the memoranda prepared by them. I, myself, have received numerous messages from wheat-growers’ organizations, pointing out that they want money, and the honorable member for Angas has quoted the demand of the growers to the effect that they want money, and want it now. Whose money are they demanding? It is the money provided by the taxpayers in the cities and in the country. It is they who must find the £2,000,000 that is to be distributed among the wheat-growers. Honorable members must not imagine that that section of the community which grows wheat has any particular claim for a financial grant from the Commonwealth. They say that such a grant is not a dole. We read that in Western Australia the growers are picketing the wheat stacks, saying that they will not deliver wheat until the Commonwealth pays them a bounty. If that is their attitude, it is high time the Commonwealth said that they will get no bounty or other assistance until they learn to behave themselves. If the wheat-growers, through their organizations, are able to throw the agrarian members of this House into a panic, it is time that other sections of the community organized, too. It should be easy to organize the group of 63,000 traders who are having just as bad a time as are the wheat-growers.
– They are not producing for export.
– That is so; but it is time that city traders, who are so often inveighed against by. members of the Country party, whose utterances tend to work up antagonism between city and country, organized themselves in order to become articulate.
The reduction of federal land tax will undoubtedly help the pastoral industry. As regards the city property owners, it is not only the wealthy city landlords who will benefit. I shall refer first to the large property-owners. The Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has mentioned chain stores and departmental stores as if they were a menace to the community. Those stores have perhaps pushed others out of business because of their efficiency. The trend of modern trading is to establish departmental and chain stores, because businesses of that type, which group together, have under their roofs large quantities of goods which can be sold at low prices because of the tremendous turnover and the low overhead costs. These firms are large employers, and can do much good. The firm of Myers, of Melbourne, last year gave £10,000 to the unemployed for the carrying ou:t of certain beautification work, and this year it proposes to make a further sum available. It should be the object of the Government at this time of stress to see that such businesses are not embarrassed or harassed unduly by irritating taxes. Then, again, there are hundreds of nominal owners of city properties who are undoubtedly just as much embarrassed as the wheat-growers; I refer to shopkeepers who, because of the increase in rents during the peak period, found it advisable to buy the property in which they traded. They paid perhaps £500 or £1,000, which they may have borrowed, and thus’ became the nominal owners of their premises. It is not easy for a city property to avoid the federal land tax. I am indebted to the Leader of the Opposition, who, I frankly admit, is an expert on taxation matters, for supplying me with certain figures. A block of land in any capital city with a frontage of only 50 feet, valued at, say, £280 a foot, which is a low figure for a property in some of the smaller streets of Melbourne or Sydney, would be worth £14,000. As the exemption from taxation is £5,000, the sum of £9,000 would be taxable. The minimum payment on that amount would be £50 a year, or approximately £1 per week. To that has to be added city rates, which are high, State and Federal income tax, water rates, and other charges incidental to city properties, such as those for the supply of electric and hydraulic power. So the nominal owner of that property, which is taxable under the federal land tax, may have an equity in it of only £500 or £1,000. In the competition for the best business sites during the peak period, shopkeepers bought land at high prices. They are now in a worse position than ordinary tenants, who have benefited by the steep fall in rents, and can move to cheaper premises if they so desire. The nominal property-owner justly deserves the consideration that is being given to him under this bill, and I think that I have adequately disposed of the idea that some honorable members seem to have that this measure will benefit only large land-owners.
– The land-owner is entitled to consideration under certain sections of the act.
– That is so. He’ may make application to the Appeal Board which deals with federal laud taxation. But we know how slowly the wheels of such institutions move. It is far better to give the land-owner relief from taxation by means of straight-out legislation than to rely for that relief upon the decision of an appeal board.
The bill also provides for further exemptions from the sales - tax. The exemption in respect of books should be welcome to honorable members, and I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that he did not consider that concession of much value. During the regime of the Scullin Government I moved an amendment to lessen the sales tax on books. A division was taken, and, although the amendment was supported by six Labour members, it was defeated. I am glad that books are now to be free from that impost, because, in addition to lessening the price of general literature, it will enable students and school children to obtain books that have to be imported at a price much lower than that previously charged. This measure also proposes to clear up many anomalies in sales taxation. One or two speakers have referred to anomalies which still exist, and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) referred to one which was really not worth mentioning. There are others which warrant serious consideration. Many of our manufacturers are paying the sales tax twice, and that, of course, was not the intention of the sales tax legislation. This anomaly has been pointed out to the Government, but it has not yet been rectified. In all engineering shops and factories, tools, such as imported files and dies, are subject to the sales tax. In the factory their cost is taken into account in the estimated price of the goods manufactured, for they are used in the process of manufacture, and the sales tax has again to be paid on them in respect of the cost of manufactured articles. In large engineering shops, the sales tax amounts to a considerable item, and it is time that this anomaly was rectified. There are other anomalies in definition which require our consideration. One is the registration of a manufacturer. An Adelaide auctioneer, because he bought a few rolls of velvet and gave it to a furniture-maker for use on chairs, unwittingly constituted himself a manufacturer under the act. He has now had to register as a manufacturer, and his sales tax has been made retrospective for two years. Another anomaly which warrants immediate attention is the need to lodge securities against the payment of sales tax. Every person liable to income taxation pays his tax, or if he does not, is sued for “it. But a business man who is liable for sales tax has to lodge securities against it. That is an unjust discrimination. It, is not such a great disability in respect of big businesses, because insurance companies lodge securities on their behalf, though the premiums are still an overhead charge. But it is a considerable disability in respect of small business men, such as tailors, who are being constantly fined because of their failure, mostly inadvertent, to pay the tax. Why should it be necessary to demand security in respect of sales tax, when it is not demanded in respect of income tax?
– The honorable member’s remarks are outside the scope of the bill.
– The Government would lose no revenue by abolishing that section of the act which provides for the lodging of securities.
I hope that the Government will not consider that the wheat-growers have a particular right to an annual subsidy so long as wheat prices are depressed.
– They should have no more right to an annual subsidy than the manufacturers.
– I submit that there is no analogy. Last night the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) inferred that there was no difference between tariff protection and the wheat bounty. I admit that there is no difference between the wheat bounty and the sulphur bounty; but the tariff protection which is given to the whole of the country is entirely different from a bounty which is given to a particular industry.
– The only difference is that the wheat-grower collects the bounty himself.
– Yes, and that is a very real difference. If a bounty is to be given every year to the wheat-growers, the taxpayers of the Commonwealth will certainly object. I have here a circular issued by the South Australian Wheat Producers Freedom Association. Freedom from what? Who is oppressing the wheat-growers who are so outraged because they are not getting money for nothing? The circular reads -
The Federal Government’s policy of allocating -
£1,250,000 for division between the States (on a production basis) for distribution to necessitous farmers; and
£1,000,000 for providing a subsidy on super. is most equitable. It meets the position in a manner which must satisfy every reasonable and unselfish grower.
We have heard members of the Country party say that the necessitous farmer is inefficient, and should not be allowed to grow wheat.
– Who said that?
– Many members and the press of the Country party have voiced that opinion. They have inferred that the man who last year did not get a bounty because of the failure of his crop was really detrimental to the industry. Instead of giving a bounty to those who farm the farmers, we should endeavour to solve the real problems that confront the wheat industry. The first problem to consider is the over-capitalization of land. It has recently been stated in the Victorian Parliament that millions of pounds have been wasted on closer settlement and soldier settlement. Land profiteers sold estates at exorbitant prices to the Government, and men who had just returned from the war were put on the land to make a living. Thousands of them endeavoured to do so, but failed, and having abandoned their holdings, are now reduced to the necessity of accepting the dole.
– What were the governments of that time doing?
– I do not know; I was not here, but the fact remains that even the men who have not been forced off their holdings are so impoverished that they are now seeking a wheat dole. But this is not the way to meet the situation. It is like putting sticking plaster on a cancer. The Government should deal with the overcapitalization of the land. If necessitous farmers had been offered loans at a very low rate of interest, say, at one or even one-half per cent., they would have jumped at it. In my opinion, it would he folly to make money available to the farmers, and then fix the conditions governing its expenditure. That would be like giving a shilling to a child, and telling it how it must spend it to the last halfpenny. The Government is allowing this money to be spent as the States see fit.
– Has it agreed to accept an amendment of the bill?
– What I mean is that paragraph b of clause 27 is wide enough to meet all the needs; the money is not to be paid as a bounty. The different States can assist the farmers in various ways. Victoria, perhaps, could carry grain free. That would be a splendid gesture. Other States could reduce or cancel wharfage charges. Such considerations should appeal to the Country party. It would be far better for Australia if the Country party would adopt some comprehensive policy for the assistance of the wheat-growing industry towards cost reduction, instead of appealing in this House week after week for a bounty on wheat of anything from 3d. to 9d. a bushel, or a sales tax on flour which would be unjust to the general taxpayer. One gets a little tired of hearing in this House widow and orphan stories from one section of honorable members, oppressed worker stories from another section, and hardluck farmer stories from still another section. “We ought to think occasionally about the splendid heritage that is ours in this wonderful country, and we ought to be setting a course which will bring our people to the greatest possible measure of happiness and contentment. “We should be grappling with our problems in a statesmanlike way, and not in the party political fashion that is all too common. I believe that the Government, in bringing down this bill to grant remissions of taxation, is taking a step in the march towards recovery.
– I shall not spend much time in discussing the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). We are trying to get a measure of help for the farmers, just as the honorable member is for ever trying to get help for certain manufacturing industries. The best reply that I can make to the honorable gentleman is contained in the final paragraph of an article which appeared in the Sydney Bulletin of the 2nd November. It reads as follows: -
It is wickedly unjust that of all Australian workers the farmer alone should be denied the benefit of those higher earnings that have been made possible by protection and if any cry is raised against an increase of the price of his commodity in this protected market in order that he may be put on the same footing as the great majority of the population it ought to be regarded as an utterly selfish cry.
I shall not discuss at length several of the subjects dealt with in this bill, because they have already been ably debated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and certain members of the Country party.
The views of honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber in regard to the proposals in this bill, relating to invalid and old-age pensions, have also been clearly stated. I shall support the amendment which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) intends to move in this connexion.
I intend to deal principally with the proposals of the Government for the assistance of the wheat-growers of Australia. In view of the fact that the farmers of every wheat-growing State of the Commonwealth have requested that a bounty on wheat should be provided, I cannot understand why the Government has turned a deaf ear to the request. The farmers know their own circum-
stances better than any other section of the community can know them, and, as they are unanimous in their desire for a bounty, it is inexplicable to me that the Government should have refused to grant it. Possibly the fact that the previous Government provided a bounty on wheat has caused this Government to do something different. But honorable members must agree that the payment of the bounty last year most effectively assisted our wheat-growers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) recently received a deputation of members of this Parliament, and representatives of the farmers of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, which made it very clear that relief could best be given by the provision of a bounty. In this connexion a recent issue of The Wheat-grower, the official organ of the Wheat-growers Union of Western Australia - a non-party organization - stated -
The union considered the proposed assistance to be so inadequate as to imply that the industry was not worth saving, and that unless genuine assistance was forthcoming it was proposed to advise wheat-growers in this State to retain this season’s wheat on the farms and to refrain from cropping until conditions again permitted profitable production.
It was also reported by Mr. Bussau, the president of the Wheat-growers Federation, that a meeting of representatives of the Victorian Wheat-growers Association, the Chamber of Agriculture, and the Country party, had passed a resolution demanding the payment of a bounty on the 1931 basis. On the 3rd November, Mr. Bussau, in his capacity of president of the Wheat-growers Federation, sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister : -
As the representative of 30,000 wheatgrowers, I state emphatically that fertilizer proposals are useless, and urge the reenactment, of the wheat bounty. The position of the industry is desperate. If the wheatgrowers cease production, insolvency faces the Commonwealth.
In view of the fact that this request was in conformity with the wishes of the farmers of every other State, there seems to be no justification for the refusal of the Government to accede to it.
Every one who knows anything about the financial position of Australia realizes that it is necessary for us to export commodities for which we can find a market cri the other side of the world, and that wheat and wool are the only Australian products for which there is a large market. In these circumstances it is surely reasonable to ask that some degree of assistance should be rendered to the farmers.
The only objection raised to the granting of a bounty on wheat has been that some farmers have been doing well in this industry in spite of the existing conditions, and that they should not be given a bounty. Anomalies occur under every act of Parliament, but I am bold enough to assert that there is not a farmer in “Western Australia who will make a single penny out of the wheat he grows this year, and that there was not a farmer who, apart from the bounty, came out of his operations last year without a loss.
– I believe that that is sp. The more wheat our farmers have grown in the last year or two the greater has been their loss. It has been suggested that there is something unworthy in an honorable member advocating the granting of assistance to people engaged in certain industries in his own constituency, but I fail to see the justice of such an assertion. I have been unwise enough to invest my money in wheat-growing. If I had invested it in stocks and shares I should probably have doubled it.
-Order! I make an appeal to honorable members to converse in lower tones. It is irritating to the honorable member who has the floor and also to the Chair to hear such a hum of conversation. It is also most difficult for Hansard to carry on under such conditions. I ask Ministers especially to set an example to the House.
– There may be some farmers who hare managed to meet their costs in recent years, but if they have done so, it is because they have been farming land of exceptional yielding capacity, for which they must have paid dearly. Had they included in their cost of production even a low rate of interest to cover the capital invested, I do not think that they would have shown any profit. Taking the production of wheat in Australia over a considerable period of years, and including Queensland, where the average is high, it will be found that our average yield is twelve bushels to the acre. In view of the fact that the price of wheat has been 2s. a bushel higher in recent years than it has been in the last year or two, I think it will be readily realized that very few farmers have been fortunate enough this year to get within ls. a bushel of the cost of production. In recent years representative bodies of farmers, particularly in the Riverina and similar wheat-growing areas, have prepared estimates of the cost of producing wheat, and it has been found on a reliable basis to be 3s. 5d. a bushel.
I disagree with one of my colleagues from “Western Australia, who believes that Australian producers have to contend with special difficulties which do not obtain in other countries. A similar position exists with the coffee-growers of Brazil, the rubber-growers of -the Malayan States, and the cotton-growers of the United States of America. “Wheat is our important export commodity, and this problem should engage the attention of Parliament and of the country.
The following is a list of the costs of producing wheat on land costing £6 an acre, capable of producing 15 bushels to the acre. Details may vary in different States, but, substantially, these costs apply all over Australia -
I have erred on the side of conservatism, so that I should not be accused of exaggerating the case of the wheat farmers. At present day prices he receives 37s. 6d., and sustains a loss of 7s. 9d. an acre. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) indulged in certain catch cries which have become the vogue when stressing the difficulties of the primary producers. I do not select his utterances in particular, for it is a common thing for persons to rail against the operation of the tariff, and the allegedly high wages that are paid in Australia, as the chief difficulties under which our farmers labour. Farmers in the United States of America have the difficulty of a high protective tariff, to which must be added the burden of high land values. In addition, their produce is carried by private railway companies, whose effort on all occasions is to get as much as possible out of the traffic. That, of course, is the policy of all private monopolies. It may be definitely said that farm labour is not organized, therefore, farmers may write their own ticket so far as wages are concerned. A farmer will pay a good man a satisfactory figure, but only because it suits him to do so. There is no question of unionism putting up the wages of farm employees.
A factor which has a much greater bearing on costs is that indicated by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) - interest. It is not receiving the prominence that it deserves. It was the refusal to pay interest which made Mr. Lang so popular. Whether we agree with that gentleman’s premises or not, we must admit that interest is the farmers greatest burden. I have here a report by the South Australian Auditor-General, published in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 19th October last, which contains an illuminating paragraph on the subject of commodity prices in South Australia. It is as follows: - .
In many cases, interest is more than half the per acre cost of production. Tractors alone on light soil seem to he much more expensive than horses in working the farm, and on heavy soils are a doubtful proposition.
Then the following table of costs and receipts is given : -
Note. - 1. Interest on liability on whole farm has been apportioned over the cropped area. 2. Wheat bounty not included in “ receipts.”
That does not allow for the farmer’s labour. Here is another example -
Note. - Interest on liability on whole farm has been apportioned over the cropped area. 2. Wheat bounty not included in “ receipts.”
I could go on quoting dozens of similar instances which definitely prove that interest is the great burden. I know of several farmers whose interest cost amounts to 8d., 9d., and l0d. per bushel. With wheat at 2s. 6d. a bushel, the proposition is impossible in Australia.
Ishall deal with the matter of interest in another way, by referring to the position of one or two of our banks. The figures which I shall give clearly show that the amount of interest drawn by banking institutions from Australian industry makes it difficult for our activities to continue, irrespective of their nature. Shares of the Bank of Adelaide are paid up to £5, and sell at £6. That bank paid a dividend amounting to £25,000 last year, and carried forward to its next year’s balance the sum of £40,571. So that the amount of interest actually earned was 101/2 per cent. An examination of other banking figures disclose profits, on the same basis, of 81/2 per cent., 10 per cent., 11 per cent., and, in one instance, 15 per cent. That problem will have to be tackled before our farmers obtain adequate relief. The position reminds me of two men who were out kangaroo hunting. They came up to the kangaroo, which held up one of them. His mate said, “ Shall I help you to hold it?” and he replied, “No, for God’s sake help me to let it go.” Most of our wheat-farmers would be only too glad to let go their farms and hand them back to the banks, if only that would end their trouble. But they know that they would be pursued for every other penny that they possessed. I hope thatthe
Government has vision enough to see that the farmers are not a threatening organization, endeavouring, as some have suggested, to secure money from a country that is hard up against it. If they are not helped, 50 per cent, of their number must go off the land next year, and then what is to happen? The only way to help them is to provide them with a bounty, and not one with a string on it. I am no hot unificationist, but I know that, once the State Treasurers handle this money, they will use it in a way that will assist their States’ finances.
– There are two State elections approaching.
– Yes, and the State Government would make good fellows of themselves by using the money to advance their own political interests. I do not claim that any great wisdom was displayed in adopting the bounty system; but that system was decided upon after consultation with the representatives of the wheat-growing industry. The bounty system worked satisfactorily, and has been endorsed by the farmers because it has enabled them for the first time to handle real money. If this Government wished to do something really beneficial to the farmers it should endeavour to make available at least £3,000,000, to be paid directly to the wheat producers, and it is only in that way that the country will be saved from a grave financial disaster.
– One cannot help expressing surprise that so many important subjects should be dealt with in one bill. In the circumstances, honorable members are at once confronted with a difficulty in deciding whether their opposition to some of its provisions is of sufficient importance to justify them in opposing the whole bill. There does not seem to be room for much difference of opinion with respect to six of the eight parts of the bill. I am sure that it must be gratifying to honorable members generally to find that some small measure of relief is to be given in regard to the abnormal taxation that has been imposed,, in this country during recent years. If the proposed reductions can be regarded as a first instalment of further remissions, there is room for even more gratification. Reduced taxation must assist in keeping the wheels of industry more actively in motion than during the last few years. It has been stated by many honorable members that the land tax which is dealt with in Part II. of the bill was originally imposed to assist in the breaking up of large estates, but honorable -members must be aware that the majority of such estates, particularly in those districts where the land is at all suitable for agriculture, have already been subdivided. If the imposition of a land tax was to encourage the subdivision of large estates, it would appear that there is now no necessity to retain such a tax as there are not many such estates still in existence. This form of taxation, when once imposed, provides a large amount of revenue without which the Government finds it difficult to carry on, and, consequently, the legislation under which such a tax is imposed still remains operative. I regard our land taxation acts as the most obnoxious on our statutebook. Is it any wonder that we find ourselves in financial difficulties in view of the extent to which taxation has been imposed on land, which is the only real source from which our wealth is derived. It seems to me that if, during the last 25 years, governments in this country had deliberately set themselves to bring Australia into a state of financial chaos, they could not have adopted a better means than by taxing the stream of wealth at its source. It is very pleasing to me to find that there is to be a measure of relief in this direction, even though small. It has been stated that the bulk of the revenue derived from land taxation comes from land-owners in the cities. I hold no particular brief for city land-owners, but to the extent that they, in common with all other landholders, are relieved of taxation, it means that a larger amount of money will be made available for investment in industry, benefiting the whole community. If materia] relief is not afforded, particularly to the land-owners in the rural areas, there is grave risk that in the near future the large estates which were broken up in years gone by may again come under one control, because the men at present holding the smaller areas cannot meet, the heavy taxation, and other charges. If this should happen, the large areas which are now producing wheat, and carrying stock, will be overrun with rabbits and other vermin.
It is very pleasing to note that some slight remission is to be made in the matter of income taxation as provided in Part ILL of the bill. It must be obvious to all honorable members that interest is one of the greatest burdens upon industry to-day, and that the wheels of industry are not likely to be set in motion to the desired extent until some further relief is afforded in this direction. The 10 per cent, super tax bears particularly heavily in that regard, and consequently the banks and other financial 1 institutions in this country can be justified in charging the rates which are now imposed, as these rates are perhaps necessary in view of the taxation imposed, particularly by this Parliament. In these circumstances, it is practically impossible for money lenders to make any material reduction of the rates of interest they are at present charging, particularly because of the more attractive investment offered .by government bonds. Quite recently, the right honorable the Prime ‘ Minister (Mr. Lyons) took credit for the Government of which he is the loader, because government bonds, which some time ago were at an exceedingly low rate, are now quoted at par. Such a recovery merely proves in addition to the greater confidence recently ‘inspired that investors are withdrawing their money from industry, and investing it in government bonds in order to escape excessive taxation imposed more particularly on incomes derived from property.
It is pleasing also to note that some measure of relief is to be afforded by the removal of sales tax from a number of articles. I am sure that these further slight concessions will he appreciated by the whole .community.
It is also gratifying to learn that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is to be further amended, with the object of extending a greater measure of justice to the members of families who, in the past, have been doing their duty to their parents or their relatives by assisting them to purchase their homes, and in other ways.
In Part VII. of the bill provision is made for the allotment of £250,000 to assist primary producers other than wheat-growers. There can be little room for any difference of opinion as to the benefit that will be afforded under these’ provisions, especially as the Government is making that sum of money available for the purchase of fertilizers. As a result of the encouragement given in this direction, the potato-growers, dairymen, graziers, and others, will probably use a larger quantity of fertilizers than previously, and by that means will increase production, which means increased national wealth. .
I now wish to refer to Part VI., in which provision is made for affording relief to the wheat-growers. I am forced tb wonder whether this Government really appreciates the- great value of the wheat-growing industry to Australia, or if it fully realizes the extremely parlous condition in which those engaged in this industry find themselves at present. I can assure the Government that its original proposals caused the greatest possible disappointment in the wheat areas. By submitting such proposals the Government showed but slight appreciation of the almost superhuman efforts made by the wheat-growers, particularly during the last two or three years, when 1 the wheat-farmers did not receive a price anything approaching the cost of production. The Government’s present proposals are more remarkable, in view of the fact that twelve months ago provision was made for the payment of a bounty of 4£d. a bushel on last year’s crop, when wheat was worth at least lOd. a bushel more than it is worth to-day. If a bounty of 4£d. a bushel was necessary last year, when wheat was 3s. 9d. a bushel, surely if it is the desire of the Government to give the wheatgrowers assistance to enable them to recoup the cost of production, it should give them double the amount paid last year instead of one-half as is proposed. It may be desirable at this stage to remind the Government of the wonderful efforts made by the wheat-growers, particularly during the last three years. Honorable members will recall that two and a half or three years ago, the then Prime Minister made a special appeal to the .wheatgrowers to produce more wheat, in order to help Australia out of its financial difficulties. The result of that appeal is well known to honorable members; but there may be some honorable members who still believe that the wheat-growers, regardless of that appeal, would have produced a record crop in their own interests. The record harvest in this country in 1916 was obtained as the result of a special appeal made by the Commonwealth Government and every State Government.
– Increased production was regarded as a national necessity.
– Exactly. The record crop in 1916 totalled 169,000,000 bushels, and that record remained until the year I have mentioned. The Australian wheat-farmers have put up further records since 1930, notwithstanding the fact that they did not receive an amount anything like the cost of production. They followed that up by another record crop in 1931, which is being followed by still another. For three successive record crops the -wheat-farmers have not received anything approaching the cost of production. It may be news to many honorable members to learn that during the last three years no fewer than 600,000,000 bushels of wheat have been reaped, which is only 80,000,000 bushels less than the quantity produced during the previous five years. The average yield for the five years prior to 1930 was 126,000,000 bushels, and during the last three years, notwithstanding the excessively low prices prevailing, the growers have produced almost as much grain as in the previous five years. Surely this is worthy of recognition as a national service to the country in its time of need. Yet the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to payments to the growers as doles and bonuses. That is an insult to the growers who produced the value of the money which the Government merely lent to them to enable them to carry on their industry. The net cash result to Australia of the almost superhuman efforts of the growers during the last three years was that from £27,000,000 to £28,000,000 more wealth was brought into the country than we should have got if they had produced merely the average crop grown in the five years prior to 1930. But the unfortunate result to the growers was a loss of £35,000,000, that being the amount by which their receipts fell sho”rt of the cost of production over the last three unfortunate years. There we have the anomaly of the wheat-producers exporting their capital to the amount of £35,000,000 and yet benefiting the whole community by £25,000,000. Some honorable members may think that the farmers must be wealthy to be able to stand such losses, but the £35,000,000 which they have lost, includes the money of other people as well as their own. They have mortgaged not only their farms and working plant but, in a desperate attempt to carry on under the extremely difficult circumstances in which they find themselves, thousands of them have also mortgaged their future. How are the growers to carry on in future, how is Australia to carry on, if they are not assured of a return at least equal to the cost of production? The sheep industry must be linked with wheat-growing. No man can grow wheat successfully unless he also runs sheep; and, conversely, the sheep carrying capacity of land is increased by the growth of wheat and other cereals. The two industries are more or less interdependent, and, in stating the case for one, we are stating the case for the other also. The production of wheat and wool is the basis of the national economic structure. Nearly every other industry, with the exception of butter, dried fruits, and a few minor export industries, is almost entirely dependent on the continuance of wheat and sheep production.
During this debate, much has been said of the cost of producing wheat. I have been engaged in this industry all my life, and I have no hesitation in saying that during 1930 the average price received by the growers was ls. 7d. to ls. 9d. a bushel, or less than half the cost of production, and because of the extremely low quality of the wheat that year, many farmers had to accept from ls. to ls. 3d.. Last season they received, including the bounty, the equivalent of 2s. lid. to 3s. a bushel, which, was not within 6d. of the cost of production. At the present time wheat is being sold at 2s. 2d- to 2s. 4d., which is at least ls. below cost. Honorable members may be interested to hear the views expressed by a leading member of this Government, two years ago. I quote from a characteristically statesmanlike speech delivered by the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) on the “Wheat Marketing Bill in May, 1930-
A large number of farmers are in straitened circumstances. From the point of view of the community as a whole, leaving out of account the particular interest of the unfortunate fanners, it is impossible to abandon them to their-fate, because if we did so, we should not be making a contribution to the economic or the social well-being of the general community. The wheat industry is much too important for us to do that. Prices at present are about equivalent to the cost of production, and, in some cases even below it. The general financial and economic position of Australia, with which honorable members are familiar, is such that it is important indeed that there should be an increase in the production of the country. ‘
At that time the price of wheat was 4s. 9d. a bushel at the seaboard, which would represent a net price to the grower at country railway stations of better than 4s. That was regarded as the cost of production then. The Marketing Bill was proposed early in L930 as a result of agitation on the part of wheat-growers for a marketing organization which they believed would help them out of their difficulties. The wheat industry was then regarded by all who understood it as being in a more desperate state than at any other time in its history.
Silling suspended from 11.40 p.m. to 12.10 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 25 November 1932
– For the fifteen year period prior to 1930, the average price received by growers for their wheat at country railway stations was 5s. a bushel. Yet, at the beginning of 1930, the wheat industry was considered to be in a worse state than ever before. The figures I have quoted regarding prices received since 1930 should convince honorable members that all wheat-growers in Australia must be in a state of need at the present time. It is not necessary to discriminate between wheat-growers so far as this measure is concerned. In any case, why should there be discrimination in the case of those engaged in an essential primary industry? The secondary industries, whether large or small, rich or impoverished, share alike in the benefits of the tariff. The wheat industry is an essential one, while the secondary industries, which benefit to the extent of £26,000,000 a year from the tariff, cannot be classed as essential. Scarcely one of them is prepared to take its place beside the primary industries, and export its products in order to build up overseas credits.
I urge upon the Government the need for appointing a special committee to inquire into the costs of production and other matters in the wheat industry, as was done recently in the case of the wool industry. The chief merit of the Government’s plan for assisting the wheat-farmers is that it is proposed to make the money available in the form of a straight-out grant to the growers. It is unfortunate that the Government proposes to attach conditions, to this grant which will make it obnoxious to the growers. I trust that the Government will reconsider some of these clauses, and agree to amendments when the bill is in committee.
As I have stated before, the Government does not seem to -appreciate the serious position of the wheat industry, and its importance to the nation, particularly to the State Governments. The wheat industry of Victoria, during each of the last two years, has contributed £1,100,000 to the revenue of the Railway Department, besides the freight paid on goods used bythe farmers themselves. It is evident, therefore, that State revenues will be adversely affected if the wheat industry goes to the wall, as there is grave danger of it doing. The Government is providing only a very limited amount of assistance to the wheat-growers, and it is regrettable that it is not making that assistance available in the way in which it will return the maximum amount to the grower. If the money available were paid in the form of an export bounty, it would have this effect. I appreciate the fact that there may be some difficulty in the way of obtaining an export bounty now that a considerable quantity of’ wheat has already been exported. In New South “Wales a flour tax has been imposed, and the. Victorian Government is considering the introduction of a similar measure. Therefore, if the Commonwealth does, not give further relief, the State Governments should be urged to take such action as would enable them to give that greater assistance which is so urgently needed. I propose to vote for the second reading of the bill, and hope that we shall be able to carry some necessary amendments during the committee stage.
.The last speaker took the Government to task because it did not propose to provide sufficient assistance for the wheat-growers. Other speakers have said that the Government is evading its responsibilities by handing this money over to the States to distribute. Personally, I believe that one authority should be entrusted with the task of providing whatever measure of relief is afforded to the growers. The Government of New South Wales has passed legislation giving a moratorium to the farmers in that State. It has also passed legislation which assists the farmer in the following ways : -
The representatives of the Country party in this House seem to have little or no respect for what they call the inefficient farmer. It has been stated in the official organs of that party, that a bounty is the only kind of assistance which they are prepared to accept. Of course, under the bounty system of relief, the man with the biggest yield will receive most assistance. The subject has been discussed, in the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald, and it has been freely stated that the Government will be paying for inefficiency if it grants .assistance only to the needy farmers. I have before me a circular issued by the South Australian Wheat Producers Freedom Association
– That association represents the brokers, not the growers.
– Honorable members of the Country party are prepared to break the small farmers so that they may get a larger share of the bounty for the big producers. This is what the document states -
More than one-third of the growers in South Australia last year grew less than 9 bushels per acre - the average yield of this large group being 5.0 bushels per acre (vide State Statist). Allowing 1 bushel for seed, they would have had 4.6 bushels per acre for sale. On that basis a production bounty of 2Jd. would return this group an average of 10)d. per acre!
Those more fortunate growers averaging, say, 20 bushels, would draw from the 2Jd. bounty, 3s. 9d. per acre! -Is- it necessary to stress which group needs assistance must?
If the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) obtains a yield of 18 bushels an acre, he would receive by way of bounty twice as much per acre as would the man who gets only a 9-bushel crop. I am surprised that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) did not quote from this document when he. was championing the claims of the farmers in his district. I have no doubt that many farmers obtain a yield of less than 20 bushels an acre. If one man’s yield is only half that of another-
– At half the cost.
– I have been told by honorable members of the Country party that the cost of production is less for the small man than it is for the big man ; that it costs more to produce wheat on a large scale, with up-to-date machinery, than to produce it on a small scale with more primitive appliances. If that is correct, the wheat industry seems to be the only one which has derived no benefit from scientific research and the introduction of modern machinery.
The last speaker said that there was danger that many wheat-growers would go out of production. I do not think that the honorable member really meant that.
– The position is very serious.
– Surely the honorable member will agree with me that, if so much wheat is being produced than there is a market for, farmers are making a mistake in persevering with the production of wheat; they should go in for something else. Members of the Country party talk a good deal about the poverty of the farmer. I guarantee that for every poverty stricken farmer there are 200 poverty stricken individuals in the cities.
– The poverty stricken in the cities receive a dole of £7,000,000 per annum.
– That speaks for itself. Business men whose businesses do not pay have to face the Bankruptcy Court, out the wheat-farmers, when the price of wheat falls, are given government aid, although, even if they are not making a profit, they can at least grow their own requirements, and live in comfort on the farm. In the city to-day, thousands of men and women have no opportunity given to them to till the soil in order to provide their own requirements; they have to accept the dole. In view of the manner in which the representatives of the farmers in this House have exaggerated the position of the wheat industry generally, it is questionable whether the great majority of the people of New South Wales will accept their statements as authentic. Members of the Country party complain that the farmers to-day are producing without a profit. Few business men in the city to-day are making a profit. They are depending on reserves which they built up in a time of prosperity. When honorable members in the corner talk about the present day cost of primary production, they fail to take into account the fact that many farmers saved in times of plenty. When these farmers die, and their estates are assessed for probate purposes, we shall find that they have left £40,000 or £50,000 to be divided among their children. There are two or three members of this House pressing for a wheat bounty, who, if they died to-morrow, would probably leave many thousands pf pounds to their heirs. It is of no use for honorable members to advocate a bounty for all wheat-growers, irrespective of their position in life. Those wheatgrowers who are wealthy should be prepared, to share in the general sacrifice of the community A statement has been circulated by members of the Country party to the effect that the inefficient farmer should not be assisted, in fact, should not be allowed to continue in the industry. That is the most callous statement that I have heard made by a representative of the farmers. It was stated in the press only the other day, that if the Government confines the bounty to deserving cases, it will encourage inefficiency. Honorable members who take that stand are differentiating between the poor and the rich farmer. I regret that there is not in this House a representative of the country interests, who is prepared to say that at least a proportion of the wheat-growers do not require a bounty. I assure honorable members in the corner that, ‘in casting my vote on this bill, I shall not be guided by the statements of their loaders. In Sydney, builders, who at one time were making considerable profits, are now selling fruit from fruit carts in the streets. No bounty has been asked for them, or for plasterers, bricklayers, carpenters and others connected with the building trade, who have been out of work for the. last two or three years. The previous speaker stated that we on this side of the House were not seised of the importance of the wheat industry, - but unlike that honorable member, * I am not prepared to sacrifice every other interest in Australia merely to assist the wheat industry.
– The honorable member has certainly not realized the importance of the wheat industry to Australia.
– The honorable member was elected to this Parliament on the platform of “ country versus city “. That is the only way in which he can gain a seat in this House.
– I take exception to the remarks of the honorable member. They are untrue, and I regard them as a direct insult to myself.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the offensive remarks which have been complained of.
– I withdraw them. My only desire is to serve the interests of the community with equity and justice, and to endeavour, . to the best of my ability, to give the unemployed an opportunity to obtain a decent livelihood. Many wheat-farmers are in difficulties because of the fact that they will not undertake mixed farming and the growing of cereals other than wheat. Many of them work on their farms in season and live in. the cities out of season. One honorable member has told me that if he were dependent on wheat he would have no living at all, and that he makes a success of farming only by growing other cereals and engaging in mixed farming. I understand that, by the use of fertilizers, the carrying capacity of grazing land can be . greatly increased. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) took the view that the remission of land tax to the extent of £750,000 was being borne by the pensioners, who had been forced to relinquish £700,000 in their pension payments. I believe that when the position of the pensioners is thoroughly analysed it will be found that very little saving has been made in the total amount of pensions paid; that only those people who are deserving of pensions are receiving them ; and that many people who were formerly enjoying a pension, though not really entitled to it,’ have been forced to relinquish it. There may be some exceptional cases in which pensioners will suffer. This bill will rectify many anomalies in the act, and particularly the anomaly which existed in respect of property. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Hunter “(Mr. James) oppose the property clause because of encumbrances. I venture to say that many propertyowners who previously were not entitled to a pension will, under this bill, be given an ‘opportunity to obtain one. This Government has introduced an innovation through which certain pensioners will receive benefits not previously granted since the pensions acts came into force, and under which land may be transferred to the Commonwealth to permit the owner to obtain a pension.
– That applies to land of up to £320 in value.
– This legislation will confer considerable benefit upon many pensioners.
– If the pensioners hold land to the value of £120 they will get no benefit.
– Whatever honorable members opposite may say in disparagement of this Government, it will be found ultimately that the steps which it has taken to remove anomalies and to correct inequalities in our pensions legislation will be beneficial to the people. If any hardships have been imposed on our pensioners, the provisions of this bill will have a retrospective effect, and will therefore correct them. The . most disappointed members of the House will be honorable members opposite if they are not able eventually to find an excuse for the statement that this Government has wilfully injured the poorer classes of our community.
In dealing with the proposed remissions of taxation, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that concessions were being given by the use of money that does not belong to us. The inference from his remark was that we were using money that should bc applied to the liquidation of our war debts. My reply to him is : “ Sufficient, unto the day is the evil thereof “. I do not believe in crossing rivers before I get to them. All legislation has to pass through the experimental stage. If flaws are discovered, they can be rectified subsequently. Something has been said by honorable members opposite to the effect that the British Government has gone cap-in-hand to the Government of the United States of America seeking special consideration in respect to war debts. But when the honorable member for West Sydney made a statement of that nature, I thought there was a cynical grin on his face. It appeared to me that the honorable member found some satisfaction in the thought that the leaders of the Government of the United Kingdom were going, as he said, “ cap in hand “ to the leaders of the Government of another country. But even if the British Government has done anything of that kind, it has done it in the interests of the weaker nations of the world, which it has taken under its wing for protec- from any Government. The statement that has been made in this House to-day that £750,000 has been taken from our pensioners is, in my opinion, not in accord with the facts.’ It has been made for electioneering purposes. I approve of the proposals in this bill, and I shall support the measure.
– I need hardly say that I intend to support the amendment which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has moved to the motion for the second reading of this curious legislative mixture called the Financial Relief Bill. Many of the provisions of thi3 measure would have been unnecessary but .for the hasty and faulty estimate recently made of the country’s financial position. Undoubtedly the revenue was under estimated, and the expenditure over estimated. This caused a panic in the Government, and resulted in the introduction of the panic legislation that was passed through the House only with the aid of the guillotine. If the Government had allowed reasonable time for the consideration of the various measures it has introduced, many of the anomalies which have occurred could have been avoided. It has been said that the provisions of this bill will remove some of the anomalies in our pensions legislation, but in my opinion, they will have a reverse effect. I believe that still more anomalies will be caused.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that this was not a sectional government, and he proceeded to discuss, but not compare the benefits that would result to various sections of the people if this bill became law. In my opinion, the evidences of class bias in this bill are so clear that no one can help seeing them.
Undoubtedly, a generous gift has been made to large land-owners in the city and country, in the remission of taxes totalling £600,000. Without going into the figures that were convincingly given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), I have no hesitation in supporting his view that small landowners, either in the city or country, will not benefit from this concession.
I believe that it is the general consensus of opinion among honorable members that the proposed assistance to wheat growers is merited and necessary. The only question is how the money can be most judiciously spent; whether by a bounty or otherwise. I have listened with interest to the debate on the subject, and am still open to conviction as to the best method to employ.
Income tax relief to the extent of £600,000 will not affect the average worker, although some benefit may accrue to middle-class people who have considerable incomes.
It is wrong to grant exemptions from sales tax on specified articles. If there is no need for the revenue, the tax should be abolished. If it is contended that the Government can do without a certain proportion of the sales tax, the exemption of certain articles while leaving others on the list’ is definitely class taxation. It would be far better to reduce the general rate of tax.
Despite the utterance of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), I consider that the relief that is to be given to primary producers is merited. I do not go so far as members of the Country party who claim that the primary producers alone are the backbone “of the country. I contend that our secondary industries are just as necessary as our primary industries. Still, we know that these people meet with great difficulties through lack of markets and the collapse of world prices for primary products, and that there is a good deal of merit in a proposal for assisting them. The method of granting that assistance has been capably dealt with by honorable members who know the circumstances better than I do.
Most of the proposed methods of relief from taxation have been dealt with by the champions of the respective sections concerned. Little has been said regarding old-age pensioners, particularly from honorable members opposite. I propose, in the limited time at my disposal, to analyse the position as they are affected. Undoubtedly, this is class legislation, and of all the classes mentioned in it, old-age pensioners can look forward to the least . relief. The proposed amendment of the . Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will create further anomalies, with which I shall deal later. tion. The British Government should not be condemned for trying to make the best possible arrangement in respect of war debts. The difficulties in which the nations of the world find themselves today are due to the war which was forced upon the allied countries.- We know very well that some honorable members of this House are delighted when the Union Jack is taken down before public school children.
– Was the honorable member in favour of the tearing down of the Union Jack in South Africa?
– 1 have seen supporters of the party to which the honorable member belongs refuse to remove their hats as a mark of respect to the King of England.
To revert to the subject of the remission of taxation, it is apparent to every intelligent honorable member that it is impossible, under existing world conditions, for any government to say with absolute accuracy what amount of money it will have available from time to time for public purposes. Our position depends to a large extent upon the settlement of international financial problems, and this settlement must be made upon a basis wider even than that of the British Empire.
– Is that not repudiation?
– It is not. The difference between what this Government is seeking to do and what the Lang Government, did is very clear. The Lang Government said that it would not, and did not, intend to pay certain money that was due to the creditors of New South Wales; but this Government has said that it will meet all just debts agreed upon by mutual cooperation and consultation.
– Are not all the war debts just debts?
– They are. We have to admit to-day that both America, with her high tariff policy, and Great Britain, with her freetrade policy, have been unable to protect the interests of their peoples. The readjustment of the financial affairs of all the nations is necessary. We have tried to improve conditions within the Empire by the agreements made at the Ottawa Conference; but the best brains of the best men in the world will need to be brought to bear upon the international financial problems which are awaiting settlement. This Government is willing to use the best brains of the community in seeking a solution of the problems which face it. No body of men could have handled the delicate and difficult problems which faced this Government upon its assumption of office better than the Government has handled them. Our acceptance of the Ottawa agreement is a proof of the sincerity of our desire to restore prosperity. Honorable members opposite will make the hackneyed statement that “prosperity is just round the corner,” but they turned the corner to prosperity when they were elected to this Parliament.
A good deal has been said about equality of sacrifice, but the Lang Government of New South Wales did not give much consideration to this principle when it appointed a certain person to a new position at a salary of £3,000 a year, while hundreds of people in Sydney were starving.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I favour the remissions of taxation proposed in this measure, because they will have the effect of lifting a burden from the community. I am the last man in the House who would consent to the lifting of taxation from rich people who can bear it, instead of from the poor people who cannot bear it. But we have to remember that there is great need for us to place our people back in work as soon as possible. I believe that the remission of taxation will result in the lowering of costs, and thus the making of more money available for employment. It has been said that taxation will be remitted to wealthy city interests, but if conditions are made easier for those who conduct big business enterprises in our cities they will be able to provide more employment for the people, and this will assist to revive prosperity. The Government is endeavouring to assist those in charge of industry in order that they in turn may assist the people who are looking for work. I believe that this Government is acting honestly by every section of the community. The adjustments that arc being made in our pensions legislation will confer benefits on people who’ have hitherto received very little consideration
It has been said that the unemployed will benefit by the remission of taxation to wealthy land-owners and income taxpayers. I contend that that will not be the case. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, much of the land that is subject to this taxation is in city areas, and has built upon it glorified business fiats which are used by professional men. The rents paid to the owners of the land are regulated more particularly by its proximity to city centres and the demand for accommodation, not by the amount of income tax paid by the owner of the premises.
– There are also large blocks of land upon which great businesses are erected, such as Anthony Hordern’s.
– In the majority of the cases the land has upon it buildings owned by big investment companies, financial institutions and insurance companies, which are let in the main to professional men. The owners themselves give no employment except to a few caretakers. Therefore, this relief from taxation will not in any way give employment, but will merely help to swell the bank balance of the owners of property, and the dividends of wealthy companies.
The amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney will have the effect of postponing the remission of £600,000 to land-owners until such time as the whole of the benefits that have been taken from old-age pensioners are restored. There is not the slightest doubt that the Government has introduced this bill because of the discontent in the ranks of the old-age pensioners. The old folk have banded together for their mutual protection, and are forcing honorable members opposite to agitate within their party for the removal of these anomalies, which exist merely because of the hasty methods adopted a few weeks ago in forcing legislation through Parliament by the use of the guillotine.
I do not intend altogether to discredit the Government. I appreciate that some of these provisions will afford relief to pensioners, particularly those who own unproductive property. Although some of the injustice inflicted upon those persons has been removed, many of the other anomalies brought about by the recent amendment of the Financial Emergency Act remain. There should be no limitation on the value of unproductive land, which should be exempt from any charge until a - pensioner effects a sale and becomes possessed of ready cash. The Government would be safeguarded by the fact that already provisions exist, compelling him to notify the Commissioner of any such sale.
The bill provides that the Commissioner may waive the charge levied against a property upon the death of a pensioner. The Commissioner will find himself in great difficulty in exercising this discretion as no precise reason is set out for exempting a property. We can conceive of many reasons why there should be an exemption, but they might not appeal to the Commissioner; consequently there will be great confusion of thought on the subject. The provision for the seizing of the property of pensioners after death, which the bill seeks to amend, should be wiped out. Nothing has brought more discredit .on the Government and on Parliament than the attempt to seize the property of a pensioner on his death.
Upon the death of a pensioner, the Commissioner may exempt a property from any charges which would cause hardship to those concerned. Again, there will be trouble, for “ hardship “ is not defined. I can think of many cases of hardship that would be perfectly genuine and warrant relief, which might not commend themselves to the Commissioner.
– Does not the honorable member consider that it is better to allow the provision to be elastic?
– No. I think it would be better to wipe out that provision altogether. I have received the following letter from a constituent: -
We, a few residents of Leichhardt, who have struggled to get a roof over our heads and leave a cover for those left behind, according to the law of averages cannot live much longer which means the little cottage goes to the Government.
Our case is that of myself, a pensioner, tuy wife, old and an invalid, and our daughter, who has to stop at home to attend to her mother, and is, therefore, deprived of earning anything to put away for a rainy day.
She will he left stranded. Are we, in the meantime, to pay rates and insurances, repairs, &c., for the benefit of the Government which claims the property when we die?
There arc a great many with their own little home at Leichhardt, and we want you to upset this’ business.
Unfortunately, I have not the power individually to “ upset this business “. I suppose many other honorable members know of similar cases. If they feel as I do, they will endeavour to upset the act as its stands. The provision should either be eliminated, or it should be definitely stated that the Commissioner shall not levy any charge against these properties. When the act was recently amended, supporters, of the Government claimed that it was the duty of children, who were able to do so, to support their aged parents, rather than allow them to draw pensions. It was contended also that children who were not prepared to do their duty to their parents should not benefit by inheriting the parents’ property. Whatever merit there may be in that contention, the fact remains that this legislation makes no provision for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who are on the dole, and who are not even able to support themselves. In the endeavour to prevent children who are able to maintain their parents but neglect to do so from benefiting by their parents’ death, ‘ the Government has penalized other children who are not able to support their parents. That is unjust. The best way out of the difficulty will be to eliminate this provision entirely, because no portion of the act has created more bad feeling against the Government and the Parliament itself, than the section giving the Commonwealth the right to take possession of the property of the pensioners at their death. There is another anomaly which recent legislation has not removed. Pensioners who, years ago, mortgaged their property, still have to suffer a reduction of the pension. I have been in correspondence with the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales regarding a widow pensioner who owned property worth about £700, and eight years ago allowed her daughter to raise on ‘this security, a loan of £150 to finance the building of a home for herself. The mother did not handle one penny of the amount so raised; on the contrary, she lost a portion of her equity in her own property. The mortgagee is an insurance company, to which the loan is being repaid directly. About £100 is still owing, and that amount is held against the mother as property in her possession, although she has never directly or indirectly benefited by the mortgage.
– Is that treated as a transfer of property to the daughter?
– I cannot say. I have represented every aspect of the case to the Deputy Commissioner, but he considers that the daughter owes her mother £100, and he has reduced the pension by £5 a year. Another instance is that of a woman whose husband abandoned her eleven years ago. During the whole of that time, he has contributed nothing to her support. When she was no longer able to earn her living, she was granted a pension, but at a reduced rate, because the husband was alleged to have given to his son at some indefinite period, . a sum of money. The mother never benefited by that gift, but she’ is penalized because of it. I have approached the Deputy Commissioner several times regarding this case, but have been unable to get satisfaction. Another anomaly that should be removed from the act is that amounts, given by parents to their children many years ago are still counted against their pension claims.
– That is not the result of recent legislation.
– I admit-that. But when we start to deal with anomalies, we should make a clean sheet. Although the. present Government may not be responsible for this particular defect, its recent legislation has created more anomalies than the whole of the earlier pension law. This bill provides that a person who desires to qualify for a pension may- transfer to the Government any property that is unencumbered. I dispute the statement that this provision will be of assistance to many people. How many of those who own unproductive property, and have been existing on a small pension - it is difficult enough for & person to exist on a full pension - can claim that their holdings are free of debt, taxes and rates?
– This provision will be a boon to some people.
– Very few. Unemployment and the lack of cash reserves sufficient to enable people to maintain themselves have caused those owning property to mortgage it in some way. In any case, why should pensioners be required to make such a sacrifice in order to get a pension? The Government does not ask the land-owner to surrender a portion of his land in order to benefit by the remissions proposed in the bill, or the primary producer to surrender a part of his farm in return for the assistance he is to receive. The pensioners alone amongst those who will benefit by this legislation are asked to give something in return. To the most needy section of the community, the Government says, “ You may have this miserable pittance called a pension, but in return for it you must surrender the small property for which you denied yourself the comforts which other people enjoyed, and in which you invested the savings of a lifetime spent in industry. Now that you are of no further use in industry, and society cannot provide a job for you, you may get assistance from the Government only if you sacrifice something to the attainment of which you devoted a lifetime of energy and self-denial.” Is it fair to impose this condition in return for a bare subsistence, while, at the same time handing to the wheat-farmers, whether wealthy or poor, and to the land-owners, the most affluent section to benefit by this legislation, large sums of money and asking of them nothing in return? The Government asserts that it is not sectional in its outlook, and that this bill is not class legislation. I say that this is class legislation of the worst kind. How would this particular provision operate? If, as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has stated, large numbers of people will benefit by having the right to surrender their homes in return for a miserable pension, what will the Government do with the blocks of land in all parts of the Commonwealth that will fall into its possession? Will it become a glorified land agent, or act like the Blacktown Shire Council which, in order to recover arrears of rates, sold acres of land at 5s. per allotment. Will the Commonwealth Government sell the property of pensioners to land sharks at 5s. a block ! If it retains the land, officers will have to be employed to administer it. This will lead to the creation of a new branch of the Public Service.
– That will provide work for somebody.
– I do not approve of work being found at the expense of the old-age pensioners. If the Government is not class biased, and does not represent sectional interests, it might recognize that it has not asked any of the other beneficiaries under this bill to make any sacrifice in return for the concessions they will enjoy.
I turn now to the unscrupulous propaganda in the press during the last week. The Daily Telegraph, of the 18th November, published the following message : -
Hundreds of dishonest pensioners have realized that with the Government’s new policy the game is up. According to official figures to-day, 1,988 pensioners have since September voluntarily relinquished invalid and old-age pensions costing the Commonwealth £80,000 a year.
Offers are still coming in and the Government estimates that the total saving to . the budget on the year from this source as well as by the indirect saving caused by a corresponding falling off of new applications for pensions will be close on £^50,000.
Some of the pensions have been relinquished for patriotic and other reasons, but Ministers generally have no doubt that the chief cause of the unprecedented run of cancellations is a desire by the pensioners in question to evade investigations. The inquiries are of a definitely confidential nature, and the Government ib satisfied that these savings are being made exclusively at the expense of persons not entitled to receive pensions.
Placed right in the middle of that insulting reference to pensioners was a photograph of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Marr). I do not know whether the purpose was to add spice to the article, or whether the idea was to make readers believe that the article was published by ministerial authority. We’ know that, ever since the recent amendment of the Pensions Act, the press has tried to shield the Government from the hostile criticism which its actions invoked by trying to make the public believe that thousands of pensioners have relinquished their pensions because their cases will not bear investigation. I have received numerous letters from pensioners who have given up their pensions, not because they feared investigation, but because they resented the Government taking power to itself to pry into their domestic affairs, and to seize whatever little property they might leave behind them on their death.- Here is one such letter -
I have received your letter on the 12th about my pension. I feel I must thank you for the trouble you have taken. I have decided to forfeit it as I could not allow the Government to take my house, which is the only thing I have to cover myself with. As for my children, they are only working lads, and returned soldiers, who have done enough ‘ for their country. As I have suffered ill-health and unemployment, I feel it would be too great a sacrifice to hand over my house to the Government.
Presumably, this is one of the dishonest pensioners referred to in the newspaper article. This man is the father of two returned soldiers who fought for their country. A third son died while serving his country abroad. He has been practically driven to forfeiting his pension because he is not prepared to face the indignity which a so-called patriotic Government proposes to place upon him. He was not prepared to abandon the home which he had obtained at such sacrifice. The other day, for a special reason, I asked in this House a question relating to pensioners, and the Government, presumably for a special reason, refused to supply the information I sought. The question was as follows: -
I do not think that there was anything unreasonable in my request, especially in view of the press statement that the Government was satisfied that the saving had been made exclusively at the expense of pensioners not entitled to receive pensions. If the Government is satisfied of that, it should also be able to obtain the information I asked for, or share the odium of these slanderous press statements. Yet this is the reply I received -
It is regretted that this information cannot be obtained without undue cost.
A government that thought anything of the- reputation of the pioneers of this country would not spare any expense to clear their good names when they had been so grossly insulted. When we are dealing with anomalies in the act, we should make a complete job of it, but this legislation is not sufficient. Certain concessions are granted, but some of the provisions of the bill, designed, allegedly, to remove anomalies, will actually add to the difficulties of administration. Persons possessing non-revenue producing properties should not be required to repay the pensions they receive. The Government should not claim the property left by deceased pensioners. In the present act, an attempt is made to compel the sons of pensioners, who are in a position to do so, to contribute to the support of their parents, but so badly has the provision been drawn, that this obligation rests even on those children who are obviously unable to contribute. I have no hestitation in supporting the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), ‘because its object is to preventthe Government from remitting income tax or land tax to wealthy persons until the old-age and invalid pensioners have had restored to them the social benefits of which they were recently deprived.
.- I propose to confine my remarks chiefly to the discussion of that section of the bill dealing with the granting of assistance to wheat-growers, and in this connexion I desire to reply to some of the remarks of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). He said that there were members of the Country party in this House who were worth between £40,000 and £50,000. I hasten to assure the honorable member that I am not one of -those fortunate persons, nor do I know any member of the Country party in this House who is worth that sum. The honorable member also suggested that some members of this House who were wealthy wheat-growers were endeavouring to obtain a bounty on wheat so that they themselves might participate in it. If he classed me among those wealthy wheat-growers, I desire to inform him that, if a bounty is granted, I do not propose to take a penny of it; so that 1 am absolved from -the charge of desiring to participate in the bounty. The honorable member’s speech was really a tirade of abuse directed against the Country party. . I regret that the city versus country controversy should have been raised. I have not raised the issue, but the speech of the honorable member for Barton will do more to alienate city and country interests than any speech I have heard in this House for a long time. I realize that it is very difficult for those bred and raised in the city to understand the difficulties of the country men. ‘The environment of the city dwellers makes them unfit to understand the conditions under which those in the country have to carry on, and it ill becomes any honorable member to speak so disparagingly of country people as did the honorable member for Barton.
I was also surprised that, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) should have spoken in denunciation of the mau on the laud.
– There was no denunciation; I admitted his difficulties.
– The knowledge of farming life possessed by the honorable member for Balaclava is exceedingly limited. If he wants to learn something more about it, I suggest that he take up a wheat farm in the Mallee, and work it from Monday morning until Saturday night every week. Let him rise at 4 o’clock in the morning, and put on his bowyangs. I can imagine the dapper little gentleman, girt with bowyangs, going out in the morning to milk ten or fifteen cows, then working in the fields for ten hours, and finally returning to milk the cows again in the evening. I do not wish to disparage honorable members opposite, but when they take it upon themselves to disparage country men, I am forced to show just how little they know of their subject. Recently I was travelling in a railway carriage with a member of this_ Parliament, who happens to be sitting on the opposite side of the chamber at this moment. I pointed out to him a nice crop of oats alongside the railway line. I said to him, “ That is a nice crop of wheat,” and he agreed with me. A little further along
I pointed to a crop of wheat and said, “ That is a nice crop of oats,” and he again agreed with me.
The Government has decided to abandon its original superphosphate proposals in favour of a direct payment to the States for the purpose of alleviating the position of needy wheat-farmers. All growers, whether large or small, can be said to be needy, and are producing at a loss. All are equally entitled to consideration, and no discrimination should be made between one grower and another. I have a vivid recollection of some of my relatives and constituents, who last year had thousands of acres of fallow land on which no crop was grown, not participating in the bounty. But there are bound to be anomalies of that kind which cannot be prevented. It seems to me that the Government is trying to shed its responsibility by handing over a lump sum to the States and making matters worse by imposing unnecessary conditions, and then washing its hands of the whole business. I am intensely disappointed with the Government’s proposal. It is trying to please everybody, but will please nobody. The suggestions for the relief of the wheat-growers would never have been made in their present form had there been a single member of the Government with a knowledge of the difficulties of the primary producers. The suggested exclusion of a certain class of grower is not justified any more than the inclusion of another class of primary producer. In the case of large growers, many of whom are producing from 10,000 to 20,000 bushels of wheat, some would, probably, receive no consideration whatever. They are living on either their capital or credit and dissipating both. This class of wheat-grower is performing a national service to his own loss. He is producing wheat in large quantities, and he, more so than the smaller grower, is helping to restore the nation’s finances. He is helping to establish credits abroad, to restore the balance of trade, and to bring new wealth into the country. On the other hand, there are wheat-growers who are by no means so proficient as even the average grower, yet they would get a full share of the Government’s bounty to the exclusion of the highly efficientfarmer. The Government’s proposal, therefore, is largely a ban on efficiency, and a premiumon non-efficiency, because no one will deny that there are inefficient men in the primary industries just as there are in the secondary industries. No one will dispute the fact that there are necessitous wheat-growers who may be judged to be inefficient; but these should be the care of the States, as they are responsible on the one hand for placing men on landthat is only suitable for grazing sheep, and on the other hand, for placing men on the land who would have been -better employed at something else.
Whatever amount the Government can make available should be paid as a bounty on export to all wheat-growers. When membersof this House approached the Prime Minister by way of deputation some few weeks ago, it was estimated that thetotal wheat harvest might be anything from 215,000,000 to 220,000,000 bushels. Unfortunately, since then,crops have deteriorated in almost every State, and to-day the estimate is for not more than 195,000,000 bushels, made up as follows
If we take the round figure of 200,000,000 bushels,less 32,000,000 bushels for home consumption, 8,000,000 bushels for feed, and 14,000,000 bushels for seed, the total number of bushels for export willbe 146,000,000.
A bounty of 3d. a bushel on 146,000,000 bushels would amount to £1,825,000 ; a bounty of 31/4d. a bushel on 146,000,000 bushels would amount to £1,970,000; a bounty of 31/2d. per bushel on 146,000,000 bushels would amount to £2,129,000 ; and a bounty of 4d. per bushel on 146,000,000 bushels would amount to £2,433,000. If the Government were prepared to make the bounty £2,250,000 on wheat alone, it would be nearly sufficient to pay a bounty of 4d. on all wheat and flour exported. That would have the effect of automatically raising the price for local consumption by 4d. per bushel. Taking the present price of approximately 2s. l1d. per bushel f.o.b., a bounty of 4d. would ensure 3s. 3d. a bushel at the seaboard, or approximately2s. 7d. on the farm. Thegrower would then be selling at least 8d. per bushel below the cost of production. Witihout a bounty, wheat at present prices would return 2s. 4d. at country sidings. Let us compare this price with those ruling on the continent. On the 14th October, 1932, the price of wheat inthree continental countries was as follows:-
TheCommonwealth has supplied these countries in the past with large quantities of wheat; but,because of our action in shutting out the productsoftheir secondary industries, they have, in their own interests on the one hand, and as a retaliatory measure onthe other hand, placed a duty on wheat as follows.: -
The French duty of 6s. 9d. is, no doubt, retaliation against the Commonwealth, because of the duties which we have imposed on French goods and perfumes. These three countries are now endeavouring to do what the ex-Prime Minister said thatwe must do - and that is trying to be self-contained. As we take very little from them, they in turn can take little from us. They have, therefore, set about producing their own foodstuffs, with the result that the French wheat crop is estimated to yield 332,000,000 bushels,which will provide 300,000,000 bushels for local consumption, and give France a surplus of 32,000,000 bushels for export. Italy harvested 147,000,000 bushels last year, and estimates an increase of 19,000,000 bushels this year, bringing its crop to 166,000,000 bushels. Germany estimates a crop of 182,000,000 bushels. The native quota of wheat for the entire season has been fixed at 97 per cent. Imports of wheat are restricted to 30 per cent., and then only against import certificates held by millers, who between them store for four months 230,000 tons of native wheat, in addition to their ordinary holdings. The duty on durum wheat has been raised to 160 marks per ton instead of 112.50 marks, and the quantity allowed to be imported has been reduced by 50 per cent. These regulations are very similar to those put in force last August. Millers will have to buy 97 per cent, of their current requirements from growers, but if they wish to use more than 3 per cent, of foreign wheat in their mixtures, they must export, directly or indirectly, a quantity of native wheat equal to the additional foreign wheat which they wish to use in their grist.
The Canadian pre-harvest estimates of wheat are from 497,000,000 to 500,000,000 bushels, which, less 100,000,000 bushels for seed and food, leaves 400,000,000 bushels available for export. In the United States .of America, 360,0G0,000 : bushels will be available for export, making a grand total of 760,000,000 bushels for .export from these two countries alone, which is more than sufficient to meet the total requirements of all importing countries. It is variously’ estimated thai; last year importing countries too’k between then from 650,-000,0.00 to 700,000,000 bushels. Where, then, is Australia to find a market for her exportable surplus of at least 146,000,000 bushels? Britain’s requirements are 240,000,000 bushels, 40,000,000 bushels of which is homegrown, and 200,000,000 bushels imported. If Great Britain took the whole of her requirements from Australia and Canada, those -two countries would still be left with no less .than 350,000,000 bushels for which they would need .to find a market.
Fortunately -there has been an expanding market in China and Japan during ;t-he last two or three years, since wheat has been so cheap. China has bought fairly freely on the Australian market during the last month, but Japan has only operated to a very small extent this year. With the enormous surplus available from all exporting countries, the future looks anything but bright.
The Australian wheat-growers have been urged by past governments to increase production, and they have done so, partly from a sense of patriotism, and partly from the need to extricate themselves from the financial morass into which they have fallen. The result has been that they have been producing at a loss for several years, and they have been able to continue producing only by living on their capital. That has now disappeared, and, in some instances, farmers are living and producing on. their credit, but, in a large percentage of cases, they now have neither capital nor credit, and are -unable to continue producing at a loss.
What the Government has .to do -is to make up its mind whether the wheat industry is worth saving, whether the nation can afford to do without the wheatgrowers, and if so, whether other work can be found for the idle hands when employment ceases. If wheatgrowing is abandoned, what is to become of tlie 75,000 or 80,000 wheatgrowers, plus their wives and families, the workmen engaged on the farms, and the scores of thousands pf other people who, either directly, or .indirectly, get a livelihood out of wheat and wheat-growing. If something is not done, and” done quickly, to preserve this industry, i-t will be too late. “Wheat is now worth ,2s.- 4d. per -bushel at country stations, according to situa-tion, and about -2s. lid. at the seaboard. As a practical farmer, I say that wheat cannot -be grown profitably for less than 3s. 4d. at country stations, so that every bushel grown shows a loss on present prices of ls. per bushel. The great majority of farmers will- agree that wheat cannot be grown under present conditions at much less ‘than I suggest. However, if we, as wheat-growers, cannot get at least 3s. 4d. per bushel, we can-not COn.tinue to live and pay our way. We have been working for less than nothing for three years, in the hope that conditions would improve. It now -seems that we will have to work for some time to come at the same rate of pay. In very many instances wheat-farmers are only kept going by the fact -that they stud their wives and children form a kind of co-operative group who are content to work for their food until better prices are .obtainable for their products.
I draw attention to the following wages paid and hours worked in the milling and baking trades : -
The price of wheat in 1912 was nearly 1s. a bushel more on the farm than it is to-day, with the cost of living very much less than at present.
I ask leave to continue my remarks when the debate is resumed.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 2.1 a.m. (Friday).
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, before any subsidy is granted, or contract entered into, for the establishment of a service by air with England, the House will be given an opportunity to consider the proposals ?
– When the Cabinet has considered this matter, I will inform the House of the procedure the Government proposes to adopt.
d asked the Treasurer,upon notice -
What has been the cost to date to the Commonwealth of the trip abroad of the right honorable member for North Sydney?
– The Commonwealth Government is not meeting the cost of the trip abroad of the right honorable member for North Sydney. The expenditure incurred in connexion with his journey from and to London for the purpose of attending the Assembly of the League of Nations and his stay in Geneva is all that will be defrayed by the Government, but particulars thereof are not yet available in Australia.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Government is giving consideration to the disposition of the funds still at the credit of the trust fund established for the purpose of repatriating surplus coal-miners, and special attention is being directed to proposals involving the development of the Newnes shale oil undertaking. It is expected that a decision will be reached at an early date. The Minister in control of development has been actively engaged upon negotiations affecting the future of Newnes, and has conferred with the Government of New South Wales on the subject.
Unemployment Relief Work in Canberra.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321124_reps_13_137/>.